Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Grace - 1 year old

So Grace is a year old. I drove James mad on Christmas eve (eve) saying "This time last year my waters broke."
"This time last year my labour pains started."
"This time last year we were on the way to hospital"
" This time last year you were chasing me, naked, the labour ward "
and so on. Grace was born at 6am last Christmas eve. This Christmas eve James woke me at 5.50am with a cup of tea and we sat together talking about how amazing it was when we met our little girl. I cried lots, James yawned.

Christmas with a baby is undoubtedly more fun. You get double the amount of presents to open for a start. Try as she might, Grace can't even manage James' rubbish wrapping yet.

She was ridiculously spoilt this year. Her pile of presents included a rocking horse, a train set, a teddy bear who sings humpty-dumpty in a very posh voice, various talking books, building blocks, a bike and a fairy castle tent - but her favourite was the empty cardboard tube from the wrapping paper, of course. I'd been playing with it, saying "Hellooooo " down it into her ear, (aren't I fun?!) then about half an hour later I was upstairs sorting out the washing when I heard a funny noise. I went to have a look and found Grace had gotten hold of the tube and was saying "dddiiiiiittttttt" down it in her loudest voice then giggling like a maniac.

I think she is going to be a stand up comedian. Everytime she gets on her feet she starts chortling. The other night James and I were watching a funny film (Waiting for Guffman). Grace was nearby and thought she was the reason we were laughing so started to do tricks like shaking her head from side to side very quickly, clapping, then laughing so hysterically she fell over.

She took NINE steps on her own the other day. NINE!! I thought I was going to burst with pride watching her wobble her way over to James, holding her little bucket. She is unbelievably sweet. The way she she gets excited when you give her marmite on toast in the morning, the way she likes to crawl around with a slice of plastic cheese in her mouth (From her toy kitchen. She is too young to play kitchens properly, instead she uses the whole thing as a giant walker and pushes it along like a street-seller) the way she tries to jump out our arms into the bath.

I've just started to give her decaff tea. We have a cup/bottle together in the afternoon with a ginger biscuit. I love it. She is the best friend I never had. I must stop her thieving habit though. She came out of Sussex Stationers last week reading "That's not my puppy". We never even noticed till we were halfway down the road! She must have plucked it off the shelf and hid it in her buggy. Funny little girl.
Latest photos here:

Monday, 8 December 2008

Grace - 11 and a half months

So Grace is almost 1 years old. I am not quite sure how this has happened. How could the longest year of my life comprising of the least amount of sleep have suddenly passed so quickly? I don't have a baby, or a toddler, I have a diva/gangster. If Grace carries on this way she will be Rottingdean's first and youngest person to get an ASBO. In the last 2 weeks she has prank-called 999, stolen a toy doll from ASDA and been asked to leave the Library*.
*She was very upset Baby Boogie had finished and therefore had to go back into her buggy. (I was not at all upset the "boogieing" was finished. The official definition for Boogie is 'Boogie-Woogie - a lively form of rock 'n' roll '. Since when has "Old King Cole" been classed as Rock n' roll? Or "twinkle twinkle little star" complete with sign actions? Since when, in fact, has sitting in a library with lots of posh people who call their children Archie and Buddlia whilst drinking Earl Grey Tea and singing along with a woman named Nora who wears shoes that look like Cornish pasties been rock n' roll?!)

As well as all of this, Grace has started to display gansterish behaviour. She makes her hand into the shape of a gun (thumb up in the air, first two fingers poking out to make a barrel), points it at you and says "Dit". I don't know where she learnt it (although she has been spending alot of time with her Aunt Zoe...) but she does it all the time and it's getting a bit embarrassing. I worry her first word will be "Mo Fo" or something even more politically incorrect. I've tried to teach her other hand signs but she just looks at me, points her hand-gun and says "Dit dit". She even did it to Nora at Baby Boogie instead of clapping her hands.

As if all of that is not bad enough, Grace has entered the world of tantrums. I know I am supposed to ignore them, but it's quite hard to, especially as she does it in such a hilarious fashion, and for the most ridiculous reasons ever. If, for example - you say no to her pulling a heavy book off the table, or take move something out of her reach she throws herself on the floor and howls much like Eoghan did when Diana got booted out of Saturday night's X Factor. She doesn't like Eoghan anymore by the way. She has outgrown him (literally) and will only clap for JLS now.

I don't know where she gets this fickleness. She is the same about her food. Whenever you offer her anything she turns her face away and kicks you, so whatever you had on the spoon goes all over your outfit instead. It's a bit like that joke about keeping your windscreen wipers on full whenever you leave your car, thus avoiding parking tickets. You have to charge in, aiming for her mouth whilst making manic aeroplane noises and hoping for the best. I've been into the village today to buy her lots of 'finger foods' so she can feed herself/throw them on the floor/sit on them/rub them into the mat. Thank god James caved in and got me a cleaner... AND he took me away for a romantic weekend without Grace - she went to stay with her nanny and grandad.

I thought I would really hate leaving her, and at times I did, but it was so nice to have a break. What a shame James and I were so full of this cough/cold virus we spent the weekend in bed drinking lemsip! (It's just as well I did not get all excited he was going to propose and then all let down and moody when he didn't). Coming back to Grace was lovely, and I felt really good about being able to go away and enjoy myself without feeling guilty... until I went to see my great aunt who told me her nappy rash was because I'd "abandoned her all weekend". She always knows how to make me feel good about myself.

Grace came out with me to meet my old school friends at a reunion last weekend. I was so nervous about going. I thought I would feel out of place, boring and middle-aged, but I didn't at all. I had a great time. For the last year I've been in a baby-bubble, which has amazing, but it's good to re-enter the real world now and again, to have a meal with friends and talk about hair and make-up (not that we did talk about that actually, although I did notice they all had much shinier hair than me. They don't get it pulled by a sticky fingered monkey though - they are too busy getting their 8 hours sleep). Going out in town with them was like going back 10 years, especially when I text James to see where he was and he played hard to get and ignored me!!

I am so looking forward to this Christmas and Grace's first birthday. It's going to be fun. I've been reading her stories about Baby Jesus. (I point at the pictures of him in books and say "Look Grace, this is the Baby Jesus" she looks at him, makes her hand-gun and says "dit").

I think we are off to get the tree soon which Grace will love (until I tell her she can't touch it and then she will have a Eoghan-tears-tantrum).

Latest photos here:


Saturday, 15 November 2008

Grace - 10 and a half months

So Grace is 10 and a half months old. She loves toy guitars, yogurts, hair pulling and saying Mmmm Baaah over and over again. She can also say da da da but MMMM Baaahhh is definitely her favourite word. Our party trick to ask her what noise a sheep makes. Oh yes, we are hilarious.

We had a housewarming/bonfire party a couple of weeks ago which Grace seemed to like, probably because she thinks any visitors only come to see her, and so starts clapping and doing her regal waving. (She has also started to shake her head a bit like a punk rocker whilst manically waving her arms. It's very funny, and exceptionally sweet when she does it upon seeing me. If only James would get so excited when I walked through the door.) Anyway, we had a huge bonfire which was great fun but a bit scary, and some suitably unimpressive fireworks. James did a comedy slip up on a butter spill and I fell down a pothole. Our party was off-the-hook in places.
We invited the neighbours and they all turned up which was lovely, but I didn't know any of their names and felt it would be rude to ask so had to be really over familiar and call them "love" and "honey" all evening, which obviously gave them the wrong idea as I think one of them tried to hit on me as they left. In fact I am sure she did, Rottingdean is very famous for swinging parties though. I didn't put the slightest hint of swinging in the invites and we don't have any pampas grass in the garden (a dead giveaway that you are "up for it" apparently), or a dish full of car keys, but they tried their luck even so. Oh dear, we really must get some curtains.

Speaking of undressing when you really should not, Grace is getting far too good at taking her pyjamas off and so keeps waking up in the night naked and freezing cold. I think she does it because she knows I will feel sorry for her and let her get into bed with us, where she can kick us and pull our hair lots as we try and sleep. For someone so small she takes up an awful lot of room. James says the same about me however, so perhaps she is just following in my footsteps, except we have almost the same size feet already. I'll be borrowing her sandals by the summer.

