Day Eleven: Into exile – Tuesday 30 June 2015

Day Eleven: Into exile – Tuesday 30 June 2015

Today is the day the cleaner comes.

Ordinarily we have Gymbaroo to take us in; a second home to shelter and nurture us. But it’s end of semester break. The Gymbaroo doors are boarded up, tumbleweeds curse its corridors. No $2.50 ham and cheese toasties grace its Breville machines. Outside a menacing, beady eyed Magpie prowls the carpark; or perhaps it is a Currawong, the two are difficult to discern from a distance. Regardless, we must leave. And, we have nowhere to go.

Milo and I hastily gather our things, taking only what we can carry on our backs and in our pockets, ransacking the fridge for anything lightweight and durable; yesterday’s sweet potato and green beans all we could muster. We try to take mental snap shots of this place. Like fuzzy polaroids moving from white to colour all too slowly, cerebrally shaking these rectangular cardboard memories with all our might as our precious seconds eek away. In our moments of sharp honesty we quietly concede we do not know when we will return. Neither of us articulate our fears, but perhaps we will never again stand within these four walls, never again will we be home. We open the front door, the frosty Sydney winter breeze cuts through us as we step out, into exile.

We wander aimlessly through the suburbs, faces shielded from the chill and from the eyes of passers-by who peer at us, pity on their faces. We keep to back streets, for safety and to secure whatever protection we can from the biting wind. It is 21 degrees celsius, but with the wind chill it feels 19. At one point we think we hear on the breeze the snarl of a pack of wolves, but then we realise there are no wolves in Australia and the sound is the postie on his 105cc Honda CT110. He waves cheerfully at us, I hide Milo’s face from the glare of his high visibility vest.

We trudge on, street after street, nowhere to go, nowhere to be, until after almost 100 minutes of physical and emotional torment with only a sausage sandwich with onions, tomato sauce and mustard from Bunnings to sustain us, we see on the horizon, a green swirly shimmer. I discount it as a trick of the mind; a mirage at best, a hallucination at worst. But as we walk it becomes more, not less, apparent and finally, yes I am convinced, we are saved. Campos Coffee.

We hobble in through the sliding doors; my chin, an hour more stubbly than when we set out on this journey. Milo, with no toys packed for him in the rush, sucking desperately on a teaspoon and the spare shoelace from my leather work shoes. We are served by a pleasant Irish lady who sees immediately our pitiful plight. She hastens our order, and although they don’t have precisely the menu to sustain men who have suffered as much as we have, she is able to pull together a pumpkin, feta, kale and rice salad, and a pork and leek sausage roll. And a strong latte.

We eat with gusto, Milo wisely tossing his green beans and sweet potato on the floor in favour of the ‘croissant crouton’ garnish on my salad. Finally we look up and realise two other travellers have joined our table, Gwendolyn and Gwendolyn’s mother. They share our fate; today they are getting their carpets cleaned.

We chat a while with Team Gwendolyn, and when we are strong enough to re-join the world we load up our meager possessions and begin the march home. What joy to be home. We dance with the cats and sing Michael Buble to each other before eating second lunch. We then flit about on the balcony (Milo eats third lunch – finely pulverised sugar cane mulch) before falling into our respective beds for a nap.

Soon after Kuepps is on her way home so we load up and meet her at the train station, and what a reunion. Milo is overjoyed to see his mum after such an ordeal. We try to explain it to her and she listens with great empathy, but in truth what we experienced can never fully be conveyed. Instead Milo nestles in the ergo on Kuepps’ chest, we hold hands and walk peacefully up the street to buy Pastizzis.

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Milo with his pitiful spoon toy

  • Total kilometers walked – 0.8
  • Suburbs trudged through – 2
  • Blisters – 0
  • Fiendish Currawongs spotted and avoided – 4
Day Ten: Croozin – Monday 29 June 2015

Day Ten: Croozin – Monday 29 June 2015

After many weeks of planning, researching, testing, purchasing and a number of false starts today we finally got out in the Croozer – ze German choice for baby bicycle trailers “high quality, intelligent transport solutions for anyone who enjoys being out and about by bike and who likes to live life spontaneously and simply”. Spontaneous and simple, that’s us.

Not really all that spontaneous when it comes to it actually, and not overly simple. After Milo’s first nap (to maximise the chance of congeniality) I first put on my helmet and high viz jacket, then strapped him into the ergo carrier, then grabbed his nappy backpack, dummy with dummy clip, Sophie the giraffe, blanket, extra beanie and water bottle. Then downstairs to the basement, awkwardly squatted down with him in the ergo to unlock the Croozer, crab shuffled sideways, dragging the Croozer while supporting his little head with my other hand, manoeuvred the Croozer into a position to attach my bike, adjusted the straps, placed the nino in, ensured entertainment was in arms’ reach so his well documented displeasure with confined spaces didn’t overwhelm him before we were moving, reattached the ergo to my chest ensuring the little poof thing didn’t fall out onto the garage floor. Then I placed the backpack in the rear of the Croozer, unlocked my bike, wheeled it over, again squatted down to entertain the child as I hitched the Croozer into place on the bike. And we were off! Almost. Actually we rode around and around for about 5 minutes waiting for a car to leave the garage, there is no manual opening switch from the inside, only the weight sensor. Eventually we asked one of the maintenance guys for help, and we were off! Very spontaneous indeed.

Once we were moving however the Croozer proved a terrific machine; Milo flip-flopping between tolerance and enjoyment. This is a wonderful spectrum; car seats and prams and things of this nature usually result in a range of teetering displeasure to rage.

