Thursday, July 29, 2010

The real top 10 list - Things all new moms & dads need

Not the regular top 10 that will see you your local toy store and baby centre. No, this is the REAL top 10 list of things you actually need.

1. smart phone - preferably an iphone, but any that have a big screen will work - this is not so you can text, email and facebook until your heart's content (well, ok, maybe it is) but it also works as a GREAT flashlight for middle of the night feeds, nappy changes and temperature checks. Apps also serve as a great distraction when you're out and about. Cost = priceless!

2. wine and/or chocolate - i lump these together as some people don't drink and others don't like chocolate. and for those, like me, that like both, it is safer to save one for after 6pm (you decide ;-)...OK, so those days when you it's not even 7:30 am and there's already been three meltdowns (2 of them yours), there is nothing like sinking your teeth into an exquisite piece of dark chocolate (or really, any kind of chocolate will do). And once it's 5:30pm and those meltdowns have not stopped and you are covered in snot, poop, food and some unknown substances, there really is nothing like sitting down with a glass of wine. Truly, every mother's best friend!

3. facebook/twitter accounts: face it - you're not going to be going out like you used to. At least with FB and twitter you can still keep your finger on the pulse and see all the events that your single/married without children friends are doing. And of course, they can look at all the pictures you post of your gorgeous kids (or not)

4. a good therapist - seriously - you're going to need it. I don't know too many men/woman that can take the constant erosion of self and thoughts of self-doubt that comes with being a parent. And I don't have a mother to add to those levels! I love my kids more than anything else in this world, and for the most part they're pretty good, but good lord, they wear me down. Having an impartial, objective person to talk/vent to is absolutely priceless. Because face it, there's only so much whining your friends/partners will take. Hire a professional.

5. Make friends with the local teenagers. You are going to need a battery of babysitters. Trust me, even your parents will get sick of looking after your kids at some point.

6. A cleaner - again, the cost = priceless. You will spend more time at home than you ever thought possible and the mess that will be created will be beyond your wildest dreams. My bathrooms smell like urinals - and my son actually pees in the toilet. Yet still, my bathrooms smell...While I'm not exactly sure why this is, after a visit from the cleaning fairy the smell is gone (at least for a day or two). It really pays to have someone come, at least once a month, to clean every corner of your house, from top to bottom, all at once. It's a great feeling to walk into that house.

7. Put your child's name on wait lists for daycare. I know, you don't want to go back to work. All you want to do is gaze into the eyes of your beautiful child and be there for every teeny tiny little change or developmental milestone. And of course, no one could do as good of a job raising your child as you. I know. But you know, there will be days that you will want to go back to work. Trust me. There may even be weeks and months that you have that feeling. If you don't have your kids on a wait list, it becomes really hard for you to go back to work. But if you have done all the research, have them on a wait list for *the best* care centre, going back to work is always an option. And of course, you can always turn that spot down should they call and you really and truly don't want to go back to work, or have just one day a week where you can go pee by yourself. It's always good to have options. Just sayin'.

8. A good hairdresser. I mean a really good hairdresser that you trust. Preferably one that works long hours. You will have days when you have been spit up on, pooped on, bit, kicked, used as a kleenex and poked and prodded. There will be days when you will barely recognize yourself in the mirror for the puffy eyes and blotchy skin. There will be days when you clothes, yes, even your fat clothes, won't fit right. Those are the kind of days when you need to get your hair done. Get it cut, coloured, styled. It really doesn't matter. Just being out of the house--without anyone tugging at your pant leg or screaming in your ear--and being pampered is the best thing in the world. And really, who doesn't feel better about themselves after visiting the hair salon?!

