Old toys for an older baby

Our old life turned up on our doorstep this week. It came in 17 boxes which were unloaded from a big truck and stacked on our living room floor by three men. The boxes looked pristine and hardly like they had come off a container ship from the other side of the world.

It has been three months since we left New Zealand and life has changed dramatically. London is still cold. Our daily battles centre around whether you will be warm enough if I take you, wrapped up so that you can hardly bend your knees and elbows, to the park. Most days our activities are indoors. You are walking, but you still drop to your knees when you become unstable on the ground outside, so a snow covered park is not the easiest place for you to get around.

You were delighted by the boxes. We found your toys quickly and put them in one big box for you. You spent the afternoon unpacking it. Did you remember them? The toolbox you got for your birthday and loved, the shape sorter, the alphabet caterpillar, the rubbish truck with the balls which spin around…. you loved them all over again and spent the evening rediscovering them. I think, perhaps, they were familiar, and that was partly why you were so happy to see them.

One box is already in our wardrobe, I know you wont play with its contents. You’ve long outgrown the baby rattles and toys and barely gave them a glance when you saw them again. Even the toys you are playing with will soon be tossed aside and ignored, I imagine. You are growing up and toys designed for small people are not as much fun as the day-to-day objects you find in kitchen cupboards. Three months ago, these toys that have come off the ship were your world. Today, you seem too grown up for them.

I rotate your existing toys already. You have so many it seems like you could never play with them all at once. So every few weeks I bring a different batch into the lounge, swapping them with the others. You still play with the cars, making their wheels spin and driving them along the floor. The teddies get cuddles when you are tired and anything that makes music sees you standing up and swaying from side to side and dancing. Often, you sing along.

But really, your favourite toys are the plastic attachments to mum’s juicer. You also love the rotating corner cupboard full of tupperware which can keep you amused for an entire afternoon. And then the ultimate is your dustpan and brush set we bought for you last week. All day, you walk around sweeping the floor. It’s adorable. Another recent hit is a box of crayons. You love drawing and it amazes me that you can hold a crayon and use it to make lines on a page. You love watching us draw, of course your father is better than me, and as his animals come to life in front of you you look on in awe and happiness.

While you play, you constantly amaze me with how much you have learnt from watching us. You use the jug from the juicer and pretend to pour liquid into the measuring cups that it comes with. I don’t even remember when you would have seen us do this. You stack the Tupperware containers, match the lids to the bowls, and stir vigorously to show me you are busy cooking.

It seems like you understand every word we say. If we ask if you want a bath in the evening, you walk to the stairs and wait for us to open the gate. If I ask if you are tired you lie down on the floor with a teddy. You are constantly finding bits of fluff or other debris on the floor and bringing it to me. When I ask you to put it in the bin, off you go and do exactly as you are told.

In the last month, your comprehension has amazed me. It seems like you have gone from understanding a few simple words, to understanding most of the things I say to you. You can’t answer back, but by your actions you want to show me you understand.

You are talking more too. You can tell me the noises a monkey and a lion make. You can’t woof very well, but you can pant like a dog because your father taught you how. Daddy is still your favourite word, but nanny is also used, and so is yumyum when you are eating. (Which is still a never-ending battle….) If you drop something or fall, you say “oh dear” with the loveliest inflection you must have heard from us.

You still love your books, my grown up baby. You are learning the actions to your heads, shoulders, knees and toes book; and you try to show us you know how to move your arms round too for the wheels on the bus. You will sit enthralled for ages in the lap of anyone who reads you a story, but you don’t just want board books with pictures. You want us to tell you about our novels. You want us to read you the newspaper and supplements which you find around the lounge.

You are nearly fifteen months, and it is this month more than any that I think you have suddenly grown up. Not only are you walking everywhere, or sometimes running to the next adventure, but you seem to understand your world these days. It’s a joy to watch you figuring it all out and playing your part in it, Little Mister, it really is.

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Adaptation

LIFE has changed completely, and I wonder whether the Little Mister remembers how things were a month ago. We were in Wellington, it was summer, he played outside in the sun all the time, and our little household of three was generally quiet and calm.

We have lived in our new home in London now for three weeks. Milin loves it. I am still amazed by how quickly he settled in. A new routine, a new house, a new season, a new family around him – he hasn’t taken long to accept it and embrace it. Well, apart from the cold, Milin’s not so keen on that.

How is it that a little boy who is 13 months old can adapt so fast and make such a major transition so smoothly? Of course, to him, moving across the globe brings no worries of the practical things in life. He knows he is loved and safe; his mummy and daddy are still beside him, and everyday is filled with fun and laughter – perhaps it doesn’t matter what continent he is in.

Since we left Wellington, my Little Mister seems to have grown up so much. He still doesn’t want to eat, but he now spends his days practicing how to walk and talk. Suddenly, he is a little boy. Soon, I will have to call my baby a toddler.

With his arms waving beside him for balance, with his toes hip-width apart and his feet flat on their soles, he is taking his first steps. They are slow, purposeful, and usually in my direction. He claps at his achievement when he reaches me. His smile takes over his whole face. He is SO HAPPY he can walk.

