Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's not easy being a pack rat

The Complicated One is a pack rat. Like the small North American rodent that lines its nest with a great variety of small objects, our small Complicated One lines his bedroom with all manner of shiny things.

Objects from the craft drawers (six drawers full, no less!) gravitate towards his bedroom, where he sorts them into little piles and then stores them in boxes of all shapes and sizes.

Some boxes are themed – boxes of seashells, plastic shapes or cars. Others are mad conglomerations of favourite things at a moment in time: a shiny purple bead necklace, Roary badge, Woody doll, Little Miss Sunshine window sticker, hair elastics, plastic blocks, a wooden star, and bits of craft he’s made. Listing the rest of the contents of this one box would fill the rest of this page.

The more containers we give him, the more containers he fills.

He got quite stressed this week when I gave him a new bag. After some tears it emerged he was struggling to decide which of his favourite things in his current 'favourite things bag' to sort into his new 'even more favourite things bag'. I helped him sort through them, and he calmed down.

Some collections aren’t so little, like his collection of paper snowflakes. It’s a great little craft activity: fold a sheet of white paper several times then cut shapes around the edges, unfold and hey presto, a lovely white snowflake.

The Complicated One makes snowflakes as therapy in industrial volumes. I recently suggested to Sherrie that we throw out two shoeboxes full of snowflakes I found tucked under his bed. She said she’d already thrown out three boxes that she’d hidden in his cupboard a few weeks earlier, so we had better hang onto this last batch in case he remembers. TIP: Complicated Ones always remember.

To our relief he’s moved on from making paper snowflakes. Now he’s making paper aeroplanes. So far he’s filled four shoeboxes.

He didn’t want to come home from childcare this week until he’d finished making paper planes for a line of kids. Quite the mini industrialist.

Our hope is that he invents the 21st century’s equivalent of the Model T Ford production line, and uses the royalties to support his parents in our dotage.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sibling rivalry

There’s a 22-month age difference between The Complicated One and The Big Fella. That’s not much in the great scheme of things.

The grand idea was that they’d be great mates and spend endless hours playing together. The grim reality is that they are arch enemies. 

Perhaps that’s overstating it. Not the Holmes-Moriarty kind of arch enemies. But they certainly get on each other’s nerves. 

Of course it’s mainly the younger one who annoys the older one, wanting to join in every activity regardless of his interest in it, or ability to undertake it.

Plus he’s a bull-at-a-gate, so it’s a bad combination of stubbornly wanting to join in, which combined with poor coordination ensures just about everything gets mucked up.

The Complicated One is as fastidious and neat as The Big Fella is rambunctious and messy. 

And yet there are lovely moments when they play together peacefully. Moments that make it all worthwhile.

Encouragingly, they are playing together better, and more often - probably twice as much as six months ago (admittedly from a low base!). 

The Big Fella is better coordinated and can join in more games. And he's old enough now to understand imaginary games but still young enough to be directed by The Complicated One.

I hope the upward curve continues!

I’m loving…

How my eldest son has a special friend. Seeing the two of them playing so intimately together is a joy.

Not so loving…

Remembering how I had a special friend at about the same age and how sad I was when we moved 887.2 kilometres away (but who’s counting). I think of this every time my partner and I talk about needing a bigger home. Is a childhood friend a good enough reason to renovate rather than move house?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kids are eating ... leftover sausages

No, not last week’s sausages – I’m not that silly. Leftovers from this week.

I suppose you remember that I recently mentioned we only eat sausages in moderation? Yeah, I was lying. 

The kids made a strong business case, followed by lots of whining.

TIP: Wrap a bit of tinfoil around the bottom of the sausage and it becomes a portable treat, ideal for toddlers.

Foil-wrapped sausages are also ideal for eating in front of the TV. Which we never do, of course.

I discovered that you can also buy sausages that contain carrot and zucchini, to assuage your guilt. 

Kids are reading ... Sometimes Love is Under Your Foot

This is a sad but heart-warming tale of a dog’s unrequited love for his master. It deals with what happens when his master gets sick.

