iDad v5 – Night Bears.

Following on from a recent visit to Sydney Children’s Hospital (God Sakes poked a bamboo stake into Granny’s eyeball) and with all the free time I have thanks to my insomnia, I was inspired to write a new iDad story for you.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your edification and entertainment, I present iDad Number 5.

‘ittle dis, ‘ittle dat.

God Sakes loved small toys and was forever picking up Matchbox cars and Fisher Price people. His favourite however were the miniature dinosaurs that Santa had brought him. He knew all their names from Ankylosaurus to Velociraptor, and watching him interact with his own make-believe world was magical. The tiny figurines would fight, argue, play together and team up against the cave men (plastic soldiers) if the need arose. It was a lovely game, sometimes shared with Granny but mostly spoiled by No.1 who would stampede through the middle of ‘Jurassic Park’ like a rabid Tyrannosaur.

Everything was ‘ittle to God Sakes so, following on from an afternoon of ‘ittle cars, ‘ittle dinos, ‘ittle soldiers and ‘ittle people, iDad suggested that for dessert God Sakes might like an ‘ittle yoghurt. The reply was delivered in a voice so deep he could have been singing ‘Old Man River’.

‘No dad! BIG YOGE.”

Unfortunately, tiny toys and God Sakes legendary appetite often collided with disastrous results. One afternoon God Sakes was sitting on the couch with wide brown eyes staring off into the distance as if in shock.

“What’s wrong mate?”

No answer from God Sakes but Granny had a humongous grin.

“What’s wrong with your brother?”

“He ate it,” said Granny doing his best Cookie Monster imitation.

“ATE WHAT?!?”

The raised voice from iDad was enough to break God Sakes resolve and he burst into tears.

“I didn’t mean to, daddy. It just slipped down.”

My mind was whirling with all sorts of nasty possibilities. Is there a battery leaking toxic acid into his stomach? Or was there perhaps a rusty pin poking holes in my little boys innards? Regardless of the hideous images conjured up by my tortured brain and fertile mind, my exterior remained calm.

“What slipped down?”

More silence from God Sakes but not from Granny.

“He ate a marble dad.”

Blue Eyes caught the last piece of the conversation at the exact same time that God Sakes started coughing. One quick ambulance ride to the Prince of Wales Hospital, our home-away-from-home, and the five of us were staring up at the x-rays taken of my child’s insides.

“There it is dad.”

Granny was the first to find it. A small white circle about the size of the old one-cent coins was nestled in amongst the yogurt and lasagna. The radiographer chuckled. Obviously God Sakes wasn’t the first child to swallow something other than food during his career and I briefly wondered what other weird and wonderful surprises this man had found in his fellow human beings.

Eventually we were advised to take him home and check his stool over the next few days to make sure he expelled the foreign object. I lost count of how many times we had to capture and examine God Sakes excreta but when we finally found the glass ball I made sure that the hand-held nylon icing sugar sieve we had used was completely and utterly destroyed. Even so, it was hard for me to eat cake for a while.

Night Bears

One thing that wasn’t ‘ittle in our house were the night terrors and poor No.1 got these big time. Quite often during the first ten years of his life, Blue Eyes and I would be woken with blood curdling screams from No.1 as he battled some hideous demon from the depths of his imagination. During a family vacation many years ago No.1 was snuggled up fast asleep between Aunty Dee and her friend Boo, who has been part of our family for more years than she probably wants to admit 😉 Around 2:00 a.m., No.1 launched into one of his trademark kicking, thrashing and screaming fits. Boo was gobsmacked and a little frightened herself.

“What’s wrong with him, Dee?”

“Oh, I should have told you. Sometimes he gets nightmares.”

No.1 launched a sockless foot and a squeal at an invisible monster, almost colliding with the bewildered girl’s forehead.

“Nightmares! What do we do?”

“I don’t know. Go get his mother I suppose.”

Blue Eyes brought No.1 into to bed with us as Dee rolled over and went straight to sleep. Boo lay on her back staring at the ceiling all night waiting for her heart to stop pounding.

