6 Year Olds Know Everything About Everything

I feel like I’ve been getting a bit baby-centric on the blog lately, so today I’m going to focus a bit on the big kids. Well, up to six anyway. That’s as far as I’ve got right now. Everything past that is a hazy thought bubble with a big question mark in it. (Quite frankly, everything before that has a big question mark too. I have no idea what I’m doing.)

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I feel that as Big Girl has moved on up to the lofty heights of six years old, she has had a marked mental leap. I used to be fairly confident that if I explained something to her well enough, she would see that it made sense and comply. It totally worked at five. But not six. Now, she can run rings around me.

Recently I’ve been working on teaching the kids not to interrupt. I could say that it was so that they would learn to be polite, civilised members of society. I could say that. I would be lying, though.

It’s because it drives me batshit crazy.

It’s hard enough keep track of one conversation in this house. That’s because, if it’s Big Girl at least, that conversation makes no freaking sense. She might start out with a debate about the best texture for chocolate rain (we decided chocolate chips in the end. Sauce would be too gloopy and bars would sting a bit). Soon, though, she’ll have taken a massive tangential leap, and be loudly discussing which colour would be best for the laser that shoots out of her hand. The other day, she interrogated me for 20 minutes about World War II. 20 minutes! Thank God for my Anne Frank-induced obsession as a teen.

And she targets me on the school run, when I am likely to be tired, cold and very grumpy. Once she gets going, you can add confused to that list.

So I’m straining to hear her over the traffic, and desperately trying to get the rusty cogs in my brain a-turning to translate her words into English. Little Girl picks this moment to pipe up with, “I dropped my apple der, in a puddle. I was dithappointed.”

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Little Girl is what I like to call ‘a repeater.’ If you don’t answer her as soon as she says something, she will just say it again and again, in exactly the same tone until you respond. I haven’t tested exactly how long she will go on before giving up, but I estimate at least 3 hours and 47 minutes. Ish. For clarity, the apple she is talking about is one that she dropped about 5 weeks ago.

This is the point where the cogs in my head start to fall apart. Or more accurately, explode.

At these times I tend to begin by making a grievous error. I mean, I’ve got two ears right? I’ll just channel one voice into each ear. Fantastic idea! There’s only one problem.

It’s not. fucking. possible.

The only result of this is complete sensory overload. I do not have the cognitive capacity to process two conversations at once. I especially can’t do that when I am so tired that my feet drag on the floor.

I usually decide at this point to throw a quick answer to Little Girl. All she needs is, “Yes, you did drop your apple there,” and she’s all set. Until she remembers that she totally tripped over that paving stone over there last year, anyway. That leaves me clear to give my attention over to Big Girl’s fantasies. Sorted.

Not so sorted for Big Girl. She stops talking and sighs. Then she tosses her head, rolls her eyes and utters these words:

“Are you even listening to me?”

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I’m fairly sure that I spoke to Little Girl for a maximum of 3 seconds. But that’s apparently enough to render the last 10 minutes of unwavering attention completely irrelevant.

That is so not fair.

I would be less frustrated by this if she was actually putting any thought into what she was saying. But she is jabbering away with an enthusiasm so intense that she often forgets that words and ideas must be formed inside the brain before they sail through her vocal cords. Thus, her sentences are usually peppered with many “erms” and prolonged pauses. It also means that she repeats about every fifth word over and over as she scrabbles for the next one.

I would also be less frustrated if it wasn’t for the fact that she doesn’t really give a crap what I’m responding with, anyway. What does my opinion matter? She knows the best texture for chocolate rain. And she definitely, definitely knows the best colour for hand lasers.

There is one positive though. Sometimes it’s easy to think that your instructions are going completely unheeded. But now I know that when I say, “Please don’t interrupt,” Big Girl is taking it in.

And as usual, she’s using it against me.

Big Girl also has a tremendous skill for making me feel about 3 inches tall. It amazes me that such a young child has the ability to do this. She doesn’t do it at predictable times, such as during a disagreement, either. No, it usually comes right out of the blue, when as far as I’m concerned, we’re having a nice chat.

She came out of school, bubbling with excitement yesterday. She planted her feet in front of me and said, “Why don’t you ask me what I did today?” with a grin on her face. Of course I complied. “I made a sculpture!” she replied. And you could tell. Her hands were covered in peeling sheets of PVA glue. She also had copious amounts of felt tip pen smeared across her fingers. But more on that later.

We headed off home. On the way she described to me the amazing Crimean War sculpture she had made with one of her friends. She obviously had a great time doing this, and her passion was contagious. She went off, as usual, onto other unrelated topics, and I listened, acknowledged, answered and all that virtuous shit.

Then, she suddenly broke off. She turned to me and asked, “Do you know why I’ve got pen on my hands?”

