Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Battening the hatches

The calm before the storm. A cub has turned, he faces the right way though he's not yet engaged. He is big, Beloved has a basketball plus and given she doesn't have a large frame she's almost dwarved by the hugeness that precedes her.

His kicking's slowed a little and we suspect he's starting to run out of room.

It'll be an interesting week. We are stubbornly heading to the beach for Christmas and the weekend, which will put us over an hour's drive from the hospital. The ambulance fees are paid up but it's still unnerving. Then we lose our backups for several days as Bear's aunt and uncle attend an engagement in the country. Plans for what happens in that time remain a little sketchy and needless to say the prospect of me standing outside holding Bear's hand while her mum grunts and pushes out a baby on her own isn't one we relish.

How do others deal with this? Do most people have half their family in the same city? It's funny how parenting can bring out so many gaps in the system, things you'd just assume were somehow 'covered'.

We've got Raising Boys, and I'll go back and have another read of the 'happy healthy kids' books as I pore over the challenge of a son. And of a second child. And of keeping Bear the happy, confident girl she is.

The girl who slapped me on the leg the other day, in the park, and stated in her matter-of-fact way: "My Daddy".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Intrepid moments of partial hesitation...

Monday I start working in a new section, with a new team. I was bored and they are doing relatively exciting work, but it is impossible to be blase about shifting just 8 months after joining this government department.

I am uneasy, and perhaps the times are such that I am a little less cocky about my ability to just find another job if things go awry.

Last time I had a child on the way was the last time I was looking hard for work, and it was not pleasant. I don't want any further disruptions for a while.

So perhaps I'm overly sensitive at the fact that the red carpet isn't exactly being rolled out. I prevaricated a couple of times before agreeing for the move to go ahead, and I think in the process managed to take some of the gloss off my impending arrival, and lay seeds of doubt about my enthusiasm. It's almost a childish need, but I like to feel feted, wanted, when making a career move.

My new team were too busy to talk when I dropped through on a visit. Laughter in the halls was promised, but work and promises are fickle things.

My things are packed, my new desk is claimed, but I feel a little empty.

It is time to head for home.

Monday, October 27, 2008

She kissed a boy!

I have been told, by an apparently amused mum, that my 21 month old daughter, in front of dozens of people at a toddler birthday party, wandered 'behind' a tree with a similar-aged little troublemaker and copped a kiss! And gave him one back!!

Little Minx.

Cub goes quiet

Hardly a twitch for two days. I was brushing it off, playing down Beloved's concerns. Inside was a growing lump of dread. We are too close now, he is too real.

He is my boy, my little Cub.

Friends recently experienced such loss. I couldn't imagine their world or how they kept going, they were so much stronger than I could be if I were dropped into that place. Hell is real, Hell is sewn into the arteries of a parent who has lost a child.

As Leonard Cohen puts it:

Like a baby stillborn... I have torn, everyone, who reached out to me.

Cub is back in action, a little restrained but with enough vigour that we're taking in breath again.

I want to wrap his mum up in cotton wool and carry them both through the next 3 months...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where the laughter goes...

So true, Schembri on the magic of children's laughter:

We envy the child. As they gurgle and coo and laugh like crazy we realise they still possess something we have lost. It's the price we paid for growing up. And what would we give to recapture even a small measure of that joy?

I have had this thought, it makes me sad. Why are we incapable of refocussing, pulling our bleeding foreheads away from the wall and the knives from each other's backs, and finding happiness?

Is this the essence of the Christian Genesis mythology, we can't resist knowledge but in the process it kills the possibility of harmony?

It is the only dark lining on the silver clouds of Bear's incessant, cackling laughter. I won't let myself become pessimistic though, there must be a better way and, together with Cub, we are going to work on finding it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Of sick cats, airport lounges, and the utility of relatives

The Chairman is fine; the chunk of his head removed by the vet was sufficient to include all of the malignant material. He is still getting extra pats.

We hit the airport early Saturday to fly to Canberra, but were to experience a string of cancelled flights and delays that took us through to mid afternoon before we finally took off. We went through the scanners, we came back out. A couple of times. We went on the escalators. Bear took over and we went on the escalators again. And again. I plonked Beloved in a cafe and followed Bear as she stumbled and whirlybirded through the entry lounge, past the pub, 15 minutes at a time on the trains, through the gift shop with an explosive expression of toddler emotion when I stopped her pulling all the fake koalas off the shelf...

(I stood over her, feet on either side to protect her from being stepped on, and waited patiently for the change of heart that meant we could move on)

... to the red ferrari which once again was worthy of being climbed on. And on. It went.

It seems it took Virgin Blue until about 2pm to realise they would be needing another plane. Still, when we were ready to board a stewardess who had fallen in love with Bear (they mostly do) came up with a Wiggles book she'd found and held onto all day. That was a nice touch.

We flew to Canberra and hung out with the rellos. We had some stupid idea that having been through a day of hell we might get some help with Bear in the evening, but after briefly checking her out they went back to their wine and conversation and we snuck around the bathroom and kitchen in a daze doing all the usual chores.

I've learned something about relatives, grandparents in particular, and the difference between the talk and talk about wanting grandkids and the actual walking of the walk when it comes to rolling up sleeves and being useful when it's messy and hard.

(A certain sister-in-law and her partner being a bit of an exception to this rant...)

That being said, Bear was brilliant and positive, even in the airport, and made what could have been a day from hell into a tolerable family bonding exercise. Thanks Bear.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Savings Guarantee not adequate - Rudd needs a rudder fast

Quiggin is right, Turnbull is better than Rudd and Rudd is pissfarting around on this issue.

Savings accounts are the basic place people have to put their money. Philosophically, they are the place money goes when we do not want to take any risks. They are not seen as investments; interest is useless on such accounts most of the time anyway. The public do not accept any risk there and will have a 100% expectation that government will pick up the shortfall or have its collective head placed on the chopping block. Rightly so too.

Action needed, delays not needed. It's that simple.

