We’re all going to the zoo…

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Last Saturday my husband and I decided to brave the zoo with our tiny lady. It’s a wonder we have never gone before but then I didn’t really feel it was worth the hassle involved until our daughter was actually old enough to appreciate that yes that’s an actual elephant! I am not the type to put myself through unnecessary hardships and I like to have some kind of pay-off in the end…you know like an actual reaction from the child! If I sound slightly bitter it’s because last year we ventured to an animal park with the grandparents in tow and she slept the whole way through it. She was awake to see the ducks…and that was it!

I planned the outing like a military excursion. There were two bags. One with extra snacks, pull-ups, clothes etc. I had another to carry with me, just the essentials (or so I thought). I was quite smug at how organised I was. This smugness was not to last. I should have known. Since the poor child’s birth I have been forgetting things; I once went out when she was teeny, tiny and forgot to bring a blanket. I had a whole heap of mama guilt after that outing; how could I forget a blanket?? The poor cold child.

But I digress. The zoo. We booked our tickets online thinking we could beat the queue. However, when we arrived the queue for online tickets was nearly as long as the one for people who hadn’t booked in advance. My smugness took a small hit here I’ll admit. However, I was pleased to note that the zoo was only pleasantly busy. There was room at picnic benches and lots of space to actually see the animals. We stopped for a quick sugar hit – hey you have to have treats on days out then my husband made up a brilliant name for the tiny lady’s buggy; he called it her zoo car. The backstory to this is our lady hates being in her buggy, she wants to walk. But the reality is a toddler is not going to last very long walking around a zoo and we were worried she would tire herself out before seeing anything. So the genius idea of a zoo car was invented. She clambered in and for about an hour all was well.

Then 12 o’clock hit. This is usually her nap-time. Spirits began to flag. She wanted to walk. So we let her out. That’s when I discovered she was soaked through. Her pull-up had leaked (and it never leaks!). I then had to confess I had left all the spare clothes in the other bag…back in the car! My husband ran the ten minute walk to the carpark and back. I stripped her down and got her nice and dry….five minutes later she pooped. Naturally. I was already becoming far too familiar with the changing room (kudos to Dublin Zoo it’s lovely and clean).

This change required two parents because guess what? The tiny lady was beginning to turn into a mini-beast and she refused to lie on the mat. Of course there was another couple next to us quietly and calmly changing a small baby. Meanwhile our little terror screamed and kicked while sweat ran down our faces and we fake laughed at her, ourselves and the whole situation though inside I felt like crying.

We decided lunch was the best thing to do next. After that well…we should have left. But we didn’t. My mama instincts were yelling to get the hell out of there but my husband wanted to show our daughter the giraffes. This involved a ten minute walk with a child who definitely didn’t want her zoo car anymore. It was also becoming hotter and more crowded with every step we took. The final straw was my girl kicking off her shoes then refusing to put them back on while simultaneously trying to walk on the grit laden floor. I grabbed her, signalled to hubbie we were done and literally pushed my way back out of the African Planes. That’s when B**** Ann-Marie took over.

B**** Ann-Marie made her first appearance on one long ago summer when I lived in London with a boyfriend (now ex) for two whole months. I learned quite quickly that in order to survive I would need to toughen up. Getting around on the Tube was a necessity and it absolutely terrified me at first. But after a few weeks I was an old hand at it. So much so that I would look pityingly at the tourists nervously moving their way around on the carriages and clutching their bags ever so tightly. The following year I returned with my mother for a visit. It was as if I had never been away. I think I may have scared my mother slightly with my hardened Londoner edge.

So London Ann-Marie came to the fore as I battled the crowds at London Zoo. I have never been so glad to see an exit sign! We still had one stop to make before we could head home. The shop, ever so cleverly placed next to the exit. A visit to the zoo wouldn’t be complete without a furry animal to take home so a little elephant was bought and promptly named Dumbo.

What a day. I can only imagine how people cope with little tots while on actual vacations. As we were driving away I noticed a couple with their six children (including what looked like toddler twins – yikes). All I could think was they must have better organisational skills than me.

