Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not so bad Mummy, but still quite icky

Another on the list of Bad Mummy moments, I seem to be having a week of it this week. I won't go into details on the pen debacle, but there were tears and Eve's nice pretty dress is now ruined. The one I am thinking about involves the pool and poo.

I took Eve to the pool last night after I had finished work. She'd had two poos already during the day so I figured I would be safe. To explain, Eve went through a phase of ALWAYS having a poo whenever she was taken to the pool. Initially we thought it had to do with being with water, but she has never had a poo in the bath, there seems to be something about the pool and swimming that brings it on. This has led to some quite nasty shower moments after swimming, but these were but a distant memory because she seemed to have grown out of it.

We are at the pool and having a lovely time. Eve is jumping in from the side, ducking under the water and coming up spluttering and giggling. I am blowing bubbles at her, all is good. Until she gets out of the pool, walks towards the changing room and says "poo". Eve has become quite a little trooper recently about telling us when she has had a poo. I asked her whether she had done a poo, to which her answer is of course "no" (see earlier post). When I get out to check, she has indeed done a poo. So, what to do? Only one swim nappy, a 5 min walk back home to get the other one and we'd only been in the pool 10 minutes. So I did something very practical, but not very classy. A wandered into the loo and held Eve with one hand over the toilet bowl. She was wriggling a little bit but still manageable. I pulled down her swim nappy, did a bit of a shake and shimmy with Eve and most of the poo fell out into the loo. Task one complete. Then I used a bit of loo paper to fish out the rest and, hey presto, clean swim nappy. Well, nearly.

Sadly during the shaking and shimmying some of the poo had missed the loo. So I put Eve down and picked it up with some loo paper, only to turn round and see Eve trying to fish the poo out of the loo. Shit. I washed Eve's hands and mine very, very carefully, pulled up the swim nappy, flushed the loo and we were back into the pool for another half an hour.

Not my classiest moment, but I feel there is something of the Girl Guide in how I dealt with it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bad Mummy

Yesterday was a Bad Mummy day.

It started off rather well. The Boy had an early race so I took Eve to the playground and the pool. We had a lovely time playing, and I even bought her croissant for her mid morning snack. Then I turned into bad Mummy.

I had to drive up to the river for my race. Eve fell asleep in the car just as we got there, so I woke her up. Not popular. Bad Mummy also forgot to pack the buggy so there was no hope of her going back to sleep. She then spent the next 2 hours at the boathouse, being variously hot, bored and hungry. The Boy and I were on the water at the same time so Eve had to spend 45 mins being looked after by our much put upon rowing coach (who should really have been coaching the racing crews at that point). The only thing Bad Mummy had packed for lunch that Eve decided she would eat was pitta bread. And I didn't pack any extra milk so she had a fight with Bad Mummy over the empty bottle still in the bag from her morning milk. There were tears.

Once home, Eve was put to nap about 2 hours too late. Which meant she was going to sleep through her supper time. Rather than staying home to enforce a shorter nap, Bad Mummy went off paddling in an OC1 in the sun. Bad Mummy then persuaded Daddy to bring Eve to meet her for supper. Eve ate supper 2 hours late. Bad Mummy had a couple of glasses of wine. Then the heavens opened, meaning that Bad Mummy made Eve go through the rain to get a bus home, which took ages. Bad Mummy then put Eve to bed, but forgot to switch off the light and didn't realise for an hour and a half, by which time a very tired Eve had been awake far too long and pulled all her clothes out of the cupboard. Bad Mummy switched off the light, put the clothes under the cot (well, nobody would see them there) and poured herself another glass of wine.

Bad, bad Mummy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The weighing game

One of the things that most shocked me when I came to Asia was the sheer size and scale of the slimming industry. Whereas back in the UK this was largely absent except for occasional adverts for Slimfast or Weight Watchers, here in HK by far the majority of adverts in places like the metro station are for slimming treatments and potions. This is mainly because you can make almost any claim for a product here and you don't actually need to be able to prove it, but there is also a cultural obsession with being stick thin (as opposed to being healthy), which I can never quite understand.

Often the adverts are accompanied by highly amusing before and after pictures. One of my favourites is where the before picture is tucking into a huge lollipop and clearly a whole lot happier than she is in the after picture. Another one that is plastered on the back of the seats of the bus I get home from work has the girl in the after picture dressed up as a hooker, complete with red platform stilettos and a cowboy hat. Normally I laugh them off for being the silliness that they clearly are. However, as I went via the metro station this morning to shout at my mobile phone company (a long and tedious battle that I have finally won) I passed one that made me quite angry.

