Overcoming anxiety and being rewarded with an awesome outcome…

… I could stop and think of a snappier title, but that sums it up, really.

Play School is an iconic Australian television show for kids. It’s been running since 1966 and is the second longest running children’s show in the world. Two presenters sing, dance, tell stories and make crafts on a variety of simple sets, with the aid of equally iconic toys with names like Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Scrap and Humpty.
(Excuse the dry introduction, I’m trying to lay some background details.)
There are also often live Play School performances that tour the country – and they really tour it, they don’t just visit the capital cities. I remember my mum taking us to at least one of these, and of course we grew up watching the show on TV.
I knew there was going to be a show here, and I was so excited to take Devin, but by the time we had money to buy tickets, they were sold out. I was extremely disappointed; this is not a city where live entertainment abounds, let alone live entertainment for kids. Every time I saw a poster or heard mention of it for the next month, I would sigh heavily and relive the disappointment.

On Thursday, the day before the show, we made a spur-of-the-moment change of plans and went out to eat lunch, rather than stay at home. So spur-of-the-moment, in fact, that I had to drive all the way home and back (a twenty minute round trip) because I had forgotten my wallet. By the time we were eating it was almost 3:30pm.
Just as we were finishing and gazing around the shopping centre food court, Jene said, “Hey, that’s Jay Laga’aia.”
And so it was, just he and another man (actually Bill the piano player for the show) wandering around the (quite small) complex.
I stared and thought. Should I take Devin and speak to him? Maybe ask for a photo? This was a rare opportunity. I’d never encountered someone well-known before. But no one else was approaching him – did they not recognise him, or were they just as shy as me? My heart was pounding as I grappled with conflicting feelings of anxiety and urgency.
Jene continued to urge me to do it, and finally, as they were heading out the doors, I found myself walking in their direction almost without thinking.
I had Devin by the hand, and I ushered him ahead of me as I apologised for interrupting. I introduced Devin to Jay, and Jay to Devin. Jay asked if we were coming to see the show, and I said that we’d missed out on tickets, so we were saying hello now.
“Oh, no! Hmm, well, I’ll you what Devin – you bring Mum along tomorrow anyway, get her to give me a call, and I’ll get you both in, free of charge.”
At this point my hands were shaking uncontrollably and I could barely grasp the card he handed me. I could feel the familiar flush spreading from my chest to my face. I thanked him very much and said we’d see him tomorrow, and just as we were walking away, Devin asked me, rather loudly, “Who’s that?”
Double flush.
Throughout the encounter Jene had taken himself off out of sight, and the first thing he said to me was how red I was. Wonderful.
Regardless, I felt incredible. I could scarcely believe I had done that. Me.

That night, I suddenly realised I would need a phone with credit to make the call the next morning. Frustrated with credit recharges and possibly feeling the last pulses of adrenalin from earlier, I impulsively ordered a phone on a plan before arranging to take Jene’s mobile with me in the morning. This is noteworthy because when I made the call and it went to message bank, I tried to hang up – and couldn’t. The phone wouldn’t respond. Jay Laga’aia would’ve received a voice mail of me saying, “Ohhh, it won’t hang up, Devy!”, frantic tapping and fumbling, Devin whinging and me hissing, “Devin!”, before I finally resorted to switching the phone off.
I bravely turned it back on and tried again; this time when it went to voice mail, I was able to hang up, glory of glories.
(I didn’t leave a message because… well, I froze. I can hardly deal with answering machines in normal circumstances, let alone incredibly unusual ones like this.)
A few minutes later, Jay called back, and soon Devin and I were in the auditorium, waiting for the show to start.

Devin picked a Humpty and shared his Le Snack… while making faces. Because, I don’t know. He’s a three-year-old.

The show went for 45 minutes, which is just about perfect. You can see the emphasis is on imagination – the washing basket was a tractor and a boat.

