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?

Tabletop Talk: Sherlock Cluedo

Back in my younger days, I enjoyed a bit of computer gaming. It was a good way to let off steam and have a bit of lighthearted fun. I was never serious, probably half a step above the ranking of “casual gamer”, but it was fun. I mostly played MMOs (massive multiplayer online, with people from all over the world playing) like World of Warcraft, Star Wars (which I still actually enjoy) and things like Age of Empires and Sims (of course. Who of our generation didn’t play Sims?)

But now that I’m old and boring, I’m finding that tabletop games are more my speed. It all started with Wil Wheaton’s show Tabletop on Geek & Sundry. Captain and I got very quickly hooked, introduced a few friends to it and soon we were all drooling over the games.

We bought Munchkin (so did most of our friends after we played it with them), and it snowballed from there. Munchkin was our gateway game, and also gave us the nickname we use for our daughter. Yep, we nicknamed our kid after our favourite game. That’s not sad at all!

The most recent addition to our tabletop/board game arsenal is the Sherlock edition of Cluedo, and we got to play it for the first time over the weekend.

Cluedo isn’t a new game, but C and I hadn’t ever played it before! How dreadful is that? It was definitely a learning experience.

We had another couple of game lovers around, and played games from 3pm on Saturday to 1am Sunday. It was so great, especially now that Munchkin (the toddler, not the game) sleeps through the night and will even let us sleep in a bit from time to time. We struck the lottery with this kid, I’m almost afraid to have another because I’m sure that they will be the complete opposite and destroy any delusions we had of being halfway decent parents.

Getting back to the point: Sherlock Cluedo!

Sherlock is the perfect companion to Cluedo, not just because of the crime-solving element of the show (and the books, the movies, etc), but because Cluedo really does involve a lot of deduction and strategic playing to get to the result. Plus, the box is really pretty and it makes use of the mobile phone-theme that was especially prevalent in the first season of Sherlock – they seem to have backed off from that a bit now, although I guess it could have become a bit tiresome if it was too heavily used.

We played three games of Cluedo, while I was preparing and cooking dinner. I still managed to win two of the games, so I was pretty happy with that!

While the others seemed to take more extensive notes, and had systems involving colour coding, I found it worked better when I kept my notes really simple. I only marked something down when I knew someone had it (whether by seeing it myself or deducing from other things I knew) or thought it needed further investigation. The one time I tried to come up with a more comprehensive system was the time I failed dismally.

One thing that was interesting was that this edition calls for the cards to be dealt out until they’re all gone, even if it leaves people with uneven numbers of cards. With four players, two of us had four cards and two had five. In the second and third round, we put the extra cards on the board so everyone had the same amount of information. Apparently that’s what was done in the original Cluedo, so I’m not sure why that changed for this edition, but we found doing it the old way worked better.

I’m really glad that I decided to get Sherlock Cluedo for C’s Christmas present, because we will definitely get plenty of use out of it!

What are your favourite tabletop/board games? Anyone have feedback on the Firefly game? That’s one that we’re seriously considering, because, y’know, Firefly!

Blog like a mo

The gauntlet has been laid down, the call has been put out, the challenge has been issued.

Blog like a Mofo is here.

As some kind of mummy blawger (for want of any kind of less naff descriptor), I guess I’m focusing more on the “mo” part of that acronym.

Actually, if you’re romantically involved with someone with a moustache, could you still be considered a mofo? Happily (or sadly), the Captain would probably qualify for either. It’s the eastern European blood. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

Where were we? Right. Blog like a Mofo!

The pertinent information can be found here: http://bloglikeamofo.com/how-do-i-blog-like-a-mofo/

As a “mummy blogger”, I’m pretty sure I’m morally required to post a list of new year’s resolutions at this point in the year. But I don’t do resolutions, because I think they’re stupid and pointless. If you want to make changes in your life, why wait for a specific day to start? If you don’t want to make changes in your life, but feel you should anyway, then why? The whole thing seems at best a waste of time, and at worst a highly pressured and guilt-laden situation with a high rate of failure followed by months of self-flagellation. Who needs that!

