Wednesday, July 30, 2014


A very brief post to let you all know that we're a little MIA at the moment.

Clay has RSV (fancy name for a common cold) along with bronchiolitis & because he is still so little it's really hit him hard. So we've spent the last 4 days, & still a few more yet to go, in hospital under the fantastic care of some excellent pediatrician's & pediatric nurses.

Meanwhile Doug is home with the other five minions holding down the fort & keeping little emotional hearts intact as Ben, Rianan, Jack,  Blake & Will try to cope & adjust, with Clay & I being so far away & their little brother so unwell.

At the moment my head is so filled with oxygen saturation levels & high heart rates; concerns over anxious & emotional little minions, a husband worried for all his children & for his wife over an hour away. There's nothing that I can actively do to fix anything other than to just keep swimming. 

Hence, there is no available brain space for blog posts.

So on that note I'll leave this post here.

We'll be returning to our regular scheduled programming once we're all under the same roof again & life has returned to normal...

Well as normal as can be.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Photographic evidence

It's been said the more kids you have, the less evidence of their childhood there is in the photo albums. Sadly it's true, in our case any way. 

I swore once we had more than two children, that I would not be that parent, the kind who takes thousands of photos of their first child, documenting every breath. Displaying hundreds of photos of the second child & documenting the important milestones. Then taking a few pictures here & there of the third child, & having only their name & birth details filled in in their 'baby's firsts book'.

Well, I failed. Ben does have perhaps not thousands, but certainly hundreds of photos taken of his first two years. Rianan doesn't have quite as many photos as Ben, but is still in the hundreds. Jack also has lots of photos, though nowhere near the same number of photo's as Ben's first two years. Blake & Will have about the same amount together - probably because this is when I got my first DSLR camera & if you stood still you were fair game. Given that Will actually couldn't move beyond a roll over here & there, he probably has more photos than a fifth child normally would.

Now we come to Clay. I can count on two hands the number of times I have gotten out the big camera to take photos of Clay, plus any other minions who are lurking in the same room. But open up the gallery on my mobile & you will be inundated with snapshot after snapshot. Most of them nearly exactly the same as the last - it's a little like playing 'spot the difference' but with ten pictures not two. D
oesn't make each one any less precious though, just harder to decide which to keep or delete. More often than not I keep them all, perhaps to help me feel better about my lack of family photographer efforts. This way I can say "See, look, I do take lots of photos of our minions. Just on a multi-use device, not on a normal camera." 

The quantity is there, if not the quality.

My phone is automatically set to backup all images directly to an online storage system, because I am petrified that if something goes wrong with my phone then 98% of Clay's photographic existence will disappear. All that would be left is his first month of life & a few spontaneous snap shots here & there when I did get the big camera out & the battery still with charge left.

Part of it is when we do go out, we're so busy enjoying our time out all together, that the camera gets overlooked. We grab it as we walk out the door, but then it stays in the boot while the rest of us are off roaming through the forest or down the beach. Plus Doug & I are both busy kid wrangling. Unless Clay is in the sling, which also means he won't get photographed, I'm to scared to carry both the Canon & the baby - fearful of which one I'll drop. Which leaves Doug who is also keeping an eye on who is where. When you're looking at kid B through a viewfinder it makes it hard to see where kid E is...which can lead to some heart stopping moments in a crowded playground or down the beach with a two year old who isn't afraid of following his bigger brother out to the waves.  

So instead I capture moments here & there, often around the home or in a more controlled environment where I know everyone will remain safe & still within view if I turn my back for ten seconds to capture a moment in time for evidence rather than with just our memory. Because when all is said & done, a photograph remains while sometimes, sadly, a memory does not, nor is it as easily shared.

I have numerous backups of all our digital photos. So much so that I have lost track of what I have backed up & what I haven't. Now we have over flowing baskets full of Cd's, cups of USB's & a hard drive that all contain folder upon folder of unorganized but irreplaceable moments caught on SD card. Despite all this I'm still to scared to clear out our pictures folder on the computer to the recycle bin just in case I missed one photo. 

