Tuesday, August 31, 2010

34 going on 17

It's funny, but I have always felt that my biological age was a moot point. After going to university, travelling around the world, getting married, working as a high school teacher, and giving birth three times, you'd think I might start acting like an adult, or at least feeling like one. But I'm afraid that most of the time, my brain is pretty convinced that I'm still seventeen (or thereabouts). There are distinct advantages to this - I can remain entertained by the games of small children for days on end, and I relate well to my more immature students at work. However, I'm sure that if only for my children's wellbeing, I should probably think and act like a grown-up on a regular basis. And stop putting my hair in pig tails.

Today I was put into one of those situations that forces you to be the adult. I tried to wriggle out of it, but it was just no good! The girls and I were on our way to collect Jack from kinder, and we were sitting at a busy intersection waiting for a gap in the traffic. I realised a large dog was running towards our car on the road opposite us, and by some miracle he ran through a gap in the traffic and hid under the front of my car. It was at this point I knew that I had to make a decision...and leaving the dog to keep running wasn't an option! I whacked on the hazard lights, and jumped out of the car. The dog ran straight between my legs (he looked absolutely terrified, the poor thing) so I grabbed his collar and looked for a phone number. Luckily the girls were oblivious to all this - Maisie was staring out the window at the trees, and Phoebs was singing to her doll. One less thing to worry about! It was while rummaging in my nappy bag with the boot open that I realised my mobile was on the kitchen bench. Excellent news. Thank goodness the lovely lady in the car behind me got out to help hold the puppy, and another lady rang the owner on her mobile. Meanwhile, the line of cars banked up behind mine was growing longer, and longer. I was managing to make quite a spectacle of myself (I'm pretty sure my undies were also above the top of my jeans, peeking out from my t-shirt...) holding onto the terrified dog in the middle of the (growing) traffic! Thankfully, a man pulled over on the side of the road and said it was his boss's dog, and the dog leapt gratefully into the back of his Hilux. Woohoo!!! Problem solved!!! I was so relieved that we had saved the puppy from a dangerous situation (and also very, very relieved that I didn't have to put him in the back of my car...). I ran back to my abandoned daughters with a thumping heart, ready to be faced with screaming babies and distressed toddlers. They were both absolutely fine, smiling and looking at all the commotion with aplomb (I think Phoebe was glad the doggy got into someone else's car, though!) And as I drove on to kinder, I realised that for once I had been the grown-up, without really thinking about it. What sort of example would I be setting my kids if I left the dog to run under a car? What would they think if I just turned a blind eye to a difficult situation because someone else might take care of it? When they are adults, I would hope that they would be able to handle any situation life throws at them. It is my responsibility, as their mother, to provide them with the emotional strength and courage to deal with any number of decisions in their lives. And I'm going to begin tomorrow with lesson number one: when you step into the public eye (for example, in busy traffic), always make sure your jeans are pulled up properly to avoid revealing your knick-knacks.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Simple pleasures

Every Sunday morning, our kids have their swimming lessons. It might seem like a big a rigmarole, but I actually really enjoy the fact the whole family troops off to the pool together to get thoroughly chlorinated. Jack is big enough to have a lesson on his own now, so he takes great pride in kicking, paddling and bubbling around in front of us. He has always been a bit of a fish, and would happily splash for most of the day if you let him. Phoebe is close to going on her own, but still has a parent in the pool for half of the lesson. She's a bit more timid than her brother, but is steadily improving and just loves being in the water. Maisie, who has only been having lessons for a few weeks, is an absolute water baby! The little legs kick madly, the hands splash wildly, and if you're not careful, she tries to drink half the pool!! Just like bathtime, come to think of it. The thing I love best about swimming lessons though, is that even though we're doing it to start good water safety habits, to the kids it's just sheer unadulterated fun. They're not particularly fussed about which songs we sing, and they certainly don't give a hoot about proper technique. All they care about is the half an hour they get to spend in the water, and the more puffed they get, the better!

After yesterday's swimming lessons, we came home as usual and let the kids flake out for a few hours. Usually Christian and I use this time to have lunch together, read the papers or get some work done (poor Christian doesn't usually get that much quiet time in our house to do his work...funny that.) Anyway, yesterday we had also arranged to go out and see Aunty Miffy's young gelding at the stables. So after a quick nap, I piled the kids back in the car and went down to the farm where the horsies live. After seeing Stan (the horse...personally I would have named him Willard but there you go!) and giving him a quick pat, we went to the local Golden Arches (which Jack calls Old MacDonalds) for a coffee and a run on the playground. Would you be surprised to hear that my kids thought this was a perfect day? A swim, a horsie up close, and a play on the playground. It doesn't get any better than this!!

This morning, Maisie experienced one of the simple joys of an Australian childhood - Vegemite on toast! I knew she was ready for a proper breakfast when she began drooling over Phoebe's cereal, so I made her some little soldiers, sat back and watched. It's amazing how much pleasure a baby can get out of some toasted bread! She squished it between her fingers, gummed every piece, flung it on the floor...so much fun to be had with such a small snack! (It just takea a lot longer to clean up a baby covered in Vegemite than it does after a breastfeed.....)

Instead of hanging around the house today, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and headed down to Sorrento with my grandmother to meet my aunty for lunch. Now again, this was a pretty simple day - lunch on the foreshore and a run around on the grass at the beach. However, the day was made golden by several factors: my aunty brought new dollies for Phoebe, some cars and a whistling Vortex for Jack, and some singing car keys for Maisie Mouse. Not only that, she played endlessly with the kids and their new toys all through lunch. In addition to the boring old Vegemite sandwiches Mummy had packed, the big kids also had orange juice and hot chips for lunch (in our allergy-ridden household, this is the equivalent to Beluga caviar...or something really good!!). And then, to cap it all off, my aunty showed the kids how to do roly-polys down a grassy knoll, and then raced them back down the pier to meet the ferry. Seriously, when you were four years old (or nearly three, or seven months old...), wouldn't this sound like a perfect day?

We didn't spend any money on entertainment yesterday or today...we didn't go anywhere extraordinary...we didn't even really do anything that would register on an adult's radar...but over the last two days my kids have had an absolute ball. On both days they were surrounded by lots of adoring family members who spent a lot of time playing with them, and there were new and exciting things to discover: the look on Mummy's face when you splash really hard; what a horse's hair feels like; how dizzy you can get rolling down a hill; how very, very big a ferry looks up close; the taste of Vegemite on a warm piece of toast. I suppose these last two days have taught me something very special: that I should make more of an effort to enjoy every experience just like my kids, and I should make the most of all this wonderment before they turn into cynical teenagers that need expensive entertainment!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Got up at 2.30am to give Jack cough medicine, a drink and a cuddle. Didn't bother me.

Got up at 4.30am to find Phoebe's dummy. That was fine too.

Was woken by cold little feet being put into my side of the bed at 6.30am. Not a problem.

Left Christian to sleep in for a few hours while I made the kids breakfast, dressed them and watched "Finding Emo" (yes, that's right, it's a movie about a search for a troubled teen, I think) for the 20th time this week. Perfectly fine.

Endured several hours of a tired, sick, cranky Jack before he put himself back to bed. No worries.

Cleaned a house on a Saturday mornning, knowing that the same jobs had been performed the day before, and would need to be done again tomorrow. All good.

You may be wondering if I had discovered a secret stash of hallucinogens in the linen cupboard, or perhaps begun drinking absinthe before lunchtime? No, my friends, as tempting as both of those explanations may sound, the reason behind my zen attitude today was quite simple. No matter what happened to me this morning, I knew that I was off to Endota Spa this afternoon for 30 minutes of sheer bliss. That's right - HALF AN HOUR!!!! When Maisie was born, my darling friend Kathryn gave me a 30 minute massage at Endota for a baby gift, and I have only taken seven months to find the time to do it. The enchanting thing about going to Endota, is that there are no phones, no bright lights, no children, no endless, endless questions that would have no logical answer...just a darkened room, soothing music, and aromas that do not make your nose wrinkle and beg the question, "ok, who did THAT one??"

I enjoyed every second of my massage today, even though the time went so fast I am positive we had entered a time warp. My beautiful husband took Maisie out for a walk, my parents-in-law entertained Jack and Phoebalina, and my lovely therapist Ashley took great joy in attempting to beat the tension out of my shoulders (on the questionnaire before I went in, they asked how tense I was on a scale of 1 to 10...I said a 7 because I didn't want to frighten them...I think she guessed I fibbed!!) Now, I know that in itself that 30 minute block of time should have been enough spoiling for one girl in one day. However, we then went on to my brother-in-law's house (just Christian, Maisie and myself), where my dear B-I-L had cooked a roast for dinner. That's right people - no cooking for this little black duck tonight! (And may I say, it was absolutely delicious. I could have eaten the whole thing twice!!) And then, just when it all seemed too good to be true, we watched a DVD without any interruptions, spewing, fights, needing to go the toilet, wanting to change the DVD, or fighting over who was sitting where. How good is that? A whole movie. I was exceptionally impressed with Maisie's ability to curl up and sleep peacefully in my lap. She's very considerate.

