Well that was fun

Oh I’ve had a lot to blog about. And nothing. And everything in between. And not a lot of time. My new job is, well, full on. But it also bought us a house and for the first time in years has left us with something in the bank….so shutup already. It just means not a lot of brain space of writing, or reading, because I do both all day every day. For some reason writing exams & organising learning materials for 3,500 people each offering takes a bit of energy.

Anyhoo. The birthday from hell.

So we decided in the lead up to j-mans birthday to do the split party we’ve done twice already: little friends on one day, extended family on the other. It means the fun is spread over longer and jman is less likely to be overwhelmed. 

Plus, two cakes.

So the week before his party, Tuesday, he gets up out of bed, and there’s faint little red dots. ALL around his mouth. Kind of, well, everywhere. And I think “cool. Ok. We know this is hand foot and mouth, he can’t go to daycare, I’ll ring work..ten minutes in and the whole strategy is in place. And….that would explain why you were so goddam annoying on the weekend.” Whenever I have a few days with jman that just push me to the brink of insanity from his uncooperative clingy ness, it always turns out he’s getting sick.

I book in to the gp, phone work, phone hub-in-boots, and with regret postpone the kids party. We ain’t sharing that kind of love around. Work has been very full on, and I figure the working from home will buy me some brain space anyway.

But the GP isn’t convinced about the rash. She doesn’t know what it is. She shows me some pictures of impetigo and tells me what to look for, and that if it changes to this he needs to come back and get antibiotics. Yep, that’s cool…regardless, he ain’t sharing the love.

So Tuesday Wednesday I work from home, which isn’t hard as he’s feeling pretty crappy and just wants to chill on the couch for a way more than normal dose of screen time while we nurse his Festy looking chin. Poor bub.

Thursday hub-in-boots kindly volunteers to cop it so I can go in and clear some really critical deadlines. Oh and the eczema on my hand has gone apeshit. I blame the extra hand washing.

As I’m leaving Friday , I think “has that rash changed? Must text hub in boots about it later”, then promptly forget.

We decide to go ahead with the family party Sunday, his actual birthday, as everyone knows to be careful and there’s no other little kids. 

Friday evening I remember I’d forgotten, and book the boys in for a Gp follow up on the rash. It looks worse but isn’t anywhere else except his chin.

Impetigo. 

Change of cream, all good, doesn’t need antibiotics, just a cream.

So Sunday rolls around. His chin looks a bit better, everyone is excited to see the big three year old. He is excited/ blown away to see we’ve turned the entire apartment into a wooden thomas the tank engine train set., thanks to some savvy second hand shopping and a timely house move from someone at work whose kids outgrew thomas. 

We get to grandmas  and he opens a few gifts. But he’s off. He tells me he feels sick in the head. Dizzy? He plays half heartedly, laying his head on the seat every few minutes. I get some neurofen into him.

Eventually, he’s just looking bad, and I take him in my bro’s bedroom ( my old room) for a nap. Family have all arrived. Tables full of amazing party food.

He erupts like a volcano. I am wearing a carpet of vomit. Seriously. Bathing in it. I don’t even know where to start. Somehow, we bundle him and I into the bathroom. I hit the shower while he is rinsed off by family members. We all find fresh clothes. Beds are stripped. Ice blocks are eaten. He looks much better. WE begin to relax.

He erupts again.

Clothes are changed. 

He asks to go home. Sadly. Piles of unopened presents all around us. 

It probably takes us another hour to de vomit, pack and leave. I am wearing my brothers clothes.

He holds it together, all the way home.

Then he erupts. 

His temperature soars. He’s cracking 39.8C (103.6F). He can’t keep down anything. Hours pass. He drinks. He chucks. He eats ice blocks. He chucks. Then he stops making sense. Then he stops talking. Then his eyes start rolling back in his head. At this point, I’m calling it. We try a home dr service but the wait is hours long. Off to the hospital.  His heart is very rapid, his breathing laboured and erratic. Temp still crazy.

In the hospital  they are pretty fast. Panadol suppositories, strip him off, ice blocks. Bing. He starts talking after hours of silence.  And after pretty bad dehydration, we’re in the clear. It was long long day. And I’m wearing my brothers clothes.

We have another two days at home. I call in sick, because, well, he just wants to lay on me. I’m pretty sure I’ll get it. I mean, how could I not? 24 hours after his birthday we sing and blow out candles. Peel off icing and allow plain cake.

Wednesday I’m back at work. We are ok.

So we postpone the party from the 2nd to the 16th. And on the 12th I’m at work and think, my shoe must be rubbing. My foot hurts a bit. But I’m wearing stockings so I don’t look. The next time I wander around the office I think my foot hurts a lot. By the time I am going home, I can hardly walk. Really.

