Caroling.

On the first day of Christmas the market gave to me a turkey that won’t fricking defrost.

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Day 2. I am growing a suspicion that the fridge is broken and it’s this turkey that is keeping the food cold. WHY are you still frozen, turkey, WHY? Better yet, HOW?

 

On the second day of Christmas my distant relatives sent to me, two “assembly requireds”, assembly

… and a turkey that won’t freaking defrost.

On the third day of Christmas my toyshop sold to me, three toys with batteries,

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Because we don’t have enough toys already.

…two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t bloody defrost.

On the fourth day of Christmas my family gave to me, four raging tantrums,

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…three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t flipping defrost.

On the fifth day of Christmas the discount store sold to me, five crappy crackers,

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Because pour me another drink, dammit.

 

… four raging tantrums, three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t fricking defrost.

On the sixth day of Christmas my cupboard revealed to me, six stained napkins, five crappy crackers, four raging tantrums, three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t fricking defrost.

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Day 2.5, the turkey defies all known laws of thermodynamics.

 

On the seventh day of Christmas my post man left for me, seven unanswered xmas cards, six stained napkins, five crappy crackers, four raging tantrums, three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t fecking defrost.

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Day 3 I believe the bird is attempting to make friends with me.

 

On the eighth day of Christmas some hipsters sang to me, eight boring carols,

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…And a happy new beard.

… seven unanswered xmas cards, six stained napkins, five crappy crackers, four raging tantrums, three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t sodding defrost.

On the ninth day of Christmas my wallet gave to me, nine maxed-out store cards,

calculamenting

…eight boring carols, seven unanswered xmas cards, six stained napkins, five crappy crackers, four raging tantrums, three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t smegging defrost.

On the tenth day of Christmas my fridge had left for me, ten types of custard,

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I’m at least 80% sure that those are all custard.

… nine maxed-out store cards, eight boring carols, seven unanswered xmas cards, six stained napkins, five crappy crackers, four raging tantrums, three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t bleeping defrost.

On the eleventh day of Christmas I basically engineered for myself, eleven panic attacks,

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Either I have managed to finish everything on time, or I have forgotten something important.

 

… ten types of custard, nine maxed-out store cards, eight boring carols, seven unanswered xmas cards, six stained napkins, five crappy crackers, four raging tantrums, three toys with batteries, two “assembly requireds”, and a turkey that won’t damn well defrost.

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Sod this, it’ll be pizza all round.

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Pope Gregory XIII arranged for me, twelve months of planning…

planning

 

The Will to Live

So I went to the toilet just before.  It occurred to me at the time that it was the first time I’d sat down for 7 hours.  Three kids is more work than a full-time job.  It is hard work.  Someone smarter than me once pointed out that any number of kids is a lot of kids.  This is true.  Especially if that number is three.  Some days are rather good, or at least my mood is sufficiently bolstered to see the good in anything at all.  I might not get anything done, but I can appreciate that nobody died and we probably ate more than one food group over the course of the day.  Probably.

Shhh!  You'll jinx it!

Shhh! You’ll jinx it!

That, and at this point we are up to the third child, we have the skills and confidence to handle things that totally freaked us right out when we had that first child.  It helps sometimes to step back and just appreciate how far we’ve really come.  I like to take a little pride in the progress I’ve made.

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That’s right baby, I changed the HECK out of that nappy.

There was one day recently where the children-of-chaos activity-meter was just off the charts, and I actually had to dress them in pretty clothes to make it easier to be nice to them.

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Aw, so precious.  I can almost forget the carnage you unleashed five minutes ago. ALMOST.

Some days are so overflowing with evil that even the cupboards are against me.

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Huh? Who, Me? Oh, just battling the overheads. No, I’m fine, don’t need any help, thanks. I have this.

This feeling is compounded by the endless, tedious, despicable housework, and also riddled with guilt over the irreversible psychological damage I figure I must be causing to my children, pretty much daily.   Just by, well, being me.  It stands to reason.