So far so good for a world-weary cat

He is spending a lot of time sitting, legs tucked up under himself, looking displeased. He got the collar off once but Beloved managed to reattach it. He catches it on the wall, gets blocked from passing through narrow gaps, and has picked up a couple of choice brown bits from somewhere I prefer not to think about.

Bear is clearly concerned and has pointed out (and tried to touch) the stitches. Mao is tolerating the attention and not pulling away. She gave him a couple of cuddles that were received with some soft squinting and a cat smile. This experience may be a minor breakthrough in their relationship.

This morning he suddenly went a bit crazy trying to remove the collar, after catching it in the blinds. He shook around pretty wildly. Bear immediately became distressed and cried loudly, almost a scream. I cuddled her, then leaned out until I could reach Mao and also pat his back. I don't think she was scared, I think she was upset.

She's a good girl with a big heart. He's a highly affectionate and emotional cat. I think they'll end up a very good match.

Meanwhile we wait for the test results, but so far, so good.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chairman Mao has a tumour

It is on top of his head. It looked like an innocuous wart or even some sort of small scar. It has been there several months, we intended to have it looked at but didn't think there was anything to panic about.

He is at the Vet now, about to go under general anaesthetic before it is removed along with some surrounding scalp.

Poor boy, we have not been attentive enough lately, as much as things have been improving in recent months. He is very special to us, a family member, a sibling to Minh-Minh, an elder statesman warming to Bear as she grows and learns to be respectful and gentle.

Although there is still some distance there, it wasn't on display this morning: when we put Mao in his carrying box Bear became distressed, pointed, said "Mao Mao" several times and stamped a foot. An intuitive girl, although she didn't explicitly know what is going on, she knew something that was not good was happening.

Soon, I told her, he'll be back soon.

I hope that was right. The prognosis is good, both for the operation and the tumour not having spread elsewhere. It is something called a Marcel Tumour, well that's what I heard though I think that is actually a Mast Cell Tumour. They can be bad, but not apparently in this case. I'm not completely comforted. I just want my boy home, safe.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Surprise: Career satisfaction dives after fatherhood

Not surprising from my own experience:

Dr Gray said men's job satisfaction declined on the birth of their first child. "While work would have played a major part of their lives before children, on having them they must re-evaluate their priorities, and in doing so it appears to have an impact on their workplace satisfaction," she said.

The mundane striving for recognition and hierarchical ascent suddenly get put into perspective.

This happened for me, vividly. It hasn't taken away all satisfaction, rather it makes doing worthless tasks (for example duplication or red tape hacking) particularly miserable, because you know there are more important things.

I wonder if perhaps some of this derives from primal instincts driving the career impulse. If men are subconsciously attempting to better their position in the tribal pecking order to attract a mate, then becoming satisfied with the family side of things is likely to take the wind out of their career sails. Or to put it another way, it clears the fog and allows them to see how pointless the treadmill really is.

It also, for me, strengthens my desire to do something useful that makes this a better world. I want to fix things, for her, for cub. And I feel I owe something back, whether that's to Karma, God, Gods, or just the ebb and flow of life. They're gifts and I'm not going one day without being grateful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Cackles

Beloved worked in the city today, so I got to ride back with her and help pick Bear up from childcare. I'm not usually there. I got chirpy as we approached and my foot started tapping.

We walked up the side ramp past the window where Bear was playing. I tapped on the window while Beloved walked ahead. The carer pointed, Bear looked and saw me. She cackled with laughter and excitement and ran to the window, mouth wide open with joy.

I was soaring with happiness. Nothing is better than this.

Hate women?

You're not alone apparently. Made my blood curdle. More by Pav.

" When I was 32 I took on Margaret Thatcher"

Truffles can do anything!!

Given Spycatcher is part of Turnbull's heroic narrative, has anyone thought to ask him whether he would have the same view of an ASIS or ASIO agent breaking Australian law to write a book today? If they published a book in Indonesia called "Terror busters" that revealed our state secrets, would that be a heroic victory against the Australian government in his eyes?

Just asking.

2 minutes to midnight

I took my frustrations out on the washing up. Beating the stuck bits on a fork with a brush is surprisingly therapeutic, to a point. Water splashed around. I think I saw a film of a Chimp once sitting in some water beating it with a branch to make some kind of Chimp point; I suppose I looked a bit like that.

Work is dry and I am urgently needing stimulation. I took a drop in money and status to come here and things, although better, aren't panning out. It is starting to give me a mid-life crisis. I don't want tonnes of money, I just want to do something worthwhile. Currently I feel like my salary should be spent on a teacher or a nurse or someone we need more of.

The house was quiet, the girls asleep, cats curled up on the couch. I get a sense of company from their prescence and the sound of the rise and fall of Bear's breathing in the monitor. Pulling on a jacket I headed into the night.

The midnight chill had settled. No wind moved through the dark, locked-down streets. I hunched with my hands pushing the bottom of my pockets and my mind slowly unscrambled. In that peace I knew what to do.

Today I am going to get things moving again. Life is too short to be a waste of taxpayer's money.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Truffles tells Kev to stay here and turn the snags

Introducing the bogan toff. Is this what we can expect, dumbed-down populism and small targeteering?

"His travelling is extraordinary and so early in his term - he seems to be constantly on an aeroplane."

Forgotten who's leader, Truffles?

Or is it just an issue of Malcolm gets into power so how can Kevin not mark this Great Event by staying here to humour the almighty? Does he not realise how brilliant Malcolm is?

Kevin, stay your course. And as for bipartisanship on the economy, I'd get my advice from someone with some qualifications in the field.

The Keilar murder- a failure of state, system and social contract?

35 years sounds about right for Wayne Hudson.

This tells a story:

As Hudson was led to the dock before sentencing, three Hells Angels and another three men who also appeared to be bikies stood up and placed clenched fists to their hearts.

In cold blood.

This also tells a story:

Hudson has a string of previous convictions, including assaults, occasioning bodily harm, possessing weapons, causing grievous bodily harm, drug possession, fraud and driving offences.

Part of the string of causation that led to the death of Mr Keilar is the fact that the state was on notice that Hudson is a violent psychopath, yet he still found himself wandering around bashing strippers and shooting backpackers and solicitors.

