Monthly Archives: July 2010

Amnesia

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I occasionally forget that I am a mum with a toddler and a baby on boob (and boob alone thank you very much! There will be none of this fake, plastic, wanna-be-nipple thing going on in my mouth. No way! No day! Uh-uh, no!)

It is at these times that the amnesia gets me into all kinds of trouble. Like the fix I am currently in: Big program to prepare, no time to prepare it, deadline rapidly approaching, cough getting worse, children not cooperating…

It’s a fantastic program, if I do say so myself, for high school students. All about getting to know themselves and their behaviour patters, how to break through the negative patterns, how to get through to the people around them, how to find their way to a happy, healthy, fun and inspiring path that they want – all the feel-good stuff that is so often waffled about and so seldom practically taught. I have been stinging to do it for ages, so when the oportunity arose, amnesia struck!

So this post will be short, full of typos and devoid of wit. Apologies, but since managing to sort out the logistical nightmare of getting someone to look after The Lion from 5.30am (no, I couldn’t manage to get the program in a local school, could I?) until around 6pm AND finding someone willing to lurk around a high school all day with The Blossom, ever ready to crash the workshop to demand that the presenter present her bosom for the starving child, I no longer have the energy to be creative. What little brain power and time remains shall be poured selflessly into the materials for Monday.

Ironically, the program is all about getting (and staying) in a healthy zone of behaviour, one that allows for peaks and troughs, but does not send the peaks so high and the troughs so low that the person finds themselves on a manic cycle that spins them out of control. I fear my first example of an unbalanced approach to life will be this episode of amnesia – talk about not looking after yourself; putting everyone and everything else first! At least it is something I want so much to do and at least it is for a finite period… very finite… oh dear, is that the time?

When all is done and my children have their mother back, when I can breathe once more and remember what my priorities are, I’ll tell you all about it.

In the meantime, speak to me, oh muse! SPEAK!

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Beware the Parrot

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I feel like crap today. Not that it has any baring on today’s post, I just thought I’d mention it on the off-chance I get some sympathy. We try whatever we can…

No, today I thought I’d tell a cautionary tale that came from one of my husband’s work colleagues.

He told my husband about their recent trip up north – a family of four on a road trip.

Mum in the passenger seat adjudicates the battle raging between their six-year-old son and his three-year-old brother. Dad at the wheel decides it’s time for a circuit breaker, so pulls up at the next MacDonald’s drive thru (notice the shortened use of the word through – a pet hate of mine that at any moment can bring forth a tirade about how the public arena of all places should remain txt spk free, that children need to learn that these are not words, but abbreviations of words to be used in appropriate situations only… and don’t start me on improper use of the apostrophe in public signage and advertising!).

So, dad pulls up at Maccas. He orders a large Quater-pounder meal for himself, a wrap of some description for his wife who will not give in to the burger temptation, though she will steal a fist-full of fries, so he orders an extra small fries to make up the shortfall. Finally, two Happy Meals for the kids and they squeal with delight.

Dad drives on to the next window where an anxious teen takes his money without making eye contact. In the back seat, the six-year-old is trying to explain that there is one toy in the happy meal each week, so they don’t get to choose. It’ll be a surprise. The three-year-old can hardly bear the suspense.

Dad moves on to the next window where he can watch the bedlam going on behind the crowded counter. It’s a miracle that people get what they ask for most of the time. He’s only had to go back for a swap once and he is sure that was because his son’s friend had changed his mind eighteen times. A flustered but cheery young girl hands him their bags and wishes them a nice trip and they pull away, the kids bursting in the back.

Mum doles out the food and silence descends as the boys take possession of their little boxes. Rummaging. Rummaging. Rummaging…

And the toddler finds his toy, pulls it out and exclaims, “FUCK ME!”

Mum looks across at dad’s stricken expression. “Well, I wonder where he got that from.”

Beware the parrot. They hear all.

