Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

OK, I promised a "catch-up" type post, so here we go.  There's a lot to get through, so no dawdling!

It's a Jump to the Left...

Walking.  It's a big thing.  Tricky, too, for us bipeds.  It's also one of those "big parental moments" that you always hear about.  Any number of adverts, TV shows, movies and novels all hype up the excitement of Baby's First Steps(tm).  It's also one of those moments that in real life are surprisingly hard to identify.  Babies don't just one day decide to get up and walk (or at least Alex didn't).  Instead, it's a gradual thing.

First off is cruising.  (For those who don't know, cruising when babies do it is walking around whilst supporting yourself on the furniture.  It should not be confused with any other activities of the same name but less innocence.)  Cruising is practice walking and involves a great deal of falling over.  Thankfully babies seem to bounce remarkably well (I think it's all the padding in their nappies), so the repeated splats are nothing to worries about.  Cruising is also the point at which you realise that anything lower than waist height is no longer safe.  Books in bookshelves?  Whipped off and gummed to death.  Cats in baskets?  Grabbed.  Plates of food on side tables?  Smeared into the carpet.  The lower shelves of your house quickly become homes for toys and unbreakable things.  (Or ornaments you don't like that you have been given by well meaning relatives with sizeable inheritances and limited life expectancies who you do not wish to offend by throwing their gifts out.)

Walking is after cruising, obviously enough, but where in the great wobbly transition between the two are Baby's First Steps(tm)?  Is that unsupported lurch from couch to chair a step?  How about that stagger then splat he managed whilst going for the cat?  In truth, it's probably whatever you, as a parent, choose it to be.  For Nic and me, it was Alex stumble-falling between us as we sat on the floor in the hall, five feet apart, arms outstretched to catch him.  That'll do for me.

And Then a Step to the Right...

Once walking is achieved, life becomes at once easier and more difficult.  Easier because you can just plop your child down and let them walk about themselves.  Harder because the little buggers are surprisingly speedy and have absolutely no sense whatsoever.  As far as I can tell, Alex's thought processes in those early walking days went like this:

"Oh!  What's this?  I guess I'll just whoah!" *whamp* "OK, that wasn't what I expected.  How about if I do this?" *whump*  "Hmmm, interesting...."

Much like cruising, the bumps and bashes from falling over while learning to walk seem to cause more concern for parents than babies.  That said, even Alex cried when he did a forward flip off the couch and onto the floor, although that was mostly due to dropping his raisins.

One of the best things about Alex learning to walk is that he's now learnt the concept of holding hands.  If he wants to show you something, he'll come over and hold out his hand for you to take before leading you over to it.  (It's usually the fridge (milk) or the cupboard (raisins).)  That's kind of lovely.

With Your Hands on Your Hips...

Alex's ability to express himself has come on in leaps and bounds as well.  Partly it's speech.  (Again, Baby's First Words(tm) are impossible to pinpoint timing wise, although we can say with some certainty that Alex's first word was cat, just not when he said it.)  Simply being able to form "yes" or "no" responses (by nodding and going "ayh" for the former, shaking one's head and going "nonono" for the latter) to questions is a massive improvement over screaming.  It's more relaxing for parents and more useful for Alex, as we're able to understand what he wants much quicker.  We're obviously still limited somewhat by vocabulary (yes, no, cat, Dada, Mama, quack quack, milch, more milch, MORE MILCH!, banana, hello, bye-bye, car, shoes, teeth, cheese and book being about the current limit) but it's surprising how much you can understand vague grunts coupled with gestures and practice.

Alex also understands an awful lot more these days.  It's kind of surprising, really.  You'll be wittering away to him when he will suddenly do what you've asked him, even if it's a complicated task.  Taking things out of the washing machine and hanging them on the rack, for example.  OK, he doesn't make a great job of it (flat is not a concept he has yet grasped), but that he makes a job of it at all is what's impressive.  It's remarkable to watch.

