Monday, May 30, 2011

If Supporting the Carbon Tax Makes Me a Hippy, Then Bring Me Some Mung Beans

Now. The question, my friends, is do I want to blog about Maisie's newest circus trick of waking at 5am and yelling until the entire household is up? It would be a safe, quick, harmless post.

Or do I want to address the contentious elephant in the room? The great big enormous topic that is dominating the media, and will only get bigger and more contentious over time? The topic I know I cannot cover properly in a blog post, yet one which is too important to ignore?

Ok. The contentious topic it is. Twist my arm, why don't you?

Have you seen or heard the media furore about "Carbon Cate" and her involvement in the new advertisement about the carbon tax? Cate Blanchett, Michael Caton, and several other volunteers have filmed an ad to "say yes to cutting carbon pollution". Contrary to immediate responses, they were not paid to do this. It was not a tax-payer-funded venture. And although some people are very mad at the wealthy Ms. Blanchett telling ordinary households that rising energy costs are worth it, she's got a point.

Yes, energy bills with a carbon tax would be heinous. Yes, the cost of living is already terribly high. Yes, most Australian families are feeling the pinch. Some more than others - have you noticed how many houses have got caravans in their front yards now? I personally know more than a few people who have had to sell their homes, just to survive. Christian and I are only just holding our heads above water (and if we're being completely honest, our chins are under the water line, and our mouths are just starting to get wet...) But at what point does the economy cease to matter?

Normally, I'd avoid a topic associated with the economy like the plague. I don't "do" the economy. (Christian is most likely nodding his head vigorously at this point. Sorry, honey. I try.) I don't like to discuss things unless I understand them enough to sound half intelligent. Which is why I avoid conversations about politics, cars, cricket, and 'My Kitchen Rules'.

But talking about sustainability? That I can do. When I began my Masters degree in 2005, I had no idea how important it would become to me. I studied Science and Environmental Education, and quickly became engrossed in literature regarding the obsolete environmental education curriculum that was still being taught (occasionally) in schools. What was clear from my reading, was that our children should be receiving compulsory education in sustainability - above every other subject area in school, perhaps the only exception to that being literacy.

The problem was, children usually don't learn things in school unless the grown-ups lead them in the right direction (and ours being such a crowded curriculum, there's precious little time for self-directed topic choice - are you hearing me?) And since the problems of climate change, environmental degradation, endangered species, serious pollution and living in a sustainable manner weren't really considered widely one or two generations ago, there aren't enough adults around with enough knowledge to teach our children properly.

What hope do we have? There are still many *ahem* grown-ups who don't believe in climate change. Um, ok. So how's that working out for you, having your head buried in the sand? Is it sandy?

The fact of the matter is, the extent of damage done to our planet by humans is already so dire, much of it is irreversible. I read one paper by UNESCO that said something that scares me still. Unless Western civilisation abandons the idea of an economy, and completely changes all forms of industry to sustainable methods, the demise of the planet is inevitable. Any decisions made to "help" the environment based on the dollar are useless.

And it's not an impossible task. People have been working on developing sustainable practices in industry for years, ready to implement change when the funds were provided. We have cars that can run on hydrogen, and produce only water as a by-product. Our entire society could have energy provided by clean, sustainable sources. But just as composting your veggie scraps is a personal choice, most of Western consumption is left to the general population. Which means that the cheapest, easiest options are generally chosen. And we can't blame people for that - they're just trying to live happy (or at least average) lives.

Would there be job losses in some industries under a carbon tax? Yep. But there would be new jobs, in newer industries. So in order to bring this change about, there would need to be some differences in the training options available to those in the relevant areas. Would moving to renewable energy cost money? Yes. If we don't move to renewable energy, will the planet eventually (and sooner than we think) die, leaving the human race without a habitat? Yes. So really, putting our recycling bins out every fortnight and feeling as though we've done our bit for the environment ain't going to cut it.

If the world's population was told that there was no choice, that from tomorrow onward, all fruit and vegetables for personal use would need to be home-grown; that heating, cooling and light within the home must be from a sustainable source of energy; that transport must be completed on foot, on bike or in a vehicle run on clean energy; that every piece of waste from the home must be reused or recycled; and that any items purchased from a shop would be from a local source, then people would grumble and argue, and then they would do it. Because if there was no choice, that would be the end of the argument.

The point of the carbon tax, is that very soon, there will be no choice. If we continue to live the way we do, our planet will give up. Ecological health will be a thing of the past, the air will be impossible to breath, and life for humans will be over. Not to be dramatic or anything. The introduction of the carbon tax is an unpopular decision, without a doubt. However, as far as I'm concerned, it's only the beginning. Wait until the standard curriculum is scrapped in schools across the world, in order to introduce teaching methods for sustainable living. Now that's something I want to be around for.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thank you, Aunty Sange!

Dear Aunty Sange,

We wanted to write you a letter to say thank you for the very, very yummy dinner you made for us tonight.

We were really excited when Mummy said you were coming around, because we thought James and Lauren were coming for dinner. Instead, it was just boring old Mum and Dad. And messy Maisie.

Mummy was a bit woolly-headed when you arrived, because she had just taken some of her magic lollies. Daddy won't let us eat Mummy's special white lollies. He puts them way up high so we can't reach them. We reminded Daddy that it's nice to share, but he still wouldn't let us have them.

After you had gone home, Mummy lay down on the couch and closed her eyes. We made sure she was ok by taking it in turns to pat her, peek under her eyelids and whisper in her ears. After a while, Daddy made us get in the bath. He kept muttering things like, "Leave your poor mother alone." She's not poor. We opened her purse and found lots of little silver coins in it. We liked them.

While we were in the bath and Mummy was resting, Daddy put your lovely dinner in the oven and warmed it up. Ernie, Bella, Daisy and Archie all tried to make Daddy give them some. They said it smelled delicious! Daddy put them all outside.

We all sat up at the table together for our tea. Mummy hadn't eaten anything since breakfast time, but she really enjoyed your dinner. Daddy smiled a lot. Jack had two helpings, and asked for a third. Phoebe ate her whole dinner in five minutes flat - a land speed record for her! And Maisie ate the lot, without even keeping some to rub in her hair. She banged her spoon in the empty bowl and wanted more!

Apart from the fact that your shepherd's pie and salad were scrumdidiliumptious, what you did for our mum and dad today was really, really kind. Daddy has been so busy while Mummy has been sick. It was so nice to have them sit with us tonight and eat a relaxed meal. And it was an everyday food too! It takes a special friend to do something like that, and we hope you know how much it was appreciated.

Mummy said to tell you, that if you want to bring Lauren and James over for a play in a week or so, she'll make something yummy for afternoon tea. It won't come close to your gourmet dinner, but the love will be there!!

Thank you, Aunty Sange. We love you!

Lots of love from Jack, Phoebe and Maisie Mouse (and a very, very grateful Mummy and Daddy) xxxxxx

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Irony Would Kill You

The irony would kill you.

How many mothers (or fathers) do you know who are sleep deprived? (insert insane laughter here).

How many parents would give their eye teeth (or a considerable wad of cash) for the chance to sit, unhindered, in the quiet, with nary a Weetbixed finger in sight, and read a book - and not just any book - but a book written for grown-ups?????

How many of you out there would cheerfully hand over the keys to your soul for a few days of "rest"? Let me define "resting" here for you. I'm not talking about how when you've got a death-warmed-up cold and you still need to run the household and do all your normal jobs, and a 'rest' is that you make baked beans for dinner instead of your usual gourmet offerings. No, no, no. I'm talking about an actual resting period - when you are not expected to lift a finger. Not to do anything. When it is perfectly acceptable, nay, expected, that you will lie on the couch and watch the proceedings going on around you, regardless of the chaos that may ensue.

I mean, come on. No one has a cotton-picking clue about exhaustion until they're a parent. You can read all the books you like, talk to other parents, go to ante-natal classes, hang out with other people's offspring...but nothing, absolutely NOTHING prepares you for the bone-numbing, ongoing, eye-watering level of sleep deprivation that kicks in when your firstborn is roughly four days old, and continues until...well...

