Category Archives: Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood)

Microblog Mondays: Cake-tastrophe

E turned six today.

He requested, just like last year, a train cake (although with a few modifications).

I am not what you would call a Pinterest-worthy mama. The train cake last year was a stretch, but it turned out surprisingly well. So I wasn’t too stressed when I woke up this morning and still had to bake and decorate said cake.

By 11:03 a.m. I was sitting on my kitchen floor sobbing because absolutely NOTHING was working with the cake. It stuck in the pan and broke when I tried to get it out; it crumbled whenever I tried to cut it; the icing glued to the crumbed edges and broke them off; the jelly roll sitting on top of a flat slice of cake looked nothing at all like the oil tanker of my imagination.

The cake was completely, utterly, fucked, and I no longer had any time in which I could fix it because I was out of cake mix and out of icing and P. was soon going to wake up from her nap.

And although I knew it was JUST a cake, when E. had woken up that morning he had been disappointed because he had thought that all of his presents would be out and wrapped just like at Christmas and when I’d taken him to school he’d said to me sorrowfully that “this hadn’t been how [he’d] imagined [his] birthday would start” and the thought that I would have to pick him up that afternoon and tell him I hadn’t been able to make him the train cake he wanted, the train cake that he’d picked the decorations for when he went with me to Bulk Barn, the train cake that he’d asked for months ago, just broke my heart.

So I sat on my floor and cried.

And then I called in the cavalry.

My youngest sister turned up with a slab cake and more icing (AND helium balloons including a giant silver E) and my mother turned up with one of those icing nozzle things and together we fixed the cake.

And E. loved it (except for the fact that I directed my mother to put the boiler too far away from the cab of the steam locomotive).

Some days it really does take a village.

What was your worst baking disaster? Were you able to fix it?

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 Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the sixth year, Family, Microblog Mondays

Life Tetris

I’ve always liked how Karen uses the term Life Tetris whenever she posts about trying to balance everything that is going on, so I’ve freely borrowed that from her while also mixing my metaphors, because I still think in terms of juggling.

Balls I’m Still Keeping In The Air:

  • Being a Good Daughter (in that I’m still researching potential new apartments for my mother and have arranged to go and see some of them with her when she is here next week [scratch that, Mum hasn’t been able to come yet because she is being a Good Daughter and looking after her mother who possibly has pneumonia] and I’ve been making contacts with Airbnb hosts to find out if their “wheelchair accessible” rental will actually allow my father to come and visit for an afternoon if we stay there)
  • The garden (in that I’ve weeded the front to within an inch of its life, so I probably have four days before I start to feel like it’s getting out of control again; the beds in the side yard still need attention are all tidied up too)
  • The car (in that I called to make the appointment to get its winter tires taken off after Q. didn’t manage to find the time to do it for six days in a row)
  • The back/side yard landscaping project (we wanted to do this last summer but 2016 happened. I have spent hours over the last three weeks researching potential contractors, meeting with them, getting quotes, clarifying quotes, comparing quotes, negotiating, asking questions, etc., and I finally made the decision to go with the same company who did the original landscaping in the front (which makes me feel like I’ve wasted all of those hours but if we’d just gone with them again we wouldn’t have felt confident it was the right decision as they are mainly landscapers and a big chunk of the project is converting an asphalt parking pad to interlocking brick))
  • Buying groceries
  • Doing laundry (including all of P’s latest hand-me-downs which appeared on our porch over the weekend)
  • Remembering we have a cat
  • Organizing car seats for our upcoming trip down under
  • Organizing E’s birthday and birthday party for friends
  • Keeping our main floor safe for P to explore (this is a constantly moving target at the moment as she keeps learning how to do new things (I can climb stairs! I can reach tables! I can haz keys!))
  • School forms, permission slips, and classroom requests (E has a centipede, an unidentified grub, and a June beetle larva in a jar to take in to school tomorrow after his teacher asked for “little critters your kids find” and he helped me weed the garden)
  • Managing the household finances (I even did our taxes really early this year)
  • Being a Good Mum and a Good Spouse (I debated whether or not to write this down. Was it self-evident? Was it presumptuous? I am not perfect but on balance I think I am doing ok.)

