Waiting for Agnes

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A 76 Cow Day November 14, 2010

Through the mediums of wailing, slapping, biting, sobbing pitifully, breaking stuff and demanding to be breastfed every three minutes, small has communicated that he is having a less than perfect day. Cajoled into his first sleep of the day early, prematurely woken to go to his hated swimming lesson, forbidden from eating an entire jar of nutella, car travel, visiting people. Horrid.

Fortunately he has one magic Off Switch:

Three taps of the high hat and small is silenced. Back when he was only a couple of months old he went through a phase of hating the car, screeching and flailing and choking on spit if we were on the road for more than five minutes. Cows saved us, playing on high rotation, its magic effect never fading. The beloved and I would describe our car trips with small in numbers of Cow repeats: a three Cow trip, a five Cow, a heavenly zero Cow (it’s pretty great, but even I have my limits), a horror-Cow-on-a-loop. On the up side, all this exposure to the vocal stylings of The Seldom Herd (seldom, ha!) stands me in good stead for days like today. Today I have sung it all over the house, hummed it as I’ve carried the small one to and from the car, played it in the car and acted it out with some very Cow-esque dance moves in the showers at the pool. Fun times.


Not an ambi-turner November 1, 2010

Filed under: No baking today,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 11:57 am
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I know it’s been very quiet here the past few days. On Sunday morning my neck underwent a mysterious transformation from being functional and largely unnoticed, to being a spasming, twisted menace. ‘But what did you dooooo?’ people ask. Nothing. Well, nothing remarkable. So irritating –  falling off horses, falling off motorbikes, hanging upside down from the trapeze, contorting and hula-ing have all failed to ever seriously incapacitate me. Yesterday, I glanced casually over my right shoulder as I was locking the car. And that was the last time I could look over my right shoulder. In the 36 hours since then I have been mostly horizontal on our couch, keeping my neck very very still and trying to keep the whining to a bare minimum. I have a range of movement that allows me to look left and a little downward, giving me a permanent and most empathetic-looking head tilt. Basically, I am Zoolander without Blue Steel.

I waited for this morning’s chiropractic appointment like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. I had never been to the chiropractor before and, completely ignoring the beloved’s advice, was having a happy delusion that he would gently manipulate my neck, expertly freeing the guilty nerve, and Voila! Cured I would be! He has always seemed very gentle: soothing phone voice, unhurried, smiles kindly at babies, that kind of thing. He even smells soothing. I’ve never seen the beloved come out of an appointment hobbling like Quasimodo and whimpering. Unlike me. Too paraphrase one of the torturer’s past patients – Jesus Fucking Chrysler. His first attempt at shifting my misplaced vertebrae gave me the I’m-seeing-stars-and-may-pass-out sweats. Seems ridiculous to be able to give birth to whole person with no drugs but be big wussy-pants about fleeting neck-cracking. He offered me a rest, but I felt that would just be prolonging the whole affair. Instead I got the beloved and small to come in and distract me. Beloved is mildly amused, the small one is hungry and tired. My boobs start leaking through the very glam treatment gown. And it still hurts like a bastard. ‘Voila!’ he says, or something like it. ‘I’ll see you on Wednesday!’ ‘Great’ I mumble, from my prostrate position on the floor, where my boobs and my eyes are leaking into the carpet. Neck is worse. Envisioning an eternity of pain, woe, being unable to pick up small or turn right, I wailed all the way home in the car. More accurately, I braced myself against the car door and the centre console and let tears drip miserably down my face, as actual wailing hurt too much. Have much more sympathy for people with chronic pain. 24 hours of pain has already turned me into a useless sniveller.

Fortunately, ten hours post-torture, am considerably improved. Still no turning right, but can lift up the small person without shrieking, can get up from the couch in under ten minutes and can contemplate a day without the beloved home to do everything and nurse me bossily. Can even contemplate going back to the chiropractor.