We need a 100 terabyte hard drive so I can do a 'select all' & transfer the entire contents (duplicates & all) to the new source of safety. In the meantime Doug will just have to deal with a slower than should be computer. 

My excuse is time - finding the time & prioritizing this important but overlooked task. When I do get a spare hour or so there is always so many other things that should be done but have to compete with my desire to have a couple of uninterrupted hours of reading time - yogurt smeared windows be damned. Or in this case, unorganized photo chaos.

I keep thinking to myself that soon, sometime in the year 2014, I will dedicate an entire week to sorting though the tangled folders & duplicates of images, discarding the double ups & ridiculously similar photos where the only difference is their left foot is in front of the right, rather than behind. I also promise to delete the blurry photos - you know the ones where only Mum can tell which child it is.

Next step is then printing out the favorites & putting them all into each of the kids baby photo albums. At least then when a class project calls for a photo of one of the middle or younger children as a baby I won't have to do a last minute dash to Big W for their 1 hour photo processing. Instead we can pull out a baby album that, gasp, has photos in it.

Also on the to-do list is filling in the blank pages in the baby's firsts books. Ben & Rianan's have been completed up to five years & three years of age. Jack has his first two years filled in (I think...) Blake has his first year plus a few extra pages completed. Will's book is documented up to his first birthday. The last time I filled in Will's book was when he was 14 months old & learnt to walk. He is turning three come September. 

What's worse, disclaiming for the sake of keepin' it real, Clay doesn't even have a baby's firsts book yet despite being five months old later in the week. But it's okay, at least I have been writing down all his moments of first smiles, giggles, weight at two months old, etc, ready for when I do finally remember to buy one for him.

So on that note, while the house is quiet with the return of school & afternoon naps, while all this talk of capturing & recording memories is on my mind, I'm going to go fill in some blank pages. Then I'm going to browse some shopping sites to hunt down a baby's firsts memories book for Clay. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ten years to build a ship

Having our minions quite close in age - any where from seventeen months to two & a half years apart, means that in several years time we will have a house full of teenagers all at once. I figured out that in the year 2024 we will have five teenagers - Ben will be nineteen years old & Will thirteen years old. Rianan, Jack & Blake all the ages in between, while Clay will be trialing along at ten years old. The age that Ben will be come October this year. 

Our first baby will be ten this year. Our last baby will be ten in 2024. It just doesn't seem right.

That is only ten years away. Yep, I said only. Ten years may seem like such a long way away yet, but I can remember when Ben was born back in 2004 - that was only ten years ago. If you ask me where the last ten years have gone I would have no precise answer. They have gone by so quickly. Is it because we have had five more children in that time it feels like it's all been a blur, a mash of memories that span ten years condensed into what feels like two. Or is it just 'life' these days? Everyone is getting busier & busier, the days are all merging into one long haze of time.

I wonder what our children will be like then. How chaotic will life be with so many teenagers. Will it be louder than it is now, or will they be so busy in their own lives that they are rarely home so it will be quieter than now.

I wonder who will give us the most grief, which one will finally turn Doug's hair gray. Who will keep me up at all hours of the night as I pace the floors, no longer due to an unsettled baby, but with an unsettled mind as I wait for them to come in the door. 

What will the dynamics be like between so many personalities. Ben & Rianan get along fabulously right now, will that still be the case when they are nineteen & seventeen. Jack gets a little lost in the mix at the moment, but will Ben & Jack find a more common ground together as they get older, or Jack forever be the pesky younger brother to Ben.

What mischief will they all get up to together, what will they cover up together or for one another, that Doug & I won't know about until many years down the track when we are all sitting around a meal together remincising. Then all of a sudden one of them will pipe up with "do you remember the time when....insert some crazy event here, where one helps to bail the other out of trouble & keep it quiet from Doug & I.
Only to end with "We were so lucky Mum & Dad never found out." 
Maybe that will be the day I finally turn gray, when I discover so much more of what they got up to, that was kept quiet between the code of sibling secrecy. 

