Thursday, 1 November 2012

Ten Unanswered Parenting Questions

Here are my top ten unanswered parenting questions at the moment.  I expect most of them are unanswerable, too, but I'll happily accept guesses left in the comments box...

1) Why do toddlers 'eat' pretend food (eg carrots) with relish when they wouldn't dream of touching it in real life?

2) What does "There a Christmas on the door to make music" mean?  The more words she learns, the less I understand what she's talking about!

3) What is the attraction of cold, muddy water with dead leaves floating in it?

4) Why do babies suddenly decide to stop falling asleep the way they've always done it, and try screaming instead?

5) What's so special about 4.30 in the morning that everyone has to be awake to see it?

6) Why do small children actually ask to watch 'Baby Jake', rather than running for the hills at the mere sound of the opening credits in order to avoid seeing the scariest demon baby in the world?

7) What's with the aversion to hats?

8) How do toddlers know which object in the room is the only one they're not allowed to touch?

9) Why do they make hollow bath toys with tiny holes so that there is no way of getting them dry?

10) When will I next wear matching socks and make-up?

Any more to add?

Friday, 19 October 2012

Hoovering the Hall the Robinson Way

Just in case anybody is secretly wondering about the state of my house at the moment, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of how to hoover a hallway the way that I do it.  In twenty simple steps...

1) Decide that the hallway needs hoovering.

2) Wait for three days while a large filing cabinet takes up residence in the hallway, waiting to be moved into the study.

3) Wait another couple of days until a day when it's pouring with rain and you have the whole day set aside for nothing other than hoovering the hallway.

4) Get up.  Feed the baby.  Have breakfast. Feed the baby.  Dress two children.  Give one of them breakfast.  Feed the other one.  Clear away breakfast.

5) Well done!  Now you have nothing else to do other than to hoover the hallway!

6) Change the baby's nappy.

7) Put a YouTube video of Momo's Rainbow Song on to keep children amused.

8) Look for the hoover.  Extract it from the cupboard under the stairs, where it is underneath several random things like toilet seats and pushchairs.  In doing so, find the toy hoover. Pull it out, break it, fix it, offer it to the toddler who will ignore it and demand more videos.

9) Find another YouTube video.

10) Look for somewhere to plug the hoover in.  Discover that the only electrical socket is behind a large piece of heavy furniture.  Spend about ten minutes manoeuvring the bookcase two inches away from the wall.

11) Go to put on another video. Discover that the toddler has got hold of a box of matches and emptied them all over the living room carpet.  Collect all the matches.  Discover that, once you've emptied a box of matches, there is no way to replace them all in the box so that it closes. Place pile of matches and box out of toddler's reach.

12) Switch the hoover on.  Begin hoovering.

13) Notice that the hoover is not actually picking anything up.

14) Try to fix the problem. Fail.

15) Have a break.  Feed the baby.  Change the baby's nappy. Put on another video.

16) Go upstairs, fetch a second hoover.  Put first hoover in cupboard.  Repeat most of the above steps until second hoover is plugged in.

17) Put on another video, build a train set and repair a toy car.

18) Change the toddler's nappy.

19) Hoover the hallway!

20) Put hoover away, replace furniture, go to prepare lunch...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Mummy Reports 2

My Mummy has now been my Mummy for nearly five months.  It's time I gave her a progress report and highlighted the areas in which she could improve.  Here's how she scored in all the essential areas of Mummyhood:

Availability: 3/10
I have been very busy recently persuading Mummy that she must not put me down EVER.  Also, she must not ever hand me to anybody else except Daddy, and then only if I'm in the mood for being thrown into the air and shouting.  She doesn't seem to understand this at all.  She uses silly arguments, like saying that I can't be in the sling while she is carrying a large heavy pot from the oven in case I get burnt.  She should just hold it further away from me!  It's quite funny watching what she tries to get me to sit happily for a few minutes.  I have three different chairs, a pile of playmats, a thing with swingy fish hanging over it, and there's talk of a door bouncer, whatever that is.  I hate them all.  Daddy brought in a chair from the garage that swings back and forth.  Apparently my sister used to go to sleep in it. HA!

Food: 6/10
The milk is still pretty tasty, I suppose.  But why aren't I allowed to eat what they're eating?  My sister says that I wouldn't like it anyway, but it looks and smells pretty good to me.  My sister said I should tell Daddy.  She says that he used to sneak her tastes of things she wasn't allowed yet.

Physical Care: 4/10
I have no clothes.  Mummy says it is my fault for growing so much.  The other day, I ended up out in the garden wrapped in a blanket.  Honestly, a chap needs trousers and a coat in this weather however big he's getting.

Environment: 6/10
I've worked a few things out since I last wrote.  I can roll over and over, which is fun for avoiding those silly playmats.  I can go on my tummy for ages and get a proper look at the carpet.  And today I sat up for a little bit and thought it was OK.
We've moved house, too - maybe Mummy paid attention to my last criticisms, because this house is nicer and a bit tidier (not much!) and has a big garden, and I have my very own place in Mummy and Daddy's room which they call Jeremy's Cubby.  I don't much fancy sleeping in it, but it'll do for storing all of my stuff.

Entertainment Value: 10/10
Mummy is still very funny.  Last night she had a water squirter in the bath and she kept squirting me with it. Priceless!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Why doesn't prayer work on sleepless children?

God, why doesn't prayer work on sleepless children?
I mean, considering your flair with wine and water
your feeding of the five thousand
and the way you have raising the dead down to a T
I would have thought that settling this screaming baby would be relatively easy.

So why doesn't prayer work on sleepless children?
Because it really, really doesn't (I've tried over and over)
and although I've known prayer to work on sickness,
impossible tasks,
broken down vehicles
the weather
and lost property,
it never, never works on screaming sleepless babies.

Is it, Lord, because you were once a screaming, sleepless baby yourself?
Do you sympathise?
Do you remember what it's like to need something,
and not know what it is,
and not have any words for it
only tears?

I suppose this baby is praying too,
crying out to you in the only way he knows,
and you have answered his prayer.
You have given him me.
And you have equipped me for the task:
you have given me a body that can nurture him,
arms that can hold and rock him
a voice to sing to him
a scent that comforts him
and a heart that loves him
even at 3am
even though he is screaming and snotty
and that teaches me about the way in which you love me
which, in turn, leads me to tell other people about the way in which you love them.

In fact, this baby is your evangelist
your teacher and preacher
your intercessor
for me, at 3am

which perhaps is why prayer doesn't work on sleepless babies.
I suppose I should be thankful for that.

(But, God, if prayer can't work on sleepless children,
Please could it work on laundry instead?)


Friday, 28 September 2012

The Oil of Unity

I'd love to do a long post about how moving house has gone, but I don't have time to write one.  I hope this brief snippet of a conversation from this evening will give you some kind of idea.

We are in the kitchen.  Jeremy is grizzling in his chair, Abigail is tipping cards from a random board game all over the floor, and I am cooking mince and trying to work out how to add frozen vegetables when they are so frozen that they are all stuck together in one large block.  Hitting it against the counter top doesn't work.  TheRev approaches.

TheRev: Look, I've cleaned this oil pourer.

Me: Oh? I put that in the pile for the jumble sale.

TheRev: I know, but it's really useful.  If you want to add just a little bit of oil.

Me: Oil comes in bottles for that purpose.

TheRev: Just think what you could do!  You could make your own special blend of oil with all the kinds of oil we have.  Chilli oil, and stirfry oil, and olive could mix them all together in here!

Me: Actually, I need some oil...what's in this bottle?

TheRev: I think that's vinegar.

Me: For goodness sake!  Where's the sunflower oil?  I don't need all this, I just need...oh help, where am I going to put this enormous tub of oil?

TheRev: You could decant it into my useful little oil pourer.

Me: Yes, but I'd still have to store the rest of the tub somewhere, wouldn't I?

Abigail:  Wanta juice on a cup please.

Me:  Abigail, please put the cards back in the box, darling.

TheRev: Or, you could use this for when you want people to serve their own oil.

Abigail: Wanta juice please wanta juice please wanta JUICE PLEEEEEEASE!

Me: In a minute Abi, when we sit down to eat...When will I want people to serve their own oil?!

