Friday, December 31, 2010

Making Judgments.

You wouldn’t bloody believe it. We were out at Bubs Baby Shop looking for a booster seat so that James can join us at the dining table for meals since he’s started protesting at his IKEA high chair. It was mid morning and he should’ve been at his best, but hey, he’s a toddler now and they’re prone to going off the boil without warning. Not that there wasn’t warning, he was happily playing at the sample Thomas the Tank table. Moving the trains around, imagining himself to be the new fat controller in town, while Mrs AHD was getting the sales pitch on the numerous options available. We (James & I) were then summonsed to hear the re-interpretation of the pitch in relation to the 3 or so models that passed muster based on fiduciary considerations and functionality, and James was needed to take a position in each of the chair add-ons in a mock meal-time scenario. Well, buggered if he was going to be a party to that activity when there was a train full of coal on the Island of Sodor that needed shunting somewhere else. So, that’s the background to the flip out that ensued. Not quite nuclear. Wouldn’t rate a 9 either. But it was the biggest that we had seen him throw. We tried to cajole him. We knew it would only take a minute to work out which chair would best seat his backside but he wasn’t in an amiable state of mind. There were tears. There was yelling. There was writhing in my arms. There was lots of ‘No, Daddy, No.’ And there were lots of looks in our direction. Judging looks. Looks as if to say, ‘Can’t you control that child of yours.’ Mrs AHD and I did what all good self-effacing parents would do. We beat a hasty retreat for the door and the safety of the car park knowing that we could come again another day, in a month or so's time when they’ve forgotten our faces and someone else’s child has gone berko in between time. In the car on the way home, Mrs AHD and I were recounting the events. Having a bit of a laugh about it. And we both, almost simultaneously mentioned the looks we had been getting. ‘You noticed them too?’ I asked. ‘How could I not?’ she replied. ‘How rude!’ I exclaimed. And that’s the point of this post. Where, if not in Bubs Baby Shop, is it more acceptable for a toddler to go mental and chuck a tantrum? I mean, every parent in that shop should have been empathizing with us, not judging us. And thus we decided, those who had cast a harsh gaze in our direction must have been first-timers who were still only up to purchasing teething rings and jolly jumpers, or worse still, they were the couples with their first on the way and they were shopping for the perfect nursery furniture for their utopian vision of what family life will be like, well, I hope they enjoyed a glimpse of the future... Ouch, now I’m coming across as the one making judgments.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I’m finding this return to blogging a bit difficult. I’m not too sure what to write about. And I feel like it’s a struggle finding my voice again. I used to have a stack of story ideas on one side. Each one had a sentence here or a paragraph there that I had jotted down and which I found useful for getting me started. I can’t remember the movie but there was a character that would reach into his pockets and pull out scraps of paper, beer coasters and cigarette packets that had phrases and words and sentences written down to jog the memory. I wasn’t quite that rumpled, I stored my ideas on a USB.

And then I went back to work as a teacher and I wasn’t disciplined enough to develop those ideas that I had started, although I did add to them as I remembered things, and I would take the USB backwards and forwards from home to work, just in case I got the time or the motivation, or whatever it is that gets you doing something.

Then one day I was marking some Power Point presentations that my Grade 5 class had completed as part of an assignment and I thought how much easier it would be if I just saved them to my USB and then I could take them home and mark them at my leisure. And so I handed out my USB and each student was to save their work and pass it on.

I should point out that I had never taught as young as Grade 5 and as my time with this class progressed I found myself revising downwards my expectations of what they should be capable of, to the point that after 2 weeks I decided that there was a need to run some remedial lessons in how to rule up their books and how to cut and paste efficiently.

But anyway, knowing their love of Play Station and Nintendo DS and Atari (ok, that one’s from my generation) and all things compooter-like, I thought I was fairly safe in giving out the USB. I was only asking them to plug it in, save their work, and then pass it on. Well, I think you know where this is heading. I was helping one boy when another approached me with the USB in his hand, then I noticed that there were 2 pieces to the USB. It was broken. How could it be broken? Was there a maximum number of plug ins and pull outs it had that I didn’t know about?

Although I’m sure my facial expression betrayed my disappointment I told the boy that it wasn’t a big problem and we could always get another USB to save the Power Points to etcetera, etcetera. Meanwhile, I was thinking, that’s my freaking USB with all my blog ideas, blah, blah, blah.

So, there you have it. I’m coming to grips with my loss. I’ve been jotting ideas down again. This time I’m saving them to the hard drive of the lap top and if that doesn’t make them safe from accidental annihilation at the hands of an 11 year old, then it will be the scraps of paper, beer coaster method for me too.

It’s The Little Things …

So, Mrs AussieHouseDad and I have had another little boy, our second. He’s three and half weeks old now and we feel very blessed. He’s in tip top shape for the life that lies ahead of him (touch wood). Now, I’m tempted to tell you about his arrival into our lives but I fear that story might take a bit of writing as it was some day indeed. And since I’ve just returned from the wilderness of working parentdom I think it prudent to just get a few blogs under my belt before I tackle the meaty topics.

So, in the meantime, I figured I might just bounce around as the ideas take me, and to prove I don’t always have to be verbose to the max, I think this might be a short blog about a revelation of mine.

It’s dawned on me, not for the first time, but certainly again most recently with the arrival of another child that our wheelie bin will continue to have the pong of baby shit about it for another good few years yet.

And it’s the nappy bin that’s the source of ‘eau de baby shit’. This bad boy sits away in the corner of the room beside the change table. With its lid on it’s quite benign. But it’s the cumulative effect of 24 hours worth of contributions that multiplies the stink exponentially. And the chore of changing the bin liner on a daily basis is fraught with the greatest danger of all. You see, when you put a single bagged nappy in the bin, the lid is off for a millisecond – still long enough to assault your sense of smell. But when placing a new liner in, the old, full liner must come out and it needs to be tied off, and it is during the tying off that a sudden shot of fetid air can be exhaled from the garbage the bag into your face, particularly if you tie off with vigour.

The advice in this for young players is clear … get someone else to deal with the nappy bin.

It’s these little things about parenthood that you discover as you go along (that you had no way of knowing about before) which are the signposts marking the changes in your life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From Russia With Love.

I’ve been feeling guilty. You make all these grand statements and promises about how often you’re going to post, you get people reading your stuff and then you go all quiet for half a year. And you know it’s been a long time since you posted a blog when you can’t remember your login and password and you need the systems administrators help to get you going again... I should feel guilty.

So, where have I been? What have I been doing? Would you believe … visiting … say … Russia. What’s that? You don’t? Well, while it may not be strictly true, it’s not totally a lie either, but I’ll get to all that a little later on.

Ok then, here’s the drum, I was doing the house dad thing and really enjoying it, although with all jobs there are bits that annoy you, but all in all it wasn’t like other jobs because, hey, I was caring for my son. Then one Saturday I was looking through the job ads and I came across one for a 6 month teaching contract, well we’d had Number One Son in daycare 2 days/ week while I did some supply teaching, so this didn’t seem like too much of a stretch, and in some way I wanted to see if I could get another job.

Now, needless to say, I got the job and becoming a contract teacher resulted in an obvious change in our household. No longer could I leisurely get the child fed and watered in the morning. No longer was I able to decide which of the two days this week I would choose as ‘shave day’. And gone were my mid morning showers just in case someone dropped by because being in your pyjamas at eleven is loserish, even if your pj’s are well disguised as daggy home clothes in the form of tracky dacks and beer t-shirt from Thailand.

We had joined the phenomenon that KRudd badged as ‘working families’. Mum, Dad and toddler all needing to be organized and out the door by 7.30 each morning. And basically I couldn’t get my shit together. I’ve never been any good at juggling and I’m buggered if I know how that ‘Julie/Julia’ chick blogged about cooking every day.

So, there you have it, the explanation as to why I haven’t blogged for months. I have been working Monday to Friday out of the home and any activities beyond the basic tasks for survival were too difficult to juggle. I did manage to lose a few kilos by getting back to work and therefore not having a fridge or pantry at arm’s length. But the yard has gone to crap, the blog ideas have built up, and so has the guilt.

