They have sad little voices when they’re sick. It’s really cute, but in a heartbreaking kind of way – imploring you, as the adult, to find a way to fix them. It would be easier to fix them if they slept, of course, but they don’t, and we don’t. It’s a self-destructive vortex that sucks the whole household down.
Post spew bug Hurricane picked up a chest cold with a nasty cough, which turned into a fever, and he has since passed it on to Chaos who is battling a bit at the moment. We are heading into week 3 of the sick house now. Man it blows. So far BB and I have stood firm and refused to fall to this latest infliction, but we all know that sleeplessness weakens the immune system so we are on borrowed time.
I just realised there are probably a few readers of this blog who were thinking of having children and may be reconsidering that idea. It will be different for you I promise. Your kids will be perfectly healthy all the time and they’ll definitely never refuse to go to sleep unless they’re stuck to your chest like a sweaty little oyster that has to be peeled off in the night with a spatula. And then wake up every hour to reattach. That’s just us. We’re special like that.
All of this means my mental faculties are a bit fried at the moment. I often forget what day it is. They all look the same right now anyway, so it doesn’t really matter what day it is. We’re not going anywhere. My only forays out of the building over the past 4 days have been solo missions to get food and medicine. My social interaction has been limited to confirming whether I’m paying with cash or card. It turns out that can be quite a confusing question when on an empty sleep tank, as there was one occasion when I thought the checkout lady was telling me to ‘pash it hard’. Luckily I was already holding a twenty in my hand so it at least looked like I understood her properly. Or maybe I had and she was disappointed with the cash. Who knows, some people like the unshaven hollowed out eye socket look mixed with the whiff of unwashed track pants. It’s called the Billy Bob Thornton effect.
Anyway, it’s just better not to speak much in this state. Or write too probably. I’ve forgotten the point of this post anyway. There probably wasn’t a point.
Oh yeah, I remember now that I was going to start doing posts about the fun of cooking food for kids that they probably won’t eat and sharing my favourite recipes. Something for you to look forward to.
For longtime readers of this blog you will recall that I had set some goals that I reported against in my first quarterly report. Some were achieved, others not so much.
I knew that the December to March period was going to be tough. I had been mentally preparing for it – convincing myself that being stuck in an apartment with two kids over winter was normal life for millions of people in the world. Now that I’m halfway through this period I should empathise with those who have to live this every year. And I would but all my empathy is needed for myself.
So recognising this, I narrowed my list of goals to try and make them achieveable.
Get the budget under control
Fail. It blew out over Christmas/New Years, despite BB losing her wallet on the bus. Then I decided I had little choice but to get a membership to the local Kidsville (a kind of play centre) so the kids had somewhere indoors to burn up their energy and see that there are other children in the world. The problem with New York is that you can barely walk out the door without spending $20. Keeping to a budget basically means doing as little as possible. Not helpful for cabin fever.
Stay under 100kg aka don’t get fat
I’m pretty confident that Chaos bringing home the vomit bug has helped me achieve that goal, especially since it messed with my appetite for a week after so I’m only just returning to normal now. At one point I think I even saw the outline of some abdominal muscles – haven’t seen those since university days before I got a job at Nandos and binged on chicken and chips. Though I was seriously dehydrated so sadly it hasn’t lasted. Normal coating has resumed.
Don’t go crazy
Well that’s harder to judge. I was in the shower the other day when I started singing the Octonauts theme song. Then it morphed into a rap remake. I think I was in the shower for nearly 30 minutes trying to perfect it. It could have been longer. I just know I walked into the bathroom when the clock had an 8 in front of it and I came out and it had a 9. Actually a 9.25. The kids had used the opportunity to take their art skills to the wooden floor. Cleans off easy though. So not a bad result. If I recall correctly my Octonauts rap remake was pretty good too. Solid beat to it. I should record it and send it to the producers. See if I can get me some cash. Could solve the budgeting problem.
I think I can claim a 1 out of 3. Anyway, I’ve scrapped all goals now and settled on a single mission. Survive till March 6. That’s when my parents arrive for a visit. I should have built up a repertoire of children’s cartoon theme song rap remakes by then.
