Reflections on motherhood...


Monday, March 31, 2014

The Sailor's movie meanderings: Cuban Fury

Last week, The Sailor's Grandma was visiting, so we took her to Cuban Fury.

It's a familiar plot line.  Underdog Bruce (overweight, middle-aged, single guy) can't get a girlfriend, and must rediscover his talent for Salsa dancing in order to do so.  It's not spoiling the movie to say that he does.

The comedy is in how he gets there, complete with nasty dance teacher, a Will Ferrell-lookalike and act-alike asshole boss who also wants the affections of this girl and will stop at nothing to thwart Bruce's attempts at romance, a gay Middle Eastern salsa-dancer (he has the best lines), and mates and family to cheer Bruce on.

The Sailor's quite keen on a bit of music and dance, often insisting on both to get to sleep, so it's no surprise he enjoyed this movie.  First he managed to do one of those outfit-ruining sharts, but this time the lack of subtitles meant changing him in the dark was not so difficult.  He then settled in for a nap to wait for the real music and dance to start.

There are a fair few laugh-out-loud moments here, as well as a bit of cute thrown in.  The writers and directors of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are onto a winning formula with that awkward British The Office-style humour and a bit of slapstick thrown in for good measure.  With both British and American humour types covered, the film will have broad appeal.

It's unlikely to win any awards, but I recommend it for an outing with your mother-in-law.  Funny, a bit crass, and feel-good.  And the music was so toe-tappingly good that The Sailor, upon waking from his nap, insisted I get up and dance with him for the last half hour.  I would have preferred to stay seated, but he insisted, reasoning that I needed to start working on that baby flab.  More on that crusade later.

Rating: *** (worth leaving the house for)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Sailor's movie meanderings: The Monuments Men and Wadjda

The Sailor insisted we see two movies last week: The Monuments Men and Wadjda.

I wasn't so sure about George Clooney's latest offering, but The Sailor reasoned we should get out of the house, even if George wasn't such a great incentive.  The Monuments Men is the *true* story of how the Americans heroically saved almost all of Europe's great works of art from destruction by Hitler during WWII.

It's like George Clooney, after reading the novel of the dramatisation of the true story, decided it would be fun to get all his best mates together to make a film.  He's managed to collect together a bunch of his favourite actors to make up the unlikely band of stragglers that are the platoon tasked with rescuing the art that defines civilisation (*ahem*).

This movie should have been called The Monuments Men and Women.  The movie's website itself says that both men and women were part of the 345-strong platoon that worked to save these cultural artifacts.  The Sailor complained that it was sad to see gender stereotypes being perpetuated.  I couldn't have agreed more.

It was great to see Cate Blanchett in the cast, but The Sailor and I wanted to see more of her.  In fact, she was the highlight, among an otherwise all-male cast who relied mostly on charm and/or good looks to get through the film.

The Sailor then complained that perhaps we shouldn't have come to see George Clooney after all.  I reminded him that leaving the house was his idea, and if he wanted to cry about it, he could.  A few whimpers soon turned into full-blown anti-George screaming.

Noooo, not George Clooney!!!

The Sailor soon quietened with a nipple in his gob, and the stodgy dialogue lulled him off to sleep, leaving me to contend with George and the full-blown all-American arrogance on my own.

Thank goodness those Americans saved all the world's art - even if it was just so that George Clooney had the chance to make a mediocre war film to tell the tale.

Rating: ** (only worth seeing if you're desperate for an outing)

The next day, The Sailor said we should maybe see something a bit more women's lib, a story where the underdog triumphs, something with a sassy female lead.  Luckily, Wadjda was showing.

Wadjda is a 10-year old girl living in Saudi Arabia.  As far as strong, sassy female leads go, she has it in spades.  The plot is simple enough.  All Wadjda wants is a bike so that she can race (and beat) Abdullah, the boy from next door.  Riding bikes and playing with boys are both frowned on in Saudi Arabia, because of the threat both cause to a girl's virtue.

Wadjda is rebellious, enterprising and smart - so she finds ways to save for the much-desired bike. Then along comes a Koran recitation contest, with prize money that will more than buy her the bike...

The Sailor was so excited about the movie, he let out an enormous shart, leaving me to contend with a nappy change in the dark, while trying to read the subtitles on the movie.  I quickly discovered the shart hadn't been contained to The Sailor's nappy - I too was covered in baby shit.  With that incident cleaned up, The Sailor soon snuggled in for a nap, leaving me to cheer on Wadjda.

This is a story that will open your eyes to life as a woman in Saudi Arabia, and make you grin with glee as the sassy Wadjda takes on the establishment in her own way.

Rating: **** (definitely worth leaving the house for)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

These are called my what?

I've always been a fan of real names for body parts.  So were my parents.  In fact they were the original 'real namers'.  Until we were teenagers we even called them by their names, instead of the usual "mum" and "dad".  One aspect of our teenage rebellion was reverting to the more-easily-grunted/whined/yelled monosyllabic monikers.

While we've not been quite so worried about Milkbaby calling us "mum" and "dad", we've encouraged the use of real names for body parts that might otherwise be called boobs, fanny, junk, nuts, dick etc etc.  This has led to a couple of hilarious moments.

One in particular, has led to a renaming of a particular body part in our house.

We're driving in the car, and I notice that Milkbaby is playing with his penis.

"Honey, leave your penis alone."
"I'm not playing with my penis."
"It certainly looks like you are."
"No, I'm touching my nexticles."
"You mean your testicles."
"No, they're my nexticles.  They're my nexticles because they're next to my penis."

Those are some nexticles.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Sailor's movie meanderings: 3 Mile Limit

Today marks the beginning of a new series on this blog: The Sailor's Movie Meanderings.  As you may have gathered, we've had a new addition to our household.  I've dubbed him The Sailor, since he was born in the caul and according to ancient lore, will be forever protected from drowning.

Last week The Sailor suggested it was about time I took him to a movie.  He reasoned that no age is too young to enjoy a film, and I thought it was about time we got out of the house.  Movie theatres here in Wellington have special screenings to which you can take your baby and not have to worry about whether he fusses through the entire film.  I'm going to try and get to at least one film a week until The Sailor's naps are incompatible with movie watching.

Last week we went to The Penthouse to see 3 Mile Limit.  It was actually supposed to be another film, but a technical glitch meant that The Sailor and I, as the only viewers, got to choose something else.

It's lucky we had the friendly projectionist to guide us through the options, as we would have skipped over this one based on the title alone.  I thought it might be another rap artist's drama, like Eminem's 8 Mile.  Surely someone could have come up with a catchier title?  Something that more accurately foreshadowed the content, like Pirate Radio?  Or The Boat That Rocked?  Oh that's right, a movie with both those titles has already been made (they used Pirate Radio for the North American release).  What about Six Months in a Leaky Boat then?  That would have had broader nostalgic Kiwiana appeal.

3 Mile Limit is the New Zealand version of Pirate Radio, based on the true story of Radio Hauraki - New Zealand's first commercial radio station.  One thing I'm always curious about with these "based on a true story" movies is how closely they resemble the truth.  Of course real life is never as exciting as the movies, so I am willing to forgive a bit of creative retelling.  As far as I can tell, this creative retelling has most of the elements of the original story, albeit in slightly different order.

The movie did miss one event however: the time that the Radio Hauraki director ran into my dad's car as he was driving down Wellesley Street.  As narrated by Dad:

It was Wellesley St East, about 9:30 pm....rainy night, I had been studying at the Auckland Uni library and was heading home, David Gates came out of High Street and turned onto Wellesley St in front of me, with brakes applied my 52 Austin went into hydroplaning mode and slid down the street towards Queen St and a telephone box, where, on the left hand corner there was a telephone booth of the old red variety.  Someone was talking on the phone and as I came sliding towards it, I saw her step out of the box while still holding the phone at the length of the cord.  I stopped just short of the box.  She stepped back in and continued the conversation and Gates stopped and came over and asked if everything was ok..He was driving a very flash Jaguar, which in the early 70s in NZ was certainly a money car!  He gave me his details and drove off.  I had no need to contact him.
I guess, in the big scheme of things, such an event didn't change the course of Radio Hauraki's history (nor my dad's), so I can understand why it ended up on the cutting room floor.

Back to the movie, in all its 1960s New Zealand cringe-worthy glory.  In short, this is a feel-good David vs Goliath drama, with a bit of comedy, romance and adventure thrown in for good measure.

  • the David and Goliath bit: it's Radio Hauraki vs the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, which has a stranglehold on NZ radio
  • the comedy: it's 1960s New Zealand for a start - you probably couldn't get a more stodgy era in NZ history - this is personified in the character of Morrie the dorky radio engineer who is the brains behind the operation
  • the romance: the visionary, Richard, and his wife have a cute little romance going on
  • the adventure: there's a leaky boat, multiple storms, and about six crazy guys - all the ingredients you need.

The New Zealand accents were a bit overdone, but the movie captured the stiffness and conformity of NZ society of the 1960s - as well as the exciting undercurrent of rebellion that the Radio Hauraki directors and DJs tapped into.

And most importantly, what did The Sailor think?  Well, he had trouble staying awake.

Rating: *** (worth leaving the house for)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why toddlers are like teenagers

The toddler in our house is almost four, which I guess means he's about to graduate from official toddlerhood into a preschooler.  Friends of ours have a teenager in their house, and we occasionally swap stories about behaviours that are making us tear our hair out.  Last time we did this, we noticed some striking similarities.

They are utter hedonists.  The toddler: I want ketchup with my muffin.  I will only eat the icing off the cake.  I demand that you wrap me in that fluffy towel and carry me around like a baby.  The teenager: I'll eat frozen berries all day, while lounging in my dressing gown in a darkened room.

They are experimenting with the world.  The toddler: I want to see how that ketchup feels rubbed over my cheeks and legs.  I want to see what happens when I overflow the bathroom sink.  I like to unravel all the toilet paper.  The teenager: I wonder what happens when I eat frozen berries all day, in a darkened room.

The defiance.  The toddler: I won't get in that side of the car.  I want Daddy to read me a story, not you!  I wanted jam on that other piece of toast, not this one!  The teenager:  Yeah I'll tidy my room, like, never.

Incentives don't work.  The toddler: If you don't get your pyjamas on now, there won't be any bedtime stories.  I don't want a bedtime story!!  The teenager: If you don't do your chores, you can't go over to X's house. [Nonchalant shrug].

You may have difficulty getting them to bathe.   The toddler: I don't want a bath!  Don't wash my face!  The teenager: Lynx is my friend, showers are not.
Finding Emo

They are so emo.  So emo.  Need I say more?

They have strange sleep habits.  The toddler: likes to go to sleep with the light on, would prefer to stay up late and will still wake you in the night, occasionally has difficulty rising in the morning.  The teenager: will fall asleep in front of the computer if you let him, wants to stay up late, is almost impossible to get out of bed in the mornings.

In short, they will drive you crazy.  But every once in a while, they will let their guard down, and stop being defiant, emo and difficult.  Perhaps while they're asleep, perhaps at a creche or school dropoff where they're suddenly struck with uncertainty on not seeing their friends. You will get a glimpse of their achingly gorgeous vulnerability, and it will make your breath catch in your throat.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Letter to a new mother

Dear new mother

Everyone will say 'congratulations' and you should rightly feel proud of yourself.  You just made a new human being.  They will usually follow the congratulatory remarks with a searching "and how are you?". They will study you for signs of cracking.  It's absolutely okay to get a little teary and say you're overwhelmed and confused most of the the time, not to mention exhausted.

Those who are already parents will tell you to "enjoy it - they grow up so fast".  As if they enjoyed every waking, shitting moment with their precious little bundle.  What they mean to say is to savor it.  Savor the highs and the lows.  Let the lows wash over you and tell yourself, repeatedly, this too shall pass.  And savor and celebrate the highs, commit them to memory, or better yet, take a photo.

There will be days when getting out of your pyjamas is a superhuman feat.  Put it on your 'to do' list and tick it off so you feel like you've achieved something.

Time in the shower, or even on the toilet, has suddenly become a precious commodity.  Sorry but I have no solutions here.  Console yourself with the thought that you're doing the planet some good by saving water.  Take evening baths with your baby.  Make up for lost shower time when you visit your parents or in-laws.

Everyone will tell you to "sleep when your baby sleeps". I say do whatever the hell you want while your baby sleeps - this might be your only chance today to take a shower.

Strangers will want to hold your baby, or touch his cheeks, hands or feet.  I have no solutions here either.  Give over that baby and enjoy a break.  Watch those grandma-looking types - they usually know a thing or two about holding a baby - you might learn something.  

Most days you will have moments of misery and moments of triumph.  You will be baffled when the trick you used yesterday fails to work today.  

Learn to laugh at yourself.  Tell stories about your worst days and have a laugh. Tell them to other mothers - let your guard down and get some perspective.

You may not get to the end of every day in the same clothes.  Or if you do make it, by the end of the day, forgive yourself your dignity if you're covered in splotches of milk, drool and baby vomit.

You'll be baffled, repeatedly, by the question, 'is he a good baby?'. As if babies either come out innately 'good' or 'bad'.  What they mean to ask is whether your baby is an easy baby. To which you might answer "mostly".

I also want to tell you that it's okay to feel like you might throw your baby out the nearest window because he's been fussing and crying for three hours straight and you still haven't had a god-damned shower or gotten out of your pyjamas.  In these circumstances you also need to know that no harm ever came to a baby who was put in a safe place and left to fuss for 10 minutes while her mother has a cup of tea or a quick shower.

Contact with other parents with babies will save your sanity.  Or at the very least, should give you an excuse to get out of the house.  But don't engage in the parental one-upmanship that can sometimes be a feature of conversations at mum's groups.  Your baby might sleep through the night, or even sleep for more than three hours in a row at night.  Even if you want to shout it from the rooftops, remember that the mother sitting next to you is on the edge of sanity as she hasn't slept in three days and keep it to yourself.  Tell your parents, grandparents and anyone else who doesn't have a baby in the house.

Go easy on yourself.  Your number one job is to be a parent, not to run around like a blue-assed fly ticking off jobs on your maternity leave to do list and getting all manner of household chores done.  If your baby wants to sleep on you all day, slow down, forget about the washing, vacuuming and ironing, and savor the feeling of his gorgeous little body snuggled on your chest.  Try not to feel guilty when your partner arrives home and the house looks the same as when he left that morning.  Don't imagine he's looking around thinking "what the hell has she been doing all day?".  He'll realise exactly what the hell you do all day on Saturday when it's him stuck on the couch with a sleeping baby on his chest.

The God particle: may or may not be
related to whether your baby sleeps.
Accept the fact that the buck stops with you. You're his one and only.  You know his cries, his faces, his noises and his needs.  You know the special rhythm that will ensure his descent into lala-land faster than anyone else.  You know the bounce or special move that will get a burp.   You get him.  

Take comfort from the thought that all your rocking and bouncing is burning calories.  You can finish your meal or your cup of tea later.

Above all else, don't try to solve the mystery of baby sleep.  It's the parental equivalent of discovering the God particle

Keep calm and carry on.

P.S. I have so much more to tell you, but I know you'll work it all out for yourself.  Go you!
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