Thursday, May 31, 2012

Maternity Leave "To Do"

Well, I am now officially on maternity leave. What a feeling! There is so much to do, but now that I am off work (with the exception of a few weeks left of TinyTalk, can't forget about that!), I feel I have time to get it all done.

What do I have left to do?

I need/want to:

Clean out my car. Take out car seats, clear out junk and toys and go get it valeted. I'll do the clear out today, but the valeting next week when kids are in school and nursery.

Take photos of all the stuff I am getting rid of and put it on eBay. I need to make some money now that I'm not working!

Clean - as in disinfect - the rabbit cage. I bought a carpet protector today, so plan on doing a full-on rabbit area clean.

Mop the kitchen floor. I will not admit to how long it's been since I mopped it.

Blitz the bathroom. Floor to ceiling, literally. There is mildew on the ceiling that needs cleaned and bleached. Though I think the ceiling will be a Scott job, as it might not be wise for me to climb a ladder at 8 months pregnant.

Those are the big things. Besides that, I intend to spend my maternity leave relaxing, finishing up craft projects long overdue, reading books, getting massages and pedicures, and generally enjoying the last few weeks of pregnancy and solitude.

Unless baby decides to come early, it's going to be bliss. :)

P.S. Just spoke to my father-in-law on the phone. My sister/brother-in-law need someone to watch Adam tomorrow afternoon. Haha, some start to my maternity leave from childminding - looking after the boy I childmind! Haha.

P.P.S. Go check out my daughter's new blog. Five year old Fifi has a Music Reviews blog!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Beautiful Bodies

On Sunday, I went to my lovely friend Sarah's house to celebrate her birthday with her. While I stood admiring the framed professional bump photos she'd had taken with her last baby, we got the idea to do a spur of the moment photo shoot of my bump.

I'd had an idea for a while anyway of what I wanted, and while we didn't have everything available to do exactly that, we were still able to improvise, and we took some really beautiful shots.

When we first tried to decide which side the writing should be on, I asked Sarah which side had fewer stretch marks. She tried to describe what she could see, under the bump where I can't see, but as she described the different kind of marks on each side, I realised something really beautiful...

I didn't care.

And even more than not caring, I wanted to photograph the side with the most marks and veins. After all, this is the same womb that brought this boy's big sisters into the world, and the marks they left on me illustrate the marks they will leave on him. He's sharing the same space those other two precious children of mine once shared; he is being nourished inside the same womb that they were nourished in. He is also leaving his own special marks on me, new ones that were not there before he came into existence. He will shape me in different ways, just as his sisters have shaped me in their own unique ways.

Beyond all that, this body of mine is beautiful because of those marks.

I am, of course, thankful that my stretch marks aren't as thick and red as they could've been and that don't cover my whole belly. But I'm also not ashamed of the ones that I do have. For the first time, I realised I like them.

My body is a map; blue veins run like rivers along the historical silver mountain ranges of my motherhood.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"On A Perfect Lazy Day" Indeed

Scott and I have worked out a pretty good system, since the start of my pregnancy. Like most couples with kids, there can be a perpetual argument over who is or isn't doing his or her share. But we have managed (as far as I am aware) to reach a pretty satisfactory equilibrium.

Most mornings I get up with the kids, except on Saturdays when it's my day to lie in. Most nights, Scott puts the kids to bed, except the occasional night when I do it. It works, as he's a night owl and I'm a morning person.

When Scott gets home from work between 3.45-4.30, it is his time off to just shut the door to his study and chill out, though he sometimes has to do a dancing class pick-up. Then when I get off work just around 6, it's my turn to shut the door and chill out, and he takes over, playing with the kids, then putting them to bed. It works well. It's become a sort of unspoken arrangement, but I think we are both pretty happy with it. (Are you happy with the arrangement, Scott?)

So, with that in mind, I'll tell you about my incredibly easy and lazy 'work day' today.

It is positively gorgeous weather outside, and one of the biggest perks of childminding is getting to - nay, being obliged to - take the kids outdoors on beautiful days like this. So this morning, we met up with my close friend Maria, also a childminder, at the park with all our kids. I actually had one less child than usual today, and the one I had is just only one year old (my nephew, Adam). So we set out some play mats on the grass, Maria's older kids played on the playground, and all the younger kids played on the mats. Basically, while Maria had to run around helping with ladders and slides and swings, I got to relax for the most part with the little non-walkers on a mat with balls and toys, soaking up the rays.

After the park, I picked up Lolly from nursery, and we came home and made fruit smoothies for lunch. Blueberries, strawberries, a banana and some natural yogurt tossed into a blender... heavenly! Then it was back out with Maria, this time to Lunderston Bay, a wee beach with a play park. By this time, it was very hot, so I sat in the shade (you know, being pregnant and all) with Adam, drinking a bottle of water, while Lolly and the other older kids played on the playground.

We left Lundy Bay to go pick up kids from school. I picked up Fifi, and exhausted as I was, felt it was only right to give her time outside too, after being cooped up in school all day, so we went straight out into the garden when we got home, and they played with the neighbours for a while. I took Adam upstairs and put him down for a nap.

This is where Scott and our equilibrium comes in.

Right after putting Adam down, Scott came home. He told me to just go back out in the garden with the kids, and he'd keep an ear out for Adam. (Adam is our nephew, remember. As a responsible childminder, I wouldn't just leave any kid while I went outside, I promise!) Fifi and Lolly played a little while longer, and then I brought them inside to get ready to take them swimming, a promise I had made earlier. I never even asked Scott if he wanted to come swimming with us, because I know swimming isn't his thing. Plus, I was taking them swimming during his free time, and I wasn't even considering asking him to give that up. Adam got picked up just after 4.30, and the girls and I got our swimming gear together.

And then, as I was putting the last things in the swim bag, I heard the girls shout, 'Daddy, where are you going! Why are you putting on your shoes?!'

I came out, and Scott had secretly packed his swimming things too to come along with us, claiming, 'Well, they are only young once' with a smile. I was delighted!

Off we went to the pool. We started in the Lazy River. After one lap around, trying to keep up with the over-enthusiastic girls, I was already exhausted. Scott said to me, 'Why don't you just go sit in the bubble pool and relax, and I'll take the kids around. We'll meet you in the bubbles later.' I tried to resist, but it was an incredibly tempting offer! The bubble pool was warm and relaxing. Scott basically did all the pool stuff with the kids, while I chilled out doing absolutely nothing!

After swimming, everyone was hungry. I have things in the house to make, but everything on the weekly menu needed a good half-hour at least of cooking, not counting pre-heating the oven. We decided to have a cheeky takeaway instead and got chicken sandwiches from KFC. Lolly saw an ice cream advert and asked for ice cream. Scott and I looked at each other... 'A certain other place does s-u-n-d-a-e-ses for 99p', I ventured. Scott didn't need to any other persuading, so after KFC, we hit McDonald's for toffee sundaes! We sat outside on the benches, and the kids got sticky eating melty ice cream in the heat, and Scott and I just enjoyed the peace and the breeze (and the ice cream - you think WE didn't have some too?!)

I wasn't sure if Fifi and Lolly could handle any more excitement in one day, but I had one more treat for them. 'All right, girls, when we get home it's bedtime. BUT, when I was at the shop, I found something for you. I found The Fantastic Mr. Fox DVD for only three pounds, so I bought it for you girls to watch tonight before bed!'

Oh the delight! Fifi and Lolly couldn't stop saying thank you for EVERYTHING (never have they been so thorough and grateful in their lives, I'm pretty much certain). 'Oh, thank you, Mummy, for taking us out in the garden and taking us swimming and buying us a DVD! And thank you, Daddy, for buying us KFC and buying us ice cream!' This mantra was repeated more than once. It was music to a parent's ear!

Scott and I shared bedtime duty. The kids - so far - have been perfect, watching their new DVD in bed. My hope is that they will be so zonked after a day of sunshine and fun that they will actually fall asleep during the film and there won't be any remaining bedtime duty to attend to.

It's been a perfect lazy day, but Scott's sacrificing his 'me time' to go swimming with us, without even being asked, was the best part. I had such a great day, and now look forward to taking a good shower, curling up in bed with my book, and then heading off to snoozeville, happy, tired, and a little bit sunburned. And full of appreciation for darling husband! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blueberry Pancakes

I discovered about two weeks ago that KFC is now doing breakfast, which I find a bit strange considering 'KFC' stands for 'Kentucky Fried Chicken' and there is no breakfast item I can think of that corresponds with fried chicken. But apparently they now do bacon roll-type things, egg and sausage muffin-type things, and blueberry pancakes.

It's their massive banner with 'BREAKFAST from 7am', or something like that, and a large stack of blueberry pancakes dripping with syrup that has sparked my latest pregnancy craving. Ever since I saw that banner a couple of weeks ago, all I could think of was blueberry pancakes. And blueberry juice. And blueberry muffins. And blueberry madeira cake. And blueberry yogurt.

