Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

in which my nerves are frayed but my whites have the freshness of scandinavia

Death by a thousand paper cuts this morning as I battled the bureaucracy of two telecommunications companies. The most upsetting part is the cheery voice-recorded Everywoman who assures me that my business is important to her before shunting me to departments all over Bangalore and then ignominiously cutting me off. What is their best-practice on customers who aren't important, I wonder? Prank calls? Knee-capping? Burning paper bags of dog shit on the doorstep?

So it was nice to get something real and satisfying done today too.

Ivy and I made laundry liquid from this recipe. We left out the borax, added geranium essential oil and a bit of green food colouring. Here it sits on the laundry windowsill above Ivy's current favourite bath spot. A slightly bilious green, but a satisfying harvest anyway.

I'm writing this between trips every five minutes to Teddy's room to pat and comfort him as he cries desperately. He's just unable to get himself to sleep these days. Things are better than a week or two ago when he was waking, crying, every forty-five minutes through the night, even in bed with us.

It's so heartbreaking watching him struggle, especially for a baby that didn't cry for his first six months of life. Perhaps he's just making up for lost time? He is so upset, and I am so helpless. I swear it is taking years off my life.




False alarm.

Any advice gratefully received.

Friday, March 27, 2009

this kid looks disconcertingly like an alien...

but he behaves just like a human life-form at our house.

(I can't credit the picture - it's from a spam email. Whoever you are, thanks.)

boot camp at the mogantosh ranch

We’ve been confined to barracks lately. Ivy is still waging the wee-war on various fronts. Yesterday she put her hand on my shoulder and said conversationally ‘Mummy is very angry.’ My heart sank. ‘Where is the wee, Ivy?’ I said, cloth and floor-spray in hand.

Teddy has been in sleep-training boot camp. It’s my fault. Somehow, through incremental lapses of parenting, like a pot-smoker inching down the rocky road to crack-city, we reached a point where he would only go to sleep tightly swaddled in a sheet, plugged with a dummy and rocked in my arms to the tune of ‘The Wild Colonial Boy.’

I know.

I know.

Anyway, the hootenanny had to end and poor Teddy has been going to bed, free of all his comfort wrappings and convict toons. He’s not happy, and if the baby ain’t happy… ain’t nobody happy. I hope the tears and patting will end soon. What with the sleep training and the toilet training, I’m all out of beans.

What a good day to fall down the stairs!

I knew the universe would punish me for buying stupid Havianas instead of the identical Kmart thongs. They’ve been threatening to flip me for weeks and yesterday they followed through, sending me down the front steps to land, hard, on my hip. Teddy bounced off and we both cried. Keith rocketed out of the caravan and didn’t know who to triage first.

We are both fine but I’ve got a nasty bruisey ache and it hurts when I walk. How jolly!

We had a wild old storm yesterday just after the Havianas Incident. Ivy, Teddy and I watched it from the bedroom window, and then Ivy ate her first hailstone. This morning we went for a wander up the road, Ivy all gum-booted up, ready to jump in the puddles. It made me think about the arbitrary nature of the Rules that toddlers must live by. She was having such fun stomping in the biggest puddle that she sat down, dug around the bottom and took a little wallow. Why not?

You can always take a little bath in the laundry sink,
but you can’t always take a swim in a big puddle.

Friday, March 20, 2009

on big ideas

Life's tough when you have to catch up on your reading in the washing-basket boat.

Otherwise, today’s jobs included baking another failed loaf, making a better attempt at yesterdays leaf-art, pureeing Teddy up a big load of organic pumpkin, carrot, broccoli and apples, dancing wildly at music class and indulging Ivy in today's joke: saying ‘Pants!’ in a variety of tones and accents.

Next weeks plans include making up a batch of laundry liquid, planting bok choi and silverbeet, undercoating the kitchen cupboards, starting my patchwork kitchen curtain and putting the next coat on the paintings for Ivy and Teddy’s rooms.

I realise that this list is kind of pointlessly ambitious; especially considering the full-time care and maintenance of the two little people in my charge is an exhausting task in and of itself. I try and work at earning a little cash too, in between T-Bones sleeps on a Tuesday.

I think I concoct these big plans for myself for three reasons.

1. I have an attention-span problem.

2. The life of a domestic goddess is mostly drudge, and not much glory, even though I do my best to list all tasks I’ve completed to Keith whenever he makes the mistake of crossing my path in the daytime. I’ve complained about housework here before, so I won’t go on, although I could. You know I could. I’m fighting the urge right now! A magazine once paid me a thousand bucks to complain about it (making me, I’m not proud to state, a professional whinger). The endless loop of washing, cooking, cleaning could drive anybody to the numbing tedium of daytime TV or Serapax. You gotta mix it up and find ways to make it interesting. In fact, I love the domestic zone. I potter, I plan, Teddy crawls, Ivy does her thing and the radio talks interesting blabber. My little timber house is my buddy.

3. I’m enjoying my slow slide into paranoid survivalist mode. Grass Roots is my favourite magazine and nouveau-homesteader blogs have become my porn. I can’t get enough how-to articles: sew nappy covers, plant winter vegetables, build a solar dehydrator. Although when I recently found myself poring intently over how to sew a penis-pouch pants-stuffer for transsexuals, I thought I’d better back away and get back to pureeing my carrots. (No pun intended).

So I’ll plan big and achieve small.

I’m OK with that.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

going off-routine

This autumn weather is so damn spectacular it makes me want to shake old Nature by the hand. The routine had to take in crafty outdoor time. We decided to take a walk down the beautiful road we live on, collect pretty leaves, come home and do some of the wonderful things we read about in Kids Craft Weekly. Ivy put on her favourite boots, got a leaf-bag and off we set on our mission.

Along the way we ran into our neighbours Aloysius, Gus and Maya. She owns a circus! They decided to come and do leafy craft too.

The craft didn't go down too well. I had the wrong paint, the leaves sort of fell apart and the kids weren't too interested in the first place...not when there was Thomas around.

But it did give Teddy and Maya the chance to get aqquainted, as their proud mothers watched and dreamed of a groovy future hand-fasting, or at least an unplanned teenage pregnancy.

What to do instead? Trampoline! We ate banana cake and drank tea.




How do you make God laugh?

Make a plan.

Yesterday I decided to start on a new routine. I planned it in loving detail at 3am as I fed T-Bone for the second time in the night (after re-wrapping, him, replacing his dummy and helping him untangle his head from the end of the cot 6 or 7 times before that). Enough, I thought. Time to channel Mary Poppins and take charge of this tiny army.

The morning started OK - we were up and out of the house to the park in good time. Left a small tornado in the kitchen, but that was all part of the plan. ('The routine says I can't do the washing-up until after dinner' was a theory that made me nearly as happy as 'Letting the baby chew shoes will really build his immune system.')

It was going too well. The preschoolers equation kicked in : mum gets too comfortable= time to shake her down.

I must have taken Ivy for attempts at 7 tree-wees. No success. I got more anxious as I watched her suck back water like an undiagnosed diabetic. I knew it was going in, but where was it going to come out?

We got in the car to go home. Ivy climbed straight over the front, sat in the drivers seat and... let flow.

Could that be accidental? Is it even possible that that was not a planned war strategy?

I took a deep breath, put a towel on the seat and went to start the car. Nothing. Ivy had flicked a switch when we arrived and run the battery flat. We had to wait an hour for the NRMA, babies getting more tired and cranky as the minutes ticked past, and I felt my routine slip helplessly away.

Better luck tomorrow?

Friday, March 13, 2009

ivy goes postal, teddy goes commando and daddy takes to the bush

I read yesterday a theory that society is only nine meals away from collapse.

In our house, it's only about three. Washing-up, laundry and general clutter grow with the sneaky force of a triffid. I'm afraid that behind my back, Ivy and Teddy morph into Kali, the 8-armed Indian goddess, flinging beans, toys and body fluids into every corner. If anything messes with the constant motion of clearing, creating and managing, the whole machine starts to fall apart.

We had a blackout this week, losing power on the water pump and the toilet fan. I raced to get glad-wrap over the toilet seat, but it didn't take long before the house started smelling like an Istanbul truck-stop. The kids were covered in beetroot and yogurt. Ivy chose that afternoon to wage a wee-war; gleefully turning her concealed weapon on the couch cushions (and then, as they aired on the deck, on the base of the couch), on the floor, and on the rug. She would only answer to 'Jeff" and as I tried to rock Teddy to sleep, stamped in and out of the room demanding Wiggles songs. When I hissed ''Ívy! Quiet! It's Teddys sleeping time!' she stated, matter-of-fact: 'Ívy will cry. Mummy will tuggle. Then Ivy will be alright and go on the trampoline.'

That was when I realised I'd lost all control of this little pantomime.

Still, as I write, warm and cosy in Nanna and Pops lounge-room, Keith, Ivy, our friend Tristan and his 2-year old Talia are on a camping trip in the National Park, and the rain has started to fall. Not just sprinkle: it's settling in to a comfortable, heavy, tank-filling downpour that will make a night in the tent... lets just say 'ínteresting'. Tristans attention to detail is remarkable. His backpack is full of little bags of separate goodies, and he even invented a nappy system using paper towels. Keith's more of a 'fly-by-the-seat-of-your-boardies' kind of camper. May the best dad win. Full report later - I'll try and get Keith to write it.

