Friday, November 2, 2012

A Non-Craft

I love the idea of crafts, but I have never been very good at transforming ideas into action. So I do not do crafts with Gus nearly as much as I would like. (I think I need to get a book. I don't really come up with my own ideas, and the internet is generally too overwhelming for this sort of thing!) However, I did see this on Pinterest the other week and thought it was easy enough that even I could do it! And I made it even easier, for good measure ;)

Gus with his bus

You can't see the bus too well in the picture, but basically all I did was draw a big bus on a blank piece of paper. I had originally planned to print one off the internet, like this one, but I thought it would be quicker just to draw it. My drawing wasn't spectacular, bus Gus knew it was a bus, and that was all that mattered. I just made sure that the bus took up as much of the page as possible, then drew two rows of windows, to make it a double-decker.

Next, we grabbed a stack of magazines and started tearing / cutting out pictures of people and animals to go on our bus. The plan was to glue or tape them in the windows of the bus, as if the passengers were looking out the windows. But Gus wasn't that fussed about this being a realistic representation, so we just pasted them wherever.

The thing I loved about this activity was that it was super-simple, but the pay-off for this bus-loving boy was huge! He loved this bus. For the rest of the day, and even a few days after, he kept saying "Look at your [my] bus!" and including it in our play, as can be seen by the animals in the above picture looking at the bus.  I think children really enjoy being able to create things, especially those that they see every day. Now, not every child is bus-mad like mine, but I think this would also work really well with a picture of a house or airplane or castle or something like that.

Happy (non-)crafting!

Gus says...

There are so many things going on right now that I just do not want to forget. You know those moments where you just wished you had a video camera to record the thing that just happened? (And since I lost my new camera only 4 months after I got it, I don't have any video camera. sad face). I guess written records will have to do.

Gus loves to make funny faces and do jokes at the moment. For about a week, at every diaper change he would say "Change your diaper on the chair? Change your diaper on the ceiling? Change your diaper on the moon?!" He would just laugh and laugh after every one. (Okay, we would laugh, too.) This week he likes to be Gus Pie, and Jon, myself, or one of the stuffed animals gobbles him up. He'll ask the toy "Would you orange? No! Would you apple? No! Would you like...a lemon? No! Would you like...Gus Pie?"
Gus funny face
Gus making his (blurry) funny face

About a week or so ago we started playing dragons with him. We look for dragons around the house, or Jon or I puts a green blanket over our head to pretend to be a dragon. He has picked up from us to say "Listen out!" (covering his ear with his hand as he listens), to which we respond with a roaaar! (He became interested in dragons through the book When the Dragons Came, which is an excellent book. Gus can pretty much recite the whole thing, as well!)

Gus's favourite toys at the moment are buses and cars and trains.We like to make little towns out of blocks that the buses can drive to and drop the passengers off at. But apparently (I did not know this) buses can also have good conversations with each other. And trains are as good a friend as any doll. Case in point: we are getting our kitchen remodeled, so I was clearing out the cupboards. I had put one of the boxes full of stuff in front of the sink, and it was the perfect height for Gus to step on to and reach the sink and the few items in it. So he sits the digger next to him, and for the next 20 or 30 minutes, I hear "Would you like a drink digger? Good drink, digger. Digger finished the drink. Gus like a drink, too." as he concocts "drinks" and "snacks" for himself and the digger!
Gus, his digger, and his towers
A few words he has been testing out recently:

  • actually. "Shop is that way, actually." (I turned right out of the park to go round the lake to the shop. Apparently Gus wanted to turn left and go the slightly longer way.)
  • some. "Some cats like to be stroked." (after I told him we couldn't pet a strange cat, since I didn't know if it liked to be stroked)
  • might. "Pa might mend it when he gets home." (I don't think he totally understands the meaning of might, and often uses it to mean will.)
  • Practising negatives. "Somebody is not in the park" when the park is empty. Or, after we get on the bus and he notices the driver's hat "Some drivers have no hat on." Definitely getting his meaning across, even if the constructions are slightly different than I would do!

Monday, September 17, 2012

What's New with Gus

I've been really enjoying watching Gus interact with others recently. He can be really shy and quiet, but once he decides a person is his friend, watch out, because he will not leave them alone!  We had a bunch of Jon and my friends over the other week, and Gus immediate latched on to our friend Gary. Poor Gary was trying to talk to people, and Gus just kept bringing him books, saying "Okay! Okay!" (his way of indicating that he wants to be read to). Luckily, Gary got a reprieve when the one other child showed up--Gus immediately made a beeline for Imogen. He brought her pretty much every toy in the house, trying to get her to play with him, which was sweet, but rather overwhelming for Imogen!

Gus is still at the stage where he doesn't actually play too much with other children. He loves to be with older children and copy them best he can, but when we meet up with other children Gus's age, they don't really play together too much. He is actually more likely to try and get one of the other parents to play with / read to him. He does love getting together with his friends, though, and he talks about them for days after seeing them. One day, his friend Luke was over at our house, and Gus just snuck up behind him to give him a great big hug! I think Luke was a bit taken aback, because when Gus tried to hug him a second time, he refused with a bit of a push. I tried to explain to Gus that, actually, you can't just go and hug a person like that with no warning or consent, and Luke was kind of within his rights to defend his own personal space. But I'm not sure Gus got it. We'll keep working on that one.

Another thing Gus loves at the moment is babies. I mean, really, who doesn't? Luke from the story above actually has a new baby brother. Gus wasn't quite sure the first time I held the new baby, but ever since then, has really loved him. One day he asked to hold the baby and ended up sitting on the couch with baby on his lap for 15 minutes. Then he asked me to put the baby on the floor and proceeded to bring baby Tom all of his own favourite toys. Of course, large plastic buses aren't ideal for a newborn, but his heart was definitely in the right place.

Since quite a few people that we know have either just had or are expecting new babies, we asked Gus the other week what he would think about a new baby in our house. (Not by way of an announcement, just to see what he would say!) He thought that would be pretty cool, actually, and has even said he would share his milk with a new baby. He brought it up completely out of the blue a few days later, that he wants a new baby in our house. Later, when I was nursing Gus before bed, Jon asked him again if he would share his milk. Gus said, "Yeah. New baby have that milk" (i.e., the side he was not currently using). Very clever solution for that, Gus!