But anyway, it’s Super Bowl Sunday today so I have to go eat a pile of chicken wings.
I should have known it was going to be a bad day. After all, it started with Hurricane launching himself onto the bed and kneeing me flush in the balls. Nothing says good morning like a wave of nausea rising from your groin.
It was a Wednesday. The holiday period is over so BB has settled into her routine for the new semester now. It looks like it’s going to be worse than the first, given the number of assessments she has locked in her calendar – but the bonus of no exams is a gleaming light at the end the tunnel. I was still recovering from the blow when she slipped out the door for the day, leaving Hurricane and Chaos free reign to lay waste to our lounge.
We had no big plans. The problem with the recent freezing weather is that getting the kids to leave the house has become a challenge akin to convincing a cat to go swimming. If I try and take them outside in below zero weather again, it could be a week before I can next drag them out. But this wasn’t one of those days, so I was going to wait till after lunch to take them out to the playground for a run around.
I was making some banana bread (the extent of my baking skills) when Hurricane emerged from his room to inform me Chaos had done “something disgusting”. She often wears underwear at home as we move forward with toilet training, so my immediate thought was she had taken them off and sullied their nest, much like the time she dropped a log on our lounge floor and as BB swooped in to carry her to the bathroom started yelling out ‘Mama there’s another poo hanging out of my bottom’. She was right, there was.
But then Hurricane told me it was pink. Pink? That didn’t sound likely. But he was right. She had vomited up that morning’s porridge with raspberries. It is never a good sign when your child who never spews has spewed. Then I saw an empty cold and flu medicine pouch on the ground. It would have held two pills. Chaos has become somewhat of a scavenger in recent weeks, rummaging through drawers and bags looking for snacks. I asked her if she had found this single pouch. She said yes. I asked her what was in it. She said chocolate. What she often means by that is M&Ms. Not the answer I was hoping for.
After working out what the active ingredients were in the pills (not good for little kids) and chatting to BB, I called a cab to take us to the medical centre. Chaos, at this point, was fine. She was fine until she wasn’t. Unfortunately for me this happened right as the cab stopped and I went to pay the driver. I had armed myself with a bowl in case she needed to vomit again, but I had switched hands with it to pull my wallet out. With immaculate timing, Chaos then proceeded to projectile all over me. The only instinct I had was to protect the cab. The last thing I wanted was to pay a $150 cleaning bill for the privilege of being vomited on. Small victories.
So we exited the cab with Hurricane chanting ‘yucky yucky yucky’ and Chaos telling me she felt much better now. I shook as much spew as I could off me and onto the road, took my sweatshirt off and walked into the doctor’s reception smelling a lot like fermented rotten apples. BB arrived shortly after, in time to learn the good news that if Chaos had swallowed the pills then having vomited twice already she would probably be fine, we just had to keep an eye on her.
And she was fine. She returned to her chatty self and was eating and drinking without incident. We thought it was over. Oh how wrong we were.
Fast forward 48 hours and we are at a birthday party for Ben (one of the Canadians) when Hurricane suddenly goes quiet and tells BB his tummy hurts. Then he goes white. She exits the room and within five minutes of getting home he is vomiting into a bucket. Meanwhile, I’m still at the party with Chaos who is smashing back the cake and ice cream with gusto. Then I feel my stomach turn. We leave.
Chaos didn’t swallow the meds, she picked up a bug. Then she mutated it into a devil beast and passed it on.
Poor Hurricane spent nearly 7 hours vomiting on the couch, while I shut myself in the bathroom for the evening. The good thing was Hurricane’s body adopted the single exit strategy. Mine went for the double, obviously to speed things up. I realised early on that it’s much smarter to sit on the throne and risk vomiting into a towel in your hands, than the other way around. So I only went for the face in throne when I was confident I had an all clear from the colon. Strategic.
It’s quite weird the things you think about when your body is trying to save you by destroying your will to live. I started to think about tax evasion. I have no idea why. I don’t even know much about tax evasion. Then I remembered the time my flatmates at university spent our entire week’s food budget on toilet paper because it was on special. And I was thinking how genius that was, given how much I was currently using and how expensive the bog roll is here.
