A couple of weeks ago I was sick. Not badly sick, just a little queasy and off my food. Heartburney. Bloaty. Tired. Blah. Heavy-and-crampy-feeling in the abdomen. And just a smidgen nocturic. Also, I was having some insanely vivid dreams, largely of a sexual nature. It went on like this for nearly a week.

There was a time I would have believed that nothing but IVF would help us conceive. That time was before Surprise Baby. Now, apparently, I am willing to believe that strange things can happen, even though they usually don't. I believe it enough, at least, to use a pregnancy test even though I am still breastfeeding and amenorrhoeic, we have been using two types of contraception (one of which is "teething baby"), and our track record at getting knocked up is not exactly stellar by most people's standards.

I sat in the bathroom staring at the unused test for a long time, just hesitating. I realised eventually that I was trying to work out how I'd feel about either result so I could brace myself appropriately. I'm not really sure I could handle another baby so soon. But I'm not so far removed from infertility that I could honestly think of an unplanned pregnancy as anything but miraculous and exciting. In the end I couldn't resolve the question either way, so I took a deep breath and piddled on the stick.

It was negative. Even then, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Over a week later, I'm still not sure.


I finally managed to catch up with a book recommended by Miss E (password protected): Motherstyles. It's based on the Myer's-Briggs personality typing system. "I just can't work out if I'm perceiving or judging," I said to Mr Bea.

Mr Bea regarded me for a few seconds with a raised eyebrow and a bemused smile. "Can't you?" he said mildly, and then went straight back to what he was doing. I narrowed my eyes.

The next morning, I tore myself away from the conversation I was having with The Prata Baby about electricity to clear the breakfast dishes. I had just picked them up when he requested I read him a book about sharks. "Oh that's right!" I said, setting the dishes back down on the table again. "I was going to sticky-tape that torn page back together and I never got around to it! Let's get the shark book right now and do that."

I collected the necessary supplies together and we sat down at the coffee table to perform the surgery. Struck with inspiration, The Prata Baby requested his "special scissors for people in my agegroup" and the roll of tape. "Yes, great idea!" I affirmed. "We can do some cutting and sticky-taping. What can we cut up? How about... this piece of junk mail?" I suggested, picking a furniture catalogue up from where it lay, just nearby. PB thought that was a great idea. I glanced around for something to stick our cuttings onto, and noticed the cereal box still sitting on the table. Soon, I had torn it from around its contents, flattened it out next to us, scissored out a picture of a storage-box-cum-stool and a cup of coffee, and stuck them down onto our cereal-box "house".

"Box," I said for Surprise Baby's benefit. "Coffee." She cruised around the coffee table observing everything with keen interest. I gave her the sticky tape.

"Now," I said to both members of my audience, "we should choose some furniture," and I started flicking through the catalogue, naming various items for SB, discussing several tenets of interior design and decoration at length, listening carefully to PB's plans to fill the structure with water and sea creatures and have all the people swim around it in scuba gear, and googling for information on dolphins. After twenty or thirty minutes it suddenly occurred to me that no dishes had been cleared, the cereal was, if anything, less away than when I'd started, everyone was sitting around in their underwear, the stroller was completely unpacked, and we were already running several minutes late in getting out the door to kindy. And the worst part of it was that the only headway we had made on our pretend house was to add (at PB's suggestion) a second cup of coffee and a babyccino, as if I was deliberately trying to make a statement, in collage, about art mimicking life.

I figured I was probably perceiving.

It may be why I have trouble fitting in much blogging these days. I have tried, as you know, to find ways to carve out more spare time, and I have even used your suggestions, but somehow anything I save seems to slip through my fingers. On top of that, as an INTP, the social and feeling nature of the ALI community is a lot for me to handle after a full day's being social and emotional at home. I find myself wanting to shut off the computer in favour of some frothy TV sitcom. Maybe it's nothing to do with Myers-Briggs. Maybe I just don't drink enough coffee.

I posted a thread on a messageboard about this, and have had a few interesting thoughts.

Firstly, I should clarify a couple of things. This post... is kind of about my in-laws. I didn't want to say as much in so many words, but it may be best if I do. It isn't true that every gift I receive is a burden. One of my sisters has a particularly high hit rate, some friends seem to have a knack for thinking of the right thing, and as a group, internet friends have been particularly talented - testament, probably, to the introspective and considerate nature of this community. So this is pretty much all about my in-laws, and the cultural clash between my views on gift-giving and theirs.

Yes, I have tried telling people that a gift isn't necessary at all. To some people, it is. My in-laws are part of this group of people, to the point where we actually receive wedding anniversary presents from some of them, for our wedding anniversary. It is touching to know they celebrate each successful year of our marriage, but I am hard pressed getting wedding anniversary presents for my own husband for our own anniversary, let alone someone else's. I have no hope of convincing them that a Christmas gift isn't necessary. This is me trying to work within their framework.

The other thing I should clarify is that I only give out a "want list" when asked directly. Good grief, I do not mail an unsolicited Christmas registry to all my relatives and expect them to stick closely by it and have everything delivered in golden giftwrap at my appointed hour. No no. Perish the thought. But I usually get asked what I would like for Christmas this year, and in such cases I will sit down and hash out a bit of a list, which usually reads: 1. Charitable donation; 2. Um... food? I think part of what has been getting me is that people will ask me what I want in order to completely ignore what I say in response. It's not as if these gifts are coming out of the blue, or even as expected, but without consultation. "Oh here's an idea," I think as I try to displace the guilt of not using yet another kindly-offered but ultimately unwanted present by turning all curmudgeonly for a moment, with a few Bah Humbugs thrown in for kicks. "Why not give me the gift of being listened to?"

Then again, I recall being guilty of the same thing once or twice. It goes like this: you decide to buy a gift for someone, but you're not sure what you should get. "Why not ask them?" you wonder to yourself. You can't think of a reason, so you do. And when you have received your answer, the first thing you belatedly realise is that you can't get them any of those things now, because that would show a distinct lack of imagination and thoughtfulness.

In other words, it's the thought that counts after all.

Here's my new proposition: I refuse to give out want lists, under any circumstances. I should talk instead about my goals for the coming year. When someone asks for my want list, I should tell them I have several resolutions for 2012, and maybe they could get me something to help me out with those. One of them could be to end 2012 with less stuff than I started with. And then... there could be others. (I will work on this.)

Any thoughts (or list ideas/resolution ideas) are appreciated.

So I guess Kung Fu Parenting isn't as funny to other people as we think it is in this house. That's ok. Let's move on! I need your advice, because as the shops have already started to remind us, Christmas is happening again this year, with all the excesses the season heralds. But this isn't specifically about Christmas - so don't stop reading yet if you don't celebrate - it's just Christmas has triggered it, as it tends to be the biggest gift-giving occasion in our household. This, however, is about gift-giving in general. Here's my problem.

We move often. We live in small houses. We have most things we need and want, under the circumstances, and if anything else comes up, we do - like most people - tend to buy it ourselves if the next gift-giving occasion is still a long way away. Or at least that's true of things within the usual gift-giving price range. Still and yet, people keep buying stuff for us.

What happens to these things? The pattern has become clearer as the years go by. With rare exceptions, gifts given to us by our relatives tend to languish in forgotten cupboards until they break, perish, or are given away in the next move. I have started trying to shorten that cycle in order to prevent the breaking and perishing outcomes, but even so it tends to be a waste of time and money. The op shops are lucky to make half the original retail prices if I give it to them, and tracking down someone who values the item sufficiently is time-consuming and sometimes impossible. And what about the efforts of the gift-giver in obtaining the item? I can only hope they enjoyed it, but I rather doubt that can be absolutely the case. Christmas shopping tends to wear on even the most dedicated shopaholic, and the average person ends up finding it a chore. Besides which, it makes me feel bad when I don't use somebody's gift myself, as they intended.

I have tried suggesting a Secret Santa arrangement, where we draw names at random and only give and receive one item per social group, but it doesn't seem to wash with the in-laws. (My family are actually not so much the problem. We grew up with the rule that, come Christmas, all the gifts go to the youngest generation of your household. In other words, only people without children - a lot of whom are children - get presents. Although I guess there are also the gifts from children to their parents. At any rate, I am fine to continue this.)

For about five years running, I have been suggesting charity gifts, such as the ones in the Oxfam gift catalogue. Do you know how many takers I've had on that? None. Zero. People are not comfortable with donating to Oxfam in lieu of buying me a present, or let us say - because I certainly see it the latter way, and not the former - as a present. I don't know how to make them comfortable with this idea. I want to know. One year we even bought exclusively from charity gift catalogues, thinking that we would afterwards reap what we had sown, but to no avail.

I now have a low-clutter "want list" which seems to work... sort of okay I guess... as long as you don't honestly expect people to follow your want list very often. And living overseas does help. The postage, you see. But I'd really like to have at least one more crack at getting people to gift me some sort of charity thing. There just has to be a way to make it palatable to them. This is where you come in.

Do you buy charity gifts? If not, why not? You won't be judged (you can always go anonymous) - my instinct leads me away from them as well, and I'm just trying to figure out why so I can overcome that instinct.

What would make you buy a charity gift for someone, instead of a material item? What could they say or do to make you feel that it really was fine? Would you feel better about it if it was only 50% of the present and the other 50% was a small item, a token object to make it feel like you'd wrapped something up, same as always? Would you feel better if the person asked you for a specific charity item, and not just "some sort of charity gift or other"? Would you feel better if the person asked people to pool together for a large charity gift - a bicycle ambulance, for example, rather than a chicken?

Any thoughts, please share them.

