Thursday, 30 June 2011

What's In A Name?

It took a long time for Daddy and me to agree on names for our children.  When we first found out about Mini, we saw a rainbow and decided that this would be her name.  Rainbow.  We subsequently decided that we couldn't do this to a child of ours; that, while it would be cute during her baby and toddler years, it would probably annoy the hell out of her for the rest of her life.

What fascinates me is that this kind of reasoning seems to bypass some people.  Yes, celebrities have certainly had their share of bizarrely named offspring, but it's not just them.  Recently recorded names include Peanut, Malteser, Twinkle, Comfort, Chaos, Whip and Mystery.

Seriously, why would you do that to the most precious people in your life?  Naming a child is an important decision that should be made thoughtfully and responsibly, not an opportunity to become a local celebrity of sorts.

I am pleased to say that we eventually decided on Jasmine for our daughter as it is both a beautiful name and special to us as it contains my name (Jen) and her father's (James).  We called her Jas from about week 26 in the pregnancy, despite not being sure of her sex.  Indeed, we were so accustomed to calling the not-yet-baby Jas that if she had been born a boy after all, he may well have been stuck with the same name...maybe we're not so faultless after all!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

My Son

Leafing through my blog, it transpired that I've not written much about Sunshine. His sister is funnier, she does more noteworthy things. My son is amazing, though. He has been poorly for the last few days, beginning with a throat infection and continuing with a rash, brought on by the aforementioned infection and hindered by heat. He has been cuddly, for the first time since his newborn days, and fallen asleep on my chest. When he was too ill to sleep in his own bed last week, I lay with him in mine and watched him fall asleep, marvelling at the white-blond hair growing beneath his two tone fringe.

He is beautiful.

Just nine months old and I cannot imagine our lives without him.

That is him just minutes after his birth.  I remember how it felt to kiss him, he was cool and blueish.  I remember the relief that he was alright; we had done it, we had our longed-for son.

He didn't disappoint.

I love the things he does, even those that scare me, like when he climbs the stairs if someone leaves the gate open.

I love how his chuckle spills out of him like a fountain.

I love his giant smile, and the tantrum he had yesterday evening when he wanted to draw with Mini but couldn't.

I love our son, he is brilliant, irreplaceable and the most beautiful boy since his dad.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Potty training: an update

As I write, Mini has been in knickers all day, every day for 12 days with just two accidents and these occurred when she couldn't find a toilet.  We have been out almost every day and she has coped well with new situations and we now trust her to ask whenever she needs to go.

Today, we took Sunshine to see a doctor (high temp., flushed, not eating, unhappy) and he was prescribed antibiotics for a possible ear or throat infection, so we popped to the pharmacy round the corner from our house and were told it would be a ten minute wait.  Deciding that ten minutes is long enough for Mini to wreak monumental havoc, we took her to look round the charity shop next door instead.  To be honest, there was nothing of great interest to us, but Mini found a balloon that she was enamoured by and stayed in the toy section whilst the rest of us had a quick look at the paperbacks.

After three or four minutes, I noticed that Mini was being very quiet, which is never a good sign.  I wandered over to the toy section to find her standing behind a pink potty (complete with price tag) with her trousers and knickers round her ankles.

"Oh no, Jas, you haven't..." I groaned.

"Don't worry, mummy," she said, cheerfully, "I did my poo on the potty."

Sticking to the positives, at least she's finally got the hang of potty training!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

"Can I Help?"

"Can I help?" is Mini's favourite question at the moment, and she isn't afraid to ask it.

Me:  "I'm going to make dinner,"
Mini:  "Can I help?"

Me:  "I'm going to put the washing out,"
Mini:  "Can I help?"

Me:  "I'm going to clean the bathroom,"
Mini: "Can I help?"

Me:  "I'm going to the toilet,"
Mini: "Can I help?"

And so on, and so forth.

Today, I was hoovering in Sunshine's bedroom when I felt a tap on my thigh and a small voice asked, "Can I help, mummy?"  A tiny hand then grasped the hose of the machine and began pushing it this way and that, with no particular pattern or style, rarely even tickling the floor, let alone actually cleaning it.

This is what frustrates me about accepting help from a toddler - it invariably changes a simple, straightforward task into something that takes a long time to complete and is never finished to the same standard as if you were doing it by yourself.

So today, when it came to hoovering Mini's bedroom, I let her do it herself. I knew I didn't have the patience to have her "help" me anymore, so I handed the hoover to my 2 year old, and she actually didn't do a bad job...

She starts by cleaning under the chair

Clearly loving the responsibility!

Hoovering under her Moses basket toy box

Cleaning her bookcase - perhaps she thinks the hoover will put her books back in order?