And how could you possibly know that the hours in your day would simply evaporate once the baby capsule becomes permanent in your car? That the idea of simply having a two-minute shower would seem ludicrous, let alone actually reading a page in the newspaper. What about reading a book, I hear you ask? You could read a book once they were asleep, right? I suppose in theory, you could. That's assuming that the baby/toddler/child actually went to sleep, and that you had no other housework or cleaning up to do (fat chance!), and that you were still conscious enough to concentrate on the plot of a book. Which is unlikely, after five hours of broken sleep the previous night.

So I think I've made my point pretty clear here. After your children grace your life with their delightful presence, there's precious little time to yourself, and even less time to devote to sleep. (But since we love them so much, and realise how lucky we are to have them, we don't bitch. Much. *ahem*)

This is where the irony steps in.

Since Wednesday, I have been under the influence of some pretty heavy painkillers, which have at the very least left me feeling as though the chardy bottle is half empty (and I probably didn't mention the other day, that on the way into theatre, the pre-meds had possibly forced me to ask the anaethestist for 80's music for the party...). This dopey-headedness, combined with instructions not to lift anything heavy, and to sleep (or "rest") when tired, have led me to spend some amazingly sloth-like days this week. There have been many jokes about my 'little holiday', and milking my time on the couch.

As I have mentioned before, my lovely husband has been taking care of everything around the house during my convalescence. In his absence, my mum and Gertrude came in to take turns caring for me. So I literally have not lifted a finger since Wednesday. And now that I am turning the corner, and have the pain pretty much under control, I am feeling much better. Wouldn't you feel alright with the world if you hadn't set foot in Woolworths with a toddler, a three year old and a school boy for a week?

This afternoon, Christian went to puppy school for me, and I was waiting for my mum and Argie to come over. There wasn't anything for me to worry about, or clean up, and I was sitting on the couch watching the kids play. And it occurred to me that I was frustrated. Because I could not jump up off the seat and chase my kids. I couldn't get involved in their games, beyond sitting on the floor - and even then, I had to be wary of the Mouse launching herself on me. I couldn't take them outside. I couldn't go around the block with Archie, who was desperately seeking my attention through the window. I couldn't even stand on my feet long enough to cook them a decent meal.

Here I was, forced to be a lady of supposed leisure, and all I wanted to do was be back to normal. And in a few days, I suppose I will be. With any luck I'll be off the analgesics in a day or so, and back into the school run, the supermarketing, the puppy walks, the backyard clean-ups, the washing and ironing and folding that never stops, the vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, cooking dinners that may or may not make my son oh-so-politely feel the need to vomit. And without question, I will be back into feeling tired a lot of the time, and wishing someone would just let me eat my lunch sitting down, just for once.

But do you know what? That's what I'm looking forward to. I had this surgery to make me healthier. And let's face it, the bedrest and the enforced hiatus from housework was very much appreciated!! But if I was given the choice between resting non-participation in my kids' lives, and rather tired active participation, I know what I'd choose. Give me running, jumping, leaping exhaustion alongside my sprogs any day of the week. time I'm on enforced bedrest, do you think it could be while I'm healthy, and able to enjoy it? Say, a week in a tropical destination, with my beloved, with housekeeping to take care of the room every day while I'm at the beach....and maybe throw in a few umbrella drinks. I reckon they're better than Panadeine for that nice little buzz.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sir Christian, King of Husbands

Just a quick little post tonight - not my usual style, I know! But thanks to the ongoing effects of the lovely numb-numb drugs I am still on, my brain is a teeeeeny bit foggy. Goodness knows what blather I shall write!

But I couldn't let today pass without saying thank you.

Thank you to the wonderful nurses, surgeons, and anaesthetists at Rosebud hospital, who cared for me so beautifully yesterday. Even though the pain was incredible, it was inflicted with kindness!!! (and for good reason, and with lots of drugs at the ready. And that magic hot-air blower that went under my blankets to prevent hypothermia was awesome!!) And this time, it only took two goes to get the canula in (as opposed to eight). Everyone's a winner!

Thank you to my gorgeous family and friends (including my rather lovely bloggy friends!) for all of your messages of love. I loves youse all too.

Thank you to my mumma, who drove me to hospital in the cold, dark morning, and who also brought my big kids home safely after school. Thanks to you, they never knew where I was - but they thought their day was pretty special!! Thank you to my MIL Bridget, for keeping the Mouse so happy that she didn't miss her mummy until 6:30 this morning. That's some effort!!!!

But the biggest thank you of all goes to my beloved. My darling husband got all three kids ready for the day yesterday morning, deflecting any worries about their absent mum. He took the Mouse to Grandma's, dropped Phoebalina at kinder, steered Jack into his classroom, and arrived at the hospital in time to sit in the waiting room while I was in surgery. He brought me home, tucked me up, and since yesterday has taken care of everything. If I needed some pain relief, he gave it to me. If I wanted another blanket, or a hot water bottle, or a hug, he brought it to me. I had cups of tea made before I even knew I wanted them. He cooked dinner, cleaned the house, did the washing, took Jack to school, played with the girls, entertained a grumpy Mouse in the highchair whilst cleaning the kitchen. And all the while, I stayed in bed, and nursed my sore tummy. I can't remember the last time I sat still for so long, without doing ANYTHING. Not even after birth was I this sedentary.

Tomorrow, my boy is back to work, and my mum is taking over the school run duties for me (because I just don't think driving while drugged is a good look, do you??) Not only that, but Gertrude is flying down from Queensland to spend the day with me. Can you believe it??? I can't!!! How loved do I feel right now? How many best friends would fly across three states to see a girlfriend who can't even get out of her jarmies for the occasion? I told her if surgery was all it took to get her to visit, I'd have my spleen taken out next...

Time for more birdie-num-nums pain killers, I think. Night-night xxxx

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ode to my womb

I'm terribly sorry, I seem to have neglected you slightly since the non-Rapture non-event. It's not that I wasn't thinking in a blog-like fashion - au contraire! As always, my brain has run itself ragged over the last 48 hours forming bloggy topics and conjuring hilarious bloggy subplots...such as when my darling children received their dinner tonight. Jack ate his valiantly until he put his head in his hands, sighed, and said, "Mummy, I'm sorry, your dinner is very nice but it's nearly going to make me vomit, I think." Phoebe took her cue to add (in the sweetest, little-girl, dripping with syrup voice), "Mummy, please, could you please make something nice for dinner next week?" Meanwhile, the Mouse devoured hers and then tipped the bowl on her head. Wise child, the Mouse.

So anyway, I've been a bit preoccupied over the last couple of days, not to mention having a yucky little head cold. Tonight I am propped up in bed with my beloved hot water bottle and the telly, as I was last night. A little luxurious for this mama? Well, yes and no. For you see, tomorrow I am saying goodbye to a piece of myself. It's a little part of me that is tied very closely to my heart, and the thought of saying goodbye is just a weeny bit sad. And even though this is something that will benefit me in the long run (without a shadow of a doubt), being the emotional blubber that I am, I'm taking my time to say goodbye.

We know our babies grow in our hearts and minds long before they are conceived. That our uteruses will play such a central role in our quests to become mummies doesn't really become obvious until you're in the thick of growing (or attempting to grow) a baby. I know I never really thought about my womb except for being a pain in the proverbial. Our wombs tell us so much, especially for a piece of anatomy that is never seen. If it is healthy, it's a pain in the backside for about a week once a month. If it's not healthy, it's a pain in the backside for a lot more than a week, or alternatively, it's a silent stranger sitting mutely behind our belly buttons.

I've given my womb a lot of grief over the years. She never missed a beat before I got pregnant with Jack. She grew three rather spectacular babies (if I do say so myself), all with lovely healthy birth weights. What I didn't realise during my first pregnancy was that my uterus was all tangled up in a web of scar tissue from previous surgeries. Jack's growth and constant kicking meant that my poor womb was being pulled and constrained in ways she should never have been...which ultimately lead to threatened premature labour. During my pregnancies with the girls, old scar tissue constantly snapped and re-formed, which meant that by the time the Mouse arrived, pretty much everything in my abdominal cavity was stuck together with scar tissue (I'd make a fascinating cadaver, right?)