Balls I’ve Dropped:

  • Getting ready for warmer weather (we had a fluke hot day last week which made me realize that I have no idea whether P has any spring/summer clothes at all as I gave most of her current size away to an Australian cousin in 2012 and I need to completely reorganize the bins downstairs to figure out what she has for 12-18 and 18-24 months; also I think this year we probably have to admit that E should not still be wearing his size 3T shorts even if he can get them on; I did order sunglasses for both kids (E broke his last year; his baby pair we gave away a couple of years ago) and sunhats for E (he lost his only hat at school last week, which is incredibly unusual for him, but he needed new ones anyway as he’d been wearing it for two years and it was getting small))
  • Cottage vacation in August (I have not booked a cottage; our usual rental company has no suitable cottages for our current phase of life (read: probably newly walking toddler) available when we’re available because I should have done this in January
  • Mulch (we swore last year we would never again go a year without ordering and spreading mulch…)
  • The front railing (it is rusting and needs to be stripped and repainted)
  • The front door (our storm door gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago and Q. has done the work to determine he won’t be able to easily fix it, which raises the issue of whether we even want a storm door or whether we should buy a new properly insulated front door; this is a decision I don’t have the bandwidth for at the moment)
  • Getting the ducts and the windows cleaned (looooonnng overdue; I want to finally get them organized and done while Q. is away as a surprise)
  • Cleaning the house (we vacuum and clean the bathrooms every week but any aspect of “deep cleaning” (washing baseboards and kitchen cupboards, cleaning the stove (and behind the stove), washing walls and floors, dusting) is, let’s face it, never going to happen
  • Looking after me (see previous post re: exercise, hair cut, dentist)
  • A joint birthday party for P and E for family (There is one weekend between early May and late June where we’re not out of town, hosting relatives, or organizing some other event like E’s friend party. I put this in the too-hard basket. We will make P. a cupcake on her birthday and sing to her, but it will just be the four of us #secondchildproblems)

Balls That Are About To Be Added:

  • E needs 15-20 minutes a day spent working on various activities that will make printing easier for him by the time he starts Grade 1 in the fall (which means I need to organize what I need for all the activities and plan out how we will approach each day, etc.)
  • It’s May tomorrow, which means I really need to start writing my chapter for the edited volume
  • I’m sure there are more but Q. left yesterday for an overseas conference and today I took both kids on a major excursion to help make up for the fact that my Mum hasn’t been able to come and E. is bitterly disappointed and my brain is just fried.

I have always been busy, but the single biggest difference I’ve noticed from going from one kid to two is how unrelentingly out of control I always feel. It’s not even that P’s arrival has increased the life admin by that much (yes, there’s more laundry, and yes, I have more bins to sort through when the weather changes, and more doctor’s appointments, etc., but it doesn’t seem especially onerous), more that the amount of time I now have in which I can tackle life admin has shrunk.

When I feel that my life is getting messy, I get anxious. But you can never cross off everything that *should* get done on your list.

Muddle through. One day at a time.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood)

Tipping Point

I am hitting a wall over here.

  • P cut back her nursing about a month ago and I immediately gained a bunch of weight. It’s not a large amount in the grand scheme of things but it’s enough that some of my clothes don’t fit as well as they should. I have an equilibrium weight that my body likes to sit at and I’ve strayed far enough away from it now that I feel even more sluggish and tired than I would from the sleep deprivation alone.
  • The last time I had my hair cut was back in August, a “get ready for the funeral” haircut. That was also the last time I had my eyebrows tidied up.
  • I have yet to do any form of exercise beyond chasing my children around and walking E. to and from school.
  • I need to go to the dentist. I normally go every three months because my gums are problematic but my long-time hygienist had a baby in February and is on maternity leave and I haven’t made the phone call to change to the dentist closer to our house where both Q. and E. go. I also can’t remember when I last had x-rays done and I’m worried my teeth are full of cavities because P. sucked out all the calcium.
  • I started eating dairy again because P. seems to be able to tolerate it in my diet now and as soon as I had any real milk my face broke out. This coincided with the drop in nursing and the weight gain so there might be a larger hormonal shift happening as well.
  • It’s really starting to be spring outside which means I’m not swathed in my usual winter jacket and sometimes P. is eating sand on the ground at the park which means I don’t have her in the carrier, and I need to stop turning up in ancient yoga pants and an ill-fitting sweater (especially since the last time I did that we ran into E’s best friend and ended up having a spontaneous pizza dinner at their house with two other kids and their mothers, whom I’d never met before, and who were appropriately dressed in skinny jeans and flattering tops and cardigans).

