Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas Wish Granted

Now that I’m approaching 30, now that I’m an adult, now that I have LLC I feel like I should feel like a grown up. But I don’t always. I don’t feel that different now from how I felt ten years ago, and sometimes, I feel like an overwhelmed kid who needs taking care of.

The run up to Christmas was a little hectic in our house. LLC, champion acrobat that she is, managed to catapult herself off our bed while Chris and my backs were turned. Although she seemed herself in the aftermath, a few vomits, several hours of worrying and a call to NHS Direct later, we found ourselves in A&E at midnight with a woken, tired and un-amused LLC to check that she didn’t have a concussion.

A&E was a total bastion of pestilence and the wait to see a doctor was over four hours so when LLC’s initial examination by a nurse proved okay, we decided to take her home and “observe her” rather than wait the entire night to see a doctor.

Importantly, she ended up being fine. Her throwing up was most likely due to a contracting a bug than banging her head. But it took night observation, a late drop off at the childminder, a rushed 6pm visit to the doctor when she threw up her dinner the next day (only to again be told she did not seem concussed) and a frantic dash home from London the following day because she had diarrhea at the childminder’s before we got there. Meanwhile we were trying to prepare for our imminent departure to NY for Christmas.

What we faced wasn’t even that bad but in the moment it was stressful. My demons about being a clued in parent reared their head – should we have taken LLC to the hospital to have her checked right after her fall? Were we nuts to get her out of bed at midnight to bring her to the hospital only to leave? Was it all a slight overreaction or am I crazy to even consider that since you don’t want to gamble with your child’s health? Even though she seemed fine, should we have left her with the childminder the next two days (my last two days of work before a vacation)?

This may all be the reality of caring for a little one but I’m still a fairly new parent and it revved me up a bit. I think I am level headed and that my judgment is sound but I want to feel like when these things crop up I can take care of them and take care of them well without feeling like a bleary eyed nutter in adrenaline fueled haze.

All I wanted at this point was to enjoy a weekend break with Chris’ folks and then catch our flight to NY. The weather and Heathrow airport had other ideas, however, and like so many others, the pre-Christmas UK snow threw our travel plans into disarray. We were supposed to fly on Monday 20th but the flight was cancelled, the airport and airline call centers were in pandemonium and our chances of getting another flight before Christmas seemed slim. I was so disappointed. I hadn’t been home to NY since October 09 when I lost my voice and couldn’t even talk the whole visit and I desperately wanted to see my family and friends. I think I started banging my hands on my head as we drove away from the airport.

But as I said at the start of this post, I’m an adult and I needed to act like one and put it in perspective. So we drove back to Chris’ folks, went straight online and after several attempts managed to book a new flight to NY for Christmas Eve. We took some walks on the cold beach, went to see Harry Potter at the movies, and enjoyed a night out at the pub with Chris’ brother. We started to chill and relax; Chris' folks gave us lots of extra support with LLC. The bleary eyed monster retreated and I started to feel refreshed and calmer again as the week progressed.

Then finally, at about 8:30pm Christmas Eve, our flight touched down at JFK and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. (Flying with LLC will be the topic of a later blog post). So we made it! My Christmas wish was granted! I’ve been spending time with those I care about, I’ve been largely off the computer, LLC is excited to have a whole new world to explore and she's definitely getting a lot of love and attention….

This has been our most amazing and testing year but I am so thankful to be where we are. It’s crazy to think that LLC is almost one. And as a parent I realize that I’m often clueless, not immune from making mistakes and constantly learning…..but even with the setbacks, I think overall I’m doing it with more confidence, conviction and love each day. So next time I get stressed I have to remember this.

Happy holidays everyone.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Stop-Strop-Bo-Bop

I love the word strop, I just don't like to be exposed to it or experience it. For all my fellow Americans, a strop is essentially a mini tantrum. I had hoped not to write about strops too often on this blog but hope springs eternal.

Over the last several days my forever spirited LLC has ramped up her bellow to a full on strop when she doesn’t get her way. She wants everything electronic. If I’m on the phone she wants to hold it and if denied the arm flapping commences. She starts to loudly grunt and moan when I try to convince her that banging on the keyboard while skyping with grandma and Aunt M isn’t wise. She really turns on the waterworks when I remove a piece of Rico’s food from her mouth.

She’s so quick now too. She doesn’t walk but she crawls like lightening and can quickly get to wherever she is not supposed to be within a matter of seconds. I feel like I can’t turn my back for too long, or else she’ll be dialling China on the mobile I forgot to leave out of reach in one hand while chowing down on Science Plan lamb pebbles with the other.

I’m continuing to explain to her why she’s not allowed to do these things but when the strop is in full swing it can grate on my nerves. Right now we only have a safety gate for our stairs but I think I might need another to occasionally cordon her off in a “safe zone.” Then she won’t be tempted by the dark side and so I can hopefully accomplish something rather than run around like a headless chicken between baby and my kitchen sink full of dirty dishes.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

White Wonderland

I grew up across the street from a golf course.  Snow meant sledding.   There was always a hole in the chain link fence we could slip through to reach the adrenaline rush that lay beyond.  I loved the snow.  I always dreamed of a White Christmas.  Unfortunately we didn't get too many. 

Last December my take on snow was a bit different.  Heavily pregnant and stuck inside my house with a road like a sheet of ice, the reality of snow, particularly in a country that doesn't get it all that often, was less inviting.  (Though even that didn't stop Chris and me going for a wander and a play).

But last week snow really reclaimed its magic. Frozen precipitation was our family delight.

Now can someone please recommend an affordable, decent looking, waterproof winter boot with treads that I can use to navigate my ice sheet of a road?  I'm tired of padding around in my wellies and my feet are cold!

This post is for The Sticky Fingers Gallery, prompt 'White'.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A Celebration of Double Trouble

Our weekends together used to be a bit different. We'd drink a bit too much red wine and be a bit too merry. We'd go on long, rambling, hilly walks full of fresh air, good chat and no hurry. We'd even been known to run around town dressed as golfers or drink beers on the train on our way to a shameless karaoke escapade.

Times have changed, but for the better. We still enjoy a glass of red around the kitchen table. We still enjoy our walks, though they are now shorter, less spur of the moment and often stroller friendly. We now put yellow rings on our heads and build towers of stacking cups in return for priceless laughter.

So tonight, along the Sticky Fingers Gallery theme of ‘celebration,’ I celebrate two fine cheeky little ladies. Double trouble indeed.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

I don't deal well with change

Change. I don't like it. Well, it depends on the type of change. Having LLC was a wonderful change. Every new skill she develops is an exciting change. Winning the lottery would be a welcome change (provided Chris and I don't argue about what to do with the proceeds).

Maybe it's not change that I can't handle, it's more 'that which disrupts the order of my day.' I've blogged about how I'm not partial to strict routines, but that I do like to have a rhythm of sorts. It helps me get in my daily groove. Things like knowing how long it would take me to walk from the train station to the office put me at ease. These days knowing when LLC has her milk, or takes her nap are planned stops on my daily journey.

I'm probably coming across all anal here but I don't think I'm totally alone, at least in the parenting world. I know few mothers that haven't spent some time counting the hours between one feed to the next, or trying to work out how weaning will affect their baby's milk feeds and nap-times. My experience has been that LLC's patterns will shift naturally as she grows, that her cues will become apparent as she develops and that I don't need to spend all this time thinking about how our 'routine' will potentially shift. Yet I still do. I have trouble switching off from this.

At the moment, LLC's morning nap, that I could always count on for things like taking a shower, blogging, emailing, tidying up the house, fitting in some work, is getting later and later. So my mind is going a hundred miles a minute....is it going to drop? Should I let her sleep in the late morning? Will this mean she won't nap in the afternoon but will then get tired right before dinner? Should I see if she will hold out past lunch and then have a long afternoon nap? Am I nuts? Yes, I think so.

I tell myself I need to take things day by day....that LLC is in a prime growth phase, and that with that our patterns will shift and may shift gradually. Now I just need to take my own advice. Ahhh, I need a lesson in chilling out and going with the flow. Anyone?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Like mother, like daughter

When LLC arrived on the scene she was a dream come true. A dream come true in that Chris and I had a daughter, of course. But I’m now really referring to my thrill at having a captive audience to talk to all day long.

As you may know by now, I do love talking. I always have. I started to repeat my mom’s sentences as an infant (we’ll ignore that I drove her slightly crazy by doing so) and from there my verbal watershed commenced. Chris got the brunt of this for the last ten years; I often see him start to glaze over when I begin one of my long-winded, we’ll have about ten tangents before I get-to-the-point stories. He’s definitely celebrating that I now have LLC to discuss things with.

