23 December 2007

A Holiday!

How wonderful - four nights in a two-room apartment on the NSW north coast! It was lovely to get away, but I must admit it was a challenge.

I was sick, Chubbity Bubbity was teething (yes, finally teething! CB is very grumpy about it), and Sonny Ma-Jiminy is going through a Very Difficult Stage. All screaming and violence.

There were the constant Screaming & Object-Throwing Tantrums from Sonny Ma-Jiminy in reply to parental comments like "We can't go in the pool yet, it's not open," or "We can't go in the pool yet, we have to eat breakfast first," or "We can't go in the pool now: it's dark, the pool is closed and it's time for bed."

There was the thumb-slammed-in-the-car-door incident after which Sonny Ma-Jiminy screamed for a very long time.

There was the day when Chubbity Bubbity reached out, grabbed my vanilla milkshake and spilt most of it on the table, after which Sonny Ma-Jiminy grabbed the cup and took the opportunity while Husband and I were cleaning up the mess with napkins to quickly gulp down the remains. I can't tell you how thirsty I had been, how much I had waited for that milkshake, and how close I came to crying because I missed out on it thanks to my two lovely children.

And there were the many disturbing occasions when Sonny Ma-Jiminy, upset at the outcome of events, thought that the best way to solve his problems was to scream at his parents like they were errant, wayward children. Here are some examples written in capital letters too small to represent the decibel level of the shouting:
Husband and I can't understand where this behaviour came from. We are wondering if we could have done anything to avoid the bossiness and screaming which issues from our two-year-old, but in the end, we assume that it is simply because he is a two-year-old that this behaviour is occurring. Some comfort, but it doesn't stop people from looking censoriously at us at the shops.
None of this was easy to deal with through a fog of sore throat, runny and/or blocked nose and the general tiredness you get when you've got a cold.

Chubbity Bubbity enjoyed her swims especially those in the warm spa. Husband enjoyed relaxing without guilt about the things he should be doing instead of relaxing, and I enjoyed "Being Away." It wasn't the complete relaxation holiday of years past, it was just a new place to be in while I did everything (washing, tidying up, waking in the night to give children a drink of water) but that in itself was good.

I re-discovered the complete joy of doing quiet laps in a pool while all other family members were elsewhere. I hope that I'll be able to find some regular time this year to go to our local pool for peaceful swims by myself.

I didn't get a full night of sleep due to the fact that the children woke for drinks of water each night except for one when Sonny Ma-Jiminy fell out of bed, cried a little and fell asleep on the floor.

Since we have been back, the sleep-throughs haven't been much better. To her credit Chubbity Bubbity has slept very well since we returned, but the nights have still been punctuated by Sonny Ma-Jiminy's requests for drinks of water. Last night I decided to put two glasses of water on his shelves and tell him that he could have drinks by himself whenever he wanted to.

The good news is that this strategy worked. Chubbity Bubbity slept through again, and when Sonny-Ma Jiminy woke at 12:30am for a drink, he remembered he could help himself to a glass of water on his shelves.

The bad news is that when Husband put Sonny Ma-Jiminy down to sleep earlier in the evening, he forgot to put a nappy on the little feller and left him sleeping in undies and shorts. As Sonny stood at the shelves drinking his water, he did a Very Large Amount of Wee on the carpet. As he realised what had happened, he walked across his room, still weeing. While he paused to open his door, the wee collected in another Very Large Amount at his feet. He came out of his room and stood still, making the third large puddle. The first thing I knew was Sonny Ma-Jiminy standing beside me saying, "I've got wet pants Mummy."

The cleanup was long and difficult, owing to the fact that I didn't have contact lenses in and I was only 65% awake at most. When the cleanup was done, Sonny was wide awake and stayed that way for an hour and a half. So of course, I did too.

Tonight, Chubbity will probably sleep through again. Sonny Ma-Jiminy has a nappy on and a drink of water on his shelves. What can possibly go wrong?

THE NEXT MORNING: Of course, I forgot. Husband can wake me up by drinking a glass of milo clinking the spoon on the glass beside me after midnight, and Sonny Ma-Jiminy can wake at 5am demanding a nappy change. How silly of me to forget.

11 December 2007

Ho Ho Humbug

Busy Husband continues to be busy, so today I thought I’d take Sonny Ma-Jiminy and Chubbity Bubbity to a lovely Christmas event at a local church by myself. Last year there was live music, a sausage sizzle, and much to Sonny Ma-Jiminy’s delight, free bouncy castles! And last year it was a wonderful relaxing time. This is probably because last year our family consisted of twice the adults and half the children than it does today: last year, Daddy wasn't terribly busy and Chubbity Bubbity wasn't born. Still, I thought, I'll manage by myself: how hard can it be?

