Sunday, October 28, 2012

21st Birthday Gold

So some people might say that our little Mouse is growing up.

Others might say that she has officially entered a 'challenging' period of development.

Some folks have chuckled at my futile attempts to restrain my wilful daughter in such stimulating environments as Woolworths, and offered an opinion about how best to 'handle' her.

Many times over the last month or so, I have closed my eyes, counted to ten, and waited for limitless patience. Many more times, I have wondered if I would go straight to hell for wishing for my littlest child to be just a weeny bit older. Or reasonable, if you will.

Not that I'm wishing her life (or mine) away. But rather, I am sure I will be quite appreciative when the stubborn, argumentative, wily, fearless Duracell bunny who is my youngest daughter develops the area of her brain labelled "Logic and Reason".

In the meantime, I'm assuming that it may be a while before calm prevails in our house. Which is why I'm making hay while the sun shouts at everyone and sits herself on the naughty step, and writing this stuff down. It is 21st birthday gold. Gold, I tells ya.

Lately, the Mouse has picked up a few phrases that she likes to trot out when she's feeling friendly and social. She'll run up to me, bend over as though I'm the short person to be spoken kindly to, and say in a high voice, "Have fun, Mumma!" For example, "Have fun washing the dishes, Mumma!", or "Have fun going to work, Mumma!" Or my personal favourite, "Have fun folding da washing, Mumma!" What a little gem she is.

Her newest trick is to clasp both sides of her face and gasp, "Oh my doodness!" Which she will repeat, ad nauseum, until one of us also exclaims, "Oh my goodness!". This is quite cute, and not nearly so irritating as the bedtime routine in which she says, "See you inna mornin'!" about five times. If you don't reply loudly enough, or quickly enough, or whatever, she will repeat herself until you do. And she gets increasingly louder and more insistent with every repetition. At 7pm, this is annoying. At 2am, when you've merely tucked her back into bed after a bad dream, it plain sucks.

The other night, I had to GET BACK OUT OF BED after tucking her in at 2am, walk into her room, and say "See you in the morning" until she was satisfied enough to shut up. Problem was, I was saying it through gritted teeth. Which, according to the rules of the Mouse, was not good enough. Given that I had tucked her back in more than a few times by this point, to say I was responding in an enthusiastic manner would probably be a lie.

Anyhoo. She's not always a cranky little witch. When we go to swimming lessons she can be almost charming. Her favourite activity in the pool is jumping along with a kickboard, learning how to move through the water with confidence. Her teacher calls it 'bunny rabbits'. Maisie calls it 'runny babbits'.

The thing is, most of it is all very cute. I guess I'm just a little nervous about what's to come, given that she is so much more verbal than the other two were at this age. And more bolshy than Jack and Phoebe put together. Given what occurred this week with the big kids, it can only get worse.

At the beginning of last week at school, Jack's (everlastingly patient, seriously-deserves-a-medal) teacher was asking her Prep grade to brainstorm words either beginning with 'x' or with the sound in it. You know, words like box and socks and axe and xylophone. My son puts his hand up and offers the word that springs immediately to his mind. Sex.


Now, Jack's teacher did a much better job than I could have done in keeping a straight face. She just kept making that list, saying, "Oh yes, that's right, like when you fill in a form and you have to say what sex you are, like if you're a boy or a girl. Like that, Jack?" And Jack, who clearly did NOT mean that at all, nodded his head and kept his mouth shut (a bit too late, but never mind). The kid sitting next to him, however, offered this: "I thought sex was something to do with ladies with babies in their tummies?"


All I want to know is, where did my son learn that word? Because it sure as #$%^ wasn't from me.

So then, while they're all blithely chatting about S.E.X., Jack's teacher looks up and sees the RE teachers waiting to come in. Yeah, you know them. The Religious Education ladies. Riiiiiiiiight. And so my kid beckons to his teacher again, and whispers, "I know I've been working with (let's call her Mrs. Church, ok?) for a long time, and I really like Mrs. Church, but I believe in dinosaurs. And I've been thinking, it's really hard to believe in God AND dinosaurs, y'know? So I think I might not do RE anymore. Because I believe in dinosaurs."

Jack's teacher (let's call her Mrs. Roy), bless her cotton socks, said, "Ok Jack, I see your point, but how about we talk to Mum before you stop doing RE?" And my son replies, "Ok Mrs. Roy. You talk to Mum, and I'll believe in dinosaurs."

