Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

Ahhhhh, New Year's Eve. A night filled with memories, promises and champagne. A heady mix! I have a feeling that 2010 is a year that won't blend into the generic memory bank, filed under "random childhood-rearing years". Last New Year's Eve, Christian and I drove to the labour ward, certain that our newest bundle was about to arrive. We were told on arrival, "You can't have your baby tonight. We've had 8 births already today, and it's only lunchtime. Those aren't real contractions - you'll have to go home!" Interestingly enough, when I returned for monitoring the next day (oh, Frankston Hospital on New Year's Morning, what an interesting spectacle you are!), they believed me when I said the contractions WERE real...just too weak and erratic to do any damage...and for someone who is not supposed to go into labour, that's real enough for me! So we were never destined to be on the news with a NYE baby. Oh well!

So what has 2010 given me? Let's have a think.

It has taken away my enormous belly and given me a delightful, happy, inquisitive, beautiful little girl who will be blowing (or spitting on) her first candle out in a few days...

It has taken our large, lovely, comfortable home and replaced it with an empty block of land (and the promise of a wonderful new house...sometime in 2011...we hope!)

It has transformed my two-year-old daughter and three-year-old son into a three-year-old princess and a four-year-old superhero, both of whom never fail to keep me on my toes with never-ending giggles, spills, (occasional) tanties, cuddles, and yoghurt.

It has reinforced to me, over and over again, how lucky I am to have Christian. (It has always been our running joke that since we got married in a Catholic church, the only escape is apparently he decided to test that theory a couple of times this year!! Luckily, God / Buddha / Allah / The Great Woman In The Sky spat him back and said he wasn't ready yet...)

It has taken away my job teaching at a school I loved, and replaced it with another year of maternity leave...and the possibility of exploring a new career as a checkout chick. When one door closes...

It has reminded me that I have, without a shadow of a doubt, the best friends anyone could hope for. So thank you.

So what do I ask of 2011?

For my children to remain happy, and healthy, and to keep me laughing with their mangulated song lyrics and fantastic interpretations of the world.

For my husband to stay out of hospital, and out of the way of armed gangs. Is that too much to ask?

For all of my family, grandparents, parents, siblings, siblings-in-laws, aunties, uncles, cousins and the whole gamut to be happy and healthy and strong.

For the chance to spend more time with my gorgeous friends, whose company I crave. I know life gets busy, but surely we can find the time to stop for a cuppa? Let me know when you're free!!

For our house to be built before we are ringing in 2012. Seriously.

For the opportunity to spend another glorious year at home with my children, interspersed with some sort of employment which does not require my kids to be in daycare. (I can only dream!!)

And now, enough about me - what about you? What do you hope to see or find or do in 2011? The only thing that would complete this blog is to hear from all the wonderful people who have read about, and supported Team O'Toole this year. I cannot thank you all enough for reading my rantings and ravings this year - you are the cheapest form of therapy I know! (and that's a compliment, although it may not sound like it...) I hope you all have a safe, fun New Year's, with plenty of umbrella drinks and kisses and/or high fives at midnight. See you in 2011!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A snorter, guggles and slippers

Thanks to Santa Claus and an exceptionally generous family, Jack, Phoebe and Maisie have received ridiculous numbers of presents over the last few days. Not that I'm ungrateful - far from it! I am so thankful for the kind and thoughtful gifts our children have received. I am also thankful that the endless hours spent drumming manners into the kids were not entirely wasted, as they were fairly well-behaved over the entire Christmas period, despite being deluged with more gifts than is decent!

Tonight I am sitting amongst it all - toys recently played with; toys as yet unopened; toys waiting to find a place more suitable than the lounge room floor - while Jack and Phoebe spend the night at Narnie and Pa's house. They have been beside themselves with excitement at the prospect of going "on holidays" to my parents'  for the night, and could not wait for Mummy, Daddy and Maisie to leave after dinner! Christian and I had planned on spending some time tonight sorting out the new toys while the big kids are away, but now that the Mouse has finished her night feed I am not really in the mood to clean. Besides, what better time to tell you about some of the funnier stories about the new Christmas acquisitions?

Jack is currently morphing into a five year old boy (not until April, but you'd think it was tomorrow!) and as such, has become obsessed with cars and baddies. He received some fantastic race tracks, trucks and cars, as well as a talking Buzz Lightyear. He got the coveted Buzz duplo, books, clothes, a doona cover...and a snorter, guggles and slippers. Sorry? Jack's Aunty Miffy and Uncle Whale gave Jack a snorkle kit, which has been worn all over our house for about three days now. He will appear, grinning, wearing his 'slippers', his 'guggles' and blowing heavily through the 'snorter' (which has also been...ahem.....'loved' by Phoebe and Maisie respectively!) I can't wait to see him use it at the beach, although I hope he manages to snorkle rather than snort...

Phoebe must have been a good girl, because Santa brought her desperately hoped-for pink scooter. She received many fairy-and princess-related dress-ups and jewellery items, and an iron and ironing board I am very keen for her to learn to use! Phoebe also got duplo, a (Princess) doona cover, books, clothes...and a baby with a dummy. Oh my lordy, how my child is obsessed with babies and their dummies. All she asked for before Christmas was a baby with a dummy (she has always been a bit miffed that her beloved Maisie Maisie Mouse does not like or have dummies - I think she felt a bit robbed!), and we told her she already had two baby dolls, which was enough. But her Narnie saw (and bought!) a dolly that came with clothes, bibs, bottles, a potty, sippy cups, nappies....and the all-important dummy. And my goodness gracious me, has this baby doll been loved to death already, or what!!!! After convincing Phoebalina that naming yet another baby "Dora" was probably not a great idea, I suggested 'Anna Louise', as these are Phoebe's middle names. The baby doll is now known by all and sundry as "Wees". Excellent choice, Mum.

Wees has been dressed and undressed, put to bed, scolded, kissed, fed, changed, and had the dummy put in and out umpteen times. She has been told to be a good girl and go to sleep, or Santa won't come. She has (disturbingly) been carried around by the feet, cradled adoringly, and tipped upside down, all of which have me convinced that Phoebe is not old enough to babysit Miss Mais just yet. Phoebe tells everybody who will listen that she has "a baby with a dummy", including my mum, who gave it to her!! Since the arrival of Wees, the beloved pink scooter has taken a back seat...because it doesn't have a baby seat for Wees. Oh well.

And the Mouse? Well, Maisie couldn't have given a hoot about presents, to be quite frank. She too received dollies, clothes, books, games, puzzles, things that go boing...and all she has played with are the forbidden toys with teeny tiny pieces that Jack received, and the wrapping paper. Oh, and the kitchen tiles. Since she has discovered she can slide easily on them, the tiles have become a favourite plaything. At least with her first birthday coming up in two weeks, I can relax a bit about buying her a present!! ("Here, darling, Mummy and Daddy bought you a newspaper and will let you roll on the lovely grass - aren't you a lucky girl!!")

And now, with an asleep 11 month old, and absent children, I am going to make the most of the peace and quiet! Sleep well! xxx

Monday, December 27, 2010

Maisie Mouse's First Christmas

What a fantastic Christmas!

