Saturday, April 30, 2011

I want a tiara

Let's just be completely honest right here, right now, and let the truth hang out in all it's glory. I am not a glamour puss. Nor a yummy mummy. I wear unironed clothes; leave the house every morning with wet hair; never wear makeup unless it's a VERY special occasion or I am looking so scary small children cower from me and cry. I get my hair coloured twice a year, if I'm lucky; shave my legs if the razor in the shower is still relatively sharp; and have left nail polish on so long that it took an industrial grinder to get it off. I am so low-maintenance, it's ridiculous - I think I should coin a new term for myself, perhaps 'subterranean-maintenance'?? What do you think?

So what's my point? Why am I stating something that my IRL friends already know?

I want to be a princess for a day. No, wait - a month.

As a four year old, I was permitted to stay up late to watch Lady Diana Spencer marry Prince Charles. From the moment she magically became Princess Diana, I wanted to be a princess. I was obsessed with Diana, and who wouldn't be? We all know how gorgeous she was. I loved her until the day she died. I love her still.

Last night, most people I know crowded around their tellys to watch Miss Kate Middleton marry Prince William, to become Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. I allowed Jack and Phoebe to stay up to watch the wedding. Jack was interested, as a five year old boy might be. Phoebe was enchanted. (It would seem her new life's ambition is to be a "cage girl" - that would be, in fact, a flower girl. Miffy, you have been warned.)

Quite apart from Kate's breathtaking beauty and exquisite bridal gown, I was awestruck by how genuinely in love they appeared to be. It made me happy to see them enjoying their wedding day, regardless of the fact they had both wanted a small, quiet, country wedding and instead ended up at Westminster Abbey with two billion voyeurs...*ahem*...I mean, well-wishers.

Just like my four year old self, I adored the pomp, the tradition, the horses, the pageboys, the Abbey...even the ye olde old-fashioned language of the marriage ceremony. Loved. It. I could have sat all night, just drinking it all in (and did, in fact, record it on the hard disk drive....)

I wondered what it would be like to be Kate. How incredible it would be to have her life. And I thought to myself, I'd like that for me. If I were a princess (or a duchess, if we're to be completely accurate) for one month...oh! The possibilities.

I would have gorgeous clothes to wear, which would be laundered by someone else. I would have magnificent meals, whatever I desired, made by someone else. I would travel to new and interesting places, organised by someone else. I would live in various castles and manor houses, cleaned and prepared by, you guessed it - someone else. I could sleep (in a bed which I did not have to strip and put clean sheets on, nor would I need to launder said sheets, nor would I need to make the bed...ever!) for as long as I liked, uninterrupted, except by my personal trainer whom I would engage to keep me looking at my public-appearance-best. I would not do grocery shopping, scoop up dog poo from the garden, have to reprimand builders or bank managers or Telstra. I could have a manicure, a pedicure and a blow wave every day (oh! oh!)

And after a month of princessing it up, I would be happy to pack my Louis Vuitton luggage, and go home.


Because at home, I am my own person. I may not have any time to myself at present, but I have a whole lot of time with the people I love. I can choose what to do with my days, as long as it suits my little family. I can see the friends I choose, wear the clothes I like (if they are comfortable, or shabby, or stained - which they generally are, it matters not), potter around the house with the kids without the world falling down around my ears. I have a life of duty to my family - not the entire Commonwealth. So although I may not have the clothes, or the money, or the glamour that Kate has (and most certainly not the figure, nor the skin, nor the composure), there are freedoms that I have that now, she never will. I think she is marvellous, choosing a life of duty in the spotlight with the man she loves. It is certainly not a life I would choose for myself.

But just for one month, I could handle it. As long as the Palace people let me sleep for most of it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I think I have ADD

I think my brain is becoming a bit too bloggy, if that's possible (or a word at all?) I keep finding myself narrating my day (inside my head, of course - I learned a looooooong time ago that muttering to yourself makes other people skittish), or thinking, "That'd make a good blog topic!" And then proceeding to write said blog in my head, rather than concentrating on the ingredients being put into the dinner, or watching where I am walking when pooper-scoopering, or driving in the correct direction. You know. Normal things.

I am more than aware that my beloved has, for some time, called himself a 'blog widower'. I am also aware that I could go to bed at least an hour earlier than I do, should I choose to forego blogging. However, in my defence, I don't blog during the day (unless all the housework is done, and the kids are elsewhere being cared for by someone competent. So basically, I don't blog during the day), I don't blog if I'm forcing the issue, I don't blog when someone really needs a mummy cuddle that takes up several hours on the couch and results in my shoulder being used as Kleenex, and I certainly don't blog for money. Haha. What I DO blog for, is therapy. It's free, it's readily available, and I can have a good whinge / sook / hiphiphooray in my bloggy community, and feel fantabulous afterwards. (Also, it's a handy baby book for the mother who was too disorganised to write any of the precious moments down.)

That said, today I don't have a theme, or a message, or even a serious gripe to write about. It was a mixed tape kind of day. Do you like mixed lollies? Or chocolates with different (surprise!) centres in them? I do. Too much. So here is my day, in bits that will not connect, flow, or make sense when read together whatsoever.

* Jack went back to school for Term 2 today. Soooooooo different to the first day of Term 1 - I was not nervous at all!!!! He was in a great mood this morning, and did this funny little bow with a flourish and greeted his Daddy with "hello, your royus hiyus!" (I may have quite possibly watched quite a bit of telly about the royals in the last week...) On the way to school, he asked what a 'royus hiyus' was, and so I started to explain about kings and queens, and royalty...and I think my boy regretted asking! But he seems keen to stay up and watch a bit of the royal wedding with me on Friday, so at least someone in this house will sit with me without bagging it!! When we got to school, he ran in, so excited to see his mates. I was delighted that he was so happy, so I made a swift exit with a rather sad Phoebalina.

* Phoebs has always been tall, or 'long' - a skinny minnie most of the time (apart from occasional growth spurts when she chubs out a smidge!). Lately, several people have expressed extreme surprise at how young she is. Her speech, combined with her height, makes her seem much older than three-and-a-half. And of course, the Ballerina would happily allow you to be under the impression that she was 8. And had enjoyed a pink princess birthday party when she turned 8. You get the idea. Anyway, she stunned me today, because when we returned home from the school run, she played so well with Maisie I was able to get actual tidying up done. Properly. I know, right? She relinquished beloved toys when the Mouse cracked a wobbly; shared snacks without being prompted; and created little games that both girls could play together. It seems as though my little 'big' girl has all of a sudden leapt up the growth chart. (Of course, she still  managed one of her legendary double-barrelled-to-the-chin sneezes on the way to bad I had to pull over. Nice.)

* The Mouse is currently trying very hard to be a big girl. She walks everywhere; has learned how to admonish the dogs even better than I (and even when they are not doing anything naughty at all!); and has developed a sing-songy little burbly chatter that narrates her day. Quite often she will toddle over to me, utter a string of melodic syllables with an utterly serious face, smile winsomely with all of her teeth showing, and will turn to some new fascination. I am a big fan of the toothy grin. It is so cheeky, and she knows it - and try as I might, I haven't been able to capture it with the camera. This Mouse is a wily one. However, there are still moments of baby softness that I am clutching at desperately...such as tonight, when I managed to feed her to sleep. Tonight, instead of wriggling and laughing and trying to pull my hair, she had a dream-feed snuggled in my arms. One velvety little hand patted the skin on my chest and stroked my arm lazily, as though I was hers, completely, body and soul. I suppose, I am - just as I am completely Jack and Phoebe's, too.

