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Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category

I feel I owe a great big explanation, about what we’re doing here, and how it’s all going and why I’ve been too busy to blog lately. But I really have none. We’re here. We’re enjoying it so far. There have been challenges. But mostly, it’s been quite easy. Unexpectedly so. I anticipated sadness, confusion, loneliness, resentment, anxiety and lots of other emotions when leaving our home and our families behind. However, there has been less of that, and more excitement, gratitude, fulfillment, and even refreshment… That’s an odd word to put here, but it’s true. This venture has been refreshing, for both Tom and I. Maybe even for the kids. I feel there has also been bonding between us. We rely on each other more. And appreciate each other. After all, we’re all we’ve got up here! I’ve also had the opportunity to make some new friends, through Tiernan’s school. They are a wonderful bunch, and I can’t believe my good fortune to have landed here in the middle of them. It’s funny how things work out. We recently visited the Blue Mountains, and it was very nice. I felt as though I had never left. That I could just pick up and carry on from where I’d left off. I was sad to leave when our stay was over. I miss everyone there, and I miss my life there, too. However, the relief I felt when coming back to this new house was rather unexpected. It’s not home yet. But it’s a nice place to be. Things are different now, but we’re getting used to it. And we’re better for the experience, I think. I don’t know how long we’ll be here. I think the longer we stay, the harder it will be to make up our minds about where to go next, what to do. But I’m glad we did this.

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I am writing this at 2:54am. I am sitting curled up on a hard plastic chair, with a sheet over me for warmth and my feet wedged uncomfortably into a metal safety bar to keep me upright. I’m tired.

Molly is at last peacefully asleep in an emergency bed at the hospital. She has croup, which suddenly got worse a few hours ago and she was struggling to breathe. This happens several times a year, and usually we are able to manage it at home with steroids, steam, and close observation until she calms down.

However, lately Molly has been refusing to take her steroid medication because of the taste, and the distress it causes trying to force it into her often makes her breathing situation worse.

Usually, after sitting in steam in the bathroom for ten minutes and trying to relax, Molly feels better and is able to go back to bed (in our bed, so we can listen to her breathing during the night and make sure it doesn’t worsen). Sometimes we have to repeat the steam routine once or twice throughout the night, but she is generally ok.

However, tonight was a bit different and when she didn’t settle after we tried all of our usual tricks, I got a bit worried and called the hospital. They put me through to the on-call nurse, and then she put me through to the ambulance.

From there it got a bit messy. Because we didn’t really want an ambulance. We’ve done the ambulance thing once before with Molly, the first time she had croup at eleven months if age. It was scary and we didn’t know what else to do. So we called, they came, they helped us and took us to the hospital. And then we got a $700 bill.

Obviously, $700 is worth it to save our child’s life, and in a truly life-threatening situation I would not think twice about it. But in a fairly urgent but non life-threatening situation? It’s probably best to save the ambulance for someone who needs it more and keep the $700 for, oh I don’t know, bills and food and stuff. Molly needed to get to the hospital but I could have driven her myself, she wasn’t in immediate danger. The ambulance officers did tell us that at the time, but being pretty scared and flustered by the night’s events, the better option seemed to be the open ambulance door and the safe, all-equipment-on-hand-if-necessary comfort it provided.

So you can see why we weren’t keen for a repeat tonight. Trying to learn our lessons the hard way here, people!

I hesitated as the nurse was putting me through to the ambulance and asked her whether it was better to just hang up and take her to the hospital myself. She advised me that based on Molly’s symptoms it was better for an ambulance to come to us. So I agreed, still thinking that we would just get their opinion and then take her to the hospital ourselves if necessary.

For the next fifteen minutes we were on the line with the ambulance officer, who talked to us while the ambulance made its way to us, and asked regularly how Molly was going. She wasn’t improving much and I was a little concerned at how sleepy she seemed and how hard she was finding it to talk and breathe. She actually seemed to be getting a little worse.

But then, right as the ambulance arrived, she perked up just slightly. The ambulance officer’s assessment was that if Molly was still refusing to take her medicine, then she’d best go to hospital.

Again we hesitated. I asked if she was okay enough for me to take her and the ambulance guy said probably, but if anything happened in the way there wouldn’t be anyone to help. That scared me and I started to think the ambulance was looking more attractive after all.

