Catch up

It’s been fairly busy around here lately, what with the new baby and all.  So just to catch you up, here’s a sort of montage of what I’ve been up to lately.  Admittedly most days are blurring into each other, but there are some memorable moments.

Out and about, showcasing our impeccable manners.

Out and about, showcasing our impeccable manners.

Thanks, kiddo, shout that out, nice and loud.  Make sure she hears you.  *sigh*.  But overall, one day is pretty hard to distinguish from the next.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t “lost” myself.  I am still the same as ever.

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I wish I… nah, forget it.

I have to admit, though, less days start like that now.  I save it for weekends.

Now, most days start more like this:

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She said, knowing full well they would ignore her.

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He asked. When he could have been dressing the children.

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Tried it the other way around but my toast got soggy in the shower.

Some days we stay in…

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This happens about 10 times a day, but out of kindness I’ll only show you once.

Some days we go out…

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To splash about in puddles, one inch deep…

And to keep sane, every now and then Mr Bodysoluble and I enjoy an occasional date night.

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We could do with a bit more practice.  But we try.

A bit.

Or we will.

When we get more time.

Maybe.

In the meantime we get to enjoy this:

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And this…

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OK twice. I changed my mind.

And every so often, this…

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So that’s me, in a nutshell.

No, that’s not quite true.  THIS is me in a nutshell:

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Looks quite comfy really… A nut is as inviting as an armchair, to the woman who has no time to sit down.

And on that note, I’d best get back to it.  If I get all the chores done, I might have a few minutes to myself, to work on another post, or play a computer game, or even, if I get lucky enough, chill out in an oversized walnut shell.

It will always be the dream.

Food Fight

Food and children is a battleground.  Well, maybe not for everyone.  But certainly for my kids this is true.  I want them to eat properly, vegetables and everything, with a knife and fork.  They want to eat garbage.  With their hands.  On a beanbag.  While yelling at maximum volume.  Upside-down.  With their mouths full.

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Pictured: the natural state of a 5 year old.

So when the opportunity comes up to go out for dinner, I have mixed feelings.

See, at our house, I do almost all of the cooking.

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Takeaway pizza notwithstanding.

I have learned over the years that cooking for others can quickly become a soul-destroying experience.

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Even if it is something they actually like, there is always one fussy eater who won’t co-operate.

I drew your face wonky because I don't like what you are saying.

I drew your face wonky because I don’t like what you are saying.

This is why I love restaurants.  I’m not responsible for what everyone eats for a change.  That, and the hugely rare experience of someone else serving me.  Whenever anyone else brings me food I have to fight to hold back my tears of gratitude.  You could serve me tepid microwave quick-oats but it will still feel like I’m being served seared unicorn cutlets garnished with the hanging gardens of Babylon.

Actually in all honesty I suck at microwave quick-oats.  They always seem to climb out of the bowl.

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Is it cooked or is it… sentient?

But while I may love going to restaurants, I was still apprehensive, because I have memories of the last time we tried to take the kids to a nice restaurant.

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It didn’t end well.

OK I’m exaggerating.  But not much.  So this time I thought we’d better get in some practice first.  Take them out for lunch at a regular café, get them practised at sitting still, eating with cutlery and so on, eating from their own plate and nobody else’s.  That kind of thing.  Things I am actually always trying to do anyway, but that become infinitely more important when eating in public.

We found a small fairly casual café, and were seated amongst other people.  Right there, that puts us at a disadvantage.

There were no other children in sight.  This is a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, other kids means other parents, who will commiserate and who understand and who won’t judge and hate us for ruining their day.  Probably.

The downside of having other kids nearby is that within about ten minutes this:

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Becomes this:

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So we sat, and opened our menus.  And our eldest daughter, let’s call her Sonia, starts getting antsy.  Not about the food, which is guaranteed to be a struggle at some point, but about the table (too wobbly).  Then the cutlery (too heavy).  Then it’s the seat (too high).  Then the fact that she has to sit still for more than 2 seconds at a time.

When her food arrives she eats about two mouthfuls then loses interest.  It’s impressive to me that my children never seem to eat anything throughout the whole meal, yet always manage to have their mouths full when talking.  I don’t know how they do it, it shouldn’t even be possible.  It’s as if the natural rules of physics are something you have to grow into.  Like, up until the age of 8 they are more guidelines than laws.  It rubs off on me as well.  I find myself saying nonsensical sentences like “I put nothing on her plate and it’s all still there, she hasn’t even touched it.”

So anyway.  She says she has “finished” eating.  She makes herself comfortable.

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While my lunch is going cold, we have an exchange of words.  She resumes her relaxed state.