The reality behind those picture perfect moments

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We look happy right? A mother and daughter having a lovely family day out. Moments after my husband snapped this photo we were in the midst of an epic meltdown. The cause? Well naturally I have no idea. When you are two you don’t really need a reason now do you? It might be because mama packed away the sandwich you said you ‘no like’ then suddenly decided that you liked very much? It might have been because there was a speck of juice on your shorts. It might even be because the sky was blue and your favourite colour right now is yellow. The list of possibilities is endless.

A few weeks ago I felt like my daughter and I had found our groove. She seemed to have hit the ‘terrible twos’ early so I was hopeful she was moving out of them early too. I thought the storm had passed. I was wrong. Very very wrong. It was simply the eye of the storm, the calm before the thunders of two became stronger than ever.

My tiny lady currently likes to do everything herself. If you offer assistance, even the slightest form of help, you will instantly regret it. There will be a wail, followed by a loud ‘NO’ and you will be treated to the most filthiest of looks. It now takes between five and ten minutes for her to climb into her car-seat and position herself just so. She wants to put on her shoes by herself though she hasn’t yet learned how. Last week she even burst into tears when I patiently tried to explain to her that she was too small to actually drive the car.

As a former Montessori Teacher I know all the theories and all the reasons why we must allow children to take their time and develop these skills at their own rate. Most of the time I have no problem with this. However, when you are late for an appointment and your toddler insists on doing everything (and I mean everything) by her ownself you would need the patience of a saint not to intervene. Theories are all very well but sometimes reality does not allow us to be the ‘best’ mothers we can be am I right? Sometimes it’s okay to just flunk the motherhood exam; put those shoes on yourself and strap that stubborn bundle of cute into her car-seat. Everybody has days like this.

So the next time you see me caught in a picture perfect moment and feel a moment of despair as you battle your toddler to put on his coat/shoes/clothes in general; fear not this moment is merely one tiny part of the day when we are not engaged in a battle of wills. If you stick around you are sure to witness an explosion. Be strong toddler mommies, this too shall pass.

 

Parent Hangover – enough said

I have been absent from the blog-sphere for the past while as I have been recovering from one of the more hideous afflictions of parenthood – the parent hangover. I haven’t been struck down by one of these in about a year so it took a few days to actually feel somewhat human again. Recovery wasn’t helped by a bouncing toddler who refused to sleep past 6am and the need to constantly make sure she was (somewhat) safe. Yesterday was spent shamelessly giving into her demands and bribing her when I wanted her to do something without making a fuss. I figured the only way to live through it was to take the path of least resistance…and this meant agreeing with everything my toddler had to say.

The morning after the night before, it came screaming back to me why I now, very rarely, drink. It just does not pay when you have to deal with a small child on very little sleep and a headache that would make you wish for death. They don’t understand why you don’t want to play cars or colour pictures or why you keep running to the toilet every five minutes. They don’t get why you need nap time more than they do. And they especially don’t get why having a temper tantrum in a public place could result in tears (yours not theirs)…though if they did it probably wouldn’t stop them.

The reason for the intensity of this hangover was that my husband and I were out on a date night. These are like precious jewels to us now. Even more thrilling was the fact that we were staying over-night in a hotel. We hadn’t done this in about a year and, as we wouldn’t be going away this summer, this would double nicely as a mini holiday as well. We were like two small children let loose in a sweet shop albeit one with bottles of wine and glasses of beer. We started early and finished late. We even chanced going to a local nightclub. We sobered up a little at the sight of those black stamps on our hands and I admit we left after about five minutes. Sometimes you have to realise you just aren’t into that scene anymore…and we were big players on the old nightclub scene back in the day. We even met in one.

I don’t remember much after the club…though I have a hazy recollection of wanting more drink. Thankfully the hotel bar was closed by the time we reached it and so to bed. Waking up the next day was not pretty and indeed I wasn’t much better the next couple of days either. Today I was overjoyed to wake up feeling back to normal again. I have vowed to go easy on the next date night maybe just dinner and a movie…a glass of wine with dinner rather than for dinner!

Toddlers & Bra Fittings

It was that time of year again. My bras were beginning to let the team down and showing serious signs of wear and tear. So I bravely faced the Annual Bra Fitting. I decided to wait until I was visiting my parents as I could rope in my own mother to help mind the tiny lady. She has been quite calm these days (for a toddler) and I didn’t really expect any bother but still it would be foolish not to plan ahead for contingencies (toddler meltdown caused by tiredness, hunger, general just-being-a-toddler).

Typically she did not nap that day and was hyper as only a toddler on very little sleep can be. There were no tears, however, just a lot of high-pitched shouting and giggles. Then we walked into the shop. The change was immediate and loud! Two of my mother’s friends came over to see her…oh she is the image of you….suddenly the smiles disappeared, the whimpers turned into wails and the women were quick to make their excuses and disappear. The small body strained against the straps of her buggy angrily. We let her out. She made straight for the escalator. The sight of this magical, moving stair-case cheered her right up and the tears dried on her cheeks. She was enchanted…not enchanted enough to actually step on to it herself, however, I had to carry her. The problem arose when we got off and again, again, again! Suddenly the stairs was ‘broken’ (yes I do frequently – far too frequently – lie to my toddler), there were some tears but she was soon distracted by a mirror (a source of endless fascination for your average toddler).

This left me facing my own mirror along with my inner demons. The sales assistant had advised me to take off my top and wait in a fitting room. The sweats began. I really, really can’t explain the levels of anxiety this whole fitting debacle induces in me. It seems I would have been far more comfortable in the Jane Austen era of modesty than our current era where even lingerie has been revived as outerwear. I tried hard to ignore my slightly wobbly belly in the mirror facing me as I waited for the fitting to actually begin. This is often the worst part; faced with a body you generally don’t spend too long gazing at in the harsh light of a fitting room. Then my assistant appeared, measuring tape in hand. She appeared unconcerned; she probably does this at least ten times a day. I immediately tensed up. This fitting business involves far too much close contact for my liking. On second thoughts the actual measurement is probably the worst part. Then comes the actual trying on of bras – black, white, multicoloured, under-wired, padded; the choices are endless and far too many. I try to narrow it down as quickly as I can. There are only so many times I can stand there in my bra and jeans discussing the merits of each piece of underwear. I am just struggling into choice number two when it happens. The tiny lady saves me.

Up until now she had been perfectly content to peep into empty fitting rooms and wave at herself in the mirror. Then she discovered mama was behind one such door and there was no pleasing her until she was up in my arms. Feigning an annoyance I was far from feeling I threw my top back on, grabbed two bras and suggested I return another day. The assistant was sympathetic and suggested I leave the tags on and return them if they were unsuitable. Relief! I could try them on at home.

But, unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite end there. I’d had a niggling feeling all along that she had measured me incorrectly. So when I got home naturally the bras were not a good fit. So now I have to return to go through the whole rigamarole again. Who knows what will happen this time but I’ll be making sure to bring my toddler along for an easy escape should it prove necessary. Toddlers; sometimes they can actually be quite useful!

The mystery of the sea

This morning we decided to go and collect some sea-shells. My ultimate aim is to paint these shells gold and silver and perhaps make a little jewellery box. But, as I’m not the most crafty at the best of times, this may or may not happen. I’m sure the shells will be painted and an attempt may be made at the jewellery box but I imagine the image in my head will be nothing like the reality!

But back to this morning. I actually expected it would be a typical Irish summer day i.e. that it would fool us with gorgeous sun and cloudless skies then release a torrent of rain just as we stepped out of the car. I even made detour home to collect the rain coats as I’d forgotten them when we first left the house. Shockingly it stayed dry. It even became sunnier and by the time we hit the beach the sea was sparkling with sun shimmers reminiscent of a Disney movie. It is really lovely to visit the beach very early in the morning. There is hardly another soul in sight beyond the odd jogger or friendly dog-walker so you can pretty much pretend that you own the beach; it’s your very own private lagoon. Granted this fantasy is slightly ruined every now and again  when a lone figure strolls by but still it’s nice to dream!

The ocean looked wonderfully inviting but my daughter has a slight fear of the sea. It seems to fascinate and terrify her in equal measure! We learned this when she was very tiny and we brought her to the beach to paddle at the shore. She hated it! She hated the feel of the wet sand on her feet. She hated the waves. She just plain hated every bit of it so we left (in a hurry being gazed at by curious bystanders). Still we realised that it was our job to help her overcome this fear so we have returned time and time again. She doesn’t mind the sand anymore but says the sea is ‘too noisy’ and likes to keep it at a safe distance.

Despite my intense love for the sea I do understand where she is coming from. It’s vast and seemingly endless, it does make strange noises and it moves closer and closer up the shore. She can be forgiven for being overwhelmed. I just hope that through repeated visits and with reassurance she can become less afraid. I would love to see her make friends with the sea as I’ve a feeling they would be really good buddies once they come to understand each other.

Watching Movies (parent-style)

Myself and my husband are big film fans. Our pre-parent selves watched a lot of movies and made numerous treks to the cinema. We stacked our shelves with all the new releases as well as hunting down eighties and nineties classics. Trust me when I say we have a lot of DVDs. Fast forward to now and our child is two. Since her arrival I have noticed a steady decline in our movie watching. I was prepared for this when she was a newborn. We broke up the night into two shifts so that each of us got at least five hours sleep. This usually meant that the person on the second shift (who got to wake up at…three am!!!) had to be in bed by ten. This usually meant making moves to get to bed around half nine or so – the time our pre-parent selves would just be settling in for a film night with popcorn, crisps and wine. So I begrudgingly accepted that our movie watching might be curtailed for a bit.

However, I’ve now been forced to acquiesce that, for now at least, the only way we can watch a full movie together is if we either go to the cinema (good luck finding a babysitter) or break the movie up into two halves. Now you can risk a full movie in one night but it will cost you…inevitably the tiny lady will wake up much earlier than usual and you will cry into your pillow, regretting that second glass of wine and bedtime at eleven o’clock. She honestly has a sixth sense about these things and punishes parents for attempting to enjoy themselves. I’m kidding…probably.

I have also found that if we try and watch a full movie in one night than about half an hour towards the end I will find myself drifting off, eyes heavy and full of sleep. I will turn to my husband and suggest we watch the rest of it the following evening. He will try to cajole me and remind me that it’s nearly over. This will go on for about five or ten minutes until one of us gives in. If I give in and stay up I end up quite out of sorts by the time the end credits roll by and usually won’t wash my teeth, remove my make-up or take out my contact lenses!

Recently I’ve started to remember watching movies with my parents when I was a child. And what was my mum doing while we all watched? Well she was fine for the first half hour or so then you would look over during a particularly funny scene and there she was …fast asleep!! And now I get it…I totally get it!!

It’s my party…and I’ll cry if I want to!

It seems like a very long while since my last post and while I have been absent from the blogsphere I have been busy, in real life, getting ready for the tiny lady’s second birthday party. I can feel the lump in my throat even typing this – my baby is two! She is officially no longer a baby in the eyes of the world although in my eyes she will be stuck with the baby label no matter how big she gets.

The party itself went really well but all the planning and organising it took was nearly worse than my wedding. There was a cake to be ordered, catering to be delivered (catering mind you for a two year old’s party) and decorations to be bought and then artfully arranged. My husband and I also had the ‘fantastic’ idea of making our own birthday card – thanks CBeebies for that! It seemed like such a nice thing to do and I had visions of us sitting there maybe with a glass of wine, making the card while reminiscing about the last two years. Naturally this did not happen. My husband took over the designing and spent the best part of three hours sweating over the computer and printer to produce Bing and Sula along with a photo of my daughter and various other bits including a rainbow and flowers!

I then had the ‘joy’ of cutting all of this crap out…and I am seriously bad at cutting. There were quite a few near misses with Bing’s hands and Sula’s trunk. Finally I stuck all the bits and pieces onto our giant A2 card. It was worth it, it looked really, really good. That is until the glue dried. All the paper images turned an ugly shade of green so it looked as if we were zombifying not only our beautiful daughter but her favourite TV characters as well. We decided it would not be displayed at the party.

We spent all last week in a similar fluster between cakes and decorations and planning until finally the day of the party dawned and I felt shattered. Cups of coffee and coke kept me going but between the stress of hosting (I do not enjoy hosting occasions) and a lack of sleep the night before I was ready for bed before my little girl.

At the end of it all I thought back to my own tiny birthday parties. There would be a few treats, a cake (of course) and myself, my sister and my cousin. We each took turns blowing out the candles (this still rankles it was my birthday after all) and then would eat a few treats before going off to play. Simple, easy and no stress or sweat involved. But these days even a simple home party like ours turns into a circus. It’s as if we are afraid our children won’t feel loved enough if we don’t celebrate with due style. I am just grateful she hasn’t started school yet – I can well imagine those parties are tough on both your mental health and your pocket!

Still it was a very lovely day despite all of that and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Toilet Training (part 1) – So it begins…

‘Mama toilet!’

These very surprising words were spoken to me by my tiny lady this morning. I say surprising as we haven’t even begun the arduous task of toilet training yet. We have bought a little toilet seat and she has sat on it nappy-less on a few occasions but this has been the extent of ‘training’ until now.

Having worked in the ‘toilet training’ room of a crèche for years I vowed that when I had my own child I was going to make toilet training as stress free as possible. It’s a huge step for a child and a daunting task for parents. You want to get it right and you don’t want to give your child issues for years after. It puts enormous pressure on you as a parent and I wanted to make it as calm as possible for myself, my husband and our tiny lady. So I decided we would take it in baby steps. We bought the aforementioned toilet seat. She has worn pull ups from time to time. We talk to her about the toilet and read her stories about it (including one I wrote myself). She has been watching mama go to the toilet for months now so she knows what it’s all about. Still I was eager not to rush things. Our next step was the purchase of a potty once she actually turns two.

So you can imagine my surprise when she actually asked me for the toilet. We were playing cars quite happily when suddenly she jumped up. ‘Mama toilet!’ You could have knocked me over with a feather! So I sat her up on her toilet seat. She sat for one second precisely then wanted to get off. I figure she had gone in her nappy and then asked to go. But still – a step forward all the same.

I suppose I may need to go get that potty now!! And so it begins…

So Bloom…with a Toddler…thank goodness for parental amnesia

So Bloom….with a toddler….yes it did seem like quite a good idea at the time. Normally we are a bit reluctant to go too far afield with the tiny lady unless we are staying over somewhere for the night but she is about to turn two so we thought we would risk it. What’s the worse that could happen?

Indeed.

Well, spoiler alert we didn’t actually see any flowers. At a national festival of flowers and plants we didn’t actually see any. It might be some sort of record.

The day started off quite well. We timed our departure to tie with in with the all important toddler nap time and the tiny lady drifted off for the better part of the journey. Then we hit Dublin. Aided and abetted by the help of Google Maps we came very close to divorce on the M50. We circled round and round. Voices were raised. Tempers flared. The toddler woke up and wanted out. I began to regret leaving the house. But we made it at last. Or so we thought.

We ended up parked miles away from the actual entrance only to discover an actual carpark a stones throw away once we got there. We attempted laughing it off but there were lots of dark looks thrown at the guard who had kindly directed us in the wrong direction.

Finally, however, we made it inside. Toilets were a priority at this stage. I found them…well actually I smelled them first. A queue snaked out of each woman’s cubicle while the men’s were quietly idle. Wishing I was a man I queued at the women’s. Ten minutes later I felt a little more comfortable thought I did vow I would go liquid free for the rest of the afternoon. This meant abstaining from coffee which quite frankly I could have seriously used at that point. However, I didn’t want to spend our limited time queuing at the toilets. We figured with a toddler and two hour journey home we have two hours max to enjoy ourselves.

