Tag Archives: Baby

What’s the magic (sibling) number?

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I’m back! And I’m catching up as quickly as possible, which is to say, not very quickly at all, despite my many multicoloured to-do lists.

In some ways it’s been a rough landing. Toddler-plus-newborn felt pretty damn hair-raising, but toddler-plus-determined-climbing-biter is black belt martial arts. ‘I’d forgotten how much of my day is fending off chaos with karate-chopping hands’, I meant to text to Tim, but didn’t, because I didn’t get a minute to sit down. (I said it to him while wrestling pyjamas onto Teddy during the three minutes he was home, instead.)

And yet, and yet. The way these two interact at the moment is a joyous thing. They communicate somewhere outside speech, in a dialect of face-patting, cheerio-stealing, laughing and crawling up and down stairs, shoulders bumping together. Every day they get more like brothers. ‘Two boyths in the bath!’ Henry crows in the mornings. ‘Two boyths doin’ crawling! Two boyths in the washing machine!’

I ran in quick for that one. No harm done.

I had a really good week away. Today I sorted out my photos from my brother’s wedding, and it was the photo at the top that made me realise why: sibling time is easy time. Your jokes are always funny, your dance moves are always appreciated; your oldest self comes back out to play and you remember why you liked her.

It was this photo too that convinced me I’m not yet done with babies. We would be lost without our boys, Sarah and I. They have spent a lifetime infuriating us, teasing us, accepting us – we’d be infinitely poorer without all that. Four was a great number: we could divide into pairs if we wanted, but altogether we were like the kids putting our rings together to call up Captain Planet: varied and multi-faceted and unstoppable. No one gets you like your siblings, and the more you have, the sweeter it is.

And my own boys – who knows who might be waiting to join their conspiratorial gang of two? I’m game to find out.*

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*not yet, though.

What’s your ideal number of siblings? What made you decide to stop or carry on? Has your experience with your own family made you want the same, or sent you screaming in the opposite direction? It’s different for everyone, so spill the beans below.

Living arrows: how we laugh

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from your children as living arrows are sent forth
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And he bends you with his might that his arrows may go swift and far.
For your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even he loves the arrow that flies, so loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

Hello, friends.

I am a tiny bit overwhelmed by life, the universe and everything at the moment, so just something short today. There’s a weekly project on I Heart Snapping blog called Living Arrows, all about photos that capture a moment in the life of a child. The title comes from the passage by Kahlil Gibran above. I love the thought that our children are part of us but separate too: that we’ll send them forward into days we’ll never see, that all we can do is steady their forward leap, and watch their paths with our mouths open.

Today the boys had simultaneous nappy explosions after their afternoon naps. I don’t know what they’ve eaten, but in Teddy’s case I’m willing to bet it came from the floor. I showered them both off and plopped them down into sunshine on Henry’s bed.

Sometimes, and that minute was one of them, they are just delighted with themselves and each other, with the twosomeness of the two of them. Henry pulls out his repertoire of faces; Teddy laughs; Henry laughs harder. I can see down the years like a tunnel, and imagine them gangly-limbed and cracking each other up at my expense, light on their faces, potty training miles behind them and bigger, brighter, more sanitary milestones ahead.

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living arrows

A list of things my baby is louder than, according to Science*

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1. city traffic

2. trombone

3. rubbish truck

4. subway train

5. the sound I made when my nail cracked on a drawer this morning

6. jackhammer

7. farm tractor

8. jet take-off at 100 metres

9. the apple hitting Newton’s head

10. power lawn mower

11. motorbike

12. vacuum cleaner

13. all birds known by ornithologists

14. freight train at 15 metres

15. newspaper press

16. being slapped by a wet fish

17. car wash

18. any noise made by a human

19. helicopter at 100 feet

20. your 5am despair

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*according to the decibel recorder I downloaded from the app store this morning. Kid has some brass lungs.

Eggs

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Cousins, in sibling pairs. Which I’m sure you couldn’t guess.

What I love about having babies is that you can get more and more into celebrations as time goes on. Easter this year was a cracker (mixed metaphor unintended). I know that chocolate eggs and church and family are great ideas, but it gets ten times better when all four of us are stuffing our faces together. I hadn’t even considered how exciting an egg hunt might be. It was, and even more exciting when I considered that next year we’d have two boys in the game. So it will actually be a hunt, and not just one boy being followed around by three adults looking weirdly and significantly at eggs.

Photo avalanche ahoy, cap’n!

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We spent most of the Easter weekend with Tim’s parents, and some of the Monday at Donnington Castle. It’s a funny little atmospheric keep, a little outside of Newbury. It looms out of the pretty suburban landscape all of a sudden and apropos of nothing, and is all the better for that. Once Henry had got over his customary pushchair outrage (sigh) it was a great place to explore.

