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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

December 2011

Month six

(I’m cheating, because I’ve taken ages to start on this post owing to two months of gorgeous grannies and grandpa time. But better late than never, as they say. Also, WordPress allows you to date your posts earlier so w00t to that. 18 December it is.)

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Dearest Arddun,

It is official: you are an Active Baby.

While I know that most mothers secretly believe their child to be a mini Einstein or Olympic champion in some kind of baby race only mothers understand and tune into, you ARE on a rather steep learning curve when it comes to mobility. And because you’re still quite inefficient about the whole business, your journey takes a thousand flaps – and then some.

You are now a proficient omni-directional roller. You are also a huge fan of tip-toeing and the brace position. I’ve been told that your core muscles are excellent. Lord knows if I didn’t feed you so much milk, you’d have an impressive six-pack by now. You are, slowly but surely, learning to crawl. Sure it takes you 5 minutes to cover 3 feet of cold, tiled floor – and you breathe new meaning to “two steps forward, one step back” – but by golly, you get there.

We’ve gone and bought you a cage playpen, just so Mommy can have the occasional break to take a bath or something. So far, you’ve not been a huge fan of the playpen – think it has something to do with how you keep whacking into the bars whenever you gather some speed. Usually when you’re going for the bottles.

Oh yes – BOTTLES.

For a few months now, you’ve been fascinated by bottles. They are your favourite things. I’m not just talking about ’em milk bottles. I’m talking 330ml Liptop Mango Tea bottles. 1.5litre Coke bottles. That teeny-tiny juice bottle with the red cap that Grandma Singapore carried in her handbag every time we went out shopping. Basically anything plastic that holds liquid and is capped off by a brightly coloured lid. Big fan. Huge. Will reach out, all hands and feet, straining against straps until bottle is in hands. And then will suck cap merrily for many minutes. Makes you happy. Which makes Mommy happy.

BTW, you have suddenly turned into a gigantic baby. You were a runt when we started, and got Mommy and Daddy all shook up about not feeding you enough and you sleeping too long, and then you started travelling along at the 50th percentile mark for months and months and then suddenly – boom! Big baby. 75th percentile for weight and head circumference. A whopping 90th percentile for height. Again, Mommy ridiculously proud. As if she grew your own legs or something. In truth, we’ve very little to do with it. You just looooove your food. And now that you’re eating semi-solids, it’s like your lunch is your world, and your world is in your lunch. If we were to leave you in your highchair without so much as a slice of pear, you’d look at us most indignantly as if to say, “What the!”

It would be funny, if the look didn’t always follow with huge protestations.

Yes. You are LOUD. You laugh loud. You cry loud. Thankfully, you haven’t figured out how to shriek yet. Mommy cannot abide a shrieky baby which means, of course, that you’ll learn to shriek next week – just so God can have a chuckle. You seem to have a deeper register for a girl baby, so your laughs are delightful chuckles and your yells are fully supported by your diaphragm. Very good technique. You might be a choir girl one day, just like your Mommy.

You have teeth. One big one pushing through in the bottom centre-left, and another one growing slightly slower. For ages, all we could see was a hint of a tooth and that was all that would show and then, SPROING! Teeth. Your smile is changed forever. But it still lights up my insides.

After two months of hardly napping, you’ve decided that you’ll catch some zzz – once in the morning, once in the afternoon. You still sleep through the night. All 12 hours. And wake up bubbly and chatty and hungry. Bless you, my girl. Bless you. xx

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Okay… let’s go through the list, shall we.

Decorated Christmas tree... check...
Homemade Christmas bauble from MIL... check...
Arddun's first Christmas ornament... check...
A very dear cousin remembered... check...
Presents wrapped... check...
Overtired baby screaming head off while dressed as Christmas pudding and made to pose for zillion pictures on living room rug with baby elves and Santa's little helpers at Christmas party hosted in own home... check.

My little gym nut

Arddun never stood a chance, really. Both sides of the family have a history of eczema with varying degrees of severity. So it was only a matter of time before the poor tyke broke out in a hideous rash every time she went swimming.

There goes the Australian dream of turning a promising young cutie into an Olympic swimming star, I suppose. Truth to tell, Arddun merely tolerates swimming classes. She enjoys soaking in the bath and would merrily kick away like a champion in her tiny blue tub. But put her in the pool, and she freezes up like a stunned cockroach. In the final lesson before we decided to quit, she even got to the stage where she could kick a couple of times underwater by herself before resurfacing into daddy’s arms. But she would always lose it before the proverbial bell would ring and class was officially dismissed.

Still, she has tonnes of energy to burn. So we decided to try her out at Gymbaroo.

