Wet weather survival – Friday 22 January 2016

Wet weather survival – Friday 22 January 2016

Today we visited one of the most beautiful zoos in the world; but I’m going to write about Bunnings. Bunnings is the wet weather destination for toddlers.

Sydney has recently been experiencing some inclemency bordering on the ridiculous. Miserable, persistent, stubborn, unwelcoming rain that started off as a fine novelty but has now descended into something of a ubiquitous, bitter, irritant; like kale.

This weather pattern is not conducive to easy parenting, certainly not with our child. Milo is no Ferris Bueller; in the art of escape he has no patience, no guile, no ingenuity and no subtlety. As soon as his big plastic sea-shell filled with smaller plastic balls has been emptied down the stairs, all of the electric fans in the house have been switched on, the buzzy-bee ride-on wheely thing has been lifted up onto the spare mattress and the house denuded of all bananas, Milo wants out. He is immediately at the front door trying to force his little fingers into the crack to pry it open, becoming increasingly frustrated and more feverishly pistoning his little fists up and down. Even with no destination in mind, it is time to go.

Ordinarily that spiky pale green plastic ball that apparently helps your clothes dry more efficiently in the dryer, a handful of bread sticks, a banana and a steady stream of neighbourhood dogs for mutual sniffing in the park will buy us an hour at least. But with these monsoonal conditions our usual haunts are inaccessible.

This morning our solution was a purposeless visit to Bunnings. Here’s why Bunnings is such a terrific wet weather destination for adventurous toddlers:

  • The allure of danger – controlled hazards are everywhere. Upon arrival I place Milo on the ground and let him walk, mumbling and chirping to himself. He rounds the first corner and comes face to face with an entire wall of dangling axes. From tiny ones suitable for scalping all the way to battle-axes presumably only purchased by Dwarf warriors like Gimli. Milo is overwhelmed by the thrill of it; he taps at them gently and grins at me. They appear precarious but of course they are well fixed and immovable. A little way down this aisle an end-cap dedicated to rat-poison. Again, Milo doesn’t completely understand but he knows the little packets of well-sealed bottles with the picture of the sheep on the outside (every animal is a sheep to Milo) are dangerous contraband. He pokes at them a little, giggles, and continues. Of course this goes on, aisle after aisle. Precariously stacked terracotta pots, awkwardly piled shovels, ride-on lawn-mowers that don’t start, secateurs with their little mouths tied together, packets of vacuum-sealed fertiliser, power tools safely held in smooth plastic boxes. All of it a delight to my son and all of it, with a little supervision, quite safe.
  • Enormous fans – Bunnings has the largest ceiling fans you will find anywhere. These alone are enough to transfix Milo for an hour. He looks up in awe, grinning while absent-mindedly spiraling his hand around in a clockwise direction.
  • Empty kitchen cabinets – the display kitchen section of Bunnings is Milo’s dream destination. Dozens of cupboards to open and close and open again, all of them empty, all of them at Milo height, none of them off-limits.
  • The soundtrack – it is nothing but easy listening 90s favourites like Paula Abdul and Lenny Kravitz, pleasing to Milo’s ears and his hips.
  • Tiny trolleys – no additional description required here except to say they are significantly easier to maneuver than the adult version. I preference them for my own shopping if Milo is nearby to give me credibility. Unfortunately it is not uncommon (when also shopping with Kuepps) for Milo to wander off at the key moment of payment and for me to be left alone with the tiny trolley at the self-serve checkout. Nothing says ‘credibility’ like a shin high trolley filled with a cactus, a smurf gnome and two packets of 3M hooks.

The above list is before you even get to the actual children’s play equipment that is set up and ready to go, and the fact that such a journey enables me to indulge in one of my true passions; browsing Bunnings without buying anything.

We gave knowing looks to two other dads alone with their young sons and daughters this morning exercising the same brand of wet-weather Bunnings parenting; same empty tiny trolleys, same contented looks, same tomato sauce on their collars.

  Tiny trolleys, perfect for RATSAK

Milo of Croton – Monday 4 January 2016

Milo of Croton – Monday 4 January 2016

If the legend is to be believed Milo of Croton was a wrestler and all-round cool guy of significant regard who lived a triumphant but somewhat truncated life during the 6th-century BC.

Milo won six Olympic crowns, seven at the Pythian Games, ten at the Isthmian and nine at the Nemean Games; a kind of ancient ‘Grand Slam’ legend of the Panhellenic Athletics circuit. The dude could wrestle. According to stories of yore his winning streak ended because people stopped competing against him; rather like Usain Bolt jogging to Olympic Gold unopposed.

The most intriguing stories about Milo are, however, from outside the ring, or octagon, or mat, or whatever it is called. He was pals with Pythagoras, one of his best students, and even managed to convince Pythagoras to let him marry his daughter Myia. I think Pythagoras would be a cool father-in-law, if somewhat frustrating to play at Trivial Pursuit.