It does also mean we have to watch what we say now too!  No more casual mentions of the word "banana".  Not unless you want a howling child.

You Bring Your Knees in Tight...

Yeah, I don't have much for this line, other than Alex still having tickly knees.  Should have thought this whole timewarp theme through before I started it.

But it's the Pelvic Thrusts That Really Drive You Insa-a-a-aane...

They don't warn you about the pelvic thrusts.  They really don't.  It's obviously just some "I'm all warm, comfy, safe and happy" response, but dear God, it's weird.  It's like being humped by a scotty dog in dungarees!  Make it stop!  Please!

Let's Do The Time Warp Again!


Friday, 4 February 2011


Ahem...  Right... So... Err... Gosh, it's been a while. I'm kind of out of practice at this.  Bear with me...

It occurred to me that this blog could really do with some sort of rounding off post(s).  Some sort of "in hindsight" kind of thing, addressing some of the issues I talked about back when I actually talked about anything.  So that's what this is.  A recap and review.  A bit of a catch up will follow in a later post.

The Only Thing We Have to Fear...

Reading back through these posts, the first thing that jumps out at me is, "Gosh, I worried about everything, didn't I?"  I suspect that barely constrained terror is the natural state for first time new parents (and maybe second, third, fourth or even more-th new parents), so it's not that I feel silly about it.  It's just noticeable how much it influenced my thoughts back then.

I can't really say when the worry faded.  I guess it was a gradual thing.  Slowly you begin to see that your child is doing well, that you haven't dropped them on their head (or at least not from any significant height - falling off the couch doesn't count) and that they are happy and healthy.  (At least, assuming nothing horrible has happened.  That it didn't is something I'm eternally grateful for.)  You become better at distinguishing between "there's something horribly wrong!" and "I want to touch the cat!" cries.  You begin to understand your child's routine and act upon it.  (He's getting grumpy + it's 12:30 = nap time.)  Play becomes fun for both parties, some of the time.  (Other times, man, you just don't want to have to fetch that ball from under the seat once more.)

Obviously there are still worries.  Is it safe to let him play with a hoover?  (Probably not, but it's much less hassle than not letting him do so!)  How do we get him to sleep past 5:30am?  (No idea.)  Is he big enough to play on the slide?  (Yes, sort of.)  But somehow, they are lesser worries.  The elephant of terror that came and squatted in my guts for the first 9 months of Alex's life has upped and buggered off.  Yes, it's stressful.  Yes, you worry.  But it's less oppressive.  Less all encompassing.  Thank god.

And Another Thing...

The other thing I notice a lot of in my old posts is sleep, or the lack thereof.   That's still an issue.  Alex's sleep has been somewhat erratic for quite a while now.  Basically he has been tending to wake up between 5am and 5:30am.  We've tried a bunch of things (which I'll cover in the catch up post), but nothing has really taken.  I guess that a lack of sleep is just a function of parenthood.  For anyone expecting, get your shut eye in now!  People are not exaggerating when they say you'll be more tired than you've ever been.  What are you doing even reading this?  Get to bed!  Now!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

He's Got a Ticket to Ride

Caution!  Baby Blue does not advocate letting your child drive your car!  Doing so is dangerous as they can't reach the pedals. Plus, they're well know to be speed freaks.  And the insurance premiums are murder.

Alex is rapidly outgrowing his car seat.  Technically it is usable until he is 13kg (he's around 9kg at the moment), but he's long for his age, and so his feet stick out from the end rather comedically.  Add to this the fact that Alex + car seat = about half a ton, and it was becoming clear that it was time for a new car seat


Buying car seats is a tedious, expensive and time consuming activity.  They come in roughly one million different flavours and each one has a subtly different set of features.  In addition, buy the wrong sort and you're risking firing your child through the front windscreen in the event of an accident, so it's stressful too.

