Wednesday, 31 October 2012

When did you last meet a zombie with whooping cough?

I met one.  Today.  In fact I live with one.

A zombie with whooping cough.  Before the madness.
This morning Sarah was told she had whooping cough.  No school til next week, and isolation until Saturday morning.  No gym, no band recital (very quiet high five of self), no sax lesson, no touch football.  Nothing, nada, zip.

And no Halloween.  Oh the horror.

After about 30 minutes of crying, she squared her shoulders and moved on.  I made plans for her siblings to go out without us, and we made a pact to stick together at home.  She would still dress as a zombie and would stay on the trampoline in the front garden and I would hang around near the letterbox handing out lollies.

As we are on a thoroughfare between two of the major Halloween friendly streets in our suburb, we expected to be pretty busy.

I gave Issy and Josh a third collecting bucket and told them to tell the people at each house about Sarah and ask if they could please take a lolly for her.

Issy kept flying the Sarah flag long after Josh lost interest and faithfully brought Sarah back a bucket full of stuff (which she so doesn't need).  The two younger kids then went around the corner where the nearby cul de sac was going nuts and wine was being drunk.

Sarah and I kept up our handing out posts and watched hordes of dressed up kids walk the streets in groups small and large, with parents and without.  There were zombies, witches, princesses, ghosts, ninjas and unidentifiable scary things.

Our bowl of goodies emptied three times and still they came.

Disturbingly, one mum drove her kid up to our driveway and I had to hand him something through the car window.  I really hope there was a reason for that apart from bone laziness.  I'm sure of it.  Sore leg? More whooping cough?

We lit a candle inside George.  He looked fabulous.  I love George.

I drank a cup of tea.  And then I had a glass of wine.

Note: George, full collecting bucket on left, nearly empty handing out bowl on right,  glass of champs.

Sarah saw loads of her friends (but didn't go near them).  They shouted at each other from a distance. I let her go across the road and around the corner by herself as long as she didn't go near any kids.  There was one house with fake graves outside it which was very impressive.

It has been named the "best Halloween ever" by all, even by the child who technically wasn't a participant. I loved chatting to the locals, the neighbours, the school families, even if I couldn't join the party in the nearby street as originally planned.  There's always next year.

George is back inside now because his fabulousness was causing people to knock for trick or treating when we have nothing left.  Their little disappointed faces break my heart.  

It's not my favourite annual event but around here there's no point in being a Halloween humbug.  The kids look forward to it so much.  And if you can't beat them, you simply have to join them.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Of dancing, prancing and big black eyes.

The ballet concert.

Love it, hate it, fear it, if you have daughters or sons who love to dance, around this time of year you will either have just been to yours, be about to attend one, or in the final weeks of preparation.

Our concert was earlier than usual, due to the school at which it is held, having the gall to want to use it themselves on the first weekend in November, which is the traditional date.  We dutifully prepared hair pins, hair nets, hair spray, frilly socks and didn't wash our daughter's hair so the bun would stick.

In an act of genius the organisers of the dance school which Issy attends, do not force us all to sit through 3 hours of every age and style of dance at the annual concert. Instead the kids up to year 2 at school perform in an early afternoon concert and those older perform later.  You only have to go to both if you have kids in both age groups, or if you child is in a performance group or a soloist.

Backstage was unbelievable.  I find it hard to speak of the madness.  The tulle, the fishnet, the hairpins and the screeching.  Trying to find your child in a purple tutu among 12 of them was nearly impossible.  I got out of there as fast as I could.

Our concert, heavy as it was on the tiny tots, included lots of special performances by Eistedfford groups to break things up.   They were very good and allowed us to regain our composure after chortling at the little ones (shedding a tear at the same time).

Not only am I proud of the bun but I'm very keen on those red shoes my friend S is wearing in the background
Our girls were the 6th act in.  They were devastatingly cute.  Issy performed with her black eye, received on Wednesday when she fell and bumped her face on the sinks at preschool, giving herself a shiner of epic proportions.