Went to a trial class with Sara and Jett yesterday, and we all had a ball. The set-up is great – it seriously is a gym for babies, with colourful equipment to climb and roll and bounce and swing on. Each session is 50 minutes and alternates between carers taking their babies through the equipment, and getting into a classroom for actions and songs. Learnt a few things about baby exercises and how they figure out how their little bodies work. We’re definitely coming back next term.

Arddun enjoyed it for the most part, except one of the activities called The Parachute, where all the babies lie on their bunny rugs and a huge parachute-like sheet with segments of solid colours gets flapped above them. Most babies loved it. But Arddun first grabbed the edge to chew on it, and then promptly wanted out.

On a side note – that’s what I’m noticing more, lately. Arddun’s started to understand and express fear. She doesn’t like sustained, loud noises – so she cries when I turn on the vacuum cleaner, and she doesn’t like boisterous children (she yells at them or at me when little girls shriek past her.) I can now add “parachute” to the list. And while I know it’s a very human thing to fear the unknown and to have a few phobias here and there, a part of me feels sad because my baby now understands that the world IS sometimes a scary place. Innocence lost, just a little.

Anyhoo – enough of the plug and the boo hoo. Here’s Arddun, enjoying her first swing ride.

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What a girl wants, what a girl needs

Okay. So we’re almost at the half-year mark, which means we’ve waded through all the baby paraphernalia we’ve received as generous gifts, or gone and bought ourselves. So here’s my low-down on what we’ve found Very Very Useful.

1. Pram

Versatile, easy to use and comfortable as!

Duh, right? But to elaborate, we’ve found our Mamas & Papas Urbo gor-geous to use and look at. For one thing, it’s dead easy to assemble and collapse. For another, it’s got a basket you can actually use and easily access. It’s also really compact – tight turning circle, narrow frame, and perfect for zipping around shopping aisles and squeezy restaurants. And did I mention that it’s a rather handsome beast? Every time I see another Urbo, I think to myself, “Corr! That’s a good-lookin’ pram. Oh waitaminute… I HAVE THAT PRAM! Hoo-ah!” Seriously.

NOT one for bush-bashing, though. And definitely not a jogger. But it handles long walks around the lake and even longer walks around the shopping mall just fine. Which fits me to a tee.

2. Cot

Sleeping babies make good procreation ads.

Also another obvious one for the modern mommy, but I’ll explain – we didn’t get a crib/bassinet/cradle. Since Day 1 at home, Arddun’s been sleeping in her own cot. Seems cruel perhaps, and the SIDS people will probably have something to say about that, but we’ve been careful with blankets and swaddles, and monitor her sounds like a hawk. (Lindam Baby Monitor is therefore part of what we find Very Very Useful.)

As a result, Arddun’s always understood that the cot is her Zzz-Zzz land, and we haven’t had to read her the nursery immigration policy come Bassinet Emigration stage. Many trudges to and from our bedroom in the early days, though. But at least one of us (Tony!) got to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

3. Breastfeeding cover

Possibly the most used travel accessory for us – yes, both Tony and I. I’ve really enjoyed the ability to hide in plain sight when feeding Arddun, since I’m still not comfortable enough with my body to whip ’em ladies out in front of perfect strangers. (“You don’t know me, but hey! Here’s my bits.”) For Tony, it’s proven useful to wear so that Arddun will focus on the other important task at hand – falling asleep in a crowded room with many distractions. LOOOOVE my breastfeeding cover. Thank you, thank you ElilyMommy!

4. Change table

In Singapore, we used to place a rubber mat on the cot mattress and change the baby on it. While it’s space-saving and practical, it can fast turn into back-breaking work – especially when both parents are blessed with height and a rather *regular* baby. I thought it unnecessary at first and tolerated it, only because it came free with our second-hand cot. Now I’m so thankful we’ve got it.

5. Pouch

Up close and personal

Specifically, the Ergo. Got the Performance version, and really like it. True, it’s no Bjorn so Arddun can’t face front and take everything in… but in many ways, I’m thankful for that because I usually use the Ergo to get Arddun to fall asleep when we’re out and about. The last thing I want then is for her to have too much to look at. Also, the Ergo has a built-in hood so it’s a quick and easy sun or rain block, and it keeps Arddun’s head from lolling about when she finally does fall asleep. Which she almost invariably does in the Ergo.

PLUS, the weight of the baby falls on the hips and not the back so provided I haven’t put the straps on wrong, I can have her sleeping in the pouch while I do the grocery shop without breaking a sweat. The real test will be when she starts putting on the pounds as she gets older, but I have no complaints for now.

