Monday, September 17, 2012

The amazing Phoebalina Ballerina is five!

When you were a tiny embryo in my belly, you amazed me. I was so sick, I actually lost six kilos in the first trimester. My bump, when it appeared, was quite small (at least to begin with!). You kicked gently, and only sporadically (but with enthusiastic fervour when I was trying to rest). So, so different to my first pregnancy with your brother, who kicked all day, every day, grew to an impressive size and thus made me grow to an even more impressive size!

On the day you were born, you amazed me. You screamed so long, and so loudly, in your first 30 minutes that the nurses laughed and wondered aloud what we had gotten ourselves into. But it seems we caught you in a fit of pique, because after that first squalling half hour, you stopped crying. You nestled, skin to skin, on my chest, and slept for the rest of the day. You were all dark eyes, dark hair, and serious expression, and I couldn't for the life of me work out where you had come from. We toyed with naming you 'Emily', but how could we, when you were so obviously a Phoebe. Bright and shining, a little ray of sunshine.

When you were five days old, you amazed me. You slept right through the furore of the visiting midwife, telling your mama that she was starving you. You were calm and serene as long as no one was trying to feed you. But then...oh my. How you protested. We drip-fed milk through your pursed little rosebud lips, watching every ounce of weight you lost. But then, at a few weeks old, you woke up and happily took a bottle. Eventually your skinny limbs chubbed out into gorgeous rolls of fat, and your stern little face was wreathed in smiles.

When you were seven months old, you amazed me. When the beautiful, kind ladies in the nursery of your childcare centre took you from my arms, and held you to the window to wave goodbye on my first day back at work, you only cried briefly. I, on the other hand, bawled long and loud before presenting my red-faced self to my new class of Year 8 students. Never was there such a reluctant working mother as I. As much as it pained me to acknowledge it, you thrived at daycare. Not all children do. With hindsight, I can see what an incredible thing it was that you did, being so settled.

When you were one, you amazed me. You were so in love with your big brother, you would follow him around the house. No matter what he was doing, you wanted to do it too. You were completely content being near 'Dack'. You ate whatever he ate. You watched whichever Wiggles DVD he chose. You played Lego and Thomas and cars. (The only line you drew was at dinosaurs, of which you were terrified. And understandably so, the way your brother growled when he chased you).

When you were two years and three months old, you amazed me. You came into the hospital to meet your new baby sister with as much aplomb as the Queen herself. You cooed to 'Maisie Mais', stroked her tiny head, and held her gravely. Not once did you ever show any inkling of jealousy; not once did you complain. You were, and continue to be, a wonderful big sister. Maisie Mouse is a very lucky little girl.

When you were three, you amazed me. By this time, you had watched Mummy get taken away in an ambulance; watched Daddy talk to the police about the 'bad men' who got into our house in the middle of the night; had moved out of our lovely family home in Pakenham into Grandma and Grandpa's house; watched Daddy get taken away to the hospital. You simply rolled with the punches, and kept on smiling. Oh sure, you were by this stage the world's slowest dinner eater (an official title, no less), and you still had absolutely no hair to speak of, but by most accounts, you were very placid, happy little girl, despite all that you had seen.

When you were four, you amazed me. Somehow, you had developed a wicked sense of humour. You could count to thirty (well...twenty-nine, twenty-ten anyway), could write your own name (backwards, and mirrored!) and had set a new Guinness World Record in drawing flowers and rainbows. Still the world's slowest eater, you had begun to grow some blonde hair on that fuzzy head. You took up ballet, which you 'indored' from the very first lesson. Although it was rather excruciating to watch at the time, the DVD of you during your class' tap number, mouth wide open and finger pulling at your bottom lip, is very endearing. At the very least, it will be invaluable at your 21st.

When you were four and a half, you amazed me. You began going to kinder full-time, due to my job. You took to it like the proverbial duck; the only wrinkle on the horizon of your happiness was counting the days until you began big school. You happily trotted off to kinder every single day, especially if I allowed you to wear a pretty skirt. I asked your teachers who your special friends were when I was writing the list for your birthday party; since you talked about so many different kids, I had no idea who to ask. Apparently, you play with anyone and everyone. And when the group of girls in Kinder 2 are gathered around the drawing table, chattering like galahs, you are the quiet one, only speaking when absolutely necessary. That I would pay money to see.