A sensible person would have stopped after one child. I would be insulting the lot of us if I even pretended for one minute that I was sensible!! But both my obstetrician, and my husband, put their feet down before Maisie's birth and decreed that this would be my last baby. To that end, I had a tubal ligation during my last caesarean. Unfortunately, that did nothing to help my poor, limping uterus, whom after almost 30 months of faithful service, was a little worse for wear.

Being ineligible for a hysterectomy due to the scar tissue (it would most likely be fatal to try it, so I said we might give that one a miss), my only option is to have a uterine ablation. Which basically means that tomorrow, all going well, my womb will be filled with acid and burned from the inside out. The benefits to my health will be enormous (obviously after the pain stops!!) and I'm sure the drugs tomorrow will be marvellous.

So why am I a bit sad to say goodbye? Because my babies had such a cosy little house in my womb. It was the only place that they were completely mine - protected, warm, nourished. Only I could feel their kicks and rolls in their entirety, only I could be absolutely certain that they recognised voices and songs. The three of them are all getting so big, so fast, that the thought of burning the place where they began hurts a bit. Silly, I know. But that's how I feel.

I have time for one more cup of tea before beginning the fasting period. And with any luck, by the time you are reading this in the morning, I shall already be enjoying the wonderful, dark, velvety sleep of the anaesthetised. The bit I'm looking forward to is when I'm home again tomorrow night, surrounded by children with tales to tell of their busy days. I will scoop them up onto my lap and snuggle them in, inhaling the sandy boy-scent of Jack after a day at school, the paint and play-doh girly-aroma of my Phoebe after kinder, and the sweet, sweet deliciousness of the Mouse. After all, I don't need a womb to cuddle them on the inside anymore. Cuddling them on the outside is magic enough for me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Apocalypse Now

We've spoken about religion before, have we not? I'm sure we have. (So if you're offended by non-church-going, heathen-type people, probably best to turn away now, ok? Cheers) It's not that I don't believe in Heaven. I do, very much. I believe in spiritual afterlife, and guiding angels, and that it's important to be a good person during your time on this Earth. I also believe that we are watched over (for lack of a better term) by a greater force.

But I most certainly do not believe in a "God" who judges us for our misdemeanours, or who decides that if you haven't been baptised, you won't be taken care of once you pass away. Pfft. As if any God worth his salt would allow unbaptised babies to take care of themselves in the afterlife. If there is a God (and I highly doubt it, I reckon instead there's a group of mothers sitting up on a cloud in Heaven, handing out rewards for the people who've behaved and sending the naughty ones to the corner to think about what they did, before letting them come back over for a talking-to and a cuddle), then He or She would care for everybody equally, not according to the church they did or did not attend.

So the idea that the world was coming to an end today was quite amusing to me. Let's just say for a moment that it was a plausible option. That some higher power up in the sky had decreed thousands of years ago, that today our planet would be wiped out, like an art project that had become too messy. Would we be able to do anything about it? Well, no. Would we be able to predict the cause of our untimely deaths? Um, probably not unless you could see the lions heading straight towards you...

My point is, if today had indeed been our last day on Earth, what could you have done about it? Because the fact of the matter is, regardless of acts of God, vengeful apocalyptic horsemen, or an unfortunate accident, every day could very well be your last. Couldn't it? How many times have you had a near miss in the car, or caught your child in the nick of time before they smashed their head on something? How many stories have you heard about people going to the doctor's "just for a check up" and having something sinister found just before it was too late? How many people do you know who have actually beaten serious illnesses they weren't expected to survive? How many people do you know who won't? Every single one of us is potentially living our last day, every day. If today had actually been my last day on this sweet planet, what would I have done?

Hand on my heart, the only thing I would have done today that I didn't do, would be to phone, message, or visit my family and friends to give them my love. (But since, according to my beliefs, we'd all be arriving in the afterlife roughly at the same time, I'd probably catch up with them sooner or later....right?) I said to Christian this morning, that I was in fact having my perfect last day, if there was such a thing. We had our usual Saturday morning breakfast together with the kids, everyone in jarmies and pets milling around. Jack and Phoebe went to their ballet lessons while Maisie had a nap. At lunch time, we cruised into our favourite seaside Main St and ate lunch outside a cafe, with Archie at my feet. Part of Archie's puppy school homework was to visit a busy cafe and learn how to sit quietly. Homework which means I need to go to a cafe?? I'm in!!

After lunch, we walked the length of Main St allowing Archie's growing legion of fans to pat and admire him along the way. (Did I mention he shredded a pillow in the back yard last night? It was all I had left to put in his kennel after he got the runs on several blankets and I wasn't actually cross with him this morning when the garden looked like a white Christmas. It was fairly predictable with a border collie and a pillow. It just took a while to pick it all up!!) The kids had a run at the playground in the sunshine while I walked the Mouse and Archie around the park, inhaling the salty breeze and enjoying the unseasonable day. We took a quick stop at a pet emporium to grab new toys for Archibald, before coming home.

And here is the most magical part of the day: we ALL played in the garden together for about an hour. You heard me. Jack, Phoebalina, the Mouse (running, squealing, stumbling and squealing some more), Christian, me, Archie, Daisy and the cats. We have never done this before simply because of the whole new-puppy-eating-babies-faces-and-the-cats thing. I swear, Archie stayed next to me the whole time. He would only go for the ball if I did; never once jumped up on the kids; and behaved impeccably. I couldn't believe it either!!! I will admit there have been times lately, when I have wondered if this would ever happen. Having such little kids, an older dog, a jumpy licky puppy, and two cats, it's a tricky concoction to have in a small back yard. And yet, today, in the delicious sunshine, we had an hour of playing nice. Seriously, I coulnd't have asked for anything more.

After Christian and I had a cuppa outside on the grass with the kids, we ran an early bath, ate an early tea, and put the big kids to bed. The Mouse played with Daddy while I walked the dogs around the block, and now they're all asleep. Now, I'm not saying I want the world to end today. I'm rather looking forward to the rest of my life, thank you very much. What I mean is, if I had dropped dead tonight of, I dunno, something, you can be assured I had a ripper of a last day. Now, if the Bombers could have a win tonight, and if I could find some forgotten chocolate at the back of the pantry to go with my cuppa, this day could be damn near perfect...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kisses for Sange and Kerry

A long, long time ago, in a land far away....well, actually, not really. What I meant to say was, a long, long time ago, in a place just up the road and round the bend, I went to high school with a bunch of awesome girls (and boys too, but the girls were awesomer).

And we all grew up and did exciting things like university, and travelling, and different jobs, and meeting people, and after a while, a few of us decided that the place where we grew up was quite nice after all, and moved back here to raise our families. (I suppose like all teenagers, I couldn't wait to get away from the small town I was a teenager in to see the big bad world. And after I had done that, I worked out that my parents had in fact chosen an awesome place to have a family, and tried to move back there. Only to find out that real estate prices in the noughties was a com-plete-ly different ball game to the late 80's...)

Apart from living in a beautiful area abounding in family-friendly facilities, one of the biggest perks of moving back to the old stamping ground is that so many of my high school girlfriends are here as well, with tribes of sprogs the same age as my own. After living in Pakenham with very few friends closer than a 30 minute drive, this is a luxury I am taking full advantage of. And this week, two of my girls very near saved my life, without a shadow of a doubt.

The bright point of my day on Tuesday (the day of the drive-thru naughty chippies??) was a morning play date with my friend Sandra and her beautiful kidlets, Lauren and James. While Sange, the Mouse and I played in Fisher-Price heaven near the warmth of the wood heater, Phoebalina whooped it up outside on the jumping castle with Lauren (her new BFF) and little James. I was completely envious of Sandra's back yard, because the kids played on swings and the trampoline and the jumping castle to their hearts' content, all the while absolutely safe and having a ball. Meanwhile, we had a good old chin wag and consumed an enormous substantial lovely morning tea. I'm sure Sange didn't realise it at the time, but she was brightening an otherwise fairly average day. And boy, did she do a marvellous job!!! So thank you Sange, for giving Phoebs, the Mouse and I a gorgeous morning. You're a gem!

