Scary is good

Munchkin is 2 now, and it’s basically the best age ever. She is absolutely delightful most of the time, and the other 2.5% is either hilarious (sorry kid!) or just not worth dwelling on. But the playing, the drawing, the open mouthed kisses, the laughter – it’s so great.

One of the coolest things is that her dinosaur obsession, which started young, has grown to epic proportions. I’ve painted a giant dinosaur on her wall, right behind her bed, (photos when I eventually finish touching up the edges) and she loves that “Big BIG dinaur” watches over her at night.

A natural extension of this obsession, her favourite game is one called RAAA! which, of course, involves chasing each other around the house and RAAAing. We take it in turns to run away and raa, and sometimes all three of us have to run and hide, until she realises that there’s no one to hide from, at which point one of us will be designated dinosaur and the game begins anew.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I use dinosaurs to my advantage at any opportunity. From “it’s time to put your dinosaur nappy on, little dino!” to “are you going to use your big, sharp dinosaur teeth to eat your dinner?” and anything and everything else I can dream up, dinosaurs feature heavily in my parenting right now.

Getting ready for bed is always a bit tricky, as I imagine it is for basically every parent of children everywhere. Tonight, when she asked to keep playing RAA, I convinced Munchkin that mummy dinosaur only roars at good little dinosaurs who put their pyjamas on.

Then, she asked for daddy dinosaur, who was occupied elsewhere. I called out to let him know that his roaring skills were required, and he replied that he’d need a few minutes.

I relayed that message, and Munchkin cuddled on my chest, waiting. At first, she was all giggles, but soon the anticipation began to build and she clung tighter and tighter to me, worming her way up my chest until she was on an angle that would make a contortionist cringe.

We waited and cuddled and talked and waited some more, until finally…. the creak of the chair, footsteps coming up the hall…. and RAAAAAAAA! Daddy dinosaur roared in all his fearsome glory as Munchkin squealed with laughter.

Life has been a bit up and down recently. My shop has shut down (boo, hiss), I’m temporarily relocated but I’m going to have to find something else very soon. Today, I applied for a job. It’s a big job, way more intense than anything I’ve done before. If I get it, the stakes would be high. It’s a long way outside my comfort zone, but I really really really really want it. I’m scared.

I’m so scared, that after I finally submitted my application (after spending hours over the past few days perfecting it), I was shaking and felt like I was going to hyperventilate.

Even if I don’t get this job, which is fairly likely, applying for the job scared me enough to make applying for other jobs a lot easier.

Scary is good.

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The best laid plans of mice and me…

Often go awry.

After a couple of crazy weeks, during which I worked full time hours whilst being officially “in charge” at work (whose crazy idea was that?) and picking up a couple of freelance copywriting clients*, I was so looking forward to going back to normal.

I was dreaming of my regular part-time shifts, lowering my stress levels, exercising more and getting my sleeping pattern back on track.

I was going to be early to bed and early to rise and I was gonna be healthy, wealthy and mothertruckin’ wise, damn it!

Then, just as I made all these resolutions to look after myself and get on top of everything, I got hit by the Cold of Doom that seems to have taken over half my twitter feed**.

I had one day off work where I was basically incapable of anything other than sleeping or watching the Kardashians do… um, actually, I’m still not clear on what they do. Luckily, it’s only a couple of days later and I’m well on the mend, but now the Captain and Munchkin both have it too.

So this is basically a bullshit “this is why there’s no real post” post.

I really will get on top of things one day! Maybe. Some of them, at least.

*My writing on this blog is in no way indicative of my professional writing. This is one big stream of consciousness. Sorry!

**At least three people.

Dirt, ducks and a dragon

We headed out to the Hyde Park fair today. The Captain was working on one of the stalls from about 12 to 5pm, and Munchkin and I joined him.

It was a whole lot of fun, but also a very long day – next time we’ll probably drop him off then join him for the last couple of hours.

We’d budgeted about $40 for the day, and I ended up heading to the atm pretty early in after we spent nearly all of that on lunch and drinks (paella and fresh squeezed orange juice – expensive, but so worth it!).

There were lots of cool attractions at the fair, a petting zoo, pony rides, entertainers, show rides and heaps of cool stores. There’s also a water playground, which I didn’t see until we were leaving – we’ll definitely be going back to visit that!

