Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

These days my house sometimes looks like a jungle, or at least like a tornado just blew through. But that is another, more boring story that I’m trying to re-write.

This week my dear sister, Aunt M, is visiting from New York. She has been giving LLC copious love and attention, as well as a Fisher-Price Rainforest Play Mat. LLC loves it! She spent an hour yesterday laying on it, cooing at the butterflies overhead and swiping/kicking at her new jungle friends Parrot and Monkey.  Aunt M likens LLC to a little monkey with her sharp, wide eyes and incessant kicking legs - what better a "habitat" to entertain her in?!  This evening she managed to propel herself across the entire mat, mainly by back leg thrusts and minimal arm support.  Seriously, have Chris and I created a kick-boxer?

We've been enjoying a chilled out week of girl time with Aunt M.  It's very nice to spend time with my sister and for her to get to know her niece. 

When my parents, sister or friends visit, I sometimes hesitantly venture into the jungle of emotion that comes with the fresh reminder of how much I love these people and how I wish we lived physically closer to each other.  I don't like to venture into this abyss since I would not trade my life here and I'm not one to court sadness.  But still, inevitably, at times into this jungle I creep.

I usually catch myself before I go too far, for life is to be lived and enjoyed even with its challenges.  I'm enjoying the time LLC and I have with Aunt M and when I join my little one under her rainforest canopy to gaze at the butterflies and tropical creatures, I can also think of my sister and smile.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Hands off Harriet!

Like pregnancy bumps and family heirlooms, new babies should not be touched without permission!

I’m keen to socialize LLC; she’s happy to be held, bathed and entertained by more than Chris and me. She’s an alert little miss, always watching, often kicking and not shy about giving strangers a coo and a smile. When I’m out people often approach her stroller for take a peek and a chat, which I enjoy. (Like pregnancy, I’m finding newborns bring out the chatty side of the sometimes reticent Brits!)

But peek and chat are where I draw the line, for while I’m happy for our family and friends to dish out copious cuddles on LLC, I’m not a fan of her being touched by strangers. That to me, is step too far and is exactly what occurred on our recent trip out with Chris’ grandma.

We were checking out those motorized scooters that seniors can scoot around in and the sales lady swooped in on LLC like an eagle to its prey. Though compliments rolled off her tongue, I couldn’t concentrate on them for she simultaneously poked her hand into LLC’s and began to give it a little stroke.

While my tolerant daughter gave her starry eyes, it was all I could do not to shoot daggers at her with mine. I didn’t know where this woman’s hands had been! I know kids lick windows and bite communal toys at the library and need to be exposed to germs and all but shouldn’t adults know better than to start touching small babies without asking first! The fact this woman worked with seniors scooters and thus dealt with clientele that may not be on top form exacerbated my frustration.

When she finally retracted her hand I inched LLC’s stroller in the other direction and made a getaway soon after that. I questioned myself for being ridiculous, but felt a bit more justified when I found Chris washing off LLC’s hand with a wet wipe when we got home.

I probably should have tactfully said something in the moment but I didn’t. Maybe next time. Have you been faced with a similar situation and how did you handle it? Or am I overreacting?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Me, Myself & I

A current of city slickers sweeps LLC and me across London Bridge. I clutch her stroller and try to ignore the incessant thump thump of her diaper bag against my thigh. It’s laden with diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, a bottle of expressed milk, a wet bag, my wallet, keys, train pass, lip gloss: my now arsenal of “don’t leave home without” paraphernalia.

The day is cool and crisp; London is finally sun-kissed; it’s a fine afternoon for my trip to introduce the little lady to Chris’ co-workers. I crane my neck over the stroller cover to catch a glimpse of her. She’s peaceful and paying a visit to never-never land.

I raise my eyes and see red….. a really nice, lightweight red jacket.

The said jacket and its wearer, an attractive American girl chattering on her mobile, approaches at the swift pace of a busy young urbanite on a mission. She appears my contemporary but she’s dressed to impress, looks a career woman and appears to be discussing tonight’s dinner plans as we pass. Then she’s gone.

I know nothing about this woman but in this moment she reminds me of my former “professional” self and I’m acutely aware of my flat, worn boots, bulging diaper bag and stroller carrying my pride and joy. This glimpse of recognition is bitter-sweet; this realization and momentary pause for what was, is somewhat confusing.

