Friday, September 16, 2016

Even Mummy Cries

This is an S3 post - I received these books for review purposes
For full details please see my disclosure policy

I saw a meme once that said "My only goal as a mother is to raise children that don't have to recover from their childhood" and it really resonated with me as I am in the continual process of recovering from mine.

I wish trauma wasn't part of my background, but knowing its far reaching effects first hand has guided my parenting choices for the better, in a "do almost every thing the opposite" kinda way. I don't think I'm at the point of being thankful for being fucked up, but I might get there one day. 

When I had my breakdown earlier this year I was conscious of not scaring (and scarring) the kids, but also letting them know what was happening. They're not stupid. Kids can tell something is up no matter how hard you try to hide it and it just makes everything uncomfortable; an elephant in the room that everyone is deathly afraid to mention. 

I let them see me cry a few times because what message am I sending them if I say its OK for them to cry but not me? We sheltered them from the big, ugly stuff, but I let them know that yeah, mum's sad right now.

I needed them to hear that it was nothing they did that made me sad, and that I was taking some medicine to help my brain the same way that Tricks takes medicine to help his lungs. They were allowed to ask me anything and I would answer as honestly (and age-appropriately) as possible. Tricky had some questions, but Bobbin is too young right now and was just happy with cuddles and tickles.

One of the resources I've used recently is the book Even Mummy Cries by Naomi Hunter (available through Empowering Resources). 

It is a great starting point for an important conversation. It alludes to mental illness, but never uses the specific words, so it could be helpful with a range of mental diagnoses (although Dr Glow is suspecting the mum in the book is bipolar). When it showed the Mum sleeping a lot, Tricks was all "that's what you did!". He was able to recognise the behaviours of the Mother and see himself in the children and I think it helped him to know that it wasn't just his mum acting all strange.
The book, with its beautiful illustrations by Karen Erasmus, will let you ease in to talking about big feelings and how they influence our lives, whether you experience mental illness or not. They'll be learning acceptance without even knowing it. It's the literary version of smuggling veggies in to spag bol. 

With these frequent, small discussions about mental illness I hope my kids grow up knowing it's nothing to be ashamed of, scared of, or hidden away. That they understand their Mum's mental illness, and that of others, is just as real as diabetes or broken bones. Basically I don't want them to grow up to be assholes who carry on the stigma. 

I believe that being open and honest with kids is important, so we have read the other books from Empowering Resources too, A Secret Safe To Tell a gentle story that covers body safety, and You're Different, Jemima that encourages kids to celebrate their differences. But Even Mummy Cries is the one that seems like it was written for us, so I have a soft spot for it. 

How do you approach the big conversations with your kids?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Alice in Wonderland birthday party on a budget

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I am a sucker for a themed birthday party. There is just something about everything coordinating that makes my obsessive compulsive brain sigh with happiness. But it doesn't have to cost the earth, especially if you make the food part of your decorations and use things from around the house.

I chose the theme of Alice in Wonderland for one reason: Bobbin received a little Alice costume from her Aunty Kitty for Christmas. I couldn't resist.

First things first we had to show Bobbin the movie to make sure she actually liked it, and PHEW! she did because otherwise we'd be screwed. So what is a themed party without a themed invite? On to PicMonkey I went with a couple freesource Alice images and the text from a page out of the book and voila!

Then it was on to sourcing all things Alice to decorate on a budget. I was after a whimsical feel, wanting the guests to feel like they had stepped in to Wonderland for the afternoon.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

Off to the Op Shop I went to grab some adorable little tea cups. I bought one set of four for $3.00 and a single tea cup for $2.00 from one shop but then at the next shop I loved another set of four so I grabbed that too, for $3.20. It meant I had extra in case of breakages - these are three year olds remember! - and because it was from an Op Shop, the money was going to a good cause. The girls thought it was the best thing ever to have real tea cups filled from a real tea pot!

I headed to Kmart (of course) and grabbed some small metal flamingos for $1 each that are technically garden decorations, but I thought they'd be perfect - remember the croquet scene? The plants, bunnies, and serving trays were things I had around the house. Who doesn't have ceramic bunnies around the house?

The most expensive part of Operation Alice was spray painting the IKEA Mammut stools to look like toadstools. It wasn't a necessity, but I've been meaning to do it since we got them from a swap meet a few years ago. Plus the table, which I got from kerbside rubbish last month, was old and faded and really needed a spray.

