Monday, 17 October 2011

Pimp My Ride... baby-style

So, I’m walking through the shopping mall with Jack the other day… yes, that’s right, Jack and I were walking side by side.  Or, rather, he was leading and I was just trying to keep up.  And I’m thinking about the past year – the first year of his life – and what a surprise its been in terms of baby transport.
You see, I like to keep on the minimalist side of things when it comes to parenting.  I don’t want Jack to have tons of stuff, and I don’t want to spend tons of money on him.  So when I was pregnant, we went out and bought this wonderful pram (sorry my Canadian readers – pram is stroller, and this is the term I use given I live in a country full of funny-speaking people).  The pram came with two different seats – a little capsule for when he was a tiny bub -  This was necessary for transferring him from car to pram without disturbing him from sleep.  Then when he grew out of that, there was a toddler seat.  This faces forward or backwards, reclines in three stages for baby’s sleeping or awake time comfort, and the pram itself is a Cadillac of a machine – both in terms of its size and its endless features.  The pram can also accommodate another seat – so it can eventually cart around 2 children.  This was one of the main selling points for me.  Its cost was something exorbitant – as we expected it would be – prams are just outrageous in both their cost and the wide range of bells and whistles they can offer. 
So, anyways.  We spend nearly $1000 for this shiny new set of wheels for our little cherub who will soon be making his grand entrance.  I had visions of using this pram on our daily outings, trucking it overseas for family holidays, and of watching Jack go through the stages of growing up with the pram – going to toddler seat and eventually the second seat to make room for his new little sibling we might have one day.
It is now roughly one year on from when Jack and I had our first outing in the Vista Cruiser.  (All of Jacks vehicles have names).  And today I had to blow the dust off it in the garage.  I hate that thing.

It is so big.  It is so hard to get through aisles in a shop – if not impossible.  The basket under the seat is not big enough to hold any reasonable amount of groceries, so when Jack was a wee baby I would have to push the pram, load up what groceries I could, and hang a basket on my arm as well to collect what I needed.  Nightmare. 

So I went to the frontpack.  Jack liked this, but it would put him straight to sleep so I had to be careful with our outings if I was working around nap times.  Jack never was small or light, so a frontpack also proved to be a strain on my back.

As soon as Jack was old enough to hold himself up, I had him propped up with blankets and a purpose-made cover for the shopping trolleys.  He LOVED sitting up in there, seeing all the people go by and being able to chatter away to me all the time as we cruised the supermarket aisles.  This is one of his more preferable modes of transport.  But there is more.

Theres the trike.  This is probably Jacks favourite.  With guards to stop him falling out, foot pegs to rest his legs, and a handle for Servant Mummy/Daddy to push him round, he thinks this is the greatest thing ever.  The trike goes everywhere.  Around the block, to the pond to feed the ducks, to the city for department store shopping.

We do have another little pushchair, which we purchased for my trip to Canada with Jack.  But Jack makes it clear to me that he doesn’t like prams much at all, and he would appreciate it if I would put him in something else.  Being the hopelessly spineless mother that I am, I hastily oblige.  Going through airports, Jack would be tucked up in the front of the luggage trolley as his pushchair lay folded amongst the suitcases. 

Then there’s the Blue Streak.  A plastic box secured onto a tray with 4 wheels (like a mechanics slider) with a handle attached, this was a DIY wagon type of device… on a cool evening, Jack likes being bundled in blankets and pushed up the road to meet his daddy coming off the bus before dinner. 

On his first birthday, he got a big John Deere wagon that fits all the children of the neighbourhood and then some.  When we left for our beach holiday in Noosa after Jacks birthday, I insisted Nathan put this massive wagon into our pocket-sized car so we could take it with us, as I was sure Jack would enjoy this most.  Nathan looked at the wagon, looked at the hatchback space, looked at me, and just shook his head. 
“It’ll fit!” I cried. 
“No, it wont” he calmly said.
 “Well take off the front axle and handle and it will fit”.
“Jesus.  You want me to bring the whole tool kit with us too?”
“Just a spanner and a screw driver, honey.  Come on, be a sport”
“Isn’t his little pushchair and his trike enough?”
“NO! He will LOVVVVVE the wagon. It will be perfect!”

