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Archive for the ‘Motherhood is lovely’ Category

The Queensland school holidays are about to begin. I have desperately been looking forward to this. I’m exhausted! Our life revolves around school drop off and pick up times, and the few activities, or errands, we can squeeze in between. Only, some days we can’t do everything in school hours, and we do more running around, to and fro, after school. I’m so grateful that at least Tiernan and Molly can do their own seat belts up, because getting in the car is something we do at least eight times a day.

I’m just looking forward to not going anywhere for a few days!

But I’ve realised something. In my haste to welcome in the school break, I’ve forgotten to prepare myself for having all three kids at home. All the time. Every day. It seems that, you can take any two of my kids and do just about anything with them – go out, stay at home, whatever – and you will have an okay day. There will be some bickering, some silliness, some mess, and some frustration. But you will be fine. It’s not that bad.

However, when all three are together, all day, that’s different. There will be some sweet moments, where everyone either plays nicely together, or nicely apart. But mostly, it will be chaos.

We haven’t done this for a while. And I’m realising I’m just waaaay out of practice. I have forgotten how to just let it all wash over me, and pick up the pieces at the end. I have come to value quiet and tidiness just a little too much. I am quite short in patience lately too.

None of this will wash. If I approach the next six weeks with my current attitudes and priorities, then I predict I will be a blubbering mess by the end of week one.

So today marks the first day of my major shift from ‘Uptight, Borderline Control-Freak Mum’ to ‘Zen Mum’. Obviously this is a continuum, and I don’t expect to make it all the way. I ama teacher. All teachers have Control Freak tendencies. However, my aim is to move along at least a few notches.

Like this:

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I drew a diagram in DoodleBuddy to illustrate my point. That’s how committed I am.

Of course, I will need strategies. I can’t just decide to be more calm and cool and fun, and expect it to be so. I have to change the way I do things, too.

I will have to let go of all expectations. If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed. So I won’t start the day expecting to get the housework done. Or the groceries. Or dinner cooked. If they don’t happen today, they’ll happen eventually.

Standards of behaviour, dress and cleanliness will have to be lowered, too. I’m not going to argue about silly things like wearing shoes out, or brushing hair, or wearing swimmers 24 hours a day. Who cares, right? As long as everyone showers, or runs under the sprinkler, at least once a week.

Arguments about food won’t happen because there probably won’t be much food in the house to argue about.

Bickering won’t bother me because I won’t get involved. I’ll just let them fight it out and establish their own pecking order. Simple, really.

I won’t step in and take over with cooking and craft activities. I will let them learn from their own mistakes. I won’t care if the results aren’t perfect. I won’t.

I will see the funny side. Of everything. Like when Tiernan knocked that glass off the kitchen bench and it shattered into a million pieces, spreading from our front hall to the bedroom doors. Hilarious!

This list of strategies is not exhaustive, but it at least provides me with somewhere to start. I’m sure we’re in for a very happy holiday.

Neave just turned 3. My baby is growing up too fast!

Here are some pics of what we got up to in the days leading up to, and on her birthday.

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At the park.

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Playing in her new tent.

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The cake.

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Decorating cupcakes.

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Eating cupcakes.

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Blowing out the candles.

Happy Birthday gorgeous girl!

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This morning, something really wonderful happened. The kids woke up happy, I woke up happy. We hung around in my bed for a while. Then we got up and had breakfast together. After breakfast, Tiernan asked me to come and play with him, so I did. We played in Molly and Neave’s room, with their new dollhouse, which was being occupied on a short-term lease by Tiernan’s Green Lantern toy and a Transformer. Pretty soon, we were joined by Molly, Neave and 15 Barbies (and Monster Dolls, and Princesses, and Ponies, and Fairies, and Sylvanians…) The 20 or so house-mates all got dressed up together before going out for dinner. They peacefully negotiated who would car pool in the two available Barbie cars, and who would walk or fly. Everyone had a great time. They went back to the house to crash in the single bed (a little squishy, but warm, I’m assured), and after a good night’s sleep, they rose in the morning to do it all again.

At that point, I quietly slipped out of the game and watched my three children play happily together, without a single argument or any other intervention needed, for a good twenty minutes or so. Then I made myself a cuppa and sat down by myself for a few minutes, enjoying the peace and quiet. It was just sooooooo nice! Don’t get me wrong – this kind of thing is definitely not unheard of, in fact, it happens fairly frequently. However, it’s holidays, we have been spending a lot of time together lately, and, well… it’s starting to show! Since Tom returned to work after the Christmas / New Year break, it’s pretty much just been me and the kids all day, every day. Which is, ironically, exactly how I planned it – I purposely booked them in for fewer daycare days in January because I wanted to spend more time with them. Especially Tiernan, who is off to Big School. So, while I am enjoying having more time to play with the kids, and not having to rush here, there and everywhere, the boredom is definitely starting to kick in, for both me and the kids. And when they’re bored, they fight. All the time.

