Waiting for Agnes

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Sunshine in a 1 litre tub October 29, 2010

Filed under: Ice creams etc — titchandboofer @ 5:45 am
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The small one has gone right off the idea of day sleeps. Usually I’d be typing this in a heavy-fingered tone of grimness, but not today. Who cares! Who can blame him! The sun is shining mightily down on faux-farmville. Hens are clucking happily and laying up a storm. Plants are growing. The windows are open and a breeze is swirling through the house pleasantly, cooling but not door-slammingly strong. Small and I are smeared with sunscreen and coated in dirt. Our feet are bare, padding over a floor that is a little bit sticky from dropping spoonfuls of this:

 

Lemon Passion Sorbet

1 cup of sugar

1 1/4 cups of water

4 eureka lemons, well scrubbed

2 egg whites

The pulp of 5-6 passionfruit

Put the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally.

As it starts to boil, peel the lemons thinly over the pan, dropping the rind into the sugar syrup.

Turn the heat down to a simmer while you juice the lemons.

Add the lemon juice to the sugar syrup and leave to simmer for a few more minutes.

Strain into a bowl and allow to cool for at least ten minutes.

In the meantime, whisk the eggwhites until just frothy.

Now, churn the syrup in your ice-cream machine until thick and opaque.

Add the eggwhites and continue to churn for ten to fifteen minutes. The sorbet will magically expand and become white as white can be.

Transfer to a container (at least 1 litre capacity) and swirl the passionfruit pulp through. Freeze.

 


 

 

Wounded October 28, 2010

Filed under: Midwifery — titchandboofer @ 12:34 am
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Once upon a time, during a gripping nursing lecture, we learnt about cheese. More specifically, swiss cheese. My memory of the precise details is a little hazy – I was pretty busy at the time, bitching about our lecturer with my posse. In a mixed bag of lecturing delight, she was grim. Equipped with a lapel-microphone, a constant supply of Fisherman’s Friends and some kind of sinus complaint, her lecturing was from the inspirational school of ‘You Will Kill Your Patients. It’s Just A Matter Of Time’. Anyway, in keeping with this theme, she was talking about some academic’s theory of clinical risk prediction. The gist of it was that people are swiss cheese. Everyone has weaknesses, or holes. Some times, some days, people are more holey than other days. If all the holes in all the people in a clinical scenario line up, the patient falls through all this holiness into a big, dark hole. So as my Argentinian hula coach would say – One sample:

Woman is having her fourth caesarean. Small hole.

Woman drinks 2 litres of Coke a day, in lieu of water. Average-size hole.

Woman is also heavy smoker. Large hole.

Midwives/Obstetricians providing antenatal care don’t discuss with woman(well, they might have, but as They say, If It’s Not Documented, It Didn’t Happen) the impact of Coke and smoke regime on potential wound-healing. Average-size hole.

Surgeon writes vague post-operative orders re wound dressing. Everyday-size hole.

Midwife sending woman home doesn’t check caesarean wound. Big hole.

Caesarean wound morphs into enormous, pustulent hole. Bigger hole.

Obstetrician readmitting woman thinks conservative management is wise. Bloody big hole.

Theatre staff bump woman’s wound-clean-up surgery for three days. Bottomless pit.

Kerching! Kerching! Kerching!

Or any other sounds approximating pokie fruit machine rows lining up and flashing wildly.

A long way down this bottomless, pustulent, grim pit of wound dressing hell is me, with my best ‘I’m so fine with this seeping, odorous situation’ face and the biggest bottle of hospital-grade hand sanitiser I can find.

I love realising that not every nursing lecture was crap. I hate nursing.

 

Dreaming October 27, 2010

Filed under: Parenting — titchandboofer @ 10:07 am
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Entangled in a bed-sharing relationship with the small one, I have been following the comments on blue milk’s wondering post with rapt attention. Sharing our bed with small didn’t sneak up on us, like I know it does with some families. We planned for it long in advance. Much like with breastfeeding, I could envision all the heavenly closeness, the intimacy, not to mention the convenience of a family bed. At the end of pregnancy, as I lay curled around my weighty belly, I longed for the nights I would be curled around my baby, close enough to breathe in his warm-hay scent. And much like with breastfeeding I could picture it all so clearly, right up to the point of small being about six months old.

The beloved and I had thought ahead to some of the more practical concerns, like where small would sleep during the day when he outgrew the family bassinet and where he would begin his night’s sleep when his bedtime became earlier than ours. But we hadn’t ever wondered how either of us would sleep either side of a baby whose idea of resettling is not to sigh ever so gently and turn over, but to crawl up to the headboard, cling on to it and bounce loudly up and down, before falling onto my head. A baby who thinks our pillows are to beach himself on after a vigorous session of kick-off-the-doona. A baby who thinks 3am is as good a time as any to headbutt you into startling wakefulness.