I wouldn’t trade becoming a mom for the world; my love for LLC knows no bounds. Yet it still stirs me slightly how I so recently walked these streets in a similar fashion – rushing to the office daily, committing to a last minute post work drink, no innocent, young dependent to consider…..these days are no more.

When you tell people that you are having your first baby, many declare “how it will change your life.” I found this slightly irritating because brining a new person into the world and raising her clearly calls for a life shift. I didn’t like that the “change your life” often had a “fasten your seat belt and say goodbye to your freedom” connotation. Chris and I declared that while starting a family would significantly alter the fabric of our life and make us grow as people, it would not inhibit us from carrying on with things we love. That’s the new life balance I often talk about.

I’m now over the bridge and pondering my new life balance as I walk on. I don’t plan to return to work full-time in the City but I’m exploring part-time opportunities for later this year that will engage my mind, allow me time at home with LLC and hopefully be a better fit for me as a person. I need to be more strategic about when I run or write this blog but I’m still finding time for these things, even if to a lesser extent while my days are a bit pot luck. I’ve managed a night out on the town with friends and Chris and I have had two nights alone at our local pub thanks to our parents. And through it all, my days are amazingly colorful on account of my dear LLC.

I catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window. Some wind buffeted strands of my hair stick to my lip gloss – I never learn that wind and lip gloss don't mix – and I look at home at the helm of LLC’s stroller. I am aware of the hopes, fears and dreams within me; I am a proud mother, I am a woman with love and ambition running through my veins. I not just the busy young professional I once - I am now much more.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I smile at this new me in the shop window and then avert my gaze to my still sleeping daughter. I exhale, and move on with renewed conviction.

This post was inspired by Josie at Sleep is for the Weak's weekly writing workshop, prompt #4 - Describe a 'letting go' that made you happy, not sad.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Shades of Happy

I’m honoured to receive this Happiness Award from the lovely Michelle at A Mid-Atlantic English. It’s inspiring to know that my random musings make for an enjoyable read, thank you Michelle.

So now it’s my turn to play.  A lot of things make me happy, but the initial 10 shades that spring to mind include:

  • Cuddling on the couch with Chris, LLC & Rico
  • Rambles and picnics in the verdant English countryside
  • Skype calls with the family
  • Fine wine in the company of fine friends
  • LLC’s arms over head stretch following a feed
  • That Salamander Bay beach in Oz with the spider infested bathroom, army of hermit crabs, peaceful sea and boundless sky
  • Battenberg – it made watching Chris play cricket all day almost bearable (sorry my dear)
  • Writing – embracing power of the pen, the keyboard & my mind
  • Being told that I’m a good listener
  • Looking at LLC and knowing Chris and I made her
I’d like to pass this Award on to Nappy Valley Girl @ Nappy Valley...in New York who “traded places” with me when taking up house with her family on Long Island, NY. Her observant, witty and honest writing makes me smile and is a great read.

Big Boots to Fill

I got my first Mother’s Day card on Sunday from LLC. Because I’m now a mom, I really am. 

You might be thinking, duh – that has been what you prepared for through ten months of pregnancy. That has been the bread and butter of this blog. And LLC was born nearly seven weeks ago!

I know. But I still have these occasional lightning bolt moments when I emerge from the hectic sea of my day, draw in air and see my amazing opportunity and responsibility as a mother come clearly into focus.

At three or four years, I remember telling my mom that she could give me a bath forever. At the time she begged to differ but I had none of it. I loved my mom. She brought fun, love and learning to my childhood. We created a scrapbook of leaves; we brought all of my stuffed animals into the living room for a day of play before the fireplace; we read Island of the Blue Dolphins and Anne of Green Gables together; she made us snacks of Doritos with cheese….

My mom has put up with me, in my full glory, for my whole life. An ocean now stands between us but our relationship does not waver. Yes, we argue – back then about things like my refusal to go to bed at night; now about the advice that she offers me that I don’t always want - but my love for her remains a constant and this bond grew from my early days.

I hope to sew similar seeds with LLC so she feels this same love for me. Yet this is when I become too much the thinker. For I expect a child’s heart cannot be strategized over but instead won through living and loving. So out comes Chris’ old adage of “move and use,” aka just get on with what you’ve got and the rest will follow. He’s wise, that husband of mine.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Rhyme Time Meets Tears of a Clown

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. And eyes and ears and mouth and nose…..

This morning two of my NCT friends and I delved into the world of Baby Rhyme Time at our town library. Our tots are all about 6 weeks old and so we decided to freshen up on actual nursery rhymes rather than the “day in the life of” ditties we’ve been resorting to. Think “You have a dirty nappy, now that won’t make you happy!” and “Let’s change your shirt, don’t cry, it will not hurt!” Alongside Old McDonald on repeat. If LLC knew better, she’d be craving rhyme time, right?


Awake and alert, she lasted through Hello, Hello (or some kind of welcome song), Head, Shoulders etc, Row Row Row Your Boat and Roly Poly before she came out with her own shrill version of Tears of a Clown. After that the subsequent rhymes and cacophony of rattling instruments from 60 other mummies and babies became a bit of a blur as LLC frantically buried her face in my chest and clawed at my hair, ripping out a nice chunk. Maybe it was over-stimulation? Maybe I lifted her too high in one of the rhymes I can’t remember the name of? Maybe she just really prefers mommy’s rhymes about taking out the trash and poo.

My friends’ babies slept for most of the event and when one of them did wake up, he didn’t look overly impressed by the proceedings either. But we’ll try again; they are only 6 weeks after all.

When did you first take your children to baby classes and which ones did you enjoy the most? There are so many to choose from.

Back at home, it continued to be a day of firsts when LLC grabbed onto her Whoozit baby toy for the first time ever. She was so excited. Chris and I were too. Sadly this milestone also ended in tears.  Whoever knew there could be so many seasons in a day?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Night Owl

My hungry eyes devour the rich mix of words, numbers, vlogs, and pictures on my screen. My brain races to catch up and process the myriad of passion, life and reality bursting from the blogosphere, my email, the news. My hands dance between my keyboard and a pile of tiny onesies to my right that need folding. I’m on the phone with my mom.

I am the antithesis of the dark, still night. Though my eyes are weary and hands dry, my brain has a mind of its own that shuns idleness and propels me into the early hours of the morning.

LLC occupies me by day and I love our days together of singing, reading Chicka Chicka abc, cuddling, meeting up with other mummies & babies….yet I have so much more on my agenda that doesn’t get touched until the stars are shining, I’m yawning and my body should be at rest replenishing energy levels. I probably need to slow down; go to bed earlier; find time to incorporate some of my late night activity into times when the sun is shining, even if just for half an hour.

I feel pressured to keep up with myself - new mom, busy body & mind, inquisitive spirit.

This late night post was inspired by Josie at Sleep is for the Weak's weekly writing workshop, prompt #5,What is making you feel under pressure right now?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Two became Three became Four

Here's a slightly dishevelled picture of my family of four for Tara's Wednesday Gallery.  Although LLC steals the spotlight in our house these days, we'd never forget about Rico, our fine cat that revolutionized my opinion of cats and who gave us some very rough practice for parenthood, which we clearly needed.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Yummy Mummy - To Be or Not to Be?

I'm a mom. I'm a lady who lunches, on a budget. But am I a “yummy mummy?” I'd be lying I didn't admit that I secretly, slightly sheepishly, aspire to join this "club."

The membership criteria is blurry. Do I need to be a brilliant, independent and sexy mommy goddess boasting coiffed hair and graceful parenting prowess to be admitted? In that case, I'd be far out of my depth. But if I need to be a devoted and loving parent who has not lost my sense of self and style at the bottom of the diaper bin then I may be in with a chance. 

And why do I even care? I could chalk up this coveted “mommy label” as a superficial side effect of our competitive society. Yet I don't see it this way. I see it more as a reminder that moms can be brilliant parents but still bright and desirable women in their own right and this is the balance that I'm trying to achieve.

One thing I do know is that yummy mummy-hood is definitely about more than how you look. While walking with LLC last week I approached a group of pram-pushing ladies who looked the yummy mummy part - fresh faced, sociable and stylish - yet when I passed them on the sidewalk they were spouting the most nasty, vile language right in front of their children. In an instant they went from yummy to scummy in my estimations. Looks really can be deceiving.