I used the Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover in gloss white and gloss Apple Red at $11.95 each from Bunnings which go on to plastic really well. I coated each chair with white first, then cut out and placed randomly shaped blobs of cardboard on to the top before spraying over with one coat of Apple Red. They didn't turn out perfectly because I was a bit short on time, but they looked good enough for me, and cemented the Wonderland feel.

I decided to put the party in to Bobbin's bedroom rather than a corner of the back yard because the decorations all close together are so much more effective. I grabbed a two pack of cards from the local cheap things shop for $2.50 and pulled out some old fishing line from the craft drawer to make card bunting to hang from her ceiling. I made four strands with 20 cards on each, and hung them from the corners of the room to the fan in the centre. It looked so good!

On the window sill I placed three black photo frames with Alice in Wonderland silhouettes I'd printed out as a gift for Aunty Kitty last year... yep, she loaned them back to us when she found out the party theme! Plus she let us borrow a movie poster and a little Alice book we placed on the food table.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

To add a bit of cheer to the walls I made some "rose bushes" out of cardboard, and adorned them with crepe paper "roses". There were three with red roses and one with white roses, and as soon as Bobbin saw them she started sing "We're painting the roses red". Winning! She got the reference! 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

We brought in the Queen Anne dresser to be the food table, as is usual for parties around here. I saw it on the side of the road a few years ago and it was in such amazing condition I thought it couldn't possibly be out for the taking, so I knocked on the door and the man said it was! His daughter had long ago grown up and moved out and he was clearing out all her old stuff. He even helped me load it in the car. I got it home, painted it up and put some new handles on it with the help of my Aunty, and it's been a great piece ever since.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I covered the table in the playing cards left over from the bunting, and little quotes from the book/movie I'd made using PicMonkey and printed out including "we're all mad here", "six impossible things before breakfast", "curiouser and curiouser", "this watch is exactly two days slow", and of course, "eat me"! It was a food table after all.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I cut some flowers from a gigantic straggly bush on the side of the road, then covered the dresser with them. Stuffing them in the drawers and some on top for good measure, plus I pulled out some empty jars for vases and had them all around the room. It made such an impact and cost nothing. 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I ordered the "Eat Me" cake topper from eBay for a few dollars and it took five weeks to arrive - ordering early is key for online purchases! I added some paper bunting to the top of the cake, too, which I grabbed at Target for around $3. The cake itself was three Woolworths mud cakes ($4 each) that I levelled out and stacked together. The icing went all wrong - too thick at first and then I thinned it down. Big mistake. HUGE. It was then too runny and I didn't have any more icing sugar to thicken it. Not gonna lie, I cried a bit.

For party food I used a white bread plate and a borrowed three tier serving tray. I served fairy bread (duh), cupcakes with rainbow icing (because at 2am I couldn't sleep and figured I would try something new) and Dr Oetker rice paper butterflies (from Woolworths $2.50 for a pack of 12), two punnets of strawberries, a punnet of blueberries, and a few Tic Toc bikkies because they suited the Alice theme so well! 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

We only had two activities for our tea party guests; we decorated some plain biscuits with Dr Oetker glitter icing pens, sprinkles, mini M&Ms and little jubes; and pass the parcel. If you've ever played with three year olds, is a lot of effort ensuring everyone is actually passing said parcel and not ripping it open the second they get their hands on it. Each layer had a mini icecream eraser that they loved and only cost $1 for the whole packet. The rest of the time the girls were free to just play with toys and have a tea party.

Each guest got a take home goodie bag with their name pegged on to it (photo at the top with the tea cups). They contained a sheet of stickers, a Freddo frog, a pack of sultanas and a little necklace with a tiny metal key or mushroom and vial saying "Drink Me" or "Eat Me". Another eBay find for $1.80 each!

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

It was such a lovely tea party, and I adored the way the room came together. So much so it is still set up nearly a week later! We have had a mini tea party in there every day since because who can resist the pull of those toadstools and a room bursting with flowers?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Letter to Bobbin - three years old

With your milestone photo doll. Not shown: the black paint on her back when you got "creative".
To read previous birthday and milestone posts click here.

Oh hey there, Bobbin!