9. A gym membership at a gym with a creche. I don't care if you hate going to the gym. I don't care if you don't even know what to do at a gym. It DOESN'T matter. Gym's with creches are your best friend. Especially if you find one with a steam room and sauna. It doesn't matter *where* in the gym you are, you just have to be in the building. Heck, you can spend the whole time at the gym's juice bar reading a book or sleeping in the locker room. You'll usually have at least a whole hour to yourself and the cost is usually minimal. Worse case scenario you may even get in shape, or at least counter some of the calories from the wine and chocolate ;-)

10. The Entertainment Book - and USE it. I know the books are only $60 and are bought to support your local insert-good-cause-here and usually end up collecting dust or are used as a door stop. I say use it as an excuse to go to the hairdresser, call up that local teenager and go out for a lovely night out with your partner. It's amazing how much better food tastes when someone else cooks it and cleans up after you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Single sock seeking same

My children will most likely never wear matching socks.
Blame it on the dryer ;-)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Now you see him, now you don't

Shopping expedition = FAIL

So my darling son and I were having a day out in the big city. The plan was to take the train, the ferry, have lunch and just hang out. The only glitch was that as we were heading into the city, I remembered that we needed to do some clothes shopping for a family photo shoot planned for the next day. No problem, I figured a quick detour to the department store wouldn't be a big deal.

Yeah, well, never make assumptions! For starters, have you ever tried to buy clothes for yourself with a 3 year old in tow....that's what I thought. You either bought an armload of clothes that you never tried on or you left with nothing - in either case, you probably ended up with nothing (if you're new, i'll explain - that armful of clothes you bought - none of it fit or looked awful so you returned it all). But sadly that's not even what this post is about.
No, my shopping trip was a big fail because it was so boring for little man that he decided to play a 'trick' on me...hahahahahah...ya, not so much.

You see, as I was mentally trying on some really bad fashion statements, the little mr man decided it would be *fun* to see what it would be like to *vanish* behind some clothes - not a big deal, as usually as I see him disappear, however today, I didn't see the beginning of the vanishing trick. When I looked up from the "80s mistake redux" my darling son was *gone*. Gone as in NOT there.

I yell out his name, not once, not twice, but THREE times and it feels like I could hear a pin drop in the store. And still NO little man. My heart starts to pump, I'm scanning the store, yelling out his name in a panicked voice, worst case scenarios popping up in my head. And still, I don't see or hear him. All I see are the women around me that seem to be looking at me like I'm mad. Not one sympathetic look. I start to think I've gone mad. Is there a child standing by my side??? still no. One last time, I yell out his name, and finally he comes running to me.

With him in my arms, I collapse on the floor with him and start crying. In my rational mind, I know I'm being ridiculous. This whole episode probably took no longer than a minute. I am a rational woman. I know that people don't go snatching kids. The majority of missing kids are usually with with a parent, friend or relative. and again, the entire episode was not even an entire minute.

I didn't end up buying anything and on Little Mr. Man's suggestion we ended up having ice cream for lunch. With sprinkles and chocolate sauce. and lots of hugs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Summer

As we are in the middle of our first of two back to back winters, I've been thinking a lot about summer.
Here's a lovely shot of Little Mr. Man running up the sand 'hill' at Avalon Beach, NSW last summer.

Yes, I know the job sucks, but can't we look on the bright side? At least once??

So we all complain about being our jobs. Or at least I do.

It's like the weather. No one's every *really* happy with the weather. It's either too sunny, too hot, too humid, too wet, too cold...too freaking something.

Same goes with our jobs....too boring, too busy, too slow, too hard, not enough pay.

What I wonder, is why should parenting be any different? How exactly is complaining about this 'job' news? Somehow it is. From New York Magazine's ''I love my children. I hate my life'' to SMH's own "Much to Hate About Parenting" complaining about the world's oldest job is news.

Of *course* there's lots to hate about parenting. Most days are spent playing referee, being climbed on as if you're a jungle gym, being spit/peed and/or pooped on. Your hair gets pulled. You walk around with dirty clothes. You don't get much sleep and not because you've been out partying. No you don't get to out, at least not at night. And if you do, it's so you can go to the grocery store or chemist. You go to the gym just so you can go pee in peace. It's called 'me' time. You get called names. You get to see your worst habits thrown back in your face. This list took less than 2 minutes to come up with and I could easily come up with more. There is no shortage of things to complain about.

But, just like in the workplace all that complaining has a negative effect. Brings morale down, makes people less productive. Makes you want to quit your job and find a new one. And as a parent, that's really not an option. Well, it is but for some, but not for me.

And really, it's not such a hard slog. I know, some people have kids that don't sleep. Some kids throw tantrums that would give the Super Nanny a run for her money. Some kids throw things, hit, bite...But they are only kids. They don't even go to school yet. They are not the boss - you are. Take control. It's not easy, but I wonder what the hell's going to happen when these out of control kids grow up. Now then there will be something to complain about.

I know the horror stories are what sell. It's like sex, it's what people want to read about. When you're having a shit day, you don't want to read about how great someone else's day was or how wonderful their kids are. I get it. That's why I read the blogs too. But you know, every once in a while, it might not be such a bad thing to show a bit of the bright side.

So here it is. My kids rock. As my son went downstairs to sit on the couch to watch his Thomas the Tank Engine with his Dad before going to bed, he pipes up and asks "did you clean up Mom?" thinking he was talking about the kitchen, I said "yes" and then the sweet little boy replies "thank you". YOu see he thought I had cleaned up the living room and his mess. The kid isn't even 3.5 and he rocks.
My sweet little daughter wakes up much too early, but will happily hang out in her cot in her room singing and talking to herself until the sun comes up.

anyhow, back to more complaining tomorrow. My readership isn't that large that I can afford to start alienating anyone ;-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

When you have no one to call in sick to

Ever have one of those days you wish you could start over?

It used to be, you know, days before kids, you had options when you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. If a workday, you could call in sick and stay in bed all day or go shopping or go to the gym or do whatever it is that you used to do to shake the crabbies away. If a weekend, you could just pull the covers over your head and go back to bed.

I tried calling in sick, but my 'bosses' don't have phones. Well, they do, but they don't take incoming calls. Actually, just as I was trying to 'call in sick' Little Mr. Man was using his 'phone' as a drum on Little Miss' head. So, calling in sick was not in the cards for me today.

Instead, we had a lovely playdate at a friend's where we ate a ridiculous chocolate cake with 700g of Lindt dark chocolate and a few other ingredients (thanks Donna Hay - can't find recipe online, but can add if anyone likes). Plus coffee. You'd think this would be a great way to shake those crabbies, eh?! Not for someone with caffeine sensitivities.

Sure, I was 'perked' up, but I was also ready to pounce. It was like I had taken really bad speed. I mean really bad. I should add, it's not like I ate the whole freaking cake by myself. I only had one teeny tiny little piece, but that was clearly more caffeine than I needed (ok, the cake also had 1/3 cup of coffee and I had a cup of tea and a coffee...maybe I should've turned down the coffee, eh?!). Needless to say, instead of shaking the crabbies, i turned into a giant CRAB monster!

Now of course a one and three year old don't understand that all they really needed to do was STAY AWAY and/or be REALLY QUIET and all would be OK. Instead, on the 30 minute car ride home Little Miss screeched as loud as she could - she was tired and wanted to make sure I knew she knew she missed her morning nap. And Little Mr. Man thought it was HILARIOUS so copy Little Miss' screeches at even higher decibels intermixed with a sing-song whine of "I'm hungry".

It was only 12:30 when we walked in the door. There's a whole lotta day left at 12:30. And by this time the speed of the caffeine was wearing off and somehow the irritability factor increased. Who knew that was possible.

I tried calling in sick again, but to no avail. So I did what anyone in position would. Put the baby to sleep and curled up on the couch with the little guy and watched Sesame Street. Best 30 minutes ever!!! And then, as with all good things, the show came to an end and I was faced with that feeling of dread. It was now just coming up on 1:30 and I had NO plan.

We managed to make it through the rest of the afternoon. We didn't destroy the house or each other. In fact, I think we may have even had an enjoyable afternoon. LMM on his bike, LM on her trike. Bliss.

I even had a bit of bliss with a lovely chat with my very good looking (and very gay neighbour) who was telling me about his recent trip to Europe. The chat came to a bitter end when LMM got off his bike and I realized that his pants were soaking wet. At first I was wondering when did he jump in a puddle, until I realized that there were no puddles and the wet was top-down and not down-up. I said a sheepish goodbye to my pretend gay boyfriend and hurried across the street to our house.

For some reason I felt horribly guilty that LMM had such a huge accident...but as my DH pointed out, it's not like I have control over the little guy's bladder. And he does have words and knows how to tell me if he needs to use the bathroom. But as a mother that was having a grown up conversation and momentarily lost herself, fantasizing that it was she that was just returning from a whirlwind European holiday that did not involve children, it was hard to shake the guilt.

The moral of the story: if you don't have a boss to call in sick to, have a temp on speed dial (ie: dial-a-nanny!!)...and as the tittle suggests, maybe tomorrow I'll be a better mother...just maybe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

The humble potato

A potato,
a skewer,
an old fashioned counter mounted apple slicer,
some batter and some oil
and humble the potato is no more.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

No "wogo"

Apparently the average American sees approximately 5000 advertisements a day - that's a lot of persuasiveness. Now, this isn't necessarily your old-school 30 second TV or radio clip. No, this includes all sorts of advertising, including that orange and white B you probably didn't even notice at the top of this page. Yes, that one. The one that lets you know that this blog is sponsored by Blogger. Thanks B.

You and I may be able to navigate our way through these 5000 ads and not have meltdowns. We may be able to live our daily lives, somewhat normally. Ok, with the odd craving for McDonald's or Subway and not be sure where the craving came from, but otherwise, we're probably pretty good with it all. We're used to the huge yellow, glowing Ms that greet us on the freeway and at the shopping malls. The little man on the horse on a polo shirt really doesn't mean that much, except that maybe the 3 year old shouldn't be playing in the muck in it. But that's through our eyes. What about through the eyes of the 3 year old? How does he navigate in this media saturated world?

There's not enough space here to fully address the issue, but it is one that over time I'd like to give more thought to. For now, let's have a talk about logos. But first, a minor detour.

I remember in a grade six english class my teacher asked us to write to alien telling him how to tie a shoe lace. An everyday occurrence at the time (Yes, this was before the advent of velcro straps on shoes). You know, that was one of the hardest exercises I had ever come across at my ripe age of 11. I pity the alien that came across my essay. One thing is for sure, he'd never have tied up those shoe laces. The point is, it is very difficult to explain something that you take for granted to someone that has no knowledge or understanding of what it is you are trying to explain.

Keep that little detour in mind when I tell you about how I tried to talk to my three old, Little Mr. Man, about logos. It went as well as the alien shoe lace story.

You see, LMM is really excited about recognizing letters and numbers in the world that surrounds him. And sure, who wouldn't be. Up until now, when he goes out the world has been a collection of odd shapes and colours but none of it really made much sense. But now that he understands the idea of letters and words, he's beginning to think that instead of mere shapes the world is filled with stories. Stories because he associates letters and words with stories.

Anyhow, on the way home from the grocery store today he was asking me about a particular logo (which one, I can't even remember!) and so I started to explain to him that what he saw was a logo. For starters, logo is very hard for a 3 year old to say. "L"s are a difficult consonant to master and it usually still comes out as a "W". I begin to explain to him that "wogos" are a company's face. When he goes to school his teachers and friends recognize him because of his face. His face is a big part of his identity. His face is is "wogo". Are you still with me???

I continue, saying that company X doesn't have a face so they had an identity created for them. So whenever you are out and you see X "wogo" you know that it belongs to company X.

I'm pretty sure I've lost you by now, but if not there's not much more left as I know I'd lost LMM by this point (if not before the conversation even started....all I could hear from the back was him repeating me every time I said "logo", but of course all I heard was "wogo").

Being stubborn though, I soldiered on, trying to explain that companies want us to remember their logos so that we remember their identities. They want us to like them. Just like he wants the teachers and kids at school to like him.

By this point, he's tired of saying "wogo" and was on to talking about how beautiful the sky was. A much better conversation to be having and a much better thing to be focussing your attention on when looking at the world around you. I just hope that he continues to keep his eyes on the important things!

I quickly conclude my discussion with LMM saying that of course logos are really for bigger kids but that you're never too young to start learning about them.

I have no idea what he grasped from this conversation, except for that he learned a new word, "wogo". I really don't expect him to truly understand the media landscape that he lives in, but I do hope that by starting early, I will be able to provide him the tools necessary to navigate his way through the 5000+ ads he will be bombarded with and still be able to enjoy the beautiful sky.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What to do on rainy days

School holidays and once again it's raining! Not sure how it is that every year during the July school holidays it rains. Not just for a day or two, but it seems like for the full 14 days! Now if I was in Vancouver or Seattle, I'd get it. It probably wouldn't even phase me, being so used to the rain. But we're living in sunny Australia right now and I've forgotten how to be a duck. Especially a duck with ducklings.
However, as my move back to the rainy wet coast is nearing, I am desperately trying to remind myself that in fact rain is good and there's so much to do on rainy days!!

Here's my list:

1. Splish-Splash. Put on those rubber boots & rain jackets and go hopping in puddles. Some of the best walks Little Mr. Man and I have had have been in the rain!

2. Go the the museum or art gallery: Not an original idea, so try and choose one that isn't as popular as the others. Might not have all the bells and whistles as the regular haunts, but on the plus side it won't be as busy and it'll be something new!

3. Read. I used to love curling up on the couch with a good book and waste away the hours of rainy days. Not so easy to little ones under 3, but it's a great opportunity to instill in your love of books in your little ones.

4. Enjoy the theatre. Not the real theatre, but a puppet theatre at home. Depending on the age of the kids, rainy days are great to make puppets and then put on puppet shows. If kids are too little, then just the puppet shows are great fun!

5. Go to the library. Tired of your own books? Pop into your neighbourhood library. Some even have readings and most have great kids sections. A great place to spend an hour and not spend any money!

6. Speaking of spending money - I have to add the mall to my list. Depending on your willpower, you can even get away without spending any money. This outing is great with toddlers that are learning to walk. There's usually a quiet spot in the mall, you know, the floor with the really expensive shops or the gov't agencies, go there and let the little one free! We used to take Little Mr. Man to the zoo when he started walking, but his time around it's been much too wet to take Little Miss there, so the mall's been a saving grace. Bonus are the malls that have play centres/structures and stores with Thomas the Tank Engine tables! Pet stores are another great place to hang out around.

7. Bake. Baking is a great way to spend rainy days. It warms up the house and make it smell great! Plus you get to eat the results of your hard work. Win-win!

8. Let your children dictate activities. So often when the weather is good and all the regular activities are on, the schedule gets filled up very quickly and there's little time to just hang out at home letting the little ones do what THEY want to do. It's amazing what sorts of games they come up with and they can amuse themselves without your help. It's also amazing what they can teach you!

9. Go online. There's a world of really great things online...for your kids!! Sesame Street is a great place to start. Everything is searchable to character or theme and they have great games to teach your little one about using a computer. Here are some of my other favorite kid sites:
Story Cove - Stories from around the world
How the Body Works - Great little video clips about how different parts of the body work. Definitely for older kids, but my 3 year old loved it! Could be because he got to see where pee and poo comes from!!
Knee Bouncers - great for the little ones.
Fisher-Price - after all that money you spend on their toys, it's nice to get something for 'free' on their website!
Most brands like Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, etc have websites as well that usually have games for kids.

10. Pick up one of those 365 free things to do with your toddler/pre-schooler, etc. I have a few of these books kicking around the house and for most of the year I forget about them, but when the rains start, I live by them. A super quick resource for all kinds of things to do, from making goop & playdough to making forts with your kids. Your house will be a disaster after this, but isn't there a saying about a messy house, means a happy house?! And cleaning up should always be a part of the activity. Many hands make light work!!

Please dear reader, add to my list!