The wagon did not fit.  Axle or no axle, Nathan dutifully demonstrated to me that the wagon was ginormous, and the car was not.  “ok.  I believe you now.  I just had to see for myself it wouldn’t fit.  You can pack the trike and pushchair now. Thank you.”
Pretty sure he was shooting daggers in the back of my head as I walked back into the house.

The point I am trying to make here is that I had the best of intentions before Jack was born, but it all gets thrown out the window once you have that little package of perfection staring at you with needing and loving eyes.  Minimalist my ass.  His Royal Highness requires more than the bare minimum, thank you very much!  A one year old shall have no less than 6 or 7 modes of transport at their disposal.  At this rate he will have a motorbike by the time hes 3, and a car when he’s 7.  And before all of that there will be scooters and bikes and pogo sticks and skateboards… God help me!!! 

I am curious to know if other mums are disappointed with the lack of use they got out of their fancy dancy prams which we thought were the be-all and end-all at the time of purchase……

So in closing, after 12 months of transport-transitioning, now Jack is walking  - and so as far as he’s concerned, he doesn’t need any type of carrier at all – he insists on using his own two feet to toddle about.  If only he would walk the way I want to go instead of running in the opposite direction…. Oh the joys. Bless him.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Keeping the spark alive... and winning 50 bucks

They say that mums and dads need to get out on a regular basis to keep the “spark” alive.  Let me tell you what this led to last Friday night.

Nana is in town visiting.  This is obviously a free-pass for a night out.  While we had planned on a movie, there was absolutely nothing playing, so we opted for some grown-up fun in the city.  I’m thinking, drinks and dessert at a nice restaurant, followed by a wander round the casino.

What to wear.  For Nathan, its easy.  He picks 1 of the 2 pairs of jeans he knows I will approve of, plus 1 of the only 2 shirts acceptable for the occasion.  For me, you would think it would be a bit more complicated.  It isn’t.  I take off my sweats that I was cooking dinner and doing Jacks “nighttime routine” in, and put back on the clothes I was wearing earlier in the day.  Going through the closet to pick something fresh and glitzy is out of the question as I feel I might need toothpicks to prop my eyes open, and wonder what on earth is going to make me come alive once we get into the city.  So with some black tights and a semi-long patterned tight dress/shirt thing, I thought I looked fine to head out.  Oh.. shoes…. Can I just wear my flip flops?  No… we’re going to the casino.  Has to be nice shoes.  Damn Brisbane and its high standard of dress code.  I pick a plain black lifted wedge that look like they belong to an old lady, but no one’s going to be checking me out given the sweater I am wearing over my whole outfit which can be described as nothing other than frumpy.  I don’t care. It’s cold outside.  Plus I’m having a good hair day.  That trumps my average outfit choice.

We’re driving to the city.  I rest my eyes and try to relax, knowing that Jack is asleep and in good hands with my mum.  I consider turning my phone off, which may stop me checking it for messages or missed calls every 3.5 minutes.  Who am I kidding….

After spending ten minutes going in circles, we find a car park and head up to street level, stepping out into the bustling Queen Street Mall.  So busy!!  What are all these people doing out??  Do they all have their mothers visiting as well, staying at home babysitting the sleeping children??!  Whats that?  Life before children?  I can’t recall such a time…. I miss Jack….

Nathan and I decide we are not hungry yet so we head for the casino, but not before ducking into some shops to gawk at the price of crocs, buy souvenirs for my dad,  and hunt out a pharmacy to take action on blister management – as I’m already starting to hobble in these effin shoes.  $10 for a box of band aids?! Are you kidding me!  These better last me a string of “going out” nights for years to come.

We get to the casino.  I head to the bar and order a martini, my only drink of choice these days.  There is an amazingly attractive blonde standing next to me.  Her legs are long and golden, her hair thick and shiny, her teeth white and glowing.  She is wearing a short skirt and a low cut top, revealing a rack I very much envied – I won’t lie.  There was a guy chatting her up, and she stood there looking bored and unimpressed that he would have the gall to approach her… and I just couldn’t help but think, “why else would you dress like that, if not to get hit on?  Hell, I am about to hit on you.  Come to the bar looking like me and you simply will not have this problem ma’am, I swear”.  Gone are my days of getting hit on at the bar, or spending hours to get ready for a big night out, or splurging on a new cute outfit to go dancing in!  Gone are the days of my youth!!  Why did we do that, anyways? Was it the thrill of meeting someone new??  The footloose, fancy-free feeling of being out with the girls??  The exhilliration of being “where its at” with the “in crowd”?  Listen to me, what an old nanna. 

As I sit by Nathan at the pokies, sipping my drink, wanting only to be his lady in waiting and not have to think about a lot, I know the gears are fiercely turning in his head as he tries to determine the inner workings of these money-eating machines.  We people-watch together, trying to guess the story of one person or another, especially the no-less-than-90 year old woman with a zimmer frame who is in the basement of the casino determinedly making her way to a slot machine.  She is asian, which isn’t that much of a surprise – I’m not sure why but there is an extraordinarily high percentage of asian people within the casino.  I don’t know, maybe this is a reflection on the percentage of Asians among the general population of Brisbane?  Surely not. 

The night goes on.   Nathan wins a bit of money.  I get bored and start to play the machines too, and then get bored of that and give my winnings to Nathan and meander back to the bar for Martini #3.. or was it 4?  Anyhow it was enough to make me want to start having small talk with strangers – which is what my dad does, to which I roll my eyes and accuse him of being old and weird.   

I get Nathan another beer – the wrong type, I realize when I get back to him – doh!!  If only women didn’t have such small brains.  Nevermind.
We leave the casino eventually, with more money than what we went in with, I will proudly add.  That’s my man!!  I knew he would beat the system.  Even if it was only $50 or so…..  Anyways my ambitions of a sophisticated cheese platter or decadent dessert accompanied by a liquered coffee have now faded to a hankering for 3 or 4 cheeseburgers from McDonalds.  We backtrack through Queen Street Mall, shoes in my handbag by now – thankfully, and I am reveling in my merry state of bliss as I sit with my favourite person, doing the most simple thing in the world, loving him as much and for all the same reasons as I did way back when.

And as we travel back into the suburbia that is home, I think, yes – I love him for all those reasons I did in the first place – but there is more now.  There’s the fact that he’s Jacks Daddy – and I think I love that more than anything.  And I don’t need to go out once a week and spend lots of money and get dolled up and be away from our happy little home in order to keep that love buzzing.  I love him THIS much each night when he walks in the door.  When we wake up in the morning.  When he walks out of Jacks room after giving him a bottle and putting him to bed.  I don’t believe an adults night out is a necessary way of keeping the romance……… however given the level of amusement (and unexpected wealth!) it brought about, I wouldn’t rule out doing it again…..             ;) 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A thought about Rugby. Yes, I said Rugby.

I knew last night that I wanted to write a post about rugby, and coincidentally there has been a devastating announcement this morning concerning the All Blacks that only adds fuel to my fire.

You are now going to hear my opinion on something I know nothing about.  I don’t know the rules of rugby.  I don’t know what causes a penalty, I don’t really know what a conversion is, and don’t know when or why they scrum.  I don’t understand why the game often keeps going past the 80 min mark, and am not even sure what points are granted for a try or a kick or whatever.  Yet, somehow, the game is still important to me!  Let me tell you why.

As a Canadian raising a son who will be a kiwi, rugby is my new hockey.  I can see how the shining stars of the All Blacks are such important role models for our sons and daughters.  I think the All Blacks are even more significant to NZ than hockey teams are to Canada, though, because its such a small country to be having such a tremendous impact in the global sporting community  – they are world champions without a doubt in the game of rugby.  And, really, its hardly a game but more like a religion to the majority of the population.  The mood of the media and social network populace fluctuates in direct proportion with the ups and downs of the beloved AB’s.  NZ, with their modest population of 4 million, are given a certain amount of respect and regard due to the status of their famed rugby team.  Its something that helps a tiny but wonderful place get showcased to the rest of the world.  It puts them on the map.  On one hand, NZ is a gem that might be best left undiscovered by the masses, but on the other hand they rely on the influx of international tourists to keep the economy afloat.  Amazingly, the AB’s play a big role in this.  They are invaluable.

The All Blacks, for those that don’t know, are a force.  They are more than a physical unit made up of blood, sweat, muscle and grit – they will move you.  The passion with which they play the game is enthralling.  I’m not one for promoting idolization, but it wouldn’t worry me in the least if Jack grew up wanting to “be an All Black” – what that institution inspires into young people is comparable to almost nothing else. 

The rugby that I speak of is a rugby that involves Carter and McCaw.  I’m very new on the scene in regards to historic figures and monumental moments – and I know the game has changed since “back then”.  Yet I have nothing to compare it to, and can only judge by the impact they have in the here and now.  Yes, the game tends to get marred by salaries and egos and endorsement contracts etc, but all that aside I think they play for the right reasons and this shines through.  In the light of the media, the perceptions of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are unflawed and unrivaled.  They never step out of line, are extremely diplomatic, level headed and fair.  They stay cool and calm in tense situations, and what you can see in their eyes – the determination and raw desire – is enough to send a shiver down your spine.  As the Rugby World Cup plays on, I am learning more about other players and also about tactic and game endurance.. but I have a long way to go.
Jack will have a lot of rugby influence in his world growing up as a kiwi kid.  He will play it at school.  He will learn the haka.  He has two uncles and a grandfather that payed serious rugby – in fact one of his uncles still currently plays for a team in England.  He has a gleaming reputation as a good kiwi bloke, no doubt, and will be loved for his ties to the homeland of the All Blacks.  That’s the thing about kiwi guys going abroad to play rugby – they have had that advantage of growing up in a nation where so much funding and focus is pumped into a single sport so they are almost guaranteed to excel in the game on an international level.
We watch the games religiously at home here in Australia on the telly. I have an appreciation for the importance of the All Blacks’ win in any game, as I see it as a morale boost for the whole of the country, thus being a result for the greater good.  And Nathan is able to watch the game and intricately scrutinize plays and tactics, thus making him more of a realist than me, which will be good for Jack rather than just my influence of blind hope for a big win.

Now, do I want Jack to play rugby?  I don’t want to watch him get tackled on a field.  I don’t want him getting concussions, torn ligaments, fractures and cauliflower ears.  I don’t want him to develop a huge ego, or leave me to go play rugby somewhere else (GOD FORBID)…. So, no, I don’t particularly want Jack to play.  I would rather he pursue, say, chess. Or perhaps even swimming.  Anything non-contact, thank you!!  But as I said before…. If Jack looks up to athletes with an amazing work ethic, determination and perseverance, I can’t complain too much.  If there’s one thing that’s attached to the stigma of being an All Black, its that hard work and lots of practice pays off.  In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to use it as a form of bribery throughout Jack's childhood.  "All Blacks eat their wheetbix.  All Blacks eat their vegetables.  All Blacks do their homework on time.  All Blacks dont play too much nintendo." you get the picture.

So, as I write this blog, the All Blacks are currently playing Canada on a live tv broadcast.  Canada scored the first points, and this only mildly amused me – I still have full faith in the All Blacks even though they have lost their two most valuable players for this match – Carter and McCaw, and Carter is actually out for the remainder of the RWC.  The mood in NZ at the moment is tense.  We are all the way in Australia and it’s affecting us.  Admittedly, I felt on-edge all morning while digesting this news about Carter, as I think it will break my heart if it negatively impacts the outcome for the team in this tournament.  The papers, Facebook and Twitter are plastered with nervous and panicked headlines and comments, with the odd hopeful optimist shining through.  I got in trouble on FB this morning for slating the All Blacks as Partial Blacks after the announcement of Carters injury – and rightfully so.  I should not have jumped on that negative bandwagon.  However the statement was a true reflection of the importance of that particular player to the team.  Hes not the whole team, but hes the single most important person, according to most people, including some retired rugby greats who were commenting on the issue.  But the team deserve more credit than this.  Shame on me.

So from here til the final, lets continue to support the All Blacks.  Do it for Dan.  Do it for Christchurch. Do it for NZ.  Do it for Jack.  (Cause everything revolves around Jack).  Just do it, guys, cause its more than just a game!!!!  It’s the livelihood of a nation, the expectation of the people, the hope of the fans, the yearning of the youth.  For so many reasons, they need this cup.  Lets put our faith where it belongs! GO AB’s.