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Milk free zone

Finn> Mum, I want muesli.

Me> Oh- I- uh- I made porridge for you. Mmm-

Finn> You KNOW what happened de last time I wanted muesli and not porridge. You said you’d WAIT and ASK me first-

Me> I know; yes- sorry, sweetie; I just like to get it ready before you wake up, so you-

Finn> But I don’t WANT PORRIDGE!

Me> *SIGH!* Ok, I’ll get you muesli. Would you like some kiwifruit? And yoghurt?

Finn> Yes please.

Me> And milk?

Finn> GRAAARGH! NO MILK! MUM YOU POURED MILK ON MY MUESLI-

Me> FINN! It’s just a splash- look, it only landed on a piece of kiwifruit- anyway, you can’t eat muesli without milk-

Finn> I CAN! I DON’T WANT MILK!

Me> Ok, I’ve fished out the piece of kiwifruit-

Finn> DERE’S MILK IN DERE!

Me> THERE’S NO MILK IN THERE! LOOK! I’ve decontaminated the bowl and it is now a milk-free zone. EAT IT!

Finn (five minutes later)> Mummy, I crossed out de love hearts I drew for you.

Me> You did . . . what? Why?

Finn> Because you were grumpy with me.

Me> Well, I know you still love me. Maybe you could draw me more love hearts-

Finn> No. It’s not a love heart day. I also crossed out where I wrote ‘I love you’.

Me> OMG FINN I MADE YOU PORRIDGE AND YOU DIDN’T WANT IT SO I GOT YOU MUESLI THEN I PEELED AND CHOPPED A KIWIFRUIT AND PUT YOGHURT ON YOUR MUESLI WHAT MORE CAN ONE PERSON HUMANLY DO FOR ANOTHER BEYOND DONATING A KIDNEY OR TWO WHICH BY THE WAY WOULD BE BETTER THAN-

Finn> You’re right, Mummy. I’m sorry.

Me> *speechless*

He crossed out the love hearts

He obviously wasn’t fully committed, because you can barely see where he’s crossed out the hearts

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I fought the law and the Facebook bitch won

You know how sometimes you commit a crime, like, totally by mistake?

Happens to everyone: I KNOW!

(That’s what I tried to tell the police, but their response was noncommittal.)

So . . . last month, I accidentally stole a bike. Here’s how it went down: the kids and I were kicking around at the playground and as the sun set we were the last die-hard revellers. I lashed my protesting progeny into their carseats (“But Mummy I didn’t go on da slide Mummee!” “Saoirse, PUT your ARMS in the STRAPS!”) and, as I limped to the driver seat, I noticed a bike abandoned by the barbeque stand.

Obvs some kid had legged it home forgetting he’d got there by pedal-power, perhaps pausing momentarily by the backdoor to wonder why he had a bike helmet on his head.

So I took the bike. For safekeeping. Tried not to project furtiveness as I scanned the playground for the owner; then downplayed the suspicious efficiency with which I loaded it onto the suspiciously available bike-rack affixed to the back of the Prius.

I suffered a twinge of doubt as I pulled away slowly (to avoid the suspicious screech of rubber on asphalt) which wasn’t helped by the kids asking why I had taken someone’s bike and was it ours now? – but I was cheered by my charitable act of good goodness.

As soon as I got home, I posted to the local Facebook Page:

Lost your bike?
Picked up an unlocked bike at The Playground this evening – PM me if it’s yours.

The post gathered a number of likes (although I was confused by several shocked :-O Reactions) until someone finally commented: “Nobody locks their bike at The Playground.”

I tried to defrost the chilly overtone with my response and got a bit of banter going about bikenapping HAHAHA, until ‘April*’ (*Her real Facebook name) commented: ‘Look can you return the bike and delete this post because it just draws attention to the fact that the kids leave their bikes unlocked at The Playground’.

It’s comforting to know we live in such an honest, caring community.

Although WOWSERS kinda fucking bitchy.

I deleted the post because, despite being a fucking bitch, well, um, she had a point.

However I didn’t return the bike because yanno SHE CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

But also, having taken the bike, if someone even bitchier stole it after I’d returned it, then that would technically be my fault.

