Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Scribbled on the back of an envelope at the Ben Folds concert

The world is changing. We are ageing. Friends' parents are dying. I recently discovered that Ben Folds - who writes about romance and grief and ordinary people in ways that I feel with resonate with me forever - has been married four times. Lance Armstrong is a drug cheat. In between epitomising family life, Bill Cosby allegedly spent the 1980s molesting 13 young women. My darling husband's signature black hair is thinning.

Life continues. My naughty four year old is singing in a Christmas concert, reading sentences, sobbing on the floor because she wants a coloured ribbon. In her darkened bedroom my baby feeds herself to sleep with such contentment - bliss - etched on her sweet face that I hope never to forget. My husband and I are listening to Ben Folds play with the symphony orchestra and - if I try - I can separate art and personality and he still makes my heart churn and soar and I still know all the words.

When I get home I will sneak in and kiss my babies. My four year old's room will smell slightly funny and she'll be sweaty and oblivious and I'll risk waking up the littlest one, but I'll do it anyway. Because life is happening, moving, passing, here - now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December excitements

We're waiting for Christmas. We've put up the tree, visited Santa at Myer, each chosen our new decoration for the tree. Very impressed by the Myer Santaland set up incidentally - you line up in a single queue, then go through a door, behind which are multiple little rooms each (presumably) housing their own Santa. When you emerge, having put in your order with the man in red, there is a train to ride. Elves hand out free bags of popcorn and balloons. I know it's all with the aim of encouraging us to buy overpriced photographs and other bits and pieces, but if it's a scam it's a well organised one.

E is super excited by it all. She spent the morning removing most of the decorations from the tree to hang in other places so the rest of the house would "look pretty." Grrrrr. On a slightly different note, she has just departed for her last day of kindy. Where did the year go? How is it that I now have a four year old who can, with only minimal help, read a bedtime story to her sister?

Speaking of the sister, she is well and happy and still rates the 4 year old as the biggest excitement in the house. She has two horrid little teeth, can sit like a champion, babbles "ahhhhhh, mummummum" most endearingly and is working on the crawling.

I am super excited that I have finally finished all our shopping. It starts out being a pleasure and just feels like a chore by the end of it.

I am also excited by the arrival of various friends and family in the next few weeks. All coming home for Christmas/New Year, it fills me with anticipation and pleasure. Hiiiiiiiiii, SuseBrettAnnabelDomSallyNicZacCillianandHelen!

We're staying home for Christmas but looking forward to five nights on Rottnest over the Australia Day weekend. E is full of questions and anticipation - how long will it take to get there on the ferry, is ferry the same as fairy (?!), can we "play Rottnest?" Um yes, ok, how do we do that? We get these beanbags and these cushions and we pile them up like this, Mum! Then we have an island and we can jump on it! I haven't been to Rottnest since I was 18 and am really hanging out for what I hope will be a pretty simple, kinda old fashioned holiday - am I being naive? I'm hoping for sunshine, lots of beach time, afternoon naps, beers at sunset and nothing more complex for dinner than sausages and fish and chips. Any tips from anyone who has been recently welcome!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In the garden - October/November

I realised, belatedly, that the titling of my garden posts was a bit stupid - when I'm writing "in the garden - November" what I actually mean is "it is November now and I'm writing about what happened in the garden in October." And theoretically I was going to be publishing them early in the month, whereas today is the 25th. Oh well. Here is what happened in the garden in October, and for good measure, the bulk of November.

An artichoke happened! "Artichoke", singular so far, but there is another one on there. We had it steamed with some olive oil and vinegar for dipping.

I have far more food memories of my maternal grandmother, Grandma, than my paternal grandmother, Granny, but one thing I associate with Granny is artichokes, as I ate them for the first time with her on holiday one Christmas. I also recall her giving us vanilla icecream sprinkled with Milo, or occasionally a spoonful of jam.

The blueberries have continued to do well - yesterday E took to kindy for morning tea a box of them picked entirely from our own plants. But the main fruit event of the month has been apricots. 24 of them to date! The combination of mesh and paper bags has been a real success this year - I obviously got them on at the right time. They have had a bit of ant/other insect damage and definitely look home grown, but not one so far has been fruit fly ridden.

They look particularly home-grown in this photo - the lighting is a bit funny  -
 they are actually much orange-r than they appear here.
We are saving the stones in the hope that Papa may be able to add a few trees to their collection, although I have read that growing apricots from stones is a bit of a production, requiring a nut cracker to extract the bit you actually plant, and them time in the fridge for them to germinate. We all love them so much it is worth the effort - although 24 is definitely our best haul yet (and there are still more to come on the other half of the graft) it is still few enough that I ration them out for dessert after dinner, one each and no more! C especially loves them and sits chomping away with her one tooth, beautiful orange juice running down her chin.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A sleeping baby

Last week I gave in and called a sleep consultant recommended by a friend. C's day sleeps were varying between intermittent to non-existent, and to get her to sleep was requiring more and more effort. With a recurrence of the lower back/pelvis pain I lived with for most of my pregnancy, patting her to sleep on my shoulder was simply becoming unsustainable.

Stacey came and spent last Sunday with us, from 11am until 7pm. Her method did involve a bit of crying, but also listening to the type of cry to make sure it was angry/frustrated rather than distressed. She also helped us figure out two different schedules, one based on a 5.30am wakeup, one based on a 7.00am wakeup. As C's wakeup time was so variable, and some days have to incorporate kindy pick-ups/drop-offs, I had not been able to figure out a schedule that could incorporate all these things.  My wishlist was for C to wake around 7:00, take at least two day naps, self-settle during the day, and maybe space out her day feeds a little.

All I can say is that Stacey's method works.

For comparison, here is C's day last Friday (pre-Stacey):

4:15am - woke, yelled, had milk
6:30am - up for the day
7:30am - more milk
8:30am - spent 15 minutes in bed before waking, after 20 minutes of patting
9:15am - breakfast (solids)
9:40am - 20 minutes of patting and crying, did not go to sleep
10:40am - milk
12:00pm - lunch (solids)
12:30pm - another 30 minutes of patting and crying, did not go to sleep
2:40pm-  milk
3:15pm - finally had a 45 minute sleep!
5:00pm - dinner (solids)
5:20pm  - bath
5:40pm - milk and bed
6:45pm - awake again grizzling
7:00pm - more milk
7:15pm - asleep

And here her day a couple of days ago (post-Stacey):
7:00am - awake, milk
8:00am - breakfast (solids)
8:30am - 15 minutes settling in cot (talking, grizzling - no crying)
8:45am  - 2 HOUR NAP! (including re-settling herself partway through!)
11:00am - milk
1.30pm - 40 minute nap (in car - also something that never used to happen)
2.30pm - milk
4.00 - 4.25 - unsuccessful attempt to settle (grizzling in cot)
5.45pm - dinner
6.10pm - bath
6.40pm - milk
7.00pm - asleep

Actual day naps! Self-settling! Sleeping 12 hours overnight!

It's not perfect - I haven't yet persuaded C to take a late afternoon nap and she really needs to, as every day since Stacey came she has been up from about 2:00pm until bedtime, but we will work on that. A lot of the time she also seems to want milk more frequently than the every four hours that the schedule calls for, but that is ok.

Crossing all fingers, toes and other random body parts that this continues...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happy half birthday

Our littlest love, you turned 6 months old 12 days ago. You have learned so much in the past month or so. Whilst we were on holiday in Dunsborough (on Daddy's birthday in fact) you figured out the back-to-front roll and almost instantly could do several in a row. Now, a couple of weeks later, and you are well beyond staying where you are put, and can expertly traverse from one side of the rug to another, stopping only when you get half stuck under the couch, at which point you let us know all about the problem in no uncertain terms. Yesterday I took a photo of you sitting on the picnic rug outside - the first time you have done a steady unsupported sit for longer than a second or two.

We first gave you some solid food at 22 weeks but then paused because I was convinced it was disrupting your sleep. I can now discern no pattern whatsoever - a few nights ago you managed to cram most of a chickpea and vegie fritter from your fat fist into your lovely little mouth, following which you slept from 6.30pm to 4.30am. Well, you can be sure I hoped it was as easy as serving up the same dinner the next night, but alas - the miracle was not to be repeated. Incidentally, I had primarily made the fritters for your big sister, not considering that a baby barely six months old could manage them, but as soon as you saw what she was having, you wanted some too. You just want to join in what everyone else is doing - whilst on holiday you begged pizza crust from us in the same fashion and have also scored strips of fillet steak and asparagus spears, food I would never dreamed of giving E at this age. You seem to like anything you can stuff in your mouth on your own and are distinctly less impressed by things that come off a spoon. Your clear favourites so far are the pizza crust, chunks of stewed pear, and honeydew melon.

Speaking of your big sister, she is as enraptured with you as we are. Since you have been eating more real food you have needed more regular baths and this week I have mainly put the two of you in the tub together. E thinks this is fantastic and I suspect you agree - there is lots of fist waving and leg kicking and splashing. You are a brave girl and unperturbed by E yanking on your legs, dumping water on your head and splashing in your face. Her biggest treat is to be allowed to hold you, something she thinks needs to happen at least once a day and if I say no when she begs "Mummy, can I have a hold of C" she will whinge right back "but I haven't he-eld her yet today!" - obviously as her big sister it is her right to man-handle you as she pleases. You seem not to need most of my attempts to protect you from her four-year-old enthusiasm - I have a lovely image stored away of her leaning right over you on the rug, rocking you from side to side, and the two of you laughing gleefully in each other's faces.

You are generally a very happy little soul - I love to sing silly little songs to you and you will give me big, nose wrinkling, shining eyed grins right back. There will probably come a day when you will refuse to be held by anyone but me, but right now anyone who talks to you will get a moment of contemplation and then a sweet, happy smile. You will also chat away to anyone who will listen - right now your favourite sound is "brugh! brugh!" The last two days you have been somewhat grumpy but that is only because of the emergence of a horrid little tooth at the bottom of your mouth.

Sleep is still a bit of a variable issue - dear little second baby, if I had the leisure to give you some real consistency I think you would find it easier, but even sticking to the minimum routine for E involves you being dragged around a fair bit and your schedule depends on the of the week. I would love for you to figure out how to fall asleep in bed, but as things are you sing yourself to sleep on our shoulders before we try to sneak you into your cot. Your going to sleep song is so funny, it is an "ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah" that is somewhere between an angry cat and a struggling car battery. The tireder you are the louder you get. We have nights where you are only up once, but other nights I'm up with you two and sometimes three times. It would also be very nice if you would figure out how to take day naps longer than 45 minutes - your refusal to do so means you are still sleeping three and sometimes four times during the day.

Given the emergence of the nasty tooth I am going to take myself to bed as I suspect tonight may not be one of your better nights. Even though I would love some uninterrupted hours, I know that when you get me up I will be unable to resent it, I will hug you to my chest and smell your soft, floaty hair and know that I would not trade the last six months for all the sleep in the world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Letters to asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru

When I was a young lawyer with more time on my hands than I have presently I started volunteering on the weekends for an organisation called CASE for Refugees. At the time, it was possible for asylum seekers who arrived by boat who were granted refugee status to receive a temporary protection visa (TPV) which enabled them to live in the community. Prior to the expiry of their TPV they could apply for a permanent protection visa (PPV) which would allow them to stay here permanently.  CASE helped TPV holders prepare the forms and accompanying statements and documents necessary to apply for a PPV. Later, CASE helped PPV holders apply for visas for family members who had been left behind (often in refugee camps in countries like Pakistan) to come to Australia too. Whilst helping TPV and PPV holders write statements about the reasons they left their homes and families I heard the most horrific stories of beatings, torture, murder, rape and forced conscription. I felt (and feel) that Australia is a large, rich country and that our refugee policy could be much more generous than it currently is.

Anyway, I stopped volunteering at CASE when I was pregnant with E because I was too sick and tired to devote my weekends to anything much but sleeping. I was pleased to read recently that Victorian lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, has initiated a way for ordinary Australians to support asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island and Nauru. It's not time consuming, won't cost an individual much, and can be done from your own home. The idea is that you write a letter (initially to a non-specific asylum seeker) and send it to Julian, and a self-addressed envelope. He will arrange for it to be sent to Nauru or Mauns Island and given to a particular asylum seeker, who can write back to you if they want to. There are specific instructions on what to do on Julian Burnside's website - click here.

According to recent posts on Julian Burnside's Facebook page, thousands of people have sent him letters which he has forwarded, and they have been received and greatly appreciated by asylum seekers. It is not clear whether the asylum seekers have been prevented from writing replies, or whether the replies have been blocked by detention centre staff or the Immigration Department. However, that's not a reason to stop writing. He also recently said that whilst it is difficult for asylum seekers to access post offices they do get one hour of email access a week, so it might be an idea to include your email address if you want them to write back.

A letter to a stranger who has escaped things most of us can't imagine is not an easy thing to write. Julian's website suggests:

"Write a letter, but not directed to a specific person.  Say who you are, so the recipient will not wonder whether you are acting for the government. Tell them something about yourself.  Let them know that not all Australians are hostile to them.  Be sensitive to their circumstances.  Encourage them to write back to you."

Here is my letter in case anyone else would like an idea of what you might say:

"Dear Friend

My name is M and I am 33 years old. I live in {suburb} which is a suburb of Perth. I have two young daughters named E and C - E is 4 years old and C is 6 months old. Right now I do not do paid work because I stay at home with the girls. My husband's name is D.

I am writing to let you know that I am very sorry our government has locked you up. Australia is a big country and I wish you could live here too. Not all Australians agree with the way our government treats refugees.

If you would like to write back to me I would love to hear from you. Please tell me anything you would like about yourself - where you come from, what it is like in your country, whether your family is with you, how you are managing in detention. I will keep writing to you if you would like that. If it is easier for you to email me than post a letter my email address is: {email address}. I have also included an envelope with my address and some paper and an International Reply Coupon that you can exchange for stamps.

With best wishes from..."

Who else will join me in writing a letter to give a little hope and distraction to someone in a horrible situation?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Tough love parenting

It's been a tough week of parenting 'round these parts. We spent the second week of the school holidays in Dunsborough with my parents, and the girls (and we) were spoilt by the ease that two more pairs of hands and sets of attention bring to the taking-care-of-small-folk gig. We came home last Sunday and the next day was staff development day so E was at home with C and I instead of at kindy. We had a really lovely day - E seemed happy with the return to normality and was pleased to be pottering around the house playing with stuff she hadn't seen for a week and there was minimal ignoring and grumpiness on her part and consequently minimal shoutiness on mine. 

The next day E went happily back to kindy and afterwards I agreed to her request for her friend A to come over and play for an hour afterwards. I sat in an armchair in the playroom where I could hold a sleeping C and watch the two big girls on the trampoline. I spent some of the time googling child proof gate latches on my phone and emailing my Dad asking his view on which one would be suitable for our gate. When A's mum arrived I didn't get up to see them out and say goodbye as C was still asleep on my lap. I did get up a few minutes later when I heard E messing about by the front gate where she had lingered to wave goodbye and asked her to bring inside the toys she had dragged out to the trampoline. She brought inside one lot of toys and I sent her back out for another. A few minutes passed, she didn't come back in, but I thought she had just wandered off in the garden. I was cross because she had promised (promised! because from a four year old promises mean so much!) she would pack up if I let them take toys outside. 

I plopped C on the rug and started wandering around looking and calling for E. She wasn't inside. I did a lap of the garden. She wasn't outside. Starting to panic I thought "I bet she's followed A out the gate." E has only been able to reach the gate latch for a little while, and knows she is never supposed to go out it by herself (and less than an hour earlier I had been researching what to replace the latch with!) but I had one of those strong, sense of doom feelings that she had done so this time. We live on a busy road. A really really busy main road. I raced out the gate, gambled that she had turned right rather than left as that is the direction of A's house and hooned about 20 metres down the street. And, thank goodness, saw A, A's Mum and E walking back towards our house. Their neighbour had found E in her front garden. She had made it all the way down our street to the traffic lights, turned the corner, walked another hundred metres or so and turned another corner onto A's street and got as far as the next door house.

E's explanation was "I was going on an adventure." What do you say to that?? I said all the obvious things about it being dangerous and naughty and that she was never to do it again. I took all of the good behaviour stones she had earned out of her jar in one go. I put her in her bedroom and told her she could stay there until dinner time. She started carrying on about being hungry and I told her that being hungry until dinner might help her remember not to do it again. A few minutes later she snuck out of her room, filched an apple from the fridge and tried to sneak back into her room. Like a crazy lady I wrestled the apple away from her, screeching, and shoved her back in her room. This was apparently more upsetting than the original punishment and she stayed in her room, sobbing. I stood at the bench, trying to make dinner, with C grizzling on the rug, wondering if I got to cry too or if my job was just to make dinner. I left E in her room until dinner was ready, which was about half an hour, and by far the longest we have ever made her stay in her room as punishment. Later we also decided she is on a three week play-date ban as we wanted there to be a more lasting reminder of the lesson.

Since then we decided that we have been overlooking too many instances of E ignoring us. Either she just pretends not to hear and carries on with what she is doing, or laughs whilst deliberately doing things she knows are naughty. She will sometimes appear sorry later and promise not to do it again, but really doesn't understand the significance of promises. So, since the great escape, every time she ignores us or doesn't do what she is told, we have been putting her in her room. Suffice to say, she has been spending quite a lot of time there. On Saturday we went to my parents' place after lunch, following a particularly gruesome morning behaviour wise. The performance continued once we  got there. I can't even remember what I had asked her to do, but given it was on top of a morning full of not listening, I sent E for time out in the laundry. She wouldn't stay put, and ran out about five or six times, culminating in D threatening to take her home if she didn't stay put for the five minutes we had originally told her. She did it again, and D said "that's it, Mummy and C will stay here and have a nice time with Granny and Grandad but you and I are going home." She immediately shrieked "no, I'll be good, don't take me home!" but D was resolute and wrestled her out to the car. I say "wrestled" because she fought it every step of the way, howling and shrieking at the top of her lungs all the way down the path and across the street. Once in the car it was another wrestling match to get her to sit still long enough to get her seatbelt on. But we managed it and they left, whilst C and I stayed for our "nice time" which mainly involved me feeling shaky and guilty about how physical we had had to be, but nervously determined that it was the right thing to do.

Since then things have been perhaps marginally better (although when D was putting her to bed that night and told E that we hadn't had a very good day but we would all try to have a better day tomorrow, E apparently looked astounded and said "but why didn't we have a good day?!") At least we have been resting slightly easier about the gate as we now have a new child proof gate latch, complete with lock.

Does anyone have experience parenting the small and wilful sort? I do want to raise strong and independent girls, but at the same time well mannered ones who listen to adults and who can at least follow instructions enough to ensure their own safety!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In the garden - October

In the garden, in September, there were tomatoes, broad beans and rainbow chard! Lots of each! E has been eating cherry tomatoes like they are lollies and we are picking a full handful every day or two. We haven't done anything more adventurous with the broad beans this year than eat them straight from the bush, or in salad, but there are plenty for both.

The blueberries are still laden but with only a few ripe ones so far.

I thought about building some sort of fruit-fly preventing structure out of poly piping and big sheets of netting to protect the apricot tree but time got away from me so I went with what we had and dragged out the mesh sleeves and paper bags from the shed. I also couldn't quite figure out how I would deal with the fact that the tree is grafted and one half always flowers/fruits well before the other - so far one half has big enough fruit that it needed bagging, and the other half is still mainly flowering with only a few tiny fruit.

And the roses are back, and glorious.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The smells of childhood

It is Sunday afternoon and my kitchen smells like childhood. Specifically, like chicken soup and rice pudding. I only realised as an adult how spoilt we were food-wise (and in plenty of other ways) growing up - both my Mum and Grandma and excellent cooks and Mum always went to considerable effort to make sure we had fresh, healthy, delicious food available to us.

Growing up, chicken soup was a regular feature on our winter dinner table, and it reliably featured whenever anyone was sick with a cold or upset tummy. When I was newly home from the hospital with baby C, it was a big pot of chicken soup that Mum brought over. I was pleased to be able to make it recently for my FIL during his recovery from surgery. It's good convalescent food but can definitely be enjoyed by those in good health too! E still refuses to eat soup of any kind, but now when I make this I use at least some chicken legs, and then extract a plain one for her to have with salad whilst D and I have soup. I am looking forward to baby C being big enough soon to eat some of it blended. And despite having cooked this recipe a number of times I have only just nailed the dumplings. It's good on its own but it's even better with dumplings!

