Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Little beauty

What I want to know is this:

What exactly informs a two-year-old's idea of beauty?

The question has arisen for me because the other idea I was reading a Hi-5 book that I'd got suckered in to buying for Ewan. He watches them at daycare, personally I've never seen this particular bunch of kiddie warblers and for this, folks, I am endlessly grateful.
Anyway, he came across a picture of Kellie, one of the performers in Hi-5. For those who don't know, this is Kellie:

Totally unprompted by me, he stared at her picture a moment and said:

"Kellie's boo-de-foo"

Had I heard right? I asked him again:

"Kellie's boo-de-foo"

Pushed a third time he responded "Kellie's nice" (clearly he thought his daft mama had no idea of what beautiful meant).

So, where does a two-year-old get this sort of stuff from, I ask you? Of course, I can't rule out daycare because he does come home with a few eyebrow-raisers from there, though it's 99% benign.

I personally haven't really started commenting that this person or that is beautiful or not. I mean, I call him a "beautiful boy" an awful lot. Because he is, but I don't particularly say it in reference to his looks.

Here am I studying "Kellie". Typically beautiful according to the perceptions of our society. Blonde, young, slim, fun.
Beautiful for sure.

Is it a fait accompli that if a two-year-old can recognise these characteristics as beautiful then the rest of us who don't fit in this category are doomed to a life of 'un-beautifulness'?

Is it purely a matter of facial symmetry as you hear every now and then on the news after some study or another has been completed?

It was with some trepidation that I then posed the question: "Ewan, is Mummy beautiful?"

To which the response was "Yeah, Mummy's beautiful" ... but let's not focus on the hesitation before that answer, let's just go with it!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Girl power

Things are much improved in our house, thanks to the small matter of a good night's sleep (finally) being achieved. Never mind that the sleep was eventually achieved with a sleeping pill - just the chemist kind, nothing too strong. Whatever. It worked and I feel a little better.
Anyhow, after writing about my sleep deprivation I received some fantastic emails from good friends. It reminded me of what a brilliant force women can be. So supportive, so soothing, so just ... there.
I've been guilty of neglecting my friendships since E arrived. Somehow there just isn't the time (or perhaps I should say I don't make the time). I should.
My wonderful school buddy M wrote to me with tales of her own sleep woes and what I think is a truly ingenious solution: she puts a digital alarm clock next to her Early Riser's bed and a sheet of paper with '6.00' written on it. When the time on the clock matches the time on the paper he's allowed to hop up.
Sheer brilliance, I tell you. And she gives the best advice.
Then another ol' school pal J left me a comment about how she trained her daughter not to kick her in the night. Again, I take my hat off to the resourcefulness of chicks...
Then I had a note from K, a very, very dear friend in Scotland who has had her own sleep troubles with her (much younger) son. With both of us mums now we don't email all that often, but I always love hearing from her.
So suddenly I didn't feel quite so anxious or alone.
From the bottom of my heart...
girls, I thank you.

Friday, February 22, 2008

**An update**

And so the insomnia continues.
But I am pleased (I guess?) to report that it is down to matters (millions of them) swirling through my head in the wee hours and not my son suffocating me in my bed during the night.
Yes, in my house we persist with things.
Shaun got home on Weds and his presence has made a fair difference to E. Shaun has graciously handled the bedtimes and the night wakings. And almost immediately E has improved. He's still crying when he goes to bed, but it is crying not the WAILING we had before. He wakes and calls for me in the night, but usually just once.
I can't go in there as he wakes fully if I do. Shaun can go in and calm him without too much fuss.
So, yes, we're on our way to better sleep (for E) already.
Now, if only I could get a decent sleep... and Shaun probably wouldn't mind one either.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The nightmare continues

