Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Punctuality: the new black.

I can't put this on facebook directly because my ass will get completely kicked, but for the love of all things divine, is punctuality really that hard? As in, imagine you have a standing commitment. same day, same place, same TIME every week. You collect your child from point A every week and said standing commitment takes place at point B. Allowing for bogeyman traffic lights (you know those journeys where you get EVERY SINGLE SET), broken-down cars, and roadworks (basically, everything short of your own car breaking down or running out of fuel. If you need help keeping the fuel gauge above zero in your own car you're well beyond redemption), time the journey from A to B. If it exceeds allowable constraints (school finishes at point A at 3.30, commitment begins at point B at 4.30, therefore you have sixty minutes in between), reschedule B. Do not turn up late to B every week. B will crack the sads and rant about you on her blog. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Transgender baby and the importance of pronouns.

That's a lovely outfit! Hm... Blue jeans, navy top, you must be a BOY! Gray hoodie, track pants: BOY;  let's cut to the chase here and say that unless your child is wearing head-to-foot pink, they're male. Obviously. Because what new mother would NOT jump at the chance to buy pink everything? Mm-hm. You're looking at her. At the airport: "He's a tiny new thing, isn't he? Oh yes, very new." This, from the mouths of grandparently-aged people, eyeing off my nine-week-old daughter who is holding up her head on her freakishly strong little neck (yes, all nearly-ten pounds of her now) and PATTING HER ON THE BACK. I'm sorry, did I just walk over to you and announce (on the basis of your gender-neautral clothing and walking stick) "You're a lovely pair of geriatic gentlemen, aren't you? Enjoying a little escape from the retirement village?" WHILE GETTING UP IN YOUR PERSONAL SPACE? No wonder babies are constantly screaming. I should make a million bucks from decoding. Forget hungry/tired/soiled/confused, let's have a crack at agoraphobic (with good reason), overstimulated (I dare you to be wheeled through a shopping centre flat on your back in a hospital bed), and plain old pissed at all the strange and random people poking them and making idiotic noises in their face. One piece of sweet, sweet revenge: to the other mother on the flight home who commented "He's so tiny and cute, isn't he? But gee, they all feel SO heavy after a bit!"Yes, she is, and she weighs much, much less wrapped to me than your similarly aged baby strapped into a forward-facing (eek) crotch dangler (baby bjorn). But good luck with that. Personal pronouns, people. And if you're not sure, try "they". Guaranteed NOT to get you run over with a bugaboo. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

off to work we go...

So far, not too bad...
I went back to work two weeks ago. (Then we went to Queensland for a week.) I've just finished week 2 of working with baby.
It was a bit scary.
Mostly because I was accompanied by my small floppy helpless creature with a tendency to vomit down the front of my top (cursed cleavage!) and demand feeding at inconvenient moments (like when juggling my own violin and that of a four-year-old.

Somehow I've managed to sneakily manipulate our mornings so that Audrey's nearly always sleeping when I need my brain to function in teacher mode, and nine months of having a violin played in close proximity have conditioned her to tolerate music of epic volume and duration. I don't presume this compatibility with my teaching life will last, but it's nice to have her snuggled close for now.
There are dragons on this wrap. Cutest motif ever: parent dragons with a baby between them. Given that this IS the year of the dragon I thought it was fitting. And if you think it's pink, you're wrong. It's only pink on ONE side. Therefore only half pink. Take that. 
Next goal: a really good back carry (or ruck). There's only so long she's going to fit with her skull tucked under the level of my violin.  

A new use for bathroom sinks.

Friday and a visit to the GP. By the time we'd sat in the waiting room for half an hour, I'd drained my 1L water bottle. Feeding, heating, whatever. I was thirsty. Of course, on the way out (baby in arms) I desperately needed the little girls room. Except there's no provision for REALLY little girls. Like, no change-table or funky wall-unit that folds out into said change-table. By the time I realised that, I was committed. You know, when you open the door, your bladder heaves a sigh of relief... there is NO going back from that moment. Thankfully, there was paper towel. Grab, wipe, spread blanket, VOILA!

