Toddler sh*t just got real 

Just over a year ago I was back in my old job, every day my calendar was rammed from 8 til 6:30. I would spend my days running round, fixing issues, managing a large team, juggling politics, it was a full on job…what I’d give for one day back there now – for a goddamn break! 

Now on a normal day, I have maybe one thing to do and the rest is flexible. Today I had four things to do and I swear to GOD it was more stressful than the time all our servers went down and it was (kind of) my fault. 

All because I had a toddler (demon) to take round with me. Today she was so bad that I actually looked up whether there was a full moon. 

First we went to the supermarket where she so badly didn’t want to hold my hand that she lay on the floor in the middle of the aisle (she has never seen another child do this. Is this a trick these beasts are born with?) Then she gets up and throws some bananas on the floor. Then she turns and runs so fast out of the front door that I have to throw the basket down and run full speed after her. 
Next we went to a friend’s for coffee. First she threw the dolls on the floor, then she banged a coaster repeatedly on the polished table. She ate Mr potato head’s eyes for ten minutes and then had a total meltdown because I wouldn’t let her eat the knob of the radiator. We left. 
She napped which I thought might solve the problem. I deftly got food past her flailing arms and turning head into her mouth and we set out again. 
We went for a meeting at the kitchen showroom where she ignored the box of toys and instead tried repeatedly to run out of the automatic doors into the car park. Thwarted, she lay on the floor in the middle of the showroom. I got her onto my knee using cheese and herb puffs which she mashed into my knees and the desk. She spent the remainder of the time belligerently kicking the desk and writhing to get down, like something possessed. I was answering the consultant’s questions as quickly as possible whilst trying to contain my daughter’s thrashing limbs but the woman just kept stopping and gaping at me with undisguised horror. 
Later, registering at the doctors, she did a quick scan of the room, saw the bin marked “clinical waste” and headed straight for it. How? Just HOW did she know that was the most disgusting thing in there? Someone please tell me. Back and forward we went, her running off towards the box of sharps covered in strangers’ blood, me bringing her back to the chair. 
I ended up giving her my phone out of sheer desperation to listen to that crack song from Frozen (I swear to God it contains subliminal messaging to make kids want Frozen merch), I got my phone back to see she’d somehow emailed a You Tube link to a Taylor Swift video to a random guy I worked with for about a week 9 years ago. 
We finally got home, and after intermittently splashing all the water out of the tub and trying to drink/inhale the water and choking dramatically, I got her into bed. 
My husband gets home and I mention that I’ve spoken to the nursery about her start date. 3 days a week, starting in a fortnight.
He says “but you don’t have a contracting job yet” 
I’ll let you guess my response. 
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“A dog licked my baby’s mouth” and other horrible stories

Yesterday I met up with a friend who is basically Mary Poppins mixed with Supernanny. And she reminded me what a lazy, crap mum I am.

“The jelly looked fun!” She said hopefully, referring to the photo I sent her after the last time we met. I’d felt so guilty that I hadn’t done a single thing on her list of “fun activities to do with kids” that I immediately picked the least messy sounding one and did it the next day.
Except that it was messy. So very messy and…just so messy. I’d selected sugar free jelly in the hope that it would be less sticky but alas it was as sticky as a MOFO and went All. Over. Everything.

Later that evening as I scraped jelly out of the crevasses of the high chair, off the walls and from under the fridge (how the hell?!) I thought “maybe I’ll try the baking idea tomorrow…or actually maybe I’ll do the painting instead…”. I didn’t do either and I’m still finding that damn jelly places. I had to get the mop out. I dislike housework.

Instead, the next day we drew on the fridge in whiteboard markers for, like, ten seconds. And that’s when I realised it, she’s 1 year old – she doesn’t give a sh*t about drawing on the fridge. And she didn’t particularly like the jelly. I put it down in front of her and she touched it tentatively with one finger and then sat back and looked at me like “er Mum are you sure about this? You’re usually pretty up tight about me throwing sh*t all over the place”. I just smiled and said “dig in” but she knew, and I knew. This was going to be no fun really. It’s like when your husband says “no, no honestly it’s fine, we can watch Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” and you know that he’d prefer to be watching something with a lot more killing and a lot less cabaret, so you spend the whole film thinking “I bet he’s hating this” instead of chuckling at the whimsical banter and marvelling at Sandra Bullock’s amazing bone structure.

Yesterday my Mary Poppins friend asked if I’d been to any music classes yet. I said “no but I’ve got a list of them off a new friend I made!” (I’d ticked “make a new friend” off my list that week and it was so big that I hadn’t bothered doing any more tasks after that). Then she asked if I’d been to the library for stories yet. I said “er, no”. “But it’s at the end of your road!”.

“Ok, have you been swimming?”. I hung my head. “No”. I was ashamed.

On the way home I bumped into my fourth local friend and we had a 5 minute chat and arranged a coffee date. That’s when I realised the reason I haven’t been to any activities alone yet. I’m a follower. I’m a total follower. I do things people suggest but I rarely suggest anything myself. This is why I’ve been more concerned with making new friends in my new town – so they can suggest things to do and I can agree to do them. That is how it must be.

Later that evening whilst I was putting on a puppet show with a zebra and a lion (the zebra explaining to the lion why he shouldn’t be eaten) amid peels of laughter from the baby, I decided 2 things. 1 If neither of us enjoys messy play, then there’s no need to force ourselves into it just because other mums are doing it. We’re more into physical play. We run after each other, play hide and seek, catch, fetch and go out walking. We splash in the bath until 50% of the water is on the floor. This is fine, in fact it’s my favourite part of the day. We like water. Water isn’t sticky.
We dance in front of the mirror to my “running” (LOL!!) playlist, she loves nothing more than admiring her little reflection bopping away, complete with range of hilarious facial expressions. We have the same taste in music, she crawls over to the iPod dock and flicks past the rubbish ones herself. We play “feed the scary monster” at the baby gate every day (rice cakes, me crawling up the stairs to the gate, her laughing hysterically and feeding me pieces of soggy rice cake).

The second thing I decided was that I’m the same type of mum as I am type of person and I think my daughter likes our little bubble the way it is. Let me explain. I don’t have birthday parties and I hate being the hostess. That’s why I don’t suggest things and why I married the world’s most popular, and sociable man and the funnest person I know – so he can deal with that stuff for both of us.
I have 4 friends-with-kids here after 3 and a half months. If I make a new friend every month then I’ll go to plenty of things (but only if they suggest it, there’s no use pretending). In between dates we’ll be happy with our own mirror dancing, monster feeding, chasing each other round the dining table brand of fun.

And a final thing. Because we are like two little peas in our own pod, when deciding if my daughter would like to do something in future, I’m just going to think “would I like to do it?”. An example from today is that a lady asked if my daughter would like to stroke her small, reasonably cute dog. “He’s very good with kids, he never bites” she said. So I lead my daughter over, she looks at me like “mum? What the hell?” And just stares from me to the dog and back in disgust. Then in one quick motion the thing jumps up, puts its paws on her shoulders and LICKS HER ON THE MOUTH. My daughter and I both stumble back in utter revulsion, me saying “eeeeeewwwwww def con 3! pass the baby wipes” at the same time the dog owner says “aaaawwwwww he’s giving you a kiss!”.
I looked at my daughter for the final verdict. She started crying. Agreed. I thought lets go home and hand sanitiser your face.

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Germs, snot and Dallas

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases.  That was always the message when I was little.  I have always prided myself on having a robust immune system, and have always been irrationally annoyed by people who always seem to be ill or who keep boxes of tissues in their living room. As it turns out my immune system is about as strong as the Greek economy, and our household is apparently single-handedly keeping Kleenex afloat.

