The toddler survival kit

It seems I blinked and now I have not one but two toddlers on my hands. With two boys, aged 3 and 1, I have certainly learned a thing or two about life with toddlers.

In no particular order, here are my must-haves for surviving life with toddlers.

A hand-held vacuum

Toddlers and mess go hand in hand. Get used to it. Meal time mess used to be restricted to the floor under the highchair but toddlers prefer to eat on the go. This means nothing is safe! The floors are constantly covered in crumbs, squashed fruit and week old sultanas. Don’t even get me started on the couches, walls and windows. Enter hand-held vacuum. You can easily whip that baby out and quickly clean up the floor, lounge or child’s lap without the fuss of a bulky corded vacuum.

A bubble machine

Kids LOVE bubbles. A manual wand type situation will work just fine but if you really want to up your bubble game and keep your toddlers occupied while you remain hands free, you need to get a bubble machine. These suckers can pump out hundreds of bubbles a minute all at the push of a button. Genius! Just be careful where you use this. If you are out in public you will very quickly attract all the children within a 500m radius.

A “beach” caddy

Toddlers require lots of crap. Yes, even more than babies if you can believe that. A simple trip to the park or family outing requires precision planning and packing. Between food, drinks, toys to keep them amused, changes of clothes in case of accidents or mess, hats for in the sun, jackets if it gets cold. The list goes on and on. One of the best things we have ever bought was a “beach” caddy from Kmart (hint, most of the things on this list can be purchased at this wonderful store). It folds up and is big enough to hold all of the crap and a kid or two as well. Every time I use this I get comments about it. God send.

Snacks… a lot of snacks

I never really understood the power of snacks until my second toddler. Toddler one can easily survive a week on nothing but milk and kinder surprises but toddler two LOVES his food (got it from his mama!). Snacks can be used for loads of different purposes including a diversion tactic, tantrum diffuser, boredom cure, oh and sometimes even for hunger.

A happy place

Toddlers are assholes. This is not new information. But if you’re like me you always thought that seemed a bit harsh. Nope. It’s true. Toddlers have a way of breaking you down. They may be small but they can make even the most mindful of mums lose their shit from time to time. Your spirit will break a little every time you have to wrestle a toddler to the ground to brush their teeth or drag them out from under the desk because they think running away and hiding from you at bath time is hilarious (or is that just me?). At some point you will need to walk away from your child, close the door and punch the air or scream into a pillow. Then find your happy place before emerging to try again. Don’t worry, bed time will come. Eventually.

There is never a dull moment with toddlers around that’s for certain. And though none of the above is ground breaking, life changing advice, hopefully it helps you to navigate the mine field that is life with toddlers whilst keeping a shred of sanity in tact.

What are your toddler survival tips?

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When did lawn care become so exciting?!

Something strange has been happening to me lately. I don’t… I mean… I just… I don’t know what’s happened to me. Like I mean, I swear it was just yesterday when, but now I’m, and it’s like…

Okay, here it is… It would appear that, somehow, for some reason, I now not only get excited about tools, but I also get an absolute kick out of yard work and lawn care.

WTF?!?!?!

Seriously… what the actual f***?! Since when have I cared about tools and lawn care?

So just to give you some background on this situation, I can honestly say that I barely owned a full set of screwdrivers up until the last 6-12 months. In fact, my “tool box” for the past 3 years has been an old cardboard Huggies Nappies box. And if I pulled out all the tools I owned up until 6-12 months ago, it would consist of a handful of unmatched screwdrivers, a broken hammer, an electric drill with no drill bits, one pair of pliers and a bunch of allen keys that I’ve been steadily accumulating from various furniture purchases over the years. How pathetic is that.

But now… oh my word… Now, I simply can’t go to Bunning’s without getting a full blown, raging hard-on for all the goddamn sexy tools that are so beautifully displayed throughout their wonderfully glorious isles. I’d probably never use even a quarter of the tools that Bunning’s have in stock, but all I know, is that I need them ALL!

