Down in Upsy Down Town

It wasn’t how Kalyra’s birthday was meant to go.

It was the first time I was home with her for her birthday since she was born, and I wanted my day with my girl to be special.

We had planned a day at Taronga Zoo followed by Malaysian dinner, but Craig got called away on the Great Crusade a little earlier than we thought, so we had to change our plans and do that special day last weekend.

Today, we spent the morning at the airport saying goodbye to Craig. We got up early and gave Kalyra he brand new pink monkey bike with streamers, a bag on the front and a bell, just how she wanted it.

Craig leaving for NZ

Bye Daddy

And then we hurried down to the airport where she blew Daddy kisses as he walked through the gates shouting “I’ll miss you Daddy.”

Her Birthday goes Downhill

Kalyra was sporting a lovely bruise and egg on her head from where she had fallen the night before and bumped her head on the wall.

Should have known then that her birthday was heading downhill.

We were driving home on the Pacific Highway when the smell of what I thought was diesel fuel began to fill my nose. I kept looking at the vehicles around me to see the culprit, not really paying attention to what was going on in my car.

At around Pymble, I glanced down to my dashboard to see an orange light with a picture and the word CHECK on it. I thought it was the oil light, but later realized it was in fact the temperature light. I quickly text Craig who was sitting on the plane ready for departure.

“The orange oil light is on, saying ‘check.’ Do you know what I do?”

The first sign that me as a single mother is probably not going to work too well.

He phoned and alerted my attention to the temperature gauge which was up beyond high.

“Um yeah, you better pull over somewhere, get to a servo if you can and have someone help you check the oil and water.”

That was when I noticed the steam shrouding my car, and the burnt smell, which was not diesel, but my dry as a bone engine.


Lucky a servo at Turramurra quickly approached.

A lovely service attendant hurried over to help me.

“I’m no mechanic, but it looks like we need to get some water in your engine.”

Except we couldn’t find the radiator cap. I tried Craig one more time who quickly told me the air hostess was telling him to get off the phone.

Looks like I had to find the cap myself. We found instead the coolant box which was empty. We filled it up with coolant which disappeared forming a green river running underneath my car.

The radiator hose was busted

NRMA to the rescue

My sister only told me later that I should have mentioned that I had a two week old with me as they would have come out straight away. Instead Kalyra, Savannah and I waited for an hour in the car.

And that was when I began to feel so sad about my daughters birthday.

She had a bump on her head, her daddy just left her, we were stuck in a broken car that could  possibly be towed, my family were going to have a party with her in the park which was now cancelled, and I could not find her an Ariel birthday cake like she really wanted.

I had decided that this year I couldn’t handle organzing a party for her, as we just had Savannah, Craig was leaving, and there was far too much going on for my exhausted brain to plan and prepare anything.

Now I felt like a failure as a mother.

I thought for sure that she was going to crack it in that car as we waited. But she was sweet and loving and very patient.

While I was feeling sorry for myself, Kalyra decided it was time to sing and brighten up the atmosphere in our cramped little party space.

“In Upsy Down town, the sky is in the sea, the monkey’s in the nest where the birds should be.”

Before I knew it I was singing with her and we were making up silly verses.

“The moth is up your nose where the boogers should go.”

Down in Upsy Down Town

We were laughing and cracking up and I realized that despite our situation we could have a fun birthday together after all.

My sister was in the area at a work meeting and turned up just as the NRMA guy did. She sat with us while we waited in case  the car had to be towed so she could drive us home.

He managed to patch up the hose enough for me to get home. To the mechanics I go on Monday.

I arrived home at my parents place at the exact time that Craig would have been landing in Auckland.

Kalyra’s cousins were there and she had a ball playing with them and opening up more presents. My younger sister, visiting from Perth, and my Mum had bought and set up a party for her to help me.

Kalyra's b'day

Her non-Ariel birthday cake

She was spoiled. I felt much better about her birthday.

My Birthday Promise

That evening after I put her to bed I heard a shuffling in the hallway. My baby girl was standing there looking sad and forlorn. I’m sure she was missing her Daddy

I picked her up and held her on my shoulder just as I do Savannah now and as I did with her as a baby.

I patted and rubbed her back remembering that four years ago, I began my journey with her doing that very same thing.

I allowed her to fall asleep like that the whole time lamenting at how fast they grow up.

I promised her, just like I did four years ago, when her wide eyed newborn baby eyes told me she had no idea who I was, but trusted that I would look after her.

I promised that for her fourth year of life, I would do better than I did last. I would learn from my mistakes and I would become a better Mummy for her.

posted in: Daily Life
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  • Gail Artley

    What a precious story! You brought tears to my eyes. It sounded like the birth…day went off well enough with a nice finale. I’m sure Kalyra enjoyed being with her Mum on her special day ……. even if it wasn’t the day that was planned. Gail.


    • Caz

      Thanks Gail We had some special moments. I wish it could have been the whole day but at least we had some smiles and laughter.


  • Colin Burns

    Those kids of things always happen when Dad goes away 🙁 Same with our family!

    We just had our radiator blow while we were in Thailand. But really we couldn’t have had any better luck. The car broke down outside a service station which towed us about 2km down the road to a company that fabricates radiators. They built us a new part from scratch and about 6 hours later we were back in business!

    My family are up in Bangkok at the moment while I am in Penang and I can’t wait for them to get home tonight 🙂

    I hope Craig is enjoying the rugby 🙂



    • Caz

      Murphy’s LAw really isn’t it? Craig is enjoying the rugby. Lucky he has me to hold the fort together so he can 🙂


  • Kelly Exeter

    Aw Caz I love this story!! What a beautiful spirit Kalyra has!


    • Caz

      She constantly reminds me to be better.


  • Lauren Fritsky

    I’ve had this happen to me while driving and handled it with much less grace than you did — AND I didn’t have two little ones in the car! I think you turned the day right around for you and the girls.


    • Caz

      Hate dealing wtih car troubles. I actually think having the girls in the car made me deal with it a little better. Stops me from swearing and losing my cool


  • kirri

    You’re a wonderful mummy exactly the way you are….and Im sure Kalyra agrees wholeheartedly!

    PS – Handling car troubles on your own….ugh. Not fun. Singing silly songs to lighten the mood…the perfect antidote to stress. Good on ya xx


    • Caz

      Thanks Kirri. Not fun at all. I hate cars., It was funny this morning the mechanic rang to say that the radiator hose was fixed but now they were having trouble starting the car, which made me depressed all over again and cursing cars. They rang back later to let me know the verdict– there was no petrol in the car 🙂 Gave me a good laugh


  • Donna

    Memories are better than any gift or big party you could give her and despite her daddy not being there, her day was filled with song, laughter and happiness as she was surrounded by those she loves. Birthday AND MOMMY success!!


    • Caz

      Total success I was so happy to see her happy. That is all that matters.


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