Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mice don't bounce

The back of my baby's skull connected with sickening force onto bitumen this evening. I felt the thud reverberate through my feet, it was that hard. Do you know what I mean when I say bitumen? The lovely doctor at the hospital didn't. It's the hard gear Aussie kids call 'ashfelt'. The stuff roads are made out of. It is hard, rough, black, and unforgiving. It's also fantastic to bounce balls on, which is why most outdoors basketball courts are made of asphalt, or bitumen.

The Mouse's head didn't bounce.

The reason my baby was playing on the school asphalt at 7pm on a Thursday was because we were attending an end-of-term family BBQ evening. It had been really low-key, very enjoyable - a sausage sizzle, a crazy hat parade, and an Easter egg raffle. All of my crowd from last year were there, so I spent about an hour and a half chatting with my friends while alternately chasing Mais and wiping sauce off various children's chins.

In the last few weeks, the Mouse has abandoned all vestiges of babyhood, to the point where she vehemently told Jack a week or so ago, "I NOT a baby!" Which is fair enough - after all, she is the age Phoebe was when the Mouse was born. She chatters non-stop ("Mumma, Jack tool!" "Yes, Mais, Jack's at school." "Mumma, Beebee ninda!" "Yes, Mais, Beebee is at kinder." "Mumma, Daddy vork!" "Yes, Mais, Daddy's at work." "Mumma, tar!" "Yes, Mais, that's a car." etc. etc. etc.....) She has become particularly insistent that we understand every word she utters, even the really nonsensical baby chatter that flows from her lips when the enthusiasm is just too hard to control. She sings songs constantly, both real and made-up, labels everything, and insists on a verbal exchange. It's very adorable, and only mildly exhausting because I know it doesn't last.

I very nearly didn't go tonight, because Mais has been battling a nasty cold and cough all week, and has just managed to pass it on to me. But since I knew how disappointed Jack would be if we missed the parade, I manned up and got us all there in time for the sodiges. The Mouse was having a ball running with Beebee and her friend Milla, and it wasn't too hard to keep her in a safe area. In the last 30 seconds that we were there, as I said goodbye to a friend, I watched Maisie fall far too quickly onto the asphalt. She fell backwards, so she couldn't break her fall with her arms, and smacked her head mightily on the ground.

The group of adults I stood with all felt the impact of her little head hitting the bitumen. Only I saw her fall. Only Jack saw the kid who pushed her, and who slunk away as the adults ran to scoop her up.

There was no blood, no eyes-rolling-into-the-back-of-the-head, no convulsions. What there was, was silence. This was the thing that scared me most - the fact that she did not cry, or scream, or chatter. She was just silent, with her face buried in my neck. Once we put the ice pack on her poor swollen skull, she began to cry with pain. I was so relieved.

We took her straight to our local hospital, which was in the throes of what the triage nurse called "a feral night". She warned me that we would have to wait four hours, as was standard for concussion observation. I didn't care. As long as my Mouse was safe, I'd stay all night.

In the end, we were so lucky, in so many ways. Jack was taken safely to his mate's house, to spend the night having (we can only assume) a Star Wars festival (and for that I must say thank you and sorry! to my beautiful Renee and Darren - you are life savers! (or should that be light sabres??)) We were permitted to wait in the paediatric waiting room, away from the psychiatric patient waiting to be admitted in the ED waiting room. Maisie happily played with Phoebe, only pausing to tense up when a nurse or doctor entered the room. We only waited an hour to be seen - something the nurse apologised for profusely, which I couldn't understand. An hour in an overcrowded Emergency Department, in a hospital taking the overflow ambulances from the other surrounding hospitals? Are you serious?

Once admitted, Maisie was seen by the kindest, most patient nurses and doctors you could hope for. She was given a teddy to cuddle (and take home - thank goodness! He was promptly named 'Daddy', which is quite fitting since he is dark purple and very furry, and is in her arms as we speak...) and was allowed to clutch Beebee when the really scary heart monitor went on her finger.

The haematoma on the back of her head swelled greatly while we were in there, and began to weep. I was so relieved we were there. The doctor who let us come home under strict observation instructions warned us that since it was such a hard knock, they would have kept her in if she were any younger. But he allowed us back to our cold, dark home under the promise that we would dial 000 if she were less-than-perfect in the next 24 hours.

Which is why I am here, talking to you (which I have wanted to do for a week, but had a whingy snotty toddler and a job (also, at times, whingy and snotty) to deal with). Over the last week, I was going to tell you about the cockroach in my handbag, and Archie's visit to the vet with his three 'helpers' in tow, who filled the vet's waiting room with farts, and about our (absent) concretors, and about other stuff I can't remember now. Instead, I am filling in time while my girl sleeps her headache away.

