Thursday, November 25, 2010

The babysitter

A few weeks back my boss asked me if I could work one extra day a week until Christmas. From home, if I so wished.

Being the dutiful and enthusiastic employee that I am I told him, "not on your nelly mister. I'm a full-time mother when I'm not at work." Which makes me wonder whether I'm a part-time mother when I am at work. How does that work? Full-time stay-at-home mums are full-time mums. But mothers who work part-time are still full-time mums. No wonder we feel so stressed and busy all the time. And what about those women who work full-time and are full-time mums? I'm not saying one situation is better than the other, or that one lot have it easier than the others. All I'm saying is how can you be a part-time mother? You're either a mum or you're not. Unless you only get the kids on the weekend, which is kind of part-time. Either way, I'm happy with my lot. I don't think I could be a full-time anything (stay-at-home mother, employee) whilst also being a full-time mum.

But back to my story. Of course I didn't say that to my boss. I was just checking you were paying attention. No, I told him I'd love to help out. After thinking long and hard all weekend about how I was going to fit it in, of course.

Well, therein lies the challenge. There are a lot of other things going on in my life right now, not least Christmas and lounge room renovations and some other exciting things that I will no doubt blog about very soon. I was just about fitting all my chores into Phoebe's sleep time. How now to also add an extra 8 hours of work a week?

Firstly, I employed my cleaner for an extra hour a week to do various jobs, like any laundry or ironing that I haven't got to, wiping down the leather lounge suite, emptying the bins, putting the groceries away, cleaning the kitchen and putting Phoebe's clothes away. She only ever stays for an extra half hour (and charges me accordingly) so this has been a massive help.

So that got rid of a lot of boring domestic chores that she can do whilst I take Phoebe to swimming. Then I pondered whether I should get someone else to look after Phoebe for a while. I didn't want to pack her off to daycare for an extra day. I think 3 days is quite enough and I really enjoy our morning activities. Grandparents were out as Grandpa was embedded in his work and Nan was committed to picking Phoebe's cousins up from school at the times I would want her looked after.

So I asked around for a babysitter and a friend recommended a rather lovely lady by the name of Louisa. She came to see us the very next day and we both thought she was very nice. She then went on holiday for a while and finally came to do her first babysitting job for us this week.

I was a bit worried about how it was all going to go. Phoebe had been acting most peculiarly for the last couple of days. She was a bit whingy and clingy and I wasn't at all sure what was going on with her. At swimming that morning she'd refused to do a lot of the activities and whinged whenever her head went under the water. And then having coffee afterwards she sat on the floor next to the toys staring at some other customers with a glazed expression on her face before lying face down on the cold ground. And she wasn't eating much either.

But I decided to get Louisa along anyway and to play it by ear so that Phoebe could get used to the new, if temporary, routine. Well what a surprise. Once we were all settled in I got a full 1 1/2 hours of work done WITH NO INTERRUPTIONS! I was amazed. I wasn't sure how it would go with us all being in the house. I thought Phoebe would pester me and whinge but she had a great time playing with Louisa and showing her all her toys. I popped my head in now and then to give her bits of food and they went out to the shops for a while. But all in all it was a resounding success. We shall see what next week brings.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bums, teeth, jelly fish and pigtails

The other day I was on the toilet when Phoebe barged into the bathroom - not an uncommon occurrence.

"Toilet!" she exclaimed, pointing at me.
"Yes, Mammy's on the toilet," I replied. I do look forward to the day when I can go to the loo in peace without my spouse or offspring barging in for one reason or another.
"Paper!" she exclaimed again. Then she commenced pulling off a ream of toilet paper.
"Ok! That's enough," I told her, hastily placing my hand on the roll so the paper tore off as she pulled.

Then she scrunched it up into a little ball and handed it to me to use. Ah! So helpful.

Phoebe's starting to get the hang of the toilet. She started showing interest in it a while back but never seemed entirely comfortable perched on top of her travel toilet seat, her little legs dangling as she clung to me. So a couple of months back I bought her a little toilet seat complete with a step and handles. Now she's pretty good at getting to the toilet when she needs to go, which is quite impressive for a 21 month old. When we're home we let her go nappy free and she'll sometimes do a little wee on the carpet, then hold it in and run off to do the rest in the toilet. She's not so controlled when it comes to poo or wearing knickers. But we'll get there. If she's watching telly and needs a wee she'll sit on her potty in front of the telly.

I wish we were having as much luck with tooth brushing. She never used to mind it and used to be really good but I think we let her have too much independence. The truth is she's not that good at it. She chews the brush until the toothpaste is gone and then loses interest. I figure one tooth is probably getting a clean whilst she's chewing but the rest are sadly forgotten. We've tried many different things. She has lovely strawberry (doorbree) flavoured toothpaste and we've tried various brushes, including an electric Dora one, which she gets excited about, shouting "Dorwa Dorwa" until you either a) switch it on or b) come near her with it, at which point she starts to cry.

Toby tries to get her to make "toothpaste milkshake" and I get her to brush my teeth whilst I brush hers. I tried making a game of chasing her around with a toothbrush, which she enjoys but manages to get herself into positions where I can't possibly get to her mouth, and frankly I find the whole thing exhausting anyway. We've tried bribes by letting her watch TV whilst she brushes but then switching it off when she stops. We've tried sending her to bed without a story, which just results in her getting really upset and worked up before bed. We've tried a book about how to brush your teeth. We've read advice online and in books and they all assume you have a willing child, as opposed to one that acts as though you're about to try and shove a newt down her throat and then sew her lips together.

So my latest tactic is to ban all sugary foods and drinks. No juice, sultanas, cake, chocolate or ice cream. When she asks for them I tell her that only people who brush their teeth are allowed to eat them. Then I'll give her the option of brushing her teeth first. We'll see how that goes then.

One milestone very satisfying to a mother has finally been reached. Phoebe now has enough hair for bunches, or pigtails as people seem to call them here in Australia. I can see why. They look like little piggy's tails. She's very cute with them. They really change her face and sometimes I can't stop looking at her thinking "oh, how cute." She's quite good at sitting still and letting me do her hair before she goes to daycare although it took me a while to find the right hair elastics as she has such a small amount of hair.

Another not so nice milestone was reached the other day when Phoebe encountered her first blue bottle. Now, unlike in England, a blue bottle is not an annoyingly buzzy insect, but a rather pretty sea jelly with a clear body about the size of your thumb, and beautiful long delicate blue tendrils. Unfortunately these tendrils pack a nasty sting and they tend to break off very easily in the surf. They can still sting after becoming detached from the body. I was stung a few years back and it bloody hurt. After washing the toxins off with a warm shower I sat with an ice pack on my leg for half an hour. It felt and looked like a burn.

On Tuesday I was on the beach with Phoebe. We were playing with some new sand toys and she kept running down to the shore to collect water in her bucket. A small wave bowled her over and she began to cry, which was strange because she would usually find that fun. I couldn't console her so I carried her back up to our things and started getting her ready to leave. I removed her nappy, tried to brush the sand off her, with her screaming and practically climbing up me. I asked her what hurt but she was so upset it was a while before I could make out her saying "foot". When I brushed the sand off her foot it was swollen and red with little white marks, just like a nettle sting.

I knew that fresh water was the best thing but we didn't have any with us on the beach. So now came the challenge: to get all of our stuff together, get off the beach, cross the road, through a small park with a steep hill, cross another road and back to the car, whilst carrying my screaming, clambering child and all of our things. I found a drinking fountain near the car but couldn't get her to keep her foot under it. Then I dumped our things in the back of the car, poured my water bottle over her foot and set off to the pharmacy, dunking her foot back under the fountain on the way. The pharmacist gave us some antiseptic cream containing a local anesthetic and some paracetamol for the pain and eventually she calmed down, though I suspect by then the sting was probably wearing off anyway. He told me hot water was the best thing so when I got her home I sat her in front of the telly with a bucket of warm water to put her foot in. Of course she thought this was great and fully climbed into the bucket saying "bath".