After the school drop-off this morning, I traipsed across country once again to visit the beautiful Kerry and her divine littlest girly, Ava. Kez has just moved back into the area after being away from us for a very, very long time - and to say we are delighted is an understatement. My girls and I explored Kerry's new house, which has the most exquisite lead light windows, and huge, rambling garden complete with envy-inducing vegetable garden and fruit trees. Phoebe and Ava puddled around together in the garden while Maisie stood at the kids' table, cramming fruit scones in her mouth. I've known Kez since I was 12. She was, and is, one of the calmest, most loving people I have ever met, and I felt myself healing simply being in her presence. The insane night of screaming toddlers, the harried morning, the dead mouse on the doorstep...all fell away standing in Kerry's new kitchen, drinking lovely coffee, eating heavenly orange cake, and chatting. Thank you, Kez. You and Ava made my girls and I very, very happy today.

I realise I've written about my girlfriends before, and how grateful I am for them. But I suppose it's one of the most important elements of a happy life as a stay at home mum - having friends who have not only known you for a long time, but who understand you. Friends who know how lovely it is simply to have company for an hour before the day turns pear-shaped. Friends who have kids who can play with yours, or friends who don't have kids but understand them anyway!! I am so grateful to Sange and Kerry, who put little pockets of sunshine into my week (and kept my girlies entertained to boot!) Thanks girls. Next time, you can come to me. I may not be able to give you a rambling garden or a well-stocked, spacious playground, but I can give you cake. And coffee. And a chat. Which we all know is the best part of a catch-up! xxxxx

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Calories be damned

I don't know about you, but I'm a cold weather chick. It might simply be due to the fact that I was born in autumn, but I much prefer cool weather to hot.

I love it when it's cold enough in the afternoon to have a fire (or at least put the heater on).

I am a layering officionado (is that a word, or did I just spell it weird?), preferring jeans, Birks, and a fleece whenever possible. And no, it's not because I can get away with unshaved legs in this ensemble...although, that is definitely one of the perks.

In my eyes, there is nothing better in this world than hopping under the doona with a hot water bottle, a cup of tea, and a good book. It's just unfortunate that my children do not share my passion, and feel it necessary to ruin my attempts at such bliss. Every time I begin to think I may indulge in an evening such as this...someone gets a cough, or a runny nose, or has a nightmare. Y'know? Pfft. Children.

 (You may have noticed that thus far I am ignoring the not-so-great elements of the cold washing that just won't dry...cold viruses that do the rounds of the household again, and again...the inability to use a backyard that has turned into a quagmire...wet dogs...however, these things are not enough to dampen my innate enthusiasm for autumn and winter. Yeah, yeah, summer and spring, fresh breezes, beachy days, cool drinks, green grass - all terrific. It's the sweatiness, the flushed cheeks and the inability to go outside without applying half-an-hour's worth of sunscreen that puts me off somewhat...)

But, as always, I digress.

D'you know what my fabourite (thank you Ballerina!) thing about the cold weather is? The food. (Well, duh.)

On chilly days, when the house is toasty, and the kids are being all snuggly playing games in the lounge room, there's nothing better than stoking up the crockpot and making a slow-simmered casserole. Or roast chicken and vegies. Or a deep, rich, velvety lasagne. Mmmmm.

Now, my one regret from my university days is that I chose biochemistry instead of "inventing calorie-free foods that actually taste good". Let's be honest - if my body could burn 10,000 calories a day, I'd be able to indulge in all of my favourite winter foods without missing a beat. Hot raisin toast with butter for brekkie; toasties for lunch with ham, cheese and tomato; and something for dinner that had slow-cooked for several hours, topped off with something baked with apples and cinnamon.

But I am (as previously stated) not a fembot able to consume unlimited amounts of deliciousness. As a result, in the winter months I choose my indulgences carefully. Most of the time, I am able to curb my appetite for warming, comforting foods relatively well (and indeed, my new Tupper fetish is my Cafe Out cup, which is not only satisfyingly pink, but holds a lovely hot Milo on the way to the school pick up on icy afternoons). Yesterday, however, my will power failed.

I had had one of THOSE days. You don't need to know the details. Let's just say it was *ahem* busy. And since Christian was going to be out at school debating until very late, I knew I was looking down the barrel at a potential debacle. I had taken the girls to Jack's classroom at the end of the day for Open Day, and we enjoyed a lovely time singing on the floor and seeing the Preppies at work. At the end of it all, Jack was a bit overwhelmed by all the people and got teary, so I knew I had to change the tone of his afternoon, and fast.

So as I walked back to the car, I made an executive decision. I stepped boldly into "bad mummy" mode, and drove straight to the nearest Old Macdonalds for emergency drive-thru fries and apple juice pop-tops. Despite the fact that it was 4pm on a school night, and that we would be heading home for dinner very soon, and that my adipose cells most definitely did NOT need any Maccas lovin', we did it. And oh, they were good!!!! Warm, crispy, salty chippies, washed down with apple juice (or diet Coke, for those old enough to understand the pathetic anomaly in my choice). I know I enjoyed them, and the contented silence from the back seat indicated that the kids weren't hating it, either. (And just on an allergy-related note: fries and apple slices are the only two items my son can eat from any fast food outlet. Full stop. So, it's a huge treat - but a safe one.)

We arrived home happy, if a little greasy-fingered. And those kids played, bathed, ate their dinners, and went to bed like angels - and there was no knock on the door from the parent-police, ready to lynch me for child abuse via deep fryer. Not only that, but my pants still fitted me the next morning. Miracle of miracles, right? Now, I'm not suggesting that we all go out and slaughter ourselves by stuffing our gobs every single day with fast food. Heaven forbid. It'd cost a small fortune.

But oh, just for half an hour on an icy autumnal afternoon, those chippies hit the spot. And to top it all off, my kids were so stoked by Mummy's relaxing of the health food reins that they behaved magnificently for a full 15 hours afterwards. I think they were hoping for a repeat performance. Fat chance.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lucy's Lovely Lemons

If it weren't for the lovely Lucy over at Diminishing Lucy, today's blog would be yet another one about the steamy laundromat that is my living room. However, you have been spared that ordeal by Lucy, who blogged this morning about her husband's fruit and vegetable gardens, and the glut of feijoas and lemons that she was facing. Which, in turn, inspired me to do a slightly different blog post today.

Those who know me IRL know that I love my kitchen. (You can tell simply by looking at me...) We've spoken before about my *ahem* Tupperware fetish; I suspect this slight obsession stems from my love of cooking and baking. As a result of this, I worship at the altar of Donna, Nigella and Jamie...and pray to Buddha every night that their recipes will one day, miraculously, become fat-free, no-calorie delicacies that I may consume to my heart's content (as opposed to my rump's content...)

When Lucy wrote this morning about her husband's bumper crop of lemons, I got a tad excited. Surely this could mean an excuse to dive into my stash of old Donna Hay magazines in an attempt to find what I wanted to send to Lucy? A reason to sit cross-legged on the floor, cup of tea beside me, licking one finger to flip the pages and reminisce about recipes gone by...? Unfortunately, the Mouse once again had a nose like the proverbial tap, so I spent most of the day wiping her bodily fluids before she could do it on me. When I wasn't doing that, I was cleaning. It is only now, that all three screaming banshees of my darling children are asleep quiet in their beds, that I can leisurely flick through my beloved cooking mags to find lemon recipes. The fact that Dancing With The Stars in on the box (and Masterchef is recording) only serves to make my Sunday night even more awesome.

So. What did I find? Mmmm...lots of Donna-ry goodness...

Lemon Curd (taken from Donna Hay magazine, Issue 11)

You will need: 180g butter, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 2/3 cup lemon juice (strained), & 3 eggs.