Trolleys and Tribulations

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There is only one way to single-handedly do the groceries with my Little Lion and  Blossom in tow: with Blossom strapped safely in the trolley capsule and Lion standing in the little sectioned off part at the front of the trolley, pretending to drive.

So I was pushing, Blossom was staring at the lights with wide-eyed horror and Little Lion was commenting as he helped me select apples, dropping them into the bag with a dainty little “drop!… drop!… drop!…” It’s his latest word and he is very proud of it. I was very proud of the picture of motherly perfection I was with my happy little troupe. The occasional “Oh, what a good little helper!” I got from the elderly shoppers reaching past me to get a banana or two only bolstered my self-satisfaction. Who would have though grocery shopping could be fun?!

My little bliss bubble floated me from oranges to capsicum, from broccoli to onion where a terse stare and a grunt from an overly bejewelled beeshive with horseriding jodpurs burst that bubble. What’s her problem? It’s not as though the Lion was smearing snotty fingers all over her parsnips (something he has done in the past, making my guilty conscience buy the damned things). I didn’t even get such scorn last summer when he carefully selected the biggest mango he could find and bit right into it while I had my back turned. By the time I got back to the trolley with my bag of peaches, he had squished half the mango onto the floor and the other half all over his tummy. My only penance was a few awkward chuckles from passers-by, a number of comments on the Lion’s good taste and a whole roll of paper towel with which to clean up the mess. So why the scorn this time? I put it down to the poor wretch having too much Botox in all the wrong places and moved on.

Until a similar snarl greeted me in the pasta section and then another in the frozen foods. What was wrong with these people? Blossom wasn’t even crying and my Little Lion, by this time, was making perfectly inoffensive bruuuuummmmm-ing sounds between randomly greeting strangers with a forceful “HELLO!” uttered more like a command than a pleasantry. They were cute, we were cute, so what was their problem?!

By the time I began unloading at the checkout, I was agitated. The one time I actually felt like I’d got it together, a bunch of strangers in need of attitude adjustments made me wonder what I was doing wrong. It was the spritely checkout chick with too many opinions and not enough tact that clarified the problem for me.

“How are you today?” she chirped without looking up.

“Fine thanks,” I replied into my trolley, carefully avoiding the Vegemite fingers reaching for my hair.

“Oh!” she exclaimed,”You know you really shouldn’t have him in the trolley like that. They have ones with the proper seat next to the capsule, coz it’s really dangerous,” and she turned her gaze on my son, “and we wouldn’t want you hurting yourself, would we?”

I wanted to vomit. So that was it?

“Ah well…” I stammered. My tongue left me. My brain froze and all the wonderful things I could have said, should have said, would have said, evaporated in the burn in my cheeks.

And that was the end of my part in the conversation. She continued with stories of ‘friends’ (indeed, I doubted she had any) whose children were maimed by runaway trolleys, how she thought those side-by-side numbers were such a good idea for us poor mothers with our hands full, how she would never venture to have children any less than five years apart because she was sure it would be emotionally scarring to lose mother’s attention so early in life, and so on and so on. I comforted myself with the thought that she was an ignorant turd just long enough to pay the bill and grimace a smile as she wished me a nice day, then vented my fury on a huge iced doughnut (of which my Little Lion ate a lion’s share – yes I am the worst mother on the planet, so bite me!)

I wonder if she, and the others whose scornful glances I encountered, would have felt differently about my son’s shotgun ride had they witnessed the alternative. Those side-by-side numbers are, firstly, designed for pigmy children, and secondly, do not allow for the exclusion zone necessary to prevent Little Lion from attempting brain surgery on Blossom via the nose or eye-ball. Granted, the exclusion zone is an afternoon thing – he plays nicely with the baby in the mornings – and perhaps I should limit shopping excursions to a time when his enthusiasm doesn’t get the better of him as quickly, and perhaps I should use one of those baby carriers to provide Blossom with the best possible protection, BUT I CHOSE NOT TO! So butt out!

