Friday, May 27, 2011

Sick Teddy.

I'm about to hit the sack after a pretty long and miserable day that just escaped ending with Ted in hospital. Both kids have been sick with colds for a few days now. Hence the usual night -time shenanigans (Ivy trying to wee in her wardrobe, Teddy demanding 3am dinner) and day-time cranky cabin-feveredness. I've been trying to get up to Sydney to see my sick niece, but instead been on intensive nursing duty.

This morning I took Ted up to the doc because he was pretty wheezy, and it all got a bit scary. He was straight onto a nebuliser (a sort of gas-mask) and steroids, and we were sent off for a chest x-ray and to wait a few hours for the steroids to work. If they didn't work enough it was off to the hospital for the night. Thankfully, he responded to the roids and his chest x-ray showed no obstructions (although it was not perhaps a good day for him to be wearing hot pink stockings and a flower-appliquéd singlet.) Such fun to spend the day in suburban hell-holes entertaining a sick toddler and worrying though.

The doc has diagnosed him as asthmatic, an illness I'm going to have to learn up on. In the short term, every 4 hours for the next few days we need to put him on a hired nebuliser to blow drugs into his constricted lungs, and give him daily steroids. 'It might make him a bit hyper,' said the doctor. Understatement. Big.

As he began breathing in the medicine, Teddy gazed up at me, his sister and Keith. 'I wuv you', he told us earnestly in turn. When he was released, he stripped, danced wildly, ran up and down the corridor and shouted 'You are bum!' I watched from the lounge, dead-eyed, sapped of all life-force and holding a hot-water bottle to my angry hip.

I'm not surprised he went mental. He's on anti-biotics for an infected toe, Panadol for his flu and now steroids and four-hourly Ventolin. He's totally hepped up on goofballs. Tomorrow morning he'll probably come out of his room in a macrame headband and ask us to call him Moonbeam, but I'll deal with that on a needs basis.

Right now I'm calling this day over.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Creative Space: Ivy's Bedroom

Folks, I'm nesting. Nesting and cooking. Nesting and cooking and gestating. That's where all my creative juices are flowing at the minute. A kind friend is donating a little bed for the T-Bone, and this weekend, I hope, we're moving him into Ivy's room for some fun bedroom-sharey times.

It's taken me a while to pull this kids room together, keeping in mind that it will be shared by Ted and Ivy for a few years, and maybe Plum too. This wall is painted in Ivy's fave green (thank Dog, done before she entered the current land of all-pink-all-the-time) and covered in framed family photos, treasured books and small artworks.

The quotation on the wall is from German philosopher Goethe and reads 'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.' Inspiring words, I think. If only I could apply them to sorting out the kitchen cupboards.

The kids book collection is below, along with Ivy's genie lamp and her changing set of treasures and collections. This filing cabinet has to live in here, so we flip it to face the wall safely, and I painted it with blackboard paint to give it some life. Ivy and Ted both like to sit quietly and scribble here.

It's a small room, so little toddler beds are perfect. This one I bought on Ebay for 99 cents! The beautiful crocheted rug was made by a ninety-year-old nun in my aunty's convent, and the space just about fits all of Ivy's many, many friends.

It's good for jumping too.

This weekend, out goes the cabinet and the bookshelf, and in goes another bed. When we have some cash, I'll add ceiling stars and planets, a big clock, and eventually, this beautiful cushion. I think they will have an absolute blast together, but in the short term, I'm nervous. Into this near-schoolgirls space goeth the Tedmeister, who is deep into a phase of toddler independence/lunacy. I'm optimistic! Lots more creative spaces to explore over here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Independence Day

This piece first appeared in Practical Parenting Magazine, March 2011. It's funny how fast life with children shifts gear. Ivy is absolutely a four-year old now. She is writing letters, dancing the hula and insisting on being addressed as Pinky Winky. Tonight she said that when she grows up she will have three professions: a writer, a ballerina and someone who 'goes in healthy eating competitions.' Then she refused to eat her cauliflower.

When my friend Sandy and I were heavily pregnant at the same time, we amused ourselves with a sort of mock argument in which I shouted ‘I hope your baby has a great big head!’ and she retorted ‘Well, I hope you have a daughter and she turns out just like you!’ At that point we looked at each other in horror and knew that we had gone too far.

