Sceptimum

One sceptical mother (of two)

Fail to kale

I am the youngest child in my family. By the time I was old enough to cook my Mum was past the “let us bake together, my angel children, never mind the mess” stage and into “get out of my way, are you trying to get burnt”. I haven’t really been taught to cook food basics. This can be an issue when I am faced with standard foods that I don’t care about enough to learn how to make them. I can do a mean butter chicken, for example, because butter chicken is delicious but fail every time at making vegetable soup because, ugh, vegetable soup tastes like used socks.

These days I have family of my own to feed – four people and a dog! – so obviously there’s only one solution; exploring the wonderful worlds of malnutrition and massive credit card debt simultaneously by ordering takeaway all the time! Hah, but seriously no (as my partner says to me ALL THE DAMN TIME). Most nights I try to put together a home-cooked meal to give the impression that we are a functional family unit and not a near-riot of hangry rodeo clowns held together by our shared mortgage and the promise of yogurt for dessert. I am super impatient and also have limited time between daycare pick-up and total toddler meltdown so speed and ease are of the essence.

I have been looking up a lot of “fast” recipes on the Internet which is always a quick way to cook up a boiling rage. You click on something like “simple ingredient 3 ingredient” whatever – expecting, you know, simplicity – and after a carpal-tunnel-inducing level of scrolling past prose and photos you eventually find the actual recipe right at the bloody end. It’s after 5,000 words of (completely unrelated) anecdotes and by the time you find it, it is too late to cook anything and your children have gone to the pub for dinner without you.

Adding to the carpal-twinge factor is the sheer amount of photos involved. Why do three ingredient recipes need 20 pictures? Who takes that many photos while cooking? My gastronomic adventures involve staggering around the kitchen with a screaming toddler on one leg, the dog underneath the other, and demands for attention from the four year old who will set the house on fire if I take my eyes off her for too long. The only reason for twenty photos in my kitchen will be in the insurance claim as evidence it was the four year old, and not my cooking, that burned the place down.

But anyway, food. One of the reasons I’ve been looking up a lot of recipes this week is that my fruit and veg co-op box (which I ordered in a fit of optimism, thinking we could be the sort of family actually used a veg box and not our local kebab shop on a daily basis) has delivered what I can only describe as small forest to me.

Fuck kale

Kale. Just say hell no.

It turned out that forest was made of kale. It is embarrassing that after ten years of living in Sydney’s most leftie latte-sipping suburbs, I still had to google it. Twice. The first search being “what does kale look like” and the second “how do you do you even eat it, ugh”.

This is definitely the sort of thing you don’t share at the neighbourhood parenting group meetings around here. People would spit their fair-trade eco-friendly hand-reared and grass-fed coffee right out at you. The inner west/eastern suburbs of Sydney are suburbs where they not only embrace the eating of “superfoods” like kale and quinoa, but also the naming of their children after them: Saffron, Sage, Kale, Quinoa and Gluten-Free.

On a sidenote, we all know that “superfood” is generally marketing-speak for “lesser known foreign fruit and vegetables that don’t always taste great but we can put a huge price mark-up on, because we’re not paying the people who grow them a living wage”, right? Just checking.

Anyway, kale as a food. Sorry, just trying to get into the waffling spirit of cooking blogs here. Having googled, my number one tip for eating kale is – just don’t. It’s not worth it. Kale is 80% inedible stalks and 20% disgusting malodorous crimped leaves. It is the man-spreading of vegetables; it arrives, unwanted, to take up a load of space and goes off fast with unpleasantly organic smell. Unlike man-spreaders, you can at least put kale in your refrigerator to make it last longer but then it is taking up all the space for actual edible food. When you finally do get around to cooking it the first thing you have to do is remove most of it to get at the bits that are marginally more edible.

Seriously, fuck kale. Chuck the whole lot in the green bin and you’ll be saving yourself an awful lot of effort. Go buy some broccoli or cabbage or bok choy or any actual edible green instead.

