I’m dwelling on some lovely memories from a week or two ago, at the beach at Grandma and Granddad’s place:
A couple of days pre-party, the morning of RR’s birthday proper began predawn, when, the kids still asleep after a late night, the Beekeeper and I heard a noise. Come to think of it there’d been a few odd noises for the last week or so. The Beekeeper went to investigate, then came back to whisper: ‘You’re not going to like this: there’s a bloody great rat on RR’s windowsill!’ URRGGGHHH!!!
The last time we had a rat, I’d gone to investigate after hearing a noise in the laundry and seen a cheeky nose poking out the top of the washing machine! Not knowing what to do, I’d shut the lid and then thought, ‘shit! Now what do I do?’. Cue the usual jokes from my father-in-law Pop about setting the spin cycle going. The rat got out the back of the machine somehow and eventually met its demise, along with its poor babies, which we found around the garage over the next few weeks.
I’m not against rats in principle; my sister has 4 pet ones. But the thought of rats running amok while we sleep is horrifying. (Have you read Rats! by Gavin Bishop? It’s great!) ‘Poor ratty,’ I say to RR as we set the traps or poison, ‘It’s very sad, but we can’t have rats in the house’. But back to the birthday rat. The Beekeeper had it cornered and went to grab it with a tea-towel. It squeaked madly and raced to the door that I was hiding behind, watching with horror as it ran back and forth and eventually squeezed under the tiny gap!
It got out. We rat-proofed the house. RR had a nice day at Oma’s while Mama got the final few party supplies – and, most importantly, redeemed a voucher for an hour-long pedicure (highly recommended!). When I walked out of the salon, possibly for the first time in my life, my toenails were red. RR’s verdict – ‘The kids are going to love your red toenails, mama!’
Back home preparing dinner I opened the cupboard to get a plate and saw … a TAIL. In a flashback to the washing machine, I quickly shut all the doors. What now? We left it in there with a trap, which was a great idea as we then had to go to bed knowing there was a rat trapped in the house with us, and endure hearing it scrabbling away as it tried to eat a hole in the door. We didn’t get much sleep that night. The Beekeeper eventually chased it outside again. We haven’t seen it since. Maybe it was traumatised by its ordeal. Maybe it was a benevolent bringer of birthday wishes …?
A good friend of mine casually remarked the other day that she and her husband had decided not to have children. They have grown too accustomed to sleep ins and travel, to both working and partying on the weekend. This friend I speak of is awesome. She’s a great lady with a wicked sense of humor, a real thirst for knowledge and a very generous nature. She is caring and motherly and up until that point I had simply assumed that children were in her future. Another guy I know, while chewing what sounds like a fistful of gum, spat at me that his missus wants another kid, cos that way, like y’know, she’ll get more money and shit from the guvment (his word – guvment). This guy already has four children, all of which he adores and, from what I can tell, he is doing his best to be the best father he can be. However, this is a guy that once said ‘yeah, I’ve got heaps of books, I’ve got, like (looks down at his fingers)… three’ This guy may have potential, but if he does, he has no idea how to access it. Every chance he gets he turns away from the opportunities to learn or experience new things.
Is this not terrifying? Does this not scare the hell out of everyone else? If this keeps up we, as a species, are doomed. With intelligence being inherited and the ability to utilize that intelligence being based on environment then surely an environment that relishes ignorance is going to produce ignoramuses. And they, in turn, will produce little ignoramuses and so on and so on. While all this is happening, the brainiacs out there have all decided to make the short term gain by avoiding kids and focusing on careers, travel and sleep ins.
This is no new story. I’m sure you’ve read countless articles that deal with this subject and, I’m sure, they handle it with far more eloquence than I. I suspect that you are not the problem. In fact, you are probably the solution. Lets find out. Here you are, reading a blog that revolves around parenting. Firstly I’ll deduce that you can read, and not only that, I’ll suppose you are the sort of person that will actively seek knowledge. You will not be content with simply absorbing whatever opinion is thrown at you. You will opt for news instead of E-news. And you will not know how many Kardashians there are or what time ‘cops’ is on. Am I right? Good. Secondly, I will assume that because you are reading a blog based around parenting you have had at least one child. If both of these assumptions are true then, great. You are what I’m looking for. You are what I want the future of our species to evolve from.
