Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beach blanket baby babble

Well, so much for blogging every day... it's just that some days between getting up and going to bed it's just all a blur. Today, however, we are on holiday. I know I know, we've been away a lot this year but this time it's just a holiday. No wedding to get dressed up for and keep the baby quiet through, no christening with schedules to juggle and a priest to impress... no deadlines or long drives or engagements, no plans... nothing to do but keep the spud occupied all day. Currently he is occupied by pushing the CAPS LOCK key on my laptop making this twice as difficult as it ought to be. He's most frustrated as the bed here in Biarritz is higher than the one at home and he can't get up on it at will. This means that he stands beside it pulling the covers off and shouting 'Aa! Aa! Aa!' as loud as he can and as close to my ear as he is to able strain his little vocal chords.

It is hot here this time. The last few times we've been here you would be excused for not believing that the place has been an holiday resort for several hundred years as it has been totally miserable however today it perches by the sea oozing heat and style and all sorts of things that me with my spare tyre, bad hair and northern skin are patently unable to keep up with.

At my age, the best blending-in look is to be about 30 pounds lighter and accessorised with a deeply wrinkled brown hide, a tiny bikini, massive sunglasses and an Hermes towel. Being a pale, blubbery wreck in a massive maternity swimsuit accessorised with a drooling baby is, I imagine, the depths of horror for most of these woman and so I try as best as I can to look nonchalant and inconspicuous which is difficult when one is wobbling down the sand after a whirling dervish shouting 'Charlie DON'T EAT THAT' at the top of one's lungs and tripping over multitudinous bikini waxes along the way. I can hear them thinking 'Ah, les Anglaises... zut alors tut tut tut' and wondering if the croissant they ate last week is still showing on their knees. Meanwhile I've caught the spud and return across the sand dripping ice-cream all over them and feeling smug about how much I am enjoying it and how little I care where it appears on my body - I mean, who can tell?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

emotional rescue

I'm learning today about Mummy kisses. I thought, you see, that the words 'Mummy kiss it better' would only word firstly on a child who can understand language and secondly on a child old enough to be distracted by something as conceptual as a Mother's kiss, rather than a baby who acts on pure feeling and emotion alone and for whom the pain of a knocked head would be overwhelming. However, today the spud fell down and hit his head twice and both times a simple kiss really did Make It Better.

I know, I know, he hit his head twice in one day - and you're thinking 'how did she manage it?' It's true, normally he can hit his head four or five times in a day but today I was being Ultra Observant.

Anyway, so both times I swooped him up as he was giving me his most pitiful and dreadful cries. In a fit of Mummyness, I kissed his head, rubbed it, hugged him and some prehistoric part of my brain kicked in, opened my mouth and uttered the Four Immortal Words. Did he cry harder? Did he continue to weep and thrash? No! Amazingly, within two seconds of the Mummy Mantra he calmed down and started doing Spud things like yanking my hair and trying to clap his hands while holding banana. I nearly fell down and hit my own head.

So. The words don't matter, clearly a Mother's kisses really do have the power to dissolve pain. Unbelievable. I should be selling them down Brixton market on a Sunday morning, I bet I'd make a fortune curing hangovers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

on speaking terms

I sometimes wonder what goes on inside the Spud's head. I know it sounds like a cliche but really, when you stare at his little face while he checks things out around him it's clear that he's thinking up a whole teacup of storms. However, since he doesn't have language and hasn't spent 30 years watching terrible movies or reading gossip magazines in doctor's surgeries, he has a completely virgin, un-cluttered brain. A whole forest of un-explored neural pathways for his thoughts to wander around in with no nasty language to constrain them.

Anything could happen in there. He could be working out the solution to time travel in there, flying free without any pre-limited conceepts and all I'm doing is paving over these brilliant new neural connections by teaching him 'duck' and 'bath' and 'cat food not for Charlies' as if he is plural. Which sometimes he seems to be these days...

I've tried, recently, to think without words. The problem is that I'm so busy thinking 'don't use words... oh no, those were words... damn... shhhh... shut up... no words... oh bugger... and so on. So, I've tried also to remember what thinking was like when I was very small and my earliest memories are either just flashes of images, or of trying to understand words.