Team O'Toole were thoroughly spoiled by Santa Claus - Jack received his longed-for Buzz Lightyear Duplo, and Phoebalina was speechless when she unwrapped her pink scooter. Maisie couldn't give a hoot about her presents, but the wrapping paper on the floor was pure heaven, apparently!! After they had thoroughly dissected the contents of their sacks, they gave each other little gifts they had chosen last week - it was very cute to watch. Jack and Phoebs both thought Maisie was very clever to go shopping to buy them such excellent toys! By the time we had unwrapped those infuriating plastic-covered wire thingys from each and every toy and assembled racing tracks and Duplo, it was time for a late breakfast and for Mummy to start assembling the dishes that had been cooked the night before...

We were off to my aunty's for Christmas lunch, and my family were all coming across the bay on the ferry. Luckily for us, we were only a car trip away, so after putting together a potato salad and a fancy-schmancy pannettone dessert, we dressed the kids in 'good' clothes and took off to collect my brother and his girlfriend from the ferry. I managed to keep Maisie relatively clean by not dressing her until the last minute, but she still managed to collect the floor on her dress! Little grot. Thankfully, the kids had a sleep in the car so by the time we arrived at Aunty Chrissy's place, they were refreshed and raring to party.

We had a beautiful, relaxed day - drinkies and nibblies outside in the sun, a BBQ lunch, and the chance to actually sit and talk to my brother and sister, their partners, my parents, Argie, my aunty and uncle and my two cousins. The kids were spoiled rotten with attention by my cousins. I used to see them almost weekly when they were little, but now we live so far away I don't get to catch up very often. They are two funny, lovely boys who I get along with really well, and Jack and Phoebs are completely in love with them. They played with the kids pretty much all day, while Maisie Mouse was doted on by an array of grown-ups. All three kids received so many presents it was ridiculous!!! Spoiled rotten doesn't even begin to cover it. But there was not a temper tantrum or nasty word to be seen or heard anywhere, and I had the best day imaginable.

By the time we packed them up to go home, the kids (and Christian, who had a terrible migraine by this point) were completely knackered, so I drove home with Bing Crosby singing carols for company, while my team snored around me. After a late night of packing, we reluctantly left Ocean Grove on Boxing Day to come back to reality...and that is where I am now. Surrounded by the reality of washing that needs to be folded and put away, cats with their noses out of joint from being in the cattery, the entire contents of Toys'R'Us on the floor of a two-bedroom unit begging to know where it is all going to go...luckily we spent today at a second Christmas lunch with Christian's family, so I didn't need to think about reality for another few hours!! But now the turkey hangover has begun, and I am surrounded by the debris of too much yuletide cheer...I wonder if there are any mince pies left?

The Night Before Christmas

I think we might burst with excitement. It's Christmas Eve!!!!!!!!

Yesterday we had a beautiful day meandering around Queenscliff. Apart from a tiny poo-in-the-undies incident (Phoebalina's, not mine!) it was a lovely day. We looked in the shops (including the old-fashioned lolly shop - ooh ah!), went to the playground, had lunch in the bakery. I was so relaxed. I can't remember the last time I spent the week before Christmas playing with my children, with nothing more pressing to do than make dinner at 5pm. Being away from home (and unemployed, and therefore without any money to spend!), I have avoided a lot of the stress-inducing activities associated with the festive season. And far from being bah-humbug about it all, the whole lack-of-an-income thing has allowed me to focus completely on the most important thing in my life - my family. This week, Team O'Toole has spent all of our time together, playing, walking, eating, cooking, preparing for Santa's visit...and it has been golden. I couldn't have asked for a nicer week.

To top it all off, today we met up with some very dear friends who are also holidaying in Ocean Grove over Christmas. We haven't really had any beach weather this week, so to speak, but today was sunny and warm so we headed over to the sheltered little beach at Barwon Heads for a swim. It was Maisie's first time at the beach, and what a little beach bunny we have on our hands!! While Jack and Phoebs ran and splashed madly in the shallows, Maisie Mouse sat contentedly in the dry sand and watched for a little while. I took her down to the wet sand to see how she'd go (let's just say that when I took her big sister to the beach for the first time, it was not love at first sight!). From the very first wave that lapped at her toes, she was in raptures. My little mouse rolled, crawled and sat in the shallows of the beach, eating sand and wriggling her chubby legs while her big brother and sister ran like mad things around her. At one point I tried to take her out of the water, but as soon as I placed her on dry sand she started crawling fiercely back to the water's edge! Eventually, I noticed that she was shivering, so I carried her up the beach and wrapped her up in a dry towel. She eventually went to sleep in my lap after a sandy breastfeed, with icy toes and salt-encrusted eyebrows.

After a quick bath back at the house, we met back up with our friends and their kids for fish and chips in the local playground. We didn't realise that Santa was scheduled to make a stop on the fire engine, so when the hordes of kids heard the siren, it was just too exciting!! When the mozzies became too thick for comfort, we wheeled the pram home and tucked two very happy kids into bed. Maisie is currently flapping around on the floor while the Carols are on the telly. Santa's homemade cookies are waiting on a plate, the stockings have been arranged on the floor, and we are waiting for a safe time to get the presents out of their hiding place and fill the Santa sacks....I wonder how many more Christmases we will have with Santa alive and kicking in our children's imaginations? The magic in this house tonight is palpable, simply because they believe with every fibre in their little bodies that he is real, and he WILL come. I can only cross my fingers and wish that these years will last for a while longer, because it is just too gorgeous for words. The beauty of this past week has come from the magic in my children, and I wish I could bottle this feeling forever. Merry Christmas to you all!!! I hope that it is a wonderful one for all of you. And now, if I could only get this little mouse into bed, Santa might be able to do his delivery....ho ho ho!!!!

Waiting for Santa

22 December, 2010

This week we are holidaying in Ocean Grove, courtesy of my beautiful aunty and uncle and their gorgeous holiday house. We have been looking forward to this holiday for about six months, but especially since Christian's health took a nose-dive. You know how you wait for something wonderful, and get all excited as it gets closer and closer, and then all of a sudden you're there, and you cross your fingers that it will live up to the hype? This holiday is surpassing any expectations that I had - this is by far and away the best week-before-Christmas ever...but since we are without internet for the week, you will be reading this some time after the fact!!

So what have we been doing this week? Since we arrived on Monday, we have walked down to the shops for coffee, walked to the playground, walked to the fact we've walked nearly everywhere! The kids have chatted to numerous locals, all absolutely lovely and up for lengthy conversations about the imminent arrival of Santa Claus. The kids have been flogged by some rather long walks near bedtime, which has meant some very peaceful nights for Mummy and Daddy (and Maisie, our little sidekick!) Mais has been very busy cutting about 100 new teeth, so the dribble has been flowing thick and fast. Her commando crawl is now so deft that nothing is safe, and she chases the kids around the house, giggling manically and collecting bits of fluff and other debris on her tummy. I haven't had to vacuum in a week.