1. Place the butter, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs. Stir over low heat continuously for 8-10 minutes or until thickened. Makes 2 cups.
Note: To prevent the eggs from curdling in the hot lemon mixture, have them at room temperature before using. If your lemon curd does curdle, press it through a sieve and return to the saucepan.
3. Store the lemon curd in a sterilised airtight jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Donna suggests eating your lemon curd on toast, pancakes, or waffles; on scones or pikelets; layering it between sheets of puff pastry and dusted with icing sugar; or filling a sponge cake with it. She also has recipes for lemon curd tarts, lemon curd ice cream, lemon curd pudding and lemon cheesecake slice. If you want these recipes, you only need to ask. And while we're at it, I might look up Michelle Bridges' phone number as well...

Preserved Lemons (taken from Donna Hay magazine, Issue 19)

You will need: 8 lemons and 1 cup of coarse rock salt

1. Clean the lemons by scrubbing them with a scourer and warm water to remove the wax (if you are not lucky enough to have a tree groaning with them like Lucy) and pat dry. Cut the lemons into quarters and place in a non-metallic bowl with the salt.
2. Use your hands to rub the salt into the lemons to release the juices. Fill 2 x 1 litre capacity sterilised jars with the lemons. Pour over any remaining salt and liquid from the bowl, making sure the lemons are completely covered. Seal the jars and store in a cool, dark place for one month before using. To use, cut out the flesh and discard, rinse the skins well and use as required.

Note: Try and pack as many lemons into the jar as possible because as they soften, they take up less room. Use a wooden spoon, because a metallic one will react with the acid. It is important to make sure the lemons are completely covered, otherwise a white mould will form on top. The lemons will keep for up to 12 months unopened in a cool, dark place.

You can use your preserved lemons in recipes such as crispy chicken with preserved lemon mayonnaise, roast pumpkin and goat's cheese salad with preserved lemon dressing, preserved lemon crusted lamb cutlets, and crispy skin fish with preserved lemon salsa. If you have your own copy of Donna Hay Issue 19, you can find these delish recipes on page 136...if not, just ask!

Oh, Donna. Now I'm hungry all over again...and I haven't even mentioned your lemon tart, or your lemon meringue pie, or the lemon curd frozen yoghurt...

I can only hope that these recipes might be useful to Lucy, and her husband's lovely lemons. I have long wished to live over the back fence from Lucy (and Maxabella, and Multiple Mum, and BabyMac, and Lori, to name but a few...), if only to natter in person as opposed to talking over the blogger fence! But now I really want to be Lucy's neighbour, because I want to nab some of her lovely lemons and get cracking on some of these recipes...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It Must Be Love

Did you see me yesterday?

I was the one driving in the pouring, sideways rain, who jumped out of the car at Phoebe's kinder brandishing a kinder bag and a one-year-old Mouse. I chivvied Jack and Phoebe through the child-proof gate, dropped Phoebs in her room with many kisses and hugs, and ran back out into the rain.

I was the one who drove around in circles with the other thousands of parental cars, trying to find a car park close enough to the school without needing an ark. In the end, I pulled up in the "kiss 'n' go" area, threw Mais under one arm, and chucked Jack at his teacher before running back through the deluge to my (increasingly soaked) car.

I was the one who spent the morning at my cleaning job, and then spent the afternoon cleaning my own house. Which included lots of hanging wet clothes on clothes horses inside, letting dogs outside into the lake back yard for wees, and then bringing wet dogs back inside to be rubbed down (again, and again, and again...), and stopping wet cats jumping onto dry beds. I seemed to spend a lot of time convincing the Mouse that the clothes drying inside did not make a good cubby, and sniffing around trying to find the source of the musty smell (turns out if was the entire place...).

I was the one who herbed back to school at pick-up time, with a baby whose nose increasingly resembled the skies above. Once again, I searched for a car park, and eventually parked about 100 kilometres away in a remote fishing village (or so it felt!). This being 3:14pm, I had precisely one minute to present my elegant self out the front of Jack's I threw Jack's raincoat on Maisie, held an umbrella over the pram, and ran. That's right - that was me you saw yesterday afternoon, old brown Birkenstocks shuffling, rain coat open and flapping, lungs wheezing, hand clutching onto my pants to stop them from pooling around my ankles, running for dear life behind my pram up the road to Jack's school, in the pouring rain.

And as I ran, I thought, This is not what I signed up for. Where is the peaceful, clean nursery with a rocking chair in front of a window, with lemon-yellow sun streaming in while I gently rock my clean, calm baby? Where is the immaculate house with the freshly-baked (yet low-calorie) goodies cooling sweetly on the bench? Where are my casually-chic and clean clothes that cleverly hide my mummy tummy? Where are the harps and cellos playing softly in the background? Isn't that what motherhood is? Or are the Huggies ads deliberately misleading?????

Last night, had you peeked in my windows (and scared the bejeesus out of me in the process), you would have seen me cradling the Mouse. And walking with the Mouse. And pouring Panadol down the Mouse's throat. And convincing Archie that although Mummy still loved him very much, it was not time to play puppy-wrestling. And cradling the Mouse again. For you see, my littlest girl is quite sick with a cough and a cold, and all the running in and out of the rain yesterday had not helped much. So I have been awake since about 2 o'clock this morning. I bet you can just picture me now. Oh yes, I'm gaw-jus.

After ballet this morning, Christian took Jack and Phoebs out for the afternoon, and left the Mouse and I have some quiet time. She was so snotty and dribbly that I eventually put a bib on her, just to catch the persistent drizzle that came from her face. The poor little thing was having one of those days when she didn't know what she wanted - she wanted up, she wanted down, she wanted a drink, she pushed the cup away. After a while, I scooped her up, wrapped us both in a fleecy blanket, and sat on the couch to watch an old episode of Grey's Anatomy that I'd had taped for weeks.

Before I knew it, she'd positioned her ear on my chest, wrapped one hand into my skivvy, and was snoring. She slept like that for an hour and a half. And amongst the wet washing, the smelly wet dogs, the cats shedding fur on the beds, the toys all over the floor and the steady drip-drip-drip of the rain outside, I thought, THIS is what I signed up for. To lie on the couch on a rainy Saturday afternoon with my baby in my arms (albeit with dried snot on her face and in her hair, but we can't be picky, right?), and simply enjoy the cuddle. I think it was a good Grey's, although I spent most of the time watching my girl sleep. When she woke up, she stretched, wiped her nose and mouth on my top, and sang me a little ditty which may have been "Twinkle Twinkle". Or not.

And now she is in her pyjamas, eyes red-rimmed, nose running like a tap, woofing at the dogs (both ours, and the ones on the telly). While I am most definitely not one of the mothers on the Huggies commercial, living in a Huggies house with a Huggies smile on my dial, I'm pretty sure I can hear the swelling of the tear-jerking music coming from somewhere. Oh yes. Snot-stained, tear-smeared, mud-spattered, that's me. All so I can live the dream of being these three kids' mummy. It must be love.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Breastfeeding: A Postscript

After I wrote my post on breastfeeding my toddler last night, I felt at odds. As though the late hour had propelled me towards pressing "publish" before I had covered all my bases. Call me paranoid, but I just feel as though I didn't explain myself as eloquently as I could have last night.

Let's be clear here:

I have been the mother who struggled to establish breastfeeding with her first child; who was bullied by midwives into giving "supplementary feeds" of formula to combat jaundice, while simultaneously being bullied by other midwives for using formula at all; who suffered terrible pain due to poor attachment and mastitis; who eventually found equilibrium with breastfeeding and milk from a cup; who found out she was pregnant with number two when number one weaned with no warning whatsoever.

