Monday, 30 June 2014

:: 26 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

Wow. And just like that, we're half way through the year! It's been a very full week around here. My dad's 60th birthday which included a family meal out on his actual birthday then a celebration with plenty of friends on Saturday night. In between we moved out of our little farm house and into my parents' and then my parents left for their move down to Christchurch on Sunday morning. So there was a lot of time with family, which was great! Lots of boxes and cleaning and unpacking and then some goodbyes - not so fun. We're now settling into our new home, which feels so much more like "home" probably because it is a family home. We feel very blessed to be here, but it's bittersweet knowing that it means my parents will now live a long way away. 

A: It's always fun to watch you play and listen to the worlds you create with your wonderful imagination. You are incredibly quick, creative and fun!

E: We're looking after a little friend's two bunnies while she's overseas for two months. This was your introduction to one. We're pretty excited to have pets. In fact, within one day of our move we have acquired four pets for the moment - a dog, a cat and two rabbits! 

T: We're Oska's temporary family for a few weeks until he will move to stay with my sister and her family once they've settled into their new home and city. You're very happy to have his more permanent company for a while, and he's generally very good with allowing little, unpredictable people to get close!
You're a fan of everyone who stops and gives you their time. It was a lot of fun having family stay overnight on Saturday and you were more than pleased to have your cousin around. She's your size, even though she's 8 months older and an object of much interest to you as she is much more mobile, coming and going all around the house. We had some fun moments and memories created with you and your pyjama twin :o) 

 Linking in with Jodi

Sunday, 22 June 2014

:: 25 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

It's been an interesting week around here. Mum and Dad chose the best week to go to Rarotonga because the weather has been particularly wintery (for Auckland standards) and there has been a lot of rain, which always throws a spanner in the never-ending-piles-of-laundry-and-no-dryer works ;o) Our girls have also been unwell, we've been packing for our move and looking after Oska, my parents' little furry guy. Needless to say there has been a bit of cabin fever for four little people and one big person! It was nice to get some decent length of sunshine this afternoon to get out into. 

A: When we moved in here there were two telephones on a shelf. They've been well used since in making phone calls to friends. I'm often called on to talk to Larry the Cucumber, Bob the Tomato, Junior Asparagus, Peppa Pig and all sorts of friends who are not well, coming to parties and going places. I love the sparkles in the grinning eyes when I do talk to these friends ;o)

E: Caught your sister's bug, but just like her you insist that you feel ok, even though it's clear you're not 100%. I'm always amazed at your toughness in these times! Today you had fun playing outdoors helping Papa pack the van, picking flowers for your favourite people and riding your bike around. Your heart is ever thoughtful and sweet. 

T: I hoped to catch a photo of a moment I spotted when Oska was sitting beside you, which is undoubtedly something you love, being one of his biggest fans! Those moments are fleeting because you're quick to grab hair, or in Oska's case, his fur, and as soon as I moved he did too. I did however catch your adoring look as you watched him :o) Between you and Lucy, Oska's popularity is assured!

Oska: Being our fourth child this week, of course you must feature ;o) Especially seeing as you will be moving much further away in just over a week. You're fast and you keep us on our toes - sometimes a little too much - when we let you out for a few minutes of freedom. Here you had slipped quickly through the fence into the neighbouring field, but only for a moment (no worries, mum and dad!). Sorry, buddy, no doubt you'll be happy to be back in a fully fenced section to roam in freedom tomorrow!

 Linking in with Jodi

Thursday, 19 June 2014

:: liquid gold ::

Today Théo had his last bottle of my milk. It's one of those bittersweet moments - part of me wants to keep persevering and the other part says to just let it go and move on, and give myself a break in what is a busy season for us in this present moment. About a month ago he suddenly decided he didn't want to feed from me anymore. So bottle it was, and after a few days some formula was bought as a back up if I didn't have enough. It's been hard to express regularly, so over the last week there has often been more formula milk provided than my own. Then yesterday I accidentally dropped my little manual milk pump on our tiles and the tiniest piece broke off that pretty much rendered it useless! Agh! I'd already been considering letting it go, so I conceded defeat and the decision was made.

Minutes later I noticed an article my friend posted on her facebook wall that is heartbreakingly beautiful about a mum who had her twins at 27 weeks and how expressing milk was such a huge part of her daily routine in those early weeks and months. For her it was something she could do to help her tiny, fragile babies, when so much else of the responsibility of their care was being done by the medical teams. With premature births there are so many different situations that it's rare that we can almost completely identify with each other's experiences as parents. However, on the other hand we share so much in common from the general Neonatal experience, such as the sound of the alarms that monitor our babies' vital signs, to the smell of the antibacterial hand-wash we slather on each time we go into the Unit or during cares. The feeling of anticipation as we wait in our armchairs in hospital gowns, waiting for the nurse to gather up all the tubes and wires along with our precious, tiny little babies and gently transfer them onto our chests for kangaroo cuddles. And, among those shared experiences is one that I think many mums probably identify with if it has been possible: providing our own milk for their babies. When they are born this small they simply can't breastfeed initially, so breast-pumps become our new best friend :o)

I think it was during the very first days that I heard the term 'liquid gold' - probably referring to the first drops of milk that come after birth, also known as 'colostrum.' It was never a question in my mind that I wouldn't at least try my best to give my own milk to our babies. And so, in those very first hours following the birth of our girls four years ago, after our little 700g babies were whisked off to the Neonatal unit, a nurse wheeled in a breast-pump and my journey of providing for my babies began. Like the mum I mentioned earlier, I knew that this was one thing that I was solely responsible for and could do! So religiously for months I expressed my milk with a determination that didn't like to consider defeat. One good thing about having such tiny babies was that they were only drinking 0.5mls every 3 hours during their first days, and that only if they were doing well, so I had some time to stock up and keep ahead of them ;o)
It was a huge part of my daily routine. Before visiting the girls I would always go first to drop off my labelled bottles of milk to the storage centre in the basement of the hospital, before going up to the unit. At one point, when the girls were a few months old, I checked how much I had stored there to give me an idea on whether I needed to push myself a bit harder to stay ahead and was quite shocked to hear that I had eight litres !! I guess routine, combined with my tendency to stick stubbornly to something I feel is important, plus all the chocolate croissants and other Swiss goodies I convinced myself were necessary (!) had all helped. The ladies suggested that maybe I started storing some milk at home so they had more space for others! Shortly afterwards, the combination of the little freezer in our hospital apartment breaking down twice, a transfer to another hospital and a new routine that meant it was harder to keep up expressing meant I finally had to concede defeat with Elise and let her go onto formula. In my mind it was such a hard thing to let go of - even though she was over four months old! I knew I could push myself harder, but I also knew I'd done my best for her and had to recognise that and let go. I have no strong opinions on whether or not mums should breastfeed or give formula milk because I know every situation is so different and trust that every such decision has been made so carefully. But for myself I literally had to remind myself it was ok and that formula milk would not hurt her! And of course it never did! By that stage Amélie was home and I was feeding her myself, which I managed to keep up with until she was nearly 8 months old.

When Théo arrived so many memories resurfaced. This time around, though, I was just relieved that he was big enough to feed straight away and we wouldn't have to buy as many bottles as we had had with the girls! Like with the girls, even though he was born at term, I felt such a sense of responsibility to provide for him and that determination to keep at it for as long as he needed me. So it took me by complete surprise on the morning just a few weeks ago when he suddenly refused! I persevered for days but he persevered harder in his resistance! So today is the end of an era once again. I'm thankful to have been able to give him my own milk until now, and now it will be formula.  But, he doesn't look like he's going to suffer, does he?! ;o)

I guess it's like that for us mums in many ways, and not just terms of feeding our babies. We want to give our best. Sometimes we push ourselves hard and expect too much of ourselves to reach certain goals of providing well for our children. It seems to get harder with this information overloaded world in which each day it seems that we hear of something else we should be avoiding. I think sometimes we just need to sit ourselves down and remind ourselves we're doing our best, we make our decisions as well as we can and that is truly good enough. And then we need to congratulate ourselves for all that being a mum involves and all we give. It's the biggest, craziest, most sacrificing and demanding, but most precious role I've ever experienced and most days I feel like I'm going more backwards than forwards. But we continue because our love and determination and vision of what we want to provide is stronger than defeat.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

:: 24 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

A: Not wanting to sleep after lunch, you ventured out and I said that Papa might need some help cleaning the kayak. You eagerly ran out and got stuck in, brushing away the sand, hosing the kayak off and doing whatever needed doing. You're a wonderful helper with a brilliant mind and great sense of fun and humour. We love your company!

E: While your sister and brother slept and you couldn't, you sat at the table painting and chatting in equal measures. Your presence is delightful as you share your sweet thoughts, thrilled at the chance to be just you and me. I love these moments :o)

T: Just up from your nap, cosy and cuddly and having a bit of a sore day with teething. You love the new freedom you have in being able to crawl wherever you want to go. But there are so many things to see as you venture. This afternoon Papa was taking down the trampoline as we prepare for our imminent move and you enjoyed watching your sisters bounce before it was tucked away in boxes. It still seems strange that this is our winter time - where we can be outside in bare feet and still relatively comfortable. As much as I miss the snow, it is amazing how winter seems to pass by with the blink of an eye.

 Linking in with Jodi

:: 23 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

 A & E: The last leaves on our little tree had turned beautiful shades of red and orange and were fluttering down like colourful stars from their perches. We gave them a helping hand and a shake! A subsequent storm has now stripped the tree of all it's leaves - ready for a fresh start in a couple of months when Spring arrives. 

T: 10 months old this week!! What a wonderful gift!! The art of crawling has finally been conquered and with each day that comes the speed and ease is proportionally faster and smoother! A whole new world has opened up :o) 

:: 22 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

A & E: Our table has been the centre of creative operations lately. There are piles of paintings and drawings that come from it as well as the odd baking session with the gingerbread-spiced play dough. It smells good enough to be the real stuff, we just have to remember which is not when we're baking! 

T: Always, always such a sweet little man. These weeks have been a bit rough with tooth after tooth after tooth coming through. At the moment it's constant. 

:: 21 : 52 ::

"A portrait of our children once a week, every week, in 2014."

A & E: We were treated with a visit from our aunty and sweet little cousin, who came to make cupcakes with us. It was delicious from start to finish!

T: This little man loves his sisters, and any attention from them is relished and returned with smiles and giggles.