I have been tasked to get both my children in the same photo. I have a camera within arms reach at most times of day, yet this simple task has proved pretty painful. I present you... the outtakes.Read More
Elspeth has started waking at 5:30am every morning. This is usually Matisse’s trick, but strangely she has been sleeping until closer to seven; which is really freaking typical. Anyway, I got some payback, because I woke her up at 6:30am to make her come to the Leanyer swamp with me and Elspeth. When we first moved to Karama I thought we were missing out being so far away from all our cliff hanging foreshore walks; then one day I looked through my tears and realised we were actually living opposite paradise. It might look beautiful in these pictures, but it is still a swamp. SO. By the time we left we were filthy. The kids shoes were off, our pram was caked in mud and their hands and feet were downright pig trough worthy. That didn’t deter me from walking past Woolies on the way home to get some groceries. Except, once we were out of the swamp, and inside the supermarket, I realised how insane we actually looked. Actually, the penny half dropped when I was forced to put some groceries in the base of the pram, and they were sitting in chunks of mud. And then it fully dropped when the cashier at the self service area saw us, recoiled, and I watched her face be overcome with the taste of drinking straight lemon juice. Don’t pull that act on me, I thought, this is Karama bruss.
We went to have breakfast with one of our deadliest friends at the Nightcliff Foreshore Cafe. We decided to sit on a rug with our hipster milk crates for tables and enjoy the food. The impracticality of this became more than apparent after the kids wore 3 of their 4 babycinos, and our arms got repetitive stress injuries from constantly lurching out, grabbing toppling cups and plates of food. Ahhh such a relaxing morning with a best mate. There was some icing on the cake when I got home and noticed on the 'Darwin - have a whinge' Facebook page that one woman was ragging on Mums who take their children to cafes for babycino's - accusing them of cultivating a caffeine addiction. From someone that loved fads, and has never smoked a cigarette in my life, seriously, go and eat some shit lady.
With the intention of milking some more quality time from Sarah, I followed her to Casuarina, where the kids continued to do the opposite of everything I said. No. everything I thought. And everything the shop attendants and other shoppers were thinking too. Then, as I was pushing a trolley of kids and homewares through the place, I run into my ex boyfriend who I haven’t seen for about 6 or 7 years. If he didn’t feel like it after we broke up, he would have definitely been high fiving himself for his bullet dodging abilities after we said G’day.
Then the peace of the afternoon sleeps did not unfold as anticipated because Matisse decided not to sleep. But rather that revel in her disobedience in the sanctity of her own room, she jumped into Elspeth’s cot, who was so fatigued she couldnt even muster the energy to stop crying for the rest of the afternoon. Oh wait. How does that work? it shouldn’t, but it does. The more tired kids are, the more energy they waste moaning about it. It’s like the man flu. Actually, no. Actually, I can’t figure out what is worse. Today it’s the kids. Meanwhile, Matisse had ascended into a state of hysteria, pulling apart cupboards, tipping out litres of water on the floor, sliding around in it, pushing Elspeth over in it. Elsie started ferrying things from the house to the balcony, and throwing them over, aiming for the bonnet of my new car. I was practically jumping out the window, but wisely, Karl put flyscreen on the windows before we had our second child. I ended up making dinner with one kid on my hip and the other in time out. Karl comes home, then heads to rugby. After the bath they run around whilst I clean the kitchen. The familiar sound of two children crying erupts from the balcony. Today I have already retrieved Elspeth from a few pretty intense situations, so I rush out to see what the problem is. They are literally, wait for it, fighting over the nuggets which Elspeth has laid on the ground, which Matisse has taken off her in a state of self righteous martyrdom, which Elspeth wants to eat and is trying desperately to do. For actual Fuck's sake. I grab Elspeth, rush her back to the bath and get her to bed stat. The entire time she is having a meltdown because I took her dessert off her. And that was my introduction to a shit sandwich. I can’t believe I have survived almost three years of child raising without so much as a taste of one.
PS. There is an entire page full of photos from the walk in Leanyer Swamp on my photography site. CLICK HERE if you feel the urge.
Every time something breaks, Matisse assures me that “It’s OK. Daddy will fix it later.” This is most infuriating, actually all the time, because I am either angry at her for being reckless, or for disobeying me, leading to the death of whichever inanimate object is in question. I also get annoyed when the things magically do get fixed later - because although I want them fixed too, I want her to respect things, you know.