We were in need of a group 1 (9-18kg, or roughly 9 months to 4 years) seat.  It also needed to be a seat that fitted into our car (a 207).  If it happened to cost less than one major organ, that would be a bonus.  Nicola, being far more organised/interested/caring/just-plain-better than me had scoped out our options on-line and found that a Britax Prince Forward Facing Group 1 Car Seat - Alex was likely to be our preferred choice.  (Alex is the colour.  It's not a personalised seat!)  There was one in the local Halfords, at the same price as on-line.  Result.

Come Monday (a day off, for reasons of hospital visits) we went round to check it out.  It was great.  Sort of.  The very nice man in Halfords fitted the demo version for us.  It didn't quite fit totally.  You could use it half reclined (really pretty upright) or totally reclined, but not completely upright.  And if you wanted to adjust the recline, you had to loosen then re-tighten the seatbelt each time.  (Thus increasing the possibility of getting it wrong at some point or worse, waking up a snoozing Alex whilst doing it!)

"Would you perhaps be interested in the newer version?" the man asked.  "It's got added side impact protection..."  he tailed off, leaving the clear implication that we were bad parents to skimp on Alex's safety for the sake of £40.  (Despite the fact that all car seats have to meet stringent safety regulations.)  We looked unconvinced.

"Plus, you can adjust the reclining without undoing the car seat."

Maybe we could just take a look...

So out comes the Britax Eclipse Forward Facing Group 1 Car Seat - Jet.Which fits much better.  And is comfier looking.  And has "added side impact protection".  And you can adjust without faff.  And costs almost as much again.

The nice man takes the previous one inside.  Nic and I quickly confer.  We decide that the ability to adjust the reclining quickly without waking Alex is almost certainly worth £40.  (We couldn't give a stuff about the "added side impact protection".)  But is it a decent price?  A quick check of the internet (what did we do without mobile browsing I wonder) reveals that we could save £5-10 on it, but we'd have to fit it ourselves.  And probably collect it from Livingston, knowing our luck with couriers.  We decide to go for it.  The nice man fits our brand new car seat.

Alex doesn't get to ride home in it though.  We're not sure if he's actually big enough!  We haven't weighed him in a while, so our estimate of 9kg is just that, an estimate.  Nicola is going to take him along to the clinic on Thursday and see if he's big enough to go in his new seat.  If so, forward facing adventures here we come!

(Oh, and Nicola pointed out that the sight of two child seats side-by-side was enough to put her off having a second for a while yet!)

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Off topic self-promotion:  Check out my article at the Escapist! 

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Raspberry Ripple

Alex and his Granny Tatty are communicating.





I don't know quite what Alex thinks he's saying, but it apparently the funniest thing in the world.

In case it's not clear, Alex has learnt how to blow a raspberry.  He is delighted by the discovery and takes every opportunity to show it off.  Fun toy?  Raspberry.  New person comes into the room?  Raspberry.  Tasty food?  Raspberry.  (A particularly messy raspberry this one.)  The joy of blowing a raspberry is only topped by the joy of having someone blow one back, hence his farting conversation with Tatty.

Copying has become a new favourite thing for Alex.  Well, I suppose I should say having others copy him has become a new favourite thing.  He's always been somewhat pleased when you talk back to him, but recently a parroting of his babble gets big smiles.  He also enjoys slapping his palm onto the table top/orange juice carton/ surface of the water/cat (pick the nearest, if tied, pick the fluffiest) in a staccato rhythm then having you do the same.  For one thing, it's fun.  For another, it means the cat savages you and not Alex.  The sacrifices we make as parents, eh?

Friday, 14 May 2010

Holidays and a Toothsome Treat

Ahh, nothing like regular updates, is there? Bit of an epic this one, so let's get started.

"You are now leaving Yorkshire.  Are you sure?"

The last week of April Nic, Alex and I were on holiday with Nic's parents, Alan and Hazel, and her brother, Douglas, and his wife, Christina.  (Granda and Grannie Sinclair, Unky Doug and Auntie Christina, respectively.)  We were staying, as always, in a self-catering cottage just outside the North York Moors.  It's peaceful, beautiful and relaxing.

