Friday, August 26, 2022

Letter to Bobbin - nine years old

Happy Birthday Bobbin!

Another year around the sun, and another year of being a super cool kid.

It's hard not to lead with the coolest brag ever: you managed to become the youngest Black Belt our dojo has ever had at the age of 8. You absolutely nailed the grading; you were SO ready. I was anxious watching your katas because in the mock grading you got a bit nervous and you forgot some of the moves (that you could usually do in your sleep!). The Shihan reminded you that it's not about getting everything perfect, it's about how you recover from a mistake - funny that I can say it and it doesn't count but when the dojo crew say it, it does! Doesn't matter which way the message gets in, it helped take some pressure off, and on the grading day you sailed through the katas.

Your pushups were on point and your sparring was an absolute joy to watch. You dominated against people older than you, but the moment I was most proud of was when you pulled back a bit. A boy your age who was going for his brown belt was a bit intimidated by you; you advanced and connected some great shots, and it was a bit much for him and he cried and wanted to stop. You downshifted your momentum, made sure you didn't connect any more head shots, and moved to be more defensive than offensive, giving him an opportunity to rise. I was lucky enough to be filming you when it happened and I've rewatched it so many times - both to see how focused and determined you were in the first half of your bout with him, and to watch that gentle shift and see your compassion shine through in the second half. 

You even came away with two nominations for gradee of the day, which for a tiny little eight year old is impressive! Well, it's impressive to your mum at least. After over two hours of hardcore grading you went to a trampoline centre for a party and then spent the afternoon playing... your energy level is mindblowing.

You've always had a wicked sense of humour but your wit has developed so much in the past twelve months. I am forever laughing at the funny things you say; always using a biting wit with a touch of sarcasm to get your point across. Some of your one liners are so fast that it won't be long before I won't be able to keep up. The other day I said "Wow, what did I do to get such an awesome kid?" and you raised an eyebrow and said, dryly, "You had sex." I nearly keeled over laughing so hard.

Upside down continues to be your natural go-to position to be in. Handstands and bendbacks galore, and since you perfected your splits you usually do some combination of all of them with a flourish at the end. You're such a performer, singing and making up dances with your friends (or just in front of the mirror- half your time is in front of the mirror). I know you're getting a microphone from a friend this weekend, and I cannot wait to see you light up when you unwrap it. You're having a Dance Party that goes until 10pm and I can't decide whether I'm a cool mum or an idiot for doing it! You've asked for a Party Llama cake and have helped me create the Llamas party hat, and want to have a go at doing some of the icing. I'm so excited for you to give it a whirl.

You've been filming yourself creating all sorts of things, pretending you've got a YouTube channel. Sometimes it's you teaching people how to make different shapes with magic sand, or your own cooking show, or dance academy. The commentary is absolute gold to listen to. Recently you spent a weekend in Albany and used the GoPro to film yourself on the bike track with full commentary including a "oh crap, yeah careful on that corner, nearly fell off there". You have a passion to share knowledge and whilst you still talk about becoming a police officer, teacher is now firmly up there when you're asked what you'd like to be when you grow up.

I received the most amazing feedback from one of your teachers. She approached me to say you were an amazing human, wise beyond your years and a fantastic role model to your peers. She said you are the instigator of brilliant conversations and have educated your classmates about the LGBTQIA+ community. She said you inspired her. I was so blown away. I've always thought you were sensational, but I'll admit I'm biased so it was genuinely lovely to hear such glowing feedback. Your strength as an ally and advocate to your sibling makes me ridiculously proud. So much compassion and kindness in a tiny little package.

You helped create a placard and marched alongside Tricky and I to fight for LGBTQIA+ rights earlier this year. It wasn't your first protest, and I'm sure it won't be your last. You've created signs and posters to hang around the house and an 'all genders welcome' sign that you've proudly hung on the front door. It's fitting that your birthday falls on Wear It Purple Day this year! You make everyone feel welcome and that Social Justice streak in you is mighty strong.

Alfie is never far from your sight and you continue to smother him in cuddles at every possible moment. He still lets you dress him up and play, and even snuggles on your lap for a "bottle" (a spray bottle that he loves to drink from) that makes you melt. A few reminders to leave him be are needed because we all need personal space, even The Floof. You're desperate to grow up so you can walk neighbourhood dogs and even dog sit... maybe start by walking your own dog more often though, babes?