Before we left I thought it would be wise to take some money in case we wanted to buy a drink but I couldn’t find any nice $5 or $10 notes. Even gold coins were in short supply. So I raided the money box and loaded up my pockets with a few dollars worth of twenty cent coins. Bulky, but better than nothing.

By the end of the hike from our parking spot to the action, my hands were full of programs and fliers which I had to stuff into my pockets. I didn't have a handbag because I had decided that two children and a pocket full of small change was quite enough to carry.

Once we found some seats, a young man bent down and gave Sonny Ma-Jiminy a lovely green balloon. How nice. Sonny Ma-Jiminy was so stunned that he let it go and it promptly flew over the heads of the people and far far away. Great.

I was reassuring Sonny Ma-Jiminy that the balloon was flying "over there to make some other kids happy" when the young man offered to give Sonny Ma-Jiminy another balloon. I tried to politely decline because I feared it would either go the same way as the first one or I’d have to hold it all night to make sure that it didn't. Unfortunately the young man had already completed his transaction with Sonny Ma-Jiminy before I could make my point, so we were now the owners of a new pink balloon. Excellent.

Contemporary Dance displays by young girls who appeared to be dressed for the beach were not quite Sonny Ma-Jiminy’s cup of tea so we went over to the bouncy castles. It seemed like the easy option: I pictured him happily jumping while I stood by watching (holding Chubbity Bubbity, one pocket full of small change, another pocket stuffed full of papers and wrestling a pink balloon desperate for escape.) Easy.

We stood in a line for the Yellow Bouncy Castle for a while. My entire body was exhausted and aching, and Sonny Ma-Jiminy was getting impatient. Then I noticed that the line for the Blue Bouncy Castle seemed to be shorter and moving quicker so when Sonny Ma-Jiminy decided that he wanted to swap lines, I agreed. Anything to get him on a bouncy castle sooner.

Of course, as soon as we swapped lines and started waiting for a turn on the Blue Bouncy Castle, the children on the Yellow Bouncy Castle came off and the waiting children in the other line eagerly clambered on. Don't worry, I told Sonny Ma-Jiminy (okay, I really told that to myself,) it will be your turn soon. Children in front of us began taking their shoes off and so we decided to do the same. After all, it would be disappointing to miss out on our turn just because we couldn't wrestle his shoes off quickly enough.

Once Sonny Ma-Jiminy's shoes were off, I realised that the grass was full of what we call Biting Ants. I couldn't get his shoes back on only to have to take them off again later so I decided to carry him in my right arm while I carried Chubbity Bubbity in my left. I nearly dropped Chubbity Bubbity on the ground as I manoeuvred a second child into position on my body. I tied the pink balloon onto my wrist and hoped my pants didn't move gradually southwards with the weight of the objects in my pockets.

But the line to the Blue Bouncy Castle moved much slower than I had anticipated. I was hot, sweaty, exhausted, aching, emotional and beginning to be bitten on the legs by mosquitoes and Biting Ants (which were very hard to remove without the use of my hands). I waited in this position far beyond my Level of Reasonable Endurance. Surely, every aching exhausting minute of this wait was bringing us a minute closer to the joyful, blissful moment when Sonny Ma-Jiminy would be free to run and jump on the Blue Bouncy Castle ... the same wonderful moment when I could put him down, becoming 15 kg lighter. Then I would only be carrying 7kg of Chubbity Bubbity. And a pink balloon and two pockets full of things I wish I hadn't got.

Finally, the children on the Blue Bouncy Castle were given some sort of signal, lept off the castle and surged towards their parents. The children in front of us in the line flew towards the castle and clambered up, screaming with delight. Then to my despair, the operator put out his hand in front of a little girl just before us and said, "No more. Just wait there please."

A look of horror that I couldn't control passed over my face. There was no way I could place a Filter Of Politeness over the wave of frustration, exhaustion and physical pain that washed over me. And I sat down on the grass and cried.

I just wept and wept. I didn't care if people saw me, judged me or despised me. The only thing I didn't want was for them to talk to me. I felt a hand gently patting me on the shoulder and hesitantly looked up, dreading having to explain to a stranger why I thought it was perfectly reasonable to have a very public meltdown in the lineup for a Bouncy Castle.

It was my little boy patting my shoulder, my dear Sonny Ma-Jiminy, who had waited very patiently during the long delay and subsequent disappointment. (Of course he wasn't carrying half his body weight in surplus humans, a flighty pink balloon and two pockets full of unwanted objects.) He gently curled up on my lap, lifted his feet into the air away from the snapping jaws of the Biting Ants, and put his head on my shoulder while I dried my tears on his shirt.

The wait continued. Coins threatened to spill out of my pockets, and I still sat. I wasn't going to stand up and bring myself to eye level with the parents who had just seen me disgrace myself.

This wait, for some reason, seemed shorter. Before you could say, "Release the hounds," Sonny Ma-Jiminy and about eight other children were dashing madly towards the Blue Bouncy Castle.

Triumphant! I watched for a few minutes then I trudged up the hill towards a shade tent with some tiny children's chairs. Before I collapsed into one, I picked it up to move it to a better place from which to observe Sonny Ma-Jiminy emerge from the Blue Bouncy Castle. As I swung it around, I smashed it straight into a small child walking towards his parents who were sitting under the tent.

The small child was startled but unhurt and the parents appeared not to have observed the incident but I thought it wise to spend some time reassuring the little one that I had no intention of causing harm. When I turned back, I was surprised to see that the children were already jumping down from the Blue Bouncy Castle and scattering in every direction. Was Sonny Ma-Jiminy there? I couldn't see him for a while and when I did finally catch sight of him he was quite a long way away, running fast in the wrong direction.

I grabbed his shoes and raced with them, Chubbity Bubbity, bulging pockets and a desperate pink balloon towards his retreating figure. A lady from our home church (who Sonny Ma-Jiminy doesn't know) recognised him as he ran and she rushed towards him, trying to corral and catch him. This frightened him even more. When I caught up with him, he was crying and shouting at her.

As quickly as I could, I removed all of us from the situation and bought a drink to calm us down. I was very thirsty but it was Sonny Ma-Jiminy who drank most of it. We sat and listened to some of the entertainment for a while but Chubbity Bubbity was very tired and the PA system was too loud for her. She cried so much that I decided to take all three of us home much to Sonny Ma-Jiminy's disappointment.

We hiked back to the car. Chubbity Bubbity was crying because we'd left it too late to leave and Sonny Ma-Jiminy was moaning "I don't want to go to Home" because we were leaving too early. And once we were finally at home the ribbon on the bothersome pink balloon seemed to always be tangling around my feet, tripping me up at the most inconvenient times.

Sigh. At least there hadn't been blood or flames.

08 December 2007

Using a box of gloves a day would be easier - contributed by Crazy Sister

I recently saw one of those health campaign posters recommending washing hands every time you do something on the list that followed. I got to thinking that every day I usually clean three wet nappies and three dirty nappies, I deal with soiled underwear (not mine) and clean at least one gross thing off the carpet. I’ll also pat a dog, empty a rubbish bin, pull some weeds and wipe a few noses.

I’ll prepare three big meals and two “teas”, put on and take off three pairs of shoes a couple of times and, God willing, I may be able to make a toilet trip myself a few times.

By my calculations that should have me scrubbing up about 26 times a day. For the recommended two minutes of hot soapy water, that’s nearly a whole hour of hand maintenance every day (with the nail scrubbing brush for those “poosidue” moments). And it’s not always convenient – sometimes it seems my hands have barely become dry before they’re called back to doo-doo duty again.

Perhaps instead of heading to the basin whenever these incidents happen I should schedule handwashing every half hour of the thirteen hours my kids are awake. “Sweetie, do you have anything gross for me to clean up? Because I’m washing my hands soon and won’t do so for another thirty minutes.”

A while ago a doctor examined a rash on my hand, and recommended I keep it dry and away from chemicals. I was so violently amused that I was unable to stop a small snort of snot escaping my nose.
Then I blew my nose.
And then I washed my hands.

02 December 2007

Why Men Are Better At Cooking Steak

I'm a Woman. This means I rock the cradle, rule the world, and judging by my contribution to the workforce, I also run the world.

But I'll be darned if I can cook a decent steak.

I'm good at cooking a lot of things, but whenever I look at a steak it goes from rarer-than-edible to tough-as-boots in a flash. And I think I've worked out why.

As a woman, I am not only concerned with cooking a decent meal but also in leaving the least and easiest washing-up after the food is cooked. The women reading this will understand. The men will wonder if this is actually a real issue.

So as my lovely thick juicy steaks cook I am constantly thinking of the bottom of my pan - is it getting charred beyond repair and is the food and grease currently being fused on because I haven't turned the meat? Perhaps. So I turn it.

That's okay, isn't it? You should turn a steak once ideally, so that's okay.

Hmm. Those burnt brown bits visible around the steak are turning black. That'll be murder to clean later. I'd better turn the steak. I've only done it once before, it'll be fine. Gee a lot of moisture came out - I hope that's not making it too tough.

