Serendipity went splat

You know when things are impeccably timed and result in the most serendipitous events? For example, you walk out of a change room in a shop to swop a shirt that was on the wrong hanger displaying an incorrect size and you bump into a friend you haven’t seen since you left school 20 years ago as she steps backwards out of her change room to get a better look at her jeans? Well, we just had a moment that was the opposite of that. So you could say it aserendipitous.

Our house is on the market and, as I explained in an earlier post, the business model of the estate agency we’re using involves us paying a flat fee for commission and then we show the house ourselves. So, tonight was a show night and we had four people scheduled to arrive at 15 minute intervals.

The house has never looked so tidy!

The first couple turned out to be Seth Rogan and his wife. I know! We were as surprised as you are. My husband greeted them and escorted them in through the front gate while I pretended I wasn’t there. The plan had been for me and the littles to have a picnic supper on the lawn watching Full House while strangers walked around our house. Because things with children don’t ever (ever ever) go as planned, that didn’t happen. The picnic ended when Seth arrived. There I was left watching Full House with two mostly untouched bowls of macaroni cheese, a dog with halitosis, and a couple of mildly suspicious weaver birds. The children promptly ran into the house to follow our guests around from room to room, like two curious chihuahuas.

We had four sets of people come to judge our living arrangements. The chihuahuas frolicked and minced, minced and frolicked while I tried to look simultaneously busy and invisible in the garden. By the time viewer number four’s arrival was imminent, the boy child (who has had a stomach bug) decided he’d had enough and went to pick daisies by the front door. I saw him stomping around on something wet-looking that, on closer inspection, turned out to be his own poo. It had exploded from his nappy like an angry swamp monster and run all the way down his legs. As I turned to alert my husband of the code brown, our last viewer pulled up to the gate. Husband grabbed boy and sprinted to the bottom of the garden, holding him with arms out stretched and a look of determination on his green-tinged face. I leaped inside and grabbed a small plastic cup, the first container I could find, which in hindsight wasn’t very effective, filled it up and tried to wash the steaming puddle of poo off the path and front-door step!

The last viewer wasn’t particularly interested in our house, which may or may not have had something to do with the fact that as she walked into our garden the first thing she saw was me changing a nappy that was so befouled my eyes were watering.

Speaking of watering eyes… the day came to a close with our five-year-old daughter pouring peppermint essential oil all over the bathroom floor and smearing it in her eyes. That led to a fun 45 minutes or so of her howling and lowing like an injured cow. You absolutely cannot make this stuff up.

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In this house, we break the rules

In this house we do things differently. We do admin and prep the hour before in the manner of people who’ve been taking coffee intravenously. We make four different dinners in a house of four. We’ve also been known to paint the walls at 9:45 at night. In our house, we have rules so that we can break them. We don’t like rules and we don’t do things because we’re meant to. And we like companies who break all the rules and do things differently.

In this house, we break the rules.

We’re selling our house and moving on. It’s bitter-sweet: we love this house; it’s a real family home and has just about everything we want. It’s just not in the right location. When we were looking for houses, before we found this one, I told Mr Bloom that our garden must be big enough for our children to play Thundercats in. Our garden is perfect for a friendly race between Cheetara and Tygra. It also has a beautiful, long swimming pool, excellent for imagining the shark from jaws is chasing you when you swim alone. You know how you do? Because we like rule breakers, we are using the services of a market-disrupting company called LeadHome. They’re kind of like the Uber of estate agencies. You book them online, and potential buyers make appointments in your personal calendar.

It’s a family home.

Mr Bloom and I both love digital media. We spend time on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I do a great deal of ‘research’ on Pinterest, too. We get our television fix from Netflix. Both Mr Bloom and I have experience in digital marketing. So it made complete sense for us to use a digital estate agency. Now, instead of show days where strangers arrive en masse (or not) to poke around in our undies and judge the guest towels in our bathroom, we’ll be showing potential buyers around our home ourselves.

Like I said, Mr Bloom and I like to break the rules. So maybe we’ll have our potential buyers join us for a spot of TV viewing. We can all sit together and watch an episode of Golden Girls or Vampire Diaries. Maybe we’ll ask them to help us out in the veggie garden. They will, after all, reap the benefits if they decide to buy. I like to bake on weekends. Maybe I’ll hand over my Le Creuset spatula and let a potential buyer bake the carrot cake or ice the cookies, while I sip my perfectly chilled chardonnay.

We may invite the buyers to help out in the veggie garden.

Whatever we decide, I’ll let you know on one or other digital platform.

