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!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Ducks in a Row

Alex has been slowly collecting a veritable flotilla of rubber ducks for bath time fun.  They're a varied breed, the rubber duck.  So far we have (from big to small):

  • Big Duck
  • Mr Duck
  • O2 Duck
  • RNLI Duck
Big Duck

Largest of all the ducks, Big Duck was a present from Grannie and Grandad Sinclair.  Big Duck is a plain yellow duck, with a tuft of hair and a squeaker.  The squeaker is something of  a design flaw though, as he inevitably gets squeaked under water, resulting in him filling up with water.  As a consequence  Big Duck tends to float on his side.

Alex has recently got very into Big Duck, to the extent of ignoring whatever duck is in the bath and staring at Big Duck until he is brought into play.

Mr Duck

Original, and dare I say, best.  Mr Duck is the most simplistic of all the ducks, having no tuft of hair or other extraneous features. Mr Duck is the only duck not to be moulded in mid-quack.  Perhaps as a result he is the only duck without a squeaker.  This means he's also the only duck that doesn't have a hole in him and thus the only duck to float reliably upright.  If he has a weakness it is his tendency to grow mould on his arse.  (Mr Duck is the duck in the picture.)

O2 Duck

A gift from Grandpa Grant, O2 duck was not technically for sale from the O2 shop.   As a result he was not technically bought.  Thankfully Alex is below the age of legal responsibility and so is unlikely to be charged with handling stolen goods.  O2 duck has a touch of red blush to his colouring, a tuft of hair and a squeaker.  He floats on his side too.


Another gift from the Sinclairs, RNLI Duck is the smallest duck, but is also the most elaborate. As well as a squeaker, tuft of hair and red blush, RNLI Duck sports a life jacket.  (Despite the legendary floatation qualities of rubber ducks.)  Ironically, RNLI Duck tends to float face down in the drink.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Om-nom-nomenclature, pt. 2

Just a daft wee post while I attempt to muddle through a haze of sleep deprivation.  A few more parent-speak words and phrases for you.

Terrier-ing: (Verb) Lunging towards something, mouth wide open, shaking your head frantically.  Usually towards food, but parents' noses are an acceptable substitute.  Think of a small, yappy type dog worrying a bone to understand the allusion.
3 Nappier, A: (Noun) A massive poo of such volume that a mere single nappy is insufficient to contain it.
Dad Monster, The: (Noun) A creature of great menace and threat.  Known by its ferocious cry of "num-num-num-num" as it attacks.
Exposed Side: (Noun) What the Dad Monster (qv) cannot resist.  Usually exposed by rolling over, stretching and clearly thinking "gosh, I hope no-one tickles me while I'm lying like this..."
Gentle Strokes: (Erm... err... look, grammar isn't my strong point, ok?) Grabbing fistfuls of the Ringo's fluff and wrenching as hard as you can.
Stinking Medicine: (Noun) Movicol Paediatric Plain.
Jacket Time: (Noun) Nerrr-ner-ner-ner, nerr-nerr, can touch this!  (Alex gets to play with his plastic bib jacket after meals.)
Rockin' Out: (Verb) Laughing at your parents dancing around to whatever tune is on 6 Music in an effort to get you to eat your dinner.  (Guitar tracks particularly appreciated.  If nothing good is on, a hummed version of Smoke on the Water will suffice.)

Monday, 15 March 2010

Injury Time

OK, so I've been a touch lax in updating the blog recently.  It's not that nothing has been happening, just that I've not got around to documenting it.  So, with that in mind, here we go with a super-sized post!

Grande nappiccinos

When we last left our hero, he was struggling with some poo issues.  After a bout of constipation, Alex had moved (boom-boom) on to producing tiny, high density pellet poos.  (HDPPs.)  These were very small and had a curious texture, rather like wet peat.  They also stank.  Really, really badly.  They were clearly difficult to pass too, as poor Alex would go bright red and gurn while trying to fire them out.  We started feeding him lots (lots!) of fruit, especially prunes, and some laxatives from the GP.  Finally, something shifted.