Thankfully our little boy rarely ever remembered the horrors that invaded his sleep but that did make it difficult for us to diagnose the cause. Then one night we caught a break. It was a particularly nasty series of nightmares that culminated in the entire street hearing our child screaming that ‘bats were biting his tongue’. It was the first time he had ever spoken about his bad dreams either awake or asleep so we quickly noted the words down and mentioned it to the doctor the next day. Apparently one of the side-effects of food allergies is that the sufferer can be plagued by night terrors as their body tries to cope with the allergic reaction. Not only was our little guy suffering from external eczema but his tongue, throat and entire digestive tract was riddled with itchy lesions. We had finally identified the cause and with a sensible control over his diet, we could manage the effects.

The doctor also encouraged us to talk to him about his experiences so that they wouldn’t seem so scary. As No.1 learned to express what was happening to him the nightmares became known as Night Bears, which was a term he found easier to deal with. It also helped when Blue Eyes brought home a fuzzy teddy so that he had his own good luck ‘Night Bear’ to look after him.

Coming soon: A six pack of iDad – aka More Cake.

iDad © Matthew Green 2010

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iSanta – The iDad Christmas Special

Press play below for a little theme music.


Christmas has always been a magical time of the year in our family ever since iDad was a baby himself. As soon as God Sakes learned to talk Bynel and Mynel became Gam-pa and Gam-mar, which made my mother very happy, and for as far back as I can remember their house has always been a Christmas wonderland. Tinsel hung from every corner of the ceiling while festoons of multicoloured fairy lights twinkled inside and out. The tree was never shorter than six foot two and adorned with baubles, candy canes (fake and real), glass ornaments and an old family heirloom angel on top. Lunch consisted of roasted turkey and pork with crunchy crackling. We had home made Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, baked vegetables, peas, beans and a big fat leg of ham. I’ve never seen such a stupendous spread as the one Gam-mar and Gam-pa dished out every 25th of December. How my mum managed to slave it out in the kitchen during those notoriously hot Christmas days I’ll never know.

There were always presents as far as the eye could see. No one who visited their home missed out on a gift, nor did many of their neighbours. Bing Crosby crooned about chestnuts roasting on an open fire before taking us all to Ireland to experience a Christmas in Killarney. After a massive feast for lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon in the swimming pool before the extended family descended upon us and we ate and drank all over again.

Competing with the Griswolds was going to be tough 😉

God Sakes, Granny and No.1 are excitable enough at the best of times, but with the promise of the fat bearded fellow in the bright red suit squeezing down the imaginary chimney with a sack full of happiness…. well I’m sure you can understand why December in our house was the longest month of the year.

‘Is it Christmas yet?’ [Excitable chatter from one little boy.]

‘Not yet sweety.’ [Kind and loving answer from a weary mother.]

‘Will it be Christmas tomorrow?’ [Equally enthused enquiry from same little boy.]

‘No honey.’ [Audible sigh.]

‘But I want it to be Christmas noooow!’ [Dejected whine from disappointed little boy.]

Don’t wish your life away darling.’ [Typical grown up answer that kids don’t understand.]

Gloomy little trooper leaves the room and is replaced by another hyperactive tyke with similar questions. Thus the Christmas circle of life continues to spin.

Poor Blue Eyes had to deal with this every single day from December first until Christmas Eve and each visit to the North Pole (Gam-mar and Gam-pa’s house) only made matters worse.

At least iDad got to go to work 🙂

By and large, the present shopping for little boys is very easy. Trust me when I tell you that you cannot go wrong with Tonka trucks and toy dinosaurs. Living within a meager budget, though, meant that Blue Eyes and I had to be creative with our purchases. A twenty-four pack of Matchbox cards could be split evenly amongst three children, as could a bag full of dinosaurs, and this trick served to really pad out the Christmas stocking. Kids don’t care if their T-Rex is made in Taiwan.