In other news, Gus is getting really into climbing all of a sudden. This week at the park, he has started climbing on the really big climbing frame. He can't get very far--yet!--but I love watching him work out where to go next and how to move his body. I am pretty chill about it at the moment, since he doesn't get more than a couple feet off the ground, but I might have to work at keeping calm as he learns to climb higher!

Gus also love love loves singing. his favourite song is The Wheels on the Bus (and has been for some time). We sing it together sometimes, but more often, I hear him singing it to himself. And he always does the "all day long" part REALLY LOUDLY! He also likes to sing This is the Way the Ladies Ride. This is a good song for smaller babies, because you can sit them on your lap and bounce them up and down--gently for the way the ladies ride, a bit more boisterous-ly for the gentlemen, then side to side for the farmer, who then falls in the ditch. Gus likes to sit on the arm of the couch and sing and bounce himself. When he gets to the falls in the ditch part, he throws himself onto the couch (or more often, my lap as I sit on the couch), laughing and generally having a whale of a time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stories about Gus

Jon and I took Gus to the "tiny park" near our house the other day. We call it the tiny park because it only has two swings, a slide, and a little monkey bars / climbing thing. But that is perfectly fine for our Gus, as he usually spends most of our time there on the swing. We were pushing Gus in the swing, Jon in front and myself in back, as per Gus's instructions, while he shouts out "Gus go high. Gus go bigger high. Gus go SUPER HIGH!"  By this time, I already had to lift my arms above my head to push him, so I think any higher and he would have been over the crossbar ;)

We were in the US visiting family for 3 wonderful weeks in July. We all had a great time seeing everyone, and Gus especially loved playing with his cousins. He of course had a special fondness / adoration for his cousin Ben, who is 3 years old. One night, he chased Ben for ages, round and round and round the house, trying to give him hugs. And, of course, knocking him over and falling right on top of him when he did manage to catch him!

We were lucky enough to be able to take Gus to the Olympics this month. We saw the women's trampolining qualification round and finals. We had told him ahead of time what we were going to do, so he kept talking about going to the 'Lympics to, in his words, "see people". An accurate description, to be sure, although maybe not as detailed as one might expect.

He did seem to enjoy it, though. Once there, he realised that the people were "jumping up and down and spinning!!" (He always said it in a very excited fashion--probably it would be more accurate to add a few more exclamation marks, actually.) We were very high up in the arena, though, so I was getting pretty nervous as he tried to run around in front of the empty seats next to us. I wasn't too disappointed when Gus fell asleep in my lap after the first round and slept through the whole finals! That way, he got to experience it, and then I got to actually see some of the competition, rather than just worrying about him the whole time!

And of course, the best part of his whole day was that we got to ride on "big green bus! And big choo choo train! And little choo choo train!"

We also watched a lot of Olympics on the television. I figured I can justify having the TV on for hours each day for two weeks every 4 years. We taught him to say both Go GB! and U-S-A! and now when we turn the TV on, Gus asks "Watch GB?"  He especially liked watching "Tom [Daley] jump in water." And the horses, but I couldn't keep the dressage on for more than a few minutes, even for Gus.  

We also spent a week in France with Jon's family. The house we were staying in had grape vines on the back patio, and we were allowed to eat any of the fruit there. Gus loved it. He got quite good at only picking the purple ones, although he did also enjoy picking unripe ones to throw to the birds. Oh well, I'm sure they appreciated it.


  As you can see, we have been pretty busy these last couple of months. Glad to be getting back into the swing of our normal routine, though, and hope that will extend to the blog as well! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Survey, as answered by Gus

Peter (and his Mommy) over at Working to be Worthy posted this survey, and Gus thought he would play along too. It's not a bad way to spend an evening. Hope you enjoy!  
(also--writing from the point of view of your child: cute or annoying? When I was reading Liana's, I thought it was cute, but writing this just seemed rather twee. Oh well)

Your Name- Gus
Nicknames- Gussy, Gus-Gus
Birthday- November 10

~*HAVE YOU??*~
Been kissed? everyday by my Mama
Eaten an entire box of Oreos? we don't really have Oreos here in England (I mean, you can get them, but they are not Britain's favourite biscuit), and my mama almost never buys cookies anyway, so no.
Been on stage? Not as a performer, but I did climb up onto the dais during the vows at Uncle Tim and Aunt Becky's wedding. Mama was a bit mortified, but I don't think the happy couple minded too much. 
Seen the Eiffel tower? never. I have been to France, but not Paris.

Shampoo: Earth Friendly Baby bath gel goes in the tub to make bubbles, although I really only use water on my hair--all the cool kids are doing no 'poo!
Color: orange
Band: any that sings The Wheels on the Bus on youtube
Commercial: I do not appreciate it when ads come on before my WotB videos. Not even the really cute (according to Mama) Google+ father's day one with the newborn baby pictures.

Do you have a crush on someone? I share my love out equally
Do you have a best friend? Luke and Hattie and I are pretty tight
Who do you go to the mall with the most? Mama, but she usually just takes me there to do errands (although she does let me ride the mechanical bus and digger while we are there!)
Who have you known the longest of your friends?  Well, I met Hattie and Luke on the same day. Mama's cousin Isabelle is my birthday buddy, though, so we have a pretty special connection there, even though we don't get to see each other too often.
Whose parents do you know the best? I always get excited when we are going to see Claire and Anna (mums to Hattie and Luke, respectively) 
Who are you jealous of? I'm not really the jealous type. I do like to push Hattie's blocks cart around and around her house, though--definitely wish I had one of those at home!
What is your usual quote? "Mama come too!"

