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Milk free zone

Finn> Mum, I want muesli.

Me> Oh- I- uh- I made porridge for you. Mmm-

Finn> You KNOW what happened de last time I wanted muesli and not porridge. You said you’d WAIT and ASK me first-

Me> I know; yes- sorry, sweetie; I just like to get it ready before you wake up, so you-

Finn> But I don’t WANT PORRIDGE!

Me> *SIGH!* Ok, I’ll get you muesli. Would you like some kiwifruit? And yoghurt?

Finn> Yes please.

Me> And milk?

Finn> GRAAARGH! NO MILK! MUM YOU POURED MILK ON MY MUESLI-

Me> FINN! It’s just a splash- look, it only landed on a piece of kiwifruit- anyway, you can’t eat muesli without milk-

Finn> I CAN! I DON’T WANT MILK!

Me> Ok, I’ve fished out the piece of kiwifruit-

Finn> DERE’S MILK IN DERE!

Me> THERE’S NO MILK IN THERE! LOOK! I’ve decontaminated the bowl and it is now a milk-free zone. EAT IT!

Finn (five minutes later)> Mummy, I crossed out de love hearts I drew for you.

Me> You did . . . what? Why?

Finn> Because you were grumpy with me.

Me> Well, I know you still love me. Maybe you could draw me more love hearts-

Finn> No. It’s not a love heart day. I also crossed out where I wrote ‘I love you’.

Me> OMG FINN I MADE YOU PORRIDGE AND YOU DIDN’T WANT IT SO I GOT YOU MUESLI THEN I PEELED AND CHOPPED A KIWIFRUIT AND PUT YOGHURT ON YOUR MUESLI WHAT MORE CAN ONE PERSON HUMANLY DO FOR ANOTHER BEYOND DONATING A KIDNEY OR TWO WHICH BY THE WAY WOULD BE BETTER THAN-

Finn> You’re right, Mummy. I’m sorry.

Me> *speechless*

He crossed out the love hearts

He obviously wasn’t fully committed, because you can barely see where he’s crossed out the hearts

I fought the law and the Facebook bitch won

You know how sometimes you commit a crime, like, totally by mistake?

Happens to everyone: I KNOW!

(That’s what I tried to tell the police, but their response was noncommittal.)

So . . . last month, I accidentally stole a bike. Here’s how it went down: the kids and I were kicking around at the playground and as the sun set we were the last die-hard revellers. I lashed my protesting progeny into their carseats (“But Mummy I didn’t go on da slide Mummee!” “Saoirse, PUT your ARMS in the STRAPS!”) and, as I limped to the driver seat, I noticed a bike abandoned by the barbeque stand.

Obvs some kid had legged it home forgetting he’d got there by pedal-power, perhaps pausing momentarily by the backdoor to wonder why he had a bike helmet on his head.

So I took the bike. For safekeeping. Tried not to project furtiveness as I scanned the playground for the owner; then downplayed the suspicious efficiency with which I loaded it onto the suspiciously available bike-rack affixed to the back of the Prius.

I suffered a twinge of doubt as I pulled away slowly (to avoid the suspicious screech of rubber on asphalt) which wasn’t helped by the kids asking why I had taken someone’s bike and was it ours now? – but I was cheered by my charitable act of good goodness.

As soon as I got home, I posted to the local Facebook Page:

Lost your bike?
Picked up an unlocked bike at The Playground this evening – PM me if it’s yours.

The post gathered a number of likes (although I was confused by several shocked :-O Reactions) until someone finally commented: “Nobody locks their bike at The Playground.”

I tried to defrost the chilly overtone with my response and got a bit of banter going about bikenapping HAHAHA, until ‘April*’ (*Her real Facebook name) commented: ‘Look can you return the bike and delete this post because it just draws attention to the fact that the kids leave their bikes unlocked at The Playground’.

It’s comforting to know we live in such an honest, caring community.

Although WOWSERS kinda fucking bitchy.

I deleted the post because, despite being a fucking bitch, well, um, she had a point.

However I didn’t return the bike because yanno SHE CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

But also, having taken the bike, if someone even bitchier stole it after I’d returned it, then that would technically be my fault.

You see?

The following day I drove back to The Playground and plastered printed notices with my contact details around the place.

The day after that, nobody had responded to the notice.

That night I couldn’t sleep what with trying to come to terms with my new identity as a Criminal Mastermind.

OK FINE!

Criminal Cretin.

I had nightmares about Husband visiting me in prison, his jaw clenched in pain and anger, muttering: “I just want to know one thing: why did you do it?”

Me: “By the time I realised, I was in too deep! Will you- will you wait for me?”

Husband: “Yeah look, probably not.”

And my poor, malnourished children, crying: “Mummy I love you!” “Mummy when are you coming home mummeee? Daddy’s cooking is stinky-poo.”

And me, sobbing: “Sweeties, I’m so so sorry, but I’m not up for parole for three more years,” then staggering back to my cell bandy-legged from the cigarettes stashed up my bum (and I don’t even smoke).

Actually, Husband found it all certifiably hilarious, and whenever I tried to discuss The Situation he reverted to uncontrollable sniggering.

