Introducing the Rascal

Somewhere in the midst of the Christmas holiday chaos and an 8 week run of various illnesses, Yoga Baby turned 2!  This momentous milestone was not really celebrated as we’d planned.  Myself and Yoga Baby were feeling rotten that week (and many others) so we weren’t very good company.  Luckily his second birthday wasn’t something he noticed or missed.  He was more than happy with a bunch of presents and little fuss.  Thankfully the spell of illnesses seems to be over (I think we ran out of new ones to get!) and now we’re just dealing with the terrible twos.

‘Terrible Twos’.  The first thing you think of when you hear that phrase is tantrums.  And so far, that’s been absolutely correct.  The tantrums.  My God, the tantrums.  I’m almost speechless at the depth and range of emotion that has been hurled at me in the last few months.  The sheer irrationalness of it all. The epic scale of the rage. The relentless assault of meltdowns – all day, every day.  It’s been… interesting?  Some days it’s been impossible to get out of the house.   The worst of this particular patch seems to be past  now (I hope) and the outbursts of temper have subsided to a more normal and somewhat manageable daily quota.

Due to the illnesses, Christmas, and very lengthy period of emotional adjustment… I’m only really getting around to admitting now that my Yoga Baby is really no longer a baby.  Last year he’d insisted that he was a baby, not a boy.  Now we’re already debating with him whether he’s a little boy, or a big boy.  He favours big boy. We’re not yet convinced.   So I guess it’s time to retire the nickname Yoga Baby.  He still retains his love of popping out a downward dog at every opportunity, but he’s also a bouncing whirling bundle of hilarious energy that will henceforth be known here as the Rascal.

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Stay tuned for our upcoming adventures in Lisbon…

A Week in Dinners

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I’m joining the ‘Week in Dinners’ linky over on Bumbles of Rice this week.  It’s somewhat sad to say that since becoming a mother I’ve had to change my lazy disorganised ways and start planning our meals more than a few hours in advance.  Now I’m one of those people who actually plan their weekly shops.  To the extent that I eventually managed to cobble together a meal planner for 4 weeks worth of dinners.

I don’t do meals that take hours to prepare because I’m still somewhat lazy and disorganised even if I do have ‘a plan’.  Any very popular meals show up every two weeks.  Bonus points if they’re ones that I can cook once and serve twice (or even thrice).  I try and remember each weekend to take down the list of meals for the coming week and compare with the calendar.  I’ll rearrange the order of the meals to suit how busy each day is going to be.  Provided I make it to the shops with an accurate list of ingredients, there’s little thinking to do when it comes to producing food each day.  I just need to remember to take something out of the freezer the night before if I’m going to be tight on time for cooking.

Occasionally I get a burst of inspiration/energy and scour the internet for easy recipes that won’t be rejected without even tasting by two thirds of the household.  If the results aren’t disastrous then the meals get added to the meal planner.  Hopefully there’ll be some new additions coming from this linky!

So here’s how our dinners worked out this week…

 

Saturday – Indian Takeout

20141028_104609We took our last opportunity for my sister to babysit before she goes travelling for the year.  After seeing Birdman in the cinema, we were home too late to be bothered cooking a dinner.  We rarely get takeout, and it’s a special treat where we all sit on the couch watching something on TV.  If you want to see a contented toddler, show up at our house when we’re eating takeout.

 

Sunday – Steak and Chips

Homecooked dinner at my mother’s to say goodbye to my sister.  Steak and chips for the adults.  Toddler doesn’t eat chips, but also won’t eat ANYTHING my mother has cooked, so refused the steak too.  Expecting this, I’d brought a lunch box of plain pasta which he happily demolished.  Apparently the only thing my mother ‘cooks’ to his taste is baked beans on toast!

 

Monday – Spinach Pesto, Chicken & Pasta

I make double the amount of pesto each time and freeze half, so this spinach pesto pastaone came from the freezer.  Just needs the chicken and pasta added.  This is a firm favourite in our house.  It disappears fast so you have to make sure the toddler doesn’t get too big a head start, or he’ll be finished and want all of yours too.

 

Tuesday – Quiche

Store-bought pastry and filled with grated cheese, red onion, peppers and rashers.  With the small bit of leftover pastry I made mini-quiches with goats cheese instead.  Served with garlic bread.  This is one of those dishes where the toddler will either love or hate it, you never know which it’s going to be.

 

Wednesday – Chicken Chorizo

chicken chorizoA relatively recent addition to the recipe book, but already  a popular dish with everyone.  Chicken and chorizo with a tomato sauce, served with pasta.   The most time-consuming part is chopping the meat.  Everything else is easy.   “Mmmmmm”, says the toddler.

 

Thursday – Fruity Beef Curry

This is a quick and easy curry that freezes really well.  My husband Fruity Beef Curryisn’t a huge fan, so we had this on a night he was out for dinner.  Half has been dispatched to the freezer for another week when he’s away for work.

 

Friday – Spaghetti Bolognaise

spaghettiThis one needs no description.  I suspect it’s a go-to dish in every household.   It’s nice and easy to make up a tasty sauce with just tomatoes and spices from the cupboard.  We favour a heavy dose of cumin in ours.   Another quick meal from the freezer.

 

And that’s our weekly dinners for the past week.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else has been having…

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Life with a toddler- How’s your day going?

I’ve had great intentions for this week.  Eating better, exercising more, not being driven completely demented by a whingey little toddler.  It all sounds great in theory, but it’s not working out too well so far.  My parents/babysitters took off to the country overnight putting paid to plans of going to my weekly yoga class this morning.  Fine.  I’m supposed to start doing some running in the mornings this week, so I thought I’d do that before Daddy left for work this morning instead. Then I’d arranged a nice playdate for the little monster, he’d nap, we’d cook a nice dinner, it’d be a lovely day.  Little monster had other plans (he always does!).