So we picked our way through the back streets while we both got used to it, keeping to the foot paths and using our bell to alert pedestrians who were without exception very polite. We caught two comments on the breeze as we passed “oh wow that’s so cool” and “oh, so cute”. The Germans do produce handsomely designed vehicles.

Eventually we arrived at our destination ‘The Good Guys’ to purchase a multi-region DVD player to watch our foreign version of the West Wing and a Digital Set-Top Box for our ancient Sony television without an internal tuner (more Ashes preparation). This transition was much smoother, Milo out of the Croozer and into the ergo with minimal fuss.

Neither the bicycle or Croozer was thieved in the time we were inside so we headed home. After about 10 minutes I noted Milo had fallen asleep – victory! So instead of continuing on our set path we detoured to the park and rode around and around for about 45 minutes while he napped. In the park I noted even the slightest upward undulation with the Croozer is significantly more difficult than the flat, so perhaps this could be a good sleep/ exercise routine for future. If we could fit a podcast in at the same time teaching us ‘balcony viticulture’ surely a rip would develop in the space/ time continuum.

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So we arrived home. Milo was refreshed and hungry for bolognese which we enjoyed together, I picked out and ate his kidney beans for him which, I think, is the very definition of love. Buoyed by our morning success we headed out in the pram for more productivity. Our corner dry cleaner unfortunately informed me he did not have the right implement to sew a badge onto the pocket of my tweed jacket but we had more success at our favoured framing shop, run by Czech twins, who had just the frames for our pictures. Seriously important tasks today.

Back at home Milo crawled around the balcony eating mint leaves, kangaroo paw, native violets, daisies, mulch, soil and I caught him using his little pincers in an attempt to lever up a dried up old worm. I drew the line at that and took him inside.

One great feature of staying home with one’s little baby, I have noticed, is the freedom to dance wildly with a captive audience. It takes very little to impress Milo, who enjoys all three of my dance moves. He sits up in my arms squealing, giggling and panting as we twirl around, executing the ‘point at the sky’, ‘running man’ and ‘chicken wings’ in sequence. Thus far his favourite track seems to be ‘Thrift Shop’ by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

After a languid afternoon tea of sweet potato and carrot it was time for an afternoon nap and as Milo awoke Kuepps arrived home; Milo bleary eyed and grinning. Looking to triple our luck Kuepps saddled up with Milo in the ergo and we walked up the hill to the chemist to buy more powdered food for the man, as we were running dangerously low on both human and chemical milk. A third successful jaunt for the day.

  • Hours spent in vermiculture – 0.5
  • Hours of dancing – 1
  • Hours on the phone to new internet provider – 0.5
  • Letters written to council about growing number of mynah birds – 0
  • Hours spent researching the identity of mysterious neighbourhood trumpeteer – 0
Day Nine: The sleep milestone illusion – Friday 26 June 2015

Day Nine: The sleep milestone illusion – Friday 26 June 2015

So we didn’t get any Game of Thrones in, tally remains zero.

Baby growing is a milestones game. Despite your best efforts to ignore the temptation to peer over the proverbial fence (in this case ‘the internet’) to see when your neighbour’s infant is rolling, or eating lamb ragout, or smiling, or blogging, or teething, or playing the tambourine, or whatever, it is impossible to avoid comparing your child’s development to the ‘norms’ (which as you learn vary enormously, almost to the point of being unhelpful).

In our experience the most emotive and pressured of these comparisons is sleeping. Does your child sleep? How much does he sleep? Does he sleep through? Why doesn’t he sleep through? When he starts solids he’ll sleep better. When he starts formula he’ll sleep better. When you stop feeding him overnight he’ll sleep better, etcetera. You need to get on this early or he’ll learn bad habits (from YOU) that will mean his dreams of being an astronaut are forfeit and he will likely spend at least a little of his youth in juvie. To quote Chris Rock “you ain’t saving no college money, you saving bail money. That money’s going to Johnnie Cochran”. There are, of course, thousands of books written on this topic, and many thousand more opinions on how not to inflict these insidious bad habits on your child.

Milo is not a great night sleeper. He has always had a strong day sleeping game, but at night his desire to enjoy life to the fullest does not fit well with being asleep; some form of baby FOMO we think. His performances have also gone up and down several times over the last eight months, but certainly he is nowhere near sleeping from ‘seven to seven’, as the victory objective seems to be.

We have dabbled with various theories and attempted sleep discipline, but not in a particularly aggressive or determined fashion. He has a nice routine which we follow closely in the evening. We have experimented with ‘controlled crying’ to help him learn to settle himself but in our experience Milo will escalate his displeasure in a reasonably linear fashion, quickly reaching a point from which it is far more difficult to bring him back; and with the inevitability of the working day looming it is very difficult to not return to a technique that you know is more likely to help him, and therefore you, with some sleep. For example, settling him in your arms or feeding him.

Milo loves the dummy (or ‘schnuller’ – my favourite German word) when it’s time to sleep; he is almost impossible to settle without some sort of schnuller intervention before bed. Milo has a fiendish yet brilliant trick that he plays if you leave him to cry for too long, which is infuriating but at the same time genius. I can’t help but grin to myself at his practical cleverness. If left too long to whimper Milo will simply toss his schnuller out of the cot, usually quite some distance. For me this is akin to asylum seekers turfing their passports into the sea, or setting fire to their boats (if they do this). He is essentially saying “guys, it is now impossible for me to settle myself so you’d better come in here and cuddle me”, which we do.