Today, when you turned five, you amazed me. You came into my bed early for a cuddle, and waited patiently until everyone was awake. I think you truly enjoyed your birthday breakfast with the whole family, even though after carefully choosing crumpets and jam for your special day, you ate only a quarter of one crumpet before declaring that you were full. You proudly wore one of your new birthday dresses to kinder, teamed with a birthday princess tiara and hot pink nail polish. The thing that made you happiest today was taking balloons and stickers to share with your friends at kinder. Of that, I was so proud. You had a ginormous fairy birthday cake, and were sung to (again!) by your teachers and friends, but the thing you loved most today was painting and playing outside. You were absolutely delighted by the babycino I surprised you with after school, and ate it oh-so-slowly, as though it was a treat to be savoured.

Every day of your existence, in some small way, you have amazed me. Whether it is the sheer force of your love; the might of your will (some might even call it stubbornness); the wispyness of your vague recollections of events; your continued shunning of most meats and vegetables maintained in the face of a stunning appetite for sweet things; or your ever-present insistence at putting your shoes on the wrong feet...every single day you make me look at you in wonder. Even though the dark eyes, dark hair and serious expression were replaced with blonde hair, blue eyes and merry-eyed jollies, I still wonder where you came from. How can someone so clever, and so daffy, and so insightful, and so forgetful, and so incredibly wonderful, be mine? How am I so lucky?

Every single day you amaze me, Phoebe Anna Louise, and every single day I am reminded of the gift that I have been given, being your mum. Happy fifth birthday, my darling. I love you more than words can say, plus fifty-million-one-hundred-ten, and eight.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Festival Of Phoebe

This weekend has officially been re-named "The Festival of Phoebe" (which apparently tickles the birthday girl's funny bone). Last night, she was softly telling me about her favourite parts of the day. Apparently she love love loved the party food, and playing 'parcel parcel'. And playing Pin The Flower On The Fairy. And the cake. Thank heavens for that.

She adored having 'Happy Birthday' sung to her, and wondered, "Mumma, if you sang Happy Birthday to me today, 'cos I'm five, does that mean when you sing it to me on Monday that I'm six?" I just laughed at her. She had a hearty giggle too.

My middle baby, my eldest daughter, my little freckled princess, is absolutely desperate to grow up. She has been waiting to turn five since her fourth birthday, and more than once I have heard my own mother's voice coming out of my mouth, telling my girl not to wish her life away. She has been such a delectable four year old, just as she was an edible three year old, a delightful two year old, a divine one year old, and the most perfect baby.

Oh sure, she has her moments. She has a temper that flares rarely, but is a terrible thing to behold. She can be shy in one breath (and usually at the wrong moment), and then much too bold with the next. But she is incredibly affectionate - I think, on average, she tells me around a thousand times a day that she "indores" me. She is kind and sweet, and far too clever for her own good. She is happiest when life is simple and predictable, especially if her day involves going to kinder. She calls the weekends, 'keep days', because they're the days when "Mummy keeps me". I think my heart broke a little bit over that one.

I really wanted to make this birthday party special, (or as special as I could, given my inability to stretch time so I could organise it properly!) because I knew a tiny part of her would remember it. I also wanted her to know how much I indore her...and that even though Mummy is at work all day, every day, I am still always thinking of her.

However, I think this proves once and for all what a terrible mother I am...all my middle child wanted for her birthday party lunch were Cheezles and Twisties (and even those she didn't know the real names of), and "ordigal". Which, for the uninitiated, is cordial. Uh huh.

So Phoebe got her cheesey treats, and her ordigal, plus a few other things that were baked with a good helping of mother's guilt love...

(Sarah, this is for you!)

Sweets for my sweet...

Sugar for my honey...

And the cake that was meant to be a Donna Hay replica and turned into a "Oh-My-Lordy-The-Party-Is-Today!" cake...

The Mouse...

The Pirate...

And the beautiful, fairy-princess birthday girl...

Complete with icing on her nose!

