Monday, 29 November 2010

Chatty post on late nights, sick children and osteopathy for babies

I probably should have called yesterday's post "Mama, make me!" That would have been much better and it would have captured the emotion I was trying to convey much better. But I always have to go for the cheap laugh, and the denial of the largeness of the hole was also at the forefront of my mind. The things a new mother worries about.

I am lying in bed, hugely overdressed with socks, pajamas and a really big dressing gown, completely overheating. I have been overheating for nearly three hours now, but I won't take anything off - not even a sock - because I'm only online for a little minute before getting some much needed sleep.

And now I just feel like writing a little chatty post to say hi to you all and feel close to other adults. I've been stuck in the house again with a bored baby and a cranky sick three year old. I took her for a walk in the freezing cold anyway because we were all going crazy indoors and we needed to buy food you know, and of course now we're all regretting it because the cough is worse and the temperature back. But that could just be the bug and not the walk.

Jo (who blogs at infantasia and can be found in the comments of nearly every post for which I love her dearly - that and all our chats which mean so much) (I'm too tired for a link forgive me) has recommended I get an osteopath (I hope I get this right) to look at Charlie's spine to see if the induction is why he's still cranky. I think she may be right but I don't know any such person nearby and I get scared just thinking of letting a random stranger loose on my baby's spine. The damage that could be inflicted. Maybe I will ask at my next baby check up with the doctor. He may know someone. Actually he's sleeping much better these days but I have a sneaky suspicion that he may have the same bug as Marie. He coughed earlier, which is a pitiful sound from a baby.

I'm just about melted now. Better get some sleep soon. The internet vortex sucked me deep tonight. Damn internet vortex! And I still had to hit the "mark all as read" button.

- And that's when my battery died of course. Now standing up downstairs, disrobed considerably. -
(Ha! Not my battery, obviously, even though I should be starting to worry about that. The computer's.)

Right. So I should get some sleep now. I dread to think what tomorrow morning will be like with a baby who isn't being taken for a walk (it has snowed, it's about -5 out there and Marie's cough is like something out of a horror movie), a sick girl and a cleaning lady working around us. I may just try to keep them both in my bedroom. What a plan! I think a lot of Mamma Mia! and a baby carrier will be required. I could alphabetise my book collection some more. Oh boy. I may need to spend all night online again tomorrow, just to decompress.

You are my saving, dear readers and fellow bloggers. You truly are.
Also - any opinions? Osteopathy for baby: yes or no?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

My hole is not really big thank you very much

I was lazing about in bed this morning with my baby girl who just yesterday turned three...

... and she's right on schedule:

Marie: Mama, when you went to New York, where was I?
Me: You weren't born yet.
Marie: Was I in your belly?
Me: No, we hadn't made you yet.
Marie: Was I broken?
Me: No, you just didn't exist yet.
Marie: Didn't you want to make me?
Me: I did, I just hadn't thought of it yet.
Marie: I was sitting in your belly, shouting: "Mama, make me!" And I was crying and singing "Mama, make me!" And you just weren't listening.

I find that the most amazing story she came up with. I can't shake the image of a tiny Marie, sitting in my belly, shouting and singing because she was desperate to be made, and me not listening, just gallivanting about Central Park.

Then, of course, she asked the obvious next question.

Marie: Mama, did I come out of your belly button?
Me: No, you came out of a special hole I have for babies, there. *points*
Marie: Oh, out of your bottom!
Me: No, girls have a special hole for babies between the peehole and their bottoms. You have one too.
Marie: It's a really big hole!
Me: No, it's small, but it can stretch to let the baby out.
Marie: Now your hole is really big!!!

It was a long conversation.
(But absolutely the best kind.)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Self-portrait with hat

Ha! I just put Charlie in his going-outside bear suit, plonked him in the pram, jiggled him a little bit and parked him in front of the window with BBC World News on next to him for some noise. He thinks he's out for a walk and is fast asleep. He fell for it because babies are stupid that way. Don't get me wrong - for a three month old he's very clever but he's hardly my go-to man for nuclear fission advice - yet.

Of course I should be using this small window of freedom to nap, and if not to nap then at least to provide you with some pearls of wit or information. Forget it, people. I am a zombie today. I've been playing with my webcam, though. I've had this laptop forever and it has one built-in, but this is the first time I've activated it. I was horrified - horrified, I tell you - at how tired/pale/grey-haired I looked, so instead of inviting friends and family to videochat, I thought I would do a series of self-portraits for the blog. As you do. When you have a rare moment. (Sorry, Babes, I know I'm meant to be clearing a space for your parents to sleep in. Now you know what I do when you're toiling away at work. I dress up in silly outfits and photograph myself.)

Vision in red, too much nose. Kind of French?

This is a bit too terrorist, I reckon. I was going more for '80s rocker, but I'm afraid I ended up more "about to blow myself up." Not ideal.

And then we have the Scottish-Russian combo, with a flirtily tilted face.

Yeah, I admit I've lost the plot somewhat. And now Charlie's woken up. Serves me right for calling him stupid. Sayonara, my people. I need to tidy my hats.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Three useful baby facts

Useful information no one bothered to tell me:
  1. No one ever told me about cluster feeds until I read about them on a blog this year. I had been told to leave at least two hours between feeds every time. And I listened! Just thinking about how much easier the evenings might have been with Marie makes me cringe. Now we have a small morning cluster and a slightly longer evening cluster - and, more importantly, a far happier mummy and baby.
    Thinking about it now - the advice I got was to make breastfeeding as much like bottle feeding as possible. (Five feeds, four hour gaps.) I think they were missing the point rather.
  2. It is safe for babies to sleep on their tummies, as long as they are not too hot and have a firm mattress. It's the heat that's dangerous and face-down babies get hot more easily. Babies who don't sleep on their backs will often sleep quite well on their tummies.
  3. Babies don't need baths every single day. Really. If it makes everyone happy, go for it. Otherwise? Skipping a day is fine. Even two. Get some sleep instead.
    (You do need to change their nappies and clean their bottoms. Just in case you were wondering about that part. Also the faces like a wash.)
    (Actually I worked this one out about a week into baby #1.)
You're welcome.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Just keep moving and all will be fine

It's Monday and everything feels so hard. Like a Monday, I suppose. Last week lulled me into a false sense of security. Everything seemed just fine.

Now I have a moany testy crampy non-sleepy eaty baby. Hunger days. They too will pass. I know. I have strapped him to my chest, facing out. I just can't be bothered entertaining him all the time. Yet when I do he's SO cute. For as long as he's happy. Talking to me, rolling over, grabbing his toys. Until he's bored. So now I'm standing up typing this. He seems to like the movement of my hands. For a minute. Tick, tock, time is running out. Quick! Get the thoughts out. No time to edit, reread. Get it out, stop the blog silence. Ah bored already - dancing and typing now. Rockabye baby, shut the fuck up. Kiss, dance, sing - let me have another minute.

This week is Marie's birthday week. Children's party, family party, in-law sleepover to organise. Better get to it. Busy is good. Busy means no time to think. Charlie will be okay as long as I keep moving. Marie is getting sick but I can drug her if she needs to party. I can sleep when all my children are in school. Oh, no, I forgot. I'll be going back to work. Ah well, maybe when I'm retired then.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sure, it starts with lentils but where will it end?

My neverending and quite ridiculous quest for self-improvement led me to set myself a challenge during last week's supermarket visit: use these

dried green lentils

by the end of the week. All the cool kids are eating them. Oh yes.

Normally of course I would do some research and cook up a brilliant dish from whatever country lentils come from. (Honestly, who invented these? I'd never heard of lentils before 1997 I'm sure. They're like avocados only probably less tasty and definitely less sexy. (Yeah, I don't know what I'm talking about. (But I sure like brackets. (But then what's not to like? (Lentils!))))) As it was, I had hardly any time to cook up a quick lunch so I decided to improvise. Until I found out bloody lentils have to cook for forty minutes. What the bloody fuck, I ask you. Forty minutes! This had better be worth it.

I didn't realise the water would turn black.

This worried me so much that I added some rice. This lentil virgin needed something familiar to hold onto. The rice turned brown in the black water. I rinsed all of it afterwards. Black water just looks wrong, you know. I probably washed away all the goodness. The rice was still brown, though.

Just to make sure I didn't go too alternative, I added a random and tiny jar of pasta sauce I found in the back of the cupboard.

To counteract that sauce and get back on the road to self-improvement (the one I was aiming for after all), I added some biological emmentaler cheese.

However much I would like to report that this was a complete disaster, it actually tasted quite good. Apart from being a bit cold of course because I took all those photos at every stage. Lentils and cheese seem to make a nice pair. I think I may bother to look up a proper lentil recipe (Peruvian? Irish? Angolan?) so I don't have to throw out the rest of the pack unused after three years, the way I did with that bag of biological orange lentils that moved house with us before being chucked.

Next challenge:

boiled chickpeas

Self-improvement is a pain.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How I narrowly avoided divorce today

(phone ringing)

Me: Hello?

Babes: This is your husband speaking.

Me: I have had such a long and tough day. Woe is me.

Babes: Traffic is very bad. Woe is me also. However, I am now just five minutes away.

Me: I took the baby for an inoculation, all three children to the play cafe for a play date, met my sister and nephew, let the children ride their bikes to school and back and lived to tell the tale. I am now trying to get dinner on the table.
Woe-wise, I win.

Babes: Woe is me though.

Me: I've just finished the last breastfeed for the day. I'm having a beer. I need it.

Babes: Can you pour me one as well?

Me: Did you not hear that I'm exhausted and that I'm trying to get dinner on the table and I've completely had it with the day?
(tirade follows)
(and then a rant)
(and then some abuse)

Babes: (stunned silence)

Me: Well, I'll be seeing you later then.

Babes: Uh, okay.

(In my head:) That could be a really good start to a short story: Husband phones wife from the edge of town and asks her to pour him a beer so he can have one as soon as he gets home. Wife rants, raves and refuses. Husband decides that he will divorce her if she doesn't have the beer ready when he arrives.

... and that, dear reader, is why my husband was presented with a freshly poured beer tonight as he walked wearily into the house, back from a hard day's work. You just can't take any chances like that.

(And that is also why it can be tiring to be an aspiring fiction writer, even if this aspiration is a secret and stories are only imagined and never written down.)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Happy, clean - and a little guilty

I never knew quite how stupendously amazing it would be to have a cleaner. I suspected this would affect my life in a positive sense, but I did not realise it would cause me to burst into song in a Mary Poppins-like fashion every Tuesday afternoon. Who knew there was an actual cosy home underneath the dirty house? After only two dates, I already owe this woman - I shall call her Diana - an eternal debt of gratitude.

I do have a couple of problems which I'm not sure how to resolve. The first is one well known to many of you: it's GUILT. When I told my sister An, may her pet rats have odourless droppings, that we were getting a cleaner, she told me that it is wrong for me to have someone else clean up my shit and that there is no way anyone would find true fulfillment in cleaning my house.

Now you all know that my sister is, if not my moral compass, at least one of the compasses by which I check if mine is still pointing North on my journey through this murky morass called life, so she did make me doubt if I was walking the true and righteous path in this matter. I pleaded with her that surely this woman would not have employment if it wasn't for me; that any employment is better than no employment if funds are needed; that I couldn't just give her money to go and find her true calling (apparently I can) because otherwise she'd just go and clean somewhere else; and that not everyone wants to be a philosopher or market analyst - surely some people just like to clean.

Well, dear reader, my last argument was shot to pieces well and truly not two hours into our first appointment, when I asked Diana a little about herself. She confessed that she does not like to clean at all (but luckily she likes ironing even less - at least I'm not making her do her least favourite thing) and she wishes she'd stayed in Poland where she had a decent education going. Turns out I am her oppressor after all. We are exploiting this poor girl for our own filthy reasons. The one redeeming factor I could find was that she is learning Dutch so that she can find a new and better career as soon as possible, and she is using the money she earns here to pay for her lessons. It is to my eternal shame that I must admit to feeling a pang of regret at the future loss of such a lovely cleaner. I am the bourgeous bitch from hell, standing in the way of this girl's happy self-development. Ah well.

My second problem is that every time she comes around I feel morally press ganged into tidying another room of the house. At this rate we won't live in a shithole any more but in a proper home. This is against my self-image as an inept housewife and bohemian messypants. If this goes on, I won't have to apologise for the state of my house when unexpected visitors turn up any more and I won't have to spend half an hour hunting each time I need something that hasn't been used for two weeks. It could be rather nice, really. Either that or I could just go out each time she's here. That would be less tiring in any case, and more in character for me.

Worrying as these problems may be, I'm definitely not giving her up. Diana is here to stay until she inconveniently goes off to be all she wants to be. I would be very stupid not to keep her as we're paying her anyway, if she comes or not. Americans will find this socialism gone mad, of course, but it really is true. In fact, my cleaning-obsessed neighbour who would never dream of employing a cleaner and who cleans the outside of her garage door every single day (or so it seems to me) is also paying for me to have a cleaner.

You see - we have this system to get people out of unemployment and into work which is so subsidised by the government (i.e. my dirt phobic neighbour and her equally hardworking husband) that we pay only a quarter of Diana's salary in real terms. If we didn't employ her, we'd basically be giving that tax money to other people so they can have a cleaner/gardener/person to do the ironing... In fact, it's worse than that because our part of her salary is easily covered by the extra child benefit we receive every month just for having a third child. This money of course comes also from - you guessed it - taxes. No, really, Americans - truly. It is communism gone crazy. But Diana has a job she wouldn't otherwise have and I have a cleaner I couldn't otherwise afford, so all is happy in Stalinland.

(Ha! I just realised that An's taxes are also paying for this particular form of oppression. She won't be too happy to hear that.)

Monday, 15 November 2010

Lazy self-indulgence overload

I'm having one of these days on which lunch is two overflowing bowls of pasta with a jar. Had straight after breakfast of bread with jam, the jam being such in quantity that "jam with bread" would be a more truthful description of said breakfast. I couldn't be bothered to cook properly, so dinner was soup (fresh) with meatballs and toast.

I planned to tidy the living room (the house-cleaning angel is making her second visit tomorrow) but had a nap instead: half an hour of heaven.

I'm having a lazy, self-indulgent, carb-filled kind of day. And this is a lazy, self-indulgent, carb-filled kind of post.

The benefit of being at home is that I can tidy while my cleansing angel is already in the house. As long as I can stay about half a room ahead of her we should be fine.

Now I'm off to bed with a book. Maybe I need to take some chocolate up with me. The perfect lazy, self-indulgent end to a lazy, self-indulgent day.

How do you indulge your lazy side?
(I'm taking notes. I'm always happy to extend my range.)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Blogging, comments, blog roll

  • You know that scene in Mamma Mia! where Meryl Streep asks her daughter's girlfriends to "just stop growing?" (I must have watched it easily over 100 times by now. Marie rather likes it.) Well, dear internet people, could you all just stop blogging for about a week? So I can catch up? That would be awfully nice.
  • I have been considering blog etiquette and the blog roll. Ever since I started my blog, I have felt a bit rude for not having one. I love being on other people's blog rolls - obviously - so I really should have one of my own. I looked into getting one of those side-things which show blogs with their latest posts once, but it seemed too complicated so I gave up.
    I always thought people should just look at my comments if they wanted to find other blogs through here. That's how I find new blogs to read. Does anyone ever check other people's blog rolls anyway? I love blogging for the connections it makes between people, so I secretly (well, not so secretly any more now) thought that the ones who comment most are the best bloggers. I love reading excellent posts, but if I'm not going to make a personal connection I may as well read a book. That's easier to read in bed anyway.
    But now I don't find the time to comment everywhere as I was used to and I reckon maybe I should do a blog roll as well. The problem with that is that it will show you all how shamefully many blogs I follow these days (156) and it may also upset some other people because I do occasionally go through and cull some blogs. (Most of the ones I cull are bloggers who never comment on mine - at least I'm consistent.)
    Or I could just get some sleep instead.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Thank you Dr Dean!

When he heard I would have to undergo a lengthy set of dentist's appointments, my very excellent brother in law Dr Dean told me

the fear is worse than the thing

I have thought of this each time I remembered the horror since, and I whispered it to myself in the dentist's chair today. It has become my mantra, if you will.

And he made it not a horror. He made it just fine. For which I say thank you, one thousandfold.

Just another school trip

Jack went on a school trip yesterday to the local funeral parlour.

They looked at the flowers
"it's like a flower shop in there"
listened to music
"really quiet sad music"
were shown the coffins
"they burn them too"
and the inside of the hearse.
"my friends asked if it could race like a Ferrari"
They had the process of cremation explained to them.
"a whole dead person fits into a vase, even the soul"
They weren't shown any dead people.
"that's not allowed"

On the way out, they were given rather large bags of sweets.
"really too many sweets"

He thought it was quite a good trip.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


You know the feeling of "I've not slept in weeks, I need to sleep, OMG will I ever sleep again?" Yeah - that's pretty much me just now. Which is my excuse for zero inspiration and complete absence from the internet. I will be back. I promise. Just as soon as I get some sleep.

(I haven't forgotten about you all, though. Please don't forget about me. Love you lots!)


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Life is messy - let's try some denial!

Life is messy. When I was a child, every possible situation which strayed from the "norm" (i.e. happy man-woman family with happy children and no problems) was smoothed over and never ever discussed. In my twenties, I gradually found out that an awful lot of that picture was a big fat lie. The happy men and women were often quietly miserable. The children fucked up. The problems everywhere but left to fester.

