Thursday, June 30, 2011

Being the big, bad parent sucks, but someone has to do it.

Before I had children, I did as much research into the subject as possible.  I wanted to arm myself with all the information I could, in order to be prepared for any and all eventualities that may present themselves.  Obviously I was still completely unprepared for parenting, as I am sure all of us are.

One thing I have been thinking about today is about how we as parents want our kids to see us.  We really want to be the cool, fun parent who our kids really like.  Actually we really want our children to see us as some omnipotent deity and behave with all the reverence and awe that that would entail. But being likeable would do at a pinch.

As Nigel Latta so succinctly puts it though, we cannot be friends with our children.  We are the parent and we have to make hard decisions.

We have to be the one who nags about homework, who insists on chores being done, who embarrassingly asks “have you washed this morning?”  Sure we do fun stuff too, but sometimes it feels like all we ever do is issue instructions and no amount of random dessert for breakfast frivolity can make up for that.

What we have to do is look at it from another direction.  Yes we repeatedly demand that our children pick up their toys/clothes/machine parts from the bedroom floor, but we do it because we love our kids and we want nice stuff for them.

We nag our kids to do homework, or get off the computer or watch something more educational but we do it because we want our children to be able to hold a conversation with someone (one day) that involves more than discussing the current weather or the length of the latest pop-bint’s skirt.

Children of all ages need metaphysical fences around them in order to let them feel safe, secure and loved.  If you push the fences too far out, the kids get a lot of speed up running towards them, and often just bash the fences down on impact.  If you have the fences too close, both you and the kids are constantly banging into them and bumping into each other and it all gets very painful very quickly.  The trick is to have the fences on some sort of moveable frame, so they can be adjusted according to the age and abilities of each child.

Some children just have to see the fences to be happy and content; some need to sneak up and poke them to make sure they don’t move too much; some kids just batter the shit out of them on a daily basis and we have to keep shoring them up with sandbags of rationality to stop them collapsing in a cloud of “oh for gods sake ALRIGHT THEN”s.

One of the hardest bits of all this is that your children will NOT thank you for it, and will never tell you what a great job you are doing in raising them to be emotionally strong, stable and well-rounded individuals.  You have to tell yourself instead, and that can get a little clich├ęd at times.

So, I am here to tell all you parents out there who feel like they have to be the Bad Guy all the time:  you are doing a great job.  Your children are delightful (all of them), and I enjoy spending time with them and with you.  You are a great parent and your children will realise this eventually when they hit their 20s if you’re lucky, or at least when they have children of their own.

Friday, June 24, 2011

10 top tips for stress-free childbirth

I emailed this to a friend a few years ago, as she was pregnant with her first baby and terrified.  She asked for realistic but not scary information about labour, so I sent her this.  Someone recently asked me about it again, so I dredged through old emails and found it for her.  Thought it made a good blog post too.:
1. Remember that the contractions usually start small and take a long time to build up. Don't leap out of your seat at the first twinge and spend the next 12 hours pacing round the house timing everything and worrying that they aren't regular yet. Take some paracetamol and have a long soak in a hot bath.

2. The general rule of thumb is that you'll dilate 1cm per hour once the contractions start, and the point at which you'll feel like you need to go to the hospital is usually about 1/2 way. If you can wait longer, it's very reassuring to hear the midwife say "oooh, you're at 7cm!" when you arrive.

3. Time passes very differently when you're in labour. You go into another dimension where everyone around you feels like it's taking years, and yet you'll wonder how 6 hours managed to go past before you've had a chance to ask what time it is.

4. Every contraction is bringing you one step closer to your baby and they DO end. The finish line is always in sight, you just have to keep focussed on it, and stop staring at your feet, wondering if you can go another step. You can.

5. Anything you say during labour is allowed. It is an unwritten law of childbirth that you can blame your husband or midwife for everything from your grazed knee through to the Rwandan genocide, if it helps you focus through the contraction, anything goes.

6. Feel free to order people around. Your hubby (or birthing partner) is there to serve your every whim, no matter how bizarre they may seem. However, if you have gas for pain relief, some of your more outlandish demands may not be possible (or legal).

7. Make a birth plan but be prepared to be flexible. There's nothing worse than having your heart set on a birthing pool, but your instincts taking over and turning you into a hyrdophobic wildcat on the day. Have a good idea of what you want to do, and more importantly what you DON'T want, but explore all your options, so you know what to shout for when you're halfway through the door and you decide the room smells wrong.

8. Listen to your midwife, she has been through this a hundred times at least, and she will remain calm and professional no matter how much your head spins round. Your partner however, may well be a gibbering mess and incapable of thought, let alone important advice.

9. Have your baby placed straight onto your chest as soon as it's born, it's the gold medal ceremony at the olympics and you're on the top podium :)

10. Sleep as much now as you can, and get walking when you're awake. Do exercises to get baby into the correct position for birth and build up your general fitness. You're about to do the hardest thing you've ever done, but it's more satisfying than winning the London Marathon and climbing Mount Everest all rolled into one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The solemn business of naming your chicken

We recently purchased 6 shiny new chickens as part of our plan to grow our own food.  As there are 5 of us, we let the children each name a chicken, and Tareka named one.

I decided to turn to the internet for help with naming mine, and the 6th chicken who was also nameless.  I posted on Facebook and Ravelry (asking b3tans would just get an outpouring of abuse and offensive words that I could NOT let my children use, even if talking about chickens).

I ended up with a few choices I could not decide between, so I put it to the vote and have decided arbitrarily that today is the day the names get picked.

SOoooooo, ladies and gentlemen I give you
Barbie Sparkles

Big John


Pirate Chicken (yes she has a wonky neck, but she is fine)

Hennibal Peckter

Mother Clucker

So far they have given us at least 2 eggs a day since we got them, and they have only just started.  They are also getting used to the kids chasing them around and trying to catch them.  We will keep them in the pen for another week, then they will be allowed free range of the land, and only be locked in at night.

Monday, June 6, 2011

If glitter is the herpes of the craft world, then I would like to proclaim that cous cous is the herpes of the food world.

I love cous cous, ever since I had some lemony-herby-buttery loveliness in France one time.  I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe ever since and never quite got it right, but often got close.

I tried giving my first child cous cous as a baby, and she was unimpressed, so I haven’t fed it to the other children.   Today, however, I ran out of bread and instant noodles, so we were stumped for lunch til I spotted an unopened box of cous cous in the cupboard.

I asked the kids if they wanted to try it.  Mapera asked what is was, so I said “it’s like pasta, but smaller” because she would fight off hordes of Mongolian invaders if there was pasta involved.

I cooked it with chicken stock, lemon juice and butter.  I say cooked, but those of you who have made cous cous know it’s more of a soak than a cook.  I gave the kids a bowl and a spoon and waited for the scrunched faces that indicated disapproval.

Much to my surprise, they loved it and asked for more.  Even the baby (who is very texture-driven) abandoned the spoon and plunged his hands into the bowl in order to shovel more of the nutty gorgeousness into his mouth.

I realised my error in offering cous cous to a child who has not yet mastered the skills of accurate spoon control when I lifted him out of his highchair after lunch.  A cascade of cous cous poured off his lap as if he were a leaky bean-bag, and scattered across the floor.

If anyone has ever managed to sweep cous cous off a vinyl floor, then they are a more skilled sweeper than I, as I found that no matter the angle of the brush, or the pressure of the sweeping action, the little beads of cous cous bounced in precisely the opposite direction from the way I was trying to corral them.

I felt like that bit of foil scientists bounce atoms off to prove the existence of sub-atomic particles, except I don’t think the scientists have to contend with a toddler determinedly marching through the small pile of quarks they managed to herd into a corner.

I resorted to vacuuming the entire floor, along with the dining room table, chairs, high-chair and parts of the baby in order to get rid of the cous cous.

I am sure when I change his nappy later I will need safety goggles to protect myself from the inevitable pasta-particle explosion.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Do you need my JUMPER Bowie?

I couldn’t think of a title for this, then I thought “ch-ch-ch-changes” because that’s what it’s about, THEN I thought of the Flight of the Conchords song about David Bowie and I started sniggering, so that’s the title.  Even though it doesn’t really make sense.

There are a lot of changes going on at the moment I am holding on to my sanity as if it were a bunch of helium balloons, and trying to untangle one thread would inevitably cause the whole lot to slowly drift up into the atmosphere in a slow-motion rainbow explosion; thus causing my Inner Child to cry and whine and refuse to put their shoes on.

Kaitereo is starting Kindy next week, after being on the waiting list for about 2 years.  It’s going to be great for her, as she is in need of some more company than her little brother and me.  All the same, she has been home with me for over a year longer than Mapera was at that age, so it’s going to be a bit strange to have that free time when Hakopa is asleep.  I am going to have to make a concerted effort to finish a project a day while he sleeps, instead of switching on the computer and wasting 2 hours playing Vajazzeled or whatever the latest Facebook game is.

Actually, I stopped playing Facebook games when we moved to the Rurals, as I wasn’t sure I would be able to get internet access at all, let alone broadband. Now we’re on a limited data allowance, I would rather spend my time posting on Ravelry, or reading Whoopee and watching amusing YouTube clips than farming fictional wheat and pumpkin fields.

The biggest change we are facing now is the move to start our own business.  I don’t want to tempt fate by prattling on about all the details until we are properly up and running, but suffice to say we have formed a company, and we are both doing some training and research over the next couple of months before we jump in.  It’s also a bit sensitive as Tareka will still be working full-time at the airport while I get things going over the next 12 months or so, so we don’t want people thinking he’s doing another job on the sly.

 Hakopa is also changing a lot.  He’s walking everywhere now, no more crawling, and he’s started carrying things at the same time, which is quite a milestone.  I am sure he is getting the hang of things like this a lot quicker than either of his sisters did, so I am expecting him to start climbing over the fences and whittling canoes from old fence posts before the month is out.

As for me, I’m not changing much.  I have hit a weight plateau and despite my clever techniques it is not shifting.  Once Kaitereo is in Kindy 2.5 days a week, I have potentially time to do a proper cardio workout while Hakopa sleeps, so I do hope I can get into the habit with the help of a friend or 2.  If I want to watch one of my workout DVDs though, I have to rearrange the whole room as it means plugging the PC into the stereo which are on opposite sides of the room.  Sometimes I wish we had a telly and DVD player for these things, as well as for family movie night.

Trouble is, if we did get a TV, all that time I could be spending gardening, knitting or Vajazzling (link almost NSFW) would undoubtedly be spent watching Jeremy Kyle and shouting.