Mrs. Roy came and saw me at lunchtime, absolutely shaking with laughter. I explained that neither Christian nor I had ever dissuaded Jack from RE, despite our household not being a religious one. I just found it fascinating that the son of a scientist (and believer of evolutionary theory) and a Buddhist came to this conclusion by himself. And, I'll admit, I was a teeny bit proud. (Oh, and rather remorseful that my progeny had given his teacher such a challenging morning...especially since she's so gorgeous and we love her.)

By the time I got home that night, I was pretty satisfied that I would remember the stories from the day for blogging on the weekend. Obviously, Phoebe thought she could make my day stick even more indelibly in my brain.

While I started cooking dinner, the two girls sat playing together on the carpet. Given that it was quite late and I was absolutely wrecked, I was really grateful to see them playing so nicely and quietly. As I peeled and chopped, I overheard Phoebe say in her sweet little voice, "Just let me get my prick out."

Thankfully, I had put the knife down only seconds before.

She then went on, "Ok, let's both get our pricks out", and they both bent over their laps, concentrating fiercely. By then, I couldn't restrain myself any longer, and called out, "Darling! What game are you playing? It sounds like a funny one!"

She gazed at me with a very serious expression and replied, "We're playing doctors, Mumma. Maisie has a sore foot, and I'm giving her a prick." And she held aloft the toy syringe, using for giving needles. "Oh!" screeched I. "A prick!  Ha ha! Lovely!" and went back to chopping furiously.

Phoebe just looked at me as though I were the weird one. Which I guess I am.

I may be the weird one. And the tired one. The nervous one. The one who shouts. The one who polices them in the supermarket. The one who sees a teacher approaching and wonders which word has come out of his mouth now. But I'm also the one who'll be in charge of the 21st birthday parties. With 21st birthday speech gold in my pocket. Now all I have to do is stop giving my kids 60th birthday gold...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meet Miss Laini Rose, Our Newest Comedienne

It's not every day that you have the chance to snuggle a brand new baby. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet little Miss Laini Rose, 48 hours old and as sweet as they come.

Like every person I've ever witnessed cradling a new baby, I squawked (rather stupidly), "Oh! Were mine ever this small? You forget how little they are!"

Well, duh. That's the trickery of kids, innit? They grow whenever your back is turned. And when you're watching them. And when they're jumping all over you. And when they're far too quiet...

Anyway. This precious little bundle of brunette perfection fitted perfectly into the crook of my arm, and I marvelled at her smallness. She was a healthy birth weight - 8lb 14oz - and measured the incredible length of 57cm. But to look at those tiny little fingers, skinny curled-up legs and dark, downy head of hair...she was a weeny little thing, all scrunchied up and making squeaky noises. I fell immediately into the old pattern of rocking and patting without even thinking about it.

(Yes, all right. I'll say it. And then can we move on? Please? Ok. I got clucky holding Laini last night. As clucky as ever. And I may have contemplated 'borrowing' her. But only for a minute a while)

Now, I was already having a lovely visit with Laini and her mumma, Casey. I think it would be fair to say that both Case and I could talk underwater. Put us together in the same room...there isn't even time to draw breath. And to make matters worse, Casey had upped sticks and moved her family far, far away just before she got pregnant with Laini, so we had a fair bit of catching up to do.

So there we were, nattering away about Casey's third birth and her big kids and my kids and Laini and all the other stuff you talk about when you haven't seen someone for ages and they've just made this divine baby and removed it from their torso, when Laini began sucking her little fists.

I'm not sure why this is so cute, but it is. It just is, dammit.

So Casey began the laborious task of breastfeeding her newborn daughter. If you've never breastfed a tiny baby, it is hard to describe the level of difficulty of getting the baby to suck (in the correct way) for the right length of time (in the correct way) on a booby most likely bigger than the baby's head (in the right spot). If you can imagine that carnival game with the clowns, and their heads move from side to side, and you have to get the balls into their mouths to run down the correct slot? Yep. Just imagine that the clowns move from side to side far more erratically, and have teeny tiny mouths the size of a five cent piece, and the balls you have to put in are as big as basketballs, and occasionally the balls spit milk at you without warning, and the clowns look up at you with a frown as if to say, what on earth are you doing to me? And stop sucking, only to get a face full of milk.

That's pretty much breastfeeding a newborn. (I make it sound so alluring...)

Well. Being the amazeballs mumma that she is, Casey had Laini attached beautifully within minutes. And being the little star she is, Laini was feeding like a hungry baby. To say she fed steadily for nearly half an hour, and was still happily guzzling away when the nurse came in, is no exaggeration. And anyone who's ever tried to stuff a basketball down a clown's throat knows that a newborn feeding for half an hour is stuff of legend.

