Wednesday, 6 August 2014

4 months

Funny how the time passes so quickly, especially with the second child. You already have some expectation of what s/he can and can't do at various stages. By ten weeks, Junior was already holding his own bottle. By seventeen weeks, he started sucking his toes. So it was both surprising and not-at-all-surprising when Juniorette started holding her own bottle, but not sucking her toes.


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Her feet are far from idle, however. By kicking her legs and digging in her heels, she managed to propel herself across the living room floor more than once.


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She enjoys standing up - will she skip crawling and go straight to walking? - and is remarkably steady.


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She is also big enough to wear hand-me-downs from her cousin and brother. Part of me is quite relieved that we had a boy first, then a girl; Juniorette can wear boy clothes far easier than Junior would be able to wear girl clothes. It's sexist and arbitrary - why shouldn't Junior be able to wear sparkly pink outfits, skirts, dresses? - but we have not had to deal with it in any event. When and if Junior shows a preference for "girly" clothes, I won't be the one to hold him back.


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The rest of the month, we have been playing with friends and family.


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The British Museum. Top tip: the family room in the basement is a great place to avoid the crowds (and the art) on a busy weekend.


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But some of my favourite moments are the mundane family ones. Eating dinner. Cuddles in bed.

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We are in a nice routine these days while S is still off work. Junior is settled and is generally helpful around the house, with only momentary (and often predictable) toddler tantrums and mood swings. Juniorette is eating and sleeping well. She barely cries and often gurgles, squawks, and smiles. I am happy not to be at work (especially right now, while they move the company to our new warehouse) and I am constantly reminded of just how lucky we are. Go, Team D!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Rootn Tootn: The Second Time Around

I have been meaning to post this entry for a while, but since it is now World Breastfeeding Week, I decided I should stop procrastinating.


Back when Junior was born, S developed an iPhone app called Rootn Tootn, which was designed to help mums (particularly, me!) track feeds, nappy changes, sleep, etc. Junior's breastfeeds were longgggg and it was hard for me to spot any patterns, so having a way to record start and finish times made it easier to know when to begin the next feed. You can read about my experience with Junior here.


When Juniorette was born, I started using Rootn Tootn from her very first feeds in the hospital. (Note to pregnant mums: this app should be part of everyone's must-have hospital bag items. Download it and put it on your home screen before your baby comes so you'll be ready to go!)


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Rootn Tootn allows you to set as many reminders as you want, and you can format them in the settings. The term reminders doesn't encompass every use case. Some things might be an event, like a nappy change. Some events might not need a timer to remind you when it's time for the next one. Some events might not have a start/finish time. Regardless, the settings allow you to choose whether you want a duration timer or not, and whether you need a reminder or not.


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I have seven timers on my screen, although I have not used all of them yet (Juniorette is now 16 weeks old). I decided to separate timers for Right Side and Left Side, although some women may prefer to time each feed (both sides) as one event. I also have an event for formula, since we are combination-feeding Juniorette (more on that in a different post). I thought it would be useful to track events like wet and soiled nappies - we had trouble with Junior's, ahem, output, but Juniorette has been much more regular. Still, I mark nappies when I remember. Eventually, I plan to use Rootn Tootn as a sleep trainer, tracking her naps and overnight sleep.


One of my favourite features of Rootn Tootn is the ability to see graphs and averages at a glance.


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Unlike Junior's marathon 60- and 90-minute feeds, Juniorette's breastfeeds tend to vary between 5 and 15 minutes on a side. I can also track the number of bottle-feeds she does in a day; currently the average is 4 or 5. (I don't always set it when she drinks a partial bottle).


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You may notice in the screen shots that Rootn Tootn is reminding me that I should have breastfed Juniorette several hours ago. Don't worry - she was fed. Laziness in using the app each time now that she is 16 weeks old (sorry, S!) combined with better understanding of her patterns precisely due to using the app when she was first born shows that Rootn Tootn accomplished its goal: tracking feeds has helped me know when and how long to feed Juniorette. It's similar to how I use my Fitbit: I don't always hit my daily target but the repetition of tracking has helped me recognise patterns. If your baby feeds regularly like Juniorette, but unlike Junior, you might only need Rootn Tootn for a few weeks or months until you establish your routine.