Tom and I looked at each other and made up our minds. $700 for the peace of mind that if Molly became distressed again, I wouldn’t end up on the side if the road trying to call another ambulance for her. The ambulance officer was quite sympathetic of our dilemma – he’d obviously come across it a few times before.

So, we bundled Molly into the ambulance, and Molly proceeded to entertain the ambulance guy with many, many stories about our personal lives. They were all told in a rather breathy, raspy way but at least she was well enough to tell them. I spent the entire trip feeling very proud of my funny, articulate girl and her ability to make friends in the back of an ambulance, and also feeling slightly annoyed that once again we had fallen for the ‘quick, get her to hospital’ trick.
Because some situations are emergencies, and others are, just not quite emergencies. But to poor old, emotionally-drained and sleep-deprived parents, it can be pretty damn hard to tell the difference.

Here at the hospital, Molly was seen fairly quickly by nurses and doctors. She has been given a dose of a slightly different medicine, which, according to Molly was “Not so bad.”
Two hours later, her breathing has settled, her cough is gone and she is snoring happily on the bed. We can go home in a couple more hours if everything continues to be fine. I am very much relieved, very grateful for the assistance and treatment we have received here, and very much looking forward to climbing into my bed.

So what’s the moral to this story?

Just pay the damn $100 for ambulance cover every year – we’d still be $900 ahead if we’d done this after the first incident… oh well.

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Okay, so I’m not above concocting elaborate schemes for bribing my children to do things that I feel are necessary. For example, the Nappy Fairy visited both Tiernan and Molly when push came to shove with toilet training. That went pretty well, so I reserved the right to apply the concept in other circumstances. In teacher speak, this is called ‘Synthesizing, and I awarded myself full points for my cleverness. Until it all went wrong.

The time has come for Tiernan to stop sucking his thumb.

He has had dermatitis around his mouth and on his thumb for some weeks now, caused by saliva as he sucks his thumb in his sleep and drools everywhere. We were treating it, but a few days ago he developed an impetigo infection around his mouth. Impetigo is contagious and needs to be treated with antibiotics. He is off preschool today and I am home from work because of the impetigo. This is not something I wish to repeat. The thumb sucking has got to stop.

We had been discussing this with Tiernan since the dermatitis started anyway. He was pretty resistant to the idea. However, once the impetigo started and I made him wash his hands every time he touched his face (so he didn’t give it to us), and he started to realise that impetigo sucks, he did say that he might be able to quit sucking his thumb if we took his blankets away.

In that instant, the Blanket Fairy was born.The Blanket Fairy takes blankets from big kids and gives them to younger kids who need them more, which is exactly what the Nappy Fairy does, only she deals in nappies. Clean ones.

I asked Tiernan if he would like me to get the Blanket Fairy to visit. I explained that the Blanket Fairy would leave him a toy if she let him take his blankets. He got excited about the toy and seemed keen. He went to his room and said goodbye to his blankets, of which he has about seven, left over from his baby days. He used to call them ‘barties’. He likes to rub them on his face while he sucks his thumb.

Then I realised the Blanket Fairy (ie. Me) wouldn’t have time to go to the toy shop that night, so I told him he could have one more night with his blankets and say goodbye tomorrow. He was cool with that. He said he would miss his blankets but he was big enough now not to need them anymore, and that he didn’t want to suck his thumb anymore either. So brave.

But that was during the day.

In the evening, he changed his mind. He was tired. And sleepy. And a big baby again. He wanted his blankets and his thumb and was never, ever giving any of them up.

Two days later – today – I broached the subject again. We’re both home because of his impetigo. We had the opportunity to visit ‘Toy Giraffes’, the coolest toyshop ever (also known as ‘Toys R Us’ if you’re an adult). So I told Tiernan that I had spoken to the Blanket Fairy on the phone (he already thought that anyway – I was talking to my Mum and he asked me if it was the Blanket Fairy, so it wasn’t really that much of a lie). I said the Blanket Fairy had given me some money to buy him a new toy and that she wanted him to pick one out so that she didn’t get the wrong thing. Also, she’s really tiny and can’t carry big things.

He bought it. He was super excited about going to ‘Toy Giraffes’. He was ready to sign over his soul for a visit to ‘Toy Giraffes’, so his blankets were only a small promise, in the scheme of things.

We went in. He picked his new Spiderman Toy. We came home. We started to pack up his blankets.

