End of an era

For the first time in almost 2 years, I wore a non-maternity bra to work today.

It feels a little sad …

She’s not happy about it but the fact of the matter is the stress of working full time and feeding less during the day has taken its toll and no amount of night time snacking is going to fix that.

Add to that a diet change and voila – what little milk supply was there has pretty much gone.

She’s nearly 17 months. It’s the longest I’ve breastfed a baby for.

We’ve had a good innings but I can see the end in sight and whilst part of me rejoices at having my body back (and part of NIH rejoices at the prospect of having HIS particular area of amusement back), part of me weeps.

It’s truly the end of an era.

Baby knows what she wants

We’ve been learning then teaching Little Miss some sign language in the hopes that it would make it easier for us and her to communicate better. You know, because she’s a baby who can’t talk yet but by gum, she certainly has a mind of her own and it’s handy to know what she wants at times!

It’s been an interesting experiment and after what seemed like forever, she just started doing the “More” sign one day.

Since that miraculous moment (triggered, I believe, by a hot chip on my plate), we’ve all learnt a few more useful signs, such as:

“All Done” (very popular with her when she doesn’t want to eat any more veges)

“Change” “Nappy” (not as popular with her)

“Milk” (her personal favourite)

Now that the terrible two’s are fast approaching, we’ve learnt “Yes” and “No” to try and develop structure and guidelines.

Ha.

Which is why in the early hours of the morning a few weeks ago, I found myself having a “silent” argument with a very headstrong 16 month old that went like this:

Baby: [sign] “milk”
Mummy: [sign] “no”
Baby: [sign VERY FORCEFULLY] “YES”

via GIPHY

Mummy laughed
Baby won.

It’s been an age …

Time gets away from me so fast, especially now I’ve started back at work. I can’t believe my last post was in January and it’s now May – Mother’s Day (NZ/AUS) to be exact.

Since I last wrote, a few significant changes have happened and I did document a few of them on good ol’ Facebook  ’cause it’s easily accessible (especially in the middle of the night … or middle of the drama) and suitable for short and sweet posts.  Here’s a catch-up of happenings from January and February, dear dedicated reader:

January 24th:
I spent a good 10 minutes yesterday on the floor of the kitchen on hands and knees, right arm outstretched, index finger tip coated with vanilla icing wiggling suggestively at the baby, cooing “Come on bubba. You can do it. Mmmm yummy icing! Come and get it!”
It’s not that she can’t get around yet – she can. It’s a series of rolls; push up to sitting; take stock of direction; readjust position then forward onto hands and knees before flopping on her belly and rolling onwards again.
The problem is she backs herself into a corner and can’t get herself out so I thought I’d give her some motivation to try forward motion.
She wasn’t buying it. She sat and flapped her arms and gabbled at me, clearly indicating that I should be ashamed of myself for my feeble attempt at blackmail and just give her the damn icing.
But I persisted.
In the end we compromised. She got up on all fours and stretched her head forward turtle-style. I complied to her request and stretched my finger out to meet her little mouth to give her a lick.
It was about then I took a good long look at the situation and thought to myself “Yep. It’s definitely time you went back to work.”

She started crawling the week before I went back to work and now she’s pulling herself up and shuffling along if she’s got a handhold.

January 26th:
This cheeky little monkey is 10 months old today. That means she’s been ‘outside’ longer than she was ‘inside’ and the freedom is starting to show.
No longer does she sit quietly and play with her toys on the lounge room floor. Instead she has become a forward crawl-shuffling, sideways-rolling demolition derby keen on doing harm to herself and everything within reach of her cute little mitts.
All with this look on her face. How can you resist that?

You can’t. I’ve tried.

February 4th:
It’s T minus 8 sleeps to Daycare so after a visit to the centre on Friday, I’ve realised Little Miss is going to need more rough-around clothes or else I’ll be washing every damn night.
As a result, we spent yesterday morning trawling the Op Shops for shorts and tshirts (Aunty Kimmy would be proud!) and for the bargain basement price of 50c – $1 each, scored a good stash of clothes for her.
I used to do this when we lived in Western Australia and had 3 kiddies with no respect for clothing to dress. Twice a year we’d head from Carnarvon down to Geraldton for the weekend and gorge ourselves on junk food whilst getting supplies for the next 6 months, including clothes for growing kids.
There’s something so satisfying about getting a bargain. The cheapest I could buy shorts and tshirts for her brand new would be around $5 from Kmart (gotta love Kmart!).
But the best thing is I don’t worry about her wrecking them. She can dig in the sandpit and rub various foods into them and I won’t care.
There’s just one teeny tiny hiccup …
After weeks of very warm (for NZ) weather, we’ve woken to 13 degrees this morning and checking the weather report, it seems we’re back to 14 – 22 degrees for the foreseeable future. Perhaps we didn’t need so many shorts and short sleeve shirts after all.
Or maybe I need to do some more Op Shopping!