As a boy Milo was given a newborn calf as a pet. For some reason Milo carried the calf on his shoulders wherever he went, and as it grew so too did Milo. After four years the calf had grown to a full-size bull, presumably now weighing somewhere around 1000kg. Milo was still carrying this thing around, a feat which by now must have been impressive but somewhat lifestyle limiting. Anyway, one day Milo decided to slaughter, roast and devour the whole thing in one sitting. Apparently he achieved this feat with ease and asked to see the dessert menu; in the end he decided against dessert but the mere fact he was considering it was impressive. He did have a single shot espresso, decaf.

Milo of Croton just appeared to do things because he could. Once he was an Olympic legend the mid-level bureaucrats of the Grecian Olympic Committee honoured Milo by casting his likeness in a bronze statue. Milo decided to carry the statue of himself into the Stadium of Olympia on his back. Why did he do this? It must have been incredibly heavy and awkward to lift. Slaves were plentiful and many such statues had previously been erected in the Stadium with little fuss. Just doing stuff because he could.

Once he tied a leather band tightly around his head and then burst it by inhaling air quickly, causing his temple veins to swell. His daily diet consisted of 9 kilos of meat, 9 kilos of bread and 10 litres of wine. Why? Even a large wrestling man like Milo could not possibly require such a gluttonous feast every day. Strong dude, lots of time on his hands, just doing stuff.

The story which captures this aspect of ancient wrestler Milo’s personality most saliently however is the story of his demise. It would appear Milo was walking through the woods one afternoon when he saw a rather large tree trunk, partially split by ancient lumberjacks, but not completely severed. Milo, wishing to test his strength, reached his arm into the split in the trunk and tried to rip it asunder. Unfortunately Milo’s estimation of his strength was over-ambitious and his arm was instead wedged in the trunk. Some opportunistic wolves leapt out of the forest and devoured him, and that was that. The key part of this tale is that he was alone; nobody was there to witness Milo’s test of strength.

Milo didn’t eat his childhood pal the bull to impress Myia, Milo didn’t burst the leather band off his temples at a frat party to impress the Delta Kappa Gammas, Milo didn’t eat 9 kilos of meat to compliment Pythagoras’ cooking on Christmas Eve (Europeans celebrate Christmas on the 24th). Milo pursued these ridiculous feats for himself. Doing stuff because he could.

Our son is named after Milo of Croton; although we can no longer remember whether we came up with the name before or after we learned about the ancient wrestling legend. We think Milo (our son) came second, but we can’t be sure. Actually, clearly the chocolate malted drink came first, then Milo of Croton, then Milo of Sydney.

His voracious appetite aside, Milo has recently started exhibiting some very Croton-esque habits; doing stuff because he can.

Milo stands on one leg in the bath. Why? It is incredibly dangerous and not conducive to cleansing himself.

Milo shimmies under his ball pit and hoists it like a Kazakh weightlifter; a perfect dead lift which sends all the balls tumbling down the stairs like an emptying apple truck. He then directs me to retrieve the balls with an emotionless gesture of his hand.

Milo walks on his tip-toes backwards.

Milo carries his ride-on fire engine around in front of him, in a very awkward fashion which only uses his deltoids and triceps; like a mini upright row. He powers it up stairs two at a time, grunting and panting as he goes. This is a very slow process but he is in no hurry. When he reaches the top he sends it crashing back to the bottom where he retrieves it and begins again.

Milo does the same with his ride-on lady beetle and his wooden ball-trolley. Often times the ball-trolley is balanced atop the lady beetle before he attempts to lift the whole pile together. Why? Just read a book or play quietly with your Captain Planet figurines. Just doing stuff because he can.

In the last week Milo has also begun to exhibit behaviour that may suggest he has an innate desire to wrestle. I don’t know quite how it started but Milo rather enjoys me pushing him over.

Now that I have written this down it doesn’t sound great, but it’s true. Milo will sidle up to me, get down on his haunches and begin to giggle before I have even begun. But as I gently nudge him off balance Milo bursts into fits of laughter which continue as I roll and shove him back onto the ground; by his hips, shoulders and forehead. If I pause my nudging Milo will immediately deliver his phrase ‘moremore’ which is a ubiquitous signal for ‘keep doing what you are doing or keep feeding me whatever that delicious food/ beverage was’. If ‘moremore’ does not do the trick Milo will simply pretend to fall over himself, laughing just as energetically, hoping that I will follow him and continue the shoving. It’s pretty weird, adorable, but weird, and I think can only be fully explained if the legend of Crotonian Milo is understood.

If Milo begins to carry either of our cats Huckleberry or Suu Kyi around on his shoulders, we may be in trouble.

Crotonian strength