It's so easy now to get caught up in the toilet training, sight words & lexile readers, the guiding of appropriate & inappropriate language (see this post), the daily jobs chart, quiet afternoon time so little bodies can have a moment to rest, allowing small inches of freedom as they walk to a friends house down the road.

One day all this will be a distant memory & we'll be in the thick of teenage social lives, sports practice & weekend matches, after school jobs, homework assignments & end of year exams. 

Will I look back on this time & wish for it back because it all seemed so much easier. Maybe we'll be one of the lucky few who manage to get through the teenage years with little angst & family bonds intact. I know the hell I put my parents through for eighteen months before settling down & finding my feet in a new found independence. It kind of seems inevitable, like a right of parenthood passage that must be passed through - both the calm seas & the rough, stormy waves.

I hope that we are building our ship strong enough now, in these founding years, that it emerges on the other side, maybe a little worn but still afloat. At least for now, we still have a few more years to get the sails up & any leaky holes patched.

Time, I wish you would slow down a little.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Running on school holiday time

So we're still on school holidays over here in the Southern state. One week in, one week to go. Now a smidgen over half way.

This means that we've joyfully abandoned our normal schedule. No longer held prisoner to the clock, we're running on a different time zone, the twilight zone 'school holiday' time zone. In this two week break of time, those precious extra hours I normally crave, need, suddenly appear. Problem is right now I don't want them, at least not in these holidays where our plans have been dictated by the weather & our social lives by immune systems.

The first week of the holidays were great. We spent Monday & Tuesday just veg'ing around the house, finding our groove in the freedom of dropping all time constraints. No morning alarms, no lunches to pack, no socks to match, no school uniforms to sort to the relevant little bodies. Kids were free to wear whatever their heart desired (well, mostly. While inside our warm house anyway.) Pj's were adorned for an entire day by the older two boys, & Rianan until a friend came over to see if she wanted to play. We had soup or ham, cheese & tomato toasties for lunch instead of sandwiches. There were kids coming & going (we live on a street with several other families all with children similar ages) tabs were kept on which of our minions were where, & how many kids were going to be here for lunch. Blake & Will had sibling playmates plus their friends to play with everyday. Not just on Saturdays & Sundays.

We didn't have any grand plans that first week, Mother Nature was a little undecided each day in whether to just drizzle rain or have an all out down pour. It was a little disappointing to pack lunch & head to a playground only for the rain to suddenly bucket down two minutes before leaving home. The beach was far too cold. Shopping centers a form of torture. Cinemas are not really ideal with a group of seven people - especially when there is only one adult & the remaining six are all under the age of ten. Three of those aged four & under with an attention span that lasts as long as a bag of chips. So we enjoyed movies from our own expansive collection. Scooters, skateboard & roller blade parties under our own pergola with music blaring (& on repeat - sorry to all the residents on our street for the continuous loop of "Am I Wrong" by Nico & Vinz. I'm certain this song now has the same effect as nails down a blackboard when it is heard. Again.) Being the current favorite song for Ben, Rianan & Jack means that it must be played first time all the time. Even when they aren't outside scooting/skating/blading around while singing to it anymore. I'll spare you all the video footage.

It was a good week, all in all. We were home for a majority of it, but that wasn't a bad thing.

Then we hit the beginning of week two. Sunday evening Will's immune system lost the battle with a head cold. So now he is just a walking glory of snot & red, puffy eyes along with the grumpy, helpless moods that often accompany man-flu. Is it man-flu when the afflicted male is only two years old? Or is it kid-flu? Either way, our social calendar is now free - bare as the day Will entered our lives. All the people we had plans to catch up with have been informed of Will's contaminated & voluntary quarantined status. I don't want to give these germs to anyone else, & I'm certain no one else wants them either.

Before I was looking forward to seeing friends whom we haven't seen for nearly two or three months, now I'm looking forward to our online shopping delivery. 