Should he have spent longer in gaol? Or is there is a need to change the focus when it comes to people who are violent and a danger to the community, to treat the psychological problems causing the conduct but at the same time remove some level of freedom until someone is prepared to sign off with confidence that they no longer pose a violent risk?

The state fails the social contract in cases like this. So does the tired old legal system and its focus on "doing the time" rather than fixing the problem and making society safer.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Officially a pram fascist so get out of the fcuking way pleez!

Pretty packed at the High Vibes today. Lots of waiting, taking it in turns to squeeze through narrow gaps in the crowd. All ok. Lots of people stepping over and in front of Bear's pram as if they have some birthright to push in front of small children. NOT AS OK.

At one particular junction I was waiting, some people filed through the other way, then I moved to push Bear through the gap and then one rude ingrate after another started simply stepping in front of us. After about 3 I purposefully inched forward, almost in the gap, then some flitty Gen Y in one of those stupid yellow dresses that look like a recycled shower curtain sticks her strappy little leg in front of the pram. Eager boy hot on her tails prepares to do the same.

So I simply pushed on out, ramming her in the heels in the process and attracting a glance, returned glance, passed it on to imbecile boyfriend, put my elbow and leg out past the pram's airspace and Bear and I took our rightful place in the traffic.

I trust the turds recognised the volatile sanity of the protective father and next time consider going around or waiting 2 nanomoments for their turn.

And it wasn't just the Gen Ys, there is definitely something generally noticeable, I'm sure the likes of Zoe were trying to tell me this before Bear was born, in the way parents with kids are suddenly made to feel like they are carrying signs that read "Ebola, do not make welcome" when they attempt to join in with anything involving teh coolness.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Find me the economists

...the pro-free market libertarian ones, who were predicting this carnage 6 months ago.

If they have so little idea, why do we let them dictate so much policy? I predicted the Wik decision, no-one went and made me Attorney-General.

Cairns vignettes- of lemon juice and waltzing

Standing in the aisle asking various members of the Essendon Bombers for autographs- for my friends' daughter. Sure, they would have been thinking, until I asked a couple whether they were part of the team. I guess at that point it was obvious I'm not a paid up fan (Saints, as you ask, and no it hasn't been a good evening as I write this).

Being stuck in Palm Cove and learning, contrary to the timetables, that there are no more buses home. Don't suppose it occurred to any of the halfwits who run the buses up that way but that's a bit of a problem when you've got a toddler with you, and no car seat. So we get dropped by a different bus out on the highway, half an hour's walk from Trinity Beach. Well into the night. I'm walking my pregnant wife and little toddler back along a dark road, miles from anywhere, and she wonders why I pull a random stake out of the ground and put it in the back of the stroller. Dogs, principally.

A metre of silver queenfish bolting back and forth aggressively striking at the surface popper I'm skipping over the sandbank. An explosion as they connect, then the silver bar is leaping through the air, a surreal vision, incompatible with the still rich green of the rainforest-covered mountain behind. She tows us for 15 minutes and has her revenge twice, drawing blood as I lift her back into the water and coming back in bolts of pain in my wrist over the next 2 days. She was tired, but I held her in the current and swam her patiently until she kicked free.

I kept the trevally, he was small, pan-sized, and looking the wrong side of mortality. I went down to the corner shop and got some lemon juice, before hacking at him for a while to get 2 half-decent fillets and a bunch of scraps. I had the scraps, I fed my Beloved the fillets, as fresh as fish can be, drizzled in lemon and just cooked enough that the big white flakes were coming apart. We sat in the sultry tropical night, washing the fish down with a crisp dry white. Life didn't seem so bad.

Bear couldn't believe the pool. I dunked her a few times to get her back in the swing, she's lost a touch of confidence since we were going to swimming lessons last term. She was iffy, but hung in there. I made my way up and back, her on my shoulders, randomly 'bombing' myself under water and bouncing back up to hear her cackling with laughter. I put her on her front and swirled her around and around, singing the Blue Danube all the way while she smiled, as if to say 'you're a case, but for a dad you're ok'. Later she would point in the right direction and say 'pool, pool' and get shirty when we, inexplicably, failed to drop dinner to take her back for another round.

There were times, such as sitting on the beach, sharing half a mile of white sand with about 5 other people, warm, but not hot, the breeze in our collective hair, Bear in a state of bliss with her legs buried in sand, both of us drinking cool vanilla milkshakes, when I reached across and held Beloved's hand and Melbourne didn't make much sense at all. Life, generally, the way we normally live it made no sense at all.

The queue for Jetstar on the way home was about 200m long. I had the suitcase, all 20 odd kilos worth, kidseat (which can't be fitted to some cabs up there because they are in the process of covering the attachment rings with plastic, because dead kids matter less than stained seats, or something) and more. I was shuffling it all along. The man behind me was about 80. He started helping me, ignoring my protests and pulling the main bag along. He did this all the way down the line. We chatted about many things. We agreed Gordon Ramsay is a nasty piece of work, and that his success is emblematic of the decline of western civilisation. Yet his actions convinced me that there is good to be found around every corner.

When the pile of administration that is my work frustrates me I let my eyes glaze over and I'm back laughing in the pool, slinking into the sand, or poised, watching the surface of the Russell River...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Turnbull Triggers The Hundred Million Dollar Question

The Hundred Million Dollar Man has taken what he has long seen as his rightful inheritance. An over-achieving lawyer in the Hawke-Clinton tradition, Malcolm Turnbull's appointment is an event of significance for another reason.

The Liberal Party has appointed a liberal to be its leader.

A big picture liberal who undoubtedly sits at the left of his party on "social" issues. Up against a small-c conservative in Rudd, sitting as he does towards the right of his own part on matters social.

So the Hundred Million Dollar Question is:

Is it possible under Turnbull we will end up with a liberal opposition that is as, or more, socially progressive than the Labor Party?

Other big questions include will he get knifed at the first stumble, is yet another rhetorically brilliant barrister what the system needs, and will Spycatcher get republished?