Kale in the bin

GET IN THE BIN KALE

But suppose you have decided not to throw all the kale in the bin. I don’t know why you would do this when supermarkets are full of actual bloody food. Maybe, like me, you’ve been trapped into purchasing it and your Irish famine mentality is preventing you throwing it in the fire or the sea or Mount Doom or wherever is handiest. I’m not judging you; I’m just reminding you that ordering delivery from KFC, or walking out the door and never coming back is an option. You could also just let the four year old set the place on fire. Dinners out, guilt-free, for MONTHS that way.

Maybe you feel you should try it or you really shouldn’t waste food. In that case, there’s a recipe for kale that I strongly recommend. Hahahahahah nope, just kidding, I would never recommend a recipe with kale as a star ingredient. But in the name of using it up, here is one that will do so and also eliminate any sweet potato hanging around your cupboards taking up the space for perfectly good regular potatoes or better yet, vodka, which is basically fermented potato salad and therefore doubly good for you. Mmm. Probiotic salad in a glass. With a bag of cheese and onion crisps.

2018-07-11 20.36.30-2

Exeunt, pursued by kale

I feel I have managed to waffle enough so here is the recipe for a kale and sweet potato curry. Finally. Basically everything in this can be substituted apart from the sweet potato because that is all you can actually taste. A core component of most of the recipes I saw for kale had sweet potato in them, probably because they are one of the only things that can drown out the taste of kale.

Ugh, fucking kale curry

  • Some oil, coconut if you have it
  • An onion
  • Some grated ginger
  • Minced garlic
  • Curry paste (red would be best, or you could order a curry and eat that instead, just saying)
  • A sweet potato
  • Can of coconut milk or cream
  • Some turmeric
  • Ugh-loads of fucking chopped kale
  • Some protein-y thing; I used red lentils (soak first). Chickpeas, beans or cashew nuts would probably also be nice.
  • Lemon juice
2018-07-05 18.23.13

Edible. Honest.

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and pepper. Let the onions get a bit translucent.
  2. Add the curry paste, give it a minute to heat up and get fragrant.
  3. Add the sweet potato, stir in well, and cook for a bit minutes more.
  4. Add the coconut milk, turmeric, and a pinch of salt and stir. Add water to just about cover the sweet potato and bring to a simmer.
  5. Once simmering, add the protein-y thing.
  6. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften the potato.
  7. Once the potatoes are softened, add the kale and lemon juice, and cover. Cook for at least 5 mins, or you can sod off and leave alone in a slow-cooker if you like. I went off for a few hours. The sweet potato etc will break down to mush but the kale DOES NOT GO AWAY because it can’t take a bloody hint already.
  8. Serve, salted, with rice/quinoa and the hope that the health and smugness benefits of actually using up your kale will make the dish taste better.

To really get into the whole cooking-bloggery thing, I did intend to take some photos. Unfortunately I only rememberred at the end when the resulting curry was complete and looked like it had been ingested, digested and then barfed back up into the pot. It tasted pretty reasonable, in the end, for all that it looked pre-eaten. You can’t really mess up a red curry too much. Not even with kale.

So, eat and enjoy! Or just set the kale on fire and go to the pub. I know what I will be doing.

Kale and sweetpotato curry looks pre-eaten

Looks like all that difficult predigesting has been done for you!

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So you’re pregnant! Wow. Crap. Wow.

A guide for the panicking-Mum-to-be who has just remembered after 6 months of trying that she doesn’t like kids that much.

Hey,  congratulations! You planned to be pregnant and now you are! And now you are hyperventilating with terror, because having a baby seemed like a good idea at the time but you have remembered you have no idea how to deal with children and you don’t know anything about them and newborns all look wrinkled and weird to you.

My first reaction to my positive pregnancy test was a full-on panic attack so it’s safe to say I was a bit worried. Would I love my baby? Would I even like it? What do you actually do with one once you have it? Wait, am I not allowed have any cheese now? (Yes, yes, still working this one out, and sadly yes.)

Anyway, turns out I was hyperventilating over all the wrong things. In the hope that I can put your over-anxious mind and thumping-heart at rest, here are the things that I was terrified of that actually turned out not to be a thing at all.

