The Problem with Preschool

2018 marks a big year for the Morrison family, Avery in particular. You see, in February, Avery will start what we in the Nation’s Capital refer to as “Big School”. What we are actually talking about is Preschool, or for those of you who live in most of the other parts of the country – Kindergarten. It’s the year before you start actual school. Ugh can we just have a nationally standardised school system already please?

Anyway, I digress.

Next year, Avery will be breaking free from the shackles of childcare and making her way into the public school system and she can’t wait. She asked for and received a new backpack from Santa this year, and we just braved the Boxing Day sales with Noonsie (AKA Grandma) for a new pair of school shoes.

It all sounds a little too fantastic, doesn’t it…

Of course. Here it comes…

IMG_5212
Swinging into the new year like…

BUT

2018 is going to be a major pain in the butt for the parent’s of the Morrison household, because Preschool in the ACT is only five days a fortnight. Two days one week, three days the next and repeat.

I’ve been chatting to many a parent over the last couple of months to get a feel for how they are going to navigate this weird and wonderful year in the schooling calendar and for most, it’s easy. Pay for a day a week at childcare and then only use it once a fortnight, or pop the kids over with the grandparents once a fortnight for free babysitting family bonding time.

IMG_5211
The Pre School year is a balancing act for many Canberra families

At this stage, Avery is booked into childcare, but to be perfectly honest, I’d rather burn a $100 note once a week than continue to put her in childcare for another year. I’m ready for her to move on. And as for the grandparent option, well… That’s just not an option for us. We don’t have any other family here to rely on. *Cue the violin please reader* Yes, we chose to move away from our families and set up in Canberra, but there’s still a massive amount of jealousy when I hear people talk about how their parents look after their children. I have tried in vain to convince my Mum to move to Canberra, but alas, she’s staying put interstate for the time being. Probably until the kids are both through Preschool and she knows it’s safe to come here without being hit up for a regular babysitting gig. Smart woman.

So where to from here? Ben and I are toying with the idea of us taking a day off once every four weeks, but realistically I don’t think we can actually afford to do that and we have to save our annual leave for the bloody school holidays (don’t get me started on those.) We could look at a nanny, but again, there’s the whole money factor. I’ve tried to hit up parents who have kids in school the same days as us to see if they want to do a sharing arrangement between the four parents so we would only have to take off a day every eight weeks, but haven’t had much success with that yet either.

IMG_5210
Someone is hanging to start Preschool. It’s not me, give you the hot tip.

So, here we are, with six-ish weeks to figure something out, I’m a little bit stuck. Not quite sure how this is going to work. And to be honest, I’m probably going to let it be Future Amy’s problem, because Present-Day Amy is still a little full and tired from Christmas to be thinking too hard about schooling schedules.

Sorry ’bout that Future Amy x

 

Your Services are No Longer Required: That Time I was Fired from Breastfeeding

Last week marked the end of an era for me. One night, for the final time in my life, I unclipped that little hook on the top of my bra, and fed my youngest. One more chance to feed her to sleep. A final moment of hearing those little slurping noises. The last time I’ll watch as she dozes off in my arms, getting comfort from the milk my body has made, just for her.

I was one of the lucky ones. Able to feed both of my babies for 13 and 14 months respectively. I took it for granted the first time around. It was easy. The milk came in and for the first time in my life, I loved my breasts. I thought, yes! They finally have a purpose! Avery was a star. Perfect latch, power feeder. 13 months and only one bout of mastitis when I stopped feeding her that last pre-bed feed.

IMG_0286
My little milk monster

Knowing things could be completely different the second time around, I still secretly expected it was all going to go smoothly again, because how could it not? My body was a milk-making machine! Ha! Niamh had other ideas. A tongue-tie that we waited a month to snip just in case it self-corrected. Trauma from the bad latching led to nipple vasospasm (where blood vessels tighten and go into spasm, so that blood does not flow to the nipple). Searing pain for months not only during feeds, but pretty much all the time, resulting in pumping exclusively on my left side for a month straight. It seemed like I was losing the battle. I almost gave up. But if you know me, you know I’m a stubborn thing and so I persevered. Maybe a little longer than I should have. It almost broke me, but I kept going. And now here we are, 14 months strong. Time to hang up the maternity bra and pack away the reusable breast pads. I quit. Well, more like Niamh quit.