Dad hasn't been well. We're spending the weekend here to have some Pop-time. Teddy is beside himself at all the attention. He's happy sitting in a basket, pulling the dogs hair and demonstrating his new caterpillar-crawl.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

the language of mogantosh

I've worked out why, by the time the kids are teenagers, parents don't have any friends left. It's because by then you are speaking the language of your tribe, and you make no sense to the world at large.

A sample morning conversation from this house:

Rach- Well, that was a three-dog night. The little buttons did my head in.
Keith - Was he squiggly?
Rach- One time he was sphinxing with his head trapped in the eepy.
Keith - Bloody hell.
Rach- I heard the big buttons.
Keith - Oh yeah. Not too bad though, until she wanted hoop-de-doo.
Rach- Oh, so hard on the neck. Rockabye Sportacus?
Keith - Once, and then Rockabye Jeff. But she threw the doo-dah and couldn't find Little Ivy, and then wanted more and more tuggles. I had to promise her boys and ovvies for breakfast before I got a bobo.
Rach - Bloody hell. Fishhook?
Keith - Can't. I'm strapped.

Friday, March 6, 2009

on pain

I've been to the osteopath this morning. He's one of a handful of professionals and witch doctors that help me manage my back problems these days. Jen the massage therapist digs her magic fingers into me every couple of weeks. Trevor the Pilates instructor is trying to find and strengthen my core muscles. Brett, the osteo, re-aligns the muscles that are forced into wierd behaviours by the strange architecture of my spine.

They all help keep the monster Pain under control.

It's been on my mind lately. Teddy has been sick, and needing a lot of intensive cuddle therapy. Even on a normal day this adorable chubbster needs much lifting. Ivy, at two, is still a chrysalis baby-child who needs a lot of manual handling. (Yesterday, for instance, she lay down in the middle of the supermarket carpark and refused to move. I had Ted in a sling on my back and was forced to bend down and haul Ivy away from a string of patient cars. Try performing that manouvre and still use 'good technique').

My bad back has been a defining aspect of my life since age seventeen, when I was trying on a a beatnik minidress in a boutique called Wheels and Doll Baby and Mum said 'Why is your hip sticking out like that?'

Scoliosis. Mucho curvature of the spine.

Cue spinal fusion 1, where surgeons removed a rib, turned it into bionic glue and used it to fuse three vertabrae together, securing them with rods and bolts. Months in a brace, painted with hippy slogans and psychedelic cartoons.

On with life.

Cue spinal fusion 2, a couple of years later, after a broken screw and a lot of pain. Hip graft, more screws, a another rod, one more level fused. Another brace. Less optimistic artwork.

On with life.

Cue freak boating accident a couple of years later. Fibreglass floor meets fused spine at high velocity. Vertabrae under fusion snaps.

Life gets ugly. A year in bed, hepped up on on horse-tranquillizers takes its toll on my relationship, my friendships, my hopes for the future. Pain and depression haunt me with their tiny violins.

Ten years later: A beautiful partner, a baby, a happy life, one I feared would never happen. Pain isn't my constant house-guest any more, but it visits me a lot, leaving a mess, pissing off the other residents, taking advantage.

The pain has ramped up since the second child. Hauling around two litle ones and all the luggage they require (shopping, washing, strollers) is the most physical job I've ever had. We have always dreamed of having as many babies as finances and biology will allow. But pain is the one fly in the ointment. If I go under, we all go under.

Marriage is a finely tuned symphony of negotiation. You win one, you lose one, you scratch a back, you get an itch of your own met. You both give in, give in, give in. Whats affects one, affects all. You can't live the selfish, delightful life of the committment-phobe that Keith and I both perfected before we gave in to Big Love.

My main struggle, when I'm in pain, is to stay positive. When the body hurts, it's a fight to keep the machine running - cook this, wash that, play with this one, feed the other. And do it all with a smile. So much emotional energy is going into keeping the essentials on track, there's not much left for fun, or laughter, or affection.

This is Keiths cross to bear. And he does it with great good humour and practicality. (Almost all the time.) I love this in him. I hate that my back will bacome a defining aspect of our family too, but we're a unit. I know it will. Yesterday Ivy said 'My back is sore, Mummy,' and my heart sank.

I'm mad. I'm resentful. I don't want to be Mummy-with-the-bad-back. But I can't deal with that anger the way single-me did: Ignore. Aneasthetise. Hole up. Now I'm responsible for how it affects the rest of the tribe, so I have to face it and manage it. This I do with my trusty tribe of healers. And also, I'm grateful - there were many times I thought I'd never get here. And things could be a lot worse.

I've been reading Nie's blog a lot lately. This extraordinary, creative and loving woman wrote a beautiful website about her family and then was in a near-fatal plane crash last year, in which she suffered terrible burns. She's back blogging about her recovery. If you check out her archives as well as her current posts, you'll see. Reading the Nie Dialogues, I've cried.

Life is good.

Because what's the other option?