When I get home I peel off my stockings, to find the swollen red mess of weirdness. Impetigo. On my foot. But crazy bad. Of course, I have team members flying in from interstate the next day. Of course I do. In the morning it is so bad I make time to go the GP. He draws around my swollen red foot with a texta, explaining if the red moves, I’m in hospital. NO IFS or buts. Super strong anti biotics.

So i carefully cover it and I go to work.and it swells. And swells. And swells. And he instructs me to photograph it every hour. AND IT gets redder. 

I spend Friday with my work colleague at my house, foot elevated, staying quiet. I revisit the doctor and we kind of seem still bad, but not getting worse.

Sunday, Festy foot is a lot better. And finally, we have a birthday party. A few little friends, pass the parcel, tea party on the verandah, a piñata, they play trains, go hilariously nuts to 75 replays of the wiggles singing ” michael finnegan”…we eat a bucketload of sushi, arancini and chocolate crackles and sing happy birthday. The end.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

CBF

So like anything parenting, there’s a lot of methods of toilet training out there. The 3 day potty training method, timed potty stops, the follow their lead method. Most of the books assure us it’s all about timing. If they’re ready, it will be easy, if they’re not, it will be an epic waterfall of bodily fluids at completely inappropriate times / locations, possibly involving walls being painted with poo*.

I’d like to propose a new method. The CBF’d method. The CBF, or Can’t Be F()$*^d method, starts whenever your nearest mum pal has their same age child reliably toilet trained. At this point, you think, we can do this, and commit to toilet training wholesale, going out and buying copious quantities of cute appealing underwear, a nice comfy potty, a seat and steps to go on the big toilet, and a lot of washing powder. You’ve got this, you think.

You declare it “pants off Friday”. Fridays will forever be known as pants off Friday in your house. You carefully select a day when both parents are on leave from work, and the schedule and reliability of bowel movements are both delightfully open ended.

The first day, he wears the potty as a hat. You encourage, and make the potty fun. You get spectator shy dad to demonstrate how it’s done, allowing him to share in the joy that is the accompanied visit to the loo.

The second day, a wee on the potty. There is great rejoicing and the giving of marshmallows. everyone shouts ” hooray!”. Your toddler takes to weeing off the corner of the first floor verandah, onto the driveway below, thankfully missing unsuspecting passers by. “We’re Just watering the plants,” you smile and wave to them. ” hooray, I did a wee on the verandah” your toddler announces. Hooray! You say, as you move the potty onto the verandah to avoid embarrassing incidents with the neighbours. There is more giving of marshmallows.

The third day, pants off Sunday, you’ve carefully discussed poos in the potty. You’ve smiled and been very positive through minor accidents. You go out and buy a thomas the tank engine potty book, complete with stickers. This is the big day, you’re thinking.

And sure enough, without warning, he runs gracefully to the potty and whips out a giant turd. I say whips out, because, just like a soft serve ice cream, he does it standing up, with perfect aim. It’s amazing . You gently coax him into sitting next time. Everyone stands around to inspect the poo. The presence of blueberries is noted. It is tipped and flushed with great ceremony and applause. And duly hand out marshmallows.

To your surprise, he never misses, has perfect aim, and only once or twice wees in a non designated toileting location.

The next day, radiant with confidence, you bring in the underwear.

The underwear does not go well. The underwear, wet or not, feels like a nappy. So it is wee’d upon. You smile, nod, and say “hey, accidents happen! Help me clean it up!” Feeling a little like a dog trainer rubbing his nose in it. And we all smile, and clean it up.

Then we get changed.

Then we all smile, and clean it up.

Then we get changed.

Then we all grit our teeth so it looks like a smile.

Then we get changed.

Then your knees are red from kneeling and scrubbing carpet. And you’ve run out of rag towels and start using the good ones. But tomorrow! Tomorrow it will click!

“Nappy ONNNNN!!!!!” He declares in the morning. Apparently he is fearing type 2 diabetes due to marshmallow intake. He can’t take the cleaning. A truce is declared.

CBF’d, you think, reading the thomas potty book again, thinking gordon looks like a raving homosexual. Not that there’s anything worn with that, just sayin. You pack the potty everywhere you go, but your heart’s not in it.

Two days later, you’re back at work.
“Underpants! I want racing car underpants! No no the RED ONES!!! The red ones!!!! I want to sit on the potttttyyyyyy!!!!!!!”

The split second morning schedule is screwed. Because, seriously, he is one step away from a prune eating old bloke with a giant newspaper on the dunny. It takes HOURS.” We have to go now!” “I’m sitting on the potty!”