Water birds

But most of these attractions I saw while walking loops with Munchkin in the pram, in a futile attempt to convince her to sleep. While she was in a good mood, we mostly played in the dirt by a small playground, watched the ducks in the lake and petted other people’s dogs (with the owner’s permission, and only ones situated at stalls – if I’d let her approach every dog we passed, we’d still be there).

We did sit down by the stage to watch a beautiful dragon display.

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Once I’d replenished our funds for the day, I picked up a gorgeous handbag for $10, secondhand from a charity stall (I did take note of which one, then promptly forgot).

grey bag

This bag is actually the same brand and even the same colour and material as one of my all-time favourite bags, which got stolen when Munchkin was a newborn.

My old bag was too big to be practical for day to day use (except in those early days with all the baby paraphernalia), whereas this one is perfect for my life right now – small enough to fit in the storage at work, big enough to hold my essentials along with a couple of nappies and other toddler supplies.

Toddlers are so much easier than babies! (Most of the time, anyway)

We also brought home a succulent, after spending ages at the stall examining the different varieties.

The one we chose was quite tall, which I’m now reading may mean it’s not that healthy? I have no idea, mine are the grey thumbs of plant death. My lucky bamboo? Not so lucky. So we’ll see how that goes!

We also treated ourselves later in the day – coffee and ginormous churros for the cap’n and I, and a soft serve ice cream for Munchkin. It’s the first time we’ve let her have a whole one to herself, which goes to show that I am not above using junk to placate my tired, grumpy toddler. Parent of the year? I think yes!

She loved it though, and it totally bought us the extra hour we needed before we could pack up and go home. Like I said, we’ll definitely do things differently next time!

All up, we spent about double what we planned. If we’d realised proper food at fairs was so expensive, we might’ve planned better and had lunch beforehand, so we didn’t have to buy as much there.

The fair is on again tomorrow, so if you’re thinking about heading down, which I highly recommend you do, bring money  (including a gold coin donation for Rotary at the entry), maybe some get-wet clothes or bathers if you’re planning on hitting up the water playground, and your dog, as long as it’s safe and comfortable in crowds with heaps of people and other dogs.

Also, sunscreen – even though most of the stalls are in plenty of shade, the eating area and some of the rides are in the sun.

Oh, and wear comfy shoes – especially if you’re planning on being there awhile.

Go and check it out and then tell me about it, so that I might live vicariously through you!

Hard headed

I am unashamedly a feminist, and the Captain and I strongly encourage Munchkin to pick things she loves, regardless of their intended gender. Honestly, the whole idea that a child “should” like one colour or another based on their genitalia is really bizarre to me. A child is more than the sum of what’s in their pants, and just as adults have diverse interests, likes and dislikes, so too do children.

So far, Munchkin LOVES dinosaurs, animals (especially dogs and cats, since we have those in the household), bugs, spiders, big machinery and trucks, “driving”, twirling, dancing, playing daddy’s drum kit, water, climbing the slide by herself, helping us cook, cleaning (she’s shaping up to be better than I am), and generally making mess and noise.

She’s not a huge fan of drawing, prefers painting herself and us than anything else, loves playing in dirt but is a bit hesitant about dirt on her hands at first.

Her interests are so broad, and we see no reason to discourage any of them, particularly based on outdated gender stereotypes.

Yesterday, the Captain took Munchkin shopping for a bike seat and helmet. When it came time to pick a helmet, the shop assistant took them straight to the pink helmets. Now, there is nothing wrong with pink. It’s an awesome colour, one of my favourites. But other colours are awesome too! Blue, green, purple, orange, yellow, red – there are so many great choices for kids, that I don’t know why the choices have become so narrow.

Capt’n insisted on letting Munchkin choose her own helmet, which the assistant seemed a bit dismissive of. But she knew what she wanted! She left all of the pink helmets and went straight for a really cool bright blue one with animals on it.

However, even after she had made it clear that was what she wanted, the assistant kept pushing the pink ones on her. This makes me pretty mad, not only because her choice of something to go on her own head should be respected (as long as it’s safe), but because by questioning her choice, the message is that the blue helmet is not something she “should” like. She “should” want the pink ones. Why? Because of her genitalia. That’s it. Not her brain, not her interests, not her passions.

We need to stop reducing our children to one small element of what makes them who they are. They are amazing, diverse, curious little creatures and that should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Luckily, Munchkin is a bit young to understand the social pressures on girls and boys to like different things, but that won’t last forever. There will come a day when she begins to understand what is being pushed on her, and either start to conform or (like me) rebel against it. Neither of those is a good option, because both of them mean that she is not free to be herself.

Free our children up to love what they love without fear of judgement, and watch them shine.

The Good Baby

One of the questions people seem to ask a lot after you have a baby is, “Is s/he a good baby?” Obviously this question isn’t intended to be rude, and I’m 90% tongue in cheek with the following, but really? A good baby? What does that even mean? I always feel like replying, “No, she’s evil and terrible. We’re thinking of having her exorcised, just in case she is, in fact, the spawn of Satan”.

So what exactly are the criteria a good baby? Is there a score out of 10? As a baby, Munchkin cried, fed and dirtied her nappy with great efficiency, and even slept sometimes, so as far as being a baby goes I think she pretty much got it down. Attagirl! Gold star for you!

But what people really seem to mean when they talk about a good baby is one that doesn’t cry much and sleeps a lot. (Parents everywhere just burst out laughing reading that. Seriously, does any baby fit that profile?).

The problem with the question is the implication that if a baby doesn’t sleep well, or cries a lot, they must be bad (or, at the very least, not good). But babies don’t cry because they’re being bad, or naughty. They cry for a reason, even if that reason isn’t always apparent to others. Likewise with not sleeping – there is a reason for it. In fact, babies aren’t even expected to sleep through the night for quite some time, and for breastfed babies five hours is considered sleeping through.

That doesn’t mean that crying and not sleeping isn’t hard on the parents/carers. It can be incredibly hard! But suggesting (or implying) that their baby is bad for not meeting some arbitrary criteria for “good” isn’t really all that helpful.

A friend of mine had a baby who screamed for hours on end. Multiple trips to multiple doctors proved fruitless, until one finally looked closer and found that the poor little mite had gastroesophageal reflux. She wasn’t crying all the time because she was bad or naughty, she was crying because she was in pain. (This story is also a good example of why it’s important to keep pushing for an answer when you know something is wrong with your bub. No matter how many times she was told it was “normal for babies to cry a lot”, my friend knew there was more to it)

I guess my real problem with the “good baby” question is that it’s really not helpful. So what can you ask a new parent? How about, “How is s/he going?” and “How are you coping?”. That second one is particularly important. After all, one person may be just fine with 4-5 hours broken sleep a night, while another could be utterly exhausted. It’s so important to give new parents the opportunity to talk about themselves and how they’re going – asking the question can make all the difference.

Meet Loki

You might know Loki from Norse mythology as the God of Mischief, or from the Marvelverse as the… God of Mischief.

But today I’m going to introduce you to a whole new face of Loki… a pink, polka-dotted bunny rabbit.

Loki the bunny

The day we got Loki, we made the terrible mistake of entering a baby shop. Trust me. Baby shops = massive amounts of money mysteriously disappearing from your bank account.

We went to buy a playpen, and were leaving with far more. I almost hyperventilated over the adorable mini-armchairs, but managed to not buy one.

When we got to the checkout with our armloads of crap totally necessary baby stuff, there was a deceptively adorable, totally irresistible hoard of knitted bunnies.

I was good, I swear, but Munchkin was captivated! She practically launched herself out of the Ergo on my chest and grabbed for them. I had never seen her show any particular interest in a toy before, so that was super exciting. Plus, I was deeply mired in postnatal depression and felt like the world’s worst parent, so I decided to alleviate some of that guilt with this sweet little polka dotted bunny. Needless consumption for the win!

Anyway, I was so excited to have bought this adorable little bunny that she wanted so badly, so I gave it to her straight away. She stretched out her arms with a huge smile on her face… and then proceeded to beat this poor, innocent rabbit senseless, Hulk-style.

Over the next couple of weeks the bunny took so many of these vicious beatings that I started referring to him as Loki, and the name kind of stuck. Eventually he did get a cuddle, so despite his rough start in life I think he’s going to be fine. At least, I hope he is. Otherwise, that’s just one more thing to feel guilty about! Ain’t life grand?

The day my dad had a heart attack

It’s a generally accepted wisdom, in Australia at least, that men are terrible at looking after themselves. I’m not talking about cooking and cleaning (despite what the advertising industry seems to think), but health. The culture of silence, of “manning up” and “she’ll be right” is so damaging that mental illness* is the leading cause of death amongst men between the ages of 15 and 44.

This culture also has a strong impact on older men, with statistics** suggesting that men are less likely to visit a doctor until a much later stage than women.

My dad, in his 60s, fits the bill in some ways. While he’s not completely opposed to going to the doctor, and has a really good one he sees regularly, but he does tend to take a ‘wait and see’ approach with things. So when we got the call in the early hours of the morning to say that he was having chest pains and was waiting for an ambulance, I knew it wasn’t good.

I’ll skip ahead to ease any tension – it was a really minor heart attack, no lasting damage and he’s fine. It was likely a result of smoking in his youth. He’ll be on medication for the rest of his life, but there is no reason for it to happen again. We are all so grateful that it wasn’t worse – it was really the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

But we are also grateful that dad didn’t wait to get help.

The day after it happened, while he was still in hospital, dad told me that he hadn’t been sure about going to the hospital. He didn’t want to call an ambulance unnecessarily (a fear I have shared in the past) or waste anyone’s time. He wasn’t sure if he was making a big deal over nothing. But he woke mum and got her to make the call anyway, because he’d been told by a physician he met through Rotary how important is to get checked.

He also said to my mum that he was worried about us, not wanting to risk us losing him too early by ignoring something potentially serious.

He made the right call.

I wanted to share this story (with his permission) because I want other men out there to realise that sometimes to “man up” means accepting that you do need help. That your families are better off with you here.

Some people never get a chance to make that decision. Sometimes it’s too quick, or an illness is beyond their control. But if you have the choice to speak up, to get checked just in case – do it. Do it for yourself, and do it for the people who love you. Trust me, they will be grateful.

Munchkin and Grampy

Munchkin and her beloved Grampy

*Source: http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-suicide/facts-and-stats

**Source: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Men’s_health

Ow, my brain!

So the second week after I jumped back into the 52 Blogs challenge, I failed to post a blog for it. Way to go me! Sarcasm aside, I will hopefully be posting two blogs this weekend to catch up on 52 Blogs (again).

These past couple of weeks have been pretty hectic – not so much physically (I still spend a lot of free time sleeping) but mentally. There’s been big stuff happening at work and at home, and lots of thinking and decision making to be done for both.

It’s super satisfying to see things coming together, bit by slow, painful bit, but it can be surprisingly draining!

So here are a few things I am grateful for, in no particular order:

– A so-far healthy pregnancy – I know it could all change and there are never any guarantees, but I’m grateful to have come this far with no complications, and am determined to enjoy it while I can. Not everyone gets the chance to even be pregnant, so I consider myself very lucky!

– Buying the house that was right for us, and the amazing feeling of making it our own.

– A workplace that is amazingly flexible and understanding.

– The opportunity to be part of a start-up company, doing a job that I love and seeing the work start to pay off (albeit frustratingly slowly at times).

– A husband who rocks. He cooks amazing meals, he’s super patient with me, he helps out at my work when we need an IT guru, he picks up extra work outside the house, manages our finances, takes care of me and our animals when I’m out of action and is just generally amazing. I can’t express how grateful I am to have him on my team. Plus, he’s really good looking – that doesn’t hurt!

– Friends who are wonderful, supportive and understand when I’m a little off my game at the moment (I know I keep forgetting to contact people back and I’m really sorry! Thank you for your patience)

– Sleep, especially that lovely deep sleep I seem to get between 6.30-8.00 every morning. Let’s just ignore the fact that I’m actually supposed to get out of bed at 7.30…

– Unconditional love from my two puppies* and kitten**
*fully grown dogs
** also fully grown; love given on her terms and her terms alone

– A hair cut and blow dry that made me feel fabulous when I was feeling anxious about going to a party. Ps, the party rocked and my hair looked fantastic, so it was totally worth the indulgence!

What is making you feel great at the moment? What do you do when you need a pick me up?