Wednesday 31 March 2010

The kraamvisite

You can vaguely describe Holland as the same as everywhere else, just with minute yet significant differences.

Almost in the same way that good looking celebrities have easily recognisable, yet frankly ugly siblings.

A case in point being that yesterday we had our first official kraamvisite.

A 'kraamvisite' is where people simply come to visit you and see the new baby, just like people do the entire world over and have done so for centuries.

The Dutch kraamvisite is slightly different, it is formal. Very formal. This is no drop-in-while-passing arrangement. Arranged strictly well in advance, a precise date and time agreed, and may the ghost of the little boy with his finger in the dyke haunt for eternity you should you serve anything other than the appropriate food and drinks to your guests.

Appropriate in this case being coffee strong enough to power a Prius, and ‘beschuit met muijses’, which are an inexplicable combination of toasted discs of bread covered in butter and sugared anise seed, pink or blue according to the genitalia of the person being celebrated.

Kraamvisites apply to acquaintances, colleagues, neighbours, and bizzarely your boss. Yesterday we played host to my boss.

What could possibly go wrong when two sleep deprived foreigners attempt to host an event of cultural significance for someone who has the power to remove their livelihood?

Theoretically, quite a lot.

One could ignore the traditions laid out above and serve stale chocolate chip cookies, with the pathetic reasoning that if they are good enough for one’s own dinner, they are good enough for the man who effectively puts them on the table.

One could choke said boss on appallingly made coffee, leaving him to pick cheap granules from between his teeth for hours afterwards.

One could have a baby on show who insisted on farting her way through the entire visit.

One could get said boss lost after begging a lift to the garage where the car that the boss pays for lay in a woeful state of repair due to negligence and therefore making him late home to his own wife and children.

One could be looking for a new job soon. Or host country.


Sunday 28 March 2010

Excuse me Miss Paltrow

Last night was an odd one.

As Mango celebrated five weeks on this side of her mother’s vagina, I finally got to go out and officially ‘wet the baby’s head’.
As has become an irritating habit in pubs across the planet, I occasionally pull out my phone and check my email. You never know when that life changing piece of correspondence could hit your mailbox.

One such moment arose when my fellow quaffer went to relieve himself and I once again flipped the phone open and clicked on-line.

Through somewhat drunken eyes, to my pleasant surprise, I read the results that were coming in from the Irish Blog Awards in Galway. I had to check a couple of sources before I saw for sure that the blog had won the award of Best Personal Blog 2010.

Nuts. It’s mental, insane, but brilliant that Mango’s story gets an unexpected extra happy ending.

I want to thank Jo for standing in, collecting the pretty sexy looking award, and keeping it from ending up in some Galway dumpster. I’m glad someone familiar with the blog was able to pick it up and I can’t wait to get a look at the real thing.

Thanks to everyone that has read along the way, and to the organisers and judges for putting in all the the effort.

The award itself was sponsored by Microsoft Ireland’s Developer & Platform Group, and the full list of winners is available here. Congratulations to all the winners, and best of luck next time around to all those that didn’t make it.

How happy am I?

About this happy.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Pressing snooze

We were oh so very clever.

We had it all planned, were full of very grand notions, we knew how it would all work.

Pas de problème!

We were oh so very wrong.

Mango’s bedroom was to serve as the magic room. The place where she would be cleaned and changed and fed and made presentable once again to the world. This was also to be the case while she slept in our room.

The only impact on our bedtime routine would be the occasional whimper, from the child, not us, as she is whisked away to the magic room before silently being returned to join the blissfully sleeping parent. Our den of peace and tranquility and comfort should not face upheaval of any sort.

A couple of days short of 5 weeks and it is all arse over tit.

ET, being the lucky on-maternity-leave critter that she is, is champion of ‘the turnaround’.

The turnaround is the nappy change and feed that takes place in the dead of night. In the early days this involved a child roaring her head off, lights being switched on, kettles being boiled, drawers being open and shut, cold feet on hard floors, and a struggle to resettle the child when all the the various activities had been completed.

