Cars, dirt, and gender stereotypes

IT DOESN”T matter what I give the Little Mister to play with. He’ll find the cars, the toys with wheels, the things that spin, and the muckiest adventures will be all his. His little girlfriends, meanwhile, will sit on their mothers’ laps content to look cute and watch the action. They might put some stuff in their mouths, but generally they’ll be pretty still.

When did it happen? My Little Mister decided, all by himself, to conform almost perfectly, to the stereotype of little boy. It’s not because I dressed him in blue. It’s not because of the games I play with him (muck isn’t my style), and it’s not because of the toys we’ve bought (he has plenty of stuffed toys, including a bear who wears a dress). Yet he has sought out the trucks so he can race them round the floor making brrrrm brrrm noises. He loves bikes, cars, trains, anything that goes. He wants to be outside ALL THE TIME. How dare I bring him in when there is so much mucky dirt to eat, smear all over his face, and get beneath his fingernails.

And he is so busy exploring. Set this Little Mister on the grass and he is off. He doesn’t look back to check that I’m watching. I am. I watch as he chases birds. I watch as he finds life’s debris on the ground and inspects it. I watch as he puts soil to his mouth. I watch as he races towards the steps, or the rusting nail, or the unstable toy. Life is one big adventure for him, but sometimes, I’m right behind him ready to ruin his fun.

Maybe I’m being crass, but I do believe that looking around his playmates, all nearly a year old, the boys and girls are different. The girls sit still far more often. They aren’t wriggling to be set free as soon as they are picked up. They too like bouncy balls, but wheels they give or take. Their actions are more deliberate, their movements more agile. Am I pigeon-holing by seeing them all this way? The Little Mister does love his books and being read to is one of his favourite things. But it is also one of the few times he will sit still.

Perhaps the Little Mister is just a free-spirited, independent adventurer. I hope so.

playground Dirt Waterplay storytime

 

The Kiwi grinch that stole Christmas

The excitement, the anticipation, the festivities and feasting – I’ve always loved Christmas. The Little Mister is going to love it too, because we will make a fuss, and I won’t be able to stop myself. But that might be in the years to come, years, that is, in the Northern hemisphere.

Because this year, on baby’s first Christmas, I’m struggling and I’m going to have to keep my excitement in check. Christmas will consist of just our little family being together on the day. The Little Mister, his mama, and his dada. For me, Christmas at home was always a big family get together, so it’s hard to think that this little boy won’t have that. But then, to make the blow easier, it’s also true that he won’t remember a second of it anyway.

And do we spoil him? Well of course I will. But, with a removal company coming two weeks later to ship our boxes to London – do we really need to buy more toys just to send them half way across the world? (Where he will of course be ridiculously spoilt on arrival.) The Little Mister’s favourite toys right now are cardboard boxes. Is it mean to wrap a couple up for him? I know he won’t remember, but there will be photos. Fast forward ten years time to Milin looking at photos of his first Christmas. He’s alone with his parents, there’s no tree, but he’s opening big presents, beautifully wrapped, and perfectly box-shaped. “Mama,” he will say, “what was in those presents you gave me for my first Christmas?” What will I do? Lie? Or tell the truth – “We didn’t get you presents darling because we were leaving town soon, so those were just empty boxes. But you really did have fun with them, promise.”

The not-getting-a-tree-thing is something I’m still undecided about. Part of it is because my Little Mister is so adventurous these days that it would need to be somewhere up high and well out of reach. The lights would NEVER be on while he was awake, courtesy of these southern hemisphere long daylight hours at this time of year, and there might not be many presents under it. So do we get one? Just for the three of us?

I have brief pangs of worry that Godzone has turned me into a Christmas grinch, with its lack of all things festive. There are no roasting chestnuts, few lights, fewer window displays, and no Christmas markets. Instead, there are barbecues, camping trips (not for us), and a distinct lack of Christmas-themed festivities.

My reasons for loving Christmas are of course not religious, but they have a lot to do with history. As a little person, it was always a time when the whole family got together. Everyone was on holiday. It was an excuse to spoil each other, to be extra good to each other, a time to be grateful for each other and forget about our worries. So what if I’ve bought into the commercialism of it? I have no apologies for using a few public holidays each year to be happy and try and make others feel the same.

But this first Christmas for Milin will be different. It will be a little quieter, a little less extravagant, and perhaps a little less festive. We will still sing to him, spoil him, make sure no work is done, laugh with him all day, and of course dress him up in his Christmas best. But it will be a very southern hemisphere Christmas.

(I got my first chance to dress him up yesterday, by the way. He missed the Santa parade as it unhelpfully clashed with nap time, but we made it, briefly, to the Christmas party at Waitangi Park. The music was a bit too loud for him, and the tree wasn’t lit up, but he liked crawling on the grass.)

christmas3

Getting ready for the Christmas party with Aunty Julia

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Christmas parties in the sunshine, not particularly Christmassy.

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Our first family Christmas is a-coming

Egg allergy? Muffins it is then.