LOVE OP SHOPPING FOR BABY CLOTHES! It is now my new hobby.

February 7th:
Now that I’m back knee-deep in babyland (where nobody sleeps and food is for smushing), I’m rediscovering old storybook favourites as well as happening upon some new ones.
Little Miss received some great additions to her personal library at Christmas, including Hairy Maclary, Australian Animals and The Wonky Donkey.
If you’re not familiar with that last one, it actually comes with a CD of the song but in this day and age, who needs that when you have YouTube?
She was particularly miserable last night (bloody teeth) so I thought I’d cheer her up with The Wonky Donkey (plus the music might help drown out her grumbling).
The plan worked like a charm … then the next video came up on autoplay and I thought “Why not?”.
I absolutely love children’s stories but I especially have a soft spot for those that are a little bit irreverent and have a good injection of humour.
And so I present to you my new favourite – The Duck Song.
Enjoy!

I still get the giggles with this song. A friend at work recently asked me what music she should play to cheer me up – I showed her this. It’s now our go-to.

February 12th:
Today was supposed to be my first day back in the office but one power-spew later and I’m still here checking in via email and Skype while the tiny tyrant calls the shots.
I’d built myself up to be ready to let her go today. I was super-prepped and everything. When she upchucked, I had a brief flash of frustration … but then she cried and what can you do?
You call in sick and recalibrate for a day at home with a potential next star of The Exorcist Reloaded.
Mind you, she seems fine now.
When my now-grown kids were school-age, I used to call this phenomenon The 9am Miracle.
They were officially dying … until just after 9am and then suddenly they felt much much better. But you can’t pack them off to school, can you?
I can’t believe she knows that trick already …

Kids, man.

February 19th:
We survived our first week back at work/at daycare in true form – by the skin of our teeth.
Little Miss was off to a shaky start with a tummy bug that had her home with either mummy or daddy for two days (completely fine after one spew but you know, 48 hr daycare rule and all that) but then she hit the ground running.
No tears at drop-off … from her, anyway … and her teachers said she just slotted right in as if she’d always been there.
That, more than anything else, made it so much easier for me to not only go back to work but actually enjoy it as well.
It’s hard to put into words why going back to work makes me feel good.
Money is naturally a biggie. It’s been a tight 11 months but we’ve managed to make it through and still have a bit of fun. It is a welcome relief though, to know that we can start building up a safety net again. I really don’t like skating so close to the edge.
The workplace is another big tick. I love this company and all it stands for. The people are a wonderful bunch with awesome attitudes and smarts to boot. The work I’m involved with really interests me and I feel I can make a valuable contribution to the areas I’m now focused on (although I do miss handling the ins and outs of domains).
Being home with a young child definitely has its rewards but there’s also an awful lot of repetition. It’s also hard to give them the socialization skills they’ll need to get along with other kids when it’s pretty much a certainty that they’re going to grow up as an only child. Sure, she has 3 adult siblings but she won’t be learning about pecking orders and sharing (the easy OR hard way) from them.
This is my first go at being a working mum with a baby and I have to say it’s a little easier than I thought it would be. But then I think the chilled out, laid-back attitude Little Miss has always possessed has made it so … and for that, I am grateful.

Three months in and still loving it – even more so now we’ve got ourselves into a routine.

February 22nd:
When we got home from work/daycare yesterday I put the washing on, fed the grumbler fruit, yogurt and a baby banana biscotti (fanceee), prepped dinner, took the garbage out, hung the washing out, served dinner then finally sat down to eat. Meanwhile she’d taken a two-hour nap on Dad, so was cheerfully rejecting anything we put forward as a dining suggestion.
It was then I noted she had a slightly different air about her. Tougher. More determined. Definitely more vocal.
And I realised … I missed her.
She’s spending all day with other people and when I finally do get her back, there’s still stuff to be done that takes me away from her.
A wave of sadness washed over me and I cried, right there at the dinner table.

Adjusting to a new chapter in your life is always tough. I believe in the 6 WEEK RULE – tough anything out for 6 weeks and you’ll find it starts to get easier … and if it doesn’t, then for god’s sake make a change. Life’s too short to be miserable.

Fortunately, it has gotten better and the whole working/daycare thing has become part of our daily life – despite some curve balls, as the next compilation covering March and April will reveal.