Food was next on the agenda. We found a fancy hot dog vendors and basically scoffed some down in about five minutes the toddler helped though she preferred her banana and baby bel. We then took a quick stroll through the craft area. By quick stroll I mean I literally stopped at one stall before the tiny lady tried to grab a handful of shiny jewels. We managed to stop her but we had to pay a price.  What followed was a five minute meltdown that ended in bribery and ice cream. I never realised quite how sticky toddlers can be until the tiny lady rubbed her ice cream caked hand all over the grass and then tried to give me a hug.

My husband tried to take a brief tour of the food stalls while I entertained the toddler but after two seconds she wanted her dada again. She wasn’t happy until we were all sitting down together on the grass; preferably with food in our hands. There were quite a few meltdowns when we tried to do anything other than what she wanted to do so the main area we got to see was the children’s area where our little monkey played with tractors and watched half of a Punch & Judy show. I can’t even honestly tell you what we else we really did beyond that and eating!

But it was the walk back to the car that truly broke me. My husband suggested he walk ahead with my coffee and the bag of assorted toddler/parent crap. I figured the tiny lady and I could stroll back at our leisure as we wouldn’t have as far to go. All was going swimmingly until a steward asked us to step off the foot path to allow cars to pass. Yes cars …on the footpath. Of course the toddler didn’t want to walk on the grass she wanted to walk on the footpath. She raved and ranted. I cursed the steward under my breath allowing myself the luxury of calling him stupid in her earshot which normally I would never do. I then had to carry her all the way back to the car with an ache in the pit of my back and sweat streaking down my face. At that point I swore I would never go anywhere ever again.

The car journey home confirmed my decision.  All the way home the sounds of Mama, Mama literally every two seconds.  I curled up in a ball at one point hoping that if she couldn’t see me she wouldn’t call for me – out of sight out of mind kind of thing. This did not even come close to working.

The day ended with the least nutritious dinner – waffles and spaghetti hoops -this meant no fighting and very little washing up.

Of course we all know that with a bit of time and distance the stress will fade from my mind and all I will remember is my tiny lady’s face as she bit into her first lemon sorbet, the light in her eyes as she giggled at Punch & Judy and the feel of her warm body snuggled against mine as we walked home. That’s the joy of being a parent; you benefit greatly from parental amnesia…otherwise you might very well never leave your home again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Time Treats!

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So I discovered a ridiculously easy way to get my daughter to think she is having a treat while keeping her cool and getting her to eat fruit all at the same time. We are actually having a heatwave here in Ireland – imagine that a heatwave in Ireland!!! It reminds me a lot of that first hot summer when my daughter arrived to a very nervous new mum. This new mum had stocked up on everything you could possibly need for a new baby – and some things I really didn’t need (two types of baby bath – what was I thinking? ). One of the items I grabbed during a newborn sleep deprived spending binge was an ice lolly mould sold to new parents as a wonderful way to soothe aching gums. Great, I thought, this will come in handy when she starts teething. As the baby in question was only 2 months old and didn’t get her first teeth until she was 9 months, the mould was put in a press and promptly forgotten about. Until now. Looking for a measuring jug I came across this long forgotten item and excitedly decided to make ice lollies. I researched recipes before remembering I am a disaster with such things and besides I was too lazy to go to the shop. Mushed up strawberries it was. I mashed some strawberries with a fork and shoved them into the mini moulds. Put them in the freezer and two hours later I was enjoying a cool and delicious ‘treat’ with my mini me. The only problem is now she is asking for them everyday. This is not the problem itself,  it’s just that she asks all the time. In public. Very very loudly. People must think I spend my days loading her up with sugary treats. I long to shout – you’ve gotten it wrong, they are healthy I promise – but I do crazy too much these days so I’ll just have to play the bad parent. Now hand me those strawberries it’s getting hot out there!

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