Photo 23-4-17, 10 48 29 am
I wish I knew these were a thing earlier…

In my head, I had this vision of the last time Niamh and I would share our special feeding time together. I would decide that this was the final feed. I would spend those precious moments watching her as her eyes got heavy and her breathing went from rushed and needing to get in milk as quick as possible, to calm and quiet as she drifted off to sleep. I would let her sit there for a moment longer than normal and reminisce about our feeding journey (ugh that word. Not a fan) in the dark with my precious babe sleeping in my arms, boob still in mouth.

Of course, that’s not how it went at all. A last minute flight to Adelaide at 7pm saw Niamh refuse her feed on the plane. “It must be all the noise, lights and distractions,” I thought to myself. She’ll be right tomorrow night. And so I tried again the following night. Still, not interested. Arched back. Tears. No dice. And then once more the following day. Complete and utter rejection.

IMG_1173
One of our final feeds. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Devastated.

So here we are today, a week on. Our journey (again…) has come to an end. To my breasts, I say thank you. You gave my girls an amazing start to life, providing them with the nourishment and comfort they needed during those first precious moments and beyond. Sometimes it amazes me what our bodies are capable of.

Now… Where did I put those small, lacy bras with the underwire?[

(Just kidding. T-shirt or sports bras fo’ life!)

Amy x

 

Feature image courtesy of Kayleigh McGlynn Photography

The Strength of Vulnerability

Let’s wind back the clock a couple of years. 2011 to be precise. My Husband and I have just sat my Mother down to tell her we’ve decided to end our marriage and we’re getting a divorce, 23 months after saying “I do”. I’ll never forget the look on poor Mum’s face that night. Her jaw nearly hit the floor. She was completely and utterly blindsided. Our friends were the same when we told them. Shock. Disbelief. No idea that this was on the cards.

“You were off my radar Amy. You were the one I didn’t need to worry about anymore.”

Surprise! My life was falling apart and very few people had any idea. Why? Because I was strong! I was resilient! I was… stupid.

I was really good at keeping up appearances and making it seem all was okay, until of course everything was shit. My world was broken and I needed help to fix it, but those around me were too shocked to know how to help and I wasn’t willing to let them even if they wanted to.

Eventually, I healed and my world became “unbroken” over time. I learned to love again and to be loved in ways I never knew I was allowed. But I also learned a valuable lesson in the importance of vulnerability. Allowing people to see inside doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong. It gives you an army of friends and family who are able to be there for you and help you when your chips are down.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, I can imagine you looking at your screen quizzically as you read this.

“I’ve literally seen you cry more on Instagram this week than I did when my dog died last Autumn. Seriously, I think you know how to share your feelings…”

And you know what? You’re right. There have been a lot of “real” moments on my social media these last couple of weeks. My chips are down. My resilience is very very low. Lower than it’s been for a very long time. And I’m a little ashamed of the fact that it’s all due to a couple of back to back colds and me feeling crappy. But that’s the thing with resilience. It’s not always the big stuff that breaks you. Sometimes, it’s not being able to taste food for a month straight because you just can’t get back to 100% and your baby has just been diagnosed with Scarlet Fever and you didn’t even know that was still a thing and you’ve had so much time off of work lately and your new boss is surely going to be annoyed at you because you’ve got that time critical project that you need to write that brief for that you haven’t started yet and your eldest comes into bed with you every night and you just need eight hours of unbroken sleep for once but your husband is away for work again this week anddddddddd take a breath! Ahhhhhhh. You get the picture. Life is messy sometimes.

I made a decision not too long ago that I was going to share the bad times with everyone as well as the good. Call it an experiment of sorts. My way of forcing myself into being more open. Because if I don’t, I might just go back to 2011 Amy, who is great at pretending her life is like a magazine picture.

If this week has taught me anything, it’s that support is everywhere. I’ve had so many amazing people reach out to offer a kind word, flowers, a small gift. It’s filled my heart with all sorts of warm and fuzzies. I’ve also had others reach out to let me know that they have been feeling the same and thought they were alone, but seeing me go through something similar has made them realise they’re not.

IMG_1161
When people know you’re having a rough time, they do really lovely things, like send you ALL THE PRETTY FLOWERS

There are people everywhere wanting to be strong to support you, if you let them. You just have to be brave, and open yourself to the possibility. Vulnerable is the new strong.

Amy x

 

The Rise of the Mombies

It’s Monday morning. I think. It’s as I push the pram in one hand, hold a large latte in the other and encourage Avery to keep up with my snail-like pace as I schlep from Woolies to Coles in search of… something, that I first notice it. I don’t know why I haven’t seen it before…

Mombies. Everywhere.

And it appears I might be their newest recruit.

We live in a messy combination of active wear and sleeveless puffer-vests over jeans. Our hair has its own name, the “Mum Bun” which almost certainly contains traces of our kid’s breakfast. While our faces might contain traces of BB cream, a quick swish of mascara and Go-To’s Pinky-Nudey Lips (because Zoe Foster Blake is our spirit animal) the odds are that we didn’t have time for a shower, so you can forget the idea of makeup. There are bags under our eyes and attached to our prams which probably only contain about 1/3 of the items we actually needed to buy today because in our sleep deprived state we’ve forgotten what we actually needed and those caramel and pretzel cookies looked really tasty as I passed through the bakery section.

You can recognise Mombies by their glazed eyes and the way their bodies slump over their prams. Tired, worn out and stuck in the continuous loop of the thanklessness that is raising small children. Don’t ask her what day it is. She’ll probably only know if it’s a weekday or the weekend. But I tell you what – she will know every goddamn word from the theme song of ‘Ready Steady Wiggle”, complete with hand actions and she’ll proudly admit that she kinda likes it too. It’s catchy you know.

IMG_1114
How to spot a Mombie in six simple steps
If you don’t see them coming, then you’ll certainly hear them. Just listen for the sighing and accompanying cries of, “Stop touching that.” “Hurry up please!” and my personal favourite, “Why can’t you just listen to me for once?”

I remember when I used to care what I looked like, wearing things like high heels and shift dresses to work everyday. I would go to the same mall as I did this morning, usually at lunch time to buy myself something pretty because I had all the disposable income in the world and #imworthit. I would look these fascinating creatures up and down and tut-tut them. “Ugh, Mums let themselves go sahhhhh bad.” I would think. “I’m never going to be like that”. I’m not going to be a regular Mum. I’ll be a cool Mum…

*insert eye roll here*

Ironically, I now see the childless masses look at me in their current season clothes, unreasonably high shoes and hair that glistens in the fluorescent light of the shops with the same look that I used to give those Mombies. I’m being judged. As we pass, I give them a knowing look. “I used to be you” I whisper under my breath. Karma is coming my pretty little friends.

When you’re a Mombie, it feels like it’s never going to end. This is your life now. Mum buns, eye bags and buckets of coffee fo’ life. I’m in the tunnel and I can’t even see the bloody light at the other end. I’m not even sure I’m heading in the right direction to be honest with you.

IMG_1112
Seriously. Caramel and Pretzel people.
But then there’s a second group of people I see looking at me. Mums with older children. When they spot me, I see a different look come over them. Is it nostalgia? Not quite. Maybe there’s a twinge of that. But there’s more to it than that. It’s recognition. Recognition that they’ve been where I am now. They understand that the fact I’ve made it out of the house with everyone fully dressed is an achievement. “Go Mama! You’ve got this!” I half expect to see a Hunger Games three finger salute to be offered as we pass each other with a coy smile.

It takes me a moment before I realise why I’m smiling back at them. They offer what no one else can. A glimmer of hope. They’ve been in the never-ending tunnel and somehow managed to make it to the other side. Sure, the shift dress and high heels might have made way for a waterfall cardigan and a kick arse pair of orthopaedic loafers, but they are dressed. They have a hair style. They probably slept past 6am! They have made it!

And Mama, so will we x

 

 

Feeding Made Simple – Munchkin Latch 

Flashback around 9 months ago. Breastfeeding isn’t going great the second time around, I’m desperate for a break, if only for a couple of hours and I’ve been pumping my heart out to build a stockpile so I can go out and get that alone time I so badly need.

The time has come to get those precious few hours to myself and surprisingly, Niamh doesn’t take to the three year old bottle we’ve pulled out of the back of the cupboard. I watch 150ml of breast milk get poured down the drain. A couple of days later we try again, this time with a different bottle we’ve gone out and purchased from the local supermarket. Same result. another 150ml of that precious milk, down the drain. Third time’s the charm right? No, no it’s not. More milk down the drain, along with it money from another failed bottle purchase and finally, there goes my sanity too. Glug glug glug. You know the saying, “There’s no use crying over spilt milk?” Ignore it if you’re talking about expressed breast milk. Cry away.

Next thing I know, I’m sitting in a crumpled heap, crying my eyes out proclaiming, “I’m never going to be free!”

True story. I kid you not.

I thought feeding babies was supposed to be easy?

Thankfully ,things got better after that point in time, but I’ll never forget that feeling of helplessness. Anyone who has a baby who is fussy with bottles will tell you that trying to find the right one can be one of the most stressful times in a tired, frazzled, new family’s life.

Thanks to this experience, I’m always in search for products that are going to make my life easier and the transition from breast to bottle to beyond a non-event for Niamh and for the rest of the family too! Here are a few of my new favourites;

First up – Munchkin Latch Sterilize Bags 

Wow. Just wow. For both of the girls, I had the largest monstrosity of a steriliser that took up the best part of a cupboard in my kitchen, not to mention a lot of space on the bench in those early days where EVERYTHING needed to be sterilised ALL THE TIME. Not anymore! Enter the Latch Sterilize Bags. Small, portable and re-usable for up to 30 uses. Big enough to hold two wide mouth bottles or the parts for a double breast pump and a Cool-Touch grip that ensures you won’t have to worry about burning your fingers (something I did plenty of with ol’ Bertha that I previously mentioned). These bags were a welcome change in our house. Farewell Bertha. You’re services are no longer required.

IMG_0856

Most Importantly – Munchkin Latch Bottle 

The Latch Bottle does what others claim to do and fail – mimics the breast in movement and function. Niamh took to the Latch nipple with ease. The flexibility of the Latch nipple moved with Niamh’s movements without disrupting her feeding, which for an easily distracted baby is amazing. The shape of the bottle was easy for her to hold herself (she’s a fiercely independent woman you know) and big enough to hold a full bottle without being so big that it became heavy and cumbersome. The anti-colic valve at the base of the bottle allows the milk to flow without bubbles travelling through, helping to reduce gassiness. There are a range of nipples available, ensuring that the Latch Bottle will grow with your baby from the newborn stage, up until they are ready to ditch the bottle and move to a transition cup.

IMG_0942

Lastly – Munchkin Latch Bottle and Valve Brush 

This was Avery’s favourite product in the range (no surprises there really). The size and shape of the brush ensured that she was able to clean the bottle, nipple and anti-colic valve with ease. The suction cup bottom was also a big hit for Avery (because, fun), as well as for me (because, germs). Lastly, and one of my non negotiables – it’s dishwasher safe. Hallelujah!

IMG_0830

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with the Latch range. It’s functional, easy to use and does what it promises to. It helps that it’s easy to look at and is fun for older kids to get involved in the cleaning side of things. I’ll definitely be recommending the Latch range to my new Mama friends.

You can learn more about the Latch range here or just head straight to your local Amcal Pharmacy to pick yours up!

This has been a sponsored collaboration with Munchkin, but we do not endorse or work with any products or brands we do not use and love.