So when LLC and I are together, I narrate our day. If I’m folding laundry, I tell her. If I’m changing her diaper and she doesn’t like it, I explain why she’s better off in fresh one. I show her leaves on the ground and explain why the trees are now ‘naked’. I’ve heard that it is better to talk to babies about tangible life events that they are ‘experiencing’, so I do this a lot. But then when I start to wonder about what to cook for dinner that night, or when I will sit down and write that report for work, I talk to her about that too.

What’s really great, though, is that now these stories are not just my own. Now LLC is starting to contribute, and we have much more of a dialogue. Not just me saying really! when she goes ba, da, ga, but when I ask her a question she’ll point her finger at me and let loose a sentence of gurgle, complete with changes in tone and sometimes words that sound suspiciously like mama (though this could be wishful thinking on my part).

In fact I’m starting to suspect that LLC is going to seriously give me a run for my money in the verbal stakes. When I’m on the phone or trying to listen to something on the radio, she’ll often babble so loudly that I can’t hear what I’m listening to, or even think straight. And I only expect her to up the ante in this respect – it looks like the verbal games well and truly have begun! Chris is in trouble……

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I saw red

I can't remember if she was making fun of my jeans, or my genes, or perhaps if these homonyms themselves bred our misunderstanding.  I do know that I kept telling her to "stop", to "shut up", to "leave me alone."  It wasn't the time or the place.  We were due on stage in under an hour to perform a 13 year-old's dancing rendition of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's 'Good Vibrations' in the school talent show. 

My other friends blurred into the background.  Her snarl consumed my vision, her torrent of abuse hit my head like a jackhammer but now only sounded of white noise.  She was a lioness, roaring, but with small round glasses like an owl.  I was her prey. 

Then, life shifted into slow motion and I saw red.  The anger and frustration and hurt I felt burst through the holes on my ripped black t-shirt (part of my ensemble) and propelled me forward.  I raised my hand and slapped her square across the face.  And then came the shower.

Aside from some odd skirmishes on the soccer field this is the closest I ever came to being in a fight.  I'm not proud of my actions in that moment and I never was.  The said lioness and I later became friendly acquaintances but in the heat of the 5th grade we shared friends and a relationship that was far from smooth sailing.  Ahh, teenage girls can be cruel, manipulative, cunning.....when I remember moments like this I wonder how I will protect LLC from all that crap down the line.

I guess like with anything I can only do so much.  And obviously I'm getting way ahead of myself.  But when I remember moments like this, or other difficult memories I have from growing up I'm struck with my responsibility as a parent to help my little girl grow into resilient character who hopefully won't see red too often.

This post is for the propt 'red' from Josie's Writing Workshop.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Making friends with Calpol

Medicine and drugs may fly off the shelves in the USA at the pace pharmaceutical companies court doctors and politicians but I’ve never been one for popping pills unless I genuinely need to. Where there’s a real need, I’m pro-medicine. But I’m also a believer in letting my body fight its corner and limiting the amount of chemicals I put into it. I’ll take the same approach with LLC.

For the first time this weekend, however, we introduced Calpol (Baby Tylenol) to LLC. What started as a chesty cough on Sunday morning had her out of sorts by bed-time and I’ve spent yesterday and Tuesday with a groggy, sick little lady. Her normal feisty and independent self disappeared in place of a snotty nose, small whimper and need to sleep/cuddle all day long.

This is the first time she has really been sick and it’s sad as there is only so much I can do for her. It reminds me of when she was small and spent much of the day laying on me, which is lovely, but it’s not, because she’s so bleary eyed, congested and feverish. I took her to the doctor today who suggested that I continue with the Calpol and try to let this bug run its course. He also wrote me a prescription for antibiotics should she not show signs of improvement after tomorrow, but suggested I avoid this if possible.

Chris’ mom is visiting and she’s been a real help in the constant cuddles department. Finally tonight before bed LLC brightened a little from her “sick haze.” I hope this is a sign she’s on the mend for tomorrow. In the mean-time, Calpol is our new friend and LLC really likes it. She downs it with an enthusiasm usually reserved for yogurt – another reason to avoid offering her medicine too liberally!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Witching Hour & Afternoon Tea; It's all a day in the life of LLC


While Halloween festivity seems to be on the rise here, it's certainly all the rage in my native US of States.  I remember some of my early costumes fondly, particularly a bunny suit that matched my dear Floppy-eared Rabbit.  Now that LLC is on the scene I wanted to get in the spooky spirit: Chris carved a pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, we hung strands of black bats in our window and LLC and I dressed as matching witches to great our trick-or-treaters....of which there was one.   One solitary trick-or-treater.  All my visions of our cackling selves greeting candy-mad children at the door were shattered but we still had a pretty good time making spooky faces at Chris.  Did I say we?  I'm not sure what LLC would have to say about that but she seemed to enjoy my antics..... really, she did.

As if the little lady had not had enough excitement for one week, on Tuesday we joined Huggies and the other Huggies Mums for afternoon tea at The Dorchester in London.   While we chatted about our kids, the Huggies Bundle of Laughs comedy channel and life in general over tasty sandwiches and cakes, LLC scoffed a cucumber sandwich and then enjoyed many cuddles from the Huggies girls and Young Mummy, who didn't even get cross when she knocked her glasses or phone onto the floor.  I'd never been to tea at Dorchester before and fear I may be instilling expensive tastes in LLC from a tender age!

It's been a busy past week in the life of this 9 month-old!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Mama, MD & everything in between

Mothers of today are often harsh critics – of ourselves. Whether we work full-time or stay at home full-time or commit to any of the spectrum of career/ at home options in between, our choices are too often accompanied by a dose of guilt and the need to justify our actions.

Too often mothers working full-time feel the need to explain their decision, as if by returning to work they don’t love their children enough. Mothers who stay at home with the kids find it difficult to describe their “career” and feel urged to validate their intelligence and explain why they are not “working”. Mothers who return to a job part-time often worry whether they are getting the balance right.

Why is the modern mother so often wracked by guilt? On one hand, we’re human and susceptible to some guilt or doubt or frustration over the trade-offs we make. What frustrates me, however, is when society makes mothers feel guilty about the career choices we make. We make them for a reason. It may be for our career. It may be for our happiness. It may be for money. It may be for our peace of mind. It may be for any or all of the above and it will be different for each of us.

The important issue, as I see it, is healthy debate with ourselves about the choices that we make to ensure they are the right ones. The ones that make us tick. The ones that empower us to unleash untapped potential rather than feel trapped, as Holly at It’s a Mummy’s Life recently blogged about.

When I see a mother pursuing her chosen “vocation” with conviction and happiness, I’m inspired. When I see a mother who has thrown off the shackles of pre-conception in society for a career path that she wants/needs to do, I say hurrah.

As long as we’re putting some good into the world, why does it matter whether we wear a mama or a professional hat by day? We’re all mothers and love our kids at the end of the day. And when our children look to us as role models, they are sure to be more inspired by women who pursue decisions with confidence rather than express doubt about ourselves and the choices we make.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

How do you level with a 9-month old?

Anyone, anyone?

I’ve always described LLC as a spirited little lady. She’s a good girl with a pizzazz that must be the making of a strong personality. When she wants to dish out smiles she serves them up aplenty. Likewise when she’s unsure about something, she’s deploys a very inquisitive and questioning look, like she’s sizing up the situation. I’ve probably said all this before.

Lately when LLC doesn’t get her way, she shows off her healthy pair of lungs with a hearty bellow, not so much a cry, but a feisty shout. Of course she saves this bellowing mainly for Chris and me, and for my parents who sometimes catch her antics over Skype. (An aside – Skype is a wonderful and free way to connect with family and friends living far away.)

I think she’s now that little bit older, "with it", and is starting to have firm opinions about what she wants. If she’s in her high chair waiting for dinner and it’s not coming fast enough, she lets us know it! If I’m carrying something but she decides she wants to be held, she crawls over to my legs, stands up and squawks (which is pretty cute, minus the squawk). If we take away a “toy” aka the remote control that we foolishly left on her radar away, she is not impressed.

My mom suggested explaining to her why I don’t always give her what she wants, when she wants it. If her food is still too hot to eat, I’ll have her touch the bowl and explain its contents is still too hot. If I’m carrying a computer and she wants to be held, I’ll explain it would be dangerous to carry her and a computer all at once. If I take the remote away from her I’ll explain that it’s something adults use for the television that she too can use when she’s a bit older. 