So what do you think makes yummy mummy? And should we care?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Tricks of the Trade

LLC is now 5.5 weeks old.  Every day brings new learning and surprises but overall, the days are starting to feel a little easier.  Chris and I have explored a number of tried and tested but new to us "baby taming tactics" and they have worked wonders; proof that it's the little things that can make a big difference! 
  •  White Noise = Sleepy Time: I heard white noise calms babies and seriously, it does!  When LLC is overtired but won't settle our kitchen extractor fan is one of the few lullabies that will bring on shuteye within a matter of minutes
  • Stroller Walks = Mega Sleepy Time: The kitchen extractor fan will only calm LLC for so long; a walk around my neighborhood guarantees her fresh air and a long nap and me some exercise and the chance to explore the local roads I never knew existed. You notice so much more on foot.
  • Back Pat Heartbeat, Bouncing, Winter Suit & Jazz Hands = Goodbye Grizzles (hopefully):  When all the fuss of the fair comes to town, I pull one of these out of the bag in hopes of settling LLC.  Mimicking a "beat beat" heart beat on her back while lightly bouncing her often works a treat.  The midwives may not approve of zipping LLC into her winter outdoor suit indoors, but it instantly calms her and puts a stop to flailing arms and legs.  Jazz hands are our latest discovery thanks to J&L - something about shaking hands seems to quickly fascinate/distract/calm LLC
  • LLC Bedtime at 7:30pm = Much Needed Adult Time: After about 4 weeks we started putting LLC to bed earlier and it's been working well.  She's tired and settles down to sleep and Chris and I get some alone time to relax and unwind
  • Night Feeds Laying Down = Better Rest for Me: Totally worth it if you can find a position that works for you and your baby - she gets to eat without getting too stimulated and I get to half sleep - almost as good as actual sleep.  I'll take what I can get!
I know different strokes work for different folks, but if you have any other baby taming gems to share please do!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Gallery: Beauty

Chris and I have been camera crazy since LLC joined us at the end of January.  I'm notoriously poor at sharing photos and creating albums but I've sworn I'll be better now that I have a beautiful baby to photograph.  We want to chart her growth and my many family and friends across the Atlantic want regular picture updates since their "in person" time LLC time is currently non-existent/limited.

Thus when I came across Tara @ Sticky Fingers' prompt of "beauty" for her new weekly photo showcase, The Gallery, I had to share one of the gorgeous, memorable moments I captured of our little girl, her dad and the measures we were taking to enjoy a quiet, cry-free dinner during her third week.  We've now got her going to bed before dinner but I'll never forget our first challenging but beautiful suppers as three!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Thank You Friends

Each day is full of discovery in my adventures with LLC
From what brings on a quivering lower lip to what makes her happy
And as I stumble and soar through early days as a mama
I’ve made some new friends who help me through the drama

Thank you Putumayo Dreamland lullabies
Your soothing tracks work wonders when LLC cries
We started our relationship while she was in the womb
And cemented your ability to cut through grumpy gloom

Thank you swaddle blanket from mom in the USA
Your Velcro tight wrap can’t be easily kicked away
You keep LLC warm and cozy and easily entail
That her sleep is not disrupted by a random arm flail

Thank you Angelcare Nappy bin for keeping smelly diapers at bay
Space efficient and odor free you came and saved the day
From diaper overflow in our garbage pail
Your ease and convenience have been without fail

Thank you Bugaboo, goddess of smooth suspension
Your motion magically abates all LLC tension
Our walks together are in peace, style and grace
I’m so glad we caught you in the ebay race

Thank you Margaret Wise Brown for making bedtime a treat
Your stories keep us company while LLC has her final bit to eat
I know by heart Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny
And love your choice of imagery, though it is a bit funny

Thank you friends
You are godsends

For another bout of creativity, check out A Mid-Atlantic English’s February End of Month Collection Cloud of inspiring sentences found in the blogosphere. I intended to build my own word cloud this month but it didn’t happen; Michelloui’s fab finds are inspiration to have another go at it next month!