That's correct. She didn't even wake up. Oh YEAH. 

Today I went back to work. More accurately, it came back to me. That's what happens when you largely work from home. I realised I hadn't swept the back paving where students traipse in ... oh, eight weeks? Term Two was still dumped in a pile on various seats; sheet music for one student, a couple of trophies remaindered from the last concert, paddle pop sticks and props from last group lesson... all the "Oh yeah, I have two weeks to  - OK, that just turned into two days."
She's eight weeks old tomorrow.

Still refluxy, now deciding she REALLY hates sleeping on her back, starting to fill out 000 nicely; and with fingernails that grow faster than a chemo patient's.
Teaching with a baby strapped to one's front is a little weird. Weirder still was picking up my violin to tune it and feeling like I'd forgotten how to handle my bow; the length of it felt ridiculous (to the point I double-checked I had MY bow and not some random cello/oversize thing. Hm. Brain doing VERY odd things.)
The best part: She completely slept through it. I can play (and the sound is resonating maybe four inches above her head) and get NO RESPONSE. Given that babies will react to dissonance, I'm taking that as a compliment. I'm also planning to keep playing repertoire cds while she sleeps in the hope of conditioning her to sleep through her own music lessons one day. (Damn!) On the bright side, she will always be able to sleep on flights, church services and really good orchestral concerts. I have been known to become dangerously relaxed at beautiful concerts.

Off topic (or rather, related to conditioning) I had a Suzuki friend (now violinist of a successful piano trio) whose potty played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star every time she sat down to... tinkle. Guess who used to run offstage halfway through the Twinkle theme every concert. (Dastardly potties.)

Tomorrow: More work. And ballet. Tempted to wear her at class but I don't think that would do good things for my centre of balance.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Babywearing lunacy

Oh yes.
Today my Vatanai arrived. Now I have something to alternate with my Didymos. And it's every bit as cushy and soft as the seller promised, perfect for a squish. Not sure if I'll ever move onto an Ergo, an MT (mei tai) or go back to a RS (ring sling), but it's possible in the future I'll get tired of wrapping a double hammock. Although, when it comes out a little different every time in Girosol Amitola rainbow-y goodness, is that even possible?

Welcome to the world of babywearing. Cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, silk, cotton gauze - there's something for every mother and every child, from squish (newborn) to lanky five-year-olds. The forums tsk over Seven slings and Bubba Moes (can't check the angle of neck/spine easily), Sleepy Wraps and Hug-a-Bubs (stretchy is only good for the first few months) and FFO (front facing outward) carriers like the eponymous Baby Bjorn (commonly and disparagingly referred to as 'crotch-dangler'). Once you get past the range of blends, welcome to the world of colours. I'm particularly captivated by the idea of a rainbow wrap, and have a lovely local mommy to thank for corrupting me (I was already corrupted, but she lent me her Amitola and now I'm besotted. I see one in my near future - and then my stash will be complete - famous last words?)
Amitola Rainbow. Mmm-mm.
I've been doing my own reading on the subject (surprise, surprise) and so far I like everything I read about baby wearing. It works for reflux, correct spinal development (no risk of hip dysplasia), keeps baby close, calm and comfortable. (Dear God, even my mother thinks it's a good idea, and after nappying me in terry flats, she was alllll over the idea of disposables.) Someone referred to the first six months of a baby's life as the fourth and fifth trimester, and I think wrapping is just that.  If nothing else, I'm finally looking hugely pregnant in the way I never really did, and quite enjoying it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

In memoriam.

Today I got the call I've been dreading for a couple weeks.
My beloved violin teacher and mentor died at 1am this morning after battling cancer for years. We said our goodbyes when Audrey was three weeks old, just after she'd been moved to palliative care.