You’re not a “baby” person.

You don’t really like babies and kids that much, certainly not to the extent of squealing about how cute newborns are and how much you want to eat them. (Note: don’t do this, this is fucking creepy. When someone tells me they want to eat my kids, I am all “give them back and have a sandwich instead they took ages to make YOU FUCKING WEIRDO”.)

You will probably still not like all babies, but you will like your baby. Trite but true. There’s a host of biological stuff going  on and babies are basically terrible at everything except persuading you to take care of them and watch over their flailings with interest and buy their tiny impractical shit (kind of like the Kardashians, I guess) so, much like a weakened pelvic floor, loving your baby is kind of inevitable.*

Your baby will look like a tiny shaved and boiled animatronic monkey but you will still love it. Some mums get the overwhelming bond of love, others are seized by a protective instinct similar to that of a coked-up grizzly but love takes a bit longer to grow. In time, you will even start liking other babies because they remind you of your baby and before you know it you will actually want to have a cuddle of other people’s newborns.

It may take a while to kick in but by the time they are toddling, you will love them enough to spend approximately eleventy million hours a day needed to stopping them from injuring themselves. (Toddlers are basically tiny suicidal drunks.) Then it’s a few years of more straight-forward love until they are teenagers and you debate freezing them in carbonite or tossing them in Hannibal-Lector-restraints until they hit 25 or so.

You don’t know anything about babies

HandsThe good news is YOUR BABY KNOWS EVEN LESS THAN YOU and doesn’t have a developed brain to boot. They can’t even make their hands grasp things, for feck’s sake. So, not only are you competing against someone who knows the same amount as you at the start, they have NO HOPE of learning as fast as you and keeping up.

Basically, you have just challenged a sea cucumber to an arse-kicking contest. GO KICK ARSE.

And if you decide to have more than one, by the time you have them you will have racked up serious parenting mileage (if it’s 10,000 hours to make an expert, which is about three years of 9 hours a day or just over one year in your case because you are getting NO FUCKING SLEEP) and you will look like a shit hot expert at this stuff.

But I’ll have to do all this Mum’s-group socialising stuff and baby-talk doesn’t interest me

You will end up spending a lot of other time with parents, as they are the only people who will put up with your sleep-deprived over-caffeinated haven’t-showered flaky-ass shit now you literally can’t arrange more than one social thing in a day without a complete meltdown.

So, you will talk about kids a lot, but it’s actually helpful. You will develop a professional interest in comparing and contrasting their baby to yours. Other people’s children will remind you a little of your own and your newfound parent-narcissism will make them interesting to you, not as individuals but as reflections of your own child.

Also, who doesn’t love that moment in the supermarket where you hear a child go on a full-scale kicking-and-screaming-and-shitting-themselves-tantrum. You tense up, and then you realise it’s not your child and therefore not your problem. It’s great. Like taking off a too-tight bra or slipping off heels at the end of a day.

But newborns look weird

They really, really fucking do. But it passes. You’ll probably be on drugs for most of it anyway. Wheeeee!

 

* Postnatal depression is a thing and a very common thing (and can hit Mums or Dads), and this blog is written by someone who was calling her vulva a vagina well into her late 20’s so please, if you are struggling, have a frank and honest chat with a medical professional you trust instead of reading random stranger’s sweary bullshit. Good luck.

Winning Hearts (Without Losing Your Mind)

The Australian same sex marriage postal vote is underway and, if you’re anything like me, your fitness tracker thinks you’ve been working out approximately 40 times a day due to your heart rate and blood pressure spiking every time you get on the Internet.

So, stepping away from the venom in the comments, what’s going to actually help in the longer-term?

What result do you really want?

YESRemember the goal. There always the temptation to try to beat an opponent into the ground, but is this actually what you want?

There is an excellent conflict resolution book called Crucial Conversations and their advice is to keep thinking about the outcome you want, not just winning the fight.

In the short-term it might feel rewarding to flame and crush but chances are it’s not actually helping you achieve your goal. Well, that’s if that goal is a strong positive result voted in with as little vitriol spewed as possible at the rainbow and wider community. If you are in it for a fight, stop reading now because oh boy there is so much fighting to do.

