Three Months New

This week we celebrate our little Mei-bug’s first three months with us – no longer a newborn anymore! We have had a lovely time getting to know her and letting her settle into herself. Autumn’s shortening days allowed us plenty of cosy quiet times to savour the snuggly delights of a new person who really did just want to be held for most of the first weeks.

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In the past few months we have done school holiday craftiness…

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…had a lovely visit from Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Kenji and a wonderful fleeting visit from Great Aunt Mary…

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…celebrated Halloween…

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…including the wee guy’s first school Halloween disco…

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…had lots of early morning snuggles with the new girl…

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…gave big brother cuddles…

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…attended several birthday parties and had some great animal encounters…

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…discovered how to giggle together…

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…got cosy for the Arctic blast of Winter…

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…mastered the joy of battering at toys on the bouncy seat…

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…and became more completely family. A wonderful first three months – I am already getting excited about all the new things to come in the next three!

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Our New Arrival

Introducing our little Mei.

Little Miss Mei

She joined us in the world on 17 September and is making herself at home with us. She is a very calm and content little girl whose only real dislike seems to be disrobing. She is also still rather cuddly and so far not that keen on sleeping anywhere but in our arms, which is rather lovely, if not a little awkward at times. But we are loving the baby snuggles!

Her big brother has been occasionally a little wary of his place being usurped, but on the whole he has been delightfully affectionate towards her and very excited to see her in the mornings and on his return from school each day.  Life has slowed down and narrowed itself into that sharp focus of keeping someone new and defenceless alive and contented – intensified by the wobbly hazy fug of sleep deprivation.  This will pass…for now we are mostly revelling in the wonder of finally having little Mei tangibly and delightfully here in our midst.

Big brotherly love

Transition Time

The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness.  Some years I have gathered a pretty impressive score on this scale…Making big changes to one’s life can either be rather liberating, or downright terrifying.  Strangely, although I think I am a pretty stressy, nervy, risk-averse kinda girl, I usually welcome change.  It feels refreshing, and full of possibility.

When we moved here to Scotland, everything was up for grabs.  The one known factor in the mix was Akira’s job…so nice, and so rare, to have something permanent and fixed that we could do all the rest of our reconfiguring around.  But then, since I have effectively been in some kinda limbo since we left York in 2008…there was a lot of rapid reshuffling to do on my part.

Though I promised to muse here on those things…they seemed a little close to my inner tranquility.  And so unresolved. I think I just wanted to the Universe to reach down and solve all the ‘issues’…and in a little way, that is what I think might be happening.  Though it is taking me kicking and writhing a little too…

I had considered all kinds of things…self-employment (still attractive, but taking more resources/gumption than may be currently available)…re-training (again, an attractive option, but maybe needing more time than I currently have available)…returning to teaching (a less-attractive option that would have involved jumping through a lot of hoops, and taken up rather more time and energy than I was willing to devote)…and of course I was really hoping for part-time work (perfect scenario – except that around here, there was NOTHING on offer that would cover the cost of childcare)…staying home for another year with Kazuo until his daycare is partially state-funded (perhaps another great option, but rather delaying the other hoped-for benefits of re-entering the paid workforce).

Then, rather suddenly (though not without a little effort on my part)…a kinda perfect opportunity presented itself…and I will be off to daily paid full-time work at the University this coming Monday.  Kazuo will begin full-time nursery school – a prospect that probably fills us both with equal dread.  Except that I KNOW he knows we love him…I KNOW that the nursery will take good care of him…I KNOW that in the long term many of the things we hope for as a family will be facilitated by this transition…and although I will miss Kazuo and Mama days desperately…and I will miss the wonderful things that come from being the person who sees him day in day out…we will weather the storms of this transition too…and there is good to come through all of this – and I am SO grateful for the joys of two wonderful years of being always with our delightful boy.

‘Not Working’ is due for a change as I will be working EVERYWHERE…I hope to roll out the new look this weekend…and let’s see how the universe and I manage THIS transition…

Mama Came Back

In younger days, when I contemplated parenthood, I had this idyllic dream of raising my children in community – surrounded by family and friends who loved and helped to nurture them.  My children, I mused, would be confident and relaxed and outgoing…and happy to spend time with any caring adults who came their way.  They would not be tied to my apron strings, they would be set free to flourish in a warm communal setting.  Lofty ideals…and still rather cherished.  But there is no accounting for circumstances.  Life as we are leading it right now has meant that Kazuo has spent rather more of his days with just Mama than I would have ever envisaged.  It is a happy existence, but it makes for a slightly different view of raising a child than I imagined.  It also means he has a few more hurdles to overcome right now as he is getting used to being with people outside the family.