It's also bloody miles from Dalkeith.

Now, I know it's not really that far in the grand scheme of things.  It's a good deal further from Aberdeen than Dalkeith, for one thing.  But this was the longest journey we had ever undertaken with Alex, so we were somewhat worried about how it would go.

We timed our trip down so that large parts of the drive would be over standard Alex nap times.  It turned out that he decided not to nap in the morning, but that was ok, as he spent the first hour chatting to his book.  Then it was lunch time (pork terrine for mum, quiche for dad, spinach goo for Alex).  Then we were back in the car and off again.  Alex fell asleep pretty much instantly.  And stayed asleep.  The whole way there.  Joy!

Once we got to Wrelton, I discovered an ancillary benefit to having a baby.  You get the best room in the house.  (The other bedrooms were too small to have a cot in them and, strangely, Alan and Hazel didn't feel like sleeping with Alex.)

The other primary benefit is that you have a cast iron excuse for not going on long walks.  ("Gosh folks, I'd just love to spend three hours tramping over a moor, but I don't think the buggy will make it.  What a shame.  Pass the cake, would you?")  An option to avoid exercise, other people to entertain Alex, tasty food made by someone other than us, what more could you want?

Well, how about not being woken up at 5 o'clock every monring by a bright eyed and bushy tailed little boy?  It was no doubt due to the long car-based nap during the first day, but Alex's sleep was a little out of whack all holiday.  (The first day required a few minutes controlled crying to get him off to sleep.)  Each morning he'd wake up and demand fed and played with horribly early.  Then, just to rub salt in the wound, he'd fall asleep again at around six for an hour or so.  It was not an uncommon occurrence to find both Alex and me asleep on the kitchen floor first thing in the morning.  (Alex usually got the best spot, rolled up in a blanket.)  Ahh well, if I have learnt nothing else from parenthood, I have at least learnt how to sleep anywhere and at any time.

During our holiday we discovered that frozen peas in an empty milk carton make a great toy, that peacocks like organic apple flavoured rice cakes and that Unky Doug and Auntie Christina are so entertaining that merely being in the same room as them causes fits of giggles.  (It can be galling as a parent sometimes when you've spent the last hour busting a gut to raise a smile and someone else wanders by causing great amusement by simply existing.)  Alex also got to make friends with seven (count 'em, seven) different cats!  Much happiness.  And I caught a fish.  (From a very heavily stocked trout lake.)  Alex behaved well on the way back home too.  And we cured the five AM thing pretty sharpish once we got home too!  (Thank you, controlled crying.)

All I Want for Christmas...

All of Alex's little friends (those from our NCT ante-natal classes, who I now habitually refer to as "our NCT litter" after having seen a litter of kittens on holiday, and those from NCT Bumps and Babies) seem to have at least one tooth.  Often they have several.  Alex, by contrast doesn't.

Until Tuesday, that is!  The discovery was made by Nicola on the bus on the way into town to visit Grandpa JRB.  A glint of white, poking through his lower gum.  A definite ridge of toothy-ness sticking out of the soft, pink gum.  It explained why his eating my nose had hurt more than usual that day!

A tooth!  Hooray!  We were beginning to get worried.  (Or I was a t least.  I don't know about Nic.)  Now nose eating ("kisses") is off the menu.  (It really, really hurts with a tooth!)  It may also signal the beginning of the end for breast feeding too, if Alex starts biting down with his new found dentistry.  That will be a big step, and not one that anyone is really looking forwards too, I don't think.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Your Nose!

(A link to the song behind the title. And this is the album and book it's from.)

Alex was splashing around in the bath last night (his new favourite game is to try and burst all the bubbles from his bubble bath), grinning away from himself.  Then, just for a moment, he looked up at me.  His smile widened, his eyes crinkled and his nose wrinkled up in an expression of shared joy.  Then he went back to splashing around.  This happens every now and again.  Alex is having fun, and he wants to share it with you.  It's only for a moment, but that ephemeralness is what makes it such a beautiful moment.