In the morning, we will wish you a happy fifth birthday, Fairy Phoebe. Until then, you are still my little four year old, and I can pretend that you are not growing up faster than is decent. I indore you more than anything, plus 80-9-500 (her words, not mine - that's the biggest number she knows) :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A fairy exploded in my house

My house looks like a fairy walked in, threw up, and then exploded.

That's right, peeps. Today we held Phoebe's fifth birthday party. And just quietly, I think it went well. I'm too tired to be chuffed, but let's just say I'm fairly sure everyone left happy. Oh, and the almost-birthday girl is fast asleep in bed, shedding glitter and tiara-like debris all over her pillow.

I must admit, I was a little nervous about this party. Apart from being the first party in which the guests stayed without their parents, I barely had time to prepare for it. Apart from raiding the $2 shop last Saturday (with a revolting Mouse in tow), I had not really planned anything for today's shin-dig other than "buy pink food". Which, I'm sure you'll agree, was an excellent place to start but probably needed a bit of fleshing out.

So after work last night, I hit Woolworths with a blush-coloured vengeance. After the kids were asleep, we hung streamers and bunting and balloons and Chinese lanterns...put flowers in vases and willed my inner-Martha-Stewart to come forth...made tiny teacups out of marshmallows and musk lifesavers...threw a batch of cupcakes and two large pink cakes into the oven (which mercifully is ENORMOUS - can you tell I loves my new oven??)...hulled strawberries and made pink heart-shaped jelly and cleaned the bathroom...and then fell in a heap.

Luckily, the Mouse heard me go to bed and decided to help me stay awake by choosing that exact moment to become afraid of the dark. Which meant that she screamed blue murder unless all the lights in the house were on. Which in turn meant that no one else could sleep (not to mention the fact she kept calling out from her bedroom, "Is dark, Mummy! Too scary, Mummy! No lights, Mummy! See you inna mornin, Mummy!")

And when she finally fell into an exhausted sleep (still talking, though), we warily closed our red eyes...only to be woken at 2:45am. Jack had woken up at about 2, dressed himself, and was playing (loudly) in his room, waiting for us to 'get up'. He was convinced it was morning, and that we were, in fact, quite lazy. It took some convincing to get him back into his pyjamas and into bed. Entertaining? Uh, yeah. Restful? Nope.

So anyway, the kids dragged us from our fitful dreaming around 6am by kicking the shite out of 30 balloons waiting on the loungeroom floor. Apparently it was squealingly good fun.

While my beloved took the biggies to ballet, Mouse and I got the house in order and threw pink food (artfully) onto the pink tablecloth, with pink plates and napkins and cups and straws and flowers. And some more pink. And some purple.

Thank the heavens above for our next-door neighbour (heretofore known as Aunty Danielle, m'kay?), who was so excited about Phoebe's birthday that she took care of the pass-the-parcel and a shedload of prizes for me. She arrived with an armload of balloons and presents, took over the face painting duties, and was basically a godsend.

Around lunchtime I realised I hadn't iced Phoebalina's birthday cake. I actually enjoy decorating cakes, especially if there's one the kids have asked for on their birthdays. Phoebe has for months had her eye on a Donna Hay delicacy, and had asked me to replicate it. Problem was, I couldn't find the decorative butterflies I needed for the top anywhere, not for any I made them out of icing. To say I was up to my armpits in icing is no exaggeration, my friends.

Eventually, the table was groaning with pink food and a cake that I will admit I was quite proud of. Considering it's thrown-togetherness, it looked pretty good. It was a layered strawberry cake, with fresh raspberries in the middle, icing that graduated from a soft pink at the bottom to a creamy white at the top, and handmade butterflies dancing around the number 5 candle sitting in pride of place on top. Phoebs was happy with it, at any rate.

Phoebe's little girlie friends all arrived in their fairy outfits, and for two hours we played party games and doled out pink sugar (and sausage rolls - they're protein, right?) The actual party was a bit of a blur - all I can tell you is that I played lots of musical games with eight little fairies (and one pirate) and there were lots of prizes and fairy dust. They were the most well-behaved group of little girls I've ever seen, but even still we didn't stop for a minute! (Who needs a gym when you can host a five year old's birthday party...)

