Wednesday, 25 April 2012

It's That Time Again....

Yes, I'm taking another blog break. I finally pulled my first draft of the book out of the drawer where it was living and I hate it it needs some serious love and attention. I need to spend some time every day editing that beast. If I work on it daily during all my spare moments for the next month, I think I can crack the second draft wide open. So that means no more wasting time on the internet during naps. Specifically:

No more obsessing over nail colours using google images  (isn't this pretty, though?)
No more trying to find the perfect wall-mounted basin tap (which is this, incidentally, but I really don't want to spend that kind of money on a bathroom faucet because I'm not insane) 
No more facebook Not quite so much facebook.
And no more blogging. 

While I'm gone, can I ask for your help in two things? Thing number one: my blog list is hopelessly, hopelessly out of date. Whoever you are, you're probably not on my blogroll. Reason? You're so pretty that it intimidates me. It's so long since I updated it I think about half the blogs on there have now died of old age. I haven't put anything new on there for about a year.  If your blog is not on my blogroll, and you wouldn't mind me linking to it, would you mind leaving the address as a comment on this post? I have lots to add.... somewhere..... but it's way more likely to actually happen if I can get them all in one place. Thank you.

Thing number two: One of my favourite bloggers has just found out that she is travelling to Ethiopia to finally meet her son. (I'll link to her once she blogs about it!) She asked for 'must pack'items on facebook, but my mind is totally blank and I can't think what to tell her. Would love your input, since you're so smart and well-travelled - I will send her all the info and pretend I thought of it myself  totally give you all the credit.

In return, here's a picture of pink and blue totally failing to grasp the rules of table football.

And with that, it's back to the word processor.

 I might just take a quick look at some pastel pink nail polish first. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

What's Working: Saturated Fat and Other Stories

Okay, here's the rest of my laundry list of stuff that is working. It wasn't going to do a laundry list - I had plans to write something vaguely meaningful, but clearly that didn't happen. So, ummmm..... did I really write a post about nail polish yesterday? Gosh, I really was tired. So what else is working around here? 

Saturated fat, white sugar and refined flour

So much of parenting, for me, is about eating my words. Just as well, because some days that's all that does get eaten around here. l've blogged before about my children's terrible eating, and the one big thing that has changed recently is that we have started bribing them to eat their dinner, and then a few slices of apple, with the promise of cake afterwards. As Blue says: "Firsss apple, THEN CAKE!" Indeed, little man, indeed. 

I don't object to cake - I love cake, and I want them to, too. But this is against everything I stand for, foodwise. I know I should probably take a chill pill, but I hate that we are convincing our children to eat one part of their meal by promising them another. I hate how it creates a dichotomy of good foods and bad foods. I hate how it isn't encouraging them to regulate their own food intake using their own appetites.  I hate being the person who is sitting there saying 'two more big bites then you can have dessert!' Ugh. 

But it's working, so for now we're doing it. And I have become the food bribing mother I swore never to be. I guess I am learning to enjoy the taste of humble pie. 

Okay, what else? 

Hair. Hair is working pretty well around here at the moment. I owe much to the lovely Amanda who taught me the secret of soaking their hair for half an hour in a mix of super-rich conditioner and coconut oil . We do this once a week in the bath now. Their hair soaks up the goodness while they play with their ducks and sing and I love, love what it has done for their curls.  On a side note, why do I find it so impossible to photograph their curls? I only ever seem to do it either from the back, after styling, or just before I do their hair again, after a week of them playing in the dirt and smearing butter in it and all the other things that go along with being two.  Here is Pink's hair just after hair time: 

And here it is, a week later, just before hair time: 

It never stops being gorgeous but it does get pretty crazy by day six sometimes. 

As for what she's doing in this picture?  She's doing 'beep-in-the-ear'. Because I take her temperature when she's not feeling well, and then give her medicine, she thinks it's the digital thermometer that  makes her feel better. So when she's feeling unwell, now, or even just a bit sad, she looks at me forlornly and asks for beep-in-the-ear.  I always say yes, because ehhhhh, what's not to say yes to? 