Instead of managing departing & arrival times between venues, naps & friends' homes. I get to use my time management skills to schedule in blogging among the vacuuming & mopping. 

Instead of gossip & laughs, I get to fold washing & wipe a snot smeared face. Yippee. 

When I normally lament the fact that there is only twenty four hours in a day, I am now questioning why ten of those have to be filled with day light. Seriously, right now, I would love the sun to rise at 9am with an anticipated sunset of 4pm. When there is five bored, cabin-fevered, agitated kids to keep entertained in this dreary, wet, germ incubating weather it really makes you wish the days shorter & the nights longer. Or just a dry sunny day to get some fresh air into our lungs & a little grass under our feet.

Being forced to remain confined to the same scenery & the same people is sending these kids all a little batty, & I'm fast running out of referee tactics, tissues & sanity.

You know things are getting bad when you're carrying out conversations with yourself about the merits of Surf washing powder vs Duo washing powder. For the record, Surf won - there is something about the lingering freshly washed smell unique to Surf, that stays with the clean washing pile as it is transferred from dryer to wash basket, to the table when the basket is over flowing, then to the couch in the second lounge room because we need to serve up dinner. Then eventually back to the dining table where it finally gets folded & assigned to the relevant child's wardrobe. Scented just as fresh as it did when I pulled it out the dryer three days ago. 

But I digress. This post isn't about our horrendous barely under control washing & folding dramas, but about running on school holiday time. 

Running on school holiday time when all your plans change due to a sick toddler & bone drenching rain, of needing to let go of the week that should have been to embrace the week that is. After all, soon enough the next round of school holidays will arrive & we'll get to ditch the clock watching in favor of letting the sunlight dictate our days. The weather should be kinder, everyone vibrant with health & we can enjoy the company of others with sun on our faces & grass under our feet. 

In the meantime, while we're still in our school holiday time warp, we've got a cupboard full of board games & I feel some family time coming up. 

After opening another box of tissues. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hypothetical swear jar...

These school holidays have been enlightening for various reasons, but for today's entertainment I'm going to inform you all of the discoveries that I have heard...

Before I start, I should say that things really aren't as bad as they may seem. Given that my swear jar is pretty much empty though, it is a little surprising. As I sit here & reflect back on my own childhood attempts at swearing perhaps I shouldn't be. I remember the first time I swore in front of my Dad. He was a bit shocked I had cursed in front of him, though joked about it a bit & pretended to smack me on the bottom with a tennis table bat - in actual fact he put his hand in the way & hit his own hand instead. The tears came the moment I realized what I had said & to whom, possibly more from shock & shame than anything else. Mum & Dad ended up consoling me rather than actually telling me off for saying to my Dad "stop it you shit". Yeah, oops.

This morning as I walked down the hallway I heard Ben calling Jack an idiot (over something to do with what was going on in their Minecraft world) Then this afternoon he also thought he could get away with dropping a 'bloody' in on a rant about his loom band creation not holding together. To top off the days failings, Jack called Blake a retard, twice in the same 5 seconds. I really have an issue with this. Same as if they use the phase 'You're gay'. It's just not on & not okay as far as I am concerned. In fact they get pulled up on any foul language - swearing or not. So I am a little perplexed at today's expressions that have arisen.

I guess I should be glad that in the scheme of words available, that these are reasonably in nocuous. But still not a habit I want to encourage nor condone. 

This isn't the first time that I've heard a flavorsome word come from their mouths over the last few years,especially since they started kindy & school, gaining exposure of the world & other people outside our own little box. At the moment though it seems to be quite prevalent - especially today. Is it that they are all getting a little sick of the same company - each other, so the frustrations are really coming out (& they are, if the dobbing & yells of "Muuuuum.....insert various whinge/dob/complaint here" are anything to go by) So instead of retreating to one of the numerous rooms available to them they instead hurl insults at each other. I can overlook poo-poo head, not so much penis head (which came from our sweet little Blake) There's nothing quite like sibling endearments to make you feel special.