It’s time for an upgrade. You ditch the marshmallows. Roll out the lolly snakes. In an ornamental jar. And stand, eating them late at night, as you stuff clothes into the washing machine.
“What do you want for breakfast?”
“SNAKES!”
“Snakes are not a breakfast food. Snakes are for when you go on the potty. For poos on the potty.”
“Snakes!”

You leave then house. He’s wearing a nappy and eating snakes.

And you? You CBF’d. Just like weaning, it will probably happen before his 18th birthday.

“Don’t send mixed messages!” The books say. “Never look back!” The books say, like somehow nappies are a biblical Lot’s wife and you’ll all turn into a pillar of salt if you venture back into this now forbidden territory.

“Screw that” you say. I finished work at 1am and I don’t fancy a turdburger before work, strapping him in to the snuggest most spill proof nappy possible.

“We’ve reassessed, and the timing is not right” you declare, you well read bastion of bowel research.

But, really, the thought of going out like your elderly mother, aware of every toilet within 10 nanoseconds in an already insanely busy life just fills you with dread and makes you look for a paper bag to breathe into. And honestly? Toilet training?

You just CBF’d.

* yes. This actually happened. To our Friday nanny. Yes. It was jman.

Hello. Tap tap. Is this thing on?

Yes I’ve been kind of absent. Blame the new job. I’ll do the backstory. Very soon. I hope, how are you all? How is life? I haven’t even been blog lurking. I’ve missed so much.

I just thought I’d pop on and quickly share a little parenting moment.

Jman is 2.5 now. As of last Monday. We have Thursdays together, when I work from home.

This week, I felt like he was deliberately pushing my buttons (probably because he was deliberately pushing my buttons). I hate it when I try to do something “nice mum”, like giving him an empty porridge tin & putting some mung beans in it to make a noise, and he buggers it up by opening it up and spilling it everywhere and shoving mung beans down the back of the couch. Really really annoying. I lost my cool at him. I hate it when I do that. Then it cycled up into a “if we had a big house and a yard he could do messy things, and he’s missing out because he’s an apartment kid…” And on it goes. (More on this later, too. We have lots of news).

But I stopped myself. He was so so upset that I’d swept up the mung beans and binned them. I stopped. I got down on his level and looked him in the eye, and empathised. Ok. So he wanted something different out of this than I did. Ok.

We agreed to go and get the messy mat together. We agreed not to spill mung beans everywhere. Then we got more beans, and lots of different containers.

And for two hours, I kid you not, two HOURS, he sat there. He tipped, he ran them through his fingers, he clogged up one funnel so we made another, he got fine motor practice by dropping the beans one by one into the funnel, he talked about “empty” and “full” (scary bright brain, this kid).

And naturally, eventually, mung beans went everywhere. But he’d done his “play work”. And I’d done my empathising and extended his play / self directed learning. And we were way overdue to vacuum anyway.

It was awesome.

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Waiter!

I am in that horrible in between land where I haven’t finished one job, and the new job start date is two short weeks away. Mountains of packing, organising, and tying up loose ends are rearing into my peripheral vision. A lot lot lot of little adjustments to a “normal week” have to happen in the next two weeks so that we can vaguely hit the ground running, make daycare drop offs and picks ups, feed everyone, wear acceptable clothing and no snot trails to new office….you get the picture. I feel like I am being buried alive.

So far I have:
* been in to a marking day in my new offices, to see how the exam process runs and how well the exam is working etc
* formally resigned
* stupidly agreed to “teach out” one subject, so I’ll be doing two jobs for three – four weeks ( sigh, six weeks, seven weeks)
* interviewed a mummy nanny for our extra day of care
* tossed up as family daycare also decided to open on Fridays
* hired our mummy nanny and had a half day trial today
* got relatively on top of two technical areas connected to my new job, making me feel slightly less terrified
*stressed about the new job ( more formal hours, more formal supervision, no comfort zone of an old job I can do well where people already trust me to do my job well without presenteeism or explanation). Then stressed some more.

The main deciding factor on the mummy nanny for Fridays is twofold: 1. No lunch packing bag packing pyjama wrangling cereal shovelling drop offs or pick ups 2. A more relaxed and active friday for jman, hopefully lessening the impact of an extra day “in care”

But aside from pretty much abject terror about making it through the next two weeks and the what the hell have I done feeling about the new role and leaving my current one, there are two things killing me right now. No, make that three.

1. Freakin waiting.

I am SOOOOOOOO sick of waiting. I am normally incredibly patient with jman. But he is pushing my buttons. I am so sick of waiting. Waiting for him to be ready to walk out. Waiting for him to stop running around and agree to get in the car. Waiting for him to leave day care. Waiting for him to get in the car after daycare. Waiting for him to get out of the car at home. Waiting for him to come inside at home. It. Drives. Me. Mental.

