Friday, December 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 13)

Christmas vacation has begun!  Jon was supposed to work this morning, but decided yesterday that he had finished what needed to be done before his break and took all of today off. So we are officially relaxing :)  Well, we will be relaxing once I get all my packing done. Plus I still have gifts to buy/make/wrap. Whatever--Jon is done with work, so we are officially on holiday!

Also, cannot believe that Christmas is already here. The fact that it was 50 degrees F today certainly didn't help that. And all my high hopes for making this a spiritual Advent season came to nothing. I didn't even try to plan too much: just Advent candles on the table for meals and a Jesse tree with a Bible story for Gus every morning. The Jesse tree didn't get made, the Bible stories lasted less than a week, and the Advent candles fizzled out around the third / Gaudete Sunday. I know Gus is young, but I wanted to start some traditions. But I seem to be physically incapable of doing the same thing day after day. Even my novenas--which are sent to me every day by email!--get patchy around day 4 or 5. New Year's resolution?

I did, however, have a lovely Christmas treats swap party this weeks with some mom and baby friends. I invited a load of people, assuming that most would be unable to attend, but in the end we had 10 mother/baby (really I should say toddler probably!) pairs. In my little house! It was busy, but I was able to clear some things away in the living room and there ended up being plenty of room for them to run/crawl around. I had a really good time, and I think everyone else did too. But, man alive, just watching all those kiddos play is exhausting!

As I was getting things ready for the party, I felt like I should organise some sort of activity for the children. In the end, I did not, as I wasn't sure what to put on for them. But at what age do you start planning activities for playdates? When we go around to friends' houses, Gus seems happy enough to just have the opportunity to play with new toys. But surely at some point we should be more proactive in their activities?

I have been spending way too much time on Foodgawker recently. I just have an urge to bake cookies at Christmastime, but there aren't really enough people around when we're at Jon's family's to eat all the cookies I want to bake. So I am just living vicariously through food blogs instead. 

Also, this is why I have resisted signing up to Pinterest (so far!). This is my fear if I were to sign up:
(amount of time I spend on Foodgawker) x (all the other things, besides food, that are available on Pinterest) = completely abandoning my real life for a beautiful life on the internet
Well, it probably wouldn't be as bad as that, but I need me some limits.

I mentioned last week that Gus now makes a sign for where. It has quickly turned into a new favourite game. He will hide something (e.g. put a rubber duck in a basket) then look at me at make the sign. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It really is very sweet, though.

He has also started making his first attempts at putting words/signs together. Once he made the where sign while saying Pa when we were upstairs and Jon was downstairs. A second time he was looking at a peekaboo book with a duck under the flap, and he signed duck then where. It's like you can see those little brains working right in front of you!

Merry Christmas! Especially wishing safe travels to everyone. And if I had actually taken a photo for a Christmas card, I would leave you with that. But that is another pre-Christmas activity that did not happen, so you'll just have to imagine my little family smiling out at you :)

 Be sure to head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes!

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's New with Gus this Week?

I've never really spent much time with a toddler before (well, besides my sisters, but I was still just a kid myself then), so I didn't realise how neat it is to watch their understanding of the world just blossom. Gus has learned to do all sorts of new things just in the past week or two.

One thing he is doing all of a sudden is expanding his use of tools. He knows what various items are used for and wants to try them out for himself.

  • He got out his little brush and was brushing the hair of his stuffed animals the other day; he was just toddling around, brush in one hand, teddy in the other. 
  • We've removed the tray from his high chair and pulled the chair up to the table with us for meals. I think this has made him feel very big, and coincided with his insistence on using a spoon for every meal, even if we're just eating sandwiches! Although he still prefers to eat his yogurt with his fingers :)  
  • Today he was insistent that I give him a fork to use and then spent 10 minutes stabbing at his food. And making a huge mess while not actually putting anything in his mouth, but that's par for the course (although I do think being at the table has reduced the mess a bit). Luckily for Gus, I finally ordered his Christmas present yesterday--a ridiculously overpriced set of children's flatware that matches our silverware exactly. Too cute!  
  • We had some friends over yesterday, and after they left, I noticed Gus was trying out some more tool-using skills. Our Advent candles had been on the dining table, and I knew that one of the other babies had knocked them onto the floor. No big deal. What I didn't realise was that the matched had also fallen off the table. I waved goodbye to my friends, walked the five feet from the door to the table, and saw Gus underneath. He had gotten one of the matches out of the box and was holding it to the candle, trying to get the candle to light! Luckily, he hadn't learned about striking the match yet, so there was no fire. But let me tell you, after I put the candles back on the table and lit them (so that he could see but not reach), I definitely put those matches on a high shelf out of sight! 

going to see the neighbors' chickens
Gus has also learned a few new signs this week. He can now say food and please/thank you. He uses the please sign when he wants something, which is really very useful, except when he doesn't have a word/sign for the thing he actually wants! Then he just signs over and over, with me none the wiser about what he is actually asking for. Poor thing; I do try my best. He has also learned the sign for diaper recently, and sometimes walks over to the diaper mat and does the sign. I usually take this to mean he wants his diaper changed, although he does sometimes just walk away uninterested before I can get the things ready, so I am not sure. One of his favourite words is still hat, and he loves to point them out, whether they are on a shelf, in a picture, or on a stranger walking down the street. He might think that people with white hair are wearing hats, though. Luckily he is not really at the stage where other people readily understand what he is saying!

The cutest new "word" he has learned this week is growling like a bear.We got a new book out of the library last week--Say Hello to the Snowy Animals!--so now (along with Ten Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle) we have two books in the house that have a polar bear growling, so I think that is where he picked it up. Although I have a feeling Pa had a hand in the teaching of this trick as well :)  All the teddy bears have been busy growling at me these past couple of days.

yogurt, please! (I didn't get the sign in the pic, though)

Everything is a game to Gus at the moment. With any action that I do, he is likely to ask me to repeat it over and over again. For instance, today we were sitting with the stuffed animals, and I made the sock monkey give Gus a hug. We then spent the next ten minutes getting hugs from various animals. Saying uh-oh! or where did it go? is a surefire way to start a long, drawn-out game. And he has taken to making a sweet little questioning motion to go along with where? (hands out, palms up sort of shrug) and putting his hands over his mouth as if in surprise for uh-oh!. Simple tasks are great fodder for games as well. On Tuesday our veg box was delivered, and there were 8 or 10 carrots at the bottom of the box. I gave him a paper bag and asked him to put the carrots in it while I made the breakfast. He spent the next 15 minutes putting the carrots in, then taking them out, lining them up in a row, then back in again. It's a great way to spend a morning!

carrot packing

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Books I'm Reading: No Impact Man

I've actually been reading books lately, wonder of wonders--I've read almost three whole books in the last three weeks! Usually I am a novel type of girl all the way, but I have gotten more and more into non-fiction the last few months. One that I have just read is called No Impact Man: Saving the planet one family at a time by Colin Beavan. I was a little wary of it when I picked it off the library shelf; there seem to be a lot of books lately that are basically "do something for a year, blog about it, turn that into a book, get lots of publicity", and there is a little cynical part of me that questions people's motives about those sort of things. But that is not very charitable of me, and I figured at the very least it would have a few pointers for greener living, so I thought why not?