So tonight, as unhealthy and unbalanced a meal it was, I made blueberry pancakes for tea. The kids were ecstatic. Scott was delighted. Scott said to them, 'Mummy is great at making pancakes, isn't she, girls?' I said, 'Betty Crocker is great at making pancakes' because I am a devout follower of Bisquick, and even have to pay ridiculously high prices to buy a tiny 500g box of it, since it's imported, but it's well freakin' worth it. And I bought fresh blueberries for the pancakes, but in the end, reverted to my mom's way of doing blueberry pancakes and used frozen blueberries instead. Somehow, the frozen ones just fry up so much more... juicily and... plumpily. Mmmm.

Now I am over my blueberry craving, but I still have a huge pack of frozen blueberries and a punnet of fresh blueberries to eat up. Fresh blueberries can go into the kids' lunches and the frozen can stay, you know, frozen, so I don't think they will go to waste. And I'm willing to bet next time I pass KFC and see those steamy stacked blueberry pancakes drizzled with maple syrup, I will quite likely need to buy another box of Bisquick and have another pancake supper, because no one has ever photographed blueberry pancakes in a more tantalizing way than KFC has.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grocery Shopping is Pants

The I-Hate-Food Blog

I need to go out and do the food shopping. I have made a list of what we will eat over the next week and a list of what I need to buy to prepare those things. It ought to be a pretty quick and easy experience, what with the list.

And by the way, I enjoy food shopping, so what I am about to say isn't based on any dread of the supermarkets.

But the thought of buying food disgusts me. The thought of eating food disgusts me.

I'm at a stage in my pregnancy that makes me despise food in three different ways.
1) I am so big and my stomach is so squashed that I don't want to put any food in it bigger than a bowl of cereal. I hate eating balanced meals now, as there is no space, and it makes me feel bloated and heavy to eat anything.
2) I have such awful, unrelenting heartburn that I can think of nothing to eat that I know won't repeat on me a few hours later and then all night long while I sleep. Except a bowl of cereal. (And yes, I've tried all the remedies, except that baking soda paste one, and that's not going to happen. On my list is another bottle of apple cider vinegar, since I've already drunk the whole bottle straight.)
3) I am so tired at night that I have no desire to stand in front of a stove or an oven and cook meals. And my mind is too tired to come up with anything innovative and original to eat, so we have been eating boring boring boring for the past month, and even with my menu list written out, I do not want to eat anything on it. Except cereal. Plain cereal.

Yet it's not an option NOT to cook, so I have to do this awful shopping regardless. I still need to feed my non-pregnant husband, my two growing children, and my one childminded child. I still need to pack Fifi's lunches with healthy options and prepare varied meals for childminding. As much as I'd love to just go nuts in Farmfoods and buy seven days worth of frozen fish fingers, chicken goujons, hamburger patties, and oven chips (and there have been weeks where I've ended up doing just that), my guilty conscience won't allow me to do that tonight. My guilty conscience tells me that human beings need fresh food from fresh produce, so go buy some frigging broccoli. Then I look at my weekly meal plan and think, 'I have no desire to steam or eat frigging broccoli; surely steam-bags of mixed veg will do.' And yes, they will have to. Because right at this moment, I hate food.

I hate food. I. Hate. Food.

Just give me a glass of milk (for the heartburn), and if I start to get really hungry, I'll toast a slice of bread and smear it with a bit of butter. Then drink another glass of milk, because toast with butter gives me heartburn. Then I'll need to wake up at midnight and down a shot of that apple cider vinegar to conquer the next few hours of burning esophagus thanks to that innocent slice of toast. But it'll be better than if I had made a casserole, or a soup, or even a salad (unless I left off any kind of dressing - or used apple cider vinegar!), because the relaxin or whatever hormone is causing the reflux is really, really....

It's just really, really mean.

Och well, all this moaning doesn't mean I can skip out on my food shopping, so off to Tesco I go. It's a good thing Farmfoods is shut at 8pm, because otherwise, I'm pretty sure I'd throw this list in the bin and just go stock up on freezer junk instead.

Ugh. Someone want to do this for me?

*I had to change the title of this post, because when I googled 'I hate food' out of curiosity, it came up with all eating disorder sites, and I don't want to mislead anyone. Eating disorders are too serious, and I'd hate for my glib little bit about not being hungry to be associated to any ED. Especially in case anyone with an ED googled it and found my blog, and found it heartless and insensitive to those who genuinely DO hate food and can no longer willingly go back to eating due to their illness. Okay, so maybe I'm taking it too far, but it's something serious that matters to me!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To My (Many) Mothers

It's Mother's Day in the US today. We had our Mother's Day back in March, but as an American, I'm entitling myself to two Mother's Days.

