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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Mean Streets of Glebe

For about 3 weeks now there has been 2 young guys living in a car in the street beside our house. I first noticed the car because it has signs in its window advertising its sale. Apparently it's a great car in excellent condition. These guys must work in politics, or at least aspire to. The car is a 1998 purple Magna with QLD plates. It only has 154,000 km on the clock. I guess that's not a whole lot for a 14 year old car. The paint over the majority of the car has lost its shine and in many places is faded, worn off and crazed and cracked. There is a large wide scratch/dent over one of the wheel wells and the tinted back window has bubbled. It also comes with lots of camping gear. And did I mention they are living in it? There are sheets in that car to sleep under and one of the guys keeps his contact lens case on the centre console near the handbrake. Homey. 

Would you buy this vehicle for $2,499 ONO?

Now I kinda feel a bit sorry for the guys. I guess they have no money to live anywhere else at the moment. Sydney is an expensive city and you don't get much for your money. Their age, dress and the fact that they have camping gear makes me wonder if they are "backpackers" travelling around Australia and they are towards the end of their trip. Whatever the reason I have found myself wondering about the etiquette of this situation. After all, they are our neighbours. Should I show my concern for their welfare? We have phoned the police, more from the fact that we would prefer they didn't live in their car in our street, than from concern for their welfare, which by the way is the only time the police will intervene. Should I invite them in for a cuppa? A hot shower? Just say hello? Today they unpacked the car on the path, maybe they were doing their weekly clean?

You know what my biggest issue is? They get to sleep in. What I wouldn't give for a sleep in. They are both asleep in there, with their windows wound down about 5cm on each side, when I walk Aiden up to daycare at about 8.30am. They usually rise sometime between 10 and 12. Lucky buggers. 

Of course I am being flippant. I know there is a serious side to the situation. They could be living in their car for any number of reasons. Homelessness is a sad and growing concern around Australia and you can read more about it here. Glebe certainly has a number of well known homeless people. When we lived in the Beirut end of Glebe I had experience with a very sad situation which must get repeated all around Sydney.

I was 5-6 months pregnant with Aiden and home sick from work with a sinus infection. Our Glebe St house was very close to the Broadway Shopping Centre where our local medical centre is located. I wandered up mid morning to see the Doctor in the hope of some antibiotics or perhaps just some sympathy. As I neared the shopping centre I walked past a couple just as the man punched the women in the face.  She fell to the ground just behind me. I picked her up from the cement while the man hurled abuse at her. I yelled back at him and he took off. Turning to the woman she sobbed through her bloody nose that she was 6 months pregnant and that was her boyfriend who had just hit her. Nice. 

I grabbed her by the arm and told her to come up to the Doctors with me to see about her nose. Turns out she was homeless. This information came to light when the Doctor's receptionist continued to ask insensitive and intrusive questions, which the girl could not answer. Eventually the girl took off without seeing the Doctor.  Apart from being homeless and not having a medicare number, she had no money to pay.

So here I was pregnant and worrying about whether we would ever go to restaurants again after our baby was born, and here was this girl who didn't have a safe home or stable relationship to bring her baby into. I think about that girl and her baby a lot. And I am grateful to have a comfortable home and great relationship.

So apart from the fact that these guys living on my street are clearly deluded about selling their car I think I will at least say hello tomorrow. It would be the neighbourly thing to do. Don't you think?

What's that word?

Yes it's been a little while. Sorry about that.

Last week the two small boys and I went to Coolangatta to spend time with Nan and Grandpa. It was a week of warm ocean swims, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (who hasn't been there when they were little to have a Lorikeet poop on your head?), lots of time in the pool and sitting on the balcony looking at the beach and the ocean. There was a lot of food eaten and much wine drunk. I even got a few walks in. Thanks Mum.

Greenmount Beach
As you can see Queensland remembered how to put on a sunny day, every day (pick your act up Sydney). Charlie got to have his first swim in the pool in a little floaty blow up ring. After the initial screams he seemed to like his little dip!
Where's my beer?

Beach baby Charlie
 Aiden got to swim a lot. Which he loves, loves, loves! Even when he and Grandpa got knocked over by a wave it's still a really good time. Aiden and Grandpa also had a great time out of the water. Grandpa got to learn lots of new and useful skills. For example, taking a small boy to the toilet when you are out for dinner. You have to lift Aiden up on the toilet and then Aiden insists you shut the door. Dad complied with his request and then a few moments later asked if he was finished. The man in the stall next door replied! And then later provided Dad with his phone number. Ace.
Peas in a pod?
Grandpa also learnt that Aiden only needs to hear a new word once before he can parrot it back and use it in the right context.  Aiden piped up with "I look sexy", in the lift with a group of other grandparent types. Yep. Not sure I want my son, who is not even 3, telling me he is sexy.  Thanks Grandpa. Aiden can also use the terms "Wacky-do" and "Wacko-the-did-dl-e-oh" in context. Whatever that would be. Nan is responsible for these additions to Aiden's already extensive vocab.

