If they can go on it, in it, under it, through it, destroy it, press it, play with it or eat it- they will!

I can’t get over just how many hazards there are when you have kids. For the first 6 months of their lives your possessions are relatively safe (except for your sick covered and poo stained clothes). With our first child we spent the whole time desperately willing her on to get to the next developmental milestone. BIG MISTAKE. With each new milestone comes access to all manner of potentially lethal things you never would have considered hazardous in a previous life.

In a bid to reduce the risk of bruised heads, climbing and choking incidents we have gradually, but significantly, reduced and elevated our collection of furniture and most possessions.  We are currently struggling to source suitable ‘out of reach’ areas. The top of the fridge is literally overflowing with valuables.  The fridge and above the windows offer the only sanctuary in our apartment from the ‘go go gadget’ arms of our toddlers.

Top of the fridge - safe haven for valuables
Top of the fridge – safe haven for valuables

Once they started to crawl the fun really began. They wanted to touch and grab hold of everything. Both my girls seem to have had an obsession with the exact same things in our home so I’m guessing this is a standard developmental phase and not a trait unique to our family.

Buckles, Tupperware, keys, bags, hats (not the ones they are meant to wear), shoes (the bigger and higher heeled the better), toilet rolls and stones seem to be the front-runners. I was actually slightly concerned that my eldest might have OCD when her buckle obsession first became apparent. She could while away hours playing with buckles on anything she could find. The high chair and pram particular favourites.

This phase did eventually pass however she has now moved on to bags. Zipping them and unzipping them, putting anything and everything inside them, taking it all out and repeat. Our 1 year old has just taken over the ‘buckle baton’ and is currently underneath the high-chair obsessively clipping the buckles into each other. At least it allows me some free time to update my blog.

There also appears to be a requirement for both girls to crawl into any space they can possibly contort their little bodies in to. They are usually to be found climbing on top of the sofa, tables or chairs, under any object that they can squeeze underneath, no matter how precarious, behind anything and everything regardless of how awkward or uncomfortable.

When trying to get our 2.5 year old to perform any basic function of daily life such as: getting dressed, brushing teeth, washing hands, sitting on the toilet etc. the speed at which she is able to leg it and squeeze her body into one of these spaces could put any Olympic athlete to the test.

In-between the chalk board.
In-between the chalk board.
Under the cot- a regular hiding place for little bodies
Under the cot- a regular hiding place for little bodies

Yesterday my husband was having a shower whilst our one year old was happily playing in the bathroom with him. She was entertaining herself with an activity table that we have strategically placed in there for a variety of reasons.

Firstly- to provide amusement and distraction so we know where she is and what she’s doing.

Secondly- to cover a drain she seems obsessed with licking and sticking her tiny fingers down.

Finally- to block access to a cupboard filled with various toiletries that she would, given half the chance, take great pleasure rummaging through and eating the contents of.

Whilst showering my husband shouted

”Lucy, come in here quickly”

Rather concerned and fearing the worst I ran as fast as I could into the bathroom to assess the damage. On arriving in the bathroom my husband was laughing hysterically and pointing towards the activity table exclaiming

”She’s stuck or trying to do an impression of a turtle!”

I looked down to see the activity table moving frantically around the bathroom, 2 tiny but very wriggly pink legs poking out from beneath. Our 1 year old was well and truly wedged under the table.

“Stuck doing a turtle impression”

Laughing I picked up the table, taking her with it, I removed her flailing body from beneath its right clutches. Thankfully just a few tears from her (and us) and no harm done on this occasion.

One terrifying developmental phase is the need to put absolutely anything and everything they can get their hands on into their mouths. Stones, bark, toilet paper, dominoes, you name it..if they can reach it..in it goes. This is when I realised just how many choke-able objects exist in the world. I am always on high alert ready to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre at any moment. I can’t remember exactly how long this phase lasts and we are currently still living through it with our youngest.

