Death From Above 2017.

In sci-fi movies whenever people have to travel long distances in space they ‘cryogenically freeze’ them and then just thaw them out when they get there. Like most sci-fi inventions, this technology has been spoken about as having real-life potential. And while I agree with its intention, I don’t agree with its application. We shouldn’t be developing it to send people into space to be eaten by aliens, we should be developing it so parents can travel further than the supermarket without wanting to fire themselves into the sun. Unfortunately we lack the ability to freeze our children on planes right now, but if any scientists are reading this I will fund your Kickstarter.

It’s been some time since I wrote a blog post, but I felt it necessary in the wake of what I’ve just been through. For those readers who don’t know me personally, I’ll bring you up to speed. I’ve got two of them now. Frankie is 2 and a half, and she now has a 4 month old baby sister, Nina. So what do you do when you’ve got a toddler and a baby in Australia? Well if you’re certifiably insane you take them to visit your in-laws in Canada.

On my THINGS I WOULD LEAST LIKE TO DO list, ‘be fired out of a civil war cannon naked into a field of Saguaro cacti’ and ‘be eaten alive by a Kodiak bear’ both come a distant second to ‘be locked in a giant sardine can in the sky with a screaming baby and toddler surrounded by people who want to stick my head on a spike’, but nevertheless that’s what I’ve gone and done.

And just to add fibreglass to the festering wound, a cold swept through our house in the week leading up to our departure. Sensing the existing proposition wasn’t challenging enough, my immune system decided to say ”here deal with this lol’ and went on its own holiday a day before the trip, meaning every single one of us was plague-ridden for the expedition.

To begin with, we had to wake both the kids up at 3am to get the airport in time for the flight. Which is a fantastic to way to start things off, as the old saying goes ‘always piss off a sleeping baby’. Including one domestic connecting flight, the total travel time was around twenty hours. The first flight was short and went off without a hitch thanks to Nina being a generally chill baby and the infamous toddler-hypnotising abilities of the iPad. It was to be the calm before the extinction event meteor strike.

The 14-hour flight from Brisbane to Vancouver is where the shit got real. I had packed a couple of books and in the days leading up to the flight loaded my phone with some music and games to keep myself entertained. What a fucking idiot, right? Who the fuck do I think I am? I literally used none of that shit, not even once. There was no ‘time to kill’. The entire flight was a marathon tag-team battle against a pint-sized team of indomitable terrors.

The first three or four hours weren’t that bad and eventually Frankie drifted off for a nap. Then, just as my wife decided she would take Nina up the other end of the plane to change her nappy, it happened. Frankie woke up, startled, looked around with a ‘where the fuck am I?’ expression, realised Mum wasn’t there, and then freaked the absolute fuck out. I’m talking just constant screaming. Like if someone replaced the siren of a firetruck with a howler monkey infected with the virus from 28 Days Later and ran it through Spinal Tap’s amplifier. Honestly at this point I really would have not minded if the plane had been shot down by a Russian militant and exploded in a ball of flames. After what felt like an eternity, but was probably more like 10 minutes, my wife returned to lend a hand. But the damage was done. The scars left on my soul cut deeper than when Atreyu’s horse sank in that swamp in The Neverending Story. I’m sure everyone within a 10-metre radius was already plotting to string us all up by our toes the second we dropped our guard. Three people in the aisle over were were holding torches and pitchforks. I’m not even sure how they got them on the plane.

The other thing to consider is just how much carry-on stuff you need to sustain the lives of two adults and two young children. We had three backpacks and a suitcase full of food, nappies, changes of clothes in case of poonamis, toys, colouring books, electronics etc. and by the midpoint of the flight our row was absolutely littered with crap. It looked like someone was filming an episode of Hoarders 30,000 feet in the sky. You’d be less likely to step on something navigating a Cambodian minefield in clown shoes. A family of raccoons eventually made their home under the seats. I named them Angry, Scratchy, Bitey and Steve. We were eventually rid of them when an unsuspecting hostess walked past with some bags of pretzels. I really underestimated Steve as he definitely did the most damage. She may never see out of that eye again.

Somehow, between intermittent moments of ‘I’ve had enough of this shit’ from one of the two of them over the next ten hours, I managed to watch John Wick on the in-flight TV screen. John Wick is a cool as shit movie about Neo from the Matrix hunting down Euron Greyjoy because he killed his dog. I know it sounds like a strange crossover but it really works. What doesn’t work however is Fist Fight, which despite an impressive cast, is so nauseatingly terrible I turned it off after twenty minutes. Honestly, I think that movie must have been directed by a shoe and shot by a wedding photographer. Even that’s generous because a wedding photographer can usually make people look like they give a shit for at least one take.