I remember my parents begging me to fetch them 'a few' aspirin from the medicine cabinet when I was perhaps 4 or 5 and being very proud because I worked out that 'one' was one, 'a couple' was two and therefore that 'a few' was three. Looking back I now wonder how my hangover-ridden parents agreed to split them and if one of them kindly offered the other the chance to have two on the condition that they spent the morning dealing with me.

I have very clear memories of lying in my parents' bed watching the curtains get lighter and hatching a childish plot to fidget until they would wake up and play with me. I couldn't understand why grownups would possibly want to sleep while there was all that daytime outside the window to play in. Now, of course, I am plotting ways to get the spud to sleep in later. Currently this involves bringing him into our bed however something tells me this may be an own goal...

So, today we were in the park while I tried to exhaust him give him some quality play time and I watched him as he in turn watched the bigger kids going down the slide, then imitated them as best he could. Something was clearly going on under that baby curl on the top of his head and it wasn't the sentence 'that looks like fun, I'm going to try it'.

Somewhere near the top 50% of the things I worry about as a parent is 'will he ever learn to speak' and on balance I realise this is foolish. He just has to want to speak as much as he wants to play with the remote control - which tells me that I do in fact know what goes on inside his head, just not how it does it. One day speaking will become important for him and evidence suggests that once he decides that's what he wants to do he'll be lecturing at the local poly by the end of the week.

Until then I'm quite enjoying watching him process all this new information that's coming his way and hoping that by exposing him to 'In the Night Garden' every evening I'm not laying tarmac over the pathways to brilliance.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bad Mummy

Today, the spud split his lip open while trying to do a headstand on the changing table. I think he was probably just trying to escape his new nappy but it was pretty heart breaking. He soldiered on bravely through all the treats I gave him afterwards though and I'm worried he's going to do it again on purpose now. He's a crafty little spud that way.

I have the worst headache in the world and I am going to leave you now. I promise to make it up to you later. Promise.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tired mummy... I mean... baby au gratin

This blogging every day thing is creeping up on me… it’s like doing my teeth, if I’ve had one too many I think that maybe I can get away without it… and tonight we went out for our first evening out together alone since Charlie was born and so I've had at least one too many. However, at the risk of sounding like a wild thing, we left at 7:15 and were home 3 hours later. I begin to think that I really did lose my entire brain when I gave birth.

Anyway, this was my day today and these are my ingredients for both an easy post and a way to tire out an 11-month-old baby in 30 simple minutes.

There is no way a baby this age should be allowed to climb a climbing frame such as this unaccompanied by an adult, a St. Bernard and three social workers

While it may look as though these bars are too close for a baby to fall through, EU regulations are changing the size of all babies born after 01/09/07 and this playground will no longer be approved for minors. Only children over the age of 21 will be able to utilise these premises and only with appropriate safety equipment and a DNA id card.

Mummy I AM going down this slide head first no matter what you say about my knickers coming down or that brown patch at the bottom.

Repeat AD NAUSEUM, feed with cheese casserole and bask in second martini as baby sleeps. Spend next two days mending the knees on his trousers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

...with bells on...

So, here it is. One breastfeeding necklace complete with two tiny bells (bronze colour, centre, bottom). The Spud loves it. He tugs it and yanks on it and generally abuses it, practice, I suppose, for being 14 and having ones own pair of tiny bells learning to wrestle. The main problem with it is that I forget to take it off and end up wearing it out of the house. I’m always worried that someone is going to admire it and I’m going to just blurt out what it is which means that they will spend the entire rest of the time that they are in my company covertly staring at my boobs. Why, I don’t know, but sure enough, tell someone who doesn’t already know that you are breast-feeding and they can’t keep their eyes off the jugs.

