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Archive for December, 2008

“SUUURRPRIIIIIISSSSEEE!”

I’d just been formally offered an internationally-revered post in Paris at some great place which was SO great that I cannot remember EXACTLY what it was, but as I sat in the ‘surprise’ interview, wearing a wonderful black cashmere  sweater and secretly rubbing my hands with glee at the millions which were about to come my way (plus the private jet, which I had of course been flown in on, and which would be at my disposal)  and JUST as I was about to answer (you can never rush these things, you must affect a certain coolness in such echelons) I heard SURRRRRRPRRRRRIIIIIISSEEEEEE and into the room, with my prospective sponsors, bounced a small girl in a Princess nightie, giggling and yelling. “Ju…just wait outside honey, I’m in the middle of an interv…” I mumbled, before the Versailles-styled library where my interview had been taking place  soft-faded into a more modest Victorian Brisbane bedroom, and suddenly it all came into sharp focus. There was the pre-schooler. On the bed. My bed. Which I was in. I checked my body for a passport. I hadn’t been to France. I hadn’t got ‘the’ job. Which probably meant the jet wasn’t close by either. Bugger

The struggle to rise from bed has become greater in recent months. Perhaps its the cold weather, perhaps it’s the fact I don’t often go to bed until 1 or 2 am, perhaps it’s the fact that I then have to be up at 6.30…I don’t know. What I do know is that we  had to have a conversation with the pre-schooler explaining to her that whilst in the ideal world, bouncing into the room at 6.15 am screaming “SURRPRIIIIISSSEEEE!” should be funny, it’s actually a little jarring.

“Please,” I said, using my most formal English accent, “please please refrain from  yelling like that in the AM or else I will force you back to sleep!!!”

Not a desirable state of affairs for a small girl who find slumber a gross inconvenience. So she agreed to keep it quiet first thing.

Trained as I am to wake up at 6.15am anyway, I found myself lying in bed, eyes open, ears straining, trying to figure out if she was awake or not. Next thing, she’d be wandering up the hall and into our room, peering around the corner.

“Are you awake Dada? can I get up now?” It seemed smart-arse to tell her she already was…anyhow, I digress. The point is that this went on for a little while. 

And then  we hit “next level.”

I found myself stirring at 6.35 am to a conversation floating down the hall from the kitchen.I got up to see who, what and why. There stood the teenager, visiting from his downstairs den of inequity, and the pre-schooler.

“Dada, I AM TRYING TO GET THE BLOODY DVD PLAYER TO WORK! Can you help me please?” She grabbed my hand and led me to the living room, where upon the coffee table were about a dozen DVDs, all of which had been procured from a shelf barely within reach. The light was on. Her mimo blanket was on the sofa.

“And when I walked upstairs,” said the teenager, “I didn’t see her in the dark! She startled me! She was up on the kitchen counter eating a loaf of bread and asking me to get her down as she had to go to the other counter and get the chocolate!”

“Is this true?” I asked her, still barely awake, still comprehending. The giggles which followed said enough. It was a moment when I realized the goalposts had shifted. There was little point being angry, yet I could not be seen to condone such things, even though her giggle had released a smirk from my own face. 

“How did you climb up there?” I asked.

“Oh, like this!” she said and proceeded to show me how she pulled the edge of a drawer out and quickly worked her way up the rest and onto the counter, where a small loaf of brown bread revealed little teeth marks. The advent calendar on the other side had already been ‘hidden’ to avoid another massacre at her hands, no matter, she had eyes on it. Clearly there would have to be a revision of the morning plan, and thus it was that we decided to leave her a drink and some dry cereal in a bowl in case she  got up before us (‘in case’ I mean, who the hell am I kidding?!!) as well as making sure a blanket was easily found on the sofa.

“Maybe we could set up the DVD player with something she likes and she can turn it on herself?” my wife mused.

“She’ll be up at 2 am!” I replied glibly. We both nodded, because she would. I mean, Jesus, maybe she is anyway. This morning she heard my iphone alarm (‘Is This The Way To Amarillo’ by Tony Christie) and having crept in (wearing her rainboots) she asked if she could get up. I informed her that unless she went to be with her rainboots on, she already was up. She mused over this for a moment and agreed that yes, she was. And then I walked into the kitchen and looked for the cat, loudly wondering where he was.

“You didn’t let him out did you?” I asked her. It was about zero degrees outside and pelting with rain.

“Yeah, I did,” she said, “he ASKED me to let him out.” 

As I write this, two things are in my mind. Firstly, I wonder how many early morning conversations she’s had with the cat, and further, I wonder how many of them yield that sort of easily-understood fruit. The second one is only now hitting me; that I should’ve felt her hair to see if it was damp. Or checked her boots for signs of residual backyard mud/rain. Because she is the sort of child who would have gone out with the cat and done a spot of gardening. Or tootled around on her train. Or just gone out because she could. She’s already convinced she’ll be able to drive soon, and she’s already signalled her destination. The Disney Store. So it stand sot reason that might try to walk there. We need to place higher locks on all doors.