Apparently we only need to wake her once tonight, to check that she is still responding to stimuli. I highly doubt that once will feel like enough. I worked hard at making that skull, and the skin that covers it. It took me a long time to craft that perfect little face, and the personality that lights up her smile. I spent months creating that gorgeous little body. I have spent years pouring love into the entire package. I'm not about to let her light leave my life, just because I needed to go to sleep. If I need to stay up all night, just to keep her safe, then that is what I will do.

I know all kids fall over. I know most kids are fairly unbreakable. I know we were awesomely, supremely lucky tonight (and not just because we could escape the howls of the second psychiatric patient in the ED ward...) It's just that, in less than a second, my little girl got hurt in a way that could have been so much worse. I'm simultaneously stunned that she's relatively ok, relieved that we were home before midnight, and weepy. Just because I am.

And at the next family BBQ at school, the Mouse is wearing a stackhat. No arguments. Because her head might heal, but I don't know if my heart could stand up to another incident like this!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Aunties rock

You know how being a mum is pretty cool? (You know. Most of the time, anyway. When you don't have someone else's vomit in your knickers. Obviously.)

I've decided that being an aunty rocks the cazbah.

Yesterday was Uncle Whale's birthday. (Or Wuncle, as the Mouse calls him - looooong story. Never mind.) Uncle Whale is a bit of a celebrity in our house. Not only is he a bit funny, but he is baby Asha's Daddy. Which automatically makes him spesh.

I probably should explain something here, given that I haven't spoken to you for a while. (Yes, I'm rude. Can we move on?) I've been busy working way too many jobs. And employing lawyers. Which I shall explain later, when I feel like being cross. Ok?

Anyway, what you need to understand is that baby Asha is worshipped by her cousins, and when Aunty Miffy is spied by the Mouse, Maisie doesn't bother with greeting Miffy anymore. It's simply, "Dasha?" The kids still love Aunty Miffy and Uncle Whale, as they always have, only now it's mainly because they made Asha, and usually have her somewhere nearby. And let's face it, Asha is gorgeous. Quite seriously, the child is edible. You can't blame my kids for recognising quality.

Anyway, our birthday present to Whale was a night out for dinner with Miffy, which meant that the kids and I looked after Dasha. Given that our Daddy would also be out, I made sure I was more organised than usual (read: the kids were actually fed and pyjama-ed by 6pm. I know!) so that I would be able to look after my little brood of four.

So my kids had their fill of kissing, cuddling, and basically manhandling poor old Ash and went off to bed. Asha had a bit of a cry and went off to sleep in my arms, leaving me to ponder.

Of course, I had the obligatory two-minute fantasy that it was my own baby in my arms, thus fulfilling my fantasy of having four babies (medically impossible (unless I had a uterine transplant...and a body transplant...hmmm), and also maritally impossible!!) But then I relaxed into the cuddle, and started thinking about how gorgeous it was to snuggle my niece all to myself.

Here is a baby girl whom I can love unconditionally, just like my own children. Here is a snuggly little munchkin who can give me my baby fix while I am not newborn-sleep-deprived, or leaking breastmilk, or dealing with colic. Here is sweet little Asha, whose crying does not bother me because I have not been listening to it for hours (or days...), whose warm roundness I can hold without worrying about how long she will sleep, whose tiny fingers and long eyelashes I can sit and study because I know how quickly she will grow into a big girl.

Being an aunty is wonderful. I am so excited about being a part of this little girl's life as she grows and learns. It's a really nice feeling, being the fresh pair of arms, rather than the tired and over-it Mummy (not that my sister is the over-it Mummy, but all new mums are exhausted. That's just reality). I love the fact that between my sister and I, our family has a gang of four who will (hopefully) grow up as a unit. My kids have always gone to their adored Aunty Miffy - I can only hope that Ashie will feel the same way about me.

And after a few hours of having my arms full of sweetly sleeping Asha, her Mummy and Daddy came to pick her up, full-to-bursting of yummy Thai food and the good cheer that comes to new parents after a rare night out. I was pretty chuffed that I delivered a happy baby back to her parents after my first night of aunty-duty (no mishaps here, thank you very much!)

And when this aunty had been in bed for an hour or so, my mobile chirruped with a message from another aunty. A brand-spanking-new aunty.

Does anyone remember me talking about Phoebalina's beloved Aunty Cake? Gertrude's big sister? Well, it would seem that the very clever Aunty Cake became a mummy for the first time yesterday, and a super-excited Aunty Gertrude was letting me know! So I would like to say welcome to the world, little Leo. Your mummy brought you into the world at 5.15am on the 21st of March, 2012 in St. Louis, Illinois. We have seen photos of your beautiful little face already, and I know your Aunty Gertrude is bursting to hold you. But for now, she can just get her backside down here from dirty old Queensland and cuddle Dasha instead. Because after all, we're aunties together now, aren't we?? Hooray for aunties!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How To Make A Fish-Scented Disaster

1. Take one snotty, coughing, over-tired, fragile toddler and place her on the precarious edge of dinner time.

2. Ensure that she is completely underwhelmed by any plaything by the time you get three saucepans simultaneously on the stove.

