Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The realities of having four kids

When people hear that we’ve got four young children, the most common response is to gasp and say ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ or ‘how do you cope?’ The truth is, having four kids is easy. If you don't mind constant noise and chaos and having your life revolve around meeting the needs of tiny people, ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

If you're planning on a big family, good for you. Our kids bring us joy and light up our lives in ways we've never imagined. I love it. We've grown used to the mayhem and mess, and accept that for now, this is what our lives are like. But just so you know, there's a few realities that come with having a large family, some of which take a bit of getting used to.

Here are the realities of having four small kids in the house:

There’s a lot of washing to do

Because kids are dirty, filthy creatures. Our washing machine is always full. For the sake of the environment, I've tried to be selective about what goes in for the wash and what gets worn again. But this has meant using the 'sniff test', which on more than one occasion Has. Punished. Me.  So now the rule of thumb is, 'if a child has worn it, it gets washed'. Really, it's not so much the washing bit that's hard. It's easy to dump clothes in a machine, add detergent and press 'start'. Even the drying process isn't that bad, but the folding and putting away of said clothes? The piles and piles of clothes? It brings me to my knees.

All the upkeep

Keeping track of all the little finger and toenails in the house constantly gets the better of me. I am in charge of eighty little nails, people. And then there's the bottoms to wipe, the teeth to brush, the noses to blow, and the ears to clean (which admittedly, I rarely do). Thankfully, the twins don't have much hair yet, but when there are four heads to oversee...and there's a lice outbreak at school? Hold, don't hold me, I might have lice. Get me a drink instead, quick.

The people mover

After shopping around, we went with the 8-seater, as this was the only one we figured could manage all the car seats and all our stuff. We are now the proud drivers of a people mover that no longer fits into our local supermarket car park or down small and winding suburban streets. The logistics of getting all four of them into their seats and buckled up is a hunch-backed, sweat-inducing, painful routine. Although, it's a great feeling when they're all buckled up and contained safe.

The vices

I am seriously dependent on coffee and red wine to bookend the day and I'm fine with it. If you plan on having lots of children you'll find your own vices along the way, which you'll make your peace with. They'll be the only thing that get you out of bed in the morning and keep you going until the end of the day.

Simple things are no longer simple

All the things that used to be simple, or at least straightforward, now require a detailed and strategic plan: getting petrol, a take-away coffee, going to the park - there is no simple trip or quick pop-up the road. Getting four kids ready and out the door is hard enough, but factoring in a stop-off at the supermarket and ferrying four kids out of the car and up and down the aisles of Woolworths is a headache that is not even worth talking about. Let's just say that when the milk runs out, it's pretty awful, bone-crushing news.

Stuff gets lost

Something's always missing and it's always something important. Think baby wipes, the TV remote, keys and special bedtime toys. I know the theory about everything having its place...this theory has no place in a house with this many small people. Small people couldn't care less about everything having its place. They are much more interested in finding said important items, running off with them like little imps and leaving them somewhere random like in the hat cupboard under the stairs (my keys - for a week) or in an old lunch box out the back with all the plastic toys (Lamby - two weeks). 

Someone is always doing something they shouldn’t

Of course they are. If I had all these siblings to cover my arse, I'd get up to mischief at every possible opportunity too. I only have to turn my back while I open the fridge to find someone going through the kitchen bin, someone drawing on their face and someone else eating a week-old biscuit they found under the couch.

There’s plenty to cry about (but also lots to laugh about)

With a lively six-year-old, a threenager, and a couple of toddlers in the house, there's lots of drama and crying at our place.  And then there's my tears and tantrums. We are a noisy, emotional bunch. But equally, there's a lot of laughter in our house. For all the noise, mess and chaos that small people create, they are hilarious creatures, and it's truly the laughs that keep us putting one foot in front of the other. 

* originally published on Kidspot 

Friday, 27 November 2015

5 ways a holiday with kids is not a holiday

I am super pleased this week to be the final Weekend Rewind guest host for the year. Thanks to the lovely Sonia, Zoe and Bron for having me (and make sure you check out their fabulous blogs). Since we're all heading into the holiday season, I thought it'd be fitting to tell you about my recent *ahem* holiday, and what to expect if you're taking your kids anywhere this Summer.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Mum and I took my four kids - all under 6.5yrs - on holiday to Queensland this month. We extended the invitation to Mr Laney of course, who muttered something along the lines of 'can't get the time off work' and 'think I've got something on that week', clearly having some foresight that I may have lacked when planning this trip. So we left Mr Laney behind to hold the fort. Since we’ve been back, a lot of people have asked, ‘How was your holiday?’ Hmmm. I’ve decided that the word ‘holiday’ is not quite the right word for when you take kids away.

