Three year olds are the best… for the most part.

Having a three-year old is like walking a very wobbly tightrope, it is quite possibly my least and most favourite age, where one minute you are dealing with a breakdown of epic proportions over something as trivial as which jocks to put on, and the next they are telling you they love you and love spending time with you.

Over the past month I have found myself googling more about behavior and mental health than I think I ever have in my life as a parent. Don’t worry, according to my research, Leo does not have a psychological condition, he is just a normal little kid trying to work out how to deal with this world around him and all the emotions that it brings (although some days I still question if I should have things checked out…just in case). It is a rollercoaster and I now finally understand the term “threenager”.

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There is always something; the newborn haze, terrible twos and now threenagers. (Apparently there is also a thing called a ‘fournado’ but we will deal with that when we get to it.) Basically, this is parenting, each stage brings its own quirks and none of us have any idea what we are doing or how we did it once we are through it. Each stage just comes and goes, we survive, our kids survive, and we just do what we can while we can, whatever works.

Now as I am typing this, using the word “threenager”, as if Leo has developed this terrible sulky teenage-esque attitude and behavior, of course he is behaving perfectly, sitting next to me colouring nicely, while his sister sleeps peacefully in her room. You would look at this picture and think I have it all together, this is easy and I am creating this vision of a hard to deal with child when really, I have an angel.
But that is what it is like.
Most days, in fact probably 80-90% of the time, I have this angel. A beautiful boy who uses his manners, who does what he is told, who is a good helper, who plays nicely with his sister and is happy.
Then there is the other 10-20% of the time, it’s amazing how this small amount of time can cloud a whole day of beautiful behavior, but it does. This 10-20% has led me to say things like “this is my least favourite part” and “I don’t know what to do anymore”. Where I usually have a boy who uses his manners I now have one who yells “NO!” and tells me his manners were given to another little boy at preschool. Where I usually have a happy little boy, I have one who tells me he is sad and annoyed at everything and there is nothing I can do about it, I have a child who tells me he doesn’t like me under his breath and who thinks my cooking is yuck (these are the ones that hurt the most). A child who cracks it any time we try to go anywhere, then when we do get somewhere he spends the first fifteen minutes sulking, turns out to realise wherever we have gone is not that bad, and then cracks it to an even greater extent when we leave. It makes becoming housebound seem oh so appealing, but anyone who has spent a few days housebound with two children under three knows that is not the best option for anyone.

The thing that we probably didn’t think too much about when having our children so close together was the fact that we will get through each hard part with one child only to have that exact part following close behind with the next child. In some ways it is good, meet the time of adversity fresh and prepared, knowing that it is all just a phase, a phase that is not full-time and a phase that, in the scheme of things, doesn’t last that long. But on the days where we are really being pushed it makes us wonder what on earth we were thinking in having three children under four.

Fortunately, I think we are at the back-end of this phase. The difficult toddler fights are around less and less, and Leo is returning to his sweet normal self, who causes me to google less and enjoy him more. We still have our moments. I am practicing new tactics of dealing with tantrums, they don’t bother me nearly as much as they once did and in the moments they do bother me, I remind myself of the time Leo came home from preschool, ran to the kitchen and yelled excitedly “Yay! You bought weetbix! And milk! You replenished everything! This is the best day EVER!” No adult would ever react to me getting groceries like that, and it’s one of the many reasons, that even in their really difficult and testing moments, three-year olds are still the best thing to happen to any household.

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Beautiful, Handsome, Pretty

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Leo has a pair of pink, glittery gum boots. He chose them, he loves them, he wears them all the time and every time he does I can guarantee he will get a comment (generally paired with the raise of an eyebrow in my direction) ‘Oh those are nice boots you have on’. Every. Single. Time. He thinks people talk to him and comment on them because they love them as much as he does, and maybe that is the case, but the more cynical part of me tells me they comment because he is a boy wearing a pink pair of glittery boots.
He chose them because they were the better option, as a boy, his colour option was a black boot with a red sole, no glitter, just plain black, then there were the pink ones just sitting there. Imagine that, a two-year-old boy whose parents were making him try on boring black boots while a bright pair is sitting right in front of him. “I want the pink ones” fair enough, I would too. So, the pink ones we got.
Leo has nail polish on his toes constantly, he loves having his hair tied up the way his sister has hers tied up, and he wanders around the house draping towels around him wanting us to say he has dresses on. There is no doubt these things will be great material for his 21st and some may consider it “girly” behavior but he is three, there is innocence in being a child, and there is no way I am putting a stop to any of it.

Something that you do not realise until you have a boy and a girl is that there is a difference. There is a difference to the toys that you get, to the books you are given, pink takes over from blue (or vice versa) and when you speak to them, believe it or not, there is a difference. Something I didn’t think would ever happen or that I would ever do, but I do all the time, even without noticing.
Earlier this week, after Leo’s haircut, I told him he was “very handsome” to which he replied “I don’t want to be handsome Mummy, I want to be beautiful.”

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We are very conscious of how we speak to the kids, we are extremely complementary, and there is no shortage of words like love, gorgeous, beautiful, clever, smart, and funny, flying around our household. We want our children to grow up not being afraid to accept a compliment or dish one out, to not be afraid to tell someone they love them, or that they think they are a good person. So, when Leo corrected the way that I complimented him I was quite taken aback. Did I use words like handsome towards him and not to his sister? Does he think that there is a difference between beautiful and handsome and is one better than the other? Leo asks me if I think he is beautiful, to which he revels in the fact when he finds out he is. All these words, we don’t think that they hold much, but as anyone who has a three-year-old will tell you, they pick up on everything. They notice when you say pretty to a girl and handsome to a boy. They think there is a difference, they think one holds greater steed over the other, they want to be the same as their counterpart, so why can’t they be? What difference does it make if I call my son pretty and my daughter handsome? Because to me they are, they are both so beautiful and whichever word I use to express that to them shouldn’t make a difference.

Yes, all of this will probably change sooner than I would like. School will start, he will get a little group of friends and he will start using words like ‘cool’ (or whatever the kids are saying these days) and my compliments will be shrugged off. I will look back at the photos I have taken of the bright blue toenails and the towel dresses, I will pull out his pink sparkly boots and smile at the fact that they were once his favourite.
Leo may be embarrassed by all this one day, and that’s OK. One day he will have children of his own and he will know that there is nothing more beautiful than seeing the world through the innocent eyes of a child, and, boy or girl they will be the most beautiful/handsome/pretty creation in the world to him.

How is the third pregnancy different?

I swore to myself that I wouldn’t let this third baby be the forgotten one, the one that just has to go along with it all, the one that just has to fit in. I swore to myself that I would make a fuss, that I would do exactly what I had done for the previous two and (now that I am a more experienced mother) more.

How is that going you may ask? Well, lets see….

Lets start with photos of my pregnant self. Pregnancy 1(P1), Leo, I took next to no photos, something I regretted so something that I vowed to change next time around. Pregnancy 2 (P2), Maisie, I documented my pregnancy week by week in photos, it was amazing to see the changes my body went through in sometimes just a week and something I was so glad I did. Now we get to Pregnancy 3 (P3), currently 23 weeks and I think I have three photos, one at about 14-15 weeks, one at 20, and one I took yesterday. Every week I think to myself I am going to make sure I get a bump photo this week and each week comes and goes and still no photo, something that takes next to no time, yet running after the other two and how they seem to jump on me as soon as I bring my phone out, I just have not had the chance.

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Speaking of photos, P1 and P2 had their precious ultrasound pictures displayed so nicely on the fridge until the moment they were born, a little reminder of how the thing that was karate chopping my insides was adorable and squishy. I lost P3’s ultrasound pictures for about two weeks soon after we brought them home, (sorry baby), they have now been found, crumpled by their older sister and thankfully still in one piece. There will be no displaying on the fridge, as Maisie is baby crazy and takes the picture whenever she sees it, so instead it stays hidden in our room, still a reminder of said cuteness, but just a secret ‘hidden from the siblings’ reminder.

The next big difference is the movements, or the lack of noticing them. When I was asked about movements at my last midwife appointment, I said that it didn’t move much compared to the other two, that it only really moved at the end of the day, to which she said “it is moving all day, you probably don’t feel it because of the other two”. Again baby I am sorry, not even born yet and you are already being put last in line because of your older siblings. Since that moment I have started to try and stop when I have felt kicks, trying to show Leo what it feels like, only for him to tell me that he feels nothing and run away.

Names is another issue when you are talking third baby. Especially when you have a boy, a girl and a very opinionated three year old who thinks he gets a say in what the baby is and what it will be called. (Apparently it’s a boy and it is being called Robbie or Michael). P1 we had one boys name, one girls name, to which we used the boys name; Leo. P2, we had the girls name from P1 and we kind of had a boys name but we were not set on a name, luckily we could use our girls name; Maisie. There you have it our number one names for each sex used, now what do we do?
Trying to think of names is always hard. We have a couple, but nothing that we are sold on yet, so P3’s name might be a close to last minute decision, something that was definitely not the case for the last two.

