Friday, January 30, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

There's lots going on over the next two weeks, so I thought I would blog in advance of all the activities. Today, I am hosting a coffee morning and lunch for two of my antenatal class mummies and their babies and then my mother-in-law is driving down for the week from her home in Shropshire. Tomorrow, my mother-in-law will look after Little Planet as M and I go into town alone to check out some exhibitions, have a lovely Indian meal and then head over to the Barbican in the evening for a performance of Shun-kin. On Sunday, I'll go with my mother-in-law to see Revolutionary Road while M stays at home to look after the baby and no doubt cook something delicious for our dinner. On Monday, I host another mummy and baby coffee morning. Tuesday morning will be spent interviewing childminders. M has Wednesday onwards off work so we will interview more childcare providers and then take Little Planet into town to meet my work colleagues. On Thursday, my mother-in-law will look after the baby again so M and I can spend the day in town alone - I'm keen on seeing Gus Van Sant's Milk.

On Friday through Monday, I will be spending time with my parents in Norfolk while M looks after Little Planet. He's been working very long hours in recent weeks - often not returning home until after midnight - so he is relishing this opportunity to spend alone time with her. In turn, I am looking forward to lie ins and not being bound by the clock all the time (Little Planet's feeds, naps and bedtime).

On Monday, I bring my mum down to London where she will stay with us for a week. Tuesday is M's last day of holiday, so I will take my mum to see Slumdog Millionaire (which I have seen, but she hasn't) and the four of us will also go out together - perhaps for a walk in Hyde Park or Regent's Park. Then, as M returns to work, my mum and I will spend quality time with the baby for the rest of the week.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Typical day # 5

At 7 months old, it's time for another Typical Day post - this time from our weekend. Other Typical Day posts are here: Under one month; under one month again; nearly one month; and five months.

On Saturday, in her nursery Little Planet woke up, as usual around 6.45am, but as she seemed contented to babble to herself in her cot, we left her for a while as we both slowly roused ourselves. Our days of lie ins together ended with her birth. Roll on her teenage years when all she'll want to do is sleep!

M brought her into our room for her first milk feed of the day at 7.30am. He's been away for most of the week so he relishes these precious weekend moments with her. I, in turn, relish the "time off". Little Planet is not an eager eater - of milk or solids - so we have to make every effort to stay calm as she periodically bats away the bottle. Often we end up having to distract her with a toy or with a nursery rhyme (There was an old lady who swallowed a fly... is most effective). While M fed her, I showered. I then got dressed and looked after Little Planet as she played in our room after her feed and it was M's turn in the shower. Little Planet had managed a good 200ml of formula this Saturday morning.

By 8am, we had Little Planet strapped into her buggy and we went out to the local shops to buy the weekend FT, drop off dry cleaning and buy meat from the butcher. She loves looking at the traffic and the people passing by and the buildings. Back at home, M and I ate a breakfast of fried eggs on toast with Tabasco sauce. Little Planet sat in her high chair at the table with us and watched us, babbled with us and played with her toys. She's now at the stage where she enjoys throwing her toys on the floor a lot! Most of the time, she gnaws away at her fists, fingers and arms as she is teething. M and I chatted with her and read the papers as we ate. We planned the day ahead.

Little Planet began rubbing her eyes around 9. I popped her into her grobag upstairs and then into her cot for her first nap of the day at 9.15am. I switched on the white noise soundtrack, which we only use for her daytime sleep as she is more easily roused from sleep during the day - by our footsteps on our creaky wooden floors, by a car horn on the road, by birds singing in the trees at the end of our garden, by a neighbouring dog barking, by a police siren in the distance, by builders working down the road... I read somewhere that our brains deal with daytime and nighttime sleep in different areas which is why good night sleepers can be poor day sleepers and vice versa. Little Planet sleeps more deeply in the night and as such we only use music or white noise if she is particularly unsettled - we used it the other night, for example, when she couldn't sleep properly during a howling nighttime gale. She used to do all her daytime napping in a Graco swing as she would struggle to settle during the day otherwise. But when she turned 6 months we put her into her cot for all her naps, which, thankfully, she transitioned to quickly. As she gets older, she falls asleep more easily. For those with young babies, take heart in knowing that usually it does get better.

M and I continued with our breakfast. I put a load of laundry on and washed up.

Little Planet was awake by 10am so M brought her back down and fed her her first meal of solids for the day. It can take half an hour just to feed her 3 or 4 tablespoons of puree. I am not a patient or cool-headed person and it takes all my energy to feed her without losing it. I fix a smile upon my face and try and distract her with songs and smiles and toys and music on the radio (she likes the moving display text on our DAB Pure). If I didn't distract her, she would not open her mouth at all. She's been like this since we weaned her onto solids at 5 months. She's a small little girl and is simply not bothered with eating. She cries when she's tired but she rarely cries to eat. What she opens her mouth eagerly for are water and strawberry and apple puree! This morning she ate 4 tablespoons of apple and blueberry mash. But it was a battle. What can I do? I don't want to force her to eat but if I left it to her she would eat nothing, and at 7 months I don't think I could let it be like this. I hope distracting her isn't the same as forcing her...

