Yet another challenge

I’m beginning to think that life is just a series of ridiculous challenges. Trying to do something but in order to do it you first need to do something else. This means you have to do a bunch of other things too, things you never though you’d do. I never thought I’d put my kids in care. No matter the cost, I’d manage to keep my kids with me until they started school. I didn’t do too badly in that the Dude was never in care. Thumper got her first year with me.

Coming to Canberra, we knew we could earn solid pay. We didn’t think much about the cost of daycare. But we should have. Getting our jobs was one thing, and happened so fast, as I wrote about before, so we needed fast daycare as well. We were fortunate enough to find someone who could do the week for both kids in family daycare. It wasn’t the perfect situation, but it may just work and at least it was there. So we signed up and agreed to start them on Wed. Little did we think that the cost would be far beyond what we could possibly afford.

To top it off, neither of the kids wanted to go. The daycare lady had a rather old, dark, cold house and lots of outdated toys. She didn’t speak great English which was a challenge but not the end of the world. I think the kids just didn’t gel with her. The Dude has been getting progressively more and more bored since finishing school over three months ago and although initially excited about going to daycare, he was disappointed after the first day. He was asked to lie down and have quiet time while the little ones napped which he didn’t like, that was his main gripe. Thumper, who never used to want to leave daycare in Canada, suddenly developed separation anxiety and screamed from the moment she realised I was leaving her. Overall, it was a bit of a disaster.

Once we realised the exorbitant costs, we immediately pulled the kids out. It was a tough call because the lady had been so accommodating at the last minute. I felt sick at the prospect of having to tell her. I desperately posted on a local Facebook page and among the replies asking confused and repetitive questions about why we don’t get rebates for daycare (we definitely don’t), I had a few people telling me to message them about solutions. One of them, a young mum, turned out to be a real godsend. She agreed to look after the kids three days a week at our place for a reduced rate and another lady is going to look after them the other two at hers, subject to meeting her this weekend. It began to seem like it might just work.

But today when we got home after the first full day leaving them with this lovely mum, we began to doubt that it was going to work. The kids were a nightmare. They didn’t listen, they had meltdown after meltdown, they were rude, disrespectful, aggressive. Thumper refused to nap. Dude refused to turn off the tv. Another disaster ensued. The mum was, frankly, a saint. She pulled out every trick in the book but ultimately the kids were just behaving terribly. She has bravely agreed to continue, but to be honest I can’t see it lasting, unless something changes significantly.

For my part, none of this feels right. I want to be back in Canada and I know we need money to do that, but being with my children feels more important somehow. Gosh it’s hard. I don’t know how we’ve ended up in this situation but I’m going to do everything within my power to fix it.

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Love and happiness

Here I am blogging at 10:03pm on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t aware until a few hours ago but apparently this is the kind of thing that people with 19-month-olds do at New Year’s. I am, however, drinking a gin and tonic and have found an episode of Sex and the City to put on that I’ve seen a hundred million times. Party time or what?!

No, seriously, I must first apologise to anyone wondering (probably no one!) for not posting in a while. It was near impossible while we were overseas – no time and no computer – and since we’ve been back it’s just been go go go, Christmas and now New Year. Secondly, I’m planning a whole series of posts around our trip and all the topics around travelling with a young child, visiting family, being a tourist, being an expat and finding home all over again, so stay tuned for all that. I’m also thinking a lot about a lovely comment from an even lovelier friend, Ms Lulu, and where my blog is headed. I’m pretty bad at being organised and focused about marketing my blog, that’s not really my thing, but I would like to write more and I kind of hope it’s interesting. At least I’d like to make it more interesting. So I’m feeling better about my stream-of-consciousness style and I’m not shying away from ‘mummy’ posts about all things baby and child. As the Cranberries said, ‘everyone else is doing it so why can’t we?’

I won’t lie, it’s been a pretty full on year for us. I mean, let’s face it, it’s always full on with a baby, or a toddler, or kids in general really.  Life moves faster when it’s full. And although I’m almost certain that the pace of life and events in the last few years has all been about the arrival of the Dude (more of an explanation on that another time), it hasn’t made things easy for me, or for my relationship. Lack of time, money, control, they all create tension and angst. We’ve been working our butts off to keep things running smoothly in the relationship stakes recently, butting heads and doing it tough big time, but every time we manage to pull it together I am reminded of how lucky I am to have found The One. Love is always there, and that’s an amazing thing.

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A few weeks ago, I think soon after we got back from the UK, I went to write something on our shopping list, which involves a fantastic ‘stick a post-it on the pantry door’ system that we just love, and I noticed the uppermost item was ‘love and happiness’. Mr Chewbacca had written it. For some reason, maybe because it just didn’t need to be said, I never mentioned anything about it. I knew he knew I’d seen it, and so when I started the next list, I added ‘love and happiness’ back to the top. I haven’t spoken to Mr C about it yet and we’re three lists in but I think it’s going to be our mantra for 2013, like an affirmation. He’s started the next list and put it at the top again. I truly believe that if you repeat something enough, it becomes true. That’s not to say I’m going to sit around eating icecream and watching crappy tv reciting  ‘I’m in love and happy’ but I think the more we see those words, the more we’ll remember to live them. And let’s face it, those two things are everything. I’m not totally in agreement with John, you need more than love, but love is really the root of things, it covers so many bases and can totally change the way you experience life if you are in it or feeling it.

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So I propose that 2013 be infused with love and happiness, in as many shapes and forms it can exist. And now I’m going to hit publish, refresh my gin and tonic, and hope the Dude stays asleep through the loud party over the back fence, the bogans setting off their fireworks two streets over, and the idiots next door who leave their dog to bark right outside our open bedroom window. I’ll be back shortly (hopefully tomorrow) with my 2013 resolutions post.  Happy New Year!

Have child, will travel

After numerous heated discussions and difficult exchanges, husband suggested I go to Melbourne and just chill out with friends for an extended weekend.  At first I was reluctant, thinking about how hard the flight would be with the Dude, who just doesn’t do the comfort feeding thing and doesn’t just fall asleep, but I finally agreed to go and booked some flights on Qantas.  Luxury!  Normally we fly dodgy Tiger but with the Dude I wasn’t taking any chances, and besides, it wasn’t actually much more expensive.  I booked an 11am flight out on the Thursday, thinking that would be cruisy, and a 4pm flight home on the following Monday.  But it wasn’t to be so cruisy!

Firstly, about a week beforehand, husband revealed that he’d volunteered for a day out accompanying some deaf kids into the city to the Botanic Gardens and on the ferry etc. Which is lovely, except it happened to be the day I was due to fly to Melbourne.  And he had to be at the school by 8:30am.  In North Parramatta.  An hour’s drive away.  And my flight was booked for 11am.  Urgh.  We discussed the possibility of him bailing out, but he’d already saved the day as someone else had pulled out and I thought it would be pretty slack to bail at the last minute like that.  So after discussing the possibilities – him taking public transport to North Parramatta (erm, that’s like having a death wish!), me taking public transport to the airport (erm, again, a bit of a death wish, given I’d have the baby and my wheely bag), me taking a taxi to the airport (for $70? Hmm, think again) – and finally settled on a plan.  He dropped me in the city at about 7:45 and I strapped the Dude to my chest, put my nappy bag in my wheely bag, and took the airport line straight through from St James – easy!

A few things to explain here: I decided not to bother with taking a pram as the Dude isn’t a fan and I can’t fathom how one person can possibly handle a wheely bag and a pram at the same time.  Seriously.  How is that possible??  The other thing is that I don’t own a nappy bag.  My nappy bag consists of a rather tatty Target ‘green’ bag.  I have the material at home, just haven’t gotten round to making one, and there’s no way I’m spending $100 on a proper one, what a total rip off!  Plus I’m not a fan of carting round a whole bunch of shit just because I have a baby.  Sometimes I take a nappy and wipes, occasionally a change of clothes, a hat, socks… that’s about it.  So anyway, all I had was my modest wheely bag, my handbag and the Dude strapped to me in the Ergobaby.

The train trip through to Sydney airport’s Qantas domestic terminal was a breeze.  Fast, easy, simple.  The only drawbag is being subjected to extortion when you pay $15 for a ten minute train journey!  Freaking rip off!  But that’s Sydney for you… Anyway, I got there, decided to check my bag, and was impressed with how easy it was despite the fact that Qantas seem to have now gotten rid of actual people to check you in and you do the whole thing yourself: check in and print off your boarding pass and bag tags, attach your own bag tags, then drop off your bags yourself.  Pretty cool really.

I headed through security and grabbed a bacon and egg muffin at Hungry Jacks and a big veggie juice at the food place next to it – yum!  I found a nice seat facing out over the tarmac, finished my food and drink and gave the Dude a feed.  I had a couple of hours still before my flight at 11am, and I planned to get him to have a decent sleep so he’d be cool for the flight.  It was great, I strapped him to my back, then grabbed a coffee, then found a bench and stood rocking him while crocheting and sipping my coffee, too easy!  At 10:40 I went to board my flight; and that’s when things started to go awry.

The flight was delayed 25 minutes, so boarding at 11:05.  I kept walking round with the Dude, gave him another feed… It was 11:30 and we still hadn’t boarded.  Finally we all filed on.  Apparently the flight before had been late in.  I was beckoned to the front and slipped on board first, which was brilliant.  My seat was right at the back and the one next to me was empty, perfect!  The male and female flight attendants immediately flocked to me and took the Dude, who was happy to hang out with them, a total miracle, as normally he screams as soon as I pass him to someone else, unless it’s daddy.  This was going well! And then we sat on the tarmac.  For an hour!  The Dude got restless.  The lovely male flight attendant brought him some baby food, awful artificial Heinz vanilla custard (I read the label enough to notice the second ingredient was ‘sugar’ and then pretended not to notice), which the Dude of course absolutely loved and ate about a third of the tin!  But we weren’t flying anywhere on this plane it seemed, and were soon asked to disembark as the flight had been cancelled due to electrical problems.  I filed out with everyone else and stood in line for 10 minutes whereupon we were booked onto a 3pm flight.  Hmph.

Anyway, eventually we did fly out on the 3pm flight, but sadly the attendants on this flight weren’t of the calibre of those on the first and basically ignored me the whole time.  The Dude had had enough by this point and promptly screamed the plane down for most of the flight, even though I tried to soothe him by walking around and feeding (it only worked for the first 15 minutes during take off).  I finally arrived in Melbourne at 4:35pm and had to wait for my friend to pick us up as because of the delay she was stuck in traffic!  What an ordeal!

Some general observations about flying:

  • Baby change area at the airport? This had to be the most impractical place to change a baby, unless the baby in question is completely covered in poo and you need to give him a bath to clean him up… Where is the bit you change them on? I really do need to invest in a portable change mat, as the changing area consisted of a narrow, hard metal bench.
  • People that work at Sydney airport – really, this is your career? Reminds me why I want to leave Sydney!  I watched people working behind counters and in shops and thought, damn, what a way to live, how boring and average.  Yes, I am a cynic.  And a snob.
  • Are people really that lovely and helpful when you’re travelling with a baby? Some, yes, but judging by the stupid article I read in the Age about flying with a baby, some are just callous assholes who probably wouldn’t have the guts to say to your face what they’d say in an online comment.
  • There is a huge difference depending on the flight attendants.  I guess they see a million babies complaining on flights every day, but it made SUCH a difference to have those lovely flight attendants on that first flight.  I personally thanked them both before getting off the plane, and the female flight attendant came up to me in the airport after we got off the first plane to check if I’d been successfully rebooked and commiserate.  So nice.
  • Some people are tolerant and understand just how embarrassing and stressful it can be when your baby is screaming and you just can’t do anything.  As I sat waiting to get off the second flight to Melbourne, waiting for everyone to get off first, a smiling guy in a suit leaned down to me and said, “don’t worry, we’ve all been there before”.  I smiled.  Thanks man, I really needed to hear that.

My conclusion? Having kids and participating in mainstream society do not exist in the same dimension! But what’s new right?  All I know is, I did it, I took a flight alone with my baby and it was all good.  In fact he slept for the majority of the flight home – miracle or what!  I can’t say I’ll be doing it again in a hurry but at least now I know I can.

The baby shower enigma

34 weeks. Finally I’m starting to feel slightly tired and heavy, even though everyone said, ‘just wait til you hit 28 weeks, you’ll be exhausted!’  I’m fine, just noticing things are a bit of an effort.  And sleeping is not as comfortable as it once was, despite my newly acquired body pillow – husband with jimmy arms which step up a level after a few beers is also not conducive to comfy sleep!

So I had a ‘baby shower blessingway thingo’ (as I’ve awkwardly dubbed it) on Sunday.  I was reluctant to have it, for a number of reasons:

1. I’m not an organiser – do I really have to do stuff?

2. I’m not a good socialiser – love people, especially people who make sense to me, but socialising really takes effort for me, being the proper anti-social introvert.

3. I don’t like being the centre of attention.

4. I don’t like clichés and silly, girly banter – I like things down to earth.

5. I’m not that keen on ‘baby stuff’, oohing and aahing over supposedly cute outfits etc.  Babies in general I don’t really know what to do with and I’m not really that interested.

6. I find the whole ‘motherhood’, fawning over babies, talking about babies constantly to be a little full on and not ‘me’, despite the fact that I’m ridiculously excited about meeting this little person currently poking his/her elbow into my right hip bone.

7. I’m not good with ‘women’ stuff – being in homebirth circles you end up inevitably connecting with women who have rituals about their periods, worship the ‘Goddess’, do women’s workshops and consider themselves feminists.  I am completely happy to be female (way better than male, der!) but I don’t feel the need to draw attention to being a woman.  It is what it is, I am who I am, meh…

So it was with some fairly harsh pre-conceived notions and scepticism that I agreed to having a get together organised.  Luckily the friend who did it is absolutely freaking awesome, so incredibly creative and clever, and has a similar sort of ‘no crap’ kind of attitude to me, so I knew she’d do something that fits me.

Because it was in Canberra, where I grew up, I found myself inviting people who I hadn’t seen in a really long time, as well as people who I see quite often.  It was bizarre seeing all those different people in the one context.  My mum was there too.

Oddly enough, it turned out to be absolutely amazing.  We didn’t hold any hippy women’s rituals, nor did we play games involving bottles and nappies.  But it was perfect.  I realised what a mix of women I know and consider important, and how each had things in common with the other, via me.  Everyone participated in their own way, for me, and the various things people said and did all resonated and meant something.  I still can’t believe all those people came along just for me.

As we drove home I suddenly realised the purpose of a baby shower or blessingway or ‘get together thingo’, whatever you want to call it… This baby is going to be born fairly soon, and this get together just helped round it all out for me.  I felt so warm and fuzzy, it was ridiculous, so content, like I’d tied up all my loose ends and could just retreat into birth world and do what I was meant to do.  What a feeling!  On a practical level, no, I haven’t tied up all the loose ends, far from it in fact; but on a spiritual level I feel so ready, it’s insane, it’s like this perfect progression from woman to mother is occurring, and I’m completely content with it.