Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chimps with Ukuleles

Dear Daughter,

Here is a lovely song from Joseph Arthur.

This long weekend you finally worked out how to turn yourself around on to your stomach. The tricky part was your arm and I realised also your head. Once I worked out that you could do it if you just raised your head I gave you a few little nudges so you could understand what needed to be done. Soon after you started doing it yourself. You made such a racket working it all out. When you turned on your own the look on your face was unforgettable. It was almost triumphant. It feels really good seeing you progress along.

I learnt the song 'I'll see you in my dreams' on the Ukulele.
I love that song. You really love when I play to you. Your face just lights up, it is so lovely to be able to sing to you and make you happy. I spend heaps of time with you when I am home. I am very lucky that I can. Actually I shouldn’t be modest about this, its because I DO rather than I can.

You really enjoy sitting in your rocker in the kitchen and watching us do housework. I think you like watching all the hustle and bustle. I was listening to a talk on why humans took that next step and left the apes behind. They did studies with 2 1/2 years old and chimpanzees, giving them the same tasks. It works out that chimps can remember where food is much better but the children will learn how to do tasks in new ways by mimicking. The chimps will always stick to the old way of doing tasks despite being shown. Its interesting stuff really. Somewhere along the line the concept of improvement was applied to learning. Im sure we will see the perfect example of this in you over the coming years. Lets hope you get as smart as this fella

Love Dad

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Flipped out

Dear Daughter,

Exciting news - you flipped over. From front to back and first nearly back to front, so close. Its amazing watching as you slowly work things out bit by bit. You were using the gym as foot leverage. You were getting frustrated and crying. Mum was telling me to help you but I said to give you a bit more time. Life is about getting through these struggles and dealing with it. That lesson needs to start early. I knew you werent too upset. Eventually I gave you just a little nudge as it was long enough. I got video footage of it.

Love Dad

Monday, March 17, 2008

Look out Snoopy

Dear Daughter,

My Dad reminded me of an incident when I was a little one. I would have been very young. We had recently added little Brutus the Chihuahua to the clan and he must have been going through his teething stage, because I discovered one morning that he had assualted my teddy by chewing off his nose. My teddy was very special to me. He had been through a lot and had been thrown up on more times than anyone cares to remember, me being a sickly child and all. I recall after a particularly big chuck that we had to put Teddy into the washing machine. I was concerned for his safety so I stood in the laundry with the washing maching lid up watching him going round and round in the soapy whirlpool. I kept apologising to him but I don’t think he was in the mood, he just looked straight up at the ceiling and refused to respond. So you can imagine Teddy's mood when I came upon him lying on the floor minus a nose. I picked him up and took him down to show Mum and Dad what had happened. I didn’t have to say anything myself because Teddy could speak for himself. We walked into the bedroom and I held Teddy up in front of me so he could show my Mum and Dad what had occurred. They looked questioningly at Teddy and his missing appendage, to which his response was (in a voice that mimicked someone who had no nose) "I thuppose you fink dats funny!".

We bought the book 'Save Our Sleep' so your Mum has been reading through that every chance she gets. Not that you are any problem in this regard. Its just that we want to make sure we are setting up good sleeping habits and patterns for you. Up to this point we have waited until you are ready yourself and that has been between 8 to 9pm. The book tells us that sleep time should be 7pm so this is what we are working on doing. Last night you had a very short sleep after some drink and then we put you on the play gym (you are grabbing the toys and holding them now, more on that in a second), you got a little snooty after a while and so we put a bottle in hot water to feed you. Next thing we know you are fast asleep. It was great timing because we got to watch Biggest Loser. Then you woke up again and we gave you a little bit of drink and put you in bed by 8pm. So the transition to earlier bed has so far been working well. You have been a dream. I have said this earlier but the last couple of weeks I have become totally smitten with you. You have me for life.

We took you over to the Grandparents so we could go out to lunch and you could spend some time with the Grandparental units. We had a lovely lunch then went shopping for a while. After an hour or so of this we got totally bored and just wanted to see you again. We arrived back at the house and found you asleep. Apparently you had been a bit sooky and had cried a bit. Maybe you were missing us too.