Cried? Oh yes. I wanted to go for a walk, and Mama said that I had to have a clean diaper before we could go. I was not impressed.
Eaten fluf? I was pretty sure it was a breadcrumb that I picked up off the floor, but Mama was not convinced. 
Helped someone? I love to help with the vacuuming and laundry, but we didn't have much of a chance to do that today.
Cut your hair? I do not like to have my hair cut. So no. 
Gone for a run? We went to the garden centre today, and I had a fantastic time running back and forth with Grandma and Grandpa, looking at all the animal garden statues.
Been kissed? Many times, by some of my favourite people (i.e. parent AND grandparents)
Said “I love you”? When we were going to bed tonight, Pa said "I love you very much", and I replied "Love very much". 
Written a letter? No, I'm not really much of a writer. 
Hugged someone? As above with the kissing.
Been Scared? No, I always have someone around who is big and strong who loves me and looks out for me.

Showered? I take baths, mostly, but it's been a few days now. Mama and Pa can never seem to remember when bath-day rolls around!
What are you wearing right now? T-shirt and diaper for bed.
Are you tired? Shattered.
Are you hungry? Not really--I had plenty of milk at bedtime.
Are you talking to someone online? No. Mama misplaced the webcam, so no skyping for me at the moment.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's new with Gus

Gosh, I do not know why it has been so long since I last wrote anything here. I do know, however, that every day I spend not writing makes it harder to write an update on what Gus is up to these days. So, I am going to take 10 minutes and write what I can by way of update. Let's go!

Gus is such a chatterbox. He really does talk nonstop. He is always surprising me by picking up new little phrases and things. Yesterday, we were watching youtube videos of The Wheels on the Bus (he loves this so much), and I asked him which vid was his favourite. He just answered, "Don't know." I thought to myself, when did you start sounding like such a grown-up person?!  I also love it when you ask him something and he responds no, like that was the most ridiculous question in the world, and obviously the answer is no. He is just so funny.

Cars and trucks and buses have overtaken animals as his favourite thing, I think. Buses in particular seem to be well-loved, and he gets very excited by the idea of Jon riding the "big green bus" home from work. Similarly, his favourite book at the moment is Richard Scary's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. Which he identifies by name. This book can keep him busy for ages. There are so many pictures in the book, and each one tells a little story. And he narrates every. single. one.  Luckily, I don't always have to read it with him. There is one page with a massive pile-up, and the other day I was in the next room from Gus while he was reading, and I just heard him say "Oh no! Two cars fall down!"

His pronunciation of various sounds and words is getting much better, which makes me a bit sad. The word shoes actually sounds the way it is meant to be pronounced, rather than being a string of sounds that could not be replicated by anyone else. And I heard him use the word chicken instead of cluck-cluck a couple of times this week. Oh, they do grow up fast!  And I don't take nearly enough videos of him talking!

He's also started doing the actions that go along with songs, such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Wind the Bobbin Up. He is quite a shy little guy, though, and you can especially see that when we go to somewhere like Rhyme Time at the library. At home, he shouts instructions about which song or verse to sing next and does actions and is generally really engaged when we sing songs together. When we are in a group, though, he just sits quietly on my lap, hardly even smiling, just watching all the other kids and their parents. He does seem to enjoy it, but I guess he likes to observe more than jump into the middle of things. Not too much unlike his Mama, actually.

Wow, that actually took 20 minutes, and I feel like I've only touched the surface!  I'll leave you with some pictures from this month.

Another favourite pasttime. I am definitely not complaining!

A vintage bus show. Gus was in Heaven!! (even if it doesn't look it by his expression)

Wading in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in London

Looking out the front door at the truck and cars


Multitasking--vacuuming the back yard while on the phone

Lifting weights with Pa

Driving a fire truck. Why can I never get a picture of him smiling?!

Friday, May 11, 2012

What is Natural Parenting: Preparing for Birth

This is one in a series of posts about what Natural Parenting looks like in our family. See the rest of the series here.

This was an easy one for me. I have been interested in birth, both personally and professionally, for several years now. I was working as a health researcher on topics related to maternal and perinatal health at the time I became pregnant and had read various clinical guidelines regarding intrapartum care. Now, these weren’t particularly “natural”, nor would I put it on my list of recommended reading for a newly pregnant woman, but it did give me a good understanding of how birth “works” in the English medical system. Since we have midwifery-led care for the majority of women here, there is generally a good emphasis on physiological birth and woman-centred care. It also flagged up a few things, such as routine managed third stage of labour (i.e. shot of Pitocin to help deliver the placenta), that I knew I would want to research more and think about in greater depth.

St Gerard Majella
patron of expectant mothers
On the personal side, I had been following various blogs on natural birthing topics for several years. Favourites include Stand and Deliver, First the Egg, Talk Birth, and Birthing Beautiful Ideas. (I was actually reading Rixa’s dissertation on Unattended Childbirth in North America when I became pregnant. A really fascinating read if you are interested in birth culture and sociology sort of things.) My mind was made up even before I was pregnant that I would strive for a natural birth. A big part of this, for me, was to plan for a low-intervention birth, doing as much preparation that I could. I wanted to know what experiences of natural birth were like, both physically and mentally, as told by women who had already done it. I assumed that my experience, while unique, would in some ways be similar to the experiences of other women, and therefore things wouldn't be as much of a surprise during the event. 

While I was planning my low-intervention birth, I was also mentally preparing for needing to change these plans during labour. I came to realise that the most important thing for me to have a positive labour and delivery was to be able to be an agent in my own birth. I didn’t want other people to make decisions for me (unless in a very severe emergency!). I knew that I might not be able to use my rational brain as much as normal during labour, so if I wanted to be able to make my own decisions, I would have to go into labour with a lot of knowledge.  If a midwife or doctor was going to tell me that X was happening during my labour, I wanted to already know what that meant and what some of the courses of action might be. I obviously would trust my care providers to have my best interests at heart, and I didn't feel the need--or like it was possible!--to become an expert on all things birth-related. At the same time, I wanted any informed consent to be truly informed, and I felt that I could better get that information over the course of many months from many sources, rather than during the intensity of labour. 
So I read. A lot. I drastically increased the number of birthing blogs that I read during my pregnancy. I read several books, but made sure that the books I chose had a philosophy that was encouraging of a low-intervention birth (I didn't want a book to set out to scare me!). Some books that I found useful were
  • Blooming Birth by Lucy Atkins and Julia Guderian—I remember this having a very realistic and approachable tone, with lots of practical tips for birth preparation
  • Birth Reborn by Michel Odent—this was more for philosophy and getting into a positive mindset about birth than for practical tips, although his ideas (found here and elsewhere) about having a safe, relaxed space for birthing definitely influenced / increased my desire for a homebirth
  • Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr Sarah Buckley—this book uses medical science to look at some common interventions in child birth, to help parents come to the decisions that are right for their family. It is definitely pro-natural birth (some might say biased), but has good information. Sceptical me did have to take some of the anecdotes on more mystical elements of childbirth with a grain of salt, though. 

