Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Louis Samson

Working the mullet look
Matching bouffants

Call me shallow but one of the most pressing concerns I had when Louis was tiny concerned his hair. Namely, would all the lovely locks he was born with fall out? And, more pressingly, how long would they take to grow back? Not that bald babies aren't cute.... it's just that hair looks pretty good too.

Fast forward 16 months and I can report that Louis did keep most of his hair, save a slight stripe round the middle (which apparently his Dad lost too). But happily it wasn't long before Louis's bouffant was rivaling his Dada's. (See photo above.)

Interestingly, it seems that Louis shared my early worries. I know this because he won't let me near him with a pair of scissors. I've tried on several occasions, but he's having none of it. If I so much as pick up a pair, he starts pulling the most miserable face while frantically combing his hair flat; he's clearly very proud of that blonde "bouffe", as it's colloquially known in our family.

More interestingly, those rare occasions I have managed to trim the odd bit (and I mean 'odd bit' - you should see how raggedy the back is), are always followed by Louis getting sick. In Bermondsey, in Athens, before we left for Paris the other day.... I'm starting to understand where Samson was coming from. One man's bouffe is another man's mojo.

Still tired after all these months

Back in the day, you know, B.L., when I used to think being tired was that feeling that hit you around 4pm on a workday, I remember reading that the average new parent lost out on around 800 hours of sleep during that first year of their baby's life. I have a feeling I've blogged this fact before, but to be honest, everything gets a bit hazy after more than a year of sleepless nights. I do, however, recall a sinking feeling of dread at the prospect of all those sleepless nights. And days. 

But thinking about the past 16 or so months, as I was while putting Louis to bed the other night, I started calculating another, far more pertinent figure. I wanted to know how many hours I'd spent actually trying to get him to sleep since he was born. I'm talking about all that time spent rocking, singing, swaying, pushing (the buggy), nursing, nursing, nursing, praying, crying, nursing, walking, nursing, patting, singing, nursing.... You get the drift. 

So, I totted it all up, pretty conservatively I might add, and I reckon I've spent the equivalent of two months trying to persuade Louis either to nap or sleep. Yup, two months. Give or take a day or two. If that sounds unlikely, consider that this is a child who even as a newborn, when most babies apparently sleep an average of 20 hours in every 24, he was getting by with barely 12 to 14. Not for want of my trying, I might add. 

Fast forward 16 months and Louis's (non)-sleeping habits still dominate most of my days - and nights. Every now and then, there's a glimmer of hope that things might be improving. Like tonight, when he miraculously fell asleep about 10 minutes after I switched off the light. But that's forgetting about last Friday, when he had me practically begging him to shut his eyes after he spent a good two-hour stretch of the early hours awake. 

The reason I'm writing about sleep - again - is because I thought I'd link to a piece I wrote recently in the Independent about our travails. It may not have yielded the answer, but writing it was pretty cathartic. I mention it mainly for all the great comments and tips that readers posted at the end of the piece just in case they might come in handy for anyone in my boat. And if they don't, then let me just add one more observation that I received in a letter from a very kind reader. Even non-sleeping toddlers grow up eventually. And that time passes quicker than you might think. Even at 4am. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Eco mountain living

There's a certain irony about tipping up at an eco-resort with a toddler. Come to think of it, there's a certain irony about eco-resorts, but I digress. Having a baby has to be the un-greenest thing anyone can do, regardless of how many cloth diapers you might wash or wooden toys you find at charity shops. (And for the record, my cloth diapers went through the wash all of, oh, two times and our house is full of so much plastic tat it can feel like stepping into a Chinese toy factory.)

Not that we headed up to the eco-retreat of Milia, in the moutains above Chania, to try and assuage our new parent guilt at creating another carbon-guzzling citizen.  These days, as I toss another day's worth of dirty Pampers in the rubbish (whoops, I meant Nature Babycare, although I reckon Pampers leak less at night) or get through yet another age range of baby clothes, I have almost accepted my lot as planet destroyer. But I'm not knocking Milia's green status. 

Milia bills itself as a traditional settlement where, for a tidy fee, you can live like Cretan peasants of yesteryear. (Yet another irony, surely.) All the guest houses have been restored from the ruins of old village cottages. Luxurious they are not. But it's a great idea for a resort. I'm not sure it was the best place to head with a toddler, however. Especially one who chose our one day in the mountains to get sick. It was like being in the Navajo Nation all over again. But on the plus side, at least he slept for most of our walk, ahem, rock scramble. 

Louis survived but I think his personal jury is still out on mountaineering given that every time we've taken him above sea level thus far he's become ill. At least after downing sufficient Calpol he managed to enjoy elements of being there. Namely the four footed ones: the 25 or so cats and umpteen goats were definately his highlight. I would post more pictures as evidence but I've misplaced my blogging camera. Am very much hoping it's not still in Crete, because we're now in London.....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Holiday vocab

"Cat" hunting

One thing that's been really fun has been Louis' Greek holiday vocab. Okay, so his eating strike/illness (yes, another holiday illness - we're beginning to think he's trying to tell us he doesn't like travelling) means he isn't quite saying 'spanokopitta' or 'gyros', but he's got the seaside stuff down pat. 

We head to the "sand" so we can go "swimming" in the "sea" and then take a "shower" when we come out. His other favourite pursuit is to go "cat" hunting: this being Greece there are plenty around to chase among the bushes. I can feel a kitten hunting mission of my own coming on when we get home...

Although he's struggling with Raphael's German - "key" is just so much easier to say than "schlussel" - he's having lots of fun playing "cou-cou" with Mathis, the very sweet two-year-old from Versailles who is our next door neighbour here. 

Then there's "bum". For a day or two we were stumped about where that one came from, but then all became clear when he started pointing excitedly to the "bummer". Which is, obviously, the camera. Try it, "bummer" isn't as far off as you might think.....

Baby Butlins, Chania

Captain Monkey's breakfast
Louis and Raphael
Posing on the Marimekko cushions

So, it turns out that despite our odyssey to get here, Daddy J might just have struck holiday gold with his choice of hotel. Not only is the Ammos, near Chania, an i-escape pick (that website will bankrupt us, damn it), but it also does a mean sideline as a Baby Butlins.

Forget designer one-pieces; the accessory des vacances is a cute toddler. From Mathis and Athena, to Raphael and Noé, the Ammos is swimming in little playmates for Louis. And being one of Crete’s few boutique hotels, the Ammos attracts a cosmopolitan crowd, making poolside playtime into a virtual UN crèche. In fact, we wondered whether Nikos, the owner, had some sort of EU-style quota system in operation when it came to bookings: we counted Dutch, German, French, Poles, Brits, Greeks, Italians and even Danes, Swiss, Icelanders and Russians among the guests. Louis will be practically chattering in Esperanto by the time we get home.

Nikos apparently has a website called Baby Friendly Boltholes to “thank” for his baby magnet status. I am still trying to decide whether that's a website to use - or avoid in the future. If this stay has been anything to go by, then having other babies around is a real bonus. For one thing, it makes all the parents heaps friendlier. You have to be when your little ones are all sharing toys and splashing in the sea together. Which means that come bedtime, we've got someone to share a glass or two of wine with as well. Double bonus.