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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!

One of ‘those’ mornings 

You know when you have one of ‘those’ mornings where you just have to look at the bright side and say ‘well there is literally only one way for the day to go – and that’s up’ – well that’s today. A combination of grumpy toddlers has pretty much set the temperature of the day. 

– V1s grumpiness was being on account of his breakfast not being hot enough. ‘Sure’, I say ‘let’s warm it up again’, after I acquiesce to his demands despite my certainty of the result.  So I preface it with ‘but don’t complain to mummy when it’s too hot’. Many of you will of course ask, why did I bother? And you are of course correct. I already know the exact outcome of this action. We’ve walked this path many times. Definition of insanity perhaps.  Nevertheless tears of frustration emerge from Goldilocks.  ‘Is it too hot?’ I ask, in my best attempt to not use my I told you so tone. ‘Yes’ he sobs in a language that only a disgruntled mother can decipher. Easy fix, we added some cold milk. Done. Phew. But it didn’t stop there.

I suspect his new foray into the world of toddler sleep nightmares (borderline night terrors) has left him a little unsettled with things, so I should add that before the breakfast meltdown I had attempted a 20 minute sit down cuddle to attempt to console him. In soothing dulcet tones I attempted to elicit if anything hurt, what I could do to help and why he was so upset. V2 even helped by offering cuddles and patting him on the back. To no avail. In any event he’s learned something new in the past few weeks. That being sick means he gets to stay home from daycare. Hence his protestations at school drop off regarding his poor health.  Crafty little thing.  In perhaps a moment of weakness I’ve given in and promised an early mark if necessary. 

– Which brings me to V2. For the most we actually have no idea why she is grumpy on account of her limited vocab. Despite this, She has an innate ability to get her message across. Feeding her eggs to the dog I guess means ‘thanks mummy and daddy for taking the time to cook me a second breakfast after my three Weetbix, but I’m feeling pretty full so I no longer need my eggs and I know you love making yourself late to work to cook for the dog’. Hanging over the edge of the shower whole I showered and therefore getting her clean clothes drenched probably means ‘I love you so much I just want to be next to you all the time, and I don’t mind that you’ll have to redress me before we leave. It means I spend more time with you.’ Crying about the wrong shoes probably means ‘I love watching you put my shoes on and I’m like you Mummy, indecisive about what I wear, but a lover of shoes so I need to see them all on before I decide’. Pulling the egg out of the fridge and smashing it into the fridge door so it drained through the bottom draw until ultimately dropping onto the floor probably means… damned if I can understand that one. Aside from ‘you should have known not to carry me around while packing your food for work!’ She might have a point.  

There are various other INSIGNIFCANT (this caps is more to convibce myself rather than anyone else) grievances with various other spheres this morning upon which I have no doubt I am placing too much emphasis. So I shall consider this my download and move onwards and upwards eagerly awaiting my Friday pain au chocolat (V2 ate my eggs after ironically feeding hers to the dog) and my second double shot coffee.  

Chocolate and coffee will solve all it seems. 

(And since writing this that has been thwarted as I receive the call to get to work as fast as I can to help with something urgently – guess that means my fix has to wait. I repeat to remind myself – INSIGNIFCANT in the scheme). 

Friday Musings and Highlights….

– it’s best not to think about how much time we as sydney Mums, spend sitting on platforms trying to get to work after missing the train by 30 seconds, every day. A lot of yelling, running, rushing and forgetting things went into missing that train. I won’t wonder at the total time but I will ponder why I try to get that train everyday.  Definition of insanity? 

– at least during yesterday’s 20 minute wait for the train, I learned about the birthplace of John Steinbeck (the lettuce bowl of America apparently!), that you used to be able to see America on a Greyhound  (the bus, not the dog!) for $99 for 99 days, and that the Monterey jazz festival is a must do! (Thank you to the kind gentleman who disregarded my gruff demeanour as I made room for him on our seat and listened to my little whinge about always being late despite my best efforts!)

– this morning we ran out of honey for the porridge. So I used ‘brown’ honey (tribute to readingmummasister for that name. Golden syrup to the uninitiated). I may have created a monster.  

– speaking of creating a monster. We have developed an ingenious solution (or so we thought) to V1 bailing out to our bed every night. He gets a matchbox car for staying in his bed all night. We may have peaked too early. 2 nights this week and I’m getting worried about nipping this in the bud before it gets out of hand and bankrupts us ! (Seems so many things in parenting these days leads to another challenge to overcome! Maybe we will tell him the dummy fairy took the cars since he won’t leave his dummies for her!). On the plus I’m starting to rember how big a king bed is.

Happy Friday! I’m celebrating with Italian for lunch. Because it’s been a big week and I deserve carbs ! 

Another Day of Sun

Obviously I loved La La Land (didn’t everyone?!) And thankfully my kids love the soundtrack too since they have to listen to it regularly.

But it’s not the film that has got me thinking today, but rather whether or not it’s safe for my kids to be out in another day of sun today.

Now that we are in August, daycare have implemented their mandatory sunscreen from drop off til pick up time policy, which is resulting in a bit of discussion in our house.

It’s early August and temperatures are below 20 everyday so V1 and V2 are in long sleeves and pants all day.

They have their bucket hats (mandatory) every day so, far as I can tell, their skin will not see any sun as much of the outdoor play area at school is shaded. They also have nap and quiet time during the peak of the day where the UV rating is highest (today it is 3 – moderate).

It has definitely got me thinking. Prior to V1’s birth my better half and I, much like many daunted new parents do, attended an infant first aid course where the topic of sunscreen was brought up. The guidance was along of the lines of ‘be sensible, and don’t overdo it’. For the little ones the skin is so thin so yes it’s at higher risk of sun damage however they also absorb everything put onto their skin more easily.  (We raced out and bought a chemical free edible sunscreen to limit chemical absorption but since it was probably more closely related to a food group than sun protection it expired very quickly – not to mention cost a bomb! The only way it would be financially sensible was if I actually started spreading it on toast.) That aside, the instructor’s advice was it is far more sensible to use common sense and cover up if you are out in the peak (but try and avoid being out in the peak all together).  Also, let the kids enjoy the sun prior to the UV peak and after it has dropped in the afternoon so they can at least see some sun.

Now I’m reading at https://www.osteoporosis.org.au/vitamin-d and Deakin University at  http://www.deakin.edu.au/research/research-news/articles/vitamin-d-deficiency-strikes-one-third-of-australians that Australia is experiencing an increase in cases of vitamin D deficiency, particularly at the end of Winter as vitamin D stores decline into end the start of Spring.

It is mostly being seen in older people and those that are indoors for most of the day but as Osteoporosis Australia notes sufficient levels of vitamin D cannot be gained solely by diet, I worry that our fussy kidlets who staunchly refuse to eat anything we profess to be good for them,  might not be not be getting enough because of our caution. (I’m relying on their egg consumption as the primary source since I haven’t got a hope of them eating tinned tuna, they don’t like bottled juice, and our cereal isn’t fortified!)

I’m interested to hear the thoughts of others as when I was out recently with the grandparents they agreed we should let them soak the sun, and very few kids at the park had hats on ( it was a sunny day and it was the middle of the day).

I dont really know the answer but for the next couple of weeks I will let the kids enjoy the warmth, while I keep an eye on the UV index so as to avoid adding too many other things to the daily worry list. Though I suspect this will sit in the bucket along with all of the things for which we as parents might not ever get right !

 

An Ever Evolving Role…

I’m currently reading Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind  (Yuval Noah Harari). This has been such a fascinating book so far, so many new concepts to consider so I’m taking my time with this one.

One of the concepts that has particularly lingered for me is that of the evolution of the way our brains think and process different pieces of information.

Harari comments that the evolution of script (primitive forms of writing) was the catalyst for changing the way our brain processes the world and its stimulants.

“The most important impact of script on human history is precisely this: it has gradually changed the way humans think and view the world” (Sapiens, Harari pg146).

So writing forced us to change the way we thought, viewed the world, functioned in every day life and just generally how we live. Our incredible minds are now so flexible we can change the way we think about what we are doing to consider the vast numbers of variables and stimulants we are presented with as soon as we wake up until we go to bed.

This made me think of the changes our brain and body undergo during pregnancy and becoming a Mum. As a Mum I’m constantly saying how things are different for me since I’ve had kids.

  • I place emphasis and value different things.
  • I worry constantly (while this not that new from my previous state, now the worry is usually fixed on child related concerns).
  • I sleep so lightly I can hear almost any peep from the kids.
  • Things that smell awful are tolerable because the kids need me to tolerate them.
  • I’ve eaten extremely questionable food that may or may not have come out of my kids discerning mouths (when you’re at the supermarket, what do you do!)