I see value in this, because even though she’s small, not rational and doesn’t understand, maybe repeating these things to her will help her to do so in time. What have you found? And once she does understand, will she care or will she just continue to make demands with even more conviction?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Space!

Space in the UK comes at a premium. I learned this when I first moved to England as a student where I shared one modest wardrobe with my flatmate in our central London University accommodation. Eight years later, I’m used to having less space than I did in the United States, but at times I still really miss it.

I’d appreciate more space on the road, so I don’t have to pull in between parked cars every five minutes to accommodate oncoming traffic. I long for space in my yard/garden to throw a Frisbee without knowing it will end up over my neighbor’s fence. And lately, I crave more space in our house to accommodate our growing family.

It would be nice for LLC to have more room to crawl around. It would be a relief not to have to dry my laundry on racks in our living room (that LLC tries to knock over) now that nothing seems to dry outside. I would enjoy not having to deploy the thought and precision of a military operation in order to get a second stroller through our front door when friends visit. We could definitely do with increased storage space with our influx of baby paraphernalia.

On that last point, at least we are limited in the big, bulky plastic baby toys that we can bring through our door, which isn’t a bad thing.

I like our house and we have no immediate plans to move. We’re committed to some creative interior scheming and we’re getting there. Chris has converted an old airing cupboard and dead end hallway in our house into closets with shelving. We’ve rearranged furniture and mounted our TV on our living room wall. We’ve begun a full on romance with Ikea storage solutions….

Ah, things you take for granted. Please don’t think me greedy, I’m just having a Sunday night moan!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Dinner Party

“I can’t talk now, I’m giving LLC dinner,” I told Chris when he called from the train on his way home yesterday. I clicked on speakerphone so he could say a quick hello to his little lady and then we parted company.

“Patience is a virtue,” I told LLC as she eyed me impatiently from her highchair while her food cooled down. “It’s almost ready. Okay. Mommy’s just going to taste it now. Almost ready. We don’t want it to be too hot, or it might burn your mouth and that would not feel nice!”

“Aaaaerrghh,” shouted LLC. “A bababa dadadada aaaarrggghhh.”

“Alrightly,” I chirped. “I think we’re ready now. Oh, you want the spoon? Sure, take the spoon. And flick your food. Look LLC, look. You want to get the food in your mouth. That’s right. You’re having something to eat. (Cue sign for “eat” from the sing and sign class we are taking.) Would you like some more?” (Cue sign for more)

LLC ate and played with her food a bit before deciding it was time to lose her bib. She tugs at it until she pops it off, not particularly hard to do as it’s only held on by Velcro. This is a recent habit that I’m desperately trying to break since her trusty plastic bib with front pocket collects many a culinary casualty.

“LLC, let’s have some more to eat! We don’t want to take off our bib or our clothes will get dirty. Look, mommy has some apple for you. Here, hold the apple! Uh-oh, stop. (Cue sign for stop). Stop. Let’s not take off the bib. Stop. (Again the sign for stop – LLC laughs in response). Stop, in the name of your bib! Before you get real messy.” (Sang to the tune of 'Stop in the Name of Love.')

Sadly I don’t have the voice of Diana Ross but LLC’s no critic, this proved a successful distraction and I had no other audience.

So I thought. When Chris got home he enjoyed telling me how, somehow, neither of us managed to properly disconnect our phones and the train carriage had been treated to LLC and my dinner-time discourse. It was only when he noticed fellow commuters giggling and giving him funny looks that he took off his i-pod and heard our voices coming out of his pocket. “Oh, that’s just my daughter having dinner,” he announced, noting that she seemed to have provided some entertainment.

Why do I feel like they were laughing at my expense?!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Daddy's Little Girl

I'm not really into "daddy's girls" and "mommy's boys".....personally I like the idea of both parents having a strong relationship with their child rather than the child being wrapped around the finger of the parent of the opposite sex.  Does this really happen a lot?  Is it partly a cultural thing?  Is it partly instinctual?

Growing up I had an equally solid relationship with both of my parents and I knew to try my luck with mom on some things, and dad on others.  I think it's the notion that one parent is the "good cop" that will let their kid get away with anything that I shy away from.  I hope LLC will view Chris and me as equals.

Still, there is no denying that Chris has a real soft spot for LLC.  He loves to "get in her grill" and give her a cuddle, play ball with her, feed her and even attend to her diaper productions.  Last night he arrived home after her bed-time and obviously felt cheated of time with his little lady.  Soon after he disappeared and I when I went to track him down I found him cuddling her on the futon in her bedroom.  This is not the first time he's gone down that route, to which my regular response is, "If she wakes, you are dealing with it!!  Put her back in bed now!!!"

But can I really complain?  No.  (Well, maybe a bit).  But it is lovely to see him so loved up and proud of his daughter.

Also, huge congrats to our friends Family G, who just became parents for the second time today! They now have a daughter and a son so in time will be able to comment on gender dynamics in the family!!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Old Friend Forgotten

Hello, old friend forgotten. I’m sorry for not keeping up with you. Life is busy and full, but that’s no excuse. I now see the error of my ways.

Hello kegels. Come on in and stay awhile.

While pregnant I dutifully performed my pelvic floor exercises. My pregnancy updates warned of the incontinent mishaps that might occur if I didn’t isolate and strengthen this area. At the time I’d done Pilates for a few years and had recently started pregnancy yoga. Put it all together and my pelvic floor was a powerhouse to be reckoned with. Maybe that’s why LLC was nearly 3 weeks late....

Fast forward to the here and now and those royal kegels that I so dutifully observed are long ago jettisoned. I’m sure those pregnancy updates attest that these exercises should be carried out forever more post birth but with LLC on the scene and no daily train commute to focus my energies on my nether-regions, I forgot all about them.

Until now. Now, I’m sheepishly looking for a way back into the kegels good books. I fear it will take some time and effort for me to rekindle this relationship but I’ve had a harsh wake up call.

Last weekend I ran the New Forest Half Marathon. I’m proud that 8 months post birth I made it around the course in the respectable time of 1 hour 58 minutes. Running has always been my thing and it felt good to finally pull my finger out and give myself a challenge.

One of the biggest challenges I faced, however, was desperately trying to avoid peeing when I dumped a cup of water over my head mid-course. I don’t know if it was the downward force of running, the sudden blast of coolness or my overall state of discomfort but it took all I was worth not to let loose down my leg right then and there.

It freaked me out and it made me realize that my pelvic floor is not what it was. It reminded of my good old friend kegels who I’ve neglected for some time now. It was a sudden wake-up call that maybe I should be doing something to support this region, particularly if I’m going to go pounding the pavement running.

So hello kegels. I promise not to leave you out in the cold again.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Library staff tells breastfeeding mother to “face the wall”

Unlike my last post, this one does have to do with breasts.

Friday’s papers reported the plight of a woman breastfeeding her nine-week old daughter in a Haringey library who was told to “face the wall” by a male member of staff. When she told him it was against the law to ask her not to breastfeed, he suggested that she be more discreet next time.

Ahhh the cheek, naiveté and rudeness of this man! As a breastfeeding mom I am well schooled in trying to feed tactfully in public. I’ve learned that this comes with different challenges depending on your child’s age; young babies may take time to latch on, at 8 months LLC wants to frequently pop off and look around. It’s not always simple but I do my best to do the deed while protecting my dignity. I’m certain this mother was only doing the same and did nothing inappropriate to warrant such remarks.

Importantly, this story highlights how such a seemingly flippant remark has the potential to seriously put a woman off breastfeeding in public. And when you feel like you can’t feed in public, you’re probably only a step away from quitting breastfeeding entirely because no one wants to sit in the house all day and babies, particularly young ones, feed a lot.

Breastfeeding is a very personal choice but those that do try to get on with it shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for doing so. And particularly from a public sector worker! I think I hear disciplinary action calling…..

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Chest Test

Easy now, I’m not talking about breasts or brawn but about a baby’s temperature. (I probably just lost a bunch of readers.) Anyway-

Last weekend we visited Chris’ godparents on the Kent coast. After a lovely lunch we headed down to the seaside for a stroll and a view of the massive Wind Farm that made news headlines today. Considering the weather of late, it was a surprisingly sunny and still day, maybe somewhere in the 50s F.

I mention the weather not to be typically English, but to set the scene for what we observed next. A few adults a couple of small children, probably between 1-2 years walked down to the water’s edge, started to paddle and then full on waded straight into the water. They went out pretty far and one of the boys fell over and totally submerged himself.

