Wednesday, 29 October 2014

5 Reasons to Love an Indoor Playcentre

On Terrible Tuesday this week, I took all my kids to our local indoor play centre. I know these places can be a turn-off with all the noise, the germs and the rough kids, and they cost a pretty penny too, but for me, they've been a saviour.

Usually, when I take the four kids out, I encounter the following obstacles:
  • Parking issues. I need to be able to park as close as possible to the planned venue, or it just gets so hard herding the big kids along. I would also prefer not to pay for parking but I will fork out the money if it means convenience.
  • Toilets. These have to be nearby and accessible for the pram. I need to be able to get there in a flash if Miss P announces that she needs to go.
  • Does the pram fit where we want to go? I really try to avoid mass furniture re-arrangement just to accommodate the pram, I hate all the fuss.
  • Where is the coffee? This needs to be at said venue, or we are all screwed.
  • Overall amusement factor. Is there enough to keep the big kids happy for a decent amount of time? After all the hassle of getting there, the place has to keep us all sweet for a good couple of hours.
The play centres we frequent have none of these obstacles, or I wouldn't go.  I make it a rule to arrive early, and strictly go during term-time only, so its never too busy. When we went this week, we were the first ones to arrive, so the place was a) clean, and b) like one big private playroom for my kids. The babies usually sleep well in their pram while the other two run around, and when they do wake, there is plenty going on for them to sit back and observe.

Here are the other reasons why I find play centres so darn good:

1.       The kids can burn energy like crazy. What’s not to like here? Busy, live-wire kids like mine need to run, jump, slide and bounce. Even better, 90% of the structure is soft, so hurting themselves is hardly an issue.
2.       The Café. Serves. Coffee. It’s not brilliant, but it will do. The café at our local place is also pretty good for healthy food, so it’s easy enough to get the kids some food that isn’t god-awful. Equally, it provides perfect fodder for bribery, which is useful if you need some bait to get them to leave without throwing an embarrassing tantrum.
3.       There are toilets for everyone. Including baby change facilities. And they’re RIGHT THERE. No roads to cross, no stairs to commandeer, no queues to wait out. We used the ‘family toilet’, a.k.a. the disabled loo, which is the only one I can get the double pram in. But we all squeezed in and went about our business, stress-free….
4.       Magazines and music. I love this touch. A pile of donated magazines and newspapers for relaxing mummies and carers to casually leaf through, while sipping their coffees and glancing over at the kids every now and then. In the background, some sort of smooth music loop plays songs  that are uplifting and great for day dreaming.
5.       Other mums. It’s a great place to chat with the other mums. I made two friends yesterday and came away with a new kids clothing website (Baby Boden) and a new view point on the benefits of early childhood reading lessons.

It was actually a bit of a crime when we went there yesterday, as it was a glorious sunshiney day, but I had to go with the overall convenience option. We wouldn't do it every week, but for once or twice a month, it's worth every cent.

* My tips for play centre visits:

·         Avoid school holidays and weekends unless you want giant children trampling all over your precious cherubs.
·         Arrive first thing. The place is as clean as it's going to get and most families don’t seem to arrive until mid-morning. Also, depending on the parking options, arriving early means you get the best choices.
·         Put brightly coloured clothes on your kids so you can easily spot them from a distance. You don’t want to have to keep leaving your magazine and flat white to check on their welfare.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Family Theme Song

We love music in our house. Before kids and domesticity came on the scene, I loved going to gigs and concerts, and I definitely kept up with new music. Not so much now. But I do love pulling out an old classic and rocking out every now again. I find music so good for releasing tension, lifting my mood and energising me when I start getting the into the doldrums. This is nearly always between 3.30pm and 4pm when I'm at home, just before the onslaught of the witching hour. A time I definitely need a pick-me-up.

I've been playing this one song over and over again. I get right into it, busting moves and trying to hit the big notes and really feeling the theme of the song. I am an absolutely awful singer by the way.  Then it occurred to me. This is my family song right now. Remember the show 'Ally McBeal', and her personal theme song?

Well, this is currently our family theme song.

Four kids in, and at the peak of our childcare bills, we are feeling the costs of raising a large family!
Back when I did the maths for the potential third child, we could stretch to it, just. But now we've had to cover the costs for a fourth child, it has certainly pushed us to our limits. It's double the nappies, double the baby food, the bigger family car, extra clothes, all that sort of stuff.

So when I'm counting the pennies out, wondering where my next take-away coffee is going to come from, I put this song on. It just speaks to me! Have a listen - loudly if you can - and enjoy!