When we started our battle with infertility, I tried to be strong like a stone. I nearly cracked. Over time, I learnt to be strong like bamboo - bowing over in the face of the storm, but never breaking; perhaps even growing to stand taller than ever when the fine weather returned.

So it's not the first time I've cashed in on all those hours I spent watching martial arts cinema. And people tried to tell me I was wasting my time.

This is a parenting philosophy I developed myself, based on my recent reading*, so take it as you will, but it seems to work so well that I thought I'd put it out there for other parents who have seen Chan Long through more than one Police Story. I call it "Kung Fu Parenting". The central thesis of Kung Fu Parenting is that the key to resolving your parenting problems lies in the answer to one simple question: if this scene was part of a Kung Fu movie, who would be playing which role?

There are, from what I can see, three basic choices: the Young Student, The Evil Tough Guy, or the Old Master**. The idea is to make sure that you, the parent, always play the Old Master, and you don't have to be overly familiar with the formula to see why. As the film starts, the Young Student is prancing around making a lot of noise, high on his inflated sense self-importance. Although he might win a few rounds here and there, he is prone to getting smacked up throughout the film, either by a group of evil tough guys, or an Old Master. The Evil Tough Guys are more likely than the Young Student to win out in the early part of the film, but in the end they really have it coming to them and anyway, who wants to be evil? The only character who kicks arse for the entire film is the Old Master - and he barely lifts a finger to do so. He is, like, way cool. I mean, yes, occasionally he dies in the final showdown, but even then he still "wins" in all the non-getting-to-live-on senses of the word. Which totally counts.

To be the Old Master, you must first act like the Old Master. The body language of this character tends to be passive and low-energy. Drop your shoulders. Bend a little, as if you must hobble with the aid of a bamboo cane. Make your face impassive; inscrutable. Your expression should be ever so slightly weary, as if you have seen it all before and long ago figured out the answers, and are vaguely saddened by the knowledge that those around you have yet to achieve the same. Squint near-sightedly if you must. Resist the urge to command, and instead give some sort of vague advice. Then walk away as if you don't care whether anyone follows. No really. I swear.

Around our house, we have taken to reminding each other to "be the Master". When we hear ourselves say, "You do this thing right now young man!" - a classic Young Student or Evil Tough Guy line - it tells us to breathe out and try a different tack: "You can do that, or you can do this. But think hard and make a good decision, because otherwise you might not like my response." There's more to it, I guess, but it tends to be nuance. The Old Master isn't always an easy role with an obvious script, and reminding one's self to play it may seem like the first of an overwhelming number of steps, especially if you're winging it on a half-remembered version of Carl Douglas' hit song. But if you can claim multiple viewings of Karate Kid, you are probably good to go.

I was going to say something else, on a completely different topic, but it absolutely eludes me.

*Specifically the Love and Logic series, separately recommended by both Serenity and Melissa. I personally think Practical Parenting Tips for Birth-Six Years is by far the better book of the two I've read so far (the other being Teaching Responsibility). You don't have to know anything about Kung Fu to appreciate it.

**I am discounting the comic relief, the love interest or the innocent bystander, because these roles aren't directly involved in the power struggle at the centre of the plot. And as we all know, there is often a power struggle at the centre of the parental plot, especially when you are about to lose said plot.***

***I must also admit to over-simplifying an entire cinematic culture in a way that is very nearly criminal. I probably deserve a good flying kick for that one.

It's been a rough few weeks. The Prata Baby started kindy and "we" did not take to it like a duck to water. Or maybe he was like a duck to water, that is, kicking furiously.

I admit I was upset, embarrassed. Mortified might be a better description. And especially so after I learnt that other parents had been down to the school to complain about my child. My child beating up their child. I think every parent worries about bullying, but usually their concern centres around the prospect of their child as victim. I was unprepared, and I was horrified. And then I was angry, I guess, at him. At The Prata Baby. For making me horrified, or for being the kind of kid I didn't want him to be, or... I don't know. Does it matter?


I wasted the first couple of weeks reading up about homeschooling and alternative educational methods, and therefore missed the whole point. Then one day we had a particularly horrible morning - it was, in fact, the day before the day I posted about here. I had just dropped him off at kindy with a combination of relief, dread, and guilt on account of the relief, when a friend phoned for a chat. Naturally, she asked how I was and of course that led directly to her hearing about the whole thing.

"What... PB?" she asked, astonished, when I'd given her my troubles in a nutshell. "But he's the quiet, gentle one!" I think that was the turning point. I mean, it took twenty-four full hours for me to actually take a proper step back and start seeing the bigger picture, but I think that was the spark.


I want to write this down in case I ever need it again. I need to remember that The Prata Baby is a sensitive little boy who struggles, sometimes, to handle his emotions. I remember him at birth, crying as if to say, "Too much! Too much!" Not like Surprise Baby, who lay in my arms and blinked as if to say, "Huh, brighter than I expected. Interesting." I remember him at six months old, shattering my nerves to the point where I could barely make it through a day, let alone a week, with his constant, frustrated shrieking about all the things he wanted to do but couldn't. Not like Surprise Baby, who reaches for a toy and wriggles this way and that with nothing to say about it except for a few quiet grunts of determination.

Somebody else had to point out that my kid was "the quiet, gentle one". The sensitive soul. If there's a next time, the person who points it out should be me.


I need to remember to look for the subtle distinctions. The teacher described her transitioning method - a countdown, followed by the instruction to S! T! O! P! Stop what you're doing! I nodded and told her this was exactly how we did it at home, plus or - well, minus - the spelling out of words. But over the weekend I noticed that it's not really what we do at home. Because at home, after the countdown, I never say "Stop!" I say "Go!". Go pack up. Go get dressed. Start putting your shoes on. I don't transition him away from the activity he's working on, I transition him towards the next one. In fact, I often go a step further than stop vs go. I am the master of the segue, making it seem as if, somehow, what we're about to do next is some kind of extension of what he's currently working on. If we're drawing, for instance, and I know we need to get ready to go shopping soon, I will start drawing groceries so I can soon say, "Now it's time to look at some real vegetables at the supermarket," like everything I learnt about parenting came directly from watching endless episodes of Playschool. I didn't even realise I was doing it. I certainly didn't realise how much difference it makes.


Earlier this year, he started falling asleep unattended, but we have to be careful. If he does it for more than one or two nights in a row, we will pay for it at 2am when wakes from his sleep needing comfort. If we sit with him as he dozes off - at least, say, five times a week - he sleeps through.


One day he really didn't want to go to kindy. He shows his distress with a lot of loud bravado, hyperactivity and, apparently, bullying tactics, so the teacher didn't appreciate his behaviour as a sign of distress until I told her that it was so. Even then, she gave me this face. You know the one. The one where the person you're talking to can't even talk for a moment because they're using all their mental power to stop themselves sighing heavily and rolling their eyes at how fucking ludicrous you're being. She saw a child who was tearing around the classroom, pushing himself to the front of everything, throwing things, ripping things, shrieking and yelling, beating people up. I saw what was left when we got home - the sleep disturbance, the lost appetite, the bedwetting and thumbsucking, the uncharacteristic tiredness and moodiness. The clinginess. The wanting to be spoonfed like a baby and carried around everywhere. The unwillingness to turn up to kindy.

"Why don't you want to go?" I asked him.

"I don't like the other kids."

"Why not?"

"They push me and shove me."

"They push and shove you? Well that's not nice. Why do they do that?"

"I don't know."

"And what do you do?"

"I kick them."

"You kick them after they shove you?"

"No, before they shove me."

"So you kick them, then they shove you?"


"And you don't like being shoved?"

"No, I don't."

I paused for a moment, and blinked a few times. Sometimes he's younger, more naive than I think he is. I mean, he seems bright in other ways - he has taught himself to read several words, like "hot" and "cold" and "in", and he recognises most street signs. He sees something that looks like a no-smoking sign and deduces that it can't be one, because it doesn't have the red line through it. He wants to know about the age limits on cigarettes, and carries on an intelligent conversation about autonomy and paternalism to the surprise of the lady behind the counter at the 7-11. He invents things. Lots of things. Especially involving transport. He realises that it is difficult for him, with his short legs, to get on and off buses and he muses that passengers in wheelchairs must find it even harder and he comes up with the idea of a ramp that tucks up inside the bus and folds out onto the footpath when needed and asks me if I think that would work? He speaks well - people always comment. He picks up Chinese and Singlish with accents and tones, and even makes up his own, private language - for when he doesn't feel like talking to anybody. He asks the big questions about life, and about death. But he doesn't seem to work out, unprompted, that he could spare himself the unpleasantness of being shoved by not throwing around the preceding kicks.

I prompt him.


He doesn't like being bossed - finds it undignified. If you want him to do something, you are better off asking him nicely than delivering it as some kind of command. And it works to use positive language, telling him what to do, instead of what not to do. I got him to stop pulling things off shelves in the supermarket by changing the instruction, "Stop touching that!" to the request "Can you please put your hands in your pockets?"


The structure of kindy frustrates him - he doesn't really know why he should do everything in blocks of less than half an hour and then rotate to the next thing. Instead of packing up, he throws things forcefully around the room to indicate his discontent.

