Author Archive

TV – Postpone and magnify

I’m happy with the way we use TV, so this post isn’t to get into that whole debate.  But I’ve noticed something in the last few weeks and it’s getting beyond coincidence.

We don’t watch much TV.  The big girl used to have a DVD while her sister was ‘napping,’ it was on, she’d have another activity as well.  Now she’s at preschool at that time, but DH often puts on a MacGuyver DVD before or after dinner (does that date us?).  So we’re only talking an hour or two a day, which makes her behaviour really noticeable.  TV doesn’t relax her or calm her down, except temporarily.  It postpones and magnifies.  So if she is tired and I pop on a movie on Friday afternoon, she happily watches and then she’s exhausted.  If she’s upset when something goes on she’ll calm down and watch, but when it finishes she’s beside herself.

I think it would be waaaaay too simplistic to blame TV itself – there are all sorts of other dynamics going on.  I mean if she’s tired and stays up an extra hour to watch something, of course she’ll be exhausted.  And if she’s upset and I really really need to cook dinner rather than being with her, of course she’ll be more upset later.  And if she’s happy before something goes on there’s really no problem.

It’s more an interesting thing I’ve noticed that I’m throwing out there as food for thought.  For us, it’s meant that I’m now very careful when to use TV.  If I think she’s overtired, I’ll do something quiet with them instead.  If she’s upset, the same.  I haven’t come up with a solution for getting dinner done, looks like I need to produce more leftovers for use in emergencies!  Or I suppose I could be organised?

13 Ways of Showing Love

Thursday 13

It’s Valentine’s Day coming up!  While our society seems to think this is all about young couples, there are a lot of other people in our lives we love, young and old, these are some ideas of different ways to show them.

  1. Phone someone you haven’t seen for ages.
  2. Have special one-on-one time, especially if you have more than one child it can be hard to find.
  3. Do someone else’s ‘job’ for them, like the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, especially if you know they don’t like it.
  4. A sleep in!  Breakfast in bed is even better.
  5. Write a letter, complete with pictures, even if you live in the same house.
  6. Let them choose the activity after dinner, whether that’s the game they want to play or the TV programme.
  7. A foot massage or shoulder rub, or for little ones brushing their hair.
  8. Tell them something they do that makes you happy.
  9. Hand make them something – a present, a card or a cake, whatever you’re good at.
  10. A little present, for kids some stickers or pencils or for an adult their favourite fruit.  It doesn’t have to cost much, just show you’re thinking of them.
  11. Make their favourite meal.
  12. Go for a walk together and hold hands.
  13. A note on their pillow.

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Having a shower by myself – saying yes to me

It doesn’t sound that momentous.  And it’s not as if showering with the girls is difficult – they sit in the bath, I pass them the occasional toy and they play together.  But last weekend I got quite a bit of me-time while sewing the shirred dress, even if it was in 10 minute blocks!  So when my husband offered to distract the girls so I could shower by myself, my first instinct was to say that’s fine, I’m OK.

But is OK enough?  Why don’t I deserve the time to be good, great, fantastic?  Unfortunately it comes down to one word – guilt.

I’ve managed to convince myself I have to be a perfect parent or I’m hurting my kids.  This is wrong and I know it intellectually.  I know that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.  I know that kids have done very well over the years in less than ideal conditions and they’re pretty tough.  I even know that something like books and reading (for example) are incredibly new and people have learnt to use them without being read to for an hour a day from birth.  When it’s an individual example like that I’m perfectly rational.  But in my day to day emotions there’s always something I should be doing, or doing better, or worst of all not doing.

And in the rare cases where something goes wrong!  I’m extremely lucky and I know it, I have two healthy, happy little girls.  But between their sleep (or lack thereof) and their speech (big girl had a moderate delay which seems to be resolved, little girl is following in her footsteps) it seems that at least once a day I ask what on earth I’m doing wrong.  How did I create this sleep problem?  What have I neglected that has stopped them from talking?  How (why!) did I make them so clingy?

You can see the problem right there in that paragraph – the good things are due to luck, the bad things are all my fault.  And that turns into guilt.

I don’t know how I developed this attitude.  Probably a lot of things contributed, I’m a bit of an overachiever and a lot of a control freak, and there’s just so much information out there!  I’m not going to write a list because I don’t want to scare anyone else, but I managed to turn all sorts of things from extra bonuses into needs.  Rather than thinking how ‘lucky’ my kids are because they get so many extras on top of being happy, healthy and secure, or even (shock!) what a good job I might be doing, I’ve turned it around to say I’m doing a lousy job because they’re missing out.

It’s irrational.  I know it, but I can’t seem to help it.  And it’s not doing me or my kids any good as I stumble along near the edge.  Isn’t that sad – I’m realising I have to stop chasing unattainable perfection not because it’s impacting on me, but on my parenting.  Just shows how trapped I am.  So this is the first step.  When my husband offers me a shower all on my own, I’m going to take it even if I’ve had some me-time.  I’m going to keep track of me-time to make sure I actually get it and know that I get it.  And I’m writing it down so I can see how silly it is, and maybe start to believe it.

13 Things I’ve Learnt From My Children

Thursday 13

1.  You aren’t going to walk straight away, so get really good at standing and the walking will happen.

2.  Take time to smell the roses, and the grass, and look at the ants, and the caterpillar, and oh look!  There’s a dead leaf!

3.  Sometimes you need a really good cry.

4.  Just because this part of the slide is hot doesn’t mean it all is, so check it all out.

5.  The world won’t collapse if you write your S backwards.

6.  When you’re happy to see someone, race out, give them a hug and tell them.

7.  When you’re throwing a tantrum you forget what you were originally after.

8.  When you’re pushing someone on a swing, you have to keep stepping back as they get higher.

9.  It’s a really different world when all you can see are knees and shoes.

10.  If someone tickles you on the stomach, giggle and tickle them back.

11.  Sometimes you need to tell the seeker where you’re hiding.

12.  Even if you copy someone completely you won’t be just like them.

13.  Forgive and forget – stewing over it only hurts you, not them.

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I love shirring!

This was my weekend project, a new dress.  I bought the fabric years ago because I liked the border design, then discovered the pattern I was going to use had a round hem.  Then I got the shirring elastic last year and it’s taken this long to get down to it.

It’s slightly shorter than planned – I always measure meticulously 2 or 3 times then end up with the waist too big, this time I measured meticulously and ended up with it short.  Lucky for overlockers to make tiny hems!

The one thing I don’t like about a lot of shirred items is the frill at the top, so I put in a thin casing and put in 6mm elastic.  However there’s a trap – the elastic is stronger than the shirring.  I carefully pulled it so it was gathered the same amount as the rest of the dress, but because there’s less give in it the very top is tighter than comfortable.  After doing it I found the 3mm elastic I was searching for, but I haven’t decided if I’ll let it stretch or try to replace it.

The shirring itself was dead easy, hand wind the shirring elastic onto the bobbin so it isn’t stretched, then just sew straight!  I used a walking foot and the fabric has lines of spots to line it all up, although it still took an embarrassing number of rows before I got it straight.  This is a very light fabric so it gathered very easily.

Quick and dirty shirred dress method:

  1. Measure the length you want and add 7-10cm for hem and top casing.
  2. Measure your hips at the widest point and add a generous amount so your skirt is comfortable.  This one is around 30cm more than my hip measurement.  Press well so there are no creases.
  3. Cut a strip around 10cm wide for the shoulder bands, I cut the full width of the fabric and trimmed them down once I’d made the rest of the dress.
  4. Overlock both the top and bottom of the dress.  I did this because it is a very light weave and frays easily, I like to have the edges finished before I’m working on it and little fingers are pulling it about.
  5. Fold over the top and sew a narrow casing, this one is about 1cm. (If you weren’t doing the quick and dirty method you would leave the casing until later.)
  6. Shirr the top of the fabric, roughly every 2cm.  This dress is slightly less because I’m lining up the pattern, it’s up to you what look you want.  Make sure you at least go far enough down to cover your bust, you don’t want a skirt hanging from halfway down your boob!  Looking at this photo I could possibly have done another row to get to the waist, or done less and made it an empire waist.  The dangers of trying to judge everything yourself with toddlers hanging onto your legs!
  7. Thread 3mm or 6mm elastic through the casing and spread your gathers, not too tight!  Attach it firmly at both ends.
  8. Line up the back, right sides together, and sew or overlock straight down.
  9. Try it on to check the length and hem the bottom.
  10. If you were doing this dress properly, this is when you would do the top casing and elastic and measure it so it doesn’t end up too tight.  But I don’t like trying to sew neatly when it’s all gathered, so it serves me right.  Make sure you finish the threads from the seam at the top so they don’t show.

This is a wearable dress just like this, I added the shoulder straps to cover the bra.

  1. Measure how long they need to be over your shoulder, mine was 44 cm so I cut my strip to 1m.
  2. Sew or overlock right sides together to make a long tube then cut in half.  This way you end up with two straps the same width 🙂
  3. I meant to turn the tube so the seam was straight down the back, but forgot and left it on the side.  Sew the end, I put points on these because I think it’s neater than square corners, you could do curves as well.  Do measure them (or trace around a glass) because if you do it by eye it never turns out and looks lopsided. Hint: if you are doing points do a diagonal stitch across the point, it’s much neater when you turn it.
  4. Turn right way out and give a good pressing then topstich if you like.  I love topstitching, I think it makes everything look neater and more finished so long as you are straight!  I used a quilting foot that helps you line up a quarter inch easily.
  5. Choose your buttons and put a buttonhole on the end, make sure it is parallel to the length of the strap.
  6. Try the dress on and pin the straps where you want them to reach on the front, then get someone else to pin them at the back.  Unpin the front and carefully take it off.
  7. Mark both the straps and back of the dress, then unpin them and trim the straps to the right length.  Fold them under like a hem and baste them to the dress.  This is when you sew with very loose tension and long stitches and is just to hold everything in the right place.  It’s easier than pinning here because remember the bodice is all gathered – you have to stretch it out while you are attaching the bands or it won’t go on properly.
  8. Tighten your tension and reduce your stitch length again and sew the straps on, a box or square is the most secure.  Pull out the basting stitches.
  9. Try the dress on and pin the bodice through the buttonholes, then you should be able to undo the straps as if the pins were buttons.  This shows you where to sew them on and you’re finished!

Please wish us sleep

Tonight, we begin attempt #273 to DO SOMETHING about little girl’s sleep.  Regular readers may notice the change in nickname, which is the problem – she is moving beyond babyhood.  It’s not that I think there is an arbitrary point where she should learn to sleep, it’s that she is now 22 months old and I can count on my fingers the number of times she has slept longer than 2 hours.  I am exhausted.  She’s not even consistent – the extremely rare occasions when she’s slept for 5 hour blocks are generally preceded by a feeding orgy where she might give me 20 minute breaks between 3 or 4 hour long feeds, so I’ve paid heavily for my oblivion.

Of course it’s not really #273, we’ve tried hard to be consistent and give an approach a decent time to work.  We walked many miles during the early reflux nights.  When that passed we discovered she was an extremely light sleeper and would be woken up by things like moving position or someone walking past.  She refused wrapping, but we got a monitor and closed all the doors, avoided the toilet, and discovered that I could feed her to sleep lying on our bed then roll off without waking her.  That’s how the full-time co-sleeping started.

We expected the 4 month monsters, which turned into the 5, 6, 7 and 8 month monsters with no improvements.  Every now and then we would try something like cuddling after a feed but it always ended with hysteria and throwing up, a legacy of the reflux?  Then we rode out the 2 months, or possibly 3 or 4 my memory’s blurred, when she wouldn’t sleep without a boob in her mouth.  Eventually I stopped trying to detach her, made the most of it and caught up with my reading.  It was a major celebration when she let go.

We had a very stressful time with a lot of interstate travel at the height of her separation anxiety (did I mention she’s extremely clingy?), but surprisingly it led to a breakthrough – we got her onto a mattress next to our bed.  At that point, up to 2 hours with extra space in both beds felt like heaven.  I don’t sleep well when she’s sucking, probably because so much of it is comfort sucking, so I’ve never had the luxury of just letting her attach and not really noticing.

Throughout all this we tried dummies many times, lullabies, meditation music, white noise, wrapping, sleepsacks, fans on and off, air conditioners on and off and several variations of light.  I’ve tried pulling the nipple out, patting, rubbing, holding, singing, cuddling and Daddy.  But she’s very simple and very consistent – I want a real nipple until I decide to let it go.  Do not touch me, do not sing, do not cover me with anything, and do not turn the lights out.  And if you’re very lucky it might take less than 40 minutes and you might not have to do it again for a couple of hours.


At 18 months it got beyond a joke so we tried partial night weaning.  I didn’t feed between 11 and 4am and she didn’t sleep.  At all.  At least thats what it felt like after yet another night of going to bed at 2am.  She would wake up (again) sometime between 11 and 1am and then cry, ranging from screaming hysterics to gentle hiccups for 2 to 5 hours.  Some of the time she would sit on your lap quietly, but the eyes didn’t close.  In 10 weeks I got her to sleep without feeding a total of 3 times, one of those I went to bed at 4am, another 5am and the third I fell asleep with her on the couch about 3am, not good.  DH found me and I tried to move at 4am, which predictably woke her up.  DH had a much better record, which was why we persevered so long, and there were those elusive nights when she slept for 5 hours which kept making us think that maybe she was getting it.