I'd love to know what song best describes you and/or your family! What song sums you up right now? What's your family theme tune?


Friday, 24 October 2014

How we got to 4.....When our babies arrived

From 23 weeks, we had weekly scans to monitor the situation with Baby J’s umbilical cord, which was apparently very unusual. Someone told me that our case would probably be used as a case study for university students one day! Both babies continued to grow at decent rate, though Baby J was always 200-300gms smaller than Baby A. But the blood flow issue remained, sometimes showing normal, healthy flow, but most of the time it showed resistance, shunting the blood flow backwards instead of forwards. It was strange that this didn’t seem to effect Baby J’s well-being at any time.
We still worried a lot, but by this time, the babies were moving regularly and with strength, so as long as I kept feeling movement I was happy that they were ok during the week between the scans. Thankfully, things progressed really well. It was great seeing the babies every week and as an added bonus, our new sonographer got a kick out of creating 3D/4D pictures of the babies, so we got a few to take home now and then:

Baby A snuggles up to Baby J
Once I made it to 28 weeks, I breathed a sigh of relief. This was my ‘safe zone’. By this time I was as big as I would have been with a full-term pregnancy! I was struggling to eat large meals but I wanted the babies to keep gaining weight as we knew they’d be arriving early. Our obstetrician told us he’d like the babies to come out at 32 weeks to finish their growing outside. Apparently, for us, the risks of staying in the womb at this time outweighed the risks of coming out. Although I wanted to keep my babies inside for as long as possible, it was a no-brainer for us. We wanted our babies alive. So I started eating caramel slices every day to help them pile on the fat!

 At this stage I was beginning to get the spooks again. I worried about whether Baby J had been affected at all by the blood flow issue - would he be disabled or injured in some way? No one could know for sure and I didn’t want to dig around too much, frightened about what I might discover. So I tried to keep the faith.

 Over my last week of pregnancy I traipsed to and from the hospital for more frequent scans, heart-rate monitoring and the all-important steroid shots to help the babies lungs develop, ready for their early arrival into the world. Remember when I said I was happy to be having so many scans as it meant being around the maternity part of the hospital a lot? Well, be careful what you wish for! By this time I was on very familiar terms with a lot of the staff there!

At last, the big day arrived. While we waited at the hospital to be taken in for our C-section, I stroked and stroked my huge belly, willing the babies to be ok and cherishing my last few moments of pregnancy. For all the stress of this one, I loved being pregnant and having a huge belly full of baby to cart around.
When it was time to go in, I shook violently as the anaesthetist dosed me up. The operating room was packed to the brim, as we needed two of everyone since we were bringing twins into the world - so there were two little resuscitation tables, two lots of baby doctors, the whole room was prepared for two early babies.

By the way, I haven’t even said at this point that we didn't know the genders of our babies, so we were about to get a fantastic surprise, which is one of the best things EVER! Sure enough, after a bit of tugging and pulling, someone presented Baby A to us and announced 'Congratulations, it's a  boy!' Despite being small, Baby A let out a wonderful roar and stretched one fist into the air and I began crying. He was exquisite. Being identical, I knew the other baby would be a boy.

The two surgeons were still working on freeing Baby J, who by all accounts, was wedged firmly up near my ribs. There was a lot of pressure and pulling as they worked to get him out. And then I saw him, my little Baby J, who’d had the dodgy cord, being carried over to his resuscitation table. He was limp, totally different to his brother. The baby doctors grouped around him and busily worked on getting oxygen to him and whatever else they did and I watched intently, waiting for him to start writhing around like his brother.

 Despite how scary it all sounds now, there was no panic in the air. One of the surgeons explained that Baby J was being a bit lazy with his breathing but she didn’t seem concerned. He would just need some assistance to get him started. I took my cue from her, and remained calm. Still, I watched.

 Then, both babies were whisked off to the NICU. I hadn't been able to have a first cuddle with either of them, but then I didn't really expect to. They needed help from other people, not me just yet. My god, I have never been so in awe of doctors who work exclusively with newborn babies, what fantastic human beings to devote themselves to saving babies’ lives!! I mean, imagine the type of person with super academic powers and the choice to be any type of doctor they wanted, who thinks, ‘I just want to help babies.’ Just imagine! 

(Cue hormonal tears, I well up just thinking about it.)

And so began our relationship with the NICU, which is where our babies finished their growing. They needed help with their breathing for a few days but soon enough they were managing on their own. Both babies appeared to be doing brilliantly, and slowly gained the weight they needed. The nurses and doctors in this place were beyond amazing. It was hard leaving our new babies and going home to our other (bigger) babies each day but we hung in there, knowing that the end was in sight. I expressed milk and made twice daily visits into the hospital to feed and care for them. And I got to hold them for hours on end, skin-to-skin….just magic.