I don't know how to handle frustration well myself, so I google. In the end, I decide to try a sort of cognitive-behavioural technique. When he screeches at something because it refuses to obey him instead of the immutable laws of physics which bind the very fabric of our universe together, I sympathise with him as usual. "Oh, you're trying to do make X do Y? And it's not working? How frustrating!" But then, instead of pointing out that he is trying to defy the immutable laws of physics which bind the very fabric of our universe together - as I did in my previous, completely ineffective script - I say, "And at the same time, how very exciting!" He looks at me quizzically. "You've just made an important observation about the immutable laws of physics which bind the very fabric of our universe together! When you try to make X do Y, Z happens! I wonder why that is?" Then I muse theatrically for a few seconds, before drifting back to whatever I was doing before. It works. Instead of shrieking more and more loudly with each failure until eventually I confiscate the source of his displeasure, he repeats the action thoughtfully, over and over, in silence. He is no longer being thwarted. He is experimenting - and there are no failed experiments*. One day, I hope, he will internalise this script. In the meantime, his mood lifts almost instantly. His remaining frustrations are more easily put aside now that the feeling comes less frequently.


Mr Bea works hard to get home earlier and help out with bedtime. Everyone starts sleeping better within about four days. Coincidence? I decide not to get scientific enough to find out.

The extra time together also gives me a chance to inform Mr Bea that half PB's problems are down to our advice. We have told him to be nice to the other children, and he is terrorising the class with his bear hugs. The next morning, Mr Bea suggests to PB that he shake hands with his classmates instead. He has a relatively good day.

I think we are starting to internalise my cognitive-behavioural script ourselves.


I can't work on everything at once with him. If I work on everything, I work on nothing. I must focus on one or two behaviours, and learn to either let the others go, or eliminate the opportunity for him to engage in them. If we fight too often, he gives up trying to please me.


I got excited one day when he came home from kindy and tried to blame his baby sister for his misdeeds there.

"And then she shouted at the boy, 'Go home! Go home!' and then she kicked him."

"You're telling me Surprise Baby did that?"


"I see." I paused a moment and looked at him. "The thing is, PB, I know you're not telling me what really happened. The reason I know this is because Surprise Baby can't talk or deliberately kick people, and also she wasn't there. Is it possible you were the one who did those things?"

He gave me a long, careful look. "Yes."

"Ok. Well. When you say something like that that isn't true, it's called "lying". And you'll find that, for lies to be effective, they should at least be plausible. Now. There are a few exceptions to that rule. Advanced liars sometimes use what's known as the "double bluff". This is where-" All of a sudden I cut myself off. "You know what? The most important thing for you to know right now is that lying is generally wrong, and I don't want you doing it."

I bit my tongue before I started to confuse the issue by launching into a philosophical discourse based around the classic murderer-at-your-door conundrum. At that moment, I just wanted to enjoy the thought that he had demonstrated a major milestone in his social and cognitive development - one that, though it might not always be welcomed - could deepen his understanding of why he shouldn't kick people. Somewhere, he had cottoned on to the knowledge that other people have their own, unique viewpoint, which might be different from his own. From here, maybe we could make him properly appreciate that when he kicks people they hurt, even though he doesn't, and that making them hurt is bad in the same way that it is bad when someone hurts him.


We are walking home from swimming when I turn to find that he has stopped following me through the park, and is instead running towards a very busy road. I make after him, but I am carrying nearly 9kg of baby plus a swim bag and he has one hell of a head start. I call out to him, but get no response. Behind me, a woman starts shouting in panic, and my heart goes into my mouth. Then suddenly, he veers. He bolts around by the footpath and, when he gets to a driveway, he stops short and holds his hand out for my assistance with crossing. He seems surprised that I am flustered. Don't I believe he understands the road rules?

A week or so later, I am talking to a friend in the shopping mall when The Prata Baby wanders off into a nearby coffee shop and starts browsing the display case. I keep an eye on him distractedly, and after a minute or two he speaks briefly to the woman behind the counter, and walks back out to where I'm standing. "Mum, I'm hungry," he states calmly, "so I have ordered some raisin toast." Then he starts rummaging through my market trolley.

"What are you looking for?" I ask.

"A library book," he explains, pulling one out and holding it up in demonstration. Then he returns to the cafe where he seats himself on a couch and proceeds to engross himself in his reading material. Whilst he waits, you see. For his raisin toast. Which he is sure they are just now toasting.

I check the time. It's a bit past morning tea, so it stands to reason that he would be hungry. My friend pipes up in a bemused voice and says, "Well, he's got that all sorted out, hasn't he?" and at the same time my eyes fall on the display case and I notice something.

The raisin toast is on the third shelf, above his head height. To choose it, he had to stand on his tippy toes and ignore a wide selection of various cakes and biscuits, some of which had smarties on top. He has chosen something he might plausibly be allowed to eat, and then, without pulling on my skirt or whining or sinking to the floor to beat his fists in a three-year-old tantrum, he has calmly and optimistically ordered it and sat down quietly to wait. I start to think that maybe he is doing alright.

Maybe I am doing alright.


I develop a theory. Perhaps when children start driving you crazy by testing all their boundaries, it is time for those boundaries to be reviewed. I mean, gosh. Isn't it what I want, for him to become independent? How else does it happen?

I decide that there are several issues on which I should stop fighting him and start letting him take care of himself. Suddenly, plus or minus a few bumps - a soiled set of clothing here and there, for instance, because he hasn't yet learnt to make a good decision when I tell him it's his last chance to use the toilet for a while - we are just about having fun. And honestly, a bit of skanky laundry is nothing compared to the arguments we recently had to have over going to the toilet before leaving the house.


The kindy teacher seems to decide she believes me. She works with him as if he is, basically, a good kid but scared. On the last day before the holidays he gets a sticker. "He is still kicking the chairs sometimes, and he has trouble sitting still, but he hasn't been fighting with the other children." I tell her that sounds pretty much perfect to me. Especially since, I notice, he has actually made a kindy friend. When school finishes for the mid-semester holiday, I am genuinely looking forward to having The Prata Baby around. I want to ask him about that stroller invention of his with the electric motor and the running board behind with the chair on it for mum so she doesn't have to walk and the roof over the top to keep her dry in case it rains.


I need to write these things down so I remember them. I may need them again, when he's four. Or perhaps when he next changes schools. Or even with Surprise Baby, different though she seems to be. Next time, I want to be better prepared.


I have a couple more book reviews. More along the parenting lines this time. Bear with.

*There are no failed experiments, only failed hypotheses.

I have a few extra thoughts on the four-hour work week before I shelve it, both figuratively and literally. At one point in the book he tells that story of the fisherman in Mexico and the Harvard MBA. You know the one. The Harvard MBA is on holiday in Mexico when, late one morning, he meets a fisherman on his way home. He asks the fisherman why he is knocking off so early, and... well, if you haven't heard it, here it is.

What Tim doesn't say in his book - he seems a smart guy, so I will assume he realises it in real life - is that you could easily substitute "Mexican fisherman" for "nine to five office worker" and "Harvard MBA" for "Tim Ferris". In the final chapter, he talks about what to fill your life with, now that "earn an income" isn't the only thing on your list. And he suggests you might want to live your life in service to others, and he suggests that you might want to take up full-time employment of a different (more meaningful) kind. Well and good. What he doesn't say - or at least not explicitly enough - is that you may already be doing everything you need to do, you just need to recognise it.

As someone who resents the drive to consume that underlies much of our culture, I would have a hard time following his business model - which is based around shipping product - without feeling like a hypocrite for most of my day. I'm not saying I couldn't find a way, I'm saying I may be better off finding a way to get paid directly for the life of service I aim to live, rather than shipping product in order to earn the income which frees my time to... live that life of service. I am, in effect, the Mexican fisherman in my relationship to Tim Ferris' book.

Am I glad I read it? Yes. Although I have ultimately rejected much of what he suggests I should do, it has helped clarify things to me. I can even recommend it, not to those who are satisfied with where their life is headed, of course (why would you even feel like picking it up?), or even to those who are truly just overflowing with genuine aspirations (although it is of some limited use in this situation, see for example my last post). If, however, you are in the process of re-evaluating your life, if you are thinking of changing directions, if you feel that you are trapped or stuck and there is no way out of the place you're now in (which, in the reality of the free world, is unlikely), then I recommend it. You may find it gives you the tools and the courage to shut off the constant buzz of your never-ending to-do list and to recognise and evaluate your options in the clear light of day.

Book review over, but I am still looking for comments, tips, advice on my previous post.

Edit: I have been wondering, since I wrote this a couple of hours ago, whether a personal crisis such as... I don't know... infertility? might aid in the process of focussing on things of value in one's life and breeding the courage to act on that focus. Hm.

I don't know if you've read The Four Hour Work Week. For most of the book, I thought the author was an egoistical freeloader with a limited sense of both social responsibility and depth of character who'd been fired from most employee positions he'd ever held. The last part is true - he has been fired from most employee positions he's ever held. Having read the last chapter, I'm not as sure of the first part as I used to be. Are you thinking of reading the book? Well, let me ask you a question he asks half way through to help you decide.

If you won a fortune in the lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your life after that? If the answer is, as with many people, "Turn up at the office, same as always," then you need not pick this book up. There. I saved you hours of your time. If the answer is (as with many people) that you would change everything, or at least a lot, then it may be worth a read.

I read it, not because I felt I would change a lot, but because I am feeling pushed for time lately. As such, I'm not sure I gained much. Yes, there is a chapter on efficiency, but much of it does not apply to parenting. Save time by limiting interruptions, he says? My entire purpose at present is to respond to interruptions. Ooh, there's another one - hang on.

Solved. Now. Where was I? Yes.

Here's a non-secret about parenthood I'll tell you for free: parents aren't busy because they have a lot to do. Parents are busy because it takes for-freaking-ever to do everything. And here's another non-secret, a kind of two-for-one deal: even if I do manage to skate through my errands and chores in record time, it doesn't free me to do whatever I want. It frees me to spend time hanging out with my children. And I have to pause here to emphasise that hanging out with my children is not something I consider an eternal punishment, but at the same time it doesn't get me any closer to completing my plans for world domination saving the dolphins. My reading list is getting longer, not shorter, and there's only so much to be done by batching or going on a low-information diet. Clearly, I have too many dreams for one day. Lately it is occurring to me that I have, really, too many for a lifetime, but that's a whole 'nother barrel of posts.

Right now, I want to focus on the fact that even a small gain is still a gain. Perhaps, at least, I can find a way back to semi-regular blogging, or commenting, or some such. Or reading Life From Scratch (hi Mel!) which is just one of the books on my ever-growing list. So here we go, and this is what I'm hoping you can help me with.

Focussing On Important Tasks
There is this whole bit about discarding unimportant tasks. I find that I am often sucked in to performing unimportant parenting tasks, and I want you to help me illuminate unimportance where I may have missed it so that I can deploy my energies more effectively.

For example, who dresses their children twice a day? Oh, uh, me too. I mean, yes, I dress The Prata Baby at least twice a day, because things would probably go awry if I tried to put him to bed in his kindy uniform, at least in the short term. In the long term, I'm sure he'd learn to rely less on pyjamas and more on other sleep cues to settle himself down, and there's really no other reason apart from social protocol that he can't sleep in what is, essentially, a T-shirt and pair of shorts, just like his pyjamas. As it is, I don't tend to go through pyjamas-then-day-clothes-then-kindy-uniform-then-day-clothes-again. On kindy days, he wears his kindy uniform ALL DAY. Do I dress the baby twice a day? Only if the first outfit gets ruined with some sort of bodily waste. She gets bathed and dressed, and that's it until the next bath. As for me, I sleep in my underwear. Saves dressing time, saves laundry time, just by eliminating a change of clothes each from our day.

What parenting stuff do you NOT do, that everyone else seems to, or that you are sometimes tempted to do?

Who cooks seven days a week? Yeah, um, me too. To be honest, I aim for three, double batches every time, with one takeaway night (courtesy of Mr Bea). In practice, I often find myself cooking more often than that, due to lack of forethought. I should forethink more, it could save me a bundle.

I have also started batching my paperwork. I was in the habit of paying bills the moment they arrived in my letterbox, then filing them immediately. I have recently started putting them away in a folder and sorting everything out together on Saturday. Overall, it's faster.

Then there's the laundry. I have to put a load on every day, otherwise I run out of drying space, not to mention children's attention spans. But whereas I was folding it three or four times a week, I am now experimenting with twice (once is not enough).

I have also started batching the dishes. Once a day now. The Prata Baby never would have stood for it, but it turns out Surprise Baby will. This may fluctuate with age.

Which domestic or parenting tasks do you batch - save up to do all at once - to improve efficiency?


I continually fail to outsource. It's a common problem, and a common complaint, that nobody else seems to be up to scratch. On the other hand, Mr Bea's not actually incapable of looking after the kids for a while even without my micromanagement. What's the worst that could happen? (Don't answer that, especially not with anecdotes.)

The one place where I shine at outsourcing is with respect to cleaning floors and bathrooms. A year and a half ago I realised I was doing this myself on a Saturday morning whilst Mr Bea and The Prata Baby were at the park, and I was hating most of it. I told Mr Bea I would rather work Saturday mornings at my chosen profession whilst he went to the park with The Prata Baby, and use my earnings to pay someone to clean my house during the week, even if I made no financial gain by doing so. Turns out I was not only happier but financially better off. Nobody wants to work Saturday mornings, so I could hire myself out at a premium, then pay standard rates to my cleaner during the week. And damnit if they didn't do the job better than me. It's not that I can't clean floors or bathrooms as well as the next person, but I suffer from a severe lack of motivation. I really, really hate it.

Oh, and I have pretty much given up chopping my own meat.

Do you have any tips for avoiding household micromanagement and/or handing household tasks to outsiders?

They are my questions three. Even an extra hour a week would be welcome.

F is for Fed Up. Lately, The Prata Baby pushes my buttons every day, all day. But the last couple of weeks it has taken a particular toll, because we have had the added bonus of a "teething" baby. I'll use the word "teething" because I'm not sure exactly why she's started waking on an hourly basis (at best), refusing to sleep anywhere but held upright against someone's chest, or crying inconsolably for up to two hours a day, chiefly around midnight, so by my mother-in-law's reckoning it must be "teething". (The first few months it's always "wind", then it's "teething" until such time as they can actually articulate some alternative.) If you ask me, she needs to see a doctor - and tomorrow, we will. But in the meantime The Prata Baby is pushing everyone's buttons as hard as he can, seemingly just to see what happens. By Saturday, I was badly overtired and fed the fuck right up.

A is for Angry. That's what everyone within a hundred metre radius could tell I was as I carried The Prata Baby under my arm, kicking and screaming, through the shopping centre in the afternoon. He had played happily in the playground with Mr Bea whilst I ran a few errands, but the trouble started as soon as I said we were heading across the mall to the supermarket to pick up some groceries for dinner. I don't mind a bit of dawdling and a bit of window shopping, but this time he was darting into just about every shop we passed, hiding amongst the merchandise, and throwing it onto the floor. I dragged him out of one shop, then another, replacing things onto shelves and tossing apologies around as fast as I could. I stripped privileges one by one. Mr Bea tried to give him time out at the front of one store, but he just laughed at us and rolled across the floor, nearly tripping half a dozen shoppers over on his way. In the end I told him he was going straight home to his room and staying there for I-don't-know-how-long-but-it's-going-to-take-a-long-time-for-me-to-calm-down-that's-for-sure. Then I picked him up and marched him to the door of the supermarket where I thrust him at Mr Bea in exchange for Surprise Baby and stormed inside to do my shopping.

I is for In Your Room. Somehow - though I guess it shouldn't surprise me - even though Mr Bea took PB straight home and I went on a detour through the supermarket with a baby for a week's worth of groceries before following them, I still managed to beat them to our front door. When they arrived I gave PB a clipped, "In your room," and ushered him there, and locked the door. With a key. Because these days, it's the only way to ensure the whole time-out process doesn't turn into a prolonged and completely ineffective game of springing in and out, arguing at every turn along the way. Not that giving him time out that far removed from the offense was completely effective to start with, but I suppose it kept me from throttling him at least.

He cried, of course. And yelled. And banged on the door. None of it was very coherent and all of it was expected, so I gave SB to Mr Bea whilst I went to prepare dinner - sausages and frozen vegies (it was a "no cook" kind of day). Whilst I put the perishable items in the fridge and the sausages in the pan, PB stopped yelling and started singing instead. It was a high-pitched, wavering kind of song, as if he was trying to console himself, so I decided he had served his time and I let him out of his room. He came out waddling and saying he needed to go to the toilet. Turns out he had both wet himself and dirtied his pants.

I am the worst mother in the world.

The worst ever.

L is for Level. That's how I kept my voice when I went in to discuss things with Mr Bea. "I'm going to say something and you may not like it," I began, and before I could draw breath to get out the next bit he cut in.

"You're going to say I'm a terrible father. That I don't know how to handle my son. That I'm unnecessarily mean and nasty to him and that it's my fault he's out of control lately."

"I wasn't going to say that at all," I replied, a little taken aback. I had been thinking it - but about me, not him. "I was going to say that the last thing we need to do tomorrow is visit the zoo." We'd organised to meet friends there for a day out with the kids.

"Do you think that's effective punishment, though?" Mr Bea asked dubiously. "I mean, he misbehaved over an hour ago, and now you're going to tell him he can't go to the zoo tomorrow."

"It's not really about punishment," I said, "although if he chooses to take it that way it's fine by me. But this is about setting him up for success instead of failure." I corrected myself: "It's about setting us all up for success instead of failure. If we go on the zoo trip we'll have to stress to get everyone out of the door early, we'll be taking him to a new place where he doesn't know all the rules and which is exciting enough to erode his currently-limited impulse control. On top of that, we'll be investing not only our money, but our scant reserves of time and energy, which will only serve to raise our expectations of his behaviour. It's a recipe for disaster. It's just not a good idea. We should do something low-key and familiar, just the four of us."

I'd been thinking about the discussion I'd had with his kindy teacher on Friday. I'd been mortified to hear he'd been kicking the other children, but when the teacher told me she'd also had to pull him up for his enthusiastic hugging and kissing (it scares some of his classmates) I figured he just needed some guidance in terms of his interactions with peers. But then she'd told me about the destructive behaviour - kicking of walls and furniture, ripping plastic covers off desks and shredding them to pieces, throwing toys and smashing them around. I think she'd expected me to take issue with him then and there, but instead it had given me pause. "Thanks, I'll talk to him," I'd said, and she'd hesitated, then she'd nodded and said her goodbyes and we'd left. I'd been slowly getting the pieces together since then.

Six months ago he was praised everywhere for his placid and easy-going nature. Sure, he would get a little unsettled if we tried too many things in a row. At one point I had a rule that there would only be half a days' excitement in every forty-eight hours, as it seemed to be all he could handle, but I thought he was growing more resilient with age and experience, and he was cooperative and happy. Then he got a new baby sister. Then he moved into Grandma and Grandad's house for a month. Then he moved overseas. And of course, he turned three, and that never helps. Then we went home for a visit and came back and he started kindy four days a week for the first time and he started swimming lessons one day a week and Surprise Baby started "teething" and we all got tired and cranky and impatient and... somewhere in there we started spiralling out of control. Somewhere along the line it all started coming undone, and it was time to take a step back, simplify, return to basics.