Bad language is not tolerated, especially with the school aged kids who know it's not okay.
So far it seems that losing the right to play their tab for the remainder of the day (or the next) being banned from sleepovers either here or at a friends house, banned from any internet use - including scouring YouTube for loom band tutorials, doesn't really seem to have that much of an impact. Yeah they kick up a stink when one of the above is dished out. But they get over it pretty quick. Especially when they have Lego to play with, scooters & skateboards to scoot around on, soccer balls to kick, siblings to watch on Minecraft & other forms of time occupying activities readily available.

Getting grounded isn't really working, not on a consistent basis anyway - especially if I take into consideration today's vocabulary. Though that could also have something to do with some of the groundings not being entirely followed through. It's hard to keep track of who is grounded from what, how long for, & for what offense. Sometimes I think they try to pull the wool over my eyes when they claim it was the other one who was grounded for the day, not them. Especially when which ever 'other one' has a fairly valid argument that it was not them, or they had already done their 'time'. Honestly, keeping track of the banned items, time duration & offenses for four little people is not easy. Especially with my short term memory - or lack thereof. Maybe I should start writing it down, then the child who is claiming they are not grounded at all (when indeed they are, but I just cannot remember it & they sense that weakness then go in for the kill) If it's written in black & white, or purple pencil - whatever's handy, then it can't be disputed. By those who can read anyway. 

You know, that's really not a bad idea at all...

It's probably more a childhood thing, than a direct result of how they're raised. Showing off a 'mature' vocab in front of friends, feeling important & grown up because of a few adult words. Still, I don't want a few random swear words to become regular language - even more so when it becomes public language. We do not want our kids to get a reputation for having foul mouths & being disrespectful, especially when they aren't any of those things.

Standards start in the home & are expected to be held out of the home as well - with or without Mum & Dad present. So how strict do I get with this? What to do from here? I won't ignore it - not like I would when a toddler finds a word that gets them attention & giggles. Ignoring at this age, school age, would send across the message of allowing, or at the least getting away with swearing. The last time we had to deal with swearing Ben was seven years old, now that he is approaching ten this time it seems to be needed to be approached differently. It also seems more important that we help get the message across now, before he gets any closer to becoming a teenager. We're still a few years away from that status, but I'm finding that we are entering a new phase of parenting with Ben this year. Like for every eldest child, we are always going to be crossing uncharted territory. 

I'm sure this swearing is just another fad, given it's just come on this last week. I know they swear occasionally in the school yard with their friends - I've heard all the tattle tales when they try to get each other into trouble. But on the weekends, before & after school, prior to this week, the hypothetical swear jar for the kids was also empty.

Hopefully this stage passes quickly. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Unsung hereos

Behind the scenes there is someone who helps me hold it all together, who without him life wouldn't be as amazing as it is.

Someone who sacrifices so much for his family. Sanity being one of them.

But seriously, Doug is my co-hero, my co-pilot, the man who helps hold everything together when I don't have the energy to some days. He is my day off, he is my motivational speaker, he is my calm when I'm feeling anything but, just as I am his.

Working over fifty hours a week & still each night when he comes home...he keeps going. Instead of going straight to the couch he goes straight to the kitchen to see if I need a hand with anything for dinner. Instead of wanting space from the demands put on him, he scoops up Blake & Will tickling their feet while they giggle & shriek upside down. Instead of retreating somewhere quiet to have some downtime, he talks with Ben & Rianan about their day, their friends, what or who they played with after school. He listens to Jack get excited about his soccer match & the many slide tackles he did - in detail. He'll take Clay who is squirming & grizzling on my shoulder, so I don't have to juggle & multitask with one arm trying to cook dinner. 

Then there's the days where instead of cooking dinner all I want to do is sit on the couch & not have to do anything. With a tribe of kids to cook dinner for though it's kind of a necessity. Feeding seven people also means that whipping up a quick meal for two is impossible, & take out becomes as expensive as a trip to Bali. I'm willing to admit there are evenings when Doug walks in the door & instead of being greeted with the smell of dinner cooking, he walks into the chaos of a routine gone AWOL.

