Thursday, 31 December 2009

We All Really Needed That

Whilst the festive period played havoc with Gertie's sleeping patterns, Gilby found the departure from normal routine similarly disruptive.

We stayed with family for Christmas night and Boxing Day night and he and his sister slept in the same room which doesn't usually happen at home.

So different place, different set-up, travel cot, lots of noise, and no routine as Mum tried to 'go with the flow', all led to a rapid disintegration of the night time experience for all concerned.

Sometimes he wakes up once, often twice and occasionally three times, so nights are not brilliant anyway; but on the upside he goes down to sleep really easily at 7pm with no fuss and goes straight back to sleep after each feed.

Not over the festive period though. He turned into some strange version of my baby that I suddenly didn't know: crying every time I tried to put him in the cot, waking up much more often and refusing to go down happily after a feed.

This was complicated by the fact that I was desperately trying to prevent him from waking his older sister, sleeping in the cot beside him, so I couldn't leave him to cry.

Anyway, Christmas night was bad. We didn't have longer than two hours between feeds at any point and sleep deprivation coupled with a small hangover (or large, for my husband) was not a recipe for tranquility.

Boxing Day night did not start well, and after agreeing that Daddy would give Gilby a formula bottle at next waking to see if that would encourage him to sleep a little longer, we both fell very soundly and gratefully to sleep, utterly exhausted.

Gilby duly awoke some time later and Daddy did his duty. I looked at my watch and whispered, "You'll never guess what: it's five to four! He's gone for a whole six hours!"

"Brilliant!" he whispered back sleepily in the darkness, "We all really needed that!"

Gilby woke again and I leapt up to breast-feed him thinking it must now be early morning. But no, bizarrely, three o'clock pointed the hands on the dial of my watch. How could that be? Unless I had misread the earlier time: it must have been twenty past eleven, not five to four. So he (and we) would have been asleep for a whole hour and a bit before that first feed, not the six hours we thought we'd had.

Marvellous. Yes, Daddy, we all really needed that.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Sleep is for the Drunk

"Christmas time, mistletoe and wine,
Children staying up past bedtime..."

Amidst the fun, fine food, Father Christmas and frivolity, Gertie was a little sleep-deprived over the festive period. Life was just too exciting to have a nap during the day; why, she might have missed something important like the opportunity to open another present. Waking up early was obviously par for the course, likewise going to bed late.

Her tiredness manifests itself in the usual ways: squealing and lots of high-pitched noises, increased likelihood of bumps and scrapes and tumbles. A corresponding reduction in pain threshold resulting in frequent tears. More tantrums and irrational behaviour (like the bread roll that was flung violently across the table at a party yesterday because Daddy had innocently cut it in half and Gertie didn't want a 'broken' one.)

But when she is really, really, really tired she moves beyond these tell-tale signs into a whole other zone.

Her words become slurred and sentences disintegrate. Thoughts and ideas seem increasingly random and following her chain of thought is nearly impossible. Her eyes start to roll back into her head and there is no other way to describe it: she begins to resemble an adult who is more than a little tipsy.

Frankly, she fitted in just perfectly this Christmas.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

On Stockings

Ho ho ho, he's nearly here. And Gertie's just about got a grip on the whole thing, with one or two minor confusions. She keeps insisting, for instance, that we must get to Bethlehem by tomorrow. I've explained the problems with the traffic because of the snow, but she's not convinced.

Last year she was a bit too young at nineteen months to do the whole Christmas thing, in spite of my very best efforts. She couldn't get the hang of the word 'stocking', and insisted that Father Christmas was going to put presents in her 'tight'. I thought this quite an impressive use of the singular at the time.

This year, aged a bit more than two and a half, she has got a far better idea, and we have hung all our stockings around the fireplace ready for the arrival of Santa. ("Not Santa Claws, Mummy!")

The trouble is that we don't have a stocking for Gilby as he only arrived in July - so he hasn't got last year's one - and I didn't think of it until today.

No matter - Gertie has solved the problem for him. "It's all right, Mummy, Gilby can use one of his socks."

Have you seen the size of a five month old baby's sock? I think this is a tad unfair. So either Gertie hasn't really got the idea at all, or she is in fact rather clever in ensuring that she gets far more gifts than her little baby brother!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Three Wise Mothery Things

I am thinking in threes this week due to nativity overdose: three wise men and three shepherds (and only three more presents left to get).

So here are my three gifts in Christmas week, my Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Three things which I have learned since becoming a mother, and which have featured with varying degrees of drama in my life this week:

  1. Never wear a long dangly scarf or beads while supervising a potty situation.
  2. 'Messy play' is a great idea, in theory.
  3. Sick over one shoulder is perfectly acceptable; over two, suggests carelessness.

Number one speaks for itself, really. In number two, whilst my back was turned red paint became lipstick and an ugly scene ensued. Number three was pointed out whilst I was at a Christmas party. Nice.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Delicate and Dangerous

Like most parents I am constantly amazed by my daughter's command of language. In her two years and seven months she has amassed a vast amount of vocabulary, much of it quite sophisticated.

The trouble is, I'm not sure that Gertie has entirely grasped the concepts behind the words. Here are three sentences she has used in the last three days:
  1. Whilst brandishing a large pair of scissors, foolishly left out by me following a Christmas wrapping frenzy, "Mummy, are these really sharp and dangerous?"
  2. Whilst holding aloft a small and very fragile Christmas ornament, "Mum, this is very, very delicate, isn't it?"
  3. Whilst approaching the grill pan, cleverly designed only to operate when open at toddler-catastrophe height, "Is this burning hot here, Mummy?"

There is no need to share my replies to each of these questions.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Pencil Power

Gertie found a great new game today.

At first I thought it was really sweet.

She found all the pens and pencils from my pen pot in the kitchen, then lined them up on one of the kitchen chairs, and with a tea towel, tucked them all in to bed. She spoke tenderly to every one individually, commenting on how tired they were and how much sleep they needed.

"Ah, my darling little girl," I sighed to myself, as I got on with my household chores, going past every now and then with a basket of washing or a pile of clean clothes to put away.

It was only later I discovered why the pens and pencils were all so tired, poor things. And I got very, very cross indeed. They were tired because they had been 'climbing up the walls'. The long, arduous climb for the poor pens and pencils involved lots and lots of scribble. And that, therefore, added to the days chores as I spent most of the afternoon scrubbing off as much as I could.

I am guessing that this won't be the last time it happens.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Party Pooper

It was Gertie's nursery Christmas party today and she was sick.

This doesn't surprise me in the least because her timing is fantastic. Last year she contracted chicken pox three days before Christmas so that we were in quarantine for the big day. Whole other story - but back to the present. She regularly tells me that she feels sick and my typical response is unsympathetic: "Ok, well finish your lunch and you will feel better; just drink some water and you will feel better; a bit of fresh air and you will feel better..." This morning, however, she seemed genuinely under the weather. Subdued, clingy, and a little shivery.

