Tuesday, 29 September 2009

To Work or Not to Work?

I am discovering that this blog is quite therapeutic. The danger is that I start ranting and complaining all the time. I'll have to rely on you wonderful readers to let me know as soon as that starts I guess!

It would appear that the younger is much better now, and that the elder, though suffering from whinging syndrome this morning, appears to be fine to. We've had two undisturbed nights of sleep and I'm feeling more human as a result. Not quite yummy yet, but human is a start.

I'm due to go back to work shortly, and am struggling with the guilt that comes with it. Though both children go to nursery for two days each week already, and love it; and though I'll still have my time with them; I'm still beating myself up about it. As you know, I struggle to get all the chores done as it is, so how on earth will I cope if I have to work as well?

The only thing I am clear about is that I need to use my adult brain again. The one that manages intellectual conversations and analyses data for a living. There's the argument that I could do something else. After all, if I have time to work, then I could be learning a new skill, going to the gym, more easily managing the chores? But I like my job (I know it's unusual). So I figure, why not do that, and get paid for it. Then everyone will benefit from the improved holiday's we'll be able to afford!

The 'to work or not to work' debate does have a bearing on my ability to be yummy though. It will literally force me to get up earlier in the morning to make myself look acceptable for work, and not just for the school run. I'll let you know how that goes!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Sleep - or lack of it. Part 2

OK, so maybe reminding yourself how wonderful it is that your children need you, doesn't really cut the mustard at 4am when you've been trying to settle your baby to sleep (without waking your toddler) for the past 2 hours.

It turns out that my bout of sleepless nights wasn't over. I managed 2 hours sleep before she woke me, and 2 1/2 hours once she finally went back in her cot and stayed asleep. It was Thursday night, and, to be fair, it could have been worse. Yes, honest, it could have been! The elder managed to stay asleep, so I didn't have two of them to contend with, and since I was on my own that night I was incredibly pleased with that. And frankly, I could have had less than 5 1/2 hours sleep!

Last night they both slept. 7pm til 6.30am. It's so random. I've always found the unpredictability of it the most difficult to contend with. If I knew I'd get a full night sleep in 2 days, then I'd be able to cope with 2 nights of disturbed sleep before then. But I guess that's just one of the challenges that we face as parents.

It's 10pm tonight and the younger is coughing. So it sounds like she's not fully healthy quite yet! It remains to be seen how much sleep we'll all get tonight.

If you are the mum of a baby that is still waking in the night, I know how you feel. I've been there, done that, and although they are normally very good, I'm occasionally still doing that. And no, we don't all just cope with it easily. One of my biggest tests as a parent has been to learn to operate on less than 9 hours sleep a night. (I love my sleep!) Actually, scrap that. My biggest test has been to operate "without being grumpy" on less than 9 hours sleep a night.

My husband would definitely tell you that I haven't succeeded. It's best not to talk to me before, hmmm, say 10am, even though I've been up since 6am. It takes me that long to properly wake up and stop being grumpy! Well, at least until I'm falling asleep on the sofa at 10pm!

Speaking of which, that makes it my bedtime doesn't it! Goodnight.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sleep - or lack of it!

Just when you think you’ve got the sleep stuff sorted, along comes another problem to test your patience and your ability to think coherently on next-to-no sleep.

We thought we’d got our two girls’ sleep sorted months ago. Bath at 6pm and asleep by 7pm for the one year old, and by 7.30 for the three year old. Both up somewhere between 6 and 7am. Closer to 6am more often than we’d perhaps like, but hey, you can’t complain at that. So, when the younger came up to her first birthday we didn’t expect to be experiencing a week of middle of the night wake ups from both of them.

I’m a big believer in the theory that babies cry because there is something they are trying to communicate, and therefore I should always, given long enough, be able to work out what the problem is and fix it especially once your got to know your babies cries quite well. So when the younger woke at 9.30pm one night, I thought her problem must be wind, since she only ever woke in the evening with that problem. I tried to wind her, and, sure enough, she snuggled up on my lap, in the ‘winding’ position, and tried to get back to sleep. But when I then kissed her goodnight and put her back in her cot, she screamed.

Now the younger only ever had a short period of needing to be settled to sleep. Being the second child she worked out how to settle herself fairly quickly, both through necessity, and the fact that I knew how to teach her this time. So crying, when put back in her cot, is for her, most unusual. Back out she came for more winding, but it soon became clear that wind wasn’t her problem. I tried sitting with her for a bit, waiting for sleep, and then attempting the cot transfer, but... no such luck. I then tried giving her baby paracetamol, sitting with her for a further half hour to give that chance to do its bit, assuming that her next tooth must be causing her problems (she’d been biting everything in sight that day), and attempted the transfer again. Nope. Changing her nappy, which wasn’t particularly necessary, but I did it anyway, also made no difference. In the end her dad sat with her for a further half an hour, and managed to get her in her cot. It’s funny how sometimes a change in parent can do the trick, particularly if the first one is starting to lose patience.

