A BAD HAIR DAY

I don’t know why I woke up like a bear with a sore head this morning. Perhaps it was the fact I drank too much red wine last night? Perhaps it was because today was just going to be one of those kind of days, the kind of days when you just feel flat and sorry for yourself. You see now and again, and particularly, for some reason today, I get fed up with the discussion around money in our daily life. I know there are a gazillion people worse off than us. I know I’m lucky to have all of the amazing things I have in my life. But some days, the discussion just gets me down.

Frustrated, and in an effort to save some cash, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I took the scissors out of the bathroom cabinet and like any hungover, grumpy, frustrated bear with a sore head would do – I cut my own hair. I mean seriously how hard can it be?

I should mention that I am not a hairdresser. In fact, my only experience in the hair cutting department was with clippers when I trimmed an ex’s hair almost 2 decades ago and cutting hacking my 4-year-old daughters curly locks last week. My daughter did mention afterwards that she looked like a boy. If I’m honest her new cut does bare a strong resemblance to the bowl style that was so fashionable back in the 80’s and early 90’s. That said, all things considered, I  thought I did an ok job. It was straight (ish) and with her continued aversion to washing or combing her hair, the new do was considerably easier on the eye than the nest that had been growing there previously.

I had a taste for it now.

As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, my arms bent and hands contorted like an octopus, It soon became apparent to me that cutting one’s own hair is incredibly awkward, unless you are double jointed or indeed, an octopus. Initially tentative, I made a few small snips here and there. Soon I was feeling more confident and began chopping larger clumps of hair off and placing them into the bin. I couldn’t really tell how it was going at the back but from the front, it seemed ok.

Unfortunately my husband’s facial expression when I walked out of the bathroom suggested otherwise and only added to my bad mood.

So, it’s fair to say the day didn’t start out on its best foot. Although my bad mood came and went throughout the day, on the whole, it clung on like a quivering crustacean to a rock. I knew I was being dreadful, like a spoilt ungrateful brat. I couldn’t look my husband in the eye as I moaned away with my self-pitying tirade.  I willed a wave to splash me in the face and wash my bad mood away with it far out to the horizon.

That’s when it happened.

I got way more than I bargained for.

The wave came. It didn’t just splash me in the face. It enveloped me, sweeping me up in its undulating swell.

The girls, of which I have 2, requested some music. We dug out the cable for the iPod docking station and began to recharge my iPod. They waited patiently for the iPod to charge. I went out of the room for a moment. When I returned the music was playing and my 2-year-old daughter was held up in her  Daddy’s arms giggling hysterically as he danced with her around the lounge. My eldest daughter, age 4, was on the sofa laughing. I bundled her up into my arms and began swinging her round and round dancing to the music. We danced and laughed until we felt dizzy.

Rushes of ecstatic joy and gratitude ran through my veins. How did I get so lucky to have these 3 people as part of my life?

I was no longer a bear with a sore head. The day wasn’t so bad after all, even if I did have a terrible hair cut.

We need to listen to music and dance more.

 

 

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AN EXPAT AUSSIE CHRISTMAS

‘Twas the night before Christmas, it was 28 degrees and the sky was light and blue.

I have experienced a total of 6 Christmases in Australia. Two from my travelling days (2001 and 2006), and four since we made the move here in 2011. No matter how hard I try, I still find it strange Christmas shopping in the sunshine and donning a bikini and Santa hat on Christmas day.

This year we deviated from a bbq and opted for turkey with all the trimmings (even sourcing bread sauce from the UK). Our children are now two and three so are beginning to get into the Christmas spirit (well they liked the fact they got a chocolate for 24 days and that some man was bringing them presents). I, like many parents, have exploited the fact that Father Christmas was coming using it daily as a form of bribery on the lead up. Sadly, as with last year, they totally freaked when I took them to meet the big fella in person at the David Jones Santa’s grotto – #nofilter #nophoto.

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They were a little happier waving to him from afar as he flew by our house in a helicopter two days before – something I have yet to witness in the 30 UK Christmases I’ve experienced.

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HOW NOT TO DO A FAMILY HOLIDAY TO BALI

The pre-holiday build up was chaotic. I had written lists, new lists, and lists within the lists. I had sourced info from mates who travel to Bali frequently with young children and I was feeling confident that we had everything covered. Every type of mosquito repellent on the market had been sourced, transfer to hotel arranged, travel insurance bought, toys to keep the children amused on the plane purchased, local Bali Nanny confirmed, and of course money and passports in order.

Gone are the days of partying until the break of dawn, my husband and were united – we wanted a relaxed family holiday, intending to max out on the Nanny. The day before travelling, I sent my husband off with the kids so I could begin the mammoth task of packing. It started well as I fastidiously ticked items off my list. However it wasn’t long before the list was abandoned in favour of a more ‘chuck it in just in case’ approach took precedence.

The next morning we woke early (standard with 2 under 3 year olds) and set off in the maxi-cab to the airport. The idea was to arrive at the airport with plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast, followed by the obligatory gander around duty free, maybe even a beer and then all aboard the plane, flying off to paradise for our first proper family holiday.

As we queued up at the check-in desk our 2 girls were busy entertaining the other passengers, informing them that we were going to Bali. We were all on a high and grinning like Cheshire cats, we stood at the desk and proudly handed over our 4 passports.

“I’m sorry Sir, you won’t be able to fly today” the lady at the check-in announced casually. Like she was telling us the time, like it was just so normal and like not gonna bother us in the slightest.

WTF?

My husband and I stared at the lady in disbelief. Was she winding us up? Ha ha, very funny – now give us our tickets lady. ‘Silly Billy’ as my 2 year old would say.

“You passport only has 5 months left on it. You need 6 to travel to Bali” Her lips remained stoic like in their pose, I was desperately willing her mouth to turn up at the ends, a cheeky smile followed by laughter and ‘only joking, Silly Billy’. It didn’t.

I stared across at my husband. He looked at me. 30 seconds of everlasting silence. I felt sick. I looked at the girls, still giggling and rolling around on the floor repeating “Bali, Bali, Bali” over and over again.

My husband’s initial reaction, anger. As was mine. Only his, with the lady on the check-in desk and mine, with him. I asked him a few weeks before if all the dates on the passports were ok, obviously I reminded him of this fact. I immediately regretted saying it. I know nobody had died BUT…this was our family holiday, the one we procrastinated about for months, the one we have looked forward to for weeks, the one we have used to bribe our children with in order to get a modicum of good behaviour, the one we chose specifically because you can book a nanny to help you and babysit and it doesn’t cost the earth and they are amazing with kids and we might actually get a couple of nights out together. It was the one family holiday that we were all so excited about, at that precise moment it meant everything to us. We’ve both watched the airport shows and seen people turned away at check-in for one reason or another, but that was them…we wouldn’t be such Silly Billy’s.

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Why Waking A Sleeping Child Is A Little Bit Like Child Birth

Waking a sleeping child is a little bit like child birth. You know you have to do it, you know it’s going to hurt a bit and change the status quo but it will be worth it in the end!

My 2 girls have generally been good at going down for day sleeps. Usually, when they go…they are gone. Into a deep, peaceful, silent sleep. As much as I adore my 2 bundles of delicious cheeky chattering children – I also adore these day time sleeps and the peace and quiet this time offers me.

I often become like a woman possessed, running around desperately trying to get all of my jobs done as quickly as possible in the hope that I can have some precious and rare ‘me time’.  If I manage to achieve this, I sit down and either do some writing, enjoy some lunch without the children climbing on top of me and taking food off my plate or out of my mouth, chat to a friend or my husband on the phone without screaming children in the background or now and again I have been known to have a sneaky siesta.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little bit in love with day time sleeps!

The problem with daytime sleeps is that often my children would sleep all day if I allowed it (probably as a result of refusing to go to bed at a reasonable time or being up during the previous night). I have to confess there are certainly occasions when I have considered leaving them to sleep all day as I’m enjoying a snippet of relaxation in my usually chaotic and noisy life.  The reason this is a problem is that if they did sleep all day, as I’m sure every other parent is aware – there would not be a great deal of sleep happening for anyone that night.

Occasionally I have been known to let them sleep a little longer than the agreed time limits my husband and I have discussed (I don’t usually volunteer this information to him when he comes home later wondering why they don’t seem even slightly tired, running around like little grenades and climbing all over us, each other and the walls).

As the end of their day time sleep approaches I anxiously and continually glance at the time, wishing that (for today at least), it could just go a little slower than usual. I leave it to the absolute last-minute possible before accepting that my quiet time is over for the day. Once I’ve dragged myself up from the comfy couch, away from my laptop or even harder from my snuggly afternoon siesta,  I rather reluctantly begin my approach to wherever they are sleeping (my 3-year-old tends to have her day sleep on the sofa). Such a big part of me is desperate not to do what I am about to do.

IMG_3188.JPGI step away – for a second. As quickly as I step away I am reminded of the many nights when they have refused to go to bed and/or been up several times in the night. I know what it is I must do. I feel like I’m attempting to jump off a very high and slightly scary diving board. I will get there, I’m just taking a moment…to appreciate the calm before the storm.

I move back towards my sleeping child and this time I say their name a little louder, giving them a slightly more forceful stroke/shake. “Wake up baby, it’s time to get up now”. This tends to be met with a few grunts, as they retract and shrug me off them. My inner voice cranks up again, “This is so wrong, it feels wrong, they obviously need the sleep. She did have a bit of a cold earlier. Maybe she’s poorly and needs a bit longer today?” Hmmmm, pause. I look at the clock again. Already 10 minutes over the agreed time limit. Sh*t. Taking control of the situation I become a little more insistent/brutal. I draw the curtains back forcefully as I sing/shout out “time to get up girls, wakey wakey”.

Their eyes slowly open one by one as they sleepily rub them and start to move their little bodies around. Sometimes they just lie in the same position for a while with their eyes open, playing with the label on their teddy bear or sucking forcefully on a dummy. Each time I approach they recoil. They often cry – for the next half an hour. It’s very rare that I’m met with a big smile and look of “Hi mummy, thanks so much for waking us up – we really love you”. Nope, I generally feel like Cruella Deville which I find rather ironic considering I didn’t really want to wake them up in the first place.

I have to wait until they are ready before I can lift them out of the cot or from the sofa to give them a cuddle, the timeframe for this varies from day-to-day and child to child.

Now and again they wake up of their own accord. Is it wrong to admit that my heart does sink a little bit as I hear them cry out “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy”? I reluctantly accept that my precious and rare ‘me time’ has come to an abrupt end (this is especially disappointing if they haven’t met their full sleep quota – on these occasions I feel a tad cheated).

Once I have accepted that quiet time is over for the day and all the grumpy sleepiness has evaporated, the day begins again as it did that morning. With fun, laughter, cuddles, tears, tantrums, noise and so much love…..I soon forget my need for solace as I embrace the joy my children give me and remind myself…….there’s always tomorrow!

 

 

Thanks Daylight Savings

Yesterday the clocks went back an hour.

The children woke at their usual time of 5.20 am, which was now 4.20am. Despite their early rising both children weren’t keen on having day sleeps. Essentially we had an extra hour of tired children (and parents) to amuse for the day.

The benefit of the long and sleepless day was that they seemed to hit their wall a little earlier than usual.

6.25pm my husband points at our 19 month old “Quick- she’s rubbing her eyes”

I immediately jump to attention and run around like a loon “White noise, teddy bear, night light, curtains closed – READY”

My husband walks into her room, places her in the cot, and leaves. Still holding the door handle, eye brows raised, waiting for the usual screams. Silence. He lets go of the door handle, still raising his eyebrows and I suspect holding his breath, as I was. Shrugs shoulders. SILENCE. This silence after placing her in her cot at bedtime is a new phenomenon for us and if it weren’t so cheesy it would absolutely be an appropriate moment to high five.

Child one – DOWN – 6.30pm – RESULT

That just leaves Tinkerbell (not her real name -age 3) who is suddenly/tactically playing all of her cute cards in order to distract us from the fact it will soon be her bedtime. Cuddly and delicious, she begins reading her books out loud, cocking her head to the side and grinning at us. Earlier in the evening she requested a spoon of ice-cream on the basis that she would go to bed when we told her and without requiring us to lie down with her until she gets to sleep. Desperate to reinstate child-free evenings in our household, I was prepared to offer anything up as bribery.

At 7.00pm, when we were sure child number one was soundly asleep, we informed the eldest it was now her bedtime.

“I’m hungry”

“I’m thirsty”

“I need the toilet”

After the usual standard delay tactics I remind her of our deal.

The cute lovely smiles are replaced with her lower lip dropping onto the floor as her eyes roll that way too.

“I don’t wanna”

Again I remind her of our deal.

“I don’t want ice-cream again”

“So how will you feel tomorrow when your sister gets lots of yummy treats and you don’t get any”

“I don’t wannna go to sleep. I don’t want ice-cream or cupcakes”

This scenario is something that has been happening a lot lately. I’m desperate to see my threat through the following day however, if truth be told I’m a bit rubbish. She knows this. When tomorrow comes if she’s generally good and cute enough I will end up giving her treats. If all else fails, if she’s bad enough and I need her to do something – I will end up giving her treats (my only way to get her compliance). It’s become apparent to me that I basically reward her for bad behaviour. I have a feeling she knows me and my weak resolve extremely well!

Eventually she agrees to go to bed if Daddy lies with her (kind of a result for me at least). He goes with her to bed. 10 minutes later he reappears, eyebrows raised and a shrug and that look I know so well,

“Down – for now!”

Child two – DOWN – 7.30pm – RESULT

Our daylight savings reward is the fact that for the first time in a long time/EVER both girls are tucked up in bed by 7.30pm.

Child one – AWAKE – 4.27.am

Child two – AWAKE – 4.28 am

Thank you daylight savings!

In their world it’s 5 (ish). 5 am is a time that has changed from pre-children being ridiculously, absurdly early to be awake at/middle of the night to now being grateful for it, regarding it as an acceptable time to start the day. However, anything that starts with a 4, I am not grateful for nor is it acceptable in my books.

As today is ballet and its pouring with rain outside I decide to get the girls out early and do the food shopping. I feel rather pleased with myself that I have managed to complete a big food shop with both children, we are all still smiling (ok, so they may have eaten half the contents of the supermarket on the way round) all before 10am. I look at the time and decide that we still have heaps of time before ballet so we can dash home to unload the shopping beforehand.

En–route to ballet the girls are beginning to fall asleep in the car – understandable given they have already been up nearly 6 hours at this point. I do my best to keep them from sleeping, plying them with more sugary treats (yep – my threat of no treats for the eldest today already well and truly abandoned).

As I’m attempting to park the car, a dad who attends the class after ours, helps direct me into the space. I wonder why he is so early but perhaps he’s going to the playground first? I then take my time getting the girls out of the car, it’s only just 10am and I’d rather not have to wait outside the class too long with two fidgety children as it’s located at the top of some precariously steep stairs. We dilly dally along to the class. I then see my friend with his daughter who also goes to the later class. As I walk towards them the penny drops – I’ve messed up the time of the class!

After a brief and frazzled discussion with my friend, I grab the girls and leg it up the steep steps, bursting apologetically into the class for the last 5 minutes. Just in time for some bubble machine action and Miss Emma distributing the end of term certificates. The girls don’t really get that it’s the end of the class. They are just excited to be at ballet. I try my best to hide my face from all the other parents as the tears fall out of my eyes by the bucket load. I’m so cross with myself.  The other mums see I’m upset and give me understanding, sympathetic looks.  I feel like a total idiot and am so disappointed for the girls who have not stopped talking about ballet all week!


As the class finishes up, the doors open and the next batch of ballerinas (including my friends’ little girl) burst in. They all sit on the mat in the middle of the room and my 2 angelic looking girls join them. Obviously they think that’s what they are meant to do, they’ve only just arrived after all. I drag them away as they look at me confused, even more so by the fact I have more tears rolling down my cheeks again.