At Christmas time I bought this Little Golden Book of Christmas tales. I bought it because Little Golden Books are classics, and therefore full of good, wholesome, moral and ethically sound stories, right? WRONG. When revisiting a lot of the Little Golden Books, I have been disheartened to realise that the authors were either on crack or peddling bad, fairytale dillusions for little girls. They were just naively promoting 18th century ideals, not being intentionally outrageous. Of the 12 stories in the Little Golden Book of Christmas Tales, Matisse’s favourite is a quaint little tale called “Baby’s Christmas.” This was always going to strike a chord with her as she loves babies, she loves Christmas, and she still calls Elsie 'baby' at least once an hour. This particular story is 30 pages of decadence from Santa. The things this 3 month old gets include a shiny car, bike, blocks, jewellery, teddies, ball, drum, music box..Anyone else’s eyes rolling? Let me continue... A WHOLE LIVE CAT, a book, a rocking horse, and a giant toy box to fit it all in. Matisse laps up every word, eyes glazing over, fantasising about next Christmas. This book goes directly against the Santa that visits us, who only gives “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” - if you are lucky. I got four towels last Christmas and not once have I have read or wanted one of those.
Just like everything else I ask Matisse not to do, she stood on the book repeatedly until the cover tore off the spine. "Don't worry Lani, Dad will fix it when he get's home from work," she actually patted me. I put her to sleep, and then I put this book in our recycle pile with the intention of discarding its ill sentiment once and for all. Later that night I walk in on Karl committing innocent adultery; sticky taping the book back together.
"STOP!!" I demand. "I need to teach Matisse that you can't magically fix everything."
"But this is her favourite story, she asks for it almost every day," he looks at me like I am a total bitch. I reflect on the other books that have entire pages full of sticky tape, or each page sticky taped to the next, that I wouldn't dream of tossing in the bin.
"BUT I hate it, Baby gets this, bratty gets that, it's disgusting" I continue to mock the story and try to prove my point, disguising it behind the fact that this is a big lesson teaching her not to break things.
"Well I am having nothing to do with this," says Karl as he walks out of the room.
See, this is the hard thing about parenting, compromising with your husband. Anyway. The book sat in a half fixed state on the bench for about three days before I tossed it out in a cleaning frenzy the day my university assignment was due. So, ultimately this is probably a bad example of marital compromise.
I haven't hear a peep about this book until today; Matisse is talking away to herself, which is something she has started doing a lot. This is not something I have taught her, unless you count all the times I am meant to be talking to my husband. The most common thing Matisse muses about is "I'm so busy, I have too many kids," as she stomps around the house, up the stairs, or potters around her things. But today... "where is baby's christmas, oh I can't find it, I have looked, its nowhere, where is Baby's christmas?"
Karl gestures his head in her direction, then whispers to me, "I know where it is, it is in the B.I.N."
"OH yeah," I pipe up and get Matisse's attention. "That book is in the bin, because you broke it. And it's gone FOREVER! That's why you shouldn't break things." Where my husband is subtle and caring, I can't resist the opportunity to prove a point. She just looked at me with a perfectly angelic face as the realisation dawned on her. "Oh yeah, it's gone...." she conceded, looking a bit sad. But less sad than she would have been next Christmas if this story was still fresh in her mind.
So I convinced myself that I wasn't a total mole by writing this blog to justify myself. The end.
From what I have seen, children are extremely fond of watching the garbage truck roar past the house every week. There is something about the noise, the routine, and probably the rubbish that intrigues them no end. On our street, both trucks are usually done and dusted by 7:30am. Matisse likes to 'sleep in' until 6:30am in the Dry Season, but she will eagerly jump out of bed when she hears that truck.
At about 8:30 this morning, I put Elsie down for her morning nap. She protested for a few minutes because she is trying to convince me that she does not need to sleep, but I am more stubborn in my quest to prove I am the boss. She finally drifts off. Immediately, all the dogs on the street start barking. Not your paced slow bark conversation that is most common; that mad, chaotic, charging at the fence barking they do when there is a dog on the loose. The noise was penetrating my skull. Naturally, I had to stand on the balcony, directly above Elspeth’s room, and yell at the top of my lungs to be even louder than they were, in order to get the attention of Leo so he would come and get punished. For anyone following my instagram, it would have been difficult to avoid me whinging about being sick yesterday. Yelling at Leo cost my voice box. So if nothing else today, at least I will feel like a highly distinguished bogan.
After some time Elspeth finally goes back to sleep. In the distance, I ignore that familiar stop, start, compression braking noise; until it rounds the corner and comes onto our street, TWO HOURS BEHIND SCHEDULE! We live on one of the very few “hills” in Darwin, and the trucks really struggle to get up our street, everyone knows about it because the noises coming out of the truck as it perseveres up the tiny hill rival a man with the man flu. Today was the absolute worst I have ever witnessed. The driver must have been a learner and he required three attempts to take off from the house across the road, (approx 5 meters in front of Elspeth’s bedroom) and drive round the hill bend. Each failed attempt required compression braking, rolling backwards past our house, and then accelerating the trucks brains out to try again. Also, there is that intense squeaky, creaking noise that only rubbish trucks make. The manoeuvre also requires driving up a tiny curb so the wheels were spinning out of control trying to navigate this cross country terrain. I considered going out and bringing our bin in, so he wouldn't stop out the front of our house on his way back past. But, we are on the down hill side. So if he knew our daughter was trying to sleep, he could have had the courtesy to turn off the truck and coast if he wanted.