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Father and the Trinity

Father's day found us at Trinity Beach. The air is warm and a touch humid. The wind blows continuously off the ocean through Bear's hair as she stares incredulously at the "Wayvffs".

They come at our legs and we lift her up so her feet trail through the broken foam. We fill the bucket and walk back up to the "sann-pitt" at "tob-ov-o-beach". She pours, digs, lifts and drops, with a face of wonder.

Beloved and I let the heat soak into our bones, purging work, sub-clauses, office politics, the housing market, and the never ending flow of rat-running traffic. I steal a kiss here and there; we watch Bear and the sea.

There are 3 pools in the resort, we are sharing with about 9 people. One pool has an excellent strip of shallow water where we loll around while a Bear splashes and whoops with delight.

I've sipped through a nice Wirra-Wirra and have opened a Marlborough Sav Blanc. In the evening it matches the warm air on the balcony and the palm fronds, through which we can see the lagoon.

The Cub is starting to dance for his mum, only a matter of time and I know I'll be feeling his kicks and then the crazy dad who sings at tummies will be back.

Happy father's day to me.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The sand between our toes

In 6 hours the alarm will go off. In the dark we'll strap the baby seat into a cab and head for the airport with a bleary Bear and probably about half a litre of coffee gurgling around a dad's stomach.

Later, having arrived and discombobulated, we will walk out onto a beach somewhere north of Cairns, let go of a Bear, and let her run with the sheer joy of it all.

And haul her away from the water time and time again. And occasionally make like a goof and run through the shallows letting her legs thwack into the broken waves while she cackles her lungs out.

I will not meander through excel spreadsheets nor touch a photocopier. I will drink flourescent cocktails with mini-umbrellas. And I will enjoy a lasting smile for the first time in weeks.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I went to the Zoom and I saw some Monkeys, Monkeys, Monkeys

"Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey."

There have been monkeys (apes included for good measure) in books, a couple of monkey toys, monkey bars at the hay-nah (playground).

There's a "Monkey!" statue as we enter the bamboo-walled path and excitement builds. At the Gorilla enclosure only one distant head can be spotted, only by the adults.

We walk a bit further. Some fish. Hoo hah!

And then there were monkeys (and variants, but if you want to argue with a 19 month old...): Ba-booons!! Gimmons!! Pi-dah MonKEYS!

More, more, more MONKEYS??!

Look sweetheart, birds... MONKEYS... Kangaroos... MONKEYS... wombats... you know the drill.

Until the LION came up close. Ohhhhh...

And the Sumatran Tiger walked right up and put his face to the glass, inches away. TI-GAHH!

We walked, Bear trundled joyfully, the weather kept an interlocutory injunction on the rain until we left.

After, of course, a final thrilling visit to the orang-utans. Sorry, I mean MONKEYS MONKEYS MONKEYS!!!

A perfect morning. I still smile.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Protecting Bear, protecting Cub

A petulant protective instinct has come to the fore lately for Beloved and I.

We visit friends with a newborn. All nice, naturally they are still getting their heads around it all. But newborn's aunt then arrives and clearly doesn't want us around.

Aunt is someone we know well, who has been cute with Bear in the past. She ignores us and uses body language akin to pulling her pants down and taking a crap in front of us.

Mildly annoying perhaps. But she also does this to Bear. She does not greet Bear. Bear tries to say hello and is rebuffed by the same passive-aggressive body language.

I feel hurt and angry on a deeper level to a personal slight. If you are rude to my Bear you are rude to me 5 times over. We leave and I am caught between wanting to give a second chance and wanting to delete this person out of our lives. A public facebook execution would be a start.

Beloved then articulated something to me along the lines of feeling deeply protective of Cub, because some friends and relatives are making less effort to keep track of his progress than they did with Bear.

Bear was the first, sure. But we are very conscious of wanting to make sure Cub feels just as loved. We became a bit indignant.

So when we found out he is a boy, there was no universal mail or text out, no general facebook spray. The hint was there to read the blog of course, and for those of you still making the effort to come here I was happy to share. But many other friends and relatives will find out via the long tail of information dissipation.

Unless they get on the phone and ask.

And seeing as you did- Cub and Beloved are both well, Bear is hurling herself around with spirit and abandon, and the cats are slowly but surely learning to sidle up and share cuddles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Brands I can has names

Common calls heard in our household:

"Mah-nees? Mah-nees??"

(Maisy the mouse)

"Ptomiss? Ptomiss??"

(Thomas the you-know-what)

"Par-tee? Par-tee??"

(see below....)

"Wee-gols? Wee-gols??"

(Some guys in bright coloured star trek outfits singing about vegetables, parties and random animals)

Branded. Consent is being manufactured. And I, good lefty dad, conscious of the complexity of the world, am resisting with vigour!


Well, I have taught her to say "logo" and "trash", so hopefully she may at least learn to sort the dross from the ore...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Now, for raising a boy

Yesterday we got fantastic news at the scan, our child is looking healthy and well.


DR: So, you want to know the gender?

US: Yes please.

DR: I've er seen something a few times but let's have a proper look just to be sure...

Wierd jelly shapes go crazy on the screen as the ultrasound device slides around the goo on Beloved's belly. Legs appear, disappear, appear again.

Suddenly the screen is all tackle, front and centre. If that's a girl she's got some serious tucking to do between now and the birth.

ME: That's my boy!

Tears welled. I beamed.

We would have been happy either way. But I'm thrilled with my boy, he's a good kid, wriggling around and taking no orders even in the womb- Beloved had to do a toilet break to get him to move around for the heart scans.

He's gone from foetus to boy, and I'm walking on air.

But now a whole new set of questions, readings, learnings and decisions to confront...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Today we argued in front of our Bear

This was over nothing real, but we did not stop. Bear watched with uncertainty. I kept trying to end it on a neutral note as I did not want to leave things bad. I accepted fault, I often do. I wish Beloved had allowed me to finish it quickly.

I ran to the station without self awareness, running across roads and past other people whose faces didn’t register. This is not a good thing and I trust it will pass, but Bear cannot be allowed to see it.

