Monday, February 28, 2011

Parenting 101: The Cheat's Guide To Vomit

Since becoming a mummy nearly five years ago, I have cleaned up many different types of vomit (usually not my own). And I must say, vomit does not bother me as much as it used to...but I attribute this laissez-faire attitude to the fact that my senses have been dulled by over-exposure. And I figured that I may as well put this experience to good use, especially since over the last week my spew-cleaning abilities have been given a little rev-up. If you don't learn anything from this today, well...I hope you at least get a giggle at my expense.

Before I continue, I would like to dedicate this post to my three little team members, Jack, Phoebe and Maisie Mouse, for without their vomit this post would not exist. An honourable mention must go to two of my furry children, Ernie and Bella, for providing occasional cat-relief. And a huge thank you to my other furry child, Daisy, who has not vomited for years, and my husband, whose vomit is not my responsibility!

Cleaning Up Vomit: The Basics

1. Milky possets

Very little babies tend to 'posset' a lot - in other words, they bring up little burps of milk after they have been fed. Some babies posset a tiny bit with their wind, others posset continously from the end of one feed to the beginning of the next, and others (drum roll for my children, please) exchange the word 'posset' for the term 'projectile', and cover all nearby objects with a deluge of milk immediately after a feed, leaving the mother in question wondering if any milk was digested at all.

Possets are pretty harmless and usually only require a cloth to catch them, or a bib to wipe the chin. If your baby washes the couch and your clothes with a wave of undigested milk, make a solution of Napisan and use a square cloth nappy to scrub away the vommy before it sets hard. Or your grandma sits in it accidently when she pops in for a cuppa. After a few months of projectiles, your couch can easily be covered by a throw, or a blanket, or a tarp. Or perhaps you should just do this in the first place.

2. Proper projectiles

When your baby is a few months old and is drinking greater volumes of milk, the potential for projectiles increases exponentially. If, like my children, your baby projectiles on a regular basis, you may find yourself being the recipient of the flood of milk (as it is usually the mummies who are holding the wailing babies just before the reason for their discomfort explodes out of their little tummies). When the vomit hits your forehead, ricochets off your head, sploshes down your decolletage and pools warmly in between the cups of your bra, there is only one way to deal with the mess. Hand the baby to your husband / partner / whomever is handy and nearby / a passing stranger, and waddle to the bathroom. Strip immediately, and shower - you'll need to wash your hair if the smell is to leave you completely. Soak your vomitty clothes in water over night, and wash in Napisan the next day. Train your husband  / partner / whomever to make a solution of Napisan and scrub the carpet while you are having a shower. This means that when you emerge, smelling sweet and vaguely refreshed after an unexpected 10 minutes of solitude in the shower, your baby will be clean, and the spewy splashes on the wall, floor, etc., will be taken care of. And if your partner thinks they got the rough end of the stick, let them be the one on the receiving end of the projectile next time. They'll never complain again!

3. Chunky child's vomit

Definitely the most heinous of all the vomit categories. When your child is eating proper food and they blow chunks, it's a job that simply needs to be tackled head-on. Left alone, it only gets worse as time goes on - smellier, harder to scrub out, and the potential for staining is very high. When there's gastro in your house, as there has been in mine this week, you need to clean up each vommy immediately if only because the next one could be only minutes away. In this instance, towels are your friend. As is Pine-O-Cleen, a washing machine, and a sturdy clothes line. Last night, when Jack spewed all over himself, his sheets, his doona, his pillow, his teddies, and then left a trail of vomit on the walls, floor and my bed trying to find me in the dark at midnight, the plan of attack went thus:
* strip wailing child in bathroom, sponge down and calm, find new clean pyjamas and administer hugs and drinks of water
* strip bed, making sure that vomit chunks are contained within the bedding and that other children are not woken by spewy activity
* throw soiled bedding into the bath and fill with water, preferably with a dash of Pine-O-Cleen or some sort of disinfectant
* go back and pick up all the bits of vomit that have dropped on the floor from the carrying of bed linen through the house
* use a solution of Napisan to scrub the carpet and clean the walls; if this is impossible because it is the middle of the night and you can't turn a light on, cover the floor with towels and return to this task in the morning
* make temporary bed on the floor in your bedroom for your child, making sure there are plenty of towels spread out, and a bowl placed strategically near their pale little face
* lie awake all night, waiting for the impending retching and splashing noises, while the stench of vomit fills your nostrils and spreads throughout the house
* in the morning, remove each article from the bath individually, scrape the pieces of undigested food from each sheet / doona / pillow / teddy, rinse, wash in the machine, and possibly wash again when one wash just won't do the job.
* empty the vomit-encrusted bath and wash with disinfectant. Splash some up your nose to be thorough.
* hang out what feels like the entire contents of the linen cupboard; be environmentally unsustainable and use your dryer for the rest
* re-make your child's bed and wait for them to repeat the cycle

You may find, after a night like this, that your appetite has been magically repressed. Don't despair - this is not your own bout of gastro announcing it's arrival, but rather an unexpected bonus. Who needs Weight Watchers when you've got a kid with gastro? It's free, you burn calories simply by scrubbing the carpet, and if all of your kids get it in turn, that's potentially a few weeks of eating next to nothing! Now that's what I call a glass half-full!

I don't really feel like adding cat vomit to the list at this point in time; to be honest, I'm still recuperating from the festival of the laundry that occurred in our house today. On the up side, Jack is so much better that he is jumping out of his skin and can't wait for school tomorrow. Phoebe had her turn blowing chunks last week, which only leaves the Mouse...and me. I simply will not allow Maisie to get sick - it's untenable, and I will not have it!!! I won't, I tell you!!! And as far as I'm concerned, well, I just don't have time to get sick. I've looked in my diary and I could possibly fit it in around June 2013. If I juggled a few things. So you won't be hearing tips on cleaning up your own vomit from me any time soon!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Social butterfly

 Last night's surprise was absolutely fantastic, and something I would never have guessed!! But we'll get to that later. Let's just say that actually getting to last night was ummm.....busy! I had a very strict timeline to stick to yesterday if I were to be on time for my big surprise. Obviously, motivation levels were pretty high!
I was a bit thrown out by Thursday night, as I was tutoring and this meant I lost an entire evening to get 'stuff' done. So yesterday morning I threw the kids in the car, dropped Phoebe and Jack at kinder and school, and the Mouse and I herbed our way to my cleaning job. Considering I had a curious one-year-old in tow, I reckon I did pretty well completing my work in the allotted time - I must admit, I was not the world's greatest mother yesterday morning. Mais spent a little bit of time in the pram, eating her morning tea and watching me wield the Spray'n'Wipe; she got acquainted with new, noisy toys in the portacot while I mopped; and she fell asleep in the pram watching the dogs outside through the back door while I finished up. Aw, bless!

We arrived home in time to plonk Mais in her highchair, and she ate her lunch while I cooked the kids' dinner, ate a sandwich and did a load of washing. By the time I had showered, pegged out the washing, cleaned up the Mouse, and tidied the house, I was ready for a nap...but then it was time to go to the hairdresser's. I had (foolishly) booked myself a blow-wave at a time I thought would be school-pick-up-friendly, because I was so excited about our night out, and I wanted to look a bit better than my normal fuzzy self.

And once again, my lovely hair stylist, Whitney, used more magic than Harry Potter and turned my mousy ponytail into a sleek, swishy mane (which I was sooooooo grateful for when I saw where we were having dinner!!!!!) Maisie sat in the pram watching the salon with huge eyes, occasionally grinning winsomely at the male hairdressers (clever girl). Phoebe got picked up from kinder early; Jack was collected from school more swiftly than usual; Phoebe was deposited at ballet with Miss Annette; and I arrived home in time to greet the beautiful, the wonderful, the delightful, Agatha - or as the kids call her, Aunty Aggie.

I think I threw instructions and pyjamas and the location of the Panadol at poor Agg before Christian and I flew out the door (without our passports, so there went that option...). I still had no idea where we were going, so when we pulled up at Riva in St.Kilda, I couldn't believe my luck. I had always wanted to dine there - apparently it's a gorgeous restaurant. We were meeting some friends (identity a closely guarded secret!) who had not yet arrived, so we sat out on the deck, in the sun, nursing a glass of bubbly...and I didn't need to wonder what the poor people were doing - they were having a rather lovely evening!!!!!!!!

It turned out that my sneaky, beautiful hubby had paired up with my lovely friend Bec's sneaky, beautiful hubby, and they had hatched a cunning plan which involved a surprise dinner at Riva, followed by Tim Minchin's comedy show. Not only that, but Tim Minchin was doing his gig backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra - how cool is that?? Now, you know I would have been happy to sit with the cool people at Riva all night (and in fact, I have asked for just that for my birthday which is coming up - I will be 26. Again. Stop sniggering.), however we had a show to go to. So after a delectable meal we shuffled off to find a car park somewhere near the Palais - not so easy at 7:30 on a Friday night.