Newsflash: Phoebe just told Toby she wanted to do a poo and then did one on the toilet. Hurrah! This is doubly amazing as it's the third, that's 3rd! one today!
Also, Phoebe is now demanding ice cream (ee-heam) but refusing to brush her teeth and having a total meltdown because we won't let her have one without the other. That's going well then.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phoebe, Party Princess

Last weekend we successfully took Phoebe to her first grown-up's party since she was a baby. It went a lot better than I expected and I was very proud of her.

We went over to Straddie (North Stradbroke Island) on Saturday for a wedding on Sunday. The weather wasn't the best for an island break, with rain alternating between torrential and drizzle, and winds of up to almost 70 kph. After settling in on Friday we visited the "party house" where most of our friends were staying. There were quite a few people there and I thought Phoebe might be a bit shy but she was in her element. It probably helped that we'd bumped into a few people on the ferry, including Mindy who came in our car to the other side of the island. By the time we arrived Phoebe was quite taken with her. She spent the evening flitting around the lounge room, eating crisps (and refusing dinner) and getting lots of attention as she was the only child there. We took her home in time for her usual bedtime of 7pm but it took her a while to wind down. It didn't help that there was no bath. She was a bit restless and I had to get her up again and give her a bit more to eat, then there was a bit of crying until eventually at 7.45pm she fell asleep.

At 10.30pm just as we were dropping off she had a coughing fit and woke up crying. We couldn't get her to settle again. Clearly waking in an unfamiliar room to the sound of wind howling round the third floor windows - and pretty spooky it sounded too - was freaking her out, understandably. It took us 2 hours to get her back to sleep and by then I think she passed out from sheer exhaustion.

Nevertheless she was in a pretty good mood the next day. We popped back to the party house to say hi, and Phoebe was a social butterfly again. We went for a drive to Brown Lake where we were going to walk but Phoebe fell asleep in the car, and besides the walking track looked impassibly swamped. Then we took her on a walk around the gorge, no mean feat in those conditions and there were spots where Toby had to carry Phoebe to prevent her being blown over. Once back at the house she settled down for a decent sleep, finally comfortable enough with her surroundings.

Then we took her to Sam and Christie's wedding. She was less lively there due to all the people although by the time the ceremony kicked off she was running around picking shells from the tables and loudly pointing out all the things she knew names of. I missed a lot of the ceremony due to that and being stuck behind people taller than me. What I did see was lovely though.

We managed to keep Phoebe out til gone 9pm, which we were amazed at. Apart from a temporary obsession with the wooden staircase she was remarkably easy to entertain. Of course there were lots of people happy to entertain her (and photograph her) for us. She spent some time throwing flower petals over the head of a little boy the same age as her, which was very cute. We took a glo-stick, balloons and a little pull out couch for her to play with. By the time of the speeches Toby and I were sitting on the floor with her and she was having a great time. Every time there was laughter and clapping she'd leap up onto her feet, screeching and clapping.

We were saying goodbye to the bride, who was downstairs preparing coffee, when Phoebe spotted a tray full of treats. I made the mistake of giving her one to keep her quiet. Then Christie suggested that they cut the cake before the people with kids had to leave so we decided to stay for that. In the meantime the treat tray moved to a table that Phoebe could reach and she parked herself next to it and proceeded to ram chocolate wafers into her mouth. Obviously I put a stop to that and the tantrum I'd been expecting for two hours erupted.

Needless to say we missed the cutting of the cake and unfortunately the cake disappeared and we didn't get any. Everyone kept telling us how lovely it was too. Very disappointing. The things we sacrifice for our children.

I kept waiting all weekend for the payback of keeping Phoebe up but it didn't happen. She went straight to bed that night, woke up coughing again but went straight back to sleep after I gave her a quick cuddle, had a nap in the car the next morning and a good sleep in her cot that afternoon.

We invited friends over for a bbq the following night as we thought it would be better to keep her at home and it was nice for us not to have to rush off to get her to bed. James and Melissa came around with their 4 month old baby, George and Phoebe was obsessed with him. She kept pointing at him saying 'baby, baby, baby' over and over and over again. Then she just wanted to be right up close to him, cuddling him, kissing him and touching his face. It was quite exhausting trying to stop her from being too rough with love.

She was a good girl going to bed that night too and has been well behaved ever since. I'm so proud of her and really enjoying her company these days. She's growing up so quickly. She's no longer a baby. She's now my little girl.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Phoebe gets ready for work

The other morning Toby was in the kitchen packing Phoebe's daycare bag. I was in the en-suite doing my hair and make-up. Phoebe took one of my handbags from the cupboard and threw it over her shoulder. She took a basket full of buttons and put that on her other shoulder. She marched into the kitchen.

"Kiss," she said to Toby, and puckered up.

He bent down and gave her a kiss. She pushed the handbag further onto her shoulder.

"Bye bye," she said, waved at him and trotted off to the en-suite.

"Kiss," she said to me.

I gave her a kiss.

"Bye bye," she said, waved and left the room.

I don't know where she gets it from.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Eating bogies with a spoon

Phoebe loves to pick her nose. It's a disgusting habit that I've been told helps her to develop her fine motor skills. Seems more like a gross motor skill to me. Her table manners also leave much to be desired. When she's bored or full or just not interested in what she has on her plate, she throws food on the floor, or over her shoulder, or spreads it across the table, or pushes her dish away with gusto. But she has always impressed me with her ability to use a spoon since a young age.

Last night, however, she went one step further and combined her love of nose-picking with her spoon skills. She stuck the spoon up her nose. Brings eating bogies to a whole new level. It might be a disgusting habit but at least she uses a spoon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Phoebetionary: Second Edition

It's unbelievable how quickly a toddler's vocabulary develops. Every day Phoebe seems to learn a new word or phrase. The other day it was "rou", which she learned when watching the fan go round and round. I'm not sure whether she knows what it means. She was so chuffed to have a new word that apparently everything was "rou". The next day was "pa-pa" (pasta) and today she tried a whole new phrase which I couldn't possibly repeat but which apparently meant "here's my other sock".

So, as she is now 17 months old it seems fitting that I update the Phoebetionary accordingly.

baby - baby, doll
baa-baa - the noise a sheep makes
bap-bap-bap - quack quack quack. Said when singing along to "Five Little Ducks". She does the action of the mother duck's bill with her hand too. Very cute.
Beebee - Phoebe
boo - boo, blue
bow - bird, elbow
brm-brm - car. Also used for any vehicle really, such as a picture of a train.
bub-bull - bubble
cah - car
Dadie (Daydee) - Zadie (our cat)
dah-dah - water
dar - star
Deedoe - Monty (our other cat); the ninky-nonk.
deese - cheese
deet - teeth
dih-doh - tick tock. She sings this along to the song about clocks.
doh - dog
dum - done
ee-i-ee-i - Old MacDonald had a farm
ello - hello; yellow.
ho - hot
moo - moon; also the noise a cow makes
mwore - said as she uses the sign, which is putting her fingers to her lips, hence the mw sound. It doesn't always mean "more". Sometimes it means "food". Or "different food to what you've just tried to give me".
narna - banana
na-nigh - night night
nneee - knee
no - said with a Geordie accent (get in)
ock - sock
Oocie - Lucy
ooh ooh - what chimpanzees say
ow - something that could hurt, such as sharp oysters on a rock.
pa-pa - pasta
poo - I think this means poo. She has also called it 'paw paw' but I'm not sure she really knows what it means as sometimes she says it when she has a dirty nappy, and sometimes when she doesn't. And sometimes she has a dirty nappy and doesn't say it. So all in all pretty inconsistent really.
raa - the noise a lion makes
rororo - roll over (10 in the bed)
row - round
shoe - I love the way Phoebe says this. It sounds more like shhooowe.
ta - thank you.
ta-dah! - usually said when demonstrating her balance skills
trhtrhtrtrh - cat
wuff - what a dog says
yay - usually accompanied by clapping of the hands
Zazie - Zadie

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weaning: done!

Why have booby milk when there's chocolate ice cream?

I thought I'd give a quick update on the whole weaning thing.

In my last post, almost three weeks ago, I reported that it had been 45 hours since I last breastfed Phoebe, and pondered whether I'd ever do it again.

Well, I haven't. It's quite amazing. I haven't offered and she hasn't asked. Well, a few times she's made her milky sign but she's been quite happy with a cuddle, or a cup of milk, or a story, or snack. The time was obviously just right for both of us. In fact, dropping the last feed was much easier than dropping the morning feed.