Special Christmas Tip 1: Substituting monsters from old Japanese horror films does not work. Any five-year-old boy can tell the difference between an Allosaur and Godzilla.

Wrapping on the other hand was an untidy mess. Carefully folding coloured paper over tiny individual odd-shaped items can be a frustrating experience filled with paper cuts and misplaced sticky tape. Did you know that children do not care about the paper you use? In fact, I have serious doubts that they even notice what images are printed on it. Its true! One year we ran out of Santa wrapping and had to use some old birthday paper to finish off. Granny’s rampage didn’t miss a beat regardless of whether the wrapping had Rudolph or birthday cake.

Finally the 24th arrives, the last window in the Advent calendar has been opened and excitement reaches fever pitch. Trying to get overly animated children to sit still in Church the night before all their dreams come true is hard enough. Getting them to go to bed is nigh on impossible. My boys were like sweaty pink pinballs ricocheting off invisible flippers, careening around the house, bouncing off the walls and crashing into the furniture, all without the aid of red cordial, Coca Cola or any other sugary stimulant. Like the energizer bunny they were wound up and without an ‘off switch’. Blue Eyes would manage to get one of them into bed but as soon as she left to grab another, the first child was up, out and wreaking havoc. It was a futile effort that soon gave way to a glass of Chardonnay as we watched God Sakes push Granny into the tree. Eventually they wore themselves out and we were able to corral our two-legged horses.

In spite of the shenanigans, Blue Eyes and I always enjoyed the manic antics of our boys. There is something absolutely beautiful in the look a child has when he or she is deliriously happy. Its the kind of joy that stays on their faces long after they have collapsed into unconsciousness and reminds you that even if you are unsure what you are doing, and lets face it most of us are not given a parenting manual on the day you conceive, today you got it right.

One more quick check to make sure they are still asleep and its time to go up into the attic to retrieve the presents from iSanta.

Special Christmas Tip 2: Attics have spiders – that’s a fact of life. So if a dirty great huntsman the size of a Landcruiser crawls over your hand try not to squeal like a pre-teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert and definitely do NOT hurl the gift you are holding across the room, especially if it is made of glass.

Click here for more theme music:

Monster arachnids aside, the only real problems I ever encountered at Christmas began with those infamous words, ‘Some Assembly Required’.

One year Blue Eyes decided that we would get the boys an outdoor swing set. Auntie Pedie and Uncle Bop had come over for ‘dinner and and a show’ so after the circus had left town for the night we pulled the pieces of my dark green nemesis out of the garage and got started. Blue Eyes and I had never been good at building things together. All our Ikea constructions ended up with her laughing and iDad spitting the dummy, usually after a bashed finger or cut hand. I remember the day we built a wardrobe. In the kit was a bag of approximately 900 panel pins. I made sure that I used absolutely every single one of them and they were all perfectly spaced apart. Moving the unit a few years later I spent three hours cursing the ‘idiot who put so many bloody nails in the back’. Some days you’re the rider, other days you’re the horse.

Wisely Blue Eyes suggested that Bop the BMW mechanic should help me. With his technical skills and my managerial abilities we should be done in time, right? WRONG!

It was a particularly hot Christmas Eve that eventually turned into a thunder storm and by the time we got the boys to bed it was still drizzling.

‘No problem’ says iDad, ‘the sliding back doors will be wide enough to get the swing set out. Let’s build it inside.’

Special Christmas Tip 3: Beer may be nice to drink on a hot day but you can be sure that it will also impede your motor skills and capacity for logical thought.

Two and a half hours later and without referring to the instructions, Bop and iDad stood proudly in the living room inspecting our Colosseum. It was a grand design with a single swing on the right, a two person swing  on the left and an enclosed swing seat for Granny in the middle. To top it all off, there was a shiny slippery dip bolted to the right hand side. Sheer beauty.

‘That’s not going out the back door, you know.’

Bop was right.