Jon and I also attended an antenatal class run by the NCT, a national charity. This was a 16-hour class (spread over several sessions!) on various aspects of labour, birth, and parenting a newborn. There were 5 other couples expecting their first baby as well. The NCT generally has a very pro-natural childbirth stance (some say too much so), but our class had a really good approach of discussing the pros and cons of various interventions without pushing an agenda. For example, the leader did a very useful role-play activity to show who all the people in an operating room at a Caesarean birth are. One of the fathers laid down on the (operating) table, and the rest of us stood around him, acting as doctors, nurses, and midwives. The goal was to help lessen a parent’s anxiety if they needed an emergency Caesarean and all of a sudden had a load of people running into the room. On the other hand, we also talked extensively about homebirths. It was this class, more than anything, that helped Jon become comfortable with the idea of a homebirth.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
In preparation for what I knew would be a physically strenuous labour and delivery, I tried to keep active throughout pregnancy. I am not really an exerciser, but I do like to walk (and since I don’t have a car, I need to walk a lot, too!). I tried to continue walking as much as possible without wearing myself out. I was blessed with a fairly easy pregnancy and, once I got the iron situation sorted out, more energy than I expected. Although, when I went on maternity leave at 36 weeks, I may have taken a bit too much advantage of the possibility of lie-ins and lazy afternoons on the couch, and probably could have kept going a bit more. (I also blame this lazing about for Gus’s posterior positioning—I should have been scrubbing the floors to keep him in position like old-time midwives used to say!) While I think keeping active is one thing that I’d be more conscious of in a next pregnancy, I have a feeling it wouldn’t be too difficult with a toddler/pre-schooler to look after!

I thought about hypnobirthing or hiring a doula, but I decided against both of them. There were no local hypnobirthing classes at the time, and I didn't think I would have the discipline to listen to the tapes every day. (Plus, I think Jon would be very skeptical about hypnobirthing. While that wouldn't stop me if it was an idea I was committed to, having Jon's full support during the labour and delivery was more important to me).   We didn't get a doula because I wasn't sure if I would like another person there during the labour. I think I would seriously consider getting one for a next birth, though. I think the whole day was quite draining for Jon, so it would be good to have some support for him. He was an amazing support person for me, but there were times when I knew what I needed to do, but I needed to hear it from someone else in order to get up the energy. The midwives weren't the right support at the time, and Jon didn't have enough knowledge about birth to know specifically what to say, so I think I would like a doula to fill that gap.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What's new with Gus

It seems like every other week Jon and I talk about how Gus is learning so much and picking things up more quickly than he has before, as well as how much fun the little guy is. This week has been no different.

Gus continues to makes leaps and bounds in his language development. Last time I talked about how he had started to put together two-word phrases. Now he regularly is using two- and even three-word sentences. Along with that, more verbs and other words are entering his vocabulary; just yesterday, he started adding too to the end of sentences: "Grandma come too".

He has also picked up a lot of phrases that Jon and I use, and it is the sweetest little thing.  I first noticed him saying "Ooo-kay!" last week, just like I always say. Next came "Dear me!"; it took me a while to figure out where that one came from, as I was pretty sure that I didn't say it. Apparently it is a regular part of Jon's vocabulary, though. I've also heard "Oh dear" and "Oopsy-daisy" (or oop-day, as he is more apt to pronounce it). It is really cute to hear Gus say things that we regularly say, but it does remind you to watch what you say in front of him. The other day, Jon and I were watching something on television, and Supernanny came on before we got round to turning the tv off. We started talking about spanking, when all of a sudden we hear Gus saying "Tan hide. Tan hide." Oh dear! I knew that Jon sometimes says the phrase "tan your hide" in a joking manner, as he thinks it's a really funny Americanism. But I didn't realise that Gus had picked up on it, or really knew what it meant. We're not into corporeal punishment here, and it is not really a phrase that I want Gus going about saying!

Gus is starting to get the hang of quantities. He says two whenever he sees more than one of something.  I try to say something like "yes, there are a lot of cars there", but he does like me to repeat exactly what he says. So if we see four cars, he'll keep repeating "Two cars. Two cars" until I also say "two cars". I'm sure he'll figure it out soon enough, but it seems wrong to me to reinforce incorrect usage.  He has also started saying one. It's kind of funny that he started saying two first, but I guess there is no need to point out one of something until you can wrap your head around the concept that there might be more than one. Other is another common word at the moment.

He is starting to pick up sounds that he previously wasn't able to pronounce, but he is definitely still in the stage where only Jon and I can understand a lot of what he says. And even then, it is not a guarantee. There are times when he is obviously just playing around with sounds and not trying to say a specific word (lately he has been having fun with dubba-dubba-dubba), but there are also times when he repeats something over and over and I have no idea what it might be. I throw out guesses, and he just looks at me--you know he is wondering what in the world I am talking about and wondering why I can't just do whatever it is he is asking!