This time last year…

It’s 8:24pm on 15 February 2017. This time last year I was lumbering up and down in the TV room. Stopping every few minutes to lean over the couch, breathe through the pain and occasionally vomit into my thoughtfully positioned bucket. The contractions were getting quite rough, but I could still manage them (with the help of my Doula and the support of Roger).

I’ve been doing this a lot today, thinking about ‘This time last year’. It was a monumental day in our lives, in my life. I would soon be meeting my baby boy. My second child. Our last child. I’ve felt so emotional today. Fragile even, thinking back. Perhaps because I still have unresolved feelings about the way Eli’s birth went – not quite the way i had hoped. I will always have feelings about it.

He is the most content, joyful, intrepid and adventurous little thing I’ve met. If he’s not climbing up onto the coffee table, he’s crawling head first down a huge step or eating dirt at the bottom of the garden. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s boofed his head… And I’ve lost count of the number of ways I’ve learnt to say ‘I love you’ to him.

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Eli has an older sister, Holly, and when she was born I thought my heart would explode with the love and feelings it was meant to contain. Until I realised it didn’t need to, and shouldn’t, contain that love at all. The love in my heart needed to gush out and envelope my daughter and let her know a 100 times a day that she is the most loved little girl in the world. 

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When I was pregnant with Eli I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to love him as much as I love his sister. I needn’t have worried. Adding a child doesn’t mean love is halved. Rather it means your love doubles. In fact it more than doubles. Sometimes one child needs more love than the other. Instead of taking from one to give to the other, there’s always extra to give the one who needs an extra serving. And then there’s till more to give to the children of your friends.

In the year that’s passed since Eli decided four weeks early to join us earthside, our lives have been tipped upside down, on their sides and right way up again, a little dented, bruised, scraped and showing signs of wear. But signs of wear like a pair of hiking boots that now hug your feet and have molded themselves on the shape of your foot. Our lives have been irrevocably changed, but they finally feel like they fit.

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We’re a family of four. A family. We fill a square table in a restaurant. We take up all the space available in an Uber. We’re a doubles game in tennis. But we’re more than that. We’re a family. And my children are more than just two little beings. They’ve moved themselves into my heart and taken up every free corner and space they could find. Just like what they’ve done in our house with their toys (and in my car with their crumbs).

In just over seven hours time, this time last year, Eli would be born. At 4:20am on Tuesday 16 February 2016. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I didn’t think I’d survive. I begged for mercy. I cried for Holly. I swore, using some choice words. I ‘lowed’ like a cow. I shouted. I moaned. I stopped breathing through the contractions and started swearing through them instead. I screamed like I was being tortured. But every single painful second of that labour was worth it. And I’d do it a thousand times over to have Eli again.
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Wake up in the morning feelin’ like P Diddy

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I wake up to a toothy, drooling grin about 2cm from my face. Ordinarily I’d scream and leg it out of there, but this morning I don’t. The grin belongs to my 9-month-old. How can I not smile at this gorgeousness? ‘Pad, pad, pad, pad, pad’. I hear my 4-year-old running into our bedroom from hers. I hoist her up into the bed. Sleep time is officially over. It’s 5:39am.

It’s a weekday so that means getting the 4-year-old ready for school; changing and entertaining the 9 month old until he is ready to sleep again at about 7:30; helping husband get out the house; and dressing myself into something marginally more respectable than a milk-stained nightie. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Riiiiiight…

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Holly, our 4-year-old is gorgeous, she is bright, funny, brave, strong and amazing. She is also 4. So she has very specific ideas, a very strong will and enormous emotions. Getting her ready requires the strength to withstand a full-on assault to the senses for an hour. AN HOUR! You heard me. AN HOUR. This is how it goes…

Parent A: Holly baby, let’s go choose clothes.

Holly: Babeeeeeee Eli! I love you. You’re so cute.

Parent A (still in parent’s room): What would you like to wear today?

Holly: You’ve got such cute cheeks, baby Eli!

Parent A: Holly, do you want to wear a dress?

Holly: Baaa, baaaaa, black sheep heavy heavy wool! Upstairs downstairs one for the girl.

Parent B: Holly! Please get off your brother’s head and listen to you mother/father!

Holly: Daddy! What happens if, if, if, if uhm. What happens if, if, if the rain?

Parent A (falls for distraction): If the rain what, Holly?

Holly: Huh? What did you say?

Parent B: Come now Holly! Or there’s no vitamin this morning (sweet chewy vitamins)!

Holly: Oohhkaaaaya! But I want baby Elllllliiiiii. He’s so cute!