The after picture had a woman in an unfeasibly small white dress looking benignly happy. However, the before picture had her looking unhappy, dressed in many layers of jumpers and trousers, with a baby next to her, implying that she was the mother (the ad was in Chinese so I don't know what it actually said). I know that baby weight is an issue for most women, I had my own demons over that one, but surely linking this so directly to a slimming product is just wrong? New Mums have enough to worry about without being reminded that as well as feeling like a dairy cow, never sleeping, not having enough time for a bath let alone make-up or exercise, they are also fat. Shame on you advertising men.

Postscript: I have two friends here who were told within about a week of having the baby that they should already have started the diet to lose the baby weight. One was told by her mother-in-law and the other, more shockingly, by her husband.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Another silly scientific study

Another waste of scientific research funding to prove what Mummies have long known. The revolutionary new finding in this one out recently is that if children run around a lot and are active during the day then they find it easier to fall asleep at night, sleep better, and tend to be healthier and have lower obesity rates.

No shit sherlock.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no

Eve is becoming so wonderfully acquainted with her newfound ability to say No that she loves to use the word, even when she means yes. I understand that this is just her learning to assert her independence, and boy does she like to assert it, but I am having to draw up a whole new set of Mummy behaviours to deal with it.

1. Don't ask a question if you aren't actually giving her a choice e.g. would you like to leave the playground now? Asking the question, being told no and then ignoring that desire seems to result in a tantrum of monumental proportions. I now make statements rather than ask questions unless I am actually OK if she says no.
2. Sometimes no means yes. If I suspect Eve actually means yes then I just keep asking until she realises that maybe no isn't the best answer. So, this morning I asked Eve is she wanted toast for breakfast, no. Then croissant (her all time favourite breakfast food), no. I asked again, no. Then again, at which point she paused.
3. Silence means yes. Easy.
4. Don't sweat the little things. If she doesn't want to eat her breakfast, or have her fruit, or would rather be carried than walk then I let it go. I am learning to pick my battles, the current one being brushing her teeth, which is very important for me to win.

All other suggestions gratefully received.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lie in

Eve has finally reached the holy grail of development and now is capable, in fact happy, playing on her own for a while. I am delighted that she is developing right on schedule, but more importantly that I should now be able to sleep in a bit longer in the morning while she amuses herself in the cot. She normally wakes up at 7am and an extra few minutes will make all the difference.

Last night we went out to a friend's birthday dinner. It was at a lovely French private kitchen and a lot of very good wine was drunk. Knowing in advance that this was likely, when I put Eve to bed I popped her favourite bear in her cot with her and thought that if ever a theory should be tested then this was the time. We stayed out beyond midnight for the first time in ages and I felt a little bit fuzzy when I finally made it to bed. But I had my cunning plan in place to give me a few extra minutes of much needed sleep.

It sort of worked. She woke up and happily chatted to her bear for a whole fifteen minutes before the plaintive cries began demanding to be hoisted out of her cot. This would have been brilliant, had she not woken up inexplicably at 6.15. Oh well, I will keep trying.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Something borrowed

After the sugar and champagne frenzy of yesterday morning, we decided in the afternoon so do something altogether more sedate. Eve loves books, we love books, but for some reason after 6 years in HK we have never joined a library. We decided to fix that yesterday.

I have always loved libraries. When I was a child I used to spend many happy hours pretend-playing as a librarian stamping books out for my cuddly toys. I was blessed at University by having the gorgeous Radcliffe Camera as my library and loved the smell of the stacks of books, the never quite enough lighting, and the thousands and thousands of thoughts and words that the building held. There was something about going in, after a rowing outing, and bedding down for the day surrounded by books that I loved.

Things have changed since then. Hong Kong's Central library is the model of efficiency. Aside from being housed in an affront to modern, indeed any, architecture it is brilliant. Gone are the days of library cards and little bits of paper. After a short form and presenting our ID cards, we were all fully subscribed members of the library. Let this be a lesson to all the people in the UK who are opposed to ID cards, they make life so much easier! Using this and the online system, you can get a book from any library in HK delivered to your local branch and return it back to any other branch. Amazing.