Check this out. Butter wouldn't melt, right? Picture of serenity, huh - little chap all snuggled up in mum and dad's bed.
The last few days have been nothing short of a nightmare. Oh, hang on, you have to have sleep to have a nightmare so that's not technically possible.
Saturday was the day my tot decided his recent growth spurt made it possible to hitch a leg over the cot rail and climb right on out. He did this when he was supposed to be napping on Saturday. I heard a thud and, assuming he'd bumped his head on the cot, went in to check he was OK.
Only to find him standing at the door.
So I settled him, read another story, walked out and within two second ... bang. Out again. And, not sure what to do, I put him in our bed, which is when the pic above was taken. That night we approached bedtime with some trepidation. We made a big fuss of putting the mattress from his cot on the floor and he took it in his stride and went to bed fairly happily. Until about 5am, but I guess that's a good effort.
Sunday: no day sleep. Not possible when you're as strung out as he was. Sunday night: the fight goes on. All the books I have say to calmly pop the child back in bed, explain that they need to stay there and leave the room.
Nice in theory.
It's just that our son was beating at the door, calling out "Mummy, where are you?" and CLINGING to my leg when I opened the door (not to mention trying to escape out of it).
So we did get him to sleep by reassuring we were here ... through a shut door and basically having him cry himself to sleep.
Soul destroying.
I worry that I am switching on something in that happy little boy's brain that turn him into a clingy or anxiety-ridden child.
Shaun has been away since Monday and so all the sleep dramas have been left to me alone.
Needless to say, I've not handled things very well.
Monday nap: I actually lay in his cot (which now has one side removed until we get a chance to go and buy a proper bed) while he drifted to sleep.
Not my smartest move.
That night: "Mummy sleep with Ewie". Err. No.
I stayed with him a while but every time I tried to edge out of the room he HOWLED. I'm talking hysterics. So unfortunately I couldn't see any other way to get him to sleep than to have him cry it out.
Meanwhile I sobbed my heart out in the next room.
It is truly taking a toll on me.
At about 2am - thud. He'd rolled out and cried that he had a "sore bacK" so of course I had to let him into my bed. Therefore there was very little sleep at all. For either of us.
The mixed messages I have given him! Poor kid must dread bedtime as much as I do.
So I am exhausted.
No, beyond that.
Beside myself.
What to do?
Today I skipped the day sleep (chicken!) and tonight I made another big fuss of putting the cot mattress in our room. I firmly told him there was no sleeping in our bed but he could sleep next to us. It'll be fun, I said.
"Yes Mummy," he said.
"Night night Mummy," he said.
I have been through the entire rigmarole again tonight.
Now I have no idea what to do next.
I can't have him in our bed as he's too damn wriggly and he insists on sleeping right up against my face.
We will (have to) get a bed on the weekend but there's a few days between now and then.
Am at wit's end.
Googling the problem is no help. Everything I have read says 'put them calmly back in bed' ... no mention of what to do with a hysterical child that's just about hyperventilating with anxiety.
Fingers crossed we work this out soon because I don't cope at all well on too little sleep.
Right, am off to order a Wiggles doona cover online.
Surely that's gotta help the transition?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

It's my party...

Excuse me while I wallow a little.
You see, I've come over all miserable when I should be cheery... because it's my birthday and I don't feel much like celebrating.
I am now officially 35.
35? How'd that happen? This is the first birthday where I've felt, well, old. Thirty wasn't too bad. Thirty five - bad. I woke up aching and with a pounding headache (no alcohol involved ... just a headache that I have had since Weds) - and if anything's going to make you feel halfway to 70, that will.
I'd chosen a restaurant in the Botanic Gardens that appeared in the SMH Good Food Guide as 'Outdoors' and 'Kid-friendly'. It turned out to not be either. The pouring rain removed any possibility of outdoor dining. And the table of tutting nannas next to us wasn't much fun either. Still, the food was pretty nice, the wine was good and the company as lovely as ever. Ewan enjoyed his fruit salad and icecream.

But then we walked (or ran - as it was still raining) back to the car to find a parking ticket. This despite me dutifully paying $16 onto my credit card for four hours parking (we were back in under three hours). Needless to say, I will be having words with the council first thing Monday morning.
But it ruined my day. Damn it.
I came home and cried. Then I cried more because when I was little my mum always told me that if you cry on your birthday you have a bad year ahead. Oh great.
E had fallen asleep in the car on the way home (4pm) and I went off for a walk by the river to sort myself out. The day has improved since then.
Shaun and Ewan made me chocolate cake from the Apples For Jam cookbook I was given when I left my last job. E seemed to enjoy the making ... even if the mixture did almost hit the floor a couple of times.

