10 November 2012

There but for the grace of God go I

It’s a lesson of life that bad stuff can happen even when you’re doing the right thing.

Today my two kids and I were crossing the road when the ‘green man’ buzzed, but a driver in a car saw the red light and I don’t know what she was thinking, or not thinking, but she decided to try and drive round the corner. Just as my 6-year-old skipped in front of her car. Let me say now that Ruby is fine, she wasn’t hit. But it could so easily have been a different story I’m typing tonight. As it is, the story that unfolded this afternoon has been on re-play through my head ever since (must be clocking up 9 hours by now!).

I did one thing wrong today – one thing – I let go of my kid’s hand and let her run ahead of me as we crossed the road. It’s a minor thing and on any given day hundreds of people do it. But in our family, the rules are you hold hands crossing the road, and you don’t run on the road. In the world of traffic, you don’t go when the lights in front of you are red and pedestrians are on the crossing. But today I let Ruby run ahead, without holding my hand (I had Leah on my hip and she’s no longer a one-handed hold!) and today a young chit of a thing had a blank moment and drove when she wasn’t supposed to.

All I saw was a car headed directly toward the skinny, skipping body of my happy little 6-year-old. I screamed. She turned. She saw the car, and she ran. But she was running to the right and the car was turning right and it must have seemed for all the world like the car was chasing her. It sure as hell felt like it to me, the more she moved out of the way, the more that car gained on her. I’m not sure if she screamed or not, but I’m sure someone else did, or maybe it was me hearing myself; they do say that happens. I reached my arm out as if to stop the car, grab my kid, something. Have to say it wasn’t very effective. I think other people were yelling, but I can’t be sure. It’s true, in times like this, your vision narrows and everything else becomes unreal, or a blur. The car stopped and the driver, a young skinny dark-haired woman with horror that probably equaled mine on her face half-fell out of the car. I remember turning to look at her as I was racing to Ruby; she was saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’. Ruby was standing stock still on the side of the road and just let me hug her. Thankfully someone had decided that corner was a good place to put a bench to sit on, so we all sat and hugged, and then the woman appeared – she had tears pouring down her face and just repeated, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ over and over again. Weirdly, I was calm. Ruby was calm. I even hugged the girl-woman and told her it was ok. It plainly wasn’t, but Ruby was ok and I felt for this girl too – I’ve also had a snap moment of inattention while driving and nearly hit a child with my car. It’s a ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ situation. For all of us.

Then all of a sudden, I wasn’t really sure – had I let Ruby run out when the green man wasn’t actually lit? Did I miss something? I started to ask the girl, and right then a man from across the road arrived and pointed at the girl and said “you were at fault, you were in the wrong”. Kind of whew for me. It seems bad enough that something awful had just about happened, let alone if it had been my lack of judgment that got my baby nearly killed. Even so.

Eventually there was nothing left to do but carry on to our own car. I kept saying to Ruby ‘are you ok?’; she just wasn’t reacting like I expected her to. Then as she got into her car seat, her face and body crumpled.  “I dropped my lollipop” she sobbed, and the gates were unleashed. A frightened little girl emerged from the calm and composed layers. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than a little one sobbing like their heart has broken and trying to comfort them when you know that nothing but time is going to work. And when you feel like sitting with your head in your hands and sobbing in exactly the same way.

Thanks to the support of friends who dropped and ran when I made the “something awful nearly just happened and I need some support” phone call, we made it through the rest of the afternoon, and ruby got a replacement lollipop. But I feel like my head’s been split all day – one half has been doing bathtime and getting dinner, the other half has the story on loop. Screaming at the car, reaching for my daughter, holding her while she cried, thanking the gods that she was ok ...

I’m going to bed now, but first, just for a bit, I’m going to sit on Ruby’s bed and watch her sleep. Because I can.

25 August 2012

It's bad ... so it can't be good!

For a few weeks now, we’ve had trouble with our 3-year-old having ‘bad dreams’. Sometimes even before she’s got to sleep, she’ll come out and say she’s had a bad dream (which I found a little hard to believe and I’ve put it down as excuses, excuses, anything to get out of bed and have some attention)
We’ve put up a dream catcher and explained that it catches the bad dreams and only good ones get through.