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Can we get a photo with all of us looking at the camera and appearing reasonably pleased? Can we cheffers.

Just before we left, we spent some time and energy assembling Tim’s siblings on a tree branch for an Awkward Family Photo. It turned out very well, I thought. Aren’t they an attractive bunch?

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Of course, then the littles wanted a go.

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Normally we’d have spent the rest of the afternoon making ourselves a little sick with leftover Easter chocolate, but this year we had an Adventure planned. Tim had meetings in Edinburgh on Tuesday and Manchester on Wednesday, and ages ago (when it had been raining too hard to leave the house for days and the walls were pressing on my head) he suggested that I come with him, leaving the boys in the very capable hands of their auntie. So off we jollied into the Scottish hills and an orange sorbet sunset. And we had the most wonderful time.

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I’ve written elsewhere about how much I love Edinburgh (one of my favourite posts from last year). I am terribly, horribly in love with it, and in all guises – even (as I’ve usually seen it) in grizzly rain. Our hotel room was beautiful: one of those that comes with a little spa downstairs and fancy soap, temple balm and lip recoverer in the bathroom, whatever that is. When Tim went off early for his meeting, I had a giant bath, got ready slowly, balmed my temples and recovered my lips, and then headed out by myself to explore.

You can spend as much time as you like in art galleries, when you’re flying solo. Your photos tend to be restricted to mirror selfies, but the freedom more than makes up for it.

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I tell you what: all that fuss the National Gallery made about buying those Titians a little while back? TOTALLY WORTH IT.

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After a night and a day and a night, we got up extra early and drove down to Manchester. I’d never been, and was rather put off at first by the bankruptcy-worthy parking charges and a shopping mall as big as the sun. But just round the corner, there was this.

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There are beautiful things in every pocket in the universe, aren’t there? Happy Easter.

Some of these photographs – nay, many of them – are courtesy of my father-in-law. He has so much more patience behind the camera than I have, and it shows. Thanks Jeremy!

This sort of weather calls for an emergency evacuation

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Gosh, is it the rain, or what? How on earth does February feel so slow you can hear the clock tick, when it’s three days shorter than your average? You’d think that all these enforced indoor days would be great for the housework, but my bathroom floor of dirty laundry and kitchen counters groaning with crusty plates have a little something to say about that. It probably has swear words in it. They’re not best pleased.

Either way, these cold, cold wet days are enough to make any sensible person start thinking overly dramatic things. Like ‘there are NO MORE INDOOR PLACES IN TOWN’ and ‘maybe I should have auditioned for Frozen, after all’ and ‘I will shave off my hair completely rather than spend another minute with fuzzy rat-head’.

At this point I usually get in the shower, because a hot shower is my most effective drama killer. (This is why I am obliged to have one every morning.) This week we did one better, and made a run for it. Only to the temple, and to Brighton the next day, but we had a car full of road trip sweeties, and it was far enough. It was a cold, cold wet couple of days, and the sea was like boiling slate. The smell is the same, though, even in drizzle. If you lived by the sea, would you stop appreciating the smell of salt in the air? Because I’m not sure I’d ever want to lose the pleasure of that first, giant sniff.

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We ran on the pebbly beach, investigated a fishing museum, winced through the pier arcades, and ate the largest plate of fish and chips ever seen. We got blown to pieces and my hair has probably never been so foolish, but it was like being freed from something. I could still smell the angry sea when I came back to the washing-up, and it kind of made all the difference.

(To me, not to the washing up. Which is – um – still there.)

Sleep training in a small space

Here’s a knotty old conundrum: how do you try out any sleep strategies on a baby with an older sibling in the same room?

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I have been bashing my brains about this for a couple of weeks. Teddy has been swaddled like a tiny chicken pasty since he arrived: we found out he liked it, didn’t need rocking to sleep, and stayed asleep for longer. These things are the holy grail of newborndom, and we held it triumphantly aloft and did. not. mess.

Now, of course, he’s a giant seven-month-old with legs the size of Henry’s torso, and we find ourselves in a bit of a bind. He was spending all night furiously struggling out of the swaddle – we’d come in to find him with one arm punching the air, all HULK SMASH THIS PRISON – but once he was out, he couldn’t sleep. The boys’ room is on a different floor to ours, close enough to hear  them, but not at all close enough to reach across when sleep-drunk and shove his arm back in without looking.

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All of which is to say that, really, you’re only safe if you get a baby who falls asleep with no aids whatsoever, by themselves, in the middle of the open floor. We were giving each other rueful high-fives about the fact that Teds doesn’t particularly like the dummy – no dummy fairy hell in this boy’s future – but instead he got attached to something else. And the something else kept trying to eat him at night.

