Thursday, October 27, 2011

Frozen, not stale

I went to a friend's house tonight. That was exciting, getting out by myself after dark, driving without any kids in the car, listening to whatever I wanted to listen to.

My friend was having a Thermomix demonstration. What a groovy little appliance that is. Is there anything that machine can't do? Well, yes, actually. It can't bake, toast or grill. It can't switch itself off (bit of a flaw for a $2000 machine, if you ask me; even my low-tech oven manages to do that), serve the food or wash the dishes. And it can't cook slow-cook meals, such as curry, super fast like our pressure cooker does.

But it can weigh, chop, grind, grate, mill, steam, heat, mix, froth milk, whip meringue, make creamy custard, butter, yoghurt, sorbet and ice cream (but it can't freeze it), knead dough, press garlic, and a ton of other things. In a two hour demo we watched her make (and then ate) citrus sorbet, garlic and spring onion dip, Italian bean pasta, cheesy bread buns, beetroot salad and custard (which I made; it was super easy and really yummy). She grated a whole block of parmesan and turned regular raw sugar into icing sugar.

But I totally digress.

This afternoon I baked zucchini (corgette) bread. (Note to self: must remember to write in book that I baked 2 loaves instead of 1, at 160c instead of 175 for 1 hour instead of 1 1/4 and they came out perfect.) Before I went out I was bagging up slices of the loaf to put in the freezer. I had also pulled a slice of raisin bread out of the freezer for Phoebe's afternoon tea tomorrow. I asked Toby to finish bagging the slices and pop them in the freezer. I then explained about Phoebe's bread, as he usually gets her daycare food ready, told him to pop it in the fridge and then butter it in the morning.

When I got home the slices were bagged but still on the bench along with the raisin bread. I fed Ash then came back out to pop the slices in the freezer and the bread in the fridge. The bread was gone.

"Where's Phoebe's raisin bread?"
"Oh, I had to throw it away because it got left out and went stale."

Not stale, Toby. Frozen. The bread was frozen. It was on the bench defrosting because it was FROZEN. Not stale.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm so tired I don't even know what to call this post. It doesn't even have anything to do with tiredness. I should just go to bed.

So Toby is really busy with some extra-curricular professional activities. It's something I definitely support him in, if it hasn't exactly come at the best of times for us. So only a few days after returning from Melbourne, after which he'd said he was going to take it easy for a few weeks, he's now writing an abstract for a presentation at a conference next August. A long way off, yes but the abstract has to be submitted tonight.

He is up all hours at the computer and sleeping in the spare room so he can get some sleep in order to get up at 5 with the kids (if and when required) and function at work during the day. Although he did somehow manage to have an afternoon kip yesterday whilst I walked Ash in the pram because it was the only way he would sleep unless in my arms.

All of which leaves me doing all those things normal wifey type wives do; getting up all night with our poor sick baby (just a cold and horrible cough but doesn't seem to be anything to worry about), entertaining sick baby and crazy toddler all day, doing all the laundry (nothing new there then), tidying the house (which ends up even more messy when Toby's head is in something else; believe it or not his unpacked suitcase is still on our lounge room floor over a week after his return), cooking dinner, feeding the cats and finally tidying the kitchen and getting the dishwasher on.

And what does he have the nerve to say to me at this point?

"You're making quite a lot of noise."

Excuse me Lord Muck of Muckity Manor, why don't you just fire me and hire a quieter maid then?


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Toddler music aficionado

I have been mucking around with the Instagram iPhone app lately. It allows you to apply cool retro filters to your photos and share them. I avoided it for a while as from what I can see the photos end up public. But finally I relented and it's super fun. I try to keep photos of the kids to a minimum and to make what I do put up there slightly abstract and arty. Here are a couple of my favourites. (Actually, so far they're the only ones of the bairns.)

I call this one Beautiful Innocence. My little girl just looks so beautiful in this photo. I love it.