This month I have begun the process of helping Kazuo to settle into nursery school.

He has been a brave little trouper really.  For such a self-contained little person, he is developing a fairly healthy sense of his own situation.  Yesterday was our last official settling session.  It is two weeks since the last as he has not been too well in the intervening period.  As we drove into the school carpark he said ‘No, no nursery school’…and my heart sank a little.

At the previous session,  I left him for 20mins. First I  announced my intention, then I  gave him a hug goodbye, and satisfied myself that he was intent on pottering about in the tiny kitchen and would find some toys to play with.  Then I retired to the reception area and watched him on the CCTV.  Thank goodness for modern technology!  I could see that he was happily engaged for most of the time, and that the nurse in charge was very attentive.  As I returned he had a little meltdown, having just really noticed my absence.  But some cuddles from the nurse, followed by hugs from Mama seemed to do the trick.  Our dialogue for the following week went along the lines of ‘Mama left, Mama came back, cried…’  ‘Who cried’  ‘I did’…this last part was eventually replaced with ‘The babies’ – either a little displacement, or an observation of the slightly more needy nature of several of the much younger babies in his class.  I choose to think the latter…

Yesterday Kaz was a deal more reluctant to let me leave.  But in a firm but Mama-like manner I hugged him, said ‘Just like Dada going to work, I will come back’, waved out the classroom window and retreated for 40mins to the reception and the CCTV. He did remarkably.  The staff ratios were good enough to allow him to have the attention he needed, when he needed it.  So he got hugs during a couple of tearful episodes, and they managed to ascertain that he likes to read Charlie and Lola (since he seems a little obsessed right now this does not surprise me) and got him a special book to read.  Last night  he also told me that he cooked ‘ham and sausages with the lady’ in the teeny kitchen.

The overriding narrative is still ‘Mama came back’…which allows for time to discuss the fact that I will ALWAYS come back…and that the ladies at nursery school are lovely…and that it can be fun playing with the kids.  But a little overwrought episode post-nap later in the afternoon, when he thought I had left him and in fact I had just gone to do a little cleaning in the bathroom, suggests that deep down – or perhaps not so deep – the separation is quite affecting.  Which of course is to be expected, but nonetheless heartbreaking.

I know that he will become a stronger person for these interactions. I am fairly confident that we have found a safe and stimulating and caring environment for him to learn a little independence.  I know that these days it is normative for children to be cared for outside the home and that advocates of daycare focus on potential social and developmental benefits…But for all that, he seems so little to be making this transition.  And I am concerned that maybe he might not really understand it…so I am doing all I can to help him feel safe about it…

The best we can say is that ‘Mama came back’…’cos she will ALWAYS do that.

Feeding the Wee One

When we began introducing the wee guy to food and flavours, he was a little reluctant to wholeheartedly consume some of my un-favourites like peas…but he tried everything and generally ate rather heartily for a little person.

Somewhere around the 9mth mark he kinda slipped into being a mainly-eats-sweet-potatoes-and-a-few-other-things kinda guy, though he was still trying out some textures.  Suddenly, around Christmas it was all about grown up food.  Pureed baby food was 100% off the agenda and only the big people food would cut it.  This was fine by me as it meant that I could try tempting him to eat what we ate most nights.

With the carnivore and I we generally eat the same vegetarian thing with a side of meat.  But suddenly there were two carnivores…so I began cooking more meaty meals…though the wee one would eat lots of my tasty vegetarian dishes at lunch and often if the meat option was a little chewy (like beef burgers) he preferred Mama’s more palatable meatless version.

For someone of Japanese extraction, rice has been a long time coming to Kazuo.  He ate a lot of pasta in those early months.  Though I managed to keep secreting some home-made vege mixes into those pasta dishes and so I consoled myself on the days when he would not eat whatever I had lovingly prepared.  But somewhere in the trans-Atlantic transition he seems to have given up almost all vegetables.  He spies them in the smallest quantities and rejects them out of hand.