In Sometimes Love is Under Your Foot, Colin Thompson sensitively introduces the idea that dads and mums sometimes get very sick.

It’s a bit over The Big Fella's head though, so he goes and grabs his current favourite, Where’s the Green Sheep? (written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek.) This is a modern Australian children’s classic that should be on every shelf.

I'm reading ... The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

Well, I'm currently reading nothing, as I’m still traumatised after finishing Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. A terrific but harrowing tale of a post-apocalyptic world.

It's the seventh of his novels I've read over the past couple of years. At the risk of being sacrilegious to perhaps the greatest living American novelist, here are my reviews – in five words or less – of some of his other great novels....

Blood Meridian – hell in the wild west (scalpings aplenty as a 14-year-old boy travels into the heart of darkness on America’s frontier).

Suttree – hell on a houseboat (squalor engulfs a young man living on a disintegrating houseboat in Tennessee).

All The Pretty Horses – ill-fated romance plus horses (first and most accessible part of his Border Trilogy).

The Crossing – remarkably sad, lonely and haunting (16-year-old boy follows a wolf from Texas into Mexico).

Cities of the Plain – male friendship and loss (final and perhaps weakest part of his Border Trilogy, which is nonetheless marvellous).

No Country for Old Men - movie was remarkably faithful and terrific (most satisfying in a conventional novel kind of way).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Playing mums and dads

I'm loving listening to constant chatter between The Complicated One and his best friend, K.

“Every time you say Mrs Maker, it makes my tummy go ‘ooh’,” he says.
It's a comment that needs some explaining....
The Complicated One and K met at childcare and hit it off right away. Then she changed days and he was sad. Then her parents bought a house a few doors up from ours, and he was happy again. (K’s business case to her parents to move closer must have been compelling!)

K is a few months younger but just as talkative and, according to her mum, just as complicated. Both were poor sleepers when younger and spent time in kiddie rehab, otherwise known as the excellent Tresillian residential sleep program. 

(TIP: Visit for great parenting advice from those in the know. And don’t be ashamed about booking yourself into kiddie sleep rehab. We should have done it months earlier than we did, and saved ourselves one hundred extra sleepless nights. Sigh.)

We’ve started a new weekly tradition of alternating play dates at each other’s house most Fridays. There is hell to pay for all parents involved if the kids miss a week.

Their favourite game is playing mums and dads. Of course it involves lots of talking, plus role play. They go to work, on holidays, to the shops – all the things they see their parents doing.

There’s bound to be some hidden secret children’s business that us grown-ups don’t know about. There are probably many academic theses on the subject of children’s secret codes of behaviour.

Perhaps it’s better if we parents don’t know everything. It will be bad enough when they’re teenagers, so I figure the least I can do is let them have a (relatively) free rein now.

But that doesn't stop me from occasionally overhearing a few of their conversations..... 

Playing mums and dads:

“We share a bedroom but we’re in separate beds.”

“No we’re not.”

“But that way we can share secrets.”


While on the swing set in the backyard:

“We’re on the aeroplane,” says K.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“England,” says K.

“Actually to Asia,” says The Complicated One.

“Actually we’re going to North America,” he adds after a pause.

You can tell who recently got a world map jigsaw puzzle.

Mid-conversation and seemingly out of context:

“You don’t even have a craft section at your house,” declares The Complicated One.

K seems not to care, but he would be devastated without his six drawers stuffed with craft supplies and bulging boxes of end product.

Chanelling the Mr Maker TV show about children’s craft on ABC2:

“Pretend I’m Mrs Maker and you’re Mr Maker”.


“Mr Maker is a boy,” says K helpfully.

“Yes. And Mrs Maker is a girl,” replies The Complicated One.

“What are you doing now?”

“I’m making a present for you, Mrs Maker.”

“No, you don’t make something for me and I don’t make something for you – we make something for kids,” clarifies K.

“Every time you say Mrs Maker, it makes my tummy go ‘ooh’,” says Mr Maker.

Sounds like a good time to give them some privacy!