Happy First Birthday

YOU are one, Little Mister. Happy birthday. It is the last day of the year, and we have blown out a single candle and sung to you. Happy birthday. It’s been the best year of our lives.

One year ago, on your very first day in this world, we held you fearfully. You were so small and precious and fragile. Still heavily drugged, I felt nothing less than awe that you were ours. You were so perfect, how would we be good enough for you? After a week, we came home. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I cried. What if I got it wrong?

But since then, you have made each day brighter. You have helped me along the way, guiding me in what to do. You have made us laugh all the time. You have amazed us with how much you have grown each day, how much you have changed and how much you have learnt.

Slowly you became more aware of the world around you. You started to know us and we started to know you. Sometimes now I think I know your every sound, your every movement, and your every expression – but then you come up with a new one.

From little squeaks, you are trying to talk. Bird, car, bath, book, ball, Dad and Mama when you are tired – these are your words. Today, you stood on your own for a few seconds for your Dada. I missed it.

You can clap now, with both hands meeting in the middle. You think it’s great, and it is. You know your nose, and mine. You point to tell me things, and you love touching pointing fingers ET-style.

We celebrated at the zoo today, playing in the playground, telling the giraffes you were one, and laughing at the baby monkeys. You made the sun shine. We came home and blew out the candle on the last piece of our wedding cake I’d finally remembered to defrost. You tasted some. You cried when I took it away.

You have made us both better people. You have opened our eyes to the world again, and made us appreciate what we have. You have made us strive to be better, to make things better for you. But you have also taught us real fear. Fear that we will not be good enough, fear that you will know pain, fear that you will one day feel anguish. Perhaps it is this fear that drives us to make everything as good as we can for you.

You have taught me about love, about joy, about learning, about wonder, about seeing everything for the first time. You have made me less selfish and made me want the world for you.

Little Mister, you are one. You have made the days and hours fly, but you have taught me to savour them as they pass. I am so looking forward to another year. I know that again, each day, you will amaze me. Happy birthday my love. X

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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

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White Chocolate and Banana Muffin Goodness

OFTEN in a bowl on the kitchen bench, are a bunch of very ripe bananas. Next to them there’s also usually half a banana still in its skin. Its other half has been mashed and offered up to the Little Mister – to reject or eat a very small amount of as he sees fit.

Through the winter, once we realised the Little Mister would eat bananas more often than any other food we gave him, the unmashed half or three quarters went on our porridge. But it’s summer now, and we keep getting half peeled bananas sitting on the bench for too long. So, I channeled my inner domestic goddess today and decided not only to find a way to use up these endless half bananas, but also to start trying to use up some of the pantry fodder I’d rather we have already consumed than throw out come leaving day.

Lucky Auntie Jane just arrived as the result was pulled out of the oven, and Tony soon came home to a kitchen filled with the yummy smell of baking. After a cuppa, I pondered freezing some of the banana and white chocolate muffins we’d had, but both of my guinea pigs said there wouldn’t be much point – they would be eaten before we needed to think about freezing them. Test passed.

But just as important as being scrumptious and a successful way to use up bananas, the muffins were super quick. From getting the ingredients off the shelf to pulling them out of the oven, they took less than half an hour. So, while the Little Mister slept, I had time to bake delicious treats, have some lunch, drink two cups of tea, empty and unload the dishwasher, wash and sterilise his bottles, do the baking dishes, clean the kitchen, sit down and have a natter with Auntie Jane, and revel in my momentary incarnation as a domestic deity. They’re basically the perfect recipe:

White chocolate and banana goodness

2-and-a-half ripe bananas

125ml rice bran oil

2 eggs

250g high grade white flour

100g brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

175g white chocolate melts, buttons or chips

Mix flour, sugar, and baking soda.  Beat the egg and oil together, and add it to the mix. Mash the bananas and add them in too. Mix. Stir through the chocolate. Spoon the mixture into 15 muffin cases and bake for 20 mins on 200 degrees. Bask in domestic goddess vibes for rest of they day.

I found a version of the recipe on this blog here which also used a teaspoon of baking powder. Oops, I forgot to add it in – but they were still delish.

Enjoy x

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.

Tony’s First (NZ) Fathers’ Day

AS FAR as first fathers’ days go, I think Tony had a pretty good one. Not only did the Little Mister surprise him with a great gift (tickets for our first family holiday abroad), but he also put on his cutest, best behaviour.

We went for breakfast at the Southern Cross, which, quite frankly, would have been hell for anyone without children today. All over the place, frazzled dads were running around the bar while their brunch went cold. They were chasing after grumpy, bored kids who wanted to be outside, not watching mum and dad eat out because of some excuse known as fathers’ day.

Because the Little Mister still doesn’t run or crawl anywhere, the experience was somewhat easier for us. Once we found the right seating arrangements (he was too little for the highchair and tried to slide out), we were set. Nothing like bucket-seated sofas to keep a very small child in one place.

He loved it. He got to watch the other kids running around, and sit next to his favourite person (Dada). He watched some slot cars and won Mama a $10 voucher to spend on her next visit – which of course there will be because nowhere else is as baby friendly.

