30 December 2007

Biscuits are not a proper dinner

Quick report - I've cooked every day since writing (three days) and I'm back to making nice lunches too, salads and pasta and sandwiches.

Other than keeping that up we have no real exciting plans for next year, and nothing major to do this next month either really. We're just enjoying unschooling and connected living, recovering from feeling angry all the time, reading and learning something new every day. And that's my resolution - to find new things to learn and to expand my horizons.

27 December 2007

Christmas update

The day itself I can hardly even recall exactly, just a week later. It was great, everything we wanted it to be. Relaxing and beautiful and somehow old... I wish I could give it a word. Presents included: A wooden drum, stacking houses and stacking cups, play silks, a cotton shopping bag and fabric pens, Miffy and Elsa Bleskow books, tree blocks, spinning top, clothes, small dolls and animals, dressing up things, little pieces of wooden jewellery... A reasonable ammount that we can both use and store. They were delighted with every single thing. :)

Boxing day was a bit of hard work really in the end. Lots of noisy toys, almost everything battery operated and everything plastic. Martin was furious - I was really worried about what to do with it all as there were some things we really couldn't keep (a tractor and farm animals that played a tune and made sounds, the least of all the reasons we couldn't keep it being that we already have the whole lot in wood lol). Especially the grotesque Vtech teddy that made scary growling noises and said the alphabet.

Totally inappropriate for a baby in every way to be quite frank (I am sorry if you own and like it but it's not coming into my home). Anyhow, Martin said that since we had gently and respectfully told them our boundaries on gifts (all we said was nothing electronic, they need clothes and books, we are avoiding plastic, Jenna loves board games, Morgan would like some musical instruments) and they had ignored us it wasn't anything to feel guilty about. We made a parenting decision, just as if we had said "no sweets" and they had given the children selection boxes.

We have had a pretty calm week since then though. My brother came back from Estonia for Dad's birthday and we all surprised him (he was shocked that his girlfriend, his mum, all of us kids, had managed to keep the secret). I do have to say though that three year olds deserve their reputation for not being able to keep quiet!

All morning every time a car pulled up she said, "That's Uncle Paul and Auntie Maarja!!" And my Dad said, "Don't be silly, they're a long long way away." I only told her because it was the only way to persuade her to leave the house that morning lol! When the door finally went Jenna said, "Maarja!!" Dad said, "Nooo! [long pause] oh Yes it IS!"

Morgan started properly walking some time in the last two weeks too, it's hard to tell a date because she has been able to do a few steps for ages but has just decided that now she actually wants to. It was Christmas day that we noticed though, she was walking across the room from toybox to sofa just for the fun of it. Now we find her walking round and round the room for no good reason, pure joy at the new skill and the sudden confidence. It's meant she is waking more at night for milk as usual, step forwards in the day equals retreat to safety at night. I don't mind at all though, just the happy expression as she shows off her dancing or does a little wobbly skip!

We have been eating appallingly since Christmas day though. There are biscuits in the house (about four boxes) and it's so easy for me to feed myself them instead of eating proper food. The girls are mostly eating cheese and raw vegetables, and lots of breakfast cereals (which Morgan still won't really eat lol so she has toast). It's strange, but this is probably the thing bothering me the most - that I'm not taking proper care of the children. Not so long ago I would have been more worried about my figure, but I'm noticing more what I'm doing to them I guess. I need to get back in the kitchen and stop buying chips on my way home.

17 December 2007

MORE lurgies

We're all sick, yucky snotty poorly, throwing up. We haven't been out all week and I'm sick of these four walls. I'm not yelling though, not enough energy. And suddenly I feel like Christmas is just a day away, with that last straggling present to buy and no food in the house. I need a rest, a day off, to call in sick. If only. At least I'm not being woken at night at the moment!

Morgan is starting to talk a bit more, still the same words really (only she has learnt to say NO very well indeed) but she wants to communicate so much. She gestures and points and babbles about things in her own little language. It's lovely, but I wish I understood more of it. Not that she can't make herself QUITE clear if she feels the need...

11 December 2007

Morgan, one whole year today my darling!

Happy Birthday, little one. What a long time to have been breathing our air. It seems barely possible that you were ever a few hours born and snuggling scrunchily-red for milk in the warm dark.

I have loved every day with you and been in the present moment with you frequently and joyfully and I wish there was more time, always I wish it lasted longer.

I cannot keep you here in this day, cannot even hold you still from change and growing and learning. Not for a second, and the sorrow at passing each stage is the sweeter joy in the instant. Stay here with me a while longer, don't let go too soon, but be free to make your own doors into the world and find your own paths there. Sweet precious Morgan.

10 December 2007

School rants, and remembering a year ago

Yesterday was our Christingle service and it was gorgeous. One more reason I actually like to be in the old building with so much history and distilled tradition around me. Oh the candles, Morgan was in baby heaven (little eyes lit up) up on my back in the sling while I held her candle for her. It was so perfectly reassuringly warm, being together and sharing something from my own childhood. Celebrating something together on whatever level we understand it. Holding hands, one big family.

Jenna is astonishing me at the moment with the things she knows without me ever having told her. She told me that the cheese she had was "garlic cheese" even though she has never been explicitly told the ingredients that I'm adding or in what order or been asked to taste some raw or anything! She just knew. She has used the words "surface" and "ignorant" to me this week in conversation, and she said to my mother that something was "versetile - really useful!" It's incredible what she can absorb, and what she chooses to absorb too. Certainly not exactly what I'd have chosen for her. Hedgehogs, what they eat and where they live. Stones, what gems are called and how they are made. Bonnie Prince Charlie. Ancient Egypt. Anything to do with babies and giving birth. Amazing.

Yet she still feels helpless and not in control of her own learning. She tells me that she needs to go to school because otherwise she won't know anything. She says that she needs a teacher to tell her things. Why is the view of school so ingrained that even she feels like this in the home that she has grown up in? It's ridiculous, this idea that we can't know anything without being told it.

All of these programs about the current fad for phonics are symptomatic. Given time, of COURSE the human brain isn't capable of assimilating those groupings without explicit teaching! If it was, then all children might dare to learn at different rates though... Micheal Rosen said it for me - they may learn to read, remarkable. But who will then give them back the love of books for their own sake?

This time last year, I felt my waters break with a tiny faint pop. And I took myself off up to bed.

8 December 2007

Christmas is coming and Jenna needs cake

We have given up on trying to have Mary and Joseph travel to the stable through advent; Jenna is too impatient and instead wants to play with the whole nativity set every day. She makes them talk to each other and we regularly have the scene enacted of Joseph asking Mary to marry him, and off angels making visits to all and sundry. The impatience for Christmas is coming out in other ways though.

She has been asking for a Christmas cake (she doesn't even eat fruit cake) so this afternoon we had a Christmas-can't-come-soon-enough Party. We baked chocolate cake and put snowmen on top. We made a nice meal of some more home-grown vegetables (in pasta sauce again), and dished up some breadsticks, salad and dips. We ate in the living room, on a picnic blanket, with the room lit up by all the candles we own.

The negative side is the advertising, everywhere, of everything we don't want for Christmas. We've really cut down on what, and what sort of things, we actually want the children to have. But somehow if she ends up seeing any television she loses all discrimination. She sits and says, "I want that, I need one of those, I need that, I want that toy," without even seeing properly what they are or what they do!

It drives me nuts and makes me wonder what on earth I did to turn herself into such a little consumer. It also makes me want more strongly to not watch television and not let her watch it either! I just say that I don't like it, and if she can earn the money she can buy it herself. She doesn't really earn any pocket money yet so it's a set-up. But it makes her feel better and less squished.

4 December 2007

BRILLIANT behaviour at a birthday party

This is almost entirely a brag on Jenna. She has been flipping UNbelievable today and I can't stop grinning. Probably it was more her than me (no, definately it was more her) but I'm really proud anyhow. Talk about a good time to be on best behaviour, usually the public at large only get her worst days (and mine). We went to a birthday party. Where there were sugary things and bottled drinks and all kinds of opportunities for Jenna to refuse to share and have tantrums at having to wait her turn. None of my worries on arriving came true.

Given a choice between biscuits and fruit she ate fruit. Given the only layer of the pass the parcel with no treat she did not complain. She waited her turn, and when given a sweet ate half of it and gave the rest to me. And it was a sweet she acutally likes. Offered a second sweet (Morgan's) she said that no, she had had one already. She passed plates at tea time.

She said please and thankyou and offered toys to the other children. She watched the babies and passed them back anything they dropped. This is so typical of her behaviour six months ago that I shouldn't be surprised but she has been harder work recently than she ever was as a two year old. I was delighted, and had to try not to make too much of a fuss of her (lest she think that she isn't expected to treat other children so nicely normally!).

She is a lovely child really! I am not raising a little brat! How can I forgive myself for thinking of her in such awful terms?

2 December 2007

Don't lick Baby Jesus...

Jenna: "I'm getting baby Jesus all dirty - I need to lick the chocolate off Him."Me: "Jenna we don't LICK baby Jesus. Put Him down."

We've had another busy family weekend, though it feels like Martin worked for fully half of it. Jenna has been pretty tired and down, and keeps having little screaming tantrums. I'm trying to remind her to use her words instead of yelling back or trying to shut her up. There just seems to be no early warning system in place for these upsets because she's upset all the time! We need a week of routine, eating regularly, napping properly, and just hanging out for cuddles and stories.

On the up-side, Morgan is finally interested in food for other reasons than play. I have seen her pack away some major portions of pasta and she is sleeping much better too. I can't tell if it's linked and her best eating days can be her worst nights, but at least generally things that were worrying me a little bit now aren't. Only being woken once really helps with that as at least my stress levels are lower.

30 November 2007

More age appropriate expectations revised!

Another shouting code breach to report. I was trying to teach Jenna to play snap, unwisely and adultly insisting that she play the "proper" way in spite of everything I know about how children learn (and fail!). Stupid, stupid, stupid. I got more and more stressed out until I just put the cards away, making her feel like I was punishing her and she was too young to be capable of the seemingly simple task. The problem is, she isn't ready to take turns like that, to be rigidly set to one kind of game. She wanted to pretend that she could already play the game, she wanted to be capable and right and not corrected and hassled.