Back to the play gym. It has been interesting watching you reaching out for the swinging toys above you. Slowly but surely you have been getting your hands near them and now you can grab them and hold them for a while. The strange thing is that once you know where they are you tend not to look at them while you make a grab. I think this is just putting two and two together. Eventually you will figure out that looking and grabbing together works a treat. The biggest change we have seen has been with the spinning toy and another one I hold that has a little star wheel that spins. Amazingly you have watched me do this and now you are reaching up and spinning them yourself, not grabbing. Its almost hard to believe but it is clear you are trying to spin them because you are getting better and better at it. So feel proud of yourself.

I have started calling you Snoopy. Go figure.

My favourite thing in the world to do right now is pick you up and give you a big kiss. At this stage you are not complaining so im taking advantage of this and will get a lifetimes worth of kisses in a few months. When I hold you im kissing the back of your head. When im burping you im kissing your head. When im changing you im blowing rasberries on your tummy. Im waiting for the time that you actually find that amusing. You are taking great comfort in our hugs at the moment. We also have a lovely time sitting together after a bottle watching the TV together. I have one hand round your back and one hand holding your left foot. I do this with the dogs too actually, how weird is that.

It is an amazing thing to know that we are picking up your sounds and interpreting them correctly. Makes us feel like we are on the right track.

Another thing I am doing with you every day is playing the Ukulele. You just love it. I have played Over the rainbow, The wheels on the bus, Twinkle twinkle and Incy wincy spider (which I have beeen singing Itsy Bitsy spider until your cousin came over and sung it while I was playing). I make sure I spend time communicating with you and then also letting you do your own thing so you are not reliant on being entertained. I love our quality time though, sometimes I have to tell myself to leave you be.

Love Dad

Friday, March 14, 2008

Like Father look like Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Mum said she saw you grab your feet for the first time. I can also hand you things to grab and you will hold them quite well. You are just on the threshold of figuring all this out. I love watching the concentration on your face as you look at the toys swinging above you. It is obvious you would love to grab them and stick them in your mouth.

I saw more photos that Grandpa brought over of me as a kid. Good lord do we look alike. If you stay looking like me I guess I can see what you will look like. I got my Dads shaped eyes, my Mums were much rounder, just like your Mum. You have my shaped eyes it seems. Is that a good or bad thing?

I must also point out that over the past two weeks something has changed in me again. I find now that I am just loving spending lots of time with you and don’t have that little pang of annoyance I was getting when you slept less than expected or whatever. Remember my earlier post about this? Now I am finding that I look forward to your waking up so I can kiss you and hug you and play talking games. Im really enjoying your company in other words. Perhaps this is just the normal progression of things. Firstly change can shock you and your mind rejects it, then after a while you get used to the new way of things and that becomes the new normal.

I am having more success at feeding you than Mum is at the moment, while she is having much more success getting you to sleep when you are in the cot. What a team.

Love Dad

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The war on Possomism

Dear Daughter,

We have just had a long weekend. My battle with the possums continues. So far they have been winning the battles but they will not win the war. Over the past couple of years they have been desimating our oak tree and waking me up with their noises just outside the bedroom window. Im sick of it and have been fixing it so they cannot get to the tree any more. I have put a chicken wire fence right across the roof, I have chopped back the holly tree so they cant jump across to that. I have been trying to prevent them coming along the power line and also have put plastic around the tree trunks. Each evening at dusk I head outside and see where they are getting in to the tree. Last night I thought I had finally blocked all their access points but then I heard a rustling in a smaller tree next door and somehow they managed to grab the end of a branch on the gum tree and drag themselves up it. I couldn’t believe how clever these buggers are. So this afternoon I am removing that limb. Lets see how they fare then!

Mum said that you should be able to grab hold of things now so we tried that out. You still cannot quite grab things and hold them yet but I did put a grabbing toy in your hand. You held on to it for a little while. Its still kinda weird that you are progressing according to how all the books predict.

