Sunday, January 31, 2010

The C word

Steam engine!
The boys who brunch
And Louis' wheels

It's started. I thought I'd be able to hold off for a few more years.... but no. I haven't even been a mum for two years and already I'm wondering: just how much longer can we live in London? Yup, it's time for the C word: the countryside. It's not that I'm suddenly fantasising about living in Dorset, or wherever us townies seem to congregate when we Leave The Big Smoke. And nor have I come down with an early case of inner London school stress. But there is something about living somewhere so urban that it's a good 25 minutes even to a park - and not even a great one at that. Okay, so he could probably kick a football around the council estate car pack at the back of our house but it's hardly ideal.

This particular burst of angst was sparked by a Sunday outing to deepest Kent to visit a very close friend. Or more specifically, his grandfather's steam engine. Sorry, traction engine, to give it its proper name - although Louis still thinks we saw a 'steam train'. He had an amazing day, riding on the steam engine, visiting the sheep, playing with the (little) dog and helping drive the mini tractor. Plus lunch in the very nice local village pub. Granted that's not exactly your typical day in the countryside but there was something about all that space. I get the same feeling when we visit Grandma P: she's lucky enough to live just yards from the sea (even if it is just the English Channel).

I might feel more London love if we lived around the corner from one of the beautiful parks. But that's realistically never going to happen and there's nothing like a long tube journey to take the edge of a park outing. I don't even want to move somewhere less central that is nearer more green because then I'd moan about getting "into town" as I'd have to start calling it. It's a conundrum, but lacks an easy solution. The obvious answer is to do nothing. But I can't help feeling that's not a long-term resolution.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow blind

I usually forget everything I read. I could own only 10 books and I'd probably still be surprised how each one ends. I can barely even recall what happens in Rebecca despite having read it countless times. Which means most of my pre-Louis reading was utterly pointless, and not just because it turns out I'm not such a fan of baby "tips". But one piece of advice did stick in my mind from a book called something silly like the Yummy Mummy handbook (but which turned out to be surprisingly good). It was to avoid taking your new child skiing. At all costs. Apparently all the thrills of a ski trip - the mountain peaks, the sub-zero temperatures, the eye-watering descents - aren't exactly baby friendly.

So we steered clear of the slopes. For at least a year. And this despite being a stone's throw from Colorado's top powder resort last March. But 12 months on and my anti-skiing resolve has weakened. Or, rather, melted. After all, two years ago my stomach was the size of a small mountain so I had to give skiing a miss then too. But now. Now is a different story. Okay, I'm aware that skiing has to be about the least toddler-friendly holiday. And that's if they're old enough to hit the nursery slope; even resorts that start them young balk at 20 months. (Something to do with baby bones still growing. Although surely that applies all through childhood?)

But what to do with Louis? Other parent friends bailed on a joint trip - I had hoped we could take it in turns to babysit - and funnily enough Grandma Penny didn't jump at my ultimate elegant solution: getting her to come too! So instead we're testing out a ski package that bundles a creche into the mix. I have my doubts about whether it will work out. We've never left Louis in any sort of nursery (although watch this space) so I suspect he'll have something to say if we try and abandon him all day. Especially given his low tolerance threshold for group activities: he'd had enough of the local library's storytelling session well before it had finished and started saying 'Luli home, Luli home'.

Still, given our expertise in tag-team parenting, I'm hopeful that DJ and I can at least take it in turn to hit the slopes. And contrary to some parents, my ideal holiday isn't actually one where I never see my toddler. Now all we need is for it to snow where we're going.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sleep damaged

Very awake

In case any regular bwb readers are wondering why I haven't moaned about Louis' sleeping lately I have a confession. Since about Christmas, we've actually had some nights that have been, whisper it, OK. Well, better than ok. I've clocked up at least six hours of sleep in a stretch at some points. (Oh, okay, well, once. The other couple of times he's slept soundly I, of course, haven't, waking, wondering what on earth is wrong.) 