Here is what S has to say about the need for reminders:
Rootn Tootn is not designed as a substitute for paying attention to your child’s needs. The reminders should absolutely not be the only cue you use to decide whether or not to feed (or change a diaper/nappy, provide medication or whatever other reminders you set). I would expect that, in normal use, you would only occasionally see a reminder.


One last feature of the app that might be under-appreciated is the ability to use a photo from your camera roll or photostream as the background image. I chose a photo of Juniorette wearing a dark onesie in order to contrast with the timers better.


Rootn Tootn is a free app in the iTunes Store, but the in-app purchase features give it the full functionality needed to establish your baby's feeding, changing, and sleep patterns in the early days. While it was developed primarily as a breastfeeding aid for women, it can be used to time anything by anyone: medication, exercise, cooking timers, etc. Rootn Tootn is regularly updated with user feedback. What features would you like to see?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Life in a Fishbowl

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Remember my quest for varifocals? After searching online for several weeks, I decided to try some brick-and-mortar shops for glasses.


I started at the big high street shops: Boots, Day Lewis. Day Lewis had a few pairs of interesting glasses by a Danish maker, Prodesign. But I was not ready to commit that much money to something that didn't entirely jump out at me.


I found Kirk Originals online, and saw that they were stocked at McClintock in Covent Garden. (Do a google image search for Kirk Originals to see why they caught my eye). I also wanted to visit Spex in the City in Covent Garden, since one of my friends has bought gorgeous glasses there in the past. Slightly closer to home in SW London, I found Bromptons Opticians in Clapham.


McClintock has a beautiful selection of glasses - and they had Kirk Originals on sale! - but something told me to keep looking. Gillian of Spex in the City suggested an amazing pair of glasses that she said had taken her seven months to source from France, but even they weren't quite right. Then I found Lafont frames at Bromptons. Skip to the end: I am now the proud owner/wearer of a pair of Lafont Greta glasses with Hoya varifocal lenses and Transitions tinting in the sunlight. I was also glad to support a local, independent business with excellent service, who helped me find frames and lenses that work for me.


It takes a bit of time to get used to varifocals - when I walked out of Bromptons, I felt like I was in a fishbowl. Everything is ever-so-slightly distorted at the edges. But after a week of wearing them, I know which part of the lens to use for different tasks, and it is so nice not having to take them on and off. I suppose the real test was taking them off to cook dinner the other night: I felt disoriented and noticed that my eyes were working hard to focus.


I have already received some nice compliments ('they really suit you!') but the best reaction was from Junior: 'Mummy! Your glasses have lights on! Where is the switch?' Indeed, Junior. Indeed.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

3 months

At the beginning of June, we started settling into our new routine as a Family of Four. S was still not working, which made it easier to split childcare duties while enjoying some quality time together.


Junior and Juniorette got along just fine.

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We celebrated Father's Day with matching t-shirts from Twisted Twee.

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And then the grandparents came back! I had a ticket to Britmums Live (more on that in a different blog post), and they kindly agreed to come help with Junior and Juniorette.

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Wearing my "tiara" (Frankenstein bolts from Halloween) for Emma Freud's keynote

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And so it begins: a lifetime of trying to get a decent photo of all of us


Aside from grandparent visits, we had plenty of normal days: nursery for Junior in the morning, followed by naps and lazy video watching. Trips to various parks. Playing in the garden.

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Finally, on a last-minute whim, we took the train up to Wakefield to visit S's family and friends in Ossett. Juniorette got to wiggle on the carpet and look cute...

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...while Junior took over the local playground and commanded everyone to test out the equipment.

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May the odds ever be in our favour for future train journeys: we were lucky both ways to get a table with four empty seats (though we had only paid for two). Traveling with two small children is a challenge, but Junior and Juniorette enjoyed the ride. We should do this more often.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Let's see...

Last year I turned 40. Within three months, I went from having perfect vision to wearing reading glasses.


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I confess, between loving accessories and being a geek, I was inwardly excited to gain four-eye status at last. I found a pair of black and green glasses that weren't too big for my face, and fit my style well. I mostly wore them at work. On other days, I didn't tend to read enough that some minor blurring on my iPhone was problematic.


However, I started having headaches at work by November. The constant on/off and looking up and down from my computer was putting a strain on my eyes. The optician recommended office glasses - like varifocals, but with more space devoted to the reading part rather than the distance part. Since I was about to start maternity leave and doubted how much time I would need to wear them for reading, I decided that I would wait.