It is incredible to see you use your voice more each day. Finding new sounds and using certain sounds to express yourself. We know your hungry cry now. Im almost certain that you have a singing voice you use when we are singing to you. You have your very happy high pitched yelp and your converstional monkey like ooh ooh which is my favourite. When we make you smile you make this funny kind of high pitched sound that starts croaky. We are recording what we can so you will be able to hear it for yourself I hope.

This was also the big move for you. You are now in your cot. This was an exciting development. I cant believe the pace of all this. Today you are 3 months old. It has been an amazing time. Sometimes a sleepy blur and other times a thrill of discoveries for both yourself and us. The cot move happened over the weekend during the day only. But Mum decided that we should just keep you in there so you could get used to it. The first day you kept waking up; I imagine it was a little strange to open your eyes and see new things around you instead of the white cotton walls of your bassinet. Its like when you first went into that, you had all this room to grow and already you are a bit too big for it so now we are back to you being a tiny thing in a big bed. And now we will see you fill up this space as well. Do you know I was walking at 7 months, I really hope you don’t follow my lead.

Most people are saying we are the spitting image of each other. I must admit I think so too. Looking at the baby photos of me it is amazing. I am sure that you will look more like your Mum when you get older. Did I mention that someone said they think that most babies look like their father so the fathers will not reject them. This has some truth to it. Looking way back in the tribal days where there was no such thing as monogamy. Evolution had to find a way to ensure that the child would be protected. By looking like the father they would know whos it is and that male would want to protect the baby. Its interesting, I wonder if this has been studied? Well I googled this and found a NY Times article that does seem to offer this as a possibility. Another study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior in 2003, seems to support this as well.

Goodness are you drinking a lot more now. Yesterday you just kept drinking. I mean hundreds of mils kept disappearing down your throat. We will need to be on the big bottles soon.

You have also started to fall asleep wherever you are. On the play gym and the rocking chair of yours. I watch you start to slow your movements and your arms begin to hang to your sides. Then your eyes get heavy and whammo, sleeping baby.

On Sunday I bought you a Mother Goose CD and a Play School CD. They are really terrific. Oh and I went over to your Grandparents house with your Grandpa actually there for the first time in a few years. Your Mum is a wise soul. She said she is filled with so much love for you that she just cannot be bothered holding on to any bad feelings any more. So a few weeks back she went over so your Grandad to see you for the first time. And he fell in love with you the second he saw you. Couldn’t stop saying how beautiful you are. As for me, well I have sort of reacted the opposite and got angrier at people. But I have taken your Mums advice in this matter and so I went over as well. He didn’t say hello to me and so I just sat on the ground talking to you. I guess it was good for him to see how doting I am on you as he really doesn’t know me at all. Then when we were leaving he was in the backyard and I was holding you. So I went back there and said say goodbye to grandpa. Your Mum thinks this would have been a big thing for him and he did follow us to the car to say goodbye. So this is a big lesson that you can never be truly certain of anything or anyone. Sometimes you have to listen to others and do what might first appear against the grain if it means good will come of it.

As this diary continues I will try and remember key songs that I believe are quintessential tracks to hear. So the first song I wish to add is -:

'What becomes of the broken hearted' which was originally a hit by Jimmy Ruffin who I know nothing about. It is one of those key songs in the Motown era. The house band who recorded so many of these great songs - The Funk Brothers play on this track. In the wonderful film Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, Joan Osborne does an incredible version of this song. It was quite shocking because she blew the others out of the water, this little croaky voiced white girl showed the most 'soul'. It also comes in at an emotional moment in The Wonder Years show. Its that bitter sweet line "But happiness is just an illusion, filled with sadness and confusion" which effected me the most.

