Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January Jitters

Is it just me, or is January just jaded and jittery? I can’t settle to anything and my inner Task Master, my brain’s Sergeant Major, my Queen of to-do seems to have taken a winter sun holiday, leaving me alone and lost. Instead of marching through the days ticking off lists, I get distracted, overwhelmed, outnumbered, outsourced. My daughters have noticed. They ask for chocolate and I give it to them. They whine that they want to stay in and dress up rather than go for a walk. I shrug my shoulders and say ok. My Fearless Fight must have joined Sergeant Major in the Maldives.

I fought very hard to get writing in the right place, to have a spot for it, to have several whole hours dedicated to it. But now, I find myself hoovering under the sofa. I never hoover under the sofa. The house is silent - little people are off being amused by other big people, the house is clean - did that yesterday, the house has no need to be cooked in today - all taken care of, the house is expecting me to come up with something interesting, and intriguing and irresistibly original. And I’m hoovering under the sofa. Not creating, not thinking, not researching, and certainly, most definitely, not writing my book.

My Muse, my inner Writing Wizard, my Mental Manager clearly suffers from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). She won’t take off her thermals and come out of hibernation until the clock strikes midnight and banishes January for another year. That gives me three more days to languish in lethargy. And when the sun rises on February first - I expect to see daffodils in the garden, birds singing in the trees, and budding bursts of creativity on my laptop. Three more days. Then the thermals are gone, the sleepy head is cleared and the gloves are off.
As some great man said (I think it was Oscar Wilde) - the art of writing is the art of putting one’s arse on a chair. So three more days and I’ll muster my mojo and then go sit at the table. The chocolate tin will be firmly shut. In the meantime…. another cup of tea.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The night terrors

The night terrors are upon us – and I’m not referring to our kids. Just when we think we’ve outsmarted them, they go and raise the bar.

People who talk about those first few sleepless weeks of babyhood as some isolated phase, clearly have not had toddlers. Between babies, coughs, nightmares, shenanigans, Christmas Eve searches for Santa (3.30am the spectacular new low), I think we’ve probably had about 5 full sweet slumber-filled weeks in 3 years.

I almost yearn for the moon-lit feedings of a newborn – at least you are prepared, at least it has a routine, and at least you can read a book. But to be rumbled from your dreams by a slumber-killing screech at some unpredictable time of the night because your wobbler wants a hug, her dummy is on the floor, the batteries have run out on her mobile, or just because she is bored, can shatter your sleep for the rest of the night. And every time we find a solution for the newest nocturnal nemeses, we are woken to a new nightmare.

For several weeks, Daisy started coming into our room at some un-godly hour. The first time she did it, I had to peel myself off the ceiling after waking to a demented mad-child standing beside my bed saying “mummy, mummy, mummy” over and over again like Damien from the Exorcist. Eventually I solved this problem like most other problems with children – with bribery. I put a timer on her bed-side lamp and promised her a lolly every time she stayed in bed until her light came on. (The joy of this is I set the timer an hour later at the weekend!! Wahoo!).

Phew… back to bedded bliss. That lasted about 3 days. On the fourth night I was snatched from my slumber by a murderous shriek and leaping into their room found my 19 month old standing beside Daisy’s bed poking her. Daisy was rightly a little scared and upset. I was frantic. My baby is tiny. I put her into bed inside a sleeping bag in a tall cot. Had someone broken into our house and taken her out??

Dazed and confused I put her back. As I made my way back to bed wondering if I was actually dreaming, I heard a “thump”. I opened their door to find Poppy sitting on the floor grinning at me. I couldn’t believe it. There was NO WAY she could get out of that cot! I padded the floor with pillows, put her back in and took position lying prostrate on the landing floor peering under their bedroom door (the things you find yourself doing at 4am when you have kids…). Sure enough, the little minx hoisted herself up on the rail using her arms like some Russian gymnast on the bars, rocked forwards and backwards to gain momentum, and with one final kamikaze lurch, threw herself head first in a backward flip over the top of the cot onto the floor. Needless to say, there was more no more sleeping that night!

Our short-term solution is to put her in the travel cot. But it’s too small for her so we have to come up with something else. At this point in time however, I’m too tired to figure out what that may be. I guess I’ll just have to sleep on it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Where there is no credit to crunch..

I’m tightening my belt – and not just because my frenetic physical assault on my body is finally reaping results. No, the preverbal budget belt is going on a diet too. We’re hoping to buy a new house (I know, I know, we’re mad to be selling in this climate!!!) and we need to gather every penny about ourselves.

Phase One of Operation Opulent (spend less, feel richer is my motivating line..) began before Christmas. We cut back on childcare, waved a tearful farewell to our cleaner, and decided to eat the food that’s actually piling up in the cupboards instead of continually buying new stuff. “I’m a hoarder, I can’t help it!” I confessed, as my husband counted 14 tins of chopped tomatoes in the back of the larder. “Learn” he says sternly, suggesting a week’s worth of recipes using the offending tins. So once I’ve exhausted my repertoire of chilli, lasagne and bolognaise, it’s back to the recipe books for some inspiration. No bad thing probably… my repertoire could certainly do with a little revitalising.

Cutting back a couple of hour’s childcare a week means I’ll have to write in the evening when the girls are asleep. No bad thing probably – it’ll keep me off the sofa munching chocolates (two punishments, I mean birds, with one stone), and I get to spend more time with the girls. Getting deep and dirty with the Ciff won’t kill us – I use the word ‘us’ because housework is a shared responsibility (I’ll keep you posted on how THAT one works out..). But again, no bad thing probably. I can get the girls involved and make it fun. (OK, I’ll keep you posted on how THAT one works out too!).

We have now begun Phase Two of Mission Money Saver. More childcare cutbacks, holiday cancelled, and a few painful choices on which friend’s 40th’s, weddings, and family birthdays we can go to. No bad thing really – do we really need the hassle of dragging ourselves and the kids to multiple overseas weekends throughout the year? And you know the surprising thing? It actually doesn’t feel that painful. It actually feels a little good. It feels good to look at the price of food before I drop it (or not) into the shopping trolly. I never used to. It feels good to patch up a few holes in the girl’s trousers instead of throwing them straight in the bin. I didn’t use to. It feels good to savour family time than zoom off on yet another expensive exhausting weekend. We didn’t use to.

And the girls? Are they suffering? Are they moaning? Of course not. They’re as happy as always and probably a bit more. And us? So we have to clean the house and we have to stay home a bit more. There are other sacrifices we are making, but they won’t kill us. They might even make us stronger, as the saying goes. But we have a roof over our head, (multiple) food in our larder, and two happy kids. So, while our credit is definitely crunching, I write this with respect and real sorrow for those people for who this recession is really hurting. For those whose children will suffer. And for those who can’t afford to spend less.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Time to Smarten Up

The time has arrived. My abilities to Deceive to Achieve (see February 2008 blog …) are increasingly limited – those little white lies are not suffice to fuddle muddled minds anymore, and full-blown lies are necessary. Now, I know mothers with a moral conscience can be dangerous things, but even I draw the line at blatant bare-faced lying (recent Santa shenanigans notwithstanding).

Last week I was luxuriating in the snugginess of our usual morning bed read-in. The books were just out of reach on the windowsill, and sandwiched between two very warm and wriggly girls I suggested Daisy go and fetch them.
“You get them mummy,” was the reply.
“Well, you’re closer love, you get them.”
Without a second’s hesitation, she rolled over on top of me, squeezed in between Poppy and me, and looked up angelically,
“You’re closer. You get them!”
Stunned into silence by a smart three year old, I’d reached a new low.

Somehow, while I’ve been dumbing down, they’ve been smartening up. This is not a good situation for a mother to be in. I always knew babies were cute in more ways than one. Poppy knows the exact pitch to aim her danger-decibel screech at to have me jump out of my bed/chair/wits in a second (usually to present me with a toothy grin once I’ve staggered to her side).

But are they getting too smart? Am I going to be able to keep up or am I going to turn (more) into my mother who after 20 years of me showing her, still can’t work the video? I’m just about computer literate – admittedly more Peter and Jane level, than War and Peace. But my children will never have known as age where computers are not a fundamental part of everyday life. It recently took me three days to work out how to put the SIM card into my new iphone, only to handle it gingerly without actually using it for another week, so scared I was of it. Not sure what I thought it was going to do, but it sure felt like a ticking bomb of technological danger to me. So maybe it’s a good thing my girls will be smarter than me. With my husband even more of a technophobe than me, it might be very useful to have at least one person in the house who knows how to work the digital TV.

In the meantime I have to keep my wits about me – I have children to outsmart.