Parent B (drags a dawdling, flopping Holly and carries cute Eli to Holly’s room): Ok. Let’s choose leggings.

Holly: I don’t want leggings. I want a dress.

Parent B: You can have a dress but you need to wear leggings underneath.

Holly: Why?

Parent A (grits teeth): Because, like we’ve explained before, it’s to stop your panties from showing when you climb and play at school.

Holly: I want my Barbie ones.

Parent A: Here they are. What dress do you want? This grey one with cherries that you’ve only worn once?

Holly (tears welling up in eyes): No! No! I don’t like it. It doesn’t spin out.

Parent B: What about this long one with the giraffe? Or the pink striped one – this one spins out. Or the green one with the sleeves? Or the one with the ice creams?

Holly: I want my Elsa dress! *sings* Let it go! Let it go! Let it go! Let it go! Don’t hold me back anyhow!

Parent B: No. That’s a dress up and dress and you can’t wear it to school. We discussed this yesterday and the day before. And three times last week. And pretty much every other day since you got it.

Holly: I LOVE you mommy! When I grow up I want shoes like yours.

This continues for about 40 minutes. Eventually we’ve poured, mashed, tackled, squashed and wrestled her into a reasonably acceptable outfit. Look, it doesn’t match. She looks like a particularly gaudy Christmas tree. She’s wearing a tiara, socks and sandals, and ‘hand gloves’ but she’s friggin dressed, OK? And her hair is somewhat tamed and almost tidy.

Parent A and Parent B high-five one another as Parent B hauls Baby Eli out from under the bed. He grins happily, displaying the dust bunnies he’s been chewing on.

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I’d continue through the teeth brushing (uuuhhhh! A fight every morning and every night. She knows we’re going to win but she still resists. Like a miniature Napolean), and the breakfast, and the walking out the door. But it’s pretty much more of the same: Calling for Baby Eli, singing nonsensical songs, asking random questions, and flopping.

I stand in the doorway with a baby on my hip (still in my milk-stained pyjamas) and watch the husband walk down the path with a skipping Holly tagging behind, I’m shattered. Done in. Finished. Then, Holly turns around, the sun rises above the tree line and a golden ray dances gently on her soft hair. She looks like an angel and it just about takes my breath away.

Holly: Goodbye Mommy! I love you more than all the leaves on the trees! Bye bye baby Eli!

Heart melted.

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The first five months

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And then he was five months old. Smiling, chatting, rolling over and learning to sit. The colic is gone along with the long nights of tears (mine). Just a few minutes ago we were in hospital, getting to know each other after nine months of waiting. Nine months of being closer than any other two people can be. And a few minutes before that I was feeling you kick my tummy from the inside and you were giving me the worst heartburn ever! People say time flies but I don’t think it’s more evident than when you have a baby. Except when you’re in labour. THAT time certainly does not fly. In fact, THAT time stands still.

These five months have been the most wonderful of my life this far. But they’ve also been the most difficult. When Charles Dickens said, ‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times’ I’m pretty sure he was talking about the first five months of parenthood with two children. Indeed, A Tale of Two Cities was probably a metaphor about two children. (Come to think of it, the French Revolution was probably started by toddlers). I love my children so much it’s sometimes painful and I’m often in awe of the amount of love one heart can feel and express. But that doesn’t lesson the Armageddon that is my life. I am not in any way exaggerating. Ar ma geddon. Let me describe the mornings.

Alarm goes off at six. Husband turns it off. 6:45 husband hurls himself out of bed shouting, ‘It’s bloody 6:45!’ I respond, yelling, ‘Why the hell did you turn the alarm off?’ Mini argument ensues. Five minutes later he’s hurtling into the bathroom and I’m sprinting down the passage with brother Eli bouncing up and down in my arms to wake sister Holly and get her ready for school. This Herculean task brings me to my knees every morning (literally as I have to get shoes out the bottom drawer and figuratively because my four year old makes me cry from frustration):

Me: ‘Holly Baby! Wake up. It’s time for school’.
Holly:
Eli: ‘Ggggggggg! Bluuuuhhhh!’
Me: ‘Do you want to wear a dress over your tracksuit pants?’ (Holly
goes nowhere without a dress.)
Holly:
Eli: ‘Mmmmmmaaaaauuuuu!’
Me: *puts Eli on bed and begins to dress Holly under the covers*
Holly: ‘Noooo Mommy! I’m too tiiiiiyeeeeeerrrrd!’
Me: *grunting and sweating as I wrestle pants onto a seemingly drunk and definitely floppy child* ‘Yes well. That’s what happens when you go to bed at 10 at night’. (True story.)