Last night after the usual hour and a half or so of wrestling the little monster into pjs, brushing teeth, bedtime milk, FOUR bedtime stories, lights out, cuddles, tossing, turning, sitting up, lying back down, starting awake as soon as I dared move… he was out cold.  Considering that he’s finally started sleeping some longer stretches at night, he still acts overtired all the time and fights sleep until he’s literally drowning in yawns.  Then suddenly (miraculously) he crashes for hopefully more than an hour and we can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.  It was bitterly cold and miserable last night, so we curled up on the couch with tea and chocolate and enjoyed watching The Biggest Loser contestants sweat it out on the treadmill.  The weeping and wailing and overly dramatic exits because they failed to lose a massive amount of weight one week are even more entertaining.  Especially as someone other than me has to deal with their emotional outbursts.

Then we shuffled off to bed.  It was chilly.  The wind was howling outside as it’s done all week.  The neighbour’s security light was flicking on/off/on/off which drives me mad.  The other neighbour’s dog was barking loudly every few minutes which drives me mad. My husband was muttering in his sleep and blowing deep breaths into my face any time I dared to turn and face him, which drives me mad.  Typical night as I try to get to sleep knowing the toddler alarm will go off at any moment.

“Maaaaaammmmmyyyyyy!!!!!!”.  All of a sudden it’s 4am as I stagger out of bed.  4am.  That’s a great stretch of sleep for himself!  I’m pretty happy as I go in to sort him out and put him back to sleep.  That is until it becomes evident that he’s having a massive hissy fit and is not planning on going back to sleep any time soon.  “Light!”, “Light!”, “Time to giddy-up (get up)”.  “No want sleep.”  “Play with Daddy”.  “Sing songs”.  All these phrases and more shouted, wailed, and sobbed at me for the next two hours and fifteen minutes.  All whilst yawning intensely, almost asleep many times.  We tried a drink of water.  We tried a cuddle with Daddy.  I sat holding him and singing lullabies until I was hoarse.   He refused to be out of my arms.  The tantrums lulled, then raged on again even more intensely.

Finally, at 6.15am, he ran out of steam.  Body relaxed, head lolled back, snuffling little snores.  I carefully placed him back in bed just as my vision was starting to swim from my circulation being cut off.  Lay beside him in the cramped single bed long enough to verify he was in a deep sleep, then slunk back to my own bed.  You can imagine how far I ran in the early hours of the morning.  Yes, that’s right, I was still in bed.  At 9am my husband dragged himself off to work looking like the dead.  I pulled on some clothes and then had to rouse the little monster who was having a grand old snooze  two hours after his normal wake-up time.  We were just about finished breakfast when our playdate showed up and the little monster was full of beans for the next couple of hours.

Now what to do about his nap?  His usual naptime approached quickly.  I debated taking him out for a walk – hoping to tire him out enough that he’d have a snooze in the car later without destroying any chances of him going to bed before midnight tonight.  “Go for a walk?”, I said hopefully.  “Nap”, he said dismissively.  Really?  After sleeping so late?  “Nap!”.  He was insistent on going through the whole naptime rigmarole – which he often does despite having no intention of actually sleeping.  45 minutes later he was back in pjs and dozing in my arms.  That’s… unexpected.

Little monster

So instead of being out for some freezing running or sweaty Hot Yoga this morning, I am sitting in bed with a book, a cup of tea, and a bar of chocolate.  Listening to snores from the lump beside me.  That’s typical life with a toddler.  I’m sure I’ll get around to doing all that good stuff tomorrow.  Just don’t tell my toddler I have any plans. Please. How’s your day going?

Imagining the New Year

The turkey has been depleted.  No more presents sit under the tree promising good times ahead.  Christmas decorations are (coming) down.  Everyone’s feeling bloated and tired.   I don’t want to see another mince pie in the near future.  The fun of indulging in christmas has faded fast.  Now that 2014 is in the rear view mirror, everyone’s looking ahead at a fresh and bright new year.  Now is when all the New Year’s resolutions are dragged out of the dusty box they’ve resided in since January of last year.   I’m not a fan of them – I find the next couple of months dark, bitterly cold and dreary.  Summer months are still so far away.  It’s the worst possible time of year for me to try and be motivated to do anything! Over on TheBusyMamas, Helen has a great linky about looking ahead and imagining what may be for the coming year instead.

2015 will bring a scary amount of change for our family.  Job changes, selling a house, and buying a house are just the top of the list.  We’ve also firmly entered the ‘terrible twos’ phase with our toddler and it’s back to ‘surviving’ some days.  I can’t pop to the shops for ten minutes without returning to a disaster movie scene.  Floods of tears and wails over my brief absence.  A shell-shocked husband at a loss for what to do.  I’m looking forward to getting back to our normal routine, and hopefully 2015 will get the kick-start it needs on Monday morning.  Given that we’re not starting from the best of places right now, my aspirations are short, sweet (and hopefully realistic) for the opening months of the coming year.

2015-to-do

 

1.  Re-energise.

The last two months of 2014 were illness after illness stretching all through the Christmas period.  We’re all feeling run down and exhausted.  So sadly for this Chocaholic, it’s time to bin the chocolate for the next couple of weeks.  The sugar highs and lows aren’t doing me any good.  I can cut it out completely for fourteen days, right?

 

2. Go with the flow.

Toddler tantrums.  They’re terrifying.  They’re apparently inevitable at the moment.  Who would suspect that such depths of absolute rage are lurking beneath that cute little face?  I have to lower my expectations for each day and accept the constant whinging and contrariness.  We may not get out of the house some days, and that will just have to be okay.

 

3. Connect.

Connect with my son.  I find myself spending too much time fighting, or resenting the unreasonable toddler antics.  I need to step back, breathe, and reconnect with him every time there’s an ‘incident’.  Divert both of us onto a different track before we both get so frustrated.

Connect with myself.  The more I feel I need some time and space to myself, the more hysterical and clingy my toddler is.  We’re going to have to figure that out as I’m all touched out from the dregs of 2014.  Starting with making it to a yoga class once a week religiously.

Connect with my husband.  There’s far too much going on around us, we end up going through the motions.  We need to make more effort at evenings and weekends to have better quality downtime for ourselves alone, and also together.  Planning at least one activity for each weekend would be a great start.