Watching the Little Mister eat anything I’ve made for him gives me an undeniable sense of satisfaction. Watching him eat anything at all is pretty uplifting, granted, but nothing beats watching him take to his mouth a morsel made by his mama.

It only 11 months, yes, but now that gag reflex is gone, the Little Mister is able to eat lumpy food, and even chew on bits of bread and crackers. He’s still being fussy, and I’ve not yet mastered getting him to feed himself anything other than bread and crackers, but we finally have progress. For the last two mornings he’s finished his banana mashed with weetabix. And he’s had about half of the lunch and dinner I’ve served up. Meat mixed with pear, apple or mango? Check.

I gave up slaving over my fancy baby food cooker months ago when the only thing he would eat out of it was pureed fruit. But this morning, buoyed by the success of an empty breakfast bowl, I cooked for Little Mister.

A couple of weeks ago, we tried to give him scrambled eggs. After he refused to eat them, he came up in a scary rash and hives around his mouth. I panicked and Skyped mum. I had an egg allergy too as a baby, but grew out of it.

So, after a little help from google, I made some egg-free, sugar-free banana muffins, adapted from a recipe I found online here. We had lunch out, at Te Papa today. The Little Mister ate almost half a muffin before throwing the rest on the floor. (Yes, I was so happy I wanted to tell everyone around me what had just happened, but I restrained myself and just gave my baby the biggest slobbery kiss ever.) Try them for your little ones, they are yum and oh-so-easy:

Sugar and egg free banana muffins:

In a bowl mix the following ingredients. Then, place a big spoon of batter into a 12-hole greased cupcake tin. Bake for about 20 mins on 170C. Makes 24.

1 cup rolled  oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 cup prune and apple puree (which I’d prepared earlier in the fancy baby cooker – just call me Nigella.)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch nutmeg
pinch cinnamon
tiny drop of vanilla paste
2 large ripe bananas, mashed well
1 1/4 cups water

banana muffins

And here they are

Happy Eleven Months

HANGING out the washing, I could hear your laughter through the open windows. It was more than a giggle, it was a whole-body, from the depths of your belly, almost uncontrollable, wide-open-mouth and scrunched-up-eyes laugh. You were playing with your Dada.

At eleven months now, life is all about fun. Today’s favourite game was throwing socks at Dada. I came in from the garden and found you both engrossed in the almost hysteria-inducing activity. It was a high-energy ending to a day which had already been filled with delighted squeals.

Little Mister, this is the last month of your first year, and you are loving it. You love playing toys, you love crawling, you love climbing, you love being tickled, you love cuddles, you love when I pick you up high after you tug at my trousers. You love playing peek-a-boo, covering your face with fabric and then suddenly pulling it away. “Where’s Milin? …. Boo!” I must play it a hundred times a day. You love spinning the wheels on your cars, and you love pushing them along the floor, crawling behind them. You love standing against the sofa and reaching for things which aren’t toys – like the tv remote. You are trying to walk by pushing your little car/walker around the lounge, but maybe it’s not weighty enough.

You love the garden and being outside. Weeding is one of your favourite games, as is watching the birds. “Birrr!” Is still your most-used word, used frequently when we chase sparrows in the buggy, your finger pointing to every bird we see. You are getting braver amongst other children, my little hero who has so much courage.

You climb face first off the fireplace and over the middle beam of our dining chairs, before turning around and doing it again. You love new people, you charm them of course with your words and – if they are lucky and funny enough – your smile. You love books and being read to. Every night after bath Dada reads you a few, you know them well. Through the day, we read others together, or you sit down yourself and talk to them. Your favourite these last few weeks is Mr Croc. “Mr Croc, how do you feel?” Tony reads it every night.

Little Mister, every day with you is a joy. Your smile, your laugh, your words, your pointing finger, your arms around my neck – you have made me and Tony the luckiest, happiest people in the world. Happy eleven months, Milin Charlie, you are so grown up! X

standing elfmrcrocfireplace jump

Dear Mama: Food Rules

Dear Mama, thanks for figuring out that I’m ready to eat now. I knew it wouldn’t take you long to notice, given you’ve been trying to feed me for half my life. But now that I’m ready, I think we need to lay down some ground rules – and of course – take it slow.

1. Crackers. I like these. Cruskits are good, and preferably the ones with only two ingredients: maize and salt. Rice cakes are good too, but only the little ones with apple juice added for flavour.

2. Bread. Let’s stick with white for now. Pita breads are good, but please make sure they don’t get too hard in the toaster. Ideally, they will be from a just-opened packet so they are fresh and soft.

3. Butter. This is fine in small quantities, and it must be INSIDE two slices of bread or crackers, so I can’t feel it on my hands. It feels yuk. Ditto vegemite.

4. Fruit. Possibly the one food I prefer pureed. Steamed fruit is just too slippery and slimy. Maybe I’ll change my mind next week, but for now, put the fancy steamer away. The same goes for carrots.

5. Meat and vegetables. Still not interested, sorry. Bread and crackers will do me just fine.

6. Mealtimes. I still think we have too many of these during the day when I could be crawling, cruising along furniture, and looking for drawers and cupboards to open.

7. Feeding me. I’ll do this myself, thanks. I’d rather you didn’t try and put food in my mouth. There will, however, be some occasions when I will eat pureed fruit. You’ll have to watch me  to judge when these are. Once I’ve had enough though, please put the spoon away promptly. Mostly, though, I’m figuring out how to handle food on my own – and I’ll stick to crackers and bread (see rules 1 and 2).

8. Handfuls. You’ve got the right idea with the perfectly-sized baby rice cakes. Excellent. And I think you’ve worked out that Cruskits need to be broken into longish strips so I can hold the bottom and eat the top. Watch they’re not too wide. Soldiers of bread are just fine.

9. Enough. Once I’ve sucked on my food for long enough, it gets soggy and it sticks to my hands. Please take it away. If you don’t I’ll throw it on the floor. That doesn’t mean I want you to pick it up, tell me about the three second rule, and offer it to me again. Throwing it away means I’m done.

Thanks Mama, I think we’re on the same page with this one.

Love and big open mouthed kisses, Milin Charlie xo

With each new second

THE COUNTDOWN is on. In two months today, we will leave Wellington. First stop, a week catching up with family in Thailand. Final stop, London.

It’s so hard to imagine what the Little Mister will be like when we get on that plane. Two months ago, he had just mastered crawling. Now, he shoots around the house so fast on his hands and knees that he wins every race. Two months ago, he was still bringing up even the tiniest lumps in food. Now, he will eat a bit of a Cruskit – and he seems to enjoy it. Two months ago, the thought of him standing up was so abstract I couldn’t picture it, let alone wonder when it would be. Now, he pulls himself up against walls, doors, the oven, the sofas, and, still holding on tight, takes a few testing steps sideways before deftly sitting back down.

Time changed when the Little Mister arrived. It started passing so incredibly quickly, and it keeps speeding up. At the end of each month, it’s amazing to look back at the progress he has made in just four, short weeks. But looking forward is harder. Will he be walking when we go? Saying some more words which sound more like real words? But, I don’t want to wish away the time between now and then, so will put those questions aside.

What the Little Mister has done has given me a new appreciation for time. It’s fine to look forward now, it’s exciting. But it’s also exciting to make the most of every second we spend together. He grows so much each day, so yes, the days pass quickly, but they are filled with discoveries too. Today, he laughed at the baboons at Wellington Zoo. They were playing at the front of their enclosure. He’s never noticed them before. Tonight, he put his big toe in his mouth. He’s never managed to reach it that far before. In the last few days, he has started tapping on the first page of his Mr Croc book. It’s because the book starts with a knock on the door and Tony always taps the book when he reads it. The Little Mister knows not to tap on any other page.

Yes, I wish time wouldn’t pass so fast. But while it speeds by, it is also filled with a richness that wasn’t there before. And as long as I’m watching for every new discovery, and treasuring the laughs or babbles or expressions that new seconds bring, it’s still a time I wouldn’t change for the world.

This time it really is progress

TONIGHT our little family ate dinner together for the first time. Let me explain.

We’ve tried it before. But the Little Mister is generally uninterested in food. By dinner time in particular. And it usually involves one of us distracting him while the other tries to trick him and get the spoon into his mouth. Sometimes we get two mouthfuls in, sometimes it’s five. Our food gets forgotten. He throws his toys on the floor. You see, we never eat together.

But tonight, the Little Mister held a piece of a corn wafer in his hand, and sucked and sucked and chewed and swallowed. He finished it. We ate our dill and lemon baked fish with vegetables and watched him. We finished ours too. He wasn’t sick.

I’ve been to the doctor twice about the projectile vomiting. Until now, anything not pureed into liquid form has come straight back up after a few scary moments of near-choking. At nearly 11 months, the Little Mister still has a very sensitive gag reflex. Apparently. Apparently it’s nothing to worry about. The doctor, who perhaps viewed me as a neurotic housewife with too much time on her hands, suggested we see a private specialist if we were really concerned.

I know that for under ones the most important food is milk – but that birthday has been rapidly approaching. And until now, there’s been no discernible progress. So, as much as I’ve tried not to be, of course I’ve been concerned. Recently though, it’s more that I’ve been sad for the Little Mister. He wants to eat. Sand, soil, bits of brick – he gives it a go (and then vomits over the kitchen floor again). I watch his friends with their lunchboxes. I’m jealous.

I have no idea why in the last few days things have changed but they have. Lumpy banana – he ate it. Buttered bread – he only gagged a bit. FORK MASHED CHICKEN AND PASTA – HE ATE IT (mixed in with creamy rice pudding, but that had lumps in it too.)

I’ve been optimistic before, but this really is progress. Maybe the Little Mister will be eating his first birthday cake with us after all.