Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pictures of You

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

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

Or is that just me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Phoebe, on her fourth birthday

17th September, 2011

To my beautiful birthday girl, Phoebe,

Today you are four years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 16, 2011

Three year olds are delicious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

R U OK? Day - Christian's Story

You know me.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mummy Goes To Boot Camp

Let's be completely honest - I'm a couch potato. Or at least, I'm quite happy being a couch potato. Even though I grew up playing netball, doing ballet, competitively swimming, crashing around a basketball court and swinging a hockey stick, I am not a naturally sporty person.

I loved my ballet - to be precise, I was obsessed. But the petite little thing I was at age five grew into a fourteen year old with broad shoulders and *ahem* a generous bra size, so a career as a prima ballerina was never really an option.

I played netball until my knees gave out. I ran around the basketball court (with no visible talent whatsoever) until I broke my nose going for a rebound under the hoop. Hockey was a sport I adored, which was a shame because I was rather terrible at it.

Swimming? Something I still do happily for hours to this day. I trained competitively for two years, and revelled in perfecting my butterfly sprints. The only downside was, I hated competition. I couldn't stand the pressure of swimming meets. I just liked the training. Weird, I know.

As a camp counsellor in the United States, I really enjoyed the outdoorsy, sporty lifestyle. Not because I was necessarily any good at anything. I just liked being outside, getting fit by traipsing up and down hills chasing after my campers. And the American sun gave me a tan, which was a bonus - something the Australian sun could never, ever do without frying me to a crisp.

Even though I grew up playing sport and being fairly active, I'm pretty sure that I felt plump the whole time. Which is ridiculous. Photographs of me as a teenager and in my twenties show a pretty normal looking chick (we're talking weight here, people, not normal as in completely normal, ok?) I mean, I felt fat most of the time, but quite clearly I wasn't. Fat, that is.

Even after Jack was born, I lost nearly all of the 19 kilos I put on while gestating him. Considering how skinny I was when I got pregnant with him (which I suppose would have been because I had only gotten married five weeks beforehand...), I could afford to put some on whilst enjoying the culinary benefits of being up the duff. And since he was such a hungry little bugger, I breastfed a lot of it off. The rest of it came off just before Phoebe decided it was her turn for another reincarnation.

Phoebalina's pregnancy was a fairly lean one because I lost about six kilos in the first trimester. Thank you, morning-noon-and-night sickness. Unfortunately, after my baby girl was born, post-natal depression gave me the unpleasant side-effect of being chubby. So at her first birthday, I weighed exactly what I had one year earlier, 9 months pregnant. Yay, me.

Did I get back into shape before pregnancy #3?? Um, no, not really. I lost some of it. But it was really tricky to find time to work, look after two babies, exercise, and not eat clinkers. So I was probably a tiny bit roundy when I got preggers with the Mouse. Not a lot roundy. Just comfy.

Well, when Mousie turned one in January, I was a bit tired of being comfy, so I joined Weight Watchers. And it worked, for a while. But after a couple of months and about 12 kilos, I became really good at maintaining my weight. An expert, you might say. I was being really good at walking with the pram almost every day, and eating fresh, healthy foods. But clearly, I was eating a little bit too much, and not moving quite enough.

My exercise of choice since Maisie was born is walking with the pram. It's quite convenient, actually. You can walk with the single pram, or the double. You can walk with one dog tied to the pram, or two dogs (it's when you've got the double pram, with a dog tied to either side, and the son on the scooter ahead of you that "well-meaning" people feel the need to comment on your lack of contraception. Have you noticed that? "My, my, you've got your hands full!!" Or, "Goodness, you must be busy!" Or my favourite, "You're a glutton for punishment!" To all of them I reply, "This is nothing - you should see how many I've got at home").

You can walk at night, in the daytime, with one baby screaming or two. You can walk with whinging toddlers, children who never, ever seem to shut up, or children with issues with their co-ordination. I didn't say you would enjoy every walk. But at least you're out there.

So I have been walking nearly every day, and it would seem that this is not enough to remove the jelly from my belly. Which is why, after a couple of wines at the primary school trivia night a few weeks ago, I (rather aggressively) bid for a three month stint at boot camp. And won. (Do you remember I told you?? You didn't think I'd actually do it, did you??? I don't blame you...)

And tonight I did it. I went to boot camp. And oh my lordy me, did it hurt. But that's ok. I imagine that it will absolutely cane tomorrow. But that's ok too. I fronted up tonight and did the hardest workout I reckon I've ever done, and it felt good (ask me again in the morning....) And I'm going to keep going for the full three months, because when Christmas rolls around, the only red-faced, roundy-bellied person in my house will be Santa.

I need to do this for me. And I also need to do this, because as I was heaving my lycra-clad buttocks out of the house tonight, the kids asked Daddy where I was going. When he told them, they protested, "But Mummy doesn't exercise!" Christian reminded them that Mummy did in fact exercise every day - that Mummy walked with them in the pram with the puppy dogs nearly every day. "But that's not proper exercise!", they chorused. (The fact that pushing both of the girls up hill in the double pram equates to pushing about 50 kilos obviously missed their pretty little heads, right?)

So here you are, my children. In the next three months, Mummy will be showing you what "proper" exercise looks like. Mummy will be going to boot camp three times a week, just to melt away the lingering evidence that the three of you each grew to a substantial size in Mummy's poor, abused uterus. Mummy will be a strong, resilient, womanly role-model for you. And when boot camp is over, Mummy will crawl back to her spot on the couch, and recover. Ok?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The day the music died

September 11.

This date, this one day in September, has come to signify one of the most horrific, terrifying, pre-meditated events in Western history.

It is a date guaranteed to stir up violent emotion in anyone who witnessed it - either via television, radio, telephone, or, in the worst case scenario - in person.

It is one of very few days in history in which millions of people could tell you what they were doing, where they were, how they felt. Even ten years on, we all remember with shocking clarity.

On September 11, 2001, I was a university student, recently returned from a long stint backpacking around the world.

Sitting in my parents' home, rugged up in a doona with a horrendous dose of the flu, I watched in disbelief as thousands of innocent people died.

I listened as reports of planes crashing into fields and the Pentagon came, like the plot of a movie I would never choose to watch, simply because I hate violent movies. Especially if the violence is unwarranted, done simply for the entertainment or gratification of others.

As a 25 year old, I cried for the poor people in the planes and the Twin Towers. I wept for the firefighters in New York City, and the families of those who had their lives ended so gruesomely. I sobbed at the injustice of it all, at the horrible ridiculousness of the situation.

On September 11, 2011, I relived the horror of ten years ago. Only now, my stomach churned even more.

Now, we know so much about why the towers came down. We know some of what the incredibly brave people did on Flight 93 to prevent another building being hit, even when they knew their own lives would be lost. We know what people went through before they decided to jump from the skyscrapers to their deaths. We know that there are families forever torn apart. We know there are people wandering New York as homeless people, because their brains were damaged and their memories were wiped when the towers came down.

We know that this act was one of sheer hate. We know they wanted it to be much, much worse.

As the mother of three children who will never know a world without the threat of terrorism, I feel so much worse about September 11 now, compared to ten years ago.

Now, I think about the mothers and fathers who lost children; the wives who lost husbands; the husbands who lost wives. The aunties, the uncles, the grandparents. The friends. The lovers. The innocent.

I think about the fact that we all wonder when the next attack will be. After America, there was Bali. And London. And then Madrid. I'm sure those in the know have stopped many others that the general public were blissfully unaware of.

I wonder, will we ever feel completely safe again? To fly on a plane without secretly wondering if it will arrive unhindered? To enter a tall building to admire the view, without checking where the escape stairwells are? To go to a packed football stadium without feeling like a sitting duck? To go shopping in a large mall at Christmas time?

On September 11 every year, we weep for all that was lost. Thousands of loved ones. The innocence of the Western world. And the freedom to live without the shadow of fear cast across our faces.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The sunshine of my life

Ascot Vale in the sunshine is a lovely place to be, and that is where the girls and I pointed the car this morning. We had finally (FINALLY!) found a day in which none of us had a stinking cold, or a yucky virus (Maisie was in a bit of a fouly thanks to teething, but at least it wasn't contagious), so we headed up to Melbourne to visit Aunty Kirst and meet the beautiful Miss Eliza.

To say I enjoy being a SAHM is a bit like saying chocolate is ok. Y'know? I love hanging at home in the loungeroom with the kids; I actually quite enjoy running little errands with them; our week wouldn't be complete without a visit to Argie; and whenever the opportunity presents itself to have a playdate with a friend, we're there with bells on. I would quite happily stay at home, pottering around in my own space, forever. Unfortunately, since scientists have not yet invented a money tree, and since we need to pay someone to build a place for me to potter in, my days at home have been whittled down somewhat. I'm not complaining - I'm very fortunate to be working in a fantastic primary school. I just realise that in two or three years, I will be back at work full time, and my days in the sun at home will be gone. I always knew my time at home was finite; I just didn't realise how quickly it would pass.

I have been treasuring my days ay home with the girls even more since I went back to work this term. Even though I only teach two days a week, I have noticed a huge impact on our little family. Jack relishes the days when Mummy comes to "his" school, and grumbles when it's not my day to work; Phoebe has learned (overnight, it seems) to play beautifully with her little sister and be Mumma's bestest helper; and my poor little Mouse has become very, very clingy. Even though she is perfectly happy going off to Grandma's house, and waves me goodbye with a pearly-white smile, after two days away from me she will not let me out of her sight. Every Tuesday night, I have a sad toddler attached like a limpet to my leg. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and the weekends, the Mouse provides new meaning for the term "separation anxiety".

And please don't think I am immune. Oh no. I am hopeless. Left with only five days in the week to spend with my girls, I am a basket case. As a result, I have no problem whatsoever carrying the Mouse everywhere when we are together. If I'm in the kitchen, she's in the kitchen. If I'm in the bedroom, she's in the bedroom. If I'm on the toilet....well. You get the idea. And I don't have a problem with that - in ten years, I'll probably have to beg her to stay in the same room as me (just not the toilet).

So today was absolutely perfect, because not only did I get a day with my own baby girls, but we got to spend it with Kirst and her brand-spanking-new baby girl. And oh my goodness, didn't we have a lovely time. Eliza Grace is such a gorgeous, blue-eyed little doll, still so teeny I could hold her with one arm. Phoebe and Maisie were enchanted by her, touching her with gentle hands and cooing softly to her. She watched their faces and stretched her tiny fingers. When Phoebe gingerly held baby Eliza on the couch, I thought she would burst, she was so happy. It just highlighted, for me, how big my girl is. The fact that she is four next week got hammered home today, as she sat on the couch, cradling four week old Eliza.

I watched Kirsty as she fed and changed her daughter, and I realised that I could see in her the emotions I felt about my children, yet struggled to articulate. The wonder that her body had actually created this tiny creature. The awe at her beauty, her sweet little features, the smallest details of her fingernails and eyelashes. The disbelief that this child was in fact, her own, and that no one would be coming to claim her back. The overwhelming, ferocious, unapologetic tidal wave of love, so fierce it makes your stomach hurt.

I watched my friend mother her child, and it made me sing on the inside. I asked Kirsty today if she could remember who she was before Eliza was born. And she told me that she couldn't - that in fact, it felt as though she had always been Eliza's mother, simply waiting for her to born, without knowing it. And I knew exactly what she meant.