When Tim Minchin hit the stage around 8pm, it was a light-show extravaganza - the orchestra in full force, and Tim Minchin on fire. That man is so funny, and so satirical, you feel quite wicked laughing at some of his jokes. But I must say, he hit the nail on the head with the song about sending a baby to sleep - and that's all I'm going to say about that!!!! It was a brilliant show, and I couldn't believe that I had been lucky enough to be treated to such a wonderful night out.

We arrived home at midnight, to be greeted by a tidy house, washed dishes, two fast-asleep-and-dreaming big kids, and one very wide awake baby. Aggie had managed to feed and pyjama our three without any hassles, and had them all asleep at a very respectable hour. (What I want to know is, when does she want to be our nanny?? Full-time??) Unfortunately the Mouse woke up screaming after a few hours, and was not having any of Aggie's attempts to calm her. She only cried on and off, but had no intentions of going back to sleep. Maisie was waiting, ever so adorably, for Mummy to come home to give her some boob. She was sitting in Agg's lap when we came in, and she didn't leap screaming into my arms. Instead, she kept up a little patter of chatter for about half an hour, which eventually turned into shrieks of joy when we let the dog in. As soon as she began to feed though - boom. Eyelids closed. Show over (until 6am. Bugger.)

And this morning? Well, after five hours sleep I was a little rough around the edges. Thank goodness I only had one glass of champers last night - I couldn't have handled anything more than a hangover induced by too much fun!! I would have been more than happy to bum around the house today, but as usual our social calendar was full-to-bursting! And so, a pirate-themed birthday party for one of Jack's mates was on the agenda for today, and I must say it was a very pleasant way to spend the day. I was also too busy to remember how tired I was, so hip hip hooray for fifth birthday parties!!! Tonight, we are off to visit our gorgeous Wild friends  - the kids are uber-excited to see Sunny and Flancy's new puppies (and I'm a bit keen to see if of the puppies will "choose" me, rendering it impossible to say no...)

And so, only a few hours after kicking off my tiara and dancing shoes, we're off again...if you didn't know me, you might think I had a social life!!!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


When I say I love surprises, obviously I mean good surprises.

Not like the surprise we received last night ("Mummy!! Daddy!! Waaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!! I've been sick!!") when Phoebalicious vomited in her bed around 11:45pm. Or the surprise we got when she was sick again in her makeshift bed on our floor half an hour later...and then half an hour after that.

Or like the surprise object I pulled out of Maisie's pursed little mouth this morning. There's nothing like a smug one year old's face when they have something in their mouth, and they know it's naughty. And what did I extract? A ball of cat hair. (Previously, I have taken dog food, a piece of Barbie's dream house, half a beetle and something unidentifiable out of the Mouse's mouth. She is a regular hoover)

Or the surprise that I had this morning, on returning from the school run. When I went to strip Phoebe's bed to wash the spewy sheets, pillow case, nightie, etc., I not only discovered that the vomit was far more extensive than previously thought, and that it was really, really undigested. I mean, really. The people at CSI would have been able to identify the contents of her stomach almost immediately. Shudders.

Nope, surprises like those I could easily live without. (Currently I am hoping and praying that my washing machine will cope with the volume of bed linen I am cranking through it today - please, please, no surprises from the washer or dryer today, please!!!!)

But. I absolutely love love love happy surprises. Like when you discover that someone you love if moving closer to you, or that Gap is opening at Chaddy (now that was an excellent surprise!!). And thanks to my beautiful, long-suffering hubby, I have a surprise happening tomorrow, and it's killing me. All I know is that we are going out. He booked a baby sitter, and out of sheer necessity I know that I need to be ready to leave at 5pm. Which means that I need to have Phoebe home from ballet and dinner organised for the kidlets by about 4:45pm.

Apparently, we are having dinner in St.Kilda, and then....what????? I have been trying to guess all week. There's no reason for this surprise - it's not my birthday, nor our anniversary. I don't think I've been behaving particularly well recently, so it's not a reward for a job well done. He just came home and wrote "we're busy" on the calendar on tomorrow's date, and left me hanging. It's so exciting, I could murder him. The funny thing is, Christian loves surprises too, but he cannot wait for them. Before we had kids, he always made us open our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. He used to hunt relentlessly for his presents if he knew they were hidden in the house, so that I had to resort to stashing them at other people's houses. And he very nearly cracked last night, when I asked once again what I should wear (well seriously, you'd hate to turn up to something swanky wearing jeans, wouldn't you? Or be wearing a swishy dress amongst a crowd of comfy-but-grungy pub dwellers? I thought so).

As much as I'm dying to know, part of the thrill about actually going out tomorrow night is the NOT knowing. We so rarely go out just the two of us, it would still be a fantabulous evening if we just got fish and chips and sat on a street corner in St. Kilda (although the dodgy factor could rise significantly...) Considering that my beloved has organised a surprise evening for the two of us, I am beside myself with anticipation. I have twisting myself into knots trying to guess.

Now, as I need to go and peg out all the spew-free sheets, I'm going to leave you with this (and seriously, I even changed my comment pop-up box so it would be easier for you, so indulge me, please!!!!) - where do you think I am being taken tomorrow night??

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Parenting 101: The Cheat's Guide To Newborns

The longer I am a SAHM (stay-at-home-mummy), the further I feel from my years at university, and the job I trained for. But it's not that my brain is turning to mush (oh no!! I bet you thought that's where I was heading, and you would be forgiven for thinking that way!), but rather all the information I learned during my formal education seems to be being replaced by more practical, pertinent guff about raising kids. Which, I suppose, is sensible. I mean, what use do I have for the VCE Chemistry curriculum, or activities that encompass multiple intelligences within the Middle Years, when what I really need to know is how to get crayon off vertical blinds?

I'm sure that once Maisie toddles off to Prep (sob!) and I return to the classroom, my "teacher brain" will return in full-force - goodness knows my teacher voice has never left me!! And knowing me, once my babies have left Huggies behind I will forget so much of these baby-hazed days. However, there are a few things I wish I had known before my belly grew to the size of a watermelon (the first time!), such as the fact that three-hourly feeds equates to approximately one hour between feeds, if you're lucky. And that it is entirely possible to be so exhausted in the first weeks that you may open the front door without realising your shirt (and nursing bra) are open to catch the breeze. And that the unwashed hair, chaotic house, milk-stained clothes and addled brain mean nothing compared to the fierce, ever-burning love you feel for this new, very loud, red-faced small person.

Since I have a couple of exceptionally smart, highly educated girly friends about to have their first babies, I was wondering what sort of information they should be armed with before they hit the birthing suite. What would have beneficial to me before Jack made his debut? I'm not talking about namby-pamby pregnancy book-type information - I'm talking the REAL business of being a parent. And since I'm sure real advice from real mums could fill a year's worth of blog posts, I'm just going to jot down a few...for now.

1. After the birth, your baby will sleep non-stop for approximately two weeks. During this time, every single person you encounter will tell you your baby is "a good one" and that you're a natural. When the two-week honeymoon period is over, your baby may possibly begin to cry whenever they are hungry / tired / overstimulated / understimulated / wet / cold / too hot / awake / not being held by mummy / being held by mummy. At which point, you will assume that you must have started doing something wrong, and will start running around like the proverbial chook, trying to find the cause of your baby's crying. Trust me when I tell you - you have done nothing, I repeat, NOTHING wrong. If you have fed them, checked their nappy and burped them, and they are still crying - well, then they're a normal baby! Hold them while they cry, or give them to someone else to hold while you have a shower. Let them cry in a pram while you walk around the block. Hell, I let mine cry while I cried...and then I stopped, and after a few weeks, they did too.

2. Very young babies tend to bring up as much milk as they appear to swallow. Never, ever sit down to feed your baby without at least two cloth nappies within arm's reach. You might want to drape a few over the seats near you if your baby is a projectile vomitter, as mine all were. And when your baby spews all over the floor, walls, couch and your good self, grab some towels to mop up the excess and then make a solution of Napisan to clean the carpet. It gets even the chunkiest vomits out of the weave. Trust me. (Just rinse the towels and your clothes before you machine-wash them - the chunks clog up the washing machine. Again, trust me.)

3. When your baby spews in your bed in the morning (and we are only talking a milk-spew!), and you forget about it until bedtime, and you go to climb into your neglected and much-loved bed, and you remember the unfortunate spillage that occurred...check if it's dried. If it's dry, you're good to go - just get into bed and sleep until the little blighter wakes you up again (in approximately 20 minutes). If it's still damp, chuck a towel on it and voila! Somewhere to sleep. And before you label me a slovenly housewife - yes, I have done this, numerous times, after several nights of washing vomity and/or wee-ed on bedding and no sleep, so before you judge me, walk a few nights in my vomit-splattered ugg boots!! (and I bet you already have...)

3. If you choose to bottlefeed your baby, terrific. If you choose to breastfeed your baby, terrific. If you choose to feed your baby the milk from a Scottish hairy cow fed only on organic lucerne and exercised in the paddock at Bannockburn, terrific. Basically, however you choose to feed your baby is awesome, as long as you actually do feed your baby. Beyond that, it's no one else's business whether you choose to expose your boobies in public to nourish your child, or whether you choose to expose your plastic nipple in public to nourish your child. It's your child. Enough said.