Arguing damages.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Driving Miss Bearsy

The first time I have driven the car with Bear, without Beloved. Just us, pulling out into the street with its rat runners, the ever-present death only the numerically illiterate can minimise.

Is she strapped in properly?

Will we be rammed by a truck doing 140 as we turn into Separation Street?

I sign a Bear into childcare, it is all good. She cries, I pick her up and we share another cuddle, the carer looks slightly impatient as if saying 'if you did this more often you'd make less of a fuss'.

Later I'm agitated. Time to leave early and I'm half running to the train. It is late. It is always late when.

As I see her I call out her name. She runs over, face wide and pleased- I want to say 'sorry we didn't play in the park all day but I know you've had fun'. She points to a couple of classmates, says their names. I'm proud. She's highly verbose, something I claim some credit for.

Then the car and the roads are busier and people are jockeying for nothing and risking death for me and for Bear and I direct unpleasant thoughts towards them. At one point 'fucking dickhead' pops out of my mouth and I'm quickly singing and hoping and thank you Bear she doesn't start repeating that one!

When we're home and she's fed and we're running around the couch chasing and she stops and laughs and we sit there laughing loudly at each other then I am at peace with the world and all is pastels.

Her sibling is growing. On Thursday we learn many things, including the colour of the presents the grandparents will send...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Legal Loophole Exploited!

Catastrophic consequences flow from short-sighted Federal Court decision...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Morris might find this annoying

It's official, you can be annoying. God-annoying being the offset account for God-bothering, which is clearly more deserving of legislative sanction than rainbow T-shirts.

Interesting ratio:

...the judge said the annoyance clause was invalid because it could not have been the intention of Parliament to make such vague and extensive limits to free speech.

Which is probably overly generous while at the same time, given we all know they really are capable of reaching such intention, may be a little problematic. Interested to read the judgement and consider whether this is a case of judicial activism or the provision really carried unforeseen consequences at law.

Either way it's a great end result for common sense and democratic health.

UPDATE: The judgement in Evans v NSW is on Austlii:

It is an important principle that Acts be construed, where constructional choices are open, so as not to encroach upon common law rights and freedoms. That principle dates back to the statement in Potter v Minahan (1908) 7 CLR 277 .... the legislature, through the expert parliamentary counsel who prepare draft legislation, may be taken to be aware of the principle of construction in Potter

Poor Counsel, somehow I doubt they had final say on the form of words used.

The principle of legality means that Parliament must squarely confront what it is doing and accept the political cost. Fundamental rights cannot be overridden by general or ambiguous words. This is because there is too great a risk that the full implications of their unqualified meaning may have passed unnoticed in the democratic process.

With respect your honour, there was no risk of that here!

UPDATE: Skepticlegals also have a parse of the issue.

Last months of only childness

I have been feeling surges of sadness. They come at times like when Bear is peering around the edge of the couch, waiting to catch my eye and burst into a cackle. Or when we are outside and she pulls herself up on a chair, pats the chair beside it and looks at me. Or when she stands in front of me with her hands out, palms up, and asks for "cuddoows".

Things will change. I am happy and excited about the change, but the thought that the total attention and love we give to Bear will inevitably have to be divided, at least in quantity, brings on melancholy.

I never grew up with siblings. I hope it is a good thing, that they are friends and learn from and enrich each other. I hope I am up to the task of being a father twice over.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Morning has broken

Silence. Rustling. Half sleep. Silence. More rustling.



How to be woken with a smile.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

NIMWF : Not In My Working Family

As we say:

Australian families are running themselves ragged trying to balance home and work, federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin says.

Opening the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) Conference in Melbourne, Ms Mackin said long working hours were damaging meaningful connections with families, relationships and communities, eroding "the things that give life meaning". ... Ms Macklin reinforced Labor's commitment to putting children at the centre of family policy...

As we do:

Kevin Rudd warned public servants on Thursday there would be no reprieve from the long-hours culture under his Government. "I understand there's been some criticisms around the edges that some public servants are finding the hours a bit much. I suppose I've simply got news for the public service - there'll be more," he said.

You don't need to be there to feed them breakfast, and you can read them a bedtime story as they sleep.

If taking cheap shots at public servants wasn't a national sport, this would have been his equivalent of Keating's "Get a job".

Leadership starts at the top.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

One Cat, Two Cats, One Bear, Two....

In the beginning, there was a townhouse. Cold lonely corners sat idle as Beloved and I ground our teeth at work. Couches had unused spaces. When one went out, the other ate alone.

Then there was Chairman Mao the Burmese Cat. Mao brought love, perhaps an overwhelming amount of it. He was there in the morning, at the toilet, on the couch, as we walked from the couch to the kitchen, stood in the kitchen, walked back to the couch, usually sweet but always needing more.

We decided such an affectionate boy needed a friend, so we found a girly friend. To be precise, his half sister by breeding (an issue simplified through the snip). He snapped completely, and this blog still gets more google hits from people searching about hissing cats and kittens (still top of the Google world as I write this) than anything else.

He settled, they became close to inseparable. But there was damage. Mao has had a psycho streak ever since, culminating in a powerful bite to my wrist just a few months before Bear's arrival that had him mighty close to a visit to the vet or, almost as bad, being put in a plane and sent off to my parents in the tropics.

Since Bear he has largely controlled himself, something helped by the fact that when on occasion he's turned towards her with a tooth showing he's suddenly found himself flying across the living room. Unfortunately, love him dearly and completely understand his frustrations, but some things meet zero tolerance.

Minh-Minh is a sweet, sweet girly who has never hissed in anger. But she has been shaped by her strong older brother and is always a bit on edge- something I put down to being chased around and pounced on constantly as she grew up. She is touchy and nervy and her tail bushes up at the drop of a pin.

My advice, aside, for anyone looking to get a burmese or similar super-affectionate breed, is get two at the same time. Your life will be easier.

Then came a Bear. They have generally been good, and expressed very little outright hostility, but neither enjoyed the change and both still come running out for affection the moment she's off to sleep or child care. Minh-Minh went through some depression I think, and is still quite needy and vocal about it.