Then it was playtime. In the living room, she scooted around in circles on her tummy across the rug chasing her toys. She loves lifting each toy above her head then throwing it behind her and either scooting round to retrieve it or ignoring it and moving onto another toy. She went mad with excitement jumping up and down in her Jumperoo bouncer. She swayed her head and rocked her body from side to side on the floor to music and she babbled away non-stop to herself and to her toys. She can now sit up unaided for minutes at a time. But still, her favourite position is on her tummy.

She drank 140ml of formula at 11am then, as it was the weekend, we took her out in her buggy into central London. We got off the Tube at Oxford Circus and went shopping: Kiehl's products in Liberty, soap from Muji, food from Arigato, wine from Oddbins and coffee from the Algerian Coffee Shop. Little Planet always naps around 12pm - anything from half an hour to an hour, in the buggy whilst out and about or in her cot at home (more like an hour or so if she's in her cot). Today, I put the hood of her buggy down and she fell asleep as we walked around town.

M had to pick up some work from his office so we headed over there and, at 1pm, I fed a newly woken up Little Planet some broccoli, pea and pear puree. This is the meal she usually has protein at - vegetables with pureed beef, or chicken or cheddar cheese. But today I didn't have any to pack. She ate 3 tablespoons of food as we waited for M and she ate well as she was distracted watching people come in and out. She can't stay cooped up in her buggy for long so I took her out of it and popped her onto the carpeted floor with some toys I always carry around so she could stretch and roll around. M and I both have offices in central London that serve as useful pit-stops now we have a baby.

We grabbed lunch around 2pm at Apostrophe near St Paul's Cathedral and, once again, Little Planet enjoyed watching us eat and watching all the people. She also enjoyed looking at her reflection in the mirror behind her. She swung her head from side to side at this "other little person"! M held her in his lap as he ate his toasted chorizo panini and chocolate orange muffin one-handed - another skill all parents quickly master.

If this were a weekday and Little Planet and I had been at home, I would have taken her out in her buggy to a local park and the local shops at 11.45am and she would have napped out and about from 30 minutes to an hour. I go out with her even if it is raining. We both need the fresh air and I would get cabin fever if I didn't leave the house once a day. I'm not mad, though. If it is raining hard then we will stay home and she will nap in her cot at midday (and usually nap better).

During the week, I may have guests or meet up with other mums and their babies in the mornings and/or for lunch. But more often than not, it's just the baby and I on our own. I generally return home by 1pm and feed her her solids and then she plays in the living room until her 3pm feed. I play with her and also let her play alone while I read the papers and do chores and watch BBC News 24 on TV. I prepare and eat my own lunch. During this time I will also prepare the night's dinner (if I am cooking; though M returns late he still likes to cook). Little Planet enjoys watching me chop vegetables. She is still very good at playing on her own. If she is going through a separation anxiety phase, though, then I try and do things where she can still see or hear me. Lots of cuddles seem to give her more confidence to be on her own, though at the moment she is still not the "cuddling" type - she is always eager to twist and turn out of my arms and onto the floor.

Now that, at 7 months, she is on solids, we can go out for longer periods of time, as we can feed her outside. But we still struggle to feed her milk in public as she gets too distracted to drink. In a few months she'll have dropped most of her bottles so we will be able to go out for fuller, longer days. She also naps after her afternoon milk feed and as she's napped already once in the day in her buggy I prefer this nap to be in her cot. So this Saturday, we jumped into a cab home and fed her 195ml of milk at 3pm. As usual by this time of the day, she was so tired that she fell asleep at the end of her feed and I popped her into her grobag and into her cot to sleep for just over an hour.

M was working in the study and I folded laundry, washed up, read, chatted on the phone and surfed the net. Sometimes I will also nap when she naps, but as she generally sleeps well at night I tend not to be too tired during the day. If she wakes (and all babies and adults wake in the night whether they remember it or not), she generally self-settles quickly.

Now that we have stopped waking her for an 11pm milk feed, she is sleeping much more deeply at night and so she needs less sleep during the day. As little as a month and half ago, she was sleeping up to 2 hours in the afternoon. Now it's more likely to be an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes. For this reason, in the new year I pushed her 2pm milk feed to 3pm so she would last longer between the end of her afternoon nap (around 4.30pm or 4.45pm) and her 7pm bedtime.

My life with Little Planet is governed by routine! I found having a newborn such a chaotic shock to my system that I had to impose a routine from day one simply for the sake of my sanity. I needed to know what was coming next. Certainly though, motherhood has made me much more used to unpredictability than I've ever been used to before (and I have had an unpredictable life).

M was still on a conference call with a colleague in the States so when Little Planet woke up around 4.30pm she and I played in the bedroom. At 5pm, I fed her pureed vegetables and a sugar-free fruit fromage frais for dessert. She eats more if we offer her two courses. Then she played in the living room and we read together. Sometimes she watches an edition of In The Night Garden that I have recorded. She gets very excited when Igglepiggle comes onto the screen and she sways back and forth to the music. She also gets very excited when the BBC News music comes on when I watch it at lunchtime. But at 7 months, her attention span is short, and she soon refocuses on her toys. I don't have a problem with Little Planet watching TV. She won't get the opportunity to get addicted to it in our busy household. My own parents never needed to ration my TV hours when I was young because we were always so busy playing or going out or having visitors over.

By 6pm, M had finished his call and he came down to play with Little Planet. This is also bath time. During the week he is never home before 8.30 or 9pm, so during the weekends he loves giving Little Planet her final milk feed of the day - today 230ml of formula - and putting her to bed by 7pm. We don't have a bedtime routine as such but I try and keep things low-key and quieter from 6.30pm onwards. If we have guests then I will take her upstairs away from the hubbub. I often play lullabies in the background as we wind down towards her last milk feed and 7pm bedtime.

And that's Little Planet's day over. The rest of the night is for M and I alone.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The weekend list

Beginning to research our childcare options / Terribly excited at the thought of returning to work, even though I still have 4 more months of maternity leave left / Terribly sad at the thought of leaving Little Planet every day, even though she will undoubtedly thrive in the company of other adults and children (as I did when my own mother returned to fulltime work as a paediatrician when I was 8 months old) / Giving Little Planet her first taste of egg - scrambled - which she didn't screw her adorable little face up at (at 7 months, she's been on solids for 2 months now and still can't be bothered with food - she's not an eager eater and still has no more than 3 or 4 tablespoons of solids per meal; despite this she is eating meat, rusks and lumpy food; the two things she gets excited about and eagerly opens her mouth for are strawberry and apple puree, and water!).

Going into town on my own and browsing the sales along Bond Street but buying nothing / Spending too much money instead in the lingerie departments of Marks & Spencer and John Lewis / Devouring one of my all time favourite comfort food dishes - dolsot bibimbap - at Biwon near the British Museum / Stocking up on green and Indian teas at Postcard Teas on Dering Street and chatting with the owner - Timothy D'Offay - about our babies / Having a lovely pedicure at the Aveda Institute on High Holborn / Returning home to eat M's deliciously cooked pot au poulet / Ending Saturday night with a few episodes of gritty police drama The Wire on DVD / Early to bed / Suffering a sleepless night as torrential, lashing rain and gusty winds shook the house and scared Little Planet in particular.

Waking up to a calmer, brighter and sun-filled Sunday morning / Giving Little Planet her first taste of yoghurt (mixed with strawberry and apple puree and some organic, sugar-free rusk) / Savouring several hours of pottering around at home, completely alone, while M took Little Planet out to visit her aunt - usually I leave the house and head into town to get some "me time" (as on Saturday), so it's nice being able to veg out at home on my own / Cheese on toast for lunch and M made tonkatsu for dinner / Another early night and this time a settled one for all of us and there were no gales.

Another week begins and I am sad because M will be away in the States again :-(

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back to earth

What a whirlwind the holiday season was. We had so many guests, the house was packed, and there was endless activity. I was really looking forward to the New Year when M, Little Planet and I could spend quiet time together and yet after everyone left I slumped completely. I got a cold and then felt very lonely and a little depressed - the house was suddenly too quiet.

The holiday season was wonderful. We ate roast goose for Christmas lunch and baked ham for Boxing Day lunch. M bought me a sumptuous black wool coat from Pringle and chocolate brown leather gloves from Brooks Brothers for my Christmas gift. Our Christmas tree was laden with gifts from and for all our guests (as you can see from one of the photos below). Little Planet had a fabulous time being showered with cuddles and kisses.

Everyone had left by the New Year. That night, M and I woke up Little Planet as 2008 turned into 2009, and the three of us watched the neighbour's fireworks from our bedroom window. So far this year, we have taken Little Planet for buggy strolls around Regent's and Hyde Parks, taken her sales shopping in Marylebone, and popped into the Serpentine gallery with her to view the Indian Highway exhibition. I went into town again this weekend gone, alone, and watched the movie Slumdog Millionaire, which I really enjoyed.

2009 signals a return to work for me, around April or May. I've been chatting with colleagues and I am really looking forward to returning. We are fortunate in that I don't need to return to work for financial reasons. I simply miss the excitement and the gossip and the adult company. I really enjoy my job and am thinking of returning fulltime. So I have begun the new year investigating childcare options.

This will be a busy, busy year for me. For the three of us, in fact.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

7 months old

Our little girl is 7 months old today. To celebrate, she had her first ever haircut.

It's been chaos central here at chez Planethalder - some of the chaos has been wonderful (lots of guests) and some of the chaos has been awful (we had no heat or hot water for a few days and a house full of plumbers). Peace is hopefully resuming and I will do a proper post soon.

Happy New Year, all!