But in the mean time much has happened. Most notably, and therefore, THE BIG NEWS, Super Wife and I have brought home our second bundle of joy, another little boy for his big brother to whack in the head (pecking order has already begun to be established). And why the Super Wife moniker, well I think it’s worth noting that in this modern day and age with maternity leave entitlements, there aren’t many women who work on the Friday and the following Thursday are having a baby sans epidural, but hey, that’s all good fodder for another blog at another time.

So, there you have it, a very quick prĂ©cis of life over the last few months between postings. Hopefully I can turn on some regular writing as I do enjoy doing it and I also enjoy the feedback, but that’s been the double edged sword and source of my guilt.

I’ve re-emerged with enthusiasm. And it seems that since I last accessed my account, the ‘BlogSpot’ mob that provide a forum for my observations have added some extra apps, one being the ‘stats’ option. On closer scrutiny of this feature it would appear that it’s not just me registering hits on my own blog or even my friends and family for that matter. The data capturers tell me that I have registered 629 in the ‘page views all time history’ category. And although that’s not a massive number, I was surprised to see from where I’ve been getting visits. Turns out the communists are big into the aussiehousedad thing, with 8 brave Chinese souls risking all by busting through the great firewall. I’m even bigger in the former Soviet states with a dozen Latvians digging my stylings along with 14 hits from the Ukraine but with 27 hits it is definitely a case of From (or To) Russia with Love.

So in order to avoid a meltdown on my in-built Catholic guiltometer and perhaps more importantly, so I don’t receive a hit of my own from some connected Russian Mafioso, I might just need to become a more organized blogger.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pinching a Minute

When James was a 2 sleep a day baby, I used to wait until 10am when I’d put him down for a morning sleep before I’d go about my morning ablutions. Now he doesn’t sleep until after 12pm that routine doesn’t work.

Some days I try and shower before he gets up, admittedly, however that doesn’t happen on most days. Sometimes I wait until he is engrossed in a program on ABC2 and I’ll jump a quick shower. Some days if he seems like he’ll get up to no good I’ll plonk him in his cot and if I leave the bathroom door open and crane my neck I can see him while I shower. Other days if I get the sense that neither option 1 nor option 2 will work I’ll get him in the shower with me, even though he had a bath the night before. Ahhhh, the things we do.

But that routine doesn’t work for another part of our daily ablutions.

I’ve developed a routine, like a lot of men, where I enjoy the peace and quiet that can be achieved when in the smallest room of the house. I am known as a reader in this location too. I know, many find this activity abhorrent, but many don’t, so don’t judge me harshly.

In any event, these days a call of nature requires a degree of subterfuge on my behalf. I’ll set James up with an activity and then I’ll loiter discreetly in the background and when I sense an opportunity I’ll try to quietly disappear while James is occupied.

But, do you know what? It must be like a parent’s sixth sense. You know the one, where quiet children means they’re up to no good and we go to investigate. Well for kids it seems like its same same. The minute I sneak away with weekend magazine folded under my arm, James’ radar goes off, ‘Where’s Daddy?’

I envisage he goes from room to room looking for me. Kitchen – nope. Laundry – nope. Bedroom – nope. And then I hear the shuffle of his feet on the carpet getting closer and closer. “Noooooooooooooo.” I just want a minute to myself. And then he does it. A hand holding some hard plastic or metal toy bang, bang, banging on the toilet door. ‘Daaaaaaaad’ ‘Daaaaaaad’ “Yes, James, in a second.”

I take a moment to re-calibrate where I’m up to in the article, saving it for next time. And as I re-appear, James gives me a look as if to say, ‘Where were you? I missed you terribly’, which is nice, but how I miss the luxury of being able to go to the loo in my own time and on my own terms.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Great Escaper (or Stair Master)

From the time that James could free-range around the house Kylee and I were conducting risk assessments.

When researching for this blog I came across a selection of safety audits from our filing system. Typically they revealed the following information.