 

4. Memory Jar

These are cropping up everywhere.  I guess it’s the new ‘in’ thing to do for 2015.  I like the idea though, it’s one of the main reasons I blog.  It’s nice to have a memory scrapbook of your daily life that you can look back on in years to come.  With the memory jar, you keep a special jar in the house which anyone can add to.  You then remember to regularly add a note or memento for any nice moment or activity you’ve done.  At the end of the year when you’re struggling to remember all that was good, you empty the jar out to remind you of all the little things that made your days special.  For our house this may end up being a virtual jar.

 

And that’s it for imagining 2015.  We’ll start out small, and everything else will or won’t fall into place.  Check out rest of the linky to see what the new year brings for everyone else!

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Christmas memories past and future

Linking up with the Christmas memories linky over on Dr How’s Science Wows…

 

Christmas is a memorable time of year – for children in particular.  It’s the most magical holiday of them all 167933_10150367258495344_789336_nwhere feats of sheer impossibility become achievable in one night.  There’s all the sparkle and glitter; from a tastefully minimalist tree, to obscenely decadent flashing lights and gaudy decorations everywhere.  Snowmen soar high above in shopping centres.  Christmas carols assault us from all directions.  It’s all about goodwill, presents, food, music, family,  and fun times.  It’s even more special on that rare occasion when there’s a blanket of snow making a real life Christmas scene outside while you’re warm and cosy indoors.   It’s hard to beat the excitement as the big day slowly approaches.   Then suddenly it’s all over, and there’s another long year to wait for that warm fuzzy feeling to return.

My earliest Christmas memories include the serious business of selecting and decorating an appropriately grand tree.  With four of us 20131225_161532children involved in the decorating process, it wasn’t always easy to get agreement on what it should look like.  It also meant it was rare for any decoration, no matter how hideous, not to make it on to the tree somewhere.  Christmas tree lights back then were even more fickle pieces of plastic than they are now.  Many a tedious hour would be spent painstakingly tracing through the wires and adjusting each individual bulb in the hope of finding the broken piece(s) in the line causing the entire string of lights to fail.  My father would be up a ladder in rooms and hallways attempting to string up just one more piece of tinsel whilst everyone else directed him to raise and lower ends for the best effect.

We were banished upstairs on Christmas Eve night while my parents 33827_10150367252025344_7758823_nbegan the serious business of sorting four piles of presents for the next day. Each of us struggled against the rising excitement and anticipation knowing that we had to get to sleep in order for Santa to show up.  I suspect my parents began to seriously regret the tradition of Santa leaving our presents on the foot of our beds.  It became evident that I was just as light a sleeper as my father.  On many occasions I caught my mother just ‘checking to see if Santa had come yet’ in the early hours of the morning.  Obviously there was no sleeping in to be had the next day for her!

 

Christmas morning meant an abundance of presents.  First the Santa stockings were ransacked as each child awoke.  The thrill of reaching into a bag and rummaging about to select the next interesting shape, dragging out the experience as long as possible.  Once everyone was awake and ready, we’d race downstairs and take turns handing out all20131225_090905 the presents under the tree.  My mother was a believer in lots of little bits and pieces, so the gift exchanges and comparisons could take quite some time.  Paper rustling and ripping, until finally there was nothing left under the tree.  Then we all piled into the car to join the other grandchildren invading my grandparent’s home.  Some cousins we saw regularly, others not so much.  Adults mingled with clinking drinks in hand.  Younger children chased each other about.  The (almost) teenagers sat awkwardly making small talk with cousins they barely recognised and might not see again for another 365 days.  One year you’d see them sporting Christmas jumpers, the next all white and pale dressed in goth black.  One by one, fourteen grandchildren would be spirited off into a room with Granny where they’d receive the last of their presents.  Hopefully the right one!

Once all the relatives had run out of things to say, the designated cooks would start 403341_10151123382680344_1289895176_nlooking at their watches, calculating turkey cooking times.  Families would start leaving to prepare for their Christmas dinners.  We would depart promptly to set up the house for our grandparent’s arrival.  Helping my mother with the logistics of a meal for eight, where one of the participants was my quick-to-comment, ever-sarcastic grandfather.  The smell of roasting meat hung heavy in the air.  Regardless of how flustered and flushed she was by the time we all sat down to eat, Christmas dinner was always a fond memory.  Turkey, ham, roasted potatoes, all the trimmings.  There was something to everyone’s taste on the table.  With bulging full bellies we’d retire to watch a Christmas film, leaving my father and grandfather to smoke their traditional foul-smelling cigar.

Three generations would then sit together in front of a crackling fire.  My grandparents would soon start to doze as the film played on. 393792_10151123381580344_648688103_n We’d then switch to something they’d no interest in watching.  There was always a Star Wars film on somewhere, even back in the days of limited TV channels.  We’d settle in with a box of chocolates, treading ever closer to the fine line between complete satisfaction and sickly overindulgence.  An hour or so later one grandparent would start awake, poke the other back to life, and off they would go into the night.  By now we were at the dregs of the day.  Feeling desperately sleepy, but reluctant to slink into bed and let it end.  It might not always live up to our lofty expectations, but Christmas was always a most special day of the year.

Over the years traditions have changed.  My grandparents passed away.  Having a boyfriend, then husband, whose birthday fell on 17474_412209695343_4754365_nChristmas day forced new traditions too.  There was utter shock at the revelation that he’d never seen ‘The Snowman’ until he met me. For a time we joined my aunt for Christmas dinner and post-dinner party games.  Then siblings and cousins began to travel across the world, not always making it back to the homeland in December.  Cousins started having children, growing the numbers crowded around the table, until we split back to separate family dinners.  We saw less of our extended family as a result.  Christmas parties where we would meet old friends became a bigger part of the fun of Christmas.  Christmas Day would always be special, but it slowly lost the pure magic and sparkle of my childhood as the years went past and we all grew older and wiser.

