Getting ready for a special birthday. Accepting that my little girl isn’t little any more.

September 10, 2013

When she arrived in this world, it was with a quiet cry. Nothing like the ear-splitting scream her big sister let out a few years earlier.

It was like she didn’t want a fuss. No need to be the centre of attention.

In the early years, she was happy to go with the flow. She would follow her sister around the house. And the yard. They were inseparable.

It didn’t take long for her own personality to come through. There was a determination about everything she did. She would get frustrated easily. Still does.

Her kindergarten teacher told us what a delight she was to teach. But there would be tears, if she didn’t get things just right.

As she got older, we were able to see so many beautiful traits develop. She adores family. She can fight like a warrior with her sister. But no siblings are closer.

No-one loves cousins more. She would get excited whenever there would be a visit. Still does.

She drove us nuts to get a pet. Make that pets. Dog. Cat. Guinea pigs. She has such a caring heart.

When she laughs, you have to laugh with her. She runs out of breath. Will fall down from a fit of the giggles.

She’s ticklish too. One touch and she goes into a frenzy. Dads get great amusement from such things.

She loves nothing more than getting everyone together to watch a movie. Expect to cop a blast if you try to leave the room. Unless you’re making her more popcorn.

She sings constantly. I wish the world could hear her like I do. The voice of an angel. But for our ears only. She won’t perform. I still hope that will change.

Rarely does a minute go by when she’s not doing some sort of dance move. In the kitchen. In the lift. Around the pool. Like her sister, she has a gift when it comes to grooving.

Of late, there have been difficult days. Changes at home. Tough times at school. But she is loved, so very much, by all those in her life.

There are many photos of her that I cherish. One is at about age 3, at work on a tiny ironing board. So incredibly cute. But with that determination on show.

Another is with her sister, a few years later. They are poking their tongues out at the camera, with big smiles. It hangs at my door, so I can giggle at the cheekiness of it all each morning.

Perhaps my favourite, is one of her asleep as a toddler. She is on my chest, and I’m sleeping too. She is safe and secure, with my arm around her. Never wanting to let her go.

It’s what Dads do. We want to protect our daughters forever. Even if they’re not asleep on our chests anymore.

Tomorrow, this gorgeous girl, is little no more. My daughter becomes a teenager.

She makes me proud, every day. She’s taught me so much. About love, and caring. And family.

I count my blessings, to have two daughters, who are so beautiful in every way. What a lucky man.

As of tomorrow, Daughter Two becomes Teenager Too. Happy birthday Hannah.

Where did all those candles come from? Coping with birthdays for the elderly.

February 19, 2013

I have a birthday coming up. It’s not The Big One, but it’s fair to say I can see that disturbing number looming large.

This one will be relatively painless. A few nice dinners, with no need for reflection. That will come next year.

There was a time when we celebrated our birth date with gusto. My 18th party was one such occasion.

It centred around one of the all-time great games of backyard cricket. We played over an entire weekend, and into Monday morning.

There was a large keg, and little else. Our dog, the tennis ball-chasing border collie, was exhausted by the end of play.

Players came and went, but the game rolled on. The effect of refreshments meant the pace bowlers lost their line, and the batsmen had trouble seeing several feet in front of them.

Someone told me they witnessed a streak as part of the event. Up the road, past the club, and back to the game. Without video proof, I still refuse to believe it.

There were other great parties around that time. A bunch of us were born within a few weeks of each other. Each event was a triumph.

Perhaps the highlight was a mate who ended his 18th night, clinging to the Hills hoist, while playing a harmonica. Naked. There were photos, which I believe have since been destroyed.

Through the years, milestones have been celebrated in various locations. The 30th was in Cairns, during a rain storm of biblical proportions. The pub we were in became a temporary houseboat.

Year 40 was marked at the races. A lovely day at Eagle Farm with some good chums. We then had Chinese, and were almost arrested, because of a dispute over the cake. Good times.

The celebrations since have been a little less spectacular. Hard to get too excited through the mid-forties. Still good fun, but no marathon sporting events or nude musical interludes.

Next year could be different. The old boys are emerging from their slumber, and starting to prepare. Once again, we’ll have a clutch of events within weeks of each other. Medical teams will be put on standby.

I’ll keep you posted through the year as the plans take shape. All ideas will be considered. Just one condition. No harmonicas.

Forget the Horse Whisperer. Meet my mate the Woy Woy Goat Walker.

October 9, 2012

It wasn’t something you see every day. A grown man walking a goat by the side of the road. Complete with collar and leash.

Traffic slowed to a crawl. Drivers strained for a better look. It was difficult to work out who they were more focused on. The high-stepping farm animal, or the giant wearing nothing but his footy shorts and a smile.