The building hysteria about Christmas has provided some very funny moments. May I present to you, Phoebalicious' version of the old classic 'Jingle Bells': "Da-wingle bells, da-wingle bells, dwingle all da way, on da farm, they had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o!" We also love the new and mangulated lyrics to 'Santa Claus is Coming To Town', sung loudly and with a shout at the end of each line: "You better not SHOUT! You better not CRY! You better not SHOUT! I'm telling you why, Santa Claus is comin', tt HE  SEES YOU WHEN YOU'RE SLEEPIN'!!! HE SEES YOU WHEN YOU'RE SLEEPIN'!! OH!" And repeat ad naueum. (By the way, the "tt" is not a typo - she literally skips the words "to town" in favour of mkaing the sounds of "tt" - it's quicker to get to the chorus that way!)

Phoebe in particular has been very concerned about Santa coming down the chimney and being burned by the fire. We have reassured her numerous times that there will be no fire in the Coonara on Christmas Eve, but to no avail...she is determined that Santa comes throught the 'fire' and will be sooty and messy. Jack is more worried about coming out and seeing Santa, and stopping him from delivering - and yet I think at the merest hint of a sleigh bell jingling my boy would be out the door in a flash! Let's just say we have used the old chestnut about Santa watching quite a few times this week. Heaven help us next week when we have to go back to old threats and promises!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Batman and Super Shrek

About 4:30 this morning, I stood shivering at the back door while Daisy drank more water than is decent for a dog her size, snorted for about a minute (in that weird, hacking, snorty way that Cavaliers do), and went off for a jaunt to find the perfect spot to relieve herself in the back yard. Meanwhile, Maisie Mouse was having a good yell because I was not cooperating with her. She was quite insistent that it was time for a cuddle and perhaps a little light refreshment (she's quite partial to a midnight breastfeed at the moment, as she is teething), and I was having none of it, so the cries of indignation were loud and persistent. Jack was snoring like a chainsaw on 'roids, Phoebe was mumbling in her sleep, and Daddy? Well, Daddy was so fast asleep that even the cacophony of noise in our house could not penetrate his slumber...

Being the school holidays, I would normally have shrugged off the terrible night and had a little kip this afternoon (Let me just define 'little kip': a period of time spent sitting on the couch of approximately 15 minutes, with a baby on the boob, a toddler wedged next to me, and a Christmas DVD on the box that I have seen 15 times already - not the most restorative moment, but a 'rest', nevertheless!!). Today, however, we were off to the city to attend Truncle's office Christmas party, which was terribly exciting because this year the theme was 'Superheroes'!!!! Jack was all geared up to go dressed as Batman, and Phoebalina had already donned a second personality known as Supergirl (although she occasionally forgot this and thought she was Batman too...) So there was no nanna nap on the horizon for Mummy today!

We walked through the CBD early this morning, Maisie Mouse and Phoebalicious in the double pram, and Jack running alongside. It was astonishing the number of people who openly laughed at Jack in his baggy Batman suit - nearly every person we passed in rush-hour commuter foot-traffic smiled or giggled at our boy in delight. Some even stopped us and asked where we were off to, and wished us a lovely day! I must admit, Jack is a bit on the skinny side at the moment and the suit is still waaaaay too big for him, so his rolled-up sleeves and droopy drawers did look funny - but he was just so rapturously happy to be Batman, he was infectious.

Phoebs was dressed in Jack's old Superman suit (so beloved it is threadbare now!), and I had put her hair up into two little pigtails. Jack took one look this morning at her hair and exclaimed, "Hey! It's Super Shrek!" Poor Phoebs. Anyway, she too looked adorable, and drew many admiring glances from passers-by. It felt really nice to be making people smile at they passed us, and it was a happy little group who made their way to the party.

We had an incredible time with Truncle, watching a magic show and some super hero performers, and getting the kids' faces painted (Batman and a butterfly, of course!). Maisie had a lovely time rolling on the floor in various rooms and picking up bits of cotton and interesting fluff. After lunch and a rather hysterical visit from Santa, we took three very happy and rather hyperactive children back to the streets of Melbourne to grab a coffee before the drive home. Phoebe was asleep in the pram before you could say "Australia on Collins", Maisie gnawed on a rusk and offered it to complete strangers in a very charming manner, and Batman ran, and then walked, and then drooped...and then got piggybacked by Mummy.

Today was long, (for some more than others!), and busy, and noisy, and sticky. And oh, so much fun. Simply by having our kids dressed in costume we spoke to more strangers today than I probably would in a year, and all of them had a smile on their faces (except the hatchet-faced woman in the glass lift - seriously would it hurt you to smile at a three year old?) Our kids were approached by so many lovely people today, wishing them a happy Christmas, and asking where they were going. Jack was congratulated by three individual men for keeping the city safe - and he was as proud as punch!! It was a beautiful, happy day, and I feel like our Christmas has begun. Never mind that the kids were nightmares to get into bed tonight (except Miss Mouse, who fell asleep on the floor!), this is a day that Batman and Super Shrek will remember - and I think (and hope) the memory of seeing my little tribe of superheroes might make a few people smile for a little while yet! Eight sleeps to go!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Graduation Day

Quite early this morning, while Maisie and Phoebe snored softly in their beds, Jack and I snuggled up together on the couch and ate our cereal. Normally we sit at the table, but it was so covered in paraphernalia that I bent the rules...just this once. My boy and I sat with bunny rugs on our knees and watched Sunrise and for one little moment I remembered what it was like when it was just he and I. Being Number One, Jack and I spent a year and a half almost exclusively together before Phoebalina came along, and it feels like such a long time ago. Not only is the house fuller and busier than ever (and more loving, and we wouldn't change a thing!!), but Jack and I don't get much one-on-one time anymore. I guess that's what happens when you have a breastfed baby sister.

Jack was up early this morning to get ready for his last day at kinder - a milestone in anybody's books. His graduation ceremony was not until lunchtime, but he was going early with Daddy to prepare. As he cuddled right in next to me this morning, I tried to burn every moment in my memory. I must admit, silly as it seems, leaving kinder today makes me feel as though a part of my baby will be lost forever. I suppose I was worried that after the "ceremony", he wouldn't want to cuddle me on the couch, or do any of the cute little things that mark him still as a small boy. Logically I know that this is nonsense, that one day cannot make such a significant difference. But today marked a watershed moment in my son's life, and my mothering instincts had sat up, pricked their ears, and twitched their noses. There was change on the horizon.

So the boys left for kinder, and the girls continued on with a normal morning...making breakfast, picking breakfast up off the floor, cleaning up the breakfast before Ernie or the ants got to it, putting on loads of washing, washing dishes, colouring in, letting cups of tea go cold while retrieving unsafe objects from Maisie's mitts...and before I knew it, we were clean and dressed and off to kinder to see our boy graduate.

The kinder kids had decorated the outside area for the ceremony, but of course as soon as the parents began arriving the rain blew in and we all scarpered inside. The kinder graduands had donned paper graduation caps on  their heads, and one by one they traipsed in to collect their certificates from their teacher. Some walked beautifully and stood still whilst adoring parents took photos, others skipped straight to their mums and sat down on the mat without collecting their certificate! Jack came in holding Phoebe's hand, pulled his hat off his head and arranged his face in an expression I know well. It was his "There's a lot of people in here and that makes me nervous so I'll act silly" face, which makes him look completely goofy. Is it wrong of me to be relieved that he wasn't cool and calm and completely grown-up?

We finally managed to get some lovely photos of the three kids together, complete with Jack's mortar board. After a sausage sizzle and some other treats, we left our boy to play for the rest of the afternoon and took the girls home. When Jack arrived home later this afternoon, he told me he had given his teachers a special hug and wished them a merry Christmas. He realised that today was his last day as a kinder boy, and that very soon he would be a Preppy. And I realised that even though he was grown-up enough to thank his teachers properly, he was still my baby. As I watched him today standing in the straggly line of kindergarteners, pulling on their t-shirts, spinning around on the spot, walking randomly around or calling out to their parents, I saw that none of them were in danger of being truly grown-up. And I could clearly see etched in the face of my little man, the face that I had stared at on the morning he was born. The beautiful face of my first-born son, who made me a Mummy for the first time, whom I think will always be my baby, no matter how many birthdays he celebrates. Cross your fingers the quiet cuddles on the couch persist for a little while longer yet. I think I need them more than he does!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Enchanting Ernie


After last night's bedtime debacle, today was.....interesting. Let's just say there have been several moments today when I laughed out loud...and more than a few moments when I wanted to cry and/or find the nearest bottle shop. I promise that I am laughing, really, really, really deep down inside. Really deep.

Jack and Phoebe went to the dentist with Daddy this morning, leaving the Mouse and I do to some housework. There was only one thing for it - we cranked up the Spice Girls, hopped in the Jolly Jumper (uh, Maisie did, not me!) and got to it! Mais was laughing her backside off, bouncing and flapping and jumping, and I could actually see progress in my cleaning (which I'm sure you realise is a rare event!!) It was during this time that my new phone was delivered, a very exciting thing given that my old phone has been playing up for quite some time now. I haven't been able to send text messages for over a month, and even making or receiving calls was becoming a dodgy business. So getting my new iPhone today was just a wee bit excellent!!

The big kids arrived home late morning, just in time to have a play outside before lunch. I thought I'd quickly get my phone going while they were occupied in the sunshine (by the way, here's a completely unrelated source of hilarity and disbelief - the Apple iPhone can do almost anything you could think of. I reckon it could even do the dishes if you downloaded the right app. So why, oh why, did I need to go online and search the net for a good 30 minutes to find out how to insert the SIM card? And in this world of astounding technology, who on Earth thought it would be a good idea to make a PAPERCLIP the essential item to open the SIM card dooverlacker?? Seriously? You need to push the end of a paperclip into a teeny little hole to make the SIM card hole open. Where's the app for that???? A paperclip. Pffft.)

Anyhow, I hadn't been fruitlessly searching on the internet for 10 seconds before the kids came inside. And went out again. And in. And out. And...Mummy did her nut. "Jack, what is it? What do you want? What are you doing inside?" demanded cross Mummy. "I need to do a wee. Can I do a bush wee, Mummy?" "Yep, brilliant idea. Fantastic. Now just stay outside for a minute, ok?" And silly me looked away for ten seconds...

When I looked out the door a moment later, I was faced with two bare little bottoms, both with pants hitched down around the ankles, both with hips thrust forward to do a "bush wee". Only problem was, girls don't have much success doing standing-up bush wees. Jack had chosen the edge of the path to do his wee, which was bad enough - there were rivulets of wee-wees running right where we walk! Phoebalina had followed suit, and as a result had soaked shorts, undies, and shoes, as well as very wet legs. She wasn't too happy with me when I explained that girls can't do standing-up wees, and then she was really upset when she ran across the carpet with a wet, bare bottom to see our neighbours and I got shouty! Oh the joys.

Some friends of ours dropped around this arvo for a cuppa and a chat, and the kids were predominantly well-behaved. Nobody really minded that Phoebe spent the majority of the afternoon sans undies - she just kept forgetting to go to the toilet, so in the end it was just easier to leave them off! By the time we got to dinner time, we were all fairly exhausted, and Christian and I just wanted to get the team into bed. We were a bit frayed around the edges, to tell the truth, so I nearly missed the cutest moment of the day. Maisie had a habit of falling asleep in her highchair - I don't know if it's the soporific effects of my company or the effort of feeding herself, but she regularly starts snoring with a mouthful of Vegemite sandwich. To avoid this, when I noticed her slowing down during dinner tonight, I quickly swapped her pasta for a bowl of yoghurt, which she adores.

I don't know what it is about it, but I love watching Maisie eat yoghurt (early onset, dementia, perhaps?) She makes little noises of enjoyment, smacks her lips together, and leans forward to see where the spoon has gone. I've never known a kid love yoghurt more than Mais. While I was indulging in this moment of baby deliciousness, Ernie jumped up on the chair beside Maisie. Ernie is our big ginger cat, absolutely beloved by the kids, and a true saint when it comes to pulled tails and screeching toddlers. The second he jumped up, Maisie nearly leapt out of the highchair with delight. She began "Da!"-ing and cooing at him in this sweet little voice, reaching out to pat his fur with fingers coated in yoghurt (totally welcome, I assure you!) I couldn't believe the purring adoration between these two - they were both so utterly besotted with each other. I'm sure much of Maisie's appeal for Ernie is her leftovers that cover the floor below the highchair - but tonight he sat right next to her, and let her pat him to her heart's content. I was waiting for squeals or shouts, but none came - she was so gentle and quiet, and clearly enraptured with her furry friend. It was a beautiful moment to watch. If only she was always that gentle with the poor old man!

By some miracle, all three kids went to sleep almost straight away tonight. Tomorrow is Tuesday, which means kinder for Jack, daycare for Phoebs, and pretending-to-be-an-only-child for Maisie Mouse. And for me? Well for now, I have a bakery-fresh mince pie, a cup of tea, and an iPhone that continues to bewilder me...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Aunty Cake

I feel I must preface today's blog with two little pieces of information:

1. My children call most of my nearest and dearest friends "Aunty". What started out as a little joke when we were younger (and childless) has now blossomed into a habit, in which I am 'Aunty Sal' to the majority of my friends' kids, and my girlfriends are Aunty Gertrude, Aunty Esmeralda, Aunty Hedwig, etc. You get the drift.

2. I spent so much time at (Aunty) Gertrude's place during Year 12 that her family became mine, and mine hers. As a result, I gained three sisters (and a Mummy Wubbleyoo and a Daddy Wubbleyoo - this would take too long to explain but those who are in the know will understand my ramblings!!!) who to this day I consider my extended family. Gertrude and her two sisters know all of my faults and yet still appear to love me - goodness knows I love them all to bits. For the purposes of today's blog, I shall name my younger extra sister Anne, and my older extra sister Cake...for reasons that shall become clear as this blog progresses!

I don't know if the kids are out of whack due to Daddy's illness, Christmas excitement, Maisie's teething or just plain old tiredness, but in the past week bedtime has become one long joke. As a result of this, the team have been waking up quite late in the last few days - and by this I mean 7 or 7:30am, as opposed to 5:30 or 6! Maisie decided to break the mould this morning, and woke around 4am. To keep her quiet, I took her into bed and fed her back to sleep (bad habits die hard!), which meant that Jack and Phoebs didn't pile into our bed until nearly 8. Not bad!!!

