Thursday, 24 February 2011

You can judge a mother by the state of her knees

My knees. I never used to give my knees a second thought. After some time of motherhood, I realized the development of some funny dry-ish patches....which then over time became rough perma-patches...which then over more time became majorly calloused, thickened caps. After becoming a mother, my knee modeling career was over (ahem, note - before it even started). My attempts at various formulas applied to my knees nightly have also been fruitless - hand cream, body cream, breastfeeding lanolin cream, vasoline, lip salve, you name it, has been applied to my knees. They are still in a quite unglamorous state!

The squatting, crawling, floor sitting, floor kneeling, general knee-bearing activities of being a mum are surely the cause of my knee issues in the last three years. And the more down and dirty mum-ing I did, the worse they got. There is a new mathematical definition that can be born from this association, The Mum's Knee Constant: the height and breadth of the calloused knee is directly proportional to the floor-dwelling mum-ing which occurs; the floor dwelling mum-ing factor, also being directly proportional and positively associated with the quality of floor dwelling time of child's play enhancement, but which also need factor in age and number of children. By this mathematical science, both the quality of mum-ing and age of children of said mum can be determined by the state of the knees in question. FACT.

I also believe there to be a mathematical constant associating back pain and pregnancy/motherhood; but this is a complex formula beyond me, as effort towards abdominal strength, pregnancy number, job type, number of siblings, and stupidity in carrying out inappropriate heavy tasks all play a role. There are actually a number of positively associated physical features that could be utilized to identify a mum, if required: dry cracked and split thumb tips, bleeding knuckles, dog poo shoe bottoms, bicycle pedal impacted bleeding bruised shins, unshaven legs, and facial nudity, to name a few. Although some mums seem to defy this last signature mumhood feature, and actually wear makeup (The whole lot! Mascara, lipstick, blush, foundation! Unbelieveable!) but they are a rare species, and must have a live-in nanny, or a partner that doesn't have to leave for work until 9 am....or they lock their kids in a dark muted box for 20 minutes a day. (!)

As I have been ranking high on the 'stupidity in carrying out inappropriate heavy tasks' scale, I have ended up at the physiotherapists to acquire my *ultra-glam* substitute abdominal muscles - a Maternity Belt. This contraption can now serve to replace my now three-baby-holding-nonexistent-abs, and hopefully cure my back issues. If only there were a similar device for my knees? This thing has three super thick super strong elastic components that stretch in a building scale up the lower half of my belly, secured with industrial velcro, all attached to a mega thick elastic panel up the back. BEAUTIFUL. Happily it can't really be seen beneath my clothes, aside from forcing the back of my trousers down plumber-style, nevermind, but it does create a very torpedo style bump. My bump was already pretty torpedo to begin with (more maths: the torpedo-ness of a baby bump is inversely proportional to the distance between a mum's bottom rib bone, and hip bone), and by calculative nature my rib-hip distance of only 12cm leaves only one direction for a baby to go - FORWARDS. So watch out when I approach, my belly button might have your eye out.

It is funny for me to think of just a few weeks back, describing myself as an oiled voluptuous goddess - how quickly I have become a calloused, back-device wearing, unshaven, knuckle bleeding ogre. Oh, and my skin has gone to shit, also. Add that to your visual, some nice patches of random unexpected acne. AND I have had to get antibiotics, even, for a crazy cyst on MY FACE!!!! AAAAAAACK!!!! How random? How unfortunate? How awful!? So actually I have had to become a mum who wears makeup, against my will, really, but it is to counteract the horror of how I might look without, until the antibiotics can cure me. I have been wearing mascara and actual face makeup, which I NEVER do, to work. And looked pretty good, actually, if I do say so myself....if only they knew what lurked beneath! HA!

Don't worry, I haven't had to use the dark muted box for the kids to do so - yet. I'm just a quick worker.

In the pregnancy books it talks about how women 'glow' and all that, but how some 'draw the short straw' and get terrible skin and horrible hair etc. Late pregnancy this time seems to have served me up a short straw - which seems unfair as my last two babies did not make me suffer like this at all!! I do see why the pregnancy books all have sections on how to 'look good in pregnancy', and why all those makeover shows feature mums who have 'let themselves go'. The physical toll of all this mumhood is pretty hard core. I mean, just look at the maths.

Friday, 18 February 2011


I have lived in England for about 5 years now, having come from Canada; leaving all of my family and friends behind. I feel like my 'real life' began here though, as an adult - I started married life while I was here, I am working and have a good career here, and I have had both [soon three!] of my kids here. So I do feel established, and I do feel this is my home. The part that has been missing, and it is a big part, is that I have had no family here. I hear about my friends and how their mums watch their kids once a week, or babysit now and again, and are at all the kids' birthday parties...the type of normal family stuff that I am sure isn't taken for granted, but is certainly taken as a given.

