31-03-2012

Project 366: Such Great Heights

Firstly, a quick awards recap:

What a week! A HUGE thank you to whichever of you lovely people have nominated this blog for not just one, but three of the MAD blog award categories. I was certainly not expecting that! As things stand in week one of nominations, I’m currently up for Best MAD Baby Blog, MAD Blog of the Year, and Best MAD photography. If you haven’t yet nominated me, but would like to, click here. I’m not sure how it works, but I guess the more nominations, the more chance.

Meanwhile, the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging (or Britain’s Blogging, Britain in Bloom, BritBlog Blogging Blogger, as my friend has been calling it) voting continues. I’m up for the Snap! Photography category. Click here to vote – takes just one click.

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I can’t believe that in the space of just two weeks he’s gone from timid crawler to fearless scaler of great heights.

He wants to climb anything and everything at the playground. Rope bridges, huge climbing frames, you name it. He’s turned into danger-child.

I was away most of the day at Working Mums Live, so I got my 366 shot in nice and early before taking Arlo to Grandma and Grandad’s.

 I will miss that pot belly when he loses his baby fat.

I normally have trouble keeping Arlo still long enough to pay attention at his baby signing class. Usually, he’s either crying to leave, or more recently, running around mowing down any immobile babies in his path.

On this particular day, he was making a break for the kitchen area (AKA the out of bounds area that he knows full well about) when a new prop was being introduced to the group to demonstrate the sign for train.

When the name ‘Thomas’ was uttered, he did the fastest 180 degree turn I’ve ever seen him do. He grabbed Thomas, and bounced up and down squealing ‘Choo choo! Choo choo!’ He had the whole room giggling over his abundant enthusiasm.

He spent the rest of the session gazing happily at Thomas. The immobile babies breathed a sigh of relief.

Sometimes… frequently… the hour before bed can be a tumultuous time.

But then dada comes along and quick as a flash things start to look a little more like this.

We have this pot of bubbles in Arlo’s room. Every time we go up there to get him changed, he asks for bubbles.

Arlo was napping, I was working on my website, Sam was reacquainting himself with his Xbox.

I like to include these inconsequential images from time to time. Because sometimes, especially when the weather has turned cold, we do nothing of note.

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And that’s March wrapped up.

Well, not quite. Rather shamefully, I forgot to post up a photo for March 14th and only just noticed.

There. Now I can officially call it a wrap.

You may or may not have noticed that my shots have become a lot wider than the ones taken with my 50mm. I’ve been making a real effort to use the lesser loved of my two lenses this month. I hardly ever use my Canon 17-85mm lens. I think I want to sell it and put the money towards a lens that I’ve long been lasting after. But I need to be really sure that I won’t miss it.

 This month, amongst all the other photographs I have been taking of Arlo, I almost lost the point of it all and had to remember my original aim for this project. I’m resisting the urge to include too many portrait style shots in the 366. No matter how lovely they are, those can keep for Arlo’s milestone posts (that was the original intention for the forgotten March 14th shot, until I realised I had nothing else to put in the 366 for that day).

I think I’ll far more enjoy looking back on the 366 if I’ve documented life. A new thing that Arlo does or learns, an activity we did, something that made us laugh, or how we were feeling that day. These are the type of photos that I don’t automatically remember to take, so the 366 project is really helping me out here.

I’ve created this little logo/badge type thing for my project. When I complete a month, I get to add a 366 collage into the layout. It reminds me of a board game, or a sticker book, which is another incentive to continue on until the bitter end. I must collect them all.


30-03-2012

Snippets – March edition

New pyjamas

Dedicated, tedious, twice-a-day sprinking

A spontaneous trip to Nandos 

Rediscovering grass

Taking a walk down the main road

Bubbles

Mother’s Day Daffodils

Blossom

Ramps for trains

Muddy hands

Spring wardrobe

Ponytails

Lawnmowers

Looking like a giant. (Where has my baby gone?!)

Watching trams

And, of course, Thomas.

28-03-2012

Looking Glass


33 weeks pregnant with Arlo. I think this is the last photo I have of me pregnant, I obviously didn’t bother for weeks 34-39. EVERYONE LOOK AT MY MESSED UP EYEBROWS. The threading lady went a bit too far this time. Sam calls them my ‘Surpri-brows’. Also, note Oscar the Dog in the background (we were living at my mum’s at the time).

The sonographer humoured my request to write the sex of the baby on a piece of paper at Arlo’s anomaly scan. I kept that piece of paper in a sealed envelope and pushed it to the back of my mind (and the back of my pregnancy folder).
I still have that little piece of paper. Every now and again, when I come across that folder, still bursting to the seams with all that Bounty junk, I look at the words written in an unfamilliar hand. BOY, in capital letters. The one-time secret that I’ve since discovered.