And I am really glad I read it. The basic gist of it is that Beavan decides to spend one year, with his wife and toddler, making as little impact on the environment as possible. He starts off knowing next to nothing about how to do this and therefore learns as he goes, gradually making changes to his lifestyle. This seems a pretty sensible way to do things--you can't cut out everything at once, and it seems a bit silly to research things (i.e. learn how simple changes could make big differences) but not actually implement them until some arbitrary date in the future. But it does lead to some humorous / annoying occurrences. For example, the very first stage is to make no trash, which he chose with the mistaken assumption that he would be easing his way into things. Then he goes and has an existential crisis on day one over blowing his nose, and I am just thinking "Handkerchief. Handkerchief. HANDKERCHIEF!!" I mean, come on, that one's obvious, right? Apparently not to Beavan.

Overall, it was a good book, though. He did well to give background about why it is important to make less trash / use less water and electricity / travel more sustainably and how it works in a real-life family, in both good and bad ways. My favourite part was the continual focus on people and how we choose to live our lives. I sometimes get turned off by sections of the environmental brigade because they seem to want to save the planet for the planet's sake, not in order to improve the lives of the people living on the planet. I'm sorry, but I don't think the Earth would be better off if humans didn't exist. Living the best life possible seems to be at the centre of this book, and leaving the world in such a state that our grandchildren can do the same. That doesn't mean having the most stuff, but finding out what parts of modern life are adding to our lives and what are taking away from them, on both an individual and societal level.

It is all about intentional living, which I love. I'm not all about doing things just because that is the way they have always been done. I want to choose the path that is best for myself and my family, that brings us the most joy and peace in our lives. Of course, having the time, knowledge and resources to make these types of decisions about our lives is a luxury that not everyone has. The ideas behind this are touched on some in the book in the discussion of individual action versus political and corporate action. It shouldn't be "versus", but rather "in conjunction with", as both are important. For instance, I can do my part to help keep our waterways clean by purchasing certain cleaning products, but really, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors shouldn't be in our personal care products in the first place!

I wouldn't want to do what Beavan did for the book. But it has made me think more about how I can lessen my impact and, more surprisingly, examine what it is that I really want out of life.

I am *hoping* to do another post this week detailing some of the green things that I have been inspired to implement because of this book, so watch this space!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Night Owl

I started writing this at one in the morning, as a little boy charged around the room. 

Yep, he does take after me in at least one way, I guess.

After a few days where he was feeling extra sleepy, and multiple naps on Saturday, Gus woke up at 3am Sunday morning and was awake for maybe 2 hours? I don't know, I was drifting in and out of sleep. I am pretty sure I saw him awake and then lie down to sleep at about 5, but he may have been sleeping earlier than that. Either way, we let him sleep in till 10:30 (compared to his regular wake-up time of about 9am). So then he decided he did not need a nap on Sunday. And believe me, I tried! I even took a nap myself, but Gus found it more fun to play on the floor with Jon than nap with me. But Gus was in such good spirits on Sunday, I didn't worry much about it.

Then comes 8.30 pm. Gus falls asleep on my lap on the couch as Jon and I watch Poirot. We cross our fingers that he is down for the night. But after the show ends, I need the toilet--the one thing that Jon can't bring me! I attempt to extract myself without waking Gus up, but, alas, am unsuccessful. Which is why I was up till 1:30 last night.

Co-sleeping is wonderful for our family in many ways, and I am so glad that we have decided to structure our sleep this way. But co-sleeping also equals co-awake-ing. This? Not always so fun. Especially when it means that I am awake, trying to get Gus to fall asleep, and instead he just wants to crawl all over a sleeping Jon, who has to get up in a few short hours!

I decided that trying to sleep in our regular bed was just going to result in three of us awake instead of two, so I pulled the (single) mattress from the bed in the spare room and put it on the floor in Gus's room. (He doesn't have a bed in there, and I was afraid that I would forget about the limited amount of space in the bed in my sleep and one of us would fall off the bed!) Not the greatest idea I've ever had, I must say, because Gus just thought it was a cool new toy and spent ages bouncing on it. 

Oh well. We got to sleep eventually (and let's be honest--1:30 is my bedtime about once a week anyway, it's just that I usually have my "me time" rather than spend it playing with Gus). He actually woke up on his own at 10 this morning, and is down for his regular nap at the moment, so we'll see what tonight brings! 

Good night, good night
Time sends a warning call
Sweet dreams descend on all
Time, time sends a warning call

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday, Gus!

My darling Gus,

You're one today! Your Pa and I are so blessed to have such a lovely wee son. You really are a joy to be with--it is hard to put into words how happy we are to have you in our lives.

I love waking up next to you every morning. You usually open your eyes and are off like a flash, racing to check out the first thing you see. But some days we just relax in bed for a bit, alternating between nursing and playing silly games. The best is when Pa is still in bed when you wake up; your face lights up as soon as you see him, and you make it your mission to wake him up if he is still asleep!

signing "more"
There are so many little things you do that are just so gosh-darn cute. You have really perfected the more sign (although you have your own unique twist on the execution of it), and you use it hundreds of times a day, usually accompanied by an emphatic "Dat!" You love to walk everywhere, and we often hold hands and wander around the neighborhood. I love it when you walk backward or sideways, always keeping your eye on me! Or when you try to carry around things that are almost the size of your own little self--you are surprisingly strong, though!

And you definitely have set ideas about what you want and ways to make yourself understood.  The number of times I have been trying to do the dishes or some other mundane task and you bring me your shoes or try and hang off the stroller, indicating your desire to go outside for a walk. I still haven't decided whether it is a good or a bad thing that you know where the fruit bowl is and let me know when you want a snack. I mean, I love that you love fruit and that you can let me know what you want, but you have to eat other things sometimes!

You can say about 6 words, and several signs, either on their own or in conjunction with vocal words. You know hot, and often walk into the kitchen saying "Hot. Hot" about the oven. That hasn't kept you from trying to touch the hot oven yet, but it's a start! And I think I must always say "Up!" on a high note and "Down" on a low note, because it is never just down when you say it, it is "doooowwwwww", soft and low.

You're such a curious little one, always exploring, always testing things out. Never staying still for too long! I do love watching you learn about the world, though. A favorite game of yours at the moment seems to be organising--you move all the stuffed animals from one pile to another, or otherwise place things in very specific spots based on your own secret categorisation principles.

It has been fascinating to watch you grow and learn this past year, and I am so excited to see what you get up to in the months and years ahead. Thanks for such a wonderful year, my love!

All my love,

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A brief thought about holiness

Today is All Saints' Day and the beginning of a wonderful month of remembrance in the Church. At Mass this morning, our priest asked why many of us would consider ourselves to be good or decent people, but few would describe themselves as holy. As it is through God's love and grace that we are made holy, Father warned us against inadvertently underestimating God's love by thinking of ourselves as only good instead of holy. We are all called to be saints, to be holy. I know that I personally have a tendency to think of that as something for the future, but it is also for the here and now. I know that, through God's grace and the prayers of the saints in Heaven, holiness is possible!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween isn't as big a holiday here in England as it is in the US, but I couldn't let such a fun day pass without a bit of a celebration.