4. If you do choose to breastfeed, be aware that every single midwife will tell you something different. They (mostly) all mean well, and they (mostly) all want to help you succeed. Breastfeeding can be excruciatingly painful, absolutely painless, gorgeously easy, desperately hard, very rewarding and so not worth the effort, all in one day. It is a learned skill for both you and your baby, and some mummies and some babies just cannot, or do not want to, learn this tricky manouvre. Having both breastfed and bottlefed my babies, all I can say is that there are pros and cons to both. Whichever you choose (or have thrust upon you), never, ever be afraid to ask for help. Whatever it takes to get your child drinking milk is the right thing for you and your baby.

4. I gained great joy in cooking all of Jack's first foods from scratch - beautiful, brightly-coloured vegetable and fruit purees, and a wide variety of nutritious casseroles and soups, ready to blend into a smooth consistency to prevent gagging. (And before you point the finger at the anal retent, I was a SAHM with only one baby. Having since been a working mum of two babies, and now a barely-coping mum of three babies, I still try very hard to make most of their meals...whilst relying on the stash of baked beans in the pantry!) I still enjoy making meals for all three of my kids - I am just well-prepared (these days!) to see some meals eaten with gusto, but more often than not to scrape my hard work off the plates and into the bin. I also seem to spend quite a lot of time cleaning the products of my cooking labour off the floor, the highchair, and the cat. So when your little darling begins eating solids and you enter the exciting world of "what puree is that?", come armed with a plastic drop-sheet, plenty of bibs, a towel to drape over yourself, and the ability to refrain from weeping when little Johnny turns your lovingly-prepared food into a Pro Hart display. And always keep an emergency jar (or 20) of baby food in the pantry. It will never go to waste.

I could write so much more (well let's be honest, I've never been short of things to say, right?). But I'd rather hear from you. If you could give one piece of advice / warning / help to a new mum, what would it be? I'd love to know! And I promise to pass them on...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Passing it on

After swimming lessons today, the big kids had a sleep and the Mouse enjoyed some quiet time playing by herself. Christian and I were tidying up before my family arrived for an afternoon tea to celebrate my Dad's birthday. Maisie was just happily cruising around and chattering quietly to her toys, so it wasn't until Christian nudged me that I paid attention to her game. She had put a dolly into the little toy highchair, and was cooing gently to it while trying to "feed" her baby with a toy fork. Actually, if I am to be precise, she was carefully putting the fork into the doll's eye most of the time, but her intentions were clear!! She sat in front of the highchair, spooning pretend food into her baby's face, for quite some time before she realised that she had an audience.

I was absolutely astonished that Maisie would be playing a game such as this (as opposed to shoving objects into the space between the TV cabinet and the wall, or attempting to take horsey-rides on the dog). I watched her take care of her dolly with such love; she was mothering a doll nearly as big as herself! And it made me realise - even though I already knew that as parents, we are our children's first teachers, the amount they absorb from us each and every day is staggering. Every time I have sat and spoon-fed Maisie in her highchair, she has been learning what it is to care for a small child. Every time I have wiped away tears and applied Dora bandaids after a fall; every time I have scolded after someone misbehaved or did something dangerous; every time I have given cuddles, or read stories, or thrown my hands up and groaned...all of these things my babies have absorbed.

It was such a beautiful sight to see my tiny one year old girl administering such love and attention on her doll (if only because it might mean that she has seen me being a kind mummy to my babies, as opposed to an exasperated and cross mummy!) And while baking a cake for Pa's birthday today, Maisie's behaviour made me think about what I had learned from my Dad about parenting.

There are a thousand things I remember from my childhood, but a few things stand out like gems. We had bunny rabbits and guinea pigs when we were little, amongst many, many other pets. My Dad could hold a bunny in one hand, and stroke it with the other, and his hands were so big that the rabbit would be completely enclosed by his palms. Without fail, the bunny would close it's little eyes in bliss and go to sleep while being stroked by my Dad. He would do the same thing to my head if I fell over and hurt myself - he would hold me close and stroke my head, his palm covering my entire skull. It was the most comforting sensation in the world.

Being a gentle giant, my Dad rarely raised his voice. He taught us that swearing didn't make you cool; that being friendly could only ever help you; and that if someone was really bugging you, to tell them to pull their head in. The best piece of advice he ever gave me when I was working in retail in the city, was to simply say "thank you" if a customer was being obnoxious. And do you know what? Somewhere out there is a business man who once heard only those two syllables from me - Dad's advice worked a treat!!

My Dad taught me how to kick a footy; he coached my basketball team when I was 14; he spent hours trying to teach me to ride a two-wheeler bike. There was never a sport I could not do if I tried hard enough (and believe me, I am definitely athletically-challenged!!), because my Dad taught me my best was all he needed. He showed me how to persevere when things were tricky; he taught me that the way to interpret 'failure' was to learn the lesson and try again. Dad only ever got frustrated with me if I was rude, ungrateful or dropped my bundle. He wasn't shy about letting me know if I had not done my best (I'm actually waiting for the day I can trot out the old chestnut, "I'm not angry, sweetheart. I'm disappointed".....!!!!) but was also always the first to shout my achievements from the rooftops.

This week, my Dad will be celebrating his birthday. And I can only hope that he knows how much I love him and appreciate all the time, effort, love and basketball coaching that he has given to me. My mum and dad taught me how to be a parent...and now, it would seem, I am already passing some of these things onto my very young children. So in addition to teaching my kids how to love, share, support and bounce off each other, I will also teach them one very important lesson: how to give fantastic birthday kisses and cuddles to their wonderful Pa. Happy birthday, Dalp xxx

Friday, February 18, 2011

Magic moments

You know when your kids do or say something really gorgeous / cute / completely disgusting, and you think to yourself, "oh, I will never, ever forget that, as long as I live!" And then before you know it, a few months have passed, and there you are, scratching your head and trying to remember the gorgeous / cute / completely disgusting but now absolutely hilarious thing that little Johnny did. Or is that just me?

In many ways, this blog has become my 'baby book' - unfortunately I was never organised enough to keep a proper baby book for any of my children. I can tell you roughly when they got their first teeth, when they began crawling, and talking, and walking. It's terrible, I know. But truly, the way I see it, when you're putting in 100% of your time parenting, it's pretty tricky to find a moment to fill in the baby book (that's why my blogging time comes out of the time allowance for ironing...)

As you know, my head is currently crammed full of squashed flies, which makes it difficult for my cerebral cortex to do it's job. But there have been some golden moments of childhood this week that I am reluctant to let the sands of time swallow. There have also been some moments which I wished were not happening at the time, but on reflection I realise that they were probably pretty funny...or at least, they will be. One day.

So Jack has just completed his sixth day of school. Each morning, I deposit a clean, ironed (!), shiny boy to his teacher, and each afternoon I collect a sandy, sweaty, crumpled urchin with a collection of notices, a smelly, empty lunchbox and a happy grin. Yesterday there was an afternoon tea after school for the Preps and their parents. I baked vanilla (or vallina, as Jack calls them) cuppy cakes for him, as I knew that most of the other delicacies would contain egg, and I didn't want him to miss out. On the way home in the car, Jack complained that he only had two cupcakes, and that I hadn't given him enough to eat. I chastised him, saying that I had gone to a lot of trouble to do something nice for him, and that he was lucky to have yummy treats at all. Jack's response? "Mum! Just relax, ok? It's not worth getting upset about. They were really nice, I liked them a lot, so don't worry about that. I'm just still hungry, ok? Relax, Mum." What??? Who is this child??? Has one week at primary school aged him 20 years??

Today, he came home and in one conversation called me "a sweet mum", and peppered his chatter with endearments such as 'precious' and 'treasure'. I'm loving these moments with my little man, but I'd love to know when he's going to start using them with his little sisters!! Phoebe, too has been so affectionate lately. She's always been lovable and gives cuddles out like candy, but the last few weeks she has told me she loves me every few minutes. Especially when she's getting in trouble! "Mumma, are you proud of me?" Yes, Phoebs, I'm proud of you." "Mumma, I loves you." "I love you too, sweetie." "Mumma?" "Yes, Phoebe?" "I love you to the moon and back to the beach." (This conversation typically repeats itself three or four times before Phoebe is satisfied that we are aware of her love...and that she has our absolute approval and that we think she is a good girl)

I went to Phoebe's ballet lesson this afternoon and watched my girl and Miss Annette dance like fairies. It was the most adorable thing I have ever seen. Phoebe watched her teacher with a rapt expression, and executed wobbly plies, pointed her toes, and skipped with only one leg. It was like watching a foal take it's first steps after birth, except the foal was wearing a little pink leotard and skirt, and kept grinning at me. She loves her ballet lessons so much, she practises her dancing all week, showing her moves to anyone who will watch. When Phoebe is dancing, her face is like a sunbeam, and I could watch her all day.