Devin was becoming rather fidgety by the end, complaining that he was hungry, but I wanted to wait for an autograph and thank Jay again. We didn’t have a long wait in line – they were lovely and friendly to everyone but still moved quickly because they had another show to perform soon after. We reached Abby first, she signed a card for Devin and slid it over to Jay as he was finishing with the kids in front of us. When he saw Devin’s name, he looked up to find him and gave him the most enthusiastic greeting.

Though they hadn’t really been stopping for photos, he told me to put Devin up on the table so I could get a picture. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get Devin to look away from the signed cards, but he did at least nod and say “yes” when Jay asked him if he’d enjoyed the show, which is more than the blank stare that he usually gives people. I said we’d had a great time and thanked him very much, and we said goodbye.

After a quick regroup on the stage and a closer examination of the autographs, we headed out to get some morning tea at the cafe downstairs. (Well, eventually, after Devin had watched the glass-walled lift go up and down a few times.)
Just as we had almost finished, both of us feeling calmer and refreshed, I got another call from Jay. He said he hoped we’d had a good time, asked what we were doing for the day and told me what his day entailed, and passed on his best wishes for Devin.
Such an amazingly nice guy!

I felt incredible after all of that. Proud of doing something for Devin that resulted in a positive chain of events for both of us. I really can’t articulate how significant this was for me… All I can say is, the me of even three months ago would not have done any of this.

I felt so buoyed by the experience that I let Devin ride up and down the carpark lift (a novelty in this city) for a while, and when we got home I registered us both to volunteer for National Tree Day – which is a story for another post.

So thanks, Jay Laga’aia – your kindness had more of an impact than you probably realise.



I’m bad at hobbies. I’m one of those people who gets frustrated when I can’t do something well the first time I try it. Yes, one of those people… If I do happen to stick with something long enough to at least get a basic handle, the next hurdle is practising regularly in order to improve. So, if I count all the skills I’ve gained from all the pastimes under my belt, we can see that the number of times I’ve overcome that hurdle is… oh right, zero.

In December last year, I saw Kelly Doust’s The Crafty Kid on display at the library just as I was checking some books out, and despite the fact that I had nothing to sew and nothing to sew with, I quickly added it my pile. I soon grew tired and annoyed with the author herself (“oh you simply must only use all natural, organic fibres, and I don’t know how anyone could possibly put anything but cashmere on their bodies and their children’s bodies in winter” – to paraphrase), but the projects in the book looked simple enough to put me in an inspired mind. I received a sewing machine for Christmas, looked at it in its box for two weeks, packed my computer away, bought Pip Lincolne’s Make Hey! While The Sun Shines, procrastinated a little bit more, and finally, I made this –

In the book it’s called the Piggy-Back Pocket Monkey, but when I presented it to Devin, he gave it a pat and called it ‘Friend’, so Monkey Friend is the name on this guy’s birth certificate.

For a complete beginner like me, the instructions weren’t always very clear. Some parts seemed to skip along quickly, being vague, other parts were so specific that they made me question things I’d done before. (“I did that in step 3 but it didn’t say anything about that there, why is she specifically mentioning it now?”) A misprint in the list of materials meant I spent $14 that I didn’t need to. But I managed. There was one moment of panic, when I turned the whole thing the right way out after sewing everything together and realised that half of each leg had managed to escape being stitched, but I fixed it the best I could – that’s why the bottom corners aren’t square. The pattern was for an older, taller kid, so I just tie the legs around Devin’s waist and put a knot in the tail. The monkey in the book was decorated with triangles, but obviously I made my own design. I am so. sick. of. triangles.

My mum found the calico hanging around the house. The brown velvety fabric was in the scraps bin at Spotlight. The most expensive thing about this was the Heat n Bond used to iron on the face and cloud design.

