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.

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