As far as I can recall, holidays involve some sort of rest, a chance for rejuvenation, and an excuse to sleep in and be generally lazy. I don’t recall any of these things happening on our holiday. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a fantastic time – we all did, especially the kids. We stayed with family who had a sprawling suburban house, replete with swimming pool and kid-friendly pets. The kids spent their days exploring the house and gardens, playing with the dogs, and swimming like there was no tomorrow. We went to a theme park, hit the shops, took day trips.

But rest? Relaxation? SLEEP? Not on this holiday. In fact I remember having the distinct feeling of needing a holiday when we were on the way home from this one. I've realised that the holiday landscape changes when you have small kids, especially when you’re a slightly anxious parent like me.

Here’s what I discovered on ours: 

1. The airport
Airports aren't kid-friendly. They should be: there's all those planes to look at, the air of holiday anticipation and all the treats and snacks parents have hiding in their carry-on luggage to keep kids quiet happy. But at check-in, the airline insisted on taking our double-stroller and 'unfortunately couldn't locate a loaner stroller', meaning we had to lug the twin toddlers around the airport along with the big kids and our bags. This was made all the more fun by the random security check for explosives as well as the standard bag checks. Clearly we resembled a security risk. When we got through all the checks, we lugged our lot through the airport, every now and then stopping to ask the bigger kids to stop rolling around on the floor, and about an hour later, we arrived at our boarding gate, where I immediately got out the snacks.

2. The flight
Before kids, I used to moan about the length of flights overseas and how uncomfortable it was to sit still and just do nothing all that time. During our short flights with twin toddlers who squirmed and protested on our laps as we force fed them sultanas, tried to make the in-flight menus interesting and in the end just handed over our phones, I thought of having my lap to myself and wept. Needless to say, I spent the last 20 minutes of the flight watching the clock and salivating for my double stroller.

3. The new environment
When you put kids in a new environment, it requires a whole new risk assessment for potential dangers and disasters. While I'd learnt to be more or less comfortable with them running around our tiny townhouse, going from this to a huge suburban dream with big gardens and a swimming pool and multiple rooms to hide in presented a major challenge for my helicopter tendencies. To make sure none of the kids  fell-into-a-bed-of-rusty-nails/discovered-a-spider's-burrow/unlocked-the-gate-to-the-swimming-pool/escaped-to-the-outside-streets/fell-over-and-banged-their-head-and-just-lay-there-for-ages-because-no-one-knew-where-they-were meant I was constantly pacing the grounds looking for one of them. It was exhausting. On the plus side, if I had a Fitbit, I reckon I'd have clocked up a few thousand more steps with all that frantic pacing.

4. The non-sleeping
Kids don't sleep on holiday. After a tricky first night of trying to get them all to bed, I was relieved to find that they settled well for the rest of the holiday. But with the slight time difference and holiday buzz, they started waking up really freaking early instead. I thought 5.30am was a rough beginning for the day, which we got now and then at home, but on holiday the new wake-up time became 4.30am. Every. Morning. Sounding like a holiday yet? Is it??

5. The zero down-time
There's no down-time on holidays with kids. They're all excited and revved up and the more tired they get, the more loud and crazy they become. All the stuff that usually gets my kids to focus or chill out at home did not work on holiday. Which I understand. Who wants to kick back and watch TV when there’s a swimming pool to swim in or a noisy game of hide and seek to play? Or giant dogs to 'ride'? Who in their right mind would want to sit down with a cup of tea and like, just read a magazine or something???

Honestly, we did have a great time. It was never about getting some rest time in, I wanted the kids to have some new experiences and they got plenty of those. But a 'holiday' with kids? Don't make me laugh. It was more like a road tour. With a really hyperactive rock 'n' roll band.

You know who got the holiday in all of this? Mr Laney. The clever, clever man.

So do tell - have you holidayed with kids recently? What was it like? Does it get any easier as they get older?! Got any tips for me? (hint: to leave a comment, click on this post's heading again to open it up as a new page)

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The time the bank gave me $50,000

The other night I had the weirdest dream. I dreamt that I was at the ATM one morning, about to withdraw my last $50. Then the balance on the screen read $50,000. Confused, I went into the bank and asked one of the clerks about it, and he went out the back to get the boss. 

The boss came over, smiled at me and said: 'Today the bank is randomly giving away $50,000 to hard-working mums everywhere. Congratulations Ms Laney. Not only are you a brilliant mum, but you seriously have hardly any wrinkles.' Then he told me that the only catch was that the entire amount had to be spent by midnight. Any remaining money would be reclaimed by the bank. 

I didn't need to be told twice. I took my amazing skin out of there and popped to the ritzy shop next door for the new handbag and shoes I'd been eyeing off weeks. Then I raced home to tell Mr Laney the news. 

'But how do we go about spending this sort of money?' I asked.

'We're going to the Melbourne Cup,' said Mr Laney, who was already on the phone organising a helicopter flight to Melbourne through his best mate who has a mate who has a brother who knows a mate who has a helicopter business. 

Meanwhile, I'd had a brilliant idea about who should look after our kids for the day, given that we had money to throw around. Within the hour, The Wiggles had pulled into our street, tooting and chugging along in the Big Red Car, which they parked in our driveway. Emma Wiggle jumped out of the car and gave Miss P a cuddle, while the rest of the kids stared as the other Wiggles got out of the car. 

'We'll take it from here,' said Lachie Wiggle, who headed into our living room, followed by Simon and Anthony, where they immediately launched into a rendition of Do The Propeller for our mesmerised children. I wanted to stay and sing as Do The Propeller is a seriously awesome song, but the clock was ticking.

Mr Laney and I left our numbers on the fridge and raced out the door, jumping into a waiting cab. 'Our helicopter will be here in two hours,' said Mr Laney. 'That's enough time for a new suit and a beer. I'll meet you in the pub.' He jumped out at the formal hire place at the top of the street, and I told the driver to take me to the fancy dress shops in the next suburb, where I got all dolled up myself. 

An hour and a half later, we were dressed and suited up, sipping drinks in the pub while we waited for the helicopter to arrive, which landed in the loading zone at the back of the pub. It was quite a commotion.

It dropped us right outside the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, where we tipped the pilot a ridiculous amount and asked him to pick us up again in four hours. Then we strolled through the gates with Bec and Lleyton Hewitt, who had also just arrived, and to be honest, they looked a little jealous of our helicopter. 

We spent the afternoon betting big money and losing absolute wedges of the stuff before the main race started. We didn't know the first thing about betting on horses. The we ended up at the bar with Hamish and Andy, who although looked a bit older than I'd imagined, were still seriously funny and after we shouted a few bottles of champers, we were all best mates. I can't remember what we talked about, but I know we laughed A LOT. 

Then our helicopter arrived to take us back to Sydney, where we were booked in at Aria, in their private dining room. On the way in, we spied Noel Gallagher in there with a few of his friends. Mr Laney told him we were huge fans of his and fairly cashed up. The next thing we knew, Noel was performing a private gig for us in our dining room, where we all drank Long Island Iced Teas and sang along to our favourite tunes. 

For all the alcohol we were quaffing, we were in surprisingly good shape. My hair and make-up had miraculously stayed in place and Mr Laney...well at one point, I looked over at him and he'd morphed into a young John Travolta, which was weird. Actually, maybe Mr Laney wasn't there anymore...I can't remember. 

Anyway, after dinner, John Travolta and I went with Noel and his friends to a little club that I never knew existed, where me and John cut some shapes on the dance floor. I'm fairly certain John was making moves on me. It must have been my youthful skin. Luckily, Mr Laney turned up, and after a bit of tension between him and John, the three of us decided to call it a night and head home for a nightcap.

We got home in time for a brew with The Wiggles and before they left, they sang Do The Propeller again, just for me (and the sizable tip Mr Laney offered). By the time the Big Red Car tooted and chugged out of our driveway, we were knackered. 

It was just after 11pm and I was pretty sure there was enough money left for a few more purchases, so I jumped online and ordered enough staple groceries to last us six months. Then I sent every mum I knew I bottle of plonk. I thought it was only right. Then, as it was late and there had been no room in the Big Red Car for John, we let him crash on the couch. 

The next day I woke up and for a second I thought it had all been true. I checked the couch to be sure - but there was no John Travolta there, just Mr B, watching cartoons. I felt kind of relieved. What would I say to John Travolta in the cold light of day? Plus, if the dream was real, I'd have a messed up hangover that day.
Still. I made a point of nipping to the bank that morning, just in case they had any special offers going on. You never know.


Now, over to you: if you had $50k to be completely reckless with, what would you do with it? And who would you choose to perform a private gig for you???