Wednesday, May 31, 2006

And so the Day Began... with Earache and Vomit

Barnaby woke up on the hour, throughout the night, until 6:00am at which point he slept until 8:30. Amelia was also sick once or twice. All in all last night definately ranked pretty low on our all-time greatest nights hit-list. I must say though, Sheep had the worst of it, as he tends to be the one who gets up for Barnaby, just as I am the one who looks after Amelia in the middle of the night (for obvious reasons). Consequently, I dragged myself out of bed when Barnaby woke up and undertook to take him to nursery and let Sheep catch up on some well-earned sleep. I must say though, given the night he'd had, Barnaby was an angel when he woke up. Upon waking, he beamed from ear-to-ear and promptly declared he was going to dress himself this morning, which he proceeded to do in about two minutes flat. He then trotted off to clean his teeth, again by himself (however, the quality of that endeavour is open to debate) and then came down to breakfast where he quickly devoured a whole bowl of cereal (eaten out of a grown-up bowl with a grown-up spoon, I might add). Not surprisingly I had no compunction sending him off the nursery after such a remarkable performance!

I spent a fair amount of the morning tidying up, ready for Vanya to come and clean. She arrived shortly after lunch and did a wonderful job. I'm rapidly beginning to think she's the best cleaner I've ever had. Not that my sample size is large, mind you, so I suppose that's not so high an accolade! Yesterday, I chanced upon her up the ladder cleaning the tops of our picture rails and I later noted that she had also dusted all the books on our bookshelves (as well as finding time to clean the kitchen, bathroom, scrub the floor of the utility room, hoover, dust etc. - oh what bliss. I now find myself starting to worry about what I'd ever do if she left...).

Shortly after Vanya arrived I headed off to meet the NCT Coffee Group who were walking around Furzton Lake, instead of the usual tea/coffee and biscuits! I was running a bit late and, since in order to get our large American travel-system into our tiny car I would need to remove all its wheels, on impulse, I threw our lightweight Maclaren pushchair into the car instead. I thought I'd try Amelia in it. I hedged my bets and chucked in her BabyBjorn sling as well, so that if she didn't like the pushchair I had another option. I did some calculations about when we first used the Maclaren Volo with Barnaby: it was on Friday, June 13, 2003 (I remember this because it was when we first flew from Atlanta to London for an academic conference - we had originally bought the Volo because it was the lightest model available at the time). So how old was Barnaby then?

From and including: Saturday, January 11, 2003
To, but not including : Friday, June 13, 2003
is 153 days (or just over 5 months old).

If we were to have placed Amelia in it at exactly the same time:

From date: Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Added 153 days
Resulting date: Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So, by that estimate she was was almost three weeks ahead of the equivalent date when Barnaby first used it! However Amelia's neck muscles are very strong and she is almost sitting up, so I decided to give it a try. The results? I think she was a little unsure at first. I don't think she was entirely comfortable (unlike some of the Maclaren models, the Volo doesn't allow you to recline the seat at all, so she did slump a little), but I do think she was quite interested in her new perspective on the world. I, of course, also found it a little strange. First, I am used to seeing Barnaby in it (he still fits it and has certainly used it in the last month), so she seemed quite the wrong size. Second, I am used to being able to see her face as we walk around together. I kept having to stop and check she was alright. I did manage to get some photos of this landmark event though!

Amelia in the Maclaren Volo pushchair

Some of the Regular Member of the NCT Coffee Group at Furzton Lake

Whilst walking I was reminded that the fathers of the group were attempting another 'Dad's Night Out' in the evening; Sheep had completely forgotten! Consequently, this evening I am in on my own. Barnaby and Amelia went to sleep fairly quickly and uneventfully: by 7:45. Amelia in her cot, Barnaby in his bed on his own - no rocking chair - another sticker for his chart. I thought I'd have a quiet night. Unfortunately, Barnaby's ear (which hadn't caused him any problems at nursery, I should add: he had a good day) flared up a little, so I was up and down stairs three times. At the third time I thought that he was running a slight temperature and foresaw an horrendous evening unfolding ahead of me, at which point I did the unthinkable: I rang Sheep's mobile begging him to come home to help out. Luckily he'd still got it on quiet mode (from Quaker meeting on Sunday) and didn't get the message until the end of the evening. Luckily, as it turned out, it was a tolerable evening (Barnaby didn't reawaken) and so it didn't deteriorate as I had feared. Sheep had his night out without interruption!

I am tired though.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Today Ends in Earache & Vomit: But a Better Day than Yesterday

Last night was a bit tiring, but for different reasons. Barnaby woke up last night, at about 2:00 (Sheep thinks that he had a bad dream) and he took quite some time and effort (on Sheep's behalf) to resettle. In the meantime, I gave Amelia her early morning feed, only to have her bring it up again. However, after Sheep had taken Barnaby to nursery this morning, he came back to bed. Amelia and I had stayed in bed in order to recuperate from the night, so we all had a bit of a lie-in (albeit Sheep's was after his return home) and all felt much better for it.

After an early lunch. Well, to be honest, it was really brunch, I took Amelia in the pram up to the centre. Amongst other things, I wanted to go to the library. First, I went to Monsoon to exchange an item of clothing. Amelia had been given a dress as a gift, which was already on the small side when I received it. I'd been uming and aring about what to do (strains of yesterday: I felt guilty about returning it). In the end I exchanged it for a cardigan and pair of trousers in 9-12 months size (Amelia's next size up). However, while I was there, I noticed a number of familar outfits; one of the mothers from my Wednesday NCT Coffee Group has given me/Amelia some Monsoon items that her baby daughter (8 months old) has just grown out of. I realized today that I've been given approximately £100 of clothes in a barely-worn condition. Gulp!

On the topic of baby clothes, I must say that the baby change facility at the centre is the best I've ever used. The connection? While I was there today, I noticed a sign saying that they now have a range of baby clothes that can be loaned in cases of emergency! I was suitably impressed. They have four changing stations, which are cleaned between use (there is a permanent attendant), plus a baby-food station (microwave for heating food, an Avent bottle warmer for bottles of formula milk etc.), plus a whole wall of vending-machines vending all manner of nappy-supplies, toys for bored, older children, a private nursing/feeding room (which I used for the first time today), which includes a television showing children's programmes for older children to watch while their mother feeds/nurses. I'm not surprised it won a lot of awards.

Going past the ELC my eye was struck by a new window display: a pram that metamorphoses (in stages) into a tricycle. It is therefore functional from 6 months to 5 years. My curiosity got the better of me and I went in to have a look. The assistant got it out and suggested that we try Amelia in it. Which I promptly did. I must say, I liked the look of it, but its longevity was more than offset by the fact that it doesn't fold! I must add, I have no intention of buying another stroller - it would be a wanton extravagance. However, the longshot of this exercise is that I realised that Amelia is now big enough to fit our lightweight Maclaren stroller (which means we can take her plus a stroller on the bus) and that she should be big enough for our bicycle trailer - which also converts into a two-seater pram (which means, amongst other things, that we can cycle to the centre, and when we get there, lock up our bikes and push Barnaby and Amelia around in double-buggy mode: if Barnaby gets tired that is). I definitely want to sell our far-too-big American travel system asap. As soon as Amelia no longer fits the car seat, it's going! It's days are already numbered.

Moving swiftly on to this evening. We've had an evening of Barnaby waking up every couple of hours in tears: his earache has returned. And Amelia being very sick after her 10:00 feed. She has a bit of a head-cold and cough again. (Probably something Barnaby brought back from nursery!). I think the vomitting was mostly a 'mechanical' response to her having a coughing fit just after feeding. Why do I mention this. Well, given that our evening has focussed around earache and vomit, I must say I feel far better about things in general than I did yesterday. Clearly the amount of sleep I am getting is directly related to my frame of mind.

Monday, May 29, 2006


The theme of today has been guilt.

Guilt that I find myself struggling to entertain/cope with Barnaby for three whole days in sucession.

Guilt that on a Bank Holiday Monday I find myself wishing that Barnaby was at nursery.

Guilt that I feel that I am not giving Amelia as much attention as I gave Barnaby at the same age; when Barnaby was still a small baby, I recall that I spent a lot more time reading books to him, playing with him and generally interacting with and stimulating him.

Guilt that Barnaby feels ursurped by Amelia.

Guilt that Amelia has to cope with Barnaby's sometimes over-energetic attentions.

Guilt that I am so tired (because of this cot-sleeping plan) at the moment that I am far more short-tempered than usual.

Guilt that Sheep's upset about his PhD and I can't seem to say the right thing.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Taking it Out on a Pillow

At about 2:00 in the morning last night, I was throwing a pillow across the bedroom, yelling "Why the f**k am I doing this?" You can take it from this outburst that last night was not good. It seems so unfair, at one level, that both Amelia and I were quite happy, sleeping well and, from her point of view, feeding well, and now it's all gone haywire. I wish I knew what to do.

Typical Sunday today. Up at the crack of dawn (Sheep and Barnaby were mowing the grass before 9:00!). We went to meeting. Very nice. Afterwards we met my sister for lunch at the Italian pasta restaurant we often go to, which was also very pleasant. After a quick trip into John Lewis afterwards (I'm oggling picnic baskets - I have a fantasy about us all having family picnics after meeting when the weather gets better), we left. We decided against doing any grocery shopping with both Amelia and Barnaby. However, within minutes of us getting in the car, they had both fallen asleep, so we turned around, headed back to the centre and I rushed around Waitrose, while Sheep sat in the car with them both. We were home again before either of them woke up!