This whole "rocky montage" scenario is playing out to the symphony of Elsie bellowing from her bedroom. The trucks finishes the other houses on the street and rolls up to our house, but stops just beside our drive way. WTAF? Oh the noise. Dear God, this massive engine idling 5m from the front of elspeth's window. We have only just gotten approval to build so close to the front of our block and I am certain this was a stunt by the development board to punish us. I furiously look outside to notice him talking on his phone and considered throwing something at him. Waking a sleeping child is like killing two birds with one stone, because this small dick move can also wake the inner pycho of any woman. One win was that I couldn’t hear Elsie yelling out over the truck.
THEN. I notice!!! That our recycle bin isn’t even out. You know because I was sick last night and the invisible person that usually does everything around the house didn’t do it. For the record, that person is the person that my husband and kids think does everything. I don’t actually believe we have a ghost in our house. SO. There is no way I am holding up that truck any longer. I just leave our bin where it is, and applaud the sounds of the compression brake releasing and rapid acceleration as the driver progresses through gears one to six as he passes the perimeter of our house. And isn't it ironic, that after all this agony, I still have a bin full of rubbish.
And when I got Elspeth up about 45 minutes later, she didn't look like she had slept at all. In fact, I think she outsmarted me by just being quiet for long enough to trick me. FML.
I fondly took the picture at the top of this post this morning, when the first truck passed by, capturing this weekly ritual and not at all expecting this post became a raving commentary.
Matisse vanishes into a land of total make believe for hours on end. In fact, sometimes I wonder if she ever actually leaves it, and other animate objects (like her family and friends) just come and go from that magical place as her needs necessitate. Her teddy bears are usually at the centre of the excitement; birthday parties, cake making, eating and time-outs are high on the rotation list. No prizes for guessing where she draws her inspiration from.
Sometimes Matisse's world can impact on our quality of life. A typical scenario is that Batesy suddenly goes to sleep in the middle of our dining room requiring Elspeth and I to be quiet until such time that Matisse deems it appropriate to wake up. This rarely ends well; it usually ends up with her in Time Out. On at least one occasion every single day, I charge into her room to put away some washing, or complete some other riveting domestic task, when a cyclonic meltdown behind me stops me in my tracks 'ARRHHOOOOO NNNNOOOO AAA Batteeesssyyyyys sleeeeeeepingGGAAAAA!!" A 1m whirlwind of human throws herself around, along with a few other items that cross her path, and sometimes attempts to hit me before collapsing in a dramatic heap on the floor, bunging on a waterworks to rival Niagara falls. Oh, what I wouldn't have done to be able to do that when someone woke my child. However, she usually ends up in Time Out for such psychotic, totally normal toddler behaviour. Her make believe world is intensely vivid, take it from me.
Lately the stories have been getting wilder and wilder; crocodiles eating Elspeth, going swimming in the river, Batesy messing up the room. I have started to wonder at what point it stops being imagination, and starts becoming a lie. Then I realise, it's only the intent that changes it, so as long as her heart is in the right place, she is allowed to invent away.
At the moment, there are dozens of baby geckos running around the house. Matisse is quite intrigued by them and the fact they are always trying to hide from her. She is often chasing them around, clearly trying to trap one for a pet. With no luck, so she has resorted to adopting an invisible one. She walks around with her head cocked on this funny angle, her shoulder all stiffened, “look Mum!” she declares proudly.
"Oh, what is it? I need my glasses!” I lie.
“It’s a… it’s a… it’s a baby gecko. It’s sleeeeeeping.. sshhhh.”
I resort to whispering quietly whilst the gecko sleeps. The gecko often joins us for our meals, and other antics around the house. I just realised it doesn’t yet have a name. Watch this space.
This morning Matisse was playing on the deck with Elspeth, as usual. It's the only time of the day that the deck received full sunlight, and we had just had our hottest month of record, so they are guaranteed to be out there, dripping in sweat at 7:30am. You will find me in the kitchen. Matisse comes rushing in to tell me that “a cat has come to play!”
“That’s great,” I encourage/placate her.
She rushes back in one minute later, “the cat wants to live with us!” she declares.
“OK. It can live here,” I generously offer.
She rushes off. I continue doing what I am doing in one minute increments, enjoying the sanctuary that parents with toddlers call 'time where the child engages in self directed play’ but you are still actually an integral part of the game and you can’t actually engage in anything that requires consistent thought, like doing any admin, making a phone call or heaven forbid, getting on with my university study.