Pick your battles

While it feels good to go in all guns blazing against that relation’s friend on Facebook, chances you’re not actually going to change their mind. What may happen is that the arguing, and tangents created, can change the point and confuse other readers to the point of listening when someone claims that you’re bullying them for their “opinion”*.

We’ve already seen lots of lies trying to turn what is a simple vote on equal treatment into a rat king of fear. We can’t beat them by endlessly arguing with their points because their points are MAD AS BALLS. Don’t waste your time on trolls and don’t waste your time on people who’ve already made up their mind. If you’re not going to do any good: state your disagreement clearly and calmly, point people in the direction of some accurate information, and move on.

Get offline

On that note, lots of people aren’t actually online all the time. 1 million Australian’s have never been online , and 34% are not active Facebook users. Spending 5 minutes on a(nother) comment on Facebook probably won’t win people over but a conversation or a phone call from someone they know and like might. Phone your family and start a conversation.

Not sure how to begin? Ask them for a favour (“I know there is a lot going on, but could you do me a favour? I’d like to tell you about me/my friend’s family and how this vote affects them.”) as research suggests that we like people for whom we’ve done favors and are more likely to listen to them and help again in the future.

Get the mail

At this point, most of the hardcore voters have voted but it is likely that many people will just not get around to posting their envelope in time. Remind people, remind them again, and offer to take it to the post office. Put your feet where your mouth is.

Use tactics that work

Insulting peoples’ logic, intelligence and morals is never going change their mind. But often it’s not about sharing the argument you find the most persuasive. Tailor your argument to the audience.

For example, some studies have found that conservatives are more likely to accept policies such as same-sex marriage if they’re framed in terms of conservative values like patriotism and moral justice. So, emphasising that same sex couples and families are already out there, and should be treated the same way in the law to cut legal confusion, costs, and tying up the courts may be more effective than appealing to empathy in some cases.

Set an example

One last way you can make your vote really count is by being public about what you are doing and how happy it makes you.

People assume the actions of others reflect the correct behaviour, especially in ambiguous social situations where they are unable to determine the “correct” course of action. In one large-scale Facebook experiment (over 61 million people) it was found people who were shown their friends have voted are significantly more likely to vote.

So get out there and vote loud, vote proud.

Just remember; no glitter, use a dark pen, don’t change the question and don’t post your ballot’s barcode in any pictures. Vote proud, but stay safe online.

 

* Tea vs coffee is an opinion, btw. It affects no one elses’ choices. Voting to deny people a right to exercise their own choice is actively imposing your opinion on others. Important difference. I don’t deny your right to an opinion, what I do oppose is the idea that you have a right to impose that belief on other consenting adults via our country’s legal system.

Completely the wrong sort of cow

Many new mums complain breastfeeding in public makes them feel like a cow. I recently had the opposite problem on a family trip to a petting farm. My eldest, Childzilla, was having a lovely time feeding the farm animals. Unfortunately my youngest, Bubzilla, was not having such a good time as he also needed feeding.

6c8bf58a70c737d7d2c1fed4fefa35b6_mad-cow-mad-cow-meme_640-492 (2)I considered sitting down to breastfeed on one of the provided hay-bales but closer inspection revealed a truly copious amount of chicken and/or goat poo on all of them and, with 2 kids, a dog and the state of Australian politics, I currently have quite enough shite in my life already, thank you.

So, leaving Childzilla with her Dad, I wandered off to a working-dairy exhibition area nearby. There were lots of empty seats as no show was on or scheduled. Perfect, I thought, as I sat down, whipped out my boob, and plonked the Bubzilla on.

But it’s not just cows and One Nation voters who blindly follow a leader. I must have walked with too much purpose because some people had followed me, and some other people had followed them and so on. Before long there was a full auditorium of people milling about, sitting down to chew the cud, and all staring impatiently at a bunch of idle milking machines waiting for something to happen.