We must move forward. We shall no longer be content with simply educating the masses. For every effort we put in to teaching people how babies are made and how to avoid it. For every moment of time spent begging people not to have more children to increase their benefit payment. We must spend an equal amount of time and energy poking, prodding and persuading our intelligent, knowledge loving friends into gifting their genes to the rest of the world for, perhaps, the rest of recordable time.
In December 2011 guest writer Chelsea Hughes talked to Daisy and Zelda about her family’s decision to relocate from New Zealand to Australia. We have asked Chelsea to let us know how she went with the big shift.
We arrived in Melbourne one week ago today but it feels like a million years ago. Having a child does that to you. Time flies by and stands still, all at the same time. I have to say that the last week of my life has been one of the hardest I’ve ever had to endure. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we’ve moved countries a few times so we’re somewhat experienced in shifting our lives across oceans. This time it’s different. So. Very. Different. This time, on top of all the stress that comes with moving to a new place (finding a job, finding a flat, finding our way around, figuring out how to use public transport, opening a bank account, etc.) we now have the added pleasure of managing a very demanding 17 month old who cannot be reasoned with and wants your undivided attention all the time.
Here’s just one example of what our days are like:
The Day We Looked For a Flat
5am Ruby wakes up, we try to coerce her back to bed
3pm View flat and decide it’s not for us
330pm Give keys back to estate agent and ask to view another flat around the corner
4pm View flat and like it!
430pm Walk 100m to nearest grocery store to get stuff for dinner
5pm Walk 100m to train station
510pm Take train to train stop nearest our hotel
515 Walk 250m from train stop to tram that will take us to our hotel
545pm Eat dinner while Ruby either (1) tries to destroy everything in our tiny hotel room (2) whines for snacks (3) demands we read her Fox in Socks or The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful being here, in a new, exciting place. And it’s wonderful having such a beautiful, energetic daughter. But sometimes combining the two can be a real nightmare.
Chelsea Hughes is a mother, librarian and comedian who recently moved from Wellington to Melbourne. She poorly maintains the blog Aftermirth (http://aftermirth.com), all about her trials and tribulations as a new mother.
Photographs taken by Zelda from the children’s book The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
Last year Mr S and I decided to say goodbye to our lovely inner-city apartment. We had a rare opportunity to live rent-free in a one-bedroom bach: a chance to surrender our creature comforts and get out of debit in the hope to save for a house. Our friends told us we were crazy.
Glow-bug and I started out living alone while Mr S was away filming on location. The days were long; the air was stinking hot. Sunbeams blasted through the windows of the bach till 9 pm. This made Glow-bug’s bedtimes an issue: it was too far hot for her to sleep. To make matters worse, the bach has no functioning windows; it was like a glass house.
All we could do was open up the doors and pray that the mosquito nets worked. Countless evenings were filled with loneliness and fear. Things would go bump in the night. ‘BANG!’ There IS something on the roof … ‘BANG!’ Oh no, it’s moving … My body seized up with terror. I could not move an inch. What the hell could it be? I was so frightened I couldn’t even stick my head out from underneath the covers, in case the monsters got me! Maybe I’ll be happier in the morning, I thought. There’s something about the sun; how it keeps on shining. The next day I realised it was probably just the neighbour’s cat Fatty stalking the baby sparrows who had taken up residency in our roof. Fool.
Conservation of water was paramount to our survival. Initially all washing was done by hand. Doing laundry is such a mundane task, but, I have to admit I became fond of hand washing. In fact I rather enjoyed all the stomping and squelching of the day’s scum between my toes. Sadly it was short-lived: only possible until Mr S finished, and arrived just before Christmas. We were spending so much time swimming at the beach and organising Glow-bug’s birthday that our once manageable hand-washing rapidly became a dank and daunting mountain of doom. The eternal failed earth mother once again – I gave in and found a local laundromat.
Life was simple and pleasant. At meal times we were joined by two wild chickens that befriended us. I could sit outside on the deck in my pyjamas all day drinking my coffee while Glow-bug roamed around the garden looking like some drunken pirate pillaging treasure. ‘Ohhhhhh,’ she says as she sets her eye on an old piece of floor cracker. Like any lethargic mother I would just let her go for it – who cares; it’s not going to kill her right?
