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What this Blog is about.

This blog is a diary of my journey through the 2017 Dymocks top 101 books as a bibliophile and a Mum.

I’m taking the decision making out of my reading for the year (and most probably longer) to work my way through the list of top 101 books voted by Dymocks readers and this is where I will share my personal impressions of each book as I progress through them. In the least, I hope to entertain you but hopefully I will also help you to choose your books wisely and capitalise on the spare time you have.

Since a lot of my time is focused on kids, family and everything else, I’ll also share some general musings (or venting) on toddlers, parenting, being a wife and the transition back from stay at home Mum to working Mum, and of course – all things books!

A Constant Juggle

A huge challenge in being a working Mum is managing the illness.

  • The constant toddler cough that you try to convince everyone is just the daycare cough and not contagious.
  • The marathon worthy running nose (maybe that’s why V1 needs so much sleep, his nose is tiring him out with all that running). On the upside both my kids can blow their nose properly! (I’m extremely thankful for my better half for teaching them this skill!)
  • The post virus, during the virus, pre-virus rash that, given the number of viruses the kids get, seems ever present. Not contagious in and of itself, but still concerning and requiring at least 1 (generally 2 for good measure) trips to the Dr, and least one day off work/daycare.
  • The occasional bout of ‘conjunctivitis’ requiring at least 3 visits to the Dr (I use the term ‘conjunctivitis’ extremely loosely in this context, since is almost never actually conjunctivitis).
    • Visit 1 – to diagnose the type (very nearly every time we visit, it is diagnosed as an allergic irritation therefore not contagious, yet we still aren’t allowed to go to school, just in case).
    • Visit 2 – the can we go back to school yet? Usually responded by the Dr of, “let me see them tomorrow to check”.
    • Visit 3 – the “oh yes, they look absolutely fine don’t they, perhaps there was nothing there in the first place”. Great. Meanwhile we’ve already missed 3 days of daycare (and work) to get to this point. (I’m not commenting on the cost of these visits because, thankfully, our emergency Dr is a bulk bill centre!)
  • Last but most definitely not the least, the gastro. Since moving to a smaller daycare centre we have avoided the dreaded gastro (I think this is partly because they have the awesome foam soap dispensers and hand dryers – both of which are such a novelty it ensures the kids always wash, rewash (and wash again for good measure) their hands). However, this week we weren’t that lucky.

Thankfully this gastro waited until after the work and school day for both myself and V2. V2 waited until she had devoured her dinner, a very large serve of blueberries (I might never look at them the same way again), and fallen asleep. Her toys in bed didn’t stand a chance.

V1 made it through the night and arose unwell the next morning and, in his words, needed to burp into the toilet. We were incredibly lucky that the second day of the bug was not a school/work day and we were able to laze around the house watching TV, feeling miserable for ourselves and being looked after by my better half.

We are not usually so lucky with our timing. My kids go to daycare on Monday, Thursday and Friday (my workdays). This usually allows them the chance to catch something on a Monday, and through the Tuesday and Wednesday it germinates into something nice and buggy so I often get a call by Thursday lunch.

 

Since returning to work 3 months ago, I think I’ve had at least 7 or 8 days off with the kids while they are unwell (this doesn’t include time when I am actually sick, which I very rarely take because of the volume of time off for the kids!)

Being part time is a huge challenge. Add this to the day off here and there with sick kids and it’s one of the most challenging things I have to manage at the moment. There is barely a week that goes by where I don’t feel like I am choosing between two things:

  • Being a bad mother – sending them to school despite thinking they might be coming down with something.
  • Being a bad employee – keeping them at home for each instance the sick hat drops.

It feels like we never can win but I know everyone is in the same boat. It has become a little bit of a joke that almost all of the Mums I know have celebrated part of their first weeks back at work after parental leave, by having at least one of their work days off with a sick little one.

Bottom line is, they come first. The work will still be there the next day, and the next. Most of us aren’t playing for sheep stations and when the kids need a mummy cuddle, nothing else will do. It is just something to continue to struggle, to juggle and ultimately hope their immune systems build up as quickly as their noses run.

 

 

Friday Musings and Highlights

– it’s interesting that the average toddler grip results in an inability to hold a cup without spilling, a spoon without dropping food, or your hand tight enough while walking to the park that you feel they are safe.  However, show them a ‘lift the flap’ book and they have a grip to rival any member of the ape family (NB: V2 strengthens her grip by practising on my hair so this skill is not exclusively reserved for book renovations).