Another minute passes and she comes in begging “Mum, come and look, Elsie is playing with the cat.” I muster up my most excited face, heading out into the sweltering heat to take a look at this mystical creature. Well, it was slightly less invisible than I had imagined, and it was certainly the strangest looking cat I have ever seen, even by Karama cat standards. In fact, I do think these animals have another name in other parts of the world. A street rat.
And the bit about Elsie playing the 'cat'? Not make believe. She was grabbing it, giggling hysterically whilst it looked up at her with its big beady eyes. I grabbed her quickly, then took a picture of the rat and texted it to my husband so that he could commiserate over the excitement he misses out on whilst he is hard at work. He pointed out how strange it was that a 9 month old was able to fondle it without it running away and suspected it may have been a pet. Gauging from its street rat looking exterior, I didn’t leap very far to that conclusion; in fact, the only leaping I did was downstairs to find the rat trap. For the record, life in Karama is not that badass that we, or anyone else in the neighbourhood would resort to having a street rat as a pet.
Later on in the morning we returned from playgroup and I noticed the rat all snuggled up in the blocks by the toy box. I got my camera to take a proper photo of our "new pet” anticipating its stardom on this blog. But, my portrait session quickly became a homicide investigation as I noticed its loving gaze was in fact, incredibly intense. I felt relieved that I hadn’t gotten around to setting the rat trap, shocked at my apparent lack of empathy toward a dying creature in it’s last living moments. At least it died being lovingly manhandled, surrounded by fake cake and porridge, and overhearing the fact that I would let it live with us. RIP disgusting little street rat.
PS. I am such a great wife. I am going to leave it there so Karl can "have a look at it" when he gets home.
This weekend past, my husband rearranged our entire weekend so that he could go on a day trip with some friends to find these secret waterfalls and aboriginal art sites. I couldn’t decide whether to go or not. To be honest, all I wanted to do was lie on the floor and stare at the fan; I have been feeling veeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyy lazy lately. But then I felt like a total loser, foregoing an adventure in the gorgeous NT escarpment, plus, what about my sense of family? So I ate a tablespoon of cement and hardened up.
Actually the facts of the ‘hardening up.’ Very unusually, Karl was encouraging me to stay home, saying things like “you should just relax with Elspeth (a 7 month old) whilst I take Matisse for the day,” and “it will probably be really boring and end up being just a trickle of water over the rocks….” This made me think it was going to be an out of control 4WD adventure and he didn't want to come along and tell him to slow down.
“You know you will have your two year old daughter,” I reminded him.
“yeah,” he said, “she loves getting smashed around in the back.”
He was obviously looking for a bite, so I didn't give him one. Instead, I texted Gary to see if he was taking his wife. Strangely, he didn't write back, yet he replied immediately to a text that Karl sent him 5 minutes later. We were meant to be leaving in 10 minutes so I called him. He was bringing his wife, two daughters, and another work colleague of ours, and he assured me it would be, I quote, “verrry tame.”
So, we loaded up the car and hit the road.
Two hours later, we reached the unmarked dirt track veering off from the Stuart Highway into the gorges behind Hayes Creek. The path slowly turned into a dead end opening, but Karl noticed a track over yonder and smashed through some boulders and a few little saplings to get there. Immediately, there was a creek crossing, but Karl jumped out, tested it to make sure it wasn't too deep, or boggy, then charged through it with Gary hot on his heels.
Suddenly, we were actually in a swamp. Karl hit the accelerator to drive as fast as he could and avoid breaking the surface. The steering wheel was spinning, the wheels were spinning, we were being throw in one direction, then the other. Mum, if you are reading this, Karl totally knew what he was doing. We reached a dry bit and looked back. Gary was at a standstill. Given his car weighed about 1.5 tonnes more than ours, there was a good chance he wasn't able to ski across the swamp the same way Karl did, plus, we had just ripped the “road” up for them. Both girls were crying in the back just because. So Karl took Matisse and walked back 500m or so whilst I tended to Elsepth.
Some time passes, the heat beating down around us is making me delirious. I see a mirage, Karl? He has left Matisse to entertain Michaela and the girls, so there are now 4 people in the back of the Pajero, in the scorching hot midday sun. We have a jack and a winch to help them, but, to get back there we have to re-navigate the ground we have just torn up, plus, they are on the only ‘road’ in the swamp which means veering around them, further into the sludge. Even my husband was able to see that this wasn't a good idea.