This is called Rolling Stone. I started Phoebe's music education early. Actually, that's only partly tongue in cheek. Her favourite song for a while now has been Black Eyed Peas' Boom Boom Pow. More recently we've all been into Gotye's song Somebody That I Used To Know and Phoebe also loves my new Kimbra CD. I'm amazed at her ability to remember music. The other day she was wandering round the house singing "copier". Eventually I realised that she was singing the line "You didn't have to cut me off" from Gotye's Somebody after hearing it that morning on the telly. Today she was wandering around singing "buck buck cockadoodledoo" which she'd heard this morning at The Wiggles. She just loves live music. If we ever go anywhere where there is live background music she is absolutely transfixed and then applauds at the end. I love that my girl is so into music and I'm excited that this is something we can share together in the future, just as I share my love of music with my parents, especially my Dad.

Sick Boy and Cake Girl

Well, we survived five days without Toby. Sort of. Toby's mum came to help us for a few days. And we survived that too. JOKE. Obviously. She barely survived though, poor woman. The first morning she was here Phoebe woke up at 4.30am. I settled her back down and got back into bed. Then Ash woke up so I got up to feed him and then Phoebe woke up again. So Toby's poor mother ended up taking Phoebe into her bed and of course she didn't go back to sleep. Things didn't improve much after that.

Anyway, there is many a story from those few days and not all of them suitable for my blog I'm afraid. But I got a night out with a girl friend. Which was fab. Had a beautiful eye fillet, medium rare. Felt tipsy after a glass of bubbly and 3/4 glass of red. And I also got to spend my pamper voucher from work which I used on the most gorgeous wonderful facial, after which I should not have been allowed to drive.

After Toby's mum left, Phoebe went for a sleepover with her cousins and I had a lovely evening in. Made myself a curry, drank beer, watched Wire In The Blood in a quiet house. Lovely.

Ash is poorly, poor sweet boy. He has a stuffy nose. And a horrible cough. He's been checked by a doctor twice in the last ten days when we've been in for other things. Both times his chest has been clear which is a relief. But it has got markedly worse in the last couple of days. Sometimes he coughs uncontrollably. Two days in a row now, when I've sat him up after a feed he's coughed so much his entire feed has come back up and all over the both of us. He must have regurgitated 150-200ml of milk each time. I had to fully change both of us and have a shower. It was quite something. His eyes are gunky too. I really should be online looking up remedies instead of blogging. Actually I should be in bed. After a few really good nights' sleep, which I needed because I didn't get much whilst Toby was away and was run into the ground, we've had a couple of shockers. I'll put him back in his cot after a feed and he'll start to cough and then that's it. Wide awake. For two hours. Ug! He still manages to be the loveliest, smiliest, happiest little baby though. Here's a (crappy iPhone 3G) photo of him yesterday, not quite as poorly as he was today but right when he was due a sleep nonetheless. 

Meanwhile, Phoebe's cake making skills are improving considerably. On rainy days I help her make a chocolate cake in a mug. It's cheap, super easy and almost small enough for her to eat it all herself. Basically I don't care how it turns out (and neither it seems does she) so it's far less stressful than letting her help me bake. Today was the second time we'd done it and last time I drew the recipe for her. Today she helped me identify some of the ingredients - except she thought butter was cheese. Interesting. And she did most of the measuring, putting the tablespoon into the flour jar and counting out four spoons of flour. She even sliced it up herself using her new knife. Clever little girl. Here she is with her first mug cake a couple of months ago.

Toby's favourite parenting moment (so far) came when Phoebe took him a slice of her cake and said, "Here is some cake for you, Daddy." The first bit of cake she had ever baked and then sliced for him. It melted his heart and he said it is the best cake he's ever had.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Audrey Hepburn, I already have one

Phoebe's latest cute word is "audrey", or occasionally "oar derry", meaning "already".

As in,

"I audrey did it, Mammy. I audrey!"

"Or I oar derry have Mammy."

Her harlequin patterned dress is her "harkelin dress", bran flakes are "blan plakes" and freckles are "spotties".

Phoebe: You have spotties on your nose.
Me: No, they're freckles. You have freckles on your nose too.
Phoebe: No, I have spotties on my nose.

Love it!

"I want my dummy... I'm a big girl now": Time-Outs and Stars

Poor Phoebe has a serious case of split personality.

On the one hand she is growing so fast and is so very proud of all of her little achievements. Like now, at 32 months, she can go to the big toilet on her own without using her toddler seat. She can wash and dry her hands by herself although she still sometimes struggles to turn the tap on and off. And she often plays with the water, uses way too much soap and makes a total mess. She can dress herself. Unless it's something you want her to wear. She puts things away, takes dirty clothes to the laundry and is really good at taking her dishes to the sink and putting them onto the bench or into the dishwasher. Though they do tend to just get tossed into the top tray. And she's an amazing conversationalist, although she doesn't always make sense.