'Love Is Stronger Than Death' by The The.
The whole Dusk album came at the right time for me, it struck a chord. Songs that dealt with desperation and sadness but also filled with a sense that good things will come if you just allow it. It was me made into an album. At that time I was desperate to understand what love meant. I was battling my self doubt and just trying to learn from my experiences. The message in this song was extremely simple but totally effective. I love his line "Me and my friend were walking, In the cold light of mourning" (no not a spelling mistake). It starts off as this dark and desolate scene only to turn it on its ear and tell us that tears may blind your eyes but the soul is not deceived. It then bursts into this unabashedly joyous chorus in which springtime has arrived and the tears have dried. That everything that dies will rise because love is stronger than death. In the second verse he talks about hungering for what we cant have and not saying the things we want to say because we are too afraid of rejection. But in the end the spirit will speak and be a guide for us to be more than we are if we only listen. It also links with my belief in the Kundalini. The last lines are Shall rise Shall rise. As far as the album info, Johnny Marr of The Smiths played guitar on it. I remember an interview with the Producer and him saying that is the only album he ever produced that he kept listening to just because he loved it so much. I love the sound of this album in that it had space and yet still have a real atmosphere to it. This song proves that you don’t have to be complicated to make a song sound great. His album Infected was also voted album of the decade somewhere.

'Silent All These Years' by Tori Amos - I get emotional just thinking about this song. Im not one to always get lyrics, they either grab me and I take something from them or I tend to think of them as just sound. Even this song I couldn’t tell you what it means exactly, its just a few lines and the music itself that get me. Her lyrics are never obvious and are like abstract paintings that mean very different things for each person. This is an album for women, THE album for women or girls becoming women. Specific words jump out at me as separate ideas rather than a jigsaw puzzle. Like a Ginsberg poem in that those words together just work. "I got the anti-christ in the kitchen yelling at me again". "Your eyes focus on my funny lip shape, "So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts". Actually there isnt a line that isnt beautiful in its own right. The section that makes me tear up is I guess the bridge in which it cresecends in sound and emotion. The lines are repeated in delay and then come back together again at the peak and then suddenly the song is quiet again. Wow, just inspired songwriting at its best. When I read it back now, I am reminded of another song on the album called Me And A Gun which is a very literal account of her being raped. I now realise that this song is also perhaps about that. When I think of it that way the line "boy you best pray that I bleed real soon" takes on a different meaning. I always took this line in the sarcastic sense. So I guess this is different to the other songs I have mentioned because it makes me think about women who have suffered more than anything related to my own life.

Love Dad

Friday, March 7, 2008

Stepping out - A comedy

Your Mum has decided to try wrapping you with your arms out now. It’s a calculated risk but you always end up with your arms out anyway. The risk is that you keep hitting yourself in the head and waking yourself up all the time.

We all had our first night out. We went to a family friends home to see the renovations. I was a little nervous about how you would go. I thought it might upset you by us changing the routine. But as our friend pointed out, you have to fit into our lifestyle not the other way around. In the end you were fantastic as usual and we intend to do this more often. A point of contention was about whether we wake you up if you are asleep to take you out. We still tend to think its better to let you wake up yourself. We believe your sleep is important for your development and we need to be flexible about it. What we did was open all the doors and made more noise and eventually (30 minutes) you woke up. Our friend believes you just wake a baby up but I don’t agree. We have found that it seems to mess with your clockwork too much and you find it hard to settle for hours after.

You found your big laugh today. Mum called up and I got to hear you. There is a few laughs actually. A really high one and one with lots of aaahs. You were on your rocker which you now love kicking your legs like mad which makes it rock (you discovered how to do that yesterday). We were very excited by this development as it is very funny to listen to you make these sounds and you can see the excitement in your eyes as you find your voice.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Happenings both home and abroad

Looking back at this week I think there has been some big developments going on. The most obvious is that you are reaching out to grab things now. You look like you have cerebal palsy still, arms don’t go exactly where you want them to, but its getting there. This means that you are now aware that you have arms. You are also tending to smile only to the people you really know instead of anyone. This means that you recognise individuals by sight and you are understanding those who you see most often.

Another big thing has been your attempts to roll on to your front. You are getting so close to success; your arms go over and then your leg; your head is facing the floor and its just that last little roll that isnt quite happening.