It's a bank holiday tomorrow. I've no idea what we'll be doing. We've had so much rain for two weeks, I do hope it gets better soon. If it's rainy tomorrow, we must find something to do with Barnaby: even returning to Gambado!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Frustration: Yet not Such a Bad Day in Retrospect

I am feeling very frazzled tonight! I took Amelia up to bed at 6:30. I felt quite pleased when I had her in her cot and asleep at 6:55. Unfortunately, at 7:25 she woke up again and we were still getting her back to sleep again at 9:00. I was also feeling a bit glum as I woke up this morning to find her lying beside me and I couldn't for the life of me remember how she got there. (Well, obviously I picked her up from her cot to feed her, but for all I could remember, she might as well have levitated there or simply materialised beside me!). Consequently, I was feeling a little ill-tempered. (Although, I must say, my father rang and we had a really long chat and I'm feeling significantly better for it, even if it means this post is shorted as a consequence).

It is strange that I was feeling so grumpy as today wasn't at all bad. Barnaby went to his friend's Luke's party at 'Gambado' in the morning: 20 manic two/three year olds running round. I can now see the advantage of holding a toddler party somewhere like that (but at £180? I don't think I'd even spend that on my own party let alone a party that wont be remembered by the main person). Barnaby really enjoyed himself, once he let himself relax enough to join in. Again, he was a bit overwhelmed at the beginning and it took him about half an hour to get going: once he did, he soon made up for lost time.

In the afternoon, Barnaby and I had a bit of 'mummy-time' together, while Sheep took Amelia upstairs for her nap (and, I must say, sneaked in a little doze himself, I suspect!). Barnaby and I decided to make cakes as 'Auny Claire' and 'Uncle Julian' were coming over for tea. Barnaby was excellent, even sucessfully cracking the eggs himself. We made a lovely mess in the kitchen and he really enjoyed it. I am so proud of him.

Looking back on today, I shouldn't be so frustrated. As my father says, this cot-sleeping business with Amelia will take time and I just need to be patient. We are getting there. And to prove that there is light at the end of the tunnel, Barnaby went to sleep again, wonderfully - a text-book evening for him. Stories and straight off to sleep. We'll have to stop his sticker chart soon, as we'll run out of 'Thomas and Friends' books to buy him - at this rate he'll have the whole series soon!

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Restful Day after a Long, Long Night

Last night was so bad, I can scarcely recall it: I've already tried to banish from my mind. All was going well until 2:00, when she needed a feed. Consequently, I fed Amelia at 2:00 but then nothing I could do would get her off to sleep. In the end I stopped trying to get her to sleep in the cot: I was more than prepared to simply accept sleep, wherever, however, and whenever I could. At 5:00 (after 3 hours of trying to get her back to sleep!), Sheep stepped in to help out. He picked her up and cuddled/swayed with her in his arms for a bit. Whatever Sheep did, it worked. He put Amelia into her cot asleep. At least, that is as much as Sheep and I can piece together about last night, having jointly cudgeled our sleep-addled brains. Most of the time I was trying to get her off to sleep, Amelia was making this continuous whingy sound that translates into "I'm seriously disgruntled here, but I'm giving you some advance warning before I let-rip with the full-throttle screams!". When she was making this noise, I remember lying there trying to work out what it was she sounded like and in the end it dawned on me, she sounded just like a diminutive Chewbacca (Star Wars).

Sheep's advice today, was to take things easy (given that we've got a three-day weekend ahead of us). In the end, I decided to follow his advice and really didn't do much today. I was also trying to ensure that Amelia napped better today, given that she hardly napped yesterday (and Ms. Pantley says that good day-time naps lead to good quality night-time sleep patterns). So, the good news is that she did sleep today. So, the only other thing that happened today was that I had a brief visit from Alan at work. He was in Milton Keynes meeting with important people and dropped by for a quick cup of tea. He spent the whole half hour bouncing Amelia on his knee. (And, I must record this for future reference, pinching her cheeks together and calling her fish-face!)

Barnaby's day was good again. He seems to be settling in to the Oaks quite well. And I don't want to jinx things, but the combination of moving up to the Oaks and skipping his afternoon naps, has done wonders for his evening routine. Once again, they were both asleep by about 7:40 (Amelia off at about 7:15). Bliss - I can almost begin to believe that this parenting lark gets easier.

Fingers crossed for tonight.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Snot & Mirrors

Last night was a mini-failure on the no-co-sleeping front. My overall strategy was that I decided that I should not worry too much about putting Amelia in the cot sleepy as long as she was in the cot. I.e. to tackle one thing at a time. I also felt that couldn't face another night/evening like the previous one. She had a couple of wakings and feeds, after each time, I waited until she was fast asleep (not the recommended way of doing it, I know) and then put her back into the cot. However, after the last feed of the night (3:00? 5:00? I don't know, I lost track), she fell asleep next to me and so did I. Oooops. We both slept and, I think because she'd had such a disturbed night, we both slept until nearly 9:00 am. Sheep and Barnaby were really good to us. Sheep took Barnaby to nursery and Barnaby was extremely well behaved and didn't seem to mind the fact that Amelia and I were sleeping late.

This morning, while lying in bed (after Amelia had woken up) she suddenly sneezed (she's had a bit of a head cold over these last couple of days). Well, I would not have believed that so much snot could come out of such a tiny nose, had I not seen it with my own eyes. Although it did cause me to wonder if the act of sneezing had, somehow, 'frothed' it up, like these cans of spray cream, where the external volume of frothy cream far exceeds the can's internal volume. Well, her sneeze was just like that. I was torn between running for a camera and rushing to clear it up. I did the latter, but oooh, was the former tempting?

I had my first tutorial at home this afternoon. Well from 12:00-2:30 to be precise (long tutorial). It did mean that Amelia's usual lunchtime nap fell by the wayside and I felt really guilty about this. I must make sure that I plan future tutorials around her naps. My sister was here too, and when the student left, we took Amelia out in the pram, as it was the first sunny day in days. I was hoping that after Amelia's lack of sleep over lunch, she could be lulled to sleep in the pram. Eventually she did sleep, but not for long.

Barnaby had a wonderful day today. He ate well (a "dinner-winner"), was far-better behaved than he has been and was having a whale of a time when my sister and I went to pick him up. They role-played going-to-the-moon today and Barnaby got to wear his astronaut's costume again. I was glad I had bought him some space-themed stickers today (whilst walking with my sister and Amelia), as I was able to given them to him when he got home as a reward for being such a lovely boy.

Since he's been in the Oaks, and not having his afternoon nap, the evening bed-time routine is getting better. He's had stickers on his bed-time chart for a number (5 or more) of consecutive days. Today both of them were asleep (with Amelia in her cot) by about 7:45!

Finally, I was holding Amelia in front of the mirror (grinning inanely at her in the mirror) and I think that she really understood, for perhaps the first time, that the baby in the mirror was her! I wonder if anyone has documented when this stage occurs developmentally. I just checked, one website suggests that understanding mirror reflections usually occurs at 6 months. Another website suggests the following test: "When does baby really understand that the face in the mirror is her own? Put a crayon mark or a bit of masking tape on the tip of her nose and let her look in the mirror. Where does she reach to remove it: to the mirror or to her own nose?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I am So Tired!

I didn't sleep when I got to bed: a combination of fretting about her in the cot, being used to her next to me and having a very full breast of milk. I lay in bed, wide awake, wondering if I should wake up Amelia for a feed and gradually realising that my pyjamas were getting soaked in milk. In the end, I got up just before 2:00, changed my pyjamas and put on nighttime nursing bra and some pads to absorb the milk. At 2:00 Amelia woke up and I was finally able to feed her. She finished her feed at 2:05 and I duly put her back into the cot. I then sat with her letting her suck on my finger and withdrawing it until 3:00. At 3:00 I gave up, brought her back into bed, nursed her again on the other breast and this time let her fall completely asleep. At 3:15 I transferred her into her cot asleep. At about 3:30 I finally slept for the first time, to be woken again at 6:30 - 3 hours sleep. This has certainly been the worst night I've had since Amelia was born (bar her first night).

She is currently asleep in her cot. Let's hope that tonight is a little better. It must get better.

Barnaby had a good day in the "Oaks": his behaviour seems to be getting better.

The NCT group came here today. Vanya has done a great job of cleaning the house and the home-baked cookies and flapjacks went down well. It turns out that Vanya is fully qualified medical doctor back in Bulgaria. I have a doctor cleaning my house for me. How humbling. Still, I admit I love the luxery of a cleaner and clean house.

Ooops - Amelia awake. So starts the night.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

With Much Wailing & Gnashing of Gums

As I predicted, this evening has not been easy and it's only 10:30. I further predict a long night ahead.