As I said before I am 23 weeks, something I only really know because of the app on phone that I check to tell me how far along I am. I feel like this pregnancy is going so fast now and the weeks are just flying by. My last two I knew exactly how far along I was and when. I knew, as most Mothers probably should, my due date without even thinking about it, and with P3 I am finding myself pausing to think about the August date that the baby is due to come. I tell myself that this is because I know it won’t come on that date anyway so if I say mid-August that is close enough, and not because I have simply forgotten.

I may not have had the chance to take note of this pregnancy as much as I have the previous ones, be that in photos, blogs or even just quiet time, but that is not to say that this pregnancy has been forgotten (even if the due date has been from time to time). I am well aware that once the baby comes it may have to wait for a little bit before I get a chance to tend to him or her, that I will be sharing my already divided time with three instead of two, that it will not be how it was with the others, but I think that is part of the beauty of it. We have two others, that’s part of what makes this pregnancy so exciting. Leo is actually taking it in, more so than he did with Maisie, and tells me constantly how much he loves the baby, and Maisie spends half her time with a stuffed animal up her top because she wants a baby too.
I am sure the next 17 weeks will fly by and P3 will be over before we know it, we will think of a name soon enough, and hopefully will get some more pictures; even if they do come with the baby’s crazy older siblings in the background.

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Work-life. Mum-life.

 

I have never really thought about it before but I have always been a working Mum. After having Leo I went back to work, albeit initially only for a few hours a week, but I was back after about five months. I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked in a field that provides flexibility in my hours, and I have made the most of that flexibility since becoming a mother. I have just never really thought of how working and what you do is so much of who you are.

Since moving I have found it difficult to find work. Well that is not true, I had a job lined up, which happened quite easily, but unforeseen circumstances have meant that that job has now fallen through and I find myself twenty weeks pregnant (almost) and without a job. Yes, I still have my own little business, but this was never the main provider, I almost didn’t even think of that as work because I just squeeze it in around whatever other job I had at the time.
To say I am stressed about it is quite the understatement, I have worked since the moment I could. I am a worker, and with the stress of having no on-going job plus all the wonderful pregnancy hormones,  most days, you will find me in quite a mess by the time we put the children to bed.
Luckily for me, I live with the most stress free man in the world. He is forever reminding me there are worse things that could happen. We have means, we have two beautiful, happy, healthy children, I have a baby in my belly who is giving me nice strong kicks and we both have our health. Things are fine. I know all this, but the worrier in me can’t help but worry.

I have never thought about work so much as now, when I am not really working.
It’s funny, all these articles are constantly popping up on my Facebook about the guilt that working mothers feel. What about the guilt that stay at home mum’s feel? The feeling that you want to contribute, the reminder that you have to give yourself that you are contributing by looking after the children. The feeling that you want to help provide for your family, the feeling that you want to show your children a good example of working in a career that you enjoy and maybe even love. The guilt that you feel because you remember the break you used to get at work, and how you want to be away from the kids for just a little while.
I have two small children, I know I work hard. I have one child who loves to find the scissors, where ever they are and find things to chop (yesterday I walked in to the kitchen, Leo sitting on a stool with the scissors in one hand and his little finger in between the cutting aspect of them: Childproofing does not work for super tall three year olds!!), and another who climbs into precarious places (the bathroom vanity for example), there is no break. Not even a toilet stop equates to privacy and, some days, the nine hours that my husband is away feels like an eternity.
I am not saying I don’t love my job as a mum, I do, I love it, I feel so lucky to get to do it, it’s just some days, going to work was easier.
I never felt guilt in working. I missed them and I worried about them but I never felt guilt.I do feel it in not working.
It is a huge privilege to stay home with the kids. And quite frankly, it is a privilege most of us cannot afford. We all go to work so that we make a better life for ourselves, for our families, not just financially but mentally as well. I am quickly learning it is good to get away from the four walls of your house and the small chasing hands of your children, working gives us the chance to do this.

I can’t help but think that I should take this, “non-working” time to re-evaluate things.
Truth be told, before we found out we were having another baby I was looking at different courses I could do. Then those lines showed up on a pregnancy test and the idea of that was shut down.
I think the hardest thing for me, between the career I currently have and my little hobby of writing there is really nothing that is calling me. I loved what I did and I was good at it, I love writing and I’m going to keep doing that regardless of whether I am good at that or not. But how do you really know what you want to do when you grow up? What if you are already a grown up with a real grown up job, how do you know if it is right? [see being home is giving me too much time to think… and bake but that is a whole other issue!]
I know so many Mum’s go through this. It’s what I call a Mum-Life Crisis, not knowing if the job they had before is what they want to do now they are a Mum. I think that is why we see the birth of so many fantastic small businesses owned and created by Mums.
Like I said, so much of who we are is defined by what we do, and what if who you are has changed since becoming someone’s mother? Your needs change, your priorities shift, your goals are different, or maybe I’m the only one and everyone just stays the same and goes back to the same old job, fitting the baby into the same life they had before pre-kids.

I write this not for sympathy about my lack of job, or to pass my stresses on to anyone else, but in the hope that other Mum’s can relate. Know that they aren’t the only ones questioning what they want out of their work/life/family balance. I know I am not the only one who has questioned their pre-baby self compared to their post-baby self in relation to work and career. And, if you are a stay at home mum just know you need that break that work once gave you too, so go for a walk, go for a drive, do the groceries by yourself and for goodness sake take your time!
As for me and my work, I will probably go back to what I was doing before I had my babies. After all, I do have a job lined up for after baby number three comes, and in the mean time, I will keep trying not to stress about what cannot be changed. Keep applying for whatever comes my way, and importantly and quite easily, enjoying these days that I am getting with my little ones while I wait.

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The easiest banana cake you will ever make

Another week, another Banana Cake.

Bananas are such an easy food for kids. Portable, within their own wrapping, relatively mess free.
My only issue with bananas is I always buy too many. It seems like every second week I plan the shop wrong and end up with a whole heap of spotty, soft bananas and with that I have had to come up with a simple, adaptable and kid helper friendly banana cake.

We are continually changing the recipe for what we have, some weeks the cake has sultanas, some weeks it has hints of cinnamon or honey, some weeks it is laced with yoghurt, some weeks it is sour cream.
The base recipe of the cake stays the same, but if you have followed or tried any of my recipes in the past you will know it is rough, it is all approximate and the cake will almost always (it has for me anyway) turn out somewhat delicious.

My ‘Do as you please’ Banana Cake

Ingredients

175 gr unsalted butter – this amount is never really measured just approximately 175, it could be a little bit more or a little bit less but that’s OK
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3-4 tablespoons of natural vanilla yoghurt or sour cream
2 cups of self raising flour
A good splash of milk, just to make the mixture cake batter consistency (maybe 1/2 a cup or so)
2-4 overripe bananas depending on how many you have (I find it works best with 2-3)
(Additional optional ingredients: a couple of boxes of sultanas that I can only use with the kids permission as they are precious delicious treats in this house, a good tablespoon of honey or maple syrup, a good sprinkle of cinnamon, choc chips if you are feeling adventurous)
Also: my cup size is any random coffee cup that I can grab and I just use the same cup throughout the recipe so that is how I keep’ consistent’ measurements.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  • In a mixer, cream butter and sugar.
  • Once pale and creamy, add eggs one at a time.
  • Once eggs are well incorporated, take off mixer and fold in yoghurt or sour cream. I personally like the finished product with sour cream added, but whatever you have is fine.
  • (This is where I would add honey, maple or cinnamon).
  • At this stage, sift in flour, perfect job for the kids, yes it is messy, but Leo likes making Elsa’s snow so the mess is worth it.
  • This is when I pour in a splash of milk, just maybe a quarter of a cup at this stage just to moisten the mix up a little bit.
  • Mush your bananas, child job. They need some muscles to do it, but i usually start them off and Leo mixes them around, feeling accomplished and important because they are the most important ingredient after all.
  • Pour in and fold through the bananas.
  • (If I were using sultanas or choc chips I would fold through at this stage as well).
  • Pour mix into lined 20-22cm cake tin and bake for approx 30-40 minutes, until cake is golden brown and a clean skewer comes out of the middle.
  • Cool on wire rack and enjoy slightly warm or cold.
    (We have iced this with a simple whipped butter and icing sugar icing but it is perfect without)

As I say, I change this recipe all the time to whatever I have in the house.
I have used wholemeal flour in the past, I have added grated apple, for me it has worked every time and every time the children have loved every last crumb.

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