Next time I will be prepared with a store of gentle responses that don’t make me feel like a helpless doormat:

“Oh, well I was actually hoping he might fall so I could sue your ass and make a million.”

“Yeah, but all the side-by-side trolleys were taken up by your ‘friends’.”

“Oh, really? I thought they made the little sectioned off bits especially for kids to ride in.”

“Sweetheart, mind your own fucking business and live a little…”

Anyone got any more ideas?

A Military Operation

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I took my 23month old and my 2month old to Sydney overnight to have breakfast with my sister at 7am at the airport before she left for Europe. Need I say more?

A Mazda 323 with two car seats in it is no place for a travel cot, a bassinet, bedding, bags of clothes needed and spare sets in case of disaster, nappies, food, pram and sufficient toys to distract the toddler from the 2.5 hour drive. Loading it all was like playing tetris in 3D. By the time we hit the road the kids were cocooned in their seats and I prayed we would not need to stop on the way for fear of having to unpack and repack in a crowded Maccas car park with irate travellers beeping their horns at the vacant parking space filled with my piles of baby crap.

We did make it to Sydney, to my Uncle’s house filled with relatives eager to see the new baby and fuss over how the toddler had grown. He posed for cameras and splashed in the bath with his baby cousin and tried oh so very hard not to play with the tantalising glass and ceramic figurines that seemed to fill every possible surface. He was a good boy, but it was such an effort. He even went to bed without fuss, leaving me free to deal with my hysterical baby who squirmed and wouldn’t feed and cried and writhed and spewed and screamed some more… until 10pm.

Dinner was scoffed and strategies for the morning were refined: Get up at 0500. Dress and feed baby in silence by 0530. Pack car with all but travel cot by 0550. Get toddler up in silence, strap him in car and give him a bottle of warm milk at 0600. Pack travel cot and associated bedding by 0608. Scan rooms and collect the vomit rag, the books, the pair of socks and sunglasses that have been hitherto forgotten by 0612. Strap baby into car 0613. Unpack clothes bag and select replacement top because baby has chucked all over me at 0614. Get changed and don’t swear by 0616. Say farewell and get in car and leave for the airport at 0619, only 4 minutes late. Breakfast at the airport, toddler runs around, baby feeds, tired and satisfied we all pile back into car and head to granny’s house for a visit, more running and lunch and, exhausted, we pile back into car and toddler sleeps all the way home. Military. Fool-proof. Easy.

Except that the toddler woke at 0230 crying out, “Preeeze Mummy! Preeeeze Mummy! Bot Mummy! Preeeze…. Daddy? Daddy? Bot Daddy?”

So he had his warm milky bottle at 0237.

And he screamed when I tried to put him back in his cot. Twice.

So at 0323 I took him into my room, to bed with me. Which he found far too exciting: “Ah! Mummy night night! Mummy hair… eye… beep beep nose… Mummy clip-clop?” as he climbed on my back.

“No. Sleep time now. Quiet…”

“Quie….” He whispered. And I thought I had won. He lay his head on my pillow and was quiet and still…

Until the baby did an adult-sized fart.

“Haha! Bubby brrrrrt! Poo-ey!”

And then she started to cry. 0346 and I decided to feed her in bed in the dark to maximise the chances of maintaining some semblance of calm.

But she wouldn’t latch on, I leaked all over my pyjama top, the toddler tried to ride her like a horse and I had to turn to light on to reveal yet another exciting room full of new things to explore and discuss on top note: “Ah! Cat – meeow! Book? Book? Muuuummmmmyyyy! Preeeze! Ah! Mooooooo! Clip-clop?”

At 0416, after the baby chucked all down my left arm and the toddler tried to pull the desk lamp down for the fourth time, I relented and turned on the TV with the sound down low – some b-grade New Zealand drama about a cheating husband  and an idiot doctor, American morning shows covering the World Hot Dog Eating Championships or the weather on SBS. The toddler climbed into the baby’s bassinet and started playing peek-a-boo until he announced, “Poo Poo!” and the room filled with a gas that threatened to asphyxiate us all in a matter of moments.