I had decided to sit at the end of a row as I thought I’d have the place to myself – as there was nothing on – so I was now blocking off all those seats. As the space between rows was quite small, people couldn’t easily squeeze by me and Bubzilla. I tried angling myself but most people gave up and headed to another – and far more crowded – row.

Eventually one woman snapped at me to stand up and move. I told her I couldn’t managed it as I was breastfeeding and so she went stomping past me, all huffing and puffing and giving out about me to her friend.

So, yeah, that’s how I got chewed out of it for being the only working dairy-exhibit in a working-dairy exhibition.

The adventures of the g-string fairy

Me: Childzilla was going on and on about fairies so Nana bought her a generic fairy doll

Himself: *patient look*

Me: It looks like reject Barbie and is shedding glitter everywhere and has a bodice and petal skirt and a g-string thong on for some reason

Me: When Childzilla’s first job is as an exotic dancer called Sparkles we know what happened

Himself: *patient but slightly strained look*

gnome

Why the inexplicable lack of proper pants?

Me: Anyway, Childzilla wanted a name for it

Himself: *enquiring look*

Me: And the only one I could think of was Twunterbell

Himself: At least it didn’t start with C

Me: Oh, it did, but I changed it

Me: So fairy is now called Billie

Himself: *cautious*

Me: Because she looks like Billie Piper

Himself: *mild approval*

Me: After half a bag of coke*

…I am really not sure who thought it was a good idea to leave me in charge of a child. And the dog. Or anything really.

 

*Have a listen to Horse Outside by the Rubberbandits. Partly as it might illuminate the joke but mainly because I like it.

 

 

 

The problem with listening to nursery rhymes

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O
That’s not how you spell farm.
And on his farm he had a cow, E-I-E-I-O
One cow, huh? Some farm.
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there
Is he feeding the cow? It seems to want some attention.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo
I don’t know a lot about farming, but that cow sounds pretty upset.
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.
Yes, you said.
And on his farm he had a pig, E-I-E-I-O.
Why does he have a pig? Why doesn’t he get another cow? What is he expecting the cow and pig to do, get together and breed horses*?
With a oink oink here and a oink oink there
Oh come on, MacDonald.
Here a oink, there a oink, everywhere a oink oink
Feed your goddamn animals!
Old MacDonald had a farm
Until he got reported by the RSPCA and now he’s barred from keeping animals for life.

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall…
Okay, this whole thing is clearly a terrible idea. I have a better version.
Rockabye baby, never you fear,social services are on their way here
Your parents, quite frankly, need straight-jackets hugs, as we strongly suspect they’re on hardcore drugs.

Hey, diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon…
You know what? You guys are way too high for me. I’m out.

* If you get this, you too have watched too much Red Dwarf and we should be friends.

Write your birth plan on your vulva, Mila (it might get read that way)

According to recent interviews Mila Kunis has firm views on who gets to see her in labour. She’s allowing her doctor and Ashton Kutcher, and Ashton is only allowed if he stays firmly away from the business end.

Mila - this is not the end of you most people will be looking at during your labour.

This is not the end of Mila everyone will be looking at during her labour.

“Two people are allowed in my delivery room. My doctor and my significant other. And he is staying above the action. He’ll be head to head. Not head to vag. Unless he wants to risk his life and see. But I wouldn’t if I were him. I highly doubt he wants to see that being ripped apart and shredded. Because it will be shredded. It’s just a matter of how badly.”

Many sites, including Mamamia.com.au where I saw this story, are asking if Mila should be worried about her partner watching her bits get “shredded”. I am mainly worried that she may think it’s possible to give birth with an audience of just two people, no matter how hilariously-presented and firm her birth plan is. And that’s assuming people reads the damned thing in the first place.

Her doctor will read their birth plan. It is, after all, what they’re paying him for. And perhaps Mila’s labour will be short enough (and her wallet large enough) to persuade her doctor to stay for the whole process. I doubt it though; doctors usually leave the painful tedious hours of cervix dilation to the midwives, and then rush in at the actual emergence of the baby. It will often be several different midwifes, even without shift changes, so the person sticking their finger up your fanjo to check dilation will often be a completely different person to the one who did it an hour previously. Will they all have read the birth plan? Will they bollocks.