You see?

The following day I drove back to The Playground and plastered printed notices with my contact details around the place.

The day after that, nobody had responded to the notice.

That night I couldn’t sleep what with trying to come to terms with my new identity as a Criminal Mastermind.

OK FINE!

Criminal Cretin.

I had nightmares about Husband visiting me in prison, his jaw clenched in pain and anger, muttering: “I just want to know one thing: why did you do it?”

Me: “By the time I realised, I was in too deep! Will you- will you wait for me?”

Husband: “Yeah look, probably not.”

And my poor, malnourished children, crying: “Mummy I love you!” “Mummy when are you coming home mummeee? Daddy’s cooking is stinky-poo.”

And me, sobbing: “Sweeties, I’m so so sorry, but I’m not up for parole for three more years,” then staggering back to my cell bandy-legged from the cigarettes stashed up my bum (and I don’t even smoke).

Actually, Husband found it all certifiably hilarious, and whenever I tried to discuss The Situation he reverted to uncontrollable sniggering.

On Friday – four days after the heist – I decided to turn myself in.

Fittingly, it was lashing rain.

“I’ve committed a crime,” I announced to the officer on duty.

He appraised me in my mummy scarf and mummy pumps, evaporating the discernible reek of rank dog, and totally judged me.

It was evidently a slow evening at Wanaka Police Station, so he called over a colleague: “Pam, get the handcuffs. Lady here stole a bike.” Then he made me repeat the story, occasionally interjecting with a ploddy question.

It was less than stellar police-work and, frankly, I was offended by how lightly he and his colleague treated the whole affair. I felt like saying, “Oy, pigs: it’s not like I nicked a chip of some toddler’s plate. Stole a fackin set of wheels, din’ I?”

But that would have been, well, rude; so I waited politely until they’d finished snorting.

Pam advised me to drop the bike into the station – any time; she was on duty until Monday morning – but since I was extremely uncomfortable being in possession of stolen good, I went straight home, collected the bike and committed it into the loving embrace of the long arms of the law.

As I drove away, my phone blonked.

Text message> Hi, I think you took my sons bike out of concern for theft?? Where can he come collect it from?

Me> Hi, yes I did, terribly sorry; didn’t understand bikes are generally left unlocked at The Playground. I dropped it into the Police Station literally 5 mins ago, he can grab it there. Cheers

The Mother> Oh gosh really?

The Mother> Oh dear

The Mother> Can you pop back there?

Not Me> You ‘avin a fackin larf, sweetheart?

I called The Mother. Per the largely one-sided conversation, I think apparently her car was at the garage?? (oh yeah see how I was right onto her like cheap lycra??) and the bike wouldn’t fit in her work van because it was full of crap and she was so busy (subtext: it was raining so hard and she hadn’t finished her limited edition boxset of the last season of Game of Thrones) so would I deliver it to her house, preferably tonight because her son wanted to use it over the weekend?

So I returned to the station, where Pam was probably thinking I would be less trouble if I actually were a hardened criminal who could dispense cigarettes out my sphincter. She was pretty grumpy about having to fetch the bike from the storage room.

When I got to the house, The Injured Party himself opened the door. He scowled silently.

“Hi!” I chirped, then: “Oh, right- oh, here’s your bike! Sorry um . . .” I skulked soggily for a moment, waiting for him to say thanks – or anything – to no avail. He glared me all the way back to my car. I made sure to bypass all churches on the way home, in case I was impaled by a lightning rod.

So that’s the last fucking time I do a good turn.

Only kidding! I’ll always be that busybody buttinsky who asks the child in the carpark where his mother is when she’s right behind him; or picks up the distressed toddler for a headbutt; or performs an active drowning victim rear rescue on the teenager in the pool who merely has an inelegant freestyle. Because although I might get it wrong more often than not, I hope and trust other people will do the same for my kids

Thermonuclear guilt

Still relatively unscarred

Still relatively unscarred

Aw do I have to? Whyeeee? Alright alright ALRIGHT! Context, whatever.