All this, with hind-sight. Anyhow, after the usual apology and giving her the damn cards to use how she WANTS to use them (why did it even matter in the first place?) I have a new plan. I am going to notice sooner when she is getting stressed and when we are approaching showdown. That is the plan, in its entirety. That's all it really takes, to turn a conflict into a chance to be the parent I want to be - just to NOTICE.

We went to the gym again today, so that the girls could both swim with my mum and for Jenna's dance class. As I went to take her into the children's area for her group to meet up, I took Morgan out of the sling and let her sit on the floor to watch Jenna go in. A little boy said to me, "That baby can't come in here, she goes in the creche." I said, "She's coming with me, we're going to go and play together in the cafe." He said, "She can't - she has to go in the creche." I said, "She hasn't EVER been in a creche. She has me to watch her." He turned to the group leader as I left, and I heard, "Why doesn't the baby go in the creche? Is it poorly?"

From here in my usual chair I can see Mary and Joseph kissing on my mantlepiece. I wonder if Jenna put them like that; no, I know Jenna put them like that. Family life is full of these tiny events. Meaningless little moments that weave our hours and days into a rich tapestry of colour and light.

29 November 2007

A moment of total wholeness

Thank goodness for that - all better. Still a bit twingey but I made it to befriending and walked into town afterwards and I'm not suffering this afternoon. The girls won't be back for another hour or two so now I'm going to take a nap in the hopes that no more back pain is coming my way in revenge for going out today!

I was thinking on my way home again, as I do every week, just how lucky I am. When you've been around someone with so many problems you start to realise that they're actually so normal. They didn't do anything to deserve how hard things are for them, they don't have some defect that makes them think that way necessarily. My client is a normal person who reacted to extraordinary problems with great courage and still had an understandable breakdown.

I go through all the people I know well enough to make the call - what would happen if it was them? Where is the support? Would I have reacted the same way? I can't imagine that I would have coped much better, any better. We are all somewhere walking a line and we could all be tipped over into what the rest of the world calls insanity and turns away from. Mental health is not a simple issue, not remotely cut and dried. Nobody is on the safe side of the line, untouchable by this, it's part of all of us.

More than this, how many small pleasures do we not count because they are the blessings that everyone has? Everyone like us at least. How many people could not do for themselves, or for any pressing need, the thing I did today? I walked, freely and feeling the youth and strength in my body, seeing the mundane brickwork and hearing people talking.

I saw markets, touched the fruits and smelled all sorts of things I wouldn't normally be pleased to. I saw a carpark. It was there and I was free to pass it, free to see what was there are look into the face of other free people. Did they know how very liberated they are? The feel of my jeans against my ankles, my coat against my shoulders. How very perfect, how very beautiful, to be alive and aware of the so many things that I can't usually see for them being everywhere.

28 November 2007

Argh my back is still out...

I still haven't been anywhere and am very sore. I can't believe how much it aches and I feel like I'm prooving everyone right - I'm never going to hear the end of it from the family and assorted others who keep telling me she's too big to carry now. I only started carrying Jenna at this age!

Drat.

Emma came and saved me yesterday, spent all day pottering with the children and bringing Morgan to me to feed etc. I'm so worried about coping today, and I don't want to call in to befriending tomorrow either. How am I going to manage it? :(

26 November 2007

Hard lessons about stretchy wraps!

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow. :( I am now the advert for all the reasons why you should use a woven wrap for an older baby. Morgan is 1yo in a couple of weeks and obviously seriously outgrew it.

Yup, I went around town for three hours yesterday with Morgan in the stretchy AND carrying a heavy change bag and heavier library books. I'm not blaming the stretchy really, it was fine on my birthday for walking in but with bags as well... It was so tempting, the lovely cool water colours and I have missed it since she grew so big.

However now I am stuck here with a hot water bottle, can't take the children to soft play, barely made it down the stairs this morning (and Morgan can't climb down on her own yet!). *sigh* Ouch. I don't know how I'm going to take care of them, I may have to call Martin and beg him to come home.

25 November 2007

Buy nothing new for a year challenge

I've had my 23rd birthday (I'm sure the age itself is shocking some people lol - it feels old enough to me though!). We've had Buy Nothing day (on which we bought food). Not a lot else, not a lot of anything I guess.

My birthday was nice, quiet and calm and a bit odd really. Last year I was hugely pregnant, the year before I was miscarrying, the year before that I had a newborn... It feels like I don't have birthdays any more. Maybe one year I'll do something just for me, but I kind of like it this way without too much attention being drawn to it or anyone making a fuss of me. The children are so much a part of everything for me, even a meal out without them seems like something I'm not ready for. I wonder when I'll stop wanting them so close?

We are actually still trying to not buy new unless it's ethical, and our food shopping is getting more local and organic every time. We tend to get the reaction that it's too expensive to live like that, not buying non-organic food. But we eat less meat, we make things last, we bulk out meals with other ingredients (one small pack of mince makes two meals, one small organic chicken is three meals!). We make a lot from scratch and the closest we get to a ready meal these days is beans on toast.

We caved and got some organic vests for Morgan when it became obvious that we wouldn't be able to find enough second hand ones to clothe her - Jenna didn't even wear vests at this age as she was walking so much and Morgan just won't. Crawling really pulls those little clothes up. And we're getting a couple of wooden toys for the girls, but we're hardly spending anything.

18 November 2007

Social responses, death, and a visit

My in-laws cat has died, another sadness for Jenna and another hard lesson in loss. She seems very interested this time in what other people think of it, and how we are reacting. Martin hadn't really come to terms with it, hadn't taken in what I was saying (he grew up with this cat) and when we went to visit them it was still not really registering.

At the top of the steps down to their house Jenna said, "Everyone dies here." We said that no, of course everyone hasn't died. She argued that one of the guinea pigs had died last month, Larry-boy is dead... At this point Martin started to cry and we had to collect ourselves and give him big hugs before we could make it into the house. Jenna was surprised, Daddy doesn't often cry.

Later in the day she kind of poked him and looking up with that winning smile said, "Daddy - Larry-boy is dead." And then she waited, watching him as if she wanted to see him cry again. I laughed, trying not to of course. She really seemed to be figuring out why sometimes something is really sad and sometimes the same event is OK to think about. Why had Daddy cried like that when he already knew? Why didn't he cry now? She's learning a lot from all this - not the fragility-of-life stuff we thought. But a lot of social rules, and something about context too.

17 November 2007

Changing as a person

I can't tell you how much we laugh sometimes, at the glorious things they come out with. I was cross with Jenna (again) this morning, and she quietly said (not looking at me), "Mummy pleeease don't break my *other* baby gate!" I laughed and stopped throwing my toys out of the metaphorical pram.

I have to say, Morgan arriving has done a lot for my ability to organise but only because, deep down, I'm suffering from terminal confusion. I can never remember times and dates, they all have to be written down somewhere in bold. I can't even tell the day of the week if we don't go to a regular activity. I spend much more time wandering around the house saying, "what am I looking for?!" It's terrible. Yesterday I dropped Jenna off at her dance class with the words, "Don't worry if I turn up to pick her up early, it won't be because anything is wrong, it'll just be that I'm confused." As I closed the door behind me I was accosted by another mother who said, with evident relief, "It gets worse with every child, doesn't it? I can't remember what it felt like to know what I was doing!" What can I add to that summation? I can't remember the profound thing I wanted to say anyway...

I have been being organised with last minute Christmas makes though. The fact that I think it's last minute already tells you a lot about how I'm getting past the mushy brain with planning ahead. I've made some little dolls, felt animals, dyed some play silks myself (a bargain from http://www.rainbowsilks.co.uk/ transformed with some dylon), all sorts of things. I've been working more on the season table too and made some last little autumnal gnomes. We're feeling crafty. Something has to reconnect us after the shouting!

16 November 2007

Anger and how to deal with it?

Something is not going so well as it should be - I feel like I'm perpetually losing my temper and I'm too frustrated to try to figure out the root of my problem. I keep saying I don't know what's wrong with me. It's tempting to think I'm just not cut out for this, I'm no good, I'm an awful parent. I felt so together until Morgan got mobile - well, mostly. Now I'm just mad at them both all of the time, always picking at things that don't matter and flying off the handle when they do normal kid stuff.

I managed to break the safety gate at the top of the stairs today. Jenna had been winding me up over really minor stuff and I can see now that she wasn't doing it on purpose. The urge to hit her was just so strong. I'm really ashamed of myself, I had a proper toddler tantrum and threw the washing I was carrying on the floor and kicked the baby gate. It fell off its hinges and then Morgan and Jenna were crying and I was screaming at them (if only I could take that back and go hit a pillow in private). What can you do when you lose it so badly? Well I had to ask myself what I'd want Jenna to do if she'd just done that... I said sorry and explained why I'd handled it wrongly and what I should have done. I asked her to forgive me, and hugged them both. I tried to fix the gate and then said that Daddy would help me do it later.

We only just got out of the house this morning without someone being smacked. I never thought I could come that close. Thinking about it now I can see that really I only wanted to hit her BECAUSE I knew it was wrong. In my anger I just wanted to lash out, do something terrible. Is this what my own experience of being disciplined has taught me? Has my adult life done nothing to take away the desire to act bad because I feel out of control and doing something naughty gives me the control back? What a failure.

13 November 2007

Disobedience in a good way

I asked Jenna to stop Morgan from following me as I had a lot of washing to carry and needed to take it upstairs to sort. I thought I'd given really clear instructions, but perhaps too many? "Put the bubbles back now please. I need you to help keep Morgan safe while I go upstairs, so just let her sit with her toys and try to distract her from playing behind the door. You must respect her space!"

When I came down there was no baby behind the door, no crying, no mess... I was shocked - I fully expected to be utterly ignored. Then I saw why they were quietly giggling together. The bubble mix was still out and Jenna was blowing bubbles for Morgan to pop! How could I be cross with her? This is what I like to call, "following the spirit of the instruction but not the substance"!

11 November 2007

Nothing at all to say

We planted trees today with Emma and Chris. A lovely cold wintery day, out in the garden and enjoying each others company. These are the days when nothing to write and nothing to say take nothing from the memories. Bliss.