I bought Phoebe a new no-spill sippy cup the other day and she now has a cup of milk at breakfast and supper. She also takes milk to daycare for afternoon tea.

For a week or two after we stopped feeding I didn't bath with Phoebe. I didn't want her to launch herself upon my naked boobies. A few nights ago we had our first bath together since stopping. She was interested in my boobs but not overly so. She cuddled and kissed them but didn't try to feed. It was as though she could sort of remember a relationship with them but not the details. Funnily, she also kissed Toby's nipples when she was in the bath with him. Funny girl.

So that's that and I have to say I'm amazed. There have been so many times that I've stressed about dropping a feed and at the end of last year I was really worried about whether I should try and wean before I returned to work. Then, after weaning all but two feeds, things seemed to stretch out for so long I worried that she'd be breastfeeding until she started school. I probably fed her for longer than necessary as it became such a part of our routine. As a working mother, routine is very important. If I didn't feed her before breakfast then she'd want to feed before I left for work. By this time she was covered in food and I was ready for work. So I'd offer first thing to avoid a messy late-for-work situation.

In hindsight all the worrying was unnecessary. When nature is allowed to run its course things just happen the way they're supposed to. It is difficult to surrender to that in this modern world where we are confined by society's expectations, limitations and schedules. Working may have made it easier to wean as for much of the time we were apart and I couldn't feed her. On the other hand it may have dragged things out for longer than necessary as Phoebe needed it for comfort, to make up for not seeing me so much, and I clung to the routine. In the end it didn't matter as it happened when we were both ready. I never got fed up with feeding Phoebe but I was ready to let it go. And she doesn't seem to have missed it much. It was one of the loveliest experiences I have ever had but man, I'm pleased to have my body back.

Friday, June 18, 2010

First sentence: "Hello Zadie"

I am so proud and excited. Tonight Phoebe said her first sentence. We'd gone outside to look at the moon (after she was pointing at her bedroom light and saying "mooh"). We couldn't see it because it was cloudy but we heard the familiar jingle of the cat's bell as she approached us. And Phoebe said, "eloh dadie".

I was super proud. This was just after bathtime where I asked her if she knew where her mouth was and she did. She also knew her nose, ears, eyes, hair and feet. At bedtime I asked her where Mammy's mouth was and she pointed at her own mouth.

"No, that's Phoebe's mouth," I said. "This is Mammy's mouth." And I pointed at my mouth.

I asked her again and this time she pointed at my mouth. I asked her where Mammy's ears are and she pointed at my ears. So proud.

I was seriously blown away by her ability to show me her body parts and I wondered whether she'd be learning it at daycare or whether she's just picked it up along the way. She could quite easily have gathered what nose and feet are from day to day conversations about her runny nose and putting shoes on her feet. But I've only really sat and gone through various facial features a handful of times, infrequently and not very recently either.

Anyway, it got me thinking that I should do a quick post about Phoebe's first words. A little Phoebetionary if you like. So here you are, in alphabetical order, with translations where necessary, a list of the words Phoebe uses regularly, aged 16 months.

baby - baby, doll
baa-baa - sheep, usually in reference to Baa Baa Black Sheep. She's not quite so good at identifying pictures of sheep just yet.
Beebee - Phoebe
brm-brm - car. Also used for any vehicle really, such as a picture of a train.
Dadie (Daydee) - Zadie (our cat)
dah-dah - water
Danda - Grandad
deese - cheese
Deedoe - Monty (our other cat)
dih-doh - tick tock. She sings this along to the song about clocks.
doh - dog
ee-i-ee-i - Old MacDonald had a farm
ello - hello. Technically this is not yet a word as she has only said it once or twice and usually with another word, such as "eloh Dadie". However, I have no doubt it will soon become part of her general repertoire.
moo - moon
mwore - said as she uses the sign, which is putting her fingers to her lips, hence the mw sound. It doesn't always mean "more". Sometimes it means "food". Or "different food to what you've just tried to give me".
nah-nah - banana
no - said with a Geordie accent (get in)
ta - thank you.
trhtrhtrtrh - cat
wee-wee - not sure she entirely understands what this is. She does say it when I'm on the toilet but she also pointed at the creek the other day and announced "wee-wee".

Friday, June 4, 2010

Before I had kids...

Before I had kids I used to hear people say "before I had kids I used to ... [insert activity of choice, e.g. dive, windsurf, snorkel, travel, read a lot of books, go camping, have friends over for dinner etc.]"

I always took this to mean that you have to give up your passions when you have children because its inconvenient, difficult to organise, hard to do without babysitters, there are too many other more mundane things to be done.

I thought this was a really sad state of affairs and I was determined to figure out ways to keep my passions alive post-children, including, getting a boat-sized sailboard so my kids could learn to sail on it (not because I'm a rubbish windsurfer and need a large board for stability. That wasn't the reason at all. Although it is convenient to be able to drop your sail and sit down for a little rest when it all gets too much.)

What I didn't realise was that whilst occasionally you might see a photo of you doing said activity (case in point: photo of me and Toby windsurfing just popped up on my digital photo frame) and think, "wow, I miss doing that, that was fun". And you might then go on to think about how you might do that activity over the coming weeks. And you might very soon ditch the thought because it is an organisational nightmare and it is hard to do without babysitters (and it's especially difficult when you have to wait for the weather to do the right thing too). Despite all that you don't actually really miss said activity. And it's not just because you're so busy doing all the other mundane things that you never had to do. Although you are. It's because your life is full of other things. I mean really full. Full to bursting. Windsurfing, diving, travelling, they're all really nice things but personally I'm happy to put it all on hold to spend every evening singing Old MacDonald with Phoebe at bathtime.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More on weaning: record 45 hours since last breastfeed

We're on the home run.

After my last post on weaning Phoebe flicked between one, two and three feeds for a few weeks, but mostly two feeds: morning and evening.

About two or three weeks ago we dropped the morning feed and she started having just one feed, either when we first got home from daycare (or wherever) or after her bath, but generally between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.

Some days were harder than others. She'd want to feed mid morning if we were at home, or she'd have her afternoon feed and then still want a bedtime feed. Some days she'd quite happily have a biscuit and a cup of milk after her bath and others she'd angrily push the cup away from me.

Yesterday was the first day she didn't breastfeed at all. I don't expect that we are finished for good, especially as just three mornings ago she woke at 3.30am and demanded a feed. But it feels like a milestone.

For a while now I've been wondering how and when to drop this last feed. We only dropped to one feed a couple of weeks ago and I didn't want to rush it, especially as the old tetters get a little uncomfortable for the first couple of days. I was thinking that maybe it would just happen when my parents visit in July as there'll be so much else going on.

Then it struck me that I'm having my wisdom teeth out next Friday and I can't breastfeed on the really strong painkillers they'll give me. I figured it would probably happen then... but was also nervous about leaving it until then. The last thing you need when recovering from surgery with a sore swollen face is an angry, demanding toddler climbing all over you trying to rip your shirt off.

The last two days she has been in a gorgeous mood (when not screaming because she isn't getting her way, of course) and yesterday she didn't want to come home from daycare. It's only the second time that's ever happened. She's just getting over a bad bout of teething and nappy rash where she's been a bit clingy so this was a refreshing change. I was able to get her home and actually prepare some dinner whilst she sat reasonably quietly and had a snack. I really expected to have to stop what I was doing and breastfeed her but she was fine.

After her dinner she went in the bath and was still in a great mood. Then we had a change table tantrum. They're quite commonplace at the moment. She just really doesn't want to lie down and put her nappy on. Last night I actually put it on whilst she was standing up. Not easy. It was getting late so I decided to take her to brush her teeth instead of feeding her, fully expecting to have to then breastfeed her and clean her teeth all over again.

But no, she went to bed with no problems. Well, she cried a bit but she's having a little bit of separation anxiety. I almost always have to pick her back up out of her cot and give her a lovely long squeezy cuddle. It's a good thing for both of us and not surprising as we're apart so much these days. The initial placing of her into the cot just lets her know that it's bedtime and I'm leaving soon. Then she stands up and demands a cuddle. She'll still stand and cry after I've put her back again but I left anyway and after a few moments she settled and went to sleep.

She didn't wake up in the night and she didn't ask for a breastfeed this morning.

It has now been about 45 hours since I last breastfed her. I wonder whether we'll ever do it again.

Bubble bath

We've been having some fun bath times the past few nights. Phoebe has been in an absolutely adorable mood. Of course, she has the typical toddler split-personality and turns into Mr Hyde as soon as she's out of the bath and I'm trying to put her nappy on. But let's focus on the good stuff.

We've been singing lots of songs in the bath. She likes "Old MacDonald had a farm". They must sing it at daycare. She says "E-I-E-I-E-I" and that's my cue to start singing. (Or maybe she's just practising her Geordie language skills for when Nana and Grandad visit next month: "Eeh aye! Eeh Aye!" I'm just waiting for her to throw "man", "like" or "hadawayanshite" on to the end of it.)

So I sing Old MacDonald and she joins in with the "E-I" bit. I asked her what was on the farm.

"Baby," she said.

Novel idea. Farming babies. But I went with it. "Wah wah here, wah wah there." You get the picture.

Next verse. What's on the farm Phoebe?

"Baa baa," she said.

Excellent! A sheep. Now this is something I can work with. "Baa baa here..." etc. Phoebe joined in with the baa baas.

What's next, Phoebe. What's on the farm?


Another baby. Okay. Wah wahs again. Next?


Apparently there were four babies and a baa baa on the farm.

Another song we like to sing is one from her Gymbaroo CD. It goes,

"The grandfather clock goes tick tock tick tock.
The kitchen clock goes tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock.
All the little watches go tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick."

Each clock gets progressively faster. Phoebe sings along to the tick tocks and sways from side to side in time, which results in much manic bopping by the time we get to the little watches. We sang that song on the bike on the way home from daycare yesterday and I nearly toppled over when she started lunging left and right.

So, anyway, we were in the bath - well she was. I don't bath with her anymore on account of trying to wean her and her tendency to launch herself at my breasts whenever she sees them. So she was in the bath and we were having a jolly old time. She was standing up, so excited was she at our little sing-along. Then she let rip a little botty burp. She looked at me with a little smile on her face. I tried to keep a poker face. Next thing she let rip a proper fart. Had a little giggle at herself. I tried very hard to maintain my poker face but jeez it was funny. Then another louder fart and a proper belly laugh from Phoebe this time. Well, I couldn't help myself and had to have a little giggle along with her. Then she squatted down into the water, farted again and made bubbles. You can only imagine how hilarious we both found this.

So there we were laughing away, oh isn't it funny when Phoebe farts, when all of a sudden she pooed. Apparently it wasn't funny any more. She turned around to see what had happened. It broke up in the bath water and then she did another one. She was surrounded by tiny little floaters and completely freaked out. Full on tears and she was practically climbing up the side of the bath trying to get out. Funny girl. That's the second time she's pooed in the bath and lost it. One can only hope this means she'll be easy to toilet train. Or perhaps just completely inconsolable whenever she has a little accident.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Working Mother: Weaning

So, we're sort of weaning.

I say "sort of" because there's no plan as such, we're not going cold turkey and we're trying to fit it into our lives, which sometimes means feeding when perhaps we don't need to.

For a while now I've been meaning to follow the La Leche League advice of "Don't offer, don't refuse" but on work day mornings this always seems too hard. I just want to feed her and then get on with getting ready otherwise there's a chance she'll decide she wants to feed when I'm sitting in the car and about to drive off. Technically, it shouldn't really matter as by then I'm out of there and it's someone else's problem. But there's nothing worse than leaving your child crying in someone else's arms.

There have been a few mornings when she's had breakfast and then either asked for a breastfeed (using her milky sign) or I've just given her one out of habit and to avoid the aforementioned situation. Which, incidentally, has never actually happened other than in my head.

Yesterday, however, I decided to risk being late and just see what would happen if I didn't offer her a feed. We were sitting having breakfast and Toby's mum was putting Phoebe's lunch bag together. Phoebe saw her get her milk ready and indicated that she'd like some. She drank about 1/3 of a cup! And then she didn't ask for a feed. So I went to work without giving her one.

When I picked her up she'd just woken up from a nap and was quite refreshed. I gave her a rusk to chomp on and she was quite happy until shortly after we got home and she started to fret. She has a funny cry that she makes that's a cross between her excited laugh-noise (she also makes this when we're hunting for Diggedy, her favourite toy, or when she's just about to brush her teeth) and the milky cry she had as a newborn. She just kept making this noise, and, trying to follow the LLL advice I kept saying "Use your signs, Phoebe. Tell Mammy what you want." She was obviously getting frustrated so in the end, knowing darn well what it was that she wanted, I fed her.

Still, I was proud of the fact that we'd missed our morning feed. She didn't have a bedtime feed that night either, which is quite normal for Wednesdays as I go to Zumba and Toby gets her ready for bed.

Then last night, she woke at 1.30am and asked for milk, using her sign this time. I fed her and she still played up a bit but I went back to bed and she settled after a minute or so.

This morning she asked for milk again so I fed her before work. I'd already slept in and ended up being almost an hour late. This work thing is really starting to become hard but I'm scared to resign because we'll be poor.

Anyway, the weaning thing will obviously be a bit up and down - on Monday she asked for milk at lunchtime and had three feeds! There are clearly going to be times that she wants a bit extra and there'll be times when she's tired and frustrated and won't ask for it properly so I'll have to effectively offer it to her. And there'll be times when I'm tired and not thinking straight and I feed her when I probably don't need to. For example, this morning I could have offered her milk from a cup before breastfeeding her.

But yesterday was the first time she'd ever had just one feed in a day. If you can really count it as only being one, given that she woke in the night. And, if it makes me late for work or tired, well, they're just going to have to deal with that then, aren't they?

I'll miss our breastfeeding relationship. As I've said before, it's so special and intimate and is unique to a mother and her child. It's one aspect where a mother can't be replaced even if she's at work and other people are looking after her child. But I think it's about time for us to let it go. We're settling into our work-daycare routine (even if some days are harder than others), she's 14 months, which is a great length of time to have been breastfed, especially as it'll probably be another few months before we've fully stopped. Plus, some days she just mucks around and I think she just has the feed out of habit. I suspect by the time we actually stop I'll be more than ready. And hopefully, so will she.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Night walking

Well this is a first.

I'm writing this at 7.30pm at night whilst pushing Phoebe around the block in her pram in an attempt to get her to sleep. I have no idea whether or not this is the right thing to do with a 14 month old but as Toby is tutoring at uni tonight I had no one to bounce ideas off.

Phoebe has been a bit all over the place since we visited the in-laws for Easter. Whilst there she slept well at night but did not want to nap during the day. One night I had to sit with my hand on her back til she fell asleep. Since we got home she has started the transition to 1 sleep (more on that later), sleeping well during the day but then struggling (read screaming) to sleep at night. I think that she's possibly a bit overtired by bedtime due to her changing daytime sleep routine. But just to confound matters she now has a cold which seems to be irritating the hell out of her.

So tonight I had to assume that's what was keeping her up. I felt cruel otherwise. Hence the walk.

Anyway. It's worked and we're home. The question remains: now what?

Written with BlogPress Lite for iPhone.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Photos: Easter weekend at Nan's

I just wanted to share a few photos I took with my iPhone this weekend. Phoebe had a wonderful time staying at Nan and Grandpa's house with her big cousins, Zoe and Kielana. There was always something exciting happening and she just loved the Easter Egg Hunt, although she was lucky to find anything with her super-fast cousins around.

Because there was so much going on at the house Miss P just did not want to sleep during the day. Eventually I resorted to the age old method of walking around with the pram. It occurred to me that it was the first time I'd seen her asleep in months. Apart from in the car where gravity makes her look a bit Winston Churchill:

Written with BlogPress Lite for iPhone.

Working Mother: She knows the drill

Phoebe seems to be getting used to our new routine of me going to work on Tuesdays whilst she stays at home with Daddy. This morning she could obviously tell it was a Tuesday by the fact that I was pottering around getting ready, wearing work clothes and putting on jewellery and make-up. As I came out of the bedroom she waved goodbye to me. Super cute.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Phoebe, Rearranger of Household Items

Phoebe's been getting into a bit of interior design lately. Aside from decoration with crayons she likes to move things around and see where they look best. Apparently, the bin from her bedroom actually looks better in the AV cabinet:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Speaking in tongues

Phoebe has taken to speaking in tongues. Here is video evidence:

Clever girl!

She also has a new word. Well, it's probably her only word. Other than "mama", "dada", "nana" "tah" and the crazy tongue-roll "trtrtrtr" sound she makes for cat. Her new word is "dog" and I'll try and capture that on video too as it's very cute. It's more like "doh".

And she now has a new sign. She has finally learnt the sign for water but she doesn't use it consistently and it looks more like she's pulling a pint than drinking from a cup. That's my girl!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In sickness and in health: Mother Guilts, and The Debate of the Working Mother

For a while now I've been meaning to post an update on what it's like to be a working mother. Especially after my many rants on the issue.

Generally, it hasn't been too bad. Actually it's been pretty good. Apart from the weight of the imminent five-day week hanging heavy on my shoulders. I have managed to persuade my boss to let me work four days a week until the end of April, based primarily on some back problems I've had lately. Same old story: pelvic instability flared up again due to lack of mobility. Basically I wasn't doing enough exercise after getting back to work and sitting in a chair all day made things even worse. That's on the mend now but I asked for the extra time to make sure that I can fit activity into my week. If I have a bad back I'm no good to them or Phoebe. So, the boss said "yes, but that's your lot".

So that's that then. Absolutely no chance of part-time work. Unless, of course I take up the matter with HR but I suspect that would do more harm than good so I'm not going to.

Phoebe settled in well at daycare, and quickly too. She has bonded with her carers, loves the toys and books there and gets to go and play with the older children in the late afternoon, which she seems to like. She's been a happy, well-adjusted little baby and has done us proud. She no longer cries when we pick her up or drop her off and even dropped her late afternoon breastfeed. She still has sleep issues but seems to cope okay. Toby and I have often commented on how her adaptability has made the transition of me going back to work, and putting her in daycare, so much easier than it could have been.

Then she got sick and everything changed.

Last Thursday night I was on the phone to me skin and blister getting all the lowdown on the birth of her beautiful 3 day-old son, Ben, when I heard Phoebe cry. It was about 9pm, an unusual time for her to wake, and she sounded strange. Eventually Toby called me in and my poor baby was sitting in her cot, pale, crying, very upset, having vomited raspberry jelly on her sheets. First attack of the Mother-Guilts for having fed her the jelly in the first place. It's a rare treat and she'd been such a glutton at tea-time I thought she'd appreciate some dessert.

Then I wondered whether she was sick because after her bath, I'd come out of her room to find her sitting on the kitchen floor eating from the pile of dropped food that I'd swept up. Second attack of the Mother-Guilts for having not actually put the food pile in the bin and not having watched her like a hawk.

Oh, and of course I felt guilty because I'd been half listening to her cry, half listening to my sister telling me about the midwife popping a water sac next to Ben's head, and at the same time thinking, "maybe she'll go back to sleep in a minute". Even though I knew it was an unusual time for her to wake up and she sounded strange.

Anyway, I comforted Phoebe and checked her nappy whilst Toby changed her sheets but she wouldn't stop crying. Eventually I took her to our room for a change of scene where she threw up again. Next attack of the Mother-Guilts when I realised I felt slightly relieved that it wasn't the jelly that had made her sick.

We knew friends who'd recently had a 24 hour vomiting bug so we figured that's what it was and Toby contacted them for advice. The best advice they gave us was to give her water from a spoon at regular intervals. Anything more than that and she'd throw up again. She vomited about 5 times over the next four hours and retched every 15-20 minutes. Finally I managed to get her in her cot but she still woke up crying every hour and just needed me to rub her back before she'd fall asleep again. I slept on her bedroom floor for part of the night but even when I got to my own bed I was alert to the slightest noise she made. She was unwell for the whole of the next day and slept on me for most of it, vomiting another couple of times. Once when she tried to eat a corner of my toast and again when she grabbed my water bottle and gulped it down.

The following day both Toby and I got the same bug and were also horribly ill. It probably lasted about 2-3 days for us but Phoebe is still off her food and now has a nasty cold.

And to put all this in context, on Thursday I had my first attack of the guilts with regards to dropping Phoebe off at daycare. She was really really clingy with me and still didn't have her usual gluttonous appetite back. The previous day I'd had to work late so I got Toby's mum to pick her up from daycare. I still went to zumba so I only really saw her for an hour that night. The night before that Toby had put Phoebe to bed. So basically I think she was missing me.

I knew she'd be fine once she got to daycare and I really didn't feel comfortable taking another day off work as I'd missed two in the last week. Still, she was happy if I was giving her lots of attention and unhappy otherwise so I knew she just wanted some time with me. It probably didn't help that Toby's mum was there and, naturally, was concerned about Phoebe. She was very tired and due for a nap but she often is around the time we take her to daycare. I felt torn but took her in anyway and asked them to call me if she was miserable.

Ever since then I've felt awful, especially as the next day at daycare she "didn't have a good day", and now she's got this yucky cold, which was obviously ramping up on Thursday morning. I can remember what it's like to be a little girl, not quite feeling yourself, and just wanting your mammy. My mammy was always there for me when I was unwell. Apart from the time I had earache and she had to go to university and I ended up lying on the floor at Gran's house, with my ear on a hot water bottle, watching the telly through a mirror. But I was probably 12 by then. Not that it matters. I mean, I'm 34 now but I still wished my mam had been there to look after me when I was sick last weekend. It just broke my heart that I couldn't be there for my little girl.

I know this is just a blip. Phoebe will get better and she will want to go to daycare again but it has just opened up the can of worms again. I'm sure I can't work full-time but I'm also nervous about working part-time. I mean if I'm only there three days a week anyway then taking three days off because one or both of us is sick means I miss a whole week. I can't half do a job. I'm either committed or I'm not. That's not to say that my job is more important than my baby. Absolutely not.  Obviously if she's sick or injured I'm there for her 100%. But there are some days when it isn't black and white. Days when she's just not in the mood. She just wants a quiet day with her mammy. She's just feeling a bit sensitive or tired. How can I justify keeping her home from daycare and me home from work on those days? I mean, it's not like she has a lot of them but still... It is hard for me that I can't be there for her on those days. (Although it's possibly a good thing as they're exhausting and can drive you a bit balmy.)

Another reason I'm nervous about part-time work is that it means leaving my current job and all the nice things that go with it. I've been there for 6 years. I like the people I work with. I enjoy the work for the most part. I know the environment very well. I understand the business. I know how my clients work. I'm confident. I get paid well, I get good superannuation (pension). It's close to home. I can ride my bike there and pick Phoebe up on the way home. It's a nice environment. Whilst a move might be to something better, I could also end up much further away, meaning that I see even less of Phoebe on the days that I'm working. I might end up having to contract, which means I won't get paid for the days that Phoebe is sick, and I wouldn't get super.

I went to university so that I could build a good life for myself and my future family but I really didn't think about how that might work. I guess I thought I'd have saved lots of money by now. And I didn't really understand how I would feel. So, the jury is out, the debate is ongoing. Nothing has changed. Although I do think small amounts of daycare are good for a child with Phoebe's disposition, I still don't think that long days, or lots of days are good. She's still too young and is there longer than I'd like.

I currently feel like I can't win. If I don't work, I'm not bringing in any money, plus I don't think it would be that good for my mental health. I was already starting to get demotivated at the end of last year. There's no hurry to do anything when you're at home every day. You can always do it tomorrow. If I do work, I'm not there for Phoebe when she needs me. I mean, Toby can be there for her, and maybe it wouldn't make any difference to her which of her parents is there, but I suspect that isn't the case. Toby's relationship with Phoebe is slightly different, probably because he didn't spend ten months at home with her, he didn't grow her inside of him and he hasn't breastfed her for the last 13 months. It doesn't matter how much equality we want, or get, between the sexes, fundamentally we are very different. And we offer different things to our children as a result. And that's a good thing. But when the nurturer, the soother, the parent who really comforts you and cuddles you when you're sad or sick, the parent who just lets you feel that way and sits with you through it, instead of trying to cheer you up or distract you with toys, when that parent can't be there for a child, that's not a good thing.