Have also had time to reflect on potential cause of terrible injury and suspect I may have jinxed myself. On Saturday night, after another good food day, culminating in a lush dark chocolate mousse from Chocolate Buddha, I suddenly felt awash with sugar. No Kidding, I hear. But not a little awash, not just I’ll-be-right-by-morning-pass-me-the-ice-cream, but oh-lordy-I’ve-eaten-so-much-dessert-in-the-past-few-months-that-my-veins-are-rivers-of-glucose. On the way home from lush dessert I decided that I’d detox for a month, with one designated treat day each week.

Obviously my body rebelled.


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.



Delusions of parenting October 7, 2010

Filed under: No baking today,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 12:15 pm
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That I’m snacking on plain dark chocolate is testament to the fact that not a lot of baking has gone on here this week. Partly because I’m stockpiling eggs to make a glorious chocolate mousse cake (chocolate mousse heaped into a flourless chocolate cake shell, oh heavenly heavenly concoction) and partly because I’ve worked a couple of shifts at the hospital. I’ve been back working for about two months now, long enough that it doesn’t seem new anymore but brief enough that I’m still running into colleagues I haven’t seen since I was pregnant. That’s one of the perks of working shifts on a rotating roster in a public hospital – an ever changing mix of colleagues to ride through the eight hours with, new gossip to catch up on, old arguments to revisit. The novelty factor of being back on the roster lives on a lot longer than it might in an office, giving me lots of opportunity to bang on smugly about the small one and how excellent he is. And giving other people lots of opportunity to offer up platitudes, disguised as questions about why I’m working again.

You’re back! (sympathetic smile) Needed some adult company? 

No. No that’s not why I’m back. I have no shortage of adult company. I might cohabit with a one year old and he might be divine, but thrillingly he is not the only person in my life.

Welcome back! (knowing smile) Wanted to use your brain again?

No. Not that either. Shocking, I know, but being a parent does require that you use your brain. If I really wanted to be a bitch about it, I’d say that good parenting requires more brain power than bad midwifery. The small person didn’t come with a check-the-box Care Pathway and even when I want to I can’t delay decisions to be made and hand them over to the next shift after eight hours. As the saying goes, children don’t come with any instructions, but midwifery comes with a lengthy policy and procedure manual, codes of practice and ethics and several relevant laws.

And my favourite:

You’re back! (conspiratorial smile) Wanted to get back to the real world?

As opposed to the Fantasy Island where brainless mothers go to hang out?

So, no to all of those. I’m back because I love the job and I missed it. I love the endorphin rush of seeing a new person slip into the world, the buzz of seeing a woman realise her own power, the satisfaction of knowing I have helped. And I love being the one who comes home, who gets to be regaled with the stories of the day, who is missed.


Oh what a difference a few hours make September 14, 2010

I hate being woken up by a migraine. Like a tiny person is trapped under my temple, trying to get out with a hammer drill. Pain, nausea, yadda yadda yadda. It’s 4am. No matter how many times this happens, I will always try and convince myself that if I just shut my eyes and press my fingers really hard into my temple I’ll fall asleep and wake up cured. 530am. Not cured. Shuffle blearily down hall, praying that my absence won’t wake small early, take two panadol, shuffle back to bed. Small still sleeping. Beloved getting ready for work. Shut eyes tightly and resume temple-pressing. 7am. Small awake and using me as climbing frame. Seems to be winking at me. Realise one eye is partly swollen closed. Super. Phone the beloved at work to accuse her of breaking the baby. She’s not here, so it must be her fault somehow. Boil kettle. That will help. Tea. Shower. Wash small’s eye with cool, boiled water. He’s thrilled. Contemplate breakfast. Still feeling sick and throbbing-heady. Eat toast anyway. Small begrudgingly eats some porridge, is mainly interested in making me play with his maraca. Loud noises. Day stretches out in front of me. Eggs sit accusingly in egg-crate on bench. Cannot bake today. Still recovering from coconut extravaganza. Had planned on lovely gardening. Would rather lie down with ice-pack clamped to my head. Thankfully one of the LMFs is having a slow work week. Take small to her place for a change of scenery and fun times with his two year old friend, L. Both children too grumpy for any kind of fun. More panadol. More tea. More toast. Small scoffs a quarter of my piece of toast with nutella and perks up instantly. L takes one look at his nutella-smeared face and tells him he’s a disgrace. This declared sternly from behind her own mask of chocolatey goodness. Quite funny really. Sense of humour returning. Must be feeling better. Wander in LMF’g garden, making grand plans for its future. Am inspired to reconsider own gardening.