I was upset. Mostly because I didn't want Gertie to miss her Christmas party and the arrival of Father Christmas ('wrapped, named present to the value of not more than £5' had been supplied by us the week before), partly because we had made a plate of marmite sandwiches as our contribution to the festivities and I didn't want them to go to waste, and a little bit because I was due to be spending the day with an old school friend that I don't get to see very often and it would be distracting enough with the baby, let alone a sick toddler accompanying us. I know: selfish thought. Shouldn't really reveal it in a public forum...

Anyway, the party was fancy dress, so Daddy and I glanced at each other conspiratorially: "Why don't we just try your gold princess dress on with the tiara and see how you feel?"

One glance in the mirror seemed to do the trick and I haven't had the dreaded call from nursery to come and collect her. I do think however that I have discovered the real root of the problem, because my other method of persuasion was along the lines of, "And you don't want to miss Father Christmas do you?"
No response.
"You do want to see Father Christmas?"
Short pause.
"No...I want to see Grumps!"
So she would have preferred to be seeing her grandfather today instead of a random old man she doesn't know. Fair enough!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

More Car Horror

Given how busy life is in the run up to Christmas, I am going to cheat with this post and use something I just found in my diary from not long after Gertie was born. Two and a half years ago I don't even think I knew what a 'blog' was, but clearly I would have been 'at it', had I been aware. It also seems quite appropriate given that I have been blogging about my poor knowledge and skills in relation to cars recently...

"All new first-time mums are anxious to get everything right. But no matter how hard I try, I seem somehow to always get it completely wrong. I fear that I may be in the running for this year’s worst mum in the world award.

For the last year or so I have been driving round in a little two-seater convertible. What do you mean I wasn’t ready to have a baby? Admittedly it wasn’t the most suitable vehicle for my final months of pregnancy, and I probably more closely resembled a shuffling hippopotamus than a chic glamour-puss as I got in and out towards the end – but with the actual arrival of my little one it became totally impractical and had to go. One last trip, I thought, as I strapped the car-seat and my newborn into the front. I heard a strange clicking noise as I busied myself with seatbelts and straps, but thought nothing of it. Until I shut the door on Gertie and realised that the clicking noise was the automatic locking system and my bag and keys and phone and baby were securely stuck, inside the car. And no, I hadn’t put the roof down yet, so there was no way to get in.

I had to leave the car to attack someone with a phone, to then scream in tears at my husband who, in turn, drove home from work with the spare set of keys to resolve the crisis. But as I waited for him, I was also expecting social services to appear at any moment. Gertie fell asleep and was oblivious to the whole sequence of ‘abuse’ and whilst the whole debacle was a complete accident, that knowledge did little to help my self-loathing bad-mother vibe. Needless to say, I never took that ‘last trip’ in my car, and was happy to see it go.

When I meet up with the other mums, Gertie is the one with the worst cradle-cap – that somehow must be my fault. She is also the only one who is able to poo through her nappy and all over whatever cute outfit I have dressed her in. Nowhere seems to do mustard yellow baby clothes, as this would be the only way we could make it through the day without looking totally incompetent. The discussion about routines happens, well routinely. Unfortunately the closest we come to the ‘r’ word in our house is in knowing that at some point we will go to bed, and at some point(s) we will get up.

We do do lots of nice things together. We went to a little music class earlier this week. One of the other mums refused a coffee at the start, because she was breastfeeding. So am I. Gosh. She wouldn’t like to hear about my current level of wine consumption then.

But I love my baby dearly, impossibly, indescribably. The problem is that I am used to being successful at work and, in my past-life, being good at things generally. And I am blatantly not good at this mum-thing. Yet. Good job I am going to have many years ahead to perfect it

Well. Good job I've got it all sorted out two and a half years later, isn't it? Not like I've ever phoned my husband in tears and had to get him to come out from work...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Legs Aren't Happy

A quick share of Gertie's latest little gem.

"Legs aren't very happy, are they, Mum?" The grave pronouncement was accompanied by a frown and dismissive shake of the head.

I have to confess to being slightly confused by this one; had she seen mine recently? Admittedly it is midwinter and they are not awarded quite the same degree of attention as they might be during the summer months. But this observation from my two-and-a-half-year-old was a tad harsh and insensitive. Some clarification was definitely required.

"Er, aren't they, darling? Why's that then?"

Looking at me straight in the eye, very earnestly, "Because they don't have mouths to smile."

She didn't actually add, "Duh, stupid!" But it was implicit in the tone.

By this definition there must be quite a lot in our world that isn't happy, but obviously 'legs' in general are the things that concern Gertie the most right now.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Are You Proud About Me, Mummy?

Here it is: the official portrait of the two things in my life of which I am most proud. This is the one that the godparents and aunts and uncles will get with their Christmas card this year, the one that says, 'look how sweet our family is'.

It's quite amazing that the photographer managed to get them both with their eyes open and focusing roughly in the direction of the camera, though only one is smiling. Gertie looks protective and adoring of her little brother, instead of making a half-hearted attempt to gouge out the eyes of 'Pinchy Boy'.

So this is the image that we will project to the universe. And my proudest moments happen on a daily basis now: Gertie swimming a couple of feet of the pool or struggling over a cramped attempt to write the first letter of her name or getting herself dressed with her tights inside out. She knows how I feel about some of these things and will ask, "Are you proud about me, mummy?" somewhat presumptiously, but with good reason.

And though the photograph above is lovely, I am just as proud of Gertie when she is running round in her pyjamas with her swimming costume over the top and a nappy on her head looking like some sort of deranged toddler superhero....

So am I proud 'about' you? Always, yes.

This is written in response (sort of, breaking the rules slightly, a bit) to prompt #2 from Josie's writing workshop at Sleep is for the Weak this week.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Knickers and Alligators

I'm often reporting the things that Gertie says that I find entertaining, but this time her father is the unwitting subject.

Gertie has successfully completed her potty training now, and accidents are rare. She did have one at nursery the other day though which resulted in her having to borrow a pair of 'nursery nickers' which I duly washed and put in her bag to return.

Daddy does the nursery run on his way to work, so responsibility was left with him. It's always done on the run and on this occasion he dashed in with the small pink knickers held aloft and called out to one of the (young, female and quite attractive) staff, "Jade, these are yours," before realising the implications of what he had said. There were smiles and blushes all round, apparently.

By the way, is anyone else opening their 'alligator' every day through December? Gertie finds a piece of chocolate in her's each evening.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Art of Interruption

Gertie's power of interruption is a wonder to behold. It is an art, in fact.

In a social situation I might struggle to get the right word in to start my amusing anecdote, just getting the timing slightly awry as someone else launches into their own and the moment is lost.

But Gertie's timing is slick and professional and designed to caused maximum disruption to any conversation I might be trying (in vain) to have. It is a skill that, if correctly taught to politicians, could disrupt parliamentary debate. Stand-up comedians could learn from her ability to command the stage (even if that is only my living room).

I understand that in her world she is queen, centre, master and commander of her universe, and my pointless ramblings with a fellow mum, relative or work colleague pale into insignificance beside whatever momentous statement she is about to forcefully decree, but where does she learn the necessary timing to halt my most intense discussions? And it is not just the timing, but the content and the delivery.

Yesterday, I was with another Mum on maternity leave from my workplace. We were comparing notes about our respective return to work (hurtling towards me with a speed that I don't want to contemplate). Naturally the talk became politicised in relation to rights and benefits and just as I climbed atop my metaphorical soap-box I was pushed back down with the un-ignorable announcement that Gertie needed a 'grabby' poo.

I know. I needed to find out too. Stopped, mid-rant. A 'grabby' poo is in fact one which grabs the bottom as it passes, requiring a wet wipe rather than toilet paper. How she knew this to be the case before she had produced it I don't know. But the resultant potty-offering was certainly quite...grabby.

Other show-stoppers are often equally scatological: Last week's, "Mum, there's poo on my foot," couldn't fail to get a reaction.

But equally potent is anything beginning, "I just..." because that little word, 'just'- which should correspond to 'barely' 'merely' or 'only' - seldom means that and usually has more far-reaching implications, as I'm sure Gertie well knows.

For example, "I just bit him," or, "I just gave him a biscuit." (At four months Gilby is not even close to weaning...)

So I will learn the art of social interraction from my two-year-old and perhaps take a leaf from her book at my next dinner party...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

With Twenty Years More Life Experience

Dear 16 Year Old Me,

I have twenty years more life experience than you do right now, so listen. Actually your older self is just about the only person you would listen to. Being shy and uncertain is ok, and normal, but I'm afraid to say won't go away any time soon, so deal with it.

I could reel off a long list of 'don'ts' here. The incidents, whilst on your gap year in New Zealand and Indonesia, spring to mind. I guess that they are the sort of things that make you who you really are and if you didn't do them a chunk of you might be missing. But do you really need to have bleached blonde hair?

Living in a bus is not one of your finest moments, either, but I suppose it is only a mild and short-lived rebellion and it does give your husband something to tease you about later. All those big anti-establishment ideals that you are about to develop will eventually be replaced by proper, important stuff, so don't take yourself too seriously.

Yes, I did say 'husband'. I know that you think you never want to be married, but you will, and you will be very happy. Your wedding day truly will be the most fantastic day of your life and you DO want a big white wedding. I know, I know, you can't believe that right now, but trust me. I'm not going to tell you who He is, but he will walk into your life when you are least expecting it, he is nothing like you imagine, and he will change everything dramatically. It's amazing.

Don't sit around and wait for anything to happen. You've got to do it all by yourself.

But money is a biggy. You're going to get yourself into an awful lot of debt which will take a long, long time to clear. Buy now pay later should not be a life maxim. Just try and be a bit more frugal.

By the way, Physics, Maths and Economics are the wrong choice of A-level subjects. English Literature is the only one of your choices that you're going to do well in anyway, and you will NEVER use the others. I know that you're trying to please your father, but go with your instincts and take the things you love and are good at, like History and Graphic Design.

Begin writing sooner. You know already that it is secretly what you really want to do. You're not going to accidentally become a writer, it won't happen by itself: you need to work at it and there is no need to wait until your thirties.

But this is the really important bit: It all just gets better and better. There are some big ups and downs in your twenties, but as each year passes you become more content. You'll dread your thirtieth birthday, but there is no need, because in fact it's after that that things start to get really good.

Enjoy every second. Lots of love,

P.S. Childbirth hurts much more than even your mother tells you, but it will be ok!

This is in response to Josie's Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak.

Monday, 30 November 2009

My Guilty Pleasure

There are too many good topics to choose from this week from Josie's writing workshop at Sleep is For the Weak...but this is just a quick one. And it's a little bit pathetic and I can't believe that I am about to reveal it publicly.

My guilty pleasure. I'm not a soap addict, cannot bear reality TV, am driven mad by most day-time telly and dislike the television being on just for the sake of it.

BUT ssshhh, don't tell my husband: For the last couple of weeks, at 2pm I have been tuned into ITV3 for The Darling Buds of May re-runs. I have tried to analyse this. What is the appeal of a television series that was first broadcast in 1991? Am I aspiring to be Ma Larkin, continually producing children and simultaneously baking? I very much doubt it. I don't know what it is other than perhaps wanting to grab hold of a piece of the warmth from that fictitious household. But it certainly adds a glow to a dreary afternoon and has become my guilty secret.

I do try and ensure it coincides with a long feed for Gilby so that I can justify sitting in front of the television for this length during the day, but really, I am starting to worry about myself!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

What Spacial Awareness?

Oh the shame. To have to call my husband to the rescue like some pathetic damsel in distress, sobbing and snivelling in my own driveway.

Let me explain a little. My husband loves cars and works in the trade. I, on the other hand, don't really 'get' them. Beyond details like a decent stereo and being a nice colour, I couldn't really care less, as long as they get me where I want to go. They all look the same to me. I could probably tell a Mini from a Porsche, on a good day if pushed. So a car is just a car. But with the arrival of Gilby back in July, and now having to have two car seats as well as all the other accompanying 'stuff' (potty, pram, changing bag, etc.), things had got a little bit squashed in our old, er, 'silver' car.

So a few weeks ago, my husband brought home a seven-seater thing that looks a bit like a small bus and has these amazing slidy doors, so you can get children in and out however tight the parking space. I had a stronger positive reaction to it than I normally do to a vehicle, so Daddy took this as a good sign and promptly bought us this, er, 'green' one. It had one damaged panel from the previous owners and so he took it straight to the paint-shop and got it all straightened out.

Trouble is, it's a wee bit bigger than the last one. The same afternoon that he brought it back all perfectly repaired, I managed to scrape exactly the same panel on our gatepost. He was...a little bit cross. But we got over it with a little laugh and some jokes at my expense about poor spatial awareness.

On Friday morning our neighbours were parked in such a way that when I tried to turn the car round there was even less room than usual. I embarked upon something approximating a 57-point turn and somehow I got stuck, quite literally, on the gate post. I had cunningly managed to manoeuvre myself into a position whereby I couldn't move forwards or backwards without scraping the side and causing untold damage. I don't know how I managed to do this. Neither did my husband, when he arrived home from work in the middle of the day, at my blubbering behest to get me out of this predicament.

At least it was a different panel this time.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Things I'll Never Do Again

You know before it happens that parenting will involve sacrifices - financially, emotionally, physically. Things that I once took for granted like going to the pub, or spending one day of the weekend in my dressing grown watching entire box sets of television series: These I knew would be a thing of the past. But there are some other by-products of becoming a mum: strange things that I didn't anticipate being affected, but that I am now fairly convinced I will never try again.

Pre-motherhood I was happy to try most things: sky-diving, bungy-jumping, white-water-rafting, river-boarding; you named it, I would have given it a go.

Now with two very small people that I am responsible for, I have suddenly lost my derring-do. It no longer seems appealing to throw myself from a perfectly sound structure for the sake of bouncing up and down on the end of a large bungy cord. I was a keen recreational diver before Gertie and Gilby came along, and though we have been diving once since Gertie's arrival, I was a lot more cautious and risk aware than I ever was before.

So here, for the record, are some of the other lost activities:
  1. Roller coaster rides (I know they're perfectly safe, just no longer have any desire to do it).

  2. Taking my regulator out of my mouth for a photograph whilst scuba-diving (see photo).

  3. Diving from the top board at a swimming pool (as if).

  4. Rock-climbing (really used to enjoy this but ropes now look way too flimsy).

  5. Running for a bus (just a practical impossibility this one, with prams, bags, small people, etc.)

Thing is, I don't miss them - just wonder if that courage is temporarily displaced or gone forever!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Blue Shoes

I am delighted to be responding to Josie's Writing Workshop prompts this week at Sleep is For the Weak, because here is someone inviting me to talk about shoes: A dangerous topic, since, like most women, I have a long and complex relationship with my footwear. The challenge is to identify shoes which somehow reflect your personality. I wonder how a pair of shoes that you choose to wear could not reveal something of you in someway...

These objets d'art are my current favourites.

Bright blue and always commented upon.

Saved for special occasions like Gilby's baptism and some summer weddings. But only with the dress that you can just about see in the picture that has the same electric blue tones.

So what exactly do they say about me? Poised, sophisticated, impossibly glamorous, a little bit showy but not afraid to make a statement, perhaps? I wish.

In fact what they say is 'bought really cheaply at TK Maxx, pretending to be something they're not, and the straps at the back need to be continually hoisted up when no one is looking.'

Just about sums it all up really.

I thank you.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

What's in Santa's Sack?

This morning I asked my two and a half year old daughter what she would like Father Christmas to bring her. She thought for a moment and then (and this made my heart hurt) said that she would like him to come down the chimney with some nappies for Gilby (her four month old baby brother).

I know that times are hard in the current economic climate, but really!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Early Political Stance

It appears that, despite the government's recent controversial advertising campaign targeting children in the fight against global warming, I have failed to breed the next generation of eco-warrior!

The weekend saw us make our fortnightly trip to the local amenity tip to clear our accumulated recycling materials. The local council are good enough to collect cans and plastics one week and newspapers and magazines the following week, but in spite of my best efforts our household seems to produce much more than this, necessitating the extra trip. (Incidentally, they don't collect glass and we do seem to have the odd wine bottle to dispose of too.)

Anyway, what this means is that Gertie is familiar with the excursion and its associated boredom. She has to wait in the car since she can't reach to help while Mummy and Daddy feed the recycling bins. Her frustration is increased by the fact that we are usually on our way to somewhere far more interesting, so the tip becomes a symbol of her delayed pleasure. (I am building all this as an excuse to justify her reaction that I will share with you in a moment...)

This week's trip coincided with a sudden escalation in the frequency of the 'why' questions. The conversation went something like this:

"Why are we going to the tip?"
"Because we need to do the recycling."
"Why do we need to do the re-skykling?"
"So that some of the things we use can be turned into other things."
"Why do they need to be turned into ummer things?"
"Um, so that we the environment."
Short pause.
"Mummy, I don't want to save the enviro-men!"

I am desperately hoping that what she actually meant was that she would rather be elsewhere at that particular moment...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Weighty Issues

Earlier this week I had to visit the health visitor and the vet within the space of an hour. Both appointments followed a remarkably similar pattern and included my baby and the cat (Iggy) being weighed. Both, it seems, are doing fine.

So Gilbert is a healthy baby boy, hovering around the '75th percentile' and staying nicely on his curve. This apparently means that although he is above average weight we don't need to worry about anything. He is 16 weeks old now, and the contrast between this and his sister could not be marked.

She was born nearly two and a half pounds lighter, nearly two and a half years ago. The pregnancies were very similar (though I was much sicker second time around) and I put on approximately the same amount of weight during each. I have breastfed both, introducing a single bottle of formula at around the 14 week mark.

But first time round the health professionals would not leave me alone. Gertie remained on the '4th percentile' and they insisted that she was weighed weekly. I was constantly made to feel inadequate for the slow rate at which she gained her weight, and felt incredible pressure to stop breast-feeding in order to ensure that she got all that she needed.

In fact I did not do this but carried on feeding her myself until she was nearly 16 months, although I worried about her continuously for the first six months until she was also taking on some solids.

She remains around average height, but slightly below average weight, so a slim build. She has been very healthy during her short life so far, and I know that by the time she is in her teens she will thank me for her slender frame, and that all the anxiety will have been needless.

I have done nothing differently for the new baby: my diet is the same as it always was, he feeds a similar amount. And yet I am praised for his 'bonny' development. I have done nothing, as far as I can see, to influence this. And so it makes me a little bit cross. I have come to the conclusion that babies are just the size they are, and a new mum should not be made to feel terrible (and certainly not consider giving up breast-feeding) because they don't conform to a silly chart.

And the irony of the whole story really lies with the cat, I think: the vet was delighted with her condition and her weight.

"You're obviously doing a wonderful job of looking after her. She's in a tip-top state for her age."

Hmm. Right. I didn't bother to explain that Iggy rarely puts in an appearance at home during the summer; Though her food and water bowls go down and get refilled with regularity, her ladyship is entirely elusive. We occasionally catch the odd glimpse and are lucky if we manage to find her to flea her. I have no idea where she sleeps between April and October. But as soon as the weather turns cold and wet she plants herself in front of the fire and doesn't move from our hearth until March.

So she has only been back being 'looked after' for about a fortnight. Lucky, really, that we're doing such a good job...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Any Old Iron

The Ironing Monologue:

What sort of time d'you call this? Any sane person would have done this the night before, you know, when the kids were asleep. It's called 'prior planning'. Shirt for Daddy and dress for Gertie. It would be so much easier if you weren't trying to make breakfast at the same time. That way marmite might not appear on one or both items. Oh - you're not putting me away just yet. There must be more to come.

A short while later.

Do stop smiling so smugly; they're only shirts. You've managed a grand total of four - that's not even a week's worth. And anyway, everyone but you knows that you should start with the collar and then the yoke. Do you even know what a yoke is? Some starch would be nice. I suppose the nozzle's still blocked and you've neglected to do anything about it. Still, you seem to have your own 'unique' technique, don't you? Draping a sleeve in the cat-litter: all part of the process.

And don't pretend you know what you're doing with that dial. Don't you think it's about time you added some water? Some of us are a little bit thirsty here, particularly with the way you use the 'steam' setting so unpredictably.

Tut. Tut. Was that a little swear word I heard? Don't you know why I've left that nasty black mark on the front? It's because you don't clean me. There. Serves you right.

What's that coming out now? Your jeans. That must mean that you haven't given them enough time to dry. Again. No other reason I would see them, is there? It's not really my job, is it? The waistband will still be damp after and you'll only regret it later when you have a red itchy mark around that roll that passes for a tummy. Don't you have anything else to wear?

Blimey: tea cloths too. That's a rarity. Your mother must be coming over. That explains the pathetic attempt to impersonate a domestic goddess.

You're fooling no-one, especially not her.

This is my second attempt at the writing workshop, courtesy of Josie at Sleep is for the Weak. I have opted to imagine that a familiar household object is self-aware and conscious, and have written a short monologue from the point of view of my iron. We don't have the best relationship: I have only been blogging for just over a month, but ironing has already come up on several occasions during that short space of time so it seemed appropriate!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

I know this photograph doesn't look like much, but it depicts something truly momentous. Something that is happening right now, post lunch on Sunday afternoon. Something that has happened for only the third time since Gilby's birth in July. Something rare and remarkable when one is never very far from the madding crowd: BOTH CHILDREN ARE ASLEEP At The Same Time.

Given Gertie's newfound independence, you will not be surprised to know that despite having only just reached the tender age of two-and-a-half she gave up having a day sleep some time ago. She can be persuaded to have a short nap after lunch, on occasion, when something really special is happening later in the afternoon and she knows that she doesn't want to be tired for it.

But today is just an ordinary Sunday afternoon. I was downstairs giving Gilby a feed, knowing that he would probably drop off to sleep shortly afterwards and that would give Gertie and I some quality time together. Daddy works on a Sunday and so she had been promised painting and puzzles.

Upstairs, things had gone ominously quiet. The sort of quiet that precedes the destruction of a prized lipstick, or will find entire contents of drawers emptied out into the middle of rooms - that sort of quiet. But no, madam had simply popped into Gilby's room and decided to have a little kip on the rug.

So there we are. And now - I have no idea what to do with myself! I feel as though I should really make the most of this rare opportunity. What am I doing writing this post? I could, doing more housework...or something.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Battle of Pyjama

There have been a few developments since Wednesday's declaration of a war of independence, and a subsequent escalation of the Battle of Pyjama.

Since Gertie can now dress and undress herself with consummate ease(ish), getting ready for bed poses no problem. The trouble is that that state can just as quickly be reversed.

This evening, whilst Gilby was going for his usual evening feeding frenzy and Gertie was happily ensconced in front of the bedtime hour, Miss I-Don't-Need-Your-Help-Cos-I-Can-Do-Everything-All-By-MySELF decided that she could just as easily get out of her pyjamas. Powerless to stop her with the baby pinned to my breast, I had to simply look on.

After performing a deft strip, she ran around the living room in circles gleefully shouting at the top of her voice: "I'm a Nunga-Punga; I'm a Nunga-Punga". (This is a long-standing family word for 'naked'.) We use it generally as an adjective, but Gertie seems to have developed it into a proper noun. The way she says it suggests that whilst in this state she has some impressive powers, like she is declaring "I'm a Ninja, I'm a Ninja."

Nothing could persuade her back into her pyjamas, and so she conducted her nightly 'yogo' moves in front of Waybuloo in her birthday suit. As she takes this part of the evening ritual very seriously indeed, performing naked had the effect of somehow giving it a further mystical dimension.

Thankfully, as the bedtime hour progressed and we were earnestly guessing whether we would be travelling by Ninky Nonk or Pinky Ponk she decided that she was a 'little bit chilly' and back on went the pyjamas. I am very pleased as Daddy chose this moment to walk through the door. A few minutes earlier and things might have looked very peculiar indeed.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Surplus to requirements

I knew that motherhood would be a gradual process of letting go; I just didn't realise it would happen by the tender age of two and a half.

Gertie, who until today has needed me to do or at least to supervise and support with all sorts of jobs - like wiping her bottom, brushing her teeth, wiping her nose, doing up her laces, helping her to get dressed - has suddenly decided that she can do everything 'all by mySELF'.

I came to collect her from nursery this afternoon and she told me that she needed to go to the toilet before we left. "Fine," I said, putting Gilby's car-seat down and preparing to go in and help.

"No mummy, I don't need you," she informed me matter-of-factly, locking the door firmly behind her. I peered over the top of the cubicle to see her cope admirably with the task, but she happened to glance up, and caught me.

"No mummy, don't look!" she commanded.

"Er, right." After a minute or two, I heard the bolt draw back and out she came, head held high.

After supper I went to fetch her pyjamas, to discover that she had selected different ones and was already busily getting ready for bed. The pyjama bottoms did take a few attempts to get right, and it was very funny watching her put her head to the bottom of them to try and figure out why her foot hadn't come out, but after her earlier statement of independence I was loathe to get involved.

So, after a mere thirty months, it appears that I am largely redundant.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The 'Hands-Free' Kit

I love to carry Gilby round in a sling. It is a very rustic affair, in bleached cotton, given to me by a friend. I don't know the make but it looks like something that women in some Lesser-Economically-Developed-Countries might sport. It is a brilliant device though, and has affectionately become known as my 'hands free kit'. I can do virtually anything (including blogging) whilst Gilby is nestled in there.

It does have one major drawback, however: It can look, from a casual glance, as though I have sustained a rather nasty injury and am nursing a broken arm rather than a very small child. I was attending a church service a few weeks ago and a concerned parishioner cornered me on the way out.

"Oh dear," he murmured. "That does look serious. How on earth did you do that?"

Glancing down at my baby of only a few weeks old, I didn't really have the heart to explain. Frankly, it was going to go down a whole road that I wasn't prepared to explore with a complete stranger...

Saturday, 7 November 2009

When I was a baby...

Little Gertie is preoccupied with all the things that Gilby does that she used to do when she was a baby. She is fascinated by breast-feeding and acknowledges sagely that this is the way she used to get her milk. (She also likes to hitch her dress up to feed her doll when we are out and about, but that is another story.)

All the toys and equipment that have come down from the loft for Gilby she knows that she used to use, and even if we have bought something new we have to pretend that it was hers first.

She also loved the idea of my 'baby tummy', and because some of the other mums at nursery are also expecting or have just had babies, this idea is being reinforced all the time. So she is aware that she too came from my tummy, and confidently pronounced that it 'tickled' when she came out of there. Well, if that is what she would like to believe...

But I did have to put my foot down when Gertie and Gilby were having a bath together a little while ago and she pointed to a certain part of his anatomy. "Mummy, I used to have a willy when I was a little baby, didn't I?"

Friday, 6 November 2009

Life in Fast forward

I went into work yesterday. I'm not due to return until mid January, but it was one of my 10 'KIT' (Keeping In Touch) days. I have another 11 weeks at home, but the time seems to be just whizzing by. Life is in a permanent state of fast-forward. He is only 15 weeks old, but where has my newborn baby gone?

So the work visit was painful in all sorts of ways. I was there for three hours and was overwhelmed by the level of stress and workload; most people were too busy to stop and talk (the bells, the bells: I work in a school) and after a recent OFSTED inspection pressures have been piled on.

