I Took the Kids To

Animal Feeding at Basil’s Farm and Winery

(Swan Bay, on the Bellarine)

“You guys are the best group I’ve ever had!” The man who is leading us through the feeding of the animals declares excitedly.

I don’t believe him. “Really?” I ask. Well, I guess we have been pretty good. Only one kid has breached the rope line. Multiple times. Every time he does, I whisper “Ooh, rebel.” There are certainly more adults than children but with most of the kids under three, I guess it is pretty amazing that no one has run under the feet of the llama yet.

56917776_433359000747612_994613236324106240_n$20 at Basil’s farm and winery gets your child an animal feeding session, and lunch with a drink.

Starting at 10am means that basically there is no one else around except for the people there to feed the animals. When we arrive, we are taken to a ‘Safety briefing’, where we learn a little about the different animals we will encounter, and the importance of the rope line.

The kids all stand on the edge of the rope and learn to cup their hands to hold the feed. The man in charge comes along the line and with his hand, imitates a chicken’s beak pecking in each child’s hands so they know what they are in for. It’s quite aggressive (like a real chicken) and I begin laughing uncontrollably. “This is what the chickens will be like!” I explain to my daughter.

We finally move down to the animals, and parents with prams are asked to park them at least 10 metres away from the feeding. I consider what my actions would be should a llama or sheep charge at the pram. I don’t really come to a sound conclusion but the prams are fine, the animals are not the charging type, and I needn’t have worried.

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The sheep aren’t that excited about the feeding process – they seem a little weary of the whole thing – but we do get a couple down for a nibble, and the llama too. The parents and grandparents break our backs trying to keep our kids’ hands cupped with feed whilst kneeling down behind them. I immediately try to take a selfie and am subtly admonished by the guy in charge. “At this stage, if parents could just make sure you are holding your kiddies’ hands out in a cup for the feed…”

After the sheep and the llama, we move on to the chickens. One chicken makes a beeline for me and tries to snuggle into my chest. “What are you doing? Hey!” I thrust the feed out to the chicken’s face but it’s not interested and continues to try to snuggle with me. I decide it’s someone I must have known in its past life. “Who… are you?” I ask. The chicken spies the silver beet my daughter is flinging around her head, and runs for it.

With the animals content and fed, it’s time for the kids to receive their promised lunch. My daughter has chosen the pancakes and juice. I have a coffee and carrot cake. She pretends to ride the toy tractor in the sand pit, “I’m DRIVING! I’M DRIVING!!”

The sun is shining, the grass is green, the coffee is good, and the kids are happy.

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Check out the Basil’s Farm website

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I Took the Kid to

Students’ Strike for Climate

It feels merely years ago that I graduated high school, headed off to uni, did some travel, and was ready to change the world. But it was 17 years ago.

My generation was going to do the fixing. We would be so well informed, so conscientious. We would wrestle the power from the older generation because we knew what was at stake. Now I’m 34. My generation are not in power yet. We are the generation of workers, fathers and mothers. There’s so much work to do. Women of my generation are still busting our guts for equality, and still being killed by our partners weekly. Our Indigenous brothers and sisters are still far worse off than us, and their children less educated and more incarcerated. We are nowhere near being in control of the world; nowhere near wrestling the country from the hands of the middle aged white males who still rule.

So, as a teacher, and a mother, I am buoyed by the actions of students this week. I mean, my generation aren’t doing anything to fix the world, so I sure as hell support them in their endeavours.

With my daughter in childcare, my 8 month old son and I set off for Geelong town. We didn’t make it in time to meet the crew at Richard Marles’ office (damn!) and, knowing the strikers were heading off to the Town Hall at 10am, at 10:08 we were power pram walking up the wrong street (oops), chasing protesters we couldn’t see. When we turned up towards the Town Hall, sweat dripping off my brow and the only activist t-shirt I could find (Girls Just Wanna Have FunDAMENTAL RIGHTS) sticking to my back, we had the strikers in sight. A public servant offered me a “Good morning!” as I pushed my ridiculously heavy infant up the hill towards the flashing police lights and the sounds of some good in-unison chanting.