We needed to take Surprise Baby to the doctor, for starters. On the one hand, this was exactly what The Prata Baby went through at the same age and there was nothing to be done about it except survive, but what if? What if we were missing a treatable ear infection or something? It was worth checking out. There were things we could re-organise around the house. Toothbrushes off the bathroom bench, laundry off the couch and into the spare room, breakables in a cupboard or out of reach. I find it hard to deal with regressions, to childproof our house back to when we had an eighteen-month-old because damnit, isn't he supposed to be twice that age now and know better? But backward steps are part of growing up, and we all have the ability to revert to childish behaviour in times of stress. Set him up for success. If you can't stand to pick your clean laundry from fifteen corners of the living room twelve times a day, put it somewhere out of sight and mind. He obviously can't handle the responsibility. And I resolved to take him out of kindy one day a week, at least for now, because these problems always seem to crop up on the fourth day. And I asked Mr Bea to reorganise his work day so he can help me through the bedtime routine because the screaming infant interruptions which happen every ten minutes and take twenty minutes each to resolve can spin it all out til 9pm or later - well past The Prata Baby's bedtime - and that doesn't help at all. And apart from that, I told myself to remember to keep it simple, low-key and familiar. I need to focus on achievable goals. I need to set us all up for success.

That night, last night, I lay down beside him, put my arms around him, and told him I loved him very much. I wanted him to realise I still do, even on the many days I am one big parenting FAIL. He grinned and hugged me back, and we exchanged kisses. But then he ruined it all by whinging about every little thing I did - the speed I sung his bedtime song, the order of the verses, the angle at which I was lying down and how I'd plumped his pillow (to name but a few) - until eventually I sucked a deep breath in through my teeth, kissed him on the forehead, whispered goodnight, and closed the door behind me on the way out. Over the next twenty minutes I listened to him weep himself into a fitful sleep and I didn't really care.


W is for Wakeup Time this morning. I told myself to start with a clean slate, but I could feel that some resentment had followed me through to the new day regardless. Try as I might, I could only push it aside so far. When The Prata Baby whined through breakfast - everything I did was wrong - I had to force myself to count and breathe before telling him I couldn't understand him, I could only hear whiny noises. Then when that didn't work I had to force myself to count and breathe again before opining that he must still be tired and what about going back into his room for some extra rest?

"No! I'm not tired!" he yelled.

"Feeling unwell then?" I suggested. "That needs rest, too."

"I'm not sick!" he yelled even more adamantly.

"Oh good," I said calmly. "So if you're not tired or sick, and you have food and drink in front of you so you can't be hungry or thirsty, and you've already been to the toilet this morning so you don't need to do that... then I can't think of a single excuse for you not to talk properly to me." He started whining again. "I'm going to give you three seconds to stop whining before you go to your room," I announced placidly, getting the hang of it now. "One!"

The whining stopped. The resentment dissipated slightly. The next couple of hours weren't too bad.

I is for Incidents. We had a few of them over the course of the day - he threw a toy at his sister and I scooped her up and pointedly left the room, closing the door on his protests. But I had to let him out temporarily with a pang of guilt - did I say pang? was that the understatement of the century? - when he complained that he needed to go to the toilet, and I know we will have to work to re-establish the rules of time out because of where we went wrong yesterday. He got himself into trouble again for hitting his father with a toy and again for biting him, and he had a colossal meltdown before bedtime.

And that is what counts as a WIN these days. I call it a win because at the end of the day it was a soft and gentle voice with which I put my foot down and told him he couldn't possibly need to go to the toilet again, and he left off and fell asleep in my arms.

N is for Never. That's when I get to stop trying anew. That's when I get to stop wiping the slate clean, taking a step back, looking for an untried solution. That's when I should lapse in consistency. That's when I should forget, when I should let him forget, that he still means the world to me. That I'm glad we have him, that it was worse, so much worse, when we didn't know we would.

Three is the age of questions, so they say, and The Prata Baby has certainly come out with some big ones so far - usually at the most awkward moments. A while back now we were riding the bus when he piped up with, "Mum, is there another little tiny baby in your tummy right now?"

All around us, bemused passengers turned to look pointedly out of their windows. "Right now?" I replied. "No there isn't. Why do you ask?"

"I want there to be another little tiny baby in your tummy," he said with conviction. "A little brother this time." My, my. Thanks for your input, I will take it on board.

It was only a matter of time before the big followup came. "How did Surprise Baby get made?" he asked one day, out of the blue. We were visiting family at the time.

"Um... what?" I responded, intelligently.

"How did she get in there?" he said, pointing, and then as if the question needed further clarification, he immediately rephrased: "How did she get into your tummy?" I told him that it was a bit complicated, and that he should ask me again at bedtime when it was just me and him and I had time to answer properly. He hasn't brought it up since, possibly because someone else got to him first. Later that day, I heard him explain to his toys, on his older cousin's authority, that the Baby Jesus had put Surprise Baby in my tummy. For a while I wondered if I should force a more scientific explanation upon him, but he seems satisfied, and I'll no doubt get my next chance too soon anyway.

Then yesterday, he came out with the hardest one of all, and at the most awkward moment imaginable. We were sitting at home, on the bed, just the two of us, with nowhere in particular to go in any sort of hurry. I saw it coming, like a horrible car crash, knowing that I had no excuse to dodge or escape; that I was going to have to answer in full, to PB's utter and unhurried satisfaction. "Boo used to say Dadda," he stated, repeating something Vee had said a few weeks before on our visit. "But why doesn't he say Dadda any more?"

He was grinning when he asked it, and I saw that smile slip from his lips as he took in my sombre expression. I took a deep breath. "Because a bit over a year ago, Boo's Dadda died," I told him gently, but simply.

"Died?" he asked.

"Yes. He got very sick. So sick, the doctors couldn't make him better again. Then he died. It's very sad."

The Prata Baby cocked his head on one side and considered this information calmly. Then he wanted to know more. Did Boo's Dadda go to hospital? Did they give him medicine? Did he sleep overnight at the hospital? Did the doctors cut his head open? (Mysteriously to us, PB has gained the knowledge that doctors sometimes open people's skulls to perform neurosurgery. The idea has, let's say, stuck with him.) I answered his questions calmly, gently, and truthfully. Yes, he went to hospital. They gave him a lot of medicine. He even slept overnight. But he didn't have the type of sickness that would benefit from having his head cut open so the doctors didn't perform that particular procedure, no.

There was a pause after that, during which PB fiddled thoughtfully with his fingers and I waited patiently for his next response. Eventually he looked up at me, studying my face, as if trying to figure out how to say what he wanted to say. Then in a small voice, he asked, "Mum, is Boo's Dadda going to come back to their place?"

And I had to tell him. "No, darling. When people die they don't come back."

Over the last twenty-four hours I've wondered why I didn't think to soften it a bit for him. If I can let him believe, without other explanation, that the Baby Jesus puts babies into people's tummies, surely I can let him believe - without other explanation - that Boo's Dadda "went to heaven" or some such thing. Or perhaps I should have added a few thoughts about the ways in which our loved ones stay with us after they die, even though they are no longer here in the flesh. I'm not sure. He seemed to cope alright with what I said, so perhaps it was best to stay blunt and simple for now. No doubt I'll get my next chance too soon anyway.

Last time I visited Vee was the first time I didn't see Max.

That's mostly what I remember from our trip last year. His absence - at least his physical absence - caught me off-guard when I walked through the door, even though I knew (of course) that he was gone. There was something about... seeing him not there. I'd met Vee face to face a handful of times prior to that, and I'd never seen him not there before.

This time it seemed more normal. So did Vee - that is, in a certain manner of speaking. Whenever I see her she seems to be holding it together abnormally well, but last year was especially awe-inspiring. She was not just functioning. She was actually coping. Or perhaps she was just distracted by the way I got so horribly lost I turned up for her home-cooked lunch closer to dinner time, then somehow managed to throw it all around her lounge room. I guess if I was that busy concentrating on remaining graceful and accommodating whilst setting up trundle beds and portacots for my hours-late guest and - I might add - facilitating doctor's visits for her son and then shampooing tomato out of my carpet and easy chair I probably wouldn't have time to fall apart either.

Still, there were brief moments when it bubbled to the surface, and in those moments I wondered how she kept from spilling over. This time, it was... well, the not-spilling-over seemed more like a given. Something she does with ease, every day, but not (I'm sure) all the time.

We visited her home, their home, the one she shared with Max and then also with Boo and then only with Boo, in the final week before she emptied it of its contents and headed for higher ground - higher both geographically and, I hope, emotionally. This time I marked our agreed time of arrival down in my calendar as several hours earlier than our actual agreed time of arrival, totally baffling Vee when I turned up on time babbling about being horribly late. She took some great photos she's not happy with but everyone else is, and she taught me a new recipe which I am yet to try and have so far not thrown onto anyone's carpet. PB enjoyed being at Boo's house even better than riding on the bus or giving Surprise Baby "train rides" in her cot around the hotel room or even chasing helpless pigeons whilst making a horrid, loud, and highly irritating screeching noise, which I thought was his favourite thing ever. And we enjoyed ourselves, too.

Thanks, Vee - you're a wonderful host and an amazing woman. And despite what you might feel, a darn fine photographer, too.

To heal, first and foremost, you have to want to heal. It sounds trite, and more than a little dismissive, as if everyone hurting is doing it on purpose for the attention, or perhaps to annoy. The thing is, some of the time we are doing it on purpose, but usually for a different reason. We carry our grief, our anger, and our resentment for further than is necessary when we haven't yet decided what to do with it. We have, after all, paid dearly for our pain. It's not reasonable to expect us to part with it easily, even though it is ugly and burdensome. Tossing it aside - "letting go" or "moving on" - is not our goal. Instead, we seek a transformation; a suitably valuable exchange.

