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!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Letter to Tricky - ten years old


Two whole hands. Though it's been a few years since we've counted in hands, isn't it? You're a tween now and as I look back on photos, it is so hard to believe we have spent an entire DECADE loving you.

The last few months have been very strange. By the time you're reading this you'll probably go "oh yeah, that was the Covid19 year". We isolated early to protect you, your grandparents, and the community. You were sad to leave school as your teacher this year is amazing and has been the first to ever "see" you.

We had three amazing weeks of homeschooling. I genuinely adored it. You became pen pals with your friends down the road, baked, learned all about climate change, did amazing art, AMEB music, and went on socially-distant adventures. You rode your bike, played make believe, read books, did martial arts, and never have I been happier that your Dad and I have strict screen rules. You barely touched a screen (outside of education things like Reading Eggs and Mathletics) the whole time, instead using your marvellous imagination.

Our school holidays were unlike any we've ever had. Instead of going out every day to do an activity, we stayed home. And much to my surprise, you said you like it better. So I am keeping it in mind for next time. After a few more weeks it was time to go back to school... and you didn't want to go. Which was weird because your home teacher was very sweary and a bit shouty and your school teacher (your favourite teacher EVER) is never like that ;) But it was a lot safer now, and, well, after seven weeks with us all crammed together, I was hitting my limit. You and your sister can be annoying as fuck sometimes, either besties or bickering and picking on each other - but that's your job, you're a tween (but seriously, stop picking on your sister).

I hope you remember this strange time fondly. There has been some real shitty moments - being home all the time, in each other's faces has put a strain on everyone, and martial arts online has been VERY hard for you (and me). But there has been so much good. Like secret adventures, camping and bonfires in the backyard, picnics in the park and tying string to a bag and hoisting up presents to your grandparents on their third floor balcony. I really hope you remember Nanna saying she'd throw some chocolate down and us all shouting out no... only for her to do it and it land on the bloody awning below (a nice man got a ladder and rescued it!). 

You have gotten in to body boarding - and it seems like we're at the beach every week now. You used your own money to buy a lime green board, even splurging for quick shipping (are you even my kid?). When you found out one of your besties body boards too, well, it was even more fun then. You are unrecognisable from the kid you were a few years ago. The kid who refused to get water on his face. Who screamed at every hair wash. Now? You're getting in the waves, getting dunked and loving it. A few times you've gotten out of the water and I've asked you "Hey, where did that kid go?" and you positively beam with pride. BEAM.

Your hair is past your shoulders (this week you were proud to have it long enough for a man bun). When people meet you for the first time, most of them call you a girl. "Girls, can you bring your books here" or at Christmas time "Did you want a photo of your girls with Santa?". You've shrugged it off. You and your sister have been raised as feminists and know that gender is displayed in myriad ways, and sometimes people make assumptions.

This time last year I said you were near your brown belt and now you are over half way through and nearing your black belt. You have four tips on your brown and despite this hiccup (the afore mentioned online classes being awful for you), it's likely still on track. Your Muay Thai grading is all over the shop thanks to continual administrative errors, and different people telling us different things – it has thrown you, but as it’s not your main discipline, you’ve been able to move on pretty quickly.

You entered two events in the latest ISKA tournament, coming first in traditional katas (Lull Before The Storm) and second in sparring - it was controversial, quite a few people thought you should have won, but things have fallen in your favour before when it came close to the line and this time it didn't. So we chalked it up as experience and focused on the fact that holy shit, you came second in a field of twelve in your "weakest" area, against a kid who had a good 10kg on you. You nailed that second and deserved your place on that podium.

You were chosen to be a part of the music program at school and selected trumpet, just like your dad. You wanted cello but I didn't want to lug one around - you can do that one later. For Christmas Dad passed his trumpet down to you and it's really cool to have it in the family. I always feel so proud when I hear you play, but dude, I’d love to hear it more. You HAVE to practice, mister! You've taught yourself piano... a friend showed you a piece he'd been learning in his piano classes and you copied him. So, that was, um, interesting. You watch YouTube, learn the pieces you like in a day or two, and commit them to memory. I'm astounded. You have musical genes, but bloody hell, mate.

Your perfectionist tendencies are still there, stronger than ever, and whilst they reflect very positively on your report card (almost straight As except for the C in sport which is hilarious since you're a brown belt), it causes you a great level of anxiety if you mess up. You like things to be right and pick on your sister if she gets things wrong, even though she hasn’t learned what you’ve learned yet. The mantra we say together now is “does it matter?” and you are getting better at thinking whether this grievance actually matters in the moment or if it’s something you can let slide (again, stop fucking picking on your sister - and don't you worry, I say this to her, too). 

Our old boy, Sprocket died in January and it was an incredibly sad time. You were so brave. You patted him and said your goodbyes despite wanting to run away as far and as fast as you could. I was so proud of you for making the choice to stay in the room so he could be surrounded by his favourite people as he took his last breaths. Sprocket was older than you and you didn’t know a world without him in it. You weren’t besties with him like Bobbin, but you loved him, you loved him being around, and you miss him.

I wonder, as you’re looking back on this (are you 18? 19? when you’re reading this?) if you remember your toy giraffe Jeramy (yes, that’s how you spelled it). Jeramy was lost. You were absolutely devastated. You made him years ago at a school holiday bear workshop and had celebrated his birthday every year since. He was the only stuffed toy you ever paid any attention to, and when you realized he was gone we moved heaven and earth to find him. We pulled the house apart. Three times. I emailed local shopping centres and put out the call over Facebook in case anyone had found him. But he couldn’t be found. You wrote him a letter and it was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read. You hoped he was safe; on an adventure instead of wet or burned or laying in the dirt somewhere. You apologised just in case you had done something to make him leave. You wrote about how he brought you comfort and held your secrets, and signed off saying you were his dad, that you’d always love him and that you’d never give up hope of finding him. You knew he was a toy and yet he was so much more. We still celebrated his birthday with a cake. It was a bittersweet day. After four months of him being gone you asked for a new soft toy and chose a Zebra, because it was the type of animal to hang out with giraffes. You called him Smartie. He sleeps in your bed and has brought you comfort as you’ve transitioned through these periods of grief and isolation stress.

Your resilience, in light of your struggles astounds me. Getting back up after the falls is what true resilience is, and whilst you might see it as being knocked down more than others, I see it as getting back up more than others. Many things are not easy for you, and you keep trying. It’s amazing. You’re fucking brilliant and I’m in awe of you. I know that you will continue to try and I will help you along the way as much as I can.

The next year will no doubt bring just as many highs and lows as this year. You’ll probably be roaming the streets with your mates, zooming around the bump tracks with Dad with your brand new bike (it’s red, it goes faster). Playing Rocket League and asking for more screen time. Kicking your way through the tips and ranks at martial arts. Powering through school and trumpet. Reading like there's no tomorrow and engineering some wild and creative construction with Lego. I am so privileged to be able to watch you grow. My kind, funny, thoughtful, smart, sensitive, sporty, focused, beautiful boy. I love you more than you could ever possibly know.

Mum x


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