Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pouring rain

It turns out that moorhens have freakishly long legs. I'm not sure if it was just the rain or that the rain also drove the people out of the park; but whatever it was, the waterbirds were out of the ponds and swarming the park yesterday.

We have a lot of water birds in the park behind our house. As well as the usual ducks and Canada geese we have some smart brown tufted ducks, dozens of coots and moorhens, the odd heron and the other day a rogue cormorant diving in the big pond with it's dinosaur face like something out of the Plecioscene era. I'm used to the moorhens lurking in the reeds with their little red beaks but have never seen one walking around and there they were, the moorhens, bobbling about on their stilty legs looking like the aliens had landed. They had young, as well which looked even stranger, puffs of grey-black fuzz on top of lollipop sticks.

I'm not sure if it was the rain that rained all night outside his window or that it was a bank holiday and all sensible Londoners were either out of town or snuggled in bed for the day but the Spud had slept 11 hours straight that night for only the second time ever. He refused naps all day however and by 3pm was red-eyed with sleep deprivation.

I thought that bundling him up in a blanket and his pushchair and taking him for a walk in the rain would help. The rhodedendrons have all come out and I don't remember them being so many or so colourful. There is cow parsley up in the wooded areas and flag irises around the ponds. And ducklings. And goslings.

I tried to interest the Spud in these things and for a moment his eyes lit up at the ducks however the rain distracted him and I realised shortly afterwards that I was making 'quack quack' sounds and doing the baby-sign for 'duck' for my own benefit as he was busy trying to grab rain drops from the inside of his plastic cover. And I was wearing birkenstocks and no rain coat. I plead motherhood.

We weren't quite alone. There were joggers, two of them, clearly insane and in matching red tops running with a grim look of satisfaction on their faces. They were followed shortly aftwards by a third even more insane person with a big f-off grin on his face and dangerously short shorts. There were two over-grown boys on those wretched mini-motorbikes cutting a swathe through the puddles, wearing plastic bin bags. There were dog-walkers in various anoraks and rain-capes and exuberant dogs headed for the puddles and one, solitary smoker in her mac standing under a tree watching the birds. There were some small birds with white fronts paddling around and I asked her if she knew what they were but she didn't. I wondered why she was there, standing with her cigarette. Turned out that the small birds were baby coots, blowing with the wind.

The tufted ducks have at least five chicks. I would swear there were six but they were so busy turning tail and diving under the water with a fluffy 'plop' that it was impossible to count. But there are six, I'm certain.

The motorbikes screamed past again, surprised to see anyone out in the rain. I waved them away from the moorhen chicks who stuttered and stilted their way back to their wobbling parents. I checked the push-chair and the Spud was asleep. I couldn't feel my fingers so I plashed my way home to a nice cup of tea and half an hour of baby-free time.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sand testing: all clear

Just an update here and a big thank you to everyone who has wished us well over the past weeks.

The day I posted the last post, we had a slightly sandy nappy which I thought was just the advance guard however as he is now passing seeds from the bread he had several days later, either he's got serious retention issues or all the sand went through already! So for anyone considering feeding their child sand, go right ahead.

The croup is over and he's now sleeping in his own bed again - all the way through last night which is brilliant.

He's asleep now and I am avoiding the house-cleaning. Now that he's crawling everywhere and is enthusiastically digging into all sorts of corners and places the light normally never sees (I am constantly amazed by the places his fingers can get and the things he is interested in moving) I realise that I must turn from being a '2' on the 'Slattern to Super-Mum' scale up to at least an '8'. So far, these are the things I have had to remove from his mouth in the past three days and which clearly should have been vacuumed, polished or tidied away:

- Carpet Lint
- The mulched-up corner of a paper flyer that fell out of a magazine
- A little black dry thing that could once have been part of a banana skin
- More carpet Lint
- Part of a mulched-up magazine page
- Cat food
- Kleenex
- A pen lid
- A packet of silica gel he dug out of a camera case.

Where he found them? Who knows. Under the armchair? Behind the kitchen bin? Why does he think they are edible? Because they're bite-sized? Who knows. Either way, today the entire place gets sucked clean of anything remotely confusing for a hungry baby. A quick note lest you think I am entirely careless, the packet of silica gel was half empty and I did put in a call to poison control. Their diagnosis was 'relax' (You try it...). We found most of the contents on the floor later and whatever he ate must also have passed into his nappy by now... as my Dad pointed out, he ate a load of silica in the sand a few days back so why worry?

Everyone told us we were going to have to 'put things up'. 'Oh, now it's time to Put Things Up'. 'Everything's Got To Go Up now' they say. We were thinking that we'd try to avoid this but it's clear that at least for a while, some things have to go out of reach. Particularly if they are silver and have buttons on them like, for example, telephones and remote contols. Given the array of remote controls in this house (I think there are six in the living room alone) and the number of cordless digital and mobile phones running rampant in every room, this is like the Spud being sent on a technical version of an Easter Egg hunt every day and every day finds him standing taller and reaching farther into the recesses of shelves and tables where little clusters of digital flotsam are huddled away from drool and prying hands.

I thought it would be simple to buy toy versions of all these things and it is, but only in primary coloured plastic which is no use to us at all as Charlie knows immediately that they Don't Do Anything and are not out-of-bounds. So, I am shortly going to go to a pound shop and buy several of those cheap 'all in one' remote controls and scatter them temptingly around the house without any batteries in them for him to play with. It's the only solution.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Sands of Time

We have been to the beach. I now understand the final implication of having had a baby which is this: that I will Never Be Able To Relax On The Beach Again. This is a calamity of monstrous proportions given that I have spent a large percentage of the time I have been on beaches lying around doing absolutely nothing. And liking it.

Now. I am not completely naive. I realised that I would need to be more alert while near the sea with the spud however I suppose I had blissful visions of him digging curiously in the sand while I kept one eye on him and one eye on the latest 3-for-1 deal from the airport bookshop. The trouble comes in the bit before this vision of litoral loveliness, the bit where you divest your infant of his clothes and spread him in sun lotion before putting him on his roomy blanket, only to watch him slowly but steadily acrete sand. Within three minutes he looked like one of those inside-out maki rolls at a sushi bar which are covered in sesame seeds.

This didn't seem to bother him however. No, because sand has yet to register on the list of Things Which Are Not Good To Eat. In fact, sand is apparently Very Tasty because the Spud spent ages picking up handfuls of it and cramming them into his mouth. Two minutes after picking him up, dusting the sand from his face, force-feeding him water and putting him back on the blanket I found myself repeating the performance exactly only with a MUCH more pissed-off baby who didn't want a drink and who wasn't going to stay on the blanket ever again.

I did at that point what any respectable married Mum would do and handed him over to his father. Dads being what they are (an aside here: I took Charlie to the swings on my way home from the child-minder one day at 6:30, an hour when most children are at home being fed their din-dins. There were half a dozen other parent-children groups in the play park and every single parent was a father. I immediately felt irresponsible and went home) anyway, Dads being what they are, ie, all cute and manly and eager to introduce their Very Small Babies to all the things in life that they enjoy such as chocolate cake, jazz music and cold sea-water, the Frog decided that a great thing to do with his eight-and-a-half month old son would be to take him down to the freezing cold sea to dip his feet in.

The Spud wanted nothing to do with it. One look at those foamy waves and he went into reverse complete with those little 'meep meep' backing-up noises. The Frog tried manfully and unsuccessflly to get him to put his tootsies down on the wet sand, and after much larking about decided to put down the entire child. This, surprisingly, was when I decided they were doing OK and went back to my book in hopes of getting a full page down me before they returned, which they did half a page later, The Spud looking Extremely Satisfied with a face full of wet sand and sandy hands to match. "I think he was eating it" said the Frog, unnecessarily.

While I am certain that a nappy full of wet sandy poo is not going to be very pleasant, the point is not, as I am sure you are aware, that he may suffer any discomfort around the hind regions as a result of this exercise in healthy eating but whether or not anyone else will notice.

None the less, he seems fit and healthy now, happy and hungry and back to normal. Now all we have to do is wait, impatiently, for time to pass the sand.

I'm hoping prunes will help.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Holy something...

Here we are, one day post-christening, licking our wounds in France. I would post a picture of the happy event except for the fact that firstly I didn't bring the computer connector for the camera and secondly, I don't think I have a decent one as nobody would stay still long enough for me to take any bloody pictures.

This is due to having dragged family and godparents from across France, the UK and Canada who then largely had to rush off to catch planes and trains because christenings are not important enough to lose a day of holiday over. The straggling remnants were largely deaf, French-speaking or both and so getting them to stand in something resembling a line around the Spud proved nearly impossible. Besides that, due to a naming ceremony we are having for him later in the year, the nice linen trouser suit I made for him had to be a couple of sizes too big, meaning that between the top riding up and the trousers riding down, he was largely unclad.

The ceremony went well and not being either French or Catholic the whole thing was new to me. We had a fantastic old priest who rustled the families of the three babies being Christened around the church in the same way a cow-poke rustles cattle. Firstly we all had to exit the church and stand in a circle to perform various actions and responses, much like an ecclesiastical version of the Hokey Pokey, which he conducted with great glee and gusto, not to mention a few digs at the English. We were then led symbolically into the Church in a parade and bullied cheerfully through a ceremony in which it was clear that neither English nor French knew exactly what to do. Much embarrassed standing in circles and waving about of babies later, he shook us all meaningfully by the head and bid adieu. (Yes I know this was a benediction, it's called literary license).

Charlie was an angel during Mass, partly because he has never seen so many people all standing around doing the same thing before and that required some digestion and partly because his canny French Grandmere bought with her a bag full of very crusty crusts which kept him gumming quietly for the whole hour (and presumably required more digestion). By the time the christening rolled around however he was remorselessly fed up and decided it was time to jump up and down and shout a lot. Luckily the other two babies felt the same so we were not terminally embarrassed. In fact, we naturally are labouring under the belief that he was the best-behaved baby there, despite the fact that at one point the poor priest had to pause and look meaningfully at him before continuing.

For me, the biggest struggle was keeping his Grandmere happy by making sure he was wrapped up against the cold. To this end she supplied a crocheted shawl which, while I'm certain would be fantastic lapped around a sleeping infant, when placed anywhere near the vicinity of our struggling monstrosity became firstly a twisted rope and then a puddle on the floor, so I spent most of the time we were there man-handling the thing as though trying to win an origami contest while re-assuring my mother-in-law that I was In Control and Perfectly Able to Mother my little potato without the need for intervention.

For his part, he is on good form despite nearly going head-first into the font trying to work out where the water was coming from/going and having a near miss with the christening candle and little grabby fingers.

He is still a bit Croupy but tellingly, only in the evenings when he wants to stay up past his bedtime, at which point he suddenly gets a sad little bark on his in-breath which is accompanied by a moist look in his eyes and a little French moue. If we ignore this velvet painting we are then treated to the full symphony which frankly is getting tired. Not as tired as we are however as every time his breathing gets a bit thick (which is every night at the moment) we dash him into our bed where-upon it magically clears up in moments. We however then spend the entire night waking every five minutes to listen to him. He is lapping this up and last night while my finger was clutched in his little fist and I was stroking the back of his hand I came across a hairy bit and realised he was happily clutching both our hands at once and lying fast asleep with a big grin on his face while we put our backs out trying to keep him happy.

In France, the word for 'crawl' translates into something lilke 'move like a crab' which is what we are all doing at the moment. I can't wait for him to get better...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Full House

Before yesterday, I would possibly have thought the word 'croup' described an action one might see performed at a casino, perhaps involving the scooping away of all one's worldly wealth by a po-faced staff member wielding a tiny garden hoe and a bow tie.

It is, however, nothing to do with gambling at all and is instead the name for a group of infections caused by some cheeky little virus that hangs out in the back of the throat and on a whim makes one's baby sound like something out of the animal kingdom - a seal for example or perhaps more appropriately in the case of my 23lb potato, a walrus.

What amazes me is that when I went to pick up Charlie yesterday and he was making this noise (on every breath both in AND out I have to add) I managed to get him home and ring NHS Direct and speak to a nurse and not lose a lung out of my nose in panic. He on the other hand seemed unaware that anything was wrong and while being cuddled on his father's lap happily tried to use said parent's testicles as a trampoline while laughing like a troll. 'Harp Harp Harp!' he went 'Woof oof oooooh' went the frog.

The NHS rang an ambulance on the back of listening to the noise over the phone and the ambulance crew gamely drove C and I to the children's A&E leaving the frog at home with an ice-pack. We then had to wait in the waiting room with another little boy with croup.

"Whuh" said Charlie
"Hueeh hueeh hueeh" said the little boy
"Bar Bar"
"Augh auh auh HAH"
"Ehk ehk PARK"

And so forth while I exchanged looks with the parents carefully designed to be amused and yet caring at the same time. God knows we don't want them to think I was laughing at their baby or judging the clearly less serious nature of his cough compared to the blob's. Mark mark.

Finally the doctor saw us, dosed him up with steroids and then informed me that we had to stay in for four hours for observation. Having rushed home from work to get him from the child-minder and then spent the intervening time talking to doctors, I was starving and knackered and envisaged a nice darkened room in which we could lie down and I could give Charlie a boob while we both drifted off to sleep to the exotic sound of his breathing. The reality however was that I was expected to wait, with no dinner, on plastic chairs in a waiting room packed with other ill chilren under fluorescent lights for FOUR HOURS with a sick 8 month old baby who had not only not had his dinner either but who is normally asleep at 8pm.

You can imagine the ensuing scene. After having a meltdown nice chat with the doctor I was ushered out of human view to the baby changing room which contained one filthy plastic children's chair, one filthy two-seater plastic adult chair with metal arms, one bright overhead fluorescent and a bin with a 'hazardous waste' bag in it. But no changing table.

At least this was our own private room and after disinfecting it as best as possible using only wet wipes and my own spit (because one thing you learn as a parent is that wet wipes and spit can sterilise anything), I allowed Charlie to crawl around while I tried to fold myself onto the chair in an approximation of having a nice lie-down. Finally the frog arrived with food, toys, a travel cot and pyjamas and about five minutes later a nice doctor arrived to give us the all-clear and send us home, whereupon I had to creep through the waiting room carrying all my loot while the other parents looked curiously at me as they tussled with their now over-tired and feisty baby on the plastic seats, almost undoubtedly having picked up half a dozen other vicious maladies from the surrounding hordes of equally weary family units.

I tried not to feel smug in any way and in fact once I realised that I had jumped a queue of sorts I felt guilty. Not for long however as nature has a way of balancing these things out and while those parents hopefully went home, put their infant to bed and had a nice quiet snooze, we came home to Sammy who had taken our absence as an excuse to have a night out on the tiles. The minute the lights were out he began tossing his catnip mouse around the apartment in a routine that involved shouting threateningly at it for several minutes on the livingroom floor before giving it what for in every room of the house including the bedroom, where apparently it took repeated refuge in our bed and had to be routed out diligently from our feet and then punished on our pillows before escaping magically back to the livingroom so the entire performance could be repeated.

This in turn woke our croupy loved one who we took to our bed to calm down and who was then woken every time Sammy decided to throw his mouse in our direction. Between the yowling of the cat and the barking of our baby we got about five minutes sleep last night (in between dreams about animal rescue centres) which, clearly, is why I'm still awake at 11:30 and posting on this blog.

Obviously it's time for bed. Tonight I have hidden the mouse and am about to dose Charlie with both boobs and so hopefully I can gamble on getting some sleep. Here goes.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Family matters...

We've just taken the Maternal Parental Units off a plane from Canada and put them on one to France where they are currently touring around in a Peugeot being very European and visiting family and old friends. This is because, despite Agincourt, most sensible English people of my parents' generation have buggered off to live in France where good wine is cheap, the food is fantastic and their pensions can buy twice as much.

Since the Frog's Parental Units are also in France (being genuinely French as opposed to migratory Brits), this continental confluence of grandparents can mean only one thing... yes, a room full of grandparents.

Those of you with children and two sets of parents may know what is in store for us, however due to the continental drifters on both sides of Charlie's ancestry we have never had both sets of parents together in the same room as our little spud. My mind has been boggling in and out dizzyingly trying to imagine this.

Further, for the benefit of one of these sets of chirpy septuagenarians (it's called Poetic License, Dad) we have decided to add to the stress excitement of this situation by committing a Christening at the same time. Now, religious implications aside, Christenings are more complex than I had thought at first go. Firstly, there's all the preparation, meeting and greeting of priests and oganisation of churches, choosing of catechisms and the rest, agreeing choices with the million other parents also having their child christened in that church on that day, flying godparents in from outer space and agreeing the lunch menu with a tribe of French foodies. Secondly, there's the creation of the glistering white outfit for my little cherub to wear on his big day and that, of course, is the biggest part of the stress excitement for me given that I rashly decided to make this outfit myself and bought fabric for that very reason.

Why I thought that this was something I could do I have no idea, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Particularly, I add, as it prevented said grey heads from purchasing an outfit over which we would have no control and which, given the pictures we've recently seen of our own christenings, would have involved yards of lace and perhaps even some tulle which Charlie would have had a wonderful time pulling apart during the ceremony.

As it is, I am having kittens worrying about how to keep him quiet for the length of the ceremony and imagining scenario after scenario of him squirming out of the Padre's arms and crashing to the 11th century stone floor, or squirming around in his arms and grabbing his glasses and sending them crashing to the 11th century stone floor or any one of a number of other pictures I have in my head involving a white linen trouser suit and various bodily fluids erupting from one end or another into the font/down the Padre's cassock/onto the 11th century stone floor. Well, it's easier to worry about the event itself than it is to actually make the outfit.

However, combining the Christening and the prospect of four days discussing whose body parts are currently growing in my son's body while translating between three people who don't speak each other's language and a fourth who speaks pieces of so many languages that if you ask him a question in French he's liable to answer it in a medly of Russian and Spanish is making the prospect of sewing a trouser suit seem like an easy option. Do I win for longest sentence?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Laughter, the road to insanity

I have posted before about driving with baby but that was back when getting into a car with him made my tongue swell up in fear. Now of course I throw him into his car seat and he's barely buckled in before I'm daring buses in the oncoming lane.

Just kidding, Ma, just kidding.

No, the trouble I have now with driving Charlie about is to do with his car seat. Since he passed the 9kg mark (so fast that until I got a good look I thought the trolls had left a changeling in the night) he has moved up to a forward-facing armchair that is supposed to last until he is three. How long it will actually last my little spud is another matter entirely however, as usual I digress. The point is that he is no longer facing backwards but temptingly, facing forward. Where I can see him. If I turn around.

This isn't the problem, it's just the cause of the problem. The problem is that the car seat is so low that unless one is standing by my car looking in, it's impossible to see, (say, while you're walking towards my car), that there's a baby seat in it. This means that while sitting at the light and making faces at him in the rear view mirror, it looks to any oncoming pedestrian or any particularly vigilant driver in the car ahead of me as if I am making faces at them.

This means that, the instant that I see I have confused some poor innocent who is now wondering a: if he knows me or b: if he should pull a face back, I have then got to turn around and continue making faces at Charlie face-to-face just to prove my sanity, which in turn confuses him because he has only just worked out that I have moved the mirror temporarily so he can see me in it and is now looking in the wrong direction. By this point of course the lights have changed and the person in the car behind me has now seen me poking out my tongue at them making them wonder what they can possibly have done to me. I then drive off in embarrassment down the next convenient side-street adjusting my rear-view mirror in shame and it takes me five times as long as normal to drive home. That's the problem.

The solution is of course to stop making faces at my son while we're in the car but I can't bear to stop at a light and not look at him just in case he's looking at me and thinks I've forgotten his existence. If he's looking at me, I have then got to make a face. If he's not looking at me then I start worrying that he's forgotten my existence so I blow raspberries at him until he gives me a big gummy grin and then I start making faces.

The reason I make faces at my son when we're in the car is that for some reason, he is particularly easy to amuse when we're driving and I may have a teensy baby-laugh substance abuse problem. I realise this is as bad as me coming out in public wearing a baby-pink princess dress and and stating "I Heart Fluffy Bunnies" while tap-dancing and I may now discover that I have put my Mother in a wheelchair from shock, however the truth is now out and I must face the consequences.

It's so bad that I put my neck out the other week while the frog was driving and I was in the passenger seat because I played 'peek-a-boo' with C around the head-rest for about half an hour just to hear him laugh. I'm not going to go all out and state that baby laughs are better than crack because I have never actually tried crack, however I think I can safely state that they are less harmful to one's general health, unless, of course, one is driving and using at the same time.

I know this makes me sound insane however luckily that doesn't seem to affect me personally, only those unfortunate enough to come within range. However i did briefly wonder (just shoot me) if public perception of my sanity would be saved by sticking one of those 'baby on board' signs in our car window. No, really, shoot me.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tag, I'm it...

OK. Because I'm too tired strapped for time, I am creating this filler post. Basically, I have been 'tagged' in a game oddly called "Chinese Freeze Tag" by Tara at Love, Food, Wine and Good Chick Flix. I tried to track it back to it's origins but gave up after, er, two tracks.

Here are the rules: I have to write ten facts and/or habits of mine. Afterwards is a list of ten people in no specific order. These are the names of the commenters on this blog innocent bystanders whom I have tagged and thus drawn into this game. If they wish, they can then write their own blog listing ten interesting facts about themselves and select another ten people to tag - but not me.

1. I am secretly a Canadian

2. I still ride my motorbike even though I am a mother now. I am not listening to you. I have my fingers in my ears. Nyahnyahnyahnyahnyah

3. I am afraid that because my 8-month-old son is so strong and physically able that he is secretly stupid.

4. My frog prince is in fact a real Frenchman. He is not, however, a real Prince. This works for me as I believe the French beheaded their last Royals.

5. I would trade my motorbike in for another baby. Maybe.

6. While it was me who wanted the new cat, it is the frog who the cat adores. He's jumping into his lap right now. Bastard isn't that cute?

7. I have tried to read all the blogs of all my commenters. Anonymous doesn't seem to have one though.

9. I truly believe that when I stop breastfeeding, my son will stop caring whether or not I exist.

10. I hate this sort of thing. I apologise profusely to all of those whom I have tagged in this ridiculous time-wasting exercise.

11. I skipped number 8. Did you care?

Now for my victims choice of fellow bloggers to tag: conor, sufferingsummer, femme, laurie ann, allison, mrs frog, jamie, darth sardonic, self employed mum and last but definitely not least hoto.

Apart from my brother, these are all new commenters on my blog, I am scared of too respectful of my longer term readers to involve them in such frippery. Actually, this was the most complicated post ever. I am not good at html tags.