We got some great nursery rhymes from the library as well as a great DVD with music and different shapes to stimulate your brain. You love both of them. Mum was saying that your memory is getting better at this stage so when she puts the CD back on you get excited as you recognise the songs. I went and bought a Ukulele yesterday so I didn’t have to lug a big guitar to you, it just wasn’t happening. This is much much better. I played you a little song I made up on the walk home from the station (I must have looked like a wandering minstral) and you really enjoyed it. I cant wait to learn lots of songs for you. The aim is to create consistency for you at nights. Massage, Bach, quiet and a bedtime song (which I want to be See You In My Dreams).

Yesterday morning because it was so hot, Mum left you in the living room. Problem with that is I get up in the morning for work and have nowhere to get ready without waking you up. So we tried to creep in and pick up the bassinet and take it into your room. You were already stirring so by the time we were carrying you to the room you opened your eyes, saw me and started smiling away - "Hello Daddy, I see you". It is impossible to ignore your smiles, they are so cute. Mum and I just grinned at each other. But I kept quiet and we closed the door so Mum could express some milk and I could keep getting ready for work.

I was listening to a Podcast on an event I completely forgot about. I cant even remember where I heard it but as soon as I heard the first few bars I remembered. It was Marvin Gaye singing Stars and Stripes at the 1983 NBA All Star Game (it was also his last televised performance before his death). It really connected with people and became one of those happenings. Happenings are in my mind events that can have a profound impact on people and become part of cultural identity or even the global identity. Its an event that people talk about and remember for the rest of their life. Here are some I thought of quite quickly -

Marvin Gaye performance - nothing like this had ever been done before at a more conservative event. An interpretation of the national anthem. Its shook the country. Apparently the rehearsal went really badly.

This wasn’t a happening for me but I cant leave it out because it was even bigger than Gayes version. It spoke to a generation of Americans, most of them were hippies!

Australia 2 wins Americas Cup. This one I remember very well. I was screaming along with everyone else. I was watching it live at about 6am in the morning in the living room and it was a historic win (America had won it since 1851). It was a collective celebration. Its sort of the moment that Australia grew up and was recognised. It was the single biggest sporting moment in our history. It didn’t matter that most people knew nothing about it before this. I went crazy. To me it is these kind of happenings that prove there is a collective unconscious. The special winged keel which was kept a secret added to the mystique. Also read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_II

Muhammad Ali lights Olympic torch 1996. This has never left me. I was in tears watching this great man light the cauldron. There is so many levels going on here. He was the greatest most recognised sportsman ever and a great man to boot. Then there is his parkinsons which showed the world that nobody is infallible. It was such a shock to see him there for both these reasons. Nobody could have guessed he would be there as he really never appeared in the media. I suggest you watch Rumble in the jungle to understand what the fuss is about. It was a worldwide event, a great moment in history.

Kathy Freemans at the Sydney Olympics was also up there. The most shocking was the 92Barcelone Cauldron lighting. This guy had to practice and practise to ensure he got it right.

MASH - goodbye, farewell and amen. Ok so it’s a TV show, but it was the longest running show at that time and when it finally ended it was a really big deal. It helped that the final episode was amazing. The end of something like this is almost heart breaking. Its like a death. Something like 85 million people watched this final show. That is incredible. Think about it. The most personally emotional final show for me was The Wonder Years. I watched it with Martin and then on the drive home I had to stop the car because I was sobbing. It represented the end of my innocence as well. Time to become an adult, it was the death of my youth. A watershed moment. A great final episode can be almost unbearable to watch because it hurts so much.

Michael Jackson Moonwalks - Motown 25 years- 1983. This was worldwide news which is a little weird in some ways. But I think the combination of an amazing dance step never seen before with such and incredible song was enough to cause ripples and herald a new mega stars arrival. People saw this few seconds and just went WHAT WAS THAT! Thriller came along soon after this. He was totally unique and the world had not seen anything like this since the days of the musical in the 20s and 30's. I only saw it on the news, not the whole performance. In fact it was years before I finally saw it all. This was before the likes of youtube!

Princess Diana dies - well this was a big shock as well. Again im not a royalty fan or anything but I felt this collective shock at her death and I guess the media coverage which was exhausting makes it hard for you not to be involved. She was a good woman who got screwed over. The world was a lesser place without her.