I am so obsessed with tools that I not only have a growing collection of sexy, tough, manly tools that I can use to do manly things in and around the manly house in a manly way. But I also have my first ever tool box. Yup, that’s right folks. At the ripe old age of 34 years, I have finally got my first tool box (early Father’s Day present by the way, thanks fam!). And not only that, but it would seem that every time I head to Bunning’s, I literally have to control myself so I don’t come away with a boot load full of new tools. Come to think of it, I actually think Renee has even had to tell me to step away from the tools, and leave the store on a couple of occasions.

And as if that’s not the worst part, in comes the yard work and lawn care.

The only lawn care I was ever even remotely interested in (and interested in is a big overstatement) was whipping around the yard as quickly as I could once a month when I begrudgingly had to mow the lawn. No grass catcher. Let’s just whip around as quickly as I can, leaving clumps of freshly cut grass in my wake. As for the edges, well forget it. I didn’t do edges! Who has time to do edges!

Now however, not only is our lawn beautifully manicured, but the edges are perfect and squared off, I’ve put a garden out the front of the house which I get in and weed regularly, and I’ve created a pebbled walkway with stepping stones out the back from the garage door through to the laundry door. Plus, my latest pet project is building up the inside of our fence for some additional sturdiness and privacy. And you want to know what… I HAVE ENJOYED EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF BEING OUT IN THE YARD DOING EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE THINGS AND I AIN’T EVEN MAD ABOUT IT!!!

Oh man, what has happened to me?

So I’ve heard it said that you go through three phases when it comes to yard maintenance. In your twenties you just don’t care because there are more interesting things to do with your time, so you do the bare minimum to keep it looking at least semi-respectable. In your thirties and forties, you are in PEAK yard maintenance mode. You love your lawn, you love lawn care, and your yard has never looked better. But then, once you hit your fifties and sixties, you go back to not caring about it and start seriously considering concreting over it all so that you don’t have to worry about maintaining it any longer.

Now I don’t know about fifties and sixties (obviously), but I can certainly say that I 100% agree with the fact that I, being in my mid-thirties, am knee deep in peak ‘I love my lawn’ territory. But not only that, I am just in peak I want to fix and maintain everything territory.

I’ve never felt so alive!!!

With that said, I need to go. I haven’t been out in the yard this week and I’m itching for some yard work to do!

Also… Bunning’s trip anyone?

Our babies are growing up (sniff, sniff)

Sometimes I feel quite sad that I no longer have a baby. Jesse is three so basically a grown up and Jasper is heading towards 16 months and embracing full-blown toddler-hood.

Sometimes I miss those blissful new mama days when you feel so exhausted but so elated at the same time. I already feel a bit out of the loop especially since I’m surrounded by new mums and first time mums in my job.

But, as much as I miss it, I also absolutely adore the stage we are at right now.

The other day I had a lovely lunch date with my boys and I was relishing in the fact that, though they are still dependent on me, its very different now to life with a new baby.

We sat in a cafe (kid-friendly of course, let’s not get too carried away!) and enjoyed a meal together. Well, I ate a meal while Jesse consumed an entire giant cookie and Jasper shared my chips and dropped his sultanas all over the floor. There was also a few clean ups of spilled beverages. But all in all it was really nice.

Then afterwards they both went in the play area and played together while I looked on. I didn’t have to intervene. I didn’t have to nurse a baby while trying to keep an eye on a toddler. I could just sit. And be quiet. And sip my coffee. And watch as my two little boys played and laughed together.

In that moment I really appreciated how things are right now.

Now, I do need to say that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. Just days before this I was absolutely hating life as I tried to hostage negotiate my way through the basic morning routines.

I still have just enough night wake-ups to keep me coffee dependent and a heavy reliance on nursing bras and easy boob access. So I’m not out of the woods just yet.

As crazy as it sounds I will miss all of that. But getting past the baby stage and seeing your babies grow into little people is also pretty great.

Parents of daughters: the dating my daughter but is getting old

I’m sure you’ve heard people say it. You might have even said it yourself.

You know, that inevitable comment made by parents of girls. Something along the lines of how she’s not allowed to date until she’s 30 or how Dad will greet her future boyfriends with a shotgun in hand.

This so-called joke annoys me so much! I know it’s just a thing people say and it’s meant to be funny and light-hearted but really? I mean what message is it sending our daughters and sons?

As a Mum of boys the insinuation that they will be somehow unworthy of dating these daughters or that they will be incapable of respecting girls and are to be avoided at all costs is insulting and ridiculous.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a teenage boy and I know there are a fair few douche bags out there. But there’s loads of parents like us doing our best to raise exemplary men. Men that will treat ladies like Queens. Men that any parent would be lucky to have as a son-in-law.

On the flip side to this, what about the girls? What is this teaching them about themselves or their male counterparts? That we don’t trust them? Or that they are incapable of making good decisions? Surely, we are striving to raise daughters who can make quality decisions about who they associate with and eventually date. I know if I had a daughter I would want to raise her to be confident in herself and her judge of character. I’d want to teach her to respect and value herself and trust her instincts. The attitude that boys are somehow the villain or are predators of girls is just unnecessary and damaging.

I know, I know, it’s just a joke. Well, I’m not laughing.

Stop The Criticism

Paw Patrol… Paw Patrol…

Whenever you’re in trouble…

Paw Patrol… Paw Patrol…

We’ll be there on the double…

This is the song that has been on non-stop repeat for the past two weeks straight in our house. That’s right, Jesse is officially knee deep into not wanting to watch anything else other than Paw Patrol. Not that we mind, because at least it’s given us a break from Thomas the Tank Engine (They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight).

And so watching as much Paw Patrol as I have over the past couple of weeks, I was curious to read more about the show that has become somewhat of an international phenomenon! So it was straight to the most reliable source of knowledge I could think of… Wikipedia.

Interestingly, one of the things I was most interested to find out, was what breed each of the dogs were. I mean, it’s easy enough to guess the breeds of Chase, Marshal and Rubble, but what about the others? Is Skye some sort of chihuahua type thing? And what the hell kind of a breed is Rocky and Zuma?

As I was reading through the details of this media powerhouse, I wasn’t at all surprised when I stumbled across a section detailing criticism the show has received.

The main criticism that has been directed toward the show, is regarding unequal gender representation because the team of dogs is primarily male, and includes only one main female. Some by the name of Cat Conway said “the police pup, firefighting pup, builder pup, sea-rescue pup and whatever the hell Rocky does are all coded male, because of course you couldn’t have a female police dog, could you?”

COME ON PEOPLE!!! It’s a children’s show about dogs who talk to humans and drive cars. This isn’t real life!!!

Why is it that we feel the need to complain about everything. Why can’t we just sit back and enjoy a television program, or a movie, or whatever it might be, without having to pick it pieces and find something to criticize.

Peppa Pig has been criticized for a number of reasons from having an episode where they treated a spider named Mister Skinnylegs as a friend, to Doctor Brown Bear setting unrealistic expectations for real doctors. Moana has received a raft of criticism ranging from accusations the movie appropriates Polynesian mythology, through to degrading the diversity of the Pacific.

WHY CAN’T WE JUST ENJOY SOMETHING!!!

I mean, getting back to Paw Patrol, it didn’t even occur to me that there was a supposed gender imbalance among the pups. And I’m sure if you go around and ask the target audience about the Paw Patrol crew, most of the kids that watch the show probably don’t see gender in any case. All they would see is a bunch of pups having fun and rescuing people.

I think it’s about time we stopped, and re-learn how to enjoy the entertainment that is available to us without having to find something to criticize.

So sit back, and enjoy Paw Patrol for what it’s meant to be. A fun children’s program about talking pups who help the people of Adventure Bay!

Oh god, maybe I’m a little too into this show myself!

Paw Patrol… Paw Patrol…

Whenever you’re in trouble…

Dear Mums, you’ve got this!

The other day I was escaping the Brisbane heat at the local shops with the boys. We stopped by the indoor playground and I sat and watched Jesse play while feeding Jasper and then he eagerly crawled off to join his brother.