Living at the bach, it didn’t matter if I wasn’t dressed; it didn’t matter if I hadn’t showered. It didn’t matter if Glow-bug made a mess with her food or spilled water everywhere – we were stress-free and content. Time and physical appearance don’t mean a thing when you live in a rural environment.
Sadly, after Christmas the relaxing romantic vibe was vanquished by a tsunami of nervous tension. I hadn’t done a thing to organise the first birthday party, and I also suddenly found myself back in producer mode, making arrangements for the screening of our short film, Lambs by Sam Kelly. It’s fairly difficult to manage anything these days when you don’t have any internet or mobile phone coverage.
More stress was brought to the table when we realised that the oven was absolute rubbish: everything burnt, no matter what you did. The only successful meal we could make was grilled cheese on toast. Days before the birthday we were shocked to realise that our bathroom tank had been completely drained – our toilet could not be flushed. In hindsight we shouldn’t have invited so many friends and relatives to visit prior to the birthday party.
We commuted back and forth between New Plymouth and Wellington and the Horrowhenua, to make sure that Glow-bug spent time with all her grandparents. And to up the ante, we threw in a few mountain climbs too: why not?
Even though my birthday cake for Glow-bug ended up as failed chicken fodder, the party was a success. The film screening also went off without a hitch. Then I closed my eyes, I blinked, and our January had gone.
By the time early February came around Mr S had returned to working long hours in Wellington city. I couldn’t help feeling left out. Mr S would be with my family in the city, just around the corner from Lize and the Butt Commune. I would be by myself in the country: no internet, no fresh water, no flushing toilet. I longed to be hanging out drinking wine with Daisy and Lize. I wanted to see Miss Bee and Glow-bug harass ducks together. It seemed stupid that Daisy was going to be here in New Zealand for such a short time, and I would still be living and one and a half hours’ drive away!
Decision made, I abruptly I shifted out of the bach and joined Mr S at my parents’ house in Wellington. It’s not ideal. I had pictured myself being more successful and financially independent on approaching 30, but life just doesn’t work in straight lines.
Regardless of all these difficulties, this summer has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. We learned to live without our possessions; we climbed and fell down mountains; we rummaged around country fairs; we got covered in mosquito bites; we showered naked under trees; we got thrown about by the ocean waves; we got sunburnt; we decreased our carbon footprint; we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday; we traveled across the country; we played too much Risk and Trivial Pursuits with friends; we tamed chickens; we drank a lot of coffee; we painted; we planted; we wrote; we lived.
I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity. It’s not every day you get a chance to spend a summer being high-class hobos. However, hospitality has worn very thin after 15 weeks. Hopefully our new family home will be just around the corner, and then we can start our next adventure.
Yes. Male lactation, you read that correctly. Daisy and Zelda are going there.
I’ve just finished an amazing read. Thank you Zelda for lending me Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts! This book, by Fiona Giles, provides a socio-cultural exploration of breastfeeding. It approaches the topics from many, many angles. It opened my eyes, and on the whole made me damn proud to still be producing food for my child.
One of the most interesting sections of Fresh Milk looked at the fascinating, fantastatical topic of male lactation. According to Giles, it is possible. ‘No,’ I thought to myself. ‘Just … no. Naaaaah. No way.’ Giles didn’t seem to cite any authoritative proof of the phenomenon; only anecdotal evidence.
Anyway, I didn’t pursue the topic further, but I lent the book to Lize, and she got talking with her
hubby potential provider of baby nutrients, who said ‘Naaah’ like I did and then went searching – and apparently came round to the idea that it’s out there. And I trust this man’s opinion; he’s very smart.
The Wiki article suggests a couple of plausible reasons but is slim on sources. Many male mammals, it says, have been observed to lactate: in theory, such a trick would improve the chances of passing on their genes (providing an extra food source for offspring), but most male mammals have developed other strategies to achieve this end, such as mating with additional partners.
(Hmm, which would I rather my mate did to ensure the continuance of his line; breastfeed the baby or pursue ‘additional partners’? An ethical conundrum that one.)