Probably the biggest milestone we have celebrated this week is Maisie's latest trick - pulling up to stand. The Mouse has gone from being completely lacksadaisical about moving, to commandoing like greased lightning, to crawling with a maniacal laugh...and in the last three days, she has discovered the joys of pulling herself up on the furniture or any nearby legs. This afternoon, she started to cruise...I'm afraid I probably have only a few more weeks before my little Mouse is staggering around after the big kids, creating more havoc! I had a magic day with Mais today, while Jack and Phoebs were at school and kinder. I fenced her into a little corral made from the couches and various toy boxes, and she cruised her way around her little obstacle course while I did uninterrupted housework and watched last night's Grey's was bliss!! Eventually she climbed out and made her way over to the window, calling Er-na and Di-see, and banging on the glass to try and entice them into her chubby little clutches.

Nothing is safe anymore - you can't leave anything on the couches if you want to keep it away from the Mouse. She grabs and throws, and it's all great fun. Tonight, she discovered that she could stand up next to the couch and dance (oh yes!), and apparently it was HILARIOUS when Mummy danced too. So there we were, bopping to the tunes of a Fisher Price something-or-other, laughing madly at each other. Every now and then, she'd plop down on the floor, giggle, and then pull herself up again. I think you already know who tired of this game first!

Maisie has also discovered a way to convey her feelings when her euphoria is so great it can't be contained - she shrieks loudly and flaps her hands. Walking into school this morning, it was so windy that her hair was being blown all over the shop (and heaven knows how much our Mouse loves the wind!) so she squealed all the way to the lollipop lady. She gave an ear-splitting shriek of joy when I did some rather embarrassing dancing while vacuuming today (well, I am pretty funny when I shake my bum...). And the shout of glee was enormous when I gave her a piece of cheese with her lunch. I know! Cheese!!!!!

And what did my darling littlest girl do tonight? After trying to stand up in the bath and getting shouty at Daddy for trying to stop her, she did a poo in the bath. Poor Jack managed to escape before the polly waffle floated down his end of the tub. Unfortunately, I had to clean it up while Daddy hosed off the big kids in the shower - and let's just say soggy poos are not an easy thing to clean up!! Bleurgh.

So there you have it - this week's magic moments. I know there were others, but the squashed flies have temporarily wiped some of them from my memory. But do you know what's really magic about this particular moment? It's Friday night, they're all asleep...and it's Friday night!!! No school run in the morning! Yippee!!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Squashed flies and custard

I'm having a few issues. I'm afraid that I seem to be unable to make a simple decision. Any decision. It's as though my head is full of squashed, dead flies, and my eyes are taped shut with cotton wool under the tape, and I'm swimming through custard. I'm not even sure what that analogy means!

Like most primary schools, Jack's school gives the Preppies a rest day on Wednesdays for the first few weeks. After his first week at school and the dawning realisation that my year would involve many hours of driving to and from kinder and school, walking Jack into and out of school, and manipulating my time during school hours to ensure I would never, ever be late to school, I was absolutely knackered. I knew Jack would be tired after his first few days of being a big school boy; I hadn't counted on the exhaustion that would follow a week of getting everybody out the front door, dressed, with clean teeth, clean faces, clean clothes, and a packed school lunch, at precisely ten minutes past eight. And then getting everybody back to school for the pick-up at 3:05!

So I was looking forward to today, to give Jack a chance to have a sleep-in and loll around in his jarmies for a while, and for me to have a much less stressful start to the day. Given that we were not woken by anyone with a wet bed last night, or anybody needing a drink of water, or anybody with monsters in the cupboard, we had a pretty good nights' sleep - the only disturbance was Miss Mouse needing a little pat to go back to sleep around 3am. Possibly she had a bad dream about a booby running away?? Who knows.

Well, I may have had a decent sleep last night, but I was still completely stonkered this morning. The kids played in their pjs and watched telly while I pottered around, washing dishes and folding clothes. Maisie practiced her pulling-up on completely inappropriate objects, such as the TV cabinet with the really sharp edges. I actually managed to leave mid-morning, with the house relatively clean and tidy, and the kids relaxed and dressed in clothes that looked laundered (as long as you didn't look too closely!). But at the supermarket, do you think I could think of one single recipe to make for dinner? Ah, that would be a big, fat, NO. I honestly could not retrieve, or decide upon, a meal to prepare for tonight. So I made the sensible decision to choose random ingredients such as parsnips, pineapple, nectarines and dog food. Dinner tonight should prove to be VERY interesting!!! Unique, you might say.

We also had to run to the local market to do an errand for my mum, so with Maisie in the pram and the other two on foot, we wound our way through the market-day crowds. We visited a stall selling gorgeous, fresh vegan muffins, and I allowed Jack and Phoebe to choose one each for being so good (it's not a bribe if they're behaving at the time, right?). Unfortunately, the stall my mum needed wasn't there today, so I visited a similar one to try and find her a replacement item. And do you think I could make a simple decision? I umm-ed and aah-ed, and compared this one with that one...and all the while my kids played on a nearby step, and Maisie sunned herself in the pram. In the end, I didn't like anything enough to buy it, so we left empty-handed - hot, bothered, and in a ridiculously large crowd. I felt very silly, but I wasn't going to spend someone else's money when I wasn't sure about something.

We visited Argie for lunch, which is always a lovely day. She understands when I am tired, or run-down, and she is always easy company. Unfortunately Jack chose today to debut his wobblies at Argie's, so by the time he had finished throwing his tanty I was ready to finish the day. I know he only did it because he was as tired as I was, and when we got home he slept for three hours. While he slept, the girls played on the floor and I attempted to assemble a dinner from the contents of my pantry and the shambles I bought at the supermarket this morning. I couldn't tell you what I cooked, but it had lots of colours in it. Funnily enough, they all ate it.

And now that they are all settled, and the dishes are done, I have sat down to blog, and the flies in my head are just jammed in there so tightly, I can't think straight. I still can't make a grown-up decision, like what to have for dessert. Because I'm hungry, but I don't know what I want. I know I need to organise clothes for tomorrow, but I can't think where to start. I have been sitting here in front of this computer for half an hour, and I have no idea what to write about. It's squashed flies, I'm telling you. And custard. Nice.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Warning: This blog post contains excess amounts of melodrama. And I am completely unapologetic for that.

Tomorrow, my best friend, my sister-from-another-mother, my Gertrude, is moving to Queensland. And while I know that in the last few weeks thousands of Australians have lost their homes to flood, fire or cyclonic winds, and that really, I have nothing to complain about, I am still allowed to be sad.

Gertrude and I have been separated quite a few times since we became besties in 1993. When I went backpacking across America and Europe in 1998, we were apart for five months - before she joined me in London. She was based in Queensland for a few years before we both got married...but we still managed to plan our weddings together, had a joint hen's night, and were each others' bridesmaids. She has been in Victoria since just before Jack was born, so I suppose I have been spoiled. We have had nearly five years of being in the same state. Our kids have grown up together, and love each other to bits. And now she is moving so far away, it would take me three days to drive there...or probably five, if I took Phoebe, simply because of the toilet stops.

We met in the city today for one last lunch together - Gertrude, Esmerelda, Aunty Cake, PJ, Will, Ben and the Mouse. Considering how busy everyone was, we only managed about an hour together. But we sat in a crowded food court, shoving Vegemite sangers in the kids' mouths, and pretended it was a normal get-together. We talked about lots of stuff - PJ's thesis (she's a very clever cookie!), Cake's imminent move to the US (another reason to be happy-yet-sad), Kelan and Jack's first week in Prep. I refused to think about Gertrude's appointment with the airport tomorrow, and managed perfectly well all the way through lunch.

Then we gathered ourselves together, and took our increasingly-grumpy babies out onto the street to say goodbye. And on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth, in peak lunch-hour foot traffic, the ugly crier came out. I hugged my girl, and simply couldn't stop the hot, fat tears from squeezing out. I know it's pathetic. I know it's only Queensland (not Bolivia or Venezuela, or somewhere really tricky to drive to). I know that Facebook and Telstra will make it remarkably easy to converse with her on a daily (or hourly!) basis, if I so desire. But none of this logic takes away the fact that I will miss my Gertrude. Four years feels like a very, very long time.

So the ugly crier tore herself away, hurriedly popped her sunnies on, and walked rapidly down Elizabeth St. Maisie fell asleep under her little sun hat as I tore through the crowds, pretending to simply be a Prep mummy who didn't want to be late for the after-school pick-up. I think I may have startled a few people with my violent sniffing (the heaving shoulders are usually a dead giveaway), and when I went through a little arcade and took off my sunglasses, it was apparent that concealer would soon be rendered useless.

I managed to pull myself together for the drive home, although once again the radio gods were against me. They played every song from the 90's that Gert and I had bellowed during our weekly sessions at PA's, which made me not only teary and nostalgic, but quite thirsty for a Carlton Draught...

Right. Enough of this belly-aching. That's quite enough moping around, and besides, Maisie used all the tissues with her snotty nose so I need to stop snivelling. Jack provided me with an absolute gem this morning, so here's giggle to finish up: Phoebe asked at breakfast, "Daddy, am I your gorgeous girl?" "Why yes, darling", replied her Daddy. "You're gorgeous, and Maisie is gorgeous, and Jack is gorgeous." Quick as a flash, Jack retorted, "I'm not gorgeous. I'm awesome!" Ah, yes, my humble son. Ever the self-effacing one in the family!

Happy Valentine's Day to all my lovely readers. I hope you are spending it with someone you love, or like, or can put up with at a push. I am spending it with my beautiful hubby while he corrects students' work, watching Sleepless in Seattle, and thinking about the people I love. Especially the ones who will soon be too far away to hug. God, I'm pathetic!!!!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The non-hangover

Do you get the after-birthday blues? You know, the after-party hangover that doesn't necessarily result from imbibing too much pixie-juice, but rather just from the slump that comes the day after a celebration? When you enter your lounge room the morning after and see the debris of a good time, and feel a little bit low because it's back to normality? (Can I just say that in days of yore, when my parties involved more adults and fewer (well, actually zero) children, the debris was more along the lines of empty bottles and a few sleeping bodies ground into the carpet. These days the left-overs are more likely to include plastic cups put in random places, toys placed in obscure spots, and crumbs...but actually that just sounds like the aftermath of a normal day...)

The Mouse woke me, as usual, at 5:45am. Given that we had thrown Daddy a little shin-dig for his birthday last night, I was a tad tired, but no more than any typical Sunday morning. After our morning feed / wrestle in which I attempted to get a few more minutes of shut-eye, and Maisie tried to find out if she could breastfeed while crawling, I got up and prepared for the after-party slump. And do you know what? It never came.

Apart from a little bit of grass on the carpet that came from six little pairs of feet tramping in and out, as opposed to three, (oh, and the bottles of plonk left on the kitchen bench...) you would never have been able to tell there was a party here last night. The dishes had all been done; the rubbish had been put out; and since the kids and their mates had predominantly played outside all evening, even the toys had stayed in their boxes! Is this what a grown-up party is all about? Does the presence of children at a soiree somehow cause a more efficient clean-up before bedtime? (a perverse idea, I know, simply because usually children are the primary cause of the mess...) I had a moment of concern, wondering if Christian's party had been so deadly dull that no mess was made - but then I remembered being a part of a loud circle in the kitchen, all of us holding some sort of beverage and laughing, so it can't have been that bad. Well, I had fun, anyway!!

Anyway, apart from the excellent tidying-up job, I was quite chuffed with my catering efforts for the night - and this in turn, contributed to a lack of party-hangover this morning! Christian has always been conscious of eating well, even more so since his poor health last year. So rather than throwing nutrition to the wind for the sake of a party, I spent the last week researching yummy recipes to cook for the birthday dinner. Gertrude and I found some fabulous salads on Thursday while she was down visiting, and I must say they went down rather well. And as a result of all this, we now have a fridge absolutely chockers full of leftovers, which means I don't have to cook tonight! Score!

My gift to you, on this grey-skied Sunday morning, is the rice salad recipe that I made last night. Apparently everyone enjoyed it. Even Phoebe took a forkful and exclaimed, "Mumma! This lettuce is berry tasty! Well done!" in a very surprised tone. So, with credit to the Almighty Mr. Jamie Oliver, here is a lovely-jubbly salad for you to make at home - let me know what you think!

250g mixed brown rice and wild rice (I used 1 cup brown and 1/3 cup wild rice - it turned out ok!)
a few sprigs of fresh basil
a few sprigs of fresh mint
a few sprigs of parsley
200g roasted red capsicums from a jar
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice, drain and let it cool. Finely chop the herbs and capsicum, and mix them into the rice. Zest the lemon over the top, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper. How easy is that? (Jamie adds olive oil to his, but I didn't because the capsicums came in a jar full of oil.) Enjoy with a glass of pixie juice! Nom nom nom.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy birthday to my dinosaur

May I take a moment to describe my ideal man? Slightly taller than me, a smile that reaches his eyes, sense of humour so dry it's like the Sahara. Completely obsessed with road bikes and cycling, to the point where the annual Tour de France constitutes a festival (namely, the "Festival of Christian"). Has scars on his knees from surgery (which is cool, because "chicks dig scars", apparently) and a tiny little patch of titanium inside his beautiful, kind, generous, thoughtful heart. Possesses infinite patience, knows how to make a killer cappuccino, and contains more information about cars inside his brain than any normal person should.

My gorgeous hubby turned 36 today. And I am so very, very grateful that he had this birthday.

Last year, when Christian had 35 candles on his cake, I arranged a surprise lunch for him and about 35 friends and family. Given that he had endured heart surgery only one month prior to this, and that we had a five week old baby, and I was only beginning to recover from septacaemia, the party was pretty low-key. At the time, I thought we were on the up and up. At the time, we thought the exhaustion was temporary. At the time, I thought it was a good way to celebrate Christian's return to health.

We could never have known that only one week later, we would experience a violent home invasion that would change our lives. We could also never have known the year that was before us, nor the health problems that would plague Christian until he was nearly felled by them.

So today, I am celebrating my husband. I even bought a special table cloth (plastic, of course!) for his birthday dinner tonight, to show him how much I love him. It's covered with dinosaurs and amazing facts about them. He thought I was having a dig at his age (which I was), but still, he's my dinosaur. I'm grateful that he has the opportunity to keep getting older.

I'm grateful for the fact that he spent a great deal of time today helping me prepare the house and food for our birthday dinner tonight.

I'm grateful that we went out for lunch as a family, and enjoyed a lovely quiet meal sitting outside a cafe. (Our kids were grateful for the special lunch, too, of that I am certain!)

I'm grateful that my husband is taking his health seriously, and is beginning to take care of himself. I would prefer it if he lived to be a cranky old man with really high trousers and bad hearing. Seriously. Then I could be a cranky old lady with pink hair, lots of cats and even worse hearing. And we could shout at each other about something terrible we saw on the news. And still hold hands when we're eighty.

I'm grateful that Christian's new job allows him to see the kids in the morning, and be home in time for an early dinner. I'm grateful to the point of weepy that the kids no longer have to make themselves stay awake at night to have time with Daddy. Our little family spends so much more time together now, it's unbelievable.

I'm grateful that we had a birthday dinner tonight with Christian's family and some of our lovely friends, whose children ran riot with ours and had a high old time. This birthday today was a blessing, because over the last 12 months there were several times when I thought that there would be no more birthdays to share.

So I am grateful for my birthday boy, including his gammy knee, his increasingly-salt-and-pepper hair, and his appalling taste in SBS movies. Happy birthday, babe. Love you to the moon and back again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mummy the underachiever

It took me all day today to do absolutely nothing. Seriously. With our new schedule being dictated by Jack's big-boy school hours, I am having to readjust the way I do things. As a result...I achieved absolutely nothing today (or rather, nothing that I needed to achieve today!!).

Here's a breakdown on how to breathe in and out for an entire day without actually doing a thing:

1. Wake at 5:45am, breastfeed baby in feeble attempt to keep her quiet for a few minutes.
2. Make breakfast for family; clean up breakfast after family throws it on floor / smears it on table / spills it on chairs and themselves.
3. Dress family, brush family's teeth, pack school bag, kinder bag and nappy bag.
4. Drive to kinder, take everybody out of the car to take Phoebe inside.
5. Drive to school, put Maisie in pram and walk with Jack to the school (as had to park car two blocks away to get a car park).
6. Drive to supermarket. Sit in car park at supermarket while Maisie sleeps (if sick baby is asleep, then let sick baby sleep. Do not, I repeat, do not wake sick baby. Coles will still be there when she wakes up.)
7. Do ridiculously large grocery shop while only one child is in attendance. Stop periodically to wipe child's persistently runny nose. Take a box of tissues from the shelf and open it when tissues in your pockets are sodden. Pay for half-empty box at the checkout.
8. Take baby and shopping home. Attempt to unpack shopping. When unsuccessful due to desperate crying (Maisie's, not mine), stop unpacking and make Maisie lunch. Clean uneaten lunch off highchair tray and floor. Attempt to unpack groveries with Maisie on hip. Give up and nurse Maisie to sleep.
9. Resume unpacking of groceries.
10. Stop unpacking and get Maisie out of cot ten minutes after putting her down, when it is apparent that screaming is not conducive to sleep.
11. Wander around house holding baby, periodically wiping poor little red nose, and failing to complete any task.
12. Attempt to hang out washing by putting baby in highchair in the back yard next to clothesline. Hope neighbours do not phone 000 in response to the baby's yells. Pick the baby up. Stops crying immediately; begins racking, heaving sobs.
13. Decide that Mouse needs entertainment. Sit on floor and try to play game. Baby resumes crying and reaches arms up beseechingly.
14. Sit on couch, cuddling baby. Discover that 'Beaches' is on telly.
15. Discover that mummies who only yesterday deposited firstborn child at primary school should not watch 'Beaches'. Turn into ugly crier.
16. Look at watch, realise that it is time to collect Jack.
17. Drive to school, collect Jack.
18. Drive to kinder, collect Phoebe.
19. Drive to ballet, leave Phoebe with Miss Annette; leave Jack at playground with Daddy; put Maisie in pram and walk to supermarket for forgotten items.
20. Drive home and re-discover that the washing is still wet; the groceries are still waiting to be unpacked; the beds are still waiting (fruitlessly, I might add) to be made, and it is dinner time.

And that, my friends, is how to fill a day without doing a single thing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lisa Close, do not read this post!

Let me tell you a story about a little boy named Jack. He has blondey-reddish hair, blue eyes, and a devilish grin. He is four years, nine months and 26 days old. He loves cars, motorbikes, trucks, trains and bikes. He loves music, and can pull the most amazing dance moves out of nowhere. And today, he had his first day at primary school.

Now, before I continue, let me just clarify one thing: yes, we realise that Jack is a very young Prep. The decision to send our boy to school this year took a very long time to make, and involved his kinder teachers, the Prep teachers at his school, ourselves, and our son. Being secondary school teachers ourselves, Christian and I thought about the ramifications of Jack being one of the younger ones in his year level during VCE. I have worried for months about my boy being ready for school - should I give him another year of play? Will he cope with the rigours of school? Is he too little for primary school?

Jack's new primary school offers a two-year Prep program for kids that are a bit too big for kinder, but still a bit too little for fully-fledged Prep. It's a fantastic opportunity for children to learn the ropes of school, wear the uniform, and be more challenged than kinder, while learning in an environment oriented around play. Jack will have a year of learning social skills and fun activities with like-minded kids, before completing another year of more structured Prep. It is perfect for him - and it made our decision so much easier. And seeing my son this morning made me realise that he was so ready for school. Regardless of my fears or concerns, regardless of a compelling desire to phone the authors of "What To Expect When You're Expecting" and complain (Seriously, I read that book cover-to-cover with each of my pregnancies, and not once did they mention having tugging sensations at the site of the placenta up to five years after the birth. How can they have missed that one?), Jack was ready to be a Prep.

So after very little sleep last night (no fault of my children, just my brain's inability to shut off), we were up this morning, packing lunchboxes, putting on school uniforms, taking photos. Jack and Phoebe had some lovely pictures taken on the front step, before Phoebs accidently pushed the school boy onto the concrete. He left quite a bit of knee-skin on the driveway, poor little man! After some magic cream, a few hundred Simpsons bandaids and some Mummy-cuddles, we were back on track. I managed to get the team into the car and on the road by 8:15, which I thought was quite a good effort. And then we arrived at school. (Deep breath...)

With school hat on, back pack on, shiny new shoes, dapper school uniform and a shy smile, my baby boy marched proudly into his new school. He was a bit impatient because we had to wait for his teacher to open the classroom, but all too soon we had hung his bag up and entered his new which point I was left with Maisie on one hip, and a pram. Jack had disappeared into the chaos with his kinder mate Will, and Phoebe had seated herself to do a drawing. I managed to get him back long enough to pin his name tag on and kiss him goodbye, but that was about it - he was very keen to get on with his day, and Mummy hanging around wasn't part of the equation!

The girls and I did not stay for the morning tea in the staff room - although I was still dry-eyed at this point I wasn't sure how long it would last! Phoebalina and the Mouse both fell asleep in the car on the way home...long enough for me to flick through songs on the radio. Big mistake. If you listen to the lyrics of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and apply it to leaving your first-born at school for the first time, you'll understand why I cried! Bloody Sting.

Anyway, thank goodness for Gertrude. My darling girl drove all the way to my place to keep me company for the day - and even though I thought about my boy often, the day went very quickly. I must say, I was exceptionally grateful to Gertrude, her two boys and my two girls for keeping me busy today. They managed to keep the ugly crier from rearing her awful head!! And then it was 3pm, and I was waiting impatiently outside the classroom for my baby to come out. And then there he was, sweaty, tired and covered in sand. He came straight to me, smiled and said, "I missed you today Mum. But I had fun. Did you bring me a drink?"

Oh, my sweet, sweet Jack. When he finally recovered enough to tell us about his day, it transpired that he had a great time. He had eaten all of his lunch, met lots of new people ("but I don't remember their names yet, Mum, only Will"), and had done sport ("I just did lots of running, Mum, but I didn't kick the ball"). Tomorrow, he has Art in the afternoon. His teacher told me he was terrific (so the tears were all mine, thankfully!) And it would seem after all the stressing, and the preparations, and the over-thinking, that my boy was ready for school after all (and exhale...)

So what now? Well, Jack is fast asleep. He had an enormous dinner, a nice warm shower, and cuddled into me while I read him a really long Dr. Suess (is there any other kind?) Tomorrow, we will do it all again - but with a slightly calmer demeanour. Well, cross fingers anyway! I can only hope that when it comes time to take Phoebe for her first day in Prep, I am as restrained as I was today...however, I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time Maisie's first day rolls around, the ugly crier could very well make a public appearance...what do you think?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The anti-post

I didn't feel like blogging last night. I don't feel like blogging today. What I do feel like, is to crawl into a hole which contains the following:
1. A great, big, pillowy doona that is not too hot and not too cold
2. A telly showing all of the good Foxtel channels with shows that I haven't seen. Anything with Nigella would be great.
3. A magical chocolate mudcake that not only has no calories, but also burns fat when you eat it. (I didn't say I was being realistic, did I? But this is what I WANT)
4. Hot chocolate (also magical) to wash the cake down
5. A selection of paperbacks all about women who buy shoes and are having romances with men named Derek.

But because my hole refuses to materialise, I will have to make do with sitting on the mountains of unfolded washing on the couch, with ABC Kids in the box, eating baby rusks, having cups of tea and reading the back of a packet of Huggies. Close enough, hey?

And why, I hear you ask, am I in such a funk? Why don't I want to blog today?

Yesterday was a bit of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, in the manner of Alexander in his story book. Maisie started the day by bringing her early-morning feed back up onto my bed. A complete change of sheets was necessary. Again.

After dropping Phoebalina off at kinder, I had decided to treat Jack to the movies, given that he is off to school on Thursday. (And before you screech, "A little boy and a baby at the movies?? How ridiculous!!", we've done it before without a hitch. Jack is usually terrific at sitting for the length of the movie, and Maisie typically watches a little bit before feeding to sleep. Typically. Usually. Whatever.) He was so excited, and I was rapt to be doing something special with my boy, just us. They were both having a really good day, laughing and generally being very well-behaved. And then the movie started.

As soon as the lights went down, and we saw Rapunzel in her tower, Maisie began to wriggle, and grizzle, and carry on - loudly. After wrestling with her for half an hour, I relented and let her crawl around on the floor in the dark, while I crouched nearby. Thank goodness the cinema was nearly empty. Meanwhile, Jack decided he wanted Mummy's attention, and began clinging onto me every time I leapt up to grab Maisie from some peril or another. And no joke, after 35 minutes, he told me he was too tired to sit and watch the movie, and he wanted to go home. Seriously??

So I kissed my $20 goodbye, grabbed the kids and our stuff, and scuttled out of the cinema just as Flynn Rider was taking Rapunzel outside for the first time. Talk about not happy, Jan. To top it off, as soon as we walked in the front door, Jack asked me to put a DVD on for him. Not a chance, laughing boy. Instead of sitting and watching a funny movie for the afternoon, I did some housework (yep, just for a change.) When we went to pick Phoebs up, I thought at least they'd be happy to see each other  and the grizzling might stop (mine, not Jack's).

Instead, the two of them fought from the minute we entered the Kinder 1 room until bedtime. Then Maisie fed for about two hours, after which I was completely spent. Did I mention someone side-swiped my car while we were in the cinema? Thanks for not leaving a note, you mongrel. I really appreciate significant damage being done to my car by complete strangers. I'm weird like that.

And after a day like that, I went to bed, thinking I could at least start fresh today. And then Maisie screamed (and I do mean screamed - like she was being repeatedly stabbed) for OVER AN HOUR in the middle of the night. Why? Because she wanted me to pick her up. Because she could. Because she felt like it. When she finally fell asleep around 2am, we got about 45 minutes rest...before Jack came in to tell us he'd had an accident. All in all, a great night to match a terrific day.

And today? My so-called fresh start?? The kids are knackered, which means they have fought all day. All day. Maisie is tired, so she has crawled head-first into every single possible sharp object in the house, and now has more eggs on her head than a chicken coop. And me? I'm cranky. I'm horrible. I'm not good company. And I don't want to blog. So sorry about that.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Queen Maisie and the wagging finger

Well, I think it's probably perfectly obvious from recent events that my two big kids have been attempting to turn this household from a "baby/toddler" zone to "a place where only big kids are allowed!" There are school bags and kinder bags at the front door. There are school shoes and ballet slippers lined up neatly underneath them. There are elaborate games involving super heroes and fairies and Sportacus from Lazy Town, which involve incredibly detailed stories, the nuances of which are completely lost on me!

And throughout this period of transition from a family of 'littlies' to a family of school-going, activity-doing, growing-too-tall-for-our-pants big kids, I have clung to the fact that Maisie Mouse is still little. However. Over the last week or so, the Mouse has clearly decided that enough is enough, and that she wants to join the big kid parade too. There have been several significant changes in our smallest team member, all of which indicate that our baby days are kaput - toddlerhood, here we come!

