My life: The Musical

I wanted to blog for two days in a row. Just because.  I didn’t want to think too deeply or try to solve the worlds problems so I googled BLOG PROMPTS. Here is what got my attention…

“Cue the Violins

If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?”

Oh this is going to be fun! Firstly, the opening scenes would be an eclectic mix of rap and yodelling, because these are the extremes of my life. You see, my life IS a musical. Just ask my husband and my kids and my besties. I have a song for everything and if there is no song, then I make it happen. I have composed millions, but sadly, for the rest of the world, these have not been recorded. They have been one performance only type compositions. What a sad, sad thing.

Did you know that if you want to argue or tell someone off, if you sing it you can save a marriage? Try it. We are still married, so that is proof it works.

Ok, back to my soundtrack. There would have to be some screamy Transvision Vamp type scenes that offset the frequent drudgeries of motherhood.

The Angels “I wanna get out of this place”. Do you really need me to elaborate? Didn’t think so.

Spin Doctors “What time is it?” has to be there. I think I am driving my family mad whenever they ask me “What time is it?”  It might be 10am or 1pm but I will generally answer singing, “4.30. It’s not late, no, no, no. It’s just early, early, early.”

Rogers and Hammerstein – now the bulk of the soundtrack is found amidst these musical delights.  Poor Judd is dead, poor Judd Fryers deeaaard. It’s a grand night for siiiinging, the moon is flying high. Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be frieeeeeends.

Guns N’ Roses – “Take me back to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Oh won’t you please take me home.” Don’t ask me why, but this song has literally been stuck in my head for about a decade. It just won’t go away, so I sing it. A lot. For no apparent reason.

Europe – The Final Countdown. For no lyrical reasons whatsoever, just “na na na naaaaaaa na na na na naaaaaaaaaa” reasons.

Over the Rainbow – just because I know how to play this on ukulele so it would add a new layer to my image – people might finally realise I am a groovy uke chic and want to hang with me more.

Crazy Frog. Jokes.

Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm- Let’s face it. When you are a parent you don’t always listen. Sometimes you just go into “mmmm” autopilot and end up agreeing to things that make kids happy and parents crazy.

Sound effects – none would be necessary to be honest. There are enough sound effects of bodily types, and household appliances, stomping feet, dropping pots and pans, screaming baby and the rhythmic sounds of shhhing and patting to last for a trilogy.

I could go on for hours with this. I might have to do a series…

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Expression Regression

Breastfeeding. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people wish they had more milk, others wish they didn’t squirt at the mention of babies. Some people struggle to feed their babies, others do it with ease. Breastfeeding is one of those topics that can divide or unite. For me personally, breastfeeding has never met my expectations (forget for just one moment that most of the expectations I have about ANYTHING are totally and utterly unrealistic and set me up for disappointment, anxiety, frustration and angst). I have longed to feed each of my lads for that magical 12 months. Isaac made it to 11 months before the biting got so severe I chose to stop or lose a nipple. Asher was breastfeed until 7 months due to a tongue tie and the fact that I had to pump and top up after every feed – and I was pumping with a hand pump and have had tendonitis ever since! Worth it?!  Both of these lads were topped up with formula from a few weeks of age, and were only exclusively breastfed for a number of weeks. That brings us to Toby. Well, with him I have chased that elusive exclusive thing down big time. He’s been “exclusive” since 8 weeks of age, but at great cost.  I took domperidone for months, I downed so many fenugreek tablets I was smelling like a walking stack of pancakes covered in maple syrup, and I still drink lactation herbs multiple times a day (which cost a small fortune – I could be buying top shelf).  I have pumped for 1-2 hours a day since he was 2 months old to sustain this exclusivity. But yesterday I decided that I need a break. I have to stop pumping, for now at least. I have to reclaim some of my time. I am tired and I am desperate to continue feeding him, but I have to wonder what drives this urge. Is it for Toby, or is it for me? Is it the competitive streak in me to “outdo” the 11 months with Isaac? At the core, I think there is a part of me that still hopes that one day it will just click. One day, maybe he will feed with ease and without me having to sing to distract him or jiggle him to keep him latched on. One day maybe he will drink more during the day than he does at night and it will mean I have more sleep. One day maybe as he feeds he will gaze up at me, stroking me gently and it will be just like a picture from a breastfeeding website – pure maternal bliss.  Pffft. Yeah right. You know what? The the only time that happens is in the middle of the night – and yes, I enjoy that part of breastfeeding, but I am exhausted by the night wakings.  The day feeds go something like this – suck, suck, bite, scratch, pull hair, suck, suck, look at the big lads, suck, jerk, wriggle, try to escape, jiggle, sing, distraction tactics, suck, suck, bite, pull hair, slap boob, suck, suck, repeat.