And oh boy did it shift!  The first "normal" (non-HDPP) poo was epic.  It required not one, not two, but three (count 'em, three) nappies to contain!  Gushing would be a good word.  To say Alex was relieved is an understatement!  His tummy is now noticeably less taut.  Poos have returned to more normal volumes and regularity, although they still really pong.  I suspect this is a side effect of solids and will not change.

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick

Alex has also been experimenting with causing bodily harm to his parents of late.  (His Dad specifically.  I don't know if he likes Mum more, or if Nic's just faster than me.)  So far Alex has jabbed me in the eye with sufficient force to make opening said eye difficult for a good five minutes and rammed a finger so far up my nose that he caused it to bleed.  (My nose, obviously, not his finger.)  He's also cut his own ear with a pointy fingernail.  We try and keep his fingernails cut to reduce these incidents, but the only way you notice they've got sharp again is when someone looses an eye.

In charge, but not in control

Last Thursday Nic went in to the office for a couple of meetings while I stayed home with Alex.  I've said before that I don't know how Nic manages to cope so well at home most days, and last Thursday has left me no more informed on that score!  Alex and I coped, but I'm not sure how well we'd do in the long term.  (Apart from anything else, it's a weird mix of terror and boredom.  Like the Army, but with less bullets and more Bargain Hunt.)

During the day Alex and I went to both the baby drop-in clinic at the health centre (he now weighs 7.96kg, or 17 & 1/2 lbs) and Rhymetime at the local library.  I was the only dad at either one.  I guess this isn't surprising given how childcare and parental leave are divided up in the UK, but it's still a bit of a shame.  (It's also remarkable to hear some of the nursery rhymes sung at Rhymetime!  Talk about old-fashioned stereotypes!  The woman running Rhymetime at least had the decency to look slightly embarrassed about it, although only when it came to stereotypes about dads.  Ones about mums sailed right by without comment.)  We also had a nice time in the garden, where Alex attempted to denude the lawn of grass, one handful at a time.  (He wasn't interested in eating it though, thankfully.  Just pulling it up, looking at it, then discarding it.)

Night fever

The day after I was looking after Alex we had our first real health scare.  About lunchtime he went grey, spaced out, head flopping, and then spewed.  He was also boiling hot.  Nic phoned the health visitor, who said she'd get the emergency doctor to call back, then my dad, who said just to go straight to the GPs, as they'd want to see Alex anyway.  Once she was there they diagnosed him as having a viral infection.  (GP speak for "you're going to feel like crap for a couple of days, but you're basically fine and there's nothing we can do anyway".)  Alex seemed to be ok-ish once I got home, albeit somewhat subdued and clearly running a fever.  When we had our regular bath though, he did the grey faced spacing out thing again.  We dosed him with calpol and prepared for a disturbed night.

In fact he slept relatively well over night.  It was just that when he woke up it was a touch more... interesting than usual.  First time, Nic fed him then went to give him some more calpol, at which point he vomited, with extreme prejudice.  It went all over him, his sleeping bag and Nicola.  Especially over Nicola.  Her pyjamas, her hair and even down her pants.  I was handed Alex to change while Nic took a shower at 2am.  The next feed he managed to only puke on his sleeping bag and a bit of Nic's jumper.

The next morning he seemed a bit better, although still a bit off his food.  No more spew at least.  By lunch, the fever seemed to have broken.  JRB warned us that kids often appeared to get better from viral infections before having another fever (although this doesn't seemed to have happened to Alex), so we didn't count our chickens at that point.  By the evening he looked to be in that "I'm not really ill any more, but I'm too knackered to do anything" stage.  By Sunday, he was right as rain.  If anything, he was in a better mood than he'd been in for days.  He stayed bright and breezy all day.  He was fine this morning too, so I hope we've survived this bout of illness.  Let's hope so, anyway.  It was no fun at all.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Welcome to the World, Baby Brown

Congratulations to Esther and Al Brown, who had a baby boy, Hugh Alexander, last night.  7lbs 4oz, mother and baby both well.  A new friend for Alex!