So a few months ago I was at the local Toy Library, because now I’m the President I have important stuff to do there. You know, like naming our elk, and quality-testing plasma cars, and supergluing Strawberry Shortcake’s head back on because her neck is impractically flimsy. I also point at things, a lot.

Anyway, Fiona said, “I’ve gotta go soon. I collect Macey from school at three.”

At which point, my thought process went something like this: “Bo collecta! Makin moves yeah on the dance floor – what IS that song? I wish life were a musical. Then I could bust out the tunes and funky moves and people wouldn’t think I was crayzay. Re rewind. When the crowd say bo colleeecta. Crunch. Grindgrindgrindgrindgrind CLICK! FUUUCK!”

Because it was then I realised I’d forgotten to pick up Finn from kindy at 14:30.

I squealed out of the carpark on a dense cloud of burnt rubber. When I flung myself into kindy half an hour late, all the chairs were upside down on the tables and Finn was sitting dolefully on the floor with his backpack on.

“Sorry!” I gasped.

“Don’t worry, it happens all the time,” said the ECEs kindly – but I refused to be appeased. I mean, I bet they say that to all the parents.

He probably had a better time there than at home, where there’s no playdough and he’s not allowed to stand on the sofa- ok look, there’s no way to make it better and I’m going to feel guilty about abandoning my child until my dying day.

So there’s the context: past, present and future.

Last week I was at the Toy Library, when I looked at my watch and it was-

“FUCKING TWO THIRTY!”

“Have you forgotten your child again?” asked Maria. I would have challenged her about the unnecessary emphasis she placed on the last word – I mean, I’d only forgotten Finn once – except I was thrashing it out the door.

I was only five minutes late and trying to gallop elegantly up the path when I met my mate, Maxine.

And her son, Q, said, “Hello, Niamh! What are you doing here?”

“Hello, Q! I’m here to pick up Finn!” I said, as if I were speaking to a four year old – which, in fairness, Q is – but also I admittedly gave Maxine a look conveying that perhaps she should spend more time doing some cognitive development role playing with her son because what the fuck else would I be doing there?

Then Q said, “Finn’s not at kindy. He doesn’t come on Tuesdays.”

While Maxine rolled around the ground laughing, realisation achingly slowly dawned that both my children, Finn and Saoirse, spend Tuesdays – pretty much all of them since Christmas – with their dad.

You think maybe that incident cancels out the other? Yeah no; I’m still dealing with thermonuclear levels of enriched, weapons-grade guilt. I imagine on my deathbed, saying: “Hey everyone listen up because this is my dying breath so it’s obviously pretty important – hey you! Put down the sausage roll and have some fucking respect! Dying breath, here! Ok anyway, look, I won’t draw it out much longer, but I really want to say this: I have no regrets in my life except that time I forgot to collect Finn from kindy: Son, I’m sorry! I’m so very, very sorry!”

<exhale>

<final curtain>

It is what it isn’t

I used to have a HR Manager – let’s call him – Froggie, who was obviously frustrated in his true vocation as an SIS Agent specializing in rohrschachian strangulation techniques.

Amongst the inane banalities he came out with on a minutely basis, his favourite was: “It is what it is.”

It used to INFURIATE me. I would sputter, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, what does that even MEAN? It hardly is what it isn’t, IS IT? See, I don’t even KNOW WHAT I SAID JUST THERE!”

Upon which he’d hold up a finger and mutter into his limited-edition Timex ‘Titanium Trojan’ with built-in sonar which was waterproof to a depth of 800m just in case, you know, he ever fell out of a submarine.

Or, more likely, was forcibly ejected out the torpedo hatch.

And I’d sit there rolling my eyes until he changed the subject.

In case it comes across as if I hated Froggie specifically, no, no, not at all. Firstly, I hate all HR Managers without prejudice or bias (except for my friend Carol; but then, I’ve never worked with her. For all I know, as soon as she strings her identity card around her neck she turns into the epitome of corporate evil whose primary objective is sucking the very essence of life out of her colleagues’ collective souls; and then poses as a wonderful, generous, warm-spirited person with terrific conversational skills in her leisure time. Which admittedly sounds implausible, but no more so than she is the single, shining exception in the legion of dark HR hordes).