And I suppose this is never-ending Debate of the Working Mother.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tidy up

Conversation between me and Toby the other day amidst a lounge full of scattered toys.

Me: We're gonna have to start teaching Phoebe to tidy up after herself.
Toby: Yes! This has gone on for too long.

Cracked me up.

Baby Sign

Today I taught Phoebe two more signs: "more" and "enough". I'm not sure she actually understands the meaning of them yet but judging by the last two meal times I'd say she's definitely getting there.

Babies are very expressive with their bodies and signing comes quite naturally to them. In fact, Phoebe makes a lot of her own signs up, as most babies do. For example, sucking on hands generally means "my teeth hurt". Pulling on ears means "I'm getting tired". So teaching them a few more is actually quite easy.

You don't have to teach many. Just those words and phrases that are most important and are used most often. And they don't have to be by the book either. My mam gave us a baby sign language book and we refer to it if we can't think of a nice simple sign for something, but generally we just make it up, use what comes naturally or base it upon the signs our 6 year-old niece learnt as a baby. She still remembers them (or has been reminded of them) so it makes sense to teach Phoebe signs that other family members understand too.

Most people teach their babies to wave when they're about 8 months old anyway. Signing works in the same way. You just repeat an action in the right context when using the correct words. They soon pick it up.

After "bye", the next sign Phoebe learnt was the one for "milk". This is particularly useful now that we're towards the end of our breastfeeding days. I still haven't decided when to wean Phoebe so for now I'm going with baby-led weaning (with some slight encouragement towards dropping the mid-day snack, which was going well until she got a chest infection). La Leche League recommends "don't offer and don't refuse" so having Phoebe be able to ask for it when she wants it is pretty helpful. Some days she doesn't ask so she doesn't get it.

For a long time she only really knew the sign for milk and often only used it when I reminded her. Her milky cry is now being used, or adapted, for so many things these days. It generally just means "I want" so I have to encourage her to accompany it with a sign that tells me exactly what it is that she wants.

Then just last week she started using the sign for "food" and uses this whenever she's hungry. We're also teaching her signs for "home" and "drink", which generally refers to water. I haven't decided where to categorise cow's milk. I'm pretty sure she uses her milk sign to mean breastfeed and she'd be a bit dirty about it if I tried to palm her off with cow's milk instead.

Well, I was writing this whilst Phoebe had her dinner and I can confirm that she totally gets "more". The issue is "more" of what? I was feeding her yoghurt and kept asking if she wanted more or had she had enough. When I asked if she'd had enough she shook her head and then she started making the sign for more. But she didn't seem overly interested in her yoghurt. However, she ate it all up and I eventually found out that what she actually wanted was more grapes. Clever girl.

About the shaking the head thing, well often it means "no" but she still just does it for the sake of it, Stevie Wonder style, and she's now added a sort of a nod too. In the car on the way home from daycare she shakes her head all around and cackles this false-sounding laugh. I think that's her "excited" noise, as she also makes it when we find Diggedy (her favourite toy) at bedtime. She cracks me up.

She has become au fait with her shape sorter. Well, with the circle anyway. The other shapes are still a bit hard although she can do the star with a bit of help. She'll sit and push the circle in over and over again for ages. She also sounds like she's trying to say some words. Her vocabulary is still fairly limited to "mama" "daddy" and repetitive consonants but in the past few days she seems to have attempted "no" and "Grandad" ("nan and "nana" having been mastered a while back). However, she does seem to have a sound for the cats. It's quite complex - Toby thinks she gets it from hearing him making the "tt tt tt" noise when he calls them for dinner. She sort of rolls her tongue behind her front teeth and it sounds a bit like a cat purring. She sometimes says it in the car coming home from daycare and Toby thinks it's because she's excited about seeing them again.

And before I go, I just wanted to say that Phoebe got a new cousin to add to her collection today. And I got a nephew. He's such a cutie and we wish we could cuddle him soon. I can't wait to speak to my sister and find out how it went and how Lucy is adapting to being a big sister. I can't believe it was only a year ago that Toby and I were basking in the glow of having delivered a newborn unto the family. And now we have a crazy toddler. They grow up so quickly.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Theory of Mind

Amelie came around to play today.

We haven't seen her for a few weeks. Last time she visited she zipped around the house using Phoebe's ride-on car as a walker. Lucie followed excitedly exclaiming it was the furthest Amelie had walked. Now it's her favourite thing and she's pretty adept at it although she's yet to take her first solo steps.

Phoebe and Amelie are developing a lovely friendship. At lunch they wave at each other from across the table and end the meal by yelling loudly together. Admittedly today it did seem to be Phoebe doing all of the yelling. She was apparently very excited about having her little friend come to visit.

After lunch they had a play.

Lucie sat Amelie in the ball pool. She wasn't too sure about it. Phoebe loves the ball pool. It's one of those sandpit clams that you can put sand in one half and water in the other. She likes to throw balls from one half to the other then climb into the other side and throw them back. Then she climbs back to the first side and rolls around. Eventually she lays back abd body surfs the balls which end up spilling out and rolling all over the floor.

Phoebe was obviously thrilled to have a friend to play with in the pool and climbed in to join Amelie. But as the balls started to move around Amelie freaked out and started to cry. Phoebe stopped and watched Amelie closely. She seemed acutely aware that her movements in the pool were upsetting her.

Later, Amelie practised her walking with the ride-on car. Again, Phoebe got very excited at the opportunity to share her toys with a friend. How I hope this behaviour continues through toddlerhood. Phoebe grabbed the seat of the ride-on car. I'm not really sure what her intention was. Did she want to sit on the seat whilst Amelie pushed, or was she helping Amelie push it? Either way both children were playing with the same toy and Amelie couldn't get on with the business of walking. Which is a very serious business for a 10 month old. She got very frustrated and the tears came again.

Phoebe stopped what she was doing and hugged Amelie.

It was so cute but it was also evidence that my little baby is developing theory of mind. This is a big milestone in social and pyschological development. Baby girls show empathy as young as 6 months old, when they cry in response to other babies crying. Phoebe's behaviour demonstrated an ability to empathise, and to understand cause and effect. She could see that what she was doing was upsetting Amelie so she stopped. She has also learnt that when she is upset we cuddle her and it makes her feel better and so she hugged Amelie, presumably to help to make her feel better.

From the limited reading I have done, Phoebe seems remarkably young to be developing such skills. I do wonder to what extent her time at daycare has helped her social development. Certainly being in the company of other children and learning how to behave in social situations must be a contributing factor. Some of it is also her personality. She has always been the kind of baby who likes to play with others, in as much as such a young child is capable of playing with others. Unfortunately, the other children generally prefer to play alone and quite often squeal at her when she attempts to play with the same toys.

This is a fascinating period of development and, as Phoebe was a bit fussy a week or two ago, I checked out whether she was in a wonder week. Sure enough, she is just emerging from Wonder Week 55: The World of Programs. I still haven't read the book, although I'd love to. It seems expensive and the local libraries don't have a copy. Previously I have always managed to find a mum who had blogged about it but not this time. There are mentions of it but no one has gone into detail on the skills acquired during this phase. From what I can gather, following the previous period of learning about sequences ("this happens then that happens"), this is more about cause and effect, if-then (speaking my language now), that is, "if this happens then that happens. But if this happens than something else happens". This certainly seems to fit in with the understanding Phoebe was demonstrating yesterday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Babies produce oodles of dirty laundry.

People tell you this before you have one but nothing quite prepares you for the horror of it. Especially because you have months of a beautiful, clean newborn (who only occasionally poos and vomits on clothing) before the full extent of the constant pile of washing actually hits you. I remember wondering what bibs were for.

When I first considered using cloth nappies people would warn me that there'd be enough washing to do anyway. I countered that with the argument that if there was that much to do anyway a few tiny nappies weren't going to make much difference.

Here's the surprise: cloth nappies are good for dirty laundry.