The other day, I arrived at daycare at 4:20. At 5:40, I was able to start getting dinner. And daycare is ten freakin minutes away from home. We lose hours to his little button pushing pain on the assness.

It is making me really. Freakin. Angry.

I don’t want to get in the bath. I don’t want to get out of the bath. I don’t want to get dressed. I don’t want to get undressed.

2. Sleep.

Bloody bloody sleep. Once he’s asleep, we’re fine. He sleeps. But getting him to sleep. it is ridiculous. An hour is a good night. 90 minutes is pretty normal. And even though it’s light in the mornings at present and every other parent is dying for daylight savings to start, I can barely get him out of bed after all the stupidly late nights. I am so exhausted of an evening I just cannot make it through. I cannot maintain the momentum to keep pushing to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

3. The house.

The bloody house. Everything seems so disorganised and cluttered, and if am vulnerable to it because my head is already full. I need it to be more organised.

And we might be losing our lease, because the owner is thinking of selling.

We are in stupid limbo.

I do not need limbo right now.

I need an area of life that is concrete. Solid. Predictable.

And I’m not getting it.

Yesterday, hub-in-boots had a day off so I could have an extra day in the office to attend graduation and continue the great office pack of 2014. I woke up, showered, got dressed, ate breakfast, and left for work.

It made me realise what I need to feel less exhausted and overwhelmed.

A penis.

Yes, ladies, a penis. See, when you have a penis, you don’t have to dress a small person, feed them breakfast, dress and feed yourself, wrangle them into and out of a car. No no no. You do this crazy thing where you only get yourself ready. then you drive to work, directly to work. I know, I know, it sounds silly. But it’s true. Some people leave home and go to one other place, called work, then they go back home again. The end.

So instead of arriving at work feeling like you’ve already done 10 hours, you arrive fresh and ready to go.

Also, when you have a penis, you don’t worry about minor things like “where things belong “, or weird concepts like ” clean” or ” clutter”. You also do not have anxiety about ” being good enough to do the new challenging job”, because penises constantly tell their owners “everything will be fine”.

So for my birthday in 11 days, I’d like a penis. They seem really useful.

The Penski File

So.
After my “why don’t you apply for a promotion” post here, and all the mum barriers I discussed in this post, the universe opened a can of whoop ass.

I was headhunted.

Not by a hidden tribe of new Guinean tribesmen, no no. But worse. A recruitment consultant.

Anyhoo, he found me on Linked in.

He messaged me.

I may have ignored him.

He messaged me again.

I may have given a non committal reply.

He asked could he ring me.

I said yes.

He asked when.

I didn’t reply.

He rang.
He talked. I listened. And my “yeah yeah yeah, you’re recruiting for some dodgy private registered training organisation” shifted when I heard the employers name. In my industry, it’s a pretty important name.

And I stood on the lawn outside my office, sipping a cup of tea, and he mentioned the money and I snorted tea out of my nose.

But I can’t.
I can’t do it.
I have a two year old.
I have a two year old I almost lost. Five times. My two year old who almost never was.
I can’t do it.
I’m not good enough.
It’s too big.

Just agree to a conversation, he said.

He’s clever, this guy.
Just a chat, he said. (he read me well. Softly, softly catchee monkey).

So I met with him. He told me about the role.
Just have a chat with them, he said. You’d be great.
So I suited up, and bothered about my hair, and hub-in-boots took a day off, and I met with them. It wasn’t really an interview. It was pretty relaxed. I was pretty relaxed. Because I have a job. And I wasn’t thinking of moving. So it didn’t really matter what they thought of me.

Here I am, I said. I’m a mum first, I said. I wasn’t thinking of leaving, I said.
Can you do this part of the role?
Honestly? I think I’d be rubbish at that part, until I was up to speed.
How about this part?
Yes, well I was thinking in the future you need to do x,y,z and think about changes to a, b and c.
Tell us what you’ve done that is similar?

So I told them. About lecturing, about working to improve students’ writing, about conference papers I’ve written on education. About textbook materials I’ve written (after telling the publisher how rubbish their book was and they gave me a contract). About future plans. About problem based learning. About bringing the real world into the classroom.

Come back and meet another member of the team, they said.

So I did.
And I didn’t try that hard.

Have a tele conference with staff in Melbourne.
So I did.
And I didn’t try that hard.

Have the job, they said. Oh and here’s another $10k on what you thought we were offering. So…..that’s a 50% pay rise.

I don’t want it, I thought. Nothing is worth the loss in flexibility. Nothing is worth the loss of time with jman. It will be like old corporate. I’ll be overworked. I’ll turn into a nasty person. I’ll be stressed. I won’t see my husband or my child. It will be too hard. I’ll be trapped. I don’t want to have to suit up every day.

I don’t want to get the ferry to work on Sydney harbour and stop at the nice coffee shop in the 200m from ferry to office. No no no.

Playgroup, going to playgroup, factored in my decision. Because at present I’m in the office 3 days (one huge day) and work at home 2 days with a lot of flexibility around when things get done.

I had another conversation with my potential boss. She said she arrives at 9:30, after dropping 3 kids at school. She leaves at 4:30, then logs back on about 8pm to do work at home. She comes in four days a week and works the other one at home. Every other person in the team is a mum with small children that does some work from home. Every. Other. Person.
It isn’t all doom and gloom.

If playgroup made the decision, it would be costing $700 a session. Or maybe $400 for play group and $300 for another play date.
Which seems pretty stupid.
You can’t put a price on family time. Or can you?

But I’d still have family time.

You’ve never proven yourself in a new job, whilst being a mum.
You’re not good enough, technically.
You’ll never manage. You’ll look ahead and see the sameness of weeks stretching before you and freak. The hell. Out.
Your kid will hate you and you’ll get a divorce.

You’ll never get this opportunity again.
If this opportunity appeared out of thin air once, It can appear again.
My current workplace is firmly in decline. Less students, more teaching hours, bigger classes. Possible loss of office, parking and campus in future. Possible difficulties when EVERY SIX MONTHS I have to renegotiate my whole existence, my whole timetable, all childcare arrangements. I could be asked to teach any time between 9am and 10pm, five days a week, and only have a bit of wriggle room.
I don’t want it.
I could do it.
I have tenure. Tenure is like gold.
Tenure is like a handcuff.
Money. Money. Money.

In the new job, there are Professional colleagues. All professional colleagues. With money to throw at problems, not stupid policy restrictions and budget restrictions and nepotism to rival any industry. Not like here, with mysoginists three deep stuck in 1975 versions of gender. Not here, where the incompetent / lazy get rewarded, and stay, and the rest of us stand around and fix up their mistakes.

I ignore the things that annoy me in this role, mostly. Because there’s a point. There’s a point. I am bringing home good money, it is not stressful (mostly), and I can be a mum. Whatever I don’t like is irrelevant. Because I am doing it for a reason.
I am a happier person when I leave my ambitious self sitting quietly in a corner.
But I’m older now.

Maybe I could bring her out, for the ride, but not let her take over and turn into a stressed out egomaniac. Because I’m not really insecure anymore. Mostly. Even though I have doubts about my abilities. I look at them and go “Oh! There’s you being silly having doubts again. Oh well, just be quiet, doubts, and get on with doing the best job you can. Nope! Not perfect. Oh well. That’s ok too.”

So. Yes. Big decision time.

We’d need an extra day’s day care. Not available in current family daycare.

Hub-in-boots would swap to earlier shifts, to do pick ups, so I could just take it easy getting home. It is possible he could swap from a Monday-Friday week to a half day Sunday-Thursday week. It is possible.
I could do more online grocery shops.

Decision time.

I am wavering. I have wavered. And both times, I’ve decided no.

Then something has happened at work that made me go “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? SAY YES!”

I am living liminally, on the threshold of leaving, on the threshold of staying, and I’m STUCK.

The universe opened a can of whoop ass.

And I’ve said yes.

Is the job beyond my skills set?  Is the job going to ruin our finely balanced quality of life? If you’re looking for me, I’ll be working on the Penski file.

Two is so becoming

Two is ridiculous!

PRETEND
“What you like? A babycino? You want marshmallow? Here’s your money”

Yes, we can play cafes, we even wait while the pretend cup fills up, but the money is never quite going in the right direction.

It started two weeks before his birthday, in a cafe. He made this horrible loud noise, sitting beside me. “What are you doing?”
“I’m an elephant, mum”. Yes, yes of course you are. And just like that, we’ve gone into pretend. Sure, we’d done pretend toast and cups of tea, but nothing like this.

This week he has:
* washed a “shirt” (face washer) in the “washing machine” (small bucket in the bath) and handed it over “here’s your new shirt all dry, mum.”
* ordered zucchini slice with calamari, schnitzel, mashed potato and broccoli for dinner (just a moment sir, the bistro will call you when your number is ready )
* driven in a “car” (box) to grandmas, then loaded all the animals (animal fridge magnets) in. When asked where he’s going ” to the zoo!”.

LANGUAGE

His language is ridunkulous. Just insane.
“You’ve got a drink of water. I’ve got a drink of water. Daddy’s got a drink of water”

“I was splashing, Aunty cathy. I splashed.” (His use of past tense is better than my students).

” look mummy! There’s a dump truck! A dump truck! Hello mister dump truck. Where did the dump truck go? Where’s he gone? Mister dump truck, where are you?”

