Friday, January 31, 2014

Underneath the Fever

When my daughter started child care earlier this month, I knew that we would be up against a steady wave of daycare ailments and illnesses, resplendent and resilient in all their combined snotty, sniffly, snuffly glory. 

While I am not entirely naive, my first-time-mummy-self optimistically believed there would be an adjustment period, a blissful and relatively sustained snot-free time in the sand box before the first illness set in. 

Over my morning cups of sleepy coffee and cogitation, I always imagined my daughter's immune defenses to be nothing short of a solid wall, carefully constructed from nine months of exclusive breastfeeding bricks and iron-fortified cereal mortar. 

Every day, I would wrap my hands around the coffee cup, warming my fingers and the cockles of my naivety with the happy notion that it would take weeks, months, maybe even years, for the nasty viruses of the childcare world to chip away at that impressive wall.

I was delusional. Downright - stark raving, looney-tune, kilo bag of mixed salted nuts, dancing by myself on the side of the road in my worst holey underwear, seeing Bette Midler and Hugh Grant buying crumpets in a Melbourne supermarket, eating chalk seasoned with toothpaste for dinner - DELUSIONAL. 

Perhaps I drank too much coffee, or too few cups of the stuff, but I can openly confess that the great wall of baby immunity that I had built in my head was nothing but a shimmering mirage in a mental desert of exhausted parenting madness.  

It took all of two short days in care for my previously non-snotty daughter to lick the communal toys, lick some stolen sippy cups, and presumably lick the other babies and the educators and the nursery floor as well, and pick up her first unidentified daycare malady. 

The first sign of the unwelcome bug was when the baby's nose started to run away with itself - but much like with a nest of white ants, the framework was damaged beyond repair by the time the work showed itself on the surface. 

The opening days of the illness parade were uneventful: snot, snot and more snot, with a bit of grumbling and a lot of forcefully refuted saline spraying, nasal suctioning and unavoidable nose wiping.

The fanfare kicked up a notch about the time we ran out of tissues, when my daughter's liquid leak took on a distinctive indistinct yellow-greenish hue (the one time you really don't want to be wearing the Australian sporting colours), and the bug also jumped ship and took up residence in my nose and throat. 

Things became unpleasant. I was hot and sweaty and grumpy, and so was the baby. Our heads were abuzz with aches and thumps and the house was floating in an unpleasant haze of toxic little tissue parcels and lethargy. We couched, with Peppa Pig and Hootabelle and Elmo and all his friends filling the inevitable void.

Proving faithful old Murphy was still hard at work down at the law firm even while we were lazing about on our sick beds, my darling little liquid-leaker chose the height of our fuzzy head-cold woozies to become completely and hysterically terrified of all things sneezing, and all things nose blowing.

Every sneeze elicited an intense bout of screaming, accompanied by the angry kicking of little feet against the carpet. Every nose blown into a tissue, whether it was a petite little exhale of negligible proportions or a thunderously productive and powerful achoo, resulted in the baby turning red, scrunching up her face in the most unpleasant manner and squealing at the highest possible volume on her inbuilt speaker.

Just as the malady parade reached fever pitch, and the balloons started to drift off into the sky to make an environmentally unfriendly mess somewhere else, the whole icky parade switched direction.

Out of the snot and the fever and the aching legs, out of the tissue wasteland and the leaking bottles of baby paracetamol with adult-proof-child-safe caps, came a completely unexpected and virulent bout of mutant daycare bug gastro. 

Without any warning whatsoever, I was plunged into an abyss of throwing up into a bucket while trying to sing nursery rhymes and change the batteries in a malfunctioning, off key musical toy lion covered in cracker crumbs and snot.

Worse than the head-breaking lion was the unavoidable and instantaneous realisation that throwing up is far higher
on the baby noise terror scale than the mere trifling sounds of sneezing and nose blowing. For every dalliance with the bucket, my daughter would issue forth a blood-curdling scream that would send me back to the bucket, a circle so unpleasant it can't be painted with words.

With my husband interstate and my family very far away, I was left without back-up, looking hopefully at the crack of light coming from the back of the television, and pleading with the universe for a box of electrolyte lollipops and a wet face washer. 

Clutching onto some ice cubes and the dying tendrils of my dignity, I slowly scrounged up the walls of abyss, changing nappies and wiping noses and preparing finger foods and running baths and singing bedtime songs and throwing up (quietly) and reading Where is the Green Sheep, wishing it was anywhere else in the universe but here. 

Where once I would have curled up into a ball and focused on stillness, feeling atrociously sorry for myself, I jumped right into the ugly wave of sea sickness and sploshed around until there was nothing left in my stomach, and my daughter was fed, washed, giggled, crawled, storied and asleep.

It was horrible, and it was painful, and it was brilliantly colourful in the greyest of ways, but I managed to muddle through and come out the other side - and that, right there, is the underlying magic of parenting. 
It's the ugliest and strongest kind of magic, the one hidden between the sweaty bed clothes, the one floundering around listlessly at the bottom of the toilet bowl. It's the type of magic
that makes you all warm and fuzzy (and potentially feverish, depending on the intensity of the ailment) and sends your ovaries into a little spin and rinse cycle when you least expect it.
It's the magic that propels mothers to simultaneously fix mechanical lions and throw up in buckets, and makes fathers stay awake at night when they are interstate, and helps parents find the energy to become parents again and again and again.

It's the magic that gets you up at midnight and three in the morning and again at quarter to five, and it's the non-sparkly fairy dust that falls from the sky and keeps you going, through and beyond the eleventh napless day in a row.

It's the force that sees you change nappies that would be better attacked with a fire hose, and gives you the extra soul points to get you through another rendition of Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and the only reason that you agree to spend every happy hour dicing up finger food in the kitchen instead of hightailing it down to the bar for a cold mojito and share plate.

It's the reason people without children think about switching out Sundays down at the pub for Sundays down at the park, and the spare room for a nursery, and sleep-ins for just a few minutes of plain old sleep - it's the reason, even though those people don't actually know that the magic exists just yet.

David Frost once said: Love is staying up all night with a sick child - or healthy adult." Having just had my heart on my fluffy dressing gown sleeve and my sleep on hold for the better part of a very long and snotty fortnight, I couldn't agree more.

How do you get through the sick days at your house?
Where do you find the magic?

M x Brilliant blog posts on

Monday, January 20, 2014

Game, Set, Couch

With the recent heatwave done and dusted, it's finally cool enough to settle back down onto the couch and into my favourite summer sport: watching the Australian Open on telly.

To some, the Open is just another tennis tournament, a televised parade of extremely fit people hitting a small fuzzy ball from one end of a court to another, mixed up with a pastiche of grunting, drink sipping and towel wiping.

To others, like myself, the Open is the holy grail of the summer experience. It is better than lazy days at the swimming pool or keeping cool in the frozen section of the supermarket, and right up there with having your significant other scrub the shower and toilet while you take a sneaky afternoon nap.

There is something quintessentially Australian about lying spreadeagled on the couch under a pedestal fan, with remote and beverage in hand, yelling swathes of ocker encouragement and dismay at the players, and grunting in perpetual disagreement with the umpire.

There is something even more iconically Australian about catching an overloaded tram to Melbourne Park and sweating through a five-setter on an unshaded outside court for four hours, with only an expensive hot dog and your ground pass for sustenance.

It's oddly addictive, this Open watching business, a sweaty fortnight of chance and upsets and possibilities. Can Lleyton do it again? Can the Feds hold off the young charge? Can the new kid knock the socks off the number three seed and blow the tournament wide open? Will the compere say something completely inappropriate during his off-the-cuff interview and throw the whole affair into scandal? Will the roof stay open?

If you had a spare afternoon in the beer garden, I could buy a jug and bore you into a siesta with the minute details about the most memorable matches of the past decade, or the picky reasons I prefer one commentator over another, or the sixty-seven plus reasons why I will always barrack for Federer.

But for the life of me, I could not get out on the court and show you how it's done. As so often occurs in the world of passionate sport enthusiasm, my love for the game belies my complete inability to actually play the dratted sport in any way, shape or form.

My lack of skill was not borne from a lack of effort. As a child, I spent countless summer days standing on the tennis court in direct midday sun, smothered in an unfortunate mix of sunscreen and shambling embarrassment, trying my uncoordinated little heart out.

My repeated attempts to hit the ball resulted in little more than wild air swings, dull thuds, tangles with the net, endless double faults and exasperated friends and coaches. My mind had trouble focusing on the ball, wandering off to the choose-your-own-adventure book I was reading or through the latest piece of choreography from jazz ballet class.

I put it in extra effort. I tried hitting the ball against the wall like the famous Australian tennis star Evonne Goolagong Cawley did as a kid, I tried marathon totem tennis sessions in the backyard, I tried sticking my tongue out at all sorts of various acute angles on the hope a bit of concentration face might help - but it didn't.

Eventually, I had to put tennis away in the 'not for me' basket - along with Nippers, basketball, netball, athletics, squash, trampolining, kanga cricket, volleyball, body boarding, BMX riding, mini-golf, roller blading, ice skating, table tennis, frisbee, rope climbing and competitive swimming.

It took the majority of my childhood and teenage years to work out I could dance, and I could run long distances reasonably well, but that I couldn't (and shouldn't try) participate in team sports or go anywhere near a ball or bat of any sort, without at least wearing protective headgear and an inflatable suit of armour.

While I love teaching my daughter new things, sport is the one aspect of life where I will happily step aside and leave all the lessons to her infinitely more physically coordinated father.

I will sit on the sidelines with my fingers and toes firmly crossed that she can throw and catch, hit and bat, putt and bowl, and jump and sprint with even a modicum of the sporting grace and coordination I dreamed about from the chilly icepack embrace of the first aid office.

If sporting prowess was measured in effort, I would be a World Champion with an impressive trophy cabinet and several lucrative sponsorship deals - but as it's not, and I'm not, I will stick with cheering the tennis gods and goddesses on from the physical safety of my couch. 

Thirty, love. Hit on!

Do you follow the tennis?
Do you enjoy watching or playing sport?

M x

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


While the top half of the globe recovers from the wrath of the recent polar freeze, Australia is in the grip of a seriously cranky heatwave, and we are rapidly melting back into the earth here in our inner-outer-inner Melbourne suburb.

When I say heatwave, I really mean HEATWAVE. Hot, sweltering, sweating, stinking, fire breeding, fire breathing, brain draining, soul sapping, heatwave conditions.

And when I say hot, I mean HOT - we've just sweated through two 42 degree days, with tomorrow forecast to reach 44 degrees before dropping back to 42 degrees on Friday. That's Celcius of course - for those of you playing at home on the other side of the world, we're talking Fahrenheit 107.6, 107.6, 111.2, 107.6.

The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology's brand new Pilot Heatwave Forecast, launched just a few hot days ago, has labelled the current state of play in Melbourne as being an 'extreme heatwave.' The service forecasts that we still have a few more days of 'severe' and normal heatwave conditions to endure before the climatic oven door gets opened again this weekend. 

Extreme heatwave. Image from Bureau of Meteorology.
Our beloved crumbling terrace house normally tides us safely through the many hot peaks and cold troughs of the Melbourne year, but every now and then it gets knocked for six by an extreme weather curve ball. And this extreme heatwave is definitely one of those times.

The rambling monster
has ripped off its hipster chic facade and is now showing its true blue stone heart, sucking up the heat like a nursing baby during a growth spurt and radiating it straight back through the floorboards.

On show with it's heart it's its age and mixed bag of unfortunate structural quirks, and the heat has wasted no time in exploiting the many gaps in the skirting boards, broken air vents, uncovered man holes, poorly sealed windows and less-than-well hung front and back doors.

Despite the obvious defects in our attack arsenal, and the inevitable futility of our efforts, we are still putting up a valiant fight against the elements with the humble weaponry of drawn blinds, pedestal fans, wet flannels, rolled up towels and cool baths.

We have also enlisted the help of a small portable air-conditioner, which is currently sucking the guts out of the kitchen at a distressing volume and dripping water all over the floor (although the sight of any liquid is actually pretty welcome at this point).

The relatively shit little air-con box is struggling with the intensity of the task, but is admittedly providing a modicum of relief if you stand in the kitchen. Immediately in front of the air vent. With a wet flannel on your head. And an ice cube in your mouth. Naked.

The heat is starting to make mince meat of our brains, and make chaos out of our normal order. Sleep has already gone by the wayside, and our daughter is slowly but surely winding up like a crazed jack in the box, sans sleep, sans nap, sans routine, sans comfortable body temperature.

Bucket-head Dog (still stuck in her bucket collar, still feeling sorry for herself) has given up on the outside world, and has glued herself to the kitchen floor in an attempt to absorb all the air-conditioned cold benefit before it spreads to the rest of the family. Skulling water with a cone on her head is proving to be her most difficult challenge, with a serious lack of spatial awareness surrounding herself and the cone going on.

Other than rearranging our small cache of cooling methods and trying them again, though, we are all as short of options as we are effective air-conditioning and cool temperament.

It is too hot and mad out there for us to go to the pool - think exceptionally fair skin, babies wriggling out of their rash vests, sweaty bum cracks, school holiday swim classes, searing concrete, exploding hot dogs, melting cobbers and four hundred foam noodles and fluorescent kick boards fighting for water space.

The sun is too ferocious to risk a trip to the beach with a baby under wing - and even if we did succumb to the powers of heat exhaustion and make it down to the sand, the rolling heatwave news coverage suggests it would be impossible to find any space to swim among the miserable, melting, Melbournian hordes.

We cannot take a quick stroll to the park without actual fear of acute sunburn and heat stroke, and the same goes for pushing the pram to the local cafe for a refreshing organic smoothie (or tall iced chocolate with extra whipped cream, if I'm being honest).

Despite being known for their gale force air conditioning, I am reluctant to seek refuge in shopping centres unless there is an actual emergency alert issued. The last thing this Mummy can fathom is sharing my very limited personal space with several thousand hyperactive children and their exhausted parents, whilst fighting for the last four chicken nuggets and high chair in the food court.

Much the same goes for cinemas, ice skating rinks, gaming centres, bowling alleys, giant all-you-can-eat restaurants and sporting complexes - anywhere really, that involves children or food or high chairs or even just lots of people crammed into the one room.

In a mixed moment of ingenuity and sugar cravings last night, I sent my husband out to stock up on ice-blocks to make me at least feel better (and sweeter) over the coming days - but it appears that the miserable hordes beat us to it and cleaned out the freezer section on their way home from the beach.

The hordes beat us to it!
Except for a few broken boxes and atrociously unlucky flavours, the ice-block shelves were completely bare - and the ice-cream and sorbet chests were not much better. Even the freeze-yourself-fruit-tube varieties in the dessert aisle were sold out.

With a little heatwave luck on his side, he managed to secure the final berry sorbet in the store (and possibly, in the whole of southern Australia) and make it home without getting mugged by overheated shoppers or stopping in the car park to devour the whole tub himself - a frosty new addition to our freezer, and to our rapidly diminishing heatwave arsenal.

If only we could buy a truckload of icy cold sorbets and deliver them to the service and emergency crews, though - the electricity workers attending to wires, the ambos treating heat affected souls, the transport workers fixing rails and lines and jams, the firies fighting fires in unbearable heat. The people who will get us through the next few days, and the next heatwave when it arrives.

I like my sorbet, and I dislike the heat, but the fact I'm sitting here typing my blog with a shit portable air-conditioner, electricity, internet, and berry sorbet means I'm doing okay. And it's all thanks to them.

According to the forecasts, we're halfway there Australia.

Keep cool.

Are you feeling the heatwave? Are you reading on from somewhere cold? How do you keep cool in the heat?

M x

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Hardest Decision, The Easiest Day

Sometimes, the hardest things you can imagine actually turn out to be the easiest - as was the (unexpected) case when my baby started childcare this week.

After winning the childcare place lottery in October, I spent two and a half long months dreading the inevitable moment of separation, and second-guessing my hard fought decision.

On the days I was scrambling to keep the contents of the house off the floor while simultaneously pureeing pork and mash and paying the car rego at the Post Office, I could see the wisdom of my decision shining through the cloudy oven door.

On the days when I was writing articles to deadline and submitting job applications amid chaos, I would flop open my mind and mentally skip down the childcare driveway with bottles of expressed milk and bouquets of roses in hand.

On the days when I watched my daughter playing with other babies at Parents Group catch ups and annual family gatherings, pushing toys back and forward and freaking out when they touched her hair, I would relax into my decision and start prattling about the many virtues and benefits of social interaction from a young age.

On the days when my daughter would light up the room, or unexpectedly manage to stand on her onesie clad foot, or suddenly find a decisive 'bird' or 'ball' from within the constant stream of babble, I would emotionally bail on the whole childcare caper.

I would resolve to become unresolved, and start preparing my fiery argument against childcare, for consideration and endless discussion in the marital decision court over turkey burgers and salad come dinner time.

As we descended into the final fortnight of unadulterated stay-at-home-mummydom, my clingy mother status skyrocketed from lousy home brand cling wrap to the top shelf, brand name stuff.

I spent countless hours holding onto my baby for dear life, even when she clearly wanted to be out of my arms and exploring the ceaselessly amazing fluff content of the lounge room carpet.

My hug and kiss rations multiplied, and where I would normally give one kiss, I started to dole out ten, with an extra butterfly kiss and a special peck on the cheek for added good measure.

I unintentionally dug deeper all round, ensuring that every block tower was knocked down with unusual oomph, every outfit change was selected with unexpected fastidiousness, every Incy Wincy rendition delivered with extra special hand movements and embarrassing facial expressions. 

Unfortunately, cling wrap is not thick enough to keep out the world, and my excessive hug-a-thon eventually dribbled away into the inevitable orientation day that had been marked on the kitchen calendar for so long.

Orientation was far cooler than I had been prepared to give it credit for. It was a bit like my own personal halfway house, all the freedom and responsibility of entering the real childcare world with the safety net of being able to run back up the corridor and into the nursery room whenever my panic got the better of me.

As I tiptoed out of the room for my trial separation, heart somewhere between my esophagus and my churning stomach, my daughter pounced on a pile of triangular shape sorting blocks and stuck a plastic stegosaurus in her mouth - go away, mum, you're cramping my prehistoric dining adventure.

With my heart still somehow inside my body and the trial separation inked in the childcare day book as a theoretical success, we progressed with lightning speed to the real deal - the first day of childcare, no safety net attached.

My husband and I decided to climb the mountain together - or rather, I dragged him up the mountain against his will to help push me along when I tried to turn around and roll back down to the safety of another day at home with a morning nap and afternoon pram walk. 

After so much anticipation and dread, though, the mountain seemed radically smaller in real life. Despite months of technicolour nightmares, I did not self combust or hyperventilate or have to dodge cesspits of fire and brimstone. 

Perhaps it was the afterglow of the orientation trial separation, or the promise of uninterrupted french toast and coffee for breakfast, or the wonderful teachers in the centre, but I felt strangely calm as I dropped my daughter off and effectively tipped our lives upside down forever.

I kissed my daughter goodbye and simply stepped out the front door and into the new world order, leaving her to crawl off into a wooden mirror maze with a look of baby awe plastered all over her face.

My daughter didn't notice I was gone, I didn't cry like a baby or wail like a banshee, my toast and coffee did not get tipped on the floor or covered in steamed apple and pear once - and I even managed to vacuum the skirting boards properly for the first time in nine months.

Six hours later, my daughter greeted me at the nursery door with a shoe full of sand and a face full of sheer excitement - and in that moment the hardest decision I ever made suddenly became the easiest.

Have you had to make tough family decisions? Have you left your child in care? I would love to hear your stories.

M x

Sharing for #FYBF at

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Loudly Quiet New Year

New Years Eve is a quiet affair when you have a baby.

At least, that's what folklore and commonsense led me to believe.

After spending the Christmas break road tripping nearly 3000 kilometres across three states in just nine days, my husband and I didn't have enough festive frivolity left for a big night of New Years Eve social shenanigans.

Aware of our relatively recent transition from vibrant-twenty-something-land to quiet-suburban-parent-ville, we tried to muster some mild enthusiasm for the upcoming annual event, but there was nothing: zip, zilch, nada, not even a single sparkler of enthusiasm.

We were broken - from the highway, the overflowing roadside toilets, the prepackaged sandwiches, the crowded petrol stations, the brewing MasterCard statement, and the latest epic pooplosion installment in the unfortunate ongoing series.

The baby was broken from nine days of ridiculously stimulating Christmas wrapping paper and exotic portable cot locations, and even the dog was broken after an unexpected spot of painful festive season ear surgery and a bucket-head collar to stop her scratching the wounds.

As the final afternoon of the year gave way to evening, there was nothing left on our silly season list but to fetch our trackies and set up camp in the lounge room with our old friends Vodka and Christmas Chocolate, while Bucket-head lamented in the kitchen.

Several vodkas in, with some mindless comedy on the telly and the baby well and truly ensconced in her nightly REM party for one, it became apparent that perhaps we had JUST enough energy to bring in the New Year with, ahem, a bit of romantic bang.

A few more vodkas, a few more minutes on the clock, a few less pairs of tracksuit pants on legs, and we were getting ready to bring in the New Year ...
when Melbourne unexpectedly lifted and exploded under us like one giant communal cracker.

All hell broke loose. The sky above our house switched on with the impressive illuminating powers of the official Melbourne fireworks displays, while our inner-outer-inner suburb nearly lifted off the ground with the force of several thousand consecutively sparked illegal fireworks.

The kids down the road (whose parents had presumably consumed far more vodka than ourselves and were missing in action), set up an alarmingly impressive arsenal of fireworks in the middle of the road and tried to literally bring the neighbourhood into the new year in a blaze of illegal glory.

An entire city of police car sirens went off in almost-perfect unison, whizzing around the cracker-filled streets like a super-sized nest of really angry bees, with far too many targets for far too few stings.

Call and response style, all the cars on the main drag started honking their horns in an obnoxious salute to the new year, setting off a Mexican wave of discordant honks and beeps across the suburb: an orchestra being strangled in tediously slow motion.

Bucket-head went ballistic, breaking through the doggy-kid-drunk adult safety gate and bolting across the lounge room for the apparent safety of the front hallway, nearly decapitating  herself with her own bucket several times on the way through and taking a pair of discarded trackies and a cushion with her.

The baby, having slept through the start of the end of the earth, woke to the dog tearing down the hallway and proceeded to sing and squeal her way into the New Year, her less-than-dulcet baby tones amplified through the baby monitor for good measure.

Seven minutes and a whole lot of noise into the new year, we relinquished the final dregs of our unexpected romantic mood and called it a night, determined to find our trackies and the inside of our eyelids as quickly as possible.

Shoving the last chocolate in my mouth and searching for my trackies in the hallway, I pondered how I could possibly have forgotten about the New Years Eve fireworks: after all, the two go hand in hand, much
like ravers with glow sticks, tea with bikkies, and parents with sleep deprivation and tracksuit pant romance.

Ahh well. At least we got a New Years bang of sorts.

Did your New Years Eve live up to expectations?

M x