Le Chat Noir

I wrote previously about Alex and Ringo's mutual ignorance pact.  Well, the pact has been well and truly broken.  Alex is now very, very, VERY interested in Ringo.

This interest seems to have been sparked by a trip to Fife, where he was allowed to stroke my mum's cats.  Since then Ringo, and cats in general, have become the greatest things in the known universe.  If there's a cat in the room Alex's eyes will be glued to it.  If the cat comes near him, oh!  The sheer joy!

It can be pretty funny to watch.  You can see the interest and excitement in Alex's face.  His thought process seems to go something like:  Cat!  Cat!  Cat!  Fabric!  Cat!  Cat!  Patterns!  Cat!  Cat!  Dad.  Meh.  Cat!

About the only thing better than looking at a cat is getting to touch a cat.  Ringo is particularly fuzzy, so is particularly interesting to touch.  His long, silky fur is also, rather unfortunately, particularly easy to grab in a chubby fist and rip from his body.  Unmoderated cat touching can result in a baby with hairy palms and a grumpy looking mog with bald spots.  The best solution is to hold Alex's hand whilst stroking the cat, allowing Alex to get a feel of his fur, but preventing him from getting a handful of it.  This leads to big grins of pleasure as he strokes the cat.

Ringo is amazingly tolerant of all this.  The poor beast has been demoted from his rightful spot as head of cute brigade, generally neglected in favour of a pink, gurgling thing and now he's getting tufts ripped out of his coat!  Despite this he's never even threatened to lift a paw to Alex.  In fact, he'll sometimes come over and speak to Alex of his own volition.  Thank goodness they get on.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Poo Update!

He's done one!  Woo hoo!

Apparently all he needed was to have his bowel problems discussed on the internet for all to see.

Maybe Tomorrow

(Hideously catchy explaination of the title.)

Alex is a little blocked up at the moment.  At both ends, unfortunately!  He's managed to combine a stinking cold with an epic bout of constipation.  How bad you ask?  (Well, you probably don't, but tough.  I'm going to tell you anyway.)

He's not had a poo for seven days.  Seven days!  How is there even any space left for food?  How come he hasn't exploded?  He's eating just as much as ever (although he is throwing more of it back up than usual).  Where is it going?  More to the point, what on earth is it going to be like once it finally comes out...?

There's a curious dichotomy to your child's poo.  On the one hand, a day without poo is something of a blessing.  On the other, it does mean that he's saving up a real cracker for tomorrow.  After seven poo-free ("Poo free!  As free as the wind blows!") days, what's the first bowel movement going to be like?  Evil, I'm betting.  Something of a relief for Alex too, I should imagine.

Surprisingly, he doesn't seem in the least upset about it.  I'm sure that if I'd gone seven days without taking a dump I'd be pretty hacked off with life.  Not Alex.  He's just as happy as ever to jump about, eat noses and fling soft toys about.  (Carrot-Rabbit and Mr Lion (pictured at his interview for the position of soft toy (0-6 months)) are the current top toys.)

We've had a quick look on the internet (mmm, trustworthy) and asked JRB (famously missed the fact that I had measles as a baby) and come up with no really good answers.  More fruit seems to help.  Sometimes.  If you can get them to eat the damn stuff.  Alex was due to have mushed pears for breakfast today.  Goodness knows if he ate any of it.  (He's a real junk food addict.  Boxed Heinz baby food or nothing!  (That's an exaggeration.  He likes his home-made cauliflower and potato mush as well.))

Fingers crossed.  Maybe tomorrow he'll want to settle down to a massive dump.  Even better, maybe he'll do it when I'm not there!

P.S.  Google ad on the dashboard of the blog as soon as I clicked "post"?  "Feeling bloated?  Try Activia!"

