Eight legged fears

I was reading somewhere a while back (it might have been in Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman book) that when you’re a parent, you’re no longer scared by things that used to scare you.

Her point, I think, was that there are so many new things to be concerned about – and as someone who daily worries about the different ways E could die, I understand – that you don’t have time for trivial old matters.

However, it isn’t true. I am still scared of things of old. Here is a list:

  • fairground rides, planes, ladders and anything manmade and metal that takes you off the ground
  • potential lunatics looking in a lighted window at me while camped outside in the dark ready to strike
  • Spiders

It’s nearly September, my favourite month, my favourite season, my birthday month and yet the worst month for spider sightings. Newspapers revel in stories of ENORMOUS creatures making their way into our houses to raise their young.

The fear is still there but what has changed since I became a mum is how I deal with it. I used to have the squeamish “it won’t hurt you so be nice” liberal conscience and not kill them. SO I spent evenings nervously reading with one eye on the creature at all times until I went to bed or I’d get my spider catching contraption out, try and pick it up and take it into the garden. Releasing it was always a problem (assuming I hadn’t got its legs caught in the lid by mistake in the act of picking it up) – in case it ran out onto my toes so I tended to hurl it across the garden and fetch the device back the next day.

Post-E, I no longer do this namby pamby stuff. I kill them. Anyone who tells you that these days books are useless and the future is digital either doesn’t mind spiders or hasnt thought their domestic arrangements through. Books will save you. Heavy books. Dictionaries. They can be dropped and then stepped on.

I know I know. But I think it’s something to do with control. There are many things I can’t control but this I can. Sorry spiders. You have been warned.

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Lousy visitors

We have had house guests. Of the six legged kind.

It’s inevitable, when you are the parent of a girl with long hair, that head lice will be a feature of your parenting life. And yet, it took me a long time to realise that they were here. Finally, when E told me her head was hurting after a scratching bout I took a closer look and saw lots of black spots. Eewww.

Memories of nits when I was a lass involved my mum wearing rubber gloves, sitting us in the dining room and scrubbing at our heads with some noxious smelling liquid – the rubber gloves pulled at our hair and made the whole thing horrible. Dad refused to have his head done. Treatments have moved on, thank goodness, but it’s still not much fun.

The NHS website says many head lice have adjusted to chemical treatments and the other options are oil-based which suffocate the lice. There are a number on sale, all between £10 and £15, and many say they work within 5-10 minutes. This is fine – as far as it goes.

The good news about the oil-based treatments is that they’ve sorted out E’s persistent cradle cap a treat. The bad news is that if you follow their instructions you will still have head lice. So here’s what to do. Put your treatment on dry hair of your toddler and yourself. At this point you may feel as “if millions of voices cried out in terror and then were suddenly silenced.” Don’t feel guilty. You will wish for a Death Star of your own by the end of this.

We have used Full Marks (“works in 5 minutes!”) which is very oily but takes a LONG time to wash out – ie, at least three lots of shampoo and another on a separate day before you get all the oil out and your child no longer looks like a greaser. We have also used Lyclear shampoo which is less oily but takes a VERY long time to rinse out – it took me nearly five minutes to rinse out of my own hair and in the end I had to use the shower on E’s hair which she hates.

You then have to comb through the hair with the nit comb for as long as possible, ideally, if you can, about half an hour. This is the bit that isn’t on the box. I’m not kidding about the half an hour. If this sounds difficult with a toddler, it is. E lets us do it for a while and then starts to cry and shouts “no more,” at which point she also gets wriggly and it becomes impossible. The best time was when I explained there were creatures in her hair and we had to comb them away and we had a charming conversation about what they were – giraffes, crocodiles, monsters and so on. This coincided with the time I used the shower on her and she was so upset she needed cuddling for a while so sat docile while I combed and combed. She has fine hair which doesn’t help. Essentially you need to comb until you have dislodged as many dead bodies, eggs and whatever debris they’ve left in the hair as possible. And then a week later you have to do it again. And probably then do it again. Keep combing. Condition the hair well. Comb again. And again.

The first comb through is the worst. I shrieked “oh my God!” at the top of my voice at the sight of these little bodies living in my daughter’s hair and sucking her blood. I was about to wipe them away on a tissue when S bounded across the bathroom saying “let me look!” Here was a man who was actually upset that he only had one in his own very short hair. *rolls eyes* After a while though, you look at it differently. One weekend I started to lose it – we’d been living with them for a while and I was persevering only to see them on the comb, practically waving in triumph. Little fuckers. It got biblical. That was the longest the mixture was left in, the longest comb through, the moment I boil washed towels, bedclothes and scoured the bathroom while S hovered downstairs. I will not be defeated.