Which made this morning all the more lovely.

While I was sipping my tea in motherly bliss, I got to thinking about this here blog and how neglected it’s been the past few months. I do miss having the time and space to sit and write, so I am going to try to squeeze it in somewhere, along with the rowing, cycling, reading and playing I’ve been trying to pack into these holidays, too. It’ll be tough, but someone’s gotta do it.

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.

Molly’s long, blonde curls are all gone.

She had been wanting ‘short hair like Tiernan’s’ for ages, but I tried to hold her off for as long as I could. Not because I didn’t want her to have her hair short (I didn’t), but because I wasn’t sure she understood the semi-permanent nature of such a dramatic hair cut. Yes, it will grow back, but to a three-year-old, six months is pretty much forever… if she didn’t like it, we would all be stuck with it for a really long time.

We tried just cutting her hair shorter to see if that was good enough, but she didn’t change her mind. She wanted it short.

So eventually, I gave in. It was a bit of a struggle. Those curls!! They get me every time. I went through the same heartache when Tiernan wanted to cut his hair at the same age. I wanted to keep his long curls, but he wanted short hair like Daddy. Eventually he won. Sniff.

I had Tiernan and Neave booked in for haircuts. Molly, as I knew she would, piped up, “Mummy, I want my hair cut too!” I rang Tom. “It’s going to happen today,” I said. He didn’t agree. I told him it was her hair and she really wanted this. We had run out of reasons to say no. I wasn’t going to tell my daughter she couldn’t have short hair because she’s a girl.

So it happened.

She loves it. I love it. Tom does, too.

I’m still mourning her blonde curls a little bit. She looks so much older, with much darker hair now. But she is beautiful and her new haircut really suits her. It shows that she is a girl who knows what she wants. She is an individual with spunk!

I’m so proud of my Molly.

Here are some blurry photos from Easter, and the weeks following. The photos are blurry because I took them all on my phone. I use it more than the camera these days because the camera is just as blurry. That’s my fault. I took it to the beach and got sand in it. So, blurry photos all around.

Easter morning. The Easter Bunny made the mistake of leaving Neave’s chocolate bunny within her reach. This photo was taken at 5:30am.

Molly being a princess down at Mum’s house.

Mum and I took the kids to a wildlife park in Nowra during our stay at Mums. This koala actually put its paw through the fence to have it stroked. Cute, although I was a little concerned someone (not the koala) would end up with severed fingers!

Neave opening some birthday presents. She’s pretty good at it.

Cake(s) number 1.

Neave enjoying cake number 1.

Cake(s) number 2 (featuring leftover cakes from cake number 1). These went to Family Day Care with Neave.

Cake number 3 – trampoline cake for her little party.

How I wish this one wasn’t blurry! Soooo cute, Neave. Feeding her doll.

Tiernan drew this racing car. He put the 2 on it first, then the 1, and told me it was ‘twenty-one.’ Close! He’s not big on writing, but loves to count and read numbers so I’m thinking he’ll be a numbers man. I don’t like to push him to do things he’s not interested in – he’ll have plenty of time to do that stuff in school. I gave up teaching him to write his name a while ago. But he figured it out anyway:

His day care educator was as surprised as I was when he did this all on his own at drawing time. Clever kid. I think he is a bit like me that way – doesn’t want to try anything unless he’s pretty sure he can already do it!

We got a new fridge, which means the kids got a new box. Win-win!

Boxes also make great down-hill racing tracks.

Molly’s new haircut. I’m a bit sad to see her long curls go, but she hates having it brushed. Hates it. She actually wanted it shorter than Tiernan’s but I convinced her to try this length out first. I have to admit I’m struggling with this one. She wants it short, I want it long. I was the same way with Tiernan – it’s the curls, they get me every time! However, it’s her hair so if she still wants it short in a few more weeks, then we’ll give it a try. I’m not entirely sure she fully understands that once it’s gone it won’t be back for a while, which is another thing that’s holding me back a bit. But we’ll see. The hardest part will be convincing Tom…

Some say it with kisses and hugs.

Some say it with flowers and hearts.

Tiernan says it with Duplo sculptures.

This ‘I love you’ was placed on my bedside table (Tom got one too), where they are supposed to remain indefinitely. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Aww, sweet.