One ex-HR Manager even tried to have me banned – not from the building – no – but from THE ENTIRE COUNTRY – simply for being helpful! (Pointing out he was incompetent.)

In any case (and secondly) now that I’m a mother I officially don’t hate anyone. There are simply people that are different to us.

Anyway. It turns out that neither Froggie nor I were correct. As Finn illustrated this morning, sometimes it is what it isn’t.

Finn> Boy want apple.

Me> Sorry sweetie, we don’t have any apples. Here, I’ll cut up some pear for you.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> No, it’s a pear.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> I think you’ll find it’s a pear.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> It’s not a- here, have some! What does it taste like?

Finn> A pear.

Me> Because it is A PEAR!

Finn> No. It’s a apple.

But despite the conversation being almost as obscure as those I used to have with Froggie, at least it was at minimum three times more productive

140718 Finn gets to grips with helmet

Meet Saoirse

Saoirse catches up on some sleep

Saoirse catches up on some sleep

Our baby girl, Saoirse, made her debut on the world stage on 21 November at 11:11 hrs. She is prodigiously talented and stunningly beautiful. “There’s only one beautiful baby in the world, and every mother has it,” commented a midwife down in Queen Mary. I’ve lodged an official complaint and will not rest until that bitch is FIRED. There’s simply no excuse for that level of prejudice and ignorance in a healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, in the photos Husband took in the recovery room, Saoirse is virtually obscured by the great flobberfest of funbags – which kind of defeats the purpose. On a related note: instead of capturing me tiredly stoic but luminous, confoundingly gorgeous despite being makeup free, I look so spectacularly haggard that it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that my husband hates me.

However, since that would be seriously bad timing, I’m focusing on how tricky it must be locating anyone’s best profile when they’re shiny and covered in vernix and re-adjusting to the re-internalization of their intestines.

Saoirse at one hour old

Saoirse at one hour old

Saoirse gazes at me as if we’ve met before and she’s trying to place my face. Thankfully, this unsettling effect is offset when she blows bubbles out the side of her mouth.

Ok, now, look: I never fully got over the shock of finding myself pregnant again – especially since, if there was any sex involved, well, I certainly don’t remember it. In many ways I felt more prepared for Finn’s arrival. Or perhaps that should be ‘ignorant’.

In contrast, my second pregnancy felt like one long, torturous, acid-reflux-fuelled panic attack. Leading up to the birth there was no limit to the number of things I stressed about, including: whether my kidneys would ever recover from the skilled and precise foetal pounding sustained over the previous five months; how Finn would cope with involuntary promotion to big brother; my rate of recovery after a caesarian; whether Andrew was lying about taking two weeks off work after the birth; and – a particularly horrifying thought – that my daughter might take after me. Oh, and also DEATH; not only mine, but anyone else perishing while I was on the operating table. Because, you know, PEOPLE DIE – and not only old ones.

But what concerned me most, throughout the pregnancy, was that I wouldn’t love my second child as much as Finn.

Finn checks what sound Saoirse’s nose makes

Finn checks what sound Saoirse’s nose makes

Friends told me this fear was fairly normal, but it CONSUMED me; I love Finn so viscerally it seemed impossible I’d have enough left over for a second child.

Of course, what turns out to be impossible is trying to quantify love. 

I am besotted with my daughter.

Saoirse and Mum

Saoirse and Mum

Pubic talk

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be the guest speaker at Plunket’s 100th Anniversary Dinner in Oamaru.

I had a number of questions, which distilled down to one: could I swear? When they responded in the affirmative, I was totally in. I mean if there’s anyone in the world who would turn down Plunket-sanctioned swearing, that person is certainly not me. I fully support any grassroots movement to bring profanity to the masses.

In full cry at Plunket 100th Anniversay Dinner, Portside Oamaru 7/9/13

In full cry at Plunket 100th Anniversay Dinner, Portside Oamaru 7/9/13

It’s been many years since I’ve spoken pubically – apart from a talk I gave at the Oamaru Public Library back in March. There was a terrific turn-out, since it was entitled ‘The Filthy Business of Romance Writing’ and I think people expected me to talk about porn. It went well. At least, nobody complained about the shortage of smut; everyone liked my shoes; and afterwards one of the library staff offered me a biscuit.