But. I have to admit that after years of staunch new year’s resolution avoidance, I almost fell into it this year. Working full time hours over Christmas, the only way to keep myself going was chocolate. Seriously, I tried lots of things, but chocolate was the one thing that consistently worked.

After weeks of overconsumption of chocolate (and coffee, and soft drink, just in case they decided to help), I was feeling pretty crappy. I was bloated and breaking out and just feeling very weighed down from not eating very well.

And there was the internet, with all these super helpful hints and tips. All the pictures, all the ads, everything telling me about how I should be feeling guilty (l’m right there with you, societal pressure!) and doing something about it.

I actually seriously considered giving up refined sugar altogether in January. Sugar-free January has a nice ring to it, and I could blog about my experience – the inevitable withdrawals, the lost weight and centimetres, how much better I feel afterwards, the same old crap.

But Christmas came and went, in spectacular style this time, work calmed down and suddenly I found I just wasn’t craving chocolate, caffeine and sugar any more. And slowly, I started to think about what giving up all refined sugar would really mean. Was it about eating healthier, or was it about restricting? Was it going to help my overall health, or was it going to make me a paranoid, stressed out person reading every label on every morsel of food to figure out if I can have it or not? Was this just a slide back into the control and eating issues of my past?

Yeah. That’s exactly what it was.

So now I’m eating a bit better, preparing my meals and snacks better to help keep my blood sugar stable (it gets low, not high – I like to do things differently) so that I don’t need to reach for sugar to avoid a mega-crash, and I’m drinking a bit less coffee, because I feel a bit ill when I have too much. Oh, and water! I’m pretty sure I’ve been dehydrated for a month now, so I’m upping my water intake a lot.

It doesn’t make for a very interesting blog, but it does make for an overall balanced life, and that’s fine by me.

Oh sh…oot

So I’ve already bitched and moaned about my shoulder. It’s getting better, I have more movement and way less pain! Yay! Considering my doctor was hoping that the injection (the incredible, magic, injection. I love steroids.) might get me through the weekend, about three weeks of vastly reduced pain has been amazing. It is starting to come back now, mostly just aching but getting quite constant again – I’m not sure if it’s the injection wearing off, or the fact that I have maybe been overdoing things a little. I’d act more guilty, but honestly, working in retail at Christmas time and having a one year old, it’s pretty hard not to! If anything, I’m proud of myself for taking it as easy as I have.

But anyway, the pain is slowly coming back, and now the Captain has injured his knee! Luckily it doesn’t seem to be serious, but he’s supposed to stay off it for three days, which, again – one year old. His timing is impeccable. We’re so in sync, it’s totally romantic. Or something.

Tonight we were both in pain, so we ended up ordering pizza and letting Munchkin eat junk and watch Big Bang Theory with us. Our application for Parents of the Year will be in the mail.

The next few days should be fun!

The splodgy cat

When I was a little kid, plaster painting was THE thing in kids entertainment. Nowadays it seems it’s all ball pits and bouncy castles*, but back then sitting around painting pre-made plaster moulds was big news. I remember doing plaster painting at the shops in the school holidays, at birthday parties (including one of my own) and even at parks and other kid-friendly venues.

One of the first (maybe even the very first) plaster ornaments I painted was a cat. When I was a kid, I loved cats. I blame it on reading too many Enid Blyton stories and not actually having a cat. I painted that thing with a technique that could be best described as “splodging”, with a variety of dark colours – red, green, pink, probably some varieties of blue, and had it glittered (you always said yes to glitter!)

I’m not sure what the thought process behind that was, but I do remember an almost instant sense of regret. Why, why, why did I choose to be “artistic”, instead of painting my cat black with green eyes, like pretty much all the cats in those Enid Blyton books**? (Always with the bright green eyes! There are other colours, Enid)

The problem with all of those plaster painting events was the question of what to do with your creations afterwards. In my case, that splodgy cat lived up in the top of my wardrobe. Over time, the cat became more than a failed craft project. It became a symbol, a silent reminder of my own shortcomings.

But I left it there, because throwing it away would be admitting defeat, or something that made equally little sense. It sat there, all splodgy and glittery, judging me. Eventually it got a little banged up and lost an ear, which only made things worse. I mean, sure, I hated that thing, but it was my duty, nay, my obligation to look after it, and here I was, failing yet again.

In hindsight, it’s a wonder I wasn’t diagnosed with any kind of mental illness earlier. Are all 5-7 year olds (I really can’t remember how old I was) this hard on themselves?

Somewhere along the way I actually did paint a black cat with green eyes, and it was completely boring in both process and result. What a let-down from something I had anticipated as being the potential pinnacle of my plaster painting pursuit.

I eventually did get rid of the splodgy cat, and all my other painted plaster disasters. But I still remember what that first cat looked like, and now that I think about it… it was actually pretty cute.

splodgy cat drawing

Why don’t you love me?

*I do occasionally see plaster painting stations during the school holidays, and yes, I am tempted to join in.

**I now have a black and white cat with green eyes, and I have to say that I feel Ms Blyton overstated the benefits a tad. She’s not particularly friendly or helpful, and I have yet to be able to do even one simple piece of magic.

Keeping the lights on

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen a lot of bitching and moaning recently. If you’ve unfollowed me because of that, I totally understand (but you’re still a pretty shit person, so y’know, there’s that).

Basically, my shoulder is frozen – as in stuck. Fortunately, it’s not completely frozen at the moment, I have some small amount of movement in my arm and hand. Unfortunately, that means pain. So, so much pain. I’d estimate that I’m in pain approximately 90% of the time, ranging from dull aching and throbbing right through to excruciating pain that makes me scream and ugly cry.

On the plus side, a frozen shoulder is likely to fix itself. On the down side, we have no way of knowing when that will happen. It could be weeks, months… possibly over a year. But it will fix itself! It is not deadly, it is not degenerative, and it will get better, and for that I am grateful.

I am also grateful for the people around me. My parents and in-laws are a massive support with Munchkin, happy to take care of her whenever they can. My sister-in-law dropped off a big bag of button-up shirts since they’re the only kind I can get on over my arm while I can’t move it. Tomorrow, my best friend and her husband will drive up to our house with a dress for me to borrow for a wedding tomorrow afternoon, because there’s no way for me to get into the one I was going to wear. I have a fantastic doctor, and today he  stuck a needle in my shoulder, which has dramatically reduced my level of pain (I used to hate needles, but after today I think I might change my tune). My workmates and manager and even heaps of customers have been helping me so much and swapping shifts to make it easier for me to work despite the pain. Today my amazing mum took me shopping and bought me a bra to go under the dress tomorrow and two pairs of slip-on shoes, to make it easier for me to dress myself.

But the biggest kudos has to go to the Captain and Munchkin, who have both taken this in their stride so incredibly well. Cap works full time and then cooks (I can’t chop, grate, peel or even open a fricking can), cleans (I can do some things one handed, but before the doctor’s visit this morning it was excruciating even using my right hand to do anything), takes care of Munchkin and the beasties when I can’t and listens to me moan and cry – all on not nearly enough sleep because I’ve had some really bad nights.

Munchkin – she is not quite 15 months old, and even though I know it’s so hard on her that all of a sudden I can’t pick her up or carry her the way I used to, she has been so great. She’s getting really good at not grabbing or touching my left arm, and helping me with cleaning, tidying and even nappy changes, which she’s really not a fan of.

So right now, our family is in “keeping the lights on” mode. We’re doing as much as we can to keep things running, but we won’t sweat the small stuff. We’ll work together and deal with every day as it comes, because that’s really all we can do. We’ll continue to work as a team to make this work, regardless of how long it lasts.

So that’s where we’re at, just keeping the lights on.

Losing my profession

People say a lot of things about parenting. All those cliches – They grow up so fast, one day you won’t believe she was so small, you think you’re tired now, just wait! etc.

Prior to having Munchkin, I pretty much believed that all of those things, but I had no concept of how true they were. It’s kind of a “you had to be there” joke, but the only reason you’re laughing is because you’re so sleep deprived that it’s either that or weeping.

One of those things that I believed but didn’t really understand was “everything changes when you become a parent, especially you”. I mean, I figured my priorities would change, but I’d been a pretty major homebody for a few years anyway, very family-focused and not really into partying it up on a regular basis. So I kind of believed, but also didn’t believe, that I would change.

But then this amazing little creature arrived and everything changed. I changed.

Prior to having Munchkin, I could be described as driven. At 16 I decided that I wanted to buy a house when I was 21, and I did (with my boyfriend of six months, who is now my husband. Nothing like diving in head first to test out a new relationship!). I went to uni, studied a profession that I wasn’t particularly passionate about, but knew that I could be relatively successful in. I got my first job in the industry before graduating, and worked ridiculous hours to fit in full time work, uni and a production (thankfully a small one, and honestly rehearsals for that were the bright spot of my very long days) for a few months.

For several years I worked my way up slowly, working, networking, doing all the things that were expected of me. I was proud of where I was, because by most accounts I could be considered A Success, and that was what I had been driven to achieve all this time.

But I really wasn’t happy. I figured that the reason for that could only be because I wasn’t doing well enough. I slogged away, convinced that if I could just work harder, longer hours, earn more, get a promotion, I would achieve that thing called Happiness.

Before Munchkin arrived, I was certain that I would start working from home after about 3 months, caring for her and meeting all her needs at the same time of course, because that is a completely realistic standard to hold myself to.

Instead, about a year after having her (in fact, the week of her first birthday), I started a new career – in retail. I call it a career instead of a job, because honestly, I love it so much that I’m happy to stay for a good long time. Hell, considering I stayed in a career I didn’t love for 6 years, they should be able to expect at least a decade out of me!

But retail isn’t what most people would see as a career, or at least not the kind that one would aspire to have. To be honest, I’ve struggled with the idea that I am no longer someone who would be viewed as A Success. It’s strange to realise how much I built my self worth around what I thought that others thought, and it’s something I’m struggling with.

It’s not like I was doing anything particularly important prior to this, I wasn’t changing the world, saving lives, righting injustices, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. I did wear tights sometimes, though…

Tight tights!

I’m still not doing any of that stuff now, although I suppose I probably could wear tights. But I’m a lot happier while not doing anything of particular importance, and that’s got to be worth something, right?

Plus, I’m writing more now, even though I have less time. That is definitely a plus (for me, maybe not for you. Suckers.)

I have no real resolution to this post, it’s really just a mindless ramble. So to thank you for wasting your time with me, here’s a winking dog:

IMG_2493

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

Let’s talk

There has been a lot of talk about mental illness and the resources available over the past couple of days. The reason for this subject being at the forefront of people’s minds is devastating, just as it is devastating when anyone loses their battle with an illness.

But I think it’s important, now that we are all thinking and talking about mental health that we open up as many important conversations as we can.

For people who are lucky enough not to have experienced a mental illness, now is the time to ask questions, to listen and to read, read, read and learn as much as possible about the complexities of having and treating mental illness.

There are a couple of reasons to be educated on the subject. One, even though you have not been directly affected, someone in your life has been, or will be. As the friend, partner or family member of someone fighting a mental illness, educating yourself about the issues will allow you to be the best support possible to them.

The second reason to educate yourself right now, is that maybe one day you will be directly affected, and in my limited experience the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to recognise what’s happening and grab hold of the weapons you need to start fighting sooner.

I have had a few major depressive episodes throughout my life, but since supporting my husband through a breakdown a couple of years ago I understood not just how to get help, but how important that help is.

That knowledge meant that when I started to really struggle and feel like I was going off the rails, I forced myself to reach out and get help instead of trying to battle on my own as I had done in the past.

For people who have been directly affected by mental illness, this is a great time for talking. Talk as much as you feel comfortable about your experiences, your care, your needs. Talk to friends, write it down, share your story as much or as little as you like, and know that you are helping to keep the conversation going.

One of the awful things about mental illness is how it isolates. It will tell you that you are alone, that no one cares, or should care. It will make you feel unworthy of every good thing in your life and tell you that you bring nothing to the world.

None of that is true, the outpouring of grief at Robin Williams’ death is proof of that, but it feels true when you’re there.

Let’s fight those lies with truths – true stories, open conversations, education and removing the stigma of mental illness.

Let’s shine a light on the darkness and hopefully help someone else in the fight of their life.