Rather than throwing his arms up & walking back out the door, he rolls his sleeves up & gets the pots & pans out. Within thirty minutes dinner is ready, the kids have done their delegated jobs, I've come out of the fetal position in the corner & some order of balance has appeared.

Someone else to pick up the balls that I dropped, to put the wheels back on that fell off, to pick up the tools when I feel like I'm done with the day. To receive as much recognition as I do, but doesn't.

Doug is who the kids go to when they want an extra cookie after dinner, who gives up watching the news to listen to the kids while we eat dinner. The one the kids ask for another piece of chocolate - because they know Mum rarely shares hers. Doug is the parent who can bring the kids into line when they get hyped up & my voice no longer has an impact. Doug is the parent who takes the kids out in the mud, gets the pencils & sits down with them designing super race cars & mega spaceships. Doug is the 'fun' parent, especially when I'm all 'activity' worn out.  

Doug does almost as much of the parenting, the caring, the cooking, the discipline, the cuddles, the teaching, the cleaning, the guiding of values & morals. But because he is rarely seen by others in this role (for working many hours) he is often unnoticed. Not that he needs me, or anyone else, to validate his worth & efforts. 

Occasionally Dad's are overlooked, just because the Mother is (usually) the primary caregiver, so presumed the 'primary parent' in all aspects & the one who is acknowledged for raising the children. 

This is to all the unseen Dad's, the Dad's of one, the Dad's of many. 
To Doug, the Daddy to our minions.
For all the unsung heroes.
Thank you. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Common Comments...

Every time we go out, I guarantee that we will get at least one comment on the size of our family. 

Usually they are all along the same boring & standard lines,

"Oh you have your hands full" - Well, yes, but I would have my hands full with only two children as well, it's all relative. You adapt to what you have. When it was just Ben & Rianan I also felt like I had my hands full, with a toddler & young baby.

"You must be a busy lady" - We're all busy these days. My days are filled with young family life, yours are filled with working full time, caring for elderly parents, house renovating, studying while working, etc, etc.

"All boys? Oh, just the one girl. Poor thing" - I beg to differ. I think Rianan is incredibly lucky to not only have siblings (do not take that comment the wrong way, I have nothing at all against having just one child, by choice or circumstance.) Rianan is also blessed to have many brothers to grow with, to learn from, to protect, & to have for protection. I believe that having Ben & Jack close in age she has developed more confidence, determination to stand her ground & is not afraid to play with boys or shy away from rough play. Having younger brothers has also brought out her caring & nurturing side (in Ben, Jack, Blake & Will as well since the arrival of Clay) 
It would have been great for Rianan to have a sister, but I don't believe she is at a loss for being the only girl among all the boys.

"Gee I could never have that many kids" - This one is hard to respond to, especially if it's from another Mum. Kind of falls into the category of "You must be super-Mum". No, I'm not. I still have lots of struggles, days where I lack faith in myself to raise these little people into well rounded, aspiring, positive minded adults. I still loose my patience. I yell. I get frustrated.

"Don't you have a tv?" - Actually we have three. The number of televisions we have does not impact or influence our decision & choice to have a larger than average family. Usually this comment is immediately followed with...

"Don't you know what causes it?" - Initially I used to find this comment both mildly embarrassing & rude. Having more than two children does not give you the right to ask about or comment on our personal life. Some days when I've been a little fed up with the comments & the stares, especially if it is said with a hint of disdain, or malicious sarcasm, I have replied in an equal tone "Well what would you rather be doing?"    

It's not often that I get annoyed at the comments, I get that we are in the minority. In fact less than 5% of the Australian population have four or more children. While one & two child families account for 40%, dropping down to 15% for families of three children*. For some people we are an anomaly. Most of the time I just shrug & smile the comments away. A friendly good-natured laugh with some generic chit-chat & we're on our way again. 

