rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
... instead of the piles of clothes that have been obscuring them.  I think about 18-24 months' worth of outgrown children's clothes, plus a lurking stash of rags, and a surprise stash of clothes which I must have put aside for Nicholas to grow into - they happen to fit him perfectly now, hurrah!  He is very excited about them.  I filled 2.5 Really Useful Boxes with size 8-10 years clothing, have several packages to send to smaller relatives, another bag of recycling, and a half-full Bag For School which can go in on Friday week.

Sorting out the clothes was a blocker on the big job I really want to get done this weekend, which is moving Nicholas into what was our spare room.  Sharing a room is triggering a lot of arguments between the children, and we always intended to give them a room each eventually, we're just advancing the timetable. But so much stuff to move around to make it work, ugh.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
0.5 days of the new school year, before Charles was sent home with a stomach bug.
36 more hours before he can go back (fingers-crossed he seems to be over it now).
12 hours today before my own stomach settled enough to eat something resembling a meal.
1 OU assignment submitted, 6 days before the deadline.
5.5 days to go until the exam in the other module.
1 day before the websites for the next two modules open. 
14 days before Nico also starts school.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Things achieved today:
  • evicting half a dozen wasps from the living room
  • soothing child terrified (but unstung) by wasps
  • getting [livejournal.com profile] fanf to locate wasp nest
  • booking wasp extermination for tomorrow
  • taking child to gymnastics, with bonus social time for me
  • booking child's birthday party sufficiently in advance to get desired date (unlike last year)
  • 4.5 hours of OU study

Things not achieved today:
  • attending OU tutorial
  • eating any vegetables at all

Things to do in the next nine days:
  • complete and submit final assessment for intro-to-engineering module
  • revise for and take exam for management accounting module
  • take N for visit 1 of 2 to school & after-school club
  • visit my mum and stepdad before their epic trip around the world (we will next see each other in Helsinki next year)

Also, [livejournal.com profile] fanf wrote about his rather-too-exciting trip to the supermarket last weekend, with bonus beard photos.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We've been holidaying in York this week, just the four of us.  At some point I may post photos but right now I never want to move again.  What we did:
  • visited York's Chocolate Story
  • found a local playground for the children
  • found a man blowing enormous bubbles near the Minster
  • had lunch in the basement cafe of the Treasurer's House
  • found our way to Rowntree Park, and back again via the Millennium Bridge
  • took an evening boat tour
  • visited the National Railway Museum
  • took the bus to Castle Howard and spent a lovely day wandering the grounds
  • had a delicious meal at Mason's with an incredibly nice server
  • visited all three of the Barley Hall, Richard III Experience & Henry VII Experience, and walked around a large portion of the city walls
I couldn't help comparing with Bristol a year and two weeks earlier: short version is I was much less breathless, but much more easily tired.  However, I did at least have more stamina than in Llandudno 2.5 months ago.  I did crash one day mid-week and had to spend most of an afternoon and evening zonked out on the hotel bed.  Sadly that was the day we went to the NRM: I left early and got very little out of the time I did spend there, so I think I will need to go back again sometime.

I think that was the last time I will ever book all four of us into a single family room for more than one night; we all need more alone time than was possible to achieve, and I'm giving up on all but essential plans for the weekend as a result, plus it gets ever harder to get the children to sleep when we are still awake in the same room. (And they still wake up at least an hour before I want to.)  I think either adjoining hotel rooms or holiday cottages / apartments are the way to go, even if it does cost more.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I went to a short meeting at school to confirm arrangements for Nicholas's start in September.  They are being more flexible than when Charles started: for the first ten days of term, they are offering half-day drop-ins for the new starters, but leaving it up to parents which days and how many sessions to sign up for, suggesting a minimum of two.  Then they are starting the children full time, in three waves.  Nicholas is in the last wave, presumably because he's among the youngest.  So we are able to start sorting out logistics, what days off we will need, giving notice at nursery, and so on.

Charles's class ran an assembly for the rest of the school, showing what they've been working on.  One of those things was filming and editing montages of themselves doing sports, and Charles's montage was one of the ones selected to be shown.  I was terribly proud :-)

Tony and I began our couples counselling with Maggie's Wallace, which seemed to get off to a good start.

I went out and socialised last night with lovely people.

Although I was very tired this morning, I have managed to be sensible and pace myself and get essential things done but not exhaust myself.

Bird of the day: Lesser White-Fronted Goose
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Nico has been accepted by the same school as Charles.  It's what we were expecting, but there's a difference between "very likely" and "formally confirmed".  Now I can move on with a bunch of medium-term planning.  First step, finding out if there's room in the afterschool club for him.

Once we get past the initial reception settling-in phase, our weekday logistics will be a lot less complicated for the next two years.  But in about a year's time I have to start evaluating secondary schools, eek.

(If you want to know how the schools application process works, it's all here: http://www4.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20059/schools_and_learning/363/applying_for_a_school_place/4)
rmc28: (wedding)
I fell asleep sometime after midnight.  At some point after that Nico woke up and came into my bed.  Charles woke me up at 5am, but was persuaded to go away again.  And at 6am.  And at 7am.   At 8am I finally felt ready to wake up properly.

Nico got much more into opening his stocking this year; Charles mostly resisted the urge to play with all his brother's stocking-contents as well as his own.  As last year, I put the (excessive number of) presents behind the fireguard in front of the unused fire to keep them out of curious toddler hands.  Mid-morning there was a little present avalanche and the fireguard fell over.  We put it back up up but further out from the fire, and left the presents where they had slid.

I'm wearing a tshirt with Olaf from Frozen, with the slogan "I'm All Out Of Shape".  We've had a mellow morning eating treat breakfasts and too much chocolate, and Nico playing Let It Go and dancing/singing along.  Now Tony has made the salmon-on-bread and poured the bucks fizz.  Charles is wearing a Santa hat and preparing to hand out presents, and all is well with the world inside my home.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I went to work today, leaving Tony and the children at home.   Late morning I got a call on my mobile from an incredibly distraught Charles, who had applied the latest update to his Angry Birds Go app, which had wiped out all the upgrades he'd earned over hours and hours of gameplay.