We’ve talked about if she has a bad dream and wakes up, she needs to say ‘whew, that’s over’ and turn over and think about nice things to dream about and go back to sleep.

We’ve given her cuddles in the middle of the night, 2am, 3am, 4am

We’ve had varying success with all of these.

Tonight, the familiar “but Mum, what about bad dreams?!” as I tucked her in. I started in with the same old line and asked her what good things she could dream about but I could tell it just wasn’t sinking in. So I had one of those mummy moments that you thank your lucky stars for later on …

I said “Leah, what’s a bad dream?”
The answer?
A quiet, scared little whimper “I don’t kn-o-o-o-w” from my baby.

No wonder she’s scared – who knows what a bad dream is? It’s got ‘bad’ in it, so it can’t be good. People on TV and in books have them and cry and have cuddles. Ruby talks about them. They must be scary things. And they apparently come in the night when it’s dark. I’d be scared too, knowing there are these things out there that come at night and make people cry. Bad dreams – urgh!!

I’m crossing my fingers that now I’ve explained they’re stories her brain makes up while she sleeps and that she can tell her brain what kind of story she’d like to see … perhaps we’ll all get a little more sleep and spend a little less time putting her to bed … again … and again … and again. However, I do realize she’s three – so I’m not putting too much faith in that being the end of the bedtime dramas, but you never know!

But it does go to show – never assume your three-year-old knows what they’re talking about … !

14 April 2012

Things I've learned ...

I’ve finally learned a few of the age-old truths of bringing up children, and thought I might share them with you.

1. The art of disguise
Take mince, peas and potato, dish them up on a plate and you will get cries of ‘yuk’ and ‘I don’t like it’ and ‘I’m not hungry’, and the inevitable battle to get your children to eat meat and vegetables will ensue. Wrap said meat and veggies in some pastry, mash the potato, stick it on top, call it a pie and you get ‘yummo!’ and ‘can I have another one’. God bless pies! (and God bless Sophie Gray, the Destitute Gourmet, who has recipes for brilliant things like this with basic [cheap] ingredients).

2. Give a kid a box …
We started buying bath toys before our kids were even old enough to realize a bath was a good place to play. We bought great boats, squeezy toys, stacking and pouring things … I dunno what else, but a great deal of time has been spent deciding what would be fun to have in the bath. Over the last few days, as I’ve watched the kids play in the bath, I’ve realized that I haven’t seen these toys for a long while. What I have seen are these: plastic cups (filched from the kitchen), a funnel (filched from the kitchen), straws (filched from the kitchen), several empty juice bottles (saved from death by recycling), a ping pong ball (where on earth did that come from?!), and a plastic jug (yes – the kitchen is looking emptier by the day) and the best and easiest toy? Facecloths.
They play amazing games with this stuff … they blow bubbles with the straws, pour endlessly from one bottle to another (actually, we really should get another funnel – that might stop some of the screaming … bathtime is ‘tired’ time, not our best ‘sharing’ time!), have tea parties, they’ve covered the cups with wet facecloths and learned how to make fart noises by lifting them up while the water sucks them down (entertained us all for days!). So – if you’re in the market for some bath toys … go to the kitchen shop.

3. Everyone has a competitive streak
As the day wears on, getting kids to do the necessary end-of-day activities can get more tricky. Eating dinner, bathtime, PJs on, toys away … it requires endless patience, judicious discipline, outright bribery and clever thinking. However, it appears that even the most tired child can be enlivened by the prospect of beating their sister at something! Everything can be a competition if you really try … can you put your PJs on first? Can you pick up more toys? Who can get into bed first? I know – I’m probably setting them up for a lifetime of sibling rivalry but I’m a strong believer in doing what works right now and fixing the rest later … and right now, sparring them off against each other works a treat!

4. If all else fails – bribery
Yeah, yeah, I know – it’s not the best parenting philosophy. But I challenge anyone with kids, too much to do, not enough sleep and a handy piece of chocolate/cake/ice cream/biscuit to not revert to it at least once!

5. All they want is you
This is the most important. It doesn’t matter what you do or how much money you’ve got to do it with, if your kids get to spend time with you while you do it, it’s gold. From hanging out washing, to cooking, to doing dishes, to mopping and vacuuming (have to admit, that one took me by surprise), to sitting on the couch reading (these days we’re each reading our own book) … our little rattlebags just want to do what we’re doing (they call it ‘helping’) and some of the nicest times we’ve spent together have been hanging up washing or parked up on the couch together reading books.

Hmm, it would appear I’ve only actually learned five lessons, but I guess one for each year of parenting isn’t too bad going … wonder what the next five will be?

13 March 2012

Does your husband pick up fairies in the carpark?

My husband came home from the shops today with a fairy. Remember the dandelion heads we used to blow and call fairies? My little’uns have decided that the tumble-weed thingies that blow along the beach, which look like these dandelion heads but are about 100 times bigger, are also fairies. So when their Dad saw one in the carpark at the shops, he stopped, picked it up, put it in the car and brought it home to present to two delighted girl-children.

The other day when I got home, the three of them (two daughters and one husband) were sitting on the couch watching ‘Ordinary Girl’. This is a very girly-child TV programme about teenage girls who are ‘ordinary’ until they get in the water, at which point they magically turn into mermaids. I asked a question about one of the girl/maids – I directed the question at my eldest, who is 5 and tries not to engage in conversation while watching TV, silly me, I forgot – and my husband launched into a synopsis of the story so far, complete with the last few episodes of drama, relationship tangles and opinions on all the above. I quietly looked at him, digested the entire scenario and informed him he’d just lost his man card.

He was never a particularly manly man; he’s not really interested in rugby, beer drinking, car racing or whatever other manly pursuits manly men pursue. In fact, he was worried in case my rather large bump turned out to be a boy because “what if he turns into a rugby-playing, beer-swilling teenage boy and we don’t have anything in common?” But over the last 5 years looking after our little ones full time, he has taken the pink pledge to heart and become au fait with the fairy-, princess- and mermaid-related passions of little girls.

I love him for it. I love that he’ll stop in a crowded carpark and not give a toss that someone might see him picking up some driftweed. I love that he understands a girl sometimes has to buy a skirt simply because it twirls high when you spin. I love that he gets that you’re not completely dressed until you have on your 55 hairclips. I love that, although he can’t contain a bundle of hair into the most basic of pony tails, he recognises that it’s essential to female well being to be happy with your hair and will take a brush and hair-tie to school and ask one of the other mothers to help.

So, while I have his man card safely tucked away, I haven’t discarded it. Because it takes a real man to pick up fairies in the carpark.

17 February 2012

File not found ...

Sleep deprivation is a powerful thing. I, without being a total showoff, am an obsessively organised person. I have to be … I’m a Mum to two kids and have a 40-hour-a-week job organising things. Not only is it in my nature, it’s in my job description.

So when I start being a complete ditz, the world can be a dangerous and chaotic place. And when I’ve had two weeks of very late nights and very busy days, followed by a week of very broken, interrupted and scant sleep, I become a complete ditz.

Let’s see … last weekend, I decided hubby and I should go to the movies – this was a big deal; we go to the movies about once a year. I had purchased a deal online that meant I could get movie tickets for $8 if I also bought them online. EIGHT dollars – crikey, that’s almost how little I used to pay when I first started going to the movies. So despite being perpetually broke, I decided that was worth it. So it came about that about midday Saturday I took to the phones, found us a babysitter and bought some tickets online.
Now, the first problem was that the only lovely friend I could find to watch our kids lives in West Auckland (and we live in quite-far-north-Auckland – about 30–40 minutes’ drive away). And she could take our kids if we went to the 1.40pm movie. Now the other problem was that at the time of purchase, it was midday. Not so bad, but we’d opted for the slow-start kind of Saturday morning and we had yet to get showered, dress the kids, feed the kids lunch, return the DVD to the shop and put petrol in the empty car. So we panicked … bought the tickets, had the showers, made sandwiches for the kids to eat in the car, zoomed to the video shop and took off down the highway, praying we’d make it to the petrol station on the way. I didn’t want to go to the local petrol station, I wanted to go to the one that was halfway there … get a bit of mileage under our wheels, so to speak. So we ended up at a petrol station we’d not been to before. When we went to leave we discovered that, instead of an exit to the right, back onto the highway from which we’d come, there was only an exit to the left. Into the wilds of suburbia, full of ‘no exit’ cul-de-sacs and curvy crescents. Being late for a movie, sleep deprived, stressed and … lost … is not a good mix. We remained lost for about 10 minutes until a random guess got us out onto a highway on the other side of suburbia. When I get a moment, I am going to write to that petrol station and tell them that a simple sign would be nice! Some direction along the lines of “How to get the heck out of here” would be good. Please.

So, we were on our way, finally. I concocted a great plan. I’m really good at fast plans. In fact, together, hubby and I are great at fast plans. And back-up plans as things change – which they do when you have two kids. You have to make plans up on the run. So that’s what we did. I said “I’m going to drop you off at the movie theatre, you go and pick up our tickets, while I go drop the kids off, then you see the first bit of the movie and I’ll text you when I get there and you come out with my ticket and let me in – okay?” Once I repeated my plan, he got the idea and reluctantly agreed. So, we had a plan. And then I missed the exit for the mall. Why the sign didn’t say “Mall” instead of “Henderson” I’m sure I don’t know. So then it was onto plan ‘c’. Which was actually plan ‘a’ back again in a slightly faster form. This one entailed pulling up at our friend’s house, turfing the kids out and burning rubber back up the highway to hopefully catch most of the movie. It mostly worked. We even found a park right outside the theatre! We quick-marched into the theater and gabbled “we’re really late, but can we still get into this movie – we bought tickets online”. The lady was really nice. But her words weren’t. They went something like this “You’re at the wrong cinema. These tickets are for the cinema in Massey.”

Sigh. We listened to the directions for Massey (supposedly about a 10-minute drive – if you know where you’re going … we didn’t). We listened to the alternatives (buying tickets at full price for this movie and hoping for a refund on the online tickets. Even in my ditzy hopeful state I figured a refund for being an idiot wasn’t likely and I sure as heck didn’t want to shell out full price for a movie I’d already bought at half price!). We decided to go for it. So we took off like our tails were on fire. And discovered that you can’t turn right out of the mall to get back on the highway (sound familiar?). You have to go left, drive to the roundabout and do a giant u-turn. So when we got to the roundabout and saw a sign for ‘Massey’ we figured to throw all caution to the wind and ‘go the back way’. To a mall we didn’t even know existed. While the map reading, prone-to-road-rage-and-stress-when-lost half of this relationship was driving. And the hard-to-stress-out, I’ll-be-calm-if-it-kills-me-but-not-particularly-good-at-giving-directions-to-the-driver half was reading the map. Yeah – I know – recipe for disaster wasn’t it! But we actually made it!
But – remember, this movie started at 1.40 … it was now 2.20. How long are movies these days anyway? On the way, I could actually physically feel the decline from ‘this is funny and we’ll miss a bit of the movie but who cares, we’ve got time away from the kids for the first time in months’ through to ‘this isn’t really funny, but it’s a bit of an adventure’ and off the edge into ‘I’ve wasted my precious pocket money and we’ve missed the movie and I’m such an idiot and I’m going to cry’. So when we got to the movie theatre, my shoulders were slumped, my sad face was on and I was quite prepared to cry on the ticket person. But I didn’t have to! The nice man told us we were not alone; that about ten people a day go to the wrong movie theatre! Oh – I forgot to tell you, the one I booked was at WestCity and the one I went to was WestGate. Or vice versa. I’m actually still a bit confused. But you can see how it happened, right? Anyway, he issued us tickets for the shoot-em-up American rubbish we’d been hoping to see and then promptly swapped them for the next movie about to show, which happened to be Sione’s wedding 2. So we saw a movie. We had ice creams (the ice creams were better than the movie, but by that time I’d moved back up to “who cares, it’s time away from the kids” so it was ok). And we had a story to tell.

Moving on to a bit later in the week … I had a dentist appointment after work. And after the dentist appointment I popped in to see my friend who had a baby last week. I had a lovely time. I helped out a bit. I held the baby. I gave some advice. I listened a bit. I talked a bit. Then I realized it was 7.30 and my own kids would be in bed by the time I got home, so I thought I better get on my way. I was halfway home when I realized … my hubby was supposed to be in a rehearsal at 7.30. In the city. It takes about half an hour to get to the city. Which meant that by the time I got home, he would be about … ooh … I dunno, quick calculation … AN HOUR AND A HALF LATE. Oh. My. God. Worse than the horror of realizing what I’d just done to his evening, and that of the band with whom he was rehearsing (or not, as the case may be) was the horror of realizing what I’d just done! Things DON’T just slip my mind. I don’t just forget stuff!! In my head, I have entire filing cabinets of useful things going on. I have wall planners lining the insides of my brain. I have entire issues of journals lined up and ready to publish. I have work meetings, appointments and deadlines stacked in neat piles. I have Ruby’s school schedule all mapped out. I have our social calendar on tap at a moment’s notice. And I know when his rehearsals are, when his nights out are and where I’m supposed to be. And I had stalled. I had got a ‘no files located’ message. I drove home with my mouth hanging open in shock. Me – human? Fallible? Surely not. Tired – yes, ok, I’ll go with tired.

It actually got worse. When he came home that night, at 11.30pm, I was still up. Funnily enough, I was writing the previous blog post about not getting any sleep. Go figure. We chatted (he’s very forgiving, my husband!), we talked about the coming week. I talked about going to see my friends with the new baby tomorrow night and taking them dinner. About the same time as he realized I thought I was having the car, I realized he needed the car. Tomorrow was Wednesday. Wednesday is Kindy day. Kindy is miles from nowhere and you need a car to get there. My mouth went back to hanging open in shock. Strike two – was I getting Alzheimer’s??? We went through plans a, b, c, d, and finally got to e – where I worked from home on Wednesday until he got home from kindy and then I took the car. Thank goodness I work with a truly enlightened team leader in a family- (and idiot-) friendly workplace.

Happy with the new plan, we got into bed. And then he said “Oh, by the way, happy Valentine’s Day” and I said “oh shit”

14 February 2012

Ahh, sleep ...

One of my wonderful friends has just had a baby, and she and her husband are now experiencing the rite of parenthood that is ‘going without sleep for days on end just when you need it most’. Ah, the joys. Their experiences, their texts “got 2 hours sleep last night”, “finally got to sleep at 5am”, and their tired but deeply besotted faces are bringing it all back to me. I have posted on this topic before, but as every parent knows, it’s one that is dear to our hearts and we all have fond memories of lying in bed all day and some of us have vague hopes of doing it again in some distant future.

Sleep has become an odd demon for me of late. I recently dropped my dose of antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication down by 50%. Yes, that was quite a drop and apparently not the way you’re supposed to do it. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it – I felt like vomiting for a whole week and instead of dropping off to sleep, every worry and anxiety that I had ever entertained came back to say hello in the dark of the night. Not pleasant … if you’re ever thinking of doing something silly like that, go see your doctor first. However, I digress. My point was going to be that, on my previous dose, these lovely drugs would make me sleepy. Quickly. In fact, I would take one, get ready for bed, lie down and … schlop … asleep. Magic. If I got woken up within the next two hours, I would feel intensely ill, which does make it hard to be nice to whichever little person has arrived at my bed, but that’s another story for another day. On my new half (lowest possible, yay for me, might I add!) dose, I don’t get any magic sleepiness. None. Zip. Hello, wide awakeness! It’s been over 2 years since I had to think about how to get to sleep and I’m having to work hard to remember to do things like relax, think happy thoughts, breathe steadily and from the belly … etc.

So on Sunday night, when I went to bed early because I knew I’d had way too many late late late nights, I wasn’t happy when it panned out like this …

9.30pm. In bed, lights out
9.45pm. Bugger – still awake, forgot I have to put myself to sleep. Chat to husband. Get grunts in return. Try to make body go loose and floppy.
10.00pm. Still awake. Try lying on my back.
10.15pm. Oh. My. God. Still. Awake. Go back to side.
11.05. Crap, still awake! Right – concentrate … lie flat, relax forehead, relax eyes, relax mouth, relax neck. I wonder what will happen about that email I sent at work. Oops, supposed to be relaxing. Relax forehead, relax eyes, I think I could have worded it better. But I’m prepared to stand by what I said. Perhaps we could have a meeting, that might be better than emailing. Oops, supposed to be relaxing. Relax forehead. No, that’s not working. Lie on my side. Come face to face with small child. Oh! Hello! What are you doing standing silently by my bed?! Cold? Come and have a cuddle. Yes, lie on my arm so I lose all feeling in it, perfect.
11.30 Ok, time to go back to your bed. Yes, you can lie so you can see Ruby. Yes, I’ll put your duvet on you. O-kayyy, I’ll put it on you the right way. Yes, you can have a kiss. Yes, you can have a kiss on the other cheek too. Are we right now? Ok, night night, off to sleep, good girl.
11.35 Lie on back, let’s start from the toes this time. Relaxed toes, relaxed feet, feel warmth moving up legs as whole body starts to relax, hey this might be working, am feeling sleepy … ahhh, dozing.
Midnight. Bright light … well, hello Leah, did you have to shove the door WIDE open like that? Yes, ok, another cuddle. Ok, I’m going to put you back in your warm bed now. Yes, that noise is just the wind. No, you’re quite safe, look, Ruby is fast asleep. Ok, you cuddle caterpillar. Ok, night night. You stay in your bed now, ok? Ok.
12.05am. Back in bed. Assuming restful dozing position – starting to doze. Feck, I can hear footsteps. Hello Leah – you’re scared? Ok, it is a bit windy isn’t it. Want to sleep in our bed? Ok, in you get. Daddy, move over. Bless the lovelies who gifted us a super king-size bed. Yes, I’ll get your pillow for you. Yes, and caterpillar. Ok, you want to hold my hand, fine, done. Now go to sleep. Ahh, quiet child, quiet husband (kind of) … dozing.
Full sleep.
More blessed full sleep.
2.00am. Wide awake. Not sure why. Hmm, had 2 hours – bliss. Lifting very asleep very heavy child … bugger, who shut the door? Probably me seeing as I was the last one through it. Manage to open door while holding very asleep very heavy child in both arms, not quite sure how. Maneuver comatose child into sleeping position, cover with duvet, retrieve pillow and caterpillar from our bed, place in correct positions, creep out door.
2.05am. Curled in fetal position in my bed. Calculate it’s 3.5 hours until alarm goes off so I can go and run in the dark. Reach out and adjust alarm to ‘spent all night traipsing up and down the bloody hall’ time and resign myself to staying fat for a bit longer.
2.45am. Meee-orrrrr-owwwwllllll-grrrr-arrrrgh. Holy Mother of God what is that noise?!!!!! Who’s murdering my children? Spring to fully awake in seconds. Hmm, even without much medication that’s enough to make me feel sick. Oh, not murder, effing cats. There will be murder. Is it murder if it’s a cat?? Lie in bed and swear every bad word I know while husband opens door and chases cats away.
3.00am. Body has evidently decided it’s pointless going back to sleep.
3.05am. Relaxing forehead …
6.00am. Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep. More swearing.
6.05am. Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep. More swearing.
6.10am. Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep. More swearing.
6.15am. Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep. More swearing. Slowly drag myself upright. Peep in on completely comatose children. Consider poking the youngest one so she knows how it feels. Realise that would be decidedly counter-productive. Get ready for work. Mumble to self about bloody kids, bloody cats, who’s bloody idea was it to drop the drugs, bloody work, bloody sleep. Get text from friend with new baby, happy to have 2 hours sleep. Buck my ideas up and be glad they mostly sleep through these days!!