And my perseverance has paid off! For now, we’re free of them. But I’m now regularly checking E’s head. And panicking over the slightest itch, even the ones that aren’t on our heads…

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Sunday girl

“We just stay here and have a talk,” she said to me. We were lying on my bed, having done a bit of bouncing and I suggested we might like to go downstairs. But E wanted to stay, she looped an arm over my shoulder and we lay head to head while she chattered on, half gibberish but she was happy enough.

Lots of folk my age seem to remember Sundays with a mixture of boredom and dread – boredom that there wasn’t much to do and dread of school the next day. I was often stuck at home, homework, reading and no friends nearby, or we went to visit my grandparents, both lots in one day and a meal at each.

The recent government announcement that they would look at abolishing Sunday trading hours was rather a depressing one, I thought. It seemed if you objected you got yelled at for being religious, which wasn’t at all the case for me. I do get so depressed at the constant commercialising of everything and it does seem to me now, that we as a country so badly need some kind of rest day once a week, that more shopping really isn’t the answer. As it happens, S and I hate crowds so much we rarely go anywhere near shopping centres on weekends but I’ve become rather fond of the quiet Sunday at home with not much to do. Boredom can be good, for children as well as adults. I think it’s probably a sign of my age…

Last Sunday, for instance, we had all had a lie in, then read some books in bed over a cup of tea (or milk) and then breakfast. E and I had come upstairs to dress, bounce and were now lying on my bed chatting. From there we went downstairs, talking of dollies and books, and did some more reading and examined some caterpillars in the garden until she and S went to buy a newspaper and go to a garden centre. With them gone, I made coffee, did the ironing, hung out the washing and put the dinner on. I cast on a new knitting pattern and pottered about.

When E and S returned she ate lunch and then she and I took her scooter to the park where we explored the pond area, saying hello to the ducklings and cygnets, and spotting some tiny fish in the pond. Then we just sat on the grass for a while and talked some more.

My idea for dinner was that she hasn’t had a chance to eat much with us recently, we don’t eat much together at the weekend as S and I tend to eat later. And despite her eating smoked fish dishes all weekend I thought it would be good to have a family dinner and something for her that wasn’t too processed. So I roasted a bird from the freezer and served it up. She looked delighted, ate two mouthfuls and said she’d finished. Ditto pudding. She ended up eating ravioli and yoghurt instead. Still it was nice to be sociable.

We didn’t do much all day but what we did was quiet and home-based and together. The house does now look very much like we’ve been at home all day without much to do – there are hair clips, soft toys and trains all over the place. But I liked it. She’s of the age where she liked it too. It won’t last. But we could all do with a day once in a while with simple pleasures – the smell of clean linen, a home cooked dinner and some mindless chatter with a three year old who wants you to be her whole world.

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Tea with a Tiger

One of my favourite instructions to send out, when I worked for Waterstone’s booksellers, was the list of rules that accompanied any children’s costume for children’s fun days. It read:

  1. Always have someone accompany the costumed person around. Do not leave them unaccompanied.
  2. They must do 20 minutes max in the costume and have 10 minutes off before going back out.
Pete before he expired...

Pete before he expired…

Imagine how traumatised your child would be watching The Gruffalo’s head come off in a bookshop. Enough to put you off reading for life.

I had this in mind when we went to Waterstone’s this weekend to have a Great Tiger Tea Party with Judith Kerr’s book The Tiger Who Came to Tea. E loves it. Judith Kerr is a great favourite here, and I used to love that one too. We even managed to take S with us, who wasn’t really sure what to expect.

E was very excited and climbed up the moving stairs to the top floor saying “where’s that tiger?” We all sat on the floor and waited. The tea party was held by a lady who told the story first, making all the children join in, especially with the eating noises. E, who goes quiet and watches till she’s sure of things, got quite animated by this point and ate up lots of cakes.

When the story finished we all made masks – colouring in and putting stickers on to look really tigery and then the storyteller led the children out into the shop to roar at customers. There was one sensitive type trying to browse philosophy books who tried his best to ignore a parade of small children marching past and roaring.

20150801_154504And then back in the room, we all called to the tiger to come and join us – the costume was enormous and very like the book and E was entranced. She stared at him with a big smile on her face, though she wouldn’t go near him and have her photo taken. Some of the other children found him a bit intimidating, especially the smaller ones. But we all (including S) did some dancing with the the tiger (to Tiger Feet by Mud) and then we had tea – tiger cupcakes on tiger plates and apple juice in tiger cups. There were chocolate brownies for the grown ups.

E brought home a tiger tea hat, a sticker, some activity sheets and a balloon and was really excited with her afternoon. It cost us the tram fare to get there and that was it. All reports from behind the scenes were that Pete (inside the tiger) was incredibly hot and about to drop by the end (the Gruffalo suit has air con inside but not this one) so well done Pete and thank you. Have a cold beer mate.


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Two wheels, one sore arse

It’s been my first full week cycling to work this week. Note to self:

You are a 39 year old woman who hasn’t done any regular exercise for quite some time. To suddenly start cycling 11 miles a day will mean you get tired. This is ok. It doesn’t mean you are a failure.

Pigeons on the canal path are not your friend. Nor are the geese.

Neither are the workmen on Crown Island.

It may be worth the extra investment to get a more comfortable saddle.

The cycling app is not taking into account the roadworks and junctions when it says you are cycling slowly. Ignore the total – look at the split times.

Remember to give cars parked in the cycle path on the ring road a wide berth. I guarantee the drivers aren’t looking when they pull out or open their doors.

It’s going to get easier. And look, you’re enjoying it aren’t you?


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Little Miss Bossy

The irritating Facebook woman Sheryl Sandberg said the other day that she preferred people thought of little girls not as bossy but as assertive. Which is a fine statement. Bossy is a word that is only used to describe women; it’s rarely if at all meant in a positive light and she wants to stop people making girls feel rubbish for knowing what they want.

Problem is, sometimes the only word that accurately describes E is bossy. She doesn’t ask, she demands; she doesn’t request, she tells. And sometimes she points her finger at you too. It’s bossy. It’s not assertive. Assertiveness is not that rude.

I believe this is a natural thing – three year old girls are a horror. I read an article that says a three-year old girl is worse behaved than either sex are at eight years old. I didn’t care if it was true or not, but it did make a useful thing to tell S when he was despairing at E’s behaviour the other day. It’s just a phase.

I make her sound terrible and she really isn’t. Most of the time she’s lovely and fun. And much of her telling us off is a direct reflection of things and styles we say to her. She tells Daddy to say thank you if she takes him something, she looks at me and says “I said no!” with a cross face. It’s basically looking in a mirror. The hardest thing is keeping a straight face. There are times when she’s genuinely assertive – these often involve copying people she knows. She’s very fond of ‘circle time’ at the moment & organises me, S & some soft toys together to sing songs. She instructs us “big loud voices everyone!” It’s currently one of my favourite things.

The question is, how to erase the rudeness & bossy bits without getting rid of her assertiveness? I have no idea. But hopefully we can walk that line…

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Hormonally challenged

I threatened to write this last week. So here it is.

A few weeks ago I was reading my daily edition of The Pool on my phone on the tram (sentences your parents never thought you’d write) on the way to work when there was an article about no one talks about periods any more. We’ve become desensitised – they don’t even put the adverts with silly blue water on TV now. And I had a lightbulb moment. Of course! It’s my hormones!

It was like this. After giving birth, I was told I couldn’t go back to having the combined pill I’d been using so easily before we decided to conceive. I was too old for the combined pill and it was liable to cause blood clots. So they gave me a progesterone-only pill Cerazette. I didn’t like it. You took it everyday, didn’t bleed at all and never knew where I was with it, let alone a few other weird side effects. So I refused to take it any more and they suggested a hormone implanted coil. I believe I blogged about this being fitted.

It lasted only a few weeks as the main side effect was that it killed my sex drive. Pretty effective as a contraceptive but not really what we were hoping for. I may as well have been made of stone.

So I decided to turn my back on hormones for a while. The options were thin – the implant, injection and other pills are mainly all combined hormones and made for younger women. A whole industry that appears for younger women – like anyone younger than 37 is defunct in child bearing or sexual desires. I decided we’d manage without for a while till I had any idea what to do.

But this has meant other side effects. It turns out naturally I’m a physical wreck – tempers, headaches, painful boobs, all kinds of other nastiness. We’re were just trying to deal with this when I had my lightbulb moment and remembered that it might be an idea to go and see a doctor. Again.

She told me I’m a hormonal challenge – as my symptoms suggest a shortage of oestrogen and progesterone. She doesn’t think I’m going through the menopause which is disappointing. Frankly by now I just want the whole damn fuss over and done with. I’ve been bleeding since I was 10, I have no intention of bearing another child – this is nothing but extra hassle. But apparently you take after your mother in the timing – and my mum didn’t have the change for a while so I’ve got at least another 10 years. Oh joy.

They don’t want to give me oestrogen again. But they do in a small dose. I don’t think it’s quite HRT but it’s not far off. And so we wait to see how it works.

*sings* Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…

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