Thursday, 29 December 2011

Danger Drumming

Just ignore the horrible throw, laundry and general mess....and enjoy the dangerous madness.  Yes, we are encouraging LLC to aim away from her face, and ours....

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Christmas reacquires the "wonder element" with children that is partially lost somewhere along the fuzzy transition into adulthood.  Although LLC doesn't fully comprehend the ethos and lore of this holiday, she does much more so than last year and its been special watching (the run up to) today unfold through her eyes.  Some of our highlights have been:

-Opening our USA sourced picture-based Advent Calendar throughout December....naming all the Christmas-related and winter scenes behind each window.
-Teaching LLC about Santa, his impending visit, and her emergent recognition and discussion of him.
-Wrapping presents with the help / hindrance of small go-getting hands and conversations about giving / appreciating those that we love.
-Visiting a favorite forest pub and unwinding before an open fire.
-Playing the "name the ornament on the tree" game.
- Leaving out a mince pie and glass of brandy for Santa / carrots for Rudolf and Co.
-The look of excitement on LLC's face when she finally noticed her new tricycle next to the fireplace this morning.
-Delving into the contents below the tree...
-Beach walks with family and friends - the ultimate re-invigoration.
-Saving LLC from falling spread eagle into a huge puddle in her Christmas dress.
-Eating fine food, and lots of it.
-Watching my bump dance each evening post dinner - baby #2 likes his food already!
-Our transatlantic skype call where LLC decided to strip for the camera.
-Stopping to relax and drink the day in - it's been a good one - I hope for you too.


Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy holidays all!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

LLC Toot

From the shores of Long Island to the brown tides of the Thames, men are no different when it comes to pride in their bodily functions.  Why why why?  I don’t understand how a person could take such pride in the volume, stealth or noxiousness of what is quite natural but foul - the expulsion of intestinal gas.

And how can something so common but so best left in the toilet command such a raft of names:  gas, wind, fart, cut the cheese, trump, and now in our house, “toot.”  Because that is the newest addition to LLC’s burgeoning vocabulary and it’s thanks to her daddy, alongside her less developed social inhibitions.

Chris and LLC were camped out on the sofa when she happened to let one rip.  “LLC,” Chris declared proudly.  “You went toot!” And a new phrase, understanding and misplaced pride took root in our almost 2 year-old.

“LLC toot.  LLC toot,” she chirped, grinning.  And of course the phrase stuck.  It’s now right up there with her version of clock (“cock”) and treat (“tit”).   

What next?!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Extraordinary Breastfeeding - But What About the Kids?

After my now compulsory fix of 'Professional Masterchef' (how did I never discover 'Masterchef' before?!) I managed to catch a chunk of the 'Extraordinary Breasfeeding' documentary. I'm sure I heard rumblings about this portrayal of parents that breastfeed past the age of two in the UK, though I'd never seen the film myself. I'm also sure the content has previously given ample fodder to the blogging and journalistic world and beyond, but here are my two cents as a pro-breastfeeding woman.

I appreciate the benefits, and in my case with LLC the relative ease of breastfeeding, and respect those that choose to do it just as I respect those who can't or don't. Bottom line it's a personal choice in my view.

Having breastfed I also appreciate how it comes to strike a real emotional and bonding chord, whether this is invited / expected or not. I definitely felt a sense of loss when I stopped feeding LLC, but at the same time I felt confident it was the right time for the both of us.

I'm sure many who viewed this documentary found it "disgusting" or "unsettling" by virtue of the fact it showed children up to 8 years old still feeding and a father admitting jealously of his kids as he also liked to be breastfed (and indeed sometimes still did - it was a family activity!).

What I'm in a quandary about is the impact of this well into childhood feeding on the children themselves. I stopped feeding LLC around the time she turned 1 and I do appreciate that for some it's preferable to feed longer until 2 or just after. But once you reach a point where your children actively discuss and will remember the act, for me, it's time to pull the plug.

Children are so impressionable, and I expect the later a mother leaves it to stop breastfeeding, the harder it may become to wean her child off the breast. I'm less concerned that toddler and child feeding breaks social norms, but more curious at how it may lead to unhealthy attachment issues between mother / child. I question whether mothers feeding this late are largely swayed by their own selfish sense of loss at stopping rather than truly acting in their child's own interest.

Once children grow mature enough to no longer request feeding (unless a case of 'Bitty' ensues), how will they feel about the late feeding? Will it just be their norm, or could it really disturb them a bit and make them feel some boundaries were violated. I'm not saying it would definitely be the latter, but it likely could.

It's a sensitive topic and these are only my views. I'm not saying others should feel the same, but I wonder what your thoughts are on the subject?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Blue on the Brain

Throughout this second pregnancy Chris and I debated if we should find out the baby’s gender. We did with LLC – I always felt that I’d want to be surprised but when push came to shove in that ultrasound room, I couldn’t wait. My want to know got the better of me. Not even because I wanted to kit out baby’s room or know what colour clothes to buy.....I just wanted to know.

This time, we seriously considered not finding out and having that magic moment where we meet our child in the flesh and take that life-shaping glance at their anatomy. But again, I just couldn’t do it. Even Chris, who first time around would have happily waited had I not been so keen, seemed to want to know.

So at my 21 week ultrasound we asked the question and tada – it’s a boy! A healthy baby boy.

A boy....as in not a girl....? I have to admit, I was slightly stunned. Having grown up in a house of two girls and now as mom to LLC, girls have become my comfort zone and a big part of me kept picturing baby number 2 as another little lady. But as the ultrasound technician kept pointing out, we’ve definitely got a little dude on the scene or something is really awry down below.

Now that I’ve got my head around it, I’m really excited. If we only have two children, we’ll have had both the son and daughter experience. My aunt tells me little boys really love their mothers. My work colleague/mother of a small lad tells me little boys are wonderful. I never doubted it, but I’m also sure I won’t fully appreciate the thrill of my boy until he pops out and I get to know him.

In the immediate, one of my first thoughts was that I’m going to have to learn how to clean boy parts and avoid being sprayed! So mothers of sons out there, talk to me! What new adventures will life bring for us in the blue zone?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The things we do for our children

I was walking through our local park, home to tactless teens and moody mums, when I heard an almighty wail. Distracted from our duck watching, LLC and I turned to see a little girl of about four burst into a tearful meltdown while her mother wrestled desperately with a long reed. At first glance it was a bizarre sight.

And then I saw it: a small doll, partially enveloped by the murky algae-rife water of the adjacent pond, gently bobbing away three feel below the pavement lining the water’s edge. I now approached sympathetically just as the mother won her battle with the reed and our eyes met.

“Would you keep your eye on my two while I try to fish out her dolly,” she desperately enquired motioning at her hysterical daughter and slightly stunned smaller son, confined within a pushchair.

“Sure, of course.” I murmured gentle words of encouragement to the little girl as her mother poked and prodded her doll through the railing. With each unsuccessful effort, her level of hysteria mounted. The reed was just too short.

“I better try from the other side of the railing,” the mother reasoned. She moved further down the pavement where the railing began and moved to the other side, gripping it as she shimmied along the concrete slant leading to the water’s edge.

Try as she might, the doll was still out of her reach. Her daughter’s tears reached a new powerful crescendo while her son and LLC watched on in awe from their strollers.

“Here, take my hand,” I offered. We locked fingers and I braced my shoulder against the railing for leverage. “I’ve got you.” I extended my full arm  through the bars until the railing dug into my shoulder. But that reed was flimsy and useless, and the doll swirled and dipped with each failed attempt to fish it out.

“If I lay down and you grab my ankle, maybe I’ll be able to reach just a big further,” Reed Mama cringed.

“Sure, yes, go for it,” I tried to pump her up. “Okay, I’ve got your ankle. I won’t let you go.”

And this is how another kind mother found us. She promptly detached the sun cover of her pushchair and passed it down to Reed Mama, who used it as a much more effective fishing line to catch and capture the sodden dolly. We three mothers exhaled, and cheered.

Back on level ground on the right side of the railing, Reed Mama presented the beloved dolly to her crestfallen little lady. Dirty and wet, the doll reflected the wear and tear of her ordeal and this brought on a fresh wave of wailing.

Reed mama rolled her eyes at me, dusting the dirt from her clothing.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Snapshot from our neck of the woods

The last several weeks have passed in a blur – not a bad blur, but a blur all the same. I’m tired, and although we’ve been on the go and I’ve been travelling more than usual for work, this is mainly due to my penchant for going to bed at midnight, 1am and sometimes even later. I’d ask Chris to drag me up the stairs to bed but he’s just as bad as me in this department.

I don’t have time revel in this pregnancy as I did the first time around. I still subscribe to the weekly update emails, but I rarely a spare moment or feel compelled to read them. Pregnancy comes with less of the ‘wonder’ element. My main focus is keeping up with an active toddler! Here are some of our updates:

LLC: Dynamic, opinionated, feisty, affectionate with a rapidly expanding vocabulary and love of the ‘repeat after mama’ game. She’s really into dancing, drumming even though we don’t have a drum set (but with real drum sticks – totally dangerous) and singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’ Our fab friends from Devon just stayed for the weekend with their little toddler and the two girls managed to play and share together with a moderate amount of violence and paddies. Result!

Pregnancy: I’m now at 19 weeks and my bump is definitely bigger than it was at this point with LLC. Alice at More than Toast aptly says this is because the second time around your “abs are shot to shit,” or something like that and I think she’s on the money. Dressing has become a fun game, since many of my regular clothes no longer fit but my old maternity wear is mostly too baggy. It’s getting harder to flip over in bed from one side to the other without feeling like I might pull something and I’ve regularly felt the baby moving about for the last couple of weeks.

Exercise with Bump: Keeping fit is important to me, and issues aside, I plan to keep running until the weather gets too bad, or my bump obstructs my view of my feet! I’ve also re-started pregnancy yoga, which is some lovely, incense fuelled zen time for me. Having solely used yoga breathing as my method of pain relief for LLC, returning to this class was really important to me.

Halloween: American festivity runs through my veins, so I enjoy that Halloween has become more celebrated in the UK. Aside from retailers totally cashing in, I enjoy carving pumpkins and singing witch songs to LLC.  It's actually a great creative avenue for kids. We dressed her as pumpkin and she went to her first late-night costume party where she sampled an array of normal and spooky food and chased after balloons before crashing out on her nap-mat.

Work: Very busy. I don’t tend to discuss my job here on the blog but I benefit from working part-time for an employer that affords me lots of opportunity. Things are going well for me in this department though a side affect lately has been an aversion of the computer after hours, cutting in to my blog time and making me fall seriously behind on emails. Sigh.

So that’s life right now. Nothing riveting, but very full. Although I’ve been quite quiet on this blog lately I have lots I’d likely to write about here so hopefully I’ll re-find some sort of balance. Watch this space 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

When Three Become Four

Those who have been with me on this parenting journey from the start may remember I announced my pregnancy on this blog with the confidence inspiring tale of Chris and I arriving home to find our kitten locked in the fridge (he was fine – read the story here). How were we ever to handle a baby?

I’m still often clueless about child development issues beyond LLC’s current stage. I often don’t know what to do in the parenting department, make mistakes, or find myself in tricky situations, like when LLC tried to launch her slippery body from my arms in the gym shower after we went swimming, resulting in a mad clutch and scramble that led to a head butt against the shower wall and many tears. Incidents like this aside, I have generally grown in confidence in my abilities and instincts as a parent.

So now that things are running smoothly enough, we’ve decided to introduce another major dimension to all our lives – another baby! Yes, I’m pregnant, 16 weeks today.

I have no doubt that we’re going to have our hands full, but like anything with parenting, I’ve learned that I won’t really understand the full extent of this until baby arrives. Overall LLC has been a relatively easy baby, so does that mean we’re due for some major drama with baby number 2? You just never know and even my planning mind is switching off from even attempting to imagine how we’ll find our groove in this next chapter.

I’ve been fortunate so far that this is again proving a comfortable pregnancy, free from any serious morning sickness or other ailments. I’m tired, but this no doubt has something to do with a small toddler running circles around me. My body is already changing, and my mini bump is probably already 2-3 weeks larger than it was at this point in my first pregnancy. I had heard this would be the case, but for entertainment purposes, I’m going to again take weekly bump shots and compare them to how the bump took shape first time around.

Let the games begin!

Friday, 30 September 2011

My Petite Frite - Why LLC is Bilingual While Chris and I are not

As a little kid, I can remember speaking gibberish to my sister in the supermarket, faithfully believing that other customers would think we were speaking another language.

The difference for LLC is that hopefully, she actually will be.

When I was heavily pregnant with LLC one of my neighbours stopped me in the street to let me know she was becoming a childminder, and would I need her services in due course?

Having bought into the London pre-booking nursery craze, we’d already booked LLC into a local nursery three days a week even though she wasn’t yet born and I was no longer gainfully employed. Madness. So initially, I didn’t consider her offer too seriously, even though now the answer would be a total no brainer for me.

But at some point, Chris and I actually sat back and considered the convenience of dropping LLC with a neighbour literally five seconds from our front door. So I asked for more information, and really liked what I saw. The cost was significantly lower than the nursery, and my neighbour’s creative, laid back but firm style felt comfortable to me. Plus, there was the French offer.

My neighbour, I’ll call her C, is French but is married to a Brit and has been living in the UK for a number of years. And one of the benefits she pitched as part of her childminding service was speaking to LLC in French.

You might think I leapt at this opportunity, but I didn’t – quite the reverse. The offer discomfited me. If Chris or I spoke another language, I believe we would definitely have raised LLC in a bilingual style from the start. But this was different, in my mind. LLC would only be with C 3 days a week, and I was concerned whether this would be enough to enlighten her, or merely confuse her and impede her English development. Plus, if C had other children that she didn’t speak French to, would this end up confusing LLC further, leading to her mixing her languages?

I asked a number of friends and family what they would do and received a mixed reply. Some said it was a wonderful thing to do for LLC, others understood my concerns. My conversation with the mother of a little boy C used to regularly babysit ultimately tipped the balance for me. She said even if her son didn’t come away from his time with C fluent in French, she felt that exposing him to French so early on, while his sponge-like young brain was taking shape, would potentially “wire” an innate capacity for French into him that he would hopefully pick up on later.

For whatever reason this rationalisation struck a chord with me and Chris and I decided to go for it, enrolling LLC with C with the understanding she would speak French to her.

Fast forward just over a year. Oh how naive was this over-concerned mama! LLC’s inherent aptitude for learning has guided her, and she’s picking up the French in leaps and bounds. She never mixes languages or has tried speaking French to me, her English vocabulary is developing and she never appears thrown whether C speaks to her in French, or English when addressing other children or me.

On a recent trip to the Loire Valley, LLC frequently said “Merci” and “Au revoir” when I observe C speaking French to her, she understands and responds in action, even if not yet words.

So we haven’t looked back, and seeing what I do now I can’t believe I questioned giving LLC this opportunity.  Plus, perhaps this will be a kick up the bum for me, rapidly losing my six years of school Spanish, to reconnect with language. I’m tired of being a spoiled purely English speaker!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

W...W...E....What?!

Hysterical laughter greets me at the door following my Sunday morning run.

Wow, all the fun happens around here when I’m out, I think as Chris greets me on the threshold.

“You have to check out LLC,” he grins, padding back in the direction of our living room.

What’s she got up to now, I muse, grabbing some water and trailing after. Maybe she’s upended the laundry basket and is rolling around in our clothes? Cue crescendo of laughter.

Maybe she’s got Rico our cat in a headlock, poor boy. Or possibly Chris has riled her up with one of the many “indoor” ball games they play? I brace myself for carnage. Cue high pitched hysterical fit of giggles.

Nothing prepares me for the sight I find. LLC’s toys remain in their box, giving the room an uncharacteristically calm and tidy aura for a Sunday morning. On the couch sit Chris and LLC, like possessed zealots, eyes animatedly fixed to the television. And there on the flat screen, two half-naked men are rolling around, hair streaming, punches flying, slam dunking each other across a wrestling ring. It’s WWE “Raw” or something like that, but why is it on my television and why is my daughter lapping it up?!

With that, LLC leaps up as one fighter pounds the other into the floor, all smiles, practically pumping her fist in an animated cheer. And I look at Chris like he’s crazy, and with a click of the remote put an end to the fun before LLC has any more time re-invent herself as a WWE wrestling champ.  I shudder at the thought.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Magic

Children are magic. Maybe it takes becoming a parent and having your own kids to marvel at to really realize this. Maybe it’s just a matter of temporarily disconnecting from the noise of adult life to observe children and see the world through their eyes to recognize it.

What I do know, is that LLC has the striking ability to cut through my consciousness at the most unanticipated times, stopping me in my tracks and providing respite to my heart and mind as if a restorative tonic.

Like when I’m struggling to prepare LLC’s dinner, prep for Chris and my dinner and wash the dishes from breakfast and lunch when LLC burrows her head in my bum and throws her arms around my waist.

Or when I’m huffing and puffing up a hill on my bicycle, cursing the exertion of it all when I notice LLC lolling from side to side in the seat on the back of Chris’ bike; the fresh air and motion have lulled her to sleep.

Like when LLC stands tall, shoulder backs, belly out (no holding in the stomach for her!) focusing her attention 100% on learning how to remove a CD from a CD case.

Or when she gets frustrated and slaps me, but the immediately provides a gentle follow-up stroke and cheeky kiss. In her mind the latter has completely undone her previous assault. We are working on this to encourage this affection in its own right rather than as an apology!

Such small but significant moments. I think it has something to do with children’s innocence, instinct and the ability to live wholly in the present, drinking in each sensory experience for what it actually is. Though it’s impossible to live adult life from the same perspective, it’s still a compelling and invigorating one that cuts through my busy thoughts and reminds me to remember the little things. And for that I smile.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Magic word confusion

LLC has forged her own version of the “magic word:” NO.

It comes out as “noooo,” and almost sounds like a yodel. It’s pretty cute, and because of this it can be easy to forget that she’s repeatedly shunning the affirmative and voicing her opposition, even when the answer clearly is yes!

Cue eye rub. “LLC, are you tired?” “NO!” Okay, I understand, she has already developed a love of being awake and not missing anything.