Happy THIRD birthday! Three is a wonderful number, my favourite in fact, so I am going to assume that three is going to be a wonderful age. *shifty eyes* You're going to be three-rific, OK? No threenagers here!

No one can make me laugh quite like you can. Your comedic timing is perfect, albeit accidental since you know, you're a toddler.

"You're funny"
"No I'm not, I'm Bobbin" you reply, deadly serious. We can call you Bobbin, and only Bobbin or you tell us off. You tell us off for lots of things, actually. It is very hard not to laugh at your cranky face.

You have an answer for everything, too.

"What's that?" you ask, pointing to my wedding ring.
"It's my wedding ring, it says I'm married to dad." I tell her.
"No it doesn't. It doesn't talk. It doesn't have a talking bit." you state.
"That's rich coming from someone who forgot the word for mouth."

Previously when you woke up in the middle of the night you would always call out for Dad, which was more than fine by me, but lately you want just me. Which you make blatantly obvious by calling out "NOT YOU DAD!" instead of the standard "Mum". I suppose it gets your point across, but dude, you gotta work on your tact a bit. Your poor Dad feels a little rejected, but he gets to sleep so he's not that phased.

You started day care in March and you absolutely love it. You started in the toddler room but because of your language skills and confidence you moved up to the three year old kindy room within a few weeks. You've managed to wrap all the carers around your finger - no surprise there. Most day care days you still get a little unsure, and sometimes you will even have a few tears, but you wipe them away and say "I'll see you when you come back, Mum" and blow me a kiss. You seem so grown up, I can't believe you are only turning three today.

You are super independent, to the point where it takes us a while to get anywhere because you have to do everything yourself and if we help you, you get upset and have to start again. So it's easier to just let you do it yourself. We have a lot of fun going out together, but we can 'butt heads' if we are stuck at home. I'm stubborn and feisty, and you're a mini me.

Your dress sense is very eclectic. Sometimes you will come out in the cutest, super funky outfits, and other times in what can only be described as "homeless chic". Most days you have to have something yellow in your outfit because it's your favourite colour ever. I know this because you tell me at least six times per day.

You are loving and cuddly when you're happy, but like to handle things solo at other times, refusing cuddles if you are upset or injured, even to the point of saying "I'm not going to cry". I don't know where that comes from, your brother and I are all for the cathartic cry!

Meltdowns are pretty huge around these parts lately, and I'm surprised the neighbours haven't commented yet. You can scream like a banshee! Once I tried to match your pitch to see if I could distract you out of it... it worked, but made Tricky cry because he'd never heard me scream before. Oops. Mother of the year, here!

You have an Alice in Wonderland party coming up this weekend, but you are actually more in to The Boxtrolls and The Little Prince right now - perhaps I shouldn't have shown you them before your birthday? Oh well, the party is kinda for me because I like themes!

Have a brilliant birthday, my clever cookie, I love you so much.

Mama x

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Goodbye, breastfeeding

It's World Breastfeeding Week and Bobbin has chosen this time to self wean. The irony is not lost on me.

She has been in the process of weaning for many months now, at times going a full week without a feed. But this time we are at two weeks, and it feels like it is forever.

I've been pregnant, breastfeeding or both for seven years straight.

I could see our breastfeeding journey was coming to an end soon, or, more accurately, I could feel it was nearly over.

Bobbin's latch has been changing. Some days she would be fine and other days she would treat my nipple like a straw and not surprisingly, would get very little milk as a result. If it had been a few days between feeds, she would take a few tries to get her latch right, as if she was forgetting how to do it.

We have been down to one feed a day, just first thing in the morning to allow us all to sleep a little longer, for a long time now. There's been a few random day time feeds when she has been sick or upset, but it's not her go-to.

I'm surprised how similar the two weanings have been despite the different circumstances. Tricky weaned at around two and a half years because when I got pregnant my minimal supply dropped off and it freakin' hurt every time he latched, so I started refusing some feeds and he would shrug his shoulders and have a drink of water instead. Then he just stopped asking. It was all very painless, at least for him. I, on the other hand, felt like someone was slicing my nipples off with razor blades for those last months when pregnancy made them so sensitive.

Bobbin is just shy of three, so she has fed a few months longer than her brother, but the gradual, no fuss weaning has been almost identical. When she would hurt me with the incorrect latch I'd take her off and she'd quite happily take water, "Bobbin's milk" (soy in a bottle), or go and play. Then she stopped asking all together.

I'm glad they have both pretty much weaned in their own time, with only slight encouragement from me. It's been a gentle process and we've all adjusted well.

I always pictured myself breastfeeding my children, but at the beginning I never saw myself as a full term feeder. I guess because I'd never seen it before. It was only the blog world and the interwebs that taught me it was even a thing, and when my kids hit twelve months and were still very reliant on their "mum cuddles" (Tricky) and "mum milkies" (Bobbin) the idea of forcing them to switch to the milk of a different mammal seemed bizarre. So they kept nursing and I just went with what they wanted.

I'm not sad that it's over, though. I don't pine for those moments, though I look back on them with such fondness. Tiny hands grabbing at my shirt, little fingers exploring my face, that milk drunk face. Then as they got older, that immediate calm that would come over them when they fed, no matter what was happening around them - immunisations, blood tests and even removal of stitches. They were super boobs and could solve any problem.

It has been the cliche honour and privilege to be able to breastfeed my children and donate milk to premature babies. It hasn't been easy (nipple staph infection anyone?) but it has been worth it for us.

But I'm done. And I'm happy.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Six Months Alcohol Free

Just before Christmas 2015 I bought a bottle of Baileys. It had been such a long time since I'd had it, normally opting for whichever wine was on special (oh, $5 cleanskins, thankyouverymuch) as I was less concerned about matching alcohol to food as I was to mood. Rough week? Wine. Shit of a week? Bourbon.

So I grabbed this bottle of Baileys and had myself a glass of the stuff on ice. Oh it was good. So I had another and I forced myself to watch as the creamy liquid swirled between the iceblocks and coated them, rather than just gulping it down. It's so hard to go slow when it tastes like a heaven flavoured milkshake. 

It took a week for me to finish the bottle. Now, there are only 9.4 standard drinks in a bottle of Baileys (compared to a bottle of bourbon which has around 20) so it wasn't like I'd been binge drinking every night, but the idea of having finished a bottle of spirits to myself in a week really put me off.

I'd been feeling a little low in recent times (a huge event in November was the very start of what became my downhill freefall earlier this year) and the combination of feeling down and finishing a bottle of Baileys sent alarm bells going off in my head. 

There are a few alcoholics in my family. And a few who aren't technically alcoholic but drink more than is healthy. 

I looked at the empty bottle and wondered if this was where it all started? Would feeling a little down and having a few festive drinks turn in to feeling down and having a few New Years drinks? Then continue on to be feeling a little down and having a few too many drinking for drinking sake drinks?

I didn't want that to be me. 

So on the 30th of December I decided to set a personal goal of twelve months alcohol free. Starting immediately.  

I can't tell you why I chose twelve months, it just seemed like a good number at the time and I sure as hell can't explain why I decided two days before New Years would be a good time, having to test my resolve straight off the bat.

Today marks six months and I've not had a drop of alcohol in that time. I know, I'm just as shocked as you are.

I've still been to parties and pubs, but I've stuck to water or diet cola. I tell ya, you don't realise how much drinking is a part of our culture until you're the only one (or one of only a few) not drinking. I have a new appreciation of people who choose not to drink and a helluva lot of respect for recovering alcoholics surrounded by their demons seemingly wherever they go.

Most people are surprised to hear I'm doing it. Even though I was never a massive drinker, I was partial to a few glasses of wine once a week, especially if there was cheese and crackers on offer too. And let's not forget that on a rare night out with friends sans kids I would be very economical with my drinking - a glass is $7.60? Buy the bottle for $20, it's better value! Shall we split another one? Why not, we never go out! 

It hasn't actually been that hard and I honestly can't say I miss it all that much. I do miss the sense of relaxation though, and have had to find new ways to unwind. Unfortunately my go to anti anxiety tool right now is to eat my worries away, so hello muffin top and hello #glowgetsFAT. But my weight is not a priority right now, my mental state is.

I don't think I'm particularly healthier for having done this for six months, particularly given the whole eating my feelings thing (FYI they taste like chocolate), and I don't predict to be a beacon of health at the end of twelve months, but I feel great that I've stuck to something for half a year. I feel even better for sticking to it during what has probably been the most challenging few months of my life, complete with nervous breakdown

So I've succeeded for six months, let's see if I can go another six months. 

Have you given up anything? How long did you last? What did you do instead?


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