When our eldest first started to show signs of walking we actively encouraged her. We were over the moon, bursting with pride and excitement that she was able to take her precious first steps. Naively unaware how her new-found confidence opened up a whole new can of worms and anxiety for an already slightly neurotic mother (that’s when my obsession with steps and dog poo really kicked off). With walking soon came running and the ability to leg it, often faster than me who was pregnant at that time. Luckily she didn’t tend to venture too far afield.

The next phase for us was allowing our eldest to be set free from the high chair and letting her eat at her special kids table and chairs. Basically this gave her free reign to roam around the place touching anything and everything with her grubby little mits. Greasy fingerprints and food stains galore. When dining out there have been numerous accidents resulting in falling off stools and seats but she still continues to hang off them.

Around the same time I decided to embark on the dreaded ‘potty training’. I had heard many stories of how horrendous this phase can be. After speaking to other Mums and doing some reading, the general consensus was the best way to approach it was to go cold turkey – nappies off completely and don’t leave the house for 3 days. This inevitably led to a different ‘type’ of accident, not dangerous but certainly messy. Carpets, beds, sofas, kitchen floor, pram – you name it, not much has been saved from a splattering of one sort or another.

Today I was reading an alarming article about a toddler who recently drowned for 30 seconds, he became very poorly after the incident and was sent to hospital as his condition deteriorated. Thankfully he has pulled through but it reiterated to me the dangers of water when you have young children.

On a visit to the Hunter Valley recently for a friend’s wedding, our eldest daughter was playing with her Daddy in the small pool at the hotel. I should point out that whilst she is confident in water, she still can’t swim. As we walked past the large swimming pool we were both taken by total surprise as she casually walked over and jumped in. This is something neither of us expected. Fortunately my husband’s reaction was instant, within seconds he had dived in and pulled her up to the surface coughing and spluttering. Thankfully she was ok. I was not so ok, shocked and totally freaked out by the incident and eternally grateful for my husband’s quick actions.

As our belongings continue to get broken or removed and the few we have left are continually elevated,  I realised how much our lives have been taken over by these little people. I used to be tidy and house proud, now I am not. Some days when, for the 5th time that day, I open the fridge and am showered by keys and pens and money and other belongings, I might be known to let out a few expletives. However the constant mess and chaos that we live in I have generally learnt to accept – It’s a small price to pay for the happiness they give us. I also know that just as other phases have come and gone, so too shall this one, and with that realisation is a sadness that they are growing up. In the meantime I get so much pleasure seeing their happy smiling faces as they pull out all the contents of the drawers for the hundredth time that day than I do having a tidy and organised home.

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Beware the copy cat

I swear before I had children I never had any issues walking down the street. I would dander along, taking in the sights, enjoying the experience reaching my destination in a calm and relaxed manner. Growing up in The Lake District on a farm encouraged this passion. I used to walk for miles and miles and always took a great deal of pleasure from walking. This is something my husband literally cannot comprehend. His view is ‘why walk when you can drive?’ and he certainly doesn’t understand the concept of just ‘going for a walk’.

Unfortunately, recently I have become aware that I’m not quite as calm and relaxed on my walks as I once used to be.

There are three things in particular that are liable to send me over the edge -particularly after a sleepless night and frantic morning (of which there are many):