Both filthy business and romance writing are subjects about which I have in-depth knowledge. However, Plunket asked me to speak about ‘Parenting’, a topic I find ever more incomprehensible the older Finn gets.

The dinner was last Saturday 7 September and I was scheduled to speak between the main course and dessert. Presumably Plunket wanted to ensure people really wanted meringue.

Shortly before I was up, I remembered to visit the bathroom to check for dental garnish. None of the dishes served for dinner included spinach, but you never know with that stuff.

I figured if my talk bombed, people might be impressed – or at least distracted – by my ability to stand and operate my lucky pubic heels while heavily pregnant. This ploy was relatively successful, although I suffered a wobble when I tried to illustrate a point with a karate-kick and pulled out at the eleventh millisecond. It was a tense moment since I had kind of committed, but hopefully everyone assumed I was referencing a Celine Dion dance move.

I decided prompt or cue cards were unnecessary, but I did blank on two occasions (once during the aborted karate-kick above). However, I successfully garnered sympathy by blaming pregnancy brain.

Following are some of the highlights from the presentation. The photos are by my talented mate Maxine Shea of Captur8 Photography – although I am disappointed she didn’t make me look thinner.

 

Mr Right
I always thought my Mr Right would be called something like ‘Phoenix Gash’ or – I don’t know – ‘Strike’. As it turns out, his name’s Andrew. Nothing wrong with Andrew; it’s a fine name. All I’m saying is: life never turns out the way you expect.

Life plan
According to my detailed and very specific life-plan, I was going to reproduce at the age of thirty. On my birthday.

Dogs and children
Andrew used to suggest that I shouldn’t compare raising a dog to raising children, but now that I have both, I can’t see why not. The similarities are striking.

Parenting: nothing to it
One thing friends did emphasise was how ‘hard’ it is, parenting. Of course I listened and commiserated; but inside I’d be thinking, ‘Oh, come on. If it was that fucking tricky, the human race would have died out eons ago’. And then I had Finn and . . . well, it really is dead fucking easy, isn’t it?

Definition of success
As far as I recall – because it’s a bit hazy now – I spent the first couple of months of Finn’s life trying not to get his head stuck down a drain. If I came to the end of the day and Finn’s head wasn’t stuck in a drain, that was my definition of successful parenting.

Parenting through the ages
Reading between the lines: after I was born my parents basically stored me in a box under the stairs until I’d housetrained myself.

The Answer to Everything
If Finn ever challenges me about my own ‘parenting skills’, I have a response prepared. I’ll say, “He‎y. You didn’t ask to be born!” And when he says, “Wait- that’s my line!” I’ll say, “Oh yeah, right like so fully WHATEVER, dude. Look: at least I never left you in a fucking gazebo.”

I’m pretty confident there’s nowhere left for that conversation to go.

Amazing expanding snot
I have suffered prolonged exposure to Amazing Expanding Snot – and that knowledge can’t be stuffed back into Pandora’s Box. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Andrew and me
Andrew and I have been together for fifteen glorious, happy years. Sure, we’ve faced our share of challenges; nothing too dramatic: extortion, murder, arms dealing, IVF, etcetera – just the usual relationship ups and downs.

Cyanide muffins: deadly
If someone stuck a gun to my head or threatened me with a cyanide muffin, I would have to admit that Andrew is the love of my life. To quote The Boss – that’s Springsteen, not Finn – I love him ‘with all the madness in my soul’. That there’s an awful lotta crazeballs.

How parenthood changes you
After you have children, both of you change – but as a full-time mother, you change more. It’s cataclysmic. When I had Finn, I spontaneously turned into an anti-social, seriously sensible, tediously responsible funsucking killjoy. All: “No, you can’t set the dog on fire until you say please.”

And – bless him – Andrew thinks his life has changed because he occasionally has to buckle someone else’s seatbelt.