You see, bamboo nappies, such that we use, and presumably your common or garden terry too, need to be washed every couple of days. A bamboo nappy can't sit around wet for much longer than 48 hours or it will start to deteriorate. I imagine this is fine if it happens once in a while but as a general rule we wash our nappies every second day.

This isn't as onerous as it sounds. We have a reasonably sized laundry with a squirty hose thing, some buckets, a clothes airer and a tumble dryer. The drill goes like this: we take soiled or wet nappy (after having disposed of any lumpy bits down the loo) and squirt it with the squirty hose thing. Then we stick it in a bucket. Over the next couple of days the bucket gets full then we empty the contents into the washing machine and stick it on a good hot wash, usually overnight. Then, the next morning we pull the nappies out and stick them on the airer. In damp weather, if the nappies aren't dry that evening we stick them in the dryer. In the good old days when I was on maternity leave I hung them on the outdoor line and the sun bleached any stains. Thankfully we don't have so many stains these days.

This is why cloth nappies are good for dirty laundry. There is a wash going in every two days anyway so it's the perfect opportunity to throw in any towels, bed sheets, face cloths, burp cloths, muslins, bibs, or any other item that can withstand temperatures of 50-60C. This helps reduce the number of bibs and wipes thrown away because they are covered in black mould that no amount of soaking in Nappi-san will get rid of. Not the baby-friendly one anyway. Unfortunately this does not completely eliminate mouldy bibs. The only thing that does that is not having children in the first place. Although stripping them naked before each meal then bunging them in the bath afterwards does help too.

A beautiful moment

I had a beautiful moment this morning.

I was breastfeeding Phoebe, and Monty (my beautiful big black pussy cat) jumped up onto my lap. The cats are taking refuge from the rain in the house, which they normally avoid due to the presence of the midget cat terrorist.

So there I was, cuddling my baby in one arm, tickling and stroking my feline friend with the other hand. When Phoebe had finished her feed she sat on my lap and petted Monty with me, shrieking with pleasure. Monty purred as he lapped up the attention.

It's nice how a day that starts full of poo can be followed by a day that starts with comfort and cuddles.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I have had the most disgusting morning.

To set the scene: the weather is miserable. It's dark and rainy and we had numerous heavy showers during the night. As you can imagine the cats do not like going out to poo in such weather.

You can see where this is heading, right?

So, fast forward to Monday morning and I'm trying to get everything that I used to do between Monday and Friday done all in one day. I won't bore you with details but suffice to say it's a lot. I finally get Phoebe settled in her chair having her breakfast and find the time to tend to the cats.

I have no idea whether Toby has fed them before work but something is bothering them. At the very least they need water. So I give them some food and water, and open their cat flap.

And then I see the three piles of little brown nuggets, two of them swimming in water from the umpteen millimetres of rain we've had.

At this point I should probably point out that the cats live in a roofed, fly-screened patio, not actually in the house, thankfully.

Still, it is gross and needs to be cleaned up. I decide to leave it until after I've had my breakfast. Dealing with cat poo is not conducive to a healthy appetite.

After breakfast, with Phoebe all cleaned up and having a pre-nap nudie run around the house I head out armed with a plastic bag, a trowel and the litter scoop and collect the offending articles. I go to let myself back in and there is Phoebe standing on the door mat in her own poo! It is my own stupid fault really for letting her have nudie-dudie time when she hasn't yet done a poo today.

I stick Phoebe back in the bath and get her off to bed before cleaning up her poo too.

Today I am meeting one of my mum's group friends for a coffee. I think I will also buy a new door mat.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

No. I mean yes. I mean no. I mean ...whatever

Phoebe's latest thing is shaking her head. I'm not really sure why but now I remember noticing her little friend Ruby doing it a few months ago.

Sometimes I offer her food and she shakes her head. It means "no". If I continue to offer her the food she pushes it away, shakes her head again and then turns away from the food. It clearly means "no". Which makes sense. A shake of the head always means "no".

In most people.

Other times I offer her food and she shakes her head. Then opens her mouth and lunges towards said food. She heartily eats it. Clearly, the head shake did not mean "no". Did it mean "yes"? Did it mean "no, oh alright then, you've twisted my arm"? Or did it mean "I don't really know. But as it's there I may as well"? I really have no idea.

A colleague told me a story about his two year old son who will have a tantrum at the dinner table demanding a biscuit but when one is offered to him he pushes it away and yells "no biscuit".

Children are very confusing

Sometimes Phoebe shakes her head and there is no food anywhere to be seen. She smiles and seems to be doing it just for the fun of it. Perhaps she just likes the sensation. Maybe it's "just a phase".


Friday, February 19, 2010

One year since we arrived home from hospital

A year ago today at around this time I took my tiny baby home from hospital in 32C heat. (And then spent the next month on the sofa breastfeeding her.)

I hadn't seen the outdoors in 5 days, apart from a brief trip to a restaurant the night before. (Champagne and oysters - yum!)

I saw a very young baby yesterday, all sleeping and flopping on its mother's shoulder and I thought "wow! I really had forgotten that Phoebe was ever that small". 


A few days ago I bought her her first pair of soft-soled shoes.

I remember when I could take her out anywhere in the pram and she'd just sleep. Of course I had to take a ton of nappies with me. And every one I changed was pooey. But I never had to take food for her.

Now, I can walk to the bathroom saying, "come on, let's brush your teeth," and she follows me. She gets all excited about brushing her teeth because she likes to suck the toothpaste off the brush. She doesn't like to actually brush. Or spit. Or rinse.

I have to strap her into her high chair or she escapes and climbs across the table or bench.

In one year!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Phoebe's first birthday

It's hard to believe but our baby has been with us for a whole year.

It has gone so fast and yet so much has happened. So many milestones have been reached. So many memories have been made.

It has been the most wonderful time of my life. Sure, there were days when I called Toby in tears because I was tired and Phoebe was grumpy and wouldn't sleep. Sure, getting her into a good daytime nap routine, and teaching her to fall asleep alone were difficult challenges. But those grumpy days were mercifully few and far between, and the joys and adventures have far outweighed any low points.

There have been so many firsts.
The first breastfeed. The first car ride. The first walk with the pram. Which ended in near-disaster when the brake broke at the end of the rivermouth rock wall, 2km from the car. Whilst I carried Phoebe, Toby had to push the pram back on its front wheels because the back wheels were stuck tight. Thankfully she was only a week old and not very heavy. The same could not be said for the pram.

Then there was the first time she sat up unaided. Which was closely followed by the first time she rolled. Which was closely followed by the first time she escaped from the inflatable donut at Nana's house. And that was closely followed by the first time she crawled. Which, in turn was closely followed by the first time she pulled herself up to standing. Wow! What a crazy few weeks that was.

And whilst all that was going on we had our first plane journey all the way back to England where Phoebe met her Geordie relatives for the first time. There were many more firsts on that trip, including the first tooth and the first taste of ice cream.

The first solids were fun. As was the first time she smeared avocado in my hair. And the first time she splattered bolognese sauce all over the floor, wall, fan, and any other furniture (or animal) that happened to get in the way. The first tastes of chocolate and cake went down well.

The first time she slept through the night at ten weeks old was a bit of a blessing. The first time she slept through the night again, and then continued to do so at 9 months was more so.

I could go on all day with a list of firsts: first swim, first play in the toddler pool, first go on a swing. (Actually that last one happened whilst in a sling worn by Daddy at around 6 months, much to Mammy's concern.) But I shall cease now and get on with the business of telling you all about her birthday.

So, another big first. First birthday.
Something of a milestone and what not. So, we thought let's have a party. But she's only one so we'll keep it small. We decided to invite a few friends and throw a sausage sizzle in the park. Nothing too flash. I have years ahead of me to faff around with kid's birthday parties. I don't intend to start just yet. Besides, I'm a working mother. I don't have the time.

36 friends, 75 sausages, 4 loaves of bread and 1 number-one-shaped m&m covered cake later...

The cake ...
...was a saga in itself. It was the one thing I thought about putting any effort into. I still wanted to keep it fairly simple though. I figured a number one would be easy enough. Just one loaf for the main bit and another for the triangle bit. Then a friend showed me a picture in a cake book and I decided to go a bit fancy and add the flat bit along the bottom and then cover it in multi-coloured sweets.

That particular recipe called for 3 packs of cake mix. Well, I was already cheating with the frosting (Betty Crocker, at my sister-in-law's advice). I darn well wasn't going to cheat with the cake too. I found a recipe for plain cake. Then, in the same book I found another recipe for plain sponge cake. For a few days I failed to notice that they were actually two different recipes. Then, having done the shopping I wondered why half the ingredients I'd bought didn't appear in the recipe. That's when the penny dropped. I then deliberated for quite some time over whether to do a plain cake or a sponge cake. I wasn't entirely sure I even knew the difference. Toby told me sponge cake is difficult and now wasn't the time to experiment, so we chose the plain cake recipe.

I decided I should do twice as much as the recipe said, given that we had two tins to fill. As I filled the first tin Toby announced that he thought I hadn't done enough so we decided to do one more load of cake mix. Yes, that would make three times the original recipe. For a cake for a one-year-old. Then Toby told me he thought I'd put too much into the first tin. I scooped some out. If this sounds a bit confusing then that should give you a good impression of the general feel of what might have maybe been happening in the kitchen that night. I didn't know whether I'd made too much or too little, put too much in the tin or too little. Anyway, cake got shoved in oven and we sat down for dinner.

Forty minutes later cake was meant to be cooked. Cake wasn't cooked. Second cake was made and shoved in oven. First cake still wasn't cooked. It took over an hour and instead of coming out looking like a sort of rectangular prism shape, it was more like a mountain. Escaping. An escaping mountain. A volcano, if you like. It was crispy on the outside. In short, a complete disaster and we prepared ourselves for more cake baking the next day. Thank god we did this two nights before the party.

The second cake turned out okay and thankfully the first cake was salvageable. We cut it into shape, stuck the bits together with apricot jam and frosted it. Then began the uhmming and ahhring over the m&ms. Should we put them on now or in the morning? Don't they go all funny if you leave them in the fridge? Won't the colour run? I phoned Kaz to check. She thought it might but wasn't sure how long it would take. We decided we wouldn't have time to do it in the morning so I did it that night. Eventually the frosting began to melt and the sweets started to slide down the side of the cake. I stuck it back in the fridge, figuring I'd do the rest in the morning.

So next morning, lovely family time. Gave Phoebe a rocking giraffe from my grandparents and talked to my parents over skype whilst she opened her gifts from them. When she was having her nap I whipped the cake out of the fridge and started trying to stick more sweets to it. The frosting was a bit hard at first but as it began to soften, the colour began to run on the m&ms already on the cake. We had to shove it back in the fridge unfinished.

By the time we brought the cake back out again at the park the m&ms had all faded and were sporting coloured halos. No one seemed to notice or care. In fact many complimented me on a lovely looking cake. I smiled nervously wondering how I could put them off eating it, convinced it would be all dry and yukky after the volcano debacle. But what do you know? It was bloody yummy. Isn't that always the way? Especially with parties. The things you stress about the most either turn out okay or just don't really matter.

The party...
... itself was lovely. The mums from my two mums groups turned up with their families, along with Scott, Lucie and Amelie and Toby's family. It really wasn't all that big after all. Phoebe got lots of lovely presents and cards. The best moment was when we crowded around the cake and sang Happy Birthday to her (see video below). It was probably the third time that day she'd heard the song but when everyone sang her name she looked at me with this huge grin. Suddenly she realised that all the fuss and fun was for her and she loved it.

My daughter has taught me a lot these last 12 months: What it means to truly love someone so much that you'd do anything for them and always put them first. To be unselfish. How much my mother loves me. The importance of family. That banana stains if you don't rinse if off clothes immediately. That small children can fall on their head multiple times, sometimes from a great height, and not really hurt themselves.

Seeing her personality emerging is amazing. She is strong, funny, cheeky, and kind. She is brave and tenacious. Just tonight she was trying to get hold of the bottle of shower gel whilst in the bath. I put it to my right side and she walked around me to grab it. I moved it to my left side and she walked back around the other way. I put it to my right side and ... you get the picture. This went on for quite some time and I was sure she was going to scream with frustration. But she just kept on with a look of intense determination on her face.

And that pretty much sums her up. My Little Miss Chief. Here's to another wonderful twelve months, my little darling.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Master of sleep

I have just found this old unfinished post in my iPhone blogger app. One unfortunate thing about the app is that it doesn't seem to record the timestamp on a draft so I don't know when I wrote this. I would guess that it was about a month ago. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading it and I'm encouraged at how far we've come since then. Phoebe generally falls asleep within 5 or 10 minutes these days with minimal crying.

Here's the finished part of the original post:

I don't know if I dare type this in case it is a non-repeating event. Then again, if it doesn't happen again it should be noted that it did happen at least once. And it is rather exciting. So here goes...

Phoebe went to sleep tonight WITHOUT CRYING!!!

During the day she is generally pretty good and often falls asleep easily after babbling in her cot for ten minutes but still always screams for at least 30 seconds on me leaving her room.

At night, to date, she has screamed blue murder when I leave her room and has continued to do so for a minimum of 25 minutes. Let it be known that I do not leave her to cry for the full 25 minutes. Even if I thought it would be a good idea I don't think I could. I go in and comfort her every 5-10 minutes. Most nights I've had to do this at least twice. But tonight I didn't have to go in at all. Amazing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Phoebe, a.k.a Houdini

I am in the process of developing that all-important parental skill: eyes everywhere at all times. The phrase "I need eyes in the back of my head", which I distinctly remember my mother using on more than one occasion, does not quite cut the mustard with Phoebe. Oh no! Phoebe is turning into quite the little escape artist and I need eyes all over the place. And hands.

When she's loose and wandering around the house she doesn't seem to get into quite so much trouble but twice in the last few weeks I have found her in precarious situations that she has managed to get herself into with me standing right by her.

The first such incident occurred at tea time. I sat Phoebe in her high chair and gave her a snack whilst I prepared her tea. Whilst she was tucking in I stood at the bench and chopped vegetables. At this point, it is important that I explain that the kitchen table is right in front of the bench so Phoebe was in my direct line of sight, only obviously I was watching what I was doing so that I could ensure that I was chopping vegetables and not my fingers. The next time I looked up Phoebe had climbed out of her high chair and was in the process of crawling across the table. Seriously, I'd been looking away from her for a few seconds. She was that fast.

The second incident happened at an outdoor store. I was at the checkout chatting to the lady. Phoebe was alongside me in her stroller. Suddenly the lady said "oh watch" and pointed towards the pram, which Phoebe was climbing out of . On all fours and with her head at the foot end of the seat. Dear me. Once again, I'd taken my eyes of her for a few seconds. The scary thing here was that, although I hadn't fastened the bar across her stroller, she was strapped in, yet somehow she managed to remove her legs from the straps and climb over them.

Needless to say, I have tightened the straps and now always securely fasten her in her pram and her high chair. I realise now those things are there for a reason.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Phoebe, Destroyer of Furniture

And Books, In Particular.

Phoebe is teething again and this time is chewing everything within reach with a vengeance.

When I go into her room after a nap her face is covered in flecks of white paint, evidence of her feeding frenzy on the cot. And following many such gruesome naps, the cot itself is in a sorry state. I took some photographs today:

The view from the inside of the cot

The head of the cot, where I find her standing covered in paint after every sleep.

We popped out to get some bread this afternoon. Phoebe likes to look at books in the pram and in the car so I handed her a book on shapes. She ate that too. Completely chewed the corner of it. The last time she did that was when my mam bought her a buggy book (a book that straps to the pram) when we were in England. Phoebe was about 5 months old and was teething with her first two teeth, which came through very soon afterwards. She annihilated the book so badly we had to confiscate it and throw it away. I confiscated the shape book today. She can have it back when she stops trying to consume the cot.

So, any advice as to what I can do to save the cot? I'm a bit concerned that Phoebe is going to start swallowing bits of wood as it has started to flake. Current thoughts are to dash in as soon as I think she's awake but that's not always practical; to place a rusk and/or teething ring in the cot when she goes to sleep but I'm not sure she'll even notice it's there; to cover the damaged section with parcel tape or something but she'll probably just eat the tape and/or move to another section of the cot and start destroying that.