Oh, now there's a pleasantly smoky smell. That's probably okay. But the smoke is coming from the burnt bits that I can't scrape off the pan. I can't afford a new pan. I'll just turn that meat (I've only done it once haven't I?) and try to get that congealed yuck off the pan. Hmm, more moisture. Not good.

And so I turn the meat and fuss over it in a way that will only yield leathery steaks in the name of not-giving-myself-too-much-cleaning-later.

Men cook steak differently (and perfectly). They chuck a bit of meat onto a hot pan or grill and leave it. Have a beer, talk to mates, check their emails, watch something on TV, who knows. But by the time that's done and they remember the meat is there, the pan is scorched and the meat is, it must be said, perfect. Tender and moist on the inside and crisply blackened on the outside. Flip the meat, procrastinate for a while, remember the meat and serve it up. Perfecto!

The steak is enjoyed by all and the woman sighs and tries to clean the pan.

See - I'm sure I could manage all that myself, if only Consuela would do her job and clean the jolly pan.

01 December 2007

"Aw, Is She Teething, Luv?"

I've had it.

I never want to hear those ill-informed words ever again. "Aw, is she teething, luv? She's biting her thumb - they do that when they're teething. Look, she's even sucking on her shirt. I'd definitely say she's getting some teeth!"

I'll set a few things straight now.

  1. Babies mouth things. It's a great way to get tactile information when they're young.
  2. Babies suck things. It's what they do.
  3. Teething isn't a great event, a rite of passage, or a developmental milestone. It just gives mothers something to talk about when they've got nothing better.
Perhaps it's just that I'm cranky and impatient at things in general. Or perhaps it cheeses others off as much as it does me. Either way, I'll snap the head off the next person who asks.

Having a baby who likes sucking fabric and chewing on her left thumb hasn't done anything to help me avoid constant questions about the progress of Chubbity Bubbity's dentition. At least Sonny Ma-Jiminy didn't mouth things so much, but as his first teeth came at nine months I had to suffer about seven months of the insistent assertions of many people that the Great Expected Coming Of Teeth was indeed imminent. And they'd called it first.

Have you met people who ask questions and make comments like this? All they have are a few scraps of knowledge mixed with a handful of Wives' Tales, but they act as if they have a dual qualification in obstetrics and paediatrics.

Your baby moves a lot inside you? Easy - it's a boy. Never mind individual differences.

It's your first baby? Simple - you'll have a long hard labour and difficult birth. Never mind that many first-time mums don't (including me and every other woman in my maternal family tree!)

The baby mouths, sucks and cries? Sorted - younger than three months: it's colic (or hunger). Older than three months: it's teething (or hunger). Never mind that all three are normal baby behaviour.

Your baby turns her head and opens her mouth when her cheek is touched? Obviously - she's hungry. Never mind that she's just finished a feed and has a full tummy, and certainly don't worry about the rooting reflex or the sucking reflex.

And what if my diagnoses are proved wrong? No worries at all - the most important thing is that I've impressed everyone for a minute with my knowledge on pregnancy, birth and looking after babies.

Sometimes you're told something so outrageous that it goes past Patronising, way on beyond Offensive, and ends up in the Just Plain Absurd.

The most notable of these was a Retrospective Non-Self-Fulfilling Wives Tale that actually came from the mouth of a Midwife who certainly should have known better.

Now I hadn't heard the wives tale that if you have a lot of heartburn, you'll have a baby with hair. So I was unprepared when a midwife who saw Chubbity Bubbity's full head of dark hair reversed the "illogic" and said, "What a lovely lot of hair. You must have had a lot of heartburn when you were pregnant."

It was hard to resist the temptation to laugh out loud. The huge potential to be proved horribly wrong right then and there had completely escaped her.

I said, "Oh dear, until now I thought that I didn't have any heartburn, but if babies with hair give their mothers heartburn, I suppose I must have had it."

Even more amazingly, she accepted this and agreed with me!

But unfortunately, I have little or no tolerance for people who assume that they must know more about Chubbity Bubbity's hunger, body temperature, level of tiredness and development of teeth than does her mother who spends every hour of the day living in sync with her.

My great challenge is in responding to odd comments with a perfect combination of grace (so I don't insult them and later regret being so rude) and reality (so I don't allow them to smugly believe I agreed with them, causing me to later regret being such a wimpy doormat.)

Do you, my massive reading public who now numbers approximately eight, have any suggestions (rude, wimpy or perfectly-balanced)? How would you respond to a complete stranger who meets Chubbity Bubbity and immediately says those ghastly words,

"Aw, Is She Teething, Luv?"