A side-effect of having little kids

I can no longer enjoy TV shows and movies with grossly unrealistic depictions of kid stuff. It’s too galling. Oh, someone has a baby and it just sits there and doesn’t seem to have interrupted anyone’s life in any major way, and it does maybe half a grizzle once an episode, and it spends a lot of time asleep IN A COT. That’s not a baby, that’s a doll. And the parents go out all the time?! Pfffft. Infuriating.

Will this wear off?

 

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Food plan update

 

The food plan system is going really well. I’ve figured out some refinements.

  1. The slow cooker is my friend. I never used it much before, a wedding present that sat in the cupboard. Knowing what I’m cooking in advance makes the slow cooker a much more useful tool. I’ve been doing most of the soups and stews in it.
  2. The best opportunity for bulk cooking is the weekend, when there is another adult to take the baby during the little dude’s nap. Even a 30 minute meal is surprisingly difficult to do on a Thursday evening with both of them around. And the salad on Monday system hasn’t worked that well either.
  3. Cooking on the weekend is also good because the food is fresh from the market when we use it. Also I’ve been prepping the veges when I unpack them, and figuring out ways to store them well. For example if you wash spinach leaves, spin them in a salad spinner, and put them in a plastic bag tied at the top, they are still totally fresh and lovely several days later. If you wrap a wet paper towel around the roots of spring onion and put the whole thing in a plastic bag it also keeps really well. For mint, rinse it, then put a paper towel round it while leaves are still damp, then into a plastic bag – stays fresh for a whole week.
  4. There are huge efficiencies in bulk cooking. For example, the kumera soup for this week, I made that on Sunday and made enough for three further nights to freeze. If you’re making two servings, might as well make four servings.
  5. With two kids, we’re not doing much going out in the evenings, even to my parents’ place. So having food for weekends too is good. Actually on Sunday my parents’ came to us and we all had the soup. Yum.
  6. It only takes a few hours of weekend cooking to stock a freezer and get ahead of yourself.
  7. A rice cooker is great for reheating frozen soups and stews.
  8. Knowing what will be cooked during the week means you can decide week by week when to cook it (bulk cooking on weekend vs on one of the little dude’s creche days, etc), but either way you know what to buy at the market etc.

A state of constant flux

So, bub hates to sleep anywhere other than next to me or on me – with occasional exceptions for the pram – and we’re just rolling with it, figuring it won’t last for ever, trying different things like swaddling or whatever but also not giving it too much mental attention. The past two nights Mr Daddy has slept on the couch because bub takes up a ridiculous amount of room in the bed for such a small person. This morning I had the thought “would it be such a big deal if he sleeps on the couch for maybe a month?”…

In the last three years, we’ve moved house twice, my husband has started a new job, we’ve had two babies, we’ve seen our finances yo-yo up and down and up and down again with alternating promotions and periods of unpaid leave, and “only for now” has become sort of our modus operandi. But things slip when you’re constantly in “only for now” mode. Too much slips when you decide to deal with it later, and later gets pushed out further and further. Maybe some people are better at rolling with it than we are, but I’m kinda hankering for a period of things being in a steady state so that we can settle down for a while and take stock, and be more attentive to things that have been slipping (the meal plan is part of this).

This definitely goes in the column against having a third child.

Aside: Funny how “settling down” is sometimes used to encompass having a kid when it’s pretty much the most disruptive thing you can choose to do to your life.

This is ridiculous

Step 1) Put baby in cot on his tummy.
Step 2) Supervise him for ten minutes making sure he doesn’t suffocate.
Step 3) Carefully roll him onto his side.
Step 4) Supervise him for ten minutes making sure he doesn’t roll back on his tummy and suffocate.
Step 5) Gently roll him onto his back.
Step 6) Quiet quiet quietly get into bed.
Step 7) Quiet quiet quiet lie still.
Step 8) Rudely awakened by crying. Blearily check time. It’s been 20 minutes since step 6.
Step 9) Back to step 1.
Step 10) Co-sleep.

One day a taniwha…

“One day a taniwha / went swimming in the moana-”

“NO! Not wimming in da mooona, wimming in da Waikadto!”

“Ok, one day a taniwha / went swimming in the Waikato”

“No, wimming in da moana AND da Waikadto”

“…went swimming in the moana and the Waikato, he whispered softly in my taringa-”

“me have dtaringa! Me have dtaringa on me head!”

“Yeah, you do have taringa, they’re for listening. Um. Oh won’t you come with me, there’s such a lot to see, underneath the deep blue sea”

“Sailor wendt to sea sea sea song! Not dtaniwha song!”

“A sailor went to sea sea sea to see what he could see see see but all that he could see see see was the bottom of the ocean sea sea sea. Goodnight, time for sleep now, love you lots, lie down for sleep now my darling.”