You continue to amaze me at all times. You never, ever stop, and are bouncing off the walls, cracking your knuckles constantly, talking a mile a minute, and can never sit still. That brain of yours works super fast and it's both beautiful and chaotic at the same time. You're an intriguing mix of confidence and reluctance, smart and silly, competitive and compassionate, strong and vulnerable. You're a beautiful imperfect whirlwind and I love you just the way you are.

Have a brilliant year, babycakes, it's double digits next time.

Love Mum x

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Letter to Bobbin - eight years old

Hey Smalls,

It's your birthday! EIGHT YEARS OLD! How did that happen? In my mind you're about four years old, and when I look at you I honestly don't know where the years have gone.

You continue to be ridiculously independent and love to do everything yourself. You like making snacks for yourself and for Tricky and his friends when they come over; you're a great little host. Your favourite thing to eat right now is two minute noodles, and even though you are a bit scared of using the stove after a little burn on your arm, you use really long tongs and stand a bit further back. I can see how proud you are of pushing through that fear of being burned again.

This morning you woke up and the first thing you did was run to Alfie. Yep, we got a new dog. After the pain of losing Sprocket last January, we surprised you and Tricky with a puppy in April that you had already named Alfie. You had already created a bed, too. You'd already done everything, actually, in preparation for a dog that you didn't know about. It was love at first sight. You squealed and later even cried because you were so overwhelmed with happiness. You and Tricks immediately introduced him to Sprocket's portrait and ashes, and you're both very careful to say that he's your favourite living dog, or favourite Groodle, to honour that Sprocket still has a huge place in your heart. In fact, you still bring flowers to a little shrine you created, and a few nights ago I found you sleeping with his ashes wrapped up in a furry jacket, secured with his collar. He's still so much a part of your life, and I love that.

Alfie is very patient with you (most of the time) as you dress him up in outfits and tiaras, play vets and groomers, and constantly pick him up and snuggle him. He's an excellent snuggler and you love it when he's on your bed, curled up with you. You asked for a wedding outfits for both of you so you could get married, and baby girl I delivered. A white fluffy dress for you, and a prince outfit for him, complete with crown. So now you're planning a wedding.

You absolutely nailed your brown belt grading! You powered through the katas and your sparring was excellent, I was so proud. But what made me even prouder was the way you were with Tricky, who attempted his black belt grading on the day but didn't get to finish. You were a gracious winner, and whilst we all still celebrated you with a special dinner, you didn't rub it in, and were always checking that he was OK, knowing it would be hard for him. The maturity you showed was astounding.

You're now only a few months away from going in to black belt prep classes! It will be interesting to see if you can keep up with pushup requirements for black belt because of the way your muscles and joints are. I have no doubt of your sparring, and when you remember to practice you can get the katas, but the fatigue that sets in with your bendy body will be a challenge for you. So you might be a black belt this time next year, we'll have to wait and see!

You've recently started tennis lessons on a Saturday morning and are loving it. Though you do appear to enjoy going around and picking up all the balls more than hitting them. You use the racquet to see how many you can do at once, a competition of sorts, and end up with so many you can only shuffle forwards without spilling them.

I'm surprised you didn't pick dance as your second sport. You are always singing and dancing at every opportunity. You make up songs and medleys and sing, sing, sing as much as you can. You spin and twirl around the place in leotards or fancy dress whenever you get the chance. Sometimes you'll be out the front on rollerblades and wearing a tutu, making up a song and dance routine on the neighbour's driveway. There's always time for a performance with you.

You are super creative and the craft trolley is always out while you create all sorts of lovely drawings and art work. Your favourite thing to do is to make personalised cards for people; your current teacher, your pre primary teacher, the neighbours, friends, me, Nanna and Pop... the list goes on. There's always a card or letter being written. You love playing teachers, too. You get out the whiteboard and line up your teddies to teach them. I even heard you recording in funny voices of your teddies saying "Good afternoon Miss Bobbin" so that you could have a more authentic classroom. You still want to be a police officer, but a teacher, a mum and a dog walker have made your list now.