Phoebe pranced around in her fairy dress, waving her wand and beaming at everyone with a face that was emblazoned with butterfly glittery-ness. She played beautifully with her friends and was clearly enjoying the moment she'd waited twelve months for. Somehow, even though she has not yet turned five, she seemed more grown-up. I'm not sure exactly why. But even the freckles across her nose and cheeks seemed to stand out a little more...which, combined with her long legs and infectious giggle, seem to emphasise how big my girl is becoming. I still can't put my finger on it. All I know is, today I could not see much of my little baby in Phoebe-the-big-girl. Then again, I could see a helluva lot of fairy.

By the time the family arrived to sing Happy Birthday (was I smart, or stupid, to space the kinder friends and family into two smaller shin-digs?? Hmmm?? I think I was smart. Right then.), we had been partying for several hours. It was nice for Phoebs to see her grandparents, aunties and uncles (and Argie, and Dasha of course!) in a more relaxed way. I'm glad she could spend time with her friends, and then her family, without feeling overwhelmed or rushed. It just made for a very long afternoon!

But what was great, was that we had a drink and a bit of cake (Mummy had a wine, do you blame me??), Asha tried to eat the toy duck inside the plastic sphere (which we all egged her on to do - no one is innocent here), and before tired turned ugly, it was over. Oh, and we discovered that Asha is terrified (and I do mean, the poor kid got the trembles) of balloons. Which was awesome, considering the house was decked out in about a million of the things.

So now, the balloons are still round and shiny; the bunting hangs gaily, flapping slightly under the breeze of the heating; the streamers festooning the house are still bright and festive. But the cake is all gone...there is icing ground into the carpet...twisties under the table...a brand-spanking-new Barbie sits on the couch, wondering where everyone went. My three little bandits ran their sugar-highs out - Phoebs crashed first, most spectacularly. I think she was asleep before the glitter settled on her pillowcase. Jack struggled valiantly to stay up, finding reasons to blow his nose and inform us of random facts before he succumbed to slumber. And a special mention must go to the Mouse, who not only removed her fairy costume and hair-tie at the party and did a nudey/nappy run complete with snotty nose and wild-child hair, but she stayed pumping until only five minutes ago. Gotta love that pink sugar.

And the fact remains that after all the shopping and cooking and cleaning and balloon-blowing and eating and dancing and prize-giving and squealing and present-giving and hugging and thanking and cleaning and hysterical sugar-induced mania, my baby is turning five on Monday. Which is amazing and wonderful and heart-clenchingly bittersweet. And it is normal, I suppose, to feel that way, when a fairy is walking around, holding your heart in her hands. Especially a sweet little fairy with freckles sprinkled on her nose.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Walking On Sunshine

These days, it seems everyone is nostalgic for the 80's. I mean, obviously the music will never go out of style - after all, who could surpass Blondie, Duran Duran, or Madonna in her first incarnation? Personally, I have always thought that there was only two categories of music - "80's", and "Other", for the obvious reason that anyone with an inkling of rhythm in their veins would understand. Try this: choose one (and only one) song from the 80's as your bestest and most favourite. You can't, can you? It's impossible. Because it's all good. ALL good, I tells ya.

Anyway, any time I hop on Facebook, someone or other will have posted something about being a child during the 80's. How we didn't have Playstations, Wiis, or DS's. How mobile phones were unheard of, and only really, really rich people had weird recording thingys called Beta recorders that you could tape 'Young Talent Time' on from the telly on a Sunday night. How we played outside with our bikes and our friends, with our imaginations. How we could be outside all day, roaming the neighbourhood, only coming inside when your own mother's voice was heard heralding dinner. How we built cubbies; made slip 'n' slides; ran under the sprinkler. How you could buy an enormous bag of mixed lollies at the milkbar for 20c. How we scraped our skin off climbing trees; how we got bindies in our bare feet running on the grass; how we grew strong, healthy and resilient running around all day.

Obviously, as it is with any era, the children of the 80's gaze back now with rose-coloured glasses on. I mean, come on - bindies hurt like buggery, and Beta was terrible. Let's be honest.

