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!