Life as he hasn’t known it

OUR new life in London has begun. The Little Mister is, so far, unimpressed by the cold and snow, but otherwise delighted with the turn of events in this big adventure that is his life.

We have of course had hiccups along the way. Thailand was hot, and Milin was very jetlagged after a horror daytime flight. We were there a week, and then, the big one – London. A pro by the time we got on that plane though, Milin slept for most of the journey. Phew.

It took us an hour to leave the gridlocked car park at Heathrow. What a welcome. My little superstar hardly complained. His daytime routine was quick to sort out, and now, over a week later, we’re hoping we’ve cracked nights – but we’re not celebrating that milestone just yet.

What the week has really been about though has been visitors, and the Little Mister has coped wonderfully. Only initially unsure for a short time, he has realised that attention is a wonderful thing. Smile, and the adults smile back. Watch the bigger kids, the cousins, and learn. He is fascinated. Already, he is getting better at being with other babes. Relief.

We showed him the snow today. There was no sledding or snowman building as he wouldn’t touch it – too cold. But from within the house, he was transfixed. He pointed at flakes, his eyes opened wide, and he told us ooh, aah, while watching the white stuff fall to the ground.

Indoors, the Little Mister can stand alone without leaning on anyone. If he feels like it, he will take a few slow steps. ¬†I can’t wait for him to walk now, I feel like it will help him enjoy being outdoors a bit more. Funny the difference a season can make. He wanted to spend every second of summer outdoors. Now, in England, he has already learnt it is just too cold out there. He’s smart, this little one.

 

Adventures in Oz

FOR what felt like an hour, and probably longer for the strangers around us, the Little Mister screamed. Our first family holiday had been a success, but now it was home time. He wasn’t happy. He was tired out, cooped up, over-awed by all that was going on around him, his ears probably hurt, and he just wouldn’t stop screaming. It was everything I’d been afraid of. The flightmare was underway.

Tony and I kept looking at each other with the same hopeful look in our eyes, desperate for the air to swallow us all up. I kept telling him we’d never see any of these people again. The Little Mister kept screaming. Once we realised he wasn’t going to stop, we acted fast. And, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, he slept all the way through to border control. Success, again.

It was the only blip, and really it was a small, short one, on an otherwise wonderful practice run for our big journey next year. The Little Mister was a super traveller. Everything was new and exciting and the six days were one very big adventure.

He loved meeting his aunties, uncles and cousins. He impressed me with his easy-going attitude. As long as Tony and I were close and he wasn’t too tired, he was happy to be passed around, held, cuddled, spoiled, treated, and generally made a fuss of. He played ball. He charmed, grinned, babbled, and generally made everyone fall in love with him.

The fancy apartment was perfect – sparse and therefore very baby proof. The airport was a big, empty space ideal for crawling around and exploring. But the highlight without question was the beach. He ate bucketloads of sand. He picked it up and watched it fall back down as he opened his fists. He spied seagulls and crawled after them, making a beeline for the shoreline. He splashed his toes while we dipped him in the waves. He sucked the salt off his fingers all the way home. He crawled so far on his beach adventures he got sandburn on his little baby-soft knees. That evening, our tired Little Mister was too sore to crawl anymore.

Sadly for us, he woke at 4am each morning, still on Wellington time. But though he lacked sleep, he didn’t moan or grizzle. Everything was too much fun.

In six days, I feel like he grew up so much. He spent so much time pulling himself up, now home, he is standing up against whatever he can. Buckets that move, the back of the sofa that has no grip, the foot rest on the bar stool. And he wants to be outside all the time to keep the adventure going.

We didn’t only learn what a great explorer he was on the trip though, we learnt lessons too. We learnt that he loves other people, so why not hand him over and take a rest. Eating a meal is so much easier without the Little Mister on my lap. We learnt to take it in turns to get up with a jetlagged baby. We learnt how much the beach and the pool will tire him out. We learnt to keep the buggy with us to the gate. And, perhaps most importantly, we learnt that Calpol is magic.

Flightmares, time differences, and a little holiday

The flight-mares have begun. In fact, they begun quite some time ago. Taking a 13-month old to the other side of the world in a plane filled with other people who probably just want to get some sleep fills me with dread. So we’re having a practice run next week.