Okay, so now that that’s all sorted, I suppose it’s back to business as usual around here. I’ll continue to blag on about whatever is on my mind, and you’ll continue to read it… or not read it… or comment on it… or not comment on it… whatever 🙂

On my mind at the moment is the question of work-life balance. How do I get some? How do I get the right amounts of work and life and balance? This question never really occurred to me until quite recently. But then it hit me and now I’m confused and I don’t know what to do. Let me explain.

For the first two weeks of this term, I was a real teacher. I had a class, and a roll, I went to meetings, I sat on a committee, I marked work, I planned activities, I stressed and agonised over my students’ wellbeing, and I ran assemblies. I loved it. Some bits were crap, but overall, I loved it. I loved the feeling of belonging I started to have within the school – I had an important role in a place outside my own home, for the first time ever, really. I also loved the payslip at the end of it all! It was totally worth it.

However, while I was having a great time at work, I also had to do all of the things that I would normally do with my own kids. Except, I had to cram all of that stuff into mornings, evenings and weekends. A bit stressy, but do-able. The kids coped reasonably well – they behaved beautifully (for the most part) for their various babysitters, and saved up all their nonsense for when I got home, but that was to be expected. I think I’m still paying for it a bit now, actually, but I know they’ll get over it.

Being the selfish cow that I am, I also continued to row, went out for dinner once and talked on the phone to my Mum for at least an hour. Tom made sure he got a word in edge-wise, too. All this left me happy, but bloody exhausted! There really weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, so I missed out on a fair bit of sleep to keep up. But that’s okay, because it was only for two weeks.

The problem is, now I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to have a job outside my home, and get paid nicely for it, and I want more. So now I have work-life balance issues. I didn’t before because I mostly thought I didn’t like working, so it suited me just fine to be at home with the kids and not get paid. Plenty of time to hate work later! But I don’t hate work. Since starting at the Special Education school where I’m currently working, I have discovered a new side to teaching, one that I didn’t see before. It’s not the same, and it’s not exactly where I imagined my career would take me, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. It’s not something I can see myself doing forever, but it feels like a nice place to (finally) start my career.

But I’m torn. With my two-week block over now, I’m back to being available on Wednesdays and Fridays. I have been given a class on Fridays for the rest of the term (and hopefully the year, but we’ll see), and I am thrilled! I have a class and a pigeon hole! I’m part of the team. But I’m thinking it would be even cooler to be on the team for more than one day a week… I’m thinking of adding Thursdays to the mix, meaning I’ll be available three days. Three. Consecutive. Days.

This is a huge step for me, because up until now I have been adamant that this is not something I can do, yet. I know other Mums out there do three days, or more, and they and their kids are just terrific. But when I started the Mum thing, four and a half years ago, I really saw myself staying home at least until the youngest was in school. I’ve worked and studied on and off since then, up to my maximum of two days per week, but never got much enjoyment or satisfaction from it.

But, something has happened to me. I think I was so engrossed in being a Mum (hello, three babies in three years – can you blame me? It’s been intense!), that I forgot a lot of things about myself. I forgot that I’m passionate, driven, creative, social, competitive and somewhat sporty as well as caring, loving and cuddly. I am lots of things, I’m interested in lots of things, and I can do lots of things. I thank online feminism and my wonderful, supportive Tom for helping me to rediscover these things about myself.

The dilemma is this: now that I know, deep down, that I enjoy working and want to work more, what do I do about it? The obvious answer is ‘do it’, but it’s not that simple. What about the kids? Tiernan and Molly would be fine, eventually. I think Tiernan would struggle for the first few weeks, but I feel he would pull through okay. He’s nearly five. Molly is very secure in herself and I think she really wouldn’t miss me for one extra day. But Neave… she’s still my baby! I know she’s almost two, but (sniff)… there’s that pang of my heartstrings telling me it’s too soon.

It’s interesting, because while doing my two-week block, I didn’t miss Tiernan and Molly as much as I expected to. There, I said it. But it’s true. I did feel the occasional little moment of sadness that I was missing out on something with them, but at the same time, I kind of felt it was good for them and good for me to spend a little time away from each other. I’ve been, too often, a cranky, stressed Mum of late, so I think they were probably having a nicer time on their days spent with people who don’t see them all the time and were therefore more patient and kind to them than I would have been! And I made it up to them by being extra patient and doing nice things with them each afternoon, when I could.

But I did miss Neave. I promise I’m not playing favourites, but I have to say she’s at my favourite age so far – she’s learning new words each day and she’s still super cute always, and doesn’t cause much trouble. Also, when the others were her age, I wasn’t writing, rowing and working like I am now, so part of my reluctance is probably guilt that they’re not all getting the same deal, I suppose. I really don’t know how she would cope… she’s definitely more clingy and attached still than the others, more because of her age than her personality, I feel. So, I think in time she would get used to it. But do I want her to?? It’s hard wanting two things at the same time. I know I can’t have everything.