This article in the Scientific American (one of the sources cited in the Wiki article) concludes that males can lactate ‘under extreme circumstances’. (Check out the comments. Number 10 says: ‘im very interested in pumping my nipples how long would it take for some results..if so can any one get back to me’. Whoooo!)
A particular story in Fresh Milk told of a stay-at-home dad who, in riding out the last couple of hours in the afternoon before his breastfeeding wife got home from work, would let his baby daughter suckle at his nipple, not for sustenance but for comfort. More believable than males actually being able to provide a baby with some of that good stuff. And almost, um … heart-warming? Is that the word I want? Or was I looking for ‘icky’, maybe??
She bites everyone. Now that I’m going through it in my mind, I realise the list is quite inclusive. No ethnic/gender/age/socio-economic biases or, hell, even animate/inanimate biases whatsoever: she bites babies, her mummy, babies’ mummies, friends, relatives … brooms, weatherboards.
What happens is that something or someone gets in her way, or doesn’t do what she wants it to. (Baby: won’t give up desired toy. Weatherboards: interrupted a walk down the path. Somehow.) So she bites him/her/it.
You can see it coming: the obstruction occurs, a rush of strong feeling tingles through her arteries (I swear I can almost see this happening), and she swoops in for the kill, like some clunky bird of prey. It’s unhandle-able emotion looking for a way out: the bite is the usual manifestation, but hearty pinches are also common.
So a biting toddler is no unusual thing … except that somehow even though I’ve been spending a LOT of time around toddlers recently, Miss Bee is the only one in our social circle who does?! Which often makes for humiliating episodes when we’re out and about: Miss Bee chomps into a fleshy little upper arm (a favoured spot) or a finger or (God forbid) a face, the victim does that patented baby cry when they’re silent for 5 seconds and then really let rip, and I’m left facing the little marauder wondering what to say to her.
At the moment, I still feel like I haven’t refined a strategy. ‘No’ or anything with a negative grammatical element in it is frowned on in certain mummy circles (so the disapproving stares would merely migrate from Miss Bee to me), and I can see the rationale for that (this article gives you the idea), although the simple ‘No’ is instinctively what springs to my lips.
Any sort of explanation of why she shouldn’t do it is completely foolhardy. Reasoning with a toddler? Even non-parents know those two words don’t mix.
I’ve been thinking and talking about focusing on the emotion of it, since it’s so clearly an emotional thing with her; but how appropriate it is to talk about emotions with a toddler? As appropriate as trying to reason with them? The stereotypical toddler struggles to identify – let alone express – their own emotions, right? (We’re talking about a little critter who bursts into tears upon being reunited with me after a coupla hours, here.)
Is it relevant or even possible to ask her if she’s angry, or to teach a sign for ‘frustrated’? (which by the way seems way too polite for Miss Bee’s bite-evincing feelings. What’s the sign for ‘extremely f**ed off’??)
Where does that leave me?
I am on a bit of a research crusade on this one. In the meantime, all suggestions – particularly those based in personal experience – are, dare I say, welcome.
In the age of technology new and vulnerable parents are constantly bombarded by the messages from the media.
What do you read… who do you trust…what do you follow… is it wrong… am I right.. arghhhhh sometimes it is all too much. Unless you decided to cancel your news paper, turn off the TV, unplug yourself from your computer and smash your TV. You are going to have to stand somewhere.
While I know this advertisement is a hoax I like to fantasize that it was real. I find the idea of zealot cola-mamas amusing , I can see those judgmental hipsters now… sitting in the corner sneering and jeering at those mothers who chose to breastfeed or drink water.
Good heavens, what is she doing with those blossoms. Oh, I’ll clue you on that fool woman. She is denying her poor infant of a lifetime of guaranteed happiness. Dang her ankle-biter is sure to be a pale one.
There is so much crap out there – don’t believe the hype and trust your gut!
If you have poor eye sight the text reads.
How soon is too soon?
Not soon enough. Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during that early formative period have a much higher chance of gaining acceptance and fitting in during those pre teen years. So do yourself a favour. Do your child a favour. Start them on the straight regiment of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness.