The Lunchbox

I have a child who loves her food. So much so, that Bubby has been known to out-eat any other children, and sometimes even adults. Two breakfasts, morning tea and elevenses is not uncommon for this child. Her passion for food is one of many things I love about her.

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The lunchbox

Bubby recently started one day a week at a new little pre-school. It’s a beautiful little school with the loveliest of staff who welcome you at the door in the morning, and escort you and wave as you leave through the garden gate. The educators are all dressed in beautician style uniforms that make them appear as though the children are actually attending a day spa for a relaxing pamper session – not a day filled with messy fun. It makes me wish I was four again.But with this oasis of glorious play, came the reality of having to prepare my own child a ‘lunchbox’. Dave and I have had a pretty easy ride on the whole lunch thing where mostly we rush out the door on a weekday morning with a coffee from home and fork out for a yummy lunch from the local takeaway. The girls are usually sorted by day-care with their nutritionist approved healthy menu and as a result, my lunchbox making skills have rarely been called upon.

I was terrified of not sending Bubby with enough food. Or what if she decided she didn’t like something new I’d put in and was starving because I had misjudged my child’s taste buds for that particular Thursday?

I would be the mother who let her child go hungry.

I held this anxiety for months as the start of the school term came near. In preparation I sussed out the sea of lunch packaging options and settled on a trendy stainless steel two-tiered lunchbox with matching small snack container and some reusable lunch sacks in two sizes. If she went hungry, at least she would be eco-friendly.

Obviously I immediately then felt bad that there wasn’t enough Disney paraphernalia included and picked out a hot pink ‘Frozen’ drink bottle* and matching spoon and fork set. For school only though. Can’t go too crazy on that stuff or I’ll never see the end of it.

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The anatomy of a lunchbox

I pored over articles on inspiring lunchbox ideas full of cut-out faces and freshly made sushi.  ‘I could do that. I’d love to do that’ I’d say. Then I’d look over at the washing that hadn’t been folded for a week and think, ‘Or I could finish my coffee while it’s remotely warm for the first time four years’.

In the excitement of Bubby’s first day, I did pull my finger out and make a batch of mini-pasties with her. Cute mini-cheeses and other essential small snack foods were in the fridge ready to be prepped for the big day. But I was still anxious about the logistics of ‘the lunchbox’. To calm myself down I sketched out how to pack the containers. Yes you heard me. I drew which items were going to be put where in the lunchbox assembly.

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Yoghurt and last seasons frozen blackberries with a side of apple for morning tea
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A warm pastie for lunch (for full disclosure the actual plastic lidded container for sauce just wasn’t pretty enough for this picture)
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And because all of the above still isn’t enough to fill her little belly, an assortment of snacks…

The next morning, thanks to my trusty diagram, the lunchbox was assembled with maximum efficiency and prettiness. I had made my first school lunch with pride. Turns out I put too much curry in her pastie but her smorgasbord of little food had kept her happy and my child had not gone hungry.

I’m a couple terms in now and no longer feel the need to sketch out what my child has for lunch. Unfortunately the ‘Frozen’ drink bottle met a dire end when it slipped out of my hands and split open during a ‘does-this-drink-bottle-leak’ test. Because, despite the ‘leak-proof’ promise on the label, it did leak. Bubby and I are now very happy with her new drink bottle with Robots on it.

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The Absolute Favourite

Even before I was a parent I was fascinated by the idea of the special toy.  The Chosen One. The one subjected to the kind of love and attention that other toys can only dream about. I enjoy the look of them. These well travelled, precious companions whose bodies have been wrung limp by the passionate grips of toddlers.

Teddy - loved by Rachel for 37 years.
Teddy – loved by Rachel for 37 years.

Neither myself or my siblings had any such attachment as children. In my case I put it down to sheer laziness. I didn’t have the dedication that it takes to commit to that kind of relationship. None of my toys had the fur loved off them unless you count the Barbie dolls I cut the hair off. I was faithless and careless with all of them equally. I remember being aware though, that such exclusive friendships existed. Inspired books such as ‘Dogger’ and ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’, I made a few feeble and short lived attempts at playing favourites. But as much as I might have wanted it, I could never make it stick.

Ted - loved by Josh for 28 years.
Ted – loved by Josh for 28 years.

How are these honorary members of the family chosen? And how long does it last? I’ve been introduced to favourites who have survived long enough to accompany their owners into adulthood. Others eventually get lost or tossed away, living on only in family folklore.

Hello Kitty has four back up friends. Loved by Boo for almost 2 years.
Hello Kitty has four back up friends. Loved by Boo for almost 2 years.

Any parent can tell you that the favourite toy becomes both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because that toy now has, let’s face it, magical powers. The power to soothe and induce calm and with any luck, sleep. At a time when you need every baby settling tool you can get your inexperienced little hands on, it can be a valuable addition to your armoury. That said, it can also screw you. Lost property boxes are full of favourite friends who have been left behind. Or you can forget to pack them for daycare and then you’ve screwed the daycare staff too. My sister has tried to get around this problem by purchasing five (essential) Hello Kittys. Another friend, whose child likes pieces of material, cut the silk into a number of smaller pieces, so that he never need be without.

Patchy and Pinky. The absolute favourites of Campbell (aged five).
Patchy and Pinky. The absolute favourites of Campbell (aged five).

At my baby shower I was given one of those popular French rubber giraffes called ‘Sophie’. I loved it and quickly decided that this would be his favourite. It was my plan that G and Sophie would be inseparable. This was both super wanky and naive. Sophie is a posh squeaky chew toy probably best suited to a small dog. She’s about as cuddly as a tube of toothpaste. However, I kept popping Sophie next to G in the pram, feeling sure that they would soon be besties by default. One day she was unceremoniously dumped out of the pram and never made it home. Point taken.

One little scrap of Miao Diddy - prized possession of Alex for 3.5 years.
One little scrap of Miao Diddy – prized possession of Alex for 3.5 years.

A few weeks later G had his first really bad cold. He emerged from this period of extra napping and snuggles, with a firm preference for a toy called Duckie. We don’t know how it happened. And even now that G can talk he can’t explain it. It’s just Duckie. He loves him. I didn’t get it at first but I do now. Now the floppy little duck with one lost eye replaced (by Glenn) with a black press stud, has charmed me. The nearest you can come to understanding the attachment is watching this child rub his sleepy face into grotty old Duckie and inhale the (dubious) scent as though it’s freshly baked bread. That and the way he will march right up to anyone game enough to touch his beloved pal, pluck him deftly from their hands and whisk him away to a safe place faster than you can say “Hey, that’s not sharing…”.

For five years I have waited for the relationship with Duckie to wane and it hasn’t. Duckie has outlasted the train phase and the Octonauts phase and is currently laughing in the face of Lego. Puh-lease, says Duckie, your kid can’t sleep with Lego.

Duckie no longer accompanies us on day trips though. And we stopped sending him to daycare a long time time ago after he was accidentally packed away in one of their toy boxes. By the time they rang to let us know he’d been found I was already putting the panicked finishing touches on a bunch of “Have you seen this Duck?” posters.

Basically he’s just so ridiculously special that I don’t know that we would feel if we lost him now.

And when I say “we”, I mean me.

Duckie.
Duckie.

How to: Get fake dressed.

You know what I’m talking about. You need bread/milk/wine badly. No time or desire to dress properly. That takes effort. And anyway you want to shower nicely later when you can, so what’s the point getting dressed now? It’s early, but not quite early enough to risk pyjamas for the mission. Or maybe it’s actually late and you’re already undressed for the day and no way are you putting your bra back on. No. Fucking. Way. So what do you do?

You get fake dressed.

This is a lot easier in winter. A good coat can make pretend dressing a breeze. However, summer time yields the footwear advantage: thongs and other slip-ons. You get extra points for these because you don’t have to bend to put them on. It’s all about minimal effort for maximum effect. And the effect we are after is: “nothing to see here”.

Essential to the fake-dressing kit.
Essential to the fake-dressing kit.

This morning I got faked dressed to drop Glenn off at work, with the idea that afterwards G and I could do some super quick Lego shopping. The Lego shopping would enable me to have a lovely proper shower later as G would then stop driving me crazy asking me about the desired Lego item and be blissfully preoccupied for a time while he put it together.

So this was the fake outfit: hair left as is but could possibly pass as purposely tousled ‘bed hair’ if you didn’t look too closely and see that it was completely flat on one side from being laid on and ever so slightly dandruffy. Hooded and (crucially) zipped coat covered no bra no undies ensemble of very old and holey (not holy. Holey) singlet and leggings that I slept in. No socks. Resisted the delicious lure of Uggs and slipped feet into elastic sided ankle boots. This feels very weird with no socks. That’s ok. If you do this, you’re passable. You can now leave the house and get the chocolate, I mean milk, without being actually dressed. Carry a large bag. It looks more convincing. Walk fast.

Admittedly, fake dressing is made easier for me by the fact that in winter I tend to sleep in tank tops and bad track pants. Like many people, I change into this outfit as soon as I get home. If it’s warmish I can just add a hoodie and thongs to be fake dressed. And then maybe someone might be fooled into thinking my messy/greasy hair is due to a sweaty workout. And that I’m fresh out of a hard core Bikram yoga class and not just fresh out of Kit Kats and making the dash for more.

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I told my friend Rosebud that I was writing about this and she said that fake dressing for her is leaving the house in the track pants she slept in with the addition of “blush and mascara and a lovely scarf”. Blush? Her theory is that people will think that if she’s gone to the trouble of putting blusher on then surely she has applied the same sort of effort to the rest of her person. Admirable logic. I imagine people scanning her, Terminator-style, up and down when she’s in line at the checkout. Their gaze comes to rest on the blusher. Conclusion: this person is fully dressed. Move along.

We agreed that you can’t get fake dressed in patterned pyjamas.  That’s not fake dressing. That’s just going out in your pyjamas. Unless you actually rolled the pyjamas up above your knees and concealed them under a thick dress or coat. But that’s a bit too much effort which is completely against the rules of fake dressing. It’s not done. It’s also actually just a tad crazy. Which we’re clearly not.

You can't fake dress in pyjamas. The deer would give you away immediately.
You can’t fake dress in pyjamas. The deer would give you away immediately.

 

 

My Son is almost five.

Someone said that their five year old has already stopped holding their hand and I was horrified. It was like hearing that someone had just lost all of their teeth. You can never get those back. Not your real ones.

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I’ve taken to carrying G more than I need to and savouring the lingering babyness. I squish-kiss his face and already loathe the time ahead when he won’t want this.

From behind he now resembles a tiny actual man with Glenn’s long torso.  It’s less like having a cute, foreign creature in the house who doesn’t speak a word of understandable English, and more like having a little friend, albeit a very loud, self-centred friend, who rules me, does no laundry and doesn’t lie politely when you cook something awful. An adorable housemate who is maddening but fortunately loveable. Who unfurls all the toilet paper onto the floor and pretends that it fell. Who strokes my face and declares he will marry me. This is both disturbing and strangely sweet. I’m assuming he won’t still want to when he’s twenty but I will definitely remind him.

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It’s mostly a treat that he can now tell us, in no uncertain terms, exactly what he thinks. Upon being told that TV watching is being temporarily relegated to weekends, he informs us solemnly that we are making him very sad. Other things we do to make him very sad include not allowing him to eat pineapple flavoured jelly whenever he wants. And making him shower at least every other day.

Going out for dinner with him is no longer torturous (yessss). I wouldn’t say it was a breeze yet, but certainly not torturous. Sometimes now when we hear a baby going off its head, we exchange a happy relieved glance and a mental high-five that we’ve passed that phase. Sorry about that.

He has started school and now knows people that I don’t know. He’s been in trouble for hanging with the older boys and when I ask him about them and whether they’re good or naughty, he says naughty  with eyes shining happily.

I’m still astounded we have made a person who now talks and mostly makes sense. He’s long winded (like his dad) and says things like, “Mummy, at some point we’re going to need some more cereal”.

No more high chair and melamine dishes or packing a complete change of everything when we leave the house. We don’t have the space to hold on to many old baby things,  I’ve kept some funny spaceship pyjamas and some tiny shoes and that’s it. Everything else has gone to make room for the bigger G.

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I’m a little wistful, because we won’t have any other children. But I’m also clicking my heels gleefully as we give away the high chair and other trappings of babyhood, and use the last of the wet wipes to clean the bathroom.

My son is almost five, which means that I am almost forty. I remember wondering how I would feel about this when he was born. Him turning five and me turning forty. Because forty seemed like a lot then. Now I round my age up so that I can get used to the idea. But I will never do this with him.

Me, a mum?

w_feetGoing back to work recently forced me take a look at my wardrobe to sort out what I had suitable for work, play and home. And while I was in there, tossing things  into a pile that no longer fitted or were just so stained they shouldn’t even have been put away, I had to stop and think – when did I become such a Mum? You’d think enduring seven long months of morning sickness, or even the moment I popped out another human being, I’d realise I was a parent. But it just didn’t feel like it to me. I was still me, I just had a child.  I even encouraged the use of ‘Mama’ because it sounded more whimsical and would have a nicer ring to it than ‘Muuuuum‘ when it was whinged at me from another room. And then after another eight months of morning sickness and another baby, I was still me, just with two of them.

w_baby tummy coffeeThe signs were all there, but it was during a play date down the street at Lex’s place that cemented the realisation for me. Lozzie, our dear friend from younger, single and fancy free days happened to be there. Inside the house was bedlam. Toys strewn everywhere. Bubby and G were tearing around yelling at each other, Lozzie’s little man squealing as he came tottering around the corner and as always, Boo was strapped to my front looking wide eyed and surprised at life. This was not how I remember catching up with Lozzie and Lex. Oh sure there used to be plenty of noise. But from bands, beer and mostly us. Not these little people we had given birth to now creating chaos with every step they took.  I met eyes with Lozzie and I could only shake my head laughing out ‘I never expected this’. This was when it finally hit me. I was a parent. I was a Mum.

And now I see the signs in everything that I am. My collection of black and white striped casual tops and jeans and buying my first jumper since high school. Wearing glasses because I’m too lazy to put contacts in every morning. Thinking that daggy old Birkenstocks, our mother’s preferred choice in footwear for decades, were now not only stylish, but acceptable to be worn on outings outside my backyard. Our 3 bedroom cottage in the burbs with large flat back yard instead of the cute little pad on the fringe of the city. The Subaru Outback, which, when Dave and I first got together gleamed of freedom and adventure, a decade later, with two car restraints, a pram, port-a-potty, balance bike and the Re-Wiggled album on repeat. Freedom is certainly not on this horizon.

w_stripey topsWhat am I going to do about it? Nothing. I’m comfortable with who I am and where I’m at. Sure I might throw in a few less mumsy outfits and outings into the mix, but with my two children, a husband and two cats, everyday still holds the possibility of adventure. They just take longer to go nowhere in particular and most often will include going via the supermarket. And just so long as I’m in my pyjamas by nine thank you.

Leave me alone!

One of the first things that you realise when you have a kid is that you will never be alone again. Not truly. I’m not talking about alone as in having a bath by yourself or a nice long walk with the dog on the beach. Or being on the bus. Or even walking around town with your earphones in so that you don’t have to talk to anyone – these things don’t count because they actually re-enter your life again pretty quickly once you’ve had the baby (only you never take them for granted again. Ever ). What doesn’t generally resurface is the long periods of alone time in the house.

Oh. Yeah.
Oh. Yeah.

If you asked Glenn what he misses about his past life he might mention that he’d like to be able to buy Coco Pops or sleep in all weekend and binge watch TV programs. But me, I miss being alone.

I’m well aware that I look back on my twenties with rose-tinted glasses (because most of it was undeniably shit) but one of my favourite things to reminisce about is my daggy old flat in West Hobart which had a garden and an outside loo. I had recently split with my boyfriend and would spend whole weekends padding moodily around this flat, playing music, reading trash and smoking on the back steps or in the bathtub, blowing smoke out the large window. The seediness was so very pleasing to my mental state. I ate jaffles or cheese and biscuits for most meals and napped at inappropriate times. Pip was living just around the corner in her own daggy little flat and it was the only time that I could remember us both being single at the same time. Although on a quick side note, I do remember her beseeching me (I’m a big mouth) not to tell anyone that she quite liked Dave, whom we had just met.

The default, on weekends at least, was that I was alone unless I arranged not to be. Fast forward to now – where the default is that someone can walk casually into the bathroom while I am trying to do private bathroom things. At any time. Even the dog wants to accompany me everywhere and likes to sit on the bathmat while I shower. If I refuse, he sits right outside, where I can see his indignant outline through the frosted glass door. Alone time is not your own if you’re pissing someone off. It should be time where no one knows or even cares what you’re doing.  That’s the whole point.  Would I swap this life for the one I had before? No, of course not. But like the Rat with his beloved river in ‘Wind in the Willows’, I like to think about it.

Could you say no to this face?
Could you say no to this face?

If I want alone time I have to arrange it. I have to plot it. And in my mind at least, I have to deserve it.  Last week when Glenn wondered aloud if he should take G up to visit his parents overnight my ears pricked up. A window of opportunity! I asked myself if I could justify not accompanying them and quickly came to this conclusion: abso-fucking-lutely.

Arrangements were made. The morning they were to leave, my excitement was at its peak. My romanticism of alone time was in full swing.  I had hoped that G would be at his worst and whiniest just before they left so that my alone time would seem all the more thrilling – but naturally he was deliciously cute and outrageously helpful. He even packed up his sprawling train set without being asked (this never happens). He was unfazed about going away without me and eager to go see the grandparents, whom he adores.

Alone time enhancers.
Alone time enhancers.

I wanted Glenn to be annoying so that I could delight in his departure. Instead he was was sweet and unperturbed by my obvious excitement at the prospect of  simulating a life where perhaps they didn’t exist. He said he’d miss me but didn’t seem to begrudge me the couple of days of freedom I had ahead.

They both kissed me happily. Lovingly. Then got in the car and drove off.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t walk back in the house and rejoice momentarily in its emptiness. I won’t go into details of what I really like to do with my alone time and I don’t think it would interest you much anyway.

But whatever I was doing, predictably, after about four hours I missed them stupidly. Because I’m not a heartbroken twenty-something anymore. I live with a boy and a man and a dog. And it’s pretty good. Maybe we just need a proper bathroom door.

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The Tired off

Glenn and I are having a tired off.  This is where we moan dramatically about how we have each, in different ways, been worked to the bone today. That we have been very stressed and not had a moment to ourselves, each fervently hoping that the other will assume the major parenting role. If he slept badly, I slept worse.  Every declaration of exhaustion is countered with more confessions of physical and mental fatigue, in a subtle (or not so subtle) game of tiredness one-upmanship.

As a general rule we take pretty good care of each other.
As a general rule we take pretty good care of each other.

This is by no means always the case.  As a general rule we take pretty good care of each other. When one of us comes through the door of an evening looking poorly, they are mostly sent tenderly in the direction of the lovely big bed to rest and protected with phrases like, “Don’t go in there. Daddy’s having a rest (from us).”

Or joy of joys – “G and I are going out. You stay here and have some time to yourself. Don’t do anything.”

My default relaxation strategy is always to wait until they are completely gone, have a long bath with the door open and read a book while listening to something that Glenn would hate (like Rod Stewart). Maybe a bit of eBay or Veronica Mars. Maybe wearing one of the facial masks I can’t wear when G is here because it frightens him.

A couple of oddly quiet hours pass and by the time the two G’s burst back in the front door I have started to miss them and want them back.

This helps.
This helps.

But back to the tired off.

Glenn says G has not stopped talking all day.  I say how can that be bad?  Glenn assures me it was very hard work.  I give a little eye roll which implies he is being a bit precious.  It’s annoying and I know it.  Glenn is doing big sighs and moving slowly.

I worked a long day.  I hint that it was more stressful than listening to our child’s non-stop chatter.  I hint that it was probably less fun that taking a child swimming and then going out for pancakes and then probably having a nap.  I flop on the couch and stare forlornly towards the mess of toys on the floor.  Mess –  I am implying with my eyes – that is making me feel even more tired and should be cleaned up by someone who is not me.

It’s not a competition! Glenn says.  But sometimes it is, I think. Sometimes the little shit in me wants to lay out the tasks of the day end to end and compare them in terms of difficulty and fun.  Just because I’m feeling tired and tetchy.  And because if I’m honest, I am jealous of the number of days he gets to spend at home with G.

In our grumpier moments, my friend Rosebud and I have declared that work stuff  trumps staying at home with child, in terms of tiredness, unless the child is sick (in which case it’s way harder). Unless of course its my turn to stay home.

Calm down, I’m only saying all of the above because I worked today. Which means today – I win.