Take small home via nursery near LMF’s house. Nursery run by two endearingly peculiar women who dispense gardening advice like a stream of consciousness as they meander through the pots and stands of mysterious acrylic knits. Just get down the op-shop and get some terylene curtains to fling over these, that’ll keep off the possums, you don’t want to bother with those bags of topsoil no put those back just dig in lots of poo, blow up old wine cask bags and tie them to the branches, put a clothes line on its side and pull one lot of strings this way and one that way and then throw another curtain over that, don’t let the afternoon sun at your canes, get out at night and look on some hard rubbish collections for old trellis, you don’t want to go spending money on fancy new stuff, those plastic bits in the bottom of fruit boxes very handy for this, make sure your tomato bed is 18 degrees before your seedlings go in….. Go home with many bags of poo and a mandarin tree. Unload car into front garden. Feeling quite excited by prospect of gardening now. Lunch with small. He semi-happily gets through some pumpkin goop, a bit of yoghurt and half a salada with cashew spread. He sleeps. I loll on the couch with supremely trashy crime novel. Have not thought about tiny person with drill for some time now. Am cured. Huzzah! Eat some chocolate to celebrate.

Small wakes up. Beloved gets home. Afternoon sun streams into front garden. We all sit in sun drinking coffee. Well, not small. He just scoots around with no pants on, eating leaves. Man-next-door waves happily to us over newly exposed and surprisingly low fence and drags around his garden bin for me to use. Agnes clacks down the drive, ecstatic at this rare opportunity to shuck of the responsibilities of managing the workforce and forage alone in the front garden. LMF arrives with six year old M, my excellent gardening assistant. Beloved, small and LMF lie in the sun. M and I do digging and ‘crunching’ (M’s favourite activity, stabbing the ground with a pitchfork to loosen up our heavy clay soil), and find homes for a beurre bosc pear, a nashi, the mandarin and some rhubarb crowns. We carefully spread straw around the newly planted trees. Agnes carefully scratches it all away, glaring hard at us (did I say you could put that there? who authorised this?). The light begins to fade. LMF and M go home. Beloved and small go in to potter in the house. I do a last bit of pottering outside. In a spurt of enthusiasm I decide to give these chard chips a try:

So, I may have been a little enthusiastic with the salt, but otherwise a success. Even small thought they made an excellent pre-dinner snack. Dark now. Chooks in bed. Beloved cooking dinner. Bath for small and I. Happily tired and grubby from digging and crunching and planting. Restorative pasta dinner. Tangy lemon tart, courtesy of The Granny. And now it’s time for a mug of tea. Good night all. Good night tiny person with drill. I’m glad you took the afternoon off. Feel free to take the rest of the week.


Ten questions to stir the sleeping feminist August 19, 2010

Filed under: No baking today,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 7:54 am
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Almost three years ago blue milk posted “What does a feminist mother look like?”. She flung ten questions on feminist motherhood out into the blogosphere and ever since mothers have been answering. There is a mountain of answers, both short and long, impassioned and uncertain. So many little windows into the lives and minds of other mothers. On face value it seems a simple thing, ten questions, like a chain email that you can answer in a bored moment, or one of those magazine quizzes that slot you into one of three categories of girlfriend/shopper/lover/mental health diagnosis, and when I first read the post a couple of months ago I was all set to slap down my answers, fingers hovering over the keyboard, half-drunk mug of tea at the ready. But nothing came out. It wasn’t so simple. A great big jumble of words just sort of clumped up on the other side of the door to my mind. Like a huge and awkward social event where no-one really knows anyone else and there’s just a lot of milling around, people drinking cheap wine and the woman in the corner rearranging the contents of her handbag in order to look busy. So the questions sat on my desk and in my mind, poking at the jumble with little sticks until words got to meet other words that they liked and eventually they all got on so well that they formed an excitable line and came conga-ing out the door.