  • Dog poo- I’m not sure if the amount of dog poo has increased or just that I have suddenly become more aware/ less tolerant of it, but recently it seems to be everywhere. When trying to push a double-pram along the pavement with a toddler who refuses to be in the pram, I find it even more challenging due to having to be on constant dog poo watch. No matter what I say to my toddler and regardless of the fact that it is blatantly easier to walk on the pavement, she still insists on walking on the grass verge (unless she’s trying to walk on a wall, curb or some other unsafe obstacle -which adds a whole other level of stress).
  • Bins on the pavements – I don’t remember ever experiencing this before so it could just be the area that we live in or my obliviousness pre-children. Every bin day bins are left strewn along both sides of the pavement, requiring me to weave my way in and out of them and onto the road. This is also whilst trying to keep my toddler from walking in dog poo or falling off a nearby wall. One day someone actually had the cheek to shake their head at me as I was walking along the road with the pram, dangerous I know but hardly my fault given the obstacles. My response was not exactly a polite one I can assure you.
  • People parking across the pavement – this is my all time pet hate and definitely not one that I ever was aware of pre-pram pushing days. I am usually met with cars parked in this way numerous times on my various outings and dependent on the amount/lack of sleep and tantrums I have had that night/day will absolutely determine my response to the situation. What really brought this home to me was one day when passing the home of a regular perpetrator of this particular offence, my toddler started to bang on their gate shouting “excuse me”. I couldn’t help but laugh. The previous day I had done the exact same thing and rather condescendingly suggested to the lady that if she could ‘just park a little further forward’ it really would be incredibly helpful.

My little copy cat made me laugh at myself. However, it really hit home to me just how much these little people are influenced by and mimic our behaviour.

This week alone my 2.5 year old told me: I was in her space, her sister was in her space, she instructed me to get in the kitchen and informed me that both she and I had babies in our tummies.

One day, whilst breastfeeding the baby I noticed my toddler lift up her top and position her baby against her chest. When I asked her what she was doing she cocked her head and looked at me like I was an absolute idiot.

” Baby needs booby milk Mummy”, she explained.

Of course, silly Mummy.

I mentioned in an earlier blog (maybe I’m not so grown up afterall) that I had read somewhere how apparently you are meant to use the correct words when talking to children. Since reading that I have made a conscious effort to do this. That said apparently there are a few words that have slipped through the net. Not only do we regularly use made up baby words for things, both my husband and I have a tendency towards repetition when talking to our children.

The following are just a few examples of words that my toddler has learnt courtesy of us; her parents. They sound even more ridiculous when she is screaming them in full tantrum mode:

  • “I don’t want to put my nicky nak naks on”
  • “It’s a biggy wiggy Mummy”
  • “That hurt my bum bum”
  • ”I want my dum dum”
  • ”I don’t want a choccywoccydooda”

As I’m writing this my husband is singing the Manchester United football chants to both girls. They are gazing adoringly up at him, clapping along delightedly…. Let’s hope they don’t copy the words!

To Three Or Not To Three?

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Today I bumped into a friend who is three weeks in with her second baby. Whilst we were chatting she explained to me how she feels very definite that she is done, i.e. won’t be having any more babies. After the sleepless year we have had, on top of the extreme nausea that follows me for the duration of my pregnancies, on the back of a day like today that started at 1.49am (several screaming sessions, back arching and very little sleep, followed by the usual battles with my eldest refusing to get dressed, brush her teeth, sit on the potty, not smother her sister, leave all her toys at home, not leave all the toys she insisted on taking with us on the floor outside etc.), you would think my response would be the same – a definitive and resounding NO. But that’s just not the case. I don’t quite feel ready to say I absolutely don’t want to have another baby. I can’t bring myself to get rid of all the baby clothes. Surely if I was done, I would feel as certain as my friend?

The idea of having a third child is sheer lunacy for us right now. I can list hundreds of reasons why it shouldn’t happen:

  • We don’t have the space
  • We’re knackered after our second baby (now 12 months old) who doesn’t sleep and had severe reflux. We’ve been pushed to the edge and NEED to recover.
  • My pregnancies tend to be vomit filled and everlasting. The only blooming being how bloomin’ awful I feel for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • We can’t afford it.
  • We currently have 2 girls. I believe it is more likely that we would have another girl. My preference would be not to have 3 girls (being one of 3 girls myself I’ve experienced and witnessed some pretty hard-core, hormone fuelled, sibling rivalry that I’d prefer not to be involved with again).

My belief that we would most likely have another girl stems from no real facts, only what I have observed or read on the internet. Most people I have met who have three children, where the first two are girls, seem to have a third girl. I also recall reading something about gender being determined by the environment created in the womb, it becomes more hospitable to girls once 2 have previously grown there – but please don’t quote me on that.