Thankfully the ales we had consumed had kept us in good humour so the concept of pulling apart our masterpiece and reassembling it in the backyard was not a huge worry. With the last of the libations in the Esky iDad and Bop stood in the dimly lit courtyard being eaten alive by mosquitoes and cursing the fact that Santa would be getting all the credit.

Some time after three a.m., I crawled in between the sheets. Luckily, the boys let me sleep until it was almost six. We had a rule in our house that if you woke up and the sun wasn’t shining, then you couldn’t get out of bed. Foolishly I had hoped that the storm clouds would still be present and I would get a little lie in. The Southerly buster that arrived just before dawn cooled the city down and blew away the grey skies. It was bright and sunny and the frenzied pinball machines were dancing on my head.

Aside from the exhaustion it was a perfect Christmas morning. The boys rode the swing set whilst iDad cooked ham and eggs on the BBQ. Afterwards we had ‘Jurassic Park’ in the lounge room complete with Velociraptors, plastic soldiers and a bright red Ferrari that God Sakes refused to let No.1’s Spinosaurus step on. Granny was lying in the remnants of the wrapping with a gold bow stuck in his hair trying desperately not to fall asleep. Every so often one of his brothers would throw a dinosaur at him and he would climb out of the detritus so his Brontosaurus could munch on a plastic Marine.

Blue Eyes and I would sit with a cup of coffee and watch our little angels play. We’ve been doing this for seventeen years now and for me, these are the memories that make Christmas special.

Mele Kalikimaka everybody.

iDad © Matthew Green 2010

The Stone Outside Dan Murphy’s Door

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a little while. Work has been hectic and the desire to turn on the computer when I get home just hasn’t been at its highest.

A couple of years ago iDad took his family on a trip to Ireland. Blue Eyes has roots in there and with K.Rudd handing out donations to all and sundry we figured it was the perfect opportunity to go find the ancestors. Holidaying with children is always a tricky job and when it begins with a thirty-six hour epic flight from Sydney – Singapore – Heathrow – Belfast, you know its gotta get better 🙂

During the thousands of miles we did crisscrossing the Irish countryside I found a little pub in Sneem, County Kerry where I took this photo. Below it you will find the rest of the words to a fantastic little Irish ditty which is bound to bring a little tear to those who are away from home.

Have a nice weekend.

There’s a sweet garden spot in our memory
It’s the place we were born in and reared
It’s long years ago since we left it
But return there we will if we’re spared
Our friends and companions of childhood
Would assemble each night near a score
Round Dan Murphy’s shop, and how often we sat
On the stone outside Dan Murphy’s door

Chorus: Those days in our hearts we will cherish
Contented although we were poor
And the songs that were sung
In the days we were young
On the stone outside Dan Murphy’s door

When our day’s work was over we’d meet there
In the winter or spring just the same
Then the boys and the girls all together
Would join in some innocent game
Dan Murphy would take down his fiddle
While his daughter looked after the store
The music did ring and sweet songs we would sing
On the stone outside Dan Murphy’s door

Back again will our thoughts often wander
To the scenes of our childhood’s home
The friends and companions we left there
It was poverty caused us to roam
Since then in this life we have prospered
But still in our hearts we feel sore
For memory will fly to those days long gone by
And the stone outside Dan Murphy’s door

iDad Redux – Ready, Aim, Fire!

Having an asthmatic child makes it difficult to try different foods. I suppose it was for this reason that God Sakes and Granny always gorged themselves at parties, picnics and other places with a fancier fare. This has resulted in stomachaches, sticky car seats and many other unfortunate accidents that seem to perpetrate themselves upon iDad. I learned early on not to jostle around a freshly fed child when No.1 regurgitated most of his formula into my mouth. To this day I cannot stand the taste, or scent, of soy.

God Sakes had an amazing appetite and would try anything and everything that was put in front of him. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, Italian; Little God Sakes was eating his way round the world in a nonstop feast-a-thon. One night, in an effort to fill the bottomless pit, I took him to Pizza Hut for ‘all you can eat.’ We definitely got our money’s worth. That was until God Sakes deposited two pizzas, a large Pepsi and half a bucket of ice-cream all over the back of the Commodore.