I didn't want to mention it because I obviously didn't want to jinx it. But I'm safe now because Louis is still Louis: we've had plenty of shocking nights stirred into the mix. Including some classic evenings last week when I abandoned gave trying to get him to sleep after I'd passed the two-hour mark and just brought him back downstairs. One ended with him and DJ rocking around the kitchen at 10.30pm. Which was pretty funny. But I digress. The breakthrough, I'm sad to say, has all revolved around milk. Turns out there's a direct correlation between the amount he gets in the night (from me) and the amount he sleeps. Well, that and the number of hours Daddy J spends rocking him and singing the Gambler. (Thank you!) 

The reason I'm writing about sleep is because (as ever) it's on our minds. In particular, I'm curious: what kind of a toll does missing all that sleep take? (Some nights he barely manages eight hours and he doesn't exactly catch up on it during the day.) Compare that with his cousin, Tommy, who we reckon clocks up an extra three hours shut-eye in every 24 to Louis'. Which, by my rough calculations, means by the time they hit two years, Louis will have spent four MONTHS more of his life awake than Tommy. Four months! (As will I......)

Now consider that scientists reckon kids' brains do most of their most crucial developing at night, while they are sleeping. And that research is now blaming pretty much every modern disease - obesity, hyperactivity (ADHD) etc - on a lack of sleep. An article at the weekend on this very subject even claimed that some scientists believe that sleep problems during formative years cause brain damage. Now can someone please tell me what I'm supposed to do when Louis just won't go to sleep before 10pm? And, more importantly, how much I'm meant to worry about it? 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crossing the line

"Sosee milk"
And again
And again

As a Mum, you're constantly battling not to do things. One of the hardest is not crossing the line. My course faltered today when, in an attempt to grasp one of my Louis days rather than let it grasp me, I decided we'd go to that south-east London Mummy magnet, the Horniman Museum. So far, so good. (I'll gloss over the fact that, as per, I left an hour later than intended.) Mummies like it because kids like it - there's lots to see, with the mini aquarium a particular hit. Plus there's precious little else to do in that particular corner of London.

But first, again as per, I needed a coffee. Or, a "cossee" as Louis calls it, seeing as he can't do "fs" for some reason. As ever, I asked for a small cup of warm milk for Louis - or "sosee (frothy) milk" in Louis speak. Because we were smack bang in Nappy Valley land, instead of getting a small cup of frothy milk, Louis got a "babyccino", complete with sprinkling of chocolate. And I got a bill for 50p. Which I don't mind, but considering it was a tiny espresso cup with about three teaspoons of froth, it lasted Louis all of about 30 seconds. So I asked for a little bit more. And got charged another 50p.

It's not that I'm bothered about the money, but there's something about the babyccino branding that makes me feel like a fool for crossing that line, that mug line, which separates sensible Mums who don't waste their cash on all sorts of baby paraphernalia and other Mums who do. Especially when £1 doesn't even buy you five minutes to drink your coffee. I realise I probably sound stingy but "babyccinos" just make me feel I've been had. Like I do when I buy anything made by Organix (I'm thinking particularly of those mini boxes of raisins) or those pouches of fruit purees (surely a banana or two would do the same trick?).

Happily, our particular grotty bit of south London hasn't cottoned on to the con of babyccinos. When it does, it might really be time to move. Especially since I'm willing to bet that there's a strong correlation between the prevalence of babyccinos on cafe menus and house prices. Now there's a house price index that might make interesting reading.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not even snowed in

Walking the sheep
Inaugural snowman (sort of)
Kent snow
Call me heartless, but I have little time for anyone bemoaning being housebound because of the snow. (Disclaimer: it's my lifelong ambition to be snowed in.) When you've spent the past week trapped at home with a sickening toddler - and I mean one who kept getting more ill not one that's just really annoying - you'd long just to be stuck at home because of the snow. At least you can bundle up and go outside and play in snow; a sick toddler just has to stay indoors. And so does his Mum.