He insisted on "blowing the party"

Because when you're two birthdays are all about you regardless of whose they actually are...

I think he was pretty happy with his efforts...

In the process of writing this and looking at these pictures I realise the fog of grumpiness is lifting and that I should stop for a second and take stock of how lucky I am. Hopefully the year ahead will be a good one, superstition be damned...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Messers of the world unite

It was published in the Sydney Morning Herald a week or two ago now, but I have to say I had to raise an eyebrow at this (fantastic) article by Deborah Ross. It appears she has done some of her research at my house. I've highlighted the bits - in caps - that, ahem, most apply to my humble abode.

Not into housework? Join the Club
By Deborah Ross

The non-domestic goddesses of the world are uniting ... if they can remember when the meeting is.

Welcome to the Non-Domestic Goddess Club. This is the largest organisation in the world for those who have old iceblocks embedded in the iced-up walls of their freezer [TICK]. The club, founded at some time but no one can say when exactly as the members forgot to write it on the calendar, operates under the slogan: "Nature abhors a vacuum and so do we." [UH-HUH] The club also, by the way, abhors the Dyson. This was decided at the last AGM because the fact that it is funky, and won't lose suction, doesn't make it any better and you can't fool us.
Minutes from the last AGM are available on request but only after they have been lost, found, lost, found, lost and then found again at the bottom of the fruit bowl under the small brown furry thing that may once have been a plum but then again could equally be one of those baby koalas for the tops of pencils. Who's to tell? The Non-Domestic Goddess Club expects its members to uphold extremely low standards at all times. Anyone nearly up-to-date with the ironing will have to explain themselves in full, while anyone totally up-to-date will be automatically expelled. Anyone who hasn't touched an iron in years [THAT'S ME] and just tries to pass everything off as 100 per cent linen [TOLD YOU SHE'S BEEN SNOOPING] (including her face) will be awarded free life membership.
Ditto anyone who makes Nescafe by placing the mug under the hot tap [GUILTY AS CHARGED], both when pressed for time and when not, and who prepares bedding between guests by turning the pillow over to its "fresh" side [EEK, YOU'RE NOT JUDGING ME, ARE YOU?]. The Non-Domestic Goddess Club has this to say about blackened cookware: soak, soak, soak, then throw away when nobody is looking [BEEN THERE...]. The club also suggests never questioning the fact that there is a street directory in your underwear drawer [...DONE THAT], as well as a toy knight, some small change (amounting to 85 cents), a book on houseplants and three boiled sweets. To question can only lead to madness. The Non- Domestic Goddess Club has this to say about socks with holes in: put aside for darning, then throw away when nobody is looking.
The Non-Domestic Goddess Club suggests never, ever going right to the bottom of the laundry basket, as anything could be living down there [IN FACT, IT MAY BE MOULD BUT I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT]. The club fully endorses opening the top of the laundry basket, sighing dispiritedly and promptly closing it again [AND QUICKLY]. The club expects all members to have all of the following items at the back of at least one kitchen cupboard: a tin of golden syrup with the lid half-cocked (treacle is also acceptable); an ancient pot of hundreds and thousands; a spilling bag of decade-old lentils; several bottles of food colouring (all green); a variety of exotic pickles and chutneys, which seemed like a good idea at the time; any number of herbal teas with tempting names such as Mango Carnival and Tropical Fiesta, which no one drinks because they all taste of pond; sticky jars of stuff that can no longer be identified and have bits of old moth wing, spilled lentils and fairy-cake cases stuck to their sides. [YES TO ALL OF THE PREVIOUS...]
The club has this to say about leftovers: decant carefully into Tupperware, place in fridge, leave for a week, then throw out when nobody is looking. Alternatively, place in freezer, leave for a decade, then throw out when nobody is looking. Never throw anything away today that you can keep and throw away at a later date. The club has sympathy for anyone who has tried to defrost a chicken in the bath or dry a child's swimming costume, just unpacked from last week's lesson, by swinging it round her head [AT THIS POINT I NEED TO DISCLOSE THAT ON ONE PARTICULARLY RAINY DAY I TRIED DRYING UNDERWEAR IN THE MICROWAVE - IT DOESN'T WORK]. The club has this to say to anyone who is about 19 years behind with the ironing: gather it all up and throw it away while nobody is looking. Alternatively, bury it at the bottom of the garden, along with the pet goldfish whose bowl was used as an ashtray but died of natural causes anyway.
We hope you have enjoyed this short introduction to the Non-Domestic Goddess Club and that you will always defend the useless housewife whatever. Some people say that the trouble with useless housewives is that they are lazy and just sit around all day reading gossip magazines, whereas, in truth, they work really, really hard. It's just that so much of what they do happens when nobody is looking.

This is an edited extract from Always Go To Bed On An Argument, And Other Useful Advice From The Non-Domestic Goddess, by Deborah Ross ($27.95), published by Allen & Unwin. The Non-Domestic Goddess guide to children

We give you the top 10 certain facts - make no mistake - about children.
1 The more effort you put into a child's packed lunch - especially if it has meant a midnight trip to a convenience store for supplies - the less chance it will be eaten.
2 A teenage girl will not be fully happy with her attire unless she has caught you wincing. (Gasping is better but wincing will do.)
3 A child shown one of your old, treasured story books will always say, "What, they go and get their feet measured in a shoe shop and that's the story, that's it?" Note: They don't even like the one with the bus. "What, they get to go on a bus and that's it, that's the story?"
4 The school play will always have one child who knows all the lines shouting into the faces of those who don't. (And they call this quality entertainment?)
5 No boy will ever say, "But, Mum, I don't want you wasting your hard-earned money on those expensive trainers. The cheaper ones will do."
6 No child has ever resented his or her mother for stealing his or her birthday money to pay the milkman, and anyway it's the elves who do it.
7 The more you press an outer garment on a child the more he or she will resist.
8 A child's interest in tractors and dinosaurs will persist long after your interest has waned, assuming you had any interest in the first place, which is unlikely.
9 Swimming goggles will leak or be too tight and it will always be your fault.
10 A child's school bag will always contain, along with the rotting organic matter of unknown origin, four out-of-date letters saying how important it is that you come to the meeting that was two months ago as well as a note saying a child in the class has nits and we're not saying it's your child exactly, but do you get our drift?

** You know what's funniest about all this? My partner is always moaning that I am too much of a clean freak. Pah! I think perhaps that may say more about his standards of cleanliness than it does about mine...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Life's long waiting list

Sometimes city living feels like being stuck in one long queue. I saw an item on the news the other night about (crazy, insane) parents camping outside a preschool ALL NIGHT in order to secure their child a place. So that got me to thinking: my son is two and a half, perhaps I should make some enquiries about preschools in our area. For 2009 or 2010.
And that is what I have been doing this afternoon...
I don't think I was quite prepared for the woman at the childcare centre near us (on whose list we have been since 2005 with not a single call) to laugh openly at me. "Good luck with that," she said.
Now I'm a tad concerned.
You see, I had a heck of a time finding E a daycare place. Much stress involved. I put his 'name' down when I was 4 months pregnant and we finally got a place when he was nearly one. So that was the first year and a half of waiting and wondering.
And now this.
I've touched base with three or four places today and I'm planning to hit them all in the next couple of weeks. I would have thought preschool places would be easier to find. After all, isn't that roughly the age that mums are having second and third babies and pulling toddlers out because they can't afford the place? Isn't it easier to get a place when the carer-to-kid ratio goes up? Don't most people just send their kids to preschool a couple of days a week instead of needing full five-day coverage?
Hmmm. Clearly I have no idea.
I'm not planning to send E to school until he's five and half. Four and a half just seems too little. Family Day Care, where he is now, is brilliant ... but I suspect he may need more stimulation and organised activities as he gets older.
I thought there was a governmental push to get all kids into preschool ... not so easy if there aren't the places. Then again, would it really matter if he didn't attend preschool at all? I know I'd like him to.
Oh well, I guess I'll just have to wait...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Rainy day amusement

See, what you do is you get all the blocks and you line them up just so.

You call your mum over and say, "Mum! Look at all the colours!" And"Mum, can we count them?"
Then comes the good bit.

Blocks strewn across the room.