This is how you can tell I am a parent and a software developer: first I spent several minutes expressing sympathy and suggesting local sources of comfort; then I said that when he was ready we were going to write down exactly what happened and send it to Rovio.  And finally (after he'd rung off, much calmer), I looked up the support page and mailed it to both Charles and Tony.

My colleague (also a parent) was amused.

(I have only just sat down after coming home; the bug report has yet to be written)

rmc28: Face of toddler smiling (Nico2014-11)
Over the last months, Nico has gone from singing along occasional words with Let It Go to singing entire lines both with and without the original, to singing a recognisable Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, to a little repertoire of recognisable nursery rhymes.

And he likes to change the words.  So for example he has a whole song about Yellow Yellow Ye-e-low, and another about Daddy Daddy Da-Da-Dee (both to Twinkle Twinkle) and additional verses to The Wheels on the Bus where Mummy goes cuddle-cuddle-cuddle and Daddy is either fast asleep or goes snore-snore-snore.  (Not the fairest division of labour, I feel.)

Yesterday was the most complex yet, where he was singing about an orange plate to Let It Go.

Meanwhile, C just about tolerates N singing the wrong words but Tony and I are absolutely not allowed.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Yesterday I walked into town with Nicholas to get him new shoes and do other errands.  He asked to walk when we crossed Jesus Green, and as we were making our slow erratic way across the park he gestured and asked about the people playing some kind of ball game enthusiastically to our right.  I glanced over properly (most of my focus being on him up until that point), and took in the three goals at each end, and the sticks between players' legs, and the pattern of play.

"Yes darling," I said.  "They're playing Quidditch."

I'm not sure I'm happier that there were people playing Quidditch in the park on a Sunday lunchtime, or that I could recognise it in a glance.

Nico has not been paying sufficient attention to Harry Potter to care about such things. Charles might have done, if he'd been with me.  We haven't got much further through the books because he is focused on Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequels.  I'd rather be reading Harry Potter but so long as there is reading at all, I am not complaining.   Too easy to kill his enthusiasm.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last weekend when I was migrainey, I spent a bit of time thinking and ordering stuff to improve our hallway and kitchen.  The stuff arrived during the week, and I spent much of yesterday sorting it out and installing it, variously assisted by children and spouse.

In probably tedious detail if you aren't me )
rmc28: Charles holding his baby cousin (charles and cousin)
C: "Mum, I know why the tooth fairy was a day late that one time when I put the tooth under my pillow and she didn't come and take it away that night but the next one.  It's because you fell asleep early that night, and you are disguising yourself as the tooth fairy!"

Me: "Is that so?  Shall I stop?"

C: "No! Because I like getting the money."

There is a new tooth going under the pillow tonight.  I'm currently considering leaving extra tonight as a bonus for having worked it out.

I'm wondering if when he'll take the next logical step and figure out who's filling the stockings on Christmas Eve.

(Now both children are dancing around the kitchen to Talking 'Bout My Generation. Sometimes they are lovely together.)

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
1. New words.  New words all the time.  New phonemes rather less often, so guesswork is frequently required.  On the other hand, the most recent new word is a very clear "Hey!" complete with indignant intonation.  Yesterday I was well impressed with "toc milk" i.e. chocolate milk. 

2. No.  Alongside all the new words is a lot of no no no no no.  "Do you want a cuddle?" "No" "Do you want a drink?" "No" "Time for a nappy change." "No".  Sometimes complete and furious meltdown when he isn't getting what he wants.  Two is clearly hard.

3. He's currently utterly fascinated with putting the DVDs in and out of the player.  Sometimes he doesn't even want to watch them very much, just establish which one they are and then get a different one.  As he's got more stable and careful, I've become more relaxed about letting him be in control of what goes in.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
1. He wants ukulele lessons.  I am entirely happy to support this, but it just took me five minutes to find my chequebook.  I wonder if I can persuade the music teacher to take bank transfers if he sticks with it after this half-term.

2. He has convinced me he can cross the one quiet road safely so he is now walking (most of the way) to school by himself.  Except the first bit is my route to work so yesterday we had an argument because he wanted to Do It Himself so refused to walk with me, and I wouldn't set off for work until I knew he was on his way.  So we had this embarrassing standoff halfway down the road until a friend of his turned up and he could save face by walking with friend.

3. He was losing his temper in the shop yesterday and
a) actually listened when I suggested going outside to wait for me and calm down and
b) found that it did actually work and came back much calmer, if still upset, about five minutes later. 
We continue to discuss the merits of walking away and counting to ten.  I'm making a lot of use of the latter at the moment ....

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Tony and I are going to Dysprosium (Eastercon) next year!   I'm really looking forward to it.  The children will stay home and a couple of family members have kindly agreed to spend the long weekend taking care of them, which we think will work better all round than bringing them along.

We finally got our head around the voting-on-future-Worldcons process  (after we'd got home, and after completely missing all information on how to vote at Loncon3 for 2016).  So we're now both supporting members of 2015's Worldcon, Sasquan, which means later on we can pay out some more money in order to vote on the four-way contest for 2017, which in turn will give us a supporting membership for whatever wins 2017, so we can do the same again to vote on/join 2019. 

We are blatantly biased in favour of "potential worldcons we can attend without flying", i.e. Helsinki in 2017 and Dublin in 2019.  I am also having far too much fun reading about various train/ferry routes to Helsinki.

Supporting memberships mean we can carry on voting on Hugos, at least for the odd-numbered years, and nominating in all years.  I rather enjoyed that aspect of this year's Worldcon, in particular the various discussions and blog posts among my friends and people I follow online.

rmc28: (charles-dragon)
I've talked to some people in person about this, but I wanted to make a brief public post, not least because this topic is going to absorb a lot of my attention for the foreseeable future.