It was not an attractive picture, and I had to pretend that I really cared about this stuff when all I could think about was my husband, at home with both children for maybe only the third time. What scenes would I come home to? Had I expressed enough milk for Gilby? Would the cat have been fed?

I am so not ready to go back. After Gertie, I took eight months off, and by the end of that time I was perfectly prepared to return. I found being at home incredibly frustrating at times, couldn't cope with analysing my day and realising that the chief achievement had been managing to iron three work-shirts for my husband. I remember phoning him at work one day and making him come home because the baby was crying and I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't bear the general, overwhelming responsibility for another tiny human being twenty-four hours a day.

I wanted to generate some sort of normality and get the old 'me' back in any way I could, and the obvious way was to go back out to work and even being in a high-pressure job seemed so much easier than being at home all day.

Worse was going out to any number of activities - baby massage, baby yoga, baby music, baby swimming, baby poker (I have made this last one up, but you get the idea). The level of competition between mums was frightening and off-putting. This time round we still do many of those things, but it is the ones that I enjoy as opposed to the ones that I think I ought to be doing, and we don't really care what anyone else thinks!

But this time round something else has happened too. I have embraced the role. Gertie is (mostly) so much more fun to be with now that she is a proper little person who does funny stuff, and being at home with two really tests my skills of organisation and patience. Ironing a few shirts is easy; I can do it whilst singing nursery rhymes to Gertie and nursing Gilby in the sling and cooking supper. Ok, so meltdown is also still a regular feature (last Sunday, for instance), but it is all worthwhile.

So, for once, I am not looking forward to the new year when it will all end.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

No birthday cake

I am very grateful to Josie at Sleep is for the Weak for providing the inspiration for this post on loss. This is my first attempt at the Writing Workshop, so here goes:

Can you feel loss for someone you have never known?

November 3rd was her birthday, so an observer from the windmill late in the afternoon would have seen in outline against the lonely horizon this: a woman struggling in the wind and rain with a trug of planted flowers over her left arm and a bouquet of flowers in that same hand; a heavier load weighing down the other. In fact, a car seat, containing a 15 week old baby boy. Behind, a tired little girl, running every few steps to keep apace.

The watcher would have witnessed the strange convoy heading along the flagstone path past the church and then turning right onto the grass and across a line of graves.

What that spectator could not guess is that none of the party have ever met the woman at whose grave they now lay flowers.

For that woman is my mother-in-law, who died 5 years before I met her son, and 11 years before we married. A woman who never got to know of even the possibility of the existence of her two, beautiful grandchildren.

Rosemary - for remembrance - is in the bouquet. An irony, since none of us remember. And the flowers are all pink, for this small thing I know about her: she loved pink.

And Gertie, who has not even begun to formulate a concept of mortality, and knows that we are leaving flowers because it is a birthday, asks,
"Why doesn't Grandma Janey have birthday cake, mummy?"

And I can't explain, but feel an inexplicable loss. For this woman that I never knew, whose son I know so intimately: a mother who never got to see her own children grown and married and happy. And I look at her grandchildren and hope that I will be granted this grace.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Pinchy Boy

We didn't have our happiest ever Sunday yesterday.

For Gertie, the terrible twos (which I have been fervently denying the existence of for the last six months) have finally kicked in.

At breakfast, she refused to drink from her cup as it was the wrong one. It was right the day before, so this was bewildering. Then there were tears because she didn't want the raisins 'hidden' in her cereal. (This is usually a fun game that causes plenty of giggles.) The banana got mashed into the 'cup of wrong' and smeared over table and face while I popped into the next room to give Gilby a feed. I came back in to carnage over the freshly washed floor. What has happened to her oft-commented-upon 'astonishingly good toddler table manners'?

Then there were two tantrums in public places (one of the prostrate-on-the-floor-kicking-and-refusing-to-move-variety), followed by a poo in the knickers (I have proudly been telling everyone how quickly and how well Gertie has potty-trained) but worst of all was the new nickname she has designed, completely independently, for her baby brother. We like nicknames in our family, and all have one. But Gilby's is NOT and NEVER has been, 'Pinchy Boy'.

And you can probably imagine the associated actions that come with the name. And yes, his pudgy cheeks do look invitingly 'pinchy', but surely not to a two-year-old? This is a worrying development as she has previously been very affectionate towards the new arrival.

She has gone to nursery this morning, giving everyone time to regroup, and Gilby's 'pinchy-boy' cheeks some much-needed healing time.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

S.A.D: Supermarket Affective Disorder

I take in a happy, giggling child to the supermarket and inevitably leave with a red-faced screaming toddler. Equally, I have to steel myself for the trip; I skip in nonchalantly but leave on the verge of a migraine.

Now my question is why? Gertie is generally well-behaved and helpful, and Gilby will often sleep through the whole process, so it has nothing to do with the children being difficult. What exactly happens then, between the vegetable aisle and the checkout?

I have tried to analyse the experience. My mood takes a dive with the initial battle for a parking space. I don't even bother with the parent and child parking: those sacred spots are evidently reserved for more divine beings.

And then I put it down to a combination of terrible acoustics that amplify and simultaneously muffle the sound of other screaming toddlers, the unnatural headache-inducing lighting, and the trolley rage caused by overcrowding in too-narrow aisles.

Finally, and this is the clincher - the dispute over the special offer prominently displayed (and probably prompting a spontaneous purchase) that then doesn't materialise when you get to the till.

Depending on which supermarket we are in (and I change regularly in the vain hope that things may be better elsewhere) this results in either a 'supervisor to checkout 3' or another queue at customer services. Is it worth it for the 87p saving, I have to ask myself. "Yes," I screech back internally, 'Or they have won"!

Somehow all these things must impact on Gertie too, so that for no discernable reason she is in her own two-year-old rage by the end. I will monitor the age at which it seems to effect Gilbert. Or perhaps it is a gender-thing: my husband seems far less prone to Supermarket-Affected-Disorder.

Thank goodness for online grocery shopping. Worth every single penny, I say.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Baring Breasts

I have noted the blogging community's penchant for lists, and inspired by Muddling Along Mummy and her highly entertaining table of things achieved whilst breast-feeding, I have compiled a list of 10 places I have publicly breast-fed in the last 10 days in what I feel, upon reflection, to have been an increasing order of daring.

10. The Local Family and Child Centre
This one was easy-peasy as no-one batted an eyelid during the half-term activities programme.

9. The Library
This did cause a single stare of consternation from an elderly bespectacled gentleman, despite the prominent display of posters in support of breast-feeding.

8. Starbucks
The young, childless couple opposite me regretted their choice of seat and worked hard to pretend not to notice what was happening uncomfortably close to them.

7. The Swimming Pool Spectator Area
This provided a fascinating insight into the way people's faces change from a casual smile and nod of recognition to a gasp of horror...

6. In the bar of the Golf Club
Had to be really discrete with muslin placement; not really the done thing here.

5. Two cricket matches in Gibraltar
Here I encountered lots of red-faced men actually shielding their eyes.

4. Baggage reclaim at Gatwick Airport

3. Passport control at Gatwick Airport

2. On the move through Gatwick Airport and out through 'Arrivals' into the waiting crowds.
These last three should really count as one, but they did seem to become increasingly carefree.

And in the top spot:
1. On a packed communter train coming out of London
There was nothing I could do about this. Would the sardined carriage have preferred a screaming baby for the duration of the ride? The poor lad sitting right next to me was absolutely beside himself with discomfort.

But the most bizarre one of all didn't happen in the last 10 days so it doesn't really count. It happened when my baby was just a few days old: on top of a grave a few metres away (and shielded by plenty of trees) at a funeral. Whilst this felt really weird, I somehow hoped that the unwitting host might well have appreciated the juxtaposition of new life and death.

And the final result of compiling this list has been the realisation that first time around, with Gertie, I would only have done the deed publicly in 10. and 9. Maybe 8. at a push, depending on the time of day and how many people were around.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Absence Makes Mummy Much More Tolerant

Gertie went to stay with the grandparents last night. This was supposed to give me a bit of a break, since she was collected at 5pm. See The Hardest Part is the Evening.

In fact, what happened was that Gilby was just more demanding than ever, and I pined after my daughter ridiculously. I worked out that we have spent a total of fourteen nights apart in her short little life: a week's holiday last year, a few days around the time that Gilbert was due (in case anything happened in the night), and then the odd day here and there with grandparents for babysitting when it was easier for her to be there than for them to come here.

But last night there was no reason for her to be away: we were just home and not doing anything. (We had planned a night away, but the other grandparent, who was supposed to take Gilby, was ill, so the eagerly-awaited first full night of sleep in three and a half months has had to be postponed.) And the house seemed strangely empty without her. It seemed odd walking past her open and empty bedroom, and lonely in the morning without her joining us for cuddles in bed before breakfast.

She came home mid-morning today, so was only gone for 16 hours: 12 of which she would have been asleep for anyway; but I surprised myself completely with how much I missed her. And I was much more tolerant today of any poor behaviour this afternoon, cherishing every minute. I didn't even mind when she had a small tantrum because I had forgotten to roll her sleeves up before washing her hands.

I must be getting soppy in my old age.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Seize the Day!

This is one of Gertie's favourite sayings and although I'm not sure she entirely appreciates the implications, it sounds brilliant coming from a two-year-old. Particularly if you have to be dragged from your slumber; in the early morning it is far more bearable to feel a little hand pulling yours accompanied by a little voice urging you to "Seize the day, mummy!"

It is basically a phrase which in our household means that something good is about to happen. A few weeks ago we had spent a lovely day out visiting a local farm and then on the way home I revealed that we weren't going straight home, but were heading off for a quick visit to the grandparents, affectionately known as Grumps and Mumps.

Gertie's response? "Hooray! 'Seize the day' not finished yet!" So whilst she hasn't totally grasped the grammatical construction it always makes me smile.

I tried teaching her to say, 'Carpe Diem' but it doesn't sound nearly as cute.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Never Take an Evening Flight

And then there was the journey home.

I probably shouldn't begin a post with 'and', but really the whole sorry saga is not out of my system yet, and I feel that I must just carry on talking about it. The flight out to Gibraltar last week was mostly about Daddy getting wet. But the flight home was just, well, chaos, with nothing serene about it.

We had the classic 'check-out of the hotel a mere seven hours prior to needing to be at the airport' situation. This is a fundamental error, and one which I intend to never knowingly repeat.

We should have made a plan, but we didn't actually do anything with this supposed extra day, apart from finding a nice spot in the marina for lunch. It was a nice spot, until almost-but-not-quite-potty-trained-Gertie decided to wee on my lap, soaking both of us. Of course I had a change of clothes for the culprit, but not one for me, which prompted a friend who we had met for lunch to look sympathetically at my newborn and then nod sagely at me, muttering about reduced pelvic floor capacity.

Daddy, noticing my gritted teeth and the fact that I was barely able to control my rage, offered to jog back to the hotel, locate the luggage and find an alternative pair of jeans for me to wear. Meanwhile a further axe-dident occurred at the restuarant. It seems that it doesn't rain but it pours. I was not amused.

The flight home was delayed by nearly three hours, and I didn't have that many activities stashed in my hand luggage to entertain a toddler - whilst Daddy decided that the best thing to do would be to take a leap into cider-space. I would have joined him, but as I am still breast-feeding Gilby it didn't seem like a good idea.

Gertie decided not to sleep on the flight until about forty minutes before we were due to land. By this time it was getting on for midnight. When we woke her up, she screamed, fairly consistently, until we got off the plane. Concerned (and obviously childless) passengers around us enquired as to what was what was wrong. "She's just knackered, as am I!" I wanted to scream back, but refrained from doing so. I charged through the airport with Gilby now screaming his head off, having also woken up and due a feed. I started feeding him while Daddy calmed Gertie and collected the luggage. I continued, on the move, through customs, not caring that my breast was on display for all to see. Dignity had been lost from the morning wee wee and never quite regained.

Oh - and the trip itself? Dominated by the fact that a barbary ape jumped on Gertie's head.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Airports and liquids

My husband and I agree that serenity, or at least the appearance of it, is the key to parenting. And an invaluable tool for just getting through an airport with two small children.

We left for Gibraltar last Thursday. Our planned departure time was 10am. Our actual departure time was 10.05am. Brilliant. (I had factored in an extra hour since my husband is famous for his lateness, a trait that stems way back to pre-fatherhood days and hasn't improved with age.) We had to turn around only once: for a forgotten 'Bunny My Honey', a current favoured soft toy, and played the What Else Do You Think We Have Forgotten? game all the way to the airport. Even with the false start, we still arrived at the airport TOO EARLY TO CHECK IN.

Gilby slept through a leisurely lunch; Gertie was immaculately behaved in the restaurant. Security was quick, and although we had to dismantle the pram into its component parts to satisfy the guards and the pot of bubbles I had bought to amuse Gertie was not deemed particularly appropriate, we progressed in a timely fashion, almost sauntering to the departure gate with Daddy and I shrugging at each other and smiling smugly at how easy everything seemed to be. Ha ha.

We took advantage of the airline's policy for priority boarding for those with children under 5, although this did involve minor fracas with barging passengers who thought it would be helpful to surge forward and block any potential gangways to the plane, snorting indignantly as we tried to get past them.

Once aboard, we settled into our seats with a puzzle and some books to amuse Gertie, and Gilby didn't seem to mind his seatbelt too much. All was well. Until it became apparent about four seconds before take-off that Gilbert had done something in his nappy that needed to be dealt with immediately. It would not wait until 15 minutes after take-off. You know the sort of nappy I mean. Daddy leapt out of his seat to scowls from the stewards and grabbed the necessary accoutrements from the overhead locker. He leaned over and we attempted the 'in-situ two-man-nappy-change' perfected in pitch-black darkness over many nights. However all that training evidently didn't pay off and a below-par nappy change began a chain of events that mostly involved Daddy being covered in various unsavoury liquids of one description or another.

Gilby filled his nappy again almost immediately, but this time the tell-tale yellow came straight through his clothes. Happily for me Daddy was now holding baby and therefore in possession of yellow-stained jeans (his only pair). This was a good thing as I would have been far crosser and less serene than he.

Gertie asked for her juice cup and Daddy was already up trying to clean his trousers so in charge of getting it for her. The pressure from the plane meant that removing the lid resulted in a powerful upwards gush of liquid to rival an eruption of Vesuvius. Once again this somehow went in the direction of Daddy's jeans.

Gertie found the lure of an aeroplane toilet strong and went at least ten times on the two-hour flight. Since I was back feeding Gilby for a lot of the flight, the responsibility fell to Daddy and whilst there were no real 'axe-didents', several pairs of knickers and tights were required due to inadequate bottom placement, and, you've guessed it, Daddy's jeans found themselves in the firing line again.

I found all this predictably hilarious, which didn't do much for Daddy's serenity levels but did a power of good to mine.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Hardest Part is the Evening

Bon Jovi got it wrong when they said that the Hardest Part is the Night; no, the hardest part is most definitely the evening.

At three o'clock in the afternoon I could get a mother of the year award. Gilby is taking his nap whilst I do finger-painting with Gertie. The house is clean, the washing hung out to dry, the evening meal prepared.

Jump cut to two hours later. Potty-training Gertie and her little brother do synchronised poos. Hers in her knickers so that she enters the room John Wayne-style from the kitchen where she has left her uneaten supper. Both start screaming for my attention. Because Gilby is still at the breast it is a few seconds before I can reach Gertie. Suddenly the poo is no longer just in the knickers. Then she hits Gilby because she doesn't yet have my full and undivided attention. Toys are everywhere; now poo is too. The noise level in the household means that the neighbours are on the verge of phoning social services.

Daddy is not home for another hour and a half. Gilby has begun his evening feeding frenzy and will have me pinned in a chair for most of that time. Somehow I have to get both cleaned up and fed before CBeebies' Bedtime Hour begins, and restore some sense of order to the house. (Otherwise Daddy walks in and starts picking up discarded toys with a look on his face that asks what exactly I have been doing all day long.) This scenario is played out with various permutations every day; multiply stress factor by two if it happens to be a bath night.

He walks in just as we are finding out whether our entrance to the night garden will be by Ninky-Nonk or Pinky-Ponk. All is calm and clean; pyjamas are on and teeth brushed. He has no idea what the last ninety minutes have been like. I have no idea how I have survived them.

Monday, 12 October 2009

A holiday from my 'little holiday'.

I'm far to busy to be sitting here doing this. That is because we are going on 'holiday' on Thursday. I use the inverted commas because I do not see how travelling abroad with two small children can legitimately be described in such terms: particularly as one definition of holiday is given as 'days exempt from labour'. Oh the irony.

The sheer level of preparation is frightening. I won't even begin to discuss the problems associated with trying to organise a passport photograph for a newborn baby. (Suffice to say it took just the four trips to the post office using their check and send service.) And speaking of irony, I am ironing things that would never make it to the ironing basket under normal circumstances, but in order to fit the required quantity of clothes, nappies, muslins, towels and general baby accoutrements into the ridiculously small luggage allowance provided by a well known budget airline, must be pressed into a small a space as possible. And we must take twice as many clothes for Gertie as she is potty-training but still having a number of 'axe-didents' as she likes to call them. Once I would have moaned about not having enough allowance to transport all my shoes (I took nine pairs for my hen-weekend); now I will be lucky if I remember to put my own on before leaving the house.

We should look like the best-dressed family in the world in comparison to our usually dishevelled state, but unfortunately by the time we arrive at our destination all the careful hours of laundry will be rendered useless and we will all be just as creased as usual.

When we get there we are staying in a hotel. 'What luxury!' a pre-motherhood me might have been heard to cry. But now that simply means that there will be two large people and two small people inhabiting a single room for the duration of the trip. Not a recipe for happiness. It means lights out at 7.30pm. (I am praying for a balcony and an outdoor mini-bar - unlikely.) It means Gertie waking up every time Gilbert needs to feed through the night. And it means trying to entertain a toddler and a baby without all the usual tools of the trade that can be found at home: no swingy chair, no play-gym, no bulging toy-box...

My husband describes maternity leave as my 'little holiday'. So now I am having a holiday from my holiday - oh the joy! The list of things that needs to be done before we go away is not getting any shorter. Perhaps I sound a little ungrateful. It is because the spectre of a three hour flight and airport security looms large in my consciousness.

So I don't have time to be doing this blog. But I feel a little better for getting it all out of my system. I need a holiday.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

When is the morning not the morning?

Sleep deprivation rather comes with the territory of having a baby. It's one of the things that you sign up for, and consequently shouldn't really be complained about.

And things are much better than they were: in the first few weeks we thought that two hours of continuous sleep was a luxury, and 5.30am was a lovely long lie-in. What was interesting was the way that big-sister, who has slept for Britain for nearly two and a half years, suddenly started to be woken up by 'monsters' during the night. Unhappily this managed to coincide quite spectacularly with the few precious hours that her baby brother was asleep so the nights were even more broken than they might have been.

But things got better quite quickly: the monsters were banished to the shed at night-times and by about seven weeks the young man stopped waking up on the hour every hour and began to go for three hours at a time between feeds.

Now we get a whole evening of grown-up time as Gilbert sleeps from 7pm, waking up for that first feed at around midnight. He has created his own routine, with no thanks whatsoever to Ms G Ford. The problem, however, comes with the small altercation about what actually constitutes the morning. Usually somewhere between 6am and 7am.

For Gilbert, this morning, 3.45am was play-time. He was up and smiling and 'chatting' (an absurd word to describe the noises that a baby makes, but one beloved by my health visitor). No amount of shushing could persuade him that it was not the start of a wonderful new day.

It must be remembered, however, that sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I can happily report that the only major side effects this morning seem to be that my husband dropped his perfectly cooked fried-egg onto his slipper and then swore. A lot.

Friday, 9 October 2009

I can't get out of the door

I have a thing about leaving the house tidy when I am going out. My nearly-two-and-a-half-year old daughter does not share this trait. Before yesterday's swimming lesson I was frantically running round making beds and tidying away clothes whilst simultaneously congratulating myself on having got 10-week-old Gilbert fed and changed and ready to go. I came downstairs to find the entire contents of the toy-box emptied out on to the living room floor and a 'tea-party' in full swing.

"Oh darling, I'm trying to get out of the door and look at what you've done!" I cried, exasperated.

"What's the matter mummy? Why can't you get out of the door? Are you stuck?" came Gertie's bewildered response.

Not only can I not get out of the door, I am now more wary than ever of the literal nature of language to a two-year-old.