Rice pudding was another of my favourites growing up. I have never liked milk on its own, but I do like sweet, creamy rice with a brown volcanic crust. You can make it with very little sugar and call it a healthy dessert and if you like, eat it with fruit, fresh or tinned. I like it with fresh or stewed strawberries, or frozen raspberries, or tinned cherries or tinned pineapple. Or it's good on its own. It's also good for breakfast the next day! E is already a convert. C is still not old enough for anything containing sugar and is still stubbornly gagging on the slightest lump but soon I shall make a sugar free version for her.

Anyway, here are the recipes for rice pudding and chicken soup with dumplings. They make a good two course dinner because the soup is not so substantial you're too full for dessert, and it's light enough to justify a carb-heavy second course. I think the rice pudding was originally courtesy of the AWW cookbook and the chicken soup is courtesy of my Grandma.

Chicken soup with semolina dumplings
  1. Put 1kg skin-on chicken pieces (either wings or legs or a combination are best although you can also use a whole chicken chopped into pieces) in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and turn on heat. If using wings then chop each wing into three pieces first.
  2. Meanwhile, in a separate frypan, heat a little olive oil and add a large diced brown onion, two chopped carrots, two sticks of celery (and optional – a handful of mushrooms thinly sliced) – mix until combined, then cover and gently sweat for a few minutes until the vegetables brighten and soften a little.
  3. Then mix two dessert spoons of plain flour with half a teaspoon of sweet Hungarian (not smoky) paprika and stir it into the vegetables. Sweat for another 30 seconds then turn off the heat.
  4. Keep an eye on the chicken pot and using a slotted spoon remove any scummy stuff that comes to the surface.
  5. Take a large tomato, score a cross in the skin, and put it in a bowl covered with boiling water for a few minutes. Then peel away the skin and finely dice the flesh.
  6. When the chicken comes to the boil, add the vegetables from the frypan, the diced tomato and a few more inches of water.
  7. Cook for at least 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the chicken is cooked through. The cooking time will depend on the size of the chicken pieces you are using.
  8. In the last 10 minutes you can add other soft vegetables if you want – Mum sometimes puts in a drained jar of asparagus spears, or a cup of frozen peas, or diced capsicum, or diced green beans.
  9. If you have used chicken wings you can leave the meat on the bone if you want. If you used bigger pieces then take them out, shred the meat from the bones and replace the meat in the pot.
  10. Optional semolina dumplings – per 75gm of egg add 4 tablespoons of semolina, 1/2 tspn salt, a 1/2 a dessert spoon of softened (but not melted) butter and some very finely chopped parsley. Stir hard to blend the butter into the egg and semolina. Put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes so the batter thickens.
  11. Once the soup is cooked, drop small dobs of batter (about half a teaspoon - they will puff up as they cook) into it and simmer for about another 10-15 minutes. You can take one out to test and chop it in half to see if it is done, they need to be soft and cooked all the way through. The dumplings absorb the broth so you might need to add a little extra water if using dumplings.  Alternatively you can cook the dumplings in a separate pot of boiling water and then add them to the soup once cooked.
  12. Serve the soup sprinkled with more chopped parsley, good bread and a dose of nostalgia.
Baked rice pudding
  1. Preheat the oven to about 200C.
  2. Get an oven proof casserole dish and into it stir together:
    a) 1/2 cup of rice - aborio is good but long grain also works
    b) 2.5 cups of milk - if you're feeling particularly indulgent you can substitute some of the milk with cream but we rarely have cream so I almost always use all milk and it works out fine
    c) 1/4 cup of brown sugar (less if you are trying to be healthy)
    d) 1 tspn of vanilla essence or some grated vanilla bean
    e) the finely grated rind of half a lemon
  3. Over the top of the liquid scatter a dessert spoon of butter, broken into little knobs and about 1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg.
  4. Cook for about an hour depending on how solid you want it. It's helpful to use a glass dish as you can see how cooked it is. The top should have a brown, puffy crust which will collapse when stabbed with a spoon.
  5. Serve with fresh or tinned fruit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The wisdom of Google and a pink koala

Three days ago baby C had her first go of pumpkin. She was initially surprised then quite enthusiastic, especially when given the spoon and allowed to smear it on her face. E was excited beyond measure; for some reason giving the baby proper food has loomed large on the list of things she wants to do as a big sister. We dispensed the first serving mid-morning and then sat C in the highchair with us at dinner that night and I had one of those heart-melting moments looking at my little family all sitting at the table together. We repeated the exercise the next day, but replaced one lot of pumpkin with a serving of baby cereal.

The two nights following pumpkin and baby cereal were two of the worst nights C has ever had. Up every two and a half hours on the dot - you could have set a clock by her. Seemingly starving each time, wanting 40 minute feeds.

Now it might be a case of "getting what you Google" but when I asked he who knows everything "can starting solids make baby sleep worse" various websites assured me that it can if the baby is less than six months old or for some other reason has trouble digesting the new food. C was 22.5 weeks old as at the first serve of pumpkin. She is interested in our food, has good head control, can sit easily in a high chair (with a bit of padding) and has more than doubled her birth weight. I genuinely thought she was ready, although she was not quite six months. (And we started E much earlier and she was fine, and what kind of second-time parent would I be if I didn't endlessly compare my children?) Anyhow, yesterday I decided that it was worth reverting to milk only to see what happened, and last night was significantly better. Still multiple wakings, but much quicker feeds and a decent uninterrupted stretch.

But her day sleeps? Well, they are pretty dreadful. The only way she has ever gone to sleep during the day has been by being patted into oblivion on someone's shoulder. Then, if you are lucky and time it right ,you can sneak her into bed. Where she might stay, or she might not. Later the patting has been taking longer and longer, and she has been increasingly easy to disturb either on the shoulder or whilst being put down, or she just wakes a very short time later. Clearly she has no idea how to put herself back to sleep once she wakes up and ideally we need to find a way of putting her to sleep that involves her falling asleep in her cot rather than in someone's arms. And because C is the poor second child, even sticking to the minimum required for E's weekly routine, C gets dragged out and about a lot, which means she is often tireder than ideal by the time we are somewhere she can sleep. All of this I know, and none of this helps me figure out how to fix the situation.

After various further consultations with Mr Google yesterday I reluctantly chose one of the 600 self-settling techniques that he offered me and we attempted it this morning. It was the kind that advocates putting the baby into bed "sleepy but awake", leaving them to it and going in and out to whisper mindless platitudes and give quick pats if the baby yells, all of which is  eventually supposed to result in the baby giving up and going to sleep. We tried it, for about 35 minutes, whilst C got more and more upset, and ended in hysterical crying. Either she is too stubborn or I am too soft, but I then picked her up and patted her to sleep on my shoulder. I then tried to put her down and she woke up. So I picked her up and patted some more. And then put her down. She stayed down for about 10 minutes and is now up again and on my lap, having had a grand total of about 35 minutes sleep (plus 35 minutes of crying, plus 20 minutes of patting).

All of which is why I am now walking around with a pink koala shoved down my shirt, because a "comfort object that smells like Mum" is Mr Google's next suggestion. Stay tuned for the results... or for my next physio bill brought on by endless rounds of patting a 7.5kg baby on my shoulder.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Family meal times - what's on the menu

In between fighting over how we eat it, I have been giving some thought lately to what we are putting on our plates. I declared loftily back in July 2011 that we had a new routine of all eating dinner together - I don't remember how long that lasted but it certainly wasn't very long! My more recent mullings over what I feed everyone were instigated because, after being quite an adventurous eater as a baby/small toddler, at some point (maybe around three?) E turned into a right little fusspot. Although she has always been willing to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegies, besides those, almost every meal was cheesy pasta, boiled eggs, sausages - or an argument. With a repertoire like that was it any wonder I reverted to cooking separately for D and I? 

Anyway, at some point earlier this year I decided that enough was enough - E needed to start eating a wider range of food. And guess what? She is. It was very much a case of baby steps - for example, I started sneaking a bit of tomato sauce in with the cheesy pasta. From there, a smear of bolognese. A fried egg instead of a boiled egg. Bits of steak cut into squares and threaded on a skewer instead of a sausage. It wasn't all sunny sailing - there was one horrible dinner where I decided that seeing as E was willing to eat steak, and willing to eat spaghetti, beef noodle stir fry was going to be OK. I also got hardcore and declared that if she didn't want to eat what I served, she could eat nothing. Before (and since!) then as long as E tries the new thing, if she doesn't like it I will give her something else like some toast or yoghurt. But this meal ended with her crying and me refusing to give her anything else, and her going to bed having eaten literally nothing. It was an awful experience - I cannot bear the thought of my babies being hungry, and never wanted to turn food into such a confrontation. I think it's counter productive, aside from anything else. I agonised over it for a few days, and reverted to trying to come up with meals, which if they involve something new, also involve at least one or two aspects I am sure will be eaten.

In case it assists anyone else who is driving themselves nuts staring at the fridge each night, this is a list of what I can now serve with some confidence:

Meat dishes
* Sausages
* Chicken/veal/pork schnitzel
* Roast chicken or lamb or beef
* Meatloaf 
* Beef burgers or chicken burgers
* BBQ steak
* Chicken breast wrapped in bacon and roasted (D and I have ours with slices of chorizo, cherry tomatoes and little mushrooms cooked in the same roasting tin)
* Fish – breadcrumbed or pan fried with tartare sauce for dipping
* Squid rings – breadcrumbed or marinated in a little olive oil, lemon and garlic then pan fried
* I haven’t tried it yet but plan to try skewers of beef/chicken, bacon and capsicum cooked in a griddle pan or on the bbq
Pasta dishes
* Macaroni cheese, with or without bacon, ham, frozen peas/corns/carrot
*Spaghetti bolognese 
* Gnocchi alla Sorrentina (boil gnocchi, coat with tomato sauce, put in a casserole dish, mix through several handfuls of grated cheese, bake)
* Ravioli (beef or spinach and ricotta) with tomato sauce, or just grated cheese
* Pasta with pesto and cheese - often D and I have ours with roast cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini
* Plain quinoa
* Plain couscous
* Fried rice 
* Plain white rice topped with a fried egg
* Quesadillas (filled with a little salsa and cheese, and for adults also beans and guacamole)
* Toasted ham and cheese sandwich
* Potato bake
* Homemade chips/wedges
* Vegemite sandwich
* Cheese and bacon roll from supermarket/bakery
* Buttered bread with ham/salami and salad on the side
* Pizza made on English muffins or mini pizza bases (with cheese/capsicum/bacon/ham topping plus extras for adults)

What's on the family menu at your place?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Family meal times - household rules

We had a particularly galling lunch time on Saturday, that involved E refusing to use a fork or spoon and so smearing lasagne all over her (new) blue and white dress as well as the chair (despite it's protective cushion), me taking her plate away several times and then relenting and giving it back, and lots of raised voices and general unhappiness from both of us. Sadly these kinds of episodes are not uncommon at the moment. 

After I had calmed down, cleaned up and sent E to her room to listen to CDs, I decided that we should write a list of family meal-time rules. She is a creature of habit and whilst she does not respond well to arbitrary authority, if she thinks something is a "rule" then she is generally more willing to comply with it. So later that day we sat down and wrote our list. This is what we came up with:

* Stay still;
* Sit on your chair with legs forward;
* Eat over your plate;
* Use knife and fork;
* Don't talk with your mouth full;
* Always ask by saying "please";
* Be grateful for the meal;
* Afterwards, put your dishes in the sink; and
* Wash your hands before and after.

Interestingly, E came up with almost all of them, so she clearly knew what we expect of her even if she isn't always willing (or able! I need to remember she is only four!) to comply with our expectations. Hopefully this will help - it will at least mean we can say "remember the rule about sitting on your chair" rather than issuing seemingly random demands.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Moments & miscellany #2

* Little C, the playgroup weakling, "if you make me do tummy time I will just lie here with my face in the rug and cry" has figured out that if I insist in putting her on her front she can escape by rolling onto her back. Go C! To be fair, she is also getting better about lifting her head up. But I am hoping she delays figuring out that enemy of sleep-loving parents everywhere- the back to front roll. 

* Speaking of my small funny one, we have exiled her to her own room at night. She is still waking about as frequently but I'm sleeping better in between. E was about the same age when we banished her for likewise being too noisy for me to cope with. I have learnt something though, as with E we went hardcore and took away the dummy, swaddle and bassinette all at once resulting in a few weeks of dreadful nights. C has never had a dummy and always slept in a Grobag at night. We moved her simply by wheeling the bassinette next door. To start with we left the travel bed crammed inside it but last night moved the travel bed into the cot.

* Lots of unfair comparisons going on (inside my head at least) between little C, who is a delight, and E who is a ... challenge. My super-stubborn, wilful, big-and-still-so-little four year old. She is learning to sound out words, she can go to a kindy disco, she can crack an egg by herself, but she is back to being patted to sleep at night. If C is sitting on someone's lap, she has to sit on someone's lap too (usually the same person who is holding C). Every little thing (putting shoes on, brushing teeth, using cutlery, getting dressed, picking up toys...) requires a negotiation. Simple raised voices don't work. Slowly I am finding better ways to manage our daily interactions - like for meal times we included her in the drafting of a list of family rules - but it's an ongoing process.

* D's Dad had surgery on the weekend to remove a benign but very large pancreatic cyst. He is still in hospital for another three or four nights but came through the surgery well and is recovering. I read last week (a fictional but I suspect gruesomely accurate) account of the removal of a breast tumour without anaesthetic in the early 1800s. So grateful for modern medicine and clean hospitals and dedicated doctors.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rain, snot, bread

Today started the way it finished: with rain. 

I hustled the three of us out the door at 8:20 (five minutes late) and we made it as far as the first major intersection before big, fat drops appeared. Two minutes later we were drenched (two minutes later it stopped - grrr! Not sure why that is so frustrating, but it is!) We were wet enough, and still close enough to home that I then raced a protesting E back to the house and got her into a dry uniform and me into a dry jumper - C had been in the pram and so was largely ok. I then shoved them both in the car and was halfway through fighting with E over doing up her seatbelt when she did a huge, disgusting snort all over her face. Then wiped it away with her hands. Then licked her hands.

That was it. I stopped trying to persuade myself that her runny nose and cough were hayfever and asked her "do you want to go to kindy today?" She looked at me and said "no Mummy, I want to stay home with you." I said "ok." So she did. 

It was a pretty uninspiring day - despite the runny nose and occasional cough E didn't seem otherwise sick. There is still the possibility it is hayfever as her arms are rashy again and D plus various folk on his side of the family suffer badly from hayfever each spring. E listened to story CDs in her room, I asked her to use a tissue not her hands, I asked her to wash her hands, we played cards, I reminded her not to touch the baby, she watched tv, I asked her to use a tissue, she listened to more CDs, I asked her to wash her hands, she coloured pictures of Dora, I growled at her not to touch the baby. For some as-yet-unapparent reason the baby was grouchy and needy all day. She wanted to be held, she wanted to eat every hour, she wanted to be patted to sleep every hour and a half. 

In between all that we did make some pretty delicious herb and garlic bread rolls loosely following this recipe. And C did some pretty impressive tummy time for a baby who is definitely the weakling of the playgroup - until now "tummy time" has meant lying face down on the rug with grizzling rapidly descending into crying.

After D got home, just before it got dark, I snuck out for a walk. Within thirty seconds of me leaving the house it started to rain and I was reminded of the morning. But this time I was on my own and I didn't care if I got wet. I walked fast, I took big lungfuls of damp, chilly air. I looked at the horizon. I was grateful to be somewhere other than my living room and kitchen. It rained. I walked.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Liebster Award

Wendy from Beach Style Mum has kindly given me a "Liebster Award" and asked me to answer the following questions. Thanks, Wendy!

1. What was the last book you read?
I always have multiple books on the go - at the moment I'm re-reading the Harry Potters for the millionth time on the Kindle (brainless entertainment for middle of the night feeding sessions). The last "proper" book I read was The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, for book club. Then baby C came along and I haven't been to book club since. Oops. The next time I have enough energy to venture away from Harry Potter I have Kate Forsyth's The Wild Girl ready to go on the Kindle. I should maybe attempt something like the reading challenge I started (but didn't finish) in 2012.

2. Do you shop early for Christmas or leave it to the last minute?
Early. I like being organised. I'm starting to think about things for the girls already.
3. Describe your ideal Saturday
It would need to involve some time with the kids and some time away from them! Maybe some family time during the day and then a meal somewhere fancy with D in the evening. If it could take place overseas that would be even better. Although I think C is still too small for us to realistically attempt it  just yet I'm starting to dream about travelling again. International or not, it should definitely include an afternoon nap. And not getting woken up multiple times during the night!
4. Favourite breakfast food?
Porridge. I recently discovered baked porridge and cannot believe I existed so long without it.

5. What was your first paid job?
In Year 11 I did a short stint at Dymocks on Saturday mornings. Then in the summer between finishing school and starting uni I rocked the checkouts at the local IGA.
6. Which celebrity would you most like as your best friend?
Hmmm, tricky. I have a bit of a celebrity crush on Brisbane author Nick Earls but I'm not sure a 50 year old man counts as best friend material?
7. Beach or snow for a holiday destination?
Definitely beach, I don't like the cold and am hopelessly uncoordinated so skiing is of little appeal.
8. At school I was known for being good at….
All the humanities subjects and debating. With that background you would never guess I became a lawyer, would you?
9. Best blogging moment / highlight so far?
Dunno really, I just do it because I like the process of writing and because I want to create a record of this precious time whilst my girls are small.
10. What skill or talent do you wish you had?
Lots! I'd love to be able to run for fitness. I'm impressed by D who completed the half marathon in the City to Surf on the weekend, pretty much without training for it. Supposedly anyone can learn but I am somewhat dubious. Since having kids I've become more interested in sewing and craft generally but I think I spend more time looking at craft and fabric websites than actually doing it. (See one of my first attempts at sewing here). I would like to learn how to crochet. I also wish I was more musical. And that I spoke another language fluently.

I think I am supposed to "pass on" the award to other bloggers who have only a small number of followers and ask them to answer a list of questions but all the blogs I regularly read are well established ones, so I will leave it at this. But go and visit Beach Style Mum if  - like me! you need some motivation to get out of your jeans and tshirt uniform.

Monday, September 1, 2014

In the garden: September

I am declaring the first of each month gardening post day, for my records if not anyone else's interest. It has been a slow winter in our garden as baby C's arrival meant we did only the essential. The roses got a later than usual prune and at times we have had not so much lawn as forest. This given, things are looking pretty good and I am looking forward to spring and hopefully a little more time to spend outside.

A quick summary of what is happening outside:

The blueberries are ready to ripen:

The lime tree is very happy - a bumper crop that has only just finished and in flower again. (Blueberries in pots to the left and right).

The orange tree is also blossoming and smells wonderful. We're hoping for a few more than the two oranges it managed to produce this year.


The pile of sticks you can see behind it is due to...

... this! No more sad and sorry Geraldton waxes suffering for lack of sunlight. I am now scheming what to plant here. The overhead shade sails means it gets very little sunlight - a few hours in the morning down the right hand end, almost nothing for the rest of it. Dithering between ferns of some kind which will look good without much effort and something like azaleas which will be brighter but require more care.

In the vegie patch...

... there is a broad bean jungle. And a few snow peas to the left.

Plenty of rocket at the front, plus self-seeded tomatoes at the back. They came up at the end of summer and I left them in as an experiment. Once they were large enough I moved them into slightly better spots than they had chosen for themselves and was pleasantly surprised they survived winter. I was even happier when little green fruit appeared and am quietly stoked now they are ripening! 

To the left of this photo are "purple" broccoli - planted from a Bunnings punnet in April (?) and yet to show any sign of being purple or of anything edible. Probably going to get turned into food for Grandma and Papa's many chickens sometime soon. The rest of this photo shows: a single artichoke, also planted from a seedling as an experiment - has grown significantly but no sign of flowers; more tomatoes; a squillion nasturtiums that have come up from the seeds I threw around last summer in the hope of enticing bees. Seeing as they only appeared recently they did nothing to assist with the pollination of the summer zucchinis and cucumbers and I fear I will be pulling self-seeded nasturtiums out of the rest of the garden forever more.

Last but not least, my favourite sign of spring:

Maybe this will be the year I figure out what to do about the blighty little fruit flies and we get more than three apricots.

Friday, August 29, 2014

This week's moments and miscellany

* Yesterday at mothers' group I was busy announcing that C pays little regard to food. That afternoon I was sitting on the couch feeding her whilst indulging in a healthy afternoon tea of chocolate Yogo and she was fascinated. I have never sen anything like it. Admittedly, chocolate Yogo is pretty exciting, but this was quite phenomenal, forcing me to conclude that babies will go to quite ridiculous lengths to prove their mummies wrong.

* Have resolved to bath C more frequently after this week heralded both D singing her a made up song that included the line "you are the baby that never has a bath" and my mum being a bit horrified to learn that I don't bathe her daily. Who has time to do that?? Apparently I am supposed to do it in the morning once D has left for work and E is at kindy and I am contemplating what to cook for dinner, as all good housewives do. Ha!

* Meal time semi-success with E last night with chicken fajitas. Not quite sure why I thought she would eat this as she doesn't like anything where the ingredients are mixed up and the only sandwiches she will tolerate are cheese or Vegemite (but not together! And only cut in squares. Spare us from the anger of a four year old presented with bread cut in triangles!) Anyway, she refused to eat one rolled up, but did eat a plain tortilla, some chicken that I had cooked separately for her without the cumin and paprika I put on ours, and some raw capsicum and tomato. Not a bad start and avoided me cooking two meals.

* Just as E's bedtimes have improved (dare I write that? What did I say above about contrary little Marys proving adults wrong?) C's are rubbish again. C's whole nights are pretty crummy when it comes down to it. E's bedtimes are good again because we have reverted to patting her to sleep. 20 minutes of patting is a squillion times better than 2 hours of drinks of water, toilet trips, hiding in the hallway and general carry-on. But all the patting that goes on here we should be getting amazing arm muscles. The other night I sat on the couch smiling wryly to myself as my vigorous pats of Cs little back were echoed back from down the hallway. 4 months or 4 years, seemingly it doesn't matter in this house so far as the manner in which you like to go to sleep...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Books and Book Week

Last week was Book Week and E's first book week parade. Feeling lazy, my two costume suggestions were for characters of which I knew we could pull together a costume from stuff we already have - an elephant from Babar or Angelina Ballerina (also books she really likes so I didn't feel too bad about it!) She initially chose Queen Celeste then changed her mind and went as Angelina. One pink ballet dress, a headband with some cardboard ears, a stocking tail and eye-liner nose and whiskers and she was a happy and very cute dancing mouse. We got to school not knowing quite what a book week parade entailed - and it was great! The theme of this year's Book Week is "connect with reading" and the previous week we had been asked to write down the title and author of E's three favourite books on strips of paper. (She initially claimed bloody Peppa Pig is her favourite - objectively not even true! - but was then persuaded to write down Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Imagine (Alison Lester) and ... something else, I can't remember what we actually wrote, I know Milly Molly Mandy and My Naughty Little Sister were contenders.

It turned out every child in the school had done this, and some poor teacher (or hopefully maybe some older kids?!) had strung the strips together into enormous paper chains. The chains were suspended from a central maypole thing in the undercover area, and each class sat underneath one of the chains. Year 7 student councillors were in charge of setting up, and they introduced each class and "interviewed" each child, asking them who they were dressed as and things such as why they like that book, before each kid paraded around the circle. That's right, every child in the school got to announce, in front of the rest of the school who they had dressed up as. It brought home how pleased we are to have E in a comparatively small school (about 250 kids) as in many schools this simply wouldn't be possible. After the parading had finished there was a morning tea fundraiser and E was very pleased and excited to be able to have me stay for a cupcake and a juice. The whole event was really lovely with a really nice vibe about it. We sent an email to the principal saying how pleasantly surprised we were by all the effort that had clearly gone into organising it.

C and I recently went to baby rhyme time at one of the local libraries. I used to take baby E to this quite often but hadn't been for a long time for obvious reasons. We liked it! Lots of face to face bouncing and singing and smiling time. While we were there I had a quick flick through the shortlisted picture books that were on display. Banjo and Ruby Red, Kissed by the Moon and Silver Buttons may make an appearance in C's Christmas stash. For a full list of the shortlisted books click here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Practicing patience and kindness

Lately I vary between thinking I expect too much of E's only four and a bit years - especially since C has arrived - and just being enormously frustrated and cross at rudeness, lack of listening and deliberate naughtiness. She has also been incessantly chewing on the collars and cuffs of her clothing. She does not seem to realise she is doing it and appears genuinely surprised when when we say "stop chewing!" Often she does it when concentrating, such as when watching television, but also when distracted or tired, and almost always when falling asleep - her pyjama tops are literally in tatters. Objectively it seems mean and unfair to growl and punish her for something she is not doing deliberately. But mean and unfair or not, it is driving me absolutely wild because she is ruining multiple pieces of clothing. 

We had a particularly bad day on Sunday - I took both girls to a birthday party on my own and I came home tired and stressed and E came home tired and hyper. In the ten minutes she was watching iView whilst I made dinner she managed to ruin an almost brand new merino wool tshirt. I was unreasonably angry and declared that she was now subject to a lifetime iPad ban, which prompted a complete meltdown. She went to bed terribly unhappy and I spent the evening feeling guilty and miserable, not about saying she was banned from the iPad but about how I talk and react to her lately. I felt like I am letting myself becoming unreasonably angry over little things. Yelling "talk to Mummy nicely!" is not exactly leading by example. Crumbs on the floor - even ones that wind up there because she wriggles around whilst eating dinner and doesn't eat facing her plate - things she has been asked to do a million times - are just crumbs on the floor. 

So this week I have been trying to be more patient and to talk more kindly. To remember that although four years is much bigger than four months it is still pretty little. To notice how much E adores me and remind myself that a lot of her challenging behaviour is because she wants my attention. To enjoy the nice aspects of spending time with her.

And incidentally, we have maintained the iPad ban and she has chewed a lot less and her behaviour generally has been better. So something good came from what was a pretty crummy Sunday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ethical and practical dilemmas of a clean house

There's a stranger in my house who I'm pretending to ignore. This situation would have to be high on my list of awkwardness. The fact that I am paying her to be here is not helping my take on the situation. I'm reminding myself that I am sitting at my kitchen table with a laptop and a cup of tea rather than on a wrap-around porch with a gin and tonic, surveying the natives whilst they labour, but it still feels unpleasantly colonial. (Although I wouldn't say no to the gin and tonic....)

So yeah, we have a new cleaner. After dithering for weeks and stalking various companies' websites I finally called a few, and went with the one who a couple of friends had recommended and who came to look at the house yesterday and said they could send someone today. 

We have had a cleaner previously, but it was back in 2009 when our house was an inner city apartment and the only people messing it up were our friends on the weekends. It seems ridiculously unnecessary in retrospect, but we had two full time incomes, often both worked silly hours, and could afford the luxury. We would come home once a fortnight to find the doona cover ironed and the toilet paper folded into points. After the initial meet and greet, we never saw the good house elf - we left money on the bench and the transformations took place in our absence.

Despite my dislike of having someone I don't know in the house, I have three choices really - clean it myself, let it continue festering or pay someone else to do it. Option one I have been attempting, in increasingly futile and half-hearted measures since C was born. Option two is pretty much the default (since way before C was born if we're being honest) and option three is what I have finally succumbed to. I am telling myself that I am giving someone an income, that my time to play with my children is more valuable than the money or time spent cleaning it myself, and that next fortnight I will definitely try to organise for us to be somewhere else while she is here!

PS I have just peeked in the bathroom that she finished and have decided that I am being ridiculous. I can see through the shower screen. Need I say more?

Friday, August 8, 2014

The terrible horrible no good very bad day*

We were bound to have one of these. And the timing is dead-on when I would have predicted it - D is back at work, but has not been for long enough for C to get into a predictable routine, or for me to have sorted out how to manage two kids instead of one.

Or I could just blame swimming lessons, seeing as this time last week I was announcing to the whole of Stalkbook that I wanted to move to Alaska.

Swimming lessons are at least partially to blame, even though this week I had wised up and enlisted Grandad's help as a second pair of hands. And I had called the pool and re-arranged the class time from 9:00 to 11:30 so that we would not have to combine all the getting ready for the day things with C needing her first sleep, with getting to swimming on time. I had also tried to be as organised as possible, packing the swimming bag in advance, ensuring E had eaten morning tea and starting the getting-out-the-door process way ahead of when we actually needed to leave. But E had been in a ridiculously hyper, not-listening-to-anything mood all morning, so my blood pressure was already up by the time we left. I made us leave at 10.45 to get to the pool (maybe a 10 minute drive away) with plenty of time to unload, get inside, go to the shop to buy a new pair of goggles to replace last week's broken pair, and for E to go to the toilet before class started. We managed it so well that we had about 25 minutes to spare, and and so sat in the cafe where E demanded an icy pole that I couldn't be bothered fighting about (it counts as good parenting that I only bought her a Frosty Fruit instead of the bag of chips she originally demanded, doesn't it?)

The class itself sucked. Despite having chosen the new goggles herself E wriggled and complained whilst we tried to get them to the right size, then yelled that they hurt and that she wasn't wearing them. The pool is of the huge, indoor, extremely chlorinated variety, so she then didn't want to put her face in the water without them. The usual teacher was sick and so we had a different teacher who didn't know E and hadn't figured out that they need to be extremely firm if they want her to actually do anything besides splash and talk (they wise up to this after a couple of weeks). Every two minutes I was dashing to the side of the pool bellowing "sit still! Are you listening to Henry? Do you want Henry to let you do dives at the end of the lesson?" Then having a shower and getting dressed was a complete production, as was getting in the car. None of this sounds so very bad now, and maybe objectively it wasn't even at the time, and part of me kept wondering whether I was over reacting and being a huge grouch when it wasn't necessary, but swimming has been a pretty challenging time of week, even when D was able to come with us, and we have had lots of conversations with E about how she behaves when we are there.

Throughout all this C was getting more and more tired, despite having slept for more than an hour at home before we left. I normally struggle to get her to sleep for more than 40 minutes at a stretch, and had to wake her to leave. She fell asleep on Grandad's shoulder not long before we left the pool but inevitably woke up as we got into the car.

If I had any brains at all I would have just taken us straight home at that point. But I had agreed a couple of days ago that we would visit one of E's friends after swimming. They live a 25 minute drive away at best, and more if it is trafficky. I know that C hates the car, and generally cries rather than sleeps whilst driving, and it had occurred to me that given she is still an unpredictable napper, that any time of day that involved a half hour drive there and back was likely to be awkward. I should have just said we couldn't go. My friend would completely have understood. But I didn't, and despite the grump I was in post-swimming, and despite knowing C was tired and probably hungry, I pushed on.

I pushed on as far as the freeway. By this point C's grizzles had turned into hysterical screaming. I made my first good decision of the morning and decided enough was enough. I told E we were going home, and was frank about why - that C was tired and upset and that I couldn't drive safely with her crying and that I already felt anxious and grumpy because she had not been a good listener. So she cried too, and I drove home - through roadworks - with two miserable children, feeling like a rotten parent who couldn't manage the needs of either child, and cursing myself for letting C get too tired when I swore only days ago that I would prioritise her day sleeps

But we didn't have an accident on the way home and now we are at home. And I will try to remember that we had bad days when E was a baby and I was still figuring stuff out. And that other people manage to go out in public with more than one child and probably (one day soon please!) I will too.

My next question is whether we persist with swimming. I am very tempted to give it up for now and try again next term when C is bigger and hopefully a more predictable sleeper, or at least when the pool can offer us a Saturday class.

* With apologies to Judith Viorst.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Quiet days

I need to re-learn the value of the quiet day. The one where you hold the baby while she sleeps. Venture out from the house only for walks and to the local shops. Sit on the grass in the sunshine while the baby plays on a rug. There is a certain slow pleasure in that kind of day but we've had a lot lately and I enjoyed not having one yesterday. As a result C did not sleep enough during the day which meant she did not sleep enough during the night, and so I got to enjoy her company at 9.45, 1:00 and 3:00. And indirectly in between whilst she was grizzly and only sleeping lightly. Eventually I gave up and stuffed in earplugs, figuring that I would hear her if she gave a proper yell, seeing as her head was about 30cm from mine.

(The alternative explanation is that the night time wakefulness is the beginning of the four month sleep regression, the possibility of which has me quaking in fear. E regressed in spectacular style, going from 8 hour stretches at about three months to not getting night times back together until she was nine months old. I much prefer the theory that if I am vigilant about day time sleeps that the nights will take care of themselves. Or something).

At least I mainly managed the necessary quiet time whilst C was sick. E brought home a cold from somewhere which she quickly passed on to C who quickly turned it into bronchialitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes, apparently common in babies). After several days of snottiness and a persistent low grade fever I took her to the GP who surprised me by dispatching us to PMH for a check. They seemed less concerned than the GP and sent us home with an information sheet. Several days later we were back at the GP because I could feel the breath literally rattling in an out of poor little C's chest. The GP announced it was now a secondary bacterial infection and so C has had the dubious glamour of completing her first set of antibiotics before hitting four months. They were effective however - 48 hours of them got rid of all the snot and yuckiness in a most impressive manner.

Today is Tuesday which means D has scooted off to kindy with E. I will attempt to practice what I preach. We will walk to mothers' group. Sit in the sun. I shall not attempt to clean the house, or deal with the magic mountain that is my laundry basket, or cook food. I will hold C until she is properly asleep then sit by her basinette so I can pat her when she stirs. That's the theory anyhow...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Suburban walk to kindy

E started kindy at the beginning of 2014 but we only started walking there and home part-way through term 2. Before that I was too fat and immobile, and then we were too busy adjusting to life-with-two to organise ourselves to do it. We also assumed that it would be a bit far for E to manage - it's about 1.3km each way, and it would be quite far for her to walk, but now she rides her scooter and manages very well. 

Another reason we thought it would be too far/hard to walk is that if you go by the main roads it is very busy. But if you walk alongside the ovals and netball courts it is a beautiful walk, mainly under and alongside huge gum trees, and much safer and more peaceful than via the main roads.

Also, D bought a scooter! It is the best fun riding it and means we can keep up with E who at full scooting speed is very speedy indeed. In the weeks when D was home we would all walk to/from kindy together, one of us with baby C in the Ergo and the other on the scooter. Amongst all the other reasons I am sorry D has returned to work is that I now have to carry C all the time - so no scooting for me.

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