And it was a week that the grandparents learned that to deal with two small boys it's better if the whole household has an afternoon sleep. Otherwise everyone develops the common, but not well understood condition "cranky-pants". Luckily they understood that the evening goes well if it commences with wine at 5pm.

Just lazing about. Aiden and Grandpa

Nan and Charlie

Aiden and the Grandparents

Charlie and Grandpa

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Put your own mask on, before helping others.

I have been lucky to travel a lot. Both for work and for holidays. My favourite way to travel is on planes. There is still a little romance left in this form of travel for me, even when I don't get to go business class. One Company I worked for only ever sent me overseas and only travelling business class to stay in 5-star hotels. All expenses paid. I call this period of my career the "Travel Princess" period. I travelled to London, Belgium, The Phillipines, India...sigh, anyway this is not the point. 

My point is that when you travel by air you always get the safety briefing, which includes demonstrating how to put an oxygen mask on your face, should they drop from the ceiling. I ask you, is there ever a circumstance when the mask drops from the ceiling, that it's all going to end well? Is the mask really going to help if you are about to pitch into the ocean?

During the demonstration you are always told to put your mask on before helping others, like children.

When Aiden was a new-born baby Arran used to ask me about what to do or how to do it, in regards to Aiden's care. Like I knew what I was doing! Eventually I said "Babe, just cause I gave birth doesn't mean I know all the answers! You're the Dad. You work it out!" I remember sitting at a sports field at the end of a Mountain Bike race (where else) when Aiden was very little. Arran had finished the race and I had gone off to get him a cold soft drink and a sausage in a piece of bread from the local Rotary Club BBQ. I came back to find Arran giving Aiden a bottle. "He was crying and I didn't know if he needed to be fed but then I thought, I'm the Dad, I can make a decision so I'm giving him a bottle". He was very pleased with himself. Smug even.

I don't think many women give over that kind of parenting power so early on, or ever for that matter. With both of us working full-time I didn't want to be the only person who could only put Aiden to bed or attend to his needs. I wanted both of us to share the parenting and the work load that goes with it, and that meant that Arran and I both had to feel confident doing everything. It works out pretty well most of the time though every now and again...... 

Charlie and I have been sick over the past week and one night at 2am Charlie decided to scream his lungs out. He wouldn't be comforted and wouldn't feed. He was hot so I left him lying on our bed (still screaming) to trek downstairs to find the baby Panadol I purchased that day. It was nowhere to be seen. I go back up stairs. Charlie has fallen asleep on our bed so I attempt to put him back in his cot. He woke up (of course) and continued his screaming. Arran finally wakes up and suggests that perhaps I should give him some Panadol. Gee. I hadn't thought of that. I WOULD IF I COULD FIND IT!!  Do you think you might have put it in the bin? says me. The next morning Arran finds the Panadol in the recycling bin outside where he had helpfully put it. And governments wonder about the rise in violent behaviour in women.

We do have a different approach though and from having coffee with my mother's group friends and listening to their complaining, I mean telling me about their warming family stories, there seems to be a consistent theme. It's seems that the Dads are good at putting their oxygen masks on, before helping others. In my limited experience and deep mother's group research that's what the Dad's do, when looking after the kids. They do their thing first and then attend to the kid. And it pisses the mummies off! A few examples:
  • When Aiden was little and crying during the night, Arran would get get up to attend to him (usually after me pushing him hard out of the bed because he has learnt the ability to sleep through any amount of crying and screaming) but would stop on the way to go to the toilet. Aiden would be crying his little heart out and Arran is calmly doing a pee. I am lying awake listening to both these activities wishing I had gotten up instead.
  • Arran and Aiden often have a shower together in the evening. When they get out Aiden stands dripping wet while Arran dries himself off. Then Arran dries Aiden but his hair is still very wet. Then they move into our bedroom where Arran gets dressed and then he takes Aiden into his room and dresses him. This is very similar to what one of my friend's husband does, except he gets dressed and makes himself a cup of tea before getting in trouble from his wife for leaving their little girl to wander around naked with dripping hair.
  • If Arran is upstairs reading Aiden a story before bedtime, I will be downstairs cleaning up the kitchen. If I am upstairs feeding Charlie and putting him to bed, Arran is downstairs watching TV and playing on his computer.
  • On Sunday, on returning home after an outing to buy more plants to kill, Arran left Charlie in the car because he needed to go to the toilet. When I gave him a 'look' he said "I didn't want to wet myself!" Has anyone seen a grown man wet himself recently because it took him an extra minute to get to the toilet? I think not.
I don't think the Daddies even realise they are doing it! It's some-kind-of built in thing to look after yourself first. I think the mum's put the oxygen mask on others before themselves. Again, its built in. I have grabbed Charlie a number of times in the middle of the night and been feeding him before realising I was busting to go to the toilet! And it really would be nice to not have breakfast at 10 when I have been up since 6. 

