Thursday, 28 April 2016

Five minutes peace

After my run this morning I experienced one of those rare moments of being alone, in my own home, with nothing particularly urgent to do. Drake was at the swing park with Duckling (I'd popped by to say hi mid-run), and would be there for at least another five minutes.  The silence felt both golden and alien. As any parent will know, such moments are as rare as hen's teeth, and are to be savoured.

Except I did what I always seem to do in the brief, fleeting minutes of guaranteed peace I knew I had. I got overexcited about the endless possibilities open to me, flapped about and failed to accomplish anything. It went something like this:

Ooh! Five whole minutes! Maybe ten! I should really have a shower, but... I could write a blog post! Or upload all those photos to Flickr. Does anyone still actually use Flickr? No, I should be good and clean out the fridge.  Or should I put all Duckling's old clothes in the loft? No, wait, I should design the new kitchen! Where's that pad of squared paper? Bugger it, Drake's put it back upstairs. But my laptop's here... Do I have time to churn out another chapter of the novel?... No probably not. OK blog post it is.

Where's my phone? I had it like two seconds ago... Ah here!... Oh for Christ's sake, flat battery again! Right, charger... Charger?...

- Rummages down side of sofa -

Ah ha! How in the hell has it got this tangled up since yesterday? Drake is right, the 'snake pit of doom' is quite an accurate description for my side of the sofa...

- Swears at knotted charger cable before finally straightening it out -

Wait, what the hell?! How did the charger port get full of bloody sand? Damn it, must have been when Duckling shovelled half the playground sandpit in my lap earlier... How am I going to get this out? Pin? No cocktail stick would be better... Where are the cocktail sticks...?

- Much crashing about in kitchen drawers -

Located! Now if I can just tap one out of this little hole here...

- Cocktail sticks scatter all over floor as the lid comes off -


- Cocktail sticks are angrily stabbed back into their pot -

RIGHT!  Phone! You are out of there sand! Just a little flick there... Give it a blow.... Bit more flicking... Has it welded itself in there? ! Come out you bastard! COME OUT!

- Phone flies across room and violently disassembles itself on the floor -


- Phone reassembled, charger forced in with a crunch* and phone switched back on. -

Right, I probably have one minute... Come on phone, load up... Load up.... Come on Blogger, load up.... Load up... Ooh, message! "Heading back, see you in a sec." Dammit!

- Door bell rings 15 times and small voice yells "Hello Mummy! Me go wings with Daddy, Mummy! Me see red woo woo!" -

And my five minutes peace was over, just like that. Items untangled / reassembled: 3. Meaningful progress achieved: nil. But hey, I did get a blog post out of it in the end.

*For those of you wondering, like I did, if the electrical current involved in charging a mobile would be enough to convert any residual sand to glass - no, it appears not. Disappointing I thought. Though good that I still have a functioning phone.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

You're such a girl

"You're such a girl" he said
And my eyes did a roll
An involuntary movement
I couldn't control

I know he's just teasing
But what does he mean?
Am I an infant?
A child or a teen?

If he means I am female
Well yes I have breasts
Not very large ones
But there none the less

I have a womb
And two ovaries
My hips can bear children
With remarkable ease

But he doesn't mean that
He just wants to say
That my purchase of shoes
Is a female cliché

But is it that girly?
To buy new footwear?
Kind of essential
To walk anywhere.

Who gets to decide
Who's a girl and who's not?
And if I am girly
Should I care a jot?

Well no, but I do
'Cause I don't think I am
It implies I am frivolous
Vapid, a sham

That the word 'girl'
Should evoke such concepts
Is a feminist bugbear
But still I object

OK, I like ballet
And yes I wear tights
I blow dry my hair
And I have had highlights

But I do not like Strictly
I do not read Heat
I do not bake cupcakes
I do not use Veet

I multitask like a loser
My nails look like crap
I think pink is horrendous
And I'm great with a map...

This is the point though
All these things are banal
They do not define me
Or my gender at all

So don't tell me I'm girly
It's bound to annoy
And I'll just reply
"God, you're such a boy."

Friday, 15 April 2016

Thomas the Tw*t Engine

As the somewhat juvenile title of this post might suggest, I am not a huge fan of the phenomenon that is Thomas the Tank Engine. Unfortunately both my husband and my son think Thomas and his "friends" (see point 1 below) are bloody legends.

My objections are not so much to do with the stupid premise of talking trains (you have to accept that kind of nonsense when watching children's TV or you wouldn't survive parenthood). It's everything else about the show that bothers me.
  1. Most of the characters are really quite objectionable. "Thomas, he's the cheeky one," goes the theme song (yes, we mostly watch the most modern incarnation of Thomas and Friends that does away with the memorable "do do do do dah dah daaah" theme music). He is indeed cheeky, if by cheeky you mean inconsiderate, rude, thoughtless and impulsive. "James is vain but lots of fun". Forget the fun, he's just plain vain, verging on the narcissistic. And as for Diesel - I think he may actually be a psychopath. Everyone always learns a lesson by the end of the episode, but only after they've all spent 10-15 minutes being total dicks (it reminds me of Mike the Knight in that respect), and by the following day they seem to have forgotten any positive behaviours learned and have returned to their former unpleasantness. Describing them as "friends" is a nonsense.
  2. Where are the female trains? I fully accept TTTE was conceived in the 1940s, an era not known for its progressive ideas of gender equality, but a lot of extra trains have been added in since then. There must seventy plus vehicles in the Thomas universe, but the only positive female role models I can name are Emily - who apparently "really knows her stuff" - and I think one called Rosie, who rarely appears but might be pink? There's also a steam shovel called Marion but she's a bit of a drivelling idiot, and as for Annie and Clarabel - they are essentially portrayed as nagging bores that spend their whole time being prissy and critical, and largely get ignored by Thomas for that very reason.
  3. What in the hell do the train drivers actually do?! Seriously, I don't understand why the trains even have drivers, as they have no control whatsoever over their engines. In the episode we watched yesterday, Henry gets scared of catching chicken pox (obviously) and careers backwards through multiple red signals in an effort to escape his terrible spotty fate. Can the driver not apply the brakes? Or at least calm him down and tell him not to be such an idiot? Why are trains with the emotional maturity of three year old children allowed to be in charge? It's frankly reckless. Which brings me to...
  4. Sodor Railway's health and safety record. How the Fat Controller still has has a job is beyond me. Crashes, derailments, landslides, run away trains... They seem to happen on a daily basis, and yet the only punishment dolled out to the guilty parties is a stern ticking off and maybe the requirement to pull some whiffy rubbish trucks for the afternoon. Reckless, reckless I say!
  5. Has anyone heard of a timetable? Each engine ostensibly has a dedicated line / job, but nobody seems particularly bothered about doing what they're supposed to. They all readily accept whatever random mission comes their way (like keeping crows off a farmer's field - vital work for a train clearly) with nary a thought for the poor passengers left waiting at the station. It's worse than South West trains!
  6. Just how many trains does one small island need?! Based on the races between Thomas and Bertie the bus, every road has a parallel railway line, and there is nowhere on the island that cannot be accessed by rail. Seems like major infrastructure inefficiency to me. Dr Beeching clearly never made it to Sodor...
  7. Why are so many of the major characters painted the same colour? For a non train expert like me, it makes it damn impossible to differentiate. Is that Henry or Percy? Edward or Thomas? Drake would at this point give me a withering look and huff about needing to know the difference between tank engines and tender engines, saddle tanks and panier tanks. Which I do (now) but still get it wrong a lot. Not that I care, but it is a bit humiliating being corrected by a two year old. "No Mummy, is PERCY woo woo!".
  8. Is Sodor a really weird name for an island or is it just me?
  9. Thomas' triangular eyebrows scare me.
  10. "You're a really useful engine!" Gah.
Why, you may ask, do I allow my darling son to watch this programme if I dislike it so much? Well, unfortunately he has a namesake in the show, which means he has been bought TTTE-related tat gifts from an early age. He's therefore loved it from before he could talk and being 10 minutes longer than Peppa Pig, it is quite a useful way of keeping him quiet while I cook dinner or tidy (or write a blog post). Drake also has a bit of a soft spot as all of the engines are based on real locomotives and he's a bit of a train geek. Plus he read all the books as a child. I'd rather watch and episode of Chuggington to be honest (yes, I freely admit it), but Duckling seems to think it's lame, so Thomas and Friends it is. Peep peep! Puke.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Mummy brain, or plain old rubbish brain?