Then we went away.  It’s not really polite to stay in someone else’s house and have your baby cry for several hours every night and it makes it rather hard to enjoy the holiday!  So she and I slept in one bed and DH and the big girl slept in another and she actually did quite “well” so long as I was with her and didn’t try to get up, only feeding 4 or 5 times a night. But I’m not willing to spend the next however many months or years with her attached 24 hours a day (remember the clinginess?), 22 months with only the odd half hour here and there free is enough.

Coming back has been disastrous.  She’s jetlagged and will either get up and play for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, or suck for a 4 hour block plus hourly wakeups and she’s back to waking when anyone breathes too heavily.  The big girl is also waking up every night and DH is dealing with her so we’re all exhausted.  I can no longer cope, crying is a nightly event and there are times I’m scared I might hurt her seriously (Note: my idea of hurting her is to hit her.  I know people do this on purpose every day, but I don’t hit my kids.  She is in no danger).  I know I’ve accidentally hurt her a couple of times in a minor way by squeezing her too tight or accidentally digging my nails into her.  And the guilt from it all piles on top of the frustration and the helplessness.

I’m sorry, believe it or not this started as a fairly positive post because we do have a new plan we’re starting tonight, but it’s now 1am and I’m writing because I’ve been trying to get her to sleep since 8.30 (ETA – she slept from 1am – 6am!).  Friday is a good day to start because then we have the weekend to recover if needed.  We’ve put a queensize bed in the big girl’s room and they’re going to co-sleep sideways across it, that way DH or I can fit in too when we are in there.  It’s worked quite well on holidays, and the idea is that maybe with someone else next to her she might be more settled.  And maybe without us coming in and moving around she might not be woken up.  And maybe without me right there she might not want a feed.  And who knows?  Something’s got to work eventually.  We’re going to put big girl in our bed to go to sleep at first and move her in later, until we see how it goes.  If we can get the rest of the night to improve then we’ll look at putting them to sleep together.

So that’s the plan if you’ve got this far.  I’d love to hear comments and ideas (or gasps of admiration that I’m still semi-functioning), although I have to admit I think we’ve tried most of the suggestions out there.  Except weaning off feeding to sleep, and given the complete lack of success of partial weaning and the huge problems it caused with her sister it ranks somewhere below anti-depressants for me on the list of things to try.  And unfortunately, I would happily have gone to a sleep school or paid a professional or even got a Granny in to help many months ago except we live in a remote town interstate from our relatives.

So there it is, I’ll accept any offers of luck but I’d really like people to wish us some sleep!

13 Things I Did While We Were Away!

Thursday 13

  1. Slept on a train going from Paris to Rome.
  2. Took water taxis and buses through Venice.
  3. Made a snowman and snow angels in Geneva.
  4. Saw the Mona Lisa.
  5. Went up the Eiffel Tower when it was -4!
  6. Met my brand-new baby niece when we got back to England.
  7. Learnt to use a satnav and drove on lots of twisty turny lanes through the English countryside then discovered they were actually A roads.
  8. Explored the still functional Roman bath at Bath.
  9. Stayed in the attic of a Victorian house in Bath.
  10. Went to Sherwood Forest and the man-made caves under Nottingham.
  11. Had family photos done in mediaeval costumes.
  12. Helped my girls do a pretend excavation at an archaeological museum.
  13. Ate chicken and leek suet pudding at a little pub in Oxford.  In fact we had many meals in great little pubs and I discovered a really nice alcoholic ginger beer in York!

Now aren’t you jealous?

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Wordless Wednesday – First Day

My little baby is off to her first day of pre-school (4 year olds).  Uniforms havent’ arrived yet, but she has her special school hat from the Eiffel tower and a little bento lunch we made together this morning.  She does 2 1/2 hours every afternoon.  She’s so excited!

Thoughts on Australia Day

It seems an appropriate time to announce I’m back, although since I don’t have any follow-ups organised I might regret it!

