Monday, December 20, 2010

Creating traditions

I love the idea of families having special Christmas traditions. A friend's family has a day each December where they invite over as many people as want to come, everyone brings a rolling pin and biscuit cutters, and they churn out hundreds of gingerbread cookies. The host family winds up with enough that they can give them as Christmas gifts to all and sundry and everyone who attends goes home with a bagful.

One Christmas tradition my immediate family has is that of the Christmas pudding. It is really mainly Dad's tradition and he is the main cook. He and Mum have been using the same recipe for about 20 years. Pudding-day is late in November or early in December. The recipe makes two ginormous puddings that are far more than we could ever eat on Christmas day; fortunately they keep indefinitely (on occasion we have cracked the second one out for Easter!) The recipe calls for huge quantities of dried fruit, 10 eggs, flour, brown sugar and liberal amounts of brandy. We make it a gigantic ceramic mixing bowl. Everyone in the family must have a stir for good luck, if not immediately upon it being put together, then sometime that weekend.

It occurred to me that traditions can evolve organically - which is lovely - but sometimes if you want nice things to occur you have to put in a bit of effort and deliberation and kick start them. So the tradition I instigated this year is that of the tree decoration. D and I never bothered with a tree in pre-E days, we always just had a poinsettia with a few decorations. This year we had big plans for a "proper" tree but that was before E taught herself to crawl! The compromise is a 45cm $8 fibre optic number from Coles and it is placed well out of reach on a table top. In years to come I hope E will help with or be responsible for the year's addition to the decorations, but the photo at the top is my attempt this year (in recognition of E's complete bird obsession).

We also plan to take E to church on Christmas morning. We are not especially religious but both were taken to church on Christmas day as children (and D more frequently). I want E to grow up thinking that Christmas is about something more than presents even if I don't necessarily believe iin all of the Christian aspects of it. D and I both love the carols and hope that E will enjoy the spectacle of a Christmas service. That's the plan anyway.

What Christmas traditions does your family have?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today I am determined to be grateful for breastfeeding

Lately I have been finding the fact that Little E (at 8 + months) still wants to feed every four hours (definitely during the day and often during the night) very frustrating and depressing. So today I am determined to be grateful for it. To be grateful that we have had a really easy run breastfeeding - no horrid cracked nipples or supply issues. To be grateful for something that is the best for her and good for me, healthwise. To be grateful for a chance to talk and cuddle multiple times every day. She will be big too soon. Grateful. Oh yes.

This post comes to you courtesy of Maxabella's Grateful Saturday.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Craft for the craftily challenged

I am not the most craftily-enabled person around. In home economics at school I was the person accidentally sewing their material to their lap or gluing their fingers to the table. However, with a friend's baby due I wanted to make something for her. Some months ago I bought a breast pump from a website and was sent this nappy wallet as a freebie. I would not have thought of buying it, but it's been really useful in the bottom of the pram for outings that don't justify dragging along a whole bag worth of baby accoutrements. It's literally just a cotton pouch, with a fold-over velcro-secured flap, lined with a different colour fabric. I, ahem, decided it would be easy enough to sew one for said friend. Well, it was. Kind of...

Expedition One to Spotlight:
1. Arrive at Spotlight. Realise that Spotlight is the size of several enormous barns. Whoever knew crafty types needed so much stuff?
2. Spend inordinately long time choosing fabric whilst baby grizzles.
3. Get in stupidly long queue. After about ten minutes of standing in queue bouncing baby, think about fact that the only scissors in the house are for cutting fingernails, food or wrapping paper. Get out of queue and add unreasonably expensive pair of fabric scissors to basket.
4. On way back to queue, think about fact that whilst we have a (borrowed) sewing machine it only has white thread on it and chosen fabrics are dark blue, and white with red and blue flowers. Go back to thread section and add red and blue thread to basket.
5. Get back in queue. Get sick of bouncing baby and decide that you need a measuring tape in a cute green magnetic tin with a frog on it. Ignore the little voice in your head that says they only put cute stuff like this alongside the queue because they know their queues are so long and that people will get bored in them and decide to buy more stuff. Add measuring tape to basket.

Attempt One at Home
1. Spend a week or so looking at fabric in pleased, ambitious sort of way. Hold two bits of fabric together and admire how they match nicely. Show them to anyone who comes to the house and tell them all about what a useful gift you are making.
2. Decide that it might actually be time to start doing something with fabric. Realise that whilst your nappy pouch appears to just be two types of fabric sewn together, and you now have two types of nicely matching fabric (plus a whole bunch of other stuff...) you have no idea how to actually turn two pieces of fabric into nappy pouch.
3. Decide that you can actually use your very cute magnetic frog measuring tape to measure your nappy pouch and cut out bits of paper the same size and then figure out how to sew them together. Spend an entire evening in front of the television trying to measure existing nappy pouch, and bits of paper, and then cutting out bits of paper. Give up and go to bed.

Attempt Two at Home
1. Decide that Google Knows Everything. Google "nappy pouch" and then "diaper wallet" and discover that, fortunately, you are not the first person to have had this good idea.
2. Find and be very grateful. There are actually two posts on the site that are suitable although one is ostensibly for an electronics cozy: they are and
3. Realise that you will need something to draw on fabric with in order to be able to cut in straight lines and that pen is not ideal.
4. Give up and go to bed.

Expedition Two to Sewing Shop
1. Go to expensive sewing shop in Subiaco because the thought of another Spotlight trip is too daunting.
2. Ask intimidating sewing shop lady for "one of those chalk pencil things you can draw on material with."
3. Accept the do-you-not-know-anything stares along with the "tailors' chalk" offered, pay for it and escape before the baby realises you have dragged her to another sewing shop and throws a complete fit.

Attempt Three at Home
1. Utilising "tailors' chalk," cute magnetic green frog measuring tape and ruler-from-the-pantry, draw appropriately sized rectangles.
2. Spend about twenty minutes painstakingly cutting it out using new fabric scissors.
3. Concede that fabric scissors aren't going to cut it, haha, in terms of precision and that you are going to have to go on...

