Wednesday, 22 April 2015

I'm Not Good With Sleep Deprivation

Many years ago, I went on holiday with a group of friends. We were staying at my Grandma's flat in Gibraltar and there were so many of us that I was relegated to the sofa. Nothing unusual for me at the time, and not something I minded because I was part of the sub group, let's call us the "night owls", who enjoyed a few ales of an evening. Unfortunately the other half of the group, let's call them the "morning people", would wake up and start cleaning the flat only a few short hours after we returned. I would be woken each morning to the floor around me being swept and mopped, and the passive aggressive clinking of washing up floating in from the kitchen. The whole situation got pretty tired pretty quick and degenerated into all-out war where neither group spoke to each other, or spent more than a few minutes a day in each other's company. By the end of the holiday the "morning people" bought me a novelty T shirt with a "funny" quote on it about me not being a morning person. The "morning people" were never again invited on holiday.

Is there a point to this story? Well I'm hoping it gives you a little context to what I'm about to tell you next:

Miss Olive has a cold.

After she had lovingly shared her germs with me, she degenerated to a point where she couldn't breathe lying down and I couldn't hear myself think over the beating of my own pulse. But God loves a trier (and Keith threatened divorce if we interfered with his ability to listen to his precious footy game) so I scooped up my mucus covered volcano baby and tried to arrange us both in bed.

An hour later I was still lying awake. It's annoying when your neighbours keep you awake with the noise of their music vibrating through the walls; it's more annoying when it's your own heart playing a thudding bass beat in your ears. It was punctuated by the regular cough.... cough ....cough of the toddler. Every now and then we even synchronised which brought us perilously close to producing something you could sell as Nu Jazz.

At about midnight I finally gave up on the bed, scooped the mucus covered volcano baby back up and retraced my steps to the sofa. It took a while for Miss Olive's body to settle from all the coughing, which was why I found myself lying in a foetal position beside her with one knee jammed under her bum to stop her from sliding back down into a lying (and therefore coughing) position.

Oh and she had also somehow managed to take up 90% of the blanket we were "sharing" leaving me with just enough to cover half my body if I tucked in reeeeeeally right.

By this point I was seeing any chance of a full sleep quota recede into the distance so I set aside the creeping numbness and bone aching cold and resolved to get whatever rest I could.

Enter stage right the resident mice.

You didn't know we had mice? Oh yes, we inherited a small army of them from the previous owners and despite setting traps for the last year, they are not taking the hint. Or maybe they are and they just don't care, I don't know. Either way, just as my eyes were closing I heard the unmistakable sound of a mouse-trap snapping shut. I cringed, but there was silence. Twenty seconds later, I suspect the mousy support network showed up because there was an eruption of squeaky wailing so great, Harry jumped out of his bed and went racing into the kitchen.

He is not a quiet dog.

According to the lack of crunching, I am fairly sure his thunderous approach gave the remaining mice a chance to escape, which would also explain why he saw fit to aim a grumpy ass huff at me on his way back to his bed. I thought that was a little much myself, it wasn't as if I played any part in warning the mice who by this point had resumed their positions alongside their former comrade and were once again making known their grief. 

I felt sorry for Harry, despite several return trips to the kitchen, he just wasn't going to get the better of those mice.

Half an hour later, dog, mice and human (no plural there, Miss Olive was fly catching in blissful ignorance of any of this drama) were finally settling down to their respecting rests.

An hour later, Keith woke me up to ask me why I was sleeping on the sofa.

It is a credit to me that I didn't punch him square on the nose. Instead I spoke words - I have no idea which - and was allowed to resume what was left of my sleep.

As is the way with small children, when the grey fingers of the new day crept between the curtains and crow barred my dry, aching eyes apart, I turned to see Miss Olive beaming at me in glorious high spirits. I wanted to be grumpy, I wanted it so very badly, but how can you be angry when you wake up to this?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

More Fun With Milestone Emails

So apparently Miss Olive is now 22 months old.

It has to be true, there was a very slick looking email with pictures and information that told me so. I was on the verge of deleting it because it scares me to think that she's nearly two ... TWO!! ... but I put on my big girl pants and opened the email under the misguided idea that it might be fun to see if she's on target to reach all her development milestones.

"By now your child will begin to set goals for himself. He'll have particular ideas about what he wants to do, like pushing his toy car down the path or fitting all the pieces of a puzzle together."

Firstly, Olive is not a “he”. If you have the computing ability to send me this “tailored” content then you also have the ability to get her gender correct. But since you bring up her goals yes, as a matter of fact, she does have some pretty ambitious goals. They mostly involve squawking like a parrot in a blender at every damn thing her siblings are using until they hand it over and seeing how many people she can make cry in a given day. 

"Does your child want to hug you one minute and push you away the next? Don't take her vacillating needs for closeness and self-assertion personally."