He baulked. Then I baulked, too.

Each blanket we found seemed to bring up different memories for him. He smelled each one and told me it was his favourite and could he please, please keep it? After the third one, I couldn’t handle it any more and started to compromise on the Blanket Fairy’s behalf. “Okay, I’m sure the Blanket Fairy will let you keep that one…”, until we had four blankets in the bag, and five in the cupboard. Not exactly what the Blanket Fairy had in mind. I ploughed on, trying to negotiate a better return for the Blanket Fairy’s investment, but that’s when he decided that he really didn’t want Spiderman after all and the Blanket Fairy could have him back. Then he started to cry.

Sigh.

I can see now that his blankets are still very special to him. I don’t want to make him give them away. But how do we renege on our deal with the Blanket Fairy, and keep our dignity?

We don’t. We wrote her a letter and begged to keep the blankets and Spiderman. We agreed that Tiernan would not sleep with the blankets anymore, but keep them in his cupboard. We explained that just having Spiderman would be enough to remind Tiernan not to suck his thumb during the day. Also, we made a plan to cut the tags off Tiernan’s pyjamas because he also likes to hold those while he sucks his thumb (weird kid), and argued that this was a far better plan that giving away the blankets. Last of all, we promised that Tiernan would look after his blankets, until he is bigger and ready to give them to the Blanket Fairy.

Only, Tiernan made me change that bit and he ended up promising to look after his blankets, and when he is bigger he will wear them as scarves. Every day.

Oh dear.

We are still waiting on her response.

There’s a new baby on the way to join our family, hopefully some time today. This time a niece.

I desperately want to feel joyful and happy. I want to share the news with my children and excitedly speculate about who their newest cousin will look like, and how big she will be. I want to make plans to visit her and our three nephews, and welcome her to the family.

But I can’t. Because of the stupid, petty fighting that has been going on between her family and ours, I can’t do any of these things.

It hurts. Instead of excitement, I feel anxiety. Instead of bonding, I feel exclusion.

I haven’t told the kids yet. They will want to know why we can’t visit and give her presents, the way we did with her brothers. The best I will be able to do is show them a photo when their grandparents come back from visiting.

I am so tired of explaining why we can’t see their cousins. Almost daily, Tiernan talks about Harry and how much he misses him. It is just so unfair – the kids are the ones who are suffering the most, and they have done nothing wrong.

I feel it is time to step up and try to repair the damage. Even though we weren’t the ones who caused it. We didn’t create the rift. But we could try, one more time, to fix it.

A month ago we almost lost our 18 month old nephew. He almost drowned. Thankfully he is fine now, but he was just incredibly lucky, not only to survive, but to suffer no damage at all. At times like these, families tend to forget their differences and concentrate on what’s really important. Togetherness, love, support.

It certainly made me re-think the situation. If he had died, what would we have done? Despite what has happened, this is still our family and we want to be there for them.

We sent a text message offering our support. We recieved a reply. Baby steps.

However, with a new baby arriving any minute now, perhaps the time has come to go one step further. We are still hurting. We haven’t forgotten. We would like an apology.

But if one is forthcoming, we will accept and start anew.

Oh, and she arrived, at 12:57!

There’s a downside to relying on the internet for recipes… at any time, the publisher of your favourite recipe may decide to remove it from their website, without even having the courtesy to warn you about it first. Then you’ll be forced to find an alternative one. You might get lucky, and find a new recipe that is as good as, or even better, than the one you lost. Or, you might get major pizza dough failure…

C’mon Jamie, put your pizza dough recipe back up please. I thought we were friends.

Every morning, the kids have weet-bix for breakfast. We have many suitable vessels in which to serve said weet-bix. However, one such vessel has been deemed the champion of all weet-bix-serving vessels, the world over. You see, this particular vessel does not merely serve weet-bix. It also has the power to transform the weet-bix-eater’s entire life from one of abject misery to one of good fortune and eternal happiness. Such is the glory of:

The Darkest Blue Plate.

As you can imagine, demand for the Darkest Blue Plate is high. So high that we have developed a roster system for its use. On alternate days, Tiernan and Molly have their turn at being ‘The Holder of The Darkest Blue Plate’. The unfortunate person whose turn it is not, must make do with the lesser vessel, The Lightest Blue Plate. That person is sure to have a terrible day. Bad things will probably happen to them. In fact, they will be lucky if they live to see their next turn with The Darkest Blue Plate. Neave, who has not yet learned to see beyond the weet-bix that clouds her higher senses, eats from The Green Plate every morning.

Our roster system has one flaw. It exists only in my head. It is my job to remember, from day to day, who gets to eat their weet-bix from The Darkest Blue Plate. Most mornings, I get it right. However, on the one or two days each week when I am not the assigned Breakfast Manager, the roster system goes out the window and chaos reigns.

There is only one rule for the Breakfast Manager: Get the roster wrong at your peril.

You may be wondering what happened on the day I threw The Darkest Blue Plate in the bin? If The Darkest Blue Plate is afforded such high status in our house (indeed, the world), then how could it have ended up in the bin? What could have gone so terribly, terribly wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you. A riot broke out.

I was back on duty as Breakfast Manager for the first time in days, and I had not a clue whose turn it was to be ‘The Holder of The Darkest Blue Plate.’ Instead of asking my husband, who was at work, I hazarded a guess. I gave Tiernan The Darkest Blue Plate, and Molly the lowly Lightest Blue Plate. The plate of plebs. I stood tensely by the breakfast table, waiting for signs of discontent, ready to switch plates, with lightning speed, if necessary. When no protests were forthcoming, I sighed with relief and walked away. But something was wrong. I could hear happy weet-bix-munching from one end of the table, but not the other. I slowly turned around, dreading what I would find.

It wasn’t pretty. Molly was, indeed, not eating. She was watching in horror as Tiernan took her turn to eat from The Darkest Blue Plate. Tiernan, who was already receiving The Darkest Blue Plate’s mood-enhancing benefits, was smiling beatifically as he ate, fully absorbed in the task. He had no idea anything was amiss. Meanwhile, Molly, whose ire was growing in direct correlation to Tiernan’s happiness, finally could stand it no longer. She launched into a devastating missile attack. The missiles (spoons, bowls, whatever she could get her hands on), were accompanied by ear-splitting shrieks. It was the shrieking that did the most damage. It was the shrieking that forced me to take desperate action, lest we all be rendered deaf by the power of Molly’s wrath. I seized The Darkest Blue Plate, and I threw it in the bin.

The effect was immediate. Stunned silence. Shocked faces.

Then angry tears and accusatory glares. Followed by tantrums when I refused to retrieve The Darkest Blue Plate from its binny grave.

I gathered up my children, and sat them down with me on the couch as I soothed their tears.

“The Darkest Blue Plate is no more.” I told them. “From this day forth, your weet-bix will still taste like weet-bix. But the eating will be tainted by bitter memories of what was, and what could have been. Rest in peace, Darkest Blue Plate.”

Okay, so I didn’t really say that. What I said was “The Darkest Blue Plate is gone. Get over it.” It took some time, but they did.

Were my actions justified? I don’t know. But I have hope that our household will be a happier one now that The Darkest Blue Plate is gone.

At least until Santa brings us TWO new Darkest Blue Plates for Christmas.

Weetbix. A quick wipe, and it’s mostly gone. But sometimes, you miss some. Therein lies the danger. Because missed weetbix becomes a magnet for more weetbix to cling to. The first spot of weetbix lies there, almost invisible to the naked eye, waiting to attract more of its kind. Each day, another layer of weetbix is added to the slowly growing weetbix colony. Eventually, with enough layers, the colony becomes too large to be contained in just one spot, and so it starts to spread. Amazingly, it is still virtually undetectable. A slight stickiness may be felt underfoot occasionally, but closer inspection will not reveal its source. Another day, another layer of weetbix. Soon, the colony will have covered all of the area underneath the baby’s chair, and will start to spread beyond its boundaries, and attempt to establish a foothold beneath the dining table. At this point, the the colony is both at its strongest, and its most vulnerable. It now has the sticking power of superglue. It can attract and adhere to almost anything: chair legs, dust motes, pet fur, shoes. However, it can also now be seen – it appears as a thin layer of furry, greyish scum. Sometimes, it may even be detected by the noise it makes as it attempts to catch hold of your shoe and keep it for its own. Discovering it spread from one end of the dining room to the other can be quite devastating. Destroying the colony will be laborious and slow, as vigorous scrubbing is required to break down the strong chemical structure of the weetbix. If you have floorboards, this is achievable in an afternoon.

If you have carpet, forget about it.