Expedition Three to Spotlight
1. Get to Spotlight and pretend that the baby is not screaming as soon as she realises you are taking her into her absolute least favourite shop in the whole world.
2. Find the section that flogs patchworking stuff and realise it is expensive.
3. Decide it is an investment, because after all, you are going to do this again, aren't you?
4. Choose a rubber mat thingy for cutting on and a pizza cutter thing for cutting fabric.
5. Stand in another queue.

Attempt Four at Home
1. Realise that attempting precision cutting, even with a fancy new rubber cutting mat and pizza fabric cutter thing at night, whilst tired is not the best idea. But when else is it going to happen? Certainly not during the day whilst the baby eats every piece of fluff off the ground she can find, alternated by tormenting the cat.
2. Discover that D is much better at using the pizza cutter thing. He claims it is because he got good experience cutting tiles when he and Dad fixed the tiles in our bathroom. Decide to let it pass and be grateful that someone in the household is able to cut the fabric into pieces.
3. And that was really the last of the issues. The instructions (I chose the electronics cozy version because it looked easier) were actually pretty straightforward to follow. It took a few more evenings and another trip out to buy press studs (fortunately from the supermarket and I whisked them off the shelf before E could realise they were sewing related and tell me what she thought of that) but it appears to be finished.

Here is what it looks like...

Postscript: if anyone tells you that I actually quite enjoyed this and have enough material left for another one and D's cousin is expecting a baby later this week... well, you should laugh and refuse to believe them...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Today I am grateful for ... marriage and breakfast

Two pots of Maxabellian gratitude today, of varying degrees of seriousness.

In our 8 years D and I have attended 11 weddings. Three of these marriages have now ended. I am very grateful that ours hasn't. I don't think there is a magic formula and I don't think we "work" at it as such, but we are conscious of how precious it is, and we bite our tongues rather than sniping about small irritations, and make an effort to do and say little things for each other.

On the less serious note, I am also grateful for breakfast. For creamy-eggy-crunchy-greasy-bacony goodness. And salty hash browns, lovely red tomatoes and glistening baked beans. For a meal that we can both get to, and Little E can enjoy with us, without needing to arrange a babysitter. That can be shared with friends on either side of the Great Divide. And if we can persuade Little E to have her nap, we are off to enjoy some this morning!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shhh, shhh...

... the baby's sleeping.

And she was not fed to sleep.

A few weeks ago this would not have been worthy of note, but ever since her uber-clingy phase started Little E has either been fed to sleep, or has screamed the second I walked out of the room and has not slept.

Not that, in other circumstances, starting a rock-to-sleep routine with a baby verging on the 9kg mark would seem like a good idea, but currently the fact that she fell asleep without being attached to mummy feels like an accomplishment!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Great Divide

Albeit with a few notable exceptions, parents and singles might as well inhabit two different countries. You definitely get a new passport on the birth of your first-born and there's no such thing as joint citizenship. Generally even the most well meaning of friends simply don't get it. They come to visit in the first few weeks post-baby, arrive an hour later than they say they are going to, don't bring food, and stay for three hours. When discussing holiday plans they suggest that it might be worth the saving of the budget airline ticket to fly at midnight and that you could wake the baby up to go to the airport because "it will go back to sleep won't it?"

Before going any further, I readily admit falling into the completely clueless category prior to E's arrival. I remember a friend and I going to visit another friend in hospital when her baby was about 48 hours old. We stuck around for something like two hours because we thought that  the new mum was probably bored when no one was visiting and would appreciate the company. The fact that the baby was probably feeding every two to three hours at that stage and that the lucky mumma was squeezing eating, showering not to mention sleeping into the gaps in between obviously didn't occur to us.

But every time I think that I've accepted that the haves and have-nots reside on different planets, another example crops up and surprises me. I ventured out to a colleague's birthday party on the weekend, leaving Little E at home with D. I wasn't sure I'd have a good time as I didn't know how many people there I'd know, but I thought I should take the chance to go out and engage in some adult conversation. I wound up quite enjoying it - it was at a beautiful house with a pool and outside bar, fancy catered food and I did know enough people that I wasn't standing around awkardly looking for someone to talk to. 

Early in the evening I spent a little while chatting to another colleague and then drifted off to talk to others. By about 9:30 I'd had enough - I'd enjoyed being out, but it was cold, I'd spoken to everyone I wanted to, and I thought there was a chance E would wake at around 10:00 and be difficult for D to re-settle. (It's funny how, having not been out for ages,  the anticipation and planning of going somewhere are as important as the event itself. By the time the  event rocks around, a little time away seems like enough).

I stopped by the colleague I'd spoken to first to say goodbye. The conversation went as follows...

Slightly-drunk-childless-colleague:  What time do you call this? (Half-laugingly). 
Proud-of-having-gotten-out-of-the-house-new-mum: Time for those of us who will be up at 5am to get going...? Slightly-drunk-childless-colleague: I'll be up at 5:00 tomorrrow and you don't see me piking!"**
Proud-of-having-gotten-out-of-the-house-new-mum: But how many times will you be up in between now and then?
Slightly-drunk-childless-colleague: (Pause, then look around at the  eight or nine surrounding people so they can all join in the comedy) How old is the baby? Nine months? Time to wean!***
Slightly-flabbergasted-proud-of-having-gotten-out-of-the-house-new-mum: Um, no, not yet...
I still can't decide if I regret not saying all the clever replies I thought of on the drive home.

** (an early morning cycling enthusiast)
*** (incidentally, "the baby" is eight months old)

Image credit

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Today I am grateful for ... weekends

For a while now I have been admiring the blog of the lovely Maxabella and it is finally time to do as she does each week and reflect on things I am grateful for. And this weekend I am grateful for weekends, because:

1. Weekends mean company all day long (and not incidentally, the company of the person I like best!)
2. Weekends mean help/company during the screaming that currently accompanies nap-time
3. Weekends mean the chance to go out at night while E's lovely Dadda stays home with her.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Swim swim swimming = sleep sleep sleeping

Hurrah for Beatty Park and its fantastic water-shooting-flowers and raining mushrooms and gentle slope entry and dozens of happy children.

