Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Two years on....

My baby is grown.  He is a little boy.  Running,  chatting,  sprouting an ever bigger personality.  It’s a wonderful time, but my mind has not caught up.  I still see him as my little cuddly bundle.  It's only when I see 6 month-olds that I realise how far away we are from baby-hood.  He can still be my sweet baby, crawling up into my lap for snuggles from mom at those times when he needs a little recharge.  The he's up and off, going about his grown up business.

As I look back, I've learned a lot.  Also, I can't think of what life is about, if not this little family that we have.  What did I ever do before?  I wonder even, what was important to me before? It's like looking back into another existence, another lifetime.  I've learned about children, obviously, but I've learned more about people, life, relationships and myself.  

Seeing this tender life come up, I'm constantly reminded that the most important thing - the only important thing! -  in life is love.  How much time I wasted worrying about the pregnancy, how to feed him, what stuff we would provide him.  Now that I have had a chance to get to know him, to see what a child really needs, I worry less about the periphery stuff.  I want to give him whatever he wants, if I can.  But I know the most valuable thing I can give is love.  Whatever life has dealt us and whatever it will bring, love is what he will measure his life by.

And two years on, Noah is still in my heart.  I feel like I want to share that I still cry, almost daily.  Sometimes just a silent tear or two whenever his memory feels near to me.  I don't fight it.  I see it as part of my special role as his mother.  I will cry for him forever, missing him with every fibre of my body, like a pain.  I possibly miss him more as I see Ethan's personality grow.  I wonder.   I 'what if'.  I get angry.  I cry for his pain.   But that's the role I accept out of the love I have for him. 

Yesterday, after some celebrations, presents and cake, Thom and I found a quiet moment to light a candle and think about that day two years ago.  Two years ago, when we met our two little boys.  We just sat in the silence, watching the candle flame flicker, holding hands and letting the joy and sadness sweep through us for a while.  Wishing it could have been different and yet thankful.  Complete in happiness and broken in painful grief.  Two years on, and it amazes me how there can be two such different feelings at the same time; how I can hold such sadness and such joy. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Addicted to the sweet stuff

Number one guaranteed way to turn my little sweetness into a sour pickle? Introduce sugar.  What an evil substance!  I'm impressed by just how addictive it is seeing how Ethan handles it.  His relationship with food so far has been pretty healthy.  

Now we are staying at my parent's for Christmas.  Nothing makes Christmas like candy and cookies, right?  Although he's had cookies before, he's getting near to two and seemingly decided that he's big enough to call the shots now.  This coupled with a different environment and lots of people coo-ing around him, and we have created a sugar monster! 

He's waking in the morning, still rubbing his little sleepy eyes, asking for cookies.  Uh-oh, I was worried.  Is this the downhill journey to childhood obesity?  A couple weeks of being just a little more relaxed and liberal with the sweet stuff has him hooked!  And not just hooked, but angry, too, like a mini gorilla cut off from the banana supply.  Thankfully, I had the opportunity to chat with other Moms who've been down this road before.  One told me how after a stay at the grandparent's, her little girl came home demanding frosting on her English muffin in the morning.  But these habits can be broken, she assured me.

Besides, I can hardly be too rough on him.  We are all eating more sugar as we lead up to Christmas.  And the effect is undeniable.  A slip up one day leads to cravings for even more the next day.  The more we have it, the more we want it.  It's a horrible cycle, especially as I sit here now aware that my jeans are just a teeny bit tighter.   There's just no one to tell me off anymore.  I'd probably throw a fit if they did, too!

It's a time for loosening up a bit, and that's ok.  He still monstered through spinach and egg today and had chicken and rice for dinner.  All is not lost and it's yet another chance to learn from experience.  I guess we all get a little cross and upset when our sugar cravings are blocked.  But we can learn to choose well, somehow.   We will all survive.  