Or, rather, that's what she's supposed to do. In reality, ever since the white flakes started falling I've been desperate to get Louis outside. Fever or no fever. Not that he had a temperature when it first started snowing last week. Somehow though that changed on Saturday night, although for some reason we didn't that that detract from our Sunday mission of hunting some 'proper' snow after making do with the scant dusting that had fallen on London thus far. I guess the outing was a mistake. Pretty though the Kentish hillside was. I guess, too, that I should have stayed home all day on Monday - and Tuesday, rather than head to check out a still snowy Greenwich Park.

Five days, several high temperatures, one chesty cough, a horrid cold and an ear infection later, perhaps next time he starts to get sick I should stay put. Although that's easier said than done with a toddler. It's all very well being stuck at home if you're ill yourself: bring on the daytime telly, lunchtime duvet sessions and Lemsips. But try telling a toddler to just chill and watch a DVD, even if it is Charlie and "Lala".

For next time - for there will certainly be one - can someone please tell me what exactly you are supposed to do with a sick child under two? I haven't even managed to put him down for a nap the past three days because he'll only sleep entwined in my arms or on my chest. In "Mummy bed". Am not sure how I've just got away with a whole 90 minutes off. No doubt he's about to wake up coughing. Never mind, I'm told all the germs are good for him. Something about building up his resistance. All I can say is I hope it gets good and strong really fast. Especially as he's - gulp - got to start nursery next month.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In search of time

If today is indicative, Louis has resolved to climb more hills

Technically, I guess, one is supposed to make new year's resolutions somewhat earlier than 4 January. Or whatever date it is when I finish writing this. But seeing as I only just got round to posting my highlights of 09 I feel I'm kind of about on track. Plus everyone knows new year's resolutions never really kick in until about February.....

I often um and ah about whether to make resolutions: sometimes they can just add to one's general feelings of inadequacy (I'd already had alcohol, chocolate, crisps and a late night by 2 January), but as they kind of go with the whole liking the start of January thing, I reckon I should give them a shot. I've learnt from experience that they work best if you keep them simple. (My top year was when I resolved to get into the O.C. Seriously.)

I'm keeping them (it) simple again this year. Basically I want to find more time. For me, DJ, Louis, everyone really. My impetus was just coming off the phone with a very good friend I hadn't spoken to in probably a year. My excuse was that pretty much all of last year had vanished in a blur of trying to get Louis to sleep. That one task wiped out evening upon evening and destroyed whatever time I might have had spare in the daytime by making me too incoherent to speak. But if I could dare to hope that we might be past the worst on that front, then I should be able to make more time to do the 101 things I feel passed me by in 2009.

I'm not talking about anything grand: I might have listened wistfully yesterday to a friend telling me how he's managing to write an amazing sounding history book while holding down a 9 to 5 job, but I think I'd better save that particular resolution for another year. For now, I'd be happy just to be able to escape to the odd film, meet friends for a meal and somehow manage to visit my Dad/Grandpa/friend(s) in Scotland/Switzerland/DC/Brussels/Ealing. To make this resolution work, though, me finding more time means I need to work out how to spend less of this year operating a one-in, one-out parenting policy in this house and spend more of it with DJ.

If this week is anything to go by (he's working solidly, including through two nights until I go back to work on Thursday when he's then got four days off) then I'm going to have my work cut out. But it's still only 4 January (I've written this in one sitting) so for now, at least, I can still hope. (And while I'm at it, this resolution sits alongside the usual, namely: run that half-marathon, actually print out some photos of Louis, learn a new hobby, blog more frequently, eat less sugar, switch jobs, emigrate, make a wedding album, etc, etc, etc.........) How about anyone else?

PS Just saw this HuffPo piece on resolving to get more sleep. Another good one. Check it out.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Looking back in fondness

If bwb was a newspaper I'd have got my reminiscing about 2009 over with by about November, such is the rush to beat rival publications to write the same stuff. But seeing it's my blog, which makes me the editor, I'll allow myself some flexibility to pause for a second to look back on the previous 12 months. I need to because Josie at the brilliant Sleep Is For The Weak, which is something of a kindred blog spirit, tagged me in a High 5 meme (am still not really sure what this actually is....) that requires me to tell you about my top five highlights of 2009.

So here goes. In no particular order.

1. Inauguration day, 20 January 2009
He might not be my President, and he might be struggling a bit just now in the popularity stakes, but no matter: being there for Obama's inauguration has to rate as a high spot, if only because we made it to the Mall on a bitterly cold day to soak up the atmosphere from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and to - kind of - see Obama getting sworn in. We being me and Louis as DJ was down the other end where all the action was actually happening. Thanks, of course, to Katy and Jason and Sophie coming with us; plenty of other (more sensible?) moms opted to watch it from the warm of their living rooms.

2. Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon at dawn
Okay, so I won't make all of these about America, but this has to be up there, if only because we've got a photo of us all looking pretty darn happy up in our kitchen so I must have enjoyed it. Again, we made it out despite the bitter cold, and come sunrise had the top spot to watch the new day break all to ourselves. Truly magical. Even if it did make Louis sick.

3. That first "Mummy"
It's hard to pick a Louis highlight; there were so many. But that first time he said Mummy, properly, was a real bright spot. Even though he made me wait for it. The only thing that topped it was when he started saying "Mummy cuddle" when he wanted a hug. Or as a get-out-of-Louis-jail card when he's been naughty!

4. Those night feeds
Well, maybe not quite all of them. But seriously, nursing Louis for as long as I did was very special. It might sound bonkers, but I particularly treasure the memories of us all snuggled up in bed together with him feeding away. Despite the fatigue, we said at the time that we'd miss it if he ever made it back to his crib. And we meant it. All the other mums (and dads) who enjoy that closeness will know what I mean.

5. That first lunch a deux
I can't resist one more from DC. Sorry London, but that's just how it goes. This one is up there because it was just one of those magic moments, the first time Louis and I went out for lunch together. It was totally spontaneous - we were on the way to the hospital for a check up after a particularly grim illness and one or both of us needed a snack. I forget which. So we went to Kafe Leopold, a particularly special DC spot (thanks again Katy) and shared their delicious cucumber salad on a table for two. Even at just on nine months old he felt very grown up and I knew I'd really look forward to many more lunches to come.

I think I'm supposed to tag another five blogs to do likewise now, but I'm not sure they'll thank me for it now we're in to January? Can someone advise? Should I just ask people what they're most looking forward to in 2010? Am not sure of the meme etiquette....

PS DJ has just roundly criticised this for missing out at least another five major highlights. So either he'll post with his top five or I might need to do another blog!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!

Last night's party guests
New Year's Day

I like 1 January. Especially when I get a bonus day off work out of the blue (yes I know it's a bank holiday, but try telling that to a newspaper editor). It's a day when normal rules are suspended and time seems to pause before the onslaught of a fresh year starts in earnest on the 2nd. It's also a day full of hope and promise before the reality of life kicks back in. I especially 1 Januarys when they launch a new decade. This time 10 years ago we were living in Tbilisi and partying in Malindi to see in the new millennium. Fun as last night was - a NYE party for six adults and three toddlers at our house in London - I like the thought of imagining us living somewhere else in 10 years time. (I also like imagining us living somewhere else in one years time.....)

That said, for now, much as I could have fancied seeing in the new year somewhere glam, there was really nowhere else I'd have rather been than where we were, with very dear friends and an even dearer son. Thanks to the noisy fireworks in our street all three children were awake shortly after midnight so were able to join in the fun. I'd have been sad if Louis had slept through it all. Especially as he was up with us to celebrate last year. Strange to think that in another 10 years Louis will be 11 and a half. And we'll be properly old. If we're not already. Hopefully we'll all still be together, safe and having fun. Happy 2010 bwb readers.