There’s no denying that the magic and mystery of Christmas is really for children.  I just don’t 20131209_072152get the same sense of excitement and awe that I remember from years ago.  It lost the innocence of childhood and become more commercial each year.  The decorations dusted off as soon as Halloween was officially over, forcing us into the Christmas season far too early.  I tired of the incessant carols and offensively bright decorations plastered across every shop window in November.   Braving the hordes of Christmas shoppers is tedious. Finding the ‘right’ present for everyone has become harder, if not impossible as we lead busy lives. I’ve retreated as much as possible to the quieter internet shopping realms where the postman plays Santa for me.

But the magic is coming back to our house once more!  My son is the first of the next generation in my family.  He’s still a little young to follow the intricacies of Santa, but snowmen and presents feature greatly in his conversations this month.  His face lights 2014-12-10 11.24.21up as the preparations officially begin.  It’s all brand new for him, he’s seen none of this before.   All the fancy lights and baubles are amazing sights to behold.   He carefully places the wrapped presents under our tree, aware that something big and wonderful this way comes.  This year he’ll enjoy exchanging gifts, seeing family, eating well and having fun.  Next year he’ll buy into more of that Christmas magic, and start building his own Christmas memories that he’ll hold dear. To everyone’s delight, we’ve come full circle and once more there are going to be three generations eating a turkey dinner at my parent’s house every year.  Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Read more Christmas memories in the linky by clicking the image below…

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How bizarre – Cats in Prague

Every so often in life you come across a situation that leaves you completely speechless, and not quite sure how to react.  A recent discussion reminded me of one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever experienced.

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Many years ago back in 2004, when the husband was the boyfriend, we decided to take a city break to visit Prague .  The trip itself was fine, but the return home was disastrous.  We missed our flight home due to poor advice from our host on how best to travel back to the airport.  The other half was technically starting a new job the next morning (same job, same building, different employer) and was unwilling to wait 24 hours for the next Aer Lingus flight and miss the first day.  So we had a nightmare journey back home via Stansted Airport.  There we barely slept on the cold hard floor as rats scurried past, and emergency drills ran regularly through the night. It was all finished off with a visit to a RyanAir desk in the early hours of the morning where they unapologetically emptied our wallets and our savings account for a measly hour long flight back home so we could commute straight to work from the airport with no sleep.  This was the traumatic incident that prompted us to boycott all RyanAir flights for several years.

 

DSCF0715Anyway, leaving aside the flights fiasco, Prague was a pretty city  to visit back then.  We strolled through the streets admiring striking buildings and hobbiton-esque canals and bridges.  It was early March and we were battered by icy winds as we walked about.  Thankfully there were two things that Prague had an abundance of – coffee shops and bars.   Much time was spent sheltering from the bitter cold in coffee shops where I discovered it was impossible to obtain a normal hot chocolate drink.  It was chocolate flavoured cold milk, or nothing, if you weren’t a coffee drinker.  In the evenings we ate in various restaurants where we picked random items off the incomprehensible menus and hoped that something we considered edible would eventually arrive at our table.  We then enjoyed live jazz music in the clubs before returning to our cheap and cheerful accommodation.

 

One day, as we strolled through the streets with no particular destination in mind, we passed by a small theatre where tourists wereDSCF0706 milling about purchasing tickets.  Plastered on the wall outside was a poster for ‘Cats in Prague’.   It caught my attention as I’ve fond memories of primary school trips to see Cats.  There’s an old  much-used cassette tape of the musical somewhere in my parent’s house gathering dust.   Due to a mis-spent youth, my companion had never experienced the show, or even heard the music.  We had a bit of a debate outside the theatre about what this show actually was.  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s name was mentioned on a flyer nearby, but it was very (intentionally?) unclear whether this was supposed to be an interpretation of the original show, or something else altogether.  Being unable to communicate in the local language, there was no way of knowing for sure.  Internet-enabled smart phones and tripadvisor websites were still stuff of the future.  However the tickets were dirt cheap, and we had absolutely no plans for that evening so we decided we’d give it a shot.

That evening turned out to be one of the most memorable we’ve ever had.  We wandered into the theatre and found ourselves in a small room with tiered seating and a stage at the front.  There was a respectably sized audience, mostly other tourists of various nationalities.  As we all seated ourselves and watched the performers getting ready on stage there was definite sense that no one was sure what to expect from this performance.  The vast majority were clearly hoping for a bit of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but feeling very suspicious that something different would be delivered to them.  You can already tell where this is heading, right?

The lights went down, the music started.  Out on stage came a woman dressed as a cat, singing in some unknown tongue.  I desperately tried to recall the opening chords of the Cats show while my boyfriend peppered me with questions about whether this was the real deal.  I wasn’t 100% sure yet, but it was looking less likely by the second. Then, well… then the show really kicked off.  Off stage went the cat lady, and up popped a bunch of cat hand puppets.  Wait, what?  Puppets?  We’d missed the small, but vital, part about this being a Black Light Theatre.  The fluorescent cat puppets glowed in the dark as they bounced and bobbed about to the music.  The arms of the performers could still clearly be seen at times as they moved about in the not quite perfect darkness.  The musical tone changed.  The singing was replaced by a strange high-pitched chorus of electronically produced voices that gaily twittered incessantly.

Jaws dropped all around.  “Eh, no.  This is most definitely NOT a version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats musical.”, I informed my bewildered boyfriend.  Just in case he might for a second think that what he was seeing now bore any resemblance or relation to that musical.  And what we were seeing really defied description.  My attempts will be merely a hint of the utterly brilliant insanity of what we witnessed for the next hour or two.  “Cats on LSD” is the simplest description we came up with.  And boy were these cats tripping.  The performers were giving it all they had.  The insane glowing puppets were energetically flying about in the air.  The unnatural warbling grew more and more excited about something, though not a one of us had any clue what they were singing about.  It looked like there might be a plot, however no one but the performers could understand it.   The audience just didn’t know what to do with themselves as the show trundled merrily on.

There were many reactions to what was going on on stage.  Lots of whispered discussions were taking place around us, no doubt very similar to the one we were having.  A significant number of customers were grumbling at a higher and higher volume until they eventually got up and stormed off out of the theatre in protest at the ridiculous sight they’d paid (very little) good money to see.  Others were so stunned that they just sat there in disbelief until the interval when they could less obtrusively make their escape.  We were in the final camp.  The ones who gaped at the psychedelic midgets flitting about in shock, then found themselves rolling about in their chairs trying to suppress the fits of laughter.  The couple behind us only lasted five minutes before the guy was guffawing so loudly that they had to reluctantly leave.  The only thing more hilarious than the performance was the strong reactions by the audience.