She is not quite walking yet but has moved from crawling to prancing, a bit like Mowgli does in the jungle book which is possible one of the funniest things I've ever seen, especially if she starts the punk rocking at the same time.

Latest photos here, but not many as Grace ate my phone and I had to get a new one!:


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Grace - 10 months old

So Grace is 10 months old, and getting far too clever for her own good. She recently learnt to wave. She has two types, a very regal twirly-hand type of wave, which she uses at dinner parties or if she is out in public, and a two-armed windscreen wiper type of wave which she uses whenever she sees her mummy or daddy. It's possible the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

She likes to join in with the applause when the X Factor is on. I think she likes that little Irish lad best, probably because they are about the same size.

She is so into absolutely everything. Getting her to go to sleep is a nightmare. All she wants to do is explore and if you try and stop her she can become quite vicious. Her little monkey fingers sink into your eye socket or right up your nose. She even gave me a cheeky bite on my nipple the other day right through my t-shirt. She knows this kind of behaviour is wrong, because once she has done it she looks up at me a bit sly to see what I will do. If I do try and tell her off, she just uses my open mouth as a ledge for her foot to climb onto my head and pluck out hairs. She swung of James' chest hair the the other day like a little Tarzan. Very funny to watch. Perhaps less funny to take part in. She is a little madam, although it's possibly the most embarrassing thing a parent can ever say to a child I know the words "stop showing off because your friend is here" are going to be spoken often in our home as she gets older.

Her swimming classes are going really well. Last week they had to take along pyjamas and be thrown in the pool wearing them ( I can't remember the reason why now, but I don't think it was just for fun) anyway, I forgot to pack Grace's jimjams so my poor little princess had to do it in lost-property boys pants. I felt truly awful. What must the other mums think?!! Will it scare Grace forever, will she remember it in some flashback when she is older? have I created a cross-dresser?!

Her very severe haircut is still alarmingly short. Perhaps she is going to take after my dad who has not had his hair cut in about 30 years and it's not grown a single inch in all that time. She is fast growing out of 9-12 months clothing and trying to put shoes on her is like trying to put a shoe on a brick. Try it and you'll see how hard it is, especially when all the brick wants to do is take the shoe off and hit you over the head with it, laughing...

Oh the laughing. I never knew the sound of my baby laughing could be quite so fantastic. It's the most wonderful little chuckle with a squeak at the end. I would do anything for that squeak. She does it if I blow raspberries on her tummy, or swing her round and round. She does it when she is looking at her books (playing AND learning). She does it if James sings "Stand up clap hands, shout thank you lord, thank you for the world I'm in" (religion is hilarious when you are 10 months old), she does if she wakes up and sees you watching her, which is often because she falls asleep in the most weird and wonderful positions - the other day she looked like the hungry Caterpillar, flat on her face with her bum high in the air (she photos).

She is starting to show some of her mother's traits at last...I turned round to get a nappy and she was carefully pulling all the wipes out the packet and making a lovely neat pile of them on the mat. She also does it with her childminders washing if the machine door is left open. I'm so excited, when she gets a bit older we can tidy up together!

We love reading about what she has been getting up to all day with her childminder, especially if she has been naughty, which is seems she often is. I think the words "little devil" feature at least 4 times in every update.

So all in all, 10 months in and it's still going well, most of the time. We have the old bump (like the other night when she woke up at 2am and refused to go back to sleep, the more I tried the more awake she became. James was in London checking out a site so I was forced to get up and put her in her playpen. James got home at 5am and looked very alarmed to see all the lights on and Grace clapping along to "hello puppy calling, do you want to play with me?" needless to say neither of us wanted to play with puppy or Grace.

How tiring parenting is can become a bit of a competition between James and I(with no winner) if we are not careful. I have taking to listing all the things I do to prove how much MORE tiring it all is for me. It does not work however, it just makes James clap his hands over his ears and shout "not the list! Spare me the list!". This may all sound very childish but I had a very enlightening conversation with the chap next to me at a wedding recently. We decided that there are only two reasons why couples fall out. They are either;

A: One or both partners are tired
B: One or both partners are hungry

And I really think it's true - which is why I am off to bathe my little monkey so I can start to think about going to bed myself, with my knitting. Yes, knitting. I knit and I'm proud. I am making a patchwork quilt with some people at work to raise money for children in need and I love it. We meet on Tuesdays for a good old stitch and bitch. My technique is coming along a treat (stitching, not bitching) and soon James, Grace and I will all be wearing snazzy Christmas jumpers with our names on them.

Latest photos here:



Friday, 3 October 2008

Grace -9 months old

So Grace is nine months old, and looks remarkably like humpty dumpty after a very severe home haircut, which is how it should be. Photo albums were invented to give people a chance to laugh at how embarrassing everyone was as a child, how awful the 80's fashions were and how long it took to stop having ridiculous haircuts. No family photo album is complete without snaps of wonky fringes, ridiculously unabashed beach nudity (normally armed with a bucket and spade and swiftly followed by a photo of one family member being "buried in the sand" by said spade and rest of family. If people have a family dog sometimes a hilarious photo of the dog helping to dig is also included.

**My own brother took this a bit too far one year. Our parents took us to Spain and in a fit of nostalgia Mickey asked if he could bury me "like in the good old days" which everyone knows I am a sucker for... half an hour later all that was visible was my head which Mickey put a bucket over, and then took himself off for a pedalo ride. A fat German boy eventually came to my rescue, after attempting to kick the bucket. I was15) , missing front teeth in school photos, or even better, missing front teeth and a scabby nose from going over the handlebars of your bike the day before. Finally, a photo of everyone looking grumpy as they stand against a pebble dash wall (which may well be the reason for the misery. It's very uncomfortable to lean against indeed, but great fun to pick off bit by bit during Summer holidays. We always got very told off for doing it and I never understood why. I always thought I was doing a bit of a favour. Perhaps it was one of those "if everyone did that then there would be none left" tellings off, like when you pick shells on the beach or bluebells in the wood).

Anyway, there will be no snazzy hairdos or porcelain veneers in our albums. I am sticking with tradition all the way. James' family albums also include photos of very complicated "weekly shows" put on by his sisters in the back garden and occasionally feature male family members in dresses and 70's wigs, so we may try some of them too.

Humpy Dumpty impersonations aside, Grace is doing really well. She is at that delightful stage where she throws everything on the floor then cries till you pick it back up again. The books say that babies love the power of dropping things and watching them fall. I think Grace just loves having people run round after her like some kind of mini Mariah Carey. She has learnt how to escape from her playpen now and takes great delight in showing me each time I put her in it. She is also capable of crawling up the stairs if you let her. Much like her daredevil uncle she lives in the fast lane. Her favourite games include opening and slamming the baby-gate (onto her sausage fingers), or holding onto the coffee table with one hand as she pulls off all it's contents with the other ( heavy books, laptops, hot cups of tea etc). She does very funny goose steps holding onto her walker, which is just the sweetest thing. She knows she is doing something clever and when she gets to the end of the rug she stops and turns round so we can give her a round of applause (which she joins in with - we are trying to teach her to wave but she just loves to clap).

We spend alot of time chasing her round the house saying "Grace No....No... NO, Grace NO NO NO NO NO, No means No" But does it to her though? Perhaps to her no means "Do it more it's great fun". According to one book I read at this age babies haven’t learned how to control their feelings yet so complain and howl when they don’t get their own way, giggle, coo and squeal with joy when they are happy and may have very strong likes and dislikes about food. I was quite alarmed when I read this as it's a pretty fair description of me most of the time!!

Grace has finally sprouted two very sharp front teeth which she loves to bite you with. Breastfeeding has become a bit of an extreme sport these days. James' nose gets chewed on a regular basis as well. Getting the teeth to finally poke through seemed to take forever and the effort certainly took it's toll - Grace caught and infected all of us with the novovirus, grandparents included. Not at all pleasant! As you know I am incapable of being sick (maybe I was a sewer rat in a past life) so managed to avoid that part but I DID GET IT TOO (although no one believes me). We are still in recovery mode and are having a very quiet weekend watching Property ladder and testing our 70's underfloor heating system. Who said having children ruined your social life?!