So the expectations end here. It is what it is and if I want to keep going, then I might just have to settle with combined feeding, because I am weary from the battle. But I love the fleeting moments (and there are some – usually in the middle of the night!) where it is easy and lovely. They will be the moments I will look back on with fondness. But for now, the pump is having a holiday. And everyone in my house said, AMEN.

Sleep deprived selfie frenzy

I’m not a fan of selfies. I will do the odd baby and mummy selfie, but beyond that I’m not a subscriber to bombarding social media with my mug. But today something came over me. Some kind of sleep deprived frenzy overtook me as I sat, once more under the 10kg of gorgeousness that is my son, Tobias. I suddenly felt trapped. I wanted to break free. So I did. With the one limb that was able to be free, I embarked on a quest for the best selfie. One that shows my husband how good I look after nights of little sleep (what’s new?!) while he’s been away on a school camp. And I laughed. Just quietly without jolting my baby too much. He remained asleep whilst I experienced first hand the utter joy of selfies. I mean, I look incredible in this light, don’t I? It’s the “I’ve had 3 hours of broken sleep one too many nights” look. No filters necessary. You can’t manufacture this kind of art. It’s pure, 100% sleep deprived goodness.

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Ticking boxes

We are in a stage of life where we feel that we are simply ticking boxes.  Lunchboxes? Check. Faces washed? Check. Beds made? Check. Dinner on? Check. Pick kids up from school? Check.

You get the idea.

Having a 7 and 9 year gap between babies certainly has its benefits, but the thing I have found the most challenging is going from having a straightforward life with two boys who were able to get their brekkie, do their own seat belt up, stay up late if we wanted to go out with friends, use their words to tell us if they are upset… these things were the things that made life pretty cruisey with two lads. Now we are caught between two worlds, and the littlest lads needs often supersede those of the big lads.  Enter Mother-Guilt.

The fact is, they older lads know what they are missing. They had years of life as the four of us.  They had years of attentive, creative and downright awesome parenting. Then BAM, it all changed. One example I can offer is that I express for 1-2 hours a day to keep my supply up for Toby, and this is one of the biggest challenges we are faced with.  Isaac verbalized what we have all been thinking yesterday when he said to me as I was doing the morning pumping session, “Mum, life would be so much better if you didn’t have to express.” Ouch. The tension between wanting to continue breastfeeding Toby and wanting to be more available to Isaac and Asher is agonising.  I recall when Asher was 7 months old, I made the decision to stop breastfeeding for the same reasons. Milk has never flowed freely from these breasts, and I have had to work so hard to feed all of my babies.  This tension is something I will live with for now, because I do not feel ready to end this journey with Toby.

I could not count the number of people who have warned me of the impact of a third child over the years, prophesying that if you are going to have three children, you may as well have seven because the third seems to tip the scales exponentially.  I used to scoff at those people; as if!  Now I get it. I really do. How a third tiny person can throw the balance with such force is one of life’s great mysteries. Yet this is our new normal. The new normal is taking some time to get used to, but ticking boxes seems to be our forte right now, so we aim to tick those boxes with as much grace and patience as we can muster (on most days), with a silly song and a chapter of Harry Potter or Charlotte’s Web thrown in on the days when boxes are ticked and time is spared.  We make choices that create more boxes, such as healthy eating and me going back to work for 13 hours a week, but we believe these boxes are important for the bigger picture.