On Friday – four days after the heist – I decided to turn myself in.

Fittingly, it was lashing rain.

“I’ve committed a crime,” I announced to the officer on duty.

He appraised me in my mummy scarf and mummy pumps, evaporating the discernible reek of rank dog, and totally judged me.

It was evidently a slow evening at Wanaka Police Station, so he called over a colleague: “Pam, get the handcuffs. Lady here stole a bike.” Then he made me repeat the story, occasionally interjecting with a ploddy question.

It was less than stellar police-work and, frankly, I was offended by how lightly he and his colleague treated the whole affair. I felt like saying, “Oy, pigs: it’s not like I nicked a chip of some toddler’s plate. Stole a fackin set of wheels, din’ I?”

But that would have been, well, rude; so I waited politely until they’d finished snorting.

Pam advised me to drop the bike into the station – any time; she was on duty until Monday morning – but since I was extremely uncomfortable being in possession of stolen good, I went straight home, collected the bike and committed it into the loving embrace of the long arms of the law.

As I drove away, my phone blonked.

Text message> Hi, I think you took my sons bike out of concern for theft?? Where can he come collect it from?

Me> Hi, yes I did, terribly sorry; didn’t understand bikes are generally left unlocked at The Playground. I dropped it into the Police Station literally 5 mins ago, he can grab it there. Cheers

The Mother> Oh gosh really?

The Mother> Oh dear

The Mother> Can you pop back there?

Not Me> You ‘avin a fackin larf, sweetheart?

I called The Mother. Per the largely one-sided conversation, I think apparently her car was at the garage?? (oh yeah see how I was right onto her like cheap lycra??) and the bike wouldn’t fit in her work van because it was full of crap and she was so busy (subtext: it was raining so hard and she hadn’t finished her limited edition boxset of the last season of Game of Thrones) so would I deliver it to her house, preferably tonight because her son wanted to use it over the weekend?

So I returned to the station, where Pam was probably thinking I would be less trouble if I actually were a hardened criminal who could dispense cigarettes out my sphincter. She was pretty grumpy about having to fetch the bike from the storage room.

When I got to the house, The Injured Party himself opened the door. He scowled silently.

“Hi!” I chirped, then: “Oh, right- oh, here’s your bike! Sorry um . . .” I skulked soggily for a moment, waiting for him to say thanks – or anything – to no avail. He glared me all the way back to my car. I made sure to bypass all churches on the way home, in case I was impaled by a lightning rod.

So that’s the last fucking time I do a good turn.

Only kidding! I’ll always be that busybody buttinsky who asks the child in the carpark where his mother is when she’s right behind him; or picks up the distressed toddler for a headbutt; or performs an active drowning victim rear rescue on the teenager in the pool who merely has an inelegant freestyle. Because although I might get it wrong more often than not, I hope and trust other people will do the same for my kids

Thermonuclear guilt

Still relatively unscarred

Still relatively unscarred

Aw do I have to? Whyeeee? Alright alright ALRIGHT! Context, whatever.

So a few months ago I was at the local Toy Library, because now I’m the President I have important stuff to do there. You know, like naming our elk, and quality-testing plasma cars, and supergluing Strawberry Shortcake’s head back on because her neck is impractically flimsy. I also point at things, a lot.

Anyway, Fiona said, “I’ve gotta go soon. I collect Macey from school at three.”

At which point, my thought process went something like this: “Bo collecta! Makin moves yeah on the dance floor – what IS that song? I wish life were a musical. Then I could bust out the tunes and funky moves and people wouldn’t think I was crayzay. Re rewind. When the crowd say bo colleeecta. Crunch. Grindgrindgrindgrindgrind CLICK! FUUUCK!”

Because it was then I realised I’d forgotten to pick up Finn from kindy at 14:30.

I squealed out of the carpark on a dense cloud of burnt rubber. When I flung myself into kindy half an hour late, all the chairs were upside down on the tables and Finn was sitting dolefully on the floor with his backpack on.

“Sorry!” I gasped.

“Don’t worry, it happens all the time,” said the ECEs kindly – but I refused to be appeased. I mean, I bet they say that to all the parents.

He probably had a better time there than at home, where there’s no playdough and he’s not allowed to stand on the sofa- ok look, there’s no way to make it better and I’m going to feel guilty about abandoning my child until my dying day.

So there’s the context: past, present and future.

Last week I was at the Toy Library, when I looked at my watch and it was-

“FUCKING TWO THIRTY!”

“Have you forgotten your child again?” asked Maria. I would have challenged her about the unnecessary emphasis she placed on the last word – I mean, I’d only forgotten Finn once – except I was thrashing it out the door.

I was only five minutes late and trying to gallop elegantly up the path when I met my mate, Maxine.

And her son, Q, said, “Hello, Niamh! What are you doing here?”

“Hello, Q! I’m here to pick up Finn!” I said, as if I were speaking to a four year old – which, in fairness, Q is – but also I admittedly gave Maxine a look conveying that perhaps she should spend more time doing some cognitive development role playing with her son because what the fuck else would I be doing there?

Then Q said, “Finn’s not at kindy. He doesn’t come on Tuesdays.”