And now we are back at home, taking it in turns to go in and cuddle two children who missed us today. Maisie is fast asleep after her adventures with Mummy and Daddy, although for how long I am not sure! I am surrounded by washing waiting to be folded, enough ironing to sink a ship, and an empty pantry. But what a glorious afternoon I had (and I must say, my skin feels lovely and soft...must remember that moisturiser was invented for a reason!). I'm sure if I made the effort I could find half an hour every seven months, or so. In fact, I have up my sleeve a second Endota gift voucher that I received for my birthday from my besties Gertrude and Esmerelda (Don't I have the most gorgeous friends in the world??) . Now all I need to do is convince Christian to take Maisie on a three hour walk....

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gertrude and Ermintrude

When you are feeling as sick as a dog, the kids are crabby because it's Friday, it's raining, and you've got more washing to do than is humanly decent, there's only one thing in this world that will make you feel better. (And no, it's not a whisky mac at lunchtime...) Nothing at all can make you happier than an afternoon spent with a couple of your closest, oldest friends. I spent today with two of my favourite ladies, whom we shall name Gertrude and Ermintrude. These girls have been friends of mine since high school, and to describe them as my extended family is an understatement. I am so very lucky to have such gorgeous friends who support me no matter what, and who are always willing to hold whichever child needs holding when two hands is no where near enough!!

People always joke about women going on maternity leave and becoming addicted to Days Of Our Lives and Oprah...although I will admit to watching Oprah occasionally, it's usually just so there's a bit of company in the room when all the kids are having a nap (a rarity, I assure you!!!! With three in the house, it's a strange day indeed when they're all down for a sleep at the same time...I get too suspicious to enjoy it!) Although I love being at home with the kids, and I acknowledge that maternity leave is a luxury that not all women get to enjoy, we forget that a lot of the time we leave our social networks in the office when maternity leave begins. I know for a fact that when I am working, I have an instant group of friends who I see in the staff room every day. I never need to schedule time to see them, but rather just enjoy a constant stream of adult company throughout the day (a necessity when dealing with teenagers in an educational setting!). Being a stay-at-home mum, it's very easy to pass several days without seeing anybody other than shopkeepers, and sometimes nobody at all. I know I have caught myself more than once speaking to inanimate objects without any concerns about my sanity. It's not a deliberate act of becoming a recluse, but rather the simple day-to-day management of living with small children - do I need to go out today, or is it easier to stay at home??

Having a group of girlfriends who you can turn to in any situation is one of the most important resources a mother can have. I know that I could have turned up to Ermintrude's house today in my jarmies, and she would have greeted me with the same warm hug as always (and come to think of it, a long, long time ago I'm pretty sure the three of us spent our fair share of time hanging out in our pjs...usually the morning after the night before!!) I always knew my girlfriends were special, but it is evident after today that both Gertrude and Ermintrude possess super powers, for when I left them I felt like a new woman. After just a few hours of chatting, having some lunch, and watching our children play happily together, I felt recharged and ready to face the vigours of peak-hour traffic in the rain. Even though I drove for several hours today for our lunchtime visit, it was worth every minute. Jack spent a great deal of the trip home asking (whining) why we were leaving, and asking (demanding) when we were going back. How fantastic for me, that not only did I get to spend a magic day with my girls, but that our kids get along so well? (Obviously, when we were schoolgirls we knew our kids would be best firiends, or else!!)

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Ermintrude and Gertrude, for a day I truly needed. Thank you for a delicious lunch, a staircase to keep Phoebe enchanted, friends to keep Jack entertained, cuddles to keep Maisie happy, and love to make my heart full again. I only hope that I can return the favour for you when you need it. I will always be here xxx

Thursday, August 26, 2010


When I was 21, I could stay out pretty much all night, get up and go to work (providing abysmal customer service, of course!!) and be ready for another night out after a short kip on the couch. I distinctly remember discovering the restorative effects of Vegemite on toast after only two hours' sleep, and mustering up the courage to venture forth into the land of clubbing for several nights in a row. Back then, my biggest concern was having enough energy to dance, and my most pressing responsibility was looking vaguely interested when speaking to customers at work. And then, of course, when it was all too much I could simply go to bed early and catch up on as much sleep as I liked. Those were the days.

Since Team O'Toole arrived to brighten our lives, sleep deprivation has become pretty standard in our house. Now, I know I'm stating the obvious for any family with young children, especially three babies within four years. I also realise that I have been blessed with relatively good sleepers, as all of my kids have "slept through" from quite young ages. However, most nights we get up a few times to retrieve dummies, give drinks of water, change wet beds, distribute cuddles after bad dreams, or just plain old breastfeed (usually this is my job, not Christian's!!) I think most mummies and daddies operate with a thin veneer of sleep deprivation 99% of the time, and we just get on with it because it's normal. But every now and then, a particularly bad night can throw a spanner in the works in a big way. Last night was one of the those nights.

Poor old Jack has had a cough for quite a few weeks now, a niggling dry cough that bothers him predominantly in the evening and early morning. Last night he coughed non-stop from the time he went to bed, and no cough medicine in the world could help him. His coughing woke Maisie, who started to cry. Her crying woke everyone else, leading to more coughing, crying from Phoebe, and desperate attempts to end the chaos from Mummy and Daddy. After almost two hours of trying to settle Maisie (every time she stopped crying, Jack coughed again. You could practically hear it coming...), I gave up and took Jack and Maisie out to the loungeroom, propped him up on a arm chair, popped Mais onto the boob, and tried not to acknowledge the fact it was 3.30am. Meanwhile, Christian tried to convince Phoebe that the world was not ending if Jack was out of his bed, and spent the rest of the night putting her back into bed. All up, I calculate the family got about 45 minutes sleep in total, which made me a very attractive specimen this morning.

Christian left for work at 6.30, as normal, and the day began as well as it could. I think I coped pretty well, all things considered. I only put the car keys in the freezer once. I remembered that the kids had appointments for haircuts, and actually drove to the right place (although I think I might have driven a fair bit under the speed limit...) I'm pretty sure I fed the kids, although I couldn't tell you what I put on the plates! Maisie spent a great deal of time yawning theatrically in her car seat, like a little diva we had rudely kept awake! I made it to Jack's appointment with the doctor on time, and stayed awake on the ultra-comfy waiting room chairs. I think my red-rimmed eyes and down-trodden expression even helped keep the bank open for five minutes when I arrived at closing time. I went to put Maisie to bed, and walked into the toilet instead (and then had no idea what I was doing in there!?!) I do feel a bit sorry for my lovely friends who will have to consume the cake I have just made, as I have no idea what ingredients went into it. (If I just slather it with pink icing, it should be ok, right??) It is now just after 9pm, and it would appear that Maisie is too tired for her last feed. If I get ready for bed now, it should guarantee that she'll wake up in ten minutes, shouldn't it? If I prop her up with me in an armchair, I might even be able to doze.........zzzzzzzzzzz.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I have spent all day today craving naughty things. It's been a long time since I've been even remotely swayed, but today I struggled badly. You know what I'm talking about. Chocolate. Sourdough bread. Peanut butter. Chocolate. Lasagne. Cheese. Chocolate. Considering the fact that Mais and I hunkered down inside today and cleaned like fiends (well, I cleaned madly in an attempt to escape my food demons, and she watched from her activity centre and laughed her little cotton socks off at my antics), I think my efforts at resisting the forbidden foods were admirable.

Did I mention the elimination diet??

Before you misunderstand me, I am not on a crazy post-baby weight-loss diet. I fall very definitely into the camp of women-who-cannot-lose-weight-while-breastfeeding-even-if-their-lives-depend-on-it. I know this because I could not lose an ounce before Jack was 10 months old and he weaned himself, and then it all seemed to sort itself out (as long as I steered clear of the obvious speed humps!!) I know that I ate my way through PND after Phoebe couldn't breastfeed, which would explain why the weight didn't drop until I dropped the plate. Maisie is currently approaching the 8 month mark with gusto, and although I have no intentions of weaning her, I am crossing my fingers that the body will start resuming something close to a normal shape in the near future. But I digress.

When Jack was very, very tiny, I visited a naturopath about his colic and eczema, and tried an elimination diet to see if any of the foods I was eating were affecting him. I think a few people thought I was crackers, but I was willing to try anything if it stopped his red raw, bleeding skin and screaming. It turned out that he was extremely allergic to eggs and dairy food, and to this day is under the care of a specialist paediatrician. When Maisie started presenting the same symptoms a few months ago, I thought the logical thing to do would be to try eliminating foods again. This time I had the help of my beautiful friend Holly, who is now my naturopath (and one of Phoebe's favourite people!). We decided to eliminate not only eggs, dairy and wheat, but also a group called salicylates. In a healthy nutshell, basically I removed all foods except rice, leeks, celery, carrots, meat, fish, soy products and golden syrup from my diet. Although it sounds dreadful, the results were evident in Maisie's skin almost immediately which made it completely worth the effort. It has also forced me to become inventive in my cooking (although the humble roast has featured rather heavily on our dinner table of late!!) and buy lots of fresh food. Whenever I crave something sweet, I have golden syrup on toast (oat bread, of course!!) or this gorgeous apple butter I found in the health food shop for hippies. It hasn't been that difficult, and when I go out for coffee I just order a decaf soy latte and endure the raised eyebrows.