A friend asked me this week to talk with her about IVF, as it has just been recommended to her as a course of treatment. How does she feel? I haven't met up with her yet, but from initial accounts, not great. She tells me I don't have to agree to the discussion - perhaps I'd rather not go over that period of my life again. Perhaps I am trying to put it behind me, to forget. I tell her that is not the case. I want her to understand that if I can transform any part of my sorrows into something that helps her along her path, we can both end up closer to healed.

And the truth is, I am ready to be healed. It took a long time after the birth of The Prata Baby for the process to start - I had to consciously set the task aside for a while in order to focus on caring for a newborn, and I think I underestimated the amount of damage I'd sustained. I was going well, you see, I was coping ok with our infertility in the leadup to his conception. I mistook that for being able to, afterwards, listen to conversations on gender disappointment or ideal age gaps without wanting to snap people's heads off, either figuratively or literally, and I was wrong. These days, however, it almost warms me to hear such naivety, as if I'm reassured by the notion that some parts of the world, at least, are running as we'd like them to run. And there is a practical sense in which infertility has lost its hold on me. Yes, we still have to go back for those frozen embryos, but since Surprise Baby's birth I have been feeling fully content with our lot and willing to surrender the rest to the will of the unknown*.

But I'm worried about this meeting, all the same. My friend already has a honeymoon baby, and is experiencing secondary infertility, which I have never really known. Second time around, I found it far, far easier to front up to the fertility specialist and set the wheels in motion, and everything fell into place a short time later. I am trying, in advance, not to shrug her off because of that. I am trying to remember that she isn't pre-adjusted to her membership in the infertility club like I was when we started trying for number two, that it's the first time around for her on this crazy, sometimes terrifying ride. And that anyway, she's not me, and can't be expected to react in exactly the same way as me at all times.

So I'm trying to figure out what I can possibly say - if, indeed, I am called upon to say anything at all other than, "Hmm... oohhh... gosh... dear me..." which, I suppose I mustn't forget, is entirely possible. Does she want practical information about medications or procedures? Does she need help deciding which path to take? Is she expecting me to give her some magic balm to make the confusion go away, because honestly, I don't have one, despite my prior experience and a great deal of wishing one into existence for the benefit of myself and others. All I have is the belief that she will, on a day too far away into the future, find herself smiling to hear fertile folk talk of trivial concerns, her heart warming with the reassurance that some part of the world, at least, is running as she'd like it to run. A belief that someday, she will find herself ready and willing to transform the pain she is now feeling into something better, to exchange it for something equally valuable, but much more gratifying.

Your input is appreciated.

*This may change. We'll see.

I am putting the final touches on our moving arrangements - we are due to reunite with Mr Bea in Singapore next week - and today, I gave away my boots.

I have to explain to you that these are great boots. I bought them a smidge before IVF Jul/Aug '07 - the one which resulted in our first live birth - and I have continued to like them ever since. They are just so me. Whenever I look at them... sorry, looked at them... it hurts a fraction to speak of them in past tense but I should start doing so... Whenever I looked at them I wondered where they'd been all my life. As someone whose wardrobe has long been plagued by well-meant gifts, hand-me-downs, regrettable shopping choices and Things My Mother Would Like To See Me In, it was refreshing to have something that was so seamlessly connected to the person I believe I really am. I mean, I loved these boots. I just couldn't keep them anymore.

We're moving to Singapore, for one thing. I don't know if you know much about Singapore, but if you know anything at all, what you probably know is that it's stifling, sticky hot. Not really boot-scootin' terrain. More like mould-growing terrain, in fact - with leather goods being a prime target for said mould, as I found out during our first stay before getting rid of almost all of our leather goods. If I'd taken those boots to Singapore they would have done nothing but sit in the cupboard creating housework for me, and I'm too busy for that. Anyone's too busy for that.

"But you could keep them here in case you want to wear them on a visit," MIL kindly offered, as I took them from the cupboard and held them in a sad and lingering gaze. But no. The stiletto heels are not the kind that will allow me to carry my infant or chase my toddler with the necessary ease. It will be several years before I am able to wear such things again, and who knows where I'll be or what may happen in the meantime. I can't hang on to them any longer. They suit me, but not this phase of my life.

I put them in the car and drove them around with me all day on my errands, looking at them whenever I had the chance, wondering if I was really going to do it. Eventually my errands took me to the house of a friend, to whom I explained my situation.

"Show me these boots," he said, and I did. "Wow. They are great boots, and in really good nick, too. I'm actually kind of sorry they're not in my size. Are you really going to give them away?" And I explained my reasoning, the move to Singapore, the kids, and he nodded and agreed that it all made sense. Then he said, "You know where they sell a lot of this kind of thing? The Vinnies at West End." Aha. A charity thrift shop in a trendy suburb where lots of young student and arty types hang out. He offered to come with me.

When we arrived it was raining and Surprise Baby had fallen asleep in her seat, so I gave my friend the boots and let him off whilst I circled the block. Afterwards, he relayed that the shop had had a run on boots lately with the onset of winter, and had completely sold out earlier that day. The girl at the counter had seemed very pleased for the donation and had assured him that they would quickly find a good owner.

I'm not really writing this post for the boots, of course. When I got home, there was a bill for me in the mail, from the fertility clinic, for the next six months' worth of semen storage. We had it stored the first time we moved to Singapore, to help solve any logistical problems with long-distance cycling, and also - secretly - to allay my fear that Mr Bea's sperm count was on a one-way expedition to Zerodom, and we were fast running out of chances. We have never used it. Now that we have two children and a bit more confidence in our sperm count I have to ask myself - why are we holding on to something that is doing nothing but sitting around, unused, creating work (to the tune of $450/year) for us? Are we really so committed to having a third child that we will pay that money over just in case we want to do another IVF cycle and Mr Bea's count drops to zero - both of which, frankly, seem unlikely? The answer - I'm pretty sure the answer - is no. It has always been yes up til now. Up til now, I have always been the kind of person who will spend $450 on that kind of insurance against not having the fullest possible range of family-building options.

I still am that kind of person, really. Just in a different phase of my life.

Even when the answer is obvious, it's hard to let go. I sit here gazing at the bill with the same sad, lingering look I gave to my favourite boots only earlier today, not quite ready to take the final plunge. Maybe I just need to drop in on an old friend who will give me the confidence to go through with my plans. Will you come with me when I phone the clinic?

First of all, I would like to thank the collective artists of nineties' grunge for making a vast array of music that reliably puts newborn babies to sleep within the first couple of verses - if not bars - of each song, and keeps them that way. Then, I would like to curse the collective artists of nineties' grunge for adding so many swear words and adult themes to their music that I can't play it in front of my toddler for fear that he will start singing his great-grandmother rather colourful pieces about masturbation.


I would like to say that Surprise Baby is more settled than The Prata Baby was at the same age, and to some extent I think that's genuinely true. Number of times she has screamed as if having a limb amputated whilst preparing to dirty her nappy: zero, just to choose one example. But undoubtedly part of it is the benefit of experience, that is, mine. It works in two ways. Most directly, I have learned a trick or two. PB was - what? - six or perhaps even eight weeks old before we discovered the magic of grunge, whereas this time we have enjoyed its benefits from the very beginning, even if we have had to scramble to clean up the playlist a little. Or a lot. But even where things are unfolding much the same as before and there's little I can do to alter them, I find myself better off. For instance, when the Prata Baby was three weeks old, I suffered constant frustration due to my unfulfilled expectations of daytime naps. This time I have no such expectations. I am, therefore, experiencing a relatively benign sense of resignation as I walk continuously around the house wearing SB in a sling, wishing I'd bought the for-radio version of International Superhits! by Green Day. As if "bleep masturbation" is really a more suitable serenade for Great Grandma.


So far, PB is adjusting well. I have heard a lot of people advocate age gaps of less than two years because you don't want your eldest to "get used to" being an only child. I have concluded that this is bollocks. There are good reasons in favour of small age gaps, and perhaps the above is a fair reason for not wanting an unusually large gap, and at the end of the day I find the whole "ideal spacing" discussion kind of tiresome and irrelevant on account of the infertility and the being glad to have subsequent children at all, but I distinctly remember PB screaming in anguish when, at fifteen months, he saw me holding someone else's baby, whereas these days he seems more or less fine with it. At less than two years, PB desired my exclusive attention in a way he just doesn't anymore. These days, he is Mr Independent, Mr Helpful, and Mr Sociable all rolled into one. His catch phrases are, "I want to do it by myself!" and "I want to help!" and "Hello! Come play with me!" Far from being "used to" having the household to himself and peeved that this is no longer the case, he is, instead, at an age where he is developmentally ready to share life with a younger sibling. Or at least one who spends a large part of the day sleeping, and who doesn't try to play with his toys. I'll let you know how this pans out over the medium term. If things deteriorate, an unedited grunge playlist may not be the biggest threat to our social interactions with Great Grandma.


We are fine here, if busy. There's only a few weeks left before Mr Bea and all our household goods leave for Singapore, and the rest of us leave for my parents' house. We'll be following in early May, the idea being that Mr will have organised a house and unpacked at least the more vital of our possessions by then. I'm already behind on blog news, I'm likely to get even further out of touch over the next few months, and for both those things I apologise. This community has meant a lot to me, especially the continued friendship and support I've received during this too-good-to-be-true journey to our second child, and particularly considering what some of you have been through over that same period of time. I'll do my best, and we'll catch up properly sooner or later, though I hope it's sooner. In the meantime... you know, there should be a reference to a nineties grunge song here, but they're all so angry, and these days, I don't have a reason to be.

