Monday, June 27, 2005

Arise Darth Baby...

You would think by now the premise of Sod's Law would have sunken into to my somewhat adled baby brain.
Just three short days ago while taking the wee man on a routine check to the doctors to look at his slightly funny shaped ankle, I congratulated myself on the fact that we hadn't had to use his inhaler in about 2 months. (This being just about the only thing Joseph has ever had to see the doctor about).
I thought it was great that his chest problems seemed to be a thing of the past and as summer draws in, I thought we were sure for a wheeze free few months.

So God, playing his mad candid camera game on me yet again, decided that the very next day Darth Baby (as wheezy Joseph is known) would return to our house.

It started with a sniffle and it ended with a trip to the Children's Ward. In between we had a projectile vomiting incident in a supermarket, several hysterical crying fits (Joseph AND me), some weird and wonderful medicines and several foreign doctors who tried their best to understand an hysterical Derry mammy rambling about her "wain being in good form".

While I have since realised I do now actually look every one of my 29 years and the wrinkles are getting deeper- I don't feel all the grown up. Part of me (a wee tiny part deep inside) still feels footloose and fancy free. There is no greater way to make you feel like a proper grown up though than to have to clean up your child's boke in the dairy section of a supermarket on a Sunday morning. While Joseph sat in a pool of his own making I hopelessly pulled a couple of baby wipes from his bag and tried to clean him up.

People walked past- some smiled sympathetically others almost ran past to escape the smell and I did what every good Derry woman would do- phoned my mammy to ask to come help.

Boking aside, the wee man was his usual nutty self; but shortly after he was back to his Darth Baby impression- heavy breathing all over the place- which is most unsuitable given that I'm his mother and only accept heavy breathing from my other half!

So on we went to the doctors and then to the hospital where I had to act the proper grown up and answer all the doctor's questions responsibly and not show an ounce of fear when they talked about taking blood, putting in a drip and doing x-rays. My heart may well have been racing, but the wee man wasn't going to sense anything different with his mammy.

Luckily when we reached the ward they had a sit-in car ("Tar" as Joseph calls it) where he remained amused until he was eventually, after another dose on the nebuliser, allowed to go home.

I'm sure this was just the first of many scrapes the wee man will get himself into it- and I'm sure the scars will stay with me and his daddy for longer than with him- but this is one part of the mammy deal I didn't bargain for.

So tired, but relieved, our family unit are trying to get back to normal and Darth Baby is breathing relatively normally again. Let's hope it's some time again before we get another glimpse of the dark side.

Who wants to be a skinny malinky?

Who wants to be a skinny malinky?
ACCORDING TO one of the many slightly cheesy celebrity filled magazines I buy every week Desperate Housewives actress Teri Hatcher has now slimmed down to a shocking size four.

Try as I might, I just can't say the woman looks good for it. Her arms look as though they might break with a mere pinch and her face is almost skeletal. Superman wouldn't dare try and whisk the former Lois Lane actress off now for fear she would float away on the breeze somewhere over Metropolis, never to be seen again.
It's sad for me because, as a teenager, Teri Hatcher was my idol. I thought she looked amazing, had a great sense of style but she still looked like a real woman. Admittedly she was probably never more than a size 10, but at least then she look well.
The same cheesy magazine has told me that Bridget Jones actress Rene Zellwegger, a comfortable size 14 when she reprised her roll in last year's "Edge of Reason" is now a size 6 and quite frankly the woman would not look out of place in a depiction of the Holocaust.
But, in the pictures, Teri and Rene are smiling. They are wearing the latest designer clothes and you realise they must actually think they look better for the their skinniness.
The truth is they look ill, as if ravaged from some nasty disease that only a force feeding of stew and turnovers from Doherty's Bakery would sort out. Their gauntness also serves to make them look older than their years- so hardly the look you would think a celebrity would like to go for.
And yet, the cheesy weekly glossies that I have a strange addiction to are literally crammed with celebrities who are on some mad crazy diet or other. One claimed that Victoria Beckham slimmed down to a size six to "punish" her husband for not spending more time at home.
This week we hear that Kerry McFadden/ Katona/ whatever she calls herself these days may have an addiction to slimming pills. Remarkably her boobs are still ginormous but the rest of herself is eeny. It is not a good look and I fear she may topple over if so much as nudged.
I've never been a fan of the waif look- mostly because it is a look that I will never achieve, even if I contract a bad dose of cholera and lose half my bodyweight down the nearest toilet.
But I also just don't like it. I grew up watching films where the women were tanned and gorgeous and most of all had curves and they weren't ashamed of them. I was a fan of Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and even in the 80s women like Carrie Fisher (Star Wars) and Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) showed that real femininity existed in curves and looking, well to be honest, like a woman.
I could be drawn into lengthy debates about whether or not the media encourage young women to go on drastic weight loss plans, or I could defend whether or not it is simply my own insecurities that make me hate these super thin women so much but I do think then I really would be skirting the issue!

Women should be women
I just think, and perhaps I'm mad at thinking this, that women should look like women. It baffles me why we spend so much time and effort trying to change who we are.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't believe that we should just allow ourselves to go to pot. As someone who has battled with her weight all her adult life, and especially since pregnancy and the birth of my son, I know that being overweight is good for neither body or soul.
The current hot spell combined with putting my back out has reminded me once again of my need to slim down and shape up. I can tell you now there is nothing as unattractive as the site of me, sweating like a goodun, pushing a buggy with an impatient child up Fountain Hill on a sunny day.
And when my back went out, and I was forced to spend a considerable amount of time lying on the floor staring at ceilings, I realise it is in my own interest to improve my muscle tone and fitness levels.
But, I'm realistic about my goals and I'm not one of these women who believes that if I'm not a size 10 or 12 the world will come to an end. I've been almost every size in the book over the last 10 years and I know now that while my current girth isn't for me, anything under a 14 or 16 also makes me look like I need a good feeding.
I have a significant number of friends who moan about their size. They long for a model-like figure and I have to wonder are they really seeing a true reflection of themselves when they look in the mirror? The majority of my muckers range between a 12 and a 16 (They will love me for spilling that wee gem of information in the paper!) and none of them look overweight, fat or ugly.
They look comfortable in their bodies. Sure their tummies may not be flat, but then having babies will do that for you- and yes they might not like their saggy bingo wings- but hey old age comes to us all.
I just wish they could see that they at least look healthy and better- more womanly- than the lollipop headed celebrities on the pages of my magazines.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Three Cheers for Daddy

WHO WOULD have thought that just one Sunday could cost me so much? I am of course referring to the fun and games that is Father's Day.

Being a daughter, a daughter in law and the mother of a son who happens to have a father, granddad and grandpa and Godfather, this card buying business has turned into quite an expensive affair.
Six cards and a considerable dent in my meagre wages later, we're about ready for the big day to dawn upon us. All I have to do now is take the somewhat questionable risk of putting a biro in my 16 month old's hands and letting him try to "sign" the cards himself. (Chances are he will either try to eat the pen or draw on my walls).
Now I have to say that money aside, I'm all in favour of Father's Day. Of course, I tend to prefer Mother's Day these days, but it's nice to be forced by the card companies into actually saying a thank you to the men in our lives at least once a year.

I know for a fact that my wee man adores his daddy. It can gall me somewhat, after all I'm the one who endured the 26 hours of gruelling labour and the associated weeks of sitting uncomfortably while the stitches healed to give the wee man life; but given a choice between mammy and daddy, daddy wins hands down.
However having a somewhat limited vocabulary at the moment (basically 'Daddy' 'Noddy' 'Splish Splash' 'Nana' and 'swing swing') Joseph isn't generally able to tell his daddy thank you in uncertain terms. And as for me, I'm generally too caught up in what Joseph's daddy doesn't do to stop and say thank you myself.
You see my other half has surprised me with his approach to fatherhood. He is a man who in all his 32 years before becoming father refused steadfastly to even hold a baby let alone actually do anything to entertain or care for the wee mite.

In fact when close friends of ours became parents a week before my due date himself even refused to hold their newborn when we visited the hospital. He said at that time he didn't know how. The argument that a week before becoming a father yourself is as good a time as any to learn didn't wash with him.
So it was safe to say when he was finally handed his own bundle of joy his nerves were somewhat wrecked. He has since confided in me that those few seconds were the scariest of his life. (My heart bled, after what I'd just been through). While I'd had nine months of feeling kicks, feeling sick and growing to the size of a not-so-small African country to get used to the notion of impending motherhood, himself had adopted his usual tack of burying his head in the sand and pretending life would continue as was for as long as possible.

The gig was well and truly up though when our son was born. There was no escaping the emotional, financial, physical and mental impact of fatherhood. Himself was about to get a huge shock to the system; but he took it remarkably well.
While in the early days he paled at the notion of nappy changing and was over cautious when dressing all 6lb 9oz of our son, he soon found he had no problem with making up bottles, feeding, burping and generally looking on adoringly at his new family.

His one glitch on his road to parenthood was when he signed a card to our son from "Neil" and not from daddy. Even as I explained to him that there was a slight problem with the card it took a few minutes for the penny to drop before he looked at me with a mixture of pure joy and pure terror that he was now, officially, a parent.

In the months that have followed he has excelled himself in certain parenting skills. While I have a pathological fear of throwing the wee man into the air and catching him again to squeals of delight, himself has no such qualms.
Being an early bird, he's not the worst at letting me have an extra hour or two in bed at the weekend and he is now adept at getting the wee man fed, dressed (not necessarily in combination the average sane woman would choose, admittedly) and out the door while I get to be all girly and put my make up on.
Now I'm not saying he is perfect. Where he has improved in parenting skills he has definitely nose-dived in general helping around the house skills. While I can rest assured Joseph can be dressed before we head out the door I can quite often discover some encrusted Weetabix under his chin or that he is wearing odd socks just as I'm bumping into someone I want to show my baby off to.

But odd socks are something we can all live with if, at the end of the day, the wee man is happy and secure. My own daddy was famous for his quirky ways when we were wee. From his attempts to cut our hair, to dressing us when mammy was in hospital to preparing his own weird and wonderful versions of a Sunday dinner. It wasn't always conventional and from talks with my beloved mammy, Daddy's attempts at helping out around the house when we were wee was not exactly breath taking- but we were happy, secure and loved.

So for one day I'm going to put aside my gripes and complaints about what doesn't get done and think about the bigger picture. Dishes will always need doing, floors will always need mopping; but babies don't stay babies forever. So to my other half, and my own dearest daddy- for today do what you do best and continue to make your children smile!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Me and the Dabs, June 2004. My princess! Posted by Hello

Talking 'bout my girl

MY NIECE is three and a half and going through a kind of belated terrible twos at the moment.

We always congratulated ourselves that we managed to get through her second year relatively unscathed and apart from a few interesting tantrums in Tesco, Abby has been the model daughter, niece and grandbaby.

And then Aunty Claire did something bold, by introducing another baby into the equation and messing up Abby’s position as the centre of the known universe for everyone in our family.

In the first year, it all went extremely well. We were able to congratulate ourselves that she immediately fell in love with her cousin “baby Joe” and for the most part was delighted to see him wheel up in his buggy at her front door.

But then, he grew up a bit and decided he had a personality of his own. If he wanted to see Balamory then he would bum shuffle at the speed of light to the DVD player and batter it into submission. If he wanted to play with one of Abby’s toys then again he would grab, play and cry if he didn’t get his way. And generally Abby let him, because she knew that he was too young to understand the fineries of share and share alike. (He’s learning quickly now though for the sake of my sanity!)

But the worm ball (as my mum somewhat weirdly would call her when she was wee) has turned. And it’s all down to Aunty Claire to feel guilty about it.

You see as long term readers of this column will know, Abby used to be my number one priority (outside of work of course, Mr. Editor!) and I would while away many an hour sat on the floor with her playing with her “neep neep” (A giraffe which made a neep sound) or sticking my finger in her mouth trying to find teeth (I think I found the first five much to my sister’s- her mammy- chagrin).

Of course all that changed when I became a mum myself. Of course I didn’t love Abby any less and she is still my number one girl; but it was impossible to play on the floor when I had to feed the crankiest baby on the planet around the clock and it has come to the stage when he is now fairly claiming his right to my total and undivided attention- leaving the Dabster out in the cold for the time being.

With my wee man now having reached 16 months old, I’m inevitably getting asked time and time again when I’m having baby number two. Sure it would be a sin to leave my wee man an only child- wouldn’t it?

But all I can think is that if another baby comes along then my time, my attention and my energies will get stretched even further and soon it will be Joseph looking at my with soppy eyes and vying for my attention and Abby will be even further down the priority list.

They say you always have love for one more, and that’s true. Abby is still my princess and I love her with all my heart (all the way to the moon and back- as we tell each other). But while you have love for as many children as God blesses you with; do we really have the time to give them the love they need and deserve?

Of course it’s all married in with the guilt most of us working mothers feel when we head out the door in the morning knowing that the next time we will see our little ones is when we are tired and grumpy (if my editor is reading that; change those words for fulfilled and satisfied with my work) and then hold the nightly “how can we dump you in the cot so you are asleep by the time Corrie comes on” challenge.

Those who would promote the notion that we can “have it all”, say that those precious after work hours are “quality time”. If this wasn’t a family newspaper I would tell you exactly what I think of that particular statement.

Quality time is a myth for most of us and with 101 programmes on the TV constantly reminding us that how we behave with our children at this young age will shape their personalities forever more and determine whether or not they are productive members of society or psychopathic serial killers, us parents (and aunties) feel under a great deal of pressure.

Now I’m not suggesting for one second that my wee niece is on a non-stop track to becoming a lunatic but I do wonder when our children (even our nieces or nephews) fell down the priority list so that they feel they need to work harder and harder to get our attention.

We working mums and aunts like to console ourselves with the notion that we are putting food on the table, roofs over heads and Balamory DVDs in the DVD player; but at what cost to our children?

It might protect my sanity a little to escape the madness of baby talk and the endless replaying of the Cinderella story (Yes, Abby, I will marry you!) and go to the office, but I wonder will the children in my life forgive me for it when they are older?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Now who's desperate?

MY NAME is Lola and I'm a desperate housewife. Now, this is no reflection on my lovely husband; simply on my addiction to a certain American drama which sadly had it's season finale this week .

For the cold winter months, the desperate housewives with all their quirky habits and engaging personalities have been my companion. It had reached such a critical level with me that on a Tuesday afternoon when I inevitably realised it was "Desperate Housewives" night I would come over all giddy and start planning my 'Desperate Housewives' viewing experience.
The night starts with me staggering in from my aerobics class and quickly putting the wee man to bed at the speed of light (quick bottle and then literally dumping him in his cot) before jumping into the bath for a long soak using only the finest Sanctuary products.
Then it was on with my favourite jammies before climbing into my sumptuous king size bed just in time to switch on the telly and find out about the latest goings on in Wisteria Lane. (Depending on how good the scales had been at my weigh in, I may also have treated myself to chocolate!)
Maybe it is a little sad to find myself swept up in the hysteria that surrounds this programme, but I find such popular series hard to resist. Typically I am one of those people who has to watch the latest American import and falls for the hype. (With the exception of 'The Sopranos' and 'Lost' which are in turn too violent and too scary for my delicate sensibilities).
First there was my obsession with 'Lois and Clarke, the New Adventures of Superman', which funnily enough also starred Teri Hatcher who appears among the housewives! I was 16 and just making my decision to follow a career in journalism. Watching Lois Lane swan about in her lovely suits, her gorgeous shoes (yep, I was shoe obsessed even then) and, of course, her superman willing to save her at a moment's notice- I became convinced this could be the right job for me.
Yes, I had my hair cut into the same bobbed style as Teri's and I carried a Superman folder to and from school each day. I even bought some stunning cream shoes just because I thought they were "so Lois Lane" and I arranged some work experience at the Derry Journal (How they must rue the day they ever let me in the door of the building!).
And then I was one of those sad people who got madly caught up in the 'Friends' phenomenon too. I was 18 when the show first hit our screens and it seemed so glamorous to watch these six twenty-somethings living a life that was definitely more glamorous than my existence in the Halls of Residence at Jordanstown.
I had the Rachel haircut, the Monica haircut and all the episodes on video. I even had a huge purple cup just like the one's they had in Central Perk. My cousin and I would enter into mammoth debates about who loved Ross more; which culminated in her painstaking attempt to spell out "Ross in Mine" using literally thousands of letters cut out of magazines.
Yes, we were sad. But there was no harm in it. We too had our 'Friends' nights where it seemed everyone would rush home from work to sit down in front of the TV with a can of coke, or a glass of West Coast Cooler (I was not yet a hardened drinker at that stage) and a bar of chocolate and enjoy some deep belly laughs.
Everyone who was everyone was talking about 'Friends' and it seemed if you didn't know who Ross, Rachel and co. were you were considered to be some sort of televisual freak of nature.
To be honest, I thought my obsessive days were over. As a mature(ish) woman in her late 20s, surely I would have had a bit more gumption about me? But then Susan, Bree, Lynette and Gabrielle appeared on the scene and it all changed.
You see I could empathise with all the characters (with the possible exception of Gabrielle who is a spoiled rich crier who needs a kick up the bum). I could see why Bree had become obsessed with a perfect life. I certainly sympathised with Susan's bad luck and clumsiness due to my own habit of doing or saying the wrong thing; and as for Lynette- the harassed mum- well she made me realise I was not alone in my insanity.
The central story-line of their neighbour Mary Alice's big secret became just a distraction to me and watching how they got with their lives was much more interesting. Perhaps because I'm a wife myself (though not house-bound!), or perhaps because this is one of the first times that television producers have made drama just for women without painting us as trollops or neurotics (Think 'Sex and the City').
This was intelligent and witty tv, for intelligent and (hopefully) witty women and I was happy to welcome it into my home. I'm delighted to report though that I showed a certain sense of maturity by not getting my hair cut into the style of any of the leading characters. (Most often though it does seem to take on the appearance of Lynette's bird's nest- but that is merely a bad hair day coincidence).
And now, with Tuesday's season finale (or Wednesday if you were watching on Channel 4) I'm facing a summer of cold turkey from my favourite programme. Somehow Big Brother just doesn't have the same appeal!
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