All around him, we clap too. All the time. Because Milin is constantly doing things which make us laugh. He knows the radiators are hot. He won’t touch them but he points them out to us and blows out as if trying to cool down hot food. He does the same when he watches us drink cups of tea. The entire household thinks he is the cleverest boy in the world.

Milin knows not to touch the fireplace, the plugs, the compost bin. Again, he points them out to us. This time he shakes his head. No, he is telling us. How can we not admire his communication skills?

And all day, he talks. “Daddy” is his favourite, most-used word. It is not used sparingly, and everyone is Daddy. Sometimes things are Da. Sometimes he says Ta when given a toy or a biscuit. But mostly, it’s Daddy.

Our Little Mister is growing up in a new world. He has a new park with a slide he can climb up and a new library where there is a creative room with paint and a toy room with cars. He has been on a tube and looked at the Thames. He has seen the snow and didn’t like touching it. He is nearly a toddler.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Happy Nine Months

THREE quarters of a year. It’s been that long since you came into our lives and changed everything. For the last nine months, you have made every day better and everybody close to you happier. In such a short time, you have spread so much joy.

Today, to celebrate, we took you to the zoo. Dada bought you a zoo pass, because even though we won’t be here a year, you love that place at the end of the road. It does me good too, to push you around its hills and see the animals on our walks.

You love the roosters, they’re easy to see from the buggy. The one we met today was particularly striking as its feathers were so bright. We got up close to the giraffes, or the big Sophies, and the kangaroos, a goat, and an emu caught your attention too. The big hit today though was a rather angry ostrich, who squaked away right up close to the wire between you two. He tried to get his beak through the fence. You were transfixed by this big, noisy, grumpy creature.

It tired you out, the fresh air, the adventure, the new creatures to look at with your big wide open eyes. Those eyes are taking everything in, as they always have done, but now at nine months you have a wise look about you.

You have worked out how to put your stacking rings back on their stand. You have worked out how to make the wheels turn on your toys that go places. You can get onto your hands and knees from sitting, and then rock backwards and forwards. Sometimes you leapfrog forwards. You push yourself backwards, you swivel round and round on your tummy. Just today though, the elusive forward crawling motion was suddenly a step closer. You worked out you must move one leg at a time. And then you started moving your hands too. You must only be days away.

Our days, yours and mine, are filled with smiles, tickles, laughs, toys, songs, stories and games. Your newest game is clapping your hands. At first I thought you were dancing with your arms. You thought it was hillarious and laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I realised, you were trying to clap. Except your arms moved up and down and your hands did’t always meet in the middle. You still think it’s funny, but you’ve nearly cracked it.

You’ve also figured out how to wave. If you hear the words “say bye”, you lift your hand and give a wave just like the Queen’s. Sometimes, if you want someone to leave, you’ll wave at them out of the blue. It can be a little embarrassing.

You still eat very, very little. But we still sit down at least three times a day and try. The spoon aversion has gone, and you no longer only take a metal tea spoon. You will eat pear, which I steam with cinammon, and purée. Mixed with apple or mango it’s o k. But should I try to feed you anything else you look convinced I’ve betrayed you. Anything with bits in it makes you sick. So, we’re still on purees.

I’m enjoying your new-found affection for me. In the morning when you see me after waking up, you want the biggest cuddles. When you’re trying to crawl and it gets too tiring, you want to rest your head on me for a while. When something or someone frightens or saddens you, you want to throw your arms around my neck. I feel like the luckiest person in the world when you do.

My Tiny Tour Guide

I’VE LIVED in Wellington for five years, and never been inside the grounds of Government House until today. I finally made it because of the Little Mister, who once again has shown me a side of the city I’d never noticed or experienced before.

Along with at least 60 other mummies, (and even the GG himself) I pushed my buggy around the grounds on what was a rather damp and drizzly morning. Milin slept through the first half of the walk, then woke and had a bit of a crying fit, and then chewed on a teething ring for the last part of the outing. I’m not sure if he was too impressed with the gardens, but I was. I’ve seen lots of this city through work, but somehow, had never been inside the gates of Government House. So on this grey winter’s morning, I decided I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me from having a little look around.

The buggy walk, organised by Sport Wellington, was the perfect way to spend the morning. Milin had been fed up at home, I hadn’t lit the fire, and it sounded like the perfect way to get some exercise in. It was also pretty much on my doorstep, with the start of the walk only ten minutes walk from home.

There’s been open days and concerts at Government House, but I’ve never quite made it before. But Milin is like a little tour guide, because with him around, I’m starting to explore new places and discover a different side to the city.

I’m now, for example, very familiar with the back room at The Southern Cross – I’d never been in there before. We’ve taken a buggy walk around Zealandia – I’d only ever been there for work. I’m getting more familiar with different areas of Te Papa, and spots around Wellington’s coast. And I definitely know the streets of my own suburb now. The houses which have sold, the ones where progress that has been made on renovations or where the garden has been paid some attention – I can point them all out.

I think I was too busy to notice some of the simplest things around me before Milin came along. And I probably also thought I was too busy to explore new places or seek out different experiences. Of course, some of the new discoveries I’m making are wholly baby related – I never needed to know before which cafes had decent change facilities. But in other cases, I’m being led towards new things because of Milin, but the experience is all mine.

He has no idea, this little six-month-old of mine, how much he is teaching me.