Now I am left wondering: did they do me a favour? Was it better for me to believe the prettied up version of life, or should I have been told the truth (or an age-appropriate version of it) all along? I'm leaning more towards the truth side. When the revelations started, I found it very disappointing that life was not as I imagined it. Also, covering up the truth never fails to hurt all involved. A few exposed wounds would probably have prevented worse from happening in so many cases.

Now I have my own children, I want to protect them. I want them to have happy, uncomplicated childhoods. I don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past, though. Should I show them the murkier sides of life as well as the prettier ones? I suppose these days there's not as much getting away from things. A lot of their friends are going through their parents' divorce right now. Some are handled very well, but some are not pretty. The news is full of stories of abuse of various kinds. Covering up is no longer in fashion as it once was.

Of course, I could lock them in the shed until they're eighteen...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Breastfeeding: not only for cows

(Warning to either pro-breastfeeding or anti-breastfeeding nazis: I belong in neither camp. I love to breastfeed (it's cheap and easy and I'm cheap and lazy), but switch to formula at six months. Yay free choice and all that!)

Three things I've been told about breastfeeding:

1. "Oh, I couldn't breastfeed because I wouldn't want to get my breasts out in public." 
- A couple of friends who will remain nameless.

I didn't think I did. I have a whole system worked out with a vest that goes down and my top which goes up and I thought I was being very subtle. Apparently not subtle enough for some.

Now that I'm breastfeeding my third child, I must admit to seeing my breasts as tools or useful objects, as well as having other uses. I don't feel a sense of shame if I accidentally flash a tiny part of them in a public place. (I do try not to, knowing how many other people feel about this.) I do wish fewer people would be shocked by what are really just breasts. They are not only for sex, you know. Remarks like the one above still make me feel very uncomfortable for about a week. Then I get over it and just get on with things.

2. "I'd have loved to breastfeed, but I couldn't."
- Too many women I meet.

I have all the sympathy in the world for that statement. I really do - when it's true, and I know sometimes it really is. It's just a shame that half the time in this country it's not a case of "I couldn't," but more a case of "I wasn't supported properly" or "no one helped me so I could try a little longer." If I hadn't accidentally met an amazing breastfeeding consultant midwife, I would never have stuck with it through the difficult first few weeks. Too many women I meet who "couldn't" weren't told about the nearly unavoidable problems, and the nifty tricks to remedy them.

3. "Breastfeeding would make me feel like a cow."
- A lovely relative of mine.

That one just makes me laugh.


I had been chewing on this subject for a while, but was finally pushed into writing by the lovely Cartside, who wrote a very good post on the normality of breastfeeding only yesterday.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Beer, Facebook paranoia

  • I felt it was too dark in the kitchen to find my beer; then I remembered about the light in the fridge... and that was before I had a beer.
    I stopped a drawer from closing by sticking my fingers in the end... and that was before I had a beer.
    Any signs you may think I exhibit as a result of having a beer... I was probably exhibiting before.
    (Baby brain vs. inebriation - the difference can be hard to spot.)
  • Yesterday, a friend updated her Facebook status saying she felt watched on Facebook. She got some friend suggestions of people she had no friends in common with. Spooky, but that's how they work.
    I commented that I feel watched because of all the lurkers. These people who join Facebook and then just read about everyone, watching their photos, never posting anything themselves. They bug me. They make me feel watched as well. I'm thinking of culling some.
    Facebook lurkers are quite different from blog lurkers. It's perfectly okay to lurk on a blog. From the start it is clear you're putting stuff out there for anyone to read. On Facebook, though, it feels different to me. They're friends, family, acquaintances - I feel there is an implicit contract here: I reveal, you reveal, we SHARE. It's no fun if you know your ex-girlfriend can see all your baby pictures if you never see where she went on holiday.
    Today, this friend seems to have vanished from Facebook. Is this the Zuckerberg revenge, or did I spook her so much she quit? I don't think she unfriended me, because she has disappeared off other friends' lists of friends as well. The internet moves in mysterious ways.
PS Blog lurkers I love you. It's only Facebook lurkers who bug me.
PPS What do you think, Facebook lurkers: rude or perfectly entitled?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Accidental lewdness

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...
- Monty Python, Life of Brian

In the spirit of the above, and following Wednesday's accidental perverts, I give you - live from my house -

Accidental boobies:

buggy with balloons

Accidental dildos:

iPhone car charger

milk bottle for Marie's doll
(no, really) 
(I know - what were they thinking?)