What I would give to have someone around like that for support....every day...once a week...even once a month!

My husband's parents live overseas, as they decided to retire into beachside life. My mum and dad and sister are all overseas - parents in Canada, my sister and her family have been in NY. She and I have had very similar adult 'real life' experiences, in that our kids have been born VERY close - the first set only 3 weeks apart, and the second set only 3 months apart. We had always imagined it would be so cool to have the kids know each other, and be friends (as cousins are ALWAYS forced to be friends while growing up, aren't they??!!), but the older boys have only met each other once (when they were mere weeks old) and the little ones have not met at all! Unless Skype counts? They have had a handful of fleeting glances of each other while on Skype video, but a wiggling toddler in your lap looking at a blurry video screen is not quite the magic stuff relationships are made of.

Now I am having another baby, I remember my sister saying "That's great! We will have the big family I have always wanted!" (me thinking: yeah, dude, our big family that I'll have all the extra work of ;)!). She had to decide, though, after New York, where would they move to? Her husband was doing a post doc, and then was looking for a Professorship - which could have been anywhere. There was talk of many places including west coast USA, talk of Canada, talk of Australia aka The Moon, talk of England....wait... WHAT!!?? Really? REALLY??!! Not kidding. One of the options, and as it turned out it seems the 3 main options were Canada, Australia, and England. As in, less than a 2 hour drive from me, in England. HA HA no way!!!

When they told me the options were here with us in England, or going to The Moon (where surely we would realistically never see or hear from them know what I mean though....) obviously my advisement was HERE!

It wasn't up to me though. It was heartbreaking to think that factors such as the job, the institution, job perks, career advancement, and lifestyle for their family might have them decide to go to The Moon. Ugh. So during a few months of edge-of-your-seat waiting on interviews, the right timing of interviews, flying here and there, and considering job packages, waiting for job offers to come in (at the right time)... it made for one anxious lady. Make that two - I am sure my sister felt what I did 100 times over. Then her husband came here for another interview, and stayed at our place a for a few days. We took him around to Wimpole Hall and the Hall Farm with the kids...the weather was great (thank goodness), we walked around the village, drove about... to show him how life in England with kids could be like. I really tried to sell the place, as you might imagine! Good thing it sold itself, anyway - I really do think it is a nice place to bring up kids, village or town, with good resources like the Children's Centres and whatnot, parks, interesting history, and everything is just so CLOSE! You can have quiet village life and a safe place to be with your kids, but still be only 10 minutes from the next big-ish city, or an hour from London. Compared to Canada, where living in the boonies in some village really does mean you are living in the boonies, with no escape route, it's GREAT here.

They chose England.

So, somehow, everything has all come together. He got the job here. He WANTED the job here. He liked the lifestyle here. Plus the fact that it IS important to have family around, and have the kids be a part of an extended family...truthfully, part of an extended family I thought my kids would never have - and I am sure my sister thought the same. I mean, what are the chances that both of us would end up settling in another country, out of anywhere, and both end up in the same country - only a short drive apart?


Their stuff had been shipped a few weeks ago, and their place has been sorted out. The cats got shipped last week and are settling in. My sister and the kids are now preparing for their flight, their ONE WAY flight, which leaves tonight. Can you believe it?!

And this begins the next chapter of our 'real life'. A real life PLUS family. This will change our kids lives dramatically - although they don't know it yet. But the difference in relationship ties comparing family available thousands of miles away, or family 50 miles away, is HUGE.

So, sister, welcome to England. I am really pleased to have you. Really pleased. Thank you to the powers that be. I hope the powers that be also give her a break on that flight tonight; tonnes of luggage, two car seats and 2 toddlers, alone on the 7 hour flight. It will be worth it though. Welcome to a new start. We'll be here for you.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

To wee or not to my pants

Is this what he’s thinking?

Actually, I am quite sure not. But I am so frustrated with the months that have gone by with this ‘regression’, at times (and I do feel guilty about this) I have thought he must be ‘deciding’ to do this. I really know he’s not though. It just feels like he is doing all this to make me crazy, but that is just because I have gone crazy because of it – it must be SOMEBODY’s fault. So when I am feeling worn out and I go to pick up my older son from nursery, and I am greeted with 5 little sacks full of clothes in his bag, I do feel angry. At him. My lovely, clever, charming, ever-so-little 3 year old boy. Then the guilt.

Which is terrible, to be angry with him. And totally wrong. And most of the time he would never know this at all, as most of the time I can control how frustrated I feel. I AM SO FRUSTRATED though! I have lost my cool a handful of occasions, I will admit, and end up asking him in an exasperated voice “Why did you wee in your pants!!!!!” “What do you need to stop weeing in your pants!” “ STOP WEEING IN YOUR PANTS!!!!” “Are you trying to make mummy crazy???!!!”. When I am of sound mind and situation I know these so-called questions are completely counter-productive, wrong to say, and likely make the situation worse. He just answers: “because I did.” (Fair enough, one point for him). Gladly, it is very seldom that happens, when I cannot keep my ‘I don’t care, no big deal’ façade. It takes a lot of effort to keep the façade up, when faced daily, for months, with the seemingly purposeful defiance in the form of dampened underwear.