What I had not considered was that taking glasses on and off all day with a curious toddler and a grabby baby is far from ideal. I read enough that I increasingly need them, but it's impractical to keep changing them when my hands are busy with Junior and Juniorette. I don't like to wear them on top of my head (it stretches them out), and using a chain around my neck is just asking for trouble. And I've noticed that my distance vision is starting to suffer as well.


So, it's varifocal time. I was sad to learn, though, that my current glasses are not suitable for varifocals since they do not have enough lens area. My latest obsession, therefore, is online glasses shopping.


I had heard of selectspecs.co.uk from mammatwo.com. Their bargain glasses start at £6 (six pounds!) so even if you're unsure about ordering glasses online, there is little financial risk involved depending on the style you choose. I have not ordered any just yet, but I have a tab open in my web browser so that I can keep going back to it.


Next, I went to glassesdirect.co.uk. S has ordered two pairs from them and they are good quality and value, especially since his prescription tends to be expensive. They offer a free home trial, and I was keen to try some different styles before committing to any new frames.


Likewise, I was thrilled to find cubitts.co.uk. Not only do they offer free home trials, but their look/feel is retro-hipster-tastic. Their frames come in four colours, so I ordered four styles in each of the colours. Ordering a home trial is easy, and cubitts uses collectplus.co.uk for shipping and returns, so you get delivery and returns information by email.


My box from Cubitts was beautifully presented:


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The frames have the styles printed onto the arms so you know which ones you are trying. I ordered the Woburn, Marchmont, Wicklow, and Calthorpe frames in amber, dark turtle, light turtle, and black, respectively.


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top to bottom, left to right: Woburn, Marchmont, Wicklow, Calthorpe


Sadly, I'm not retro-hipster-tastic enough to pull them off. The Marchmonts made me look like Harry Potter, and the others were just too big. The Woburns were the best, but I didn't like the colour - I think I'd have to have black frames.


My home trial box from Glasses Direct was far less fancy:


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But the glasses were more interesting. I chose Scout Marilyn in purple, London Retro Eliza in black, Prague in red, and Mojito Neon in blue.


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top to bottom, left to right: Marilyn, Eliza, Prague, Mojito


I liked the Marilyn and Eliza frames best. Too bad the Eliza doesn't come in colours other than black or tortoise; I'd love a brighter, bling-ier pair. The Marilyn frames were fine, but I think I can do better. The Prague and Mojito frames were too narrow - similar size to my current ones - so I'm wary of making them into varifocals now that I have been cautioned against that.


So for now I have returned all eight frames and I am going to order another home trial from Glasses Direct. In the meantime, I am still wearing my reading glasses and taking them on and off. Stay tuned for the continuing story...


Note: I was not asked to review any of these sites, but since at least one other blogger is currently contemplating varifocals, I thought I'd share my experience so far.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Junior and Juniorette

"She's such a good baby, but then, girls are easier than boys."

"So nice to have one of each."

"Oh, she's gorgeous!"

Whether I want to or not, whether it means anything or not, it is hard not to compare Junior and Juniorette. The differences have been striking so far. It started in pregnancy. I always feared that I would suffer horrible morning sickness and vomit continuously; experience odd food cravings; and have strange mood swings. In reality, my pregnancy with Junior was very easy. I barely had any morning sickness and I never vomited. The only time I had trouble facing food was the first week I knew I was pregnant: S and I were on holiday in Rhodes and all I wanted was bland grilled chicken and salty chips. At ten weeks, my appetite came on with a vengeance and I ate all day long, but my body wanted good, nourishing foods like cheese, yogurt, fruit, meat, eggs, and nuts. As for moods, aside from stress at work, I felt perfectly fine. I got to know Junior's fetal movements and rhythms and I counted down the weeks in amazement at the changes happening inside me. The most amazing and welcome change was the disappearance of my monthly migraines. They did not return until he was nine months old - I had eighteen blissful migraine-free months, and didn't enjoy the hormones and headaches when they came back.