Maisie has a tiny little freckle on the inside of her pointer finger on her left hand, which I attempt to wipe off every single day because it looks like a splodge of Vegemite. I like to watch this freckle when she feeds, as well as the crease at the nape of her neck, and the little kiss curls that form a mullet on the collar of her babygro, and the flushed, apricot cheeks that I stroke to see if she's truly asleep, or just dozing. It's these moments of babyhood I savour, because they are fast running away from me, as quickly as the Mouse's legs can stumble. I suppose we've got a little while before the wide-legged stagger becomes a more capable method of transportation...and also a while yet to enjoy the fledgling 'kisses' (done by smacking the lips together), the blowing of kisses (a new and totally hilarious skill) and the frantic waving bye-bye that involves hand-flapping so vigorous that she turns bright red. The accompanying "Ay-yo! Ay-yo!" which is Mouse-speak for goodbye, leaves me in fits of giggles every time.

* And Archie. A quick puppy-update for those of you who know our furry children!! Archie has already caught up to Daisy in size; has his very own crate and play-pen in the loungeroom; is ready to start the day around 4:30am; and has developed a beautiful relationship with our exceptionally shy pussy cat, Bella. Bella is so shy, some of our closest friends have never seen our seven-year-old cat. True. However, in the three weeks since Archie joined our family, old Bella has come out of her shell, so to speak. She rolls in the sun with Arch, shares food with him, and lets him go puppy-mad all over her, with only an occasional swipe. I will admit I broke up a rather amorous embrace today between Archie and Bella...simply because he is a baby and I cannot even come at the thought of a cog or a dat entering the family. I think I might have to keep a close eye on those two kids.

* In other bloggy news today, I randomly thought I blogging about a fabulous Michelle Bridges recipe I made for dinner last night - a hands-down winner with everyone, even the Mouse! I thought about writing about how frustrated I am, driving past our block every day with no sign of progress whatsoever. I thought about writing more about my Dad's soon-to-be-launched business, but the sneak-peek photo I wanted to give you wouldn't load. I thought about doing another 'Parenting 101' blog, because I have so many gorgeous girly friends about to have their first bubs. I thought about blogging a post on the irony that all three of my children are sleeping through the night at the moment, yet I am up twice a night to a crying, wee-ing baby. (Love you, Arch. But you're a bugger at night) Oh yes, my brain is a melting-pot of random thoughts...only some of them about chocolate. I wonder what will pop out of the blog-pot tomorrow?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Counting Blessings

Anzac Day is an emotional day for many Aussies, me included. My great-grandfather was an Anzac digger. He brought home incredible photographs of the pyramids in Egypt and many other places his travels took  him whilst serving during World War One. They are very faded now, as are the stories that died with him. I never knew him, although my mum remembers her grandfather as an exceptionally gentle, quiet man. There was a restored photograph that always hung in my grandparents' house, large and framed, sepia tone. It showed a very young man, dressed in the Anzac uniform, the badge of the rising sun on his hat. He had a slight smile in a kind face, one which looked very similar to the son he would return home to father.

It has always been something I've found hard to fathom - the thought of letting your son, brother or husband go off to war in a time when travel was by ship, telephones were a luxury found rarely, and letters were the main form of communication. The horrors of war that we learned in history lessons never failed to send shivers right through me. The strength of the men and women who either went to war, or stayed at home to keep the home fires burning, is astounding to say the least.

Today, I clutched my five year old son tightly as we listened to 'The Last Post' being bugled before the Essendon / Collingwood match. I always struggle to keep my composure during this particular piece of music - I don't know whether it's a past life coming back to remind me, or just the knowledge of what it represents, but without fail, tears will prick my eyes and my nose and chin wobble uncontrollably. While we stood together, watching the silent people on the screen, Jack asked me why nobody was talking. It took me a good few minutes to speak. It didn't help that one palm was placed firmly on his little sparrow-like rib cage, and the other was wrapped around his torso. It didn't help that while I held him, I could only think of other mothers who had held their small sons in a similar way, before they grew up and went away, never to return. It didn't help that, even though we live in a peaceful country now, there is no guarantee that one day, my son might join the ranks of his great-great-grandfather and leave this place to fight for the right to live safely.

And even though there have not been any soldiers in my family since the early 1900's, there are numerous people I know and love who are currently active members of the Defence Force. A few gleeful friendships during school and university days developed into long-term relationships for some of my closest girlfriends. Two women I love dearly have husbands in the Air Force. Several of my male friends are actively serving in the Army and the Navy. All of them have signed up for a life of protecting this country should it be necessary. I cross my fingers often and pray for a boring office job for the lot of them.

On this Anzac Day, as usual I got a bit emotional. Not maudlin - just introspective. A bit quiet. Which, I'm sure you've gathered a while ago, is fairly unusual for this little black duck. So, to show my gratitude to our servicemen and women who laid down their lives for us, so that we might live in a safe, peaceful country, I decided to take stock of the things that made me smile today. The things that put the shine on my could say the icing sugar on my brownies, or the bubbles in my champers.

*Jack returned home from an exhilarating overnight visit to Narnie and Pa's house, full of stories and absolutely exhausted. He spent the afternoon playing beautifully with both of his sisters. One might suspect he actually missed them!
*Christian and I took Phoebe out for brunch this morning, as a special treat. After devouring a chocolate muffin as big as her head, she sneezed so violently that two streams of snot shot out of her nose and down to her chin....needless to say we were laughing so hard it took a while to find sufficient tissues to mop her up. Meanwhile, she just sat there, trying not inhale or laugh. Disgusting, and truly hilarious.
*Maisie got her overalls stuck on the baby fence we have in our loungeroom (Need I remind you? Three kids plus one ten week old border collie pup?? Wouldn't you have a fence?). She screamed and whinged and pulled and yelled, and when she popped free, muttered "Ta tum" (her word for thank you) over her shoulder, and carried on. Priceless!!

Small things, for which I am eternally grateful. Because of our soldiers, pilots and sailors, we live in a free country, with good education, health care, safe streets (relatively speaking!), and equal rights for men and women. It is because of them, that I don't have to worry about anything but counting my blessings. There is so much to be thankful for. Lest We Forget.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

There are many perks to having kids.

A never-ending source of kisses, cuddles and declarations of undying lub (as in, "I lub you berry much, Mumma")

Endless opportunities to laugh at the oddities of the world, such as the amazing timing required for a baby, a toddler and a child to poo simultaneously (thereby necessitating a bottom-wiping festival).

A fairly safe bet that you will not one day be relegated to a nursing home, but instead be instated in a granny flat behind the home of one of them. After all, you cleaned up their's only fair if the favour is returned...

And a second chance at being completely involved in the magic of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

I'll be very honest here and admit I didn't think much about this last point when we brought Jack home from hospital. I was a bit too submerged in nappies / breastfeeding every two hours / sleep deprivation / cranky hormones to realise that I had, in fact, become the mumma. Which meant I had also unwittingly donned the Santa hat / EB ears / TF wings.

So in addition to the joys of having small kidlets, we also have enjoyed five years of Christmas morning magic and Easter Sunday goodies. And isn't it so much fun watching your babies experience the fantasies of childhood?

When we woke this morning, Easter Bunny had strewn carrot tops all over the house. He actually must be quite a messy fellow - they were draped over door knobs, on books in the bookshelf, over the baby safety gate...and the leafy fronds were broken off everywhere!! The first thing our kids did was gasp at the mess (I was a bit proud, actually - does this mean they're used to a clean house?? Really??) Even the Mouse pointed at the floor from her lofty height in my arms and exclaimed with a frown, "zfge,klemnkdngbss!!!" (yes, she actually did!)

And then Jack spied a tiny weeny egg nestled in the crook of the couch. And then another on the kitchen island. And with squeals and skips, Jack and Phoebe ransacked the house searching for little eggs. They found them amongst the books, on a shelf of the change table, behind doors, on the piano keyboard, in the ironing basket...I think Easter Bunny had a lot of fun strewing eggs all over the house! Not to mention the Ben 10 egg for Jack, the *PINK* My Little Pony egg for the Ballerina, and the teeny red egg in its' own bucket and spade for the Mouse.

Although Jack was the main instigator in finding the hidden eggs, Phoebe was breathless with happiness. She kept saying again and again, "Mummy, the Easter Bunny came!!!! And he knew I wanted a pink egg! And it's in a cup of tea just for me! And Jack did get a boy's egg! In a cappuccino cup! And Maisie did get a red egg just like Jack's! And I got a pink egg! And Easter Bunny only comes to good children and I was a good girl! And I love you, Mumma!" I think she was pleased with her egg.

Maisie walked around for a good half hour carrying her egg, still in it's box. Even though she won't actually get to eat it (I'm lax with number three, but not quite ready to let her eat chocolate yet!!!), she had a lot of fun picking it up, putting it down, picking it was a great game, for sure.

All three kids have just finished a big bowl of fruit salad for morning tea. I think the food rules stipulate that this will negate the ill-effects of eating chocolate after breakfast? I'm sure it's written somewhere in the Jenny Craig handbook where it says broken biscuits have no calories...

Happy Easter from Team O'Toole!! We hope you have an eggscellent day!!! (I had to get that in somewhere...)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Day The DVDV Died

A beloved member of our family died a very quiet death recently. It was a very sad day when we realised that, hidden behind the tubs and baskets of toys that flank the television (which keep the Mouse from scaling the lofty heights of the telly cabinet to chat to her mates on the screen), our dear, old DVD player had succumbed to old age.

Now, what you must understand is that this was no ordinary DVD player.

Once upon a time, around about our fourth date, Christian swung past my classroom and asked if I wanted to catch a DVD at his place that night. When I reminded him that he did not in fact own a DVD player (thus rendering his proposed activity redundant), he replied casually, "Ok, then, let's go and buy one." Such cavalier ways!! I will readily admit I was already smitten by this point - the whole shopping "together" for a piece of electronic equipment only made me worse. (Yes, I was impressed easily. I understand this, and take full responsibility for my actions. Now, may we continue?)

This humble DVD player went on to become one of the most important appliances in our home. Not only did it allow Christian and I to indulge in our love of the "Most Haunted" series when it was on hiatus, but it also gave me an excuse to buy the box set of "Sex and the City". Which, I need not tell you, was necessary for my survival. Ahem.

And after Jack reached a certain age, the inside of the DVD player was tattooed with the tunes of the Wiggles and Thomas the Tank Engine...and then Phoebalina etched the sounds (I say 'sounds' rather than 'tunes' for obvious reasons) with Hi-5 and the Tibby Tubbies...and more recently, our hard-working little grey machine played the same Christmas DVDs over, and over, and over again.

It would be fair to say that after nearly five years of playing predominantly children's "entertainment" (read: a mother's sanity with three under four), our DVD player bit the dust out of sheer delirium. However, given that it was a $120 DVD player that lasted for eight years, I reckon it probably just died of old age (and Wiggles-induced stupor).


After quite a number of weeks without a DVDV player (thus dubbed by the Ballerina), I decided we needed one. Pronto. Apparently our set top box (and emergency DVD player) was in the collection of gear stored at Argie's place, and it would be a doddle to go and retrieve it. (And much cheaper, too.) So after a refreshing Easter Saturday walk this morning, we trapped  put the kids in the car and drove down to Argie's.

The whole way there, Phoebalicious stressed about being late for the Easter Bunny. "We need to go home! Because the Easter Bunny might come while we are out, and then he won't leave me a pink egg!! And he comes to good children. And he brings them pink eggs! And we are not at home! We need to go home Mummy!! Why are you still driving this way?" She was really convinced that the Easter Bunny was going to front up to our place in broad daylight, sniff around and see the children were absent, and hop away without leaving the goods.

Once we had convinced Phoebe that the Easter Bunny would come after dark when she was asleep, just like Santa, she was still desperate to get home and go to bed...  The stuff at Argie's yielded lots of forgotten treasures, but no set top box could be found in any of the boxes. So we (did what I had suggested initially but had been nixed by the Treasurer) zipped into Dick Smiths, purchased a new, uber-cheap but working DVD player, and got home in time for the Bunny's arrival.

So, the team are in bed, having lovingly laid a bunch of dutch carrots at the front door. They were all lying in their beds when I last checked, eyelids trembling with the effort of appearing asleep. And now all I need to do, is work out how to lay a trail of mini eggs leading to the main attraction (ie. a PINK egg for the Ballerina, a BIG egg for Jack, and a baby egg for the Mouse - can you tell I've been given whispered instructions and desires??) without Archie eating the Bunny's goodies. Let me see. Easter eggs, a small house, and a border collie's not going to end well, is it?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Buddhist Philosophies on Good Friday

I've probably mentioned a few times already my children's propensity for asking the same question every morning: "What are we doing today, Mum?" Every. Single. Morning.

Usually, we're doing something, or going somewhere, or having someone come to us. As with most families of little people, a day spent entirely at home is not ideal if one wishes to avoid the two o'clock maddies. On those rare, blissful days when we have nothing at all written in coloured pen on the calendar (and I am secretly delighted that I don't need to do anything but potter), the kids are always slightly suspicious. As though I am keeping a truly amazing activity from them.

"What are we doing today, Mum?"
"Nothing. Just staying at home."
"So who's coming to visit then?"
"No one. It's just us today."
"So where are we going?"
And so on, and so forth. They are always incredulous that their mother may actually intend on staying within the realms of the house and garden FOR THE ENTIRE DAY. Amazing, I know.

Being Good Friday today, the conversation this morning was almost funny. We went through the usual conversation (see above), with the added source of puzzlement stemming from a belief that in the school holidays, we would at the very least have a trip to the cafe for a coffee. (I dunno where they get that one, honestly. Probably from their dad.)

"Where are we going today, Mum?"
"I told you. Nowhere."
"But why?"
"Because it's Good Friday, and everything is closed."

Now, religion in our house is a funny thing. My Catholic-raised husband is a practising Buddhist, authorised to teach meditation. I am Anglican on paper, who has never gone to church, believes in reincarnation, the afterlife, and being a good person during this lifetime. So it would be fair to say that our kids are not quite au fait with the Bible (with absolutely no disrespect intended, Phoebe calls him "Jeebus". Need I say more?)

Given that I had just told my two big kids that all of the shops, petrol stations, play centres (*gasp*), Old MacDonalds, and trams (?) were closed today, they wanted to know why. Fair question. "Remember when I told you the story of Jesus?", I asked. "Yes! Jeebus!" cried Phoebe eagerly. "Well, this is a special day for people to remember the work he did. For us, it's a nice day to spend together. It's a good time for families to stay at home and play games." "And all the shops have no people in them?" asked Jack. "That's right. And there's no trams." replied the Ballerina, nodding her head sagely.

I know I won't win any points for my theological discussion with a five year old and a three year old, but they were satisfied. And when they went for a walk with Daddy later, and observed the quiet streets and closed newsagents, Jack reminded Phoebe that it was "Foot Day". "No," said Daddy gently, "Good Friday."

And it was. It was a great Friday. Hot cross buns, and playing with Archie and Daisy in the sun, and building Lego, and eating lunch together. Drawing Easter drawings, and sticking Easter stickers, and counting the sleeps until Easter Bunny comes. Spreading toys everywhere, and getting ironing done, and washing flapping in the breeze. An early warm bath, and books on the couch, and cuddles at bedtime. It was a fantastic Friday. Even if the shops were all closed.

Recipe For A Lovely Day

* A huge thankyou to Esmerelda and Ermintrude for allowing me to try this recipe. I think the flavours worked really well - I know I enjoyed making it!!!

Recipe For A Lovely Day:

Take one mild, sunny day (after a day of wind and rain and freeeeeeeeeezing temperatures), where the backyard is just the right mix of green grass and sunshiney shade.

Add one smallish two-bedroom unit, liberally furnished in Fisher Price.

To this, add three friends who have managed the enviable task of enjoying each others' company for 18 years, whilst maintaining only 21 candles on their respective birthday cakes (oh, ok, this might not be entirely true. But I can assure you that although our chronological ages may be closer to the middle of the 30's range, our mental ages are still most definitely closer to 17!!)

Stir in seven children, ranging in age from eight years to 15 months.

Sprinkle children with assorted sandwiches, cut-up fruit and (*gasp*) Smarties. Mop up ensuing mess from under the table.

Combine the mixture of children with an assortment of cats and dogs, and turn out on the grass to let the flavours develop. Don't worry if this causes lots of noise - this is expected in a recipe such as this.

Rest the grown up ladies at the kitchen table with a platter of assorted goodies. Take care at this point to keep the children separate from the grown-ups - this is essential if you don't want the taste of the day to be tainted. It's important to keep the flavours balanced!

Allow the children to fling themselves into a huge helping of Thomas tracks and hide-and-seek, topped off with a garnish of Lego. Stir wildly until the effects of tiredness begin to be evident.

Finally, savour the taste of a day spent at hard play. At this point in the recipe, you should have exhausted kids and pets, which only augers well for a good nights' sleep.

Note: This type of recipe can only be attempted with friends who have known you for a rather long time. It is also advantageous to have exceptionally well-behaved kids. Which, thankfully, we did!! So I would like to dediate this concoction to Esmerelda, Ermintrude, Grown-Up-Josh, Nosey, Kelan-the Train-Driver, Quiet-and-Smiley-Hamish, and Team O'Toole. I think we made a good mix, kids! I know I enjoyed it!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love is...

Love is...having a cup of tea made for you every single morning.

Love is...being greeted with shouts of joy and hugs and stories that tumble out of little mouths, even when the separation has been but an hour.

Love is...having friends who purchase time at Endota spa, just for you, because they know that it's just the thing that will make your soul happy.

Love is...spending an hour on a massage table, and having lotions and potions administered lovingly onto your tired, neglected skin, while your husband uncomplainingly takes care of business (that business being three kids, two dogs, two cats, and a rainy morning)

Love is...sitting in a warm cafe, drinking a chai latte while your children nibble on hot cross buns and excitedly tell you everything you missed whilst blissed out at Endota.

Love is...returning the favour to your husband and letting him play golf for a strings attached (!)

Love is...a rainy day spent inside, the tumble drier going, doonas making a carpet on the floor, colouring books and crayons, jigsaw puzzles, dogs running around, cats curled up on beds, a visit from Narnie, and three little heads bent together over a mutual game amidst the chaos.

Love is...a hot lasagne for dinner on a cold day; warm baths and clean pyjamas before bed; three-year-old cuddles on the couch (when a sick Ballerina just can't sleep because of her stuffy nose...)

Love is...a cup of tea with my beloved upon his golfing return home, and sharing tales of the day (such as the restraining of the toddler, the baby and the puppy while the contents of a silica pouch spilled on the couch was cleaned up...)

Love is...the Ballerina sitting on the floor, long after the other kids are asleep, laughing fit to burst at her own drawings on the "Doodle Draw" (that's Magna Doodle to normal people)

Love is...a warm puppy fast asleep in the middle of the floor...a Daisy dog fast asleep on her bed...two cats entwined on top of the drier...a big boy snoring softly in his Buzz Lightyear jarmies...a big girl sleeping, mouth agape under her Disney Princess doona...a tiny girl curled up in a ball in her bubba sleeping bag...and a cuddle from my main man (whom I know will let me have a little lie-in tomorrow to make up for his absence today...and who will have that steaming cup of tea ready for me when I wake!!)

Love is...hoping I haven't pushed my luck!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I heart impromptu dinner parties

I love dinner parties.

Even when Gertrude and I shared a flat in our uni days, we loved having people around for a meal. Back then, we had hand-me-down furniture (all adhering to a magical brown 70's theme), mismatched glasses and crockery, and an oven that leaned. If we wanted to bake a cake that was level on top, we had to rotate the cake whilst it cooked. Usually we just ended up with a lop-sided cake.

The best dinner parties were the impromptu ones - you know, when mates would drop around for a quick visit, or to grab lecture notes, or for no reason at all. And hey presto, before you knew it, the wine was flowing, the spag bol was on the table, and the party was in full swing. (And given that these were single, childless, carefree days, we would inevitably end up at the local...again. Because in those days, there was no one to wake us up at 6am by sticking their fingers up our noses, and it was perfectly acceptable to roll into uni looking worse for fact, it was almost obligatory)

Even now that the kids dictate my social life and there are so many of us crammed into a rather small space, I still love having people over. And since my pretty lovely things that match are all in storage, I'm still using mismatched cutlery and hand-me-downs...never mind. (To be completely and utterly truthful, if I have more than four guests I have to buy plastic cutlery and wash plates in between courses...not very Nigella, I know.)

Being the school holidays, Christian and I usually attempt to catch up with some of our grown-up friends while the late nights won't completely kill us. While chatting in the kitchen yesterday morning, against a backdrop of Weetbix, puppy food and Bindi the Jungle Girl, we realised that time was against us, and if we wanted to see some of our mates before school went back we'd have to move swiftly. A couple of phone calls later, we had ourselves a prospective dinner party for six later that evening!!

I'd love to say I agonised over a menu and spent hours cooking gourmet delicacies for my friends. But that would defeat the delightful nature of an impromptu party, wouldn't it? Instead, I bunged a tray of brownies in the oven, threw two salads together and whacked some chicken in the pan. The kids provided early entertainment, Archie took over from where they left off, and I can only hope the food filled the gaps!

A big thank you to Arby Bec, Uncle Chrissy, Aunty Reghan and Uncle Derryn for putting up with the toddler entertainment (complete with ballet demonstration), puppy breath, cramped conditions, wobbly chairs, minimal cutlery, and thrown-together food. Your company made an ordinary night for us extraordinary!! I had a great time. Let's do it again soon - I'll ring you at the last minute!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hopping to the movies

You know how some activities are a bit out of reach when you have babies and small children? Like uneventful trips to the supermarket, or a car trip without the side-of-the-road wee-wees, or going to someone else's house without at least one child needing to do the most heinous thing in their nappy the world has ever seen (or smelled?)?

Personally, I think one of the most impossible things to do after having a child, is go to see a movie. Even if you leave the baby / babies / toddler / pre-schooler with a babysitter, going to a movie when you need to juggle feeding times and nap times and tanty times can be all a bit too much. I remember my first attempt at leaving Jack to see a film. He would have been a few months old, I left enough expressed milk to feed a hungry orphanage, and we timed it to the minute. Even still, I made Christian do a burnout out of the carpark because I was so desperate to get home to my breast pump (you miss one feed, ONE! And they become weapons of mammary destruction) and my (blessedly always hungry) baby. And I couldn't even tell you what the movie was, because I think I may have dozed off for a little while there in the middle...

Anyhow, the only thing more difficult than going to a movie with your husband / partner / another grown-up, is going to the movies with your children. If you recall, after one peculiarly successful visit to the movies when Mais was just a little tacker, I tried it again...with laughable results. So when my mum offered to look after the Mouse for us this arvo so we could take the big kids to the flicks, we had some serious words with them before we made the commitment.