There's a new post up at Prata Baby, too.

Almost a week ago, I was waiting for someone to call me about an induction date, whilst trying to figure out how to negotiate my way through our various options with BOB. My deliberations, however, soon became moot - like many parts of this surprising journey. The carefully-laid plans for an FET. The alternative birth options we researched and living arrangements we put in place when floods overtook our city, leaving us to evacuate our house in the eighth month of this pregnancy. The backup sleeping spots I organised in case the bassinet mattress failed to arrive in time. All moot, to name but a few.

Because the FET never had to happen, and the floods subsided, leaving our house high and dry and pregnancy intact, and the bassinet mattress turned up more than half a week past our estimated due date but days before the baby arrived. And in the case of my ponderings over the induction, they were moot because labour started later that night, and by the morning our little girl was safely in our arms.

Let me tell that bit to you from the start.

In Monday's report, I mentioned that I was having haphazard cramps, kind of like period pains. And that I had become so irritable and fed up with The Prata Baby, who wasn't really misbehaving, that I had called Mr Bea home from work an hour early to give me a break. Around ten pm, whilst watching TV, I noticed that the cramps were becoming more intense. I found myself closing my eyes until they passed, but they were irregular, and I was still able to keep one ear on the program in front of me. I decided, however, that things were starting to get underway, and that it was a good time to catch some sleep before I lost the chance. I had a shower and went to bed. I ordered Mr Bea to bed, too. Ordered, apparently. He said that, in hindsight, it was a sign he should have heeded more seriously. I may not have been doubled over with pain or breaking my waters throughout the house, but I was irritable and bossy and that should have been a warning. He's probably right.

Somewhere around midnight, having dozed on and off for nearly two hours, I started absent-mindedly counting contractions. When I woke up properly, around one, to go to the toilet, I calculated that they were probably coming around ten minutes apart. Or not, depending on how reliable you thought my counting had been, given that I was three-quarters asleep. Then I lost the mucous plug, and I decided to tell the entire internet about it before going back to bed, and sleep. But my plans were never carried through, because when I stood up I had a succession of rather intense contractions quite close together, which I rode out in various positions in the living room. When things quietened down a little, I decided to wake Mr Bea.

Mr Bea was quite reluctant to be woken. I got extremely frustrated with him and started bossing him around forcefully, which didn't work either. He was wandering around in a daze, taking ten minutes to complete simple requests that should have taken one, whining and arguing the point every step of the way. At about 1:30 I asked him to bring me the cordless phone and after I wheedled the action out of him (it took maybe ten minutes), I rung the hospital to speak with someone about when, possibly, I should come in. Mr Bea's attitude changed slightly at this point - apparently he had not realised that I was in labour. He must have thought I was waking him in the middle of the night and asking him to gather hospital supplies for kicks or... look, the guy was half asleep, let's not judge. We can all be really, alarmingly dense between one and two in the morning.

As soon as somebody answered the phone on the other end, the contractions started to ease off. I spoke to the midwife for a while, as she timed the duration and frequency of a few contractions, and tried to assess their intensity from my tone of voice over the phone. I could still speak through most of them, and through the others I was taking deep, slow breaths or producing softly audible sighs. She told me I should get my parents around to take over care of The Prata Baby, and maybe have a snack to eat whilst I waited for their arrival. She suggested toast. I thought toast sounded great, so I asked Mr Bea to make me some and this time, he got right onto it. I was to call them back when we were ready to start in.

On my way to the kitchen, things picked up. I dropped onto my hands and knees twice before I reached the end of the hallway, and one contraction was so strong it sent shudders through my body. I used the hypnobirthing techniques I'd gleaned from the book - deep breathing and visualisation. In my mind, I pictured my cervix as a big, shiny ribbon, gently unravelling before my eyes. I pictured my body dissolving, leaving only the sensations of labour, then I focussed on causing the sensations of labour to dissolve away, too.

When I got to the kitchen, toast sounded less appealing than a cool shower to take the sweat off my suddenly-heated body, so I made my way to the bathroom and hopped in. I worried briefly about how I would look to my parents when they arrived, and then a new series of contractions sent me to my knees in the tub. These ones were powerful enough to make me switch to the vocalisation techniques we'd gone through in yoga class. I opened my mouth and produced a low "aaaahhh" sound, sliding it down through the scale like a trombone. I remember feeling compelled to press forcefully against the bathtub with my arms, and I knew I should head for the hospital, but I wasn't really sure how to get out of the tub. I tried to plan a sequence of movements in my head, but it was hard to concentrate with the contractions coming one of top of each other as they were.

Then all of a sudden - it didn't seem like more than a few minutes later - I felt a change. And all at once, I knew these concerns were moot, too.

Mr Bea was hovering uncertainly by the bath, bringing me the news that my toast was ready. "I feel like pushing," I said simply. He made some sort of alarmed noise, but I didn't hear what he said, because I was having another contraction. I fought my instinct to push upwards with my arms and say "aaaahhh" and instead lowered my chest and puffed, to slow things down. When I could talk again, I said, "It's alright. It's fine. Everything's ok."

It's always amazed me how well that technique works. If you ever feel like taking charge of a situation that has everyone in a tizz, follow this advice: appear calm, authoritative and reassuring. Tell everyone firmly that things are under control, no matter what the truth may be. They will instantly decide - although decide isn't quite the word; the reaction is less deliberative than that - to follow your every instruction. Immediately, and without fuss or question. Try it and see.

I assured Mr Bea that everything was okay, then after a short pause (to allow this hard-wired human reaction to take effect) I went on to say, "I want you to go into the living room and get the cordless phone and bring it straight back in here." He left. Immediately, and without fuss or question. I had another contraction. This time, I felt the baby moving down the birth canal and knew we didn't have much time.

"Can you see anything?" I asked when he got back. He told me he couldn't see much - just some blood. "Okay. I want you to remove the redback spider from the wall in front of me."

"The what?"

"The redback spider. There is a redback spider crawling around in our bathtub in front of me. Please get it out." After a moment of stunned disbelief, he did this, whilst I had another contraction. Puff, puff, puff. Soon I could speak again.

"I want you to call triple O and ask for an ambulance," I told him.

He started dialling. I heard him give our address as I fought my instinct to bear down during the next contraction. Then I heard him say he could see the head. This seemed to alarm him somewhat, and he started shouting in exasperation at the person on the other end of the line, who was obviously still going through the initial, routine questions. "What? How old is my wife? I can see the baby's head! It's happening really fast!" he was saying.

A new contraction started, and I knew there was no way I could keep her inside any longer. "The head is coming," I said to Mr Bea, and I eased her out as gently as I could.

"The head is out!" he shouted down the phone.

And I asked him, "Are you ready to catch the baby?" I think I asked him several times, and I never really listened to the answer, but I heard him get into the bathtub behind me and I saw him under my armpit, ready and waiting with arms outstretched.

There was one more contraction and Surprise Baby was born. "Have you got her? Is she pink? How's her breathing?" I asked Mr Bea. I heard muffled infant noises.

"The cord's around her neck," he said urgently, and I turned to look and saw that it wasn't, really, it was going over her shoulder and around the back of her neck, well away from her windpipe.

"It's fine, it's not obstructing her airway," I assured him, but I had to say it several times. "Give her to me and grab that towel." He did. I unwound the cord in order to bring her to my chest and bundled her up, wiping her mouth and nose with the towel as she stared up at me in wide-eyed disbelief. Mr Bea was talking down the phone again.

"She's making soft noises. Yes, my wife's doing that. Yes, she's doing that, she's doing that. Um, I don't know, we haven't checked yet..." I checked... "A girl, it's a girl. Thanks. Yes. Ha!" He was babbling with relief, and grinning wildly. Then, "I have to go and let the ambulance guys in," he said to me, and he took off up the hallway to the front door.

There's not too much more to tell. The ambulance guys came in, they clamped the cord, they checked us both over, placed the very Adam and Eve of all maternity pads under me and escorted us to the ambulance waiting outside. They suggested they snap us a quick picture. Then Surprise Baby - how aptly named! - and I took off for the hospital whilst Mr Bea made a cup of tea to go with my uneaten - but still slightly warm - toast, and waited for my parents to arrive.

The Prata Baby, bless his tender little heart, slept through the whole thing.

Thus endeth the tale.

There's only so many ways you can compose a post to say, "Nup." I have, therefore, largely refrained. Today, however, I had a marginally more exciting stretch and sweep and we discussed booking an induction in case that doesn't work. (The receptionist was supposed to ring me back to tell me which day we were going to make that, exactly, only she hasn't, so I'll have to chase her tomorrow. Sometime towards the end of the week, only, hopefully not because hopefully things will happen before we get to that point.)

Here's the thing. Last time, as you probably don't recall, I had the stretch and sweep and the prostin gel at the same time and it all kicked off nicely. This time BOB says there's no point in using the gel because the cervix is already nice and soft and ready to go (apparently he can stretch my cervix out to 4cm without any trouble at all, by which I presume he meant trouble on his part) so the gel won't really won't add anything to a stretch and sweep. And I'm sure he's not making that up or anything. He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who likes to make up medical facts for fun, or because he's too lazy to ask someone where they keep the prostin and can he grab some, please.

But it's hard to shake the thought that it worked so well last time and I guess I'm just not a big fan of going straight from here to ARM or a pitocin drip and I'm wondering... can it hurt to humour the batty patient? So I'm rehearsing a little speech in my head where we do it anyway, just for fun, just in case it's the mystery ingredient my body needs to nudge it into labour, and see where that takes us for an hour or two (it worked within an hour or two last time) and then we can maybe move on with his plan if need be. It can't be - in fact, it isn't, from what he told me about the reasons for his running over an hour late this morning - the craziest thing he's heard all week.

At the same time, if he's right and it wasn't actually the gel last time (and my body responds similarly this time) then I should be in labour any moment now from the stretch and sweep alone. It's not completely out of the question - although I have to say I'm not obviously in labour like I was this many hours after the stretch+sweep+gel combo of yore - because I have been having haphazard... cramps? dare I say contractions? often enough to call Mr Bea home early from work and help out with the bedtime routine. Not because I am physically incapacitated, as such, but because the cramps are strong enough that I am getting rapidly fed up with being crashed into, pestered, pummeled, whined at, or otherwise interfered with in the middle of them. I mean, heaven forbid I try to close my eyes and breath deeply during a particularly sharp one. I will instantly get my eyes poked and Somebody will shout in my ear, "Mum! Mum! Don't pretend to sleep, Mum! Muuuuuuum!" and after several hours of this sort of thing I was starting to go... well, it was ruining my Zen. So Mr Bea is doing teeth cleaning and I am taking a break and he will finish off his last hour of work from home later on, when all is a little more peaceful and icecreamful.

Which is something that will only happen if I duck off now to acquire said icecream.

I'll let you know if anything escalates, or if someone calls me back with an induction date, or whatever. 40w8d, and heading for the end game...

I am mainly posting because people are asking for updates. I don't actually have an update, however, so this is more of a non-update.

Nothing has happened. The plan is still the same - if still nothing by next Monday we might start doing things. And then if that doesn't work I guess we'll do other things. And in the meantime I have googled the sorts of things we can do on our own, and have started doing a lot of them.

Sorry to get you all going with news of contractions, but that doesn't seem to have led anywhere at this stage. My to-do list now contains items such as "review superannuation", so... mainly thumb twiddling... although I am still waiting on that bassinet mattress... we'll see... 40w2d and signing off...

I have just paid our latest embryo storage bill.

Did you know that in some states of Australia, embryo storage times are limited, perhaps to as little as five years? Or at least they were last time I heard, which was admittedly several years ago now. You might like to check my facts.

The point is, I just paid our latest embryo storage bill, and in doing so I paused for a moment, because in so many other ways I live in the conservative backwaters of assisted reproductive and alternative family-building legislation. I'm not trying to imply you can't use third party reproductive techniques (including surrogacy), adopt, or become a homosexual or single parent, but our brothers and sisters in other regions seem to fare much more easily on those fronts. When it comes to storing embryos, on the other hand, well, bless us one and all. As long as I pay the fees, they'll stay in the freezer, no questions asked. Which means that if, for example, one has embryos left over from a disastrous OHSS cycle performed in early 2006, which generated enough almost-rans to sink most reasonable people into some degree of panic, depression and/or financial disarray, such that it was decided to start fresh in mid-2007 and leave those last embryos for a later, saner time, which - praise be! - ended up being necessarily deferred until after the birth of a healthy child and then - praise and also astonishment be! - until sometime after the birth of another, completely unexpected surprise baby... just to pluck a set of circumstances from thin air... if this were to happen to you, and you weren't particularly keen to up and bin the whole batch on the spot just because some bureaucrat couldn't see why it would possibly take anyone longer than five years to use a frozen embryo, you don't have to jump through any legislative hoops or fill in any forms explaining your circumstances or justifying your decisions in triplicate to any legislative body in order to have your wishes granted, especially when you might have other things to do like, maybe, give birth*.

You just have to pay your bill. And they stay right where they are, in the freezer. As they should.

*Or not. I did have mild, yet regular contractions for an hour or so last night, between about 3:30 and 4:30am - about 30s each, about 5-10mins apart - but that all seems to have gone by the wayside. Bets are still wide open. My eyes, on the other hand, are not. Sleep awaits.

My to-do list is looking decidedly undaunting all of a sudden. Perhaps it's because of this that I feel as if I've hit a bit of a wall the last few days. I think I'm starting to recover - I suspect I just need a couple of afternoon naps.

There is no news. Surprise Baby still looks fine at 39w2d and is even back in an optimal position, after a brief flirt with a posterior presentation last week. BOB advises that the risks of induction are lower for women with a proven record of vaginal delivery, which is heartening, although he is still inclined to wait it out til after 41 weeks to give things a chance to start off on their own - all other things being equal, of course. Then (as long as conditions look favourable) he'd probably start with stretches and sweeps and the like before moving on to anything more serious, or keep waiting til 42 weeks, whichever we prefer/seems appropriate at the time. I think stretches and sweeps from 41+ weeks under favourable conditions sounds fine based on our discussion today. So that's where we're at. Current plan is two more weeks for things to hurry themselves along, and then we start nudging. If we get to that point. I'll keep you posted.

For those who follow Prata Baby there is a new post up there, too. Behind the password as it discusses infertility stories of friends who have not given permission to be publicly blogged about.

Thanks for all the feedback so far. It's been very reassuring.


I have enough hand-me-downs from Nephew to cover the clothing angle in the short term. I might need a couple more lightweight things as Nephew was born in a colder season, but I suspect MIL will be onto that before the first week is out (she probably already has a gender-neutral pile going and is just waiting to find out the sex so she can really go on a spree), so I'm not too worried.


Last time I got by with just breast. I do have a manual pump and a couple of bottles if need be and I even know where they are. Mr Bea can pull them out and wash them off at a moment's notice, and if I need anything more motorised I know where to get it as I go along. Burp cloths and bibs - check. I even found my warm-or-cool gel packs and I have nipple cream because I've been using it as lip balm for the last couple of years. Other people do that, right?


Yeeeeeees. Well. Although you can house babies in drawers and cardboard boxes, we are hard up in both directions. We left a lot of our furniture (the stuff we're not taking with us in the move) under my Grandmother's house after the whole flood debacle, including pretty much all our drawers. Our cardboard boxes are mostly full of spiders by now, although I'm sure Mr Bea would take one for the team by consuming enough beer at short notice to empty out a sparkly fresh one, and although we have a bassinet, the mattress went moldy in all the rain and as it's an unusual size and what with all the businesses that have had to close up shop temporarily due to inundation, we may not have a new one for up to two weeks (it is currently on order). For those counting along at home, this is half a week past our estimated date. On the up side, MIL owns a portacot, so again I am not too worried - unless you count the fact that we don't really have room for a portacot. I seem to recall The Prata Baby mostly using our bed during the first couple of months anyway. I'm sure it'll work out. At least we are ok for sheets etc.


The first time around, I didn't realise this was a whole category on its own, and a really, really important one at that. For some reason, the baby shopping lists I had led me astray. However:

- muslins, check
- miracle blanket, check
- vibrating bouncer, check
- sarong sling and ergo, check
- dummy, check
- iPod and speakers, nineties' grunge playlist, check
- rocking chair... hm... I seem to remember this being exquisitely useful last time around, and although I have the fitball so I can at least rest my legs, I might have to look into buying and/or hiring one, if I can work out where to put it.


We have both a car seat and stroller that can be used from newborn, although the former has not yet been installed, but that's quickly sorted. I'm not sure I'm ready to lose the spare seat in our car for another week or so, til I'm more confident we've finished carting items around.

Changing and bathing:

I need to pick up a bath from my SIL which I will do tomorrow. I am actually more worried about where the rest of us will bathe, since our bathtub (we have a shower-over-bath) CRACKED FROM SIDE TO SIDE and water pours out through our floorboards whenever it is turned on now. This is happening to us two months before a major renovation project which involves completely dismantling the bathroom, and I am still trying to decide if I need to do anything about it and if so, what. Feel free to give your opinion.

Back to babies, however - I seem to have a lot of free samples of soaps and nappy creams, enough so that I am pretty much good for the next couple of months. I have one hooded towel, plus our ordinary towels, and I am inclined to leave it at that. I have facewashers.

I have plenty of cloth wipes for messy jobs and a few packets of disposables. I have a couple of packs of disposable nappies - I am planning to return to cloth, but not until after all the moving is over and done with, especially considering the latest post-partum business trip developments happening over here. (To keep tally - flood evacuation, birth, house falling down around us, moving internationally, business trips/temporary single parenting, major renovation. Maybe I should throw a major course of study into the mix, or...?) I have the change mat from the nappy bag, and am thinking I'll just use that on the bed rather than try and get fancy with change tables etc. I may have to think about how to organise all the stuff so I can use it easily. Shoeboxes, perhaps. Somebody, somewhere, must have a spare shoebox.

I might need a few Q-tips.

First Aid:

- thermometer, check
- standard first aid kit, check
- there's not a lot else you can give a newborn without proper, medical supervision, although for what it's worth I do also have infant panadol. I found gas drops to be useless last time - I know some swear by them - but I am not planning to restock until unless I get desperate enough to want to try anything.
- relevant contact numbers, check


A couple of people have given us toys, there's a toy rail on the bouncer, The Prata Baby will hopefully share some of his more suitable items, and also provide live entertainment. Right?

So to recap:
I should think about getting a rocking chair. Or, I dunno, borrow parents' hammock, since the front verandah is about the only space it could possibly go anyway, and then only if I remove a side-table and chair.
Buy packet of Q-tips. Pick up hand-me-down bath.

Unless someone can think of something else, that seems pretty sorted. Hurrah!

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