On the other hand she has a slight obsession with dummies and still can't quite control her emotions resulting in intense meltdowns over the slightest thing.

Toby thinks her oral fixation comes from seeing me feeding Ash, and apparently she pointed to his nipple and said something about milk the other day. But I've noticed the dummy thing for a while now and think it could be partly due to other kids at daycare having dummies (Phoebe never really had one as a baby) and partly just a phase kids of her age go through. She does a lot of mummy and baby roll play with her dolls and with her friends.

As for the tantrums, it often gets to the point where she can't listen or talk to you so we've introduced Time-Out. For example, today she went to the toilet whilst I was changing Ash. She shouted for my help and told her I'd come when I'd finished putting Ash's nappy on. Then I heard her whinging. I strapped Ash, who was due a feed, to the change table, wound up his mobile and went to see what the commotion was. There was a puddle of wee on the floor next to the toilet. I started to show her what to do when she has an accident. I.e. if her clothes are wet put them in the nappy bucket in the laundry. I realised she couldn't reach the bucket so I told her if that's the case she should throw them into the sink and tell me. But today she could just put them straight into the machine as I was about to put a wash on.

She couldn't reach the bucket.

Didn't matter. I'm putting a wash on.

She couldn't reach the bucket. She wanted to put her clothes in the bucket.

No point in moving the bucket as I wanted to show her what to do in future and in future she won't be able to reach the bucket.

But she wanted to put her clothes into the bucket. She really wanted to put her clothes into the bucket.

I tossed them into the machine. She lost it.

Needless to say I didn't get around to showing her how to wipe her wee up. I tried to get her to talk to me. I tried to get her to listen to me. No dos. She was inconsolable. We're trying to teach her a bit about emotions, about how sometimes you can feel really strong emotions and you don't feel in control and it's okay to feel like that. But when she's in the moment you just can't get through to her. So I told her I was giving her a time out. I put a dining chair in the corridor and shut the bedroom and bathroom doors. I told her to stay there until she'd calmed down then come and find me.

I actually think time out works quite well. At first we used it as a punishment but we've now moved onto a star system which I'll talk about in a minute. As a punishment it seems to be less effective as they fight it. As a time out it gives you both an opportunity to calm down and today she seemed to really appreciate that low-stimuli quiet alone time to come to terms with her feelings.

This took a while and poor Ash had been waiting on the change table for his feed the whole time. A few minutes later whilst I was feeding him Phoebe came in, still crying but much calmer.

"I'm sad," she told me.

She has two basic emotions that she can verbalise: sad and happy.

We had a cuddle and a little chat, decided to put on a Wiggles DVD and after a while she told me she was happy again.

As for the star system, so far it seems to be working. Toby introduced it a couple of weeks ago to deal with her night time misbehaviour and meltdowns. The stars are abstract. There's no chart or anything as the number fluctuates all day but maybe we will make one. And we've talked about making a chart to illustrate what the stars are worth.

So stars are currently reset at night - although I'm thinking of changing that to ensure that good behaviour continues after she's had her reward. Every day she's awarded three stars and if she still has three stars after dinner she gets to trade them in for treats. If she has a full three stars she can have a small amount of chocolate and she can then trade the stars for a TV show or extra story. She gets one story every night anyway - because I think books are important and refuse to remove them completely as punishment. But she can trade one star for a story and two stars for a TV show. So if she has three stars she can have a small amount of chocolate, plus either one extra story and one TV show, or three extra stories. If she has two stars at the end of the day then she can have one TV show or two extra stories.

The trading, awarding and removal of stars is a bit arbitrary at the moment and we're making it up as we go along. But she'll figure that out soon enough so we need to work out what we're doing. Throughout the day we talk about how many stars she's had and what she might be able to do to earn extra ones. It seems to be easier to lose them than to earn them.