Watching her hold my daughter and having the opportunity to openly acknowledge that she was dying was the closure I needed to make today a little less painful, a confirmation rather than a horrible shock.
She was the kind of person who lived her philosophy; I think she only taught formally for about fifteen years, but she 'retired' to found a new, much-needed school, sat on several boards and advocated for music lessons in schools and the adoption of Suzuki methodology in several of those.

My library of pedagogical approaches owes much to her generosity; there always seemed to be another book that she found of use but didn't much need anymore tucked under my arm when I left her home. The last time I saw her at home she was entirely prepared; the all-encompassing Violin her husband gave to her when they were 'courting' was waiting on the dining table, farewell card carefully tucked inside. The box on top of the book contained a little silver cup that my father (at that point an antique dealer) had engraved and presented to Fay when I graduated Book 1.
The inscription reads:
Fay Weston 
Congratulations on your 
1st graduation student.

Why does a graduation student matter? For a Suzuki teacher starting to teach in a country area where starting ANYTHING before school-age is a revelation, let alone beginning an instrument, teaching is damn hard. Convincing parents their three-or-four-year-old is capable of playing a tiny violin well is the first hurdle. Motivating them to put in the hard yards to enable that goal is an entirely different kettle of slimy things. Having a student graduate is validates one as a teacher. It's knowing that you have educated a family and they have made a commitment to the pursuit of excellence; the Level One Graduation performance is a culmination and a proof of many things, even as it's also just the beginning. 

I began violin lessons when I was four (and-a-half; my mother will at this point add I was "a late starter") and I can remember being bribed to put down my book, one of the Enid Blytons that are now on the bookshelf of my own studio. I was blessed with a teacher who taught the child in front of her, regardless of their chronological age. 

Five or six years later, working through Book 8, I remember Fay trying to divorce us; for months and months she said I needed a new teacher who could take me beyond the books.  She was a source of unconditional support for my mother, who had her ability to homeschool me constantly questioned and who questioned it herself. When I thought I might "do some teaching" age fourteen, Fay handed over copies of all the parent handouts she'd written for her own beginning families; she even handed me a couple of students while she visited Europe for twelve weeks. 

Discussing Fay with a fellow student who now lives in Sydney and like me, is now 'grown up' - husband, baby, Suzuki violin studio - she said her husband didn't understand her grief. In his view, this was a teacher she'd had for two years when she was five. In hers, Fay was the single most influential person she'd known.

We're not the only students to have stayed in touch; another of our friends has gone on to work for the Sydney Opera Orchestra, another, now a nurse, also visited her in palliative care with her ten-week-old son; one of the boys called regularly from America, where he works as a NASA physicist. I said today to my best friend (a Suzuki voice teacher) that I'm very grateful. We were so lucky. She gave us so much and nurtured our childhood and adult selves so generously. She will live on in the tone of her students and their students. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dear Audrey...

Today you are six weeks old. If your dad was here he'd correct me and say "Well, at 7.11 pm she will be."
The crazy thing is that right now, those eight hours do make a difference. Every day you've seemed more alert, more watchful. Now when you feed you stare up at me with large, calm eyes. In the evening you get a little frenzied and (my interpretation) try hijacking our dinner conversation with emphatic growls and postures, worrying my breast the same way a dog beats a loved toy into compliance.
You weigh about eight and a half pounds and fit into 0000 clothing now - the little 00000 bonds suits that hung off you in the hospital are now relegated to a box so that one day you can dress your baby dolls in them and Michael and I can be amazed all over again by how small and perfect you were.
You have already perfected a couple of expressions; my favourite is the slightly sneaky, heh-heh-heh sideways glance just before you clamp down. The switched-off pursed mouth is another favourite, even if it predicts a visit to the change table. You still don't burp very well and struggle with wind pains - sometimes they wake you up and we pat your back or try to rub your tiny tummy while you windmill in anguish. I slipped two amber bracelets onto your little ankles last week and I hope they're helping. I don't want to take them off to see! I imagine that when you get around to it you will smile generously and often. You love to sleep on your tummy propped against us, or wrapped and carried.  Thank you for the hours of rest this has granted me.
We seem to be doing ok as a family so far - your dad is great at cooking so I don't have to and bringing me a cup of tea in the morning so you and I can lie in a little. Feeling the weight of your sleeping body or watching you try to make sense of the world is astounding.