“Want dtaniwha song one more dtaniwha song, one day a dtaniwha, only want it Mummy, one more yast one, only one more song. Mummy sing one day a dtaniwha one more time, peaaaase Mummy sing it!”

“Ok, last one then Mummy will say goodnight and shut the door. One day a taniwha, went swimming in the Waikato-”

“No, wimming in da moana!!!!”

The zoo at twilight

What is a good day with small children? When I was on maternity leave with the little dude, the first few months, I kept thinking when will my good day come? It seemed a long time before I reached the end of the day and felt like it had been more enjoyable than not. There was a turning point, when I realised I might be  looking for the wrong thing. Like an optical illusion, I was waiting for the point where I couldn’t see the dark image rather than looking for the light image and letting the dark fade from vision in comparison. Once I realised the trick of what to look for, it was clearly there all the time.

Yesterday was a good day. There were little toddler tantrums, and there were moments of them both crying, and there was too much Peppa Pig (I have a love/hate relationship with that pig; the little dude has a love/love relationship). There was an awkward parenting fail when I left bub on his tummy on his playmat while I made the little dude some food, and then bub started crying and I thought it was generic “bored” crying so didn’t tend to him because I needed to get the little dude’s food sorted, and when I got to bub he was lying face down in a puddle of spit up and was covered in his spilled milk. Poor thing.

But still, it was a good day.

I love living in Newtown. Being walking distance from amenities makes life with kids a million times easier and less isolated. We left the house several times, we went to the supermarket, we went to the park, we went to the zoo. There was no-one else at the park when we were there, and bub slept in the buggy while I played with the little dude (goal, tick; goal, tick). We all had an epic nap and didn’t wake until 3.45. I had been meaning to meet up with a friend and her two girls at the zoo in the afternoon. The little dude is morphing from a toddler to a child in his understanding of things, and when I said we needed to go quickly because the zoo was going to shut soon, he co-operated pretty well. Even so we didn’t get there until 4.45, which was 15 minutes before closing. We briefly saw our friends as they left and we arrived.

The staff let us in: 5pm is closing time, but they don’t kick you out at 5, they just let you wander out at your leisure through the one-way after hours gate. Horay for zoo pass.

It was deserted.

We didn’t really see the animals. The animals are a peripheral attraction for the little dude. We went to the area with the rock that sends up a jet of water when you jump on it. The little dude did “make it rain djumping” for a while. There was a brisk breeze and it gusted the water across the path, mist in my face, droplets on my glasses, the baby stirred in his carrier but settled again.

The animals made a lot of noise at dusk, we could hear the lions roaring and we could hear birds shrieking and all sorts of eerie wild sounds that I couldn’t identify. At dusk, the zoo felt like what it was: an area where wild animals live in cages. We mainly spent time in the farmyard section, the little dude looked at the rabbits and played with the drinking fountain. The light started to fade. I told the little dude we would need to go soon, that the zoo was shutting, that there was no-one else here. “Just me and just mummy at the roo” he said, then as an afterthought “and Benman”, then “and the yions and bunny rabidts and birdies”.

On the way back to the gate we passed the aviary with the kea, and they were making a right racket, and the little dude got scared. I picked him up and he buried his head in my neck and said “me hiding from da big noise”.

A child’s fear, innate, primal, the human fear of wild noises at dusk.

An adult’s fear, imaginative, the mother and children locked in a zoo after hours, a premise of a tense psychological thriller, a box office hit?

Later, I read this, “Brief raptures in deserted places”. There is solitude of being fully alone, and there is the shared solitude of being with someone else in a quiet place, and there is a different shade altogether being alone with your small children somewhere unfamiliar and exciting. Part of my consciousness is at his level, aware of things that will be interesting to him, things that will be obstacles, dangers, things that will alarm him. In the moment but not completely, alert to what will happen next, aware of the need to leave before dark, to allow time to get to the car, to stop at the drinking fountain, to ask him to put his hood up against the wind. Aware too of the rhythms of the baby’s breath, the length of time he’s been asleep, aware of when he will next want a feed.

We reached the gate and got into the car. The little dude can climb into his own seat now. It was dark by the time we arrived home, though not late, we were out for less than an hour in total. It’s almost matariki, the day was sunny and bright yesterday but the nights are drawing in sharply. The curtains of our house were open and the kitchen light was on. “Yight on in me ouse!” said the little dude, as he waited for me to unlock the door. I let him in and went back to get bub out of the carseat. The little dude had found my laptop and opened it, and I could hear that confounded Peppa Pig as I entered the house with the baby.

 

List of books for when he’s bigger

The little dude loves books. My husband and I are both big readers. We were talking about things we’re looking forward to as the kids get bigger, and one is reading chapter books together, books we loved.

My favourite book as a child was “Little Women”. My husband’s favourite was “Goodnight Mister Tom”. I’ve been trying to think of some other emotionally rich books with male protagonists, and it’s really hard. Books written about boys are more often the adventurous romp type of book. My husband’s favourite – though canonical – is a real outlier among kids books with boys in the lead.   Reading is  well suited to building empathy and helping kids learn how to process feelings because the reader has to imagine in the gaps. More so than visual media, there is a vicarious emotional connection with the protagonist of a book. It’s worrying that so few male literary figures for children inhabit a emotionally challenging plot arc. Not that boys can’t relate to girl protagonists, of course they can. But, for example, in “Inside Out” when the dad’s brain is watching sport and is 100% emotionally clueless in the dinner scene – that’s intended to be funny because the audience knows emotions are for women and girls, not boys and definitely not men. Kids media sends that message all the time, both overtly and through a failure to tell emotionally heavy stories about boys. Not good.

Here’s my list of great books for children in which boys feel big feelings:

“Goodnight Mister Tom”
“Bridge to Terebithia”
“Holes”
“The Giver”
“The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass”
“Fig Pudding”
“Two Weeks with the Queen”
The “Harry Potter” series (though it could be better on this front)

This list is too short. More suggestions please!

Achievable goals

I saw something on my facebook feed about how we’re doing goal setting wrong. Instead of having aspirational goals that you’ll probably never achieve, try having really really modest goals. It’ll make you feel better and help you prioritise. I like that idea. “My husband and I will never fight!” – yeah, nah. “I will say ‘I love you’ before bed every night” – ok, yeah, that sounds do-able. Apparently the easy goals system can be a useful tool in managing depression, which makes sense. The idea is to make the goals easy enough that they become habits, but not so easy that you’re doing them already.

With a new baby, we’re finding it difficult to make sure that everyone’s needs are met. I thought the easy goals system could help. A short list of achievable priorities that we can do every day. I wanted to pick a goal per person and one for the house. The idea was to choose things that build the resilience of each family member so that we’re all better able to handle not having our needs prioritised at other times.

For the baby: At least one nap each day of at least an hour and a half. This means one nap in which we don’t disturb him by putting him down when he’s peacefully asleep in the carrier, or taking him out of the pushchair, or getting up off the bed myself when he’s fallen asleep nursing next to me. Just once a day, let him be. It’s not so hard if I make it a priority. Right now he’s in his pushchair outside, bundled up and facing away from the wind. I would have brought him in but he doesn’t transfer well, and I’m working on my goals!

(Update on day three: this is working well. If I let him have one good nap then he doesn’t have meltdowns in the evening from being overtired and it doesn’t matter if the other naps are catnaps. On days where it’s just me with both, the good naps will mostly be on me during the little dude’s nap, which is license for me to lie down too.)

For me: Have something to eat and clean my teeth before 9am every day (amazing how easy it is to forget to do this when the baby cries out). Have a shower before bed.

For the little dude: At least half an hour each day in which one of us plays with him and he’s our primary focus. It’s so tempting to let him watch videos or play by himself while we try and get stuff done, but then it means that come bedtime he tries to drag out stories because he hasn’t had enough attention. This also isn’t that hard – it could be as simple as sitting next to him while bub is in the baby carrier and reading stories, or even watching videos with him, arm around him. I forget sometimes that our physical presence is hugely important, until he reminds me by saying “mummy yie down in me bed, no mummy doodnight”. It could also be putting him in the bath earlier and having a bath with him, or taking him to the playground and pushing him on the swing for half an hour while bub is asleep in the pram. It’s very do-able if I remember to prioritise it every day and structure my one-on-two time to take it into account.

(Update on day three: this has made a big difference. When I’m with both of them, I find it hard to decide how best to manage their competing needs. Do I split my focus, e.g. holding baby while talking to little dude? Do I focus on one and let the other one have a meltdown? Do I try and involve them both in an activity, holding baby on one knee, little dude on the other while reading a story? A bit of each of these is needed, and I feel sometimes like a triage nurse dealing with the most urgent candidate for care while earnestly telling the other that the wait won’t be long. Giving myself a single target each day for each child has so far helped me to feel less like I’m dropping all the balls all the time.)  

For my husband: Take lunch to work.

For the house: Put the dishwasher on before bed. Even if it’s not full. It makes the chores so much more manageable.

Food plan page is now live

Little dude is napping in his bed, while the baby continues to make his position clear: sure, I’ll sleep at the same time as the big kid, but only if I’m on your chest.

So I did this eight week food plan.

Many of these recipes are in my head, but I’ll add links to ones that are online and write up reports with quantities and shopping lists etc as I get the system under way.