So… we decided to continue down the road we were on, which circles back to where they were. We briefly contemplated taking the jack back to them first, or even, telling them our plan. But we didn't do either of these sensible things, we just spun our tyres in the mud and took off. This time, Karl kept jumping out to test the swamp levels before charging through it. On one of these missions, he noticed a tiny little path off to the right, glistening in the midday sun, just begging for some attention. Karl runs back excitedly “its the shortcut I saw on the map….” ahhh… shortcut, the beginning of every worst nightmare. And true to the plot, within about 5 seconds we are chassis deep in the mud. I took an arial picture in my mind of the two cars bogged about 1km apart.
So. Just to recap. Our daughter is in the other car, which is bogged, and they need our jack. We are bogged. They don’t know what we are doing, or where we are going. We have a jack, but couldn't access our drive shaft if we tried. Phone reception. It’s midday, it’s freaking hot.
Karl begins winching us through the swamp, in 5-10m intervals. The motor of the winch was making these terrible whirring and clunking noises, it was on its last legs. Elspeth had been crying for 80% of the last hour. She was sick of being in her hot car seat. Just as it occurred to me that this ‘shortcut’ might not even be a road, and we could actually be winching ourselves further into a no mans land swamp, Karl’s manly hand snapped the car key in half. NT News headlines flashed before my eyes. At this point I remember that it was just the wettest December on record in 40 years. Taking wives and kids along for the near death experience… The paper would have a field day with this story. We would probably have to leave town to escape the humiliation.
I felt so sick with dread, and the crying of Elspeth penetrating my soul, that I couldn't even take photos anymore, it felt too voyeuristic. I turned around and prayed to God. I never do this. I don't know the etiquette if you are meant to tell people what you pray for, but I prayed to get out of the mud, I reminded him of my husband’s unwavering faith and even promised to make my kids believe in the man. We jimmied the key back together and the electronics connected enough to let the car start. Having to stop, start, and reset the winch was doing us no favours, so Karl asked me to hold the cable and run along beside the car. I swung the greasy winch cable over my shoulder and ran for my life. Karl was ripping through the mud behind me as fast as he could to keep from sinking. From his perspective, it looked as though I was pulling the car out of the bog, but the look of fear and determination on my face showed that I was definitely being chased down by a lunatic in a mud bath.
We got on the straight and narrow and looped back to the Richardsons. Gary and Nico had make 100 return trips to the nearby forest and collected many trees to chock the car up. They had been making progress with the jack, but with the extra jack on the mission, and the adrenalin from Karl, it only took another hour or so in the scorching heat. I took Elsie and joined the gang in the back of Pajero by coming in one door and forcing Erin out the other side, to stand in the hot sun. The heat must have been affecting my judgement, because, adding insult to injury, I then told her that sitting in the shady boot over the jack probably wasn’t a good idea. Bitch of the year. I then realised and tried to offer her my seat, but it was too late to try and pretend to be nice at this point.
Matisse was in heaven, learning all about bigs and mud. Plus she was trapped with four of her favourite people in the whole world. Exhausted and covered in mud, Gary jumps back in the car to try and reverse out of the swamp. Matisse's starts screeching in his ear all about the hardship going on, rawer to no one than Gary. "the wheel is stuck in the mud! It's stuck in the mud, daddy is helping Gary, to get the wheel, out, out of the mud" The wheels spin and we are reversing over the tree tracks he had made. Karl winched the cars together and pulled the car to dry land. It did appear that our car was actually going to slide back into the swamp throughout his process, creeping forward ever so slightly.
So, three hours after entering the swamp, we left, muddied, sunburnt and adventured out. We stopped in at Grove Hill Hotel for a cold drink on the way to Adelaide River. The Pajero felt that this was too uneventful, so upon return, it organised a flat tyre to change. When we got to Adelaide River, the kitchen has just closed, 3 whole minutes ago. THREE MINUTES!!. The pub wouldn't even make us a cup of tea. So we sat on the itchy grass and ate our picnic, then drove to Hogs Breath for dinner, covered in mud.
My husband told me he had the day of his life, I, on the other hand could think of better ways to entertain a 2 year old and 7 month old, than trapping them in the back of the car for the best part of 12 hours. If I was childless, my perspective might have been rosier. On the upside, I didn't have to do any housework. Ironically, Michaela was sitting in the pack of the Pajero dreaming of the ironing she could be doing. And the icing on the cake…. Apparently the waterfall was only a 1km walk from where we were bogged. And the kids will be going to a catholic school.
This is the first year that Matisse is old enough to grasp the magic of Christmas, so I really let it come to life. In fact, I have been reading her “The Night Before Christmas” at least once a week for the entire year. Yet despite my enthusiasm and brainwashing, we went to meet Santa at the local shopping centre for a visit and upon my request to say G’day to the man, Matisse stuck her lips out, as far from her face as they could possibly protrude and said ‘nooooooooooooooooooo,’ shaking her head with a passion to boot. I didn’t want to traumatise her so we just moved right along.