Now the turnaround is different. Now the turnaround is done in moments, stealth like actions carried out by a practically sleeping mammy beside a eyelid flickering daddy upon a snoozing child. The cost of such a change is high though. Gone are our fantasies of an undisturbed sleeping environment, and here to stay is a bed surrounded by nappies, wipes, bottles, bottle warmers, nappy bags, formula measures and a sweatshop worth of spit up cloths.

Everything is taken to bed with us. Where previously the only discomfort in the bed would have been a stray knee or wild elbow, we are now just as likely to have our slumber disrupted by rolling over on a formula scoop, or by the rustle of a plastic bag, or by the dripping of a cooling bottle on our pillow.

It’s like sleeping in a skip out the back of a baby shop. A duvet in a dumpster. One huge nest of humanity where everything and anything is within an arm’s reach.

But for now, she sleeps. So, pas de problème!

Monday 22 March 2010

Cherry popping

My first time is a blur.

I was nervous and cautious, I think I saw a tear or two in her eye. The old nurse was barking instructions at me, how to get this over there, how I should grip that, and very specifically what goes where.

Have you not practiced at home?’ she despaired.

I had, but obviously not enough. Some things you just expect to be good at.

With everything in the right hole I started to move. Slow and steady. Forwards, slight movements to the left, careful gestures to the right. Every now and again I would slow further, even stop for a moment, just the sound of heavy breathing carrying the moment until I would hold mine and start to move once again.

Every bump was magnified, wince inducing. Every screech I heard made me flinch. Half of the people seemed to be watching and passing judgment. ‘That poor girl’.

The other half apparently indifferent, selfishly unaware of the importance of these moments, the rite of passage that was taking place.

I was in constant fear of going too fast, perhaps overestimating my prowess and any discomfort it could cause, all the while equally worried about being far too timid and having no one reach their desired destination.

Eventually, maybe even inevitably, we made it. All of us in one piece, still on speaking terms, just as besotted as before. That nervous first time has been repeated a couple of times now. It’s gotten easier.

There may well be more first times, other girls, but there will only ever have been one real first time.

Driving Miss Mango.

Saturday 20 March 2010


I'm a bit anal.

Get your mind out of the gutter and put that thing back in the drawer, that's not what I mean.

I've never been comfortable going off topic here, but in this instance it's very much intertwined with all that has gone before, so I will declench and carry on.

I'm glad it's gone through in this category, as dodgy sperm, hand shandys, and all the rest of it is normally considered fairly personal. This is just another one of the pretty cool things that has come about as a result of writing all this nonsense in the last 12 months, getting mentioned as one of the 20 blogs to read by the Irish Times, getting to bloody write in the Irish Times, and even having a chat with Pat Kenny.

Weird, but cool, and all because of the wee minx across the landing who I'm trying not to awaken with my typing.

The awards take place next Saturday 27th March in Galway, and the other 4 finalists in the category are top notch.

Some of you may argue otherwise, but I'm the only owner of a set of testicles among them. I'm a token male. Story of my life.

The finalists are last year's deserved winner Annie Rhiannon, Fatmammycat who was one of the first I ever read, and the other two Queen Of Pots! and A Chick Named Hermia (which I can't not read as Hernia, sorry) were previously unknown to me but really do look impressive.

Good luck ladies, and enjoy the night.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Side effects

Good Girl!’ I yelped with an audible smile on my face.

My tone was a little too celebratory to be excused.

It wouldn’t have needed excusing if it had been the baby who had burped and not ET. Just another example of the side-effects of having a 3 and a half week old lodger.

The professing of congratulations when another adult breaks wind is something that often happens in our house now, especially around relay dinner time. Relay dinner is when both our meals are prepared and waiting to be eaten, but only one of us can eat at any given moment while the other pacifies El Mango.

4 bites washed down with a drink before the baby baton is passed and the other person gets the chance to scoff as much of their cold dinner as possible before the whole thing comes full circle once again. The relay is considered a success should the child actually shut up at any stage during the meal or someone manages to finish their food before the appearance of mould, it’s considered a failure when you actively contemplate selling all but one of your dining room chairs.