Item: Power Points
Potential Risk: Death
Remedial Action: Plastic Plugs

Area: Kitchen
Potential Risk: Sickness and/or Death
Remedial Action: Safety Fence and Gate

Location: Stairs
Potential Risk: Broken limbs and/or Death
Remedial Action: Barricade

More telling though is the insight they revealed about the anxiety levels of first time parents. And I’m not going to point the finger but one member of the parenting partnership is an accountant who has tended to overuse excel spreadsheets for organisational purposes in her civilian life. But I digress…

So, on a daily, nay hourly basis, James would test our defences. Kitchen fence, no luck there. Flicking power points, yes, success. Sticking a fork in it … wait a minute … “Hey kid, who gave you that fork?” (tussle occurs) “Thankyou, I’ll take that.” (kid cries). And he would test for weaknesses of the jogger pram that had been placed at the base of the stairs as a barricade.

James would push the pram without luck. Brake on. He would try to scale its heights. No foot holes. He would attempt to tunnel underneath. Ouch, sore head.

Surprisingly, we had discovered a sentry that would watch those stairs vigilantly and would foil any break out attempts. Mr Jogger Pram went about his business without any fuss for months and months.

But like ‘The Great Escapists’, James had been hatching a plan. It only required him to grow a bit and get a bit stronger. Once again, time was on his side, and operation Tom, Dick and Harry was put in place.

I should have been alerted to the little mounds of dirt that were appearing on the grass, but like the Germans I was clueless and I had put those down to the ants. I had just thought it as cute when James was playing with the treadle of the Singer sewing machine table, who knew he was mocking up SS uniforms. And he was whistling all the time too.

Like Steve McQueen, James Garner, Lee Marvin and Co, James waited for the good weather of summer to make his break….

I was sitting at the dining table keeping an ear out for James. There was huffing and puffing and groans of exertion. Nothing really out of the ordinary with that. Then the alarm for all parents went off, the sound of silence.

I turned and out of the corner of my eye I saw James’ feet disappearing around the corner of the return landing. He was half-way up the stairs, the land of milk and honey beckoned. Freedom. I channelled Sgt Schultz, “I know nusssing.” (Sorry, wrong reference point, that one’s a WWII German parody) I composed myself, “HALT … or you will be shot.”

James stopped. He looked back at me and our eyes met. We both realised that a significant event had occurred and that life would change from that moment on.

And, so it did. We kept the jogger pram barricade for a few more weeks after the first breakout, although it did need some reinforcements. The nappy bag was brought in, as were some cushions.

I began keeping watch as time and again James was able to breach the secure perimeter. He demonstrated ingenuity for overcoming my cunning placements of obstacles. Pushing, pulling and climbing were his usual strategies. And all for an opportunity to engage in his natural instinct of seeing what there was to see. Obviously he didn’t know it was just the other side of the mountain.

A parenting decision about this new juncture in the road was needed. Debating lines were set, the argument for the affirmative team was clear, “As, we have a house with stairs, he just has to learn how to use them.” While the negative team argued like a true opposition putting up the scare campaign of, “What if he falls?” It was an emotive topic and both arguments had compelling points to consider, but with an eye to the future, the adjudicator came down on the side of the affirmative.

The crowd, of one (James), gathered at the bottom of the stairs. It was a smaller crowd than the one that gathered in Berlin to watch the Wall come down, but it was no less symbolic. On this day, the barricade that had been preventing the re-unification of toys was removed and access to the upwards and downwards thingies was granted.

Slow, tentative steps were taken at first. Actually, James was quite adept at the going up, but guidance was needed for the coming down part. In true parent-child teaching fashion, child ignored parent who knew best and tried to tackle said problem his own way. The inevitable tumbles (under controlled conditions) occurred, but through trial and error a degree of proficiency was achieved.

Today, James fairly flies up the stairs, likes to try to walk down them with the aid of the balustrade, knows that sliding backwards on his tummy is the ‘careful’ way and is also the quickest method (especially useful if a favourite treat is on offer). He knows that a hasty retreat to the stairs will provide a delay to the inevitable activity he is attempting to avoid. And on the rare occasion that he does take a tumble, James will usually pick himself up, look a bit surprise, hold his hands out and say “I know nusssing.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Babymoon

Let me see, James was born in November, so I suppose this happened in the October before he arrived.

I can’t remember whether I was being a renaissance man or if Kylee had dropped so many hints that I finally twigged to the idea, but in any event I booked a quiet weekend away for us to enjoy each other’s company before our couple status would change forever.