Charles was formally diagnosed with high-functioning autism last month.  Tony & I were not entirely surprised, but now that our suspicions have been formally confirmed, we have a lot of catch-up learning to do.

The letter we have says "high functioning autistic spectrum disorder (also known as Asperger's syndrome)" and later on says "in the medical profession, the term Asperger's syndrome is being phased out and the term high functioning autistic spectrum disorder is being used more frequently". Meanwhile the National Autistic Society insists there is a difference between autism and AS.  

The doctor who made the final diagnosis talked with me for some time and recommended a number of resources (listed below). In addition, I can talk with my youngest brother, who was diagnosed very young, and with our parents for their perspective.

I am interested in recommendations / feedback on recommendations, and will prioritise in the following order:
  1. people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  2. people parenting children who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  3. therapists, psychiatrists, or similarly-qualified people with recent experience working with people who have an autism/AS diagnosis
  4. everyone else
Comments here, or emails to me at rmcf @ cb4.eu if you want to keep it non-public.

I don't want to talk specifically about Charles on this post, and will probably keep that to locked posts and direct conversations.


From the doctor:
National Autistic Society, in particular the resources on visual supports
The Complete Guide to Asperger's by Anthony Attwod
Managing Anxiety in People with Asperger's
by Anne Chalfant
Mental Health Aspects of Autism by Mohammad Ghaziuddin

From this Captain Awkward post I also identified:
Asperger's From The Inside Out by Michael John Carley

I've got copies of all the above books now.

Based on the NAS website age-appropriate recommendations I've picked out the following to read with Charles, which are on their way.
I Know Someone With Autism by Sue Barraclough
Can I Tell You About Autism? by Jude Welton
A Book About What Autism Can Be Like by Sue Adams

and we also have the NAS's own publication What is Asperger syndrome and how will it affect me? on the way (they are out of stock of I have Autism .... what's that? but I will look out for it being back in stock if the AS one is any good).
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I think we started the school year with 6 each of trousers, polo shirts, jumpers.
We end it with: 5 trousers (1 with a tiny hole in the knee), 3 polo shirts, 1 jumper.

I think this is the worst yet for losing things.   At least the jumpers were all cheap ones? (Because I left restocking to the last minute last summer and my preferred supplier had sold out of everything - trying not to do that this year, but maybe I should just go cheap anyway if this is the rate of attrition.)

Also C is still apparently in the same school uniform size as last year.  What are the odds of him doing a growth spurt at the start of next term?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Today was so warm I wore sandals. The children voluntarily went out into the garden. I took them to the playground this morning, an idea greeted with enormous enthusiasm:

Setting out on a sunny day
[Two children grinning at the camera in bright sunlight, in front of some crocuses]

They were especially keen on the swings, either with me pushing them both:

Round swing 2
[Same two children sitting together on a large round swing, one looking up, one looking down]

or with Charles playing big brother:

Swings 2
[The older child is mid-push of the younger in a baby swing; in the background all the play equipment basks in the sun]
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
This week I have been to "Christmas songs" featuring Charles's year group at primary school, and "Nativity Play" featuring what seemed to be the entire enrolment of Nico's nursery.  The two events have left me filled with
a) delight in the enthusiasm and creativity of children and the teachers and childcarers
b) increasingly homicidal rage towards other parents/carers who keep standing up and blocking my view of a)

Being British, I expressed b) by folding my arms and frowning slightly at their backs while internally vowing to turn up at least 15 minutes early next year so I can sit in the first couple of rows.

I'm having a similarly split attitude towards Christmas in general: where my family and friends are concerned I've been enjoying the planning and the choosing of gifts and the social events and the getting ready, but as far as people in general are concerned I basically cannot wait for the point where I get to go home on Christmas Eve and shut the door on the outside world for at least a couple of days.

I think my lurking misanthropy stems from being deeply tired: work is busiest from August through to November, so I have just started to catch up on things-not-instantly-urgent.  I am struggling failing to keep up with my study schedule, and the children are both being clingy and demanding in different infuriating, entirely understandable, age-appropriate ways.  A week off work isn't going to fix any of this, but it will help. 

Charles is very excited about Christmas, and Nico is just old enough to start appreciating that something special is happening - he was rapt and delighted by the decorations C & T put up yesterday.  I have bought both children far too many presents (which need wrapping, argh) and am very much looking forward to watching their reactions when they get to open them.
rmc28: (charles2011)
Exchanging very punny emails with my older child (at a distance of about 10m).  Every so often he leans back from the family computer and says "MUM I SENT YOU ANOTHER ONE", watching to see my reaction as I read it.

His puns are funny to my taste, and he has spelled everything correctly too!

rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
1. I have been heard to say that I am too lazy to puree food for babies, let them just help themselves off whatever the parent is eating when they aren't having milk.

Well, that worked for Charles.  Nico it turns out is very keen on eating whatever his parents are eating, but lacks teeth and competence to eat a lot of it without choking.  So I have an icecube-tray or two of roughly-blended adult food in the freezer, and if my meal looks like he might choke on it, I microwave up a cube and spoonfeed it to him.  (I've started making him his own little bowl of porridge in the morning because I like to adulterate mine with seeds).

2. I have been heard to say that Elimination Communication is lovely-sounding, but far too likely to be messy and difficult for us to even try, especially with baby moving between three main carers (me, Tony, nursery).

Except that this baby's attempts to tell me how much he hates wetting his nappies are finally sinking in and I'm admitting that part-time EC is better than none.

Turns out different babies are different and parents may need to adapt to individual needs.   Who'd have thought.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We thought it was time to introduce Charles to the British pantomime tradition, and at fairly short notice got tickets to the evening performance of Jack and the Beanstalk at Cambridge Arts Theatre on Saturday.

Apart from the sound system being a bit too loud for my preference, I enjoyed it very much.  Charles was caught up in it very quickly, and even Nicholas showed a lot more interest than I had expected, focusing hard on all the music and movement until he zonked out all of a sudden at the interval.  The audience was sadly a little small but Tony & I at least held up our share of audience participation.

The script had the requisite bad puns, contemporary references (Olympics, the 99%, Gangnam style) and local place-name checks.  The costuming was lovely, with the Widow in particular having some excellently silly and over-the-top outfits.  The choreography and dancing of the chorus was solidly good, providing a background pleasure to my laughter.  The musical references were either very recent or from my teenage years, firmly reinforcing that Tony & I are now in the parents-of-young-children demographic.

Charles had a very loud and prolonged tantrum immediately afterwards, which I think was an unsurprising reaction to being so completely wound-up by the performance.  Luckily it gave him the energy to march all the way home, complaining most of the way.  We had a serious conversation about acceptable behaviour after he'd calmed down, and I live in hope that some of it sticks.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I restarted work! Mondays and Tuesdays only. Tony is not working on those days, and brings Nico to me at lunchtime. We heat up lunch in the little kitchen microwave and sit together at a table in the foyer of my building. I eat and cuddle my baby and feed him, and most times I also take him off to the ladies' loos and change him, and almost always I get to show him off to a passing colleague or three. And then I give him back and go back to the office and work for another 4 hours.

I love it: being back at work, feeling useful and competent, but not having to go too long without my baby cuddles, and getting to do a big feed rather than a big pump at lunchtime. It's not quite as good as the conference creche but it's SO much better than going all day without seeing my baby at all, and a huge improvement on the work pattern we did with Charles where I went from 0730 to 1330 without my baby 5 days a week and didn't see Tony properly except at weekends.

All the updates are on [community profile] c25k but basically it's going well and I am liking it more than I thought I would. I've had a cold this weekend which has kept me indoors and I am missing it more than I expected.

Going well, though I have been less good at getting in my weekly hours since starting work. There was a tutorial yesterday at Hill's Road and I was too ill to go, which annoyed me.

Charles turned 6 last weekend and we held a party at home for some of his schoolfriends (note for future reference that "colouring in pictures" which I'd thought of as an easy-to-join-on-arrival activity kept the assembled children happy for nearly an hour). He asked for an Angry Birds theme and we did our best, including commissioning this most excellent cake from [twitter.com profile] planetxanna (it was delicious too):

Pay cake #1: Angry Birds. On time! on Twitpic

He seems to be enjoying year 1 of school and certainly it is stretching him a bit harder than Reception. We are supposed to get him to read out loud to us for 10 minutes a day and we probably manage it 80% of the time. He has started spontaneously reading out random signs on the street and titles of books we leave lying around. It is really, really cool to see him starting to use this skill as a tool for himself rather than just something we or school ask him to perform.

Nicholas is three months old, almost certainly teething (dribbling, gumming hard down on things), smiling at people with great enthusiasm, failing to sit up but wanting to, sleeping midnight to six most nights plus several other naps each day, continuing to breastfeed plentifully and remaining beautifully baby-chubby. He is getting the hang of hitting and grabbing things on the baby gym but would mostly rather be held/carried in a sling.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[I wrote this for LibDemVoice, where it was published yesterday]

A baby in a sling makes an amazing Conference icebreaker. Over the five days I lost count of the number of people who stopped to admire my darling and ask questions, to the point where occasionally I gave the answers without being asked ("11 weeks", "Nicholas", "no, not after the Leader, after his father's uncle). During the day when I wasn't carrying him, I frequently got stopped and asked "where's your baby?".

"In the crèche," I would reply, and almost always got the response "There's a crèche?"

Yes, there is a crèche at conference, on site inside the secure area and just a few minutes walk from the auditorium. It runs from 8:30am to 6pm and the cost is subsidised by the party to ensure access for all parents. The staff are qualified professional childcare workers. They were wonderful, asking me about my son's routine and adapting to my preferred parenting approach. We managed breastfeeding-on-demand via text message most of the time, but I was also able to block out times when I needed to be completely uninterrupted, such as when I had a speaker's card in for a debate.

The crèche allowed me to fully participate in the business of conference: debates, votes, speeches, lunchtime fringes and at one point a campaign meeting. Without it, I could not have attended at all. With the crèche, I had the best of both worlds: regular cuddles with my son grounding me in between policy debates & ministerial Q&As.

My mother tells me that as a baby I was part of a protest at Liberal Party conference about the lack of crèche. The front row was filled with activists and their babies for the Leader's speech. The following conference had a crèche. It remains vital for keeping activists included and involved after they have children.

This week I return to work part-time, while my husband reduces his working hours to cover the days I am working. I realised during conference that if I had similar close good-quality childcare at work, I would happily be returning full-time, able to fit in my eight hours a day around three or four "baby breaks". Sadly there isn't any such childcare available, so part-time it is for now. 

I am glad and grateful that party conference has set such a high standard for keeping parents included.  Nico and I will be back in the spring.
rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
Nicholas is now nearly 5 weeks old, and is getting more demanding.  That mellow easy-baby stuff, it was probably just a phase.

I'm back in non-maternity clothes now, which feels great.  There are pockets!  They are clothes I like rather than the least-bad stuff available in my size!  It was very cathartic putting everything into a bag for my mother to ebay (that way I know they are going somewhere useful, but I don't need to put any more effort or thought into them).  My taste for diet coke returned, and my alcohol tolerance is slowly increasing again.  As I find myself saying delightedly at intervals, I'm not pregnant any more.

Tony's sister got married two weeks ago, and it was a lovely ceremony and reception and party, plus a smaller family-only party the next day. Nicholas got a mention in the father-of-the-bride speech, and was passed around lots of the family.  We both got fussed over which was pleasant.  We also survived travelling through London to and from, with buggy and car seats and luggage and all.

Tony's mum came home with us after the wedding and stayed for 10 days.  It was lovely to have the extra company and help, and she got plenty of time with both the children.

The novelty of saying "the children" hasn't worn off yet.  I still get a little buzz of happiness every time I do.

I seem to be healing up well, I mostly don't need painkillers any more and I'm slowly rebuilding my stamina.

The washing machine has stopped turning the drum, as we discovered Friday morning.  [livejournal.com profile] fanf found and booked someone to come and take a look at it on Monday, and [personal profile] pseudomonas very kindly let us run a washload through his machine yesterday, so we're surviving for now.  No cloth nappies of course until it's fixed, and I'm fed up of disposables already.

I'm fed up of leaking milk over everything I wear too; hopefully in time my production will settle down a bit, but it's not helping the washing situation.

We got the AC/DC Iron Man 2 album, which was the nearest thing I could find to a greatest hits album.  It works wonders in getting Nicholas off to sleep, and makes the yelling tired-baby phase of falling asleep a bit more bearable
rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
Being carried in my Hotslings pouch sling.  My theory is that it holds him fairly snugly against me with his head right on my chest where he can hear the heartbeat.  The Tricotti double-pouch isn't as effective, I think because it's a bit looser and he sits a bit lower in it.  The Tricotti is also far too hot for me to wear in the current weather.  I've been avoiding the Mei Tais because they need tying around the waist and I need to heal up some more before I can tolerate that, but Tony has used the lighter one with some success.  We have a Connecta supposedly on its way (much-delayed, I should chase the supplier again), primarily for him, but I think I'll like it too when I can do waistbands again.

I've been playing hunt-extra-slings on eBay, with the aim of getting two or three more second hand for the cost of a new one.  The Hotslings pouch is great, but the pattern clashes wildly with some of my currently most-comfortable clothes.

Being held close and jiggled gently to music.  This first was noticable when we were getting his passport photos, and there was a long wait to pay for them, and he was grumpy, and I was dance-jiggling him to the piped music.  He relaxed and went off to sleep in the middle of Flashdance, and it's proved fairly effective since.  I should try him with the Prodigy, it worked on Charles.

Breastfeeding to full - but this is no longer as effective as it was even a week ago.  He is staying awake more and more in between feeds, and sometimes he seems to really want to go to sleep and not be sure how, which results in loud complaining.  This is where the sling and the dancing come in ...
rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
+ He breastfed enthusiastically from day 1 (hour 1, really).  I haven't had to pump at all.
+ He lost less than 10% of his birthweight and has now regained it all.
+ He had no problems at all at the newborn health check.
+ He sleeps in his own bed (moses basket), for much of the night, and quite a bit of the day.
+ He is bigger: there are clothes I remember Charles wearing even with cloth nappies that are already too small for Nicholas in same.

- He wees on at least half of his nappy changes.  Surprise fountains keep catching me out.
- Surprise projectile vomiting when he has overfed.

He is now 2 weeks old, gosh wow where did the last 10 days go? [answer: breastfeeding, eating, changing nappies, sleeping, reading, rinse, repeat].  He still primarily eats, sleeps and fills his nappy but he is managing longer periods of quiet wakefulness now, mostly staring at faces.

I have progressed from "when is my next painkiller dose due?" to "why am I ratty? oh, I should have taken painkillers an hour ago" and a reduced dosage.  Healing seems to be going well.  Starting on day 5, I have managed a short walks most days (or a rather longer walk followed by a day of not leaving the house).  I made it to the pub last Thursday & into the city centre on Saturday, and we have achieved passport applications and the acquisition of a new buggy.

Charles continues to be sweetly affectionate to his little brother while also slightly jealous of the attention he gets.
rmc28: Rachel holding newborn Nicholas (rmcf+nhf)
We've been home since Wednesday evening. I've spent most of the intervening time in or on my bed, though I am slowly increasing the amount of time I spend downstairs each day.
Cut to spare reading pages )

Tomorrow I may venture out of the house and I think we should be up to visitors from Monday.
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
Charles and I went to the local shops this lunchtime.  Given the weather, he put on his purple waterproof, a lightweight packaway thing he chose last summer.  Then he asked me if I'd bring its bag "so I can take it off in the shop".  I said no, he could keep his coat on in the shop.

"But I don't want people to think I'm a a girl," he said sadly.

So I sighed and said "It's not just girls that wear purple."  I thought for a bit and asked "Do you like wearing purple?"  A nod.  "Do you want to let silly people who think only girls wear purple stop you wearing purple?"  A shake of the head and a bit of a smile.

So off we went to the shops together, and Charles talked about my favourite colours and his favourite colours, and then got distracted by All The Toys in the charity shop, and eventually he chose one small toy and bought it before we went to the co-op to pick up some lunch.

He was a bit naughty in the shop, wanting a bag of sweets which I told him to put back and we weren't buying it - so he scanned it for the cashier and said "now it's on the bill!"  I asked the cashier to take it back off again, which they did.  And then they said "She's very clever, most children don't know that's how checkouts work".  And I saw Charles had heard and was upset.

It is breaking my heart: despite our best efforts he is absorbing the messages that a) to be a girl is to be inferior and b) to be a boy he must not like pink or purple or fairies, or be too gentle or too kind.  I'm watching the boy box close around him and it fits him as badly as the girl box fit around me.  At least for me being a tomboy was socially acceptable.  It was ok for me to like trousers and blue and space and rockets and trains and science.  There is no non-derogatory equivalent of tomboy for a boy who likes "girly stuff".

Every time someone asks me if I "know what I'm having yet", it reminds me of the pervasive stereotyping and colour-coding of children that is affecting my first child so badly.  I deliberately asked not to be told, because I don't want to inflict the blue/pink divide on my second child any earlier than I have to. Right now I'm not feeling too keen on telling people after it's born either.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
So far on my day off I have:
  • Done the morning school run, which always raises Tony in my admiration for managing it every day.  (It will be my job for much of maternity leave and when working part-time, so I will need to get better at it.)
  • Obtained lucozade for the silly "lucozade challenge test" .  Still hate lucozade as much as I did when pregnant with Charles.
  • Walked to doctors for blood test following above.
  • Returned unread and overdue library books: I am still struggling to make time to read for fun.
  • Walked home again.
  • After a short rest, cycled to Histon and picked up a hire car for the weekend.
  • Packed surplus eggs to take to sister-in-law
Still to do:
  • Pack for weekend and family wedding
  • Pick up Charles from school
  • Pick up Tony's mother from Stansted
  • Drive to High Wycombe (M25 at around 5pm on a Friday, what could possibly go wrong?)

Tony & Charles have new suits for the wedding.  I have failed utterly to find a dress that I like so am improvising with palazzo trousers, a pretty top and a jacket.  I'm not going to be as smart as them, but at least I have a really obvious reason why.

My bump seems to be growing daily; my appetite has got silly; and I have started having Braxton Hicks contractions.  It took me a while to be sure that's what they were, but a series of them yesterday evening convinced me.  They don't hurt (at least, they don't hurt me) but can be surprisingly distracting: the muscles around the belly all tighten up involuntarily for a while and then relax.  With Charles they didn't start until much later, but perhaps my body wants to get ready nice and early.

I have three weeks left of work and am very ready for the break,.  I've still got slightly more to do than is realistic in that time, but it should all be doable or delegatable now.  I've caught myself eyeing up cleaning & decluttering tasks around the house, which is unusually houseproud for me, so probably early manifestation of nesting.  There's still two weeks of local election campaigning and a final OU assignment to finish before I can start on that, though.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I wrote a blog post which was accepted for and published on LibDemVoice today. Here's what I wrote (behind the cut):

Read more... )

I did a quick check-and-response to comments at LDV at lunchtime; I'll do more this evening (there and here).
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I tried out home-dying my hair photo and tedious detail behind cut )

The children at nursery are impressed anyway. Speaking of which, Charles continues the Campaign for a New Baby Sister or CaNBS.

C: "And Mummy, Z's mummy has a BABY BUMP"
R: "That's nice"
C: "But Mummy, look at your tummy!"
R: "There's no baby in my tummy"
C: "But look, your tummy is very big, Mummy"
R: "Yes, that's because I'm fat"
C: "What?"
R: "I am a chubby mummy,that is why my tummy is big, not a baby bump"
C: *bouncing on bed* "Chubby mummy, chubby mummy, chubby mummy"

And finally I made a silly photo blog for the AV referendum: http://yes2avbike.blogspot.com/ and am keeping it updated daily with [livejournal.com profile] fanf's help.
rmc28: Charles on a climbing frame (charles2010)
In December, Charles started asking to "dress up like a princess", presumably inspired by his friends at nursery. Because I am an indulgent parent, I promptly set out to get him a couple of "princess dresses". We got one lovely Chinese-style one at the EACH shop, and another massively-reduced dress from an M&S sale in Leeds. Charles was happy, dressed up in them, I took photos ... and then I had a funny block when going to upload my photos.

"What if he gets bullied?" I thought. "What if people pick on him because they find baby photos on the internet when he's older?" I'm not telling him he can't wear dresses or be gentle and kind and sweet to babies, or any other stereotypical gender role stuff. So why am I feeling odd here?

Every single adult to whom I mentioned the "princess dresses" said "Oh yes, lots of boys do that at that age". All the grandparents, the nursery staff, everyone. Some of them as though I needed reassuring. So maybe, just maybe, the person with a problem with the princess dress, is not some hypothetical "they". Maybe it's me.

Which given how many cross-dressing adults I know and love is both strange and hypocritical. Ok for my friends to dress up, but not my little boy? Not a comfortable thought, and time for me to dig a little into my assumptions.

In the meantime, have a picture of my beautiful child, happily dressed up:

Dressing up

(Of course, if I had a daughter, I'd have a whole different set of wibbles about buying princess dresses.)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Tony and I decided to watch the 2004 remake of the Manchurian Candidate, as it was on. I'm pretty certain we saw it together at the cinema back then, but I'd forgotten most of it. I'd certainly forgotten how graphic some of the violence is, but I'm expert at looking-away-now when things are too much for my squeamish self.

Some things that struck me this time: (cut contains spoilers)

Read more... )

Anyway, a good start to the weekend, though I vetoed following it with Law & Order: Dead Babies Special Victims Unit. (I have discovered in recent months that "entertainment" featuring the abuse and murder of children is just too distressing for me. Tony seems to be less affected.)
rmc28: Charles on a climbing frame (charles2010)
(Cross-posted to plan_survive)

Charles has just finished his 4th week of nursery and seems to be settling in ok. He's making some friends and talking about them by name, but sadly he is also getting occasional physical attacks from other children: biting, pinching, hitting. The nursery takes it fairly seriously, so I know about it because I get told about it each day something happens, and sign a form to say I've been told. (The parents of the child doing the violence get a different form to sign too, I gather.) The nursery policy is that staff can't tell me who the assailants are, but Charles tells me anyway when talking about it, so I know that it's limited to two boys, and it's always a result of disputes over favoured toys.

I am wrestling with angry mama-bear "so this is what people mean by nursery-will-teach-social-skills is it?" and not wanting to overreact (it is relatively minor stuff, it's taken seriously and stopped asap by the staff, he is building friendships there too). But I feel a need to do more to ensure Charles doesn't think minor violence every few days is ok or to be tolerated, and to give him non-violent tools to handle it.

After yet another incident on Friday, yesterday morning I talked with Charles a bit about saying loudly and firmly "No! Don't pinch me! That hurts!" and similar for biting, etc. Charles turned this into a game where his toys bit/pinched/hit me and I protested loudly and he came and stopped them, and then they bit/hit/pinched him and he protested loudly and I came and stopped them. He played the game much later in the day too, when Tony was around and could join in too. (In passing, I find it really interesting how his instinctive response is to turn tricky things like this into games to practice/play out the new concept.)

We talked about how if he speaks out loudly then the nursery staff, or other people around him, will know what is happening and can come and help. We talked a bit about maybe walking away from people who are hurting him, and how he doesn't have to play with them or be their friend. And I emphasised that it's absolutely not ok to hit/pinch/bite back (at least he hasn't done so yet - a small bit of pride I can take from the situation).

Is this enough? Too much? I think the setup at the nursery is such that this will be positive, and give the staff more warning when stuff is happening. I also hope that the loud "no, don't bite me" might just have a direct effect on the attacking child.

Suggestions/comments/experience welcome.
rmc28: Charles on a climbing frame (charles2010)
Today's new parenting experience: helping resolve unexpected violence between friends.
Read more... )
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
ramblings )
This afternoon we have been to an alumnae Family Day at Murray Edwards, with barbecue, toys, treasure hunt, face painting, afternoon tea with yummy cake and lots of conversations with other alumnae parents. Luckily there is plenty of shade in the Fellows Garden so I survived quite well. Tomorrow we're going to a Family Barbecue at Trinity which will be busier and with less shade, but hopefully will still include interesting conversation and fun things for children.

And now I am going to rest and attempt to cool down a bit before contemplating doing anything else today.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
So this week we were told that a whole 6% of fathers are now the main carer for their children, approximately 600,000 fathers up from 60,000 ten years ago. This is based on a survey by insurer Aviva who "thought it would be interesting to understand exactly how parenting roles are changing in order to understand the protection needs of our customers" (and generate some media coverage).

Cue incredibly patronising reporting in both those linked articles of how *gasp* women can earn more than men (father being the lower earner being the main reason for this kind of arrangement) and men can *gasp* change nappies and do the school run. And sometimes they even enjoy being fathers! But at least some (37%) of the mothers feel guilty at leaving their little darlings to go and earn money, though only 9% would actually change places.

Finally, the "research" seems to be focused entirely on two-parent families. Gingerbread say there are 1.9 million single-parent families in the UK, and between 8% and 11% of single parents are fathers. So that would be another 150,000-210,000 fathers with no choice but to do nappies and the school run. And maybe even enjoy it.
rmc28: (rmcf+fcdf-4)
Yesterday I temporarily lost Charles in a shop. He had rounded a corner and disappeared by the time I followed him. I ran up and down the floor looking for him, out onto the (crowded) street, back in and up the stairs. I asked a random staff member if they'd seen a small boy, who said "er yeah, just up here, oh where's he gone?" and passed me on to a colleague. I fought tears to answer questions like "what's he wearing" and tried not to panic at the thought of the big wide open doors and the road outside.

A few minutes later, the original staff member herded a cheery boy towards me who said "Hello Mummy! I was in the lift!" I cuddled him and had a bit of a cry, and then we finished our shopping. Some extra comfort food made it into the basket on the way out. It took me a long time to stop shaking, while Charles was quite happy with his little adventure.

I think we will start having some more conversations about the importance of not running off, and maybe some gentle experiments in "I'll meet you here". I was too upset at the time to do more than say "I lost you" a bit incoherently into his hair.

I should write a little thank you note to the shop. I wish I'd noted the names of the people now, I can't even remember their faces.
rmc28: (grouchy)
Or so you might think from scanning this Times article promoting the author's book on raising boys. I counted five uses of "feminism" or "feminist", all in a generally derogatory way, including the age-old favourite antifeminist dig at women who kick up a fuss about having doors opened for them. And the wonderful idea that today boys are "growing up in a sexually equal world".

Focusing on reasons why non-paternal mentors are hard to find, she doesn't mention at all the large numbers of families without a father to start with (the charity Gingerbread says 9 out of 10 lone parents are women, and there are about 1.9 million lone parents in the UK). The closest she gets is the throwaway line that "boys need the consistent presence of a father figure, providing examples of acceptable male behaviour as they grow up." No exploration of the effect of those 1.7 million absent fathers, or even why there are so many to start with.

She does reference Steve Biddulph, whose book "Raising Boys" I borrowed from the library, and tagged as something to reread as Charles gets older. She mentions some interesting issues: the fall in popularity of scouting and cadet forces for older boys, the hoops anyone wanting to work with children has to jump through, the fact that just when boys are at a peak of hormonal activity we try to make them sit down and pass exams, and the depressing thought that reality tv shows and highly-commercialised sports provide the only male role models for many boys. But always it seems to be women's fault.

I expect the book will be more of the same. One for when my blood pressure gets too low, perhaps.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Thank you for all the interesting comments! I'm sorry it took me a while to respond to all of them, but Gmail helpfully started tagging all my comment notifications as spam shortly after the post.

The most clear conclusion, though only 3 of you were brave enough to tick it outright, was "Rachel, Tony & Charles are strange". That is, we are different from the majority of UK parents in the following ways:

1. We don't own a car, so we have no default travel option.

2. Although we do use hired or borrowed cars when that seems the best option, only one of us can drive (and it's the mother rather than the father).

3. We are comfortable using public transport, and have years of experience travelling together thereon to calibrate how much we can reasonably manage.

4. Most of our UK journeys are long-distance (and thus requiring more effort from the sole driver), between cities/towns well linked by trains, and with reasonable buggy-friendly urban bus provision. Our experience is that train+bus doesn't add much more time to each journey than the many necessary comfort stops when driving with the baby.

5. We live in a particularly compact, walking- and cycling-friendly city which shapes our expectations of how to get around.

6. All of the above constrain our purchases of luggage, baby equipment, in fact anything we might want to take on holiday, to the lightweight and portable.

7. We breastfeed and co-sleep, both of which cut down our required baby baggage considerably.

Because driving isn't the norm for us, when we do drive, we are probably more stressed than on trains/buses. Certainly I am more tired. These will both communicate themselves to Charles and affect his mood. I am also ignoring Charles for long periods in order to drive, and he's still clingier to me than to Tony. It's likely also that he's not terribly used to the car or the car seat, and the car seat is more restrictive than the buggy. He is also at a particularly wriggly phase and doesn't seem to sit still anywhere for more than five minutes unless restrained or asleep. I suspect the biggest improvement we could make to long-distance car journeys would be to have a second driver, both to give me a break and to give Charles more mummy-time. Perhaps when I'm feeling less traumatised about the last few long car trips, we can experiment if an appropriate journey comes up.

In any case, I am now much less puzzled about having to repeatedly defend not-driving-with-Charles, which was mostly the point of the exercise. Thanks for helping me examine my assumptions.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I was told today "you're very brave to come all the way from Cambridge with a baby on public transport", and answered honestly "it would have been much harder any other way". I keep coming up against this perception that cars are the easiest way to transport children, in complete contradiction to our experience. Either we are strange, or the vast majority of parents are self-deluding on this matter. Or, more charitably, encouraged into delusion by advertising, social expectation, and reluctance/unpreparedness to try the alternative.

[Poll #1133041]
rmc28: (rmcf+fcdf-2)
I picked these up at the library on impulse a few weeks ago and in my enforced bed rest yesterday finally got around to reading them.

Babycalming by Caroline Deacon is an NCT publication aimed at parents of children aged 0-2. I realised fairly quickly that it covered mostly things I've learned by trial and error with Charles, but for that reason I'd recommend it unhesitatingly to other new parents or parents-to-be. It has research statistics to back up its recommendations and for amusement there are quotes on childcare from the last 200 years on the chapter headings - so you get to see how some things never change and advice goes in and out of fashion. Most of all though, it isn't prescriptive, and it puts the power in the hands of the parents: more "you could try this, and these are the reasons why it might work, and these are some reasons why it might not" than "follow My Grand Plan For Parenting". If I'd had this 15 months ago I'd probably have started cosleeping much sooner, and maybe had more confidence sooner in other things I did.

If Babycalming was really being read a year or two late, then the other book, How to Say No and Mean It, is really a year or two early but still interesting. After an introduction about the general concept of its approach to child discipline, the book is in 2 parts. The first part is shorter and is simply a list of tools one might make use of to manage your children, in alphabetical order, with expansion and discussion under each heading. The second part is longer and is a list, again alphabetised, of problems or situations with more discussion and reference to the tools in the first part. It runs from small children up to adolescents and I skimmed quite a lot of it. Still, most of it felt like good common-sense (model the behaviour you want to see, don't have double-standards, explain and teach rather than order, remember that children are not small adults and amend your expectations accordingly, treat children as individual people not labels). I can see it being a useful reference book in a year or two. I didn't agree with absolutely everything in it, but the vast majority of it made sense.

2 for 2 on "not throwing across room in disgust" there. Perhaps I am getting better at spotting the ones I won't like.


2007-06-14 12:10
rmc28: (OMG)
I have a Balamory "which colour house am I going to" earworm. Just the thing to find yourself singing softly in the office.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Thursday night: Charles little monster, I get very little sleep.

Friday: Am zombie. Fail to get dressed until gone 4pm. Wave vaguely at Kate, Nigel and Dave when they drop in. Order pizza with Sue, save her from eating a whole pizza by eating one of the slices from hers as well as half of mine. Stick the remaining half of my pizza in fridge for tomorrow, go to bed at 8pm with baby.

Friday night: Charles monster at Tony instead for most of small hours.

Saturday: Tony zombie, baby sleeps. I faff with new motor pump to leave expressed milk in house and go shopping with Cat & Sue. Buy Hallowe'en-themed babygro & tshirt in ASDA. Babies R Us fail to stock Mamas & Papas puschair I'm interested in, or any pushchair that offers one-handed collapse. Get home to discover zombie-Tony ate my pizza which irritates me more than is strictly required. Also Charles hates the feeding cup. Finally figure out that when baby demands food sometimes he just wants something to suck, and is quite happy to suck on boob without swallowing - my jeans are covered in breastmilk before I figure this out and discover he will happily take the dummy instead.

Saturday night: We go to James's party (I change jeans first). Charles is angelic and cooed over by many people. Cries just once when hungry. Has first ever puke (over my tshirt, obviously - James lends me giant tshirt to change into). Party much fun. Walking to and from party a pleasant chance for me and Tony to talk together while both awake and relatively undistracted. Very late to bed. Baby SLEEPS, hurrah.

Sunday: Get nearly enough sleep. Take Charles downstairs to play there so Tony can sleep off hangover. Register again with WLR to start counting calories again (note: counting, not reducing). Go to pub to meet Kate & Nigel & Dave (and others) for roast lunch. Go from pub to NCT baby show in nearby Chesterton Sports Centre. See [livejournal.com profile] songster, [livejournal.com profile] isihac and all three of my antenatal teachers there and wave baby at all of them. Gah, is at least another 7 weeks before I can join post-natal exercise classes because of my "easy option" abdominal surgery. Charles waits until exactly halfway home before spitting out dummy repeatedly and yelling for real food. Feeds for ages once home. We watch 2 episodes of Robin Hood recorded on PVR and conclude very silly. All fantasy-series episodes with a baby must be obliged to have a fight scene in which baby is thrown around. Tony takes sleeping baby for an hour or two, returning fussy baby later as he turns back into zombie. Fuss baby. Attempt to feed self. Fuss baby some more while watching Attenborough reruns on UKTV History. Tony makes late dinner and I watch Torchwood. Not quite as silly as Robin Hood. For the first time in days I feel FULL. WLR says I've eaten approx 4200 calories (!).

Bedtime. Midwife visit tomorrow.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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