Now a Bear faces the same experience. I sincerely hope she doesn't snap like Mao!

We read and talked extensively before deciding on the 'sibling gap'. Closer means more overlap, competition, and jealousy potential, but also the ability to relate as something like friends when they are older. Further apart means greater separation, both good and bad, until at around 7 years the literature suggests they grow up much like only-children.

Selfishly, closer means getting the early period with lower earning and travel ability out of the way, while later means a good break, chance to have a life in between and get finances and health (especially for poor Beloved) back on track.

We opted for close for both reasons above. We also take nothing for granted, and will make hay while the sun shines. Readers of this blog may remember me posting about a certain lump- I don't assume the landing gear will still be in tip top shape in 5 years or even 2.

Close ages means potential jealousy, and for 'classic' sibling patterns to emerge strongly as the first and second vie to differentiate and find their place. We are both affectionate people and Bear, like Mao in a former life, is used to being 100% focus of everything.

I have a new job, I usually make it home for bath time now and I still have daddy day. I have capacity to help out next time around, to be there with Bear, or with her sibling so Beloved can share the love around. We will try, so hard, to get this right.

It's a little scary.

But I love them both so much, I think it can be done.

I have a good family. I don't know if I expected to be so happy with family, to have all my discontents located in the career and self actualisation side of life. I think I might have expected the opposite, if you asked me 10 years ago.

Wouldn't have it any other way though...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Voter don't save forests and they won't save Garnaut's report

Lest we forget. Latham made a principled stand on behalf of the nation's beautiful natural history and our children's inheritance. Did the noble middle class flock to his cause in droves and hand him back the 2 seats he sacrificed in northern Tasmania?

Lest we forget. I predict the initial good intentions will have to undergo significant nuancing. And no that's not a good thing.

Sexualisation of children is not feminism, homosexuality or the punk movement

It is not the next frontier for bored artistes. It is not witty or clever.

Art's latest cause appears predicated on the assumption that all taboos are there to be deconstructed. This assumption ignores history.

While progress has seen women's rights recognised and sexual freedom for consenting adults gain acceptance, it has seen an age of consent introduced, then raised, so that 12 year old girls are no longer considered partner material.

That is, protecting kids has come with progress, and the age of consent is a notion that has been developed as we have become more enlightened.

At its core is the notion that both maturity and knowledge assist with being able to give consent. These are not conservative rules designed to repress, they are rights handed to those who are still learning about the world and their place in it.

Progressive activists should be seeking to strengthen the protection of the young as an issue deserving advocacy alongside other rights agendas.

Wheeling out your 11 year old daughter to defend herself does not alter the age of consent argument one iota. As for saying:

"It's interesting that if the Prime Minister comments on, say the greenhouse effect, he gets expert advice first," Monash University Associate Professor Nelson said. "I would like to know which art expert advised him on this."

Which child protection expert advised Professor Nelson on his view? And what does art expertise have to do with arguments relating to age of consent?

I'm not saying it's not art, anyone who tries to fight that battle is getting bogged down in irrelevancy.

It is art. Almost anything is art. Move on.

I even started off leaning towards Mr Henson in this debate- his photos were not part of an attention-grab, and there is clearly some merit in being cautious before interfering with free expression. Or before agreeing with everything Huffy Hetty gets hot-headed about. I know this area is a magnet for wowsers.

But the latest effort was designed to make a statement, the editor of the Art Monthly has said as much.

This is not the next great liberalisation agenda. It is not clever. And nothing will lead to a splurge of draconian law making, one that'll have overwhelming popular backing, than a few bored artists trying to make hay with this issue.

Leave it alone, stick to putting things up in galleries where rockspiders in raincoats can't make malicious use of them, and I don't see any issue for the coexistence of children's images in genuine art on the one hand and a robust child-focused protection regime on the other.

UPDATE: See, legislation now on the table.

UPDATE II: Return hat tip to Skepticlawyer.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Pram-averse obsessive compulsives

Yes there are pram nazis who are wholly inconsiderate or try to ram everyone out of the way. But most of us are just trying to get around and do what we need to do, acutely self conscious of being in the way in a society that for all the working families hype is about as child friendly as a Burmese razor blade factory.

So I need some obsessive compulsive to pester me unnecessarily about as much as I need a full length Justin Timberlake tattoo.

I'm in the main Northcote Shopping Centre newsagency all of 15 seconds trying to decide between AFR, Monthly and Guardian (yeah I know, not much consistency there) when the shop gent asks me to move the pram. He's polite, and fair enough- although I observe there's comfortably room for 2 people to walk in side by side, and there's no-one else in the shop at all, nonetheless I've unintentionally left it at a slight angle, using a fraction more space than necessary.

S'ok, I straighten and move it slightly further to the side. Now you could drive a motorbike in beside it with no risk of annoying Bear with the exhaust.

I turn back to the Monthly.

A nanosecond ticks.

He steps back towards me: "Very sorry [no, if you were sorry you'd fuck off and leave me alone] but it's still in the way could you move it some more?"

Now some of you who've experienced pram nazi conduct may at this point think I'm playing this up. But I assure you, at this point there was well over a metre completely free, still no people looking like they'd be coming in, and only another 20cm to the wall in which I could move the pram.

I moved it the 20cm.

A nanosecond ticked.

I put back the Monthly and strolled out. No purchase today. I felt not a little annoyed at this whole Pinteresque incident. Want to know why?

Because I spend my whole time going around people, trying not to be a nuisance, reassuring Bear, loading groceries into a basket while pushing the pram, reassuring Bear some more, giving her something to eat, going around more people, finicking, faffing, and generally working hard to make the journey as smooth as possible and I don't need some obsessive tool whose - see it for yourself if you're in the area - entrance is largely blocked by buckets of crap and junk anyway, like a cross between a newsagency and a $2 shop, harassing me because he obviously has a nervous twitch about, or active dislike towards, prams and people therewith.

Funnily enough, as I strolled away I thought of a completely novel use for the bag of fish fillets I was carrying.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nerves relax, tears well, and Bear is expecting a sibling

Says it all doesn't it?!