While Maxine rolled around the ground laughing, realisation achingly slowly dawned that both my children, Finn and Saoirse, spend Tuesdays – pretty much all of them since Christmas – with their dad.

You think maybe that incident cancels out the other? Yeah no; I’m still dealing with thermonuclear levels of enriched, weapons-grade guilt. I imagine on my deathbed, saying: “Hey everyone listen up because this is my dying breath so it’s obviously pretty important – hey you! Put down the sausage roll and have some fucking respect! Dying breath, here! Ok anyway, look, I won’t draw it out much longer, but I really want to say this: I have no regrets in my life except that time I forgot to collect Finn from kindy: Son, I’m sorry! I’m so very, very sorry!”

<exhale>

<final curtain>

It is what it isn’t

I used to have a HR Manager – let’s call him – Froggie, who was obviously frustrated in his true vocation as an SIS Agent specializing in rohrschachian strangulation techniques.

Amongst the inane banalities he came out with on a minutely basis, his favourite was: “It is what it is.”

It used to INFURIATE me. I would sputter, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, what does that even MEAN? It hardly is what it isn’t, IS IT? See, I don’t even KNOW WHAT I SAID JUST THERE!”

Upon which he’d hold up a finger and mutter into his limited-edition Timex ‘Titanium Trojan’ with built-in sonar which was waterproof to a depth of 800m just in case, you know, he ever fell out of a submarine.

Or, more likely, was forcibly ejected out the torpedo hatch.

And I’d sit there rolling my eyes until he changed the subject.

In case it comes across as if I hated Froggie specifically, no, no, not at all. Firstly, I hate all HR Managers without prejudice or bias (except for my friend Carol; but then, I’ve never worked with her. For all I know, as soon as she strings her identity card around her neck she turns into the epitome of corporate evil whose primary objective is sucking the very essence of life out of her colleagues’ collective souls; and then poses as a wonderful, generous, warm-spirited person with terrific conversational skills in her leisure time. Which admittedly sounds implausible, but no more so than she is the single, shining exception in the legion of dark HR hordes).

One ex-HR Manager even tried to have me banned – not from the building – no – but from THE ENTIRE COUNTRY – simply for being helpful! (Pointing out he was incompetent.)

In any case (and secondly) now that I’m a mother I officially don’t hate anyone. There are simply people that are different to us.

Anyway. It turns out that neither Froggie nor I were correct. As Finn illustrated this morning, sometimes it is what it isn’t.

Finn> Boy want apple.

Me> Sorry sweetie, we don’t have any apples. Here, I’ll cut up some pear for you.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> No, it’s a pear.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> I think you’ll find it’s a pear.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> It’s not a- here, have some! What does it taste like?

Finn> A pear.

Me> Because it is A PEAR!

Finn> No. It’s a apple.

But despite the conversation being almost as obscure as those I used to have with Froggie, at least it was at minimum three times more productive

140718 Finn gets to grips with helmet

Meet Saoirse

Saoirse catches up on some sleep

Saoirse catches up on some sleep

Our baby girl, Saoirse, made her debut on the world stage on 21 November at 11:11 hrs. She is prodigiously talented and stunningly beautiful. “There’s only one beautiful baby in the world, and every mother has it,” commented a midwife down in Queen Mary. I’ve lodged an official complaint and will not rest until that bitch is FIRED. There’s simply no excuse for that level of prejudice and ignorance in a healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, in the photos Husband took in the recovery room, Saoirse is virtually obscured by the great flobberfest of funbags – which kind of defeats the purpose. On a related note: instead of capturing me tiredly stoic but luminous, confoundingly gorgeous despite being makeup free, I look so spectacularly haggard that it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that my husband hates me.

However, since that would be seriously bad timing, I’m focusing on how tricky it must be locating anyone’s best profile when they’re shiny and covered in vernix and re-adjusting to the re-internalization of their intestines.

Saoirse at one hour old

Saoirse at one hour old

Saoirse gazes at me as if we’ve met before and she’s trying to place my face. Thankfully, this unsettling effect is offset when she blows bubbles out the side of her mouth.

Ok, now, look: I never fully got over the shock of finding myself pregnant again – especially since, if there was any sex involved, well, I certainly don’t remember it. In many ways I felt more prepared for Finn’s arrival. Or perhaps that should be ‘ignorant’.

In contrast, my second pregnancy felt like one long, torturous, acid-reflux-fuelled panic attack. Leading up to the birth there was no limit to the number of things I stressed about, including: whether my kidneys would ever recover from the skilled and precise foetal pounding sustained over the previous five months; how Finn would cope with involuntary promotion to big brother; my rate of recovery after a caesarian; whether Andrew was lying about taking two weeks off work after the birth; and – a particularly horrifying thought – that my daughter might take after me. Oh, and also DEATH; not only mine, but anyone else perishing while I was on the operating table. Because, you know, PEOPLE DIE – and not only old ones.

But what concerned me most, throughout the pregnancy, was that I wouldn’t love my second child as much as Finn.

Finn checks what sound Saoirse’s nose makes

Finn checks what sound Saoirse’s nose makes

Friends told me this fear was fairly normal, but it CONSUMED me; I love Finn so viscerally it seemed impossible I’d have enough left over for a second child.