I has originally hoped to make Gus a duck costume, seeing as he loves ducks so much at the moment. But I never got a chance to get to the fabric store and pick up some material. I was talking to my mom and sister Kelly on the phone on Saturday and lamenting that I felt like such a bad mother for not having a costume for Gus's first Halloween. They reminded me that we had previously talked about making him a little costume to be Gus-Gus the mouse from Cinderella. I could do that! So last night I cut apart a sweater that I never wear anymore and made a little set of ears and a tail. (I also stayed up way too late making a matching pair of trousers, which I didn't finish. Note: setting up the sewing machine is NOT more trouble than it is worth. Hand-sewing takes forever, even when just making a pair of baby-sized trousers.) We didn't have anywhere to go today except a monthly play / moms' group, but I dressed him up for that anyway.
what a sweet wee mouse!

I dressed up as well--Cinderella, to go along with the theme. I forgot to take a picture, but I pretty much looked exactly like this:

Sans the housework. Obviously. Interestingly, this is the second time I have dressed up as Cinderella for Halloween. The first time was when I was about 7, and loved the movie. My mom made me a costume, again, much like the one above. I even had a little stuffed bird perched on my shoulder. I didn't think to do that this time. Maybe because I had my shoulders full, what with a baby strapped to my chest and all.

We carved a pumpkin yesterday. I was sure that Gus would love squishing his hands through the innards and have a grand old time. Yeah, not so much. I think I disturbed a very important game he was playing, or something, because it took a lot of convincing to get him to even have a look at what we were doing. He picked up one tiny piece, tasted it, spit it out (because it was disgusting, I am sure), and went back to his game. Oh well, I had fun.

Oh wait, that's Gus again.
He's better looking than the pumpkin I carved anyway

Finally, I made a spooky dinner. I made pepper-o-lanterns, inspired by these, twice-baked potato ghosts, and melted witches, aka guacamole with a felt hat to decorate. Now that I am writing this, I realise I should have done something "bloody" with the beetroot in the refrigerator. That probably would have been gross, rather than spooky. Anyway, it was both fun and delicious. I have a picture, but I am a bit embarrassed to post it, due to its poor quality. How do food bloggers a) get proper lighting for dinner shots when the sun sets at 5pm or b) take the time to actually take a nice photo, 'cause I do not like anything to come between me and my food once dinner is ready! 


Hope you had a fun day!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Is it weird that my son can say 6 words, and one of them is hat?  Maybe it is because this is one of his new favourite things to do:

sometimes this one

mostly this

And have you ever seen such cute pajamas??

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Joy Pockets

For some reason I've had a bit of a stressful week, so I thought I would join Holistic Mama and share some Joy Pockets today, the little moments this week that have brought me joy and happiness. And many thanks to Melissa at the New Mommy Files for introducing me to the idea!

Glorious summer weather giving way to the crisp coolness of autumn.

Feeding the ducks at the lake.

The family bed.

An evening out with friends.

Skype and the friends and family on the other end of the line.

Watching Gus "read" his books.

My veg box delivery.

The sense of satisfaction that comes from weeding the garden.

A new nephew!
(Many congratulations to my brother and sister-in-law on the arrival of their fourth wee one!)

Maybe my week hasn't been so bad after all :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Going on with Gus

Lots of exciting things happening in the Gus front this week!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Gus has made his first sign--milk. At first, he only did it while he was actually nursing, but within a couple of days figured out how to use it to ask for milk as well. Oh, the cuteness! He walks up to me with a huge grin on his face and does the sign, my heart just melts. He has taken to making the sign with both hands, now, as well. He is just so proud of himself for being able to ask for something and getting a response. Maybe too proud, in fact, as I seem to be nursing him all. the. time. at the moment. That could be related to other things, though, including but not limited to teething, a cold that he has had for a couple of weeks, and the fact that it was unseasonably hot last week, so he needed more fluids. Also, I think that he uses the sign at times when he doesn't necessarily want milk, but is just thinking about milk or thinking of things that he associates with nursing, such as being cozy and secure and well-loved. Um, did I tell you that he is the cutest thing ever? There are times when it is obvious that he is asking for milk, but I think I am getting better at interpreting his use of the sign at other times. (I thought signing was supposed to remove the need for all this guessing and interpreting!?)

He can also do a second sign. Well, does it count if the second sign looks exactly like the first? We often walk to the neighborhood lake and look at the ducks, geese, and swans that live there, and he can now sign duck when he sees them. But you do have to use the context, since it looks exactly like milk. (Milk is signed by opening and closing your fist, as if milking a cow; for duck, you also open and close your hand, but keep the fingers straight like a duck's beak.) Gus has a little book of animals, where there are pictures of about a dozen different animals on each page. Last night we were all sitting in bed reading, and he had the book open to the page with all the different birds, and Jon and I saw him signing duck.  "Look, Jon, he's reading!"

Gus does love his books. His particular favorites are books with animals in them (as he loves animals), but any book will do. He flips through the books with amazing speed, then will stop on a page that looks interesting and point and chatter about the pictures for a while. He often seems to know which page he is looking for--tonight we were looking at the above-mentioned animal book, and he flipped back and forth through the whole book (going 2 or 3 pages at a time) about three times before he finally landed on the page with the birds, at which point he stopped and showed me the pictures. The only problem with this activity is that he doesn't actually like us to read the stories to him--we obviously don't turn the pages nearly fast enough for our little speed reader!

It is funny how different skills progress. A few months ago, he loved knocking things down, then he learned to build and had no time for destruction. Then he went through a stage where he spent a lot of time taking things off shelves and out of boxes, but in the last week or two, he has started focusing more on the opposite--putting items in other things. (Well, he still loves to take things out, especially when I try to put his toys and books back on their shelves!) Today he helped me load the washing machine with the dirty clothes--although he didn't quite understand that we couldn't take them back out right away! I love watching him wandering around the yard, picking up dirt and rocks from one location and depositing them very methodically in another.

He also learned about squishing things this week. It was sweet watching him sit under the crabapple tree, using all his might to try and squish the rotten apples in his hands. It was not so cute when he found a slug as I was pulling weeds and tried to squeeze it!

I just can't get over how much he understands. I'm sure it has been gradual, but all of a sudden it hit me this week that I can ask him to do something (can I have that? should we do this? do you want to go there?), and he does it a large percentage of the time. Obviously, he still chooses not to do things sometimes, but he understands what I am asking.

At the same time, it is amazing what he doesn't understand. We are truly in the throes of separation anxiety. At the weekend, Jon, Gus, and I would all be chilling out in the living room, and then either Jon or I would go off to the kitchen or bathroom, and Gus would start fussing and following. And I don't think it was a "ooh, I want to go there, too" kind of cry, but more a "what?! don't leave me!" cry. Today at a friend's house (who we see every week, so I think he feels pretty comfortable with the other mamas and babies that were there), he started screaming and crying, with tears running down his face, before I had even left the room. I always have the dilemma of whether I should try and sneak out of a room without him noticing or tell him that I am just nipping to the other room and risk him getting upset as I go. Usually, I think that it would be more disconcerting for him to just turn around and not know where I am, so I tell him unless I will literally only be gone for less than 30 seconds or so. Or I take him with me. That happens a lot.