Our Christmas Adventure

Walking the tracks

It’s been ages since I wrote a sightseeing blog – mainly because with a baby we haven’t strayed too far from the familiar for nearly 9 months.

But since there were no family visiting us for Christmas this year (and until I go back to work full-time in February, we couldn’t afford the trip home) we decided to be quintessential Kiwis for the season and “booked a bach” for three days over Christmas.

A bach (pronounced “batch”) can be anything from a converted shed in someone’s yard to a full-on holiday house with all the extras. In our case, it was a really quaint little one room (I don’t count the bathroom as it was more of a cupboard) cabin in the front yard of the owners’ section at Waihi Beach (pronounced “Why-hee”) on the East Coast about 1.5 hrs drive from Hamilton.

Although it sounds a little close to camping in a strangers’ yard, the block was around a quarter of an acre and there was ample room between our cabin and the main house. They’ve also set it up with lovely hedges all around so that it really felt quite private (even if, at the right angle and with enough dedication and a pair of binoculars, you would have had a great view of someone showering if you left the bathroom window open at night).

The cabin itself was set up with all the mod cons – a mini kitchen, BBQ, fridge, microwave, comfortable bed, lounge, armchair and random books in the bookshelf. We brought our food with us so it kinda felt like very fancy camping – all about 5 minutes’ walk from the shops or the beach. Perfect!

Clear waters of the gorge

We dawdled on the way there, stopping in at Morrinsville for a coffee then at Karangahake Gorge to do one of the walks. This area was famous for gold back in the day and the walks follow old tram tracks through the mountains beside the gorge and beside the remnants of buildings from yesteryear.

One of the viewing spots from inside the mine shaft

We threw Little Miss into the sling and went tramping (another kiwi tradition) up hill, down dale and in the dark (until I finally found where my new phone upgrade had hidden my torch). I can see why tramping is a favoured NZ pasttime – gorgeous scenery, well-tended paths and no snakes to look out for make it a very enjoyable way to get some exercise.

Orokawa Bay

Christmas Day was absolutely glorious and a delicious 24 degrees! My, I do like their idea of summer over here!) so we headed to the beach and decided to be brave (or crazy) and do the walk around the headland to Orokawa Bay  … in thongs … with a baby in a sling and me carrying the gear!  Actually it was not too hard a walk (considering Kiwis think any ground less than 45 degree angle to be flat) through gorgeous bush (once again no snakes! Yay!) with glimpses of the aquamarine waters below us.

Set up our beach shade underneath the trees. How’s the serenity?

The bay itself is very picturesque with big pohutukawas overhanging the beach, giving lots of shady spots to sit and admire the view. Not so great for swimming but we dug pools in the sand for Little Miss and managed to get wet and very very sandy in the process.

 

Open carriage to check out the view

The next day was raining but we’d planned to go into Waihi itself (about 10 kms inland) to take a ride on the Goldfields Historic Rail so it was perfect timing, really. It stopped raining by the time we were due to return so we rode in the outside open carriage to really enjoy the scenery.

It was a really relaxed and laid back first Christmas for Little Miss but one we all enjoyed. We’re thinking of convincing family to join us in Wanaka on the South Island next Christmas, which means we actually need to start planning now as it’s quite a popular destination, even in the summer months. At least we have good feedback about us on the Book-a-Bach website to hopefully aid in securing one of the fancier bachs down there:  “Awesome guests and they left the cabin spotless!”

I didn’t go too crazy as far as cleaning went but I may have squirted a little extra Spray ‘n’ Wipe around the room … just in case …

And now for something completely different …

I have a thing for circles lately. I don’t know if there’s a hidden message in it. Maybe I’m subconsciously thinking I’m back at square one in the circle of life (possibly a mixed metaphor there but whatever).

Once again,  I have a small baby which means I’ve pretty much lost my independence for a while – at least until she’s weaned.  But it’s not so much the constant demands on my time, sleep and body that troubles me.

It’s money.

Even though I’ve been doing a little bit of work here and there, it hasn’t been regular and has equated to little more coffee money (once upon a time they called it pin money – but who needs that many pins?).

It certainly hasn’t been anything that could cover some expenses while I’m on maternity leave. Fortunately I go back to work in a few months – and I say fortunately because I can’t stand not bringing money into the house.

Money is such a touchy subject for me. In my first marriage, I felt incredibly guilty about not working for the first six years, even though the main reason was that we had three kidlets under the age of five and could not have afforded the childcare costs.  At that stage, I only had the qualifications to be a check-out chick – so I would have basically just handed over my wage each week. Add to that the fact we were in the Army and moved on average once a year and my prospects were really poor.

Even though it seemed the logical choice to wait until they went to school – I ended up getting permanent part-time work when the youngest was 12 months old – I was made to feel that I was a burden because I didn’t earn money. And it wasn’t my imagination either – he said those very words to me years later.  It may have just been the divorce talking but it still stabs me right in the heart to recall it.

Nowadays there are so many articles highlighting the ability of stay-at-home mums to improve the lifestyle of a regular household. After all, they cook, they clean, they mind your child … if dad plays his cards right, he may get some “personal time” …

To pay for all that (and I don’t actually think they included ‘personal time’ in their sums) calculates to some ridiculous six-figure amount.  Even though it seems a terrible shame to put a price on motherhood, at least it gives us a measuring stick in terms that modern society can understand.

So I work hard to enjoy these precious 10 months or so that I have with Little Miss before we all get thrust back into the fast-running stream of work, daycare, home, chores, bed, repeat. I budget whilst making sure we still have a bit of fun. I do what work I can from home to bring in a little extra.

But even though it’s a totally different situation with a totally different partner who I know doesn’t have the same viewpoint, I still can’t seem to shut up those niggling inner demons about being perceived as a burden and not pulling my weight.

Books I like a.k.a Influential Literature

One of my favourite books of all time is Watership Down, a tale of adventure involving a group of rabbits.  If you’ve only watched the movie, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a children’s story but it, as with many tales involving animals as main protagonists, is so much more.

My Dad read it first then gave it to me, saying “Here. Give this a try. You might not get all of it but it’s a good story.” I’m not too sure how old I was at the time but it was probably around 14, as I do know I was in high school but only about Year 7 or 8.

And he was right. I didn’t get a lot of it until I reread it as an adult but at the heart is a great little story about a bunch of rabbits following Hazel, the First Follower of his Lone Nut brother Fiver, to find a new area to establish a rabbit colony.

As with all adventures, there’s excitement and danger along the way in most forms you would expect but some that take you by surprise.

I think I’ve read it about 4 times since that first time waayyyyy back as a burgeoning teenager and every time I’ve found a new message hidden between the lines – usually something that directly correlates to whatever’s happening in my life at the time.

So with this drawing thing, I thought for my next subject I’d do a rabbit from Watership Down. Actually, I thought I’d do a whole series of drawings from WD and plaster them all over Little Miss’s room … then I remembered the not-so-cute parts of the story and wondered if that was such a good idea.

Maybe I’ll just do one of El-ahrairah, the mythical “Prince with a thousand enemies” and leave it at that.

This one is pretty simple but at least it didn’t take me a week to put pen to paper again!

Getting back into it

I’ve been feeling restless lately so I challenged myself to get back into drawing again.

I could have a big whinge-fest about my motivations: the highs and lows of motherhood; the wanting to feel like I’m achieving something every day; the desire to maintain and build on skills … but firstly, there’s so many other bloggers out there who can do it better than me and secondly, I couldn’t be arsed.

So instead I’ll just show you the picture I drew yesterday. I want to say “I challenged myself to do one drawing every day for [insert appropriate timeframe here]. Here’s Day One.” but why set myself up for failure?

I might do one every day … I might not. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Not to harp on but …

My OCD can’t even deal

I’m tired.

Not just “Whew! I’m pooped!” but really, really tired. That deep-in-your-bones fuzzy head itchy eyeballs what the actual fuck tired. The tired that, unless you’ve had children or a chronic fatigue-type condition (which I’ve had … whilst wrangling a 6 month old, a 2 year old and a 5 year old … dear God, how am I still alive??), you don’t actually know what I’m talking about.

After six pretty easy-going months, Little Miss has decided to become a really shit night sleeper and I am trying desperately to figure out why and how to fix it.

On the plus side, her day naps have improved considerably …

I told NIH I was fine but perhaps that’s overstretching the truth a little, as an incident this morning may have proved.

We’ve moved to a larger place, which means we have a spare room for visitors.  It’ll be so much nicer having visitors now  in an actual house rather than three tiny rooms and an even tinier bathroom but we still suffered a of lack of bedding. The double blow-up mattress has had few complaints so far but there are times when we need to pull out the old single mattress from under our bed to accommodate more bodies.

For some visitors, a mattress on the floor is ok. It’s a pretty comfy inner spring mattress of an ample size – I’m now suspecting a King Single after this mornings’ efforts – but for others, it’s a little harder getting down and back up from that level.

Which is why we thought investing in a single bed frame and having the bed set up permanently made perfect sense. After all, Little Miss will eventually be sleeping in it … if she ever deigns to sleep again.

We ordered one of a reasonable cost and elegant design and it arrived the other day. Sweet.

I put it all together yesterday and it’s really solid and stable and looks good. Even sweeter.

After yet another disgraceful night of broken sleep, I thought I’d haul out the mattress and make it up today – even though our visitors don’t arrive until next week – so that NIH has somewhere to retreat to in the meantime when the all-night part-ay gets too much. After all, the poor guy has to go to work and act reasonably coherent whereas I stay home with a small person cares little if I’m coherent or not as long as I feed her. Sometimes I can even sneak in a nap if the planets all align.

So I dragged that cumbersome bastard out from under the bed and into the spare room. A touch more exercise than I’d prefer with so little sleep – it made my head spin a little but so far so good.

I lined it up next to the bed frame. All systems apparently are go, Houston.

Now, just to take a deep breath and lift that heavy mofo up and slide it on …

Fudge popsicles. It’s about an inch too long.

Not to be outdone, I puffed and squeezed and managed to slot it in between the header and footer … but it kinda looks like a caterpillar doing the wave. I could have cried.

I may have cried ….

Taking notes

I can’t really put my finger on why I feel compelled to blog. Just like that option about relationships on Facebook, it’s complicated.

I do like to think of myself as a storyteller and if I can get a few laughs along the way, all the better.

Perhaps Mr Morley, my 6th Grade teacher, is part of it. Even since he kindly but succinctly critiqued my attempt at a retelling of “Goldilocks & The Three Bears” – Michelle, I appreciate your hard work but your writing is verbose – I’ve felt the need to hone my writing skills.

Maybe it’s a way of quieting the voices in my head. I find putting thoughts into words on a page brings clarity and some sense of order.

My love affair with blogging actually started about eight years ago. I was going through (what I hope will be) the most disastrous time in my life. I had the trifecta – career; family; marriage – all in the shitter. There’s no nicer way to put it. Everything was crappy.

I was suffering deep anxiety and depression at the time (of course, had no idea that’s what it was) and I credit taking up writing in a journal for helping me through those really tough days.  I committed to writing one page per day, last thing at night.

At first, it was so very, very trite. My entries read like that nasty classic “What I did in my holidays”. It was just a recount of what I’d done for the day.

At the same time, I discovered you could actually do this on the internet and I started my own blog – The Blah-Blah. Nothing controversial. No deep inner revelations. No dark secrets. It was just like my journal – dull and boring and nothing at all of the real me in there.

Some time later I re-read both the early days of my journal and my blog, knowing full well what was really going on, and I could see how much of a liar I was. There was no hint of any distress at all. They were positively dripping with sweetness and ‘hail-fellow-well-met”.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Then the shit really hit the fan. My dad died. And all the crap came spilling out as life as I knew it exploded around me.

Finally, my journal did what it was supposed to do. It released all the pent-up angst, all the hurt, all the sorrow. Some nights I struggled to condense it all onto just one page.

Unfortunately, my blog took a turn for the worse as well, diving into diatribe. I took a good look at it one day and deleted the whole thing. It had become nothing more than a moan about things that were either out of my control or of my own doing. I felt embarrassed to have all that out for public display.

I kept my journals (there ended up being 5 of them) buried in the back of my cupboard for a few years. I made NIH promise to find them and burn them if I died. He knew everything about me so I wasn’t worried about him reading them (it’s one of the reasons I love him dearly – he knows it all and loves me anyway) but I worried about anyone else finding them.

About three years ago I did a big spring clean. Life was relatively good – there was still that pesky little issue with infertility but apart from that, I loved who I had become and where I was in life.  I pulled the journals out of the cupboard and flicked through them all.

Oh, that me was so sad and lost. Even now, I get a lump in my throat thinking of her. She was a total mess.

So I ripped them apart and burnt all the pages, even those heart-wrenching entries just before and after my dad passed away. The journals had served their purpose and I didn’t need to hold onto all that pain anymore. It was past time to let it all go.

I started “Creative Midlife” as a way of discussing my journey from librarian to graphic designer. It was meant to be a showcase of my work whilst being an amusing little aside at my life – a token diary without too much angst.

I decided to be real but not offensive. I wanted to write stuff that might leave me vulnerable but at least be my truth. I didn’t want to be a liar anymore.

It’s interesting to see how the blog has evolved around my life – first as a foray into a vastly different career, then as an IVF war veteran, then an immigrant to a different country and now as a second-time-around mother. I’m so glad I have kept a written record of the highlights. Sure, it’s not been all wine and roses but still it’s been good.

I don’t think I’ll be deleting it any time soon.