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Archive Category: PartyPie

    The baby dollar

      This weekend has been somewhat devoted to the profligate spending of money on the unborn. It began when I stumbled on a pram (PRAM!! It freaks me out just to type it.) on ebay and recklessly hit the evil ‘Buy It Now’ button. The pram wasn’t too far from here, it was the exact model that had been recommended to us two weeks ago by someone who knows and there was enough money in our ‘bills’ account to cover it. We went and picked it up on the peninsula on Saturday, handed over the dough and hastily stuffed it in the back of the car. We both kept sneaking hunted glances at it as we noodled our way through Somers, Balnarring, Coolart and Moorooduc.

      Mornington was a bit of a revelation to us. We’d only ever been to the industrial part of it, but this time went down to the bay. It’s gorgeous, and generally protected – a perfect place for a picnic and to go sailing in Moo. The shops there were kind of cool too – an apparent abundance of cafes, as well as a couple of bookshops. Mornington is nice.

      Today M accompanied me to a ‘baby market’ in Berwick. It was a strange and freaky occasion!! There were a bazillion prams, bouncer things, and scads and scads of clothes. M and I had crack lessons from stallholders about what the sizes 00 and 0 correspond to in age, and then realised that it was sort of irrelevant because PartyPie might be a long stringy noodle of a baby or a fat little todger. There seems to be a distinct lack of bright coloured clothes (that aren’t pink or blue), so we just wandered the stalls pouncing on bright orange items and tiny sunhats. M got to investigate some modern cloth nappies that I’d been telling him about, and all in all, it wasn’t too scary. PartyPie scored some supercheap cool clothes that might fit during the correct seasons…or not, and we got a bit more used to the whole idea. Doesn’t stop me feeling like a strong gin, lime and tonic though.

      My cups overfloweth…

        Yes. We’re talking brassieres. The area of our lives that is taking on more debt than the car or the boat. Since May I have probably worked my way through at least five different cup sizes and two different backstrap sizes. How is this right or fair? How is it that in all the bucketloads of advice one is given in regard to growing your own alien, no one told me this was a possibility? It was mentioned that at some point one has to whack on one of those uncharismatic pieces of scaffolding with flip down access points – but NO ONE said:

        “Oh, and by the way, as well as getting generally bigger, the girls will also get wider thus rendering the underwire a stabbing weapon of mass destruction. Just so you know.”

        I read in various places that underwires were a no no, but L’s venerable obstetrician said, sensibly, that they were fine unless they caused discomfort. It was when I had to start using bandaids to cushion the poking into the wide bits that I recognised this truth. That was hard. Soft cups and I? We’ve never got along. But for comfort, I was prepared to compromise – as long as they came in black. But even by this point I had whimpered my way through increasing numbers of underwired misadventures – so there went about $200.

        The first soft cup I put on lasted all of 90 minutes, when I tore it from my chest and left it in the middle of the lounge for a week so I could kick it every time I went past. I returned to the underwire. This was brief, and expensive. Take note: buying a bra online because a) it’s on sale, and b) because Oprah says it’s the biz, does not count for much when it finally arrives in the post and fails noticeably in general containment.

        (I have fond thoughts that after PartyPie has been around for a while, I will work my way backwards through these numerous misdemenours and they will suddenly fit me for a month or two as I morph snap hopefully revert back to something resembling former somewhat svelter self.)

        But I digress. I had begun with a singlet/bather top combo, progressed to underwires, gone for the soft cup, rejected it for further wiring and then still failed to realise my most basic mistake. The mistake based on the naïve belief that actually, my boobliliciousness could not feasibly continue. Each time my bra size increased, I was convinced that that was it. No more. And so, each time, I would rifle frenziedly through sale piles, and ebay, for the same bras in the same size. Which is how I came to have a drawer full of size 10 (and I hesitate to type it) Es. TEN E!!!

        At this point, male readers will have the same expression they assume when standing in front of the fridge looking for something that might not have been put Right At The Front and is therefore Irretrievably Lost Forever. Females will be wincing. This is the correct response. Because there is nothing good about zipping from a B/C cup to an E in the space of three and a half months. NOTHING.

        M finally took matters in hand (and no, that is not a double entendre, mainly due to the pure physical impossibility involved – there are no hands big enough) and we hit Myer in the city like a SWAT team. I sent him among the racks. After some initial bafflement, he emerged triumphant with a swag of 10Es in one hand and a bra fitting lady in the other. The latter took me into the change rooms, after showing M to the Husband’s Seat, where he settled with some relief.

        The fitter was wily. She sighed while I coerced the girls into the corral, and stuck her finger under the backstrap like she was testing the temperature of soup.

        “You’re not a 10E anymore,” she said, rendering M’s hard won pile of bras useless, “I’ll go and get you some size 12s.”

        That’s when I knew that more money was about to haemorrhage from the credit card of doom. The one positive thing about the size 10E is that it is so weird (the 10 indicates the size around your ribs, the E indicates the cup size: i.e. you’re fairly slim with huge norgs) and this means you find them on sale racks. 12E, on the other hand, is almost run of the mill. So of course, the rack of Elle McPherson bras that were 50% off was full of 10Es, and not a single 12E. Of course.

        The fitter lady came back. She held some of the underwire bras I had been looking at, now in size 12, and two scary shapeless looking swags of fabric. She watched as I tried on the trusty underwires, which did remarkably little due to the norg-width issue. Then she spoke.
        “Just humour me and try on one of these.”
        I realised that the shapeless fabric was, in fact, a maternity bra. And shuddered.
        “You don’t have to buy it, I just want you to try it.”
        I narrowed my eyes at her, this was no time for rhyme, and then boggled at the amount of hooks on the back.
        “There are more hooks on the back to loosen it off as you get bigger.”
        “Oh, no, that’s OK. I don’t plan on getting bigger.”
        She smiled at me, and I concentrated on positioning the scaffolding. She hooked me in. Oh. My. God.
        Sweet relief. SWEEEEEEEET relief.

        She was nice enough not to say anything, but just snipped off the tags and told me to do myself a favour and leave it on. I bought it. It was $60 [sob] and stupidly, I could not justify buying two, so I bought a slightly cheaper preggo one in the same norgtastic size. M and I exited Myer Melbourne to the sound of trumpets.

        And it was all fine for just over a month. Until now…

        Today is brought to you by the letter ‘F’

          To continue from my previous post, time had run out on my $60 black 12E number. (Yes. I’m still with the bra theme – please grant me some license, because I don’t think I’ve ever posted on this topic before.) Yesterday I left at lunchtime for the Hampton lingerie shop. Was there ever a better place? Were there ever two more helpful ladies? They poked sadly at my 12E and said I should never have been put in a 12, but unfortunately they didn’t have anything that big in a 10. I whimpered softly. What I needed, they said, was a 10F. [picks up self from floor]

          After telling me I needed to put on some weight in areas other than my chest, they took pity on me. They took my 12E and one of them altered it overnight into a special fitted-just-for-me size (i.e. altered the circumference of the backstrap via a chop and a pleat and an overlocker. Or something). They gave me a brand new preggo bra to tide me over and sent me on my way. How’s that!?

          I just went and picked up the 12E – now a modified sort-of 10F. Hallelujah brother!! All I needed was some customisation! They tried to charge me $5 for the alteration. I gave them ten. And my soul. And my first born ;) And ordered another one – to be modified on arrival. Everything has started to feel a Whole Lot Better – let’s just hope that I am not back on the goldfish bowl loop of thinking that the boobaliciousness has now reined itself in. But it’s hard not to be hopeful because the guru ladies reckon this one might just get me through…

          I think this is just the beginning…

            My mother is back from almost four months away, and of course is jubilant about the prospect of PartyPie. So guess which pile of presents is mine…

            PartyPie vs. Beth

            Prune juice. Remedy or ruse?

              M and my friend E are the people in my life that muse upon poo. E will relate enthusiastically about the time she nearly blocked a Sydney toilet with the worlds most unflushable borry stonker, while M can sit playing the guitar for hours working the word ‘poo’ into every song. It was not something I really participated in until now, and obviously, I went immediately to E for advice.

              “Prune juice,” she told me, “Half a glass with some hot water in it and a squeeze of lemon.”

              “Ah ha!” I thought, “Another way for me to try and eat fruit. Good.”

              M, sick of my whinging, went out to the supermarket in his beloved new set of wheels and came back with six one litre bottles of 100% prune juice. I looked at them, and they sat there complacently. Similar to what was happening with my internal organs. Personally I didn’t think half a glass of this stuff was going to get my problem anywhere near fixed, so I tossed back two glasses… and then spent the night with my insides feeling like some gaseous mud swamp. And that was it.

              Yesterday, M had some prune juice with his breakfast, and returned twelve hours later looking hunted.

              “I think you’re right,” he said [how I love hearing that phrase]. “I was using power tools and had my mask and headphones on, but I could tell that the prune juice had got to me, because I could feel my butt making sharp guttural barking noises. About ten minutes later I stopped work, took off my mask and almost passed out from the swamp smell.”

              I was rolling on the floor. “But DID YOU POO?”

              He looked thoughtful. “No, no I didn’t. My butt just started acting like some choked up outboard motor.”

              I forgave him the the inevitable boat analogy [excuse me for the pun] and delicately indicated that this, indeed, was what had happened to me. Although my butt was a Tohatsu 2.5 horsepower, while his sounded more like a Yahmaha 40. Regardless of this, it seems that E has a special relationship with the juice of the prune that others are sadly unable to replicate. And so it’s back to lots of water and some black coffee.

              Mester Trine

                Happy third trimester to PartyPie and I. Both of us have been fairly secure in our state of denial up until now, but there has been a growth spurt and it is now impossible to ignore the fact that I am with bump. We are going away in a few days and I freaked myself out by trying on some swimmers I bought a few months back. Yike! There will be a sighting of a minke whale in northern New South Wales early next week. And that will be me.

                I am waging a continuing war using prunely goodness, hot water with lemon and paddock walking, but neither side is winning so far. Thus I am closer to becoming the person my mother always wished for – a fruit lover. As I was attacked by a pineapple (ate too much, came out in full body rash) I have redirected my fruit intake (and I can’t believe I even have one) to bananas and punnets of strawberries. And at least two litres of water a day. Am sick of thinking about my own self and associated inner mechanics and inhabitants. What I really would like is a plate of sushi and a bottle of Giesen. All to myself.

                Get your votes in!

                  Finally there is some disparity in my little ‘Vote What and When’ poll for PartyPie over on the top right hand column. It appears that boy-child is marginally ahead in the voting. If you haven’t put in your vote – please do so now. The whole of Australia is frozen with anticipation. (OK. So it’s actually just me.) I went shopping in Frankston today and wore my iPod headphones everywhere so I could whale along without anyone asking me “when’s it due?” – but of course I had to take them off while I was talking to salespeople, and it did give me some perverse satisfaction to reply “MONDAY!” when they asked. Two of them backed away quite hurriedly. Ha!

                  Patience and punctuality. Both wildly overrated.

                    The day is now, the time is nigh, now where the hell is PartyPie? Yes. That’s right. I’m talking to you. The one on the inside. I know I have sworn not to turn this site into some kind of baby-blog-happy-nappy-cutefest, but I feel that on this date – the date on which all most calculations say that you are fully cooked, I can let discipline slide and write something to you here. A kind of online negotiation. Offer you a few suggestions…

                    If you decide to turn up tomorrow, which is what I would prefer, as I happen to think that having the birthdate 08/01/08 is pretty cool, I will not only be pleasantly charmed at your obedience, but I promise to remember that baby-on-the-outside sleep deprivation must be infinitely preferable to baby-on-the-inside-I-can’t-recall-ever-being-both-prone-and-comfortable.

                    And although I am destined to probably play the role of a 24/7 milk bar, I am comforted by the fact that the small amounts of sleep I may be lucky enough to achieve will not be hampered by feeling like a humpback whale trying to perform hapless callisthenics.

                    I tried to sleep outside today on my new red banana lounge, and the reason I knew that M was NOT watching out the window was the absent sound of hysterical laughter. The banana lounge and I finally agreed to differ. We are having a trial separation.

                    My need for sleep relates directly to the degree to which I become a satanic gargoyle in the mid to late afternoons. Nanna naps are key. Unfortunately there are some days where I feel peachy-fine, like yesterday, and can weave on to about 10pm sans nap – whereupon I toss and turn before finally getting up at about 2am to feed on krill.

                    Thus, the next day begins with gargoyle overtones, as I can’t sleep in due to aforementioned inability to be comfy. This is old news to the previously pregnant – and how witty of biology to make sure one is so thoroughly SICK of one’s status that one is willing to undergo almost any degree of torture to escape it. So, PartyPie, here it is – I exhort you to hurry the hell up and to ignore that ridiculous statistic that only five percent of babies arrive on their due date.

                    I am aware that genetically, you have a 50/50 chance of either being about nine days late (now that was hard to type, let alone contemplate) both due to my own personal arrival into the world and my generally relaxed feelings about punctuality) or about nine days early – which is directly represented by when M thinks we need to leave the Trailer to get anywhere ‘on time’.

                    However, as you didn’t arrive five days ago, I’m hoping for a blend of the above and that tomorrow will not only be my Aunt-in-Binginwarri’s-Birthday – but your birthday as well. I may even provide a cake.

                    Yours Sincerely,
                    Your Mothership and Current Vessel of Choice

                    Hello Zoe!

                      PartyPie became Zoe on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 10.09am. She was born in the water and weighed 8.3 pounds – also known as 3.7 kilograms – and was 51 centimetres long (20 inches). Practically a tapeworm! M was beyond awesome and without him there would have been no birth! And Relle (our doula) was fantastic and one of the best decisions we made. (So was the decision to use Contraction Master).

                      M, Zoe and I waited out the hot weather until the change broke around midday today and left our little life at the hospital and went out into the proper world. I sat in the back with Z and M drove and we sang songs by the Shins. It was like we’d won the war. Both of us are quite incredulous, with side servings of euphoria and disbelief. In our rush to the hospital we forgot our phone chargers and so both phones had carked it by this morning – we’ve only just been able to plug them in and start listening to the most lovely messages from all our friends.

                      The 17 people who voted “It’s A Girl” are the obvious winners, and are therefore smarter, cooler and more highly intuitive than those who voted “It’s A Boy”… :P Ha! The actual discovery of this vital point was quite amusing – as M initally called it wrong and the midwives had to gently suggest he take another look. I will post a few pictures…when I can find ones that don’t feature my OH-MY-GOD-THEY’RE-ENORMOUS boobalicious action.

                      PartyPie aka Zoe

                      Presenting

                        It’s funny, having a new little person in the Trailer. I had been warned by people that PartyPie would get given stuff when it turned up, but I kind of didn’t understand. Now I do. This baby is some kind of present magnet. She has scored clothes, toys, bedding, a gold baby bracelet, a taggy, more clothes, more toys, more blankets… There is a plethora of pink – and please note, there was NO pink in the Trailer until the hatching. Note the washing line…

                        These are just SOME of her presents

                        And at the same time, her present-magnet talent seems to have also rubbed off a bit on to M and I – generally in the form of being given fantastic food – but also in the shape of a Sony Handycam (no pressure, just film the kid…or ELSE), some body cream, and I also was the very grateful recipient of a membership to LibraryThing – something I have coveted for a-g-e-s. Thank you Mr H.

                        Just for general information, food that I have eaten in the last two weeks has included Every Single Thing that I was prohibited from consuming for the past nine months. I began with D’Affinois at the birth centre – although the odd thing is – the first thing I ate after the event was a Savoy cracker biscuit, and it was very nearly the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Odd. Then I had california rolls. So, with the help of some very generous and accommodating people I have also ingested copious amounts of sashimi, brie, blue cheese, oysters, smoked trout, more sashimi – and these are just the ones that were previously illegal. My tummy is so happy it has almost forgiven me for stretching it way on past the outer limits… And I am yet to get to the Piper-Heidsieck champagne, as I am saving it for my own personal use at a later date.

                        P.S For some reason I am yet to determine, I started writing this entry at least THREE DAYS AGO. I am trying to wrangle my life into control, but I am becoming increasingly aware that I have to try to stop starting a plethora of things that I won’t finish and narrow my focus down to just a few things. Gah. Carrying these eyebags is making me thirsty.

                        We shall fight them on the beaches…

                          God knows what people did before Google. If M and I have queries about our current situation, we refer to our search engine of choice. Google – a parenting tool. Who knew? Today M was telling me about the signs that a baby is unwell or dehydrated or both.

                          “Yes,” he said knowledgeably, “If they are listless or their patternelle is sunken, that’s a bad thing.”

                          I choked. “Sorry? Their what is sunken?”

                          “Their…um…patternelle?” He had become cautious in the face of my growing mirth.

                          “PATTERNELLE? What’s that then? Is that what it’s called because that’s where you pat it? On the patternelle?”

                          “Shut up! Shut up!” He was pouting. “Stop laughing and just tell me what it’s called.”

                          I took a deep breath. “Well. That is actually completely accurate. From now on, it will be known everywhere as… the patternelle!”

                          “OK. Yeah. Right. So I’m wrong.” A pause. “Is it a dardanelle?”

                          I fell to the floor and began to roll.

                          M was amused despite himself. “Yes – that’s it. A dardanelle!”

                          I was gurgling. “So there on Z’s head is somewhere they fought about in World War I? Her own little dardanelle? I’m happy with that. I will relinquish the patternelle for the dardanelle. I didn’t think you could do better, but I was wrong. So wrong.”

                          It took me some time to compose myself, and while I pulled myself together, M figured out the word. Fontanelle. FONTANELLE.

                          I found it all the more hilarious as we had been poking Z’s growing double chin the previous day; calling her Winston Churchill while declaiming ‘we shall fight them on the beaches…’ (which our friend Google now informs me is a misquote anyway). Google, google, google.

                          Where have I been? Where I have been.

                            ARGH! Small Z is ONE MONTH OLD on WEDNESDAY. On Wednesday? On Wednesday. This is impossible but true. I have been feeding something that used to live inside me every two hours or so for ONE MONTH. And this is why I have decided that the delicate shade of the purple smudges under my eyes suits me. My new favourite colour – if it was a paint it would be Lavender On Dusk.

                            So besides my milk-bar duties? We have been busy attending family birthdays with casual abandon, clawing our way through the nights and watching the days slip through our fingers with thinly disguised disbelief. It’s all a bit sad, happy and bizarre, mixed up into a flavoursome milkshake.

                            Today Z and I went for our first solo adventure into town (and when I say ‘town’ I mean the one where I work – about an hour’s drive away). Yes, we could have just gone into the cultural mecca that is Cranbourne – but I had an appointment with my osteopath. When the relaxin from being pg left my body, my two favourite and competing afflictions came straight back – dodgy left jaw and suspect right shoulder. Gah.

                            On the way in I stopped to get some diesel at the petrol station and discovered something that I had not known about before – hi-flow diesel. This is a diesel delivery system that is designed to freak out the sleep deprived. The nozzle barely fit into the inlet on the car, and in about five seconds the gauge read about 30 dollars. Huh? For a few minutes I was convinced that the person before me still had their amount on the pump – but no – it’s just a super fast pump that splashes diesel all over your hands when it has finished. It was only later that I realised the parallelism…

                            Z and I met my mum (Z’s nan – ha ha hee!) before my appointment and Z duly milked two fancy new dresses out of her in the first hour. The weird thing about my mother is that she seems to be somewhat of a baby-whisperer and Z slept on her in the waiting room throughout my 45 minute appointment. We then did lunch (I am getting more and more used to showing my breasts to people in cafes – say hello to Mountain One and Mountain Two, world…) and, after my mum had chased a Very Large Huntsman off the car, Z and I went to L’s to visit.

                            Generally our day out was good – although the traffic home was dire. It was a little bit hard schlepping all the baby crud around with me, but I think this was mostly because I had Z in a sling – we haven’t used the pram yet. However, the instructional point of the day was my discovery that my boobs have a mechanical doppelganger – the Hi-Flow Diesel! Poor Z tries her best with my Hi-Flow but often just splutters at the onslaught of milk and has to take breaks just to cope with the whole experience. Of course, she is already very feisty and feels obliged to narrate her existence with the worlds most weird piratical grunts and R2D2-esque chirping – being semi-drowned by her one food group leaves her sounding like a scavenging brown bear…

                            Oversupply & Doctor with God Complex

                              About a month ago we saw a lactation consultant on the advice of our Maternal & Child Health Nurse (MCHN). Since birth, PartyPie had only fed for a maximum of ten minutes on one boob and wouldn’t ever take the other side. I know that size of boobs is irrelevant to milk supply, but the girls were really cranking – PartyPie would often pull away and streams of milk would shoot either across the room or into her head.

                              By the time she was two or three weeks old she was having tummy pain. The lactation consultant was ace, and said that I had an oversupply of milk which caused lactose overload (something often confused with lactose intolerance). What this means in terms of PartyPie stomach pain is fairly simple. Breastmilk is lower in fat at the beginning of a feed, and this low fat milk is also very sugary. This is often called the ‘foremilk’. Once the baby gets through the foremilk, the milk becomes creamier and fattier – this is called the ‘hindmilk’. It is the hindmilk that really satisfies the baby and fills them up.

                              Being a newborn, PartyPie‘s tiny stomach could only hold about ten minutes worth of my mega gushing milk – and so she only ever got the low fat sugary foremilk. This went through her very fast, and made her hungry again soon after feeding. It also gave her horrible stomach pain. She was having up to maybe 15 wet nappies a day and scary, fizzy poo. The pain in her tummy would make her scream – and generally being a pretty chilled out baby, having her screaming in pain, writhing and trying to climb up our chests was truly awful.

                              The lactation consultant suggested that we do ‘block feeding’. This just meant that instead of swapping boobs from feed to feed, I was to keep her on the same boob every time she ate during a three hour block. Then swap, and do the same thing. This also meant that my milk supply wasn’t being stimulated so often and it would thus settle down, and that she would be getting to the hindmilk.

                              This settled things down within a day or two. The scary poo stopped. The stomach pain stopped. In retrospect, the oversupply persisted, but we didn’t recognise this at the time – and I went back to sort of a mix of block feeding and swapping from one boob to another each feed. Things then got worse – instead of scary poo PartyPie began straining desperately to make poo. She would groan and whimper in her sleep, and wouldn’t be able to stay on the boob during a feed because she was straining so hard. She became a farting machine. (I have to point out here that it’s fine for breastfed babies not to poo for weeks at a time – this wasn’t the problem – it was the straining and pain that was the issue.) The pain was very cyclical and would disappear and she would go back to being a happy little button.

                              When she did manage to poo it was not an issue, and it was not hard or weird. She was not constipated, she just had terrible gut-acheing pain with straining. The MCHN suggested tummy massage, warm deep baths, massaging her legs and, if this didn’t work, some warm water with a bit of brown sugar in it. The last suggestion is for constipation, so we didn’t try it. Massage helped a little, but not really. At our six week check up with the GP/Obstetrician on Wednesday I was taken off dairy, nuts and iron supplements. I admitted to eating a plethora of sashimi, and so was taken off raw fish as well [sob]. An appointment was made with a paediatrician next week. It was suggested we video PartyPie‘s tummy pain in case she didn’t turn it on when she was examined ;)

                              Yesterday, after a night of PartyPie being really distressed and screaming with pain, we called the birth centre she was born at – they said if we were concerned, we should bring her in to the emergency department. We jumped in the car and spent the next 90 minutes sitting in emergency at Casey Hospital in Berwick. We were seen by a doctor. Naturally you can’t expect doctors in an emergency ward at 6am to be breastfeeding specialists, or even baby specialists – but you could reasonably expect them to listen, evaluate and not be instantly dismissive when told about the previous diagnosis of oversupply.

                              This doctor did not take one minute to listen to what we told him. He shook his head when I told him I had been taken off dairy, etc, and said that PartyPie was obviously lactose intolerant. M explained that this was not the case, as PartyPie was thriving in every other way – putting on weight, lots of wet nappies, reading the newspaper every morning etc. etc. The doctor told M he was wrong, and if that we didn’t want to listen to him that it wasn’t his problem. What we needed to do, he said, was put PartyPie on to lactose free formula. We looked at him blankly. Que?! He repeated that we needed to put PartyPie on to lactose free formula. M explained again that it was lactose overload and the doctor said we were basically idiots who had become too friendly with google (well, he didn’t actually say it, but he didn’t need to…).

                              With this suggestion he fulfilled all my suspicions of the medical profession dealing with babies and reinforced all the reasons why I chose to have a waterbirth in a birth centre attended only by midwives. Casey is supposed to be a baby-friendly hospital, but he wasn’t even people-friendly, and definitely was not going to listen to anyone other than himself. Arrogant fucker. I want to hunt him down, kneecap him, and make him read this, among other things.

                              We left, and sneaked on up to the birth centre to ask some midwives for their opinion. They said that as they only dealt with newborns, they couldn’t give medical advice; they were, however, horrified at the suggestion to whack PartyPie on lactose free formula. We talked to them for a while, and they were nice enough to even call us when we got home and make a few more suggestions.

                              Of course, during this whole time, PartyPie had been model baby and had not fussed or screamed or groaned at all and we definitely appeared to be over-anxious freaked out first parents. I had completely forgotten the advice I had read which said “If you go to the emergency department with your baby? Always tell them it’s your third child so that you’ll be taken seriously.” D’oh.

                              Anyway, M and I sat down and tried to nut out the problem. We came to the conclusion that we had probably not persisted long enough with the block feeding, and despite the fact that PartyPie no longer has scary poo (when she deigns to produce some) that her oversupply problems were still present. We returned to evil google and found a description of oversupply which listed 21 baby symptoms – 16 of which PartyPie has. The site did not say how to treat it, as it cautioned that a correct diagnosis needed to be made before going ahead with treatment.

                              Then I found an article in the International Breastfeeding Journal called Overabundant milk supply: an alternative way to intervene by full drainage and block feeding. The case studies it used were interesting. It suggested draining both boobs by pumping before commencing a block feeding regime. So that’s what I did (and using a breast pump is very weird, btw, and it took me ages and lots of deep relaxing breaths). This was at 2am last night.

                              The article mentioned that often when the baby feeds immediately after the breasts are emptied they get a decent feed of the fatty hindmilk and then go to sleep full and happy. This is pretty much what happened. So far, PartyPie has not had any tummy problems and has been sleeping well. We see the paediatrician on Monday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

                              The reason I have gone into such elongated boring detail is to record it for myself, but also to help any other desperately googling overly milky person with a baby with a sore tummy – just in case it helps. And if you’re interested, this is a really cool article on colic from Dr Jack Newman’s site. I can’t believe I just typed that last sentence. Sigh.

                              ________________________
                              M wants me to add that he still wants to move to the highlands of Papua New Guinea where it takes a village to raise a child and these sort of problems [i.e. colic] are relatively unknown. He also wants me to link to The Continuum Concept – a book he’s been going on about for around a billion years.

                              A sane doctor. And for this we are thankful.

                                The paediatrician was a dream. He looked like a character from a Roald Dahl book, kind of sketchy, gangly and wise; he took a thorough history, examined the PartyPie and asked lots of good questions. He knew that an oversupply of milk can cause digestive problems – even in a baby with properly working digestion (commonly called lactose overload); he also talked about how the baby’s digestive system can be damaged by gastro or an allergy via the mother’s diet.

                                He suggested that if it’s not a severe problem, it’s something that PartyPie might grow out of in a few weeks – and that it may be an option to start her early on solid foods. If there was a bad problem with her gut, she would not be gaining weight at the startling rate that she is currently – so this is a good thing. The paediatrician didn’t think we were newbie parent freaks, and said he would be in touch with test results.

                                Thus, we have to capture that most elusive of beasts – the Poo of the PartyPie – which will be tested, along with the less elusive wee, at the pathology place in Cranbourne. I am to continue on the dairy free diet (sob) to see if it makes a difference, to start taking iron again (hooray!) and to mainline some highgrade calcium supplements on a regular basis.

                                Since beginning with the block feeding (after the night of The Pumping) she has had a few episodes of gut horror, but on the whole, it seems to be considerably better. Now I just have to try to avoid having boobs like rockmelons ;) It’s all good. PartyPie is a chilled out little bugger, who has taken to smiling (mostly at M) and who often giggles in her sleep.

                                SB, UFO – Arrives!

                                  The title translates as Small Brother, Uncle From Overseas – Arrives! Actually, that should be ‘arrived’ ashe flew in this morning. His style can only be described as ‘casual chic while visiting the colonies’. Sweat from being chauffered in a non-airconditioned Humber added to the whole authenticity.

                                  He met his new (and only) niece, and deemed her worthy of the loot ge had brought with him – EXCELLENT bib with her name on it and one of my cat drawings that used to grace these pages, a long sleeve t-shirt emblazoned “PARTYPIE”!! A very cool long armed and legged pink and green suit and TWO pairs of what must be the cutest and softest little leather shoes on the planet…

                                  The Loot from The Uncle!
                                  Look! My cat is on a bib!
                                  Shoes for Baby from London

                                  He is going to spend some time at the Trailer, and will no doubt be helping M return to the Land of Beer. Mmmm. I faintly recall that amber fluid.

                                  Welcome to the World

                                    Yesterday we hosted a Welcome to the World party for Small Z. I have to admit – it was entirely organised by M, as I couldn’t bear to wrap my sapped and exhausted brain around the mere idea of putting on a ‘do’. M sent out the invites, cleared out the backyard (goodbye to Buns’ bunny compound) and bought some party supplies. My mum was amazing and provided two huge excellent salads (she is not known as the ‘salad nazi’ for nothing), watermelon, and made an equally large pink iced chocolate cake (pictures to follow).

                                    This was the picture he used on the invite. I kind of like it :o)

                                    Sunset smiling. Six weeks old,

                                    E contributed her famous chickpea salad, and everyone (including my Nan, who is here from Marblehead, Small Brother, who is here from London, and Relle – our lovely doula) gathered in our somewhat dry and dusty backyard, which looks on to the paddocks.

                                    T and Small Brother made sure everyone was equipped with champagne, and the weather was startlingly cooperative. M had worked hard on what he wanted to say and I had decided that I would also speak a few short words. M primed a few people to contribute a poem to welcoming Zoe, and E, PGR and my mum (as tribal nanna) all spoke. It was actually quite an exceptional occasion. I welcomed Small Z to the world and remarked on the fact that I have found her personality laden, intriguing and alarmingly adorable since the time of her arrival – I also introduced Small Brother (whom not everyone knows, due to his London lifestyle) and made it known that should M and I be hit by a stray asteroid, it will be he who takes over Small Z wrangling – his title? Spare Parent. Ha!

                                    I wetted Small Z’s head with a little bit of champagne, and DJ finished off proceedings with a poem he had thoughtfulliy and humorously penned in the back of his street directory. We all barbequed, drank and nattered into the night. It was great to see my Nan meeting all our mates, and Small Z’s other baby friends (Small E and Chloe Rose) were also in attendance.

                                    It was a day that I couldn’t have put together, but I’m so grateful that M did. Almost everyone remembered to write in the Special Book that I’m going to keep as a record of Zoe’s first year. It was a lovely day; because of the people who came along (M referred to them as “Zoe’s Tribe”) and also because of why they came. M finished his welcome speech with this:

                                    William Blake put childhood this way:
                                    To see the World in a grain of sand,
                                    And a heaven in a wild flower,
                                    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
                                    And eternity in an hour.

                                    ——————————–
                                    *Salad Nazi: someone who repeatedly forces their salad upon you e.g. “Have you had some of the green salad? Have more of the green salad. Hey, I don’t think you eat enough salad. Do you want to finish off that salad?”

                                    From the trenches

                                      I have been going to Mother’s Group. Yes. Twice. It is less freaky, and more bearable than I had thought possible. There is even a girl there who I think is very nice. Yet my mind still struggles with the fact that all members of my mother’s group seem to live in this area of their own free will. They are not living here in order to build a large catamaran. Anyway. The trenches. Yes. Yesterday I was in the Somme.

                                      Small Z did not have a lengthy relationship with sleep yesterday, as each time she seemed about to have any, I had to drag her in and out of the car. For a baby that only really chucks a mayhem at arsenic hour, having a sad little bugger shackled in the back of the car when you have to drive an hour from home and then an hour back is probably quite close to my idea of hell. First we went to the mother’s group, and then had to drive into town for me to drop off my work files and collect more. By that stage she was very miserable, and SO tired.

                                      L at work held her for a bit just as I was sorting out my stuff to leave and she fell asleep. I took her, still asleep, and put her in the CAPSULE OF EVIL (i.e. the carseat) whereupon she awoke and was yelling. I drove grimly toward my mother’s house, about a four minute drive from my work. Of course, just as I rounded the corner of the side street to my mum’s, she fell asleep. Naturally, I could not then stop the car, because that would have awoken the Kraken of the deep. So I called my mum and said we wouldn’t be stopping by. She was very indignant, as she had stayed home all afternoon waiting and did not know of my dire and horrible day…I screamed unintelligibly into the phone and threw it across the car, and then drove around for ages, too scared to get stuck in peak hour traffic on the way home, but too scared to turn off the engine.

                                      I called L. Small C is seven months now, so she has been in the trenches recently, and still enters them regularly. SHe was sensible. “Come here, I will make us a cup of tea, and if you don’t want to turn off the car, then leave it running in the driveway.”
                                      So I did. Of course, after ten minutes the Kraken awoke, but then we walked down and got some takeaway Indian to have back at the trailer, and L gave me tea and Small C lent Small Z her change table. It was all convivial, and saved my sanity.