Check out the shiner.
A few acts after our purple people were a group of blue tutus (the 3-4 years olds) and further on in the program was a group of pink ones (the other 4-5 year old group).   The idea was that a solo act with a curtain hiding 2/3 of the stage went before each tiny tots act, allowing them to assemble in their line and be ready for the curtain to go up.

This was a great idea except for one little girl in the blue group, who, when the curtain went up and she realised the audience was full of...well...people, completely lost it and ran screaming to the edge of the stage.

The closest parent to her jumped up and tried to stop her from falling off the stage.  This caused her to scream even louder.  Her mum came running down the side of the audience and tried to take her away, but little blue girl refused to go quietly, instead, she tried to pull her mum on the stage, to hold her hand while she continued to dance.

The show must go on, and all that. As you would expect, her Mum strongly resisted getting down with the blue tutu's to 'Funky the Monkey".

Finally little blue tut accepted that her Mum would sit just off stage, while she joined the end of the line and joined in for the last 20 seconds of the dance.  Most of her classmates had watched the action instead of dancing, as had possibly the entire audience except for the parents of the rest of the blue tutus who were probably feeling a bit gypped by this stage (I would have).

At the end, each little girl had a chance to blow a kiss to the audience and skip off stage.  Little blue tutu got the biggest clap ever.  And at the end when they all danced off stage left, she turned and ran across into her mums arms at stage right.  We all wiped tears of laughter and sympathy from our eyes.

Before the concert, Issy was giving up dancing.  Now she is dedicated to a continued dancing career so she can wear a costume as cool as the big sisters she saw in the dressing room.

Looks like it's 51 weeks til the next one.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Halloween: I have no strength left to fight it.

I went to the $2 shop today.  You know why.  

I wasn't going to.  I fought for a long time.  But after Sarah had asked me for a headband that makes you look like you have a knife through your head about 100 times.  I gave in.  

Here is what it looked like.  This is just one part of one wall.  Maybe 1/8 of what was on offer. 

All the horror was a bit paralysing.  

I didn't find the knife headband here.  I found it in another shop.  And it's more of a stake through the head look than a knife.  But she's happy.  She's chopped up a pair of black leggings and is planning on being a zombie.  

We (they) have decorated the front garden.  Faux cobwebs hang from the hibiscus bushes.  Skeleton hangy things dangle from the front gate.  One was sitting fetchingly on the DA sign but it got moved.  Not sure by who, our front yard is a bit of a mosh pit after school, and is often invaded by friendly troops.  

But my absolute favourite decoration is 'George'.  We carved him out this afternoon.  This is to say, I had nothing to do with it, and when my usual Monday helping with kids person couldn't come today and her son came instead, I decided I had the perfect man for the job.  

And I was right!! Look at him.  He's a treasure. George that is.  So is A, our teenage pumpkin carver. Plus! our house comes with pre made spooky tattered curtains to frame him in. 

George in daylight.
I've put a torch inside him rather than candles.  This is how George looks now.  Fabulous no?  

George in the dark.

And there is the spooky moon.  Nearly full.  It's almost enough to make a girl lose her cynicism.  

Bring on Halloween.  I'm ready.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Outline of a weekend.

The kids have eaten sausages for dinner every night since last Tuesday.

I've drunk far too much champagne too many nights in a row.

I've eaten way more than my share of cheese, biscuits, chips and desserts and done virtually no exercise.

We have all had fun with some great friends.  


Cried.  Mostly with laughter.  Not always.  

And the kitchen is clean.  Sort of. 

Happiness is a purple leotard and frilly socks. 
We watched our gorgeous baby dance in her concert.  With a cracker of a black eye.  With her equally gorgeous friends.

And the weekend is over, so fast.  No time to catch a breath before another week begins.  

Good night.  

Ps.  Tomorrow is vegetable Monday like it's never been before.  

Friday, 26 October 2012

Blogging in the dark.

It's 5am. I've given up on sleeping.