The kids section is huge, a whole floor, complete with a playroom, reading room, computer room and lots of child-sized desks and chairs so the little ones can read. They have a CD library as well as books, although the toy library is currently closed due to swine flu. Eve loved it. She ran around the shelves pulling off book after book and squealing with glee. She eventually settled down on a little chair with one entirely written in Chinese about monkeys cooking congee (or at least it looked that way from the pictures). I was also so excited by the endless possibility of access to so many books that I joined Eve in running around. In the end we borrowed a couple of Mog books and one about a smelly, hairy bear all done in 2 minutes using our ID cards. I can't believe that it took us so long to join.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Toddlers + sugar + booze

There was a typhoon overnight in HK meaning that last night we played with Eve inside and this morning Eve was climbing the walls by about 8.30. Mercifully she had been invited to the birthday party of two of her friends in the next block so at 10.30 we trooped over, card in hand, to their second birthday.

It was perfect timing from their mother as more and more parents who had been trapped in HK's small apartments with their toddlers for 2 days came over. The Dads all took up residence in the corner and talked about, well, I can only suppose manly things (sport?). The ladies discussed how lovely it was to be out of the house and the various free museums, baby gyms and libraries in HK that we can take the little ones too when it rains. This children played with the toys and each other. After about an hour out came the champagne and life all got a little rosier.

By the time we got to the birthday cake, things were all going very well. And then the sugar hit. The volume of the toddlers got a little louder, the boys started to argue, Eve got upset because another child wouldn't let her sit on the chair that she ABSOLUTELY HAS TO SIT ON NOW. Three children took all their clothes off for no obvious reason. The volume got even louder. The boys' fight started to involve the kebab sticks as weapons. Clearly the only sane response to this was to top up the champagne and wait for the sugar to wear off. Half an hour later we all staggered home with our tired and frazzled little ones.

It was such a success that we have decided to do a Babes and Beer playdate one Sunday a month. Perhaps without the cake next time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Old Macdonald had a shark

We are teaching Eve the names of animals. I thought she should expand her repertoire beyond "cat" so we sit with books and ask her to name and count animals. Once we have spotted the animal, we then make its noise. She can do a sheep "ba ba", cow "mmmooo" and pig (she grunts rather unattractively but I am insanely proud nonetheless). We have a bit more trouble with dogs because the only thing she ever sees a dog do in HK is pant wildly in the heat. However, she pants happily with her tongue hanging out when we ask her what noise a dog makes and we congratulate her all the same. After all, she is accurate and you have to admire her powers of observation.

More recently we have been teaching her what a shark is. I am obsessed by sharks, I love the creatures. Pride of place in my lounge is a signed still of a tiger shark taken by a cameraman who worked on the Blue Planet. Sharks feature in two of Eve's favourite books. The problem is, however, that sharks don't make a noise. Eve seemed a bit disappointed and altogether less interested in sharks as a result. This had to be fixed.

One of her books has the line "sharks with hideous toothy grins". Jackpot. Now whenever we mention a shark, we all do hideous toothy grins. The Boy even sticks his hand on his forehead as a mock fin. A love of sharks is now instilled in my daughter. Job done.

Word for this week


Eve is, after all, my daughter. She likes to repeat it when we are in the car as she admires her Crocs.

Returning home

Another week and another business trip. This time just for 3 days, during which I was either working, in the gym, or drunk. Just as it should be. However, there is nothing, nothing as brilliant as coming back and getting a hug from Eve. I then bunked off the rest of the day from work after I got home from the airport and we had some serious girl playtime. It is nice to be home.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In the club

I was having dinner with a good friend a few weeks ago who had just found out she was 7 weeks pregnant. Not only did I feel incredibly blessed to have been told (you know who you are, and I am very touched) but she even turned to me for advice - oh how silly!

Being a Mummy is like being welcomed into a new club, but one you didn't know existed before. It is full of supportive, if slightly crazy (all that sleep deprivation) women. It was nice to be able to induct a newbie.

As if to prove this point, another Mummy blogger (this one in Bosnia) is currently hosting the best of british mummy bloggers carnival with links to lots of other brilliant Mummy sites.

So to my lovely friend, who shall remain nameless for the time being, welcome to the motherhood.

The word for the week is...


Eve has finally learnt it, and what it means, and the control it means she gets over her life.

Oh dear.

The great Cinderella debate

This started with an update on my Facebook page and it clearly struck a nerve so I thought it should be moved to the blog for wider debate. The story so far...

Yummy Mummy is mulling over whether I should be reading Cinderella to my daughter. Surely there is more to life than being pretty enough to snag a rich man

ET: Wouldn't it be nice if there was a story that was the inversion of Cinderella -- where the spoiled princess had to work to convince the poor, decent, handsome young man that she was genuine and his equal? That is sort of the theme of the troll and princess animation series though...

NW: Her being pretty is secondary to her having a good heart and kind soul. That is why he falls in love with her - because she is selfless and charming. It is a tale of good overcoming evil (aren't they always). Sorry, forgot to add, the ugly sisters are ugly because they have mean spirits and their cruel nature makes them seem ugly. Cinderella's goodness is shining through. I always use it to tell the girls that if they behave meanly they will end up looking ugly

LM: Yes... but surely her incredible countless virtues are not really the point here - shouldn't she aspire to something slightly more interesting? I had this same dilemma with Emily over the Little Mermaid... and then failed to find an alternative story that didn't have the same moral (the purpose of life is to get a man). Any suggestions?

Yummy Mummy: I have been reading all the original Grimm fairy tales in the hope that something will appear to be a bit more hopeful. Other than pretty and nice people ending up happy and ugly and evil people ending up drowned/burnt/buried alive, I am struggling. I am not sure I agree with you NW on the whole nice nature/ugly nature thing Fine in principe, but not in the pictures. And in the book I have the Prince falls in love with her on sight at a ball because she looks to beautiful, not after a lengthy discussion about morals and values. I think analogy is a bit lost on Eve at this age!

NW: Ah, but the point is that her goodness makes her radiant beauty. I know its tenuous - but work with me here! All the fairytales are rather depressing in their views that all a girl really needs for a happy life is a good husband - but then they were written in a time when all a girl really needed for a happy life was a good husband. Although they are a bit bleurgh - one good thing about the endless Barbie films is that they do at least show her as a strong heroine (although ultimately in several of them they do end up with a nice boy too!). Mind you, lets not deny that having a person (by that male or female) for a strong loving relationship is very rewarding and particualry nice to come home to after a day of shouting at incompetent people at work! I tried to seek alternatives to fairytales and tried Greek myths for children - totally terrifying, avoid at all costs because they are obviously a reflection of their time too.

ET: Most western children's tales involving women build on tropes of the quest for the holy grail and the virgin queen and mother of God. I know that sounds heavy, but the queen was worthy of adoration because she embodied the values and ideals of the Madonna, and her looks were simply the outer sign of her inner beauty. If I were a Mom, I would try to get away altogether from the 19th century romantic literature and look for animal fables of all cultures, which tend to get away from gender cliches. I have a wonderful book of Indonesian children's tales, called Kantchil's Lime Pit, that I found mesmerizing as a child and still love.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The great work debate

It has only taken 48 hours, but my romantic notions of becoming a full time Mum were put to rest yesterday while at lunch with some colleagues. While talking to a female colleague (single) we came up with a bunch of reasons why we rather like being in our 30s and having a career:

1. Not being financially independent on anyone (i.e. a husband) and as a result being able to squander money on utterly frivolous and expensive things, like Jimmy Choo shoes and massages, without having to justify it to anyone else.
2. Realising that someone will actually pay us for using our brain and doing something we really rather enjoy.
3. Knowing we will be able to fund our own retirement (that was my one and, I know, a bit too sensible).
4. Having time to ourselves, and being paid for it.
5. Meeting all sorts of interesting people with many, many different backgrounds and skills. Celebrating that diversity.
6. Pay back for our parents for the amount of money they squandered on our education!

To this I added my own, Mummy-specific ones
6. Going on business trips. Although I miss Eve horribly, it is great to be able to have a glass of wine in the airport or hotel lounge while reading a book or watching a whole film on a plane. And going to the gym every morning. And not being late for dinner with friends. It is valuable and rare "me time".
7. Being a role model for Eve who shows that women can do anything they want and have the option to work and have a successful career if they want to.

I came to the conclusion that I don't think I want to be a full time Mum, but then I don't want to be the ambitious and driven career girl I used to be. I love that I can work from home, leave on time, but still have the option to travel and drive my career full steam ahead in a few years time. I realise how lucky I am.

