Shelter

Sitting at home listening to the rain quite literally pounding against my window-pane, like tiny fists desperately begging for entrance. Angry sounds of rain against glass, of the wind whistling through the swaying trees, the silence and darkness of cars parked in driveways, not a night to be out and about.

But some people are.

This time of year is not only one for repentance and forgiveness, but also for being grateful. Talking to God has never been something I struggle with, but recently it feels almost overwhelming to imagine asking God to let me keep the people I’ve learned to build my life around. Horrible things happen every day, people I know lose seemingly everything in a split second. I cant let myself think about the possibility of that happening, or I wouldn’t be able to let those I love out of the door every morning. But what I can do, is be grateful that they are mine, and tell God that, as honestly and meaningfully as possible.

But tonight, during the ten days of penitence, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness in equal measure, but not over any person in my life or missed from it. Simply having a roof over my head, something we all take for granted, isn’t an obvious truth for everyone. I’ve always had what you could call a soft spot for the homeless, giving where I can, signing up to Shelter and other charities similar to it. But still, no matter how involved I try and become, I cant fathom the idea of someone not having anywhere to lie their head at night.

Maybe it’s about being part of a community. Even if you discount family and friends, I cant imagine a situation where there would be absolutely no one I could turn to to ask to stay for a few days, a week or two. And if there was? All I would need is courage to go and ask the local Rabbi for some hospitality from somewhere in the community.

So to me, who could list off the top of my head, fifty people who would open up their spare rooms for the night before I was turned onto the streets, and thank God, could afford to be in a bed-sit, a hotel, or a studio for quite a while even if there was no-one to call, I shudder to imagine the bodies wrapped in soggy newspapers lying rough tonight.

The small taster we are about to receive, no doubt sitting in the rain in our ‘temporary dwellings’ this Succot, should be enough to remind us all how much we have. As we go into Yom Kippur, for me at least it helps to go back to the very basics, and remember how lucky we are to be able to complain about the cold and the rain from the inside looking out.

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Rosh Hashana 2012

Hopes and thoughts for the year ahead

  • My little once baby boy is now a toddler. I am so proud of C and myself for everything we have managed to give him in the last year, and he is a confident and happy little boy. However, I am hoping that this year will give him the communication skills to speak to us and to others, and make himself verbally understood. By this time next year he will be starting his third term of nursery, and I can only leave it in Gods hands to make sure he is ready for this huge step in interaction and social understanding. (Gulp.) He hasn’t ever let his eyes hold him back until now, long may it continue! I get frustrated and worried when people ask me ignorantly “is he really partially sighted?” I suppose my greatest hope is that people always continue to ask me that question!
  • I could never have imagined coming this far in my relationship as a daughter this time last year. My mother and I no longer argue, (although we drive each other mad sometimes) and in many ways our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. I can say without doubt that I understand her more than I ever have done, and that I no longer worry that she doesn’t really want the relationship to start with. I hope that this year we can begin to enjoy each others company the way we sometimes used to during the manic bipolar nature of our time together during my teenage years. I also hope I can show her that she can trust that I’ll always be in her life, she isn’t alone, even while I cant soothe her loneliness. If I’m really honest, my fear is being sucked back into the craziness, and losing myself in it, in trying to help what can’t ever be changed. I think only heaven can show me a way to balance love with self-preservation. It’s certainly not something I’ve ever had much luck with in the past.
  • I could never have imagined that the biggest challenge of adulthood would be friendship. While my old friendships hold strong for the most part, it seems to be a well known but un-discussed fact of being a grown up that it is about 50 times more difficult to make lasting relationships. While in high school, all it took was a few shared classes or break times, nowadays things are so much more complicated. Play dates, Shabbat lunches, chats at the library… when do acquaintances become real friends? I finally feel like we have a community to be a part of, and have met some lovely people with kids similar ages to R, and a similar lifestyle to C and me. I hope that this year will bring us closer in a deeper way, and they will move from being people to pass time with, to being people we call in times of joy or need.

Reconnecting with old friends and family, finding peace with things which cannot be changed. Making the next steps towards goals both old and new, treating ourselves to much needed “me-time” and “family-time” alike. Success in our careers and family life and personal aspirations. The ability to give and accept, in equal measure.

I want to wish all this and more to all my friends and family, along with a huge thank-you to everyone who continues to read and support me, I cant say how much it means to me. To everyone who celebrates in one way or another, a Shana Tova U’Metuka, a healthy, happy and sweet new year.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Not sure if it’s going to help the night-time issues… but R recieved the best present ever from us yesterday. A duvet and a pillow! I figured I sure wouldn’t want to be in my bed without mine, so who says he feels any differently? Making his cot a more comfortable/fun place to be in couldn’t hurt anyway.

I took the pic before I left him in bed, feeling very fuzzy and emotional at the idea of my little boy all tucked in for the first time. Of course by the time I checked on him a couple hours later, he had discarded them both entirely, and was curled up in a ball in his own baby-made duvet free spot. He did sleep all night though, so who am I to complain?

Now to find some boy friendly Peppa Pig sheets… He will never want to get out!

The Night-time Tango

My ‘baby’ is almost two. Although he has always been a great sleeper, the last month or so has been really tough. Not tough in comparison to you reading this, whose child hasn’t slept since 2009, and whose kid is regularly up for 30 hours at a time, and dropped their nap at 5 and a half weeks, and spends the hours of 2-6 am playing the steel drum through your bedroom wall…. but tough for us, who are used to a baby who goes down at 7ish and wakes up at 7.30ish.

The facts are as following. We put him into bed as usual at 7-7.30. He has had his bath, milk, story/ies and we have sung him his night-time songs. We put him in the cot, turn his mobile on, and say goodnight. Before the last month, that would have been it, and the next we would hear is lively chattering at about 7 in the morning, followed by annoyed moaning at about 7.45. But now, the very second the door closes we are met with pitifully angry and upset screaming, which escalates in decibel level and seriousness of tantrum the longer it’s left.

I believe in controlled crying, to a point. Sometimes a toddler just has to be allowed to scream it out, and nothing that you do will make a difference, they just don’t want to go to bed. But I also believe in checking all the other boxes first before you leave them to basically cry themselves to sleep.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. But the resulting checklist is confusing and inconsistent.

I always leave him to ‘cry it out’ for fifteen/twenty minutes first. Then, a number of possibilities cross my mind.

Maybe he’s hungry…
Whether he didn’t eat a proper supper, or didn’t finish his milk, or it’s just been three hours since supper so why shouldn’t he be hungry, I often find myself going in with a snack, like a cracker or raisins. He always takes it hungrily, (but that proves nothing because he always takes ANY food hungrily) and mostly falls asleep after eating it.
Problems: Firstly, that i am “making a rod for my own back” as he will come to expect the snack, and get hungrier b/c he is used to eating then. Secondly that there is a niggle in my mind as to whether he is actually hungry at all, in which case I’m just feeding him to ‘shut him up’ so to speak. I’ve tried giving bigger suppers or a yoghurt/fruit pot after dinner. No change.

Maybe he’s scared…
I have read that this age is a common one for developing fears of being alone/ the dark/ nightmares etc. If this is the problem, I’m not sure what the answer is. If I stay with him, how does that help the underlying problem when I leave again? I could buy him a nightlight, or glow in the dark stars or a projector, but I’m not overly keen on making him reliant on something to sleep with, especially as up to this point he has been fabulous at falling asleep in travel cots and other peoples homes and the like, with nothing more familiar than his baby bear.

Maybe he’s over-tired…
In my experience, an over-tired baby can scream for hours. And hours. And I’m just not that strong to listen to the tears and chokes. 😦 I’ve tried making his nap longer during the day, sometimes it works, other times, not being tired yet- he plays in his cot for so long that he never ends up sleeping at all. In addition, being at a childminder some of the week means I’m not always in charge of how long he sleeps in the day. Just to confuse matters, on Friday night he stays up with us until about 9pm, and always always drops off instantly afterwards.

Maybe something is wrong…
One of the reasons I find extended controlled crying hard is that you dont know whats going on in there. Twice I have gone in to shrieking noises, only to find my son’s leg trapped in the cot bars red and sore looking, and sometimes (less dramatically) it is as simple as giving back his baby bear who has escaped from the bed. If the problem can be solved easily, why not give yourself that chance? Short of buying a baby monitor for my 2 year old… I have to poke my head in ocassionally, dont I?

Maybe he’s lonely…
When I go in after the 15 minutes, he never tries to get up out of the cot, rather lying down and staring at me forlornly. I bend down and shh shh quietly, stroking his hair and making calming sounds. And he lies there, watching me. He is perfectly happy as long as me or C are there with him, but he doesnt close his eyes. If I pick him up, he nestles into my shoulder and lies still on me, giving the best cuddles ever, eyes open, and stays there as long as I’ll let him. Generally as soon as I put him down again and leave the room, the crying starts up again. Eventually after two or three of these cycles, the crying stops and he falls asleep until morning. The whole thing generally lasts no longer than 1.5/2 hours, on a bad night. and I wont pretend I dont love the cuddles.

The longest I have left him to cry is about an hour, and by that point he was so worked up that he could hardly breathe, and it took two hours to get him to settle.  It’s been a month, so i don’t think the answer is as simple as “he’s probably getting ill” or “his teeth are bothering him.”

Is this just a rite of passage in having a 2 year old?

I miss my evenings, so all advice and sympathy gratefully recieved.

Peppa Pig has Bad Parents.

Is it just me, or is Peppa just not a very good role model for our kids?

My son loves a lot of things. He loves his baby bear, he loves most types of food, he loves books of all kinds, and this week he loves Lego. But as I’m sure most parents find with their kids, he doesn’t love anything as much as the limited time he spends watching TV shows. As we don’t have a television, at the moment his entire repertoire of shows consists of Baby Einstein and Peppa Pig which we’ve downloaded to our laptop/smartphones. Most parents will agree that Peppa is a useful show, because it only lasts five minutes. The perfect amount of time to keep your kid entertained while you make the important phone call, quickly put the supper on, scream into a pillow etc, without making you feel like one of those mums who over-uses TV as a way to entertain their offspring. (After all, 5 minutes even three times a day barely counts as television, I wouldn’t even mention it. ;))

I chose Peppa Pig because I saw endless children who were obsessed with the characters, and because we had received a book with Peppa and George in our Bookstart pack from the library, and R brought it to me to read about 7 times a day. And it’s a cute show, with simple and sweet story lines. For those (luckily) not in the know, the family of pigs consists of Mummy and Daddy Pig, Grandma and Grandpa Pig (I assume Daddy Pig’s parents given the matching surname?) Peppa, who seems to be about 3 or 4, and her baby brother George, somewhere between 1 and 2. Oh the hiijinks they can get up to in five minutes!

So what bothers me? A few things, and I preface this by saying I know I’m probably being over the top, and also that I have only seen approx half of the first season and none of the others.

1. Language
Does anyone else notice the amount of times Peppa exclaims “Naughty Daddy!” or “Messy Mummy!” or “Silly Naughty Daddy!” and the entire family erupts into peals of laughter? I see that the parent in question normally joins in the laughter, so I wouldn’t say it’s exactly encouraging bullying and teasing, but surely there is a correct way to talk to your parents, and this just isn’t it! Aren’t we showing our kids at their most receptive time for learning that it’s okay to use words like naughty and silly, and not only use them but direct them to their mums and dads? Worse still, the parents reinforce this by using the same language to each other in front of the children too. Over the top or not, I find it uncomfortable.

2. Food.
I know they are a family of pigs, so maybe I’m fighting a losing battle with this one, but is there ONE episode of this show where they don’t consume junk food? Biscuits, Pancakes, Chocolate Cake, Cookie batter… and all eaten in two swift bites! Would it kill the writers to give Peppa an apple?

3. Gender Stereotyping.
Daddy Pig works in an Office. He has a flashy laptop and a big desk. If Mummy Pig does any work, it is condescendingly referred to as Very Important, and is done on the Amstrad PC she has upstairs in her bedroom. Of course, the second the computer stops working, she is all a flap and calls Daddy Pig to fix the big mean problem. He promptly turns it on and off again to rapturous applause from the females and children. Phew. What would we do without big strong men-folk.. er, pig-folk.

4. Discipline.
If the Pig residence was a real household, Super Nanny would have been called years ago. Because there is no way that Peppa and George would be such well behaved kids with the lack of discipline they are shown.

Example One
“Peppa, be careful with your bike around my prize pumpkin!”
“Yes Daddy…. [to friends “lets race to Daddy’s pumpkin!”] CRASH …sorry Daddy”
“That’s okay Peppa, as long as you’re ok, now lets make pumpkin pie as a reward for you totally ignoring what I just told you!”

Example Two
Peppa and George are jumping in Muddy Puddles. They are head to toe covered in filth. 
“Let’s go show Daddy!” 
-traipse into house spreading mud everywhere-
“Hahaha, lets get you cleaned up before Mummy Pig sees.” 

Not even a “next time don’t bring mud in the house/ take your boots off first.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse characters out there, who promote much more dangerous activities than pumpkin smashing and mud slinging. And far less educational shows for toddlers as well, which seem to consist of nonsense being babbled at my baby for twenty or thirty minutes. (If I wanted that, I would put him in front of a mirror.) In comparison, Peppa Pig is pretty harmless.

Yet it bothers me that in any episode where Peppa does something naughty, she either looks sheepish for about 3 seconds until her family erupts into laughter, or she says “sorry Daddy/Mummy” in the singsongiest of voices until she gets a tooth decaying treat for her trouble.

I’m not saying they should fill the show with Peppa sitting on the naughty step and receiving lessons on her 5 a day. I’m just not sure I want R looking up to her that much either.
Thoughts?