Archive for February, 2011

Oh, yeah. By the way…

February 25, 2011

I was going to write a powerfully poetic piece about something new in our lives, but let’s face it: where is the time? Maybe next week.

This new thing is home education.

I’ve started a new blog exclusively devoted to home education. I haven’t decided how much crossover there will be with this blog, though no doubt I’ll talk about it here, too.

One of my pals (Hi, Mamacrow!) has a home ed blog that she also uses as proof to her local authorities – showing what her kids are doing and learning. So I thought I might get a head start, but also wanted a place to just be all obsessive and curious and …..And. All ‘and.’

I don’t know how anonymous or not that blog will be. Probably more ‘not.’

If you are interested in home education, or just in having a look, please let me know and I’ll give you the address. I don’t want to link to it here, as if that blog is to be used as evidence of learning in the future, I don’t want it linked to this blog where I am talking about shoving in my mooncup (oh, wait, have I blogged about that yet?) and making up inappropriate rap songs.

Msg me on twitter, or facebook. Send me an email. Or leave a comment here – and MAKE SURE you leave your email address. I am happy to delete your email address from the comment just as soon as I use it, just let me know.

I am open to any advice, comments, suggestions, and questions there or here about home education. I realise this is a bit of a bombshell entry because I’ve never mentioned it here, but it’s something we have been thinking about and discussing for awhile now. All I know at this point is that we are highly likely to home educate through the early years (aka when most kids are in nursery or preschool). Will we continue to do so after they are old enough for ‘real’ school? I don’t know. Stay tuned.


She was here.

February 22, 2011

There’s a chair I think of, while I’ve got one hand on his back, while she curls in my lap. It’s white, squat, with funny brass studs along all the seams and back. It’s the chair I sat in while I waited for my grandmother to die.

I remember that chair today, I think about other furniture in her room, and I think, Oh, I wish I had that chair. And then I decide maybe I don’t want it after all. It’s hard, and I sat and sat and sat there, in my own silent waiting world, usually alone. Other people huddled together in the basement. They talked, they ate, they told stories.

Me, I sat in that chair. I ran my fingers over the brass studs, I rarely shifted position. It was my chair. My waiting chair.

Lately during naptime I find myself thinking of my grandmother. It first happened last week. I don’t remember what was happening, but I know I was angry and tired and frustrated. I wanted them to sleep, and sleep now.

And out of nowhere I had an instant and perfectly clear image – the little green candies my grandmother ate. Shaped like a half circle, thick jelly, with a bit of sugar on the outside. I thought about how a plastic bag of these were put in her grave, and how they had to come back out when a graveyard guy ran up and said he forgot to put the right sticker on her urn.

And while I was thinking about these candies, I suddenly felt surrounded by my grandmother. Not sad, not hoping, not anything. Just a mother sitting on the floor, trying to get her kids to sleep, while her grandmother looked on. All the anger and frustration was washed away. I felt like grandma was there to offer me support on that bad day. I calmed. I felt her. The babies went straight to sleep the second I felt her, and it was like a huge gift.

It’s good they went straight to sleep, because as I sat there, singing, tears filled my eyes and my voice cracked. I couldn’t sing anymore. Tears rolled down my face, I missed her so much, but somehow she was right there and comforting me.

And so now she seems to be there, not as strong as that day last week. Now she’s there in memory. I think about how hot and stuffy her playhouse at the lake was. I think of how she let me run wild, take a canoe and escape, learn all the back watery ways and never wonder about if I was safe. She trusted me. She thought I was capable.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s what she came by to let me know. Or maybe she came by to put my kids to sleep so I could crawl into bed and rest, even though I sat there crying in her presence, not wanting to leave my children’s room in case I left her and never had another moment like this.

Maybe she wasn’t there at all, but I think she was, and it goes against my skeptical, atheist leanings for sure, but it feels right. Today I’m so far from my family, my mother is over 3,000 miles and an ocean (and expensive plane tickets!) away, but my grandmother? She came to visit last week.

I don’t need that chair. I don’t need that heavy piece of furniture, that weirdly white leather chair. I just need to keep remembering the green gum drops, the front closet full of silky scarves, the secret passageways in her attic, the ticking of the clock in her front room.


February 18, 2011

Me: Sitting on toilet.

Coconut: Poop? Walks over, puts a hand on my butt and tries to move me over so she can look in the toilet. Poop? Poop.

Me: Yes, Mama pooped. Do you want to see? I get up.

Coconut: Very intently looks at my poop. Poop!

Me: Snort, do you want to see the poop in the potty?

Snort: Yeah. Manages to look utterly careless while he runs to the toilet and stares in.

Me: Stands and lets them look, all the while ready at a half-second’s notice to whip my hand out and grab anything if they try to throw it in. Okay, guys, Mama needs to clean her butt now.