First there was the coughing.  All that pollen and smoke and wind plus a slight cold has got Sarah wheezing away.  It's years since she's struggled with asthma but I was on the verge of giving her Redipred last night.  Luckily the puffer seems to be enough for now.

Tuck in, stroke hair.  Kiss, cuddle.  Repeat.

On my way back to bed, I had to comfort Issy who thought there were spiders in her room.  We double checked.  No spiders.  Whew.

Tuck in, stroke hair.  Kiss, cuddle. Repeat.

At 4am Issy woke me.  She was crying in her room.  Which was strange because normally she comes and gets into bed with us.  Mike got up, and I thought, for one incredible second, that he might be going to the crying child.

He was just going to the loo.  I am a fool.

She was hiding in a corner of the room, terrified because she said something was crawling on her and in her bed.  Ants, she thought.

We turned on the bedside light, (much to Josh's disgust) and checked thoroughly.  Nothing.

She kept thinking she could see them, walking up in the half light from under the bed.  I felt terrible for her, whatever she was seeing it seemed real to her and she was petrified.

I began to worry whether her knock to the head on Wednesday was making her hallucinate.   Maybe it was a symptom of concussion?  Or maybe she just has an overactive imagination brought on by a very silly game they were playing before bed.  Which was about spiders.

After 15 minutes I coaxed her back into bed.  Turned off the light.

Tuck in, stroke hair.  Kiss, cuddle.  Repeat about 50 times until she is asleep.

Same for Josh.  Just once though, he is nearly asleep again.

Go back to bed.  Toss, turn.  Worry I haven't blogged.

Try to sleep.  Sleep will serve me better in a few hours than blogging will.

Think of all the things I have to do today.  Worry about a press release I am writing.

Worry about Issy.  Go and check on her.

Give up.  Get up.  Make tea.  Sit at computer in the dark.  Listen to Sarah cough.

Here I am.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

An expedition to the Far East.

A change is as good as a holiday.

I am a bit ashamed to confess I live a fairly huge portion of my life in a 12 km radius.  In fact, 80 % of my beaten track is even smaller, maybe 5 km.

Our local shops 1km from home are my favourite place to purchase, giving me coffee, bread, dry cleaning, meat, postage and emergency fruit, veg and groceries.  On my ideal day, this is as far as I will travel.

Several times a week I go a tiny bit further to what seems to be the most expensive Coles in the known universe.

My bag.  I'm proud of it. 
But when I really need birthday presents, saxophone reeds and cheap, crap clothing, I go to our local Mall.  Most people just call it 'The Mall".  Most people (myself included) also dislike going there, perhaps because once you get there it's possible to spend endless hours wandering up and down, trapped by the choices available.

So, for something a little bit different, for an outing with our good friend S and her two delightful littlies (both under 4), Issy and I made the journey to the eastern suburbs and went to Westfield Bondi Junction.

Our rough mission was originally to purchase a few pairs of frilly white ankle socks for Issy and several of her dance classmates to wear as part of their costume during their concert performance on Saturday.  But by the time we made it over all those bridges and through all the tunnels, two other Mums had already found them elsewhere.  I'm hopeless, yes?

 Anyways, we found a park and ventured into the centre without a particular goal in mind, other than coffee.

Here's what I noticed:

There were a lot of prams.  Mostly Bugaboo.  Some Stokke.  I did not see a McLaren.

The place wasn't crawling with famous millionaire celebrities.  Just people shopping.  A tiny bit disappointing.

The posh shops on the 3rd floor had virtually no-one in them, but the clothes, shoes and accessories were amazing.  We only looked in the windows, we didn't dare go inside with three kids.  There was a Jimmy Choo shop.  Issy and her little friend J loved the sparkly ones.  You are never too young to love shoes.

There was a Zara. Which I doubt our local Mall will ever have.  I'd never been to Zara. I've only been told about it by fashion savvy, UK familiar friends.  S, a fashion savvy, UK familiar kind of girl, convinced me I needed a pair of yellow jeans.  Time will tell if I do, or if I just got carried away.