First trimester over and all is looking good. Some fine hand waving, a good strong pair of legs, a big head with 2 clearly visible hemispheres of brainage and a little heart beating at a million miles an hour.

Oh Bear, your life is about to change.

Oh Mao, oh Minh-Minh, here's hoping you've adapted to the first one by then.

Oh Beloved, you're a stronger person than I.

Oh my, feels like champagne-o'clock already!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Feeling a cluster of nerves

Sitting on the balcony waiting for a storm to cross the harbour. The cloud is deep azure, the wind has cooled. We try to pretend we aren't scared. But we want this rain so badly.

We will sit all night, watching.

Enunciation 101

Beloved, we need to have the 'swearing' talk. You know how we're ignoring the issue until Bear is old enough to notice and pick things up.

Well, this morning I said "Bugger!" Bear didn't miss a beat, twice for good measure. At least I have to say you'd have been proud of her flawless enunciation...

(All beloved could say on reading this was to correct my use of 'annunciation' to 'enunciation'. With a look that was well beyond smug...)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Toddler swim classes and the management of fear

A Bear is approaching 18 months and she's well into swimming lessons. They happen on daddy day, so I'm also learning; about fear, complex project management, and the joys of walking home in midwinter wearing wet boardies under trackie pants and thongs.

If this sounds a bit ambitious and wanky like those programs for teaching your toddler orchestral composition, or rocket science, or 1st year university subjects, then let me explain. She's not actually learning the butterfly; the classes are designed to make little tots comfy in the water and teach them some very basic survival skills- don't breathe underwater, get in backwards, get out quickly if you fall in.

She's doing well. Bear is proving to be a derring-do risk-taker, and throws herself into most challenges with enthusiasm. Good and bad there obviously. Most of the other kids are older, and she handles being splashed or pulled along underwater better than many of her peers.

But each class sees her go under at some point, unplanned. It's just part of playing in the pool, you don't stop watching- closely- ever. She trips and goes under, my heart stops, I explode out of the water in her direction (even if, as in most cases, she's about 2 feet away) and haul her out and up into the air with both hands. She just blinks and blows the water away from her mouth. I put her down slowly and feel my heartrate zip up to 200 then back down again over the next 10 seconds or so.

Bear on the other hand is only fazed when the big dufous kid, sweet as he is, who should be in a higher class but isn't up to it yet, unintentionally thumps her into the water. It's happened twice, I'm getting antsy.

Late at night as I try to sleep I replay the events over and over. Staying sane (if I'm that, we could argue it) involves staving off the candid observation that at all times my reaction is the only thing preventing the unthinkable. That despite the supportive setting, the lifeguards, the specialist infant teachers, myself and the other parents, this is water, and it takes lives. Very quickly.

So I want her to learn, and be confident.

I will never forget the green of the swirling water as I fell into the crocodile-infested Morehead River in Papua as a 3 year old. The moments where I just hovered there, under the water, clueless, thinking 'I'm about to drown' until the boom and the hand grabbing my hair and the relaxation of knowing it's all ok, mum got me before the denizens of the depths.

Parenting- fear and fun wrapped up like a blindfolded schuss down Argentiere.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And then there is the matter of your schooling

The Melbourne thing. School scrambles start at 1, that is, if parents want to have options at 12.

This is an intractibly difficult question for us. Beloved and I both had lousy experiences of school, and I struggle with the impression nearly all of them are big old industrial institutions peddling mediocrity while lining up the next generation of worker bees.

We both prefer the idea of public. Neither of us has many good memories of our experiences at the tail end of school where we were bundled off to toffhouses. And there is the ideological ideal of giving all kids a similar basis to start off in life.

But education for its own sake is not prized in Australia and we simply don't trust providence to ensure our nearest school will give Bear a good grounding in literature, music and art, the sciences and history. In fact it appears optional for primary schools to even offer another language.

Beloved got sent to boarding school in part because music wasn't properly taught at her public school. At my cheapo catholic school history was poor, while the arts generally were all but non-existent. And uniqueness was never prized, always hammered back into place.

The toff schools weren't much better, especially not on the last point. And then there was the childish nastiness they inculcated, whether by subtle intent or effect- too many brats, too many parents who couldn't care if the entire world died tomorrow as long as they have a beemer.

So nothing's ideal, and therefore everything's on the table to be considered on its merits. The problem being that if we want to have options, she has to go on the lists now, or it will all be a moot point if come year 7 we look around and see that our nearest public school has no decent arts program, teaches no languages and has a resident gang sporting faux-hawks infecting the front entrance.

So she'll probably end up on a couple of lists, and we'll keep a hopeful eye on the local public, and time will tell...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama to Clinton to Obama- settling on the world's candidate

So she won West Virginia, her call to the angry white man met with a response from thousands of duelling banjos. A step forward for team Hillary, but a plus for the Republicans if Obama ends up the final Democratic candidate.

I started out wanting Obama to win. Then I fell across towards Clinton after my readings led me to the impression that she may have better capacity to lead development of effective policy, and is at heart a genuine social liberal.

Race and gender almost balance for me, I want the best candidate. Although for striking symbolism I think a black male leading a largely-white western democracy has far less precedents.

But I don't like where Clinton has gone. I think it's clear she's played the harder ball against the person in this process. But worse, by doing so much damage to Obama amongst the equivalent of Australia's 'Howard battlers' (but less educated and better armed) she may have left a poison pill with her party.

This is to a fair extent a consequence of the primary system, and having 2 very strong candidates staying, if not neck-and-neck, at least neck-and-shoulder. But so much more rides on the outcome of the real election than individual career aspirations.

Others are saying this already, but I have a further concern.

We, the rest of the world, are desperately waiting for a different US foreign policy to unfold. And I'm not convinced Clinton will deliver, even if she comes good on the domestic front.

We don't want palpably ill-conceived invasions like the one she supported in Iraq. We don't want the US contemplating genocide as it tussles with Iran. We do need a US that offers wise counsel to its close ally Israel, as opposed to the chirpy backing Clinton gave their last venture into Lebanon. We need some notional adherence to international law from the country that co-wrote most of it.