When I was in Year 10, I participated in the Walk for Reconciliation and when I was 18, I walked in protest of the Iraq war. In the year 2000, my Japanese teacher quietly divulged to us that she wasn’t sick one day – she was off in the city protesting the tax being placed on sanitary items. She was/is still my hero.

These children that my son and I went to support were striking FOR THEIR LIVES. This is their planet, their climate, their livelihood. We listened, happily, inspired to their speeches – one by one, student by student, they got up and explained to the crowd their fears and dreams. From the mouth of a 14 year old, a famous quote: “When the leaders are acting like children, and the children like leaders… you know change is coming.” The moment was lost when a state Upper House member got a hold of the microphone and started banging on about how important it was that students took the situation out of the hands of the 50 year old men in charge… like him. The crowd were confused about whether to applaud or not. “SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT??!?” someone yelled from the back. He went into some political campaign rambling. “GIVE IT BACK TO THE STUDENTS!!!” He  acquiesced, to all our relief.

The students break into music and dance. My son bobs around in my arms. So many faces, so much passion. “Maybe it will all be okay?” I look for hope in his little face. He blows a raspberry in agreement.

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Bluey – a review

There’s a new level of peculiarity that comes with Bluey appreciation: you’re at a BBQ with other parents and all of you – ALL OF YOU – are talking about a kids’ show. Not in the “oh it’s just so educational” or “it actually has a good theme song” kind of way, no, you are talking about Bluey because YOU love it. You all admit to watching it without your children there. One of you even confesses to sending a message to your elderly neighbour, just to let her know about it.

Bluey is a 6 year old Blue Heeler and the animated show follows her daily play with her younger sister Bingo and her Dad, Bandit. Her mother, Chilli, often appears just to say that she is heading off to work, to play hockey, or to go for a run. The family live in a Queenslander surrounded by the sounds and sights of the tropics.

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What makes Bluey so amazing?

  1. It’s funny for everyone. While your child is laughing because Bluey has given up on Fruit Salad after dreaming she was a fruitbat, you’re in hysterics at Chilli’s line delivered for every parent everywhere: “7 o’clock!? That was a big sleep!”.
  2. The music is beautiful. The music makes every moment of every episode.
  3. Bluey’s relationship with her dad, is relatable and speaks to the generation of the parents watching. Toffee apples: “Old school, nice!” A reference to Indiana Jones – a game where Bandit rolls a Yoga ball down the hallway and the kids jump out of the way – “Raiders.” In ‘Keepy Uppy’ the neighbour’s dad runs to hit a balloon back over the fence, “I’ve done me hammy!” Bluey also builds a link between what we had as children – a world without screens – and what we want for our children, but in reality have to work quite hard to provide in this world of ‘video’ games and TV shows on demand. It reminds us of making up games to play inside when it’s a bad weather day (Taxi), begging our parents for change to play the claw machine in the local pub (The Claw), and guessing what your sibling or friend is saying underwater(The Pool).
  4. A respectful family unit enjoying creative and wholesome play, is what makes Bluey a lesson in good parenting. Not everyone is a natural parent. Many of us struggle with what to say and do at those pivotal moments in our kid’s development: when they are disappointed, angry, not sharing, or how to speak up when play gets too rough for them. And games – trying to think of games to play is a bloody difficult task for some of us. Every episode of Bluey shows us the trials of parenting, and how we can act towards our children when our actions and words come from a place of love. Bandit and Chilli are not infallible, but they do their best.
  5. It certainly is refreshing to watch a show where the father is the main carer of his kids. He is there for the getting ready for bed routine, and for the dawn walk to the monkey bars, but still he is always trying to catch a glimpse of the cricket scores on TV whilst wrestling his two daughters. He’s nearly always carrying a basket of washing. Friends often watch a whole episode of Bluey for the first time without realizing that Bluey and Bingo are both girls. Bandit rarely addresses them as “girls” and his terms of endearment are words like ‘squirt’, ‘buster’, ‘mate’, and ‘pint size’.
  6. The best thing about Bluey is the touch of magic that is sprinkled into each episode. The second best thing is my two year old daughter’s facial expression when she is watching that magic unfold. I thought she was a comic genius when one day, out of nowhere, she stuck two bobby pins under her top lip, clapped her hands and yelled “I’m a walrus!” Later, I realized that Bluey does this in the Takeaway episode – a moment that literally last TWO SECONDS. Enough time for my transfixed daughter to take it in, and replicate.