Firstly, I'd like to know who on earth taught my smiley, easy-going cherub to wag her finger and shout at people imperiously, like some chubby-cheeked monarch? Regardless of whether Maisie is in her high chair, or her pram (even the Baby Bjorn!), she derives great pleasure in admonishing anybody within earshot, complete with a waving pointer finger and a stern face. Now I'll admit that there is more than a touch of 'teacher' in her posture, especially when she raises her voice and stares you down...but I couldn't have had anything to do with that, right? Right? She's just learning to converse...right?

Then, there's the insistence on feeding herself at every single meal. Now I realise that I'm meant to be encouraging self-feeding, offering finger food, etc. etc., but it's just not possible with all foods (and whilst living on rented carpet!!) Maisie is excellent at feeding herself, and relishes selecting bits and pieces to eat from her own tray. But she has also willingly accepted a spoon loaded with mushy Weetbix, or pasta sauce (foods which I flat-out refuse to let her fling around the room willy-nilly) without a problem - until now. Unless the conditions are just right, and you hold your tongue at the correct angle, the spoon will be knocked away as Maisie shouts "Na!" And more fool you if you try to persist. (It just gives her more opportunity to whack food on the floor...and your blouse...and the cat...) She's just learning independence...right?

Now it's not all messy or loud - there's some very cute toddlery characteristics coming through too. The Mouse loves a joke, and will join in with the big kids, laughing when they laugh and babbling happy baby-talk. She will sit with you and 'read' a book, pointing at the pictures and imitating the noises you make (with added squeals for exclamation marks). The moment you remove her nappy, she's off and away, round little botty crawling as quickly as she can while giggling fit to burst, and waiting for you to catch her! She has also worked out what 'patting' is with regards to Ernie, Bella and Daisy (or Er-nah, Ta-ta! and Di-see as she calls them), and chases them at every chance to show her undying affection. Unfortunately for the pets, the 'patting' is still rather vigorous and involves a fair amount of fur-pulling...She can blow a kiss, wave bye-bye and call out to people (but only if your name is Daddy, Narnie, Mumma or Jack!)

If these things weren't enough to show you that my last baby is a bonafide toddler - today Maisie surpassed all previous efforts in terms of getting herself in a pickle. She is definitely our most active baby and gets into things the other two never did. Maisie removes DVDs from their covers; gets inside the fridge as soon as you open the door; crawls into, under, and around any object in her way...until today. Today she learned how to crawl OVER the obstacles in her path - with disastrous consequences. I was up to my elbows in White King in the kitchen when she began to whimper. I called out to Jack (it's open plan so I was about three metres away, but on my hands and knees behind the bench) asking what had happened. "Nothing, Mum" was the reply from the couch, so I kept going. When the whimpers escalated to a cry and then a scream within five seconds, I leapt up to see Maisie head first in a toy bucket full of Thomas the Tank train tracks, bridge pieces and trains...with her brother sitting right next to her, absolutely clueless. She actually looked like a doll face-down in the container, because she's rather little and her legs were underneath her.

She must have pulled up to stand next to the tub, reached in to get a train, and toppled over onto her head. The poor little thing had marks all over her face, but as soon as I picked her up she started grinning and wagging her finger at Jack...seems as though we might have another little actress in the family!! (She's learning quite a lot from her sister, actually) Throughout the rest of the afternoon I watched her climb precariously over several other objects and managed to catch her before she face-planted again. I'm not quite sure how much more baby-proofing I can do in this tiny unit, but I know tomorrow will be a busy day for clearing dangerous articles away from Maisie's reach! Right now she is quietly reading a book on the floor, gently scratching the pictures with her tiny fingernail - but I'm not fooled. She's just trying to work out how to do something reckless with it! But that's all part of becoming a toddler...right?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Phoebalina Ballerina

A tiny little girl with a ready grin, big blue eyes and music in her feet squeezed my heart into little pieces today. Not to say that she hasn't done that many times before - obviously, Miss Phoebe has held my heart in her warm little hands since we saw her heartbeat blipping on the ultrasound screen for the first time. But a love of music and dancing, combined with a passion for fairies and ballerinas and anything pink, really, culminated yesterday in Phoebe's first ballet lesson.

I have always secretly fostered a hope that a daughter of mine would fall in love with ballet the way I did as a child. And yes, I understand that this is living vicariously in the most pathetic way; and no, I don't intend on being a pushy stage mama. I just know how much I delighted in studying dance, the friends I made, the joy that could be had from learning beautiful movements, and I had always hoped that one day, I might share that with my own child.

I gave up my ballet at the age of fourteen, when I began swimming training more seriously (and broad shoulders are not becoming on a prima ballerina, let's be honest!). Lots of things I learned when I was younger - ballet, piano, flute, good posture - have fallen away, much to my regret. I have thought many times about taking one of them back up again (not particularly the posture thing - I think my abdominals are pretty well shot after three kids!) but seem to find myself just a little busy. Can't seem to think why?!

Phoebe has been making up songs and little dances for about a year, and I had a vague notion of asking if she wanted to have ballet lessons when she was a bit older. I had seen a flyer for a local ballet school in the community centre last year, and stuck it on the fridge. Yesterday, for some unknown reason I was propelled to the phone, and before I could think too hard about it I was ringing the lady at the ballet school. And lo and behold, she had a class for 'tinies' at 4pm, with a space for Phoebalicious if I wanted it. Well. Phoebe was at kinder, and I had just enough time to throw Jack and Mais in the car, herb over to kinder, grab my big girl, drive home for a drink and a change, and arrive at the hall in time to meet Miss Annette.

The idea was only to see whether or not Phoebe liked her teacher and the idea of ballet lessons enough to come back next week. Before I could say "derriere", she had disappeared into the ballet studio with Miss Annette, and had launched herself into dancing like a fairy. To say my girl loved every minute is a ridiculous understatement. She was so excited when I picked her up that she danced all the way to the car...and then into the house, and around the house, and is still dancing now! So this morning we took her to buy her ballet uniform, so that she is a "real" ballerina like the other little girls.

When she put on the tiny pink leotard with the wispy little skirt and the soft, pink ballet slippers, I went to mush. My baby daughter stood looking at her own reflection, hands clasped together with joy, spinning and twisting to see herself from every direction. She looked so very grown-up in a little-girl way, and so very, very happy. I looked at her and realised that Phoebe was giving me the gift of ballet again. Even if this obsession doesn't last, she has reminded me of how much I loved it, and for however long she enjoys dancing I will be enjoying it with her.

A wonderful blogger whom I follow avidly is Maxabella at Every Saturday she posts about something she is grateful for, so in honour of this theme, this week I am grateful for the second chance I have been given. Phoebalicious has reminded me of a past passion, and provided me an opportunity to rekindle my love affair with ballet. Not only that, but I will be able to watch my beautiful daughter dance with joy, knowing that she is doing something that makes her truly happy. Today, she has hopped around the house in her new ballet uniform like a little sprite - a sight which makes me unutterably happy. So thank you, Phoebalina Ballerina, for reminding your mummy of the beauty of dancing (and rekindling the idea that I might one day take it up again myself!) Now...if I can just convince Jack and Maisie to try ballet as well...

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Dress Rehearsal

Jack met his Prep teacher this morning. He insisted on wearing his new, too-big school uniform for the 45 minute meeting at his new school, and said it was absolutely imperative to carry his empty backpack (ok, he didn't use the word 'imperative', but you catch the drift!) He found his name tag next to his bag hook, put on his name badge, and sat with Miss Griffiths to do "work". I was in the classroom attempting to keep Miss Mouse occupied, and heard my son get bashful and a bit giggly when his teacher asked him to count, or name colours. With a little bit of coaxing, he completed all of the pre-tests, and then sat back with his arms behind his head and said, "I think I've had enough work now. My arms won't do anymore."

To Miss Griffiths' credit, she laughed and said that it was time to take a little tour together anyway. We found the toilets, the playground and the pick-up point for hometime. We took a little task home to complete before next week, all about our family. And I put Jack back in the car at 9:30am, in his lovely, clean school uniform, and realised that I have been a very neglectful, completely blind mother.

Now, I know that you are all aware that I am, shall we say, an 'emotional' mum. I cry when I'm proud, I weep when I'm happy, I'm a mess when a milestone is passed - heck, I bawled when Maisie grew out of her 000 baby clothes. The beginning of Jack's time at primary school was not a surprise to me - after all, I'm the one who completed the enrolment forms!! And being a teacher myself, I am more than aware of the "first day jitters" - whether it's starting Prep, starting Year 7, or even just starting at a new school, both the children and the parents are notoriously weepy. I have been waiting for the "my-first-baby-is-going-to-school" tears for a few weeks now, and to be perfectly truthful there hasn't been so much as a sniffle coming from my direction.

I was pretty happy about this, since I figured Jack didn't need the social stigma of an ugly crier on the first day of school. But alas, it would seem that I have not grown out of my predisposal for sobbing, but rather I have just not registered that my baby boy, my firstborn son, the little man who was only born a few weeks ago (or so it feels like!), is going off to school next week AND I AM NOT ALLOWED TO GO WITH HIM!!!! Oh my good god. What have I done?????? I have wasted countless days doing housework or buying groceries or...I dunno...folding washing (?)....just doing 'stuff', without realising that my time with all three of my kids at home, was limited. Even with Jack and Phoebe going to kinder two days a week, I still had three week days to spend with them...and now I'm afraid I've frittered it away!!!!

Well, there's nothing for it but to spend the next five days hugging and kissing Jack so much that he begs to go to school. I will smother him with love and attention and games and...and...doing good stuff that there won't be a moment when I haven't proven how much I love him. How grateful am I for that little dress rehearsal this morning?? Otherwise I might have completely missed my last chance to absolutely obliterate my son with affection, time, and attention. Phew!!

Now, I'm off to launder my hankies in preparation for The First Official Day Of School...goodness knows I'm going to need them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hey hey, the gang's all here!

Well. I shall never again complain that my life is humdrum. Or that I am completely talentless. (I didn't say I was brimming with the stuff; just that I learned that I have one particular talent that I had never even thought of before today...)

As you know, after Ben's christening on Sunday, Esmerelda, Gertrude and I organised another little get-together today. What Gertie didn't know, was that Esmerelda had also organised for Ermintrude and Hermione to be there as well - so a large part of our high school group would all be together for lunch. Bliss!!

The kids and I were in the car by 9:30, and I wasn't at all phased by the thought of one-and-a-half hours in the car. It's freeway nearly all the way, and the kids usually nap a bit so they're marginally more pleasant when we arrive! By the time we hit the Monash, however, things started to go awry...the traffic got very heavy, slowed, then...stopped. Apparently there had been a rather large accident near Yarra Boulevarde, and the traffic extended back to before Burke Road. At this point in time, all three kids were asleep and there was absolutely nothing I could do about the traffic jam, so I just breathed deeply, and waited. And waited. And...."Mum?" "Yes Phoebs?" "I need to do wee-wees."

In four lanes of stock-still traffic, with no emergency lane, no available turn-offs, and no way to reach them even if they existed, that was not a welcome sentence. I began wishing that a more capable adult than myself would waltz up to the car and offer to take over, but quickly realised that that wouldn't happen - thanks to all the built-up traffic, the fumes outside would have knocked a grown man out in ten seconds!

I told her to hold on tight, and bought myself some thinking time. When Jack woke up 15 minutes later (and we were pretty much in the same spot), I broke the law - I undid his seatbelt, asked him to climb into the back of the car, grab a nappy out of the nappy bag, and climb back over. With one hand on the steering wheel, I clipped him back in, kept up with the traffic crawl, and unbuckled Phoebalina. We had a bit of a traffic surge at this point, so she whipped off her undies, standing behind the driver's seat, and then I held the nappy under her and drove (only at about 10kph, but still!), while she did what she had to do. Nappy was rolled up, knickers went back on, seatbelt clipped on, and away we went! I still can't believe we actually did that...but how's that for hidden talent???

Anyhow, we arrived at Esmerelda's haven a mere 2.5 hours after leaving home. Obviously, I was calm and serene...pfft! As if!! Actually, the kids were brilliant during the trip (especially considering I found fruit bars and rusks in my handbag - hoarding finally pays off!). Jack, Phoebe, Maisie, Kelan, Hamish, Will, Ben, Josh, Noah and Beattie formed an immediate gang and had a great time creating a ridiculous amount of noise. Trampoline? Check. Vegemite sandwiches? Check. Cubby house? Check. Kid heaven? Check!

And as far as the big girls went, well. It may have been a while since we were all together, but five minutes in and it was Year 12 all over again, only with eleven kids thrown in (and thank goodness we didn't have them to contend with in Year 12!!) I don't know what it is about my girlies, but I suspect some sort of pharmaceutical enhancements secreted from their pores into the atmosphere. Seriously. In their company, I am happier, more enthusiastic, louder (oh yes - hard to believe, I know!) and definitely see the glass as half-full. What is it about being around these women that makes my heart sing?

While some may argue that I have a split personality, I prefer to think that being around friends who have loved each other for a very long time is a definite mood-lifter. After only three hours with these chicks, I felt better than I have since...well, since Sunday when I was with them last!! So thank you Esmerelda, Gertrude, Ermintrude, Hermione and Super Girl (who turned up later on as a complete surprise!!), for a wonderful day. I had the time of my life (tee hee!! Ermintrude - that one is for you!) You pick me up when I am blue, you make me laugh when I have been in tears, you put up with my rants when I have been stuck in traffic for hours on end! And you have children who click with mine - instant entertainment for my three energetic sprogs. Love you all! xxx

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Big and little

With the imminent arrival of the new school year, I am bracing myself for some emotional upheaval. Next week, our biggest baby, Jack aka Superman aka the Red Hornet aka Spunkrat aka Da! (thanks Mais) will begin primary school, and I will begin my life as a primary school mumma. Oh my lordy, how not-ready am I!?! Jack is completely, totally and utterly ready to make the leap from kinder to "big school". Since Phoebalina went back to kinder two days a week, Jack and I have spent Mondays and Fridays having a bit of one-on-one time (with the Mouse, of course!)  - something we haven't had much of since he was a baby. And over the past week and a bit, I have discovered that my boy is getting very, very big...with a few patches of very little thrown into the mix.

During December and early January we had taken care of Jack's uniform and school shoes. The only thing left to do was get a haircut for that boofy hair - so yesterday we dropped Phoebs off at kinder and headed to the hairdresser's. On our way, Jack informed me that he wanted to look "like a spunkrat, Mum." I wasn't sure if he knew precisely what a spunkrat was, but he was mightily chuffed when Whitney got the clippers out and gave him a number three. He was even more impressed when she left it a tiny bit longer on top and spiked it up - and he did look absolutely gorgeous. And very, very big.

You should have seen him strut around the shops afterwards...and when a lady at the bakery complimented him on his grown-up hair, I thought he was going to explode with pride! He was my best helper yesterday, pushing the pram around the supermarket (never mind that Mais got the best amusement-park ride of her short life!), putting things in the basket, giving the money to the shopkeepers. When we arrived home, I made him lunch and said he could have a DVD for quiet time. I chose 'Wallace and Gromit' (because if I see 'Cars' one more time I might vomit), and he smiled, and said, "Thank you Mummy. I love Gromit, but could I watch Tibbie-tubbies instead?"

Now, as I go all misty-eyed typing this, you should know that 'Tibbie-tubbies' is what Jack called the Teletubbies when he was two. And he hasn't wanted to watch it for years - after all, it's for babies, not great big boys of four years old! But it was left in front of the telly after the girls watched it the other day (yes, I am a bad, bad mother) and so he curled up next to me while I fed the Mouse, and flicked Teddy's tail. And looked very, very little.

Phoebs, too, has been making the transition from little to big in the last few weeks (even though she will tell you until she's blue in the face that she's already a bigger bigger bigger BIGGER girl!) All of a sudden her hair has grown noticeably longer (still not actually "long", but long for our girl!), and she has transitioned to the 'Kinder 1' room. You have never seen a more excited child than Phoebalicious on Monday when she realised she was in the "big kids kinder". According to her teachers, she was so happy all day - and all I know is that she was simply buzzing last night with stories and paintings she'd done and new friends she'd made (not that she could remember their names, of course!) Withing the blink of an eye, Phoebe has become a big sister who knows how to play gently with Maisie; a daughter who loves to have her hair put up and wear princess fairy costumes, just like a big girl.

And yet...right now Phoebe is fast asleep in our bed. Since the kids are all sharing one room, she finds it difficult to get to sleep, so we put her in our bed until she's comatose. I've just been in to check on her, and found a girly curled up in a ball, fast asleep and dreaming,looking just like she did at about 6 months old. And very, very little.

And the Mouse? What can I tell you about Miss Maisie, who is nearly 13 months old? Well, in the past 24 hours, she has learned to high-five (something she is inordinately proud of! We get a toothy grin every time), and has figured out how to call the dog. This morning, we heard a breathy little "Di-see? Di-see?" as she called Daisy from her cot. Thankfully, the dog doesn't understand her yet...She has also learned to wave bye-bye, which is very cute especially when she waves a little starfish hand frantically, while shouting "Ta-ta!!" With the eight teeth, and the bandy legs trying to stand, and the long sticky-uppy hair, she's getting so very, very big...

And yet, she has ramped up her feeding in the last few days, to the point where I think breastmilk has surpassed the importance of even blueberries for the Mouse...and each time, she winds her fist around my t-shirt or bra strap and holds on tightly. Her eyelids droop involuntarily, she breathes in the scent of my skin with deep, snorty breaths, and it's as though I once again have a little baby in my arms rather than a great big birthday girl.

So here I am, at the precipice of a new chapter in our lives. Starting primary school...starting 3 year old kinder...learning to walk...With babies that are getting to be so big and grown-up, while still retaining tiny bits and pieces of their babyhood. I don't know why this past week has triggered so many big and little moments - but I am so very grateful that the "little" moments had nothing to do with lapses in toilet training...

And by-the-by: happy 100th blog!! It's hard to believe I've actually written 100 of these therapeutic passages...even harder to believe that someone has read them. So thank you! I'd like to say I've got 100 candles to blow out, but would a cup of tea suffice? Cheers! xxx