We went off to our swimming lessons, splashed madly for half an hour, and then dried off more carefully than usual. We had been invited to a farewell party for our friends who are moving to America for a few years. It was really important to me that we attend, even if we brought with us the stench of chlorine. So Jack-the-toonkynunk, Phoebalicious, Maisie Mouse and Poor Old Daddy hopped in the car for a nap and let Mummy drive through the pouring rain and feral traffic to the party. (I'm not bitching. Really. As if I needed a nap? Please *withering look*) Anyhoo. I had a wonderful time, as the kids were exceptionally well-behaved and I managed to actually hold conversations with other person...without many interruptions! Jack had mates to play with, Maisie had a polished floor to slide on, and Phoebe had lots of grown-ups to charm...and charm she did!

Now, my surrogate older sister was our hostess, and she never fails to entertain multitudes of people with beautiful food, a comfortable house, and a calm, warm welcome. The house was full of people and babies and food, and amongst all the chatter and commotion, my elder daughter managed to be in the kitchen when the desserts were being prepared. Her eyes fell upon a plate piled high with tiny little cupcakes in multicoloured patty pans. When she was asked what her favourite colour was, Phoebe was handed a pink cuppy cake, and when I prompted her to be polite, she whispered, "Thank you, Aunty Cake!". And proceeded to gobble up her treat before anyone else could take it!

I refuse to be sad about my friends leaving, as it is a wonderful and exciting thing for them, and it was also such a lovely day that what is there to be sad about? We all got together, chatted and laughed and ate, there were no tantrums (not even from the kids!) and it was one of those relaxed parties that you remember for years to come. I shall miss them, of course, but that is why God invented Facebook!! Haha. The kids slept all the way home (and by kids, I mean Jack, Maisie and Christian - Phoebe kept me company!) which was great. Unfortunately, the good behaviour came at a price...a very steep price. It is now nearly 10:45pm, and we have only just settled all three children. They all took it in turns to disturb the other two tonight (Jack being silly, Phoebe going to the toilet 26 times, and Maisie with her enormous top tooth trying to break through the gum) I can only hope they sleep until a decent hour - I'd be happy with 6am! Cross your fingers it's a better night than last night...and off I go to bed. Lots of love to all the gorgeous aunties out there!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

14 sleeps to go...

With only a couple of weeks until the big man in scarlet arrives, our house seems to be perpetually in a state of anticipation. I'm sure yours is much the same! I have always loved Christmas, but I can't ever remember enjoying it so much as I am now, with my three little cherubs in tow. Our house is draped in tinsel (cheap and relatively unbreakable!) and homemade baubles, we have a (tiny) Christmas tree perched on top of the TV cabinet that Maisie cannot reach...yet...and we have watched The Polar Express more times than is decent. Jack and Phoebe sing all the carols they know with gusto (never mind the fact their lyrics are a fair bit different to the correct ones!), which is very cute especially when they are also doing a nudey run...

We have visited Santa and sat on his knee for the obligatory cheesy-grinned photo; we have told him breathlessly what we would like to find in our stockings; we have even received personalised video messages from Santa which prompted the cutest little responses from our babes (and by the way, I highly recommend this, especially for naughty spouses: Tonight, Maisie was entranced by the toy train running around the bottom of Grandma and Grandpa's Christmas tree (and she actually managed to get one of the glass baubles off before her evil plans were thwarted). It seems as though for the last month, everything we do is tinged with red, green and glitter of some sort...and it has led to a tiny, weeny little problem.

This whole business of the "naughty and nice" list held in the hot little hand of Kris Kringle has caused a fair few issues of late for Team O'Toole. Now I'll admit my kids are predominantly well-behaved, with a healthy dose of tantrum thrown into the mix on a regular basis. Unless they are exceptionally tired or overwrought, for the most part they are pretty sunny little people. I can usually get around a bad mood through a stint in the naughty spot, a nap or a distraction. Lately, however, end-of-year tiredness and a near-constant state of excitement about Christmas has rendered my big kids a little more difficult than usual. It's not that they have earned a permanent spot on the naughty list, more along the lines of temporarily hopping onto its' fringes. And of course, they are very aware that Santa does not come to children who misbehave, and so the question remains: how naughty is too naughty?

Who decides how far Santa can be pushed? Where is the line in the sand as far as your position on the naughty/nice list? Phoebe is so worried about missing out on her pink scooter that she keeps checking: "Are you happy at me, Mummy?" (in other words, is Santa still going to come?) Jack, on the other hand, appears to be intrigued about how far he can push the boundaries...he's careful to err on the side of caution, because after all, he wouldn't want Santa to give his Toy Story Lego to another little boy...but I reckon there's a tiny part of my son that's curious to see if Santa's calling his bluff.

I for one can't wait for Christmas morning - it's Maisie Mouse's first Christmas, and with three kids under the age of five, the magic in the air will be tangible. It will be absolutely gorgeous to watch their little faces light up when they see those bulging pillowcases under the tree, and just imagine Mais when she gets amongst the wrapping paper... But on top of the magic of Christmas morning, and the delicious (and calorie free!) lunch with my family that awaits, do you know what I'm looking forward to? Not having to weigh up every little misdemeanour that my children are involved in and worry that I might have to threaten them with going on the naughty list! What on earth would I do if they actually did something heinous? I don't think I could bear it if Santa bypassed our house! Oh Santa, hurry up and get here soon...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let the wild rumpus start

We have never been one of those families with babies who walk early. Somewhere along the way I heard that children either walk early, or talk early. All three members of Team O'Toole would apparently be early talkers. Now, anyone who knows my lovely husband and I would hardly be surprised by this news! I acknowledge that I am a Mrs. Have-a-chat, and Christian is not shy, either. Both of us are teachers. Enough said.

When Jack was about 10 months old, I remember sitting at a mothers' group morning tea and watching all the other little boys run or stagger around madly, while my blonde little cherub sat placidly beside my chair (I was exceptionally seedy with morning sickness at this point in time, so I was pretty grateful that I didn't have to chase anybody anywhere!) Being my first baby, I'll admit I was a little worried that my boy was the only child not dashing wildly about. Jack's lack of mobility was commented on by the other mums, especially the fact that he wasn't even crawling at the ripe old age of 10 months. I just smiled and shrugged, but inside I was a tad concerned that Jack would sit still forever (a completely unfounded concern - he hasn't sat still since June 2007...) Jack eventually crawled backwards (after a very long time of lying on his tummy and flapping his arms and legs wildly), crawled forwards for only a few weeks, and then got up one day and walked across the room when he was 14 months old. What I didn't particularly notice as being unusual at the time was that at 10 or 11 months, my son was already using recognisable words, and that his vocabulary was developing at an astonishing rate. It wasn't until Jack entered daycare that I realised that he spoke much more than the other two year olds, and that he was understood by most adults. Sure, he had never been a climber or one to run away from me, but to be truthful I was a bit relieved about that!