It has been raining every day for the last week or two here, so we have had a lot of indoor play recently. I got out the play-dough one day last week, and Gus loved it. We had done a bit of play-dough before, but it hadn't really captured his interest. This, week, though, he has spent hours with it. He just loves chopping it up with a little butter knife, often while saying "Chop chop chop". He has also had some good fun pouring puffed wheat cereal from one bowl to another and colouring with crayons. Well, I do most of the colouring. He picks a crayon out of the box, we say the colour, I colour with it a little bit, then he tells me to put it down on the table. Good times. Surprisingly, he is starting to be able to identify some colours. Orange is the one he knows best, probably because he loves to eat oranges, so that makes it a bit easier. Blue and green are pretty good, probably right more than half the time, but they get mixed up easily between them.

hours of fun!
He also, very surprisingly, can identify the letter G. I didn't realise that we had pointed it out that much to him, but apparently we had. He has a little wooden G in his basket of toys, and one day he just picked it up and said "G Gus". I thought it was a fluke, but he has repeated it with other blocks and things that have Gs on them as well, so I guess he knows it. Although I think he recognises it the way he can recognise a picture of a duck or something like that, rather than having an understanding that it is a letter that makes up words to read and write. It still was kind of cool, though.

One funny thing he has been doing this week is walking on his knees. I have no idea where he picked it up--maybe Jon or I do it when we are down on the floor with him? Or maybe he just figured it out for himself. Either way, it is pretty funny to see him shuffling around on his knees, arms out to balance, usually while saying "Walk knees. Walk knees". It's a good family game as well, walking on our knees, then falling down and making a big deal of it. Falling down always makes kids laugh :)

we've also been walking in the rain and splashing in the puddles!
Gus is really getting the hang of people's names. Jon's aunt and uncle came over one day last week, and Gus had never said their names before. Within a couple of minutes, though, he was using their names over and over. I thought, well, he knows them, so it is not surprising that he started saying their names. Yesterday, though, we were staying with my in-laws, and their neighbour girls, Maisy and Alice, came over to see Gus. He had a great time with them. At dinner that evening, we were all talking about the girls, and I hear Gus say "Mai bye-bye. Al bye-bye." I was really impressed that he knew exactly who we were talking about and remembered them. I don't know why I was surprised, though--he usually has a better memory than I do!

I could probably go on and on, but I think there comes a point where any additional anecdotes are only interesting to my mom!  Till next time :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Day in the Life

I'm joining Laura at Navigating the Mothership in documenting a day in our life. I think it's really neat to see how other people spend their days, and also to be able to look back in so many years' time at what we did day in day out way back when. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

5.30am  Jon's alarm goes off. Usually I ignore this and pretty much sleep right through, only half-waking to say goodbye to him as he leaves. But today I woke up, so I got up and ironed his shirt for the day. This is one thing I quite like to do for him (although usually not in the morning)--somehow it seems to epitomise taking care of your husband to iron his shirt for work. Plus, when he gets up this early, if he misses the bus, he has to wait 20 minutes for the next one, so running late because you forgot to get a shirt ready is no fun.

After Jon leaves for the day, I'm for some reason not particularly tired (very unusual!) and am tempted by the computer. I resist, as I know I will only regret it later if I don't sleep now, but it takes a while to fall back asleep. In the meantime, I take a picture of Gus sleeping.

8.30am  Gus and I wake up. Actually, I think I wake up, hoping to do some blogging or reading before Gus wakes up, but no joy. Lately it has been almost impossible to get up before him--he can sense when I am awake and decides he should wake up to. So we go into his room (yes, he does have a room!  It just has no bed and half of it is used for storage. He still quite likes it in there, though) and read some books.

I soon notice that his diaper is leaking--oops! Head downstairs for a diaper change and some breakfast. Gus isn't so interested in breakfast, but does enjoy some play-dough (to play with, not eat). Second day in a row that he has been digging play-dough, which is pretty cool. Plus, it gives me a chance to write an email that needs to be sent.

The rest of the morning is spent inside playing trains

and outside exploring the area in front of the house. It is actually not raining today (mostly) after a couple of weeks of rain every day, so it is good to get out a bit. Gus has recently learned to throw, so he is practicing by throwing rocks from the neighbour's garden.

We also spend some time looking out at the cars going past

I know he doesn't look very excited, but he really does love it!
Laura encourages us to include pics of ourselves in these posts.
I did take others, but they were all kinds of hideous, so this will have to do!

and, of course, getting Gus some milk. Can't forget that one!

12 noon  I make lunch, seeing as I can't seem to go more than 2 or 3 hours without food. We have some pasta with peas, pumpkin puree, a bit of cream, and a bit more cheese than I meant to put in. But it tasted really yummy. And only took about 10 minutes to make--win!

I also mix up some homemade tortillas for tonight's dinner, based on this recipe. Thanks to Melissa for sharing it!

they need to rest...

Gus spends some time looking out the window at the cars (he loves this and would spend half the day up there if we let him!), then it is naptime. He normally sleeps at 1, but I put him down a bit earlier today, a) because he woke up a bit early, and b) because we are going to a friend's house this afternoon, and we need to leave before his normal wake-up time to get there. It actually worked quite well! I, of course, do very little that is productive during nap, but I do get to have a good read around the internet. Which is rather more enjoyable than the alternative of washing dishes.

car. van. big van!

Awake time!  And we are off.

It takes about 45 minutes to walk to our friend's house. Unless Gus decides to walk rather than staying in the stroller.

aah!  the wind!

But the weather is still pretty nice (other than getting nearly blown over by the wind), so it was a very pleasant journey. And Gus saw 2 buses, so he was happy!

5.30pm We had a good time seeing our friends (and of course forgot to take any pictures), but now it is time to head back home. We need to stop at the store for fruit and yoghurt (like we do every other day!), so we walk back via the lake, which is near the grocery store.

Gus walks more than rides, which is fine, but for some reason he kept on sitting down on the ground. It made the going rather slow, but I wasn't really in a hurry.

helping me push the stroller

We finally get back home, and I make the taboulleh, tortillas, and guacamole for dinner. Sounds a bit weird, but trust me, it's yum.

more tortilla making

While I am doing that, the best part of the day--Jon arrives home!!

Gus usually spends about 20 minutes (or more) every evening before Jon gets home asking "Pa? Knock door? Pa [on the] bus?" It is lovely how much Gus looks forward to Jon getting home, but since that coincides with when I am trying to make dinner and he often wants to be lifted up to look out the window to see if Jon is walking up the path, it can be tiring. But, Jon gets home, they play, we eat, and then we all chill out for a while.

9.00pm  We all head up to bed. Gus spends some time trying out his new trick of walking on his knees, but I figure that's a good way to tire him out for bed :)  We all settle into bed, and as Gus falls asleep, Jon and I watch an episode of NCIS. Good night, sleep tight.

bedtime. can't you tell?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What is Natural Parenting: Preparing for Pregnancy

Finally getting into my Natural Parenting series. The first practice of Natural Parenting is "Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting." I have a lot of thoughts on these (so much so that I am splitting this into 3 parts, rather than one mega-post), but I'm not sure how much of it is "natural". This is partially because I didn't really know what Attachment or Natural Parenting were before Gus was born, so I didn't prepare with this concept specifically in mind, although I did instinctively lean that way. Also, I feel like we did the same thing that most families preparing for a new baby do (or at least most families with a similar cultural, academic, and socioeconomic background to me), so it feels strange to write some of it down as something noteworthy. Nonetheless, this is my story, and here is a part of it. 

Preparing for pregnancy

Our pregnancy with Gus was very much a “planned” pregnancy in as much as one can plan these things. That being said, I didn't actually do much to prepare myself for it. I started taking folic acid supplements months in advance, because I had read reports of a study showing benefit from taking folic acid up to a year before conception, and that’s about it.

I didn't do any preparation with regards to diet or exercise before my pregnancy. I was already eating a fairly healthy, mostly whole foods diet. And to be honest, I don't know if I even thought about physical fitness. Since moving to the UK, I have always walked a lot (funny how not having a car will do that to you!), so I have a pretty good level of fitness anyway. But I certainly didn't think to do any more than that. And emotional preparation was not even on my radar. I just knew I had been wanting a baby for some time, so I figured I was mentally ready!

One thing that we did do to prepare for pregnancy, in a way, was to use Natural Family Planning (NFP) to first avoid and then achieve pregnancy. It was important to me to use NFP, not only for religious reasons, but because I don't like the idea of putting artificial or unnecessary chemicals or hormones into my body. I am quite hesitant to take medications casually anyway (for instance, I would much rather just wait for a headache to go away on its own, if it doesn’t prevent me from going about my day, than take a tablet for it), so I would not like to take a daily medication unless really necessary. Plus, when we were ready to become pregnant, using NFP meant that my body didn't have to “detox” and we understood my fertility cycle. So it was really a win-win choice for us.

My current status is again one of preparing for pregnancy, although we don't have any immediate plans. Not that it would matter if we did—I am still breastfeeding Gus enough that my cycle has yet to return since his birth. So at the moment we are on God's time, neither trying to conceive nor trying to avoid pregnancy. And I kind of like it. If I had the choice right now—pregnant or not?—I don't really know what I would choose. Three of my friends who have toddlers Gus's age are pregnant, and there is a significant part of me that is quite envious. On the other hand, we are so happy as a family of three, and I love being able to focus on Gus, that I wouldn't want to rock the boat with changes. 

One thing I am keen to do before becoming pregnant again is to learn to squat.  That sounds a bit silly, but there is a rationale behind it. Squatting has numerous benefits, including being a great position for birth (it can give you vital extra millimetres in the size of the pelvic opening compared to some other positions!) and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Much better than doing Kegels, according to the squatting expert Katy Bowman. So at the moment I am stretching and strengthening the necessary muscles in my legs and glutes to be able to hold a proper squatting position. I just have to remember to do the exercises every day!

While I had a blessedly easy pregnancy with Gus, one issue I did run into was low iron. (Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings has a great summary about iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy, if that sort of thing piques your interest.) This led to real lack of energy (more than just normal pregnancy-related lack of energy) in the first half of my pregnancy until I started on iron supplements. I'd therefore like to increase my current intake of dietary iron, with the hope that having high iron stores at the start of a pregnancy will mean that any natural decrease during pregnancy won't lead to deficiency and the related exhaustion--something I certainly won't need when chasing after an active toddler! My only problem with this is, like doing the exercises above, I am great at making plans and less good at remembering to put them into action. It's worth a go, though!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What's New with Gus

Another instalment of what Gus has been up to recently!


Gus has been in the midst of a language explosion recently.  He loves to talk to anybody who will listen (usually me!).  Or, if no one is around, he just plays with his toys, narrating as he goes along. The other day I was washing dishes while he was in the living room playing, and all I could hear was a rapid-fire string of animal names and sounds, one after the other. He obviously was having a very exciting game!

Up till recently, most of his vocabulary has been nouns, but I have noticed this week a sprinkling of verbs and adjectives as well. Big is a favourite at the moment, and he's always pointing out the big truck and the big ball. I am not sure if he can just pick out things that I have already described as big, or if he is applying it to things independently, but either way, it’s pretty sweet. He can even say the phrase, although it often sounds like two different sentences: “Big. Duck.” There are a couple of other “phrases” I’ve noticed recently as well. Jon was in the back yard yesterday, and Gus said “Pa. Back.” And he always says “Buh-bye ducks” when we leave the lake and asks for “More. Apple.” at snack time. Again, not sure if they are novel phrases, repeating of phrases he has heard, or just a collection of thoughts thrown together, but it is definitely showing a fascinating progression in his understanding and use of language.

When Jon gets home from work, he will usually talk to Gus about his day, asking what he did and saw while Pa was away. Gus seems to understand the question, or at least can rattle off a litany of things that he sees on his daily walks: “Lake. Ducks. Geese. Swan. Boat. Car. Truck. Van. Cluck-cluck [chicken].” You know, all of his favourite things. There have been several days this week where a walk is the first thing he asks for when we get down the stairs in the morning, desperate to go and search them all out.