Whilst I love every single 7 minute episode of Bluey created, I am eagerly awaiting Season 2, or a Bluey movie. For the moment, when my daughter demands an episode for the 700th time (usually Markets), I have an arsenal of play ideas at my disposal. “I have a balloon we could blow up – how about a game of Keepy Uppy?” “No,” she says, “How about… Shadowlands?”

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I Took the Kids to

Werribee Zoo

After my 2 year old had chanted NO BUS for the eighteenth time I realised that maybe it was time to bail. But we were on the bus. And as a mum who generally has always respected her daughter’s wishes, it was hard to force her to sit down and tell her that it was going to be fantastic – for the eighteenth time in reply.

We just had to get moving. I had lured Miss 2 into the Safari Bus queue with a cookie, and kept her there with the promise of more in my pocket. (I literally held the cookie in front of her nose and walked.) Now, as she was squeezing out of her seat belt, and screaming, my grand idea of neutralising her, and the 6 month old on my lap by trapping them in a moving vehicle for 35 minutes was rapidly fading. As with many a grand idea, I found myself singing under my breath “seemed like a good idea, at the time”.

That’s right, I came to the Werribee Zoo with two kids under two on a thirty degree day because, you know, that’s what parents do sometimes when they’re desperate to get out of the house, and want a long enough drive that their kids might sleep.

When we are finally moving, it feels like a lifetime before we see anything. I wonder if I’ve picked the wrong side of the bus.

Over the hill into the savannah scene and suddenly there are four Giraffes ridiculously close to our window – my daughter is hypnotised. “Thank you Jesus” I mutter under my breath, possibly heard by the guy across the aisle who had called me Super Mum earlier (I decided more in sympathy than admiration).

We circle some zebra and rhinos and Miss 2 is refusing to remain seated. I break the rules, by breaking open a rice cracker pack. I unwrap it under my seat and pass it to her like a black market transaction. “QUICK” I whisper, “EAT IT QUICKLY.” She takes one bite and goes to throw it out the window. Toddlers.

I learn that the collective noun for zebra is a ‘dazzle’ from the occasionally hilarious man narrating our tour. I wonder if he can see us through the mounted cameras at the front of the carriage – my daughter is standing up again but I have one arm wrapped around her. I decide that I could legitimately plead ignorance about not knowing the rules as she had done a runner from the queue when he was listing them all over the loud speaker.

When the bus finally returns to the Safari Station, my daughter is somehow still safe inside the vehicle, and my 6 month old is asleep on my breast, sweaty, but happy. After escaping the bus, which upon reflection she agreed she had enjoyed, Miss 2 seeks refuge in a coin operated safari car and refuses to move.

“I’m driving!” she yells, to which I reply, “yeah, me crazy.” The lady at the adjacent café table definitely hears that, laughing into her coffee, and I let my daughter drive for as long as she likes.

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The longest third ever

CW – miscarriage talk

It’s 3am and the light of my phone is bathing my face in the otherwise dark room. My partner rolls over to look at me, bleary eyed and probably half asleep.

“Babe. You need to sleep.”

“I’m just looking up the chances of miscarriage at 11 weeks. After a clear Harmony test.” I say this tongue in cheek because I know it will annoy him, but every word of it is true.

“Oh. That’s great.” These words are breathed out in a kind of sigh, and they are blanketed so heavily in sarcasm, I know he is quite awake.

My husband thinks I have a morbid obsession with miscarriages. He’s right. He also thinks that using Google to self-diagnose, and trawling though countless forums about miscarriage experiences is basically the worst thing I could do. He’s probably right about that too. He’d be shocked if he realised the extent to which I have self-diagnosed and trawled though! Whilst I am no member of any forum, such as babycenter.com, I have – no joke – spent hours and hours reading thread after thread of the angst, fear, hope and joy that comes with trying to conceive, failing to conceive, conceiving but losing, and birthing. You should see my Google history.

I started experiencing anxiety after the birth of daughter a year ago. It has waxed and waned, but at the moment is hanging around 24/7. It doesn’t bring panic attacks and it doesn’t stop me from doing things. It could, but I don’t let it. It just physically annoys me and mentally drags me down, like the rock that’s sitting in my chest right now.

I know everyone thinks I should loosen up and stop worrying about miscarriage. But all those people that think that have never experienced what I, and so so many women have experienced. Ours came before our daughter, it was our first pregnancy that we lost. So our daughter is our little rainbow pocket rocket. Getting pregnant again though, now, is an anxious experience of course, but it is somewhat buffered by the existence of our sweet little girl running around me all the time. However, I just assumed that I would miscarry again. I don’t know why, I just did. I told a friend in Mother’s Group, “I just feel like miscarriage is part of my story.” What a terribly pessimistic thing for me to think! But I know I think it for the same reason that women who have lost, fight the urge to get attached to the attachment inside them. Why women don’t announce until they feel sure, so sure, that maybe this one will stick for good. For self-preservation. The friend in my Mother’s Group said that maybe it will always be a part of my story because of the effect it has had on my life, but it doesn’t necessarily leave me doomed to have more.

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Stories of miscarriage can trigger a reliving of my own experience that throws me off for days. When someone close to me lost a pregnancy a year after my own miscarriage, and when I was close to popping out our rainbow, I was sucked into the black hole of grief that had taken me some time to escape. When a pregnant friend had some bleeding and messaged me, concerned, I was of course so worried about her. She was given the all clear, after a doctor offered her an ultra sound to check out what was happening. This threw me into a bizarre emotional rage that my doctor, when I had seen her about my own bleeding and cramping, did not offer me this. She did not even use a foetal doppler to check for the heartbeat… and I know there is one at the clinic! I cried at home, so full of rage and resentment at the realisation that perhaps if my doctor had have performed this simple check, I could have been made horrifically but at least immediately aware that my baby was gone. I could have had the warning. I could have had an operation. I could have avoided losing my baby in the toilet of my workplace, Friday night, sometime between 3 and 4 o’clock when most staff and thankfully all students had gone home.

This fit of regretful, sad rage only lasted twenty minutes or so. I even vowed that next time I saw my doctor I would ask her why she didn’t check my baby’s heartbeat. Did she follow protocol? Why did she just let me go home with basically a “well there’s nothing we can do, except wait and see” prognosis? There is clearly no point – no point – in pursuing this, but for those twenty minutes or so I was completely irrational and angry – I was a different person to who I actually am.

Because we lost our first baby at 10 weeks, getting to this magic number was an all consuming task for me. I counted down, day by day. I waited impatiently for the scan and DNA test we would be doing. My partner came with me on the day, with our one year old. We started the scan, and straight away were presented with a little blob on the screen, heart beating away inside. One sac, not twins, and a good looking little blob.

Then my worst nightmare, the words “Hmmm, this doesn’t look like a ten week old foetus though”. My heart dropped, I stopped breathing. And the voice in my head was saying “It’s dead. It’s gone. You’re gonna miscarry again.” Then another voice, “Stop it Jacqui – YOU CAN SEE IT ON THE SCREEN. There’s a heartbeat.”

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It was 8 and a half weeks. But it was fine. My dates were wrong, with an incredibly long cycle and an astoundingly late ovulation. The receptionist cracked what she thought was a joke, “A week a half early!? Whose fault was that?” I think I muttered something like, “Um, my body’s?”.

We discussed what date to return for the blood test, as we couldn’t do it until I was actually 10 weeks. I stared at the calendar on my phone but didn’t really see it. Tears welled up and my partner whispered to me, “Hey – it’s okay, we just wait a little longer.” I looked him in the eyes which made me tear up even more, “It just took so much for me to get to this week, and now we are being rewound…”

I realised that my entire being of energy had gone into making it to the day we would see our little bean on the screen, see the heartbeat, and see that everything was looking okay. My whole mental and physical capacity had been used up, to get to this moment, and now I was deflated and forlorn.

But everything was fine, I had to keep telling myself, so there really wasn’t anything to be upset about.

And so we went back to 8 and half weeks. I let the weeks pass trying not to dwell too much on the time frame involved. I continued to feel my anxiety constantly, with no let up. All the time. I mentioned to my partner that maybe I should go to the doc, and see if I needed to take something. He pointed out that maybe it would disappear after the 12 scan, that my body was subconsciously on edge, even if I felt like I wasn’t stressing. I went for the 10 week blood test, and had a very, very anxious wait until the results came back a week later regarding Chromosome issues – all clear. Then there was just a week left until the 12 week scan, right in the midst of my family’s December Christmas celebrations. We told everyone that we were expecting, always with the caveat of “So far all looks good, but we are just waiting to see the baby again at the scan in a few days.”

Before the scan, my partner asked if I was nervous. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t. Maybe because I had had shocking nausea for weeks, and so I was pretty reassured that the hormones were still kicking around, and so was baby. I also think that with the extra week and a half, I had fallen into a sort of resignation. Whatever would happen, would happen, and I’d find out very soon.

The doc silently scanned away, checking the screen and taking screen shots and measurements. Just as I was about to ask (probably with some frustration) how everything was looking, she said all the things you want to hear. “Great measurements, looks perfectly normal, healthy looking baby” etc, etc.

And so here we are. We have made it to 14 weeks today. And my anxiety did peel away with the celebrations with family, and a slow and relaxing post-Christmas break of doing not much, and being away from home.

And today is therefore the beginning of the second trimester, and the end of the longest pregnancy third I’ve ever experienced. I’m still scared, but I’m feeling good. How lucky are we to have another little human on the way? So, so lucky.

Why did I write this blog? Not really sure, just a shout out to those who endure a tough time when pregnancy comes around again but you have lost before. I am fully aware that I wrote a very similar story last time, with my rainbow pregnancy, but I guess this is a pain that doesn’t really ever fix itself.

 

Baby Butterflies

“What are you most worried that it will be?”

“Heart failure,” I say, to which my doctor nods and mutters “of course”.

“And maybe… anxiety?” I laugh because I think it’s funny to be worried that I have anxiety. My doctor laughs too.

I had been having a weird feeling in my chest on and off for weeks before I did anything about it. I had been trying to identify what sort of feeling it was and what was bringing it on. It wasn’t a pain. My heart was beating deep, not fast, and my breathing felt not restricted, but not quite right. It was kinda like butterflies in my stomach except the butterflies were pewter and stuck up behind my sternum.

Sometimes I would pick up my baby and walk into the kitchen where my partner was making dinner and feel the heavy-heart-beating-weird-feeling. Holding my ever growing and ever weightier baby I would say to him, “See – now, I’m getting it now!” This reinforced the idea that my heart was going to combust, my lungs fail or I had exhausted my chest and body in the first half year of being a mum.

I booked an appointment because one day while I was driving, I realised that I had had the weird-heavy-heart-butterflies for a full 24 hours. I needed to be responsible I told myself, for my daughter. I couldn’t wait this one out. Always fully booked, I had to wait a few days before I could see my doc. I took it easy, stopped driving and stayed home, didn’t pick up the baby too much, tried to rest. My sister messaged me every hour in case I had dropped dead and my baby was left alone. This sounds dramatic – but I was really actually very concerned.

The day I finally got to the doctor, I suddenly felt safe! I was so sure that something drastic was going to happen, that sitting there – about to get answers – I felt a great relief. The doctor poked and prodded and listened to my chest. “It’s like… I’m not short of breath… but I could just get a little bit more.” She nodded knowingly and motioned for me to return to the seat at her desk. My doc had previously proven herself a bit of an alarmist – I thought for sure she would send me for all the tests. Every test. It would be exhausting, but necessary. I could count on my doc to leave no stone untur-

“I don’t need to send you off for heaps of tests or anything,” my suddenly non-alarmist doc was saying.