There are times when I’ve had the house to myself for a short while.  They are rare, but they happen.  I tend to squander them, by using that time to tidy up, which often means throwing away other people’s stuff, which I then have to hide underneath something else in the rubbish bin.

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Pictured: the agony and ecstasy of throwing other people’s stuff out.

Green child upset me quite a bit last week.  I picked her up from school, and announced that I’d just bought her a ton of painting paper, paints, brushes, art books and a rather full bag of all kinds of things to get super creative with.  She says flatly “ok, but what about getting me a present that says ‘I love you’?”  I was so upset I had to take her home immediately and dress her beautifully again.  Five-year-olds will hurt your feelings, man.

But she works well at the other end of that scale, as well.  Yesterday when I picked her up from school, I asked what she had learned for the day.  She said this:

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Hey, wait a – no, ok, I see your point.

I thought, well that’s hardly fair.  What about that kid with the invisible eye-brows?  Or the twins who walk their cat to school?  What about that family who ride those bicycles with no pedals?  But then she explained that they were learning odd and even numbers, and our family has 5 people in it.  That makes us odd.

Basically, raising kids is an emotional minefield, or rollercoaster, or some kind of juggernaut.  Or possibly an emotional cyclone.  Or quite likely all of the above.

Some days it must be written all over me, when I’m running out of … whatever it is that I’m using up when raising children.  That would be will to live, I suppose.  Or, “Life”, as we know it, for short.  I’m running out of life, and some days it must be just written all over me, in black and white print.  Because there are times when my husband looks at me, and says:

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Except I’m so low on life I don’t even realise how low I am.

Because I’ve had a HARD DAY and I Don’t Want to Talk About It.  Plus, in all honesty, I am suspicious of my husband’s motives at times.  It’s like: he’s a man… I’m exhausted… I can’t be too careful.

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Me, suspicious and exhausted. This is my emotional ground zero these days.

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Thankfully I can recognise when I’m being a complete twit, and when to show appreciation.  Although I am not great at reciprocal affection.  I have lots to learn about that, in fact.

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True story.

Mind you, I regained some of my will to live the other day.  Pink child was refusing to go to sleep, my husband kept putting her in bed, she kept getting up again.  She kept insisting she had to tell me something so I wouldn’t forget it.  Eventually he caved in a little, and let her come down to see me in the study.  I asked her what she wanted to tell me.  She said:

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Which is cuter than a bug’s ear, coming from a 3 year old.  So I said good night again and began to usher her back to bed.

And then she said this:

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My will to live is now completely restored.

Full House

They say that the biggest change for parents is going from having no children to having children.  The birth of that first child is the biggest learning curve parents will face.  This is very true.  That first child is akin to trial by fire.  But what is less often talked about is how the third child impacts a family.

Back at the start, immediately upon becoming parents, my husband and I both found ourselves in situations we were ill-equipped to handle.  We were challenged in ways we’d never imagined.

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Sometimes we took it out on each other.  OK, I lie.  It was most of the time.

It always reminded me of that old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”  I could see where that was coming from.

Also, I used to find that I was one arm short.  I have two hands, one was always holding a baby.  In general, I think that nature caters beautifully for everything.  However in the case of human parents, I suspect that nature got it wrong.  With the birth of any child, to better manage the new workload, both parents should each grow a new arm.  It’s only fair.

For example, after your first child, you should have three arms.

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Er… little help?

Then simple things like laundry wouldn’t completely paralyse me.

And, by simple extrapolation, after having three kids, you should have five arms.  Because after having three children, two arms is laughably inadequate.

Before we had three children; I used to think that this was a mess:

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Now we call this a slow day.

These days I practically have to rely on sonar to find my children.

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Even though one of our kids is completely immobile, I am hopelessly outnumbered.  The overall effect is that I have downgraded my expectations of my day significantly.  I used to think it was reasonable to expect the house to be clean (ish), dinner of some sort to be prepared, and that I would get a shower daily.  Often I would also get plenty of sleep, find time for a haircut when necessary, and have a few hours each week to play computer games or get a shoulder massage or something.

Parents of three or more children will find this hilarious.  Some may even by crying by now.

These days my expectations of every day are simple: Get through it.

That’s it.  Survive.  That’s all I can aim for.  Anything else is a bonus.  If I get some laundry done, then I give myself a big gold star.  I stick it on my baby-vomit-stained shirt and wear that bad boy like a medal.  Do you know how long it takes to get three young children dressed, breakfasted, and all their teeth brushed?  Saturday.

After three kids, your days are never, ever productive.  They are not even predictable.  Heck, they are barely tolerable.

I will give you an example.

This afternoon, I accidentally dropped my keys in the toilet.  (I will spare you an illustration of that.)  Yet I can honestly say that this wasn’t even the worst part of my day.

That’s what having three kids is like.  You fish those keys out and keep going.  You have no choice, you HAVE to keep going.  While quietly making plans to buy a new car and move house, because now you can’t bear to touch your keys.

But seriously, my day was actually fairly typical of this “new normal”.  It began as they always do.

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I am not a morning person.

I was feeling a little extra flat than usual, so I thought I would have a second cup of coffee.  By now the baby was awake.  So I put her in the sling, thinking that this would free up my hands at least enough to make more coffee.  The older kids were playing quietly together, and I got all ambitious and decided to make real coffee.  Because I will never again have time to buy it in a real café.  So I fired up the machine and went at it.

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My first mistake was thinking I could steam milk.  I used the hand furthest from baby, because safety is the cornerstone of success.  Or at least, safety is the cornerstone of not spending the day in an intensive care unit.

For a brief, shining moment I actually believed I could achieve my aim.  But then I realised I couldn’t use the other hand to feel if the jug base was warm.  And I had no way of turning the steam off, without either nearly scalding the baby or actually scalding myself.

While this dilemma played out in my mind and I grew more and more anxious and the milk steamed hotter and hotter, the baby began to fuss, the kids erupted into a huge brawl which tumbled into the kitchen, and the phone rang.  All. At. Once.

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Also, my nose began to itch.

I only got out of it when realised I could turn the power off at the wall, using my foot.  So I gave myself a gold star for making to 9:00 am without giving third degree burns to anyone.

Soon after, my husband took the older kids to the park.  Because I told him to.  One might even say I begged.  So in those quiet moments after they’d gone, I decided to take the baby for a quick walk.

It took an aeon to pack the baby bag, dress her warmly, find my walking shoes, find myself some clean clothes, wrangle the enormous pram out the back door and down the steps while holding the baby in the sling.  All of those things combined took longer than the walk would take.  Even then, as I was about to place the baby in the pram, I realised that the tyres were flat.  And the rear of the house is kind of, well, cat-litter-y, so I had to keep holding the baby while I pumped the tyres back up.  Using one hand and two feet.

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Another gold-star moment.

When we got back my unfettered hausfrau ambitions prompted me to begin making pumpkin soup.  With the baby nestled comfortably in the sling.

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OK… now what?

I did not get very far.

My husband and older kids eventually returned.  I realised we need a few things from the supermarket and I said as much to my husband.

He got all excited, because going to the shops is a legitimate reason to escape from the house for a time, and get some relative peace and quiet.  We tend to squabble over those small opportunities for solitude.  They are rare and precious… so very, very precious.

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I’ll give you $100 if you’ll let me do it.

After his offer, I pointed out that the kids already knew about it, and were insisting that they be allowed to come too.  Suddenly it lost all its appeal.

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I’ll give you $1,000 if you’ll do it.