 

That little scrap of paper is a precursor to everything that came afterwards. To everything I have discovered since then. This is my crystal ball letter to my heavily pregnant self:

Try to enjoy this pregnancy. There really is no need to be so stressed out. It’s hard to imagine, but I promise that everything works out in the end. Work, the car, a place to live, motherhood, the baby equipment, money…Everything. Your family, friends, and lovely boyfriend will pull out the stops to sort it all.

Don’t complain about Statuatory Maternity Pay. It actually stretches a long way, and that amount of money will seem like a godsend once it ends & you get used to an income of £0.

The baby is not going to come early, and the house will be ready in time.

Don’t worry about Sam being  young and not ready to be a father. That little boy will steal his heart on day one, and he wasn’t lying when he said he wanted to do this.

Yes, that’s right. A boy. So you might as well chuck all those beautiful girls names out of the window now.

Finding out the sex will not help you come to terms with this pregnancy/motherhood thing, or help you bond with the baby. You have to do these things on your own, when you are ready.

Iron supplements are a good idea.

You will still be the same person after becoming a mother. But be prepared for people to assume you’ve lost a few brain cells and any identity along the way to acquiring your new status.

Don’t worry about labour. You kind of, sort of, actually enjoyed it. You must have forgotten most of it.

A strict budget is good, but don’t be a complete cheapskate. Contrary to what you think, the following items are not luxury purchases that you don’t really need: A moby wrap, an Ergo carrier, a Snoozeshade, decent nursing bras, Dr Brown’s bottles. You will hold out only to end up buying all of these things later down the line and then wish you had bought them sooner.

Forget ‘I will give breastfeeding a go. I think it’s for about six months, right?’. You will become a crazy pro-breastfeeding nut. Yes. One that feeds a walking, talking toddler.

Don’t get hung up on the fact that your tiny baby doesn’t ‘self-settle’. It is not your fault, and it’s not because you did something wrong. It is just the way he is. Help him through it. Do whatever works. Life will be so much easier for you both.

Allow the visitors who wanted to shove cameras in your face a mere few days post – partum (when you hadn’t even time to brush your hair) to go for it. You might want those photos one day.

Don’t worry that your name choices are too outlandish. The one you like the best is the right one.

This time with your first baby is magical. Hold him, smell him, and don’t feel guilty for spending whole days on the sofa. You will never ever get this quality of one on one alone time with your baby again.



I wasn’t ready to see into my little looking glass and find out the sex of my baby. I desperately wanted to know how things would turn out, but at the same time, I felt strongly about wanting to experience things as they naturally happened. Some of those notes in my letter would have been reaaally useful to know in advance. But reading it through, I know if I were to have had the hypothetical option of reading my letter to myself, I’d still pick the hard way. The one with surprises and discoveries.

Nothing beats on-the-job experience.


26-03-2012

Project 366: 78 – 84 Fresh Air

Fresh air, muddy shoes, grass stains, and lots and lots of toddling. You can tell that the weather has vastly improved this week, as five out of the seven photos were taken outdoors.

78.

At the playground. Call it a belated Mother’s Day shot, as I forgot to get any of us together on the actual day itself.

79.

Sweet dreams at nap time.

80.

Holding my hands up, I forgot to take a photo until right at the last hour.

81.

Just pottering around with no trousers on, as you do.

So, I know I was going on last week about Arlo not being able to use the garden in its current state. But I let him out there as I was hanging the washing, and he really surprised me with how well he manged in what I had described as ‘a health and safety nightmare’.

It’s definitely not baby proofed, but perhaps I was being a bit too over cautious before.

82.

I wanted to attend this one-off parenting group thing that clashed with Arlo’s nap time.

I thought I could get him down for an early nap. No chance. I thought I could get him down on the train. Hahaha, no chance. He spent the entire time bouncing up and down, saying, ‘Ooooh, choo choo!!’.

Here we are, just down the road from the venue, and he’d just fallen asleep. Typical.

Needless to say, that nap didn’t last very long.

83.

Gardening day.

Those grass seeds are now planted, I’m really hoping we have a lawn in time for Summer.

84.

I was kicking myself for forgetting to grab my SLR before we left for the garden centre. The late afternoon light was amazing and I could see so many potential shots.

Arlo had loads of fun toddling around all the pots and plants. It must have seemed like a giant maze to him.

25-03-2012

A good place to be

I recently attended a parenting group session hosted by Naomi Stalden. You know, the one who writes those thought-provoking books based on her conversations with new mothers at weekly support groups that she has been running for the past twenty years.

My overall impression of Naomi was that she is really interested in hearing about mothers’ feelings. Even after all these years of running these groups, you could tell that this shit really and truly fascinates her. Pretty amazing considering she must have heard the same stuff over and over again. I mean, I’ve only been doing the mum thing for seventeen months and in that 1.5 hour long session alone I can’t count the number of times that I had to check that I didn’t audibly yawn at some of the topics of conversation.

A lot of these mothers had very young babies. Their first babies. And I’m not there right now. Not anymore. I don’t want to talk about feeding routines, or about how your mum disagrees with your attachment parenting philosophy, whether you should try BLW, or if you should go with your original plan to put your child in a nursery or cough up the extra money and hire a nanny like most of your friends. (The session was held in a very affluent part of London, I should have been prepared for this sort of dilemma that would make me feel completely alienated).

Then there was the woman who said that being a mother has changed her relationships with her friends that have children, made her closer, realising that she had been selfish and unaccommodating without recognising her friends’ needs as parents. My spirits sank with that comment and it set me off once more to thinking about being on the flip side of that coin. Naomi then asked to hear from anyone who might have been the first or only one of their friends to have children, which led to one of my only contributions to the conversation.

I had mixed feelings about my afternoon. My emotions ranged from boredom, alienation, and plain ol’ sadness all in the space of an hour and a half. I had gone to the group with the hopes of being put in touch with parents of breastfeeding, night-waking toddlers. (I think I will have better luck at the regular group, as this one was opened up to a wider audience that happened to be mainly mums with teeny babies). However, there were a couple of moments that really piqued my interest. Namely, a discussion about the emotional transition that takes place when having a second child, and some comments about the dynamics of a parenting partnership. I noted down the following comments concerning how some of the mothers’ felt about the father’s involvement in caring for their child:

‘When I go out and leave the baby with his dad, I always get the feeling that he feels he is just holding the fort until I get back. I delegate, and he does what I say, he doesn’t do things with/for our son off his own initiative.’

‘When packing to go away, it’s me that will remember certain things, like his favourite sippy cup, or a particular book he likes that week. I wouldn’t expect my husband to know these things.’

‘There is a big difference between support and permitting something to happen. I want my husband to support my wish to not sleep-train, meaning we take it in turns to go into the baby at night, rather than him sitting back and letting me get on with it.’

I can really identify with all of these comments. I have been there. But I had to smile as I listened, as it made me realise that we are not there anymore. In fact, we couldn’t be further from these situations right now. Maybe it’s because Arlo is at the latter end of the baby stage, and the shift in his emotional needs and the less he needs to be physically attached to me (feeding) has made more room for Sam to step in. I’m sure that comes into it to some degree. Whatever the reasons, it is a really good place to be.

Sam is totally involved with all things Arlo. He knows his routines and whatever particular quirk he has that week. He knows the tricks to get him to eat, how to deal with his tantrums, the things that are likely to set him off and the things that will calm him down.  If he sees that Arlo is tired, he will pick him up and take him off to bed without any need for discussion with me. He goes into Arlo every other time during the night. He supports my way of parenting Arlo at night-time, not without occasional disagreement, but he still gets up and does it. These days Sam’s intuition can even take over mine, there have been a few occasions where Sam has been the first to know what to do.

He knows all of Arlo’s favourite toys, food, everything. I would happily let him pack Arlo’s overnight bag, and I frequently leave Arlo with Sam for a full day, confident that he will put 100% into parenting Arlo, in the same way that he does when I am present. I’ve been going out a lot recently, with absolutely no worries that I will be at all missed at home. I am really enjoying this recent sense of freedom and certainly making the most of it while I can. I am so pleased that we have seen through those thoughts being experienced by the mothers I met with last week, that we seem to have come through the other side.

In order to prevent this post from coming across as me bragging about how great my other half his and how perfectly we’ve adjusted to becoming a family, I would like to state that our relationship is most definitely not without its arguments. We have had some very fierce night-time rows, there has been resentment on my part over quality of sleep and the weight of responsibility I once felt as a breastfeeding mother. Things have been broken, doors have been slammed, tears have been shed. Instead of taking our frustrations out on Arlo during the middle of the night, guess who we take it out on?

One aspect of the chronic exhaustion that comes with a child who wakes frequently in the night is an increased need to try really, really hard to keep your cool with your partner and work through it as a team. And when that doesn’t happen, you can always work it out with long-winded text message conversations in the light of day when your head is clear and things don’t seem as bad as they were at 4am.

Sam is completely wonderful at looking after Arlo. But this doesn’t make him a martyr, or mean that he has super-special parenting powers. The feminist in me would like to clarify that I think this is just the way it should be. The fact that he can care for Arlo extremely well is hardly groundbreaking. Sam’s word on the matter (he reads a draft of any post about him before I publish, as per our agreement) is that he would feel patronised if I thought he couldn’t care for Arlo as competently as me, especially if my reason was to do with gender.

The special bit is not that Sam is a great carer, but that he is a brilliant dad, and he has developed a very close relationship with his son. That’s the bit that makes me proud.