Now these folk didn’t even seem to shiver. In fact they seemed to be really enjoying themselves in what must have been pretty chilly water. From what I can tell, small children usually love the water and don’t complain of being cold. But weren’t these parents worried about their kids being cold, and catching a cold?

I think my mom and Chris’ grandma are rubbing off on me. They both always ask if LLC is warm enough. Does she need another layer? A coat, a blanket, a hat, some socks? Maybe it’s a generational thing that hasn’t filtered down but they seem much more concerned about keeping LLC warm than I am.

From the time in her first week when a midwife told me not to dress her in a baby hat in our house, I’ve never worried too much about LLC’s temperature. Of course I try to make sure she’s warm enough, and not too hot either, but my ultimate test for all this is to feel her chest. If it’s hot and sweaty – she’s too hot. If it’s cold, then she’s too cold. Simple.

Is this reliable? Do you bundle your young children up as the temperature starts to drop? Or would you take them for a swim off the Kent coast this weekend?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Meltdown

How could such an innocent face generate such horrendous noise?!

Tonight LLC had a bath-time/bed-time meltdown – the first real banshee-like display she has treated us to for awhile. She started with a whimper that escalated to a scream and then advanced to a Dr Evil-esque rasp alongside hiccup-like shrieks.

Once Chris and I managed to get her wriggling, arching body into her sleeping bag, she nursed with a desperate haste, finally quieter, chasing away her urgent frustration with every gulp that she swallowed. And then she popped off, looked at me and smiled. Mood over.

It’s been a busy week and a busy day so I think she was just exhausted. But now I am.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Let’s Hear it for the Rocking Commandos!

One of my friends described her daughter’s strong upper bodied snake-like shimmy across the floor as commando crawling. Totally apt! With that upper chest strength, this little lady will surely be great at pull-ups one day, a skill that I sadly never mastered....

At the time of this said crawl, LLC was feverishly rocking on all fours but not going anywhere aside from backwards. She’s been rocking in the “all fours” pose for some time now but whenever she attempts to move a leg forward she ends up toppling onto her side.

Fast forward one week and LLC has achieved forward movement! Between all that practice and possibly from watching her friend, she’s now sporting a half commando, half raised on knees crawling manoeuvre.

Chris first spotted this “milestone” when I called home after work and he put me on speaker phone a few feet from LLC. Naturally my voice is difficult to resist, so low and behold LLC managed to inch towards the phone and add forward crawling to her repertoire.

So she’s now on the move! She doesn’t go too far yet but she does go exactly where she shouldn’t – the fireguard under our mantel, Rico’s bed and straight to the bottle of Shout next to my foot when I was spraying some stained clothing.

Maybe this is the time to start thinking about child proofing? I wouldn’t describe our house as a danger zone but it’s not particularly child friendly. We have cold, hard slate floor through much of the downstairs. Our stairs are narrow and steep. These are not things we plan to change and I’m loathe to morph our house into Fort Knox but we are planning to get stair guards and lock for under our kitchen and bathroom sinks where there are cleaning products.

I’ve had a look around on the floor “from LLC’s level” and there are plenty of things she could make mischief with but I’ll just have to tell her what is allowed and what is not allowed. Any tips about keeping a commando crawler safe and this whole child proofing malarkey?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

All Too Much

I don’t usually think of LLC as a sensitive soul. She’s robust, a tough cookie, more likely to cry because she is frustrated or wants something she can’t get than because something scares or startles her.

Yesterday, however, this was not the case. We were visiting some of our NCT friends and LLC all of a sudden burst into tears while on the play mat with a couple of her buddies. I think it was the movement or sound of a toy that set her off, but out of the blue, off she went. Waa waa waaaaaa!

This set off one of her little friends and we were treated to a cacophony of waaaas while we quickly provided conciliatory cuddles. LLC wore a horrified face with big fat tears rolling down her cheeks. Oh those real tears, they break my heart. Then, as if carried away by a sudden gust of wind, her mood shifted and life was again rosy.

I think tiredness exacerbates LLC’s mood swings, so maybe her tears were linked to the nap we cut short when arriving at our friend’s house. Maybe she is becoming more aware of the other babies and is more likely to be responsive to them. Maybe this sensitivity is yet another dimension of her emerging personality. Maybe she just needed a little cry – she is a baby after all.

While a relatively insignificant incident, this made me wonder what adventures are to come as the babies start to come into their own and play side by side. How long will they take to really interact? Will they set each other off, and will we be in for more giggles, or more tears? Will I be effective at teaching LLC about sharing, and being gentle towards others (as opposed to hair pulling and face clawing, two favourite pastimes she’s recently mastered)?

LLC is generally quickly at ease around new people and busy social situations but how will her reactions shift as she starts to play a more active part in the world around her? Only time will tell....

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Dear LLC

Dear LLC,

You’ve grown so much already in your 7.5 months. I see other newborn babies and while I remember you this way, I’m sad that the vividness of these moments will fade somewhat with time. I’m doing my best to enjoy the potency of our every day, while freeze framing certain moments in my heart, banking them in my mind, innate riches that I’ll carry with me always.

Hopefully these little gems will help me prevent feeling as though life is accelerating faster than I can appreciate it. Today I remember this:

We sit together in the living room. You’re on all fours raking at our rickety old fire guard, a precarious adornment that we don’t want to get rid of but probably should hook to the wall. I turn you around and like a tractor beam you’re drawn to our stereo remote. You taste it, but it’s not so tasty. You’ve rotated yet again and now have hold of daddy’s baseball, which sat cradled in the cavity of a floor candle. You knock the candle on its side and pursue the rolling ball with your arm. You’re intent on touching all you should not touch, fascinated by all that is my ordinary. The bald patch on the back of your head is finally fading. You’re wearing green trousers, sized 3 months. You’re chatting to the ball, ba ba ba. You’ve now got hold of the Devon rock from JBT with your name on it and are pushing it around the base of the fire guard alongside the ball. I decide that it’s time to scoop you up and kiss you and my hear t sings.

Love,

Mommy

(Do you freeze frame memories too?)

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ladies & Gentlemen, we have a Talker.....

Way back when, I chose the chatty-t URL for this blog because I am just that – chatty! If you call me up and ask me how I am, you won’t get a one word answer.....

I’m fine, just happy that I managed to make this food for LLC tonight so she’s all set with a meal for tomorrow. I’m trying to make a variation of our dinners for her, so tonight I.....

And so on. It was therefore clearly on the cards that I’d have a loquacious little one.

Babababa.....dadadadadada..bababababababababa...........babababababa....mamamamama.....

It’s like we flipped the verbal switch on in LLC and now it’s on for good. Just over a week ago her more random babbles, coos and shouts became more distinct vowel and consonant combinations and she loves it. Be it on her mat, in the supermarket, in my arms, in her crib - she now treats us to daily bursts of chatter.  She doesn't talk on demand, but when the mood strikes her, how it strikes!

Since words and talking have always been a love of mine, I look forward to the day LLC and I can talk to each other. I’m not attempting to rush her out of her baby phase, plus there may not be more development on this front for awhile.

But this week, I’m excited by her new sounds and I look forward to exploring them and more with her. Chris on the other hand is looking increasingly nervous that he now has two chatterboxes to deal with!

Do you have any endearing learning to talk stories with your little ones?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Separation Anxiety - For Me, Not LLC....

This past week LLC spent her first full days with the childminder (CM) while I went to work. Everything went well for both of us, at face value, that is.

Our CM is lovely and I feel very confident leaving LLC in her care. Creative, caring and engaged, I can tell that she is dedicated to her charges and will be a stimulating and kind influence on my little one.

LLC parted company from me with a smile and a babble both days. There were no tears, from her, or from me. She treated me to big gummy grins when I collected her and the CM wrote detailed and amusing updates on her daily activities, nap length and poop color included. From these I learned that LLC more or less kept to her usual nap and eating patterns and enjoyed playing with stacking blocks and a squeaky toy. The CM observed her capacity to study and play with an object for long periods of time, and her joy of weight bearing on her sturdy legs. I see all these as signs of LLC happy and at ease, doing her regular thing.

Meanwhile, I had a couple of productive days in the adult working world. It’s encouraging to see that I still have it in me. It’s early days, but I feel positive about my work/life balance, and fortunate to have secured working arrangement that allows me to continue with a job I’m good at while not sacrificing too much time with LLC. I don’t think that returning to work full-time stops a mother from bonding with her kids but I do know that my mom was home with me full-time, and this has always impacted on my desire to have time at home with my children once I started a family.

