The Bedtime Routine Of The Dazed Parent

Yet again, I am posting from a house that is positively swimming in germs and bacteria. In the last few weeks, we have been hit by more viruses that I believe to be truly acceptable.

Although apparently, my opinion is of no consequence in this situation.

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The other day, I finally succumbed to the stomach bug that had successfully overtaken two of my three children. As the waves of nausea swept over me, my first thought was, “Ooh, better get the dishes out of the way if I’m going to be ill!” And it got me thinking how much our reactions to everyday situation change after we have children. Before I procreated, my instant response to impending illness would have been “BED!” But now here I am, prioritising essential housework over much needed rest!

It’s a weird old world.

One of the situations where I’ve seen the most change is the bedtime routine. No, I’m not talking about getting the children into bed. I mean me.

When I only had myself to take care of, my bedtime routine probably looked something like this:

  1. Get into bed.
  2. Read for a while,
  3. Go to sleep.

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Oh, blissful simplicity!

Without a doubt, parenting brings a whole swathe of changes and challenges into your life. Now, my bedtime routine looks a little more like this:

  • Drag myself up from the couch after realising I have dozed off and missed the last twenty minutes of my TV programme.
  • Spend ten minutes searching for the front door keys in increasingly imaginative places before discovering that they are, as always, in my handbag.
  • Lock front door.
  • Get halfway up the stairs before heading back down to switch the heating off.
  • Second try!
  • Reach the top of the stairs before having a crisis of self-doubt about whether I remembered to lock the back door.

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  • Nip back down to check.
  • It’s locked.
  • Finally get as far as the bathroom.
  • Brush teeth and attempt an almost silent wee (Squeak’s bedroom is right next door to the bathroom.)
  • Ponder reason wee needs to sound like a professional grade power washer at the most inconvenient of times.
  • Hold breath and listen for signs of Squeak waking.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Creep to Squeak’s doorway.
  • Check for breathing.
  • Can’t hear her. Listen harder.
  • Gingerly step over safety gate and edge closer.
  • Lean over Squeak, only to jump back as she takes a loud breath and begins to stir.
  • Make a hasty exit, acquiring painful gate-related vulval injury on way out.

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  • Swear under breath and do elaborate ‘ouchy’ dance on landing.
  • Tiptoe up to big girls’ bedroom.
  • Trip over three teddies and land on a Lego block. In bare feet.
  • Engage in silent scream.
  • Give Big Girl a kiss and tuck her in (kid snores like a steam engine, no need for double checking here!)
  • Listen for Little Girl’s breathing.
  • Wonder why she appears to hold her breath the very moment I go to check on her.
  • Bring my face closer to hers and strain ears.
  • Still nothing.
  • Lightly poke her cheek.
  • Get smacked in the face as she violently turns over.
  • She’s still breathing.

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  • Tiredly drag myself into bedroom and collapse into bed.
  • Speedily leap back out.
  • Remove six soft toys and a day-old kids’ sock from the bed. Oh, and something… pointy.
  • Lie down with a sigh and snuggle down.
  • Get out book for some late night reading and relaxation.
  • Check alarms for the next day and put phone on to charge.
  • Turn over and strangle myself with charger wire.
  • Begin making a list in my head of all the things I need to do tomorrow.
  • Recall all the things I forgot to do today.
  • Dammit!
  • Suppress urge to go and see if I remembered to lock front door.
  • Read.
  • What’s that noise?

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  • Read more.
  • Ok, what’s that noise?
  • Roam house hunting for burglars.
  • Admonish myself for being a damn idiot.
  • Sink back under covers.
  • Weep inside as Squeak chooses this moment to wake up.
  • Settle her back down again and sneak away.
  • Get back into bed.
  • Read.
  • Fall asleep still wearing glasses (always).
  • Wake with a start as child climbs into bed.
  • Listen to detailed account of distressing nightmare that brought her there.
  • Forcibly remove glasses from muchly dented face.
  • Rub aching nose.
  • Go back to sleep.
  • Groan as Squeak wakes again.
  • Tuck her into my bed.
  • Unleash breast from top.
  • Fall into haze of unconsciousness.

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  • The end <yawn>

I have to say, I’ve experienced slightly more relaxing bedtime rituals in my life. And I live in hope that one day, one day, I may again!

I’m not feeling massively optimistic, though.

How about you? How does your routine measure up?

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The 30 Secret Signals Of The Rebel Toddler Squad

Hello all. I am writing this from my top secret, super hidden safety bunker. After discovering what I am about to tell you about, I figured that the best option was to get the hell out. I’d let you come and join me, but you know I’m just not that good at sharing.

Hang on, I’ll draw you a map.

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Nah! This shit is mine!

OK, let me tell you about what happened the other day. I was walking down the street with the kids when we passed some equally kid type people coming the other way.

So far, so normal.

But when this very angelic looking blonde toddler passed my girls, she casually waved her hand at them. Nothing to write about, I hear you cry?