My big mate has always done things like that. He’s not embarrassed easily. When you tip the scales at over 120 kilos, you can pretty well do as you please.

Memories of the goat came flooding back on the weekend, as a few of us celebrated his 50th birthday.

In typical style, he’d banned any party. Said he wouldn’t attend. Too much fuss.

Instead, it was decided that we’d surprise him several weekends before the actual date. A shock and awe approach to a birthday bash.

Over a few cool drinks at the club we helped build thirty years ago, stories of tall tales from the early days emerged. The goat received several mentions.

We were minding it for one of the Big Bloke’s friends. I never found out why. I just came home one Friday night, on unsteady pins, to find a new pet chained to the clothesline.

This puzzled me. I was sure there hadn’t been an animal there when I left for work earlier that day. One would remember such a development.

I checked with the housemates, who confirmed that my eyes weren’t playing tricks. So began our time with Spot the Goat.

Visitors loved Spot. They thought he was a quirky addition to our bachelor pad. Like the barber’s chair on the back deck. And the bathroom that had never been cleaned.

I had less affection for Spot. His diet consisted of grass, cardboard (as in beer cartons), and my work shirts. His other great trick was to position himself at my bedroom window, and make the most awful of noises at approximately 4am. Every day.

His time with us was eventful, but brief. Spot went to the farmyard in the sky. The Big Bloke was upset for a week.

My mate’s other great passion, aside from family, Fords and Manly, has always been food. You don’t get to be his size without knowing a little about preparing a meal.

Back then, he took it upon himself to make lunch for all three members of the house. One loaf of bread per day. White, of course.

He bought us lunch boxes, and had them packed, ready to go, early each morning. Sometimes with a treat. This, from a burly front-rower who packed down with the best of the time.

At work, my colleagues chuckled. Don’t let that one go, they’d say. I’d landed myself quite a catch.

It all worked fine, until the day I was invited to a business lunch. I’d forgotten all about it, and duly lined up in the morning to receive my allocation of the loaf.

Those four hefty sandwiches remained in my bag, as I dined out on fancy Chinese. Big mistake.

What I didn’t realise, was that my towering housemate was checking our lunch boxes each night. Just to make sure that his efforts weren’t being wasted.

It was our first and only confrontation. Me full of cheap wine and dim sims, and him waving soggy cheese and beetroot sangers in my face.

From then on, if I had a work lunch, I’d dump his carefully made sandwiches in the bin. Nothing like keeping the peace.

He hasn’t changed. Made me breakfast before I left for my flight home. Three fat sausages, two eggs, two tomatoes, baked beans and toast. And watched as I took every bite.

He loves looking after people. Always has. The Big Bloke doesn’t believe in throwing anything away. A mighty heart in that giant frame. Even the cat is a stray.

I could have asked if he had any goat’s cheese to go with my cup of tea. But I thought better of it.

He doesn’t exercise farm animals any more. That’s a shame. I guess once you’ve walked with goats, there’s not much left to achieve.

My sleeping beauty. The latest lessons in life from a September 11 girl.

September 11, 2012

She came into the world with a coo and a gurgle. No extreme crying.

It was almost peaceful, compared to her sister a few years earlier.

The Teenager’s first scream could be heard in nearby suburbs. A noisy sign of things to come.

I can still picture the look on Daughter Two’s face, in those first few minutes. It’s like a photo in my mind. More than a beautiful baby. There was a presence, that remains to this day.

Her Mum felt it too. Like this tiny one was letting us know early on, that she was something special.

It didn’t take long to discover that these two much loved little girls were very much their own ladies. So similar is some respects, but so different in others.

Older sister loved hearing bedtime stories. One book after the other, night after night. She refused to go to sleep, even then. Nothing’s changed.

Younger sister would last about five pages. Sleep came so naturally. Try as she might, those gorgeous eyes would close swiftly. Nothing’s changed there either.

She can still call it a night, hours earlier than her sibling. Like both Mum and Dad, she appreciates a long sleep.

She went to bed early, on this day eleven years ago. Hard to argue with that, when you’ve just turned one.

We’d had a first birthday party for her, a few hours before the unthinkable happened in New York. The day her birth date became synonymous with terror.

There are mixed emotions for us at this time every year. So many families feel such awful pain, on the same day we celebrate our amazing gift.

She loves special occasions more than anyone I know. Birthdays, and Christmas, and Easter. Weeks out, plans are always very much in place.

So it was this weekend just gone. We held the party a few days early. Lots of fun. But very different from those early celebrations.

Back then, she couldn’t get enough of us. Didn’t matter who else attended, the biggest hugs would always be for Mum and Dad.

When you turn 12, you realise how ridiculous those same parents actually are. This time, we were warned about talking to the party guests. There would be no need for such idle chat. And don’t organise any games. Leave it to us, she said. She wasn’t being mean. Just being 12.

