Thursday, June 18, 2009

Books not to read when you are pregnant #1

Following on from the theme of my post yesterday.

We need to talk about Kevin

Enough to put off any independently minded woman who is thinking of having a child.

Books not to read when you are a mummy #1


I felt it was something I should read and had never got round to. It was on special offer at the bookshop so I grabbed a copy. After all, I am a liberally minded sort, have read how it is a much misunderstood volume, and I really liked American Psycho so am not usually prone to squeamishness.

I got 60 pages in, felt physically sick, and decided to leave reading it until Eve is much older. Like when she is aged 18.

Killer queen

Before I had Eve I had some serious reservations about my ability to keep living things alive. Pets had a bit of a habit of dying on me (I didn't mean to drop the guinea pug, honest), and I was hopeless with plants. So much so that I didn't ever bother keeping plants. I even managed to kill of some cacti I had as a child, and that takes effort. The only pet I managed to keep alive was my pet rat, Iago, who managed to survive for three years almost exclusively on a diet of white chocolate rat buttons and sunflower seeds. In fact, I did almost manage to kill him when I once came into my bedroom to find him cowering in his cage while a cat who had made it into the house was snatching at him with a paw.

Despite this dreadful track record I seem to be doing OK with Eve. I cook all her food and she was breast fed so I can claim a certain stake in her ongoing health and growth. Finally I thought that the curse might be broken.

With some enthusiasm, therefore, I bought some new plants. I love cooking with fresh herbs so bought a basil, rosemary, and Mum bought me a chili. All were healthy and happy. Each morning Eve helps me to water them (if they need it) and it was all going so well.

Until the chili blight of June 2009. It had been looking a little bit peaky for a while but after a little prune of the dead bits it seemed to revive. For a day, until I realised it was covered in funny little bugs. H, on my advice so I can't lay the blame at her door, sprayed it with a very dilute bleach solution to kill the bugs. And the plant. I came home from work to find it limp and lifeless. Maybe, with hindsight, bleach was not so sensible. I have cut it back and have my fingers crossed.

Then the rosemary, which up until this time had been thriving, came out in sympathy and is turning brown. I've tried putting it into the sun, putting it in the shade, having it inside, having it outside, giving it more water, watering it less. Nothing, but nothing is working. I will have another dead plant before the week is out.

And so to my last hope, the basil. At the moment it is doing very well. Possibly this is because I cook with it so much that it gets a good trim a couple of times a week. Mum told me how to do this, which might also explain the success (and I have not touched it with bleach yet so that also may explain its longevity thus far). However, I am merely waiting until that turns up its toes too.

Sadly, although I seem to be able to look after a complex creature like Eve, I am still hopelessly cursed when it comes to anything else.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More than words

Eve's vocab is coming on apace as she learns new words every day. They are not always accurately used, every colour is labeled as "blue", but she is putting together little phrases like "sit down". She can even say a version of please, which unfortunately sounds like she is saying piss.

However, the words she has mastered seem to have little or nothing to do with how many times we look at pictures or repeat them to her. For example, she has yet to master "cat", which is the only word we have been saying over and over again since she was born. At other times she completely surprises me with a word I didn't even know we had said to her. This morning she pointed at a photo the Boy took on a diving holiday and said, beautifully annunciated, "turtle".

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Poo question for other mummies

Why is it that whenever I take Eve swimming she has a poo? Unless she has only just gone before we go, you can guarantee out it will come.

Mercifully her swim nappies work wonders at keeping it out of the pool, but I am sick of having to clean out showers and use my flip flops to shove chunks of half digested mushroom down the drain while Eve tries to catch the disgusting little bits swirling around in the water.

Every single time we go.

(and I know that in writing this I will guarantee that no HK friend ever comes swimming with me and Eve again)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scary swimming baby

Eve has a new toy. My parents brought it with them when they visited a few weeks ago. It looks, initially, like a very harmless little baby in a swim suit with cute flip flops. Its arms and legs move and make a slightly odd cracking noise as they do so, but otherwise it looked harmless enough.

Until you put it into the water. It has water sensors that make its arms, legs and head move as soon as it hits water. If you put the limbs in the right place then it swims along harmlessly, if a little strangely. However, if you are slightly more sadistic and turn its head 180 degrees and move it's arms and legs into a different position, you get your very own swimming Exorcist doll.

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it is bloody creepy. Too often I have found it lying in the middle of the living room, and had to twist its head back to the front as it smiles vacantly at me.

I have only managed to find one clip of it on You Tube, and this family seem to find it as creepy as I do.

Eve, of course, loves it and won't be parted from it.

Theology for dummies

In spite of not actually having found a church I feel entirely comfortable in with Eve, I press ahead with introducing her to religion. She has a little book of bible stories and today, just after her afternoon nap, we were reading it together. She likes the stories with animals in (creation, Noah, Daniel in the lion's den). She also likes the pictures with children or babies in. Ever since she was given the scary swimming baby by my parents, more of that anon, she has been quite into babies.

So, today, we turned to the Christmas story. She happily pointed at all the people in the accompanying picture. I named them as she did. Baby Jesus, the sheep, the shepherds, Jesus' mummy, Jesus' daddy - ah, well, sort of.

Now Yummy Mummy has an undergraduate degree in Theology from a very respectable university and knows all about the trinity. The last person who asked me about it was considerably older than Eve, and I made a pretty good stab at explaining it. However, trying to explain why Joseph isn't, strictly speaking, Jesus' daddy to Eve as she gets older is going to pose more of a challenge.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And then there were four

I got an SMS last week from P, a good friend who I was pregnant with the first time around. P was brilliant to be pregnant with because she was as much of a workaholic as I was, loved her sport and her wine, and was all a bit apprehensive about having a baby - just like me. It was P who I got stranded with after our steering broke while paddling in a canoe during a typhoon. We bonded. We had the little ones just 6 days apart, and I spent quite a lot of time with her when Eve was first born, chatting while we fed the babies and moaning about lack of sleep.

Anyway, she is pregnant again. I am really happy for her. This also takes the number of women I was pregnant at the same time as first time around who are now at it again to four.

This also means that I have now hit that stage where pretty much everyone expects me to have another baby myself. Twice in the past 2 days I have been asked when I plan to have the next one. To be honest, I don't know when or if I will. I love Eve to death and have a lot of fun. But just one enables me to still do lots of things I like doing (work, rowing, seeing friends without children) and still feel that I get enough quality time to enjoy her. I am not sure I could do it all with 2. I am also not sure I am prepared for the whale-like status, sleepless nights, leaking boobs and all the other icky stuff that goes with having a baby again.

Or does this make me selfish?

Answers on a postcard please.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'll scream and scream and scream until I can't breathe

One of my baby books (the brilliant Rough Guide to Babies) describes toddler tantrums thus:

"Tantrums are a bit like labour contractions: you keep thinking - is this one? And then, when the first one really kicks off, there's absolutely no mistaking it".

This came to mind as I sat on my bed this morning, watching Eve next to me, flailing her little arms and legs and screaming as if someone had tried to kill her. The offending act from Mummy? I had tried to get her to put a t-shirt over her head.

Welcome to the terrible twos. A little bit early but then my darling daughter is nothing if not precocious.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mummy activist

For as long as I can remember, Mum has encouraged me to hold onto my convictions and stand up for what I believe in. This was a hugely empowering role model for me, but also led me into some odd situations such as shouting at Anglican bishops outside St Paul's in London when I was 8!

This conviction led me, last night, to finally getting off my sickbed and going out to the huge vigil at Victoria Park to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Hong Kong is unique in that it is the only place in China where such a vigil would be allowed. Even despite the freedoms supposedly protected in Hong Kong, the government is becoming increasingly fond of flexibly applying them - for more information see this post by another HK mummy. As such, I thought it even more important to go along.

I got the Boy to come home early to put Eve to bed, hopped onto the bus, and went off to the park. I am so glad that I did. It was beautiful. Over 100,000 people sitting with candles, listening to speeches and readings. All very calm, all very respectful, and an incredible show of power.

I find that now I am a Mummy this sort of thing is even more important to me. If I am not willing to protect the rights for my child then I shouldn't expect anyone else to. I intend to take Eve as soon as she is old enough not to need to be in bed, and I will carefully explain to her why it is so important to protect these freedoms and fight for others to have them too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Guilty pleasures

This is the longest I have been off work and not on holiday or maternity leave (and all mothers know that isn't exactly a barrel of laughs for the pitiful 12 weeks I got here in HK) since I left University. I have now been off work, officially ordered by my doctor, for a whole week. For most of that I have been so ill that I've been unable to move. However, since Monday I have been feeling a bit more chipper and able to manage bursts of activity lasting up to an hour. I am having fabulous fun playing with Eve.

I am also getting time to read. One of the things that fell off the radar for me, post-Eve, was time to read very much or for any length of time. Between Eve, a full time job, husband, friends and rowing training I just don't have time.

I have had a book of Alice Munro short stories sitting on my shelf so long that I can't even remember who gave them to me, or even whether I bought them myself. During one of my lucid moments over the weekend I heard that she has just won the Man Booker prize. So I am using the rare, quiet hours when Eve is napping or at the playground with her nanny to read again. I had forgotten that reading last thing at night before crashing out isn't really reading. I am rediscovering what a leisurely couple of afternoon hours with a good book is like.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I have always been something of a critic about the sheer number of classes that HK parents send their kids to. A well-known HK child shrink has openly said that the biggest problem she encounters with children she sees in HK is that they have no time just to play themselves and feel huge amounts of stress.

I perhaps should admit that it is laziness and lack of time for me to srot it out that means Eve attends nothing at all. But I also partly wonder what more she would get that she doesn't from her playdates, time in the playground, and reading and play at home. At a party the other day I found myself chatting with Mums, all of whom have children the same age as Eve, as they discussed the discipline at a class called "Soccer Tots". Eve will only do what you tell her, sometimes, if she is really in the mood to and the moon is in it's fifth cycle, waxing over the yard arm or some such. The idea of trying to take 20 one year olds, most of whom don't speak, and try to teach them anything as complex as team sports just defies belief. I, for one, don't want the first full sentence Eve utters to be the offside rule (although I suspect the Boy may be proud if she could). I can't see what they possibly gain from this that she doesn't from playing with a ball in the playground. What happened with just letting kids be kids? They'll be at nursery and school soon enough as it is (2 years in HK).

In amongst the strange and bizarre (I thought Kindermusik was something to do with chocolate eggs that sing before I had Eve), I recevied a flyer in the mail today about Lego Education. Yes, it would appear that someone has decided to make the colourful fun blocks of plastic into a pseudo-academic course. Intrigued, I went online to find out more. Sadly the sole HK class only has details in Chinese, but I found the global site instead. It appears that the classes consist of, well, building stuff with lego and talking about it with an adult.

Maybe I am missing something, but isn't that what I do with Eve and a $20 box of Duplo anyway?


The last few days have been dreadful. I have been quite ill and, in my own way, not really taken it very seriously until the doctor talked on Monday about hospitalising me (thankfully not yet and hopefully not at all).

However, even illness has taken on a whole new turn now I have Eve. Where previously I would have been miserable and self-indulgent, this time I have been profoundly aware of the time I am missing with Eve, and the mother-guilt at listening to her play in the next room but not being there with her. Also new was the gut wrenching fear that I might pass this onto her, so strong that for the first few days I wore one of those silly surgical masks whenever I was around her. A fact she found mightily amusing, especially in the bath.

I have also found that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that makes your diseased and fatigued body and mind lift like your daughter coming back from the playground and running straight into your bedroom to give sick Mummy a big cuddle and a smile. The amazing healing power of children.

Child development

One of the only benefits of being confined to my flat for 5 days with a stinking fever (latest update is that it is probably pneumonia - what was it I said about taking a lot to lay me up??), is spending lots of time with Eve at what is such a precious stage of her development. Every day she is trying something new and becoming more of a little person in her own right. What is really fascinating is seeing how she watches and assimilates into her own behaviour those of the people around her. So, she has started to use her little table set to feed her soft toys and favourite dolly. She also sat her favourite dolly in her old baby seat today and read her a Mr Men book. Finally, ever since the Boy and I started running with her in the buggy on Sunday mornings, she has taken to putting her toys in her little doll's buggy and charging around the apartment. If ever one needed evidence in support of the nurture side of the debate, my daughter right now would be it.

On a similar vein, while laid up in bed I came across a rather interesting radio play called Watermark from New Zealand about intellectual elitism. Although a little too sci-fi (and not terribly well acted in my opinion, having heard it twice now), it is an interesting idea and at least probes some interesting questions about whether children are genetically built to be clever or not. Or what is indeed deemed clever. Before I get too existential, here is the link and the play is online for another couple of weeks should you fancy a listen.