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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.

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