We behaved ourselves, and the party was a success. Not that she told us as much. But we could tell. There were even cuddles at day’s end.

As parents, we see wonderful things ahead for our daughters. Most Mums and Dads do. That they can do anything they turn their delicate hands to.

It’s not easy though. So many distractions. This girl who still falls asleep in the car, could be anything. Once she decides what it is that she actually wants to do.

She can sing, and act, and make people laugh. But it’s all confined to the lounge room. Too shy, she tells us.

Modelling agencies have snapped her up. Why wouldn’t they. Those same traits of beauty that afflict all the women in her family.

She has a flair for sport, especially athletics. Won relay gold at the regional carnival just yesterday. But doesn’t have time to compete on weekends. Far too busy with social activities.

Her love of dance continues. She’s great at that too. But only on her terms. Push her to do more, and be prepared for a battle.

Maybe this is all just a proud Dad boasting about the little girl he adores. Guilty as charged, your honour.

I know she’ll work it out. Big things are ahead. And we’ll be with her every step of the way.

She will change the world, you mark my words. For the better. Along with her sister. We’re so lucky to have them both in our lives.

In the meantime, she will give us those looks that only a Grade Seven girl can. And let us know how we have most things wrong. In the nicest possible way. Great practice for when she becomes Teenager Two. Twelve glorious months to go. Happy birthday beautiful girl.

The rules for having a punt on your birthday. Champagne, laughter and ignore the tipster.

July 14, 2012

We’re off to a birthday party today.

Not just any gathering. A much-loved friend is celebrating one of the Biggies.

I’m too much of a gentleman to give her age away. Let’s just say her 40th was a LONG time ago.

I’m not on the organising committee, but I’m guessing she’ll have a few champagnes as we gather to mark the day. And a wine. Or two.

The other birthday activity I’m confident she’ll be involved in is a bet. Because that’s what we do.

I have lots of friends who don’t need a special occasion to join in the punt. Many will do so on any day that ends in Y. Let me point out that the Birthday Girl isn’t one of them.

She saves her punting for special days. And she has certain betting characteristics that will set her out from the crowd.

There’s every chance that she’ll have all her bets in the one go, at the start of the day. There will be a pile of tickets filled out early, ready to feed through the machine.

They won’t be big plonks. Just a few dollars each. A trifecta or two. A jockey she likes. There could even be some names that tickle her fancy. And definitely nothing that I tip her.

More often than not, she’ll get hubby to put the bets on for her. Allows her to keep chatting. Today will be one of those days. He’ll walk off with a large bunch of betting slips, and a handful of notes and coins.

This is always amusing, because it takes some time to get the tickets done and dusted. He’ll be standing there for an age, with a line forming behind him. There may even be a scratching somewhere in the mix, that will delay him some more.

He is one of those special blokes who’s spent his life keeping the rest of us safe. Decades in the force, taking great joy in locking up grubs. And dealing with pressure to solve horrendous crimes, that few others have to experience.

For him, holding up a line of anxious punters is a walk in the park. All those times he’s stood in that queue, I’ve never heard him complain. Not once. He’ll return to the table, with the processed tickets, and a smile. Although he may have kept the change once or twice.

The Birthday Girl will win this afternoon. You can bet on that. It will be a nag that the rest of us have dismissed out of hand. No chance. She will spot something that we missed.

It will pay a heap. Which will add to our pain. She’ll let us know, with a laugh that rattles windows, and is music to the soul.

Hubby will be proud as punch of her. And not just because he might get a sling from the winning kitty. It’s just how they are.

She deserves the very best of days today, and that’s what we’ll give her. There was a savage battle not that long ago, that she faced head-on, with incredible courage and class. A foe that doctors had to tackle, not coppers. She’s winning that too.

And so we’ll celebrate, and be thankful that we have such a wonderful friend. Sometimes you don’t need much more than mates, laughter, and a few bets. Happy birthday Jacinta.

So, my daughter’s not good enough? Round two between Father and the Boy.

September 13, 2011

After weeks of planning, Daughter Two was having her eleventh birthday party.

A house full of school friends. Games and loud music. Enough sugar to send a Bundy farmer on a Pacific cruise.

Oh, and one other thing. There were boys.

Two in particular. The object of my precious daughter’s affections, and his mate.

You may remember me mentioning the lad in question a few weeks back. From memory, I was calm and laid back about it all. Despite suggestions to the contrary.

At least he had his shirt on this time. Unlike in that ridiculous dancing video. He had a mop of shaggy blonde hair, that was in need of a date with a brush.

He had a go at the hula hoop competition, but was no match for the girls. I almost felt sorry for him.

Defeated, he sat down to watch the others. The opportunity was too good to ignore.