Anyway, both Hurricane and I managed to empty our bodies around 11pm and fall asleep out of pure exhaustion. I was woken at 4am by some very unladylike noises coming from BB in the bathroom. It was her turn.
It is Sunday now. We think, maybe, hopefully, it’s over.
And that, dear friends, is parenting in a nutshell.
I was out last night, watching some NFL playoffs at the fine establishment known as Buffalo Wild Wings. I ate a lot, of course.
I was in the company of a large group of Australians. Inevitably the question arose – the what do you think about your Prime Minister being pregnant question. And I realised how remiss I have been in not sharing my thoughts on what I think about a woman of child bearing age preparing to have a baby AND go back to work. I apologise for not tackling this topic earlier, especially given the undeniable quality of the coverage this announcement has received. I mean did she accidentally announce the gender or not? A better journalist would have nailed her to the wall for that slip. Amateur.
So what do I really think? I think I wouldn’t wish having a baby at the same time as working in a senior Beehive role on anyone. Nine years ago when I was in there, my office mate banged out two little critters (well his wife did) during the Government’s first term and his life sucked. Being a man, he didn’t have to deal with any of the real stuff. Like recovering from the equivalent of passing a kidney stone the size of a golf ball. Or dealing with nipples that won’t stop leaking. Or being woken every hour to shove that leaky nipple in a mouth to be gnawed on. Or having a weak pelvic floor. Yet he still looked like he was suffering from all that. Sympathy pains, no doubt. And I’ve only covered off the physical demands, not the emotional ones.
Like me, he was an advisor to a junior Minister. There is no equating our workloads with that of our own boss, let alone the Prime Minister. The PMs job requires you to live on between 4 to 5 hours sleep a night. For three years. And that’s if all is going well. Screw that for a joke. Throw in a baby? An enema a day would be more enjoyable. Without lube.
I have nothing but sympathy for our Prime Minister. The poor woman is being held up as some sort of revolutionary symbol for all millennials with the double X chromosome. She is being told in no uncertain terms that she can’t fail. All of womanhood is counting on her to show it’s possible to run a country like a pro and mother a newborn, without sleeping. She can’t even do a Churchill and keep a glass of whisky in her hand in case she nods off – you know, breastfeeding and all. Really, even if the economy has tanked and the Government is falling apart, if Jacinda is simply able to speak in coherent sentences within three months of giving birth then she’s winning. Or she’s got a wet nurse for a night nanny. She should probably find one of those.
As for Mr Gayford? All I can say is that for the first three months the Dad is really just the support crew and a pretty helpless one at that. So taking over after six weeks, well yeah, good luck fella. I have no advice to offer, because while I’m prepared to take on my two for a year I’m definitely not crazy enough to take on a newborn. Plus I don’t know him, so why would I pretend anything I have to say would be helpful. Actually that is my one piece of advice. Don’t take any advice.
So there you have it. I’m very sorry again for keeping you all in such suspense as to my thoughts on this matter. Good day.
It’s been a pretty hectic 3 weeks since BB signed off on her first semester at Columbia. It’s odd to think we’ve been here for nearly 6 months already. We’re past the halfway point.
To catch you up on everything very quickly, Christmas was spent in a little place about 2 hours north of us called Willow – it’s a short drive from Woodstock. We joined some of BB’s university friends in getting a house there for a couple of nights. Our journey up turned into a bit of a debacle as we got our timing wrong with the train to Poughkeepsie, which meant we missed the connecting bus by a mere 10 minutes. Uber got us there though.
Our driver was a local with a really odd life. He lives on an estate with a wealthy family and his job was to basically be on site for four days a week just so someone was always there. The rest of the time he would drive people around, including some celebrities that inhabit those parts. More interestingly he remains the only American to have raised the topic of Donald Trump with me since I’ve been here. Given the news media spend all their time writing and talking about the Don (I’m not joking when I say I’m yet to watch a morning news show in the gym that hasn’t spent the entire broadcast analysing his latest tweet or reported comment), it’s amazing it took that long for his name to pop up. Admittedly I make a point of never raising Trump’s name myself with locals, as I’m curious about how much the average Jo actually thinks about him, as opposed to how much the media does. It’s obviously the opposite for BB. Being at a university they barely talk about anything else.