Sounds like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? There’s no way that it’s a trap.

Yeah, no way.

I innocently answered with, “No, why?” I anticipated a long-drawn out explanation of how she came to be using a pen in the first place, what she did before and after, mixed in with a brief description of the most accurate way to form a mermaid’s tail with your legs.

I was wrong.

Big Girl looked up at me with a mischievous look on her face. And then, in the most sarcastic, belittling voice she could summon up, she yelled, “BECAUSE I WAS USING A PEN!”

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Honest to God. If she knew the word “Duh!” I’m pretty sure she would have thrown that in as well. Dude, way to make your mama feel stupid!

I’m almost sure she followed it up with a tut, too.

The cheek.

With Big Girl’s advancing brain development has come a stage of intense curiosity. Kids ask an enormous amount of questions from nearly the moment they learn to speak. It makes sense. They know barely anything about the world that is so familiar to us, and they are hard-wired to find out as much as they can before they reach adulthood. But since turning 6, Big Girl’s questions have turned it up a notch.

No longer am I hearing the easy-to-answer questions that I am used to. “What is a rainbow? What do cows eat? What is dis called?” I like those questions. No Googling required.

Now I am getting stuff like, “How does your body digest food? What kind of butterfly will this caterpillar turn into? What caused World War II?”

No idea.

Well, actually, part of an idea. But I hate making stuff up to fill in the gaps. And I have a lowly PAYG phone with no internet access, so I can’t even do an emergency, on-the-go websearch.

I am pretty excited when I get a question that I actually know the answer to. I go overboard, giving her a detailed, child-appropriate reply. I even nailed it when I was asked, “How did the baby get into your tummy?” in the middle of the street. The busy street. I’m still proud of that one.

So there I am, explaining away. Giving details and anecdotes, and finding a way to relate it to her own life so it’s easier to understand. And she seems interested. Well, as interested as a person can sound, when they’re mainly forgetting to answer you.

I come to the end, beaming inside. I always feel like a fab parent after one of these conversations. If a child’s brain is like a sponge (and it is), then I just poured a whole load of water on there. Go me.

And then, just as I am about to lapse into my recurring daydream of spending the day in bed, Big Girl raises one eyebrow, looks at me incredulously and says, “How do you even know that?”

Thanks.

How about because I’ve got a brain, kid? Or, perchance, that I existed before your arrival? Or even that I am 21 years older than you, and therefore I know more?

What I actually say is, “Because I read about somewhere.”

I have to say, despite the fact that Big Girl seems to be fulfilling her predestination to trip me up, this stage is cool. Finally I have reached the point where I can share some of my own interests, and she is old enough to understand.

One thing hasn’t changed with age, though.

She’s still too busy thinking about fairies to give a crap.

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365 Days Of Squeak

Although I say it reluctantly, today Squeak is 1. It is unbelievable to think that, a year ago today, I was in labour with a stranger, of whom I knew nothing. And now a whole, complex person stands before me. Wow.

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As an aside, she is totally not standing before me. She is using her newly acquired door-opening skills to get as far away from me as possible. Or at the least, up a couple of steps on the stairs before I catch her.

OK, I got her. Now where was I?

I planned the morning carefully. Every minute of our pre-school time is already filled with sock-finding, child-wrangling and book bag-locating, interspersed with a smattering of weeping (mine). Where were we going to fit in presents and an awesome breakfast?

It’s cool, I thought. I’ll just get up early.

WTF was I thinking? I deeply regretted this at 6.30 this morning after a typical Squeak-night. Yawn.

Breakfast was where I started being awesome. (N.B. If you make something with flour, you’re being awesome.) I took some inspiration from Crappy Mama, from Illustrated With Crappy Pictures. I read her post about buttcakes a few weeks ago, and I knew they’d be a hit with the girls. Toilet humour is a big part of our household.

A big part. Big Girl is a veteran of this craft, but Little Girl is a relative newbie. She has just discovered the joy of replacing all of the nouns in a song with the word ‘poo.’

Hilarious.

So anyway, I made buttcakes. Nothing special, just a standard American pancake recipe. Oh, but I did add chocolate chips to really emphasise the whole butt thing. I DSC_7626raced through, and managed to finish them just as the alarm went off for the girls to get up. I finished of course, with the obligatory ‘Oh shit I flipped too quick and now it’s folded in half! Hmm, maybe I can fix it. Nope, it’s stuck’ pancake. Or is that just me?

I know this isn’t just me. I was possibly slightly hasty in getting my ingredients together. I did not realise that descending my stairs leads you into some kind of time warp, but it does. Well it must do, anyway, because it took me 10 minutes to get downstairs! So I was running a bit behind. I grabbed the flour, baking powder, etc, etc. And I may have dislodged something, somewhat. That something was the icing sugar.