What I really don't want to happen with these comments is for the kids to misconstrue them, to perceive that they are a burden to Doug & I because all these strangers keep saying how I have my hands full, that I must be busy because we have lots of kids, & it's their fault that I'm busy.
That we simply have so many kids because we don't know what causes it. Surely we didn't have six children because we wanted to. When the truth is we chose to have each & every one of our children, very much loved, very much wanted.

I've noticed that it is often the older generations who look at us with a wistful smile, remembering their own childhoods or raising their own family. We feel normal when talking to these people as they tell us they grew up with several other siblings, or had eight children themselves & now have an awe-inspiring number of grandchildren & great grandchildren. 

Sometimes I bring these comments on myself. When I'm at the shops with just Clay & the friendly shop assistant makes general conversation by asking if he is our first. I love the emotions that flit across their face as they digest the news that Clay is not my first, but our sixth child. Or if I take just three with me to a doctors appointment, leaving another three with Doug. A fellow patient will ask about one of the children with me, often leading to the option whether to disclaim we have three other children at home with their Dad, or should I just avoid the entire conversation surely to follow & not mention anything. 
For the sake of transparency & honesty here, whether I admit that we have more children at home, or leave them to believe their own conclusions based on the number I have with me at that time, all depends on how nicely those three with me are behaving. If Will is playing quietly with the toys while Rianan is reading a book next to me, & Clay is observing quietly from my arms, I'll let them know that we actually have another three boys at home. However if Will is trying to run around the waiting room & Clay is squawking while being held, then usually I bite my tongue. Because if I inform them we have more children then who knows what they'll think. Plus, if I'm chasing down Will & trying to keep him to our little area, I do not have the patience, the time, or the desire, to talk family life with a stranger, who is most likely judging me, judging us, based on what they are seeing directly in front of them along with the information that there is more (surely unruly & horribly misbehaved) children else where too.

I prefer to flip those stereo-typical judgements on their head - not give them verification.

I'm grateful that in our community we are reasonably well known, & in a good way (I think, haha) for having six children. Instead of having to just nod & smile, or come up with witty comebacks, I get to have a normal conversation with the people we run into. Our children are not just a number in a longer-than-standard line of minions, but individuals to these people who see us. Not a group to gawk at & subtly try to count with their finger, then conferring with their friend while staring.

Families come in all shapes & sizes. One parent, two parents. One Dad, two Dads, two Mums, one Mum. One child, twins, triplets, three children, four children, a dozen children. Regardless the size, we are all built on the same foundation, love.  

*Based on figures from a census of families in 2011 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Our debut into parenthood

I found our first year of parenthood the hardest year we have been through in the whole time we have have been parents. Including this last year where along with looking after five children under nine years of age, I was also pregnant with our sixth child. Or the last four months, where we have been parenting six children aged from newborn up to nine years old.

That first year just about broke me. 

The first two weeks of life as a family of three were fine, well as fine as learning to be first time parents can be in amongst the visitors, the broken sleep & cracked nipples as we tried to get a handle on breastfeeding - something which does not just miraculously happen naturally, but takes an under-estimated amount of effort & perseverance. Then Ben woke up out of that newborn sleepiness. He cried, he screamed, he grizzled, then he would cry inconsolably some more. All day long. The only reprieve we got was from midnight until 3am. Those few hours were the only hours he would usually sleep soundly. Other than the rare 20 minute stints on my shoulder where he would cry himself into exhaustion. 

I've never forgotten how hard, how arduous, how distressing & emotional those days were.

It was a very rude shock. During Ben's pregnancy I had ideals of how our days would go, how laid back & happy our baby was sure to be, given my own optimistic & easy going personality. Oh the ignorance.

I would be home with this red-faced, distressed little baby, who I spent hour upon endless hour pacing up & down our hallway, looping through the lounge room, patting, rubbing, cuddling, feeding, burping, changing, trying my best to comfort & console. Waiting for 7pm when Doug would be home from work, so I could pass Ben over his Dad, in the desperate hopes that he could get our little baby to settle, or by some impossible miracle, sleep. Even if Doug couldn't calm Ben any more than I could, I just needed someone to take him & give me a break. I needed one hour to myself to not feel like a failure to our son, & to Doug. I felt that as Ben's Mother, I should be able to calm him, to settle him or at the very least know what was wrong. I had no answers.