I have been the mother who fed a newborn a mix of blood and pus from her nipples; who was pushed out of hospital three days after a caesarean with a baby rapidly losing weight; who was harrassed so badly by a visiting midwife about her daughter's falling weight that the nurse phoned DHS from her home, demanding intervention; who cried in agony while her copious milk dried up and her baby sucked hungrily on a rubber teat; who developed post-natal depression due to her "failure" to breastfeed; who put on 20 kilos due to PND; who continued to have to explain her "decision" to bottlefeed well into the next pregnancy; and who now has a happy, healthy, non-allergic, well-adjusted three year old daughter who knows her mother loves her as much as her breastfed brother and sister.

I have been the mother who was so concerned about her third newborn in the special care nursery, she walked down there with expressed milk only hours after the epidural wore off after a caesar; who was spoken to so harshly by some child in a doctor's coat about birth weight and "responsible parenting" that she stayed awake all night, force-feeding the baby who was perfectly fine and just wanted to sleep; who had her baby brought to her for five days while she lay, unable to move in a second hospital, and had gentle midwives expertly attach her baby in a way that avoided the canula that extended the entire length of her arm; who recognised that she had been given the gift of a third child, and had her life saved in the space of ten days, and decided that no more battles would be fought.

I have succeeded and failed at feeding newborns. I have succeeded and failed at feeding older babies. I have beaten myself up over most aspects of my parenting, most of the time. But in this particular instance, at this point in time, I am successfully breastfeeding my toddler daughter. And it is a source of immense joy for me. I am not writing this to snub bottle-feeding mothers - I was one myself. I am not writing this to upset mothers who weaned their babies early. I too, did that. I am not writing to inflame mothers who think you should breastfeed until your child is eight. That is your choice, not mine. I am not saying everyone should breastfeed, even if only for a day - as I'm sure you know by now, I am testament to every mother who had plenty of milk, yet had a baby who just didn't know what to do with it. Have I been a mother who didn't want to breastfeed? No. But that doesn't make me a better mother, just one following the example of what worked for my own mother. And it certainly doesn't make me judge the decisions of other mothers (unless you are feeding your  three month old baby chocolate milk from a bottle in the shopping centre...then I might judge, a little bit. Silently.)

I think we are all doing our best. I think that our children know how much we love them. I'm sure that none of our children sit down and analyse our parenting decisions, and score us accordingly (not until they are teenagers, anyway). I'm fairly certain that Jack, Phoebe and Maisie all know how I feel about them. And it's got nothing to do with the source of milk they received as babies. However they were fed, the intention was, and is, clear. They received nutrition and love. Can it get any simpler than that?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Still breastfeeding after all of these years

Something has crept up on me in recent times, and it's been sitting at the back of my brain teasing me. "Go on. You know you want to blog about it. It's contentious. It's emotional. Go oooooonnnnnnnn. Do it!!" (It's an annoying little voice, isn't it? It's ok. You can say it. I think it's annoying too.)

You know me. Typically, I write about my day and the usual school / kinder / washing / vomit-related vignettes that seem to delineate my life at this point. Every so often, something exciting will happen like a party or a birthday or...I dunno, something good? The royal wedding? That was good. And I found bananas at $9.99 a kilo?? Anyhoo...

I have been semi-thinking about tonight's topic for a little while, because it's something I do every day. You see, I am still breastfeeding. That's correct - the Mouse is still getting her special mummy cuddles twice a day, and she turned 16 months old on the weekend. And it would seem that I have unwittingly become part of a minority group (a bit like the time I stumbled into the queue for free AIDS testing in San Francisco...I thought they were lining up to be in a studio audience...)

Breastfeeding is a tricky topic at the best of times. No one knows how difficult it is to coordinate the shoving of an engorged breast into a teeny tiny newborn mouth, so that it is precisely positioned to necessitate the correct attachment, and then get the little blighter darling to suck properly, before they have actually attempted to do it. Breastfeeding a newborn in public is awkward for a few reasons, namely:
a) gawking strangers
b) continuously having to reposition the bub while spraying milk all over the nearest person and their steaming chai latte
c) gawking strangers who are offended by your exposed, engorged mammaries.

You don't need the pressure of the public eye to make feeding a newborn difficult - it's already a challenge and a half! But should you choose to persevere, eventually the mouth gets marginally bigger and more adept at latching on, and the boob becomes more manageable. And before you know it, you've been breastfeeding for a few months, and even though at home it's a piece of cake, in public...well...not so much.

Breastfeeding an older baby in public (and by older baby, I mean around 6 months old) can again be awkward due to:
a) gawking strangers
b) well-meaning strangers who politely enquire whether you've "considered" weaning
c) gawking strangers who are offended by your exposed, slightly deflated mammaries
And if, after the messy introduction of pureed solids, and finger foods, and drinkies from a cup, you continue to breastfeed your baby, you could very well find yourself feeding in between crawling and walking practice. Which is interesting enough, without wrangling yourself and your baby's wandering hands through a public feed.

Breastfeeding a baby approaching their first birthday in public can be very exceptionally awkward. You may encounter:
a) gawking strangers
b) people who have an expression on their face like, "Seriously? Like, that child has teeth? Just order it a steak already?"
c) People who feel free to comment on your exposed, flat mammaries, your baby who clearly is going to have emotional and developmental issues due to extended breastfeeding, and the fact you have put them off their lunch. (At least you didn't squirt in their latte this time...)

And funnily enough, once your baby has smeared their first birthday cake across their moosh and spat on the candle, most people assume that you have weaned your baby from the breast.

Now, before I continue, let me just clarify one thing: I am not a breastfeeding nazi. Yes, I fed Jack. Until he self-weaned, very abruptly, at the age of 10 months. Would I have persevered? Yes, absolutely, because feeding him had been hard-won, and well worth the effort. Did I breastfeed Phoebe? Yes. For five days. I saw every lactation consultant and midwife under the sun, but nobody could work out why my tiny daughter could not latch on, and how she had inflicted such terrible damage to me in a very short period of time. So Phoebe was bottle fed from the age of six days, while I healed, and expressed, and tried again, and again to feed her. Eventually, when she was six weeks old, I gave up. Maisie fed like a champion from day one, even with a stay in intensive care and a near-dead mother taken back to hospital. Yes, I wanted to feed her, but by this point I realised that the baby has the ultimate feeding decision.

So the Mouse and I have been enjoying our snuggles now for a year and four months. I know quite a few people have been a bit surprised by my continued lactation, and my apparent unwillingness to wean. To be truthful, I see no reason to stop. It's a lovely way to start the cold winter mornings, cuddling in bed and getting ten more minutes of quiet. I also love having her in my arms just before bedtime for half an hour of peace. Even if she doesn't nod off on the breast, she still pats me, and has little whispered conversations which are quite endearing! On the nights when I'm at puppy school, or if I just happen to be out when it's her bedtime, she curls up in Christian's lap and goes straight to sleep. So I don't have any worries about her being overly-dependent on me. And I don't think she'll breastfeed forever. But while she wants to do so, I am more than happy to indulge her.

I just find it completely fascinating that because I have continued to quietly breastfeed my child into toddlerhood, that all of a sudden I am an oddity. Never one to be afraid to feed in public (without flaunting myself at *ahem* gawking strangers), I would feel self-conscious if I were to do it out of my own home now. Which is sad, really, because I absolutely love breastfeeding my baby daughter. It's the one time of day I can pretend that she's not a running, stumbling, chattering toddler, but still my little baby. When Maisie is drinking quietly, dreamily waving a hand or even humming, it's a moment that cannot be described. She is so happy to be with me, and I with her. And I'm in no hurry to stop that special time together.

Don't get me wrong. I won't love Maisie any less when she weans. I won't feel rejected. I don't judge bottle-feeding mothers. I don't feel superior in any way, shape or form, simply because my boobs still produce milk. (Have I covered all possible forms of insult here?) I am just still breastfeeding, 16 months after birth, and apparently, that's unusual.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day

My great-grandmother gave birth to three children in the 1920's. Only one of those babies lived. In those days, a stillborn baby was not shown to the mother. There were no cuddles, no photographs, no locks of hair or footprints taken. Babies were buried in mass graves at the hospital. My Argie was the only surviving baby, a beloved daughter to two doting parents. Given how big Argie was at birth, my great-grandmother was exceptionally lucky to survive such a difficult delivery. Even today, with epidurals and emergency caesareans, she would have been fortunate to survive.