So when the nurse wanted to take Laini away from her feed to weigh her and do her heel-prick test, I kinda thought...couldn't you wait until she's finished? But Casey is far more laidback than me, and agreed without complaint. Or maybe it was the endone talking. Anyway.

So the nurse pried Laini away, and stripped her naked. Laini's little pursed lips kept trying to find that awesome booby, and when none was forthcoming, she started to get a bit narky. But this baby...she's obviously one clever kid. She didn't make a big fuss. Didn't thrash her arms and legs and begin screaming, like many other babies would have. Oh no.

Laini waited until the nurse was exactly at the right place...and projectiled meconium.

How do I describe meconium to the uninitiated? It's the first poo of a newborn baby, so it's been sitting in the baby's bowels during gestation. I've heard it described as thick Vegemite. Liquid licorice. Black tar. Basically, it's black and sticky, and extremely difficult to wipe off. And it's just a little bit stinky.

That poor nurse had quite a time trying to wipe the meconium off her shirt...her skirt...her keys...her ID badge...the scales...the floor....the wall...the trolley...not to mention the baby. We wiped and wiped, but that stuff is stubborn. I dunno what's in it really. Now there's a Science experiment...

The nurse had the good grace to laugh and say that she DID undress a happily feeding baby. I couldn't help but agree with her. Casey was trying hard not to laugh (it hurt too much). And Laini?

She stretched, completely starkers on the filthy, meconium-smeared scales, yawned, and went to sleep.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have a new performer in our midst. I adore meeting new babies. They're all incredible. But never before have I met one with an impeccable sense of timing and innate circus skills. Welcome to the world, Laini Rose. I expect great things of you.

Monday, October 8, 2012

September Spring Ding Part 3: When You Turn 85, How Many Fire Extinguishers Are Considered Necessary?

Every year on my children's birthdays, a small part of me is aware of the clock. I cannot help remembering certain times of the three days when my babies entered the world. Considering my exhaustion and the amount of drugs that were coursing through my blood, it's amazing how much of my children's births I remember in detail. I suppose I must have been paying attention.

On October 3rd, as the afternoon shadows grew longer, the back of my neck began to prickle. I was intensely aware of the birds chirping in the twilight, and the creeping darkness of the early spring evening. For you see, on October 3rd, 1927, my great-grandmother went into labour. By the time she was ready to go to the hospital late that night, she was in advanced labour with the only baby she would ever deliver alive.

When my great-grandparents arrived at the private hospital they had booked into months before, they were turned away - the inn was already bursting at the seams. So my great-grandmother laboured through the night at a public hospital that took pity on her, with only her midwife to help her. My great-grandmother was a tiny, fine-boned little woman - not built to deliver large babies.

When she gave birth to my grandmother on October 4th, 1927, she did it all by herself.  Betty Valerie Royle, my beautiful Argie, weighed over ten pounds when she was born. Every year I think about my little great-grandmother, labouring to birth such a large baby, and what an amazing thing it was that they both survived. Even though there were other babies, none of them were carried to term.

Argie was born into a wealthy family, and grew up as the beloved only child. She was educated privately (which many considered a waste of money to spend on a girl in the 1930's), and worked her way through a degree at the University of Melbourne. She and my grandfather worked very hard for their young family had, providing not only everything their own children could possibly want, but their grandchildren as well.

On October 4th, 2012, Argie turned 85. This incredible woman has loved me unconditionally, from the day I was born. Considering what she means to us, and that turning 85 is no mean feat, I wanted to do something special for her birthday. So we decided to have a small dinner party for our Argie, and to make it a surprise.

Due to the fact that she was turning 85 years old, we didn't make it a huge surprise (Christian was a little concerned that jumping out from behind furniture and shouting "SURPRISE!!!" at her might put a dent in her life line). Had I known that she had never, in 85 years, had a surprise party, I might have made it a bigger affair. But I just set the table properly, with a table cloth and the placemats Argie embroidered by hand for her glory box, made a lemon cake (with one candle on top - 85 candles requires a permit, surely?), and strung bunting across the table.

It has long been a family in-joke that Argie is not fond of chocolate desserts - given the chance, she will tell you, "Everywhere you go, there's chocolate. Not for me. I don't like chocolate. But I love lemon. I always choose lemon." So a lemon cake it was for my girl, with lemon icing and cream in the middle. Phoebe was quite disappointed when I chose lemon-coloured sugar to sprinkle on top, rather than pink. I had to remind her more than once that the cake was not actually for her.