Gus has recently learned how to say his name and often will point to each one of us in turn: “Mama. Pa. Gus!” We went to a wedding this weekend, and anytime someone took an interest in him (or maybe even when they didn’t—I am pretty sure he started talking to the lady across the aisle from us on the train completely on his own accord!) he would introduce himself by pointing at himself and proudly stating “Gus!”. Of course, when he says it, it only sounds vaguely like Gus (both G’s and S’s are a bit difficult for him still), so people didn’t always understand, but they sure became enamoured with him pretty quickly after that!

Social interactions

After what seemed like months of Gus needing me right next to him almost all the time, I realised this week that he hasn’t really done that in ages. He is actually becoming very confident, both with other people and in exploring the world on his own. It has gotten to the point where, when we are out for a walk, wandering on the fields, it is a toss-up about whether Gus is going to come back before Jon and I feel the need to chase after him. And at both the weddings we’ve been to this month, he has been more than happy to play with or talk to anyone who gave him the slightest glance. There were a load of kids at this latest wedding, and he spent a lot of time spinning on the grass with the toddlers and running up and down the halls with some older children.

In general, Gus seems to really like it when other children are around. He has two friends that we meet up with most weeks, and he kept talking about them after they left our house last week. That evening, we were reading a book, and Gus pointed to the little girl in a picture, clearly saying “Hattie!”, his friend’s name. He is very particular about how he plays with his toys, though, and it seems that other children don’t always understand his rules. We were at a children’s centre for a toddler group a week or two ago, and they have a dozen or so realistic animal figurines. He spent half the time we were there moving them from the window sill to the floor and back again. He was not, however, very happy if any of the other children came and moved an animal. I always say “Oh! You are playing with the toys together!” or something along those lines, trying to convince him that it can be fun. He doesn't seem so sure. (I don’t think children his age understand the concept of sharing yet, and generally shouldn't be forced to share, but I also feel kind of bad if he is playing with so many toys at one time, not allowing any other children a chance to play with them. So I am trying to find a balance there!)

Helping Hand

We have been having glorious weather lately, so I have been able to hang the washing out on the line to dry. I was taking some dry clothes down the other day, folding them and putting them in the basket. Gus was helping by taking clothes off the airer and putting them in the basket. He then insisted that we take the basket into the house, where he proceeded to take every piece out and stuff them into the wash machine. He shut the door and started turning dials and pressing buttons, trying to start the machine! He is a great helper, although not always in the ways I think I need help. (And those clothes are still in the basket as I write this, since I haven’t found the time or energy to fold them a second time. Oh well!)

He continues to enjoy helping me cook. Today while cooking dinner, he spent ages trying to peel some carrots, then proceeded to put all the scraps in the waste bin, one by one. Last week, Gus and I made hot cross buns together, which was really fun. I had woken up in a bit of a bad mood and decided to do some baking right after breakfast. Gus climbed right up on his stool and helped with the pouring, stirring, and shaping (and, of course, sampling of the raisins and making of the mess!). It was amazing how much better I felt after spending some good quality time with him! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Serious and banal thoughts on picture books

First, the serious.

It really annoys me when picture books have unequal gender representation. Is that just my humorless feminist side showing? But seriously, Gus loves books and reads them (asks Jon or me to read them) again and again and again. It is a very significant way in which he learns about the world. And if we want to raise our daughters in a world where anything is open to them, we also have to raise sons who do not think that they are superior to others or entitled to certain things based solely on their male-ness. Let me explain through some examples.

Gus has a book called Tommy & Minnie's Glitter Book Learning Colours. It is a seemingly innocuous little book with a dog (Tommy), a cat (Minnie) and other animal friends in various scenes, each one of which focuses on a different colour. The animals are actually very cute. But some of the writing is appalling. The first page:
Tommy is sailing on a sailboat. Minnie waves goodbye to him.
Firstly, to me, that is kind of boring. But whatever, lots of books that Gus loves seem boring to me. More importantly, why does Tommy get to do active, adventurous things while Minnie only stands on the side, watching? As a one-off, it doesn't really matter, but it is a pattern you see across lots of books and other media. Boys do things, girls observe.

Another pair of books Gus loves at the moment is about Fergus the Patch-eyed pup. The pictures are very sweet in these, and they have dogs and ducks (as well as pigs, chickens, and a cat in Fergus and Marigold!), which Gus obviously adores. The thing that annoys me about Fergus in the Park, though, is that, as Fergus strolls through the park, almost all of the people in the pictures are men or boys. These books have quite a 1950s feel to them, so at first I thought that was the reason for this and was going to give it a pass. But then I realised that they were copyrighted in 1997 and 98. So much for that thought. Pictures like these give subtle cues to the reader that the world is only populated by men, or that they are the ones that matter. Again, one book isn't going to make a difference, but if every book that Gus reads has 80% men or boys, then a pattern starts to emerge for him.

Also, in these books, Farmer Bob is Fergus's owner. Farmer Bob has a wife, who is seen on two pages in Fergus and Marigold, and even speaks at the end of the book. What is her name?, you ask. Good question, wish I could answer it for you. She is just called Farmer Bob's wife. Why?! Can't the poor lady have her own name? I may be getting overly upset about this one, as I have long-standing issues with being referred to only in relation to my husband. I love being a wife, and it is a major part of my identity, but please, do not for any reason call me Mrs Jon Lastname. I am not sure why I hate this so much, but I can already feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it!

I am not sure exactly the best way to counteract these kinds of messages about gender that are only going to become more prevalent as he grows older and consumes a wider variety of media. The blog Pigtail Pals Redefine Girly talks a lot about media literacy and helping our children critically assess the images that are presented to them in the media. This is something I will definitely try to work in more as Gus grows. At the moment, I mostly just change offending phrases as I read the book--which of course will only work until he can read them himself. (I also do this with songs and nursery rhymes as well. My two little dickie birds sitting on a wall are named Polly and Paul instead of Peter and Paul.) Choosing different books is definitely an option, but these books were gifts so we couldn't make decisions pre-purchase, and there are other good things about them, so I hate to banish them completely. Most of Gus's books are about (mostly gender-less) animals, but a couple of books that I think have good gender representations are 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle (male and female factory workers, a female truck driver and male ship captain), The Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton (main characters are a tiny hippopotamus and her daddy), and Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (both Paul and Judy do a variety of activities).  I like that these books just show people (or animals!) doing lots of things, and it doesn't matter if they are male or female--it is very organic and unobtrusive.