– despite my best efforts to have everyone sit together for meals, I often end up eating alone.  Tonight I sat with V1 and V2 at their little table. 5 minutes after they had abandoned their seats and half full plates, it occurred to me I probably didn’t need to continue eating on my knees at their table. I did it anyway.  I couldn’t be bothered to move. (I shouldn’t complain – the alternative usually sees me eating with V2 on my lap and me VERY carefully knife and forking my dinner both around her body and over her head).

– while eating uncomfortably perched at the small table, I watched V1 and V2 play together with the puppy – harmoniously.  They were laughing. And chasing. And smiling. And having fun. And playing games. Until, (as the truism of ‘it’s all fun and games until…’ ran through my head), V2 tripped over her toe and smashed her face onto the rim of the waiting Tonka truck  (those things are toddler proof – she came off second best).  For context she’s 15 months and just walking…. and her pyjama pants are too long… and her belly is so big she barrels along…. and she’s trying her utmost to run…. she didn’t stand a chance of staying upright for long once she attempted to get some speed up.

– my mind was blown this week when I worked out Miss Polly Had a Dolly is almost identical to If You’re Happy and You Know it. I suspect I’m coming late to the party on discovering that one. As I said. Mind. Blown.  (Shouldn’t be surprised though – think of twinkle twinkle, abcd and baa baa black sheep).

 

 

Jane Austen

Almost missed my train reading these Jane Austen Facts and Figures on The Guardian site:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2017/jul/18/jane-austens-facts-and-figures-in-charts?CMP=fb_gu

Like most others on the platform my head was down and I was not taking any notice of what was going on in the world outside of my phones. Now that I have a seat, I can rifle through my bag for my book! (The hugely interesting and thought provoking Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari).

An Old Favourite

Whenever I get into a book funk and lose my reading mojo, I like to go back to an old favourite. Sometimes it happens as I’ve struggled to get through a new book and I read more slowly (I really loathe not finishing a book. Making the conscious decision to not finish a book has happened twice that I can remember in the history of my adult reading – Casual Vacancy JK Rowling and Fifty Shades EL James (Cue gasp!). And yes, I am aware the first is on the list for this year, and the second was on the list last year I believe!).

Sometimes it happens if I just don’t have enough time to get through any reasonable chunks of a book so struggle to immerse myself in it.

Sometimes, let’s face it, I’m so tired and there is just another episode of House of Cards that I simply must watch (Yes, I am partial to a little TV when time permits!)

Most recently it happened because I went on a Dymocks spree and purchased quite a few self-improvement books. Having finished one, I just didn’t feel like bettering myself in quick succession, so I returned to an old favourite.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) (No. 23 on the list)

This is the book I can safely start anywhere I like and be immersed instantly. I’ve lost count of the number of re-reads as a result of the ease of escaping into the world of the Bennetts.

It is much more than a story about girls marrying well to secure their future, support their sisters and live a happy life (as their father’s fortune is entailed away from them). It has so many big themes of feminism, independence, changes in social propriety, the implications of quick judgements and ignorance.

However it is not the serious themes that draw me back. It is the fact that, every time I read this, I find myself either giggling out loud, or swooning in my seat. Either at the ridiculousness of the circumstances the girls often find themselves in and the individual quirky characteristics of the sisters (and Mrs Bennett, who provide comic relief in her lack of self-awareness and crudeness in all conversations in particular).

Or the incredibly romantic phrases from Mr Darcy (even though he is at great pains to appear disinterested at all times!) His entire demeanour is to convince that he is indifferent to those who court his affections however he falls in the most monumental of ways, for Lizzie (despite earlier in the book affirming her to be rather ‘plain’) (Sorry for the spoiler alert here, but if you haven’t read this and don’t know the story, then stop reading this and go get a copy!!).

Despite being set in such a different time, some of the most memorable lines (like the below), still ring true:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Caroline Bingley, Pride and Prejudice

The entire language that she uses in the book, in fact, is romantic. She uses words you would almost never hear in every day conversation today. In fact (since I’m going to be honest), most of them I didn’t even know what they meant. So in reading this, I learn, feel smarter and expand my vocab in the process! Words like felicitous, caprice, and affectation just to name a few. Modern English seems so rushed compared with the amount of time Austen spends on conversation. It’s romantic, relaxing and provides a suitable haven to escape into to remind myself why I love reading.

 

 

Some Things Do Change

Recently I’ve found there are quite a few ‘normal’ tasks that have been drastically altered as I’ve transitioned from being a stay at home Mum to a working Mum. Things that should be simple and uncomplicated are, quite simply, not.