By 0500, I attempted to re-claim my plan, but the sight of bags being packed was enough to engage the toddlers deepest fears and he proceeded to bellow his terror at the prospect of being left behind and would not be satisfied with anything less than being carried around by Mummy and Mummy alone.

At 0535 I relented. I strapped them both in the car and left for the airport in the hope that the over-tired brood would sleep. They did… for 40 minutes. And I didn’t swear too much.

From 0630 – 0800 the Sydney International Airport was a playground. Strangers’ bags were stolen, escalators ridden, travellers bumped into and hallways raced down. What a wonderland! But no sign of the travellers we had come to see off. Breakfast was scoffed alone. Of course, the toddler wouldn’t eat and the baby did a wee reminiscent of Niagara Falls all over the baby change room.

We had a quick 10-minute “see ya” with my sister and I wondered whether the trauma was worth it. Why did I feel so compelled to see her off at the gate? Why would a phone call not suffice? The military plan, so painstakingly thought out had been annihilated, the kids took three days to recover, granny never got her visit, I ate more sugar on the 2.5 hour drive home than I had eaten in the previous year combined and walked around like a haggard old grouch for days. And why?

Because she is my sister.

And that’s enough.

The Flame

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On the 14th of July 2000, Ben and I picked up my family from Adelaide Airport. The following morning Ben’s family arrived, and at 8.25am on the 15th of July, I stood on my street corner, dressed in white shorts and a long-sleeved white top while the footpaths pulsed with excited crowds. The sun shone a glorious winter morning, making my nose tingle with warmth in the cool air. People had set up their barbeques on their front lawns, breakfast bacon and eggs crackled amid the chinking of champagne glasses. Children clambered to see the torch I was given by a round policeman astride his gleaming blue Harley Davidson.

The children’s jostling and shoving and cries of, “I was there first! Mu-u-u-um, he pushed in!” made me expand. I was standing at the centre of something so much greater than myself and instinct told me the moment had to be shared with the little ones at the beginning of their journey. A boy of about five reached up tentatively to touch the shiny blue and white torch and I caught his eye.

“You want to hold it?” I asked and his mouth gaped as he held his breath. I placed the Olympic torch in his hands and he glowed, reverently passed it to the next child who also fell silent, then exploded with an inexplicable buzz as soon as the torch had passed to the next little pair of hands. The jostling intensified and parents called, “Amy, you be careful with that! Oh God, don’t let her drop it!”

Ben stood back from the crowd with the hint of a tear glistening in the corner of his tired eyes. The morning of the 15th of July was the first time he had seen me smile in over two months. Really smile. No lies.

“Okay, everyone back behind the barriers, thanks. Grab your torch, Ma’am, ‘cause here she comes!” As they scuttled back, necks craning as far as they would go, a convoy of bikes, cars and busses rumbled towards us.

I squeezed my escort runner’s hand. She was nervous. I breathed in the anticipation and bowed my torch to meet the man who carried the flame. He lowered his torch, the flame burning unmistakably in his chest, and he exhaled, “She’s all yours.”

What is it about the flame? It was like being lifted by a force beyond this world. I felt that if I jumped at that moment I would fly. The road disappeared under my feet and the crowds were a long way away, cheering and waving in uninhibited joy. That flame had consumed me for so many years, my quest to capture it had destroyed me, but in that moment, it really was all worthwhile. No lie.

The fire sang as I jogged and smiled and waved, in a dream:

“I am the light that calls the brave. I am their initiation fire. I am warmth and their destruction. I am the Spirit of the warrior’s path.”

As the next runner held her torch high, as I bowed mine down to kiss hers, my part in the relay over in a flash, the flame winked goodbye and whispered, “Did you notice?”

“Notice what?” I wondered, aching to be able to hold on to that light just a little longer.

“I shine brightest when I’m shared.”

Extract from “Wobbles – An Olympic Story