We did enter the shops on the 4th floor in the 'kids precinct'.  Unfortunately the products within became contentious because I refused to buy all of them for my daughter who became quite fractious as a result.

They do sushi differently in the eastern suburbs.  Issy doesn't like eastern suburbs sushi.

Don't the frilly socks just complete the ensemble perfectly?
While we enjoyed our time out East, and it was fun to spend the day with S and her two bubsies,  I will stick to the Mall in the future.  When it all comes down to it, a shopping centre is a shopping centre no matter how fancy and my local 1km away shops will always be my favourites.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Epic Parenting Fail

I haven't blogged for a couple of days.  I've been busy failing.  Failing takes a lot of energy.  Mental energy mainly.

The mental energy of failing definitely takes more energy than that of succeeding.  So I will try hard not to do it again.

Sarah had a big weekend.  She had a party, followed by a sleepover, followed by a playdate, followed by touch football practice, followed by the neighbours coming over for dinner.

On Monday morning she was shattered.  She didn't want to go to school.  She got teary at the school gate, clung to me, cried when I walked away.  I had a lot to do.  I was not sympathetic, but neither am I made of stone.  Every time she cried and called my name, I turned back. Time passed.  9am ticked closer.

Eventually I hardened my heart and left her.  She gave up and turned away.  The bell had just gone so she knew she had to hustle.  Issy and I hustled too, I had to get her to preschool and get on with my day.

Then, at the corner of our street and the street the school is on a bus came past.  An excursion bus.  A half second of vague wondering which class had an excursion became a sudden horrible realisation.

It. Was. Sarah's.  Cue internal screaming.

Issy and I ran for the house.  I thanked my lucky stars for the 450,000th time that we lived so close to school.  I scrabbled in my overcrowded folder for the note and when I discovered it (behind a large sheaf of paper referring to Issy's orientation days) learned she was due to go to Bobbin Head Environmental Something Centre and needed a lunch with no packaging (fail), sports uniform (fail), runners (fail), sunscreen, insect repellent and excursion, Fail, FAIL.

We cobbled together most of what she needed in approximately 90 seconds, sacrificing sports shorts (just out of wash) and no packaging (too bloody hard) and ran at Issy's pace (not very fast) to the bus.  I hurled myself onto it and the first thing I saw was my daughter's tear stained, blotchy little face looking at me from halfway down the bus.  Her teacher (calm, cool and ultra kind) bustled down the aisle and took the things I held.  She did not allow us to meet, perhaps sensing we would have fallen, sobbing into each others arms were we allowed to.  She is wise.

I hopped off and the bus left.  Issy and I waved.  Issy then suggested she might like to get to preschool at some point.  Totally drained and dispirited, I drove her the 500 metres.

After purchasing the makings of Sarah's favourite dinner and her favourite afternoon tea, I spent the rest of the day staring into space and sighing, wondering how she was.  I managed to get Issy to her school orientation at 1:45 but I don't remember much else.

When Sarah got home she said she had come across the road from the Kindy/Year 1 side where I left her, saw the bus and burst into tears because she thought it was about to go.  She went to the office and told them she was supposed to be on the bus and thought she had missed it and started crying again.  A teacher and the office ladies had her sorted pretty quickly and she found her class, (who were just coming past the office to board the bus) but she had a horrible couple of minutes.

Poor, poor little sausage.  Oh the guilt.

The thing is, I should have known about the excursion.  I should have been prepared and talked to her about it and had the stuff ready.  And I didn't.  I was distracted with other stuff going on in my head and Issy's upcoming school start, and just, damn well forgot.

She has forgiven me.  She is a forgiving type of girl.  All is well again, until the next disaster. 

She is  Me? Well I've added this scar of guilt to my collection.  And I've been reminded (once again) that any control I think I have over my life is only a wafer thin veneer.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Five things that surprised me before 9:30 this morning

1.  Josh can burp the alphabet up to G.  He was missing out F but that's just a detail.  I am equally disgusted and impressed.  He fully intends to work his way up to Z.  His sisters are very supportive.