Me and my babies, at around 33 weeks old.
I wish I could have been there around the clock, it was so hard splitting myself between the big kids and the babies. I just did the best I could. The nurses were bewildered about how I'd cope when I got the babies home, but I said, 'If we could get the chaos under one roof, I might just be able to manage.'

On top of all this it was Christmas time and day care had closed for the year, which made the parenting-across-two-locations thing all the more challenging. But in a way, the festive season made it a bit special too, knowing that we had these two precious gems waiting for us in hospital, getting stronger by the day.

Baby J, the day he was born. I had my hand cupping the back of his head, and his little hand crept round and found my thumb to cling on to!

Baby A, at 33 weeks. He lifted his head with such strength, to just gaze and gaze at me. I don't even know what he could see at that point, but I know he knew who I was.
And hey, we did it. We became proud-as-punch, grateful-as-anything and busy-as-hell parents of four fabulous, healthy children. On the day we got to bring our babies home, we had a vague idea of the hard work that lay ahead of us. But, considering our journey to get there, walking out of the hospital with these two tiny yet perfect little creatures….well, we felt like we could conquer the world.

Amazing photo taken the day after we got them home, at 36+6 weeks
(Rebecca Connolly Photography)


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Not So Terrible Tuesday

What a relief today didn't turn out to be a nightmare.

It had all the makings of one, starting from as early on as 12.30am this morning, when Baby J began the first of his repeated wake-ups. This continued until about 3am, when Mr B came looking for help to turn his bedtime music back on (don't ask), and was joined shortly after by Baby A, who refused to settle back to sleep until 5am.

Then Baby J woke up again and Husband and I began a blazing row with each other, during which we exchanged all sorts of nasties entirely unsuited to the given time in the morning, before declaring the day begun in the worst way possible.

Don't worry, we made up within minutes, we are crap arguers as we can't stand the tension.

So I had a really bad feeling about how the rest of the day was going to progress, with the four kids at home and me with no clever plans for them. I was too chuffing tired and couldn't be ARSED coming up with something.

So I decided just to go with the flow and not get too stressed about it. We managed to pop out early in the morning to get Mr B's school uniform (he needs it for Orientation) and Miss P's birthday party invitations (her party is in a little over a month), as mum came over to watch the babies for me.

Then, once my mum left, the 5 of us somehow managed. We watched some TV, had some lunch, and then did some puzzles. Once it approached the next sleep time for the babies, I popped them in the double pram and hustled us all out the door for a walk, or, as I declared, a TREASURE HUNT
(read: this is the least mentally-taxing activity mummy can manage).

The TREASURE HUNT walk involved each of the big kids carrying a bucket through the streets, scrolling the pavement for dead leaves and flowers pretty bits of nature like fallen flowers and brilliant sticks and actual rubbish precious things, such as the fantastic old rubber band we found, along with a couple of amazing Heineken bottle top lids. Luckily, we found two of these, as the first one became quite the coveted item when we found it. Thank goodness for litterbugs.

We brought the assortment home and it now sits dejectedly in our back garden, where it will probably stay until it is sent out with the recycling next week. Points for effort though, right?

Before I knew it, it was early bath time and dinner for all the kids. And as I type this, all of them are asleep and I am not frazzled with stress. Glass of wine was poured promptly at 7.30pm.

Holy smoke, have I actually had a good day with all my kids on a Terrible Tuesday?????

Maybe I am getting better at this. We'll see.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

hand, foot and mouth and a finger splint

 A funny old day was yesterday. First of all, Baby A woke up with a rash around his mouth. It didn't look great. I made an appointment to see our doctor and over the morning the rash took off like great guns around his little mouth, chin and neck, until I had a realisation. I checked his hands. Yep, spots all over them. They hadn't quite reached his feet, but I was pretty sure we had a hand foot and mouth situation. The doctor later confirmed it, and also said they were inside his mouth too. Poor little thing!

SO it was only a matter of time before Baby J started showing signs, and sure enough, around midday a little spread of spots had appeared on his chin and he had a fever at bedtime. Fabulous! Oh well, a little more sleep deprivation couldn't hurt anyone. Actually, it's funny how, once you realise your baby is unwell, that you feel suddenly adrenalized and ready to do whatever it takes to comfort them. Does anyone else find that?