At the moment Milo’s biggest concern seems to be sleeping in his cot on his own. At any point during the night if we bring him into bed with us he sleeps soundly in a gentle snorting, flailing sort of way. So long as you are content to be slapped in the face or kicked in the crotch every now and again, this is a perfectly sustainable way for everybody to get some rest. Kuepps and I have discussed this and come to the conclusion that she and I both sleep through the night, and have for many years. As do most adults we know. Everybody gets there, and so long as we are working together, and always trying to maintain our good humour, we will be fine. Although with an Ashes Series just around the corner it could be a perfect time to experiment with some funky sleep hypnosis, hold him by his ankles and rub his head counter-clockwise technique. I will be awake all night anyway.

I have thought about this today because despite the unsettled evening we had last night Milo slept very well overnight; nothing like a little swimming pool trauma to encourage some restful sleep in a lad.

Today was a far less energetic day. Milo was pleased to see my brother who came to visit us for lunch, and we all enjoyed beef burgers together in our most local cafe; Milo’s uncle was impressed by Milo’s ability to consume large quantities of beef patty. All of their high chairs are too large for little Milo so we are thinking of purchasing them one for our use when we are there; an indication that we are visiting too much? Not sure.

In the afternoon another brother then came to visit having finished his last exam for the semester, to pick up a bicycle and eat sandwiches. My brother resisted my offer of mid-afternoon Venezuelan rum and wondered whether this was a regular feature of my daddy daycare regime. For the internet record, it is not. Milo was captivated by his uncle’s very large size and bouffant of flowing hair.

We then spent the next couple of hours playing, dancing and rolling around. Milo has decided that all he really needs from me is to lie on the ground so he can clamber over me like a jungle gym, and gets quite tetchy if I attempt to involve myself in any more active way.

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Jungle gym dad

The cavalry (AKA Oma) arrived at 1700hrs to take over so I could head out to watch the Swans capitulate against the Tigers. Kuepps arriving home tonight!

  • Game of Thrones episodes watched – 0
  • Adult conversations about politics – 2
  • Hours unbroken sleep for Milo overnight – 6
  • Number of daisies from the garden eaten by Milo – 2
  • Podcasts listened to – 1 (‘Serial’ over, research being conducted for new show)
Day Eight: Home Alone – Thursday 25 June 2015

Day Eight: Home Alone – Thursday 25 June 2015

Kevin McAllister’s time home alone was a bit up and down. So too has it been for Milo and I.

I would suggest at this point Marv and Harry have fallen for all of the outer perimeter tricks; fireworks in the bin, scalding hot doorknob, slippery front steps. But they have somehow recovered from their horrific injuries and have made it inside the house. The ending, at this point, is not certain.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was family funday as Kuepps had to go up to the Gold Coast overnight for work this morning (Thursday being the usual day off). We look forward to her returning on Friday evening.

So, we are currently midway through our first ever 36 hour straight period as a twosome, which importantly includes an overnight. Today was also Milo’s first ever swimming lesson. Potentially a little ambitious on such a day.

Swim school, I am sure, will in time be something that Milo enjoys and looks forward to. Not so today. Despite Kuepps’ very sensible warnings, and our best efforts we arrived way too early for our 1130 class. After registering at the front desk and changing the wriggliest baby on earth on the floor of the male change room I made my first mental note for next time. Bring less stuff. Sunglasses? Not required. Ergo carrier? Not required. Jumper, tracksuit pants for me? Not required. Wallet? Phone? Not required. Not required.

Anyway I managed to get him into his very cute swimming outfit and then awkwardly carried all of our possessions out to the side of the pool where we began sitting and waiting. We were about 20 minutes early and about 3 minutes into that 20 I realised the most important reason why you want to move directly from the change room into the pool. Urine.

Milo, as all infants, pees all the time. His waterproof swimmers are good at catching serious trouble but allow urine to stroll pass unhindered. After about 3 minutes of sitting on my lap Milo began peeing and didn’t seem to really stop until it was time to get in the pool. I presume this was okay because we were sitting in an area with a concrete floor that gets hosed down regularly, but we were both thoroughly saturated before the class began.

Things started okay, bobbing around, collecting colourful balls and placing them in a bucket but once we started cruising around on our backs Milo’s antennae went up. By the time we were playing ‘egg on the plate’, or ‘egg off the plate’ (I can’t remember) Milo was very distressed indeed and letting me know about it. When he was on the plate (a wobbly semi-buoyant mat) the ground moved under him and waves slapped him in the face periodically. When he was off the plate he was dunked completely under the water. Poor little man was clinging to me like a baby koala and climbing me to get as far above the water surface as possible. There was another kid in the class, Lennox, who had just turned one. His demeanour could not have contrasted better with Milo. While on the plate his expression could only be described as bored, he sort of examined his cuticles and reclined languidly, solid as a rock, while his dad tried to get some kind of wave action going; it reminded me a little of Ogre competing in the ‘Trojan Horse’ event of the Greek Games in Revenge of the Nerds (the original). When he was off the plate he re-emerged from beneath the surface with the same bored expression on his face and spat water at his dad in a non-hurried spout.

Mercifully the class was over quickly so I carried my frantic child on one hip and the rest of our ridiculous possessions on my other. Back in the change room I attempted to quickly warm Milo up and rinse some chlorine off him in the shower. Very exercised already about water flying at his face he had none of this plan, screaming and clinging painfully tightly to my shoulder. I got the message quickly and instead moved to quickly dry, affix nappy and dress him in his blue bear suit. Not easy in a change room with a wet floor (and aforementioned wriggliest child on earth). I managed this but then had no idea how to dry and dress myself. After some contorting I managed to dress myself and Milo was starting to calm down as we left the centre.

Back in the car Milo quickly fell asleep after his long ordeal so I had no option but to drive aimlessly around the industrial inner-west of Sydney giving him a chance to unwind a little. As it was lunchtime we managed to execute a perfect McDonald’s drive-through without the child stirring, great McParenting.

After an hour or so we were home and Milo was feeling much better. I cooked him an omelette and we ate it together with our hands and he seemed to have forgiven me for the most part. After a stroll to the post office in the pram it was close to 4 and Milo was becoming cantankerous to I graciously offered him the chance to have a nap.

Milo was very displeased with this offer so we wrestled noisily for about an hour before I had the brain wave of giving him a bottle of formula (should have been parenting 101). Milo attacked the bottle with enthusiasm, a little too much enthusiasm. Coupled with his exercised state, a tummy full of digesting omelette and a flood of warm milk I got to witness my first projectile vomit which hit me with full force mostly in the chin and neck area. Somehow in the confusion quite a lot also ended up on my forehead.

Within moments the bed was stripped, as were we both and Milo was giggling and feeling much better about the world. I thought the best way forward was an old-fashioned hose down in the shower but alas Milo had immediate flash-backs. So for the second time in a day I stood awkwardly nude, half in the shower while my son screamed and tried to launch himself into mid-air away from the water. I conceded quickly and decided an early bath might be the solution.

So we bathed, dressed, gave Milo a little more dinner and played for two hours or so until finally just after 7 Milo conceded defeat and went to sleep after almost 6 hours awake. We shall see what the night holds for us but in the meantime I am determined to get my Game of Thrones tally on the board.

  • Number of pairs of sunglasses necessary for swim school – 0
  • Number of times Milo splashed the water with his hands willingly – 0
  • Estimated number of classes before Milo dunks without yelling – 4
  • Number of large Big Mac meals eaten in the car – 1
  • Game of Thrones episodes – 1 (aspirational)
Day Seven: An incident with a pigeon – Tuesday 23 June 2015

Day Seven: An incident with a pigeon – Tuesday 23 June 2015

Gymbaroo number two today.

Milo warming into it, not the most active but certainly the noisiest. LOVED dancing to the Wiggles, a very concerning development. No Pinky today so my child’s smooch integrity remained intact. The Lord Varys kid was there again. I re-affirm my first instinct; he is SO Lord Varys. Spends most of the session curled on his side inhaling his formula despite the best efforts of gravity, challenging the other gymbaroo-ites with his eyes to attempt to wrest the bottle away from him. Nobody takes this challenge.

Milo loved crawling up and through the dangling padded tube thing, was reasonably non-plussed about the ‘spinny chair’ (which is just an office chair with wheels) and almost injured himself diving head first into a pit of plastic dinosaurs while sucking furiously on the tail of one of said dinosaurs.

Had my first encounter with snotty kid dribbling on a toy and then Milo attempting to also suck on this toy. Today I intervened, the kid looked so gross, but clearly this is another example of parenting up-tightedness that needs to be expunged from our systems. Not today.

Another interesting observation I made today is the parental instinct to be embarrassed and aghast at their 8 month old’s poor behaviour, usually stealing toys from other children or befriending them too aggressively. Milo exhibited both of these poor behaviours today; several times, particularly the stealing thing. Maracas, Tambourines, plastic dinosaurs, the weird plastic accordion looking thing, anything anybody else had (that admittedly he also had). My strategy was simply to hand Milo’s version of these items to the child-in-question’s parent (there were plenty to go around), to be handed back to the theft victim. I noted other parents attempting to prevent the theft, or even reasoning with their children. Is this the way forward with an infant? I don’t know, seems fruitless. Also, Milo hasn’t met too many children his age so it is all a bit of a brain melt for him. Once he got over his initial reluctance he was cruising around the common mat space introducing himself to everybody; Max, Flo, Steve, Patrice. Not Varys. These introductions were usually pretty tactile; little faces at his natural eye-line are pretty exciting and he is a hands-on guy (as they all are). So there is a fair bit of slapping and pincering going on. I noted several parents flying awkwardly across the mat to separate or council their children on this behaviour. Is this really a profitable way forward? I don’t know. Maybe eventually. Not today.

This was the last Gymbaroo for the session (we came in late) and we think we are going to take Milo’s talents across town next session. So, new characters to be discovered. I am debating with Kuepps whether there is any underlying religious cult aspect to this franchise, I will continue my research but my antennae is up.

Driving home we managed to keep Milo awake which was a win. Milo then messily ate peas and tuna for lunch, delicious, before a nice nap. Upon his return to the waking world we both decided we should take our afternoon refreshment at the caf, which we did. Milo enjoyed his bottle while I had my double shot latte.

Toward the end of our relaxing cafe session Milo noticed a pigeon, pecking around on the other side of the outdoor blinds that box in the outdoor area of our local cafe. Milo has encountered pigeons before but he is unsure about them. After pecking for a while the pigeon leapt into the air, flapping its wings in a laboured way as only pigeons can. Milo jumped at the sudden movement and looked at me with an anxious face. The pigeon then pecked its way under the outdoor blind to see what it could find underneath our table. Milo continue to watch intently. Eventually the pigeon again tried to take to the air (3 inches into the air) to move quickly to another croissant crumb. Well, Milo jumped again at the sudden movement which set-off a cacophony of activity. The pigeon excitedly jumped again in response to Milo’s jump but then slapped directly into the transparent blind. The flailing wings and flying feathers panicked Milo further who started growling and barking at the poor beast which in turn was whipped into a frenzy, hopping and slapping into the plastic blind over and over as Milo’s barks become shrieks. I covered Milo’s eyes and mouth so no pigeon dust could get in there while the hapless bird bounced and jerked, eventually finding its way out. Milo’s breathing stabilised quickly but he looked at me with an expression that said “what was that dad? I don’t wish to ever encounter another animal such as that”. So perhaps Milo now has a Hitchcock-esque aversion to birds. Time will tell.

Anyway, this hastened our departure. We took some spent coffee grounds with us, for the kale plants, to conclude our pretentious coffee shop afternoon. There was just time then for a stroll through the park before Kuepps arrived home. Again, Milo reserved his last smile of the afternoon for mum as she got off the bus.

  • Number of times through the dangling padded tube thing – 3
  • Number of times through the double length orange tunnel – 1
  • Number of other children pincered by Milo – 2
  • Number of unsolicited smooches endured by Milo – 0
  • Number of plastic dinosaurs licked by Milo – 7
Day Six: I can eat a peach for hours – Monday 22 June 2015

Day Six: I can eat a peach for hours – Monday 22 June 2015

This brilliantly conceived and memorable line from the 1997 epic John Woo film ‘Face Off’ in which Nicolas Cage and John Travolta chase versions of themselves and each other in a quite believable yet fantastic race against time and science is so brilliant and so memorable because it cleverly conveys how patient, meticulous and indulgent (evil) Nicolas Cage is as a man, and therefore as a villain. The allure of this film is based on the ‘just over the horizon’ scientific possibilities of full face transplants, voice-box mimicry and even targeted laser chest-hair removal (height and skin-tone matching are not essential to convince Nicolas Cage’s close friends and family that John Travolta is indeed evil Cage) as well as the clever screenplay which allows Cage and Travolta to indulge their full acting range in one film; evil guy and good guy.

Anyway, this line is the exact opposite of Milo’s approach to a peach, or any food. He is a vacuum cleaner. A ‘Hoover’ in yesterday’s parlance. A ‘Dyson’ in today’s. To watch Milo eat a peach, or a nectarine, or a barbeque chicken is one of life’s great pleasures. The process usually involves a shrill battle cry of some form, followed by a full facial attack upon the poor unsuspecting foodstuff. How he generates the destructive force that he does with only two undersized lower tusks is a mystery. This is a noisy and visceral process; nectarine flesh, chicken morsels or omelette particles are flung with ferocity in every direction and at the peak of the fury, the point at which the nectarine stops and Milo’s mouth begins is not easy to discern. Below him is a boiling sea of gleeful kittens, frantically attempting to eat or bury the hail of discarded particles falling upon them.

Milo has eaten enthusiastically from day one, but particularly since he became aware that food could come in non-liquid form. This process of when and how to introduce solid foods, and how this should evolve is a tricky one; and (surprise, surprise) not uniformly agreed upon in the literature. I assure you, my wife is well acquainted with the literature. We started at four months with a gruel type substance, followed by packets and jars and then some morsels of what I would consider ‘food’. But, this process gets a momentum of its own and is hard to slow down once it begins. The tipping point for us was probably offering Milo the aforementioned barbeque chicken, which he inhaled aggressively and then looked at us with accusatory eyes which unmistakably said “where are you hiding the other barbeque chickens?”

Beyond “don’t give them any solids before four months” it is not really clear what you are supposed to do and when, except you must under no circumstances give them honey before 12 months. This would be at best reckless negligence and at worst pre-meditated abuse. The reason for this dictate is the spores of dastardly botulism which can live in the honey. Now, an intestine at one has the necessary bacteria to break these evil spores down but before that they are defenseless. I feel on this point that the honey lobby really needs to do a better job. They need a group of influential, or at least wealthy, ‘botulism sceptics’ to sow the seed of doubt around this science. They are missing out on huge infant honey sales, and this is a key period during which young taste buds can be hooked for life; much like the Commonwealth Dollarmite accounts of the 80s.

Our household would, of course, be immune to these sceptics because Kuepps does not take advice or directives without a full examination of the evidence. This includes sourcing and examining the studies upon which they are made, assessing for efficacy, sample size and reliability; I am quite serious about this. My favourite example, and one of my favourite moments of Kuepps’ pregnancy occurred in our third trimester when we attended our local hospital’s “this is how you have a baby” day (well, two days actually but we wagged the second).

This course necessarily  assumes no knowledge at all and so at times (at most times) is somewhat patronising and always dull. The instructor was particularly insulting of the dads, simply by how little she expected of us. There were classic lines such as “dads you need to chip in and change the occasional nappy, and the whole house will just work better”. So to give us our opportunity to shine at the introduction the dads had to state their child’s due date, articulate whether we would be in the birth centre or the labour ward and ask a specific question that we would like addressed during the day. When it came to me I impressed everybody by knowing the answer to the first two then said we would be interested to learn more about the process of induction, as that may be something we might need to consider. The presenter said with a slight giggle and a wink that sex has been known to bring on labour and then, completely mis-judging my wife, went to move onto the next gentleman so he could wow us with his knowledge of his child’s due date. Kuepps, having none of this, rather forcefully shook her finger at the lady and said (quote) “there are no reliable studies that support that assertion at all”. The poor presenter was literally struck dumb, left a very pregnant pause (so to speak), and again moved to the next father. It was amazing.

So we’re a week in, and now into the heart of the matter. It becomes clear that days without structured outings will be constructed of errands, and today we managed three. We walked in the pram up to the supermarket for a spot of shopping and then to the high street fruit and veg for the good hummus and dried apricots for Milo, Milo dressed in his Petit Bateau jumper which makes him look like a blue stripey wizard.

After a short nap we then loaded up the car and headed to Officeworks and Bunnings (the dream double). Both successful visits. At Officeworks I stopped the car quickly and gestured to the driver of the car adjacent (a dad with two kids in the back) to let him know that he was about to reverse over his pram (no child inside). He nodded courteously but in a sober manner which I read as “thanks fellow dad, but I have a reversing camera on this bad boy, would have seen it”.

We then hustled home, slipped Milo into the third transportation option for the day (pram, car now ergo carrier) and jumped on the bus to see Kuepps’ new office then both head to the doctor to have our various Milo induced skeletal ailments examined; perhaps these ailments should be the subject of a future post.

Day six and on all six Milo’s face has lit up at the sight of his mum. Usually this is the first smile we have seen for an hour or so as he reaches the end of his sleep cycle. His joy is quite lovely to see.

Oh, also kudos to Lali for recommending Covitol cream to cure what was developing into a nasty rash on Milo’s inner thigh. Made him smell like a salted pilchard left to bask in the afternoon sun, but knocked it out in 48 hours. “I know bottoms” says Lali. Yes she certainly does.

  • Number of times Milo has fallen asleep in his pram (ever) – 0
  • Brussels Sprouts seedlings planted – 2
  • Hours spent playing with ‘Hello Fresh’ cardboard box –  3
  • Hours spent communicating with Eastern European hobbyists via Ham Radio – 0
  • Hours spent researching edible plants of the Australian outback – 0
  • Podcasts listened to – 2 (only 2 episodes of ‘Serial’ to go)
Day Five: The family head – Friday 19 June 2015

Day Five: The family head – Friday 19 June 2015

I want to talk about injuries around the home.

Milo, I believe, is in a high risk category; he is adventurous and appears to have no sense of self-preservation, he has a strong little dancer’s body which he got from his mum and weird powerful little legs like a Kazakh boxer. He also has the family head, which is large. I would conservatively estimate 1/4 of his entire weight is above his shoulders; potentially around 2kg. He also has an unusually tiny bottom for a cranium of that size. The scenario, I am sure, is clear to you. Milo clambers up everything, his strength and determination far exceed his balance and sense. He is therefore terrific at getting himself into compromised positions, but less terrific at getting out of them. His solution is oft to just release his hands and land on his bum, hoping this will be sufficient to counter his momentum. It usually is for a moment, until his weighty head passes his centre of gravity and carries the whole thing backward in an unpredictable and fast moving sprawl.

For example; yesterday Milo managed to clamber into a cardboard box, about 2′ x 1′ and about a foot deep. It had some ballast inside which enabled him to get up and over the lip like a slug. He kind of lowered himself in cheek first while grunting, and then contorted his lean little body until he was sitting upright, as if he were piloting a go-kart. With a beaming smile on his face he then commenced humping back and forth, squawking and slapping at the dangling lid of the box which resulted in a satisfying springing action. I sat and watched this unfold, giggling but otherwise offering no assistance or encouragement (our philosophy on this in a moment). Inevitably of course Milo tired of this entertainment and then sought to extricate himself. Not his strong suit.

I was hovering but trying my best not to assist. After thinking on his strategy for a couple of seconds Milo concluded his best option was to rock the box forward until it tipped. He would then, he hoped, be able to successfully cushion his fall with his forehead (his arms were quite useless, trapped inside the box). Milo swiftly moved his plan from concept to execution and plummeted forward, using his large head as an effective pendulum. Due to my hovering I was able to stick my palm out and catch his forehead just before it made contact with the carpet. Milo, unfazed, giggled and crawled away in his jaunty style, likely in pursuit of a passing cat.

IMG_3262IMG_3257 edit

The box

This was a situation in which I intervened because it seemed possible he could really scuff up his face if things went awry, but usually I don’t. In fact usually I try not to watch because it is pretty hair-raising. I can hear him clambering and humping away, standing on his tip-toes and laughing maniacally when a good flat-footed pose and solid concentration would be more appropriate. To begin with this policy resulted in regular tumbles and tears leading to lumps and scratches; I figured unless he experienced these ailments he would never put forth the effort to improve his extrication skills. There are obviously flaws in this policy but I think he is improving. Kuepps and I have removed all objects that may offer serious danger, like big heavy didgeridoos standing upright on wobbly stands with their centre of gravity about a metre above Milo’s head, and the wardrobe that is shaped liked a staircase leading to nowhere, but that’s about it. He now seems to value his body a little more and is easing his way down a little before adopting the face down parachute position for the last few inches. But there are still daily tumbles and his face does look a little like there are wild blackberry bushes growing in his bedroom. This is one of the many parenting dilemmas we face which I am sure continues forever in this theme with greater and greater consequence as they grow. To hover or not to hover, tough one. Hopefully the rest of his body will catch up with the family head soon, and at least for now make that decision easier for us.

So yesterday was family fun-day (Kuepps’ day off) so no blog. Today is Friday and grandma (Lali) and grandpa (Papa) returned from lots of places, but most immediately New York at 0620hrs this morning. That is prime Milo time so we drove out to the airport to meet them. It was a miserably rainy, cold morning so Kuepps took the opportunity to dress Milo in his blue bear onesie from Target; all man-made fibres, quite flammable looking, massively overspec’d for any climate outside of winter in Vladivostok, but really really cute.

Milo was delighted to receive a series of New York Knicks onesies from Lali, including a replica jersey-onesie thing featuring the overpriced man himself Carmelo Anthony. It brought a tear to my eye to see him in Knicks paraphernalia but internally I was apologising to Milo for the lifetime of basketball mediocrity I have now committed him to.

To get full value for the blue bear Milo had his first sleep in it, and then out we went again to take on the baristas. Surely this time. I perched the little smiley blue bear on my hip and ordered my coffee; “small or large” was the only reply, damn it. Good god, he has tiny little adorable blue bear ears on top of his head, he’s irresistible! Apparently not. We took our take away and trudged home in the rain to put on some more practical clothes.

Shortly after we returned we got the great news that Kuepps was on her way home, early mark due to office relocation. So we all went out to lunch together, Milo again eating a wide array of interesting foods and very much enjoying seeing his mum’s face in the daylight. Unfortunately Kuepps offered Milo some sweet potato puree which was a little warm. This soured Milo’s mood, and he sulked for the rest of the meal.

Hopefully the weather will improve over the weekend and we can test out Milo’s new bike carriage in the park (another example of me attempting to force my hobbies on him).

  • Number of kale seedlings planted – 6
  • Hours spent worm-farming – 0
  • Hours spent researching alternate internet plans – 2
  • Phone calls to the sheriff’s office to be excused from jury service – 1
  • Hours spent re-oiling the outdoor furniture – 0
  • Podcasts listened to – 1
Day Four: My little buttercup – Wednesday 17 June 2015

Day Four: My little buttercup – Wednesday 17 June 2015

When Milo was very little, less than a week, we the desperate eyed, hopelessly out-of-our-depth parents were of course trying anything and everything to help the little guy sleep; holding him out at arm’s length in front of the clothes dryer like some kind of perverse laundry offering as it spun around noisily (because it is well documented that the womb sounds like a public pay-per-kg laundry), walking up and down the stairs with him in various impossible positions (upside down, perpendicular to your torso, slung over the shoulder like potatoes), nestling him in with the kittens in their bed so he could be raised as one of them.

The other thing you do of course is sing, anything you can think of, it seems to distract them long enough to forget all the very sound reasons they had for not sleeping. The limiting factor, we found, is lyrics. There are just not enough 10 minutes songs that I know all the words to, particularly not at 2 in the morning and certainly not when your future sleep is on the line. And Milo is wise to lyric looping, or a lack of confidence. You’d find you could establish a nice rhythm, his eyes would be slowly descending into slits, and then you’d pause and think “oh hang on, how does the second verse of Wonderwall start? Backbeat? or Today, did I do that already? And how many ‘I said maybes’ are there at the end?” Milo is onto this hesitation immediately and screaming smugly at you as your ‘maybeeeeee’ trails off tepidly into a defeated nothing.

At least for me the obvious choice was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’; long, reasonably well paced, well-known lyrics that present themselves for you naturally out of habit at 2am (as that is usually when I have sung that song out loud in the past). But as it turns out all of those scaramouches are very jarring and always lead to failure. ‘American Pie’, another long rambling classic. Very nice build up, can be sung at whatever pace you like. But once you get into the whole “did you write the book of love?” business it is altogether too peppy and the child is awake, and a loop at this point back to the beginning is too easy for my son to spot and he’s up with renewed vigour. ‘Wonderwall’, as above, the repetitions and non-repetitions always stump me when I am bleary eyed and it has never worked. ‘Let it snow’ by Dean Martin, another great tune, easy to sing but just not enough lyrics to get you where you need to be, and no obvious point for a loop. Kuepps has had steady success with the German classic ‘Schlaff Kindchen Schlaff’, which includes the (translated) lyrics “your father is a sheep, your mother is a camel, there is nothing you can do about it, so sleep child sleep”, but the pronunciation has always stumped me late at night.

I am not entirely sure how it happened, clearly desperation played a role, but the song I eventually fell upon, that Milo for some reason responded positively to, was ‘My Little Buttercup’ from the movie Three Amigos:

Not sure why this song has worked. Charming lyrics, pace can be altered as required and a natural loop perhaps? Not sure, but Kuepps and I have sung this Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short classic potentially 50 times a day on loop for the last 8 months.

Anyway, of late I have noticed that Milo is becoming somewhat immune to the song’s charms; understandably it has become a bit stale over time. So this morning I tried to pep it up a little by including all the additional bits from the sweaty Mexican bar flies “a while, a while” (for example). Needless to say Milo was none too impressed, scowled at me, and I returned quickly to the standard version.

After Milo’s first sleep we headed out for our first house visit; lunch with grandma (Ama) and one of his many fine uncles. To add to Milo’s culinary repertoire he enjoyed Rigatoni Bolognese, salmon quiche, broad beans, candied apple and most importantly haloumi which seemed to awaken some deep Grecian hunger within him. An impressive level of consumption for a little body. As his uncle pointed out Milo seems to have inherited the innate family instinct to covet food on dad’s plate.

In the afternoon we watched a beautiful double rainbow over Sydney, although Milo was more interested in watching the escaping cats skip and leap through the puddles, before Kuepps arrived home at dusk to much fanfare in preparation for family fun-day tomorrow.

  • Total minutes watching NBA basketball – 48 (alas the series is not a best of 65 so we will now have to find something else to fill our days)
  • Number of old travel journals scanned – 0
  • Total hours on bicycle trainer – 0
  • Total hours spent learning how to craft homemade button-hole flowers – 0
  • Total minutes spent planking – 0
  • Podcasts listened to – 2 (we are now addicted to ‘Serial’)
Day Three: Kissed by a girl called Pinky – Tuesday 16 June 2015

Day Three: Kissed by a girl called Pinky – Tuesday 16 June 2015

Last night was the first time I settled Milo in the wee hours by cuddling him nose to nose in the spare bed (sometime around 0130hrs). This is no great achievement, Kuepps has done this most nights for the last 8 months, but last night was the first time he has let me do it. As he was scratching away at my hand with his little pincer fingers to comfort himself it occurred to me that he falls asleep in the exact same way that I do, obnoxiously; thrashing around, constantly changing position, kicking his legs back and forth until suddenly in the blink of an eye he is asleep. Genetics are weird. I can only imagine how unpleasant it must be to share a bed with us both.

Anyway, today was Milo’s exciting debut at Gymbaroo. After his first sleep we loaded up into the car and drove the 20 minutes in the rain to the salubrious local community centre, home of the ‘creepy crawlers’ Gymbaroo. What is Gymbaroo you ask? Well, according to its mission statement Gymbaroo’s aim is to improve the learning potential and health of children, by providing quality services and equipment, along with current information at the leading edge of educational development, in a fun environment for the child, in an understandable manner for the parents, and at an affordable cost.

Essentially it is a combination of boot camp and speed dating for infants, with more dancing. Milo was moderately impressed by his first taste of Gymbaroo which included five other babies and their mothers. It was a motley crew if I am being honest. There was one kid who looks exactly like Lord Varys from Game of Thrones. Not Lord Varys if Lord Varys were a baby, Lord Varys himself – the Spider of King’s Landing! I overheard one of the Gymbaroo organisers tell Varys’ mother that he is an ‘old soul’, a questionable compliment.

But the sparkiest baby of the group is ‘Pinky’ who cut around like she owned the joint. Half way into the ‘Old McDonald owns a restaurant’ song while little Milo was still very much finding his feet she crawled straight over to him and without a hint of introduction smacked a kiss right on his general face area; more an affectionate headbutt than anything, but the intention was clear. Milo was unsure how to respond but kept his cool. His brow furrowed a little and he just stared at her quizzically. This seemed to be sufficient feedback for Pinky who then kissed him twice more. Big day for Milo.

At the conclusion of Gymbaroo Milo predictably fell asleep in the car, so we sat in the carpark for an hour while he got full value before heading upstairs to practise our new skills, lest Milo fall behind and be counted out of Ivy League schools forever. The mountain of cushions we built for him to refine his clambering and balance looked somewhat half-assed when compared against the professionalism of the formal Gymbaroo, but he spent a happy two hours climbing up and down chasing his own socks, distracted every now and then to pursue the cats down his IKEA tunnel; always interested to learn what they were up to, never disappointed that the answer is always the same. Not much.

The practise must have been effective because his dexterity has now improved such that he can open the DVD cupboard. Thanks a lot Gymbaroo.

Oh, also Milo has discovered my meagre chest hair and loves to reach into my shirt absentmindedly to grab a handful for affectionate yet surprisingly painful tugging.

  • Total hours screen printing one-of-a-kind tshirts – 0
  • Total hours researching family tree – 0
  • Total hours refiling old digital photographs – 1
  • Total hours doing tax return – 0
  • Total hours stretching hip flexors – 0.5
  • Podcasts listened to – 1.5
Day Two: Milo and the War Criminal – Monday 15 June 2015

Day Two: Milo and the War Criminal – Monday 15 June 2015

So, it’s probably about time we as a household stopped calling our son ‘Milosevic’, or ‘Slobodan Milosevic’, if we’re being formal. It’s clear how such a nom de guerre has developed and evolved; Milo is very slobbery and, well, the rest is obvious. One interested stranger, overhearing this in the supermarket has in the past even asked Kuepps if Milosevic is indeed Milo’s full name. Short answer, no we did not name our child after a war criminal.

Milo definitely responded to the name Milosevic today, perhaps a worrying development. Although we must be fair and acknowledge that the real Slobodan Milosevic was never actually convicted of crimes against humanity, dying before your trial can be concluded is not the same thing as ‘innocent in the eyes of the law’. So, perhaps one to be monitored if we don’t wish to provide future angsty teen Milo with ammunition against us.

Anyway, demonstrating our flexibility today Weetbix was served in the high chair, with far superior results. The morning was mostly spent also giving the cats the opportunity to show their patience and flexibility, which they continue to do.

More NBA Finals (Game 5) after the morning nap, Milo showed an enhanced interest today perhaps due to his hero Lebron’s powerful yet ultimately futile performance.

In order to prepare Milo for eating out in the inner city cafe of the future lunch consisted mostly of kale, pepitas and quinoa. You know you’re living when most of your lunch ingredients are not spelled like they sound. Milo loves kale; this is a strange sentence to write, and I admit difficult to believe. But it is true.

To help with the quinoa digestion we prepped the pram and headed out for a walk in the park, to spot migratory birds in the wetlands. Milo used his sharp vision to spot several ibis, doubtless halfway through their arduous migration from Tempe to Redfern. We were both quite impressed by their graceful movement and disposition.

Quaq Quao was not necessary today but a constant game of ‘Milo throw the ball out of the pram whilst cackling so dad can quickly bend over, grab it and toss it back in the pram’ was. The rules of this game are simple. Milo cackles and throws the ball out of the pram, dad quickly scoops it up while making a whooshing sound and tosses it back into the pram. Bouncing it off Milo’s head is ideal. Milo’s sleepy eyes hastened us home for a nap.

On the way up a man in the lift commented affectionately that “she looks a lot like you”. This confused me on a couple of points but we took it in our stride and mumbled the stock answer that this observation is likely due to the fact that I look like a giant infant. We let the gender confusion hang. It is actually a rather common mistake made by strangers. It is true Milo regularly wears pink which may be a contributing factor but today he was in traditional masculine blue stripes, as was I.

Finally we attempted to liquid fertilise the garden with Milo strapped into the Baby Bjorn. This resulted in seaweed on us both and should be discouraged in future.

  • Total hours planting trees for the local council – 0
  • Total hours spent researching apiary – 0
  • Total push-ups executed – 0
  • Total objects fashioned out of upcycled wood – 0
  • Total hilarious faecal related incidents – 0
  • Podcasts listened to – 1
  • Intellectual podcasts listened to – 0