In a classic military move, I came in unsighted from the right flank. No escape path.

We shook hands. He seemed tiny, and uncomfortable. I asked him about footy. He went a shade of red.

All the while, I could feel a pair of eyes burning deep into my back.

Daughter Two was watching my every move. The potential for embarrassment here was deep into the red zone.

I was trying to be cool. No boring dad stories. I didn’t even break into song. But there was a problem.

The last time I’d checked, they were about to be the Year 6 version of boyfriend and girlfriend. Everyone seemed happy. Not counting me.

I’d heard nothing more, and assumed that they were, indeed, an item. Apparently, this is something one needs to check before engaging in conversation.

The girls, all ten of them, were sleeping over. Madness, I know. But the boys were being picked up. Departure time prompted a flurry of activity from the young ladies present.

There was a rush for the door, with a squeal common at sleepovers. They were screaming things like “Don’t you have something to ask the birthday girl?”, and “You still have time!”

I was confused. Nothing unusual for a Friday evening. Until the Treasurer took me aside.

She explained that there’d been a hitch. He hadn’t asked her out yet. The girls thought he would muster enough courage by the end of the party. They were wrong.

It then dawned on me. This kid who I’d been interrogating, was only Boyfriend (pending).

The girls ran inside laughing. It was Pass the Parcel time. For just a second though, I thought I detected a hint of sadness in the eye of my beautiful daughter.

This was an outrage. What was this pint-sized cad thinking? Standing up the most eligible eleven year old in the school?

Because one of the young gum-chewing party guests had taken my comfy black chair, I pondered the situation briefly from the deck. My life till now has been about keeping boys away. Now I wanted one to come back.

I decided the best thing I could do was to go to another room and watch the footy. A sacrifice that fathers make on such nights. I hope you understand.

The rest of the party seemed to go well, apparently. Except for the girl with the allergic reaction to the guinea pigs.

I’ve been told that such matters take time. The boyfriend thing, not the allergy. Although I have given thought to training up the little critters  to attack him during his next dance performance.

Daughter Two just laughed when I asked for details the following day. She said all was ok, and that I should ‘chill’. It seems the family is getting some perverse satisfaction from my suffering.

I hope he realises that this isn’t over. Fathers have long memories. He’ll have to answer my questions again one day. Just as soon as the game  is over.

Nobody panic. There’s a boyfriend in the room. Just keep him away from your Father.

August 30, 2011

This must be handled carefully.

No need to be silly. A father should remain calm and reasonable.


There’s a boy on the scene. I’m told it could be serious. The real deal.

All this time, I’ve been keeping watch over The Teenager. Doing my best to keep those crazy high school kids in baggy shorts away. Seems my surveillance has been on the wrong daughter.

While The Teenager fights them off with a stick and waits for Cody Simpson (young pop singer in baggy shorts) to discover her, the little sister has been growing up.

Yes, Daughter Two has been struck by Cupid.

I know this because she told me. She was very excited about it. So much so that she failed to notice my knees buckle.

The Treasurer, who reads me like a dog-eared book, was expecting such a reaction, and caught me. It’s becoming a habit.

This is not quite the traditional tale of love and romance. More a Grade Six version.

A deal is in place with one of her best friends. The boy’s current girlfriend. But not for much longer.

The lad has declared that he likes Daughter Two instead. So there will be a handover, much like sharing a chocolate muffin at first break.

The ceremony will take place on Friday. Everyone seems quite happy with the arrangement. My head was spinning.

We asked if this had the potential to cause problems with their friendship. No, she said. The other girl is fine. She’s moving on too. Everyone’s a winner.

As I pondered the generosity of the younger generation, I was advised there was a video that I needed to see.

We gathered around the laptop, to see a skinny blonde boy dancing. It must have been hot that day, because he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

It was him. A smooth-moving eleven year old with protruding ribs and footy shorts. And his own YouTube page.

Daughter Two was giggling like a … schoolgirl. So too The Teenager. Even The Treasurer was enjoying it. They thought he was putting on quite a show.

I was speechless. When he wasn’t strutting to the music, he was talking to the camera. About everything and nothing. In his lounge room. Where does a kid get that sort of confidence?

It would seem I’m about to find out. We’ve having Daughter Two’s birthday party next week. And he’s invited.

Each night we receive strict instructions on how to act. Most of the directions are aimed at me.

Don’t ask him questions. No bad jokes. Avoid any talk about his dancing. Don’t mention the footy. Most of all Dad, DON’T embarrass me!

As if that would happen. I’ve promised to be on my best behaviour. All I’ll do is have a simple chat with him. Father to Dancing Boy. What could go wrong?

And there’s one more thing. A girl’s first relationship is a delicate matter. Privacy is important. I’d hate for anything to go wrong. Do me a favour and keep this between us.