Yesterday was a new record of the worst kind: a no-nap day. As in NO naps. Not short naps. None whatsoever. Today was not perfect sleep-wise, but coming off yesterday as a starting point anything was going to be better!

I am probably jinxing this by writing it...

Monday, November 29, 2010

There was movement at the station...

for the word had got around, that Little E had taught herself to crawl!

I am gradually realising that, whilst I look forward to all the baby milestones, and of course celebrate them and tell E how clever she is, many of them do have their downsides. The downside to this one being, that in combination with her other new skill (pulling self to standing), she is near on impossible to put to sleep.

I mean, why would you go to sleep when you could alternately crawl around your cot (talking/grizzling/crying depending on how long you have been in there) or sit/stand in your cot, hanging onto the bars like a little prisoner (accompanied by more grizzling/crying)? Why would you want to lie still for someone to pat you to sleep? It would be much more fun to turn bedtime into an extremely drawn out production. If you did all of this often enough, someone would probably decide that the only way to make you sleep was to feed you to sleep, theorising that they will just deal with you probably forgetting that you could ever self settle, later. The magical "later", when babies sleep and all things are easy...

Bunbury trip

I approached our Bunbury trip with a sense of trepidation but it wound up being extremely fun!

There was the very nice Mantra Hotel, complete with view...

... and the fact that someone else cleaned it, and produced food for us, and someone else paid for it! I was a lazy Mumma while we were away and mostly fed E food from packets and jars (albeit the expensive organic variety) - she did not seem to object and it was a nice break for me.

Ironically, D being in trial and in Bunbury, away from all his non-trial work, meant that E and I saw more of him than we do at home, as trials start at 10am and finish around 4pm. At any rate, she and I had no trouble amusing ourselves for the two days D was occupied. We went to Big Swamp Wildlife Park, which I had never heard of, but is only a 5 minute drive from the centre of town. Amongst others, it has kangaroos, wallabies, emus, rabbits and chickens, but the hands-down winner for E was the walk-through parrot aviary. The birds were ridiculously tame and complete gluttons:

We all enjoyed the heated swimming pool, and E and I enjoyed the beautifully calm beach on our front door step. It was a much greater success than her first trip to the beach, although she was mainly interested in sitting in the shallows and attempting to eat sand.

E, social little creature that she is, also made a new friend...

On the whole the trip was a real pleasure and rather than regional circuits being a hassle I am quite looking forward to D being told that he has been allocated more Bunbury trials!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baby food

A record of the things Little E has eaten so far and the more adventurous recipes we have tried that she has enjoyed:

Pear *
Mango *
Rock melon *
Honey dew melon

Pumpkin *
Carrot *
Sweet potato
Spring onion

Chicken *

Rice cereal
Millet & oats cereal
Yoghurt (cow and sheep) (plain and vanilla)
Goat's curd

* = favourite

Baby chicken soup *

1/2 a chicken breast with skin on, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 celery stick, sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1 spring onion, sliced

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes) then blend.

Baby beef casserole
~150gm beef
1/4 cup of white rice
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
4 grape tomatoes, halved
2 spring onions, sliced

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes) then blend.

Baby chicken cacciatore *
1/2 a chicken breast with skin on, chopped
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 of a small red capsicum
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 spring onion, sliced
1 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 15 minutes) then blend.

Fish with cheesy tomato sauce (she had this without the fish for lunch and with fish for dinner)
50 grams of white fish
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large tomato, skinned and chopped
4 cubes of frozen cauliflower puree
50 grams of cheese
3-4 basil leaves, chopped finely

Put the carrots in a small saucepan, cover with water and cook for about 10 minutes. Then add the frozen cauliflower cubes and cook about another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another pan, saute the tomato in butter until it is soft.
Add the basil and cheese to the tomato sauce and stir until the cheese melts.

In a separate pan, fry the fish in butter and then flake it into small pieces.
Drain the carrots and combine the carrots, tomato sauce and fish; puree.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cup trifecta

... the water kind rather than the horse racing kind.

I am feeling smug because Eli will drink water from:
a) a bottle
b) a sippy cup
c) an ordinary cup.

As far as I can gather, by comparing her to other babies we know, this is quite an accomplishment for 7 months.

But regardless of her water drinking proficiency, and initial willingness to have expressed milk, she will take milk only direct from the source.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Simple things (or How to Know You are Old)

How to Know You Are Old:

1. The baby had two daytime sleeps, one for two hours, one for an hour and a half;
2. You went to the swimming pool, the baby did not scream, and you got to do 16 laps yourself;
3. In the afternoon you went to the local primary school fete and bought herbs and ridiculously cheap second hand toys;
4. You had extremely delicious pressure cooker lamb shanks for dinner, thrown together whilst your lovely husband fed and bathed the baby;
5. The baby went to bed without any fuss or trouble;
6. You are sitting on the couch drinking red wine - now permissible as (fingers-toes-and-other-appendages-crossed) the baby has consented to give up night feeds;
7. You are watching Gardening Australia;
8. Your lovely husband is sitting next to you on the couch;
9. Rather than seeming sad or boring or old, all of the above makes you stupidly happy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Summer garden update

We have finally cleared the vegetable bed of its winter hangers-on and planted most of the summer vegies. So far these are: tomatoes (cherry and roma), pumpkin (feral, sprouted from vegetable scraps), zucchini, watermelon, capsicum, corn, parsley, basil and chives. The passionfruit we planted last autumn is taking off with the warm weather. I also have a few savoy cabbage to add when I get a moment. I had not thought of these as a summer vegetable (a friend who had too many seedlings gave us her leftovers) but apparently they will grow year-round in Perth - we shall see!