Because it’s weird enough going to the Disney Store when we do, let alone imaging her walking there at three and a half. 

The Disney Store. It is her current ‘crack’, the most recent obsession, the latest place of desire. It finds it’s way into nearly every sentence.

“Hey, how was school, was it fun?”

“Yeah, it was fun but can we go to the Disney Shop?”

“Hey, would you like soup for lunch?”

“Yeah, and then maybe we can go the Disney Shop?”

“Let’s go out for dinner tonight…”

“Yay yay yay, we can go the Disney Shop?”

(“What one place in the western hemisphere might end up placing your father into an institution for the criminally insane? What one place would Dada not be sad to see disappear down a huge crack in the earth during an earthquake? What one place would Dada love to run into wearing nothing but a suit of armor and a clown mask whilst obnoxiously blasting the The Cradle Of Filth’s entire back-catalogue?”

“The Disney Shop! The Disney Shop! The Disney Shop!”)

 

It’s not like she even wants every single thing she sees. She just likes wandering around, pointing at the Princesses, giggling over Donald Duck, yelling the Little Einsteins theme. Seriously, the last time we went (a few weeks ago and as reward for general good behavior) she was delighted with a $3.99 Daisy Duck. So it’s not necessarily about having everything…no, it’s about the window shopping and the whole atmosphere. If he wears her Snow White dress when visiting, she will be apprehended by dreamy voiced modulating assistants no less than 4 times! Now THAT’S being noticed in public, and taking a step back, who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of public flattery? So it’s understandable in a perverse sort of way…I just wish it wasn’t, that I could just tell her it was all highly fucked and that for her own safety and development I could not allow her to indulge anymore. But it isn’t highly fucked for her development, she’s happy with it and it hasn’t turned her into an anti-social misfit, so I’ll continue to take deep breaths and use the situation as best I can to my advantage.

January will see the start of our own household ‘Rewards’ program, where good behavior and various other positive acts will be reinforced via a star-chart reward system. And when enough stars are amassed, she can then take a trip to the Disney Store for said-reward. I have high-hopes for the program as long as her Disney fascination lasts. Which means that perversely, I hope it DOES last for a while longer?! Believe me, those last few words are ones I did not expect to be writing…it’s time for me to go to bed before any more nonsense comes out, but not before I’ve put out a drink and some dry cereal…

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Jingle Jingle little bells

Unleashing peels of joy

But all the little children want

Are lots and lots of toys!!!

We put up lights we put up trees

We sing old christmas songs

But all the little children want

Are piles and piles and piles of presents.

We dust off Frosty the snowman

We talk about Santa’s sleigh

We hang up stockings by the fire

And the kids just think ‘wow, cool and when do I get all my presents!’

On Christmas Eve around the fire

We sing and joke and eat

We quaff mince pies and candy canes

And the kids just wonder ‘when will they stop stuffing their faces with food and liquor and let us open our fucking presents!’

The cockeral crows on Christmas Morn

Sleepy parents rise from bed

The kids however are already up

‘Cos they’re the ones who made rooster noises at 3 am to trick you into getting up so as they could open those fucking presents!

The floor ’tis littered with ripped wrapping paper

The grins are from ear to ear

The laughter and joy flows through the house

Until the little buggers start reminding you it’s their birthdays soon and telling you what they want!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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IT HAS, since I was last here, been quite a ride.So much so that in writing this, my voice appears to have temporarily changed and my attention to glib detail wavered somewhat. I’ll do my best…

The teenager had his torn ACL repaired and cartilage fragment grafted back, courtesy of Dr.Jon Dickenson, a fine surgeon and one of the calmest men I’ve met. He understands teenagers, and further, he understands that teenagers want minimal fuss and bullshit versus maximum action and results. The Doc hit a high score on all counts, as did his team. Surgery is never fun, but this was about as decent and enjoyable a surgery experience as I suspect you could have. Of course, it wasn’t my knee being done…

I’m proud of the teenager. He worked hard prior to the surgery, in the gym 4 or 5 times a week, and in the few weeks since he’s had it, he’s maintained a healthy attitude in all respects of his recovery.
“Can’t wait to see you play again.”
“Can’t wait to be able to walk again.”
…the simple pleasures…although one of the more unexpected delights of this entire ordeal is the fact that his physical therapist is Jennifer Aniston’s twin…I meant delight for him that is, and let me qualify this further by saying she is an excellent physical therapist. I have noticed, however, that the teenager makes absolutely sure to shower and shave the night before his Monday and Thursday appointments.