Oh I don’t. I'm fully aware that when Miss Olive gives me the side eye and then marches over to Keith for cuddles it is because she just wants me to know that she is displeased. Normally this comes hand in glove with a melodramatic sigh and a quick glance back to make sure I am watching the fact that she’s over there not giving me love.

"It's not long now until that birthday ... try working out what toys, equipment, and clothing you'll need for a two year old so you can let your friends and relatives know. If you're planning a party, involve your toddler in choosing who to invite and ask what sort of cake she would like, then she'll know what to expect on the day." 

Have my toddler help plan the party? Are you out of your fucking mind? Unless your idea of group fun is stripping down to your pants and drawing over yourself with felt tip before shovelling food into your face with your clenched fists I suggest Miss Olive is the last person on earth who should plan your good times. And also, she’s a third child, the concept of “need” went of the window about a child and a half ago. The only need we have as a family is the rental of a skip.

"Interruptions are a way for your child to ask for your attention. It's annoying – but effective! A toddler most often interrupts when her parents seem to disappear (in spirit if not in body) for long periods, such as during telephone conversations or computer sessions. Try to limit this kind of activity unless she's having a nap or deeply absorbed in play. When you're busy, stay in touch with her by ruffling her hair or looking over and smiling at her from time to time. Don't give in right away. It only teaches your child that interrupting is socially acceptable and effective." 

Ruffling her hair? Should I chuck her on the chin as well for good measure? Am I living in 1950s America and nobody told me? That’s not even the first problem I have with this entire crock of shit paragraph. 1. Don’t you dare try and guilt me for being on a phone call or online, besides anything else it makes exactly zero difference to whether children interrupt. 2. This is not a battle of wills for me to “give in” at an appropriate time. Olive is interrupting me because she is learning and practising a whole range of skills like conversation, cause and effect and speech and has not the first clue about the importance of my Facebook status. Because I'm not a total asshat, I'm not going to punish her for not knowing the rules by ignoring her until I think she’s learned the error of her ways, I'm going to talk to her like the intelligent human she is and keep practising with her until she understands. 

"Don't expect perfect table manners at this point. Smelling it, handling it and smearing it are some of the ways your child gets acquainted with a new food"

Perfect table manners? Oh you are too precious! There are herds of prairie dogs who attach a felled beast with greater finesse than my offspring use to consume their food. And don’t tell me it gets better because despite that the five year old is the one who sets the table and lovingly places the cutlery alongside the perfectly aligned plate, he is the worst offender when it comes to eating by any means except the one that involves picking up a fork and knife. 

"Hand-washing is the number one way to protect your family from illnesses like colds and flu. You can cut down on germs around your home by giving your child his first lessons in this important skill. Put a step in front of the sink so he can reach the taps, and show him how to turn them on and off. Fine motor skills are still developing so he'll need your help and supervision for quite some time."

I have two words for you "hygiene hypothesis"  I am also starting to wonder if you have ever actually met a child. Are there 22 month old toddlers who will stand at a sink and wash their hands without requiring a full change of clothes for us both? It’s not help and supervision Miss Olive needs, it’s a scuba suit.

"Pee or wee or tinkle? Poo or number twos? Every family has its own lingo for potty training. As for what you call the body parts involved, some families introduce words such as "penis" and "vagina" from the beginning while others choose to wait."

Tinkle? What would possess anyone to say that? Do I pair that up with “foo-foo” and “bum-bum” or maybe I should just for the gold standard of Victorian sexual repression and use “unmentionables”. 

I … I just …. Go home parenting site, you’re drunk!

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Review of Greencane Paper Kitchen Towels and Giveaway

This is the review where I finally reach rock bottom and go somewhere we all hoped I would never go. 

This is the review where I talk about poop.

Keith does an amazing job of managing the house, but like all humans who are faced with the demands of three young children, he has the occasional brain fart. This particular brain fart happened about a week after I had taken delivery of a box of Greencane Paper Kitchen Towels to review. 

The review had started promisingly; I had used them for such approved tasks as mopping up the nightly dinner spillages and cleaning kitchen work surfaces with great success. 

I used a few sheets to make the picture on the TV at least partially visible and was seriously impressed that it wasn't going to involve me chasing a ton of statically charged fluff around the screen.

What got the biggest nods of approval however was the softness of the Greencane Paper Kitchen Towels. Most eco products seem to be made with 90% recycled barbed wire and 10% virtue but these were soft enough that I didn't think twice about using them to remove the remains of dinner from the children's various body parts.

Which turned out to be fortuitous.

As with all my reviews, this one happened when Keith went out one Saturday and left me in charge of the homestead. He was off talking about saving marine mammals and I was at home, sat at the dining table with Miss Olive and Esme, creating some pretty impressive post modern art.

Out of nowhere, Miss Olive turned to me, fixed me with a cheeky grin and filled her nappy in spectacular fashion.

