New Shoes

It is official.  I no longer have a little baby.  Our house has been invaded by a toddler!  It seemed to happen overnight, though I guess it has been a while in coming.  Yesterday, after Akira had spent the afternoon hauling a soft-baby-shoe-clad Kazuo out of the slush and dirt at the ice skating rink the day before, we finally bought Kazuo his first pair of tiny little big-boy-walking shoes:

Once he was laced up in them in the shop, he looked a little shocked.  When we stood him up to try them out, it was as if we had cut him off at the knees and encased his feet in concrete – he looked appalled, like he was wondering if he would ever do that walking thing he had just mastered ever again… Then suddenly, he realised they were his new shoes (‘choose’ he’d said earlier) and with a little delighted, squealy grin, he was off.

Here he is still pottering about last month in his Robeez slippers, which have stood him in good stead for the learning to walk process, but are now looking a little worse for wear, and will NOT do for outdoor exploring:

And here is our big boy, tottering about today in his new shoes (which he proudly pointed out to our friends last night when they came for dinner) with the balloon the shoeshop lady gave him:

All too quickly he seems to have morphed into someone who is not too keen to share his toys (ugh… hope that wears off sometime soon…terrible twos here we come already) and is not too interested in the word ‘No’, unless it is something he is saying himself…but he still has residual baby sweetness for cuddles and naptimes and he is becoming much more engaging with his babbling little ways and his cheeky little giggles.

So I guess I have discovered that as much as I am someone who really loves a good baby cuddle, I am really looking forward to (and currently enjoying) all the fun things associated with Kazuo becoming a little person – it is great fun to have a toddler in the house. I don’t seem to be mourning the end of the baby phase (as intriguing as it was) and I won’t be hankering after my baby, I will just continue to enjoy the delights of our boy!

A Whole Year of Family Life

This coming weekend we are finally celebrating Kazuo’s first birthday.  After eventually ridding our house of the dreaded lurgy, that lingered around far too long for my liking, we are now ready to re-enter social circulation.  I think it will really be a party for me… since I have only had three social encounters with someone other than Akira and Kazuo since New Year’s Day.  So I am feeling excited about the festivity, even if it will just be a little afternoon tea-ish affair.

For his actual birthday last week we did manage to pull out some stops and spend a very Kazuo-centered day with the wee man.  We also had some family gifts and things we had gathered together for him ourselves, so he had a happy little time with the wrapping paper.  He is still quite wary of the walking cart and tiny trike, but the Duplo is a hit with Kaz and Dada, so it gets a good airing every morning.  I put together a photo album for him as he is obsessed both with books and pictures these days, and especially of himself and Dada/Mama  (we are either at this point… usually ‘Dada’ which is shouted out any time we are out of view, so that we know we are being summoned!)

This was a total hit … and gets pigeon-cooing giggles every time.  Having reviewed his year in pictures in many forms over the past week or so, I thought the briefest summary here should suffice, esp for those of you who are really overdosed on my Kazuo-photo obsession.  So here he is at birth, three, six and nine months, and a couple of pictures from the birthday last week for good measure.  Looking over how much he has changed and grown in a year never fails to amaze me… so much re-arranging of the brain to organise all the new skills, and so much speedy development.  He makes me laugh daily and I am so grateful for having him around.  But what was I thinking to say I am not working – I LOVE this job.  It has been a wonderful year!

Not Working Seems To Be Working…

…for now anyway.  After reading my lovely friend Mandy’s comment on yesterday’s post, I have spent some time today reflecting on things I have put out into the blogosphere in the past year, and musing on how not working feels now, after more than 18mths of the habit.  I have been inspired by, and feel some camaraderie with other stay-at-home-mothers who blog their daily lives.  It has helped immensely to read their thoughts and to feel that I am not alone, and indeed there are some very creative and interesting people out there bringing up their children splendidly…

In the past week I have found the erosion of my social position (if you could call it that) in the absence of paid employment more acutely than I have done this year.  Not sure why that is… nothing much has changed.  But I guess, like homesickness, these things come and go in waves.  So it appears I may not have really resolved any of the feelings of being all at sea that come from not working, rather just buried them beneath a patina of getting-on-with-it-ness (is that preoccupation?).

Nevertheless, on the whole it seems that the job of the homemaker generally sits well with me – for now.  I keep busy keeping the baby clean, healthy, happy and hopefully stimulated enough to be developing at a suitable pace.  I usually manage to keep the house tidy and clean, the pantry stocked, and food on the table.  Most weeks I also manage some sort of creative endeavour and/or some interesting outings and social engagements.  I am also keeping involved with some political activism of sorts and making an effort to stay engaged a little with the outside world, though often it is only the internet that answers for that.  As I said to Akira’s aunt last week, I do enjoy the quiet pace of life with Kazuo, and am reluctant to disrupt it in the near future, though the prospect of paid employment is looming on the 2010 horizon.  And one thought that bugs me, is that most women are expected to do all the things I mentioned above AND engage in some kind of paid employment… now where does the energy for that level of commitment come from?  How must the division of labour in the home shift to accommodate the working mother, and am I cut out for such a juggling act?  Even more interesting, how could my split personality (for surely that is what is required) impact on Kazuo, who currently has my more-or-less undivided attention?

Well, I don’t have much to show for today’s not-working, but one of the main activities was keeping the little man somewhat close to his usual sunny dispostion – seems he woke on the wrong side of the bed.  Here you can see us at the post-consolation-point, Kaz still in his sleep sack from his nap, but managing a smile after the hard work of cheering him up from a teary awakening has been achieved.  I am grateful for the tenuous and perhaps fleeting ability to still comfort him/get him to sleep with a little cuddling, a bit of patting and some soft singing.  I hope that persists for a wee while yet.

After the Nap

Things to do instead of working…

One of my friends posted a photo album in Facebook with this title last week.  She displayed all the amazing things she has been doing to avoid working on her English PhD dissertation.  A master procrastinator myself, it made me realise that I left procrastination out of my musings on what people get up to when they are not working.  I was in awe of the fabulous and worthy things my friend had been doing in order to avoid what she ‘should’ be doing.  Crafty, earthy and really very impressive.  All things I would count myself lucky to have achieved in the past six months!

This also made me realise that since having Kazuo, there is really little room for procrastinating about the things that ‘should’ be done for him… which are the things that fill my days… if I don’t wash/sterilise/fill his bottles, he goes hungry and I know all about it… if I don’t get the washing done, well, nappies and clothes and burp cloths et al are daily necessities… and if meals are not on the table, well, we all get hungry and grumpy… and I would be extra exhausted if I had to stay up later to do these things after he went to bed just because I had dillied about during the day in my previous fashion…

As someone who carried about an enormous box and a huge pile of guilt over major marking procrastination (I know… the worst kind of teacher, one who insists on work being handed in on time… and then takes ages to get it back… I hated me too!), there is something quite amazing about not getting to the end of each day and feeling overwhelmed about how much I did NOT get done today.  Even when the tasks themselves seem dull and repetitive.

Thus, it seems, that having a baby has cured my insomnia (who has time to lie awake all night when they are already exhausted from getting baby-induced broken sleep?), turned me from a night-owl into someone who sleeps between 10pm-6am, and rises daily with the birds, and re-ordered my priorities so that I have to get the important jobs done every day or I would not hear the end of it from the tiny one.  What a feat!

Eating Solidly

So yesterday Kazuo passed the five months mark  and he is daily adding new skills or we are discovering entertaining little facets of his personality.

The most recent development, initiated by his parents, has been the introduction of solids.  Well… mush really… real solid food is sometime off.

So we started on Sunday evening, but the poor wee pop was too tired to really engage, and – as predicted – only managed a tiny fraction of the tablespoon of organic baby rice we started him with.  But by today he was gobbling it down three times a day, getting excited when he saw the little pots I have been preparing it in, and crying when it transpired that it was all gone!

Here is breakfast at ours today:

Rice for BreakfastNana Joan in New Zealand sent some lovely robust homemade bibs last week that she has been making for babies almost every month since I was a teenager… finally they come in use for a real-life grand child!  And they arrived not a moment too soon.

Tonight I brewed up some mushy carrot for introducing into the diet tomorrow.  I have Annabel Karmel’s Superfoods for Babies and Children and Lizzie Vann’s Organic Baby and Toddler Cookbook to help inspire my home made mush making.  But the real guide is from the Doctor, as per usual in this overly medicalised country… and I am using their one new food every five days guideline, esp since Dada is extremely allergic to so many foods that we cannot be too careful with Kaz… but hopefully he will have inherited my robust constitution and his father’s un-fussy approach to food.  Here’s hoping!

Anyway, it is lovely to be getting into eating for Kaz as he seems, in his new ‘I am a real person’ kinda way, to really want to imitate so many things we do… and I get in real trouble now if  I put anything to my lips when he is not eating… sigh, but then, this might be good for my calorie intake!

Rainy Monday

So, after getting up at 5.30am with Kazuo this morning as he decided that was a good time to be awake, I discovered a grim, grey, rainy day that is set to be wet ALL day… how very English, and atypical for St Louis! So we drove Dada to work and then came home to think of some ways to pass the time.

What better way than to concoct some hearty minestrone-style soup? I say ‘minestrone-style’ as I usually just make this up as I go based on what is in the cupboard/vege bin.
Kaz in The Kitchen

So my little helper took up his vantage point in the bouncy seat (nearly too too big for this now!) and managed to keep his equilibrium until the last ingredient had been added and I could leave the soup to simmer for a while.

I have to admit to making use of a few canned shortcuts in this soup:

Soup ShortcutsAnd today I used some Vegan Vegetable Boullion Cubes that were really a bit too salty.  But it is something I can whip up quickly, and last for a week’s lunch breaks.

I used a few brightly coloured veges from the fridge:

VegesAnd started by sauteeing all but the broccoli to soften them up, then added some mixed herbs:

SauteeAnd then I threw in all the canned goods (though only used half the can of corn) and the vege boullion and a handful of pasta for a little texture:

Add the Canned StuffThen I left it all to simmer for about 15 – 20mins, checking now and then to make sure that there was still enough liquid.  We managed to have some tummy time and a bottle before it was done.  And then I gobbled up some for lunch once Kazuo was in bed.  Mmmmm…. just what was required on a rainy afternoon.

Soup

Rainy Monday Soup

Feeds 1 Person 5-6 times…

1 14-15oz  can each of Pinto Beans & Chopped Tomatoes

1 6oz can of Lge Olives

1 7oz can Whole Corn

2C Vege Stock/Boullion

1/2C Dried Pasta

Chopped Fresh Veges to taste:  Today I used 5 lge Button Mushrooms, 1/4 Red Pepper, 1 sm Head of Broccoli, 2 stalks of Celery, 3/4 med Courgette, 1 med Carrot.

Enjoy!!

I am Back… I Hope…

Well, a few intense months have passed. And I think I may now be able to get into some kind of routine that means I can post here more often.

We moved house… with a four month old baby, that felt like quite a feat, and I am in awe of the friends who have not just moved house, but moved countries with small babies… I have done both kinds of moves many times… and the moving countries type… much harder!! Anyway, moving day was amazing. About 15 friends showed up around 8.30am, and by 10.30am we were all unloaded at the new house! Even more incredible though were the friends who stuck around until later that afternoon and unpacked for us. That was definitely the part I was not looking forward to doing once everyone had scarpered, so it was amazing to go to bed that night with most of our worldly goods in their new places.

Kazuo seemed to thrive on the move. He quickly settled into napping in his crib in his new room, something he was not doing in the old apartment. And although he seems to have stopped sleeping for 8 hours at a stretch, and is waking for an extra feed at 1/2am again, this seems partly due to his new ultra-wriggliness, and partly due to teething and having a bit of a growth/development spurt, so I assume this too will pass. He has recently also become really easy to settle… and so we are hoping that it will not be long before he is self-calming and getting himself off to sleep.

For now, the big deal has been that Dada can suddenly get him to sleep now too… for a couple of months there it was all Mama Mama Mama… and Mama’s hands/arms were really feeling the pain. The Wash U Back Pain Study people have been taking good care of me… but I never anticipated that motherhood would be all about the chronic pain. Ugh!

However, motherhood has also been quite a joy as well… having time just to enjoy the wee things our little pop is learning to do each day has been a real pleasure. I am so grateful for the slow pace of our new life. And not having to choose whether to go back to work or not (since my short-lived work permit has now expired) seems like such a luxury and yet at the same time like I have been given permission just to be Kazuo’s Mama.

So Kaz has been sitting up since he turned four months, and seems fascinated enough by our eating to make the big transition to solid food next week when he hits the five month mark. Suddenly the developmental milestones are racking up quickly, though I am trying to resist the urge to will him onto more precocious development as I am sure that the days will fly by anyway.

It is summer in the Lou… and seems somehow less unbearable than last year, but maybe that is the absence of pregnancy hormones and morning sickness. I am on a mission to seek out suitable sunshade for our little guy so that we can spend more time by the local pool, though I am not really bikini-ready… but my excuse is the back pain slowing down my workout plan… and it can wait. The summer won’t though, so I am looking about for discrete ways to hide the post-partum plumpness.

We are enjoying BBQ weather… and I have discovered the ease of grilling up some amazing Morningstar delights, though when I get some more time (sooooon I hope) I am planning some more home-style taste-sensations, there is nothing like a good lentil burger or aubergine steak to make it feel like summer.

So… have made it through another sunny STL day… and loving not working right now!

Getting There

Where have the days gone? Our little guy has been with us for nearly 8 weeks now and it all seems to have passed in a blur. I look around me and see jobs piling up and wonder when I will ever have the energy or the time to get on with doing things that before were a matter of course. It is the same for all new mothers I am sure, but when it happens to you, it seems much more intense than you imagined. I am feeling a new sense of shame daily for the ways in which I may not have been too sensitive to the new mothers I was friends with or lived with/near in the past…

So we start each day in a bit of a daze, but needing to get fed, showered and ready for Dada to leave the house for work. Then it is a cycle of crying, wriggling, squirming, puking, pooping, sleeping, eating… and occaisionally wriggling on one’s tummy, or listening to stories or songs. If we are lucky (and I am making a real effort to make sure we are…) we leave the house for a few hours on some kind of outing… to the shops or for a walk in the neighbourhood.

On the weekend, after a massive spring clean, I spent an hour at the laundromat with our duvets while the little man and Dada went for a walk to the university. I realise that was the longest time we have been apart since he was born. Weird! So the next day, after much haggling, I left the house again for an hour or so to go get frozen yoghurt with a friend… and we survived both separations! It helps that Dada has been hands on from the start and really loves spending time with the wee squirmer. So now I just have to be a little more chilled out about getting time to myself.

This is work for me now… and a labour of love. It is not a coincidence that they call the birth process labour. And even if not all of us go through active labour to bring our wee people into the world, the work of nurturing and sustaining them stills falls rather heavily on our shoulders – by accident or design. In my case, due to various rather disappointing circumstances at the time, I am rather more free than I had originally expected to be to leave our little guy in the care of others. But since my husband is the principle immigrant upon whose status our work permits depend, we do not have the luxury to reexamine the caregiving for now. And we do not see any benefit in leaving him with others so I can return to paid work just yet. So I am ‘choosing’ this work for now.

It is isolating being so new in a place that we do not know any other women in the same position. I would love the company some days of people in similar circumstances. No-one prepares you for the isolation and frustration of being at home daily, with the same mundane activities to perform in the company of someone who does not talk to you, but expresses their intense neediness in often ear-splitting cries… all of which are apprently calibrated finely to communicate the exact nature of the need… sadly these cries are virtually indecipherable to the untrained (adult) ear!! So most of the day is spent trying to intuit the needs… until one magical day when you realise you have become the expert at this little fellow, and by a process of elimination can usually figure out what he is trying to say after all!

This is the point at which one also realises that one has become that dreaded thing… the woman who talks of nothing other than her baby as that is all she does all day! So I am going in purusit of things to distract me… though at present, finding time for anything other than the work of motherhood still seems elusive… but I guess I shall then just have to stop talking!!