The other brilliant thing that happened yesterday was this:

This is a picture of my right pinky finger and associated bruising around and beneath my wrist after an unfortunate injury a couple of days ago. It's a really pathetic story. But I shall indulge you, if only to illustrate a bit of irony.

One night, earlier in the week, I was having the usual struggles with my babies. Baby A in particular was a big challenge. No sooner had I settled him down with blessed patting and shushing, trying not to nod off beside his cot, then creeping down the stairs and daringly tucking myself in on my makeshift bed (i.e. the lounge), then he'd pipe up with his wailing again. At which point I'd throw back my blanket and hot-foot it up the stairs again before he woke the other kids up. It was that crazy-making stuff again.

Well, on this night, it happened to be really windy. And the door to the room he is sleeping in has this annoying cracking sound whenever it creaks in the draught. We wedge the door shut with a sock or similar to make sure it is shut tight, as the silly thing has a broken latch and won't shut properly without help. But the wind on this night was really strong, making big draughts that forced the door open again.

Anyway, so after being up and down  A LOT already, I had once again settled back into my bed and felt the delicious, tired, sleepiness wash over me. I definitely had a couple of hours now, I thought to myself. 

Then I heard the chuffing door creak again, VERY LOUDLY,  enough to make me snap to attention. It was swiftly followed by Baby A's wailing. I threw back my blanket, devastated and furious.

'I hate that door!' I hissed at Husband, who was all snuggled up in his make-shift bed (i.e. mattress on the floor) next to me. 'That f*#*ing door!' I then stormed up the stairs, cursing colourfully before pausing dramatically halfway up them to slam my fist on one in frustration. It hurt a bit. Being made out of concrete and all.

Anyway, that is not how my injury occurred. A couple of days later, my sister and I were exchanging sleep-deprivation-craziness stories, about our antics in the wee hours of the night. I stood in front of her, demonstrating my foolish behaviour as I ranted up the stairs, pounding my fist in mid-air to really nail the crazy part. Now for some reason, my left knee got in the act at this point, raising instinctively to meet my right fist. They collided in mid-air and caused me to gasp. This totally killed my story.

'That hurt,' I said, noticing it instantly swell and kind of kink to the side.

Well within a couple of hours the bruising you can see in the photo had appeared and I thought it all looked a bit suspect, though I strongly doubted anything serious had occurred. I mean, I was just telling a story, right? I just happened to be really bad at it. Just to be sure, while I was at the doctor with Baby A, I asked her what she thought about the injury.

Many hours later, after going for x-rays and then back to my doctor for a referral to a hand specialist, then over to the hand specialist, all the while lugging my poor diseased-faced baby about and my very patient, eldest son, I am now sitting at home with my pinky in a splint. For 8 weeks. 'And don't get it wet,' I was told.

Just to get this straight, what happened was this: pounding actual hard concrete stair with my bare hand - NIL injury. Describing said act in comedic way - fracture to pinky finger. FFS.

Don't worry, I've got my glass of wine.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How we got to four....Part 2

We learnt quickly that carrying a twin pregnancy wasn't a simple thing. Carrying identical twins in particular put me up in the high risk category (eek) for problems to do with even growth of both babies because they share the placenta. I read up on Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) and was relieved to hear that there was treatment for this. Thankfully, it occurs in only 10% of identical pregnancies, so the odds were on our side.

I was told I'd be having scans every two weeks from 16 weeks to monitor the growth of the babies. Secretly, I was quite pleased about this. I loved the idea of seeing the babies regularly and I also loved being in the maternity section of the hospital. There was such a sense of anticipation there, of new babies growing and becoming ripe for delivery.

At our 22 week scan, the sonographer spent a really long time trying to get a measure of the blood flow in one of the cords. When she finally finished, I was asked to wait to see the obstetrician. I waited nervously in the corridor for my name to be called, my anxiety slowly building. Eventually, two doctors called me into a little room where I proceeded to sit, physically shaking with nerves and fear while one of them explained in some technical jargon that they thought I was on the verge of developing TTTS. Or it might be nothing, she said. She asked what my previous pregnancies had been like, and I told her they'd been without incident. I struggled not to cry. I'd been so spoilt with my first two pregnancies that complications were completely new territory for me.

She told me to come back the following week for another scan to see what eventuated. Brilliant. What a week that was. My husband was horrified that I'd had to deal with this without him, so the following week, we both turned up. Same results in the scan. Both babies were growing well, though Twin 2 (who later became our Baby J) with the abnormal blood flow was slightly smaller. We saw the same doctor afterwards, who admitted she wasn't sure what was happening, but that it might still turn into TTTS. I decided to start collecting facts in case it did turn out to be this. I asked her how successful the treatment was. She replied, 'Its 90%'. (Fabulous!) 'For one baby,' she continued. (WTF?)