6. Capsule

Cannot put a price on sleep

Borrowed a Safe n Sound baby safety capsule from ElilyMommy, who bought hers second hand. Oh my word! I know the initial outlay for a brand new baby capsule seems extravagant, considering you can only use it till bub grows to 70cm or weighs 9kg or turns 6 months old, whichever comes first. But it turned out to be ridiculously convenient for us. Fewer trips to and from the house, as we threw nappy wallet, handbag and toys into the capsule along with baby… make-shift cradle for when Arddun fell asleep outdoors… Also, Arddun – like many babies, would fall asleep in the car, so taking her back into the house without waking her was a huge bonus. Now that she’s out of the capsule and in a Safe n Sound Meridian (veeery cushy), I spend a lot of time sitting in parking lots and garages, waiting for her nap to end. I miss the capsule hugely – you cannot imagine how much of a time saver it is.

If I could do things over, I would get a Maxi Cosi to click straight into our Urbo. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve hoisted her around in that capsule when it would have been so much easier to slide her out of the car and click her straight into the pram. You know what they say – don’t ever wake a sleeping baby. Amen to that.

7. Baby play gym mat

Bye-bye coffee table

If you’re trying your darndest not to let Thomas the Tank Engine or The Wiggles be your child’s babysitter, then please run out and get yourself some play gyms. I got myself 3 to rotate Arddun, just to stretch things out a little.

They cost heaps, however. Upward of $80 easy, so a few of them will put you out of pocket by a few hundred quid. We got all of ours through second-hand places, ranging from $5 to $20. But I tell you what – absolute life saver for when you need to cook and clean but baby ain’t mobile yet, which means she gets bored super-easily. Also, GREAT for Mother’s Group and entertaining Arddun’s little friends.

8. Smartphone

Preferably one with apps. I’ve read countless library books, read the bible, played too many Boggle and Monopoly rounds, chinwagged on Facebook, blogged, learnt baby sign language, and done the Christmas shopping – all while breastfeeding and/or waiting for Arddun to wake up in the car. Time moves slowly rather quickly in Mommyland. It’s a paradox, but it’s true. If you get to do three things outside your routine, it’s been a good day because man, the day slips by you lightning fast. Most times, you’re just biding your time in the name of providing excellent care for your offspring. It helps to keep in touch with the outside world through one free hand, at least.

It was especially crucial and comforting in the early days. You want answers fast, when your newborn baby is screaming her tiny lungs out all hours of the morning and you don’t know why or what’s triggered it. The number of hours Tony and I have spent sitting in our respective armchairs in Arddun’s nursery and frantically Googling baby websites on our iTouch and iPhone respectively… Don’t know how parents did it BC (before computers).

9. Nappy wallet

*Demo baby not included.

Or as I call it, Nappy Bag Lite. As much as I love life’s safety nets, I live dangerously close to the edge now and then by packing only the bare necessities in a nappy wallet – 2 diapers, small tube of nappy cream, 1 onesie, 1 face cloth, 1 small pack of baby wipes, 5 nappy plastic bags, and my breastfeeding cover. And I just throw this nappy wallet under the pram and saunter off to the shops or around the lake. More often than not, that’s all I really need.

If I really want to push this whole Minimalist Mama thing, I leave the handbag at home and chuck credit cards, mobile phone and cash in a stroller caddy. Wild, huh.


10. Muslin wrap

Meditating... *zzz

This is like the Mother’s Spit of all baby linens – it helps everything!

Need to settle your child to sleep? Swaddle your baby!¬†Need to block off the world for a sleepy baby? Throw this over the pram! Settling the girl/boy confusion? Make sure it’s a hot-pink one!

It also makes a great emergency spit cloth, rain cover, sun shade and blanket. But get the big ones (120cm by 120cm) – you’ll get a lot more mileage out of them. I keep one in my pram basket always.

The muslin wrap is also first cousin to the Very Very Useful terrycloth squares.

11. Bag hook

I love my Brica

Another gem. If you’re like me and will notoriously walk into a shopping mall, only to do the Baa Baa Black Sheep (three bags full)… then this is most helpful. Provided you don’t overload your pram and have it tip over backwards from the baggage of your retail therapy. Also great for when you’re grocery shopping and run out of trolley space once your groceries are in green bags. I also use mine to hang my handbag off the table when I’m out to lunch.

Brica makes better ones than the one that looks like a camping snap hook.

12. Cushion insert

Extra cushion for life's bumps

If your pram or baby seat/capsule is still a little too roomy for your baby, we recommend getting one of these. We used one when Arddun was brand new, so she didn’t look so tiny and lost inside her capsule. We’re still using one for her Urbo. Not only does it keep her snug and comfortable in her capsule or pram, it helps keep her secure with the safety harnesses on, AND helps keep the mess away from the actual seat because it’s washable. We liked it so much, we went and got two Snuzzlers.

And there you have it – twelve baby essentials. List by no means exhaustive – didn’t even get into the baby bottle bonanza. But at least it’s a start. :)

Bungee

The great thing about Mother’s Group is all that opportunity to try before you buy.

Arddun had a go in Jett’s Jolly Jumper last Tuesday. For the uninitiated, it’s a bouncy spring/cord thing you hang from a doorway. Your child is strapped in and half dangled in it so their feet just touches the ground. It’s like bunjee jumping without the falling off factor. Plus they look so cute.

The Jolly Jumping people take their product very seriously and recommend something ridiculous like 20 minutes a day “for the exercise”. Uh, no. It is a great babysitter, though. Arddun got quite a kick out of being able to stand “by herself”, and look around. We’re still not sure about impact to spine etc over long-term use so we remain undecided. But meanwhile, there’s a video. Of course.

Here’s Arddun, trying it out. Turn your speakers on for added effect. ;)

Welcome to Planet Yum Yum

Last Saturday, we started Arddun on real food.

Introduction to Solids. Otherwise known as the fine art of balancing nutrition with baby constipation. Goodbye 3-hourly feeds, hello sticky fingers and Wet Ones.

Suddenly, those weeks of hanging out on the high chair during meal times make sense. The high chair, it seems, has magical properties now. Sit in one, and absolutely fabulous non-milk things get placed in our mouths and then it’s party time for Tonguesville!

Arddun sat in an IKEA high chair, very much like her own, at the Coffee Club this afternoon while my mother and I enjoyed a quick respite. And she was almost indignant that she didn’t get offered a piece of bread or a spoonful of something mushy and divine. In just 10 short days, she’s learnt the joys of gastronomy and she cannot. get. enough.

I’ve always had every intention of doing both Baby-Led Weaning (for the psychomotor skills and self-feeding independence) and the traditional spoon-feeding (for the less-mess version when eating out.) And yes, Baby-Led Weaning purists do not condone purees and mixing it up with spoon-feeding. They also completely frown upon starting before six months. But after four straight weeks of staring longingly at us at the dinner table; after a few attempts at swotting at our spoons and the occasional sympathy-chew, we decided to end her misery and give her a pear on Saturday – just 2 weeks shy of her 6th Monthversary.

The faces she pulled made the cleaning up after worthwhile.

Immediate grab-and-bite resulted in much unexpected chewing and pulling of faces.
Arddun putting a strawberry half in her mouth.
Oookay... let's give this strawberry a go.
Arddun pulling a face while holding her strawberry half.
*Sour-cringe*

I know some books say we’re supposed to try a food item for four days before moving on to the next. But that all went out the window very quickly. Flexing Arddun’s tastebuds has become the new family joy and entertainment. And man, does she pack an appetite in that lithe little body. We’ve given her pears, bananas, strawberries, apples, sweet potato, carrots… she’s warmed to ground cinnamon and oregano, and she relishes chicken apricot and rice porridge with spinach and steamed snapper. But she ab-so-lute-ly inhaled the steak and veggie puree. Just lunged for it. I could not feed her fast enough.

But that grin – that sparkle in the eyes, that gummy, toothless smile and that angelic sigh of contentment was plenty thanks, I have to say. Plus, she’s also taken to voicing her enjoyment through a continuous commentary of “mum-mum”s and “yum-yum”s. I kid you not.

Needless to say, our daughter is NOT a vegetarian.

Best part? Bread. Will sit quietly and self-feed very happily for at least half an hour, which makes lunch time at nearby cafe possible and very enjoyable. Observe:

Arddun’s verdict: Bread good.

Discovering boys

For months, Arddun’s pretty much ignored all other babies and just honed in on adults. It’s a baby thing. I guess babies their age have nothing to offer in terms of entertainment – they’re equally immobile and have only one main mode of communication: bawling.

But then, Arddun got mobile. And her eyesight got better. And her sense of self and her surroundings got keener. And suddenly, other babies got interesting.

This is Enzo. We’ve met Enzo before – he was the the boy on the right who just missed out on getting his hand chewed.

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Went to Mother’s Group today and left her on the play rug with the rest of her mates while I went in search of delectable desserts to scoff my face with. (Didn’t have far to look. We eat ver-y well at Mother’s Group.) Apparently, my daughter belly-crept up to yet another boy, and then tenderly kissed his beautiful bald head. I missed the whole thing, and rather regretted my timing of the cupcake-scoffing.

Arddun, just so you have this on record: the first boy you kissed was Elliot. And he didn’t seem to mind. :)

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