Your Lego skills have shot up sharply these past twelve months, and you've started creating your own pieces; some from instructions that you find then modify, and some that you make up yourself. I'm so impressed with your NPU - nice part useage in Lego Speak. You love creating dioramas and, ofcourse, they always have dogs in them. You got a doggy daycare lego set today from your Albany Nanna and Pop and you flipped!

You have adjusted well to not having me around as much as I'm studying and working six days a week this year. It's tough on you when I'm not home to tuck you in to bed, but luckily two nights that I work you're allowed to stay up a bit later for mum cuddles in bed while we watch cute dog videos on Instagram together. I do love our cuddles, and our special not so secret handshake/kiss when I'm leaving or dropping you at school: I put a kiss in each of your hands to take with you, you do the same to me, then we touch noses, a kiss, and a hug. If I'm dropping you at school you then say "see you in the window" and you go to the front passenger window and make a loveheart with your hands, kiss your hands and then blow little thumb and finger hearts to me. It's been our routine for years, slowly having more bits added, and the heart hands are brand new this year. I have visions of it being ten minutes long by the end of primary school!

You are such a joy to be around, my girl. You're fabulous, funny, smart, creative, adventurous and sporty. You are exhausting in the best possible way. Keep planning your mammoth yes day that has been postponed yet again, and hopefully we'll get it and your birthday party organised and done soon.

Love you, cupcake.

Mum x

Friday, June 4, 2021

Letter to Tricky - eleven years old

Hey Bigs,

Happy birthday, my gorgeous kiddo.

What a year, hey? I wasn't sure if I was going to write this letter or if I was closing it off after ten years, but here I am. I think this might be it though? Rounding out your last year of primary school with your last letter? Who knows? It will be a hard tradition to give up because I love reading the old ones before writing the new one; adding another chapter to the book of you.

You've been a very independent kid for a few years now; roaming the streets on your bike, getting to and from school yourself a few days a week, and so forth, but the last six months in particular, you've increased this and taken on responsibility of taking Bobbin to and from school a few days a week, while I'm studying. It's been mostly good because, well, you're siblings, and sometimes you ride too fast for her!

I love the little messages you send me from your watch or Messenger Kids. Sometimes we'll talk in just silly emojis, but most of the time you're saying how you love me and think I'm an awesome mum. It makes me feel so good that you think so highly of me. I think the absolute world of you and your poo emojis.

Your black belt grading was rather contentious. You were runner up gradee of the day for your brown, and we knew you could kick butt for your black. You were super nervous though and didn't have that same energy from the last time. But you still did OK, or at least we thought so, until they sat you down. We were all so confused. We couldn't understand why you were being sat down when you were doing OK, and doing better than some others who were still going. I had heaps of video footage and even showing your instructors they did not understand why you'd been sat down. 

It was really hard for you, and the half dozen or so other kids that were also sat down. Your sister graded to brown that day and you did a bloody marvellous job of still celebrating her even though the wind had been knocked out of your sails. There was celebratory dinners booked, and I was so impressed with how you were able to balance your feelings.

All the kids that were sat down were from our dojo, and being graded by another dojo... that seem to be not on the greatest of terms. A bit sus. Even the organisers thought it was an unfair decision and instead of making you wait three months to try again as is the norm, you all were allowed to try again during that week. That's unheard of.

You felt really sick on the day; I thought it was just nerves and sent you along, even though I'd been a bit sick and wasn't well enough to come watch, I still thought it was nerves for you! You did a massive spew during your grading and that's not unheard of so we STILL didn't think it was sickness. But when you were sick as a dog for the next two days we realised you'd just done your black belt grading with gastro. Unbelievable! My ten year old black belt.

You've also started doing the leadership class at the dojo. You were asked to join years ago when they didn't know how old you were, because you would be focused and follow the class really well and they hoped you'd be able to guide others... but you were too young! We forgot about it a bit and then a few months ago we realised that hey, you're old enough now, and finally you stepped in. It's still new for you but you're getting the hang of being an assistant instructor. You like to help the orange and blue belts with their katas the most, and you're getting better at projecting your voice to award badges.

Grade six is an interesting year. You like your teacher, though you miss your teacher from last year terribly. You've got a nice group of friends and when you all get together it's fabulous, fun, and loud. Things are progressing and we're sending off high school applications! You were encouraged to apply for the GATE music school but decided you wanted to go where your friends were going, and since change is really hard for you, I think you made a great decision.