TheRev: Or maybe balsamic vinegar? On salad? Like this (shakes the pourer from his wrist with a motion rather reminiscent of the original version of Cage Aux Folles)

Me: Look, if you really have to keep the silly thing as a serving implement, then it belongs down there in the cupboard on the right, with the salad bowls.  Please give Jeremy a cuddle, I can't hear myself think.

TheRev: Right!  OK!  (Strolls off.  Slight pause)  I think I've broken it.

Me: How did you break it?

TheRev: I sort of banged it...

Me: You sort of banged it?

TheRev: I'll put it in the pile for the jumble sale...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Scargill in pictures and a poem

Abigail loved her bed with the roof and the special light. She also quickly developed an obsession with eating marmalade straight from the little plastic pots with her fingers.

She actually ate on this holiday! But shhh, don't tell her we noticed...Seriously, though, she really seemed to blossom here in every aspect of behaviour and her speech as well.  I enjoyed her company so much.
"Oh, hello, sheep."  (Also, TheRev had just said something like, "I'll carry the umbrella.  Look! I can wear it like a sword...")

 Strait is the gate...especially if you are carrying a baby!

 In Kettlewell church, we said morning prayer; but we warbled the Benedictus rather loudly, apparently, as two walkers who came in later complimented us on our singing...That's me reading about David and Absalom, although at this point Jeremy seems to be doing more of the storytelling.

 This may be further evidence of my insanity, but looking at this view makes me want to lie down and roll down that hill.

 A new best friend for Jeremy and Abi

And another one...Jeremy was good at making friends.  Abi mainly befriended a large pink string puppet, but that's another story.

 Babies on the back

Scargill, 4am

I told myself I'd use this time to pray,
But my son's sleepy snuffling at the breast
Has lulled me to a semi-slumbering rest
And skims the rising bubbles of my prayers away.
Subjects occur to me, but never stay:
In the peripheries of my mind swim pleas and fears
That vanish, like a star which disappears
When looked at straight. The dawning of the day
Is nearly here. Birdsong. I sigh and yawn.
My reverent efforts having failed, my thoughts
Switch to toast and coffee: prayer leaves with no trace.
Yet somehow, in the meshes of the dawn
Around this prayed-in place, my prayers are caught
And every wordless word is heard with grace.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Pros and cons

I went to a 'natural baby fair' last Saturday.  I'm not entirely sure how I became a 'natural parent'.  My  first baby was in disposable nappies, was combination fed, slept in a cot in her own room from 5 months, was traditionally weaned and travelled in a mammoth-sized outward-facing pushchair.  My second baby was born at home, wears fluffy cloth nappies, is breastfed, sleeps in my bed, will eat solids when he's ready (hopefully!) and travels in wraps.  Evidently some kind of brainstorm happened to me between children.

The advantages and disadvantages of natural parenting are therefore clear to me, and are best expressed by two simple snapshots: me at the beginning and the end of a trip into town.

Here I am as I arrive in town with the two children.  I have the baby in a wrap on my front, cosy and contentedly asleep.  The toddler toddles eagerly by my side.  I am carrying a simple, light cloth bag on my back, containing some cloth nappies.  I haven't got any bottles of sterilised water weighing me down, and I don't need a bottle warmer, formula or a travel steriliser.  If I get caught out and spend longer in town than I meant to, I won't need to worry about running out of milk for the baby, or needing to wash up an empty bottle to use again.  I don't have to unfold a cumbersome pushchair.  I'm tripping along with a smile on my face and the wind in my hair. I am free!  I am happy!  I am a natural parent!

Now the second snapshot.  Here I am on my way back to the car with the two children.  I now have a baby in a wrap on my front, and a mardy toddler who lay down in the street and refused to move strapped to my back in a mei tai.  This leaves me without shoulders for my little cloth nappy bag, which is dangling from one elbow.  From the other elbow is hanging an extra wetbag full of heavy, soaked cloth nappies and wipes.  As I don't have a pushchair to put my shopping in, I'm also carrying three or four other bags.  Underneath the pretty wrap, my shirt is covered in a mixture of nearly every bodily fluid possible, including milk, regurgitated milk, dribble, sweat and some other as yet undefined dampness in the baby's nappy area that I shall have to investigate later.  I'm plodding along, alternating between my cross voice (aimed at the toddler screeching on my back) and my soothing voice (aimed at the baby waking up and grizzling on my front).  I look, smell and sound like a schizophrenic Cerberus.