The room next door is huge and empty. A couple of the other mums are in there with their children. My girls join them and they all run around in circles giggling and jumping off the pile of mats in the corner. I start chatting to the mums, explaining my morning to them. They are lovely and of course – have been there! One of them has twins (2 girls nearly 3 years old). They are 2 beautiful bundles bursting with energy and full of cheeky chatter! We exchange stories and straight away I feel better, just by talking to someone else who understands. Quite honestly I am in awe of people who have multiples as I struggle to keep afloat at times with 2 young girls 18 months apart.

I’m not entirely sure I can blame daylight savings on my cock up with the time of the ballet class (they used to attend the later class however haven’t done so for at least 4 weeks) however I do think if it wasn’t for daylight savings the girls may not have been up so early, I may not have thought that I could fit in shopping before the class and I may have realised the correct time for the class was in fact 9.35am. However, I would like to thank daylight savings for the fact that my husband and I had an evening last night, the fun the girls had with the twins in the room next door to the ballet class and the fact I made a lovely, brand spanking new friend.

The Truth About Toddlers

Before having toddlers, my perception was that they were little people who ‘toddled’ along, smiling cutely as they went. Sure, I’d heard of the ‘Terrible Twos’ and witnessed the odd tantrum, but I thought they were the exception rather than the rule.

I never realised there was SO much more to it than that. Their autocratic and often teenage-like behaviour coupled with their Jekyll and Hyde mood swings, never ceases to amaze me. Their inability to understand what seems so logical and reasonable and absolute inflexibility, makes time spent in their company a little fraught at times.

Sorry?

I’m aware that we are not alone. I Have enough mummy friends going through similar challenging times and have now read enough articles, confirming our two toddlers are by no means unique in this respect. My simplistic and naive understanding of ‘toddlers’, has gone out the window now that I have 2 of them living under my roof.

My youngest is 15 months old. Having just started to walk independently, I can confirm she is 100% ‘toddling’. Often she does this smiling and laughing as she goes. Revelling in the attention she gets from us and other onlookers. Still a little unsteady on her feet, there are often moments when she falls. We hold our breath and wait…..she looks at us……still holding our breath, still waiting. She smiles, then drunkenly stumbles back to her feet and carries on her merry toddling way. Phew, we are relieved – exhale. Unfortunately there are also many occasions when she falls, looks at us, turns her bottom lip downwards and the tears come. Or, she doesn’t fall, the tears come and we have absolutely no idea why she is crying.

Having no idea why she is crying happens a lot. It’s got to the point where I am so often at a loss, I resort to asking her nearly 3 year old sister if she can shed any light on it. Her reply is consistent, ‘’she wants booby milk Mummy”. Hence why my youngest is a breast-aholic.

For the first year of her life she suffered severe reflux. It was heart-breaking. She struggled to self-settle, needy of me and my boobs and physical in the way she demonstrated her discontent. At first I put everything down to reflux. As she has grown older I’m learning that lots of her tears are because she’s just not getting what she wants. She literally throws her dummy out of the cot, her food off the high chair and toys out of the pram with such force she could compete in the next Olympic shotput rounds.

I have suffered many a bruised foot at the hands of a hurtling Sippy cup, flung onto the floor for the 10th time that sitting. I’m often left scrabbling around in the dark in her bedroom or under cars searching for her abandoned dummy. Luckily she is not of an age where she can repeat the swear words coming from my mouth!

We have a bedtime ritual. Forgive me, I know how ridiculous this must sound. I put her dummy in my mouth by the handle, carry her into her room and wait until she decides she’s ready to take the dummy from my mouth, before attempting to place her in the cot. If I try to put the dummy into her mouth before she’s ready, onto the floor it goes. If she won’t take the dummy from me, I know it’s time to retract back to the lounge and try again later. Often she teases me, taking it from me and then flinging it in disgust across the room.

When she decides she wants a breastfeed, she climbs on me, pulls my top/dress up or down and helps herself. She hates to be restrained, in the pram, cot, car seat or high chair. Sometimes food provides a distraction, but that’s short-lived and she soon starts wriggling and screaming leaving me no choice but to set her free.

Our eldest daughter (nearly 3) was relatively tantrum free until she reached 18 months. She’s making up for lost time now. This coincided with the arrival of her baby sister. I have heard that how she felt could be likened to how you would feel if your partner brought home a new lover, moved them in and had them attached to them the entire time – ouch!

Occasionally whilst at the playground, if she fell over, I’d go to comfort her – she’d scream and run away, turning up the volume the closer I got. Aware that each step nearer resulted in her becoming more upset, I stopped. Seeing her this way and feeling so helpless broke my heart. Gradually I’d begin moving towards her again, desperate to take her in my arms and console her. This made it worse. She’d run away screaming as though I was some crazy stranger attempting to abduct her.

I willed her words to come in the hope we would understand each other better and relieve her frustrations. At first her repertoire of words was limited; ‘dummy’, hot milk’, ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’ and ‘MORE’. Often she’d sit in her throne/ high chair and have me run ragged as she shouted her orders. As we chatted more I started to toughen up, realising that she did understand the meaning of the word ‘no’ perfectly well and it was ok for me to use it. With the implementation of ‘no’ came the arrival of the truly terrible twos.

I began seeking advice from parenting Facebook groups and reading more articles about how to deal with toddler behaviour.

  • Get down to their level
  • Remain calm
  • Explain why you are saying no
  • Be consistent
  • Don’t raise your voice

Every time I read a new article, I felt inspired and hopeful.

The tantrum begins:

Deep breath, bend down, stay calm

“I’m sorry you are feeling upset sweetheart, I understand you want a whole biscuit but unfortunately it was broken when I took it out of the wrapper”

Following the advice to the letter, I’m ready for the current mood to change so we can continue with our day.

“Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I want a whole one, I want a whole one now. I want a whole apple biscuit NOW”

Be patient, I remind myself. Try again.

The screaming gets louder, leg kicking and lashing out begins. We are attracting the attention of passers-by who look at her with pity, like I’m the one being unreasonable.

“Poor thing, bless her”

Bless her? My patience fading and my frustration increasing. Often, against my better judgement and with a quick risk assessment, I give in.

“Fine- wear your shoes on the wrong feet”

Unfortunately, I have to confess, there are occasions when all my good intentions go out the window and I lose it. I raise my voice and get angry.

I have learnt, she’s not a morning person. Upon waking she rubs her eyes, grunting, refusing to look at me. I hold my arms out towards her but am met with,

“Meh”, whilst shaking her head vigorously from side to side. Consequently I’ve encouraged her to call for Daddy when she wakes (especially as it’s been getting earlier). He talked me through their morning ritual:

  • She demands to be placed on a particular sofa
  • He tries to take her sleeping bag off and is met a stern look, head shake and grunting
  • She demands hot milk (usually sending it back saying it’s not hot enough)
  • She demands he sits on the other sofa
  • She demands to watch Peppa Pig on the IPad – when he says no to the iPad she starts to scream
  • He gives in

The toddler timeframe is generally considered to be between age 1 and 3. Ironically whilst I’m willing an end to the tantrums I’m also wishing time would slow down. With our youngest I love seeing her drunkenly toddling along, stopping to examine everything in her path. Whilst her neediness of me can at times be exhausting, I’m also aware that it is not going to be forever and it is her unique connection with me that creates this need. With the eldest, whilst the ability for her to converse has at times resulted in a stroppy, demanding child, it’s also enabled a hilariously cute, slightly bonkers little girl who cracks us up daily with her commentary and constant questioning to emerge.

Our 2 toddlers have very different temperaments, therefore what worked at times for one hasn’t worked so well for the other. It has taught me that as a parent, I have to adapt my parenting style to suit that particular child and situation. There is no ‘one size fits all approach’. There are some similarities, they are both stubborn, strong willed and determined little people trying to find their way. They may be able to transform from darling to devil in the blink of any eye, but the darling bits are delicious and the devil bits – well we’ll put them down to a ‘developmental phase’.

Pink Pear Bear