Archive for August, 2007

I have to learn the words to “O Canada”. Months ago, when my mother was flying on Air Canada to Heathrow, I went to the Air Canada website to check the status of her flight. E1 was on my lap as I looked at the screen and, for some reason, I started to sing the words “Air Canada” over and over to the tune of the Canadian national anthem. Not knowing the the music past the first few notes, I winged the rest of it, building to a very exciting and rather insane-sounding crescendo. E1 thought it was fantastic and has regularly requested repeat performances ever since. “Air Candida? Air Candida pleeeeeease!

But I do feel I am doing her, the anthem, and the whole of Canada itself a bit of disservice by butchering their national song so badly, so it’s time to learn the words and the music properly.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.


With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!


From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

But, national anthems of countries she’s never visited aside, E1’s true favourite band is the Foo Fighters. At least once a day — usually when Daddy gets home — she starts begging, “Guitars pleeeeease…. Foo Fighters pleeeeeease!” He puts on her favourite track, Best of You, and she says, “Loud?” with gleeful anticipation. And when the loud bit kicks in, she starts bouncing around the room like a lunatic.

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I am terrified. This is probably the sleep deprivation talking, but tonight I have been coming over terrified over and over. I was letting it out by kind of yowling like a cat in pain, but that scared the baby (and occasionally, my husband) so I’ve stopped. But, man, it just rises up inside me and it’s hard to contain.

How is this going to work? How is it ever going to work? When we started on this journey, the people we talked to were discussing salaries that were fabulous — two or three times (in $-dollars) what M could ever make over here (in £-pounds). Very very workable. A nice, comfortable (but not extravagant), normal life, and we could afford for me to stay home with the kids. And with the house prices in the US being so much lower than they are over here, we could have a house big enough for the four of us to live in without tripping over each other. Big enough for us to all sit at the table at once, without one of us having to eat on the couch — imagine that! We had this info from several sources, all of them reliable, all independent. And so we began the visa process.

But now… now we have the visa, so there is a clock ticking. And my mom — who is networking hard for us, talking to every plumbing company in town — is suddenly finding all the salaries are considerably lower than what we were told before. Lower by about half. HALF!!! I don’t know what to do. I never expected to move over there and live in the lap of luxury, but I wanted to be able to break even at the end of the month! We’ve drawn up a budget — realistic but incredibly tight — and these salaries aren’t even covering that.

Combine that with the intimidating complexity of private healthcare, the pitiful vacation allowances,  the sheer cost of moving from one continent to another, the pain of leaving family and friends, the place that has been home to me my whole adult life and the only place M has ever known, and I am terrified.

Suddenly, I am reconsidering everything. Do we stay or do we go? If we stay, how will that work? We can’t afford the cost of living here. If we go, will it work? Are these huge problems all illusions, frightening to look at but that disappear when you reach out to grab them? I don’t know what to do, or which way to turn. The most terrifying thing is the unknown, and the unknown is at the very core of this move. And so I sit, and waves of fear wash over me, and I want to let out a yowl that rises straight from my gut.

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My goal this week was to carry on with getting E2 up early, in order to get her into an afternoon nap routine and going to sleep earlier at night. We had some success yesterday — she fell asleep at 12.30 on Sunday night so I was able to get to sleep by 1.30 myself (I find that by the time I get her put in bed, get washed up myself, come back downstairs to shut everything off, check on E1, and then get in bed and fall asleep, an hour has passed, and I don’t seem to be able to improve on that). Getting to bed that bit earlier meant I was able to get myself — and everyone else — up that bit earlier. It was a good start to the new routine, and I felt energised and got a lot of extra things done yesterday to boot.

The nap was less successful initially, but we got there in the end. She was falling asleep as we came home from the shops at 1pm, so I knew she was tired. I held her off for an hour to better align her with E1’s naptime. At 2pm, I fed her and she fell asleep after 20 minutes. But she woke as I was carrying her to bed, and stayed awake for 30 minutes, finally working up to a proper cry, so I came back and fed her again. This time she fed for nearly an hour before coming off, but again she woke up completely the moment I laid her in her cot. I’d had enough and left her to it. She was full, she was tired, she’d been loved and comforted — her job was to fall asleep, but she took another 40 minuted to do it, crying on and off throughout. So a nap process that began at 2pm finally resulted in sleep at a ridiculously late 4.20pm.