Phoebe was also a very placid baby, taking her sweet time to roll over and sit up. I wasn't particularly concerned about her progress, as Jack had taught me that it all happens eventually, so I relaxed a fair bit with Phoebs. Just like Jack, she showed no inclination to go anywhere until around 10 months, at which point she turned her little nose up at traditional crawling and began bum-shuffling. She was remarkably fast, and used her legs, knees and little tushie to wriggle across the floor. She eventually learned to crawl, but I think the fact she could see everything whilst sitting up and shuffling along on her cherries meant that this was her preferred method of movement. Phoebalina also went from crawling to walking in a very short period of time, and was staggering around the room at 14 months, just like Jack. Unlike her big brother, Phoebalicious started speaking understandable words at 8 months...and no, she hasn't stopped yet!

Miss Maisie Mouse has already defied expectations - after two 'easy' babies, I was warned I was in for a screamer third time around. She rarely cried. After two 'good' sleepers, I was warned she'd never sleep. She slept through at 5 weeks. Now, of course during her little lifetime, Maisie has both cried and had bad nights where she wouldn't sleep. But on the whole, when she's not teething or sick, she is happy and contented and so, so easy. And to be honest, life is so busy with three kidlets that I have not had time to think about Maisie's developmental milestones. She's eating, putting on weight, and laughs. What's to worry about?

Generally speaking, Maisie is turning out just like her big brother and sister, with her own little twist on the popular theme. Early talking? Check. Since 6 months old we have been hearing little words like Dad-dad, Mum-mum, hello, and other baby-words that she uses for food (na-na) and Jack (Ja!) When she started rolling, I just assumed that she would start crawling or bum-shuffling around 10 months like the others. But no. Maisie is still rolling (rapidly, with cunning and gusto) and I have given up explaining to people that no, she's not walking yet (or even close to looking like it), but since she won't shut up we haven't really had time to worry about it (and mind your own beeswax, thank you very much!) Imagine our excitement this morning, when the Mouse saw a ball she REALLY wanted, and the knees went up, and she reached out, and......smack down on her tummy again. This time, however, instead of rolling away, she commando-crawled in the most uncoordinated way I have ever witnessed, and SHE GOT THE BALL!!!!!! Woohoo for Maisie!!!! Now, I want you to understand that I really don't care when or if Miss Mouse crawls. It's hectic enough around here without more movement!! (remember, two bedroom unit, three kids, one broken husband, two cats, one dog...) But I was absolutely delighted for my baby, as she has for some time now watched the other two run past her with a wild look of envy in her beautiful blue eyes.

I realise that, in the next few days or weeks, when she does get up on all fours and crawl triumphantly towards the nearest dangerous object, that I will need to go into baby-proofing overload. As it is, things around here are already looking a little bare as we put more and more things up out of reach. But isn't it exciting when they learn how to join in on the action? I love a crawling baby - there's something about that wiggly little bum in the air that makes me want to grab it and kiss it!!! And then it won't belong before she works out how to walk, and sprint...and then I'll just have to follow the stream of chatter that flows behind my baby as she runs wildly with the other kids. Go Maisie Mouse, go!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting big

Phoebalina Ballerina is on my lap. You know how usually confident, sassy three-year-olds can occasionally fall in a little puddle of clinginess? That's my Phoebe today. She's sitting on my lap asking if she can press the buttons. Here is my indulgence of this little whim:

gtuuhjhjjkjkjkjkjjjjjjjkljklxxcvbvffccvccbvcfhvghhbbbbvcvcvx. Ah, it's a great game. She wants to know if it's her turn again after I have my turn. I want to know if it's my turn to go to bed at 6.30pm.

Isn't it funny how kids are so desperate to be grown up, and want to do everything Mummy and Daddy do? Personally, I'd give a lot to be 27 again (not any younger, though. It would pain me greatly to be a teenager again, and to be frank much of my early twenties was spent either at uni, the pub, or in angst over boys. If I could have my 23rd year again, travelling in the UK and US, backpacking and working at camp, that'd be great. Then I'd skip straight to 27...) 27 was an awesome age. I had a pretty good body (I just didn't realise it at the time!), I had a great job I loved, a gorgeous boyfriend (and before you get all fired up, Christian, it was you, ok?), and the most pressing commitment I had was my kitten, Ernie. The funny thing is, I knew I had it good then, so I made the most of it. And every year since then, it's just gotten better and better, to the point where I now have a scrumptious three year old daughter sitting on my lap, trying to press 'buttons' on my laptop and asking why we kiss, while giving me kisses. "I love you, Mum." "I love you too, Phoebe." "Mum, I really love you." "I really love you too, Phoebs." "Mum? I have boogers in my nose." Yes, Yes, you do.

Of course, every stage in life is about learning. Currently, I'm learning how to juggle three kidlets, a broken husband, imminent Christmas madness and the perks of unemployment. Christian is learning how to relax, allow his body to recuperate, and pay for the imminent Christmas madness while we have no salary. Jack is learning how to control his temper, and control his excitement and nervousness about starting Big School. Phoebe is learning that wiping your pooey bottom with your hands will make Mummy quite cross, especially if you do it twice in one day. Maisie is learning how to chase the cat (although she is trying to do this without crawling - I think she is trying to go straight from rolling to's not working). Every age is interesting, and different, and difficult in some way or another. At this very moment, Phoebe is learning how loudly she can scream at us to show that she does not need to go to bed. This is proving to be a very difficult task for her, and considering the strain her voice is under, one that I do not envy! Christian and I are learning how to not laugh uproariously at Phoebe's temper. This is also proving to be quite a difficult task.

I remember my mum telling me not to wish my life away when I was a little girl. Like most kids I was desperate to be older - why, I don't know! Now my own kids are all trying to be bigger than they are - Phoebe even corrected Santa (oh so politely) when he kept calling her a little girl. "A big girl, Santa," she whispered continuously. Every little thing they learn, and every day we have makes us a little bit older. On the one hand I am grateful to have three kids who learn something new every day (and I am especially grateful that three pregnancies have not rendered my brain so completely useless that it is unable to learn!) On the other hand, I realise that every little trick or skill or piece of information that they learn takes them one step closer to being big. And as desperate as I am to retain my youthful 34 years, I am more desperate to retain my kidlets' childhoods...for a while, at least. Lord help me when they are teenagers and have learned absolutely everything!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The cute factor

Motherhood is like a box of never know what you're gonna get. Lately, I've been getting an equal mix of the cute and the revolting. Tonight, I'm feeling so flat that I need to cheer myself up - I may as well give you a laugh at my expense!

Cute factor: Last night at the dinner table, Jack said, "I was wondering if when I'm bigger, like a lot bigger, could I make dinner for you and Daddy and Phoebe and Maisie? And you could all sit at the table and I would cook and then you would eat it." Oh, be still my maternal heart. Anyone who offers to make dinner for me is automatically classified as an angel in my book, but if it's my four year old son who offers?? I tell you, I melted into a puddle.

Not-so-cute factor: In the last 24 hours, Jack has thrown two enormous temper tantrums, complete with kicking, screaming and insults. For example, Daddy is a "stupid bum-bum head" and I am a "silly dumb Mumma". I know that these obscenities will seem hilarious when he is 15, but at the moment I just want my quiet little boy back! It's just end-of-year tiredness, but Mummy's tired too. Sigh.

Cute factor: Phoebalicious has morphed into a sassy, sweet little spunkrat who isn't afraid to shake her booty. At the Wiggles concert on Saturday, she jived madly to every song, wiggling her little hips and flapping her hands. Last year, when she had just turned two, she sat wide-eyed on my lap (admittedly, there wasn't much lap to be sat on, given that Maisie was less than 4 weeks away!). Although she loved it, she would not budge off my knee for the entire concert. This year, our confident little girl danced to the beat of the Wiggles' drum, and she was utterly wonderful to watch.

Not-so-cute factor: As proud as we are of Phoebe's graduation to being an 'undie-wearer' with not a pull-up in sight, I am getting a little tired of hanging out in the toilet to observe each and every poo. I know I should be rejoicing in the fact that she hasn't had an accident in a week, but we have visited toilets in shopping centres, other peoples' houses, Rod Laver Arena...we even had to leave Eastlink the other day and drive through endless paddocks to find somewhere, anywhere with a toilet for Phoebe. (And a big shout-out to the lovely people of Patterson River Tennis Club, who kindly allowed my daughter to sample their facilities...we snuck in, Phoebe did the smallest wee known to womankind, and snuck out again...yep, the girl knows how to make her mother sweat) I am delighted that she is so excited about being a big girl and going to the toilet, I just don't need to watch every single production. Is that being a bad mother?

Cute factor: Maisie has discovered the delights of interacting with her big brother and sister. She knows it is hilarious to shake her head to say "no", and has the uncanny ability to blow raspberries in response to silly questions. She joins in with raucous laughter whenever they are sharing a joke, and leans in as if to say, "Oh yes, I'm a big kid too! Isn't life funny?" She still only has two teeth, and has long sticky-uppy tufty hair which curls at the ends around the nape of her neck. On a good day, she is fluffy and adorable with a white-blonde mohawk...on a bad day, her hair sits flat on her head with a centre part, and she looks like a professor. If she bares her teeth in a cheesy grin, the effect can be quite startling!

Extra-cute factor: Let's face it, babies only have two settings - cute, and extra-cute! We had an air-conditioner installed today, so there were four very lovely tradies in our house working on the installation. They were really nice guys, and terrific with the kids. Maisie was in her highchair having a late lunch (another extra-cute factor - earlier she fell asleep with a piece of sourdough in her mouth...we caught her on video, drooling, snoring and fast asleep face-down on her highchair tray...teehee!!!), watching the guys at work. Whenever they would glance at her, she would smile coyly, wave a hand at them, and call out, "Dadda!" (I tried to explain to Christian that this was only because 'Dadda' is her word du jour, but he looked a little skeptical...) There was one she liked in particular, and he was offered a chewed, soggy piece of sourdough, which he gracefully declined. She just grinned at him winsomely (professor hair and all!)

Well, I'm starting to feel a whole lot better. It might also have something to do with the fact that all three team members are fast asleep and dreaming...and there's a box of chocolates calling my name. I'll just make sure and find out which flavours they are first!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Team O'Toole was suffering a massive post-Wiggles hangover this morning. Oh baby, we were sooking and whinging and carrying on (and that was just Christian...just kidding!). The kids were so tired that every little thing became a squabble or a hassle. To make matters worse, Christian and I had been up with the Mouse until almost one in the morning after a coughing fit turned into a multicoloured yawn. It's so cute how she loves to hop into the shower with me, I just wish she wouldn't feel the need to yak all over me beforehand.

Anyway, after our massive day yesterday, I was surprised at how energetic the big kids were at their swimming lessons this morning. Poor old Maisie Mouse wasn't well enough to swim, so she just snuggled into my neck and slept through the chlorinated clamour. She woke up briefly to snack on some lunch, and then went back to sleep on my shoulder all through a visit to the local Christmas-tree-and-Santa-decoration shop. While Jack and Phoebs ooh-ed and aah-ed over the garish tinsel and flashing neon Christmas decorations, Mais snored softly on my arm, looking every inch the Christmas cherub. After seeing Santa and receiving a "candy can" (no, that's not a typo, that's what my children so endearingly call them), we took two delighted children and one tired, blurry little baby home.

I hate it when my babies are sick - I mean, come on, who doesn't? You want to stop them from feeling miserable, you wish you could help them sleep or at least just get comfortable. But I must admit I love the extra cuddles when my babies are feeling poorly (and before this is misconstrued, I don't want my babies to get sick so that I get more cuddles...but you know what I mean!) With the weather being so warm today, I was doing housework in a singlet and a pair of shorts. When Maisie woke from her nap and I stripped her off to cool her down, she snuggled into me and I realised - those skin-to-skin cuddles make me feel whole. It's as though when I pick her up, and her skin touches mine, I feel like the last piece of the puzzle is in place.

When your baby is inside of you, they are a part of you, literally and figuratively. I know when mine were born, the feeling of their little naked bodies on my chest was sheer bliss, because they were where they belonged. The skin-to-skin snuggles only last for a short while, because before you know it you've got a wriggly little person who is desperate to get down and into the action. Rather than having a tiny baby willing to be snuggled for the hours between feeds, you have someone who wants to squawk, and flap their hands, and roll around, and pull your hair, and suck on the remote. (or at least, that's what it's like here!) Today, my little girl wanted nothing more than to be in my arms while she slept and tried to feel better. And the feeling of her velvety skin on mine was so wonderful, I would have stayed like that all day if I could (except she now weighs about 9 kilos instead of 3, and I had two other tired little bodies to deal with...not to mention poor old Daddy!)

I wish those baby cuddles would last forever (and I think perpetually having babies in order to keep having those cuddles would eventually be unsustainable...) But I must say, three-year-old cuddles are delicious in a completely different, spontaneous, enthusiastic way, and four-year-old cuddles are very frequent, warm and affectionate. Cuddles from my kids are always gorgeous, and I suppose every single snuggle reminds me of the very first cuddle with each of them. I just need to make sure I stop to enjoy every single one, and the sensation of my skin being made whole by my children.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Having a Wiggly good time

Oh my goodness me, what an emotional rollercoaster!! Yesterday I took Christian and the team to our old school for it's very last day. It was completely bizarre, seeing all of our friends, colleagues and students and knowing that when the school term starts next January, our beautiful school will stand empty. I was very brave, and only cried a little when one of our closest mates spoke at the assembly. Considering I was sitting at the front of the room cuddling Maisie, there were too many people facing me to really let go (I told you before, I'm a very ugly crier!). Jack and Phoebalina had an absolute ball, eating sausages at the sausage sizzle, dancing in front of the live band, and generally being cossetted by an adoring army of staff and students. Maisie was passed around like a little parcel, and loved every moment! It was such a fun day, and yet the tears were never very far away. Although I know that I will see the people I love again, it's hard to walk away from a school where the students were wonderful, the staff were amazing, and generally it felt a bit like a family.

To cheer ourselves up and reward our kids for behaving themselves in public (never a certainty!!), we took them out for an early dinner at a kid-friendly restaurant. Never mind the food - what was the most exciting thing for Miss Phoebe? Not only did the restaurant have a TOILET (yes, we are at the stage where we have to go to EVERY toilet we come across, sometimes several times over), but it was at the top of a flight of stairs. Well! Phoebalina made several trips to the toilet, proudly exhibiting her newly acquired status of "a big girl who wears undies", all the while stomping up and down the stairs. On one trip down the stairs I was acutely aware of the couple attempting to dine near my daughter's noisy footfalls, so I commented that she was like an elephant and asked her to step more quietly. Instead, she continued to step heavily down on each step, and began trumpeting loudly like an elephant with each stomp. Yes, she's such a delicate little flower.

Our lucky, lucky children were spoiled rotten by two people in particular yesterday, "Aunty Carol", our front desk receptionist, and Lesley, our cleaning lady. Every time the kids would visit Daddy at school, or come back to my office at the end of the day, Carol and Lesley would make a big fuss of them. As you can imagine, Jack and Phoebe never minded in the slightest. Yesterday, Carol was wearing jingly bells and a funny Santa hat, and Lesley was decked out like an elf. They both gave the kids enormous wrapped Christmas presents which I put under the tree last night after they had gone to bed. This morning, Christian and I were lying in bed listening to the kids as they tiptoed out of bed and into the loungeroom. "Jack!", exclaimed Phoebe, "Santa's been here! Santa's been here!" Jack considered this for a moment. "No, Mummy said Santa's coming in a few weeks. These presents are from Aunty Carol and the elf." Classic.

Once we got over the excitement of early Christmas presents (which, by the way, were exceptional), it was time to get ready for the Wiggles concert. Last year I went with an 'ormous' 22 month pregnant belly - this year, I carted three kids bursting with excitement into Melbourne. We met up with Gertrude and Esmerelda and their tribes, had a picnic in the scorching heat at Birrarung Marr, and then traipsed off to Rod Laver Arena for a wiggly good time. For an hour and a half, Jack jumped and danced, Phoebs shook her groove thang, even Maisie Mouse squawked and flapped her hands. I doubt that my two big kids will ever wash their hands again, as they waved to Murray when he was a metre away, high-fived Sam (!) and patted Dorothy when Anthony carried her up the stairs and right by our seats. By the end of the concert, Jack and Phoebe were pink-faced and sweaty behind their Dorothy the Dinosaur masks, and Maisie was asleep in Christian's lap (how did she sleep in all that noise? Seriously, the woman wakes if I even think about going to bed...) After collapsing in the shade near Fed Square with drippy icy poles, we made our sticky, dusty, dancy way back to the car. They all slept the entire trip home (actually, Jack frightened the bejeesus out of me when I looked in the rear vision mirror and saw his nose sticking out the eye hole in his face mask), and then took hours to settle at bedtime. Typical! Actually, I think I hear a little mouse right now...which would be about right because I was just thinking about turning in! Grrr. Trust me to have a telepathic baby.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Absence makes the heart grow fonder (and the blogger go loopy)

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then my heart is overflowing with love for my blog right now!! Oh, how my fingers have itched for my laptop over the last few weeks (that sounds a bit wrong, actually...). There have been hundreds of times in the last month that I have been desperate to write a quick anecdote about something cute...or disgusting...or funny...or completely unbelievable...but as you all know, we moved house and it has taken until today to get a modem in the house. So. Here I sit, with a four year old on the couch because he can't sleep while Maisie Mouse screams with indignation (mean Mummy won't let her stay up and watch crappy non-ratings telly), surrounded by washing, tinsel and pets, blissfully tap-tap-tapping on my pink laptop (did I never mention it was pink?? Of course it is!! Why would it be any other colour??) Do you really want to know what has happened since our last conversation? Or do I just really need to blurt it all out...??

Well. Last time we spoke, Team O'Toole was about to move out of the in-law's and into a rental. We moved on the Saturday of Cup weekend (you know, the day that absolutely POURED with record-breaking amounts of rain), and to be honest I thought we did a pretty good job of things. The kids thought having all three of them in one bedroom was awesome, we got our pussy cats and puppy dog back (oh yes, there are other members of Team O'Toole - furry ones!!) and somehow we managed to fit three kids, two parents, one dog and two cats into a two-bedroom unit. Not bad.

On the Sunday, we went to my Pa's 90th birthday and had a lovely day with all the aunties and uncles and cousins. My beautiful Pa was surrounded by his (rather large and noisy!) family, and it was so nice to share such a special birthday. Even though Christian had to work on the Monday, we were looking forward to Cup Day, when we planned to spend the day as a family setting up our new home. So I spent the Monday cleaning and packing with the three kids in tow, and you know how much you achieve when you're stopping every ten minutes to make a snack or break up squabbles, or wipe a bottom...

On the Tuesday we received a phone call that turned the world on its' head. The school we both work at, where so many of our friends are, where we love the students, had gone into administration and would be closing. Christian had to leave me and the kids, and drive into work on a public holiday to begin phoning staff to tell them they were unemployed. I bawled, blew my nose (I'm a very ugly crier), and drove to the in-law's to keep cleaning and packing. My own unemployed status was a strange feeling, because I've been on maternity leave all this year. In one fell swoop, I lost my job, and an entire school community of friends, collegues and students - and as I was not physically present at the school during this time, a lot of people seemed to think I wouldn't mind very much. Let me say this - I mind. A lot.

Naturally, everyone involved in the school was very upset, to say the least. Christian was devastated, but had to keep soldiering on for the sake of his students and staff at the school, and for us at home. After a week of copping it on the chin (and the rest of it, but I won't go into the gory details), a year of stress and illness came crashing down on my darling boy's head, and he went to hospital with chest pains. The doctors called it a 'warning', a precursor to a heart attack if you like. One thing was for certain - stress put my husband in a hospital bed, and has kept him out of action for over three weeks now.

We have some truly incredible friends who have helped us so much in the last few weeks. You know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. (And Gertrude, don't think our girls' weekend in the city has missed out - I'm saving that for a blog all of its' own!!)  Truly, if I have learned anything in the last month, it's that even when I am blurry with lack of sleep, worried to the point of feeling ill, guilty from feeding my children tinned spaghetti (again), and simply trying to get through a messy day, my friends are the greatest. I am so lucky.

So here we are, in December. Thankfully, Christian has a job for next year, and is slowly making a recovery (by napping more than a newborn - seriously, the boy gets tired having a shower!) I have spent the last few weeks trying to keep the kids on an even keel, especially my great big 35 year old kid who has been at home on doctor's orders. Jack has been getting ready for Big School next year - I have half a mind to video him on the mornings we go to Transition at his new primary school, just to show him when he's 15 how excited he once was...Phoebalina Ballerina is officially wearing undies now and has recognisable hair. Seriously, she makes me 'do' her hair every morning, and has definite opinions about the colour of elastic band I may or may not use! And Maisie Mouse? She is completely in love with the cats and dogs, and has a breathy little high-pitched voice just for them (they are all called "Da", apparently...) She rolls everywhere like a champion, and can get into any tight space. Maisie can identify and hone in on any dangerous or prohibited item, and have it in her dainty little paws in less than a minute. All with a devilish grin on her face. I am waiting for the Christmas tree to fall victim...

Oh, thank you for letting me get that off my chest. I feel lighter already!! And so the daily blog resumes...
PS. I'd love to know what you've all been up to. It's been mighty lonely without a modem to keep me warm...