“Oh wow, that’s delicious, mummy”

Revisionist sentences: “milk, mummy. A drink of milk. I would like a drink of milk. I would like a big drink of milk. A cup of tea milk, (milk in a mug not a sippy cup) mummy. Please, mum mum. Tank you.”

Gross motor skills / independence

He can walk up and down stairs without holding on, all of a sudden.

He likes to climb into the car seat, not be lifted in.

He can climb rope nets on playgrounds (mostly).

He is suddenly very cooperative about having his teeth cleaned, but allergic to high chairs. Whereas he used to quite like being fed when he was tired, this Is not a thing we do now. In fact, many things have rules. Like :THOU SHALT NOT BUTTER MY TOAST. I DO IT.

But he still runs like a little fairy called twinkle toes. Very funny.

WEANING

I thought I’d never say it, but I think we’ve weaned.

We’d been on a feed first thing in the morning in bed thing for a long time. There was a feed when you pick me up at daycare thing, but that passed a little while back.

He still quite likes grabbing at my boobs. “Mummy’s boobs. Mummy has boobs. I don’t have any boobs.”

And we had a half hearted attempt at a drink on request the other day, the first in two weeks.

I was at a a loss how to manage weaning. The only method that made sense to me was first, night weaning (via dad only settles in the night). That happened a long time ago , maybe at 8 months?

Then, the only thing that made sense was “don’t offer, don’t refuse”. It was the only “way” that seemed ok to me. Don’t get me wrong. There were times I thought oh for the love of god, stop!. But I never wanted to make that decision for him.

There was an undercurrent to it early on, because weaning would be needed for any subsequent goes at IVF. When everyone asked “what about number 2?

And I wasn’t ready, and he wasn’t ready, and I couldn’t force weaning on him. Especially not with an “other” motive. I needed to put a full stop on one sentence, in the right place, before I began another.

It turns out that full stop is probably the last one in that paragraph. And I think I’m (mostly) ok with that. And we’ve weaned. We’ve just about weaned. We made two years. I am so proud of that. Not to put down anyone else’s choices, but when most other things were the exact opposite of natural, this was one thing I really really wanted, that I saw as very important.

I was only ever aiming for three months.
Then six months.
Then a year.
Then the questions started. are you still feeding him? When will you stop? You can give him cows milk, you know (I did. I still do).
When it works for us.
Which turns out to be just after he turned two. Which was a lot longer than I’d ever thought.

FUNNY LITTLE PERSON

There are a lot more moments, these days, when I just stop, and look at him, and think you are amazing. You are just a funny little person, where did you come from? How could this be me, sitting here with you? hoe could this be me, singing Bob The Builder with you as we walk through a supermarket? (On a loop : bob the builder, can he fix it? Bob the builder, can he fix it? Bob the…. you get the picture).

For so long, as babies, they are becoming. becoming a sitter, becoming a babbler, becoming a crawler, a walker, a laugher, a talker.

Now, at 2, all of a sudden like a light has been turned on, I feel he has become.

In the back garden

So, leading up to jman’s birthday, In The Night Garden was still on at 6:30 of a night, often just was we were eating/ finishing dinner. Yes. I know. TV and dinner = bad.

But it got to be a bit of a thing. Jman always sits up to the table with us (note, we NEVER sat at the table before, but we decided it was important as a family thing once he started solids). Anyhoo , when it was on we would talk about the show, sing the songs, and, weirdly, we, the adults, got to quite like it.

One night, I suddenly went “hey, isn’t our yard a bit like the night garden?”. It’s green, it has rolling hills, it has trees, it has a corner with a pebble garden.

We freakin live in the night garden.

So I decided it would be kind of fun, and it would blow his tiny mind, if, for his birthday, I just night gardened up the yard. Because, you know. Planning a holiday, recovering from an ambulance trip, holding down a full time job, not enough of a challenge.

So prior to a fabulous holiday (there will be a post, I promise), I started collecting bits. I made the tardis like carriage out of a shoebox, a pad of coloured construction paper and glue. I also bought some old school pegs, red and blue felt, and whipped up a couple of pontipines.

Hub-in-boots thought they were excellent.

But the true test is a toddler, so I let him see it before the holiday, to see did he recognise it.

He nearly lost his mind! The pontipines house I painted out of an old red box that a gift hamper came in from a dear friend when I was on bedrest. There’s a nice poetry to that repurposing.

After the holiday, I lost momentum a bit. Anyway, below are very brief ideas of what I did to bring the night garden to the backyard…..wine helps. I’m a fan of wine craft. It’s like minecraft, only more social.
the pinky Ponk
THEIRS:

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OURS: (draft form prior to final pimping)

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Green balloon
Pink paper
Yellow paper
Small pink balloon
Pom pom
Glue

If you only do one night garden craft, make a pinky Ponk! Get a big green balloon. Blow it up. Blow up bigger than you need, then let it down slightly this stretching seems to make it less likely the balloon will pop.