I took Amelia up to bed, as usual, at 6:30, gave her a quick bath and then settled down to feed her. I lay down with her as usual. However, as she stopped feeding, but was still awake (although very very drowsy), I picked her up and placed her in her cot. This, naturally, surprised her and startled her into a state of sudden alertness! After all, every day of her life she has fallen asleep next to me, at which point I've either moved her into her cot already asleep or left her sleeping in our bed. I then sat with her rocking the cot gently, letting her suck my finger from time to time until she fell asleep. She did sleep and only took a little longer than usual and with no small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth - or gums to be precise. I didn't note exactly how long it took, but I did have enough time to read Barnaby about half of The Cat in the Hat before he, too, fell asleep. By 7:30 Sheep and I were downstairs together, comparing notes, having successfully put them both to bed with no rocking on his behalf and no falling asleep next to me on her behalf.

Our expressions of self-congratulation were premature, to say the least.

Foolishly, I decided to take advantage of the early hour to do some baking (in preparation for the NCT Coffee Group which are meeting at our house tomorrow. Eeeek!). Well, I can report that I have finished baking cookies and flapjacks, but with about 4 interruptions from Amelia. (To be fair, I should also add that Barnaby has also woken twice, due to a cough he has, and Sheep has re-settled him, so both of us have been up and downstairs like a pair of yo-yos all evening).

The first two, or was it three, times Amelia awoke, I sat beside her, not saying anything apart from an occassional "shush", rocking her cot and letting her suck on my finger intermittently, in order to comfort her if and when she became too distressed. Each time it took between 20-30 minutes to resettle her, at which point I would run downstairs in order to do a bit more baking (I fear the quality has suffered greatly) before the next wails over the monitor. Just before 10:00 she awoke again and this time I decided to feed her, so I took her into our bed, we lay down for a feed, as usual, and afterwards I repeated my actions from the beginning of this evening. I am now on her first post-feed (i.e. fifth (?) awakening) re-settling duty. I am typing one-handedly as she intermittently sucks on the little finger of my left hand: I am trying to perfect the "Pantley-Pull-Off": the method Elizabeth Pantley recommends for breaking the sucking sleep-assocation. This is what I am trying to do:

Pantley's gentle removal plan

"When your baby wakes, go ahead and pop his pacifier or his bottle in his mouth, or nurse him. But, instead of leaving him there and going back to bed, or letting him fall asleep at the breast, let him suck for a few minutes until his sucking slows and he is relaxed and sleepy. Then break the seal with your finger and gently remove the pacifier or nipple.

Often, especially at first, your baby then will startle and root for the nipple. Try to very gently hold his mouth closed with your finger under his chin, or apply pressure to his chin, just under his lip, at the same time rocking or swaying with him. If he struggles against this and fusses or roots for you or his bottle or pacifier, go ahead and replace the nipple, but repeat the removal process as often as necessary until he falls asleep.

How long between removals? Every baby is different, but about ten to sixty seconds between removals usually works. You also should watch your baby's sucking action. If a baby is sucking strongly or swallowing regularly when feeding, wait a few minutes until he slows his pace. Usually, after the initial burst of activity, your baby will slow to a more relaxed, fluttery pace; this is a good time to begin your removal attempts.

It may take two to five (or even more) attempts, but eventually your baby will fall asleep without the pacifier or nipple in her mouth. When she has done this a number of times over a period of days, you will notice the removals are much easier, and her awakenings are less frequent."
Elizabeth Pantley

But it's time consuming. Really time consuming: it takes about half an hour to resettle her each time. Oooh, I think she's off! It's 11:05. How long will this last for? As I said before, I predict a long, long night ahead. I'm off to snatch a couple of minutes to finish cleaning the kitchen. It's 11:30, I am back from cleaning the kitchen (and putting the flapjacks and cookies into airtight containers ready for tomorrow). Amelia is still asleep. I will post the events of the rest of the night tomorrow. Wish me luck. Yawn.

Final post-script. I checked out the frequency distribution of the incidence of SIDS. See the chart below. It seems as if we are out of the most dangerous period (1-2 months) but not yet in the clear.

Source: The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths

Monday, May 22, 2006

Coroner Issues Baby Death Warning

From the BBC news website 21 May 2006

Coroner issues baby death warning

A coroner has warned that more than 300 babies may be dying each year in England and Wales after sharing a bed or sofa with their parents. Yorkshire-based Roger Whittaker says he has seen 12 accidental smothering cases in the past two years and believes this must be happening across the country. The Department of Health advises the safest way for babies to sleep is in a cot in the same room as the mother. Midwives tell mothers of both the advantages and risks of bed-sharing.

But Mr Whittaker, who covers Bradford Calderdale and Kirklees, is calling on midwives to change their stance. He estimates that more than 300 babies a year may be dying through smothering.

Melanie Every, a regional manager for the Royal College of Midwives, told BBC Radio Five Live bed-sharing had some benefits for breast-feeding mothers and their children, and trying to prevent it could be counter-productive. "We know that there are many, many cultures and many, many women who will continue to share beds with their babies, even when they are advised not to do it," she said. "Now, knowing that, it's important to give them advice on the safest possible way of doing it, rather than just saying, don't do it."

'Too many'

Mr Whittaker reports that his fellow coroners in West Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire have seen similar numbers of deaths, prompting his estimates. Mr Whittaker said: "That's far too many. One is far too many in what I consider to be a totally avoidable situation. "These children had nothing else wrong with them. They had everything before them and should have fulfilled their potential." Last year the Department of Health altered one of its leaflets to highlight the risks of bed-sharing. The leaflet, published in November 2005, states: "The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in your room for the first six months. "While it's lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, it's safest to put your baby back in their cot before you go to sleep." It also lists other potential risks for triggering cot deaths, including smoking or taking alcohol or drugs while sharing a bed with a baby. It goes on: "There is also a risk that you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby, or that your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or could roll out of an adult bed and be injured. Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair." Mr Whittaker believes midwives need to change their guidance and make it clear that parents should not share a bed with babies.

Injections, Sleep and Fork-incidents

Amelia had her last injections today: the third and final set of initial injections. (There will now be no more injections until her MMR at 12 months.) This third set of booster injections normally takes place at 16 weeks, but she is 18 weeks old this week. We 'slipped' a little: her first injection was a week late as she (and I) was a little unwell, her second was a week last as it was due on Easter Monday which is a Bank Holiday. Before taking her for her injections (and Sheep came with me as I am really pathetic about injections) we took her to the health visitor's clinic to get her weighed. I wanted to ask the health visitor about starting Amelia on solids.

Today she weighed in at 6.22 kg or 13 pounds and 11 ounces. I was slightly concerned about her sudden interest in food and whether this was because she was losing weight, perhaps because she was feeding less or that the breastfeeding was ceasing to meet her nutritional requirements. The health visitor plotted her weight on her growth chart and she has slipped off the 50th percentile (the average) and is now nearer the 25th percentile than the 50th. Namely she has lost some weight (well, not 'lost', but not gained consistently). So, I asked the HV about solids.

She was quite shocked that I seemed to be contemplating solids so early! She said that although they state 4-6 months as a good time to start, the common wisdom now is to wait until 5 months and, in her opinion, she would not start Amelia on solids for at least another 3-4 weeks. Three weeks from now would be 12 June: four weeks from now would be 19th June (or just over 5 calendar months). I asked whether they take account of the fact that she was nearly two weeks late. She replied that they certainly take this into account if babies are early (as their digestive systems are more immature than their contemporary, full-term babies. But, she went to say, they do not take this factor into account if babies go beyond full-term. This seems strange to me. If one should make a difference, surely so should the other? However, I will wait longer to start Amelia on solid. Perhaps Sunday 18th July would be a good date anyway, as she will be exactly 5 calendar months old.

Another aspect of parenting that has been weighing on my mind over the last couple of days is about co-sleeping. With Barnaby we co-slept, to the extent, that he had no other place to sleep! With Amelia we've taking more of a lackadaisical approach. We have a cot by the bed and Amelia does sleep in it from time to time, but as often as not, she'll sleep with me as she always falls asleep in the big bed and even if I move her when she is asleep, she mostly ends up staying there after her later feed, as we both just fall asleep on the job! I was so pro co-sleeping with Barnaby as I had read that it significantly reduced the risk of cot-death (SIDS). Given all the constant bombardment of information about cot-death, I remember being terribly anxious about it when Barnaby was a baby. Over time, I think I just found it more convenient and it seems very natural. (Afterall, parents have been sleeping with their babies since the beginning of humanity). All the advice about co-sleeping stated that there was no risk to the baby as long as you didn't do it when you were drunk or on drugs.

Over the weekend there was a report on the BBC news about a coroner calling for advice to be issued against co-sleeping, as he had seen a sharp rise in the number of deaths from babies sleeping in the parental bed. In his estimates, there could be as many as 300 deaths per year in the UK (I will post this article as a separate entry). Well, yet again, I have a new concern. Sheep and I have decided that we need to move Amelia fully (rather than partially) into her cot - but I think it will take a week or two to get her re-settled and is likely to mean a lot less sleep for me for a couple of weeks. We will start tomorrow night (Frankly, I need some sleep tonight).

