29 September 2007

The big issues

Last night we watched Happy Feet on a movies on demand channel. Or I should say, Ella watched the first 15 minutes (asking me millions of questions: Mum, where is his mummy? Mum, when is the naughty seal going to come back?), then got distracted and annoyed me for another 15 minutes and ended up having such a massive tantrum triggered by being overtired (she hadn't had a nap) that I sent her to bed without books or songs and watched the rest of the movie by myself.

I must be the only adult who CRIED with Happy Feet! I felt like such an idiot trying to hold back the tears.

[For those of you who have not seen Happy Feet, it's about humans stealing the penguins' fish, one of the penguins - an outcast because he cannot sing, but he's a hell of a dancer - ends up in a zoo and attracts worldwide attention through his dancing, gets send back home with a tracking device and gets his whole clan to dance for the global media to see, which causes a high-level debate on conservation issues and eventually results in the declaration of a no-fishing zone around their habitat.]

Update: We watched most of the movie together again today and I heard her explain the message to her dad afterwards. About the people taking the penguins' fish and that they had to stop taking the fish so the penguins could eat fish and would not be hungry. Aw!

The same day I explained to Ella in the car what John Butler's 'Treat Yo Mama With Respect' song was really about. I told her that it's about being nice to the 'world' and not hurting trees and not making the ocean and the rivers dirty. And that we shouldn't hurt or break trees because they clean the air and if all the trees would die then the air would be really dirty. I choked up when I heard her explain it back to me.

Explaining "big issues" like this to Ella or even just watching/listening/reading kids' movies/songs/books about idealistic topics like these (looking after the environment and sharing our wealth mainly) make me so incredibly emotional. It's just the thought that if everyone would teach their kids these things and really try to explain the logic behind it, the world could become a much better place. Naive, I know, but it really gives me goose bumps!

26 September 2007

Bearded lady

This morning I had a run in with a dog owner who yelled at me to put my dog on the lead. I ignored her at first as I always do with rude people, but she demanded to know why my dog was not on a leash. I just told her "because it's an off leash area".

She kept going on and on in a very loud voice about me having to keep my dog away from her little dog, that she had picked up as soon as she spotted us. It was all quite funny as my dog hadn't thought her dog worthy of even a glance and had stayed at about 20m distance of them the whole time. I whistled the dog and rode on, feeling rather annoyed at her rudeness towards me, her inability to see that my dog was trained and under control and her being so overprotective of her own poor dog.

Then, when we were just out of earshot, Ella asked me (in Dutch): "Mum, does that lady have a moustache?"*. I folded over my handlebars laughing.

Turned out she meant to say 'stick' instead of 'moustache', the words being vaguely similar in Dutch and she denied ever using the word moustache at all. But from now on that woman will always be referred to as the lady with the moustache. Serves her right!

*It is a question I used to often get asked by her when playing the Guess Who game: "Mum, does your lady have a moustache?"

24 September 2007

Treat yo mama with respect

I happened to have a John Butler CD on in the car driving back from the river this afternoon. It didn't need much prompting (though some, fair's fair) from me to get Ella to sing the Treat Yo Mama With Respect song. I got her to sing it at least 5 times while we were walking through the supermarket and cackled victoriously for about half an hour after.

Such fun when you know they don't know what they are singing too. Though eventually I did explain to her that it means you have to be nice to your mama and to her credit, she liked the song even more then.


video

22 September 2007

As you do

Ella wanted socks on to go to bed tonight. I obliged, but reminded her a couple of times that if her feet got too hot, she had to take the socks off.

An hour later I went into my bedroom and discovered her in my bed like this:



I'm sure it made perfect sense to her...

21 September 2007

We all scream for ice cream

We went out to a restaurant in the city with some friends last night.
I'd been bribing Ella into being good from before we even left home by promising her an ice cream in the restaurant.