Three little boys watched iDad clean out the puddle of masticated mush from the upholstery for about twenty minutes before God Sakes uttered those immortal words.

“I’m hungry.”

iDad placed his face in his palm.

Stomach Bugs.

Thankfully the expulsion of stomach contents was not a frequent occurrence for God Sakes so it was relatively safe to cuddle him when he was feeling poorly, without the need for a plastic raincoat. One evening I was lying on the floor panting and wheezing after a rather vigorous wrestle with No.1, when God Sakes arrived complaining of a headache. He clambered up onto my stomach and rested his head on my chest. I touched his forehead and realised that the poor little guy was running a fever. I opened my mouth to call out to Blue Eyes at the exact same time that God Sakes opened his mouth and emptied a warm glass of soft drink straight down my throat. Naturally peristalsis kicked in and I swallowed the sweet liquid. It was actually still fizzy, with a strange citrus flavour.

“Honey!”

“Yes darling.”

“I think God Sakes has a virus.”

“I know darling. I just gave him a glass of lemonade and some of that orange flavoured Nurofen.”

That explains the unique taste. At least it was better than soy.

“A little help would be good about now.”

Blue Eyes collected God Sakes from me and whisked him off to the shower just as Granny entered the room.

“I don’t feel good daddy.”

Not to be caught out again I grabbed a large Tupperware container from the kitchen and sat with Granny in my lap waiting for the bathroom to be free. He was also running a fever and I knew that this was going to be a real trying night. I mopped his brow with a cool washcloth and very soon he settled down.

“Are you ok little man?”

He looked at me, shook his head but didn’t answer. Two seconds later iDad was force fed chicken and corn soup.

Nicer than soy but not as good as Nurofen infused tepid lemonade.

One by one my entire family succumbed to Cryptosporidium that night, but I will spare you from further gruesome details.

‘Diggits’ and the F-Bomb.

Leaning to speak has its disadvantages and the biggest challenge any family will find once their toddlers start mixing with older children, is the inevitable swear word. Although Granny had come close on occasion it was No.1 who would break the ice.

Blue Eyes had been at work all day and arrived home to a teary-eyed little boy and an angry grandmother who had just been told to ‘f*** off.’ Suffice to say that his mother was way less than impressed and she began a long-winded admonishment that finished with the line,

“What have you got to say for yourself?”

Our sobbing little angel looked at her with moist eyes and sodden cheeks and delivered the coup de grâce.

“You swear at people all the time.”

“I do not!”

“Yes you do.”

“No I don’t”

“You do so. Even at ones you don’t even know.”

So forthright was he in his convictions that Blue Eyes had to pause her reprimand.

“What are you taking about?”

“You’re always calling people in the other cars diggits.”

The real word is far worse but this is what he interpreted, so ‘diggits’ became the yardstick for profanities in our family. Needless to say that Nanny and Doughie were rolling on the floor laughing by this stage and Blue Eyes was forced to explain the difference between words that adults are allowed to use and  words that children are allowed to use. The conversation concluded with a ‘do as I say and not as I do.’

When iDad got home from University later that night the three boys were fast asleep and Blue Eyes was sipping a glass of Chardonnay as she looked through the Yellow Pages for a new kindy for No.1

Coming soon: iDad v5 – Night Bears.

iDad © Matthew Green 2010

iDad v3 – Hello Granny

Keanu Reeves said it best in the movie Parenthood.

“…you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”

Its a powerful statement albeit a little inaccurate.

The physical act of courtship, copulation and birth is a basic human right that Governments rarely interfere with. However, just because you are capable of having a baby, well that fact alone does not qualify you to be a father. Its the wintry nights at soccer training, the chilly morning rugby games, the score-keeping duties at Sunday cricket matches, the countless kilometres spent ferrying the little ones from one activity to another; and its the unconditional love you give them, no matter what the circumstance, that makes you a dad.