I reported that I have been unwell and last night it was Charlie’s turn for his very first grown-up sicks. Now, we’ve had little baby sicks many-a-time. Little dollops of reflux for which clean shirt-fronts are made. As potato-boy has moved on to solid food however, these have become limited to very occasional appearances after a particularly active go at a bottle. What we have been spared, thank which ever gods you please, is proper vomiting. This all ended last night when a very confused little Spud lost his dinner at 2am all over my feet. Poor little thing clung on to me like a baby monkey afterwards and because he was just so sweet and confused and vulnerable and because we were worried he’d throw up on himself in his sleep (and not, you understand, because we are lazy and merely wanted to avoid getting up to check on him) we let him stay in our bed. On a towel, we’re not that daft. He perked right up and demanded a boob and we drifted happily off under the fiction that it was a one-off occurrence. Ten minutes later I could hear his pipes gurgling ominously and before disaster struck I picked him up gently and sat him over a towel on the edge of the bed to wait.

Not to be out-done, at this point Sammy decided that he had a hair-ball and started hacking gently onto my pillow where he had been asleep. This woke up the Frog who announced that his guts were feeling a bit dodgy and so I sat mutely on the bed cradling the spud as he heaved over one side while the cat heaved over the other and the Frog gurgled from the middle. I wasn’t sure what I needed most at that point, a plumber, a cleaner or a dose of horse-tranquiliser.

This morning, needless to say, everyone was doing just fine except for me, because I spent the night listening to them all sloshing and snoring and snuffling and all those other non-sleep-inducing ‘s’ words which include stealing the duvet AND the pillow. And, god help me, I love the lot of them. I just love sleep a tiny bit more, just tonight, just once…

Monday, July 23, 2007

My little tri-athlete

In the spririt of trying to post every day I hereby offer you this nothingness. It’s late and I have only just managed to get everything done. Today was a work day and once the Spud is picked up from his childminder it’s already too late to be making his tea meaning that he’s late eating it, late for his bath, late for his bed-time boob and late for bed.

You might think that this would make for a sleepy baby but in the hinterland that is a baby’s head, once one has stayed up past one’s bedtime, one No Longer Needs To Sleep At All thanks Mum and the world becomes one big, manic sports field. Starting with the Boob Olympics. Firstly, there is the fastest latch time followed by a trick dismount. This means that my dear little boy launches onto a boob so quickly that it may not be fully, er, out, at the time or, perhaps I may not be quite lying down (oh yes, we do this lying down… how else would I get my beauty rest?) and he may leap from the bed like a trout after a fly. After he’s done, he sometimes tries to keep latched on while performing a double-somersault and reaching for the alarm clock, or perhaps the telephone. You know, whatever’s to hand. I, for my part, have to lie there as though nothing is happening while what used to be a wobbly, but fairly attached part of my anatomy goes walkabout in a baby’s mouth.

Next in the Boob Olympics is the ‘fastest draw in the west’ section where he tries to drag his dinner of out my toes and I try not to whimper while un-picking my fingernails from the palms of my hands. This is sometimes accompanied by the ‘largest mouthful’ section where things start to feel a little odd and I look down to find him with his cheeks bulging and half of one of my prodigious mammaries sucked into his surprised little face.

Once he’s settled down to a regular feed, the rest of his body starts entering the competition. His legs bicycle, his arms flap and if I’m not wearing the breast-feeding necklace with bells on it (I kid you not) I’m about to get picked apart. The best bet is to get him into his sleeping bag first so that only his arms are a menace.

Eventually we give up and I put him in his cot where we have the lie-down-stand-up competition followed by the ‘who can scream the loudest’ finale. Which I usually win.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

going postal

I have been ill. Not in any sort of life-threatening way, just ill enough to stop me posting. Better now however, thanks to two days of sleep. The trouble with this has been that because I'm so knackered, every time the Spud naps, I nap with him meaning that we both sleep a lot. So, now he's been having two or three long naps with Mum every day he’s now expecting me, or his Dad to chill out with him all the time. And I mean, all the time. He’s up at 5:30 and we have to be up with him or he sets off the air-raid sirens. Luckily he doesn't seem to care if we're awake or not and so the nursery sofa has been seeing a lot of sleeping grown-ups while the Spud potters happily around his toys in the same room.

Apart from this new-found clinginess, lots of little things have happened in Spudland this week. He’s worked out that he can ‘carry’ now which turns the normal sound of his crawling (shh-SLAP shh-SLAP shh-SLAP - or, when running, SLAPSLAPSLAPSLAP) into the sound young Jim Hawkins must have heard when old Pegleg was following him around with the Black Spot, ie, shh-clump, shh-clump shh-clump. It’s quite disconcerting, particularly when he rounds the corner pushing the lid of his nappy bucket and looking particularly smug.