I don’t feel good about myself.

I feel fat and ugly and tired and old (and really, only one of those is true).

I hit the same wall with E. at about the same point. There’s something about the nine month mark, where you realize that your baby has now been out of your body for longer than s/he was ever inside and that s/he’s closing in fast on that first birthday, that makes me take a step back out of the chaos and take a good, hard look at myself. (And yes, P. is ten months now, but this post has been percolating for a few weeks. See the above comment about chaos.)

With E. I joined a boot camp with two of my mum friends.

Right now I’m just desperate to make some time to run. I want to start the Couch to 5K (again, sigh). I know I need to start from the very beginning.

I miss running. It is good for my body, obviously, but it’s also really good for my mind. Nothing else has ever helped as much to manage my anxiety.

I need three sessions a week.

One can be on Friday afternoons when Q. takes the kids.

One can be on Sundays at some time that works.

And then the third needs to fall on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mornings are out. P. is totally unpredictable with when she wakes up (except this week it’s been 5:30 a.m. or thereabouts every morning, which is really getting tiresome).

Daytime is out, as I sold the jogging stroller I bought (and NEVER USED) when E. was a baby.

But it’s light enough now that I think I could get P. to bed at 6:30 p.m. and then go for a run while E. and Q. were eating dinner. I’d have to eat dinner after them, and Q. would need to put E. to bed that night (it’s not that he would mind, more that we’re in a rut where E. fights tooth and nail if his father does anything- he wants me to do it all), but it could work.

I need to make some space for me.

Anyone else in the same boat?

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), Running

Microblog Mondays: A double-edged smartphone

Microblog_MondaysP. was four months old before I acquired a smartphone.

It was my stepfather’s, and after he died the company forced my mother to buy the phone out (don’t get me started). Rather than seeing the phone go to waste, I took it over.

There have been some definite benefits to having one:

  • We are no longer surprised by traffic jams (this was the major reason Q. and I knew we would eventually need to get a smartphone)
  • I read (note: not answer) my emails more frequently
  • I keep up with my blog reader (although I am not great at going the extra step to comment)
  • I chat with my sisters on WhatsApp pretty much every day
  • I can send photos of E. and P. to the Australian rellies via our WhatsApp group chat and get photos of their Australian cousins in return (I can’t text picture messages internationally so this has been very useful)
  • I take more photos, especially when we’re out of the house
  • I take more videos of the kids

But I’m very aware that there are also some not insignificant negatives to introducing this new element of technology into my life:

  • The phone is always RIGHT THERE waiting for me to look at it. I’ve adjusted the settings so it doesn’t make any noise unless someone is actually calling me, and I’ve limited which apps are allowed to send me notifications, and I’ve refused to install any games or Fakebook, and I STILL have to watch myself because it is so easy to pick it up and suddenly you’ve wasted ten minutes. I have to be especially conscious of this when P. is awake or when E. is home from school. It’s like those experiments with rats where if the rat pushes a button it gets food- if the rat only gets food some of the time it will actually push the button more often than if it gets food all of the time- so you compulsively check your phone (or your Fakebook news feed or Feedly) because there MIGHT be something new.
  • I get lazy and take photos inside with it rather than doing the work with my big camera. The camera in the phone is not bad but my good camera is much much better if I put the time in.
  • I think I was a better navigator when I used real maps. Possibly this will improve as I get better with understanding the apps, but I know I have really annoyed Q. with multiple last minute “oops- that’s our turn!” statements over the past few months.
  • It’s been really really bad for my anxiety to have Chrome at my fingertips. I bought my laptop when I was pregnant with E., in December 2010. It has no battery life whatsoever and has to be plugged in at all times to work. It is slow and loud (because the fan has to run all the time) and it heats up my legs (because the running fan doesn’t seem to be effective). To do anything on the laptop takes effort. I almost never turn it on during the day with the kids because it a) takes ages to get anything done and b) is this really obvious screen that is eating my attention. But Chrome on the phone is so easy! So if you want to, say, Google, “Does my baby have cerebral palsy” or “Signs of autism in a five-year-old”, it takes ten seconds! And then you go deep down the rabbit hole of crazy. And that’s without even reading anything political.