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Little Man

When I arrived home last night, Nicola and Alex were sitting in the kitchen, watching dinner cook.  Alex was in his high chair, Nic was on a dining room chair.  When I said hello, Alex turned around, gave me a big smile of greeting and then went back to watching the veggies roast.  That little moment was one of the times I've felt most connected to him since he was born.

It can be hard to see babies as people sometimes.  Alex is tremendously cute and I love him to bits, but the same can be said of Ringo.  For the first few months, babies really are like cats in clothes.  They know what they want and they can tell you if they're happy or upset, but beyond that it can be hard to see the person they're going to become.  As adults we don't stuff everything we see into our mouths, nor do we take great delight in holding our own feet.  Babies do.  They're learning about the world, one tiny step at a time.  It's obviously necessary, but it makes them seem like a member of a different species sometimes.

Alex's response when I got home was so obviously human, so easily intelligable, that it really brought it home to me that he is a person.  A little man with likes and dislikes.  Not just a cat in clothes.

P.S. Three updates in a week?  What's going on?  Could it be that I'm doing literature work at the moment and any excuse to avoid it for five minutes is most welcome?  Surely not.

EDITED TO ADD:  Hmm, re-reading this it sounds rather like I was suggesting I didn't feel connected to Alex before.  That's not what I meant, rather that this was a moment of particularly heightened connection.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Mobile Reception

Meet the newest recruit in our war on wakefulness.  I give you the Fisher-Price Precious Planet 2-in-1 Projection Mobile (tm)!  (No, that isn't Alex in the photo.  It's a promotional shot from the Fisher Price homepage. I was way too tired to bother taking a photo of a piece of plastic.)

Basically, it's a fancypants mobile.  Strap it to the cot, place baby underneath it and sleeping ensues.  At least in theory.  To aid sleep, it rotates under its own power (or at least under the power of four 'D' batteries, not included) while (and I quote) "animal friends from around the planet twirl and smile down at baby as music plays and a fascinating light show dances up above".

The "animal friends" are a curious assortment.  They are: Yellow Lion, Green Crocodile, White Polar Bear and Cyan Whale.  Yep, you read that right.  Cyan Whale.  I can only assume he's cyan so you don't mistake him for a 190 tonne Blue Whale.  They apparently represent different environments on Earth.  (Ocean, Savannah, Tropical and Arctic.  No love for the temperate regions it seems.)  The "fascinating light show" consists of slightly fuzzy pictures of the same four animals, plus a couple of friends.  (In wanton disregard to geographical accuracy the polar bear is snuggled up against a penguin.  The lion at least gets an appropriate giraffe and hippo combo.  (All baby toys must have a giraffe on them.  It's the law.))

The music comes in three varieties.  Classical, as rendered by one man and his electric keyboard.  (Assuming said man had lost nine of his fingers in an hideous Casio accident some years back but struggles on gamely with his one remaining finger.)  Nature sounds (a wee inducing collection of waves lapping the shore and gulls skwaking) and inter-uterine heartbeat and white noise.

The very best thing about it, though, is the remote control.  Clearly designed for parents who have not had much sleep, it has a single, massive button (marked with a red arrow, just in case you missed it) and little else.  If all you could manage was to mash the controller with your face you would still be able to operate it reliably.  Amusingly it is marketed as letting you "restart the mobile without disturbing baby".  Ha.  Restart the mobile without getting out of bed more like it.  If I need to turn the bloody thing on it's because baby has already disturbed himself!

Enough cynical whinging though, let's get down to the nitty gritty.  Does it work?

Yes.  Yes!  A thousand times yes!  God bless Fisher-Price!  All hail the mighty powers of Cyan Whale!  (All right, I might be over selling it a bit here.  It's not a magic bullet, but it really does help.  Alex particularly likes the nature sounds.  So far we've had two successful getting back to sleeps with the aid of the mobile, and it's very handy for getting him off to sleep in the first place.  Nicola's hairdryer may finally go back to only being for drying hair.)

So, fingers crossed, maybe we'll get a chance to catch up on some sleep soon.  Then perhaps I'll be able to work out how to operate that damn remote control...