Stick on spots of Pink and yellow paper, then make crazy propellers. I used orange craft foam ( from a junk shop), cut into petal shapes and sticky taped. (Sellotaped) on so they stand up.

I made a nose out of a pink balloon, and tied the two balloon “necks” together.

I stuck a big propeller on the back with a pom pom glued into its centre. I tied it into the tree from two anchor points, so it didn’t blow around too much.

DIY Ninky nonk
THEIRS:

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OURS:

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The tardis:
Shoe box (tall and thin )
Blue paper
Yellow paper
Straw
Cardboard
Pom pom
Glue stick

The pumpkin:
Large jar, preferably plastic
Green, yellow, red paint
Paintbrush

The teeny tiny house:
Little white box
Small piece of cardboard for little roof

The main carriage:
Something red and lantern shaped!
Something for wheels ( I used milk bottle tops mounted on satay sticks)
Pom poms for decoration

Tardis carriage:
I cut out little windows on three sides, and covered the shoebox with blue paper, and lined the windows with yellow. I added thin yellow stripes.

To make the roof, I used left over corrugated cardboard from last years invites, painted it red, cut two squares of slightly different sizes, then cut diagonals into the corners so it would fold into a roof like shape.

To space the roof pieces I glued old blocks in between the red rooves, and mounted it all with a straw. The straw had a pom pom sewed on one end and blue tack on the other. I stuck the roof on the main box, and left the shoebox lid so he could lift it off and put things inside,

To stop the kids ripping off the paper stripes, I sprayed this with several coats of varnish.

The pumpkin:
I chopped up an old giant jar of protein powder, painted it green with yellow windows topped with red dots, and that was the pumpkin shaped ninky nonk carriage.

According to jman’s second favourite show, mister maker, you can get paint to stick to weird surfaces if you mix it with “gloopy glue” (PVA glue). He’s right! It’s not perfect, but it works.

I cut vertical slits all around the bottom piece, then just sort of sat the top piece inside it, so the carriage could still be opened and approximated a pumpkin shape. Another idea is to use a paper lantern.

The little house carriage, I made out of an old box of labels, adding a roof via a piece of red shoebox I rescued from the recycling bin.

The Aladdin ‘s lamp style carriage I really struggled with. I used a cheap zip up red sunglasses case, attached milk bottle top wheels, and a pom pom, and connected them all with crazy pipe cleaners. You could also paint a banana!

I wanted him to be able to investigate the ninky nonk, so I made sure everything could open. Then, the night before the party, I hid little surprises in the ninky nonk, like dried apricots, little packets of biscuits Etc.

The pontipines

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10 old fashioned pegs, wooden
Red felt
Blue felt
Glue
Permanent marker
Box, large shoebox shape
Cardboard for roof and chimney
Black moustache material ( I used pipecleaner)
A straw
Needle and thread

I needed something quick and easy for the pontipines, given there are ten. They wear red trimmed in royal blue, and they all have slightly different outfits.

*For daddy pontipine, a black pipe cleaner made his moustache. His hat is a tall square of felt, glued onto a circle of red felt then glued onto his peg head.
* mummy pontipines binoculars I made from two straws cut off and joined, and looped it around her neck with a pipe cleaner.
* the kids I just sewed red felt, trimmed with curves of blue felt and glue

Their outfits I sewed together. One side was a sort of a rounded out triangle, the other side was similar but I included arms. So the arms were one sided, not proper sleeves, and I didn’t bother with hands. I sewed them with a contrasting cottoned just over stitching the edges. Quick and dirty! The hats were getting really annoying and not working, so I just stuck felt circles on their heads, and drew faces with sharpie pens.

When I was over making them, I left three. I told jman they were pontipines doing a nudie run. Naturally, these became his favourites. They are now missing in action. Along with the chimney.

I wallpapered the pontipine ” house” inside with old wedding wrapping paper. It needs a chandelier, and I may add a small Xmas decoration for this later.

The characters

I decided I’d make some characters and stick them around the lawn, and I thought the haa hoos were prime candidates given their big bold shapes and basic design.

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Originally, I’d planned to do these with balloons as suggested on the ceebeebies sites but I decided this was too risky if they all popped.

So I bought a roll of mixed colours A3 construction paper, and drew them over two sheets joined together.

Yellow haa hoo

Yellow A3 paper x 2
Sticky tape
Coloured dots
Large old cardboard box (optional)
Glue stick
Black marker, white paint

Lay the A3 paper out, joining the sheets together with a slight overlap. Draw a dodgy starfish, or an “x” with an extra “arm” pointing straight up. Draw the ends of each “limb” blobby and rounded.

Draw big eyes, big black pupils, and paint eyes white.

Go crazy with dots. Get toddler to help.

To make a standup character:

1. Cut out your paper figure
2. Glue this to cardboard, avoiding folds in the box where you can
3. Cut out, slowly, using a box cutter. Avoid toddler playing with box cutter.
4. Use Sellotape to stick a cardboard triangle-ish stand on the back, about 2/3 of the way up

Purple haa hoo

Use purple construction paper
Draw a blob shape, a bit like a basic babushka doll
Draw big eyes in black marker, and paint inside of eyes white
Paint large yellow daisies with darker yellow centres

If you wish to, turn into cardboard stand up figure.

Light blue x shape

Do another x shape, with rounded ends ( four limbs). Mark on eyes in black, paint white eyeballs.

Paint or stick on lighter blue dots ( small)

Blue blob

Use blue or red paper.
Draw a blob!
Cover the blob in a checkerboard pattern. So if paper is blue, cut out red diamonds and assemble them all over the blue blobby haa hoo.

There is another haa hoo ( a big ass daisy), but I got tired.

Iggle piggle and upsy daisy

So, for these guys I stole large bits of paper from a butcher paper flip board at work.

In fact, I needed large spaces to do it in, so I drew them at work! I thought these guys would look really dumb and be very hard but they were not. I am no artist.

Iggle piggle I felt would look more convincing if he was doing something, so he’s in a sort of dance-y position. I just sketched him free hand looking at a picture. I painted him blue ( cobalt blue mixed with white), and drew on his red hair, black eyes and mouth.

Upsy daisy is quite easy if you just concentrate on one element at a time, and get the colours right! Because they are simple, Childlike characters, they are easy to draw. If you struggle, some people on the net used and overhead projector to project and trace them onto big paper. I originally wanted to so this, but I think they turned out ok freehand. Another idea is find colouring in sheets on sites like ceebeebies, as the one dimensional simplified image is easier to copy.

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“Cooking”: eating the night garden!

Lowest level of difficulty:

Buy individual boxes of dried fruit like sultanas (or lollies)
Print out a nice night garden image
Glue it to the box

Subcontract out birthday cake to niece, who is very clever!

Medium difficulty: Makka pakka marshmallow men!

Get 4 small and 2 normal white marshmallows.
Create one long spaghetti “spine”
Break off two spaghetti “cross bars”
And a spaghetti leg brace

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Stick the two large together using your spaghetti spine. On top of makka pakka’s head, stick the spaghetti through a flattened out sultana.This is safer than toothpicks and more digestible. The head is “circle facing you”, the body is longways.

Using the first cross bar, insert spaghetti into makka pakkas head like the bolts on Frankenstein. Add sultanas on either side like ears.

Optionally, you can stick the sultanas on with icing.

Use the second cross bar through his body, to stick on small marshmallow arms.

Use the bottom of the spine spaghetti and the extra small piece to Stick on legs using small marshmallows ( circles facing you)

Draw on a smiley face with melted chocolate. Makka pakka!

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20140807-234402-85442719.jpgFiddly level of difficulty: tombliboos biscuits

I found some little teeny tiny low sugar gingerbread men we occasionally buy. Of course you could make your own, but i was short on time. I used coloured chocolate (white chocolate and powdered food dye works best), and piped on an overall colour with a very fine nozzle , let this dry for 10-15 minutes, then piped on contrasting dots and squiggles for hair.

The most fiddly part were the eyes. I tried a few things and settled on pre made icing writing tubes, using white then black dots for pupils. Don’t do them too large or cute tombliboo becomes scary Sid vicious meets alien. Well, mine did.

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I experimented with icing the tombliboos, but I’ve made a lot of handmade chocolates in the past, so I found chocolate easier. Go with your strengths, I say. The first batch looked like a “saw this on Pinterest, nailed it ” attempt! I got better. I didn’t paint on smiles, as on the little gingerbread faces they just turned into total freaks that would frighten the children. Keep it simple. This would be easier to do on larger biscuits, but I was trying to avoid giving the kids too much sugar or colouring, so the smaller the better for me.

Watermelon tombliboo house:

Hub-in-boots was along for the ride, and he brilliantly thought up a watermelon house. Of course, watermelons are out of season here, and he found the shop with the largest possible watermelons and didn’t check the price. $35 later….and he forgot to carve it!!!!

Sometime into the party, the tombliboo house appeared. It was way cool. Problem is, I’m not sure we got a photo! We ate a lot of watermelon. A LOT. OF. WATERMELON. We also had party number 2 at mums, and as you can see he’s getting hard to keep up with! More on life at 2 and holidays soon. X

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