Eventually the four year old Stalin is dressed. Albeit like a schizophrenic homeless princess. But she is dressed. Then there’s hair and teeth to brush. The teeth brushing takes place in whatever part of the house (or garden) she happens to be in. Watching  Peppa Pig? No problem. Doing a puzzle? Sure. Jumping on the trampoline? A little more tricky, but ok. We’ve learnt not to fight the shrinky. Not because she’s a spoilt brat who isn’t disciplined, but because we’ve chosen our battles and to develop her budding leadership skills. And because we have a five month old who cries when his sister cries. So in order to keep the peace at home, she tends to be allowed to push boundaries a little further than she used to.

And when the hair and teeth are brushed, the vitamins swallowed and the tears wiped away (mine), I kiss the husband and the four year old good bye and wave as they walk down the garden path. Then it’s my special time with the baby getting him ready before I walk the 1 metre to my office and start my day. Only to begin again the next morning… And so go the days of our lives.

The next 8 weeks

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I’m in the fortunate situation that I have friends who have babies who are a few weeks and days younger than my own youngest baby, and a friend who birthed her boy just a few weeks after us. The benefits of this are numerous:
– friends who could commiserate with me during pregnancy
– friends who understood the massive ups and downs of pregnancy
– friends who shared similar values and beliefs during pregnancy
– moms who are now experiencing the same thing with their babies as I am
– moms who understand the flood of tears that follows a normal conversation
– friends who aren’t judging because they know the first rule of being a parent: Never judge another parent
– mom friends who just get it

I was chatting to one such mom friend on the way to lunch the other day. We’re both on maternity leave with little baby boys born just three days apart. We were talking about the stage of motherhood that people just don’t get and that people don’t usually talk about. That stage just following the honeymoon period, after 2 weeks. Where you’re beginning the mourning period. Honeymoon period? Mourning period? What, you’ve never heard of them? Let me explain.

The boys

The boys

Honeymoon period
That phase immediately following birth where you’ve been awarded society-sanctioned time to rest and recuperate following the ejection of a human from your own body (through whatever means necessary). This time is used to doze next to a sleepy (also recovering, recently ejected) baby, smelling the top of his head while pumping out liters of oxytocin. During this period there is little space available for any feelings other than euphoria. Moms have, after all, just met the person who has been closer to them than any other person ever will be (other than another baby). There is most certainly no time for guilt, loneliness, or isolation – these special feelings are reserved for the next phase.

The babymoon

The babymoon

Reality sets in
During this less magical, but no less overwhelming, phase the new mom begins to experience a myriad of other emotions. And often, during this time, there is much less support or perceived support than there was during the honeymoon phase. During those halcyon days immediately following birth, attention was rained down upon mom and baby. Calls to congratulate and offer support, advice and encouragement abounded. Friends and family visited. Neighbors sent meals. Then, a week or two passed and the world went on – seemingly unchanged, despite your and your immediate family’s life being turned upside down and inside our (and covered in breast milk and baby wee). The new mom is left alone to cope with a new life, huge overwhelming emotions, waves of rollercoastering hormones, confusing and conflicting emotions. And perhaps, overwhelming love for the new baby.

But there’s also the guilt. For doing and not doing so many things: lying in bed for hours trying to recover from birth, not being a ‘productive member of society’. But this guilt is unfounded actually. Think about why you DESERVE your maternity leave: you grew a human. In your own body, out of flesh and stuff. And, when that human was too big for your body, you birthed it. Are you paying attention ? You birthed a human from your body. You deserve a break.

I need more
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy your work. I love my job and find my work stimulating. I’ve really enjoyed my time exclusively bonding and baby mooning with my boy but I’m feeling now like I need more. Just a few hours work a day will do it. In fact, I’ve been to the office a couple of times in the past week or so and I’ve loved seeing my colleagues and hearing about how all the different projects are going. I don’t feel guilty about wanting to work. I believe it makes me a better mom because I’m more balanced. And I’m fortunate enough to have a boss who is happy to let me work as much as I need to.

 
What next?
I don’t know what will come next. I can only hope the colic will ease (that’s a whole other post on its own!), the cramps will be some less severe and that my little girl realises that her mommy and daddy don’t love her any less but somehow actually have fallen more in love with her since her brother was born. The newborn period is difficult. And we forget how difficult it is as our first little ones get older. But toddlerhood is also difficult. Something I’m trying to remind myself of every day is that parenthood in general is hard and I need to give myself a break. I’m not doing too badly. And nor are you.

Sister and brother

Sister and brother