I had seen O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat featured on those good weekend programs and thought that it would be a perfect destination. I even booked a picnic lunch hamper from their vineyard on the valley floor to enjoy on the riverbank along the way. (I know ladies, 1, 2, 3 … altogether now …. ‘awwww, how romantic’)

We hadn’t coined the phrase ‘Babymoon’ (a derivative of the honeymoon concept) at this stage. That happened when we received a text message from friends enquiring as to our whereabouts. When we told them what we were up to, they enlightened us to this new concept. And since we liked the term, we’ve been running with it ever since.

So, here we were, enjoying a lovely spring day in the Gold Coast hinterland. The sun was out, the birds were singing, we had just enjoyed a delicious lunch of gourmet deli delights and we were about 30k’s from our idyllic mountain destination.

Did I say mountain destination? Ah yes, that’s right, 30 kilometres up a winding, single lane strip of tar, almost no room for on-coming traffic, side of the mountain, goat track. I’ve recently seen an episode of Top Gear where they drive through the Andes and the roadside is prone to giving way here and there and slipping into the canyon hundreds of metres below. Well this was not dissimilar.

And have I told you about Kylee’s neuroses before. I seem to recall describing Kylee’s impersonation of Marge Simpson to my Homer-like bluster. Well this was another of those situations where Kylee was uneasy with the circumstances and thus approached the experience as would Chicken Little.

On we went, higher and higher, windier and windier. We would speed up to 50km/h on the straight sections and then another corner would halve our speed. And as we travelled we encountered more and more on-coming traffic that was heading down the mountain. Thus we deduced there were a lot of day trippers who go for lunch. Well, that would be ok, if like us they were travelling in sensible little 4 cylinder sedans, but they were even more sensible, they had travelled in bus groups so they could enjoy a wine or a beer. At least keeping to the left side meant we would only fall off the mountain second in the event of a mischief.

The fact that I am recounting this tale clearly indicates that we made it to our destination but not without much sucking in of air through clenched teeth.
As I had calculated our arrival time by distance to be travelled and not by windiness of the road, we were now cutting phase 2 of the Babymoon, an afternoon of pampering for Kylee in the day spa, very fine indeed. (Cue more sucking of air through clenched teeth, but not by me.)

You know, it’s funny when you think about it. The types of conversations we get ourselves involved in. Even though I was acting under instructions I still found myself learning far too much about day spa treatment than I would ever have anticipated I would need to know.

“Did you book me a massage?”
“What type?”
‘I don’t know? A back massage.’
“Did you tell them I’m pregnant?”
“Well, how are they going to give me a back massage?”
‘I, don’t know, maybe they have a table with the tummy cut out so your belly can hang through.’
“Oh don’t be so ridiculous.”
‘Look, I’m sure when you waddle through the door they’ll be able to adapt a procedure for you.’

And even though I received that whack, they did adapt a procedure and Kylee duly came out some hours later feeling quite pampered and relaxed, but not altogether happy with me. (Note to self, waddle is not a suitable adjective to describe a pregnant woman’s walk.)

We were enjoying the serenity now. No traffic noise. No hustle and bustle. Just the relaxation that nature and a good view will bring. We were enjoying the vista across the valley from our balcony as the sun began to set.

“What’s that cement with ‘H’ painted on it down there?”
“Down there, in front.”
‘Oh, that’d be a helipad for emergencies.’

And that’s all it took to set the little rattle off.

“Oh my, what if I go into labour?”
‘You won’t.’
“People go into labour early you know.”
‘I know that, but you’ll be alright.’
“I could.”
'But we know, your mother was late with all her pregnancies and daughter’s closely follow their mothers.’ (I was making this bit up, I don’t know if that’s true, but said with confidence it seemed to placate.)
“Hmmm, I don’t know if that sounds right.”
‘Anyway, the helipad is a good thing, at least we know we can get you down the mountain if you do go into labour. I should imagine there would be an extra cost if we need to ring reception asking for some hot water and extra towels.’ (Ben laughs at his own joke.)
(Why do I do that to myself?)

And so it came to pass that we had a lovely time away. We tossed around baby names, I had a bottle of wine (less half a glass) with dinner, Kylee did not go into unexpected early labour and I learned that should we go on another Babymoon then I won’t be booking a place that requires the use of a sure footed donkey as our transportation.