3. If you can manage it, ensure that you are the only adult present. (Some may find this easier than others - it is not mandatory, but being the sole grown up in attendance does tend to make this process even messier. Which, obviously, is what you want.)

4. If there are other children present, it is preferable if they too are irritable and over-tired. If they are behaving nicely, allow the toddler to upset them while your back is turned. Any little mishap will do.

5. Choose a dinner that you think will tempt your poor, sick toddler. For example, if you were the Mouse's mother, you might like to make a cheesy pasta bake (for comfort), with some steamed vegetables on the side (to make you feel better about vitamins and stuff). If you are really dumb, stir some fish through the cheese sauce before you add the pasta.

6. Place a bowl of lovely, steaming dinner in front of your little grumpy person. Ignore the fact that she is already waving the spoon and fork around like Genghis Khan. Smile encouragingly at her like the halfwit you are. If you are stupidly optimistic, sit at the table with a serving of dinner in front of you. You might enjoy looking at it. Briefly.

7. Observe your poorly wee poppet marinate themselves in the mornay sauce. Since this is the first meal they have touched all day, the least you can do is sit on your hands while they tuck in heartily with their fork, spoon, hands and hair.

8. Try not to sigh too heavily at the sight your your toddler at the end of their meal. After all, cheesy, fishy pasta rubbed and squeezed all over the body, clothes, furniture and cat is simply an expression of thanks for the meal, right?

9. Ignore the pristine vegetables placed carefully to one side of the table. Your child will not perish without those nutrients for one night. And the dribbles of fishy cheese on them may perhaps entice the dog...

10. As you strip the now-grinning cherub in their seat, try to avoid the food-smeared hands that flail near your clean pants. Encourage your child to instead 'clean' their hands on a tea towel, face washer, or a sibling. Anything but having to find yet another clean pair of jeans to wear tomorrow.

11. Steer the fish mornay-encrusted creature down the hall towards to bathroom, ignoring the globs of pasta and cheese that dot the floor as she walks. (Note: the mewling, delighted cats closely following the trail of the toddler may disgust some people. Take my lead - let their presence be a positive rather than a negative. By the shower's end, your floor will be sparkling clean...and the cats will not beg for their dinner quite so early)

12. Stand the toddler under a stream of warm water in the shower (a bath in this instance would NEVER do! I repeat: Do NOT bath a toddler covered in cheesy fish. The subsequent task of cleaning the bath doubles the angst) and scrub with some sort of fairy-scented gear. Observe how your toddler becomes magically charming again as the fishy gick sloughs off under the spray.

13. Dress your sweet-smelling toddler in warm, nubbly pyjamas, handed down through three children and slightly too small (so that her full belly pokes against the buttons). Calmly ignore the horrific mess at the kitchen table. It isn't going anywhere.

14. Quickly and quietly address the hygiene and pyjama-options of your other children (if present). Brush three sets of teeth, comb three heads, read bedtime stories to all and sundry.

15. Begin the odious task of cleaning the table, floor, kitchen and cat after this tempting meal. Take your time while your children sit, quietly mesmerised by the nighttime antics of Jimmy Giggle. Note in particular, the calm, happy demeanour of your youngest child. Observe how she seems so much happier now, as she squats in front of the telly.

16. Abandon the cleaning of the kitchen to change the most horrific dirty nappy ever known to motherhood. Avert your nostrils from the combined aromas of fish and know. Do not sigh, not matter how tempted you may be. The extra intake of air might kill you.

17. Do not congratulate yourself on surviving this meal. Do not even give yourself the smallest pat on the back for having cared for your child in her illness. Despite the fact that you managed to get a sick toddler to eat, nay, enjoy some proper food, there is one small but important fact remaining. Today's fish mornay is tomorrow's dirty nappy. Sigh.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My husband, the sexpot

I used to be a normal blogger. (Ha. Normal. I can just hear you now, Gertrude.) What I mean is, I used to blog every day, or every few days. I actually found it difficult to function without blogging, as though by getting my thoughts out I cleared some space in my cerebral hard drive. Or something.

But after Adam's funeral, I found it very difficult to put my thoughts out there. Not because I didn't know what to say. Rather, pretty much everything I thought about was tinged with Blackboard from Mr. Squiggle. Do you remember him?? The most pessimistic piece of chalk-related equipment to ever grace the airwaves.

If I had blogged in the weeks following Adam's death, it would have gone something like this:

"Went to the shops today. Saw a pizza place. It reminded me of Adam *insert sad face and Blackboard-type noises*"


"Drove the kids to school. Heard a Paul Kelly song on the radio. It reminded me of Adam *insert crying face and incomprehensible noises*"

So in the end, I didn't blog. Instead, I became a Head Blogger. And by that, I don't mean a Head Blogger in the style of a Head Girl, such as in Mallory Towers, going around being the captain of the lacrosse team and bullying the girls in the Lower Fourth. (Although that would be way fun for a while) No, what I mean is that I began writing all my blog posts in my head, pretty much constantly. I didn't bother putting any of them out there because most of them were so morose they depressed even me.

And then I actually became too busy to blog!! I know!!! I think it was because I had gone so long without writing a post (and also because I had been working pretty much non-stop over the last few weeks, and it's fairly impossible to juggle a lap-top on your lap whilst driving) that I simply got out of the habit. Oh, and I might have been watching MKR a bit. But only when those really catty men were cooking. Or eating. Or talking.

So anyway. I'm probably still too busy to blog, given that I am up to my ears in packing boxes (Optimistic? Yes. But I figure that packing boxes in a hopeful manner is more productive than killing the builder) and I am now working two part-time jobs. I'm also prone to black moods of mourning. Usually provoked by the sight of 4WDs, tall men, home made pizza, Paul Kelly, the word cancer, and Archie. Nevertheless.

It's time to tell you a very funny story. It happened a few weeks ago, on the weekend of Christian's birthday. It's too funny to keep it to myself, and besides, I need new people to giggle at it because the fact that I am still guffawing about it in private is slightly irritating my husband.

If you know Christian IRL, you'd know that he's a pretty quiet bloke. Sense of humour drier than the Sahara. Teaches Literature. Knows as much about cars as the gents on Top Gear (which is sometimes very handy, and other times extremely annoying). Is addicted to road bikes. Loves nothing more than hanging out with me and the kids. Definitely not the type to go out boozing and carrying on, if you know what I mean.

Christian really wasn't in the mood to celebrate his birthday this year. He's not a big birthday person anyway, but considering it was only two weeks after Adam's passing, he really wanted to forget about it this year. So his parents and his brothers very kindly sent us away for the night, taking care of the kids and our accommodation. We spent a lovely weekend in the city, trundling around looking at the shops, eating dinner down at Southbank and just, well, relaxing.

The hotel we stayed in was gorgeous, and right in the heart of the city. The king-size bed alone would have been enough for me (for SLEEPING, people. Sheesh.) and I did indeed spend quite a while on the Saturday afternoon lying under the covers, reading. Mmmmm.

As we went down in the lift early on Saturday evening to get some dinner, a woman joined us in the lift. I was most amused to watch her spend the entire 30 second lift journey staring at my hubby, a little smile playing on her lips. As far as she was concerned, he was obviously a sight for sore eyes, and I was...quite frankly, I was invisible. Which I found simply incredible. Now don't get me wrong - my husband is a bit of a spunkrat. But it's not often complete strangers stare so blatantly at him with the same expression as the singles surrounding the dancefloor at Retro.

As we exited the lift, and Christian's admirer moved away, I dissolved in hiccupy giggles. Christian clearly didn't believe me after I had relayed the story, as he had been completely unaware of the lady's attention. And we probably would have forgotten the whole episode, had we not had breakfast in the hotel's restaurant the next morning. Which was where the most disgustingly hilarious thing was done to my husband while I was away at the toaster.

(NOW you're intrigued!!)

A group of *ahem* ladies aged in their forties (generously speaking) placed themselves at the table adjacent to ours shortly after I departed to obtain my breakfast. While Christian sat quietly sipping his cappucino, one of them picked up a spoon, looked him dead in the eye, and put the spoon in her mouth. Without breaking eye contact, she slowly slid the spoon out of her mouth so that it curved over her tongue, and then smacked her lips. Did I mention that the lady in question had not a skerrick of food in front of her? And the spoon being abused was unused??

This was breakfast, peoples. Breakfast in a rather hoity-toity hotel, and my sweet, unassuming spouse. Not a seedy bar for over 40's at the wrong end of the evening. His face, when I returned to the table, was priceless. It was a mixture of amusement and sheer bewilderment. I've never laughed so hard in a breakfast hall in my life.

I took great glee in grabbing his bum as we passed the scarlet woman's table. Considering the emotional rollercoaster we'd been on for so long, I was going to enjoy this high for as long as I could! And since I know Adam would have gained months of leverage for jokes at Christian's expense out of this, I thought the least I could do was tell you all about it. So there you go.