But I will admit freely that one of my greatest wishes upon becoming a parent, was that my children could experience an 80's-style childhood like my own. Now, clearly, my kids are still too little to roam the neighbourhood on their own, climbing trees and doing all that crazy barefoot jazz, and when they are old enough...well, I'll probably be a little more restrictive than the typical 80's parent. Not because I don't trust my kids or want to wrap them in cotton wool, but let's face it - the world has lost a lot of innocence since then. If our children have fewer freedoms now, it's for very good reasons. Regardless, what I have always wanted for my own children are good friends who live close enough to play often after school; places to play outside whether it's sunny or windy or freezing cold; and imaginations to fuel games so incredible, they are still remembered into adulthood.

Since Christian was playing golf with some mates this morning, I was in charge of the ballet run. Which basically meant that I charged over to Somerville with two little dancers and a screaming banshee in the back seat, dragged the argumentative, wilful banshee through the shops during Phoebe's ballet lesson, spent a great part of Jack's ballet lesson trying to find the banshee's abandoned shoes in Target while Phoebe trailed dutifully behind, herded two tired dancers and one sobbing banshee back home, made a batch of cupcakes and a potato salad (while the ballerina 'forgot' to take off her undies before she went to the toilet and the banshee and Jack chased each other around the house) and then moved them en masse to my beautiful friend Renee's house.

It wasn't a lovely morning (Thank you, Captain Obvious). It was so bad, in fact, that I mentally prepared myself for an afternoon of horror. We had been invited to a barbie after the 'boys' finished their round of golf, and I fully expected to arrive with revolting children who would fight, scream, and then fall asleep. Or something of that nature.

A few weeks ago, Renee organised this get-together for a few families that met last year at school when our boys were all in the one class. The dads took off to whack golf balls this morning, before the mums and kids joined them back at Renee and Darren's place. I had been looking forward to it all week, particularly as I have not seen the girls at all this term while teaching full-time. But faced with my kids and their feral behaviour this morning, I nearly baled. Pathetic, yes, but true. Don't shake your head at me - you'd do the exact same thing.

So anyway, we arrived, Renee and I popped the first bottle of bubbly, the kids melted into the backyard, the other girls and their kids arrived and platters of nibblies turned into another bottle of bubbly and meat on the barbie...and before I knew it, I had stepped back into the halcyon days of my own childhood. In the kitchen (the nucleus of any rockin party) were the mummies, friends I made only 18 months ago but whom I could not be without. We cackled and told stories and filled each others' glasses. We helped each others' children and dished out sausages and juice. The daddies moved between the BBQ outside and the warmer kitchen indoors, joshing each other about their golf scores and wrangling the boys when necessary. Little Miss Chelsie and the now-not-screaming-like-a-banshee-Mouse were scooped up, not only by their own dads, but by the others too.

And around us, careened our offspring - eight boys and three girls - playing, running, light-sabering, trampolining, ball-throwing, sand-pit-digging, sliding, pot-plant-discovering - all without any need of parental interference.

These eleven kids, the eldest only in Grade Two, played so beautifully together it was almost stuff of legend. I'm fairly sure the girls and I will sit in our rocking chairs at the nursing home, reminiscing... "Do you remember the day all of our kids played without fighting or anyone getting hurt or breaking something or having a temper tantrum? It was a BBQ at Renee's house..." Most likely, someone will butt in and say, "That never happened! You're losing your mind, Mabel" And I'll reply, "Who's Mabel...??" Huh. I might possibly have gone off track there somewhat...

What I'm trying to say (before the Alzheimer's sets in) is that today was the realisation of a dream I have held for my children since they were a twinkle in my eye. The music (80's, of course!) was pumping, the kids were free and happy, and the mummies and daddies laughed so hard our faces hurt. It was exactly as I recall my childhood when my parents would have their friends over - all the grown-ups were relaxed and having a good time, the kids pretty much ran for five hours solid (and ate more sausages than is decent, but no one was counting), and it was just fun. Plain and simple. I'm not sure whether my early fantasy for my children involved my friends and I taking photos of each other "from a height" so that our chins and wrinkles were diminished, but geez it was hilarious.

Today I realised: This is why we moved here. This is why we waited so long for our house, and put up with so much to be here. This is what we wanted for our kids. The bonus is, that in wishing for a nice, safe place to raise our family, and for mates nearby for our kids, Christian and I have landed ourselves in an amazing group of friends. And it is a wonderful place to be.