(Photos in this post are from http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=10&e=product&pid=48400 and are used under fair use/fair dealing.  Please don't sue me!  We got our mobile from Amazon.co.uk and I'd heartily recommend any parent to get one!)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Food, Glorious Food...

...Lukewarm milk and baby rice!

Alex is on to solids.  Well, I say solids.  The weird goop that is Heinz First Foods Baby Rice isn't solid in any recognisable sense of the word.  It looks like wallpaper paste.  It smells significantly worse.  God alone knows what it tastes like!

We've started weaning a touch early (the advice is ideally to wait until 6 months) in a vain effort to get Alex to sleep better.  (Still waking up three or four times at the moment.  Urgh.)  The health visitor suggested it would be worth a shot.  If he wasn't ready, he wouldn't eat it.  If he was, it might help him settle over night.  Well, anything's worth a shot at the moment!

Having got used to breast feeding, solid food is a bit of a palaver.  First, boil the kettle half an hour in advance.  Mix tepid kettle water with formula powder.  (You can use expressed breast milk for this too, but that's even more of a pain.)  Create 40mls of foul smelling milk substitute.  Mix in somewhere in the region of 2tsps of Baby Rice.  (A very curious substance.  It's actually rice flour fortified with vitamins, not actual grains of rice.  It looks a bit like artificial sweetener to me.)  Add more rice if required to create a sludgy, slightly lumpy goo of a viscosity somewhere between natural yoghurt and unset cement.

Next, prepare Alex.  Dress child in all over plastic smock (oddly decorated with a picture of a toddler holding a monkey).  Add further cloth bib around neck.  (The rice would just slide down the plastic smock and end up on his trousers.)  Put child in high chair.  Stuff cushion down the back of the chair to prop child up.  (Alex is really a month to young for the chair.)

Feed child.  Because it's just that easy...

Actually, touch wood, so far it is pretty easy to get the food into him.  Alex was clearly ready for a bit of solid food and lunges at the spoon with glee.  Sadly, he doesn't lunge with a whole host of co-ordination, however, and it often results in the spoon ending up in his cheek/chin/nose rather than his mouth.  He's not quite grasped the whole swallowing thing fully either.  Specifically, he's a touch confused as to whether or not you can breathe out at the same time as having a mouthful of baby rice.  (Answer: yes, technically.  It does mean your parents get showered in rice goo though.)

Gods, solids already.  Doesn't time fly?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Happy Feet

You may have noticed a drop off in the blog rate over the last couple of weeks.  It's not that nothing has been happening, it's just that I've been way too tired to write anything.  Alex is still waking up over night.  A lot.  As much as he ever has, including when he was very little.  Every three or so hours he'll wake up, snuffle and thrash about, then cry.  Sometimes he goes back to sleep just being rocked.  Sometimes he doesn't.  My routine for getting him back to sleep goes like this:

  1. Wake up to thrashing.
  2. Hope he'll go back to sleep. (He never does.)
  3. Ignore first few nyaps hoping he'll go back to sleep. (He never does here, either.)
  4. Wonder if Nic will get up and deal with him.
  5. Admit that it's probably my turn.
  6. Get up.  Freeze.
  7. Shush Alex in his cot, not picking him up so as not to encourage this sort of behaviour.
  8. Pick him up.
  9. Rock back and forth until (if) arms go floppy.
  10. Lower to the inverted prawn position (tummy to tummy, Alex's back arched towards horizonal away from me).  Rock until (if) arms go floppy again.
  11. Put sleeping child in cot.
  12. Take wide awake child out of cot again.
  13. Repeat steps 9-11.
  14. Give up and wake Nicola to feed him.
Poor Nic gets awoken by his snuffles and cries even if I do manage to get him back to sleep (which is getting rarer and rarer).  If I don't, she's up for an hour or so, once the pre-feed, feed, settling time and getting back to sleep time are factored in.  It's not making for the most compos mentis parents at the moment.If anyone has any advice, we're at the stage of trying anything!