D, with the help of our two Dads on respective weekends have now, we hope, solved the reticulation problem. (One of the lawn sprinkler cycles was not coming on, and unfortunately the wires for it ran through the vegetable bed.) With the digging-up of wires and pipes complete I was able to finish the last of the mulching. To help our crummy sandy soil, I dug in vegetable scraps as I removed the last of each of the winter plants. Then, as we planted the summer ones, I added cow manure and soil improver. We had laid a thin layer of bark mulch a month or so ago but we have now largely dug that in as we were told that straw based mulches are the best for Perth soils. The last of the mulching involved spreading a thick layer of sugar cane mulch on top of everything.

The last thing I will do before sitting back and waiting for it all to grow is to plant some cucumber seedlings. We bought some a few weekends ago but I then held off planting them because of all the digging I knew was going to occur. Whilst I was waiting for that to happen they died. Oops.

I am thinking of joining Diggers so that I can order a bigger variety of vegetables, and experiment with growing them from seed. So far everything has been from seedlings, aside from the feral pumpkins, broad beans, dwarf beans and a few lettuces. Now that the lattice is up, the vegetable bed cleared of all non-vegetable plants and the soil improved enough that we can just keep adding to it each year, I feel as though we will have more time to be adventurous.

But as for the great broad bean crop of 2010, the least said the better...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Trials and tribulations of travelling

We bought a portacot yesterday, beacuse D's work is sending him to Bunbury for a week at the end of the month and Little E and I are going with him. I thought it would be a good idea to get E used to sleeping in said cot before we go. Yesterday afternoon I set it up and stuck her in it with a bunch of toys to play with and she thought it was great. (I also thought it was great as I set it up next to the piano, which meant I got to play the piano for a bit without an excited baby on my lap alternately struggling to thump the keys randomly and with all her strength play too, pull the lid closed on both our hands, and pull pages out of the folder of sheet music).

Today I moved the cot into the spare room, waited until Little E seemed tired, put her in her sleeping bag, handed over Pooh bear and walked out. She screamed. And screamed. And screamed. As though someone was torturing her. She normally manages a bit of grizzling and fussing at nap time, but this was quite impressive. I sat in the lounge room alternately calling myself a mean and nasty parent and thinking that I was glad I tried it at home, during the day, rather than in a hotel at night. I sat on the couch staring at the clock. She screamed for 12 minutes (the magic figure that Save Our Sleep claims babies of this age should scream for before you go in to comfort them or they fall asleep). There was then abrupt silence. After another minute I very cautiously stuck my head around the door. She was fast asleep, looking completely angelic and peaceful.

I still can't decide if it's mean and nasty parenting or a necessary stop on the sleep road.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ooooooh moments

Little E has a particularly endearing noise which she uses when especially excited by or interested in something. It is a quite high pitched "ooooooh" accompanied by a round mouth, round eyes and furiously waving arms. So far the following things have been oooooh-worthy:

1. The ceiling fan in her bedroom (usually whilst I am trying to persuade her to have some milk so this one is as annoying as it is amusing!);
2. Belle the cat (whose good life is close to being over as E gets more and more mobile);
3. Lochie, Mum & Dad's neurotic poodle;
4. Any ball being bounced or thrown; and
5. Most recently, bubbles coming out of a plastic cup with a hole in it being held under water in the bath.

We had played plenty of games in the bath that involved pouring water out of the cups but I only thought of holding it under a few days ago. It's the wonder at bubbles in the bath that make you realise how new and exciting the whole world is for a baby.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beach expedition

Little E had her first expedition to the beach yesterday and it was not a great success. Her brand new swim nappy leaked (probably partly due to the over-enthusiastic amounts of dried fruit administered by Mummy in the previous few days). The swim nappy may be going back to the shop as its packaging claims it is specifically designed to avoid "embarrassing accidents."

She was happy to sit on the grass and have a look around and thought that the playing in the sand part was ok. But when a wave got on her she cried and cried.

She calmed down momentarily and then she saw a wave get on D and she cried some more. Obviously, at least so far, water must be warm and contained for her to enjoy it. An hour or so later she was perfectly happy in her bath.

We might try the swimming pool next.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lessons learnt the hard and the (unfunny) runny way

1. Do not get adventurous about your child's ability to eat solids and feed her (albeit very expensive, organic) brown rice three days in a row.

2. In an attempt to compensate, do not then feed her large amounts of (albeit very expensive, organic) prunes.

Just don't. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The best birthday present

D turned 31 last Sunday. A few weekends ago we acquired an orange tree, which was his main present from Eli and I. It came from a lovely nursery not far from D's parents' house called Wandilla Plants. It is a good thing we don't live closer to it as I can see us spending a lot of money there! We liked the idea that in our first year in this house we planted an apricot tree for my birthday and an orange tree for D's. We also like the idea of eating oranges and drinking orange juice and making orange juice icy poles for E and her little friends in years to come.

Continuing the garden theme, D's parents gave him a wheelbarrow and a ladder. I tease him that you know you are old and domesticated when for one birthday you get a lawn mower and the next one a wheelbarrow and ladder, but they are very useful gifts and he is very pleased with them.

E and I also gave him a copy of Bill Bryson's latest, At Home. We had this out from the library a while ago but it is on the high demand list and so couldn't be renewed, and given the enormous reduction in our free time since a certain someone arrived, a month was never going to be long enough to finish a book of that length!

My parents and Grandma thought that D needed a few personal gifts amongst all the garden/household items, and they found him two ties, new socks (which Mum, having hung out our washing a few times over the last 6 months, knew he badly needed!) and a new shirt. He was very pleased with these as he has to wear a tie and business shirt almost every day to work and gets bored with the same ones over and over again.

We had a lunch time party for D on the day of his actual birthday. Just when I think I have learned my lesson about Little E being happiest with routine, and quiet gatherings, I agree to have 40 people over! And I decide it would be fun to make lunch for them all! D enjoyed it, which was the main aim, but it might be a while before I agree to cater for that many people again!

All of the above aside, D thinks his best present was the one he received at about 4am on the day of his birthday. E had had a restless night and at 4am I knew she did not need food as the little greedy guts had eaten two or three times already since we went to bed at about 9pm. So I decided it was D's turn to go in and attend to her. She greeted him with "eeeee! Da da da! Da da da!"

She has not stopped since.

The best birthday present

D turned 31 last Sunday. A few weekends ago we acquired an orange tree, which was his main present from Little E and I. It came from a lovely nursery not far from D 's parents' house called Wandilla Plants. It is a good thing we don't live closer to it as I can see us spending a lot of money there! We liked the idea that in our first year in this house we planted an apricot tree for my birthday and an orange tree for D's. We also like the idea of eating oranges and drinking orange juice and making orange juice icy poles for E and her little friends in years to come.

Continuing the garden theme, D's parents gave him a wheelbarrow and a ladder. I tease him that you know you are old and domesticated when for one birthday you get a lawn mower and the next one a wheelbarrow and ladder, but they are very useful gifts and he is very pleased with them.
E and I also gave him a copy of Bill Bryson's latest, At Home. We had this out from the library a while ago but it is on the high demand list and so couldn't be renewed, and given the enormous reduction in our free time since a certain someone arrived, a month was never going to be long enough to finish a book of that length!

My parents and Grandma thought that D needed a few personal gifts amongst all the garden/household items, and they found him two ties, new socks (which Mum, having hung out our washing a few times over the last 6 months, knew he badly needed!) and a new shirt. He was very pleased with these as he has to wear a tie and business shirt almost every day to work and gets bored with the same ones over and over again. 

We had a lunch time party for D on the day of his actual birthday. Just when I think I have learned my lesson about Little E being happiest with routine, and quiet gatherings, I agree to have 40 people over! And I decide it would be fun to make lunch for them all! D enjoyed it, which was the main aim, but it might be a while before I agree to cater for that many people again!

All of the above aside, D thinks his best present was the one he received at about 4am on the day of his birthday. E had had a restless night and at 4am I knew she did not need food as the little greedy guts had eaten two or three times already since we went to bed at about 9pm. So I decided it was D's turn to go in and attend to her. She greeted him with "eeeee! Da da da! Da da da!" She has not stopped since.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A solitary beer for solitary me

D is off at a buck's night and Little E is in bed (it is 6:45pm). I did all the going-to-bed things on my own - not that this is a huge achievement but it always feels like an extra effort. I am drinking a solitary beer (carefully calculated as acceptable prior to E's bedtime feed - thank you Australian Breastfeeding Association table) with the Commonwealth Games for company and wondering what I used to do with myself on an evening at home alone??

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mummy is funny after all

I discovered what I have to do to make Little E laugh.

Oink like a pig.

Why did it take me nearly six months to figure that one out??

Monday, September 20, 2010

I am craving summer

I want long hot days and long balmy nights. I want cold beers in the back yard in the late afternoon. I want hair and clothes that are dry an hour after being washed. I want to take Little E to the beach in the morning and bring her home exhausted for long afternoon naps. I want to take her to her grandparents' house for swims in their pool that feels like a big warm bathtub from December to March. I want mangoes and grapes and watermelon. I want it not to be cold when I get up in the middle of the night and for my skin not to cringe away from the air when I get out of the shower. This summer I won't have an interal temperature running several degrees higher than everyone else's so I won't even mind if it's 35 plus for days on end. 

What's your favourite season?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mystery plants sprung from vegetable scraps

Anyone got any idea what these are? Possibilities strike me as pumpkin, zucchini, potatoes, beans (although they don't look like the other beans we have going), capcisum, something else....?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wash wash washing

Lately I have been thinking about clothes washing, fascinating subject that it is. In our house we do one, and more often two, loads of it a day. If we skip a day, the quantity piled up the next day is quite phenomenal. It seems to be a subject that occupies the minds of many parents: see my cousin’s thoughts on it at So here are some thoughts about the most absorbing of topics. 

Firstly, that despite the amount of it that we do, it is one of my least-disliked household chores. I am not very particular about it; I do towels/sheets and business shirts separately, but the rest of it just gets stuffed in the machine and off it goes. Once it’s in there, it gives you at least half an hour to get on with something else. Once it’s done, I like the chance to stand in the sunshine, and enjoy a certain pedantic pleasure from hanging it out in formation.

Secondly, that it is a chore which really has become easier in the last hundred years or so. Consider Laura Ingalls Wilder, writing about her childhood in the 1880s, where the cleaning and ironing of clothes was a third of the week’s work: 
Each day had its own proper work. Ma used to say: 
‘Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday

Mend on Wednesday
Churn on Thursday
Clean on Friday
ake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday.
And the production that wash day actually involved: 
“Ma brought the wooden pannikin of soft soap from the wagon. (NB: on a separate day, lucky Ma had made the soap herself, from animal fat). She kilted up her skirts and rolled up her sleeves, and she knelt by the tub on the grass. She washed sheets and pillow-cases and white underthings, she washed dresses and shirts, she rinsed them in clear water and spread on the clean grass, to dry in the sun. ...Then Ma took the flat-iron out of the wagon and heated it by the fire. She sprinkled a dress for Mary and a dress for Laura and a little dress for Baby Carrie, and her own sprigged calico. She spread a blanket and a sheet on the wagon-seat, and she ironed the dresses.”
Even in 1950s Australia, washing was a pretty horrendous exercise. Recall Thurley Fowler in The Wind is Silver, describing clothes-washing in a pre-electric farm: 
“Jennifer’s biggest challenge was the washing and ironing. On that first wash-day, she lit the copper early and was coping, soon, with the trickiest, nastiest thing on earth: a boiling hot, dripping wet sheet. It was fiendish. Like a legless alligator in boiling oil, it spat and smacked and twisted, then rolled and wrapped itself around you. Hours later, it seemed, the piles of dirty sheets, shirts, socks and undies had been transferred to the clothes line.”
According to, the first mechanical, domestic washing machine was invented by William Blackstone of Indiana in 1874 as a “birthday present” for his wife. That strikes me as much like buying someone a vacuum cleaner for Christmas, although Mrs Blackstone probably far preferred the mechanical version to the scrub board or whatever she had before it. 

Thirdly, that given the quantity of it that we do, it’s fortunate Little E that thinks that sitting under the clothes line, watching clothes come up or go down and listening to my commentary (“Look, it’s one of your pink bibs. Do you like this suit with a giraffe on it? What a surprise, this one is yours as well”...) constitutes entertainment.

And finally, washing baskets are good for more than their conventional uses:


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crossing fingers and toes and all other appendages

I don't know if I dare type it, but I think we are back in a routine. Little E has now had four "good" nights in a row, a good night being one in which she only wakes up once, at about 3.30am, for food rather than for no apparent reason. She has her last feed of the evening at about 8:00 or 9:00, meaning I get a solid six or seven hours sleep before the middle-of-the-night meal, plus another two or so hours before our little alarm clock decides it is morning. I have to say it's not as impressive as the routine she had going at three months old, but I can certainly live with it!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Spring is so passe

It's not really, it's fantastic. It's just that in blog-land everyone seems to be doing posts about spring. So here is my version of how-to-tell-that-spring-is-here:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Feet glorious feet

Around here, feet are the fabbest thing ever. It's a pity it's not warmer, because all Little E wants to do is have no pants on and lie around with her feet in her mouth.

At mothers' group last week all the babies were lying on the floor on their rugs. The baby next to Little E was a little boy who is about her age but much better at rolling than her. He was busy rolling from side to side on his back at furious pace, which meant that his feet were tantalisingly close to E's face. And what else would you do with someone else's feet when they come close to your face than stick them in your mouth? How to make friends and influence people, I say!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Musings on the federal election from a time poor parent

I have been having momentary pangs of guilt about how little proper thought I have given the federal election parties/policies/candidates. I am very charitably blaming Little E, whose latest sleep saga has taken up much of my recent energy and attention. On the significance of voting, see my clever cousin’s blog:
David and I are silent postal voters due to the risk of some unhappy client/accused person getting our details off the electoral roll and coming a-calling.  We got our ballots in the mail about two weeks ago, and until today, mine sat unopened on the bench. However, this morning I woke up to a beautifully clean kitchen and living room (thank you lovely husband!) And I finally buried the two bags of vegie scraps that have been sitting on the bench for about as long as my unopened vote paper. So, I decided to use the remaining half hour or so of Little E’s morning nap to finally open the envelope and do a bit of googling and other research.*
We live in the safe Liberal seat of Curtin, which Julie Bishop has held since 1998. She currently holds it with a margin of 13.3 percent. Despite being named after the former Labor Prime Minister, the ALP has never won the seat. In fact, the only time that the Liberal Party lost it was in 1996, to Allan Rocher. This was quite an exciting story, and an interesting one in terms of party vs individual politics, in that Rocher held the seat as a member of the Liberal Party since 1981. In 1996 the party dumped him, instead pre-selecting Ken Court (brother of Richard Court, WA’s Premier of the day.) Rocher stood as an independent, and, seemingly in retaliation against favouritism and party politics, the voters of Curtin re-elected the person who had represented them for the past 15 years. They then turfed him in 1998 in favour of Julie Bishop, she of blonde hair and little brains, about whom the least said the better.
Anyway, my round-about point is that Curtin is such a safe seat that I feel that my House of Representatives vote matters very little. I do care more about my Senate vote. I have always considered the Senate’s true role to be as a house of review. Despite the founders’ intention for it to be a “State’s house” I have never felt that this is an important role for it to be play.  [Aside: I wonder how many Western Australians share this view? I was surprised and somewhat amused to discover, when we moved to Perth in 1994, that Western Australians refer to the rest of the country as “the Eastern states.” When I bring this up, born-and-bred Western Australians are surprised to find that this is a uniquely WA expression (although I think it’s not surprising that the rest of the country doesn’t lump itself together as “the Eastern states!”)]
Anyhow, given the set up of the House of Representatives as the house of government, no proper debate or consideration of legislation is going to happen there. If there is any hope of this occurring, it has to be in the Senate, particularly in the Senate’s committee system. For proper debate to occur, it’s integral that the government does not also control the Senate.
So I tend to consider my Senate vote as a vote for diversity. That being said, I’m not so in favour of diversity that I would be happy to be represented by all the kinds of it on offer. Take, for example, WA Senate candidate Paddy Embry. According to font-of-all-knowledge Wikipedia:
Patrick "Paddy" Embry (born 19 October 1942) is a former Australian politician. Born in Oundle in the United Kingdom, he arrived in Australia in December 1956 and became a farmer. In 2001, he was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Council for South West Region, representing One Nation. On 15 May 2003, he resigned from One Nation to sit as an independent. He co-founded the New Country Party with fellow ex-One Nation independent Frank Hough on 30 November 2004. Embry was defeated in 2005 and left politics.”
According to an advertisement that he ran in yesterday’s West Australian, Paddy Embry says:
"Do you support Muslim immigration? When you invite a Muslim to live in Australia you're actually inviting two people, the Muslim and Allah. One who will live here, the other who won't let the Muslim integrate."**
David’s apt observation when I emailed him in outrage was: “I love that he is an immigrant. That seems to happen all too often; the people who should know best are the worst of all.”

Given I am going to go to the trouble of numbering all 55 boxes below the line, it’s nice to know where I’ll be placing him! That being said, there is a very interesting piece on the election/politics blog The Tally Room about the futility of campaigns to get voters to put particular individuals last on their Senate ballots (sparked by the campaign to get Victorian voters to vote below the line and put Stephen Conroy last.)

*For some reason Little E then stayed asleep for an unheard of further 90 minutes, enabling research plus half of this post! She then woke up starving and I exercised my one handed typing skills to finish it.
** This isn’t a verbatim recitation of the ad as I don’t have the paper to hand, but it’s pretty close.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What would I write about other than sleep??

There are dozens of good things about having Little E in our lives, and it's nice to know that I wouldn't swap any of it for a night of uninterrupted sleep. But goodness the bad stuff feels hard lately! I sat in E's semi-lit room at 3:45 this morning, after she had been up at 12:40, 1:40 and 3:00, reading Baby Love's chapter on "teaching your baby to sleep" aka controlled crying, not something I thought I would ever contemplate. Any thoughts, anyone? I think we have to at least lose the dummy and that may amount to controlled crying in itself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things to set against sleepless nights and no-nap days

The satisfied, gusty “mmwwwah” noise Little E would make aged about four weeks when she had gobbled frantically for 45 minutes and then finally eaten enough. The expression that she now makes aged 19 weeks where she purses her lips shut as though to say “I have eaten enough and nothing you can do will make me have any more.” The way, after I have tried for the third time in a morning, to persuade her to take a nap and she has howled and I have relented and picked her up, that she hangs onto my shoulder and rubs her face on my neck. Delighted giggles when undressed and kissed before her bath. The contemplation in her face as she sits under the clothesline and watches the sky while I hang out the third load of washing for the day. The discovery that went on yesterday when she pumpkin for the first time. 

All incredible, life changing things that I wouldn’t miss, even, when it comes to it, at the fourth night-time get-up in two hours.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More on sleep and solids

Sleep is such a vexed issue at the moment. Little E has been varying between barely sleeping at all during the day to sleeping every 90 minutes or so as per her previous pattern. Yesterday I wore both of us out trying to persuade her to have a sleep in the morning, then got incredibly depressed and frustrated about not being able to figure out what she wants/needs and wound up at Mum's in tears. Today E barely slept during the morning (about 15 minutes in the pram at mothers' group) but then passed out driving home, stayed asleep in the car seat whilst at home for another 30 minutes, woke up to eat, fell asleep again, allowed me to put her in her cot and stayed there for the next two hours. I even managed a nap! 

A good thing too, because nights are really crummy at the moment. E is still in her own room, and still waking repeatedly - I'm not sure if the two are related.  She is insisting on eating at the 3.00/3.30 wake-up.

We started her on rice cereal on Saturday and that, at least, is going quite well. She appears to enjoy it, especially chewing the spoon after finishing a mouthful. As will be clear from above ,it isn't making her sleep any longer at night, but perhaps is stretching out the day-time feeds.

We persevere!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dreaming of sleep and contemplating solids

A summary of last night:
  • Little E went to bed about 8pm, and had a dream feed about 9.30pm
  • Mummy and Daddy went to bed at about 10pm
  • Little E (and therefore Mummy) got up at:
    • 11:50pm
    • 1:30am
    • 3:00am - this time requiring a feed and a round of the pink singing seahorse to get back to sleep
    • 4:50am
    • 6:20am - at which point Mummy gave up and brought E in to the big bed.
Mummy is particularly unamused about the 3am feed as we haven't done a true middle-of-the-night (as oppsoed to early early morning eg 5am) feed since about 6 weeks!

We are visiting the community nurse this afternoon for E's 3-4 month checkup and Mummy plans to interrogate her about whether it is ok to start solids soon, in the hope that this might promote longer sleeping sessions. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adventures in the big cot and other events of the week

During the first night of swaddling/not-swaddling dramas, about two weeks ago, Little E had a night alone in her big cot. It was not a great success, and I decided that if I was going to be waking up multiple times a night I preferred to have E right next to me so I didn’t have to get out of bed, and we moved her back into our room the following night. However, her not being swaddled means she can wriggle about a lot more than previously, and I found that with her less than a foot away from my head, I was waking up every time she wiggled. After a particularly restless night mid-week we banished her to her own bedroom again. This will now be her fourth night in a row there. She is waking up and crying at least once per night, sometimes more, usually around 3.30am. This is not a very friendly time of night to be getting up, but she is fairly easy to get back to sleep, requiring the return of her dummy to her mouth and a few pats. Last night she was up about five times between 2.30 and 4.30 but we think that was because she was cold, as once I turned the heater on in her room she slept through until 7.00am, when she had her breakfast, fell asleep on my lap and then consented to go back to sleep until almost 8.30.

Little E’s day time sleeps also appear to have changed quite significantly. Until a few days ago she was quite predictable: after waking up at about 6.30 or 7.00am, she would be awake for about 90 minutes before sleeping for about 40 minutes, sometimes longer, and then waking up and eating. She would repeat this pattern pretty reliably all day. A few days ago she apparently decided that sleeping so much during the day is boring and she wants to be up for more like two to three hours at a time, and her day time sleeps have turned into micro-naps of about 20-30 minutes each. I am not yet very good at predicting when she is tired and have upset her by keeping her up far too long, or attempting to make her sleep before she is ready, both of which have resulted in extended bouts of grizzling, and then yelling. The pros of this new regime are that we can plan on being out for much longer periods – the mechanics of managing a sleep every 90 minutes plus a feed every two to two and a half hours made it quite hard to go places. The cons are that I quite liked getting 40 minutes to myself every couple of hours throughout the day and these new micro-naps are barely long enough to do anything!

Last week also heralded a rather depressing first: E's first illness. It was just a cold, but she and I succumbed simultaneously and were both quite sniffy and drippy and congested for a few days. She wasn’t as miserable as I had imagined a baby with a blocked nose might be; she was still able to eat quite well, and slept as per normal, but was very snuffly and congested, especially when she woke up from a nap.

The weekend heralded beautiful, un-winter like weather. Yesterday we had morning tea with D's parents and then Mum and I went on an expedition for much needed new glasses frames in the afternoon. In the evening we accomplished our first family night-time outing to somewhere other than someone's house. It was brief, just to the local gourmet hamburger bar, Flipside, and to its next door neighbour, a bar called The Stanley. The two have an arrangement whereby customers can eat burgers purchased at Flipside whilst having a drink at the Stanley, and we managed a hurried beer before Little E decided it was hometime. We were out for only an hour in total, and that hour was the very family friendly time of 5.30 to 6.30pm, but it felt like an accomplishment nonetheless. Today we had lunch at Mum and Dad's, our first meal at their house since E was born. We ate roast in the garden and the sunshine, the company and the food were all lovely!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rolling with Laughter

This afternoon, whilst she was playing in her cot, I put Little E on her front and she had her head up and was smiling and having a good look around. And then she very deliberately lifted up one arm, gave a good shove with her leg, and rolled over. She looked a bit surprised, but pleased with herself. Although I made a big fuss of her she declined to repeat the trick. This was the first roll since the first one ever (a month ago) - we were beginning to think she had forgotten how to do it!

This evening D undressed Little E for her bath and gave her a big kiss as they were walking to the bathroom. She laughed with delight. It was lovely!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

First Mandarine Crop

This is what happens when you lavish a tree with inattention, ignorance and neglect:


And there are still lots left!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle

Ever since she was born, Little E has been wrapped up like a  caterpillar to sleep. Swaddling is supposed to comfort newborn babies, and assist them to sleep by preventing them from hitting and scratching themselves. Little E very quickly got to the point where she would not fall asleep unless tightly swaddled, or, if she did manage it without the wraps, would wake up soon after.

For the past few weeks she has begun crying whilst being wrapped up, but has then relaxed as soon as they are on and she is in her bed. However, we have had to become trickier and more precise about exactly how the swaddles go on, as the bigger and stronger she gets, the better she is at unwrapping herself. Given the hand development that has occurred in the last couple of weeks, once her hands are out she will almost instantly pull or knock her dummy out. Of course she does not seem to appreciate that it is her who has removed the dummy - she appears to think a large, invisible giant has ripped it from her mouth, and the discovery that it is lying on the blanket next to her is always met with unamused wails. I also had started to wonder how she would ever transition from being swaddled to sleeping just under blankets - I had visions of chasing a two year old around the house and trying to lie her on the table to wrap her up to sleep!

A few weeks ago, a friend suggested we use a "miracle blanket" and kindly loaned us her son's old ones. These are great, but Little E is getting too long for them and I worried that they were cramping her legs. Recently we have been using them without the foot pouch (ie, just using them to pin her arms to her sides).

A few times during the day recently I have tried putting Little E down for naps in just a grobag sleeping bag. Because it leaves her arms free, it takes her much longer to fall asleep, and although she has managed it a few times for daytime naps, they are not as long as if she is swaddled and I hadn't been brave enough to try it at night.

We hadn't come to any decision about what to do, but last night things hit critical point. I suppose after four nights of 8.5-9 hours sleep we were due for a hard one again! We had a nice day at Mum & Grandma's, but E did not sleep quite as much as usual and was very tired by about 7.30. We tried to wrap her, to be met with the usual grizzling and complaining, which escalated into full blown howls. Patting and singing in the cradle, and eventually walking and patting and singing whilst still wrapped did not help. The second I lay her on the table to unwrap her she was happy (although still wide awake).
We decided to put her in the grobag. This meant that she needed to sleep in her big cot (in her own room) rather than the cradle, because she has gotten so big that when she throws her arms around they hit the cradle bars. She has had some daytime sleeps in the cot, but never overnight. Having her in the cradle next to our bed is such a convenience I have been reluctant to graduate her into the cot and her own room. I also worry that I won't hear her as quickly as if she was right next to me, and consequently she will have to grizzle/cry longer, wake up more thoroughly, and be harder to get back to sleep. Also the anti-SIDS mob suggest keeping the baby in parents' bedroom until at least 6 months. However, it was clear that the usefulness of swaddling, and therefore the cradle, had come to an end, so I stuck her in the grobag and into her cot at about 8.00 and decided to see how she went.
By 10.00, her arms were still flailing frantically, she was knocking her dummy out every few minutes and then crying because it was gone and her head was thrashing from side to side. She was due to eat anyway, so I took her into bed with me, fed her and she fell asleep in my arms (still in the sleeping bag). I carefully transferred her back to her cot. She woke up instantly, and the flailing resumed. Until this point her bedroom lights were on very low (the light has a dimmer switch) so I could see what she was doing. I then turned them off completely, and sat next to her cot sticking the dummy back in every few minutes. She almost fell asleep a few times but kept waking herself up. Around midnight I decided she might be cold despite the grobag, and added a blanket, tucked as tightly into the sides of the cot mattress as I could manage. I sat leaning over the cot, pressing both her hands to her chest with one hand and patting her with the other. Either exhaustion, or half an hour or so of this, did the trick and she finally fell asleep.
I woke up at 3.30 panicking because I hadn't heard a squeak out of her for hours, before remembering she was in the cot. I snuck into her room and she was fine. At 4.30 she woke up and I bolted out of bed to put the dummy back in. At 5.00 I did the same thing. And at 5.15. This time she was properly awake and 15 minutes of patting and hand restraining were to no avail. I decided to try swaddling her on top of the sleeping bag and, surprisingly, she seemed relatively happy with just the grobag and miracle wrap (as opposed to the miracle wrap topped by a flannelette swaddling cloth). At any rate it put her back to sleep around 5.45, and she stayed that way until about 8.00.
At 8.00 she woke up hungry and grumpy. She ate and had a brief play in her play gym and green chair whilst I had breakfast. I then stuck her back in the grobag, but this time with her arms stuffed inside it. We did try this once quite some time ago and she hated it, but today has been asleep for nearly 2 hours. We are supposed to be at mothers' group this morning, but I decided that hopefully getting back to the 9-hours-at-nighttime routine is more important. If I knew she was going to sleep for 2 hours I would have had a nap as well!
.header-inner .Header #header-inner { margin-bottom: 100px !important; } .main-outer { margin-top: 15px !important; }