I started to think about the actual science behind actually why so many things change when becoming a Mum. It’s always been something that has been somewhat of a given but reading more widely about the history of humans has made me start to wonder just why this has happened.

I realised I was quickly stepping out of my scientific depth here (having not completed ANY Science for my final year of school) so I turned to Google. It was there I stumbled upon the Guardian’s article ‘Pregnancy causes long term changes to brain structure, says study” (Nicola Davis, 20 December 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/dec/19/pregnancy-causes-long-term-changes-to-brain-structure-says-study.

(I vaguely remember what it was like not having Google at your fingertips to answer all of life’s questions, a world I will one day have to explain to the kids no doubt!)

Here I learned of the empirical evidence in studies demonstrating a woman’s brain does in fact undergo physiological change, specificity in the form of a slight reduction in grey matter. The study notes that though it’s not certain, this could potentially allow for adaptation to the demands of mothering.

Our brain becomes focussed on helping us bond, nurture and protect our little ones as they are rely on us for survival. Yet, many of us return to work very soon after giving birth when we are still evolving our brains to manage the challenge of mothering an infant (and for many Mums, still sleep deprived and just generally exhausted).

It leads to a fairly simple conclusion. Humans, and the Mums that produce and grow little humans, are amazing.

Those Mums that stay at home are solely responsible for both the nurturing, education, development and entertainment of their kidlets. They are constantly on duty, at the beck and call of the little ones. Constantly prey to their little ones fits of anger. At the mercy of the little one’s precarious moods and responsible for stemming the spurts (or gushes) of tears (that often appear for no reason). But they are exposed to almost all of the smiles, giggles, cuddles and other priceless rewards.

Those that work and Mum somehow manage to juggle the challenges that both generally completely opposed spheres that work and mothering (including all of the above!) present them. The spheres often spill into each other (we worry constantly – we are programmed to do it. And the phone often rings on days off for work) yet we manage – no, we succeed!

So we keep adapting to all of the challenges multitasking mothering and work throws at us – ever changing and evolving to be best equipped to overcome the little (and often big) challenges of every day mothering.

Being a Mum…

Most of the aspects of being a Mum are well known and routine:

  • Nappies (including poo explosions, poo landslides, and general poo extravaganzas).
  • Sleepless nights (including sharing your bed, getting kicked in the head, belly and and scratched by extremely long toenails).
  • Constantly running late (and sometimes just skipping outings all together because the stress of getting everyone out the door is too much).
  • Yelling… a lot. And promising yourself each day you’ll yell less. And breaking your promise by 7am.

Just to name a few.

But lately I find it is the more obscure aspects of being a Mum that form part of just about every day.

Being a Mum:

  • Sometimes means providing very descriptive and literal explanations of concepts we take for granted.  Like why we slow down for people crossing at the stripey white lines. I’m trying to work out if I’ve done a good job of this one. V1’s explanation is ‘so we don’t bump the person. Otherwise they might die sad’.
  • Sometimes means sniffing under your arms every 5 minutes at work because there is a suspicious smell in the air around you, and you are pretty sure in all the rushing to get out the door that you forgot to put deodorant on.
  • Means over analysing everything your kids watch on TV  (after you’ve finished berating yourself about the amount of TV your kids watch) including observing things like 10 minutes after escaping her tower, Rapunzel is entertaining a bunch of unsavoury men, while dancing barefoot on top of a bar.
  • Means gaining a whole different skillset.  Such as the Sleeping Beauty Carseat extraction focusing on removing a sleeping baby from the car and maintaining said state. This week’s skillset was built upon by achieving my stretch goal in bubble skills, specifically bubble splicing. In teaching V1 to wave the bubble wand, I have now successfully split one bubble into 4 (in 3 separate splitting actions) Before any of them popped. As well as ‘catching’ bubbles for V2 to pop herself. I’m not about to run off to the circus to nurture my new found talent, however it’s nice to keep on learning new things every day!
  • Means remembering that time is a flexible concept. My 5 minutes is different to my better half’s 5 minutes, which is very different to V2’s 5 minutes which isn’t even vaguely relative to V1’s 5 minutes.  (Incidentally V1 is well aware of this. Before exiting the bath I suggested he had 5 minutes more – he said ‘No, my 5 minutes’. Touche).

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).