I love my husband.  And I know it’s true love, because even after three children, when he leaves his dirty laundry beside the laundry basket instead of inside it, when he doesn’t change a toilet roll, or forgets to put the rubbish bins out, or uses an entire packet of wipes on one (one!) nappy change, I still haven’t divorced him.  THAT is true love, right there.  Either that or it is fatigue.  I am too busy to know the difference any more.  Or to care.

So anyway.  I am certain that we’ve all, us parents, had the moment where we are changing one nappy/diaper too many, and our spirit is just starting to flag.  There is something about the monotonous inevitability of someone else’s endless stream of poop that can really wear you down.  I really felt myself really sagging today, over this one soiled nappy.

OK to be fair it was REALLY soiled.  I mean, there was a deep end, just like at the local swimming pool.  Looking at it, I felt all the fight in me just draining away.

So I changed the nappy.

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Even at the best of times, it’s still the worst of times.

Except it wasn’t like this.  This picture is positively serene.  This picture shows a person who can achieve their aim.  This picture shows a woman in control of the situation.  The reality was a tad more… dynamic.

First, there was another person around.  With other-person type demands.

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Cos I just love thinking about food while handling poo.

And another person with a whole different set of problems.

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Pictured: A complete representation of the body’s relationship to solids

Oh yeah, and we weren’t at home.  We were in a car park.  And this particular explosive nappy situation was a bona fide poop emergency.

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And I needed to pee.

Still not stressful enough?  Did I mention the rain?

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There you go.

Whatever you think you can handle, kids will always, always¸ find a way to make you handle just a little bit more.  And then a bit more.  And then a bit more.  And then nature comes along to finish you off.  And there you are, soggy and defeated in a car park.

But that wasn’t the worst part of my day either.

The worst part was after the evening kafuffle to get the kids into bed, complete with demands for extra stories, the frantic cleaning to find the floor and the cat once again, wiping the slime off the sofa, washing all the dishes and tidying everything up, I had enough time to watch a movie we’d rented.  And to make my aching old feet more comfortable, I removed my shoes, stood on a splinter, and spent the entire film trying to extract it.

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Too grumpy to cry.

I am lately feeling rather like a cautionary tale.

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Or perhaps someone out of a nursery rhyme.

I am really starting to understand what that old woman in the shoe was about.  I don’t know what gruel is though, and it sounds like something made by wringing out a water rat.  I wouldn’t want to eat that.  So instead I road-tested a microwave brownie-in-a-mug recipe, which lived up to the hype.  So I can thankfully say that the day ended on a high note.

Who can even imagine what tomorrow will bring.

I am living in interesting times.

Scooter

It’s a nice day today, crystal clear sunshine low on the horizon, moderate warmth, leaves of all colours in the mellow autumn breeze. So I decided to take the kids for a walk to the shop and back. It’s only two blocks away, I took the pram, the kids were each on a scooter.

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Oh, and they talked. Constantly. At the same time. About EVERYTHING.

Now, I’m not entirely sure how it works, but I think they won.

Fear

I am 39 weeks pregnant today.  I’ve gone past the ‘wishing pregnancy was over” phase, and I’m now firmly in the “Oh I give up, this baby will never be born” phase.  I’ll just be pregnant forever.  (Actually a friend just pointed out that this can occasionally happen, but it’s an extremely rare, and rather grotesque, occurrence, known as a lithopedion, or a “stone baby”.  DO NOT Google this unless you have a very strong constitution and a high tolerance for some extremely macabre facts of life.)

However in my case, by turning my back on labour,  think what I’m doing is protecting my delicate psyche from the idea of labour.  Because labour is, let’s face it, hard damn work.  And it’s painful.  And there are many unknowns, all sorts of things can become urgent and complicated with no warning.  There are things the baby may present with that haven’t been picked up on ultrasound.

In short, if I think too much about it now, I will be a bundle of nerves.

Yet this is not my first pregnancy.  Which actually doesn’t help much, because the other two had their extreme moments, and some of those I would rather never repeat.  Most of it has been blocked from my memory, so I am eternally grateful for post-partum amnesia.  It is my happy thought.  Which is weirdly ironic.

I keep reminding myself that this is not the scariest thing I’ve ever done.  Not even by a long shot.

For example, when I was about 3 years old, I was given a dolls house.  It was huge.  And this was back in the 1970s when things were made solidly, built to last.  That dolls house was only wood, but it would have easily withstood an apocalypse or two.

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In fact, better built than many houses these days.

This dolls house was taller than I was at the time.

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I didn’t catch up until I was four years old.

Given that it was so large, it was probably just a matter of time before I decided to crawl inside it and pretend to be a doll.

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Three weeks, to be precise.

When I was three years old, I crawled inside the “living room”, reached out and closed the door.  I quickly decided I’d had enough, so I reached out, up and around to the clasp, and pressed the button.  The door swung open and I crawled out again.  Nobody any the wiser.

However at the age of four, in a moment of blind, childish insanity, I did it again.

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The fact I couldn’t breathe even at this point should have been a warning sign.

The door clicked shut.  On the old 1970s clasp.  This was before the invention of the consumer watchdog, and that clasp was solid as a rock.  This would never happen these days, as modern dolls houses only have magnets to keep them closed.  Easily pressed open from either side.  Not to mention they are mostly pretty flimsy.  But not back then.  Not my dolls house.  I would bet t was strong enough to withhold an angry wombat tripping out on crystal meth, if such occasion ever arose.  It was certainly strong enough to hold a panicky, four year old nitwit.

I was bigger than I had been the first time I did this, and I couldn’t get my arm around enough to press the release button.

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I should never write children’s stories. They would be like “BURIED” for the under-8s.

I also couldn’t really breathe, as my legs were competing with my lungs for real estate, and my knees were somewhere around my ears.  And I was alone in the play room, two rooms away from the nearest adult.  I didn’t have the air to scream, so I began to whimper and make small sort of infantile mammalian panic sounds.  In times of doubt, I find it helps to stick with what you know.

Thankfully it worked, and my mother eventually came in.  Presumably to find out what the weird scratching animal noises were.  I can barely imagine what the scene must have looked like.

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Left: My mother, struggling to decide whether to laugh or flip out.

From that day onward, I have held a soft spot in my heart for Alice in Wonderland.  Alice may be the only other girl to have ever experienced what I went through that day, although she had the good sense to stick a foot through a window.   And in all honesty, if a drugged up caterpillar had shown up and offered me half a mushroom, I would have devoured that bad boy in a heartbeat.  Whole mushroom and possibly the caterpillar along with it.  ANYTHING to shrink even just a little bit.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  One that has held me strong for the past 30+ years.  That lesson is: don’t ever lock yourself in a dolls house that cannot be opened from the inside.  We could all take something from that.

A few years later, I found new a way to humiliate myself.

The high diving board. It’s my white whale.

By attempting to overcome my fear of heights.  On the high diving board.  In public.  In a swim suit.

With a queue of increasingly irritated people waiting behind me.

The biggest psychological difficulty was that it never seemed that high from the ground.  And once up there, I would become so startled by the height, that I would freeze up for a moment.  That one moment was long enough for my imaginative little brain to construct a few worst-case-scenarios for my extended contemplation, as I stood there, alone, and exposed, several metres from the ground.

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I really should write advertisements for Australian tourism.

Most of the time when we visited the pool, I would just swim about and ignore the high diving board.  But on at least ten separate occasions throughout my youth, I climbed that board and stood there, drying out in the sun, holding up the queue while I fantasized about my impending death, and the sun slowly set in the west.

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I once heard water is ‘hard’ depending on how far you fall before you hit it. That fact alone fed my anxiety for 6 straight years.

I managed to actually jump a total of four times.  Spread over a period of almost ten years.  To this day I still cannot tolerate heights very well.  That is, specifically, I do not enjoy being up high, I do not get a pleasant rush from it.  And the idea of climbing up high specifically to hurl my squishy little breakable, water-based body downwards, still fills me with dread.

As I grew, I found new things to be terrified of as a teenager.  That is, along with the usual bag of horror goodies, the things everyone is scared of, that comprise most of hallowe’en and Tim Burton movies.

scary things

Meh, I’m more freaked out by dolls houses and diving boards.

Through my love of reading, I learned new things to be afraid of by proxy, like yowies, yetis, pookahs, mummies, wendigos and investment bankers.

But it wasn’t until I was about 14 that I saw my first wild snake.

Not in a sterile, manageable way.  Or even in that sleepy-and-doesn’t-give-a-damn kind of way that you hope for, when you see a wild snake.  No.

Allow me to set the scene.

I was swimming in the dam behind our house, with my brother.  It was a hot day, very bright and sunny, most importantly there were no diving boards in sight, and things were fine.  My brother and I were just chatting and floating about and doing nothing much, which anyone can tell you, is great fun.

We were only about a metre or so apart.  (That is 3-4 feet by way of reference.)

And a brown snake just swam right between us.

Didn’t say a word, didn’t look at us, just swan straight down the middle of the dam, from one side to the other.

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Hey look! Who even knew snakes could swim? … Wait, AARGH!!!

We stopped, and watched in silence as this snake passed between us, long, lean, elegant and terrifying.  The colour of sand, twigs and clay.   It moved just like the “charmed” snakes in the cartoons, it’s long body fishtailing along behind it, and it’s beady little eyes never moved from its destination.  It was horrifying and magnetic.  And it passed us without incident.

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It was a magic snake too, because at that moment, we both suddenly realised we could walk on water.

That is as close I have ever been, and ever want to be, to a brown snake.  That was enough.  I’m done.

There is really only one other thing I am scared of.  And for me, at least, it’s a big one.  Which is ironic, because in reality it’s tiny.

leeches

Just drawing this filled me with dread.

To be honest, I am more afraid of the one on the right than the one on the left.  I realise the foolishness of this phobia.  I mean, I’m an intelligent, tool-wielding human, standing around 5’6″, and the thing I’m most afraid of is a 2″  swamp-dwelling invertebrate.

I mean, gosh, it’s not like I couldn’t just out-run it.  Even 39 weeks pregnant, I’m pretty sure I’m faster over land than a scrawny vampiric slug.  OK so my top speed at the moment is about a 4km waddle per hour.  That’s still faster than a water-dwelling oligochaete.  (This is a family that includes earth worms.  Also not widely known for their speed.)

There are no leeches where I live, and this is entirely intentional.  Because if there were, I would not live here.  I would move.  I fantasize sometimes about living in the middle of the desert, where I have 800km of hot, dry sand in every direction to ensure that no leeches ever come near me.  And even then I would still want to sow salt in the earth and carry a flame-thrower, just to be certain.

And yet here I am, at 39 weeks pregnant, and the thing that most fills me with dread at this moment, is this:

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IT’S A TRAP! DON’T DO IT!! THOSE DOORS WILL CLOSE BEHIND YOU!!

 

So I am sort of thankful to my brain for trying to shield me from anxiety about labour, by throwing up memories of the scariest moments from my past.  Sort of, kind of, maybe, thankful.  Because there’s nothing like a good old dose of terror to make some common anxiety look utterly mundane.

So I’ll stop worrying about labour now, and wrap myself in a comforting psychological blanket of dolls houses, diving boards, brown snakes and leeches, and – wait.

Well, at least at the end of labour you get a cute little baby to play with.  That’s more than you can say for the diving board.

Hair

The girls were very excited to see the babysitter yesterday.  They adore her.  The toddler was so excited, she completed skipped over saying hello.  She dived straight into discussing the trials and torments of her day.

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Which is fine.  After all, she’s only 3.  Which may account for what she said next:

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I was stuck somewhere between laughing and envy, over the fact that she can actually kick her own face.