Mini finishes by hoovering her rocking chair

So there we are - one tidy (ish) bedroom and one happy toddler.  Thanks for your help, Mini.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The One Where Mini Won't Listen

Mini is an incredible child.  She has been early to reach milestones right from the start, she has an amazing vocabulary for a toddler, she is interested in and enthusiastic about everything, she is always willing to give something a go, she is polite, funny, fiercely independent and has a better taste in music than I do.

But at the moment, she does not want any authority.  Sometimes, it is just a case of asking that she dress herself, or put her own shoes on, or clean her own teeth.  When she's in a good mood, this is fine, and we are happy to compromise with her and offer help when it is, inevitably, still needed.

However, there are times when she will not listen to a word we say.  We can tell her ten or 20 times to do something and she will either ignore us, or refuse, or do the opposite of what we've asked.  These exchanges usually end up with her in the naughty corner, crying.  Crying is what she does instead of screaming tantrums.  Loud crying, so that we know she is upset.  She is usually like this because she's tired, but sometimes it's just for the sake of it, and all four of us are in bad moods by the end of the episode.

Please tell me it's just an age thing!

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Age Gap, How Our Family Came To Be, and (*whispers*) Wanting Another Baby

There is an age gap between J and me, as there probably is between most couples, unless you've managed to find someone born on exactly the same day and month as you and in the same year.  Unlikely. 

However, it is only ever really cause for conversation when it is a large age gap.  19 years, say, is an age gap that everyone seems to have an opinion on - both good and bad. 
I wouldn't say that it's ever held us back in our relationship.  It was never an issue to me and while J took some convincing to start seeing a 19 year old, I think that was more to do with other people's perceptions of us than genuine reluctance on his part.

We are approaching the anniversary of our first kiss (I know; I remember too much!); of four years together.  Now, for me, four years is a long time, not far off a fifth of my life.  For J, it is pobably not such a big deal, but this is my first relationship and I intend for it to be my only, and to include all the major events of a life - new homes, experiences, marriage and children.

Ah yes, children.  You may have noticed that we have made great (and speedy) progress down this avenue.  Mini and Sunshine are beautiful manifestations of our love, though both were conceived without much planning.  Mini, particularly, was a surprise.  In fact, she hid herself from us for five whole months.

You see, I did not think I would be able to have children.  I have never had regular periods; since I was 12, they have occurred sporadically, sometimes disappearing for the best part of a year at a time.  From what I remembered from sex education classes at school, this was the crux of the baby-making process.  Essentially, a period showed you that you were fertile.  In my young mind, this always meant that I was not really very fertile at all, maybe once a year I would be, but that was it.  And so I entered my first relationship still firm in the belief that I would never have any children, and we went from there.

I suppose the fact that J didn't really ask any questions regarding the above must have meant that he was happy whichever way the story went and, sure enough, when he convinced me to take a test and we both watched it show up positive, he was over the moon.  Much happier than I was at the time, but I believe I was in some shock.

I went to see the doctor, who confirmed that I was pregnant and 20 weeks gone at that. 
More shock.
Going from thinking you will never be a mother to finding out you're halfway there at the age of 20, was a big surprise.  A delightful surprise, though, and when Mini was born, our family was complete.

After Mini's arrival, I assumed I would stop at one child.  One is more than I could ever have hoped for, and J has a son who stays with us at weekends, so there was no desperate urge to have a boy.

Months passed, and we agreed that maybe we would try for another one when Mini started school.  This was something for me to look forward to, as I already missed being pregnant, and Mini was so advanced that the baby stage passed all too quickly.

On Christmas Eve 2009, I remember J and I having a conversation that ended with us agreeing to stop using contraception and on September 24th 2010, Sunshine was born.

So, you see, fertility isn't the issue I once thought it was.

Sunshine is now approaching the nine month mark and already I am trying to resist the urge to ask for another one.  J and I have had conversations that generally begin by me saying something along the lines of "I really want another baby", and have made a plan that we will try for our third child when we are more financially stable and have more time to devote to another baby.  This, we have decided, will be when I am 30.

While this is not ideal,  I am happy that we have set the date, so to speak, and that we will one day do it all over again, or at least try to.  But this is not always enough.  I still want a baby so, so much, to the point where I am jealous of pregnant women, and envious of photos of new mothers cradling their impossibly tiny babies.

Also, I am scared.  Scared that we will try and nothing will happen, scared that we will conceive but something will go terribly, unspeakably wrong, and scared that (and this is the most difficult one), J will change his mind.

This is where the age gap comes back into play, after years of not mattering.  It is perfectly possible that J, being 19 years my senior, will decide that he is done with nappies and bottles and that will be that.  No more babies.

