Wednesday, 25 April 2007

what's cooking

We had a few days of rain which made a lot of mud and anxiety for those building formwork for very complicated concrete pours. The scaffolding got bogged. This is going to be the bit in the extension that will make you know there was an architect involved. It's exciting and scary to watch. There's always the possibility that we might get caught up in the error side of the trial and error part of innovation. When it all comes together it's spectacular but if it goes wrong our backyard will be a concrete explosion wasteland.
There's been a whole lot of baking today (pissalidiere and raspberry frangipane tart). I'm not sure why. I think it might be my own weird way of meditating through Anzac Day. If I'd been a round during the war I would have been baking and knitting for the guys at the front instead of fighting myself. I've been thinking a lot about those guys today as I finished off Wil's crochet hat and pulled tarts out of the oven. I can't add anything that hasn't been said by so many before me. It makes me this sad. Luckily I could laugh away a little of the sadness with our household laugh machine. With 9 separate fart types and remote light sensitive trigger it never ceases to amuse.

Hat stats:
60 stitch crochet in the round base up
37gm Cleckheaton merino bambino, 4.5mm hook
Pattern? made it up as I went along!

Frangipane tart info:
I use Stephanie Alexander's because it is miles better than the other version I've tried. Pretty much every vrsion I've ever bought in a bakery or cafe has been awful. The home made version is sublime.

Make and blind bake a shortcrust tart case (Today I took a shortcut and used frozen. Never again. It was hideous. Rather not make it at all) or little tarts if you so desire.

The frangipane is 120gms butter creamed with 150gms castor sugar, with 200gms almond meal, 2 eggs and 3 tbs brandy stirred in. Don't skip the brandy because it really makes it. You put the frangipane in the tart and bake it at 180 degrees for 25 mins.

For a plain tart, spread a bit of apricot jam over the pastry before you add the frangipane and halfway through cooking add some flaked almonds on top. My version had (frozen) raspberries scattered over the top. Stephanie also suggests poached pears, cherries or soaked dried apricots. I'm sure the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

week 10

On Monday I was a woman on the verge. The nights were getting longer and harder and I found myself at 5am walking around with a crying baby and feeling everything cave in on me. When you are really tired and you can’t soothe your baby at 5am the world seems like a very dismal place. There were tears. Lots of tears.

So Monday morning I drew a line in the sand and D and I decided it was time to break the mother only feeding bond. This was something I didn’t manage with Amy until much later. Perhaps it’s just sheer determination, but I seem to be better at expressing this time and through persistence Wil now takes a bottle. I won’t lie – expressing and bottle feeding comes with its own problems, but after just a few nights of sleeping for 7 hours straight I feel almost like my old self and happy to put up with the jump out of bed to madly express before Wil demands his first feed of the day.

We’ve worked out a routine that one of us does the last evening feed at around 11pm and the early rise with Amy at 7am, while the other goes to bed as early as they like and gets to sleep late, but has all the interruptions of keeping Wil happy through the night. We’re trying it out on a week to week basis. Hopefully by the time D has finished his long service leave and has to go back to work those sleep ins won’t be quite so critical.

So I’m doing the top and tail shift this week and not only am I discovering unbroken sleep again (thank the lord for ear plugs), but best of all I get to have that lovely morning time with Amy. She has been very happy too. We’ve missed each other. It’s usually a good time of day for Wil too, so we have cuddles and smiley time on the couch in between getting breakfast and clothes on and the dishwasher unpacked.

And last night when I was madly trying to get a few work hours in before bed and Wil started fussing, D gave him a bottle and he was quite content. The freedom!

It’s lucky all this has been going so well because the visit to the paediatrician on Monday didn’t go as well as I might have hoped. Yes, we got a script for the anti reflux medication, and it is having some impact on pain, but it certainly doesn’t touch the chucking and although it isn’t meant to I’m pretty sure it’s putting the whole poo system out of whack. So yeah, reflux is just something we need to accept.

It didn’t help that I was so tired and fed up when we went, but when we started talking about Wil’s dysfunctional snoz I felt quite depressed. While we are well aware of the problematic nature of nasal surgery, and all the reasons why we want to avoid it if at all possible, the lovely Doctor R agreed that Wil’s case was quite extreme. He wants to press the ear nose and throat specialist to consider some kind of intervention because he thinks there are significant risks if we do nothing as well, and he’s not so optimistic that growth will solve the problem as well or as early as we need it to.