10 November 2007

Jenna prooves that she needs her inhalor

Yesterday Jenna traumatised me by having an asthma attack on the bus. We were in a hurry and I packed the inhalor (with us all the time now as the season to be poorly is upon us) but walked too fast to get to the stop. She was a bit puffed but OK when we got on, but then she had to sit a few seats away from me as it was packed and I could hear her coughing her guts up. She started to wheeze but there were people standing between us now and stupid as it sounds I didn't want to ask them to move, I just called to her to breathe slowly and stay calm...

I don't know how we got through it, it was like a bad dream. When we pushed our way out of there she was still calm and just asked for her "breather". And it was over, and I have never been so scared for her or felt so helpless. Ten minutes later she coughed until she threw up, and we went straight home figuring that it wasn't worth being out in the bitter cold any more even for the sake of getting to swimming.

Morgan is still playing the on and off nursing game. I'm a bit worried she might be weaning or that something might be up with my milk supply. I can't figure it out; she wants to feed but as soon as I put her on she messes about and comes off again. Maybe I'm just being paranoid - this is after all the first time I've just gone with the flow completely. We're sleeping four in a bed too, down to the cough and cold thing, which isn't helping her night feeds! It's a bit squashed and I'm glad for the extra space from the cot. I've been thinking about going to mattresses on the floor but it seems like hassle taking the bed down.

I am definately calmer with Jenna right now, my no shouting plan is mostly based on trying to stop being a child and arguing back at her! I also need to let her own her own feelings a bit more and stop telling her not to feel a certain way. I don't want my no whining rule to turn into, "I don't care if you're unhappy" because I do care... My mantra today has been, "tell me with words" followed by, "I hear you"! I wish Martin would hold me to this though, because he really enables the yelling sometimes. And he seems to come home so very tired.

8 November 2007

It's not about the MMR

I just feel I need to comment on this whole Chicken Pox vaccine news coverage today. Don’t take this as my willingness to get off the fence (lol) but rather as heartfelt upset at how the non-vaccinating parent is viewed by the rest of the world. Please, my dear and much loved pro-vaccination friends, read this carefully.

It is not about the MMR.

I don’t want to explain to every person who thinks they have an interest in my child’s health that I am not particularly credulous and don’t buy into any cultish fearfulness (on either side of the fence). I personally don’t think it’s likely that vaccines cause autism, though I accept that I may be proven wrong some day. MMR is not “it”. It *isn’t* the only cause of mistrust, and it isn’t the only doubt that is ever raised about the efficacy and sense of the vaccine program.

Thank goodness I am not called on to explain myself in all but the friendliest environment – I would gather from the news programs today that anywhere else I would be seen as both superstitious and careless. As upset as I feel about the misrepresentation of anyone who does not has not or might not accept the CP vaccine, I *was* very interested to hear a representative of the medical profession utter the phrase “there is no risk from vaccines”. And then seconds later say that “it isn’t always effective, no vaccine is, and there are of course sometimes side effects”…

After two days of being confined, we are feeling much better now and are back to operating on shockingly good terms. :) I have had two whole days without shouting and YES today DOES count even though the children were out all morning. :P I am feeling, in the words of a friend of mine with children similar ages, all earth-mothery. I may even make bread.

6 November 2007

LURGY!!

We are all really really sick and are confined to the house. It is 1pm and Jenna got up about half an hour ago. Before this she had ventured downstairs only to take herself back to bed with a sick bowl and a cup of hot juice. She is hot and miserable and so is Morgan. Oh, and my knee still flippin hurts.

5 November 2007

Crash Bang Wallop, family all fall down

A couple of nights ago Martin had the most lovely flash of inspiration. He decided that since we’re in a built up area and there were too many fireworks to sleep, we should go for a walk and look at them all. It was so nice, a real family evening.

Morgan has two more clever baby brag/updates. Last night she slept nine hours on only two feeds (whoop!) and also she is “reading” a book we have from the library. She makes chatting noises at some pages and (in line with the story) does the CUTEST little fake baby laugh at others.

Unfortunately all the good is balanced out with some bad. Here is my story about what happens when you fall when babywearing… We were walking through town. When I say “walking” I guess I was the only one actually doing so. Jenna was protesting because she wanted to run off up the escalators and I was preventing her. I am ashamed to say I ended up more or less dragging her kicking and screaming. After a while she started walking properly but asked for a ride on one of those infernal car things. I said we had neither time nor money for one and she threw herself on the floor dramatically. Since we were still walking hand in hand this was a little inconvenient and several things happened at once.

Jenna hit the floor, I tripped, fell, threw the bags away from me and put my arm under to protect Morgan’s head. Jenna got kicked in the head more or less and Morgan hit the floor back first at a rather reduced speed due to one of my palms and the opposite knee absorbing the impact. I sat up.

Jenna was howling. Morgan woke up from being a little squished and protested but not much. I checked her head briefly but was fairly sure she hadn’t hit anything and had only suffered brief pressure around her midriff from my body. However I couldn’t move a great deal and my leg felt quite numb. We were also surrounded by people expecting to find the baby crushed to death or suffering a head injury and giving me a lot of advice about what to do in those cases.

Anyhows we sorted out with all the spectators that the children were fine (and Jenna rather better behaved in total shock at what had just followed her mardy) and that Morgan had not so much as a mark and was in fact trying to go back to sleep (“don’t let her sleep for an hour or so, in case she has concussion”). *sigh*

We were helped to the first aid station (I felt really stupid sitting in a wheelchair) and we discovered that what I had in fact done was not as serious as it could have been. Let’s just say that three ice packs later my knee was still purple and swollen like a turnip and I am now literally black and blue all over.

We promised to go right home on the bus, which we did. The first aid staff were telling me all their horror stories about injuries to children in pushchairs, which made me feel much better, but I really didn’t feel like doing the rest of the jobs we had to do anyway. Plus my knee *really* hurt. I must have been really shaken though – I sat for a good twenty minutes trying to make sense of an advert on the bus.

I was confused by a sign promising, “Action to Die Hard 4.0”, and feeling increasingly frustrated by the obvious missing words. Then of course I removed my mental parenthesis around the film title and realised the pun for/four. I am entertaining the very real possibility that a Stickler like me insisting that the name of the film is a proper noun simply did not occur to the promotions team. I feel alone in a world in which other people do not have to walk around all day puzzling “the tart is WHAT?” when the sign for Strawberry Tart’s appears in a local bakery…

As for Jenna’s take on my awful day, tonight she prayed earnestly, “Lord Jesus please make mummy’s knee get better soon so that she will stop being cross with me!” She told Martin that my leg was “all purpley” because I’d tripped over her when she was “being cross on the floor”. She also told him, “don’t worry thought it will be alright, because I’ve prayed for it now.”

2 November 2007

Short hair on my big baby and tears on the little one

Yuck this morning was not fun. As I left Morgan playing on the park with Chris while I went to befriending, I heard her cry. What to do? Let down the person who desperately needs my help? Ignore the needs of my tiny for the first time in her short life?

I fretted all the way down the road before turning back to go get her. When I got within sight I could see her playing and hear that all was well. Phew. I hope that dilemma doesn’t come up again. :(

I have cut Jenna’s hair also and am in mourning for her baby curls. The new hair is fab but not the same, and far shorter than I envisioned. The daily traumas of raising tots!

Last update for today, Morgan signed “stop” to Jenna this morning as she advanced to grab something. It was the first time she has purposefully signed something to Jenna, and Jenna respected it too. I couldn’t believe my eyes…

1 November 2007

Time passing by and good stuff to come

How on earth can there be only two months left to the year? It’s not far from Morgan’s birthday, she’s almost 11 months and it’s NOT OK! She’s still my baby – though I remember at the same age/stage with Jenna feeling that she was really very grown up and more a toddler than a baby.
I’m feeling well and happy and connected. Jenna is doing great – or more likely my attitude means the little developmental issues aren’t bothering me! I read something nice today – “Children aren’t naughty, they’re just young.”

I got a little annoyed with something I got the other day at Soft Play (no dramatic clap of thunder for that I guess lol). I was asked, no doubt in all good faith, “So, you’re still enjoying breastfeeding then?” Um… Not really no – but I’m not doing it for fun! I didn’t know what to say. I think I muttered something about her enjoying it and that being enough reason. I don’t hate breastfeeding, and sometimes there are the lovely squishy emotions but normally? I do it because it isn’t an optional extra to me it’s the bare minimum I can do since I have the capability.

31 October 2007

My Baby Caterpillar

Last night Morgan fell asleep on me as usual and as I stroked her back and head I realised that I could feel every tiny bone of her little baby spine. It all flooded in – how fragile she is and how temporary, how even tomorrow she will be fractionally less mine. It almost crippled me for a moment, a brief second of mind numbing terror, a crushing weight of responsibility. It would be impossible to parent at all if that thought always loomed so large.

This afternoon Jenna climbed into my lap for a cuddle and fell asleep. How long has it been since she last did that? Months, at least. She outruns me; as soon as I catch up with who she is, her needs and thoughts and dreams, she is already further on, further off. When I was very barely pregnant with her and had just started feeling her move I wrote a simple little poem. I think of it often at the moment.

My Baby Caterpillar

I am a chrysalis
I will be cast off
I am just a mother
You will be a butterfly

28 October 2007

Money worries and shopping lists

SO today is the day we should have been paid. Only it’s Sunday so they didn’t and we’re going to be paid late. Which inevitably means I’m thinking more about bills than anything else. My budget is sound though, and we should be able to do another couple of things off our important-things-to-spend-money-on-if-we-have-it list. It isn’t a long list but it will take a while still!