I have started a basketball team with some of my coworkers in an attempt to do some exercise (plus everyone knows playing basketball instantly assures you coolness, which I sometimes doubt now I spend most of my time in banana splattered pyjamas singing row row row your boat. It was my birthday recently and James threw me a surprise party. Some friends came round for a bit of a knees up, but as is often the way once you have kids we spent the whole time chasing our kids round singing "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands" ( the only game Grace can join in with!)

James is too cool to sing, so he builds very high towers out of blocs instead which Grace knocks down (and then applauds herself for. I do hope she grows out of this habit, no one likes a show-off) or lets her play with the numbers on the front door which for some reason she loves... a budding mathematician perhaps?

Latest photos here:


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Grace - 8 and a half months

So Grace is 8 and a half months old. I can't believe she has been out almost as long as she was in! Being pregnant seemed to last forever but now time flies by so fast. I see her doing something new and wonder when on earth she learnt to crawl over to her bottle and drink from it unaided, or answer to her name. My tiny little baby has suddenly become a little person, with her own heartbreaking sweet foibles. She likes to lay on her little sofa to drink her milk (see photos), she always sleeps on her side, picks up the octopus toy in the bath and holds onto him while we dress her, she hates having socks or shoes on, the hoover makes her laugh...I could go on and on about the things which make my little girl unique.

Each time I write this I try and explain how amazing I find it that James and I made Grace. Sometimes I wonder, would she have been different if I had gotten pregnant an hour later, a day later, was Grace destined to be here or is she, are we, all amazing flukes? Whatever the answer I certainly can't imagine a world without my sticky-fingered monkey in it.

I packed up her first load of now too-small clothes recently and put them in the loft. When went to see a friends new baby boy the other day Grace looked like some sort of giant in comparison. (I had to physically fight her off whilst I held him as she was desperately trying to pat him on the head). We stayed away in a hotel for a couple of nights for a friend's wedding and Grace broke the travel cot with her weight. When we looked at her in the morning the base was all lopsided. She did not seem to mind though, she has mastered sleeping through the night now, she even slept through the evening disco at the wedding, which was good as it meant I could throw some mummy shapes on the dance floor... It seems since giving birth I have lost all sense of rhythm however. I started doing that "clapping whilst stepping from left to right" move that old people do, that is until "Want you back by the Jackson 5" came on however, then I tottered/wiggled/stumbled to the middle of the floor (walk-dancing is very tricky to master in high heels when you never usually wear them, at the time I thought I looked dead sexy though) and shook my dusty tail-feather like mad. I even put Grace's change-bag on the floor to boogie round (and point at whilst singing loudly). James was so embarrassed he took Grace and left, texting me from outside the hotel room begging me to please come up.

There was a hotel at the swimming pool and James proudly showed me how Grace now clings onto the side of the pool with no support, and swim underwater! What vital survival skills for a baby to have. If I only I had been capable of such amazing strengths when I was 4 years old and got trapped under a covered Jacuzzi in Guernsey. If it had not been for my then 5 year old brother I would not be here to tell the tale. He dragged the cover to one side, pulled me up by my hair, giving me just enough time to gulp some air before I sank under again and he ran to get help. (I was very into magic at that age, and believed the pool of water beneath the mat to be an illusion, so jumped on it).

Anyway, Grace is doing great at swimming, and clapping. She is forever clapping, she even claps when we clap (unless other people are around of course, then she just looks at us like we are a bit simple). She pulls herself up to standing on every available surface, the coffee table, her walker, your leg. When we eat dinner she stands in her playpen, shaking the bars in a rage because we are eating and she is not. She loves her food, and we love feeding her, especially baked beans. I love watching her try and pick them up with her chubby fingers.

She loves the new house. James' folks were down for the weekend helping us decorate, Grace found some not quite dry paint, so put her hands in it and patted it all over the mirror, squeaking in delight.
It's amazing the difference space makes, no more tidying up all her toys each evening, I just leave them in her playpen... Oh OK, I confess, I still tidy up her toys each evening, but in my defence she loves messing them up again as much as I love to sort them. We spend many a happy hour together in the pen, me making pyramids from cubes which she knocks down (again and again and again), or piecing together jigsaws for her to rip apart.

While I am in there I try and hide the most awful of her noise making toys (the ones her grandparents take great delight in buying), especially the one which sings "Hello puppy calling would you like to play with me, let's have fun together whilst we learn our ABC... puppy says, let's wiggle" (whilst says James some very rude suggestions for puppy under his breath). The worst thing is, even after I switch it off, the flipping tune sticks in my head. I go to work singing "jazz it up, dididi dee de dum de do". That's OK though, I lost my cool status at work weeks ago, when our 15 year old work experience kid left and for some reason after his already hideously embarrassing thank-you speech I felt compelled to shout out "let's give him a round of applause". He looked at me as one might look at someone who had just wet themselves. (I later found out he was heading straight to Ibiza for a week of clubbing, CLUBBING I say, and there was me singing 'for he's a jolly good fellow'!
I must not ride this slippery slope into saddo-land. I must NOT turn into my mother, who used to collect me from school in her horse-poo scented riding jacket, open-toed-charity-shop sandals worn over my dad's long wolly socks (always unmatching and riddled with holes) pulled up to her knees, and hay in her hair. Needless to say I used to beg her to let me walk home alone, to hell with busy roads, death by embarrassing parent was a far worse fate.

Thankfully Grace is too young to notice that my brains are made of jam, my cool gene has been removed and instead I have stretch-marks, a weak bladder and leaky tear ducts that stream at ANYTHING. She looks at me like I hold the moon on a stick with a cow jumping over it. To her I am as good if not better than all her noisy toys going at once!

Photos here:


Thursday, 14 August 2008

Grace - 7 and a half months

So Grace is 7 and a half months... and it's been ages since I had the time to sit down and update this. We have been moving house, which is fun at the best of times, even more so with a tiny baby who wants constant entertaining. Trying to pack was a nightmare. I put her in her playpen with every shiny, noisy, brightly coloured toy I could think of, put her animal sounds CD on and placed bottles of milk all around her hoping she would give me half an hour to crack on, no chance. Every time I taped a box together the noise made her howl, the sound of crockery being wrapped up made her howl. In the end I was forced to sit her in a giant cardboard box next to me just so I could get on, and guess what? She LOVED it, so much so that we've put the box in her new playroom. She sits in it and giggles for hours. If only a cardboard box could make me so happy.
So now we live in Rottingdean and I love it. I love living in a village, shopkeepers are nicer, the sea smells of the sea, not of stag parties and wee wee, I can park outside the tiny (but sufficiently stocked) Tesco. The White Horse does an amazing carvery (Seriously. I was very sceptical but after a couple of mouthfuls I was soon queuing up for more cauliflower cheese exclaiming "tastes just like my mums!). Rottingdean also has lots of lovely tea and scone rooms (The shopkeepers in these are not so nice though, especially in "The Trellis Tea Room" James and I had only been sat down for about 10 seconds, (and that was after the owner had deliberated for a very long time over whether we were even allowed to enter with a buggy) before she came charging over to demand "What do you want? Can't have anything on the menu, just tea or a scone".
James was a hit at the Rottingdean fete. He won a giant hippo on the darts game (a stuffed one, not a real one. There are no hippos in Rottingdean) , 2 coconuts on the coconut shy stall, and a huge inflatable football on the football game stall. He also stole the wig and floral hat from the mannequin at the agricultural stall and wore them whilst playing for my plants. The women serving us knew something was not right but could not work out what.

We moved just in time, Grace has mastered crawling. I now spend all my time chasing her round the house (or if I am doing the hovering then she chases me, she likes to pull Henries' nose). The only thing which is guaranteed to stop her in her tracks is if she passes a mirror. She has not worked out she is looking at herself so thinks it's a little friend to play with. She waves and pats the glass, screeching in delight.
She is also entering the exciting world of finger food, like toasted marmite soldiers for breakfast. She likes to tip the bowl over, poke herself in the head with toast and then pat everything in sight with her buttery fingers. She also has teeny tiny sandwiches for lunch which I later find squashed into her play mat or stuck to her bum. She drinks from a beaker now, holding it herself which is very sweet indeed. She can't work out she needs to tilt her head back when the juice is running low though, so slings it on the floor in disgust.
It's lovely having the space to let her explore. Much like the cardboard box thing, James' bottles of wine are far more fun to play with than all her toys, we often hear the rack rattling as she uses it as a prop to pull herself up to standing. It's amazing to think that a few short months ago she was a helpless little baby and now she crawls and stands and feeds herself. She is growing up so fast!