Goodness, this has turned into a real novel, and I feel like I am still forgetting something really awesome that he is doing!  I guess there is always next week :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The elusive vitamin D

I've been thinking a lot about vitamin D lately. A couple of people I know, whom I assume spend tons of time frolicking outdoors, were tested and found to be deficient. How could this be?, I wondered. I started reading a bit about it here and there, and found it to be a really confusing topic. There seem to be two conflicting viewpoints going around: a) that it is easy to get enough vitamin D from the casual sun exposure in all climes, or b) that most people are deficient in vitamin D, and universal supplementation is recommended. Surely, only one of these can be right! But how to tell which one? Or is there a magic solution somewhere in between the extremes?

The UK Departments of Health recommend that all pregnant and breastfeeding women and all children, ages 6 months to 5 years (unless drinking 500mL of fortified formula a day--regular milk isn't fortified in the UK), take a daily vitamin D supplement. While they say that regular sun exposure is adequate for most people, there have also been studies that found that more than half the adult population of the UK is vitamin D deficient, especially in the winter and spring. So not only is this confusing, you also have to keep in mind what the aim of recommendations like those from the DH are when trying to apply it to your own situation. Oh, public health, how I both love you and get annoyed by you at the same time! These recommendations are for populations. The DH knows that it is both safer and cheaper to recommend that everyone, or at least all people in "at risk" groups, take supplementation than that a small minority of those people end up with diseases like rickets and poor bone health. What the DH does not know is whether I, personally, or my family are actually deficient in vitamin D and could benefit from supplementation. So while it is useful to consider the official advice, it doesn't tell me the whole story.

Gus soaking up some rays in the back garden
Today I read this post over on Best for Babes (and this follow-up on the author's own blog) and found it really useful. It is still obviously talking about populations, but at least it is providing me with context, not just a one-size-fits-all approach. There's a bit of a philosophical debate within breastfeeding circles regarding vitamin D. If breastmilk is complete nutrition for your baby, providing everything baby needs for at least the first 6 months of life (which I believe it is!), then why should we need to give vitamin D supplements? Is it somehow betraying breastfeeding to suggest that vitamin D supplementation can be useful, or even necessary? The author, Diana Cassar-Uhl, looks extensively at the research surrounding vitamin D deficiency, sufficiency, and supplementation. All extremely useful; just what I was looking for. In particular, she reports that studies show that it is very hard for our bodies to make enough vitamin D from the sun at higher latitudes (i.e. where the UK is), especially in the winter months. But the thing that really helped me wrap my head around the issue of giving vitamin supplements to babies was this: if older children and adults only get 10% of the necessary vitamin D from our diet, why should we expect infants to have 100% of the need met through diet alone (breastmilk)? It is probably possible for a baby to get it all through breastmilk, if the mother's stores are high enough, but is it necessary? I don't know the "right" answer to that question, but, to me and for my family, I would say it is not. There are other sources, i.e. sun exposure and vitamin supplementation, that can play their part.

Way back in the day, people would have gotten enough vitamin D through sun exposure, as they would spend hours outside everyday working in the fields, washing laundry at the creek, etc, etc. But for me, that is simply not possible. So I am going to try to get it in whatever way I can. I try to take Gus outside for an hour every day when the weather is nice. (Of course, this opens up the whole question of what is the optimal amount of time to go without sunscreen or other protection from the sun--most sources seem to say between 15 and 30 minutes. Especially since Gus is so fair compared to my own complexion! I have never had to worry about sunburn for myself, but I don't want risk him burning.) To make up the difference between what we can synthesize from the sun and what we need, especially in the winter--and, often, rainy summer!--months, I am going to give Gus vitamin D drops. (There is already vitamin D in the daily multivitamin I [try to] take since I am breastfeeding.) I don't have any problem giving these to Gus, since he is already eating solid foods--especially if I can get the kind with no sugars, flavourings, colors, etc, which don't appear to be available in the UK. But, no worries, I've got connections ;)  When we have another baby in the future (God willing!), I think I will try to get my own levels tested and then take enough supplements myself to provide a sufficient amount to the baby, so I wouldn't have to give drops before 6 months, if possible. Jon takes a multivitamin, but it doesn't seem to have vitamin D in it, so I should probably look into a separate supplement for him as well, especially since he sees the least amount of sun out of all of us!

I am really glad I have come to a conclusion regarding this issue. I was pretty sure I was going to give Gus the drops anyway, but now I feel I really understand why it is a good idea for us. What about you--do you supplement? Why or why not?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walking! and other Gus-related news

I promised a video of little Gus walking, but I must warn you, it is not great quality. Our camera doesn't take very good videos, and has no microphone, so there is no sound. (Maybe I have an item to put on my Christmas list, no?) HOWEVER, Gus himself is pretty darn cute in the video, so that should make up for the poor production quality. Just think of it as an artsy, independent movie. That gives it lots of street cred, I think :)

The stats: Gus took his first steps 2 days before he turned 9 months old. Within about 2 weeks, he was able to take 10 or more steps at a time, and now, at 10.5 months, he has mostly done away with crawling. Which is a bit sad (not only because my baby is growing up so fast!) because crawling is actually super cute. He still crawls to climb up things, e.g. the stairs, the furniture, his Pa. It is amazing how quickly they master new skills, though!

In other news--Gus made his first sign yesterday!  Be still my heart, it was pretty much the sweetest thing ever. Of course, his first sign was milk, as he loves him some nursing. He hasn't figured out how to use the sign to actually ask for it yet (still uses the old stand-by of pulling down my shirt. Thanks, kiddo), but he does the sign while he is actually nursing. There have been times before where I thought maybe he was doing some signs, but this one was definite, no ambiguity. Now that he has started to sign, I better get back into signing regularly. After months of signing with no response from Gus, I have gotten a little bit lax and only do a few words regularly. I am trying to remember all the signs I learned again and re-incorporate them into my daily conversation.

Also, Gus's new favourite thing is to watch Jon do push-ups. He thinks it is pretty much the funniest thing ever. I think Jon is now doing them nightly just to get Gus to laugh. Related to that, Gus likes to ride on our backs and shoulders (he tries to climb on Jon's back during the push-ups--making Pa work a bit harder!). And he has started dancing to music. Which isn't related, but is new.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Animals on parade

Gus loves animals. All types--big or small, furry or feathery.  We're really lucky that we have a little lake near the house (about a 10 minute walk away), and on our way to the grocery store and playground, that is home to many a water fowl, including a pair of swans and their babies. One of his favorite activities is to go down to the lake and watch the ducks. Although he does seem to think that it is a good idea to walk into the water to try and get closer to them. Yeah, I have to hold on pretty tightly there. (Oh, did I mention that Gus is walking? A lot? And has been for a month now? Sorry blogworld, I am neglectful. I am hoping to [record and] post a decent video of his bipedal talents any day now. She says for the 25th day in a row.) And I swear that he can say duck. Sure, da is the "word" he says most often, but when he says it while looking at the ducks, I do like to think that it is intentional.

Gus petting Jon's childhood dog, Flopsy. Who just died last week.
We'll miss you, Flopsy!

We also have many cats that roam the neighborhood. Which I generally don't think of as a positive thing about our house. But Gus certainly rates it highly. The other day, there was a cat in our back yard, and Gus and I sat together for about half an hour, just watching it sit, and clean itself, and chase the ants. It was very sweet. Gus, I mean. Not so much the cat. I mean, the cat was pretty regular. I am not really a cat person.

Gussy looking at the geese when we went to the farm last month.
It's really difficult to get a picture of a baby
while wearing him in a sling on your front.

So last weekend, Jon, Gus and I were in Bristol for a wedding on Friday and had all day Saturday to have fun. Knowing his love of animals, we decided to take Gussy to the zoo. Oh. my. goodness. did he love it!  It was as if each animal was more exciting than the last. He actually had a bit of a cold (which of course he came down with the night before we left for a long weekend, but it didn't seem to hold him back too much) and was kind of sleepy by the time we arrived, but he would not let himself fall asleep when there were amazing animals to be seen. We saw flamingos, lions, several types of monkeys, penguins, and seals, and walked through the butterfly house. Probably some other things too, but those were the ones that I remember him liking the most. It is just so lovely to see his little face light up with pure delight as he looks at the various animals. Jon and I kept saying to each other, "I am so glad we brought him here. Look how much he likes it!" I had thought that just a morning would be more than enough time for such a little one to spend in the zoo, but when we had to go to meet some friends for lunch, I felt so guilty making him leave a place where he was clearly having so much fun!  And he did fall asleep eventually--as soon as we walked away from the animals to look for a place to change a very wet diaper!  Guess we'll postpone that nappy change for a little bit :)

Knowing how much he loves animals, I am really very tempted to get Gus a pet for his birthday in a couple of months. Nothing big--I am not up for the responsibility of a dog and, like I said before, am not really a cat person. But maybe something little, like a guinea pig or hamster or something. Does anyone know about these animals, if they are good for toddlers and easy for moms to take care of? Or is it a silly idea for me to bring a pet into the house? Do I really want one more thing that I need to clean?!

6-day-old piglets at the farm.
Maybe we should get on of these--they are so cute!
Nevermind they grow up to weigh about 400 pounds!

Friday, September 2, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 12)

I think I am becoming an insomniac, or something. Gus has been staying up late (till about 10) and then sleeping in until 9, which means I get to sleep in--yay! But I have compensated for that by not going to bed before 2am the past three nights, and then not being able to fall asleep once I get into bed. This is not okay. And I have not even been doing anything useful--I have recently become mildly addicted to Mahjong. Help!

Related to that, how do you get a baby to go to sleep earlier? I would like him to go to bed closer to 9 rather than 10, but he doesn't seem to agree there. Yesterday Gus only had one nap--I neither actively helped nor hindered his falling asleep a second time--and when he fell asleep right at 9pm, I thought I had cracked it. Until he woke again 45 minutes later, not really sure if he wanted to sleep or play. But he was so adorable, we couldn't possibly not play with him, which probably perpetuated the problem, as he didn't fall back asleep until after 11. At least I had an excuse for staying up late--I had to take Gus out of the bedroom so we wouldn't wake Jon up, and I was worried about waking Gus up again if I moved. (We'll ignore the hour I was awake after I finally put Gus back into bed) :)

I hate making phone calls. There has been one call I have been meaning to make for a couple of weeks now (re volunteering at the local breastfeeding cafe), and I keep putting it off, even though it is for something I would quite like to do. Obviously, it isn't very happy with me and has decided to get back at me by rounding up some friends. So now I have about 6 phone calls I need to make. Maybe I should call this Phone Friday and just get them over with.

It doesn't help that the one call I actually made this week consisted of me waiting on hold for an hour and 20 minutes, only to have my call answered by the wrong department. They tried to transfer me, but apparently they are updating their phone systems, and the correct department's lines were down. I left my details with the promise that I would get a call back once the lines were working again, but so far nothing. This one could save me money on my energy bills, so I really should try again!

I saw this recipe for Sweet Potato Brownies in the Guardian, and I definitely need to try them. I really like recipes for sweet things that have vegetables or other healthy things in them because then I, um, don't feel quite so guilty for eating a whole pan myself? (Can't let them go bad!) Maybe one sweet potato does not magically make brownies a health food, but a girl can dream, right?

Although, they probably won't stack up to my friend Rosie's brownies. She makes pretty much the most delicious brownies ever. If you like baking yummy treats, head over to her blog. (Even though she doesn't have her regular brownie recipe on there! She's got others, and her banana cake is pretty amazing, too).

Speaking of sweet potatoes in baked goods, I have recently made Sweet Potato Crackers a couple of times. I put in a tablespoon or two of tahini, which makes the dough super sticky and unable to actually roll into crackers unless you add a lot more flour. But, it also makes them delicious, and taste kind of like Goldfish crackers? Aren't goldfish crackers supposed to be cheddar flavour? Very strange. But still a good recipe for a homemade snack. Also good with beetroot instead of sweet potato. Dip in hummus or cream cheese. Done.

Does anyone else changed their child's diaper in unconventional positions? Half the time, Gus will not lie still for a nappy change, so often just change it while he is standing up.  I've gotten pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. Although I do dread changing him away from home now. Recently I had to change him while we were out, and he just screamed and cried the whole time, as I tried to keep him from crawling right off the changing table. And of course, there was a line of people waiting to use the room as we walked out. *lower eyes and move past quickly*

Jon just realised this week that he still has half his holiday days left to take for the year, and we don't really have any trips planned till Christmas. He wants to take a full week off for a stay-cation, whereas I suggested taking a bunch of 3-day weekends. The only thing he vetoed is taking days off for DIY! I'm kind of excited about these extra days--we almost never have days off where we just stay at home, so this will be a real treat for us!

Hope you have a great weekend! Don't forget to head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stay-at-home mom, working mom, or just Mom?

I've been having a bit of an identity crisis lately. Well, crisis might be a bit dramatic, but I have been thinking, anyway.

In March, I lost my job. The organisation that I worked for basically lost all its funding and had to close down. This makes me all kinds of sad, seeing as the work--which I and many others consider to be very important--is now not being done; plus the people I worked with were pretty much the best colleagues you could ask for.

The thing is, in March, when this all happened, I still hadn't decided whether I was going to return to work at the end of my maternity leave. I love being home with Gus. I am so blessed to be able to spend all this time with him. On the other hand, there is so much out in the world that interests me and that I feel I could really contribute to. I have applied to a couple of jobs this summer, and during the time I was actually working on the application, I felt so excited at the prospect of regularly addressing the sort of issues I am interested in. But as soon as I pressed "save" and went to do something else, panic would rise up in my chest, and I would think that I cannot possibly go back to work. (It doesn't help that I don't like the process of starting a new job--getting to know everyone and the feeling of having to prove myself makes me nervous at the best of times).

I think my ideal job would be where I could either take Gus with me or would only have to be away for him for 3-4 hours at a time.  But where can a person find a job like this? I recently read this post at Talk Birth (via), and oh man did it speak to me. She talks about
the need for something in between staying at home and working full time (basically, that working and mothering simultaneously is the most natural and fulfilling approach, but our society does not make that combination often feasible or comfortable)
Now, I hope I don't get in trouble with any self-appointed mommy police, but being a SAHM--at least, in my limited experience and with a single child of Gus's age and disposition--is not a "full-time job" in that it does not take 100% of my mental and physical energies to do. That's not to say that it isn't tough and tiring at times, but Gus doesn't need my undivided attention 24 hours a day. He spends a lot of his time playing by himself with only occasional input from me, which means I spend a lot of time thinking about being productive, but without a good outlet for it. But if I had work that I was interested in and motivated to do, between independent play time and naps, I think I would have enough time every week to do a part-time job at home while parenting my son.

At the moment, I would say that mother is my primary identity, the aspect of myself that is top of the list, so to speak. But I don't think that being a mother means I have to stop being the person I was a year ago, that the rest of that list is now obsolete. Maybe changed, but not vanished. As long as other pursuits, be they paid work or volunteering or hobbies, add to rather than detract from my vocation as a mother, then they should be embraced. The right kind of work could definitely add to my mothering. But if women, and men, define their primary identity as parent or family member, then why is the workplace set up so that work gets top billing in terms of time and energy? Can't we fit work into family, rather than the other way around?

(I know it's cliche, but I really just feel like chanting "hey hey, ho ho, the patriarchy has got to go!" at the moment)

Maybe I just need to get more creative with my search for work, take some risks in offering my services. Or, you know, if I actually knew what I wanted to be when I grow up, rather than just having general areas of interest, that would help. I'm certain I'll sort something out in time, but it sure does take a lot of energy to get there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I see London, I see France

Luckily for you, this post is not about underpants :)

We were recently extremely blessed to be able to spend a week with Jon's family in the South of France. Provence, to be exact. I now know why the British are all so obsessed with holidaying in France.  My favorite part? The temperature was in the 80s every day, nice and sunny, and NO HUMIDITY! Being from the Midwestern USA, I did not know that such a thing was possible. It was like a whole new world opened up to me. We sat outside for hours at a time, and it was enjoyable. I didn't feel like I was going to suffocate. The house didn't even have air conditioning, and that was OK. Sorry, we did do more that just marvel at the lack of humidity for a week straight. I'll try and move on.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 11)

The "What is Gus up to These Days" edition!  Because I have been meaning to chronicle some of his 8-month-old goings-on for some time now, and today seems as good a day as any. (This one's for you, Mom!)

Okay, not real talking. But he is constantly trying out different syllables. His current favourite is da, and he says it all the time in this questioning manner: da? Then the answer: da. We have whole conversations just filled with da

playing with the tractor
We also like to joke that he can say all of our names: Mama, Pa, and Ga (for Gus, obvs). Of course, he doesn't say anything with a real meaning attached, yet; I think that is still a few months away. But sometimes he'll crawl over to me, saying mamamamamama, and I think "see! he knows!" Then he crawls away to his tractor, still saying mamamamamama, thereby crushing my dreams ;)  

Gus and I did a 12-week baby sign course, which we finished last week. They say that most babies will start signing 3-4 months after the parents start using the signs, provided the baby can clap and/or wave (i.e. they have the coordination to make the signs). I use signs with him every day (some days moreso than others!), and I think he can now recognize some of them. The two I am really trying to get him to use are milk and more. When he wants to nurse and I do the sign for milk, his eyes light up, showing that is definitely what he wants. And a few times when I did the sign, he looked as if he was thinking about trying it; his fingers were poised, ready to make the sign! And he may have done the more sign today at lunch, although he might have also just been clapping with his fists full of blueberries. He gets a certificate from the teacher when he makes his first sign, though, so I am on the lookout for it!

Pa bringing Gus back
down the stairs
Or should I say climbing? He can crawl quick as lightning now, but he really loves to climb. Mostly he climbs over Jon and me. He is also getting very good at climbing the stairs, much to my chagrin. Well, I am fine with the fact that he can basically make it all the way up the stairs with no help. Not so keen on the fact that he thinks he can just launch himself head-first down the stairs if he feels like it. Trying to teach him how to crawl backwards / down the stairs. There is a new baby / toddler gym open in town where I am sure there are lots of cool apparati where he could learn (and they even have qualified instructors!), but it costs £40. A month. So we won't be signing up to that anytime soon! Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

what a cutie!
No, he's not walking quite yet. But he can stand up by himself (no need to pull himself up) and can stay up for ages. He also cruises around the furniture. (And reaches up onto things like the kitchen table, trying to find fun things to play with!) I've tried to get him to take a step toward me a few times, and he thinks about it, but then decides that getting down and crawling would be quicker :)  That's okay, I am in no hurry for him to walk yet--I am still getting used to this crawling thing!

vacuum: friend or nemesis?
He loves it, that's for sure :)  His current favourite toys are the stacking cups, a toy tractor that makes noises, and the vacuum cleaner. He is a bit obsessed with the last one, actually. The other day, he was trying to do something with the vacuum, although I have no idea what, and when he couldn't get it to do what he wanted, he started crying. It was a full-blown, screaming, tears-running-down-his-face cry. Since I didn't know what he wanted it to do, I couldn't help, so I had to distract him with other toys and  hide the thing so it wouldn't continue to taunt him. 

Gus also loves to crawl around while holding some sort of toy in his hand. On Tuesday, he found a piece of junk mail on the floor and crawled back and forth across the house with it in his hand for half an hour. That was the whole game--crawling one way with the paper in his hand, then turning around and crawling back to where he came from. Sometimes he switched hands. But he looked happy as a clam, so obviously I just don't understand what true fun is :)

At the moment, Gus mainly loves to eat fruit. Basically, any kind of fruit we put on his tray will be the first thing to go. Plums, nectarines, and blueberries are current favourites. That being said, he does eat a good amount of other foods as well. And non-food items, such as paper and any crumbs/clumps of dirt found on the floor are always good options, too. Several times now, he has thrown food onto the floor from his highchair, not interested in eating it, but then when he finds it a few hours later, it seems like the best possible snack! {Yes, some might say I should look more carefully for food thrown onto the floor when cleaning up, but that is not what we are discussing at the moment ;)} 

Being generally sweet and wonderful
Oh, wait, that is how he always is. No change there :)

and he's off!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Baby Eats. And a Recipe.

I don't know if anyone else ever feels this way, but some days, it seems like the whole day is focused on getting dinner on the table. I do the dishes, plan a meal, go grocery shopping, make the dinner, maybe do even more dishes. And then dinnertime comes...and we finish eating in ten minutes. Ugh! All that work, and for what?!

So today, I felt well rewarded for the seemingly interminable task of providing food for my family: Gus took an hour to eat his supper! We sat down to dinner (samosas and dhal), and he just looked at the food and started fussing. He had hardly wanted to eat all day; he only ate the fruit from his breakfast and lunch, plus a snack of green olives--you know, every baby's favourite food! But I just wanted those precious 10 minutes to eat my dinner and talk to Jon. So I went to get him a plum, thinking that it might occupy him long enough for me to eat. He pounced on it and chowed it down in no time. So I got him a second one. And a third. And he ate them with vigour! (They were just little English plums, so it really wasn't that much food). By the time he finished the third plum, I was done eating, and I didn't want him to eat the whole punnet in one go, so I went to get a cloth to clean him up. When I got back to the table, he was actually eating some of the other food on his tray! I couldn't believe it--I thought he was completely uninterested in the food I had cooked. But apparently, he just needed a bit of an appetizer of plums before he was ready to tuck in to the main course. So for the next 45 minutes, he ate several helpings of dhal, made a good dent in his samosa (made with filo dough instead of deep fried!), and gnawed away on some naan bread. And I had a cup of tea and some lovely dark chocolate--and plenty of time for conversation with my hubby :)

It does make me think about what and how babies eat. I think it must be really frustrating to have food that you didn't choose shoved in your face every day and be expected to "clear your plate". We only do this to children, really, but even the youngest babies must have a hankering for certain foods some days and no appetite for it on other days. Obviously Gus can't tell me what he wants, and you can only go so far to fulfill a child's wishlist anyway (based on what food is in the house, how much time you have to make the meal, etc). But I do think it is important to respect a child's preferences as much as is practicable, both to help them to have a sense of control over their own lives and to help foster a healthy relationship with food. And who knows--he might just end up devouring the food you had originally prepared anyway!

Gussy's Favourite Dhal
     adapted from Vegetarian, ed Nicola Graimes

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mild chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 cup red lentils
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes
extra water, as needed
juice of 1 to 2 limes
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup slivered almonds (toasted if you are feeling fancy; leave out of baby's portion until they can chew nuts!)
freshly chopped coriander/cilantro (optional)

In a saucepan, heat a tablespoon of your favourite cooking oil. Add onion; cook 5 minutes until softened. Add carrots, ginger and garlic. Cook 5 minutes more. Add spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add lentils, coconut milk, and tomatoes. Simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring regularly, because the lentil will stick to the bottom. Add a bit of water if needed (I added about 1/4 cup). When lentils are soft, remove from heat and stir in lime juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle almonds and coriander/cilantro on top. Serve with rice or naan.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teeth! And the Infamous Amber Necklace

Gus is getting teeth! You may remember me saying, oh, about 100 times in the past 5 months that we thought he was experiencing pre-teething/teething discomfort. Well, the first teeth have finally arrived. Both the bottom middle teeth broke through the gums right at 8 months. With minimal discomfort. Yay! Well, we had one day of feeling poorly that may or may not have been related to teething, but we'll get to that.

Before we left the US the other week, we thought teeth might be on their way. He had stepped up the drooling and hand-chewing again, although he had done this in the past without any teeth breaking through. We arrived back to England on a Wednesday, and Gus fell asleep at about 8.30 with no problems. Jon and I, however, had to stay up and watch The Apprentice. So at 10.30, I was exhausted and ready to crash. And Gus wakes up. And stays up. Till 1 am. But he wasn't too out of sorts or anything; at first he just wanted to play, then he settled down but couldn't quite fall asleep. The combination of jet lag and teething just wasn't working for him.

Thursday came--after a long lie-in for Gus and me. Poor Jon had to get up early to work! Gus was as happy as could be, and we could see the teeth pressing up on those gums. We knew they would be out soon! Thursday was a late night again (Gus fell asleep at about 11pm), but not too much fussing/crying. And by Friday afternoon, the teeth had come through. He wasn't too interested in solid foods for a few days, but that what fine, since he had an unlimited supply of breastmilk available to him. Excellent! This teething thing is a hoot, I don't know what everyone complains about! (OK, maybe I didn't quite think that, but I was pretty thankful we, and especially Gus, had gotten off so lightly with the whole process.)

Then, a week later, and Gus starts having troubles. He fought sleep a bit, but finally fell asleep at about 11pm. I just figured he was still suffering from jet lag. Until he awoke, crying, at about 12.45. Now, Gus rarely wakes up for more than just a quick feed at night (and I am not sure he always actually wakes up for those; then again, co-sleeping means I don't really wake up either), and he almost never cries at night. So this was unusual. And, poor little man, nothing would soothe him. He didn't really want to nurse. He kept pushing me away, so I put him down on the bed, then he grabbed for me. He didn't want Jon, or a cold washcloth to chew on, or anything. This lasted for about 15 minutes until I was able to sing/rock/nurse him back to sleep. Until he woke up again about an hour later. This time, he pretty much cried for a half hour straight (with a couple minutes' break while Pa played peek-a-boo with him). We finally gave him some paracetamol, which helped calm him down enough to sleep for several hours. The whole next day, he was fussy, clingy, just overall feeling poorly. And he slept a lot, although that was surely in part due to the frequent night wakings and early morning. But there was no noticeable change in his teeth, so I am not sure if that was the problem or not. (Has anyone ever heard of the idea of the Wonder Weeks? Basically, the theory is that every baby goes through certain developmental leaps at basically the same time, and this can cause clinginess, fussiness, and general disruption with the routine. There is supposedly one at 37 weeks of age--counting from baby's due date, not birthdate--which corresponds exactly to the day that Gus was extra fussy. I have never heard of anything like this elsewhere, but, based on my sample size of one, they might be on to something!)

So what's up with this necklace?

I bought the amber teething necklace when Gus was about 3 months old, and he has been wearing it pretty much every day since then (he doesn't sleep with it at night). Many believe that amber has healing properties, since it is not a stone, but the resin of trees. Against the warmth of a person's skin, the resin supposedly releases its oils (in particular, succinic acid) into the skin, which then help ease pain and inflammation, in this case, those caused by new teeth.

Now, I don't really know if I believe that this works or not. I bought it because I don't particularly like taking pain relieving medications myself, and I really don't like the idea of giving too many to my baby. I think that they definitely have their place, I just don't like to use them for every little thing. Gus obviously can't tell me whether his fussiness is from pain or something else, but I definitely wouldn't want to give him medication every time he was extra fussy. So I thought that if there was a natural remedy that could ease the teething process even a little bit, that would be good. It's a win-win situation--he doesn't have as much pain, and I don't have to choose between giving him medication more often than I would personally be comfortable with and making him be in pain with no relief.

Some people do worry about the risk of choking/strangulation with wearing a necklace. Personally, I don't think this is a big risk for us. The necklaces are designed to be worn by babies, so there is a know tied in between each bead. When force is applied and they break, only one or two beads would fall off. The beads are so small, that he wouldn't have been able to pick them up when he was younger, and now that he can, they wouldn't really be a choking risk. I did a Google search for incidences of choking due to a teething necklace, and couldn't find accounts of any, so that was encouraging too.

Does the necklace work? Impossible to know. He has only had two episodes of being unwell, neither of which seemed to be prolonged instances of pain, and I don't know whether either was caused by teething or something else. So whether his relatively easy teething so far has been due to the necklace or just his own personal teething process and tolerance for pain, we can't know. But I won't be taking it off him any time soon, just in case!

Friday, July 15, 2011

HP7:2 Woo Hoo!

It's Harry Potter Day! Whoopee!

Well, not for me personally, but for the world. Lucky, lucky world. Jon and I are hoping to see it tomorrow (must buy tickets!), leaving the little one with his grandparents for a few hours.

Let me tell you, I loves me some Harry Potter. I love the story. I love the characters (I had at one time thought about naming my first-born son FredandGeorge. Jon didn't think it went with our last name, so it was vetoed. sadface). I love the whole participating-in-a-worldwide-cultural-event aspect of it. I feel like today is my generation's moon landing. (Apparently, we don't have quite as lofty of goals as those that went before us.)