For example, this morning we had a lovely morning and we were ready for swimming way ahead of time. Lunch was made, Phoebe had her swimsuit on. We'd even hung a load of washing out and Phoebe helped me bring a load in. Then it all went pear-shaped. She took her swimsuit off, whilst I was tied up with Ash, and refused to put it back on again. Then agreed but insisted she couldn't find it. She was difficult to deal with and deliberately insolent. And as were leaving I discovered she'd emptied all her clothes onto the bedroom floor. So she lost a star. But I told her she could earn it back by being good in her swim lesson, listening to the teacher and doing as she's asked, eating her lunch and leaving the park when I told her it was time to go. Then she had to go to sleep and help me tidy her clothes when she woke up in order to keep her star.

Well, she earned it back in half star increments but then lost it again in half star increments this afternoon, half for being difficult whilst I was tidying the mess she'd made and the other half for her tantrum. She then lost one with Toby at bedtime because she wouldn't brush her teeth when asked.

So no chocolate or TV show and just one extra story.

Twice today she asked for a lolly but I told her she hadn't been good enough. In my opinion as soon as you've lost a star you haven't been good enough for lollies unless perhaps you manage to earn an extra one and get up to four stars.

Anyway, we seem to have found a system of discipline, using positive reinforcement, that she can relate to and for now it seems to be working.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Learning stuff

We're all learning stuff in this house. Phoebe is learning to cut things with a frighteningly sharp knife (see video). Ash is learning to sit and stand (also see video). And I am learning how to look after Ash. My job is the hardest because Ash keeps changing.

Phoebe and Ash are obviously very similar. Here they both are at approximately the same age asleep on the activity mat.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Phoebe and Asher: Compare and contrast

I really would like to write more about Asher but Phoebe just gives me so much material. The funniest thing Ash does is to grab whatever soft thing is nearest to him, be it a toy, a cloth or his sleepsuit, and smother his face with it, seemingly trying to eat it. And he gets very excited about his bath. Bathtime used to calm him down and totally relax him. Now he seems to be trying to beat his personal best for how much water he can get on the floor. Oh and he just loves to stand up. He thinks he's so cool. And I suppose that is pretty impressive given he's not yet 17 weeks old.

Meanwhile, as I'm bathing Ash I can hear Phoebe playing with her Barbie in the bath and saying "I'm the teacher. I'm the teacher. I'm the teacher.... I'm here. I'm Barbie." And muttering nonsense to herself. At times she is just so incredibly cute. Like when I went to say goodnight to her and she gave me a big hug and said "I love you too darlin'" over and over again. And then "Your earrings, darlin'. Your earrings, darlin'. Your earrings, darlin'" as she played with my earrings. Until eventually I said, "Phoebe, stop playing with my earrings now please" and she said, "Ok" and stopped. Just like that. And then at other times she's just totally mental and incredibly frustrating.

I read back over some old posts to see what Phoebe was like at Asher's age. At first I didn't quite know what to make of them. On the one hand I seemed to know a lot more about babies and what they were supposed to be doing. And on the other I seemed a little bit more stressed about the fact that she wasn't doing what she should be and that she kept changing. I seem to remember thinking that she was an easier baby as she had more of a routine but Ash is definitely getting into a routine now. He seems to wake a bit more at night and feed more during the day than I remember Phoebe doing. But then reading the old posts it seems that Phoebe started to sleep through around 10 weeks and then stopped again a few weeks later. She'd feed approximately every three hours but then would cluster at certain times of the day. When Ash was tiny he seemed to cry more than Phoebe, be more awake at night and he still seems to wake up earlier. But then the two occasions that Phoebe's inconsolable crying really impacted my social life and have stuck in my head may well be the only two occasions as it seems I blogged about them.

One thing I can say is that I have less time to worry too much about what Ash is doing. I don't have as many friends with babies of the same age to compare behaviours with. I also have the benefit of my experience with Phoebe of knowing what worked for us then and what didn't and not even bothering with the stuff that didn't work. Plus being told that everything is a phase and learning that that's the case from experience are two different things.

So with all that in mind I thought it might be useful to pick a few key points from a post I wrote when Phoebe was about a week older than Ash is now and see how the two compare.