So why did I feel so tied up inside this last week? Why did I develop such bad stomach cramps the day before leaving LLC with the CM that I needed to cancel going for coffee with my NCT friends? Why did I feel generally not right?

I thought it was because I ate some dodgy cheese the day of the NCT coffee. I thought it was because I stayed up really late and had had a few busy days of late. But stepping back from it all this weekend I realize that it probably wasn’t any of this (though I do need to go to bed earlier).

I think, more likely, I’m a little stressed about starting work, leaving LLC, keeping on top of the house while making sure I spend enough time with her, finding a new balance and doing it all justice. I'm sure I'll get there but maybe I took it for granted that this shift will take some getting used to.  Deep breath.

Friday, 20 August 2010

It's all happening....

One of the most amazing things about babies is their rate of development - each new week brings something new as their sponge-like brains take on the world!

Several weeks ago LLC learned to sit up.  Then a few weeks back her first tooth (bottom right) came through.  The following week her bottom left tooth made an appearance and last week she started rocking on her knees and attempting to crawl (but toppling over in the process).  It might be awhile coming but she's trying.  She's also been very vocal of late, happily screeching long streams of vowels and consonants and now today some more separate and distinct sounds.  It's mad, exciting, wonderful to see this little person emerging.  I look at her and I just want to eat her up, even when she is moody and has a big old paddy.

Next week will be the first week LLC goes to the childminder. It's only for a couple of day a week but it's still slightly daunting.  I'm sure LLC will be fine judging from her settling in sessions (where she turned toward the childminder when I went to kiss her goodbye) and since she's still small and not too sensitive about being separated from me in general.  Chris' mom visited this past week and LLC stayed with her for a couple of full days and all was well.  But still....it's strange....I'll miss her......

Yes, it's all go around these parts!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Weaning Wanders

I recently returned to work part-time and my blogging/reading/commenting has been pretty spotty. This frustrates me, because since I finally got on the blogging bandwagon, I’ve really enjoyed the ride. I’ve told myself to set this right, so hopefully you’ll see a bit more from me going forward if I can figure out a way to write and comment regularly without getting lost for hours on the Internet each night while my husband gets irritated at me (and rightfully so). So many do it so I should be able to find a way too, right? But I digress....

We’re on our fourth week of weaning. We started a week shy of 6 months and we’re doing a mix of finger foods and spoon-feeding. I really liked the idea of baby-led weaning but with all the pressure I’ve had about LLC’s weight, I feel more confident knowing that she is ingesting a bit more than she’d do if left completely to her own accord.  I do like the idea of hear learning to chew sooner rather than later though, as well as identifying a carrot versus a sweet potato so we're doing our own variation of the two methods.

This means avoiding really smooth purees and jumping straight into lumpy foods – veg & couscous; salmon, spinach and potato; stewed apple & pear after a week of just fruit, veg and baby rice. When spoon-feeding, she often takes control of the spoon and aims it at (sometimes in) her mouth, though I do all the spoon loading. From my reading on baby-led weaning I learned that the gag reflex on a young baby is fairly far forward in the mouth but it retreats with time; thus by letting her navigate some lumps and bumps and finger foods early, this reflex should kick in and help her gauge the size of food she can swallow, making choking less likely. I really hope so at least. But it’s going well so far and she hasn’t yet snubbed anything (let me live this dream before it’s shattered!).

In terms of finger foods, we’ve tried the likes of roasted vegetables (sweet potato, carrot, pepper, butternut squash), toast with unsalted butter, rice cakes, cheese, cucumber, cantaloupe, apple and pear. She definitely copes best with long, thin, baton-shaped foods that allow her to grab them with her fist and still have a bit poking out on top that she can suck on. She'll do this for a bit, before throwing the lot on the floor and banging on her highchair for more!  Fruit in particular often slips out of her grasp and I'm not sure about the way around this yet.

Naive to each new twist and turn of the parenting journey, I didn’t realize how very very messy this adventure would be. I also didn’t realize how much time organizing and sitting down with LLC for food would take. We’d fallen into a nice rhythm with her milk feeds and now that’s all subject to the dreaded “c” word – change. We operate on a routine of organized chaos, and now that “routine” is starting to shift, leaving me pondering what time I’ll serve her meals, how this will affect the time of milk feeds, what I’ll serve when....ironically I know in my heart a rough routine of sorts will probably start to emerge once she starts to eat more but sometimes it’s hard to shut off the planning part of my head.  But I'm trying.

So what's worked for us so far?
  • Investing in an easy to clean highchair, ideally one that doesn't break the bank - We went for a wooden fold up one from John Lewis. It doesn’t recline or adjust in height but it’s small, functional and really easy to get food off of. Since LLC is now 6.5 months she is able to sit up in the chair unaided.  My friend has the £12 plastic one from Ikea and thinks it’s fab, it just doesn’t fold up. 
  • Doubling up on bibs – we use a plastic washable bib with a shelf for catching food on top and a cloth bib underneath for absorbing anything that breeches the plastic bib.
  • LLC likes to take charge – I’ve taken the view that eating right now is not just about eating but also about exploring and learning so I’m letting her get as involved as I can.  She's happiest when in control. 
  • Wiping LLC’s face clean with a warm cloth – this may sound like common sense, but I kept wiping her face off with a baby wipe (got to love them!) and she hated it! My mom suggested a warm washcloth instead and in the spirit of mother’s knowing best, LLC took to that much better.
  • Trying to give LLC a variation of what we eat – again in the spirit of baby-led weaning, I’m hoping to avoid making LLC many separate meals and instead am trying to craft her a slight variation of what’s on our plates (though I’m finding this easier said than done sometimes....)
Now I need your top tips on weaning please. What foods worked best? Did you pre-plan special baby meals or just give your little ones a variation of your own dinner? How do you get the stains out? What will make this adventure all the sweeter for us?!

(I'm on the wrong computer now, but I'll post some of our weaning wanders tomorrow.....)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Loving Huggies 'Little Bundle of Laughs'

Colostrum, bump-touching, birth, babies and parenting were the talk of the town at the Huggies ‘Little Bundle of Laughs’ at London’s Leicester Square Theatre last night. My ticket to this pregnancy and parenting comedy extravaganza came compliments of Huggies and it made for a great night out.

We saw a heavily pregnant Lucy Porter share the cookie baking moment when she decided she wanted children even though she is scared of small kids.

Hilarious Kerry Godliman gave her low down on pregnancy insomnia and why to aspire to a kick ass pelvic floor.

Then Father Ted’s Ardal O’Hanlon offered a male take on supporting his pregnant wife, coping with all the pillows that accompany a bump to bed and the awe-inspiring moment when he became a father.

I put on a dress and joined the fray of blooming pregnant ladies, yummy mummies, surprisingly many men, bloggers, journalists and even a few celebs (ohhhh, that chick with the really blonde hair two seats in front of me was Stacy Solomon off the ‘X-Factor’ - apparently Danielle Lloyd was also there looking ravishing one month post birth but I missed her....(sob).....) to hear about the ins and outs of pregnancy and becoming a parent.

Like the magical Harry Potter Marauder’s Map, the pregnancy and parenting chapter of life completely evaded me until we decided to try for a baby. I started to take folic acid, learned new words lke meconium and phrases like quickening, started to think about birth and breastfeeding and lots of other things I never paid an iota of attention to when babies were off my immediate radar and more something I'd like to do one day. Then, pregnant, all of a sudden, I was in “the club.”

And last night's Huggies event really spoke to this "club" in a funny, easy to relate to way that engendered collective laughs, sighs and knowing grins. I wish I’d had the chance to attend something of the like while pregnant, because it really brought to life a lot of the issues that I had on my ten (yes ten!) month journey. So well done Huggies; thanks for a great night for which all proceeds went to Tommys, the charity dedicated to giving babies the best chance of being born healthy.

If you’re pregnant or have a little one and are not a member of the Huggies Club I’d definitely suggest joining so you can easily find out and take advantage of similar events down the line.

(Although Huggies sponsored my ticket to this show, this is my honest, unpaid & independent view, as always!)

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Fed Up!

I’m so fed up with the health visitor. She really pushed my buttons today. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment for continuing to take LLC for weigh-ins in the first place....

LLC is now 12lb 6oz and falls between the 2 and 0.4 percentile lines on the UK weight charts. I’m still breastfeeding her but introduced one formula bottle/day a month ago.