But today, oh today I struggled. I was the number one citizen in Struggletown. All I could think of was eating all the things that would make my baby sick, and what sort of mother would I be if I sacrificed that creamy eczema-free skin for a slice of pizza?? So I did what all mothers are exceptionally good at doing: I played pretend. Craving raisin toast? Have some puffed rice instead. Desperate for thick crusty bread with peanut butter? Have some wheat-free bread with salmon and soy cream cheese. Is it chocolate you're after? Look out the window and dream!!!!!! My darling husband is currently cranking up the coffee machine to make me my nighttime decaf soy latte (the bonuses of no caffeine!!) which will stem the hunger pangs and hopefully keep my sweet tooth happy for another day. And my sweet little bubba is fast asleep, without scratching, or puking, or screaming....and that in itself is enough for me to know that although I may have been in Struggletown today, it would seem that we have left the city limits. And tomorrow? What am I going to do tomorrow? Tomorrow, I am going to face my demons head on, stare them down, and then bake the wickedest egg/dairy/wheat-free cake that I can possibly dream up, and devour the lot!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Sentimental Mummy

Today was one of those idyllic days of childhood (or motherhood, if I'm to be totally precise!!). There was nothing remarkable about it, nothing that would create a significant memory or milestone, but I hope that when my children are great big galloping teenagers, I remember vestiges of today. As you can probably already guess, rather than simply enjoying the moment I became so sentimental at the thought of fleeting childhood that I got teary! But we'll get to that later.

It was so gorgeous and breezy outside this morning, and the kids just pottered around the front garden while I hung clothes out to dry. Maisie was having a really long morning nap (she has settled herself into a fantastic routine all by herself, so who am I to argue?) so the three of us played with cars, rolled balls and just hung out in the sunshine. Phoebe made up a little song to go with her ramblings around the garden, and Jack competed with himself to see how many times he could crash his remote control car. We went inside for lunch when Mais woke up, and then it was Phoebalina's turn for a nap. Jack settled down with some books while Maisie and I had a feed (another excuse for a cuddle!!), and when Phoebe woke up we went on an excursion to the supermarket. Not a particularly special day, right? We still had squabbles, flung food on the walls, had exploding nappies and refused to eat our peas. But today something made me look at my kids and see how quickly this phase of my life is going.

In a few short months, Jack will be preparing to start primary school. My sweet, funny, grown-up little man, who still at times displays the characteristics he had as a baby, will soon be going off to be a Preppy. He is so very excited about going to "big school". I, on the other hand, am going to save how I feel for a day when I can explain without blubbing! Today I watched Jack play with his sisters, concentrate on his cars, whoop with joy while riding a shopping trolley, and I realised that the carefree days of doing nothing special with Jack are numbered. In a very short period of time, he will be gone from us for most of the day, doing all sorts of wonderful thing with new teachers and new friends. The days of dagging around the house will be limited to the weekends, and a tiny part of my boy will be lost to growing up.

Phoebe will be a big three-year-old birthday girl in a few weeks. She is so very excited about being a "big girl". I, on the other hand, am going to save how I feel for a day when I can explain without blubbing! She seems to have matured very rapidly in the last month - she speaks much more clearly, she has grown noticeably taller, she is much more confident (and just between you and me, somewhere along the line she has learned how to dance like a teenager...and not from me!!)  Phoebe has a very dry sense of humour which I am sure is going to get her in trouble when she is older - she even knows how to raise one eyebrow! And just when I look at her and wonder where my tiny little baby has gone, she will come over and bury her face into my leg. Those small hands that are losing their baby chubbiness will wrap around me, and she will look up with enormous blue eyes and say, "Mummy, I need a cuddle", or "Mummy, I want you". How long will she be so without guile? How long will a cuddle from me be enough to make her day happy? All I can do is treasure these moments in the hope that my baby girl will never grow out of needing cuddles from Mumma.

And what of my littlest one? Maisie, who feels so big in my arms now, who tries to keep up with the older kids? Like her sister, she seems so very excited about becoming a "big girl". I, on the other hand, am going to save how I feel for a day when I can explain without blubbing! She is already trying to move, something which her brother and sister didn't bother with for a very long time. At every opportunity, Maisie tries to talk, and grab things, and interact with her family. She mastered blowing raspberries today, an accomplishment which she was so patently proud of that she did it all day! I celebrate every new thing she learns to do, while desperately wishing I could hold onto her babyhood.

I know it's impossible to be sad when you have children who are happy, healthy, and are striding along their own merry pathway through life. I suppose I should be leaping with joy at the thought that they are confident and secure enough to try and make their own way, while knowing that Mumma and Daddy are right behind them whenever they need us. And for that reason, I am going to make a conscious effort to remember today as an example of all that is good about staying at home with my babies. What a lucky woman I am to have experienced a sunny, calm day with my kids, where all I had to worry about was getting a double-toddler trolley at Coles. And I suppose if I'm really honest, they're still a fair way off being completely grown-up...after all, this morning I watched Phoebe dress up in a fairy costume, plonk herself down on the potty (fully clothed!) and watch Pingu with her baby doll...I watched Jack make a train track, completely absorbed in his trains and making little stories up with his face level with the floor...and yesterday I watched Maisie in Daddy's arms in the swimming pool, delightedly splashing her chubby little legs, and looking so tiny and new. There is so much that is wonderful about these ages and stages, and it is this thought I must hold on to during the next rainy day when the balance of adorable toddlerhood and feral childhood goes awry!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mums and Brudders

I love watching Jack and Phoebe play, especially when they're not trying to dismember each other. Like most siblings, they simultaneously adore each other and fight at the drop of a hat. They always want exactly the same toy, even if we own two identical items, and I have often joked to Christian that we should have had twins so they didn't need to share worshipping time at the altar of Maisie (although I must admit, when it comes to Maisie they are both exceptional.) Lately, they have been playing a game of their own invention called "Mums and Brudders" quite a lot. The dynamics of the game change constantly; one minute, Jack will be the 'brudder', and Phoebe will be the mum, next minute, Phoebe is the brudder and Jack is the dog. I was curious about the actual relationships involved, and asked them this morning if Jack was Phoebe's little boy? "No, Mummy", she said very seriously. "I'm the mumma, and Jack is my brudder". Right then. So you're a grown-up lady and he's your baby brother? "No, I'm the mum!!" she huffed, and ran back to her brudder who began barking madly (clearly the canine phase had begun).

Normally, the mums and brudders just herb madly around the house alternately chasing, crying, admonishing and cuddling each other. This morning however, a very interesting exchange occurred. The mum (Phoebe) put the baby doll to bed on the couch and said, "Brudder, the baby is crying" (It is beyond me why she was telling one baby about another baby crying, but there you go). Without missing a beat, Jack replies, "Well, get her then! I'm the dad now, anyway." Phoebe looked completely baffled, so Jack continued with a sigh, "That means I'm at work, and you have to be the mum and stay home and iron." When Phoebe then expressed a desire to be the dog instead, Jack said, "No! There has to be a Mum. That's how the game works, ok?"

Now, on the one hand I'm delighted that a mum is essential to the game - it's good for my ego and makes me believe that I must be doing something right! However, I have a couple of other issues that have arisen from this playful little conversation this morning:
1. Where on earth has Jack got the impression that the dad is an aloof, uncaring-type person who lets babies cry?? Certainly not from his Daddy!!
2. While I understand that my kids perceive my 'job' as staying at home with them, seriously, ironing???? I do a huge range of housework-related tasks in any one day, but ironing is not one of them!! (purely from a safety point of view, of course. Not because I am a lazy git who doesn't care about wrinkles)

I will have to pay very close attention next time they play Mums and Brudders to see if I can glean any further information about our family dynamic. (I am particularly interested in how the mum and the brother are related, but I can't see a logical answer being available in the near future) Let's just say that I am learning something new from our children every day! I wonder what character Maisie will take on when she starts joining in? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesdays with Maisie

I had another gorgeous day with Maisie Mouse today. I must admit, I am totally loving being on maternity leave, and it already saddens me to think I'll have to sacrifice two days per week with my girls next year!! I understand how spoiled I am, being home for a year, and so I relish the quiet days when the clock does not matter. We didn't do anything remarkable today (surprise, surprise, I hear you think!). After the whirlwind departure of Jack and Phoebe at 6.30am (Phoebs does one day a week at childcare just to socialise with her peeps and get completely indulged by her teachers!), Mais and I cuddled in bed for a while which is a complete luxury. You don't realise until your first baby starts to crawl, how lovely it is to have a bub who can't get away, and who's happy to lie in your arms as long as you them try and remove your nose. Once they can move, say bye-bye to lengthy cuddles and hello to falling off the bed!!