1. How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?

I can’t remember not being a feminist. I didn’t have the experience of some women, of being born into a life of struggle and oppression, an experience that sparks off the urge to fight and speak up. I was born into the privilege of a white, middle-class family of Quakers. You can’t really be a Quaker and not be a feminist. Quakers are all about equality, peace, tolerance and social justice. With a few glaring exceptions, these values have percolated through my mother’s side of my family for generations. There is never an assumption that children, of either gender, born into the family will follow a set path or that a path would be unavailable on the basis of gender, just the assumption that they will work hard, be aware of the world around them and not expect to be handed anything on any kind of platter.

2. What has surprised you about motherhood?

Constantly being proved wrong. About everything. And not minding. My lovely midwife friends (the LMFs) have heard me declare many things with great certainty (‘teething’s a crock’, ‘of course he’ll take a bottle even if we don’t offer him one until he’s seven months old’ and so on) and have kindly refrained from saying ‘I told you so’ every single time.

3. How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?

My initial reaction to this is to think that my feminism hasn’t changed, that it’s just an immutable part of my personality, but this isn’t true. My reactions to the abuse and oppression of women have grown more and more fierce. Working as a midwife has exposed me to just a selection of the myriad ways that women are abused, even educated, privileged, middle-class white women. And every day I think that if they are subject to abuse because they are women, what the hell must it be like for the non-english speaking, the homeless, the illiterate, the substance-addicted and the young women that also walk through our doors to have their babies? I would also like to think that my feminism has become better informed, but the more I read and the more discussions I have, the more I find there is to know and the more revoltingly privileged I feel.

4. What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?

Motherhood. Hmm. When I emerged from the fog of giving birth and absorbing the fact that I had borne a son I recall feeling lucky. Stupidly I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t yet have to worry about helping a girl-child negotiate the modern hyper-sexualised world, teaching her how to find and keep her sense of self-worth. Then I realised that not only do I still have to do that for my son, but that I also have to teach him how to respect and love the girls and women in his life, how to be a better man than so many of the men in public life. I don’t focus on specifically parenting in a feminist way but I don’t see how I could separate the two. My parenting will always be coloured by my feminism. It’s not just about not saturating his world with trucks and blue t-shirts, it’s about striving to model the values I hold and about filling our world with other people that model these values. I feel blessed to have a partner who is also a woman – I think it’s very freeing for us as a family. There are no set roles for either of us, except that at the moment I’m the breastfeeding one, so our children will grow up seeing (hopefully!) that being a family is about sharing responsibility and negotiation to meet everyone’s needs, not about gendered parental roles or unequal expectations.

5. Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?

I haven’t yet felt compromised or a sense of failure as a feminist mother. Still, the small one is only one year old, so I’m sure there’s plenty of time for that.

6. Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?

Yes. Being the type of mother I am and the type of person I am means that fitting in with other new mothers has been a challenge at times. My ‘wanting to be liked’ side conflicts with my ‘opinionated and judgemental’ side. Yes, I want to be tolerant and respect other people’s choices, but I also want to speak my mind without being pigeon-holed as the freaky-hippy-lesbian mum.

7. Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?

Everything involves sacrifice. I don’t buy into the notion that anyone can have it all in any context. Being in a relationship involves sacrifice, being a child or a sibling or a friend involves sacrifice, just being a person involves sacrifice at some point. For me and my family, it’s a matter of trying to acknowledge and balance everyone’s needs and having a very long-term perspective. Yes, having a baby means life is all about the baby in the present. That doesn’t mean there won’t be more space for other people’s needs later. Perhaps another part of mothering as a feminist is teaching my children that everybody has needs, including mama.

8. If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

As I said in Q4, my partner is a woman. She’s pretty on board with the whole feminist motherhood gig. She’d just rather I didn’t want to talk to her about it so much.

9. If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?

We are attachment parents, plural. Yes I breastfeed our son, a lot, but there’s nothing else that my partner can’t do for him equally as well. I could make a great long list about all the things we share responsibility for, but it’s simpler to say we just share everything. My partner goes out to work more. I stay in to work more. When the small person is awake he’s not far from either of us.

10. Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so, how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?

Yes, I feel feminism has fed the unrealistic expectation that women can have it all (see Q7) and that hasn’t helped anyone, women or men, but I also feel it’s like any process – the pendulum swings from one extreme to another before it settles. As for what we have gained – I think feminism has made mothers feel better about wanting more than mothering. Mothering is great, but it’s not all that and a bag of chips for every woman. No one should have to feel that they are a bad mother, or a bad woman, because they want to go back to paid work or even because they want ten minutes a day to eat biscuits, alone, on the couch, uninterrupted.

So, there it is, a little window into the life and mind of this mother.


Wishful thinking August 17, 2010

Filed under: Days of our chickens' lives,No baking today — titchandboofer @ 4:11 am
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Egg production remains at a standstill here. Really, if it’s not one excuse it’s another. First it’s too cold, then Lola’s stealing the eggs, now they’re all obviously far too distracted by the chicks to get on with any laying. Betty and her babies remain separated from the flock, living in the little broody house with its covered outdoor run, safe from predators – crows, butcher birds and Agnes. They had a brief, supervised sojourn into the yard yesterday. This did not go well. Agnes took immediate advantage of the situation, deciding that chicks are never too young to be pecked firmly into their appropriate place in the order. Betty had a complete nerve turn, skittering about and warbling hard, trying to wedge her excitable babies back under her wings. The babies seemed unfazed but I don’t think we’ll be repeating that experiment for a while.

Getting the hens up for breakfast this morning, I peered hopefully into their house, scouting for eggs. Instead I find what you see above: it looks suspiciously like Agnes and Mrs P have spent their night having a pillow fight – and Lola got to be the pillow. Fortunately she still has a few feathers left on her but it’s little wonder she has spent the morning trying to get in the broody house with Betty.

Anyhoo, with no eggs to hand, the only baking here today was bread (for a bit of variety I replaced half the flour with wholemeal – yum say all). Once that was done, the small person and I went off to the library to return the Fat Ladies and Michel and scout for new books for small to hide down a heating vent. After one marginally embarrassing encounter with a very tall man in the non-fiction stacks (I was staring at him fixedly for an inappropriately long period of time, trying to work out where I knew him from, and he started staring back, probably wondering who the nut job with the grubby hair and the grubby baby strapped to her was. Then I realised he is the guy who busks outside the library. Then I was wondering if it would be weird to point out that he’s the busking guy – which he’s no doubt aware of. That got me wondering if I did say that, whether he would then point out that I’m one of the irritating non-donators of coins, who just bustles past, failing to appreciate his endless playing of Hunters & Collectors. By this point I realised the only thing I should be doing was moving away at speed toward the nearest cup of tea. Fortunately he seemed to feel the same way and no awkward conversation happened at all.) I found three excellent books to drool over pointlessly while I wait for eggs: The Delia Collection: Baking, The Jewish Mama’s Kitchen and epicure: chocolate. More on those later.

Books in hand, we were on our way to the loans desk when I was struck by a vision – my library card, on the bench, in the bathroom (what can’t be used to distract a baby with while you brush your teeth/wash your face/dry the cat?) at home. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just give the librarian my details and she will kindly release the books from her custody. No. Impossible. Books cannot step out the door of the library without being accompanied by a blue plastic card. The rule cannot be bent. Precedents cannot be set. Looking mournful will not help. But then again it might… after stern reiteration of the rule, the librarian looked at the small person and asked me if he had a library card. He did not. Keen as I may be, a library card did not seem essential for a person too small to walk or carry his own stack of literature back to the car. I was wrong. Small person now in possession of his own card, which he generously used to borrow my books for me.