But then, cue dinner time, and LLC loves her food. “LLC, are you hungry? Let’s go get some dinner.” “NO!” Yet then she’ll reconsider and start using her “eat” sign.

Next cue really bad smell. “LLC, do you need your diaper changed?” “NO!” And then she’ll wander off in the direction of her changing mat.

I’m not sure where “yes” is hiding in her daily expanding vocabulary, but it hasn’t yet come out to play. I wondered if maybe I say no a lot, but I don’t think I do, since at our sing and sign class I also learned the sign for stop and I often use this instead of no when I want her to quit something. I’ve also been trying to respond to negative actions by responding with what a more appropriate positive action would be, as suggested to me in a previous post.

I guess through this phase of NO I must bear in mind the old adage that actions speak louder than words!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

How much of the England Riot shame starts in the home?

Devastated, disgusted and frustrated. This is my initial reaction to the senseless, barbaric looting and rioting unfolding on my London doorstep and quickly spreading across England like wildfire. It’s horrific to see vibrant city streets crumbling and burning at the hands of, largely, young people without discernable conscience or respect for social order. How else can we explain those willing to crush the homes and livelihood of the innocent by throwing petrol bombs or breaking shop windows with the same ease they’d use to switch off a light? How did things come to this? Were they never taught about values and consequences at home?

The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham by police, still under investigation, proved the catalyst for this mayhem. Yet the root cause of the riots of the last three days runs far deeper than this incident in my opinion. Mark’s peaceful protest gone wrong appears a worrying testament to the latent tensions brewing across the country, poisoning our society and fundamentally blurring the line between right and wrong.

Fortunately the closest I’ve ever come to anti-social youth was riding the train home from work one evening. I was in my early 20s, and with Chris. Two young boys, probably in their early teens, were smoking on the train. It wasn’t the height of rush hour so the train wasn’t packed. A number of us asked the kids to put out their cigarettes. They scoffed. Then they snubbed them out on the train seat, only to light up again. This pattern continued our entire train ride home. Perhaps naively, I was shocked how these boys just did not care. They had no respect for Authority, and that they weren’t supposed to be smoking on the train. They had no respect for fellow passengers. They acted as if they were untouchable, and how dare we even attempt to mess with that.

This memory always stays with me. It reinforced my knowledge that I have to keep my wits about me living in a city; it also worried me and discourages me from attempting to reason with wanton youth, for fear of a worse result than pure scoffing and a face full of cigarette smoke. I don’t believe people in the street should sanction anti-social behaviour by teens and children, but simultaneously stories of people being stabbed for asking youth to stop messing around prove a pretty big deterrent.

So what to do now, now that an unfortunate incident has been blown out of proportion and become an excuse for seemingly bored, angry, frustrated young people to run feral and destroy society in their wake? Undoubtedly the police are working hard at quelling this challenging situation, yet so far they appear a limited disincentive to rioters and that is worrying. Should they be using limited force or tear gas or rubber bullets? Or would this just lead to a portrait of them assaulting human rights? Should the army be called in, as many were suggesting on news boards and in social media?

And what to do with the perpetrators as they gradually are identified and charged? How can we genuinely get through to the “untouchable” to show that their behaviour hurts the innocent and is unacceptable? Some are calling for a re-introduction of a National Service-like programme. Most importantly, how to we rehabilitate more than condemn?  What do you think?

Yes, burning London and England-wide cities are a wake- up call about the ripple effects of poverty, lack of education, gang warfare and survival of the fittest mentalities that run deep in England for which there are no easy solution. But when we strip that all away, and ask how these kids came to be involved in such rioting, I can’t help wondering where their parents are? I know I can’t tar them all with the same brush and that often bad eggs/influences in society may cloud positive family influences but I can’t help feeling shame for these rioting children, and shame for the parents that don’t know where their children are or who won’t chastise their children’s behaviour as anti-social, cruel and wrong.  I'm not talking about dumping their child with social services either - I'm talking about taking some personal responsibility and being involved in a positive way.

I may be speaking out of turn, but how did we reach a point where young people are running rampant destroying English cities? I’m not saying that there aren’t very real challenges in our society that need addressing or that these children and young adults shouldn’t be held directly accountable for their actions. I just wonder why they never learned that for every bit of good they put back into the world they are one step closer to tackling inequity. And that anti-social behavior or rioting or cruelty will only cause hurt, condemnation and more struggles.

These are messages we should all be sharing with our children in hopes that gradually we will collectively generate goodwill, that as part of the bigger picture, will help shift the balance away from the madness of late.


*For a take on why rioters feel like they don't belong to "the community", read Camila Batmanghelidjh
She makes a compelling case for more proactive approaches to social inclusion with fair insights into the anti-society where rioters may be coming from.  I don't feel, however, that this negates personal and in some cases parental accountability for the goings on of late.  Rehabilitation of this mindset is key, just not cheap or easy.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Bliss meets late night flight fandango

Hello again, I’m breaking my silence. Part of the reason for it was that last week Chris, LLC and I jetted off to Malta for a last minute break. This was our first week long family holiday of three to somewhere hot, but not too hot, we’re talking the low 30s C / high 80s/low 90s F.

And it was bliss. I rarely (if ever) swim in the sea or an outdoor pool in the UK without being cold. I get cold easily, but still. To play in the water, to make drip castles in the sand, to be generally sun kissed on a daily basis was something I’m not used to and really appreciated. And so did LLC.

I referred to my tips for taking a one-year old on a long haul flight (even though this was short haul) and unsurprisingly found that some of them weren’t applicable (no more boob on tap for take-off, no bulkhead seats on offer, etc), though armed with snacks and lightweight distractions, we had LLC happily playing on our laps.  She even sat for about half an hour in the small space by our feet on the floor. She likes small spaces. Amazingly she didn't ask to parade the cabin.  But I quickly saw what others indicated – flying with small children quickly evolves into a different ball game, even with the passing of months.

And once we arrived, LLC drank everything in and coped with the heat like a native. We made sure to bring her inside during the middle of each day for a nap and some down time, but aside from that, a UFV sun suit and hat from Konfidence and a healthy dose of sun cream each day, LLC was business as usual. Running around, exploring, splashing, chatting and people watching.

Used to city breaks and more active travelling, I felt a little strange being largely resort based though our aim for this trip was to chill out, which we did, and I can't fault the resort's convenience for a child. Everything was on our doorstep, it was easy to pop LLC upstairs for a midday nap, she could eat for free at certain times in a couple of the hotel's restaurants and we also managed to wheel her out asleep in her pushchair on the nights we went for a late dinner or evening drink. I’m not sure how much more mileage we’ll get out of that night transplant from bed to stroller and back trick, but it’s handy while it lasts! And to satisfy our want of exploring, we did rent a car and visited Mdina, Valetta, Saint Julians and much of the rugged, barren limestone that is Malta - I hadn't realised it must really be only about the size of the Isle of Wight.

Refreshed and happy, we boarded our 9:40pm flight home last night hoping LLC would conk right out. Hope springs eternal. Conk out? She freaked out! Overtired, she did not want to be strapped onto Chris or my lap for takeoff. (This highlighted to me that although she will be under 2 next time we fly to NY, we will really need to get LLC her own seat). We fortunately had an empty seat in between us she that she could claim once cruising, but oh, to get to that point. She went mental. Crying, gasping, gagging, flailing, gouging, arching. Forget the snacks and toys. She was past the point of no return. A “well meaning” flight attendant, who I’m sure didn’t have children, asked "didn’t have any toys to share with her?" Had she not noticed the book or teddy that just flew through the air when proffered?

Finally, once we were allowed to unclip LLC, she moved to her “own” seat but took about 2 hours of the 3 hour flight to settle.  She kept laying down, popping up, cuddling us, standing up on the seat, trying to climb on us, all the while clearly tired but the well lit cabin didn’t exactly scream sleep. Unlike the long haul red eye flights to NY, there was  no dimming of the cabin lights.

So would we do it again? Most definitely; I'm not a resort-only type of person who can spend all day by a pool but definitely enjoyed the change of pace and the convenience of it. Ideally I'd mix these types of holidays with more adverture/exploring ones, probably "harder" with children but still near and dear to our hearts (and hopefully LLC's if she gets a taste for them growing up).  The only thing I would reconsider is taking a short haul night flight home – after a long day we were all tired but the environment didn’t invite rest and I quickly found my zen state fading fast.  The forever learning curve continues.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Down Under

Hello down there in between my legs. No, I’m not being rude! I’ve just got a little person peeping through my not so pin-like pins in a manner that unsurprisingly brings back acute memories of giving birth. This is the new trend of the week in our household.

Yes, LLC likes to “hang out” in between my legs. If I lay in bed with my legs bent she’ll wriggle through them to say hello (thus the birth memories!) and give me a cuddle. Maybe this feels extra cozy to her?

She’s also started frequently crawling through my legs and back while I’m standing, or walking, or attempting to walk. It’s like I’m some type of mommy cave. She sees an opening, scuttles through and then pops her head out the other side, giggling up at me. Then she’s back out the other side.

For an extra bonus, if I happen to be wearing pants (sorry trousers) with a ties or drawstrings on them, she will pull at the strings and attempt to take me for a walk. This can get tricky, and has led to a few close call tripping incidents.