I’ve also heard various other potentially bonkers theories suggesting that the gender of babies is determined by:

  • The age of the couple
  • How attractive the couple are
  • The sexual position used at the time of conception
  • Who initiated sex on the day of conception
  • Who had the first orgasm at the time of conception

Funnily enough nothing seems to be conclusive on this matter.

Considering all of the above, you would think if I’m not able to be the sensible one on this matter, at least my husband may be the voice of reason.  I decided to put the ball in his court and asked his advice on what to do with the baby clothes.

”Can’t we just put them away somewhere for now?”

It would appear he is not sure we are quite done yet either.

The change from one child to two children has been immense for us. I’m not sure if this is because we only had a small gap between them (18 months), or the fact that our second baby has had severe reflux, or that she is part vampire (i.e. the part that doesn’t sleep at night, not the part that sleeps in the day) or due to the fact we live the other side of the world from our families so are unable to get additional help or support.

I do have some friends with two children who seem to be finding the transition easier than us. That said I also have friends with two who regularly say things to me like:

“Why didn’t anyone ever say it would be this hard” and “please tell me it gets easier?”

A year on down the line, I’m still not really able to answer those questions. I find it especially tricky as they are usually asked to me by people who are just embarking on their journey of ‘two’ and I certainly don’t wish to be the grim reaper.

So for us and many of our friends, having two children has been a case of survival. Facing each new day with exhausted trepidation – who will or won’t sleep, who will wake up who, who will or won’t have a tantrum, who will be sick and then who will get it next, what party/appointment will we need to cancel or be late for, what have we lost en-route to our destination, what have we forgotten at home despite having what looks like the entire contents of our house strewn across and under the double pram, how many scrapes and falls have we had or narrowly avoided, how many wee wee accidents have happened? The list is endless.

It’s no wonder that every evening, once both girls are fed, bathed and put into their respective beds the first thing I do is crack open the vino. This precious time is not often for long, usually one of them will wake and require some additional settling. But when I do stop to enjoy the wine and chat with my husband, we spend that precious time recounting stories, chuckling at the antics of the day and speaking fondly of our wonderfully, funny and crazy girls. We wouldn’t change it for the world.

I know my husband would love a boy. When I first fell pregnant we both had no preference on the gender of our baby, we knew all we wanted was a healthy baby. Now we have two girls, whilst I know he absolutely adores them, I respect his honesty that he would also like to have a boy.  I would dearly love to give him a boy, if only it was that easy. It’s difficult to be honest about gender preferences, we feel we should just be grateful that we can get pregnant and have a healthy baby. Don’t get me wrong we are eternally thankful to have 2 beautiful, healthy girls but I do understand his desire for a boy in addition to them.

It occurred to me today whilst writing this post that I was pregnant with my youngest when my toddler was her current age (12 months old). The thought of being pregnant now, dealing with both girls’ tantrums, not sleeping and my proneness to severe nausea during pregnancy made me reconsider…I can’t possibly go through all that again…can I?

Despite all of this knowledge, I still don’t feel ready to say my family is complete.

 

Maybe I’m Not so Grown up Afterall

I’ve heard many tales from friends and family regarding children inserting objects into various bodily orifices. In fact a dear friend of ours was recently recounting a story of his youngest of 3 girls being taken to hospital to have a marble removed from her nose. Apparently on extracting the marble they soon discovered a whole array of other small objects that had been living up there too, pushed into the depths of her nasal passages.

So yesterday when my husband informed me that our 2.5 year old had said something was stuck inside her ‘down below’, I was naturally somewhat concerned and ready for a trip to A&E. Not entirely sure the best way to deal with the situation I explained to her that I would have to take a look. From what I could tell it appeared everything was at it should be, phew! It then became apparent that what she was referring to was actually very much a part of her. This was a new one for me, how the hell do you explain to a toddler the intricacies of the female body? Unable to quickly recall any words of wisdom or articles I’d  read on this particular topic I attempted to elaborate myself.

“Sweetheart- just as your finger is part of your hand, that part is part of you too and absolutely meant to be there”.

She looked at me with uncertainty, then she smiled gave me a nod and continued to try to drive her pink unicorn over her baby sisters feet . I felt relieved and rather proud of myself, she totally understood.

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Later that day I overheard her say again to my husband that something was stuck down there. Ok, so maybe I’d slightly overestimated my daughters ability to understand the complexities of the human body…she is only 2.5 years old after all.

I heard my husband explain to her that this was her ‘vagina’. I have no idea why it is that the word ‘vagina’ is one that is so uncomfortable for people to hear or say (or maybe it’s just me). Huge ‘hats-off’ to my husband for using the correct terminology. In actual fact he deserves even more brownie points as it was I who informed him that we  must always use the correct words for body parts. We’d received a memo from kindy informing us how important it is to refer to our children’s genitalia correctly. This apparently helps in the prevention of child sex abuse so pretty important stuff. Regardless of these facts, I am obviously no where near as grown up as my husband or indeed my toddler. Whilst they were there sitting down having a sensible conversation, I was hiding around the corner tears rolling down my face, crying with laughter.

Anyone can wear fairy wings

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I’ve always hoped that I am a non-judgemental person. However today I realised that as much as I try to be this, herein lies the issue, the fact that I am trying to be means I am not. I believe it’s unavoidable and natural to make an initial judgement, opinion or assumption. I guess it’s the process of rationalising those initial thoughts and prejudices that follows, how open-minded we are, which determines the kind of person we are.

Today I took my 2.5 year old to ballet. I dressed her in the obligatory pink fluffy tutu and made her look (in my eyes) like a proper little ballerina.  On arriving at the class there were 10 or so other fluffy pink tutu clad ballerinas, swirling and twirling their way around the dance hall.

Last to join the class was a Mum with 2 young children. The eldest child was wearing huge white fairy wings and a fluffy head band and the youngest was dressed in red trousers and top, sucking contentedly on a bottle of milk in the pram.

Immediately I swooped on in there with my stereotypical instant judgement. “Fairywings” was obviously a girl, she was wearing fairy wings and doing ballet.  She just looked a bit ”boyish” with her short hair and white clothes . I can’t lie, those were exactly my thoughts and I assumed the baby was probably a boy given he was wearing red trousers etc. So when his Mum introduced “Fairywings” as Harry and the baby as Ellie you can imagine my surprise.

The irony is that my baby is continually referred to as a boy. I guess this is because I very rarely dress her in what would be deemed as “girly” skirts or dresses for 2 reasons. Firstly, she has heaps of layers of delicious baby chub and the dresses look so terribly uncomfortable and secondly because she gets incredibly frustrated with being tangled up in them as she tries to navigate her way around on her hands and knees. Her being referred to as a boy so often is something that I try not to get annoyed by but for some reason it does irritate me. Yet here I was doing the exact same thing.

What actually hit me through the duration of the class as we pranced around like ponies and reached on our tippy toes to touch the stars, was just how inspiringly wonderful Harry’s mummy was. She was not allowing stereotypes to dictate what her little boy wore or did from such an early age. She was truly allowing him the freedom to decide for himself who he wanted to be. Holding back tears I got quite emotional in the class thinking about it all and how I can only hope to offer the same kind of freedom to my girls.

Babies have tantrums too..

Our youngest cherub will be the grand old age of 1 in approximately 18 days time. It’s been an interesting year to say the least, one filled with joy, excitement, my first experience of labour (VBAC), exhaustion, tears, frustration, reflux, migraines, sleep school, wine (lots), arguments (lots), new business ventures, no income, new jobs, broken hands , trips to A&E, emergency surgery, jet lag, snot , through the roof temperatures, hospital visits, tantrums (all) and sleep deprivation. Whilst there have been many lessons I have learnt throughout the past year perhaps the biggest learning of all for me was that babies can have tantrums too!

I know, it’s hard to believe that these tiny little humans, seemingly so pure and innocent, could possibly be controlling enough as to have an actual tantrum.  Let me explain how I have come to realise this..

In the last 11.5 months SLEEP has been the most commonly used word/swearword in our house. Ironically whilst it is the most used word, it is the thing we get the least of. Yesterday I made the mistake of saying I wasn’t going to tempt fate but still saying it anyway. I uttered the words I’d been desperate to say for months…”she’s just started sleeping through”.

Why will I never learn that saying, ”I’m not going to tempt fate” basically ensures its a forgone conclusion?

The sleep, or lack of it, has pushed both myself and my husband to the brink. Our poor baby has had severe reflux. Anyone who has had a baby with reflux knows it is one of the most heartbreaking things to see your baby suffer with but it is also incredibly hard for the parents. Babies scream excessively and turn blue, hate being flat, constantly throw up…it’s draining and messy for all involved. I have spent many hours trawling the web to seek advice, visited paediatricians, joined facebook support groups and eventually relented and medicated her. The medication only eased the acid a small amount and made her sleep worse (waking every 45 minutes at 6 months) so we took her off the meds in the hope that she would soon grow out of it as our first child had done. The problem is when you have a reflux baby you put EVERYTHING down to their reflux. Every instance they are screaming because they won’t go in the pram, car seat or the cot, you excuse it because their reaction is so extreme and distressing you figure it has to be the reflux.

When she was 8.5 months old I took her to sleep school and this is when I learnt that BABIES HAVE TANTRUMS TOO. On the first evening, the carer assisted me in attempting to settle her to sleep. When she started to scream I tried to be patient, allowing her a few minutes longer to ”cry it out” than I ever would have at home. However I could feel my stress levels rising and I was quick to explain to the carer that she has reflux so we really shouldn’t let her cry too long as she’s obviously in pain. The carer looked at me in a slightly pitying/knowing way and explained that she was absolutely fine and definitely having a tantrum.

Excuse me? I felt annoyed. This was my baby, I’d spent every second with her since she’d entered this world (and before) and I knew her better than anyone. Anyway, babies don’t have tantrums, not this young. She ‘screams in the pram, cot and car seat because the position is all wrong for her reflux. Just as I was about to lose it and demand that we pick her up the screaming turned to a whimper……and then a sob…..and before I knew it she was sound asleep. Whilst it had felt like an eternity to me all up it took approximately 7 minutes to get her to sleep.

The 4 days and nights I spent at sleep school reiterated this point over and over again and I soon had to accept that what that lady said was absolutely correct. I’m not saying my baby doesn’t have reflux and it doesn’t hurt her sometimes, I know it does. However she seems to have almost grown out if it now and it was infinitely worse the first 6 months of her life. I now realise that at least 9 times out of 10 when she’s screaming blue murder as I try to put her in the cot, pram, high chair or car seat it’s because she just doesn’t want to go in it.

Now that I understand her better I can tell you the things she has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t like, she certainly knows her own mind considering her relatively short time in this world:

The car , the pram, the cot, sleeping, having a dummy given to her mid-tantrum, losing her dummy, medicine, having her nappy changed, not having her nappy changed, the sun in her eyes, wearing clothes, sitting in the high chair, not being able to play with the following: keys, the potty, the toilet, the crockery, my sunglasses., having to wait for food, playing with her own toys, being put down for a second, sitting on my knee, not sitting on my knee and not being attached to me. This list is by no means exhaustive but after 3 hours sleep last night its the best my memory will allow for right now.

The things she likes are few and far between and basically there is one common theme…ME! As I try to move around the house attempting to carry out my daily duties she can usually be found clinging onto my leg for dear life and if I try to prize her away from me I’m fully aware of the outcome…..a tantrum!