Thinking of saying yes - or no - to the kids, here's another thing that's working: 

1,2,3 Magic.... Sorta.   I mean, it works as anything works with a two year old, you know? Here is my number one parenting epiphany lately -  there's no way to stop a two year old being crazy. Not attachment parenting, not super-strict parenting, not any other kind of parenting.  And by crazy, of course, I mean horrible. What I really like about 1,2,3 Magic - or any kind of similar plan - is that we have a plan in place for how we're going to deal with mental behaviour before it happens.  They get a warning, then a second warning, and then they are in time out.  No ifs no buts. 
Yes, even if we are at the park. (C'mon, you would have taken that photo too). There is no chit-chat, no lecturing. Just one, two, three. (Talking comes later, once they have apologised, but not while they are in the middle of a screaming fit). I like it because this is pretty much the most complex strategy I can remember when they are pushing my buttons and I'm losing my mind.  It's definitely not magic, but it's consistent and I think that's enough. 

And speaking of losing my mind, here's another thing that's working: 

Mood altering chemicals My comment about taking a chill pill, above, reminded me that hey, actually, I am taking chill pills! And they are definitely working. I'd say that facing my fears and asking for some medical help with how awful I was feeling last year was by far the most sensible thing I've done lately, maybe ever. I am so incredibly grateful. 

Another thing I'm grateful for? It's mundane, but I love it: 

My kitchen timer.  Honestly, I love this thing. I don't know how I lived without it. I don't so much use it for cooking as for a cleaning aide.  Thing is, I face a horrible room full of mess and I think 'Urrggghhhh, I cannot bear to clean this!' And then I think 'No, but I can bear to clean it for ten minutes' and then I set the timer and work hard until it beeps. With little kids, it always  feels like the work to be done around the house is infinite. I never, ever ends. I don't want to surrender to the mess, but I don't want to be a slave to the cleaning, either - I find that frequent timed cleaning sessions are a good middle way.  I work hard and then I stop. Unless I want to keep going, in which case I press the button again. Cutting all the work - especially in the kitchen - into manageable chunks is the most effective way I've found to deal with the house. Case in point: 

My horrible, horrible kitchen one evening after I hadn't really cleaned it all day. I hadn't even emptied the dishwasher from the night before. Believe me, I wanted to walk away. 

Ten minutes later, it was a lot better. If I had shut the dishwasher and left the room, it would still have been a big improvement. But another ten minutes really nailed it:

Kitchen timers - for benches so clean even a cat will sit on them. Hmmmmm. 

The other kitchen thing I'm hugely into at the moment is: 

Smoothies.  I bought a serious blender and it's now competing with the magical hair dryer for favourite appliance - which is a big deal around here, people. Instead of trying to justify it with words: 

Mango, Pineapple, Lime and Malibu smoothie. Oh yeah. I bought the beast for it's spinach-blending capabilities, and I do that too, honestly, but it's hard to beat anything with Malibu, right?  Unless, of course, you're two. The children always want to drink a bit of whatever I've blended (actually, that's part of my long-term strategy with getting them to eat more than just pasta and cake) but I draw the line at Malibu. I do not, however, draw the line at:

Bottles of Milk. My kids still drink milk from a bottle every morning while I hold them (they're getting pretty big, as you can see. Also, please excuse the smug expression on my face this photo. I have no idea what was going through my head). We call it cuddlemilk. Well, J and I call it cuddlemilk and they call it 'cuggen-mook' because we are still working on their D's and L's. 

Apparently some people think this is terrible, to still be bottle feeding at two and a half. Although, to be honest, I've never actually met a person who does think it's terrible, just people who think that other people think it's terrible. So, I'm not apologising. In any case, it's definitely one of the best parts of the day. They wake up (okay, actually they wake up long before this, but I finally admit that they have woken up and go into their room) and then we sit on a chair that we all snuggle into nicely and they drink and I talk to them and then maybe we read a book before the day starts. I love it and they love it, and when it's J's day to be at home, he loves it too. 

