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 Art Of The Overreaction

Howdy! Now listen. This post goes out to all the parents of big kids. You know, the ones with actual cheekbones and legs that seem to go on forever. The ones who write endless reams of song lyrics and only seem to communicate about motherfucking Minecraft. Yeah, the ones who strut about thinking they’re all that and a bag of chips, but still look like the babies they used to be when they’re asleep.

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Sigh.

So, for all the parents nodding in recognition to that last paragraph, I have a message for you.

You are literally ruining your children’s lives.

Yeah, that told you! And that’s from the gospel according to my beloved and barely pre-pubescent daughter.

No bullshit to be seen here.

To all the people who haven’t hit this stage yet, bloody lucky you! And to everyone who is still dwelling in the peace of that blissful, slightly moist haven of babyhood… Fare thee well, and Godspeed!

Or, you know, stick around. It always pays to be prepared.

Let me clarify this for you. If I were to explain Big Girl’s situation in a word, it would be ‘catastrophisation.’

Yes, I am aware that I may have made that word up. OK, I’m definitely sure! But it’s a really appropriate word, so there.

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Pffffffft!

I wish I could tell you that I’m sorry for that freak ass picture. But yeah, I’m not. Not one little bit.

Big Girl is the queen of this ‘catastrophisation’ crap at the moment. (Man, that word is hard to type!) She’s a whirling ball of hair tossing, eye rolling, hip cocking melodrama.

Oh, for God’s sake. Fair enough, let’s take a pause while all you puerile beings giggle because I said ‘cock.’

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<judgy face> Pathetic.

Done? Thank you!

Now, I’m not saying I don’t love watching Big Girl grow and develop. I love that I can have a conversation with her that ventures beyond the topic of toilet humour, and into more interesting subjects. And I think it’s great that she’s developed the ability to feign complete fascination with said ‘interesting subjects.’ She’s super fun!

But dear God, do not cross her.

I don’t know if it’s the start of the hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence or if I just have me an assertive, outspoken little person. Because everything I do that isn’t completely in keeping with her ideas is the biggest disaster ever.

Take the other day, for example. I’d class it as a day that had passed successfully. In other words, nobody suffered a possibly fatal injury and I spent no hours obsessing about the mistakes I’d made and regretting things I’d said.

You know, standard.

Well, Big Girl had been playing outside with one of her friends when I called her in for her dinner. As I opened the door, she got down on her knees (because obviously that’s the only way to ask me anything. Note that down for future reference) and begged me to allow her to have her friend over for a sleepover. That night.

Now, this other kid is lovely and a pleasure to be around. But am I really going to be organising impromptu sleepovers at 6 o’clock in the evening?

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That’s a no.

Big Girl didn’t take this so well. What ensued a huffing, puffing stomp interspersed with cries of, “You’re so unfair!” as she took off her shoes. Every time I spoke I had my head bitten off, while I channeled my inner calm person (who actually wasn’t on holiday this time!) Finally I’d had enough, and told her she could join us at the table when she was able to speak to me properly.

Whoa! So that was the wrong approach, apparently.

Gasp! <insert incredulous face here> “But what about my DINNER?!” she yelled.

Me: “Well, you can come in and have it when you have calmed down.”

Her: “What? Fine, I guess I’ll just have to STARVE to death!”

Yes, starve. You heard her correctly, folks. According to Calamity Girl, a well-nourished seven year old can expire when made to wait ten minutes for a meal.

Did not know that. Well, when you know better, you do better. Right, Maya Angelou? Close call there!

So to all you evil, neglectful parents that are starving your growing little waifs… Fuck you! You bastards.

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I can’t even look at you right now.

Then, there’s the lying. And this is not elaborately spun webs of deceit I’m talking about here. This is dumbass, pointless, ridiculously obvious falsehoods that an even partially trained monkey could unpick.

This really does baffle me. I mean, what’s the point? I think it all begins when children reach the age when they start to assume their parents are idiots who know pretty much zilch. When you start to sing along to a song that was out about fifteen years before they were born and they turn to you and incredulously exclaim, ” How do you know this song?”

Just so you know, that’s about six months before the stage where singing in public becomes a sackable offence. And that is about six months before just being in public with them is a crime against humanity.

The things you know!

Big Girl is an expert in stupid ass lies. The kind where she thinks she’s surely going to get away with it because I’m on the toilet, or screaming into a pillow.

What, you don’t do that? Well, whatever. You should really try it though.

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I’ll hear a yell drift up the stairs from the squeaky foghorn I like to call Little Girl. “Muuuuuuum! Big Girl took my toyyyyyyy!” Insert desperate howls of sorrow here.

(Honestly, sometimes I’d like to find out how my kids would react if an actual bad thing happened to them. Based on current reactions, I’d have to guess that their heads would explode.)

When I get into the room, I find Big Girl sitting on the couch with what can only be described as a completely fake innocent look plastered all over her face. By which I mean, looking guilty as fuck. And, of course, clutching the aforementioned toy in her fists.

“What’s going on?” I ask. I’m giving her an out here, you see. This is her chance to admit to what she’s done, make it right and leave me the hell out of it.

So of course she takes it! Job done.

Well, not quite. Usually, it goes a bit more like this:

Little Girl: “Big Girl took my toy. I was playing with it!” Of course her eyes are generally leaking by this point. Little Girl and confrontation… Not really a good mix.

Big Girl: (with a gasp of shock and affront) “I didn’t!”

Big Girl: “I didn’t! I DIDN’T! Oh, why don’t you believe me? You are so unfair. I DIDN’T!!” To further emphasise her point, she waves the stolen toy in  the air.

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Methinks someone doth protest to much. Amirite?

I doesn’t take a detective to work out what’s going on here. But still there’s always that shadow of doubt. What if I am being really unfair here? What if Little Girl has suddenly acquired the ability to lie without me noticing, and is using it (naturally) for evil?

There’s only one way to find out. So I say that look on Big Girl. The one that says, “Mama knows.” I wish I could take a picture of this look for reference. It’s a good look! But that would require effort on my part. So, no.

Unvariably, what happens next is that a small voice pipes up with, “I did.” The faux innocent mask drops from Big Girl’s face, only to be replaced by regret. And, I imagine, a little surprise that I figured out her scheme. Because I’m an idiot, remember?

And then she returns the toy, and life goes on. Which, I regularly point out to her, would happen a lot quicker if she just told the bloody truth in the first place!

Kids, right?

Finally, of course, I cannot finish this post without talking about the whining. The fucking whining. Gah! Who knew words could contain so many vowels?

What do you mean, what do I mean? Are you freaking serious?

I’m talking about this. “Buuuuuuuut Muuuuuuuuuum, I don’t want to be first in the showerrrrrrrrrrrr!”

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You get me?

It goes through my head like nails on a blackboard. It’s so high-pitched! And how can they even hold enough air in their lungs to say all that without taking a breath?

Big Girl is a champion whiner. And who can blame her? The kid has a hard life, you know. Minecraft videos don’t just watch themselves. And when you’ve got two demonic underlings sisters getting under your feet… well, it’s no picnic!

But God, she doesn’t half take it to epic levels. You’d think every task she had to do was the worst form of torture. Picking up clothes, tidying up after herself, and don’t even get me started on  homework! Everything is so unfaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiir. None of her friends have to help out around the house. Oh, and without a doubt aaaaaall of them are allowed to do exactly what they want at all times.

Right?

Well, I don’t give a crap. One of the advantages of dragging yourself into adulthood is that you get to call the shots. End of. But just occasionally, I would like half of my conversations with Big Girl not to go like this:

Big Girl: <in voice that sounds like a dolphin try to speak English> “I don’t want to do myyyyyy homewoooooooork! It’s too haaaaaaard!”