So, I will sit on it. I’m lucky, I have until next term to make up my mind. Tiernan and Molly’s preschool (which is a long daycare / preschool), still have openings on Thursdays, and the co-ordinator has agreed to set three places aside for me for next term. Yikes.

Any thoughts, fellow Mums?

 

Tiernan was at preschool today. After I picked him up and brought him home, he ran off to play with his trains in the toy room. He then came back to me and exclaimed, “Oh, I’m so happy to be home, Mum, and I’ll tell you why… it’s because I love you. You’re so cute.” He then scrambled into my lap for a big cuddle.

Aww.

Today, Molly started preschool! She was so excited to go, and I knew that she would have a blast. She was so ready.

In the morning, as we ate breakfast, Tiernan decided to share his wisdom in the ways of preschool. He told Molly more about what goes on there in 10 minutes, than I have been able to get out of him in the entire year he’s been going! He was very informative and encouraging: “Molly, when the teacher says to come and sit on the floor, well, that means we have to go and sit on the floor!”

Molly drank it in. “Okay!” she replied, eagerly awaiting the next piece of advice.

“Molly, when the teacher says it’s time to go to the toilet and wash our hands, well, that means we have to go to the toilet and wash our hands!”

And so on.

Eventually, having exhausted routines to explain to Molly, he put his arm around her and said, “Molly, when the kids are mean to you – sometimes they are – well, I will be right next to you and I will tell them to stop.”

“Will you give me a cuddle?” asked Molly.

“Yes. And I will give you one now.” He replied, with a big hug. Aww. I nearly died of cute. In that moment, I was so proud of him. He really does love his sister, and was so, so, so excited that she would be coming to preschool with him.

Actually, as I have mentioned before, the arrangement is a little complicated. Tiernan attends preschool on Wednesdays, but Molly will be alternating between Wednesdays and Fridays from week to week. It’s not ideal, but there are some advantages. They will get to do preschool together sometimes, and apart sometimes. I think having Molly there will really encourage Tiernan to come out of his shell a little. At home, and in any other situation (playgroup, at the park, in the supermarket, etc.), he is well and truly OUT of his shell… but for some reason, preschool is different. He is shy with the other kids, until he warms up, and he is often reluctant to go at all. Molly, on the other hand, is pretty confident no matter where she is. So really, I’m hoping he might learn a little from her, and not the other way around. Molly truly is an independent little thing, and I’m worried that Tiernan might smother her a little (there was evidence of it today… which I’ll get to in a bit). So I think having a day there on her own every second week will also be good for her. She will get to make her own friends and make her own ‘place’ there without Tiernan looking on all the time.

So, as I was saying, Tiernan was being ever-so-cute and loving towards Molly, offering to protect her and look after her. He asked her to sit next to him at the table when they ate lunch (cute!). He asked her to play with him all day (so sweet!). Then he picked her up and started carrying her around the house, and I suddenly realised things had gone too far.

“Um, Tiernan,” I had to say, “Just remember that Molly isn’t a baby, and she can speak for herself and play by herself and do lots of things by herself, can’t you Molly?”

“Yes Mummy!” She enthusiastically agreed.

I asked Tiernan to tone down the helpful, protective big brother thing just a notch. He agreed, and off we went. They had a fabulous day. Molly didn’t want to leave when I arrived to pick them up in the afternoon. The teachers were delighted with her, and marveled at her confidence and independence – they had expected her to be a bit more like Tiernan, I suppose. Tiernan’s group teacher (whom I adore, and really respect as a teacher), saw immediately what was going on with Tiernan being in ‘big brother’ mode, and made sure he wasn’t overdoing it throughout the day. She was very impressed when, at news time, Molly told Tiernan to be quiet because it was her turn to talk – he kept ‘helpfully’ adding extra bits of information to her story about going to the beach, and it was annoying her, so she told him to stop!

In the end, Molly and Tiernan spent a lot of the day playing together, but also some time playing apart. Apparently, Tiernan kept trying to get Molly to play with him, but she kept wandering off to do her own thing. Eventually, Tiernan’s teacher reminded Tiernan that he had his own friends at preschool, and that by playing with them, he would be showing Molly how to make friends and play. This did the trick – he went back to his own friends and just ‘kept an eye’ on Molly from time to time. I’m really happy that they’re in a preschool where the teachers really do understand them. I think they’re going to have a great year!