Absent minded. Forgetful. Scatty. Disorganised. These are all terms that have been used (quite accurately) to describe me over the years. Since having Duckling however, it would be fair to say that you could add "massively" in front of any one of these phrases, and it wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Few mothers I'm sure escape without some degree of Mummy brain. It is inevitable when you have a small child (children) demanding your attention every moment of the day. We women are allegedly good multitaskers because it would have given us an evolutionary edge in days of yore, and yes, I am damn good at doing 15 things at once, much better than my very 'linear' husband; I just don't do any of them very well, or apply any kind of sensible priority. And being a bit of a perfectionist (ironically), that drives me nuts. My biggest bugbears include the following:

1) Never putting stuff away. On a non-work day, the breakfast condiments usually remain on the kitchen counter until around lunchtime, at which point I have to put them back in the cupboard to make way for the lunch stuff. Which then stays out until dinner time... And as for shopping - our return from the shops almost always coincides with an urgent need to change a nappy / shovel food into a hungry child / wrestle a child into bed / play Duplo, so I consider it a major victory if the ice cream goes in the freezer before it becomes a liquid.

2) Forgetting to lock the car. I do this an embarrassing amount. After one memorable occasion where someone actually got into the car and riffled through the glovebox (nothing was taken thankfully), an apoplectic Drake was heard to utter the phrase "well at least you won't do that again in a hurry.". Except I did, less than a week later. I did not own up to this funnily enough.

3) Leaving the washing in the washing machine. I'll be honest, this is less of an issue now Drake has largely taken on washing duties. But the main reason he took on washing duties was because his work shirts kept getting left in the machine until they acquired a lovely mildewy aroma, and on one occasion, some actual mildew. Hanging up washing is simply too time consuming to slot into nap time and too difficult when you have a toddler who wants to "help". There is still a sock in one of our plant pots I need to retrieve...

4) Failing to brush Duckling's teeth. I am REALLY ashamed of this one. The evening brush is fine as we do it in the bath, it's the morning one I struggle with, because our morning routine changes depending on who is at work that day, and where. At some point pretty much every day I think "Oh crap, I forgot again! I WILL remember tomorrow". I rarely do. It probably doesn't help that Duckling hates having his teeth brushed and usually screams and struggles like a feral cat in a headlock. A bit like the washing, there may be an element of deliberate (albeit subconscious) forgetfulness on my part I'm sure.

5) Losing my phone and/or running out of battery. Drake keeps his phone charged and in his pocket at all times, only extracting it when sitting / sleeping / using it. I don't always have pockets in my outfits, so tend to leave it all over the place. Or I put it in my coat pocket while out and fail to retrieve it once back home, causing a 20 min phone hunt several hours later because it's on silent, and no amount of ringing it from the house phone is going to reveal its location. When you add a mobile-stealing infant to the mix, it's a wonder I ever have it on me at all. I have missed a whole variety of important calls through my failure to keep tabs, including several from Drake enquiring if our pre-agreed emergency protocol should be triggered (our plan to get Duckling rescued in the event that Drake is overseas and cannot reach me by any means of communication, thus suggesting that I've incapacitated or fatally injured myself. Seriously, that scenario gives me nightmares). Maybe I should just permanently keep it in the arm holster I wear running...?

6) Inability to accurately gauge the time needed to do anything. This is probably my biggest and most regular failing. I can plan a work project down to the tiniest detail with beautiful and accurate gantt charts. I can organise other people and events like a pro. Ask me to get myself out of the house by 09:00 sharp and no matter when I start my prep, at 09:07, I will still be running up and down the hallway yelling "Duckling, where are your shoes? Where are MY shoes?! No you can't wear your wellies to soft play! Or my flipflops! For God's sake, stop mucking about, we have to GO!" It's not Duckling's fault - mostly it's me that's made us late; he just bears the brunt of my frustration as I realise I'm going to be apologising profusely to someone yet again. To be honest, having a child hasn't actually made me that much later than I was before (10-15 mins mostly) because I do actually leave more prep time than I used to to accommodate toddlerisms - it's just still never quite enough. If I try really, really hard because it's really, really important I can be on time (even early!). But on a daily basis, that level of concentration, will-power and energy is beyond me. I live in hope that I CAN get ready in 30 minutes this time, even though I know it always takes me at least 45 mins from out of bed to out the door. And when I do have 45 mins or more, I find it impossible to retain a sense of urgency and thus get hopelessly side-tracked by more interesting pursuits. In that respect, I think I'm as much of a toddler at Duckling.

None of these failings are unforgivable (though I have friends who may still harbour a grudge at being left waiting forever - sorry guys...). As I say, all Mums probably have those Mummy brain moments.  It doesn't stop me feeling like a fraud when I describe them as such though, as blaming my child for traits I displayed before I had him isn't really fair. I don't want to be constantly living up to my own stereotype either. Thankfully Drake mostly just laughs at me, rather than getting annoyed, but being laughed at is not exactly ego-boosting (particularly as he has scatty moments about as often as I have 10 minutes to kill on arrival at my destination). As such, I decided I'd spend a whole week a few months back trying not to be so ditsy. I lasted about a day and a half, before the effort of trying to maintain a grip on my short term memory, be on time, keep the house tidy and hang on to my phone led me to totally forget a chiropractor appointment - and forgetting appointments is one thing I very rarely do. Drake thought it was hilarious. It took me a week to see the funny side. But hey, as the old parenting cliché goes, if you make it to the end of the day, you're dressed and your children are still alive, you've had a good day. Maybe I just need to lower my standards. Duckling will be able to brush his own teeth in a year or so's time anyway. If he still has any...

Friday, 8 April 2016

Why I am no longer anti-antibiotic

Duckling is currently taking his fourth round of antibiotics in the space of four months. The first was for a chest infection, the second was a prophylactic course to prevent an infection in his severed fingertip (bit unfortunate that one), and the most recent two have been for another chest infection (the first lot didn't totally clear it, so we're now onto the second).

Much is made of antibiotics being handed out "like Smarties" (though I'm not sure many doctors would advocate the liberal distribution of Smarties either) and how it leads to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, particularly where patients don't complete their full course. There is also increasing evidence that antibiotics - especially multiple courses taken in the first two years of life - can result in a higher incidence of asthma and eczema in children. The theory goes that they wipe out natural gut flora that have an important role in establishing and regulating the immune system. An unruly immune system can cause overreactions to normally harmless things - such as pollen and dust mites - and thus allergy symptoms. And this is just one impact of antibiotics that we know about - it's possible there are more that haven't been researched quite so fully.

Knowing all this, when I first embarked on motherhood I was quite determined that Duckling would never take antibiotics.  This was clearly a ridiculous aspiration, based on a misguided belief that I would have a child that never got more than a mildly snotty nose.  Two years and four rounds later, I have very much dismounted my high horse.  I realise that nobody takes / administers antibiotics for fun (have you ever tried getting a spoonful of sickly banana gloop into a two year old? Not. Fun.). They do it through necessity - or at least a predicted necessity.  Certainly some prescriptions may turn out to be overkill, but there is often no way of quickly and cost effectively assessing when infections are bacterial, or whether a person's immune system is strong enough to fight an infection on their own. Despite what the floggers of complimentary medicines might like to tell you, antibiotics, when taken for the right thing, do work, and work well. They have revolutionised modern medicine. They are not perfect - no effective medicine is 100% side effect free - but faced with a choice of amputation / death, or antibiotics, I'll take the latter thanks.

When faced with the choice between a doctor's visit with a mildly wheezy Duckling or a critical meeting at work, there wasn't any real decision to be made either (I'll save the story of how he demanded 'boobie' in the middle of my hastily arranged conference call for another day - though I will say passing it off as a request for 'blueberries' was a minor stroke of genius). The doctor listened to his chest, frowned a lot, then packed us off with a prescription for a new inhaler and some amoxicillin. Fourty-eight hours later some steroid tablets were added to the mix ('roid rage is such a joy in an already tantrum prone tot), followed by stronger antibiotics, a steroid inhaler and a chest x-ray at the start of this week.  I'll be honest, there was a moment at the beginning where I wondered if I'd encountered a Smarties peddler who was making a fuss about nothing, and whether I should just leave Duckling to fight things himself. A trip round Sainsbury's where he coughed so much he was sick quickly changed my mind though.  There is a fine line between laid back parenting and neglect.

I'd love a super healthy child who sails through life with only the occasional cold and a bit of mild puking, but despite two years of breastfeeding, and plenty of fresh air and soil eating, I don't have one of those. Maybe I will in the future when he's built up his immunity fully, but for now I have to accept he's a little bit vulnerable and balance the risks - not demanding antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle, but not ignoring the developing wheeze either. Yes, he may have a higher risk of asthma with all this antibacterial bombing, but I'd say there's a real chance that asthma is what's making him need the antibiotics in the first place, so withholding them just seems a bit perverse.  I know there is a wider problem to society of antibiotic resistance, and that there is a chance his illness was just viral and would have gone away of its own accord.  I am not willing to risk my child's immediate health for either reason though.  For Duckling, this time, antibiotics seem to have kept him out of hospital, and for that I am very grateful. I am over my antibiotic snobbery. I just hope we still have some effective ones available by the time Duckling has his own kids (and to help ensure that, I will make sure he finishes the course, I promise).