He’s also discovered the art of ‘putting’. This means that everything he picks up has to be ‘put’ somewhere. Since he has also discovered how to open the bins, this means a certain amount of concern whenever a remote control goes missing. It also means that waking up on the nursery sofa must be done very slowly as the Spud will have 'put' his toys on one's face, behind one's back and inside one's pajamas and it is unwise to roll over too quickly...

The art of ‘putting’ comes with the fledgling art of ‘giving’ which means holding up for offer anything in his hands – should one accept this offer however, a screamingly bereft baby is the result. It is however unsafe to assume that he’s not really ‘giving’ so much as ‘showing’ because sometimes he is actually offloading something he’s bored of and, should one ignore this offer, one could end up with a lap full of apple juice, or a face full of banana.

I realise this is a very short post given the long period of time since the last one but I am resolved to post more often, perhaps even daily, even if it’s only something small. Rather like a mobile in the recycling bin.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Time out for a reality check

Writing this blog has been a lot of fun however sometimes I struggle to find something amusing to write about. I started this as a way to update family and friends on my pregnancy so that they didn’t all ring me with the same questions (one gets tired of talking about one’s blood pressure after all). Since, however, everything that happens from the minute you pee on the stick until the day your baby rifles through your wallet for your last tenner and legs it out his window for an underage beer is frankly ridiculous, this has become more of an avenue for venting than a real update. So, time, I think, for some words on the spud.

Vital Stats: He’s 10½ months old now but is wearing 12-18 month old clothes. He's 2'7" tall. He’s big. By that I don’t mean that he’s one of those babies with an extra baby stuffed underneath his skin or with his name down for the next Michelin Man auditions but he is very tall and quite, er, solid.

On the plus side however he is very very cute. Or it might just be us. The Frog said to me the other day in an area full of children ‘is it just me or is he the cutest baby here?’. ‘It’s just you’ I said gallantly because whatever one thinks about the tremendously astonishing cuteness of one’s own baby, it is just not cricket to admit to such things in public. The Spud is, however, a cute-o-matic at the moment. I am teaching him to ‘high five’. I have never ‘high fived’ anyone in my life but in this stuporific world of motherhood, it seems important that the Spud learn this meaningless trick.

He’s started waving and he shows all his teeth when he does it as he is so barmily pleased with himself- however it's the same smile he gave when he pulled the corkscrew out of the kitchen drawer this morning because in Spudland, taking out an eye ranks right up there with saying ‘bye bye’ to the postman.

He is, however, dangerously tall. He can reach the highest drawers in the flat, open them, pull out the scissors and, oh, say a fork and perhaps a saw to go with them (no not really) and start dismantling himself. Tall enough to reach a pot handle should one be overhanging the floor area from say the hot stove. He can climb into our bed without thinking (but not climb out without cracking a vertebrae), climb up the stairs (but not down) and he can lift the lid on the loo and paddle his fingers in the lime-scale remover but worse than all this is that he’s able to reach the door handles and has worked out what they do.

This means that unless things are in the cellar behind the stair gate (which he will doubtless have figured out by the end of the week) or hanging from the wall at eye level, all the dangerous things we have in the flat are now accessible to our fearless, incomprehending bundle of 10-month-old joy.

He is remarkably tenacious and once he realises that something DOES something he won’t stop until he’s worked it out. When one is 10½ months old, Working Things Out means Putting Things In Your Mouth and very soon there won’t be anything left functioning in the entire apartment as drool is remarkably destructive. I am now having nightmares both sleeping and waking that there is something I haven’t put away safely enough, that there will be a moment where I turn my back and something awful happens. Drawers and cupboards are sealed, the oven is latched, there are rubber corners on any sharp edges, the plugs are covered and yet he can crawl into a room and in under a minute have found something sharp to hit his head on and something inedible to shove into his mouth.

The real nightmare though is the cost of keeping him in clothing over the next 17 years. There is an old-wives tale doing the rounds at the moment which says that if you measure a child on it’s second birthday and double it, you’ll get an approximation of the height they will be as a full-grown adult. Charlie has grown around 7 inches since he was born. Even if he only gains another 7 in the next 13 ½ months, he will be 3’2” on his 2nd birthday. I can only hope that his growth is about to slow down because we are running out of high cupboards.

Finally, he's just learned how to nod and shake his head but not in any sort of order, just in a sort of Stevie Wonder-style happiness at the feeling of his head going around and around. I am trying to teach him to chair-dance to Motorhead, if only to counter-balance the waltzing to Strauss that we do when we think nobody is looking - I perch him on one hip, hold his free arm out and dance around imagining what it will be like when he’s 6 foot 4 and I can rest my withered hand on his strapping young shoulder and hope nobody thinks I’m his grandmother.

Every day brings a new stage, a new level of cute and a new and more complex series of house-hold dangers. Hold tight, here he comes again.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tag, I'm blue...

Argh, I've been tagged by Shek to confess how green I am, basically. This is a fiendish tag because, you see, I am not the greenest Mum in the world. Or the greenest person, for that matter. Sometimes the two seem unconnected.

You see, I have always tried to be very green. When I was a child, we lived on an acreage and had dinners where the only thing we hadn’t grown ourselves was the sugar, salt and flour. My Mum hates waste and always got us to buy stuff with no packaging. She won’t even use plastic garbage bags, only paper. So I’ve done my best for most of my life, composting, recycling, buying locally, making things myself rather than buying them. I still try to do all these things, although London life like any big-city life tends to be a bit anti- things like relaxing, composting, buying locally etc.

The spud is in cloth nappies and has been since his first week on the planet. When we use disposables we buy bio-degradable ones. We hand-wash where possible and line-dry in the sun, or air-dry in the winter for the most part. We even wash and re-use wipes – did you know, for example, that you can put a normal wipe in the washing machine and re-use it a dozen or more times before it starts to fall apart?? We both ride motorbikes in town and our spud-friendly family car has a small engine.

The thing is that my family are half English and half Canadian and I've married a Frenchman. This means that on top of our own flights home, there are those of family visiting us. The Spud is 10 months old and has been on 11 plane flights - he'll have to be in those nappies the rest of his life to make up for that - and that's not going to endear him to a future spouse...

No matter how many times we re-use those wipes, we probably have a larger carbon footprint than someone on our same street who buys take-aways in Styrofoam containers every day, smokes, drives an SUV and uses their dryer every day – so long as they don’t take more than one flight a year, they’re laughing.

I know – I know that if we didn’t take those flights, the planes would still go but it hangs heavy and I feel can’t lift my head up in the land of green.

I’m not going to pass this tag along, not because I don’t want to know what people are doing, but because there’s a lot of tagging going on at the moment and I’d hate to burden someone who’s been tagged a lot – however if anyone wants to take up Shek’s challenge in their own blog, let me know and I’ll read.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Mama's Boy...

I worry for my son. Every morning I have a coffee and no matter what I drink it from, he covets it. If I ever have trouble getting him to drink fluids I’ll just have to disguise them as a large latte and he’d be soaking his nappies in no time. I don’t know if it’s the smell of coffee he loves, or if it’s just that he sees me with one every morning and just as he covets phones, laptops and remote controls, he believes that coffee will catapult him into the world of walking, talking and avoiding the gas bill. Thus we find him on the 10:55 to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show avidly sucking the air out of my empty cup to the horror of several ladies of the elderly persuasion.

This was nothing compared to what he did on returning home which was to poke one of his one hundred grabby little hands through the flap of the recycling bin, take out last night’s beer can, find the business end and tilt it back like an old pro. What’s funniest about this is that the frog wouldn’t be seen dead drinking from the tin and always decants, meaning that the spud worked this one out on his own.

Much however as I would love him to remain an innocent baby for longer, there is clearly more fun to be had here and the trouble is the accidental nature of this hilarity. My friend’s 3-year old sat on the grass at the flower show drinking apple juice and announced ‘I dinking beer, I on the razzle-dazzle’ and, after I stopped snorting and admiring his father for this piece of genius, I immediately began to wonder what sort of things I could teach the spud in the coming years which would provide that precise level of entertainment.

