Little pumpkin

Warning: gratuitous cuteness ahead.

My plan was to dress Felix as a pumpkin, get him to hold a pumpkin, sit him down among the autumn leaves, and get Michael to take pictures of him. (These are the discretions we allow ourselves as parents.) But he was more interested in the leaves. And the leaves, I admit, were pretty great.

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More thoughts on Halloween

I was thinking on the weekend that Halloween is great because it’s so different from Christmas and Easter. It’s not about the nuclear family. It’s wild and irreverent. In the middle of winter it feels right to come together quietly and light candles and dream about the return of the light, but this is such a fitting way to mark this particular change in season – a crazy party before it all falls down. A much more urgent affair when you know the winter will be long and harsh. This is something I could barely imagine when I lived in Australia, when autumn always came as such a relief.

Over here is an interview with the wonderful Jeffrey Jerome Cohen about Halloween and monsters. He says:

I really enjoy Halloween, and I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s not as if I dress up as a monster—actually I don’t, I almost never do. But there’s something about Halloween that’s just celebratory and fun.

The only thing that I’ll say has changed about Halloween for me, as I’ve gotten a little bit older, is it does strike me that—despite all of the fun that happens—Halloween is really also a brooding on our own mortality and that it’s got a deeply sad component to it.

Part of it is trying to overcome a fear of death by having celebration in the face of death. But it’s also an acknowledgement that death is a part of our lives and we don’t get this on any other day. Our contemporary lives are so lived in denial of our own mortality that it’s the one day that it’s actually out there.

Which is true. But for us, this year, it was just a great excuse to dress Felix up as a pumpkin.

Happy Halloween!

So far we’ve been loving the build-up to Halloween. We went for a walk this morning around one of the older neighbourhoods here in Idaho Falls so Michael could take some pictures of the decorations.

It is really quite lovely having such a popular celebration of Autumn – it feels like a good thing to do (and it postpones the encroachment of Christmas paraphernalia!). Halloween doesn’t really work in Australia because it is utterly the wrong season.

I don’t get into the really scary stuff, but it is nice to have markers of harvest and the encroaching shadows. The bakery has been flogging its choc-chip pumpkin bread lately, and I must admit I have become a bit of an addict.

Everyone is going completely nuts for candy. In the Walmart there’s a huge aisle devoted to combo pack bags of sweets and chocolate bars, just for Halloween. Michael was there the other night and he says there’s a worker employed full time just to re-stack it, as customers crowd around it like honey bees.

Last night I took Felix to ‘Boo at the Zoo’. The Zoo has special late night opening hours for three nights, and is completely decked out in Halloween decorations. Local businesses are running little stalls handing out candy for trick or treating, and the zoo is utterly over-run with mini pirates and lions and spider-men and witches and ghosts and princesses and strawberries pointing at the animals and lining up for candy.

I’m not sure what the zoo’s regular inhabitants made of it all. Taking Felix in the stroller was the wrong move, as there were so many people we could barely get through the crowds. The turtle’s enclosure was taken over by pumpkins, and the penguin cove was decked out with a pirate theme.

Boo!

The kiss

Felix’s cheeks are so soft that it is impossible not to try to kiss them several times each day. When he was small, you had to be very quick, but now he seems to quite like it and will snuggle back. And he’s just started planting some kisses of his own.

More Autumn

It’s hard not to feel a little melancholy in Autumn. Not that you’d know it from these photos, that Michael took last weekend in Salt Lake City. That day was just beautiful – perfectly mild and almost still, with a hint of cool when a breeze brushed your cheek, and a gentle warmth on your skin from the sun. (Sorry about all those adjectives.)

This week in Idaho Falls it has been much much colder – there has been frost most mornings – but it has been blue and bright every day, and the air is utterly clear. It’s very dry. Everything is charged with static. At night when I snuggle into bed my duvet lights up with dozens of sparks, like a mini lightening storm.

A couple of days ago the tree outside our apartment had the perfect ratio of yellow leaves on its branches and heaped in a bright ring at its feet. I recalled the many summer evenings I’d sat out there with Felix. One day, walking back from the park, I passed two girls raking leaves in their front yard. ‘We’re making a leaf pile’, the smaller one told me. ‘And then we’re going to jump in it!’

Sleep – another perspective

“awake training” for mummies

I’m not sure who wrote this but I came across it on a parenting forum, and it’s just too funny. (So, um, if you wrote it and you want to be credited, or you don’t want me to repeat it here – let me know! Also – I love you.)

Dear Fellow Babies,

OK, here’s my situation. My Mummy has had me for almost 5 months. The first few months were great – I cried, she picked me up and fed me, anytime, around the clock. Then something happened. Over the last few weeks, she has been trying to STTN (sleep thru the night). At first, I thought it was just a phase, but it is only getting worse.

I’ve talked to other babies, and it seems like its pretty common after Mummies have had us for around 5-6 months. Here’s the thing: these Mummies don’t really need to sleep. It’s just a habit. Many of them have had some 30 years to sleep – they just don’t need it anymore. So I am implementing a plan. I call it the Crybaby Shuffle.

It goes like this:

Night 1 – cry every 3 hours until you get fed. I know, it’s hard. It’s hard to see your Mummy upset over your crying. Just keep reminding yourself, it’s for her own good.

Night 2 – cry every 2 hours until you get fed.

Night 3 – every hour.

Most Mummies will start to respond more quickly after about 3 nights. Some Mummies are more alert, and may resist the change longer. These Mummies may stand in your doorway for hours, shhhh-ing. Don’t give in. I cannot stress this enough: CONSISTENCY IS KEY!! If you let her STTN (sleep through the night), just once, she will expect it every night. I know it’s hard! But she really does not need the sleep; she is just resisting the change.. If you have an especially alert Mummy, you can stop crying for about 10 minutes, just long enough for her to go back to bed and start to fall asleep. Then cry again. It WILL eventually work. My Mummy once stayed awake for 10 hours straight, so I know she can do it.

The other night, I cried every hour. You just have to decide to stick to it and just go for it. BE CONSISTENT! I cried for any reason I could come up with:

-My sleep sack tickled my foot.
-I felt a wrinkle under the sheet.
-My mobile made a shadow on the wall.
-I burped, and it tasted like rice cereal. I hadn’t eaten rice cereal since breakfast, what’s up with that?
-The dog said “ruff”. I should know. My Mummy reminds me of this about 20 times a day. LOL.
-Once I cried just because I liked how it sounded when it echoed on the monitor in the other room.
-Too hot, too cold, just right – doesn’t matter! Keep crying!!
-I had drooled so much my sheets were damp and I didn’t like it touching me.
-I decided I was sick of all the pink in my room so I cried.

It took awhile, but it worked. She fed me at 4am. Tomorrow night, my goal is 3:30am. You need to slowly shorten the interval between feedings in order to reset your Mommies’ internal clocks.

Sometimes my Mummy will call for reinforcements by sending in Daddy. Don’t worry Daddies are not set up for not needing sleep the way Mummies are. They can only handle a few pats and shhing before they declare defeat and send in the Mummy.

Also, be wary of the sleep sheep with rain noises. I like to give Mummy false hope that listening to the rain puts me to sleep sometimes I pretend to close my eyes and be asleep and then wait until I know Mummy is settling back to sleep to spring a surprise cry attack. If she doesn’t get to me fast enough I follow up with my fake cough and gag noise that always has her running to the crib. At some point I am positive she will start to realize that she really doesn’t really need sleep.

P.S. Don’t let those rubber things fool you, no matter how long you suck on them, no milk will come out.

Trust me.

Sincerely
Bub

Eight months

Last week you turned eight months. You are getting chubbier by the day and you are still as sweet as ever. Sometimes you play with concentration so intense you don’t look up when we speak to you. (Most of the time you’re pretty interested in social interaction though.) I had you weighed last week and you are now 9.6 kilos and 76 cm – so you’ve put on five kilos and grown twenty centimetres since you were born! I had to buy you 18 month pajamas.

You are growing so fast that it’s hard keeping up with you – I think you’re ready for a bit of a shift in your routines, which I’m trialling today – three breastfeeds instead of four and an earlier morning nap. People had told me this is how it is – you think you’ve worked it all out, and suddenly it changes.

This month you grew two teeth and learnt how to babble. It’s so funny hearing your enthusiastic sentences: ‘dadadada, blablablabla, babababa’. You also like to mouth them silently, especially when you are concentrating. You look like a little fish.

You still blow plenty of raspberries. You are getting much more dextrous and can now pick up things which used to cause you difficulties with ease. You can pick up a mini pumpkin in one hand. Yesterday in the bath you were so pleased with yourself. You grasped your little sheep bath toy, and used it to whack all the shampoo bottles sitting on the rim of the bath onto the floor. You then tried to peer over the edge to see where they’d gone!

You still charm the world every time I take you out the door. I have such fun getting you dressed for the day – you have a red outfit, green tops and jeans, and a very sweet pale blue and white combo. I used to avoid blue and white, searching for neutral colours, but a couple of purchases from your father have revealed just how sweet you look in those colours. Baby blue really is a sweet sweet colour and you totally rock it.

A couple of days ago when your father came in to say goodmorning you discovered his ear, and, even more excitingly, that your finger could fit inside it. You spent the next ten minutes quite roughly clutching at his hair to turn his head around so that you could get to it again. You’re pretty keen on our mouths and noses too.

You love the yellow blanket from Jo and you always point to the lion.

You love your new book with photos of kittens.

You certainly know what you want and are good at communicating it to us. On the weekend you were happily munching away on some pieces of vegetarian lasagna, having poo-pooed the puree I had first offered you. When you were finished with that I offered you a rice cracker which you didn’t even deign to look at. But Michael noticed you staring pointedly at the jar of baby food, as if you were saying ‘aren’t I getting any of that, too?’

Yesterday I took you for a swing on my lap in the park. A little four year old boy was swinging next to us, pushed by his grandfather. You were having such a grand time smiling at them and swinging back and forth. When I jumped off the swing you were inconsolable, so we got back on.

This evening you happily rolled around on the floor for ages, finally mastering the art of rolling from your tummy to your back on purpose, glancing up at us the whole time. Watching you explore the world is such a joy, little man.

Sleep

Sleep is on my mind. I am not nearly as tired as I was a couple of weeks ago, though I’m not getting any more sleep. But I feel so refreshed after my Seattle trip that I feel ready to help Felix learn to get to sleep without always needing to nurse. I am hoping this will lead to longer stretches of sleep during the night. I guess I can expect any changes I make to take a few weeks to have any effect, so I want to keep this up for a while.

Warning – this is going to be long and boring – of interest to me but probably nobody else!

When Felix was small he slept great. From less than a week old he understood that night time was for sleeping, so though he woke several times a night as a newborn he always went back to sleep. He only had one incident of crying in the middle of the night, not counting the night we brought him home. From about six weeks he was doing 6-8 hour stretches from 11pm, which was pretty heavenly. And then around three months, he got his vaccinations, we had a stressful trip up to Oslo to get our visas, and a week later we left for the US. His nighttime sleep has pretty much been downhill from there.

For a while he was just waking a couple of times a night, which didn’t bother me, but it got steadily worse and around five months he was waking every two hours, sometimes more. I decided to try to do something about it and got hold of some books – but then my parents came to visit, and I didn’t feel like I could implement any big changes around that time. Strangely enough, towards the end of our holiday with them he started to improve a little again on his own. So I didn’t make any changes after all. Then a few weeks ago the very frequent wakings came back in earnest. I think they were partly related to teething – the week his teeth came through he also would inexplicably stay (noisily) awake for an hour and a half in the early hours of the morning. Thankfully he’s stopped doing that.

One night in Seattle the poor mite felt a bit queasy because I’d given him some baby food I’d been carrying around all day. I felt terrible and it will never happen again! Luckily he got over it fairly quickly. But he refused to nurse, so I had to calm him down and settle him in other ways. And he managed it. So I know he can.

So in the hotel in Salt Lake City on the way home, I decided to try to settle him to sleep without nursing as much as possible. So I gave him a cuddle and a pat and he cried a little but fell asleep in six minutes flat. He woke up forty minutes later, distraught, and I gave him another cuddle and sang him a song. When we lay down together again he looked at me with such pleading, trusting eyes, and I felt terrible, but just gave him another pat and he went to sleep without complaining. I fed him when he woke at 11, and then again when he woke at 3, as Michael was in the room and had just arrived back from Norway and needed his sleep.

We’ve had two nights at home so far, and I’ve managed to settle him without nursing the first time each night, and two subsequent wakings, but when he wakes after 10 he demands a feed. Last night he woke again at 2.30 and I was just to tired to consider doing anything other than a quick feed and back to sleep. (He’d been in his crib for the early part of the night, but I’d left him in with me after feeding him at 10.30, because he seemed quite unsettled and he had got used to sleeping with me in Seattle. Besides, sleeping with him is quite nice now – he’s not so tiny that I’m terrified of squashing him all the time.) He woke again at 4.30 and 6.30. I think if he had been in his crib, though, I would have had a go at settling him without feeding, so I’ll work towards that. My goal at the moment is to feed around 11 and 4, but not at 1 or 2 or 3!

I’ve also been trying to settle him without feeds for his day naps, with some success. Today I tried it but it didn’t work, so I got him up for twenty minutes then tried again, and managed to settle him directly in his crib in less than ten minutes. He’s been asleep for an hour now. (Lately he’s been having one long nap of around an hour and a half, and one short one of half an hour.) I think a good tool is to give myself a time limit. The first night back home I tried for an hour and a half between 11.30 and 1 before I gave in and fed him, and that wasn’t fun. Twenty minutes is doable, however.

I just needed to write it all out because I’m quite preoccupied with it right now! It doesn’t seem to be extending his sleep times yet, quite the opposite – he doesn’t usually need resettling so many times before 11pm – actually he’s often quite good at sleeping from 7-11. But I want to keep trying. He’s going to need to fall asleep without me in the barnehage next year, and it would be nice if in Australia I don’t have to personally settle him for every nap – we could be more flexible then. And it feels ok to do it just now. I’m not doing it out of desperation – I actually feel quite ok at the moment – so I have reserves of patience and love to draw on. I think he can do it and I want to help him to do it in the gentlest way possible. I feel calm about it now. I don’t know if he would have been ready for this before now, but I know I wasn’t. (At the moment I really can’t come at controlled crying – the thought of it just breaks my heart, but I know it works for some people.) So we’ll see how we go. I also wanted to write this out so in a few weeks I can look back on it and see if we’ve got anywhere!

Seattle

I just got back from the most beautiful week in Seattle. It was just Felix and me – Michael had to go to Norway for the week so I thought we’d have an adventure rather than sit around in Idaho Falls on our own. And what an adventure it was.

We stayed with my blogfriend Rain from Rainblissed. She and her family made us so welcome that didn’t feel strange at all to turn up at the doorstep of people we’d never met in the flesh before! I felt very proud of Felix and myself for navigating the airports on our own.

We caught the ferry over to Bainbridge Island with Rain and her son Arthur, and stumbled upon a very picturesque pumpkin patch. We frequented some seriously good coffee shops and bookshops, and some fun neighbourhoods and parks. We saw dinosaurs in the Burke Museum next to the University – I liked the tricerotops head but Felix was more interested in the wooden benches in the foyer.

Felix and I caught the bus downtown a couple of days and had a great time at the Pikeplace markets, the crumpet shop and the spiffy new library (Felix appreciated the kids play area, I appreciated the hot chocolate).

I also tried a total of five delicious chocolate cakes. On our last night Rain took us to the delightful Cafe Flora, where I had possibly the most delicious vegetarian meal I had ever eaten – the spectacular Portabello Wellington.

I loved Seattle. All the water gives it space to breathe and it was just so wonderful being in a big city again.

More than anything, though, it was just so special to spend that time with Rain and her family. After being a little overwhelmed to start with Felix had a ball of a time – he loved Arthur’s antics and Gaius’s friendly smiles, and after a couple of days was even happy for Rain to hold him (he’s much pickier about that than he used to be!). He was beside himself with excitement every time he glimpsed their sweet black cat and even managed to pat her once. All the new-to-him toys went down pretty well too. I really hope they visit us in Norway one day. We returned home refreshed and nourished – and not just from all the chocolate cake.

So far in Seattle

Felix’s first ride on a ferry, his first ride on a bus, his first ride in a horse-drawn carriage, his first pumpkin patch (and mine, for that matter), and his first time ever falling asleep in his sling. He was zonked. We’re having an awesome time. I’ve got some great photos but might have to wait before I get back before I post them.