Not long after that the elder woke up, and wouldn’t settle without one of us being in the room for a bit. I fell asleep in her room. Not long after I’d returned to my own bed at about 1am, did the younger wake again, and dad went to resettle her. At 5am she woke again, I sat with her for a while, and the elder woke up at 5.30, so dad went to settle her. The elder, of course, didn’t go back to sleep. The younger had another hour to try and catch up and woke around 7.30am.

This pattern, of the younger waking early evening, settling her, then having to deal with the elder, and the younger waking again around 2/3am, continued for around two weeks. But it wasn’t nearly as simple as ‘wind’.  The younger had picked up Conjunctivitus and at the same time a cold consisting of a runny nose and nasty cough. The elder then picked up the cold. We ensured that both girls got a tissue with Karvol on it in their rooms. (It’s a very effective vapour that stops the nose running, effectively then stopping most of the cough, which had been the result of the phlegm running down the back of the throat.) The younger also got a big bowl of water in her room to increase the humidity and aid the cough further.

The next few nights slowly improved, but the elder kept being woken by the younger's crying. Then, just as the younger had a couple of days with almost no cold symptoms she got really bad nappy rash. Lots of cream seemed to help, but her night waking increased that night, every time she wet her nappy.

The next day we discovered spots on her legs as well as her bottom. She’d had a similar spotty rash during a previous cold, and the doctors had confirmed it was viral. This time the doctors thought the same, but were less sure when we discovered larger blister like spots on her fingers and toes. Strangely, other than the spots, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with her. Her conjunctivitis had by this point cleared up, and the cold had gone. Well, until the next morning anyway, when the runny nose came back. But she was livelier than ever, and that night we gave her a dose of paracetamol before bed and for the first time in almost 2 weeks she slept through without needing intervention. (we heard her murmur a couple of times but that was it.) The doctor thinks the spots may be a common childhood condition called Foot, Hand and Mouth, but can’t confirm it.  If it is, it’ll just get better within the next week or so.

We’re convinced that she has, simultaneously, been teething, so the poor girl has really had a lot to deal with this last fortnight, but I’m hoping that this period of disturbed sleep is drawing to a close. It would appear that you never can tell with children. Especially children that have both recently gone back to nursery after the summer break. Pity they share illnesses so much more easily than toys!

I guess my reason for sharing this is to say, that there was a reason for the crying. She wasn’t just being difficult – I don’t believe babies know how to do that deliberately. She needed us for various reasons, and we weren’t quite as adept at fixing her problems as well as we perhaps did when the need was purely for milk! We are learning all the time. And struggling a lot of the time. So for all you mums out there short on sleep, take heart. The time when you are having to haul them out of bed to get them to school will be upon you before you know it. So what if you have a few disturbed nights now. There’s something quite comforting about sitting in the dark with a child falling to sleep in your arms. It’s a reminder that we’re needed. And though it’s sometimes difficult, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Shopping with a Toddler and a Baby!

This is the first of hopefully many blogs designed to pass on some of the tricks I’ve picked up over the last three years. I know that you probably get more than enough advice from family and friends. Quite often from people you don’t even know (that drives me bananas). So this isn’t intended to be preachy, or patronising, or judgemental, I just figure that if I can save you some time and stress then that’s great.

Last weekend we all went out together to do the weekly grocery shop. My hubby, the two girls and I all trouped off, with our boot full of reusable carrier bags, to the local supermarket. Now I must make it very clear right from the start; if I can do the weekly shopping on my own then I will, but it’s rare. More often I manage to do it with just my 11 month old. After all, she sits happily strapped in the trolley and smiles at all the other customers. She’s no trouble. But as they get older they get less interested in the shopping experience and it’s harder to strap them down! So; only if I have my hubby’s help; do we all go.

Today we had three tricks up our sleeves to keep our eldest happy. The first; we were hoping to snag one of the very rare and very sought after ‘car’ trolleys. This is a special trolley that doubles as a little car for the toddler to sit in. It has a steering wheel with a car horn in the middle that beeps. There’s a strap, and the seat’s big enough for dolly to sit in as well. And your shopping ends up in baskets over their heads and behind them, so they can’t start squishing the crisp packets, or worse, the eggs. Our second trick was to take a little yellow post-it with six pictures on it courtesy of my artistic talents (there’s irony there, trust me). The pictures were of bagels, bananas, honey nut loop cereals, milk, FiFi pasta and cucumbers. It was a selection of grocery items specifically chosen for their position around the store (evenly spaced out) and my ability to draw them.

Our eldest was delighted when she perched herself in her little car and I handed her a special shopping list that she was responsible for. She’s at an age where she loves to help. So, every time she seemed to be getting a little distracted, or trying to jump out of the car I’d say, “What’s next on your list love? Have you seen the bananas yet? Where do you think they are?” It’s amazing how quickly they lose interest in the toy aisle when you’ve bombarded them with questions and steered into the fruit aisle, where they spot the next sought after item on their list. Getting overly exciting about their find is of course a must. Well, you don’t think you can get away without acting in a slightly embarrassing manner with children in tow, do you?

Our third and final trick is to provide her with food. We allowed her to eat a bagel on the way round. We always do this and it’s brilliant. Eating something they love (yet isn’t ridiculously messy or bad for them) is a brilliant way to deal with their short attention span during a shopping trip, and it deals with snack time as well.

So the shopping got done. Eldest was praised immediately afterwards, later at teatime, and again at bedtime, for her helpfulness during the shopping trip. I don’t believe you can overhype good behaviour enough. And she had a lovely day with no tantrums.

The downside is that these car trolleys don’t have a baby seat on them, so you can’t use them if you’re on your own with a toddler and a baby. So when I’m on my own I take her own mini shopping trolley with us. She walks round pushing her trolley, collecting her items, and I push the youngest round in my trolley. At least if the eldest's got a trolley to look after she’s less likely to run off....? Well, anything’s worth a try.

Good luck shopping!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Technology - Good for kids?

So I managed to kill our computer within two weeks of starting to write my blog. What was I saying about being frazzled?

It would appear that it’s reached the end of it’s life. At only five years old it’s an unwelcome reminder that technology is moving so quickly that today’s exciting gadgets are useless antiques before we’ve even managed to work out how to use them properly.

I can remember the introduction of VHS video recorders, when watching the cast of Rainbow walk backwards through doors using rewind was incredibly exciting. I can remember life before mobile phones, when we actually used to have to sit on the bottom step in the hall to have a telephone conversation because that’s where the phone was. It would be a proper conversation. There would be no misunderstandings caused by the non-existent grammar used in texts. There would be no resentment caused by not immediately replying to texts. There would be no expectations of getting an answer when you phoned, for we all realised that everyone has lives that include eating meals, having baths, relaxing, working and so on, and that meant we couldn’t jump the second the phone went.

It is now a different world. My daughters will never know life before the DVD player. Will never know what it’s like to miss an exciting bit of telly because you had to go to the loo. Will never expect anything less than mobile phones, HDTV, live TV rewind, Emails, Internet etc. I wonder if they’d understand the pre-digital age if I tried to explain it. Whilst our generation always groaned at our grandparents use of the phrase “during the war”, our children will groan at our use of “before we had computers….”

I worry about it. Not a lot, but I do.

I worry about a lot of things! In this case I worry that it’ll effect their ability to socialise. That they’ll be less able to interact face to face in the real world because they have easy access to a world where face to face rarely occurs. I suppose I’ve answered my own concern there haven’t I? If there’s no need for face to face interaction, why do you need to have that skill?

I suppose our generation will be the last of the social traditionalists who think that ringing customer services should mean you actually get to talk to someone, rather than wading through ten minutes of options before being able to.

We’ll be the last to think that sending ten texts back and forth to organise a night out is slightly ridiculous and that you’d save time if you picked up the phone and talked for five minutes.
We’ll be the last to understand what a luxury all this technology is.

My daughter knows how to turn the TV and DVD on. She’s three. Whilst I limit the time she spends watching it, I’m already very aware of the battle I’ll have as she gets older to limit her “screen time”. It’s only a matter of time before she discovers computer games, and again, they are not something I ever got into, because I grew up without them! I grew up spending my spare time dancing, reading, drawing, painting, playing games in the back garden, roller skating, riding my bike. Not sat in front of a screen.

Should I be preparing myself for the battle? Or do I just accept that life has changed and let her, when she discovers them, play computer games as long as she likes? After all, I wouldn’t have the same conversation with her if she was sat reading a book for the same length of time…. Or would I? Does it matter?

Frankly the pace of change means that my daughter will grow up in a world that I can’t even comprehend. In the last 20 years we’ve gone from; four TV channels, land-line phones and basic word processors; to 998+ TV channels, internet connections on mobile phones that also take and store pictures and film and play your entire music collection, and an international online gaming community.

What’s going to happen in the next 20 years?

I guess I’ll just have to keep up and deal with it as it happens.

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