Me: “Could you say that again? I can’t understand what you’re saying through all that whining.”

Big Girl: <same voice> “I don’t want to do my hooooommmmewooooooork!”

Me: “You’re still whining.”

Big Girl: <same voice> Nooooo I’m noooooooot! This is my normal vooooiiiiiice!”

Fuck it.

So did it ring any bells for you guys? Do you have a teenager in a child’s body? Have you bitten your tongue so many times recently that it has permanent grooves on it?

I’m not, then I’m glad for you. But you’ve got it coming. Get ready! And for anyone who recognises their much younger child in this post: Well done, your kid is like, super advanced! Also: ha ha.

Man, I can’t wait for the actual teenage years. Hey, maybe Big Girl will have got it out of her system by then!

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Shut up! A woman can dream.

Sibling Relationships: It’s Complicated.

You know, like the Facebook relationship status? Man, I’m so funny.

One of my main reasons for wanting multiple children was so that they always had someone to play with . A companion who always had their back, who knew them better than their friends. There was just one problem with this theory.

Frequently, siblings want to kill each other.

Observe the demonic face in he background.

Observe the demonic face in the background.

I should have known, really. I have a sister myself, who is three years younger than me. I have great memories of playing games and spending time together. But I can also remember the time she pushed me and I nearly rendered myself infertile on a fan. And all of the mean notes I used to send her when we’d had an argument.

Ah, good times.

Overall though, we loved each other and have a close relationship as adults. That is what gets me through when I’m refereeing arguments, detaching kids from other kids’ hair and assisting with game negotiation.

Things can only get better, right?

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A lot of imaginary games are played in our house. Even Squeak has had a costume-related revelation, and often brings me a dress or alien hamster outfit to put on her. Big Girl is the main protagonist, though. She doesn’t really need any participants when she is playing one of her imaginary games. She throws on a costume and proceeds to instruct everyone to do as she decrees. So she will say, “Mum, pretend you’re a witch and I’m a superhero, and you’re trying to beat me, but you can’t because I’ve got super flying powers, and you say, ‘I’m going to put a spell on you and turn you into a frog!'”

Make no mistake, though. This is not an invitation to actually play the game. Big Girl thinks of me more as a vehicle for her ideas. All she wants me to do at this point is repeat my line, verbatim, so she can get on with the real playing. Once I have spoken, she will go off and act out that part. Alone. Then she will come back, and tell me what to say next. Seems like a pretty boring way to do things to me, but hey, what do I know?

Sometimes, this works well when she applies it to games she plays with Little Girl. As she’s only three, she has times when she is fairly easy to mould. She will occasionally follow Big Girl’s instructions to the letter, and they will have a blast in an imaginary world. It’s a beautiful moment.

Note the word ‘moment,’ that I used there. Because more often, this happens:

Big Girl: “Hey LG, pretend you’re a fairy who lost her wings, and you are really really sad, and a monster took them, and I’m the boss fairy, and you come and ask me to help you get your wings back.” (Yes, she’s always that long-winded and no, she doesn’t take a breath.)

Little Girl: “Meow.”

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Big Girl: “No, you’re not a cat, you’re a fairy who’s lost her wings, and…”

Little Girl: “Meow.”

Big Girl: “Muuuuuuum!”

Bliss.

Siblings bicker. That is a fact. You can’t spend most of your life with a person and remember not to sweat the small stuff. I regularly hear such complaints as, “Muuum, Big Girl won’t lick my toe!” or “Little Girl’s wearing my shoes backwards!” It can get a bit repetitive.

The other day, though, Big Girl came to us with an issue that has never come up before. I didn’t think there were many new ones left.

I was wrong.

She came into the kitchen with an irritated look on her face. This is definitely not new at the moment. A long school term plus Christmas excitement has left Big Girl a little… edgy, shall we say.

“Little Girl is being really mean to me right now!” she said grumpily.

“Why, what’s the matter?” Mark asked.

“She told me the shadow of my foot didn’t look like a cashew!”

A bit of a heads up for you: When your kid is pissed off, laughing in her face does not help. Even if it’s really funny.

Another thing siblings love to do is to disagree. Especially if it’s for no reason. If one wants to play catch, then the other will want to play football. If one wants to watch Wreck It Ralph, then the other wants to watch Despicable Me. I think sometimes, kids just fancy an argument. You can tell that neither is particularly attached to their choice. In fact, they might even prefer the other’s idea. But the world will end before they admit it.

Despite all that, there is one thing they will always agree on.

They both want the red crayon. Right now.

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I must mention the ultimate sibling battle. The battle of all battles. The one they spend years preparing for, and spend most of their time fighting.

It is: The Battle For Attention.

They all want to win it. Some of their favourite tactics include:

1. Squeezing onto a parent’s lap if another sibling is having a cuddle.

2. Beginning to speak at the top of their voices as soon as one of their siblings starts to talk.

3. Needing to tell me something ‘urgently important’ as soon as the lights go out for bedtime.

I’m sure there’s more. Many more. Some I haven’t even discovered yet. I juggle my time as best as I can between the three of them, but no matter what attention they’ve had, they always want more.

Squeak is preparing to join the gang now. Not that she has a clue what they’re doing, but she’ll plop herself down in the thick of it anyway. Her main version of ‘joining in’ at the moment is to reach for whatever toy one of her sisters is holding and say, “Der ya go!” over and over again until they give in. Being stubborn as hell, they rarely do, which results in a loud Squeaktrum. Like, the kind of loud people call Environmental Health about.

Her other favourite activities include knocking down towers (the taller the better), and belly-flopping on anyone dumb enough to lie down on the floor.

It’s a laugh a minute!

I have to admit though, when I see them like this:

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It’s all worth it.

When You Give A Child A Camera

So, Christmas has been and gone. We had a great time! On Christmas Eve, we made some melting snowman cookies which I found on Pinterest.

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I think they turned out pretty good, considering the kids did the lion’s share of the work. Of course the kitchen was covered in flour. But frankly, when isn’t it?

Christmas Day was lovely. The kids were delighted with their presents, and thankfully Little Girl forgot all about her request for a sentient puppy/unicorn combo. Phew! We had some good food at my dad’s house, and while he was cooking the girls took their new scooters for a spin around the block. Naturally, I had a go. And I can conclude that riding a scooter is really freaking weird! It felt like my leg was vibrating for about half an hour afterwards. Not to mention the intense fear of hitting a bump in the pavement and flying over the handlebars.

Ah, to be a carefree kid again.

I was very happy this Christmas because:

1. I got a lie in. Yep, the kids didn’t even get up until 8.30am! Seriously, what is up with that?

2. Everybody kept their clothes on. All day. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

3. Nobody puked due to excitement/chocolate consumption.

All in all, a good year.

Squeak gave me a late Christmas present, too. I say present. I mean, shitty thing that is going to destroy my life. Yesterday, she mastered climbing up onto the couch. DSC_9477Yay. She also mastered getting down, but is choosing not to bother with that. It is obviously much more fun to throw herself off the edge and hope I’m there to play catch. Such fun! Guess the new slow cooker is going to come in handy then, because I sure as hell can’t leave Squeak unattended any more.

Anyway, enough about Christmas. Today, I’m going to talk about when Big Girl got her first camera.

In February of this year, Big Girl spent eight days in hospital with a condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. She couldn’t walk or sit up, or do anything for herself at all. When she came home he was a little better, thanks to some intense IV drugs. But she was still pretty much immobile.

For a kid who likes to sit still and play, this wouldn’t have been so bad. But Big Girl is not one of those kids. She dances while drawing, wiggles while eating, and does bunny hops while playing a board game.

For her, it was torture. She was bored, and frustrated that she couldn’t just get down and play. After a bit of discussion, Mark and I decided to buy her an iPod.

I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t have bought her one so young, under normal circumstances. But in the face of fear and sadness, all of my principles flew out of the window. I would have given her both of my kidneys at that point.

So, she got it. We loaded it up with a ton of games, and she finally had something to do from her reclined position on the couch. It also had a camera, which leads me to the point of the story.

A few months after she had got the iPod, I came across the pictures from it in a folder on the computer. I hadn’t seen them before , and I spent ages scrolling through, giggling my ass off.

I’ll start with my fave.

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The sad face. I think. I’m a little sketchy on pretend facial expressions.

It took ages before I could look at this picture without laughing. I can’t even explain what’s so funny about it. It just is.

Then there’s the experimental one.

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Well, it’s experimental if you think eyelash strength is a reasonable thing to research. Big Girl does. Me? I’m not so sure.

Last up are the obligatory funny faces. (Because of course, the others were totally serious.)

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Heh heh heh.

Big Girl is a determined little beast. She pushed herself hard, and gradually learned to crawl and walk again. It was even better the second time.

One of the reasons I was glad when she could move around again was because she could take herself to the toilet. This may sound ridiculous, but have you ever seen a 5 foot nothing woman carry a five year old up the stairs who can’t bend her legs? Picture it for a sec. You can see it was a touch hazardous.

Obviously she wasn’t allowed to take the iPod upstairs with her. Who hasn’t dropped a mobile phone down the toilet at least once in their lives? Um, me. Yes, definitely! Ahem.

I had my suspicions that she wasn’t exactly sticking to this rule. But when questioned, she switched on her Puss in Boots face and protested her innocence.

The conversation went a little like this:

Me: “Big Girl, did you take the iPod up to the toilet?”

BG: “No.”

Me: “Are you sure?”

BG: “No, honestly! I definitely didn’t.”

Me: “What’s this then?”

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BG: “Um…”

That day, Big Girl learned an important lesson. If you’re breaking the rules, it’s probably best to dispose of the photographic evidence before your mother finds it.

I hope you all have a fab New Year’s Eve, however you’re celebrating. Big Girl and Little Girl both insist that they are staying up until midnight.

Let’s just wait and see how that one pans out.

The Dangers Of Silence

I love being alone. Before I had children, I was the kind of person who could happily spend a whole day on my own with a book. I know some people need to be around others, but I’m definitely not one of those. Don’t get me wrong, I like you all and stuff. But time to just be peaceful with my own thoughts is wonderful.

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Cover your ears, folks!

My house is never quiet. Someone’s always making some kind of noise. There’s the big kids, leaping off couches and enacting fanciful games of princesses and superhero kittens. At full volume. Then there’s Squeak, who is either burbling away to herself as she tries to trap her arm in a shape sorter, or wailing because she succeeded.

Even the night times aren’t safe. One of the fantastic traits Big Girl and Little Girl have inherited from their father is an impressive ability to talk in their sleep. Big Girl is frequently heard muttering unintelligibly about some sort of crap. Little Girl prefers to growl, which is intensely scary when you’re trying to have a wee next door.

Squeak doesn’t let herself be left out there, either. Her M.O. is to cry as if she’s starving. As the sound echoes tinnily through the monitor I dash up the stairs, only for her to go straight back to sleep just as I reach the door.

That is irksome.

Man, how I crave silence now. But it’s a special kind of silence I want. The sort that comes with having a completely empty house. No children, no TV, no radio, no washing machine. Just me, a book and ideally, cake. Bliss.

I expressly do not want silence when the children are here. This is not good.

Everyone knows that silence in a house containing a child is something to dread.

Of course, I have a story about this. If a parenting fail exists, I have a story about it. I’m not sure what this says about me!

It took place when Little Girl was 18 months old. In a lot of my stories about Little Girl, she is 18 months old. I think this may have been the height of her ‘daredevil’ phase. On that day, she was happily playing in the living room. Happily playing, at this age, meant picking up as many toys as she could fit in her hands, walking about a bit, dropping them and starting all over again. Riveting.

Yawn.

Yawn.

I took advantage of this brief moment of peace to do something exciting, like chop some vegetables or put the clean dishes away. Every day’s an adventure in my house. Little Girl was safe. She couldn’t open the living room door, so she was secure. Nothing could go wrong.

Can you see my mistake?

Never assume that just because a kid can’t do something, they won’t miraculously figure it out the second you turn your back. They’re not learning, you know.

They’re waiting.

So there I was, tidying around and enjoying the quiet. Hang on. Quiet? I strained to listen.

Uh oh.

Not a peep did I hear from Little Girl. Now, I could have assumed that she was simply absorbed in her game. But I didn’t. Because I’m not completely stupid.

I ran into the living room. Empty. The door? Wide open.

The hall was empty, too. That left only one option.

Upstairs.

As I ran up the stairs two at a time, I tried to prevent myself from freaking out about her climbing the stairs. Oh God, what if she had fallen? I beat myself up for being such a shit mother.

I should have known. That was nothing.

It didn’t take long to find her. She was in the bathroom. What was she doing? Well thankfully, she wasn’t drinking toxic chemicals. I may be a slightly shoddy parent, but those are all up high out of reach. She wasn’t in the bath. She wasn’t playing with the taps. She wasn’t even three-quarters of the way through unwinding a toilet roll.

She was in the toilet.

I wish I had a photo of this. But I think going back downstairs to grab my phone would have pushed me over the edge into neglect.

I wish I had a photo of this. But I think going back downstairs to grab my phone would have pushed me over the edge into neglect.

Yes, you read that correctly. In the toilet. Feet first. Her big eyes gazed innocently back at me as I surveyed the scene. She smiled. I guess she was pretty proud of herself. It’s no mean feat for a vertically challenged one year old to scale the vast heights of the toilet bowl.

In a rare moment for me, I was speechless. I mean, where do you go from there? I hauled her out of the loo, her feet dripping. A wash and a clothes change followed. I told her, fruitlessly of course, not to ever do it again.

There was one positive thing in this maelstrom of shit.

The toilet had been flushed. Phew!

Admittedly, she didn’t ever do it again. Yet. But that’s only because she’s planning more dastardly acts to make me doubt myself.

Have I mentioned that kids are evil?

Yes, we are.

Yes, we are.

Another incident was what I now refer to (in my head) as Sharpiegate. Surprise surprise, it was Little Girl again. She was a bit bigger, maybe 2 or so.

For clarity, it was not me who left the Sharpie in reach. I’m definitely not taking the blame for that shit.

I think I was pregnant with Squeak at the time. And in that case, my nesting instinct was probably all outta control. Little Girl had stopped napping by then, so I would encourage her to have a bit of quiet time in the afternoon when she got too grouchy. Thanks to the nesting thing, I was cleaning again, I imagine.

From the kitchen, I could hear Little Girl singing and chattering to herself. All good.

Until it stopped.

I waddled as fast as I could, but it was too late. Now, Little Girl was naked at the time. No surprises there. This is the dress code for our house. (For the kids, I hasten to add!)

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. But in Sharpiegate, it was. Oh, it was. Because nakedness = more bare skin.

She was a mess. She had scribbled the full length of both arms and legs. Thank God, she avoided the face.

And Sharpie does not wash off. Ever. Despite frequent baths and scrubbing with a baby wipe, she spent at least three weeks in various shades of grey.

Not. Pretty.

Thankfully, I have developed a pretty accurate radar for this sort of stuff. I can sense any debacle of this kind within a three mile radius. But infallible I am not. Sometimes, I miss things.

Which is why Squeak is currently creating modern art on her face with a blue pencil.

Who, me?

Who, me?

Must go!

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!

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.