I do not want to despise the everyday acts of family life, so I must remind myself that these are the days I will one day look back on with longing. My own mother reflects on the hardest days of her life as a single parent with three children with such affection that it astounds me.  The hardships and the drudgery have not shaped her recollections, rather the joy of raising tiny humans. There is a wide-eyed wonder to be experienced when we see the world through the eyes of a child, and this is the very thing parents the world over long for, when it is gone. One day, when these lads see through the eyes of an adult, and no longer crawl into our laps or beg for another chapter,  when they take themselves to bed rather than waiting for prayers and made up stories, these are the boxes that I will one day wish I was still ticking.

So we shall tick, tick, tick the monotonous boxes, but we shall use a sparkling gold glitter pen to tick them, because these small acts are the essence of family and what I always longed for when we wondered if the miracle of children would ever be ours.

Storytelling: The ancient art

Stories are powerful, captivating and enable us to transcend our immediate cares, albeit briefly.  I am a story junkie. I always a stack of books on the go at the one time. I am eager to hear the stories of those I meet amidst the pages, trusting them to help me further understand myself, others and the world around me.  Books are one of my great loves,  and I genuinely grieve when I close a book for the last time, feeling torn between wanting to know the end, but wanting it to go on forever.  However, some of the best stories of all are the ones that are a part of us, a part of our own history.

 

Reminiscing is one of the most beautiful forms of storytelling in my opinion.  Retelling the stories of our childhood, our school years, our courtship, our mistakes and embarrassments keep the memory, the sounds,  the smells, the emotions of these stories alive. Retelling these stories to our children is  a great gift, and one that those who have gone before us knew all too well.  Storytelling is an ancient wisdom, yet sadly, we often rely too heavily upon authors to fill the storytelling craving within us.

 

Imagination is the author of stories of every kind.  Imagination is not something we should leave behind as a distant memory of our childhood. Imagination can be our constant companion through life, enabling us to live creatively, laugh hysterically and escape reality for snippets of time. Imagination is also one of the most, if not THE most useful tool for parenting.  You would only have to eavesdrop at bedtime to hear the delight and the call for “just one more story Mummy!” to know that a story that comes experience or imagination is pure delight for a child.  I know my children will have fond memories of the characters and places I have told them of before bed.  We like to create stories where one person chooses a character, another a setting, and another an object. Simplicity at its finest, enthralling my sons.

 

Then there are the real life stories that need to be told. During a visit from my dad, I had the urge to ask a few questions about one of my grandfathers.  My Pop was an Englishman loved by all he knew.  Smiling eyes and bulging muscles, he often reminded me of Popeye.  I remember vividly walking with him, and wherever we went he was warmly greeted by people, old and young alike.  The kids used to call out to say hi to “Mr Bill!” He was a friend to all.

Pop died when I was 7 years old, so I have limited memories, but the ones I have are rich and tangible. However, without the reminiscing and the stories being retold, these memories are in danger of fading, or being lost forever.

When my dad started to tell stories of Pop, his face lit up, the room filled with laughter and we all felt it – we all felt that we touched the mischief and the ebullience that was my Pop.  There was one story in particular that I wish I could tell my own kids, but they will have to wait a few years – we don’t want them testing this one out…

Pop worked at the railway, and was getting sick and tired of his sandwiches being stolen. Going hungry day after day he decided it was time to take action and get the last laugh.  He made some special sandwiches for the lunch box bandit, and spread a layer of dog poo between his bread.  Wrapping them as usual, placing them in the usual spot, he waited for the usual suspect to take their first bite.  Old Pop never did have to worry about his lunch being stolen after that.

 

Motivated by my own childlike responses to hearing such stories, I  share some more of my childhood memories with my sons often. Their eyes fill with wonder, excitement and shock with these real life “this is what we used to get up to” stories as much (if not more) than they would with the most enthralling picture book by the most popular children’s author.

 

I want my children to catch a glimpse of me as a child – because they relate to that.  Adult stuff isn’t that interesting to them. They don’t really want to hear about the book I am reading, or that the interest rate just went up again, or that plums are on special this week.  They want to hear adventure, mischief, strife and hilarity – so let’s start telling them the stories that live in our memories, before we forget them.

 

It’s amazing how much we can remember when we start to tell the story. Keep this ancient art alive. Tell stories, everyday.

The List: School holiday edition

School holidays when I was a child consisted of a whole lot of reading and playing with the neighbourhood kids.  Life is so different now.  Firstly, most of our immediate neighbours were children 200 years ago, so they aren’t exactly suitable playmates for my children.  Secondly, electronic devices when I was a child consisted of vacuum cleaners and toasters, so they weren’t exactly appealing as objects of amusement.

Juggling the use of devices is an ongoing issue, and we are currently trialing a screen time token system.  Our lads don’t have their own personal device, but we do have a Wii and an iPad as well as 2 laptops which we allow them to access with our permission.  The tokens are working really well so far, as the lads are highly motivated to accumulate screen time minutes; therefore chores are done more willingly, and bedtime is no longer such a drawn out process for Middle Son.

 

However, screen time is only a minimal part of the lads day, so there is a need for other activities to fill our days.  Now with a 14 week old baby in our family (a belated post coming up about this big news!), occupying the bigger boys is a much more pressing issue!  So what does one do when they have a 7 and 8 year old who need to be entertained, but one does not have the same amount of time as in previous school holidays?  Why, you construct a list, of course! I do love lists, and grab any opportunity to pen one. So the arrival of school holidays was a fitting occasion to create a list of potential activities for the lads, so that they had a resource to go back to when the childhood profanity is spoken – “BORED!!!”

After I presented them the list, I requested that they initial any activities that sparked their interest. Here’s what happened…

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The list has since mutated, with the addition of science experiments involving water pistols, cloud dough and aluminium foil art.  I will post updates as these are ticked off the list.

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Yard Sale Psychology

You can learn a lot about humanity by holding a yard sale. Firstly, about your own life. The accumulation of stuff that we once deemed so necessary in our lives, now up for grabs to passers by. My “no buy it diet”changed me forever. So the amount of stuff we culled this time was, in fact, minimal, but there’s still that quiet reminder that too much stuff doesn’t add to the essence of our lives.

First observation – blokes came looking for stuff for themselves! Tools and fishing gear. So many a man walked away empty handed.

Second observation – some people wear tshirts they probably found at a different garage sale, for example; “Trust me, I’m an alcoholic”.

Third observation – women usually buy with others in mind. Therefore my sons started singing “all the single ladies” in the hope that it would have a Pied Piper effect on the neighbourhood ladies. Women came mostly buying for friends with babies or children.

Fourth observation – women AND men change their minds. One lass purchased something only to return 10 minutes later for a refund. Do I look like a department store?! But I do look like a pushover, it seems. So I handed her fiver back. It hurt too, as that was 25% of our takings at that point.

One fellow thought long and hard about a Lego and Wii purchase. As we were eating dinner there came a knock on the door, 6 hours after we packed the gear away. He had $10 so we did an after hours deal on the doorstep. Odd, but the kids scored an extra $5 each.

Fifth observation – kids learn niceties quickly when greeting copious amounts of strangers asking them “How are you?”By the end of the day, they were (unprompted!) asking, “And you?”

Sixth observation – making a batch of gluten free scones and a pot of fruit tea for morning tea is good on any day.

We didn’t make much cold hard cash, but our home feels lighter, and our ongoing quest for less is strengthened!

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Mindful Mumma

Just for today I ignored the uni books and decided to be mindful only of motherhood. Things have been somewhat hectic in our house this year, and we are all feeling it a bit. So today I just needed to be in mummy mode. I cannot tell you how good it felt to do things around our home to make this week a bit more relaxing for our whole family. Things that are usually just done in auto pilot, were quite therapeutic for me today. Hanging washing out and putting the boys clothes away instead of leaving their “put away pile” for them after school made me smile. Grocery shopping so they have healthy, delicious food felt great. Cleaning the floors that were still showing the signs of Asher’s party, cleaning the toilet that is messy because I live with boys, tidying up the evidence of how much fun our kids have, planting some more herbs in our garden – it all felt great. The pile of uni books beside me tempt me, but today, I resist. Because today, I just had to get back to what it’s all about for me – being a mum is my greatest passion and joy. But there was a reason for this mindfulness.