Man, you guys are naive. Luckily, you’ve got me to work these things out for you.

You see, this girl wasn’t just saying hello. She was signalling to them.

It’s ok, I can see what you’re saying. I’m overthinking this, right?

Wrong! Because you see, after I discovered this I started doing some research. I have a found out that these demonic hellbeasts we call our ‘beloved children,’ have a whole language of their own, that they usually solely to fuck with us.

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Woman I can hold a crotch oak… I mean cockroach, without even flinching. What makes you think I can’t mess you right up?

I mean, realistically, what else would they use it for?

Believe me or not, it’s your neck on the line <shrugs> I took tremendous risks to get this to you, so you’d better bloody appreciate it. Now read!

Here are the first thirty signals. I’m sure there are more, but a girl’s gotta eat, you know? Plus toddlers are super fucking scary to work with.

1. Ear tug – Insist you’re a rabbit and only answer to the name Ralph. Refuse to eat carrots in any form.

2. Foot tap – Make like a rock.

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3. Nose scratch – Hold your breath when your mum comes to check you at night. Wait until she panics and pokes you. Then wake up, crying indignantly.

4. High five – Dress like this. All day.

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5. Head shake – Learn how to do a forward roll. Do it straight off the couch. (Bonus points if you bite your tongue.)

6. Bum wiggle – Shit yourself. Do it now!

7. Wave – help your mum to get you ready for bed. Ensure all help is decidedly unhelpful.

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8. Blow raspberry – Only accept a drink from the pink cup. No, the blue cup! The yellow! GREEN!!

9. Finger click – Glare at your mother all day long. Refuse to explain why.

10. Hop – Respond to every question with the word ‘poop.’ Unless it’s relevant.

11. Finger in nose – Lick that wall. Right there. Don’t avoid the green bit.

12. Teddy drop – Drop your teddy. Preferably into that slightly questionable puddle over there.

13. Clap – Splash so much in the shower that your mum slips on the wet floor and falls into the bath. Then howl because she hurt your little toe.

14. Smile – Ask for your most favourite food for dinner. Then throw it on the floor.

15. Nose wiggle – Make every nonsense babble noise you make sound like those words your mum mutters under her breath when she’s having a bad day.

16. Jump – Cry until she lets you sleep in her bed. Sleep with your arse on her pillow.

17. Offer food – Hide this food in the couch cushions until it gets all sticky and gross. Then eat it. Scream blue murder when she tries to take it off you.

18. Ballerina pose – Spill your drink everywhere. Unless it’s water. Because what’s the fucking point in that?

Fuck this H2O bullshit!

Fuck this H2O bullshit!

19. Lick arm – Stand on literally anything shaped like a cylinder. Blame your mother when you fall off.

20. Arm flap – Check to see if you’ve mastered the art of flight yet. Preferably from a height.

21. Skip – Hone your abseiling skills. Using the curtains.

22. Trip over – Trip over, right now! Don’t use your hands to save yourself.

23. Jazz hands – Open one side of your nappy. Now wee!

24. Runny nose – Wait until two days before your birthday. Get sick.

25. Wiggle toes – Discard one shoe. Repeat until your mother turns a fetching shade of purple.

26. Finger point – Behave responsibly with your new scissors for two whole weeks. Then hack off a couple of clumps of hair.

27. Knee tap – Ask to play with play dough. Make a penis and insist on it being displayed on the mantelpiece. Forever.

28. Head scratch – Put a bead up your nose. Try to get it out but succeed only in pushing it further up. Don’t tell anyone.

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29. Wink – Refuse to go to sleep for at least two hours. Wait until your mum’s eyes drift shut in a haze of exhaustion. SCREAM!

30. Teeth baring – Vomit in a giant pile behind your toy kitchen. Deny all knowledge.

Who knew? There we were, assuming that our toddlers were either pissing about, procrastinating or just being plain annoying. And it turns out that we were actually completely right! But what makes it worse is that they’re doing it together.

Betcha glad that I told you now, aren’t you?

Now to get to my bunker, you need to make a left at… ah fuck it.

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It’s top secret for a reason!

Over and out.

7 Ways Kids Show They Love You

Happy Valentine’s Day! The day to show people how much you love them. And kids are so wonderfully open to displaying their love for us. It’s quite beautiful, really.

Except when it’s, um… not.

Obviously that’s what I’m planning to talk about today. My kids have found some slightly unconventional ways to show me just how much I mean to them. I appreciate it, really I do! Some of the time.

1. Sharing Food

Sharing is a great skill to learn. It’s hard though. Apparently kids don’t have the ability to learn to share properly until 3 or so. Which matches up pretty well with the hell I’m experiencing at the moment with 2 year old Squeak!

Still, there are times when even a smaller child can enjoy the experience of sharing with someone. Like their mother.

I’m sure most people who have procreated have had this happen to them. You’re sitting with your little person as they start learning how to feed themselves. You’re doing that whole enthusiastic smiley thing so that they don’t freak out about the fact that they just gagged so hard the food flew straight over the highchair tray and onto the floor.

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I’ve never stopped being impressed by that.

Just then, they pull a presumably tasty morsel out of their mouth and offer it to you. There it sits in between their thumb and forefinger, all partially masticated and moist.

Urgh.

They squawk at you indignantly as you try and avoid having to touch it, waving it in front of your nose. Take it, take it, TAKE IT!

In the end, you have to pluck it gingerly from them and pretend to eat it. Mmmmmm!

They’re never fooled by that.

It carries on as they get older, when things may be less moist but surely still extremely bacteria-laden.

Tell me, what is the nice way of saying, “Thanks, but I don’t know where your hands have been.””

“Or rather, I do.”

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Answers on a postcard, s’il vous plait!

2. Getting Dressed By Themselves

It’s no mean feat, learning to put your clothes on by yourself. The armholes look like leg holes, the head hole is constantly disappearing and don’t even get me started on buttons.

I know what I’m talking about. I got stuck in a jumper the other day.

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What? Yeah, sure. I was kidding!

That being said, dressing small people is a total ballache. By the time you’ve got one arm in they’ve wriggled the other one out, and your crotch is in just the right position for a well-aimed kick that really stings. And don’t even think about socks. Someone definitely needs to redesign those things.

So it’s great once they can do it themselves. You can just lay everything out and then sit back and grab a cuppa, jumping up to assist with head hole location as and when required.

The problem is, then they start getting picky about what they’re wearing. They want to take the whole ‘doing it themselves’ thing to the next level.

That’s when you end up leaving the house with something that looks a little bit like this:

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And you don’t even care. Because at least you didn’t have to fucking do it.

3. The Grin-Vom

First smiles are just the bestest thing ever. They come, conveniently, at the point when you’d happily put your kid in a basket on a doorstep, ring the bell and run away.

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Just me?

Yeah, ok.

And they’re so addictive. As soon as you’ve seen that first little grin, it’s hard to do anything other than try and get it to happen again. And again. And again. You’ll quite happily make a total arse of yourself at any opportunity, just to see those initial signs that your child sees you as a little more than a demonic food-providing overlord. Singing? Check. Dancing? Yup. Embarrassing facial contortions?

You got it!

One thing to remember, though: it’s a risky game. Because babies love nothing more than to guzzle down just enough of an excess of milk that they have a little extra kept back. Preferably to deposit on you at the most moment-spoiling of times.

So when you’re locking eyes with your little gurgling bundle of joy, talking in that high-pitched stupid voice that apparently is sooo good for their development, do me a favour. Have a muslin handy. Because awwww-BLEURGH!

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You can thank me later.

4. Love Notes

As much as I love the tiny vomiting goblins that are newborns, there’s something amazing about watching your children grow up. Little Girl has just learned to read and write, and she just can’t stop herself from doing anything else.

Unless she’s making gravity-defying Lego structures that inevitably fall down to shrieks of futile rage, that is.

Now in some ways, learning to read is not so great. As mentioned in a long ago post somewhere, I seem to spend half of my time ushering Little Girl away from various pieces of graffiti on the way to school. Not to forget hiding my screen from her as I type.

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How lucky that the word ‘fuck’ is so easy to read for an almost 5 year old. Yay!

But it’s really cute watching her lean intently over a page, sounding out words and triumphantly shouting them when she’s figured them out. A whole new world has opened up for her.

And a new part of that world is the writing of love notes. More specifically, very very small love notes that must, of course, be snipped ever so carefully with her new bumblebee scissors.

Now last night I wasn’t lucky enough to get words. Instead I received three pinky-red blobs that of course were hearts for God’s sake, and I apparently did not show enough appreciation for.

Oops.

Evidently, though, sometimes I do deserve something a little more effusive. Like this, for example:

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D’awwww! This was one of the first things Little Girl ever wrote for me, and I have treasured it so much that it took me ten minutes to find it on my computer.

Double oops.

But how cute! It definitely makes up for the 3am nosebleeds, the vomiting, the nightmares… It does!

And so what if you occasionally get something like this:

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Coke. It says Coke. Goddamn phonics!

5. The Kiss-Lick

This is the advanced version of the Grin-Vom. You’ve got to have developed a fairly strong streak of mischief to properly appreciate it.

We’re a fairly kissy family. I don’t spend a lot of time without at least one small body snuggled up against me, chubby face upturned and lips puckered. I love it!

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Sometimes, they use this against me.

If I had to pick the person who uses this most, I’d have to say Squeak. She is one sneaky little monster. And she’s well versed in the arts of delayed gratification. She’ll kiss me tens of times before she swoops, just to lull me into a false sense of security.

And then, SLUUUURRRP! A big, soggy lick right up the side of my face.

Ick.

But she’s not doing it maliciously! Oh no, of course she isn’t. She’s a cat.

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Duh!

6. The Play

Anyone who has an older girl may get what I’m talking about. Sometimes the only, and I mean the absolute only way to show your mum that you love her is to act out an elaborate play.

You know, the kind that has seventeen characters who have no names or distinguishing features, all played by the same person. Yes Big Girl, I’m looking at you.

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The kind of play that lasts at least three hours, at least two of which are spent making mistakes and giving unnecessarily long explanations of what’s going to happen next. And farting.

And if you’re really super lucky, you might get lines. Which are inevitably written in a barely legible scrawl on a minute piece of paper, chopped by (yes, you guessed it!) the beloved bumblebee scissors.

Fucking bumblebees.

Be careful not to make a mistake, mind. Despite those two hours of errors and nonsensical plot changes, all hell with rain down on you if you fuck your bit up.

Get your rictus grins at the ready! Oh, and don’t forget to applaud extremely hard at the end. Otherwise she might start all over again.

7. The Cuddles

Just a regular cynical post from me, as usual! But fret not. I’m not completely dead inside.

Yet.

Because when they’re taking a break from strangling and hissing at each other, there’s a bit of this:

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And this:

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And a touch of this:

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Aah, that’s better.

Happy fucking Valentine’s Day, folks!

How To Soothe A Crying Baby – A Step by Step Guide

We’ve all been there. Just as you finally start to feel like you’re getting the hang of this parenting a tiny hairless monkey thing, it happens.

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The screaming.

I’ve been there. With bells on. There were nights with Little Girl when I’d feel lucky if I’d grabbed 90 minutes sleep. I tried maybe 6758 things to try and get her to stop.

You can guess how many worked.

With that in mind, I like to that that I’ve developed a few special skills in natal hysteria prevention. I’m not saying I’m an expert or anything, but come on! I’ve done this three times. Surely I’ve learned something by now.

Yeah, well. Ask my eye bags if I’ve learned anything!

Anyway, read on my friends. Prepare to be enlightened…

1. Feed her. Ok, so I’m starting with the basics. But you know, it’s the easiest one!

2. Feed her again.

3. And again. Hmmm.

4. Say something suitably pointless, like, “Aww baby, what’s the matter?” Because you know, she doesn’t even know what a fucking foot is but she’ll tell you that no problem.

5. Stand up and do somekind of exaggerated rocking… thing. You know, the one that always works like a charm!

6. Huh, seems like the charm has worn off. You knew that confidence was misplaced!

7. Check for poop. Carefully now. Nothing, nothing, nothing, URGH!

8. While you’re there, strip you and the baby off for some skin to skin time. The magical solution, this has gotta be it. No small baby can resist warm snuggles with mama.

9. Wipe the vomit out of your cleavage. And crotch. Consider changing your trousers.

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10. Nah!

11. Get dressed again. Duh, it’s fucking February!

12. Google it one-handed while perching on the edge of the couch.

13. Check the baby’s clothes for irritating threads and labels. (Thanks for the inspiration, random baby-raising website!)

14. Change the baby.

15. Change the baby again.

16. Oh my God who made these clothes??

17. Weep. Copiously.

18. Lie down. Stand up. Sit down. Lie down again.

19. Recall that course you did on baby massage. Find your zen (and the oil). You’re not sure how relaxing this will be to the tune of 70 yowling cats in heat but hey, whoever said parenting was supposed to be easy?

20. Give up. Engage in precarious oily juggling match with a seriously slipping and fragile new baby. Gah!

21. Play some relaxing music. Switch to something perkier. Switch to Metallica. Turn it up. Like, all the way up.

22. Call someone. Anyone.

23. Call back when you can do something other than howl. Like, anything.

24. Walk in circles around the room. More. More. Whoa, too much!

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Head rush!

25. Call NHS direct.

26. Answer a bunch of inane questions.

27. Get told to expect a callback in 4 hours.

28. Cry more.

29. Eat cake. Messily. Pick crumbs out of your baby’s many neck folds.

30. You know the ones.

31. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Go… swimming. Who gives a fuck, just GO GO GO!

32. Contemplate performing an impromptu exorcism.

33. Just kidding.

34. But…

Eeeeevil!

Eeeeevil!

35. Give up. Collapse, sprawling and dejected on the couch where all of this began.

36. Stare wide-eyed as your tiny, red-faced beast falls fast asleep on your chest.

37. Resolve not to move again for at least 12 hours.

38. Uh oh, nature calls!

 

So, how did I do? Yeah, I know. I’d like to tell you that I started out trying to be genuinely helpful…

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But nope! I was just fucking with you.

Of course if all else fails, just hand them off to me. Apparently I’m really good with babies. As long as they didn’t come out of my vagina, that is.

I Would Do Anything For Love…

Ah, Meat Loaf. My dad is a massive fan, and I grew up listening to his songs. In fact, I even went to see him in concert when I was about 38 weeks pregnant with Big Girl.

Yes, he was awesome.

This post has been inspired by the songs of Meatloaf. Or more specifically, this one song:

For years people have pondered what, exactly, Meat Loaf won’t do. Well folks, I think I’ve finally got it!

Psych.

I have no fucking idea what he is on about. But the song got me to thinking. I love my kids. Like, a lot. And if asked, I would say that I would do anything for them.

But would I? I’m not so sure.

I’ve had a bit of a think about what I really would do for my children. And I’ve come up with a little list. It’s not exhaustive, there’s probably loads more soppy, arduous or frankly revolting things I would be willing to subject myself to for the greater good. Thinking of all of them would get a bit tiresome though, so I’ve quit at ten.

Here goes!

1. I would wear your hairband on my oversized head because I accidentally put it in the dryer and now it’s gone a funny shape. I’m doing it right now. My skull feels as if it is being slowly crushed, and every time I take the band off to check, it’s still the same shape! But hey, it’s the thought that counts.

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Right?

2. I would do number 1 on this list secretly, when you’re in bed, so you didn’t realise that your hairband had been grievously harmed. And I wouldn’t  just be doing it because I didn’t want to see the sad puppy dog eyes, or so I didn’t have to listen to your tearful reproaches. I would be doing it to prevent you from experiencing the pain of a warped hair accessory.

Honest.

3. I would kiss your butt better if you hurt it while playing. Preferably clothed, but I know that is a big ask in our house. In return, you would avoid farting at the crucial moment.

Fair’s fair?

4. I would let you throw up on me. Even on my freshly washed, extra comfortable pyjamas. And I wouldn’t even sigh.

Well, maybe a bit.

Could you not have held it in? Or at least done it on a surface that it is actually possible to wipe clean?

Soz.

Soz.

5. I would trace our steps for ages so you could find the stone that you dropped. Even if the stone that you finally pounce on is clearly not the one you originally lost.

Not every time, like. Just when I’m feeling particularly magnanimous.

6. I would spend ten minutes copying the dance you were doing, at your request. Even if that dance had absolutely no direction, and involved me contorting my body in ways it spent the next three days objecting to. Even if it was choreographed to a song by One Direction <shudder>

Motherlove, innit?

7. I would kiss you before bed. And that bear. And the pony. And that bear too. And that hairy spider thing… Wait, what the fuck is that?

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8. I would listen to every joke you told. Even though you only know two jokes, and frequently mix up the two so the punchline makes absolutely no sense.

I wouldn’t just listen, either. I’d laugh, too. ‘Cause I’m great like that.

9. I would sit patiently as you daydreamt your way through an “incredibly important, need to tell you right now!” story. I would nod at the right bits, and smile as you paused, sniffed, wiped your nose on your sleeve, and generally forgot what the fuck you were on about.

And despite great temptation, I would resist the urge to say, “Just spit it out, for God’s sake!” And I would also resist the urge to do a little bit of daydreaming myself.

Not because I’m a super mum or anything, just because they always notice the very second I switch off.

Damn kids.

10. This last one is just for Squeak. I would breastfeed you in a dress. Specifically, a dress which can only provide chest access through a zip under my arm.

In public.

I will not discuss how this reflects on the flexibility of my breasts. Even though I was a little bit impressed with success of my venture.

Ok, a lot.

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So there you go kids, I would do anything for love. But (and it’s a big but*) I won’t do that.

That’s right. From the plethora of things I have identified that I would do, there is one that is never going to happen.

Nope, never. Not. Ever.

And this is it:

I would not eat your chewed up food. Not even if you selected it carefully from your ever increasing pile of tasted and rejected foodstuffs. No, not even if you did those eyes. Do I look like a fucking baby bird to you?

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Just gross.

*No, not my big butt. God, you guys are so infantile.

Growth Spurts – Not Just For Newborns

If there was one thing I wished someone had warned me about before I had children, it would have been growth spurts. Because when Big Girl arrived, they were the biggest shock of all.

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And yes, I do mean even more shocking than the realisation of how it feels to birth a baby. So you know I’m talking about some serious shit right here.

I had pethidine when I was in labour with her, so for a couple of days she was a bit sleepy. She still woke for feeds every two hours or so, but in between she would slip into a deep sleep. I could even put her down in the hospital crib, and she wouldn’t make a peep.

It was awesome. Well, maybe not awesome, exactly. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus, and getting up from a sitting position resulted in an unpleasant inward shifting sensation that, dear God, I wish I could forget.

But still, a newborn baby that fed and slept, not too bad. I couldn’t shake a stick at that.

Then, day 4 happened.

And I discovered that the previous few days had given me absolutely zero preparation for the veritable shitstorm that was about to ensue.

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Oh. My. God.

Here’s how day 4 went. We woke up, and Big Girl latched on. The end.

Ok, possibly it didn’t go 100% like that. I’m sure there were breaks for pooping, and nappy changing, and outbursts of crying for no apparent reason.

I was talking about the baby, actually. I cry about as much as it rains over the Sahara.

Ahem. Moving on!

Anyway, that’s what it felt like. Big Girl turned into an insatiable demon, who could only be satisfied by a never-ending river of breastmilk. And that’s how it continued for the next seven weeks.

I became closely acquainted with the contours of my couch, and got plenty of practice in feeding one-handed. Well, a keyboard’s not going to type itself now, is it?

I wouldn’t be lying if I said that one of the first things I Googled after coming home from the hospital was, ‘baby breastfeeding all of the time.’ And I’m glad I did. Finally, I had found an explanation for this wriggling, mewling infant who screamed herself purple the second her back hit the Moses basket’s mattress and rooted frantically on any millimetre of bare skin she could find.

Fucking growth spurts.

Suddenly, everything made sense.

Although there was one bit of information which I had to respectfully disagree with. According to the many websites I read on this issue, growth spurts happen numerous times in the first six weeks of a baby’s life, and last about 2-3 days or as much as a week.

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ORLY?

Because as far as I can remember, Big Girl had only one growth spurt. And it lasted approximately seven weeks.

I’m serious.

Despite being armed with the knowledge I gleaned from the holy god of Google, it was bloody hard going. Some days, I barely made it off the couch. I ate what I could grab out of the cupboard and throw down my neck one-handed.

Oh, and I felt like a shrivelled-up raisin that had been forgotten at the back of the cupboard. (You all find those raisins, right?)

But we made it through. And although I’m sure she had a few more growth spurts during her first year, either I’ve lost them in the haze of sleep deprivation, or they weren’t that bad.

Now, Little Girl and Squeak’s growth spurts. Well, I can’t really remember them at all! In my defence in the case of Little Girl, I’m surprised that I can remember anything about her first year. I definitely remember the fuzzy-head, almost drunken sensation of surviving on two hours sleep a night, but growth spurts? Not so much. By the time Squeak came along, I was just shoving her up my top at the slightest peep, and promptly forgetting  about her until she vomited spectacularly into my crotch.

Do you know, as I typed that I recalled exactly the toe-curling, revolting sensation of pooling milk sick as it cools in your crevices. Shudder.

So there was no clock-watching, or noting down of feed times. Hell, I didn’t even try to remember which boob’s turn it was to be fed off. I just plugged her in and got on with the requisite arse-wiping, packet-opening, fighting-children-separating and nose-wiping that comes with having older kids.

I’m sure they happened, like. I just didn’t really notice. In my defence, she fed soooooo much that I’m not sure it would have been possible for her to cram in any more feeding time.

Well, that’s baby growth spurts covered. They occur numerous times during a child’s first year of life, and then everything is just peachy.

But no. For as the years have passed, I have come to a realisation. A horrible, demand-causing, purse-squeezing realisation.

There are child growth spurts too.

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I. Know. Right?

Never before did I think I would grow to appreciate the growth spurts of a newborn. Because breastmilk? That shit is free. When you’ve got a desperate six year old ransacking the cupboards before, after… hell, during meals, you got problems.

Big Girl seems to be on a permanent growth spurt at the moment. It all started last year.

You see, today marks the passing of a year since Big Girl was hospitalised with Guillain-Barre syndrome. It’s hard to believe that such a short time ago she was stuck in a hospital bed, unable to walk, sit up or use her hands properly. I am thankful every day that she appears to have made a complete recovery.

But I am not thankful for the growth spurt that has resulted.

You see, she was ill with a virus for over three weeks before being admitted to hospital. Obviously she couldn’t eat much, as she was lethargic and battling a high temperature. Once you factor in that time, plus the hospital time and the recovery time afterwards, she didn’t really eat properly for two months.

Boy, has she been making up for it though.

It was at its worst once she began to feel better. This kid was having three massive meals a day, and snacking twice between each meal. And still she complained of being hungry! At one point she was eating more than me, and guys, I can put away a shitload of food.

Obviously it isn’t as intense now as it was. But Big Girl lives for food. She can inhale a plate of pasta in second, and beg for more. I don’t know where she puts it, as she’s pretty skinny. She is growing upwards like a tomato plant in a heap of cowshit though.

And my fruit bowl is permanently in need of replenishment, the cupboards are frequently bare long before I’d contemplated shopping again, and I never have leftovers to shove in the freezer.

Please God, let Little Girl sidestep this stage, because I don’t think I could inflate my food budget enough to cover that much food!

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Made For Babies, But Not Designed For Them

When I wrote My Must-Have Baby Gadgets a little while ago, I talked about the ridiculous amount of unnecessary crap you can buy for babies. But that is not all. There is also a load of necessary crap that you have to get as well. If there’s one constant in this world, it’s that kids need stuff. Even if you’re aiming to be the most frugal parent on the planet, you can’t get by without shelling out for at least a couple of things.

Over the last six years, I have purchased plenty of said stuff. And I have come to the conclusion that frequently, the designers of the things I need didn’t really think it through. I mean yeah, the things look about right, but they don’t always function in a way that is completely desirable.

Clear as mud? Allow me to elaborate.

1. Free Flow Cups

These are the cups that you are recommended to give to your kids. In case you don’t know, they have no valve, so the kid doesn’t have to suck his or her face inside out to get a drink. Apparently, they’re good for oral development and teeth and blah, blah, blah.

I have a couple of these. Because they cost about a pound, and I am stingy. But I hate them with a vengeance normally saved for or number three on this list.

Because they don’t fucking work.

Well actually, that’s a touch inaccurate. If the definition of working is that water flows freely out of it, then it works.

With bells on.

And that is the problem. It took Squeak approximately three minutes to figure out that tipping the cup upside down and shaking it furiously creates an impressive lake in the middle of her highchair tray. This can have many enjoyable uses: splashing the entire table, destroying previously dry food, soaking clothes, and so much more!

The cup is always empty by the time she’s finished eating. If I was estimating how much of the water actually got into her stomach, I’d say about… one millilitre.

This delightful occurrence is not just reserved for the kitchen. Squeak has discovered that the havoc-wreaking properties increase ten-fold when she can walk around carrying the fabulous free flowing cup.

I know. After that display, why is this woman dumb enough to let her run off with the cup?

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It’s just…I can’t……it’s because…

I just forget, ok?! And if I had to confiscate every single thing that the kids used for the purposes of destruction, I’d be sitting in an empty room right now. Sometimes, you’ve got to pick your battles.

And sometimes you forget there was a battle. Whatever.

Squeak’s favourite thing to do is to sit down, and shake the cup so the water spills all over her clothes. The optimal time to do this is five or so minutes before we have to leave the house. Obviously. I’ve heard it’s frowned upon to take a child outside in soaking wet clothes in the middle of winter. I can’t remember where I read it, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. When I realise, the race to change her begins. I dive into the clean washing pile to locate some clothes (Yes, dive. I told you, my washing pile is big!) Then, I peel off the dripping wet clothes, realise I’ve got the wrong kid’s tights, run to get the right ones, catch Squeak and lie her back down and throw on the clothes.

I’m that used to fucking up in this way that I can now change her in record timing.So at least there’s one upside.

The drenching is not just limited to her own clothing. She’ll pour water over toys, into boxes, over my books (grrr), even over her sisters’ faces if they’re thoughtless enough to prostrate themselves in her vicinity.

Thankfully, she’s avoided electricals. Thus far, anyway.

Luckily, I do have a solution to this problem. Listen up, manufacturers, there’s a genius about! Essentially what I want is a cup with a psychic valve. When the kid is drinking, the valve is open. When the kid is making an unholy goddamn mess, the valve is closed.

Is that really so much to ask?

2. Socks

Baby socks are the cutest fucking things in the whole wide world. They’re so tiny! And they actually stay white, because babies are too small to feed their socks to the cat. Or to sneak outside sans shoes and do the twist in a pile of dirt.

There’s just one problem.

It is physically impossible to keep them on a baby’s feet.

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With each new baby, I have gone out and bought new socks. And it’s not because they’re cheap, or because I have a thing about buying new stuff.

It’s because all the socks are gone.

I don’t know where they go exactly. Some people blame the washing machine pixies for stealing odd socks. I suspect that mine are currently providing the local pavements with a nice warm blanket.

A kid doesn’t need to be able to grab their feet to take their socks off. Hell, they don’t even need to know they have feet. Squeak figured out quite quickly that all she needed to do was rub her feet on the nearest available surface, and voila! Socks were off.

There is a little solution to this problem: A product called Sock Ons. Otherwise known as elasticised foot bondage for babies. I didn’t bother to buy any for two reasons:

1. They look like elasticised foot bondage for babies.

2. I’m fairly confident that my kids could figure them out in about 7.6 seconds.

I went for a cheaper and more devious tactic: tights. It doesn’t matter how hard you tug and yank at a pair of tights, they’re not coming off.

Although Squeak has become skilled at pulling them just hard enough that she ends up with long, flippers. Which she then trips over repeatedly until I notice and pull them up.

Meh. everything’s got to have a downside.

3.Toys With No Off Button

Do I even need to write anything more than the title here? You know what I’m talking about.

When I am the ruler of the world (and trust me, I don’t think it’ll be long), toys with no off button will be illegal. Yes, illegal. Because they are one of the most infuriating things in existence.

Noisy toys in general really grind my gears. The plinky computerised music makes me shudder, as does the fact that the same five notes repeat endlessly. And the zombified voices. I mean, is a little enthusiasm too much to expect? You’re talking to children, for God’s sake!

Let’s just say that batteries don’t get replaced often in our house.

But I can accept all of that, if I can just turn the damn toy off every once in a while. Can yearning for blissful silence be so wrong? It’s beautiful to be able to flip a switch, say, “Oh dear, it’s run out of batteries,” and settle down for a peaceful afternoon.

Ha, no batteries required! Nice try, Mother.

Ha, no batteries required! Nice try, Mother.

Ok, so the last bit never happens, but the bit about turning the toys off is totally real.

A bit of peace isn’t the only reason why I like a switch on a toy. It’s because of the whole batteries thing. Even though it doesn’t happen quite as often as I claim, the fact is that batteries do run out. In my experience, this usually happens in the evening, when I am alone. It’s like the toys can sense that I am a complete chicken-shit.

I wouldn’t mind if they simply ceased to work. But of course, they don’t. No, what they do is begin to make eerie noises in sloooow moootion. I remember when Big Girl was a toddler, she had a little toy rocking horse which clopped and neighed when you pressed the ear. For a while it lived in her bedroom as she was too small to use it and it took up a fair bit of space.

One night, when we were all fast asleep, I was woken by what I could only imagine was a ghost horse galloping through the house, or a poltergeist. “Clip, clop, clip, clop, mooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeergh…”

It was the rocking horse. “Mooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeergh,” is what a robot horse sounds like in when its batteries are running out. Don’t believe me? Go find a robot horse then, and test it out.

After I had stopped shitting myself, I sent Mark to see what was making the noise.  Because a ghost was still a reasonable possibility, at that time. He took the batteries out and that was that.

Oh wait, no it wasn’t. He totally laughed his arse off at me as well.

So, what do you do when the toy has no switch? I’ll tell you what you do. You weep silently as the monotonal ‘beep, beep, beep’ threatens to burst your ear drums and slice open your last shred of sanity.

Too dramatic? Well, that’s been said before.

4. Velcro Fastening Shoes

Who the fuck though it’d be a smart idea to put Velcro on a pair of first walking shoes? Whoever it was, I can guarantee they don’t have kids.

Back in ye olden days (ok, five years ago), I got Big Girl’s first pair of shoes. And they fastened with buckles. Which makes perfect sense! I could put them on her and leave the room to pack a bag/nip to the loo/scream into a pillow. You know, whatever. When I came back, they would still be on her feet. Despite her best efforts to remove them.

But this is not the way any more.

Squeak got her first shoes last month. I have put them on her regularly, but I would guess that the accumulative wearing time would be about 37 minutes. She was foiled by them at first. Velcro is tricky when you’re only one. They stayed on her feet for aaaaages.

Yeah, right.

Yeah, right.

Or, twenty minutes. That’s how long it took her to figure out that pulling the strap and wiggling her feet at speed would send the dreaded foot-imprisoners flying across the carpet.

Now, she’s a regular pro at it. And she doesn’t just take the shoes off and discard them. Oh no, that would be a step too close. She takes one shoe, and hides it. I really think it would be less irritating if she hid both shoes. When she only does one, I am provided with incontrovertible evidence that the thing I am looking for is inches away from me. Inches.

But this is the kid who managed to conceal the remote control for the tv in such an obscure place that it took us two weeks to find it. I’ve got no chance.

Seriously, shoe-makers, throw us a fricking bone here. Don’t you think we’ve got enough problems?

Buckles!

5. Anything With Buttons

There are so many beautiful baby clothes available to buy now. You can make your kid look like a model from a catalogue, if you’re so inclined. I am not so inclined, but I do like it when they look cute.

But beautiful as some of these clothes are, they are not always practical. And there is one reason for this.

Buttons.

I understand that buttons are sometimes necessary. You know, for cardigans and shit. But they definitely do not mix well with small babies.

Why, I hear you ask? Well, even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you. Because I’m the boss.

Babies can sense when there’s something about that they can turn from a simple task into a total impossibility. And most babies hate the hassle of getting dressed. If they’re small enough to be immobile, then they hate being messed around with. And if they’re a bit bigger, they just want to be on the move again. When something is already tricky, buttons can make it even more complicated.

The mere whiff of a button induces the ‘octopus phenomenon.’ You know, where their limbs flail so wildly that they actually appear to multiply?

Like, about this wild.

Like, about this wild.

You get me.

Babies are, like, super good at octopusing. You manage to get all body parts where they are supposed to be, move in to do the fastening and wham! Naked baby.

When Squeak was about four months old, she had a gorgeous green onesie/body suit/who’s know’s what you’re supposed to call it. The colour really suited her, and it was very soft and comfortable.  So, want to guess how many times she wore it?

Twice.

Because, you see, it fastened at the crotch with eight oddly-shaped buttons.

As soon as I touched one of those buttons, she would screech and kick, kick, kick at my arms until I lost my grip. Over and over again. I basically had to pin her down just to finish the job.

No outfit is worth that sort of effort.

One could be forgiven for thinking that baby product companies want to make us suffer as we tread the rocky path of early parenthood.

Surely no one could be that mean. Right?

Have you got any baby products that you hate with a passion, yet use every day? If you’re as cruel to yourself as I am, then let me know in the comments!