Three years on Sandy has recovered from the difficult labour that ended in emergency caesarean, but the hex she dropped on me remains as strong as ever. Every day, I wake up to an independent, dramatic and strong-willed three year old daughter, and it means everyday life can be a something of a challenge. Last week I had a serious conversation with Peanut. ‘You have to realise that you are only three years old,’ I said helplessly. ‘You really don’t know everything! Mummy can still teach you some things!’ She narrowed her eyes at me sceptically.

Since this child could first speak, her catchphrase has been ‘I do it.’ Zippers, puzzles, chopsticks, sing-along’s: ‘I do it.’ Since birth, she railed against the rules imposed upon her. Sleep at night-time? Not that interested, thanks. A balanced diet? Just frozen blueberries and sausages for me today. Wardrobe that suits the weather? Fun game that Mum has devised? Nice conversation on the phone with Nanna? No, no, and - gosh, thanks for asking – but no. She’s like a tiny island fighting from independence from the mother continent, and every day she stages one or two attempts at a coup d’état. If time or circumstance forces me to overrule her, she reacts with a theatrical, passionate display of dissent.

As a toddler, for example, Peanut went through a lengthy head-banging phase that was just terrible to watch. On a memorably bad day I was forced to tie on a fluffy hat, just to preserve what was left of her frontal lobes. Occasionally I think that Peanut may be exceptionally bright. This was not one of those times.

She’s not afraid to chuck a huge tanty, and her conflict-management style can be disconcerting. Peanut’s passions are fierce but her understanding of social ritual is limited, so when a wave of frustration sweeps over her, she does a strange, squeaky ‘dinosaur’ roar and shouts ‘Oi!’ If pushed further, she’ll whisper the worst phrase she knows: ‘You’re not my best friend!’ When driven to her absolute limit, she’ll resort to the big guns, known in our house as Naughty Spitting, where a lengthy raspberry is delivered furiously at the floor before she looks up, guilty and nervous.

At three, my stubborn, determined daughter makes me laugh every day (except, perhaps, for those moments when I am weeping.) A child this age may have the ability to drive you to frustrated tears, but they also mean that you live in an amazing sort of half-reality, half-fantasy wonderland. ‘Daddy is magic,’ Peanut told me yesterday. ‘When he takes me to the toilet in the night and I don’t need to wee, he says ‘psssss’ and then I do a big wee. That’s magic!’ Yes, perhaps I am cursed with an independent daughter. But I wouldn’t change hilarious, eccentric hair on her head. (But ask me again when she turns thirteen.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Week O'Mama's: Calamity Jane

You know those women who write about motherhood so well that it seems they have gotten inside your head and coalesced your mushy, sleep-deprived thoughts into snappy, clear realisations? Those women who make you think 'what she said' with everything they write, when you're not shouting 'Testify, sister-mama! Can I get a WITNESS!'

I've got one of them for you today. I'm so pleased to introduce you to Calamity Jane who blogs at Apron Stringz. She's a writing, homesteading, wisecrackin' mama-of-two. She is such a star! And here she is:

Who are your small people?

My first born will be four in July. She is a sweet, sassy little package of firecracker. She's headstrong, independent, passionate, quick as a whip-- everything I always look for in a friend, though it's a bit challenging on a kid. My little guy is about one and a half. He is the boy version of his big sis. Firecracker #2. His first and second words were, respectively, 'ball' and 'truck.' (as a point of reference, one of #1's firsts was 'walrus')

Perhaps an impossible question to address in 25 words or less, but how do you think motherhood has changed you as a person?

More than anything else, motherhood has humbled me. I used to be very sharp, judgmental. Motherhood has softened me, stretched me. I have patience in reserves I wouldn't have been able to conceive of pre-kids. It has taught me to be flexible, to loose the reigns of control. To let go of my Ego, submit to the moment. Which makes it all sounds so lovely-- motherhood, my beneficent teacher. In truth what it often felt like was more of an enormous punch in the gut. It's easy to get down on your knees when you can't breathe.

How do you think blogging impacts on your parenting?

Sadly, I'm not sure this is a positive relationship. It's hard to say. My writing definitely detracts from everything I just said parenting teaches me. Blogging brings it right back to MeMeMe. It takes my time away from my kids and house and projects, but even more it takes my mind and energy away. It interrupts my submission by giving me something I'm almost addicted to getting away from the kids to do.

On the other hand, maybe some mamas can healthily submit to mothering entirely, but I know I couldn't. I would slowly stew in my own poison. I need something else, something that feels productive, that excersizes my brain which otherwise kind of attrophes during this whole mothering gig. Writing has turned out to be a need for me, it feels very healthy.

On the third hand, I do think blogging in particular is not entirely helpful, because of it's addictive, ever possible nature. There's always just a little more to be done/found on the internet. It's much harder for me to excersize self-control on the computer than with a book or pen and paper.

What are your most joyful times with the kids?

I think playing is boring. Which, as a mom is almost like admitting you're a nazi. I just can't get into the endless pretend, and although I enjoy rough-housing for about 2 minutes, then I'm tired. But I think I live my life playfully, even though I don't out and out play. I'm good at those things like stopping to smell the flowers, and jump in puddles. But, my happiest mama moments are when we are doing something grown-up together. When my patience is at a high, and I am letting the kidlets "help" with a project. They both "helped" me make the toddler stool I posted about a few months ago, and it was awesome. Kids need kid play, but they also adore to do whatever the grown-ups are doing. So when I am able to move slowly and patiently, and involve them, they are so happy. And I get to watch their intent concentration, their little brains sucking everything up like hungry sponges, which I love more than almost anything else.

How do you manage the frustration of life with tiny people?

Hmmm. Do I manage it? The jury is still out. One principle I've found extremely helpful in all aspects of parenting is addressing the cause rather than the symptom. I try to identify what makes me a more patient balanced person, in general, because that will make me a better mama. I know some mamas who need excersize. They are just better mamas if they force themselves to make the extra effort to do it. For me, it's mental excersize. Having time alone to think, read or write simply makes me a better mama. It took a miniature nervous breakdown for me to learn to ask for what I need. Which is regular, reliable time to do my own thing. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, but it needs to be clear cut and pre-determined. We started doing saturday afternoons. I get 5 or 6 hours to do whatever my heart desires. It is so incredibly good for me, and therefore for our family. "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Do not underestimate that!

The other thing is submission. So much of my struggling is pointless and un-productive. When I just buckle down and do a thing, it takes so much less energy than fighting the idea of it. A few months back I started picking up my daughter's room just before bedtime. This sounds simple, right? But I fought the idea of daily pick-up until she was 3 1/2!!! Why pick it up? I asked myself, she was just going to throw it all on the floor again tomorrow. She can learn to pick up her own goddamn room. I'm not a maid.

Then finally I just decided that a clean-ish room, at some point in the day, was important to me. To me. So I'd better just do it and quit bitching. And I did. It takes me about 3 minutes to pick up her room. It's part of our bedtime routine now while she hedges about which pajamas to wear. I tell her I'm making her room all clean so it will be fresh and ready for a new mess in the morning.

One family story that you love to tell?

I can't think of any one great family story. But here's a little anecdote about my 3YO. The kids were in the bath and she said she was pretending to be a hippopotamus. 'Oh,' I said, 'good thinking, because hippopotamuses live in water.' She was quiet for a minute, the wheels turning. Then she said carefully,

'Well... Hippopotamuses don't actually live in the water. They just get in the water to cool off.'

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Sweet Autumn Morning

We've been away for a few days with Mum and Dad while Keith is in Singapore communing with the braniacs. Yesterday we spent the morning in the park.

Teddy wore his silver dancing shoes.

We scoffed some sweet treats from the bakery.

Ivy practiced her mad photography skills on Mummy (and Plummy.)

Then she invented an excellent new swinging game. You twist your brother up...

Twist him higher...

And let him fly!

Then we took a scenic meander home along the fencelines.

And stopped for a quick hug in the Autumn leaves.

The Week O'Mama's returns tomorrow. xx

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Week O'Mama's: Veronica

Todays mama is Veronica, from Sleepless Nights. I am always interested to read Veronica's thoughts when she loads a post. As a mum of two children on the autism spectrum, and suffering herself from a physically incapactiating joint syndrom (read more here about ALS), she's truly inspiring.

Veronica doesn't pretend days are rosy when they are crap. But she attacks problems head-on when they arise, with insight and humour and honesty. She has wisdom beyond her years, this young mama. And here she is:

Who are your small people? :

My small people are Amy, who is 4 and Isaac, who is 2. Isaac has been diagnosed with autism and we're waiting on a diagnosis of aspergers for Amy.

Perhaps an impossible question to address in 25 words or less, but how do you think motherhood has changed you as a person?

It's made me infinitely more and less patient, in equal measure. It's also changed my perspective. Nothing is black and white, we're all shades of grey.

How do you think blogging impacts on your parenting?

I definitely spend more time online, but on the same hand, I'm earning money and doing something solely for myself, which is great for my sanity. I am certainly more time poor when I am putting energy into social media, than when I wasn't blogging. I am also saner.

What are your most joyful times with the kids?

I love warm days when we can all be outside in the garden together. Or snuggling under warm blankets with books.

How do you manage the frustration of life with tiny people?

I don't manage it well at all. Having children on the spectrum adds an element to my frustration that is hard to articulate. It's like we're all speaking a different language sometimes and I have to remember that while Amy has great speech, her understanding can be flawed.

One family story that you love to tell? I honestly can't think of anything that stands out! Most of my family stories end up on my blog, which means they rattle around inside my head less often.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Week O'Mama's: Jodi

Today's mama is Jodi, a writer, birth educator and yoga teacher from the NSW North Coast. It's a location as idyllic as her life sometimes seems. I think this might be because Jodi has a knack for finding the beauty in the everyday moments of life, and her blogging voice is gentle and wise. If you don't already read Che and Fidel, check it out. It's luvverly.

She's a bit easy on the eye too.

Here's Jodi:

Who are your small people?

Che is 3.5 and I'm currently growing a baby, due mid-winter.

Perhaps an impossible question to address in 25 words or less, but how do you think motherhood has changed you as a person?

I now know what it means to surrender and hence I understand the absolute meaning of love.

How do you think blogging impacts on your parenting?

I only started blogging when I became a muma. It's had a huge impact on the way I view my role as mother and also, on my view of the world. It's all too easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of daily tasks that arise with children but through blogging I have learnt to be grateful for the little, everyday things. Daily expressions of gratitude are essential to my wellbeing, my happiness. I hardly ever used a camera before blogging either but looking through the lens has encouraged me to see the beauty in simplicity - a bunch of blooms, a freshly laundered pile of baby clothes, a present tied with string. Connection with other women has been the biggest and best blogging surprise. I'm so inspired and encouraged by the tales of parenting that are posted on the web; I especially appreciate the honesty imbued within some blogs.

What are your most joyful times with the kids?

Joyful: breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cuddling, exploring, sharing meals. But mostly, the conversations I have with Che; it's like I get to see the world through his eyes sometimes and that is just so precious.

How do you manage the frustration of life with tiny people?

I teach yoga and I understand the importance of releasing frustration. My partner Daniel is an amazing Dad and I learn from him every day - he's great with the reasoning, discussing and discipline side of parenting. Often when I'm frustrated as a mother it's got more to do with me than with Che. When I come to realize this I literally remove myself from the situation. A shower is good, a cup of tea always works and when all else fails I go to a yoga class or book a pedicure.

One family story that you love to tell?

I tell this story to expectant couples when I teach birth workshops and the dads love to hear it. Moments after birthing Che I was holding him and he was crying. I was tying to calm him with my words but because of all the adrenalin in my body my voice was quite high pitched and he didn't recognise my words. Daniel came and stood beside me, he leant over, looked at Che and said: "hey mate." In that instant Che stopped crying, looked into daniel's eyes and recognized his Dad. Our midwife caught it on camera - proof that babies in utero learn the voices of those close to their muma.

24 Weeks.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Week O'Mama's: Sal

Mothers Day at Mogantosh land was lovely. But over in one day! Hmmph.

Not here it isn't. Some of you might remember that last year over Mothers Day I ran a little series of interviews with some mamas of the blogosphere whom I find inspiring and uplifting.

This year, I feel even more drawn to stories about how we do this thing we do. (Incidentally, some of you have worried about my cryptic messages of late. I'm sorry. There's a sick baby in the family. It's not my story to tell, but it is affecting me deeply, and I try to be as honest in this space as I can. Thanks for your kindness.)

If you don't know the blog Georgie Love, it's my pleasure to share it with you. Georgie Love, run by Sally, is a beautiful handmade online gift emporium, and I know first hand how gorgeous her sensibility is, because out of the blue once, as I was deep in some parenting crisis, Sal sent me a package full of delights. It still ranks as one of my most wonderful and surprising moments in life. Unexpected love, right when I needed it.

Sal writes about her business and her life with wit, charm and honesty. And here she is, in all her cuteness:

Who are your small people?

Ruby Winter Rock who is about 2.5 and mystery baby-bean girl who is due in 9 weeks. The name debate continues.

Perhaps an impossible question to address in 25 words or less, but how do you think motherhood has changed you as a person?