I have read the books too many times to count (what a strange phrase--I could count high enough, I just didn't keep a tally every time I picked up one of the books). They, along with the Anne of Green Gables series, were my go-to books in college when I felt burnt-out and needed some relaxation. I still cry at least once in each of them. And I still remember reading several of them for the first time. With book six, the book was released a couple of days before we started rehearsals for a play I was doing with some friends, and my mean old director wouldn't let me read it until I had memorised my lines! I wasn't able to start it till Sunday--torture! (Did give me motivation for my memorisation, though).  Seven made up for it though. I was living in Scotland at the time. I walked to the bookstore to pick up my book at midnight, then hurried home and called my sisters back in Illinois. I read the first chapter to them out loud over the phone, 6 hours before they would be able to go and get their own copies :)

So today marks the end of an era. But, let me tell you, I cannot wait to share this book with Gus when he is old enough!

Thanks to Sarah at Fumbling Toward Grace and Maggie at From the Heart for the inspiration to write about my love for the Boy Who Lived!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There and back again

My poor neglected little blog! I can't believe it has been over a month since I last posted.

Our trip to the US has come and gone. It was a great time. Although poor Gussy had a bit of a hard time of it at first. The plane trip was fine (the Moby wrap made the journey super-easy again, and he slept a lot, which is always good!), and jet lag wasn't an issue, but he is not used to having so many people around. In England, when we all get together with Jon's family, there are 10 adults and Gus. In the US, just my immediate family is 8 adults and 4 children. Then add in the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends and their kids; it's a bit of a zoo!  We arrived to my parents' house at about 3pm Illinois time, which was basically bedtime English time. So he was pretty sleepy. I knew my brother, SIL, and their three kids were coming over for dinner, so I decided to pop into the shower quickly before they arrived. And of course, they get there just as I turn the water on. By the time I got out, Gus was crying his little heart out.That's pretty much how the first few days were: (mostly) happy to have other people around if Mama's holding him, but not so much otherwise. But he did get more and more used to all the new people, and by the end, he spent a large portion of a big family reunion with my parents and sisters, and even fell asleep in my sister's arms!

Gus and his favourite toy at Grandma and Grandpa's--
a toy box/house with a roof that opened and closed!
We saw again how blessed we are to have such an easy-going baby. Apart from his initial issues with the crowds, Gus took everything in his stride. He loved exploring my parents' and grandma's houses. He had no problems sleeping in planes, cars, and strange beds. I even got a bit more sleep than I normally do when I am home, as I occasionally went to bed at Gus's bedtime rather than staying up to the wee hours talking (okay, so there weren't a lot of early nights, and half of them were the "early to bed, but stay awake late reading The Hunger Games" sort of nights, but still, an improvement). He was a bit more fussy than normal, but nothing too horrible. And nothing that couldn't be fixed by a cuddle with Mama!

Gus and Ben
So anyway, it was a great trip. It is so nice to spend time with the family. We got to see my parents run their first 5k (go Mom and Dad!). We had some playdates with my best friend and her son. We met up with my cousin who was born on the same day as Gus and compared notes (but got no good pictures of them together, as Gus kept crawling away to play with their dog!), as well as lots of other, bigger cousins. And Gus and his cousins got on really well after his initial warming-up period. (Well, Gus was decidedly not interesting enough for my very active 2-year-old nephew Ben. Ben would try to play with Gus, rattling one of the toys or rolling the ball, but after a few minutes, Ben would decide that Gus's smiles weren't exciting enough and would give him a shove to try and liven things up a bit! Sorry, Ben; maybe Gus will play a bit more next time!). Oh, and the highlight of Jon's summer trip every year: singing America, the Beautiful at church on the Sunday before the Fourth ;)

But now, we are back home, back to everyday life, and--hopefully--back to blogging!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Laid-back or lazy?

As you may have figured out by now, we're a pretty laid-back pair of parents. This parenting style, as it were, is partly based on personality and partly on philosophy. Which is to say, Jon and I are pretty chilled out people to begin with (okay, mostly me for that one, but Jon goes with the flow within his own set ways, if that is possible). But I would be stricter with myself in a heartbeat if I thought that was what Gus needed. I just happen to think that babies do well when their needs are addressed in a child-led, as opposed to parent-led, way.

In our house, this manifests itself in a variety of ways. Gus doesn't have a set napping schedule or bedtime. There is a pretty regular rhythm to each day, and I try to pay close attention to his mood and then nurse him to sleep (or attempt to, anyway!) when he starts to act tired. We have a fairly regular bedtime, but we don't force him to sleep or ignore him while he stays awake after that time. I breastfeed on demand. Solid food meals are baby-led as well, so I don't force him to eat a certain amount. I do try and encourage him to taste the various things I put on his tray, but if he is not in the mood for food, then he will just skip that meal and make it up at the next meal or with milk.

This all works really well for me. I am not the type of person who could  follow a schedule where I have to put baby down for a nap at a certain time every day--I need more flexibility in my life than that. And while some people would hate not knowing that their baby is eating x meals a day and drinking y ounces of milk, it would drive me up the wall to worry about an extra ounce here or a missed meal there.

More importantly, this seems to work really well for Gus, too. He is such an easy-going little guy. People often comment on how happy he is (or, more often, how "well behaved" he is, which I interpret to mean he seems contented). To me, this shows that the way we are doing things fits his personality just as well as it fits ours.

The thing I worry about is taking things too far. I thought about this the other night when it was 9.30 and Gus was still crawling back and forth on the bed, playing with everything he could get his hands on. I felt maybe I should have been doing more to get him to sleep. Was I, as a parent, just letting him down, and thereby nurturing a child who would never listen to any authority, never do anything but what pleased him in that moment? Sure, he's only 7 months old now, but do we need to start instilling better habits? Am I just letting him stay up late because I am too lazy to impose a bedtime?

People talk a lot about how children "need limits" and "crave boundaries". This post at Demand EUPHORIA really made me think about that little axiom. She says:
I'm still the same person as I was as a child. I have the same feelings and thoughts now as I did then. I think kids are just like adults in terms of how they want to be treated. I think people, young and old, want to have ultimate control over their bodies and their lives.
It all comes back to the idea that children are people too, and they deserve to have their feelings and wishes respected. Do I really know better than Gus what he needs at any given moment? And if he does need boundaries and limits, are these things that can be malleable, that we can work out together, as a family, as he gets older, or do they need to be imposed upon him?

I think a big part of the difficulty I have with this is that "common knowledge" says that this is what parents do: impose limits, set boundaries, ensure that the kiddos toe the line. One thing I have found out about myself in the last 7 months, though, is that the decisions I make are not mainstream (you would have thought I'd have figured this out about myself earlier in my life, but apparently not!). But just because we, as parents, are making decisions we feel are best for our family doesn't mean it is always easy to go against the cultural norm.  I am very conscious of how others might see me (I'm a people pleaser, for sure), and I think I have a fear of being labelled permissive--in a bad way.

I *think* Jon and I are doing okay parenting our little babe. But it's such a journey, this parenting thing, and I feel we constantly have to step back, take stock of how things are going, and think about what needs to be tweaked. At the moment, I'm going to say things are mostly good. But I really want to parent intentionally, doing things because they are best for our family, not because I am too lazy to do any differently.