He told us to prepare ourselves for the very likely scenario that when Wil gets a cold he will have trouble breathing and will need to be admitted to hospital to have some kind of tube or valve inserted in his nose to let air in. Go straight to casualty and tell them Wil is a patient of mine and Mister B’s and no one will think you have done the wrong thing. And if you can, try and go North for a holiday mid cold season, just to get enough energy back to make it through to Spring.

Soooooo, I’m really looking forward to that. It’s mid autumn now so tenterhooks are out and ready. And I’m looking out for some cheap airfare and accommodation packages for somewhere hot.

On the up side I am really exceptionally happy that we’ve found ourselves a lovely, sensible and supportive advocate in Doctor R. Our experience with Amy and her dysfunctional ears has taught me that when your child has something wrong with them that can’t be fixed but has to be managed, you need someone you can work with. Someone who respects you and your decision making position, who is informative and helpful, realistic and reassuring and prepared to tell you what you need to know.

It’s also nice to be told you aren’t crazy or hopeless that you think the situation is serious and that you need help to manage it.

And it’s been a busy week for my non-mum self too. Hot on the heals of last week’s new research job I’ve been asked to teach a few craft workshops. Exciting! They aren’t for ages, but since they both involve knitting, I need to get my skates on to do a few sample pieces and write up some pattern instructions. It’s actually a bit overwhelming because I haven’t done it before, but I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway because I know I’ll love it when I get on a roll.

Amy and I did a photoshoot for my current book project.

My volunteer work at Amy’s child care and kinder (is that my mum or non mum self?) has ramped up a bit this week too. I’m now taking on the position of treasurer, something I am hopelessly underqualified for but which was bestowed upon me as the ‘least weak link’ amongst committee members. For the past year I have served as chair and invested a lot of time and energy, so it is with mixed emotions I move sideways. New tricks for this old dog, and a few projects to finish up from my previous role, so it’s double time on that front.

More dirt moving, more concrete reinforcing and more formwork. More meals to cook for a wonderful friend who has come over and gotten dirty hands and saved D’s back from total devastation.

And planning for the craft weekend next weekend. Constantly trying to reign myself in because really it will be a miracle if I get anything done at all aside from a bit of knitting during the car trip.

And I feel terrible I haven’t managed to get to the give aways again. There’s just been too much of everything else and I keep forgetting and not having time. Being realistic, I’m postponing it for a few weeks.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

week 9 from little things big things grow

Wil has started smiling in earnest which is lucky because I am tired and cranky and downright resentful about being so tethered and in demand. As my mum says, evolution has programed babies to get real cute real quick so neanderthal man didn't dash their heads against the cave wall. Indeed.

Between the reflux and the 'anatomically abnormally narrow nasal passages and collapsed nasal valves' Wil has trouble getting air in, keeping food down or sleeping for long periods without gasping for air. Thankfully there isn't too much crying in the night, but an awful lot of snorting and snuffling and snoring which effectively prevents me from sleeping even though there's nothing I can do by being awake. The whole breathing feeding thing tends to get away from him too and the milk goes down the wrong way so there's lots of coughing and spraying milk between vomits. The ear nose and throat specialist said the fact that he's made it this far is encouraging, the first three months are the most dangerous. Indeed.

But I'm loving that flaming red grapevine - hello autumn!

And the house works are going like gangbusters. There's been concrete even. And the removal of a section of fence to get footings in. Our neighbour has some gardening issues - that's a solid wall of vegetation! And the photos don't reflect the true enormity of the thing. D retires to the beanbag each night and passes out from exhaustion. That's hard yakka.

And I can't wait to see Wil in this divine suit D's folks brought back from their recent trip to India. I think those Bollywood studs are dreamy and I just love love love that rich red, it takes me right back to India in an instant.

Oh and because I'm insane I've agreed to do a job in the next month or so. A wee research paper. I know I don't have time and I know it's bound to see me complaining all the more about being pulled in a thousand directions and starved of so much as a moment for crafting, but there are times when you really need to take the tough road now to set you on a better path for the future. This is the kind of work I had really hoped to get when I did my Masters - flexible, contained and brain active - so how could I pass it up?

And there was something else really important I meant to write about but I can't quite remember it right now...oh deja vu...

Thursday, 12 April 2007

we all went on a summer holiday

I won't bore you with the story of how we packed the car, left the house, came back twice for things we forgot (mobile phone, wallet, scissors and measuring tape - OK the last two weren't critical bu tthe first two were! I'd blame the forgetting on PNND (post natal neurological disorder), but it was D who forgot the wallet.) then only made it to the other side of town before the car died and we came back home.

Nooo I won't bore you with that.

It was a day late be we made it to the beach with the help of a borrowed car and had some fabulous weather and a lovely time. Amy really enjoyed smothering her brother I enjoyed the salt air and sand in my toes.

Amazing what you get done when you are a passenger in a car on an Easter holiday. Finally, a hoodie with a hood! The vital stats:
Pattern: Knitting pure and simple baby tunic, size 18 months
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, 4 and a half balls (that's approximately 9 yards over what the pattern says - at last I am conforming!)
Modifications: I opted against the i-cord around the hood, so instead of casting on extra for the cord casing I continued the 4 stitches of garter to finish the hood edge.
Verdict: A great pattern pattern to knit and a lovely finished product. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the knit in the round neck down just works and I really like the detail of the increases on the raglan. I thought the three needle cast off (that's the same as kitchener stitch, right?) on the hood top might come out a bit flatter, but I'm just splitting hairs now.

I'm excited about starting a new project. If there's one thing that's better than the pride of finishing a project it's the promise that comes with starting a new one. I think I might even be able to crochet whilst breastfeeding if I play my cards right.

Thanks for the good wishes on battling reflux. I was downright excited to try Nikki's suggestion of sneaking in medication whilst breastfeeding, but despite my best efforts Wil had me sussed and it all ended in tears. No doubt there will be updates all too soon.

And there's something else really important I had to write about but buggered if I can remember what it was now...

Thursday, 5 April 2007

week 8 in pursuit (or the choices we make)

I used to be a firm adherent to the nurture over nature school but when I became a mother everything I saw and read served to shift me along the spectrum towards nature. Seeing lots of kids grow and develop in a wide array of situations has entrenched my view that children are born with most of what they will use to become the people they will mature into.

Now I'm not saying parenting doesn't matter - of course, of course it does - and how a person is exposed to the world and their experiences in it shape how their basic make-up develops. Nutrition, healthcare, stimulation and most importantly loving human relationships make all the difference in the world. But I used to see babies more like blank slates than little adults just waiting to develop enough to let us know who they were.

When Amy was a baby I resisted the great Parenting Industry which encourages parents, especially mothers, to believe that it is their actions and choices that determine their child's health, behaviour and future prospects. the credo that if you do everything right you can have perfect children. This movement seems to be led largely by the market, medical practitioners and other mothers.

All these people have vested interests in your choices. They make stuff or sell stuff or have expertise or their own choices that they are looking to validate by seeing you do what they think is best. Their advice or products or experience may well be fabulous and if you take their path you and your child may well benefit.

But children, like adults, are imperfect creatures. They have physical and behavioural imperfections which are a product of their humanity. They can't do everything well, they do bad things, they go through phases we would rather they didn't. Some of this is developmental, some of it a part of their genes or personality and as a parent I strongly resist trying to run away or deny this. More importantly I try not to take responsibility for the person they are.

Don't get me wrong. I seek and take advice. I read research and purchase products. I chase the promise of a tantrum free life, a child with perfect manners, a neat and tidy family life, perfect health. But I start each of these transaction always trying to be mindful that there are no answers, there is no perfection. Every child, every mother, every family is different. Above all I want to respect my children as people and stay strong in the confidence I have in myself as a mother.

There were times that D thought I was downright rude to doctors, and it's true I was. But after an encounter with a doctor who dealt with my concerns by telling me I had unrealistic expectations of my daughter's wellness, just hours before we were in hospital and she nearly died, I decided I'd rather be rude than doubt the things I knew to be true. I was Amy's voice and advocate when she was unable to negotiate the world on her own.

But I am not always sure I can pick the line between the things you endure and try to accept and the things you need to do something about. You know the expression - grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. I do OK on serenity and courage, but the wisdom thing is a tough nut to crack.

I remember driving home one night from the hospital after a visit with Amy's specialist when she was very small. We had left with a decision to make about treating her for a physical problem. When we stopped at the traffic lights D slumped forward on the steering wheel and said I've never had to make a really important decision before. Because the thing was that no matter which path we chose, it carried risks and down sides. There was no answer, only percentages. And no matter what happened it would be because of our choice.

By nature I'm a decisive person, I'd rather make a choice, move on and clean up the mess if I got it wrong. I do my research, but not endlessly and I don't procrastinate looking for a perfect solution. But when your child is involved it is hard not to spend at least a little time worrying about the choices you make. Of not feeling like you absolutely have to get every decision right.

So at week 8 I am revisiting an issue I had with Amy - reflux. I witnessed the family history of chronic vomiting and reflux with my nieces, and when Amy was a babe I resisted suggestions she should be medicated. Some babies are just chuckers was what I firmly believed. It didn't seem to worry her too much and a churning washing machine seemed a reasonable price to pay for keeping her medication free.

With Wil the onset of reflux has been much more obvious, and more obviously associated with pain. And the chucking and churning washing machine seem a much bigger burden this time around. Plus since Amy's birth I too have been medicated to reflux and it has made a big difference to me.

But there's no such thing as a free lunch, and the first line non-prescription medicine is proving such a pain to administer that I am beginning to wonder if I didn't get it right the first time. This is by no means a miracle cure. Sure he vomits less (though he still vomits more than his fair share), and I think he cries from pain less (though it's hard to be sure), but to administer it I need to express breast milk because he won't take water, mix it with a very gelling powder in sterile conditions and get it into him with a teaspoon, syringe or bottle. Pretty much every time he vomits up the drug because he doesn't understand about swallowing anything but bosom feeds. The bottle seems the most effective method, but it takes about 30 mins to get 20mls into him (drip drip drip) - plus I now have to deal with bottles and sterilising and storage of breastmilk. I am supposed to do this six times a day, and each box of the drug has 15 doses for $10.

Of course the sensible thing to do now is to try a better drug. One that has a smaller amount to get into him and less frequently. But that means getting a script, so a visit to the doctor, some stern and no doubt conflicting advice from all quarters (yes, I've tried the chiropractor, sitting upright, feeding for shorter periods more frequently, elevated sleeping...), no doubt more potential side effects and lots of opportunities for me to doubt myself and my choices. I'll press ahead because I still think I owe Wil the chance to be as free of pain as he can be, but gee I wish it was going to be easier.

I'm not in a ditch over this. Yet. Don't worry about me, I'm still coping and only writing this much detail in the interests of keeping it real and not papering over the rough spots. As us bloggers are so often accused of doing.

But week 8 is proving to be the end of the newborn honeymoon. Those happy hormones are drifting off, the sleep deprivation is beginning to kick in and along with the reflux and the end of Wil being mostly asleep during the day I am remembering all over again how quickly the routine of baby care and the little things can add up until you realise there's an elephant sitting on top of you.

In brighter news the book that was the subject of my last post made an appearance in our newspaper yesterday, bizarrely in the home supplement, and my projects were actually mentioned as a highlight!

And I'm also off for a few days at the beach tomorrow. I'll be back next week and will hopefully get those giveaways off.

Happy Easter.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

making more stuff

A while a go I contributed to this book. I enjoyed the process of developing a project for publication and although it wasn't a paid gig, it was very gratifying to be put into print and to see the book pop up in bookstores.

I like the book's emphasis on craft as a kind of guerrilla movement and the introduction by Victoria Woodcock was really interesting and informative about the social and historical context of crafting. The projects in it are very diverse and there's stuff that works for all ages, skill levels, aesthetic sensibilities and budgets.

I gather the book has sold well, particularly in the UK where it was published so Victoria has just signed me up for a sequel. This second one will be about craft and kids - projects for kid related things like toys, projects for kids to do and especially projects that adults can do that have a special place for kids to contribute. Say like mum sews the toy and kid knits the scarf or such like.

I'm really excited about projects which are designed for parents and kids together. I struggle to find projects I can do with Amy that aren't just busy work to keep her amused or too complex for her to get involved. It's important for me that the time I get to craft produces something I actually want - so quality materials and skills are involved - but I also want her to learn how to do and love craft.

I know I need to be more laid back and let her be a kid and make stuff with macaroni and another thousand or so paintings, but I'm always on the lookout for projects that meet me half way on what's important for her and what's important for me. I'll be looking forward to trying out some new ones when Making Stuff 2 comes out.

But why am I telling you this you ask? Well Victoria let me know that she's looking for more contributors. If you think you might be interested in designing a project for the book, let me know and I'll pass your details on to Victoria.