So that’s probably your partner plus three people having a good long look at the business end. Want some mild drugs? That’ll be another person in the room. Want the good drugs? That’ll be an anesthetist and possibly their assistant. That’s plus five. Doing it in a hospital? Expect a nurse or five. And some catering and cleaning staff. And people to operate specialised machines. And, if you get really unlucky, some student nurses and doctors. That’s… that’s plus LOTS. There is a good chance there’ll be more people at the birth of your baby that at their first birthday party.

My labour was a fast and straight-forward affair and there was still 13 people present in the room when my daughter was born. Waters broke at 6am, hit the hospital at 8am, c-section completed by 10am. It didn’t even encompass one change of working shift but I still had so many people packed in there it felt like student party in a small flat (complete with drugs and people freaking out). And all of them were having a good gander at the business end. If I’d written “hello, nice to meet you” on my vulva, I’d have saved myself most of the talking I had to do.

Honestly, I’m not even sure who half of the thirteen people were. There was me and my husband (in ridiculous little red hats to mark us out so no one would do something silly like pass us a scalpel or ask us to hold the intestines). There was my surgeon and his nurse, and my anesthetist and his nurse, and a midwife and some other midwife and that’s only eight accounted for… look, I don’t even know why the remaining people were there. They could have been vital medical staff. They could have been the cleaners. They could have been a tour group in from China and desperately lost on their way to the Opera House. I have no idea. All I know is that, for a significant amount of my stay in the hospital, there was a real chance that people would recognise my vulva better than my face.

I was told to write a birth plan. I didn’t. Thankfully absolutely no one checked or I would have been making excuses like “my early labour ate my homework”. I did discuss various options with my partner, so he knew what to push for if I was out of it, but I had nothing in writing. I have no regrets – long birth plans are, I am convinced, only recommended to stop pregnant women from nagging the staff about inconsequential details so they can get on with delivering a healthy baby. Want the father to catch the baby? Sure, if it’s possible. Want whale music? You’ll need to bring it and something to play it on and someone to press the button but whatever. Want your medical staff to read a five page document on how birth should work when they have already delivered hundreds of babies? And think you’ll only need one person present? On your fecking bike, love.

Look, this is not Mila’s fault. The general portrayal of labour and childbirth is as far removed from the reality as the Kim Jong’s family album is from coverage of them in the international news. Before childbirth, mothers-to-be are fed a shite load of stuff about choices and empowerment  and all this hoohah about how you can choose to push your baby out your hahhoo. And then the baby decides to arrive and you realise all your lists and ideas are useless and you may as well just roll with the punches. Honestly, it’s a good way to set you up for actually having a baby – they don’t read the damned plans either. Not even if you write it on your bits.

 

 

Reasons I am the world’s worst mother (this week)

It’s six months in and I’m still terrible at this parenting gig. It’s not just that I’m a bit crap; it’s that babies change so much and so fast that as soon as you get to grips with one issue another five rear their (drooling and teething) heads.

Every new week with your newbown is a glorious and amazing chance to screw up even more badly than the previous one. Just some of  reasons I am the world’s worst mother (this week) include:

Your baby. Except Onslow’s not incontinent.

Trousers? Feck.

Someone at playgroup recently asked if 6 month old babies should still wear onesies. Opinions were divided; some people thought they were good for at home wear but not going out, others thought they were only acceptable as pyjamas.

…I had no idea this was a thing. I love onesies; they’re easy, fast and allow instant access to a nappy. Childzilla likes onesies as I don’t spend an age annoying her by faffing about at her clothes. Some days we don’t even make it to a onesie and she rolls around for the day in her nappy and a vest like a teeny incontinent Onslow Bucket. Childzilla will be in onesies and easy outfits until she’s old enough to tell me she dislikes them or until they stop making them in her size. And, as they make awesome adult onesies, that could be when she’s 90 and back in nappies again.

My dog is my baby monitor.