James went on a stag do to Prague recently so Grace and I were in the new house alone for the first time. It was very scary indeed. We have a conservatory extension at the back of the house with no curtains on it and I was convinced I would have to go downstairs in the night to get something and there would be some knife-welding maniac stood in my back garden waving at me (If it happened it would have been the most historical event Rottingdean had seen in about 300 years). I got so scared about it I ended up going to bed at 8pm and barricading me and Grace in the bedroom. She thought sleeping bed with mummy for 3 days was brilliant fun. She was not so happy when daddy came home and wanted his side of the bed back though. I am pleased to say she is in her own room now though, and is finally sleeping through the night. She gets in bed with mummy and daddy for a cuddle in the morning which is lovely. She is such a happy soul when she wakes up.
James and I are going on our first post-baby date tonight. Grace's godfather is babysitting. I feel like a teenager again, I've been planning what to wear all day, not that it matters as we will be sat in a pitch black cinema and James knows my wrinkly old tum is lurking beneath whatever outfit I chose anyway, but it's still nice to re-live "the good old days" now and again. Tonight I am going out with no nursing bra, nappy bag, nelsons teetha sachets or huge heavy cumbersome baby car seat, just my handsome fella, and I can't wait.

Photos here:

Ericka and Grace

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Grace - Almost 7 months

So Grace is almost 7 months old. It's such an amazing age, every single day she learns something new. She can now blow bubbles, hold her own milk bottle and feed herself little rice-cake things. Crawling is imminent. She gets on all fours and then just sort of rocks, not knowing what to do next. She can pull herself up to standing and if you hold her hands she can even take a couple of steps. It sounds stupid but she is so incredible I just can't believe I made her. I have to keep telling myself she was the tiny seed I grew into a baby, she was the little person kicking and punching their way about inside me, and finally out into the world. I don't relate the baby I carried around for 9 months to the smiling, kicking, gurgling little girl I wake up to each day, or each hour as has been the case lately.

It's my fault. I was so adamant to not let her sleep in the bed with us, but when she wakes at 6am for food it's so easily to lay her down next to me, let her latch on, and drift back off to sleep stroking her cheek and sniffing her baby smell.
The problem is 6am has started slipping back to 5am, 4am, 3am. Now she falls asleep with me at 1opm (OK, I admit it, 9.30pm), gets moved to her cot for about an hour or so then wakes up, realises where she is (or rather is not) and makes indignant squawks until she is allowed back into the bed again.
It's very hard this parenting lark. It seems all the "right" things are the hardest to do, like feeding time for example. I want Grace to have the lovely homemade purees I make her, which take hours and are a painstaking concoction lots healthy and nutritious ingredients. Grace wants to spit them back in my face and live off petit filous and breast milk. Perseverance often depends on how long my day has been. Sometimes it's hard to laugh when you have green sludge dripping down your face, all over your clean outfit and are late to work!

We have been spending alot of weekends back in Hertfordshire recently... Grandparents are marvellous. They seem to love having sludge spat in their face, or their carpets weed on. All the things which become tiring after a long week are a source of untold joy to grandparents. It's lovely to watch Grace smiling and having fun with them, even nicer when they offer to bath, feed and change her!

We took her to the local school fete, held at the infant school both James and I once attended. They even had Maypole dancing to the same songs we used to do it to. (First couple separate, go out around the ring, you pass your partner going out, you pass them coming in!!) The Maypole was alot smaller (stupid health and safety) but it was like slipping back in time none the less. The children even got the "plait" wrong first time, and it all had to be undone before they could start again, same as when I did it. I was rubbish at Maypole dancing. I always forgot I was supposed to go the other way to my partner and ended up skipping after them instead, taking out fellow May-polers en route. James was no better, he thought his assigned partner too ugly for May-poling and so hid up the church tower and sniggered at her having to do it alone instead.

I felt very smug as I pushed Grace round my old playground, I wanted to bump into old school teachers and show her off. I could not find any though, so James' ma and I attacked the baby stall instead. I don't know what has happened to me, but since I had monkey I just LOVE second-hand stalls. I am like an addict. Luckily, Polly is as keen as me (and better and pushing others out the way). We were on our knees within seconds, rooking through boxes of clothes and toys looking for bargains, hats, socks and rattles flying madly.

We got the most amazing bargains, a door frame bouncer (see latest photos) for just £3. Daylight robbery! No honestly, we filled a bin bag with baby-loot and took it off to show James and his dad, but had forgotten to pay for it. A very posh and irate stall holder came over and said "My colleague (colleague?!! It was second hand clothes stall for god's sake!!) noticed that you have not paid yet." James was horrified. He was embarrassed enough at his mother and bride-to-be crawling about on the floor shouting "20p?!! Gotta have it!", imagine his shame when we were then accused of shop-lifting!

Work is getting much better. I still get a lump in my throat when my screensaver comes on, and my monkey is there smiling at me - but I am managing to get back into it, and if I am honest I do enjoy the break. It's working out really well in fact. Grace adores spending time with her childminding family and I miss her so much I am keen as mustard to play peek-a-boo and sing 'Old Macdonald' all evening, wheresas before I went back to work I used to get bored of baby-talk by 7pm and start curtain twitching for James to get home.

I even went for a run this evening, the first time since before I got pregnant even. Putting on my old running shoes felt great, driving to the park, picking a power song on my ipod and hitting the pavement also felt great, for about 2 minutes and then it felt hard as hell. I can't believe I used to run 5k as a pre-exercise warm up!!

So anyway, all in all life is good. Mad and busy with ups and downs but I would not have it any other way!

More photos of Grace here:


Thursday, 3 July 2008

Grace 6 months old

So Grace is 6 months old, and I am back at work. I sort of feel like the first era of motherhood has ended. Its so sad. Gone are the days where I could wear my jimmy jams all day and not brush my hair for weeks on end. Long gone are the days of snuggling up with Grace and watching TV, taking long leisurely strolls round Queens Park and having mid morning naps. I have now entered the "working mother" world and it sure is an unfamiliar territory.
My day now goes something along the lines of this:
*Wake up at 6am to Grace blowing bubbles in her cot. Very sweet but guaranteed to turn into sobs if I don't get up and give her a feed. Attempt to get her back to sleep whilst I tidy-up the flat, jump in the bath, wash my hair, drink various effervescent tonics for hectic lifestyles, dry my hair, apply 17 different tummy tightening creams to my crepe paper midriff, straighten my hair (which is still falling out in clumps), pack my bag, do my make-up and try on 23 different variations of the same outfit, getting hotter and frizzier each time.

*Grace always wakes up again at some point during this long winded process and so I down tools to feed her petit filous, pick her outfit for the day, change her bum, marvel at her amazing beauty or the smell of her neck and then sob because I have to leave her all day. James has normally woken by this point too (if the hairdryer does not manage it then me tutting and moaning about my hair/clothes/the weather/that annoying woman who presents breakfast TV or my loud sobs as I beg Grace not to hate me for going back to work normally does the job) and so he takes over monkey-minding whilst I continue to flap, whinge, change outfits, put on a load of washing or randomly start watering plants.

*Finally get Grace to the childminders which gives me just enough time to eat a bowl of cereal (can't eat near Grace, she gets very annoyed if she can't have any and finds a way to make me spill the whole lot down my front) and change my outfit again before James orders me into the car (always telling me he much preferred the first outfit I put on just as it's too late to go back)

*Work - a minefield of pivot tables, acronyms, new and old faces, awkward situations, tears in toilets, giggles over cups of tea, panic at things I've been asked to do which makes no sense at all, clock watching, lip biting, breast pumping and a whole host of emotions that have me "up and down like a bride's nightie". It's so strange to be back. On one hand it feels so familiar, but on the other it feels so strange. Becoming a mother robs you of your confidence, and going back to work really takes some guts. As well as trying to deal with the guilt and heartbreak at leaving Grace, I also have to try and look and sound professional whilst secretly hiding the fact I now have jam for brains and nothing is making much sense. I feel so out of place. Everyone else knows what is going on and what to do and I am desperatly trying to work out who I am again, as well as get up to speed on all the changes/gossip etc. It's not that I don't enjoy it. I get into a piece of work and feel a bolt of triumph as I think "Yes, I can do this, I am good at this" but it can oh so swiftly turn into despair when I think of Grace waking up from her nap without her mummy. I have become unaccustomed to professional situations, lik meetings for example. For the last 6 months I have spent an alarming amount of time sitting in rooms eating cake and getting my breasts out. This now feels like the norm to me!

*Finish work. If James can't pick me up then I power up Elm Grove hill, heart pumping and breasts leaking to get to Grace, who is normally either fast asleep or happily playing and not at all interested to see her mummy. I know it's a good thing that she is so settled with her childminder, but those seconds when I see her for the first time all day and she has no smile for me when all I have wanted to do is be with her, and I've had an appalling day, those seconds break my heart... and then she smells my milk and the sun comes out in my world again. I love breastfeeding now more than ever. I can feel us reconnecting each time we do it. Grace gazes up at me as if to say "There you are mummy, where have you been?" and her hand finds my little finger, clinging on tightly as if she is trying not to lose me again.

*Back home, either tumble into bed with Grace for more food and a nap, or spend an hour or so playing with her (She can sit up unaided now and pull herself up to standing!) before starting the dinner, bath and bed routine, which never ever goes to plan.

Finally get her down to sleep, have dinner, tackle some housework so it does not all pile up, before finally sinking into a blissfully hot bath, which I normally have to swiftly get out of as I keep falling asleep.

*Wake up at 6am to Grace blowing bubbles in her cot....

Being a working mum is a bit like being on a giant treadmill, or in a hamster wheel. That is not to say there is no satisfaction in it, more that you just have to keep going or you will fall off and end up so far behind you will never catch back up again. My mind is constantly turning "Did I make Grace enough food for the week (now she is 6 months old she can eat a whole bunch more stuff, so in an effort to be a marvellous mum and fend off the waves of going-back-to-work-guilt I spent hours putting together many very complex Annabel Karmel baby meals, only for Grace to turn her nose up and refuse to eat anything other than mashed banana), get more nappies, wash that shirt, remember to send that email, phone my mum, pack Grace's swimming bag, take my tablet, book a meeting room, hang out the washing, turn off my straighteners, spell check that document, shave my legs etc etc etc.

James has been amazing, I have been a toe-rag this last week with my work worries, Grace guilt, house-moving stresses and lord know what else. He has made tea, washed up, cooked dinners, bought cards, run baths, been food shopping, spent lunch hours driving through Brighton traffic to console me as I sob hysterically, made packed lunches, tucked me into bed and even done Grace's night feeds. A better man would be hard to find.

A couple of my friends are due to have babies soon. It's so weird when they ask me for advice. A few short months ago I did not know one end of a babygro from the other and now I am all "oh and if your boobs get sore when your milk comes in, pop some cold savoy cabbage in your bra" or "I swear by metanium for nappy rash" and "making baby puree is dead simple ". Once it all seemed so alien to me but somehow I got my head round it and now I do feel like I know what I am doing. It's taken some time but I can more or less work out Grace's various moods and noises, I know how and what to feed her and how to make sure it's not too hot/cold/salty etc. I know how to soothe her when she cries, cool her when she is hot, I've finally learnt the essential act of doing everything one handed as I balance her on my hip. I suppose my point is that motherhood is second nature to me now, and soon work will be as well, just like once work was second nature and motherhood was so strange.
There is something nice about sitting down at a desk and knowing I won't have to sing "Once upon a time there was a little white bull" or shake rattles, clap hands, be dribbled and weed on, have my mobile phone sucked and thrown on the floor etc. Once it stops feeling so strange, it may even start to feel like a break!
New photos here:


Monday, 16 June 2008

Grace - On her travels

Grace has been abroad to France and Spain. So she has already been to half as many countries as me and she is not even 6 months old. Airports and babies are not much fun. Grace was good as gold, she licked the sleeves of the people in front of us in the queue, tried to pull their hair and generally grinned like mad the whole time, I on the other hand was awful. I don't like busy packed places with few exit spots at the best of times, but having Grace there made me even more anxious, I don't know what I was scared of, that someone would grab her from me and leg it onto a waiting plane heading far far away perhaps (how far can you fly from Stansted?) but I was in pieces, eating handfuls of rescue remedy pastilles (rubbish - they are alcohol free now) and pretending to look for things in my bag whilst secretly taking deep breaths and willing my panic attack to pass. Once we were on the plane we were fine though. No one wanted to sit with us as babies and planes are another poor combination (at least I think that was why they all looked so crestfallen as we approached) but Grace was excellent, she looked about a bit and then fell asleep. I was so proud of her, especially when an elderly couple stopped to tell us that they had never known such a well behaved child. Old people don't normally like me. I have a habit of offending them without meaning to.

My mum and dad loved having her to stay. They had bought some wonderful toys, a bouncy chair and play mat etc, obviously her favourite thing was the 50 pence luminous rattle not at all suitable for babies. We could not go into the pool sadly as the weather was awful, but we did blow up her "pool patrol" boat float (with built in horn) and sat her in it looking at out the pool (more or less the same thing.) On the 2 occasions the sun came out briefly from being a cloud James heroically dived in. He claims to have done lengths but I never saw them.

We drove to North Spain for a day, Dad assured us we would not need passports as the border control booth was never used. We went to a place near Lerida and crammed the car full with wine(and cakes), so of course the police were waiting at the border on the way back. Luckily we had a hire car with foreign plates, so we just tried to look very French as we drove past and they pulled over my parents instead (whose car was even more rammed with 'booty'). My mum must have talked her way out of it with her excellent command of the French language (a few years back whilst we were visiting we stopped at a bar for a light snack, which mum ordered and out came a three course meal, including the biggest omelet ever seen. It was like eating a mattress, followed by beef pasta, slimy lettuce and peach pavlova).

Anyway, we had a lovely time. Me and my dad beat James at darts AND table football, mum made fantastic dinners and did all my washing. The downside was that Grace got so used to attention from people ALL time and now thinks that life is one long holiday where everyone is around solely to pick her up and bounce her on their knee all day long. She screams if she is put down and left alone for a single second. I am due back at work 4 days a week from the beginning of July so we have been desperately trying to get her to sleep through the night. The first time we left her to cry when we got back from France she screamed from 1am - 6am, James and I ended up shutting her in the bedroom and laying on the living room floor with pillows over our heads. She has gotten much better though and has slept from 8pm - 6.30am for the last 3 nights, heaven!!

She is more or less sitting up on her own now, but you can't leave her or she capsizes and eats carpet, or anything else she can get in her mouth. She is in to absolutely everything. She has learnt to grab my hair when I lay her down for a nap, a very annoying and effective trick indeed. She has a vice like grip and very sharp little nails, which need trimming all the time but if you dare try she howls and acts like you are trying to cut her fingers off, a similar reaction to having her nose wiped, for some reason she thinks you are trying to kill her and goes into survival mode - thrashing her head from side to side, kicking her feet and clawing you with the aforementioned nail spikes. It seems Grace is destined to be a snotty child with great yellow talons and will have to sleep on a perch.

I get kicked out my Monday mum and baby group next week as Grace will be too old for it, interestingly I have just stopped feeling the need to go anymore. I finally believe she is putting on weight without having it confirmed by the heath care visitors' scales. The group was a life jacket to me and Grace in the first few months, but now I finally think we can keep afloat on our own.

Our next challenge is introducing more foods. Grace her been on a medley of fruit and vegetables for the last 2 months, but as of next week we can start to introduce all sorts of things. It's sort of scary because for so long I was told 'nothing but milk, nothing but milk' and now suddenly she can eat anything. I think she will have a sweet tooth. We went out for dinner the other day and were sitting chatting when all of a sudden Grace broke free from James' hold and launched herself across the table at my blueberry ice-cream, sinking her face into it and getting it all up her nose. She spent the rest of the day on a sugar rush, manically bouncing up and down in her special chair making gurgling noises.

All these things show she is not a tiny baby anymore, she is a little girl. Crawling is imminent, she can already stand herself up holding on to things. She can find her dummy amongst all her toys, (and my mobile phone). Seeing her delighted face each time she achieves a new goal makes my heart actually ache with pride.

New photos, including James and Grace at their Fathers Day Breakfast, note the size of Grace's shoes....

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Grace - 5 months old

This time 5 months ago I was in labour. Some people hate giving birth, I was lucky (after my epidural kicked in), I loved it. The birth went nothing like the plan I wrote in my little medical book (Water birth, no painkillers), the closest I got to a water birth was when I asked to have a bath at about 10pm. At first I was too shy to even remove my t-shirt in front of the midwife. That all changed when I was suddenly overcome by the biggest contraction of my life. I ripped my top off, clambered out the bath (NOT easy when the size of hippo and having a seizure) then staggered naked and dripping wet down the hall screaming "James get me an epidural NOW" Suddenly being seen in the noddy was not such a big deal after all. Poor old James was under strict instruction to talk me out of any painkilling options if I started to weaken... "Come on Princess, you are doing great, give it another half an hour"... "I swear to God James, go and get me an epidural now or I will bite your fingers off"- he soon scarpered to find the anesthetist. What a wonderful woman she was. As soon as the needle went in I felt better, within half an hour I was asking the midwife her life history whilst James had a nap!

It's amazing to think it was only 5 months ago that Grace was born. How far she has come from the fat little bundle I delivered. At first all she did was sleep and feed, and poo. Now she rolls over and reaches for toys, scrunches up newspapers,plays peek-a-boo, finds her dummy and puts it in her mouth, recognises songs and phrases, bounces up and down in her jungle thing (best £70 we ever spent, when all else fails the jungle bouncer never does. It's a constant source of untold joy for Grace), more than that though - she soaks up life. At first she just slept as it passed her by but now she is into every noise, face, view, texture and taste, her little fat legs pumping in excitement as she learns about the world she has been born into. (She still poos alot too)

Her swimming is going really well. James and her went without me last week. I was feeling a bit under the weather (more on that later) so James got her up and dressed. I have long given up on trying to teach James which of her clothes go well together (I think he puts her in the most mis-matched outfits he can find on purpose) so off they went with Grace wearing blue and orange pyjama bottoms and a bright pink tshirt, no socks or coat or hat or change bag "She does not need all that crap" - and returned an hour and half later in a different brand of nappy to our normal kind (Grace, not James - he does not wear nappies), looking suspiciously neater than when she left. Turns out that when James (the only chap at little dippers (unless you count Phil, which I don't) mentioned to the gaggle of mummies that I was not well and he had "forgotten" her bag - they were all tripping over themselves to help him out. I can just picture James in 'helpless mode', I know it well - he slips into it each time I ask him to wash up or sterilise her feeding bowls "What do I do Newts? Put the Milton fluid in the kettle and then pour cold water in the sink and ..." "No James, you fill the kettle with cold water and - oh forget it, I will do it myself!"
Anyway, they had a great time without me, going under water together and reaching for toys. I was too ill to go, it's ridiculous. I have prayed for Grace to sleep through the night, and now she is I feel worse than when she had us up every hour! It's very normal my health care visitor tells me. Your body gets so used to running on empty that when you actually start to get some rest it does not know what to do, all the tiredness and exhaustion just seems to come out. It will pass though,it's just a phase - I hope the all-night sleeping is not just a phase. It was a long and weary road to get there. In the end we decided to leave her to cry for a bit and see what happened (When I say we, I actually mean me - coincidentally James had to go to Birmingham overnight for a show)
I fed her and put her to bed, and when she woke up two hours later I just left her. I peeked at her to make sure she was ok but then I sat back down and ignored her. It was not easy, but she gradually quietened down and when I went back in she had found her dummy and her monkey (George) and was fast asleep. Success! She woke momentarily at about 3am but I ignored her again and she soon drifted back off.
I am not sure if it was the leaving her to cry that did it or the fact that she now has 3 meals a day. When she turned 20 weeks the health care visitor said that she could start having Petit Filous. What marvellous pots of magic they are. She loves them and all you have to do is take the lid off and away you go, no peeling or mashing or pureeing or freezing or defrosting. Grace loves them, you can't shovel it into her quick enough. She also has apples, pears, bananas, parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and turnips all lovingly cooked and blended by us. It makes such a difference, she is happier, goes longer between breastfeeds and sleeps so much more. I have weaned her early, it was the right thing to do. Whoever made the rule that babies should be exclusively breast-fed for 6 months has never had a baby. My little monkey is hungry. All the kicking and rolling and dribbling and bouncing gives her an appetite!

So it's all going well into the 5th month, I am trying to make the most of these last few weeks before I have to go back to work. We have a holiday in France booked to go and see my parents. James is very excited as he can practise Grace's swimming techniques in their pool. I am excited because I can expose my poor crepe paper tummy to the sun without scaring anyone other than my immediate family!

Latest photos here:



Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Grace growing up

It's been so long since I've had time to sit down and update this. Suddenly there are not enough hours in the day even though I am up for most of them! I have gone back to work one day a week. It's going really well but initially I was so worried about leaving Grace and her feeling abandoned. I had visions of her looking around for me and not finding me. I set up a practise day with her childminder the week before I was due back to ease my mind. Grace was fine but I was rubbish. I spent the whole day looking at baby photos and sniffing her things. I sat counting the hours till I could go and pick her up and when the time finally came she was fast asleep anyway! To have her back in my arms after being apart for all those hours was magical.

I am really enjoying work but I permanently feel like I have forgotten something. You know when you go off on holiday and suddenly get in a panic that you have left some electrical appliance on? That is how I feel the whole time I am not with Grace (not saying she is an electrical appliance but you see what I mean). It is nice to be able to pop out for a coffee without packing bags and dummies and setting up buggies though, and to know my outfit won't get baby spit and mashed banana down it for a while! Sneaking into the loo with my breast pump is not so much fun. I worry people wonder what I am up to, locked in the loo with a whirring machine for hours at a time... Then there is the problem of where to store it, I am not sure my fellow workmates want my milk nestled alongside their sandwiches and (out of date) yogurts in the company fridge!!

James and Grace went to Little Dippers together last week...and it was hilarious.
I had told him that loads of men would be doing it with their kids, so he was a bit surprised when he burst out the changing room and saw a pool full of women and babies. He was excellent, although he did pretend to forget the words when they sang "Row row row your boat" and was slightly over-competitive when playing the 'reaching for toys in the water' game. No-one actually said it was a race. Grace also did some quite energetic headers with the help of her dad when they were playing ball games at the end! They both had a lovely time though. I was so proud of the pair of them as I sat watching at the side. I remember my mum watching me learn to swim, I was awful. I had to practise doing the strokes on the tiles by the side of the pool whilst all the other kids splashed about in the water. Lets hope these early classes will save Grace (and me) that embarrassment!

James took Grace to get her third set of jabs today, all the women were cooing over her (and him no doubt) in the surgery. She cried real tears after he tells me, but is fine now. She is in her jungle bouncer as I type this, jumping up and down and cooing alot.
Every day seems to bring something new. She is making a wide range of (monkey) noises, which to help encourage speech we are supposed to repeat back to her, so we all spend alot of time ga ga gooing. She is almost sitting up alone, sort of rolling over, and loves food. She watches in fascination when James and I eat dinner, it's a bit off-putting at times. The other day we were out at a restaurant and she got so hungry watching us she started lunging for James' thumb! She has the odd bit of sweet potato, as well as banana and rice. I have also just introduced a raspberry porridge type thing which she seems to love (lord knows why, it tastes awful!). She clamps her mouth down on the spoon in delight though and howls when it's all gone!

She is still waking quite frequently at night. James seems to be much better at coping with lack of sleep than me and has taken over the night feeds. What a man eh? I am actually managing to get 7 hours sleep in at last. It's a slow and painful process but Grace is gradually learning if she wakes up before 7am all she gets is a silent and grumpy daddy offering her formula, when what she wants is mummy and boob and to sleep in the bed. Last night she only woke twice so it's getting better. One night last week she had us up every 50 minutes!

The help and support from family and friends these last few weeks has been tremendous. We went to stay with James' family over the bank holiday and they were amazing. It was like being on holiday. I can never truly relax when I am at home, especially as the flat is still on the market so I constantly try to keep it spotless (impossible when you live with a monkey and a clumsy oaf!) but while I was with away I actually switched off for a while, did some crosswords, went shopping, had a nap whilst they entertained Grace and cooked and made endless cups of tea for us. Since having Grace, I have really seen the depth of human kindness. James has also been incredible, as well as doing night feeds and babysitting , he took me shopping for a whole new wardrobe, hovering outside busy shops with the buggy whilst I tried on a million different outfits and even pretended to be interested when I did a fashion show for him and Grace when we got home.

So all in all it's going really well. The summer is finally on it's way and I can't wait for picnics on the beach and trips along the seafront.

Photos here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=113743&l=4b4e1&id=632600721

Friday, 18 April 2008

Grace - 4 months old

Grace gave up sleeping through the night about 3 weeks ago. She now wakes up at 11.30pm, 1am, 3am, 6am and 7.30am without fail. She is also capable of waking in between those times if she so feels like it. We are so exhausted we fall into a semi coma each night, only to be woken within the hour by an "Err, Err" from the cot. Grace does not actually cry, she makes this throat clearing noise instead, which gets louder and longer if you don't pick her up.

Could she be hot, cold, hungry,tired, ill, bored, attention-seeking we wondered? I decided to ask my health care visitor at her Monday weigh-in, who gave me the same answer she gives to any question I ever ask her "Put her on the breast more". I told her I feed her on demand and she said " Can't you encourage her to feed more in the day" Is she joking? In the precious few hours between nursing I quite like to get things done. Have a shower, do the washing up, eat something perhaps!

I went and sat down, utterly dejected. "Pssst" came a whisper "Have you tried giving her food?"
"SOLID FOOD?!" I asked
"SSHHH!" the girl next to me looked over at the health care visitor to make sure she had not heard, before adding "We are all doing it".

It turns out everyone else was giving their 4 month old babies the odd bit of baby rice and mashed banana and they were all sleeping through the night.

Could that be it? Was Grace hungry? Was my milk no longer enough for her? I had noticed her checking out James' sausage sandwich the other day. Was she ready for solids? I sat and turned it over and over in my mind, finding out how much and how often, and what it did to the nappy situation.

The whole feeding thing is so mad. Once upon a time it was solids at "10lb or 10 weeks, whichever came first, then it was solids at 12 weeks, then 17 weeks, now it's 6 months, and the health care visitors really frown on you if you attempt it sooner. It's so hard to know whats right. The lack of sleep and success rates from my mates made my mind up to give it a go though, so off I went to Boots to get my Hipp organic baby rice.

I was so excited all the way home, visions of Grace having one mouthful then sleeping for 16 hours straight made me practically run up Elm Grove Hill (no mean feat I can tell you!) To cut a long story short she ate the rice, and the banana, and drank the 6oz of expressed milk I gave her that night before bed and she still woke up at 11.30pm "Err Erring". Our plan to knock her out with food failed!

I even went to a Breast Feeding Support Group. What a mistake that was. I was actually just dropping off the keys to the hall we hired for Grace's Name Day, but the girl who buzzed me in saw the buggy and assumed I had arrived for the BF Group. I had twenty minutes to spare so I thought I would pop in and check it out.

A normal looking woman came over and asked if I was OK. Yes, I told her, I was just popping in, I had a 16 week old daughter (ah, that's nice). Yes I was breastfeeding (Good for you!). Yes it was going OK (Brilliant!), in fact I had just started to top her up with a bit of baby rice and banana... (Sorry?!) A deathly silence fell over the room. Toys stopped beeping and flashing, children stopped crying, tea slurping ceased, all heads turned in my direction, and it was then, in that second, that I really took a good look round. It turns out I had stumbled into some weird cult for people who want to exclusively breastfeed, and be breastfed until they are about 15. Oh yes, toddlers were undoing their mummies tops asking for "bitty", hessian wearing women were touching each others boobs, showing one another how to latch kids on with full sets of teeth, and in the middle of it all, with a dreamy expression on her face was "Kathy - The Health Care Nurse" (AKA Jabba The Hut). Her exposed breasts were bigger than Grace's buggy, she had something akin to Joseph's technicolour dream coat on and upon hearing the word "banana" she seemed to be attempting to get up and come over (Not an easy thing to do with those pendulous boobs weighing her down!) Needless to say I ran away, will never be going back there ever, and breastfeeding has never felt quite the same since.

So anyway, I made another appointment with another health advisor who told us Grace is attention seeking and to ignore her cries, offer her only water when she wakes and not to breastfeed her in the night. She has come down with a cold now though so I am not trying it. She has gummy eyes which I have been advised to spray breast milk in (of course!). She keeps sneezing and coughing and all she wants to do is feed and cling to her mummy, so we are spending the day indoors in our jimmy jams. She also has a bit of a rash which I have been told might be an allergy to fabric softener so I am having to rewash EVERYTHING she uses.

The fact I had another disastrous trip the the hairdressers last night may also be a reason why I am hiding out today. I went in and told Jon I really liked the colour and style of Agyness' hair : http://i.realone.com/assets/rn/img/5/7/9/0/16720975-16720978-slarge.jpg, and came out looking like this http://www.catheads.net/catheads/x102dalmations.jpg (but much shorter).

Poor old James, he was stuck with a sneezing sobbing monkey for 3.5 hours whilst I had my hair RUINED (at extortionist cost), then when I finally got home all I did was moan and sob and whinge. Grace had fallen asleep on him and he did not want to move her, so he drove to London to do a site visit last night with no dinner inside him and two red-eyed girls feeling very sorry for themselves back at home. He did not get back till 3.30am, which coincided nicely with one 0f Grace's feeds so he has had about 2 hours sleep in the last 2 days. He claims he likes my hair but lack of sleep has made him delirious, I know he does not, he can't possibly. No one could.

I phoned up Jon today and told him that I hated it, that I asked for blonde and instead it was black, and the dye was all over my face and would not come off. I have an appointment at 10am tomorrow to try and sort it out and have been told to "Wash my hair lots in the meantime"(Because us mums have LOADS of time to do that). I feel a million times better though, I am rubbish at complaining normally, but I just look so ruddy awful I had no choice. My hairdresser sees me as some kind of joke. He did the exact opposite of what I asked and then got in a big gay strop at the end when I started crying. I was so looking forward to getting my hair done as well, I am going back to work one day a week from the 29th of this month and I really wanted to look my best.

Anyway, whilst feeling empowered I also called up my estate agent and told them they were rubbish and that we had not had any viewings for 2 weeks and what on earth were we paying them for. I might ring the doctor now and have a go at them. They sent a letter last week to let me know Grace was due her next set of jabs, so I dutifully took her down on the time and date requested, and sat waiting for an hour and forty minutes only to be told it was too soon since Grace's last jabs and that she could not have them. Has anyone sat in a waiting room full of screaming bug-ridden babies pre and post jabs? Not fun I can tell you.

I seem to be full of negativity today, there have been some wonderful moments this month also. Grace rolling over from her front to her back (obviously if I try and show people that she can now roll over she refuses to, stubborn like her father!). We have also booked her in for her "Little Dippers" http://www.littledippers.co.uk/ swimming lessons. Her and her daddy will be going each Wednesday. I can't wait to see them together. It's going to be so lovely for James to have something special he does with Grace. She adores him, when he gets home for work she gives him a huge grin then goes all shy and looks away. She also gets shy if she sees her reflection. She has started to favour some toys over others, but the best thing ever is to be sat in her jungle bouncer watching the rugby and eating mashed banana. Life for my girl does not really get any better than that. If only we could all be so easily pleased eh?! I have started to read Roald Dahl to her in the evenings. Although she is too young to understand the story she likes the sound of voices, and I am loving it.
Anyway, Grace has just woken up and looks so sleepy and gorgeous I am going to have to sign off for a cuddle. I think we will get back into bed and find some rubbish films on Sky to amuse us. Not 101 dalmations!

More photos here:

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Name Day Celebrations

As Grace was born on Christmas Eve, which is a bit of a rubbish time of the year to be born (until she is older, then she will always have people to go out and get drunk with!) - James and I decided to honour a Polish tradition and celebrate her "Name Day"as well. The Name Day for Grace is on the 1st April, so we set the precident this year by gathering close friends and family for a small ceremony.

We hired a lovely room in the local community centre, blew up lots of balloons and served a high tea. (I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I made 95% of the food. The fairy cakes, flapjack, cookie-shine cake, cheese straws, pigs in blankets, mini pizzas and shortbread millionaires were all handmade by me, (at about 6am in the morning before Grace woke up). James made the sandwiches and sausage rolls, which were of course more popular than all my food, but he also made the hummus which is horrid.

Anyway, I think people had a nice time, I certainly did and so did Grace, she did not stop smiling once. I cried at all the wonderful speeches. Parenthood does that to you. I weep at absolutely anything these days. A sunny morning, a lonely snowdrop, a cup of tea made for me in the morning, how handsome my brother looked in his suit on Saturday.

It was the first time my brother John had met his God-daughter, and he got to know her far better than planned. James was so nervous about his speech he was FORCED to get leglessly drunk and pass out on our bed in a star shape, meaning John had to share the sofa bed with Grace and I, poor chap. My other brother took it upon himself to top up everyones glass the second they had taken a single sip, and ate all 12 cheese scones in as many minutes. He made a wonderful speech though, so I forgive him his drunken antics. He also bought Grace a lovely tatty teddy bear and wrote "Love from your Uncle Mickey" in the card, which had me gulping and wiping my eyes for a good half an hour.

We filmed alot of the day, so when she is older I will be able to show Grace what a lovely day she had. She can hear her god-parents wonderful speech, and she can tell me off for dressing her as a small German boy! (see photos...).

She is learning more and more, and dribbling more and more also - we think teeth may be on the way as she does lots of noisy fist sucking, or James' nose sucking if he'll let her. She is now capable of sleeping through the night, but does not always do it! She has also learnt to turn her head and so watches me race round tidying up. (She must have learn that trick from her dad!)

We just bought her a rain forest themed baby bouncer thing which she loves almost as much as James does, I swear he would get in it if he could. She also loves Tom & Jerry, or any sport, cricket being her favourite, much to her dad's delight.

On Saturday she got passed round everyone all day long without so much as a whimper, but when I finally got her back she rested her head on my chest and gave a sigh of sheer delight at our reunion. My love for her grows even faster than her hair. (She has the most hilarious bald patch on the back of her mullet now. It's so great how babies don't care about anything other than being warm, dry, fed and entertained. Imagine not being bothered that you had wet yourself, or dribbled all down your chin, or were wearing a Lederhosen! Since I had Grace I care less and less about my appearance. Everything else just seems to be more important to me...not to James however, he keeps asking if I need anything from the shops, like hair removing cream!)

He has been fantastically supportive, thanking me in his speech, which made my heart skip a beat even after all these years. Sadly he did not follow it up with a proposal, but I have learnt not to get too excited about it these days, especially since New York (First of all I was CONVINCED he was going to propose at the top of the Empire State Building, which of course he had no intention of doing and was entirely clueless as to why I was in such a foul mood in the lift down, when all I had talked about since he booked the holiday was how "magical and romantic" I imagined the view would be. Then I thought he was going to do it via the scoreboard when we went to see a Basketball game at Madison Square Garden. He even nipped off at half time, leaving me 100% positive it was to "give the nod", imagine my surprise when all he had done was go to get a drink!)

Anyway, our flat is still on the market. We had a second viewing yesterday. I went to my neighbours house so I could spy on my homes new perspective owners out the window. They looked like a right pair of geeks. He was a driving instructor who wore short trousers and a peaked cap. I hate driving instructors (see previous blogs on how long it took me to pass my driving test, whilst my instructor was busy getting an extension and booking cruises), and I don't like short trousers either, I have actually been known to dump men for owning ankle bashers (That is not as bad as my friend Jemma, who dumped a chap for falling over on his rollerboots, after he had skated about 10 miles just to see her).
I had pulled out all the stops on my flat as well, my fairy lights were twinkling away, the bathroom was gleaming, I had left the radio on to make it "homely" and had even baked a banana loaf, making the whole place smell delicious. I have not heard back from the estate agent yet, but I don't care if it's bad news. I don't think I want to sell my flat to a pair of saddo's anyway.

Anyway, all in all, life is still as mad as ever for my girl and me. I can't believe she is 4 months old at the end of April. This year is flying by. I look at my friend's kids who have just started walking and saying the odd word or two and can't believe that soon Grace will be doing all that stuff. It makes me more determined than ever to soak up every precious second of this baby time (apart from when she howls like a monster, like she is right this second - James can soak those moments up!)

Anyway, latest photos attached. I had better go, James is singing "Ginger Whinger"... Grace is NOT amused!



Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Grace - 3 months old

So Grace is 3 months old, a quarter of a year, yet it seems like this journey began way before then though. I read through my diary from last year and the entry for the day I found out I was pregnant reads "Have we really done it? I can't let myself believe it",yet it seems so odd to think of a time when she was not here in some form, as a + on a pregnancy test, a secret flutter in my tummy, a kick in the ribs or a snuffle from the cot in the middle of the night.

Speaking of the middle of the night, Grace has a bit of a cold so she wants to feed every hour again which is exhausting. I feel so sorry for her, babies don't know how to sniff or clear their throats so they just snort and sneeze away. It's heartbreaking to see her little red eyes water.

Aside from the cold she is doing really well. She weighs over 12lb now, her hair and eyelashes are growing really long and she is learning more and more each day. She reaches out and holds onto things in front of her (not learnt how to let them go yet), and tries to put everything in her mouth. She has also learnt to sort of "push off" with her feet when she is on her change mat, which she gets very excited about (excited = kicking her feet whilst punching the air). She has started to coo with pleasure when sung too (I have quite a repertoire of songs now, James has even learnt them, in fact the people at his work sing "We know frogs go tra la la la la"). Her friend Edie is 19 months old and loves singing to her, but gets "If you're happy and you know it" mixed up with "Head shoulders knees and toes" and so wobbles about touching her feet chanting "happy happy happy".

I bit the bullet and joined British Military Fitness, it's a ball-breaker of an exercise class held outside each morning and evening in various parks, run by the army (hence the name). The first time I did it I thought I was going to die. It's been a long time since I did sit ups, squat thrusts and burpies. I forgot how much I hate them. Of course it's even more fun now because as well as hurting immensely, I also have to concentrate on not wetting myself. My breast pads fell out in front of everyone as I was doing my push ups , so that was nice and embarrassing. I cracked a "Look at me, I'm Princess Leah" joke and held them over my ears... Needless to say I was picked last when it came to team selections.

James babysat Grace while all this was going on. I forced myself to master the breast pump and have finally managed it, but only if Grace is feeding on the other side at the same time. The problem now is she HATES the pump. She thinks it's another baby, that I love more than her, stealing all her milk. As soon as she hears the whir of it being switched on, she starts sucking with a vengeance and tries to kick the pump off. She is very possessive of my boobs. She grabs on to them while she is feeding as if someone is about to snatch them from her at any second.

She also likes to be attached to them whilst trying to do a poo, which she only manages about once every 3 days so it becomes a bit of an event. It starts with a slightly puzzled expression and a sort of growling noise, then her face gets redder and redder, then she starts grunting and kicking her feet in the air, I normally start singing "Body Movin' by the Beastie Boys at this stage "Let me get some action from the back section" I chant as she thrashes about going boss-eyed. I do hope she gets more discreet as she gets older!

We are putting our flat on the market so it's a frantic time trying to keep the place neat and tidy for viewings, (especially as my beloved boyfriend thinks socks walk themselves to the washing machine from wherever he has tossed them and that it's impossible to make a nice meal unless you use every single kitchen utensil in sight and spill flour on the floor). I have learnt how to do the housework one handed whilst entertaining Grace with the other, chase the estate agent on the phone and eat my breakfast all at the same time. I am going back to work one day a week from next month so need to start leaving Grace with her babysitter for longer periods of time (So far I have managed about half an hour!) The problem is I am so haplessly in love it actually hurts me to be apart from her. I sit watching her sleep and feel a protectiveness so powerful it's almost frightening. When she wakes up and sees me, she gives me a huge gummy smile and I just melt into a puddle of silliness.

Anyway, she has just been passed to me wanting her dinner, I'd best go before the lung practising begins!!!
New photos here: