Microblog Mondays: Unwanted Houseguests

Ants are trying to move into our house.

Specifically, they’re trying to add our dining room to their territory. They come out from under the baseboards somewhere and then fan out to search for food.

I repeat: they’re in my dining room. You know, the place where we eat every.single.meal.

The dining room is carpeted (don’t ask me why- previous owners of this house did some crazy things).

I have two small children.

I vacuum after every meal and yet the ants always, always, manage to find something to keep them coming back.

I feel like I’m Sisyphus.

But, as I keep reminding myself, it could be worse. Back in November 2015, when we discovered that indoor cats can too get fleas, I was vacuuming the entire house every day, including all furniture and baseboards, while pregnant with P.

This too shall pass.

But they sure are a pain right now.

Any suggestions on how to get rid of ants when they’re in a spot where you can’t use a trap?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Daily Life, Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: Lifeboats

In the last couple of weeks E. has suddenly developed an intense interest in the Titanic, which means we now have several books about said ship out from the library, including the exact book I used to own when I was a child with an intense interest in the Titanic.

E. is aware, of course, that the story of the Titanic is a tragic one, a cautionary tale of needless loss of life, but he approaches the subject largely on technical grounds. He is interested in the hows and whys of the sinking and (especially) the discovery and exploration of the wreck. When I was a child I was most interested in the exploration of the wreck as well (I even had a second book by Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, about the wreck of the Bismarck).

I am really having a hard time with the story the second time around.

As an adult, I can’t escape the horror of the human side to the sinking. I’m finding it difficult to read aloud to E. the sections which detail the children who perished, or the reports from survivors of the haunting cries of the doomed passengers as they struggled to survive in the icy waters, or (especially) the myriad mistakes which led to the tragedy (first and foremost the fact that there weren’t enough lifeboats on board). He doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of it, but I am.

I’ve tried to mostly stop thinking about the children, because I find it too upsetting, so instead my mind keeps coming back to Ida Straus, who was offered a place in one of the lifeboats, but chose instead to stay on board the Titanic with her husband, saying, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.”

I don’t think I could do that.

I love Q. very much and couldn’t imagine a life without him. But I think if I were offered the chance to live, I would take it.

Maybe my reaction is a result of the phase of life that I’m currently in. Obviously there are E. and P. to think about, and (in this imagined scenario), if they were in a lifeboat, I would get in that boat to be with them in a heartbeat. Maybe I would feel differently if I were (like Ida was), in my sixties, with my children grown, having been married to Q. for four decades rather than one.

I don’t think so, though.

Q.’s mother was widowed fourteen years ago, when she was in her early fifties. I’ve watched her build a life that in no way resembles the life that she was expecting to have, but it is still a life of great joy, a life of adventure, a meaningful life.

Maybe Ida would have felt differently had she lived in the twenty-first century and had all the opportunities available to women that we enjoy.

Or maybe she loved her husband more than I love Q.

It’s something I think about.

Would you get in the lifeboat?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under E.- the seventh year, Microblog Mondays

Fearless

Here is a list of places I have found P. in the last week:

  • sitting on every couch and chair in the living room
  • sitting on the square coffee table
  • sitting on the rectangular coffee table
  • sitting on the top of the toy shelves (which she would only have been able to reach by climbing over from one of the chairs)
  • standing in her high chair
  • sitting on top of the kitchen table (which required her to push my backpack over next to a chair, climb onto the backpack, climb onto the chair, and then climb onto the table)
  • standing on the back of the couch (not the cushions, the back frame of the couch itself), holding on to the window sill, having pushed out one of the screens and allowed the (indoor only) cat to escape (luckily said cat was confused enough to just sit on the ledge outside the window until I came into the room and realized what had happened)

At her age (not quite 13.5 months), E. couldn’t get on to the couches by himself. He didn’t sit on coffee tables until he was 15.5 months old. He never, ever, did anything else that his sister has clearly mastered.

