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She loves life

and pushing the boundaries

She loves helping

and swooping in to take over

She loves adventure

and mischief

She loves organising and tidying

and collecting little bits of ‘treasure’ from the footpath

She loves parties

at inappropriate times

She has such a capacity for love

even with my sometimes controlling, harsh response

What do I choose?

spilled milk, wet bathroom floors and secret chocolate eating with joy and laughter

or tight restraints, convenience and unwavering obedience with constant hostility?

Thanks be to God

who has given me a child of extremes

I’ve kicked against this stark choice

with stubbornness that proves the origin of hers

And landed on joy.

[Rob wanted me to clarify this is by me, Di]

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Travelling with our 4, 2 and 6 month old has taught us a few things about how to do it and live to tell the tale. A friend asked me for some tips so here they are Tamara… and anyone else who might like a few pointers.

1. Packing

Pack as much as you can and put it in the car the night before. Leave a small bag to collect bits and pieces the morning you leave (eg pyjamas and night-time teddies, toiletries).

If you want to travel light, you need 3 sets of clothes (thanks Anna F for this tip) – one to wear, one in the wash, one dirty. You have to wash every day if you do this. Add extra sets if you don’t want to wash, want to wash less frequently, are going to a place where it will take 2 days for clothes to dry or are toilet training a child.

Other than clothes, think about taking:

– portacot for a baby (although a mattress on the floor with baby sleeping at right angles to long side works OK)

– for baby: nappies, wipes, wrap/s, bibs, portable high chair, teaspoons if eating, carrier (macpac baby backpacks are very good for travelling) and/or pram

– for everyone: sunscreen and hats and/or rain gear and/or warm coat/s

– food: lots of nutritious snacks and water bottles. Try to avoid food with lots of sugar, artificial stuff or preservatives (read McDonald’s). This sounds counter-intuitive when stopping at maccas has become part of the Great Aussie Journey but think about it – all the stuff in that food makes the kids’ behaviour scatty. Examples are fruit like apples that take a long time to eat and aren’t too messy, muesli bars (chewy ones take longer to eat) and corn thins (a real winner – tasty and healthy). We also take breakfast and lunch to eat on the way or on arrival. For breakfast, we have Weet-bix bites and lunch, bread and butter and salad of cut capsicum, tomatoes, cheese sticks, cucumber (not sandwiches that can go soggy).

– portable DVD player (optional): this can be good for longer trips when you want to get that last hour without the kids screaming or you having to stop.

– activities for the car: books, paper and pencils (not textas that can mark your car), favourite CDs

2. The drive

Plan to stop at least every hour and a half and consider getting further in a stretch a bonus. Do some research or ask when you get to a town about where there’s a playground. Have a good stop of at least half an hour while you’re there. Use these stops for trips to the toilet but don’t eat. Eating is too valuable as entertainment in the car! But if you’ve got drinks, give the drink just before you arrive at the stop or once you arrive if you’re worried about spills in the car. Then do a toilet run just before you get back in the car.

For us the best plan is to wake up, collect your last things and go. If you have a baby that needs lots of feeds still or is likely to poo first thing, feed baby and wait a little while for a poo so if s/he goes to sleep in the car s/he won’t wake up due to hunger or bowel action.

We have breakfast in the car – Weet-bix bites in plastic bowls on laps. This can take at least half an hour. Together with the excitement of the journey, you can usually get an hour down the road before you need to stop.

For amusement in the car, use food, CDs, singing, and take paper and pencils for drawing and/or colouring in books. And a rotation of toys for baby.

That’s all I can think of for now. Hopefully this is a good start.

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7 week old dream baby

Callum’s almost 7 weeks old now and here I am typing a blog post! Aiden and Aoife are delightful children but the first 12 months were very difficult with both of them. I can remember at this stage with Aoife, having a shower was nerve-racking. I would wash at express pace, hurried along by her screams, audible even over the sound of the water. I didn’t get more than 3 hours’ sleep in a row for about 10 months with her. When she was 6 months old I vowed never to have another baby, such was the level of stress.

But here I am at 8.30 at night leisurely typing away. The only sound I can hear in the background is the drone of white noise. We put the radio on to the static between stations and the shhhhh is almost irresistible for our little one. Robin Barker, author of baby bible ‘Babylove’, says it’s normal for babies to have an unsettled period for 2 hours or more a day, where they cry for no reason. Callum had one of those, until we tried the ‘pure’ static of the stereo rather than the clock radio and from then on, the longest unsettled period has been half an hour, if that.

So am I going to say that all newborns need white noise? No. For a start, Aoife didn’t respond to it at all (or anything besides Rob holding her upright and running on the spot). Plus, I learned during the previous two adventures that giving hard and fast rules to parents having a hard time should be avoided. Even with good intention, which I’m sure the advice was given, it made me feel like it was my fault that I was having no sleep and couldn’t comfort my babies. But I would say that options are always good, so if you have a newborn who won’t sleep easily, try white noise (also look up ‘Happiest Baby on the Block’ for more tips).

And if you’re like me and you’re not into letting newborns cry to sleep, don’t believe that this is the only way to solve your problems. Callum has cried to sleep on a few occasions (eg at supermarket in the pram when I couldn’t stop to pick him up – but crying was only for about 10 min) but mostly he goes to sleep in his cot with white noise or rocked in our arms, and still he can just drift off in the bouncer while we’re having breakfast, with no bouncing or other help. My point is, crying to sleep obviously works for some, perhaps many, babies, but these babies might be ‘good’ babies like Callum anyway. He would probably respond to any sleeping regime we tried on him. But some babies just need to be cuddled. Rob says ‘some babies do, some babies don’t, some babies need a lot-a-lovin’ and some babies don’t‘. If you want to cuddle your baby, go ahead. Sure, you might be ‘making a rod for your own back’, but this habit can be broken later when you’ve had a bit of sleep and can cope with the screaming. If you’re happy letting them cry, go ahead. Let’s not tell each other in our opposing camps, though, that this is the ‘right’ or only way. Yes, I’m bravely entering the trench warfare that is babies and sleep, routines, discipline etc.

So why is Callum so much easier? I can only put it down to God’s kindness. Sure, I prayed for a good labour and a baby who slept and/or fed well and happily got all three. But, believe me, I prayed at many a 2am night call with the other two that God would ‘make this baby sleep’. It’s not my prayer but God’s decision that in previous cases I could have difficulty and in this case relative ease. In retrospect I am thankful for what felt like torturous sleep deprivation. I learned what it means to be a servant: ‘yes, I will get up to help my baby even though I’m exhausted’. I still remember a verse from the Bible (that I hardly read at the time) that would echo in my head that was all about following the example of Jesus by considering others better than yourself. In those mind-bending middle of the night moments I would consciously make myself consider my baby more important than myself as she screamed at me. And while at the time it really was awful, I am thankful now for that lesson. My pride needed that battering.

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Sacred Santa

Has Santa always been this big? I don’t mean round or tall. Has he always been this dominating?

When I was small I hated Santa. I remember walking through the shopping centre working out my strategy to avoid him, hoping Mum would not take me anywhere near him.

Now I’m a big girl, I don’t have to sit on his knee, but I feel I am being drawn to him again through the pressure to take my children to sit on his knee, get the photo and introduce them to this myth that perhaps was once just a game but I feel has become much larger than that.

I’m not going to go for the whole Santa is evil thing, being an anagram of Satan and all, but I have been wondering exactly what effect Santa is having. When you walk through shopping centres, he’s everywhere, not least in the massive photo with Santa area. And where is Jesus? He’s perhaps in a quaint, small nativity scene somewhere in a corner. The one who only gives gifts if you’ve been good stands large while the one who IS the gift for people who’ve been bad is relegated. Jesus offers a free gift of life, and is where we have obtained these nice ideas of joy, peace and love, but it’s an ipod or a new coffee machine that we really want. The magic of Christmas is about what thing I can get from a jolly looking man, not so much about standing in awe of an amazing God who was born a vulnerable baby in order to die for us and bring forgiveness.

For me there is nothing more special than hearing the words of a Christmas carol, singing of the glory of God who has shown such love; ‘Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born’. This far surpasses any magical feeling I might get about a jolly man, however benevolent he may be.

To me, Santa is little more than a marketer’s dream, and I don’t particularly want our kids to be drawn into that, just like I don’t want them to see junk food advertising. But I also don’t want them to feel left out at Christmas, or feel like those wacko Christian kids who spoil Christmas by telling the Kinder class that Santa’s not real. I saw a good hint to tell them this is a game lots of people play and not to tell them the secret. And make sure they get a stocking too, only they know it’s from us. It was fun asking Aiden what we should put in Aoife’ s stocking this year: ‘daisies that you can eat’. Hmmm.. something you can actually buy at the shop might be better, but I really loved the sentiment. He actually thought about what might make her happy, which is more than the Santa-inspired ‘ what can I get to make me happy’. Not that there’s anything wrong with kids getting excited about presents – I want him to be excited about what he’s going to get from us and others. But if that’s all Christmas is for our kids I’ll be very sad. I want to pass on to them two things:

1. Our great God has given us more than we could ever wish for.

2. We all give each other things because we are inspired by God’s generosity.

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