(You may remember my dilemma in May about whether to combination feed LLC due to her slow weight gain. At the time I introduced one bottle for a week but then decided I was going to stick with exclusive breastfeeding. Fast forward to another weigh in at just over 5 months when the health visitor strongly advised me to introduce some formula as “LLC has always struggled with her weight.” I struggle with your detached and condescending manner and choice of words lady. But anyway, I reintroduced the one formula feed and all has been well)

Today I received a speech including gems like:
  • “If I was you I’d really be giving her more formula feeds”
  • “Her body may be fending off a urinary track infection, for which there are no signs, but it could be using up all her extra calories”
  • “She may be getting most of her nutrition from her one daily formula bottle”
  • “I’d suggest topping her up with a formula bottle after every breastfeed”
So I asked: LLC appears to be happy, healthy and thriving so is it not possible she is just small?

To which I was told that her weight really should be more than what it is.

She made me feel concerned for LLC’s wellbeing.  Should I be taking her in for a urine test to check for infetion?  She made me question if my breast milk is nutritionally sound. I think it’s ridiculous for her to suggest LLC’s main source of nutrition could be from her formula feed – surely what I have given her thus far counts for something? And does she really think I want to top up each breastfeed I do with formula? I might as well stop breastfeeding if I’m going to do this and save a lot of time, money and energy on preparing extra feeds I doubt LLC will take. She does not seem unsatisfied after her breastfeeds.

I’ve determined that while I’m mostly home with LLC, while I can give her the goodness of breastfeeding I’d like to continue. I am not someone who saw myself breastfeeding for an extended period of time; even now I really see a year as the longest I want to continue. Yet now I’m questioning if I’m doing right by LLC.

So I’d value your take. Is 12lb 6oz really unhealthily small for a 6 month old? Do you know anyone else who was this low on the weight charts for this length of time and then ended up thriving? I need some reassurance or to know if this weight does seem quite low from your experience.

For now I’m thinking of introducing a second formula bottle/day as some form of middle ground.  Plus, we've recently started weaning so I expect that to begin to impact on her weight, though perhaps not dramatically at first.  Geez, my head is all over the place about this. Sorry for the rant.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Halfway Around the Sun

LLC, you're 6 months old.

It seems like you've been with us for ages though simultaneously this half year has flown by.  You're still small, "like a little dolly," but what you lack in weight you make up for in personality.  You're a spirited little lady with the grunt of a champion and the inquisitive stare of a practiced detective.

The world is yours to discover - you observe always, and now often want to take part.  You enjoy chucking your food bowl on the floor and grabbing Rico's tail.  You're thrilled by animals, dancing in my arms and the playground.  You love to sit up and desperately want to crawl but for now need to settle for rolling from point A to point B, which you do with speed and skill. 

Moo Cow is back in your life; for this we are all grateful :)  You have two passports, lucky girl.  You turn the pages of the books we read; you have a penchant for off limits electronic devices like the remote and my phone.  You know the magic computer that mommy and daddy type on and grandma & grandpa " in a box" appear through.  You love being held but will entertain yourself for long periods of time too.

You rub your eyes when you're tired but like me, you resist sleep. You cry almost every time I put you in our crib for a nap and when you do, I give you solace through your friend white noise. You have no teeth yet but you razz and babble like a chatterbox in the making. 

You embrace life and I embrace you.

Love,

Mommy

Monday, 26 July 2010

Now I'm on a roll, and not a good one...

It’s refreshing/comforting to hear parents admit that we do make mistakes.

Thanks for all the support I had following LLC’s bed rolling incident; in fact, the post inspired a post by Expat Mum and led me to similar past confessions from Marketing to Milk.

We’re only human, after all. But after my latest parenting booboo, I felt plain stupid and frustrated with myself.

I fed LLC some honey. Of all the motley weaning advice out there, honey under one year is an established and universal no-no. Having just finished my breakfast of Greek yogurt, fruit and honey, I put the tiniest remnant of yogurt on my spoon and let her have a lick (I've just started baby led weaning). It only struck me several hours later that there had been honey in that bowl. Immediately I was on the Internet, looking up symptoms of Infant Botulism.

Thanks to Chris & my dear MO, both of whom stopped me getting wound up in the wake of this discovery and convinced me not to panic, that LLC had probably not even ingested any honey and that if she had, it would have been only a minimal trace. I realize that infant botulism is quite rare, but this is still no excuse to tempt fate.

It was an accident and one I am, this time, confident I won’t repeat. With all the weaning advice I’ve read and discussed of late, I’m not sure how I overlooked this. Perhaps information overload clouded my view of the basics? Sigh.

This happened last week and LLC appears fighting fit so fingers so hopefully this incident will be a non-issue. I guess no matter how hard you try as a parent, sometimes you still slip up....

Thursday, 22 July 2010

“One Baby in the Bed and the Little One Said….”

Roll Over, Roll Over!

So LLC rolled over and she fell out! And I caught her in my arms mid-fall but she kept tumbling down….

Yup, I’ve been told it would happen, I’ve caught her and made the save on two previous attempts but yesterday LLC was just too quick for me.

I laid her in the center of my bed, partially surrounded by pillows and partially surrounded by laundry while I put some of this clothing away. I averted my eyes for a couple of seconds to stick some sports bras in a box under the bed when it happened…..

I raised my eyes just in time to see LLC rotating off the bed with the swiftness and ease of a baker’s rolling pin. Cue slow motion, while I leapt forward and attempted to catch her in mid-air but her momentum carried her off my arms and onto the carpet with hearty thump.

Pause.

Wahhhhh! WAHHHHH!

Soft barriers used to be a match for her roll but those days are clearly no more. I should have seen the writing on the wall recently when I left her in her bedroom on a rug and returned a few minutes later to find her half-way across the wooden floorboards near her crib. She has always been a kicker, a wriggler, tiny but with tremendous energy that now may invite folly if I’m not careful on her behalf.

My immediate reaction was to scoop her up, give her a once over to check for bumps and bruises, cuddle her and dance with her in front of her bedroom fan. Its whoosh whoosh gradually calmed her cries and my thumping heart.

Next came guilt. I shouldn’t have left her on the bed like that. There had been two previous close calls. What if there wasn’t carpet on the floor or if I hadn’t broken her fall. Just as stress started to escape my brain and seep through my veins, I heard….

Hah ha haha ha ha hahahaha!

I looked down to find LLC smiling up at me, accident forgotten. All she wanted was her mommy’s attention. So I shook off guilt and returned her grin, accident not forgotten, but lesson learned.

This post is for Josie’s Writing Workshop, prompt 1: Disaster! Tell us when a best laid plan went spectacularly wrong…

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Let's Hear it for the Golden Arches

Last Friday I was eyeing the LK Bennett at Royal Exchange Buildings, debating whether or not to ask one of the busy City people or shop assistants for help hauling LLC’s stroller into the shop when it hit me – I really needed to pee! There was no way I was going into that shop; I had to find a bathroom and stat.

Why I invited the inevitable by failing to use the bathroom before leaving lunch with my two friends is beyond me because when I need to go, I need to go! This seems to be an annoying trait that I’ve carried with me from pregnancy. Fortunately many a train journey exercising my kegels has done justice to my pelvic floor and even after birth it’s in pretty good shape. Still, it was only a matter of time until desperation turned to embarrassment.

So there I was, near Bank station, in the heart of the City with many an office and small, grab-your-lunch-and-go sandwich shop in sight but nowhere that I knew of with a bathroom that would accommodate both me and LLC. Even Starbucks and the like in the City are often small, some without handicapped toilets on the ground floor.

I frantically walked off with no clear destination in mind in hopes of finding somewhere/beating off the urge with motion. Then through my haze of desperation, emerged the golden arches of McDonald's. My eyes lit up and pace quickened. I’m not a fast food lover but McDonald's never looked so good, for in that moment I knew they would have the toilet I so urgently needed.

And they did. On the ground floor, big enough to accommodate LLC’s stroller and it was actually even relatively clean (and I’m also not a fan of public bathrooms).

What it generally lacks in nutritious food, McDonald's makes up for in family friendly practicality, particularly for mamas with babies and strollers in tow. I guess many City establishments cater for their primary customers, City professionals, but that doesn’t help moms on the go like me who often venture into the City.

I never even recognised that my local shopping area has toilets big enough for mama and pram. I never paid attention to the fact that baby change stations are often located in the handicapped bathroom at restaurants and coffee shops. Why would I? But now these are vital nuggets that give me much needed comfort when my bladder decides it has had enough.

So now I take stock of where I can find a mom/baby friendly toilets. Spitalfields has some good facilities. Train stations have locked handicapped restrooms that staff let you into upon request.

For those around London, can you direct me to any other central restaurants/etc other than McDonald's where I can run to when I’ve got to? But for today, I must give the good old golden arches credit where credit is due.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Tragedy of Moo Cow

First it was Jim-B the elephant with his strange but chewable trunk. Now I’ve gone and done it again. I’ve lost Moo Cow.

Pink and white striped with long, thin un-cow-like appendages he saved the day after we lost Jim-B in the depths of Glendurgan while in Cornwall. LLC enjoyed gnawing on Moo Cow. She loved him bouncing on her belly. He accompanied us on all outings (my cardinal error) and even his little squeak was fairly un-offensive.

I know exactly when he went missing. I took LLC on a walk in her stroller and Moo Cow was tucked under her arm when I shut the front door but nowhere to be found when we arrived home an hour later. My heart sunk in my chest; I felt truly gutted. It will be alright, I told smiling LLC. We’ll find Moo Cow.

So I did what any logical-minded parent would do when their child’s comfort toy goes missing. (Never mind that she doesn’t yet understand that he’d gone missing.) I re-walked our hour-long route. I was convinced we’d find Moo Cow lying at the roadside, or propped up on a garden wall by a kind passer-by. I was positive we would not arrive home empty handed.

I was wrong. Moo Cow is no more. I walked the exact same route for goodness sake. He couldn’t have disappeared into thin air. We did pass a few schools on our route; would another parent have possibly let their child take home an arbitrary cow from the gutter?

So my plan is now to order another Moo Cow from the Jelly Cat website. LLC will never know the difference and fortunately she’s too young to know he’s missing. No, I’m not re-ordering Moo Cow for my sake, honestly….

Has anyone else gotten strangely attached to their child’s toys?

Once kids know their favorite toy is missing things must get much more tearful and complicated. For this reason I’ve been told to have a back-up copy the favorite stuffed animal at the ready. This would have worked a treat for me in this moment.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Huggies Messy Play Challenge – Get Involved, But Fast!

True to my style of better late than never, I’m finally posting LLC and my contribution to the Huggies Messy Play Challenge. If you’re up for photographing your little one partaking in some type of messy play and getting in the running for some free Huggies kit, act now for this competition closes tomorrow July14th. See the full rules below and get in the running!

As a Huggies Mom I found out about The Messy Play Challenge ages ago but I just wasn’t sure how to get LLC messy. This may sound ridiculous as children and messy play are more or less synonymous, but babies and messy play (for we know they make plenty of poo/wee/puke mess) are a bit more challenging.

LLC rolls around her play-mat like a tornado and grabs at anything and everything but can’t yet hold onto food, paint, pens, sand, etc long enough to really get herself dirty. I should probably savour this time before I’m frantically wiping up trails of food and drink from her wake, but instead I kept plotting how to get her playing messy.

I thought of buying some child friendly paint and dipping her hands in it or taking her to a local pottery studio where children can handprint mugs, etc but I haven’t quite got around to either (though I really do want to print her pottery while she’s still small). I considered photographing her covered in bath bubbles until my until my baby brain recognized this as the antithesis of messy (oh dear). She occasionally possets and starts to play with her sick but to capture this would be both gross and pretty cruel/demented.

Finally I settled on our first dabble in the direction of weaning by giving her a bowl of cut up banana to play with. I have a growing interest in Baby Led Weaning so was interested to see if she might get the banana to her mouth. 



She didn’t. She got her hand in the bowl, smudged some banana on her fist and managed to transfer some of this residue onto herself but we had some happy shrieks and smiles in the process. Messy(ish) Play challenge accomplished.

It may be down to the wire, but it’s so easy to take part in this so definitely go for it if you can. Here are the rule as laid out by Huggies.

1. The messier your baby is in the photo the better. (The challenge is cleaning up!)
2. Post the photo to your blog with The Messy Play by Huggies Wipes challenge. (It can be an old photo or a previous post).
3. Send a link of your blog post featuring your Messy Play photo to @Huggies_UK on Twitter or online.team@Huggies.com to participate.
4. Check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/messyplaybyhuggieswipes/ to see all the blogger submissions and links to their blogs. Submissions will also be shouted out by @Huggies_UK on Twitter.
5. The top 3 messiest entries will receive Huggies® gift packs of Huggies merchandise.

COMPETITION CLOSES JULY 14TH

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Idyllic Boat meets War Paint


This year I didn’t manage to get any of my American expat friends together to celebrate the 4th of July, so instead we collected Chris’ gran and headed to the South Coast for an afternoon on his parents boat.


Warm but not scorching, it was the perfect afternoon to chill on a boat and that’s just what we did. There’s something about being on the water that’s relaxing and revitalizing; I think these pictures speak a thousand words.


I’d like to say that LLC enjoyed her first dabble in the nautical world, but she seemed more intent on eyeing up my salad than looking at the other boats! (Good thing I’m getting prepared to start weaning her.) Salad aside, the buzz of boats, docks, sun and sea must have wore her out and she drifted off for a nap on the cabin bed with Moo Cow.

Now my million dollar question – are there any baby friendly factor 50 sunscreens out there that will not leave streaky war paint-like stripes across LLC’s face? This has become a popular look for her of late in all this bright and brilliant sunshine.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

CyberMummy Snapshot

This weekend I attended the exciting, emotional and informative whirlwind that was CyberMummy. The UK parenting blogging community is no doubt well established, and this premier mummy blogging conference only served to take this presence to a new level.

Thank you CyberMummy organizers for a fun and interesting day; thank you Huggies for sponsoring my ticket and all your support and attention throughout the event.

So what did I take away from this hotpot of blogger networking and blogging chitchat? A lot, but here are the things that stood out for me:

  • Networking never felt so good – I’ve done my fair share of networking through work and it can be strained and a real effort. I’m really struck by how open and friendly our blogging community was in the flesh; conversation easily flowed; people seemed genuinely happy to be there.
  • Good content is more than just good writing – Honest content that others can relate to or discuss emerged as a key ingredient to “good content” and served as a reminder forget the mass blogosphere out there and just keep it real.
  • Copyright issues extend to music – Obvious, right?, but I hadn’t considered that by linking a YouTube video to my blog I could be creating copyright fraud.
  • Social networking is vital if you want your blog published –I didn’t recognize how important a strong online social networking presence is when pitching a book to publishers as a new author.
  • Tactically placed keywords enable SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – Be proactive in building your audience; think about the keywords that will deliver users to your blog. Search engines look at your keywords based on density, frequency, prominence, proximity and semantic reinforcement.
  • Crowdsourced Keynotes rock - the day's final roundup of posts from bloggers themselves proved an emotional and striking reminder of the strength, widsom and humor to be found in the blogging world - a real reminder of why I enjoy dabbling in this big pond in the first place. 
A small snapshot, but to me a vital one from a fab day. My only regret is that I didn’t get to meet everyone that I’d hoped to!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Happiness

You’re a cheeky monkey
A free spirit
Innocent and true
 
You don’t smile on demand
But when you do
My heart glows

And your hearty chuckle
That burst out
When moo cow bounced on your belly

Half squeak
Half gag
Music to my ears

We hold each other
And dance
And laugh

I look at you
And the world slows down
My mind no longer busy, just happy


This post is for the joined up Sticky Fingers Gallery & Josie's Writing Workshop.

CyberMummy Here I Come!


I’m excited to be attending the much anticipated CyberMummy blogging conference this Saturday July 3rd. Huggies, who sponsored my ticket, has recently already afforded me the opportunity to meet some fellow bloggers but by and large, this is my first opportunity to meet the people behind the words, which is fantastic and also a little daunting too.

In an effort to get to know each other a bit before the day, Carly at Mummy’s Shoes initiated a ‘Meet & Greet’ so attendees could share a snapshot bio with each other. So here’s a bit on me.

Name: Tanya
Blog: Bump2Basics – Random Musings from an American Mom in London
Twitter ID: @Bump2Basics
Hair: Long brown
Eyes: Brown
Height: 5ft 1, but probably will be wearing some type of heel, though nothing too ambitious
Will be wearing: Something non-breastfeeding friendly; it will make a refreshing change!
Likes: Running, writing, pilates, fine wine with family & friends, long walks, exploring, yoga, salsa dancing and talking (please come say hello on the day!)

I’ve been inspired, surprised, educated and engaged by the UK blogging community once I realized it existed so Saturday promises to be a day to learn a lot, and to remember.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Child Safety - How far should we go to protect our babies?

Becoming a mother has definitely heightened my sensitivity to stories related to child safety. Fact or fiction, when I hear about a child’s wellbeing at risk it can easily reduce me to tears.

