Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shared Bedroom Shenanigans

This post was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, January 2012 and written some time before. Since then, we've had some insane cycles of broken sleep but this week, for the first time, George SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT. Raise high the roof beams, Carpenters. Happy days are here.

The chunky, delicious thighs of this new baby of mine are a dead giveaway that she loves to feed. After some months, I’m pretty used to being open all hours for breastfeeding. Yet somehow, sleep deprivation is not the shock it was with my first two kids and my third trip into the world of night-feeds has been remarkably painless. Of course, this could be because five years into parenthood I have forgotten what a full night’s sleep is like, and lowered expectations are very good for happiness. With three children under five, night-time around this joint can be like Grand Central Station. Urine smells included.

When Pudding was on the way, husbandit Keith and I decided that it was time to put four-year-old Peanut and two-year-old T-Bone into a shared room. T-Bone had just learned how to climb out of his cot, and uncaged, he began appearing in our bed every night where he liked to sit in the most uncomfortable place he could find, like the top of my head. He had always come to chat, but his conversation was not sparkling. Rather, he would whisper hotly ‘I love you Mummy. You are my best friend. You are BUM!’ before he was dumped unceremoniously back into his cot. With the faintest crack of dawn, T-Bone would return, patting us on the face with clammy hands and insisting ‘Open you eyes, Daddy! Open you eyes!’ Keith and I, well-practiced at playing dead, would feign sleep until the small intruder gave up and headed next door to poke at his sister. She would finally crack and shout ‘Get out of my room, T-Bone!’

Keith and I would snicker at the come-uppance of it all. Peanut, at four, is not above pulling night-time shenanigans of her own. She called me out of bed once at 3am to tell me ‘Mama, I really like Daddy the best, ’and went through an awful stage where over and over, she would summon us to her room to remove hairs from her mouth. Last week she even shocked us out of sleep with a full-throated ‘Cock a doodle-doo!' at six a.m.

For the first few days of sharing, T-Bone was drunk on freedom. He would get up in the middle of the night, turn on the lights and start sorting Peanuts coin collection. Amazingly, she would snore on through, as he did through her wet beds and bizarre midnight demands. (I want to watch Mary Poppins! Make me a cheese sandwich! My forehead is cold!)

To our joy, though, it didn’t take long before the children loved their shared space. Tucked in at night, they listen to stories about fairies and pirates on their CD player as they (on a good night, touch wood) drift off to sleep. They’ve turned their little room into a private comedy club. 'Poo-poo Christmas,’ Peanut may offer to T-Bone. ‘My poo is bum!' he might respond, and soon they are, understandably, in shaking fits of laughter. In the morning, they lie in their little beds chatting about dogs and rainbows and cake, or sneak up the hall together to switch on illicit cartoons, and to us, it is not only the lovely sound of sibling friendship, but the gift of parental sleep-in. The sweetest feeling in the world: hard-won, well-earned sleep. (In between the three-hourly breastfeeds, of course.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Such Devoted Sisters

George at 6 months

Ivy at five months

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sorright

Keith home. House slowly, surely being tamed back into submission. Slept last night. Nobody sick today. Plus, these sisters, who adore each other, are starting to look so much alike to me! Something about that really warms my cockles.

And Teddy.
What can I say.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Midnight Misery

Last night:

7.30 pm

Ted and Ivy are in bed. Ted has insisted he wants to sleep in a large cardboard box and Ivy has her Snow White washcloth on her face because she feels hot and funny. Temperature is normal, but she doesn't look quite right. Also, she's complaining of a sore neck. I have to take into account Ivy's acting chops though. She could play Ebola Victim and fool Keith and I. Decide that when she can read well enough to Google symptoms, we are screwed. Keith is in Canberra. I am buggered. I take to the couch to finish and send some writing work before I can watch My Kitchen Rules on my laptop and eat Ovaltine.

8pm

George is awake. She joins me to quietly admire Manu Feidel. Teddy can't sleep in his box and I convince him to get into his proper bed.

8.30

Ivy is awake and wailing from her room. She is hot and sweaty and her temperature is 38 degrees. OK, I think. Here we go, gastro, or flu, or meningitis, or whatever exciting illness you will turn out to be. I wrestle with and am defeated by the child-proof lock on the new Panadol bottle. I give her the remains of the baby Panadol, check the meningitis symptom list, and think about how to juggle the other two kids if this sickness turns ugly and needs hospital.

I wet Snow White and cool Ivy's forehead. We watch Mr Bean and some ABBA clips on YouTube. I read the rest of Bethany the Ballet Fairy and feed the baby. Finally, I get Ivy back to bed where she grips my hand and makes me sit on the bed for ten minutes to listen to 'Five Little Ducks' on her CD player.

10pm

George and Ivy are both back in bed asleep. I clean my teeth and go to bed. I'm watching an ABC doco on my laptop when Ivy wails awake again. I fetch her, put her in bed with me, give her an earplug and a drink of water and pat her down with Snow White.

11pm

We're all asleep.

11.30pm

Teddy wakes up shouting. He insists that he must sleep in my bed too. I falter in the early argument and lose my case. I don't have the energy to battle. I stick him on the other side of me and squeeze in the middle. Teddy immediately falls asleep with his head so close that no matter which way I contort my head I have his fluffy hair in my mouth.

Midnight

George wakes up hangry (hungry and angry.) I take her to the other room to feed her. There's no room in the bed so I must get her super-asleep before putting her back in her bassinet. She'll only sleep soundly at night when she's in our bed.

12.30

She's sacked out. She's down.

1am

She's awake. Swaddle over her head. Legs kicking madly, Snorting like a buffalo. I stagger out of bed and rewrap her and she goes back to sleep.

2am

Teddy falls out of bed with a massive crash. He wails so loudly he wakes the other two. It takes some time to restore order and even when the other two have gone back to sleep he keeps stage whispering for half an hour. 'Mum? Can I have some milk? Mum? Can I watch a show? Mum?'

3am

The baby is hungry again. During the day, her thunder-thighed rotundity delights me. But at night when I am the haggard machine keeping the fatty fed, it is miserable.

3.30
She's fed, re-nappied, re-wrapped and back to sleep. When I return to my bed, both Ivy and Ted are blissfully starfished, leaving me just inches to curl into. I'm so tired I don't even care.

4am

George is awake. It's Groundhog Day. I rewrap, re-dummy and pat her back to sleep.

4.30

Ivy has a nightmare and wakes up shouting. Ted wakes up too and I pull the plug and send him back to his own bed. He's mad. I'm implacable. Returning to a huge expanse of free space and a pillow of my own is thrilling.

5.45

George wakes. Hungry. I can barely see her through my bleary eyes but I feed her, then tuck her between Ivy and I. She's awake for the day, and happy as a clam. She kicks me with joyful abandon until I am driven out of bed to start the breakfast and school run. Ivy is fine. Ted is as mellow as ever. Me, I am Haggis McBaggis.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ai Ai Ai.

Asthma attacks.
Hospital visits.
Twisted ankles.
Dramatic tantrums.
Household chaos.

Et vous?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Random Post About a Yellow Chair

My friend Lizzie was throwing out this chair. I rescued it from her driveway and gave it some coats of sunshiney yellow.

I still can't get enough yellow.

Now it is just the right size and hue for a sleepy boy and his best friend Barbie the bear.
A boy whose favourite colour is yellow.

Here it perches next to Mum' s feeding chair; best seat in the house.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Life With Schoolgirl

One week down, and the arithmetic goes something like:

One weeping, blubbery, snotty, clinging meltdown at drop-off,
two days of snippy, snarky snappiness after school,
two battles over track pants (I won the battle, she won the war. The pants are history.)
many other changes, big and small,
and the first week is over.

Ted, Georgie and I are getting used to being at home together all day. I think we are going to have a really, really good time. They are both easy company. I asked Teddy if he'd like to do something special to celebrate being the 'big kid'. I suggested the museum. 'No,' he said. The aquarium? Nope. The art gallery? Definitely not. I was stumped. Going to the shops and watching Mummy try on clothes, I offered? 'Yes!' he shouted.

I'm realising that spending the day away from Ivy means that at the end of the day, instead of feeling ratty and worn out from keeping her entertained and happy, I am totally excited to see her and drink in her little face. After being in toddler-Ted and baby-land, nose-kissing and disciplining and being silly, chatting to my five-year-old is so fresh and funny and vivid.

Once the rain stops we'll start walking to school.

I can feel the year ahead starting to take shape: frozen lunches, last-minute dashes to school to deliver forgotten hats and library bags, a sea of paperwork, school-gate parent fun, reading, afternoon wind-down painting and craft, dinner-table discussions about days spent apart.

Happiness.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dad About The House

Last night, Teddy wails because Daddy is reading the Swedish children s classic Lottie and Lisa to the kids before bed instead of Fantastic Mr Fox. (Ted lost the coin toss.) I like this picture because it captures not only the mood of my poor sick kids, but Keith's fabulously filthy feet.

This column was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, January 2012.

My friends, forgive me if this column is all over the place like a toddlers Weet-Bix, but I’m writing at the dining table while four-year old Peanut and three-year old T-Bone eat yesterday’s cupcakes and watch Play School. Newborn baby Pudding is fast asleep. If I keep my eyes fixed straight ahead I can ignore the washing up to my left, the unfolded laundry to my right, and grab a moment of quiet while it lasts. This peaceful scene could descend into chaos at any moment.

I’ve been back in charge of domestic affairs for a month now. For the first four weeks after Pudding was born, my husband Keith took over the house and kids while I recovered from a tough pregnancy, a caesarean and a disrupted thyroid. I felt bad about it until Keith pointed out that - Pudding being our last baby - paternity leave would never happen again. Hmmm, I thought. I counted up the number of years I had ahead of me as chief cook and bottle washer, resolved to enjoy my housework holiday, and settled back to watch my own personal series of Man About The House.

It was fascinating. For starters, there was the Dad attitude to fashion. Children’s pants were pulled proudly high, and everything was tucked in – shirts into trousers, trousers into socks. Socks were sometimes paired with sandals. In fact, Keith dressed both kids like middle-aged maths teachers. As they left for the park one day I said ‘Are you going to change those t-shirts? They’re filthy.’ Keith laughed. ‘But that’s why I’m leaving them on’, he said. We gazed at each other for some time across the chasm between the sexes.

Keith took a similarly relaxed attitude towards washing. One day it occurred to me that it had been a while between shampoos. ‘Do you want me to give the kids a bath, honey?’ I asked. ‘Nope’, he replied with authority. ‘Bath night is Wednesday.’ Structured night-time routines went by the wayside too. After-dinner baths were replaced by wild sessions of goblin rumbles or T-Bone’s favourite game: climbing on Dads back and shouting, bizarrely but with intense pleasure, ‘You are pig! You are pig!’ Sometimes Keith played Creedence at full volume and taught the kids how to air-guitar. After shenanigans, the kids were dispatched to bed. Against all known parenting rules this crazed bedtime routine worked fine.

Overall Keith seemed to be much slower, gentler in his approach. He taught, played, read and deeply enjoyed his month in charge. The house stayed pretty tidy and dinner made it on the table every night, but without the Mum-energy of perpetual multi-tasking busywork. There was less craft, less cooking, but a lot more life lived outside, and the kids thrived during Keith’s term as governor. Four weeks later, this newly minted family-of-five is settled and happy in our new domestic shape, and I think paternity leave had much to do with that. I definitely learned a few valuable lessons watching Dad in action, but I’ll have to tell you about those next month. It’s Wednesday night, you see! Time to get the bath on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

unexpected forks in le road

ah me,

sickness is upon us.

ivy has missed every day of school since the first. she is distraught about it.

poor ted is going psycho with cabin-fever (it's been raining for a week and he's too sick to go anywhere.)

and miss george took another visit to the hospital last night when her breathing became laboured and scary. she's got bronchiolitis. she looks snotty and miserable and confused, and is only happy upright and in arms...hence one-handed typing.

i am exhausted.

worried about this little baby,

and

running outa entertaining ideas.

ivy and ted made beds in baskets and played sleeping beauty.
this pic showcases their acting abilities.
gosh this makes me laugh.

but george is just thinking 'holy mary. what is with these clowns?'



a knee-length crotch on his stripey stockings didn't impair ted's form on the indoor hopscotch field.


but behold the little athlete below, captured with tell-tale milo moustache. i turned my back yesterday and half-caught ivy whispering 'you can eat as much as you want ted..'

and when i turned around i found teddy, enthusiastically necking back a huge handful of milo. i sent him to his room but as he whimpered past i remembered the snippet of conversation i had caught.

'wait' - i said 'why did you eat that milo ted? you know that's naughty.'
'ivy said it would turn me into a fairy' he wept.
i changed sides, and sent ivy off in disgrace.
when she came back she had to tell teddy 'i'm sorry for making you do a naughty thing.'
i'm sure a little part of her hoped against hope the fairy thing might work.


on the upsdie, popcorn and a dose of happy feet is always good.

however, trying to take a squirmy three-year-olds temperature with more children than i have hands is a tricky business.

in short,

i hope your week went better than ours did.