At seven weeks old I took Ben to our doctor for a snuffly nose & for help. I was certain that something wasn't right, no baby should cry as much, as often, as hysterically as Ben did. I was sent away with the advice that he's just a new baby & it's probably colic. If he's no better at twelve weeks old then to come back. In the weeks that followed there was no improvement. Our next appointment coincided with Ben's first cold. Again we were sent away & told to come back once Ben had recovered from his cold and was four months old.

I never went back. Instead, we had been referred via our child & youth health nurse to Torrens House, a facility where parents experiencing extreme sleep & settling issues could stay for 2 nights & 3 days, with one on one, hands-on help & advice from specialised nurses. Although we never resolved our issues completely whilst there, they were still a glimmer of light in what was a very dark tunnel. It was discovered & confirmed that Ben had severe reflux, GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease) which the following week, after our time in Torrens House, was officially diagnosed via a pediatrician. It came as no shock to myself, or to Doug, that I also had developed post-natal depression. 

Both Ben & I started treatment, Ben for his reflux & myself for depression. This was a big step in the right direction. I felt more like my normal self & able to cope much better. When hearing Ben start to cry, instead of feeling nauseous, tense & anxious, I could stay calm & have a little faith in myself as a Mum that I could give Ben what he needed most, comfort. It still took us a few more months to get Ben's reflux under control & ease his symptoms, but there were small improvements each month. A baby began to emerge who I had thought we would never see.

By ten months old we had a much happier & relaxed little baby. But those months of pain for Ben had instilled an aversion, more likely a fear, to lying down & had many 'bad' sleep habits. Ben had associated his cot, the pram, the car, any attempts at settling to sleep with pain (as the acid from his stomach would burn it's way up his oesophagus). 

We eventually got there, especially when we transitioned Ben into a 'big boy' bed from his cot. Starting fresh with a new sleeping environment gave us all the opportunity to break any old habits & routines that Ben associated negatively with.

By the time Ben was twenty months old, we had welcomed Rianan into our family. I was under no illusions this time as to how life may, or may not be. Especially with two under two.

I figured we would just take each day as it came & get through as best as we could. If it turned out that Rianan also suffered with reflux I now had a wealth of knowledge & experience that I never had with Ben. I was adamant that we would not have a repeat of what we went through in that first year with Ben. I also made a promise to myself that the moment I felt myself slipping into the dark struggles of post natal depression I would seek help straight away. I never wanted to go though that again, pretending I was okay when I knew deep down I wasn't. 

As it turned out, Rianan was the complete opposite of how Ben was as a baby. We still had the normal crying moments, but instead of being inconsolable, she could be comforted. Instead of struggling to get her to sleep, & stay asleep, often she would naturally doze off herself, sometimes while lying on the playmat, or reclining in the bouncer while watching Ben play with his cars at her feet. I remember the amazement at how normal Rianan was, & how much we missed out on with the struggles Ben, Doug & I went through. 

Since that hellish first year, each time we have been expecting another little minion to add to our family, I have never taken for granted or expected to have a smooth transition. I figure if I go in expecting that this new little person may be unsettled, may cry more than expected, will need lots of cuddles & help to fall asleep, then I won't be as completely blind sided as I was in that first year. 

So to those who are pacing the hallways, & looping through their lounge rooms, walking those desperate hours with a crying, inconsolable baby, hang in there. It does get better, it's just going to take a little time. That little scrunched up, tearful face will grow, habits will change, dependence will be exchanged for independence.

Our little red-faced, inconsolable, screaming baby grew into a toddler who didn't cry every waking moment, who could fall asleep in his own bed. Now that little toddler has grown into a happy, easy going, independent nine year old who to look at, would never know or imagine the struggles he went through in that first year. 

What a debut into parenthood. It may not have been an easy ride, but it was worth it