Juniorette's pregnancy was harder. At first, I thought it was just an extra bad migraine. Three days, four days, five days... At six days, nauseous and dizzy (but still never vomiting), it occurred to me to take a pregnancy test. I wasn't expecting a positive result, but at least I had a reason for feeling so out of it. The nausea abated every few days, then came back. I waited for it to taper off, but it didn't. I had migraines nearly every week of my pregnancy, usually on the weekend. They're still happening now, although they seem to be fading back to a more normal monthly pattern. I did my best to eat well. Junior is a good eater and I assume there is some correlation to the kinds of foods I ate while I was pregnant with him. Poor Juniorette, then - all I really wanted while I was pregnant with her was sweets. Chocolate. More chocolate. Sweet, sweet chocolate.

It was a harder pregnancy emotionally, as well. I found myself doing that crying-at-sappy-adverts thing that I Don't Do. I was more scared, more anxious, less mentally prepared. At first, I worried that I would miscarry. I even willed my body to reject the pregnancy quickly if it was going to end in miscarriage, just to stop things before they went too far. I was relieved and astounded at twelve weeks, thirteen weeks, fourteen weeks... I started to think of the baby as the One Who Lived - s/he was determined to survive, to thrive. At the same time, I felt less connected to the baby somehow. I felt kicks earlier than I had with Junior, but they never seemed to come in the same place or at the same time of day. I felt guilty for even thinking these thoughts. Initially, I convinced myself that I wanted another boy. I was used to Junior by then, and we already had plenty of boys' clothes. When we found out she was a girl, I worried about her entire future in a way that has never bothered me for Junior: the pressure for Juniorette to be pretty and skinny, to wear pink and aspire to be a princess or ballerina. The expectation that she could bend traditional gender roles, but still the reality that she'd face flowers and butterflies instead of rockets and dinosaurs.

Then she was born. Again the differences. Two hour active labour with no pain relief. Easy, quick breastfeeds with a good latch - but she prefers formula anyhow. More efficient feeding. Better at sleeping. Hates being swaddled. Likes being held, but will fall asleep on her own. She doesn't cry much, although her cries are virtually indistinguishable which makes it harder to know what she needs. She is more mysterious (possibly secretive?) that way; Junior wears his heart on his sleeve and has always been able to communicate what he does and does not want. She is calm, observant, tolerant, and happy - her little smiles are lovely rewards.

About the only thing they have in common so far is the physical side. She's smaller, more compact, and shorter than Junior was. But she's strong. She has good head control. She likes to stand - we call it her meerkat stance. She can move herself by kicking with the backs of her heels. She has nearly rolled over and she is not even twelve weeks old yet. She is beginning to bat at objects and is practicing gripping things. Will we have another early crawler/walker on our hands? It seems likely.

So then, where does that leave us? They're different, but similar. This shouldn't be surprising - they're siblings, after all. Are girls really easier than boys? Not according to my husband, who points out that Juniorette will be a teenage girl someday. Is there any point in comparing them? No, but it's inevitable.

Most importantly, am I now an expert since I have one of each? Far from it. Is she gorgeous? Of course, as is Junior. For my part, I am lucky to have two great kids who are growing and developing daily before my eyes. So very, very lucky.

Friday, 6 June 2014

2 months

After the blur of Juniorette's first month, we had time to relax and enjoy the improving weather.


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My mom and I began Juniorette's art education with a trip to the Tate Modern to see a beautiful exhibit of Matisse's paper cut-outs. I had never seen the original artwork for Jazz next to the prints; the level of detail and colour was amazing. But Juniorette was almost as popular as the art. We had smiles and compliments from many of the other visitors.


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At home, Juniorette became more engaged and alert. Like her brother, she has had good head control from birth and she enjoys "standing" to get a better view (we call it her meerkat stance).


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She also loves her hands, though she keeps her fists curled in tight little balls. While we have given her a "binky" (dummy/pacifier), she seems equally happy to suck on her fingers.


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One early rite of passage was taking her to the American Embassy to register her birth and apply for her passport (we had already applied for her British passport earlier in the month). They have relaxed the rules a bit since I went for Junior's passport, and S was also able to come with us this time. We were able to bring our iPhones inside, we brought Juniorette in the Ergobaby carrier, and the queues were shorter, all of which made it a much easier experience than the first time around.


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Meanwhile, my parents were extremely helpful keeping Junior entertained.


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But before we knew it, it was time for them to go home. All in all, we had ten weeks of a full house filled with three generations from both sides of our family. I am so grateful that we had help and support for Juniorette's arrival, and also pleased that Junior had quality time with his grandparents. We miss everyone already!