                                      The drive home was almost another epic. Poor little Z was so sick of being in the carseat, and was so tired she was beside herself (an interesting phrase). I drove into the Bunnings carpark near Cheltenham and drove backwards and forwards over a speedhump, which was an effective soporific. I had to pull over once more on our journey. By the time we hit Cranbourne she was asleep, but threatened to mutiny at every traffic light; so as I drove through Cranbourne, each time I got near a set of red lights, I would veer off into the car parks and petrol stations on the left, just to keep driving – because this time I was unable to cope with any more backseat traumas :(

                                      Finally we made it back to the Trailer. Small Z asleep. M got her out of the capsule, and for some reason did not put her straight in bed. She then mayhem-ed for the next three hours. All up, it was the hardest day I have had, and she has had, since her arrival. And it is for that reason we will be finding an alternative way to do things. Shoving her in the car for two hours when she is still such a tiny thing just so I can go and pick up files is TOO MUCH HARD WORK. M said that every time he telephoned me during the day it was as if I was a war correspondent in Iraq. There has to be a better way…

                                      Staying mum

                                        Tuesday mornings I do my three-hour-and-no-longer whip into work and back, to drop off the files I’ve finished for the week, and pick up the next lot. It takes me about fifty minutes in and fifty minutes out – which sounds like I have a good hour up my sleeve – but with ten or fifteen dithering minutes occupied with leaving, then parking, stray roadworks and a possible stop to pick something up, time is tight. PartyPie feeds about every three hours more or less, and as she won’t have a bottle M spends the time that I”m absent praying that I won’t go under truck.

                                        So I race into work, having picked up a baby hammock on the way – we’ve paid thirty bucks to try it out for two weeks – and everybody is there. I don’t have any of my customary guilt, because I cleared it with WorkL yesterday that I wouldn’t be coming into the office for a day a week for the forseeable future, due to the hideous logistics involved. SO RELIEVED.

                                        “Where’s Zoe?!? they chorus.

                                        “Um. I would rather drive hot skewers under my fingernails than endure an hour in the car with her? How is this news?”

                                        Apparently I have never spoken of this before. Which is not true, but anyway…

                                        “What do you mean? All babies like the car!” says WorkL.

                                        “Yes! They love it!” says S.

                                        “Ah, mine – they loved the car,” carols SoFrenchySoChic.

                                        “And mine,” I say, smiling, “Hates the car. And why wouldn’t she? I wouldn’t strap her into a capsule at home and expect her to happily look at the ceiling for an hour.”

                                        “Yes,” says WorkL reprovingly, “But you should put up some toys for her. Then she can play and fall asleep.”

                                        I inform her that most parts of the car within Z’s vision are bedecked in dangling toy things, to no avail. And no, she won’t sleep in the car without a fight.

                                        “Ah, she’s overstimulated,” concludes S.

                                        I bite my tongue. I’m getting better at not letting this stuff faze me, and am no longer feeling like Z and I are freaks because she won’t travel in the car with constant good humour/drink from a bottle/sleep through the night. People are so odd. Yesterday in an email about me not working from the office any time soon WorkL said;
                                        “Have you and M considered taking Zoe to a sleep clinic? They’re great!”
                                        Um. I never said anything about her sleep. But I forgot, everyone has an opinion – and, more annoyingly, a solution! Actually, until I posted the other day about her being a champ at night, there weren’t any sleep issues – of course, since I was so stupid as to write that down for everyone to see, she’s got a good dose of the four-month-crazies and now – although we can get her to sleep at night – we have to do it repeatedly, as she just pops awake. M has been referring to her as amphetamine baby – or something similar.

                                        Know your onion

                                          There are good and bad nights. And, as we were talking about yesterday – the word ‘bad’ is all relative. A ‘bad’ night with PartyPie doesn’t really mean any crying, it means that she wakes up and wants to be fed – but then goes back to sleep – and wakes up because she’s wet – and is then hard to settle without another feed.

                                          Last night was OK until about three in the morning, when she began inexplicably waking every hour. I had finally settled her down for the third time when her nappy leaked and she could not be settled without the Magic Power of Boob. We went through six nappies. I was at the end of my tether and had a small whimper to myself. We both passed out until 7.15am, and then M came in from where he now sleeps – Out In The Cold.

                                          (Now I have to type something I should have started out with, but I have no planning capabilities atm.) Yesterday, before visitors arrived and while Z slept I very hastily made kangaroo stew. Because the trailer has walls of faux wood and little else, all abrupt noises are potential timebombs. That’s why I often put the pram next to the washing machine with the radio on. But yesterday I’d put her in the bedroom. So in order to cut up the vegies silently I took them and the cutting board into the study/bedroom of M and hacked away at the onions, zucchini, beans, potato etc. I was trying to be swift and quiet, and possibly I was a bit scatty with my slicing. OK? Now back to where this ties into my story.

                                          I told M about my fraught night when he came in at about twenty past seven. And as I told him, I also answered questions before he could ask them – thus: “Yes, at about three she woke up and fed, and somehow her nappy came undone, so then when I had to do it up she woke up, then at four I had to get her back to sleep, and no I don’t want you to stay home and mind her today, and then at five I’d left her in bed with me and her nappy inexplicably leaked and no, there’s nothing you can do and I don’t think I should have woken you up to help…”

                                          I went on like that for a while, while M played with the baby and tried to let it all wash over him like a Super-Partner-Sponge without attempting to FIX IT in a manly manner. Finally I forgot about my Important Suffering Self and said – “And how did you sleep?” and even managed to sound like I cared, despite the fact that he could have been tap danced on by both cats during the night and still slept better than me.

                                          “Oh,” said M sadly and without any apparent irony, “It wasn’t too bad I suppose, but I smelt this smell, and I thought it was plastic burning. So then I thought that you and PartyPie had been suffocated by some plastic that had been left too close to the heater and I had to creep up to your door and make sure you guys were still alive.”

                                          “Ah. Terrible.. You had to get up and walk? Awful. I’m so sorry.”

                                          “So then,” he continued blithely, “I went back to bed and I realised the smell wasn’t plastic – it was onion. ONION. I couldn’t sleep properly because of ONION SMELL.”

                                          By this time he had lost all sense of self preservation and was actually pouting.

                                          “Well,” I said very carefully, “I’m surprised you didn’t wake up in tears. I think that I would have happily rubbed my naked body in raw onion rather than having to wake up a bazillion times, walk a wriggling babe, been wee’d on, sucked on and had several bits of me cut up by tiny razorlike baby toenails. Gah.”

                                          “Ha!” cackled M, “Ha, ha! That’s funny!”

                                          “It wasn’t funny!” I shrieked. “In the end I had to have a little cry.”

                                          This caused M to become sober, and enabled me to have the upper hand for the morning. Thus, when he said that I could stay in bed while he made the porridge I was able to finally inform him that I never want to eat his porridge ever again because he refuses to measure the ingredients and instead just flings them all in with an idealistic hope that it will all succeed. Generally this means we eat something that resembles glue with brown sugar on top. Instead of more crying onion stories, I was rewarded with a pot of tea and Egg In A Hole (breakfast usually only seen at sea) – such was his thankfulness that he had been spared a night in the trenches.

                                          Yeah. OK – trenches is exaggerating, but everything is worse at night. Know Your Onion.

                                          Ignore me as I revel

                                            I put Zoe down WHILE SHE WAS AWAKE (but drowsy) and… SHE WENT TO SLEEP. Holy hell. People without offspring will never understand how amazing this is. Joy and revelry! We might even have to miss scary mother’s group – as the sleep is still going! I hope this post doesn’t jinx things. Oh – and while I’m here, here’s a link to a video that Dylan made of Axel’s immunisation…the music is hysterical. He couldn’t believe that the nurses told him that no one else had ever filmed it before. I have to say, it is not something I thought of…

                                            Say hello WINNER. (Me, I mean.)

                                              So yesterday I bit the bullet and ordered a tonne of redgum, because I was sick of M having to bring home bits of good timber from the shed that could be used for things other than keeping us all warm. This was hard, as I come from a family who Does Not Pay For Wood. Ever. But goes out with a chainsaw after big storms and collects it from public land alongside country roads. [cue John Denver. Or actually, don't.] It cost two hundred dollars. And ordinarily I’d be choking while I typed…

                                              But this afternoon while I was changing Small Z, the phone rang. It’s astonishing that it was even plugged in, because I unplug it whenever she’s asleep and always forget to put it back. So it rang, and it was the Environmental Education Officer from my council – City of Casey. She told me I’d won this month’s draw for the THREE HUNDRED DOLLAR cloth nappy rebate. Oh. MY. GOD! I entered over a month ago – the deal is that you sent in all your receipts for the cloth nappies you’d bought in 2008 and if you won, they would refund up to $300. Woo!

                                              That covers the firewood and leaves a hundred over, which I plan to spend on an Ergo sling – it craps all over the BabyBjorn (which was, admittedly, excellent, until Small Z recently became, Still Small But Curiously Weighty Z) and is less complex than the Hug-a-Bub. I have been listing things for sale on ebay over the last two days in an effort to get together enough money for the Ergo – but VOILA!

                                              We won a prize

                                              This is our ‘triumphant’ picture. Where we lay on the play mat and I look excited and Small Z muses on what she can spend the cash on.

                                              It would be good karma to spend it on joining the Australian Nappy Network who helped the council put the offer together… Small Z and I have to go into the council and get our photograph taken for the local paper, and I think I’ll also get the opportunity to pimp modern cloth nappies in the article. Of course I am vain, and am now feverishly thinking – haircut? Or hat? (I can hear my mother thinking from 50 kilometres away “What will Small Z wear? It better be one of those GREAT things I brought her back from the USA. One of the ones I’ve NEVER SEEN HER IN. How about that LITTLE DENIM SKIRT?” Stay out of my blog, mum.

                                              And the fun did not stop there. I had invented a bit of a traffic stopper dinner (well, for me…) of cous cous with roast pumpkin and garlic with baked salmon, and was putting it together as a surprise for M who was on the couch. I craved beer. “I wish I’d got some beer,” I murmured. M went to the fridge like a love-robot and handed me a Coopers Sparkling Ale. I was astounded. They had been there all day. They were so quiet, I never knew.

                                              And THEN… M whispered Small Z to sleep in TEN MINUTES. Holy god. AND THEN…I forgot to mention. She drank from a bottle today. PROPERLY. TWICE. My killer touch was to whip her in between boob and bottle. And it was a SUCCESS. And now, I will go to bed. Full of stomach, warmed by free redgum, capital letters and happy of heart. And if that’s not POSITIVE POSTING THEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS. Ha!

                                              Me and Bowie. Ch-ch-ch-changes….

                                                So I didn’t type this yesterday in case I jinxed it. About a month or so ago my friend J said “B, you need to put Small Z in the next size up of the most full on chemical ridden disposables that you can. We put Small M in the next size up eco-disposable, and it lasts all night.”

                                                I had two responses. One was that I’d tried both eco-disposables and also scary disposables and had success with neither. The other thing was that Small M only eats once or sometimes twice a night, whereas Small Z has a snackfest in comparison. Anyway, I went to my alterno-mother’s group the other day, and a few people there swore by the ‘sizing up’ thing.

                                                Back when Small Z was born, our lovely landlord brought around two packs of disposables that his grandkids no longer fitted into. One was toddler sized Huggies – for babies 10kg and up. So not last night but the night before I dug them out of my donate-to-op-shop pile. Small Z is just over seven kilograms, so I figured they are the next size up.

                                                Get this. For the last two nights I have changed her ONCE. I cannot TYPE THIS LOUD ENOUGH. ONCE. ONCE. ONCE. She still woke heaps, but not having to change her – up to five or six times – just ratcheted down my stress levels quite a bit. Changing a baby you want to go back to sleep is an anomaly – it just wakes them up more and they fuss. Especially as it’s fairly chilly here.

                                                What this also meant was that I could stuff her in a baby sleeping bag – I’ve never been able to do this before because it added a dreaded extra step to the whole changing process. Now, with her crazy rolling, she can remain crazy, but warm. And… despite having a hard time getting her settled last night, she then did two three hour blocks.

                                                I swear, my body didn’t know what to do with itself. It felt that strange, elongated sleep sensation and dived straight in and sunk to the bottom. I felt more exhausted this morning than I normally do after a hell night – M reckons it’s because I got a taste of what sleep could be, and my body wants more.

                                                Anyway, after posting all my moans and groans, I thought it would be nice to post a baby-win! Pretty funny that Small Z and I are going to have our photos taken for the paper this Friday, espousing our commitment to cloth nappies!! As M is irritatingly fond of saying – pick your battles. We’ll stay planet friendly during the day and chemical laden at night. I have to remember – don’t just try things once or twice – try them again, and again, and then again!

                                                Stick it out

                                                  My friend Phillip. The island.

                                                    Went away on Friday down to Phillip Island to stay with D&E&Small E in a house that belongs to D’s aunty. It was GOOD to get away from Trailerland for a bit. Even though I left my bank card in a cafe in Koo Wee Rup…

                                                    We got down there early and I cooked up kangaroo stew while M and Small Z had a snooze, and then had a snooze myself. It was excellent to spend some time catching up with our friends, who have a far more hectic life than we do – and it was particularly good to get the two babes together. They were very cute. Small E is just that bit (one month) older and stronger than Small Z – and very much a BOY.

                                                    Small Z and Small E
                                                    Small Z and Small E

                                                    Small Z gave as good as she got, and there was some dummy stealing (even though she won’t use one, she still wanted his) and eye gouging (Small E had a go) and both of them did some river-dancing in the Jolly Jumper – with Small E really going through his paces and kicking a ball back and forth. You can tell his mum is a dance teacher!

                                                    Of course I wish that it could have been a week instead of just two nights [sigh]. By mid morning Sunday I was beginning to worry about the two days of work I had to cram into that night and the following day. Thus, we ducked out of a coffee in Rhyll (a sad thing) and went home via my dad’s place, where we got some lunch and picked up one of the highchairs that we have had donated to us. A highchair!? Bizarre, or what!?

                                                    While we were there, my father took it upon himself to take Small Z off my hands. “How nice,” I thought, as he took her to the window at the end of the kitchen, “They’re bonding. Cute.” Things were fairly quiet there, near the window. In retrospect, I realise it was rather TOO quiet. Ten minutes later, when they came back near the fire, Small Z’s face was covered in dirt. And her tongue was black. He had given her an unwashed potato to gum on. And let her chew up a piece of paper with black ink all over it.

                                                    I jumped up and down, and M bit his lip. No one else thought it was wrong. FREAKS. I am happy for Small Z to ingest dirt, sand, and general trailer-mank with the best of them, once she is under her own steam and discovering the world. But now – at six months old – and only having tasted bits of apple and sweet potato outside of her breastmilk existence, I was thoroughly horrified. My dad remains unrepentant, but M and I? We quietly plot our revenge…

                                                    Queen Elizabeth Centre. For us, it sucked.

                                                      The morning after Saffy went into the paddock we had to get on the road by about 7.15am to go to sleep school. In order to make it through the day, when Small Z wakes (for the final time) at about 6.30am or 7am, M will take her and I’ll get another hour or so of sleep in. It is my lifeline. And this was the second day I hadn’t had it. Ugh. I was a mess of sad eyebags.

                                                      With peak hour traffic horror, we got there at about 8.30am – and Small Z should have been back in bed for a nap fifteen minutes before that. So she was already overtired. It took another hour or so for them to process us. There was only one other baby and her mum there with us – staff were off sick, so it was a slow day. I didn’t know how things were going to work, but I had read in a few places online that the Queen Elizabeth Centre used some Elizabeth Pantley methods (for those of you not in baby-land, she is the author of The No Cry Sleep Solution. I had been dabbling with the book and it’s suggestions, but M hadn’t read it.

                                                      Anyway, I did not expect to have to put Small Z, who had been up for FOUR HOURS (which was the longest she has ever been awake – two hours and a bit is her limit) in a cot in a darkened room, and leave her alone there as she ‘settled herself’. Just a short tangent at this point. Small Z was rocked to sleep inside me, as I did all that walking around the back paddock for six months. She was rocked to sleep when she came into the world as a continuation of this. And she she is still being rocked (and when I say ‘rocked’ I mean wrapped up and walked up and down in our arms), but it needs to stop – because my wrist and my shoulder have said ENOUGH, and she needs to learn how to get there on her own. />end of tangent

                                                      So our baby wrangler (let’s call her, um, Deloris) told us all the things we already knew, helped me to put Small Z down in the cot. We said a firm ‘goodnight’ and left the room. Ha ha ha. Poor Z lay there for a bit, but was so out of her head with sleeplessness that she just started to scream. Deloris helped me to try the ‘settling strategies’ – patting her, patting the mattress, shooshing, blah blah blah. Z yelled regardless. It was hard, and stupidly pointless, because I knew that she was absolutely not going to suddenly and miraculously realise how to get to sleep.

                                                      Both M and I didn’t last very long. I couldn’t see the point of it (I can feel you, all those people out there just shaking their heads while mumuring…”no pain, no gain”) but I know my baby. I know she has never had to get herself to sleep, and now, in a strange place and all on her own – how was that going to help her toward the holy grail? It wasn’t. Anyway, I grabbed her. She was very upset. I had to settle her in the normal way, and did not feel at all bad. Deloris thought I was a pussy. Deloris hadn’t really helped. She kept saying things like “She’s manipulating you…” and wore lots of clanking jewellery that didn’t help when she patted the mattress.

                                                      I could go on, but it has taken me a week to write this (I have backdated it to the appropriate time for historical accuracy) and, no surprise, I am too tired now to bother. Basically we had an information session, Deloris told me she would try and get me in for a five day stay, Deloris suggested that M and I needed counselling (I can only assume this was because I was at the end of my tether with no sleep, having buried Saffy the day before, M and Z were stressed and we were somewhere that was more hardcore than I’d thought – and because M was pretty underwhelmed by dear Queen Elizabeth and I’m sure we snarked at each other a few times) and that Small Z was a manipulating little thing. Yawn.

                                                      The second nap was even more disastrous and Small Z ended up beside herself. I told Deloris that thinking this approach was going to work was ridiculous, and it was stupid to even bother with trying it, particularly as we were only there for the day. Deloris pretty much wrote us off as not one of her success stories. M and I wrote very detailed feedback forms. When we got home we made a pact to stick with our No Cry Sleep Solution book. We are making a little progress, but things are still a bit of a struggle. Small Z is growing so fast, and what works one day will not work a few days later.

                                                      The follow up phone call from the Queen Elizabeth Centre was really the only other good thing about it (besides the free tea and coffee, and their excellent salad sandwiches). The lady I spoke to was far more sympathetic to our situation, and I really think that we would have got more from the whole experience if she had been our wrangler on the day. Sigh. I told her what we were doing, and she said it was great, and all we could do was stick to it and keep going. So there you go. The day after sleep school horror we had visitors, the day after that I had to work, and the day after that I had to work. By Wednesday I was so wiped out I had turned into a troll, and M had to mind Z so I could go to the osteopath and op-shop some zen into myself. I’m sick of being a grown up.

                                                      Sitting on the grass. It’s SUNNY!

                                                        Spring’s doing its thing

                                                          OK. So now I feel more like I’ve been ridden over by a, um, [pause to think of appropriate vehicle] chunky new model Vespa motor scooter. Like the one Small Brother abandoned when he left London behind. The throat that felt like I’d been gargling razors has now downgraded to gargling coarse grade sandpaper.

                                                          All in all, am generally improving. And this has been helped by showstopper spring weather, which I have been SO thankful for. I fully believe in Seasonal Affective Disorder – not that I have it (der) but day after day of cold, grey, manky, skanky, galeforce windy weather would drive most people a bit spare. God knows how you people with snow cope. Snow is good to visit, and that’s about it for me.*

                                                          The last few days have been those zingy spring ones with a bit of heat in the midday sun. Although I had to work all day today, I had the door of the study cracked open to let some of the afternoon in. And went out and took a few pictures as well. PartyPie has been getting into grass in a big way – and also has been enjoying riding in the bucket on the clothes basket trolley. See the grass? That’s stuck on there with snot. She is a classy little thing…

                                                          Button in the Bucket

                                                          And here is my garden of pots and crates. It’s been getting a lot of rain – which is good, because I can’t find where the fertiliser has gone, but it probably doesn’t matter seeing as it’s all planted in about seventy percent horse poo.

                                                          My garden of pots and crates

                                                          *Note: It’s pretty funny, but in the middle of writing this I wandered over to the blog of Long Lost Cousin, and she is similarly jubilant at the change in our meteorological scenery. Not that she needs to be, as she’s just buggered off on another adventure…)

                                                          The not so sweet and lowdown

                                                            Things have been somewhat fraught in trailerland for the past two weeks or so. I hesitate to post here about the not-sleeping-much situation that I have with Small Z, as I know quite a few people read this and the thought of them just shaking their heads over how I have decided to parent Small Z just makes me feel a bit sad and weird. However. This is also a record of what is going on in my life as it hammers along, and if I don’t post about things, it is very likely I’ll totally forget they ever happened.

                                                            I love that I can look back from late 2002 until now and see things that I’d forgotten. It’s really a way of me keeping a grip on my existence. So yeah. I haven’t slept for more than about two hours straight in about five months. I also will not put Small Z in her own room in a cot, because I think babies should be near their mothers – and also, the amount of times she wakes up? I need her in arms reach. I know that some people might assume that because I think this way, I judge them and how they parent their baby. Not so. This smacks to me (ha!) of all that crap involved in organised religion. The thing I hate about religion is that some people can’t be happy and secure with their own beliefs – they have to push them on to other people.

                                                            So while I do think that we are just mammals, and all other mammals sleep with their babies – I would never judge people that don’t do as I do. That doesn’t seem to stop people thinking I should do as THEY do. But that’s a whole other scene, and one that I’d prefer to ignore. Small Z is doing well if she has two two hour blocks of sleep per night – the rest of the time she wakes every hour or hour and a half. I boob her back to sleep (I can see you shaking your heads, btw), and on rare occasions she will settle without it. On each occasion, she’s probably awake for ten to twenty minutes. So I am getting SOME sleep, and it’s not like I’m walking with her in my arms for hours each night as she screams. It’s just that my sleep is VERY fractured…

                                                            I am aware that in allowing her to feed so often, she has a sucking to sleep association – you know, the one that babies are born with. I don’t care about her feeding to sleep, and I reject all the negative statements about it. I think that breastfeeding encourages sleepiness (more so if you time it right) and is a great tool. I just hadn’t bargained for this two hourly wake up thing. I think it got helped along by her constantly waking with a wet cloth nappy when she was smaller – I’d have to change her…and then get her back to sleep. And thus I helped build the monster. And now I’m too tired to do anything constructive about it. Stupidly, I have been battling with what I have helped create, when I just should either go with it – or go cold turkey and suffer a week or two of a screaming, confused and unhappy baby.

                                                            Recently I have been feeling near the end of the line. I have been frustrated with myself, with Small Z and also with M – who CANNOT stand to hear her cry – so when I have made a few crap attempts not to feed her when she has awoken – I have then had to deal with TWO distressed people – one big, and one small :( I do not lie – I am finding this really, really hard. But then I have a huge venting session, read a bit about other people’s experiences and wonder to myself – am I weird to not want my baby to cry her heart out? I don’t think so. But this leaves me with the impossible situation of requiring MORE SLEEP but in order to get MORE SLEEP Small Z will have to be very unhappy. And that will make me unhappy…or, unhappier.

                                                            This has all come to a tipping point at a very inappropriate time. Nine months is known as an age of upheaval – teeth, crawling, walking – it’s a big fat developmental landmark, and babies are well known to have big sleep regressions even if they have previously been ‘good sleepers’. Small Z now has FOUR teeth (ow!) and I think there is another one on its way right now. She is crawling (freakishly, but fast) and has just started pulling herself up to standing. Last night she figured out how to stand up in her cot. This morning she began baby-babbling in a whole new way. So she is really cooking along.

                                                            I am loath to implement a big change at this point, because it seems like such bad timing. But if things do not improve, I’m not sure I can keep going. Sometimes I wish to be like M’s neice, who – upon bringing her new, and premature baby home, wrote to him and said she couldn’t wait for her to be a few weeks older so she could start doing controlled crying – and that feeding every three hours was driving her up the wall. But I can’t do it. And this is why I have trouble even writing about it – because it is totally down to me. And if I can’t do what it takes to get myself more sleep, then I should just shut the hell up and reap what I have sown.

                                                            Sigh. I am feeling the wide and horrified eyes of my mother and a few other people right now, but at least this all goes some way to explaining why I hardly ever call people back or update this blog at the moment! I’m just talking about the frequent wakings – I didn’t even go into the torment that is the initial getting to sleep. That’s a whole other mournful rant. Comments are closed, because I can’t deal with anyone – combative or empathetic.

                                                            Goodbyes and Grass

                                                              We went to Loch on Sunday to put Mow in the back paddock. Dad had dug the hole – which involved a lot more effort than the previous one, as the earth has hardened in the warmer weather. M put Mow in and we said our goodbyes. We drank a little glass of port each, to speed Mow on his way. And there it was. We’re catless. It kind of feels like we’re in a constant state in which we have something missing from our ensemble, like a left sock. Odd. We’re still trying to get our heads around it.

                                                              Our goodbyes were followed by a splendiferous lunch, after which most of us passed out on the grass, full of roast chicken, roast potato, D’Affinois cheese, kangaroo salami, sourdough bread and lashings of champagne. Very classy. Small Z loves grass, and there is not a lot of the good gear in Trailerland – it’s all dry, brown and pokey. So she was in her element. I took some photos.

                                                              Last Sunday - in Loch
                                                              Last Sunday - in Loch

                                                              Please note all the Humbers in the background – mine’s in the middle and I cannot WAIT to hook up the caravan to it and…oh, I don’t know, just drive it around like a pimp wearing red lipstick, and stopping at intervals to make cups of tea in picturesque locales.

                                                              These go to ELEVEN

                                                                M and I never realised that we might have a baby one day. When this happened, through no fault of our own ;P we realised that what we did not know about having one of these small people could fill several encylopaedias.

                                                                For instance, I assumed that babies just played and then got tired and then got even tireder and then possibly even flaked out where they were. You then just scooped them up and deposited them in their beds. Too easy.

                                                                I have since learned that this is indeed true for some babies. Just not our one. Our one wakes up in the morning, and you can actually see her turning up the volume on her very own Marshall stack. It’s like this:
                                                                1. Eyes open
                                                                2. Eyes blink
                                                                3. Big stretches
                                                                4. A few more
                                                                5. Lie still for a minute to make me think she might actually be Going Back to Sleep
                                                                6. Ha! Tricked you. Start rolling.
                                                                7. Start crawling
                                                                8. Roll around a bit
                                                                9. Remembers the voice
                                                                10. Begins to chant ‘Baa! Baa!!’
                                                                11. The crawling and the shouting and the pirate noises all churn into one big conflagration. BAAAAA!

                                                                And that’s how Z turns herself up to her all day running speed of ELEVEN each day. Every week when my mother visits to look after Small Z, she gets to a point in the afternoon when Small Z is totally tired, and the same expression takes up residence on her face. The question she then asks me is usually a variation of;
                                                                “So…if I laid down on the bed with her, she wouldn’t just go off to sleep?”
                                                                “So…if I just read her a story, put her in her cot and close the door…she won’t just go off to sleep?”
                                                                I don’t actually speak in response to this anymore. I have given up shrieking “If it was that easy, don’t you think I’d DO IT?” and now I just shoot her the Look, which clearly says “Lady, you are clearly insane, or are just choosing to ignore the evidence of the past ten months.”

                                                                Secretly she’s probably embarassed that she has a grand-daughter who thinks sleep is for the weak. She’s also afflicted with the ailment specific to her generation – all their babies slept. Without any problem. All the time. In fact, they can’t remember that sleep was ever an issue. To which I have two responses – “That’s because they hadn’t discovered the whole sleep-them-on-their-backs-to-fight-SIDS approach and all your babies slept on their tummies – where babies mostly sleep best.” and “That’s because you drugged them with Phenergan.” As in “She seems a bit unsettled – give her some Phenergan.”

                                                                My dad told me a few months back that they used to Phenergan me. Whenever I see my landlord as I’m walking Z around the property, he says, with wearying regularity, “Put that baby in her cot. She’ll cry herself to sleep. Or just give her some Baby Panadol…or Phenergan.” ARGH! He’s my landlord. I have to let him live. He’s also the one that says “Come and borrow some of our DVDs – they’ll sit in front of them for hours.”

                                                                Anyway, the point of all this was that, M and I just sit back and watch our Energizer Bunny baby just go, and go, and GO! But recently I have occasionally noticed that everything has gone quiet in the trailer, and I sneak up to the bedroom door and see that Small Z has crawled in there, past the cot, around the chair, and is sitting down under the window at the end of the bed amongst a pile of her books. And she sits there, ‘reading’ them for a good twenty minutes or so. It’s almost the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. So at those times, I think she has turned down from ELEVEN to about eight or nine. It’s lovely.

                                                                Talking in the Tin




                                                                  Originally uploaded by miaow

                                                                  This is how we pass the late afternoons in the trailer. I’m sure I will take this back down fairly soon, because it is already patently obvious to me that I only think this is hysterical because Small Z is, well, mine. Other people will just see two pathetic parents doting on a little crawling object. Feel free to ignore.

                                                                  B & Small Z’s First Trip Away. Day One.

                                                                    Small Z seemed to find it v.comfortable in my sister’s bed, and slumbered until we had the car ready outside. It was a cold trip in between house and car, but after a few protests, she seemed to like the excitement of an early morning ride. We got dropped off at the airport, and our progress on to the plane was SO smooth that I almost retracted all my JetStar angst. Almost.

                                                                    We got to go to our own deserted counter, and were given three seats to ourselves! This was a godsend, as once we were aboard, Small Z wanted to explore the entire plane, but was generally placated with a three seat radius. A German nanny adopted us for a while and showed me all the pictures of the babies she has been looking after on her phone camera. Small Z got a bit cranky after that and I managed to feed her off to sleep, and she slept for 35 minutes, waking up about ten minutes before landing.

                                                                    En route to Ballina

                                                                    She was fantastic on the plane, and had a ball. I made sure she was either feeding, or drinking from her cup on the taking off and landing bits, in order to clear her ears with swallowing. There were absolutely no dramas. She did escape me once and burrowed under my seat to the one behind – and I got tapped on the shoulder by a girl who asked if I’d lost something… And once Small Z had been returned, wriggling, she had to tap me on the shoulder three more times with books and toys that had gone astray. God knows what we would have done without the three seats!

                                                                    Examining the menu.

                                                                    Jen met us at the airport and I got to see the beautiful Mediterranean baby Marco for the first time! Last time we had all seen each other, both Small Z and Marco were in utero, so it was v.exciting. The drive from the airport was not too great, as Small Z was whacked. We broke for a drink in lovely Bangalow, and then kept driving to Rosebank. Small Z did not enjoy the drive, but Jen did her ‘baby charming’ voice and I did several little ducks, and we made it intact.

                                                                    Two in the back

                                                                    After napping in my favourite garden flat, Small Z and I went up to the house and I caught up with Ian, Jen and Small C, while the babies played and the rain hammered down.

                                                                    Arrived! Trying out the new toys!

                                                                    Small Z is a bit more mobile that Small M, and our hostly hosts had put up a gate to stop her taking a header down the steps outside the French windows. For which they must be thanked.

                                                                    Small Z's very own safety gate

                                                                    B & Small Z’s First Trip Away. Day Two.

                                                                      Small Z and I had gone to sleep to the thrumming of sub-tropical rain on the roof. We awoke in the morning to gunmetal skies, and the noises of nature. The noises! I had forgotten already how alive everything sounds up there. Just like when we lived in Hervey Bay. The birds are louder, the bugs are bigger, the rain is wetter and everything springs out of the ground with a vengeance.

                                                                      We had a shower and wandered over to the house, where everything was kicking on. arcoM generally wakes up at 6.30am and Ian and Small C have to get off to work and school. The coffee machine was going, the fancy museli was out, the toaster was toasting and the babies were plopped down together as we fuelled up for the day.

                                                                      The wonder of other people's toys

                                                                      Small Z and I jumped in the car with Jen and Marco, with Small C squished in the middle of both babies. Thank goodness for Small C, who entertained Small Z all the way to school. We went for a wander for necessities around Mullumbimby. Walking around there with Jen takes me back to when I was first getting it on with M. Whenever we would walk down Brunswick Street or Smith Street (in Fitzroy and Collingwood, respectively) he would see about a bamillion people he knew. And thus it is with Jen. They share the same birthday and the same Labrador gene.

                                                                      We got drinks, moved tables when a jackhammer started up on the other side of the wall to where we were sitting and chatted while I periodically got up to scoop up Small Z from where she had crawled out the door and on to the footpath. I know by now that her immune system is like a ROCK if only due to all the dirt she encounters while on all fours. Marco slept on the journey home and Small Z, who was feeling more at home with her situation, was not particularly perturbed by the car ride.

                                                                      Then there was sleeping. It was super muggy and humid – the rain the night before had not really broken the weather at all. Small Z didn’t seem to mind it.

                                                                      Sleeping in the garden flat.

                                                                      B & Small Z’s First Trip Away. Day Three.