And I will be happy with my two perfect, beautiful, intelligent children, forever happy that they are in my life.  But I think I will still be wondering what it would be like it there were three of them.  Or four...or five...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Daddy Blog

It may have escaped your notice (ahem), but this Sunday is Father's Day; the celebration of all things Daddy.  This cannot come at a better time in our house, where it has not gone unnoticed that mum's do not only get priority use of Iceland, but they get the majority of the credit when it comes to parenting, both in advertising and socially.

So, to redress the balance, I am going to tell you 10 reasons why my boyfriend is a great Daddy:-

1.  He makes the best hot chocolate, ever.

2.  He does his fair share of night feeds, nappy changes and rocking to sleep.

3.  He will always play with Mini and Sunshine, every day, even when his back is telling him not to.

4.  He spends a lot of time every week driving his children to the activities in which they want to partake.

5.  He doesn't complain about his aforementioned position of Taxi Driver, he gets on with it, and it makes him smile to see the kids happy.

6.  He has read the Gruffalo's Child to Mini so many times that he knows it by heart.

7.  He can extricate any toy from its packaging - and you know that's no mean feat!

8.  He will always, and I mean always, try to please all of the children, all of the time.  No request is out of the question.

9.  He will drive 40 miles to pick up a rabbit and spend 3 hours erecting its hutch just to see Mini happy.

10.  He isn't afraid to shop at Iceland.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Things I Have Learnt From Kids TV

I never used to think that television was a good thing for children.  I decided that it was bad for their eyes, creativity, activity levels, language development and imagination.  I thought that it was lazy parenting to just put the TV on instead of engaging with your children.

Then I discovered Charlie and Lola, which is, frankly, brilliant.

We now watch TV together most days, and have found that there is much to be learnt from the small World of Cbeebies.  We have picked up sign language from Something Special, yoga from Waybuloo and cookery tips from Big Cook Little Cook.

Obviously, there are downsides, namely that we watch together and have quite different tastes.  I like 64 Zoo Lane while Mini prefers Waybaloo.  She likes Mr Bloom's Nursery, which I cannot stand, and I enjoy Grandpa In My Pocket, which never holds her attention.

But do you know what's great?  My daughter watches TV and has not turned into a slob.  She is very active, always bouncing around rather than sitting still, loves trampolining, ballet, football and swimming.  She adores being creative - drawing, painting, dough modelling, cooking, cutting and sticking.  She loves being outside, enjoys gardening, likes to build giant towers out of Megabloks.  She has the vocabulary of a 4 year old, great social skills, and her favourite thing to do is sit down with a book.

All of my fears regarding television viewing have been allayed by my lovely girl and I can't wait to sit down with her later to watch something...I really hope it's Charlie and Lola!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Allow Me To Introduce You To My Nemesis

undefinedIt feels like we have been potty training Mini all her life.  In reality, it has been about 8 or 9 months, on and off.  Her nan had been talking about it since she was 6 months old as this was the age that her father apparently trained himself.  However, though I bought a potty early on, I didn't want to push something that Mini wasn't ready for, so I waited for the signs.

In September 2010, when she was about 21 months old, having shown very little interest in using the potty, she began wanting to sit on the toilet.  We were patient with her and held her on whenever she asked (this was before we had bought a child seat for the loo) but there was little progress.  I think she did about 2 wees in 2 weeks.

As she was starting to show an interest, I suppose the natural progression would have been to encourage this but I panicked slightly that her brother was due and what this combination of changes would do to her, so we held back on the potty training and dealt with the new sibling arrival first.  Months passed and Mini grew used to her brother and continued to be happy in nappies.  Hmmm.

When she turned two, it seemed a little more pressing that she should be trained; she would be starting preschool in January and although they were happy to change nappies, it was a reminder that she was growing up.  We bought a training seat for the toilet, a co-ordinating step and tried pull-up pants.  We had some success but it seemed that Mini was just terribly excited about being allowed to use the loo and wanted to go every 5 minutes.  She rarely actually combined going to the loo with having a wee or poo, though, and would generally treat a pull-up as an ordinary nappy with the added bonus that she could easily take it off and leave it somewhere as soon as it was dirty.  Great.

It got to the stage where she would tell me as soon as she had done a wee or a poo but by then it was, of course, too late.  I recently bought her some proper big girl knickers in the hopes that all of her enthusiasm and progress would come together...and you know what?  I think it's worked.  The last few days, she has been amazing.  If I put her in a nappy, she takes it off to use the potty instead and when in knickers, as she has been the last two days, there are no accidents.  Result!

However, I am now faced with the next stage - what to do when we go out somewhere.  Currently, we put her in a nappy before we go out and take it back off at home.  I have spoken to people about what to do next and the general consensus is that you must take the potty with you everywhere.  This is all well and good but I can't help but wonder exactly how this will work out in practise.  Mini needs to pee quite frequently at the moment, and very urgently, and she almost always gets on with it on her own, without saying anything.  She doesn't need help, she just lets me know when she's finished, which is great at home, but could cause a problem when we're out.  What if she just panics and goes because she can't immediately find her potty?  And what if she manages to tell me but it's urgent?  Is it acceptable to get a potty out in the milk aisle of Tescos?  And if that is OK, what do you do with the contents afterwards?  Oh, it's a minefield of potential obstacles for me!

I am, however, delighted with Mini and her ability to use the potty without assistance, and, unless I can be brave, I guess the next stage will just follow on naturally when we are ready.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Things To Do In London When You're Skint

Daddy and I took a trip to London yesterday, in celebration of his birthday.  We had planned other things for this day but found ourselves with very little money, and then I saw that Southern Railway had an offer on for a limited time and managed to get two returns from Brighton to London for £3.60.  Result!

We wanted to go to the National Gallery as we'd not been for years and, of course, it is free.  Other than that, we didn't really know.  We had 7 hours in London and £20 between us.

We arrived around 10am and strolled along Buckingham Palace Road til we reached the place itself.  What greeted us was rather intriguing - the roads were closed, crowds were forming and there were hundreds of armed policemen lining the barriers.  James approached one of them to ask what was happening and was told that it was the second rehearsal for the Queen's upcoming birthday celebrations.  Right.

What followed was a couple of hours of bands and marching and horses; endless pomp and ceremony.  It was quite nice and interesting - certainly not something you see every day, and with far fewer crowds than the real deal, so we could actually see what was going on.  It was mildly annoying to have the mall cut off for so long, particularly as we wanted to get to Trafalgar Square; we had also planned to picnic in St. James' Park, but the parts that weren't cut off were already packed.  When we were finally allowed to cross the road and head up to the Gallery, we (and about 200 other people) were stopped by police so that one guard could continue marching.  Now that really did bug me.

Trafalgar Square was busy but not over-crowded.  It is always an interesting place to be, ever-changing like the city itself.  There was a new addition to the 4th plinth (well, one we'd not seen before anyhow) in the form of a giant ship in a bottle, which was aesthetically pleasing and quite clever.  There was also a protest going on in one corner, a clock counting down to the 2012 Olympics, three human "statues" and an interesting piece of live artwork made from countless plants, flowers and shrubs.

Next, we toured the National Gallery.  Previously, I had been once and not progressed further than the first three rooms due to a cough that made me very self-conscious in a place where everyone else was being exceptionally quiet.  This time, there were far more people, a lot more noise and I had no cough, so we set about exploring the place.  We managed a few rooms before succumbing to the call of the espresso bar.  In the same room as the cafe, were several terminals through which you can design and print a customised tour of the gallery, adding specific paintings that you want to see.  We finished our coffee and headed back towards the paintings with 16 must-sees on our list.  We weren't disappointed and actually saw many more brilliant works of art.  The National Gallery is definitely worth visiting, and woule be even if it wasn't free.

Later in the day, we explored the streets of London, penniless and happy in the baking heat and crazy crowds.  We marvelled at the intricate displays in the windows of Libertys, wandered up Carnaby Street, got lost in Hamleys and couldn't afford anything in Selfridges.  We actually found so many interesting things to see that we were late for our train and had to get a slightly later one.

So if you don't mind a long walk, there are plenty of things to see and do in London when you're skint.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

While The Children Are Away...

...Mummy and Daddy will clean, apparently.

After a few hectic weeks of back pain and financial stress, a period during which Sunshine learned to crawl and Mini mastered the art of not listening, the bubbas have gone to my mum's for a few days to give us a break.  While I love and miss the children hugely, I had been looking forward to this time for a while and felt an underlying sparkle of belief that we would have a few days reminiscent of those we enjoyed when first together.

Unfortuntely, we appear to have changed since those days.  Even though we are alone and the house is quiet, it is difficult just to relax and enjoy it.  So it happened that we made a plan to tidy and clean the house and garden and have spent the majority of the last 24 hours doing just that.

One thing we have managed, however, is to fit in a couple of never before seen movies; The Expendables and Gainsbourg.  Two words - don't bother.  The Expendables is alright but fairly unremarkable as far as action movies go, despite its impressive cast.  And Gainsbourg?  As a biopic, it is useless; as a story, it is strange, confusing and disjointed.

So, the films were unsuccessful but the house is clean, and I am happy to end this post on a high note - the movie of choice for tonight is Toy Story 3!