The majority of today was spent finding washing, sorting washing, washing washing, drying washing, folding washing, and ironing the things that would make my children look homeless if I left them wrinkly. (There are still little piles of clothes everywhere, waiting to be put away. Let's be honest, who's perfect??) To sweeten the deal, I put Maisie on the floor with a menagerie of toys, and I put 'Sixteen Candles' on the telly for me. One of the bonuses of Wednesdays, is that I can watch movies with swearing in them without fear of a little person repeating it back to me!! I'm safe for a while yet with Mais, but the other two little parrots are deadly at remembering inappropriate phrases! Maisie particularly enjoyed the Asian exchange student's character that stays with Molly Ringwald's grandparents - she shrieked with laughter every time he laughed. We had a great time, dancing along to the soundtrack (as long as I didn't sing, remember.) I wonder how long it will be before watching movies with Mum is just too daggy for words?

The only time we had to leave the house was to visit the doctor for my manky eye again, which served as a nice little break from playing laundry-maids. We didn't make our swimming lesson today, simply because both Maisie and I are still both sounding like pack-a-day emphysemics. It didn't matter, in fact, it only served to make the day even more cruisey. By the time Daddy and the big kids returned home, we all had clean sheets, clean clothes, a full fridge, dinner cooked before 9pm, and a happy baby. Mundane or otherwise, that's what I call a good day!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quirky habits

When you spend the majority of your time with your kids, you become pretty familiar with their little quirks. You know, the funny little words they use...the foods they would eat until the cows came home and the foods that make them gag every time...their favourite games...how to push their buttons...

I had a fairly ho-hum day today, simply because I had several rather important errands to run which required a lot of driving. Jack was at pre-school and Phoebe went to Melbourne with Grandma, so I only had Maisie Mouse for company. And as it happened, today was a day that I learned quite a few things about the littlest person on our team. I had only managed about two hours of sleep last night (Maisie woke for a feed at 1am, puked the entire feed up at 2am, and spent the next two hours wriggling, laughing, playing and then screaming until I took her into our bed. Yes, I know she won) so I was a bit ragged this morning. Today we needed to visit (in order):
1. The bank in Somerville, to collect important documents with regards to our home loan
2. The allergy paediatrician in Frankston, to collect Jack's new allergy management programme for his new pre-school
3. The cattery in Mt.Eliza, to pay them for looking after my beloved cats while we are building
4. Our new pre-school in Mt. Martha, to deliver the allergy management document
5. The supermarket, so that we might have a meal this evening other than baked beans.

As you can see, a relatively busy day with several short, sharp stops. So in our travels today, what did I learn about Miss Maisie Elizabeth Rose?
1. She is not a fan of the car (this much I knew already, since the very first trip home from the hospital), but is quite happy if you are driving under trees
2. She is not a fan of my singing, unlike her poor beleaguered siblings. I belted out the Choirboys "Run To Paradise" to try and cheer her up, but in the end I think she won the screaming competition. At any rate, she stopped crying when I stopped yowling.
3. No matter how unhappy she is in the car, Maisie can charm the pants off complete strangers when removed from the vehicle. She smiled at the bank manager, the paediatrician's receptionist, the lady in the cattery, the director of the pre-school, and random strangers in Ritchies, but not when Mummy was singing. Ouch.
4. She can empty a bath simply by thrashing her stumpy little legs in joy again, and again, and again. I'm not kidding. Phoebe and Maisie started out with quite a full bath, and ended up in a puddle. With a soaked Mummy sitting on the floor. I think she was delighted that I'd stopped singing.
5. Her favourite food at the moment is grey mush otherwise known as pear and banana Farex. It looks foul, but this week it's the only food she hasn't gagged on. God bless gluggy cereal.

Now, I know as well as the next mother that in all likelihood, by next week Maisie will have a new repertoire of quirky habits. What I love is how fun it is trying to keep up!! I just hope she keeps some of the adorable characteristics that are already unique to her, like reaching out a little hand to touch our faces and pull us down for a kiss...the way she sticks her tongue out of the side of her mouth when she says "Dad dad dad"...how her little eyes light up when you hand her a piece of train track...how she stares up at tree branches when the wind moves them about...these are the things that I don't want to forget. I wonder what we'll learn about Maisie Mouse next :)

Monday, August 16, 2010


A lot of new mothers are encouraged to enjoy some time away from their babies on occasion, for example, going for a walk, getting a haircut, or going out with friends. It is very easy to become entrenched in the day-to-day care of a small child and lose track of who you were before children. It is because of this that many maternal health nurses suggest that for their own well-being, mothers should indulge in some "me-time" on a regular basis.

As I now have three little darlings to love, teach, encourage, protect, wash, cook for, and entertain, I find that having some "me-time" is essential for me to maintain my (admittedly tenuous) sanity. Busy though I may be, I try to ensure that I have a little time alone each day away from my kidlets. For example, I needed to go to the doctor this morning (it turned out to be not only viral conjuncitivitis, but also viral bronchitis to boot. Seems like I was a bit sicker than I thought. Whoops) and my lovely MIL (that's mother-in-law to the uninitiated) offered to watch all three kids as I was a bit nervous about driving with one eye open in today's terrible weather. (And it must have been obvious how excited I was at the prospect of having three wet kids in a crowded waiting room while feeling like death warmed up!!) Anyhow, I left the kids and went to Mt.Martha, and not only did I have an entire hour to myself, I scored three of my favourite 80's songs on the radio on the way home!!! Tallk about me-time extravaganza!!! Never mind I was as sick as a dog and spent most of the time in a waiting room, I got a kid-free hour and the chance to belt out some tunes in the car! What's not to like??

Another regular bit of me-time that I quite enjoy is the grocery shopping. Rather than dragging all of the cherubs with me on one of those baby/toddler/grumpy 4 year old trolleys, I go on a Sunday afternoon or late at night on my own. That's potentially an hour of me-time right there!! Make it a big shop and you could even drag it out to an hour and a half (although typically that would tempt the breastfeeding gods...) It doesn't always have to be an hour away. Even small breaks throughout the day can be enough to refresh you and revive your energy levels. Sometimes, just for a change, I like to have a shower all on my own. I know it sounds decadent, but there's something really peaceful about closing the bathroom door for three minutes. If I'm really lucky I occasionally get to go to the toilet on my own too. Now, this isn't a regular occurrence - quite understandably, with three under five I usually have someone come with me, or have some burning need to talk to me while I'm in there. Today, Phoebe followed me in and insisted that I was sick (she did have a point), and that she was the doctor who would make me feel better. I asked if the doctor could wait until I was back in the loungeroom, and she looked horrified. "No, Mummy!! This is the doctor's house". Excellent. But generally speaking, if you manage to go to the loo, on your own, AND get the door closed, you're on your way to a tiny slice of me-time. It's not hard to achieve, is it??

To be truthful, the half-hour I spend blogging each evening is great me-time, even if it is frequently interrupted. It's a great way to release the foofer-valve, especially when your chest infection is so bad the zumba instructor asks you not to return until you're better. And when I'm blogging, no one can see how mucky and red my diseased eye is, or hear the wheezing of my emphysemic chest. No one can see the piles of wrinkly un-ironed clothes, or the dishes calling my name. It's just you and me. Quality me-time!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday night fever

A long, long time ago, Saturday nights were all about going out. It didn't matter if we went to a movie, or for dinner, or to a pub - the only reason we would stay home is if one of us was unwell. Now, obviously when you have small children you must expect to spend fewer evenings out on the town (let's be honest...once in a blue moon is more truthful!!). For the last few years, a typical Saturday night for us involve a bit of telly or a DVD, a takeaway if we're being really decadent, and a break from folding washing. And I've been perfectly happy with this - I would not trade my children for anything, least of all a glittering social life (however, there have been times when I've wondered if clean hair and a t-shirt free of baby spew would be too much to ask...) Tonight, though, it would seem that even this was too much to expect. The only thing that could salvage tonight is the hope that you might get a giggle out of our misfortunes...and you must realise that the only reason I am blogging right now is to avoid going back to the mess...

I spent the majority of today staying pretty quiet as Jack, Maisie and I were all battling the joys of colds, coughs and conjunctivitis. Yes, we're a charming lot. I actually fell asleep in my chair this afternoon while feeding Maisie, and my darling husband left us there for a good two hours. It was quite nice actually, just snuggling up with my baby and dozing while Jack and Phoebe played around us. Jack had invented a terrific game with his ninja turtles, I'm not quite sure but I think they were saving the world from the cast of Stuart Little. Phoebe was wrapping pieces of wooden train track in scarves and serving them up as ice cream cones. She proudly presented me with one, and I asked her what flavour it was. "Chicken nuggets, Mummy", she replied solemnly. "But you can't eat all of it, only a taste, ok?". Absolutely.

So, a fairly quiet Saturday afternoon for Team O'Toole, right? In fact, I was beginning to think I would have nothing noteworthy for my blog tonight. And then it happened. First of all, I fed Maisie a puree of blueberries, banana and apple for her tea. It was while she gnawed on a piece of bread after her fruit that she gagged, and brought up a purple deluge all over the highchair. We cleaned her up, put the highchair cover in the washing machine, and put her on the floor for a kick while the big kids finished their dinner. When I went to get their pyjamas ready, I came back to find Jack sitting on Maisie's tummy, and hitting her playfully with a piece of wooden train track (it is the most diverse toy, I cannot tell you!). Now, Maisie was gurgling away happily so I was sure that no damage had been done. But of course I needed to stress to Jack the dangers of squashing and smashing little baby sisters, so he was told off, and began to cry. Crying turned to coughing, and before we knew it, there was a stream of chicken, peas and soy chocolate ice cream pouring from Jack's throat. The kitchen floor was awash with vomit. The walls were splattered, it went up the kitchen cupboards, and in the middle of it all, Jack stood crying and coughing. We just begged him to stop spewing, and ducked every time he gagged!

Many paper towels and buckets of PineOCleen later, Christian and I had cleaned up the worst part of the mess, and the big kids were tucked up in bed after being comforted that they were loved despite their vomitting habits. By this point in time, my eye was completely scarlet and nearly closed, and my nose was streaming, but at least I had forgotten about being sick for half an hour!! Of course, the irony is that it is now 11pm, and I feel as though we've been through the wringer. In the olden days, 11pm would be when the night was just getting started!!! The difference is that back then, I would have had several vinos by now. Could it be possible that that's the answer to my problems? Perhaps if I had a couple of drinkies, this would have been a very amusing episode?! Hmmm.....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Advent of the sippy cup

Maisie reached a small but significant milestone this morning - she had some water from a sippy cup with her lunch. She was so excited to see this new toy, she grabbed it with glee and admittedly, most of it went straight down her front. But this tiny sip of water signified for me yet another step away from babyhood and breastfeeding, a move which you know I am not at all prepared for!

Breastfeeding is an extremely emotional, divisive aspect of motherhood, of which I have experienced all manner of highs and lows. I hate the way people make judgements about mothers based on whether they provide nourishment through a breast or a bottle. I have done both, and been censured by strangers in both instances. When Jack was born I knew very little about breastfeeding, only that I wanted to try it. I was extraordinarily lucky that Jack fed quite well from the beginning, however I still had to supplement feed him from a bottle to treat his jaundice. I also had no idea that he wasn't attaching properly until a nurse told me at the 2 week check-up that toe-curling agony was not normal or acceptable. Thank goodness for her!!! Jack fed brilliantly (and greedily) until he was ten months old, when he weaned himself quite dramatically and I discovered I was pregnant with Phoebe!

After such a successful breastfeeding relationship with Jack, the nurses in hospital assumed I knew what I was doing when Phoebe was born. That may have been the case, however poor little newborn Phoebe had never breastfed before. We were sent home way too early, and by the time she was five days old, I had been massacred in the mammary region (to be perfectly truthful!) and my darling baby was starving. (Actually, a visiting midwife told me "You're starving that baby", which as you can imagine was music to the ears of a post-partum woman) We battled it out for six weeks, until a very kind midwife told me I would never be able to breastfeed again if I persevered, so great was the damage. Phoebe had formula from that point on, and despite my massive mother-guilt, appears to have been unaffected by the experience. If anything, she is an exceptionally affectionate little girl, so we must have done something right during those bottle feeds!!

When I was pregnant with Maisie, I visited lactation consultants and midwives in the hospital in an attempt to be prepared (psychologically, if not physically!!) I knew that successful breastfeeding ultimately came down to my ability to produce milk, and Maisie's ability to attach properly, but I was not leaving anything to chance! As it happened, Maisie fed extremely well, especially considering she spent her first 24 hours in special care (and not "bonding" with me immediately after birth - more mother-guilt!!) One of the bonuses of getting septicaemia when Maisie was ten days old (yes, I know the bonuses are few and far between, but hey - I'm a glass-half-full kinda person!!) was that I had another week in hospital with midwives and lactation consultants who ensured she was feeding perfectly. (We won't mention the huge doses of morphine she was also ingesting through my breastmilk...) I must say Maisie has been a dream to breastfeed, and I know that this is not something to be sneezed at. Being my last baby, I have relished feeding her to sleep (even though I know it's naughty), watching her little eyelids get heavy, and her breathing become slow and deep.Her creamy, plump little hand starts every feed by grabbing my top, and gradually starts patting me, before curling into a tiny fist and snuggling into my skin. I love the half-smiles I get when she's halfway through a hungry feed, and she looks up at me as though we're sharing a private joke. I don't particularly love the nips I have received of late, but it's very hard to be cross when she snorts with laughter and then dives back for more.

So what did Maisie's triumphant drink from a sippy cup mean to me today? That my baby is happy and proud to be mastering new skills, and is one step closer to independence. That she is developing the way babies are supposed to, and that I am grateful for having a healthy, alert, enthusiastic baby. But just between you and me, I won't be in any hurry to wean her off the bedtime feeds. I'm going to be making the most of those late night snuggles while I can, even if it means the temporary decline of my social life (oh, who am I kidding?? My social life has been pushing up daisies for some time now!) And even though I know that sooner or later my bubby won't need me for her nourishment, at least I will still enjoy those delicious baby cuddles for a little while yet (at least until she's 21, right??)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I have only myself to blame, I realise that. I thought I was teaching my children a valuable lesson but it would seem that my lessons have come back to bite me on the bum! What am I talking about? Sharing.

Like most pre-schoolers, Jack and Phoebe have been learning how to share since Phoebe was old enough to grab. That's the magnificent thing about having siblings - you have an automatic opportunity to practise sharing about, oh, a thousand times a day. The classic scenario replayed on a daily basis (and sometimes on an hourly basis) in our lounge room is that one child wants the exact toy that the other child has, and to avoid the spilling of blood, we "take turns" playing with the prized item. (Usually Phoebe holds it for roughly 10 seconds before discarding it blithely - she knows how to push Jack's buttons!) Now, before you assume that my children have only a handful of toys in some sort of attempt to avoid spoiling them...no. They have enough playthings to fill a Toys'R'Us (or they did before I did a massive cull when we moved in with Grandma and Grandpa...but if you won't tell, neither will I!!) Now, it may be because I am continuously asking someone to give the other a turn, or for someone to remove the other from a headlock, but I didn't think my children were ready to graduate from lessons on sharing. However it seems that I may have underestimated the sharing abilities of our children, and for that I apologise profusely.

There is one area in which my darling sprogs have learned to share supremely well, and that is the realm of germs. Jack came home from pre-school approximately three months ago with a little sniffle. By wanting cuddles from Mummy (and a few surreptitious wipes of the nose on the back of his hand), he shared his sniffle with me. I demonstrated admirable sharing skills by passing the sniffle onto Maisie whilst sneezing during breastfeeding. Maisie amplified it and shared both the sniffle, and a cough with Phoebe. Pheebs insisted on crawling into bed with Daddy when she felt poorly, and coughed in his face. This little sniffle has morphed into an ugly, phlegm-producing, snot-encrusted, room-clearing hacking cough that has done the rounds of the family twice, and is heading into it's third dose. How? Sharing.

Phoebe loves to share her used tissues with me, and has even been known to slip one in my pocket when I'm not paying attention (often enough, I assure you). Phoebs also likes to lean in close, and whisper so that you lean in too, only to receive a face full a cough-spray. An excellent tactic for the efficient sharing of bacteria.
Maisie likes to chew on things (toys, wooden train tracks, clothes, etc.) and thus shares her cute little baby pathogens with whomever chooses to clean up. (Generally, moi.) She is also an expert in-your-face-sneezer, having the added advantage of being so cute you naturally lean into her, even when she's full of boogers. Jack's method is slightly more advanced, as it is one only those in the know would ever suspect. Jack shares his germs with his teddy by rubbing his nose on teddy's fur. Teddy then travels onto the kitchen bench, into my handbag, onto Maisie's playmat...

And so, I sit here typing one-handed (yes, Maisie is on my lap for a late session again!) with a box of tissues and a rotten, stinking, head-thumping cold. I suppose one good thing is I can share some lovely cuddles with my mini snot-monster without fear of passing it on to her...however if Maisie thinks she's sharing my bed again tonight she's got another thing coming!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is it Wednesday yet?

Have you ever read a story called "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"?? I thought I may have earned some good karma after enduring yesterday, but it would seem I still have a fair bit to do before reaching enlightenment. Although nothing tragic occurred today, it was probably not a day I will look back on as one of my favourites! So rather than following in the steps of Alexander, I decided to look for the good in every situation today, even when the bad slapped me in the face.

Good: Maisie slept for the entire night without waking for a feed. It's amazing how close to human you can feel after 6 hours of unbroken sleep!

Not-so-good: Phoebe woke up in such a bad mood that she curdled the milk in her seer-we-woll.

Good: Phoebe went down for a sleep at 9am, which meant that we had a hope of turning her mood around before heading off to Mornington.

Not-so-good: It was raining so hard when we got to Mornington that the three of us (pram included) were completely saturated!

Good: We had an appointment with my beautiful friend and naturopath extraordinaire, Holly. Thanks to Holly, Maisie's eczema has cleared up completely and I have never felt better. Also, the girls were absolute angels while we were at Holly's clinic - thank heaven for small mercies!!!!!!

Not-so-good: My elimination diet is working so well for Maisie's skin that lasagne and tiramisu will remain off the menu for some time to come...curses.

Good: After a quick stop at the health food shop and the purchase of a pink yoghurt frog, Phoebs was a much happier little Vegemite.

Not-so-good: On our return home, Feral Beryl reappeared with a vengeance. Phoebe spent six consecutive visits to the naughty spot kicking and screaming (and I'm still not quite sure what the problem was!)

Good: After calming down with a cuddle, Phoebe curled up on the couch to watch Mickey Mouse allowing me enough time to discover that Maisie is VERY ticklish under her feet. She was so delighted with this new game that she kept sticking her little tootsies into my face so I could do it again!!

Not-so-good: Arsenic hour. Enough said.

Good: I managed to get the girls fed and into the bath in record time. I thought I was on the home stretch. I've told you before I was stupid.

Not-so-good: Phoebe did a wee in the bath, which meant I had to drain the water and fill it again. While the bath was running, Maisie decided to have a genius moment and discovered if she stuck her foot under the running water, she could give Mummy a bath too!!

Good: Jack and Christian came home, we wrangled all three kids into bed, and nobody sustained any permanent injuries. Yay team.

Not-so-good: Realised at 10pm I had washed lots and lots of baby clothes but none of Christian's business shirts. Whoops. (The washing machine is now thumping it's way through a cycle)

Good: Tomorrow is Wednesday!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Mourning

Ah, Monday. A long, long time ago I used to love Mondays. Freaky as that sounds, it was a fresh start, and no matter how yucky the previous week had been at work, or in terms of a diet, or exercise, whatever - Monday meant you could start all over again, refreshed and relaxed after the weekend. That was BEFORE Team O'Toole included the kids.

On Mondays, rather than being rested, the kids are exhausted from a weekend of activities...birthday parties, swimming lessons, visits to friends, going out for lunch. Even if we stay at home and do nothing, just the excitement of having Daddy home for two whole days is enough to raise the roof. We usually get out of the house on the weekend for two reasons, the first being that by Friday night I am climbing the walls, and the second being that if we didn't go and do stuff like swimming lessons on a Sunday, we'd never do it. Every weekend, Christian and I say we'll have a quiet Saturday, and occasionally we'll stay in our jarmies until an obscenely late hour. But it's much more fun to pack the kids up and go do something outside, don't you agree? So as a result, a typical Monday in our house revolves around tired kids having Daddy-withdrawals, and a Mummy who SHOULD have caught up with the housework on the weekend, but was having too much fun to care!

Today encapsulated everything that I don't like about Mondays (cue mournful Bob Geldof with stringy hair...) We began quite well, with a load of washing on during breakfast time. Stupidly I felt a bit ahead of the 8-ball at this point, as Maisie had woken for a feed at 5am and I thought she might sleep a bit longer than normal....but no. My darling baby girl began her day by projectiling all over Mummy, and then smiling widely. We cleaned up the milky vomit, and began catching up on weekend washing. The first load sat in the machine while I cleaned up breakfast that had gone uneaten ("Mummy, I need lots of Panadols" "Why, Phoebe?" "Because my tummy hurts" "Oh possum, why does your tummy hurt?" "Because you made breakfast"). I should have gathered from this small exchange that the day was not going to be a good one, but instead I stumbled blindly ahead.

My beautiful grandmother, whom we call Argie, is always ready to receive our visits with open arms. Having had four children under five herself, she is more than able to cope when my children are being less than charming. Today was definitely not a day to expose ourselves to the general public. After a second load of washing, pegging out the wet stuff and bringing in the dry, dressing, brushing teeth and breaking up several bouts of biffo, Team O'Toole descended on Argie at about 11am. Jack was in fine form, but Phoebs had progressed by a tummy ache to all-out bellyaching. She followed me everywhere, whining, "Mummy, I waaaaaaaaant you", even when she was firmly planted on my lap. She had a continual stream of snot running down from her nose, mixed with sad, sad tears. All the Kleenex in the world couldn't help my poor, messy, wet little daughter today.

I'm sure that Maisie decided to get in on the action too, because she spent most of the day wailing if I even thought about putting her down, or handing her to someone else. She was a real toonkynunk today. I'm sure she's just reaching the clingy stage but it felt as though the sisters had joined forces today to whinge Mummy into a bottle of vodka! Never to be beaten, Jack decided that mimicking Phoebe would be funny...needless to say we packed up a bit earlier today and left Argie in peace. By the time we left the outskirts of Balnarring, all three were asleep...they snored all the way home (the entire ten minute journey!) and woke wonderfully refreshed in Hastings...Mummy on the other hand was distinctly worse for wear. Phoebe came to me around 4.30 and said "Mummy, I'm hungry". "It's ok sweetie", I said, "I'm cooking tea right now." "I don't want tea!!" she cried, and she flounced off to be cross at someone else. Yep, I hope someone is getting a laugh out of this...

And so, as another Monday draws to a close, the big kids are asleep and Maisie is still fighting the good fight. You can't blame her - after all, the only person she has to fight for my attention right now is Daddy!!! Here's looking forward to Tuesday...

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Have you ever listened to a child speak complete gobbledegook and been absolutely clueless as to what they had uttered, only to see the child's mother understand instantly? I have always loved the funny little words my kids would use when they were only beginning to get a grasp on language. I wish I had kept a record of them, rather than relying on my exceptionally dodgy memory. Like most kids, Jack had some very cute first words, like gog (dog), gink (drink), gilk (milk) and narna (any food of any description!!). When Phoebe was born, Jack called her Fifi, which stuck until she named herself Beebee and wouldn't answer to anything else! Phoebe was obsessed with our beautiful ginger cat, Ernie, and subsequently one of her first words was 'Nernie', which she would repeat in a breathy little mantra. While she now speaks quite well, Phoebe still mangles some words magnificently so that only those around her on a daily basis have any hope of understanding. For example, a singlet in Phoebe-speak is a 'jinglick'. Why? Because it is! Sudocrem (the nappy-rash cream) is called ice-cream (no I'm not kidding). All breakfast foods are 'seer-we-woll' (you have to say it out loud!), and she won't eat it if you say Corn Flakes or Weetbix, it has to be cereal! Dora the Explorer is 'Splora', Play School is 'Circle', and she will often hand me the "mote" to turn on the Wiggles so she can watch Ant-ney, Wuwwy, Tham and Jepp. If you are ever babysitting my kidlets, be warned: if Phoebs asks for munch (lunch), wubbing tea (morning tea - yes, I'm serious!) or sumpin else (something else), don't stress if she wants 'Megemite' or 'thorth' on everything...it's normal! Oh, and if Phoebe ever tells you with great glee that Lucy has 'blut' on her, don't dial 000 - it simply means that her beloved dolly is recreating the scene when Phoebe broke her nose jumping on the bed, when there was so much blood everywhere that Mummy had a hard time finding it's source. Yep, Phoebe is pretty much the expert on 'blut'!!

Cute lisping and mispronounciations aside, the king of nonsense words has to be Jack. In the past six months he has realised the value of the ridiculous, and delights in making up insane words and phrases. One of his most versatile words is 'toonkynunk', meaning a silly person. Our entire family now use this word extensively (which is probably quite scary to outsiders!!). Another favourite is 'sliggen', which means to slip on worms or ice. (Yes, you read that right!). Jack's vocabulary also includes 'sneeze cabinet', 'shooting skatchel' and 'scone flyer', all of which have amazingly strange meanings associated with them. Only last night Jack asked if we could watch "Wallace and Gromit", however he asked for "Horses and Vomit" instead!

There are so many more words and phrases I've forgotten, neglectful mother that I am. Luckily, in a few months Maisie will start creating a whole new vocabulary for our amusement!! I'm going to leave you with a hearty rendition of an O'Toole family favourite (oh yes, we strangulate the lyrics of songs, too!), the alphabet song (sing along everyone!): abcdefg, hijk, elanema p, due r s, tee vue eeeee, w, wex, wye and zed, now I know my abc, next time won't you sing wis me!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Maisie Maisie Mouse

Seven months ago tonight, I was in hospital regaining the feeling in my legs. Maisie Elizabeth Rose (or Maisie Maisie Mouse, which is her official title according to Phoebe) was born at 9.08am, a perfect 8lb 8oz bundle with sticky-uppy hair and a great set of lungs. When I was pregnant with her, people continually warned us that after two exceptionally placid babies, we were in for a screamer with the third. (In retrospect, they were the same people who predicted I was having a boy because I was carrying out in front, and the same people who thought 3 babies so close together must have been a happy accident...) Nobody predicted that Maisie would be the easiest baby imaginable, sweet, happy, and a fantastic sleeper. She even made breastfeeding easy, and even now makes me laugh by diving under my blouse and looking up with big blue eyes, while one little hand clutches on tightly. I haven't been in any hurry to wean her onto solids, although she has now discovered the joys of spreading vegetable puree all over her face and pieces of banana squished between her fingers!

I must admit we were a little concerned about jealousy and roughhousing from the big kids when we brought her home from hospital. However, Maisie has adored Jack and Phoebe since Day 1, and greets them with outstretched arms and a big open-mouthed dribbly kiss every time she sees them. I think the fact that Phoebe has named evert single one of her dollies 'Baby Mais' is an indication of how much she loves her little sister! And only Jack can get away with practically sitting on top of her while she growls and squeals with laughter at him. We have discovered that her shoulders are ticklish (weird, I know!!), and the laugh that comes out of her when you tickle her comes right from her boots. She loves her dolly, Ruby, and Phoebe's pink WotWot, and readily shows her affection by chewing their feet! Yesterday we discovered a new beloved toy - a piece of Jack's wooden train track. Give Maisie a piece of track, and you've got entertainment covered for at least 20 minutes!

Being our last baby, I suppose I have held onto every baby moment a little longer that I needed to. If you pushed me I might even admit to inhaling the soft baby scent from her outgrown clothes before sadly packing them away to be donated to other families. (And if you pushed me even further I might let on about the secret stash of baby clothes that I just couldn't bear to be parted from...the 0000 suit all three of my babies wore...Jack's little blue booties...a little pink onesie that once swam on Phoebe....a pair of red-and-white polka dot shoes that I insisted Maisie wore at every opportunity until her feet protested...) I know I have carried her around more than I should, fed her to sleep when I should let her settle herself, and taken her into my bed for a cuddle more for my own comfort than hers. But I need to squeeze as much out of Maisie's babyhood as I can (and luckily for me, she's a Mumma's girl so she loves it as much as I do!!)

Like her big brother and sister before her, Maisie is not at all interested in rolling or crawling yet. Instead, she is already trying to talk. At the moment it's just random shouting (in glee, joy, frustration or simply to get our attention!) but I swear I've heard 'Ma' being called in the middle of the night...and the other day Christian came into the room to be greeted with a shout that sounded distinctly like 'hello!' I always find it funny when babies get to about 6 months old and people exclaim about their emerging personalities. As far as I can tell, babies make their personalities known in utero, and by the time they are born this amazing little person has very distinct likes and dislikes, and some unique characterisitics. Every day, I am asked whether Maisie is more like Jack or Phoebe. Personally, I think she is a perfect mix of the two of them - she resembles Jack very strongly, with Phoebe's facial expressions thrown in. Like both of them, she is funny, stubborn, determined and affectionate. Already Maisie can show love by grabbing your hair quite roughly (ironic, I know!!) and pulling you towards her for a kiss. She has a terrible addiction to television which I acknowledge is almost entirely my fault. She is also fascinated by trees being blown by the wind, lights on the ceiling, and her Winnie the Pooh mobile. She has just today discovered her toes, so I am sure they will provide much entertainment in the weeks to come!

Happy 7 month birthday, Maisie Maisie Mouse. Your mummy loves you to the moon and back again xxxxx

Friday, August 6, 2010


A close friend of mine was in labour today. If you're anything like me, when one of your girlfriends is in labour you think about them all day, wondering if everything is ok and if they've welcomed their little bundle yet. I was on my way to the doctors in Mt.Martha this morning, Phoebs and Mais in tow, (the dreaded mastitis had struck again last night, and I was in agonies!) when Triple M played 'Lightning Crashes' by Live. Silly me stopped chattering inanely to my girls and listened closely to the lyrics. Big mistake. Before I knew it, I had chills running up and down my arms, and the tears were pricking behind my eyes. I had never really paid much attention to the song beyond the chorus (and admittedly, this was usually after several drinks at PA's during my uni days a looooooooooong time ago!) so I knew vaguely what it was about. Today, I heard every syllable and it made me very emotional (probably the sore booby too, but you get that!). Birth is exhilarating, wonderful, painful and scary. We take safe birthing for granted these days, but it is still amazing that mothers and babies survive such an arduous process every day.

I have so many wonderful friends who achieved natural deliveries for their children, some easily (and of course, I use this term very loosely!) and others with a great degree of difficulty. Even with the most straightforward of deliveries, it is an incredible achievement to gestate and give birth to a baby. It is no secret that I envy those who managed to deliver naturally, as it was something I never doubted I would be able to do until the crunch time came. Even four years after Jack's birth I find myself still questioning what went wrong, and what I could have done differently to avoid a caesarean. Logically I know that it was not my fault, and the most important outcome is a healthy baby and mum. After 20 hours of labour, 5 hours of pushing, failed forceps and a failed ventouse, obviously I was delighted to be handed a beautiful, alert, if somewhat battered, baby boy. It just took me a very long time to accept that a caesarean is not a failure. There is not a neon sign on my forehead proclaiming me to be a faux-mummy.

When I went to the obstetrician with a tiny weeny foetal Phoebe in my tummy, I asked about VBAC and was given an irrevocable NO as an answer. (Actually, he very gently asked if I wanted a dead baby or a healthy one...hmmm. Let me think about that for a nanosecond!) Phoebe and Maisie both had scheduled caesareans because it took Jack's birth to figure out my hips were not in fact "childbearing" (despite their generous external appearance!) I always hated it when people asked why we were having an "elective" caesar, because in my mind there wasn't a choice involved. If I wanted to have babies, I only had one way to get them out. So as you can see, I have had my fair share of angst over childbirth, and to some extent am still working through my issues!!!! (Remember when the psychologist raised her eyebrow at me the other day?? Think she was on to me??!!) What I need to remind myself of every day is to be grateful for my family. My children are healthy enough to be cheeky some of the time and I have not completely ruined them yet (I hope!) I only need to look at them and see the chubby limbs, long eyelashes, the veins under their pale skin, and their big blue eyes and realise how amazing it is that they are here at all.

And what of my lovely friend in hospital today? Well, as I sit here, cabbage leaves in my bra, Jack cuddling his (reinstated) teddy on the couch, Phoebe nursing her temperature next to me, and Maisie squealing at a toy on the floor, there is a family enjoying their new baby son. Regardless of how he arrived (scalpel, suction, or completely unfettered), what does it matter? Isn't his Mummy simply clever for making him at all? Congratulations and much love to Kate, Geoff, Jordan, Grace and Ariel on the safe arrival of William. We wish him a lifetime of love, happiness, challenges and reaching for the stars.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Jack broke my heart today. He came to me, very solemnly, and said, "Mummy, I'm a big boy now, and big boys don't take their teddies to bed. So I don't love him anymore, ok?". I of course, ever the bleeding heart, just about blubbed on his little shoulder right there and then. Teddy (or Sleepy Bear, as he is officially known) has been Jack's bestest buddy since we found him in a bargain bin in Dollar Curtains. (Truth be told, I was seven months pregnant and was trying to entertain my 15 month old son while I selected blinds for our new house. I would have bought him anything to keep him occupied!!)

This isn't the first time my heart has been broken by my children. It was torn in two when Jack was three days old and got put into a humidicrib to treat his jaundice. He cried and cried and I wasn't allowed to hold him, so I cried and cried too. He smashed my heart into smithereens when he came to visit me in hospital when Phoebe was born. When Christian went to take him home, and he realised that Mummy wasn't coming too, he wailed so loudly that the nurses came running. As you can imagine, the baby blues came early that day!!

Phoebe took my heart in her tiny little hands when, at the age of 5 days, I couldn't feed her. The dreaded mastitis robbed me of a chance to breastfeed, so I would sit nursing her with a bottle and praying that she would know how much I loved her, despite my shortcomings. A tiny little part of me is still hurting from having to leave Phoebe in daycare at the age of seven months, simply because I had to work if we were to survive. Despite the fact that she now loves it and looks forward to her day there every week, I still remember clearly my heartbreak that day, and how I fronted up to a class of Year 8 students with red eyes and a runny nose!

Maisie may only be seven months old this week, but she has contributed her fair share of heartache to her mother! Even though Christian and I had decided on a girl's name before she was born, it was clear to me when I saw her face that it simply wouldn't do! Since Maisie went into the special care nursery for 24 hours after her birth, I had to wait for Christian to bring me photos on his mobile phone before we could decide on (another) name!!! What sort of mother names their child from a photo?? More heartache. Ten days later when I contracted septicaemia, only the enormous doses of morphine in my system prevented me from crying all over the ambos for leaving my poor, defenceless newborn with my poor, defenceless husband!! Guilt and heartache.  A mother's currency.

So my heart has been broken by my children over many funny and sad experiences. It has also been mended by them too. After making his little announcement to me in the kitchen today, Jack went straight into the loungeroom, plopped down beside Maisie, and handed Teddy to her. Her eyes lit up, the pudgy little hands reached out, and of course, Teddy went straight into Maisie's mouth. She was delighted with her new toy, and Jack was delighted with himself for giving it to her. And my heart was mended for another day.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Domestic Goddess

We were up nearly all of last night comforting poor Phoebe, who had a raging temperature and needed cuddles every 30 minutes. As a result of this the girls and I hunkered down today and didn't leave the house at all. Of course, Maisie thinks every day is wonderful as long as the Dairy Queen is close by, and Phoebe was delighted to stay in her jarmies, watching hours of Dora and being allowed to eat on the couch. I spent the majority of the day running around like the proverbial chook, doing many jobs badly and finishing none.

I started thinking (as I typically do on most weekdays at about 4pm) that I seem to spend a lot of time doing housework and looking after children, while rarely feeling a sense of achievement. If you asked me at the end of a "normal" (there's that word again!) day what I had done, unless we had been somewhere for a visit or a play, I would say "nothing". Ordinarily, that's where the thought would have ended. However today it occurred to me that like an episode of Seinfeld, in order to keep the main story flowing (that is, the family fed, clothed and happy) there is an extraordinary amount of behind-the-scenes work.

So what exactly did I do today? Put on three loads of washing, folded the dry washing off the line, changed 8 nappies, read 3 stories, played 'shops' with a listless 2 year old, sat on the couch cuddling the listless 2 year old, made several different meals to tempt the listless 2 year old, and threw most of them out. Made yummy vegetable puree for Maisie, scraped the vegetable puree off the highchair after she'd 'eaten' it, changed Mais into clothes that did not resemble orange mush. Breastfed Maisie three times for nourishment and twice to get her to go to sleep. Put clean sheets on Jack's bed after a little accident in the night. Washed the dishes after breakfast, lunch and dinner. Made dinner for Jack, Christian and myself, and threw Phoebs' dinner in the bin.

I know that I am typical of many stay-at-home mummies, and that the above only describes a very quiet day undisturbed by tantrums, car trips, emergencies and the like. I am also very aware that this blog is in danger of becoming deadly dull!!!! However, what I have realised after thinking about today is that it doesn't matter if I finish my jobs (as long as there's Weetbix in the pantry and clean undies to wear, of course!), because when my babies are all grown-up I won't remember having clean floors and folded washing. What I will remember is the cuddles on the couch and going into my bedroom to find Phoebe's baby doll tucked up on my pillow. I will remember Maisie lying squealing with laughter on the floor and going cross-eyed staring at a piece of bread. And I can only hope that my babies remember a Mummy who loved spending time with them and had time to play with them, just like mine did. Because that is the biggest achievement of all.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Being normal

Another normal day in the O'Toole household.

Maisie in our bed until 3am? Normal.
Christian up at 5.30am to leave at 6.15am? Normal.
Doing a rather large shop at "Colds" (Pheebs' description!) with baby and toddler in the trolley, while simultaneously being on the mobile with the bank manager? Normal. (By the by, I asked Phoebe what we needed to buy at the supermarket today. She replied, "A lady". Perhaps my little daughter has been reading Daddy's letters to Santa??)
Driving to Berwick to see the family psychologist? Ahem. Normal. (I will admit that this is indeed a 'normal' part of our lives at the moment as an after-effect of the home invasion in February. She has helped us immeasureably, but I still feel like one of 'those' mothers when I mention my four-year-old's psych appointments! We were completing the final paperwork today before magistrates' court. When she asked me to confirm I had no prior consultations with a psychiatrist, and I said no, I swear she raised an eyebrow!)
Picking up Jack from pre-school and bringing home a slew of paper and polystyrene creations, all of which apparently "shoot baddies with lasers"? Normal.
Putting three very tired children to bed and knowing that Christian won't be home for at least another hour? Normal.
Knowing that I should go to bed while the going's good but instead staying up to watch Rafters? Normal!!!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

White trash road rage

Quiet days always trip you up, don't they? You're sailing along quite nicely, and then bam! Flat on your face. The big kids invented a great game this morning which I promptly named "White trash road rage". Jack was given a couple of cars by one of my friends (thanks Nikk!) that have beeping horns and play rock music when you press various buttons on them (like the electric guitar on Melrose Place when Amanda would get angry - you know?). Anyway, Jack and Phoebe had one car each, and they were hooning them around the loungeroom having a great time. Every so often they would play the electric guitar music and get up and dance. Given that Jack was once again wearing his Superman suit, and Pheebs was decked out in a tight skivvy, a nappy and a dummy, it was all about glamour. After a while the dancing got more frenetic (Phoebe produced some really disturbing hip-swivels) and then the deliberate smashing of vehicles began. As I said - white trash road rage.

Anyway, after avoiding a major bust-up I proceeded to try and be a proper Mummy and did some all-too-necessary housework. It was about 2:30 this afternoon that I realised that I was about to be tripped up in a big way. Why? Because the house was tidy, the kids were not only clean, dressed and fed, they were behaving impeccably, and we were on our way to being on-time for a doctor's appointment. I looked around the shining loungeroom, lined the kidlets up at the front door, grabbed the immaculate nappy bag....where were the car keys? Hmmm. After looking quickly in all the usual hiding places, I had one of those moments of clarity (few and far between, I assure you). We had taken both sets of keys with us on Saturday and put one in the glove box...which meant that the car keys I needed were safely ensconced inside the car. Great.

A couple of frantic (and fruitless) phone calls to Christian later, I managed to borrow my mother-in-law's car and got to the appointment on time and only slightly frazzled. Bless her cotton socks, she even kept the two girls at home for me! Who knows what white trash road rage could have been witnessed on the streets of Mount Martha if I'd dragged them all with me after that debacle?!?!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Superman and Trinkerbell got married

Today the washing went unwashed, the floors went unswept, and the shopping stayed on the shelves at Coles. Instead, I spent a generous portion of the day sitting on the floor with Maisie Mouse on my lap, playing with Phoebalina Ballerina. Phoebe concocted a wonderful outfit for me from the dress-up box, consisting of bunny ears, a scarf and butterfly wings. She was a vision in her "Trinkabell" costume, heavily accessorised with a doctor's kit. When Christian and Jack came home from a jaunt to Mornington we girls had pretty much exhausted our medical examinations of Phoebe's dollies. Jack donned his Superman (or "Suitaman" as he used to call it!) costume and suggested that he and Trinkabell should get married! Now, I was as curious as the next person to see what they would do, especially after Jack's efforts in giving birth to a tennis ball a few weeks ago. First, they put their arms around each other quite formally and moved around in a waltz-type dance. Then they separated and started dancing wildly (I thought this might represent the reception!!) and then began running in circles, singing completely different songs. The entire event culminated in a fight. Now what I want to know is, how did they know how to represent a marriage so succinctly?

Introducing the team

Christian and I were called 'Team O'Toole" when we taught together a few years ago, and the name stuck. Now that the kids have arrived, we are definitely NOT the captains of the team anymore...

Jack is almost four and a half, and in the last few months has become a typical boy obsessed with cars, dragons and 'baddies". He was named after three of his great-grandfathers, not the 2006 Herald-Sun Top 10 Boys Names List. I love the fact he has three old-fashioned names with a family connection behind them. I also love the fact that if ever I need to pull out "Jack Albert Frederick O'Toole!!" at a playground to get him into the car, it will be excruciatingly embarrassing for him. Probably for me too.  Like most four year olds, he loves anything ridiculous, and recently has begun inventing his own little language which has seeped into the family vocabulary. One of the most commonly used words in our family is "toonkynunk", which loosely translates as "silly-billy", as in "you're a toonkynunk" or "silly toonky!". Rarely is it used in a mean spirit, however it definitely has the potential to do so! Jack has doted on Maisie since the day she was born and will happily spend ages making up silly dances to make her laugh. He is also Phoebe's best friend and would defend her to the death...as long as she wasn't being a complete and utter toonkynunk to him!

Phoebe is our eldest daughter, and will be three in September. All she wants for her birthday is a pink cake (which I think I can manage after Jack wanted a Lightning McQueen cake for his last birthday!). Phoebe was named after Christian's favourite character in "The Catcher In The Rye", a fact we had to explain to the nurses in hospital who thought it was for Phoebe from 'Friends'. Since there is only a gap of 17 months between the two of them (the doctor told us after Jack's birth we'd be very lucky to have any more children and it could take a long time. Uh huh.), I think Jack and Pheebs feel more like twins than siblings. Certainly Phoebe presents a tough little exterior to people, but she is a complete and utter marshmallow. She loves nothing more than cuddling up with a book, or playing with her babies. All of her dolls are named "Baby Mais" after the love of her life. I have had to restrain her more than once from feeding Maisie with her grotty dolls' bottles!!

The undisputed leader of our little team is Maisie Mouse, born in January this year. She is undeniably the cruisiest baby ever, and takes disturbed naps and toys being "shared" with her with aplomb. So far, Mais is following the same developmental program as her brother and sister - no plans to move anywhere in the foreseeable future, but already trying desperately to talk. I have no idea where they all get their propensity for chatting. Seriously. Like most mothers of several children, I am attempting desperately to keep Maisie little for as long as possible. Like most babies of the family, Mais is already trying to be a big kid! Thankfully, she is a Mumma's girl so I will just have to make the most of the baby snuggles while I can. I am actually typing this with one finger while holding Maisie as she sleeps - terrible, I know, but it's my secret indulgence!!