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!