And now the banal

In the book I mentioned above about Tommy and Minnie, the last page is about how "Tommy and Minnie are enjoying nature". Do you notice anything strange about the picture?
Tommy and Minnie are enjoying nature.
So much so that they are going to cut it down and take it home with them.
 Why yes, they are chopping down a tree!  And they seem to have already felled a couple of others. Why oh why is this a picture in a children's book, especially under the caption "enjoying nature"?! I don't think that bird is going to be enjoying nature too much once you chop down the tree that its nest--and unhatched eggs!--are in! But, at least we can say that both Tommy AND Minnie are participating in this activity :)

What are your favourite books to read with toddlers or preschoolers? Do they have any books that just annoy you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest Post at Catholic Newlywed: Baby-led weaning

I am very excited to say that I have written my first guest post. I feel like a real blogger now!  Mandi at Catholic Newlywed has graciously let me participate in her Baby on a Budget series. I have written a bit about baby-led weaning (solids) and how it can help you save a few pennies.
Ahh, bliss. You’ve finally settled into this whole baby thing. Breastfeeding seems like a breeze now, after the first difficult weeks. Alternatively, you’ve finally figured out how to wash the bottles so there is always actually a clean one available when baby is hungry. (Or maybe that is just my own particular fear due to my inability to keep the dishes cleaned!) But then. The six-month mark approaches and people start asking: Has baby started eating food yet? Is your freezer stocked? Mmm, rice cereal!  {continue reading}
I also included a few links at the end about getting started with solids, others' experiences with baby-led weaning, and information on portion sizes for toddlers. So if you are interested, please do head over and check it out!  Also, there are lots of good things in Mandi's Baby on a Budget series, so stay a while and peruse some other posts, if that sort of thing floats your boat!

Finally, welcome to anyone who may have found their way over here from Catholic Newlywed. I have written two other posts on BLW--my reasons for choosing BLW and a recap on Gus's first experiments with food (you might just recognise some of the pictures in that post!).

And, because I have a new camera and therefore a lot of random pictures I can't help but share: what eating looks like at our house at the moment.  Haha. No, he was just a very tired boy that day and apparently didn't have the energy to sit up to eat his snack!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quick Takes (volume 14)

A day late (and a dollar short, no doubt), but here they are anyway, in all their quick-takey glory!

Gus has been very adverse to wearing a diaper this week. Well, once he has it on, he is generally fine, but he does not like to put it on. So we have had a lot of diaper-free time this week.

Tuesday morning, we woke up and I was starving, so I left Gus to play upstairs while I went down to make breakfast. When I got back up to bring him down to eat, the first thing I see is a dirty diaper, lying in the middle of the landing. My heart stopped. All I could think about was Jen's account of the poo-tastrophe that occurred in their house. (Short version: finger painting with the contents of a diaper) Thankfully, thankfully, I walked into Gus's room, and he was busy playing with his normal toys in a distinctly poo-free manner. Disaster averted! 

For now.

Sorry, maybe I should have eased you into this post, rather than just throwing the poo story at you right at the start. Hope no one's eating their breakfast while reading this!

On a happier note, it's my birthday today! The big 2-9. When did I get so old?  Jon's away on a good friend's stag do (bachelor party) today, but he will be back in the evening. We were planning on going out for dinner as a family last night, but Gus has also not been too keen on sitting in his chair to eat, so we decided we would wait till tomorrow lunchtime to go out, when we have a bit more energy! Jon's parents are taking Gus and I out for lunch today, so it should be a good weekend overall. 

Plus, I am getting a new camera from my in-laws! I am so excited. It is nothing special, but, seeing as my current camera is 6 years old and technology has improved a lot since then, I am hoping the new one will take some nice pics and videos (with sound!).

Also for my birthday, I have asked Jon to take me to see the Hunger Games movie when it comes out in a couple of weeks. So excited! If you haven't read the books, I definitely recommend them. Very gripping with a lot of commentary on our own society, although it's not in-your-face about it. 

I am loving Gus's talking at the moment. He seems to be picking up new words every day. He loves to label things, and will point out to anyone who will listen all the birds, planes, and balls in the vicinity (of course, usually that is me, and it can get exhausting!). It is so neat to be able to know what he is thinking. He must ask where Jon is half a dozen times a day. Usually I say that Jon is at work, but last Saturday he went out running, so I told Gus that. All week, whenever Gus asks about Pa, I say at work, and he comes back with "Running?". Yes, Gus, Pa is running. He runs 10 hours every day. 

When Gus talks about something, he often will just say every word he knows about the subject. We have a little birdhouse in the back garden, and some birds have been coming to it this week. One day we could see the birds in the box, peeking their heads out of the hole. I told Gus, "Look, they are playing peekaboo with you. The birds are hiding in the box." Ever since then, if he can't see any birds in the yard, he will just start saying "Bird? Peekaboo. Hide. Peekaboo. Hide. Box? Bird?" Ad nauseum. It is very sweet, but he gets quite worked up about it, and will often ask me "more?". I can't quite seem to explain to him that I cannot make the birds come back. Hopefully they will be visiting more often as the weather gets warmer!

The feast of St Joseph is on the 19th, so don't forget to start a novena for husbands today.  I get my novenas from, and they are emailed to me so I don't forget. I am still so bad at novenas that I usually miss at least one day, but it's getting better!

Also start planning your Italian feast to celebrate the day. Obviously St. Joseph wasn't Italian, but they do love him over in Italy. So it gives us a good excuse for some delicious antipasti, pasta and garlic bread. Yum yum.

One week till my brother-in-law's wedding!  I am very excited. Jon is best man, Gus is a pageboy (with an adorable little outfit), and I am doing a reading, so it will be a busy ceremony. But we are very blessed to have such a great family, and I think it will be a really good day. Please keep Tim and Becky in your prayers this week!

Hope you all have a great week! And, as always, thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting.