Thursday, 26 May 2011

One for the road...

At around 4am, the Lionheart and I are going on a road trip together, just the two of us... down to KZN. It’s a little scary, what with this being the longest drive I’ve ever made solo (it’s six hours to our destination), and my bulging tummy making it tricky for me to carry His Royal Travness for more than a couple of meters. But it’s also an adventure! And frankly, we don’t have nearly enough adventures.

The ‘special needs’ holiday – depending on what kind of disabilities you’re talking about, of course, is like planning a SWAT team mission.

No 1: Accommodation
Because the Lionheart’s roar is LOUD, we can’t really stay in a hotel where we share a wall with another family. We also never get to take advantage of 90% of out-of-season specials because most hotel rooms, no matter how attractive the offer, have walls as thin as cardboard. No renting of roomy holiday houses either, because that’s out of the budget. B&Bs are also out, because we don’t like to fraternise with kindly blue-rinsed owners who like to drink tea with their guests. We either get the beady eye because our ‘weird kid is always screaming’ or worse, the drippy sympathetic smile because our kid is disabled. So we Google for a free-standing, self-catering chalet where we will be left in peace...

Also, hotels that feature those awesome kiddie holiday programmes... well, just image dropping the Lionheart off with them for the day? (We call this Trav-bombing, and I've always wanted to try it, just for mischief's sake.)

No 2: Food
This brings us to food. It HAS to be self-catering, because Travis could blow his lid at any moment if we’re sitting in a restaurant. Five-star boutique restaurants in Muldersdrift, Wimpy, Spur, the road house, you name it... if the Lionheart is freaked out in a strange place, it is code red. My husband and I are pros when it comes to an emergency evacuation of an eatery. “Get it for takeaway!” and “Can we get the bill, please” are fired off like missiles at waiters still dazed by the ear-splitting Trav-siren. Hubby and I are also used to having to take turns to eat while the one of us tries to soothe a wild-eyed Lionheart.

No 3: Travel
Can you imagine the Lionheart on a plane? Enough said. No family holidays in Thailand then. Just a flight down to Port Elizabeth is fraught with the pending danger of a Trav-sized meltdown.

This is how we’ve become Umhlanga people. Which pre-motherhood I thought topped the list of lame local holiday destinations. Right up there with Margate, Jefferys Bay, Hermanus and, God forbid, Plett!

Now any of those coastal towns seem as exotic as exploring the ruins of Angkor in Cambodia, or gazing at the aurora borealis, or travelling into space to peep down at Earth – all three of which are still on my bucket list, despite how extremely unlikely it now seems I'll be able to go.

Still, there's something to look forward to - a stop for some Frankie's Cloudy Lemonade as we drive through the KZN Midlands. It's not as impressive as having my photo taken with the Grand Canyon as the backdrop, but you learn to take pleasure in the little things, you know?

Monday, 23 May 2011

Chasing fireflies in the dark

On Sunday we went on an (sing it with me): “Adventure, adventure, we’re going on an adventure!” That’s the little ditty we sing to prepare the Lionheart for a car trip to a more exotic destination than the shops.

It was Husband’s birthday, and we headed for Hartbeeeespoooort Dam. (I love how long vowel sounds in Afrikaans make you sound like you’re pushing for dear life on the chamber pot.) We ended up at that flea market place with the pancake house where all the breakfast run bikers stop off.

Long story short: we’re sitting at a wooden bench listening to the live band belt out Sultans Of Swing (or should I say ‘life band’ as one poster proclaimed, clearly penned by someone whose first language is not English). We’re waiting for our plates of oxtail.

Travis picks up a straw off the table, and very carefully puts it in the Styrofoam cup that he’s drinking a chocolate milkshake out of.

I’m gobsmacked.

Travis was not showing us that he wanted to drink his milkshake through the straw (I did try), but he was demonstrating: “Hey, I know where this plastic tube goes.”

This linking of two ideas tells me two things. 1) No matter how far off he seems during class activities or play-time at home, the Lionheart is ‘present’ and paying attention. 2) I shamefully underestimate my special needs son’s intelligence on a regular basis – and this needs to stop.

Travis still drinks out of a bottle. He’ll drink – only chocolate milkshake – from a cup if I hold the cup for him. Never a plastic cup, by the way. He can’t suck through a straw yet, but he can blow out a candle. And he’s watching when mom and dad drink through straws at a restaurant, or when Teacher Sue blows paint with straws at school... HE KNOWS WHAT A STRAW IS FOR! And yet we can’t get the Lionheart to make that jump from baby bottle to big boy cup. I always thought it was because he simply couldn’t. But now I know it’s because he just plain won’t.

How many other things is Travis lagging behind in developmentally because I choose to believe that he is incapable of ‘doing the maths’ so to speak? His paediatric neurologist has told me before that I could be underestimating his ability, even though she’s conservatively pegged his development age at give-or-take, about the same as a 12-month-old baby’s.

I had a similar moment last week Friday when Travis picked up his shoes while I was dressing him and tried to slide in his toes. He’s miles off from being able to put his own shoes on, but HE KNOWS WHERE THE SHOES GO...

You guys must think I’m an idiot, to be astounded by such little things.

Raising a special needs child, especially one who is not only mentally and physically challenged, but cannot articulate his needs through speech... it’s a bit like catching fireflies. You’re chasing sparks in the dark. The moment you see a tiny glow in the garden of his mind, you rush over to catch it before it snuffs out and you’re left wondering if you imagined it!

So I’m making an effort to expand the Lionheart’s curriculum, if you will. I’m talking to him about sounds and colours. I’m explaining little details, like we live in Cornelius Street. And that there are three traffic bumps in the road. Let’s count them together as mommy drives over them, 1-2-3...

Because there be fireflies in his garden.

Friday, 20 May 2011

WTF Friday 14: Of bog roll and Labrador pups

What the Fuck Friday is the most blissfully belligerent day of the week. It’s the one day the author of this blog does not delicately arch an eyebrow in distaste at some perceived stupidity. Instead, she takes out her pent-up anger on small creatures with puppy dog eyes and cheerfully fluffy tails.

Someone please explain to me: what’s with toilet paper commercials and fluffy Labrador puppies? I get that one brand of bog roll actually has a puppy as it’s official, um, ‘mascot’... but I have yet to see a loo paper advert that does not feature a puppy at some point in its 30-second slot. Also a gurgling baby, batting adorably at a stack of toilet rolls.

I get it. This particular puppy is rather soft. But I bet a tiny Maltese poodle’s fur is even softer. So why not wipe your ass with a poodle instead? Makes more sense to me...

I mean, if you’re comparing the softness of your company’s two-ply with an animal, how about a long-haired Persian cat? That should get right up into your butt-crack after your daily No. 2. But you see, cats just Won’t Put Up with this kind of public mockery. The secret Illumicati society have worked tirelessly since the days of the sun god Ra to ensure that cats are respected, yea... worshipped by humankind. The lolcatz trend is just a modern day manifestation of this. As Watkins the kitten would no doubt tell Soapie the Labrador: “Stupid dogs...”

I’m slightly less puzzled by the use of babies in toilet paper commercials. While most baby bottoms are kept in mint condition by expensive, lavender-scented wetwipes, and I doubt that toilet paper is very effective in cleaning up baby vomit, Travis the Lionheart is rather fond of cuddling a soft, fluffy roll of two-ply now and then (yes, emblazoned with puppies).

A few weeks ago, the Lionheart carried his bog roll from room to room all night, while using it as an impromptu (mercifully silent) tambourine and chewing softly on the edges...

But he’s weird like that.

Come on toilet paper manufacturers, hire me as your conceptual copywriter – boy, do I have some ideas for you. Other suggestions for animals that might be good to wipe your rear with: lab mice, cuddly rabbits, a Shetland pony, or perhaps a lion cub.

Especially the last one. Proudly South African and all that.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Letters to Bump: About your brother

Dear Bump

About your brother, the Lionheart... there’s no easy way to break this to you: Travis is ‘not all there’. I’m terrified that instead of protecting you on the playground, your big brother will be the reason you’ll be teased and picked on at school. They’ll call him names like ‘retard’ and ‘moron’. They’ll say there’s probably something ‘wrong’ with you too.

I am so sorry; just the idea of this terrible burden I’ve saddled you with – before your birth, giving you no choice in the matter – it torments me so. The unfairness of it all!

How could I do this to you? I don’t have a good answer.

I once told a close friend that there are only selfish reasons for having babies. No one has a child for the child’s sake... We do it for our husbands and boyfriends, because that’s what society has taught us to do. Because we want him to have a “legacy”, whatever that means. To keep our marriages from falling apart. Or because we fell pregnant by accident. We do it for stem calls, for goodness sake! Because our biological clock is ticking! Or maybe in our case, because we want to know the joy of having a ‘normal’ baby. Or because we just need someone to look after our Lionheart when we’ve left this world!

When you’re a teenager, you’ll scream all these reasons at the top of your voice. You’ll slam your bedroom door. You will tell me you hate me. That I love Travis more than you, because he needs me more.

Silly bear...

I know that you’ll need your dad and I more than Travis ever will! His needs are so simple. But you, my little cupcake, you’re the one who’ll need an extra helping of cuddles and compassion.

In families like ours, where one child is disabled and the other is ‘abled’ (and I bargain desperately with the Big Guy Upstairs that you will be healthy and whole, for your sake and not ours)... there is the potential that we’ll force all the hopes and dreams we had for Travis onto your tiny shoulders. You’ll need to be superhuman to stand up under the weight of our expectations.

Bump dearest, you don’t have to be superhuman. Instead, I hope that your dad and I are super-parents. That we are wise and understanding, and above all, fair... Okay, that sounds so hopelessly lame I feel compelled to roll up a magazine and thwack myself over the head with it.

Make no mistake I am petrified of the prospect of having a ‘ruggle’ (regular kid) in the family. I’m so used to Living Lionheart that I confess my memory bank of nursery rhymes and children’s games is buried under cobwebs. Be patient with me, please.

I’m glad we had this chat; I’ve been neglecting you these last few weeks.
(Feel free to kick me in the kidney.)

Love, Mom xXx

Saturday, 14 May 2011

WTF Friday 13

What the Fuck Friday is the most blissfully belligerent day of the week. It’s the one day the author of this blog does not delicately arch an eyebrow in distaste at some perceived stupidity. Instead, she bottles it up for three weeks then coughs up a hairball of tangled feelings for her 39 fans to dissect.


I haven’t had a WTF rant in a while... it’s because two Fridays ago, there was an ‘incident’ that’s left me purple-faced and spitting. Spitting with indignation, not just randomly spitting on pavements... I’ve been so straight-up-and-down pissed off about this ‘incident’ that I’ve had to metaphorically cut my own tongue out lest I say something... illogical. That’s my problem here: you don’t get to rant without presenting SOME kind of logical argument to back yourself up. And my argument is as weak as tea made with thrice-used tea bags in times of war.

What happened? Travis was ill with the dreaded Green Snot Flu, the one that makes him schloop about the house, randomly vomiting up phlegm-coated 360ml of Nido formula. ‘Schloop’ by the way, is the sound made by a small child as they reach up to their nose with their tongue and attempt to vacuum up dripping stalactites of snot. Yes, green snot. Ergo, and all that...

Being feverish and with an Empaped suppository up his rear, Travis turned in early that evening. At 10pm the husband and I call it a night. At 10.30pm, Travis wakes up feeling refreshed and wondering why the hell all the lights are off. And that’s it. The Lionheart is awake, and therefore, so are we.

There’s a special circle of hell that only parents who are regularly awake after midnight know about.

After ZERO sleep, not even a 15-minute snatch, I prop my eyelids up with toothpicks, have my first-thing-in-the-morning ritual chunder (remember, I’m still in the early days of pregnancy) and report to my client’s office in Sandton at 9am where I will spend the rest of the day.

I feel like I’ve been thrown into a cement mixer! My limbs are stiff with exhaustion, my eyes are gritty and bloodshot, and my brain is like a squished bug that flew into a windscreen at high velocity... But I’m a professional, dammit!

Still, I commiserate with the girl who sits across from me. “My toddler woke up at 10.30pm and didn’t go back to sleep after that. I haven’t slept a wink,” I confess. Sympathetic smiles all around...

And then this Neanderthal, this insensitive slice of toe-jam, this crusty turd-muffer of a human being chips in: “No sympathy here. You WANTED to become a mother.”

(If you’re a parent, insert your choice of expletive *here*. If not, feel free to make the ‘cuckoo’ sign by your ear as you read this.)

What a complete wanker!

Let me just set the record straight: while Travis may not have been a planned pregnancy, you can be damn fucking certain that I CHOSE to become a mother. How perceptive of you! I didn’t have to go through with the pregnancy – this is South Africa, after all.

Upon finding out that there was a bun in my oven, I asked: “Can I provide this child with a stable home?” Check. “Can I provide this child with my time?” Check. “Can I provide for this child financially, even though I may well be a single mom?” Oh yes, check. And most importantly: “Do I have not just the resources, but the physical and emotional stamina to raise this child? The parenting skills?” And after quite a bit of soul-searching on that last one, the answer was, “Yes, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By your Neanderthal brand of logic, I don’t get to complain when I have sleepless nights because I was up caring for a sick child. And despite those sleepless nights, the fact that I still report for work so that I can earn the means to feed and clothe that child is no act of heroism. And I guess I don’t get to complain that I’m one of the 3% of mothers whose child was born with a disability or five... I should just suck it up and soldier on, hey?

So here is my dishwater tea of an argument, you childless brute:

Screw you, and the lifetime of lonely, empty years that lie before you too.
That is all.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Fridge Whisperer


COMMENTARY:  So here's me sneaking up on the Lionheart, stealthy like a pot-bellied panther, to catch his fridge-whispering on film. Excuse his bed hair, it's a Saturday morning, m'kay! Travis is telling the freezer something, while waving his hands mystically, before pressing his ear up against the 'oracle of icicles' to get his response. Then, just as my son decides that he really needs to do something about his nappy wedgie, I am ambushed by Watkins the kitten who wants to know what the hell I'm thinking being on ground level and not giving him a scratch behind the ears. 

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Easy does it...

What? No posts in a week! More than a week, you say... Well, who's counting? Oh, right.

So this is the part where I crawl sheepishly out from under a duvet and admit that, yes, I'm a naughty blogger. What have I been doing? Mom stuff. Pregnant stuff. Running my own business stuff. The latter is to blame, really. I've been doing some mental arithmetic (which granted, I'm perilously bad at being more gifted with a pen than a calculator)... long story short: I'm FREAKING OUT, MAN!

I'm having a baby in six months, and I need a nest egg. Or one of them gold nugget-laying gooses! So I'm working my tush off. My tush unfortunately doesn't realize that it's being worked off, and remains approximately the size of the moon. But there it is. Work, work, work... getting home late after 12-hour stints working in-house at clients. Vomiting into the empty ice-cream tub in my car because I'm not eating often enough (this is my personal cross to carry whenever I'm pregnant... I throw up for the whole nine months). Writing and editing copy through the haze of a blazing fever, with nothing but Panado as my crutch. Deadlines, endless deadlines.

You can see how this ridiculous nose-to-the-grindstoning is not... what's the Eco-friendly term... sustainable. I made a mint though. But enough!

My feet are up. Okay, they're only up from Tuesday. But then I'm taking it easy.

My husband, when not wagging his finger at me, and supplying me with plate after plate of tuna-on-toast and chips with mayonnaise, has been running me baths and making trips to the 7/11 for those "I feel like a little something, something" Magnum ice-creams at 9pm at night. Bless him!

Travis is blissfully unaware that he has a sibling on the way. He has taken up fridge-whispering. We have a freezer at home that used to belong to my husband's gran. This relic from the Seventies (?) has a most pleasant electrical hum, and our autistic Lionheart spends many an hour with his ear pressed up against it. It looks like Travis is trying to crack a safe, old school! And sometimes the Lionheart whispers something back to the freezer. They're up to something!

We've also become used to having our conversations punctuated by the sound of a flushing toilet these days. Travis has discovered how he can reach up and grab the toilet handle. This used to be a sound that terrified our sheepish lion, but now it's the Funniest Thing Ever.

Even more disturbing is that he regularly attempts to bogwash himself, sticking his head in the bowl just as the fresh water rushes in.

Boys are gross. Even the special ones.