“Oh?”

“Hundred percent anxiety symptoms,” she said smiling her warm but I-have-a-lot-of-people-to-see smile. “So now, you don’t need to worry… about it being anything serious. You can focus on trying to fix this. Your heart is not going to stop. Your lungs are fine.”

The doc asked me how I’d been feeling generally. I told her I was feeling fine. I guess that’s why I didn’t think it would be anxiety. I manage fine.  Then I remembered my little paranoid period where I would fully imagine someone killing me whenever I turned a corner in my house. So I told her about that. I told her how I felt pretty weighed down by the world. Not my personal world. The Trump world. It was the morning of the Manchester concert bombing. “Well, this morning’s events would not have helped that,” she said.

I’ve felt pretty good since my baby came along. Hardly ever down, pretty positive, very supported. This anxiety thing is a whole new ball game for me – depression, I know how that feels, but this is different. I knew I lost my Zen a bit after the baby came: I started to feel this new sort of stress when my partner and I would take the baby out, anywhere. To Bunnings, to the supermarket, to Queensland. I started saying things like “I just feel real stressed when we leave the house.” Hubby would ask why – if she cries, she cries. If she poos, she poos. If we forget something, we’ll deal with it. Even when I was with him I felt a deep concern about getting in the car and heading out with the baby.

So I guess that’s around when it started. And to be honest, having someone say, look you might have post-natal anxiety – meant that I could immediately feel relief that I wasn’t dying from something more serious, and start to take action to try remedy it. [I messaged friends and fam after the docs – “I have anxiety, LOL. I really shouldn’t say LOL, but I’m so relieved I’m not dying!”] I’m a mentally strong person, but I haven’t always been very organised. Feeling anxious about getting out and about has caused me to write more lists, pack my bag early, and talk through exactly what I need, where I will be, what time I will leave and how it will all work out.

We all know people who have crippling anxiety that stops them from living normally. I can live normally, I just recognise the pewter butterflies when they attack, and try to calm them down. Sometimes I feel like I’m a little allergic to my baby though. It usually hits me when I am getting ready to leave the house with her. Sometimes just as I open the front gate. Today I was merely rushing around doing things and the butterflies were in manic mode. And still, it hits about half of the times that I pick her up.

She’s my little allergen.

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P.S. If you need help, make sure you see someone. 🙂 And look out for your new mum friends who might be staying at home a little too much, or seeming a bit stressed about the new little life in their life.

A childhood memory*

I don’t know how my mum found out about it. I guess she saw me from the lounge room window as she scanned the front yard for her youngest born. She would have checked the backyard first. Why would I be in the front yard? That was not somewhere I was meant to be. At any rate, by the time she saw me I had reached top base. She might have seen my feet dangling, perhaps spied my golden curls through the foliage, several metres off the ground. Our front yard tree, which overlooked the next door neighbour’s driveway was split into three bases: Third, second, and first, or bottom, middle and top. I was the youngest of three and each base could barely hold a child’s body comfortably, especially my brother’s – he was 5 years older than me.

I think I was 4 when I climbed to top base, without my mother knowing. Unfortunately I don’t remember the climb or the view that day. Just my mother telling me off in front of the kitchen sink, as her friend who was around for a cuppa watched on. See, we were always climbing trees, and my brother would sit at top base, my sister at the middle, and I would always be at third – barely a hop off the ground. I don’t remember my motivation for reaching the top, I’m sure I just saw the way was clear, and thought I would.

My mother didn’t smack me or anything. She didn’t even yell. But her face, level at mine, was struck with worry but tinged with relief. But what if you had fallen? I remember her asking me. But I didn’t, I say.

The big old tree was cut back to bottom base when the neighbours wanted to build a garage. That time that led to my mum holding me close in the kitchen, lovingly chastising me, was the only time I was able to climb to the top of the old tree in the front yard.

 

*may not be accurate; I’m sure Mum will let me know.