I have read all the ‘failsafe-your-kid-will-love-this’ books and recipes I can get my hands on.

I am also happy that on the whole, he eats a raft of nutritious whole fruits, loads of good calcium-laden things like yoghurt, cheese and milk (though since he gave up the bottles, it has to have some tasty residual flavour…thank goodness for being able to sneak a little organic Green and Blacks choc powder into the mix) and plenty of protein (esp fish, ham, ground beef/lamb) that is usually gobbled down if it is presented in a format he can agree with.  And lately a triumph has been his delight in my milder red Thai curries (a few veges snuck in there…don’t tell him) and nibbling on a felafel/rice wrap (again a few sneaky veges).  And he still loves cucumber (what is that all about?)

But other tasty vege treats like Courgette Pie, Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, Baked Sweet Potato Chips  and Tomato soup are off the menu.

Now I know, from reading and chatting to other Mamas, that toddlers are notoriously fussy.  Also, that nursery school may go some way to helping him socialise earlier than usual into eating things with his peers that he won’t touch at home. And I also know the old adage that it takes 15 tries to decide if a food is palatable or not…so the palate is not set yet, nor are his real preferences.

But I also have the perhaps unfortunate experience of having been an extremely fussy child myself.  I know that fussiness did not stay with me for life.  Suddenly, in my 20s it was like a switch was turned on. I went from only eating terribly processed meat and potatoes and corn, to eating pretty much anything (though around that time I also decided that it was not such a good idea to eat EVERYTHING…but that is another story).  But it is a little stigmatizing to be the kid at school camp or in other social settings who will only eat one meal out of four…  And I am sure I would have been a more energetic and healthy child if I had eaten a broader range of foods.

I hope for his sake, that Kazuo has inherited some of his father’s willingness to embrace new foods,  rather than his quite comprehensive list of food allergies.  It is less worrying that Kazuo is a little picky right now…just a bit vexing when I serve up something he would normally eat/should by all accounts love and he refuses to eat it…but then he is needing to exert his will in so many ways right now.  I am a bit concerned about the lack of vegetables in his diet…but I vow to kindly keep pursuing, and as he gets more able to negotiate (and this skill is slowly emerging) we may be able to introduce some friendly enticements to try new things.  Equally, he is growing well and is largely quite a healthy little person so far, and no allergies have shown themselves, so that is much less worrying.

I guess I am just interested – as always – to see what other people manage to encourage their wee people to eat…and while comparisons in this area are terribly odious…to discover new strategies for inserting the missing links into Kazuo’s diet so that he grows as well as he can.  I am conscious to make his intake as unprocessed and healthy (and locally produced and fairly traded and organic etc etc blah blah) as possible.  But mainly we try to make food fun (homemade butterfly and teddy bear pizzas this week…) and enjoyable so that he doesn’t ever feel wrongly conflicted about gaining nutrition.

My hope is that Kazuo’s delight in playing with fake vegetables, and asking for them at most meals, and hopefully growing his own this coming summer, will eventually translate into a love for eating them…

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Check out SouleMama for the inspiration.

Of Mothers on Mothers’ Day

I’ve been a little AWOL lately as my mother, Joan, has been visiting from New Zealand.  It is only the second time she has visited me anywhere since I left home in 1992 and first time time we have seen one another since my father passed away three years ago.  It was also the first time she had met Kazuo.  So quite a longed-for and delightful visit.  It was unbelievably  wonderful to collect her at Lambert Airport after all this time…but SO SO much more difficult than I had imagined to leave her there on Tuesday at the end of her visit.

I knew that having Mum around would make the days fly by…and so they did.  In a flurry of little outings, playgrounds, coffees, shopping and long cups of tea during naptime.

Kazuo took to Nana quickly, after a morning of shyness, he was soon following her about, feeding the koi at MOBOT with her,

waking her up in the morning and cuddling up with her for stories or a little Here Comes Science.

There is something quite astounding about mothers.  You never stop needing your mother.  If all has gone well, the nurturing and sustaining of that bond between the mother and child carries you through life.  Though perhaps I feel that keenly because I am recognising the mother and the daughter within me. It has been a long journey from viewing myself as a lone entity – a daughter, a free spirit, to that transformative and often harrowing experience of becoming the one who is nurturer and provider in their very being – a mother, a giver.

