Monday, February 26, 2007

Take Cover!! The Kids are Winning!!!!

Hello. Welcome to the end of the world. I mean, the end of February. Who knew the world would end on such a short month? Yes, the short are about to inherit the Earth. I am starting to suspect that in biblical times, "meek" actually meant "short in stature". And good luck to them, I say.

Princess and Little Man are currently ruling our house. Princess is the Queen of the Damned Day, and Little Man is the Prince of Darkness. It is possible that those monikers have already been taken but my precious little children have earned them. DW and I are but their humble slaves, me not so humble. People who come to visit are made to dance for their pleasure and sent away when they become boring.

In many ways, Princess is like an open book. One that is held open at the spine and shaken to make ALL the words come out together in a slightly meaningful jumble, but pretty hard to follow. Every sentence consists of her using every word she knows in an entirly new arrangement. She knows more words than a team of monkeys banging mindlessly away at keyboards trying to write a Shakespearean play. She also sounds like a team of monkeys banging mindlessly away at keyboards trying to write a Shakespearean play.

However, occassionally, she shows remarkable insight. We have now taught her the emergency phone number and she already knows our street address. We were cautious about this step in case we had the firebrigade show up to help her open a tub of yoghurt with those annoying tops that either tear when they shouldn't, or flick yoghurt onto your hand or glasses. She understands that the number must only be used in an emergency, and she was concerned as to what might be considered such. Without alarming her too much (perhaps I shouldn't have acted out possible scenarios - or used the tomato sauce) we explained that she should only call the number if DW or I are unable. So she asked how she would know if we were unable. This time we explained that if she asks us if she should ring the number, and we don't answer, then she should ring the number. Amazingly, she took it very seriously and can recite the procedure perfectly now. Still, I'm expecting to come home one night to a firetruck outside and several fireman sitting at my table eating yoghurt.

While I think of it, I should share another little Princess story. As can happen when things get tense at home, usually after weeks of Little Man not sleeping, DW was getting a little fed up with Princess asking for more food. She does this most of the time through the day. She doesn't eat much but likes as much variety as she can manage. Anyway, the other day, DW was getting a little hot under the collar with Princess and I. I, being the wiser of the two, recognized he powder keg when DW said, "Sometimes I'm treated like just a chef around here." As I turned to run, I heard Princess stand toe to tiny toe with DW and say, "You a chef? That's a good one, mum!" You may have heard the explosion. It was visible from space.

Little Man is making his own presence felt by becoming every bit as demanding as his big sister. Though he has only a few words, and some of them are not really words, no matter what DW says, he can usually get his point accross. "I want food." "I want water." "I want juice." "I want cheese." "Make me laugh." "Entertain me." "Pick me up." "Put me down." Pick me up." Put me down." "I want sultanas." "I want sausages." "I want whatever Princess is having." "No, I actually want you to take the thing out of her hands and give it to me." "Wipe my bottom." It doesn't end.

Little Man is no longer the settled little darling that he once was. He is a menace. When he is up, he is in to everything. He takes special note of the things we apparently care about and makes it his mission to destroy them. We have tried using reverse psychology, by pretending unusual attachment to lumps of rock and other indestructible items, while ignoring more valuabale items such as craft magazines and fabric and DW's most precious connection to the outside world, her laptop. But Little Man can smell fear. Oh, we can pretend we don't care, but he knows. He has his ways. He tests the water, he threatens things and watches to see how we react. If we start sweating, the game is up and he goes to town. I'm pretty good at the reverse psychology thing but DW only manages it convincingly when its my stuff in the firing line. In fact then, its amazing how well she can pretend not to give a crap.

So he spends much of the day strapped into his chair. That may sound like a punishment but is actually an Australian Standards Approved feeding chair so we choose to feed him a lot. Which is ok because its only good, healthy food and when he's not in the chair, he runs a lot, burning off energy and destroying things. Unfortunately he's now taken to seeing how far he can throw his food and utensils. He's got quite a good arm on him.

At night is when Little Man truly comes into his own. If you thought he was a menace during the day, then you were wrong. Well, actually, he is a menace during the day, so I guess you were right if that was what you were thinking. If you thought he wasn't a menace during the day, you would have been wrong, because he is. The point I am making is that he is worse at night.

Princess took a loooonnnnngggg time to get to sleep through the night. We had to control cry her most nights. Controlled Crying is frowned upon by some as being cruel to the child but I have spent a lot of time thinking about the balance between the child's wellbeing and the parents'. I have weighed up the consequences of not control crying and the flow on effect of the fatigued parents' ability to provide adequate care to the child in question and I have formed a carefully reasoned argument to the opponents of this method. However, these people are not usually smart enough to understand my brilliant argument so I just flick them on the forehead several times and say, "Control cry this!"

Little Man is diabolical. He doesn't cry, he laughs. It sounds like laughing in the middle of the night should be better than crying because at least the little angel is happy, right? WRONG! When you have been up four three hours and can see the alarm clock getting closer and closer to your wake-up time, it does NOT help to think, "Well, at least he's having fun." It does NOT help to know that me searching for his dummy on my hands and knees amuses him. And it does NOT help to think, "Well, as long as he's having fun, he's bound to stop soon." No, when they are crying, you know they will wear themselves out and eventually go to sleep. When they are crying, they are not mocking you and trying to make you perform tricks like find the dummy. When they are crying, they are unhappy and at least then you know you are up to console them, to comfort them. When they are laughing, you serve no purpose beyond your entertainment value.

It would be nice and simple if we could just ignore the laughing. But Little Man does not like to be ignored. He knows that if he keeps at it, he will eventually wake up Princess and she likes nothing better than a midnight game that can be easily blamed on someone else. So we have to try to keep Little Man from waking her. If DW wakes up, she takes a long time to go back to sleep whereas I sleep lightly but can fall asleep quickly, which apparently makes me ideally suited to looking after Little Man during the night. If only Controlled Laughing worked. Still, as I pace for an hour or more each night, I console myself with the thought that eventually he will grow out of this and become a teenager, whom I will be struggling to wake up. Only eleven and a half years to go.


Thought for the Day: Today is a beautiful day - too good to be working. Judging by my KPIs, so was last year.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ahhh Valentine's Day. That wonderful tribute to Hallmark's bottom line. I know everyone has heard the usual rant against "fake" holidays and special events concocted by greedy suits to prey upon the wallets of hapless men and women who are terrified of being thought of as stingy or uncaring. I don't care. I don't care that Hallmark made it up to sell cards. I don't care for the commecialism that surrounds Feb 14. I don't care what other people are doing to make this "special" day wonderful and I don't care about the passionate arguments for defying the capitalist pigs. I don't care how many flowers are sold today or how many chocolates are consumed. I don't care if you drink champagne or a cowboy or a coke. I don't care if you receive a card from "someone special" or a singing telegram. Boy, I sound like the Valentine's Day equivalent of Scrooge, don't I?

But I'm not.

Those things don't matter. I do care about the important things, and something Valentine's Day represents is the most important thing for me to care about. I care about DW. Of course, I care about Princess and Little Man and I try to show them that every day. One of the problems with being a parent, or a busy person for any reason, is that it can be all too easy to take that "special someone" for granted. I don't mean to. I would hate the thought that DW ever felt as though I took her for granted, though I'm sure she does sometimes. Probably because I do sometimes.

So each year, on Feb 14, DW and I do something special. Not very special. Just special enough to take the time to remind ourselves and each other that we do care for, love and need each other. Of course, we should do this every day and guess what, we do. At least we try to. I don't mind that the commercial world jumps up and tells me to show DW how much I love her. Its not like its really hard. As a rule I don't tend to buy flowers or cards but its usually a good excuse for buying chocolates.

Even if we do so everyday, its still worth making one day a little more special. Even if our relationship were perfect, it would probably still have one day that focussed on the "us" part of our relationship. Its so hard to commit yourself fully to another person, to accept their foibles and failings, that when you do make that stand, its worth reminding yourself occasionally just why you do it. Sometimes that is easier than others. Sometimes you really have to look hard to see the person you wanted to be with. But it can also hard to be the person you need be for your partner. Relationships are not easy, we all know that. So why not have a day where both partners make it easy for each other? It can't be Christmas everyday of the year, nor can it be Valentine's Day. Maybe once a year is not enough, but at least its a start.

So tonight, DW and I will "process" the kids quickly, encouraging an early night. Then we will have a bottle of wine with a nice dinner and sit and chat. We won't chat about our day, or the news or the kids or the weather. We will chat about us. We will remember that above all else we have chosen each other for this journey. I don't suppose that everyone could do this. My relationship with DW is not the same as any other out there. Some are better and some are worse. In fact, I have heard that this particular time of year is the peak for breakups. I don't think that's going to happen to me tonight, but believe me, if it does, there will be a blog tomorrow.

I guess that rather than this being a tribute to DW, it is more about the nature of our relationship. We are not perfect but we are perfect for each other. I like to think that we can go the distance but I know everyone thinks that of their own relationship. I know it takes work and humour and love and determination and it doesn't seem unreasonable that I spend at least one day a year at it. It probably won't kill me.


Thought for the Day: The world is my oyster, which does explain the smell.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

WARNING: When I reassembled my head this morning, I had three screws and jelly bean left over. I'm going to keep the screws in case they come in handy but I have already eaten the jelly bean.

Occasionally a little freeform, crazy writing does wonders for the soul. It allows you to just bang away at the keyboard like a monkey trying to pick up hundreds and thousands with tweezers. I don't expect it makes great reading though. So it got me thinking: Do I write this for the reader or do you read this for the writer? Unlike the Chicken and the Egg conundrum, we know the writing came first. Its not like anyone came up to me and said, "What do you think?"

I think a lot of different things and a lot of the same things differently. By that I mean sometimes my mind wanders and I find myself out in the middle of nowhere without a map or any water. I mean this metaphorically of course. Other times I find myself considering something quite obvious and mundane and then I stand up and walk around the object of consideration and look at it from the other side. In this case, the object represents a principle or concept rather than a cup of hot chocolate for instance. A cup of hot chocolate is pretty much the same from over here. And from here. And from here as well. I'm having hot chocolate this morning.

Which brings me finally to the point of discussion of today's blog. DW and the Art of Knowing Exactly What She Wants To Hear. This is a Martial Art and I have a white belt. I may have already touched on this topic in the past but I feel that its worth mentioning, even if it is again.

DW will frequently offer me two choices. Sometimes she will hold them aloft before me and sometimes she will point at them in a magazine. Occasionally she will describe them in exquisite detail for twenty minutes each and then ask me which one she should buy, make, buy and make, eat, buy and eat, make and eat, buy and make and eat, wear, buy and wear, make and wear, buy and make and wear, buy and make and wear and eat. Now you are probably thinking a specific example would help demonstrate my point. But it wouldn't. In fact, it really doesn't matter what the two choices are because this is not the Art of Knowing Which Fabric Goes With Her Complexion, or the Art of Having More Money For The Buying Of Fabric. No, this is the Art of Knowing Exactly What She Wants To Hear, so it really doesn't matter what the choices are. What matters is being able to work out from the myriad subtle clues what she wants you to say.

Rule #1: Don't under any circumstances give your actual opinion. It is not wanted, needed or right.

Rule #2: Listen. Listen really hard. Not because she wants you to, but because your life depends on it.

Rule #3: Read Rule #2 again. I don't think you've got it.

Rule #4: Be observant. Watch how she holds things or points at things. She will be telling you which one to choose.

Rule #5: Seriously, read Rule #2 again.

Rule #6: NEVER, under any circumstances, reply too quickly without apparent due consideration.

Rule #7: NEVER, under any circumstances, reply too slowly or you will seem uninterested.

Rule #8: NEVER sound too sure. You might as well call her an idiot for even asking.

Rule #9: NEVER sound too keen. She will think you are mocking her. If you think quickly and are extremely lucky, you might get away with this one if you can convince her you are actually gay.

Rule #10: NEVER, EVER pick the wrong one. Just don't.

Well, that's how I got to be a white belt in the most dangerous martial art known to man and female life partners. I share this wisdom with you now because tomorrow is Valentine's Day and when all shall be redeemed. You want to see some world-class grovelling? Stay tuned...


Thought for the Day: If Mark Twain were alive to read this he would be really, really old.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The once was a man from Nantuket
Who got his foot stuck in a bucket
He fell with a clamour
It cured his old stammer
But now all he can say is "Oh dear!"

I'm not really sure why I wrote that. I would take it back but I've had my "delete" key surgically removed. Anyway, for more adventures of the Man from Nantuket, visit his website at: and enjoy! And let me know what you think of the site.

Ok, down to business. I promised a little update on Princess and Little Man so here it is. I mentioned recently that they are starting to play together more and more. Mostly its that running and screaming game, and the manner in which they decide who is pursuing and who is pursued is more complex than I can fathom. Now, apart from the noise, its great that they play together, but it can make bedtime difficult. The problem is they don't know when to stop.

Little Man used to sleep well, back before he had any teeth. When they shared a room, we would put him to bed first because it would take him around 30 seconds to fall asleep and Princess with a whistle and a handful of party poppers couldn't wake him up. She would try for about 30 seconds and then she too would fall asleep. Oh, how I long for those days.

Anyway, Little Man now knows the joys of not going to sleep. He can lie down and lift his legs up. He can stand up and walk to the edge of the cot. He can run to each of the corners. Endless fun! Apparently it can amuse him for hours, which means he doesn't go to sleep quickly any more.

We experimented with putting them both to bed at the same time but this did not work out well. If Princess is not distracted, she will still fall asleep very quickly. Usually if she hasn't made any noise for five minutes, she is probably asleep. That means its safe to put Little Man down because as much fun as exploring his cot again is, all his laughing and yelling and baby-equivalent of "Wow! Look at this! This is amazing! FOUR corners, still!", he still can't wake up Princess. Mind you, if he ever learns the word "chocolate" we will have to put them in separate rooms.

Anyway, occasionally Princess has managed to keep herself distracted long enough to be awake when Little Man goes to bed. This rarely ends well. Princess now has an audience who finds her slightly more fascinating than the corners of his cot, though I suspect some of his yelling is him trying to draw her attention to the amazingly consistent number of corners. Little Man has not yet reached the Age of Reason and so there is little we can do with him. Princess on the other hand, has reached the Age of Reason, though she thought it was the Age of Raisins. However, she is pretty difficult to raisin with.

She knows she is not allowed to play with Little Man when they are supposed to be sleeping. She also knows it is she who will get in trouble if they are caught. So she has developed very good hearing and the instant she hears the sliding door open, she will drop whatever it is she is doing, or whoever she is holding, and leap back into bed and pretend that she has no idea what is going on. She will even go so far as to clasp her hands together and smile her "I'm too cute for you to be angry at" smile.

I caught her the other day. Its amazing how quickly she can move. I knew she had been playing with Little Man, not because I caught them together. He was running around in his cot saying "'s a corner and here's a corner and...". No, aside from the sound of someone leaping into bed, Princess was sitting up, eyes wide and innocent and hands clasped angelically before her. When she tried to smile her sweet, "Aren't I the picture of innocence?" smile, she realised that she had Little man's dummy in her mouth. So what did she do then? What would anyone do if caught in that situation? She spat the dummy out and said "Oops". I could see her thinking, "Would he fall for it if I pretended I didn't know how that got there?" but a few moments pause was all she needed. She lay down, pulled up the doona, closed her eyes and held out the dummy, which I took and gave it back to Little Man, "...and here's a corner and here's a corner and swuck, suckck,sswuck,swuck,swucksucckkcsswuck..."

Oh well. So now, Princess goes to bed first, and then, when we are sure she is asleep, Little Man does laps of his cot. Its not perfect but its a process that seems to work.


Thought for the Day: shlathole sounds rude, but actually, its not a word. Its kobberish.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hi All, its Monday again.

Not sure what to blog about today so I thought I'd quickly catch up on some of the movies I watched over the January period. Now I have already mentioned "So I Married An Axe Murderer" but I have watched several films since then.

DW and I had been looking forward to seeing "The Producers" with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, but we found the movie to be a bit lame. While everyone played their parts reasonably well, overall it was like an ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle. Uma Thurman provided little more than eye candy but I did enjoy Will Ferrell's role. The part I found funniest in the whole movie was when Nathan Lane's character is in his cell toward the end, recounting his childhood only to realise moments later that what he was remembering wasn't his childhood but someone elses. The line "What the hell was that about?" was vintage Mel Brooks. Still, overall it was a fairly plodding film and perhaps the stage is where it should have stayed.

Another film I watched with anticipation was the Nick Cave written, "The Proposition" with Guy Pearce. This Australian film was one I would recommend with reservation. It is an extremely well crafted film, make no mistake. John Hillcoat has definitely shown his colours in directing this film. But it is a hard film to watch. At its core it is about family and this might make it seem appealing but wait... there's more. This film shows the ragged remains of strained relationships in brutal detail, and it is the brutality of this depiction that leaves you desperate for something emotionally equivalent to a palate cleanser. There are many films with far more graphic violence, but few more brutal. I will not watch this film again but I will always remember it and it will inform my own filmmaking in many ways, I am sure. So watch this film if you think you can stomach it, but remember, you have been warned.

A much lighter film was "Russian Dolls". DW did not watch the previous film with me and was reluctant to watch this one, though for different reasons. Anyway, we finally sat down and watched it and it was a pleasant surprise. It is a light film but very well made. It showed mostly simple depictions of relationships, but it highlighted some extremely significant things within that surface layer. Probably the best shot in the whole movie was seeing how two hands touch and hold for the first time. While this film was far from perfect, and the (anti) hero finally gets the girl, even though he probably doesn't deserve her, its still a satisfying film. It has some very funny moments as well but mostly, its simple and light and enjoyable. It won't change your life but its worth a look.

Anyway, that's all for today. I promise the next blog will have something about Princess and Little Man.


Thought for the Day: Absorbent and porous and yellow is he (I have the SpongeBob Squarepants tune stuck in my head)