Everything Is Not Always As It Seems

I am writing this through the heady haze of sleep deprivation. Luckily, I have found that if I close one eye the screen comes back into focus.

Which is handy.

The Squeaker has decided to come down with hand, foot and mouth disease. Translation: she is spotty, grumpy and a wee bit disgusting-looking. Last night, she decided her sleep quota was completed at around ten. Amazingly, the two hours kip she had had prior to that enabled her to throw an awe-inspiring pity party until 3.30. In the freaking morning.

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Who, me?

So I hope you can be understanding when I mistype words and go off on a tangent and forget to finish my…

Heh heh heh.

Anyway, today I’m talking about outward appearances and secret realities. Or in other words, everybody lies on Facebook.

The thing about social media is that we tend to pick the pictures to post that make us look good. The ones where our kids are clean and dressed, for starters.

What can I say, I aim low!

We post up pictures of our kids playing nicely together, or giving each other cuddles.

Like this:

happy kids

Not the ones where they are gripping the same toys with fists of steel and screeching in each others’ faces. Or the ones where they are sulking at opposite sides of the room because they can’t agree on the same game to play.

Even though the latter occur much more frequently than the former.

True story.

Then there’s the crafty pictures. We post pictures of our kids blissfully painting, sculpting and sticking. And we post pictures of the amazing crafts we have made for ourselves and our children.

I do this a lot.

What I don’t post is:

1. The gagging face Squeak made when she tasted bubble mixture seven times. Yes, seven. And I didn’t stop her. Because she had to learn for herself that it was not tasty.

Also, because it was funny.

2. The time Little Girl painted almost her entire body in black paint. You know, the kind which proclaims ‘WASHABLE’ in big letters on the side, but is in fact more long-lasting than a bloody tattoo.

3. The many phallic drawings and models lovingly made by Big Girl.

Actually, why didn’t I post those?

4. I did post pictures of the cat costume I made for Little Girl for her second birthday. It was awesome.

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What I didn’t post was my hideous cat claw, which was a result of sewing at speed through my finger. The needle snapped and became embedded in my index finger.

The nurse at the hospital needed three different types of pliers to get that one out.

I am imagining a load of repulsed faces looking at their screens after that story. Sorry.

Actually, not that sorry. Ha ha ha.

All of this perfect photo-posting, whilst making us feel good about ourselves, does have a not so nice side effect. People can be fooled into thinking that our lives are perfect all of the time. And when their lives don’t match up to the blissful perfection we project on our Facebook walls, they can feel inadequate and like they are failing.

We can’t be having that.

Because it’s not true. We all fuck up at times. We stick the tv on when life gets too overwhelming, and all we want to do is chop some vegetables. And our kids aren’t perfect, either. They argue and tantrum and vomit everywhere.

Not just mine, surely?

Thought not.

I’d like to think that this blog helps to address the balance a little. You guys all know that I fuck up.

Regularly.

I have no shame in admitting that I get stuff wrong. And I’m definitely not claiming that my kids are permanently joy-filled individuals. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to.

Perfection just ain’t that funny.

So I’ll post about the face-smushing,

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the strops,

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and the just plain odd-looking.

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I’ll consider it a public service.

I have to admit, a good camera with a talented photographer behind it does add a rather rose-tinted vibe to proceedings. Eyes sparkle, skin glows, and you can’t really see those pesky crumbs on the kids’ faces.

Thanks, Mark.

But even so, you can only photograph what is happening on the other side of the lens. For every beautiful shot, there are a dozen outtakes.

Or as I prefer to call them, ideal blog pictures.

As evidence, I present this photo:

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I love this shot. It’s so rare to get a picture of me, for starters. And to have two happy looking girls into the bargain is more than a little unexpected.

It’s the kind of picture that needs framing and sticking on the wall, in my opinion.

But that is not the only image Mark got on that day. And there is one in particular that illustrates my point about perfection, well, perfectly.

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Aw, that’s beautiful…wait, what the fuck is going on with my face?

Today I learned something. I learned that this is what my face does when Squeak throws herself into my arms and stands on my delicate inner thigh skin.

It’s decidedly less loving than I hoped it’d be.

So go on, push the boat out and mess up a couple of times. Then take pictures of it and stick ’em on Facebook!

It’ll stop me from standing out so much.

Time for me to fly. Squeak is standing in front of me with a doleful look on her face, begging for ‘baggies.’ She means ‘milkies,’ as in the breast variety.

And yes, I am a little insulted.

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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.

I’m An Expert At Sneaking Around Sleeping Babies

Maybe you have babies who sleep. That’s cool. I’m not bitter or anything. Unless you’re going to give me some advice that you just know is going to fix all my problems. DSC_0418You know, like having a good routine? Or always putting the baby down awake? Ooh ooh, or always hoovering round a baby so they get used to noise?

That last one is a personal favourite. If this was true, I would be totally made. No middle-of-the-night wakeups for me! No overtired baby who doesn’t want to sleep, nuh uh! Because Squeak knows noise, ok? She doesn’t even blink when the girls are doing, well whatever the hell it is the girls do. Whatever it is, it’s freaking noisy. Be it arguing, whining, laughing, squealing, talking at top volume or singing, Squeak knows it. And she’s that used to it, she barely even reacts to it any more.

(Disclaimer:unless it’s fireworks or applause in a group setting, those she finds absolutely terrifying.)

So yeah, if you’ve got any advice, leave it at the door. Or I will have to kill you.

In case you hadn’t already guessed, my babies don’t sleep. Well, the big ones do now, but they didn’t when they were younger. And Squeak is right in the middle of a night-time party phase at the moment. I can sympathise with her, to be honest. Babyhood is pretty overwhelming. All those developmental leaps, the talking and the walking and the climbing and suchlike. The different foods that they have to learn to digest. So many new things and changes, it’s no wonder that they find it hard to switch their brains off.

Now, there is a phenomenon I have observed with my non-sleeping babies. I don’t think it applies to all babies, but I’m pretty sure that the mums of the non-sleepers will be nodding in a second.

It doesn’t seem to matter how used they are to noise. Once darkness falls, the sounds they can blank out in the day become insanely amplified. One wrong move, and the peacefully sleeping baby is suddenly wide awake. And after the battle that came before, noone wants that, do they?

I certainly don’t, and that is why I have become an expert on sneaking around a sleeping baby.

I know exactly which floorboards in my bedroom creak. Like, I could point them out on a diagram. I do not simply walk out of the room once Squeak is asleep. No, I engage in a set of Matrix-like leaps and dodges, with the aim of missing the creaky ones. I’m pretty good at it, I have to say. Although I do look like a massive idiot. That goes with the territory.

I can exit the bed without her even sensing I am gone. It involves some awesome slow-motion rolling, which sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. A lot cooler.

I can become invisible in the doorway. That one took a lot of practice. But now I can stand there and actually blend in with my surroundings, watching to see if she will settle herself without my help. I used to fail at this one all the time. I would peer round the door slowly. One second of eye contact later and that was that. Not any more. Now I’ve got pure ninja stealth.

Finally, I can run up the stairs gazelle-like: quiet yet graceful. Actually, strike graceful as that is total bullshit. We’ll just say quiet. Anyway, I can do that.

I bet you’re all thinking I sound pretty smug myself now, am I right? All that stuff at the top about unhelpful advice and here I am, thinking I’ve got all the answers. Don’t worry. I’m going to fix that right now.

Because no matter how good I am at creeping around a sleeping child there are 3 simple things that completely ruin all my best efforts.

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1. Clicky ankles

All of my joints in the leg area click. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of them aren’t supposed to bend, let alone click. But they do.

So I can sneak about, rolling off the bed and jumping over floorboards. But after I take one glance to make sure she’s still asleep, I move off and CRACK! It’s like a freaking gun went off. Now tell me, could you sleep through a gun shot? No, and neither can she.

2. Coughing

This is worst in the winter season. My dearly beloved school-going children are bringing home bug after bug after bug, and of course I catch every single one. So I’m edging out of the bedroom, after God knows how long up there, when I feel it. The tickle. It’s not like an ordinary tickly throat. It knows that you can’t do a single thing to relieve it. So it is intense.

You haven’t got any options. You’re not going to be stupid enough to start coughing right there, are you? There’s only one choice left.

To hold your breath hurtle down the stairs at break-neck speed, burst through the living room door and explode with the most satisfying cough of your life.

Obviously.

3. Notifications

This last one is, most definitely a ‘first world problem.’

You’re shattered. You’ve survived the day with irrational small beings. They’re all asleep. You’ve done your work, and the sofa beckons.

Now, I’m a modern woman. And I also find lying in the dark waiting for a baby to pass out intensely boring. So I’ve usually got a tablet up there, and I’m Facebooking and tweeting and occasionally, reading an actual novel. And 90% of the time, I remember to switch off the sound. The other 10% of the time, it comes back to bite me in the arse.

Off I go, all is quiet. I can watch TV, I can knit, I can blog, I can stare at a wall in complete silence. Then suddenly, as I’m about to leave…

PLING!

The screen lights up with an intensity akin to a nuclear blast. Obviously it’s notifying me of something vitally important, such as a like on Facebook, or a reminder that I haven’t played a crappy game for ages.

I hold my breath. I glance to the side. She sighs. I think maybe I’ve got away with it. Then, up pops her head. No, I didn’t.

So there you go. Not looking so clever now, am I?

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