Well, we’re not going all the way to England, and we’re not getting on a plane just to experience the sheer hell of travelling with a mobile baby, but we are having a bit of a holiday-trial.

Earlier this year, in a moment of careless disregard for our financial situation, I booked us a ridiculously over-priced holiday. There were lots of reasons to do this, and apart from the idea of putting the Little Mister on a plane, the only reason against booking the trip was that neither of us really have much of an income at the moment. (But, look, I’m doing a little work like this here.)

So, we’re off to Australia. Despite living here in Godzone for seven years, I’ve never been, and I thought it was probably time to get there before we return to England in January. Tony has three sisters on the Gold Coast, and so what better place to take ourselves? The Little Mister will get to meet his aunties, uncles and cousins, and we will get to have a good old-fashioned family catch up. We’re staying in luxury (or so it appears from the brochure) and I can satisfy my craving for genuinely warm weather, a splash about in the sea and a very nice hotel pool (with cute separate kiddy pool) to make up for arriving in London in the dark depths of winter.

The holiday too was a surprise father’s day “gift” from the Little Mister to his dad, so of course, there didn’t really need to be any other justification for it. (Not only was it Tony’s first father’s day, but the present also takes care of a rather large birthday in a couple of weeks time.)

So, super holiday in the sun, here we come. But wait, it’s not like it used to be. Throw beach dresses and hat in suitcase, drink some wines on the plane, and spend five days behaving like there’s nothing in the world to trouble the soul. That kind of holiday, I fear, is long gone.

The only trip we’ve done with the Little Mister was up to Auckland when he was not even four months old. Of course he was a dream on the plane – any hint of a grimace and I fed him. It’s different now. This boy has places to go. How on earth is he going to sit on my lap for four hours?

It’s not only the confined space that worries me. It’s the timing of it all. Our flight is at 7am. Way to start the day, then, by waking up my sleeping child, bundling him into a taxi before dawn breaks, driving for less than ten minutes, and then expecting him to fall back to sleep at the airport for a bit. That’s before we even board. I have worries too about take off and landing. Will giving him a bottle help his ears? What if he doesn’t want one?

Then there’s the time difference. Should I start trying to make him go to bed later each night now – we still have ten days to go? And once we are there, will he sleep anyway given it’ll be a strange place? Recently he’s not been so keen on new, unfamiliar places….

At least its only a few hours on the plane, the time difference isn’t too bad, and we’re only away for five days. I’m sure he’ll be a trooper. It’ll be ¬†our first overseas holiday as a family of three, and we might not relax in the way that we used to while abroad, but I’m sure we will have an extra special time because this is how life is now. We’ll just try to forget the plane journey very quickly. And after all, it is only the practice run.

Wonder Week 42

BEHIND that little serious face, I’m sure there’s lots going on. I can see it in his eyes when he listens intently to new noises – what are they, where are they coming from? I can see it in his face when he sees new things and watches them closely to figure them out.

Physically, all that’s new each day is obvious. Today, in the blink of an eye, the Little Mister pulled himself up to standing and cruised along the side of his change table shelf so he could reach a bag of cotton wool he had his eye on. Crawling? Been there, done that. The last few days have been all about getting onto the soles of his feet – even if ¬†sometimes his hands are still on the floor.

But along with all this amazing learning and figuring out that’s happening, there is of course the other side of the coin. It’s wreaking havoc with his sleep.

We thought the Little Mister was getting better. He’s been sleeping from at least 7 -7, and with quick wake-ups at about 10.30pm and 5am, nights recently have been better than we’ve had in ten months. And this lovely long night often follows two day sleeps of well over an hour. So of course it all had to change – we were getting too used to the routine.

The Little Mister is so desperate to stand up, that he’s taken to practicing how to do it in his sleep. Still asleep, he sits up in his cot. Thanks to our video monitor, Hal, I can see it all happen. He the either a, tries to stand up and wakes himself up by banging his head on the cot bars; b, falls forward while still asleep and wakes himself up as his head hits the mattress or cot bars; or c, sways for a while and rubs his eyes before lying back down on his tummy and starting the process again ten minutes later.

I’m not a big fan of all the baby books, the ones which make you feel generally inadequate or like you’re doing it wrong because you feed the baby too often/don’t sleep with him in your bed etc etc. But, the theory behind the Wonder Weeks¬†is making a lot of sense at the moment. The idea is that all babies go through certain milestones at around the same time (from conception, not birth date). When they reach these milestones, their sleep is often thrown out of whack while their little brains process all the stuff they’ve got going on. Sounds like exactly what’s going on in ¬†our house. We’re bang on wonder week 42. Apparently the Little Mister’s sleep could be thrown out of kilter for WEEKS. (At which point I will spend my days curled up in an exhausted huddle on the floor while he plays around me.)

Mother nature has come to the party of week 42 tonight by shining an amazingly full harvest moon over our skies. Thank you, moon, thank you. Please wane quickly.

As for the Little Mister, he will just keep on taking his time to figure out the world around him. Hopefully, this big developmental milestone will soon require less and less processing at night, and he’ll get back to having the precious shut-eye he needs.

 

Coffee and Groceries

Today, I caught up with my antenatal group over coffee and cake, and, after the Little Mister’s nap, I went to the supermarket. Or, looked at another way, I did this:

  • Built a fort. Yep, for the first time since I was very young, I built a fort in the living room. This entailed pulling the swabs off the sofa, ignoring the crumbs down the side that need hoovering (because the Little Mister is afraid of the hoover so it only comes out when he is away or asleep), and constructing the perfect climbing fortress for new adventures. My teeny crawling boy has figured out that climbing up things and pulling himself up to standing is super fun. So, for hours today, that’s what he got to do in our transformed little living room. It was a pretty awesome peek-a-boo venue.
  • Talked to him the entire way around the supermarket, despite people looking at me like I was crazy. The supermarket is one of the Little Mister’s favourite places. There are a whole load of kids he can smile at, a whole load of women who pull funny faces at him, and he gets pushed around while looking at all these exciting new things. I’m not crazy for talking to him, he loves it, and I reckons he gets what I’m saying. (Stuff like, wasn’t it so nice of that man to climb up on the ladder for us to get your formula because there was none left on the shelf.)
  • Paid work. Well, kind of. I didn’t actually do any work today, but it was nice to see some published¬†here.
  • Scored a massive win by convincing the Little Mister to eat two tablespoons of fruit yoghurt mixed with rice cereal. (Even though he didn’t want/enjoy it.) And, although this would have in itself constituted a majorly successful day, I also got a teeny bit of chicken into him by mixing it with LOTS of banana. It made up for his total rejection of carrots and parsnips. So, he almost got all his food groups from solids today, for the first time ever.
  • Took the Little Mister to hang out with other babies his age. He’s getting a little scared by other babies sometimes, so it’s good for him to be around them. He didn’t hang out on the rug with all the toys and little ones much, and he kept crawling towards the front door when it opened, but hopefully there were some important social skills being learnt. We’re still working on being brave.
  • Made sure the little boy had two very longs naps and got to bed on time after a fun splash-a-mayhem bath and lots of books. Not only did he get to rest, recover, and process all the learning he’d done, but I got to bake, clean, work, and catch up on some real news (politics).

Not bad for a day where I went out for coffee and picked up some groceries.

 

Having It All

AFTER years of working late, putting extra pressure on myself to do better, secretly trying to outdo my colleagues and calculating which moves would help me get ahead – I’ve given it all up. It’s been two weeks since I worked my last shift on the newsdesk, two weeks since I logged in, two weeks since I agonised over what would make the front page, two weeks since I sat around a table at a meeting, and two weeks since I went in to the office.

I’ve not shared stories with workmates about the weekend, I’ve not worn my court shoes, I’ve not joined in any group email banter laughing about some aspect of our job, and I’ve not lowered my voice while making a cup of tea and gossiping with another journo.

Since the Little Mister was four months old, I’ve only been working two days a week. But by resigning, I’ve given up something more than the paychecks.

Of course I agonised over quitting. I don’t quit. After years of manouevring, I was finally moving along the path I had planned, and I was making my way along it nicely. Of course, I thought before he was born, I could have it all.