So while we were waiting for everyone to arrive, I ordered her not one but two scoops of gelati. A massive portion which made me feel somewhat guilty for the effect it would have on her dental health, but made me also selfishly hopeful that it would keep her busy for a long time so I could actually participate in the dinner conversation. She was indeed happy eating tiny spoonfuls for quite some time until she lost interest and the ice cream turned into a milkshake minus the shake.

Then tragedy struck. When we came back from a visit to the toilet the staff had cleared the entree plates off the table and the ice-cream too had gone. Drama! It didn't help me telling Ella that it was all melted anyway. She was inconsolable. I had to take her outside to give the other diners a break from the high pitched wailing.

When we came back to the table after some fresh air with Ella somewhat calmer but still grumpy, waiting for her on the table was a brand new two-scoop ice cream! One of my friends had told the waitress of the tragic impact removing the ice-cream had had on Ella and she kindly replaced it.

It doesn't matter that it turned into gooey sludge again before she could finish it. Justice had been done!

I get so affected by seeing children - especially my own - cry over such things which seem totally trivial to an adult but about which I have childhood memories that vaguely remind me of how utterly heart-breaking such experiences are at that age.

I will never forget the time last year that we got to the ice cream stand at the markets when they were selling out on the last day they were there before the winter break. I had been promising Ella an ice cream and you can imagine my relief when I noticed they had about 2 small scoops left. I triumphantly ordered the girl to put these last 2 scoops of the season on a cone for my excited little girl. Only to then discover I did not have any money on me at all. I had to drag Ella away from the ice cream, with her screaming as if someone had just told her she was about to lose both her legs. And me feeling so bad for her, so empathising with her grief that I was nearly in tears too. I eventually bought her a very expensive and very posh adults ice cream from the deli that allowed me to pay by card.

Ella only had her first ice cream when she was nearly two. I didn't see any reason to give her that much sugar when she had no idea what she was missing out on anyway. But now - like most parents I can imagine - I fully enjoy the expression of pure joy this cold, unhealthy, brightly coloured snack can put on my daughter's face. They have an expression in Dutch: "A child's hand is easily filled" (E: Little things please little minds). And boy, do I enjoy filling it!

20 September 2007

Best friends


Photo by zseike.

Max is Ella's best friend at daycare.

Ella: Max always wants cuddles. He wants cuddles all day.

It's extremely cute. They have so much in common and yet are so different in some ways. Even if they don't even play together all that often apparantly, he is still the only child she absolutely has to say goodbye to (a goodbye cuddle) and daycare isn't the same if he's not there.

Warning: I won't take kindly to anyone who dares to call him her boyfriend let alone ask her herself if he is her boyfriend/if she has a boyfriend. He's her friend. He happens to be a boy. They're 2.

Though I am secretly happy that her best friend is a boy because I wouldn't like her to turn into a girly girl. He keeps her interested in boy's stuff, she encourages him to develop his more feminine side. Perfect!

19 September 2007

Love me all the time

We were walking home from the shop. We were at the stage where my patience was rapidly evaporating as it started to feel like our trip would take longer than Frodo's journey to Mordor, with Ella who kept changing her mind on whether to ride her bike or walk, kept stopping to pick up rocks or climb dirt mountains and completely ignored my attempts to spur her on.

Then suddenly as we we'd been walking along in silence for a couple of minutes I heard her ask: "Mum, do you love me all the time?"

I asked her to repeat it as I was convinced I'd misheard, but there it was again, clear as a bell:


"Mum, do you love me all the time?"

I knelt down to look her in the eyes and told her that of course I love her all the time, that I love her even when I am nagging, that I love her even when she is crying, that I love her also when she is asleep and when she isn't there. That I love her always and always and always.

Then I gave her a big hug, on the footpath with cars and people going past.

I still cannot believe that my 2 3/4 yo asked me this question! What made her think of this? What was going on in her head?

It was an easy question to answer though. And for once I did not mind stating the obvious at all.

18 September 2007

Power foods

At the dinner table tonight:

Ella: Mum, can I have some more fish?
Me: Wow, you're eating lots of fish. That's great. Fish is good for you. It makes you smart.

