Dear Mum. AKA “Instructions for caring for my toddler”

Dear Mum,

I am grateful to you for your willingness to care for Tobias while I go to work on Friday’s. I know you raised three children of your own, but that was back in the days of 4 hour schedules and the era where the parents called the shots. So much has changed.  I mean, almost 4 decades have passed and things are different now, Mum. Kids are too, you know. So I can help you learn the ropes, by writing you some instructions.

So here is the drill. I will write you a list, and this list should be kept out of reach of said toddler, because he will either eat it, paint it or poo on it. Then you are going to be in a world of trouble, because how will you know how to look after my toddler without the list?  The list will specify times, and methods that you will find will help you operate Tobias. If you skip instructions, he is likely to malfunction. Which in turn, leads to you (or I) doing the same.

So follow the list.

I have yet to finalise the list, but here is a rough draft.

DRAFT ONLY

  1. Tobias needs to drink. He has a sippy cup which needs to be within his reach. It also needs to be placed in his face, on regular intervals as he does not yet know the importance of hydration. So as his carer, you must be one step ahead at all times.
  2. Tobias needs to eat. He usually eats in his high chair, but these have changed a lot since you were doing the parenting thing, so I would suggest that you sit him at his table. Because I don’t want phone calls at work saying he is stuck in the high chair.  Whilst Tobias might not want to eat, it is imperative that he does, because he might not sleep well on an empty stomach (and we all know that not enough sleep is pretty much the worst thing ever). Sing to him, play trains (place the food on the spoon) going into the tunnel ( move food into his mouth). This usually works. You can mix it up a bit too, and you can go all retro on him if you like and do the plane thing that your generation loved so much.
  3. Tobias likes books. I don’t think there are any regulations for this instruction. Feel free to improvise.
  4. Fresh air is important (but not as important as you lot used to think with leaving us outside between meals, only allowed to come in to use the facilities).
  5. Bedtime routine – ok, this is the MOST IMPORTANT BIT. Don’t skip anything, do JUST AS THE LIST SAYS, otherwise the unthinkable may happen – he may miss a nap!!!!!!!
    1. All of the above.
    2. Nappy change – I bought those nappy pants for Friday’s, so you don’t             have to work around tabs and stuff. You know, you might put it on back the front or sideways, so always look at the picture.  The picture is what he will pee on.
    3. Sleeping bag – this is what modern parents refer to as a ‘sleep cue’. Tobias by now should be starting to get the message that it is time for sleep.
    4. Story time – reading on the couch – another sleep cue.
    5. Walk to the bedroom.
    6. Turn on the heater – to setting 1.
    7. Turn on the white noise on my old school pink radio you bought me when I was 12. Put it on FM, volume dial about 1/3 way around and off channel.
    8. Walk to cot.
    9. Rock, pat, sshhhhh shhhhh shhhhh.
    10. Place toddler into bed, feet pointing north, on his tummy.
    11. CRAP!! I FORGOT THE DUMMY – GO BACK TO NUMBER 5 (c) and insert here – both instruction AND dummy. (that was close – you may have needed to start number 5 all over again if we didn’t catch that one).
    12. Creep out of room, avoiding creaky floor boards (IDEA – do you want me to put bright dot stickers there so you know where to tread?).
    13. If he doesn’t settle, blow all of that and pick the kid up and cuddle him. Works a treat, every time.

I hope this helps you Mum, and that you feel confident to care for a Tobias for 3 hours. If you have any questions, re-read the list. If you still have questions, then maybe I need to add more dot points to help you out. Again, THIS IS A DRAFT ONLY.

Regards,

Your Daughter (your third child).

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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…

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.

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.

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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Playground therapy – thanks for listening

Cruising around the blogosphere and I stumbled across a daily prompt posts. The prompt was to write an ode to a playground. Didn’t that create an onslaught of trippy memories for me?

How do you write an ode to a place where a horse once bit you? Or where you would sit and watch in horror (maybe it was awe at the time?!) as the older girls from two doors around come to the park, not to swing on the tyre with me, but to fossick for the filthy cigarette butts all over the ground. They then sat there and smoked them, generally getting maybe one drag out of each if they were lucky. Was it worth it Mary-Anne and Kerry-Anne? (They were sisters and I did not make those names up.)

Then there was the time when I was invited to the school grounds to play after school by my good friend. Well, I should clarify. She was everyone’s “good friend”, because we were all too scared of her for her to be anything less.

Once I got there, she was with another “good friend” of mine. Apparently her idea of a play date was to set the two of us onto each other like dogs. A ‘fight to the death’ kind of play date; gladiator style. When I said I wasn’t interested in having a rumble, I was given a choice: I was to fight the less frightening of the two, or I would be attacked by my ”good friend”. This was some “play” at the park.  The memory of that day is etched in my mind (and nose) forever. Only now, it is actually funny.

As an adult, I have broken my nose at a playground on a long slide whilst on a work excursion with some teenagers. Blood again, lots of it, everywhere. I went to the fish market nearby, where there are hundreds of kilograms of ice and asked for some to ease my suffering. They said no. Nice, hey? I did not feel bad for one second that I left a trail of blood through their eatery.

Thankfully, playgrounds are much nicer places for me these days with my lads.  I must admit though, there are still dangers  lurking at these seemingly harmless venues; parents who would rather watch their device than their children, graffiti that can provoke the most interesting discussions with little people, and toilets that belong in nightmares.

I wonder what the word ‘playground’ conjures up in your mind?

Reliving my bookworm childhood through my bookworm children

The feeling that comes over me when I catch a glimpse of a book from my childhood is almost embarrassing. I mean, I almost squeal. It’s everything in me to refrain from running around asking the people around me if they remember the book, in case they too might share the ecstasy of my find. I’ve been able to restrain these impulses to date, but one day, I will likely stumble across something that will reveal to my fellow op shoppers that I get a tad too excited over small things.
Here are some of the books I have scored from the thrift shop in recent times – I wonder if you enjoyed these too?

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The thing is, the lads don’t always share my excitement when I come home with these treasures. Some of them, they adore (like ‘Choose your own adventure’), but I am still waiting for them to catch the excitement of Encyclopedia Brown (it will happen, believe me. Watch this space).

Stories from our childhood are special. They remind us of times of imagination that ran wild, secret reading sessions when we were so quiet that perhaps we could almost be invisible. Visits to the library were a tradition for me in childhood, and I am so thrilled when I see my lads in libraries and op shops scouring book shelves for their next adventure. And sometimes my lads are almost invisible too, cloaked by the cover of a great book and an adventure on every page.

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A person’s a person, no matter how small

Today is one year since we discovered our baby didn’t make it to 8 weeks. I will never forget that day nor the days that followed as we waited for the inevitable: for my body to let go of the child it loved. It’s amazing how a tiny person becomes a part of who you are. Forever. Never to be forgotten.

Today I am 13 weeks pregnant. This pregnancy has been so different because of our previous loss. I read into things too much. I don’t look or feel pregnant (apart from being exhausted!). But I’m pregnant. And it’s surreal.

I’m finishing off my last two papers of my degree and have honestly not had a lot of headspace to think about much else. So in a few weeks I’m sure it will all hit me. I’m really pregnant.

Shadows

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Shadows

We have had a few sheets of black cardboard Matt bought home from school last year that are a bit damaged from being used as backdrops for displays. Tonight as we were looking through a Science experiment book from the Library, we stumbled across this and I remembered the cardboard.
It was the first ever shadow sketch experience for the lads, and we got to turn the lights out and use their Lego man torch, which of course made the whole process so much more fun! They were amazed when we cut their silhouette out. We now have beautiful, frugal, simple art in the play room.