I have been musing on these words:

We are, none of us, ‘either’ mothers or daughters; to our amazement, confusion, and greater complexity, we are both.  Women, mothers or not, who feel committed to other women, are increasingly giving each other a quality of caring filled with the diffuse kinds of identification that exist between actual mothers and daughters.  Into the mere notion of ‘mothering’ we may carry, as daughters, negative echoes of our own mothers’ martyrdom, the burden of their valiant, necessarily limited efforts on our behalf, the confusion of their double messages.  But it is a timidity of the imagination which urges that we can be ‘daughters’—therefore free spirits—rather than ‘mothers’—defined as eternal givers.  Mothering and non-mothering have been such charged concepts for us, precisely because whichever we did has been turned against us.  To accept and integrate and strengthen both the mother and the daughter in ourselves is no easy matter, because patriarchal attitudes have encouraged us to split, to polarize, these images, and to project all unwanted guilt, anger, shame, power, freedom, onto the ‘other’ woman.  But any radical vision of sisterhood demands that we integrate them.

Adrienne Rich – Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976)

Now, as I identify more keenly with the role she has played in my own life, I find myself so grateful for the patient, encouraging kindness of my own mother.  I hope I can pass on a little of that kindness to Kazuo.  I’m missing Joan terribly right now, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to have shared these precious days with her and our little guy.  He still asks for Nana after his bed time books…Hopefully it will not be too long before we can replicate this family photo:

Thinking admiring, grateful and appreciative thoughts of mothers everywhere.

Happiness to you all!

Haircut

Finally, after much debate, we decided that this past weekend was the time for Kazuo’s first haircut.

He had these strangely long curls that hung over his ears and flew in any direction in the wind.  They seemed at odds with much of the rest of his hair.  And there were are couple of long strands on the back of his neck too.  So baby hair needed a little trimming and neatening up.  Here is a before shot…

Much of the debate was centred around the best method for achieving a uniform style.  In the end, I just plopped him in the high chair with some snacks, Akira and our friend Laura for distraction and tackled the stray wisps with my paper cutting snips.  I was a little worried, but did think I might be up to the job, as long as I didn’t cut off one of his ears – eek!  But then I had those little baby curls in my hands…

Finally it was done, and he looks like a proper little boy now.  We cheered and he gave us an impish, pleased with himself little grin back…

I’ve tucked the hair locks away in his box of baby mementoes. It struck me as I was gathering them all up, that two years ago, the cells that formed these little strands were forming INSIDE ME…so mystical and strange at times, that.

Getting Out More

After illness number four of the winter, I had a little bit of a meltdown about how confined I had felt this year.  Silly me.

But in his inimically pragmatic fashion, Akira insisted that the answer was just for me to get out more in the evenings.  Predictably, I balked.  He doesn’t get out much himself…It wouldn’t seem fair…and I am so tired at the end of the day…etc etc etc blah blah blah…

So I took him literally…and have been out three times in the past week – whew, I am tired!  Though in actuality the only night I went to bed later than usual was the night of laundry…and that was to be expected.

Initially it was the lovely Julia who hosted a girly night at her house last Friday – just wine, chocolate and good company.  Then on Wednesday I met this little fella:

He is our friend Ruthann’s tiny little darling and hanging out with them made me realise afresh that new born animals are as much hard work initially as newborn people…but at least a baby human won’t bite or scratch you to bits!  He really is the sweetest wee thing, and I am looking forward to him becoming friends with our little person.

Finally, last night Denise and her friend Ludmila took me out to a gallery opening, first one in a LONG time.  I wasn’t too infatuated with the styrofoam/plastic installation in the middle of the gallery floor (looked like something Kaz might do with the recycling in the kitchen) but the intricate images that Amanda Hughen created on mylar and the tiny worlds Carin Mincemoyer created in discarded packaging:

were quite ethereal and whimsical and worth the trip out.  I also loved the intimacy of the space at Good Citizen.

It is great to be getting out more…I may not take advantage SO much in the coming week (esp since Akira has a birthday coming up and deserves some time out himself) but it does make me feel a little less joined at the hip to Kazuo, and maybe a little more connected to the world at large.  Doesn’t take much!