I could turn the real one on while she sleeps and I am out of the room. But there’s no point as the dog always notices the moment she wakes up and goes in to wag his tail ingratiatingly at her. Perhaps he is trying to entice her to play ball. Perhaps he is trying to make up for my terrible parenting. Either way, my first warning of the stirrings of Childzilla is always a vanishing dog.

Does this look like the face of a good mother?

I send my child to daycare…

I am completely unconvinced by parenting’s unofficial first rule, that Mother Is Always The Best Caregiver. The way I see it is – Childzilla could spend time with her sleep-depped and inept mother, me. I have no younger siblings or nearby cousins, little to no interest in or experience with other babies.

Or she could occasionally spend the day in daycare where the staff are trained professionals with years of experience who have also had some sleep in the last 72 hours.  I leave my child in occasional daycare with a light heart safe in the knowledge she’s surrounded by care, attention and far more toys than she has at home.

…and enjoy myself while she’s there.

The second rule seems to be that it’s only okay for mothers to spend time from their baby if they’re are not enjoying it. If your child is in daycare it’s because you must be weeping through your working day or undergoing invasive and uncomfortable medical tests or, preferably, both. No peace. No sleep. No breaks. If you are not actively suffering right, you are doing parenting wrong.

You know what I do when she’s in daycare? Whatever needs doing.  Some days that’s 2 hours frantic housework and a doctor’s appointment, and some days that’s a grocery shop followed by walking the dog and a lovely unrushed lunch.

Still less scary than the lyrics of Hush A Bye Baby.

I am ruining her musical taste with a steady diet of terrible and profane 90’s pop…

Childzilla loves to dance and I love to sing, so this should be an easy spot to pick up “Good Mother” points, right? Not when your sleep-depped brain can only remember songs heard while out drunk and clubbing in the 90’s. This week has been particularly bad – we’ve had gems such as I Like to Move It Move It. the Guinness dancing man advert sung entirely using the word “tequila” and endless repetitions of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (the cover with Timmy Mallett).

…because I can not for the life of me remember the lyrics to any  appropriate stuff.

I can’t remember more than a few bars of nursery rhymes and tend to ad lib new verses as I go along. But the sleep dep appears to have turned off my inner censor. Yesterday I caught myself singing The Outhere Brothers, Avenue Q, and the lyrics “and if that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s gonna buy you a piece of ass”. Oh dear.

I cheer myself with the thought that that’s still better than Hush A Bye Baby where you tell your child that they have nothing to fear from sleep other than plummeting to their death. Who the hell puts their child’s cot in a treetop anyway? It may not have been a stellar week here but at least I haven’t put Childzilla to sleep with the squirrels. Perhaps I’m not the worst mother out there after all.

Say “WAAAAHAAAAARGH” for the camera

Life just threw us a curve ball and we are unexpectedly off on an international flight. Sudden travel can be a bit hectic to pull off but by far the most stressful aspect of planning this impromptu trip has been securing an acceptable photograph for Childzilla’s bloody Australian passport.

Nope, none of these are suitable.

Strike a pose. Just not that one. Or that one. Or that.

The general guidelines for an acceptable picture (and Department of Immigration and Citizenship say “guidelines” in the title but you’ll notice that they are actually “requirements” which are totally different fucking things) are many and about as reasonable as Kuwait’s stance on gay marriage. Whoever came up with them has either a) never met a baby or b) met one and really fucking hated them. And their parents.

You must have the infant awake, eyes open but mouth closed. They need to looking at the camera dead-on without any shadow – say, from a flash – in the picture. This is a pretty tall ask for something that can’t hold its own head up straight.

You could just hold their head, but the parent’s hand or body must not visible in the background. Boobs are, presumably, right fucking out and not in a fun way. You are repeatedly told you can’t use photoshop on your boobs or on any issues at all so you can’t just edit them out.

Oh, and they recommend a “neutral expression”, presumably because all that poking and straightening and camera-flashing will relax and interest your baby as opposed, say, to turning them into the Baby of the Baskervilles complete with slavering and howling. Asking for a picture of a newborn with their eyes open and a neutral expression is the equivalent of asking for a shot of a politician telling the truth or Miley Cyrus being demure. It’s technically possible but bloody unlikely to happen. If your newborn is awake, they are screaming or eating. Them’s the rules.