The home stretch of the flight was filled with mixed emotions. There was a galvanising sensation of accomplishment and relief as the little plane on the entertainment system crawled closer to the right of screen, but it was short lived. About two hours from landing, both kids went into complete meltdown. It was like sitting in a listening room at a hi-fi store with built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound that only played ‘Screaming Kids of Summer Vol.3’. They were understandably inconsolable. Hours upon hours of being stuck in a noisy tube had pushed them to the brink. I just felt utterly helpless. All we could do was ride it out until the plane landed or someone sitting nearby snapped and threw a molotov cocktail at us.

But, nevertheless, we made it. Came, saw, wanted to die, conquered. And here’s the really crazy bit. I’m only here for a couple of weeks. My wife is staying for a month. So she’ll be doing this all over again ON HER OWN. I cannot even fathom the thought. But if anyone can do it, she can. I won’t be surprised though if she packs a parachute and just nopes the fuck out of there somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

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Higher Ground

It’s happening.

The next stage of evolution has begun.

The quadruped is going bipedal.

A few weeks ago, Frankie began pulling herself up to stand at every given opportunity. Her jelly legs wobbling with the grace of those wacky inflatable flailing tube men that flounder above car yards run by guys with gold teeth and the moral compass of a FIFA Committee Member.

As each day goes by, her strength and confidence grow, leaving the wobbles in their wake. It’s like watching Hulk Hogan make one of those shaky returns from the dead, but over a four week period. And now, as long as there is somewhere to place her hands, she can cruise along the couch with the grace of an acrophobic atop the Eiffel Tower.

But now that she’s moved up a level, literally, nothing is sacred.

Remotes, cords, keys, wallets, phones, everything is in immediate peril.

Her modus operandi is to ‘take things out of things’. The floor is regularly littered with $7 worth of those organic bamboo nappy wipes that my wife insists on buying. You can really notice the difference, compared to the generic brands, in how they don’t irritate the sensitive carpet in the lounge room. Rather than constantly clean them up, I’ve given in to telling people that we’ve had the floors decorated in a de-constructed bamboo sheet to encourage positive Feng Shui.

My wallet is also a hot target, with debit and credit cards often violently dragged from their home, kicking and screaming, before being dumped at unmarked locations around the house for me to hurriedly find before I head off for work. Like a real life treasure hunt that decides whether I get to eat lunch or put petrol in the car that day.

Then there’s the bookshelf, which also houses DVD’s, known to Frankie as ‘The Goldmine’. Seeing titles such as Half Baked, Friday and How High strewn across the floor offers a humorous reminder of what we were doing with our lives the last time buying DVDs was actually a thing that people did. The house regularly looks like it’s been ransacked by an autistic group of bandits who place a high value on tissues, pens and Playstation Controllers. There are post-apocalyptic buildings in Fallout 4, that 200 years after a nuclear bomb has hit them, look more organised than our house.

While honing her hunter-gatherer skills, Frankie’s managed to develop a ‘snack sonar’. Mum’s handbag and the undercarriage of the pram are often raided for Cruskits and tiny tubs of cheese and carrot sticks leftover from a trip to the park. Her ability to seek out a dummy is similarly impressive. All of a sudden, I’ll turn around to discover she’s materialised one from thin air with some piece of alien technology she’s keeping hidden from the rest of us.

On a positive note, a lucrative opportunity may have opened up in the salvage industry, as she has an uncanny ability to find coins (and then attempt to eat them). She even managed to find a 500 Rupiah coin, most likely from a trip to Bali that we took about 4 years ago. Where in the hell she dredged that up from, I’ll have no idea. I’m thinking of taking her to the beach to use as a metal detector to find lost valuables. When she’s old enough to wear a snorkel, we’re going hunting for the sunken treasure of Nuestra de las Mercedes.

The baby gates are up, the wall sockets are plugged and the troops are dug in for the long haul. But somehow, I feel like we are inevitably fighting a losing battle. Just like the torn and chewed on page of once important notes I have just spotted on the floor next to me.

BONUS STORY : A couple of months ago, on Grand Final Day, I had my quintessential ‘Dad’ moment. If you’re not familiar with it, the AFL Grand Final is the Australian version of the Super Bowl. A huge ad that I wrote was premièring at half time. A big moment in any advertising creative’s life. I was at a friend’s house, perched on the couch in front of the TV with Frankie on my lap, waiting for it show, and then… all of a sudden…

Frankie projectile spewed all over me.

I raced over to the bathroom to clean up, only to hear everyone yell, “It’s on! It’s on!”

And I missed it.

Because I got spewed on.

You will never live that one down, Frankie.

It’s coming out at your 21st.