Have you ever dropped a packet of icing sugar? It causes an explosion on the scale of a nuclear bomb. I could taste it, I was breathing it. It went all over the floor, up the table leg, all over my clothes, on Big Girl’s bookbag…

And a particularly large cloud settled right on top of Mark’s jacket.

Crap.

Despite the catalogue of fails, it was a success. According to the girls, they were delicious! They all agreed. Well, except for Squeak.

She threw hers on the floor.

Breakfast and presents were followed by a truly riveting morning of school runs, shopping and naps. Happy Birthday, Squeak!

She seems pretty happy this afternoon, though. Currently, she is running around with a new crayon, drawing on everything that isn’t paper. For variety, she’s also carrying her new wooden drumstick, and is using it to check if we are alive.

Repeatedly.

I guess the yelps of pain don’t give it away. I’m rubbing my knee right now.

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Homemade pizza for tea tonight. I’m sure it’s going to be a relaxing experience, seeing as I haven’t made the dough or sauce yet. Or chopped the toppings. Dammit. (You’ll be reading this in the evening, but I wrote it this afternoon. Therefore, I don’t know how wrong this will go yet. I’m scared.)

UPDATE: Totally nailed the pizza.

My mother in law has made a lovely cake for us to celebrate with. Squeak’s response when I showed it to her was to shriek, “Oh, wow!” We’re all looking forward to having a try.

UPDATE: Cake was epic.

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I’m feeling a little reflective today. Do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time to just sit and enjoy your kids? One year flies by and the person that they were is gone. It’s sad.

One good thing, I suppose, is that there is an even cooler person waiting in the wings for you to get to know.

All you have to do is close your eyes to the dirty dishes, the piles of washing and the crumby floor.

Just don’t literally close your eyes.

That could get messy.

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Total side step alert! As well as Squeak’s birthday, today is also my one month blogiversary. Wahoo!

If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask for a wee bit of feedback. So what do you like? What do you hate? Is there anything in particular you’d like to see me blogging about? Let me know in the comments!

There Are Some Things In Life Which Are Guaranteed

Any mother or father will tell you that parenting is unpredictable. Routines change from one day to the next, likes and dislikes are as fleeting as a British summer. And the cup is always the wrong colour.

But, comfortingly, I have found just a few things that always stay the same. They may not all be good, but at least I’m not surprised.

Here’s a few of my parenting guarantees. Remind yourself of these when you throw your hands up in despair because your kid just put a whole toilet roll down the toilet. And flushed.

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I’m not saying that it’ll help, but at the very least it’ll be a distraction.

1. Wipes packets

Oh god, here she goes with the bloody wipes again! OK, I may have mentioned them before. But you see, they are irritating in so many ways. It’s a multi-faceted annoyance.

In my opinion, the people who manufacture baby wipes and their receptacles are not parents. Either that, or they really dislike parents. Intensely. Am I the only person who think their design makes no freaking sense? It’s not even just that they are incredibly easy for a baby to open. I mean, if it bugged me that much, I could just try and remember to put them up out of reach.

No, my greatest beef with wipes packets is that they don’t even work how they are supposed to. And I resent that. The average baby needs at least 6 nappy changes a day. I do not need to be filled with rage 6 times a day. That does not enrich my life.

Why are they so annoying? Oh yeah, totally forgot to mention that.

So, you need to change your baby’s nappy. You get out the wipes, nappy, spare clothes, whatever. If you have a non-moving child, then yay! You win because she’s right there. If you have a mobile child, you call her over in an intriguingly excited voice. Then you call her again, perhaps through slightly gritted teeth. After that, you give up and chase her across the room.

Here is where the guarantee comes in. First scenario: your baby has done the most stench-filled, explosive, revolting poo you have ever experienced, the kind that has you wincing and mouth-breathing (by the way, don’t try the mouth-breathing thing, unless you prefer tasting shit to smelling it). You reach for the wipes. I can guarantee that you will not be able to get a single one out. Not one. They will be sealed shut as well as a roll of sticky tape. You can scrabble with your nails, pinch furiously or swear under your breath. It ain’t coming out. And you can’t let go of the baby, or you’ll be cleaning more than just her bottom.

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Grrrr.

Conversely, I can also guarantee that if you only need a single wipe, one tug will bring a veritable conga line of wipes. Which won’t detach from each other even if you shake the packet round above your head. Not even if you say, “Arrrggggghhhh!”

Seriously, new design required, wipes manufacturers!

Learning Through Repetition

It’s pretty well known that children learn best through repetition. That’s why they enjoy nursery rhymes so much, and why they spend ages pressing the same, tuneless button on a toy piano.

It’s also the reason I read the Gruffalo book to a 2 year old Big Girl every night for 6. goddamn. months. Go on, ask me the words. I know ’em all.

The side effect of learning positive things by doing them again and again, is that they have to learn not to do things the same way.

You would think that pain would be quite a compelling motivator for kids to stop doing stupid shit. It isn’t. Apparently, kids don’t have much of a life-preserving instinct.DSC_0031_02

In fact, they seem to do stuff even more if there’s a painful end. It makes no sense.

Squeak is my evidence for this one. She has developed an intense fascination with our budgie, Roland (of Gilead). However many times I take her away from his cage I still find her, eyes a-goggling, staring in as she says, “Biiiir-day.”

She’s stepped it up recently though. She wants to touch him. Now, little podgy baby fingers are sneakily thrust through the bars the moment she senses I’m not watching. He’s given her fair warning. He screeches and snaps at her, but she appears unperturbed.

Today, he stepped it up too. She pushed her fingers into the cage. He gave her one warning, and then…

He bit her.

It wasn’t hard, just a gentle nip really. She was shocked but it didn’t hurt. I would like to think that she will learn from this.

Still, I am sure that within the next hour, she will be back there attempting to pet the birdie. I guarantee it.

(Note to self: Move the bird.)

Inconsiderate Wake-Ups

I have only touched upon sleep issues a little bit before. Like, a smidgeon. So it may come as a surprise to you to discover that Squeak wakes up a lot. I don’t know what happens after I go to bed because I’m too scared to look at a clock, but I do know that she’s usually up about 3 times in the evening.

I can’t say this, on its own, particularly irks me. I am a big supporter of the belief that children sleep when they are ready. So I’m fully prepared and accepting of the fact that Squeak needs me to help her back to sleep.

What pisses me off is her timing.

Occasionally, when we’re not glued to separate computers typing and photo-processing, Mark suggests we watch a film. And after I have established that he does not mean a pants-wettingly scary horror film (his favourite), I usually agree. I mean, it’s nice to spend a bit of time together, isn’t it? I think so.

So does Squeak.

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As we sit down, I hear the first snuffles, shuffles and squeaks. Oh yes, she is awake. At the very moment we hit play. It’s still salvageable, though. I run upstairs to settle her down again.

After 15-20 minutes, I realise that it may not be salvageable.

After half an hour, I realise that it definitely isn’t.

Squeak goes back to sleep, and I go back downstairs. I check the clock, and see that it is now far too late to start watching anything. Typical.

Every time!

Choices

Everyone knows that it’s pretty risky, giving children choices. If you ask them to choose between raisins and grapes for a snack, they will ask for a banana. Or something obscure that you last bought 3 months ago.

This only gets worse with multiple children. If I make the mistake of asking Big Girl and Little Girl to choose between two films to watch, Big Girl does a most irritating thing. She waits until Little Girl has chosen, and then says the opposite.

Hmmm.

Obviously, chaos ensues as I try to get them to compromise. It’s predictable, and super annoying.

I would like to say that this is one of the reasons I decided to spawn another small human. With three, there’ll always be a decisive majority. Win.

Although I admit, I didn’t exactly take this into account.

It also wouldn’t work when my step-daughter is here.

But otherwise, a stroke of genius!

The Happy Ending

I would hate you to think that it’s all bad in my house. It’s actually mostly really good, if a bit crazy. So I decided to finish on a positive.

I can guarantee that, when I’m at my most frazzled, when the world feels like it is against me, one simple thing will happen.

As I am standing, head in hands, sighing in desperation, Big Girl will come up behind me and say:

“I love you.”

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Beautiful.

My Baby Controls Me Through The Power Of Breastfeeding

Today I’m going to talk about breastfeeding. So if you’re breast-averse, now would probably be a good time to look away.

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All gone?

Awesome.

I’m a pretty big fan of breastfeeding. Which is no bad thing, because I’ve been doing it for over 6 years. In that time, it has gone from something I pay attention and obsess about, to something I can do without even thinking. Yes, you read that right. I have been sitting talking to other people, looked down and exclaimed, “How did that get there?!”

Here’s a few things I love about breastfeeding. I’m not going to go into the health benefits, because if you’ve ever been in a procreation situation, you know them all already.

1. I have a bona-fide, reasonable excuse to sit on my arse for large portions of the day.

2. It’s a miracle cure for tiredness, illness and over-stimulation in a small child. Oh, and hunger.

3. I don’t have to get out of bed at night.

Babies love it too. But I have a sneaky suspicion that they have an ulterior motive for this.

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Overall, they’re pretty helpless. All they can do is squawk, gurn and move their scrawny little arms ineffectually. They don’t exactly have a lot of tools at their disposal.

But the one thing that they spend a massive amount of their day doing is eating. In their first few weeks, babies can feed more than hourly. It makes sense that they would catch on quickly to the idea that they can use this to their advantage.

Squeak could tell you all about this. Well, if she could say more than, “Daddy! Mummy! Ball! Poo! I see you!” It’s cool though. Using my impressive psychic mind-powers, I have become aware of her tricks. Here are a few examples for your perusal.

1. Inconvenient Hunger Occurrences

I’m confident that any baby can do this, regardless of feeding method. But breastfeeding’s what I know, so I’m going to go with that.

When I had Big Girl, life was a lot easier than it is now. I wasn’t aware of that then. When she was hungry, I would simply sit down and feed her. If we were due to be somewhere, I’d just be a little late.

Not any more. Now, I have a schedule. And that schedule largely revolves around something I like to call ‘the bastard school run.’ When Squeak was born, I had only Big Girl in school. We had to leave the house at 8.25am. Surprisingly, this wasn’t much of a problem. Tiny baby Squeak wasn’t a big morning feeder, so she’d be happy to be tucked into a sling and snooze while I raced Big Girl up to school.

No, it was the afternoon pick-up that became the problem.

I hate being late for anything. So I would start the ‘get ready to leave the house’ routine with plenty of time to spare for rogue tantrums, sock malfunctions, emergency toilet trips and baby feedings. Or so I thought.

Because Squeak had other ideas. I would get Little Girl ready and sit down to feed the baby. She had ages to have a huge feed, so she would sleep peacefully until we got home.

Only one problem.

She would be completely comatose.

I would tickle, prod and blow on her. I would change her nappy. I would lie her down, a thing which at any other would have her howling.

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Nothing.

I would offer and offer and offer, and eventually give in. OK, I would think. She’s really not hungry. She’ll just have to last until we get back.

Ha.

I would get us all into our coats and tie Squeak into the sling. And almost every day, as we left the house with seconds to spare, the exact same thing would happen.

Squeak would wake up in a wide-eyed, eardrum-bursting state of total starvation.

Why?

2. Nosiness

This is something which has become worse with each child. As very small babies, nothing could tear them away from a good feed. A bomb could go off in the street outside and they’d still be chowing down.

Then, they became aware.

Anything could distract them. A car starting up outside. The kettle boiling. A fairy flapping its wings or some imperceptible shit like that.

Their eyebrows raised and… pop! Off they came to have a good look around. (And it really is a pop. When babies breastfeed, they create a vacuum inside their mouths. And they are rarely considerate enough to break said vacuum in anything approaching comfort.)

This increases 100-fold with each child. Squeak’s got distractions galore! Big Girl leaping off the couch… pop! Little Girl performing a Queen song on a stool… pop! Mum’s often weary sigh… pop!

Get the wrong impression at your peril, though. They’re not done. They’re just taking a break.

3. Reverse Cycling

This one is a consequence of #2. A dire consequence. You see, if a baby gets too distracted during the day, they just start skipping feeds. Squeak was an awful one for this.

You’ve heard me describe my house as chaotic before, yes? It’s come up just occasionally, right? Oh yes. So chaotic, in fact, that Squeak couldn’t hack it. She went from a frequent feeder during the day to only feeding 3 times at 4 months old. And if I worried (I did) and tried to add in some extra feeds, she would fight me, screech and bob on and off until I admitted defeat. There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. All she wanted was to watch her sisters.

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Thankfully, babies are clever, you know. If they carried on skipping feeds all over the place, they’d soon see some negative effects, such as weightloss. And babies are hard-wired to grow until they look like they’re wearing elastic bands on their wrists and their thighs have been inflated with a bike pump.

You see, babies have the rather irksome habit of seeing every day as a 24 hour period. Not the 12 hour one which I know I’d prefer. What Squeak missed out on during the day, she more than made up for at night. She fed and fed and fed until I thought her stomach would burst! The lack of day feeds became rather irrelevant, because she had simply flipped her days and nights round. Hence the term: reverse cycling.

The moral of this story is: Never say your baby is a good sleeper if they’re less than 4 months old. You never know what’s around the corner!

4. Not-tired Breastfeeding

There comes a time in every baby’s life when she is not ready to go to sleep at bedtime. It might be because she’s ready to drop a nap, or because she’s working on a super cool developmental thing like walking.

Whatever the reason, she is not going to sleep, not matter what you do.

Squeak usually feeds to sleep. When it works, it is great. A nice, easy, peaceful time together. When it doesn’t work, this is how it goes:

I offer a feed. She accepts.

She says, “Hiya!”

She attempts to detach my lower lip from my face.

She feeds.

She pokes me in the eye.

She feeds.

She pinches the tenderest part of my arm.

She feeds.

And so on. She finally gives in and I retire, licking my wounds.

Until next time.

5. Upside-down Breastfeeding

When you first start breastfeeding, positioning is everything. It’s the difference between a comfortable, successful feed and a fail. There’s a learning curve which you have to go through to master it but once you have it, breastfeeding is smooth sailing.

At a point further down the line, your baby starts becoming more physically coordinated. They in turn master their own skills. They learn to roll over, crawl, walk, jump, and much much more.

Ever seen a baby try to roll over whilst still feeding? I have.

Ever seen a baby scratch his own head with his toes? I have.

Ever seen a baby feed standing up? I have.

The last one is Squeak’s personal favourite. After a few minutes of feeding, she lifts one leg and sliiiides off my lap. She stands in front of me, beautiful big eyes staring up at me, intermittently grinning. Gorgeous!

You know something’s coming next, right?

After a while, she gets a little bored of just standing. I mean, any old baby can stand up. So she steps it up a gear. She bounces.

And I have only one thing to say to that.

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Ow.

Right, I’m done. I’m pretty sure I’ve written the word ‘breast’ enough times to invite a plethora of dodgy spambot comments. Yay.

Seriously though, despite the tongue-in-cheek points that I make further up, I have to say that breastfeeding is full of awesome. Once you get the hang of it, it is a wonderful, close time you can share with your baby. And once they’re bigger and mobile, and too busy for cuddles, it’s a guaranteed thing they will come back for.

Lovely.

5 Things My Children Do To Keep Me In My Place

Sometimes I like to go a bit wild, and get ideas above my station. You know, like the idea that I am the most important person in my children’s lives. Or that I’m making their world a better place. Or that I can cook.

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It doesn’t last long, though. Oh no, this is a strictly time-limited situation. You see, within about 3.2 seconds, the children can put me straight back into my place. With less than 5 words.

Here’s how.

1. I Want Daddy

I’m sure this one will not be an unfamiliar scenario for most of you. I find this comforting. Because if I didn’t know that most kids do this, I’d be pretty sad right now.

This is Little Girl’s favourite at the moment. She’s going through one of those clumsy phases. She’s had a growth spurt, her legs have got longer, and she has all the grace of a recently birthed foal.

So she stubs her toe, or trips on the rug. Or the worst, she stands on a Smurf. That’s gotta sting.

She collapses on the floor sobbing. And Little Girl doesn’t hold back on tears. I’m talking full blast, sodden face, drippy nose tears. The kind that you recoil from slightly because you can feel your eardrums vibrating.

I do what any parent would do. I make sympathetic noises. I open my arms wide and offer her a soothing cuddle.

She accepts and clambers, snivelling, onto my lap. I fold my arms around her, kiss her forehead and rock her gently. Then, obviously, I kiss it better.

She carries on crying. I’m telling you, Little Girl’s got some stamina.

I rock some more, and stroke her hair. Surely this will fix it. I am her mother. For over 3 years I have held her and soothed away her pain. This will work.

Suddenly, she sits up. She pushes her hair out of her eyes, wipes her nose on her sleeve (ick) and looks up at me. I smile and kiss her. All better!

Then, she utters three words.

“I want Daddy!”

And on she sobs.

Thanks, Little Girl.

2. The Kiss-Slap

Don’t you think it’s cool when babies learn to kiss for the first time? I mean, it’s disgusting as well. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of a warm, open mouth smeared DSC_0700with drool planting itself on your cheek. Still, awwwww.

Squeak has just mastered this. She started out by blowing kisses at bedtime, which was freaking adorable. But now she’s doing her best to kiss everyone. Of course, she often misses and you have to dodge the rock-hard forehead flying towards your teeth. But come on, she’s a baby. Let’s not judge.

It’s beautiful. She is learning how to outwardly express her love. Every time she does it I feel my heart melt a bit, and I can’t help but smile.

Apparently, that is not cool with Squeak.

She has come up with a solution, though. And it’s a great one. It’s efficient, simple and it really gets the message across.

She leans in for the kiss. Then, before I’ve even had time to break the spit-string that joins us together, she lifts her hand and slaps me right across the face.

Hard.

Good feeling is gone, Squeak. Good feeling is gone.

3. Rejection

You know that moment when you have the best idea ever? Your brain is hit by a flash of inspiration and you are excited.

I get this a lot. Especially relating to things to do with the kids. Maybe it’s too much time on Pinterest, or maybe I really am a complete genius. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Frequently it’s crafty stuff. Something like this or this. Soooo awesome. Could you resist?

I can’t! So I gather up equipment and children. I tell Big Girl all about the activity we are about to do. I show her pictures on the computer of what will happen. She makes all the right noises, “Oohs” and “Aahs” and suchlike.

This face is optional.

This face is optional.

I am definitely awesome right now.

We sit down at the table, ready to create. And Big Girl turns to me and says:

“Can’t I just play out?”

Yes, of course standing around in the street is as exciting as making your own lava lamp.

Brilliant.

4. Simple Honesty

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I try to cook pretty good meals for the kids, on the whole. And apart from my insistence on throwing mushrooms in almost everything (sorry, Little Girl), it’s stuff I know they like.

So knowing this, when I sit them down at the table I’m usually sure they will eat what they’re given. At a push, maybe they’ll even enjoy it.

But for some reason, I always make the same mistake.

I ask them what it is like.

Now, you may be scoffing right now. I would be, if I was someone other than me. If they like the food and they’re eating it, obviously the answer would be positive. Wouldn’t it?

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If you think this, then you really haven’t been reading my other stuff.

Come on, you know kids are out to screw us over. You do, right? I must have said it at least 87 times.

At least.

This is how the exchange plays out in my kitchen:

We sitting down, eating our meals. The kids are tucking in with at least a little enthusiasm. All is good. I take a pause from my meal, put down my fork and smile.

And I say, “How’s your dinner, guys?”

Big Girl jumps in straight away with a loud, “Amazing!” This makes me happy. I love to see them enjoying their food.

Without fail, Little Girl then interjects with a simple, “Yucky.”

Nice.

5. Silence, Mother

I love to sing. I spend a lot of the time I am in the house playing music and singing along. The time I’m not spending creeping around a sleeping baby, anyway.

I tend to only do it in secret at home. It’s just how I roll. I’m not that bad though, if I do say so myself.

As an aside, I do a pretty good Heather Small impression as well. I know that looks like it would be improbable, to say the least. But it’s true.

Irrelevant, but true.

So it’s accurate to say that the children are subjected to my tuneful tones fairly frequently. And Little Girl has shown great skill in picking up song lyrics. (As evidenced when she got undressed yesterday and sang, “I’m naked and I’m far from home!” That’s contextual singing, that is.)

If I’m lucky, they like it. But more often, this is how it pans out:

Here’s me, doing whatever needs doing with a song. Just call me a regular old, slightly messed-up Mary Poppins. Little Girl is playing a confusing game involving My Little Ponies and a pizza cutter.

Suddenly, I hear, “Sshhhhh!”

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I turn around, and a frowning Little Girl says to me, “You hurtin’ my ears, Mum.”

Well.

That’s me brought down to earth with a bump, then.

Housework Battles I Just Can’t Win

My house has been immaculate approximately 3 times. All of them were in the final weeks before the kids were born. Intense nesting set in and I cleaned just about everything. I even cleaned the bits you can’t see.

And that is a big deal.

All the rest of the time, it has a status I like to describe as ‘mildly chaotic.’ I mean, the basics are done. You’re not going to get food poisoning if you eat here. But a lot of the time I just have to let stuff go.

Don’t blame me though. I do my best. It’s all the kids’ fault.

Don't let this innocent face fool you.

Don’t let this innocent face fool you.

Explain to me how you put the washing away with a feral baby on the loose? I can’t even pee in peace! Sure, you can suggest I put Squeak in a sling and get on with it, but there’s one problem with that. Squeak insists that I remain in a perfectly upright position when she is on my back. The moment I bend over to pick something, she lets loose with an almighty screech directly into my ear-hole. It sums up her feelings exactly: a mash-up between, “You’re killing me!” and, “I will kill you!”

Yeah, not listening to that.

So with the washing pile, I am fighting a losing battle. I do have a system, though. It’s just a fucking stupid one.

The clean washing comes out of the dryer and gets dumped in a pile. At this point, I am full of good intentions. I am definitely going to fold them and take them upstairs. In a minute.

Never happens.

I am forced into action when the pile starts to collapse whenever small people walk by. By this point, it’s pretty big. In an uncharacteristic burst of energy, I drag the pile into the living room and sort it into each person’s clothes. Squeak messes with the proceedings slightly. In an attempt to copy me, she grabs clothes of the top of the pile and launches them across the room.

This might look like what I am doing, but it is not.

Then, I take each person’s pile into the correct bedroom. I am totally going to fold them and put them away in the right place. Honestly.

Later.

Eventually I can’t take the mess and spend half a day folding and putting away everybody’s clothes.

See? Stupid.

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A sign of how infrequently I do this sorting is that almost every time, I have to sort out the clothes that Squeak has grown out of.

It’s cool, you can judge. I’m not even ashamed.

Then there’s the kitchen floor. I don’t even know what happens there. Well, I do mostly. The kids.

Squeak is in that joyous phase that all babies have to go through. She likes to express that she is finished with a meal by using one arm to sweep the leftovers onto the floor. Every time.

Did you know you have to feed kids, like, 3 times a day?

That’s a lot of rejected food. All under the highchair.

And you have to add Big Girl and Little Girl into the mix. They have come to the (mistaken) assumption that I can’t see the annoying stuff they do. They have absolutely no evidence for this. I catch them at pretty much everything using Mother Radar. They still keep trying.

Their new trick is to take the food they do not like, check to see if I’m watching, and quietly drop it under the table.