Argie, my beautiful grandmother, is mum to four children. Her first delivery was so arduous that it was completed with the 'help' of ether. Amazingly, she went on to have my mum, and then my twin aunties - all natural deliveries. With four children under the age of five, she parented in the days of doing the laundry in a copper, making all of her children's clothes by hand, and doing the grocery shopping without a car. Incredible.

My own mum endured an 18 hour labour for me. My definition of "labour" always came from my mum's stories of our births - she did it without pain relief, once with high forceps, and all so very, very patiently. She always told me that the pain of labour all went away when you held your baby in your arms. Considering how much pain my mum must have endured through three natural deliveries, I always felt her love keenly - and then even more so, after Jack's entry into the world.

One of my aunties nearly lost her life, and the life of her unborn baby through a mismanaged birth. Amazingly, she and my cousin were eventually safe and healthy - although more through luck than anything else, I suspect. She later gave birth to an 11lb 5oz sibling for her first son, via emergency caesarean. My other aunty endured years of waiting, and wishing, and red tape before she flew to the other side of the world to meet her baby. After waiting patiently in the entrance hall of the orphanage, she was handed a naked 14 month old baby boy. That was all. She dressed him, and fed him, and brought him home on a plane. And has loved him beyond measure ever since.

And me? Like my great-grandmother before me, I endured a delivery that very nearly killed both myself and my son. And like the wonderful women in my family who raised me and loved me, I went back for more. Why? Because the risk of not having babies was greater than the risk of having them. Even though I have now been forbidden by my obstetrician to have any more babies, it was worth every moment to have the three incredible little people who are my kids. Every amazing mother in my family went to extraordinary lengths to have her children, regardless if that was to risk her own life to give birth, or to fly into the unknown to bring a homeless baby into her heart to love.

As mothers, we take risks every day. Getting pregnant is a risk in itself. Being pregnant, giving birth, surviving post-natal depression, defying the breastfeeding gods, making decisions about solids and sleep routines and tummy time. Knowing what is best for your baby, deciding when to go back to work, what sort of nappies to use, where to send them to kinder or school, teaching them to socialise with other kids, knowing what to do in the middle of the night when they are sick. The list of challenges unwittingly faced by mothers every day is potentially limitless.

But the biggest risk? Allowing your child to walk far enough away from you, so that you cannot physically touch them, and know that they will be ok. Having a little body running around that contains a tiny piece of your heart, and your soul - someone who is here because you loved them, and nurtured them, and put their needs before your own in every way imaginable. And we do this because seeing them happy, makes us happy; seeing them learn something new gives us a sense of pride and achievement; seeing them give and receive love makes us radiate with warmth.

On Mother's Day, we try to show our love and appreciation for the women who devoted themselves to raising us. Even though I don't need a particular day to feel loved by my children, I must say I felt very special this morning. After sleeping in to 8 o'clock (8 o'clock!!!), I was woken by Jack, Phoebe and Maisie bearing croissants and a chai latte. My beloved had taken the kids out to the bakery while I slumbered (after the Mouse's morning snuggly feed), and had made me the most gorgeous breakfast in bed. They all sat up in bed with me and munched on toast and jam, which apparently was a hilarious thing to do, because they were in fits!

Jack had bought me a very pretty heart-shaped keyring and a card with a badge on it from the Mother's Day stall at school, Phoebe had made me a glittery flower and a card at kinder, and my darling hubby had wrapped up a brand new Nigella for me. And you know how much I love Nigella!!!!! Too exciting. But the best gift, was being surrounded by my babies and being kissed and cuddled. They were so determined to give me a happy day. And then we went off to swimming lessons, and I watched with pride and wonder while they learned more and loved every second. We saw Grandma and Grandpa, Truncle and Dale for lunch, and then Argie, Narnie, Pa, Miffy, Whale, and Miffy's bump for afternoon tea.

Mother's Day is always a whirlwind of food and hugs, and there's no doubt that it's a busy, often tiring day. But it's the least we can do for our mothers. Because there's nothing they wouldn't do for us. They've already proven that. The pain, the sleepless nights, the cracked nipples, the breaking back from hours spent walking the halls, the worry - all of it would be done again in a heartbeat, just because of the love. Motherhood is love. It's as simple as that.

Happy Mothers Day to all of you, whether you are a mummy, a mummy-to-be, a mummy to fur babies, or a beloved aunty. There's more than enough love to go around.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ghosties, ghoulies and spooks

I'm going to take a rather large risk here. But what is blogging if it's not truthful?

I'm willing to bet that the topic I'm about to discuss will either resonate strongly with you...or make you shake your head at my lunacy. Nevertheless.

Deep breath. Here I go.

I believe in ghosts.

I do!! I have ever since I can remember. We lived in a house in Torquay when I was tiny, and I distinctly remember two children I played with. Their names were Mary and Michael, and whenever I blamed them for something naughty I did, my mum would chastise me for blaming my imaginary friends. They weren't imaginary to me - I could see them. What I didn't know, was that Mum was a bit freaked out - she knew there had been two children before us at that house who had died. So you can't blame her, really, can you?

Since then, I haven't seen anything as clearly as Mary and Michael, but I hear them. I feel them. I sense them. Sometimes, it's enough for me to walk into a house to feel distinctly uncomfortable - to feel watched, or unwanted. I catch glimpses of things out of the corner of my eye. Nothing a sceptic couldn't explain away.

The flat I lived in during my uni days definitely had a presence. It wasn't a pleasant one. Things happened in the kitchen. We would hear the TV turn on, only to enter the room and see that it was definitely off. Tiny handprints appeared on the walls, where no tiny hands had been. But still, we tried to ignore it and pretend nothing was happening. Until the couch collapsed upon itself one day, piece by piece.

When I was a barmaid in London, my co-workers tried to scare me with stories of hauntings in the ancient pub we lived in. It was clear they did not believe in ghosts. Certainly, I did not tell them of the footsteps outside my door at night, or the suffocating sick feeling I felt in the basement. It was only when Merv, a big, burly Canberra boy, was in the pub alone one Christmas Night that the others began to believe we shared the pub with more than drunk tourists. After closing everything up after Christmas drinks and going upstairs to bed, Merv heard the uber-heavy, locked-with-a-code door open. He heard footsteps come up the stairs to the second floor. Assuming one of us had come home early, he called out. There was no answer. Walking out to the landing, all was dark and quiet...until the footsteps started coming from behind Merv, from inside his bedroom. Needless to say, the others believed me after that night.

When my travels overseas had finished, and I was home in Australia, a fully-qualified teacher, I moved into my very own rented home. My girlfriend Caroline was visiting from the UK, and thankfully, blessedly, she lived with me for a few months. The house had always had a bit of a strange feeling, which I ignored because I so loved having my own house. The only thing that happened to me while Caroline was in the the next room, was that just as I got into bed one night, I thought a mouse had run across my foot. (To be truthful, it felt like someone's finger running the length of my foot, but I dismissed that pretty quickly!!) I leapt out of bed, screamed for Caroline, and searched for the "mouse". There was no mouse. No mouse dirt, no evidence whatsoever. And when, a few weeks later, I adopted Ernie, he didn't find any mice either.

As soon as Caz left to continue her backpacking journey, things began to go bump in the night. Creaking floorboards became distinct footsteps. One night, they came all the way to my bedroom door...and stopped. I sat up, shaking, for hours, waiting for whomever it was to come through the door.

One particularly windy night, I lay in bed listening to the howling wind come barreling off the ocean to hit my little wooden house. I was astounded that the house was shaking so badly that my bed was vibrating. So I moved the bed away from the wall, and went to sleep. The next night, there was no wind. But my bed shook so violently, that the bolts creaked. I have stood and shaken my solid, wooden bed. It doesn't move. Trust me. So I shouted, "Stop it!!!!" at the top of my lungs. And do you know what? It stopped. Immediately.

Not every experience I have had has been unpleasant or scary. When pregnant with Jack, I would often hear children laughing, or feel something run past me. And there's been instances a sceptic could not possibly find a logical or scientific answer for. Like hearing "Mummy" being called in my house, when none of the children were at home. Or having toys turn themselves on in a different room. Seriously. When a battery-operated toy turns itself on, and even the "off" button doesn't work, all you can do is laugh. I don't feel scared in my house when I hear kitchen cupboards opening at night, or hear footsteps around my bed that don't come with a little person saying, "Mummy, I've wet the bed." It just seems that this is how our family is. As normal as you can be with three kids, two cats, and two dogs, with the added bonus of some invisible visitors from time to time.

Tonight, Christian is taking me our for my birthday. We're doing a nighttime tour of the Old Melbourne Gaol - I'm so excited I might break something! We wanted to do the 'ghost hunter' tour, but it finishes at 3am - not particularly enticing when Archie's day typically begins at 5.30am, and the Mouse's at 5.45...

When we toured Port Arthur two years ago, we stayed late and did the ghost tour. We didn't see anything, we were driving back to Hobart, we both heard a cough / laugh. We both asked each other if the other was ok. We both replied that neither of us had made a sound. And the cough / laugh had seemed to come from between us, in the back seat...

Cross your fingers for us that we don't bring anyone home with us tonight! Eeeeeekkkk!!!!! (I truly hope I haven't disgusted anybody out there...but this is my truth. And just so you know - I've kept the real toe-curling stuff for another time. Oh yes - these are the tame stories. Some of the things we have experienced in this house would make your hair stand on end!!!!! Would you like to hear them some time...????)

Friday, May 6, 2011

More candles than Molly Ringwald

Yesterday, there were 35 candles on my birthday cake. I would have loved a cake just like Molly Ringwald's, with only 16 candles atop....but alas. I am considerably older than the flame-haired beauty in my favourite birthday movie.

There were whispered questions and the rustling of wrapping paper in the dark of the early morn ("Daddy, is it Mummy's birthday, or Mother's Day? Which present do I give her?")

There were pyjama-ed bottoms and wrinkly, sleepy parents, all together in the big bed, smiling and hugging and unwrapping. The birthday card made me weepy, just a little bit. It had drawings of Mummy, Daddy, Jack, Phoebe and Maisie on it. Jack had written his name. Phoebe had written a 'P'.

There was the usual school rush of uniforms and Weetbix and toast and teeth brushed and nappies changed and shoes on and lunchboxes packed and seat belts strapped on.

There was a visit to the supermarket, and washing to be pegged out, and vacuuming.

There was folding and tidying and wiping and playing. It's amazing how therapeutic it is playing dollies, in the sunshine on the floor.

There was a friend's fifth birthday party after school at a play centre. Kids running everywhere, dressed in fancy dress; cake; chips; general mayhem. Mummies at a table, many coffees consumed.

There was a drive home in late traffic with tired, partied-out kids.

There was a surprise waiting at home, in the shape of Daddy with party hats, whistles, a banner, pizza and birthday cake. There was also a gorgeous arrangement of lilies - my favourite. I reckon my husband's a keeper.

There was another trip in the car, this time to puppy school. Archie sat behind me and watched the other puppies. He might be bolshy at home, but at school he's a bit of a scaredy-pup. I love taking Arch to his lessons, but I always come home smelling like doggy breath.

There was a second piece of ice-cream cake on the couch, a cup of tea, and my beloved.

There was the realisation that 35 candles might mean fewer champagne cocktails and enormous parties, but it can also mean love on tap. Babies, kidlets, hubbys, puppies...even the pussy cats gave me birthday love. Not to mention the messages on Facebook, the phone calls, the birthday cards in the letterbox.

And tonight, there was dinner with my family. Which meant more love, more hugs, and more cake! A double-cake birthday? I'll take as many candles as you can throw at me!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When Maisie Met Bunny

Sometimes it's easy to be grateful. To be nice, and kind, and generous. At other times, well, it's more difficult to count your blessings. I try to remember the good things in my life every day. Some times it comes more easily than others. After all, I am human, not a stretch-marked fembot.

During the last few days, it has been very, very easy to be grateful. And, as a result, the sun has seemed warmer, the breezes more gentle, and my propensity for laughing at my own silly mummy moments less tinged with dark sarcasm.

I have actually been so busy over the last couple of days that my blog has been neglected severely. Despite a terrible case of itchy bloggy fingers, I think I have survived the drought admirably (although my psychologist might beg to differ...)

So without boring you stoopid with the minutiae of my domestic dynamics, here is a summary of the last few days:

Grateful to my lovely hubby, who whisked me off to Southland for the afternoon. We perved on things we'd love to buy (and bought my birthday present - spoiled rotten, I am!) while the car wash people downstairs detailed my filthy car. Maisie kept a large crowd entertained by stagger-running in circles while wearing her squeaky shoes, followed closely by her minions (aka Jack and Phoebe). By Sunday evening, I had a sparkling clean, lovely-smelling car, tired and happy kids, and I had managed to avoid housework for an entire day.

Grateful to my mum, who took Jack into her classroom early while I herbed off to the vet with poor old Daisy dog. She was in a really bad way, but thankfully the vet gave her some lovely sleepy-byes pain relief. The dear old thing slept the day away in a quiet house, and I was certainly very relieved that difficult decisions were not needed on this particular Monday morning.

Grateful to my baby sister, who went shopping with me and the Mouse (after dropping Daisy dog at home, obviously!) Miffy is six years younger than me. She is smart, gorgeous, kind, funny, and has the most incredible knack with animals. And is fantastic company. Neither of us had any money, so we spent very little time actually shopping, but a WHOLE lot of time yacking. I doubt either of us drew breath the whole day, we had so much to talk about. I don't see my sister often enough. I loves her to pieces. And very soon, we will have two strollers with us when we go window shopping. I am so excited, I might burst.

Grateful to the Mouse, who discovered how fun it is to breakdance in front of the mirrors in the changerooms inside Bras N Things. She had all the sales assistants chuckling as she grooved her way around the shop. And then...we went into Bed Bath and Table, and Maisie spied the love of her life. There was a pink patchwork bunny on a low shelf, which obviously beckoned to my daughter in a particularly alluring manner, because she snatched it and ran straight for the front door, laughing fit to burst. (Bunny is now safely ensconced in her arms, in her cot, because after she licked it I had to buy it...) I would be very grateful if you didn't judge my parenting based on this particular story.

Grateful that no one could see my increasingly grumpy visage after the Ballerina asked 6845 questions. All within four seconds of my (exasperated) answers. Seriously, the child was asking me why the road was straight. And why I was making her lunch (after she had asked me to make it). And why Archie was black and white. And why we weren't going to get Jack from school (it was 9.05am). And could she have a pink birthday cake (this one I get asked every day. Her birthday is in September, for chrissakes!!) And could she have a snack. And why is that man walking. And why is that car red. Oh. My. Goodness. I am so very, very grateful that my Phoebe is adorable. Otherwise she may have been asking why Mummy was curling into the foetal position.

Grateful for having vertical blinds. They hid one almighty disaster until I got home at lunchtime.

Grateful to my friend Kate who held a Tupperware fundraiser this morning. There were Tupperware parties held all over Australia today to raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am grateful to anyone who lends a hand to this almighty effort. I am also grateful to my boy, who not only did not object to a few new objects of Tupper-desire being acquired, but who also ordered the specific item being spruiked today to raise funds for breast cancer research. And it's pink.

Grateful to Dora the Explorer, who kept my girls transfixed while I attacked the shameful mess behind my curtains.

Grateful that I have no visitors tomorrow, because the mess is still largely intact.

Grateful for Masterchef. Need I explain? (It gives me an excuse to use my Tupper-goodies!!)

Grateful for my bed, which beckons my very, very tired bones. (and crossing my fingers that Archie will be grateful for the time spent wrestling with him already, and will go to sleep immediately without needing wee-wee breaks in the wee small hours...hahaha.)