Add in the fact that our flat is so small and open-plan that he’s been picked up the second he made noise, to stop him waking up the rest of the house, and, well. Time for a change. And who knew you’d end up coddling your second more than your first? I’d already done some gentle sleep training with Henry by this age. But then the only people to consider were Timothy, snoring obliviously upstairs, and Henry and me, duking it out in the nursery.

So here we are, round two. He needs to learn to fuss himself quietly into sleep, without having his arms strapped to his sides. He needs to do it without waking his brother, because we’ve just spent a month regulating his sleep habits, and my bitten nails haven’t grown back yet. I moved his bottle times so he could drink before sleep, in the dark room, to settle him. I started making up the cot like a little bed again, just like old times: raised end, soft blanket underneath, heavier blanket on top, pull back the corner.

(I like doing this. I don’t know why. It feels like a deliberate, ritualistic act of love, to make a baby’s bed. It tells him he is welcome here. Is that weird?)

Then I gave him a dummy to play with, and left him to it. So far, so sort-of alright (sleep training is a bit like that, I find). He squawks for a while, as I pop in periodically, but he’s getting there. And, it turns out that Henry’s a ludicrously heavy sleeper. Which I can’t help but think will be useful information at his teenage sleepovers.

 

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Have you ever had to do sleep-training in small spaces, or with older children around? How did you manage it? 

We’re going on a bear hunt

Or, in other words, How To Visit Your Local Park Yet Again In Rubbish Weather Without Going Insane.

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is one of Henry’s favourite books – you should hear his pronunciation of ‘what a bleu-la-ti-foo day’ – so I suggested we go to the park for a bear hunt of our own. There are a lot of bear-friendly hiding places in Prospect Park. We checked them all.

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We found the thick, oozy mud (and so did my car boot)…

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…then the deep cold river (squelchy duck pond)…

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…then the big dark forest.

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No bears. I speculated that they might be hiding under the tree roots. Henry scoffed. Too small for bears, he said. They’re probably having their lunch. Still, we brought a (very unimpressed) bear with us as a back-up, so we weren’t totally empty-handed.

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Of course, we should have known. When you go looking for bears, you’ll end up finding a swirly whirly snowstorm, which in real life doesn’t go ‘hoo wooo’, but something more like FEEL MY ICE BRICKS AND DESPAIR, FOOLS.

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We’re not going on a bear hunt again (until all of us have dried off, and February decides to stop being a prize ass).

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Pregnancy crib-notes: some things I wish I’d known about two

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‘How are you doing with those two boys?’ people ask.

The answer is: ‘Today I am awake. So today is good’.

Do you remember those guest posts I published back at the beginning of July, with people giving advice about moving from one to two children? I loved them. I still read them now, since seven months and 1278 dirty nappies isn’t nearly long enough to feel like you know what you’re doing. But I have discovered some things, and not all of them are chocolate button-related. If I could do some sort of spiffy time machine action and land right in the middle of 30th June, 2013, I’d…tell myself to give birth on the BATHROOM FLOOR, NOT THE CARPET, IDIOT. And I’d also say this.

(I know I’ve been going a bit Buzzfeed, lately, with all these lists. That’s 11pm talking. I’ll write something with paragraphs this week, I promise.)

you can love them both…

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I worried about this the way everyone worries about this, even while knowing that it was silly. This boy I’d poured heart and soul into for almost two years – how could I love someone else in exactly the same way, without taking away from what I had with my first, or feeling like I was somehow cheating on him? Well, it just happens: gradually and subconsciously at first, then on it comes, like a tidal wave – implacable, deep-seated love. Oh, my little Teddy. He exists in a whole different chamber of my heart, and I love them both for themselves, and together. It just happens, honest.

…but choosing between them still hurts.

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Perhaps this gets easier. I never seem to have enough time to do all of the things I want with them both. I know that making them share and take turns with my attention is extremely good for them, but I always feel a twinge of guilt for the boy I’ve put to one side. You can’t help comparing them, either, and that’s a guilt-maker too. It helps to remind myself that Henry was at this stage once, and Edward will be at this stage soon, and neither of them can help being where they are at the moment. Which is true of everyone, anyway.

you’ve done this once already. You can do what you want now.