"Now, Jack and Phoebs, last time we went to the movies, Jack lasted half an hour. If we take you today, it's for the whole movie. You sit still, there's no chatting, and we watch the whole movie, ok?" Jack sat up straight and solemnly replied in his best five-year-old-responsible voice, "I'll be good, Mumma, I promise. I won't talk and I'll sit still in my chair." Phoebalina piped up, "I'll be good, too Mumma! I's a good girl, I'll sit still, and I won't say poo-bum!" Um, that's great Phoebs. I hope you don't say that anyway?

So we left a deliriously happy Mouse with Narnie and Pa and headed off to the cinema. The kids were so excited it was ridiculous - even queueing for the tickets gave them reason to skip and kick up their heels. We took them to see 'Hop', the story of the Easter Bunny. I must say, it was really funny and a great story...and it is entirely possible that I could listen to Russell Brand being an Easter bunny all day. True to their word, the kids behaved beautifully, and asked breathlessly at the rolling of the credits if we could watch it again. Since we had seen a funny trailer for the Smurf movie which is coming out in June, I suggested we might be able to go to that during the next school holidays. "The Sniff Murphy?" chirped Phoebalina. "Yay! I want to see that!" Jack just rolled his grown-up eyes and laughed. "No, Phoebs, it's the Smoofy", he said. I think by this point Christian was lucky to be driving on the correct side of the road, he was laughing so hard.

Maisie Mouse had been on a walk in the pram with Narnie and Pa, and had promptly fallen asleep on Narnie's lap on their return home. It was a bit gorgeous to arrive back at the house to see my bubba fast asleep on my mum. Although it felt very strange to leave the house without my littlest girl (and the family felt quite depleted!), our trip to the flicks was so much simpler without a nappy bag in tow! Even better was the knowledge that our Mouse had a lovely afternoon with her grandparents, and didn't notice our absence at all. So with that in mind, I wonder how long it would be before we can nick off again?? Perhaps to something not rated G???

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jack is FIVE!

The first thing my son did this morning was careen across the loungeroom as fast as he could. "Look Mum!", he cried. "Look how much faster I can run now that I'm five!"

Jack's fifth birthday was a very happy, simple, lovely day. He was so delighted with himself, simply because he is now FIVE. If it's a huge milestone for me as a mummy, I can't imagine how big it feels to him.

We gave him a transformer truck - a really cool one, apparently (according to Daddy!). Let's just say that Optimus Prime has a loud machiney voice and does cool moving things, and shoots missiles. It basically ticks all the boxes for a five year old lad.

Jack also received a blue Wot Wot (because he had been desperate for one ever since Phoebs got a pink one for her birthday), which was promptly commandeered by the Mouse. When he unwrapped his Etch-A-Sketch, he exclaimed, "Cool! A doodle draw!!" We gently corrected him, simply so that he wouldn't be laughed out of Show And Tell next week, and then he spent a few hours happily doodling on his "Itchy Sketch". Cute.

I'd love to say that I'd planned all sorts of wonderful activities for my birthday boy today. But since we had enjoyed his party at the play centre with his school friends, my only priority for today was to spend it together. So after the presents and a few phone calls and brekkie, we packed the car and went to the park near our block of mud. The plan was to have a picnic and a play, and to let Archie and Daisy explore the leash-free area. The picnic and the play part of the plan went spectacularly - all three kids got stuck into the slide, the swings and the see-saw. And since Mais is still too little to do any of these things unassisted, I suppose I got into all of them too!!

We munched on rolls from the bakery and little red apples (or 'sports candy', as my little Sportacus likes to call it). Nothing special or extravagant. But I could tell Jack was having a fantastic day. He kept asking me if it was still his birthday. When I would say yes, he would clap his little hands and grin.

Since Archie was small enough to squeeze under the gates in the doggy area, we kept him on the lead and took him around to have a sniff. Daisy ran sedately around the park, finding interesting things to smell. Archie ran like a mad thing around my ankles and then fell into an exhausted sleep under the pram.

The kids had quiet time at home while I ran to the supermarket, and then this evening we had dinner at home with Narnie, Pa, Argie, Pippi, Miffy and Whale. Jack was absolutely spoiled rotten. A robot jumper from Argie, a sticker book from Pippi, a basketball and cricket set from Miffy and Whale, one of Pa's beautiful paintings - a dinosaur! - from Pa, a dinosaur sticker book, and then...the karaoke keyboard from Narnie and Pa. Oh, my goodness, the fun and the noise that was made sitting at that keyboard tonight! Even the Mouse managed to weasel her way onto the stool and bang out some *ahem* "tunes".

So you could say that we put a rather happy five year old boy to bed tonight. My Dad asked Jack what he had done today, and he was so excited as he told Pa all about going to the park, and having a picnic. It was such a simple day, and my boy had had the time of his life. It was so gorgeous to listen to him relate the story of his day to his Pa. And how lucky was I to spend such an important day with him?

As he had predicted, this morning he hadn't looked any different. I could still see my little baby in the birthday boy's face. But by this evening? This evening I could see glimpses of the boy he will become. And it's all beautiful. And no matter how big he gets, he'll still be my boy. Happy fifth birthday, Jack.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Five Tomorrow

My beautiful, funny, ridiculous son, who loves to rhyme silly nonsense words and make rockets out of old Weetbix boxes, is five years old tomorrow. At eighteen minutes past three in the morning, to be precise. It took me twenty hours, and considerable assistance to take him out of my body. Thankfully, the doctors and midwives left the shining thread that connects his heart and mine intact.

When I was pregnant with my boy, everything was new. He was my first baby, my first pregnancy, my first morning sickness, my first strawberry Big M craving, my first Braxton Hicks, my first feeling the baby kicking, my first threatened premature labour, my first completely and utterly absorbing, hungry love.

After the doctors managed to halt labour at 30 weeks, I spent the next 8 weeks on the couch, cooking my little bun. Every time I was on my feet too long, the contractions would begin back to my couch I would go. I knew at the time it would be the last chance for a long time to sit and do nothing. I had no idea, though, how right I was!!

Due to ongoing complications, my induction began at 7am on April 14th. Like so many first-time mums, I expected to deliver naturally. I wanted to deliver naturally. A caesarean was not in my birth plan. As far as pain relief went, well...I was open-minded. Thankfully. Each to their own, and all that, but hindsight is a marvellous thing. I laboured beautifully, without pain relief, for about seven hours. When the midwife examined me in the early afternoon and announced I was two centimeters dilated, I was quite affronted. I had been two centimetres for weeks!!!! And given that they discovered at this point that Jack was posterior, I knew we were in for a rough ride.

After an hour in the shower, I asked for pethidine...and then for an epidural. I so desperately wanted to do without the drugs, but I had walked, rocked, breathed, showered, been massaged, joked, listened to music, and ommmmmmed my way through nearly a whole day. At this time the midwives told me I was in for at least another ten hours of labour. I think anyone who has given birth would understand my state of mind at this point!! The anaethestist apparently had been told an approximate ETA for Jack, as he gave me an epidural that eventually wore off. When he returned to find me panting through the contractions, with no sign of an emerging baby, he gave me a second epidural...which blessedly remained intact until the next day.