By the time I've got back to the car and released my other two heads into their car seats, however, I'm a free and happy natural parent again.  I didn't have to spend half an hour finding the catch on the buggy and then pinch my fingers on it as I folded it up and tried to squeeze it into my car.  When I get home, I will need to ditch the wash bag into the washing machine, but I won't need to empty, scrub and sterilise lots of bottles or pour unused formula down the sink while pound signs flash before my eyes.  The smile is back on my face and the wind is back in my hair.

Just don't come near me until I've had a shower.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Mummy Reports

Jeremy writes:

My Mummy has now been my Mummy for nearly three months.  It's time I gave her a progress report and highlighted the areas in which she could improve.  Here's how she scored in all the essential areas of Mummyhood:

Availability: 4/10
She lets me sleep in her bed, but what good is that?! I'm asleep then!  During the day she keeps going off to do stuff, or she puts me down while she plays with my pesky big sister.  Sometimes she ties me to her front in these big bits of fabric, which is OK, (although I get crumbs in my hair if she eats toast).  She's a bit of a wimp about it, though - she hasn't been doing it for the last few days.  Says it's too hot.  She keeps trying to carry me in different places on her body, or using different ways of tying the fabric, so that she can get more done. I only like being on her front, so I have to shout at her.
The other day she actually had the nerve to be ill for a whole day.  Honestly!  How inconvenient!

Food: 8/10
The milk is pretty yummy, I have to admit, and there's plenty of it.  It's just that sometimes the delivery system seems to be a bit faulty. It comes out jolly fast and gives me hiccups.

Physical Care: 5/10
I enjoy the baths.  Don't see why I have to share them with my sister, though.  Didn't appreciate being scrubbed by my sister, with the net bag that's meant to hold her bath toys.  Was at least 30 seconds before Mummy noticed and stopped her.
Sometimes she doesn't bother to change my nappy at 4am; she just feeds me back to sleep.  I call that lazy.
She gets me up in all these daft cloth nappies, too.  Absolutely potty about them, she is.  She buys them on the internet.  She bought me one with aeroplanes on it last week.  Aeroplanes!  I ask you!  I don't even know what an aeroplane is.

Environment: 3/10
This house is a TIP.  There is simply no other way to describe it.  Also, I think she could provide a few more toys.  She seems to think that I might find random objects, like bracelets or laundry baskets, entertaining.  She's put me in a chair in front of the washing machine more than once when there's a perfectly good television in the other room.  There's a string of toys across the chair, but there's only so many times you can grab a blue elephant's trunk before it gets bor...OOH! BLUE ELEPHANT! *LUNGE* missed *LUNGE* missed...what was I talking about?

Entertainment Value: 10/10
You've got me there.  She only has to look at me and I can't help laughing.  What can I say?  The woman has a hilarious face.

Monday, 13 August 2012


Ever since Abigail was tiny, I have been so looking forward to her talking.  When she was a newborn, I remember sitting looking at her and wondering what her voice would be like and what her first word would be.  I listened to other children make adorable mistakes and mispronunciations and couldn't wait to be recording Abigail's own 'language' and assimilating it into our family's own language.

As it turns out, I have had very few opportunities to do that.  Abigail talked comparatively late, and when she did her pronunciation was very precise.  She's a perfectionist, and if you make the mistake of laughing when she says something, she never says it again; so mistakes in single words are quelled very quickly and never really become part of her speech.  However, entire phrases do sometimes make it past this internal censor of hers, mainly because we know what she is trying to say so well that we automatically react as if she had actually said it, and so it never gets corrected.  The result of this is that for anyone else to look after Abigail, they really need a dictionary of her more common phrases and their meanings.  So I thought I'd provide a list of the top ten.

1) I'm sorry
This never actually means that she is sorry.  She's picked it up from me apologising to her when I'm brushing tangles out of her hair or scrubbing something sticky from her face, so she now says it in similar situations and it really means "You're hurting me".  This gives the unfortunate impression to the outsider that she is horribly punished and made to say sorry, since whenever you cause any slight discomfort, she gives a wail of "I'm sorryyyyyyyy!" that's enough to break your heart.
She never says this when she has actually caused pain to somebody else.  Instead, she says what we would say to her in that situation.  So, the other day she walked up to me, scratched my leg quite hard and then said, "NEVER scratch Daddy!"

2) Is that a yum yog-ot?
It may sound like a question, but it's not.  She's telling you that her yoghurt is yummy.  The correct response is "I'm glad you're enjoying it".

3) What a man doing?
This one actually is a question, as far as I can tell, but it may not refer to a man.  Abigail knows the words 'man', 'girl', 'boy' and 'lady', but uses them all interchangeably to mean 'human being'.

4) Hurta my finger
Very rarely means that she has hurt her finger.  Usually means that her finger is slightly sticky and she would like a wipe.

5) That a funny noises
Any noises are funny noises.  Jeremy filling his nappy, a plane going by, her own piercing shriek, a buzzing fly: all are greeted with "That a funny noises".  And the beginnings of a thunderstorm last week: "Is Daddy making funny noises?"

6) I didit a burp, did you?
Again, it's not a question.  It's developed from her favourite "I didit a burp" to which I always used to respond "Oh, you did a burp, did you?" and she's just collected the end of my response and added it to her own assertion.  Trying to answer the question can lead to an embarrassing discussion of one's own burping habits.  Denying that you heard her burp (she's never really made a noise at all) is also dangerous, as it leads to a loud succession of attempts at fake burps, some successful, others that sound like a donkey in labour.  This is entirely her father's fault.

7) Wassamatter with a ...?
Goodness only knows what she thinks this means.  She must hear me saying it when Jeremy cries.  Anyone who doesn't know us really well must think that Abigail lives in a world where everything has gone slightly wrong and is in constant need of comfort.  It looks sweet when she's applying it to one of her dolls, but I found her in the kitchen the other day cradling a wellington boot: "Oh, a boot.  Wassamatter with a boot?  Boot fall over.  Oh.  Poor boot."

8) One, four, six
"Look, there are some numbers written here".  Or, in any situation where anyone else would have counted to three, eg: "One, four, six, RUN!"

9) That a A for Abigay-wuh
"Look, there is writing here".  Occasionally she happens to be pointing, by fluke, somewhere near a letter A, and then onlookers are terribly impressed.

10) Jemmie up on a pompit
Our only completely made-up word!  The pompit, is Abigail's word for the sling wrap that I wear Jeremy in.  I have no idea why.  It's apparently transferable to any carrier, though, since when I last put her in a mei tai she exclaimed "Abi up on a pompit!"  ('On' is her only preposition, by the way.  "We go on a car?"  "Want go on the garden!"  "Juice on a cup".)

As far as creating a family vocabulary goes, that last one is the winner.  I quite often catch myself saying something like, "Jeremy looks tired. Shall I put him in his chair, or up on a pompit?"  So we have at last reached that time about which I have been daydreaming for the last two and a half years, and I love it.  I wonder what gems Jeremy will be providing us with in another couple of years?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

I'm back!

Hello!  I'm back!

I know, I know; you're all used to my sudden long breaks and feeble excuses.  But this time, my absence has been less of a mistake and more like a planned sabbatical from blogging.  It's just that I didn't give any warning that I was about to disappear.

Bear with me.  First of all, you see, I started writing for another blog.  Treacherous behaviour, I know!  But in fact, writing for Four Mums (as a fourth mum called Organised Madness) has been excellent practice, not only for tackling meatier parenting-related subjects, but also for having to produce a piece of writing every single week.  The Four Mums are currently on their own sabbatical, having all added new babies to their broods since the beginning of 2012, but we do plan to be back very soon!

Secondly, of course, I had a baby.  Well, I was expecting for that to happen, and I did realise that blogging would probably not take priority in the haze of what they call the Fourth Trimester. Jeremy is now nearly three months old, and producing a reasonably regular blog is beginning to look a little bit more realistic (can you hear a tentative note to my voice there?!)

Thirdly, here we are about to move into a new phase of life: a family of four, soon no longer to be the family of a vicar-in-training, but of a real live Rector, in a real live rectory.  We've even got the keys!

Regular readers will know that I refer to the phenomenon of abandoned journals that used to occur frequently when I was a teenager.  The combination of an addiction to crisp empty notebooks and an inability to write about any momentous events meant that I had a pile of diaries - and, later, blogs - that all finished just before something really important happened.  Well, I'm not going to do that this time.  I toyed with it.  The temptation of a new blog title, reflecting a slightly different purpose and background to my musings, was very great.  But I must have grown up.  I shall allow myself to play with the format and photographs here, and then carry on blogging as The Rev's Family and see if I can keep our story going in the same place for once.

Please join me!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Parenting room 101

After this hilarious post over on one of my favourite other mummy blogs, I thought I would respond here with my own parenting room 101.

1) Peppa Pig. Almost everything about this programme annoys me. Therefore, the fact that Abigail loves it to bits also annoys me. Things that annoy me about Peppa Pig include the incessant giggling, the fact that none of the characters ever shut a door, and the fact that Peppa's parents never tell her off for being so unpleasant to George. Then there are inconsistencies such as the fact that Rebecca Rabbit and her family live underground, whereas all the other characters live in strangely 2 dimensional brick houses. Decide whether you're animals or people, darn it.

2) Peppa Pig merchandise. Imagine trying to make a 3D plastic toy version of a picture by Picasso and you'll understand why Peppa Pig figures just don't work. Despite this, we have ended up owning several of the ugly little things.

3) The fact that my baby monitor comes with a mute button. What is it FOR? It may as well have a 'bad parenting' button, or a 'guilt trip' button.

4) The fact that magic painting books, sold as marvellous clean alternatives to real paint as you only have to use clean water, actually produce coloured ink that stains.

5) Poster paint that peels off in strips once it has dried. GRRRRR, Tesco.

6) Fromage Frais. Just...I've seen enough of it. There is some adorning every room in my house now. In the kitchen, it's in the form of a handprint on the window. In the sitting room, it's blobbed artistically onto a sofa cushion. In the bathroom, it's two handprints on the edge of the get the idea. I'm sure it was never really meant as interior decor.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

What 10:30 club did today

I've decided to try and record what we do in 10:30 club here. It's mainly for my benefit so that I've got something to look back on when I'm feeling uninspired, but I may as well make it public; other children's workers might enjoy/benefit/have a good laugh at our efforts too!

So, today the set readings were John 1 43-51 (Nathaniel under the fig tree) and Psalm 139:1-5 and 12-18. Therefore we had the theme of 'God knows me'. Here's my version of the verses from the psalm, which I read while holding up pictures for each line (I can't reproduce the pictures here because they were mainly cut-outs from magazines, or steals from Google Images, pasted onto A4 paper.)

Father, you know me completely, it's true,
You see the outside of me,inside me too,
My ups and my downs and the thoughts in my head
Where I go, what I do, and when I go to bed
Before I have spoken, you know what I'll say,
You're behind me, in front,all around me you stay.
At night-time you're there, and you're there in the dawn
You knew me and loved me before I was born.
I'm amazingly made, and you know all my days,
And I know you too - that's why I sing your praise.

We talked about being unique and how God knows everything about us before we are born. I explained that the baby inside me already had a whole set of unique fingerprints. Then everybody put all ten of their fingerprints onto paper and wrote a letter in the middle of each one to spell "GOD KNOWS ME" (ten letters, see?)

The original idea was that they'd look something like this:

but of course all the 10:30 club kids are much more inventive and creative than I am, so they wanted to do their own pictures, and why not? They're unique, after all! I ended up with a plateful of fingerprint baked beans ("because God knew before I was born that I hated baked beans"), a cross and a butterfly as well as some more random offerings from the toddlers.

The best part of this activity was that everybody could join in. It's sometimes hard to find a craft that includes the tinies and the older ones all together, but everyone from the one-year-old upwards produced a fingerprint picture! Even Abigail had one to take home. Another offering for my fridge door. I may need some more magnets...