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The biggest surprise for me was how much more confidence I had to follow my instincts. The first time I handed Teddy over to Tim for a bottle, after four long weeks of feeding him every two hours, I screwed myself up in bed and cried. Then I stopped, because I’ve done this before. And it was unquestionably the right thing to do with Henry, and it happened to be the right thing here, too. It’s not that you can repeat the experience with your first child exactly, because they’re both very different. But I have a better idea now of when to follow the book, and when to trust my gut. Most of the time I still feel like I’m winging it. But this time I know that one day, I’ll wake up and realise that this thing I’ve been agonising over for months and months has just gone away, without me noticing.

for three months, embrace the chaos

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Those early days of newborn-and-two-year-old. Oh, my giddy aunt. When the boiling needs of your children consume every waking minute, and your waking minutes are nearly all the minutes there are. A good friend told me just afterwards that it took her three months to start climbing out of the chaos, and I clung onto that like a life raft. It was true for me, too – and I would add that it then took six months to get them both to a stage where proper routine is possible. So I tried very hard not to feel guilty about anything in the early months. Getting to the end of the day with us all alive, fed, clean(ish) and happy was more than enough. I slept whenever they both slept, whatever else I could have been doing. What I’m basically saying is that I spent three months with crazy hair and ignoring the vacuuming. And it was fine, and it got better.

the baby phases are even better than you remember

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I’d forgotten about that furious look of concentration when they spy something they want to pick up. Or the way they tell you how nice you are by grabbing your face. Or the way their whole body tenses with excitement when you come into the room. Or that phase where all they want to do is ride around on your hip, because the view is so much better from up here. We’ve been delighted all over again – and watching Henry be delighted by them too is wonderful.

there has never in this universe been so much poo

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You know how when women live together, their cycles start to coincide? Small children have the same thing, only with bowel movements. My text messages to Tim these days are all in capitals, with fractured sentences like ‘BETWEEN THE TOES THIS TIME’, and ‘SEVENTEEN WIPES REQUIRED’ and ‘HAVE STRIPPED THEM BOTH NAKED AGAIN’. I have discovered, too late, that you cannot have too many wipes, or nappies, or disinfectant, or protective head-gear. I have become a form and texture expert. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME.

Even on the less good days, there’s this. Two really is better than one.

Hey, are you incubating a foetus right now? There are more pregnancy crib-notes here: 

What you’ll actually need in your hospital bag, and why

Things to do at thirty weeks: an alternative list for the anti-nester

Five maternity styles I’ve learned to love…and five I love to hate

Mornings, revisited

Rach's Blog

I came across this post the other day, and felt like I was looking back at long-forgotten country. So here’s a continuation.

Dear self,

Here are some things that you should never forget (even when the skin on the back of your hands has gone baggy)

that you get the first hint of Boy 1 being awake when he thunders like a galloping elephant on the stairs

that Boy 2 is almost always beside you already, fuzzy head jammed into your armpit

that Tim does the breakfast routine unless you really have to – and this is now so ingrained that the other day Henry told you to go back to bed while Daddy made porridge, so SCORE ONE for you

that you get Henry in the bath every day by pretending his pirate bubble bath is talking to him

that your pirate accent is really no better, despite all this practice

that they spend twenty minutes trying to out-splash each other, and as Teddy has been gifted with thighs, he wins

that the real loser is you, since you start every day wet

that Henry will get dressed faster if you pretend you’re both racing cars

that your racing commentator accent is pretty dire as well, and who said parenthood involved so many accents anyway

that you never, ever in your life thought your bed would end up with so much pee in it

that you spend your getting-ready time having conversations with a boy who now likes having his hair combed and putting his socks on and brushing his teeth, so look, my dear, how things change

but that he still likes the taste of your perfume

so maybe they don’t change all that much.

Embrace the soakings, dear self, because they’ll be over before you can blink. And moisturise those hands.

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Merry bloomin’ Christmas!

Welcome to the busiest day of the year! And GREAT SCOTT am I enjoying the fact that Teddy woke up every two hours last night. After a month of six-hour sleeps. This is the sort of exquisite timing that leads to me stuffing handfuls of Milky Bar buttons in my mouth while showering, and thinking that Kermit’s song in The Muppet Christmas Carol might actually hold the key to a happy life.

Before I sign off for a few days, I thought you might want to see our attempts at a Christmas photo. This is one of these traditions that I think we’ll love to look over in years to come, but for now, well…it doesn’t make for a peaceful afternoon. Picture us all in clothes we’re only allowed to wear for ten minutes because I need to pack them, stemming projectile sick from No. 2, keeping No. 1 in place with a Pingu episode just out of frame and yelling ‘Saaaaaay chocolate! SAY CHOCOLATE! SAY IT! AND SMILE!’

In the end we went for one where three out of four of us were smiling, because that was the best option by a really long shot. Ah, babies.

Even Teds is no match for the power of the Pingu.

The One Where Pingu Was Weirder Than Usual.

The talking-to.

The One With The Talking-To.

The escape.

The One With The Escape.

The Foreheads of Desperation.

The One With The Foreheads of Desperation.

The SO FLIPPING CLOSE.

The One That Was SO FLIPPING CLOSE.

The Winner, With Apologies to Teddy.

The Winner, With Apologies to Teddy.

Seasons greetings, etc. I’m off to pack a suitcase. See you on the other side!

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