10 May, 2015

Who's a good boy?

So it's Mother's Day. A grey day outside, though.  Perfect for being pampered: breakfast in bed (if you like that sort of thing - I wouldn't know, having never had the pleasure) the crinkle of gift wrapping in amongst the bedding, hand made cards, the rumble of cats purring at one's feet, the mirthful sound of happy children...

But that's happening somewhere else. Because in Porter Street I'm rounding up Pluto and Milo for the first of 11 obedience classes with human and canine.  (The official first was last week and just involved the humans.)  At last week's class it was made clear that Milo was going to have to be the sole handler of Pluto throughout the 12 week program.  That is if he is ever going to climb the hierarchical "pack" ladder.  So this morning I reinforced, once again, the words of the trainers:   
  • you need to stay calm
  • you need to be firm; and
  • you are the boss.
We arrived at the park and met up with the other dogs and their owners, some were really friendly, others a little nervous.  The first step, the lengthy process of making sure everyone had the right choke chains, leads and other equipment.  It took ages but gave the everyone and everydog a chance to spend some time becoming familiarised, in the same space, together, chilling out... 

OR in our case a chance for Pluto to have his first taste of being on a choke chain and pulling and coughing and pulling some more.  And for Milo to completely FREAK OUT and decide he didn't know how to deal with it and conclude that Pluto was going to choke himself TO DEATH and it was ALL BAD and he COULDN'T DO IT and it was ALL TOO MUCH!!

And that was before the class started.

I did my best to talk boy and puppy down from the precipice, but it wasn't easy because, it seems, both found their hysterical positions quite exhilarating places to occupy.  So it was only when the authoritative (but lovely) trainer, Karen, called the participants to the carpark to line up that the state of frenzy was momentarily interrupted.

Getting Milo and Pluto to line up was a tall order.  Imagine nine calm dogs with their humans and then at the tail a small, panicked boy with a four kilogram furry fish snagged and flailing on the end of his hand held fishing line.  

Envisage mad thrashing and flipping and yipping and wailing and you'll be somewhere close to visualising the performance Pluto put on, for about thirty minutes, not only for me and Milo, but also for his newly acquired classmates – all of whom much older and wiser and finding him ridiculous – for his teacher and also for all the people in the vast parklands surrounding.  

Needless to say it was very stressful for the small boy to witness and try to manage.  There were tears.

As we made our way back to the car after the class, strolling through the very soggy park, weary and a little damp of spirits too, the lady in charge of the entire dog training programme stopped us for a word.   It seems she'd been able to hear Pluto's vocalisations from two ovals away!   
Oh the shame...
Schnoodles can be quite stubborn, don't you know.  
Well, yes, actually, we do.  
So you have to let them know who's boss.   
You don't say.  
So, Milo!  You hold your ground.  Don't you back down!  And make sure you do the feeding.

So from now on Milo's going to be feeding Pluto.  And he's going to be walked with the choke chain on - I think they call it a "correction collar".  He'll learn soon enough not to pull on it.  And I'm sure the flipping and yipping will stop soon enough.  Particularly when the food treats are plentiful.

I do look forward to more favourable reportage.


01 May, 2015

More Goodbyes

Our goodbye gift.
artwork by soph&son

Today Milo has to say goodbye to his teacher, Mrs Daly.

He is in Grade 3 almost half way through and he has made strides in the past four months under her tutelage that a person wouldn't have thought possible.

She is leaving to have a baby and is really, truly about to pop, so we wouldn't want her to hang around for even one more day ... so OF COURSE we're full of all the requisite joy and warm wishes that imminent babies naturally promote.

It's just Mrs Daly has been the perfect prescription for Milo after a couple of really, really challenging, confusing and demoralising years.

This is going to be a hard one for him and truth told, I'm making hard work of it myself.  He sat at the breakfast table this morning and made a sweet card.  He soldiered on despite the knot in his tummy and the feeling he might cry.

I think I'll go in early for pick up, just to stand outside in case there's tears.


30 April, 2015

Z is for Zombie

An extra layer of pain in my neck, present when I woke this morning, tipped me over my usual management threshold, such that the standard concoction of oblong and round tablets that I take every day and puts the pain away for the day and lets me get on with things was not going to be sufficient.

When this happens the first thing I need to do is turn to the big guns: literally a giant white disc of a tablet that renders me not quite out of pain, but reasonably disconnected from it so that I'm not grumpy and miserable.  

The downside is that functionally my reflexes are slowed, and my brain works a bit backwards.  And I walk with my feet about three millimetres off the ground - no chance of tripping!  My mouth is a little dry, so I quite enjoy a hot drink.  I stay away from sharp things.

I forget stuff, so I have to make sure I'm not tempted to rush, and my train of thought is very likely to drift off on a tangent, so conversations can be quite meandering, that is, if I find myself talking to anyone, which I tend to avoid doing when I've taken one of the big white tablets.