I still look at my babies and marvel at them. I am amazed that they are mine. I am enthralled, watching them grow and change. I am constantly entertained by them, exhausted by their energy, and wondering what will come next. And I am grateful every day that they chose me to be their mummy, and that I am able to spend days in the sunshine with them, just enjoying them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A virus ate my brain

I'll be honest - I didn't actually realise it's been a week between blogs until just now when I opened up my Blogger. Normally, I am counting the minutes between therapy sessions posting a blog. I always feel better after blogging, as though I've spoken to a good friend, filled in my (theoretical) baby book, and saved a few hundred bucks in psychiatrist's fees. It's win-win all round, really.

But this week, I didn't think about my blog. Not much, anyway. Last weekend, in addition to the usual blur of ballet and swimming lessons, Christian and I went to the school Trivia Night for an evening of fundraising and frivolity. I had a great time, especially since I successfully bid for three months of boot camp in the silent auction. Boot camp baby!!!! (Yes, some of the other mums did think I was in fact quite mad, but I got $570 worth of boot camp for $65....and now I have someone to help me find the more shapely bottom underneath my saggy one. Boot camp baby!!!!!)

We also spent a considerable amount of time on Sunday finding our loungeroom floor, walking the dogs, and doing laundry. Let's just say that despite my best efforts, we never did find the floor...(but the dogs were knackered so that was good).

Obviously I went to work on Monday and Tuesday, which meant that instead of being a leisurely SAHM (bahahahahahahaha!!!) with time up my sleeve for blogging, I was standing in front of my Grade Fives being shouty. (Well....sometimes shouty, and sometimes not. They're quite lovely, actually. I just pretend to be cranky if they're taking too long with their maths). So what with preparing booklets to learn the seven times table, and making punctuation fun, and thinking about, y'know, teachery stuff, I didn't have time to blog. Whatever.

On Wednesday morning I whacked the girls into the double pram and went for a stupendously long walk with some of my mummy-mates from Jack's class. 'Twas a breezy, sunshiny morning, perfect for a walk along the beach road and made even better by the coffee break halfway along. Unfortunately, on the drive home I developed a splitting headache, which turned into a migraine, which became a virus that appears to be circulating the school. I spent the afternoon lying on the couch with my eyes closed, while my wonderful little girls played quietly around me. Every so often, Maisie would come over and pat my cheek and murmur sweet little babyisms into my eye, or Phoebe would tuck me in and fetch me another teddy. She even went and got a pillow, gently instructed me to lift my head, and plumped it underneath me to make me comfortable.

As I drove slowly to school to collect Jack, I thanked my daughters for behaving themselves so nicely and being the best little nurses a Mummy could ask for. "Well, Mummy, you look after me when I'm sick, so I'll look after you when you're sick," explained Phoebe, which made tears well in my red eyes and fall down my white-and-grey face. As soon as Christian arrived home last night, I crawled under several blankets and slept my way back to functionality. I must say, even though I am much better today, I am still extremely fatigued and achey - it's a horrible virus!! Must be completely better by tomorrow. I've got too much to do!

The girls and I kept very quiet today. We tidied up a little bit, read books, watched the Trinkabelle DVD. I had an appointment with my specialist for my post-surgery check-up. Next time I have a doctor's appointment, I'm going to convince the kids I'm feeling poorly, because those little girls sat placidly in the double pram, nibbling rice crackers and reading Dora books. No one needed to go to the toilet, no one disgraced themselves in their nappy, no one continuously interrupted Dr. Johnson asking for drinks or more snacks or to go to the circus. It was the easiest doctor's visit I've ever had, and I even had to get up on the examining table!! Seriously. If telling the kids how sick I am guarantees good behaviour.....well. You know what I'll be doing next time!

So now I've broken the blogging drought, I'm going back to bed. Sorry. But I don't really have anything to tell you, other than Jack announcing tonight that since he is going to be an astronaut when he grows up, and since he is also going to be Archie's master when he is grown up, that means that Archie will have to be a space dog.

I'll let you know how that one pans out.