Grrr.

In conclusion, I need either a dog, or a dustbuster.

I have neither. I do have one thing though. A baby who is completely terrified of the vacuum cleaner.

I’m talking ‘screaming so hard her lips turn blue’ terrified. So it’s pretty hard to hoover up with her in the room.

I try my best, but that’s a fight I am not winning either. It’s not that big a deal though. I mean, it’s not like anyone licks the floor now, is it?

Um.

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Don’t even get me started on bed-making. I mean, when are you supposed to fit that in? To those who are saying to the screen, “Straight away, when you get up,” I say ha ha ha!

Very funny.

My kids are G. Rumpy when they get up. I have approximately 30 seconds before Little Girl throws her first tantrum of the day. I would prefer to be downstairs when this happens, so I can hide.

To those who are saying, “Get the kids to help!” Again, funny. I’m not sure you can train pseudo-zombies to make beds. I swear, Big Girl would brush her teeth with the wrong end of the brush if there wasn’t someone there to switch it round for her. They are just. not. awake.

And finally, to those who are saying, “Just do it at some point in the day fgs, you hideous slattern!” I have but one thing to say in reply.

Do you remember the feral baby?

This post is doing a public service for all. For the people who keep this shit straight, you get to feel all smug and stuff. For the people who are just like me, you now know it is not only you.

And just remember, by avoiding doing the stuff up there, I can spend more time doing this thing right here.

So it’s a win for you.

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Baking Alone vs Baking With The Kids

I love to bake. Occasionally cakes, although I have to admit, there’s room for improvement there. My real passion is bread. And my favourite time to make it is when DSC_5991there are no children within a 2 mile radius.
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Baking is hailed as one of the best activities you can do at home with your child. And I have to admit, they do love it. It also teaches them a range of different things, including maths when measuring ingredients, fine motor skills when cracking an egg and science when observing the reaction between yeast and warm water.
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I even quite enjoy it myself. Even though it’s a lot messy than doing it on my own, it’s a fun time when we can chat and bond together.
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I’d still rather be on my own, though. And this is why.
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Here is how I bake:

Gather my ingredients and arrange them in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Measure them out into the mixer, tidying them away as I go.

Turn on the mixer.

Turn off the mixer to check if Squeak has woken up.

Turn the mixer back on.

Now the kneading. This is my favourite part. I can visualise every one of my frustrations, and then pound them into a doughy pulp. It’s beautiful.

Then I leave the dough to rise while I put my feet up. Ha, just kidding! I run upstairs to get Squeak back to sleep.

I spend time carefully working the dough into the desired shape, periodically pausing to smile and admire my handiwork.

More rising, more resettling Squeak.

I stick my creation into the oven and sit back to enjoy the delicious yeasty smell wafting through the house.

I take it out and check for imperfections. There are many.

But still, I am happy.

I eat it.

Mmmmm.

Mmmmm.

Here’s how I bake with the kids:

I usually make cakes with the children. They take less time, and kneading dough is a revoltingly effective way to clean the dirt out from under their fingernails <shudders>

First, I call them into the kitchen.

I grimace at the generally grimy state of them and scrub their hands.

I referee an argument about which stool each of them will stand on. It culminates in me saying, “For goodness’ sake Big Girl, you’re twice the size of Little Girl, just stand on the small one!”

While collecting the ingredients, I discuss the likelihood of Big Girl learning to fly when she grows up.

They argue over who will put which ingredient in. I threaten to do it all myself. I win.

I tell Little Girl to stop picking her nose.

I hand Big Girl the eggs to crack into a cup (a newly acquired skill).

I hand Big Girl a new egg.

I wipe the egg up off the floor.

I forget to put the shield on the mixer.

I laugh uproariously as flour sprays directly into Big Girl’s face. After a brief glare, she laughs too.

I tell Little Girl to stop picking her nose.

They ask if they can eat some of the mixture. Not yet.

We spoon the mixture into the tin.

I scrape the spills off the table.

Into the oven it goes, and I set the timer.

The children fall on the mixing bowl like ravenous wolves, reaching in elbow-deep to scrape out the very last drip of cake mixture.

I turn around, surveying the result of our efforts. Chaos, with a light dusting of flour.

I ask who is going to help me tidy up.

The kids Disapparate, along with the timer.

A buzzing is heard, and little feet race to the kitchen.

I comfort the child who didn’t stop in time and crashed into the baby gate.

I tell Little Girl to stop picking her nose.

Out comes the cake, and all stop to sniff and sigh.

I tell them not to poke it.

The agonising ‘cooling down’ wait follows.

I tell them not to poke it. Many times.

Then, it is cool. By that time it is usually late in the day, so I rush through the icing myself. Therefore, this is the cleanest bit of the cake.

We eat it.

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Ya see?