“Seriously, why are you pointing that thing at me?”

So assuming you manage the impossible and get the child awake, while not crying or stuffing a boob in its mouth, you then face the challenge of persuading them to look at the camera lens. You can’t just move the lens to where their eyes are looking as that will mean they are not looking at the camera dead-on and you can’t just keep taking pictures because – as we discovered – the flash starts to really freak them out after a few minutes.

By about 5 minutes in, the child was crying. By 10, I was crying and wondering if we could get access to some sort of clamp. By 15, both the child and I had run out of tears and decided we needed a stiff drink. And that was just the first attempt.

All in all, it took three people helping (4 if you could the child), over 2 days and approximately 200 rejected shots to get 2 pictures that might pass the criteria if they were feeling generous. We took them to a printer, who said one of them might be okay if they photoshopped shadows in the background out a little.

Ahem. Which of course we didn’t do as the criteria told us not to. Ahem. Honest. Yes.

Not only is this pug cuter than a baby, but it’s also posing correctly for the shot.

And the really annoying thing about it? It’s not like the picture will actually be useful. Babies change really fast. It’s kind of the whole point of being a baby. So that hard-won photograph will look a little off by the time we get the passport back from printing, decidedly dated by the time we start the trip and nothing bloody like Childzilla a year from now. Really, we could pop a picture of Winston Churchill on, or a pug in a baby hat, and no one would be any the wiser.

I could just photoshop in some boobs for realism.

If you came here looking for actual useful advice on how to take an infant passport photo as opposed to your yearly recommended allowance of swearing, my apologies and try this Infant Passport tutorial instead. It’s for the States but was generally very useful for us too. We found the supporting her head with towels trick especially useful.

5 things I learned from my 7-week-old (mainly bodily-fluid-related)

1. Every day is No-Pants-Day.

“Yes, Mr Snake, we shall make sure there are no pants again. No pants again EVER.”

Clothes companies would have you believe your newborn cares about fashion. They sell the “dressing your child” experience as a chance to coo and giggle together while you robe them in pristine coordinating outfits, complete with shoes, hat and matching accessories.

Newborns do not care about fashion. In fact, they pretty much loathe all clothing regardless of style content. The only thing that newborns hate more than being naked and cold is having clothes put on them. Dressing your child is not so much a bonding experience as practise for wrestling a pissed-off weasel into a wetsuit, if that weasel were on meth and the wetsuit two sizes too small.

And it doesn’t matter what you choose to clothe the child in anyway, as chances are you will be changing it in about 5 minutes when it gets covered in pee, poo, spew or all three.

2. Newborn equipment includes Bowels of Holding.

The Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game has an item called a “bag of holding” which is a small bag capable of containing objects far larger and heavier than its own size.

This is clearly based on the mechanics of babies’ bowels. These distort the laws of time and space to hold an unlimited amount of poo and wee no matter how often you feed the child or change their nappy. And uttering the phrase, “but I just changed it” doubles the chance of a freshly filthy nappy no matter how much the child has eaten that day.

3. Never point a loaded anus at yourself.

This. 200 times a day, this.

This. 200 times a day, this.

Even if you think the child is done pooing, they have often saved you some. They do this so they can do a full-on I-am-fucked-off skunk-spray of poo at you when you have the temerity to try to clean them up.

If you get lucky, they will wait until after you have opened the nappy and cleaned them, and then start to pee. Then – as you bend over, frantic, attempting to stop the new nappy and their outfit from getting drenched – they will fart vigorously, spraying you with both pee and poo.

If you get really lucky this happens at 3am and necessitates an outfit change for you, the child and your partner who was so surprised by the sudden duet of poo-covered wailing that they spilled their bedside glass of water all over themselves. I learned this one the hard way.

4. Assume *ALL* anuses are loaded.

I also learned this one the hard way.

5. You will not get the time to finish anything you started.

I hear wailing. Better run, lest she set the bowels on me.

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