When Argie came into the room, supported by my brother and my mum, the look on her face was priceless. She has travelled the world many times, is extremely well-read and educated, and maintains all of her own affairs to this day. To all intents and purposes, my Argie has seen and experienced a lot, and I have never once seen her lost for words. When she entered our house and saw my children prancing around the party table, and realised that the shin-dig was for her, I think you could have knocked her over with a feather.

The one thing my grandmother has taught me in so many ways, is that family is the most important thing. Regardless of who you are, what you have, where you come from, what you have learned...if you have your family, you are indeed a rich person. I hope, seeing her great-grandchildren herbing around like mad things, that Argie feels like a queen.

Many times she has referred to herself, tongue in cheek, as the matriarch of the family. After we had eaten our birthday dinner, and sung Happy Birthday, she grabbed my hand and whispered her thanks. I reminded her that she had created this family, and that we were all there because of her. If I could, in some miniscule way, pay back her love by cooking her a meal and celebrating her birthday, then I would cook for as long as I could stay standing. I only hope that she could feel all the love in the room and recognise that it was there because of her. Not many people have the chance to celebrate 85 birthdays. Then again, not many people do as much good in their 85 years as my Argie has. She is an incredible woman, and we are blessed to call her ours. We love you, Argie. Happy birthday.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

September Spring Ding Part 2: Happiness Is...

Happiness is...

Waking up on the first day of the school holidays, knowing you don't have to be anywhere, at any time.

Mooching over your breakfast with your kids, in your jarmies, with literally no idea what the time is. Because it doesn't matter.

Finding the bottom of the laundry basket.

Getting all of your washing out on the line in the sun and wind...finding the bedroom floor for the first time in weeks...throwing open all the windows while you spring-clean the house from top to bottom.

Sitting in a patch of sunlight, reading a book, in the middle of the day.

Walking with no particular destination in mind with your toddler in the stroller, big kids skipping on either side, Daisy dog trotting along, with the September sunshine and a light breeze to accompany you.

Taking your child to a birthday party and realising that your child's friend lives so close, you can walk to the birthday party. And then walk back again, in the bright sunshiny day, to collect him.

Realising that since you now live in the long-awaited (indeed, almost mythical) house, the majority of your friends live within walking distance. And how simply delightful that thought is.

Watching your two-and-a-half year old dress herself in the mornings. These school holidays, the Mouse has attired herself in numerous eclectic ensembles, including my own personal favourite - the blouse-as-a-skirt, pants on the head, and gumboots. With a tiara. Classic.

Hearing your children shriek with laughter out the front of the house, and knowing that not only are they playing with the many neighbouring children in the cul-de-sac, but they are safe.

Seeing your brother, who lives so very, very far away, nestling the Mouse on his lap for a story. He has literally no idea how idolised he is, but in our house - Uncle Joshie is a legend.

Sitting on the floor while your youngest child 'does' your hair (managing to pull chunks of it out with her loving administrations), your middle child drapes you with bracelets and bangles and necklaces, and your eldest child tells you excitedly about his latest dinosaur discovery.

Going to a BBQ on Grand Final Day and not seeing more than fleeting glimpses of your spouse or offspring, since everybody is having far too much of a good time with their friends. It might seem like an exaggeration, but I promise you it's true - somehow, Jack and his mates drew their mummies together into a tight-knit little circle of sisterhood, and then when the daddies met, well...a house on fire doesn't even begin to describe it. And when these families get seems like we're having far too much fun. Well, I am, anyway.

Grabbing fish and chips and having a picnic tea at the playground on a warm, gusty September evening, while the seagulls wheel overhead and the wind threatens to carry your tomato sauce away.

Dropping everything to go on a walk, as a family, to the local cafe, simply because it's there.

The sound of your children laughing so hard at absolutely nothing, that wetting of pants was had.

Falling asleep on the couch in the early afternoon, wrapped around your toddler, while the rain beats softly on the windows and Harry Potter vanquishes Voldemort on the telly again.

Watching your three children surround their baby cousin, smothering her with shrieks, toys and love. And seeing her return the adoration, ten-fold.

Having a working bee to fix the desolate wasteland left behind by the scoundrels we called developers, shoveling mulch until your glutes scream for forgiveness, getting to know your new neighbours over wheelbarrows and a sausage sizzle. Watching the rubble-strewn front area of your home (reminiscent of Beirut) become something much more pleasant to look at.

Being lucky enough to have friends who arrive with tools and smiles, ready to pitch in and help at your working bee. Raking a new garden bed alongside someone whose company quite simply, makes you happy, and whose friendship you're not quite sure what you've done to deserve.

The calm of an evening after a day in which children ran maniacally through dirt with scooters and bikes, inhaled sausages outdoors and wiped watermelon juice through their hair, and then were bathed and put into warm pyjamas before being tucked into clean sheets.

Not even thinking about the end of the school holidays. Not yet, anyway.

Friday, October 5, 2012

September Spring Ding Part 1: Ikea is Swedish for 'Pottering'

It's a fascinating phenomenon, Ikea.

Seriously. Think about it - they send out one catalogue every year, and it's like receiving a gift in the letterbox. People go to Ikea for a day out - it's not a shop, it's a destination. I know people who practically lust after the organisational storage solutions that Ikea has to offer. Not to mention the furniture, the fabrics, the kitchen ware...oh. Well. I'm sure it's not just me.

Since we moved into our new home in the middle of a school term, and the last holidays were a write-off, Christian and I have not really had the chance to organise some of the finishing touches. The windows next to our front door were still bare (making me feel like I was living in a goldfish bowl), the laundry needed shelves, and quite frankly, I was sure there were storage solutions that were just begging for me to come and visit.

As far as I was concerned, Ikea was a no-brainer. Christian on the other hand, wasn't convinced. But he 'let' me go, anyway. I couldn't understand his reticence - even if you needed absolutely nothing at all, why would you pass up a day at Ikea? That's just stupid talk.

So our three cherubs joined us in meandering through the arrowed pathways of our nearest Ikea store, and while I soaked up the uncluttered, sensibly-organised atmosphere, I pondered. So many people wander through Ikea every single day, and yet our homes are still cluttered (to varying degrees, of course). Why is this so? Do we need Ikea to curb the growing untidyness within our homes...or, do we need the clutter in our homes in order to have an excuse to visit the wonderful world of Ikea?

Hmmmm. Swedish storage philosophy at its' finest.

Why do people spend so much time (and money) and Allen-key-energy at Ikea? Why is there so much pleasure to be gained from obtaining matching Billy bookcases and a couple of Expedit shelves?

The answer? Pottering.

I think the delight gained by the purchase of a new shelf, or a set of woven nesting baskets, or a kitchen tidy, is universal amongst the tribes that wander the halls of the Swedish wonderland. And enough of a reason in itself to visit the great emporium of organisation.

By going to Ikea and obtaining storage solutions and furniture and cushions and curtains and all the other wonderful, practical items you can buy there, people then take them home and potter around the house. They clean and sort, set up new places to keep things's sort of like the human version of feathering the nest, only with Swedish practicality. It's all about making the home you have the most beautiful, functional, comfortable home it can be. The only problem is, there's usually a helluva lot of crap stuff to hide away in the lovely storage solutions...which means more trips to Ikea.

So what did my trip to Ikea entail on that bright, late September day? I was most restrained, I can assure you. I did indeed get some lovely new curtains for the windows at the front door, and not only did they cost me $10, but I hemmed them myself (I know!). The curtain rail was $2. So far, so awesome, right?

I got a set of shelves for the laundry that have turned a completely useless cupboard into something of beauty. Well, it hides all the laundry crap behind a cupboard door now. Which is great.

We bought a storage solution for Phoebe's clothes (since our previous storage solution of stacking them on the floor wasn't working out so well for was great for Bella, apparently, because it was a new place for her to pee, but I wasn't so keen on that arrangement) which could be used in a different way down the track when she is older. Coolness.

And we probably don't need to mention to my husband that the few storage boxes I picked up to keep the toys at bay were so effective that I now have a surplus of storage boxes...meh. I'm just prepared for Christmas, right?

Did I go crazy? No sirree. Did I desperately want the squashy pink armchair that would dwarf my loungeroom? Yes indeedy. But I didn't buy it. I was very well-behaved. I stuck to my list of 'necessities' (apart from the extra storage boxes...ssshhhhh.) Because, you see, by being a good girl and only buying what I went for (mostly), I have now sorted our home into a much more comfortable, organised space. On a very small budget, my home is beginning to look quite lovely, if I do say so myself. I've very much enjoyed my pottering about during these holidays. It's quite therapeutic, sorting and tidying the house. And I can now see exactly what I need to buy on my next trip to heaven Ikea. Excellent.