  • "Little Miss P has changed so much over the last 4 weeks." So has Ash.
  • "Just in the last few days she has taken to sucking her bottom lip (teething, perhaps?) and it totally changes the look of her face." Ash has started gurning like an old man. I remember Phoebe doing this too.
  • "She cries less and is more vocal, shouting when she's a bit annoyed about something." Ash has been doing that for a while now.
  • "About two weeks ago at Gymbaroo she rolled by herself down the soft play wedge and has since rolled quite a few times, including onto her back during mat time at Gymbaroo when she got fed up with being on her tummy." Ash is rolling onto his side both from his back and his tummy although he hasn't quite rolled over completely yet. He does wriggle around a lot though. It still amazes me how much babies can travel just by wriggling.
  • "She has also started to commando crawl although doesn't go very far and gets tired easily." No commando crawling here unless I put my hands to his feet to give him something to push off.
  • "As well as continuing with her standing fetish, she is now learning to sit and is getting pretty good at doing it on her own....She can stay still for a few seconds but then she topples over, which she seems to think is great fun. If she's holding onto something, such as my finger or a toy then she can balance for much longer." Ash also loves to stand and sits whilst holding onto both of my fingers although I really have to hold onto him. It seems as though he has the strength in his upper back but not so much his lower abs.
  • "She seems to be over her fear of going to bed." No fear of bed with Ash. He bloody loves it. Phoebe, on the other hand, is a different story some nights.
  • Phoebe had recently changed from falling asleep after her feed, or talking herself to sleep, or having to be jiggled to sleep to wanting to fall asleep on the breast. If I pulled her away from the breast she would wake up, cry and root around. It was taking me an hour to get her to bed. In contrast Ash usually falls asleep at the breast quite quickly although tonight I had to give him a quick cuddle afterwards. I quite enjoy that last feed. He doesn't seem to mind falling asleep with the light on so I put the radio on tuned out (to drown out the noise of Miss Chief having her bedtime tantrum) and take the opportunity to read my book. If the light seems to be bothering him then I turn to the iPhone.
  • "Phoebe still sometimes wakes up in the night. She usually wakes when I go to bed or around midnight and then again at about 5.30am but this varies." Hmm... Ash always wakes in the night, usually at least twice. And he often wakes up at 5.30am or earlier. I read that Phoebe would wake at 6am for a feed, change and quick play then go back to bed for 2-3 hours. Ash wakes anywhere between 4am (hasn't done that for a while, thank god) and 6 or 7, stays awake for a couple of hours then goes back to bed for 1-2 hours. Only I don't get to go back to bed with him like I used to with Phoebe because by then Phoebe is up. 
  • "Last night she went to bed around 7.30 then woke at 10.30pm when I went to bed and again at 3.30am and then 6.30am when we all got up." That sounds more like Ash. So maybe he's not that different after all.
  • "I'm not at all used to all this night-time activity so I'm a bit tired and I'm off to bed in a minute." I am but I'm still tired and off to bed in a minute.
  • "I've given up trying to make her nap in the middle of the day. I just let her sleep when she's tired and hope that it fits in with what I'm doing." That's pretty much always been the case with Ash. These days I like him to have one or two of his naps in his cot but he also sleeps quite well in his car seat on the pram base. I aim to get him to sleep about two hours after he last woke up. I swaddle him in a muslin cloth during the day and at night he has this kick-arse sleep suit that keeps him all snug but lets his arms go up either side of his head and he can still suck on his hands (through the suit). During the day when we're at home I generally have to put him in the sling so that I can block out visual stimulation and then jiggle him for a bit. Since Phoebe was a baby we have bought a new (second-hand) Ikea chair which is so comfortable. I sit in that for a bit to make sure he's asleep before putting him in his cot. More often than not I doze off too.
It was interesting to read those old posts and see just how similar they are, and in what ways they were different. It seems that aside from the waking at night, and the stupidly early mornings, that Ash is the easier baby. It certainly sounds like he's easier to put to bed at night. But I really do remember Phoebe being easy too. My expectations may be different this time. And of course I'm totally distracted by my toddler.

Would you like a pillow with that tantrum?

Tonight there was another altercation between Toby and Phoebe. Basically Phoebe was being naughty at bedtime, refusing to lie down and go to sleep, shouting out for various things.

"I'm cold."
"I want my sheet."
"I don't want to go to sleep."

Eventually Toby shut her bedroom door which triggered tears, cries of "no, Daddy, no" and finally all out screaming. As the screams got more and more frantic Toby went back into her and said, "would you like a pillow to scream into?" He then demonstrated to her how this is done.

She didn't see the funny side.