Unfortunately, the madness of Mango’s mangled mammy and daddy’s world is not confined to the shaky four walls of our little home. I’ve had more than one strange look from colleagues during this last week as a result of ‘baby speak’.

Asking people questions with psychopathically wide eyes, a perpetually nodding head, in a voice that makes them wonder if I’ve had a testicle removed and my jaw broken does not help get things done.

‘Does this mean the pwoject will be a widdle bit late? It does, doesn’t it. It does, so it does. Yes it does. Yes it does. Awww.’

Jiggling a one hundred kilo Dutchman’s cheeks while you ask them will just get your arse kicked.

Monday 15 March 2010

Sometimes late at night...

“Newborns sleep 20 hours a day”.

My blue tinged scrotum they do.

Aside from the standard changing, feeding, shaking, and bathing which keeps her awake for a good 5 hours a day, Mango likes to unwind of an evening by engaging in some gentle lullaby based demonic screeching. An angelic screaming so pure and piercing, the hounds of hell prick their ears and raise their snouts to the wind, for 3, 4, or 5 hours long.

Attempts first to soothe her, and then reverse her antipodean body clock, take many forms. Lights on, lights off, lights on outside with door open, TV on, TV off, walking and rocking, standing and rocking, sitting and rocking, crying-it-out in the Moses basket, rolling the pram up and down the stairs, and banging the bed with a lump hammer. Feeding her to the point of infantile obesity and changing her every 20 minutes doesn’t have much of an impact. Offering her cash, soft drugs, and the car keys only leaves us out of pocket.

There is something magically baffling about a baby who will only sleep when the theme music to ‘law & order’ is blaring in the bedroom, yet will wake screaming when you hold your breath and silently tip-toe away.

I’m not even going to entertain the mental image of the cheap motels and string of relationships that will lie decimated in her wake as a consequence, but Mango refuses to sleep at night without the warmth of another body to carry her towards slumber. When I shake off the neck injury I’m carrying from accommodating her ever increasing weight on my shoulder I’m going to source a quality chastity belt and an “I’m a confident single woman” hypnosis CD.

Last night she drifted off into her angelic nocturnal bliss lying beside a powered-on vacuum cleaner, the ford focus parked on the landing with the engine running, and 7 construction site spotlights pointing directly at her.

After a mere 5 hours of wailing.

Before I forget, again, thanks to the at least one person I know of who nominated the blog in the Irish blog awards to be held in Galway at the end of the month. It managed to pass the first bit and is now on the not-so-shortlist for 3 categories. It can only progress in one of them, so we’ll see how she blows from here on. Oh, and all the sponsors are great and handsome etc

Thursday 11 March 2010

Dirty protests

This week I got shat on.

‘Shitted on’ perhaps, in the quest for grammatical accuracy, but the result is the same. Mango regularly chooses to shite the hand that cleans her.

She’s developed a penchant for waiting for the fresh March air to caress her delicate posterior before releasing her recycled mustard. Many an innocent fresh nappy has fallen victim to this underhanded approach to bowel movements, never to realise their destiny as fully fledged infant cheek protection, brave backside soldiers felled on the path to the battlefield.

These changing events are not complete without Mango engaging in a celebratory dance, trampling her tiny bare feet in her freshly liberated excrement. This, startlingly, is a fact I have forgotten on more than one occasion when overcome by the urge to have a nibble on her toes.

Eat shit daddy.

It seems she might also be taking some exception to the Irish nationality being imposed upon her, with ET’s attempts to have a passport photograph taken not proving fruitful.

The problem is essentially one of logistics.

The photographer’s shop is 3 minutes walk away. 3 minutes walk in the fresh air is sufficient to send Mango into a sleep so deep that she can only be awakened by a hundred years of forest growth and a prince’s kiss, or the sound of a sleeping father. A sleeping baby does not make for an acceptable passport photograph. An unacceptable passport photograph does not make for a successful passport application, and an unsuccessful passport application rarely results in a passport being issued.