So, aside from sewing vertical blinds and little pouches for board game pieces, this was my first solo sewing project. It wasn’t perfect. I have so much room for improvement. But I’m really satisfied, and I want to make more things. (Admittedly it did help that I already knew how to basically sew a button and operate a sewing machine…)
I think one of the great things about sewing is that often, it doesn’t matter if your stitches are wonky or your seams aren’t flat or you… accidentally miss the monkey’s legs. You can still end up with something that looks good and that you’re proud of. I mean, maybe get back to me when I have to make a formal gown or some such thing that requires less character and more precision… but for crafty, hobby projects like this, imperfection is fantastic.

All right, another expense was this pin cushion because I didn’t much fancy sticking my fingers into a box of jumbled pins. Devin kept taking it when I wasn’t looking because the little people around the edge are, apparently, “baby boys!” I had to go and buy him one of his own, so he can grab it and exclaim “little baby boys!” to his heart’s content. Pin-free.

More hair, more cuts.

When there’s this much hair between the three of us, it’s really an unavoidable topic.

I took Devin to have his hair cut three weeks ago, thinking it would be a breeze like the previous three… four? times. He apparently read my mind, using that uncanny ability that all children seem to possess, and decided that not only would nobody be cutting his hair, but also that he wouldn’t be sitting on that stool, or in the chair on Mum’s lap, he wouldn’t be watching the fish light, he wouldn’t be eating any of the bribery biscuits – in fact, they can go on the floor – and he wouldn’t stop that whining and crying until we were safely back outside and Mum was suitably frustrated. The ladies were very nice about it, though.

This morning, I tried again. I was prepared. Jene loaded Wall-E onto the tablet for me, and I packed half a box of Jelly Belly jelly beans and a packet of mini Oreos in my handbag. Things went… slightly better. He still wouldn’t sit on the stool or have a cape over him, so I had a cape and he sat on my lap. The movie distracted him a little, the jelly beans even more so. He wasn’t particularly squirmy, but it still took almost 20 minutes to cut all of that hair (“Yep, quite short, please – it grows very fast!”) – by the end he was really desperate to get down and we were both covered in hair. But, it was done.

As the very nice and patient hairdresser was cutting it, she said, “I’m sorry, it’s not going to be the best haircut…” and I laughed and said, “That really doesn’t matter!” Honestly, there are days where he wakes up and his hair legitimately looks longer than the day before. It’s insane. (I think she did a pretty good job under the circumstances, anyway.)
I’ve said before that I like it longer and scruffy, but it’s getting warmer and he’s too hot. He’s a little furnace as it is – he wears summer pyjamas and only one blanket in bed in winter –  and the extra insulation on his head doesn’t help.

I wonder if he’ll rebel against us one day by deliberately wearing his hair extra short… A bit like The Rage In Placid Lake.

Hair. Goodness me.

For two.

We go to the indoor playground fairly regularly, because there’s not a whole lot else to do here. It’s a bit dilapidated, but I suppose it’s more exciting than being at home for Devin. At least until we install the giant slides and tunnels…

I order a cappuccino when we’re there, and a milkshake or juice for Devin. Lately, though, he’s been more interested in the froth on my coffee, and while I’m perfectly happy to share my food with him… hey, sometimes I want some of that froth, too.
So a few weeks ago, I swallowed all of my preconceived ideas and a bit of my pride, and ordered a babycino for Devin.
You know how opinions form in your head and get stuck without you really thinking about them? I try not to let that happen, but trivial little things like this can slip past. And my opinion was that babycinos were ridiculous and unnecessary.
But they’re not. They’re fantastic. Especially when they’re 65 cents and come with two big marshmallows.

But this isn’t a post about hot drinks. It’s about what Devin does with the marshmallows.

He shares with me. Without being asked.

I’ve never asked for a marshmallow, but he always gives me one.

I don’t know if I can convey how awesome I think that is. I get proud tears.

Little things like that are what keep parents going, I think. Moments that bolster confidence and reassure that you’re doing a good job. That he is doing a good job. That really, everything is ok.

I don’t really like marshmallows, by the way, but I eat the ones he gives me. They taste better.