Oh goodness, where does one start, I don't think anyone could predict how much parenting will change them, you really have no idea of the impact before you having small people. For me though, I think most noticeably parenting has softened me significantly. I had an odd little upbringing where emotions were mocked and ridiculed, so for a looooong time I had a lot of trouble with emotional intimacy, and basically anything to do with emotions. DrMr has this "great" quote from very early in our relationship where I declared that I "don't want to talk about the past.... or the future... or the present". Poor DrMr and anyone else who has ever attempted a romantic relationship with me. Having Ruby changed all of that in an instant, it really healed a lot of broken parts in me, made me very vulnerable and opened me to more of everything in life. It's been nothing but positive. Having kids also makes me respect and understand people who choose not to have kids, but for me - I wouldn't change our decision to. I am a much better, happier, more patient, lucky and time-poor person.

How do you think blogging impacts on your parenting?

I used to specifically blog about Georgie Love and you can see that pretty much turn on the head of a pin when we found out about Rubes (a surprise!). I never really thought I would have kids, I honestly didn't think I would ever be that lucky, or perhaps that it would be in my future. I blog a lot about parenting and life, and if I have things that are troubling me, parenting questions or advice needed, it's the first place I go to for answers. I really feel the sense of community in the blogging world and I have been lucky enough to have made some awesome friends from it too.

What are your most joyful times with the kids?

There are so many, I think each age gets better as their little personalities develop and reveal themselves. I think it's things like quiet, sleepy cuddles, and the random things - Rube's passion about wearing comfy pants and wanting to wear her pajamas (snuggle suits we call them) EVERYWHERE, her obsessions and special collections (rocks, sticks, coins, ducks and birthday candles). Most, most, most of all, when it's all of us 3.5 together - I feel that sense of family really keenly, us against the world, my little and most loved people . It's my place where I am most happy and most belong.

How do you manage the frustration of life with tiny people?

Oh man. I don't know if we are in the middle of the terrible twos or threes, but goodness we have had some crappy days of late. After one of those days and we are having a cuddle at the end of the day, I try and talk to Rubes about why Mummy was cross during the day, that we need to try and do better listening or whatever - that it's ok for her or I to be cross, but we need to balance it with being happy too. And then approach each day fresh, unmarred by a bad one before and see what the day will bring - take each tantrum or act of random craziness as they come.

Do you have one family story that you love to tell?

This is the question I found the hardest! Rubes does odd little things that make me laugh all the time, but to note one special or significant thing is really difficult. I think the thing that most fascinates me at the moment is how different each pregnancy has been, and how little personalities are already revealing themselves. Rubes was breech throughout the whole pregnancy, she was turned manually, she never engaged and I was induced for her to come out - which is kind of just her, she is obsessed with being comfortable, from her very first breath everything had to be just how she wanted it, or there would be dire consequences. With this one, she is super restless and won't stop moving, her head is already down and ready to go, impatient to come out and get on with it all. Completely different. Two very different kind of handfuls.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cuppy's In Love

Today is sad. It is, I have decided, a good day to find the small joys of life.

This morning, I saw Cuppy.

About a year ago I started noticing a man walking the coast road at the same time we drove it in the morning, headed to pre-school, swimming, shopping. He was hard to miss because he was very overweight and he wore remarkably tight shorts. I say 'shorts' but really 'teeny-weeny trunks' is more accurate. His own view of them was likely obscured by what Kathy Lette calls the 'verandah over the toyshop' but every morning I was getting an eyeful of to put this delicately.... his twig and berries? Frank and beans? Meat and potatoes? They were encased in snug cotton and in my own head, I started to call him 'Cuppy.'

Days passed, and Cuppy kept walking. Every day he wore his little trunks. He was obviously on a health kick, and I started to point him out to the kids.

Days turned into weeks, and I began to sing a song about Cuppy when we spotted him. It was set to the classic 80's tune of 'Chuck E's in Love.' The kids would sing along, and when Keith happened to be with us one day he invented the Cuppy Cup, where the first one to spot Cuppy won a prize.

Cuppy's shorts got worn out. He wears a new pair now, but he's still walking, and he's lost a ton of weight. I am so proud of Cuppy, I could cry. But there have been a few too many tears lately. So instead, I give you Cuppy's Song. Months ago, we recorded it for posterity. I've never posted this little video because I try hard in life to create the illusion that I am not a giant nob, and this clip proves otherwise.

But today, today is a good day for Cuppy's song.