We’d never planned for when small would depart the family bed. We’ve had the occasional flirtation with separate sleeping – trying the resettling in his cot post night feed thing, the sleeping in a different room thing, the resettling without a night feed thing. We haven’t tried these things to really end bed-sharing, though, but to break a pattern of constant feeding or constant waking. Mostly bed-sharing is still working for us. There are heart-melting moments, like the rare times when small lies down next to me, clutches my little finger and falls asleep as fast as a fingersnap. There is the simplicity of night feeding a baby who can pretty much organise it himself now. And there’s the ease of resettling the fratchy bladder-kicker when I don’t actually have to be vertical to do it.

I guess I have the vague thought that small will be out of our bed by the time the next baby comes along. A thought so sufficiently vague it doesn’t come with any type of plan attached. The anticipation of enacting any plan, with the near-certainty of wailing, sleeplessness and angst, is immediately sapping. But I know that, one day, something will have to change. Secretly, I dream of small just up and saying ‘Mamas, it’s been a hoot, but that bed of mine is looking mighty fine. See you in the morning. Not too bright and early now!’ Who knows? That could be his first speech. Like one of the commenters over at blue milk, all the chat about 5-9 year olds bed-sharing is making me a teeny bit nervous. On the other hand, there are some great comments about older kids bed-sharing with each other, which is a spark of hope. What to do? What to do? Probably procrastinate a little while longer. Watch this space.

 

Surprise? October 26, 2010

Filed under: Things — titchandboofer @ 10:51 am
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Today is the beloved’s birthday, a day of presents, food, family, friends and being able to choose her own cake, no-matter how disinteresting (she has an odd preference for things with no icing). Invariably, today is also the day she rains on my present-giving parade. For the past six years I have made countless attempts to surprise her with a gift. I have succeeded precisely twice. Only one of those times was the surprise welcome. Every year I hedge my bets and try two tactics. A – Try and come up with thrilling, creative, affordable, manageable gift ideas. B – The basic “What do you want for your birthday?”. Helpfully, the answer is always a version of “I don’t know. There’s nothing I need. Don’t we have everything?” So noble. So selfless. So bloody irritating. Then, as her birthday draws nearer, she’ll occasionally make suggestions like “I do need socks for work”. Super.

Now, I do realise that all of this is sounding a little, um, how shall I put this…self-involved? It is, after all, her birthday. If she wants plain black, mid-length socks, size 5-8, who am I to try and foist excitement upon her? I could go on and on about how birthdays aren’t just about the birthday-person, but are about celebrating as a family and blah blah blah blah blah. But basically, it’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want to. It’s not that the beloved is dreadfully hard to choose presents for. She likes stuff. She just has an overwhelming urge to guess what her presents will be. For weeks in advance. And when they’re right in front of her. And not in a happy, squeally ‘Wow, it’s a pony!!!!’ type-way.

* * *

Early October 2008 – Achieved major coup: after several covert trips to golf store, successfully hid present of new golf bag and buggy in the house for weeks in advance.

October 26, 2008 – Bounce into living room like Tigger on speed. She’s going to be surprised!! Boing! The beloved takes one look at the box (yes, box, not constructed, just a regular, box-shaped box) and says ‘Oh. You got me a new buggy.’

* * *

October 25, 2009 – Pick up present at absolute last minute. Leave it in the car. Have carefully not mentioned it or anything connected to it.

October 26, 2009 – Bring wrapped presents to the breakfast table. Beloved takes one look at the box. ‘I guess it’s a Wii Fit’, she sighs. Sigh indeed.

* * *

October 19, 2010 – Discuss present options with the Nanna.

October 20, 2010 – The Nanna discusses same options with the beloved.

October 21, 2010 – Discard all present ideas.

October 22, 2010 – Go shopping with vague mental list of potential gifts.

October 25, 2010 – Put wrapped gift boxes on dining table last thing at night. The beloved sees them. I shout angry instructions to not touch, not speak, not even think of the presents. She immediately pokes one. ‘You got me shoes’.

October 26, 2010 – Magnanimously abandon birthday-related aspirations. The beloved, small and I have hours of fun with her musical card. Can anyone ever tire of the Mexican Hat Dance?

 

Mr Awesome & The Election Widow October 22, 2010

Best-Lawyer-Friend (the BLF) is doing it tough at the moment. She recently shucked off the mad mad world of corporate law and its absurd demands on her time* in order to occasionally make it home for dinner, witness daylight hours and see her own beloved, the adored Mr Awesome. Great, you may say, doesn’t sound tough, sounds sensible and generally better. And it would be, were it not A Double Election Year. Mr Awesome – who brings cups of tea unbidden (oh, the bliss), who can soothe the BLF in her times of woe, who can make damn fine mojitos in the press of a blender-button, and who can whisper the secrets of men to the small person – is a policy advisor to a state politician. For all intents and purposes, he will be but a figment of the BLF’s imagination for the next six weeks. On the upside, she can come to faux-farmville to mourn the temporary loss of Mr Awesome, and we can feed her things like this:

Consolation Tart

Pie Crust:

50 grams of dessicated coconut

50 grams of almond meal

250 grams of plain flour

175 grams of unsalted butter, not chilled but not very soft either, chopped into ~1cm cubes

50 grams of caster sugar

1 egg

Whizz the coconut, almond meal and flour in your food processor to combine.

With the processor running, drop in the cubes of butter, then the sugar and lastly the egg.

Continue to whizz until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured bench. Knead very briefly, just to bring together.

Shape the dough into a disc (so much easier for later rolling), wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least half an hour.

In the meantime, butter your pie dish (glass or metal-with-removable-base are both fine)

After chilling, remove from the fridge and unwrap.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper, rolling until the dough is big enough to fit your dish and ~3-4mm thick.

Line your pie dish with the dough, trimming the top edge neatly. Remember, the dough will shrink a little with baking, so you can leave an overhang if you like.

Return the lined pie dish to the fridge and chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Line your chilled pastry with baking paper and weigh down with baking beads/rice.

Blind bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the beads/rice and paper and bake for a further 5-7 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Set aside to cool.

The filling:

The bottom layer is lemon curd

75 grams of unsalted butter, chopped

3 eggs

50 grams of caster sugar

150 mls of lemon juice (~3 lemons), strained

zest of 3 lemons, very finely chopped/grated

Set up a sieve over a medium bowl, resting in another bowl of iced water.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over low heat.

Add all the other ingredients and stir over low heat until thickening. Do not boil or you will scramble the eggs.

When the curd coats the back of a wooden spoon thickly, take off the heat immediately and pour through the sieve into the prepared bowl.

Allow to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally.

The next layer is pastry cream –

2 egg yolks

1/4 of a cup of caster sugar

20 grams of cornflour, sifted

20 grams of plain flour, sifted

300 mls of full fat milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

20 grams of unsalted butter

~80 mls of thickened cream

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour, flour and two tablespoons of the milk in a medium mixing bowl until smooth.

Put the rest of the milk in a medium non-stick saucepan and bring it to the boil on the stove.

Slowly whisk the boiling milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat for about 4-5 minutes until thick and smooth. Taste as you go – the mixture should be thickened and not floury to taste. Cook a little longer if it tastes too floury.

Stir in the vanilla extract and butter.

Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with clingfilm, pressing the clingfilm directly onto the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Whisk the cream into soft peaks. Fold into the cooled pastry cream.

To make up:

Spread about 1/2 a cup of lemon curd (more will do no harm at all) in the bottom of your cooled pie shell. Spread this with the pastry cream. Top with a punnet of fresh blueberries and dust with icing sugar. Chill for an hour or so to set. Take out of the fridge a little while before serving, just to take the chill off and bring out the full flavour of the blueberries. Slice generously and serve.

A crunchy, buttery crust with a hint of coconut (again, more coconut in the pastry and less almond meal wouldn’t hurt at all), tangy curd, velvety pastry cream and juicy blueberries. Heaven, heaven, heaven. Even the beloved was mighty impressed (and more than a little peevish that I nabbed the last piece).

*I tell you, fellow shift-workers, we may complain about our late/earlies, the rotating roster, the grimness of night duty, but we do our work and leave. Not so for the BLF, frequently chained to her desk until the wee hours of the morning then expected back, freshly besuited, for the start of the next day. No excuses, no time off in lieu, no flexi-time, no overtime pay, no glory. And all in heels. Give me eight hours of dodging bodily fluids, fluffing pillows and evicting annoying visitors any day.

 

Independence, bah October 21, 2010

Filed under: Breastfeeding,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 12:24 am

This week, as part of the Maternity Coalition’s Choices for Childbirth classes, I am talking to soon-to-be parents on the topic of life with a newborn. Writing up powerpoint slides, finding photos to include, going through books, journals, my own notes, I’m flung right back into those bright and blurry days. Those first six weeks or so could have been one day or a hundred days, so full but so quickly gone.

The more I write and read and ponder, the more I think that newborn babies have a damn tough gig.

They’re a mysterious entity really, the newborn. Unless you’ve had your own or you work in the industry, you may not have had more than a cursory glance at a very new baby. You’re pretty unlikely to have had to take responsibility for one for more than a few minutes and you’re certainly not likely to have spent a night in one’s company. So-called ‘newborns’ that appear during so-called ‘births’ in movies or on TV are usually about three months old. Babies featured in advertising are generally about this age or even older, able to cutely sit up unassisted and smile beatifically. Even if you have a close friend or family member with kids, you may not have seen a lot of them in the first few weeks of their baby’s life. Mostly, new babies are home with their new parents, getting acquainted with a wholly new way of life.

So, when you do find yourself the proud new parent of a tiny, soft bundle of baby, how are you meant to know what to do with it? Mainly, you have two sources of baby-wrangling information – your family and books. Family can be useful, but listening to them can also be like playing baby-advice-roulette. Any piece of advice that ends in “….and you turned out just fine” should be regarded with suspicion. It’s not that they don’t mean well, it can just be that their own baby-raising days are too distant for accurate recall, leading to some ludicrous expectations. Small’s Great Granny has come out with some corkers over the past couple of years (pregnancy included). My favourites go something along the lines of “Well, I don’t know much about breastfeeding, but I don’t think you should give it to him whenever he wants it. He’ll grow up to be one of those children who want a glass of water every five minutes”. This, from the woman who raised her three babies on formula, carnation milk and ribena, respectively. She was also surprised to hear that, at three months, he didn’t know that his bath toys were actually boats.

As for books, there are about forty billion promising you the magic answer to happily raising happy, adjusted, confident, genius children. There is a lot of advice out there on how to train your baby to fit in with your life. There is not, however, a lot of advice on how to do the opposite. We are a culture  that prizes independence almost as highly as our right to buy things, so independence – specifically how to train your baby to be so – is the overwhelming message of current parenting literature. You don’t even have to go out and buy this stuff, it will worm its way into your lives readily enough. As early as about eight weeks of age, the assess-your-own-baby’s-development booklet from the Maternal and Child Health Nurse poses the questions ‘Do you have any concerns about your child’s ability to do things for himself?’ and ‘Do you have any concerns about how your child is developing pre-school skills?’. Hmmm. Well, obviously my two month old baby could tie his own shoelaces and recite his emergency contact phone number. Why can’t yours?

All this talk of independence is fine, when your kids are realistically able to achieve it. Newborn babies can not. Newborn humans are about as dependent as a being can be. They are needy, noisy, hungry, lovely little people. While they have grown through pregnancy, they have never been alone, never known silence, never been cold or hungry. New to the world, if they are put in a cot in a room on their own, they don’t think ‘Hey ho, bit hungry. Oh and my pants are wet. Ah well, mum’ll be back in a minute’. They just know that they’re alone and they don’t know that anyone will be back ever. Developmentally, they’re just not there yet. Likewise, if they need to eat, they can’t just get up, walk to the fridge and microwave a plate of leftovers for lunch.

So forget about independence. Luxuriate in those blurry, early weeks with your babies. Cuddle them a lot. Pick them up when they cry. Rock them. Dance with them. Talk to them. Sing to them. Carry them. Hold them while they drift blissfully into sleep. You won’t spoil them. You won’t set up bad habits. You won’t ‘create a rod for your own back’. They will grow up and want to do things for themselves soon enough. In the blink of an eye really.

 

Zero perspective October 20, 2010

Filed under: No baking today,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 7:04 am
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I haven’t posted for about a hundred years.

For approximately seventy-eight of those years I have had a thumping headache.

The beloved has been at work all day, every day for the past eighty-two years.

Small hasn’t slept more than a minute at night for the past ninety-nine years.

He hasn’t slept because he has been busy breastfeeding every minute.

Every other minute he screeches like a furious crow and breakdances round the bed and pillows, executing fast kicks to the bladder.

Am sure he is screeching and writhing in agonising pain, as I am a dreadful parent who has given him too much cows milk. And biscuits, mustn’t forget the biscuits.

Have surely set him up to have some lifelong dairy/wheat/food generally intolerance.

My brain is irreversibly besludged and I will never be able to think coherently again.

Re-enrolling to do my masters was worst idea ever, as thoughts of multitasking completely paralyse me. Also, see above.

Have not called Centrelink, despite writing ‘call centrelink’ on thirty-eight different lists.

Will probably be sent to prison for diddling them out of their seventy-five cents a week.

Have also failed to rsvp to things, answer phone calls, return messages or respond to simple requests.

Suspect is good thing I cannot be sent to prison for being crap friend.

Obviously we can never have more children. Am unable to wrangle just one.