Family

Letters to Squirm: Now You Are Two

Dear Squirm,

I missed writing you a letter on your second birthday earlier this month. It’s been another busy one – filled with birthday visits for you (and your grandfather) and unfortunately with illness – we’re only just getting back on track again.

The last six months have been difficult as a family. Your dad has been working overseas for four or five weeks at a time, then coming home for a week. You miss him lots, especially right after he goes, but we talk with him on Skype every morning and try to spend lots of fun times together when he’s at home.

You’re speaking a lot now. You have a pretty big vocabulary and put sentences together regularly. You have a few favourite sayings – ‘whoopsie daisy’ and ‘carry up’ among them. You use your vocabulary to ask for things, but you’ve also learned how to say please and thank you regularly.

Your sleep has changed dramatically during the last 6 months. You now sleep through the night in your own bed and have just started putting yourself to sleep which feels revolutionary. Your naps have also become longer which seems counter-intuitive as you are getting older. You still eat a lot of food, though you have become pickier and I need to be more aware of offering a wide range of foods so you get all your nutritional needs.

You like to go for walks a lot – you love holding my hand or daddy’s hand and heading out somewhere. You also love helping, especially when it comes to cooking. You helped make biscuits the other week and did a wonderful job.

Trains and trucks and cars are still big interests. You love watching Mighty Machines, though you change your favourite episodes regularly (from Firetrucks to Ferries to Roadwork). You also enjoy Thomas and Friends, Pocoyo, Peppa Pig and Postman Pat. You have lots of favourite books, and you also rotate though these. You sometimes ‘read’ along with us and love cuddling in for your bedtime read. You’re starting to sing more – mostly with music but there’s a few songs you sing without accompaniment – Twinkle Twinkle, The Alphabet song (though only ABCD – then the last line!) and Down by the Station. You’re starting to count too and love it when we find things to count.

We had a wonderful day for your birthday, heading to the Rail Workshop Museum at Ipswich. It was a weekday, so the museum was quiet and you had a wonderful time exploring, driving trains, colouring and playing. You began to understand how birthday cakes worked too – and spent a lot of time calling out for them!

You’re a wonderful, energetic, creative, thoughtful boy and we’re loving getting to know your interests and thoughts and preferences. We’re looking forward to watching you grow over the next year.

Love

Mum

2YrsOld 1 2YrsOld 2 2YrsOld 3

Letters to Squirm: 18 Months Old

Resize Chris Photos3

Dear Squirm,

You’re a year and a half old! That time has gone so fast – I keep look at you and wondering where my baby went to! At the same time, I’m loving the cheeky, adventurous, smiling, creative child you’ve become.

You have real interests now. You adore trains – you point them out in pictures, in books, on videos, in real life. You can clearly say ‘train’ and ‘toot toot’ now, and we hear both of those a lot during the day. Last week you got to ride on a train and (after initially being startled) you loved it. You especially loved it when the driver tooted the horn or we went past another train. Your grand uncles are pretty chuffed with this train obsession – you come from a long line of train lovers.

Your other big interest is dinosaurs. You’ve loved them from the time you heard the Justine Clarke song ‘Everybody Roar . . . ‘ and you have a convincing roar of your own. Our trip on the train was to see the dinosaurs at the museum and it was really exciting for you. Even more exciting was our discovery of good plastic dinosaurs at a local shop this week – you love playing with them already!

You also love books of all kinds. Your daddy has set aside reading time in the morning, and we both read to you before bed, but you insist on having books read to you no matter what time of the day it is. You’re starting to remember parts of your favourite books and sometimes you ‘read’ along with us. We keep a collection of board books and sturdier books where you can read them at any time of the day, and a collection of less sturdy favourite books for bedtime. Your favourite sturdy books are The Avengers Little Golden Book, Alison Jay’s Numbers and Letters, an ABC book, Where is the Green Sheep, Demolition and I’d Like to Be a Train Driver. Your favourite bedtime books are Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are and the Pigeon books.

You continue to grow in independence. You choose your own clothes from the drawer now and can bring us your shoes when it’s time to go out. You help us clean up and you love playing with your toy broom. You eat pretty much everything, but you tend to prefer things with strong flavours. You get your floor mat ready for dinner without needing help.

You’re also very physical. You love climbing, which is wonderful in the playground (though a bit disconcerting to people who don’t know you) but not so wonderful at home (where you attempt to climb the furniture). You run around a lot, love the tricycle Nana and Poppa gave you for Christmas and adore walking up and down hills and stairs. You also love your swimming lessons after a period of not loving them so much. I’m amazed at what you can do – kicking across the pool and back on your own with a pool noodle looped around your back, going under the water towards the wall and grabbing it, running on the mat on the water and jumping it. You still need to learn patience there, though – you always want it to be your turn!

Your talking has really started to take off in the last month. You have a collection of words including truck, car, water, bowl, up and Avengers. You ‘talk’ with us quite a lot and it’s wonderful watching you communicate more and more.

You’re also very good at getting into things you shouldn’t be playing with. We keep pens and pencils a long way away from you, because you cannot resist drawing with them on whatever surface is available. You love pressing the buttons on computers and pulling things out of cupboards. You often get very quiet when you’re into things, so noise is a bit of a blessing at our house.

I could write about you all day. You make me so happy, and I feel so lucky to be your mum and to spend this wonderful time with you. I look forward to all the adventures we have ahead of us!

Love Mum

Resize Chris Photos5

I want to include some of your favourite things to look back and remember

Favourite Foods

  • Cheese
  • Grapes
  • Olives
  • Bananas

Favourite Toys

  • Your stuffed sheep
  • Your trains
  • Your dinosaurs
  • Your trucks

Favourite Music

  • Paul Simon
  • Justine Clarke
  • They Might Be Giants

Favourite Things to Do

  • Play at parks with climbing things
  • Swimming lessons
  • Drawing
  • Reading

2014: New Year, New Things

I hadn’t intended to post today. Today was for moving slowly, drinking tea, spending time with my boys. But Squirm is napping and Mr Pilot is watching an aviation documentary, and a series of posts leaped out and pinched me.

Maxabella Loves challenged her readers to tinker rather than change for the new year. To pick a word, just one, which sums up what our life could use more of. (I think this is something which bloggers have done previously, though I’ve only come across it now!)

Our word encompasses what Mr Pilot and I have been talking about recently, when we talk about the 2014 to come.

Make

We want to make more this year. We want to make beer and clothes and vegetable patches. We want to make yummy things to eat. We want to make memories. We want to bring things from raw materials to finished product. We want to make our house beautiful. We want to make our life beautiful.

2014 Make

Understanding That My Child Is Not Me

We’d been having problems with swimming lessons. Squirm used to love them and was doing really well. Then, all of a sudden, they became the worst things in the world. Squirm wouldn’t do any of the skills he’s learned and he was upset the whole lesson. I was on the verge of finishing lessons (a tricky thing involving 4 weeks notice) when I turned to Google for advice.

Turned out that it wasn’t uncommon for children of Squirm’s age to go through this sort of thing. While I was happy that it was normal, knowing that didn’t help me deal with it. But one comment on a forum did – the commenter suggested taking time to adjust before the lesson started.

Of course! The realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks. After all, Squirm usually felt better about swimming by the end of the lesson. Turning up early was such an easy thing to do and it fit in with other things we are starting to notice in Squirm.

Squirm doesn’t always do well in intense situations – noise and chaos are not always his friends. Shopping centres have a limited time before Squirm loses it, so I plan trips on how few shops we can visit. When Squirm meets up with adults other than Mr Pilot or myself, it takes him time to adjust and warm up to them – even if he sees them regularly. We’ve noticed that he does best when we approach situations slowly – when we give Squirm time to warm up to the environment and the people around him.

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember this. Although I have a certain amount of social anxiety leading up to an event, I’m usually fine when I get there. I usually find someone to talk to quickly, even in situations where I don’t know anyone. It’s natural for me to put myself right in the middle of things – but I need to remember that it’s not natural for Squirm.

I need to give him the time he needs to adjust to new environments, sit with him in a quiet spot and talk him through what is going on. I need to let him take in people from a bit of a distance before insisting that he ‘talks’ with them. I need to honour his personality and his needs – and remember that those are different from my own.

Taking our time worked wonderfully with swimming. We arrived about 15 minutes earlier than usual, and watched the water while he got ready. Luckily the child in the class before ours was away on that day, so we were able to sit quietly next to the pool and just chill out talking about the lovely water and how good it would feel. And the lesson was a huge success – a 180 degree turn around from the last few weeks before. Sometimes it really pays to take our time.

Understanding That My Child Is Different To Me: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

The Most Important Job To Who?

The Most Important Job To Who? - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Last week a comedian published a controversial article about motherhood. (This particular comedian always manages to post mother-bashing articles on the days I feel like crap, so I’m not going to give her the respect of mentioning her name. It’s petty, but makes me feel better). Her rather jumbled click bait article argued that ‘Motherhood is not the most important job in the world’ and that ‘it’s not even a job’.

You know, somewhere in the confusion of words, she had some valid points. It is a rather tired slogan which could be widened to include fathers and step parents and others who parent our children. It’s a throw away statement which can hurt when you’re going through fertility issues. But the feel of her article was more about pushing the ideas that feminist women should be working outside the house and that mothering isn’t really that hard at all.

I’ve read a couple of excellent rebuttals to her article (including the tweets of a friend with a 2 week old . . . someone who has worked as an engineer, run an independent press and started a PhD at the same time) but now I’ve had time to get back into a good head space (plus some sleep) my thoughts have turned more to the notion of ‘Important’ jobs.

A traditional view of ‘important’ jobs turns up the usual suspects – surgeons and airline pilots. (It probably comes as little surprise that these are traditional jobs held by men.) But, to be honest, the surgeon isn’t that important to me until I’m lying on the operating table (and a couple of them have seemed more interested in where they’re going to leave my scar than the work under the skin!) Airline pilots are wonderful when I’m flying, but I’ve seen enough Air Crash Investigation to know they really only become important on take off, landings and when something goes wrong.

The truth is, jobs become important to us when we’re invested in them. The special care nurses looking after my son after his birth had the single most important job in the world to me at that time. When a near by bridge was damaged by the 2011 floods, the engineers designing the new one were terribly important to stop the massive traffic jams. And when I had pregnancy cravings, the workers at MacDonalds were of extreme importance to me!

When a parent is the primary carer of a child, it is probably the most important job in the life of the parent and the child. At the moment, I see myself having four jobs – mother and carer of Squirm, looking after the house, blogger, and teacher on leave (I still keep up my professional reading in that job). Out of those four jobs, being a mother is the most important to me. I’m on call, on my own, from 6.15am to 6.30pm from Monday to Friday. Our days are planned, to a certain extent, around what Squirm needs. It may not always be the most important job in my life, but at the moment it is, and I’m okay with that.

This particular article is part of a bigger problem at the moment. There’s an awful lot of internet power in being offensive to sections of the community and being offensive about mothers is a solid gold pass to getting a lot of clicks. You don’t get as much attention from being inclusive, from acknowledging that different people have different priorities, and that slogans will fit for some people and not fit for others. And you can’t promote your latest show or book without lots of clicks, so people like this will continue to do it. But as thoughtful people we can do something. We can acknowledge that different people want different things from life. We can support people in what they want to do. We can campaign for good childcare and offer support to those who do want to stay at home. We can refuse to let someone like this make us feel bad so that she can make more money.

We can decide who’s important in our own worlds.

Playing with Piadinas (Recipe Post)

A couple of months ago, I bought the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook, Save with Jamie. I generally have good luck with Jamie Oliver recipes, but this one has really outdone itself, with lots of really yummy recipes.

Playing with Piadina - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

One of the things I really, really like about the book, is that it’s quite adaptable. A lot of the recipes seem to be made of different elements, which can be served on their own or combined with other elements from different recipes. There’s also lots of room for changing ingredients – in fact, I’ve only ever made the Pork Meatloaf with beef mince.

The Tuna Melt Piadina has had a really good reception at our house. Piadinas are an Italian flatbread which is made from flour, salt and water and then fried. The Jamie Oliver recipe has a really delicious tuna and cheese ‘salad’ which goes deliciously gooey in the middle. But the piadina itself can be used for lots of fillings. Squirm and I had a very cut down tuna version the other day for lunch, while the other night I substituted cut up cooked chicken for the tuna (soooooo nice). Apparently they’re also great for sweet fillings, though we haven’t tried that yet.

Here’s my ‘altered’ recipe for the Lunch Tuna Piadina. I made this for 1 adult and 1 toddler and we both ate it all up!

Lunch Tuna Piadina (Inspired by Jamie Oliver)

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 125g self raising flour
  • About 60ml water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Olive oil
  • Small can tuna
  • Desert spoon cream cheese
  • Mustard (of whatever preference)
  1. Put flour, salt and water together in a bowl. Mix them together, first with a spoon then with your hands. Add more flour or water to get the right consistency. Flatten it out to around 18 cm wide.
  2. Put some oil in a medium frypan over moderate heat. Put the dough on for around 3 minutes each side, rubbing a little oil on the top
  3. While the dough is cooking, mix the tuna, cream cheese and mustard together in a bowl
  4. Carefully cut around the edge of the flat bread so you end up with 2 rounds. Put the tuna mix in the middle and fry again for around 3-4 minutes each side

See, really easy! I highly recommend giving this a go for lunch some time. And if you’re looking for some other really interesting and yummy recipes, go and get yourself Save with Jamie – it really is a great book with lots and lots of great ideas in it.

Squirm enjoying his piadina

Squirm enjoying his piadina

5 Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Five Favourite Toys That Aren’t Really Toys: The Inside Edition

5 Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Like other babies and toddlers, Squirm has a long-held fascination with the every day items around him. Often these items become his most played with and explored toys. Here’s five of his favourites for playing with inside.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

An Old Keyboard

Squirm is fascinated by things he can press at the moment, and our laptops are a constant source of interest. Unfortunately for him, we don’t always want him typing messages on our laptops (he once sent a garbled message to a politician’s Facebook page) and he’s not always the most gentle with the keys. Enter my wonderful father who works with computers. He had this wonderful wireless keyboard in his discards pile and was able to clean it up for Squirm. He plays with it almost every day, typing out all sorts of messages for the world to read.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

A Torch/Beacon

After we visited the Ipswich Art Gallery’s Light Play exhibition, I sought out some ways for Squirm to play with light. One of our discoveries was this torch/beacon from Big W. It comes in a couple of different colours (we have red and blue) and has a torch in the end, plus the ‘glow stick’ part. It has a variety of settings (including flashing) and has been an absolute hit with Squirm, especially during late afternoons and early evenings. Recently, it’s become even more fun because he can press the button himself and doesn’t need me to help him with it.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

A Stepping Stool/Bench

I originally bought this stool from a discount store, back when Squirm was pulling himself up on furniture for standing. But once he started walking and started climbing up on things, he discovered a new way to use it. When it was overturned, it was the perfect height to practice stepping up onto and down off again. He sets it up in the middle of the living room and spends ages stepping on and off it and running around to try again. Then when he’s tired, he has a nice seat to sit on 🙂 (Plus it has a little container built in the top for him to store things in!)

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

An Old Purse, Glasses Case and Loyalty Cards

A couple of months ago, Squirm got hold of my purse while we were visiting my parents. Suddenly money was being thrown through the air, quickly followed by an assortment of very old receipts (thanks to this, I have a very clean purse now). After this happened a few times, I dug out an old purse of mine, along with some loyalty cards, a few Woolworths animal card doubles and an old student card and an old glasses case. These are all kept in an old handbag of mine, which has about 100 (or at least 5) zippers and compartments – it keeps him busy for ages.

Five Favourite Toys That Aren't Really Toys: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Utensils

Squirm can reach into 3 out of 4 of our drawers in the kitchen now. The bottom one holds his plates and cups, the next one holds nothing (though he occasionally uses it to store food . . . ) and the next one up has out cooking utensils. These are the ones he likes the most – they make a wonderful noise when he hits them together or against other things. But he also uses them to push and pull things across the floor.

It’s wonderful to see the imagination Squirm has when it comes to ordinary household items – I’m always wondering what he’ll play with next!

The Gift of Slow

The Gift of Slow - Adventures of a Subversive Reader

When you’re living a distracted life, every minute must be accounted for. You feel like you must be checking something off the list, staring at a screen, or rushing off to the next destination. And no matter how many ways you divide your time and attention, no matter how many duties you try and multi-task, there’s never enough time in a day to ever catch up.
The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up by Rachel Macy Stafford

This beautiful post, about watchers and noticers and those children who cannot be hurried, has been shared over and over again on my Facebook feed. It’s resonated with many parents – and I have to admit that I am one of them.

For too long I’ve subscribed to the cult of ‘too busy’. I’ve planned my life with too much in it, never happier unless I was juggling 10 things at once. I equated ‘being busy’ with being successful. When I had Squirm, I was thrown – how could I be ‘succeeding’ if I wasn’t ‘getting anything done’. How could I justify the days when my greatest success was having a shower and washing the dishes?

Then, recently, I noticed a change through my Facebook feed. People were talking about the article I mentioned above. They were talking about the small, good things in their lives. One of my favourite pages, Brisbane Kids, started to have moments of Slow and Grateful Parenting. Janet Lansbury made me think about observing instead of rushing in.

I was becoming more conscious about my parenting, about how I valued my day, about how I valued Squirm’s choices, but I didn’t really get it until I watched Squirm take on the door sill. At the time, Squirm was a relatively new walker. He was slowly becoming more confident, but there were always more challenges to take on. One of those challenged was walking over surfaces which included a change of height – where one surface was higher or lower than the other. Our back door sill is a shocker for this – with about three or four different heights to deal with – easy for an adult to just step over, much more difficult for tentative little feet.

Usually I would just pick Squirm up and carry him over the step, but on this day something made me stop and wait. Squirm would hover his foot over the step, working out how high he would have to step and how much he would have to put into the step. He’d make a start, then stop and reevaluate. He tried again and again, and I managed to hold back and let him go, despite the urge to just pick him up or help him over. Finally, after carefully mapping the door sill with his feet, he was able to get over it all on his own – with the biggest smile on his face.

Since then, he’s taken on a number of other door sills – the ones at his grandparents place are a real challenge. Sometimes he falls, but when he achieves it, all on his own, there’s a sense of pride in him which makes me so happy that I stood back and waited – that I embraced the gift of slow.

The State of Squirm – November 2013

You’re 15 months old and full of energy, even at 3am in the morning.

You love reading, Waybuloo, sultanas, your push trolley and music.

You have a favourite pair of shorts which you always find in your drawers or in the laundry hamper.

You are starting to be more interested in drawing, and you mostly stay on the paper.

You like to climb everything!

You’re becoming more deliberate in your play, placing things where you want them.

You still get frustrated when things don’t go right the first time, but you’re more persistent now.

You would really like it if I just gave you my iPad (it’s not happening).

You throw some huge tantrums – your emotions are just too big for you to deal with at the moment.

You have 16 teeth – those canines were painful!

You’re becoming more routine oriented – which I like more than I thought I would.

You’re still very uncertain with people who aren’t mum or dad – but you do warm up to people, especially when they just go about things and let you approach them. You’re definitely more comfortable with other children – especially B and E at swimming and R at craft group.

You like digging in dirt and you’ve just had your first experience jumping in muddy puddles.

You have to visit the book shop every time we go past it – you know exactly where the kids books are.

You’re wonderfully fun and loving and difficult and relaxed and intense and we love you very much.

The State of Squirm: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

The State of Me: November 2013

There are days when things seem to be easy and days when things are ridiculously hard.

I spend most of my time wandering in a fog of little sleep.

Some days it is really hard to be patient and calm with Squirm.

My anxiety is higher, especially my social anxiety and I keep finding excuses to avoid people.

I like being outside, reading and watching Squirm play.

I’ve started doing yoga, every day. I love the way it makes me feel, even when it’s hard.

I’m getting a fair amount of crafting done at the moment – it makes me happy too 🙂

We’ve been rewatching The West Wing at night – there’s so much of Season 6 I don’t remember.

I’m starting to get excited about blogging again.

The State of Me : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Squirm tries out his photography skills on me