I don't really know why some people are in a rush to make their kids give up bottles. What could be nicer than to cuddle my babies close and sing to them while they drink? You don't get that in the same way  with a sippy cup. And what could be nicer, for them, than to lie down in their parent's arms and have a slow calm start to the morning? Rhetorical question, people, rhetorical question. Probably Disneyland would be nicer. But we are in no rush to stop the bottles here. 

I was going to do a further point about toxic chemicals, but it's nearly midnight and what does not work very well is me staying up really late when I have to get up for work tomorrow.  So, I think that's it. I write so much stuff about what is not working in my house - it's been really nice to see that actually, some things are. 

(And - I can't wait to read everyone else's posts. I've been away from my computer a lot lately and have a lot to catch up on! I haven't even linked this one yet- tomorrow after work!)

Monday, 16 April 2012

What's Working: Buying Nail Polish at 4am

Lately, I've been suffering from insomnia. I don't know why. I'm not having bad dreams, I'm not particularly worried about anything and I don't have trouble getting to sleep but sometimes in the middle of the night, BAM, I'm awake.  I squeeze my eyes shut my eyes and try to drift back off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

After a while, I can't bear to lie there any more.  J is a light sleeper so I come downstairs. The house is quiet and theoretically, it's the perfect time to answer the three hundred emails in my inbox or do something else worthwhile but it doesn't seem possible. Only about a third of me is truly awake, which is annoying because that third is very awake.  I can't go back to sleep and I can't think properly so instead, I buy nail polish online.

I go through cycles with nail polish. I obsess about it for about six months, trying colour after colour on my lotioned hands and buffed feet. Then I get lazy and stop exfoliating and stop moisturising and finally stop polishing and then for about two years my hands and feet are just hands and feet again rather than an opportunity for self-expression. I wasn't thinking about polish at all until one wakeful night recently, lying on the sofa eating butterkist popcorn and checking my junk mail from amazon, looking at all the stuff I would usually ignore. Suddenly, with the kind of clarity that only comes at 4am, I realised that is an excellent price for a UV Gel nail curing lamp and it was like the floodgates opened. I've been night-buying nail polish ever since. Right now, I'm wearing mint green on my hands and cobalt blue on my feet. Apparently, I've got the same pedicure that was recently spotted on Beyonce and it's hard to argue with that, right? After all, she and I are so similar in so many other ways.

Anyway. This is my insomnia silver lining right now. This is what's working, in keeping me from going insane. Last night, I was awake again and I ordered a very pale dove grey, because a night of blurry wakefulness told me that was a good idea. The cold light of day ventures to disagree, and it's not the first time I wonder which is real me, day-me or night-me. Do I really like dove grey nail polish? (I hope I will, when it arrives). I remember this feeling from when the babies were tiny and I was awake through the watches of the night with them. It's a feeling of strange, free-floating isolation, being awake at 4am. The me who exists at midday hates night-me for not being able to sleep, for depriving midday-me of energy and frankly, making the day's parenting less than stellar. Today I took the children to the park and I dragged my feet all the way, feeling dizzy and sleepy and wondering whether I could ever bear to have another baby in the house, for this to be the ordinary state of affairs again. I have no idea, to be honest. I probably shouldn't try to think about these things when I've had this little sleep.

Oh, I'm so tired.

At least my nails look pretty. 

(More What's Working later, probably). 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

This Community is Not a Competition

(I guess this post could be subtitled: What's Working For Me: Having Really Strong Opinions About Things That Probably Don't Matter)

A few days ago, I got an email from Circle of Moms [who? Exactly.] telling me that I had been nominated for their Top 25 Adoption Blogs for 2012. And I groaned and thought oh no. 

I was nominated last year, although I didn't really get involved because of my deep seated fear of rejection, and the whole thing was a disaster. People get very wound up about this sort of thing and it's not fun to be part of and it's not fun to watch.  Social media is already far, far too quantitative. Everything is about the numbers. It's already too easy to judge ourselves by how many people follow us, how many people 'like' what we say on facebook, how many times your  your witty analysis of the latest Kardashian divorce is retweeted.  It always feels like a popularity contest. 

And this 'Top 25' stuff isn't even a veiled or implicity popularity contest - it's an actual popularity contest. What kind of  a sick idea is that? Surely the whole point of blogging is connection.  How is that going to make us feel more connected to each other? It's not, that's what.  But then, it's not really about us, is it? It's about money

Here's the idea - they nominate you, or you nominate yourself, and then you ask everyone you know to vote for you. You can vote every day. 

Gaaaaaah. Any competition that says you can vote every day is totally and utterly bogus. Competitions like this are not about promoting understanding about adoption, or of connecting mothers with each other, or even about curating a list of useful adoption writing. Vote-every-day competitions are about one thing only: increasing traffic to the host website.  Which makes sense, I guess: they are not in the business of educating people, or of increasing awareness about the complexities surrounding adoption. They are in the business of making money. They want advertising. To get advertising, they need traffic. Specifically, they want our traffic, traffic from the adoption community as we vote for our favourites and try to pretend that we don't care how many people are voting for us.  They want our traffic.  Next month, I guess it will be traffic generated by competition for the Top 25 Moms Who Live On A Farm, or Top 25 Moms Who Drive A Prius, but this month it's us and it annoys me I am going to use my own little space to say that I Do Not Like It. 

I don't know anything about the people involved in this website, and I have nothing against them personally. But I don't like what they are trying to do - they are trying to use the community that WE have created, together with our our pathetic need for constant validation
to drive up their own advertising revenues.  That just seems unbearably cynical to me. 

I guess the payoff is supposed to be that, if you make the top 25 list, you get the benefit of a link to you from their website.  Aaaaaaand... who cares? It's not BlogHer, people, it's not CNN. Personally, I had never heard of Circle of Moms until they ran the Top 25 thing last year and then I pretty much forgot about them until I got an email about it again this year. 

I do not think that popularity contests promote a sense of community. I resent that a group of people who are not part of this community would crash in here and ask us to annoy each other by spending four weeks shilling for votes, then assess our self worth by how many we get. What's in it for us? Nothing, that's what. 

So, I'm boycotting the whole thing. I won't be voting for you, and I don't want you to vote for me. 

That was all I was going to say. 

And then, this happened, because I obviously needed another reason to be annoyed about the whole thing. In short, the Circle of Moms team decided that Cassi, one of the first mothers on the list, wasn't positive enough about adoption, and they unceremoniously removed her from the competition. This is, of course, pretty eye-watering. Seriously, people? Seriously? Cassi has some difficult stuff to say about adoption coercion, but I think that if any of us had been through what she had been through, we would have some difficult stuff to say about that too. On one level, I'm shocked. 

But on another level, I'm not shocked at all. This decision is entirely consistent with the fact that they are trying to make money from advertising revenue.  Having a blog like Cassi's front and centre is probably not a very revenue-friendly thing. 

Some people have concluded that the best way to react to this is to vote as often as possible for the other people who are telling the more complex story of adoption - particularly other first mothers and adopted adults

With respect, I disagree. Making a point of visiting frequently in order to vote for the complicated stories pretty much just gives them exactly what they want.What Circle of Moms needs and wants is traffic. They want our clicks.  I say - don't give it to them.  Spiking their traffic is hardly going to punish them for censorship. If you don't like what they're doing, don't link to them. (There are no links to them in this post, obviously). Don't visit their site.  Send the organisers an email, if you want to, and then move on. Whether because of the cynicism or the censorship, I don't want to be part of this whole thing, and I recommend that you aren't, either. 

Okay, off my soapbox. 

And now, because all that was very negative, please enjoy this picture of my son meeting a chicken. 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

What's Working For Me: Giving Everybody an Extension

Did I say to write something for the linkup by Friday? What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking at all, that's what I was thinking. I totally forgot that J and I are off work for a week from last Wednesday to this, and I get practically zero computer time when that happens.

This is what it's like: I wake up in the morning and Oh, let's go for an idyllic walk, Claudia, says J, for example. Or Let's go and visit someone and eat their cake, Claudia (although I should probably point out that he does, in fact, usually use my real name). Other times, it's Let's have some more wine and watch a movie during naptime,Claudia or even Let's play with the children, Claudia. Pah!  Tomorrow, I know it will be Let's go and buy half-price Easter eggs from the expensive chocolate shop because Easter was yesterday, Claudia which all sounds very nice but what about my internet time? There isn't any, that's what.

So: extension. I have about three things I want to write about, and that's only going to have any chance of happening if I say the new 'write by' date is now 18 April.

Anyway, he's giving me his Let's look at stupidly expensive houses on the internet for a joke,Claudia face, so I'd better go.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Your Turn - What's Working?

I was going to write something scratchy-violin-ish about raising siblings, but I don't want to do that any more.  I want to write something positive. I want to read something positive. In fact, I want to read LOTS of somethings positive.  So, who's in the mood for another link up? I would love you to write a blog post to tell us - what's working well in your house or your life? 

This is the kind of stuff that's working in my house at the moment: I'm in love with my kitchen timer. I might write about that.  Or maybe I'll write about how I still bottle-feed my nearly-three year olds every morning. Or perhaps I'll just tell you about the flash of genius I had recently that inspired me to invent the caramel popcorn smoothie last weekend. (Please don't tell me if someone else has already invented this. I don't care. As far as I'm concerned, it's miiiiiiiiiiine).   So much for my life - I want to know: what's working in yours? How are you managing your kids? How are you managing not having any kids? Have you given away your car? Have you decided to shower only once a week?  Are you using guilt about your messed-up childhood to trap your mother into babysitting more often? 

What can we learn from what you are doing? Kids, no kids, work, food, friendships, relationships, schooling.... no matter how overwhelming life feels, we're all doing something right... right?  Let's pool our smarts. If you want a slightly more specific prompt, you can answer the question: "If I could give other women one piece of advice, it would be......" (and you are NOT allowed to say 'just relax and find your own path and don't worry about other women judging you' because that's kind of annoying. Also, people who say that always make me feel judged because apparently I'm not relaxed enough). If you really can't think of anything, give us your favourite easy week night recipe. Or maybe what's working for you is that you've given up cooking altogether. In which case give us the telephone number of your favourite pizza guy. You get the picture.

Here's the linky - I would love it if you could write a post about what's working well right now in your life and add it by Wednesday 12 April. Inspire me!  Who's in? 

(Remember - please link to the post you write, not your whole blog otherwise Mr Linky gets confused).


And speaking of inspiration, I am hugely inspired by this lady. Have you seen this beautiful quilt that she made? She made this lovely thing with a daughter in mind: 

and embroidered it by hand: 

and now she's selling it to raise money for donations for her forthcoming trip to Ethiopia to meet her precious son! She asked a few of us how much she should charge for raffle tickets, and our first response was 'don't sell it! It's too beautiful!'  But she said no, she really wants to use the quilt to raise money. And then we all said she should charge at least $10 for a ticket (because, hey, it's beautiful).  But luck is on your side, people, because she's only charging $5. So now you can buy twice as many. 

Did I mention that all the money she raises is going to be used to buy supplies for her son's first orphanage and a few other equally worthy projects? And that she's going to buy everything in-country so she can support local suppliers? And that tickets are only $5? You should buy lots of tickets, and then you should get your friends to buy lots of tickets too. (But not too may because I want to win). Click on the link below and find out how. 

In short: Beautiful quilt. Beautiful family. Really good cause. Also, some embroidery of an elephant's butt, but you'll have to click over and read the full story, together with details of how to buy tickets to see that.

This is such a beautiful thing. I love that she's using it to raise money. Let's make sure she raises a lot!