By the time my daughter was 10 months old she had suffered from about 4 high fevers, chicken pox, German measles and hand foot and mouth disease, this in addition to about 100 colds and 3 or 4 unexplained rashes. She’s no weakling and runs around happily spreading her germs around the house when she is poorly, while I sit on the settee coughing and spluttering and bemoaning the fact that I will have to take more time off work to look after her.  The question at the back of mind- scratch that- constantly on my lips is “where the hell did she catch it”. The inevitable response is “nursery”, but actually  that isn’t always the case. None of her little friends seem to be ill at the same time as her, and when they fall ill she doesn’t. It’s so strange. Meanwhile, when I get ill the perpetrator is always easily identifiable as the idiot who stumbles into work coughing his guts up in order to try and present the right image to the boss (n.b. – if you work for me I am most definitely not impressed by your disgusting germs).

Another thing that I find really odd is that despite her constant snotty nose her philtrum (the bit between her nose and top lip) is never red. When I get a cold and wipe my nose it goes raw, followed afterwards by an attractive dry patch as my skin tries to recover. Perhaps I am an aggressive self-wiper but despite wiping her nose constantly it never goes red. And her energy is something to behold. When I am ill (not that I am allowed to be ill anymore) I need things. I need the settee. I need a duvet. I need Dallas. I need soup. When Hannah is ill she needs things too. She needs her trampoline. She needs more banana. She needs to pick up every bloody thing on the table. She needs to run around hiding everything that used to be on said table.

In short it turns out that I am not, in fact, robust at all. I have allowed colds and diseases to master me. I even welcome them sometimes as I have an excuse- nay a reason- to rest. Hannah, meanwhile, continues on her merry way refusing to be beaten by influenza and the like. I suppose there is a lesson there for me, but for now I will return to my comfy chair and JR.

1 year on

Looking back at the past year the overwhelming urge I get is to laugh. Never did I think I’d utter the words “I don’t think the turtle needs to go in your bottom does it?” Or “You don’t hear mummy crying when it’s time to stop brushing her teeth do you?”

I found patience reserves I never thought I had, I’ve seen 4am more times than I did in the whole of my 20s. Ive had someone else’s poo on me and didn’t scream (it took a few times), I cleaned white vomit off every outfit I wore for the first four months, scooped five orange vomit-canos out of the high chair’s crevasses and scrubbed diarrhoea off the car seat. I’ve picked noses, cleaned ear-holes, bitten fingernails, creamed bottoms and wiped snot with my bare fingers.

I’ve been fed soggy biscotti, licked Calpol off hands, shared most things I’ve eaten in the last 4 months and have tasted so much baby food I could be a critic (Cow and Gate cauliflower cheese is my favourite), I’ve perfected the fish-hook-finger-in-mouth-object-removal-technique. I know the words to all the Disney songs and have sung and danced in public more times this year than I care to recollect.

Ive been woken up by screaming, head butting, face slapping and once, a tiny finger rammed straight up my nose.

Every evening after bath time, I have a long and tiring wrestle to get my freakishly strong child into her pyjamas (every single night) but seeing her excitement as I get the hair brush out* makes the bent back fingernails and kicked in boobs all worth it.
And when I tuck her into her bed with her freshly washed bedding and she does a last minute head-turn as I’m giving her her calpol meaning it squirts its bright pink unfathomable stickiness all over her clean sheets, I just smile**, change her bedding and kiss her goodnight.

Yes she might fling food across the kitchen, hide every remote we own and eat my iPhone every time she sees it but when those chubby little arms go round my neck for a big squeeze (no matter how inconvenient the timing) or she totters towards me with drool all over her face for a kiss (always with her mouth wide open, why?) it makes all of the above just forgotten in an instant.
I can’t believe my tiny helpless newborn is now a loud and rambunctious toddler and I can’t wait to see what the second year has in store for us – I have stocked up on Calpol and am busy inventing an armoured bra.

* she loves having her hair brushed, it’s not for beating her with.
** not really.

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Sleep Training A Diva

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When my baby was 7 weeks old smuggins over here knew NOTHING. “My baby is sleeping through!” I’d crow, skipping through the flat noisily at 11pm. In the daytime I’d put her down in her cot for a nap and walk out merrily, revelling in the silence of my sleeping angel child.

Fast forward to, yep you guessed it, teething and holy God were we in for it. At 5.5 months the appearance of The Teething Monster coincided with us packing up to move house and blithely saying to each other “Shall we use her room for box storage?” “Yes she can come in with us” “Oh yes that’ll be no bother”

HA!

So The Teething Monster arrived and my formerly awesome self soother transformed. It happened gradually you see, an extra long hand holding here, a night feed there, until at 7 months we’d been reduced to blithering sleep deprived maniacs at each other’s throats at 4am trying to get her to sleep after the 18th time of her waking up. Every time my husband turned over in bed she’d stir, every time she stirred we’d wake up, if we dared to speak she’d be bolt upright trying to pull herself up and if we left her she’d cry like her world was ending.
It gets worse. Our sale fell through. Yep. It took until she was 11 months old before we finally moved. By that time she was waking up approximately 378 times a night and at the stage where naps would only be considered if we attempted them at exactly the right time of day, precise location, hand holding position and astrological alignment. Our daughter had become a complete and total sleep diva.
My husband and I woke up livid, spent the day livid and went to bed livid. It was a dark, dark time.

Then the move happened and because of the angle of the door, the movers couldn’t get her cot into her new nursery. As soon as they left, knackered beyond belief, hungry, thirsty and still traumatised from another night from hell with baby JLo, I got out my screwdriver and got on my hands and knees. Silently, my husband joined me until (somewhat jubilantly) we placed the cot in the nursery, amid the boxes, and shut the door.
Needless to say, after mini Mariah was deposited in her own room that first night, we simply traipsed blearily 375 times into her room, down to the kitchen (now heartbreakingly 2 floors below) and back to bed, lying tensely waiting for the next cry.
It took 2 more weeks before we were mentally ready to sleep train her. One night after a particularly traumatising 4am conversation involving the word “aaaaaaarrrrrggghhhhhhh” we decided. Enough was enough.
We looked it up. We looked at each other and we silently nodded in solidarity. That beautiful little insomniac needed taking down a peg or ten.
Night one. A fresh DVD box set ready, we gave her a bath, warm milk, read her a story, and kissed her goodnight, turned on her dream sheep and got the hell out of there. What followed can only be described as intensely traumatic. There’s a very good reason why the sound of a baby screaming is used as a torture method. That shit is awful. She wailed, she screamed, she stood waiting for me to come back with tears and snot pouring from her little red face, sweat slicking her hair back like a Soprano, eyes wide and scared. It was dreadful. There was so much cortisol and adrenaline flooding my body that if a wild lion had walked in on me at that moment, I could have killed it with my bare hands.
Ten minutes later we suddenly turned to each other – the sound, the terrible, awful, gut wrenching sound…had stopped. Now to how check she was still alive whilst avoiding waking her…in a very old house with very creaky stairs (there was commando crawling involved).
She was asleep. Mission accomplished. That night she woke once, one visit from me and she was back down with not a murmur.
The next day we put her down, endured just 5 minutes of the noise from hell and that was it.
I woke up the next morning at 4am in a cold sweat, I ran into her room mentally rehearsing what I’d learned from my paediatric first aid app and there she was, sleeping peacefully like a soft pink cherub.
The next night just 3 minutes of moderate whinging and another full night’s sleep. Thereafter I’d turn her over after her story, kiss her goodnight and skip downstairs like a pilled up pixie high fiving myself all the way (my poor, traumatised husband conveniently had 3 work Christmas parties that week so missed most of it).
Aaaaaaand breathe. Sleep was once again mine for the taking, I could go to bed without a stomach knotted in dread at how long I’d actually get to sleep before she woke up the first time.
After that first week I would have gone on stage in front of the world and extolled the virtues of the so-called CIO method.
All sorted. Life was good again. Job done. Thank you and goodnight.

Except 2 weeks later she got a bug.

Then it was Christmas.

So here I sit after 3 weeks of Sleep Diva’s return, back on day 1 of training. This time I invested in a video monitor which is currently sitting on my lap finally displaying a sleeping baby. This time was worse than the first time with an hour and 50 minutes of repeating the scream-lie her down-shh-exit cycle and I fear the older she gets the harder it will be to re-train her. For now though, it’s finally quiet.

But if a wild lion walks in now, it’s dead meat.