Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Ok, 2011, let's you and me have a little chat.

The thing is, I think our relationship has run its course. And now it's time to say goodbye, and I can't say I'm overly upset. Sorry to be blunt, but that's just how it is.

Now, before you start getting all defensive, there have been some good times with you. I'm adult enough to admit that I'm glad we spent some time together, and I have learned a lot from you.

For example, I learned that it is entirely possible to endure an Easter without eating chocolate, a Christmas without eating much at all, and a New Year's Eve without a single drop of alcohol passing my lips. Not that I didn't enjoy myself, oh no. Thanks to the extraordinary twists and turns that my insides have seen this year, I am now well on my way to writing a book titled, "Lose Weight The Easy Way: Simply Don't Eat" Or possibly, "How To Imbibe So Many Prescription Drugs That Alcohol Is An Unattractive Option". Fun, fun, fun, that's me!

I also learned that it is entirely possible to stare (on a daily basis) at a building site for 12 months, without managing to accurately send telepathic messages to the builders on said site (although, I'm pretty sure they can't really be called "builders", because surely you have to actually build something to earn that title? Perhaps we could call them "stand-arounderers"? Or "time-wasters"? Or simply "able-to-stuff-up-the-simplest-house-construction-known-to-mankind"???)

I have learned that is is very, very easy to become bitter and twisted, if you let yourself. So I have spent a considerable amount of time this year, NOT becoming bitter and twisted, but rather laughing at certain circumstances (which, in turn, gave many people the justifiable conclusion that I have finally cracked...)

I have learned that nurses, no matter where you are, are wonderful creatures who should be feted and adored.

I have learned that children are extremely adaptable. My children have spent a considerable amount of time this year playing around me while I lolled uselessly on the couch (or the floor, or in bed). Once they were satisfied that I was, in fact, ok, they would happily play near me, next to me or on me. They didn't give a fiddler's fart that the house was untidy, that the washing was piled up, that the pantry was rather bare...and after a while, neither did I.

I have learned that even at the grand old age of 35, I still need my mum and dad. I also need my siblings, my grandparents, my aunties and uncles, my cousins, my parents-in-law, my brothers-in-law. My extended family keeps getting bigger, which is awesome because it just means there's more love.

I have learned that being an aunty rocks. I am so excited to be Asha's aunty that I still do a little jump and a squeal when I see her. Perhaps I should be ashamed at the ickle baby voice that comes out of my mouth when I'm with her, but I'm not. I love the fact that my kids have a cousin. I adore the fact that Jack loves Asha "so much, Mummy, that it just doesn't stop". I am tickled by the fact that the Mouse calls her "Shatter". I am so proud, watching Phoebalina cradle her little cousin like a pro.

I have learned that there aren't many husbands in the world better than mine. I'm quite fond of him. He likes to joke about phoning Galbally, the divorce lawyers, whenever I do something stupid. I just remind him that we got married in a Catholic church, so divorce isn't an option - he'll have to kill me instead. Since he spent a lot of time keeping me alive this year, I reckon he's just bluffing. I think he's quite fond of me, too.

So you see, 2011, this year hasn't been all bad. Maisie learned to walk, talk and shout. Jack completed his first year at school, making lots of new friends and begging to go to school during the holidays. Phoebe did lots and lots of drawing, dancing and fluttering in her fairy dress. Archie grew from a teeny tiny puppy to a great, big, lanky, bouncy doggy. Daisy endured Archie's love with lots of doggy-sighs (and a fair few growls). Ernie and Bella learned when to run from Maisie's declarations of love and 'tuddles'.

But when midnight strikes in about an hour and a half, I'll be waiting for 2012 with open arms. Because I am hoping 2012 delivers a few things that you didn't, 2011. With any luck, 2012 will bring me a completed home I can actually physically move in to. I've only been waiting since early 2010, surely it's not a big ask? 2012 will also bring Christian another year at Woodleigh, a school that has made him happier than I've ever seen him. It might bring me some more surgery, but I'm ready for that. It can only be a good thing. 2012 will bring me a two year old, a five year old and a six year old - bring it on, I say!! And with any luck, it might also bring me a job...*crosses fingers and scrinches eyes closed tight*

I can only hope that 2012 is a good one, for all of us. At this point, poised on the brink between December 31 and January 1, the possibilities are endless. The proverbial slate is clean. The resolutions are strong. The wishes for a happy, healthy new year are many.

And so I bid you adieu, 2011. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ravin' with The Wiggles

Right then. This has been sitting in my drafts folder since December 3rd, taunting me. And I wasn't going to publish it, but then I kinda figured, meh. Why not. (And I have been listening to the most awesome ReWiggled CD today, gifted to me by my favourite niece in the whole world. Since listening to Spiderbait "rockabye your bear" is guaranteed to put any old grouch into a fantabulous mood...well. Here it is. Enjoy. I think.)

December 3, 2011. Written quite late (I think - memory is a dodgy thing), after swallowing two Endone (definitely), two ibuprofen (probably) and two paracetamol (maybe?). Lots, anyway. All prescription, cross my heart and hope to be resuscitated.

Even though I knew I shouldn't do it, I did. It was a bad idea from start to finish. The only person I have to blame for the pain I am in now, is myself.


Today I went to the Wiggles concert.

Actually, today I went to the Wiggles concert, under the influence of drugs.


A long, long time ago (possibly in the realm of 1994, but I could be wrong), Gertrude and I had a particularly successful era of socialisation. Being our first year of university, we were in possession of many opportunities to meet new people in a variety of social situations. During one such soiree, which, if I'm not mistaken, was conducted in the hallowed halls of Metro nightclub in Melbourne, we lost a member of the party for over an hour. When Gerty and I came upon him on one of the upper levels, he was gazing skyward with a rapt expression on his face. The explanation for his absence? "I was lookin' at the lights!" Indeed.

And so it was that I found myself today.

Obviously when I booked the five tickets to see the skivvied wonders, I did not anticipate having a gut full of recovering lesions which require ongoing pharmaceutical assistance. And as disappointed as I was, until last night I had resigned myself to staying at home while Christian took the kids to party on with Captain Feathersword and co.

But when I woke up this morning, I felt considerably better - enough to fool myself that a day out wouldn't hurt me that much. I mean, come on. How hard would it be to sit in the car, walk a few metres into a venue, sit for the duration of the concert, and come home? I mean, seriously. I'm not dead. And the thought of missing seeing the Mouse's face in the presence of her beloved Diddles was just too much to bear.

So call me stupid, but I saddled up the opiates, found a skirt with a loose waistband, and went to Flemington to see the Wiggles.

It was a return to grassroots-Wiggles this year, which was really refreshing - instead of the glitzy Rod Laver Arena spectacular of the last few years, it was a much smaller, very toned-down show. There were no big screens, no special effects, fewer dancers. And it was fantastic.

Even in the seats right up the back, you could see the expressions on Jeff, Murray, Sam and Anthony's faces. The interaction with the audience was brilliant, to the point where Anthony noticed a mother in the crowd searching for her toddler. I'm not kidding when I tell you that he stopped the music within two seconds, and calmly relayed the little girl's description to the audience from her distraught mother. The toddler was found at the other end of the big top to her mother, amidst much cheering and shouting. I couldn't have imagined that happening in the middle of the tennis centre, could you?

Phoebe danced from the opening music to the goodbye hurrahs. She was in her element, and it was gorgeous to watch. She knew all the actions, and didn't take her eyes off the stage for a second. Being Jack's third concert, he waved and cheered and sang, but he wasn't as excited as his little sisters. But Maisie. Oh, my goodness. The Mouse's eyes were wide even before we entered the big top, thanks to the enormous blow-up representations of the Diddles outside the venue. By the time the music started, and her idols appeared in the flesh before her, Maisie was speechless.

It only took her a song or two to warm up, and then she sang and jigged on my knee and clapped her little hands, and before long she was standing on a chair, screeching. Her mother's daughter, I suppose.

And me?

Well, thanks to my magic little white pills, all of my edges were a bit muzzy. The songs were sung a little off-key, the knee the Mouse balanced on was relaxed and out-of-time, and I think I spent a fair bit of time just "lookin' at the lights". But I enjoyed it all immensely, and I reckon I probably looked the same as any other mummy after her lunchtime chardy. Right?

And despite the fact that the pain returned with a vengeance during the car ride home, and that I am absolutely stonkered from actually leaving the house, I am so glad I went. I have an early night ahead of me, an easy day tomorrow...and just to see my kids enjoying themselves was priceless.

When they're revolting teenagers and I'm reminiscing about family outings to Wiggles concerts with my toddlers, I'll remember how their little faces lit up when Dorothy danced around in her tutu. I'll remember how excited they were to be greeted by Anthony only a metre away. I'll remember how they danced and sang, clasping each others' hands, happy to be together. At least, I'll remember once I re-read this old blog post. Thanks to my little white pills, without writing all of this down I'd probably remember humming a little tune to myself whilst lookin' the lights...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I know grown-ups don't usually write to you, but neither do they normally sit on your knee without a child in attendance. (I was 21, my sister was 15, we thought it was a laugh. I'm still not sure that it was kosher for you to pinch us both on the bum...)

Anyhow, rather than writing to you asking for lots of lovely new stuff, I thought I would drop you a line letting you know what I received this Christmas. A change is as good as a holiday, right? And goodness knows, a bloke with your job needs a holiday at this time of the year...

I must have been a rather good girl this year (or rather better than I thought, at any rate), because this year for Christmas I received:

1. A Christmas Eve breakfast at the local playground / leash-free park which allowed both the kids and Archie to blow off enormous amounts of steam and began our Christmas festivities on a lovely, family-friendly note before the thunderstorms washed everything away. Also, there were no breakfast dishes to wash and it was too early to need the whole sunscreen-and-keep-your-hat-on palaver. Score.

2. A Christmas Eve barbie at Narnie and Pa's house, which I enjoyed immensely. The kids herbed around madly and were spoiled rotten by Narnie, Pa, Uncle Joshie and Sonia until about 9pm. Which meant that by the time we arrived home they were hell-bent on getting into bed before the big man in red arrived (To be totally precise, Jack careened in through the front door, flinging shorts and tshirts off and pyjamas on, and squealed, "No time for a book tonight!! We have to go to sleep!! We have to be asleep!!") I love bedtime on Christmas Eve.

3. The joyous experience of being the mother of three young children on Christmas morning. I know that when I am a very old lady, I will look back on these years as being the best of my life. I won't remember breaking up 20 squabbles a day, or having toddler tantrums in the trolley at Coles, or the never-ending grind of washing dishes and clothes and the floor.

But I will remember this morning, with the whoops of glee upon spying the bulging sacks, and the delirious ripping and tearing of wrapping paper. I will remember Jack playing for hours with his Finn McMissile car (or as he says, Finn Missmissile) and his Lego. I will remember having two blonde, curly-headed daughters, both with new baby dolls (promptly named Chloe and Emily), changing their nappies, feeding them with bottles, and making beds on every flat surface for their babies.

I will remember Phoebe proudly helping me to decorate the gingerbread house to take to Grandma's house. I will remember the Mouse prancing around in her new, purple and orange flouncy "danshing" (all dresses, particularly fairy dresses or tutus, are called "danshing". As is the act itself, and any music that could be danced to. Not confusing at all.)

I will remember my children giving each other little gifts, and hugging each other as they exchanged them. I will remember this day, with all three of my children believing in Christmas magic with all of their baby hearts. I will remember this day simply because it was the Christmas morning I have dreamed of since I first imagined being a mum.

4. A delicious Christmas lunch cooked entirely by my wonderful mother-in-law. I hope she knew how much I enjoyed the meal that took her hours to prepare, even if I couldn't eat very much (Well, you see Santa, the one thing I'm rather ungrateful for this Christmas is my misbehaving large doesn't allow me to eat much without complaining loudly. It would prefer if I didn't eat at all, but unfortunately my stomach insists on being hungry at regular intervals. I don't suppose next Christmas you could bring me an entire digestive system that gets along?? No?? *sigh*) I just enjoyed sitting back and watching the melee of kids, uncles and wrapping paper that personifies Christmas Day.

5. Right now, I am scrunched on the couch next to a teetering pile of new toys and books. There is an enormous pirate tent in front of me. Archie and Daisy are snoring on the floor. Ernie and Bella are curled up together on the bed. The kids are all in various positions of exhausted sleep. And Christian and I are waiting for our own personal annual tradition: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I may not be able to scoff mince pies, Christmas pudding, chocolate, champagne, wine, turkey...(ok, now I'm seriously depressing myself) like everyone else, but I can sit with a cup of tea, snuggle up to my hubby, and watch some truly dodgy 80's telly on Christmas Night. I couldn't ask for anything more.

So Santa, as you can see, I have been royally spoiled this Christmas. And if I may be cheeky for a moment, I was wondering if I could put in an early order for 2012:
* A house that we can actually MOVE IN TO. I mean, being at lock-up is great and all, but an inhabitable home would be even better. Dontcha think?
* An intestine transplant, or failing that, a personality transplant (so that I can be one of those people that don't want to eat. It would be way easier.) Or maybe just sew my mouth shut.
* Another Christmas with three magic-hungry sprogs in the house. Let's face it - Christmas with little kids is the best. And we parents need the memories of the Christmases with small kiddies to cope with the teenage-years Christmases that lie they even make Emo Santa sacks?? Note to self: find out before Jack begins applying eyeliner...

Thank you Santa. Give my best to Mrs. Claus and the elves. I promise to be a good girl this year.

Lots of love from Salamander xxxxx

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baby Jesus and the fluoro straw

So like, I'm completely aware that it's Christmas Week, and I like, totally haven't blogged even once. (Actually, there's two posts in my drafts folder waiting to be published...I just don't have the stones to publish either of them yet because they were both written heavily under the influence of oxycodone. Are you hearing me??)

Truth be told, I'm so tired I'm not even really blogging now. I mean, my laptop is turned on and my fingers are typing, but my eyes are closed. Honest. There's even a little snore escaping...

The last few weeks have been a blur of recovering from surgery, visiting my poor baby niece in the paediatrics ward in hospital, and finishing the school year. Anything outside of that tight little circle has not had a look in, mainly because it would involve cleaning or grocery shopping. Neither of which I have done recently.

But little Asha is home at last, feeding up a storm and chubbing up those gorgeous rolls on her wrists again, so that's one worry to tick off the list. And today I finished my teaching contract, so I had to say goodbye to the group of Grade 5's that I have come to absolutely love over the last six months. I spent today cleaning out my classroom, turfing stuff that wasn't needed any longer and filing all the important gear. And since Jack was hamming it up at (pre-paid) after-school care, I spent a bit of time helping my mum clean out her classroom. (I know it seems quite pathetic that I was lingering at school so long after the last bell, but wouldn't you be reluctant to leave a workplace you were happy in, knowing it was over?? Or am I just pathetic? Shut up.)

So I was understandably a bit mopey on the drive home. That is, until my fantabulous son cheered me up with the best explanation of the nativity I have ever heard. So if you're prepared to put up with my sleep-typing, I'll have a crack at relating Jack's version of the Christmas story. It's a corker.

"Hey Mumma, guess what? In music today, we watched the Wiggles Christmas video, just like our one at home. And it was really fun, because we sang all the songs. And we learned about our king, baby Jesus. Why didn't you tell me about baby Jesus before, Mum?"

*insert brief maternal mumbling*

"Joseph was a builder. And Mary came and told him there was a baby in her tummy. And she got on a donkey and they went for a ride. And they needed to find a place to sleep, but no one would help them. Then they asked the outkeeper, and he said they could sleep in his barn. Then Joseph made a cot, and put hay in it to keep baby Jesus warm. And then he was born, and they put him in the cot, and all the hay lit up and was blue and red and green, like lights. Not like fire, because it didn't burn him. But all lit up."

*insert raised maternal eyebrow, stifled laughter, and careful questioning to ensure further details followed*

"And then all the people grabbed the hay and waved it around baby Jesus, but not in his face so it wouldn't frighten him. And the shepherds came, and the wise men. And that's all. But Mum, where is baby Jesus now? Because he was our king, and kings don't die."

By this point I had realised that Jack had combined a teacher's story of the nativity with the gyrating children dressed as cherry-nosed reindeer who dance in the Wiggles DVD, waving streamers around a "manger", and had inexplicably interpreted this as fluoro straw in the cradle. Rather than disabusing him of this amazing image, I quickly paraphrased the story of Jesus, and explained that lots of people believe in lots of different things, and that the most important thing of all was to be good and kind.

He seemed satisfied with this. I am mildly amused by the fact that he wants to lobby the school to do a nativity play, so that he can play Joseph. However, I am wildly alarmed by the fact that Phoebe wants to be in it too, so that she can be Mary and Daddy can be Joseph. Can you spell Jungian behaviour??? I can't....

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jack and Phoebe's Ballet Concert (or why I am a terrible stage mother)

My poor kids have put up with a lot lately. They've had a mother who hasn't been well enough to take them to the park or the playground. They've stayed at home on lovely sunny days while Mummy had (yet another) lie down. They haven't had a walk with the pram and the dogs in months, simply because Mummy hasn't had the strength.

They've never once complained. Every time I have tried to apologise for their quiet weekends, or for missing out on walks or outings, they pat my arm and tell me not to worry. Whenever Phoebe leaves the house without me these days, she'll hug me and tell me, "Have fun, Mumma, and have a rest. Ok?" It's enough to make me want to weep.

Yesterday I was thanking the stars and the moon above for my children's resilience, because I was the worst stage mother who ever walked. Not that I was ever any great shakes to be an uber-stage mum. But considering that my children had been building up to their ballet concert for a nearly a year, my efforts were pretty shabby.

Christian took them to the final rehearsal at the theatre at 11am, and pretty much the only thing I reckon I planned properly was the pasta lunch they returned home to. Had I been my normal chipper self, their ballet clobber would have been organised by last Wednesday, there would have been time spent attempting to make Phoebe's hair curl properly, and I would have invested quite a bit of energy into making the day run well. As it happened, quite a lot was left to chance.

Although still in my jarmies after lunch (well, all of my pants are tight around my incision sight, and it hurts to get dressed, ok? That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it), I managed to label all of the stuff they needed to take with them, while they slept (and the Mouse took all of the carefully labelled gear out of the boxes). I checked that they both had their ballet and tap shoes, the right socks and snacks, and miscellaneous makeup and hair fripperies. I had thought I was doing quite well, until I realised that it was 3pm, and I had exactly 45 minutes to do Phoebe's hair, get organised for our babysitter, and find some sort of outfit that wouldn't press on my tummy.

Before I went into the hospital for my surgery, I had attempted several times to do Phoebe's hair in the required arrangement of curls that her ballet teacher desired for the concert. Despite the fact that Phoebalina's hair is naturally curly, she is what you might describe as "follicularly challenged". In other words, she doesn't have much hair. So doing anything more than brushing it is always an ordeal. And it never, ever curls when you want it to - it simply fuzzes into a shriek of furz.

Yesterday, I asked Daddy to chuck her in the shower at 3pm, towel-dried her mop, tousled her curls with my fingers, and spray-blasted the lot with a can of hair spray. And for almost zero effort, it looked pretty good. (And the curls lasted until the end of the concert, which was all I needed). Although the ballet mummies had been asked to do light makeup so that our cherubs would be seen to their most advantageous light on stage, I took the definition of 'light' fairly literally...after all, how much make up does a four year old with perfect skin need anyway??

Amazingly, Christian and I managed to leave Maisie and get the big kids to the theatre on time, with everything they all needed. I know, right? I'm shaking my head too.

And when the audience was seated, and the curtain rose, I stopped thinking about all the palaver it took to get there, and all of the kafuffle about hair curling and lipstick and the right pair of tights, and simply watched. Because it was absolutely wonderful.

Phoebalina was part of the "Tinies", a group of girls so impossibly small that the audience collectively clasped their hands and grinned in anticipation when the lights came up on their starstruck faces. Phoebe and her classmates were dressed as tiny brides, which sounds dodgy but it was actually really cute. They clattered their way around the stage on their tap shoes, completely out of time and without any real formation. But they managed a wobbly line in which they showed their rapt audience a few tap moves, before tapping off the stage in a flutter of veils and relief.

Jack had two dances - "The Trolley Song", which was a catchy little tap number performed to the beautiful sounds of Judy Garland, and a jazz dance to "The Cat In The Hat". Our boy stood centre stage and smiled as though he had been born for that moment. I just kept looking at him, trying to work out where my baby had gone. After one performance, Jack had been asked to lead his group in a bow, but they didn't follow him as they were supposed to. Which meant that grinning Jack stood by himself, at centre stage, with his arms spread to the applause. It was at that moment I realised that this was only the beginning of something huge!

The entire ballet school came together after interval to perform "Sleeping Beauty", and it was beautifully done. Phoebe was dressed as a tiny pink flower, and performed a sweet little dance with one of the fairies that blessed the Princess Aurora. Jack was a mouse that helped change Cinderella's rags into a beautiful dress (it was a conglomeration of fairy tales so that every one had a made sense at the time!). After wielding an enormous pair of yellow scissors, Jack-the-Mouse ran giggling across the stage, almost splitting his sides he was laughing so hard.

My two big kids love going to ballet every Saturday, even when they are absolutely exhausted from a big week. I've always loved the idea that they were doing something physical and creative that they enjoyed. It never occurred to me until last night that they were a part of something much bigger than that. Aside from the hair, makeup and costume palaver, I watched the performers aged from four to eighteen years old last night and saw a team. I saw teenagers willing and happy to help young children. I saw dancers who had worked exceptionally hard to learn some very complex dances. I saw a bunch of happy, healthy kids.

The older girls and boys dancing last night were teenagers very clearly loving what they were doing. Not only were they fit and healthy, dancing with strength and stamina, but they were full of passion for the dance. I saw my two young children looking up to them, learning not only how to dance, but to be part of a team, to have courage, to be proud. And I was so very proud of my two little dancers, and every grinning, stumbling step that they took.

I am taking an oath, right here, right now, that at next year's ballet concert I will be a much better stage mummy. After all, if my kids can put on a performance like they did last night, they at least deserve a half-decent parent behind them. I will have everything organised the day before the concert. I will have all of their gear labelled (properly, and not just with a blunt Sharpie texta). I will have nutritious snacks prepared, rather than the dry biscuits and an apple I threw in their boxes yesterday. And I won't be muzzed on Endone by then either (probably...) But I'll probably still skimp on the makeup. And unless Phoebs grows some hair over the next 12 months, my hairdressing skills will probably still total a can of hairspray applied liberally. But at least it will applied with love.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Adventures in Druggy Land

So where were we??

Oh. *pause for slight embarrassment*

I blogged under the influence of drugs, didn't I? Sorry. I'm sure it wasn't the prettiest of posts. But it was important to mark the occasion, even if I had enough in me to tranquillize a large horse.

I'd probably better explain before you write me off as a bad joke...

Last week I found out that I didn't have cancer. Which, you'll agree, makes it a pretty awesome week. The whole CT-scan-wetting-your-pants-thingy that I told you about the other day, well, that was the last in a string of tests attempting to find out what was wrong with me. Which, in the end, didn't confirm anything other than that I didn't have cancer. I was, as you can imagine, relieved beyond belief at this. However, being in constant pain meant that I was still quite antsy to find out what was going on in my guts, and I wasn't really satisfied with the diagnosis of "hypochondriac" given to me by the first surgeon I saw. Call me picky, but I wanted someone who was interested in helping me.

So anyway, after the last bloke blew me off as a sook and told me to go home and simply live with the (imagined) pain, I got a bit cross. (*insert some sweary words here*) Christian came with me to see my GP so that we could insist on getting some help for me.

Dr. No-Name explained that the tests had come back clear, meaning there was nothing wrong with me. I needed to take the antidepressants that he prescribed to help me sleep, which would in turn lift my ability to cope with pain.

Christian explained right back to Dr. No-Name that since the tests had come back clear, it simply meant we had not yet found the cause of my pain. And that I had no problem sleeping. And that my capacity to deal with pain was increasing by the day, since I had been coping with it for a year, and was no longer coping.

Dr. No-Name said he would refer us to a colorectal specialist, but that all it would mean was that we would wait for several months to pay for a second opinion which would get us nowhere. Because there was nothing wrong with me.

Christian told him that we'd appreciate the opportunity to pay for a useless second opinion.

Manly stares ensued. And finally a medical sigh.

The very next morning, I received a phone call from Cabrini Hospital, asking me to attend an appointment with their leading colorectal specialist. They had received my files and test results that morning, and requested to see me as soon as possible. When I saw my GP later that day, attending an appointment for Phoebalina's immunisations, he mentioned that he had sent off my files. The look on his face when I said I was seeing the specialist the next day was priceless. Have you ever literally seen the colour drain from a person's face? I have. It's weird.

So anyhow, I met the lovely surgeon at Cabrini, he opened me up one week and one day after meeting me, and found, quite literally, an intestinal mess. After the surgery, he told Christian that he had separated 25 abdominal adhesions, but that there were many more he physically could not get at. He also discovered that the bowel resection I had at age 11 was more extensive than we had been led to believe. Apparently, I am quite challenged in the large intestine department, in that I am missing half of it. A little detail that could possibly explain the vagaries of my digestive system over the last 24 years.

And so it is that I missed the birth of my first niece. I won't tell you about that just yet, because I don't want to sully Asha's arrival story with tales of my drugged adventures in hospital. Needless to say, after having a team of surgeons ferreting around in my innards, I have felt a bit worse for wear over the last week (this time last week, I was literally coming out of theatre, with no idea what my name was. And no housework to do...)

Luckily for me, the painkillers are awesome, and my husband is even awesomer. I was in hospital from Friday until Wednesday, pretty much unable to move. Christian has taken care of everything, and my mum not only took care of our girls and me this week while Christian has been at work, but she spent all weekend with my sister in the labour ward. Christian's mum and dad took the kids for us last weekend, meaning that they hardly missed me at all. Without them all, I would never have coped. I literally haven't lifted a finger (probably a good thing, since the morphine possibly inhibited my decision-making skills somewhat...) I have worn pyjamas for a week, and have lost handfuls of weight since I can't eat much at all. People pay money to go on health farms to wear jarmies and get thin. Pfft to that, I say. Who needs a health farm when you can have painful, digestion-halting surgery? Best diet I've ever been on.

So that's where I've been. Forgive me? Now, before I toddle off for my evening cup of tea and handful of opiate-based pharmaceuticals, I promise you I'll tell you all about my beautiful baby niece Asha properly very soon. After all, it's a humdinger of a tale. I bet you've never heard of a woman in full labour take on an emergency department full of druggy bogans? No? Ha! Wait till you meet my sister!!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Welcome to the world, Asha Jane xxx

If you could see me now, you'd agree that I am not ideally placed to blog. I'm not even ideally placed to write a shopping list, truth be told.

Right at this moment, I am in my pyjamas, in a hospital bed, doped to the gills. I have a drip in one arm. My abdomen is a mess of pain, following extensive surgery. Altogether, my glamourpuss status is quite up-the-putt.

So I apologise in advance if this post makes little, or no sense, at all.

But you see, I cannot let this day pass without marking it in some way. It would not matter if I wrote about today with a piece of charcoal on a scrap of paper. It would not matter if I scratched my words into the sand (no doubt I will return to say this much more eloquently in the near future anyway, but...)

Today, my little sister became a mother. I am so proud, I could burst. In a few days, when I an home and can blog with more than one finger and a muzzy, druggy head, I shall tell you about this wonderful day. But for now, all I need to say is this: At 1:50pm today, the divine Miss Asha Jane came into the world, weighing 10lb 4oz. I love you already, my beautiful little niece. And I cannot wait to meet you xxxx

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The day the boobies dried.

Maisie Mouse was being a bit of a grump this morning. Just a bit scratchy, a bit off. We had to drop Jack at the Kiss 'n' Go at the school gate this morning instead of walking him in, but we've done that before and she has never had a problem waving like a maniac from the back seat. We left Phoebalina for an extra day at kinder, and the Mouse didn't seem to have a problem with that, either.

But as we drove home to meet Aunty Miffy back at our house, Miss Mouse yelled. And whinged. And squirmed. Either she was not a fan of the classic "9 at 9" on Gold 104, or there was something bothering her.

I thought as I drove along, trying to ignore the tempest growing in the back seat. What could be troubling my littlest demon? She has recently developed an abiding hatred of having a dirty nappy (more than usual, as she's never been tolerant of a less-than-fragrant Huggies), and will throw a little tanty if I don't change her IMMEDIATELY. But she was clean and fresh, so that wasn't the problem.

She had been given a drink of "more" (which normal people call water) before we left the house (complete with an enthusiastic "Cheers!"), so she couldn't be thirsty. And she had devoured her brekkie as usual, so she shouldn't have been hungry. She had slept for twelve hours, only sleep-talking for a few minutes at midnight (which never fails to scare the bejeesus out of Mama...)

She had pretty shoes on (always a necessity for happiness, according to the rules of the Mouse), clutched a "Rora boop" (Dora book - well, duh!) in her big girl MaxiRider car seat, and had Mummy all to herself. So far, so good in the world of the Mouse.

As I negotiated the never-ending roadworks that are strewn from our house to the school, I wondered - when was her last breastfeed? Could she possibly be missing her special Mummy cuddles? Was it comfort that she was seeking?

This might sound absolutely terrible, but I couldn't actually remember when Maisie's last feed was. I can remember having it - it was early morning, snuggled in bed, and she was sleepy and more settled than normal. She fed for a long time while one little hand patted me softly (and with the notable absence of kicking feet and gnawing teeth). It was some time last week, I'm sure. But with my recent illness, the early mornings of working days and her new habit of playing with the kids in her cot in the mornings, I couldn't remember exactly when our last snuggle had been.

Just to tick the box more than anything, when we arrived home I scooped her up in a hug and sat on the couch. I opened my blouse and offered her a drink. She kissed my breast, pursed her little lips, and said, "No, Mummy. Bye-bye boobies." I asked her, "Bye bye boobies? No more?" She laughed and in reply, pulled my top down over my chest. And that was that.

And I couldn't have asked for a better weaning experience from my youngest baby.

I've blogged before about breastfeeding an older toddler, and how I relished it. Breastfeeding Maisie has been one of the triumphs of my parenting life so far, if only because it was so hard-won. Considering the obstacles we overcame to establish such a strong, long-term breastfeeding relationship, I enjoyed every minute. I didn't want it to be me who drew it to a close (unless it was as I was waving her off to uni - then I might have had a problem). In my happiest dreams, Maisie would make her own mind up when she was ready to wean.

It's been so gradual, there has been no pain. This might not sound like a big deal, but for someone who has always had enough milk for triplets, I was always cautious of this before with the other two. There has been no need to substitute other drinks of milk or extra cuddles - she just now goes to bed when the big kids do, and with the Mouse there's always oodles of tuddles. Most amazingly, there has been no tears. Certainly not from Mais, my happy little girl who is so sure of her own mind. And incredibly, not from me.

We are both ready for this. It is the right time. I can calmly and happily say that I fed my last baby for twenty-two months, and when she was ready, we stopped. It is one more step away from babyhood for my littlest girl, and I am proud of her for taking that step so confidently and with a great sense of humour. No doubt at some point in the future I will feel a pang watching another mother feed her baby. Right now, though, the only pang I feel is the one I get when I look in my underwear drawer and see my tired, five-year-old maternity bras. Urgh.

So I would like to thank the Mouse for being so gentle with her Mumma. For taking her time, and letting this chapter in our lives close quietly, and without fanfare. For letting me enjoy it for so long, but also be quite happy for it to end. For not following her brother's lead, and self-weaning abruptly from three feeds a day to none in one fell swoop. For giving me the chance to redeem my failure to breastfeed Phoebe (and yes, I know it wasn't anyone's fault; and yes, I know bottle-feeding isn't a failure; and yes, I've blogged about this before; and no, I'm not judging anyone. OK? Ok.) For being such an affectionate little bunny, dispensing so many kisses and cuddles that I didn't even notice that the special cuddles were missing until they were gone.

Thanks Mais. I love you more than space. I only have one teeny-tiny problem with all of this (and I hate to complain, but...) - if I can't stuff a boob in your mouth when you wake up loud and chatty at 5:30 in the morning, does this mean we'll have to get up? Or does self-weaning mean you're old enough to make your own Weetbix?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just like wetting your pants in public

Weeing on a white plastic stick to see if your life is about to irrevocably change forever. Freaky.

Feeling another, unseen, human being continually roll and kick and hiccup and pummel you from the inside. Freaky.

Having a stretch and sweep. Freaky. *shudder*

Having so many blood tests and urine tests and *ahem* examinations in your nether regions that it all becomes routine. Freaky.

Not caring a whit that there is an entire stadium's worth of people watching your lady bits strain (unsuccessfully) to birth your child. Freaky.

Willingly staying awake for 48 hours to express milk and feed your newborn to flush out his jaundice, only stopping to sleep when the green demon floats across the room grinning at you. Freaky.

The whole colostrum / milk-coming-in / mastitis / colic / attempting to feed a starving baby that won't feed / bottles vs. breast malarchy. Freaky.

Learning how to function on two hours sleep. Freaky.

Enduring every medical procedure under the sun post-childbirth in an attempt to fix the destruction wrought by three little cherubs. Freaky.

Having a CT scan. FUH-REAKY. I'm sorry. I have had a lot of medical gear happen to me over the years. Adenoidectomy. Appendectomy. Tonsillectomy. Bowel obstruction. Bowel resection. Uterine ablation. All the palaver that goes with being pregnant and then squeezing a fully-formed human out of a protesting female body. Septicaemia. The eight (EIGHT!) attempts it took to insert a canula into my arm after nearly carking it in the ambulance. Colonoscopy. Gastroscopy. Colonoscopy again. Gastroscopy. Again.

But by far and away, the freakiest thing I have ever experienced was the CT scan. Most likely because it completely took me by surprise. There was no lead-up. I had no idea what it entailed. I went from sitting comfortably in the specialist's office, to being whisked downstairs for a CT scan within an hour.

The nurse that prepped me was gorgeous (not in a sexy way, although she was quite pretty I suppose? I dunno?) and explained what I would need to do, and the possible side-effects I would feel as a result of having radioactive stuff injected into my veins. I thought it all looked pretty easy (apart from the canula - those things are NOT my friends). I popped on the fetching white backless gown, lay down on the big white bed in the big white circly thingy, and had the *shudder* canula inserted.

When the radioactive stuff went into my arm, my face went warm, my hands went tingly and I wet my pants. No seriously. That's what it felt like. The fur-reakiest feeling I have ever had, including when I had my waters broken with a knitting needle. Well, ok. I didn't actually wet my knickers. But apparently it's a common side-effect, that the warmth of the radioactive meds makes ladies feel as though they've had a little accident. Someone bring me a Tena lady.

Now, you might wonder why I'm telling you this. The way I see it, someone needs to get a laugh out of it. Because I sure as hell didn't. Way too freaky for this little lady. Give me a public ventouse any day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I love old ladies

There's something about elderly ladies that I love. Not in a kinky, dodgy way - obviously. This is a family show. What I mean is, I find women of a certain generation appealing (geez, this still sounds dodge) because of particular characteristics they all seem to share. Quite possibly, these characteristics are all in my head, but nevertheless.

I don't know if it's just me, but octogenarian ladies that I come across in the supermarket, the butcher's, the chemist, wherever, they all have the same twinkle in their eye. They're usually running some errand or other, and you can tell that they're still fiercely independent. Even more so if there is a stooped, gentle octogenarian gentleman/husband type accompanying them. In winter, they wear sensible knitted jumpers or cardigans with pressed slacks or a skirt. Sensible shoes. Proper handbag or trolley on wheels. Hair nicely brushed, jewellery on, usually face powder and lipstick at the very least. There's something undefinable that sets them apart as being capable.

I always run into them at the shops, because during the day when all the busy people with jobs are at their places of employment, it's only the mummies or daddies with little children and old people...ahem, I mean, the senior the shops. Next time you're at Woolies at 9:30 on a weekday morning, take a look around. It's always a veritable sea of toddler-toting trolleys, mums mumbling shopping lists, and grannies doing their groceries. And it's a hell of a lot more pleasant than the scene at 4pm, when tired schoolkids are added to the mix.

Lately, my littlest 'helper' has decided she doesn't want to ride shotgun in the trolley anymore. No, the Mouse has been quite vocal about her decision to run the aisles like Beebee. And I've got to say, she's pretty good about trotting behind me. She only occasionally gets distracted by a random Dora picture, which is completely understandable. Most of the time, both my girls quite happily run circles around the trolley while I throw the bare essentials in as quickly as I can.

What I absolutely love about the elderly ladies in the supermarket is that they always have a smile for a toddler. I don't think it matters if the lady in question had ten children, or none at all - the older the lady, the wider the smile. Every single time Maisie or Phoebe cross the path of an elderly lady, they are bestowed with a beautiful, understanding, patient smile. I don't know if it's the blonde curls or the cheeky grins my daughters both possess, but they always manage to elicit warmth from an old lady.

Today, both of my little princesses had immunisations at 9am, which meant that the weekly supermarketing was done under the cover of Dora and Diddles bandaids. Maisie needed the help of a bag of pikelets to get her through the ordeal (I paid for the packet at the end - yes, I know this is technically stealing, as my husband continually points out, but what would you prefer? Eardrum-popping screaming, or payment for an empty bag of pikelets? Yep. That's what I thought.) but overall, it wasn't too bad. We kept running into one lovely older lady who beamed at the Mouse and Beebee every time we crossed paths. Phoebe was quite enchanted, and did some ballerina dance moves to show her appreciation.

By the time we reached the chemist to get some antihistamine for Miss Mouse, I had a full trolley, a tired and sore big girl, and an armful of very sad toddler. There was one lady ahead of me being served, so I stood and waited. Without warning, I was surrounded by a crowd of ladies, all clutching prescriptions and enviro-friendly green shopping bags. But these were no octogenarians. These were at least ten years younger, if not more. Which, I'm sure you realise, is a completely different kettle of fish.

These ladies did not beam warmly at my offspring and feel sorry for their poor, sore little arms. These ladies did not see my plight of full arms and take pity. Oh no. These ladies wanted their drugs, and they wanted them NOW. While all four pharmacists and three assistants were suddenly too busy to serve, I watched as the crowd of women crept closer and closer to the counter. They were all eyeing each other, like sprinters at the starting line. One in particular was watching me, because she knew I was there first. And she knew I knew. And I knew she knew I knew. Um......sorry. What? Oh.

So anyway, the young girl asked the fatal question, "Who was next please?" Now, usually, I would have left it alone, and allowed the pushy oul one to go first. But I had a silently suffering Phoebalina next to me, and a weeping Mouse wrapped around my neck. So I did what any woman worth her salt would do. I thrust my hand up in the air (jostling poor Mousy around) and said over the other woman, "I am!" The sales assistant looked at me, and then the other lady, and seemed unsure what to do (because, in the interim, I had been pushed back with my cumbersome trolley, while the other one was in poll position). There was murmuring in the ranks. I repeated myself, saying very clearly, "I am next. All I waiting for is some Claratyne for my little girl. Thank you."

Some old biddy (well, she was!) up the back muttered about pushing in, and I turned around and said, "Yes, it's terrible, isn't it? I've been here for ten minutes. No one seemed to know how to line up behind me." I heard several sexagenarian noses get bent out of shape with that, but I didn't care. I'm sure I heard one octogenarian present snort with laughter, before she helped me move my trolley through the crowd. There was definitely a twinkle in her eye.

Now, I'm not saying that all 60 year old women are grumpy pusher-innerers. I think I just struck a bad bunch today (withdrawal symptoms from their diabetes meds, perhaps??) But generally speaking, I think the longer it's been since they themselves had small children to raise, the more tolerant they are. (Certainly, the 70 year old men in the supermarket are universally awful. Seriously!!! Watch them bump into a toddler, and wait for the child to apologise. I'll give them manners....) I love old ladies. Don't you?

Friday, November 11, 2011


The opportunity to wake up in my own home, after a night in a warm, clean, bed.

The ability to feed my children plentiful amounts of good, fresh food.

The right to drive freely in my own car, to my son's school, to leave him for a day of education in a safe, friendly government school.

To know that, while at school, my son would be treated exactly like every other child in attendance.

The opportunity to wash my own dishes, hang out my clean washing in the sunshine, and pick up the many toys my children possess, in my own time, in my own house.

The freedom to watch whatever I choose on the television, and read whatever I please in the newspaper (assuming, of course, that I agree to Dora on the box and to ignore my newspaper for three days of course...)

The right to walk down the street as I choose, without fear of reprisal or hate.

The chance to explain to my five year old son, the meaning of the poppy pinned to his school shirt. To tell him the story of his great-great-grandfather, who fought in the first World War, and who saw things I hope my son never does.Who came home to become a gentle, kind, wonderful father to my grandfather.

The ability to live in a town where I am not afraid of the police, or the rules. Where I am not afraid of someone coming to take my children away. Where I will not lose my house or my possessions because of my beliefs. Where I will not be persecuted for the colour of my skin, or my religion.

The opportunity to say thank you, again and again, to the many thousands of men and women who gave their lives so that we might live peaceful, safe lives. The opportunity to say thank you, again and again, to the many thousands of men, women and children who gave their fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles, nephews, grandfathers, friends, and possible futures, so that we might live as we do today. And to apologise, that for their sacrifice, they might be left with only memories.

These are the things I am grateful for, on this Remembrance Day. Lest we forget.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Daddy did bop!

It would appear that my little family has been perched on a precipice for some time now.

And it would seem that we have quietly tipped over the edge of that precipice, without an obvious movement. Without any panic, or distress, or fear. Which is better, I suppose, than trying to flee in the opposite direction, or resisting the inevitable pull of gravity. Without fuss or ado, my little family seems to have arrived in the Land of Big Kids.

I took a long, hard look at my beanstalk of a toddler this morning, and realised that Maisie is no longer a baby. Now, I know that might seem like an absurd comment to all of your lovely people out there in BloggyLand. Of course she's not a baby, I hear you mutter, shaking your wise heads at my ridiculousness. She's nearly two!

The thing is, you see, for the last five years we've been either a household with a baby in it, or a household who could have another baby in it. The baby years was a chapter that continued on, rather than a book that had been decidedly closed. And now that the Mouse is approaching her second birthday, and I most certainly am unable to have another baby, this is a fact that has slapped me rather rudely in the face.

Obviously, there are facets of life that are infinitely easier without a newborn in tow. And I do not need to be told how lucky I am to have mothered three newborns (and to have managed to get them the first years of life without significant injury...) I suppose I just hadn't really thought about the next phase in our parenting life before it was thrust upon us.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to celebrate the Mouse, aged 22 months, and the beginning of our household of "big kids". Yes, I baby her more than I should. And yes, I mourn the loss of her babyhood in a way I never did with Jack and Phoebe, because she is my last. Hey, does it make me a bad mother if I admit that I cheered for every milestone that the big kids reached? Not because I wanted them to grow up quickly, or stop being babies - but rather I was loving watching them grow, and I didn't get sad at the thought of them getting bigger and older. I thought I could have one more baby to relish the newbie-ness. Luckily for me, I did. It just meant that at some point, I would have to relinquish the last babyhood. This is that point.

In her own charming way, Maisie has gently forced me to acknowledge that she is growing into a big little girl. Firstly, there is her language, which is constant, expressive and often hilarious. She will often begin a sentence with, "Mummy? um...." as though she is thinking hard about her very important question. If something is good, she will ask, "aden?" for it again, 'cheeeeeeeeeeeeze!' is her favourite food, (as are 'titties', her unfortunate pronounciation for bikkies), 'Nernie', 'Charchie', 'Dizey' and 'Ella' are her pets, all dogs are woo-woos, all cats are 'mows', and most other animals are woo-woos. Except for pigs, which are some gutteral sound that I cannot spell. Cows and horses are both 'moos'.

When she goes missing during the day, Maisie can typically be found either playing Barbies on my bed, shouting into her 'phone' (which is actually the end of the cords to the blinds in the kids' room) on Beebee's "beb", or trying to 'love' Ernie (and the poor old cat isn't fond of toddler kisses on his back at the best of times). Currently she is charging around the house wearing Bonds undies with apples on them (or 'bopples'), a fluffy red jumper and Beebee's stripey sun hat. She is alternately pushing the dolls' highchair around like a pram, with the dress-up stethoscope placed lovingly inside, or wandering around moaning like a zombie with her hat placed over her eyes. Every now and then the hat comes off, which means it is thrust in my face with a wheedling, "Aden!". As we speak, Jack's Ben 10 shoes are being added to the ensemble....

In the last week, as I have spent much time sitting or lying quietly in the loungeroom, Maisie has discovered the delights of Beebee's brand-new Dorothy the Dinosaur tea set. Many times a day, I have a tiny pink cup shoved in my face so that we can smash cups together and say "Cheers!". She feeds her 'babies' with a fork and any container she can get her hands on. Sometimes, her top is pulled up to offer a 'boobie', but more often than not, the doll will receive a drink via a bottle to the eye region.

Maisie sings all the songs she knows pretty much non-stop, and the only way you can tell what she's babbling is the tune. We hear all the swimming lesson songs over and over, including her teacher's own little mantra of "paddle, paddle, kick, kick!", which comes out more like, "addle, addle, i! i!" Her beloved Teletubbies are known as the Uh-Ohs, and they are all called Titty-titty, and La La. Aren't they?

Her other passion, the Diddles, is growing strong. But forget actually naming Anthony, Jeff, Murray or Sam properly. According to the Mouse, they are all called 'Diddle', as is Henry the Octopus and Captain Feathersword. Dorothy in all her pink fairy tutu wonder is bestowed with "Awty". As she should be.

As if all this wasn't enough to show Mummy that the Mouse is actually a bona fide big girl, Maisie learned how to climb the ladder to the top bunk last week. And now does it as often as she can, whenever Mummy forgets to put the ladder up on top of the bed. She demands that we read books to her at bedtime, just like Jack and Phoebe (as long as they are about the Diddles, or animals. Or both.)

She has spindly, long legs that run and run, and a curly blonde mullet. She is only now growing into her Size 1 clothes, which is bizarre given that her big brother and sister started wearing that size aged 9 months. When she dances, she shrugs her shoulders and bobs her head. She can take the mickey out of the tap-dancing girl on the Teletubbies DVD. She adores drawing, especially if she is doing it with Beebee. Her bottom is her 'bum-bum' (which we deduced only after watching her imitate the kids on the DVD doing the boom-boom dance....sad, but true!)

Best of all, she has a great sense of humour. To see her laughing along with the big kids is an amazing feeling, especially when she has no idea what the joke is. Around the dinner table the other night, Daddy *ahem* passed wind rather loudly. Of course we all had a chuckle and Daddy excused himself. When all the laughter had died down, Mais took a look around the table and said clearly, "Daddy did bop!" Well. We were in stitches, not only because this was Maisie's first real proper sentence. The reaction she got was genuine hilarity, which only served to encourage her to repeat her first sentence again, and again. In the aftermath of her comedic success, she learned not only to blame others for her own indiscretions, but also to blame the dog. I am not encouraging this behaviour at all.

She might be my last baby, the littlest team member, and a stubborn little cow at times, but the Mouse has very gently ushered her Mummy into the world of big kids. We are still eight weeks away from her second birthday, but somehow Maisie has convinced me that the end of the baby-days chapter is a good place to be. Quite possibly, it might have something to do with the way she places her sweet little hands on Aunty Miffy's baby belly. After all, her cousin George is in there, growing lovely and chubby for Aunty Sal to have lots of baby-snuggles with when he or she deigns to come out....hmmm. Come to think of it, perhaps I don't have to give up the baby days yet. When I finally become an aunty (hopefully sometime this week?!?), I'll get to inhale that delicious newborn-head smell, wrap my arms around the tiny bundle of niece or nephew, savour the moment...and then hand them back when the crying begins.

So as you can see, my baby has grown up despite my insistence on keeping her in Bonds wondersuits. She now makes up little games and plays happily at them for ages. She brings me bits of fluff and things off the carpet to put in the 'bim'. The Mouse has very definitely become a happy, busy, curious little girl who has every intention of joining the big kids in everything they do. And it would seem that without anybody noticing, Maisie delivered her family safely over the precipice of babyhood. And she did such a good job of closing the chapter on babyhood, it didn't hurt at all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nonagenerians, tutus and a very flat tummy

Hey there Neglecterinos,
(Yes, it's true. I have contracted a slight case of NedFlandersitis....or quite possibly have gone slightly doolally. Whatever.)

So....*insert awkward silence*'ve you been?? Good? Good.

It's been crazy as usual around here. Which I suppose is normal (or even expected?). And quite frankly, I have enough to worry about with thinking about the fact I just labelled my own family stark raving bonkers without batting an eyelid...

If I gave you the details, most likely we'd both come away feeling a bit grotty and slightly how about I just summarise?? Paraphrase, if you like. And just to make it more palatable, I'll *ahem* "edit" some of the information.....m'kay? Not all of it. Just the bits that do I put this....tidying up.

So what's been going on with Team O'Toole this past week-and-a-bit? Well...

* Today, my Pa Bert is 91 years old. That's pretty amazing!! I told Jack and Phoebe that is was Old Pa's birthday today, and asked them to guess his age. Jack guessed 300. Phoebe guessed 68 (which I suppose is quite old when you're four...). Ninety-one candles is a big deal - more than most of us can fathom. Happy birthday Pa!

* I got all my hair cut off. It had reached my waist and was a nest of split ends, so I decided to be a grown-up and get it lopped off. Thank goodness for the Mouse's newfound obsession with the Muppets (and more specifically, thank goodness for YouTube on my iphone!!), as she watched "mee-mee" (Beaker to normal people) and the Swedish chef for the full hour it took Whitney to change my head.

Funnily enough, after getting five inches of hair cut off, not many people noticed....and those who did, asked me, "Did you have your hair cut?" Even Jack swore black and blue that I'd just tied it up. Maybe next time I'll do something drastic?!?

* Gertrude, Esmerelda and I spent one glorious night up in the city last weekend. We shopped (or to be totally accurate, we drooled in Zara), drank an uninterrupted glass of wine and actually held a conversation in which no one needed their bottom wiped (we hadn't imbibed enough vino to need help), and went out for dinner. And yes, you may throw things at the computer screen when I tell you that instead of going dancing or heading out to the pub, we went back to our little apartment to keep chatting over a cup of tea. But let's face it - we'd eaten a meal we hadn't had to cook, there were no dishes to wash, there were no children ANYWHERE, we were able to sleep all night (yep, that's right - 8 hours!!!), and when we woke up (of our own volition, and with no inkling of a Wiggle in earshot), we had breakfast and went window-shopping without a pram or a nappy bag even entering anyone's head. It was triumphant.

* My kids love dressing up at the best of times, but Halloween proved to be a new favourite in this house. Phoebe and Maisie have already spent the most part of the last month in their fairy dresses (over the top of their normal clothes, or their pyjamas, or sometimes just over a nappy or some undies). The Mouse is currently sporting Jack's old dinosaur pjs (the ones I will struggle to part with when she is too big for them, because all three of my babies have worn them) teamed with a fetching pink tutu. Phoebe managed to dress herself this morning in sensible trackies (pink velour, of course!) and a matching pink tutu. Obviously.

But even thought the girls are in costume pretty much every day, it was Jack who embraced Halloween with a passion this year. I tried to convince him to wear his Batman costume to the school disco last Friday, but he was determined to be a vampire. So I trawled the $2 shops and the Reject shop before I found vampire teeth ($1) and a cape ($4), which was the best five bucks I ever spent. By the time he had red biro blood "dripping" from his mouth, and black eyeshadow smudged around his eyes, Count Jackula was a knockout. He was delighted with himself, and even more so when some of the teachers at school didn't recognise him! All Christian and I could do was sit back and watch our baby emo with pride.

* Last week, I had an appointment with a surgeon. Let's just say that I contracted an illness as an 11 year old which was so rare I was used as a guinea pig to find a cure. The other little girl who got it at the same time as me died. At the time, my parents were told that the doctors weren't really sure what the long-term effects would be. As it turned out, apart from a suppressed immune system, there weren't really any obvious effects until my body began enduring pregnancies. Anyway, long story short, after 24 years of on-again-off-again minor problems, the last three months have seen me in increasing *ahem* difficulties. So off I popped to yet another specialist to see if he held the magic solution to my problem.

I've seen many, many doctors since I was eleven. I admire them greatly for their skill, composure and compassion. I even wanted to be one. Goodness, I wouldn't be here but for the assured hands and cool brains of two surgeons, at least. Unfortunately, the man I saw last week was not one of the compassionate ones. Qualified? Absolutely. Skilled? I'm sure he is. But he will not be laying one hand on me, not after completely dismissing me as a hypochondriac without examining me, or even listening to me. I'm sure the man was busy, but he could have at least read my referral letter.

* Anyhow, despite that little bump in the road, yesterday I had the first "investigative" procedure in an attempt to find out what's wrong with me (and no, people, obviously we're not talking about my head - it would take a team of people too many years to get to the bottom of my psychological issues.....let's leave the crazy alone, shall we???) Now, how to phrase this delicately...

I spent Melbourne Cup Day fasting, which was fine. In the afternoon I had to ingest some liquids which would help "cleanse" my insides. Well. I'm pretty sure my insides were scoured with steel wool. By yesterday morning, I was about as clean as anyone would ever get, with a thumping headache thanks to a ban on drinking anything, even water, for six hours before the main event. But boy, oh boy, was my tummy flat!!! Forget dieting. Next time I want to forego a girdle at a wedding, I'm going to do "Dr. Purge's Dramatic Diminishing Diet" (aka taking so many laxatives that your oesophagus attempts to exit the terminal end of your gastrointestinal tract) (And yes, I'm joking. I do not condone taking laxatives for dieting purposes. I do not condone laxatives, full stop. Dieting is evil. Being roundy is good. But holy moly, was my tummy flat!!!)

Even now, the day after the main event, I am still feeling the effects of the general anaesthetic and the magic purging drink. And I'm quite annoyed that even though I'm now allowed to eat, doing so makes me feel nauseous (although that may just be the irritating kid on Postman know - the doctor's daughter that speaks as though her nose is full of mucous?? I can't stand her. She makes me feel squiffy)

Anyway, so the girls and I are having a quiet day at home. Poor Christian has gone back to work for a rest. Phoebalina has been so good, making me endless cups of 'tea' and all sorts of meals with her toy tea set (served, of course, by a princess in a pink tutu). The Mouse has been less than impressed with the whole Mummy-lying-on-the-couch scenario, demanding "Up!" at me until I comply. Other than that, she's been dawdling around with her Duplo, shouting into her mobile phone and harassing Ernie. A normal day for Mais. She'll be right. As long as there's cheese in the fridge, Maisie is happy.

It will be quite nice, actually, having a day at home with the girls. Can't drive anywhere, can't do much. Just nursing my sore tummy and keeping the Mouse from climbing the bunk ladder (her newest and proudest accomplishment to date). As long as Aunty Miffy doesn't go into labour today, we'll be just fine...although wouldn't it be cool if Miffy's baby had the same birthday is his or her great-grandfather?? I guess I could call a taxi to get me there...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Undomestic goddess

Some time ago, I was required to complete some form or another which asked me to list my occupation. At the time, my days were solely occupied by being a stay-at-home mum (and were they occupied!!!). Rather than writing 'unemployed', 'on maternity leave' (or worse, 'confinement leave' - ugh!!), or *shudder* 'housewife', I wrote in my lovely pink pen, 'domestic goddess'.

According to the ladies who received my form, this answer was gold. I appreciated their mirth and resolutely stuck to my belief that they were laughing with me, not AT me...

Lately, I have begun to think I should have written 'undomestic goddess'. Because there does not appear to much about me that is domesticated anymore. I am quite the disorganised headless chook, running hither and yon trying to catch up with my life. Hence the blogging hiatus, and the fervent desire that in my next life, someone designates a full contingent of staff for mine own self.

The past few weeks have seen countless bloggy stories running through my head, only to be chased away by other things, such as shopping lists, school work and bank balances. I sat down the other day to calculate where my time goes during the working week (not the weekends, mind you. They're a whole new minefield of ballet lessons, swimming lessons, boot camp and washing), and it went something like this:

Time spent at school (actual paid work): 16 hours
Time spent driving to and from school (including working days with two different drop-offs for childcare): 10 hours
Time spent looking after girls, cleaning house, food shopping, generally attempting (poorly) to alleviate domestic chaos: 15 hours
Time spent preparing, cooking and cleaning up after meals: 10 hours
Time spent trying to get children into bed (this includes the whole bath, pyjamas and book-reading malarky): 10 hours
Time spent making school lunches: 3.5 hours
Time spent preparing and packing for the next school day: 2.5 hours
Time spent hanging up, folding, or putting away washing: 5 hours (and let's face it, it's slap-dash at best)
Time spent at boot camp or travelling to boot camp: 4 hours
Time spent preparing work for school: 4 hours
Time spent tutoring: 3 hours
Time spent walking Archie and Daisy: 2.5 hours
Time spent standing in my loungeroom lamenting the mess: ??????
Time spent actually holding an uninterrupted conversation with my husband: ooh......ten minutes?

Given that there are 120 hours in five days, the above tasks leave me with 34.5 unaccounted hours. In other words, on average I have 6.9 hours a day for emergency runs to the supermarket late at night for forgotten items, phone calls to my mother and Telstra, watching Underbelly on a Sunday night, and sleep. Which means that the 'sleep' category usually scores a paltry 5 hours. Sad, pathetic, and entirely true.

As you can probably deduce, time spent blogging has been reduced to nil.

I blame boot camp entirely (not my undomesticated goddess-ishness and general disorganisation). There's four hours right there I could be using to spill my guts to all and sundry, when instead I am in a large church (yes, that's right - a church!!) attempting to minimise the gut spillage over the top of my trousers.

So I suppose that's the truth in a long-winded nutshell, really. I have selfishly sacrificed my blogging time for boot camp, thereby leaving my thoughts running wild and my mental health in sincerely dodgy shape!! But all is not lost. Boot camp only goes for another blissful, excruciating 6 weeks, which means that at the beginning of December I can rest my sculpted derriere on a comfy seat and blog to my heart's content. It also means I'll have to find some other way to keep the blobbiness at bay over the silly season....

Basically I can promise you (with hand on heart under sore pectoral) that I am still here. Collecting stupid and funny things my children say and do (said Phoebe yesterday, "Dad, if you have no bum, then you can't eat 'cause you'll die"). Thinking of random things to blog about (Seriously, George Calombaris, you try being a SAHM for an extended period of time, make all your child's food from scratch, wipe it off the walls after every meal, and THEN criticise mothers who feed their children store-bought baby food. Sheesh). Contemplating the finer points of managing household finances (So, we got two invoices for our unbuilt house in one week. With a grand total of $110, 000. In ONE week. How do you think the kids enjoyed their baked beans for dinner???) And missing my blogging community (Yes, I do miss you. Weird I know, but true).

You might ask how it is that I am blogging right now?? The fact of the matter is, the Mouse woke me at 5:50 this morning, inconsolable. I had planned to get to the 7am session of boot camp this morning (yes, lazy, I know!!) but she nixed that by screaming-crying until right about the time I should have been doing hurty things on an exercise mat. So I had a pyjama morning instead, and have already done the dishes, and the washing, sent the children to ballet with a proper breakfast in their tummies, and relieved my bloggy itch. Oh, and the Mouse is back in bed, fast asleep. Little cow.

If I sacrifice half an hour of sleep a night from here until the end of November, I would have my blogging time back again. It's do-able, sure. Just don't ask me to give up Underbelly, ok?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hot, sweaty buns of steel

So I suppose I should give in and tell you what you're all dying to know. I've been holding out on you, I'll be honest. I mean, really. Who wants to know all the hot and sweaty details? You do? Ok.

Let's talk about boot camp. You didn't really think I was going to talk about you-know-what, did you?? Did you??????

Yep, boot camp. Two little words that elicit hilarious reactions in people. Since I began attending boot camp three weeks ago, I have had friends and strangers react with delight, horror, fear, intrigue, revulsion and curiosity. Admittedly, the horror and revulsion were usually from those confronted with my sweaty, scarlet-faced post-boot-camp self. I don't blame them, not in the slightest. It's a foul sight.

But what is boot camp, really? Why the controversy? Why the interest?

Do I go to get thrashed? Screamed at? Maimed?
Do I have to get up at 4am? In the pouring rain? To pull tyres attached to chains around my neck?
Will it turn me into a bloke? With rippling muscles? And deplete my oestrogen levels?

Um, well, no. It's not as dramatic as all that.

The truth of the matter is, I'm loving boot camp. Absolutely adoring it. Even on a Saturday morning, when I crawl out of bed at twenty past five to make the 6am session (once I'm up it's's the initial groaning heave out from under the covers that kills me).

During the week I go in the evenings, after the kids have been fed. For someone who has always struggled with fatigue at the pointy end of the day, I find it suprisingly easy to don my runners and scoot out the front door. On Saturday mornings, there's a choice of 6am or 7am. And one thing I've learned, having been to both time slots, is that at that end of the day, there's not a whole lot of difference. It's all early.

There's no screaming or whip-cracking (it's exercise, people, not an S & M parlour...) but it is quite gruelling. Most of the exercises use our own body weight, rather than equipment. We are always told to complete a movement slowly and properly, rather than rapidly and risk hurting ourselves. Every routine is different, and challenging, and guaranteed to pinpoint muscles in places you didn't know you had places.

And it's exhilarating.

After every boot camp session, I have left with a red, sweaty face, a body that feels as though it's been wrung out, legs almost too wobbly to walk, and a huge grin. Christian thinks it's hilarious to watch me wince when I attempt to play with the kids on the floor (because my glutes are so excruciatingly sore that I literally cannot sit down). I have, for three weeks now, been completely aware of my muscles with every movement that I make. Mostly because they all hurt.

So if it's so painful, why am I enjoying so much? How has this roly-poly lazy bones with the leftover baby belly suddenly acquired a taste for strenuous exercise? (No one was more surprised than me, let me tell you!)

I love the comraderie of the group. In every session there's men and women, all ages, all shapes and sizes, all giving it their darndest. I love the simplicity of the exercises, and the fact that there's always a version I can do without falling over. I love that there's no frou-frou. It's just Haydn, the instructor, telling us what to do. And we do it. I love the fact that I can feel my body getting fitter. Even though it's only been three weeks, and I am truly a slug, I am already getting faster and stronger. Even if it's only in my mind.

And it's the little things outside of the gym too. Like hearing the cacophony of birdsong beginning as I leave the house at 5.40am on a Saturday. Like being absolutely ravenous for breakfast, and knowing I can enjoy every mouthful. Like having my kids interested in 'Mummy's boot camp', and wanting to exercise with me. Like knowing that I am finally doing something for my own mental health and wellbeing.

Yes, I am completely knackered at the end of the day. And yes, I could eat the legs off a horse after a big session. And oh my lordy me yes, it hurts (today is Monday. My last session was Saturday. I'm only now starting to walk properly again...) But I've got three months of boot camp up my sleeve, and I intend on using them. Even though I know I won't be a supermodel by Christmas, as least I'll have buns of steel.....

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must pop off to bed. Being a 'break' week, there's no 6.15pm session tomorrow, so I'll be creaking my way to the 6am group.....ouch *insert wincing face* I'm loving it, seriously. I am. Now, if someone could just remind me of that at 5.20am tomorrow...??

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Days at Pennyroyal Farm

Uh, did I mention we were going away on holiday last week?


Whoops. Sorry. It's not that I forgot about you...I just forgot to tell you. In case you were wondering why I had gone suddenly silent. (Or perhaps, you were thinking to yourself, oh thank god that woman has FINALLY shut up...!!!)

Anyway, last week we took a little family trip away. It's important, don't you think? To have some time away together, just enjoying each other's company. I'm not talking expensive, indulgent, extensive holidays at exotic locations - heavens, no. At this point, we'd have enough moolah to cover the cost of the long-term car park at Tullamarine. For a short time. I'm talking cheap, local, activities-like-walking-on-the-beach, budget family holidays.

Apart from one foray to Bali when we were engaged, Christian and I have always enjoyed relatively inexpensive holidays. Pre-children, we would pack our mountain bikes and a tent, and ride along a rail trail for a few days, camping as we went. Or we'd camp somewhere central and do day trips on our bikes around the local area. We tended to favour tents over caravans after two rather dodgy involved my first experience of morning sickness, and the other had peanut brittle stuck to the mattress....instead of a mint on the pillow, perhaps?

We first holidayed at Lorne when I was nine weeks pregnant with Jack (hence the caravan instead of a tent). Lorne being Lorne, we loved every minute. I wanted to go back there when Jack was about six months old, so we searched for a little self-contained unit that would make holidaying with a baby a bit easier. After much teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing at the exhorbitant prices being charged for lodgings in Lorne proper, I found Pennyroyal Farm out at Deans Marsh, a 20 minute drive inland.

With the September holidays looming, I managed to score one of the houses at Pennyroyal Farm for my worn-out husband, my tired and cantankerous children, Daisy the long-suffering Cavalier, and myself. I even managed to persuade my mum to come too, because goodness knows she needed a break! It was only for three nights, but it was so worth it.

All I knew was, the house had three bedrooms and two toilets. When we arrived, we were greeted by a charming little cottage set in an orchard, with views of farmland and sweeping hills, a wood fire, and clean, warm beds. The kids had so much space to run, they did backflips. Daisy pottered around the garden, Mum and I had endless cups of tea on the verandah, and Christian...well....he relaxed. Finally.

Every family holiday that we have been on, I have remembered with clarity. I can give you details of the trip to Bright we took when Jack was 11 weeks old. I can tell you about being swooped by maggies in Myrtleford when we were engaged. I could paint you a picture of my three cherubs bouncing on the giant pillow at Merimbula, laughing fit to burst. And this holiday? What will I remember?

I will remember the sunshine, the breeze, the scent of jasmine on the wind. I will remember the freedom of allowing my children to run unfettered outside under blossoming fruit trees.

I will remember my kids having the times of their lives at the playground on the foreshore. How my big kids rolled down the hills again, and again. How Maisie went down the 'big' slide all by herself, and was astounded at her own cleverness. How Phoebe made up little ditties about the things going on around her. How Maisie had learned how to say "Bee Bee" for her big sister's name, instead of "Baba". How Jack just wanted to kick his footy, no matter where we were.

I will remember watching my mum play on the beach with Jack and Phoebe while they ran in and out of the waves, screaming with laughter. On the first day, they went in wearing their undies. That is, until Phoebe took hers off....and then stripped off her singlet, so that she was doing a magnificent nudie run on Lorne front beach. Jack wore Superman undies. A memory to treasure, for sure.

I will remember how the Mouse sat quietly in the sand, wearing a nappy and a skivvy, happily ladling sand into her bucket and tipping it out again.

I will remember cooking meals in our little cottage, and sitting around the table with my family enjoying a early dinner. I will remember sending my children off to bed early, warm and clean after a deep bath, ready for another day of running in the sand and the sea.

I will remember how my littlest baby cried most of the week and clung piteously to my leg. How she was only mollified when she was in my arms. How her head cold seemed to settle in her chest, and how she snuggled into me with her fists tucked in. How she was calmed by the 'Diddles' (the Wiggles) and the 'Uh-ohs" (the Teletubbies), which I willingly played over and over again, just to keep her happy.

I will remember how, on the last morning when we were packing and checking and packing, Maisie found the underside of the wooden mantelpiece and gouged a hole in her forehead. How we stemmed the blood, called the doctor, and made plans to leave quickly. How, in the five seconds I put her down to open the car door, she found some dog poo and fell straight into it. And then proceeded to wipe it all over herself and anything she touched.

I will remember how Mum, Christian and I managed to somehow clean the Mouse up without retching, got two cars, three kids and a dog packed up, and somehow tore ourselves away from paradise.

Our trip was home was fairly uneventful. The kids slept quite a lot. Mum and I watched Maisie anxiously as she snored and coughed. We arrived at our lovely local GP early in the afternoon, and got some antibiotics. The poor baby - here's me thinking she's got a head cold, and administering cuddles and Nurofen, and the child had a chest infection. Mother of the Year? I think not.

Thankfully the doctor decided Maisie had suffered enough, and even though she should have had stitches, he decided to let her heal under a Dora bandaid. So the last memory I shall have of our holiday will be of the Mouse pointing to her bumpy little head and saying proudly, "Rora. Dore." (Translation: I've got a Dora bandaid on my head, which is uber-cool and confirms my status as a big kid. And it's sore. I really, really like strawberry Nurofen, Mum. I'll happily drink as much as you want to give me...)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pictures of You

Here's a question for all the mothers (and otherwise weepy women) out there - do you cry easily?

By that, I mean do you get emotional over the little things? Do you clasp your hands together and get little happy-sobs in your tummy when your kids do something particularly beautiful? Do you cry much too easily during movies that are sad / maudlin / unbearably sweet? Do you tear up over slo-mo Huggies ads featuring snuggly newborns?

Or is that just me?

As you already know, I am an ugly crier. Blotchy, red-eyed, uncontrollable once I get started. Something strange happened immediately following the detachment of Jack's placenta - I lost the ability to control my tear ducts. As a result, I have since found myself welling up at the smallest things...labrador puppies, the aforementioned Huggies ad, watching Phoebe, Harper and Aurelia walk three abreast, hand-in-hand at the birthday party yesterday.

Most of the time, my eyes get a little damp, my nose prickles, and I regain control. With a so-gorgeous-it-makes-me-cry occasion, I can usually get my composure back relatively quickly. However, with a proper reason to cry, I am a hopeless case.

Lately, I have been at a distinct disadvantage. I have on a nightly basis been struggling to stop my emotion. But I'm sure you'll agree, it's for a good reason.

Are you familiar with the TAC campaign called "Pictures of You"? It's a few years old now, but has been resurrected recently and the ads play several times a night, every night. It features families of people who lost their lives on the roads, clutching photos of their loved ones. It's all they have left.

The song on the ad has only to start, and my stomach contracts. For you see, every time I see that advertisement, I am reminded of a friend of mine. A cheeky, funny, rather naughty boy who I went to school with. A very, very clever young man who was on his way to great things. A mate who I last saw when he crashed at my uni flat with a group of friends, and we played indoor cricket with a broom and a toy rabbit called Squidgy (long story!).

Alex was 19 when he did a favour for a mate, which resulted in a road accident. In return for doing the right thing by a friend, Alex lost his vibrant, outgoing, wonderful life. At the time, when I and my school mates were also 19, it was the hardest thing most of us had ever faced. At his funeral at our old school, we wept to the tunes of Guns 'N' Roses; laughed at the many stories of Alex; and did not fully comprehend what had happened.

Now, at 35, I am beginning to see the complete tragedy of his loss. I look at my own babies, and see the children he never had. I celebrate their birthdays, and think of what a short time Alex's parents had with him. I try and remember what it was like to be 19, and it seems like such a long time ago. Because it was. In December, it will be 16 years since his passing. It seems so incredibly unfair that I have almost doubled his life span. 19 years is a blip. Nowhere near enough for a lifetime.

All his family have left are photos and memories. And being amazingly strong people, they have bravely given their story to the TAC in an attempt to prevent others from experiencing their pain.

If you pay attention to the "Pictures of You" ad, you will see Alex's parents. And you will see Alex. Take a close look at the very last couple featured on the ad, sitting together on the couch, cradling a picture of a beautiful, blond-haired, smiling boy. Their heartache is written on their faces. Their grief is still raw. If I am reminded of my sadness over my friend every time that ad plays, I cannot begin to imagine how Alex's parents feel. If it were me, I think I would leave the television turned off.

In a perfect world, that ad campaign would make every speeding or distracted or tired driver slow down, pay attention or pull over. It would make slippery roads safe, keep wild animals out of the path of cars and motorbikes, and prevent gravel from sending drivers into a spin. In an ideal universe, people would learn from the deaths of others, and there would be no need to have horrendously emotional images of grieving families in the media.

As we all know, we live in a world far from perfect. Amazing, yes. Beautiful, horrible, fantastic, cruel, incredible, stupid and wise. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the only ads we got teary over were the ones with new babies in them? Unfortunately, it's not how it is. So can you do me a favour? Can you look out for the "Pictures of You" ad? Can you pay attention to it, and look carefully at Alex and his parents? And can you cry for him, and for them? Cry long and loud. And then you might remember Alex, and his message.

I do. Every time I drive, I think of Alex. And I drive more carefully, more thoughtfully. Because I want to be the one taking the pictures of my children, not cherishing photos of them instead.

To Phoebe, on her fourth birthday

17th September, 2011

To my beautiful birthday girl, Phoebe,

Today you are four years old.

Today, you delighted in everything around you, as you do every day.

The jam on toast you requested for breakfast was eaten almost reverentially, so amazed were you to receive this treat.

Your Daddy and I nearly died laughing as you took your present from Jack and Maisie, and proceeded to open the card to "read" it. "Dear Phoebe", you read solemnly, "Happy birsday. We loves you berry much. We love Mummy, Daddy, Jack, Phoebe and Maisie and we hopes you has a lovely birsday. Love Jack and Maisie Mouse".

You went off to ballet as happy as a clam, because you wanted to tell Miss Annette that it was your birthday. Everyone we met was shown four fingers which were counted proudly to show how old you were today.

Your birthday party at the play centre was absolutely wonderful. Your little friends - Harper, Aiden, Aurelia, Summer, Ethan, Melody, Cameron, Ta-ley, Jaz, Kayde - played so beautifully together. You were all dressed in fancy dress, at your request. Both you and the Mouse were fairies, and you delighted in the fairy dust I sprinkled liberally on all the little girls' heads.

Jack and Maisie both had a great time at your party. Maisie in particular was very pleased with herself, since she is new to the whole dress-ups game and thought herself quite fetching in her Tinkerbell dress. Jack's beloved (and threadbare) Superman costume had yet another showing (which pleased Mummy no end, since it makes him look much younger than his five and a half years).

Today, I was so very proud of you. You remembered your manners, thanked all of your guests, and took care of your little friends.

At four years old, you are funny, sweet and kind. You never fail to put your shoes on the wrong feet. You dawdle over your breakfast like no one I've known. You insist on choosing the colour of the 'hairlistic' I use in your tiny pony tail every morning. Your favourite colours are pink, purple and white. And pink. You have just discovered Barbies, but your baby dolls are the ultimate favourites. You are endlessly patient with Maisie. You can concentrate for hours if you are colouring in. You always want just one more "kiss and a cuddle". You want to like Archie and Ernie, but you're a little bit afraid of them. You adore Daisy and Bella. When you grow up, you want to be a princess, a fairy, a doctor and a pony. I have no doubt that you will.

I hope you had a wonderful birthday. It is impossible for me to express how much I adore you. On the day you were born, I was told of an old saying from England. When the sun came out, they would say that Aunt Phoebe had come to visit.

For me, that's what it is like every day, being your mother. Having you in my life is like the sun is shining every day.

Happy fourth birthday, my little ray of sunshine. Mumma loves you to the moon and back again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Three year olds are delicious

Three year olds are delicious, don't you think? Smack in between the terrible twos and the oh-so-grown-up fours, three year old children are just gorgeous. There's usually still rounded chubby cheeks, or a baby lisp, or the desire to snuggle right into Mummy's lap. Combined with growing independence, pride in their own new skills and a developing sense of humour, it's a heady mix.

Today was Phoebalina's last day of being three. My bubbly, leggy daughter with hair made of fairy floss is turning four years old tomorrow. She has been waiting for this day since Jack turned four nearly 18 months ago. To say she is excited is an understatement.

Thank goodness we were run off our feet today being busy, because I didn't have time to think about it.

Jack had an appointment with the allergy specialist this morning, which I knew would be a long session. I spent two hours entertaining three kids in a very small space, while one of them had quite a painful procedure done. He was extremely brave, and in the end it was all worth it - Jack's egg allergy has declined from severe to moderate over the last 12 months. Our beautiful paediatrician predicts that Jack has an 80% chance of growing out of his allergies completely in the next one or two years. To a mother who has monitored every mouthful consumed by her child for over five years, this was indeed music to the ears.

I had promised the kids a 'special' lunch if they behaved themselves at the doctor's, so off we went...only to have both of the girls fast asleep when we arrived. A speedy lunch, a sprint through Target to buy new shoes (quite frankly, we had reached the point where my children's footwear made them look distinctly unloved), a trip back home to collect new pants for the Mouse (who had wet through her nappy - thank you Tupperware, for making a drink bottle that holds more than a Huggies), and we were off to Sange's.

Gorgeous Miss Sange is starting a new business selling the most divine stationery, and we had been invited to her launch. I could have bought everything on the catalogue, however, I value my marriage too much. In retrospect I was quite restrained (yes, my hubby reads my blog. I was restrained, ok??). The kids played in the sunshine, I saw some lovely friends, and a very fun afternoon was had by all.

By the time we arrived home, it was almost dinner time. Considering I had not been home since breakfast, you can imagine what merry hell greeted me. Somehow, the kids were fed, the house was tidied, the washing was done, and some sense of order was restored. I was a blur of activity (amazing, really, considering the world of hurt I am in after two sessions of boot camp. Did I mention that? No? Ouch.)

And only then, did I begin to prepare for my girl's day tomorrow. As Daddy and Jack were out at a boys' night at school, Phoebalina helped me hang the banner and streamers. She chose the colours to be hung, carefully holding the sticky tape and my legs as I stood on a chair ("Be careful, Mumma. I'll hold you, ok?") She stirred the cake batter with a very serious expression, and watched as I poured it into the tin.

After a quiet session of Dora, she was ready for bed. After all, as Daddy had told her, "the quicker you go to sleep, the quicker you are four!" It clearly made sense to her, because off she trotted to bed. (The Mouse had been put to bed earlier, had yelled for half an hour before I relented, grumped around until I put both girls to bed, and then merrily waved "die die!" to me, standing in her cot. Clearly, she needed Phoebe in bed if she was to go to sleep.)

In the morning, my biggest girl will be four years old. It will be such a happy day, with ballet lessons, and a party, friends, family and lots of love. In the midst will be the little girl who will always be the dark-haired, serious-faced, tiny baby who came into my world bringing sunshine and light, no matter how big she gets. I can't wait.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

R U OK? Day - Christian's Story

You know me.

I usually blog about the lighter things in life. Funny things my kids said. Stupid things I did. Teething debacles. Days when both the kids and the pets seem to be attempting to out-do each other making a mess. Exploding nappies. That sort of thing.

Most of the time, my blog is a place where the objective is to make a giggle out of a bad mummy moment. If I can't laugh at my messy misfortunes, then I hope that at least you can. (Although, after last night's boot camp it hurts slightly to chuckle...)

What I don't do, is blog about the really serious stuff in my life. I might sometimes refer to things being less than tickety-boo behind the scenes, but really, you don't need to read about the nitty-gritty when it's less-than-pretty. Some things are best kept private, especially when it involves other people.


A while ago I decided to take the plunge, and join a very important initiative. R U OK? Day has been all over the media in the past week. You might have seen it on the 7PM Project on the telly tonight. In a nutshell, it is a campaign to highlight awareness of mental illness, isolation, suicide, and the importance of a connected community.

We live in a society in which the common greeting is, "Hi, how are you?" Yet most of the time, it's a nicety given in passing out of habit. More often than not, the answer is "Fine, thanks", even if the truth is the complete opposite. Even with a stinking cold, or after two hours sleep, if I see someone down the shops and they greet me with, "Hey Sal! How are you?", invariably I answer, "I'm fine! How are you?"

You do it too, don't you? We answer out of habit, telling the world that everything is ok. We don't want to bore people with pessimistic details of our lives; we'd hate to become the negative person that people avoid conversations with; often, we give the quick and easy answer because we simply don't have the time to give the truthful answer.

The problem with this is that sometimes, all someone needs is a genuine, "Are you ok?" It's a hard question to ask when you know that the answer won't be pretty. And it's a damn sight harder to open up and tell the truth.

I'm going to tell you a story about my boy, my husband, Christian, and how I nearly lost him. All because no one asked him if he was ok.

In January 2009, my husband began a new, very demanding, quite challenging job. He would leave the house at 6:15 every morning, and return home roughly 14 hours later. For two years, he only saw our children on the weekends. Even though he was, for all intents and purposes, assistant principal of the school, he did not receive a special payment. In fact, as it was a fledgling school only just getting on it's feet, he took a wage lower than a teacher in a government school. He was promised an executive wage in the second year - third, tops. He took this job with the intention of putting our little family in a secure place financially - eventually, at any rate.

My husband worked himself to the bone for nearly two years, despite continuous warnings from doctors that he would kill himself from exhaustion. Even heart surgery (performed when Maisie was one week old) did not slow him down. When we received a phone call on Melbourne Cup Day, 2010, that the school had gone into administration and would close, the two of us simultaneously lost our jobs.

It was six weeks before Christmas, we had three very young children, a new house under construction, and we were unemployed. Unfortunately, the majority of the school community assumed my husband was in on the secret of the school's financial difficulties, and immediately descended upon him in a fury. As it happened, both my husband and the acting principal were completely unaware of any issues - the school's money was handled entirely independently by the school board. They simply followed the directions of the board.

The situation was not helped by the fact that my husband had, four weeks earlier, accepted a new position at a school much closer to home, with no extra responsibilities. This apparently simply added to the "evidence" that Christian was jumping ship before it sank. However - would he have left his wife at a school about to close? Wouldn't I also have been changing jobs if we knew? Would Christian have allowed one of his best mates, a colleague at the school with nine children, to become unemployed? Would he have done that to anyone?

The fact is, our school closed, and we lost our jobs with no warning. We lost thousands and thousands of dollars in lost entitlements. We had, quite literally, no income for two months. We relied on the charity and love of our families and friends to get through Christmas. And yet...

One week after the news of the school closing broke, my husband had to stay late for a meeting with the parent community and the administrator. He had already endured verbal abuse in the school car park, and a public (and completely untrue) flaying on national radio. (Should I ever get my hands on the woman who did that to him, I will not be responsible for my actions. And yes, I know who it was.)

I had five missed calls on my mobile that morning. I was at Jack's first day of Prep transition, and had my phone turned off. When I called my husband back to see what the emergency was, he could not recall ringing me. I chalked it up to stress, and simply decided to make him a nice dinner when he eventually got away.

He phoned me again at 6pm, and sounded dreadful. He said he had a bit of a headache, and would be home about 8.

At 8:15pm, the phone rang. He gave me no greeting, only, "I don't feel good. I think I might go to the hospital", before dropping the phone.

The story that I pieced together later on, was that my husband had been slurring his speech all that day; that he had been speaking sentences that did not make sense; that his skin was grey; that he had been having shooting pains down his left arm; that his heart was racing and wouldn't slow down.

My husband spent the night in hospital, after suffering what the doctors called a 'precursor' to a heart attack. And I hate to say it, but that was only the beginning.

He came home from hospital and slept for days. He didn't talk. He ate very little. It was an effort to sit on the couch. After a week or so, it was obvious that he could not deal with our children, in any capacity. He hated going outside. Could not speak on the phone. Got completely panicky when around other people.

A week before Christmas, I dragged him to the GP and practically begged for help. I was caring for three children who had already endured the year from hell, and now their Daddy was my fourth baby. I didn't know how to help him. Was I being too sympathetic? Not sympathetic enough? At what point would someone look at my husband and tell me, "Yes, you're right. He is terribly depressed. And you should be worried. You can't cope with this by yourself."

Just as there is no guidance manual given to you when your first child is born, neither is there an instruction book on coping with a spouse with depression. When your husband sleeps for hours in the daytime, gets angry over literally nothing, has no interest in the children he adores, and wants nothing to do with anyone or anything, what do you do? Where do you go?

I suppose I acted on instinct. After I had established that the kids were ok, and that everyone under my roof was clothed and fed, I concentrated on getting us all outside once a day. Sometimes, I had to drag Christian, quite literally.

When he was grumpy, I told him.
When he was negative, I let him know.
When he was too quiet, I asked him why.
Every day, I asked my husband, "Are you ok today?"

Most days, he wasn't. But eventually, he learned to fake it, until one day, he was ok. Properly. Having practised meditation for many years, my husband had an advantage over many others suffering from depression. Even in his darkest moments, he was able to articulate how he felt. He was constantly on the lookout for negative self-talk, and as difficult as it was to stop, he did it.

The doctor described my husband's condition as "the worst physical breakdown he'd ever seen". The only thing that stopped it from being a nervous breakdown was Christian's years of training in self-awareness through meditation. In the beginning, it was me forcing him to live his life. But after a while, Christian's grit took over. We were so lucky that he was able to turn his thoughts around, even when he didn't want to. So many people are not as fortunate.

My beautiful husband is still not completely himself. It has been nearly 11 months since his mini-heart attack and subsequent onset of depression, and he is still recovering. He gets tired much more easily. He angers far more quickly than he ever would before. He still struggles in crowds of people. He strives hard to appear happy in large social situations.

But he has come so far, and I am so proud of him. It has been an uphill battle all the way for him this year, and he has done it willingly. For himself. For our children. For me.

I know that our little family will be fine. We have each other, after all. What makes me so upset, after all of this, is that the whole situation could have been so easily averted. Sure, the school would have gone under regardless. But had someone taken a good hard look at my husband, and asked him if he needed help, or if he was ok, rather than screaming at him, perhaps this might not have happened. Certainly, had the "colleagues" who stabbed him in the back bothered to source the truth rather than enjoy idle gossip, the damage would have been lessened.

Had someone asked my husband if he was ok, perhaps he might have been.