Q. and I are scrambling to keep up with her. We’ve moved the couch flush against the wall so she can’t climb onto the back (which has blocked her brother’s snake house, which annoys him no end). We have a strict “wash immediately and return to the chair” rule with the high chair tray, because she can’t climb into it if the tray is in place. We’ve started gating P. into the kitchen with us when we’re cooking because we just can’t leave her to explore the living room any longer because we’ll inevitably find her doing something dangerous. And we’re resigned to having to break out the “baby jail” (our travel crib), even though I’d much rather be able to let her roam free like her brother did.

To say she is going to keep us on our toes is a serious understatement.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, P.- the second year

Microblog Mondays: Teeth

Last week we took our cat to the vet for ridiculously expensive unavoidable dental work.

When we picked her up at the end of the day, the vet’s administrative assistant presented us with detailed care instructions, a bag of pain medication, and a small pill container which contained the two teeth the dentist had removed.

I’m not at all sure why they did this. To prove they took out the teeth they said they did? To demonstrate the necessity of removing the teeth by allowing us to witness for ourselves their state of decay? To provide us with souvenirs?

I was more than a little weirded out by the whole thing, but I had E. with me and he thought it was amazing, so we brought the teeth home. They sat in their container on the kitchen table (where E. had abandoned them) until dinner, when Q. asked that we not share the meal with the teeth (fair).

At some point the container migrated upstairs to our room, where it’s currently sitting on my night table, right next to where the cat herself usually likes to sleep during the day (weird, no?).

Today, I realized that I’ve also got three or four of E’s teeth stashed in my sock drawer, a result of having the tooth fairy visit right before I go to bed and then not wanting to throw the teeth in the garbage in the upstairs bathroom in case E. somehow found them.

I’m a tooth hoarder.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Daily Life, E.- the seventh year, Microblog Mondays

The twelfth month

SO late again. Sigh.

Dearest P.,

Happy birthday! I can’t believe it’s been a year already. It feels like only a few months ago I was still slowly walking your brother to school with my enormous belly. All the other mums at school have said that to me as well. They all knew that your birthday was coming up because they remembered meeting you as a newborn last June, but they keep being caught off guard when they see you in the playground. For some of the mums it’s the first time they’ve really seen you, as usually you’re tucked up in the carrier, and they can’t believe how big you are or how much you can do. You crawl around at top speed, cruise holding on to the play equipment, and do your best to keep up with your brother and his friends.

You had a busy month! You started the month cruising with a lot of confidence. Most days I’d find you doing the circuit around our living room (from coffee table to big couch to toy shelf to chair to bookshelf to coffee table to little couch). You often would only hold on with one hand and sometimes you would just lean against the couch with your back to keep your hands free to hold on to things. In the late afternoons, when you were feeling clingy you liked to stand and hold on to my legs when I was in the kitchen making dinner (which usually led to me putting you in the Ergo on my back to keep you out of harm’s way). By the end of the month you’d mastered standing without any support for ten seconds or longer. And, right at the end of the month, you had a banner day where you not only stood up from the ground without support for the first time but you also took three steps between your Daddy and me! It will be interesting to see how quickly you start walking now that you’ve figured this out, as you’re so obviously desperate to keep up with your brother.

You’re very interested in climbing. You race up the full flight of stairs and then you love to crawl down the hallway at high speed to my room to unpack my night table. You’re trying to climb up onto the couch (and the coffee table)- you can’t manage it when the cushions are on, but you put your leg up to try, so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. You did learn this month how to get down from the couch safely, and since standing up on the couch looking out the window is one of your favourite things to do, any time you climb down you almost immediately start fussing to get back up again. You’ve also started trying to stand up in the shopping cart, even when strapped in, which makes grocery shopping a bit more exciting. I have to keep a close eye on you, especially now that you’ve realized you can reach things on the shelves. I didn’t realize you’d figured this out until I turned around from choosing a cucumber to find you eating a Roma tomato! You were deeply pleased you’d picked it out yourself and you were most distraught when you eventually dropped it in the cheese section and I refused to give it back to you.

Early in the month you started giving kisses (which were mostly big, open mouthed bites), but only to me- I loved the special cuddles! By the end of the month your kisses were becoming a bit more refined and you’d also started giving lovely hugs where you really leaned in and snuggled with the person holding you. When you get dressed in the morning you’re able to help me by pushing your own arms through the sleeves of your onesies. You’re starting to imitate people around you- you saw one lady using a hand sanitizer dispenser and you mimicked her by rubbing your hands together. You will rub your ears if asked where they are and you love to try to put your hat on your head (although it’s even better if you can try to put your brother’s hat on your head!). You also love to try to wear my sunglasses if you can get your hands on them (and you will take them off my face if you can reach). When we’re driving in the car you love to interact with us. Even though you’re rear-facing, we can still see you in your mirror through our rear-view mirror. You will smile, blow raspberries, and play peek-a-boo with your blanket bunny. It makes long drives so much more fun!

The big leap this month was in communication. You started to point really clearly and you’ve also mastered using your index finger to poke at things.  By mid-month you could point with intent- you would point at something and make a “dere” noise if you wanted it (such as a box of Cheerios on top of the fridge that we thought you couldn’t see- you don’t miss much!). You also realized that everything has a name, so we spent much of the month labelling objects for you as you pointed at them or held them up for inspection. Often you would hold up one item, listen to us as we named it, then hold up another, and then go back to the first one again to check to see if the name had changed. You’re starting to anticipate with the books that we read- every night we read The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton after you’ve finished nursing, and when we get to the last page and I ask you what the animals do you rock back and forth on my lap in expectation of the final line where they “rock and rock and rock to sleep”. You’ve figured out how to click your tongue against your teeth. Your brother thinks this is the most annoying sound in the world, but you love doing it because your Daddy or I will nearly always click back.

You’re now better able to tell us what you want at the dinner table. By the end of the month you had started to occasionally use the “more” sign (rather than just signing “milk” frantically with both hands). You’ve clearly decided you don’t need to use “all done” as when you’re finished you pull your bib off and then start to play peek-a-boo with it (or drop it over the side)- it’s very hard to miss your point. You tried cow’s milk this month; you weren’t too interested in it because you’re still nursing so much, but at least it didn’t upset your tummy. You also don’t care much for yoghurt or cheese- you’d much rather be eating fruit or oatmeal or pasta. Strawberries are still your absolute favourite fruit but bananas run a close second. Sometimes after breakfast you decide you’d like to have a quick nurse. You’ll sign “milk” and then push away the water glass if I offer it and then, if I say, “Do you want milk-milks?” you give me a huge smile. Usually you only want to sit on my lap and nurse for a few seconds before you’re ready to get down and play again, but it’s clear you like the chance to connect and cuddle in our busy mornings.

When you get down to play, you almost always head right for your ball basket. Balls are, without a doubt, your favourite thing at the moment. You love dropping them, throwing them, taking them out of the basket, putting them back in again, showing them to us, crawling while holding them, etc. The blue ball is your favourite, so it tends to be the one that takes me the longest to find again every evening when I’m putting them all back in the basket after you’ve gone to bed (if I try to put them away with you “helping” you take them out as quickly as I put them in). You get hugely frustrated if you put a ball on the couch or a chair and it rolls to the back and you can’t reach it yourself. You’ll squawk and fuss and point until someone (often your brother) comes and rescues it for you. You’re able to stack one block on top of another, but you rarely choose to do so- you’d much rather watch me build towers and then knock them down. When we come inside and I put you down on the floor the first thing you do is try to unpack my purse- you love to play with my keys and take all the cards out of my wallet, so much so that we even made you a wallet of your own with old gift cards and expired loyalty cards. I keep it in the diaper bag for restaurants and waiting rooms but you don’t like it nearly as much as my wallet- I think you know it’s somehow not the same. When we’re outside your favourite things to do are to go on the swings (you get so excited if you can see the swings you kick your legs as soon as I pick you up) and to play in our back yard in the water table. You especially love to play with the water table if your brother is playing too, although you get very frustrated that he’s big enough to hold the hose and you’re not. You spend so much of your life frustrated that your brother is doing something and you’re not. The best example this month was when we were visiting Grandpa in the hospital. He was giving your brother a ride around the ICU in his wheelchair and I was walking along next to them holding you. You fussed and squawked and pointed and expressed your displeasure at being excluded in no uncertain terms. Finally Grandpa set his chair’s speed to its lowest setting and I held you on his lap while we made a very slow circuit. You were so pleased- you had the biggest grin the entire time and you sat perfectly still. I think you knew you were getting to do something special (you then also wanted to use the remote to control Grandpa’s hoist after you saw your brother doing that too, but I drew the line at that).

On the sleep front, we’ve finally made some progress. It took a week or so of Daddy going in to settle you if you woke up before 3 a.m. but eventually you seem to have accepted that the open milk bar is down to one serving per night. Most nights now you sleep from 7 p.m. until 4:30 a.m. before waking up for a nurse and a cuddle. Then you go back to sleep until around 7 a.m. I suppose we could make an effort to cut that final feed but since we’re going to spend most of your next month overseas we didn’t really see the point. You still need two naps a day but you’ve pushed the second nap later. You don’t want to go to sleep until you’ve been up for at least three hours, which has been a real challenge with having to pick your brother up from school. The summer will be easier, but I’m hoping you’ll be ready to switch to one nap some point in the next couple of months as you’ll have to be on one by September. You’re still happy to fall asleep in the car. We had one unexpectedly epic drive this month- we were driving to Grannie’s and it took much longer than usual because of traffic and an accident on the highway. You were so good- you barely fussed at all. After dinner you fell asleep easily and slept the entire rest of the way (unlike your brother who resolutely refused to go to sleep even though it was almost 11 p.m. by the time we finally arrived).

We didn’t have a very big party for your birthday, but we did have your Auntie L., Uncle A. and your cousin Spud over for lunch. We had barbecued prawns and chicken, oven-roasted lemony potatoes, and a summer salad with strawberries and avocado. Your brother helped me make orange cupcakes with chocolate ganache, the same recipe we made for his first birthday (because it is dairy and soy-free but still delicious). Unlike your brother (who ate his entire cupcake at his first birthday party), you didn’t like the cupcake at all! You ate two or three bites, making faces every time, and then you just mashed it into your high chair tray.

You had your twelve month appointment but we delayed your vaccinations until after your trip because you had a bit of a cold and we didn’t want to make you even more miserable before putting you on an airplane. You were 77 cm (30.5″) which means you’re now on the charts for height, but I didn’t find out the percentile. You were 19 lb, 11 oz, which is still the 25th percentile for weight, and your head circumference was 47 cm. You also had your follow up appointment with the neurologist who confirmed his impression from the first appointment- although you do still noticeably prefer your right hand, the asymmetry isn’t anything to worry about. You’re just likely to be very right handed. You added one more tooth this month (on the top at the right, next to the big middle ones), bringing your total to 5. It’s definitely not a gummy smile now when you grin at us!

Your birthday was bittersweet. I’m excited to watch you grow in the coming year- it’s no secret that I love the toddler years more than infancy. At the same time, you are my last baby, and your firsts are also my lasts. I know you want to walk (and run!), but I’m in no rush. You are balanced between baby and toddler, and I’m going to soak up the late night snuggles, the soft pats at my breast as you nurse, your wispy hair with its one curl at the back, and the smile on your face as you crawl towards me as long as I can.

Happy birthday, my darling girl.

Love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

Microblog Mondays: Silent Women

Q. and I ran a mini-conference at our university last week, a workshop for the people who are writing chapters for the book we’re editing. It was an exhausting three days, with me out of the house each day from 9:15 a.m. until after 10 p.m. (except for an hour around bedtime when I would leave the workshop a little bit early to make sure I could get home in time to see E. and put P. to bed before taking a cab to the dinner location).

It was also invigorating: I spent three days listening to interesting papers and talking to interesting people in a very collegial environment (which is certainly not always the case in academia but Q. and I were quite strategic in who was invited to contribute to the volume, operating on a policy of “how many of our friends or people vouched for by our friends can we get involved”). It was wonderful to remember why I did a PhD in the first place, and to devote some time to the academic part of me. And, let’s face it, the chance to have uninterrupted adult conversation and drink hot tea and eat my own food at my own pace without needing to help someone else with their meal was also most welcome. Most people were exhausted by 4 p.m. because everyone had to attend every panel, unlike at a conference where no one will notice if you skip out on a session or two; I kept telling everyone I felt like I was on holiday.

The workshop was very successful and Q. and I feel confident we’re on track to produce a very interesting volume.

But here’s the thing- in the first morning session, there were seven women present (and nine men).

During that two-and-a-half hour session, three of those women said nothing at all. Three of the women spoke once.

And then there was me, who just wouldn’t shut up.

I found myself thinking about this all through lunch. Yes, I am much more well versed in the project and the literature, even while being on maternity leave, because Q. and I have been talking about the book and thinking about the book for two years now- but that holds true in comparison with the men as well. And yes, I was ridiculously excited to be out of the house using my brain, so I was maybe a little bit overeager to participate and a little bit nervous to establish my status (since the draft of my chapter which I submitted had been underdone given I’ve been on maternity leave and I knew it was underdone, although it looked far more advanced than it actually is when compared with some of the others).

The truth is, I’m always going to have something to say. I trust that my thoughts have value. I’m not intimidated by men, even very senior ones.

I sit at the table, and I speak up.

My sisters are exactly the same way. So at lunch on that first day I texted them, telling them what I’d seen and asking them how we’ve ended up being women who will not be silent.

We didn’t really come up with a clear answer, but we agreed that P. will have three fierce role models as she grows up.

The gender discrepancy in the workshop got better in the later sessions, but it never evened out entirely. I made a point of noticing when a woman had her hand up to speak and was being overlooked and made sure to defer back to her when it was my turn. When a female graduate student was brave enough to ask a question in front of several very senior full professors from overseas universities I made a point of finding her during a break to tell her what a great question it had been. And I made a point of telling Q. and our very good friend O. (who was one of those senior visiting professors) what I’d noticed at the end of the first day so that for the next two days they made a point of doing these things too.

Do you sit at the table and speak up? Do you feel valued by your colleagues when you do?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: Bleary

We’ve had four nights back home now, after the epic trip back (which, thanks to P., who was both cutting a tooth and making a developmental leap, was by far the worst flight we’ve ever experienced).

I don’t love to travel.

I love to be somewhere new (or comfortingly not new, in the case of Australia), but I don’t love the process of getting there.

I don’t love flying- I can’t sleep on planes and I’m a nervous flyer.

I hate jet lag.

Usually, when we go to Australia, I have a moment somewhere around the eight or nine hour mark in the second flight (when there’s still six or seven hours left and I’ve missed an entire night of sleep) where I think to myself “WHY are we DOING this??!!”

And then we land and the sun is just so bright and there are cockatoos and kookaburras in the trees and the hours and hours spent stuck in that cramped seat are worth it.

Coming home is always harder, even though the flight is shorter. Our vacation is over and we have to try to return to our usual routine as quickly as possible. I’m reminded that I’m the adult every time I come home from a trip and our house looks the same as how we left it and we’re the ones who have to make dinner and buy the groceries and do the laundry, etc.

The worst part about being the adult right now is it means I have to fix my children’s jet lag before I can fix my own. We learned from our mistakes the first time we took E. to Australia (when he was the same age P. is now), so we ignored the clock and focused on establishing a twelve hour day. Once that was established we started waking them up progressively earlier to shift when their day “started”. After four nights they’re both pretty much back on EST, and P. last night didn’t wake up for longer than it took for her to nurse (as opposed to the previous three nights where she woke up and was then tired but unable to fall back asleep for an hour or two).

Me?

Last night I slept from midnight until 3 a.m. (insert rolling eyes emoji here)

Hopefully now that they’re sorted out I’ll follow suit within a day or two.

How well do you handle jet lag? Does it affect your desire to travel?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

5 Comments

Filed under Microblog Mondays, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)