The one thing I really want to avoid is anything involving the spud requesting boobs in public – it’s bad enough that he rustles around under my shirt out there in the wide world. Given his proximity to his first birthday and the ease of the word ‘boob’ on a baby’s fledgling vocabulary and there’s an hilarious moment on a bus coming my way any day.

I confess that I’m of two minds on this. I know many women who have breastfed up to two years and beyond and I always thought I’d never be one of them. However, once one gets past the six month point, one (and one’s spud) has become habituated. Breast-feeding, so difficult at the start, turns out to be Lazy Mum’s Helper at this point. Baby won’t sleep? Boob him! Baby won’t eat? Boob him! Baby crying? Boob him! Baby doesn’t love his Mum? Who can tell when he loves Boob so much? This perhaps rests at the core of my indecision – I mean, if I’m not breastfeeding him then why would he love me? Anyway, I’ve decided to take him off them before he can negotiate with me because I don’t want him dropping any bon mots that I haven’t planted.

In the meantime, I know my brother is planning many such verbal trickeries on my poor spud and so perhaps I should take it easy on him until then. Tomorrow however, I think I shall drink my coffee from a gin bottle.

Monday, July 02, 2007

frogs, snails and tadpole tales

I hereby renounce posting from my telephone as a pretentious waste of time and energy, not to mention download megabytes from my very expensive service provider who shall remain nameless. Let us refer to them as 'Mandarin'. I remember now that the last time I did anything exciting on the internet from my phone while in France I had to sell some of the spud's clothes on eBay to pay for my bill. This decision is of course nothing to do with the failure interesting quality of my last post.

I have also to recant slightly and take back what I may have intimated about the similarity of the south of France to, say, the M1 to Birmingham because once it stopped raining and got closer to Toulouse, it was pretty amazing. The only trouble was capturing this from within the car was a bit problematic...

Nonetheless as you can see I gave it a try.

I love roadside railings, don't you? They add a sense of safety and security to a picture which might otherwise go missing. It was, however, I assure you, beautiful.

We arrived at our destination after 6 hours in the car with a very wide awake spud who had slept for at least 4 of them and who wanted nothing more than to bounce off the walls. The Frog, however, refusing an offer to stay in a luxury villa at the vineyard where the wedding was happening decided to rent a cheap picturesque room online without offering any information such as 'my wife will be carrying a baby and wearing heels'. The walls off which the spud wanted to bounce, therefore were up two very long, very narrow, near-vertical flights of sloping spiral stairs in a tiny fourteenth century poor-house. The idea of returning home after enjoying a few too many the temptations of our hosts and carrying the spud up what amounted to a Stone Tube of Death didn't seem to worry him at all. Needless to say, we relocated because the Frog wants a quiet life is nothing but amendable to reason.

The upshot of this was that the spud was relocated so many times he couldn't remember his bed-time, his dinner-time or his twelve-times tables. So there he was at 10pm happily eating artichoke off his father's plate and discussing the merits of Baudelaire with the other Frogs. He'd have had the wine if it had been sufficiently chilled. In the end I gave up on bed-time and dinner time and spent the rest of the trip posting food into the moving letter-box of his mouth whenever I had any on a plate.

This continental style clearly works for the spud and I'm considering re-naming him the Tadpole, so clearly is he a Frog-in-Waiting. So much so in fact that when the escargots came out on day two of the wedding, he ate six of them and would have had more if I hadn't had the following conversation with the Frog.: 'He loved the first three so much that I've given him three more' 'Well don't give him any more than three or he might throw up' 'Er... I meant... er... nothing'. Did they make him sick? Bollocks they did, I reckon he'd have happily had a dozen and I wish I had a picture of his little mouth opening to suck one down so that I could revolt him with it later. One of the little things still had it's antennae up. To be honest, the fact that they were slathered in garlic may have been a deciding factor in how much he loved them but it was worth it for the shock on the faces of the English and the pride on those of the French to stand by the buffet table shovelling gastropods into a finally hungry spud.

The wedding was fantastic, I have to add and like many enjoyable things, over much too quickly.

Back in Biarritz now where inevitably it is raining. This does however give me an 'out' from the necessity of wearing a swimsuit which I'm sure is a relief to all.