At that moment I was struck with a memory of being at this same playground when pregnant with Jasper and I remember wondering how I was going to cope with two children in moments like this. How could I tend to nursing a baby while keeping a watchful eye on a toddler? It seemed incredibly daunting, impossible even.

I then thought back to a particularly difficult night with Jesse. He just wanted to be held. My back was aching but I held him close anyway. His bottom propped up by my pregnant belly and his long legs draping down either side. I sobbed quietly as I wondered how I was going to cope on nights like this with two babies. How could I possibly give them both the comfort they need if they need me at the same time?

I smiled.

I can do it. I am doing it. What seemed so impossible is now normal.

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Soon after, I struck up a conversation with a fellow Mum watching her children play. Two little boys. And she was nursing a 3 week old baby boy. Three boys under three. I was in awe.

I could tell she was exhausted. But the smile she wore as we chatted told me she would not have it any other way. I asked her how she was doing. We talked about the challenges of breastfeeding and the joys of raising boys. I was struck by the rawness of our conversation. Two complete strangers but we just understood each other.

It’s a crazy thing this being parents thing. Being a mother. It stretches us to our limits and so often passes them. It breaks us down and builds us up at the same time. It makes us want to do better, be better. Having children is like constantly looking into a mirror that exposes everything about us. All of our flaws and imperfections. All of our funny little quirks. And suddenly we realised how much like our own parents we’ve become.

I guess all I’m trying to say is mums and dads, you are amazing! You’ve totally got this. And on days when you don’t, tell someone. Even if it’s a stranger at the shops. She’ll get it.

Life Before and After Kids

I miss my old life.

I miss OUR old life? Yes, I’m pretty sure he said ‘our’.

I mean, does anyone really have a life when you’re a teenager? We’ve been together since we were 19.

I guess it doesn’t really make a difference which word he used. It still sent a shock wave through my body and hit my heart with a thud.

I suppose it’s normal for parents to feel this way. I miss parts of our life before kids sometimes too.

I (vaguely) remember being able to just pick up and go out on the spur of the moment with no hesitation. Now, it’s a good solid hour of intense planning, preparation and packing just to leave the house for an hour at the local Westfields.

I remember dragging out the single mattress to the lounge room floor and snuggling while we binge watched our fave shows (on DVD might I add), drank beers and ate junk food until we were nearly falling asleep. Now we’re lucky to get in an episode of anything without interruption.

I remember the days of spontaneous weekends away. Spontaneous sex. Spontaneous anything really. And now we consider it a good day if we remember to kiss each other a few times and maybe even go to bed at the same time.

But ugh… is our life now so terrible?

I also remember a time when we longed for a baby. When every month was met with disappointment and the ache of not knowing whether we’d ever have a child.

And now we have two. Two beautiful, healthy, cute-as-all-get-out baby boys.

Two is a game changer, no doubt. A toddler and a baby is down right exhausting sometimes. It has required a big adjustment for the both of us.

And when they go to school we will have to adjust again. And when they’re teenagers we will have to adjust again. And when they grow up and leave home we will have to adjust again. And when they have families of their own we will have to adjust again.

I always try to remember how fleeting this time is. Pretty soon they’ll be too big to carry. They won’t need us to help them go to sleep at night. And they won’t want us to kiss their knees better or wipe their runny noses. They won’t always be dependent on us for everything and we will gradually get back pieces of who we used to be.

And then, we will miss these days. We will miss scooping up a baby in our arms. We will miss tiny hands wrapped around our fingers. We will miss all the bodies in our bed at night and waking up to their little smiles in the mornings. We will miss little arms wrapped tightly around our necks and hearing the sweet sound of baby giggles.

So, my dear Husband, please hang in there. This season of our life will soon give way to the next one. I know it’s hard right now. Trust me, I feel the weight on my shoulders (and my hip) each day too.

But I also feel the magic, the beauty and like I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

I count it all joy for everyday I wake up next to you. And no matter what season of life we’re in, that I can count on.