2.  Issy in a school uniform with her hair in a ponytail eerily resembles her sister 4 years ago.  I have the photos to prove it.

3.  It is possible to ask someone 10 times to put their lunch in their bag and for them still not to do it.  I am certain mine is not the only household in which this occurs.

4. When your child goes to school orientation with friends she's known since she was three (or younger), she will leave your side and vanish up the steps to the classroom before you can even begin to become emotional.  This is a good thing.  Note to self: It's not about me.  Repeat many times between now and next February.

5. After your child does this, you can feel no guilt in not going along to the talk about "School Readiness" in the hall.  Considering the amount of guilt I feel in almost all areas of my life, this was the most surprising of all.  She is ready.  Oh my, she is ready.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

HSC Students- Keep calm and remember Plan B

18? Just finished school? The world is your oyster. 
A topic I'm reading a fair bit about at the moment relates to the kids currently sitting their HSC or OP or VCE or whatever the state you're in calls it.

Only last night I was having a big shouty rampage to my bookclub (we'd had our 20 minutes talk about the book and had moved on to other important things) about the excessive pressure HSC students face to do well in their exams.  Many of them are completely freaking out, often because they see this as their only opportunity to do well, and enter university or tertiary education in the course they want. 

This is so far from the truth.  Speaking wisely from my vantage point of 40 I can safely say, while you should study hard for your exams, even if you don't end up getting the marks for the course you want, there will be another possibility or opportunity waiting for you.  Really.  

It could even be, that you come across your dream career BECAUSE you didn't get into your preferred course.  You might meet your soulmate at the University you didn't want to go to, or your new best friend might sit next to you in your first lecture, or your part time job might lead to a career path you never considered.

The excellent Bec Sparrow wrote this on Mamamia today.

"Your final grade is just one little moment in time.  The truth is the people who are living big, exciting lives; the people who are living their dreams, who are making a mark are not necessarily the people who got straight A’s... They are the people who are resilient. And persistent. They are the people who had faith in themselves and kept going."

She also says, "If you REALLY want to study something, you’ll find a way to do it."

Now THAT is what I'm going to tell my kids.  And I'm going to work hard at giving them resilience, and persistence, and faith in themselves. 

Finally, Bec Sparrow wrote, "And then there are life’s late bloomers. For a whole range of reasons some people just don’t do well in high school. Maybe because of stuff that’s going on at home. Maybe because they’re not a great fit for the school they attend. Maybe because their head just isn’t in the right place. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go on to great things."

That is so me.  I just didn't do well at school.  I had a lot of s**t going on in my head and I struggled socially.  Really badly.  But because I didn't get in to the University of Qld or QUT, I ended up at Griffith University.  Studying Commerce.  And met myself a group of friends who I still keep in touch with today. 

God we had so much fun.

And the really funny thing is only one of us is doing anything even remotely like what we were studying.  The rest of us have moved on to careers and jobs that, with the benefit of hindsight and a bit of maturity, were much better suited to our skills and personalities.

I don't regret my commerce degree, or the years I spent as an accountant (much). And I may not have gone on to great things by traditional standards but they seem pretty great to me.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Holidays with kids. Same s**t, different location?

The packing.  Oh God, the packing.
Going on holiday with kids is a bit of a mixed bag.

The first time we went away with Sarah, she was 8 weeks old.  I packed everything.  At the last minute I even chucked the bassinet in the car.  I also had her rocker and entire wardrobe.  The car was fuller than it had ever been before.  

We were going away with two other couples, both of whom were childless (although one of them was pregnant and didn't know it, and she hoovered both red wine and soft cheese like a champion before being overcome with guilt when she found out a few weeks later).

Both couples were amazed at the amount of stuff I'd managed to bring for someone who was 55cm long, 5 kg and fully breastfed.  

We got the biggest room in the cottage, because we had a baby. It was nice.  But it was the beginning of a long series of weekends and weeks away which in all honesty were simply the same s**t in a different location.  Sometimes the locations were attractive.  But if your baby was up half the night with croup and you didn't bring the Redipred, you didn't care much.  

This went on, in many locations, overseas, in Brisbane visiting family, at the beach, in the mountains.  I would try to put them to sleep in strange beds, strange bedrooms, sometimes setting up cots in bathrooms, desperately putting up makeshift curtains to block the early morning sun.  Anything to give us a bit of time to enjoy a holiday as we remembered them.  You know, the sleep ins, the book reading, leisurely meals, cocktails, general lazing about.  All a distant dream.

Being in denial didn't work.  Trying to pretend it was just like the holidays bc just made it worse. 

Mike and I would get tetchy with each other as we both tried to prove our need for time out was greater.  Point scoring and bad behaviour was common.

I would get frustrated with having to pack every child's bag, my own, all the food, toys and beach gear, while he sauntered out with his one bag and then told me I'd packed too much.

Going away at Christmas brought the added complication of large present transportation, see left. 
I remember trying to find 13 month old Joshie some milk for his 5:30am milky in the resort at Fiji.  He'd woken at 12:30 for an unexpected early milky and we had none in reserve.  The kitchen was shut, reception was quiet.  And Joshie screamed "MILKEEEEE"for an hour and a half.  

And once, as toddler Sarah and baby Joshie had their day sleep in our hotel room, I ordered myself a sandwich to eat as I sat outside in the hallway and read my book.  Don't ask me where Mike was.  Probably playing fucking golf. As I sat there, I could hear a couple in a room nearby enjoying a spot of "afternoon delight".  There was a pharmacists conference being held in the hotel at the time, who knew if they were a couple or a casual encounter.  But they went on FOREVER.  It was agony. 

This was perhaps, a low point.  

A lot of our holidays have been road trips.  The DVD player is my friend.  The alphabet game can only take you so far.
Anyway, I can cheerfully report, having just gone away for a week, that things have improved since those early days.  A definite turning point occurs after the youngest child is toilet trained, sleeps through the night and can swim.  To be safe, call it 5.  It's even better if they can operate a remote control.

We could sit by the pool and read, keeping an eye on them as they played, and occasionally go in with them, on our terms.  No bobbing around in the water with someone who clung like a limpet (Josh), or worse, kept trying to take off their bubble and escape (Issy). 

We could go out for dinner, not too late, but we could still do it.  And they behaved fairly well. On the whole.  Sort of. 

We could stay in bed and they'd put the tv on without disturbing us.  Until there was a fight over the remote and then someone would get dobbed on.  But we didn't have to get up.

And next year, I reckon they'll be able to get their own breakfast.  

And they were fun to do stuff with.  They loved the rainforest, the waterfalls, the beaches.  Ok so they didn't love snorkelling but maybe they're a bit young yet.

I know I have to enjoy the years from now until they get cynical and don't want to be seen with us so we'd better go on lots of holidays to make the most of it. .  Can't wait for the next one.  

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Introverts of the world unite: quietly.

A romantic image of someone enjoying 'me' time that is very far from my reality.
I'm an introvert.  I always suspected it.

If I ever mentioned it, people laughed.  Because (as several lovely folk have put it), I really love a chat.  And I do.  I think you can be an introvert, and still love other people.

I read this definition of introverts on the Flying Solo website last week in a piece by David Crocker and it rang so true.  It's from a book by Susan Cain called Quiet: The Power Of Introverts.

"Extroverts are energised by being around other people, while an introvert is drained by it.  Indeed, introverts are energised by being alone."

It goes on to say that introverts avoid phone calls (they prefer to email or text), don't enjoy meetings, don't answer the phone unless they can see who it is.

I am not a ringer.  I just don't ring people.  Even the ones I love.  Which isn't fair.  And I'm sorry.

And this one: thinks of answers to questions five minutes after the conversations has moved on.  The story of my life.

Introverts also struggle in brain-storming meetings. I know I do. At least I did when I had my other job in my other life.  My mind goes blank.  I have to go away and hide and then it comes up with all sorts of stuff.

And they LOVE working from home.

I cannot tell you how much I love walking into the quiet house after the school dropoff.  And the best days are the ones where I can just stay there all day.  Curled up in my burrow, looking at the outside world through my computer screen instead of living it.

Sounds a bit sad when you put it like that.  Bugger.

But I love a good party, I love having people over, I love going out.  I just need a bit of quiet time afterwards to recharge.

The kids like to recharge too, often while sitting on me or near me.  Maybe I'm like their electrical plug.  There is one sitting on the floor next to me right now.  Pretending not to be there so she doesn't get banned from the study for talking.  Just being close.

He's what Peter Crocker from Flying Solo said:

"Cain goes to great lengths to explain that she loves extroverts – indeed she married one – and that teamwork, charisma and collaboration are all very important in business.

However, in her book she argues that modern society undervalues introverts dramatically and that our schools and work places are biased towards extroverts and collaboration, despite more than one third of people identifying as introvert."

One third!  That's a lot of people who like 'me' time.  Are there so many of us, fighting their inner introvert and getting amongst it every day?

This came up when I typed 'alone' into the search engine of the free photo website.  Pretty huh?
We must all unite.  But not for long, because we'll get twitchy and need to go off by ourselves for a bit...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

An unexpected request from the five year old show pony.

So, now we've returned to 2012.  Thanks to all who followed me on that little journey back in time.

My baby goes to school next year.  She is five, so not so much a baby anymore.

But she's my baby.

This term, as with her sister and brother before her, I am allowing her to pick a few activities she'd like us to do together, as it's her last term for 17 years with any type of day off scenario.

Plus, she's my baby and I just can't get my head around how much I'm going to miss her.

And yes, she does drive me bonkers most of the time.

So on Tuesday I said to her, 'darling little child of mine who is going to school next year and who I am putty in the hands of, what would you like to do today?"

I thought she'd say, the zoo, maybe minigolf, perhaps sushi for lunch.

No way.  Without a moment of hesitation she said "Rockclimbing".

I said "...."

The older kids immediately went nuts, citing unfairness and too youngness and all sorts of things.

I said "...." some more, wondering if (hoping against hope) I'd misheard.

But I hadn't. Apparently someone from preschool does it "all the time" and talks about it "all the time" and she wants to go.  Presumably so she can do the same.

Fearless. Overconfident. Terrifying.
And without much of a reason to say no, I said yes.   As long as I didn't have to rock climb.

Cue raging jealousy from the older kids and the eventual extraction of a promise to take them on a weekend very soon.

She may have gone higher, but the wall stopped.    

So we turned up at the rockclimbing place, expecting to be turned away because she was too short, didn't weigh enough, had to be 6 or something.  But no.  They set us up, taught me how to belay, took my money and showed us the three easiest climbs and the ladder, and off we went.

If anyone needs any belaying done, just let me know, I'm your woman.  I can belay. And I like the word.

So, for photographic evidence of my 18 kg mini monster climbing to the very top of the wall and then abseiling like a professional to the bottom, please see below, and above.  And we are now one week closer to having three kids at school.  Which, the way I see it now, is one week closer to the day my heart will break.
Coming down was the most fun she said.

I think I might need to set up some counselling for Feb 2013.  In the meantime I can't wait to find out what she wants to do next Tuesday.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Why I remember Dahab aka The Amazing Race

The happiest backpacker. Not us.

Following on from yesterday:

Yesterday I left you on the bank of Lake Malawi, diving among the reedy weeds with the eels, or drinking down film canisters of beer with lots of drunk backpackers on the shore.  Here is yesterdays post so you can catch up.

It was here our guide gave us the fabulous news that our tour truck had to move on to the next destination a full day before Mike's last dive.  He couldn't dive earlier because of the restrictions you have on depth and altitude and timing etc.

We consulted at length with our guide who told us to catch a mini bus to the nearest village, then  another one to the major town and then walk to the truck at the big marketplace.  It would be easy, he said cheerfully.  Then he warned us if we were not to the truck by 3pm he would have to leave.  Because if he didn't he'd not make the Zambian border by the time it shut.  And if we missed the truck we'd have to make the border crossing ourselves (subject to bribery, corruption and guys with semi automatic weapons).  

We'd already met some gun toting locals at the other borders we'd crossed, but none so mad as the one we met at the border of Uganda and Rwanda (yep...Rwanda) three weeks earlier.

He climbed onto our truck (with his semi automatic weapon) while the driver and guide negotiated with border staff and shouted at us all, "DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE GENOCIDE?? DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS?!!"

We did, or we thought we did. Actually we didn't because none of us were over 25 and we were completely clueless. But we just sat there, frozen and terrified until he (thank God) got off and went to scare the shit out of someone else.  

Not long after we went to Rwanda a busload of tourists were kidnapped and half of them were killed.  

Writing this, looking back 15 years, at 41, it feels like I'm writing about someone else.


Anyways, Mike successfully completed his dive with the weeds and the eels and we woke up bright and early on the morning we were supposed to perform our Amazing Race style feat.  At dawn we waited at the driveway of the lodge we had stayed in.   The first bus drove past.  As did the second one.   Forty-five minutes went past. A mild panic began in my stomach.   

The third one stopped.  It had two spots in the back row. We felt very lucky as we sat there with our backpacks on our knees, next to an elderly man, who started up a conversation.  He told us he was off to the nearby town (whose name is lost in the mists of time to me), to see his doctor.  Because he had tuberculosis.

Hence the two spare seats.  

As Mike and I shifted ever so slightly away from him, he even got out his wallet and showed us a card, which stated that he did, indeed, suffer from TB.  (Please don't ask me why he had a card, I have no idea.)  We held our breath, and completely unknowingly, exemplified this blog name.  

At the town we popped out of the mini bus like corks from a bottle and took a big breath.  Then we ran around all the white minibuses with our backpacks on, just like those Amazing Race contestants, shouting the name of THE BLOODY TOWN I CAN'T REMEMBER until a driver nodded and gestured to his van.  Then we got to sit on the minibus for half an hour until it filled up at least one third beyond it's recommended capacity and watched about five other buses leave (who may or may not have been also going to the same place). We have done this in a few countries and there are few things more agonising.  I'd prefer to watch a 6 year old try to tie his shoelaces.  Without interfering.  For two hours. 

Despite leaving the camp at 6am, it was already 2:30 by the time the second minibus deposited us at the main depot of Mystery Town.  We attempted map reading, decided on a general direction and set off at a run.  Every couple of minutes we stopped and asked a passer by.  They smiled and waved us on, but we were never really sure if they understood us, or if we understood them.  

Mike drew ahead of me, doing his best impression of an Amazing Race contestant, determined to be the "first team to arrive".  I did my impression of the whiney girlfriend, slowing to a walk.  

At 3pm we still hadn't arrived.  And I gave up.  Mike didn't.  He never does.  With me trailing miserably behind him, he jogged over a bridge, a level railway crossing, and through several back streets until he found the market.  He just kept asking people.  The man can't read a map for shit.  It was his complete inability to admit failure that got us there.  Fifteen minutes after our deadline.  

What we hadn't counted on, was the bond with our travel companions.  There were only 8 of us on the truck and we were tight. 5 weeks on an African overland truck will do that do you. They asked our guide to wait just another half hour.  Our friend M, who is still one of our dearest friends to this day, simply refused to let them leave until we'd been given a half hour's grace.  As it was, we only needed 15 minutes.  And they even let us have a few minutes to browse the markets before we set off for the border.  Which we arrived at well in time and crossed safely into Zambia.  

Thanks guys. 

Ps.  This is how I remember it.  My memory is a bit fuzzy after 15 years, but this is my version as I recall.  

And that's why I remember Dahab.