Anyway, there was no snow when we arrived at Willow, but it dumped on us overnight to deliver a white Christmas. It was pretty cool to see Hurricane wake up, look out the window and excitedly jump up and yell ‘look Mama, snow!’. He was stoked. It was pretty blizzardish for much of the day but it relented enough for us to get outside and take a break from eating. Only a break though. It wasn’t too cold on Christmas, but the temperature plummeted the next day and hasn’t really recovered since – aside from one day last week when it suddenly hit double figures in the positive, rained and melted away all the snow before going sub-zero again.
The coldest we ventured out in ourselves was -16C, with a wind chill that the weather app said made it feel like -26. The Hudson River was covered in ice that day. Not frozen over completely, but pretty close. Insane. Though of course parts of Canada crossed the -40 mark, so yeah, they win. As much as you can win when you live in a country that gets colder than Mars.
New Years you are familiar with already, and following that Hurricane turned 4. He had a train cake and was loaded up with more presents. The poor guy is like me and has a terrible birth date – straight after New Years with me being right before – so it was a pretty quiet affair.
Then we had some more friends arrive for a visit from London – former flatmates from our pre-children days. They have just left, ending a 5-day food binge. The peak of our culinary indulgence was dinner at Red Rooster in Harlem. To be clear, this is not the Australian fast food chain. This is a famous restaurant renowned mostly for its chicken and waffle dish. Deservedly renowned, I will add. As good as that dish was, the highlight was ordering a whole deep-fried chicken that came out with a firework stuck in it. Quality theatre. We over ordered, which meant we got to take home leftovers. Great decision.
And with that the holiday period has ended, BB is now back at school, I can’t fit my pants, and you are more or less all caught up.
There was a mermaid in a bath. She wasn’t doing anything. Just lying in the bath, occasionally flapping her tail. For three hours. I wanted to ask her how you get a job as a mermaid, but I wasn’t sure what the social etiquette is when it comes to seeking small talk from a stranger in a bath that is perched on a table. I left and found the chocolate display. It was behind the model wearing a steel-framed dress full of champagne flutes for anyone to take as they passed by. The DJ launched into a track that led the young ladies beside me to squeal with delight. Or maybe they were squealing at the sight of the handsome man all suited up with his Eastern Suburbs Roosters’ cricket tie. I rock that tie.
New Years Eve at the Bowery Hotel. How did I get there, you ask? Well that was entirely BB’s doing. Two of my friends from high school days, Messrs Beals and Logan, had been in touch with her to say they planned on flying into the Big Apple for a week and it all escalated from there.
My birthday was the day before, so we had already marked that momentous occasion with the greatest steak I’ve ever eaten on this planet courtesy of Del Frisco’s. A 45-day dry-aged New York strip weighing in at a mere 16oz – that’s closing in on a half kilo for those of us that prefer metrics. There was not going to be a doggy bag at our table. We put our steaks to bed (BB showed a bit more restraint going for a smaller filet mignon), and then sweated it back out during the night. Worth every bead.
I woke up in the morning of the last day of 2017 knowing I would not be needing to eat till lunch. So we took the kidlets out of the house and headed for the Met. It was cold out. How cold you ask? Try -7. At midday. With a gusty wind that made me question whether our savings would be better spent in Mexico. Hurricane informed us, quite rightly, that it was ‘too cold to be outside’. Chaos would no doubt have said the same if we could see her under all the layers. And yet thousands of people turned up to Times Square to watch a ball drop. Insanity.
BB organised my ticket to the New Year’s bash as a secret. Some friends of Messrs Beals and Logan had booked a VIP table that came with a price tag that easily explained the mermaid. Sadly that price tag and the difficulty of finding a babysitter meant BB was sending me out solo.
The level of excess involved in such a big city shindig is rather foreign to me. Prior to this the fanciest New Years I recall was the one when I wore a tie to a Lone Star and it got stained with BBQ sauce from the rack of ribs I ordered. It says a lot about me that classy once meant wearing a tie to a chain steakhouse in New Plymouth. New Years in my younger years generally involved beach campgrounds or crashing on a couch at someone’s bach.
I have matured obviously, so I was able to scrub up and fit in with all the money rolling around the Bowery. It helped that it was dark so no one could tell I was unable to do up the top button on my shirt. All that protein from the birthday steak had obviously engorged my neck muscles. Plus there was an anitpasto platter with some amazing prosciutto that wasn’t helping matters.
As you can imagine, the party was pretty extravagant. We had the best table in the house, right next to a roaring fire. The food and cocktails were excellent. The music pretty decent. And I ended up yarning to a range of different people, most of whom weren’t locals. They kicked us all out at 2am. We made the decision to walk the quarter mile to the apartment Beals was crashing at and discovered as we hit the pavement that the temperature had plummeted to an official mark of -15. I have not known cold like that ever. The bottle of sparkling water I had exited the hotel with was freezing in front of my eyes. Walking was not an option. We ran.
And so the fanciest New Years I will likely ever experience ended in the same way as so many before it – sharing a pull out couch with my mate’s feet in my face and mine in his. Some things will never change.
Can I relate to a stay-at-home mother yet? I was kind of hoping for something easier to write about. Like, top 10 tantrum triggers, or biggest dadding fails. Instead she asks me something thoughtful. Though I’ll have to come back to those other two, now that I’ve thought of them.
So can I relate? Yes and no. Let’s start with the yes part.
I remember BB being quite sad about heading back to work when Hurricane turned 1 and again with Chaos. She referred to them as her little sidekicks and as a massive sufferer of FOMO she didn’t want to miss any of the little developments they were going to make. The funniest thing about being the at-home parent is seeing your little progeny mimic you. And because I’ve got them at a very formative period in their lives they are picking up heaps of my language and behaviours. Hurricane got me a corker the other day when he told me I “needed to chill out” after Chaos emptied the contents of their clothes drawers all over the floor for the second time that day. Really that was my fault for tidying them up the first time. Rookie.
During my time on duty Chaos has started to speak properly and hold conversations, gained way more confidence in her physical capabilities than she has the right to, and developed a gorgeously cheeky sense of humour. Hurricane meanwhile has turned into a sprinter, learned how to tackle me around the legs and now has amazing recall. If I’ve forgotten something, I can often ask him as he generally remembers everything.
And I get to do pretty fun stuff with them here (like go to the mini train show). All these things are priceless, so even though I am not a particularly emotional fella, I understand why mums can be so torn up about going back to work.
But on the other side of the coin, I also remember coming home from work on many an occasion and walking into the kitchen to find BB preparing dinner, with a whining child attached to her leg, looking utterly harassed and most definitely in need of some relief. It is one thing to see it, it’s another thing to live it.
Children are annoying little creatures. Any parent who says otherwise is lying to you. Actually anyone is annoying if you spend too much time with them. BB and I travelled for a year together back in 2012 and we knew we had to build in away days to escape each other. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone, if you spend every waking minute with them the little things become intolerable and you end up abandoning them while they are trying to get lunch at a bakery in Split (Croatia), leaving them without a map or any form of communication in 40 degree heat. BB can be ruthless…
The at-home parent doesn’t get many away days from the kids. It’s more like away hours. But to be honest, even an hour off will often make the difference between a good day and bad day, because it helps with the tolerance and energy levels. And the truth is that you typically set the tone, so if you’re in a good mood and keen to do stuff, then often the kids will be too. But even on the good days they can still physically wipe you out, and you’ll be left wanting to do nothing but sit on the couch with a bucket of ice cream and pretend that if you close your eyes for just a minute the bombsite of a house will be magically cleaned ready for another day of carnage. Rinse and repeat.
The bad days, well the worst part of those is the mental exhaustion. By the time you get to dinner you don’t care about what they’re eating, so long as something is stuffed in their mouths to drown out the whining. I won’t bother mentioning the lack of sleep.
So I can relate to all of that and everything that goes with it. It’s hard. Way harder than paid work, if only because of the social interaction you miss out on by not being in a workplace.
I’m not sure if a lot of what is hard for me is because I’m doing this away from home base. How much difference would it make if I was able to take Saturdays out to play sport with my mates, or head up to see my sister on a Sunday afternoon? I suspect quite a bit. I think more time off would make for more energy, which makes for the more likelihood of good weeks.
But there is also plenty I can’t relate to. Being a dad is very different to being a mum, because men and women are simply different. Some will argue that’s because of ingrained social structures that led to defined gender roles, and there is an element of that, but there is also truth in that those gender roles are based on natural differences in our dispositions that go back to Adam and Eve. I like those differences because they complement each other so well. For example, BB is far better at reading our kids’ emotions, so when she’s here they typically look first to her for emotional support. They look to me for physical support. I can’t imagine that’s unusual.
It’s true that people generally have different expectations about how mums and dads look after children. Because mums delivered their child into the world, and (most) are naturally gifted nurturers, they are deemed to have the most responsibility for their child’s welfare. As a result, mums are judged more, typically by other women. I can’t relate to those social pressures because they aren’t really applied to me. Random busy-bodies aside, I have no idea if people I know are judging how I parent, or how I look. I don’t care either. Whereas I know a lot of mums feel like they’re always being judged and it makes them question themselves all the time. There’s an entire section in book stores built on society’s judgement of mums. If there were only dads in the world, there would be one book: “How to keep your baby alive”, and most of us still wouldn’t read it.
So yes, I can very much relate to the day-to-day side of being an at-home mum, but the emotional side is a different beast. Always will be.
There are six days left in this semester. BB is under the pump. Her life is mostly spent in the study room right now with all the other poor sods who are going through the most expensive exercise in self-flagellation I’ve ever seen. She basically escapes to be fed and get a few hours of interrupted sleep before Groundhog Day kicks in again.
So while Google might have been a bit presumptuous on my solo dad status, it’s not too far wrong. A few people have asked me recently how I’m ‘coping’. It’s an interesting word, coping. It does not boast a positive inference. It implies you are undertaking something difficult, and may not survive it.
Am I coping? I think so. Though I have made some decisions that are making life more difficult than it needs to be. Principled decisions mind you. The first is that I roped BB in to join me in a pre-Christmas junk food ban. It runs for 28 days and ends on Christmas Eve. I decided it was required because my calf injury led to a rather rapid weight gain. Apparently stopping cardio and increasing your calorie intake does that. Who knew.
The first five days were deeply unpleasant, but it is fine now. Poor BB though is trying to study on coffee and nuts. She wants her chocolate fix pretty bad. Her eyes occasionally take on the meth addict manic look. I have definitely compounded her suffering with timing of this ban.
The second decision I’ve made is to hide my computer from the wee people as they have become obsessed with watching Netflix. Cartoons are pretty much kiddie crack. Once they’ve had a taste they just want more and more until you realise Sarah & Duck – an admittedly quite delightful little animation – could probably partition the court for custodial rights and win, such is your kids’ love for them. Hurricane has even picked up a bit of a British accent from it, which is rather amusing.
The absence of Sarah & Duck punishes me more than it does Hurricane and Chaos, as not only can I not fall asleep on the couch for an hour post-lunch but I have to think of other ways to distract them when I need to get stuff done. So Sarah & Duck have been replaced by running races. This involves me opening the door to our floor and letting them run rampant up and down the corridor. Typically Hurricane will take a ball with him and Chaos will take the scooter. No supervision required. I can hear them very clearly, as I’m sure everyone else can.
Running races are brilliant. And they have now morphed into corridor cricket and what Hurricane calls bounce bounce – where he takes his bouncy ball and throws it at the walls so it bounces between them while he dodges it. Genius.
I really hope running races don’t draw the attention of the authorities, as with winter now on us it is freezing cold out there. It snowed on the weekend, which was awesome while it was fresh as PoPo (our inflatable penguin sled) got a good run and even BB managed a break to join us. But yesterday we went to the playground and lasted 10 minutes before it became apparent that the content of Chaos’ runny nose was frozen on her face. Turns out it was -5. Even with three good layers on my nipples could’ve cut diamonds. Then it snowed again today. We will be spending a lot of time inside over the next 3 months. Yay.
The change from autumn to winter has been pretty remarkable. Words don’t really seem sufficient, but fortunately I was smart enough to take three photos of the same spot over the past 10 days. It tells the story much better than I could.