My mom taught me that the world isn’t always pretty, and that you need to be aware of this to cope. So when those tears come, I try to remind myself to toughen up and look for the lesson to be learned.

I’m pretty sure it was an episode of 'CSI Miami', that presented me with a mother’s worst nightmare. A woman was walking her baby in its stroller when a couple accosted her and made off with her child in its pram, shouting how she (the real mother) had attempted to kidnap their baby. Passers by believed the true victim to be the perpetrator. Horrible.

Yes, this is very CSI, but it’s also very scary and not beyond the realm of possibility in this crazy world. It made me wonder what I would do if, god forbid, I ever faced a similar situation.

Particularly in this great weather, LLC and I head out to crowded places almost daily and I don’t live in fear of nutters. Still, I always make sure I stay by her pram’s side and also keep my wits about should anyone start to invade our personal space. I’ve never seriously considered taking any additional proactive measures. Should I or would that be bordering on paranoia?

GPS gadgets and child safety tattoos are now available for small children lest they stray from their parents’ side. Should similar measures be taken for small babies who don’t understand stranger danger and would be less likely to protest than an older child if in jeopardy? Such measures would serve as a link between parent and child, rebutting the claims of a CSI-like maniac. But is this a step too far? I’m interested in your thoughts.

This post was written for the Babyrambles Keeping Children Safe Carnival, sponsored by PleaseCallMum.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

A Walk on the Wild Side

One of the things I love about maternity leave is discovering my area. I’ve lived in these parts for over seven years and I’m finally starting to learn street names, to realize that this road links up to that road and to discover pedestrian pathways I never knew existed. I’ve also found some great new parks and child-friendly green spaces that make a nice change from our more urban strolls.

Yesterday LLC and I were “rolling,” (when I take her out in the stroller, I always tell her "let’s roll!”) in one of those newly discovered parks. I’ve recently converted her Bugaboo from the carriage carrier to more upright, buggy-like seat; she loves her improved view of the world and I love her reduced number of stops because she can’t see.

Anyway, we rolled on by the children’s playground complete with swings, climbing frames and other apparatuses I don’t know the names of; a large sandpit with water features; a pond with ducks and an array of birds; a lovely rose garden just coming into its glory; a couple unabashedly shagging on one the lawns adjacent to the rose garden, yes a couple seemingly doing the nasty in a not-so secluded -space next to the roses!

My running commentary of our surroundings ground to a halt as we made a swift about face. All I can say is it’s a good thing LLC doesn’t really know what she’s looking at!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Hot off the Press

One’s hot, one’s warm and one’s more tepid, but all are pregnancy/mommy stories in the media that caught my eye.

First, today’s report about introducing carbon monoxide tests on all pregnant women. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence suggests that exposing the elevated levels of carbon monoxide in smokers' systems will show them the error of their ways; The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) opposes the idea as a non-supportive, guilt-inducing practice. While I think expectant mothers could do with the wake-up call, I doubt this test would really make a difference to already smoking pregnant ladies. I’m more concerned about financial implications; in light of yesterday’s emergency budget, how would this monitor be paid for?

Next, Lorraine Candy’s article in The Mail about the plethora of conflicting studies on pregnancy and motherhood and the maternal guilt that these generate. This excerpt sums it up:

I think we have fallen prey to battered mother syndrome, where we're bullied into believing everything is our fault. Quite frankly, if a headline read 'women who wear kitten heels have dwarf babies' we'd believe it. “

I’m definitely “thinker” who is all about knowledge being power, but since delving into the black hole of pregnancy and parenting studies over the last year, I’ve realized it is important to take this “advice” in small doses, consider my personal situation and keep things in perspective so I don’t waste spend my time worrying rather than enjoying LLC. This is sometimes easier said than done.  Do you think today’s society fuels maternal guilt and are you a victim?

A couple of weeks ago the BBC ran ‘Is that woman Pregnant or Fat,’ which discusses how many commuters don’t offer their seat to pregnant women for fear of offending someone who is instead overweight and shares tips for “identifying” pregnant women. This identifying list seemed a bit ridiculous, as most of the “pregnant symptoms” could apply to those who are overweight as well. The comments provide some interesting reactions, but mine is, as I determined while commuting pregnant, that if pregnant women want a seat, they should simply ask for it as should anyone else who is unwell. Sure, it would be nice if commuters offered but they may not for a host of reasons (their head is buried in a book, they’re not sure if you really are pregnant, they just don’t care, you're not displaying any physical signs of fatigue) and if you don’t ask, you may not get.  Drama averted.  Would you agree?

Friday, 18 June 2010

Mum's not the Word - Call me Mommy!

I have lived in England for almost eight years. I embrace and use British English in my daily life but I don’t have a British accent.

I’m not one of those Americans that attempt to affect a British accent, but instead sound scary and frankly ridiculous. I’m also not naturally susceptible to accents. Yes, my intonation has changed and I say isn’t it and doesn’t it rather than ask a question outright (this used to annoy me but I’ve succumbed!) but all in all the sound of my voice is still pretty much intact with my American roots.

I’m happy about this. I see my voice as one of my key identifying factors. My accent represents the American at my core and I don’t want to let that go.

I’ve always viewed British English as another matter. I live in England and want to fit in. In my daily life, say pavement, not sidewalk; bin, not garbage; rubber; not eraser; hob not burner. I also love British slang – strop, leary, cheers, gutted, slapper, chuffed, manky, broody….what great, colorful words and at such a wider variety than their American equivalents.

Conversely, when I’m in the States or talking to Americans I revert to American English. (That’s why this blog is a splattering of British and American English.) I naturally adjust my vocab depending on my audience. This may sound bizarre but it works for me and usually, but not always, avoids people from both sides of the pond commenting on my use of language.

LLC on the other hand, will sound British. She was born in England after all and I’m certain her voice will be a product of her surroundings and I think this is only right. When she does start to speak, however, I’ll just have one request: I want to be a mommy and a mom, not a mummy and a mum. British English I do embrace but like my voice, I identify being a mother with my own roots and want to be a mommy to LLC as my mom was a mommy to me. I wonder what LLC will have to say about this when she actually starts to speak?!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Motherhood to Me


This story began
When you were a mere twinkle in my eye

For each word we read
About cows jumping over the moon
Giant peaches & runaway bunnies
Corduroy & engines that could

Our own chronicle unfolds
A tale of entwined life
Mother & daughter
Who both play student & teacher

You can’t yet speak 
Yet your eyes tell me you’re listening

And my sometimes wise,
Sometimes wacky
Always loving words, as your mother, come

This post was written for The Gallery on 'Motherhood' over at Sticky Fingers.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Busy Bees

It’s been all go in our neck of the woods....and beyond.

The week following our Cornwall vacation, LLC and I supported Chris take part in the Blenheim Triathlon. It felt like we deserved a prize in our own right for running around and cheering Chris on during each leg of the event. We’re getting skilled at beings daddy’s cheerleaders and he managed a personal best. All this supporting has me itching to book into a 10K or half marathon for later this year.

The following morning we trekked to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square to file for LLC’s American Citizenship. Note to any fellow Americans travelling to the current London US Embassy with children: it has no ramps or lifts (very helpful when you have a stroller!) Come with another adult if you can.

Then Grandma S came to visit from Dorset for a few days and showered LLC with extra cuddles and attention. One afternoon the three of us drove to Sevenoaks for afternoon tea with LLC’s great grandma F, thus celebrating four generations of our family women under one roof!

Last Friday, Chris took the day off and we drove to Devon to spend the week with some of our dear friends Family H. We always love these trips but this last one was particularly memorable as it was LLC’s first trip to Devon and our first trip to Family H since their little girl arrived seven weeks after LLC.

I now understand, for real, that navigating parenthood is no small task and adjusting to life with a baby is wonderful and manageable but also scary and hard at times too. Having good friends simultaneously ride this wave has been exciting and supportive. We share tips and war stories, reflect on how the dynamics of our life have shifted and remind each other that we’re doing pretty damn well.

The seven-week age difference between LLC and Baby I made for interesting observation at this early stage; if I moved an object back and forth between them Baby I would follow it with her eyes while LLC now follows with her head as well. LLC chatters and shrieks a bit more but Baby I is already coming into her own with gurgles and softer sounds. It’s a reminder how each week brings so much right now.

So this weekend our before babies “four-way” became a “six-way”. The weekend proved better than ever, aside from LLC’s Friday night breakdown that kept Chris and me (and fortunately not Family H) up for a good portion of the night. We had a BBQ, took a couple of walks, caught up as we always do – at times like these, I feel that we really are rolling out that new life balance I often speak of and I’m loving it.