You're still loving trumpet, and we all swelled with pride hearing you sound The Last Post at dawn on Anzac Day on the driveway (those Covid hiccoughs have mostly gone away for our state, but there are a few here and there, and we were all in lockdown over that long weekend). You are still teaching yourself more and more songs on the piano, and have started creating music electronically, too. You have such a gift for hearing something and then playing it! Getting you to practice is not always easy though, mister.

In the last school holidays we got a new furry family member, Alfie. I surprised you with him and though you loved him instantly, it did take a while for you to adjust to having a puppy in the house. You are very protective of Sprocket's memory, and within about 20 minutes of having him home, you and Bobbin introduced him to Sprocky's portrait and ashes, telling tales of his "big brother". You are very cautious to say "best dog right now" not "best dog ever" because you worry about hurting Sprocket's feelings. When Alfie laid in the same spot in the garden that Sprocket loved, you asked me if maybe Sprocket's spirit was there? That maybe Alfie could feel it and was drawn to that spot because of it. I love how your brain is working and you're figuring out your own spiritual path.

You've dropped Muay Thai and taken up skateboarding instead. You spent your own money on a cool board and have been going to a nearby club to learn a few tricks. You were very timid and wouldn't drop in at the skate park; you would stand near the edge for ages, contemplating, weighing up the pros and cons, and then you'd step down, really annoyed with yourself. But after your second lesson you shouted "Hey, mum, watch me drop in" and suddenly you can drop in and do all sorts of things. You don't like some of the tricks though because you watched one kid break their board attempting it and you're convinced the same would happen to yours, so you just flat out refuse to give it a go. Not chancing a broken board that you worked so hard to save for.

You are still obsessed with games and aren't very happy with me that you're only allowed to play them twice a week. What can I say? I'm anti-screen. But you get online and play and chat with your friends; I love that you can use it to connect with the boys from your old school, and the bond you have with them is so strong.

We are still discovering how amazing your brain is and I can't wait to see what's next. You have some challenges ahead of you in the next six to twelve months, my gorgeous boy, but I promise I will be right here, helping you, advocating for you, pushing you along when you need it, and being your soft place to land when you fall.

I love you with every fibre of my being. You're my favourite Tricky ever ;)

Mum x

Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Vuly Good Backyard Makeover

Hasn’t it been the absolute weirdest year? Like so many people we have been spending more time at home, and even now with restrictions almost completely gone in WA, we are still little homebodies. It’s my socially anxious idea of heaven. Ahhh.

Staying home so much and looking at my tiny little boring, dust bowl of a backyard was a bit depressing though. It was brown and sandy with a few pot plants about the place. A little makeover was necessary.

MG ripped up all the old, very dead grass, injuring his wrist in the process. He plays a full contact sport and injured himself gardening. Top effort, mate. He had to rest it for a few weeks and then compacted the ground and laid some pavers while still in a splint - shh, don’t tell his doctor.

I chipped away old mortar from our back fence with a chisel and hammer, and spent eight hours scrubbing with acid and a wire brush before I re-pointed the fence. I’m extremely thankful for podcasts and YouTube instructional videos! Saving money and sanity one DIY tutorial at a time.

Annoying delays by the company laying the grass were sending me batty (seriously people, measure, don’t eyeball things!) but were all but forgotten though when it was finally time to set up the best trampoline for a small yard. 

She's a beauty!

We were extraordinarily lucky to be gifted a Vuly Ultra trampoline. We chose a small to fit perfectly in our little space. Even though it’s the smallest in the range it’s still big enough for two kids under 10 to play on. I fit on easily, too, able to bounce away with the shade in place since it’s 40cm taller than the nearest competitor. Yes, I jumped on it, why are you laughing? MG being over 6 foot tall hits his head on the shade if he bounces too high, so he’ll have to be a reserved jumper or take off the shade and bounce in the sunshine.

I love that the net has an envelope opening instead of a zipper that could accidentally be left open for someone to tumble through. There’s no calling out “close the flap!” and worrying someone is going to fall off. It’s also a very tight weave, meaning the kids can’t poke their fingers through. Because we all know that the second they put a finger through it becomes a larger hole and within a few days they’ll be seeing if they can fit two fingers and then a tennis ball. No chance of that happening here at all.