Her birth saw the downfall of her adopted government, and I suspect she’s now set her mind to some form of infantile declaration of jihad against the government of her homeland.

Mango’s militia.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Lucky charms

We’ve had it easy in a way, ET and I.

We are relatively young, we were 'only' trying to conceive for a couple of years, and we never had to face a loss. I know many who read here from time to time who have faced much harder times, and many still do.

One such couple is Judith and Bruce.

In October 2008, I got an email from Judith just saying 'hello'. By that point, Judith and her husband Bruce had already been trying to have a child for 6 years. Conceiving wasn’t an issue, over the years they conceived, and lost, 4 children. All of them before 8 weeks.

From then on we chatted regularly, keeping each other informed of each appointments, results, and the failures. Early last year Judith told me that they had decided to give it one more try. Almost 40, and after so many years on the rollercoaster, enough had become enough.

Her last attempt would be via an IUI, as soon as she could get clearance to go ahead with it. Her last ‘old fashioned’ cycle ended in failure on the same day that ours did, and she started the monitoring for follicle development before IUI at the same time we did.

In a remarkable act of cyber menstrual synchronisation , after months of her and I chatting, Judith and ET both had their IUIs on the same day, barely 25 miles apart. After more than one heart in mouth moment, she was able to confirm that she too was pregnant.

Just like us, their expected due date was the 17th February, 2010.

From that point on I dreaded seeing emails from Judith hit my inbox. With her history of early losses the odds were against her, and I truly had no idea what I would be able to say to her if this child were to not make it, their fifth. At a loss for something constructive to say, I told her we could be each other’s lucky charms.

Every second day she gave me updates, and 2 weeks became 4, which became 6, and 8, and 12. Her cautiousness and doubt eventually gave way to excitement. 20, then 30 weeks passed as did her 40th birthday, and I last heard from Judith at 39 weeks and 4 days.

While ET and I flopped around the house, one of us metaphorically and the other physically bursting at the seams in anticipation and irritation, Judith and Bruce were getting used to life with their baby boy, who is now home with his mam and dad, and thriving.

For the two of them as a couple, the three of them as a new family, and anyone who might be buoyed by their story and outcome, I simply could not be happier.

For the tiniest rocker in Holland:

Friday 5 March 2010

An angel kissin’ on a sinner

Mango is freaking me out a little.

A few months ago, in that irritating way that first time expectant fathers are wont to do, I put together some playlists for her listening pleasure. Every now and again ET would place the headphones on her belly and let the music flow, usually to little or no reaction.

The sole exception being when Iron & Wine began to play, she would kick up a storm, leaving us curious as to whether they were thrusts of approval or disgust.

A couple of days ago, while she was screaming delightfully like a castrated demonic outcast from the depths of Inferno, I clicked on iTunes with no little hint of desperation. Iron & Wine started to play and the screaming stopped. She sighed, rolled her eyes, held her own hands in front of her soft chin, and dozed into a deep sleep. We have repeated this twice since then and she has done exactly the same.

Our daughter is a 13 day old hippy.

Last night, in the small hours, our 8lb bundle of happiness displayed her love of life in her favourite way once again, screaming so loud and fierce that the bats of hell were packing overnight bags and booking Ryanair flights to some airport 150 miles South East of Purtagorio.

Not being in a position to play music, and with her bottle not yet cooled, I sang. I sang Iron & Wine songs. She stopped screaming, sighed, rolled her eyes, held her own hands in front of her soft chin, and dozed into a deep sleep.

This little quirk we’ve found is many things; cute, useful, and a little freaky, but most of all it’s what is going to be the death of me.

She does these things and it physically tugs on tendons somewhere inside my chest. I don’t know how or why, but each time it’s a little more and I know I’m slipping a little further. I knew I could expect something along these lines but I never thought I would end up fearing every time she makes one of her little faces, or pulls an expression, or sighs and dozes off to sleep.

She is kryptonite, she is Achilles’ heel, and she produces love and the fear thereof in equal measure in me.

I’ve developed Stockholm syndrome, being held hostage in Paradiso by a 13 day old hippy.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

A thousand words