Of course, what turns out to be impossible is trying to quantify love. 

I am besotted with my daughter.

Saoirse and Mum

Saoirse and Mum

Pubic talk

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be the guest speaker at Plunket’s 100th Anniversary Dinner in Oamaru.

I had a number of questions, which distilled down to one: could I swear? When they responded in the affirmative, I was totally in. I mean if there’s anyone in the world who would turn down Plunket-sanctioned swearing, that person is certainly not me. I fully support any grassroots movement to bring profanity to the masses.

In full cry at Plunket 100th Anniversay Dinner, Portside Oamaru 7/9/13

In full cry at Plunket 100th Anniversay Dinner, Portside Oamaru 7/9/13

It’s been many years since I’ve spoken pubically – apart from a talk I gave at the Oamaru Public Library back in March. There was a terrific turn-out, since it was entitled ‘The Filthy Business of Romance Writing’ and I think people expected me to talk about porn. It went well. At least, nobody complained about the shortage of smut; everyone liked my shoes; and afterwards one of the library staff offered me a biscuit.

Both filthy business and romance writing are subjects about which I have in-depth knowledge. However, Plunket asked me to speak about ‘Parenting’, a topic I find ever more incomprehensible the older Finn gets.

The dinner was last Saturday 7 September and I was scheduled to speak between the main course and dessert. Presumably Plunket wanted to ensure people really wanted meringue.

Shortly before I was up, I remembered to visit the bathroom to check for dental garnish. None of the dishes served for dinner included spinach, but you never know with that stuff.

I figured if my talk bombed, people might be impressed – or at least distracted – by my ability to stand and operate my lucky pubic heels while heavily pregnant. This ploy was relatively successful, although I suffered a wobble when I tried to illustrate a point with a karate-kick and pulled out at the eleventh millisecond. It was a tense moment since I had kind of committed, but hopefully everyone assumed I was referencing a Celine Dion dance move.

I decided prompt or cue cards were unnecessary, but I did blank on two occasions (once during the aborted karate-kick above). However, I successfully garnered sympathy by blaming pregnancy brain.

Following are some of the highlights from the presentation. The photos are by my talented mate Maxine Shea of Captur8 Photography – although I am disappointed she didn’t make me look thinner.

 

Mr Right
I always thought my Mr Right would be called something like ‘Phoenix Gash’ or – I don’t know – ‘Strike’. As it turns out, his name’s Andrew. Nothing wrong with Andrew; it’s a fine name. All I’m saying is: life never turns out the way you expect.

Life plan
According to my detailed and very specific life-plan, I was going to reproduce at the age of thirty. On my birthday.

Dogs and children
Andrew used to suggest that I shouldn’t compare raising a dog to raising children, but now that I have both, I can’t see why not. The similarities are striking.

Parenting: nothing to it
One thing friends did emphasise was how ‘hard’ it is, parenting. Of course I listened and commiserated; but inside I’d be thinking, ‘Oh, come on. If it was that fucking tricky, the human race would have died out eons ago’. And then I had Finn and . . . well, it really is dead fucking easy, isn’t it?

Definition of success
As far as I recall – because it’s a bit hazy now – I spent the first couple of months of Finn’s life trying not to get his head stuck down a drain. If I came to the end of the day and Finn’s head wasn’t stuck in a drain, that was my definition of successful parenting.

Parenting through the ages
Reading between the lines: after I was born my parents basically stored me in a box under the stairs until I’d housetrained myself.

The Answer to Everything
If Finn ever challenges me about my own ‘parenting skills’, I have a response prepared. I’ll say, “He‎y. You didn’t ask to be born!” And when he says, “Wait- that’s my line!” I’ll say, “Oh yeah, right like so fully WHATEVER, dude. Look: at least I never left you in a fucking gazebo.”

I’m pretty confident there’s nowhere left for that conversation to go.

Amazing expanding snot
I have suffered prolonged exposure to Amazing Expanding Snot – and that knowledge can’t be stuffed back into Pandora’s Box. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Andrew and me
Andrew and I have been together for fifteen glorious, happy years. Sure, we’ve faced our share of challenges; nothing too dramatic: extortion, murder, arms dealing, IVF, etcetera – just the usual relationship ups and downs.

Cyanide muffins: deadly
If someone stuck a gun to my head or threatened me with a cyanide muffin, I would have to admit that Andrew is the love of my life. To quote The Boss – that’s Springsteen, not Finn – I love him ‘with all the madness in my soul’. That there’s an awful lotta crazeballs.

How parenthood changes you
After you have children, both of you change – but as a full-time mother, you change more. It’s cataclysmic. When I had Finn, I spontaneously turned into an anti-social, seriously sensible, tediously responsible funsucking killjoy. All: “No, you can’t set the dog on fire until you say please.”

And – bless him – Andrew thinks his life has changed because he occasionally has to buckle someone else’s seatbelt.