The kids haven’t gotten off it since it arrived. When she was absolutely exhausted from bouncing, Bobbin ran inside and reappeared with an armful of toys and a picnic set. Trampoline tea parties are the absolute best. It was a really hot day and the trampoline made the perfect setting with the shade cover over top and the breeze coming through underneath.

Physical fitness is really important for my two. They are both eyeing off new belts in martial arts soon so some extra cardio work is needed to get them through a gruelling 1.5-2 hour grading- bouncing on the trampoline provides a solid workout without the pounding of joints that running can bring. Plus it’s MUCH more fun!

Hearing that a friend has had a Vuly in their yard for eight years that looks almost new makes me think I have many, many years of sending the kids out to play ahead of me. Thank you Vuly!

Vuly Play is a leading designer of outdoor play equipment. From swing sets for kids, to monkey bars and trampolines, trust Vuly when it comes to quality and safety.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Letter to Bobbin - seven years old

Hey there Baby Cakes,

You are waking up to $2 from the tooth fairy and another year older today. In the future when you're looking back, I think the first six months of 2020 will stand out as a pivotal part of your childhood. 

But let's go back a bit first and get a few highlights. You came first in all three of your events in the ISKA tournament, sparring, sword fighting, and sumo. There were only three competitors in each event so it was a round robin style and you won each of your bouts. On paper it makes you state champion yet again, which I will never not find hilarious. You went on to absolutely nail your green belt grading, being one of only a few who knew it all on the day and didn't need the instructors giving hints or demonstrating. You're now up to your last tip on your green and will be heading for coloured tips next - I wonder if you'll be a brown belt for Christmas? Maybe the new year? You might be grading on the mats at the same time as Tricks!

Or maybe you'll take up a new sport? You've been getting in to rollerskating and rollerblading lately, after being gifted the coolest pair of pink sequined rollerskates from our friends. You will be having your first out-of-the-house birthday party at Rollerdrome on the weekend with a few of your friends and you can show off your new Rollerblades then, too.

You attended your first official concert with us as family at the ACDC Highway To Hell Tour extravaganza along Canning Highway. It was proof that bogan pride can in fact be genetically inherited. You. Did. Not. Stop! We joined in on smashing the Guinness World Record for the most air guitarists playing along at once, so don't forget to add that to your trophy cabinet - it's an air trophy so it won't take up much room. As the trucks rolled by with each new act you were on someone’s shoulders singing at the top of your lungs with your horns up, rocking out HARD. You got SO in to it that I could see flashes of your future (it was a bit scary). I thought you might get tired or bored but you did not stop the entire night, and partied all the way home too.

You started year one and it’s been a bit hit and miss. The work is easier because your last teacher saw how much you liked to be challenged and pushed you to go far. This year the assessments for IEPs only happened half way through term two and by then you were already bored and had gone backwards, and then a lil thing called Covid happened. 

We did some awesome homeschool activities, went on mini adventures (before everyone else pulled out of school - so we had Perth to ourselves!), and played a lot. You and your brother came up with the most creative games. A favourite of mine was when your house was the swing set and his was the driveway - he came over, knocked on your door and asked if you'd like to hear about god! I guess you guys overheard me singing Book of Mormon songs.

You really quite liked isolation. You wrote letters to your friends and we delivered them on bikes. You and Tricks made rainbows on the driveway with chalk like every other kid in the world, and then spotted teddies on the 168 walks around the streets we did each week to escape the house. You found great amusement in watching your grandparents learn how to videocall, and of course, the whole Nanna throwing chocolate off her balcony to you shenanigans that I wrote about in Tricky's birthday letter.

There were many other things, but they have all been dwarfed by the death of our beautiful Sprocket. You two were inseparable from the moment he noticed you as a strange new lump of flesh in the house when you were barely 24 hours old. You are driven towards all animals, but Sprocket, although technically a family dog, was yours. You were the last of us to meet him and yet he became yours, and you his.

As his pain grew you would write him endless get well soon cards and shower him in even more attention (if that was even possible). There were a few times in the last 18months that he had been unwell and we thought it might be close, so you and I had many conversations about death and dying.

We all went to the vet to ask how much longer they thought he had, and the vet said if we were thinking of it enough for us to have all gone in together, it usually meant that the time was right. I had said we were just going to talk to the vet and then all of a sudden it was happening in a few hours - I regret it. I feel like I lied to you, even though I genuinely didn't think it was something they would just do. He was in pain, and it was the right thing to do. I'm so sorry.

You used your pocket money to buy a little yellow dog charm for Sprocket and we put it on his collar. It tinkled as he walked and you were so happy to see it there. Your favourite colour, your favourite animal on your favourite pet. We set about creating and cementing in memories in the few hours we had left with our boy. You walked him around slowly as his legs were very sore. You sat and cuddled. You shook hands. You fed him a naughty final meal, his first ever cheeseburger. You laughed. You cried. You would smile and then a sadness would wash over you as you realised these were all 'lasts' and you were about to lose your shadow. Your best friend.

We had spent many hours talking about death in the months leading up to this, so you knew what was happening... yet at the same time, you didn't. You pointed out that it was good we sat where we did because when it was time to go, the car was right there and he wouldn't have far to walk on his sore legs... but he wasn't coming home, my love.

You patted and snuggled him gently as he drifted off to sleep and you told him how much you loved him. When his heart stopped you climbed on top of him, sobbing, leaving tear stains on his fur.

After a while you sat up and started shaking his head, slowly at first then more insistent, as if trying to wake him. You jiggled his legs; checked his eyelids; lifted his face to yours and examined him. When he didn't respond, you climbed back on top of him, wrapping your arms and legs all the way around and would not move.

Dad and Tricks left, and it was you, your Perth Pop and I still there for a while; stroking his soft fur and trying to commit everything about his physicality to memory. After half an hour it was time to go. As long as I live I will never forget how tightly you held on to him. As soon as I'd get one arm off you'd cling back on, not wanting to leave your best friend behind. I had to physically pry you from him as you wailed. With your legs wrapped around my waist and your arms reaching over me for him, you screamed for him as we left the room.

In the car park you had what I can only describe as a panic attack. You were clawing at your throat and gasping that you couldn't breathe. I held on to you and cried with you, sheltering you from some of the comments being made by another person there.  I showed you a photo of Sprocket on my phone and you calmed. In the tiniest voice you sang "Sprocky Sprocky ding ding". It was barely audible. Over and over again you sang it. You didn't say much else other than some yes and no answers; it felt like the only way you could communicate right then, so I just sung it back to you.

You created a shrine with pictures, cards and letters, all saying how much you love him and wish he would come back. Every single craft item you made was a dog. Every game you made up was about dogs. You made him from cardboard and brought him back to life in endless puppet shows. You made him from stacked kick shields and attached his lead. You wore his collar for weeks afterwards, sometimes even on outings, the little yellow dog charm you'd bought him tinkling as you walked. And you kept singing your soft, mournful Sprocky Sprocky ding ding song.

When his ashes arrived home you placed his collar around them and would not let them out of your sight. You fell asleep hugging them many nights and I still find them in your room sometimes. To this day he features in all your art work. You have asked me if you'll ever forget him and I can't imagine you ever will. You have a bond that not even death can break, my love. You carry him in your heart at every moment and I think you always will. Your heart has a dog-shaped hole in it, and you really want it to be filled. One day, baby girl. I promise.

You are smart and sassy, and much more sensitive than you make yourself out to be. You are as loud as can be and go one million miles an hour. You can’t stop talking, can’t sit still, and are distracted by anything and everything, particularly your own reflection! You make the silliest faces and half of our photos of you are so ridiculous it’s fantastic. You astound us daily with your vocabulary and understanding of the world around you. You are strong and resilient in the face of complicated medical issues that cause you to be in pain every day. You are confident and headstrong, kind natured and laugh-out-loud funny. You push all of my buttons and you make the world a better place. Happy seventh birthday, my pocket rocket missy moo.

Love Mum x

P.S. You're probably wearing glasses or contact lenses right now when you're reading this because with your genetics it's practically a given. They're annoying, right? I need you to know you chucked a little tanty the other week when you had an eye test and got 20/20 vision. You have worn fake glasses on and off  for years to do important work and reading, and lately you've been wearing them as much as you can. You were so envious that Tricks was getting some and you weren't!


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