We could do with some bokashi compost bins so we can deal with cooked food waste. We want a swing seat for the garden (but that’s at the bottom of the list currently). I need a sewing machine – currently operating on a serger only which is fab but not really adequate for making clothes and I’m sick of having so many nearly-finished projects. The things that actually WILL be done this month are – warm outer stuff for Jenna when I spot some in second hand shops… Bike, also for Jenna (a running bike as she is so ready to be off baby trikes now). Maybe a couple of new books. Certainly not a new sling *sigh* as I do have slings lol. I’d ask for more wraps for Christmas but I don’t think anyone will take that seriously. ;)

I am broody. But I really can’t think like that. Morgan is teeny and feeding a lot, and that’s that. Come on, Sarah, you’re not ready for another one yet. I’m expecting another long cycle though as I haven’t ovulated yet. This is way too much information for some people who read this but *shrugs* I know there are chart stalkers out there too…

We borrowed mums car today so we got to Church – and have had a relaxed afternoon with Emma and Chris too. Martin has to get up early to take it back to her but it has been so handy to have it again. He has almost stopped talking about getting a new car of our own though; I think there is just too much else going on right now. It’s a good job because our intentions of saving have been waylaid by other things we needed! One day. Maybe.

27 October 2007

Exercise, the benefits of

We all went swimming earlier – it was a free day at the gym so Jenna did a class while I went and did yoga with mum and then we all had a swim. The class was amazing, I feel so relaxed (lol, normally do yoga with two little monkeys helping) and I was quite shocked at how aware I am of what I’m doing, I’ve never used a mirror so I was expecting to be quite wonky and to have dramatically misinterpreted some of the poses from the books I’ve used. So I’m feeling a little bit smug.

And I’m further reassured that the furore about yoga and the church is another case of “everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial”. I’m sure some people will feel that for them to do yoga they would be worshiping another god or participating in another faith. But honestly I’m not thinking about anything other than stretching my body and trying to achieve better posture and greater mindfulness of my movement and breathing when I’m doing it! And that’s enough to engage my brain to full capacity most of the time… I don’t think doing a bridge will free my mind to solutions in a crisis but hey, each to their own.

I’ve meant to mention all that for a while, mostly because I get funny looks from a minority of people when I say that I do yoga with the children because they know I’m a Christian. But I see yoga and my faith to be as compatible as, for example, dance and my faith (there have been various points in history when that would have been seen as risky and borderline-evil for me to say too). And I still bellydance. God made me. My body glorifies Him.

Change of topic – my house is a tip already. I have been doing really well at keeping it looking like a place I’d actually want to live (shockingly) but today I came home to find those efforts trampled by a visiting toddler. Ah well, I got some help to put it mostly to rights. Maybe next weekend I’ll be able to get it back to how it has been most of the month, but I’d guess that the washing is going to take me a long while to catch up with first.

Does anyone else using cloth nappies find that they have weeks when they only really remember to put the nappies through and then there is a backlog of clothes and towels and stuff? It’s like my brain goes, “oh it’s OK, I washed the nappies” and then I realise there’s a pile of stuff still waiting to go in… On the whole though, I’m feeling full of bounce and vitality. :)

25 October 2007

Excuses for not writing much

You know I really feel so much better about Jenna and how I deal with her when she has been away for an hour or two. It’s a good job she’s so needing that time too or I don’t know how we’d cope with each other. Another befriending session this morning and both girls were angelic for my in-laws. In fact they have both been lovely for me too – and I got a good nights sleep last night! All is well with the world.

I am finding that the urge to write is at a pretty low ebb right now. Not because I’m too busy to sit and talk out what I’ve been up to and what stages we’re dealing with, but more because when we’re really busy there’s less to tell. I feel a bit like the diary turns into days of “we did XYZ and it was all really lovely” followed by a couple of days of “I can’t cope, aaargh” and back to “doing XYZ again and I love my life!”

I honestly do think like this. And it really is a roller coaster. Maybe everyone else with little people is the same? Answers on a postcard…

21 October 2007

Things you wish you hadn't said

My little big girl was all sick and feverish yesterday. :( She seems over it now but it’s still always hard to see her poorly. We are getting everything that’s going around as usual. I’ve been pretty impatient today and hurrying Jenna along – very mean given that she’s not been herself. I would try to excuse it with saying that I’m ill too but I really have to be the grownup here.

I threatened to smack her last week. It was a stupid thing to say and I’m so glad she didn’t call my bluff. But once the word is out there… I wish I could take it back as it has really had an impact on her and she has told plenty of people that I actually smacked her. I suppose in her mind I might as well have. It’s all very sad and I’m hurriedly re-reading some of my helpful books to try to replace the threats with a more useful way of communicating my frustration with her.

We had had such a good week too! And all of the holding back from shouting and co-operative discipline and I go and suggest that I’ll smack her if she pulls Morgan off the table one more time.

19 October 2007

More sleep updates and first thoughts on Westfield

Morgan has really not been sleeping. Last night she was awake almost hourly and she can’t be cold in the middle of my bed with PJs and blankets! It crossed my mind that it might be me moving that disturbs her but perhaps it’s the usual (that she isn’t eating a huge amount of solids or drinking much during the day). She likes to reconnect at night. I’ve just enjoyed the week of unbroken nights WAY too much.

We’ve been to look at the new shopping centre (I hated it the first time and I’m not really warming to it any) – it’s so big and impersonal and noisy. There is one thing that Jenna likes though. There is a little play area, really nice imaginative soft play. It’s open sided and that’s the one thing that puts me off a lot. It’s such nice equipment but the enclosure is so low I’m petrified the whole time we’re in there that someone could just put an arm over the side and pluck a child out. It torments me.

Oh for a world that was safe and secure, where my little girl could play without my first thought being accessibility to predators. *sigh* Anyhow, I’m sure I’ll be ranting more in future about the shopping centre so I’ll leave it at those unhappy thoughts. Perhaps I’ll warm to it when it’s quieter and easier for me to supervise Jenna in there!

One nice thing that has happened this week is that we’ve had two lots of photos of the girls, taken very cheaply and paid for by someone else. It’s nice to have a special record of them, of us and our growing family. One luxury we could live without but it’s still nice to have the financial means to do. I don’t think I would choose to live without a camera either. Trust me to have thought about it and weighed up both sides. ;)

18 October 2007

Missing the children!

Morgan has been gone for nearly 6 hours. I am bereft, lonely, torn. And also very proud. I thought she would maybe manage two hours but she’s only just coming home now at 3pm and she left before ten this morning! The house is so quiet. I can tell you with her wanting someone other than me I appreciate how much contact we have the rest of the time (often not at my choosing). I feel sometimes now like she’s always in my space and I want for her to not need me so much, and here I have my wish and I’m complaining.

I keep being told to enjoy it but it’s just like being on a different planet. It’s like being half-naked too without the sling. I might go and put on an empty wrap just to feel dressed. ;) It has one benefit so far really, this baby-free day. I have made so much jewellery I should have some nice Christmas money coming from the stall soon. :)

16 October 2007

Absentee

I’m really not keeping up with the boards at the moment. I don’t feel uncomfortably stretched but I do feel busy. At least at the moment I’m not torturing myself about whether being “busy” means the children are suffering. If this is what the continuum concept means by living a full and active life in the community then maybe it’s all good for them!

This week I’ve been totally on top of the world with Jenna. I’ve got my little girl back and we’re not yelling at each other (often). She is very precocious sometimes and is good at debate so sometimes I really am just realising that there needs to be more give and take in the relationship and I have to stop giving orders unless it’s an emergency. How important ARE the things I nag about?

We’re getting the balance right, and she’s respecting me more for it. In fact, when I do tell her to do something or explain how something works she often listens better because she doesn’t think I’m fussing or being mean. It’s a real relief. Though don’t ask me on one of her deaf days because I won’t paint such a pleasant picture, those days drive me *crazy*.

Soft play today and Sophia hurt her arm. Jenna has been worried about her since we got home and keeps asking if we can ring her to ask if she’s OK. I think she wanted them to come back to play so it was a really big blow. I bet she asks to pray for her later (cutie).

12 October 2007

Hormone central still

Things are a little better – with both of them – but I’m still quite fragile. I keep bursting into tears and I’m trying very hard not to let Jenna see because I don’t want it to turn into emotional blackmail. When she says no I just feel boiling mad and then… Heartbroken. Like her refusing to do what I want means that I’m a failure and she’s a horrible child and everything is awful!

It’s pathetic. I need hugs. I really hope this passes soon because Jenna is actually trying really hard to listen and she is being so sweet and kind. That makes it kind of worse because then when she does dig her heels in rather than working out how to deal with it I just feel like we’re always fighting rather than seeing it as a teeny tiny blip.

10 October 2007

On making threats to stop being AP

Some people woke up lively this morning. I was NOT one of those people. We have been clashing quite a bit today. Yes, my aim is to help her grow self-controls and to impose limits that protect her physically and emotionally. But sometimes I really would just go for squashing her and making her less inconvenient!

Again it feels a lot like I’m blaming Jenna because Morgan is being wakeful and I know I can’t be angry with her… Not to mention that Morgan is being very persistent when she finds something I don’t want her to do – which is what she’s designed to do admittedly. It’s just that when Jenna does it to and I have to keep removing her and making things happen when she refuses to do what I ask!!! I feel like I have two pre-toddlers getting into stuff and I resent having to treat Jenna like a baby when I know she CAN do what I need her to.

I’m periodically threatening Morgan with cots and buggies and formula. I’m periodically threatening Jenna with time out. I have to get a grip.

8 October 2007

Planning for baby number three?

So *sigh of relief* my period is back. Albeit a month overdue, and very heavy. I was feeling worried about pregnancy all week, and guilty that I was worrying (in case I was pregnant and the baby construed it as not being wanted). I actually do really want another baby, and I really feel like it would be an OK time for me to be pregnant, and I really have been broody. But Morgan would miss out, I’m sure of it, because I’m already feeling stretched.

Some people are so ready for a small gap, but this time I couldn’t handle it. Between Morgan and Jenna it would have been fine, but it has been a big adjustment. Not going from one to two, but going from two (one in arms) to two mobile ones! Let’s not add a baby into the mix again yet. Not til I find my feet with two toddlers.

It does raise the question as to when we will start trying to conceive though. I have been thinking and I don’t feel a lot of urgency (obviously) but I don’t want a gap bigger than three or four years. I suppose my ideal gap between Morgan and the next would be three years. As long as Morgan isn’t as difficult a three as Jenna was to start with and can still sometimes be…

It’s impossible. There is no way to tell what would be best – for me, for him, for the children, for the new baby… Not for any of us. I think maybe anything goes after the next few months and if we make it to spring without another due date on the horizon then we’ll just quit worrying about contraception altogether and see what happens.

7 October 2007

Feeling good about my body but also eating junk lol

Harvest has been a lot of fun this year – mostly because we actually DID harvest something. The garden has been such a huge adventure, and I’m really proud of it. We’ve been to Church and had the “bring and share” meal today. In the end we made corn bread with pumpkin, lemon curd tart, apple pie, and popcorn. Then we were given a lift home by mum, who has taken Jenna off swimming and left us at home with a plate of leftover cake, which I am not planning on sharing with anyone.

I don’t know why but I really have the sugar cravings at the moment, which is not the way to ensure I have a balanced diet for Morgan and me. I guess Morgan is still almost exclusively breastfed – she certainly gets more calories from me than anywhere else, but she really does love to play with food (and mostly throw it on the floor afterwards). Plus the cold weather… I guess it doesn’t matter that much, and I don’t often get twinges of guilt about eating badly (either because I’m eating well or because I can look at my reflection without wincing).

Call it healthy self-confidence but although I’m thoroughly a 14-16 and not at all the size ten I was once, I look at myself in the mirror most days and think “yay, I have curves!”. And I only fret a little bit (when I have eaten sugary things usually) that I have a saggy stomach still. It took me til Jenna was two and I was six months pregnant to be a size 10-12 again last time – and without any effort on my part - so I’m taking it easy again.

Morgan has found a new game this week, the telephone. She talks to people and really seems to pay attention to what this strange contraption tells her. She also picks it up when nobody is there and says, “hiyeah, yeah, yeah, hiyeah” into it. I’m fairly sure that she’s mimicking “hiyah” and “yeah” but can’t work out which is appropriate. She certainly copies a lot of noises at the moment.

6 October 2007

A day-in-the-life of unschooling a three-year-old human whirlwind.

Today has been one of those days when Jenna just seems to be inspired. From where, I have no idea, but she is just full of ideas. In fact I’m quite glad she’s asleep now because we’re worn out from all the things she has thought of for us to do. ;) So here it is;

8am – She spreads the jam on our toast and pours the cereal and milk.

8.10am – She decides that we should do some cutting and sticking. She has mastered tracing her hand and is making a tree from handprints. I help her write a thankfulness prayer on each.

8.30am – We have been looking at a chart and talking about leaf shapes. She is trying to guess what kind of trees are in our garden so we take the chart outside. She wants to make a thankyou card for friends so we come back in again to do that.

9am – The paper colours remind her of fire so she wants to make a cardboard fire. We experiment and build something that pleases her a lot. Then we draw fires with chalk and crayon and pencil. She decides which medium she prefers – chalk.

9.30 am – She is busy with the rest of the gold card and I ask her what she’s doing – making a harvest crown with paper leaves stuck on it. She asks if I can find some jewels, which I can’t but promise to try to buy some another time.

10am – We have a long and involved talk about farming methods as we are looking for more chickens and she doesn’t know what “battery” means in any other context than what we put in the camera to make it work.

10.30am – We are harvesting tomatoes and courgettes in the garden and she decides to collect some leaves for pictures. We slow roast the vegetables for pasta sauce and talk about what to cook for harvest bring and share.

11am – She is dressed up as a butterfly and draws insects. She brings the bug net and wants me to catch her in it.

1pm – After lunch we make our sauce in the blender. She watches CITV and makes brick towers “like Pocoyo”.

1.20pm – We make jewellery and she strings all her wooden beads (a birthday present) and then wears her new necklace with the butterfly costume.

1.30pm – She asks for more beads so we talk about making some. I promise to buy pasta tubes next time we shop so that she can string some of them to make more jewellery. We also try to drill the avocado stone from lunch but it splits.

1.50pm – Jenna makes playdoh ice-cream and playdoh cookies while Morgan has a massage. After a while she comes and wants to massage Lily too so she copies me.

2pm – We have to have a pretend birthday party and “eat” the playdoh food.

2.30pm – She helps me pour her a drink and then helps me tidy up before she has a nap.

2.40pm – She is chased up to bed and stomps about on the landing for a few minutes before I call up to her and tell her that if she just lies down for a rest she can come down soon.

4.20pm – Jenna bounces downstairs saying she had a nice sleep and feeds her doll some “soup”.

4.30pm – She seems to be telling Lily about the leaves in her poster. She asks if she can paint a fire to keep herself warm.

5pm – In the bath after painting she invents a new tree called a Spaghetti tree with red leaves. She teaches Morgan how to blow into the bath flutes.

5.20pm – Jenna plays at flying in her towel. I show her a parachute made from a nappy and she plays with it for a while.

5.35pm – She is back in Butterfly mode and is flying/dancing.

5.45pm – She measures the pasta for tea. Daddy gets home!

4 October 2007

Hmm another not sure post

Morgan tried out her pushchair for the first time today. I really thought she’d hate it but she was angelic and had just been happy and smiley the whole time. My father in law would be not too steady on his feet with a sling so it was the only way really for him to have her fairly close to me while I was off with the befriending. It feels like the end of an era – no way am I stopping wearing her but still… She has been in a pushchair. Scary.

On the more attached side of attachment parenting, Morgan has slept through twice so far this week and I am feeling shockingly rested. She is so laid back and contented to play now that I have been sewing clothes again. Bliss!

More seriously life-changing is the fact that she might be usurped in nine months time. I haven’t had a sign of a period since mid-August and I’m really niggling about it now. It isn’t really a help that I don’t feel pregnant because I’m not sure how feeling pregnant differs from thinking I am or could be – or which if any of those are more reliable as a sign. I don’t want to test because if I am I’ll be upset that I didn’t trust myself! I really don’t think I am. Oh I really don’t think I want another baby so soon.

3 October 2007

Crisis on the homestead - the Chickens have been eaten!

Another visit and my client is still not answering the door so I don’t know whether I’ll have any more work to worry about by the end of the week. Strangely after all the worry and stress and saying that I’m not ready to be away from Morgan I really don’t want to give it up. I need to feel like I can do something for somebody who isn’t intimately related to me – not exactly a selfish impulse but perhaps a proud one. I’ve never thought of being a mother as “just” anything but still I want to be useful at something else as well, just for a short while for a few hours a month.

Ah well, out of my hands I guess.

Today we had an awful shock that overwrites anything else I thought I wanted to say. We had a fox come in the night and the coop side door wasn’t properly shut and the rest is history. It wasn’t gory or terrible, and I expected to feel much more upset by it when/if we found them lying there half-eaten… I was more gutted for Jenna than anything.

She cried of course, and said that the naughty fox should have been told a lesson by its mummy not to eat her friends. She also said, jokingly I think, that if the fox comes back in our garden Daddy will smack its bottom (!). Lastly she told me not to worry, that she wouldn’t let the fox get me, and that Delia and Pippin are in heaven now. Rather than discuss the theology of that with her at her age, I just gave her a hug.

She wanted to see the bodies, and not seeing the point in shielding her from death I did. I didn’t let her see the wounds on the bodies though – or the fact that Pippin was missing her head. I really really don’t want her to be the one to find it… Guess I should alert the neighbours too.

Morgan was fascinated – as if this was a game that her feathery friends were playing and she was waiting for the joke, for them to leap up and peck at her fingers while she laughed like only a baby can. After a few minutes Jenna went back inside (shouting, “byebye chickens!”) and although she’s subdued she doesn’t seem too miserable. She won’t let me hug her again though.

The coop will have to be empty now until the spring time when we can buy some new hens. It’s strange and empty and I keep getting up to check on them as I type, or thinking I can hear them clucking in impatience wanting to be let out. I really miss them, and it has only been a day. They were part of my life, in just a few short months.

30 September 2007

Hiccup or halt?

Befriending isn’t going so well, my client isn’t answering the door to me (can’t help but take THAT personally) and although Morgan is still fine with being left I’m finding babysitters hard to come by since my mum has broken her toe and I don’t want the baby to cause it further pain.

In other news I am making industrial quantities of soup of all kinds. Yum. Home-grown slow roasted tomatoes anyone?

20 September 2007

Getting used to being home and not so bad as all that

We’re getting acclimatised to home again. I will admit, it was good to walk in that front door and feel that this is MY place, my very own and totally comfortable to us. It’s great to see the garden again, and the chickens especially (lovely fat clucking things). My tomatoes are huge and I have lots of baby courgettes coming too. And potatoes to harvest. Fab. :)

The befriending went wonderfully again, and confidence is temporarily restored. I feel silly all over again for my panic and yet I guess it shows that it’s me and not her who isn’t ready to be past babyhood. She is a very contented little thing. Although she has really stopped sleeping and is feeding hourly at night. It could be worse, she could be sleeping in another room and I could be having to get up to her!

Today I had a real clash of cultures at the gym. I tried to put Jenna in the play area for half an hour! What they want is for me to leave her in the baby area and perhaps, if numbers are right, she will go on the play gym. I explained that I’m not using it as childcare, and if the ratios aren’t right I won’t put her in, I am right there in the café and I do not need a crèche.

They have never been asked before to give information upfront on where the child will be, and clearly think that there is no difference between the crèche and the full-size soft play (trust me, from a 3yo perspective, there is!). When I ask for her to be brought back to me if she can’t go on the soft play they look at me as if I were leaving instructions for her to be flogged on the hour every hour.

I despair, they say that she CAN use the big play area, and off she goes. She tells me, don’t worry mummy, if they put me in with the babies I’ll scream and scream for you.

15 September 2007

Don’t talk to me about pathetic fallacy.

It’s tipping it down. Proper, heavy, grey water from the black skies in bucketloads. I do not want to go home. I do not want to be in the city, to see brick again, to be deprived of fresh air, to see a hundered cars and identical terraced houses before I’m five minutes from my front door. I do not want to miss my family again; I have enjoyed having my mother-in-law next door and I don’t want Martin to go back to work.

I especially don’t want to be desperately seeking a babysitter for Morgan, who I am not ready to leave, to do a job I suddenly feel horrendously unequipped and emotionally unavailable for. What am I doing? I can’t help anyone, specifically, one to one and professionally. I’m scared. What if my baby cries for the whole time I’m off attempting a job I don’t think I can do?

I have four days to find someone to take her for an hour. If I can’t, I will have to horribly and humiliatingly admit defeat and let this poor client down whilst proving everyone right about taking me on with a small baby. If I can then I will have to horribly and humiliatingly crash and burn in the care sector with nobody to blame. What am I doing?

14 September 2007

How can it be nearly time to go?

We have been packing today and I don’t want to. Really don’t want to. We spent some time walking today, and playing on a tiny playground in the village of Gatehouse. It has been drizzling again, tiny light drops of rain but much harder than our one shower last week. I can’t believe how much sun we have had this week!

Oh, and after my Morgan-breakfast-worry, I have expressed over an ounce every two days which has been plenty for her cereals. I think from now on though my pump may be going away as she’s getting happier with the sharpness of unadulterated fruit juices in her baby porridge. Not to mention the quantity of toast she happily consumes…

13 September 2007

Some random paragraphs I wrote this last week about the places we have been.

A soft mist of rain is falling, the first all week. It is so light it seems suspended, tiny nebulous silver droplets that collect on my coat and sling as I walk. It is warm, and the pregnant purple clouds rest on a distant slate peak as we turn onto a winding side-road to head away from the village.

The bracken is colouring a deep, rich bronze for the harvest season and the road is lined with the emerald through amber and brightest orange. The whole world is spread before us like a crumpled duvet. The hills rise behind, not the green and brown we would be tempted to paint them, but yellow and purple and grey. Every blade of grass is perfect.

* * * * *
The sea today is freckled with tiny white peaks. It is usually such a great grey expanse when we drive out this way, glinting like a mirror reflecting clouds and the vain hopping birds in solitary pursuit on buried treasure. The edges of this stretch are green – almost excessively so. I have seen the grazing semi-wild goats bound right onto the sand as if daring the tidal waters.

The tiny bays we can get into to walk and play, the sand is fine as gold dust but crunchy on top with mussel shells. All are havens for that childhood clamour to fish the rock pools and climb and clamber. We have become obsessives too, scouring stretches for glassy aquariums in which we might catch a tiny brown crab or an alien-looking shrimp. Jenna is under their spell.

I can see her now, memories of those long lazy days at the shore. She is so tall and long, lithe bare limbs all sunshine and strength. Yesterday her legs were skinned by a fall onto some jagged rocks and after a moment of tearful anger at the roughness of stone she was off and running while I hovered still between her babyhood and independence. Oh I wanted to hold her but she would not could not stay. And the tide retreats again, always changing.

8 September 2007

Why I want to stay here forever

I am NOT ready to go home. I have severe location jealousy and am looking enviously at for sale signs wherever we go. I mean, there is a toy shop here (Jenny Wren in Castle Douglas) that sells fabulous imaginative wooden toys, and wholefood shops, local butchers and bakers, a dairy and creamery. Even local organic ice-cream, literally on our doorstep.

It’s Green Living paradise (apart from possibly it being easier if you own a car) and we have been walking every evening in the green peace of the countryside, eating blackberries from the hedgerow and listening to the birds. We are living in harmony with the rhythms of day and night and the seasons.

We have had deer walking across the back garden, and the girls are playing and laughing like sunshine and rain and everything most perfect. They share a bath every couple of days and are loving each other’s company. Morgan smells like popcorn and lemon cake today and I am snuggling for all I am worth. I can’t say what a parental high I’m on, there just aren’t words.

5 September 2007

What we keep secret from small children - and travel with cloth bottoms

Another quick thought Jenna learning and about history complete with blood and bones. I am having fun this week explaining some things (for example the violence in our history) to her in child-friendly terms. I’m also finding really that I care more about it than she does so far.

Maybe children are just attracted to the gory bits, but she loves the mummies at the Natural History Museum in Derby, and she loves the bones and things on the Withorn dig here in Galloway. I’m definitely stopping myself from editing her fairy tales to make them more child friendly from now on.

Also I'm sure that the contradictions don't pose as much trouble for her as used as she is to a world where so little makes sense. I don't think by any means that she just ignores the idea of violence and pain, and she certainly empathises, but she doesn't take it on herself and feel any associated guilt about it. Yet. It's really interesting to see.

We bought a selection of our cloth nappies away with us, along with cloth wipes and spray (ie our normal change bag) and a bucket for in the laundry room. We're self-catering so obviously we're doing the washing ourselves. We have enough clothes to probably only need to do one or two clothes washes (if we get dirty) but we will have to wash nappies every second day. So far it hasn't been an issue at all.

It's great that we're somewhere that we don't have to pay extra for the washing facility or for the electricity use, but having now done cloth nappies while away I don't see what we were so worried about when we went away with Jenna at this age! It hasn't been an issue at all, and it has felt good not to have to buy that one extra thing to go away with. :)

4 September 2007

A quick irritated rant about learning

Just a quick note to express annoyance at the BBC magazine we picked up for Jenna (yeah, I should have known better I guess). There was a multiple choice question on the parent questionnaire was about whether you “create learning opportunities for your child”.

The answers were essentially “not bothered”, “I think that they do enough at school and home is for play”, or “I try to create learning opportunities every day”!

What about, “I feel that the whole world is my child’s school so I have to create learning opportunites for her in the same way I have to make sure there is enough oxygen for her to breathe”?

3 September 2007

Some technical aspects of travelling

I have a confession about baby-led-weaning. I am very embarrassed of doing it in public. On the way up we had food in a rest stop and Morgan had some apple and grapes and carrot pieces. When we left I had to crawl around under the table to pick up bits and it still looked bad when I’d finished – I felt so guilty! I know people get paid to clear up after us but that isn’t the point. I hate putting people out, and at least when I was giving Jenna purees it wasn’t a hassle to anyone else…

I have brought the breastpump away with me, feeling bad about possibly giving her anything less than my milk on her breakfasts, so I hope I can manage to get enough over these two weeks. I haven’t let go of the stresses JUST yet.

One thing I’m definitely confirming yet again is how convenient it is to pop Morgan in and out of the slings! At rest stops we could get up and down stairs, no waiting for lifts (no finding lifts) and I didn’t have to find somewhere to park it when we stopped to eat. We’ve been out and about all kinds of places today – the beach, the forest, I can’t imagine having tried to do it with a buggy. I love babywearing, and I’m glad to have had the chance to fall in love with it again.

Today mostly we’ve been on the beach, rockpooling and finding life magical and wonderful. I am so glad to be here. So, so glad.

1 September 2007

Finally! We arrived!

We’re here and tired out, but the place is perfect – wonderful. It’s so big and clean and light and pleasant. The views are heavenly, and it feels like home. We are very very happy. I have to report too that Morgan was fine in the car, and the journey was a dream.

I can't even describe the place and hope to do it justice. There are two cottages joined together, a smaller one with one bedroom (and a pull out bed in the sitting room) where the in-laws are, and a bigger one with two large bedrooms (one with bunk-beds and a single bed, and one double room). Everything is wood and stone and open, simple but comforting. The kitchen is properly stocked and big enough for me to spend hours in here! Jenna soon found a little row of pretty coloured snail-shells along the garden wall, and these touches are everywhere - in short it feels really lived-in and not like a holiday home at all.

The cottage is whitewashed on the outside and there is a green garden sloping up at the back towards some woods. We look out at the front towards the cottage where some friends of the owners live, they're our caretakers so to speak and we had to go to them for the keys. There is one of those huge old heavy wooden farm gates that, if you're small, you can stand on as it swings closed. We can see fields and fields, autumnal leaves, glorious colourful wildflowers, heather and bracken and sky - more sky than you can ever see in the city. Heaven must look just a little like this I think.

31 August 2007

So close - want to get away NOW

I am so grateful that my littlest one seems so happy to be with other people. I needn’t have worried about the befriending work at all, and since flying solo went so well this week I feel much better and all ready to go off and enjoy my break. One more thing out of the way and one more worry to put out of my mind!

Packing has been fairly stress free as well, though I’m aware of something in myself that reminds me uncomfortably of my own mum stressing and trying to rush us out of the door on holidays! Now I know why! It really is so frustrating for the control freak in me to let little people (and hubby) help with packing – the waiting, the holding-back-from-nagging, the asking nicely. I think I got it under control for the most part, and we are all packed now and everything is in the car.

I’m not hugely looking forward to loading Morgan up and the potential crying on the way though. I’m just so needlessly stressed this week! I need to calm down, honestly, and let go a little.

23 August 2007

And now she's three!

Dear Jenna:

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday dear Jenna...
Happy Birthday to you!

xxxx

20 August 2007

Time to actually change my behaviour to accomodate the Three thing

Today we had another cute moment with Jenna, who has been lovely all day. I asked her if she could fetch my notebook from on top of the drum (meaning the djembie that sits by the computer) – she said yes but then asked if she could snuggle first and of course I let her. We forgot all about the notebook. After about half an hour and a couple of stories, Jenna ran off upstairs and I assumed that she had gone to the toilet. However when I called upstairs she yelled back, “The notebook isn’t on Daddy’s drums!” She had remembered and gone upstairs to look on the drum kit in my room. :)

So today I’ve been realising a friend of mine has been going through the terrible threes with me (even with using nice words I can’t help thinking the phrase holds good for Jenna). I’ve been brainstorming ways to keep being friends with Jenna along this bumpy road, and these are the things I think we try to keep up.

- Getting baths together without the baby.
- Letting her choose more - where we should go today and what I should put on sandwiches etc.
- Putting some of the play back in to our day and finding time for her favorite activities (painting and sticking) whenever Morgan is asleep.
- Using the sling more so that she has my hands free to help her and Morgan stays quiet(er).
- Thinking, "what would happen if I said yes?" before I say no!
- Giving her her own scrapbook and lots of stickers and sneaking off to do our journals together.

I asked her this morning what makes her day with mummy go better and what she likes to do just with me and she said, "I just like being next to you, I don't mind what we do." :)

I am still absolutely dying to get away on this holiday – it has been about a year and a half in the planning now!

18 August 2007

Am I type-casting her already??

I’ve just been asking myself, if I read these entries back since Morgan’s birth, how many times have I called her naughty or cheeky or stubborn? I never would have called Jenna those things, not just because she wasn’t but because I was so good at assigning positive intent and I didn’t want to give her a role to play to.

I’m worried though that I might have given Morgan one.

It’s a thought, anyway. A sobering one I guess.

17 August 2007

Leaving the baby and the inadvisability of bedside cots

Morgan stayed with my mum for well over an hour today so I could go to a volunteer meeting, I was amazed but she hadn’t even looked for me. Mum had never seen her sign before and hadn’t been told any of her signs but she picked up on both of them and responded, giving Morgan water when she asked for milk, and croissant when she signed for more. It was so wonderful that she was happy with my mum like that, I was really proud of her.

The rest of today really has just been holiday planning and trying to get some jobs done like washing! I’m very tired but I don’t know why, I don’t have any idea of what Morgan’s sleeping is like but I think she’s waking at about 3am and not settling again. I don’t have a clock in the bedroom which is quite frustrating but on the other hand if I know she isn’t sleeping how I want her to I might be tempted to change it. I can’t be pushy without concrete evidence. ;)

The cot has been put up, with one side off. But Morgan hates it and I look like that cartoon where the baby is in the middle of the bed and mum is in the cot. She likes to be warm, and she doesn’t like the bars. So even though I’m right there, in it she will not stay. *sigh*

13 August 2007

A proper Morgan update at eight months.

She crawls and climbs and cruises all over the place. She stands unaided, and is always getting bruises from being so totally fearless.

She loves Jenna to bits and laughs and smiles for her like nothing else. She is also a total pain to her and won’t let her play alone, she grabs hair and pulls and pinches and thinks it’s funny.
She is feeding like a normal baby (!).

She blows raspberries and makes tongue clicks and all kinds of vowel and consonant sounds. She says Mumumumum and Daddy. She also says DA for BOO when she jumps out at you. She understands games and joins in properly with songs and rhymes, so many actions she remembers. She signs “milk” and “more” which she also uses to mean food. Other people can understand her signing clearly.

She eats everything except banana and strawberry, which she’s allergic to. She loves pasta and couscous and peas and anything she can shovel into her mouth in handfuls.

She sits very sturdily and can reach behind herself for things. She can also reach for things when standing but only if she’s holding on at the same time. She likes to kneel up when playing and can kneel both sitting on her heels or up high for long periods – she never overbalances from this position.

She seems to have given up on EC. I try sometimes, and she isn’t interested and will refuse to use the potty when I know she needs it only to pee on me as soon as I stop cuing and remove her from the potty.

We're doing great. :)

12 August 2007

Actually doing housework feels like a big deal

Finally the bookcases are sorted and clear and things are where they belong. Week on week the house just looks better and better, I’m so proud. And I haven’t had to leave anyone to cry to do it either. I’m feeling so good about my family and how they are all growing, I really have that teary mother feeling looking at them (and I don’t always). There are definitely fewer battles with Jenna so I must be being fairly consistent.

I’ve been having fun collecting Morgan a proper treasure basket for a while now but it finally has about 50 items and is therefore “finished” – as far as one can be. I love it, love the feel of things and… OK so it’s just the sort of toy that I would have loved as a child. I really wish she’d been crawling a little later so that she could have got best use from it!

I tried on our very first ever sling this morning, a carrier from Tomy (I think it’s called a Snuggli but it really isn’t at all). It was much less awful than I remembered but it does feel so insecure compared to the other sling we’ve used since. And the horrible thin padded straps.

I feel sort of attached to it even though it put us so badly off babywearing. I have good memories of Martin persisting in wearing it even though he hated it too, just to be close to our darling little one. Seeing him with Jenna was my first taste of what it is now to see him carrying both of our children and thinking that THAT at arms length, over there, THAT is my family. All in one precious bundle.

11 August 2007

I neeeed this holiday!

Dad is going to chicken-sit, so we’re all sorted on that front. We’ve also done a lot of planning for the holiday and I can’t wait I can’t wait I can’t wait. It’s just a couple of weeks now, which ought to go pretty fast if the last few months are anything to go by.

We had our pictures taken today and that’s another thing to look forward to, because I have two gorgeous kids and I love having nice photographs of them. Though the money-guilt thing came up again, spending money again and on something that I want for me…

The only other new thing is the return of our playpen, not in order to keep a child IN but in order to keep a child OUT. I got sick of trying to stop Morgan from being naughty to Jenna when she has a nap in the comfort corner, so I had to shield her! The other day she kissed and slobbered all over Jenna’s face when she was asleep, and Jenna just raised one hand to wipe the slobber off and went back to sleep again.

9 August 2007

*sigh* Why do I not notice this stuff?

My mum is always right. Just thought I’d say that for the record. She said she thought that Jenna might be under the weather and that might account for her bad temper and silly behaviour. This morning, Jenna was not at all well. So my mum is always right.

Pleeeeease oh pleeeeaasse let this be the answer and it not be the stroppy three year old thing, because I don’t want to do a whole year of it!

Morgan is climbing all over everything this week, she can get on to the sofa already but not off it again. I can’t keep her little feet on the ground! It’s very funny and cute but terribly distructive to all the new things she can reach. I’m having to watch her like a hawk, because sadly she does not have ANY wariness about falling off. When she does she doesn't seem to cry though, so maybe she *wants* to. :S

7 August 2007

Why is three harder than the "terrible" twos?

Jenna’s personality really has changed, overnight it feels like and I’m a bit lost with her. She had no terrible twos at all, then she just suddenly hit this awful STROPPY phase and she's lost all her impulse control as well. It's like she thinks she wants to do something so she does, where even a month ago she would have recognised the consequences. Today that was hitting Morgan across the head with a book.

Talking to other mums I'm reassured that lots of easy toddlers hit a bad patch just before they turn three. The general consensus is that it lasts anything up to the majority of the third year. Which is scary, because we get a discipline tool that is really working for us and start to rebuild our relationship and then I am tired and she's in a mood and I yell.… It’s not going great.

What is working for us best is just NOT arguing and not trying to even bother assigning positive intent but just describing what she needs to do next and then instead of getting worn down or cross with the torrent of refusal and attitude that follows, just feeding it back to her and keeping on insisting ("you're very cross, I hear how upset you are - now pick it up" etc lol).

Letting her have her emotions and not trying to fix them is helping, she's saying how she feels more and screaming less. I feel like I'm nagging but she really needs me to be calm and persistant, and I'm doing what I can. Repeating back to her what she's feeling is *just* about getting her to use words more often.

We worked out recently that she has started to really need more routine as well. By that I mean she needs to eat really regularly (otherwise she is either crying non-stop or screaming and lashing out at me) and she absolutely can't do without an afternoon nap. With Morgan in tow it's hard to get her to wind down for one, but we've been putting her in her room and sitting with her but telling her that if she is very loud or kicks me (!) or anything like that then I will go and come back in a few minutes.

I end up leaving almost every time but she shouts for me once or twice and falls asleep before I even get back in to her. It's taken a lot of soul-searching to be comfortable with that, as to start with I felt like the crying was my fault and I should be able to help her or at least be there. Now I'm certain that the more I let it become a battle the more distraught she is - as soon as I see that we're working ourselves into a fight over nap time it's better to get me and Morgan out of there so she has space to calm down instead of trying to tantrum me out of making her sleep! :(

Even on my most consistant days it's like living with a different child. I didn't believe that her personality could change so much overnight but it really did! I'm just hoping that when we get Jenna back again I will have managed to keep us from becoming enemies. I'm aiming for not perfectly controlled but just calm enough, not perfectly consistant but just reliable enough, not perfectly gentle, but just loving enough. Baby steps. ;)

We had a great swim yesterday and didn’t fall out at all, which is a pretty rare day for the last week or so. I’m working at it though, and I really don’t feel that bad at the moment (in fact I feel like I’m doing pretty well). It mostly was good to hear that it was normal and it isn’t my fault!

5 August 2007

That TV advert with the kids saying they hate school :S

Yesterday we had some good old-fashioned play time – well what else to do with activities cancelled for the months of the school holidays? We had tea parties, with real tea and milk, for hours and hours. It was blissful. And the baby didn’t knock anything over.We went to Church today with my mum, still dithering about what to wear for my brother’s wedding, and then came home and did some work on the garden.

My only other news is that I finally found plain notebooks – in Partners Back To School stuff (because clearly we only need that type of thing at one time of year). It drives me nuts, all the back to school stuff. What about the rest of us? Don’t even get me started on the adversarial back to school advertising either – why do children have to hate school? Why do we have to force and coerce them? Could it be because there is an actual real problem with schools? Of course not, don’t be silly/radical/hippy/etc.

3 August 2007

Car-seat disputes and the point of slings

We took another day trip with family today, to a Lavender farm (another really nice place) and we had local cream tea in the café. Jenna loves running around with my cousins so much.

I had a bit of a run-in with my uncle though about carrying Morgan in the sling. When we got there she was asleep and he told me I needn’t have woken her by taking her out of the seat, he would have carried the basket. And I said it was no trouble and that I don’t like leaving her in it because they can cause breathing difficulties. He said that he never wakes a sleeping baby and I laughed and said, “there speaks the parent of twins.” And we left it at that.

It didn’t take him long to get back to the topic in hand though. He tried to tell me that I shouldn't carry Morgan so much because she'll get used to it, and I told him that it was a reasonable expectation for a baby that they should get to be close to their parents.

He said, "what about when she's bigger" and I said that Jenna is bigger and doesn't want to be carried all the time. He said, "what about when you need to get things done?" and I repressed the urge to find the Hathor comic about "get something done" being a euphemism for sex and said that I can do necessary things perfectly well with a baby in a sling.

Then he used the word "fussy" and my mum jumped on him to tell him that Morgan hardly ever cries at all and is the most confident baby she's ever cared for. And he tried the word "spoilt" and I told him firmly that if trusting that God designed babies perfectly so that they are capable of knowing what they need is spoiling them then I certainly intend to go on doing so (he's a Vicar). And he went into a sulk because I had talked back to him!