I guess it doesn't matter much in the end how things can done but geez it can be annoying. Do you put your mask on before helping others?

Charlie "Crackin it" (Andrea Thompson Photography)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Our routine went to shit. Literally

The "my brain will not go to mush" challenge finished last Friday and Arran arrived home Saturday. I felt like I could relax.

I didn't need to be thinking waaayy ahead of every activity, such as making meringues, whipping cream and making some berries "drunk", while writing a blog before visiting some friends on Australia Day. Oh and feeding small boys etc. It's a given I did that.

I didn't need to be thinking about organising the bath-bed routine waaay ahead of what is normally necessary when there are two parents in the house.
Charlie after his bath.....
I didn't need to be thinking every moment...does Aiden need to go to the big boy toilet. I had a pretty good routine going with Aiden which has meant very few accidents. With Arran back I didn't need to be asking "Aiden, do you need to go to the big boy toilet with Mummy?" and then not worrying when he says "Noo" with as much indignation as a nearly 3 year old can muster, that he might wet his pants while I was feeding Charlie.

We started the toilet training a week and a half before Christmas because between Aiden and Charlie the dirty nappies were starting to take over the place. And because we are stupid. Who decides to toilet-train so close to Christmas? Anyway, the bins were overflowing and we were having to sneak garbage into the neighbours bins during the cover of night, the day before bin collection. Enough.

I haven't told you about toilet training because basically I don't think anyone wants to hear about puddles of small boy wee on the floor or being stuck at home for days because once the nappy is off, its off. I didn't think anyone needed to hear that I didn't think he would ever do a wee on the toilet and that I had no idea how to get him to do a poo on the throne. I even had a humorous tale of Aiden pooing on Arran's specially ordered customised iPad case, just as Arran walked in the door from a bike ride....but I didn't want to write about that I guess because I don't want to read about it. And yet here we are.

So after a week and a half of pain, buckets, disinfectant, endless washing of small undies, talking, encouraging, begging, pleading, tears (mine not his)...and then bribery with small cars, he was basically doing everything on the "big boy toilet". We were an accident free zone.

So when we picked up Arran from the airport on Saturday morning and I suggested to Aiden that he should go to the "big boy toilet" before we left the airport, and he responded with "Daddy take me to the big boy toilet!" Aiden and Daddy were both excited, and something inside me relaxed. A switch in my brain moved. The Dad is back and he can help with this stuff.

Off we went to have some breakfast. And then home. Arran promised Aiden a trip on the Light Rail to the pool after his sleep. Much excitement. Aiden happily went to bed. When I went to get him up from his sleep he had done a poo in his pants. Hmmm.. he hasn't had an accident during his afternoon sleep for a few weeks.

Off to the pool. Aiden and Arran went off to the warmest indoor pool while I attempted to read an article in the weekend paper, while Charlie did his best to prevent me. Aiden and Arran arrived back a bit sooner then expected. Aiden pretty pleased with himself. Arran less than pleased. Aiden had done a poo in the pool. Arran had to scoup it out of his swimmers with his hand. It had gone all soft. I thought it was funny. Of course I remained concerned and empathic. Well not really.

Arran didn't seem that keen to get back into the pool after that. We packed up and set off home. Back home we forget to ask Aiden if he needed to go to the big boy toilet. It's pretty important to do that after a swim because he tends to drink a lot of the pool water.  He did a wee in his pants and on his sandals and on his Thomas Trains. Hasn't done this for at least 4 weeks. An hour or so later a poo, in his pants. It was at this point I realised that Arran was not quite back in the swing of being home and I had let go too much. Shit.

Aiden in his "Australia Day" shirt