Once again I had actively participated in all the joys of our pregnancy, much to my beautiful wife’s disgust. With a bloated belly and sore boobs (don’t ask) I waddled back downstairs to move the car whilst the midwife settled Blue Eyes into the luxurious delivery suite. Ten minutes later I was being seized at the elevator by my mother-in-law because No.3 was coming in early. In hindsight I suppose the impetuousness of his arrival was a sign of things to come but as the doctor handed me my third son I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deep pride. Three boys, what a man!

Bsgetti.

No.1 was four and a half with short blond hair, bright blue eyes and a vocabulary that would put most grunting teenagers to shame. God Sakes was nineteen months old and had moved on from singing bawdy retro rock ballads. Between the two of them though the high pitched squeaky chatter was enough to drown out any adult conversation and the only way to get them to be quiet was with big bowl of spaghetti. Both boys loved their pasta and iDad was continuously extracting noodles from nostrils and trying in vain to contain the slippery mess. One night as I was bathing God Sakes I found a dried out piece of yellow vermicelli stuck behind his right ear. I peeled it gently off his face I asked him what it was.

“Bsgetti dad.”

Hello Granny.

With two older brothers No.3’s development was a lot faster. He walked earlier than the others, recognised numbers, colours and shapes at a younger age; and, much to our chagrin, he learned to talk very quickly. During a shopping trip our plump little cherub was sitting in the trolley batting his big blue eyes at all the passers by. One kind lady with a Rubenesque physique stopped to pinch his cheeks and comment on his cuteness and No.3 replied in a voice that seemed to channel Cookie Monster,

“Hello Fatty.”

After much apologising Blue Eyes attempted to educate our little boy on good manners, respecting elders, and overall acceptable behaviour. With remorse written all over his face Blue Eyes ceased the lesson and began to clean up God Sakes spilled soft-drink. As she collected the last piece of broken glass she heard the biscuit eating muppet fire up the voice box one more time for the elderly couple that had stopped to say hi.

“Hello Granny.”

Marginally better.

He’s making it up as he goes along.

Pasta was one of the foods that No.1 could eat without aggravating his Anaphylaxis. Unfortunately we were still none the wiser as to what actually set him off and Prince of Wales Hospital was something of a second home for our little family. Usually Blue Eyes and I took it all in our stride but there was one instance that left me questioning my ability to be a father. The asthma had taken hold of No.1 pretty bad, which resulted in a week of no sleep for either parent. On the morning of the fourth day I was at home with God Sakes and Granny, getting them ready to go back to the hospital and relieve Blue Eyes who had done the night shift. The boys were missing their mother and brother, and neither one had slept well. When kids don’t sleep neither do the parents and iDad was rather worse for wear.

I changed Granny and left him on the bed as I went to do the same for God Sakes. Being the impatient type Granny refused to stay put and so he climbed off the bed and onto a bedside lamp that was on the floor. With no lampshade the 60w globe was exposed and pressed up against my little boy’s inside thigh. Granny never made a noise and it wasn’t until I turned around and saw where he was that I realised he was in trouble. I lifted him off the lamp and the bulb was stuck to his leg. It was a horrible burn. I quickly filled a wet washer with ice and held it to his leg as I raced back to the hospital. Granny sat in my lap with watery eyes but never cried. God Sakes rattled around the backseat of the car having a ball as iDad hit the corners at speed.

I bypassed triage and went straight to No.1’s room where the doctor was waiting.

“Please help my little boy.”

“He’s fine Mr. Green. You can take your son home this morning.”

“Not that one. This one.”

The doctor took Granny from me and raced off to another part of the hospital with Blue Eyes in hot pursuit. There was no holding hands in the dark this time round. iDad was left alone to ponder his inability to protect his children. It was an empty, hollow feeling of despair that I will never forget. Even now, twelve years later, when I see the cheloid scar on his leg I feel pangs of guilt.

Being a dad is hard.

Coming Soon: iDad Redux – Ready, Aim, Fire!

iDad © Matthew Green 2010