The thing that lets me get things done the best is back wrapping the baby so that she can see what I'm doing. But then I cleaned the oven a couple of weeks ago for the first time in months, with Morgan on my hip in a ring sling so it is possible with practice. I think we just operate under totally different parenting paradigms. He believes that children need to be taught to be adults, I believe that children grow up whatever we go or don’t do and that I should probably get some sneaky cuddles in now while I still can.

So I’ve been working on my Principles of Parenting. Perhaps they’ll make it online one day. The first one is this: Babies are fully human and essentially honest. That has pretty profound implications for how we treat them, doesn’t it?

PS – For those who NEEED the Hathor comic, here it is. http://www.thecowgoddess.com/?cat=7

31 July 2007

Conversations between preschoolers

My cousins are staying with my mum this week, and Jenna and my youngest cousin are quite the double act. They both have the ability to make themselves known most clearly, and they both like to be the boss. I love listening to them, it’s a real insight into the world of tiny people.

Jenna – I won
Naomi – No I won
Jenna – No I won
Naomi – No I won
Rachel (my aunty) – You both won. It was a draw.
Jenna – It isn’t a draw, we don’t have any pencils.

Jenna – Look, a spider!
Naomi – I’m frightened of spiders.
Jenna – It’s not scary, don’t worry. Don’t touch him or you might hurt him.
Naomi – I’m not going to touch him.
Jenna – He won’t like it if you touch him.
Naomi – I’m not going to touch him – I’m frightened!
Jenna – It’s only a little spider.

Anyhow, today we went to Woolaton Hall which I can recommend MOST highly. The museum and exhibits were fabulous, really really lovely, and we had a great day there. Jenna has picked up some funny things from my family though, and has come home calling everyone “poppet” lol.

29 July 2007

Anyone want to baby-sit my hens?

The spare money for the month isn’t spare any more. We decided on an expansion for the chicken run for definite so we’re going to put other things on hold to get the best we can. It will make having someone Chicken-sit a lot easier too though we don’t know who will be doing it while we’re away yet. I don’t want to ask my Dad but there isn’t really anyone else. Volunteers?

Anyway, main point of my entry today, to praise my husband. I just don’t appreciate him enough but he’s amazing and gentle and sweet and kind. And he understands what a big deal it is to a nursing mother to be able to get a bath on her own once in a while… :)

28 July 2007

Stop talking Mummy, you're giving me a headache...

Housework can be so freeing, I just feel on top of the world and all I did was clear some junk that was well overdue my attention! The mantelpiece is clear and the sitting room looks great, it’s like being in a new house (and one that I really love living in). I have new bookcases too (well, second hand) so I have space to fill!

We have a huge cardboard box in the middle of the lounge right now, but I don’t want to get rid of it really because the girls both love it. We had to remove all of the huge staples that had been used against all common sense to hold it closed, but now it is kiddy safe and it seems to be the best toy ever invented. Morgan keeps shutting herself in it, to the endless amusement of her sister.

The small one had her first ever mush for breakfast this morning. She held the spoon herself and I just had to help her load it up. It was so cute and so funny seeing her do it so tiny and young and new. I like the lack of mess from the puree I can tell you that, but I’m still 100% enjoying baby led weaning.

Jenna still has the attitude. She told me today as we were eating lunch (and I was nagging a little I’ll admit), “stop talking, Mummy, you’re giving me a headache!”

27 July 2007

Insurance searching ARGH and Jenna-with-the-three-attitude

I’ve been trying to get home insurance quotes. I can’t even talk about it. How can it be helpful to let me select options that you DON’T EVEN PROVIDE??! Not to mention when I give a preference about four times and get a quote and go through applying for that policy and only find on the detailed policy document that it doesn’t include what I asked for.

It’s on hold, we have lived thus far without insurance as bad as that sounds. Low income, what can you do? We could hardly lose the house because we couldn’t keep up with the rent, so we had to do without something and that was it. If it wasn’t so damned complicated though, we’d have sorted it out once and for all today.

I’ve been thinking about all the sewing jobs upstairs and I’m either going to get my machine mended or buy a new machine, but to be honest it feels a little like I shouldn’t be spending money on me. We’ve so recently actually had any money I don’t want to take it for granted.

This week is going much better after a really bad week with Jenna, she really has this sudden attitude and I have no idea from where. I’m trying to be patient and, well, I’m doing better. Let’s put it that way. We’re focussing on feeding back to her how she’s feeling when she’s in a mood and it’s helping me to connect with her and not view her as a problem to be fixed.

25 July 2007

A day in the life of a Chicken owner

It is morning, and I am finally up and dressed. The dressed part is the tricker for having two small children to assist and likewise help in dressing themselves. Jenna is already on her second outfit and I have just put her breakfast in front of her. Morgan is in the sling already, having got bored of the floor in the time it took for me to drink a mug of peppermint tea and eat a slice of toast. Music is playing quietly (or possibly on a bad day, Ceebeebies). It's time to let the Ladies out.

I go into the garden, yelping as Morgan pulls my hair, open the gate for the outer run and then latch the door to the chicken house open. Two fat ginger birds push past me and make a run for the green spaces beyond. I go back into the house taking their feed bowl with me, and look for a headscarf to stop the giggling smallest child from taking any more of my hair out.

Making up the mash with some warm water, and finding a cup to put some assorted seeds in, is easy. I fill the water up to the top from the barrel by the shed and put the food bowl down. One hen runs to take a look, the other is eating the seed pods from my lily which I am sure is poisonous but I figure she probably knows better than I do. I try to point out a slug to her but she doesn't care. Perhaps slugs are poisonous to chickens? I check whether the straw bedding needs a change and collect an egg (perhaps).

The ladies take their morning exploration seriously. If I know the children will play outside then they can be out most of the day, but if they are unsupervised they have to go back into the run as I can't risk the council asking us to get rid if they keep escaping over the fence. I nip back inside for my cup of tea and realise from my reflection in the mirror that Morgan is asleep up there on my back in her sling.

I finish the tea and put the mug down on the bench, then throw the seeds into the run area calling, "chook chook chook chook - heeeerre chicken, heeere chick chick chickens!" They come running and I shut the door. We have been outside about half an hour in total.

Later I come back and check for eggs again and give them more time to roam if they didn't get a nice long time in the morning. In the evening I come a third time and check the food and water before giving them a last chance to get some greens and scratch in the soil behind the compost heap, then shut them in for the night. If it is dark then they are already inside, making soft feathery sounds of sleep, and I just quietly shut the door on them.

Now I'm sure they'd be fine if I just visited for food and roaming in the morning and then shut the inner door late at night, but they would be BORED. They might cluck quite a bit. They might even start pecking each other. But everyone I know is either working, or chicken phobic, or a combination of other factors! What are we going to do??

23 July 2007

Passing time, birthday planning, other random stuff

It’s only a month now until Jenna turns three, which most people around me (who don’t have children) don’t seem to realise makes me feel really old. And also like time has REALLY gotten away from me. I just can’t put it into words, and every parent tries and fails, what it means to daily lose your child and get back another in his or her place.

We have been thinking about birthday traditions and trying to cut down the present buying a little, as well as encouraging people to add to her “presents box” rather than wrapping things in expensive paper. The new candle train also arrived, complete with numbers and little animal decorations. I can’t wait to see what she thinks of it! We’re not doing a big cake this year, just lots of little fairy cakes with plain icing and rainbow candles. I am so proud of my big little lovely girl.

It’s nice to see how close Morgan and Jenna can be sometimes too. I guess they have their normal little fights over toys and stuff like that, but really the love between them makes me come over all mushy. I feel, well, secure about them in a different way from how I did before. No matter what they have each other. OK so I come from a family where the siblings are fairly close, but I do want that for them.

On a more trivial note I am looking for plain paper books for the girls (for Christmas) as lined notebooks just aren’t the same. I don’t like lined books for myself so how are they expected to when almost everything they want to do is scribbling?! It’s just impossible, the only place is WHSmiths and they’re huge and heavy and £5 each!

18 July 2007

Argh she really IS growing up...

Jenna just asked for and ate a whole apple! This is news because usually she wakes up asking for an ice-lolly, to which the answer is that she must have some cereal or toast first. The lollies are only fruit juice after all, so I hardly need to restrict them. She doesn’t usually ask for fruit though.

She said, “don’t take the skin off, I’m a little girl now, I like the skin.” And she was true to her word, she ate the lot. I don’t normally take the skin off until she asks me to, but she *does* usually ask!

Today, so far, we have walked to the shops for toilet roll. We have fed and watered the chickens and let them roam. We have cleared the top of the fireplace. We have painted glitter glue pictures and made some more fish for her little paper aquarium project. We have planted some courgette plants. We are doing well!

17 July 2007

Nagging vs reminding

I had a timely reminder today of why we keep enforcing the stay-close-to-mummy rule in town. We lost Chloe. Jenna had already been lost about an hour earlier – in a shop we turned a corner and she didn’t notice, so she stood where she was and yelled for me to come and help her, and a lady pointed her to where I was standing, literally within reaching distance if the shelves hadn’t been there.

As we were walking down from Sainsbury’s (I had needed glycerine for glitter shakers), Jenna stopped at some automatic doors because she insists that they be closed when she approaches them so that they open for her. EJ was behind us with her two, and I was keeping my eye on whether Jenna was ever going to make it through the doors with all the people milling around and setting off the opening mechanism again!

When we all got back together finally, Chloe was gone. We searched for her frantically, me pushing the pushchair and trying to stop Jenna also running off (totally distressed and crying, “Chloe can’t have gone away, I LOVE her.”). EJ ran from shop to shop, we put out the description over the radio, “a little girl with long blonde hair, white cardigan, peach vest top, denim skirt, stripy tights” but she was nowhere to be seen. It was awful, one of the most frightening things to happen to us.

When we found her (playing happily in a shop) EJ made her hold on, and she tried to get free and hung off her arms like Jenna does when she wants to run. She hadn’t been upset by it at all, but my friend was shaking and had been pretty close to tears.

So, I’m telling myself, if EJ and I feel like awful nags sometimes and hate restricting our children’s freedom then it’s for a good cause. I’m also telling myself that it isn’t nagging if I state the rule, make it happen, state the rule again for a separate offence, enforce it again… Nagging is when I repeat the rule over and over for the same incidence without backing it up.