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...
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