The difference between fathers and mothers:
Andrew gets to lock the bathroom door. Oh, I’ve tried that. Yes. Which results in either a tiny tyrant trying to kick the bathroom door in FBI-style; or he infiltrates the bathroom and stands there staring psychotically at my arse as if it’s the most mesmerising piece of kit he’s ever seen. Which it may well be, given his limited life experience.

Status update: intestines
My bowels haven’t unclenched for twenty months. That’s a long time. I try not to be resentful – and I haven’t exactly checked recently – but I’m pretty confident Andrew’s bowels are just the grandest.

Turn-on
These days, my idea of hot foreplay is Andrew putting the baby to bed and folding the laundry. Or anything I can sleep through.

Mystery unlocked
Now I understand why parents park their shopping trolley in the middle of the supermarket aisle. BC (before child) I had no idea; I just thought parents were selfish and entitled. I suppose I could have asked some harried parent, but there’s an awkward conversation. You know: “Excuse me. Can I ask you a question? What is that perfume you’re wearing – it’s quite delicious – and also, why the fuck do you have to stop your fucking trolley in the middle of the fucking aisle?”

And then one day, Finn swept all the spices off the shelf in New World and I’m standing there in a swirl of cinnamon thinking, “EureKA!”

Mystery still locked
Even after having a child, I still don’t get ‘Baby on board’ stickers. Because I can think of no occasion – not one – where I’ve been driving along and seen someone without a baby on board, and thought, “AW FANTASTIC! I’ll just rear-end that sucker at the next red lights!” I’m pretty sure my insurance policy doesn’t cover that.

One of the things you learn as a parent:
Sleeves are multi-purpose.

One indispensible top tip
When faced with a problem, it’s always useful to think: “What would Madonna do?

She could have photoshopped my waist

She could have photoshopped my waist

Extreme push-up

Baby haka

With the hours devoted to feeding, changing, bathing and trying to avoid getting my baby stuck down the side of the sofa (amongst other pressing health and safety concerns), I hadn’t given much consideration to Finn’s mobility.

I’d always assumed crawling would be a spontaneous action. One day Finn would decide he’d had enough of lying around the floor waving his legs in the air and I’d turn around and – argh! where’s the baby? Is he stuck down the side of the sofa? No; where the- I was sure I left him RIGHT THERE – and after frantically scouring the house and surrounds, I’d find him scudding up the driveway like a giant centipede, only with 96 less legs.

I mean, what would I know? The vast depth and range of the number of ways in which I don’t have a clue continues to astonish me.

As it turned out, learning to crawl was an extensive process with several phases.

I suppose the first step was Finn learning to roll. At about two months old, he mastered transitioning from his back onto his front, but not the reverse. After a few weeks in prone position microscopically examining the carpet, the novelty grew stale. In any case, there was plenty to keep him occupied on his back, like pointing at the ceiling and dropping toys on his head.

When he mastered full rotation, he would tuck his legs beneath him and, with arms akimbo, press his face fervently into the floor. Either he was practicing yoga or our carpet smells fabulous (which seems unlikely given the volume of drool generated between dog and baby).

Some time later, Finn progressed to raising himself up on his arms and the tips of his toes and waving his arse in the air, a maneuver generally concluded by head-butting the floor. The marines should totally adopt this variation of power press-up if they really want to demonstrate how tough they are.

After that, Finn seemed to spend his (considerable) free time over several days on all fours rocking back and forth and occasionally executing little bunny-hops.

With all the momentum, it was something of a surprise when he did start moving – backwards. Staring intently at some object of desire (the dog, anything shiny, sharp and/or pointy), he would reverse steadily away from it looking increasingly bemused.

The only way he could move in the right direction was in the manner of some mortally wounded creature, using one arm to claw desperately across the floor, his body dragging uselessly behind him.

Now Finn’s crawl is an action of measured precision, executed with deadly speed. When he stalks the iPad carelessly left lying around the ground, one can see all the savage beauty of a cheetah springing on its prey. He disappears out an open door with the supple grace of a gazelle bounding across the savannah (note: prior to its encounter with the cheetah).

31/8/12 Watch out, dog. Grr!

9/9/12 Exploring the laundry basket

13/9/12 Escape from the zoo

Opposable toes would be useful

Hey! How the heck are you? I’ve missed you. Sorry about the hiatus, but I’ve been preoccupied lying on my sofa painting my nails, watching daytime TV, browsing mail-order catalogues and ordering takeaway deliveries. Sometimes I dial random numbers, shout ‘Cock!’ down the phone and hang up. It’s great; I can spend hours at it.

Only kidding. I’ve actually been busy trying to figure out this motherhood gig. Yes, really. Not as easy as it looks. I mean, perhaps it depends who you’re looking at. But after years of grocery shopping, I’d always thought parenting was about yelling ‘shut up!’ with your mouth closed, and negotiating with confectionary. Which I’d thought would be pretty straightforward for someone with my verbal and confectionary skills.

There appears to be a bit more to it – although I’m not sure exactly what. I suppose at some point everything will become clear and I’ll turn into this totally bad-ass mother.

Any day now.

I hope.

So, what did I miss?

As for what you’ve missed, if the answer ‘not much beyond 50 ways to apply pureed banana’ doesn’t satisfy you, I’ve updated Deadlyjelly with news from the last couple of months. I hope I haven’t breached some blogging etiquette by back-dating posts. I’m not worried about the Internet Police, because I feel pretty confident about my ability to push them around and make them cry. If not, I will win them around with cake. Albanian nutmeg cake, to be specific.

However, I wouldn’t like to offend my loyal readership; so here, for the pair of you, are the updated and new articles I’ve posted in the last two days:-

Doctors have difficulty finding love – posted yesterday 3/9, updated with photo

How to apply a crotch post – posted yesterday 3/9

Wind chill – posted yesterday 3/9

Here are some more recent photos of our gorgeous little boy, who continues to amaze and charm us:-

15/7/12 We have THOUSANDS of pictures of Finn, but this is one of my favourites

 

16/7/12 Time for bed

 

4/8/12 We joined the North Otago Toy Library here in town. I’m a big fan of these ‘activity centres’ – and thankfully, so is Finn – which keep him entertained and, more importantly, immobile for anything up to half an hour at a time

 

4/8/12 Another hit from the toy library

 

4/8/12 Edible steering wheel yummy

How to apply a crotch post

As soon as we got home, I started Finn on solids in earnest. Her Goatiness had procured a high-chair for when Finn visited the farm, after researching every last consumer feedback website on the Internet. Happily the cheapie plastic Warehouse variety (Babywise) scored highest on standards and safety.

Her Goatiness offered to buy us a high-chair too, so we borrowed it for a week to see whether it would suit us. Finn was an instant fan, delighted to sit at eye-level hurling toys at people around the table.

Finn in his high chair

It’s not what you’d describe as elegantly streamlined, but it’s functional and stable. Finn fits comfortably in it; there’s a crotch-post to stop him sliding out the bottom; a five-point harness; the chair level adjusts to three different heights; the tray is sturdy and easy to attach and detach; it has castors; and the harness straps are evidently a tasty palette-cleanser in between spoonfuls. I’m confident the baby is secure in it and he’ll sit quite happily for up to an hour if I give him a spatula to bash himself with and wheel him around the kitchen after me.

Husband never likes to commit himself to positive over-statement, but he definitively declared that he ‘hated’ the high-chair. His issues included ‘it’s ugly’, ‘I don’t like green’ (“It comes in orange too,” pointed out Her Goatiness; “Don’t like that either.”), ‘the straps are too fiddly and in fact makes the chair LESS safe because who’s going to spend the time strapping him in when it takes so long?’

To which I responded, “Er, I am – and, by the way, YOU ARE TOO.”

Although I have a clear understanding of Andrew’s heartfelt antipathy towards Her Goatiness’s consumer-rated high-chair, I’m still a bit fuzzy about what he DOES want. Possibly an ergonomic high-chair equipped with sensors that detect the presence of baby and automatically straps him in, which would rise up out of the floor in a swirl of dry ice with a majestic, discordant chime of organ notes.

Which would admittedly be TOTALLY COOL.

Andrew showed me a picture of the kind of optimal high-chair he had in mind, which was a limited edition WankyNaff™ high-chair crafted from a single piece of wood from the vulvos tree which grows only on the south slope of a tussock in the tiny Laowunha province during the mating season of the batwing bat which happens once every 104 years.

“Nice, isn’t it?” said Andrew. “I think I could make one.”

“Splendid,” I said, “you should jump right on that.”

I thanked Her Goatiness for her offer and authorized her to purchase a high-chair for our use. I didn’t want her to think we’re ungrateful (just her son, which is probably her fault anyway). After all, it was very generous of her – and, realistically, we would probably have ended up with a second-hand chair spackled with dried rice cereal and one leg splinted with a broom handle. I don’t know; perhaps she was conscious of the incongruity of that outcome.

I figured the chances were Andrew wouldn’t even notice.

We’ve been having great fun introducing Finn to food. I started him on mashed banana and cooked, pureed apple – a couple of tablespoons at a time.

Initially he was enthusiastic if uncomprehending; it took a while before he realized he couldn’t fit both spoon and his fingers in his gob. In fairness, we also underwent a learning process. I’d always thought a spoon was for conveying food to mouth; but in Finn’s case its application is primarily scraping overspill off his chin. Also his nose, cheeks, forehead, hair and surrounding furnishings.

Finn’s interest waned when he hurdled his boredom threshold after a couple of days. However, I’ve added more to the menu and kept it varied. Now, when we put him in his high-chair at the table, he sits with his mouth open and extends a squirming, questing tongue until the food arrives.

I usually add pureed vegetables or fruit to dried baby food. He’s had baby rice with apple, porridge with banana (a big hit), pumpkin soup, leek and potato soup, yams, pureed lentils, and carrot mash. Last night, he hoovered down half my dessert: blueberry frozen yoghurt.

The only thing he turned down was a Watties teething biscuit – and honestly I don’t blame him. I tried one myself and am sure the packaging is tastier and likely more nutritious. I tracked down some Farley’s rusks in the international food section of the supermarket. Although Finn loves them – he’ll spend half an hour solemnly gnawing a rusk to a sticky paste and applying it to his hair – I just don’t have the strength of character to handle the mess. I’m still finding spatches of rusk adhered to random surfaces: the baby monitor, my laptop, the dog’s collar, the kitchen wall.

Here’s a video of Finn about two weeks ago during dinner: LOOK NO BIB!

That’s our definition of daring these days.

Doctors have difficulty finding love

So, immunization.

Before Finn was born, Andrew and I discussed our respective views on vaccines.

Years ago, a friend lent me some literature on immunization. It read like an issue of Conspiracy Theory Quarterly, its message roughly along the lines of OMG YOUR DOCTOR IS TRYING TO MURDER YOUR BABY!!! VACCINES ARE INSTRUMENTS OF EVIL WIELDED BY GOVERNMENT AND BIG PHARMA FOR THE PURPOSES OF POPULATION CONTROL!!! AND AUTISM!!! FORMALDEHYDE!!! SUPER DISEASES!!! EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! TERRIFYING STATISTICS WITH LITTLE TO NO CONTEXT!!!

Then we have Responsible Parents, supported by the government and healthcare profession, which makes out that anyone questioning vaccination is an ignorant hippie selfishly benefitting from ‘herd immunity’ whilst simultaneously subverting it.

No doubt the truth lies somewhere on the scale between both extremes.

Previously, if I’d ever fallen off the fence due to a drunken stupor brought about by intimate knowledge of frozen margharita, I would have ended up on the side of YOUR PAEDIATRICIAN IS A KILLER (single exclamation point only).

Mainly because the headline features more dramatic appeal than, say: ‘Vaccines responsible for control of infectious disease’. But also, I have a viral distrust of the medical profession after 10 years’ involuntary exposure to the doctors of Dubai – a position only entrenched by Finn’s and my current doctor’s dynamic complacency (see below).

I am immune to most standard antibiotics – but not Rubella, despite being vaccinated at the age of 12 (the angry mark on my upper left arm still flares up in sunlight). The one time I got the flu vaccine, I spent the following four months hacking, snorting and gargling snot.

But then Finn came along and pushed me off the fence and, much to my surprise, I found myself on the other side.

Mainly because of this:

Finn would not exist without the miracle of modern medicine and science. And the measures we took to have him required unconditional faith in the healthcare professionals involved.

So it seems a bit hypocritical to say, ‘Hey, thanks for making our dreams a reality and changing our lives utterly, although we’re not so gripped by the sleepless nights – eh, look, forget I said that; it’s a small thing, never mind – what’s that? Oh yes, right. Here’s the thing. We don’t trust you to keep him well.’

In any case, if Finn ever contracted measles or polio or whooping cough, we would be straight up in the grille of the medical profession anyway.

But doctors, they make it so difficult to love them.

Shortly after we got home, we took Finn for his five-month vaccine. Three days later he fell ill.

His symptoms were inspecific: fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, pronounced grumpiness (which may simply be his father’s genes gaining ascendency), and unresponsive to the lady on her horse going nim nim nim.

Normally when he wakes up from a nap, he is overjoyed to see me; all, ‘WOW, it’s YOU! HURRAY! This is TOTALLY AWESOME! Aren’t I unbelievably cute? I KNOW! Pick me up pick me up pick me up! HEY, will you do that dancy thing down the stairs? AW, YAY! I JUST NEVER KNEW LIFE WOULD BE THIS MIND-BLOWING!’

For a full week he wouldn’t even reach out to be picked up, but just lay there staring at me accusingly with red-rimmed eyes before crying. And crying and crying. Then breaking my heart and pulverizing it into a fine paste with his tears.

See what I mean?

Eventually I was concerned enough to bring him back to the clinic. The doctor failed to appreciate how critical the situation was, despite Finn sitting quietly on my lap showing no inclination to rip out the doctor’s nose hair by the roots, or kick his kidneys to kingdom come.

The doctor listened to Finn’s chest, palpated his abdomen, checked his ears. He found nothing apart from a lump of earwax the size of a peanut, which rolled onto his desk and spun gently before coming to rest.

“Any coughing?”

“No.”

“Rash?”

“No.”

“How are his testicles?”

“His . . . bollocks?”

“Testicles. Yes.”

“I, er- I suppose they’re round and . . . squishy . . . I don’t know! I’m not an expert on balls.”

“He probably has a mild viral infection,” murmured the doctor, making notes on his laptop. I saw him write ‘testicles normal’, which I felt was sloppy if not downright negligent. I mean, after explaining my lack of expertise in the area of testes, I wouldn’t have thought he’d just take my word for it.

“A viral infection?” I said. “Where . . . I mean, how would he have . . . ?”

“Oh, babies can pick them up anywhere,” he said, conveniently ignoring the fact that he’d injected several nasty strains into my son four days previously. “Give him Paracetamol. Make sure he gets lots of fluid.”

“He has a high temperature,” I said, stubbornly ignoring the dismissal.

“Temperature?” said the doctor, as if this were an abstract and rather random concept. “Oh. I didn’t . . . I suppose I should probably take his temperature.”

“YA THINK?”

When the doctor withdrew his thermometer from Finn’s ear, it read 39 degrees.

“Odd,” he said, frowning. “He doesn’t feel warm.”

“Why don’t you try the other ear? It might be better.”

AND HE DID.

Not that it made any difference.

“So when should I start panicking about him?” I asked.

“Oh, bring him back if you get worried,” he said vaguely.

I’m pretty sure Finn’s sickness was a reaction to his DTaP-IPV-Hep B/Hib immunization. In fact, I’m hyper-positive. It’d be nice to think that after we left his surgery, the doctor reported Finn’s response to the NZ Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring, but it’s more likely he practiced incorporating a squiggle into his signature instead.

When I got home, I did a bit of research on the Internet – which I feel is AT LEAST AS reliable as my doctor – and adverse reactions to vaccinations seem pretty normal. Several people reported that their older infants, who had started sounding words, stopped speaking after being innoculated.

Apart from OMG Finn might be STRUCK PROFOUNDLY DUMB! the Internet didn’t yield any useful advise so I kept Finn hydrated and dosed him with Paracetamol.

After about a week his fever finally broke and thankfully he’s now back to normal.

Although he’s still not talking.

Love and stuff

Finn and his proud mother

For Mothers’ Day, I got an extra hours sleep, a bottle of Baileys, and a cheese-making kit.

What was that? Oh, a breast-feeding joke. I’m VERY disappointed in you. I dare you – in fact, I TRIPLE DARE you – to come up with a new one. I guarantee you can’t; my in-laws have covered them all. There is no lactation related joke in this universe I haven’t heard before – sometimes multiple times. Evidently I need to be more conscientious in remarking on the deficiency of dickage amongst Husband’s family.

It’s a measure of how much I’ve changed that my Mothers’ Day card made me cry rather than scathe it with derision. Also, that I was only marginally more stoked about pressies and breakfast in bed, than discovering the washing was dry after a week soggily drooping on the clothes line.

Finn’s here; he lives and breathes; he’s a laundry generating machine; you can’t move in the living room without tripping over a brightly coloured toy that rattles; and he occupies (conservatively) 95% of my thoughts and time. Yet even when I’m holding him in my arms with his tiny fingers curled around my thumb, and feel the warmth of him and kiss his baldy little head, I can still barely believe he’s real.

Despite all the years I longed for a child, the concept of ‘motherhood’ holds limited appeal. I used to be young, carefree, full of potential. I disdained Hallmark cards. When I got drunk nobody thought I was a sad old trollop.

All that has changed and I’m struggling to adopt my new identity:

Parent.

Skill-set: accurate prediction of vomit trajectory and identification of several varieties of poo.

However, one thing is beyond question.

I LOVE being Finn’s mother.

A Better Person

Ensprogged people often refer to how being a parent makes you A Better Person. Self-sacrificing. Nurturing, loving, wise, selfless. Calm even when covered in curdled milk. Your own needs become more like optional luxuries.

And so I had Progeny and eagerly awaited my transformation into A Better Person.

I’m devastated to report that hasn’t happened.

Quite the contrary. In fact, marinating in spew makes me kinda mean.

Now don’t get me wrong: I will do anything for my son. There is literally nothing in the world that will get me up in the middle of the night except addressing The Boo’s needs – or my side of the bed being on fire.

But basically, the rest of you can all go to hell. Because I’ve turned into the  type of mother I swore I’d never be. I eat muesli in the car, adjust my jugs in public and stop my shopping trolley diagonally across the aisle because CAN’T YOU SEE I HAVE A CHILD I’M ENTITLED GODDAMMIT! I cut people off mid-sentence to gurgle at my son who – let’s face it – generally has no interest in me, being quite content conversing exclusively with his hands.

I turn on the windscreen wipers instead of indicating and have lost all spatial appreciation for my vehicle. Since I can’t seem to fit into the extra-wide ‘mummy moron’ parking space, I use up half the adjoining space for the disabled. (Really, I can’t see that manoeuvering a wheelchair is any more difficult than operating a carseat.)

So all things considered, having a child has made me more selfish – and also prone to burping instead of saying ‘thank you’, although that might have more to do with living in Oamaru. No, that’s not fair; most Oamaruvians have deliciously lovely manners which are far better than mine. (Except the bloke who tried to chat me up outside The Plunket Rooms when I was eight months pregnant, which was undoubtedly rude although – more likely – certifiably insane.)

I know less than nothing about raising children despite pretending to read various tomes on the subject, but it makes sense that the best way to teach your child is by example. With this in mind, I’ve been trying to treat Husband with kindness, consideration and above all respect.

I can’t BELIEVE how insanely difficult it is. Seriously, it has proved the biggest challenge of parenthood (also quitting swearing – but that’s another blog post). I never realized how appalling my manners are. Although I’m pretty sharp at expressing gratitude – whether verbally or intestinally – I’ve recently realized I never say ‘please’. I mean to, and always THINK it; but the word doesn’t complete the full round-trip.

I’m attempting to redress the issue but it’s still mechanical rather than innate. I’ll humbly request command Andrew to do something and then, after three or four seconds, remember to append the word ‘please’, which – by that stage – comes across sounding pointed and borderline aggressive.

At least having explained the situation to Andrew, he now just rolls his eyes instead of stamping off shouting “All right all RIGHT!”

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