Well, I did finally finish Barnaby's astronaut costume and he took it to nursery today. The theme at his nursery this week is space travel. Today he joined the Oaks. He had a very good day (in his space suit) but there was a worrying 'incident' at tea time. For no apparent reason he picked up his fork and, well I hesitate to use the word stabbed, but I don't know what else to say, another child in the face: enough to leave a puncture mark, so the nursery reports. I had to sign an incident form about it. Luckily it wasn't in the other child's eye (What a horrendous thought!). What is bizarre is that there appears to be no rhyme nor reason for it taking place. He wasn't being provoked at all. The only thought I had was that Barnaby had a very disturbed night last night (he fell asleep early at 4:00, having missed his afternoon nap, slept until midnight and was then awake and grisly for much of the subsequent night) and that often these 'incidents' at nursery occur on days when he's had a bad night. With this in mind I did warn them today that he'd had a bad night, but they could not have seen this coming. He did appologise, but didn't seem aware of the magnitude of what he had done, neither did he seem suitable contrite. The nursery were conforting. They said that once he had adapted to the change (the move from the Squirrels to the Oaks) he would probably settle down quickly and hopefully such 'incidents' would cease. Yet another thing for me to worry about. No wonder I am going grey!

I must say, he had a very good day otherwise. When I went to collect him he was playing on the computer (in the nursery!), playing a game which involved matching shapes and moving them by clicking and dragging with a mouse. He was surprisingly good and quick at this. I was very impressed, both by his mouse-control and dexterity as well as his concentration (he didn't notice I'd come in for quite some time).

On a happier note still - here are some photos (of Barnaby in his space suit and some from Amelia I found on the camera):

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Space Man

I cannot blog this evening: I am making an astronaut's costume!

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Flash of Underwear and Bouncing Babies

Breastfeeding clothes follow a variety of designs. Most of mine are based on a double layer of fabric and the baby is fed through an appropriate slit in the front layer and then through a small hole in the second layer. Some of these outer-layer slits are vertical (my slouchy grey "hoodie" top), some horizontal (my posh black velvet top and my "Blooming Marvellous" t-shirt) and some have a partial diagonal slot, namely my "Mother Two Be" which follows a sort of "twin-set" design. Recently I bought two more t-shirts, which have only one layer and have a horizontal slot across the breast-line, fastened with pop-studs. I'm still getting used to these and consequently keep forgetting to re-fasten the poppers! Yesterday, I was walking around Waitrose, when an employee came up to me and pointed out the fact that I was walking around with one breast poking out through the un-popped t-shirt. Luckily all you could see was a flash of white bra (hardly titillating!), but embarassing all the same. Yet another indignity of motherhood.

I was in Waitrose buying Amelia's first foods (in preparation) as they have a very good Organix range. I bought some organic rice powder, which is meant to be made up with the babies normal milk (i.e. breastmilk) and some organic banana porridge which can be made up with boiled water. I also bought some ready mixed apple and banana porridge, all suitable from 4 months. At least I have some in the house now, so the countdown begins.

On my way home from the shopping centre yesterday, Sheep and I were talking and I suddenly remembered the "baby bouncer" we had for Barnaby, which I had completely forgotten about! It hangs from a doorway and the baby is suspended in a harness from an horizontal frame which is attached to a large bungee rope. The baby can bounce up and down to their hearts content. We hardly used it for Barnaby as our doorways were too wide in America (our house being so old) and in London we had no doors downstairs! Anyway, I sorted it out for Amelia today and put her in it this morning. I think she really liked it. It's to be used from 4 months to 25 pounds in weight, so she is only just old enough to use it. She's not really up to bouncing herself, but liked being bounced by me. I sat in front of her, playing some nursery rhymes and helping her bounce. She grinned from ear to ear.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Naming Ceremony

Just to keep the blog up to date on the progress of Amelia and Barnaby's naming ceremony, today I received a copy of the minutes of the Milton Keynes Freinds Meeting House (Quakers) Preparative Meeting (Which is a bit like a business meeting) for May, where the naming ceremony was discussed. I also received an email inviting Sheep and I to attend a meeting about it. I have copied both of these below. For the sake of people's privacy, I have altered people's names to their initials, just for confidentiality.

7 May 2006

Present: EB (clerk), DR (assistant clerk), SB, RB, EB, MC, CG, SG, KG, MG, RI, ML-E, RM, DR, IR, PS, RS, MS, LT, AY.

Minute 5: Supporting Friends

Ruth Dalton has told the clerk that she and her husband, Sheep, would very much like a naming ceremony to take place in our Meeting for their 2 children, Barnaby (aged 3 ) and Amelia (born 19 January 2006),possibly along the lines of our Meeting for Worship for Witness for appointing Supporting Friends for RB. We note that the pathway towards this event was quite different as in the first place it was requested by RB and both Supporting Friends are members of the Society of Friends.

Ruth Dalton told me that she and Sheep have selected 6 supporting friends, two of them have been brought up within a Quaker family but are not practising Quakers themselves. Ruth Dalton is a member of the Westminster Meeting and she intends to transfer her membership to our Monthly Meeting.

We agree that in principle we would like a Meeting for Worship for Witness to mark this occasion to take place here.
A group of Friends comprising, AB, MC, AL (subject to consent), DR and DR are willing to meet Ruth and Sheep to talk through:
- the meaning of this Meeting within our tradition,
- what the role of the supporting Friends would be,
- and to consider further the holding of this event.
The group will bring back the results of their discussions to a future PM.

And this was the email I received today:

Subject: Initial discussion re 'naming' Meeting

Dear Ruth & Sheep

I have now heard from all the members of the 'group' and the first Sunday we can all do is 9th July. I do hope that date is OK for you?? Can we get together after Meeting for, say, an hour - just so we can talk through your own thoughts and the kind of things that might be feasible within the context of Quakerism? The group, in case you haven't heard, consists of DR, DR, AL, AB and me. Both you and AB will have childcare issues during our get-together and I am wondering whether anyone from Meeting might be prepared to keep the children occupied so that you have a bit of space yourselves - any ideas?

Looking forward to exploring ideas with you!

In Friendship


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Happy Shiny Things

Today has been a day of ablutions. Dental appointment this morning with hygenist; my teeth have never been so clean. Then, today was also the day that Vanya started cleaning! Manna from heaven. I think that she is a obsessive compulsive cleaner (and is there a better type to have?). She cleaned our bathroom today - and I mean cleaned. There wasn't a single item in the bathroom that hadn't been scoured, disinfected or polished to within an inch of its life. Admittedly, she didn't get too far elsewhere - although most of the kitchen was cleaned (including the cooker), but not as she would like it (or so I've been informed). She says that she wants to get it as she would like it to be and then it will all take less time in the future. Who am I to argue? BLISS.

Finally - with an accompanying fanfare of trumpets - I think Amelia sat up today. I was at my NCT coffee group and I had her sitting on the floor between my legs, so that if she fell sideways, she simply fell against one of my legs. I swear she sat upright, unassisted, for a good 1-2 minutes before starting to sway so much she toppled over (well, obviously I caught her). Way to go, Amelia!

On the achievement front - Barnaby was, again, an 'Oak' at nursery today (Oaks are the 'big', pre-school class, up to age 4) and when I picked him up, the manager of the nursery suggested that we consider moving him in to the 'Oaks' permanently from next week, as he is so much more advanced, and that little bit older, than the rest of the 'Squirrels" and so he might be happier with the curriculum and structure of the Oaks. On consideration this evening, Sheep and I are inclined to agree with her.

Copy of Letter to my Head of Department

Dear XXXX,

Thanks for our meeting last week, I found it extremely helpful. As I promised, here is an outline of how I would like to alter my current maternity leave arrangements.

Please find attached a PDF file of the dates of my current leave arrangements. As far as I understand, the final week of my 6-month paid maternity leave is the week beginning 02 July 2006 and ending 08 July 2006 . After this period I had requested, and had been granted, four weeks of unpaid leave followed by four weeks of holiday. This would take me through until Monday 4th September, when I had originally intended to return full-time.

I mentioned to you last week that I would like to come back part-time until Christmas, and would undertake all of my teaching commitments and some of my research commitments throughout the Autumn Term. I have since confirmed with Laura my agreement to tutor two MSc students from the AAS course, to begin immediately. Therefore, my duties between now and September (when I was to have returned) are as follows:

MSc thesis supervision
PhD supervision (which I have been doing anyway as they have not been respecting my maternity leave)
Organising a workshop on Space Syntax and Spatial Cognition, as part of the Spatial Cognition '06, 24-28 September 2006 Universität Bremen, Germany
Writing a paper for 'Progress in Planning'
- Extended abstract (around 1500 words) by mid-June.
- Final submission of full papers by the end of July.
Course preparation for 2006/07 academic year.
Attendance at course tutors meetings.

Given the amount of work that I am intending to do between now and September, I feel that it is unrealistic to do this under my current arrangement. Therefore, this is my proposal for revisions to my maternity leave:

I 'officially' continue to take my maternity leave until the beginning of July (I think that this simplifies things with HR), but I immediately commence tutoring the MSc students and begin to work on the other tasks out-lined above.
From the end of my maternity leave (8 July), I return part-time, 3 days per week. However, unofficially, I intend to work only 2.5 days a week (until the beginning of September), and the extra half day should compensate me for the time I will have worked whilst still on maternity leave (i.e. the next eight weeks). And, until the beginning of September, I would like to work these 2 days at home, only coming in for specific meetings. This is because there is no possibility of any childcare provision for Amelia until the beginning of September.
At the beginning of September I shall continue to work 3 days per week (officially there will be no change), and will, in reality be working 3 days per week (instead of 2.5), and working from home on only one of those three days. From the beginning of September until the Christmas break, I will undertake all of my teaching duties for both the AAS course and doctoral supervision.

At the beginning of November, I would like to return full-time, but would like to take 2 days holiday per week, i.e. I will still only be working 3 days per week, but will take those other two days as holiday rather than unpaid leave, as per my original arrangement (instead of taking one month's holiday as a block, I will be taking almost the same amount of holiday spread over two months).

In summary:
My maternity leave ends on Friday 8th July.
From 8th July until November 1st, working part time 3 days per week.
From 1st November until UCL closure on Friday 22 July, return full-time, but I take 17 days holiday spread evenly throughout November and December - effectively working 3 days per week.
From the re-opening of UCL on Tuesday 2 January 2007, I shall return full-time.

I do hope that these revisions will be possible. It will make a huge difference to me, as I will be able to gradually ease Amelia into her nursery place between the beginning of September and the end of December. I know that this proposal seems a little complex upon first reading, but 'officially' it is not all that different to my previous arrangement.



Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Feeding Thoughts

Barnaby woke up at 5:50 this morning. And I knew that I was tired, over breakfast, when I realised that I was trying to feed Amelia a morsel of crumpet instead of Barnaby. Funnily enough, Amelia didn't appear to be at all perturbed by the fact that I was absent-mindedly attempting to cram crumpet into her mouth. (I must add that I realised before she actually ate any!). The rest of today I noticed that she's been extremely interested in everything I've been eating. Yesterday, she tried to grab my cereal bowl, and having succeeded, tried to grab a handful of museli. Today, when I was eating some yoghurt with a teaspoon, she was fascinated and, again, tried to grab the teaspoon.

So, this has got me thinking that she is beginning to be ready for solids. However, she is having her 4 month injections (two weeks late) next Monday and I don't think it would be good to start before then. Personally, I think around 5 months would be better (18 June, also Father's Day), but, I am forced to admit that if she continues this degree of interest in feeding, I might try her about the beginning of June. I've started to look at the first baby-food on the shop-shelves and think I might buy some in preparation. A week from tomorrow, one one of the members of my NCT coffee group will be lending me a 'Bumbo' seat, which will help with early feeds, so I certainly won't bother struggling before we get that. We had a portable high-chair for Barnaby, but that's currently at Sheep's parents house: we left it there to use when we went visiting.

Bumbo Seat

Once Amelia gets to six months old (mid July), we intend to buy another Stokke Tripp Trapp chair like Barnaby's chair. Actually, I can't wait for that, as we will finally all be able to sit around the dining room table together, as a family. The Stokke chair 'grows' with your child, so you can use it from 6 months through to adulthood.

Stokke Tripp Trapp Chair

Must go - Amelia is crying - need to go upstairs to feed her.

An Observation

Amelia smiles in her sleep.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Weekend: Thug Haircuts, Old Souls and Trampolines

On Saturday we made up our minds to go to Stony Stratford to get Barnaby's hair cut. We decided to go by bus, which Barnaby really, really enjoyed (and made it a bit more of an adventure!). I carried Amelia in her BabyBjorn sling and for the first time I placed her in it facing forward and I think she really enjoyed the novel view/perspective: she certainly smiled a lot. On the way to the traditional barbers we usually go to (who are very good with young children) we went to a one of my favorite local toy shops, which specialize in wooden toys. I wanted Barnaby to choose a birthday present for his friend, Luke, to whose birthday party he has been invited on 27th June. Barnaby chose, with some assistance, a wooden lorry/car carrier with two cars. I also wanted to buy a gift for the newborn son of a research colleague/associate of mine (Otis, born 26/04/2006). They even wrapped up both the presents for me. We let Barnaby choose a small gift for himself and he selected a wooden pencil with a wooden giraffe on top and a 'rocket' pencil sharpener.

Our next stop was the barbers: unfortunately we got there quite late in the morning and the queue was lengthy. We decided to instead opt for an early lunch at the coffee shop next door, in the hope that the queues might have subsided by the time we finished. We had a very pleasant lunch, but it didn't help with the barber's queue! On our return to the barbers, the queues had actually grown. We decided to go home and, on our way to the bus stop, passed a unisex hairdressers shop and popped in to enquire if they would cut Barnaby's hair. By this time, Barnaby was getting tired (nap time) and hence attempting to get his hair cut could have been rather risky as he becomes less and less cooperative the more tired he becomes. In the end he condescended to have his hair cut if he could sit on my knee. This worked, but I ended up becoming covered in hair! The hairdresser used 'clippers' in order to be swift. The result was classic 'thug-look' crew-cut! Given that Barnaby is currently sporting a rather eye-catching, 'call-social-services-immediately' bruise on his chin, which he received when tripping over our recycling box whilst running round the garden on Thursday, his new thug-haircut complements this bruise rather nicely. Our reaction was, "Oh dear, but it will grow back!". I don't think we'll go there again, though, we'll just make sure we get to the barbers nice and early. (Barnaby said that he liked the buzzing of the clippers and the post-hair-cut lollypop but couldn't decide which was the best part of having his hair cut!)

After we got off the bus, Barnaby almost fell asleep between the bus-stop and our house! He napped while I settled down to give Amelia a good feed. Sadly he didn't have such a good night last night; he managed to wet his bed so extensively that Sheep brought him into our room to sleep on the inflatable bed there. Amelia had quite a good night. However, she does seem to have settled into a pattern of waking late evening (9:30-10:30ish) and then a second time in the early morning (3:00-4:00ish).

This morning we were all up at the crack of dawn and made it to meeting in plenty of good time. One of the mothers in my NCT group had decided to come along to see what it was like; her husband is a 'lapsed' Quaker and they thought they'd check it out! They brought their 18month old son, Michael, with them, who is also in Barnaby's nursery - a strange collision of worlds! So today there was Barnaby and Amelia, Pippa (who goes regularly and is 13 months old) and Michael. For once, Barnaby and Amelia were actually behaving quite well. Pippa, who has attended meeting all her life (!), is always well behaved, of course. I really felt for this couple though: they endured about 4 minutes of 'silence' before the mother took him out. She later claimed that it felt like about 20 mintues, which I can well believe! Anyway, I do hope that it wasn't so traumatic that it puts them off trying again. Actually, I think that learning how to be quiet and peaceful is a valuable skill that few children get a chance to learn in the modern world. And I have also noticed that Barnaby seems finding it easier and easier the more times that we attend.

One of the Friends in meeting remarked on the fact that during meeting Amelia sat, facing the circle of Friends, looking around at everyone, making eye-contact and smiling. The Friend's comment was that Amelia was seemed very calm and grounded and a came over as being rather an 'old soul'. Although I don't believe in reincarnation at all, I understood what she meant; there is something rather old-soul-ish about Amelia. Is it just that she seems to take everything in her stride?

On the way home, Barnaby fell asleep in the car, to our utter surprise! We left him sleeping, while Sheep kept an eye on him, and I prepared lunch inside with Amelia in her car seat, in the kitchen, with me. However, when Barnaby did awake, he was inconsolable - floods of tears everywhere - he said his ears hurt and we could get no more coherent responses from him, apart from complaints about his ears! We obviously gave him a dose of Calpol, but it takes a while to 'kick-in'. I tried offering him everything I could think of to stop him crying, from book-reading to cuddles to a drink, but to no avail. In the end, I suddenly remembered a bar of chocolate that my mother, 'Nanny', had bought for him for Easter (just shows how healthily Barnaby eats, given that it was still on top of the fridge waiting to be consumed). As soon as I mentioned chocolate, the tears stopped immediately. After eating a fairly small amount of chocolate he declared that his ears were better and felt well enough to eat lunch! I wouldn't have believed the transformation if I'd not seen it with my own eyes. I think every toddler house-hold should have an "in case of emergency, break glass" supply of chocolate. Of course, they do say that chocolate makes you happy because it contains phenylephylamine - the same hormone the brain triggers when you fall in love. Barnaby said, upon finishing his ration of chocolate, "We must telephone Nanny and say thank you!". What a star!

We weren't too sure whether we should go to the annual NCTea (National Childbirth Trust) Party because of Barnaby's earache, but he seemed to have perked up so much we decided to risk it. It took place at Activity Land, Knowlhill (, which is ones of these places with multi-level soft play areas and trampolines and ball-pits as well as climbing walls and slides etc. etc. Barnaby was a bit overwhelmed when we first got there, but after a while got into the swing of things and discovered that he loved the ball-pit and the trampolines. Almost all of the mothers (and husbands) of my NCT coffee group were there, which was really nice as we were able to have a chat with partners as well. Barnaby bounced and bounced and bounced and wore himself out.

It's funny, in two weeks time, Barnaby's friend, Luke, is having his third birthday party and it is being held at Gambado ( which is next door to Activity Land. As far as I can tell, and we've yet to got to Gambado, they are practically identical and yet are located next door to each other. An example of a Durkheimian Organic Solidarity? Anyway, they are both about a mile from our house, so within walking distance: another case of what a good location Loughton is in. Milton Keynes is going up in my estimation all the time.

This evening, Barnaby and Amelia were both asleep by 7:30/7:45. But the evening has not been straightforward. Amelia woke up at about 8:30 ish. I'd moved her into her cot and decided that I should try and get her to fall back asleep in her cot. The first time I was sucessful, but then she woke again and I spent about 45 minutes rocking her in her cot, signing to her, using the 'baby vibrator' (yes, it does what you think it does, vibrates - a bit like the motion of a car), but in the end nothing worked. Evenutally I gave up and took her out of the cot and brought her into our bed where I lay down beside her and nursed her. She was asleep in a couple of minutes. Clearly we are f**ked! I think that this week we MUST put step three of the Pantley plan into action.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ruth & Amelia go a-Visiting

Well, I was right. Almost. She did it on the platform of Watford Junction train station! She seemed quite content about it though; it clearly wasn't causing her any distress. (Confused? Read yesterday's blog!)

So today, Amelia and I went to Radlett in Hertfordshire: to visit a friend/work colleague. It was a lovely, sociable day. Sunny, bright, hot (no woolen tights for Amelia today! She'll have lovely, chubby, brown legs before the summer is out). We had a pleasant time, discussing work and non-work and just generally being sociable, plus discussing the future of the MSc course, research directions etc. etc. (as one does!). Amelia enjoyed the change of scenery, I think.

On my return I had a visit from someone called Vanya, who looks as if she is set to be our new cleaner! Her and her aunt (a former maths teacher from Bulgaria!) are currently cleaning for almost all the mothers in my NCT group (I'm practically the last remaining one without a cleaner). She has two daughters of her own, and was keen to have a cuddle with Amelia. Also, she didn't she throw up her hands in horror at the sight of the house - always a good sign! I certainly have, about enough money saved to pay her for just over six months (27 weeks - until November 10th) and perhaps by then I might be able to lay my hands on some more money... I am so looking forward to getting a cleaner!

About Amelia's name, I mentioned that Barnaby calls her Meela and Vanya asked "Like the actress Milla Jovovich?". Milla Jovovich is, in my opinion, extremely beautiful and her name is also pronounced 'Mee-la' - 'Mee-la Yo-vo-vitch'. Vanya also mentioned that in one of the Slavic languages (Slovenian? I can't remember), Milla is a term of endearment meaning 'soft', 'sweet', 'dear'. So, I've been looking on the Internet for Millas.

Of course, this does beg the question that if we continue using the name 'Meela' for Amelia (and it does seem to have stuck!), how should it be spelt?

I had, originally thought it should be spelt 'Mela', but it turns out that 'Mela' (and is pronounced 'May-la') is a Sanskrit word meaning 'to meet', used to describe all sorts of community celebrations and festivals in the Asian subcontinent. I did rather like 'Milla', as a possible spelling, as it is closest to 'Milly' which would have been my choice as an everyday/nick-name, but I was worried that everyone would pronounce it 'Mill-la', as in Camilla. However as Milla Jovovich is so well known and as her name is pronouced 'Mee-la' perhaps 'Milla' is still an option, in that people may now pronounce it correctly. I've been using 'Meela' in this blog only because the pronounciation is unambigious, but I don't think it looks as visually aesthetic as 'Milla'.

Addendum: It does appear that 'Milla' (pronounced 'Mee-la') is a common Finnish name:
"Milla has been used as a short form for at least three names, Emilia, Ludmila and Camilla. English equivalents are Millie and Milly. Its nameday is May 19th." I also think that 'Milla' is a German name, but I think that in German it might be pronounced like Camilla.

So - should it be spelt 'Milla' or 'Meela'? Or do I simply have too much time on my hands?

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Amelia now hasn't had a bowel movement for a week! I feel that it's hanging over us like the sword of Damocles. Tomorrow, I'm taking the train to Watford to visit a friend. What's the betting that she'll do it on the train?

Child Trust Fund

This morning Amelia's Child Trust Fund voucher arrived in the post: for the sum of £250. I had already decided to invest it with the same company that Barnaby's Child Trust Fund voucher was invested, namely The Children's Mutual: currently the only, ethical CTF stakeholder account available (part of the Cooperative Bank). Well, it took me a while to invest Barnaby's voucher - as per many parents, I believe. In January 2006, on the first anniversary of the voucher scheme, it was estimated that 75% of lower income families had yet to open their CTF accounts whereas almost 70% of the richer families had already done so. Why was I so slow with investing Barnaby's voucher? I think that I was unsure who to invest it with and had initially lost the first voucher, which needed to be replaced! In the end, I eventually decided on The Children's Mutual as it was an ethical investment. However, according to figures that were published in January 2006 nearly half a million parents had failed to invest their vouchers by the time they expired, so, at least I had managed to invest Barnaby's even if I was a little late with it (Well, he gets more than Amelia anyway, so if it has a few less months to 'grow' before he reaches 18, I don't think it will make much difference - he will still end up with more than her!).

This time, however, I decided to get it invested as quickly as possible, given that there was no question, this time, of whom to invest it with. The voucher arrived at approximately 8:00am and by 10:45am I had completed tha application to open a Children's Mutual account with the voucher (It was the first thing I did when I sat down for a cup of tea).

Incidentally, I have decided not to add any extra money to the accounts; instead I am paying both Barnaby's and Amelia's child allowance (currently £17.45 for Barnaby and £11.70 for Amelia) into an ISA account. The reason for this is that the money is not inaccessible until they are 18, as is the case with the Child Trust Funds. Although I don't anticipate needing it - I intend it to be used for university fees - you never know what's ahead - it's for that reason that I am saving into an ISA (The interest rates between ISAs and CTF are not so different).

So - for future university fees, Amelia and Barnaby will have both their Trust funds. A further government voucher of £250 (t.b.c.) is likely to be given to them when they are seven. If the full £500 is invested and grows at 7% per year the Child Trust Fund will be worth £1,410 after 18 years. Not a lot towards university fees!

However, if I am also investing the £126.32 pcm (which exceeds the annual limit I can pay into the CTF anyway, which is £1,200), even not allowing for increases in Child Benefit, at 4.75% there should be about £40,000 divided between the two of them, i.e. £20k each. Even this might not be enough for university fees and maintenance. So, we also have an additional endowment fund that will mature, I think when Barnaby is about 16) for 15k. So I am hoping to be able to pay a total of about 60k towards their combined university expenses. I hope this is enough.

By the way - I only finished paying off my own government student loan last year, aged 35, by which stage I had already begun saving for Barnaby's university fees! I know I got-off lightly as one of the first 'replace-grants-with-loans' generation of students, but it does seem unfair that there will be a generation of parents who will have their own student debts to contend with (I think the average debt is £12k at the moment) whilst also being expected to save/pay for their own children's university education.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

16 Week Conundrum

Why didn't I blog yesterday? I was on the 'phone for a lot of the evening. Then Amelia began to cry and I went upstairs to feed her and decided not to return back downstairs to blog.

The main thing that happened yesterday was that I met up with my boss, our Head of Department, in order to ask if I can go back to work part-time from September until January, so that Amelia can begin nursery just two days per week and then build up gradually to a full-time place after Christmas (instead of starting full time at the beginning of September). Originally my paid maternity leave was to have ended at the end of June, followed by a months' holiday and a month's unpaid leave. Although, in a way, I was asking to both postpone and to bring forward my return date; I have been asked to consider tutoring two or three master's theses over the summer and have agreed if (i) they are able, 'self-starting' students, (ii) the students travel to Milton Keynes for tutorials and (iii) I get additional pay for the work. My meeting with my boss was very pleasant. We sat in the garden and chatted for an hour and a half. He has agreed to both requests, in principle, and we simply need to iron-out the paper-work.

However, despite this good news about my work yesterday, I was feeling very depressed about work today. Sheep and I both took Barnaby to nursery this morning and got to discussing work on the way home. I began to feel more depressed about papers I have left unwritten, research grants I've not applied for, etc. etc.and at the same time feeling more resentful about how easy men have it with respect to their careers. I did, however, receive an email today from a male research-colleague who bacame a father a couple of weeks ago, who asked "How do you get any work done being a mum? [My wife] and I are so occupied with baby-nursing, it is unbelieveable." So perhaps men don't have it all that easy either.

In the afternoon, it was my NCT coffee group and I decided to walk instead of getting in the car as it was a truly glorious day. To my surprise, it only took me half an hour to get there. Meeting with everyone helped me perk up a little and so it certainly did me good not to sit around feeling sorry for myself. However, there was something that came up at the group. We were talking about sleeping and one woman (who has read the Pantley book) said that her son had slept from 8:00pm-3:00am last night (7 hours!). Well, I mentioned that although Amelia had been sleeping for between 5-7 hours, she was now having no more than 2-3 hours unbroken sleep (i.e. an average of 4 wakenings between 7:00pm-7:00am). Somebody asked how old she was, and was she nearly 16 weeks old? In fact, she is exactly 16 weeks old today. To that they all said "Oooh! 16 weeks" as if that was meant to be significant. Of course, I asked why 16 weeks should be important and one or two of them said that they had read that if, at 16 weeks, a baby starts sleeping for increasingly shorter durations at night, it was due to hunger and that it was a sign that we should be starting to feed her solids.

Now, this is the first time I've really heard of this. All the advice I've hitherto read says that feeding solids should take place between 4-6 months and not before 4 months as this can cause food allergies. I've always understood that the longer that you can put off solids (i.e. nearer to 6 months rather than 4) then the better it is. It was for this reason that we didn't even begin giving Barnaby solid food until he 6 months old.

This is what LaLeche League say on the subject of "When should my baby start solids?"

"Human milk is the only food that healthy, full-term babies need for about the first six months of life. The composition of human milk varies according to the time of day and the age of the baby, so that each mother provides the milk that meets her own baby's unique needs. Human milk provides immunity factors for as long as the baby nurses, and many of the health benefits of breastfeeding continue well into childhood and beyond.

Most solid foods are lower in calories than human milk, of lower nutritional value, and can be difficult for young babies to digest. Introduced early, they can cause unpleasant reactions and even trigger allergies. These problems can be avoided by waiting until your baby is ready for solids. Some parents have found introducing solids before baby is ready to be a waste of time, energy and money.

Your baby is starting to get ready for solids when:

he is about four months old
he becomes more sociable, playing and holding "conversations" with you during a nursing session
he has a growth spurt and nurses more frequently for a while
he imitates the chewing motions you make whilst eating -- he is practicing!
You will know that he is really ready to start solids when:

he is about six months old
he can sit up without any support
he continues to be hungry despite more frequent nursing which is unrelated to illness or teething
he has lost the tongue-thrusting reflex and does not push solids out of his mouth
he can pick up things with his finger and thumb (pincer grasp)
Babies who are ready for solids can usually feed themselves. Mothers often report that they knew their babies were ready when they picked up food from a plate, chewed it, swallowed it, and wanted more.

What Elizabeth Pantley has to say about feeding solids and sleeping is this:

As a baby's system matures she will be able to go for longer periods at night without eating. This is a biological process. Up until that time, research shows that feeding a baby solid food at night doesn't help her sleep longer - although some mothers do swear that it makes a difference with their babies. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead to feed your baby solids, you can experiment with this. Don't rush it, though. Babies who start solids too early tend to develop more food allergies, so it's not wise to start too soon.
So it stands to reason that if your baby has slept for about four hours, wakes, and appears hungry, you should consider feeding him. (This is especially important if your baby is younger than four months old.)

I think the real question is whether she is waking because she is hungry or because she has now developed a sleep-association with me and she is waking briefly after a period of light-sleep and rather than settling herself back to sleep is needing my presence to get back to sleep. I suspect that it's actually the latter (i.e. sleep-association not hunger) and consequently I am beginning to feel that I'm not only crap at work but crap at being a mother to boot...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Amelia Admin.

I must be quick about this. Barnaby has been waking all evening in a tearful, coughing sort of fit. Is it the coughing waking him? Is he having night terrors (he is acting as if deeply upset about something)? Who knows? Sheep is with him now, comforting him, but we think that we will be in for a long night, so I mustn't be long.

This morning, Sheep and I took the first steps towards making our new wills. This has been one of the 'administrative' jobs on my 'to-do' list since Amelia was born. Obviously, we needed to make a new will as soon as she was born, as we need to make provision for her. The will is, to all intents and purposes, identical to the will we made after Barnaby was born, but with provision for them both instead of one. In the event of anything happening to both Sheep and I, Sheep's brother and his wife will become guardians to Barnaby and Amelia and they will be brought up with their two cousins, with open access from my family. Sheep and I also have substantial life insurance now, which we extended when I became pregnant (to the tune of £335k in addition to the house), so Amelia and Barnaby should be well provided for, should Sheep and I both die. A strange way to start the week, though: discussions of death and dying around the kitchen table! However, I am relieved that this is now underway.

On the subject of administrative jobs, I also heard at the end of last week that my application for child allowance for Amelia has been approved and will be back-dated to her birthday. I think that this means that the three primary administrative tasks arising from Amelia's birth (registering her birth, applying for child benefit and updating our will) have now been accomplished. What is left? Passport application? Investment of Child Trust Fund Vouchers? Arrangements for her Naming Ceremony? Nursery place application? (The latter is done, but none of the others.)

This afternoon I went to see my Head of Department (who lives in Loughton) about extending my maternity leave. However, I got the days wrong - it was meant to be tomorrow! So, I turned up, with Amelia in her car-seat, and rang his door bell. It was answered by, presumably, his wife, who looked very puzzled to see me. I, obviously, asked for her husband, and looked equally puzzled to be told that he was not at home. Then I realised that she was looking at me in a rather suspicious way (or was I imagining this?). I suddenly realised what a curious scenario this must seem: an unknown womans appears on your doorstep, demanding to see your husband, baby in tow... I hastily informed her that I was from the Bartlett, and I had an appointment with him to discuss my maternity leave. I hope she didn't give him the third degree tonight!

Amelia loved her bath tonight - grinning and kicking her legs. I have noticed a tiny patch of excema behind her ears though, which I must treat with some ointment.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

"Do You Want to Hold my Hand?"

My mother, "Nanny", left at the crack of dawn, as per usual. We went to Quaker meeting and my sister joined us there. Amelia got violent hiccups in meeting but what can be done by hiccups? Not much. One Friend came up to me afterwards and said that she was trying to tell if there was a metronomic regularity to them. Every time it seemed as if they were subsiding, Amelia managed to produce a really loud one again!

Barnaby was terribly boisterous in the Children's Group. He seemed to have the energy of three toddlers rather than one. Amelia was very sweet and spent a lot of time in the arms of the Friend running the Group. We decided to try a different place for lunch, an American food chain, TGIFridays. Although Barnaby was thrilled at the prospect of usually-forbidden carbs, he didn't really behave very well at all and consequently was denied any dessert. Amelia slept blissfully through most of the meal.

This was followed by a quick shop at Waitrose: the first time that I/we've attempted to do a grocery shop with the two of them (usually I order food online, or Sheep picks up odds and ends on his own). They had these wider trolleys with a baby and toddler seat next to each other, at the front, and I decided to give it a go. Amelia tolerated it for about three minutes, obviously weighing up whether she liked it or not, and, I think, came to the conclusion that it was all too weird and strange and began to howl (which stopped as soon as I scooped her up into my arms). At one point, when I was getting something from one isle, with Amelia still in my arms, and Sheep, Barnaby and the trolley were elsewhere and out of sight, the store manager approached me and asked if I needed any assistance shopping, which I thought was rather nice. I do like Waitrose, I've decided.

Then homewards. We managed to get Barnaby to nap. Amelia was ravenous upon reaching home and so a little disgruntled (I'd not planned to go shopping and so had expected to be in a position to feed her before I did). After his nap, Barnaby, helped Sheep mow the garden (and was very helpful).

I must relate this story (sorry Sheep), although I do fear that this blog tends to focus on the scatological, but here goes. Sheep was on the loo, when Barnaby wanders in and demands what he is doing. Sheep explains and Barnaby enquires sympathetically (as Sheep is obviously taking his time), "Is it a hard one Daddy?". When Sheep admits that it is, a bit, Barnaby replies, "Do you want to hold my hand, Daddy?". Isn't that sweet?

Amelia is trying really hard to sit up, it wouldn't surprise me if she is sitting soon. She is certainly very alert and interested in everything around her. She is such a lovely girl. My mother and I were discussing happiness yesterday (as there was a survey on happiness reported in the news last week) and I must say that I am extremely happy and although I miss a lot about being a non-parent (long weekend lie-ins, reading the Sunday newpapers, going to the cinema, not having to plan every outing like a military campaign, not having to regularly wash heaps of wee-stained clothes or worry about other peoples' bladders/bowel movements...) I wouldn't swap my life for any other at the moment.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Day Barnaby almost had a Helicopter Ride

Today was the day of the Stoke Goldington Steam Rally. We were all going en masse: Sheep and I, my mother (Nanny), Claire (Aunty Claire) and, of course, Barnaby and Amelia. We set off in two cars, Amelia and Barnaby in the back of Nanny's car, with me navigating. Eventually, we arrived, after some mis-navigation on my behalf.

I had Amelia in her sling, and hadn't brought her pram. Note to self for next year: bring (i) a pram, (ii) a picnic rug (iii) a picnic (iv) sunhats. The sunshine was spectacular when we first arrived. So much so, that I made it my misson to get to the tea tent so that I could feed Amelia in the shade. However, there was truly something for everyone: craft displays and stalls for Claire and my mother, a real, live helicopter taking off and landing for Barnaby, interesting steam machines for Sheep, lots of tea for me and an every ready nipple for Amelia. (Perhaps by next year her demands might have increased somewhat).

The amount of machines on display were astonishing. I am covered in smuts tonight, as was Amelia - poor smutty girl! Barnaby sat on his Daddy's shoulders to watch the 'parade' of the working steam engines. In the early morning it was so hot that I was fretting about sunburn and adequate sunhats for everyone. I am going to buy Amelia a wide-brimmed hat. I was also worried that she was too hot in the sling (see previous note to self). However, the weather soon began to change. As it began to rain we headed for the craft tent and the craft demonstrations, which were very interesting. But the drizzle got worse. Sheep, Barnaby, Amelia and I settled down in a corner of the tent for some lunch. Yes, once again, I managed to breastfeed Amelia in the MOST public place available, as everyone had come into the tent to shelter from the rain. In the end, in a brief lull from the rain, we managed to make a leisurely 'dash' for the car, umbrellas in hand. On our way out we bumped into Valerie - Amelia's midwife. How lovely was that! I was really pleased to see her. Unfortunately she was off to man the NCT baby-change tent and we were heading for the car, so there was only really time to say hello - still it was lovely to see her.

On our way back, Barnaby and Amelia slept. We decided that we'd timed our visit perfectly. We came away with various purchases too - some sarsaparilla cordial, a new pick-axe handle for Julian (from Claire), a fair amount of home-made cakes and fudge and at least one new sun-hat (oh, and a new umbrella we'd hat to buy for the final dash to the car!).

Barnaby almost got a helicopter ride (only £25 per person), but we thought that he is just too young this year and better to do it when he will have a memory of it! Next year perhaps, if not the year after.

A lovely family day.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Visit of Nanny

I've not blogged for the last couple of nights. Every time I've tried to log on to Blogger over the last couple of days, I've had connection problems and so gave up. Although there wasn't a huge amount of news to report. Today, however, my mother arrived (at the crack of dawn). We'd all slept in a bit, as Barnaby was very late to bed last night.

Yesterday and today have both been wonderfully sunny. Yesterday Sheep and I spent most of the day in the garden with Amelia. It was so hot, that I stripped off her tights and let her enjoy her first day of naked legs in the sunshine! I think that she enjoyed it. Today, I didn't even bother putting her tights on her. Just think that if the summer continues like this, we should have a healthy, bouncing, tanned and chubby Amelia by the end of the summer. I suspect that we'll be living in the garden from now on, if the weather continues like this!

It was lovely seeing my mother this morning. But as she arrived at breakfast time, I then went to take Barnaby to nursery, he glanced at my mother holding Amelia, sitting in the sunshine in the garden and wailed, "I want to stay with Nanny and Amelia!". I didn't blame him. My mother and I had a lovely day, taking Amelia for a walk in the pram, and doing some gardening (well my mother, not me!), hanging out laundry on the washing line (me) etc. and generally enjoying the weather.

Amelia was being very smiley and lovely and had lots of cuddles with 'Nanny' today. Incidentally, my mother has just bought a book on how to bee a good grandmother - "The Good Granny Guide: Or How to Be a Modern Grandmother" by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. I think it's really great: not only has my mother actually made a postive comment about breastfeeding, since Amelia was born, but now she's bought a parenting book (after having previously complained that I have read too many parenting books and that they are 'brain-washing' me!). I think both her and I are finally mellowing towards each other in our parenting attitudes.

Oh, one final comment. There has been a flurry of comments in response to my last email about the "Belief-O-Matic". It seems that it's generated quite some interest. Of course (if you look at the comments and my responses) I am a little perturbed that Sheep is apparently more 'Quakerly' than I am.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

More about Naming Ceremonies

I was very tired today after our three day weekend. Amelia and I had a quiet day today, just her and I. Although I am not keeping her sleep logs any more, I am much more aware of her naps. She only had a short 30 minute nap this morning, which was just long enough for me to take a shower. She slept in her cot. Later in the afternoon, I was trying in vain to get her back to sleep in her cot and she was getting more and more distressed. In the end, I scooped her up and placed her in bed and cuddled her, where she fell asleep immediately, as did I! We both slept from about 2:00 - 4:00! This is the longest sleep she's had for ages (and, as much as I feel I should have been rushing round the house doing housework, I clearly needed it too!).

Today has also had a bit of a Quaker theme to it. I've been reading an historic novel describing the escape of Charles II after the battle of Worcester and wanted to check a fact about his life online. Web links led me to the oft-recounted encounter between Charles II and William Penn and from there I strayed onto some Quaker websites and became preoccupied by the phrase "Proceed as Way Opens" - to undertake a course of action without prior clarity about all the details but with confidence that these will be made apparent and assure an appropriate outcome. As it happens, I received a phone call this evening from the Clerk of Milton Keynes Meeting this evening about Barnaby and Amelia's naming ceremony. She is proposing to establish a committee to seek the best form for the meeting to take. She asked me a number of questions including some about the would-be 'godparents' and their religious backgrounds and in particular whether any of them were Friends. I responded that two of the six had had a Quaker upbringing (either through family or school or both) and so were very familiar with the beliefs of the Society but were neither members nor attenders themselves. I must find out what everyone identifies themselves to be. We agreed that it was best to proceed slowly than to rush into things unnecessarily. Along this line, I have been giving great thought to what our expectations of the 'godparents' roles. I found this interesting website which documents the roles and responsibilities of 'godparents' in other religions.

When Sheep and I got married we made a simple promise, to be 'loving and faithful' as long as we both lived. We liked these promises as we felt that they distilled all that was of import whilst dispensing with extraneous issues. I think that one of the things that we would like to be able to do with the committee is to work out what would be the equivalent promises that we would expect the 'godparents' to make. (Perhaps we should have a witnessed certificate, as per our wedding). Anyway, it looks as if my initial thought about a May or June ceremony is probably not going to happen. I need to email all six godparents and ask them for available dates and what they think that their religious standpoint it. She also wanted to know whether any of the six 'godparents' lived close enough to come for a meeting with the committee - a sort of meeting for 'clearness' I suppose. Either way, this is getting pretty serious. But, actually, I am glad. If we are to do this, it should be done properly I think. And, I hope that we can do this in such a way that Amelia and Barnaby will thank us in the future.

Incidentally, I think that I will send this website out to all of the prospective 'godparents', it's called the 'Belief-O-Matic!" and although the name is a bit jokey, it is actually quite good. It has twenty questions and then tells you what religion you are most aligned with. When I do it, it suggests that I should either be a Secular Humanist (99% match) or a Liberal Quaker (98%match).

It claims, "Even if you don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic™ knows. Answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature, and more, and Belief-O-Matic™ will tell you what religion (if any) you practice...or ought to consider practicing. "

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day Space Men

Today was the May Day bank holiday. We started the day with no real fixed plans, except, possibly, walking to the Centre and going back to Bella Italia (where we had lunch yesterday) in order to retrieve Amelia's nappy bag, which we'd inadvertently left there. Walking up to the Centre seemed as good a plan as any, so we set off, with both prams, walking 'up the hill'. When we got there we discovered that the Centre was full - there was a sort of convention taking placed called Collectormania (9). This is an event where a lot of stars of film and television (particularly more 'cult' shows) appear for signings, panel discussions etc. (As well as lots of stalls flogging memorabilia). This took place in Middleton Hall, the large space in front of John Lewis. Sheep immediately noticed that the cast of Blakes 7 were appearing (almost all, Paul Darrow, Steven Pacey, Peter Tuddenham, Gareth Thomas, Michael Keating and Jan Chappell). There was also a display case full of props from the show - the original model of the ship, The Liberator, Orac, part of the control panel of the teleport system, a gun etc.). Barnaby was fascinated by the model space ships and was keen to meet a spaceman (i.e. the crew). Sheep persuaded me that I should queue up to get Paul Darrow's autograph (not something I've ever done before!) and eventually I succumbed to the persuasion, although not immediately.

Orac and part of The Liberator model in the display case

First we had lunch in John Lewis, looking down over the crowds of people milling around Middleton Hall. Amelia was most fascinated by this birds eye view of such a masse of people. I wonder if she realised they were people? It must be hard to realise that people viewed from above are still people. After our early lunch, the cast of B7 were still at their lunch, so we went to collect Amelia's nappy bag and then walked to Campbell Park and had a look at the labyrinth there (smaller than the one at Willen Lake). Amelia was sleeping in her pram and while she slept we (Sheep, Barnaby and I) ran madly around the labyrinth, Barnaby and I pretending to be trains.

Barnaby running round the labyrinth at Campbell Park

Upon our return, I queued with Amelia to get Paul Darrow's autograph. Sheep and Barnaby joined us while we were still queueing. Barnaby had got terribly excited at the thought of seeing a real spaceman (unfortunately we'd mentioned that the actors had been the 'spacemen' in the model that Barnaby had been so fascinated by, and we could not think of another way to explain it). Well, we all met Paul Darrow and he autographed a copy of his autobiography for me, he chatted for a little about Amelia, as I had her in my arms and he generally came over as a nice guy. We should have got a photo of him and Amelia together, but we forgot! Barnaby was very disappointed by his 'spaceman'! (We felt a bit bad about our slightly misleading explanation, but he would have been equally disappointed if he'd met, for example, Neil Armstrong!).

After the visit to the labyrinth, meeting the cast of Blakes 7, a chocolate cake and coffee in Starbucks, we walked back down the hill, making a slight detour through B&Q to buy seed trays and potting compost. Finally, almost at home, I stopped to breastfeed Amelia in the middle of a redroute junction, in the middle of a roundabout! At this point, our friend Alison Craighead called and we talked about yurt holidays, breastfeeding in the middle of roundabouts and chance encounters with the Blakes 7 cast and she commented that it sounded like a perfect day. We had to agree with her.

Finally, here is another photo of Amelia, just to finish off with. I have also retrospectively added some photos of the puddlewalk last weekend and of gardening on Saturday.