*               *                *

In other news, Alex has found his feet.  Strange to think that you have to learn to become aware of your own body.  He is very interested in them.  Any opportunity he gets he grabs them.  (This requires being on his back on a flat surface at the least.  Ideally, he likes to be naked, thus allowing full flexibility.)  He hasn't quite got them in his mouth yet (perhaps he takes after his paternal grandfather in terms of flexibility), but I suspect it's just a matter of time.  Last night they were even more interesting than the duck during bath time, and that's saying something!

Alex's bedtime is also getting earlier.  He's now noticeably snoozy and grumpy by 6:30pm.  This means bath time has been brought forwards to before Nic's and my dinnertime.  On the plus side, it means we get to eat a grown up, adult dinner at the same time as each other.  (Something of a novelty.)  On the down side, my god am I hungry by 7:30!  I've been spoilt by Nic having had my tea on the table when I got home.  Still, I'm sure we'll enjoy it, once we're not so tired we fall asleep in our lasagne.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Sleep Talking

12:40 AM. Alex snuffles himself awake. As per the system, I drag myself out of bed to try and get him back to sleep. Alex is not for playing ball. Eventually I pick him up to see if that helps. Apparently not. I give in (it's been 15 minutes now) and go to wake Nic so she can feed him.

"Sorry, love, but he's not going back to sleep."

"Okay. I'll just be... Zzzzzzzzzzzzz-snark-zzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Right, guess it's just you and me then, Alex.

P.S. He did actually drop off again pretty soon. He wanted to be rocked side to side with a bit of up and down in the mix. Demanding and specific. Just what you want in the middle of the night!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


One of the side effects of our great Christmas marathon is that Alex's previously brilliant sleep pattern (one awakening per night) has got all shot to hell.  First, it was sleeping in funny places.  Then it was the cold.  Then being back home.  Then being away again (Aberdeen, this last weekend).  He's now far more disturbed over night than he used to be.  It's pretty demoralising.

It's also hard to know how to deal with it.  The difference between "I've awoken and am a touch confused and grumpy, but will settle on my own/with a quick shhhh" and "I am hungry and wet" is impossible to spot at 2am.

While Alex was sleeping well, our overnight system was that Nic would feed and change him to let me get a reasonable night's sleep for work the next day.  Because we're creatures of habit, and also because I'm a lazy git, we didn't change this routine when Alex started waking more.  Suffice to say the toll taken on Nicola was pretty high.

We've not got a new system in place.  By default, before 3am if Alex wakes, I go and try to get him back to sleep with the head-pin shush.  This is usually, but not always, successful.  (The last two nights he's woken at 12am and refused to go back to sleep.)  The first awakening after 3am, Nic does the feed and change routine.  So far, it's been pretty successful.  I'm far better than Nic at getting back to sleep, so it doesn't matter too much if he wakes me up three times in an hour and half.  (Like last night.)  Plus, we each have a half of the night where we don't need to respond unless called in by the other.  (This happens more to Nic than me, it must be admitted.)

Hopefully Alex will, over time, get back to only waking up once, then maybe not at all, during the night.  Of course, that might be a while away yet!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Baby Talk

Babies have their own language.  I'm sure that if you could understand gurgles, it would unlock the secrets of the universe.  I can't though.  I can translate the language of parents though.

Stinker: (n) A poo.  Traditionally "laid", as in "Alex has laid a stinker."
Pung: (v) To pop off the nipple, often with enough force to wake yourself up.  Note that pung is past, present and future tense.  "If you keep wriggling like that, you'll pung."
Do The Prawn: (phrase) To curve one's body backwards into a ")" shape.  The allusion is to a live, swimming prawn, not a dead cooked one.
Shake The Room: (phrase) Being lifted by the armpits and swung about, so that you rotate around a fixed point, roughly where your heart is, legs swinging out to the sides.  Usually part of a larger dance routine, such as "Boom, boom, shake, shake the room."
Small Fry, Smallest of Fries, McSmall, Snugget, Chops, Choplet, Honeychops, Pumpkin, Parsleychops, Honeybuns, Smudge, His Smallness, Little Man, Big Heefter, Chumkins, Poplet, Popples, Mankins, Manchops, Mr Man, Mouse, Mr Mouse, Mouseman, Lovelykins, Noshlet, Nosher: (n) Alex.
Bottom Water: (n) The water used to clean off a stinker (q.v.).  Bottom water is a much prized delicacy of large black cats, and so must be defended vigorously. "Ringo!  Get your face out of the bottom water!  Filthy Animal!"
Nyapping: (v) The noise made just before getting fully angry about something.  "I think I just heard Alex nyapping."
Get Your Rage On: (phrase) A full blown, red faced, inconsolable howler.  The capitals must be pronouced, as in "Oh no, Alex has Got His Rage On."
Little Lip: (n) The stage between nyapping (q.v.) and Getting Your Rage On (q.v.).  The little lip is a sure sign of imminent rage.
Sleepy-time: (n) Optimistically, 8pm.  Realistically, 9:30pm.
Head Pin Shush: (v) Pressing your head against Alex's head, trapping him in place, whilst shushing.  "I've fed him four times already tonight, can you get off your lazy arse and head pin shush him, please?"
Hairdryering: (v) What you resort to after sleepy-time (q.v.) and the head pin shush (q.v.) have failed.
Om-nom-nom: (n) The noise made when eating Alex's hands.
Noshing: (v) Breastfeeding.
Fighting It: (v) Struggling against something you really want.  "Alex is fighting the snooze." "If you keep fighting it, you won't get any nosh."
Cheesers, Big Cheeses, Total Cheesers: (n) Grinning like a loon.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Pattern Recognition

Mr Toucan (a.k.a. Timmy, a.k.a. Monsieur le Toucan, a.k.a. Signor el Toucan when we want to work on Alex's Spanish) is no doubt the product of thousands of pounds worth of design.  He has baby friendly chewable bits.  You can grab his tail.  He makes an interesting noise.

He is also significantly less interesting than a cushion.

It goes like this:

"A toucan eh?  And one that's making an interesting noise?  Hmm, better check this out.  Wonder what he tastes like? let's just...  Whoa!  A cushion.  Sorry, toucan, but I've got some serious staring to do here!  Man, look at that stitching!"

Obviously it's not the stitching that Alex is really interested in.  Nor is it the cushion's inherent cushiony-ness.  It's the stripes.

Alex is a sucker for contrasting patterns.  (All babies are, apparently.)  He'll regularly become fascinated with the most random things, just because they've got patterns on them.  Nic's shirts are a common source of entertainment.  The aforementioned cushion gets a lot of interest as well.  His stripy mittens are endlessly amusing, especially as they move around in response to his will.

The baby merchandising world has worked this out as well, and Alex currently has three books consisting of nothing but contrasting patterns.  (Stars and Hearts, Spots and Dots and Snowflakes.)  They're from the local library, which turns out to have a chewable books section specifically for babies.  Alex loves them, although he finds it frustrating that he can't grab hold of the patterns.  (He doesn't seem to have grasped the concept of 2D yet.)  From a parental perspective though, they're marginally less stimulating than watching paint dry.  At least with the paint there's always the chance of a drip.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Whine

Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!  It's been a long, busy couple of weeks, so it's something of a bumper post today.  (And if you're wondering, we shortened the crown with sticky tape.)


Do you remember Christmas as a kid?  Wild with excitement and happiness, rushing downstairs to marvel at the visitation of Santa?  Never quite the same as an adult, is it?  I gather that once your own kids are old enough to enjoy it, Christmas becomes magical again.  Four months isn't old enough for that though.  For Alex, Christmas was just prolonged road trip with more people than normal.

Travelling with a baby is at once both wonderful and highly stressful.  It's great getting out and about and seeing friends and relatives.  It's also nice having other people cook for you, or be available to take Alex for a few minutes so you can have a cheeky nap.  But it's also a touch disturbing.  You're living out of suitcases a lot of the time and packing the car requires a degree in non-Euclidean geometry, especially at Christmas when presents are in evidence.  Plus Alex ends up pretty much always on show.  This isn't really a problem, but it gets tiring.  Sometimes you all just need to sit down quietly as a family and do nothing.  That's hard to do while visiting relatives.  Eventually, someone throws a wobbly.

This time around, it was Alex who Got His Rage On(tm).  He saved it until we were up with my Dad at Mar Lodge on the 30th.  We left him with his Grandads/Great Uncles/2nd Cousins while we aimed for a nap.  Ten minutes later, he was howling, totally inconsolable.  When Alex Gets His Rage On(tm), there are a few obvious things to check.  Hungry?  Wet nappy?  Too hot?  Too cold?  Tired?  Bored?  This was none of the above.  As far as we can tell, he had simply had enough of all these other people.  He just wanted a quiet time with his parents.  In the end, the only thing that calmed him down was skin to skin contact with Nic.  (Strip baby, strip mum, clamp baby to breast, for those yet to experience the joys of the NCT.)  We spent a couple of hours quiet time with him after that.  Gave him a bath, cuddles etc.  Hardly the restful afternoon Nic and I had planned, but at least he calmed down.

My Baby and Other Animals

It's always interesting watching other people with Alex and the large numbers of relatives visited throughout the festive period provided some fascinating opportunities.  It's particularly noticeable that some people are just good with babies, plain and simple.  For some it's probably experience (my Uncle Tim, father of five).  For others, it just seems to come naturally, lucky buggers.  (My cousin Matthew, youngest of Tim's five and utterly inexperienced in matters baby, is more confident than some new fathers I've met.  He's good with four year olds too.)

I also realised just how much Nic and I have improved in our confidence in dealing with Alex.  He's that bit bigger and stronger, which actually makes life easier as he's more able to support his own limbs and head.  But we're also much more confident it carting him about, propping him up, chucking him about and so on.  Two months ago, I doubt we'd have considered taking him into the bath with us.  Now, it's a special treat for everyone.  Alex loves splashing about in the grown up bath, and watching him lark about is a joy, pure and simple.

We're also a much better team than we once were.  Much of tasks of dealing with Alex don't need to be articulated any more.  If we're doing a joint changing session, we know which of us is on what duty.  Bath times are a well oiled machine.  We can get him fully dressed in seconds flat, without getting in each other's way.  You don't realise how competent you've become until you try and do it with someone else as your wingman.  Suddenly socks aren't being put on at the right time, or they've not got the nappy ready.  It's nice that they help, but you can't avoid thinking that it might have been quicker if they'd just left you alone.

Suck It

One week is a long time in politics.  Two weeks is an age in infant development.  When we left, Alex was just about showing some interest his toy bar on his bouncy seat.  Over the next two weeks, he started sucking his thumb, rolling over (front to back only so far), has worked out how to make his toy bar play tunes and developed an affection for a specific toy (Monsieur Le Toucan, a.k.a. Timmy).  It's slightly strange to watch.  I kind of feel it should take longer somehow.  It was only four months ago that he was just about able to cry, sleep and excrete.  How can he have a favourite toy already?

He's also had his first illness.  A foul cold, initially contracted by Nic, then me and Alex.  (Poor Nic was ill for the last three days of holiday and recovered, sort of, just in time to have to look after me and Alex!)  He was pretty good with it, to be honest.  (Better than me, anyway.)  It's still hard though.  There's just a tiny loss of innocence that seems to be associated with it.  I swear he would look at me, snuffling, with an expression on his face that said "why aren't you fixing this?"  (In reality, I'm sure it was probably "hmm, I might have a poo later", but that doesn't stop me from thinking it.)  In the grand scheme of things, however, a cold isn't bad.  Heck, he's recovered from it far quicker than me, and is happily gurgling away again.

Happy 2010.