The pre-schooler, meanwhile, has been engaging in the sort of deep and complex psychological mind-fare that reminds me that I am 41 and rather more tired of the games than I was at 28 or 29. School is proving a challenge, in as much as she cannot keep her hands to herself and has trouble listening. Her sensitivity seems extra-high, yet she likes nothing more than to wrestle/horse-play on the bed at home. In fact, if you can bounce her up and down, grip her like a hot water bottle in an igloo or just tumble over her, she’s in heaven. Regardless of all that, she is 80 mph every waking moment of the day, thus when my wife got two prime tickets to see Dame Edna Everage (a perennial favorite of mine) I ticked off the days.

The teenager’s mother kindly babysat.
We went to the show.
We had champagne cocktails beforehand, and christ I laughed, because Dame Edna says the things you wish you could. She (well, he I suppose) also reminds me of my long-departed Grandmother who was a tower of strength and laughter with great globs of belligerence and sarcasm laser-beamed at deserving targets.
We came back to find the teenager in our bed with the pre-schooler, protecting her like a bear and it’s cub, and his mother explaining that an hour or so after we left, the pre-schooler had vomited copiously everywhere and had continued to vomit three more times. It appeared that the teenager (on crutches remember) had taken charge, told his mother what to do and orchestrated the entire evening’s support, from clean-up to lying with her as she slept. Don’t even try to put a price on it. You can’t. His mother had also run the washing machine a few times, thus we came back to a situation which had exploded (literally) in vomitous chaos yet on return betrayed only a faint, lingering whiff of barf.
“I didn’t know whether we should’ve called you, but (the teenager) said we shouldn’t so I went with that,” she explained. He was right. God Bless him.

And so it was that the pre-schooler spent the part of the week behaving sort of sickly and strange…this required paranormal amounts of patience, something which I am finding harder and harder to find these days. It’s even harder at 3, 4, 5 in the morning as she wanders the corridors moaning and seeking our bed (and truth be told, I barely wake up, it’s usually my wife who deals with these incursions as, well, she’s the one the pre-schooler wants)…but still, we manage it, clumps of hair occasionally appearing our hands, grimaces exchanged, caffeine guzzled, hugs dispensed…

I was driving with both the teenager and the pre-schooler a few days ago, ostensibly to run an errand but also to snap the pre-schooler out of a horrendous post-nap meltdown where not even 10 ft Princesses would’ve sweetened her deal. Car rides are theraputic (this one more so for the trip to the Disney Store to buy a $5 Daisy Duck, complete in Princess plastic bag!). They contain multiple airings of ‘Mrs.Fucking Robinson’, that German techno song ‘Omnibus’, and the dance radio station 92.7 Energy. I have contemplated whether Fernando & Greg in the morning are suitable for small ears, because sometimes they’re barely suitable for large ears, but fuck it, life should not be a censor block all the time and she hasn’t repeated anything yet , plus I need to hear ‘Homo vs Hetro’ in the mornings (I always win, and don;t ask which)…we were driving to pick up some new glasses I had bought, my first prescription glasses in 5 years, and a whole new level in simple, classy designer (Prada). Yes. Daddy is a label whore from time to time. In fact, the teenager laughs that he thinks I’m gay, between my moisturizers, love of a good, piping hot bath (that’s a British thing! showers were what happened via the sky during 10 months of the year when I was growing up in London) and Prada glasses (even though he admits that the frames look very good).
“Daddy…I feel like throwing up,” moaned the pre-schooler. And without thinking, the teenager said, “I’ll just give her this…” and proceeded to take out my glasses from the thick, lusterous, glossy Prada carrier bag, “she can throw-up in that.”
“JESUS, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? GIVE ME THAT!”
“JESUS DAD, SHE’S GOING TO THROW UP, GIVE HER THE BAG!”
‘FIND ANOTHER! I JUT GOT THAT BLOODY PRADA BAG!”
“IT’S A PAPER BAG DAD, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO USE IT FOR?!!!”
‘I DON’T KNOW, I’LL FIND A BLOODY USE, I DUNNO, GRAB HER PLASTIC PRINCESS BAG, SHE CAN BARF IN THAT!”
“I DON’T WANNA THROW UP IN MY PRINCESS BAG!”
“THEN YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO HOLD YOU BARF IN UNTIL WE’RE HOME IN 10 MINUTES!!!”
“OOOOO KKAAAYYYYY…”

This was a few days ago as mentioned, and let the record show that she did not throw up after all, and has finally managed to beat that nasty little bastard which has been parading up and down her digestive tract flaunting it’s filthy self for the past week.
I am currently sitting in LAX airport half-asleep, waiting for a connecting flight to El Paso to do an assignment.
And the Prada paper bag is sitting on top of my dresser, neatly folded, empty and idle.
What am I going to use it for indeed…

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