When I was a kid we went for barbecues on Australia Day and I didn’t really think too much about it – it was our national day, when we celebrated how lucky we were to live in Australia.  As I got older and learnt more history it started to bug me – the 26th of January is the beginning of a penal colony in NSW.  What does it have to do with the rest of Australia?  It wasn’t even a viable colony – that had to wait for the arrival of the second fleet which had the women on board.  And it certainly had nothing to do with the two thirds of the continent that isn’t in the East.  As a good little West Aussie school girl I was taught about the settlement of Albany – which was done in order to claim WA before the French could.  So obviously it hadn’t been claimed back in 1788 and the 26th of January is irrelevant in WA.

In uni I started learning more about Aboriginal people and it got worse.  I’ve lived and worked in Aboriginal communities for 12 years now, so I’ve heard a lot of first hand stories about the impact of white settlement.  The missions, the stolen generation are only part of it – I’ve been to the site of massacres and been privileged to walk the path of both people expelled from Moola Bulla station in the Kimberley and the Gurindji walk-off led by Vincent Lingiari, two pivotal events in the history of Australian race relations.  Interestingly, I’ve never personally heard an Aboriginal person refer to ‘Invasion Day,’ in my experience it is a phenomenon of the media and politicians.  However I sympathise with the concept.

So what to do?  I’m proud of being Australian.  I want to celebrate all it means to be Australian, I acknowledge that there are injustices and negatives in our past, but this is still a wonderful country that I feel lucky to live in.  But I don’t like celebrating such a negative date, which echoes with injustice to both those who were brought here and those who were already here, and ignores at least two thirds of our geography.

While researching this post I discovered an article from last Australia Day, when the Prime Minister respectfully refused the Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson’s, request to rethink January 26th.  I think the response to this was very sensible – no-one was surprised, as there is a huge weight of tradition behind it, but many people asked for a long and thoughtful conversation on what it means to celebrate Australia Day and when we should do it.  I agree that it cannot be a quick change, it is too important for that, but this is the beginning of my contribution to the discussion.  I hope that it will be ongoing and that reasoned and gentle resistance will eventually result in both a date and a sense of mature nationhood that all Australians can celebrate.  Let NSW celebrate the 26th of January in the same style as Foundation Day (WA), Territory Day (NT!) and the others, and let Australia have a new day important to us all.

Ideally I would like to celebrate Federation Day, for the day we became one nation, but I can see that the 1st of January is going to be a non-starter!  So here are my other suggestions.  I have purposely excluded Sorry Day, I feel this is extremely important but hardly a day of celebration and shouldn’t be a holiday.

  • While Australia officially became a federation on January 1st, our first parliament opened on May 9th 1901, so one candidate is Parliament Day, to celebrate the beginning of our government as one democratic nation.
  • The 1967 constitutional referendum did not, in fact, grant Aboriginal people citizenship, but it was an extremely significant event for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.  Aboriginal people successfully asserted themselves and non-Aboriginal people acknowledged their rights, at least symbolically.  So the 27th of May could become Referendum Day, a day to include all Australians.
  • Perhaps it’s a trifle ambitious to want two days, but it would be nice to acknowledge two of our strengths – free and open government, and working to become a united, fair nation.  Since two dates in May are a bit close together, my last suggestion is the day on which the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act, 1967 was proclaimed, the 10th of August.  This is the legislation made possible by the referendum; it was supported by both parties and passed all three reading for both houses in only one day.  So for me it represents the best our parliamentary system can be, working together carrying out the will of the people for the good of all Australians.

I hope you agree with me that Australia is a wonderful place to live.  I hope that, for you, there are more positives even while we acknowledge the negatives.  And I hope that, whether you agree or disagree with me, we have the maturity as a nation to engage in a positive and respectful conversation about when and how to celebrate our nationhood.  And if you agree with me, I hope that we can eventually move beyond conversation to action, and effect real change we can all be proud of.

(I do actually have something planned for tomorrow, but I’ll be a little busy.  You’ll have to wait and see why!)

Having a break

Hello lovely readers!

It’s getting to that time of year again, the fun one that is amazingly busy.  I am going to be busy in an extremely fun way, I’ve already driven and flown down to Perth and tomorrow I am jetting off to England, then Spain, then back to England, then Italy, Switzerland and France, then back to England again.  I don’t think I’ll have much internet access along the way, or the time to be writing posts!

Hopefully some of my fellow authors will be popping in and out, but from Deb and Hodgent we wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, peaceful Summer Solstice, fantastic Festivus or friendly family celebration and a healthy beginning to 2010.

We will return with many photos and stories,