I know my experiences specifically are not unique so I thought I would share a few with you so we can all know we are not alone !

Stay at Home Mum – showering before going out = optional. Our shower is right next to V2s room. Keeping her asleep was always more important.

Working Mum – obviously this one has had to change.  Showering is first order in the morning but it usually takes place with an audience of 3. V1, V2 and the puppy. And by first order I mean after both kids have breakfasted (cereal and toast, often with a dessert of eggs), after I’ve tidied up the monumental mess that V2 produces while eating (hey, at least she feeds herself!), and after both kids are dressed (my better half usually dresses V1 so this saves at least 4 mins of back and forth trades, ultimatum and downright yelling to get the job done). Various toys decorate the bathroom floor and as a result of the risks of having 2 fully clothed wet children, showers are capped at 2 minutes, max. Which brings me to my next point…

Hair washing

Stay at Home Mum – since showering was a luxury that usually happened once my better half was home and on duty, I always washed my hair to take full advantage of having a long, and very hot shower (since a lot of the time I have the kids in there with me, showers are not so enjoyably lukewarm).

Working Mum – somewhat surprisingly this has reversed. Hair washing when working requires a blow dry. Time I don’t have (and V2 is remarkably unenthused about the hoise and concept of heat blowing around the place – she actually cries in front of blow heaters bizarrely – and since I can’t venture into the bathroom alone, this is a challenge!) So we are experimenting with pushing the boundaries of hair washing, and creative styling (I’m saving money on styling products as the natural oils are doing the trick!) Before you all panic and recoil in disgust, I manage to wash it about every 3 days (when compared with daily washes pre kids, it’s a stark contrast, but all in all, not that bad!)

Exercise

Stay at Home Mum – I did a marathon at the end of my year at home with V1. At the end of my year at home with V1 and V2 I was managing a twice weekly 5k run.

Working Mum – initially thus declined to be a once weekly 5k run. And by once weekly in this instance, I mean once a week, every 3rd week. Now I’ve managed to push it back up to twice weekly (for a whole 2 consecutive weeks!) and supplemented cardio with a few other exercises:

  • Toddler kettle bell swings – V1 is almost 20kgs now so these are exhausting.
  • Weighted squats and lunges (v2 serving the purpose of my weight). Since she’s an active little thing this make these exercises rather dynamic! 
  • Running on the spot. If it’s good enough for the wiggles, it’s good enough for me. This is usually accompanied by kids soundtracks  (Moana, Shakira, Taylor Swift and Frozen) and includes intensive jumping (this is how V1 dances). This also includes mixing it up with the aeroplane chase (exactly as it sounds, we are aeroplanes chasing each other up and down the house). 
  • The V2 upright row into overhead press. She loves the slide but can’t climb the ladder. So from ground to overhead height she is lifted repeatedly. 
  • The weighted chore walk. All Mums do this one on a daily basis. The cook, clean, eat, shop, and hang washing out while holding their V2. My right bicep looks great. My left one needs some work – we all have a favoured side! 

In light of all this exercise, that brings me to the next drastic area of change.

Eating

Stay at Home Mum – I managed to consume regular meals and supplement this with kids leftovers as snacks. Mac and cheese, peanut butter toast, home made veggies muffins and my favourite – chicken and veggie sausage rolls. Since we always cook dinners and plan for leftovers there was always a yummy reheatable meal in the fridge.

Working Mum – I seem to spend all my spare time cooking.  I slow cook two dinners on my days off and cook different dinners so the slow cooked meals keep for work days.  I have lunch leftovers each day but somehow the proportion of eating is not relative to cooking. My kids have huge appetites now, and we have a dog. Bye bye leftovers for Mummy. In fact, as Nanny and Poppy discovered on the weekend just gone, both children will literally eat the food off your plate before you’ve even had a look in. Since showering has moved up the roster, eating in the morning has moved down. Coffee is a staple. By the time I get to work, it’s usually lunch time before I’m reminded that I’ve yet to manage breakfast!

Toileting (no I don’t mean in the traditional English sense of getting ready for dinner).

Stay at Home Mum – the door is always open – not in the sense of please join me, the more the merrier but rather in the sense of, if I closed it everyone woild fall into the bathroom as soon as I opened it because of them leaning and banging on it while in there (as a result of the open door policy, sadly more often than not I have an audience).