When he was four months and I went back to the office, it hit us all hard. For two days a week, he went on hunger strike. Every week. He screamed at Tony. A lot. His weight kept dropping until he nearly fell of the chart and Plunket made us keep going back for weigh ins. He started waking every two hours through the night, my hungry baby.

My entire week was consumed by trying to express enough milk to leave for him. We all got more and more tired and stressed. But it never felt like we weren’t coping. We were all, I still believe, getting so much out of it.

Tony was able, twice a week, to look after his four month old son completely on his own. He got him to eat (eventually), he got him to nap, he bathed him, played with him, put him to sleep, sang songs with him, shared precious cuddles, and was the best dad in the world.

He became the Little Mister’s favourite person. Our little boy was so lucky to get this amazing one-on-one time – and they learnt so much about each other while I wasn’t there. I got to keep on moving along that work path I’d been carving out, and I loved it. Even though I was exhausted, I so enjoyed those two days of being among adults in that other world.

Still, on those mornings before work, I had to perform a feat that surpassed winning the Krypton Factor just to make it on time. Planning ahead and taking packed lunch and dinner to the office had never been so hard as in these months when we seemed to have no time to cook, or eat – unless it was takeaway or toast. I would try desperately to feed the Little Mister up before I left incase he decided to go without for the next nine hours. His naps were carefully orchestrated so he’d be due a very long one when Tony took over.

Tony would get home (or meet me at work) at a speed faster than lightning and each week we performed the miracle of getting out of the door by 12.36pm. There was the odd stretch of the truth that ensured he had Friday afternoon off, we called in favours, played sympathy cards, and did whatever it took for me to get to work without us putting the Little Mister in daycare.

I fed him in the work car park, in the health nurse’s room, in the empty office on our floor because I was running out of time to get the newslist done. Tony walked around and around Wellington with him so he would stop crying and sleep through his hunger. I spent the shift planning when I’d get a chance to express, carried sterilised equipment round in my handbag, always made sure the unused fridge was plugged in, and was careful to hold my bag upright in the taxi home. I experienced infections, discomfort, pain that only a working, breastfeeding woman can know.

Finally, logistically, it got too hard. If we didn’t want to do daycare, and if Tony was to keep studying and needing those working hours, we couldn’t keep on.¬†Even when the Little Mister finally realised formula would fill him up in a way his shattered mama was getting less and less able to do, even when he started sleeping a little better, we couldn’t keep on with this life.

I don’t feel like I’ve quit wanting it all. Maybe right now my definition of “it all” has changed. In these two weeks, he’s suddenly gone down to one wake up at night. He’s started crawling. He’s lengthened his naps to two decent stints. We’re in our routine, seven days a week. I’m not checking work emails on my phone while feeding him at night. I’m not glued to the headlines at what also seems to be storytime most nights. Is it making a difference?

I love my new working week, which is spent doing my very best for the Little Mister. I do miss my old working week, but when he’s a little older, I think we will find a way to marry the two. Somehow.

I have given up what I’d worked for. But part of that is because we’ve decided to move to London and be with our family there so they can share these special years with us.

I no longer believe you can have it all, at least not the “all” I once wanted. The “all” has now shifted – and I’m still not quite sure what it is. When I figure that out, maybe then I’ll figure out a way of having something close to it.

Routines are made to be broken

JUST when I think I’ve got the Little Mister all worked out, he changes things up. We’re going through one of those changes right now.

I’m a stickler for routine. I love it. So when I was told, repeatedly, that babies thrive on it, I thought ‘great, me and baby will be on the same page’.

And the Little Mister does, as everyone said he would, love routine. He knows that the start of the nightly bath regime means bed time is not far away and there is no point complaining about it. Problem is, he also knows the routine for impending daytime naps, and this is one he is suddenly not happy about.

For a good amount of time now, the Little Mister has been a three nap a day boy. It’s been great. Every couple of hours he rubs his eyes, I give him a bottle, he might drink it, he might not, and then he goes down for a nap in his cot. Admittedly, it’s not always as easy as it sounds, and sometimes it takes half an hour and a few tears, but it happens. Three times a day. That’s the routine.

But this last week, my little cherub doesn’t want three naps a day thank you very much. If only I hadn’t got used to them. I was quite enjoying the time off to do stuff like a quick tidy up. Or make some phone calls. Or eat some lunch.

So, I suppose we are transitioning from one routine to another. What drama. I’ve already realised there is no point fighting it – I think the Little Mister has already won this one. He’s just having trouble being convinced by me when the best time would be to take two naps instead of three. Which is making for some rather long afternoons. And it’s playing havoc with his social calendar. Working out when to take these two new naps around Space, story time, baby sensory, etc etc, takes some organising.

We’ll stumble along, though, and we’ll get there soon – and that will be another victory for the Little Mister. Amazing, seven months old and already got me doing things his way.

Daytime activities up there with not sleeping: Eating Lego for lunch and Sophie for dessert.

Another highly regarded daytime activity is playing on the iPad. Really.

 

Happy Seven Months

WHEN I look at you today, Little Mister, I am in awe of how much you have changed in just seven months. Your father always says you arrived with wide eyes – looking alert and like you were taking it all in. That is how I see you now. Wanting to keep learning more and more about the world around you.

Today, we were busy. We saw the other babies from antenatal group. At our hostess’ house, you were transfixed by the television. You smiled at the presenters. You sat up so well, your new trick, and gnawed on your teething rings. You smiled at your little friends – they too fill me with awe. You were so happy, flashing your grin around the room, chuffed to be at such a social event.

It tired you out, you fell asleep when we left and slept in the car for an hour and a half. You woke up in time for the end of Space at Play Centre. The babies were playing with blocks, and you picked up the wooden train. All by yourself, you worked out how to spin its wheels – round and round. It was like magic, and you were spellbound.

You played with my mum in the afternoon. You know she’ll play silly games with you. You laughed so much. And when Tony came home, your face lit up like it was the best thing that could ever happen in the world. Your favourite person, he took you for a walk in the rain.

There were other bits in there too – you refused to eat, you drank your formula without complaining when there were no distractions, you laughed hard when I tickled you, you looked so grown up in your jeans – like a little boy now. You are a picture in your sleeping bag, you chewed on a yellow rubber ducky while Tony bathed you. We only got half way through Goodnight Moon.

I kissed you goodnight before Tony put you in your cot. You no longer complain at night time. After you are tucked in, you turn onto your side and close your eyes. With your bunny beside you, I believe you are having the sweetest dreams. My tired-out cherub, my beautiful boy who I never knew I could love like this, happy seven months.

The Kiran and Tony Team

Tony and I have always been a team, but with the Little Mister around, we seem to have perfected the art of working together. It’s taken nearly seven months, but I think we’ve made it here relatively smoothly by figuring out how much more we can achieve with a little team work.

A very good friend came to visit last week. She spent a few days and nights with us, and showered us with compliments about our team work. Milin was lucky she said, that we had it sorted. Honestly, she was here over a fortunately calm few days while the boy was well behaved and settled. Tony and I were feeling the benefits of relatively good night sleeps – and so perhaps life did look smooth. Of course it often isn’t.

But I am proud of us when I think of how we work together. We have established routines, and they seem to be paying off. The most successful one is bath time, and since we’ve been strictly adhering to this (about two months) bed time has become so much easier. The Little Mister has a bath, gets a massage, reads some books, has a bottle, and then promptly falls asleep about 6.30/7pm. It also means that we have each evening to ourselves and have reclaimed a bit of time for us.

Not all the routines are having their desired effects (Milin still fights his afternoon nap, he still won’t eat despite my efforts), but I think we will get there with them in the end.

Over the last seven months, we have fallen into patterns that suit us both. Tony, for example, gets up and feeds Milin when he wakes before midnight – I get up and feed him after that time. It’s been about compromise, and fitting the tasks in with all the other busy life things we are trying to achieve.

And now, as our little family ticks along, team work makes each day so much easier. It’s helped us get things just so, and that means it’s also helped us get the Little Mister settled into a happy little routine. But I suppose now we should be waiting for him to change things up again. No routine seems to last too long with a baby. We’ve had a few weeks of thinking life is getting a little easier. So now could be the time he throws us a few surprises – surprises we’ll no doubt need our new found team skills to help us conquer.

 

By the way, I went to work today – and look what I missed:

At home with Aunty Julia

Photo by Julia: http://travellingkiwi.wordpress.com/