Admittedly, there were some hairy moments. Like when he tried to slide out of the high chair. And when a crawling, walking little boy without any toys of his own tried to steal Milin’s. But largely, breakfast out was a success. The Little Mister ate some apple, pear and banana puree from a pouch (it’s the only thing he eats), he drank a full bottle, he kept his clothes clean, charmed the waitress, and generally made us very happy.

While we sat there we thought back to being in that same bar a few years ago with friends who had kids. It was hell. How our lives have changed. This same afternoon, we went to a very lovely first birthday party. The Little Mister loved it. He watched the birthday girl crawling around and he wanted to join in. But he’s not there yet.

We reached meltdown when we got home. He was even too exhausted to enjoy his bath – that never happens. But after a quicker dip than usual, and more cuddles and milk, he went to sleep quickly and soundly, tired out by his  first (NZ) fathers’ day.

Tony, usually, hates any kind of celebratory day that gives large multi-nationals an excuse to convince us to part with our money on gifts and cards. Today though, he admitted that his first fathers’ day felt rather special. I think the Little Mister thought so too.

(Just at the outer edge of the Little Mister’s left eyebrow is his first bump. Toppling over while trying to crawl makes a pretty nasty thud on matai flooring.)

 

Right Tools for the Job

METAL teaspoons. This week, they’re the answer.

I’m getting the Little Mister to eat a little, probably about a teaspoon worth of food, about twice a day. It’s not because I’m giving him jarred stuff from the supermarket, or because I’m being brave enough to do baby led weaning, or because he particularly wants to eat. It’s because I’m using metal teaspoons.

Meal time goes like this. Milin gets one metal teaspoon. He loves it. He bangs it on the kitchen bench like a musician. He also throws it onto the floor and then looks at me expectantly until I pick it up and give it back to him. And, crucially, he puts it in his mouth and chomps on it.

The Little Mister is teething. Consequentially, he loves teaspoons. They feel great on his gums and they’re pretty easy to hold and get into his mouth. So while he opens wide to get one teaspoon in, I’m there ready with another. Another one laden with pureed solids, that is.

I know it’s trickery, but it’s getting me more success at mealtime than any other honest attempt at feeding has. If we’re having a really good day, the Little Mister will even want to feed himself. But again, with the metal teaspoon. Which I gently guide into his mouth, and voila, success.

So, in the kitchen cupboard, are a whole load of fancy BPA free baby spoons. Some even change colour with temperature so you know if your baby food is to hot. But the Little Mister is too smart for all that kind of stuff. Baby spoons which are soft on the gums? No thanks, mama. Point one of those in the direction of the Little Mister and his lips purse shut, his head turns away from you, he bats at the plastic, and he arches his back so far in the opposite direction he almost does a full backbend.

Tony has been telling me for months to give the boy a regular spoon, just like he sees us eating from. I was convinced a metal spoon would be too hard on his gums. And I was also convinced I was doing the right thing by buying lots of different baby spoons, because surely the little boy would find one he liked. But no, Tony insisted, try a metal spoon. I suppose he was right.

A Spanner Like Flu

WHILE I spent most of the day laid up on the couch and under the weather, the Little Mister hung out with my mum. And I realised there’s nothing like being sick to make you appreciate your mum.

I am rarely sick, and despite fighting it, I had no choice today but to curl up under the blanket and rest my sneezing, aching, coughing self. The Little Mister looked over at me with a confused stare from time to time as he wondered why I wasn’t playing. Most of the time though, he was having fun being distracted by mum. Which made me wonder how on earth mums without family to help them out when they are sick look after their babies. Not only did mum look after Milin all day, but she looked after me too 🙂

It also was one of those days which made me realise, we are of course doing the right thing by going back to London. Tony and I muddle on, we make do, and we figure things out most of the time. But throw a spanner like flu in the works and it gets too tough with just us.

I have spent much of the week since handing in my notice questioning whether we are making the right move. The enormity of it is dawning on me. What shall we do with the house? What if we don’t find jobs? How will I cope without my amazing new mummy friends? Isn’t London going to be tough with a baby? Will we miss too much our lifestyle here?

And yes, it probably will be really, really hard. But we’ve made our decision, and as I lay on the couch today I felt certain it was for the right reasons.

A Trip to the Temple

Mum and Tony took the Little Mister to the gurdwara for the first time today. I wish I’d been there, but instead I was stuck in the office. Apart from the initial shock of waking up somewhere new, he enjoyed it by all accounts.

Ending his sleep there, surrounded by lots of people and unfamiliar noises, gave him a fright. But once he calmed down he apparently sat with mum, played with her handbag, was transfixed by the bigger kids, and was a dream. While mum and Tony ate, he sat with them and chewed on an empty metal plate.

When mum and papa went to the gurdwara after he was born, the letter M began that day’s reading. And so, as tradition would have it, our Little Mister was to have a name beginning with M. I chose a name that meant meeting or union. A milnee at a wedding sees two sides – the bride and groom’s – come together to meet. It’s a joyous, happy event. So, I am never surprised at how much joy Milin brings to the lives of all those around him.

His second name, Charles, is a family name on Tony’s side. Tony still calls him Charlie. To the Little Mister’s dad, that will always be his name. To the Little Mister’s mum, he will always be Milin. The little boy might be confused for a while, but no doubt one day he’ll tell us what he prefers. Until then, we might both keep up being so stubborn. No wonder he is so strong willed.

 

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/