We made it to the interval and filed into the corridor where we could try and put into words what we were thinking.  More unsatisfied customers filed out the door into the dark wintry night, wondering what to make of it all.  There was still a good third of the audience that returned back in for the second half though.  We felt that we had to stay to the end, purely to see what on earth was going to happen next.  Were they really going to keep it up for an entire second half?  Yes, yes they were.  The fact that the performers were taking their art so seriously, completely oblivious to either the disgust or amusement of the audience, was only adding to our enjoyment.  It would be fair for one of the disgruntled customers that fled early to describe the show as weird, awful, crazy, insane, ridiculous, a travesty even.  But it was one of the most inadvertently funny things we’d ever seen.  Ever.  Well worth the few euros for admittance.

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To this day, whilst we do recall a beautiful, picturesque city – the highlight of our visit to Prague was most definitely the bizarre genius that was “Cats in Prague”.  We’ve yet to witness a performance quite like it. I suspect we never will…

 

 

 

The reality of being a Work At Home Mother

As mentioned before, I had the opportunity to start working part-time from home a few months ago.  Part-time IT work is a bit of a holy grail – most IT companies are more inclined to expect you to work extra unpaid hours, not less.  It’s a male-dominated industry and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to compete on an equal footing if you’re not putting in the extra hours like everyone else.  Working part-time from home was a rare chance that I couldn’t pass up, and so the experiment began.  It all seemed a bit too good to be true, and it’s certainly been a bumpy road this far.  Actually finding time, and peace, to do some constructive work has been even harder than I anticipated.

The first month was a long and not a very productive one.  I was grabbing hours here and there.  We were off on holidays very soon and I really wasn’t getting where I wanted to be when it came to the work side of things. Why not? Quite simply, because I have a toddler.  Just like all toddlers, he has the uncanny ability to sense when I have a time limit or deadline that needs to be met.  The response to my utter lunacy of committing to anything other than his needs, is a total escalation of his demands.  Planning on spending a couple of hours working once the toddler is in bed?  Well, this toddler has decided not to go to sleep anymore unless his Mammy is sitting right beside him all night.  Forget about trying to sneak off after a while.   Toddlers can sleep with one eye open.  You will be caught.  There were quite a few depressing late nights where I sat in the dark spare room, lit only by the dim glow of the laptop screen.  I slowly read documentation and tested code with a toddler sprawled alongside me,  occasionally aiming a sleepy kick at the screen.  Not exactly conducive to producing my best work.

toddler-laptop

The clingy toddler continued to thwart my best intentions to get work done day or night.  The practicalities of part-time work take getting used to aswell.  It’s a lifetime habit to think of how much work you’ll get done in a week based on normal working hours.  Adjusting your perception of time to allow for only doing the equivalent of one week of work per month is difficult.  You have to keep mentally adjusting timelines in your head.  Faced with a couple of hours here and there to accomplish tasks, you really can’t afford to waste any time at all on work that isn’t absolutely necessary, and the highest priority.  No spending a day or two following an idea down a rabbit hole of code configurations and interfaces to see if it leads anywhere good.  In order to make timely progress you need a crystal clear idea of exactly what you’re going to do, and exactly how to do it, before you open up a code editor.  It’s a much more organised, less creative process than writing code would usually be.  There’s pressure to make some kind of visible progress measured by hours instead of days in each week.

It also quickly became obvious that the battle to maintain a good work/life balance was going to kick off straight away.  There are never enough hours in the day for a busy business, so obviously they can’t help but desire as much work as you’re willing to give.  It’s hard to stick to your limited availability.  Employers also find it difficult to adjust their expectations of a reasonable timeline for delivering code when it’s based on reduced hours.  In a young start-up company the overall plan or direction tends to be loosely defined, and liable to change at a moment’s notice.  This doesn’t sit well with part-time hours with clearly defined work that doesn’t change often.  There’s a fundamental conflict before you even start.   And as always, there’s the workplace politics to consider.

 

work-life-balance

 

About three months in, and the experiment hasn’t been particularly successful as a longer term venture.  With a demanding toddler, I can’t afford to get pulled into longer working hours.  Unfortunately a start-up company by its nature tends to be a black hole that sucks in time from anyone around it.  Add in to the mix that the majority of work has been, and will continue to be outsourced to a remote team who aren’t always on the same page, and it makes for a difficult full-time job, never mind part-time.   It’s hard to define a clear role with good boundaries so that both sides will get good enough value out of the contract.  In this particular case I’ve had to recommend bringing a full-time employee onboard locally to play a very involved role in keeping the business moving in the right direction.  Something I can’t commit to doing myself.

I’m glad to have given the whole WAHM scenario a shot.  Ultimately mixingthis particular work isn’t the best match for my current situation though.  I’ve dialled back on my involvement for now and am going back to my previous plan (pipe dream?) of spending what time I can on investigating part-time work that is based more on being self-employed, with all the freedom that not having a direct boss provides.  Not that I really have any time these days between  cooking, cleaning, and keeping the toddler boss happy 24/7.

Peel me a grape – Life with a 22 month old

We’re driving along the road on an average day, windows down, enjoying a nice breeze.  I catch Yoga Baby’s eye in the mirror and he grins.  ” Mammy in the front. Yoga Baby in the back. Mammy driving.”, he tells me.  For a couple of minutes it’s like we’re the perfect family in an advert, peacefully making our way along, toddler singing to himself contentedly.  He particularly likes to do nursery rhyme mash-ups. Then the demands begin.  One of his favourite snacks for the car is a bunch of grapes.  “Rape, rape!’, he cries from the back of the car.  If I’m lucky, I might actually have some in my bag.  “Just wait until we stop at the next lights and I’ll get you some”, I respond.  “No… rape rape!” he screams, louder and louder as we pass by random pedestrians.  I roll up all the windows and hope no-one caught that conversation.  The requests continue on repeat until I hand back a couple of grapes and then silence descends for a time.  Then he sucks the last bit of juice from his hands, and starts waving them imperiously again.  It’s never ends well if your grape supply runs out before the journey ends.

Eating step

As we speed towards the big 02, life with Yoga Baby is a full-blown soap opera with lots of laughter and tears.  Every emotion is big and scary, filling him up so much that it overflows out of him in unexpected ways.  Like the Irish weather, we get all the moody seasons in one day.  We bask in the sunny smiles.  But you never know when a dark cloud lurking  will suddenly drench you in a fleeting icy shower, or build to a massive thunderstorm.    “Maaaaaammmmmyyyyyy!”, the cries echo through the house all day.  God forbid he not have one hundred percent of my attention.  “Mammy”, he prods, over and over, until satisfied that I’ve attended to his desires.  Some days it feels like I’m being verbally beaten until my attention span is so bad I can’t possibly focus on anything but him.

He trails me about the house, ‘helping’ to slow down every task I undertake.  Clean socks are rapidly dispensed into the laundry basket.  Tops are flung to the ground faster than I can fold them.  All manner of items in the kitchen are introduced to the bin.  As the dinner on the stove threatens to boil over, he’s there, arms raised, sulky face upturned, demanding to be up in arms.  Alternatively he potters off to play, inevitably shrieking wildly from another room when I’m right in the middle of something.  I race to discover the cause.  Is it a wail of frustration because two non-lego items are refusing to stick together?  Or the cry of pain from when he’s gone and trapped some body part in whatever toy he’s currently abusing?  He takes any little thing that isn’t going his way as a personal insult worthy of treating like a cataclysmic event.

Drummer

Sleep has become much more of a struggle with all that’s going on. There’s major panic every evening as he’s put into his sleep suit, “Where toes, where toes?”.   We’ve made the milestone move from cot to big bed.  The ‘new bed’, as he persists in calling it, weeks later.  In a full-size single bed with a padded side against the wall, and a bed rail on the other, he can now thrash and roll about to his heart’s content all night long.  Of course he still prefers for me to squash in beside him so he can belt me as he tries to get comfortable, wrap an iron arm around my neck so I can’t easily sneak off.  Our bedtime routine has adjusted to the new environment and after the obligatory 4 books have been read, we each lie on our respective pillows and wait, wait, wait, as breathing slows, limbs stop moving, and slowly, slowly, I extricate myself and leave him to his slumbers.

It’s not all about living with a little tyrant though.  We also have a friendly, polite little boy who likes to say Hi to strangers and tells everyone “I’m Yoga Baby!”. He enjoys eating out and meeting people.   Here and there through the day and night, he shuffles over to shyly confide that “I wuv you!”  He happily distributes his toys to other toddlers that visit, and is exceptionally good at tolerating other children that want what he has.  We have a funny, mischievous little boy who specifically tells us “Yoga Baby is funny!” in case there might be any doubt.  I’ll catch him red-handed in my bedroom rooting through a bag that doesn’t belong to him. “Uh oh!”, he grins, handing over the contraband before I even ask what he’s doing.

Making Muffins

He generally loves his food, but it’s a bad sign at mealtimes if he enquires “What’s this?”.  Inevitably it will be flung to the floor, regardless of the response.  “Oh Yoga Baby!’, he sighs, as he surveys the latest mess he’s created. If he’s not busy making the messes, he’s on a massive cleaning purge.  Any unknown object he encounters is usually headed for the nearest bin.  “Put in bin!”, he announces, and there’s no convincing him otherwise.  He has strong opinions on everything, and is not afraid to express them.  “All done swing! Too wet! Too cold!”, “More”,  “Yoga Baby all sad!”.  It is handy to know what he’s thinking or desires, but some days the way he delivers the information makes me feel far more like an underpaid and unappreciated servant than a parent.  Then he unexpectedly announces “Tank you Mama!” and it’s hard not to smile.  Parenting isn’t always a thankless job.

 

<< Life with a 21 month old

A visit from the winter vomiting bug

’Tis the season of spookiness – things that give you a fright, that go bump in the night.  This year, we were paid a visit by one of the most fearsome things of all… the winter vomiting bug.  Warning – This Halloween tale is not for those of a nervous disposition.

It’s been a bit quiet here of late.  We lost over a week of our lives to the living nightmare that is the winter vomiting bug.  Ground zero for the outbreak was the toddler (of course).  The source of his infection remains unknown.  Could have been another child at the playground.  Could have been a direct consequence of his insistence that he lick the table while we waited for an appointment in the bank last week.  Whatever it was, once the bug had hitched a lift into our house, we were all doomed.

It started, as most toddler illnesses do here, with a random vomiting incident one evening.  Sheets were changed, we all went to bed, life continued as normal.  Until the following evening, when he vomited again.  Two nights in a row is generally not a good sign.  And sure enough, in the wee hours of the morning the repeated projectile vomiting began in earnest.  It was violent.  It was messy.  It was horrific. It just went on, and on.  The trusty puke bucket was brought into rotation.  The toddler chose to do his best to dodge it.  No sooner had we hosed him down (literally) and settled him back to an uncomfortable doze, than the gurgling sounds would start afresh.  We were so addled we didn’t know where to run, or what to do.  There were fierce recriminations about who should be able to read whose mind when trying to coordinate movements and avoid yet another trail of vomit between bed and bath. We spent a lot of the night sitting on the bath, dangling a half-asleep toddler over it while he ejected the limited contents of his stomach in his sleep.  Would the night ever end?

There were some anxious texts back and forth in the morning as I tried to establish the expected pattern of illness from anyone else who had been struck down recently.  The response was somewhat encouraging.  24 hours should see the worst of it over.  But up to a laundryweek and a half for a normal toddler to return to us.  I studiously avoided asking about the adult version of this.  In fact we stubbornly clung to the unrealistic hope that this dose might pass us adults by.  We spent a day at home on the couch with the bucket in reach, practising our catching ability with mixed success.  I pushed load after load of soiled linens and clothing through the washing machine, even as we kept stripping off clothing destroyed in the latest vomit shower.  Explosive toddlers don’t just destroy themselves, they like to shower any nearby furniture and adults.  It was blatantly obvious that clean clothing and bedding were already reaching critical levels.

Then, it was night again.  There was a brief lull as we ordered a takeout.  The toddler was happy, sitting and sipping a bottle full of his starlight (Dioralyte).  We clung to the idea that the worst was nearly past.  The clean bedsheets might just about last another night.  And indeed, this night was not as horrific as the last.  The panicked rushes for the vomit bucket were getting less frequent.    We did indeed feel like the worst might be over.  Until about 3am that is.  I extracted myself from the iron grasp of a toddler who was sleeping like the dead, and staggered into the bathroom feeling woeful.  I assumed the standard position at the toilet bowl.  What happened next was truly horrific.  I have never ever regretted eating a dinner as much as I did that night.  My husband wandered in to rub my back for a few minutes in a misguided attempt at moral support.  I waved him off.  A short time later I could hear him paying his own dues to the toilet in the ensuite.  Mercifully the toddler was deaf to the zombie noises that continued for the next couple of hours.  Unfortunately he did eventually wake to find no capable adult available to attend to his cranky wishes.  We were now officially all out for the count.

There were 24 hours of abject misery ahead of us.  Bloated stomachs all round.  The feeling like your stomach was a pressure cooker, building and building, until finally the pressure escaped and brought brief relief before starting to simmer again.  We couldn’t, in good conscience, call for any assistance.  Couldn’t inflict this horror on someone else.  So our house suffered alone during the day while life went on as normal outside in the world.  I spent the afternoon dozing on the couch with the toddler and the much abused bucket to hand.  We were all on water and dioralyte now, the reek of vomit everywhere.  By evening the zero intake of calories was taking its toll.  7upAfter yet another visit to the toilet, I couldn’t get up off up the ground.  It didn’t help that I had a sleep-drunk toddler propping himself up on me.  I’d hit the wall after 24 hours without food while still burning calories feeding him.  There was absolutely nothing in the house we felt we could stomach other than water.  I considered making a desperate Facebook plea for a samaritan to deliver a litre of 7up to the doorstep.  My brave husband decided he could make it up to the local shops and back to obtain one along with a sliced pan for whenever someone felt brave enough to attempt solids again.  The bottle sat, fizzing away to something bland and drinkable.  We struggled on through the evening, forcing down anything that might revive the energy levels just a little bit.  It was just me and the toddler vomiting now, and less frequently.  Unfortunately he was back to feeding like a newborn so no hope of sleeping the unpleastantness off.

As a new day dawned outside, we were all feeling like there might be some light at the end of the tunnel.  Though hobbling around like decrepit pensioners, we were mostly exhausted with what felt like terrible indigestion.  We got out of the house briefly.  We managed small portions of food.  We slowly started restoring our appetite and energy levels.  All except the toddler who still staggered about the house in a haze refusing almost all solid food.  A few days later and energy still remains in short supply, but the other half has managed to get back to work.  The toddler barely touches solid food and wakes every couple of hours at night, ravenously hungry for more milk.  He’s bucketan emotional wreck of tears and tantrums, solidly glued to me every moment of the day and night.  His upset tummy means he’s vomited once every single evening.  I’ve been trapped at home alone with him all week, alternating between feeling very sorry for him and wishing he would just **** off for a couple of hours.  Cabin fever is reaching epic proportions.  I can’t face anymore episodes of Sesame Street.  I just hope and pray that by next week I’ll finally be free from the constant stench of vomit permeating everything.  Hopefully the memories of the past week will eventually fade.  Sadly, the poor bucket may never be the same again.

So this Halloween, I urge all the parents out there.
Steer clear of any person who appears a little the worse for wear.
Keep a close eye on your kids, wash all hands really well.
Abandon all houses where infection may dwell.
Forget about witches, trolls and other scary beasts you might fear.
If you wish to protect those who you hold dear.
Beware the winter vomiting bug.  It’s lurking out there.
Waiting to catch you and your children unaware…

Arabian desert adventure

DesertDunesWe’re standing at the crest of a sandy red ridge, being blasted by a shimmering wall of heat as we look at rusty mounds stretching in all directions. A large group of people are clambering up and down the hill, slipping and sliding on the loose sand as they follow the trail of other people’s footprints.  They pause to take out cameras, practising poses like they’re in a photo shoot for the cover of a magazine. In front of us the rolling dunes disappear off into the dusty distance. Behind us a row of shiny white off-road vehicles await, HerdOfCarsdrivers in long white tunics sitting in their shade and chatting. More cars speed towards us, skidding over hills, spraying sand as they swerve a little to avoid the group of camels casually meandering across the desert in search of who-knows-what. We’re not quite sure what to make of it all. We’re on a desert safari and are getting a bit concerned about whether we’re in over our heads.

Months ago when we arranged a stopover in Dubai we thought this might be a good opportunity to go out and see a proper desert. I asked the travel agent if she could recommend a desert trip that might be suitable for a toddler. She responded that only one company would take a young child and sent us minimal details mentioning driving through desOmanHighwayert dunes, seeing a sunset, and enjoying an arabian barbeque. Sounds good, we thought, and signed ourselves up. I thought I’d look into it more a bit closer to the time and then well… didn’t get around to it. So we had found ourselves sitting in the hotel lobby that afternoon unsure about what was ahead of us, waiting for someone to show up and take us off on some kind of desert adventure.

Our driver duly showed up and escorted us to a 4×4 with a Portuguese couple in the back, and an American lady in front. We awkwardly climbed aboard to the distinct impression that every one else in the car was thinking “oh no, they have a BABY. This trip is RUINED”, and attempted to keep our rather excited toddler from non-stop shouting at the scenery as we headed off. The driver obviously wasn’t keen on listening t20140913_172904o toddler chatter, so music blared from the radio as we took an hour long drive out of Dubai.  Crowded blocks of palatial high-rise buildings gave way to smaller more nondescript houses that grew more sparsely the further we went. Out on the highway, apparently well on our way to Oman, the surroundings grew drier and dustier.  We stopped, near the end of civilisation, at the obligatory rip-off roadside shop where the occupants desperately tried to sell us expensive headscarves we didn’t need. A very short drive later we pulled off the road completely to join a couple of other identical looking vehicles and all the drivers proceeded to let some air out of their tyres. Our desert excursion was about to begin.

DesertSandOn we went, further onto the sandy slopes.  The driver merrily sending us skidding from side to side as the car juddered down to take its place in the line of vehicles already waiting at the bottom of the aforementioned sandy ridge.  All passengers disembarked for their first glimpse at what awaited us, swarming up the nearest slope which was already marred with countless footprints. I started to ponder the whole ‘only company to take young children’ bit more deeply than I’d had time to up until now… maybe rather than this being the only company equipped to take children, this might be the only company careless enough to risk their lives? Were we about to become the worst parents in the world, or was this a reasonable trip to bring him on?  For now we just took advantage of the chance to explore this strange landscape more closely.  The sand looked just like what you’d find on a nice beach, only covered in a loose layer of rusty paprika-like dust.

Back at the car it was more worrying when the driver recommended strapping our toddler into the middle seat and ‘holding’ the chest strap. I compromised by looping his seat belt through mine so it became a lap belt. We sat close on either side to provide extra support to his head. Surely this wasn’t going to be like the severe bone-rattling jaunt we’d endured across Fraser Island? We prepared ourselves to abandon the vehicle if things got too crazy. The icing on the cake was when the driver then handed me a plastic bag ‘for when the child vomits’. I was still trying to muster up a response to that when he slammed the door and got behind the wheel. Pausing only for the still-wandering camels to move out of the way, the entire convoy of vehicles powered up and chugged off in a line towards the nearest dunes. Vomit? Did people vomit on this trip?!

DesertCamels

It’s a totally surreal experience to be ‘out in the wild desert’ surrounded by a cavalcade of over seventy vehicles all racing in loops and circles about you. Despite our fears, the dune-driving itself wasn’t bad at all. A little bouncing around, but nothing likely to do you damage once you were strapped in. Our toddler was admittedly confused about what the heck was going on initially, especially from his restricted vantage point. But soon enough he got the idea and was chanting ‘up and down’, grinning as sand sprayed about us and other vehicles flashed past at speed. His father, however, was looking decidedly green within a couple of minutes!

Off we went, a playful herd of cars racing across the dunes, peeling off out of formation to chug up hills and bounce back down again in small groups, one following the other. The roller coaster ride was exhilarating, but occasionally seeing a car ahead of you as it tilted at crazy angles made DesertSunyou realise what kind of feats your own car was actually performing. This was not for the faint-hearted, though the drivers were clearly well-experienced, casually swerving here and there in increasing attempts to freak out their passengers. ‘Whee!’ squealed Yoga Baby. “Ugh!”, responded his father at the sight of the next drop ahead. As the fleet of cars wove their crazy patterns back and forth through the dunes you could see ones from other companies doing the exact same in other locations. Entire armies of cars descending upon the desert each night to crowd it with spinning wheels and picture-snapping tourists.

Some time later we stopped off to watch as the sun began to set over the desert. Growing more swollen as it began to touch the horizon, then disappearing surprisingly fast until only a faint glow remained across the seas of sand. Our driver was suddenly feeling friendly towards us, running over to enthusiastically offer to take our photo. Someone was obviously expecting to be cleaning baby puke off the roof of his car by now. In fact, everyone in our car was noticeably warmer towards us at this point. So we joined the crowds posing against the stunning backdrop. We also complained loudly about that one lone car that had decided to place itself directly in the path of the setting sun and ruin the photographs of everyone else as they posed BabyInDesertendlessly on a dune in front of us. We sat on the sand with Yoga Baby who did what every baby does on the beach, threw fistfuls of sand into the wind and watched the ribbons of red stream from his hands until they ran out. When the last of the sun’s rays grew weak we returned to finish the drive.

SunGoesDown

Darkness was falling swiftly now, and the cars all made a direct beeline across the desert instead of detouring over the dunes.  Soon we arrived at the car park for our arabian barbeque experience.  We were seated with the rest of our group in a large open courtyard around a raised stage, and left to chat and enjoy the evening.  The soft drinks were flowing freely.  The smell of food began to waft from the buildings that surrounded us.  We were bizarrely instructed to queue separately when it came to picking up food from gender-specific buffet tables.  Yet it was ultimately the exact same food when we brought back the laden plates to our table.  We had plenty of time now to chat with our fellow passengers who were also very impressed with our non-vomiting toddler.  He was definitely running out of energy by now, but made a good attempt at sampling all the food before the entertainment began.

DancerThe first dancer was male.  He started making his leaps and bounds, not a bad show for what it was.  Then his costume started to light up, and even the bored spectators started paying closer attention.  The music picked up pace and he began to wheel and spin faster like a bizarre human spinning top, all lit up like a fairground carousel.  It was very strange, but definitely a unique performance. DancerLights When the second female traditional dancer came out I felt sorry for her to have to follow what we’d just seen.  This was your typical belly-dancing routine which was fine, but a lot duller to watch after seeing the flashing LED extravaganza.

The dancing was over, only scraps remained of the food.   It was time to load up the vehicles with all the sleepy tourists and start the drive back to Dubai.  We reached the road, just one of the many vehicles fleeing the desert.  Most passengers dozed as we trundled back through traffic.  My little toddler sprawled across our seat, all spent.  It was quiet as we left the desert behind us.  Just the peaceful murmur of conversation between the driver and the couple of us still awake.  Soon we were safely back at our hotel to catch a few hours sleep before our departure to the airport in the morning.  We would later find pockets of red sand that had hitchhiked home with us in the creases of our clothing.

SunSetsDesert

It was definitely a typical tourist excursion to the desert, complete with the crowds of people, basic food and kitschy dancing to entertain the masses.  It certainly didn’t offer any sense of being out in a lonely desert experiencing anything authentic.  But it was a lot of fun, and some tasty food.  Highly recommended if you find yourself at a loss for something to do in Dubai on a nice warm evening…