I think I may finally have reached a place where I am comfortable on this one. For today at least!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Plane spotting

Eve has a new love. This time it is of planes and all engine powered flying devices. It started to show a little when we were in HK, but planes rarely fly over where we live so I didn't really notice this new obsession.

My parents live in West London and get a lot of planes, and my in-laws near Biggin Hill air field while the annual air show was on. Eve got a lot of planes while we were home. She is not very discerning in terms of which ones she prefers, although the 4 Chinook helicopters that flew over Hackney one day while we were there got not only her attention, but that of all of us because they looked so imposing. She just likes things that fly.

It goes like this:
- Eve hears a plane and points at the sky
- If there is no cloud then we all look up and Eve shouts "aipla" (airplane)
- We all look up, congratulate her, she smiles
- Planes moves out of view, or behind a cloud
- Eve looks at us all, shrugs her shoulders and says "no more"
- Repeat

The day spent at Richmond Park with my parents and best friend was a fine idea, not because of the deer, gardens or stunning views, but because it is right underneath the Heathrow flight path. Eve spent 4 hours gazing intermittently at the sky and highlighting the latest Boeing or Airbus booming past us.

Postscript: I have to admit that she may take after me in this respect. I know how to identify almost any airline on the basis of the tailfin (even some of the more obscure cargo ones) and my idea of an ideal afternoon is lying on Richmond Green in the sun, my pint of London Pride regularly replenished, watching the planes come in. At least now I know I will have company.

A little bit of what you fancy

I pride myself on giving my daughter a pretty healthy diet and only the occasional meal out sees her having anything unhealthy or processed. This, however, was thrown out of the window along with the Annabel Karmel cookbook as soon as we set foot in the UK. Not only did she eat my Mum's lovely home cooked meals (not unhealthy, admittedly, but they usually come with a good serving of cream) but processed sausages, bacon, crisps, ice cream (from a van in the street!), processed fish fingers that bore a scant resemblance to anything that once swam, chips, and even a microwave pizza from a small cafe in the model village. By the time we had got onto the plane to come home and she made a direct line for the Mars Bar, I cared not what she ate. Bad Mummy I thought to myself as I was tucking into my fifth glass of wine. Holidays are for special treats, for Mummy and Daughter.

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky

In amongst the castle (Hever - beautiful but hopeless for children because you can't walk on the grass and Eve didn't quite understand why she couldn't - cue much toddler wrangling), palace (Eltham - stunning and a world away from Eltham's normal associations with deprivation and murders), parks (Richmond to see the ducks, deer and horses) we went to a model village at Beaconsfield. I have very fond memories of model villages. Although my parents can only recall me going to one on one of our periodic holidays to the Isle of Wight, I seem to remember going to thousands and loving them. When my brother-in-law suggested that we take the kids, and to one with a small ride-along train too, I was jumping up and down and almost wetting myself with excitement. The Boy, having had altogether more international (and expensive) holidays in his youth had never been to one and turned his nose up at the thought of such a parochial activity. Anyway, off we all trotted down the M40 to relive my youth.

If you've never been to a model village, it is hard to describe how truly escapist it is. It is like a dolls house on a huge scale with little people doing everyday things in scarily accurate replicas of houses, pubs, schools, race-courses, lakes, beaches. You name it and the model village we visited had it. There were moving cable cars, a house that would set itself on fire every 5 minutes to allow the miniature firemen to put the fire out, even an airfield (although sadly no moving planes). Eve seemed to enjoy it, I loved it and danced around getting more and more excited. My sister and I recalled the one we had visited in our youth where the cricket field came complete with streaker, and the Boy warmed to his subject incredibly and took photo after photo of the little people.

Back to Blighty

I am just back from an all too short trip home. By "home" I should clarify that I mean the UK because I also refer to Hong Kong as home as well depending on which way I am flying. I have come back with all the usual sadness. Having seen Eve play with the her cousins and grandparents I realise how much they enjoy spending time together and how little of it there is. There is also something about having my own child that has brought me closer to my own parents, sister and sister-in-law as we have developed into people whose similarities are more numerous than our differences. As usual I have come back from my time as a full time Mummy in the UK full of feelings of wanting to give up work/move back to the UK/have another child (delete none or all as appropriate).

Of course all this was helped by eight glorious days of sunshine, visiting palaces, castles, parks and museums aplenty as well as it being the time of year for both Henley and Wimbledon. So, in short, not real life. If only it was sunny all year round and the tax was a flat rate 15% then I might be tempted to move back.