Kurt Cobain dies - John Lennons death was bigger but I just have no memories of it. Not sure why really. But this one really rocked me. I was so upset by his feeling like he had to take his own life. It was sad but also the worst possible thing for our generation. He spoke to a lot of disillusioned people and whether he liked it or not he was someone we looked to for inspiration. I grew up in a generation of no heros and very few people you could look up to. I don’t really think there were any great people for the youth to gravitate towards. The 80's were all about making money and personal gain. Our movies and music really show this. I just had a hard time with what Kurt did and still think that a few years and he would have been relatively left alone. There are also the obligatory conspiracy theories that he was murdered.

9/11 - not much I can say about this one that isnt really obvious. It’s the biggest thing to happen in my life because America is so similar in many ways to us. It is certainly not the worst thing that has happened in my time; bombs go off killing hundreds far too often in the Middle East. But again this was about the footage, images that burnt into your brain. It was always going to be a spectacle, a macabre blockbuster. Compare this to the killing fields in Cambodia which happened when I was a child and you see that it pales in comparison .(The executed were buried in mass graves. In order to save ammunition, the executions were often carried out using hammers, axe handles, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. Some victims were required to dig their own graves; their weakness often meant that they were unable to dig very deep. The soldiers who carried out the executions were mostly young men or women from peasant families. Estimates of the number of dead range from 1.7 to 2.3 million out of a population of around 7 million.) But because we actually got to witness the gigantic buildings crashing down it was always going to be given more impact than it deserved. I don’t pretend not to be a media voyeur so I was glued to the TV for days.

Watching Breakfast Club for the first time - this was the film of my generation. It spoke to me so completely. Martin and I would watch this all the time, must have seen it well over 100 times. We knew pretty much all the lines and would turn the volume down and do the lines ourself. Im not sure if it will mean anything to you or not. I wanted to be Judd Nelson and I did start dressing like him and growing my hair. I think we were the pissed off generation. We had issue with authority, sub cultures were popping up everywhere from goth to sporto's to geeks. All of a sudden it became really important for you to fit into a category and define yourself by that. Music, film and fashion started to break into sub categories and it was really the end of the super groups that everyone listened to. There was no Beatles or the like. U2 were the closest thing. Nobody wanted to be ordinary any more and the influence of media really started to have an impact on peoples perceptions. At the time I thought it all very dull. But then as a group we all made a point of looking pissed off. It was our shtick.

The Young Ones Episode 1. This was my cult TV show. It was rude, silly, crazy and spoke to our generation of dissefected youth. I mentioned before how things started to get broken down into sub groups. Genres of music became much more obvious and having these four very different characters living together was the perfect expression of this. It is hard to explain how entrenched this show got in our lives. We could literally go for hours just saying quotes from the show. It became part of our language, much like the Simpsons did later. It was a huge part of my youth and that first time I sat down and watched what all the fuss was about, I was in teenage heavan.

Ash Wednesday. This was a really scary time. Major fires were occuring all around the Yarra Valley. I remember walking out on the patio, it was pitch dark and in the distance I could see a red glow and all around me white ash was falling like snow. It was apocalyptic and may have fueled my obsession with that genre.

Protest march against the war in Iraq - 2006. I had never been involved in a march before. I am not community minded enough which is a failing. But this war was so obviously wrong and motivated by greed that I was compelled to join along with the many many thousands in voicing my outrage. I went with Charles and we really felt like we were part of something very special. A collective voice and mind marching down Swanston Street to the City Square. It was very emotional and very spiritual in a way. When a collective of people all have their attention on one thing it can be very powerful. It didn’t help much really because these people just do what they want anyway, however it did end up contributing to the downfall of both John Howard and UK PM Blair who agreed to send troops to aid America in this illegal invasion. It is a fascinating psychological phenomena to realise that it is the US that has committed acts of evil on a scale never seen before using chemical weapons of mass destruction (Hiroshima) and yet we ignore that and fear the middle eastern guy who in the end didn’t even have any built! There is no videos from Melbourne but watch this one.