Friday, September 30, 2011

Howdy, Spring.

A rare moment here: the children are all asleep, I have stopped roaming the halls in a perpetual loop of motion - settling the baby, scaling mountains of washing, feeding the children, main-lining coffee and yet, I am not unconscious; my only other state these last few weeks.

(This babelet is six weeks old! She smiled her first unmistakable, gappy, dimpled grin today. Cockles, be warmed.)

I miss writing. I still write in my head but am struggling to find the moments to commit pen to paper (sadly, 'fingers to keyboard' just has no romance.) Oh lordy, life is busy busy. But I am lucky enough to be hurled into the whirlwind of mothering three kids under five after a hideous bastard of a year.

Context is everything.

A little sleep deprivation and back pain? A pair of squabbling tinies and a chaotic messy house? BAH! Nothing compared to the displaced pelvis of my third trimester. Or the panicky, exhausted depression of my disrupted thyroid. Or, in the most painful truth of all, the heartbreak that my brother and sister-in-law suffered through when they lost baby Autumn just last June.

I am feeling so much better than I did that I can only feel relieved and grateful for the parting of the clouds. The Mogantosh ranch, as spring unfurls, is a busy, crazy joint. Small people are underfoot in every corner, potties are kicked over, the washing basket overflows, and yesterdays craft competes for space with the washing up.

I am grateful for every tender, ramshackle moment.

Friday, September 23, 2011

In Which Keith Explains Some Of His Incomprehensible Research And The Children Are Massively Busted

Right now, George is tucked happily beside Keith who is watching the football, drinking beer and tinkering with complicated-looking graphs on his computer.*

Ted is in trouble for coming out of his bedroom all night. Right now he's been banished to the playroom for three minutes where he's wailing on the floor. We're taking turns using the Stern Voice on Teddy and cuddling little George.

I'm trying to capture some thoughts, now that I am working with both hands. I'm doing a lot of reading on the computer and watching shows while breastfeeding in the middle of the night but while my muscle memory is tapping back into many one-armed skills I've refined over the last five years, typing is not one of them.

Life is settling into a new rhythm. My doc diagnosed me with Post-Partum Thyroiditis, a fairly common baby-related thyroid disruption. It often resolves itself naturally, and I'm sure mine is doing that, because I feel so much better than I did a week ago. I'll write more about that soon, but in short I just need to monitor my thyroid with blood tests and medicate it if it spirals out of control again.

Generally, I'm realising that life with these three small firecrackers just means more of everything. More chaos. More stress. More joy. More laughter. More love.

So much love.

So much laundry.

I think that a happy domestic life for us will require an intensive structure and a willingness to let go of the structure completely. I'm trying to manage the highs and lows by taking it slow, enjoying the small moments, and letting us all find our feet.

I'm having some transcendent moments of happiness. The luck, the joy, the blessing of three healthy children, a beloved husband and a happy home in a free democracy... And other times, I'm overwhelmed by the task at hand. Yesterday I shouted at the children 'You are MASSIVELY busted!' (I'm not a big shouter. I confess it felt great to bellow this.)

I can't remember the details of their transgression, but it likely involved property crime (Ivy took my spoon) or actual bodily harm (Teddy kicked me in the ear) followed by high-pitched screaming. They both got sent to separate Time Outs and then I recalled them for a short lecture in my Grown Woman's voice along the lines of 'I expect better behaviour from you both, you are three and four years old, not babies, blah blah blah. ' They both gazed at me calmly. 'Do you understand me Teddy?' I asked. 'Well, Mummy, ' he said. 'Did you know I has a little penis?'

The day before I ranted at them with crazy eyes 'Can you HEAR Mummy is at the end of her rope? Can you HEAR it in Mummy's voice?' (Confession -this monologue felt really good too.) While Keith was in Canberra for two days this week I found myself simultaneously trying a comfort a crying George, talk Ted through a lengthy defecation episode and fix a recalcitrant Peppa Pig DVD. Inside my head the lambs were screaming. 'Is you doing your best, Mum? asked Teddy. Yes, I replied. 'Well, is not very good', he said.

Today I left them playing merrily in the lounge room while I fed George in my quiet bedroom and watched My Great Big Gypsy Wedding on YouTube. I thought everything was going really well until I emerged find both children paused in a guilty tableau. Ted was standing on a table trying to poke a broomstick into the ceiling fan that Ivy had climbed a chair to turn on High.

My mother-in-law advised me that if everybody was alive at the end of the day, that I was doing a good job. Well, they are today Mama.


* Specifically, he says he's working on empirical fits to develop algorithms that predict the efficiency of solar cells based on the photo-luminescent images of their pre-processed wafers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This piece first appeared as a column in Practical Parenting Magazine, August 2011. It predates the arrival of the sweet package Georgie Bones and subsequent post-partum meltdown.*

Pre-schoolers don’t believe in personal space. When sharing your bed, they like to sleep on your head, when you visit the toilet they come in to see exactly what you’re up to, and when playing with their friends, there are no physical boundaries whatsoever. Parents don’t especially love this desire to get up close and personal, but you know who does?

Head lice.

With one four-year-old and one toddler, I’m deep in pre-school and day-care land. It was only a matter of time before we had our first infestation. My mellow, scientist husband was not enormously helpful. ‘Do you have to worry about nits?’ he asked. I looked at him blankly. ‘I mean, is it unhealthy if they just… stay living on the kids heads?’ I took a deep breath and painted a little picture of primary-school social exclusion followed by an adulthood in which our children lived in a shed out the back, writing manifestos about anarchism while building homemade explosives. He came around.