5 minutes later...

Ella: I have enough now.
Me: Ok.
Ella: I am smart.
Me: Oh, from eating the fish. Yes you are very smart.
Ella. Yes. And from eating the potatoes?
Me: Potatoes make you strong.
Ella: I am strong.
Like a man.
Or a lady. (The feminist in me breathed a sigh of relief at this point.)
Me: Yes you are strong.
Ella: I am not strong enough.
Not like a man.
Or a lady.

These foods are maybe not as powerful as I wanted to make her believe after all...

Show me the money

I bought Ella a toy sheep from a basket near the door of the post office today. She picked it from a range of different animals.

When we got home I let our dog Luna out of the backyard to greet us while Ella was getting out of the car and we had following conversation:

Ella: Look Luna, do you like my new sheep? I bought it.
Me: I bought it. I paid for it and then I gave it to you.
Ella: I got it out of the basket. Look Luna, it's my new sheep. I bought it.

Hm, a shoplifter in the making?

15 September 2007

Lectures

Ella: Mum, don't take so much tomato sauce.
Me: I can have as much tomato sauce as I like!
Ella: Ok, if you promise not to wipe your hands on your clothes.

She just repeated back to me what I had told her 5 minutes earlier. She does this all the time. I get lectures on why I am not allowed to go too near to the water (because then I'm gonna fall in and she won't be able to get me out, 'Ok, mum?'), lectures on why I should not tease the dog, or she generously advises me to claim my sticker when I do poos on the toilet because then I can get a Fredo when I have 5.

I truly am very glad that she remembers my advice, but I do feel slightly uncomfortable being lectured by someone who cannot even count to 20 yet.

14 September 2007

Stating the bleeding obvious

One of the effective parenting skills I am still training in is spelling everything out to my toddler. I keep forgetting to cover all the angles and possibilities.

Eg. I hear myself say things like:
- Ella, please don't touch the window with your dirty hands because then the lady from the restaurant will have to clean them.
- And also not with your feet.
- (Sigh) Also not with your tongue.

Fortunately there are only so many bodyparts you can touch a window with, though still more than you would expect. Toddlers are also incredibly inventive.
In other situations the options seem endless and I have to be really creative in how I phrase my instructions.

But in the end to me these detailed instructions can all be classified as "stating the bleeding obvious". Because very few things are obvious when you've only been an observer/participant on this planet for 2 3/4 years.

People stating the obvious is one of my pet hates. It comes across as extremely patronising and if there is one thing that makes me see red it is my intelligence being underestimated. Likewise I often skip steps when I present a rational argument to other adults, because I assume they can fill in the blanks themselves.

So now my biggest fear is that I will not be able to stop stating the obvious. I know many - too many - parents with adult children who never got out of the habit again. They are the kind of people that make me want to curl up under the table for a nap 3 sentences into the conversation. If I am not able to act on that urge - I am a polite person, I usually suppress such compulsions - my thoughts start to wander towards the self-harm or suicide option after approximately 30 minutes of listening to statements/observations that seem a total and utter waste of breath.

I pray that - now I have had to resort to becoming one of them when I talk to my daughter - I will manage to grow out of this habit again as she starts to get the hang of the obvious and learns to fill in the blanks for herself.

13 September 2007

Sad

Following conversation ensued after I got Ella to agree that I was the best mummy (not suggestive at all!) when we were having a drink with Ella's godmother G:

G: Am I the best G?
Ella: Noooo!
G: Why not?
Ella: You are sad G!
G: Why am I sad?
Ella: Because you are older than me.

It's probably good advice not to try fishing for compliments from my daughter when you feel a midlife crisis coming on.

11 September 2007

Indicator

Ella (from the back of the car): Mum, can you stop that little noise.
Me: That's the indicator, Ella, I have to use it.
Ella: Why?
Me: So other cars can see that our car is going to turn so they don't bump into us.
Ella: Can you stop that yellow thing, mum. It's making a noise.
Me: It's the indicator, Ella. I have to use it.
Ella: Why?
Me: So other cars can see that we are going to turn.
Ella: Thank you mum. Thank you for stopping the noise.
No, there is the noise again. Mum, stop that noise, it's annoying!

10 September 2007

Galloping grass

Ella: I'm going to tell a story, mum. It's gonna be a good story. Do you want to hear my story?
Me: I would love to hear your story.
Ella: It's a story about animals.
There's a cow [holds up one finger].
The cow runs away from the grass [holds up a second finger]. The grass is chasing the cow.
Me: Err... I did not know that grass could run? It doesn't have legs?
Ella: Ye-eah. The grass can hop and run and the grass is chasing the cow.

I love the way my daughter's limited grasp on language (any language - she's bilingual English-Dutch) can stimulate my own imagination. How cool is it to be confronted at the dinner table with this image of a panicky cow (most likely under the influence of some hallucinogenic drug or - as as colleague suggested - with a severe grass allergy) galloping away with a patch of prime turf on tiny little feet in close pursuit. Who needs mind expanding drugs when you have a 2yo to fill your mind with psychedelic images at no expense?

It took me quite a bit of associative thinking to figure out that she meant a 'grasshopper'.

Hold on tired

"Hold on tired" is one of those phrases my 2yo daughter Ella stubbornly resists correcting, despite hearing me repeat the proper phrase every time she says it. Every article on toddler taming will include the advice to "chose your battles", so I let this one go. And chose it as the title of my blog for reasons as yet unknown to my conscious mind.

My conscious mind (or should that read 'in rare times of consciousness'?) is also not quite sure yet why I started this blog. My friend G may have to answer that one. She is now obliged to read whatever I post here, because ultimately it was her idea!

For those who are not my friend and/or have no friggin idea who the hell I am and are still reading, a short introduction may be in order.

Name is Lin. That's not even my real name, as in not what's on my passport and similar official documents, but that's how everyone I associate with in my current country of residence knows me as.

Age is 37. Can't even think of anything to say about that. I don't really care about age. Do care somewhat about the effects of ageing, but I don't lie awake about it.

Have been in Australia for nearly 10 years. Expect a massive Australiana party on the 9th of December for the 10th anniversary of my arrival in Australia. The reasons why I came here are not important to this blog, which will mainly focus on my current role as a parent, which brings me to:

Ella. Born on 5 January 2005. Beautiful, cute, clever, communicative and intentionally and unintentionally very, very funny. Of course I realise that I am totally biased and that if she were the most ugly child in the Southern hemisphere, I would still think of her as an angel sent from heaven. And were it not for other people - often total strangers, passersby-s (sp?) - confirming at regular intervals my suspicion that my child has not only the gift of the gab, but is also cursed by good looks (I have to say cursed, I'm a feminist for god's sake, I'm not suppose to care about my daughter's appearance!), there'd be no way this (secretly) very proud mother would ever know how Ella rates on the universal beauty and cuteness scale.

The very open and impulsive admiration of outsiders directed towards Ella often makes me feel somewhat awkward. On the one hand it makes me feel like I am merely a shadowy blob at the edge of my daughter's blindingly bright aura. On the other, I never liked the limelight and don't know what to do with all this attention this little blond midget at my side attracts. There is no way I can compete with her when it comes to physical charm so I am constantly trying to guess if the admirers are secretly thinking: "How did this plane jane manage to produce such a beautiful child?" which makes me feel like a cheat. Admittedly it is a question I myself have been trying to answer for the past 2.5 years, but when I think it, it does not dent my self-esteem. On the contrary. It makes me feel like a powerful goddess capable of creating extraordinary beauty at will.

(Oh and not that the attention she attracts is purely because of physical features. She appears genuinely charming in every meaning of the word.)



I suspect this blog will end up consisting primarily of "Ella-stories". From the ones that crack me up through to the ones that involve me wanting to strangle her in Homeresque fashion.

If you are still reading, I hope you didn't find it a waste of your time. I hate wasting people's time! Which must be my cue to press that publish post button now.