The following week, the Karama library was having Santa AND his reindeer come to the weekly story time. I was letting my imagination run away with itself at the thought of how the reindeer would manifest, but not in my wildest dreams did I envisage that Santa’s reindeer would be so freaking muscly.
At first I got on my high horse, thinking that Santa was working his reindeer too hard, and was contemplating calling the local reindeer union. Then I remembered that we do live on the dodgy side of town, so Santa probably had to enlist some security guards to pose as reindeer so that his sack full of chocolate wouldn't get raided en-route to the kids. The crims in Karama would steal candy from a baby. I had told the librarian I would take some photos of the morning for them, so I accidentally veered off the fine line of being creepy and going my job whilst taking all these photos.
At the risk of sounding like a pervy housewife, I may or may not have texted some of these photos of the ‘muscly reindeer’ to a couple of friends. One was quick to identify the guy as the ‘Parkinator.’ If I had been less preoccupied with having two kids in as many years, I may have noticed this guy parading around Darwin handing out parking tickets for the local Council. But no, I wouldn't have deliberately parked illegally just to come head to head with him. He has earned himself the nickname ‘the Parkinator’ for obvious reasons - and backed it up by winning an Arnold Swarznegger bodybuilding competition. Read the story here! http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-17/atif-anwar-wins-schwarzenegger-bodybuilding-competition/6326006
decided to text my husband the same pictures of the muscly reindeer so that I didn’t feel like I was dabbling in visual adultery. Initially he leaped to the conclusion that I was hanging out with a bunch of firemen and was thinking WTF?! Then he realised it was “just the parkinator” and didn’t even bother to write back. Admittedly, the responses I got from my other friends were much more colourful.
My husband was comfortable with the fact that the Parkinator had attended the local story time with all his muscles and was singing and dancing for our children. BUT. He was decidedly not okay with receiving a parking ticket from him the VERY NEXT DAY. The fine is still stuck to his windscreen wiper almost a month later, a memento if you like.
nyway, Matisse was a little warmer toward the library Santa and his muscly reindeer. She stood this close, and looked this happy. He gave her a chocolate Freddo frog. I have never let Matisse eat chocolate in her life, but I was so determined to make her love Santa that I even let her eat it.
When pressed to tell me what she wants for Christmas, Matisse comes up with sympathy evoking responses like "dinner" and "rocks." And when I ask about Elspeth, she tells me "a beard like Johnny" - her grandfather. I had noticed her preoccupation with beards too!
Disclaimer. I promise I am not a female chauvenist. If I try and convince you I will no doubt dig a bigger hole so let's just leave it there for now.
Whenever we see a bus, Matisse starts banging on about wanting to go on one. I think this is a cumulative effect of seeing them on our walks, when we are out, and the 'wheels on the bus' song, which she loves and makes me substitute people's names into.
We saw a bus on the way to the shops today and it started. "I want to go on a bus one day, Lani. I want to go on a bus one day, Lani. Please. I want to go on a bus..." I can keep writing this for five minutes so you get the picture, or I can just wrap it up here. Because any fellow Mum's reading this blog are probably trying to enjoy some peace and quiet.
We don't have any interstate trips on the cards, and we didn't have any plans today, so I decided to bring her dream to life. Where better than on the local route from Palmerston to Casuarina, the faithful old Number 9. I didn't get my license until I was 22, so I have definitely done my time on the Darwin bus system. In fact, I was so distressed by it, I bought a VS commodore off a friend and started driving it unlicensed, just so I didn't have to catch a bus to work anymore. After I got pulled over and breathalysed by a cop, that didn't ask to see my license, I went straight to MVR and got legit. I never imagined that ten years into the future, I would be voluntarily leaving my fully licensed, registrated car in the drive way and pushing a double pram to the bus stop for shits and giggles. The things that mothers do for their children is truly next level. Wow. This whole paragraph is a testament to my bogan roots, and why I was always destined to buy a house in Karama.
For those non-Darwin readers, public transport in the suburbs can be a pretty dodgy experience. My most prized memory is from a ride home from the V8 Supercars one year. The bus was full of the rowdiest, drunkest bogans. One insisted he was going to wee on the bus, so the driver pulled over on the side of a main road so he could get out and relieve himself. On non-bogan fiesta routes, you are usually just contending with vomit, bad body odour and colourful language.
I decided we would do a round trip to Casuarina and get a babychino there. Talk about icing the cake. I would have a double on the rocks. First we let Elsie have her morning sleep. To make it authentic, I left the house about 5 minutes after I had planned to, power walking my brains out, with the double pram, under the blistering heat of the 11am sun. We made it to the bus stop with about 4 second to spare. I could barely see through my sweating eyes as the bus pulled up. The door opened and cold air-conditioning came flooding out, I felt like I was walking through the pearly gates.
It cost me $3 return, and the kids were free. You wouldn't read about it. Well you guys are. The bus was so packed, Matisse didn't know where to look. I watched her stare at everyone on the bus, knowing that would have well and truly gotten me bashed if I had dared to do that back in high school. After eye-balling everyone, she turns to me and says "where are all the wheels, Lani?" Oh dear. The disappointment. I couldn't help but laugh. I told her they were outside, but pointed out all the other things from the song. I was laughing so hard. What has she been thinking every time we sing this song? That the bus is full to brimming with a bunch of wheels going around and around.
On a side note, the downside to having a child that calls you by your first name is that when I yell at her in public, people think that I'm an out of line Nanny who is getting paid to be using a more positive discipline approach.
We got to Casuarina and disembarked. Matisse waved goodbye to the bus and instantly started asking about going on the bus again. I told her that if she was good, we would go on it again today. She didn't know that I probably wouldn't have the balls to call Karl to come and collect us if she didn't - and maybe she could sense that, because she started being naughty. Who am I kidding... started??? She has been redefining the idea of the Terrible Twos lately. In the past I have said things like "you don't have to pay me to be a Mum, but I wouldn't work for free." I would like everyone to know, that an adequate day rate at the moment would be at least $15,000, or more.
We went to Coffee Club, where I ordered, and then cancelled her babychino because despite being told repetitively for the last six months not to, she kept poking Elspeth's eyes out and laughing.
I didn't renege either. We actually caught the bus to Casuarina for nothing. I spend a small fortune in Little Lamb on the 'way back to the bus depot' and "because Matisse was such a good girl in the shop," we caught the bus home. When we had boarded the bus in Karama, the 12 year old boy who was also getting on, offered to help me lift the pram up. I thought that was so sweet from someone that was wagging school. Ironically, when we got on at Casuarina, people were pushing in ahead of me, left, right and centre. And I am talking about grown adults. I managed the pram myself as I seriously considered 'accidentally' running into one ladies ankles.
These Karama kids, they definitely have their manners in order. For example, take the eight year old that we caught stealing our things. He came back to apologise in person, wearing a collared shirt and everything. And now we pay him $10 an hour to do our gardening for us. What a hard working legend.
On the return trip, the bus wasn't as crowded and Matisse got to sit on a seat. She was flipping out about not having to wear a seat belt. Until the lead-footed driver braked for the first stop and Matisse catapulted forward. From there on, she was holding onto the bar at the top of the chair for dear life. Pictured above. Elsie was resting her head on her shoulder. It's in the 150th percentile, so I am surprised she hasn't discovered this trick sooner. But every time she rested it, she would crack up laughing, then do it again. This amused herself, me and a couple of other passengers.
When we disembarked, Matisse waved goodbye to the bus, and most importantly, "good-bye wheels," and then we walked through the alley to our house.
PS. My husband just told me that when he sang her the song tonight, she didn't want to substitute any names in, she just wanted to sing the next song. Now that the bus isn't full of wheels, it fails to be adequate bedtime singing material.
The day I officially became a Karama local started like many others.
The sun was squinting pink and yellow shards of light, just below the horizon; my clock read something starting with 5. The bedroom door creaks open ever so slightly, pauses, then slams shut with a bang. Bang. Pause. Bang. Pause. Bang. I'm not dreaming.
There are many traumatic ways that children decide to wake you. Traumatic is a slight exaggeration, but the cumulative effect isn't. The world of screaming, poo and vomit are familiar to most waking, dreary eyed, dream state parents. Matisse has invented a new, more extreme approach. She peeps in, then the excitement of seeing us sleeping overwhelms her, so she slams the door shut. Then eagerly checks again, just to make sure. Usually, I become aware of the slamming door, and its earth tremor like vibrations of the house, and call her in. On these occasions she enters normally and I escape with a light elbow to the chest or knee to the groin. BUT. If I am in a deeper slumber, my subconscious lures me deeper into the dream in a desperate attempt to gain a few more minutes rest; Matisse tires of the slamming and tears in screaming, with her hands out in front of her, and fist palms me in the face. Wake up. It's a beautiful day.....
We often head out to get fresh bread before breakfast, because we aren't paleo. On this particular morning, I gave Matisse the money because "I pay money, Lani, I pay."
Being bossed around has become an intrinsic part of my day since Matisse started talking. I oblige when it suits me, because I like to lead by example and show her how to take orders. I am also hoping my husband takes notice too.
At the bakery, people are often queuing in front of me to buy bread, but more often, Paul's Iced Coffee; it's too hard to walk into the supermarket and find it yourself, even if it's cheaper. I eventually order, lift Matisse up to pay -- but her hands are empty.
"Matisse, where is the money?"
"I put rubbish in bin, Lani."
Only so vaguely, could I recall her darting off.
"Hang on a sec," I told the baker lady, walked over to the bin, bent in and rummaged around to get my $20 note out. I didn't hesitate, and would have probably done the same for a fiver; at that moment, I realised I had navigated the depths of Karama citizenship entitlement. When the baker didn't flinch as I handed over the cash, my memory flashed up images from the day I saw a woman dislodge some long lost coins from deep inside her sweaty breast. I realised my bin scabbing was just child's play. I needed to significantly improve my creepy factor if I wanted to decompose the cashier.
When I got home, the house had been egged by the Real Karama Ghetto Boys (KGB), and they had spray painted "welcome to the neighbourhood" on my car.*
*This is a total lie, but that would have been classic.
A lot of really 'Karama' things have been going on since I started this blog. I'm talking about the dead carcass on the footpath, the hydroponics for sale on the noticeboard at the local shops, and that time I made the local talkback radio for pulling two roaming pig dogs off Leo (our Lion of a dog) when they pinned him down and started eating him. There have also been a few interactions with locals that I don't want to go into detail about because I don't want to start a turf war.
But. I will tell you about this one lady. Because we walk to the shops for groceries (note the absence of the brand name) most mornings, we also pass a lot of the same people en-route. One of my favourite characters is this vivacious, older (than me) Chinese lady who is always doing laps of the park, and a few reps on the resistance machines for good measure. We started making friends by waving and smiling, but now we stop and chat every time. Given her thick accent, and that she sometimes asks me what the words are for things, I presume English is her second language. She is a total darling.
First, you have to feel for this lady. She is totally in love with Matisse, always telling me how beautiful and sweet she is, and all she wants is a smile... but will Matisse give her one? Not a fat chance in hell. Matisse hides her face behind her hands, scrunches up her lips and eyes or just burrows down her eyebrows so far that her entire face vanishes. This is a combination of her distinct absence to people please, and a good dose of shyness. This lovely lady is so caught up trying to muster a tiny grin from Matisse that it takes a giggle from the backseat to break the trance, she then casts a look sideways and notices little Elspeth beaming up the most loving smile to reward her efforts.
"Oh he so happy," she says.
"Yeah," I say, not wanting to correct her when most babies look like boys until they grow hair.
"Is he a boy?" Well... I can't ignore that.
"No, she is a girl." I say.
"But, she looks like a boy."
"Ha ha, yeah she does" I say, hoping Elsie doesn't remember this when she grows up.
"She look like a boy, but she a girl," says the lady. She squeezes Elspeth's cheeks, "I think you a boy, but you a girl." Elsie is just grinning away with her big boyish smile.
With the genders of the kids sorted, we proceed. But then, the next time we see her, this happens again. No jokes! We had variations of this conversation at least once a week, for about two months. Once her friend was even there agreeing. No matter how hard she wanted Elsie to be a boy, she just kept on being a girl. One time, she had taken Elsie out for a cuddle and seized the moment to remind me "I always think she boy, but she girl. Now you have to have boy." It turns out that in China, your husband gets angry if you have a girl. She was speaking from experience. Perhaps Karl is being nice, pretending to be happy with girls.
Matisse has fallen in love with this woman, and she is always banging on about 'the lady in the park' until we see her, then Matisse goes silent. Then the split second we leave she speaks about her the whole way home... "Where the lady go? Where the lady in the park? We see her tomorrow, hey Lani." Repeat. Last week, the lady practically fainted when Matisse not only started waving at her, but then smiled, and talked!! But ever since then, Matisse does a small smile, then hides. It's like classical conditioning because now this woman is working even harder for it.
One morning as I enter the park, I noticed two men swigging from their 'soft drink' bottles at 8am.
"Hello Miss," said one man. I wasn't sure if the earth was shifting on its axis or he was swaying; so I rudely presumed it was probably not soft drink in those bottles. I said "G'day," and kept walking.
We approached the lady and stopped for our morning chat.
"You see the mans?" she asked me.
"I'm scared. They ask me for sex."
"Yeah, they say, hello, I want sex you. But I say, no, I hab husband, I hab husband. I cannot not hab sex."
I was so mad. I told her to kick them if they came near her. They were so drunk they would definitely lose balance and fall over. Later on, I laughed out loud when reflecting on the conversation; because of her broken English, it seemed like the only reason she couldnt have sex was the fact she had a husband, and not the fact it was totally revolting and perhaps she didn't want to. Furthermore, it's comforting to know that seedy men in Karama are well mannered gentlemen that respect the institution of marriage. Incidentally, I have never seen these guys again. They were probably from Malak. Only fake baddies hang out in Karama.