The difference between fathers and mothers:
Andrew gets to lock the bathroom door. Oh, I’ve tried that. Yes. Which results in either a tiny tyrant trying to kick the bathroom door in FBI-style; or he infiltrates the bathroom and stands there staring psychotically at my arse as if it’s the most mesmerising piece of kit he’s ever seen. Which it may well be, given his limited life experience.

Status update: intestines
My bowels haven’t unclenched for twenty months. That’s a long time. I try not to be resentful – and I haven’t exactly checked recently – but I’m pretty confident Andrew’s bowels are just the grandest.

Turn-on
These days, my idea of hot foreplay is Andrew putting the baby to bed and folding the laundry. Or anything I can sleep through.

Mystery unlocked
Now I understand why parents park their shopping trolley in the middle of the supermarket aisle. BC (before child) I had no idea; I just thought parents were selfish and entitled. I suppose I could have asked some harried parent, but there’s an awkward conversation. You know: “Excuse me. Can I ask you a question? What is that perfume you’re wearing – it’s quite delicious – and also, why the fuck do you have to stop your fucking trolley in the middle of the fucking aisle?”

And then one day, Finn swept all the spices off the shelf in New World and I’m standing there in a swirl of cinnamon thinking, “EureKA!”

Mystery still locked
Even after having a child, I still don’t get ‘Baby on board’ stickers. Because I can think of no occasion – not one – where I’ve been driving along and seen someone without a baby on board, and thought, “AW FANTASTIC! I’ll just rear-end that sucker at the next red lights!” I’m pretty sure my insurance policy doesn’t cover that.

One of the things you learn as a parent:
Sleeves are multi-purpose.

One indispensible top tip
When faced with a problem, it’s always useful to think: “What would Madonna do?

She could have photoshopped my waist

She could have photoshopped my waist

Extreme push-up

Baby haka

With the hours devoted to feeding, changing, bathing and trying to avoid getting my baby stuck down the side of the sofa (amongst other pressing health and safety concerns), I hadn’t given much consideration to Finn’s mobility.

I’d always assumed crawling would be a spontaneous action. One day Finn would decide he’d had enough of lying around the floor waving his legs in the air and I’d turn around and – argh! where’s the baby? Is he stuck down the side of the sofa? No; where the- I was sure I left him RIGHT THERE – and after frantically scouring the house and surrounds, I’d find him scudding up the driveway like a giant centipede, only with 96 less legs.

I mean, what would I know? The vast depth and range of the number of ways in which I don’t have a clue continues to astonish me.

As it turned out, learning to crawl was an extensive process with several phases.

I suppose the first step was Finn learning to roll. At about two months old, he mastered transitioning from his back onto his front, but not the reverse. After a few weeks in prone position microscopically examining the carpet, the novelty grew stale. In any case, there was plenty to keep him occupied on his back, like pointing at the ceiling and dropping toys on his head.

When he mastered full rotation, he would tuck his legs beneath him and, with arms akimbo, press his face fervently into the floor. Either he was practicing yoga or our carpet smells fabulous (which seems unlikely given the volume of drool generated between dog and baby).

Some time later, Finn progressed to raising himself up on his arms and the tips of his toes and waving his arse in the air, a maneuver generally concluded by head-butting the floor. The marines should totally adopt this variation of power press-up if they really want to demonstrate how tough they are.

After that, Finn seemed to spend his (considerable) free time over several days on all fours rocking back and forth and occasionally executing little bunny-hops.

With all the momentum, it was something of a surprise when he did start moving – backwards. Staring intently at some object of desire (the dog, anything shiny, sharp and/or pointy), he would reverse steadily away from it looking increasingly bemused.

The only way he could move in the right direction was in the manner of some mortally wounded creature, using one arm to claw desperately across the floor, his body dragging uselessly behind him.

Now Finn’s crawl is an action of measured precision, executed with deadly speed. When he stalks the iPad carelessly left lying around the ground, one can see all the savage beauty of a cheetah springing on its prey. He disappears out an open door with the supple grace of a gazelle bounding across the savannah (note: prior to its encounter with the cheetah).

31/8/12 Watch out, dog. Grr!

9/9/12 Exploring the laundry basket

13/9/12 Escape from the zoo

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