So yes.  Z is for Zombie.  Because that is what I am today.

Thank you, by the way,
if you've been following my blog during the course of this A-Z Challenge.
It's been an unexpected joy to be a part of, 
and really lovely to know that folk have dropped by.
It's been great to share.

29 April, 2015

Y is for Yes.

I was woken at about three this morning by a dream in which my boy had thrown a stick, very hard, which had hit his grandmother, knocking her backwards over the neighbour's fence, leaving her buried in the earth, dazed and injured.  I made myself wake up before I could dig mum out (in the dream) because the whole thing was upsetting and very, very stressful.  

Before bed I'd been watching a long documentary casting doubt on the official explanation of events surrounding September 11, 2001. Like many others I have also been very concerned about the squillions of people affected by the earthquake in Nepal, not to mention the most unjust execution by firing squad (carried out last night) of two reformed drug smugglers, in Indonesia, as well as the continuing horrors of our own country's needlessly inhuman asylum seeker policy. 

I'd tried to offset the darkness by doing some fun art play, but clearly the balance hadn't been quite right... Clearly.

Anyway.  The point is, there is a lot of darkness.

When John Lennon first encountered Yoko Ono it was at her exhibition of avant-garde works, "Unfinished Paintings" at the Indica Gallery in London in 1966. He was going through a cynical, anti-Beatle phase.  Tired of the constraints of fame and fans, of the war in Vietnam, of the taxation system, of contractual demands...

Yoko, a renowned artist, didn't know who John was when he turned up on the night before the opening, but he knew the gallery owners so she humoured him as he examined her works, and this is what he had to say about it later...

"But there was another piece that really decided me for-or-against the artist: a ladder which led to a painting which was hung on the ceiling. It looked like a black canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it. This was near the door when you went in. I climbed the ladder, you look through the spyglass and in tiny little letters it says 'yes'. So it was positive. I felt relieved. It's a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn't say 'no' or 'fuck you' or something, it said 'yes'."
Today, as I look out the window at a bright blue sky, dotted with cotton candy clouds, and my ears are assaulted with the cockatoos screeching mayhem overhead, I realise it's the universe delivering her message: "yes".  And I am relieved.


Blackbird by The Beatles
Artwork by soph&son

28 April, 2015

X is for X (the Roman Numeral for ten)

Milo doesn't really like reading fiction.  He enjoys listening to ME read him fiction, particularly when I do all the voices, but if I ask him to choose a book to read to me, he'll always select something from the bottom shelf.  That is, non-fiction.  

Let's face it, the kid has a lot of books, a reflection of my inability to enter a book or second hand shop and leave empty-handed, from which he has been the happy beneficiary.  There's picture books, paperbacks, classics, novelty books, reference books, series...more books than there are shelves.  Precisely the way it should be.

Amongst his non-fiction collection is a series called "Horrible Histories" (Terry Deary), one of which he decided to begin to read to me last night:  "Terrifying Tudors".

Horrible Histories by Terry Deary

And amongst the talk of the Terrifying Tudors was Milo's first exposure to Roman numerals:  Henry VIII and X as ten.  

And then the inevitable why?

I didn't know why, so I dodged the question by whipping out a pencil and showed him how it worked.  He caught on mighty quickly and then drew a clock face.  All the numbers perfectly formed ... but all squished into the upper right quadrant of the circle.  

So near... but getting there!

27 April, 2015

W is for Words

I sat for a heck of a long time trying to come up with a W to write about today. And in the end, when I couldn't come up with anything, I decided to turn to the interweb, typing into my search engine, for inspiration.  And there it was.


Probably one of the most important things, ever in the world, that I love, and use, and rely upon, and cherish, and choose, and polish, and turn over, and over-think...


As an eager and sometimes anxious (Mediterranean) communicator, words (with hand accompaniments) have been my constant tool.  I started using them in earnest a little later than most, but I could never be reasonably accused of neglecting them, not once I started, anyway.

And now, as a person who no longer works in conventional places or in the company of others, words are also a most welcome companion whilst I wile away the hours making art.  Sometimes even art out of words.

The Sphere of Good Things
by soph&son

I am addicted to alliteration.


I used to use more than my fair share, but age and experience have taught me to pull in, pare back and embrace the wisdom that less is more. (It's kinder too.)


If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, can someone please arrange for a Roget's Thesaurus and a complete Oxford English Dictionary?

I think that's all.

25 April, 2015

V is for Very Tired.

I've been Very Tired for a long time.  It's a thing people are nowadays, I know, so I don't expect anyone to feel particularly sympathetic or anything about the fact that I'm Very Tired.  But today is "V" day and I could be writing about all the Volkswagens I've ever owned or Vaseline (and how handy it is when you're dying your hair) or Vegemite or even, as Milo suggested on the way to Aikido this morning (that wasn't even on because of ANZAC Day), that I might like to write about words starting and ending with V (?!)... but I'm not.  

