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.

Bonjour, bienvenue.

I’ve been away for a while, haven’t I? I won’t worry about checking the dates but it has been more than a month, maybe even close to two. I feel neglectful. And when I’m told by family and friends that I haven’t blogged for a while I feel guilty too.

I enjoy remembering the little things and writing about them and I worry that I might forget a precious moment. I think that’s why I feel some guilt. Couple that with the fact that I know people have been tuning in on a semi-regular basis, I have been feeling as though I was a neglecting a friendship.

That’s why I’ve affixed a title to this blog that has a bit of whimsy. Hopefully it will mask my sheepishness as I return to chronicling life since the arrival of James.

There is another issue too. It’s not a big problem. I’ve got stacks of one sentence ideas in my draft folder and I don’t know where to start. I can’t really remember what happened first so tackling them chronologically won’t really work.

I hope you will be able to follow events as I go back and forth with memories of the last 18 months or so.