It was so very deliberate.

Today was to be the due date for the little one we lost last October. I felt I needed to relfect on how blessed we are; to come back to the basics of what it means to care for, nurture, provide for and nourish our children. No doubt when they come home and see a sparkling clean house they won’t notice. But that’s okay.

A bit more about the gardening I did today: The boys gave me an oregano plant as part of my Mother’s Day gift, so today I went and got a Thyme plant to pop beside it in the garden, to remember ALL of our children. I also got an indoor plant. Plants seemed a fitting way to commemorate this day – because even though we never got to hold this one, we are changed. We have grown. We are so much more aware of the joys, because pain changed us. So something that is living and thriving seemed to me, the right way to honour our little one.

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I am here, under this pile of books and papers…

I have been somewhat MIA. University studies are proving to be more consuming than I anticpated (!!). With family and work, I have felt that my creative side starving and losing energy. I am truly grieving this and know that I must continue to pursue the creative life, keep feeding it, so that it gains strength and momentum in my life once more, despite academia, work and the everyday things that simply must be done.

So today, even though I have papers that must be done and readings that are piling higher than the sky (well, almost) I decided to enjoy the creativity that was going on around me. Matt and the lads jumped onto www.allfortheboys.com and were captivated by the Spy Week activities. I, however, felt ripped off. Here they were, doing the fun things that I have always loved to set up for them, WITHOUT MY ASSISTANCE!

This is a good thing, right?

Hmmmm…

Anyway, I had a friend ask me what I was doing tonight. I said I couldn’t play because I had to study. Then I got the guilts. I felt like a bad friend. So I contacted her and made her banana bread. She is about to arrive any minute. You see, I get obsessed with things and I forget that life is made up of MANY wonderful things – I just lose sight of them sometimes. It is hard to see (and breathe) under a pile of books, papers and highlighter pens. I get fixated, I go over and over and over sentences trying to get them “just right”. But the words of my ever wise husband ring in my ears…”You do not have the luxury of perfectionism this time. Not with a family and a job and uni.” He is right. I can do my best, but I must remember that boundaries are a good thing, they actually help me to suceed in ALL areas, rather than sacrificing some to succeed in others. Like my creativity.

So, it is here that I am reminded again that getting top grades (which, by the way, I rather like!) is not the goal of my year. The goal is to be balanced, whilst finishing my degree. I can finish it, even without a long line of High Distinctions. Credits, or even a Pass (GASP!) will still get me to the goal.

And here I was thinking that my few years of slowing things down reprogrammed my driven nature. Let’s try this again, shall we?

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The sound of silence

As I sit here on a Monday morning, gearing myself up for another day of study, I am reminded of how quiet my life is all of a sudden. And I am not happy about it.

I remember with gushy fondness the noise that once filled this house for what seemed like every moment of everyday. The big noise of little boys feet running around the house, the squabbles, the squeals of joy, the tears of tiredness. This was the hustle and bustle that was my life with two small lads. These lads are now at school. Every freaking day. And I miss them more than I could even try to describe. I miss the silly fun we used to have. I miss the snuggles before I put them down for a nap. I miss the happy sounds of them waking up. I miss the cute ways they used to say things. I miss the morning teas, the afternoon teas. I miss the mess. I miss them.

But I must remind myself, I still have them. While I cannot possibly remember every moment of their infant years, I feel the moments, even the ones that I cannot recall. I feel the closeness, I feel the dependency they once had. It is different now. Different will be my constant companion, because this is what raising kids is all about; being with them as they change and as they grow. They may not be here making noise, but no doubt they are filling the air with their delicious noise at school.

The little one we said goodbye to in October only 4 weeks after that line appeared is in my heart, and the baby that we hope to have is on my mind. If we are blessed to bring an extra one to our family one day, I am certain there will be moments that I will wish for silence like this again. But I am sure that I will also remind myself that those kinds of noises are the most beautiful sounds in the world, and that one day I will miss them.