We don't want more of the same. I don't know how much of her chest-beating is rhetoric, but I am genuinely concerned that more of the same is what she'll give us.

Of the 3 contenders, only Obama has actively demonstrated a commitment to do things differently.

He's the world candidate, and once again he's got this irrelevant alien in his corner. Sorry Hillary, respect you a lot, but I think it's time to do a deal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Take my baby bonus and spend it on something useful

We don't need it. Sure we'll take it if you throw it, who wouldn't, but we won't vote against you if you confine it to those who are truly struggling. Or better yet, scrap it entirely, and pump it into the services we all need.

I didn't realise what they meant by child care crisis until we had Bear. There is a child care crisis. It's actually sheer places, not just publicly-funded places, but all places. Some people can't get a place, full-stop. Battlers need it so they can get back to work. Isolated parents need it so they get respite and their kids socialise. Professionals also need it, the posh need it, in short, a win-win.

Then there's schools, transport, urban renewal, safety. In short, fixing this country so it's worth growing up in. Better, not worse, in 10 years' time.

See, it doesn't take a celebrity love-in to generate some policy ideas...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Groundhog day in unFairfield

When you think you really might win an auction, and buy a house, you can't help but imagine your life there. We came back, we saw, we imagined, then we were conquered.

In Fairfield, but an unorthodox layout and busy street were the reasons cited for the low price (in Fairfield this means anything under $700K). We picked over it and saw in the study a 3rd bedroom, in the high fence a buffer against the street, and in the layout enough usable spaces to accomodate a Bear and 2 exotic felines. Apparently we weren't alone.

The silence on this blog has matched a silence on the house front. I've been living the family life, getting by, ignoring the bigger projects and ignoring a misery that longer-term readers know kept us frustrated for months back around the time of Bear's birth. But house prices have been floundering on paper, with some bargains going in the suburbs to our immediate north, so we thought "why not us"?

Why not indeed? Why not us to win the lottery while we're at it?

I've bid at auctions before and not felt all that stressed. It's true. But this time was different, with the build-up, the real sense that we might get it, after such a hiatus from the market, and the imaginings: walking Bear to childcare rather than a 20 minute round trip, exploring the real bush parklands just 15 minutes away, coffee in the delectable local strip, the spot in the garage where I'd set up a bench and bag and become fit again, the corner of the large yard where Bear could have a cubbee house...

There were too many people. The auction we'd watched earlier that day had rocketed beyond the boundaries of fiscal reason. The omens were bad, and we were once again flumoxed.

$20,000 beyond our outer limit, the deal was closed for some sleazy looking professional bidder.

We drove around in a daze for a while. Watched Bear in a park, saying little. Went home. Sat. Slept.

Sunday was a better day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

"I am the feeling which became a daughter"

The mind boggles! For lovers of LOLCATS, enjoy this Engrish masterpiece:

CAT PRIN - The tailor for a cat you know....

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lady to Ladette - a girl learns to fart on cue

I think I have taught a Bear to fart on cue.

She was standing in the bath a few days back when a wet ripper split the silence. I of course cracked up laughing, so she chuckled. I then decided applause was called for. She took on a concentrated affect, and lo and behold, another one. More reward conduct from myself of course!

The next eve when I got home Beloved was holding her, and Bear immediately did a wriggle and let out a couple of charges in quick succession. Then yesterday, in the wading section at Northie pool, she immediately squatted down and a series of streams of bubbles (no doubt toxic) came up behind her head.

I am so proud. In fact, as I sat around with the mummies in swim class a few minutes later I bragged about her new skill acquisition lest any of them not understand that my girl is truly advanced.

This type of information is the big news in my life. Perhaps knowing most people aren't sitting around waiting to hear this is the reason I've blogged so sparsely recently.

Next episode may feature burping and saying "ahhh".

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Teddy Bear Picnic?

Or gathering of oddball writers and allsorts?

Despite throwing out grumpy comments on friggbook due to not receiving a specific invite, I will probably take my loved ones, Beloved and Bear, to the gardens today to meet a blogger or three.

Details at Duck's.

We won't make it until probably close to 3.30 so if you're going down and want to meet a Bear, hang around.

I suppose I missed out because I rarely blog; indeed, the chance of more than 20 people reading this is now slim. Blogging is something that does rely on regular input, and that has become extremely difficult.

Hence today's gathering may be a bit of a goodbye to the blogging world, and an attempt to maintain the personal connection with the interesting people I've met even as the site pulls back the sheets, puts on the reading lamp, and prepares itself for bed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

First days of the new for my girls

Up well before 7 this morning. Put the coffee on the stove top, prepared a Bear's brekky. Got a girl up, while her mum frantically lurched from one side of the bathroom to the other.

Today both their lives changed. Beloved went back to work, and Bear, having been for a few short visits to get the feel of the place, spent her first full day in childcare.

I waved them off. Bear was waving and smiling from the back. It breaks your heart.

She went well, apparently, though neither sleep nor food were high on her agenda. But when Beloved picked her up she was fusty, and she took a long time to go to bed. She was a bit upset.

So I'm told anyway, I didn't get out of work until 6.30, I haven't even laid eyes on my girl since the morning.

There has to be a better way...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Queen of slang, my daughter is nang

The Bear is at the cusp of noveau-English. As discussed below, she uses nang-nag to capture the essence of being, the power of infinity. Either that or she's pointing out something more mundane like a poo that needs flipping (they're kindof like vege patties now, so when changing nappies we just carry the whole lot to the toilet and 'flip' it in!).

Now it is confirmed, nang, the base word, means cool.

My girl is clearly uber, what can I say?

Other words making the rounds include "dat" (while pointing at a cat) and something approaching "dadadad". Yes, she's started doing this while indicating in my general direction.

Today I came in tired, a bit depressed. Slunk into the couch, smiled at Beloved while Bear continued her feed. When she'd finished she sat up, saw me, sat up a bit straighter, clapped her hands, smiled and said something along the lines of "dadadigdablanangnangdaad".

Picked me up like a chairlift.