I didn’t want to use pesticides and unpronounceable compounds on my children’s heads before I tried the conditioner option first. This method involves stunning the little critters with gallons of hair conditioner. It doesn’t kill them but it renders them comatose long enough for you to pry them all out with a fairy-sized Comb of Pain. You have to do it every day for a week so you get all their eggs too.

It was a miserable process. First, I sat in the bath with Peanut and T-Bone comb-torturing them while T-Bone whimpered and Peanut screamed ‘You’re HURTING me! You’re HURTING me!’ Which I was, of course. Mainly by genetically gifting her with stupidly thick hair. Then I had to shower the kids one by one. This was an especially tough call with two-year-old T-Bone, who struggles with the logic of shampoo. He likes to tip his head forward and stare blindly into the soapy water as it runs into his eyes.

So he fought me with all of his stocky fifteen kilos, using every limb to push off every wall, as I held him under the water and begged for mercy. Finally I got his head clean and put Ivy in. She’s fiercely independent. ‘I will do it,’ she insisted. ‘Don’t look at me! Nobody look at me!’ I obediently turned my head away just in time to see T-Bone doing a revenge wee on the clean towels. Then Ivy slipped over on the shower floor, which had become a treacherous slime pit of conditioner and tiny unconscious nits.

Did I mention I was pregnant? In the end we all cried, the nits survived, and I was forced to repeat the farce about six more times before their heads were finally clear of insect squatters. Then, of course, they headed back to pre-school to play hat-swapping games and start the miserable cycle again. But I have a solution, my friends. Lateral thinking. Next outbreak, I’m going to suggest we get the kids to play Chimpanzee, where they tackle the problem by picking the bugs painstakingly out of each other’s hair. They can sit as close as they like! Happiness for everybody. Nit problem? What problem?

*But I'm doing much, much better.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here Come A Little Sun.

Thank you all so much for your advice and support after my last post.

I really am feeling a huge chunk better.

Truly, the unloading of the heavy heart is so therapeutic. I still feel under-fit. I'm tired, a bit odd and shaky at times, and slightly battered. But my overwhelmed malaise of last week has passed for now. Connection - with Keith, with family and with friends, has been a Wiggles Band-Aid to my soul. .No matter how crap I'm feeling, if I can rally my sense of humour, I can handle it. When I spiral to the sad and negative, I withdraw. I feel disconnected with those around me. I lose my mojo.

Gastro will do that to a gal. And also the existential adjusting to the new shape of my life. I came across this Anatole France quote this week: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Food for thought.

This weekend has been a recuperative festival of sunshine, local fairs, family dance parties, laundry and sleep-ins. The pic here shows Ivy, Ted and Ivy's beloved friend Ava kicking back on the grass at the Otford Fair. Tomorrow I have some more tests to establish just what's up with my quirky thyroid. Wish me luck.

Thank you again, each and every cracking one of you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not So Much OK.

Posting: sporadic.
Mood: erratic.

It's R U OK Day in Australia today, a suicide prevention initiative aimed at encouraging people to talk about their worries. I've been thinking about this today, becuase I've been feeling




This blog has never been a shiny place for me to be a supermama, even though it is the space where I tend to turn my everyday dramas into lowbrow comedy for the amusement of me, my mother, and my mother-in-law. I am honest here. But in life, I absolutely believe in finding the funny wherever it lives. So I've been kind of absent while life has been a little more tragi than comi.

Since George was born my recovery has felt like I've been wading through quicksand. Slow. Painful. Every leaving of the house has taken a huge chunk of my energy and set me back a day or two. This week, George turned four weeks old, Keith finished his paternity leave, and we copped a round of gastro. It kind of flipped my last switch, sending my energy stores down from 50 % to 25%. I can't remember my old life, my old self, how I managed. I am panicky about how I will manage the future. Three small children to wrangle, and I can't do the washing up without a Bex and a good lie down to recover.

I called Mum, bless her linen trousers, and she came on the train and stayed for three days. Ivy hurled her guts up for one full day and then moaned loudly and theatrically for the next. Ted, small blonde tornado, motored from activity to activity leaving trails of Lego and art supplies and shitty Wiggles underpants. Georgette, happiest when cuddled, needed to be on the boob a lot. My milk supply, affected by the tummy bug, was down, so she's been feeding slowly and often.

Chaos. Chaos.

I haven't been able to eat much this week. Nauseous. So I've been really feeling that sapping of strength spiralling downwards. The doc has run some blood tests. I tell you, I was gutted when my iron levels came back normal. I was hoping that I was anaemic, a nurse could shoot me full of blood with a giant comedy syringe and I would do jazz runs out of the medical centre and back into my busy, happy, energetic life. Nope. Normal, dammit. I do have to go and see her to discuss my thyroid though. A new and different beast to me. I have no idea what will come of that.

Last night, I had a little meltdown and unloaded to Keith in one of those inarticulate, gulping, halting monologues that feel impossible and pointless but end up releasing a great weight. I emailed friends today, told them I was messy and organised coffee.

I feel better.

Sharing is good.

How about you guys?

Are you OK?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy Fathers Day

A belated Fathers Day post to my beloved K-Dog.

Who looks smoking hot strapped to a baby on the beach.

And can change a nappy and watch the football at the same time.

Could one ask for more?

I think not.