Working Mum – no change (at home – (there you go – a constant !)) At work – peace (When I can afford the time away from my desk to actually go).

I wouldn’t change any of it and my kids are worth a little sacrifice (ok ok maybe I would like to enjoy an extra run, an extra meal, and an extra hairwash and blow-dry each week, and to go to the toilet at home with the door locked!).

A Different Skill Set – The Sleeping Beauty Car Extraction

Ever since becoming a mother, I have learned to value different skills. It’s currently the Year End review and goal setting time at my office which has led me to think about my different skills.

The skill of keeping one’s children awake while travelling 3kms home from Little Kickers, after skipping the first nap, is invaluable. I must admit I am still honing this skill. So in the interim I have developed a back-up skill and have included instructions herewith for those who are interested in further developing and broadening their skill set.

The Sleeping Beauty Car Extraction

  • Step 1: Eject your toddler quietly and gently from the vehicle (this usually involves conceding to some unreasonable demand along the lines of a DVD, a milkshake or shamefully, a promise you will most likely not follow through with since you want them to have a nap – a chocolate (since we don’t have any in the house, this is a hard one to actually follow through with)).
  • Step 2: Once negotiations with toddler are concluded, open boot, remove bags quietly from the vehicle and close the boot without noise.
  • Step 3: Release the harness and lift the sleeping beauty onto your shoulder (the key to this step is NOT bumping her head on the door frame) (NB: As the child will need to remain in this position for the entirety of steps 4 thru 9, I cannot stress the importance of ensuring she is situated safely in a position requiring only one hand to hold her).
  • Step 4: Unlock and open the garage door (be sure to avoid any obstacles your toddler has left laying around on your path, including tractors, bulldozers, diggers, soccer balls, gym benches (ok that one was probably me from two days ago!) or his rubbish from the car).
  • Step 5: Close and lock garage door (for ease, this step can be omitted and repeated at a later, more convenient time).
  • Step 6: Arrange toddler into a quiet, yet entertained occupation that will maintain interest for at least 4 minutes, ideally 5 to be on the safe side.
  • Step 7: Close blinds in destination bedroom.
  • Step 8: Locate sleeping bag and decide if you will insert her into the bag in a flat or upright position. Lay sleeping bag onto change table if the former is selected.
  • Step 9: Gently lower the sleeping beauty onto the bag then suddenly notice she is still wearing two jackets.
  • Step 10: Decide if it’s worth the risk to remove them simultaneously or separately. In  my case, remove separately the outer jacket after unzipping.
  • Step 11: Remove the under layer jumper after unzipping (using the elbows down and sleeves of jacket up method.
  • Step 12: Realise that both jackets are now in between the sleeping beauty and the sleeping bag.
  • Step 13: Question your decision making skills, but find the courage to go on.
  • Step 14: Lift up the sleeping beauty back into the former over the shoulder one hand hold position and remove jackets from the table.
  • Step 15: Think better of your earlier decision and lift the bag onto the back of the little one, and hoist her legs into the bag (of course it’s a zip front bag, which places the zip between you and the sleeping beauty).
  • Step 16: Remember that her shoes have not been removed (curse that this is the one time they actually stayed on for the duration of the outing).
  • Step 17: Remove shoes (while saying a silent prayer of thanks to those who invented velcro)
  • Step 18: Don’t get ahead of yourself by thinking you’ve done it. The hardest part is yet to come.
  • Step 19: Lower sleeping beauty into the cot. Locate her sheepy and place on her hand should she grasp in her sleep. Locate the double zip and gentle close up the zip.
  • Step 20: Exit the room.
  • Step 21: Take a breath (You have of course been holding your breath since step 3 and by now are looking pretty blue in the face).
  • Step 22: Enjoy a leisurely afternoon of hot coffee, tea, chocolate, TV, books or whatever you like since you’ve just worked a miracle it stands to reason that you can of course work a miracle and complete all chores, and toddler management with the snap of your fingers too.

NB: Don’t, under any circumstance, attempt to complete Step 21 before Step 20. It is not advised.

It’s important to preface the above process by noting that it is all dependant on the 50/50 chance that your child will awaken as soon as the car is turned off. If she wakes, it’s all out the window and many more new skills come into play to commence the marathon afternoon session of no sleep (see instructions later to come entitled, The Beauty into the Beast Entertainment Schedule).

It is now 3 hrs past completing the above and the house is peaceful. These skills should never be underestimated. (Though I’m not sure I can include in my year-end self evaluation, no matter how tempting it is to do so!).