I’ve made a conscious decision to STOP GOOGLING when on the phone, which has significantly helped. Overall, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, but it’s clear to me that I need to exercise caution with how I use it. I don’t want it to start using me.

Do you also have a love-hate relationship with your smartphone? How do you balance the benefits of having technology at your fingertips with the phone’s addictive potential?

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 Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Microblog Mondays

Grey

I am struggling a little bit right now.

It’s a combination of a whole bunch of things:

  • As I said in my last post, introducing P to food hasn’t gone all that smoothly. It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.
  • Adding in pumping sessions when P naps has been great for my supply and helpful in terms of always having milk for her oatmeal, but it’s eaten into my ability to do anything else. There are a few things I can do while pumping but many more things that I can’t.
  • P is back to consistently getting up twice a night- usually around 11:30 and then again around 3:30 or 4:00. This is fine, especially when it means she goes back to sleep until 6:30 or so rather than waking up for the day before 6:00, but I’m realizing that the shorter stretches of sleep are starting to wear me down. I’m getting enough total sleep but not a long enough stretch to feel refreshed.
  • I had been worried about P because she has a very dominant hand. I first noticed this ages ago but it became really obvious when she started army crawling. She does all of her reaching/pulling with her right hand and the left arm is just dragged. She also doesn’t splash with the left arm in the bath, prefers to reach with her right, only bangs objects held in the right hand, etc. She can use the left but the disparity is very obvious. We had a head ultrasound, which came back clear, and the neurologist squeezed us in yesterday to get a look at P. He can see the asymmetry but didn’t feel it needed further investigation at this point. In his words, “She looks too good to have had a stroke.” Huge relief, but until yesterday it had been taking up a lot of mental energy.
  • E is still struggling with going to school. He would be a perfect candidate for homeschooling were it not for the fact that I would go crazy. He has made a friend, which is wonderful, but we still have a LONG way to go. His inflexibility at school and at home can be both problematic and exhausting. Q. had to drop him at school the other day because I had to take P to the hospital for her scans and it was a huge issue. Being on mat leave has not been good for him because he’s now accustomed to me being around to do everything.
  • My mother is doing something that I think is hasty, ill-advised, and foolish. I don’t have the mental space or energy to worry about her but it is impossible not to.
  • The weather sucks. Grey, grey, grey, day after day. It is not cold, which is good for getting out with P on the school run, but the parks are a sea of mud and there is no snow at all for E. I badly miss the sunlight.

I am not sure where January went (other than nursing, pumping, feeding). There are so many things I should be doing and they all just seem to be too hard right now. I don’t even know what I’ve been doing in the evenings between when I get E. in bed and when I go to bed myself.

Q. had a birthday this week, a major milestone one, and I really dropped the ball on being ready for it.

I have to submit paperwork to the university to keep my place in line for teaching contracts for the next academic year. I’ve been meaning to sort this out for three weeks and still haven’t done it.

I have a bunch of friends and family I should email and/or Skype and I haven’t found the energy to do that either.

I want to write P’s seven month letter but haven’t started it.

I’ve been focused on my baby, but there are other people who need me too.

I’m tired and I’m worried and I feel like I’ve been both those things for months and months and months and I just don’t know when that’s going to change.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), My addled brain

Procrastinate no more!

Microblog_MondaysI am a creature of habit.

I am also a creature of to-do lists.

Nothing helps quiet my mind better than lots of lovely organized planning. With lists full of items I can cross off.

I like crossing things off. I have been known to add things on to a list that I have already done just so I can cross them off.

For years now I’ve been using the same annual diary/agenda/planner: the Moleskine 12 month weekly planner, large, black, soft cover. It is absolutely perfect for me because one side has the days of the week and the other side has a ruled page for “notes and ideas” (according to Moleskine). I use it for my to-do lists:

This was my week starting the 29th of February 2016 (right in the middle of semester):

2017-01-10-11-28-01

This was my week starting the 6th of June 2016 (so the week before the week P was born):

2017-01-10-11-27-35

Q and I use Google Calendar (we have a joint calendar plus separate work calendars), and there is a paper calendar hanging in our kitchen (usually train-themed, as chosen by E), but these little black books are my brain. I would be completely lost without them. I keep them all because I like the idea that I can look back at these snippets of my day-to-day existence.

And yet, EVERY YEAR, I have the same argument with myself.

They’re not cheap- $25.00 on Amazon or in the stores. And I know that they get discounted once the next year starts. So every year I debate in December whether I should buy one at full price or wait to get a discounted one.

The thing is, the discounted ones are never easily found online. I have to physically go search the stores. Some years I luck out. Other years I have to buy one that isn’t quite right- it’s the pocket version, or it has a hard cover, or it’s the 18 month planner.

This year was no different. I quibbled and delayed until they were all sold out and the best match I could find online was a green one (GREEN! THE HORROR!) that was hard cover AND pocket-sized AND still full-price.

I don’t have time to scour the shops to save 50%. So I ordered the green one and it was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I love my planner and I want it to be exactly the same every.single.year.

It gets more use than probably 90% of what is in our house.

So I swear that this year will be the last year where I have to buy the wrong product because I’m too miserly to buy what I really want.

Do you have a yearly planner you can’t live without? Do you also try to play the waiting game to get it on sale?

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 Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Microblog Mondays, My addled brain

Serendipity

I am not one for believing that things happen for a reason.

I didn’t think like this even before my father’s accident and my stepfather’s death, although I have said to a number of people that if I did believe this sort of thing I would believe that P. was sent to be this horrible year’s silver lining.

Sometimes, though, I can see how it would be tempting to think that the universe every now and then has our best interests at heart.

A few weeks ago I was walking E. to school when one of his old nursery school teachers cycled past. She saw P. in the carrier and stopped immediately to chat- she hadn’t known I was pregnant.

We had a brief conversation, during which she mentioned that she was no longer teaching full-time at the nursery school but was now instead looking after children who are too young to go to the nursery school.

Here’s the thing- I am going back to work in September. I don’t really want to- I would rather be at home for another year, but it’s not feasible for a number of reasons.

Q. has agreed to take one day off a week to be home with P., and I’ll be home for another day. But even the prospect of looking for part-time care for P., three days a week, was causing me huge amounts of anxiety and guilt. Anxiety because I was worried about finding the right kind of care for her, namely a home-based setting with a native English speaker. And guilt because we didn’t need this kind of care for E.- we juggled him between us until he was old enough to go to nursery school- but we can’t do the juggling act again.

I asked her if she would be interested in looking after a 14 month old for three days a week starting in September.

She said that sounded like fun.

I took her phone number and took a little bit longer than I should have to call her because it takes me a long time to do anything right now, especially call people (because I absolutely loathe talking on the phone), but it worked out because even though word had gotten around by that point she had been waiting to hear from me before talking to anyone else. She believes that things happen for a reason, you see. She felt that our meeting had been “meant to be”.

We met up yesterday to discuss the details.

We’re still figuring out a few things, but I think we’re basically sorted. She’s willing to come to our house and she’s happy to pick up E. after school on the days she is working. This is so much better than I was expecting, as you basically can’t get a nanny who’s a native English speaker. We’d been assuming P. would be in an in-home daycare somewhere and then we’d have to find some sort of after-school care for E. And finding a part-time spot can be difficult.

She is a trained ECE.

She has decades of experience with the littlest people.

I worked with her on my duty day at the nursery school for an entire year.

I KNOW how good she is.

And now she’s going to save up all of that love and kindness and energy for my P.

We hit the jackpot.

I might be able to now stop having anxiety attacks about going back to work.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, P.- the first year, Who am I really? (Career Angst)