Sunday, 15 December 2013

Junior's 2nd Birthday: As It Happened

Following is a live blog of the events of Thursday 12 December, 2013, to the best of my ability and memory. Junior is K, I am B, and S is S.

7.30        B and S set up K’s birthday train in his playroom
7.35        Went to K’s bedroom to wake him up; he was groggy, crying
7.36        B softly sang ‘happy birthday to you!’ but he shushed her - twice
7.40        Went downstairs for breakfast
7.41        Perked up immediately when he saw the present from Grandma F & Grandpa A that they had left for him this summer – ripped it open
7.42        Threw half of the books on the floor
7.43        Interested in the placemat: ‘dinosaur’
7.44        Started reading the nature book: ‘squirrel!’
7.45        S gently pointed out that it was a rabbit.
7.46        Turned the page: ‘squirrel!’
7.47        Again, it was a rabbit
7.50        B brought her breakfast to the table; K reached over and took a piece of cereal
7.51        B prepared a bowl of cereal for K
7.55        K proceeded to eat his cereal, then reached over to B’s bowl for more
8.00    Picked up a piece of cereal covered in yogurt. Licked it. Put it back in B’s bowl.
8.10        Once breakfast was done, S took K upstairs to get dressed
8.15        After he was dressed, K rushed back downstairs to play with the fridge magnets
8.16        B put his cake and candle in a bag to bring to nursery. K helpfully added a letter ‘m’ from the fridge.
8.17        B stealthily removed the ‘m’
8.18        In the meantime, K added several more letters to the bag, then went back for more
8.25        Eventually, S and B were able to wrangle K into his jacket and shoes. He added a few more fridge magnets to the bag as they left the house.
8.26        K happily ran down the street toward nursery, picking up the compost bins along the way and giving them to Daddy.
8.30        All of a sudden, he stopped, cried, and indicated that he wanted Mummy to carry him across the street to nursery
8.31        At nursery, he got back down and knocked on the door
8.32        Inside, he was happy again. Then not so happy. Then happy again.
8.35        As Mummy & Daddy left, he sat down for second breakfast: Cheerios


17.30   Picked up K from nursery
17.31   Nursery staff reported that K had had a good day; enjoyed his cake and was generally good
17.32   Nursery staff asked if we ever play Daft Punk at home – he sang along to ‘Get Lucky’ when it was on during the party
17.33   Nursery staff also praised K’s recent verbal developments. When shown a picture of a ‘bird’ in a book, he corrected his teacher by saying ‘penguin’
17.34   K blew everyone kisses and said ‘bye bye!’ as B and K left
17.35   Outside, K started running down the street. Then stopped, looked up, and said ‘mooooon’.
17.36   Arrived home. K rang the doorbell. B had forgotten that K had previously changed the doorbell chime.
17.37   Ran inside looking for Daddy and headed directly upstairs.
17.38   Daddy joined him and supervised while K explored S’s office and the guest room
17.45   B coaxed K back downstairs with the other present from Grandma F and Grandpa A. K opened it with great enthusiasm. ‘Pajamas!’ Then proceeded to name everything on the different pairs of pajamas: rocket, snowman, digger, truck.
17.50   K opened the new sleepsack that Grandma F had made. ‘Car! Steering wheel!’ Then lost interest. Then found the crocodile card from Aunt S. Then found his toy airplanes.
17.55   Proceeded to the kitchen to play with the fridge magnets again
18.00   Webchat with Grandma F and Grandpa A. He showed Grandpa his airplane, pretended to eat it, and rubbed his tummy as if to say ‘mmm, delicious.’ Grandpa obligingly imitated K, and K laughed and did it again. Grandpa did it again. K did it again. Everyone laughed. Finally, Grandpa had to leave so we said ‘bye bye’ and logged out. K immediately demanded to call back and do it again. Despite a bad connection, he continued pretending to eat his plane and rubbing his tummy.
18.05   S put on ‘Get Lucky’ to test K. Sure enough, he started dancing and singing along.
18.10   Discovered, much to his delight, that the magnets fit under the fridge. But wouldn’t come back out again.
18.12   B found a long, skinny pole to use to retrieve the magnets. K thought this was a fabulous game, and slid several magnets back underneath.
18.15   Dinner was served. S made spaghetti bolognese. K wanted to play with the magnets. A minor meltdown occurred while he refused to sit in his chair or eat. When B settled him on her lap, he grabbed her fork and shoved some meat sauce in her mouth, imploring her to ‘eat it!’
18.30   K demanded a tissue to wipe his nose, except that we have kept a roll of toilet paper on the table for this purpose for a few weeks now. K figured out how to rip off a square, wipe his nose, open the rubbish bin, and throw out the tissue. Guess what happened next?
18.35   After filling the bin with balled-up toilet roll squares, B and S intervened. A minor meltdown occurred.
18.40   B coaxed K upstairs, explaining that it was nearly time for bath, stories, and bed.
18.45   K discovered the train set in his playroom. All was forgiven. ‘Choo choo!’
18.50   K happily played with the train set. B showed him how to work the farm silo; K pushed her away and shouted ‘leave it! Leave it alone!’
18.51   K went back to the trains. Every time a train derailed, he said ‘oh boy’. B and S remarked that they had never heard him say that before.
19.00   B started to get ready for K’s bath. K ran into S&B’s bedroom and jumped on the bed. He then proceeded to look out the window at the cars and trees, drink some milk, climb off the bed, climb back on the bed, and repeat – all the while, chattering about…well, we’re not entirely sure what. He started shushing again, and warning S and B about the ‘baby sleeping! Shhh!’ Hmmm. Where did he pick that up?
19.25   Bath time. K played with his toys, sang songs, and kept saying ‘baby sleeping!’
19.40   Bath time finished too soon for his liking. Minor meltdown when he was removed from the tub. Brushed his teeth and hair, but showed his annoyance.
19.45   New snowman pajamas softened the blow a bit
19.50   Pushing aside their better judgment, B and S offered K some more milk and 2 animal crackers to make up for the fact that he had not eaten dinner
20.00   Story time. K showed no signs of being tired, so B did not reinforce the 3 story limit. They read Owl Babies, It’s Time to Play (a most unhelpful bedtime story), Room on the Broom, and every word of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.
20.35   K relented and put on his sleepsack
20.40   After a brief cuddle, B placed K gently in his cot, rubbing his back
20.50   K popped back again and demanded another cuddle

21.00   After being rocked and reassured, K drifted off to sleep. Sweet dreams, big 2 year old!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Junior turns 2!

Sunday, 29 September 2013


On the 16th of September, nine years and three days after I first moved to London, we got the keys to our new house!


Buying a house in England has been a learning experience for me. (Actually, buying a house at all has been a new experience for me...) Offers are not legally binding until exchange of contracts, and in our case, that took six months. We were relatively certain throughout the process that the sellers would not back out, but it still took much longer than we had hoped it would. We hit a few bumps along the road - negotiations on repairs and price, delays while the tenants moved out - but we are very pleased with the result.

And in the same week, we got to see Junior 2!

Junior 2 scan (12 wk) 3

It feels different being pregnant the second time around. I have better knowledge of what to expect, which has been alternately helpful (I feel better prepared and relaxed) and scary (I know what I'm getting into this time!) It has been harder chasing after an energetic toddler while battling the ups and downs of the first trimester. But ultimately I am relieved that the pregnancy is going well so far and I'm looking forward to watching my growing bump.

The big question is: will be it Junior 2 or Juniorette? We'll find out in November...

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Junior's first haircut


We had hoped to wait until Junior turned two to get his hair cut, but at twenty months he was starting to look like a mad scientist. When he started pushing his hair out of his eyes the other day, I decided it was time to book at appointment. So we took him to Shiny Stars in Wimbledon this morning.


He chose the seat shaped like a Hummer (as opposed to the Mini Cooper, which was occupied, or the airplane) and held onto the gingerbread biscuit they gave him.



He was remarkably patient and cooperative, with only minor wiggling.


His only protest was due to the blow dryer.


But he seemed pleased with the product they put in at the end.





And he was very pleased with the plastic giraffe in the gift bag when we left.



His curls aren't gone completely, but he looks like a big boy now. I wonder if people will keep calling him a girl...

Monday, 5 August 2013

Compact living

As we prepare to move from a 2-bedroom maisonette to a 6-bedroom house (!), I'd like to go on the record as saying:

I really DO love this flat.

S bought this flat ten years ago, before we ever met, before we ever dreamed about getting married or having a kid. It was an awesome bachelor pad. It was great when we were dating. It was lovely when we were newlyweds.

It was only when we started preparing for Junior that certain ...inconveniences... became more apparent. S lost the sole use of his office when we put in Junior's cot and changing table. We both cleared out bookshelves, stuffing Things We Don't Use All the Time in the loft (and in the crawl space, and in the closets, and in the airing cupboard, and underneath the stairs...) We rearranged the living room several times to make it more Junior-proof. And on the whole, it's perfectly fine.

Having said that, however...

Let me show you a typical trip home from the grocery store. We don't have a car, so I use Junior's buggy to carry home heavy bags. We have a small kitchen and a v.e.r.y. small under-the-counter fridge/freezer, so I can't bring much home anyway. I don't bother with online grocery shopping because it's not worth it - we simply can't store enough food to justify the extravagance. It means I go to the local Sainsburys/M&S almost everyday, but on the other hand: most of our meat and veg is fresh, we don't tend to buy what we can't use, and it's only about a ten-minute walk from here. It virtually guarantees I have to leave the house everyday, and I get a bit of fresh air and exercise.


The hardest part, and this is the part that I won't miss at all, is getting everything back inside the flat.

Two shopping bags filled with heavy groceries, Junior's scooter, my water bottle, and Junior's milk bottle, at the bottom of the stairs

Add to that Junior's nappy bag, some shopping from M&S, a towel returned by a friend, and a sleeping toddler

Not pictured: two letters that came in the post, my cardigan, and Junior's sweatshirt

So, that took three trips up and down the stairs to carry the bags, post, and extra layers. Notice that we have self-enforced a rule not to wear our shoes inside the flat. Is it any wonder I wear sandals in summer and slip-ons in winter?

Then there was a fourth trip upstairs to bring Junior inside and place him gently in his cot.

Then I had to retrieve the buggy.


We chose a folding buggy because - well, we didn't really have an alternative. Before Junior was born, my dad rigged up a clever mountain bike hook with a luggage strap which serves to hold the buggy at the bottom of the stairs, and it has been a lifesaver. Still, it requires folding every time we come home, and unfolding every time we go out. I'm looking forward to the new house where we can just wheel the buggy - and Junior and all the bags - inside and leave it open under the stairs unless we choose to fold it. Choice! Freedom!

I'll say it again: I really DO love this flat. But I'm looking forward to having just a little bit more space...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

france en famille

What is more entertaining (and challenging) than visiting France with one toddler? Visiting France with two toddlers!

Junior, S, and I went to the Breton town of Perros-Guirec on the pink granite coast with my parents, my sister, her husband, and their son. We rented a lovely holiday home with a view of the ever-changing tide and settled in for a two-week stay.

The weather did its best to make us feel at home - we could have stayed in London if we had really wanted rainy, chilly 'summer' days - but we did have occasional sunshine, especially toward the end.


Unlike most of our travels abroad, our focus was less on sightseeing and more on spending time together as a family. So we read books, played with toys, chased balls in the garden, and played on iPads.


At first, sharing was not their strongpoint. There were battles over bath toys.


There were fights over territory.


Grandpa only had one lap.


So did Grandma.


Sometimes time spent alone was more fun.





But by the second week, they were used to each other, and even started enjoying themselves together.





We explored the local beaches.



We took advantage of every local playground.





We cooked some great meals, and ate out when we couldn't face another trip to the Super U.


We laughed, and talked, and walked.



We took a few day trips to neighbouring towns, but we discovered that much of Brittany observes an inconvenient siesta right in the middle of the afternoon, making it hard to coordinate schedules around lunch and naps. But we were well-situated for beaches, carousels, restaurants, and playgrounds between Perros-Guirec, Louannec, and Ploumanac'h, so we didn't need to venture far to keep ourselves busy and amused.

As with most toddler-related activities, some of the best moments weren't captured on camera. P kept a running commentary on everything we did, and Junior was just content to keep running all the time. Junior befriended every dog. P read every book, même les livres en français. They discovered that rolling a toy car along the top of the radiator makes a satisfying grating noise. They put olives on their fingertips before eating them.

Two weeks came and went too fast. We were lucky to have a few extra weeks with my parents in London, but seeing Junior and his cousin together was definitely the highlight.

À bientôt!


Monday, 20 May 2013

Junior's cup collection


When Junior was born, we started reading the long lists of must-haves for babies and parents. Some of them seemed essential - nappies, clothes, buggy - and others, not so much - Diaper Genie. We made it a goal not to buy more stuff than we needed, and to buy multifunctional things where possible (a cot that turns into a bed, for example).

To a large extent, we have succeeded, but S pointed out the other day that Junior's cup collection runneth over (if you'll excuse the pun). I thought I'd chronicle the evolution of his drinking equipment and skills before relegating some of the lesser-used vessels to storage.

1. Bottles
Philips Avent bottle and trainer

Before Junior was born, I intended to try breastfeeding, but I bought some bottles to have on hand in case we needed to give him formula. I managed to breastfeed exclusively for the first five weeks; then we began supplementing with formula. Junior did not have any trouble adjusting to his bottle. In fact, he started holding it around ten weeks, and by sixteen weeks he was drinking by himself - quite a popular (and envied!) party trick among the playgroup set. I gave him the trainer attachment around six months when I was ready to move him onto sippy cups. Oddly, he didn't take to it - but he was fine with a proper sippy cup.

2. Free flow sippy cups
Tommee Tippee First Cup and First Beaker

There is some debate over the types of sippy cup: free flow or spill-proof. The received wisdom says that spill-proof cups are bad for growing teeth, but I have yet to read or hear any compelling evidence for this - please feel free to set me straight in the comments. That said, Junior seems to prefer his free flow Tommee Tippee cup with handles for water, although he will accept the beaker if it is offered. He does not like drinking milk from these, however.

3. Spill-proof sippy cups
anywayupcup Cow and Bird cups

I found out about anywayupcups from @SonyaCisco's review here:
I was still trying to introduce milk in a sippy cup, and the cow cup seemed like a good bet. I ordered one cow cup and one bird cup. Sadly, Junior never managed to drink more than a few sips of milk from the cow cup, and the only disadvantage of the cup is that it is not see-through (I had become somewhat obsessed with knowing exactly how many ml's of liquid he was taking when we introduced formula). He also prefers water in the bird cup (which is see-through). For now, I leave the cow cup in his cot with some water so that he can take a drink overnight if he needs it. He does not use it often, but knows it is there.

4. Straw cup
Nuby insulated flip it

My nephew uses straw cups, so I thought this might be a good alternative for Junior. He loves to play with it, but has not yet managed to suck hard enough to get any liquid from it. I'm putting this one in storage and waiting until he's bigger to reintroduce it.

5. 360 cup
anywayupcup 360 Junior cup

When I ordered the cow and bird cups, there was a delay in production and the bird cup did not come immediately. After a few months, I wrote to the company and asked if I could have a 360 cup instead. Junior had shown interest in drinking directly from our glasses and tea mugs, so I thought he might be ready (if young) for one of these. Like the straw cup, he loves playing with this cup, but does not manage to drink much from it yet. I'll reintroduce it in a few months when he has more control.

A last word about anywayupcup: once the bird cups were back in production, they sent me not just one, but TWO bird cups! I had already received the 360 cup as a replacement, so I was not expecting anything further. I gave one to another mummy blogger whose daughter is starting to eat solids now. I hope she likes it. Two thumbs up for anywayupcup - great customer service! Thank you again...

6. Sigg water bottle
Sigg toddler cup

Our most recent discovery has been Junior's Sigg cup. When we were in Barcelona, he preferred drinking straight from our sports-cap Evian bottles, rather than using his sippy cups. Two friends recommended trying a Sigg bottle with a toddler top - it's perfect! He will drink a whole bottle of milk from it. In fact, at seventeen months we got him off the Avent bottles completely; he now drinks water from his sippy cups, and milk from the Sigg. He loves the design and turns it around to look at each animal. I also had it engraved with his name for no extra charge (see here: engraving)

In conclusion
I started giving Junior cups almost one year ago, and it is interesting to see which ones have worked and which have not. He seems to understand the mechanics of drinking with no coaching, but has more success with some shapes and nozzles than others. I did not expect the Sigg cup to be such an automatic winner, but he took to it with no hesitation. I will still try the straw cup and 360 cup when I think he's ready for the next level, but I'm happy with his Sigg/sippy combination for now.

And the best news: he has stopped breastfeeding on his own! At the start, I hoped to reach one year. The first few months were long and painful, but we hit our stride around seven months. At twelve months, I started pulling back but he still relied on it, especially overnight. I never imagined I'd still be breastfeeding at seventeen months - and apparently, neither did he. We had cut back to one feed in 24 hours, then it stretched to 48 hours, and then several days passed and he has not needed a feed. He seems perfectly fine and so am I.

About the brands
I do a lot of research before buying things for Junior, partly from other mums, partly online, partly in shops. I am happy with the brands I have chosen, but I'm sure Junior would have done just as well with different ones. None of the companies I have mentioned asked for a review, but I'm happy enough with their products to promote them. Feel free to use this post for reference - I know it's hard to find good information out there! - but trust your own instincts in the end. Like all mums, I'm hardly an expert...!