I was unaware of the panic which preceded Jack's birth. All I remember in the hour before we were scuttled into the operating theatre, was the obstetrician telling me I had tried very hard, but since I had been pushing for nearly five hours, it was time to let him help. I didn't want him to help; this was my baby. I had made him. I already loved him. This was my job. What we weren't to know, was that I would never be able to push a baby out. I am, in medically-unsavvy terms, built the wrong way on the inside. No baby would ever be born alive, no matter how long or hard I pushed. So after failed forceps, and five failed tries with the ventouse, we admitted defeat. And thankfully, blessedly, and finally, the doctors managed to save my baby by delivering him safely via scalpel. (Something I struggled with for years, until one day I had an epiphany. I wanted a natural birth. I did everything I could. I failed, and it wasn't my fault. And my son was born alive. End of story.)

Jack Albert Frederick O'Toole was born at 3.18am on the fifteenth of April, 2006. He weighed 8lb 8oz, and was 51.5cm long. And he was, and is, completely perfect. I was absolutely flabbergasted that my body could make such a perfect baby. His heart beat all by itself. His eyes opened and closed. His lungs worked. His fingers and toes and legs and arms all moved and flailed around, with muscles under the skin that I had made. And when I spoke to him, when they brought him to my face all wrapped up in a hospital bunny rug, he stopped crying. And opened two puffy, squinty little eyes, and looked at me. And we recognised each other.

And when the enormous wound on the back of head (from the ventouse, that essentially scalped him) healed, and the jaundice went away, and he discovered that breastfeeding every two hours was a marvellous caper, Jack was a fantastic baby. Happy, alert, sociable, cuddly. Jowls that hung down to his shoulders, so chubby was he. And then he was a gorgeous toddler, with curly blondey-red hair, and an obsession with Thomas the Tank and his baby sister Phoebe (or Fifi, as he dubbed her). And then he was a chatty three year old, who sang and danced and went everywhere with his yellow Wiggles guitar. And then he was a leggy, sweet-faced four year old who loved his second baby sister, went to kinder and learned big boys games like chasing baddies, and made endless rockets with blue fire out of cardboard cylinders and old bottles.

And now?

Now he is a beautiful boy, who will be five tomorrow. When we were in the car today, he said, "Mumma, I'm so incited about my birthday tomorrow (and he clenched his fists and wiggled them with "incitement") When I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll be five. But (and with this, he looked down and gestured at himself), I won't look any bigger, ok? I'll still look like this. But I'll be five."

Oh, my son. No, you won't look any different. When you wake up in the morning, and I watch you open your presents and share your glee with your little sisters, who idolise you, I will see the same thing I always see when I look at you. My firstborn baby, with velvety skin, enormous blue eyes, fists clenched tight under the bunny rug, and a baldy head. Somehow, the little bubba I gave birth to five years ago has morphed into a sweet, cheeky, long-legged, clear-eyed boy's boy. But he'll always be my 8lb bundle of joy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


This is Archie.

Notice how he is asleep?

Apparently, he is an excellent sleeper. During the day time.

Last night, he decided that I was the puppy love of his life, and his little puppy heart couldn't take the pain of separation. So he made the biggest puppy noise I have ever heard a puppy make in the history of puppies. For three hours.

Which is how he ended up in a crate, in my bedroom, next to my bed. With my hand next to his nose, so he could stop hyperventilating and GO TO SLEEP.

We managed four and a half broken hours of shut-eye last night, punctuated with wee-wees outside on the grass, in the rain. I was very proud. He is a very fast whizzer when it's cold and rainy.

He must have been wrecked after last night, because he has slept nearly all day today. Little bugger. I didn't have that luxury. All I could do was solider on, and then marvel at his cuteness when he graced us with his consciousness.

I tried valiantly to take a photo of his face, but the camera was very lick-able, and every time I approached him he tried to kiss both me and the lens. Given that he had been an excellent helper earlier in the day, and had 'cleaned' out the cat litter tray for me, I didn't really want a kiss. Can you blame me?

So I took a photo of the little blighter sleeping. Who would have thought someone so angelic-looking could be such a devil at bedtime? (Oh, wait. You've met my kids, right? Yep.)

And do you know what? I know he'll probably keep me up again tonight. Being eight weeks old, it's inevitable, really. And he'll probably do a few more whizzes on the carpet. Possibly a poop. Scratch the door. Chew the carpet. You can't blame the poor thing - after all, he's just copying the kids.

I suppose it's obvious, but I'll say it anyway - I am completely and utterly in love with adorable, addictive, amazing Archie. One wag of his skinny little puppy tail, and I'm mush. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And they call it puppy love

There is a bundle of love fast asleep under my dining room table. (I say dining room table for lack of a better term...I probably should call it my only table...or the table that we eat / work / colour in / make Lego on...or the table in the middle of our living space. Anyway.)

He is black and white, and soft, and a big sook. He is eight weeks old. He cries when I leave the room. His name is Archie. And he is a little, little, parcel of love.

We went to see our beautiful friends, Anna and Adam, last night. As always, the kids had a ball playing together, and Christian and I enjoyed a lovely evening. When we left them, with three tired and happy kids in the back seat of the car, we took a piece of their family home to join ours. Archie rode in my lap all the way home, crying and wriggling and whining. I must admit I was bit concerned about the night ahead of us, but having had three puppies before Archie, I knew it was to be expected.

He fell asleep on my feet while I fed Maisie, and stayed that way when I put him in his brand-new bed in the bathroom. I listened with one ear all night, waiting for the crying to begin. When he eventually began to whimper, it was 6am - hardly an unreasonable time for a puppy to want to play!

By 6.05am, I had Jack, Phoebe, Maisie, Daisy and Archie in the loungeroom. To be honest, at this point I was wondering exactly where I was going to put everyone. Eventually, I boxed Maisie into the corner with all the toys behind an over-turned chair, put the gate up across the kitchen so that Archie couldn't go too far, and gave Jack and Phoebe a quick tutorial on "Things Archie Isn't Allowed To Chew or Swallow". It wasn't very successful.

Poor old Arch was looking a bit lost by this stage. He'd eaten his brekkie, done a poo in the corner, attempted to eat most of Maisie's toys and had them removed from his clutches, and couldn't find his mum. So he sat down on the floor and cried. The only thing that would stop the caterwauling was for me to sit with him. Which meant I sat on the floor for about an hour, with Archie, Daisy, Jack and Maisie on top of me. At least I was warm.

Throughout the course of the day, my new baby has pounced on a tennis ball, run around the garden, and met a cat for the first time (I think it went like this: "Oh hello! You're a funny looking dog!". To which Ernie replied with a swear word. When Archie persisted in being friendly, Ernie bopped him soundly on the head and stalked away. Archie has not bothered the strange-looking orange dog since.) He has eaten all of his dinner, spread most of it across the kitchen floor, had lots of little naps in his new bed with his head flopping on the floor, investigated beetles, and tried out his bark on Daisy.

To her credit, Daisy has been very patient and kind to the newbie. She has sighed, a lot. But generally speaking I think she's quite happy to have some doggy company - she just wishes he'd pipe down a bit. Bella was initially horrified that we had expanded the family...and remains that way.

And right now, Archie is crying and howling as though his legs have been amputated, because it is bedtime and he has no intention of going to sleep. I'm not quite sure how much shut-eye I will get tonight...I can only pray the kids sleep through the hullabaloo, because this is one baby I refuse to breastfeed to sleep!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Choose Happy

I spent the day with my high school gang today, celebrating a double birthday. It's been years since Debs and Kez have been in the same state, let alone the same place on their birthdays, so we were all really looking forward to getting together. How ironic that poor old Debs had to miss her own shin-dig thanks to a bout of gastro. We missed you, honey! Get better soon - I need a coffee with you! xxx

So, despite the absence of a dearly-loved birthday girl, the rest of us had a rather nice day at the Abbotsford Convent, eating delish food and enjoying a chat in between showers of rain. The Mouse didn't care that it was raining - she was perfecting her cheeky grin whenever any of the other little girls came near. The kids behaved beautifully, the grown-ups (and I use that term VERY loosely!!) caught up on the goss, and all-in-all I had a really relaxing afternoon. (Christian, Jack and Phoebs had gone to their swimming lessons and then spent the afternoon preparing the back yard for a special I managed not only to have my lunch made for me, but I missed out on the work at home. Score!) I also ran into the beautiful Brooke, which was a lovely surprise - I was so glad she came over to say hello.

It's not often I get the chance to see my friends all at once, let alone have nothing to do but chat, drink tea and dodge passing showers. And it occurred to me today, sitting amongst these wonderful people whom I have known for over 20 years, how lucky we were. We have all endured ups and downs. There have been weddings, funerals, births, deaths, divorces, illnesses, travel, new houses, old houses, poverty and riches. And yet, here we were, all of us happy just to sit in each other's company (and occasionally run after a stray child or two) for an afternoon.

What I am trying to say, exceptionally badly, is that today my friends inspired me to look at all that is good in my life. I suppose I had already begun to do this, after feeling not quite myself for a while. We have all gone through fantastic times, and times we would rather forget. And I realised that lately, I have begun to do certain things a little differently. Such as playing all afternoon instead of doing housework. Or refusing to worry about things that cannot be influenced not matter how much I stress about them. Or choosing to do things, simply because it is something I wish to enjoy, or do, or watch my children doing.

I have decided to grab me some happy.

I'm taking every chance I can to turn a negative into a positive. On a daily basis, strangers feel compelled to tell me that I have my hands full with so many young children. Yes, I reply. Isn't it wonderful? I have friends who can't have children at all. Aren't I so very lucky to have them?

Well-meaning people ask how I feel when I drive past our block of mud, and see that another day has passed without any work to begin construction on our house. It's a bit frustrating, it's true. But we have a perfectly lovely rented roof over our heads in the meantime, and we aren't paying an astronomical mortgage. Which means that my status as a stay-at-home mum can continue for the foreseeable future. Which is my idea of paradise!!

I used to have a house that stayed tidy unless I messed it up; a pantry that did not empty as though via osmosis; and a body that enjoyed plenty of sleep and exercise. My clothes were not adorned by trails of snot, and I did not have a graduate diploma in cleaning up vomit. And I am so, so grateful not to have that life anymore!! Now I have small people who create havoc wherever they go and eat more food than is humanly decent; a baby who specialises in climbing, destruction, and the persecution of pets; and my body is used only to cuddle, comfort, and prepare sandwiches. Oh, and drive.

I live in a constant cycle of mess, noise, strange smells and conundrums. And I wouldn't change it for the world. So adamant am I that I prefer a colourful life, that I have decided to add to the chaos. Tomorrow, I will be bringing home another new baby. He is absolutely perfect. His name is Archie, he is a black and white border collie pup, and already I loves him to bits. You would be stunned to hear the number of people who have expressed a negative opinion about my decision to adopt another pet. Does it worry me? Not a jot.

I choose happy.

When we bring Archie home tomorrow, our family will include three kids, two dogs and two cats. Most likely he will cry in the night (as will the Mouse), wee on the floor (as will the Mouse), eat everything in sight (as will the kids), and jump on my lap for cuddles (as will everyone, including Christian). And I can't wait. When you decide to grab some happy, it is inevitable that you will also grab some messy, and some noisy too. But wouldn't you rather grab the happy and all the other bits that go with it than stick with a side order of boring? Wouldn't you rather bring a puppy home who will be a part of the family, who will run around the park with the kids, teach them patience and responsibility, and feel love, than be so afraid of the noise and the mess that you miss out on it all? I would.

I choose happy.

Looking at my friends today, I think they've chosen happy too. We've been to all corners of the world, seen many different things, and come back to each other. And the calm, content afternoon we spent together was just lovely. So thanks, peeps. You're all part of my happy. I'll just try and keep the messy / noisy bits at home.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Buzz Lightyear's Fifth Birthday Party

Do you remember your fifth birthday party? I do. It was a gorgeously sunny afternoon. All of my friends from Prep came to my house straight after school. My Dad had put the kitchen table in the backyard, and my Mum had spent all day making yummy party food. My birthday cake was chocolate with Smarties on top, embedded in the chocolate icing. There's photos of me in my school uniform, with all my friends around our old Formica table, all of us wearing those shiny party masks and grinning through mouthfuls of chocolate crackle.

It was the first birthday party that I remembered properly, and even now, nearly 30 years later, I can still remember how special I felt that day. My mum had organised party games, and there was lots of running around and general mayhem. And all because I had turned five.

We have celebrated four of Jack's birthdays, three of Phoebalina's, and one of the Mouse's. I'm not one of those mums who hires jumping castles and face-painting people for a first birthday party...let's just say I'm more of a homemade-cake-and-balloons-and-daggy-games-type parent. And let's face it - the first few birthdays are celebrated so that the family can get together to watch the birthday baby smear cake all over their mush. Any memories of the event that the child may have are purely from the numerous photos taken on the day (in preparation for embarrassment at the 21st, if we're being totally honest...)

With Jack's fifth birthday, I knew that there was about to be a shift in the birthday vibrations. Not only would he definitely remember this birthday, but it would be his first after beginning school, and therefore, his first after branching away from me in a social sense. Every other party we have held has involved the children of my friends - you know, kids from mother's group, or the kids of the colleagues I socialise with, or kids of my school friends. Not necessarily friends that my children went out and chose for themselves.

This year, being Jack's first year at school, I decided it was important for him to invite the people he played with at school. Rather than inviting the entire class, I asked Jack whom he would like to invite to his party. And he thought about it for a whole day before giving me his list. These were the children he liked, and played with, and wanted to have his birthday celebration with. (And we kept it to twelve for two reasons: one, our money tree isn't growing leaves anymore, and two, don't you think twelve five year olds in any one place is more than enough??) I didn't extend the party beyond Jack's school friends this year, simply because I wanted to focus on strengthening his new friendships with the peers he will share a classroom with for the remainder of the year.

And so, today we went to a local play centre for birthday merriment with Jack, Phoebs and Mais, and a really lovely bunch of Jack's mates, all decked out in fancy dress. Although he is not five until next week, I thought it would be better to have the party before the school holidays took hold. So last night I stayed up late icing and decorating cupcakes (spiders and butterflies made out of lollies...I drew the line at the other creepy crawlies in the cake decorating book!!) Thankfully the play centre took care of everything else, so all we had to do today was front up and par-tay!

Jack went decked out in his new Buzz Lightyear cossie; Phoebalicious was a delicious red "Twinkabelle", and the Mouse was a little pale pink ballerina, tottering around in her tiny tutu. I barely saw Jack, as he and his cronies ran and ran and ran and ran, and only stopped briefly to cram some party food in their gobs before running away again. The cupcakes were demolished (seriously, two hours to ice and decorate, and three minutes to inhale? Come on!) after a heartily bellowed rendition of 'Happy Birthday', and the careening around recommenced.

After two hours, a hot and sweaty Buzz bade his guests goodbye (actually, I was really proud of Jack's manners when the kids were leaving - is this what being five is all about??), and we packed the car with three exhausted kids and a bootload of pressies. When we arrived home and Jack was stripped down to his socks and undies, he wrapped his bony little arms around my neck and said, "Thank you for my birthday party Mumma. You're the best mum in the world, and the best cake-cooker." And then he returned to constructing his Lego police van (complete with the baddie in the back of the divvy van and the coffee cup next to the police man joke!! All that was missing were the donuts...)

