Saturday, 29 November 2008

The sleep fairy has been!

Last night T got into bed whilst Daddy read him a story. Daddy said night night, turned off the light and left the room to do some jobs (well trained that man!) After two minutes he noticed T had gone a bit quiet. Not wanting to disturb him, he waited 5 minutes until he felt brave enough to peep round the door, where he found him asleep (self-settled!) and snoring his cute baby snore.

We sneaked into bed, doing the whole 'don't wake the boy' routine and fell asleep, expecting the tinny baby-monitor cry to come at any moment. It didn't. I woke at 5, 6 and then 7 for the day. There were two grown-ups in the bed and the nursery was silent. At 8 am T woke, happy from 12 hours (count em!) of undisturbed sleep!

I cried (which is where we're going today, more later) and I hope this is just the start!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Adventures in Sherwood Forest

We are just back from four days at Center Parcs in Nottingham to celebrate my FIL's 60th birthday. Spending such a time in close confines with my entire extended family (MIL, FIL, BIL, SIL, their two children, H, T and I) probably wouldn't be relaxing at any time, but this weekend we were treated to a number of adventures, just to keep us on our toes. They follow, in broadly chronological order!

1) Whilst toddling across the baby pool (Grandpa and Grandma were overjoyed to see T walk to them, we'd not told them he'd got the hang of it, so it was a real surprise when he tottered over to them!) T fell and scraped his chin against the concrete pool side. Thankfully, although scabby and unsightly, this doesn't cause any lasting damage.

2) We put T to bed in the CP cot, next to the double bed in the upstairs room. The cot has a drop side, which I leave down better to shush pat him when he wakes in the night. The bedguard is in place on the opposite side for when he (undoubtedly) needs to come in with us in the early hours. At around 2 am I am awoken with a crash and a scream. No sign of T, who has disappeared from the cot. Yes, our son had decided to try and climb out of his cot, onto the bed so he can snuggle in with us. He's done this silently and in near total darkness (blackout curtains plus villa in the middle of the forest) and when he misjudged the distance, has slipped inbetween the cot and the bed and fallen to the floor, where he is trapped. I figure this out in a confused sleep fug, rescue him, curse the cot (and myself for leaving the side dropped) and he sleeps with us for the rest of the long weekend.

3) T, who normally enjoys swimming, especially with Grandpa, has a meltdown in the pool, which continues once dressed and back at the villa. He eventually goes to sleep but is breathing v rapidly and bright red. When we take his temperature it is more than 39 degrees, 30 minutes after a dose of Calpol. Cue a mad dash to a Nottingham hospital, baby in only his nappy, draped in damp flannels, to be checked out. Thankfully it's only a chest and ear infection, but we have managed to both miss Grandpa's special birthday meal, and of course spoil it for everyone else as they're worried sick!

Phew. I was almost glad to be home this evening, even with a black bin bag stuffed full of dirty washing (yes, after 4 days, where does it all come from??!) and a car full of random baby paraphanalia to unpack.

In the interests of fairness though there were also some great moments.

1) Seeing T play with his cousins, who adore him, especially now he's 'interactive' (they were less enamoured with their prostrate youngest relative last Christmas)

2) Long walks in the woods, and watching Grandpa on the climbing frame. What's the 60th birthday equivalent of a mid-life crisis? A two-thirds life crisis?

3) Truly being able to relax and be myself, and realising that, for all the complaining I do, there's nothing better than family.

But of course I can't end on such tweedom can I?? Following on from the advocado fiasco, I have also, in the course of our long weekend, managed to compile a new list of words which my MIL mispronounces. I've never been able to figure out those funny shapes in the Oxford English Dictionary, so this is my own version.

1) Humous - Hoo-muss
2) Tortilla - Tort-ill-a
3) Fajita - Fadge-it-a


Wednesday, 19 November 2008


I know I know I don't usually do two posts in one day, but this deserves it!

My husband dropped T off at nursery this morning in a reversal of our usual roles. I picked him up, received the obligatory report on how much lunch he'd eaten (lots, it was his favourite today, Baked Bean Pie) and how many nappies they'd changed, and brought him home for tea. After he tried force feeding Mummy Shepherd's Pie which had been on the floor (yum!) I put T in the lounge with Iggle Piggle for company whilst I cleaned under the high chair and, wouldn't you know, he walked across the room. Not just one step, not just two, a whole succession of steps, giggling like a loon as he went! My baby, who went to nursery this morning crawling and cruising, as he has done for almost 7 months (!!) got up and went, just like that. It was as if someone had flicked a switch.

Of course I called my husband straight away, who didn't answer. I called my Mum, who rather rained on my parade by mentioning that the eponymous Kevin in Lionel Shriver's 'We Need to Talk ...' had learnt to walk in secret (way to panic me!) but was really pleased. I finally got hold of my husband who was shocked, his voice tinged with just the smallest regret that on a regular day he'd have been the one standing agape, filthy cloth in one hand, as our pride and joy took his first little big steps in the world. Sometimes being a working parent sucks.

A pondering on skill versus enthusiasm

... or maybe that should be the other way round?

I am a creative person. No, really. I know a lot of people claim to be creative. It's become a sort of alternative version of 'I'm mad me' - words only ever spoken by people who are boring and derivative - and bandied around by keen types who buy those self-assembly greetings card kits which could be put together by a well trained monkey.

Sorry, I digress. I truly believe I am creative. I make numerous pieces of work a day, selecting the right materials and the order in which to apply them. I craft diligently, looking closely at my projects and making small but precise adjustments. Then, in an instant, they're gone. I craft in words and sounds, painting pictures in the air, the life of a radio producer.

I realise I am inordinately lucky to have the job I do. Every month, a gaggle of media studies graduates come through the doors for work experience, leaving thank you chocolates behind with copies of their CVs, but the industry is shedding jobs, streamlining, becoming more efficient. Every time office politics make me want to nip into a soundproofed studios and have a loud scream, I remind myself I could be doing something even more frustrating in the blink of an eye.

This gratitute, as I suppose it is, doesn't stop me craving the opportunity to make something 'real' though. Something you can hold in your hand, turn over, lift up to the light and admire. This desire hit me like a brick whilst I was pregnant. Not content with growing a ball of cells into a full-blown baby boy, I wanted to make things, use my hands, express some of this amazing growing love for him in honest to goodness solid form.

This is where the skill versus enthusiasm bit comes in though. I am almost entirely without skill, and have almost boundless enthusiasm.

I started with a desire to knit. I borrowed a book from the library but couldn't make sense of it, so I bought a kit. Galt First Knitting. Target age, 7-10. I sort of understood and managed a few squares with holes in.

I thought I would make a patchwork quilt. I bought lots of lovely bright material, fantastic colours and patterns. Most of them were cut into for the first time to make bunting for T's birthday. A row of flags hung with bias binding declaring 'T is 1'. I'm almost too ashamed to admit that I ran out of time though and glued on the letters with fabric adhesive and bond-a-webbed the row together.

The flags looked good though, so who cares? My husband bemoans (at least once a week!) the fact the sewing machine he bought me last Christmas (when, I remind him, T was only just 12 weeks old) has only been out of the box once, but I think for me the planning is almost as good as the achievement. I get so excited by assembling all of the kit, cutting out and pinning on pieces and planning colours and shapes, that finishing anything would probably be a bit of a letdown. In fact one of the only major projects I've completed in recent months, 150 wedding invitations for a friend, lined with vellum and bedecked with ribbon, bored me to tears long before I was half way through.

I do keep trying though, thinking that perhaps as yet I haven't found my niche and that one day I'll start creating and just not stop. This week's project is a Christmas T-shirt for T. I have cut out the snowman, appliqued on his nose and selected the felt for his hat. And yes, I knitted his scarf. Maybe then it wouldn't be too bad if, instead of giving my sewing machine its second outing, I used bond-a-web to iron the motif to the selected top?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The results!

Well, we've had two nights of OBBB (Operation Big Boy Bed) and although he's still not sleeping through the night (of course!) things have been much better. In fact, whisper it, I don't want to tempt fate, I might go as far as to say that T likes (likes, not loves) his bed.

For two nights in a row he's gone down at 8 pm ish (last night there was a bit of arguing first, but we took it in turns to sing to/comfort/pat/shush him) and has only woken ONCE before morning. On Sunday night he actually slept in his cot, on his own, until 2 am. 2 am! We crept up the stairs at bedtime, leaving clothes by the side of the laundry basket to prevent the clunk of the lid from waking him, and gleefully dived (quietly!) into bed to luxuriate in the extra room. My husband and I lay like stars (in a star shape I mean, rather than like a celebrity, say Madonna, I have no idea how she lies in bed, in some yoga position probably) with our fingertips and toes touching and no-one stuck their fingers up our noses, pulled our hair or stole the covers.

Yes, I admit I did miss that little warm head snuggling under my arm when I woke confusedly in the night, but T really does seem to be in a better mood because of the extra sleep. Yesterday he survived on one 20 minute daytime nap (in the bed).

Actually, sugar, I don't want to lose my small periods of daytime respite, must keep an eye on this!

I on the other hand, following the 'sleep breeds sleep' hypothesis, and despite the fact I've had the least disturbed nights for a long time, feel more knackered than ever.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Operation Big Boy Bed (the prelude)

In all our sleep woes over the last year and a bit, one thing is for certain. T Does Not Like his cot. He slept on my chest when he was tiny, graduating to the carrycot from the pram beside my bed, my hand draped over the side next to him as if languishing in the water on a summer boat ride. When he outgrew the carrycot he moved to a rocking crib, an ebay bargain, at the end of our bed. He would raise his head, pulling up his neck just far enough to see over the duvet mountain that Mummy and Daddy are still there, then go to sleep.

He spent time in his cot, in his own room, from being tiny though. From about three months I could be guaranteed a shower if I laid him on his back with leg kicking room and put on the classical Tiny Love mobile. He would watch the spinning cow, horse and goat with their clacking beads and airily wave his hands towards them for the 15 minutes of music, a perfect period of respite for a still very new Mum.

I wanted to move T to his own room only when he was sleeping through the night. Still exclusively breastfed, we thought weaning would help, but he ate little to start and barely any more by 7 months when, upon noticing he could pull himself up to standing, despite the fact he was still waking twice a night, the crib had to go. So into the cot he went, and it wasn't exactly a smooth transition. Despite me feeding him to sleep more often than not, and standing by his side, arm stretched uncomfortably over the bars, rubbing his back, he never liked sleeping in there, and would stand the instant he woke, bouncing up and down and screaming for Mummy and Daddy to rescue him. All manner of nightlights, leaving the door open, and nursery rhyme CDs didn't help, and he began to whimper the minute I put him in the cot with a book during the day to, for example, nip to the loo or run up to the attic with a load of washing.

By the time I returned to work he was waking up to four times a night again and taking more than an hour to settle each time. I sat on the nursing chair in his room, T pinned to my chest, waiting for him to reach that floppy-limbed sleep stage which meant he wouldn't wake up on transfer from Mummy to mattress. One night I fell asleep where I sat, catching myself mid commando-roll to the floor, and, certain this couldn't continue, we bought a bedguard and began to co-sleep.

I've written quite a bit about co-sleeping. I do love it, honestly. What's not to love about your first born snuggling into you night after night so you can sniff his soft velvety head and watch the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes and sighs with dreams? But I'd be lying if I said there weren't times I'd just love a bit of time on my own with my husband. We were all in the vicious cycle of waking each other too. Me with a hacking cough which has taken weeks to clear, my husband with his 4 am alarm call to the early shift and middle of the night work calls that needed his verdict or expertise. I wasn't sure that, given a little time and space, T might sleep a whole lot better.

The cot was a non starter though, so, after two weeks of night weaning, T now only feeding first and last thing on my work days, more when I'm at home, last night it was time for Operation Big Boy Bed.

More on how it went tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Child's Play

Oh what a busy morning, I've been playing with the dough
And, with a little help, upon a card I learned to sew
I helped my friend, 'nurse Sarah', to perform an operation,
Then fixed the track together for my train and built a station.
I popped inside the "house", to make a cup of tea,
And stood beside the cooker, making lunch for twenty three.
I completed three whole jigsaws and played a new board game
And had a turn on all the bikes, the slide and climbing frame.
I handed round the biscuits at "milk and biscuit" time,
Then I listened to a story and sang a nursery rhyme.
But now the morning is over and the mummies are all waiting
I hope my mother doesn't say
"I wish you'd done a painting!"

I have to admit I'm a sucker for a painting. Well, if you pay £37.50 a day (eek!) for nursery you want something to show for it at the end of the day, and to demonstrate that, for at least oooh, half an hour, your child wasn't just abandoned in a corner with a pile of toys which have a faint whiff of Milton*

I know there are plenty of things he does at nursery which don't end in a scrumpled piece of painted paper, and he brings the evidence home on the neck of his vest (two portions of lasagne for lunch!) or the bottom of his trousers (playing in flour and water!) most days. There is just something so proud making about a real piece of honest to goodness childrens art work.

Anyway, the recent shortage of things to stick on the fridge has been explained. My husband, who does the pick-up, an event which is much more relaxed and can be conducted at a more respectable pace than the morning's frantic drop-off, had forgotten to empty T's pigeonhole. Today he came home with ...

Footsteps in the snow (black paper, white prints, glitter)
A pumpkin (orange paint, random black bits of paper glued on)
A Pudsey Bear (yellow paint, random 'spots' glued on to represent bandana)
A nursery-made birthday card and hat (T's birthday is in September)

There are plenty of things I am proud of about nursery. The fact he lies down on a beanbag, in a room full of other toddler and (without fuss) closes his eyes and goes to sleep! The fact he gives all of the girls in his room lovely big kisses and cuddles. The fact that this morning, being the second child there (Mummy on an early) he got the chance to feed the nursery fish. But today I also have a great big proud smile on my face every time I go into the kitchen. Proper family kitchens have pictures on the fridge!

*NB, I don't really think nursery is like this at all, I just picture that they're not very nice so I don't worry about T starting to love them more than me.

Saturday, 8 November 2008


We're back now from a week in Pembrokeshire (staying at the fantastic Bluestone) and just beginning to warm up. The scenery was beautiful, the company - a week of uninterrupted time with my boys - wonderful, but damn it was cold! T adored it of course, swimming every day (note to self, must buy wetsuit, his enthusiasm couldn't hide the fact he went an interesting shade of blue on a couple of occasions) lots of fresh air and even a couple of beaches to himself. We found a hidden gem deli, looked at lots of old stones and watched T experience his first fireworks.

Of course a whole different country and a different language (chwsg means sleep apparently, according to a random internet translation website) didn't make any difference to the night-time behaviour of the wakeful one. We're still co-sleeping and still on at least two wakings per night, more often three. I'd be lying if I said I didn't go to bed every night, sneaking in as quiet as a mouse (let's not even think what this is doing to our sex life) and praying that night 407, 408 or 409 (still counting) might just be the one he sleeps through, and that we'll all wake up to light outside having dozed the whole night away.

It never is of course. What have I done wrong? I hate the fact that I'm getting angry about it now, that sometimes, just sometimes in the night I want to pick T up and shake him and yell at him to GO BACK TO BLOODY SLEEP! Of course I don't. Of course I take a breath and, more often than not, sneak off to the loo for a minute of peace, leaving Daddy to deal with T, but I resent the fact it's got to this. I don't want to feel like this.

We bought a book. The NCT guide to helping your baby sleep. It is very nicey nicey, all kissing games and sticker charts, but also doesn't mince words. If you want results you need to do this the hard way, and the older your baby the harder it will be.

Great, something else I've done wrong. If I'd gone for the controlled crying approach six months ago it might have saved us all a lot of heartache. Now I'm faced with an eternity (or so it feels) of sleepless nights, or subjecting my son to hours of crying because I wasn't man enough to teach him to go to sleep by himself before now. Hideous.

Of course we're doing what any sensible adult would do in the circumstances, and taking the middle road. We're off to Center Parcs in 10 days for my FILs 60th birthday celebrations. Any new routine would of course be disrupted, so let's not start now, eh? Instead we're night weaning T, not offering him a breastfeed when he wakes. In fact not offering him anything except a warm embrace from his loving parents, in the hope it might discourage him from waking at all. So far the results have also been very middle of the road. T has still woken, but he has settled (and without too too much fuss) without milk. This is only night three though, and the big boy has gone out drinking tonight and so will be in the spare room when he returns (co-sleeping and alcohol do not mix) and unable to help with the settling. Whether the small boy will be quite as amenable at returning to sleep when my boobs are only a pyjama's breadth away remains to be seen. Perhaps I need to sleep in a turtleneck?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The wedding night

Not that one of course, but ours. It appears T likes weddings. After grouching through the ceremony (distracted by his toy hippo and light up wand, thankfully both silent toys) he stuffed himself with roast beef and yorkshire pudding (no chicken nuggets on the children's menu here!) and a giant piece of chocolate cake before spending half and hour with F, the bride and groom's son, crawling full tilt up and down three flights of beautifully wide stairs. All of that climbing must have taken more effort than we imagined because around 8 o'clock he yawned, we took him up to bed, a quick feed and there he stayed, sleeping like a baby (not a wakeful toddler baby, a proper pink and white Johnson's powder gurgling baby) until the middle of the night when, with another swift feed he went off again until morning. And not his own version of morning, after my alarm had gone off. This just doesn't happen.

Of course we couldn't just enjoy our rare child-free evening with abandon once T was asleep. My husband has a stinking cold and I didn't really feel like drinking very much. I think it had something to do with the fact that everyone seemed to have become drunk around me as I changed nappies/returned T to the bottom of the stairs to restart his climb/collected the toy animals from under the chair covers where he'd hidden them. I couldn't quite be bothered to catch up. So we found a lovely comfy sofa within baby monitor range, stocked up on soft drinks and chatted. And although perhaps it wasn't the bawdy debauched dancing evening I had planned (I'd even taken comfy shoes for dancing!) it was lovely all the same.

Sleep hasn't been quite as good since we came home of course, and I'm not sure what impact spending a week in a cabin in the Welsh countryside next week is going to have, but there's something about weddings which just makes me thankful for what I have, and I have given both of my boys an extra big squeeze, and lots of lovely Mummy milk to soothe those red raw teething gums.

In other news, T has also learnt to cover his mouth with his hand when he coughs, something I have been saying, almost automatically, for months. He's growing up!

I'm not sure whether they have wifi at Bluestone so I might not have chance to update until we're back next weekend. For the next five days I'll be the one chasing the bright red snowsuit crawling across the beautiful South Wales beaches.