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By now, the warmest thing on my plate is the salad.

Just to get her off the wall I suggest that my husband take her to view the cake display and choose a dessert for the kids to share.  This goes off without a hitch.  Until it arrives, with a huge mountain of cream on the side of the plate.

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Sonia doesn’t even blink, just dives on in and scoops up a handful of cream.  That’s not a figure of speech.  I mean an actual handful.

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Even the 3 year old was shocked.

At some point in the carnage that was them eating cake, someone spilled a drink.

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The liquid streaked across the table, and began pouring over the edge, straight into my handbag.  I was holding the baby, and I think I shrieked, when I saw my bag filling up with juice.  I reached down and grabbed the handles, and swung it upwards away from the juice, straight into the back of the head of the man behind me.

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Me, smugly saving the day.

He turned around to get angry, but deflated a little when he saw me.  I imagine it was seeing the  look of complete horror that was on his face, perfectly mirrored on mine.

It’s around about then that we left.  It’s possible the room applauded our departure.

Actually feel like applauding our departure myself.

Actually feel like applauding our departure myself.

So that was practice.

As a result, I am far more anxious about taking the kids to a restaurant.

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.

Nearing Due Date

I’m now 37.5 weeks pregnant.  This means when someone (aka everyone) asks me “how long to go?” I can honestly say “any day now!”  I even say it cheerfully, because nobody likes a downer.

But honestly, between the unending braxton hicks “practice” contractions and an element of apprehension while waiting for the “real” contractions, I have decided that the waiting game sucks.

Sometimes people say “you must be sick of it by now” (oh yes, indeed I am).  Usually women say this.  Women who have had children.  Because let’s face it, pregnancy does drag on for an insane amount of time.

I’m lucky that I am the kind of person who can keep myself busy.  But not this close to the due date.  I don’t want to start anything new, can’t really plan anything, don’t want to book myself in for anything, and don’t even really want to venture too far from home, in case I end up labouring in, say, a shopping centre, or a swamp full of gnats, leeches and crocodiles somewhere.  Or god forbid, a shopping centre full of gnats, leeches and crocodiles.  *shudder*.  (Well, this IS Australia.  Things happen.)

So to distract my terrible imagination from wearing me down, I try to keep as busy as can be.  I’ve done the usual things, assembled the change table and cot, washed all the baby linen (twice!), filled in endless amounts of relevant and/or outstanding paperwork for just about everything under the sun.  And now the urgent, difficult, relevant things are done.

This leaves me with little option but to FIND things to do.  Often far out of balance to what still needs to be done.  And at the expense of regular tasks.

Like sweeping the back yard concrete.

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Can’t remember the last time I swept indoors though. Huh.

There are times when my energy levels are so high I actually accomplish nothing, because I’m racing around manically, from task to task, my extreme-multitasking skills about as organised as a balloon in a tornado.

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Always followed by bouts of fatigue. So a *kind* of balance is achieved.

During the low points, I have trouble entertaining myself, because everything I do seems to trigger an oxytocin-induced sob-fest.  Even TV.  No, especially TV.

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Pictured: pregnant person watching advert for tax accountants

Generally these mood swings elicit the comfort response in others.  This rarely goes the way they expect.

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That’s right, Sunshine, back away slowly. And don’t come back until you have burritos.

Between all this, the usual functions of the day are also skewed out of recognition.  So much so that it’s like being back in the first trimester of pregnancy again.  Some days you can’t get enough to eat, others you do nothing more than play with your food.

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One of these two will NOT be getting any dessert this evening.

The main feature of the last few weeks, however, has been my renewed interest and energy in long-forgotten projects that have been outstanding since before we moved house.

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Never get so much done as when you forget you have kids.

But the due date looms closer and I am running out of distractions.  Which is probably just as well, because I am also increasingly dizzy as the days go by.

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I want to sit down, but I have forgotten how to chair. Or how to gravity, for that matter.

So I have my fingers crossed that this will all be behind me soon, because I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.  And I am fairly sure that the family are just as sick of it as I am.

So with any luck the next post will be about a brand new baby (girl or boy, we just don’t know).  Because it really is going to be any day now…

Expanding Family

Once upon a time, I thought family life would look like this:

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Probably with it’s own upbeat soundtrack too.

However I can honestly say that it looks nothing like that, and looks everything like this:

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Soundtrack to this image is “mum! mum! mum! mum!!! MUM!! MUM!!!”

You have to imagine that we are also knee-deep in toys, but I couldn’t draw them all in.  Also three minutes after this picture was taken, the youngest child declared that the reason the banana was in her nose was “to get out the pea”.  Don’t even ask.