Instead, I'm just going to tell you how tired I am. Or for the sake of the exercise, how Very Tired.

Pluto manifesting the canine equivalent of Very Tired, that is Daarg Taard.

This bout of Very Tired started in March 2006 when due to a lack of foresight and planning – the way I've embarked on quite a few major ventures in my life – I found myself pregnant while addicted to (the medical profession says "dependent on") some rather heavy duty opiates and using other prescribed pharmaceuticals to manage a chronic medical condition.

The combination of growing a baby and taking drugs isn't really a sustainable practice so I was immediately pretty "strongly incentivised" to begin a program of withdrawal.  Cold turkey was dangerous and therefore out of the question, but because of the high doses of meds I was taking, the schedule was somewhat more severe than usually recommended, and steeper than a Disneyland rollercoaster.  

Anyway off I went…

The combination of morning sickness (stupidly misnamed) and drug withdrawal was Very Tiring.  I can't remember which bit I most resented: if it was the vomiting, the restless leg syndrome, the flu symptoms, the non-stop migraines.  Perhaps it was the anxiety, the insomnia or the blood curdling chills.  Not sure.  Whatever. By the time I was clean, which was well into my third trimester, I hadn't had more than a couple of hours consecutive sleep for a good 30 weeks, and I was Very Tired.  

The baby, bless him, had also not stopped kicking since he gave his leg its first mighty swing at about week 22 or thereabouts, so that had added another welcome element into the mix.  Come to think on it, by the time he was born at 37 weeks, he was probably quite tired too.

The birth didn't go well and we had ten days in hospital.  Tiring.  Milo couldn't feed, or sleep and I couldn't hold him properly because my neurosurgeon mismanaged the chronic medical condition and there were lots of complications.  You know, I'm too tired to go into details now.  Suffice to say, we were so happy to go home.  Happy and tired.

Happy to come home.  Happy and tired. Ten days old.

Because we had trouble feeding I had to express and bottle feed so there wasn't a lot of resting.  We did this for 12 weeks until I finally managed to get Milo to feed naturally.  That was very tiring.  And it drove me bonkers that the Child & Maternal Health Nurses would come 'round and talk about how babies feed and play for a bit and then sleep for hours...  

You see, unless he was being held, Milo NEVER SLEPT.  And it's not as if I didn't try every strategy under the sun to get him to sleep, because I did.  It's just that not a damn thing worked.  Nothing.

My sweet, sunny, lovely, bright, happy, shiny boy just WOULD NOT SLEEP. And the rigours of trying, and meeting with the disapproval of all the professionals ... that especially made me Very Tired.

For the next five years, until Milo went to school, he didn't sleep very well or very much.  And when he did he had the most awful, graphic night terrors.  Have you ever seen a small child in a waking sleep, hurling themselves about, fighting off invisible assailants, shouting and crying in the worst kind of unimaginable distress?  It leaves such an awful impression. Unforgettable.  

The next morning, though, he had no recollection, which is a terrific boon.  A licence, in fact, for me as a parent to let it go too. But the truth was I was so damned tired from the trauma of watching that it was hard to wipe the memory away… 

And when it wasn't the night terrors, Milo had croup.  Endless, endless coughing, hacking, choking, going blue in the middle of the night, croup.  Why oh why is it always worse in the middle of the night?  

He'd always eventually bounce through like it never happened…  He did.  And I'd see him off to kinder or school full of beans and vigour, and I'd collapse in a heap on the floor, shaking and shuddering at what felt like such a close shave.  

God I was glad to see the back of croup when he was sixish.  Gosh it left me tired. Very tired.

So now Milo's eight and at school. He gets bronchitis instead of croup but he actually sleeps quite well. He's an early riser:  five, five-thirty, six?  I don't think he's ever slept past seven.  Never.  He says he doesn't want to miss anything.  I mean, after all, there's a cat and fish: there might be juggling or chess while the humans are sleeping…  

Besides this, Milo's a sharer.  And a carer.  And certainly not a loner.  It would never occur to him for one solitary moment not to come and share every waking moment or passing thought, no matter how trivial (because none of them are trivial), with me.  So if he's awake at 5.30, then Lord give me strength, so am I awake.  This makes me very tired, because unlike him, I do not go to bed at 8.30pm.

And now of course we have a puppy who sleeps through the night but needs to "use the restroom" first thing in the morning.  So I'm out in the backyard, at 5.30am in a cardie and woolly hat, rain, hail or shine (well, in the dark), keeping the puppy company while he does his business and making sure he doesn't terrorise the cat…

(Sorry Pluto, payback for all the times you scared Bongo.)

So I'm tired, ok?  Very Tired.  Have been since 2006.