Is he doing it on purpose? Does he really not notice anymore what it feels like to need to go? How did things change from being dry for almost a year, to a complete state of not caring at all anymore if he’s wet or not? Is it because he doesn’t care? Or because he really can’t tell anymore? I can ask ‘What happened?’ and ‘Why?’ til I am blue in the face, but I think we all know the answers to that – a child psychologist would need extra paper in their notebook to list all of the classic disruptions in his life this year. So classic and obvious I need not state them again. Fine, maybe that’s why. What can I DO about it then?

My company actually has this phone number for us to call, an Employee Assistance Program, that you use for counseling on stress, finances, family, whatever…and in the 4 years I have worked there I have never had the notion to call. I thought, though, perhaps they have some sort of child/family counselor I can ask for some useful advice on what I should do. Clearly my range of tactics was not really working. Positive reinforcement (Oooooh a wee and dry pants! Let’s put a stamp on your chart!!!). Negative consequences (I’ll have to take Thomas away tonight because you did wee in your pants all day…). Television bribery (if your pants are dry all day, you can watch a show on TV as a treat!). Food (a chocolate treat!). Etc. (you’ll have to wear a diaper if your pants keep getting wet!). All of which, when first implemented, worked for maybe a day or two. Then he just stopped caring again….didn’t mind being in a pull up after 3 pairs of underwear. Wasn’t bothered about getting a stamp or not.

So this lady calls me back from my counseling resource, a commissioned health visitor, and she has been booked for a 1 hour call with me. I was so hopeful at the start of the call. I thought, in my heart, ‘AHA! This lady will have the answers for me!’. Better answers than all of the message boards and internet sites and friends and any resource I have found so far – answers that solve where others have failed! This lady was a professional. This was IT.

After my one hour call, full of discussions of how it is very normal at his age, how it makes sense with his life right now, how I shouldn’t worry…it boiled down to one physiologically related, actual tip: Take Him For A Wee Half An Hour After He Drinks. Hmmmm. Thanks lady. Nearer the end of the call, I could tell she was winding down and making her final ‘reassuring’ comments, I had this overwhelming feeling of disappointment, and I couldn’t even speak anymore – the situation where if I opened my mouth, I might surely blubber and sniffle with my culminated frustration. There were to be no answers. There IS no solution. Her solution (another ‘tip’) was this: Be Patient. She is right I guess, about it all. But dammit HOW patient? Before I had kids, and I was pregnant with my first, people would always say “Being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever have!” ha ha and I would be like 'yes, ha ha ok, we’ll see…I’ll be fine…'. It’s not the being a parent that is so hard. It’s being patient, being able to be calm and patient, forever. There is no release from needing to be patient. There is a constant requirement to be in control all the time. When faced with constant MADDENING madness from your little treasures of children. Man, THAT’S hard. To be a good parent, it seems, that is just about what you need to problem solve any childhood issues. Ok. So I’ll be patient a bit longer, a lot longer. Forever.

I am thankful for what a joy he is, in every other way. It is difficult I think as a parent not to get obsessed over these little ‘problems’, which for every parent and every child there is always something – toilet training, speech development, walking, tantrums, even colic – all that seem too go on and on and on, designed to stress parents. Make us crazy. Make us doubt ourselves. Test our patience. In the grand scheme of things the issues go on and on and on, or seem to, because we care so much – but really, last such a short while. I keep reading about other exasperated parents with toilet training issues saying ‘I know he’ll be dry and going to the toilet when he’s 16….so I try not to worry…but…’ and it IS true. Mine will be going to the toilet once he is 16 as well. Maybe even 15. 14? How patient do I need to be again? Once mine is 16 there will be some other exasperating issue to make me crazy then, also. Crazy because the stakes are high. Because I care so much. I love my little guy, both of my little guys. So crazy I will be, forever.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Dreadful eating Part 2

During one's pregnancy, one is supposed to be eating the best they've ever eaten. The most healthy. The most nutritionally balanced eating. Can I get 1/2 a point?

If I were to score myself on that criteria, I might squeeze my 1/2 point through to the judges.

My diet of 'whatever random stuff is around' continues. It isn't not healthy, exactly, just a bit...random. With a LOT of chocolate thrown in somehow also. Well, not somehow - my little trip to the Hotel Chocolate factory store that I had discovered was very nearby my house might have something to do with that. That fateful day a few days after Christmas I went there and got loads of 30%- and 50%-off Christmas stock...I am still eating 'Tiddly Reindeer' as we speak. I generally have a habit of eating any junk in the house just to 'get rid of it', as I rarely have any junky stuff around - but then when it 'somehow' does arrive in the cupboard, I am forced to 'get rid of it' again! A bit of bent logic, admittedly. I'll be 'getting rid of' this giant bag of fancy Christmas chocolates for the next 2 months, I reckon. *Shame*.

I don't think I have had any cravings either, per se. I did once just want to eat a giant plate of broccoli, covered with melted process cheese. And that scores pretty highly on the health scale of things. With my other pregnancies I had wanted pineapple like crazy, and had one incident in a pub of asking to order both a tuna sandwich and a big plate of nachos together. No eating of chalk or glue or any of that nonsense. Although thinking of it that might seem more appealing that some odd things I have been eating...

Tonight I had tortellinis, chopped up sugar snap peas, and leftover Christmas turkey chunks, all boiled in the same pot - then added pesto. Weird, but not too bad.

My dinnertime concoctions have become increasingly creative. My Supa Neggs have been an emergency lunchtime staple for some years now (reminder: boiling soup with poured in eggy bits swirly cooked around), but I have expanded the Supa repertoire. The Supa Dinner Collection now includes Supa Cabbage, Supa, Kale, Supa Bits of Old Turkey from Christmas with Bits of Raw Zucchini, Supa Tuna, and Supa Veggie Sausages among other delights. It is actually quite a logical cooking technique; 1 can of brothy soup (chicken noodle, scotch broth, minestrone, etc), one OXO cube, 1/2 litre additional boiling water, and then simply insert random vegetable material and protein chunks that happen to be about. A few drops of Tabasco and I'm set for a tasty evening feast! The one version that did unfortunately backfire was with the addition of cous cous, as I had underestimated the absorptive qualities of those little devils dramatically. Even after preparing the cous cous as I normally would (by prepare I mean packing up what was left of the kids dinner into a pot to be added to my soup later), those tiny pasta-y sponge-balls soaked up most of the liquid portion of my soup altogether, and it ended up more like a bitty vegetable bits pasta pate. You know what? I had it anyway.... did I mention my standards have become less than gourmet lately?

That reminds me of an attempt I had made a few years ago to make minestrone. My husband and I had got to the point of a lovely broth with all the right vegetable bits etc in it, and all it needed was the little noodles. I have never considered myself much of a chef, but back then when I was a youthful cooking-naive lass, I was not enlightened to even some pretty simple basics that I do know now. Simple basics like: cook the noodles before you add them to a painstakingly created soup. Erm. So I had my big bag of teeny tiny alphabet noodles, and poured in about 1/4 of the bag. As they all disappeared to the bottom of my vast pot of soup I thought 'Hey, there's barely ANY in there, they've all gone....I'll add some more then...' so I added another 1/4 of the bag. Well those of course disappeared also. 'Hmmm, that won't do, I'll add some more...' and ended up deciding to add in the entire bag. Tick tock tick tock 10 minutes later. Do you know, dear scientists, what makes a teeny tiny rock hard alphabet noodle bigger and nice and soft to eat? Soaking up the water it's in, naturally. So as it happened I helplessly watched as our soup became consumed by those devilish noodles. The lovely minestrone, all gone. What was left we named Minestragne [like a lasagne], and there was lots of it. LOTS. For the next few months we had Minestragne stuffed in zucchini, Minestragne and eggplant cheesy bake, Minestragne any way you like it. I am not sure my husband nowadays would humour a Minestragne incident with edible consumption; now, more like inedible bin-fodder. His palate has since developed and his quest for economy is not as great as mine is. Me? I'd be eating Minestragne breakfast lunch and dinner, thank you. A girl's got to get by. Delicious!

I think the strangest meals are derived from the kids leftovers, that I revamp and augment into my dinner later on. I was on a Supa streak last week, and in keeping I thought it a possibly edible idea to take the container of kids leftover dinner bits (cubes of potato, some chinese noodles that were once my dinner the night before, steamed kale, and yellow peppers), and add a can of Cream of Tomato soup. How did it look? Dreadful. Sad. Strange. How did it taste? Ummmmm...not bad...? It was alright, really. Sort of. Will I do that again? No.

So that's my 1/2 a point. What I am eating IS balanced - there are proteins, veggies, and starches involved. I do take my vitamins every day as I should, even the omega 3 ones where there is no proof they have any real benefit at all. I lose points on the junk consumption front - the chocolate mountain issue I have got myself into, and my weakness for Fruit Gums - and I lose points on eating 'the best' possible food. By any judgement no one would say that, for certain, as it often involves an OXO cube laden with MSG. That's why they make vitamins anyway, right? Everything I need, right there in that little pill I take every day - the rest is just bulk.

So, Judges: Your scores, please!