For the sake of form I thought I ought to ask her whether she had pooped, which was an error on my part because it achieved nothing but to inspire her to scramble down from the table and vanish down the corridor, cackling.

After I had made sure Esme wasn't about to strike out into some wall decorating, I went to arm myself wth essential butt changing equipment. 

It's a short list:
1. Nappy
2. Wipes.

In this case, however, not short enough because it turned out that Keith had forgotten to buy baby wipes; something which I had completely failed to notice before I was faced with rapidly drying toddler poop.

It was about this time I muttered a hope that Keith might be eaten by the next whale he tried to refloat.

If you think that is unkind, let me just tell you that Miss Olive's family nickname is Mimky Moo. This is not because she has luscious silky hair (although she does) it is because she was born with the bowels of a middle aged man who survives on a diet of real ale and steak. 

I briefly considered whether I could pretend ignorance of the poop situation but my eyeballs were already beginning to water.  

There was literally nothing for it but to make do and mend.

I took four sheets of Greencane Paper Kitchen Towels and ran them under the tap to dampen them.

As advertised on the front of the packet, they were indeed "thirsty" and seemed to hold a surprising amount of water which I figured would only help their poop removing capabilities.

Armed with my makeshift wipes and a fresh nappy I wrangled a still cackling Miss Olive onto the floor and began the time honoured tradition of The Dance of The Nappy Change.

As I had feared, the poop was already starting the process of bonding with her skin, which did not please me. That said, when I started scrubbing at her butt, the half gallon of water that had previously been trapped in the thirsty kitchen towels started to flow down her butt crack,  which didn't please Miss Olive.

All round, neither of us was very happy at that point.

If I have one tiny criticism of these Kitchen Towels it is that shortly into my cleaning efforts the paper did start to break down. I can't be too harsh about that,  I'm pretty sure that when the good folk of Greencane Paper were designing their product, this was not one of the things they predicted it would need to achieve.

Well you can hold your heads up, Greencane Paper, because despite the disconcerting feeling of having her backside scrubbed with bobbly sheets of you kitchen towel while rivulets of water ran into places no toddler should have to suffer them, Miss Olive would like you to know she thinks your kitchen towels rock.

So do I as it happens, and I love that once again I get to say that about an innovative Kiwi business who have spent the last six years developing a product that they feel passionate about. I find it inspiring to have the chance to speak about a brand who are challenging the received wisdom of their industry and finding a way to make modern convenience sustainable.

Probably best not to break into the baby wipe sector just yet though.

If you would like to try Greencane Paper Kitchen Towels for yourself, share your stories of kitchen towel challenges and I'll send you some for your very own.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Throwback Thursday - What I Believe

I was trawling through some files on an old hard drive when I spotted a document called "Me" from 2003. I figured it was going to be some kind of naval gazing tome of how misunderstood I felt, but I was actually surprised, not just with what I had written, but with how true I still hold those words today:
What we believe is what defines us: What we hold dear, the things we live for, etc. It shapes us, it makes us the person who we are and relates us to the world, or not.

For example, my belief in God, my image myself as a Catholic woman, shapes me fundamentally. I’m not a Catholic because I believe that life is sacred, or that gay relationships are evil, I am a catholic because I believe in a certain way of behaving. I believe in giving more to the world than you take, in leaving every situation better than you found it, in treating others as you would bee treated yourself. Those are fundamentals of a lot of religion I guess, not just Catholicism but I find that way of celebrating those beliefs the most uplifting and comforting.

Someone once told me that I think too much, and maybe I do. But what else is there if not thought? Work? Drinking? Cars? What makes the modern way of life more “sacred” than the ancient appreciation of thought, of considering the world beyond your own four walls? I love that part of me, I love the fact that I have the capacity and the inclination to think of things in colour. I see all these people on the way into work, heads bowed, eyes tired, all because they never think, they just do. That, to me is no life at all.

Thinking isn't easy though, and sometimes brings you to a place where there’s no sunlight and a whole heap of pain … but if you don’t look into those places and appreciate them, how can you truly enjoy the other happier places?

One of the greatest privileges we have in the western world isn't free speech, or a good economy, or even food in our bellies … it’s what those things give us, the time and space for free thought. I think to waste that opportunity is the biggest tragedy of all.

Back to my original point; I have to admit that there are times when I am lost in that area myself, I struggle to work out my beliefs in all areas of my life and to look into the deepest parts of myself and come back with the truth of what lies inside me, but the point is that I try. I look into places that threaten to implode my entire view of the world. I look into the past and tear open old wounds that I never knew existed. But that is part of learning who I am, knowing what I believe, and where I want that knowledge to take me.

If I don’t have that, what’s the point of being alive?
Whoa, 25 year old me really knew how to kick back and chill. Incidentally, I still don't have a bloody clue about the answers to those questions; in fact, I feel further away today than I did 12 years ago.
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