You should probably know at this point that I am somewhat of a catastrophiser. I spent the week trying to come to terms with the likelihood of only one baby surviving whatever was happening in my uterus. On the outside I think I came off pretty calm but on the inside a little seed of hysteria had planted itself. So over the next few days my mild but persistent anxiety developed into full-scale panic that had me in constant floods of tears and snapping at my poor kids.  I called my local twins support group at my sister's suggestion and left a hugely embarrassing, emotional message on their machine, which was extremely unlikely to have been understood by anyone. So much so that my sister had to leave an additional message explaining away my hysterical garble and assuring them that I was ok.

In the end my frantic calls for help got me referred to the top guy at my local hospital, who took over my antenatal care from that point. He personally scanned the twins and sat down with me afterwards, giving me the most reassuring encouragement. He said my case was unusual but with the babies growing so well at 23 weeks, he was confident that I'd get to 30 weeks without too much issue. Apparently it wasn't so much that TTTS was the issue, it was the risk of twin 2's cord losing its efficiency, which could send the baby into distress. And if  this baby suddenly died, it could injure the other one. He worked brilliantly with my anxiety, even giving me his mobile number so I could call him as needed, at any time!

Slowly, I began to breathe again....

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

One Thing I Know About

If there's one thing I know about, it's sleep deprivation.
For me, the night-waking  is the hardest thing about having babies. I can handle the constant demands of tiny people, the changing nappies, the crying, the tantrums, potty training, all of the tough stuff that children bring. These things are hard, time-consuming and sometimes annoying, but I would use a  lot of other words to describe sleep deprivation. Like torturous. Or lonely. Emotional. Definitely crazy-making.

I’ve learnt a lot about babies’ sleep over the years. My first baby was a big slap in the face as far as sleep deprivation was concerned. Only not really, because a slap in the face in those bleary days would have woken me up. Let's just say that it was beyond tough. One time I had to go to work after being awake since 2.30am that morning, trying to get him to sleep. He actually didn’t improve much as he grew older and we dealt with that by letting him sleep in our bed. Where he kind of remained for the next couple of years. But at least we were sleeping!

When Miss P came along, I whisked her off to residential sleep school, which worked for a very short-time before our default habits set back in (her crying determinedly, me giving in quickly). By the time she was 10 months I decided she could handle some controlled crying and within two nights she was sleeping perfectly and has remained this way since.

So when I was planning my third baby I smugly thought, ‘right, I’ve learnt everything about the sleep stuff now, no future-baby will be giving me the run-around.'

And then of course, the twins announced themselves, and it's been a whole new crazy-making learning curve. In fact, as I type these words I am functioning on about 3 hours of broken sleep from last night.

Somehow though, my body knows how to get on with things, and with the help of caffeine, under eye concealer and pathetic optimism that things will get better ANY DAY NOW, I am miraculously coping with chronic sleep deprivation. Seriously, the babies are 10 months old now, and they haven't slept through ONCE.
 For those of you new to the game, here are my top survival tips for getting through the torture that is night-waking:
  1. Remember that this won’t go on forever. Babies are tough because they don’t respond to bribery or reasoning. This comes later. But trust me, eventually everyone sleeps and it all gets so much easier. I know, I've been on the other side. It's not far off, I promise.
  2. You are not alone. Remember that while you are awake, pacing the floor with your baby or crying your eyes out as you get up for the millionth time that night, there are other mothers everywhere going through the exact same thing, feeling the exact same way.   
  3.  Mothers that say their babies sleep through the night are lucky. Most of them are lying. For others, their baby may be about to take a new developmental turn that will drastically effect their sleep. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, so when it comes to this one, don’t buy into it.
  4.  Have a decent cup of coffee in the morning. Treat yourself to a nice hit of caffeine when you’re up and about. Get out early for a walk if you can, the fresh air works wonders. And your baby will probably catch up on some sleep!
  5. Seek help. It’s out there. I found a lot of support at my local childhood health centre and there are various helplines that can also offer assistance. Be warned though, there is such a thing as ‘too many cooks’: meaning too many opinions, however educated and convincing they seem can leave you confused and overwhelmed. If you like a particular nurse at your childhood health centre, you can ask to see her again. There are also private organisations that can help, and not all of them want a $1000 off you to spend the night and show you how it’s done (though if you can afford that, please go for it, and enjoy!).  We've found a brilliant baby nurse who charges by the hour and offers specific advice tailored to our needs.
  6.  Enjoy the cuddles. When it’s just you and your baby awake and cuddling in the quiet of the night, it’s actually a pretty special moment. And these moments don’t last forever. So take a deep breath, inhale the smell of your baby and try to appreciate how lucky you are. Consider it bonus bonding time.
  7. You can deal with it. Sleep deprivation is awful, but in and of itself, it’s not life-threatening. More of a pain-in-the-arse sort of thing. But you are made of tough stuff. And you're doing a BRILLIANT JOB.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

7.30pm is WINE O'CLOCK

I have always done by best to adhere to the bedtime rule of 7.30pm, even when I only had one or two kids. Now that I have four of them, it is all the more important!

After a long day, whether it has been with the little ones all day or if I have been at work, I need my cut-off time! In fact, when I'm in the thick of it, say 5.45pm, and in the middle of the dinner/bath/bedtime fiasco for four separate little beings (who aren't in a rush whatsoever), I need to look at the clock and think, 'in under 2 hours, these monkeys will all be cosy in bed and there will be silence in this house....'

It keeps me sane at our most insane hour. I'm sure many of you would sympathise.

You see, given that I am most often asleep (amongst the chocolate wrappings) on the couch by 9.30pm, there is a very small window for me to actually unwind and connect with Husband. And to get anything DONE. If my free time came any later I'd be a zombie. It has to be 7.30pm. And it really helps if there is a glass of red in it for me.

 SO I get a bit cranky if the schedule doesn't go to plan. And of course, it sometimes doesn't. Last night, Baby J decided I needed to be at his bedside until he was properly asleep, promptly waking each time I lifted my hand from his tummy. It took ages (and followed a similar pattern all night).

Thank goodness for red wine.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How we got to four...Part 1

I'd never considered much about how many children I wanted, expecting that I'd have my second baby and realise I was fulfilled. Two was the number - as it seems to be for so many people. But as soon as Miss P was born (and I'm talking while I was still in hospital with her), I was consumed by a need to be pregnant again.

Don't get me wrong - I was ecstatic to have my new baby girl and of course I was grateful for her good health. I had the pigeon pair, most would have been content at this point. But for me, I was overwhelmed at the thought of never being pregnant again, like I hadn't spent enough time during my second pregnancy appreciating it.

From that moment I spent hours over the next year and a half (I should mention here that once I get an idea in my head I tend to become a little on the obsessive side) dreaming and preparing for a third child, certain I was that 3 was our number. I considered available leave from work, how we would manage all the kids with day care, whether our finances would stretch to it and if we would need a new car. Happily, I declared to my husband that 3 children was completely manageable. He had his doubts. 'We won't even need a new car!' I proclaimed. 'Three seats can go in the back!'

Eventually, I got my wicked way and was up the duff for a third time. To my surprise, a small bump appeared quite quickly, at around 9 weeks. For my first two pregnancies, it took ages for me to show. People still couldn't tell when I was 6 months along. So for fun, I googled 'twin pregnancy', but this brought up other symptoms and indicators, aside from being bigger, like excessive morning sickness and having twins in the family. I had minimal sickness, just like in my other two pregnancies, and there were no twins we knew of in our family, so I put the fantasy swiftly to bed. I mean, twins sounded lovely, but when I considered the logistics of it all, like trying to get two babies to sleep, I felt that familiar shudder all over again. One baby would be fine, I thought!


Cut to the 12 week check, and I will never forget those amazing words from the sonographer's mouth: 'you've got twins!'. My goodness. It was  the most authentic shock I have ever had, and the best one at that. My reaction was to laugh hysterically, while my husband's was to stare at the screen with his mouth agape. As the sonograper finished the scan and explained that we had identical twins in separate sacs, I ran through the logistics again in my head. This would be amazing, I thought. Scary, and amazing. I dread to think what my husband was thinking at that exact moment. Funnily enough, I've never asked him. We could do this, I thought. Except for one thing.

'We're going to need a bigger car,' I announced.

Yeah, like that was our biggest problem solved, right there.

Monday, 6 October 2014

A Day of Bad Decisions

On a gorgeous sunny day this week,  I made great plans for taking my big kids out while mum stayed home with the babies. It was a perfect day for the beach so I got us out the door as early as possible to beat the traffic and nab a decent parking spot.

This all went well enough, until I made my first BAD decision: make the kids walk with me to the beach kiosk to get my coffee (aka my life source). So we trudged along, and though the distance from the car to the kiosk was only about 150 metres, this took us a really long time. I don't know what it is about my beautiful kids, but they hate getting anywhere fast. And I am a fast walker. I did my best to slow down and be patient, spurring them on with warm encouragement to keep us moving.

Once I got my coffee, I made another pretty BAD decision: make the kids walk to a really far away point of the beach, where I had decided it was best for us to set up. This was actually back near the car, so another 150 metres or so. So off we went. Really. Slowly. Poor Mr B just wanted to get started in the water and didn’t understand why we couldn’t just divert down the nearest stairs to the sand and water. Poor Miss P seems to hate walking at the moment and has become the world’s greatest dawdler, walking at a snail’s pace and heading off in different directions. I would have carried her all the way, but she is 15kg and I was already lugging the beach bag and my coffee.

I ended up walking side on, like a crab so I could keep an eye on both of them behind me, still encouraging them to speed up. I was already getting sick of own voice: ‘Come on you two!’ ‘Hurry up, guys!’ ‘We’re nearly there!’
Anyway, here comes the next BAD decision: we arrived at a toilet block. I asked Miss P (who is in the midst of toilet training) if she needed a wee. She said no. We kept on walking.

We finally got to the spot I had in mind, and it all became brilliant. I sat with my coffee, the kids started splashing around, we laughed and all got wet. It was gorgeous, warm and sunny. Then Miss P announced that she needed a wee. I shook my head. No way was I dragging us back to the toilet block.

Now, sorry if this offends anyone, but I encouraged her to wee in the ocean. This turned out to be a GOOD DECISION, as it swiftly and effectively washed her wee away, even giving her a wash in the process. I breathed a sigh of relief. Phew, I thought, sitting back with my coffee. Dodged that bullet. Then, 5 minutes later: ‘Mummy, I need a poo!’.
Damn. She was yet to do this on the potty or toilet at home, and required her nappy for this one. Cue the next BAD decision: I didn't put a nappy or wipes in the beach bag. I told her we would have to go back to the car if she needed a poo. The poor thing shook her head and decided to hold on to it.

For the next few minutes I watched her try to get on with having fun but when I caught her bent over and grimacing with discomfort, I decided to take some action. Maybe, if the poo need was so urgent she would manage to do it in the public toilets? I realised that the next toilet block wasn’t too far away. So I made my next BAD decision: I gathered us all up and headed for the toilet. Off we rushed. Given the supposed urgency of the situation, I expected Miss P to hurry along with me. But, no. She was apparently happy to revert back to her dawdling, snail’s pace movement, which meant I was back to my crab-walking and annoying vocal encouragements, this time with more of a frustrated edge. I was actually becoming a bit hoarse by this point.
We finally made it to the toilet block. I set Miss P up in a cubicle and started my gentle reassurances. I demonstrated how she should push. I encouraged her to tell her bottom to let her poo out.
I promised her an ice cream if she did a poo in the toilet.
Then, she smiled excitedly and said, ‘I’m finished!’
‘But there’s no poo,’ I said. ‘Doesn't it want to come out?’
‘No. I want an ice cream!’ And just like that, the poo urge mysteriously disappeared.

Poor Mr B was freezing by this point and didn’t want to go back to the water so we got changed into our regular clothes and went to get ice creams. We sat together and watched the busy beach fill out with families enjoying the weather and the school holidays. I was so disappointed for kids. If I'd been better organised, we could have spent the full morning playing in the sea rather than the pathetic 15 minutes we managed. I watched them get all sticky with ice cream and tried to calm down. They looked happy enough, I thought. Even though the day so far had been a total shitfight for me.

Apparently I hadn't made the day hard enough for myself, as made a further BAD decision on the way home by making them run some errands with me. I was exhausted when we got home, and I'm sure they were too.

Another tough Terrible Tuesday. But I can only learn from these things. Here’s how I will do the whole thing better next time:
1.       I will get coffee en route  - it is easy enough to stop at a café and grab a coffee, or I can even ask my beautiful husband to pick me up one from the café near his work, which I can collect on my way(WHY-OH-WHY isn’t there a coffee pick-up service for us poor mums who need our caffeine yet hate the thought of unloading and re-loading our poor children from the car just for the cause? Yes, I know McCafe now has drive-thru. Just, NO.)
2.       I will go to a spot on the beach that is nearest our parked car
3.       I will ensure the toilet block is very close to said beach spot
4.       I will take my children to the toilet before we settle on the beach, regardless of whether they say they need to go or not
5.       I will carry nappies and wipes for any future poo situations
6.       I will not attempt extra errands on top of a beach trip.
7.       Miss P can start using a stroller! There is NO WAY  I will consider taking her to the zoo without one…..but that is a plan for another Terrible Tuesday.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Introducing Terrible Tuesdays

With four kids under school age, I've been able to cleverly distribute them to day care over the weekdays, so that I am rarely at home with all of them for any one day. They are all at an age where they are highly dependent on me and as such, highly demanding. So there are times when I have them all together that it is just a production line of me going around constantly meeting their needs. Noses need wiping, nappies changing, snacks, meals, drinks need to be organised, the big kids need to be reminded  of their own toileting responsibilities. Then there is keeping everyone happy and entertained, plus scheduling in naps for the babies at the right times. All this sort of stuff makes for very hard work that isn't big on the quality time.

Fortunately, my day care is brilliant, and I've been able to arrange it so that I only have two or three children with me on most weekdays. Tuesdays however, I have all of them at home. Up until recently, my mum has spent the day with us to help me, and honestly, we have so many days where we just look at each other and go, 'why is it so hard today?!'. I swear she has felt like running for the hills on numerous occasions after spending half a day with us. So the day was coined 'Terrible Tuesday' very early on and has since lived up to its name regularly. Tuesdays are when someone runs a fever, or cuts their lip open, or when the babies suddenly decide not to sleep as they should do. Either they don't go down at all or they wake up from their morning sleep after half an hour. I hate leaving mum to manage with them when this happens.

To avoid pulling my hair out, I try my best to have plans for Tuesdays. My focus has always been to keep my big kids happy and occupied, and to tire the buggers out so they can chill for the rest of the day. So we do parks, play centres, swimming. Now that I am back at work, Tuesdays are set to get tougher as mum can no longer help as often. So it is an ongoing personal challenge to get through the day happily and smoothly, for all of us. So far, I have only been out to two places where I feel ok with all four kids. From here, it is about increasing my confidence and getting out to bigger and better places without doing my nut in. Wish me luck.

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Lists

During my self-help book phase, many moons ago, I remember this statement from a brilliant book ('Being Happy' by Andrew Matthews):

 'Lists work. They work for shopping, and they work for life.'

I've said before on here that I barely have time for shopping lists, but the result of this is when I get to the supermarket, my mental list of what we need completely disappears from my brain and I end up buying all sorts of crap that we don't need, like biscuits and yet more storage containers that are on special. Only to be reminded when I get home that we really needed important stuff like toilet paper or washing-up liquid.

So, in other words, without the all-important list, grocery shopping trips are chaotic, messy and inefficient. And I've just had a bit of an a-ha moment when I think about this in relation to staying in control in my life, particularly now that I've returned to work. Too often the feeling of being overwhelmed (aka messy, chaotic and inefficient) envelopes me, especially now that I have so little time to get personal or admin things done. It is honestly just so hard with the four little ones around, or even just with two or three of them!

To help me feel more in control (and instead of just winging it and hoping for the best, a tried and tested method of mine that rarely works) I have put up all these different lists around the house, detailing routines, things to remember and important dates. For a few bits of coloured paper with my scrawl all over it, it sure has made a difference to my internal peace. Since putting the lists up, the feeling of having things written down somewhere has given me a sense of control back, which does well to challenge the overwhelming stuff.

List 1: The babies' routine - for my mum to follow while I am at work.
List 2: 'Busy morning' routine for my work days. Involves a 5.45am start to get me out the door at 7.20am.
List 3: 'Early run' evening routine. For use on days when there is no kindy pick up and we can get the big kids fed and washed early, and off to bed at a decent hour. Nice, because these evenings tend to be less manic.
List 4:  'Late run' evening routine. Very useful to help us keep on track with getting everyone fed and cleaned up and avoiding bed times blowing out too far from the 7.30pm mark.

Mummy's List: this is my mini whiteboard list with all the things I have to get done, most of them boring and annoying but important all the same. I am really bad for procrastination and getting overwhelmed by having 'too much to do' so this helps me manage items on the list and get things done. I have a priority system, so I only have to work on items listed with a (1) next to them, meaning all the (2)s and (3)s can wait. At the moment the list is full to the brim and there are loads of number (1)s!!!

Important dates: this is a chalkboard for those important dates coming up, like themed kindy days and birthday parties for the big kids.

So for now, this is helping. If you wake up with dread some days, thinking of everything you have to get done, and where on earth will you start, I suggest making a list first and foremost. Stick it up somewhere. Hope it helps you!

By the way, I totally recommend reading 'Being Happy'.