It’s all a metaphor, but also really did happen.

February 14, 2011

I’m sure we all remember the disaster that happened when I tried to ‘take the babies for a walk’ at 15 months old. I tried to find the link, but apparently my google ninja skillz are lacking when it comes to stalking myself.

This morning things changed. And were the same.

I woke up. Before showering, I cleaned in the bathroom (something I have never willingly done in 32 years). While still naked from showering, I was dusting behind the toilet. I boiled my mooncup. I folded laundry.

What was it? I think: Spring.

The sun is shining, it’s not cold. I decided to let them put on their new wellies (he wore pink and sparkly, she wore roadrunner orange and yellow), babylegs, and coats. No mittens, no hats, no sweaters.

I opened the patio door and we spilled out.

Last summer came flooding back to me – my children have been themselves since they were born, and they were behaving towards being outdoors just as they did last summer as tiny babies. Except now they were mobile.

Snort’s face split into a huge grin, joy was oozing from his pores. He took off running (thankfully towards the block of flats on our left, which is contained by a fence). He laughed the entire time. He looked back to make sure we were following and laughed more. Coconut laughed in response, and I stood there watching them run through other people’s gardens, look into other people’s patio doors, touch other people’s bikes.

Coconut ran to me with open arms and heart, and urgently handed me a leaf she had found.

Then they started back towards our flat and past it. You know, where there are no fences. In fact, the bottom of our garden has a threadbare hedge and a very, very steep drop into a huge green empty space. There are paths and mud and a little bit further along, if you turn the corner? Cars and dogs and cars.

I let them run.

And then Coconut screamed. We were on a thin strip of grass that sloped toward the drop. I whipped my head around to see my little 18 month old girl fall and roll. She broke through the hedge and continued to backwards summersalt while I immediately went into some sort of army pose, dropping down into the mud, shoving myself through the hedge (keep in mind, folks, it’s the week before my period and my ladybits hurt. And what you don’t know is that I had x rays to see if my foot was broken yesterday. Ha) and I somehow elongate my arm – probably dislocating it – as I reeeeeach for her and grab her arm as she is rolling down through fucking trees and undergrowth and heading towards what is essentially a straight cliff drop that’s about 30 feet high.

I grab her by the arm and just pull. She’s all covered in mud and brambles and is in the world’s most fucked up position, but I can’t really reach her and decide to just slowly and steadily pull her by the arm until I can grab her coat and pull her out like that.

Just as I exhale and pull her towards me – a potentially deadly accident averted, Snort falls. And rolls. A little voice in my head is like, ‘Are you fucking KIDDING me?‘ Luckily he hits the hedge and stops halfway through.

I basically throw them both clear of the muddy slope, and he runs round the corner. He begins to madly wave, and we see a little girl they know from storytime and her mum. I have a lovely chat, constantly interrupted by my need to grab someone from running into the road, run as someone disappears around the corner of the closest house (with an even bigger cliff behind, I shit you not!), etc.

Then Snort sees some lady brushing leaves off the path into her garden. He barges in, grabs her dustpan, and begins to do it. Coconut is quick to follow, grabbing a rake and marching around looking helpful and important. This lady doesn’t look like a psycho killer and knows the lady I’ve bumped into, so I outwardly relax and try to look normal.

You know, like I’m not covered in mud from diving down a cliff after my kid. Like I’m not wearing a whistle around my neck because I had high hopes of ‘playing a game’ AKA ‘training the babies’ to run like wild animals and freeze when I blow the whistle. Like I’m not wearing Crocs that match my socks and sweatshirt. Like my sweatpants are not ankle length floods. Oh, the horror.

I keep making weak jokes about how I don’t know if we will be able to get home. Despite now being somewhat near the front of our flat – though admittedly the road is an issue – I haven’t bothered to bring keys. So we need to negotiate the entire fucking obstacle course back to the damn patio doors.

It’s like that song ‘Going On A Bear Hunt.’ Except we’re dodging cars, pacifying dogs, being yanked away from climbing into someone else’s open patio doors, falling down a cliff, and dealing with the muddy lake that is our garden.

And you know what? IT WAS FUCKING BRILLIANT.

We’ve had kind of a bad week/month. My mom’s stroke. My foot. 25.00 in library fines (our fault, I know, but it still sucks ass and is indicative that this past month we’ve just been surviving, not thriving). We’re all sick. My pelvis is a little bitch. And TMD lost her job.

But in this all? There is still a day when the sun is shining, when you decide to throw open the doors and go outside even though you have NEVER had a ‘good’ experience being alone in an outside uncontained space one-to-two with your children since they learned to walk.

There’s still a day when someone you love falls down a hill. When you are running in all directions. There’s still a day when death and dismemberment are always only about 6.2 minutes away.