If there is anything better in the world, I have yet to experience it.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

In Which the Author Witters at Length on a Variety of Subjects in Such a Fashion That it Cannot be Pithily Summerised in a Pop Culture Reference

OK, so apart from two silly posts about ducks and slang, it's been quiet around here of late.  There's a good reason for that.  It's called sleep deprivation.  (Having a child makes you understand how keeping someone awake can be a form of torture.  Child rearing should be governed by the Geneva Convention!)

You might remember me talking about this before.  Around Christmas time Alex's sleep patterns got very disturbed.  Nic and I tried a few things, some of which were more successful than others.  (Solids helped, the mobile helped, my getting up and trying to get him to sleep didn't help so much.)  Each thing that helped bought us a brief respite.  We'd go from three wake ups to two (or sometimes even one).  But Alex would gradually creep back into the habit of waking and demanding fed more and more often.  By two weeks ago he was waking five times a night.  (That's as much as when he was first born!)

Obviously this was incredibly tiring.  It was bad enough for me, (the loss of restfulness from just being awoken is remarkable), but was unbearable for Nic.  She was lucky to get six hours sleep in four broken blocks.  We were quickly approaching the living dead.  (Hell, the living dead were probably a lot more perky than us.)  Something had to be done, and it had to work.

The something we went for was controlled crying.  For those who don't know, this is leaving your child to cry at night, while checking in on them at regular intervals.  You don't pick them up.  You don't feed them.  You basically don't do anything that can be construed as rewarding crying.  You just sit there and listen to them suffer.  (I use "suffer" quite intentionally.  That's what it feels like you're doing.)

So on the 4th of April we moved Alex's cot out of our room and into the nursery.  In and of itself that was a big step.  We've always been able to hear him snuffling and huffing as he sleeps before.  Now all we would hear would be what the baby monitor transmitted to us.  (Any noise above a whisper, it transpires, including, but not limited to: dog's barking outside, Ringo meowing in the hall and whatever upstairs are watching on TV. ("Bring on the wall!"))  Still, it was going to be easier this way than trying to listen to him cry in our room.

I took the first shift.  We were following the Supernanny approach, which is: visit once when they cry, leave them for a minute.  Visit again, leave for two minutes.  Visit again, leave for five minutes.  Visit again, leave for ten minutes etc, until they stop crying of their own accord.  At ten PM Alex woke up.  I went and shushed him and then went back to the sitting room.  I was playing the Xbox in an effort to distract myself from the crying coming over the monitor.  (It worked pretty well.  The monitor distorts the sound sufficiently that it doesn't quite sound like Alex, avoiding the emotional gut punch you normally get with your baby crying.)  After about 45 minutes of crying, Alex went back to sleep.

The next wake up was at midnight.  This time it took him only 20 minutes to get back to sleep.  The 1:30AM wake up was only for five minutes.  The two Nicola dealt with in the remainder of the night were less than five minutes of crying.

The next night we put Alex down and crossed our fingers.  (Or rather Nicola did.  I was out at friends.)

He didn't wake up once.

In fact, so soundly asleep was he we had to go and check he wasn't dead!  (He wasn't, obviously.  But he had managed to turn 90 degrees in the cot and was now sleeping crushed up against the headboard totally uncovered.)  The next night, and the night after were the same.  Bliss!

We've now got to the stage where we expect a full night's sleep.  The last couple of nights he's woken up at 5:15AM or so.  This might be due to our timing of bed on Sunday (it was very early).  We're trying to break this habit before it gets started.  (He doesn't get picked up at 5:15AM, just like he didn't get picked up at 10PM.)

Nic and I are gradually catching up on lost sleep.  I wouldn't say we're quite there yet, but we're at least back in the land of the living.  Long may it continue!