Monday, July 2, 2012

So I went and got myself this sweet little Blog with Integrity button. Let's face it, the odds of me ever being paid to write about anything on this page are minuscule, but just in case Johnson&Johnson turn up with a crazy sweet sponsorship deal, I will tell you if their products cause leprosy. There are a ton of moms out there reviewing everything from modern cloth nappies (argh, that would be a fabulous deal, not even having to buy the damn things ONCE) to wall decals (because every mommy has time to stuff about with enormous sheaves of brightly coloured contact). I will not be one of them. In case you've not noticed, I lack the requisite tones of sycophancy. (I also have a predilection for words of many syllables. I don't think the ad agencies really go for that kind of thing.)
In fact, I'm probably more of a complainer.
This particular ebay seller is a great case in point. A few weeks back I ordered (and paid for) a set of custom 'topping' for the bugaboo. Basically this is the domain of those with too much time on their hands who think switching seat, canopy and bassinet fabric to co-ordinate with their outfit is the be-all and end-all.
Except I (oh, of COURSE) actually bought it to be different. It's this funky great damask print, very wallpaper-y (so much so the whole pram would blend into the wall very nicely) which won't match a single item of clothing in my wardrobe but which will differentiate MY bugaboo from the four gazillion others. Except the damn set has still not arrived. I feel like ringing the seller up and screaming "You do realise I only have four months left where she'll even FIT INTO the damn bassinet?!" but given that she had six boys before getting her little girl (her words, not mine) I'd feel a little guilty. I've already sent a tactfully worded "Just let me know when you pop it in the mail so I can keep an eye out for it!" email... How do I get my stuff?


At some stage I decided to rebel. Now that I think about it, the rebellion started LAST barbecue, when I (six months pregnant) walked down the hall, saw the gaggle of pregnant/breastfeeding/cooing women to my right, and promptly turned left. To hang out with my geeks, because I'd rather talk
Magic: The Gathering and Warhammer 40K,
jobs and
(rarely) football (with my lot it's more likely to be some arcane board game. Or iPhone apps)
paid maternity leave (I don't get any, how NICE for you),
the new plasma screen (we don't have a tv and I like it that way)
the best nursing top/lament for my jeans, and
the latest developmental milestone. I work with children. I know this stuff. I don't care whether your child crawls this week or next.

So, walking through the same door with a six-week-old baby in my arms, I stepped around two strollers (really? Did you walk here?), four nappy bags (Yeah, mine's going to be 20 cm away at all times because this child is only 20 seconds from vomiting at any given time) and walked into the front room. Floor activity mat: check. Nursing mom: check. Burping-baby mom: check. Two little girls playing "Pass the six-week-old brother": check. Poor homeowners. They don't have kids (yet) but they're somehow stuck right in the middle of a breeding epidemic. I turned left.

Six feet of fabric later (babywearing is the best non-trend I ever discovered) Audrey and I were happily chatting outside. I ate lunch, I drank tea, I even fed her with a little careful loosening and tweaking and sideways positioning. I did get dragged into a sympathy bath later in the afternoon ("Omigosh, BORN ten pound ten? That must have been excruciating!") and it was the worst fifteen minutes of the day (yes, Audrey had thrown up on me twice that morning).

Am I a bad mother? Possibly. The truth is, I like other people's children when I know what I'm supposed to do with them. Give me a three-year-old and half an hour and they'll be able to sing both verses of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, or count to ten in Japanese. Give me a box of Lego and I'll build my own vehicle, climb in and drive off. At speed. But sitting around placating a child so the grownups can talk for the sake of the grownups talking... We. Are. So. Crap.