And it’s good. You do it because you want to, on this day, amidst all the chaos and confusion and worry and doubt that is your life.

Then when you come back inside, you still have the memory of his face as he runs across the grass. The feel of her hugging me, as I notice all the mud and twigs in her hair The joy and freedom of only wearing a sweatshirt because, out of nowhere, it’s warm. Or at least not cold.

It’s a good day. It’s good because you pick yourself up again and again – just like your children do. It’s good because even in the act of falling, of muddying, of exploring and running in every direction, you feel happy.

Skin prick test.

February 12, 2011


This won’t be as long as I’d like as I’m writing on my phone, but here goes.

Snort had his first set of skin prick tests on Wednesday. He was tested for egg, peanut, all tree nuts, etc. Results? Only allergic to peanut (quite a big reaction!) and eggs. And histamine, but that’s supposed to happen. It’s the control.

I had been worried from what one parent had told me about these tests, coupled with my imagination. I was picturing a giant piece of wood with big nails sticking out. Nails coated with poison allergens. And then pounded into my baby’s naked back.

Pleased to tell you fellow worry warts this is not the case.

A lovely nurse warned us Snort probably would not like sitting still on my lap, his arm extended for five minutes. He did thrash when I picked him up (plugs to pull on! Exposed pipes to bang! Toy blocks to throw!) but loved the stethoscope. He also liked watching the test.

Essentially pen marks are made, indicating all allergies being tested for. Then a tiny drop of Allergy Liquid is placed on the skin by a mark, and a metal thing is used to lightly scratch the skin. Repeat again and again.

Give it ten minutes and see what happens! Despite big red hive/bump/rash things in the three above-mentioned spots, he didn’t scratch, touch, or generally seem to notice them. Maybe he is just used to being itchy.

We are now on Asthma Watch 2011 as he has two early indicators. The doctor said it’s very important to keep his breathing well managed, as the top predictor that a serious reaction can turn deadly is an unstable chest.

We also learned that four out of five kids outgrow egg allergies. One out of five outgrows peanut allergies.

Things are managed now – eczema under control, allergies better understood with multiple treatment plans in place depending on reactions, asthma stuff understood with plan in place in case he needs steroids. All in all, I think it is better to have a clear understanding of allergies – the blood and skin tests have confirmed some things we knew, as well as letting us know that at this point he’s probably not allergic to any other nuts. Or potatoes.  Good stuff!

Raise your glass.

February 10, 2011

Big ass important neurologist told my mom she has brain damage in three spots in her brain, all correlating to sight. He also said it’s a miracle she’s alive, let alone has regained her sight.

She has a hole in her heart that allowed the clot to pass from one side of her heart to the other (blood clots are broken down in lungs and also oxygenated, but this clot moved through her heart and skipped the lungs part before going straight to the brain). She’s having surgery next month to repair her heart.

Her vision isn’t as crisp, she says, but it’s pretty much okay for now.

My mom kicked this stroke’s ASS.

She’s going home today. The thing that has stuck with me is that the neurologist said if the clot had been the tiniest teensiest bit bigger, it would have killed her.

We definitely do not see her enough. We are planning a two week trip home in the summer, but it’s not enough. It never is.

For now, though, I’ve got an awesome sauce mom who defies neurological expectations. I’ve also got a suggestion for all you people who have been so lovely and supportive – drink a glass of water. Right now. It’s a fact that being well hydrated can help prevent a stroke.

Drink a toast to my mom.

Yes and no.

February 9, 2011

Yes, my mom had a stroke on Monday. No, we don’t know why yet. She’s still in hospital. Thank you all for your kindness.

Brian, you may hear from me re:flying home with the babies. For now we wait for results and a plan of action.

An eight hour flight.

February 8, 2011

One of my first clear memories is the instant I walked into my mother’s room shortly after my grandpa had been admitted to the hospital. I was probably about eight.

She was full of intense energy, curling her hair. She was focused on that, even as she seemed so chaotic and falling apart and sizzling with fear. And purpose.

It’s 4:50 am. The babies have just gone to sleep after hours of coughing, coughing, coughing. TMD walked into the room, the phone to her ear.

I asked what was going on.

‘Something is wrong with Grandpa’s heart,’ she said. Her voice was all business, with that undercurrent of tense anxiety. ‘I’m going to the hospital to see him.’

I went from tired to wide awake. In the silence of the middle of the night, I heard snatches of my sister’s voice. She’d left a message at 3:30 in the morning.

At first I thought my dad had died, or had another heart attack.

My mom issued instructions. I don’t remember what they are, now. I don’t remember if I went to the hospital or stayed home, but I know there was some purposeful order to things. I think it was the way my mom created a sense of control in a situation that was, at the heart of it, uncontrollable.

I think that’s what we do in emergencies, when the lives of those we love are threatened.

I heard ‘in the hospital.’ I heard ‘everything is okay.’  But then I realised she was talking about my mom. Something was wrong with my mom. I watched TMD’s face for clues.

She remained serious. She listened intently.

She handed me the phone to replay the message and said, ‘Before you listen to any of this, the end message is that things are okay.’

Over the years I faced many run-to-the-hospital situations. Many opportunities to experience, again and again, the calm sense of purpose, of needing to do something, to move. Because the more calm you were, the more crazy and frenetic things were under the surface.

I listened as I heard about blood clots in the brain, about my mother being blind. About tests on her brain and heart.

I called my sister, five am in my world, nine pm in hers. She filled me in. My mom had recovered from the initial problem. The doctors had an idea what was wrong, but no proof. It was probably all fine, but she needed advanced tests because the initial ones would not have picked up a stroke.

She was going to be in the hospital for a few days of tests. I should call her before 10 am her time, because that’s when all the tests started.

All I thought was how TMD cannot come home with me right now. It’s a bad time. Who, then, could come on the plane with me? I’m not legally allowed to fly with two under twos by myself, nor would I want to. This person, that person, and how would the return flights work?

Then I thought about how I wished I lived close to my family. Because even if this is nothing, I want to be moving. I want to take a purposeful shower, drive towards her, talk briskly with nurses and crack jokes with my mother.

But I want to live here.

I wrestled, wrestled, my thoughts racing but nowhere for my body to go.

This morning I sat on the floor. Hours of suppressing that need to move, of keeping a lid on the crazy that threatens to swamp us all at any time, had left me on the floor, unable to rouse the emotional or physical energy to make breakfast for my children.

Every time my grandparents were okay. After my grandfather’s bypass, after my grandmother’s dizzy spells. They went on being okay.

Right up until the time they weren’t.

I want to be moving, but I feel heavy and silent and stuck.

To Aussie, and Walnut.

February 3, 2011

Something switched this evening. It started innocently enough.

Earlier in the day, Aussie had said, ‘But they aren’t really babies anymore, are they?’ We looked in silence at our children.

As the afternoon sun began to turn golden and then pink, we continued to sit in the lounge, talking about our days at Day Job, the lazy afternoons in the pub, pregnancy, etc. We laughed about her first visit up to see Snort and Coconut, her belly so swollen with the baby that would turn into the little boy dancing around with my children.

My eyes filled with tears.

It had been an afternoon of poop, of bumped heads, of macaroni thrown across the room. We sat as afternoon changed to evening, both reluctant to stop talking.

She was right. They aren’t baby babies anymore, not any of them. Not the three children standing around the play kitchen, seriously stirring things and puttting lids on pots. Not the three children poking each others’ bellies.

The tears began to spill; I felt unaccountably sad.

And then it all switched.

Neither of us had noticed when all three kids, so close in age they may as well be triplets, wandered as a pack into Snort and Coconut’s bedroom. But we noticed what happened next.

Little baby (sigh, no, little children) squeals of delight, periods of booming belly laughs. We locked eyes. We stopped talking and started listening. Seconds of laughter stretched into minutes stretched into forever.

‘If we go try to watch them,’ I whispered, ‘it will stop their fun.’

So we did the hardest thing, we sat back and let our babies go. They turned into children who chased each other up and down the hall, into children who bounced on the beds, into children with breathless laughter and happy exhaustion.

We sat. We listened.

‘It’s the next generation of you and me,’ I said.

‘My god, you’re right.’ We both smiled.

Our friendship has blossomed in the unlikeliest of ways. Both of us lived as far apart on the globe as you can imagine, both of us came to inhibit this small country so very far from our family and friends. We have the accents of outsiders, yet are united in the many cultural commonalities our home countries share.

We have become family, and we have become mothers.

Mothers of small children who inexplicably seem to be passing an empty  milk container back and forth. Mothers of small children who spent 45 minutes playing – without any toys. Mothers who are friends, friends who listen and long and yet somehow, somehow, the sheer beauty of the evening makes us feel that little bit more aged, more beautiful, more lucky. More at peace.

Friends who are mothers of small children who become babies again as they toddle into the room, just to check we’re still here, the world is still functioning properly. Mothers who smile at these babies who become small children as they say ‘bye bye’, waving to us as they back out of the room, shutting the baby gate behind them, running down the hall.


February 3, 2011

Tomorrow is kind of a big day. A big day I don’t know if I have permission to write about. Just send positive vibes in this direction, okay? I promise to fill you in soon.

Oh, and thanks for the vibes.

What do you mean you haven’t sent them yet?

Foot tapping.

Eyebrow raising.

Oh, okay. There they are. Thank you.

edit. Holy crap. Did I say ‘tomorrow’? Apparently I meant today, Thursday. It’s eight minutes past midnight. Why am I still awake???