As today was not Jack's actual birthday, I was able to enjoy it without becoming even remotely sentimental. However, come Thursday, which is the anniversary of my 20-hour-long labour, I know I will be a hopeless case remembering the excitement about meeting my first baby, and my fruitless efforts to get him out. And on Friday, I know I will be filled with wonder at my very grown-up son, who has amazed me every day for five years.

My fifth birthday party was wonderful because I felt loved and special. I can only hope that my son remembers his own fifth party with the same feelings. I know that the thing I will remember from Jack's fifth birthday party is his beaming little face, and the arms that hugged my neck so tightly afterwards. It was a gorgeous day for a gorgeous boy. The only downside to the party is that the cake was so popular there aren't any leftover spiders or butterflies to have with a cuppa right now...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Lost Week (or, The Day Maisie Learned To Walk)

Wow. Talk about remiss. I do so desperately hope you haven't gone and found someone else to have a coffee with while I have been otherwise engaged....???? I can assure you, I have missed you all terribly, and my bloggy fingers have been itching all week. However, all will be revealed (and with any luck, you'll forgive me!) It might take a while, but I shall explain everything.


I think we spoke last on Thursday, before the fete?? Yes?? So considering the week I have just had, perhaps it would be better if I paraphrased somewhat...

Things I have Learned / Done / Loved / Laughed At This Week:

1. The School Fete
It was awesome fun!!!! Lots and lots of squealy rides, sausages in bread, hundreds of kids all in the same school uniform running highlight was watching the Ballerina drive a go-kart into the inflatable barricade (over, and over again...), all the time concentrating so hard on her driving there was a little furrow between her brows. We will have no concerns at all when Phoebe gets her licence. She drives like her great-grandmother.

2. Friday night dinner with my family
My beautiful brother Josh, who lives very far away in Brisbane, was visiting last weekend with his gorgeous girlfriend. They don't come down very often, and when they do, there's always a thousand people to catch up with! So having Joshie for a whole night was a bit spesh. To mark this occasion, my mum frantically organised a family dinner at the local Thai restaurant. So after the fete we deposited the kids in their jarmies, left them with Grandma, and met my parents, Argie, my brother and sister and their partners, and had a fabulous family dinner. Good food? Check. Great company? Check? Oodles of Dad jokes? Check!

3. Open Day at Ballet
Saturday morning saw us at our local hall, bright and early, to sit and watch Phoebs and Jack do their thing at ballet lessons. You know how much I love ballet - well, imagine watching your small daughter point her toes and pretend to be a fairy!! Too cute. Phoebe delights in her ballet so much it makes my heart hurt just to watch her. And she's still little enough to be adorable when every move is awkward and leggy, like a colt trying to get used to standing up. Watching Jack move to the music and emulate his teacher, I was struck by how grown-up he has become. All of a sudden, I'm not leaning over him, holding his hand and helping him do the dance moves...he's big enough to learn the choreographed moves to "The Cat In The Hat" all by himself, and perform them for an audience. Wow. Isn't it funny how you are so proud when your child learns to do something all by themselves, and yet at the same time a tiny bit of you is heartbroken at the thought of yet another step away from babyhood? Or is that just me? (Not that I want my kids to be babies forever. I suppose it's the paradox of motherhood that you strive for independent, resilient children, while simultaneously dreading the day they no longer need you.)

4. The New Pram
On Saturday I purchased a new pram. Now, before you remind me that my last child is nearly walking, etc., etc., my old pram died, and I needed a new one. Ok? After waiting for 20 minutes for service in Baby Bunting, I walked out. Which paid off in the end, because Target were having a sale and I got a fantabulous pram uber-cheap. Even better than that, the pram came in a large box, which provided our three kids with entertainment for approximately four hours on Saturday afternoon. Even the Mouse!! Once Maisie discovered she could climb inside the box as well as the other kids, over, my friends. The Mouse was in the house.

5. The Templar Knight
You might be wondering why I had not blogged by this point. Well. After hearing that my darling husband had a "Medieval Day" at school on Monday, and he needed a costume, I spent Saturday and Sunday nights sewing a tunic and cloak to make my husband into Sir Christian. Did I mention my sewing machine is in storage? So I sewed that costume by hand, including the red cross made of felt on the chest plate. And I was rather proud of my efforts, because he looked pretty spiffy all decked out on Monday morning!! (And just for the record, I reckon this proves how much I love him...and earns me some serious shoe-money at the same time!)

6. Snotty, sneezy, death-warmed-up
After sitting up reeeeaaaalllllyyyyyy late hemming and embroidering and pricking my finger over the weekend, I woke up on Monday with a rather stinky cold. So I dragged myself through the day, dragged myself through tutoring on Monday night, and dragged myself home to bed. No blog. (Blogging withdrawal??? Oh yes indeedy!!)

7. Playing with Aunty Tan
Even though I felt pretty average on Tuesday, the girls and I had a playdate with Aunty Tan and her kids. Lunch with Tan is always lovely - she is an amazing cook and a great friend. It is too easy to sit with her for several hours and not notice the passing of time! The kids played outside in the sun, we had coffees and fetched hats and drinks of water and wiped noses and bottoms, and it was nice not to have to do it alone. Thanks Tan!!

8. Bleurgh
Wednesday? Sick as a dog. Spent the morning watching Jack's Easter bonnet parade at school - the school was awash with hat-confectionery and excited kiddies. Jack looked suitably adorable in his "bonnet", smiling and waving at me from the little line of trotting Preppies. When the excitement was all over, I took the girls home and let my guard down. The afternoon was a blur. Chattering three year old. Teetering one year old. Too much unfolded washing. Sneezing. Bleurgh.

9. Rock 'n' Roll Little Ossie
Last night I squeezed Jack into an appointment at the hairdresser's (yep, this mummy forgot about phot day until the last minute!!) He was so impressed with his 'do, that he didn't want to sleep on it in case he flattened it. So we promised him that he could spike it back up with Daddy's wax this morning for the photos. And when his hair was gorgeous, and we were on our way to school, Jack piped up from the back seat of the car and said, "Mum! I'm like a rock'n'roll Little Ossie with my hair, aren't I?" Oh yes, sweetie. Especially the way you bop along to Gold 104.

10. Maisie's Milestone
And today? Today was a momentous, amazing, happy, (and inwardly teary) day. Because today, my baby, my Mouse, took her first stumbly, tottery steps. She had been practicing all week - we'd moved beyond cruising around the furniture and had progressed to standing up in the middle of the floor, giggling hysterically and plopping down on the tushie. And after she had used a toy box to climb on top of the TV cabinet (Jesus, Mary and Joseph, my heart nearly stopped, I can tell you!!), and after she had danced and fallen and jigged and fallen, she stood up on her bandy little legs, and walked across the room. And then spent the next eight hours practicing!! It's funny, apparently, this walking business. It must be. Maisie didn't stop laughing all day.

And so now, I am sitting here when I should be in bed, sleeping my cold away. Instead, I am scratching my bloggy itch because I can't drive around writing imaginary blogs in my head anymore. My last baby discovered walking today, which means that very soon, crawling will be a thing of the past. In the blink of an eye, the Mouse will be a fully-fledged toddler, and our days with a baby in the house will be over. On Friday night, Sonia, my brother's girlfriend, gave me some very sage advice. I had been telling her how I would keep having babies forever if I could, and how I was trying to hold onto to Maisie's babyhood. And beautiful Sonia told me that although I would be sad to lose my 'little' babies, there was no way I could stay sad when there was so much to look forward to. She said, "Your kids will keep you so busy doing wonderful things that you won't have time to be sad. No, they won't be tiny weeny babies again. But think of all the amazing things that are coming. Think of all that is ahead of you. There's no way you can be sad, when you have such amazing kids." How right she is.