And bedtime was no better: 1am when she finally stopped feeding, putting me in bed for 2am. Fine, I thought, I’ll still get up early and just suffer through a bleary day. But she woke up crying for a feed at 3.50am and has just now finished. It’s twenty-to-five and I’ve had less than two hours’ sleep! What hope have I now of continuing the up-early pattern?!? I will end up in that same desperate bid for sleep that gets us all off to another late start. Failed again, before we’d hardly even started!

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E1 knows that our friend Amanda has given her a lot of her favourite things, and because they’ve come from Amanda, they are named after her. Thus we have the blue Amanda-cardigan and the pink Amanda-cardigan and a whole series of Amanda-books. Amanda is an important person.

Today she was at the table for lunch when she picked up her blue-and-yellow toy phone, “Hel-looo Amanda!” I put a bowl of strawberries in front of her. “Dodies, Amanda. Dodies!” She ate one, then another. “Oh Amanda, delicious! De-li-cious, Amanda!”

I stood in the kitchen, silent, shaking with laughter.

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We are rapidly approaching the point of E1 being an afternoon napper and E2 being a morning napper — and that is just never going to work! We’d end up never leaving the house again.

The problem is that I let E2 sleep too late in the mornings. It’s vicious cycle — she keeps me up too late at night (usually 1.30-2-2.30, sometimes up again at 5ish) so I end up trying to catch up by sleeping as late as E1 will let me. When I hear her wake, I get up and wash, then get her up and washed, and leave E2 to sleep the whole time. What can I say? Life is so much easier when E2 isn’t screaming blue murder in the background.

So by the time I get E2 up it’s quite late in the morning — more like the time a baby would wake from a morning nap than from her night’s sleep. She is almost becoming a morning-napper by default.

How to fix this? I decided few days of being made to get up earlier and then nap in the afternoon ought to set her in a new pattern. Under normal circumstances, that would be a painful proposition, as it would mean I’d have to drag myself through the first couple of days on 2-3-4 hours’ sleep. But this weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend, so I had M’s help for 3 days in a row. I hoped that would do the trick!

It started alright: E2 got me up for a feed on Saturday morning at 7am and we didn’t let her to go back to sleep. By afternoon-naptime, she was hanging and fell soundly asleep at the first suggestion. Success! Except… she didn’t go to sleep that night until 1am. I made the assumption that I’d let her nap go on too long.

On Sunday morning, she woke up at 9.30. I’d meant to get her up earlier, but I slept straight through as well, being tired as I was from the late night. Nevertheless, she was still fairly easy to put down for her nap in the afternoon, and we kept it a bit shorter. I hoped for an early night.

But it was a disaster. She fed and started to look sleepy early on in the evening, then suddenly stopped feeding and started talking to me all bright-eyed and joyful. So we tried again a bit later, and exactly the same thing happened. And then again later still. At 1am, she was still feeding more out of politeness than real hunger, and was very much wide-awake. What on earth to do with this child?

I think she must have her first tooth coming because feeding her the last few days has been very painful! She has started to bite down while she feeds and, when she comes off, she keeps her jaw clamped shut and just pulls off. She’d been doing that all night and I was fed up with it, so at 1.30am, I took her upstairs and unceremoniously plonked her in bed. I listened to her complain for about 5 minutes and then it all went quiet. I assumed she’d fallen asleep, so I tidied up the living room and headed upstairs.

I checked on E2 before going to bed. In her protestations at being put down, she’d got herself turned over, sideways in the cot, and with one arm trapped in the bars. I picked her up gently and righted her, but she woke and began to cry. I tried in vain to settle her, and then left her alone to cry while I cleaned my teeth, hoping the dark and quiet might carry her back to sleep. No such luck. She built herself up to a bitter cry, so I gave up and settled myself down to feed her. At least this time she was focused on the feed and so it was relatively pain free.

It was 3am before I finally got in bed — so much for getting an earlier night. If we could break this late-night pattern, my whole world would change. If I got to bed even at 11, I could start my days earlier, get more done, maybe even grab some exercise and start to lose this weight. I could be in control again.

But right now I am trapped in this cycle, forever scrabbling for sleep and lurching from one day to the next in a slow-witted haze. I had high hopes we could make some progress this weekend, but it appears we have not. I got her up this morning at 9, after only 6 hours’ sleep, and M kept her up while I went back to bed. She was cranky and tired for him, and then wouldn’t take a nap in the afternoon. None of it makes any sense! It’s so difficult!

M said, “She keeps you up all night, and now she’s biting. Maybe she’s a vampire!” and then walked off chuckling away to himself.

With her for a daughter and him for a husband, I shall surely go mad.


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I suspect E2 will turn out to be an extrovert. I don’t know what to do with an extroverted child! Her dad and I are both introverts (he an ISFJ, me an INTP), and I’m quite certain E1 is as well. E2 wants constant attention — no, she demands constant attention — and if she’s left on her own for even just minutes, she screams as if her life were coming to a violent end. She’s been like this since the day she was born, and it’s very stressful indeed. When I say she screams, I don’t mean she cries, grumbles, or complains — I mean she opens her mouth and hits a pitch that nearly shatters glass, and the sound only stops long enough for her to draw breath to start it up again. Nothing stops it — not pacifiers, not toys, not the telly — nothing, except the focused attention of a real person. And that means me.

Except that I can’t spend all day entertaining her. I do have to get on with the rest of life. And so she screams. She screams while I wash dishes; she screams while I do laundry; she screams while I change E1; she screams while I furiously shove some lunch in my mouth at 4pm because I’ve realised the reason my hands are shaking is that I have completely forgotten to eat anything because I’ve spent all day trying to stop her from screaming. Doing anything more involved than that is simply out of the question. Her screaming — that noise which melts my brain and makes the room go dark and stops me from thinking — has become the soundtrack to my life. It’s not because she’s hungry, or tired, or in pain. She just craves attention.

I had a perfect example of it yesterday. She had spent most of the day screaming — with a few blessed breaks but, nonetheless, fairly constant throughout the day. We were due to visit a friend in the afternoon and I was a little dubious as to whether there was even any point in going. But when we got there, she changed into a different baby completely: she was good as gold, sitting in her carseat and smiling contentedly, kicking her feet with glee. The very picture of a perfect baby. Why? Because she was in a room filled with people: three adults, two toddlers, and two other babies. She was in her element. No one was actually paying any attention to her specifically, but she was surrounded by people and noise and she loved it. That’s when it dawned on me — this baby’s problem is that she is an extrovert in house full of introverts. My friends hardly believe me when I try to explain what she’s like at home, because she’s just so happy when we’re out and surrounded by people.

The situation will improve, I know, as soon as E2 starts to crawl and she can go off herself and find the attention she craves, rather than having to call for it to come to her. Then the she can follow E1 around all day — and, eventually, E1 will come to me and beg me to get E2 to leave her alone! Oh my poor baby — what a curse it must be to someone who craves the company of others, in a house full of people who relish their time on their own!

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Before I was a mother, I used to think that “kissing it better” was a bit naff, a bit sissy-ish. All these little kids running around, banging their heads, and coming over for a kiss in the deluded belief that it will make everything better. Please.

But the other day, before I even realised what was happening, I heard myself say, “Come here and let Mummy kiss it better.” What?! Even as the words came out of my mouth, I found them distasteful. But she did come running straight over, held out the injured limb, received a healing kiss, smiled broadly, and went running off to play happily again. It was magic!

And what was more magic was how it warmed my heart, how I came over all contented because my daughter wanted comfort from me in her moment of hurt. I fixed it. I cured her ill. We are yin and yang, we move in a circle around one another, we are each other’s worlds. It pulled on all the strings that make a mother a mother.

Today we were coming down the stairs and she banged her wrist on the corner of the banister. “Owwwwww!” I was poised, ready to administer my magic, all-healing kiss. I leant forward, pursed my lips… She looked at her wrist and tilted her head, then brought it up to her own lips and kissed it. Job done, she jumped off the last stair and ran off happily, leaving me with my kiss still poised on my lips, wholly redundant.

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