I have been very fortunate in the Mother Department. Obviously, I have my own mother. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to still have her around, and I don't take that for granted. I have many friends who lost their mothers at a young age, and I cannot imagine what that must be like. I can't imagine life without my mom. So I thank God my mom is still here with me. I also have an incredible mother-in-law. Again, not something I take for granted! The stereotype of a terrible mother-in-law doesn't exist for nothing; I know many people who have a tiresome, controlling, intolerable mother-in-law, and once again, thank God mine is not one of them! Then recently I was given a step-mother. Though the circumstances involved in one gaining a step-mother are less than ideal, I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, more loving one. I also have a living grandmother who loved me and cared for me growing up, a grandmother who passed away many years ago who was just as loving, a grandmother-in-law who also passed away who could not have been more open, generous and loving, and a step-grandmother who is good and kind.

On top of that, I have had mother figures who have helped me along the way. My aunts were always around and loved me and helped teach me along the way. I had a 'mom away from mom' when I was at university who mentored me, gave me a place to stay when the pain of growing from teen to adult would become too great for me to bear alone, and respected me as an independent girl-woman in my own right. There are also friends, who are mothers too, who daily help me in my own struggles as a mother, who inspire me, advise me, laugh with me, encourage me and walk along beside me.

I don't usually use this word, but I am blessed. I am blessed by mothers everywhere. I live in the world of mothers. I see every day what mothers do. I realise more and more each day what the mothers in my life have given for their children as I strive to give more to mine. I realise as days go by how hard mothering can be, and feel so thankful that good mothering can't be undone by one or two (or even a hundred) wrong turns along the way. When I shout at my kids out of my own frustration, I feel I have ruined all I've worked for. Yet ten minutes later, my kids still run back into my arms, smother me with kisses, and pledge their love for me. I look back at my own mom and don't remember very many instances at all where she did anything 'wrong' in raising me; and even those one or two memories of something 'wrong' don't feel wrong, just human. Yet I am certain she can remember many wrong turns along the way, but those aren't the ones that stick. What matters is the overarching banner of love that is hung over our lives. That banner seems to cover a multitude of sins.

I want to wish my mom a Happy Mother's Day, for making me feel loved even when I was the least lovable, for making me believe I was worth something, for giving me confidence in myself, for never making me feel like a failure, for encouraging me to do my best and never expecting more than my best, for being available when I needed to talk, especially when it came to the 'big stuff', and for patiently standing back just the right distance, probably praying the whole time, while she allowed me to make my own way in the world, cheering on my good choices and quietly reprimanding my bad ones.

I want to wish my mother-in-law Happy Mother's Day, for allowing me into not just her family but into her heart, for making me a real part of this home away from home, for being available when I need her but never pushing her way through uninvited, for letting me and her son learn how to be a married couple all on our own, for taking care of us in any way she can, for giving me advice when I need it, for being open enough to talk about the difficult things I would've needed my own mom for but couldn't have due to the distance, for praying for me, for loving our children, for sacrificing her time, her energy, her love, her belongings, her emotions and often her sleep for us.

I want to wish my step-mom Happy Mother's Day, for treating my kids like her own grandkids, for including me as a part of her new family, for making my dad happy, for her effort and energy to include a whole new family into her affections without reserve, and for being a kind, open, generous woman who I look forward to getting to know much better as the years go on.

I want to wish my college mentor, Kathy, Happy Mother's Day, because she made a permanent, indelible mark on my life, by being my mom-away-from-mom those four years I lived away, for teaching me about the Bible, showing me an example of what a Christian woman looks and acts like, for listening to my constant complaints and questions with patience and humour, for being the first adult to treat me also like an adult, for paving the way for me to become a mother myself through watching her breastfeed, co-sleep, gently parent her children, prepare healthy and interesting meals, and have the grace and humour to laugh at her sometimes untidy but never dirty house, for inviting me into her home, into her children's lives, and even into her spare bedroom when I just needed somewhere to stay during times of heartbreak, confusion and tears, and for celebrating with me the joy I found when I met my fiance and for giving me sound counsel as I prepared for my marriage.

And Happy Mother's Day to all the other mothers who have been in my life along the way, my friends, my relatives, my fellow breastfeeders, mommy-bloggers, and all the mothers out there doing their best and making a few wrong turns along the way. We are all on the same journey, walking along the same road, and if we stick together, we will all reach our destination with success, dignity, pride and laughter.