                                                                        Jen had a phone call from a nearby macadamia farmer. It has been made law that they have to contact their neighbours prior to spraying their crop. Although the time for spraying had been a while back, some new pest was waggling its tail, and the farmer told Jen that spraying would happen around 11am. My plot had been to give Small Z a car free day, but fate, and the macadamia farmer, had other ideas.

                                                                        We left right on time for Small Z’s nap. I, in a moment of utter brilliance, had packed a little battery powered speaker for my iPod. I put it in the back and cranked the baby-tunes The Ants Go Marching…. It took about ten minutes for both of them to conk out, and Jen, lovely Jen, drove the meandering back way via Byron Bay to Brunswick Heads – one of my most favourite destinations.

                                                                        It was a day that we could not have planned, and it ended up being one of the best days I’ve had all year. We went into Conti – a cafe that is serious about it’s excellence. Jen and I shared a chocolatey thing that seduced us both, and I had a banana smoothie. It was the kind of cafe that I dream about from the main street of Tooradin. I knew M would have loved it. From there we walked around to the beach.

                                                                        I hadn’t realised we wouldn’t be making it back to the car before hitting the waves, but we made do. My knickers were (luckily) boyshort style and Small Z borrowed a spare top of Marco’s, while the rest of her was smeared in high grade sunscreen. Brunswick Heads babies beach is actually at the mouth of the Brunswick River (somewhere that has featured several times in these pages) protected by two breakwaters.

                                                                        There was some shade that was perfect for baby changing at the top of the beach.

                                                                        Small Z's first dip at the beach. Brunswick Heads

                                                                        The sun was wowee zowee hot – it wasn’t the best time of the day to have the babes on the beach, but they survived unscathed, while Jen and I both got our shoulders a little bit pinked. I really wish that I had bought a disposable waterproof camera to use for Small Z’s first ever swim in the sea… but I didn’t. This is just before we jumped in.

                                                                        Me and Small Z at sea.

                                                                        Small Z thought the water was fantastico – although she and Marco did both get some boobie action in the shallows – both of them had little waves hit them in the head. It was lovely in and I pined to take my little caravan back to our favourite site at the nearby campground. But comforted myself that with any luck, we’ll sail up the coast on our large catamaran at some point, and hang around there for as long as we want.

                                                                        We plashed around for quite a while, and then headed up to the outdoor shower.

                                                                        After the outdoor shower. Checking out the pram wheel.

                                                                        Wandered back over the bridge and then lunched on some fabulous falafels and homemade lemonade with rosewater – heavenly.

                                                                        The wonders of efficient car airconditioning (about which I know little) made the car comfortable, and Small Z and Marco obliged us by falling asleep AGAIN. All credit to Jen’s baby-whispering driving and my iPod speaker. You can tell that I was hung up on the car driving, right? I actually was quite worried that Small Z would just HATE the driving part of our trip, but the only time it was a hassle was the first day we arrived. All the other times were peachy fine. I was soooo relieved.

                                                                        Small Z and I hung out on the deck while the others had a nanna nap when we got home. I was playing around with the black and white setting on my mum’s camera, and Small Z was in the hammock chair…

                                                                        In the hammock swing

                                                                        Also, a bit later on that day, Small Z went to sleep and I put her in the Happy Hangup. She appeared to love it and I was determined to try it again before we left. It’s different to other baby hammocks in that it can be used (hung low to the ground) until the baby is three or four. Of course I am on the lookout for anything to convince Small Z to sleep for longer blocks of time, so throughout my stay I looked upon the Happy Hangup with a Hungry Eye.

                                                                        B & Small Z’s First Trip Away. Day Four.

                                                                          The hotness. The extreme hotness. Most of the time I really want to relocate to the northern rivers, but there are some days up there that give me the occasional second thought. This day was one of them. I knew that, being a Wednesday, it was a Jen-Hell day of kid chauffering, and I decided to not go along with her and stay around the house with Small Z for the afternoon.

                                                                          On the mat

                                                                          Even though I had said I would deprive her of my company, Jen then performed a miracle. Small Z had reached her morning skank hour, and as I was about to take her out to the garden flat, Jen said “Give her to me – I’ll put her in the Happy Hangup.” I looked at her pityingly, the way I look at my mother when she suggests “Just putting her down in the cot.” and said “No worries, be my guest.” I went and perused eBay on the computer with my ears pricked up for any action. There was none. There was just Jen, emerging from the room fifteen minutes later looking smug. She had got Small Z to sleep.

                                                                          I did silent screeching, and begged her desperately for details. Imagine if my mother could get her to sleep! The wonder! The freedom!! Jen’s trick was to bounce her in the HH and say “Hello Zoe!” whenever she sounded unhappy, and for the rest of the time hummed disinterestedly. She felt that the fact that she didn’t particularly care whether or not Small Z slept had something to do with her success as well. I was so convinced it was a fluke that I got her to try again before she left for the afternoon. She repeated the feat. I swear, I spent several minutes just looking at her. Transfixed with awe. I almost cancelled my plane ticket home and stayed up there…

                                                                          And did I mention she then fed me croissants with Nutella? Have I ever stayed with a hostlier host? I don’t think they come much better than that. I was also introduced to a pickle laden sandwich that also featured mayonaise and, I think, cheese? It was the most intriguing sandwich I have had since being convinced to try a toasted banana and peanut butter combo…

                                                                          Anyway, on our afternoon alone, Small Z and I pretended that the house was ours. I nuded her up and gave her a bowl of cherries and nectarines to eat and smear with on the deck. They were a great success. I washed her off in the sink and then washed the deck. We then did rides in the little wagon…

                                                                          On the wagon

                                                                          There was some quality time spent lying on the couch of my dreams as we both stared up at the ceiling fan, some guitar playing and some book reading. Just as we started to get a bit bored, our friends came home, laden with MY FAVOURITE DINNER!! Pizza and chocolate mousse from Milk & Honey. Did I mention the pizza? DID I MENTION THE MOUSSE?? I almost rubbed it all over my body, but that would have angered my tastebuds. We ate it on a blanket outside on the grass. Then the weather kicked in and the thunder was large and the lightening bright. The power went out, and we spent a little while making animal shadows with the torch, before I went back to the garden flat, where Small Z slumbered, ignoring the big noises of nature. My tummy and I lay down next to her, perfectly content.

                                                                          A year ago. The birth story.

                                                                            This time last year I was the size of a minke whale. I had gone for a long walk with M through the back streets of Koo Wee Rup. Not the location that immediately springs to mind when one thinks of looming life changing events, but there you go. We walked. Well, he walked, I lumbered, for about an hour or so.

                                                                            I went to the public toilets before we got in the car to go home and there were [ahem] signs of movement. Very subtle ones. I wondered whether the PartyPie was going to make itself known at last. That evening, back at the trailer, I felt nauseous and M made me my hangover food – brown rice with soy sauce on it. I began feeling like I had food poisoning. Then, as M was in the kitchen, I was intensely aware of all the banging BANGING noises and the BRIGHTNESS of the lights. I grumped off to bed, feeling mostly vile, and didn’t think too much of it. I mean, if this was really IT then what was happening was inevitable, and if it wasn’t, I wanted to sleep it off.

                                                                            At 2am I was woken by something. Had to go to the loo. Extensively. While I was in the bathroom, something hit me that made me suck in air and hang on to the wall. For about six months I had been wondering what the hell a contraction felt like, and I still can’t describe it. The good thing was that while I had been wondering, I had done so much information gathering that there was no fear left in me about what was going to happen. I was ready for the utter worst and had worked on how I was going to cope with it. I had been using the Pink Kit for the previous three or four months.

                                                                            Naturally, I grabbed my laptop, and loaded up contractionmaster.com – oh THANK YOU INTERNET. The space bar became my friend. I hit it at the start and end of every contraction. They started off about twenty minutes or so apart. I wandered around for a couple of hours and then woke M at around 4am. He seemed to take an inordinately long amount of time to emerge from the bedroom. In the end I asked him what the hell was taking so long and then another one hit me. I hung off his neck. He then realised that it was on (although he must have had some idea, because he had put his bathers on under his trousers – knowing that I was determined to have a waterbirth and did not plan on being in the water by myself).

                                                                            I saved my contraction master record from about 5.45am (see below). I found the whole labour thing so weird. Where was my ‘pre labour’ when contractions were supposed to be small and easy to ignore? Didn’t happen. Why wasn’t I like my friend E, who sat on a chair backwards with her partner rubbing her shoulders, or like another girl I’d met who used her fitball? I couldn’t stay still. I couldn’t find many bearable positions. All I could do when I knew a contraction was about to hit was either kneel on one knee, hang on to the back of a chair and step up and down like I was on hot sand, or kind of pace about.

                                                                            START END DURATION, FREQUENCY

                                                                            07:53:44 am 07:54:31 am 46 secs 4 mins, 0 secs
                                                                            07:49:43 am 07:50:57 am 1 mins, 14 secs 4 mins, 18 secs
                                                                            07:45:24 am 07:46:44 am 1 mins, 20 secs 4 mins, 0 secs
                                                                            07:41:24 am 07:42:42 am 1 mins, 18 secs 14 mins, 19 secs
                                                                            07:27:04 am 07:39:17 am 12 mins, 13 secs 4 mins, 30 secs
                                                                            07:22:34 am 07:23:44 am 1 mins, 9 secs 3 mins, 17 secs
                                                                            07:19:16 am 07:20:21 am 1 mins, 5 secs 3 mins, 31 secs
                                                                            07:15:45 am 07:16:51 am 1 mins, 6 secs 4 mins, 22 secs
                                                                            07:11:22 am 07:12:28 am 1 mins, 5 secs 4 mins, 22 secs
                                                                            07:07:00 am 07:08:07 am 1 mins, 7 secs 6 mins, 20 secs
                                                                            07:00:39 am 07:01:57 am 1 mins, 17 secs 6 mins, 59 secs
                                                                            06:53:40 am 06:54:57 am 1 mins, 17 secs 3 mins, 11 secs
                                                                            06:50:28 am 06:51:32 am 1 mins, 3 secs 4 mins, 39 secs
                                                                            06:45:49 am 06:47:21 am 1 mins, 32 secs 4 mins, 8 secs
                                                                            06:41:40 am 06:42:41 am 1 mins, 0 secs 3 mins, 23 secs
                                                                            06:38:17 am 06:39:18 am 1 mins, 1 secs 7 mins, 26 secs
                                                                            06:30:50 am 06:31:57 am 1 mins, 6 secs 3 mins, 10 secs
                                                                            06:27:40 am 06:28:36 am 55 secs 5 mins, 10 secs
                                                                            06:22:30 am 06:23:49 am 1 mins, 19 secs 5 mins, 0 secs
                                                                            06:17:30 am 06:18:31 am 1 mins, 0 secs 4 mins, 5 secs
                                                                            06:13:24 am 06:14:37 am 1 mins, 12 secs 5 mins, 39 secs
                                                                            06:07:45 am 06:08:55 am 1 mins, 9 secs 3 mins, 26 secs
                                                                            06:04:19 am 06:05:22 am 1 mins, 3 secs 5 mins, 10 secs
                                                                            05:59:08 am 06:00:17 am 1 mins, 8 secs 7 mins, 37 secs
                                                                            05:51:30 am 05:52:48 am 1 mins, 18 secs 4 mins, 17 secs
                                                                            05:47:12 am 05:48:23 am 1 mins, 10 secs

                                                                            M was getting me glasses of water, which I would sip, put down and then lose track of. For some reason I needed to have a warm neck (?!) and had found a scarf to wear. By around 7am he was on the phone to Relle, our doula, to tell her that it was action stations. I had my TENS machine electrodes stuck to me by now and was cranking up the register. Could. Not. Speak. In. Sentences. M had put on my birth compilation cd. I couldn’t stand to hear it, couldn’t concentrate with it on. I was working on breathing in a bell curve. In and out through the nose at the beginning of the contraction, in through the nose and out through the mouth at the peak, and then trying to ease it back again. While keeping my bum relaxed. Tension equals pain, pain equals fear, and fear equals tension. Rinse. Repeat. Better to just not be tense, if at all possible. I tried hard to focus.

                                                                            M had been in touch with the hospital and they told him to call back once things really got going. The second time he rang while he was on the phone I felt a sort of gush and said (in another one-word sentence) ‘WATERS’. They had broken. By this point I was just in The Zone. The contractions were about four minutes apart and about one minute ten long. The midwife suggested to M that we could head into the birth centre. My aim had been to stay at home as long as absolutely possible so as not to arrive and be sent home. Also, a change of environment early in labour can slow things down. However, I was past thinking of all this, and relied on M to sort it out.

                                                                            He called Relle back and told her to head straight to the birth centre instead of the trailer. He heaved a big bag into the car, while I stood next to it (having forgotten to pack any other clothes for myself except for many pairs of VERY LARGE UNDIES – as recommended by Kaz Cooke, bought in the Boxing Day sales for a dollar apiece) wondering how I was going to survive the 20 minute journey. The car was running. I said “Need. Water.” which I immediately regretted, as it meant prolonging our departure. I told M not to worry, but he raced back inside and got a bottle anyway. We headed down the driveway.

                                                                            Being in a confined space was torturous, but also very focussing. I had two big contractions on the way that had me forgetting all my breathing, bell curves and left me shrieking and clawing the roof of the car. The TENS machine was by now cranked to eleven. M stuck to the speed limit all the way and I remember feeling disbelief as he almost missed the turn off to the hospital, which I gracefully pointed out by pointing desperately and yelling “NOOOOOO”. I was conscious of being sort of slumped and semi dressed, looking delirious as we were stopped at traffic lights, and vaguely wondered what people in the other cars would think.

                                                                            We made it to the hospital, but didn’t really know where to park and ended up in the emergency vehicle bay near an ambulance. This was a good thing. I could hardly walk. M raced over to the ambos, who rang through to the birth centre. One of them brought me over a wheelchair. My memory is so clear of being unable to look at anyone, unable to lift my own feet up on to the footrests. I resumed my position as I was wheeled through casualty with my head on my hands. A midwife met us. Going in the lift (I am assuming we did) is something I can’t recall.

                                                                            We were suddenly in the birthing room and there was nice calming music on. M raced in, pulled the cushions from the couch and put them on the floor for me. I tried to get comfortable. They gave me a fit ball. I couldn’t sit on it, couldn’t lie over it. I remember just groaning with despair and one of the midwives looking ruefully at me. They motioned M aside, picked up the cushions and put down a proper waterproof mattress. I knelt on it and rested my head and arms on the bed. I was conscious of M asking someone to do something with the car, which was still in the emergency bay with the bag in it and the keys in the ignition. Relle arrived. I remember feeling relieved.

                                                                            Nicole, the midwife whose shift I had stumbled into, asked me to get on to the bed for an internal examination. I refused. I knew that they could do it with me upright and I was not moving for anyone. They told me that I could not get into the bath unless I was more than five centimetres dilated. I didn’t say anything, remained where I was and let them get on with it. I had requested in my birth plan NOT to be told how far along I was, and that was how it went. They asked if I really did want to go for the bath and I yelped YES! at them.

                                                                            Relle told me later that after the examination Nicole had given her the big nod. I was way more far along than I could have ever guessed and was almost in transition at about nine centimetres. They ran the bath. From that time on I had my eyes shut most of the time. The room was dark and warm. I got into the bath with M, and it was very difficult to find a comfortable position. The water wasn’t quite warm enough and the plughole was in the MIDDLE of the bath. The plug kept poking me. I was a minke whale in M’s arms.

                                                                            They drained some water, and contrary to OH&S regulations they got some hotter water from somewhere else (other than the crappy hot tap) and dumped it in. Thank god. It was instant relief. Relle had been poking over M’s shoulder like an angel, giving me sips of water through a straw. She was also taking photos – with a flash – and I had NO idea. My eyes were shut shut shut. M was encouraging me, saying “PartyPie is going to be here really soon. Try to relax your butt. Take a deep breath. Let it out.” He was so good and so calm. I couldn’t get over how calm they ALL were. Hello? Couldn’t they see they were all in a warzone? Of course, Relle, Nicole and Colleen (another midwife) had seen it all before, and M? He’d been rehearsing with me for months.

                                                                            They kept saying to M, “Where are you going to be to catch this baby?” I had no idea why. I thought there would be hours to go, and couldn’t have cared less because I was just barely getting from minute to minute. I had no knowledge that they had a waterproof torch in the water, and a mirror, to see what was going on. I began to have an inescapable urge to push. It wasn’t constant, but took the place of contractions.

                                                                            I managed to say to M that I needed to get into one of my birthing positions to get it all going. I faced him in the bath, one leg kneeling, one leg bent, one hand gripping M and the other hanging on to the side of the bath. From that time I recognised where I was. I had watched many waterbirths on YouTube, and one of them had been exactly like this – a huge contraction and urge to push, and then silence for a few minutes, as I remembered how to breathe and the water settled around us. The urge to push was primal, but better than contractions, as I felt a bit more in control. I tried to let my body do it’s thing (although I was hardly thinking as clearly as it sounds now when I write it.)

                                                                            Michelle told me quite a few times to make sure my butt was under the water when the baby was being born. The point of (my) waterbirth was to have the baby born into a similar environment and temperature to the womb, making the transition into its new environment as smooth as possible. I kept nodding that I understood. I knew that if the baby felt the air, it would have a breathing reflex, which would not be a good thing if I then wigged out and plunged back down into the water.

                                                                            The pushing and then the pauses seemed to go on and on. I sensed the midwives trying to manoeuvre M into a good position for catching. I felt myself slowly stretching and a great weight between my legs. I couldn’t believe that PartyPie wasn’t out. “A couple more,” said Michelle quietly, “There’s no hurry, you’re doing so well.” By this time I thought the entire baby must be pretty much halfway out and saying a big HELLO! I couldn’t believe that the head had not crowned. Finally, after a particularly hard push, when I felt sure the baby was born, M gasped “I can see the head! I can see the head! Keep going sweetie! You’re almost there! You’re so close!! Little PartyPie is almost here!”

                                                                            I breathed. I breathed. I pushed. I paused. I waited. Everything was quiet, warm and I had no sense of what time it was. It could have been going for two hours or ten. I pushed and breathed some more. I tried the hardest I have ever tried. Finally PartyPie‘s head was through. M said he saw the little shoulders rotate. It seemed to be about five to ten more minutes before I felt a huge release, and the baby was out and under the water. M caught PartyPie with a little assistance. I collapsed back against the back of the bath. To use the term ‘utterly spent’ doesn’t even touch it with a barge pole.

                                                                            They put PartyPie on me, half in and half out of the water. It was very quiet. PartyPie made no sound. I had not even looked at the baby. I opened an eye and was, not horrified, but flabbergasted at the size. The baby was so big! Most of my bump had been baby. And nothing else! The midwives encouraged me. “Blow on your baby, sweetheart.” It was all I could do. PartyPie was covered in warm wet cloths. M said later that he didn’t really know what to do at this point, and so he began singing softly to PartyPie the song he had sung for the past nine months…Womble up, womble down, wombling free, the Wombles of Wimbledon, common are we…”

                                                                            Michelle started to cry. I looked up at Relle and thanked her with my eyes. She had been everywhere and nowhere – never intrusive, but always available with water and calm words. Relle started to cry (she had warned me that if I pulled off a drugfree waterbirth, she wouldn’t be able to help it). Our little baby was purply coloured, and still had its eyes shut. PartyPie‘s lips were very red, and PartyPie‘s body began pinking up as we watched. We all waited for the cord to stop pulsing before M severed PartyPie from me. We had not yet looked to see whether PartyPie was boy or girl. One of the midwives suggested that M should check. He looked. “It’s a little boy!” he whispered. For some reason I doubted it. One of the midwives suggested that he take another look. “It’s a little girl!” I could hear him grinning. I assumed that there was no third option.
                                                                            “Hello Zoe,” I said.

                                                                            PartyPie just born.

                                                                            Happy Birthday Baby!

                                                                              Small Z celebrated her first birthday with all her relatives and a couple of friends (Grassy Noel and Christine). We had salad rolls, cake and champagne. Small Z felt the day was very successful. M made her a fantastic birthday cake, which she was allowed to poke with her chubby little starfish hands.

                                                                              Zoe the PartyPie turns ONE!
                                                                              Zoe the PartyPie turns ONE!
                                                                              Zoe the PartyPie turns ONE!
                                                                              Zoe the PartyPie turns ONE!

                                                                              We toasted Small Z, and then M made a toast to the efforts of my boobs, and all that they had achieved over the last twelve months. Small Brother took Small Z on rides on her Big Dog all around the backyard and we listened to kid-music until we couldn’t take it anymore and turned on the Audreys.

                                                                              Disposable.

                                                                                I declared the past week a ‘proper’ holiday (as opposed to time off work moving house and doing Christmas and birthday stuff. As part of this, I bought Small Z a packet of Moltex disposable nappies – the kind she stole from Little Marco when we visited NSW. This was to give me a rest from the washing/hanging out/putting away activities that would sap my valuable holiday time.

                                                                                Of course, yesterday was the end of the packet, and this morning the house rang to the laments of M as he changed Small Z’s nappy. “I’m SO sorry baby, to have to put these big boofy nappies on you. We liked those other special nappies didn’t we?”
                                                                                The man has no sense of self preservation. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before.
                                                                                Admittedly, I did love a week without the cloth nappies, and understand so well why people don’t even consider it an option. But one of the main reasons I wanted Small Z to be a clothy bum (besides the landfill issue and chemical laden plastic on her butt) was PRICE. I bought the cloth nappies up front, and in bulk before she was born. Less than $1000. If she is in nappies until she is two (and I resolutely hope this is not the case), a $33 packet of nappies each week is $3500 – sigh – this is me trying to make myself feel better.

                                                                                If I won Powerball (that should be amended to ‘if I ever bothered to buy a Powerball ticket instead of being distracted by the sushi stand so nearby the ticket sales place’) I would put Small Z in those Moltex nappies all the time. They are seriously ace, and you can put them in your compost bin – thus bypassing the whole landfill issue. L was telling me the other day that it doesn’t matter how biodegradable your nappies/anything you put in the rubbish is, because it is so intensely compacted when it gets put into the ground that it is impossible for anything to break down at all. She did say that she was not 100% sure of this – and it is something we would both like to find out about, so if you have any knowledge on this topic…please let us know in the comments!

                                                                                Shopping Trolley.

                                                                                  This was in the garden on Sunday afternoon. I have been doing a bit of experimenting with iMovie and cursing it for not dealing in mpg or avi files. I am so time poor that I couldn’t even learn how to make a few edits, all I could do was cut the movie shorter, and put in the music. Ah well, better than nothing. Small Z loved her shopping trolley ride so much that she started to cry when I took her OUT of it!

                                                                                  Moo said the cow and the sheep said BAA!

                                                                                    I did not realise that a year and one month into this parenting gig that I would be doing that thing. The thing that my parents used to that used to irritate me witless. S-P-E-L-L T-H-I-N-G-S O-U-T. Of course, they used to do it when I was about seven or eight and I could actually spell quite well.

                                                                                    One of our favourite stories when we were little was when my mum would tell us how she and her older brother would say to each other in front of their younger brother:
                                                                                    “Oh, do you know where I’m going tonight?”
                                                                                    “No! Where?”
                                                                                    “I’m going to B. E. D.”
                                                                                    “No way, can I come too?”
                                                                                    “Ummm.”
                                                                                    “Pleeeeeeese?”
                                                                                    Grudgingly. “Oh…OK then.”
                                                                                    By this time the younger brother would be jumping up and down shrieking, “I WANT TO GO TO B. E. D.!!! I WANT TO GO TOO!! RIGHT NOW!!!”

                                                                                    Just after she turned one, Small Z suddenly went on verbal steroids. From saying ‘baa’ and making noises like a donkey, she went to trying to say everything that was pointed out to her. Pelly (pelican), moo, miaow, pool, out, blue, pup, dadda, mama, nana, bear bear bear, boo boo, nunga nunga (nectarine), schlide (slide)…you name it, she’ll try it out. She doesn’t tend to try and say what an animal is, but rather the sound that it makes. A snake is a ‘sssss’ and cat is ‘miaow’ and a car is ‘brrrm brrrm’. It’s very cute. Tune out now, because I’m on a baby roll.

                                                                                    Of course, this is all a HUGE secret. It’s the way she wants it. Try to get her to talk in front of anyone except my mother and she looks like she was clubbed over the head at birth. Just to reinforce the point, she grabs at her ears and makes an inarticulate sort of cawing noise. She does the same in front of cameras. This drives M to distraction. He takes her to the pool and people always ask him whether she has started talking yet. He tells them that she has, and asks her what a sheep says. She looks at the sky, the roof and pulls at an ear. The people smile understandingly at poor deluded M, and move away. BAA! says Small Z, too late to save M. BAA!

                                                                                    She is like a little sponge. I know that baby brains are at the pinnacle of neuroplasticity – merely that they are learning like freaks and it’s not that hard, whereas learning French when you’re sixty tends to be substantially more tricky. So not only is it verbal, but she listens and knows things. She has started grabbing my finger while we read. I don’t know much about one-year-old motor skills, but I don’t think she can physically point with her finger at specific things yet. So she uses me. As we read, she grabs my finger. I say, “Where’s the pelican?” She points my finger at the pelican.

                                                                                    Along with her words and sounds, she had equally suddenly begun to use the babysigns we’ve been doing for months and months. I thought the idea of babysign was so that they could say things using signs that they couldn’t tackle with their tongue. I’m not sure it’s quite working out that way, but it can’t hurt. Naturally, her best sign is ‘more’, but she also can do ‘fish’, ‘swing’, ‘out’, ‘rain’ and ‘sun’. But mostly ‘more’…

                                                                                    Since realising how cluey she is becoming we have to spell out certain things, some of which sound like we have a dog. P-A-R-K and W-A-L-K. And definitely S-L-I-D-E and N-E-C-T-A-R-I-N-E and S-W-I-N-G, unless of course we will be encountering any of those things in the next five minutes. And then there is her latest discovery. Aided by my good self, and by her Mudcakes cd and the song ‘No No’ she has learned the dreaded word. Sometimes she uses it in context, screaming NO NO NO with full body flailing in order to escape the nappy change. Other times she’ll wake up in the morning and say it caressingly, in her little baby voice ‘no-no-no-no-no’. I have tried to turn it into ‘nose’ – which is another object of fascination, but I don’t know whether it’s working.

                                                                                    Tonight I heard her wake up after she had been asleep for an hour or so. I went in, and was about to feed her, boob at the ready. “Mama,” she said. “MOO!” I have never felt more bovine.

                                                                                    The Plague

                                                                                      On Sunday I had organised for D, E and Small E to visit, as well as Christian, M and the boys. They were to turn up around four thirty or so. At 4pm Small Z vomited. She is not the vomiting type, but I assumed it was something that she’d eaten… there’s quite a bit of goat poo in the bachyard, and she is fascinated with it – probably because M and I both scream ‘yuck yuck YUCK!!’ when she picks up a pellet, which makes her laugh and laugh.

                                                                                      Anyway, she continued to vomit every hour or two for almost the next twelve hours. Vomited through the barbeque, which kind of took the zing out of our attempt at sociability. Poor Small Z was very amiable about her situation. She just became a bit unhappy a few minutes before each spew, and then, once it was over, would flop for a while until she got her beans back. On Monday, my mum looked after her and she was still out of sorts and had developed a fever.

                                                                                      She threw up all over the kitchen floor just after 4pm and I took her down to see a doctor, just to make sure it wasn’t anything weird. Nope. A virus. Gah. And a high temperature. She was back to powering on five cylinders on Tuesday…and that’s when M and I started to feel the quease. It hit M first. He had to go to an ophthalmologist and said he barely restrained himself from coating the man in a technicolour yawn. Ewwww. Although, I suppose, it would have made the consultation cost a little more understandable…

                                                                                      When M is sick he either becomes malleable and lovely to look after like a small koala, or he becomes half man/half paranoid freak, whizzing in between trying to keep a stiff upper lip and thinking I’m annoyed with him because I haven’t showed the illness that he’s trying to ignore enough respect. It’s pretty much a no win situation from wherever I’m unlucky enough to be standing.

                                                                                      By about 8pm Tuesday night he was shaking like he was freezing, and looking very pale around the gills. “Mind over matter!” I told him stoutly, noshing down on some leftover tuna casserole. I still felt some quease but was rising above it. Small Z and I went to bed. An hour later I couldn’t control my shuddering. Ohhhhhh. “MIND OVER MATTER!!” I shrieked sternly at myself, but it was impossible. My feet were blocks of ice. I truly felt as if I’d been struck by the plague. Thank god Small Z didn’t have the shakes with her vomit extravaganza, because I would have thought she was about to leave the building.

                                                                                      I finally got up out of bed, and met M in the hallway. “It got me,” I said pathetically. I applaud him now for not telling me it was all in my head, but I couldn’t applaud him then. Then, I had the unmistakeable taste of leftover tuna casserole and, with method in my madness, ran for the bath. M has now renamed the bath ‘The Vomitorium’. I clogged it. There was a lot more than tuna casserole in there once I had finished. I think it dated back to that morning’s fruit and yoghurt extravaganza, looked in at some eggs on toast and green salad (lunch), and definitely said hi to a couple of nori rolls from that afternoon. It was not pretty.

                                                                                      The reason that I couldn’t sing into the toilet? It’s too gross. I don’t think M or I have cleaned it since we moved here, and the thought of praying to that particular porcelain goddess, was enough to… well. You get the idea. M never saw his stomach contents. E emailed me later and said they had all been similarly afflicted, and that she had been sick. Twice. While D had remained non-ejecting. Maybe it’s a male thing. All I heard from Christian was that there was one son down to it, and probably one to go…

                                                                                      Thus, I spent today feeling extremely fragile. Hungover without the fun quota. Ate butter beans and some brown rice in the late afternoon and started slowly feeling a little more human. Small Z has now developed the kind of cold that sees her occasionally sneezing out a yellow nose sausage. It’s all fun around here.

                                                                                      The suit. And the…walking.

                                                                                        The Cancer Council, after I telephoned and harrassed them about how long it was taking, finally deigned to send the sunsuit and hat for Small Z that I ordered a while back. The woman spoke to me like I was lucky she had even found my order, let alone contemplated posting it. It arrived today. The tide was high around 3pm and Small Z and I went over the road for a splashdown.

                                                                                        The sunsuit arrived in the post today!
                                                                                        The sunsuit arrived in the post today!
                                                                                        The sunsuit arrived in the post today!

                                                                                        And the walking? I think that we can date the walking as beginning from today. Small Z’s confidence has been building…with the help of Baa! The WonderSheep. It’s bizarre how much growing can happen in 13 months…

                                                                                        The Fruit Guru

                                                                                          My dad, who has been living exclusively in the country for…who knows, about six or seven years or so now, has been planting various trees throughout that time. There are plum, lime, orange, chestnut, persimmon, peach and apple trees. And I have definitely left out a few others. There are more apple trees than the other fruits, and not just the normal apples, but ones like the Gravenstein. They make amazing applesauce – one of my top five favourite foods.

                                                                                          Most of the trees, in the last couple of years, have become quite mature and have started producing serious amounts of fruit. After extensive prompting, a few weeks ago he began tentatively becoming a fruit-pimp, asking around at a few different places to see if they would be interested in selling his apples. Der. He has since made over a hundred dollars in apple sales – and the apples are amazing and ‘organic’ – i.e. grown without any chemical anything – the trees are fed with manure and covered with bird net.

                                                                                          The Spoils of the Fruit Guru
                                                                                          Small Z and Apple

                                                                                          So the fruit-pimp has re-labelled himself Fruit GURU. Particularly as he is also now selling something he didn’t plant, but continues to grow there regardless. Blackberries. Back when we moved to the house in the country for a couple of years when I was in primary school, the place was choked with blackberry. Now it remains in blobs around the property, and, although it is an evil weed, I am glad. Because blackberries are tasty. There are kilo bags of blackberries in his freezer and still more growing outside.

                                                                                          This afternoon Small Z and I went down for a late lunch, and as I languished over a Coopers, followed by a cup of tea, Man With Beard (my dad has not taken to the ‘Grandad’ title) took Small Z for a forage. She returned blacklipped and shrieking “More? More!?” We all went back out and she picked some herself. As did I.

                                                                                          Blackberries

                                                                                          And now I’m looking for a simple blackberry muffin recipe. Oh YUM.

                                                                                          Mother’s Day II

                                                                                            Mother’s Day. Again. Very weird, and not so weird after all. This year has been a combination of lightening fast and slow release. This morning I was startled that M (having had an evening to himself drinking another bottle of the famous two dollar red while Small Z and I were hanging out with my old friends) was up and had breakfast made!

                                                                                            Not only this. He gave me my mother’s day present – a true mother’s little helper package of a bottle of Seagrams, two lemons and two bottles of tonic. At 8.30am after a normal night, I barely restrained myself from necking the lot. Small Z had a egg cooked and ready to go…and ate it. Then M told me to sit down for my eggs. I politely asked that, if the eggs weren’t yet cooked, could I please have egg and soldiers? M said no. The eggs were cooked already. And they were scrambled. I shut up.

                                                                                            I will not cover old ground except to say that M threw a tanty at Small Brother’s birthday when my dad and I said his scrambled eggs were crap. This seared deeply into his psyche. He handed me my scrambled eggs this morning, and I carved out a mouthful. And almost spat it back up in wonder, which would have been a sorry waste…

                                                                                            “M!! These are AMAZING EGGS!! Ah-HA! You made that recipe we saw in the paper the other day, didn’t you? The Bill Granger one we talked about?”

                                                                                            M looked at me. His very shape spoke disappointment.
                                                                                            “These,” he said slowly, “Are my eggs. Eggs by Mark. The one that can’t make eggs? The ones whose eggs are crap? I don’t think I heard you correctly…”

                                                                                            I was chastened. “Sorry. I thought you had…never mind. These are to die for. These are the best eggs you have ever cooked me.” I breathed in a few more times and they were gone. M handed me a cup of tea, teapot brewed. I sat with the paper, which had miraculously appeared. Small Z was occupying herself. Everything was good. Then it got better.

                                                                                            “Hrmf eggs scrambled rhubarb rhubarb…” said M, unintelligibly from the sink.

                                                                                            “Sorry?”

                                                                                            There was a sigh. “OK. OK! They were his eggs. I cooked his eggs for you. Bill’s eggs. By Mark.”

                                                                                            I gurgled my tea in delight. “Say it again! Say it again! For it is Mother’s Day, and you must be malleable again! For the SECOND weekend in a row.”

                                                                                            To his credit, M did say it again. But said that it was impossible that I could have them with any regularity due to the fact that they contained a third of a cup of cream. I waved this aside and told me to bring it on. Here’s the recipe – try it out.

                                                                                            We got ourselves together and ready to go out. M was taking me to Cruden Farm, as Dame Elizabeth Murdoch had opened the grounds for Mother’s Day as part of the Open Gardens Scheme. I don’t know why, but I had always wanted to see Cruden Farm – maybe it’s the nanna in me. Anyway, we drove there.

                                                                                            On the way, M (by now tired and grumpy, but refusing to admit that the two dollar wine had played any part in this) couldn’t help himself and second and third guessed my navigation skills until I told him to pull over and look at the map himself with the third eye I was about to rip him (OK, so I didn’t say that last bit) and he told me that I didn’t need to have a sarcastic edge to my voice. I began pondering on how many people might be at the gardens and whether any of them would notice me drowning him in a well.

                                                                                            However, he regained his almost-malleable state by the time we arrived, and all was well. We were directed by numerous and suspiciously happy people down and around a long winding driveway. There were at least a hundred and fifty cars there already. We were directed to what seemed to be a far away back paddock, pulled up, looked to the left and saw D, L, Small C and L’s parents in the car next to us? I found this astonishing – as they could have done anything that day, but they did the same as us, and they could have still done the same as us, but we probably would never have seen them due to the amount of people around. Odd.

                                                                                            We went our separate ways to wander around, and arranged to meet for lunch by the lake. The grounds are beautiful. M said sagely that if he lived in such a place, he would probably live to a hundred as well. The house is gorgeous – as are the stables, the vegetable and herb garden, the duck pond, the dam, the walled garden, the swimming pool… A lot of the trees are huge and it must be very satisfying to see something that you planted sixty years ago still growing and spreading. There’s a great overview of the history of the house and grounds here. I hope very much that it has been placed under some kind of protective covenant, as the suburbs have crept up around the edges of the property, and they are revolting to behold…compared to this…

                                                                                            Cruden Farm

                                                                                            What I liked most about Cruden Farm was the way it looked like a work in progress. There were wheelbarrows, pots, compost heaps, wood and tool sheds – it didn’t look like it had been hastily primped for the occasion. It must be divine to wander barefoot over the grass on a warm morning. The weather today was very sunny, and Small Z had her first taste of autumn…and I did not photoshop her hair to match the leaves…

                                                                                            Small Z and Autumn

                                                                                            We met up with the others for lunch – M had made a frittata, and we sat by the duck pond in the sun. It was very civilised. When we got home, Small Z slept. I had a glass of white wine and ate cheese and biscuits and typed away in the sun in the kitchen. For the rest of the afternoon, M has been baby wrangler, while I have just grabbed her for occasional snugs (the combination of a snuggle and a hug…). I plan to finish up the day with a gin and tonic. Yay me!

                                                                                            Small Z and me today.

                                                                                            (Sitting in the kitchen this afternoon.)

                                                                                            Eighteen months

                                                                                              Holy moly. Small Z is 18 months old today. EIGHTEEN months. She is tall for her age – which is less than surprising, and I am beginning to understand why so many parents think their child is ‘gifted’. My theory is that you just don’t get to see raw learning in action in any other scenario – so although it is quite normal, in practice it seems almost miraculous and a crazy kind of privilege.

                                                                                              I looked at Small Z today, and she has gone from a tiny baby incapable of much voluntary action at all, to a feisty little person who can say hallelujah and butterfly. Both those words give a good summation of her current existence ;)

                                                                                              In the five weeks we were away, her development – both physical growth and mental chops – increased so much that M, my mother and I kept turning to each other and saying, “Did you teach her that?” Once we got home, we realised she is now taller than the kitchen table. She joins words together “Beanie push Zoe-zie’s pram.”, “Mama sing schong.” and “Dadda squirt me.” Soon she will be able to say; “Mother, I don’t want to wake up five times a night, but I just do…”

                                                                                              She loves music and books. THANK GOD. My job is almost complete ;) I know that she won’t have much conscious memory of our time living here, but it soothes me to think that she has been able to spend some of her most formative time in regards to development in a place where she has a massive backyard, a park one minute away, and a creek with a beach to paddle in over the road. This is a picture of her today – sitting on her new beanbag, next to the bookshelf that M built her yesterday, inspired by one we saw while hanging out at the West Tisbury Library..

                                                                                              Small Z is 18 months old today.

                                                                                              Here is a picture of Small Z that I really love. I took it at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. It shows how the colours of her eyes are like a fast running creek, and the little scratched up bit on her cheek from one of her first days in New York when she took a header at the park. Happy Eighteen Months Small Z! I want to squash you like a bug with the world’s biggest cuddle. We loved travelling with you!

                                                                                              Small Z at the Children's Museum of Manhattan

                                                                                              Do I live in a bubble?

                                                                                                M doesn’t think that Small Z is mixing with enough kids her own age. I’m edging over toward agreeing with him. Mostly. So, this morning (after a night in which I discovered Small Z at about 4am entirely bathed in her own wee like she’d encountered a plunge pool) I hoicked her, my eyebags and myself down to the local playgroup.

                                                                                                When I say local – I really mean it. There is a community centre about a three minute drive away, and I suppose I should utilise it more than I do. They have playgroups twice a week. I have taken Small Z there once before, but that was before she could walk: at that time she was the youngest there and it was all a bit wasted on her. Now that she is running about and chatting away, I figured it might be worth another try.

                                                                                                It was good and bad. I accept that where we live there is a higher bogan percentage than you would get in a more inner-city area. Being this close to the wondrous Cranbourne, it’s to be expected. But you have to wonder when you look up the town name in Wikipedia and find…

                                                                                                Oh dear.

                                                                                                I chatted to some of the mums, and Small Z had a go with playdough for the first time. The only kid there a month or two younger than her did not speak and had a huge yellow snot worm running from her nose to her mouth. The majority of other kids seem to be thuggy little boys who were preoccupied with hitting, kicking, running away and then screaming. (Maybe this says that I am just out of the loop, but none of the little boys that I know are remotely like this. One of the mums was so at the end of her tether with her two, that she left in tears.)

                                                                                                Small Z seemed generally happy to be in a place with lots of new toys, and was sort of interested in the other kids. Most of them were older than her – she mostly steered clear of the thuggy boys. It was when they brought out the food for snack time that I started wondering what I should do, and whether I was on another planet. Should I lie, and say that Small Z is gluten intolerant and has to be very careful what she eats? Or should I just simply state that I don’t let her EAT CRAP?

                                                                                                The snacks were chocolate covered biscuits, Cheezels, pink wafer biscuits, and barbeque flavoured rice crackers. Oh. And a bowl of grapes. Some of these mums were constantly telling their kids to stop acting up or they were going to get taken home…and they were sitting there with plates full of this stuff. And no grapes. Hello? I took refuge in changing Small Z’s nappy, feeding her sultanas that I had in my bag, and filling her full of grapes.

                                                                                                I don’t want to appear like some latte sipping snob, but maybe I am one. I could go on about shows like Jamie’s School Lunches – but, really, why bother. Surely these people aren’t dumb enough to think that this shit is any good for their kids? Therefore, they choose feed them crap, and then moan when they’re dealing with sugared up little monsters. Of course that stuff is fine in moderation, and I’m sure Small Z will encounter it at birthday parties and love it. Good on her. But playgroup? That’s just weird. And wrong.

                                                                                                Oh yes, I know I’m sounding holy. I have one toddler. What do I know? I know that I want to be able to take her somewhere nearby to hang with some other little ones her age, once a week for an hour or two. So if anyone asks me, I’m going the for the pussy option and will say she is gluten intolerant. And when I take some food along for everyone, I’ll be the one with the grapes, kiwi fruit and banana raspberry mini muffins. And this SHOULDN’T make me feel like a hippy, but it does. I wish one of these was nearby.

                                                                                                The Binginwarri Vomitorium

                                                                                                  We headed awy for the weekend. Naturally, it took longer than we thought to leave. M had to change a tyre on the car, I had to dither around packing Z-snacks, clothes and bedding, dreaming of the day I have the caravan set up with everything we need to take off at a moments notice.

                                                                                                  About 20 minutes before we left I noticed yet another stupidly large four wheel drive idling out the front of our house. Five minutes later the phone rang:

                                                                                                  “Hello Peter the real estate agent,” I said. “Does that guy out the front want to come through the house?”

                                                                                                  “Hello and yes,” he said.

                                                                                                  I explained that this would be impossible because we were disappering for the weekend, so we agreed to sort it out on Monday.

                                                                                                  We left with that slightly bubbly feeling that going away for a few nights in the caravan bestows. Small Z was running a slight fever, but remained chirpy. We assumed teething.

                                                                                                  The fever got worse as the night went on. It was impossible to get her to sleep, so after some marvellous grazing and excellent soup (Small Z would eat nothing) I went to bed in the caravan with her and a hot water bottle. I could have used her for the purpose, but assumed she wouldn’t want my feet resting on her.

                                                                                                  I laid there reading the New York Times on my iPhone and chanced upon an article describing the optimal conditions for sleep. I lay there in about three degrees reading that cool temperatures are best (but around 17 degrees). Check. And cold toes are not conducive to sleep, so it’s best to use a hot water bottle. Check. This tied into an article that has remained stuck in my mind for ages, about the causes of eczema and dermatitis – a conversation with Dr Hugh Malloy

                                                                                                  Anyway, I have digressed. Small Z eventually went to sleep, and I watched the second last episode of the second series of Flight of the Conchords. Our night wasn’t great, but better than I thought it was going to be. I REALLY have to make some curtains for the caravan, because we woke up when it got light – may as well have been lying with our faces to the sky.

                                                                                                  It was a gorgeous day, and Dad and Mgs made use fried mushrooms and tomato, and strong tea and fresh orange juice. Zing! We potter around a while before hitching up the caravan…

                                                                                                  Sweet peas

                                                                                                  Sweet peas


                                                                                                  IMG_0117

                                                                                                  The drive to Binginwarri was uneventful. Small Z’s head continued to feel like a BBQ, but she was quite amenable in the car. It had been a year since we last went to visit the Uncle and Auntie (henceforth known as R and K) and in that year, their grand-niece (ha!) was a totally different kettle of fish. It is such a lovely property, and like Loch, soothes the soul just to look at it. K is a twitcher from way back, and there were lots of birds around, right near the house – rosellas, finches of various plumages, magpies, robins, willy wagtails, um…you get the idea.

                                                                                                  It was a shame that Small Z wasn’t well – and it was hard, because she was both her chirpy self, but also super clingy and wanting to be carried everywhere. I felt compelled to explain a few times that she was out of sorts…and make excuses. Of course, I had to disappear and nap with her, and then miss dessert that night for the same reason – it was all a bit of bad timing! We will return with health intact!!

                                                                                                  However, there was lots of lovely fooding and chatting. I got educated on the family tree by K – who has been diligently chasing down people for that purpose, and drank some lovely Marlborough white wine. I again admired the wood stove that is used throughout winter for cooking and warmth. We walked through the state forest on the other side of the track, and Small Z and I played ‘aeroplane sticks’ – zooming around holding sticks like ‘wings’. I showed her some cows at close range, but they did not pique her interest.

                                                                                                  On Saturday night in the caravan, Small Z vomited lavishly over herself, me and the bed at around 2am *shudder* and M had to be man of the moment and find towels, spare sheets, etc. etc. Hideous. It all happened again at about 7.30am, by which time Small Z and I were so exhausted that we passed out until around 10am, and I missed yet another meal. Once we got up K let me pick from an array of jams and preserves for my toast, and after two cups of tea I began feeling human. Then I ate the sticky date pudding I’d missed the night before, and felt even better.

                                                                                                  We watched Mgs do a sterling job of backing the trailer full of wood down the driveway – this reminded me that I really have to do some practice!! The wood had been chainsawed by Dad the previous day, and he had buggered his back while doing it, and thus was unable to look over his shoulder to back the trailer himself.

                                                                                                  Small Z at Banyula - Binginwarri

                                                                                                  All those seedlings in the background are just a small pocket of all the ones that K is propagating around the property. Small Z and I had a tour of R’s vegetable garden. I forget the name of the beds, but they are circular – about the circumference of a truck tyre – made with chicken wire, lined with black plastic, and filled with hay, compost and manure. Lastly, there is a plastic pipe shoved down the side, and this is how you administer water.

                                                                                                  It was very inspiring, and if I hadn’t had a wriggly toddler to contend with, I would have remembered to take a photo. Anyway, R very obligingly donated me some planting information and some of his own seedsI
                                                                                                  Planting information and 'Tiny Tom' tomato seeds. Thanks, Uncle Roy!

                                                                                                  We drove home, stopping for sandwiches in Meeniyan at the bookshop/cafe. Good on ambience, not great imagination put into their toasted sandwiches. I was completely exhausted, and M got to drive all the way home with a zombie and a fevered toddler. Getting home was a relief (an understatement). The day was finished by lots of washing – to de-vomit the caravan interior.

                                                                                                  A deadset miracle

                                                                                                    Last night was the third night of my zero tolerance approach to night feeding. I have tried this a few times in the past with lots of screaming and little success. People on the forums I sometimes write to in an effort to preserve my sanity kept saying that Z would figure it out, but it would just take time. It has taken until now – she is 19 months.

                                                                                                    Of course my boobs are so full from being derailed from their nightly duties that they could probably secede and start their own nation state. The first night was a screamfest. The second night was better. And last night? Last night I don’t recall her waking between midnight and 7am. I cannot inject enough gravity into that last sentence. And to someone who has not endured two hourly wakings for more than a year (sometimes more, sometimes less) this is probably completely boring, but to me right now it’s nothing short of some heavy duty miraculous shit.

                                                                                                    Please let me not have jinxed it by posting this, but I want to shout it to the world! I don’t doubt that there will continue to be dodgy nights, but maybe the ongoing slog will ease…? I already feel like I am able to be a better mother to Small Z, purely because I am not completely exhausted. Hopefully M will benefit as well ;) if it ever happens again!

                                                                                                    Backyard weather

                                                                                                      I’ve been hanging at home a bit more with Small Z this past week. WIth the new sleep practices at night, timings of the midday nap have changed… and I’ve also thought it is a bit more settling to hang about at home while the nights can be fraught (yes – I did jinx myself with that post…)

                                                                                                      The weather has been making things easier, with big spates of sunny afternoons. We draw on the concrete with chalk (a habit we picked up in New York), run around under the clothesline, and hunt for dandelions to blow…

                                                                                                      Ha!
                                                                                                      Chalk cats - the Grumpy Mow, and the Happy Mow in a Bra

                                                                                                      (Note the ‘Grumpy Mow’* and the ‘Happy Mow in a Bra’)

                                                                                                      A puffy dandelion
                                                                                                      A tiny daisy

                                                                                                      *Mow rhymes with cow

                                                                                                      Happy Father’s Day M!

                                                                                                        I bought him breakfast. Z ate it. He drank the coffee.

                                                                                                        Sunshine and Spring

                                                                                                          Today has brought the kind of weather thet used to make me want to weep with frustration whenever I had to work in an office – it is sublimely perfect spring day.

                                                                                                          It is Spring...

                                                                                                          It’s impossible to remain indoors, and who would want to? My tiny friend, Small Z and I have been pottering for the last few hours. Me pulling weeds and hacking them with the mattock, and she playing with two bottle tops she named ‘Thomas’ and ‘Lowly’. (I have to admit only learning to call that aforementioned tool a ‘mattock‘ this morning, when I heard someone else pronounce it. Prior to this I have blithely gone though life telling people that I have been hacking away with a ‘maddock’. Which is, apparently, a US city and the surname of several people. Sigh. Still, it’s not as bad as addressing large corporate meetings using the word ‘echelon’ on several occasions and pronouncing it ‘Eck-a-lon’. But I’m getting off track…)

                                                                                                          The mozzies are bad and so we are smothered in citronella. Small Z is wearing a great shirt for the conditions, bought for her by She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Blogged. I have found some seeds that we will plant later, post-nap. I will miss this house when we have to leave, regardless of the insect and possum issues. This weather has improved my mood, and instead of feeling like a creatively barren unproductive nothing, I feel…um…better.


                                                                                                          Ever since Z saw a particular episode of Thomas the Tank Engine on YouTube she has been obsessed with flat tyres. And fixing them with a spanner, or seven. When they are flat…tyres go ‘clunk’.

                                                                                                          Plated

                                                                                                            What I gave her to eat, realising, as I slaved over making cheesy white sauce that the more effort I went to was directly in proportion to how adamantly she would reject it….

                                                                                                            I ate it.

                                                                                                            And what she ended up having…

                                                                                                            Nectarine, cheese, sultanas...

                                                                                                            Dusty Dadda

                                                                                                              Small Z loves rhymes, so it’s comforting that she’s inherited that from me. A month or two ago I made up a rhyme/song about M, who goes to work on the boat every day. It’s called ‘Dusty Dadda’. I recorded her saying it in the bath the other night. I’m posting it here for posterity…and cute value…

                                                                                                              Dusty, dusty, dusty Dadda,
                                                                                                              When he’s at work, he climbs a ladder.
                                                                                                              He is building a big boat,
                                                                                                              And one day? That boat will FLOAT!
                                                                                                              Dusty Dadda comes back home,
                                                                                                              Turns on the tap…shhhhhh…
                                                                                                              Shower comes down just like rain,
                                                                                                              Washes all the dust right down the drain.
                                                                                                              Now Dadda is a clean machine,
                                                                                                              He dries himself with a towel that’s green!

                                                                                                              Two babies

                                                                                                                Right now. Right at this very moment? The house is a-slumber. Elijah is sleeping in the portacot. And Small Z (who, of course, was much harder to get down) is napping in her cot at the other end of the house. Me? I’m fuelling myself for when they wake up – toddler wrangling in stereo. Big E informed me that I have hopefully been spared the prospect of changing a stinky nappy, as he gave her that pleasure before she brought him over… Ha! I’m just excited that I get to hang out with them both – and they’ve both officially just slept long enough for neither of them to be too skanky…

                                                                                                                Emerald babysitting and back

                                                                                                                  This morning I was up by 6am. Once I revived myself with a couple of Russian Caravans I felt new wonder at being awake so early. I could Get Things Done. Revelatory. I had everything organised and, after Small Z awoke, we were able to leave at 8am. Outrageous.

                                                                                                                  All this military precision was to get us to Emerald by 9am, whereupon I would leave Small Z to be looked after by E, and dart off to my long lost osteopath – Patrick of the Magic Fingers. Haven’t seen him for years, but found him by accident via google. Of course, it’s a long drive to Emerald, but with the added plus of babysitting – I had to follow it up!

                                                                                                                  Small Z and Small E

                                                                                                                  Small Z has never been looked after by anyone other than her Nan, so I was interested to see what transpired. Which was exactly nothing. She had a lovely time hanging out with Small E and all his trains of various sizes. She was very chilled out. While she played, I was prodded and poked, and my legs were returned to matching lengths. I also made robust plans to stab the online version of GoogleMaps through the eyes for sending me down a one way street with instructions to ‘keep driving’, but that’s another story.

                                                                                                                  E made us lunch, and then we began the long, hot drive home. This was not so lovely. Small Z eventually fell asleep and in an effort to prolong this I drove to Koo Wee Rup, where I thought we could investigate the pool that has intrigued me for many years.

                                                                                                                  The sleeping, the sleeping. I ended up doing laps around the town. This was useful, as it cemented my decision not to look for rental houses there. I then sat, as the car idled, in the pool carpark. I’m not kidding. The same minute that Small Z woke up, the change in the weather came through like a bull in the hall (analogy stolen from The Shins). I thought the window of the car might blow in.

                                                                                                                  We skipped the pool idea, as the temperature had dived ten degrees, and just went to the cafe and the op-shop and had a perfectly nice time.

                                                                                                                  In the pretty pretty city

                                                                                                                    Today we began with playgroup – somewhere Small Z likes to go as they have a box of many die-cast Thomas the Tank Engines and friends, as well as a Maithwaite Station and train tracks. I take her to socialise. She hangs with the trains, and I drink tea with the mums and intermittently help cut up fruit, put on smocks, create playdough masterpieces and adjudicate minor conflicts.

                                                                                                                    After playgroup we drove into the city. That should have big fat flashing neon around it. I have never taken Small Z into the city. The drive there and back was enough to put me off, but we had an appointment with a breast thrush guru. Small Z was a champ and had almost an hours nap in the car. I found a carpark right in front of me on Exhibition Street and thus abandoned my plans to park under the QV building.

                                                                                                                    Of course we had to wait to see the doctor, and then there was nappy changing, and by the time we got back to the car it was about 20min after the hour that was allowed. Fifty-six dollars later… ARGH!!! What to do? We soothed ourselves by inviting ourselves to Mung’s house for dinner and driving to Northcote to SHOP.

                                                                                                                    Ordinarily I would be horrified at spending bucks on apparel for Small Z. She is entirely clothed by op-shops and eBay. However, she has just grown out of all her shoes, and despite having many others to go on with, they are all secondhand and I can’t be quite sure that they fit properly. We went into a beautiful shop I had googled up – Big Dreams – and Small Z got some gorgeous red leather shoes and some excellent grey cotton runners. Lovely.

                                                                                                                    It was very nice to wander through exciting shops and have hot chocolate in a bookshop. I felt as if I was back over in the USA. I think I need to get out more…despite the expenses. Mung and Rach saved us the horror of peak hour traffic, and fed us baked risotto. Small Z bathed in all the Thomas the Tank Engine books and trains that she could get her hands on, and was fed mango. Bliss. We reclaimed all the things we had left behind at the holiday house and Rach lent me Divisadero. We found a small rocking horse with optional wheels in the Easey Street hard rubbish, and brought him home with us…

                                                                                                                    thebestcamera app. Love it.

                                                                                                                    The first day of summer

                                                                                                                      Something that I want to remember is lying in the hammock for an hour with Small Z this morning at about 10am in the sun. I dozed and mused, while she dozed and breastfed. It balmed both our busy souls. There were minimal mosquitos and many birds. The sun was warm and the breeze cool. We swung gently and snuggled.

                                                                                                                      Today was declared a stay at home day. I remember reading in some parenting or baby book that you occasionally need to have ‘pyjama days’ where you give yourself permission to sloth around and do little. That is how we greeted the first day of summer. Small Z and I were happy to not get into the car and go anywhere, which was a relief – we’d been in the city on Friday, driven to Mornington on Saturday and to Loch on Sunday.

                                                                                                                      I am looking back on the blog to where we were a year ago – Small Z was crawling around the trailer, chubbier and tinier than she is now. She said ‘baa’ a lot. This time next year I cannot even fathom where we will be, and what the almost three-year-old (!?!) will be like. Probably less like a lamb, and that’s as far as my brain will take me.

                                                                                                                      Days like today give the the opportunity to realise how we are both evolving. I hope I am becoming more patient and less inclined to lock horns with Small Z – time has taught me that this brings no good outcomes. I am appreciating her in different ways – we have a lot of fun hanging out together. I enjoy her and her sense of humour – she is cheeky, quirky and effortlessly gleeful.

                                                                                                                      She narrates our process through the day. “Zoezy goes up. Climbing. Climbs. Good one Fat Controller! Now James. Where’s James? And Thomas? Ahhhhh. Annie and Clar-a-bel. Mama get playdough? Roll it flat? Sit on the couch, ouch? Play tigers?” This is just a sample of what comes out of her mouth for the entire day and does not include her regular requests for booby or for me to ‘gwab’ her. “Mama gwab Zoezy?” Meaning – pick me up RIGHT now. Please. Of course, there are times of repose…

                                                                                                                      At the moment she loves numbers, rhyming and moons. This afternoon we read a book about a bear who gets a yellow balloon with a moonface, and flies up to visit the moon while holding on to the balloon string. “Read it again?!” begged Small Z. She was so thrilled to go outside later that night and see a huge full moon hanging over the back fence. “Hello MOOOOON! Night NIGHT MOOOOON.”

                                                                                                                      We were discussing smells. “What does Mama smell like?” I asked tentatively.
                                                                                                                      She didn’t pause. “Like porridge.”
                                                                                                                      I digested this. “And Dadda? What does he smell like?”
                                                                                                                      “Egg. With cream in it.”
                                                                                                                      [Sometimes we make ‘special’ scrambled eggs with cream.}
                                                                                                                      “What does Zoe smell like?”
                                                                                                                      A beat. “Chicken…and Fat Controller.”

                                                                                                                      M. The saboteur.

                                                                                                                        What a week. M’s eldest sister arrived from Hervey Bay on Tuesday, after we had a weekend full of people staying over and then the 2nd birthday of Small E on an action packed Puffing Billy ride. It was great to see M’s sister, who came primarily to make an acquaintance with Small Z – her niece.

                                                                                                                        We had not all seen each other since 2006. I was in awe of her escaping her committments to her grandchildren and the restaurant and aquarium to spend five days in the arse end of nowhere. It was lovely. Small Z got lots of presents, which helped the bonding process no end! On Friday night M and Jan stole across the road and quickly and painlessly removed a small pine branch, and brought it home to stand in the hall. Small Z’s first Christmas Tree!!

                                                                                                                        Old school Christmas tree

                                                                                                                        It was odd how quickly she took to it. She cantered around it making us sing Jingle Bells while Jan decked it out in her streamers made from Christmas paper. We hung the two glass angels that she had given Small Z and I, and added in some old fake pearls of my grandma’s and a ‘silver’ fairy wand of Small Z’s for the top. She thought it was heaven.

                                                                                                                        Saturday we drove to the city via Hampton, where M picked up a slide he had bought on eBay. As Jan had to leave early Sunday morning (7.30am) we had booked a cheap hotel room for Saturday night to avoid driving into the city, back out, and then back in to the airport…and home again. What we booked were two queen beds. We assumed they were in separate rooms. We assumed wrong.

                                                                                                                        After a day schlepping around. Lots of time in the car. Some time on a tram. We met up with M’s other sister, who happened to be in Melbourne (she lives in Sydney). Small Z got more presents! We hit a cafe and then spent an hour or so in the garden near the fountain near Parliament House on Spring Street. It seems that not only do a lot of people get married on Saturday – they also appear to be obsessed by having their photographs taken right near where we were sitting…

                                                                                                                        We walked back toward Flinders Street Station via Fed Square and the book market. We stopped for more refreshments and were happy to see the Box Hill Community Arts Centre Choir performing! Small Z was particularly happy with this. (I love the bit at the very last frame where she throws her hands into the air…)

                                                                                                                        M, Small Z, Jan and I said goodbye to M and Jan’s other sister, Yvonne and her partner and then got a tram back to our hotel. The one with two queen beds. In the Same. Room. Small Z was exhausted from the day and conked almost straightaway. M had brought in some beer and wine, so Jan and I sipped some white as we watched (some very relaxing) trashy television. Small Z slumbered throughout.

                                                                                                                        However. The night was fraught after we all got into bed. M later reported that he thought Jan snored all night ‘like a banshee’, and this kept waking Small Z up. I didn’t hear any of that, but I was woken by Small Z about a million times, and by 4am we all gave up any pretense of sleeping. M was bitten by a grumpy, sleep deprived bug and said something to Jan like;

                                                                                                                        “How about I drive you to the airport now?”

                                                                                                                        “But it’s FOUR in the MORNING? My flight isn’t until seven thirty?!”

                                                                                                                        “Well, there’s an ISSUE with SNORING and it keeps waking Z up…”

                                                                                                                        I dived under the doona and pretended nothing was happening. M took himself off to stand under the shower. Jan got up and began getting her stuff together. They left at about 5am. I couldn’t help feeling that after a lovely week together, M had sabotaged the lot with a badly calculated swipe. She ended up at the airport at FIVE THIRTY in the morning TWO HOURS before her flight. Oh, the shame.

                                                                                                                        M returned bearing fruit salad containing grapes, moments after Small Z (who had deigned to slumber between 5.30am and 6.30am) had squawked, “We go HOME now? We go home? Take Zoe-zie HOME to eat some GRAPES?”

                                                                                                                        We all ate fruit salad in bed for a while, M and I discussing the extent of his faux pas…

                                                                                                                        “We didn’t talk much on the way to the airport,” he said, musing over a strawberry.

                                                                                                                        “What about when you go there and stuff?” I asked. “Did you go for a coffee?”

                                                                                                                        “Um.” said M, spearing another grape, “Noooo. She told me not to bother parking and I just left her out the front.”

                                                                                                                        I felt the fingers of creeping doom, and cringed back into the pillow. Evil M. I let Evil M have a hour of sleep by taking Small Z into the bathroom and playing in the bath. Later that day he rang Jan and apologised for being an insensitive sod. Thank god. I was afraid that Small Z would not see her aunty again until she was about seventeen.

                                                                                                                        Alan, Alannah, Ally, Hugo and Violet

                                                                                                                          Drawn back to blogging by bum related hysteria. For almost as long as we’ve been knocking around together, the name of M’s bum has been Alan. Yes. On one occasion while he was away on tour with Augie March in Coolum, he drunkenly confided this to all and sundry and I was telephoned by someone called Declan who was gasping with laughter and desperate for corroboration. I corroborated. I probably would have done more than that if requested, his accent was exceptionally attractive.

                                                                                                                          Tonight, M stripped off in the kitchen and did a nudie dance prior to getting in the bath with Small Z. She shrieked with delight;

                                                                                                                          “DADDA has a SWINGING PENIS!!!”

                                                                                                                          M then had the taste for performing, and showed off;

                                                                                                                          “Dadda’s SWINGING ELBOWS.”

                                                                                                                          His swinging eyebrows…and finally…

                                                                                                                          “DADDA has a SWINGING BUM. His BUM is SWINGING!!”

                                                                                                                          Yes, I told her. Have I told you that Dadda’s bum’s name is Alan?”

                                                                                                                          “Al-lan?”

                                                                                                                          “Alan.”

                                                                                                                          “Ahhhh,” she made her appreciative noise, “Alan. ALAN. What’s the swinging penis’s name?”

                                                                                                                          I choked. M, of course, did not miss a beat. “My penis,” he said, wagging it, “Is known as HUMUNGO.”

                                                                                                                          “Who-mungo?”

                                                                                                                          “HU-MUNG-GO.”

                                                                                                                          “Alan and Who-Mungo,” mused Small Z. It seemed to work for her.

                                                                                                                          Later in the bath, Humungo was shortened to ‘Hugo’. My bum was introduced to her as Alannah. Then she asked the vagina question – “What’s it’s name?”

                                                                                                                          I heard M flailing in the bath, and tried to think of something inoffensive.

                                                                                                                          “Violet!” I yelled down the hall. “Your vagina’s name is VIOLET!”

                                                                                                                          I heard the little voice echoing off the bathroom walls…

                                                                                                                          “…and what’s Mama’s….”

                                                                                                                          “VIOLET as well.”

                                                                                                                          “Zoe’s bum’s name?”

                                                                                                                          “Ummmm. Let’s call her Ally,” I was running out of inspiration.

                                                                                                                          “Ah,” she said, her curiosity sated. All parts were named and in their place.

                                                                                                                          Mud and puddles

                                                                                                                            Went up to visit the paternal parent in the country. He is the shape of a crab, or a pretzel, due to ongoing lower back pain and sciatica. Something Has To Be Done. He is hampered by his location and immobility. Argh! It is so frustrating.

                                                                                                                            However, we took advantage of the hospitality and dined on honey soy free range chicken drumsticks, potato salad, and, best of all, Windfall Pie.

                                                                                                                            Windfall Pie

                                                                                                                            Windfall Pie? A dazzling combination of blackberries and apples – the apples that have been collected from under the apple trees.

                                                                                                                            Noun: windfall – fruit that has fallen from the tree

                                                                                                                            Small Z, who has been going through a phase which consists of her saying “Wipe your HANDS?” after she touches food and almost anything else (she means ‘Wipe my hands’ but remains a bit confused about ‘I’ and ‘Your’), rallied from her cleanliness. We were outside and she was investigating a drip…which led to investigating some mud, smearing mud over her tummy, face and tongue, and finishing it off by stepping in what she and I both thought was a shallow puddle…that turned out ankle deep. I hosed her in the shower. Kid fun!

                                                                                                                            Catching drips
                                                                                                                            Pondering the puddle

                                                                                                                            Meanwhile, M filled our shed with all the things we have divested from our lives since moving house. That created a good feeling. So why is it that our shed at home still looks like it’s at bursting point? Declutter fairy, are you out there?

                                                                                                                            Somers

                                                                                                                              This was our first foray to the closest swimming beach. Next time I’ll pack more snacks…
                                                                                                                              It didn’t go too badly.
                                                                                                                              Goddamn! Here I am posting something on the same day it happened! I feel that something has slightly shifted. Is this progress?

                                                                                                                              Somers Beach, this morning...

                                                                                                                              Silvery Moon

                                                                                                                                Am nearing the other end of a week that began in kind of a meltdown zone. I could post about it, and I will. Later.

                                                                                                                                Meanwhile, for as long as I can remember, Small Z has been obsessed with the moon. When she sees it in the sky – particularly unexpectedly in the daytime she says stuff like:

                                                                                                                                “Our friend is here, Mama! I’m glad he came. Look he’s a shiny one! Give him some drinks?”

                                                                                                                                “What does he say to you?”

                                                                                                                                “Shine, shine! Hello! Glad our friend is back! Ahhhh.”

                                                                                                                                One of the songs she has been singing the longest is By The Light of the Silvery Moon, and she was thrilled when I found her a few versions on YouTube. (The Doris Day one is pure cheese….) I have been afraid that I wouldn’t get a recording of Small Z singing it – she knows the lot, but it doesn’t feature so often in her repertoire of late, so I had to take what I could get…. By The Light of the Silvery Moon. Notice how she comes over all teenager at the end… “Mama sing a good moon song?”

                                                                                                                                Finally, this morning, M solved a small mystery. Small Z had been requesting him to draw a moon playing the recorder for the last few days whenever the coloured pencils were out. “Moon playing a recorder? Moon playing a recorder, dadda?” Recently the moon has been halfway between half and full. Three quarter. She had thought that M kept pointing at the moon saying, “Look! The moon is playing recorder!”

                                                                                                                                No lemon aid & thanks for all the fish

                                                                                                                                  After nightweaning Small Z for the final time in January, the month of my utter fatigue, I thought that moving house and the associated weirdness of all that would account for the first chunk of February or so. I didn’t want to make any other big changes to Small Z’s soundtrack over that time.

                                                                                                                                  However. For the past few weeks I have been trying to wean her from the boobaramas. Full stop. Of course, I have done some research, spoken to an ABA counsellor (they are G-O-L-D) and tried to do it as gently as possible. Small Z, as anyone who has read this blog for a while, was the ultimate booby-fixated baby. She is now two, and remains exactly the same. I had naive hope that she would wean herself. Nope. Nada. Never. Not. Going. To. Happen.

                                                                                                                                  So it was fairly easy to cut out the feeds that were not sleep related. There weren’t many of them. But, for the past week or so I have been refusing to feed her for the midday nap, saying that the boobies needed to rest for her feed at nighttime. Ohhh. The yelling. The begging. The hours that my patience has elastically stretched over. Extraordinary.

                                                                                                                                  M read somewhere that people have had success spiking their boobs with lemon juice. Mmmm. That worked the first time. After that, she got a taste for it. And then there was the day when I had washed the girls in bicarb as a preventative measure (click if you must), later added the lemon juice and in doing so created some kind of energetically fizzing chemical reaction that scared me so much that I did much plunging of my top half into a basin full of water, wishing that I had paid more attention in chemistry. I had to speak to my only chemically qualified contact in order to establish nothing was going to explode.

                                                                                                                                  So then I tried garlic. Why would I bother trying garlic on someone whose favourite food is hardcore pesto? Call it blind hope. She lapped it up. Yesterday? I went for the most disgusting thing I could think of. I don’t mean just what I happened to have on hand. I mean the most disgusting liquid that I. Could. Think. Of. If you do any thai cooking, you’ll know right away. Fish sauce. How revolting is that? I applied it liberally to the girls while holding my breath. Ugh.

                                                                                                                                  I think Small Z lives in a state of olfactory denial. She did not react ONE iota to the stench of fish sauce on the girls. She had one, then the other. No reaction. Nothing. How is this possible? She is very good with smells – she can pick lavender, rose, orange. If you walk into a fish shop that is stinky (something a good fish shop should never be) she shrieks and demands to be removed immediately.

                                                                                                                                  L suggested that stuff that you put on for nailbiting, as did M. However, I have decided today that it is all at an end. After tonight, I will SHUT IT DOWN (I can hear my mother – who weaned us three at nine months – breathing her relief from miles away). I cannot go further than fish sauce. Before I had Small Z, I never imagined breastfeeding past six months. I made declarations like “I will never feed anything with teeth” and sneeringly said “I am never going to feed something that walks”. Is there anything more humbling than parenthood? In my case, it has taught me not to be such a judgemental fucker about something of which I have zero experience.

                                                                                                                                  So yeah. Start spreading the news…they’re leaving today…they’ll no longer be a part of it…the boobs, the boobs…
                                                                                                                                  And a big welcome to a whole new round of sleep deprivation and yelling. It WILL be worth it.

                                                                                                                                  Saturday in training

                                                                                                                                    Another Saturday morning. Oh dear, the more Autumn’s and Springs’s I have, the more I edge toward somewhere like Tasmania or New Zealand as somewhere to live. It seems that 24-26 degrees with a tiny breeze is my ultimate day. Like today. After M chef-ed up some superior scrambled eggs we left the house with Small Z in tow.

                                                                                                                                    We took her to Hastings Station for a joyride on a diesel to Stony Point. Some kids would fail to be impressed by this, but Small Z, being a trainspotter in training (sorry), is not one of them. She had told us we would probably be travelling on Gordon. As the train pulled up, the only other child on the platform, who was a good four years older than Small Z, shrieked “It’s Gordon! It’s GORDON!!” Is there some kind of conspiracy?

                                                                                                                                    Saturday morning train ride

                                                                                                                                    Naturally we travelled for free, as we are mykey virgins and didn’t know you couldn’t buy a ticket at the station anymore. Good one, Victorian government, you’ve done REALLY well with this! We journeyed to Stony Point, where we disembarked, checked the timetable, decided that there was not enough fun there to fill to two hours until the next train, and got back on the train we had just vacated.

                                                                                                                                    Saturday morning train ride

                                                                                                                                    The train was only one carriage and was filled to popping point, mostly by a mass of bright young things escaping the naval base. We got off at Tyabb and wandered around the Packing House for a while, mostly for the coffee in the old red rattler and the slide. There is also a pottery place there – and as someone who has always wondered what they could do with clay and a wheel, I got a brochure for classes.

                                                                                                                                    Saturday morning train ride. Reflecting.

                                                                                                                                    Back home for the nap and then, after some bubbles in the backyard, down to Balnarring beach for the rest of the day. The weird thing was, we avoided the main carpark and went up through some streets, found a secluded spot where there was ONE other car. Parked. Got out. Our neighbours said “Hello!” Apparently it’s their hangout. I think they felt like we were stalking them.

                                                                                                                                    Smalls

                                                                                                                                      One lovely thing about the impending Pikelet is going op-shopping with Small Z. If I offer her a choice between the playground or the op-shop, she inevitably chooses the latter. Yesterday we went to one we hadn’t been to before, and it was having a sale. We began looking at tiny newborn clothes…

                                                                                                                                      “Ohhhh,” cooed Small Z, “Sooooo cuuuute. Pikelet would like this one!”

                                                                                                                                      I picked up tiny mittens, remembering when she was born that we didn’t know about such things until we had to buy some from the reception at the birth centre when she began scratching her face. She jams them on to her hands, digs through another basket, coming up with a hat…

                                                                                                                                      “Pikelet would be really happy of this one,” she said, putting into our pile.

                                                                                                                                      I showed her a tiny onesie.

                                                                                                                                      “A little suit mama!!” she squeaked. “Tiny for Pikelet!!”

                                                                                                                                      We found some socks, another suit and a tiny kimono snap long sleeved top. I have vivid memories of having drawers full of tiny 000 sized clothes and finding that all of them were too big and/or too fiddly for our tiny baby. So now I’m looking for 0000 sized clothes, none of which have to be pulled over a little head. It’s SO nice to have some hindsight!

                                                                                                                                      Shopping for smalls
                                                                                                                                      Socks and hat

                                                                                                                                      Sing Song

                                                                                                                                        Yesterday Small Z was in and out while I tried to work. She sang me a song she had made up, accompanying herself with Jeff Beck-like virtuosity on the guitar…

                                                                                                                                        There’s no thunder again…
                                                                                                                                        It started raining, started raining…
                                                                                                                                        It started raining, started raining…
                                                                                                                                        It started raining, started raining…

                                                                                                                                        [fiddles with instrument *tuning*]
                                                                                                                                        And the rain started pittering pattering
                                                                                                                                        Down on the other tigers and ligers
                                                                                                                                        And it started thundering again
                                                                                                                                        And raining…
                                                                                                                                        And I went through the tiger door again*

                                                                                                                                        [B: That's a pretty good song!
                                                                                                                                        She comes back for the encore...]
                                                                                                                                        And AGAAAAAAIN,
                                                                                                                                        And AGAAAAIN!
                                                                                                                                        And AGAAAAIN!
                                                                                                                                        And AGAAAAIN!

                                                                                                                                        [* the 'tiger door' is the cat flap in our back door]

                                                                                                                                        Other favourites on our YouTube playlist are…

                                                                                                                                        Going to the country, regardless.

                                                                                                                                          Once my hip/leg/foot pain improved a little, everything became a bit easier. My mum rivalled M for helping-out points. By Thursday afternoon I figured that if I could sit for an hour at my desk, I could just as easily drive for an hour, so M hitched up the caravan for me and got it all sorted before he went to the boat.

                                                                                                                                          Mum loaded in Small Z for me and waved goodbye, and I drove us, sitting on an ice pack, to Loch. An effort to spend some time up there in the company of Small Brother. Oh, he is here for such a short time, and I am frustrated in fits and starts about my stupid leg and the obvious restrictions that go with having a very attached two-year-old and being an hour or so from the city.

                                                                                                                                          Gahhhhh! I know that this is just a phase of my life that is short compared to the rest of it, and most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes, being able to put my current existence on pause and say to Small Brother, yeah – I‘ll meet you in the city in an hour, we’ll go there, do that, see a film, play some pool and drink a few expensive stupid drinks…? Well, it would be a thrill. That’s all.

                                                                                                                                          In lieu of that Small Z and I hung out at my dad’s place and spent a bit of time with him that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. Toddler wrangling is fairly relentless, but I’m still glad we went along. It was good to be in a different environment and I love Love LOVE getting away on my own in my caravan!! This is not a comment on M, it’s just that I find it a real blast to tool along in the car with the caravan behind me; I feel so Thelma and Louise. I love knowing that if Small Z or I get jack of things, we can pull over and make a cup of tea and kick back. I love my caravan. And truthfully? You don’t see that many females towing caravans, especially ones as cool as mine… [immodest blush]

                                                                                                                                          My home on wheels

                                                                                                                                          I hung with Small Z while she traumatised the goldfish that live in the bath, tried to move a wheelbarrow, ate many cherry tomatos, ran down the back paddock, hunted for late blooming blackberries, poked at tadpoles, ‘drove’ a Humber, and played on a small stepladder in the kitchen under the amused gaze of Small Brother (who took the picture of her and I).

                                                                                                                                          The fish that live in the bath
                                                                                                                                          The fish that live in the bath
                                                                                                                                          Small child. Large wheelbarrow.
                                                                                                                                          The first of many cherry tomatoes
                                                                                                                                          Relaxing?

                                                                                                                                          I’ve been pondering on daylight savings for the past few days. Small Z has been out of whack with her going to bed hours for two or three weeks. The end of daylight savings was delayed by around two weeks(?) this year, and I’ve been wondering whether this has impacted on her rhythms. It was interesting that I gave her dinner in the caravan just as the evening light faded (we only had a little torch to see with) and as it got dark, she got sleepy, and was out to it by 7.15pm. This is some kind of record, because recently it’s been 9.15pm and beyond. I was wondering whether, as well as just the clock changes, the exposure to the darkness was also a trigger… [muses]

                                                                                                                                          Oh, and just in case it sounds a little weird to have been whimpering about my soreness two posts ago (and a sensitivity to feeling that I might come across like my Dad, who, despite ridiculous back pain, persists in moving large objects) I have to say that going away with Small Z has been a dream. I’ve told her that I can’t lift her at the moment and that she has to hold my hand instead and she is cool with that. My caravan was wrangled at both ends by men larger than myself, so apart from a bit of extra walking about, going to the country was pretty breezy…

                                                                                                                                          Mother’s Day III

                                                                                                                                            I am posting this in a very belated fashion (written in mid June 2010, but backdated), but I did want my Mother’s Day to go on the record for historical purposes. (Here are Mother’s Day One and Two.) This year we went for a sail, taking my mum and T along for the ride. Just as we had in 2007, when Small Z was a tiny peanut sized blip in my belly, unknown to anyone but M and wide-eyed self…

                                                                                                                                            I made roast chicken, lemon thyme, chive and mayonnaise rolls, which went down a treat. The motor died, but we purloined another. Mum made a fabulous cake and spent a-g-e-s on the boat entertaining Small Z while I slumbered on the nets. We busted a shear pin on the replacement outboard motor and had to anchor outside the Warneet Channel while M and T performed emergency surgery.

                                                                                                                                            Ah, the wonder of the trimaran. I will never love a monohull in the same way. Too much lean, not enough room to spread out. Prior to our departure I had told Small Z the story of last Father’s Day, when she threw one of my anodised metal picnic cups overboard. It landed upright, bobbing merrily, while I shrieked, “Go about!! Go ABOUT! GET MY CUP!!” M obligingly turned the boat around as I hung over one hull and scooped the cup from the sea. Small Z thought this was very cool, and was therefore thrilled when her pink hat blew off and we had to re-enact exactly the same scenario…

                                                                                                                                            We had an excellent time…

                                                                                                                                            Mother's Day 2010 - Small Z & M
                                                                                                                                            Mother's Day 2010 - My Mum.
                                                                                                                                            Mother's Day 2010 - the CAKE!
                                                                                                                                            Small Z & her Nana - Mother's Day 2010

                                                                                                                                            And did I mention my beautiful and inspiring present from M and Small Z? It is a book that I never would have thought of, but is so amazing and presented in a gorgeous cloth cover over the hardback, with two bookmark ribbons (and you do need at least two…)
                                                                                                                                            My mother's day present...
                                                                                                                                            My day finished very nicely. M stayed aboard the boat due to tide constraints. Small Z was whacked and went to sleep before 7pm, giving me the e-n-t-i-r-e evening to myself. I cleaned the place to within an inch of its life and then luxuriated in the solitude and order before retiring. All being well? It was my last Mother’s Day as the mother-of-one…

                                                                                                                                            The first of many

                                                                                                                                              Gulp. Last night I made Small Z’s lunch for the first time in preparation for the next day. Got out what she was going to wear in the morning. Checked her bag of spare clothes that she had helped me pack, and took out the various face-washers, toys and socks she had added. I felt the future sort of unrolling in front of me – years of making lunches and getting it all together. It wasn’t so bad…

                                                                                                                                              Today was her first day at ‘Two Group’. This is the group at the Montessori preschool that is for kids aged between two-and-a-half and three years old. It’s like a transition to their three-year-old kindergarten. And whereas mainstream three-year-old kindergarten is (I think) maybe three hours twice a week, the one at this place is either four mornings a week (three hour mornings) or two full days. So I thought that it would only be fair to Small Z to have the chance to do the ‘transition’ semester before launching into it next year.

                                                                                                                                              This is also for her to establish her own little routine and social network before her world is invaded by the impending Pikelet. So yeah. We whizzed off this morning and arrived there at 9.30am. We put her photograph above her very own hook for her very own backpack, hung up her ‘spare clothes’ bag and then I said,

                                                                                                                                              “See you later Boo – I’m going shopping and I’ll be back at snack time.”

                                                                                                                                              “See you later Mama,” she said.

                                                                                                                                              And I left. Going all the way to another room about twenty metres away and plugging in my laptop. Yeah. So I’m a pussy. I’ve never left her anywhere before and I wanted to be close by if she freaked out. The staff there didn’t raise an eyebrow, and said people often sit in the staffroom for the first few times, or in their car with a book.

                                                                                                                                              I headed back in almost two hours later and heard her before I saw her, narrating her lunch as she sat at a small table, eating the cheese from between two slices of bread. I knelt down beside her and suggested she eat the bread as well. I turned to have a word to the teacher and Small Z came around behind me and gave me a hug. I am so relieved it went well. She didn’t want to leave!

                                                                                                                                              First day at preschool

                                                                                                                                              A little hard won pocket of time

                                                                                                                                                The amount of space on this site I have dedicated to lamenting my lack of sleep and the non-sleeping practices of Small Z would write the novel that I will never get around to finishing. This is not a lament post [cue: boggling eyes]. This is a VICTORY post.

                                                                                                                                                Obviously I have to include a teeny lament bit in order to emphasis my win, so… For the past few months, OK, let’s just say this year, Small Z’s bedtime has become more and more haphazard. This was in line with her equally haphazard daytime nap. Sometimes the nap would be at midday, sometimes at 2pm. If it was the latter, she would not then sleep at night until after 9pm. That would inevitably mean she would wake after 8am, which in turn would mean she would have a late nap and etcetera etcetera.

                                                                                                                                                On reflection I’m surprised that at some point she didn’t travel around the clock in it’s entirety and become completely nocturnal for a few weeks. A month or so ago I was really reaching the end of the line. I would spend ages getting her to sleep in the day, catnap then myself, and that was it. I would have to go to bed at night when she went to bed, because I’d be too exhausted to stay up any later than 9.30pm myself.

                                                                                                                                                I started to worry about what was going to happen when Pikelet was born. How the hell was I going to dedicate the fucking endless endless swathes of time to getting Small Z to sleep while juggling a newborn (a newborn that will be a fantastic sleeper…right? RIGHT? …but still). My small Brain worked on this slowly. I posted to the forum I lurk on and was told that by that time she might not be having a daytime nap anymore (quelle horreur!) – to sit her in front of Play School instead – and (most useful of all) – to CHILL THE HELL OUT, because how could I possibly anticipate the un-anticipatable? Ah.

                                                                                                                                                I ceased wasting my time agonising about what might happen and just focused on trying to gain some sanity. I tried to set a bedtime each night in the hope that regardless of the nap-factor, getting put in bed at the same time every night might finally kick her bodyclock into sleep time. To do this, I gave her an old-school alarm clock and it became her job to turn the alarm off every night at 7pm – and this signified getting-ready-for-bed-time.

                                                                                                                                                For a week we tried this. It didn’t really work. She was very happy to turn off the alarm, but then it was all, “Make one last card with me Mama!” “No! It’s TIME FOR BED.” “Make one last card with me Dadda.” “This is the last card, Small Z. Then it’s bed.” The last card would be made. She would then start sc-reeeeming for the next ‘last’ card. [Bangs head hard on wall.]

                                                                                                                                                In conjunction with this lack of progress I began to find that on the days of nap-drought, I could get her to bed early. Mostly. And with this realisation came that I might save myself a lot of time in the day trying to get her to nap. And with this realisation came the really important one – that when the alarm clock went off, it should not just be ‘time to get ready for bed’, it should be a series of steps in the same order, that happen Every. Single. Night. Right?

                                                                                                                                                (Belatedly, of course, I realise that my parents spent my childhood chanting Hands – face – teeth – wee’s – BED for probably precisely this reason. Sigh. Whatever.) So I sat down Small Z at a time when she was amenable and started drawing a Bedtime Map. We drew the alarm clock at seven o’clock with a red alarm button, we drew TEETH and a toothbrush – we drew the potty with WEE in it – we drew the PYJAMAS – we drew TWO BOOKS and then we drew EYES THAT WERE SHUT, CLOSED and DREAMING.

                                                                                                                                                I emphasised the order to her. That night I carried the map with us and she had great fun following each picture. She was in bed with EYES THAT WERE SHUT, CLOSED AND (presumably) DREAMING before 7pm. I had no witnesses, but it truly happened. I was worried that it might not happen on the days when she did take a daytime nap, but now, a week on – I’m not so worried, as there have been no daytime naps. This is not the torture I thought it would be.

                                                                                                                                                Yes, she is a skankfest by about 4pm, but as long as I can go outside, if we’ve been inside, or go inside if we’ve been out – or just generally change her environment to give her a boost through to 5pm, which is now dinner time – I can get her down before 7pm and have – OH MY GOD – two or so hours to MYSELF!!!

                                                                                                                                                Yes, she has tried to diverge from the Bedtime Map routine. No, I have not let her do it in another order or procrastinate. Yes, I have sat with her and given her a bottle of milk after the alarm has gone off when she was particularly cranky. The key factor is that she is so tired by 6pm (which is actually the time I now have to set the alarm to go off) that the awful, elongated getting-her-to-sleep torture is no longer. It’s two books, lights out and then she listens to a few audiobook short stories as she conks out.

                                                                                                                                                I feel like I have such a short gap before being thrown back into new-baby-land that this is just an oasis. I’m more than sure it won’t last, but while it does? It’s HEAVEN.

                                                                                                                                                The Magical Bedtime Map

                                                                                                                                                To decode:
                                                                                                                                                Up the top left hand corner is the alarm clock with a big number 7 to the right to emphasise the bed TIME. Then there is TEETH and a toothbrush next to it. Then there is the potty (ours is duck-shaped) with yellow WEE in it (we like realism) and a nappy. To the right of the potty is Small Z’s striped sleep sack PYJAMAS and in the bottom left hand corner are TWO BOOKS… and last of all CLOSED SLEEPY EYES…
                                                                                                                                                (Yes, Small Z’s contribution was drawing liberally all over everything, which is why I have decoded it, both for you and for the future me…)

                                                                                                                                                On the topic of oats…

                                                                                                                                                  The 2.5 Kid

                                                                                                                                                    Small Z recently became two-and-a-half. As of the last two days she is officially out of nappies. None during the day, and none at night. The guru was right. And from this minute? Due to our great pre-planning and forethought, that gives me about fifty-one days of nappy free existence…until the next two-and-a-half years click over. [eyeroll]

                                                                                                                                                    Small Z is a lot of fun. I have loved almost every ‘stage’, but just lately? She is such a companion for me, and one that makes me laugh hugely many times a day. With her nighttime routine still in place I am more often than not getting some couch-time before going to bed myself. This helps me to be a better person in daylight hours – when I manage to get myself to bed before 10pm.

                                                                                                                                                    We are still co-sleeping and I’m happy with this. I like that I am able to be there if she wakes with a fright. I love that I can hear the freaky little sleep-talking that she does. During the day I don’t notice, but when her little voice comes abruptly out of the quiet night, I can hear what a baby she still is. It only happens every so often, but last night it was:

                                                                                                                                                    “Penguin. Penguin. Penguin. PENGUIN!
                                                                                                                                                    Tom bought me a PENGUIN!!”

                                                                                                                                                    I did make an attempt a month or two back to get her into her own bed, mostly in preparation for the new babe. It didn’t really work out, and why would it? She isn’t ready. If I was her age and used to snuggling up to my mum every night, I don’t think I’d be that keen on being in another room alone in a bed. I decided to just see how things roll when the new one arrives and to work it out as we go along. There’s no point stressing over the utterly unpredictable.

                                                                                                                                                    Yes. There are meltdowns. Mostly hers. And usually due to sleep deprivation. I do try and have quiet time with her, in lieu of the no-napping. The other day I was so sore and exhausted that I just lay on the couch. She is so small, but so patient. She laid a ‘blanket’ over me and climbed up to lie next to me.

                                                                                                                                                    Tell-me-a-story about Moon-Sheep… After a few stories she played with some toys near my feet while I got a catnap in. She also unzips my boots at the end of the day, when it is hardest to reach my own ankles. Grateful doesn’t cover it.

                                                                                                                                                    Her vocabulary has always been her strength. She continues to love words and obsess over rhyming. She corrects us if we baby-talk her and says things like “Look at my ENORMOUS poo!” and “I have brought you this wire, mama, please don’t leave it there again.” and “I am looking at a par-tic-u-lar cloud.” Right.

                                                                                                                                                    Two days ago we were lying on the bed just around noon when she pressed herself against me:
                                                                                                                                                    “I love you, mama. I am so glad you came here.”
                                                                                                                                                    I gulped and tried to do a mental screenshot capture of the moment. She had never said that to me before. And was lucky I didn’t squish her alive and then eat her up like a raspberry marshmallow. It was one of those parenting moments, and I won’t lie. I lapped it up like a puppy.

                                                                                                                                                    And here’s the thing. I am both excited about the new babe, and mourning the loss of having Small Z as my little ‘only’. She is still so small. And yet I know that alongside a newborn, she is going to immediately become the Incredible Hulk.

                                                                                                                                                    I am sad that just as everything has got a easier (pregnancy woes aside) we are going to plunge back into the new baby haze and all the upside down crazy shit that goes along with it. Of course we will adapt and change to accommodate. But my focus will have to split, and I can’t help feeling a bit forlorn about that.

                                                                                                                                                    So I really feel like grabbing these next (almost) two months and making them special. It’s the last chance I’ll get [cue: me crossing my fingers for a great birth and healthy baby...] I am also trying remember things from this time, but basically, what you’re reading here is the only written stuff I have, so excuse me for a few minutes while I get a few things down for posterity…

                                                                                                                                                    ___________________________________

                                                                                                                                                    We have a lovely routine going where we make porridge together in the morning and share a kiwi-fruit. We are usually assisted by her favourite toy of the moment – a bee, a Tigger, a crocodile, a train…

                                                                                                                                                    ___________________________________

                                                                                                                                                    Despite her predilection for excellent diction, she still has a few words escape her, and often says; I need to find my zizzors.

                                                                                                                                                    ___________________________________

                                                                                                                                                    Current obsessions include bees, trains, sea creatures, the moon (of course), and worms. We got a book out from the library called Over in the Ocean in a Coral Reef and she has basically learnt it by heart. We had it in Collingwood a few weeks back at the time she went to the aquarium. This was recorded that night before we went to sleep…

                                                                                                                                                    Over in the Ocean – Aged 2.5

                                                                                                                                                    Over in the ocean on the sandy sea floor,
                                                                                                                                                    lived an old mother stingray and her little stingrays four.
                                                                                                                                                    Stir, said the mother. We stir, said the four.
                                                                                                                                                    So they stirred with their fins on the sandy floor.
                                                                                                                                                    Over in the ocean doing somersault tricks,
                                                                                                                                                    lived an old mother dolphin and her little dolphins six.
                                                                                                                                                    JUMP! Said the mother. We JUMP! said the six.
                                                                                                                                                    So they jumped and they played doing somersault tricks…
                                                                                                                                                    Over in the ocean their sea fan heaven,
                                                                                                                                                    lived a mother angelfish and her angelfish seven.
                                                                                                                                                    Graze, said the mother. We graze, said the seven.
                                                                                                                                                    So they lazed and they grazed in their sea fan heaven.
                                                                                                                                                    Over in the ocean drifting in a yellow line,
                                                                                                                                                    lived an old mother gruntfish and her little gruntfish nine…
                                                                                                                                                    (Much grunting…)
                                                                                                                                                    GRUNT! said the mama. We grunt, said the nine.
                                                                                                                                                    So they grunted in a yellow line.
                                                                                                                                                    Over in the ocean in their sea grass den,
                                                                                                                                                    lived an old father sea horse and his sea horses ten.
                                                                                                                                                    Flutter, said the father. We flutter, said the ten.
                                                                                                                                                    So they fluttered all around in their sea grass den…

                                                                                                                                                    ___________________________________

                                                                                                                                                    And the moons and the tigers persist. There was much joy when we discovered that Ligers actually do exist and weren’t something we had created merely for rhyming purposes. Who knew? This is some audio I recorded about three weeks ago, just as we woke up. Silvery Blue Moon Tiger Snackbox

                                                                                                                                                    ________________________

                                                                                                                                                    A large farting noise from Small Z.
                                                                                                                                                    Me: “Goodness. You are a stinker. What did your bum just say?”
                                                                                                                                                    She thought about it.
                                                                                                                                                    “It said… GO. TO. BED!!!!”
                                                                                                                                                    Me: “An excellent idea.”

                                                                                                                                                    ________________________

                                                                                                                                                    Her first ‘why’ question was about four months ago, as we were reading Possum Magic.
                                                                                                                                                    “What does ‘shrink’ mean?”
                                                                                                                                                    …and since then the questions tumble out like water. This morning it was colours while she was drawing with her pastels.
                                                                                                                                                    “What does green and yellow make? Ahhh. AVOCADO COLOUR!”

                                                                                                                                                    ________________________

                                                                                                                                                    There you go, Future Small Z. All those little snippets of the past five months or so that would otherwise be eaten by fatigue, the passing of time, or both. Of course, this is more for me than you… There are things I have already forgotten, and things I will remember later, but the most important thing is that there is a few bits and pieces here NOW. And a little part of me can relax and consider it captured in cyber-amber.

                                                                                                                                                    James. The red engine. Pimped.

                                                                                                                                                      An 80 Foot Whale

                                                                                                                                                        Nights like the last one have thankfully become few and far between, but coming on top of general whale-induced insomnia, it was particularly hard to take the screams for “PEACH AND WEET BICK” with much sympathy. And then there’s the first incidences of, um, shall we say, ‘elasticity with the truth’?

                                                                                                                                                        I suppose this comes with evolving as a human, but not until last night had I ever had Small Z tell me things that weren’t true. I mean saying, after she had used the potty with no issue, that she had to wee three more times… GROAN. And it’s not like my own bladder isn’t under strain. I find that getting vertical leads it to feel like it needs emptying, so she didn’t help… Needless to say I have now learnt my lesson and am happy to risk a wet bed.

                                                                                                                                                        Small Z has had it spelt out to her that there is no food in the night (unless there are extenuating circumstances). Usually she’ll do the yell for peach at about 2am and go back to sleep. Not last night. In the end we compromised on a bottle of cow’s milk. Which I went and got. Only to come back, have her sit up on my barely-there lap, and say, “I don’t want it.” At which point I nearly inserted it in her most handy orifice. Sigh.

                                                                                                                                                        All in all I was up out of bed about TEN times and was at the end of my rope. I got about four hours broken sleep. M came in at one point and I thought he was going to try and console Small Z (never a good idea) but instead he consoled me – and at that point I would have built the boat for him, I was so thankful. I even forgave him for asking me not to blog about Men Who Wee In Bottles. I suppose it’s a mothering given – that it’s rarely the the mama that gets the cuddles, because she’s usually dishing them out to the one who wants the WEET BICK.

                                                                                                                                                        Anyway, Small Z awoke this morning like a ray of sunshine and one of the first things she did was recite a poem from one of her favourite books Down In The Marvellous Deep.

                                                                                                                                                        “wouldn’t you love to be a whale and sail serenely by?
                                                                                                                                                        an 80 foot whale from the tip of your tail, and a tiny briny eye.
                                                                                                                                                        wouldn’t you love to wallow when nobody says ‘come out’?
                                                                                                                                                        wouldn’t you love to swallow, and blow all the brine about?
                                                                                                                                                        wouldn’t you love to be always clean?
                                                                                                                                                        and never have to wash, I mean,
                                                                                                                                                        wouldn’t you love to spout? oh yes!
                                                                                                                                                        a feather of spray as you sail away
                                                                                                                                                        and the rise and sink and rise and sink
                                                                                                                                                        and blow all the brine about
                                                                                                                                                        boom boom.”

                                                                                                                                                        In regard to elasticity with the truth, she has, of course, come up with interesting scenarios to explain certain things, but they have been so far-fetched that I somehow don’t feel that they count.

                                                                                                                                                        Me: Z, why did you get upset at Two Group the other day?

                                                                                                                                                        Z: Because I dropped a glass…TRAIN and it broke.

                                                                                                                                                        —-

                                                                                                                                                        Me: Z, how did you get that little cut on your chin?

                                                                                                                                                        Z: A Bengal piraña bit me. A REALLY big one.

                                                                                                                                                        Me: Right.

                                                                                                                                                        —-
                                                                                                                                                        Me: Z. WHY can’t you go to SLEEP?

                                                                                                                                                        Z: Because all the Tiggers in this house are bouncing too much.

                                                                                                                                                        Pinned

                                                                                                                                                          On Thursday, usually one of my work days, I sent M to The Very Large Catamaran, and Small Z and I went along to her ‘dance group’. This is somewhere she has been going with M for the past few weeks and really enjoys. It was bizarre.

                                                                                                                                                          It’s in a hall. There were about 50 little kids there with their mums (no dads) and the thing was run by grandparenty looking people. The audio was atrocious and the words to all the songs were projected on to a wall with one of those transparency projecting things they used to use (and maybe still do) at school. And it was Goddy. Despite all of that, the kids all thought it was EXCELLENT. Small Z loved it all, and I became adept at covering her ears when the old bloke with the microphone waved it too near the speaker *groan*

                                                                                                                                                          There were actions and dancing to all the songs. I could tell Small Z was used to having M there to swing her up in the air during certain bits, but she is pretty au fait with the fact that I’m not that mobile with her at the moment. We had a ball! And at the end they threw piles of skanky looking toys all over the floor and handed out free museli bars – what was not to like!!?

                                                                                                                                                          My other priority for the day was my second ever acupuncture appointment. I had my first last week and found it quite good, but I hadn’t planned on having Small Z around when I booked for the second stab. Anyway, the only way I knew I was going to swing it was if she slept, so I took off on an epic drive along the peninsula, stopping briefly at Shoreham beach.

                                                                                                                                                          She finally conked it as I got to Flinders. Again. This time I was not swayed by good parenting practices. I raced into a cafe that I was able to park straight out the front of, ordered some cheese sandwiches, an offensively large donut and a chai. And then raced back to eyeball the car until it was all ready to go. Then I went and sat in front of an exceptional view and disposed of the drink and the donut. God, it was therapeutic.

                                                                                                                                                          Donut and View

                                                                                                                                                          Small Z awoke too early and I did another brief circuit around the town to resettle her before coming back to my spot, cranking the seat back and trying to rest. Then we ate our sandwiches. It was lovely. I explained how I had to see a ‘leg doctor’ who was going to stick tiny needles in me, and did she think she could come and play quietly while I stayed like a motionless pincushion? She assured me that it would be fine.

                                                                                                                                                          We went to an op-shop on the way and invested in a picture book and yet another soft-toy Tigger, and thus equipped, went to see Travis the pin-pusher. It was no drama. He also has a two-and-a-half-year-old and at the end of the session, she helped him pull all the needles out of my hip. Obviously needle-phobia is not genetic (M).

                                                                                                                                                          I think that, while it was useful, acupuncture is going to now fall by the wayside for me, as I did a bit of dancing with Small Z the other night that has taken me back to the land of craptastic. I need a whizz-bang physio person for some hands-on massage. Or something…

                                                                                                                                                          Mission – failed

                                                                                                                                                            Saturday morning I became obsessed with going to Balnarring. M was unable to come with me as he was committed to go and pick up a $50 pram I’d bought on eBay, that was in… Pakenham. It had a toddler seat – which I have belatedly realised is imperative.

                                                                                                                                                            For so many years I have inwardly sneered at enormous looking children being pushed around in, er, enormous looking prams… but the first time I went around the block with Smalls D&Z in the late afternoon (*mistake*) sleep deprived Small Z made it three quarters of the way, and then became unbearable and floppy and had to ride the rest of the way semi-draped over my beloved Emmaljunga

                                                                                                                                                            Have I mentioned that parenting is a process of becoming more and more humble as karmic payback for being judgemental? Now I crave to have the option to push around my enormous child, just so she won’t be melting down on the footpath. And I’ll cheerfully ignore all those non-sleep deprived childfree people who may appear to be inwardly cringing…like I used to do. Ignorance is bliss. But I digress…

                                                                                                                                                            I got obsessed with going to Balnarring as the butcher there has excellent free-range meat and I have recently heard that Lilydale ‘free range’ chicken, that I’ve been buying at the supermarket, is really barely free-range at all. So I bundled both Smalls into the car and headed out. I took the Hug-a-Bub sling to transport Small D. And no pram. MISTAKE.

                                                                                                                                                            Once the car stopped when we got to the car park, Small D began to scream. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you will know that I have very little ability to cope with crying babies (not other peoples so much, but definitely my own). And particularly in cars where it’s impossible to comfort them. So I had to calm her down, while placating Small Z with a game on the iPhone, and then I had to do the origami that is putting on the sling because I hadn’t thought to bring the pram.

                                                                                                                                                            To cut a long story short, it was a nightmare. I couldn’t get Small Z to go with me where I needed to go. I got more and more stressed out as Small D wouldn’t settle. Then Small Z spied the library truck and had to go in. In fact, that gave me a chance to sit down and reconfigure myself. And after that, we crossed back to the car park and I told Small Z she had to hold it together – that we weren’t going to do all the things we had planned because I couldn’t cope, hadn’t brought a pram and I very much needed to go home.

                                                                                                                                                            To her credit, Small Z listened to me, and although she didn’t like it, she got in the car. I promised her that M would take her out later that day. I started driving home. Small D began screaming about halfway home. Honestly. There is not a more disturbing sound to me than a newborn screaming and not being able to do anything. Small Z whimpered when I snapped at her. At one stage we were all crying. By the time we got home I was a complete wreck. Small D was out of sorts for the rest of the day. Now I have car fear. Again.

                                                                                                                                                            After the hideous outing, we were lucky to have Mung come for dinner and stay the night – a fleeting visit, but appreciated for an injection of adult conversation and a window into the outside world. Small Z was quite thrilled to find that someone other than her nana had stayed in the caravan over night. She and M took Mung to the station before 9am the next morning, which was icing on the cake for the train obsessed!

                                                                                                                                                            Welcome...

                                                                                                                                                            Reshaping

                                                                                                                                                              I am valiantly trying to avoid a replay of Small Z’s issues when she was tiny. I have avoided dairy since Small D’s birth (with only one regrettable hiccup), almost given up on cloth nappies (despite the fact that the eco-disposables are making a hole in the credit card) and have been swaddling her to sleep for the past week or so.

                                                                                                                                                              Small D is just like Small Z, in that there is no way she will go off to sleep in an even slightly damp cloth nappy. I am sure changing Small Z’s nappy five or six times a night when she was tiny did not help her AT ALL in the sleep department….

                                                                                                                                                              My aim is simple. It is to have the most stress-free existence possible -for all of us, but particularly Small D and me, because it’s hard enough assimilating a new little one into our lives without added complications. But, oh gosh, I hope she learns to love the car…because Small Z hated it for her entire first year…when we lived in a place that, to go anywhere? We had to get in the car. Thank goodness we’ve moved to Hastings, where I can largely avoid ever using it…

                                                                                                                                                              After our miserable excursion to Balnarring the other day I had significant dread about the half hour drive to take Small Z to her preschool. It was not unfounded. I made sure that Small D was asleep when I put her in the car, but of course, there were roadworks and I had to stop the car for five minutes. And the screaming began…

                                                                                                                                                              Needless to say, we did not make it to preschool. After stopping at a fruit store to de-stress and get some strawberries, we turned around and headed home. Small D yelled most of the way back. Too. Fucking Hard. The thought of doing that once a week – driving 30 minutes each way for Small Z to go to preschool for a total of two hours, suddenly seemed both ridiculous and impossible.

                                                                                                                                                              When we got home I called up the preschool and withdrew her. Most importantly, she didn’t care. Her attendance has been up and down, and she has never completely settled into staying there alone despite our initial success. Such relief. I comforted myself with the thought that Small Z is only two and a half, and doesn’t ‘need’ to actually go anywhere at this point in time – I had just thought it would be good preparation for next year when she might attend proper three-year-old preschool. And that I could use a break…

                                                                                                                                                              I hope to find an alternative closer to home. Or not. There are no shortage of playgroups around here. I will see how we progress over the next month and ponder on how I am going to start working two days a week again in January. My brain feels squeezed. I’m going to investigate a few nearby childcare places and see what they’re like. The ideal scenario would be for her to go a day a week, or a couple of mornings with the aim of this becoming the norm by the time I start work again.

                                                                                                                                                              So it’s goodbye to Montessori for the moment, which is a bit disappointing – it was such a lovely space, with lovely people. But the degree of difficulty for me was too high. Pick your battles…

                                                                                                                                                              Dancing Queen


                                                                                                                                                                We went to the Somers Art Fair…

                                                                                                                                                                And so on…

                                                                                                                                                                  This morning, against all my better judgement, I walked with Small Z (on foot) and Small DB to the park, where playgroup was being held. I say against my better judgement because it was already a very hot day, it took us 40 minutes to get out of the house, and Small DB would not settle in the pram. I had been up every two hours the night before. By the time we got to the end of the street I’d had it. But Small Z wailed and begged, “But I want to go to playgroup. I WANT to go to playgroup…”

                                                                                                                                                                  I am so often hearing (from someone who will remain nameless) that Small Z does not socialise enough, and is not socially evolved for her age, so to hear her *begging* to go to playgroup made me not want to deny her the opportunity. “Daisy always makes us stay in the house,” she said reproachfully. And then reverted to “But I want to go to playgroup. I WANT to go to playgroup…” ad nauseum until I wanted to shake her.

                                                                                                                                                                  So Small DB wouldn’t settle and I had to put her in the sling on the side of the road while she yelled. And then we continued, sweating, at toddler pace, all the way to the park…

                                                                                                                                                                  Once there, the lady that runs the playgroup stood near us and asked me, in full hearing of Small Z, if I thought she would like an icy-pole. Gah.
                                                                                                                                                                  “Fine,” I said ungratefully over the top of Small Z’s head even as she began piping, “An icicle? I WANT an ICICLE!”
                                                                                                                                                                  “Only if they’re not RED,” I snarled. And then watched Small Z inhale her first ever lemonade icy-pole. It took under four minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                  Of course, there was no socialising for Small Z, because she’s not interested in any of the kids at playgroup, none of whom are her age. And there was no socialising for me, because I was focusing on keeping Small DB asleep after transferring her back into the pram. The playgroup socialising has become far more established since I last attended regularly and having a tiny baby that I have to concentrate on, as well as Small Z, makes it hard to participate in any lengthy conversation. There is a woman who lives around the corner from us who is lovely – what I SHOULD do is just ask her to come around with her kids one morning… I just haven’t yet got the gumption.

                                                                                                                                                                  Anyway, by the time I had found somewhere shady and fed Small DB, everyone seemed to have evaporated. Then Small Z climbed to the top of a pole and couldn’t get down, and I had to request a grandmother who was nearby to get her down so as to avoid stopping mid-feed. After another 20 minutes it was getting hellishly hot and I realised that I’d really been stupid to come out at that time of day. Small Z looked like a little beet under her hat…

                                                                                                                                                                  She threw a MAJOR tantrum as we I tried to start walking home because I wouldn’t go back with her to get some more flower petals from off the ground. Grrrr. By that time I had turned into one of those mother’s that I used to look at and think, “What a COW. What did she even HAVE children for if she doesn’t even LIKE them?” I was answering Small Z in monosyllables. She screamed all the way past the library. I am usually uncaring about public tantrums, but I was so hot and miserable, that when three people walked past and cooed in distress over the small screaming beetroot that was dragging itself along 15 paces behind me, I gave them a death stare that made one of them visibly stumble…

                                                                                                                                                                  Small Z then realised we had passed the library – where I had said we would go after play-bloody-group and redoubled her efforts. I finally made her agree to be QUIET and NOT MENTION THE FLOWER PETALS AGAIN on the proviso that we would go into the library for TEN MINUTES. Small DB had, thankfully, finally gone to sleep in the pram. In the library we found a book on the sale table that Small Z fell in love with – I had exactly a dollar twenty in my possession – which enabled us to buy it, and for me to photocopy her immunisation records – as I had become suddenly feverishly keen to get her started in child care as soon as humanly possible and they required copies.

                                                                                                                                                                  The walk home was long, hot, but untroubled. I won’t be doing it again in a hurry. Fuck the socialising. She can talk up a storm, and that will have to do for now. When we got home, I remembered something I had read - when you can’t cope anymore, put them in the bath! – so I did. She stayed in there for half an hour, cooling off, while I sat and began typing this entry with one hand, rocking the pram with the other. The girl from next door came in and we both shared a companionable rant, after which I felt even more improved…

                                                                                                                                                                  Until my doctor called me and said that my blood tests from Monday showed that my Vitamin D is again low and my iron is borderline. I SO did not need to hear it. Some days are TOO. FUCKING. HARD. And this was one of them. I’m glad it’s over. Gah.

                                                                                                                                                                  Last day of two…

                                                                                                                                                                    Small Z’s last day as a two-year-old. Gosh. We began with a scintillatingly timed visit to the Somerville Farmer’s Market. The timing was to do with a nap for Small DB – and it all would have gone swimmingly… had the market actually been on. However we then drove to Balnarring instead on the quest for decent fruit and vegetables, and things were a little dicey.

                                                                                                                                                                    It was hot. Small DB did not sleep, and clocked in three hours of awake time – the longest so far in her little life. I became exhausted from carrying her in the sling…and then she finally did slumber, so I had to keep going with it until she got in her regulation 40 minutes. On the positive side, we were in the car and leaving (much to the disgust of Small Z) when we saw that there were people crawling over the op-shop. There was a SALE.

                                                                                                                                                                    We went in and purchased a new summer wardrobe for Small Z (at fifty cents a piece), M got some work clothes, Small DB some odds and sods and we also got a screw-in base fitting for my retro beach umbrella. Scoresville. Small Z holds fond dreams of being three. She has been requesting a ‘Henry’ cake for the past year – Henry being the number three train in Thomas the Tank Engine land.

                                                                                                                                                                    Tomorrow she is to go on a train ride with immediate family plus her nana and T. We’re keeping this year low key, as we are in tantrum-land – particularly when it comes to sharing toys and space. She’s already had her life changed by the arrival of her small sister, and I think she is not keen to give any more ground. So it will be an intimate gathering – and she will undoubtedly be happier that way!

                                                                                                                                                                    Last day as 2-year-old

                                                                                                                                                                    Small Z is THREE!

                                                                                                                                                                      Dear Small Z,
                                                                                                                                                                      You turned three today. You’ve done a HEAP of evolving in your short time on the planet: you have learnt the basics – to walk, to talk (and talk, and talk, and talk), to sing, to dance, to climb and swing – but you have also learnt your numbers, the alphabet, and appear to have a memory like a steel trap.

                                                                                                                                                                      After three or so months of having a new baby sister, you’ve finally realised that things are going to be different forever, and so we have been having some days that don’t go too well. I think that because you have lost our sole attention, and because I often have to put you on the sidelines to look after Small DB, any other intrusions on your space are not well recieved.

                                                                                                                                                                      For this reason we thought that your birthday would be a good time for you to have the whole day to yourself. I asked who you wanted to come, and although you originally requested Elijah – this changed to ‘just Nana’. So we went with that. And you had an awesome day! A trip on the Mornington steam train, with us and your nana and T.

                                                                                                                                                                      All bound for Mornington...many miles away

                                                                                                                                                                      A small picnic afterwards and some time in the playground. A ride home in nana’s new car all on your own, followed by the cake you had been requesting for a year – a ‘Henry’ cake. (Henry, in case you have forgotten, is the number three train from Thomas the Tank Engine. I was proud that you referred to me as Henry for a few months a little while back – your dad was Gordon – the fastest train on Sodor.)

                                                                                                                                                                      It was so great for you to have a day All About You. Your dad gave you a spoon and free reign on your cake. Thank goodness you were pretty full by that point, and didn’t go too crazy. For a kid whose life does not involve lollies, I thought you were quite restrained. You scored a little CD player to play music and audiobooks, a lava lamp, a bouncy ball that you sit on and jump around, a bug catcher home, some books and some paints with painting tools.

                                                                                                                                                                      A few days later Christmas and birthday gifts turned up from Small Brother – a huge plush bee called ‘Bing’ and FOUR awesome books with CDs. The same mail brought two books from our lovely friends in Emerald, one of which had a CD in it. Too cool. These are great for me to put on for you while I’m trying to get Small DB to sleep.

                                                                                                                                                                      Ah Small Z, you are in so many ways super-savvy for a just-turned-three-year-old that sometimes I forget that you are still SO LITTLE!! You are going to have an awesome 2011 – we’re all still shaking down into our new shape as a four person family – but it’s a good shape.

                                                                                                                                                                      A big fat squashy hug from me.
                                                                                                                                                                      I love you. From my very biased standpoint, I think you’re the best three-year-old ever!
                                                                                                                                                                      xxx
                                                                                                                                                                      Mama

                                                                                                                                                                      Childcare and the drug of a nation

                                                                                                                                                                        The childcare thing is just not working out for me. The Montessori experiment did not suceed due to a combination of Small Z and the distance involved in getting there. They also expected her to be ready for four short days or two full days once she turned three (i.e. now) and it is blindingly obvious to me that it would not have gone well…

                                                                                                                                                                        And the childcare place around the corner? Small Z started there a month and half ago, twice a week, a few hours each time. I built her up to four hours, probably too quickly, and had to go back to leaving her for about an hour and a half. As well as staying there for ten to 15 minutes when I first dropped her off. In retrospect, she enjoyed it when it was new and interesting to her, but this quickly waned.

                                                                                                                                                                        I picked her up after lunch on one of the days that she stayed the longest, and she was doing a painting at an easel. About four of the other kids were engaged in some creative activity. And the other 15 or so were WATCHING TELEVISION. Maybe I’m a bit naive, but I thought that was odd. Do all childcare centres have televisions? Am I weird to think that it’s weird?

                                                                                                                                                                        “It’s so funny,” said one of the carers, as she saw me looking at the TV. “I just could not make Small Z look away from the TV. She was totally fixated! I actually had to stand in front of her, block it from her sight, and ask if she wanted to do a painting. And she did!”

                                                                                                                                                                        “Well…” I said, feeling like a hippy, and wondering why I felt like apologising for what I was about to say, “We don’t have a television at home. So Small Z has never really sat down in front of one before. She watches a few things on YouTube and iView but… How much TV do they watch here?”

                                                                                                                                                                        She looked at me like I was a bizarre relic. “Um, not more than half an hour – just while we’re cleaning the lunch things away and mopping the floor. How do you feel about that?”

                                                                                                                                                                        “I suppose that if that’s the way you do things, and Small Z is coming here, then it’s not too much drama. But I’d be happier if you could get her doing something else, like painting, instead. If it’s possible.”

                                                                                                                                                                        If Small Z had been happy there, the TV thing would not have been a big issue. I was prepared to live with it – particularly as I hoped to drop her there early and pick her up immediately after her lunch. However. Each time I took her she would cry or nearly cry and say, “But I don’t want to go, but I don’t WANT TO GO.” And I had to wheedle her there, thinking that she would like it once she was inside and involved in some activitiy.

                                                                                                                                                                        But she didn’t so much like it as tolerate it. It began making me feel revolting as I would conspire with the carers to convince her she was going to have a great time. I sat down with her on a few occasions and asked her what she didn’t like about it. “The shopping,” she stated, somewhat obliquely, “And Daisy.” It took me a little while to realise that whenever I left I either said I had to go shopping or go home and feed Daisy.

                                                                                                                                                                        When my mum asked her if she had a friend at childcare, she said “Nikki.” My mother thought that was lovely. Until I told her that Nikki was one of the carers. D’oh.

                                                                                                                                                                        Last week I left her there again. Again under duress. As I walked up toward the building 90 minutes later to pick her up I heard her outside out the back crying, “Where’s my mama?” It broke my heart. She is sad there. She is bored there. I am going to figure out some other way to get my work done. Because to me, it’s just not worth the battles with her and I don’t feel comfortable leaving her somewhere that she’s not happy being.

                                                                                                                                                                        An alternative I’d been keen on was family daycare. A woman in our local area had been recommended to us by three different people. I called her and M, the Smalls and I went over to meet her. We walked in the front door. Looked to our right. And saw four small children slumped on the couch in front of a huge plasma screen. M and I sneaked a look at each other.

                                                                                                                                                                        In my opinion, kids under two should not watch any TV. And those who are in the first few years over two should watch maybe half an hour or so. There’s a bit of information about this here. A couple of the kids there were definitely under two. Anyway. We were there, and had to go through the whole charade. I was still interested in knowing how it all worked – maybe if it was all great, then I could just deal with the TV thing, or pick up Small Z early.

                                                                                                                                                                        But there was just something about the house that didn’t sit well with me. Regardless of the television thing – there was no ZING to the place. Despite there being little kids there every day, and the woman having littlies herself, there was minimal evidence of much FUN. The playroom had lots of neatly stacked plastic toys. Small Z went for a toy turtle, until the woman handed her a doll, took her over to the dollhouse, and explained that she could ‘sit the dolly on the couch in front of the TV’. M and I choked in silence.

                                                                                                                                                                        In the conversation that followed, I asked about how much television the kids would ordinarily watch and was told that they were allowed to pick out one of the DVDs there and watch for an hour while she had her lunch and cleaned up. (This seems to be a theme.) On the other hand, Small Z appeared to like it there, and she liked the woman who ran it. However, it seemed to me that the business side of things (i.e. the income) outweighed the fun side of things.

                                                                                                                                                                        Both different sets of parents I know that send their kids to this particular family daycare have lovely kids, and are happy with the service. Obviously I am feeling a bit like a latte sipping television nazi, but I can’t understand why these people feel the need to use TV as a babysitting tool. Isn’t that their job?

                                                                                                                                                                        If this woman had had some mobiles hanging from the ceiling, some paintings hung up to dry and had told me the kids would watch Play School every afternoon while she had a cup of tea, I would have had no issue with it. But she and I just inhabit different planets. It would never have occurred to her that I might object to Small Z sitting in front of the TV for an hour. Because for her, it’s not an issue.

                                                                                                                                                                        So when I called her and said that I couldn’t take the place that she had offered Small Z and she asked why, I said that it didn’t fit in with the time that my mum could come and look after Small DB. I didn’t want to raise the issue with her, because what would be the point?

                                                                                                                                                                        And yet again I’m envious of our lovely friends up on the North Coast of NSW, where (despite being very watery at present, and hotter than I like) there seems to be a few more options for kids who have parents with similar ideas to me. More freaks in one place. I think I’d find it comforting.

                                                                                                                                                                        Yesterday Small Z and I were in the supermarket carpark; from there we could see all the hats of all the kids that go to childcare (she called it ‘three group’).

                                                                                                                                                                        “So,” I said, conversationally, “Do you want to go back to threegroup?”

                                                                                                                                                                        “Yeah!” she said.

                                                                                                                                                                        “You do?”

                                                                                                                                                                        “Yeah! I want to go back to threegroup. And get my hat. And then go again.”

                                                                                                                                                                        “No worries. I think that’s what we’ll do.”

                                                                                                                                                                        —-
                                                                                                                                                                        Television, The Drug of the Nation – Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

                                                                                                                                                                        Heated

                                                                                                                                                                          One of those hot summer days where it didn’t get unbearable until after lunchtime. We spent some time in the garden during the morning. Small Z had some blue gloop…

                                                                                                                                                                          A hot summer's morning
                                                                                                                                                                          She looks like an extra from Avatar

                                                                                                                                                                          You say tomato…

                                                                                                                                                                            Just after Small DB was born, M and Small Z went to a church fete. And as well as picking up a swing set for forty dollars, M also got a whole stack of seedlings for about five bucks. There was bok choy, some leeks, and many many tomatoes. They planted the lot. We ate the bok and the leeks. And waited…

                                                                                                                                                                            We now have more tomatoes than we know what to do with!! And I have found myself feeling somewhat zen – twice in the last four or five afternoons I have taken Small DB out with me and fossicked for tomatoes. It is REALLY like hunting for Easter Eggs (minus the chocolate – which is fine by me, because those little Easter Eggs are always cacky cheapass milk chocolate…)

                                                                                                                                                                            Yesterday I chopped up a bucketful of tomatoes for the second time and chucked them in the slow cooker with some red wine and fried up garlic. The slow cooker, although not in season, is the fatigue-laden person’s friend – because stuff HARDLY EVER BURNS! Even when you forget it. Awesome! So I had that bubbling away, and then I went out on the hunt, passing by Small Z who was standing like a small thrilled monkey, in her very first ‘treehouse’….

                                                                                                                                                                            Tree house!!

                                                                                                                                                                            Small DB and I proceeded into the weird fenced off (for dogs we don’t have) section of the garden. It’s good for keeping the paddle pool in – there’s a gate. M has noticed lately that Small DB becomes very chilled when you lay her down outside on a rug, leaving her little feet and hands able to touch the grass. So that’s what I did.

                                                                                                                                                                            Have I mentioned that M neglected to ever stake the tomato plants? His method of gardening is kind of ‘if it doesn’t grow untended…let it perish’. So the tomato plants have gone totally apeshit. Helped along by being directly on the other side of the fence from the pile of lawn clippings M has been making for almost a year. The thing is, you have to assume ‘mission impossible’ style yoga positions to extract the fruit without crushing the plants…

                                                                                                                                                                            Secret tomatoes
                                                                                                                                                                            Tomatoes in the grass!!

                                                                                                                                                                            I have to reach my leg over to balance. One foot on the fence, and one on tippy toes trying not to squash anything important. And then I chuck the tomatoes out behind me, trying not to hit Small DB by accident. I got another bucketful…and she was happy…

                                                                                                                                                                            My mother picked a bucketload...

                                                                                                                                                                            The bug

                                                                                                                                                                              Small Z woke up with what looked like a black eye. She has constant eyebags due to the nap she stopped taking at the age of two, but this was quite pronounced. Our doctor is near our old house and impossible to see at short notice (unless your two week old baby is jaundiced and the MCHN is concerned *sigh*) – there are two medical practices around here, and one is not taking new patients – and the other one could not see her anytime soon.

                                                                                                                                                                              Convenient, no? Anyway, after calling about four other places getting further and further away, I found one in Somerville that would see her. Myself, Mum, Small Z and Small DB all piled into the car and went along. The car was warm, as it had been in the sun and Small Z got hot, as she had her cardigan on. We took it off when we arrived.

                                                                                                                                                                              We saw the doctor. I gave a potted history of Small Z. Normal everything – woke up and couldn’t walk – normal – normal. That’s basically it.

                                                                                                                                                                              “Ah,” said the doctor.

                                                                                                                                                                              I gave a small shriek, grabbed Small Z, and brushed a cockroach the size of a mouse off the back of her trouser leg. The doctor did not blink.

                                                                                                                                                                              “Probably a virus. Her cheeks are flushed. I’ll take a look at her eyes, ears and throat.”

                                                                                                                                                                              I kept trying to point out the black eye scenario. She looked for a nanosecond into Small Z’s gob and said ‘a bit red’. She looked into her eyes and into her ears. All fine. Again she said, ‘probably a virus’ and handed me a prescription for antibiotics. Right. Because antibiotics fix viruses.

                                                                                                                                                                              To be fair, she said to use it if she wasn’t better in a few days, but Small Z was there for the BLACK EYE. Gah. Anyway, what with the cockroach and the communication issues, we shall continue doctor shopping. The eye thing was gone in the morning.

                                                                                                                                                                              The first full day

                                                                                                                                                                                I say ‘first full day’ because it was Small Z’s first full length session of three year old kindergarten yesterday. For the first two weeks they have the kids there in half groups (so Small Z was with eight others) for an hour and a half. Yesterday it got serious and was the regular 9am until 11.30am session. With all the kids.

                                                                                                                                                                                Many of the them had never been in such a situation before, but there were apparently no tears. Small Z was sanguine as Small DB and I left. I didn’t say anything like, “I’m just going shopping and will be back soon.” I said, “Bye! We’ll come and pick you up when it’s home time!”
                                                                                                                                                                                And walked out the gate.

                                                                                                                                                                                Admittedly she has been left places before – the Montessori school and the child care centre. Neither being successful. But this was different. And it felt different for me. Since she hit THREE she has pulled together a new kind of sassy self confidence. This doesn’t always translate to social situations i.e. if there’s only one other kid there and they are kind of in her face, but in a group scenario where everyone is engaged in activities? She’s into the swing of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                I think she likes the structure of kindergarten. She’s not bored. Everyone is the same age. And there are many activities to do. The two teachers are awesome – a bit older, lots of fun, but you can tell that they will also lay down the law.

                                                                                                                                                                                We were told at orientation that if any kid has chocolate, chips or lollies in their lunchbox that the offending article would be thrown away. I quote: “Please don’t put those things in your child’s lunch, because when we throw them away they tend to cry.” Ha! I love it.

                                                                                                                                                                                I Painted a Sea Urchin. Small Z.

                                                                                                                                                                                When I picked up Small Z she gave me a huge hug, showed me her artwork, and ran all the way home next to the pram. She was chilled out and very proud of herself when I told her that she had stayed for a whole proper session.

                                                                                                                                                                                First full day of kindergarten. Done.

                                                                                                                                                                                When we got home, she worked for at least half an hour on her own making ‘Petal Soup’. Which was awesome because I had one of the most difficult days with Small DB that I’ve had to date. Largely to do with her teething and her nap being interrupted by kindergarten committments. I could not believe how chilled out and self sufficient Small Z was for the rest of the day!

                                                                                                                                                                                Petal Soup

                                                                                                                                                                                The way home

                                                                                                                                                                                  Op Shop Loot. And progress?

                                                                                                                                                                                    I think today I had a taste of how lovely things can be with two Small People when Things Go Right.

                                                                                                                                                                                    About a month or two ago, Small DB turned into the Automobile Antichrist. A major blow to me, as I thought I had got myself a car-friendly baby *sob*. So yeah – anywhere that takes longer than 20 minutes or so is disastrous. My fingers are crossed that this might change.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I have, therefore, not taken her anywhere in the car for ages. Today I drove to Balnarring. I have tried a couple of times to go there with the two Smalls on my own. There have been meltdowns and spasms. But today? Today was just awesome.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Small Z behaved like a saint. We went to the op-shop on the proviso that she would get ONE thing. And here’s where the odd coincidence happened. [Prepare yourself for tangential warbling... ] Four months or so ago we went to E&D’s house and Small Z saw they had a toy seahorse that glowed and played music. She was captivated. I saw that Small O had some very cool things by Manhattan Toys – and I was captivated (on behalf of Small DB).

                                                                                                                                                                                    I then, as Small Z kept referring back to the seahorse over the weeks that followed, started investing in the idea that if she had one, she would wake at night, hug it, and drift sweetly back to sleep, lulled by it’s soft song, luminous glow, and gurgly water noises. Obviously, I am an idiot. However, I got online. Both the seahorse and the Manhattan Toys toy were $30 apiece. So I went to Amazon, where they were $13 and $10 each and had them sent to Small Brother. Dramas about shipping costs then ensued, and they arrived a few months later.

                                                                                                                                                                                    But the point of all of the above is that I SHOULD HAVE WAITED. If I hadn’t bothered with the seahorse and the cool baby toy (which neither of them give a toss about) I would have been rewarded by what I found at the op shop today. A Gloworm toy – which does exactly what the bloody seahorse does. And a Manhattan Toy thing. They were twenty. cents. each. *clutches head*

                                                                                                                                                                                    Anyway, as well as those fated objects, the Smalls got a cardigan each, M got a pair of trousers, I got a scarf, the caravan got a double bed sheet, Small Z got some boots and Small DB got some stacking blocks and a basket which will become her Treasure Basket – something that I read about in Barefoot Magazine and again online, here.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Op Shop Loot

                                                                                                                                                                                    We went and bought Small Z an apple, and me a sausage roll. I took Small Z across to the park. Small DB travelled on my back, and slept there for an hour. Although it is a bit exhausting carrying her, being free of a pram (which she will not sleep in) and having my hands free was excellent. It’s been a-g-e-s since Small Z and I have had fun at a park. I think it was this that really made me feel like juggling the two of them is starting to come together for me (watch it all fall asunder now that I’ve jinxed it).

                                                                                                                                                                                    We wandered over under the pine trees and Small Z found Small DB a pinecone, and then found one for herself. She occupied herself picking berries from a tree for ages. We meandered back to the grocery shop, scored some eggs, rhubarb, plums, mandarins… Then went to the butcher. And finally to a cafe, where Small DB woke up and we sat on a couch reading Where The Wild Things Are as the tail end (i.e. best bit of) The Blues Brothers played soundlessly on a large screen.

                                                                                                                                                                                    The lack of stress involved astounded me, which is why I wanted to record it here. We got home without a screamfest, and found that our vegies had been delivered… The coloured carrots look amazing…

                                                                                                                                                                                    Coloured carrots!

                                                                                                                                                                                    I had the bright idea of taking all the potatoes I wanted to peel for soup outside into the garden. We all sat in the sun, and the two Smalls were thrilled – Small Z used twigs to give her potato arms, while Small DB was charmed by all the peelings and the different shaped spuds. Kept them occupied for an unnaturally long time. A win!

                                                                                                                                                                                    Spuds.

                                                                                                                                                                                    My mum is special because…

                                                                                                                                                                                      I picked Small Z up from kindergarten yesterday, and got this (as we were away last week). I almost inhaled in during my resulting hysteria.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2011-05-14 10:22:22 +0000

                                                                                                                                                                                      If you can’t read it properly, the immortal words are:
                                                                                                                                                                                      MY MUM IS SPECIAL BECAUSE: She cleans the floor sometimes.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Yep.
                                                                                                                                                                                      That’s me. I’m not special because I breastfed her for two years, or keep her clothes clean, or help her make cupcakes. Nope. It’s all about occasional domestic hygiene.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Colander art

                                                                                                                                                                                        I will post here about what a really lovely day we had on Friday, and not mention the godawful afternoon we had on Saturday. (Oops – it just slipped out, my tiny vent.) But anyway, I began Friday with the intention of being PATIENT and SLOWER. I find myself racing around for entire days just constantly either cleaning up crud, doing endless washing/dishes/sweeping/cooking…

                                                                                                                                                                                        I set up Small Z with painting and gave her a whole lot of toilet rolls to daub, with the aim of doing this with them. I don’t know that this will eventuate as they are now her little toys to play with. Anyway – this was a success, and I made a small quiet resolution to try and be more proactive about setting up Things To Do.

                                                                                                                                                                                        And in that vein I introduced the idea of a colander sculpture – something that I also saw over at TinkerLab. (I have been finding lots of amazing sites lately and will post a list of them separately some time this week.)

                                                                                                                                                                                        Of course, Small Z went about it in a way that had never occurred to me. I assumed she would go for a porcupine kind of approach, but no – it was all about bending them in a certain way….

                                                                                                                                                                                        making a colander sculpture

                                                                                                                                                                                        …but this did mean that the end result was cool from both the top…

                                                                                                                                                                                        colander sculpture top

                                                                                                                                                                                        …and the bottom.

                                                                                                                                                                                        inside the colander

                                                                                                                                                                                        “It’s a carnival ride for three-year-olds and zeros!” she chirped, “For Daisy and me!!”

                                                                                                                                                                                        Oklahoma Hot Cross Buns

                                                                                                                                                                                          Party Down

                                                                                                                                                                                            Today, Small Z went to her friend’s third birthday party. She lives in the next street over – so the whole getting ready thing was a breeze. We wandered over just after midday.

                                                                                                                                                                                            On the way to the party

                                                                                                                                                                                            There was just Small Z, the party girl and one other friend who also goes to our playgroup. The rest of the guests were just family. It was a day of unexpected sunshine.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Of course, the small ones had to play dress ups…some of the pictures turned our blurry, but I kind of like it…

                                                                                                                                                                                            At the party...
                                                                                                                                                                                            At the party...

                                                                                                                                                                                            And being able to walk home from someone’s house is always a crazy bonus for us! Anyone else we know is an hour’s drive away…

                                                                                                                                                                                            Kite

                                                                                                                                                                                              Yesterday Small Z and I made a kite. We were inspired by a episode of Play School, where Big Ted goes kite flying. I looked outside and it was very windy. It took quite a bit of googling to come up with a non-daunting design that she and I could do together, but I found one at instructables.com. The instructions weren’t as straightforward as they could have been, but we muddled through.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Small Z coloured in our kite piece of paper before we made it, so it wasn’t just plain white. We took it down to the wide open spaces at the end of our street. It worked beautifully! And it was windy enough that it would stay up for quite a while, allowing Small Z to run along and fly it… Here’s a little video. Sorry about the wind noise. And I had Small DB in the sling and she’s chattering away…

                                                                                                                                                                                              Food

                                                                                                                                                                                                It is such a relief to me when I find a food thing – a recipe – or just an edible invention that Small Z likes and I know can become a staple for a while. My repertoire in the kitchen is not large, and my Small Z repertoire is even less so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Her staples? Roasted chicken drumsticks, baked potato chips, what she calls “Jen’s Trees” – which is broccoli with olive oil, salt, butter and a squeeze of lemon juice (thanks Jen!), sweetcorn, brown rice with soy sauce, mashed potatoes, fried brown rice with chicken, soy sauce and peas in it, um… tiny roo burgers with secret spinach mixed through, cous cous with tuna and peas through it…oh – and when we’re feeling moneyed, she gets flathead tails.

                                                                                                                                                                                                That’s it. I have belatedly realised that she eats no other coloured vegetables. Just broccoli and peas. Won’t do carrots (even when cooked in OJ), red capsicum or cucumber. Actually, she will do sweet potato and/or pumpkin if she is very hungry. But mostly? It’s brown rice and chicken all the way. Occasionally a lamb chop – but I am anti-lamb in the same way that I am anti-calf (veal). And she won’t do spag bol. Tomato is only acceptable in sauce form – or on a rice cake with tuna.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I am always looking for easy things to adopt and try. The other day on Play School they were doing seasons, and for spring – they made Vietnamese spring rolls. Small Z was rather enchanted with this idea, so when we did our weekly shop we got some rice paper, cucumber and snow pea shoots.

                                                                                                                                                                                                On Tuesday we made them. I realised that she wasn’t going to go for the red capsicum, cucumber, corriander, carrot ones I was assembling. So I improvised. I had some of those vermicelli noodles in the cupboard and some already made brown rice in the fridge (our staple, if you hadn’t noticed). She loved the brown rice, avocado, snow pea and mint combo. And the same again but with the brown rice swapped for noodles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                It was a great way to do her vegies for dinner (our rule is at least One Green Thing). Two big spring rolls plus the required two chicken drumsticks and she was good to go. I’m going to have another attempt at them this week. They are a bit time consuming to make, but I think if I have all the things sliced up and ready, it should cut it down timewise…

                                                                                                                                                                                                We made spring rolls!

                                                                                                                                                                                                wordless wednesday : swingset!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Too Much Information

                                                                                                                                                                                                    M was in the library with the Smalls yesterday while I was working. He said Small DB was happily pulling books from every conceivable shelf and throwing them asunder. Small Z was browsing a few shelves along in the bigger kid section. M was reading when Small Z’s little voice began to filter into his consciousness…

                                                                                                                                                                                                    …and in order to make a baby the man and the woman love each other very much. They lie close together. The man puts his penis PENIS! – it says PENIS! into the woman’s va-GINA. Vagina. VAGINA! They have sex…

                                                                                                                                                                                                    It was these last three words that sent M springing into action. He had been standing, mouth open unable to move, but the sound of his three-and-a-half year old reading the word ‘sex’ aloud gave him wings. He flew around the shelves and tried to distract her, but she gave him the book and said, “Can you read this to me from the very start?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                    M said he flailed about at bit and eventually convinced her that it was time to go somewhere important (like the park). It’s lucky that he heard her at all really, his hearing is fairly shot from all those years of rawk and roll…

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Just a day

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Today was curiously smooth. Small DB woke up chilled out and happy. I took Small Z to kindergarten and then whizzed into the library and got an hour and a half of work done before heading home to convince Small DB to nap. Mum went and collected Small Z.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Small DB slept. Resettled her twice and she clocked TWO HOURS. Unheard of. Thus I got way more work done than normal and actually feel satisfied with what I achieved.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sent off a parcel of completed files, got both Smalls to bed by 6.30pm, threw self together a dinner of calamari and roasted vegetables… Sat in front of The Slap, when I was disturbed by a little mouse…

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Someone can't sleep

                                                                                                                                                                                                      She has come out of her room after bedtime of her own accord about five times in two years. It just doesn’t seem to occur to her. This time she said, “I need to wee…and can I have some secret staying up time with you?” So here we sit. I type, and she’s snugged next to me reading The Little Cat Baby and Russell and the Lost Treasure. She still can’t say her R’s properly, so it’s actually Wussell and the Lost Tweasure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have just realised I am going to have no work for five weeks over Christmas, and no income. Usually this sort of thing is covered by my tax return, but this year that barely exists. I have decided to start worrying about that tomorrow… Right now? I have half a small bottle of cider left in the fridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Discombobulation with a patch of calm

                                                                                                                                                                                                        A storm woke Small Z at around 4am this morning. I do not exaggerate – the rain sounded like we were underneath a waterfall. A very large one. It was the first night in forever I had told M to sleep in the caravan because I’m sick of the mattress on the floor in Small Z’s room. I had to go in to her, Small DB immediately awoke, and I had to bring Small Z into the big bed with us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Small DB was inordinately delighted. “Doh! Doh!” She was, of course, too excited to go back to sleep. ‘Doh’ is her version of my nickname for Small Z – ‘Dodie-Doh’. Small Z finally lapsed back into slumber, but myself and the other Small tried vainly for more rest. We were up before 6am – I hit the pool before the hour was out, and had the lane to myself for my efforts…

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The day was studded with meltdowns from a tired Small Z. Highlights included her shrieking, “I don’t want you as my mama ANYMORE. I COMPLETELY don’t want you as my mama!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was eyerolling to myself in another room, thinking that this must be some kind of milestone. At least I have the other Small one to hero-worship me for another year or so…

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Then there was the one where she wouldn’t let go of the sequinned headband in the shop and I had to abandon Small DB, prise it from her hands as she screamed and went boneless like some kind of invertebrate. That was invigorating for us all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        A patch of calm in our day was our first foray into the 30 Days Hands On Play that I’ve been reading about at The Imagination Tree. They suggest the play – and you play too! For a minimum of 15 minutes. And it’s all led by the kid.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I thought the suggestion of playdough would extract a huge yawn from Small Z, as for quite a while it was the go-to thing to get out when… when I could think of nothing better. But that was a few months ago. I got out the luridly green, glitter flecked stuff that we had made a while back, and some ribbon, pipecleaners, lavender, springy-eggcups, lego, garlic press…

                                                                                                                                                                                                        We loved it. I sat and dabbled. She did the same. Until using the eggcup turned her playdough into spirally mountainous ice-cream shapes. Which led to her setting up her own little ice-cream ‘shop’ and having a zillion different flavour combination

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fifteen minutes was easy – and then I had a phone call. Small Z kept going with it for about an hour! Hooray for us! But so, sooo tired am I at the end of the day. (But not as grumpy as I was two nights ago, when I’d upset Small Z and she said to me, in all seriousness, “Take a deep breath mama, take a deep breath.” Just like I tell her to do. So I did.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Role out the barrel…

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Small Z is OBSESSED with role playing. Dear god it is wearing. In no particular order this week I have been newborn baby Harriet, a dead dinosaur, Zoe’s dead bones in a museum, Small DB being born in a gale, Tiger the kitten…oh, and one of my favourites – BornMama.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          As well as her current obsession with death, Small Z loves the elements. Cyclones, tornados and volcanos are her specialty. She asked M whether we had tornados in Australia, and was told that cyclones were far more frequent AND…[cue: tapdancing extra knowledge quiz music] were named after people

                                                                                                                                                                                                          “For instance,” I chimed in helpfully, “The year I was born Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          “OK,” said Small Z, in thrilled tones, “You be BornMama and I’ll be Cyclone Tracy. The Very Very Friendly Cyclone.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          We sat and gazed beatifically at each other for a few moments in our new guises, until I said,

                                                                                                                                                                                                          “Gah!? Gaaaah! Cyclone-gah?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          “Hi!” said Cyclone Tracy excitedly, “I’m a HUGE wind! A huge FRIENDLY wind! Do you want to ride in the wind, BornMama?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          —–
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yesterday morning she lay in bed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          “Mama, I’m dead Zoe bones and you are a collector trying to find them for a museum. I’m the LAST ZOE.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I hunted vainly about before discovering her on the bed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          “Oh my god! Zoe bones!! The last Zoe and I found them! Quick! To the Museum!!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I later heard her playing a similar game with M, but he was cast as a recalcitrant dinosaur trying to take the dead-Zoe bones from the museum. Small Z was a guard who said, “No! Stop! Zoe’s bones belong in the museum so all the kids can see them. Don’t take them Dinosaur!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          ——-
                                                                                                                                                                                                          She came home this afternoon following M into the kitchen. I could hear them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          “And who else Dadda? Who else in your family is dead? What other ones? What are their names?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                          We are trying to be gently honest and very simple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Bubbly Bubble Swim…

                                                                                                                                                                                                            We have a fish and a half. The fish is a goldfish. Rotund, from the three tetra neon fish that it ate a few months back, leaving him Cannibal King of the Tank. The half? A small, scared greyish black fish that a week ago began lying on the bottom of the tank. Apparently he has swim bladder disease.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Big fat gold cannibal is called Swimmington. Smaller greyish black one is called Bubbly Bubble Swim. Despite his triple-barrelled name, he continues to look timid, as you would if sharing your confinement with a cannibal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It took Small Z four days to notice the plight of Bubbly Bubble Swim. I was worried she might be upset at the sight. I came out last night and found her speaking to him affectionately:

                                                                                                                                                                                                            “Dear Bubbly Bubble Swim, you are the best and most beautiful fish in the world. I love you up to the crust of the Earth. Dear and lovely little grey tummied fish…”

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I looked at her. Was she going to mention that he was lying on the bottom of the tank, flapping a little too gently? It seemed not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            M, who diagnosed Bubbly Bubble Swim’s ailment, kept telling me that it was not terminal – that fish can recover. To this effect, he cleaned out the tank. This morning, he was swimming around valiantly. On his side. Small Z was elated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            “Mama! Bubbly Bubble Swim isn’t so sleepy today. He slept all yesterday, but now he’s awake!.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                            We will see what transpires. I just googled Swim Bladder Disease – apparently it can be remedied with peas. Of course!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Boxing Day: Loch 2011

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Boxing Day. My Dad is, it seems, happy to sit out on Christmas. We usually attempt to descend on him the day after, hopefully with Small Brother in tow. He is here this year for a scant nine days, but just slots into everything with a comforting normality: washing up, occupying the baby, heckling M…

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I got on a bus this morning In Tooradin with Small DB. I was tempted to stay in the car and drive the extra 40 minutes to Loch, but was glad I did not. Small DB went to sleep immediately on the bus, which winded its way through all the greeness… far more soothing that trying to entertain the baby whose mouth is a warzone…four teeth on their way through.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Small Z and M are in the Merc pulling the caravan and Small Brother is leading in the brown Datsun…
                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Datsun & Merc - on their way

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ah! Homemade croissants and strong tea greeted us. I was comforted because I had been walking the streets at 6.45am and drinking the only tea Hastings had to offer – something called ‘Paddington’ – it did taste a bit more like bear than tea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              We have now been here for about six hours and have lunched. M has imbibed an irritating amount of expensive champagne and is now, as I type, high up in a black wattle tree with a bow saw talking with loud animation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Dad and Small Brother (their plans to chainsaw more wood for winter derailed by Small DB asleep in the caravan) are giving him direction, and Small Z has climbed up a stack of something and is bleating for help. I sit, here in my caravan, with the breeze creeping through the door, feeling relatively content. I will now away to my Kindle and see what it can do!
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Longest nap of the year - pretty much

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Top of the heap...

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Before the Four

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Back to the Crib Point Pool this morning. M came along and wrangled Smalls while I did my laps. What is WRONG with the people around here? There were about six other people and that was it. Which is all very good for me – I had a lane to myself; but surely there are other people who adore old-school outdoor pools?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                My excursion there on my own the other day has given me some confidence to start taking the Smalls to the beach on my own. The beach doesn’t have that diabolical habit of having an edge that a baby can climb over and fall in – it’s a more gradual descent into deep water. I just have to make friends with the new beach tent (having unintentionally – ha – killed the old one) and buy some serious sunscreen… (I keep using the dregs of various languishing tubes).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I sit here thinking – in two days time I’m going to have a FOUR YEAR OLD. WTF? My little tiny Boo? Four? I began school when I was still four. I have proper MEMORIES of being four, so…um…I suppose I should start being more polite to her ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                There is no party or any big thing. We are going with her Nana and her two small friends from playgroup to the playground at the beach for two hours. There will be cake and song. And that’s about it for our big production. The pressure, of course, is on M – who keeps upping his cake decorating skills each year. See turning one, two and three

                                                                                                                                                                                                                So far we have had a pussycat and two trains (that train phase was a loooong one). Now there is a request for a dinosaur – but the type of dinosaur seems to change each day. I think M is seriously contemplating actually MAKING a cake this time, rather than buying sponge cakes to decorate. P-r-e-s-s-u-r-e ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Meanwhile, I look at my little (still little) almost four-year-old PartyPie and try to hang on to her tight. Four years have been whispered away – some days are long, but the years? They gallop :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Small Z is F-O-U-R

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I suppose that every birthday of Small Z will come as a particular shock to me. It shouldn’t. Time passes, right? But, oh dear, a four-year-old? It somehow sounds so much bigger…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We – and most importantly she, had a lovely day. We were going to go to the beach, but the weather was too windy and cool so we stayed home. I’m so glad – because it was easier for everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Four Year Old!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Small Z did not want a big party – she had her two small friends from playgroup. Both girls have little sisters, so they came along as well. There was strawberry raspberry jellies, mango icy-poles, pikelets, party-bags, trampolining, billy-carting, big high swings and playdough. It was kind of like playgroup on steroids.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Triceratops Birthday Cake!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Blowing out the Triceratops
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The tiny party.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My mum and T came along. We missed SWWNBB and Small Brother. I cracked a bottle of champagne, and we ate some Balnarring bangers, potato salad and cupcakes. It was a good day. Happy Birthday Small Z – big love to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Birthday riding
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Him, her and my caravan. Love.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (I can already hear her a few years into the future, looking at this, saying, “So what did I get that year? What were my presents? What did you and Dadda give me? I don’t remember…”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, future Small Z. From me and your Dad you got a really great bicycle helmet that should last a few years – a Humber of a bicycle helmet – you also got The Incredible Book Eating Boy and The Way Back Home, both by the amazing Oliver Jeffers. You should dig out those books Small Z, they’re gorgeous…)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Eye to Eye

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A few weeks ago I took Small Z to the local optometrist. She’s been squishing up her face to read and it was starting to worry us. He examined her eyes and said she should probably have glasses just for reading and that her problem was with the right eye.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    He said the situation would right itself with time and the glasses would help her. He then got his assistant to show me their range of kid spectacles – the cheapest frames began at $200. Lenses to go in the frames began at $90.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It seemed a little too slick and easy to me. They stood to make too much money in too little time for me to feel comfortable. Time for a second opinion. I flapped around this morning trying to get the slow cooker underway before leaving for our appointment. Dashed out to the car, got Small Z in there, was about to put Small DB in when I realised that, frankly, she stank.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Raced back inside. Changed her. Stuffed her back in the car. Buckled myself in. Turned the key. The battery was dead. I allowed myself five minutes of deep breathing, inward cursing and outward musing. I called the optometrist and they said if I could make it by around 10am they would fit us in. I called my lovely neighbour, J, in the next street. Yes, she said, I could borrow her car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I pushed the Smalls in the double pram through rain and hail around the block to her house. Small DB started to scream as I tried to buckle her into the unfamiliar seat (just as she does when I buckle her into her own seat). J raced inside and made her a bottle of milk, and armed with that and some kid-music in the stereo, I drove at a fast clip to Somerville.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The optometrist place was a dream. They were so lovely to us. The optometrist himself saw us almost straightaway. He was older, not very talkative, and appeared very thorough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Small Z has her eyes tested. With dinosaur.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    He concluded that Small Z’s vision is pretty much fine. Her problem is some irritation under her eyelids from some sort of allergen. He said that it would hopefully improve of its own volition and to put a cold compress over her eyes if it was really bothering her. He added that if it got worse or I continued to be worried about it, they would happily lend me some glasses for her to see if they helped, although he doubted that they would.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was so comforted by this. Small Z was excellent and loves being asked questions about what she was looking at. She was very cute, sitting up in the big chair with her not-so-little dinosaur. I hope that this guy is right. I have a bit more confidence in him as he regularly tests schoolchildren en masse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I am still tempted to get her checked out by an ophthalmologist. It’s just that her squished up little face as she reads is heartbreaking – it’s getting more frequent. It’s also worse the longer she reads. He said that was common as kids forget to blink when they are immersed in a story and this aggravates the symptoms further. We shall see what transpires… (Yes – that pun was intentional.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Terrarium and Garlic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The relief that comes with looking after Just One Kid when you are used to constantly wrangling two? It is great. Small Z went out for the day with M to Phillip Island. Small DB and I noodled. I sensibly abandoned plans to deconstruct our food cupboard and instead napped when she napped (O Joy!)…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We went op-shopping, read books, played on the trampoline, stewed apples, rolled lemons down the slide, discovered that the garlic cloves that Small Z and I planted long ago had, um, garlicked!! M had told me that they hadn’t worked and I was so dumb that I didn’t even check…until today. Woo!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Homegrown garlic!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      For ages there has been a big jar lying in our garden where I threw it one day because its base is tippy. Today Small DB and I collected pebbles and laid the jar on its side, put a layer of pebbles, a layer of compost and then some little succulents donated by our lovely neighbour…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DIY Terrarium

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Today was like a deep breath – much needed after yesterday’s meltdown fest. Having Small DB to myself was very nice – she has just started putting words together, such as ‘bear book’ and ‘mama shoe’. It’s too cute… However, she has also developed ‘STOP!’ even when her ever-doting mother is singing to her – which can be a trifle disconcerting. I think she enjoyed being an only child today, and why not!?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Armour Plated Tail Club

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A chunk of yesterday afternoon was marred by the loss of Small Z’s Ankylosaurus – a recent op-shop find, it was one of the four dinosaurs she insisted on taking to her Nana’s birthday party.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It was easiest for me to acquiesce. I stuffed them into her backpack and told her that if she wanted to take them, she had to carry them. She was happy with that. Until, weighted like some kind of prehistoric turtle, she ran toward the swings at the park and went face down on the gravel. I mean, she literally had a mouthful of gravel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The proximity of the park, the impending arrival of the Nana, and birthday cake on the horizon served to comfort her relatively quickly. And the hilarity of actually ‘eating gravel’. An hour or so later she was showing MWB her beloved ankylosaurus – and that was the last time we all recalled seeing him. When the time came to go home and he had not been found, Small Z cried all the way to the bus stop, all the way behind me as I scoured both carparks we had been in with the ankylosaurus and only stopped once we were on the bus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        She is very wordy. The ankylosaurus’s full name is ‘Armour Plated Tail Club’. Which was a mouthful to sob about, but she seemed to manage. It was with understated happiness that she welcomed him home this morning from the hands of her Birthday Nana, who had found him in her downstairs bathroom. Welcome home, Armour Plated Tail Club. She missed you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The Dinosaur Shelf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Have I mentioned how Small Z (and therefore the rest of us) love her DinoSnores CD? If only it worked as well for Small DB, I would not be too sleep deprived to remember. So I’ll take the chance of repeating myself and say that it’s a great CD.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It doesn’t talk down in kiddy-widdy language. It’s a sort of wind-down visualisation and the voice is not only male – but has an AUSTRALIAN ACCENT. Thank goodness. They appear to also be available in flavours of fairy, mermaid, dragon and honeybee. Of course, the dinosaur one is the only one that would get any air time in our house at the moment. They use the proper names of many and varied dinosaurs, and Small Z calls it her ‘sleepy cd’. It is a vast improvement on her listening to all her audiobooks with all the character voices and often non-sleepy sound effects.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I took Small Z to kindergarten today and enrolled her. Gulp. FOUR? I’m trying not to think about it. I don’t have a four year old, surely?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Summer nights…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Small Z is short on summer pyjamas. I’ve been looking for lovely baggy soft cotton ones, but keep finding crappy cartoony flannel ones. I had an old pair of mine in my fabric box, and while Small DB slept the other day and Small Z decorated birthday cards beside me, I cut them down to her size. I did them the same way I did woolly longies for Small DB last winter – this is not the best picture in the world, but the pants are great! I’m now hunting for more grown-up PJ pants so we can have three pairs in rotation…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DIY cut down PJ pants

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (Yes…I had to patch a hole in the back. Sewing too fast and extra material got caught up – I was impatient and ripped it.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          T.Rex. I’m a Tyrannosaurus

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Forgive me the dinosauring. I was so excited today…I had told Small Z a few days ago about a little girl I saw singing with her dad on YouTube. I told her that she should sing a song with me. Naturally, the topic was prehistoric. I started a rhythm, she did the words/meloday. We did it once. Stopped and wrote the words down. And then filmed it. Here it is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I love it! But I love her more…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            T-Rex, I’m a tyrannosaurus
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I’m the biggest carnivore,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In the cretaceous forest.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gonna grow some giant legs,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gonna grow some enormous feet,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gonna stomp around and eat and eat and EAT

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A year on

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A year ago, less one day, we journeyed to my Dad’s place in the country. Small Z was just three-years-new and Small DB was zero and had her first taste of food – an heirloom apple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This time, I took the Smalls myself. It’s not that we only visit once a year, but we usually only make it up once during the time that the blackberries and apples are ripe. I had intended to take the caravan, but the electrics for the indicators packed it in as I left. Here’s a pic of Small DB vigilling by the window as M tried fruitlessly to fix them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Waiting by the window with apple

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The good thing about our bad luck was that by the time we got going, it was nearly nap time. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here (probably so as not to jinx it) but we have recently had a breakthrough on the I-hate-the-car thing with Small DB. Improbably simple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We tell her where we are going.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It seems that if she’s keen to go to the beach, or to playgroup, or to visit MWB, Mgs and their cat in the country – she’ll endure the car. Our trip there was nothing short of heaven. Any of you who have tiny children who don’t mind the car have no idea of how amazing a scream-free trip is. So much less tension! I know that she has also had a big growth spurt, and this has helped as well. It was worth all the non-sleeping involved…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It had rained during the morning upon setting out, so I had to pack extra toys…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Packed for one night away

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We plundered blackberries, plums, apples and some truly beautiful pears (that are gargoyle-like, but angelic after peeling). We climbed into the treehouse a few times, made much fuss of Splodge – the snakebite survivor, went to the local park and cafe, and to the Loch market the following morning. I was gifted a rhubarb plant (something I’ve wanted for just about ever) and some Leatherwood Honey (my favourite kind).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Plums

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Apples

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Across the way

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Old Humber. Old tree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Underneath the apple trees

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "We're going to pick some blackberries..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yum. Blackberry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Peaches and Plums

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sleep Strike

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ohhhh. It is 9pm. I just ate dinner. Both Smalls are still awake. Hardly believable. Each night has been like this for almost a week. We eat dinner. I walk with Small DB around the block while Small Z rides her scooter… We do the goodnight wee, teeth and two stories.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It is then that sleep is supposed to come. Small Z goes on strike at that point and I have been reduced to snapping, “Do whatever you want, just stay. in. your. room.” She reads in bed and then later comes out for a drink of milk…or a chat about dinosaurs…or whether soy milk is preferable to oat…and then cries as we have one, but not the other…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Meanwhile, Small DB bounces around resolutely sleepless. I get to sort out some kind of dinner for M and I, but I have this thing about eating uninterrupted… You know – the only kidfree time of my day and night? Then this is what she does…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Then she gets me to sit in the middle of the trampoline while she runs circles around me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                She has already got three of her four two-year-old molars (I’m assuming that’s what the huge teeth at the back of her head are). Those were the ones that made Christmas such a delight. Now she’s got THREE more coming through – and she’s not miserable, but she can’t get comfortable to go to sleep either. Medication does not seem to help… My sanity is waning…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bedside Light

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It is a wonderful treat to have a Small that so loves her books. She reads to her little sister and it is lovely to see. Just because she can read doesn’t mean she doesn’t like be read to…it’s one of her favourite things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Something new has begun. Each night, after the wee, teeth, PJs and two books she gets into bed and wants to read before she goes to sleep.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A week or so ago, it was still light enough when she went to bed for her to read with the window blind raised. Now? Winter approacheth. For the past three nights I’ve given her a little antique bedside light that I get out for my mum when she stays.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The switch is stiff – too stiff for her to turn on. But she can turn it off. I tell her she can read a little bit and then she needs to turn off the light and turn on her own audiobook CD and go to sleep. And this is exactly what she does.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My heart crumples a little, in a lovely messy way, to say that she just doesn’t think of prolonging it and reading as long as she possibly can. That may come later. For now, she’s happy enough just to have the autonomy of having her own bedside light and the authority to turn it off when she feels the time is right. There is so much that is good in her little heart that it sometimes makes me ache.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ————–

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  While you’re at it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Leave the nightlight on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Inside the birdhouse in your soul
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not to put too fine a point on it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Make a little birdhouse in your soul

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Helping out

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We have had our lovely friends, formerly of Coburg – now of Sydney, staying with us for the past two nights. This, on top of our Saturday night, has left the Smalls excitable and therefore somewhat sleepless. Their colds are almost (fingers crossed) gone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Today, after two late nights, I had to go and be ‘helper’ at Small Z’s kindergarten. I left Small DB with her Nana from 9am until almost 3pm, with some trepidation – but she had a ball. Didn’t nap – but apparently enjoyed being the only kid in the house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Meanwhile I could be found making pancake mixture with kids, reading them stories, cooking 70 pancakes and then, with the help of Small Z, teaching all the kids a dinosaur song we had written. It was also the Mother’s Day afternoon tea…so the four-year-olds all gave their mothers a hand massage and then some moisturising, the aforementioned snacks, sang us all three songs and then we all did craft activities and fingernail painting….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I received my Mother’s Day card from Small Z – a little more detailed than last year’s effort, but still endearingly domestic. It said, among other things,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    MY MUM IS SPECIAL BECAUSE: She gave me cream on top of my rhubarb on my porridge. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It was all rather intense, fun – but by the end of it I had hit the wall… I came home and inhaled a cup of tea. Small DB was utterly uninterested in my return and just asked for ‘more watter’ in her watering can.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I feel much more relaxed about leaving her at home again tomorrow to go to a work meeting – which, of course, takes place during the time I should be working. No doubt the Nana will have a bit more difficulty with Small DB tomorrow as she won’t be the one and only….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There was no water at our house for about half an hour this afternoon, so Small DB had a bath in a bucket in the afternoon sun on the porch…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A bath in a bucket in the late afternoon. #20mo #nana #bath #sunshine

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Apologies for scatty post, but my eyes are falling out of my head.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Quality Time and Public Transportation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      An update is due.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The nightweaning is kind of stuck at present. There have been too many nights of blocked noses and 3am wake ups…where we don’t get back to sleep for two hours, and then arise at 6.30am to the sound of Small DB shouting cheerfully, “Done! Up! Read on couch!!” as I drag myself up like a resurrected corpse, just glad that the night is now behind us…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In other news, yesterday I took Small Z on her first day out with JUST ME. Some quality time together. *boggle* We went on the train to the museum in the city. I am astounded that we did so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The day was a gaggle of six trains, one tram, dinosaur fossils and Small Z’s first exposure to taxidermy on a large scale.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Reflective. The jaunt begineth...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My only error was to forget the ever-necessary ‘morning wee’. My failure to remember this key point led to us vacating our train at Malvern Station. How startling! A station where no toilets were open!! Who would have thought? (If you are not from Melbourne you may overlook my sarcasm.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We dashed to the nearest shop and they helpfully let us use their toilet. Small Z was wide-eyed with wondrous joy – it was a lolly shop. A BULK lolly shop. H-U-G-E bags of multi-coloured sugary everything. The wee-stop of her dreams…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      On the train platform

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The train we then caught was packed. To the rafters and down the aisles. This was a new thing for Small Z, who began to slither in between peoples legs…away from me. I had to haul her back, which she was not happy about. And I had to impress upon her to stand in one place for the next six stations. Which she was not happy about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      She has not reached the age where social conditioning has rendered her mute in such situation, so I was left to explain, to a Small Person that I could barely see but was hanging fast to my leg, that we were all like sardines and when she got home she’d be able to tell Dadda that she’d been a sardine on a train. We riffed on that for a while until the crowd thinned and I was able to squat down and let her sit on my knee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Under the clocks

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We got a City Circle tram…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      City Circle Tram

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      …to the museum. The ‘Dinosaur Walk’ at the museum was wholly lame. It would have been very disappointing if we’d let it, but we didn’t. Small Z glanced at the fossils looming above her. Played with the touchscreens a little. Pouted at not being able to join in on a primary school class that were being shown a huge stick insect…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Z. Turning back time...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Signage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Discovery Centre? It was completely uninviting, not particularly kid-friendly and Small Z was the only person in it under forty. Kids needed to stand on stools to access the ‘touch table’. It was the most lacklustre uninspiring place that wilfully ignores its potential to be appealing. Gah. Despite that, Small Z enjoyed pulling open the drawers (that we stumbled upon quite by chance – minimal signage) full of taxidermic birds, rodents and mammals…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Spiral time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We tacitly agreed to ignore the shortfalls and trundled on, snacking here and there. She enjoyed the inside and outside kid areas and made herself an ‘island in the sea’ surrounded by marine creatures…and a stuffed dingo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      On a rock in the middle of the sea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I tried hard not to be one of those parents you see hanging out with their kids…but barely ever looking up from their phone. However, it did take me a while to figure out the best train to get back. Trains are not that frequent in Hastings – and the length of the trip from the city can vary between an hour and three quarters, or two and a quarter hours. I really wanted the former. So it turned out that we only had about three or so hours in the city, which wasn’t really long enough…but enabled us to get home both IN reasonable time and AT a reasonable time (around 3.30pm).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I coaxed Small Z back out into the world with the offer of hot chips via the duck pond. We have recently rediscovered this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Make Way for Ducklings

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      and the pond near the Exhibition Building is very similar to that in the Boston Public Garden (though somewhat smaller).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Leaf shuffling

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We found a greasy cafe close to Parliament Station where I ordered hot chips and an iced coffee. I felt like I was about to keel over, having had very little sleep. The chips were good. Restorative in fact. The iced coffee? Undrinkable. I realised later (not unhappily) that we had left without paying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The obligatory hot chip treat

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Small Z and I got to our platform. Our train came. I had some sort of brain spasm and said we should wait for a different one. Our train left. And I did a few moments of deep breathing and somehow worked out how to catch another one, hop off, run to a different platform, and reunite with the train I had just let go. I swear, when I start getting more sleep, I could run this whole country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      More one on one time with my Small Z. That is something I would like and will work to make happen. Yes she is bright, inquisitive, engaging, gorgeous, contradictory and lovely. But most of all? I found that I just liked hanging out with her. And that is ace.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      One little duck went out one day…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Small Z’s first night staying away from home. She has been talking about staying over at her Nana’s for almost the last year and finally decided it was time. I don’t know who was more excited – her or my mother. Together they wrote a little list of things that she would pack…the necessities:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Untitled

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I love how Stomp – her trusty dinosaur – is at the top of the list, before the toothbrush and undies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I had imagined that she would sleep on the floor next to my mum’s bed, or in her walk in robe – but no – my mother, ever keen to have my children weaned, sleeping alone and then sent off to school – had her sleep in the study. Which Small Z was fine with – hardly surprising seeing as she usually sleeps the first half of her night alone in a caravan in the front garden. No, the issue was with ME!! Her first night away from home and I’d been imagining her whereabouts in totally the wrong place!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        First night away from home

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Of course, she had a blast!! It was just a shame that my mum left a few days later to go OVERSEAS FOR THREE MONTHS… She thoughtlessly planned a holiday without any concern for her grandmotherly duties ;) I’m sure there will be more frequent sleepovers once she gets back. It’s a lovely thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Penny the Platypus

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Small Z’s kindergarten has this literacy program that involves each of the kids taking home Penny the Platypus (a handpuppet) for a day or two and documenting the time they spend with Penny. Each kid, with the help of their parents, makes a page or two with some information about what they did with Penny plus drawings, photos, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Poor Small Z – she had to wait so long for her turn because they did it in alphabetical order. But Zara, her name-nemesis, was away and Small Z got to take Penny home earlier than she had thought. There was much joy! Small Z and Penny got along very well…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Penny Platypus & Zoe - just hanging.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Penny the Platypus - in the pulley basket
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Penny goes to the Dino-Museum

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Of course then Small Z got sick, and Penny had to stay with us for the entire weekend. She was less of a novelty by then, but it was still a great little kindergarten project and I just wanted to document it here to stop it falling into the abyss that used to be my memory before sleep deprivation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Bees. And? I suck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A school holiday ‘activity’. This was the good part of the day. A visit to Pure Peninsula Honey, where we learnt about the lives of bees. Small Z tasted five different kinds of honey, topped it off with a honey lollipop and promptly dissolved into sugar-fuelled irrationality. And tears. I had anticipated this but as she refused to eat the brown bread I kept thrusting toward her, I took both Smalls to a cafe for a cheese sandwich antidote – worked like a charm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            An unconvincing lollipop
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Observing the Bees!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Compared with what happened later in the day, we were coasting along surrounded by bubble blowing unicorns. Later in the day? My stellar prioritising meant that I was so worried about losing my 100% rating on eBay that I put a tired Small DB in the car at 3.30pm to drive 20 minutes to where I was supposed to pick up a radio that I had bought on eBay two weeks prior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The seller was losing patience with me not turning up to collect it. I had asked M to get it, but that didn’t work out. Small DB screamed all the way there – and by that time I was halfway out of my mind. With a horrible stomachache. I got the Smalls out of the car and heaved myself over to the gate at number 24. There was no driveway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The woman took one look at me and said, “Are you alright?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “No. Not really. My baby hates the car and has screamed all the way here and now she’s going to scream all the way home. It was really hard for me to get here.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            She looked contrite. “Ohhhh. I’m so sorry for hassling you to pick it up, I thought you might…”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            She didn’t say ‘…be a trolling eBay lowlife who dicks people around’. And I didn’t say, ‘I have over 230 transactions and a 100% rating – could you not cut me some more slack?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            She offered me tea. I declined. Why prolong the inevitable. I took the fucking radio (that I’d bought because I thought it was cheap and the transaction would involve M dropping by on his way to the boat) and threw it in the car. I only had to turn in the direction of the car for Small DB to start screaming, “No mama! NO CAR! Peeeease…no car!! We walk! We walk!!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I had to hold her down to buckle her in, and by then I was crying. Small Z was crying. Small DB was leaving the atmosphere. My only thought as I drove home was to stay within the speed limit and not to kill us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Small DB did not abate. Have you ever seen a very distressed cat, covered in its own saliva? She was in a foetal position, scratching at herself and choking huge sobs from her tiny body. She was gagging on huges strings of spit that were all over her face, in her hair…. When I pulled up in front of our house I reached back and unbuckled the fucking fucking seatbelt. “Oh no mama,” she hiccuped, “I hurt. I hurt.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I went around to get her out. Blood was dripping down the side of her calf where she had scratched herself raw. And I was officially done in. I took them both inside and sat on the couch and bawled. Small Z patted me, got out her pretend phone and told me to call the ‘Calming Mama Emergency Number’. I did. What possessed me to put my eBay rating ahead of good, compassionate sense?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I took a photo. To remind myself to…to just try and be better than that. The radio’s still in the car. And no, she didn’t bite her own finger off…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Car fallout

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Trench Bear

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For the past ten days or so – after M and the Smalls emerged from their illnesses – I have nightweaned Small DB. She was feeling so rotten while she was sick that she wasn’t eating. Instead she was feeding six or seven times a night. Kill me now…it nearly did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Cue: no more boobs at night. Mix in some daylight saving. Fold through no more feeding to sleep and add a cup of phasing out the one remaining nap. Result – one grumpy strung out mama who let her magnesium supplements run out. ALERT. ALERT. ALERT. The icing? Troubles with Small Z that have left me flailing in her wake and reading this with a sense of recognition (discount all the parental issues – they do not exist here).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There are a few wins with which I am going to boost my floppy mood… Tonight Small DB lay down with me, and after cavorting about the bed like a happy trout…she conked out asleep WITH NO SCREAMING. And the world strangely and illogically continued to turn. I couldn’t understand it. *furious happy dancing*

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tomorrow morning, I’m skiving off work for an hour or so and taking Small Z out for a milkshake – some one on one time. I think it is badly needed. Our weeks are like this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sunday: B with Smalls. M at boat.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Monday: B with Smalls. M at boat.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tuesday: M with Smalls. B works at home.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Wednesday: M with Smalls. B at office.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thursday: B with Smalls & Nana. M at boat.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Friday: B with Smalls. M at boat.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Saturday: B with Smalls. M at boat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We don’t have those weekend days that a lot of families have where one parent might take the kid to the hardware shop or the grandparents, while the other parent hangs with the other kid. No. It’s all or none – except for Tuesdays and Thursdays when Small Z is at kindergarten. So Small DB is getting her quota of parental/grandparental one on one. Small Z – especially with her sister beginning to phase out the nap – is getting none. Time for a rethink.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Gangsta :: Catch 22

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You may have noticed that most photos posted of Small Z since July feature her wearing her headband. Her most beloved headband. J made one for all the guests at Polly’s party…see following evidence –

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Daisy & Milly wearing headbands from the cutest crafty party bags ever! #19mo #22mo #sunday #birthdayparty

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                …and it has been welded firmly to Small Z’s scone since that time. Except…it used to look like this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My #4yo bling baby - we're tidying up for the return of the dadda after a week away...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                …but now it is losing it’s elastic. And she insists on positioning it RIGHT ACROSS HER FOREHEAD. Not, as you would expect, UPON HER HEAD. My days are spent shrieking, “I WANT TO SEE YOUR EYEBROWS. SHOW ME YOUR EYEBROWS!!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                M ordered a stubby holder from the kindergarten as a Father’s Day fundraiser thing. When he showed it to me I thought he’d bought it to benefit the Very Sick Child that was staring out from the side of it. Whoops! No – that was just Small Z, her headband in the position of ‘recent chemotherapy’.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is a picture taken two nights ago in the vacant block behind our house. I am not kidding. This headband is taking her over, bit by bit:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                We are not sure where her eyes are.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The headband is tied into all her other bling. There were four and a half sweet sweet years where she didn’t give a toss about her clothes. And then there were the last three months…she has to wear a dress every day…or perish. It’s worse than that. If she is not wearing a dress or a skirt, she shrieks that (I shudder to type it) she is ‘not beautiful’.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                M and I have valiantly emphasised to her that EVERYONE is beautiful (possibly even Tony Abbott…somehow) and that clothes just make people look interesting. And even as I type it, it sounds lame? Right? I need better ammunition, because Small Z is not convinced.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Her regular ensemble of HEADBAND, necklaces, rings, extra headband with butterflies on springs and the ubiquitous dress… Each day, she puts herself together. And each day, when I’m out and about with her, people stop her and inevitably coo, “Oh, YOU look BEAUTIFUL today! What a gorgeous DRESS! I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fucking great – the beauty myth is then reinforced with a big FAT TICK. She is stuck in the Catch-22 of putting on the bling and receiving confirmation for her efforts. I cannot even believe this is happening before she’s turned FIVE in a house where there are NO dollies, NO Barbies and Very Little Television. *sigh* I know. I know. It’s just a phase. But if people would just read this article and restrain themselves from commenting on her appearance, I’d be very thankful. Over and out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Slip Sliding Away

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Can’t even remember if I’ve written already about how big a chunk Christmas and all the associated hooha took out of, what I am tempted to refer to as, our routine. *boggle* The end of the structure that kindergarten gave our weeks… smooshed into Christmas (and the birthdays that bookend it)… yeah, well – it was all good…BUT…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It was only today that I realised how long it has been since a ‘normal(ish)’ week had occurred. You know – the one with me working on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and M at the boat all other days. He has marked (how weird it must to to have a name that is also a verb) the days that he has done boat-work on the calendar thus far this year – and it is scarily minimal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Of course tomorrow is a public holiday and we have been asked to lunch in Emerald. And it’s the old toss up – do I ask M to come along because it will be more fun (and easier, wrangling-wise) or do I command him to STAY AND WORK ON THE BOAT?! It will probably be the former – because we all might be hit by a meteorite and at least then we would have seen our friends. Right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Meanwhile – today was a home day of baking – biscotti and brownies – and making – pesto and a waterslide

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It has taken five years, but Small Z has finally begun a phase that consists of her pouting, assuming a baby voice, and saying loudly, “I BORED.” I have so far resisted saying, “Well you better go to school then….” I figure I can definitely leave that one for my mother…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is happening in the current context of her being unable to sleep and staying up until after 9pm. Death for kidfree time. Ruinous for five-year-old reasonableness and revolting when mixed with The Two-Year-Old-That-Won’t-Nap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In the face of I BORED!! I put the hose at the top of the treehouse and announced I’d created a waterslide. It bought me an hour of excellence… :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Z goes watersliding!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DB goes watersliding!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The first tooth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I had left the Smalls sitting in the bike-trailer pram outside a shop this afternoon. They were eating nectarines. When I got back Small Z was saying, “Take this nectarine away mama, I hurt my tooth on it, I hurt my tooth…” I was trying to fit yet more stuff into the trailer and had my head down, muttering “Just a minute, give me a minute, hold on a second…”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Finally, as she gave me the nectarine, and I passed it on to Small DB, I looked her in the face. Oh dear god – a GAP!! SHe had no idea she’d lost a tooth – it hadn’t been wobbly. I dug around on the floor of the bike trailer and FOUND THE TOOTH! Tiny little thing that it is…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Small Z was swinging in between tears and wonder. Bizarre. I told her the story of the way I lost my first tooth. I was still four, but had started school. We (the preps) were on the school oval playing ‘stacks on’ with the Grade Sixes – the oldest kids in the school that were supposed to keep an eye on us while we were still newbies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was in amongst it all and my chin came hard down on someone’s head. I felt a pebble in my mouth…and spat it out. It wasn’t until later that I realised I’d lost my tooth. I was pretty upset – I remember my dad picking me up from school that day. Together we went and searched the oval – he must have been humouring me because my tooth would have been just as tiny as Small Z’s. We didn’t find it. He took me to the All Soul’s Op Shop in Sandringham (still one of my favourites) and I was allowed to choose whatever I wanted. I was dazzled by such a prospect. I chose this little dish (I still don’t know why it appealed to the four-year-old-me so much…)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “So the Tooth Fairy didn’t come?” gasped Small Z, at the end of my story about the Olden Days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “Well she couldn’t, could she? There was no tooth. It was lost on the oval.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “Ah.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “Do you think that when we leave your tooth out for the Tooth Fairy we can leave a note to ask her to leave the money…and leave the tooth for your mama to keep?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “Definitely not.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Please?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “Nooooooooo – she might not leave me the gold coin!!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    M wrote out her note to the Tooth Fairy, and I soothed many worries about the Tooth Fairy arriving at the wrong time (“What if Daisy wakes up in the night and she comes? No one is supposed to see her!” and “What if I wake up and she’s here?”). Therefore it was decided to leave the tooth on the kitchen bench – none of that difficult under-the-pillow stuff – the logistics were clearly too difficult…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Letter to the Tooth Fairy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Letter to the Tooth Fairy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My mum is coming to mind the Smalls in the morning, and I anticipate her SHRIEKING when she notices… MIND THE GAP! And M and I couldn’t help ourselves…a glitter trail leading from the back door to a tiny screw-topped jar holding a $2 coin…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Book ‘em

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Books. Small Z is a voracious consumer. If I want an afternoon of peace (as I desperately did today) we go to the library, borrow a stack of books and come home. And there is quiet – she dives into them and does not surface until she’s read the lot. I asked her to keep two unread so I could read them to her. She kept one…and then lamented at bedtime because she’d read them all so fast and now had nothing new to read.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “I just love reading,” she said, when we got home. “I love books.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “So do I,” I said – remembering that, yes – I was that book obsessed kid who could submerge into words – the thrill of realising there were more books in a particular series, and the dejection of realising that you’d reached the last one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Books are Small Z’s happy place. The flipside being that just because she can read anything, doesn’t mean I want her to. Some of the books in the ‘early readers’ section of the library are the text-equivalent of sliced white supermarket bread. (Do I sound snobbily judgmental? Good. I am.) She brought one to me today (and I wonder how long that is going to last?) from a series called ‘Girlz Rule’.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Anything that uses a ‘z’ where and ‘s’ should be to add some kind of pseudo pizzaz needs to quickly stabbed to death. I flipped through it and it was all about a sleepover, ‘girlz’ only – of course, talking about Australian Idol and who ‘lurves’ who – making my inner grammar nazi riot afresh. I told Small Z that she could read it when she was seven… She was OK with that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes – I read my way through every ‘Sweet Dreams’ romance from the age of about ten. And every ‘Sweet Valley High’. But I was TEN. I was also getting stuck into The Saint (and still love to – Simon Templar being the pinnacle of manhood). Maybe I am in a less common position – having a quite young obsessive reader – and the ‘Girlz Rule’ books are aimed at eight or nine year olds. But WTF? It’s just stone-age genderised-wankery being touted to young kids that don’t need to learn that sort of crap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In the same way I avoid the sliced white bread, I will endeavour to avoid such unimaginative homogenised pap. But I don’t WANT to be a book nazi. I want to set Small Z free in a sea of texts and never dreamed I would have to police her choices. I hope that in another year or two she’ll be discerning enough to make her own choices without me feeling like I have to skim through them first…maybe she is now and I’m just not brave enough to let her?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Today's haul

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Today. And last September.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don’t know what it was – but we were walking past the bus stop and I remembered the photo I had taken last year. A photo that I love. So I took another. It turns out that Small Z was wearing the same top?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bus Stop. September 2012

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bus Stop. March 2013

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Small Z’s first book.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Done without assistance, although it was on my suggestion…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We brought some friends back with us from NSW

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Unknowingly. If I ever get around to posting about our trip there you will read it and know that apparently, in northern NSW, nits are in plague proportions. It appears that you just assume your kid has them and comb them relentlessly each week. Small Z was petrified she was going to get them…for good reason. Like an idiot, I reassured her that she would probably not get them…STOP WORRYING.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We were all ready to go to our weekly meetup yesterday. I was plaiting her hair…when I saw something. Something moving. And my heart sank. Gross, icky little bugs. I contacted L, who knows of such things. I was worried Small Z was going to completely freak out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There were tears, but she was comforted that we could go straight to the chemist for STUFF that would KILL THEM. We bought the ‘Lice Blaster’ (not because I really thought it would work, but because I felt I had to buy something that sounded savage (and came with a comb).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lice Blaster!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Naturally I was all all over Choice Magazine and their nit information page – which is very good btw. So. The Smalls then got to have a fabulous time sitting in front of ninety minutes of Dinosaur Train while I detangled Small Z’s acres of hair, covered it in the goop, and then pulled the comb through it. She was stoic, because she wanted them g-o-n-e.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My big fear is for Small DB. (I can feel J, in NSW, shaking her head at me and laughing at me being overly dramatic. She has never had to try to get water on Small DB’s head.) And here is where I tell it to the Interweb.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Small DB has never had her hair washed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            All the people who believe that shampoo is just detergent that strips the oils from your hair and can irritate your skin are standing up and cheering me. It’s just I don’t know any of them. Even L, who went no-poo, I think has returned to the mainstream (?). (Just on a tangent – here is a transcript on dermatology/eczema that has stayed with me, from 1997.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Anyway. THe information on Choice seemed to indicate that they like clean heads better than dirty ones. Small DB still has some manky bits of cradle cap and I’m assuming the nits have rejected her. I HOPE the nits have rejected her. Because I would have to sedate her in order to comb goop through her hair and then wash it out. Correction: I would have to cut half her curls off because they’re so tangly – before sedating her, gooping her, combing her and washing it all off. (It does sound as if I’m dealing with a recalcitrant puppy, doesn’t it? I kind of am.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Small Z’s head is now cleaner and shinier than it has been in it’s whole life. More combing tomorrow. And repeat, and repeat. This is one of those parental rites-of-passage of which I could have happily remained blissfully ignorant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            One little duck went out one day, over the fence and…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It’s a question that has come up several times of late.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “Mama – what was your first big adventure out in the world on your own?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “Ummm. Walking to my Grandma’s, I think. She lived in our street when I was little.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “Well what will be my MY first big adventure in the world on my own?”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “You’ll have to come up with a few ideas, and I’ll tell you what I think.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So she did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Down the bottom of our backyard is a fence on the right, over which is a very large vacant block of land. The grass is usually high. Small Z asked if she could jump over the back fence and run home from around the other side of the block. As follows…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Out in the World. Solo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “OK,” I said. And watched as she shot out of the back door. A few minutes later, not really believing that she had figured out how to negotiate the six foot drop from the top of the fence, I went down with Small DB to check on her. The backyard was empty. She’d done it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I felt a tremble. I climbed the fence and looked over. The vacant block looked h-u-g-e. Overgrown, full of enormous puddles. I could see how she had got down the other side of the fence. Our bit abuts another fence that has batons down the other side. So anyway, she was gone. I think I squeaked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Small DB and I galloped into the front yard. Out on to the footpath. The first thing I saw (really) was a forboding dude in a long black coat, hat, beard. He’s striding past our house and won’t meet my eye. I instructed myself to b-r-e-a-t-h-e. Breathe!! The snatching of small children is about as common as shark attacks… Right? Right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was clinging to my free-ranging child philosophies with my fingernails, when Small Z whizzed around the corner like a cartoon character – hair streaming and a gap-smile hitting her ears. Sweet relief ;) She was so thrilled to have had a taste of her own freedom. She wanted to go again immediately. The next time she went – she fell into one of those enormous puddles and came wetly and dejectedly up the back garden – her thirst for solo adventuring doused. For the moment…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Literal. Live by the sword.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Small Z: Do little kids go to jail?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                M: Nah…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Small Z: What if they do something really bad – like break the heater?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                M: No. Little kids don’t go to jail. But…[He is then seemingly inspired] – if you went next door and chopped off Jackie’s leg with a sword – then you’d probably get taken away from us and be put in a home for bad children.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Small Z: [indignantly] I would NEVER do that!! I don’t have a sword! And anyway – it would be really difficult.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Save the Great Barrier Reef

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Small Z has been involved in a protest once before, but she doesn’t remember it. This time she was very vitalised and keen to present an opinion. We happen to live in the electorate of Greg Hunt – the environment minister of our recently elected government. GetUp are running a campaign to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the development of coal exports. They had a petition signed by over 240,000 people (including me) to deliver to him, so we gathered at our local park and then walked en masse to his office.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Look at Small DB hanging tough on her wheels in her PJs. Small Z clutches emblematic seabird and has on a bath-toy fish necklace, hastily assembled ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was heartened at how many people gathered. Not all of them were from Hastings, but I’m sure quite a few were – an encouraging thing. I made Small Z a placard to hold. I explained that we were presenting a letter signed by more than two hundred thousand people who wanted Greg Hunt to say there would be NO dredging close to or through the Great Barrier Reef for big boats to carry coal out of some proposed coal mines. We hoped he would also say NO to the coal mines as well – this being an era where we hopefully promote clean energy and the health of our planet and people over dirty coal mines and a quick buck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Nature Art

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Small Z was so inspired by an episode of Dinosaur Train the other day (wait… Dinosaur Train doesn't rule your life? You haven't heard every single episode seven times each? You haven't lived!) yes. I am being facetious – it is actually a great show – super informative and not scary… The one Small Z was watching was one she hadn't seen before – something of a miracle. It involved a lot of discussion about nature art. As soon as it ended she raced out into the garden and made this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dinosaur Train inspired nature art. By Small Z.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (Her symmetry greatly appeals to the Virgo in me.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The latest logistical fail. Again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Small Z is similar to me in that we both become fixated with THINGS. Not a wholly pleasant trait. But we love the chase! She has gone through the Dinosaur Train fixation (used her paltry funds to pay for figurines she played with for a week and then cried about her boredom with them), the Octonaut fixation (I used my paltry funds to buy her a figurine, same deal as before) and now…the fixation is an expensive one. Sylvanians.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes. Tiny titchy little animals that probably cost twenty cents each to manufacture flogged off for about five bucks a pop – and of course you can’t get them singly – you have to buy them in pairs or ‘families’. Sigh. Our lovely friends have a five-year-old Small Z equivalent – but she has two older sisters – and it is that situation that means Small Z gets to latch on to/experience all these things that would otherwise go unknown… Polly Pockets are another thing… My eBay searches of late have all been about these tiny little things…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      After a week or so of concerted petitioning, I took the Smalls to a toy shop. Small Z and I had agreed we would go halves on a Sylvanian. I would buy one for Small DB who doesn’t have her own money yet (thereby unable to count it every day to see if the total has magically grown). Massive logistical #fail (did I mention that in the title?). The previous night Small DB had woken at 2.30am into a full throated scream of, “SMOOTHIE. SMOOTHIE. I WANT A SMOOTHIE.” After speaking to her savagely several times, I realised it would be easier to make the goddamn smoothie than have M and Small Z awoken. I smoothied. She slept. Eventually.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Therefore, by the time we got into the car at 3pm (what was I thinking?), Small DB was a looooong way past rational. She just hid it well. I was hoping she would sleep. Sigh. This is how it would have happened if she didn’t exist.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Go to toy shop, luxuriate in picking the cheapest possible Sylvanian (two babies = $9.50), get back in the car, go home, drink wine. Happy single child. Happy happy me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      What actually happened was that Small DB fastened on to two different boxes, neither of which she could do without. I reasoned with her (idiotic), pleaded (stupid), demanded (useless), and finally paid for her little Sylvanian baby ($8.50 for one baby WITH A CRADLE – honestly – they are less than an inch high) as she threw the ones she couldn’t live without on to the counter and I had to ask the lady there to ignore them – then I carried the screaming and kicking Small DB out of the shop and had to sit on her to get her into her carseat. The joy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Of course, by then I had been reduced to seething, “I’m NEVER taking you to a toy shop again. EVER. EVER.” Indispersed with self-loathing about failing to recognise what a stupid time I had chosen for such an expedition. Small Z tried to comfort me, “No, you’re not an idiot mama. Don’t worry.” Then she couldn’t help herself, “Are you really never taking her to a toy shop ever again?” I drove grimly onward. Small DB eventually passed out utterly. For at least three hours. That hasn’t happened for such. a. long. time. that I literally luxuriated in the splendor of Only One Child. Yes. That sounds harsh – but it is SO RARE. And on reflection – oh my god a three-year-old demands so much energy! And the combination of both of them increases that again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I busted out the white wine, the Kindle, the knitting, the blue cheese and biscuits. Small Z entertained herself with her new toys, dinner, and a special extended iPad session (hooray for Dinorama). It was like I’d had a holiday – and almost worth the drama. Almost.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I had a warning…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is one of the cryptic notes that Small Z leaves around for her sister. Who is three and can't read yet. My translation is at the bottom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Now We Are Six

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Dear Small Z,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You woke up, still five. Not until 10.09 in the morning were you truly six – not until then had you emerged, under the water, where you were caught by your dadda – who was somehow under the impression you were a boy. You were not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Up until you turn six you are still a little person. But six? Six feels different. Bigger. You are becoming more and more your own person. More strident in your opinions, confident with your beliefs and even more keen to seek out new things to learn, decipher and discover. Bigger…but still Small.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You got out of bed, but you didn’t run toward the loungeroom. No. The first thing you did was go into your own room, find your sewing box, and get out the ‘ladybug’ you had made for Small DB as a consolation for it not being her birthday. I helped you to finish it for her. It was a lovely thing to do and I wanted to write it here so I would always remember.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Small DB gave you the little heart she had stitched with silver thread and a button – you opened it first of everything…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Present handmade by Small DB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Z’s birthday present from the parent brigade – a Kindle – tricked up with gelaskins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Birthday Present. A Kindle. For the kid who breathes books.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The day shone like it was polished and we began it with presents and porridge. The second last swimming lesson of the week. Nothing was going to interrupt the excitement of your birthday. Annoyances were ignored. At the cafe after your lesson, your very best friend gave you the first of what became (over the following days) a RIVER of Sylvanian toys, and you were SO HAPPY :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Zoe, Daphne and DB.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You had originally requested to go to the ctiy for the day, but swimming lessons and beautiful weather made you decide on the beach. Not any beach. Birdrock Beach in Mount Martha. So off we trundled. Your dad tried to make you change your mind, go to a more accessible beach – one without miles of stairs down a steep cliff, but you wouldn’t be swayed, and I was glad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Small Z at Birdrock Beach

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The sun was hot, our rolls were sandy and someone had taken the only shady spot, but we had fun in the water. You found the tree that you had kept in your thoughts, and climbed it – “It’s my tree house!!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You saw a group of boys, about six of them. They looked about seven up to nine years old. “I want to play with them,” They were jumping off the stairs into the hot hot sand – about five feet below. “OK,” I said, “Go on!” You grabbed my hand. “You come with me!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I did. You walked up to them, at some disadvantage from being at the bottom of the steps. “Can I play too?” I was SO awed by you – because I could NEVER have done that – not at any stage of my career as a kid. They all shuffled their feet. “Yeah. OK.” And you were in. They all showed you their different jumps, and one of them did flips across the sand. I was impressed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Beach action
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Jumping off the steps. My newly six year old in motion...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You hung out for a while, did a few jumps of your own and then went for a walk with M and Small DB. Apparently you found a starfish and put it on your head. The rest of the day involved an ice-cream, dinner, playing outside with the hose, and waving at the ice-cream van as it trolled hopefully along our street.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ice Cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the evening you sat with your sister on the boat trailer that we’ve left parked out on the street, and you both looked like a TEAM! One not to mess with. A team wrapped up in its own dreams and discoveries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Zoe Evangellne and Daisy Belle. Zoe's sixth birthday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You are six, Zoe Evangeline, and I can hardly believe it…and yet…the older you get, the more exciting the journey becomes. Like we say – I love you to the Big Bang and back. Happy Birthday to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Playing with the hose. The end of the sixth birthday!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Big Six Birthday Party

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There was a party – Small Z asked three of her friends and the two kids from next door – one a bit older and the other a bit younger. This, with the addition of her aunty and cousin, nana and nana-squeeze, and various siblings and parents of her three guests… created twenty-six people…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            CUT TO:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My mother: “Can’t the parents of her friends just drop them off and pick them up in a few hours? That’s what *I* used to do when you were her age. That would be much less work…”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In this statement she failed to mention the fact that I had my sixth birthday in Kuala Lumpur – and it is mentioned in her diary of that time as, “Got up. Beth’s sixth birthday. Had breakfast. Packed up our gear and left.” THAT’S IT!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Luckily I remember being bought some kind of apple cake, as birthday cakes for six-year-old backpackers were not in abundance in KL circa 1979.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also in the statement was the fact that most of my friends, while I was under ten, lived in the surrounding suburb. Thus, it was easy for parents to drop their kids off and return a few hours later, rejuvenated from their kid-free Saturday morning…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But you know what? This;

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I *like* the parents being at the party. Yes, it means more preparation, but it’s a chance to catch up, and also, it is not down to M and I to be responsible for them

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            There was ONE local kid at Z’s party who was not a neighbour. When you live an hour or two away, dropping off the kid is not an option

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The siblings! The siblings of the Z-friends are inevitably the same age as DB, so she has a great time with them, instead of following the bigger kids around, trying to keep up…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And finally – the mixing of all of the above! The little ones also play with the big ones, the parents get to chat and eat and have a glass of champagne…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It was a lovely day – M had made Small Z an ice-cream cake – you can tell he works with fibreglass because he did all the shaping SUPER fast so it wouldn’t melt!! Small Z was rapt. I am not a fan of doing organised games and activities – just getting all the food together, house cleaned and music sorted is enough – so I borrowed the jumping castle again from the toy library…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We also have in our backyard already a trampoline, three chickens, a four swings, two treehouses, chimes made from old bits of metal, a flying fox, a Hills Hoist (clothesline for your non-Australians) and a paddle pool. Kid heaven. Move over musical chairs…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Flying fox!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Happy Birthday to Zoe!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            'SIx' photo collage
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Zoe and Elijah: Sparring partners
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A trio of three year olds
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Paddle pool!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I learnt from Small DB’s birthday that cooking stuff on the day kind of sucks the big one. On that occasion there was hardly any sitting down and mingling time because I was hoping M was getting the sausages cooked, putting trays of chips in and out of the oven etc. etc. Also, it began before noon. MISTAKE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This time around (thank god it was not stupidly hot) I just made a mofo lasagne beforehand and froze it. Put out some dips, carrot, celery and beans. Made a whole lot of rice paper rolls with chicken, rice and avocado in them the night before. And also pre-made jellies (in cupcake papers to save on washing up), coconut chocolate crackles, raw chocolate brownies and mango-raspberry icy-poles. Done. Had all morning to finish things and tidy up as people weren’t due until midday…and I knew they would be late…

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My mother was again a fruit-skewer making machine. Oh! And I also made a punch that the Smalls could all dip a ladle into and serve themselves. There was too much, but that was OK. I am hoping to get some food photos from SWWNBB – who raced around doing ‘before’ photos before everything was chomped/drunk and was VERY handy with the broom throughout. ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Small Z had a lovely time – the party continued onward through dinner and our Hastings escapee neighbours stayed over night in the caravan :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Napoleon and Josephine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Small Z was taken by her Nana into town to see a musical. Actually, it was a ‘mousical’ as it starred Angelina Ballerina – a mouse that I dislike. I dislike her because the first Angelina Ballerina book I read had bitchy-girl fighting in it, and it also seemed to embrace gender-stereotyping with both paws. But maybe it’s just me. Small Z adored it and raced home to show her sister the dance steps she’d seen. And then made them both a pair of mouse ears out of gold cardboard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              At bedtime, she melted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “I can’t go to bed, I CAN’T go to bed. I can’t tell you why. I have a big worry. I’m too scared to go to sleep.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              WIth a little bit of prodding, and the mantra, “A worry shared is a worry halved,” her reserves were eroded.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “I don’t want to tell you. I don’t want Nana to know, because she didn’t know, but I read a book today when we were at the gallery.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My heart dropped. There are, as I have mentioned, downsides to having an all-star reader.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “That’s OK baby, I’m not going to be upset with you.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “I didn’t let Nana see I was reading it.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I waited.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “It was called…Nap-lee-on and Josephine.” Tears started to drop down her cheeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “Napoleon,” I corrected her, unable to stop myself. “I think he was a famous soldier or general.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “Emperor mama, he was an emperor. But I read in the book…” she stopped and struggled with herself. “In the book it said they CHOPPED PEOPLE’S HEADS OFF.” Her sobs took off into big heaving gasps. “They didn’t do that did they? Is that a story? Will someone chop off my head? I’m scared a monster will come in the night and chop it off.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I inwardly cursed Angelina fucking Ballerina, my mother and the gallery. And then wrestled with myself. Did I tell her it was a story? I hate doing that. I can accept the Tooth Fairy as a cute confection, but to lie about what she had read? No.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              She was beside herself, “I can’t get it out of my head! I wish I never read it. There is a worry in me now that won’t come out!”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I stroked her like a little cat. “You know how things change over time? That people used to live in caves and there were no roads or towns or electricity?” She nodded. “Well, a few hundred years before now, yes. That did happen sometimes. In a time before people knew any better. Back before there were cars, and computers and fridges. It was a REALLY long time ago, no WAY does that happen any more. Not all things that happened in the olden times were good, but people learned and tried to be better. I’m so sorry you read that.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “You have to stay with me now mama, don’t go back upstairs. Stay next to me all night, because I still have that bad feeling in me.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I glued myself next to her, and we eventually slept.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Last night, about three nights later, she stood next to me in the kitchen. We had not talked about it at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “You know what I told you about? What I read? Well it’s still inside me and I can’t get it out. I don’t like it. But don’t talk to me about it. I don’t want you to say stuff about it, it will make it more in my head.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I nearly got out the dustpan and brush to sweep the bits of my heart off the floor. I hugged her little newly six-year-old body and wished I could squeeze the memories out of her and sweep them away too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Time After Time

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Small Z has been going to bed between 10.30pm and 11.00pm. She’s fine with it. Sleeps in until 10.30am or so. Gets her 11 or 12 hours in. Me? NOT SO FINE. In order to get my One Hour Of Sanity – I stay up after she eventually goes to bed. But then get awoken by Small DB at least once during the night. And she’s ready to start the day at 7am. (Incidentally, Small DB is usually asleep by 8pm.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                M suggested dragging Small Z out of bed at 7.30am for a few days in an effort to pull her going-to-bed time back to some kind of reasonable hour. I thought this sounded OK, so for the past two mornings I have wheedled her awake by 8am. Last night she conked out at ten o’clock. My fingers are crossed for tonight. I will be doing an early morning wake up call on Wednesday morning when I’m not here, to make sure the regime is ongoing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                At this rate, when daylight saving ends in about six weeks time, it will be ALL kinds of awesome!! (I dream about such a scenario whenever the clocks change – similar to my rosy thoughts of what-I-can-acheive every New Year.) How does this blog not have a category for Sleep? For god’s sake – it’s the thing I’ve typed about most often over the past six years!! I will make one (and therefore render any further sleeping issues null and void. Excellent.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As you were.



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