What strange habits are your children crafting this week?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Blink at your own risk

I’m sure every month I comment on how LLC is now really interacting with the world, increasing her understanding and expressing her desires. I may sound like a broken record, but every month I see her become more of her own person in all of these respects and while I should be used to the rapid development leaps by now, they still never cease to amaze me.

Lately she’s all about movement. After retiring her love of knee walking, LLC lingered with regular paced toddling before developing a penchant for running. And she is quick. All I need to do is take my eyes off her for a brief second, and she’s off in the other direction, picking up stones (what is it with small children and stones?!), giving our cat an overly enthusiastic stroke, clambering towards an unlocked park gate leading to a lake, gnawing a Bounty bar next to the supermarket check-out or befriending some diners at a table down the aisle.

And she loves her freedom and wants to walk. Or run. Most of the time. If I’m walking outside or through a shop with her, she doesn’t mind the stroller ride. But once we stop she gets a bit antsy, and once she’s been let loose, putting her back into the stroller has become a struggle. Seriously, she deserves an Oscar for the performances she puts on before I manage to strap her back in.

I’m not a fan of reigns. I can’t remember seeing as many children in the USA with them as I’ve seen here in the UK, but that could be because I didn’t take notice. I know they serve a purpose, and would do what they say on the tin, but they’re just a little too dog on a leash for me. I’d rather try to teach LLC about potential dangers and that she can’t run off at her every whim, but this will no doubt take time, get tiring and mean I have to kiss goodbye to more leisurely coffees or lunches that I’ve previously enjoyed while she sat happy as can be in her stroller or highchair.

We’ve recently had a mix of visitors with Chris’ parents staying for several days and our dear Aunt T visiting from Holland so I’ve had strength in numbers keeping up with LLC, but I’m expecting this next period to keep me on my toes, literally.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Fit Mama

To avoid confusion, I don’t mean “fit” as in “good looking” as the British often use the phrase. I mean fit as in healthy and in shape, although I suppose that is linked to beauty...

What mother has time to exercise regularly, or even to exercise at all? Free time is a valuable commodity as parent. On the rare chance that it crops up, aren’t we more likely to nap or drink wine or read a book than hit the gym? In many cases, probably.

For me, exercise has always been a part of my life. I played soccer for years growing up and was generally sporty (not necessarily good at sport, but just up for it) in school. You may remember that I’m a bit of a runner, in a non-competitive, I do it for my health and head space kind of way. Until LLC came on the scene I was a regular attendee of Pilates. I’m no exercise guru and some weeks I would do nothing, but it was a priority for me and I usually did some type of work out each week.

And that’s just it. Priorities. I’ve quickly learned that parenting only increases the juggling act that is the real adult world and if you are going to stay fit as a mom, exercise usually has to be one of those many priorities. (Unless you are one of those lucky svelte people that can eat like a horse and who has naturally shapely legs.)

But this is not about being thin. This is about exercise to stay healthy....to feel healthy. Once I get over finding a free space of time and then dragging my booty out the door, I always feel really good for my efforts in the exercise department. I feel more toned.  I've given myself some time out to think of new writing ideas as I jog.  I’m not super fit, but I’m in decent shape and mentally I think the exercise does me good too.

You might be scoffing at me saying you have far too many other things to do to consider exercise, but, if you do want to jump on this bandwagon and are struggling to find the time, here are some of my totally non-expert tips to get started and stay on board.

  • Make exercise a priority, but be realistic about what you can achieve. Don’t go from nothing to attempting 5 work-outs a week. Aim small, doing one or two things a week. And stick with them. There will be a cumulative affect on your fitness.
  • Pick something you enjoy doing. Swimming? Walking? Yoga? Home aerobics dvd? Dancing? Give yourself one slot a week to do this activity, just one slot, and try to stick to it.
  • Stretch before bed. My calves tend to get tight, so I do some calf stretches before bed. I also throw in 15 squats a night. I’m still waiting for glutes of steel, but it’s better than nothing.
  • Walk walk walk and take the stairs. It’s hard to walk quickly with children...I can already see this now that LLC is just toddling. But whether you have the opportunity to push a small baby in a pushchair or walk to the shops, or to the office while without the kids, do it! Save your petrol and your commuting costs. Okay, this takes longer and time is of the essence, but if you can integrate more walking it is an easy way to fit in exercise and let your mind breath a bit too. Or better yet, find a time to do it with friends and chat!
  • Buy a cheap set of weights or a resistance band, look up some exercises online and do a few sets, one or two nights a week. I’m talking 10 minutes here. But if you keep it up, it does make a difference.

And tad da – you are a fit mama! Or at least more fit than you were before. I think it’s worth a try but what do you think? And do you have any tips to add?

Friday, 1 July 2011

Friday Faux Pas

Today LLC and I were in the park where we last year encountered this howler, but this time the only faux pas on the scene was me.

The children’s play area was nearly empty (hurrah) when we arrived, with only one other mother pushing her two children on the swings. Of course LLC also wanted to ride the swings. This was no issue as this playground has several swings, so over we went and off went LLC, swinging happily away.

And here’s where I made my cardinal error. I attempted to make eye contact and friendly small talk with this other mother on the playground. We were standing directly next to each other. LLC was craning her neck directly towards her two children watching them swing. I didn’t want to exchange life stories, but in the rare relative quiet of the playground it just felt strange to me not to share some basic pleasantries or at least a sympathetic glance with this other woman. Grudgingly she offered me a few words in return but I can take a hint and clammed up pretty quickly.

This is not the first time I’ve had something like this happen to me in England. Is there a small talk line here in the UK that I really shouldn’t cross, although the ‘American’ in me feels compelled to do so? Was she affronted that we also chose the swings near her brood, when faced with an empty rest of playground?  Of course this mother's reticent stance was surely only exacerbated when she heard my accent and probably feared a verbal assault of “Oh my Gods.”  

 Is it that bad to be friendly?

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Sit or Squat?

I have an issue with public bathrooms.

Sandy, wet beach toilets missing seats. Nice toilets in more upmarket restaurants. Questionable toilets in pub with that stale bleach smell. Dirty park toilets with backlog. Rank toilets on London Bridge platform. Squat toilets abroad. ‘Relatively’ clean toilets in the office.

I use them all. My bladder is the size of a pea. But one thing I never do, is sit on the toilet seat. Over the years I have perfected the art of “the squat,” where I teeter over the toilet seat in a desperate attempt to avoid contact between it and my bum. This is quite a skill, when you are wearing several inch heels, or when, in flats and faced with a particularly high toilet seat.

The thing is, LLC is making me more conscious of my aversion. Aware that I have an audience, I wonder if I should just bite the bullet, wipe off the seat if there is anything on it and put toilet paper or a seat cover (more readily available in the States) down before sitting like a ‘normal’ person. I’m sure this is what my mom taught me growing up, and I’m not quite sure where I went awry. While heavily pregnant I eventually succumbed to this in my office toilets but not until after months of squatting with bump.

With potty training looming on the horizon, it won’t be long before I’ll be taking LLC into public bathrooms *cue image of me holding small child over toilet* and I’m even more conscious that I should probably set a better example for her. Unless a toilet seat was particularly gross....then I’d probably hold her....

Most women I know don’t particularly care for public bathrooms (compared to most men I know who don’t seem to notice) but do you go as far as me and what do you teach your children in this department?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Cybermummy 2011 Meet & Greet

I can't believe we are almost halfway through the year or that CyberMummy 2011 is already this weekend.  For the non-bloggers out there, this is the second year of this UK parent blogging conference where bloggers get to put faces to names/words, exchange ideas about blogging and just generally chit chat.  Huggies has kindly sponsored my ticket for the second year running and I'm looking forward to another good, inspiring day out.

Carly at Mummy's Shoes has again organized a 'Meet and Greet' to help those of us going recognize each other so here are my "stats":

Name: Tanya
Blog: Bump2Basics
Twitter ID: @Bump2Basics
Height: 5ft 1" but will be in a small heel
Hair: Long Brown
Eyes: Brown
Likes: Talking, morning scrums, running, Pilates, fine wine, long walks, adventure, writing
Dislikes:  Milk, being condescended to, ugly words

Please come say hi, you can tell I like to chat!  This photo is a little deceptive because my hair is tied back and is actually quite long but this is the most recent, close-up shot that I have of me.....LLC gets most of the camera time around here these days, thankfully!!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

My type of art

When it comes to art, decoration and style I know what I like and can create the perfect picture in my mind’s eye, but ask me to translate this to reality by my own hand and the result often looks like several cans of paint run over by a piece of industrial machinery.

This is probably because while writing has always come easily to me, things like drawing, painting and sewing have not. Have I tried very hard to apply myself in these departments? No. Would I like to try harder? Yes. So I’m making a start with baby steps via some messy projects with LLC.

I remember as child loving to paint at nursery school. The paint was gooey, messy, fun. A simple sheet of paper was my blank canvas and without inhibitions I would just “create.” My mom still has a large wooden frame dating back from those days holding some of these fine works.

LLC isn’t quite at the paint brush stage yet so we tried our hand at some finger painting. I bought some child friendly paint pots at the Early Learning Centre and decanted the paint on some plastic coasters for LLC’s easy access. A little ghetto, but the first time we tried this I let her dip straight from the pots and she kept wanting to take more and more out. Next time, we’ll use our newly purchased plastic palette from Amazon and I’ll probably thin the paint a little too with water.

Chris then cut a few small potatoes in half and carved simple raised shapes into the flesh of the potato with a kitchen knife. We then passed them over to LLC for her dipping enjoyment and a little added twist to her finger smears.

This kept her busy for a whole 15 minutes. It was messy. LLC was fascinated, by her handiwork and the taste of the paint. Chris and I couldn’t help making our own creations and it turned into one big family art session. Overall, I’d say it was a result. Who knows what ambitious project we’ll try next time? I don’t think I’ll get too far ahead of myself, but at least the baby steps are in motion.


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sad start to swimming

Yesterday LLC and I rocked up at the gym for a swim in the kiddie pool as we often do on a Monday morning. She gets really excited when we arrive, and doesn’t even protest when I strip her down to suit her up. After catching up with one of the attendants in the changing room that we’ve got to know over the last year and a bit, we were off to the pool. LLC’s shrieks of excitement announced our arrival.

Hmmmm. The pool looked a lot busier than normal, in fact, what was this? There was a parent/child swimming lesson underway for five mothers/babies. Now LLC and I have been swimming at this time on and off for months, and we have never once encountered a swimming lesson for more than one other person in the pool at this time. It is a “pay as you go” swimming lesson slot, but no one is usually there aside from us.

I put down our towels and headed to the pool with LLC, but thought I better have a quick glance at the nearby lifeguard for affirmation that we were still okay to use the pool a la full flow swimming lesson. She said no. I asked if we could join the lesson and pay afterwards. She said no. So LLC and I had to huddle together on our towels on the bench at the side of the pool to wait 20 minutes for the lesson to finish.

I braced myself for a meltdown; how do you explain to a 16 month-old that loves swimming who knows the routine (arrive at the pool, go into the pool, splash!) that you have to wait your turn for 20 minutes (an eternity in baby time). I felt quite tearful actually. I had been speaking to LLC for the last half hour about our swim and here we were, and we couldn’t even go in.

She really surprised me though. It must be because she likes people watching so much. I got her a little plastic fish that squirts water and between that and watching the other children, she was really patient and didn’t cause a fuss. So I pulled it together. Finally it was our turn and we had a lovely swim.

Now I did know there was a pay as you go lesson at the time we arrived but I didn’t think twice about turning within the slot because it is never subscribed. And even if there had been a lesson on, I didn’t think they would stop us from entering the pool (unless it was totally overrun, which it was not) or reject my request to join and pay for the lesson. Considering the things I have seen at that pool – teenagers kissing and fondling in adult pool, older children leaping into shallow water of the kiddie pool – I think it is a bit ridiculous that they made us wait on the side for 20 minutes. The lifeguard was like a programmed robot, recalling policy, blind to the human element. If the room temperature was colder, or LLC has been younger, we would have had to go back to the changing room and "hang out" or just call it a day.  But I've learned my lesson now.

You may have seen that Huggies has a new Little Swimmers campaign where you can identify and / or rate your local pool as child friendly. They take several factors into account, and suffice to say I won’t be rating my gym pool as such at this time. As a Huggies Mum I was involved in a focus group about this Little Swimmers campaign earlier this year and it’s lovely to see it come to fruition. LLC and I also benefited from a free swimming lesson (one with a lovely, informative instructor who didn’t look like she had swallowed a wasp like the one at my gym – glad I didn’t have to pay for that in the end....) when we joined some other mothers to generate pictures for the campaign. If you look on the Little Swimmers website, you might just spot us.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Unhappy Slappyll

It was early morning, and all warm and cuddly in our bed. LLC snuggled for a good 30 seconds (being generous) before starting to fidget and grunt.

LLC, here’s the bear, you can give him a cuddle. It’s still early so let’s have a little snooze.”

Cue loader grunts, bear chucked on the floor and a gradual crescendo of “Eh eh eh!”
So Chris reaches out through his fog of disrupted sleep and hands her his mobile phone. Mesmerized, this buys us about three precious minutes. And then Chris is jolted awake by a consistent rap rap rap on his face with the mobile phone.

LLC’s new thing is hitting, mixed in with the usual biting and swiping for good measure. It’s not a constant thing but happens when she is frustrated about something and can’t sufficiently express herself. And she doesn’t just hit others – she also slaps herself in the face!

When this goes down, I tell her to stop, explain that we don’t hit, ask her to say sorry if she’s taken a swipe at someone else. I then ask her what is wrong, or if I recognize the issue, I try to explain why she has to get strapped into her stroller, or why she can’t have her friend E’s apple after finishing off a bowl of pasta, a banana and a pear herself.

I want to kick this slapping thing in the bum, before she hurts herself or another child. And she does know “stop” and that we don’t endorse the slapping, yet it still comes out when she gets frustrated. Is she just testing us? If I keep trying to deter her, will it eventually take affect? What’s the right balance of discipline for a 16-month old?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Post-natal Depression - For Dads

This BBC article about father’s suffering from post-natal depression (PND)caught my eye.

My pregnancy/parenting books and updates warned about the signs of PND I might experience as a new mother, but they never said anything about dad’s feeling low. In fact, I maybe naively, never really thought much about how post-natal depression might affect fathers until recent news like this started making headlines.

The emotional / physical / logistical pressures of becoming a mother are pretty well documented but why don’t we talk more openly about the stresses heaped on new dads? Depression can be a taboo topic to discuss, but getting the risk factors, triggers and symptoms more out in the open will surely help tackle the Fatherhood Institute’s worrying statistic that one out of every 10 fathers are depressed both before and after their baby is born.

Dad’s may not bear and birth the baby but becoming their parent will instigate some tricky life shifts. They might feel increased financial pressure. Or feelings of isolation, jealously and then regret as everyone fusses over their partner and child. Or frustration at a compromised emotional and sexual relationship during sleep deprived weeks. They might just want someone to pay their feelings more attention, which may confuse them all the more as, *sweeping generalisation*, men by and large don’t seem as comfortable “outing” their demons and feelings as women.

Fatherhood is exciting, wonderful, challenging.....but new dads need not be stoic about the pressures they face. When I think about our early days with LLC I remember that both Chris and I had our frustrations and we still do. But as a couple, we like to hash things out and I think this helps us sort them out. And while I never dwelled on PND and fortunately neither of us suffered from it, I perhaps should have known the signs for men and more proactively checked up on Chris’ mental health. And for couples that don’t as actively discuss their “issues,” is PND even more likely to be swept under the rug until it trips up one or all of the family?

Knowledge could be preventative, support can be part of a cure; do you think more needs to be done to educate men and women alike about PND in fathers?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Sage Mama

Two things first.

Fellow bloggers are likely to know of Christine’s inspiring journey to Mozambique with Save the Children ahead of the global vaccines summit on June 13th in London. In the USA and UK vaccinations are available to children as a matter of course but worldwide, one in five children do not receive vaccinations of any kind. Sign this petition now and urge world leaders to change this.

Next, one of my nearest and dearest friends has become a mommy for the first time and LLC now has new little gal pal! Congratulations and much love to M&J and welcome to the world Baby M!

Reflecting on this new, next generation addition to my old circle of friends, I’m struck with the realization that my own baby is not such a baby baby anymore. If you had seen her charging through the park today, curls flying, gabbering away in her own tongue and descending on a most patient dog flanked by small friends like flies to honey, you would say “aha!,” madam toddler has arrived.

And I embrace it. We’re in a new stage of walking, early talking and constant discovery (well, that’s each stage of this parenting journey, right?); it is exciting, sometimes challenging, always heartening. And here’s the bit about my own self discovery, and thus the title of this post.

I’ve discovered an invaluable tidbit in my life as a mama. Sure, I have crazy days and sure I often make mistakes but one thing I’ve learned to do, been forced to do, is to “tackle the moment” and not always try to be ten steps ahead of the game. For me, this was a true eureka.

Back when pregnant and on early maternity leave I remember walking through Sainsbury’s trying to anticipate LLC’s daily feeding / sleeping pattern....yes, I was doing that and she hadn’t even arrived. Then there was the whole “when will I put LLC down for a nap in her crib” mental digest, prematurely in her first month, and then the “how will I cope with weaning” worries I had about dropping milk feeds and adding solids a couple months shy of our weaning start date.

In each of these instances, I created myself a handy little game plan that when push came to shove and the said event arrived in reality, never played out according to my script. And in the moment, I deal with things, and in the moment, I don’t care about the script. I just seemed to have this nutty inclination to keep writing them. But I’m pleased to say that 16 months in, LLC has helped me put this tendency to bed (most of the time).

So other mothers out there, if you too share these tendencies, my advice is to go with the flow, stick to dealing with the here and now and don’t over-think! You will share stories and gather learning as you go, you will adjust and adapt to your child when the time is right, you will save yourself valuable head space.
Clearly I am an often clueless, regularly making mistakes, always learning mama. But in this realisation of myself, I am a Sage Mama. Hear me roooaaar!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Dear So and So....

I’m long overdue some post card therapy, a la Kat’s Dear So and So party. So with a flourish, here goes:

Dear Kitchen Floor,

Well, we’ve developed quite the relationship. If someone told me a year ago I’d spend my days crawling around and rubbing you down with a baby wipe daily I’d have told them to go jump out a window. Little did I know what the aftermath of LLC dinner-time would bring.

I stand corrected,

Servant Mama

*

Dear Oblivious I-pod Wearing Pretty Young Thing,

When you’re crossing the road next to a mother with a stroller, don’t cut her off as you reach the sidewalk. I admit, I don’t always walk straight but your veering antics managed to barricade us from the sidewalk just as the traffic started to move. Lucky for us the commuters weren’t in too much of a hurry.

Bring some reality into your reverie,

One cross mother

*

Dear Inch Blue / Robeez / See Kai Run baby children’s shoe manufacturers,

Bloggers and friends recommended you to me and now I see why. Why are your children’s shoes so adorable? Are you trying to wreak havoc with my bank balance? We just managed to buy LLC her first pair of outdoor shoes today. They cost the same as a pair of sandals I purchased for myself, however they’ll last her for 3 months where my sandals will probably last me three years. And you now offer me a fine host of both indoor and outdoor shoes, which are not all pink?!

Where’s my debit card,

A girl who can’t afford to shop like this

*

Dear telemarketers,

When are you going to call up and say that you can save me some money? And do you really think you’ll win my custom calling at dinner-time?

Save your breathe,

You lost this Customer

*

Dear Jamie Oliver,

I don’t know who at your empire came up with this bath milk, but it is pure bliss. LLC is not the only one who likes a good bath around here, and you have made my last evening soak all the more enjoyable.

Loving it,

One clean, calm lady

*

Dear LLC,

What a surprise to find that strange video on my phone. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but then I realized it was the palm of your hand as you went about your business, chatting on my mobile. At least it wasn’t an international call. And you did sound so cute!

Love,

Mommy

*

Dear Fairy Hobmother,

You visited me from Appliances Online, who sell cookers, dishwashers (ahhh I wish) and pretty much every major appliance under the sun to surprise me with £10 Amazon voucher, and I love Amazon! Hopefully you will pay another visit to one of the readers who comments on this post.

Thanks again,

Tanya

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Back from the brink

At times like this I’m my own worst enemy
Why did my inner demons come out to play?
To dither and scold
To time waste and wallow
To tie my hands and mind as time ticked away

On the losing side of life’s tug of war
My confidence stumbled and fell
To unanswered emails and unfinished writing
Sink full of dishes and work tasks piling
A sense of defeat was difficult to quell

Why haven’t I
Migrated this blog
Made those homemade rusks
Written that novel I’ve been brewing
Pressed flowers with LLC
Mailed my already overdue cards
Planted some vegetables in the garden
And on and on and on.........

And why does everyone else
Seem so much more creative, crafty and put together than me?
And how does everyone else
Find the time?
Maybe they just get on with things and be?

I shouldn’t compare
But sometimes I do
I should take more productive action
Not get lost in futile, thought
That thwarts progress and leaves me to stew

Then I hear her
“Mamamamamama”
Then I see her
A drunken run
Then I come up for air
From my inner doldrums
And she hugs me tight
And brings me back to reality

Reminds me of what I have achieved
And all I have to give
As a woman in my own right
As a positive example for her
If I’d just get on and live

***

After all, we are in the process of buying a new house, I was recently paid a nice compliment by my boss following some successes at work, Chris was thrilled with the birthday card LLC and I finger painted for him and LLC and I managed to make it back to the pool this week for a swim together. Life is good and I won’t lose sight of that.

Maybe it was just one of those days?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Night Terrors

The high octave of her cry jolted us from sleep. I picture whispers in black and white; this sound surged in red hot color yet made me shiver at the same time. This was not the quiet cry of a sleepy bad dream, this was pure terror.

Our lethargy evaporated and we made for her crib where she sat shaking, face contorted fear, shrieking. We scooped her up, attempting to hold her close but she refused the comfort of our cuddle. As if possessed, she stared straight ahead, lips quivering and then parting into a scream every several seconds.

I waved my hand in front of her delicate, trembling face but she stared through it, eyes open though clearly not awake. Our hearts pounded with adrenaline, worry and fear. It was unsettling to see her in the trance of so gripping a nightmare. How to ward it off without startling her? Cue gentle back rubbing, shh shh shh sounds and soft murmurs of “It’s okay LLC.”

And then, her screams stopped as suddenly as they started. Her eyes re-focused on us and she smiled, and returned our cuddle. She soon went back to bed only to wake three hours later in a similar state, after which she spent the rest of the night in our bed sleeping soundly.

I’d class this, as they in the UK, as a night terror. I don’t think we use this term in the States but I’m not sure. But it was certainly a nightmare of the highest proportions.

Do children’s dreams derive from their experiences / perceptions? Did something happen during the day that unsettled LLC? I don’t know but I hope we don’t we don’t have to investigate this again anytime soon.

Have you ever had a run in with the night terrors?

Monday, 16 May 2011

Trip, Teeth, Tears, Toddling, Time...

We’re fresh off a holiday to South Wales with Chris’ folks and I feel much refreshed for it. The end of April was a fun but busy muddle and it was invigorating to step away from daily life and into the undulating serenity of the Welsh coast. We stayed in a self catering cottage near to Llansteffan, which lacked both mobile phone reception and Internet access (shock, horror fellow bloggers!).

It was actually pretty refreshing to switch off from all online activity and chill, potter, read, explore the beautiful area and enjoy each other’s company away from every day stresses. The cottage where we stayed was very clean and well maintained, so if you are considering a venture to this part of the world let me know and I’ll pass on the details.

Aside from relaxing, here’s what we got up to:

Discovery
This part of the Welsh Coast is full little gems and following Easter and April bank holiday madness it was fairly un-crowded. Some of my highlights included a cliff/cave walk from Wiseman’s Bridge to Saundersfoot, walking with LLC in the water along the beach at Tenby (a delightful town full of mostly non-chain shops) and climbing up the ruins of the castle at Dinefwr. Llansteffan beach had a pokey looking fish & chin van that produced the finest of chips (when it was open), and there was a sheltered children’s playground with a unique see-saw-esque structure that I really enjoyed (picture to come). One evening Chris and I took a walk along Llangsteffan Beach around to Scott’s Bay. Overlooked by the mighty ruins of Llansteffan Castle and edged by deceptively serene mud flats for as far as the eye could see, this part of the beach remained hidden from the ocean and an all encompassing whooshing sound, similar to that you get when putting a sea-shell to your ear, were our only signs of the nearby sea. Magical.

Teeth & Tears
LLC’s first bottom right molar popped through right after we arrived in Wales, but by mid-week she had three more teeth cutting through her gums. We’ve been really lucky to date with teething but as multiple larger teeth made their entrance LLC clearly felt the rub. She kept sucking on her finger, drooling a bit and crying. She wasn’t herself and was clearly in pain. I had a little tube of Dentinox in my handy dandy bag of baby lotions and potions, but this wasn’t really doing the trick. In the end I visited a pharmacy in Tenby where they suggested I try Ashton & Parson’s teething powder. I had a few friends mention this is the past so we tried it and that, along with some cold cucumber and much loving from all parents and grandparents gradually did the trick.

Toddling
Since my last post about knee walking, LLC has been feet walking more and more, but still regularly speeding around on her knees. This changed when we arrived in Wales. Like the flick of a switch, she started more regularly toddling around and for the first time, seemed to suss that she could move just as quickly on her feet as on her knees. I took this moment to take her to a local children’s shoe store to have her fitted for shoes (when we went about 2 months ago her feet were only size 1 and too small for all the Clarks and Start-Rite shoes.) It transpired though her feet have grown, they are still too small for most of the shoes on the market. Has anyone else had this problem? If you have any suggestions of where I can source small shoes (or should I just wait) that would be great!

Time
Well they say time flies when you are having fun – in the midst of this all I officially joined the 30 club!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Very British Weekend

It’s been a very British weekend in our neck of the woods. Here’s what we got up to:

The Royal Wedding – Most on both sides of the Atlantic either watched it live or have seen the footage, talked about it, blogged about it, etc. Chris had to work during the big event and though I always planned to watch it, I didn’t realize how much of an emotional chord it would strike with me. Sitting in my living room admiring Westminster Abbey in all its blooming glory and the wave of well-wishers making their way to Buckingham Palace to pay tribute to William and Kate, I felt a real pride for the British and the Royal institution. Even LLC took some time out of moving her stuffed animals around on her animal train to show her respects. My other highlights:
  • Harry taking many a cheeky glance over his shoulder at Kate as she made her way up the aisle
  • The locally sourced flowers / greens / trees adorning Westminster Abbey – gorgeous
  • The BBC presenter that commented that “William is a very good driver,” as he chauffeured Kate off down the Mall in the Aston Martin – I don’t know if driving slowly down the empty Mall is really a test of driving skills but he could practically walk on water at that point
  • Seeing two young people seemingly truly in love, pomp and circumstance aside
Then came Saturday. When the sun comes out and the temperature hits about 12 C, Brits seem to do one of three things: to the beach, have a BBQ, have a picnic. We went with the picnic option with friends in Greenwich Park. It really wasn’t warm enough for my sundress but I ploughed ahead with it, still delusional from the warm spell that came over the Easter weekend but decidedly exited this past week. So we had sunshine tempered by a slight chill mixed with friends, a ball, yummy picnic treats and bubbles followed by a drink at The Trafalgar pub on the river. A delightful afternoon for all of the family – LLC particularly liked taking one bite out of each item of our picnic food and then discarding it, along with sticking her fist into the middle of a quiche.

Next, the cricket tour. Oh yes, cricket in action. You may know that Chris used to play cricket for a league team, which consumed the every Saturday for the best part of the year and left me a cricket widow! (Though I hasten to add that he stopped this of his own accord). Anyway, Chris still plays from time to time with a mainly touring team so off we all went to Norfolk to introduce LLC to the sport. Spectator enjoyment of cricket, to me, depends on having fine chat, fine wine and other general distractions to my disposal. We had even better this weekend with all of the above integrated into a family friendly weekend that involved just one game of cricket.

The tour kicked off with a delicious seafood lunch just beyond Cromer (at a crab house manned by a fine but fierce lady – if I could only do justice in painting a picture of her hunting down a wayward smoker on her premises, or shooing out customers who headed for their table too early....) followed by a paddle on the beach and then garden sports for all of the family on the grounds of the large Hall where we were all staying. There were a few other children in the mix with LLC, and she certainly had no shortage of adult attention either as she tucked into crabs, practiced her walking during a rounder’s game, waved to daddy on the cricket pitch and sat reading magazines with the ladies.

So overall a very British weekend, but also a very social weekend, which is something that is important to Chris and me.  We promised ourselves we would try to integrate LLC into activities that we enjoy and this weekend it really felt that we are finding this new life balance where adult activity continues, enhanced by the little one we have on board.  

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Dreaded Diaper Bag

I think it’s time for me to retire LLC’s diaper bag / baby bag / whatever you want to call it.

Is there a curse women are particularly susceptible to around overloading bags? I must admit I’ve often referred to my work handbag as a Mary Poppins bag as it seems to magically expand to accommodate my wallet, keys, phone, book, makeup pouch, lunch, shoes, etc....but my diaper bag takes the Mary Poppins bag concept to a whole new level!

Since giving birth I’ve been toting around a monstrosity of some sort filled with diapers, wipes, a changing mat, a muslin cloth, a change of clothes, sometimes a bottle, now a cup & LLC snacks, some toys, some diaper cream, plus my own array of most of the bits from my work handbag.

I started with a Bababing bag that we thought would suit Chris too (which I used through last summer but found horribly heavy, even without all of the above in it), then traded that in for a lighter weight, non-baby bag satchel that I retired at Christmas because I was wearing it out by stuffing it full and now I’m back to a Skip Hop diaper bag purchased in NY.

It is very handy having everything in one place and I still obviously need to have diapers and wipes to hand for LLC, but her days of needing outfit changes or frequent muslin wipes are now behind us. Yet still I carry this big bag, which I seem to fill to the brim and that regularly weighs me down!

I’m ready for a cute, lightweight, summery bag that I can pop LLC and my bits into as needed. One that doesn't scream baby bag!  I preferably need something that zips. Can anyone offer suggestions? How long did you haul around a diaper bag? Or did you opt out of one altogether?

For me there was definite benefit to having a roomy and durable bag when LLC was smaller but I’m now asking myself why I haven’t changed bags sooner. Particularly as I have a small food bag and portable changing mat with wipes/diapers that I can easily pop in LLC’s stroller basket or my car. 

Diaper bags are yet another “hot ticket item” for new moms and many cost and arm and a leg. They have lots of intriguing pouches, now often a special one for dirty diapers and are easy to wipe and clean.  But do we really want to encourage ourselves to haul so much crap around?  And isn’t their shelf life relatively short as baby grows to toddler?

What have you found, fellow moms/mums/dads?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Not Throwing Like a Girl

Often when I take a shower, it’s like target practice. Forget a cascade of warm, soothing water. Insert a barrage of yellow plastic ducks. That’s the way my showers go these days when accompanied in the bathroom by LLC.

I recently read an article in the Sainsburys Little Ones magazine on gender stereotyping and whether as parents we treat boys and girls differently. I’ve also read some great blog posts within the spectrum of this topic, such as Hey, Mummy Mummy’s discourse on pink.

My two cents on the topic, is when it comes to throwing balls, our little lady defies gender stereotypes. She may like to brush her hair and wear my sunglasses, but seriously, does she know how to throw a ball! Tennis balls. Soft balls the size of a grapefruit. Big lightweight plastic balls. She loves them. All she has to do is see a ball, and she’s pointing at it or pursuing it. I’m not saying she pitches like Randy Johnson, but for a 14 month-old she’s got some heat.

Now maybe she’s inherited this sporty gene from me, soccer player for many years (but ironically with a particularly poor throw in). Maybe it’s been drilled into her by Chris and his love of sport. All I can say, is that there is no girly throwing in our house right now. In fact, with LLC’s tendency to now throw more than just balls (toy giraffes, her water cup, my keys) we probably need to curb some of the throwing before somebody gets hurt.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Milestone. Maybe?

I’ve gotten used to people telling me that “LLC looks like a little dolly.” She is still small and relatively light for her age, though now she is filling out a bit.

But LLC has a new party trick that draws attention by the masses, and it’s got nothing to do with her petite physique. It has to do with her knee walking.

Yes, knee walking. As in she speeds around with arms swinging at her sides like a wind up doll pounding the pavement with her knees! They get red and a little sore but she doesn’t mind. Maybe she just enjoys all the attention that she gets by passersby? Maybe it’s her kind way of saving us the dilemma of finding shoes that fit her size 1 feet if she was properly walking?!

I keep thinking I should do a vlog (video blog for non-techies out there) of this to share with my readers who haven’t witnessed her in action already. Unfortunately I’m pretty non-techie myself.

Meanwhile people keep asking if she has learned to walk yet. Ironically, she took her first steps several weeks ago but hasn’t progressed beyond several steps at a time. Most of the time, she prefers knees all the way. So we answer, “Well yes, errr, just a bit, kind of, she’s really do more knee walking....”

We keep trying to encourage her to practice proper walking but she’ll only do it when in the “right mood.” And when this “right mood” does strike, she like to be rewarded every couple of steps by claps. She gets up, toddles, stops and stands, claps and looks to us to clap, and then maybe takes a couple more steps. Or falls. And then starts knee walking. 

Milestone in the making?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Dad’s on Duty: Extended Paternity Leave for UK fathers now in effect

So it’s now official – UK additional paternity leave (APL) is now in force and will allow employees to take up to 26 weeks' leave to care for a new baby, on top of the previous two weeks of ordinary paternity leave.

The Federation of Small Businesses disputes this “one-size-fits-all” approach as being detrimental to small firms, not because it is expensive (this BBC article quotes the estimated annual cost in Britain at £3-15m in total) but because of the extra administrative burden of processing claims and arranging paternity cover.

I see the point here – maternity and paternity leave will now potentially affect more employees and SMEs may be less equipped to deal with this. But in our progressive world where men and women both work, I think increased flexibility that allows parents to share time off work during their child’s first year is a positive step forward. And compared to the USA with its lack of statutory paternity and maternity leave policies, APL only sets the UK further ahead.

What I’m interested in your view on, is how many dads will actually use APL? Will new moms choose to return to work earlier knowing their partner can look after their little one? Or will they want to maximise the time off they get in their baby’s first year to bond, breastfeed, play, mix with other mums/babies rather than hit the office earlier? From a financial standpoint, APL certainly seems more favorable to households where the woman is the primary wage earner. But what if the man is – would taking APLF financially add up?

Women work, stay-at-home dads are now a norm. Traditional barriers are long gone and I applaud this. Still, my honest, selfish, mama instinct tells me I’d be inclined to stay at home as long as I could rather than trade in my maternity leave early for Chris to stay at home unless we really couldn’t afford to do otherwise.

How do you feel?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Rear-Facing Car Seats: The New Way Forward for Toddlers?

My dad recently forwarded me this article from the New York Times that contests the widespread notion that toddlers should move to a front-facing car seat around 20 lbs / 12 months. The article cites new advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which suggests children under two are 75% less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries if they are rear-facing.

Chris and I have been talking about buying LLC’s next car seat. Her feet are starting to look cramped in her current Maxi Cosi seat. Many of her little contemporaries have been front-facing for some time now, and I don’t know anyone who has purchased a Group 1 (the progression from an infant seat) rear-facing car seat that accommodates a child up to 35-40 lbs.   It definitely seems to be the common impression that when children outgrow their infant carrier, they move to a forward-facing seat.

This UK site advocates rear-facing toddler seats and has information about where to purchase them; interestingly it says that many British child seat manufacturers are refusing to sell their safest, rear-facing products in the UK because British parents don’t buy them. Instead they ship them off to Sweden, where it’s common for children to remain rear-facing until around 4 years-old.

If you delve into these links, you’ll also see information that refutes that children whose legs appear cramped when rear-facing will be uncomfortable and more likely to break their legs if in a car accident. They suggest that it’s a misconception that keeping toddlers rear-facing will lead to them being unhappy and frustrated.

Baby “how to / when to” advice seems to change over the years significantly but the evidence here, to me, makes sense and is pretty compelling from a safety point of view.

LLC’s head isn’t at the top of her Maxi Cosi seat and we are waiting until it is to buy her next seat. But this advice has got me reconsidering our next purchase, and I expect LLC’s front-facing “milestone” has just been pushed further into the distance.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Pop Culture Crash Course All Over Again

The first several months I spent in London I lived with fellow Americans studying abroad through our US University.  Then the term ended, everyone returned to the States and I was still here, gradated, moving in with Chris, getting ready to give British life a go.

What struck me in these early expat days of adjustment, more than anything, was the vast abyss of British pop culture that never got exported to the States, that I'd never engaged with before.  It created a void in my ability to contribute to conversations, I often found myself asking, "Who's that," and I'm sure I wasn't a popular team-member for the UK version of Trivial Pursuit. 

It took time but as I read the news and my friendships grew and England became another home for me, I learned about Porridge, the Manic Street Preachers, David Jason, Noel Edmonds, Jordan, Alan Hansen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall .... I'm not fully up to speed and won't know who the presenters of Blue Peter in the 1980s were but still.  I didn't feel in the dark anymore.

But now as a mother, I'm on a crash course all over again.  Roly Poly - say what?  Who is the Grand Old Duke of York?  One, two, three, four, five....and something about a fish?  And 'The Gruffalo' - how fantastic, once I learned what he was!  No I didn't grow up with Postman Pat.  Is he a cat, oh no wait, he has cat?  I'm more used to The Farmer in the Dell and 'Where the Wild Things Are'.

Lucky LLC - she's going to benefit from children's ditties and books from both England and the USA.  There are so many great ones.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

When Pound Affects Preference: The Rise of One-Child Households in the UK

At what point would finances dampen your desire to have a second child?

According to the Office for National Statistics, over 25% of British children are only-children and this figure has been steadily increasing over the last several decades. The US Only Child website tells a similar story in the USA.

According to Margaret Driscoll’s ‘O Brother, Where art though,’ in The Sunday Times Magazine , “as the tectonic plates of finances and work bump up against the desire for a comfortable lifestyle, something has to give and that something is often the desire for a second child.”

Driscoll’s report alleges that for many middle class parents, a second child would mean surrendering “the so-called good things in life” (foreign holidays, flat-screen TVs) as well as opportunity in itself for their children (not being able to afford to privately educate two kids). (Her examples, not mine). She also asks, in collaboration with white father of 6, middle class researcher Jeff Brazier if British only-children are increasingly cosseted and indulged by helicopter parents.

It's all relative. I would like to have a second child – the desire is there. I would consider our finances before trying to get pregnant again, but mainly to weigh up our ability to adequately provide the basics for a family of four, to afford child care and also transatlantic travel (a forever feature of our lives). But if in our hearts, Chris and I wanted another, I can’t imagine us not going for it for fear of not providing enough for LLC or further reducing our disposable income.   But we don't plan to privately educate LLC and we might not have the newest clothes or flashiest electronic gadgets while we are growing our family.  That's why I guess it depends on where we are all prepared to make sacrifices, though the statistics indicate that for many the cut falls in the baby department.  Where do you stand?

And do one child families breed helicopter parents (hovering over their "fragile" children's every move) and risk aversion.  Probably to some extent by virtue of only children being the central object of their parent's affection, but we can't overlook that parenting approaches are the key issue here, whether a parent has one child or eight. I fear helicopter parenting is becoming more of a generational tactic both in the UK and US, and one which parents at large should sit back and try to put the breaks on, and fast.  Kids need support but also must learn independence and how to advocate for themselves and that trend sadly seems to be declining. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Blissful Innocence

We live in a crazy world. I look at LLC in her vibrant innocence and I want to protect that forever. I know I can't - that learning is part of living - and that she's got some way to go before her innocence fades. But still. I don't relish that day. Innocence is one of the best gifts of childhood, unappreciated until it has gone.

Along with the rest of the world I've been watching the fallout of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear debacle in Japan. It's gripping, harrowing, upsetting. The coverage is incessant and I'm brought back to the days when I studied journalism and debated the balance between telling a truthful story and sensational journalism that grates on reader sensitivity. The press is certainly having a field day; lines of reason are blurring. People are fleeing Japan. Americans are buying iodide tablets in fear of nuclear fallout. And following the recent natural disasters near Brisbane and in Christchurch, the world asks "what next?"

What am I going to say when LLC asks me about such things one day? That the "show must go on." Parenting is hard, I think at times like this. How do you help your kids understand without scaring them? I think more about things like this now that I'm a parent.

And while I'm going on about this crazy world, I have to mention how disgusted I was to read the following story in my *shrinks in embarrassment* 'Closer' magazine: 'I inject my girl, 8, with DIY Botox & filler I buy online.' How unbelievably sick and messed up is that? And how scary is it that this woman actually thinks her behavior is normal and right? Not to mention the fact she is dementing her daughter's physical and mental health by this tripe. This particular girl is American but Botox laws (as opposed to guidelines) are quite lax on both sides of the pond and with all the nanny state laws we are subjected to these days, couldn't they do something about things like this instead?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sick Note

It's been a tiring couple of weeks in our house thanks to a merciless cold making the rounds and bout of conjunctivitis.  LLC came down with a chesty cough and cold early last week.  Even though she was bunged up and hacking she managed to remain in fairly good spirits so it didn't appear anything too sinister.  I didn't think much of the eye gunk in the corner of her eye (probably just leftover from sleep) until she had a nap and woke up with her eyelashes caked in a sticky yellow discharge. 

A trip to the doctor soon confirmed conjunctivitis, meaning she had to avoid contact with other children for the week.  We had to regularly clear the gunk from her eyes, which she tolerated, but her patience wore thin when it came to letting us squirt a centimeter of gel from a small useless tube into the base of her eye several times a day.  This struggle nearly reduced me to tears a couple of times while on my own, until we discovered if given a bottle of milk during the proceedings she would remain still and docile. 

Being confined to the house could have spelled quality time for LLC and me.  No running around.  No distractions.  But then I caught her cold, which spread to my sinuses, which I've never had before but can confirm made me feel like I'd been punched in the face, in the eye, in the mouth.  Breath taken through my nose hit a brick wall.   I had a constant headache, which is still lingering.  All I wanted to do was sleep, but that is not an option with an ill but high energy little lady ready willing and able to play.

This is the first time I've been sick with LLC and I realized how hard it is to look after kids when you feel beat yourself.  I tried to play but couldn't really concentrate.  I tried to rest when she was sleeping but the cold seemed to make her nap less.  I tried to lay on the couch next to her but she kept climbing on me, throwing things in my direction or wanting my water / tissues /etc!  Does anyone have any tips for coping with a sick but high energy little one while you are sick yourself?  I need them!

Fortunately LLC's conjunctivitis is now cleared and her cold is nearly gone.  And I'm getting there, but I still feel tired.  Why am I blogging at 11pm you ask?  I was in bed earlier in the evening and I now have a second wind.  I'm all out of sync!  I need to sort myself out....
  

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Misplaced fantasy…?

No, not THAT kind of fantasy, stay with me…sorry to disappoint. This fantasy was merely one of those stories that you make up in your head about people that you come across in day to day life. You must know what I mean. Someone strikes you and you put them into creative context in your head. You think up a little back story about them. For me, this is particularly fun for people I see day in day out, like fellow commuters. You can really get their vibe, and you can really think of some fun back stories.

There’s this one woman that used to always board the train with me every morning. I see less of her now working part-time, but I still see her. She’s professionally dressed but always with a bulky backpack and fluffy hat in the winter. She’s stern looking, and never cracks a smile. She’s the epitome of the commuter on autopilot who will run you down to get on the train and not give you second glance as she crushes your toes.

To me this woman screams all work, no play. She’s determined but has no softer side in sight. She probably works late hours and eats in the office. I doubt that she’s married, or that she even socializes much because of the strong standoffish air she exudes. I’m certain she’s successful, because she seems determined, but determined in the sense she puts her head down and does her thing, railroading her way to success as she does to get on the train.

But that’s just judgmental me. I know nothing about this woman; this is all just my little fantasy.

Then the other day, I saw said woman leaving a house with three relatively small children. They kind of look like her, in fact, wait a minute, it looks like they might be hers. She looks stern and un-amused as ever, but unless she’s aunt on babysitting patrol, I think this woman is their mum.

And that really surprised me, and brought me back to reality. I’m sure now that I’m in the “mom club” I find myself guessing who else is too. That lady that moved aside to make it easier for me to navigate the corridor with LLC’s pushchair – a mum. The woman that gave me a knowing smile as LLC chattered loudly on the train – likely to be a mum.

It’s like I think I have mom-dar when I don’t really know anything about these people. Is this really strange, or do you find yourself doing this too?

Back to my unlikely mum, my instincts do seem to have been correct in that she doesn’t come off as a jolly mum, even with her brood in tow. Chris and I have discussed her before and I got the following text message from him yesterday:

“Just saw that crone woman who pushes past people. She was with her family. Her poor kids were being moaned at by her!”

And that’s why Chris and I are married.