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Just about the cutest thing Ethan learned to say over the last few weeks: Hug.  We borrowed a book from the library about a little panda looking for the perfect hug.  Like a lot of the things Ethan soaks in, he didn't seem all that into the hug book at first.  But one morning about a week later, he wandered after me into the kitchen.  Sleepy eyed and still in pj's.  He held up his arms and said, 'Hug.'

Not only is it heartbreakingly cute, but it was also a welcome replacement to the frustrated whinge he had been using to get picked up.  As he's got bigger, he wraps his little arms around, no longer a passive recipient, but an active component of the hug.

But as with all things in Ethan-world, leave it a week and he'll have evolved, learned, progressed.  He soon dialled that 'hug' got him off the floor and closer to the things he finds interesting in a much more predictable way than his wordless whine.  Light switches, computers, shiny knives, hot pans on the stove could all be within reach with a simple 'hug'. 

So we had to be a bit heartless sometimes.  When I'm cooking and Ethan comes along , arms up, chanting 'hug, hug!' I have to say, 'In a minute...'  He doesn't like that and resorts to the wordless whine.  It feels mean, but hug requests while I'm cooking have almost invariably led to him using me as a scaffold to reach out and see how hot the stuff in the frying pan is.  I'm left thinking, Hey, where's that hug?!

So he's employed another word for use when the hug isn't getting him closer to the action - Walk.  Which means 'let me down so I can go to where you won't let me'.  The other day in the grocery store, he wanted to touch everything, throw eggs on the ground and dig into old ladies' handbags.  Proper naughty.  He wanted to grab at something high up and demanded, 'Hug!'  I picked him up, pushing the trolley along with my free hand.  He was not pleased that this 'hug' wasn't actually getting him any closer to the object of his desire.  

'Walk! Walk!' He cried.  I carried on, the shop was almost done and this little man was about to turn monster.  He got more and more upset, struggling against me to get away, until in sheer desperation he turned towards total strangers to help him get to what he wanted.  'Hug!' he yelled at an old woman walking past us in the aisle.  I giggled nervously, hopping the woman wouldn't think he's being kidnapped.  Clever little guy, it was almost enough to get me to give in and let him run riot amongst the old ladies and canned goods.  I can tell I'm going to have keep on my toes with this hug monster!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Wriggly-man's adventures in Cake

My little wriggly-man loves a bit of cake.  I baked him a carrot cake for his first birthday.  He was unsure how to tackle it, even though the sweet taste had him interested.   Now, almost a year on, 'cake' is a favourite word and a catalyst for either happy giggles or violent tantrums.  Emotions run high in terms of cake.  

This morning, he woke early, settling into a snuggle with me and a drink of milk as he woke up.  Suddenly rejuvenated, he sprung up and clomped off towards the kitchen.  He cast a look back at me over his shoulder and said, 'Cake.'  He nodded his head in agreement with his own brilliant suggestion.  Unfortunately, there was no cake to be had and I decided that the day might be off to a better start with some eggs.  He didn't agree and cried, but we compromised with a hug.

He loves cake so much that it turns him from a lovely sweet boy into a monster.  When he goes to nursery, we are always told how good he is, except when cake is at stake.  We were informed that he threw a massive, inconsolable fit the other day when he spotted a trolley with cake but had to finish lunch first.  I would have hidden it from sight, and have even taken to spelling out the letters of the word rather than saying it and risk a tantrum.   I guess learning to see cake and hear about cake without eating cake is a valuable life lesson.  

So I am attempting to balance the tendencies of my mini cake fiend with some good nutrition and restraint.  But I do love his little glee-ful face when he's munching into a piece of cake.  Crumbs tumbling down his drool-drenched chin, exclaiming, 'Nice!' as he crams it in.  So I've come in from work and knocked up a carrot cake at quarter to ten tonight.   I guess its because I love him as much as he loves cake.  Probably more.  

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bend, don't break: essential flexibility for mamas

'Nothing in the world
Is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.'

-Tao Te Ching (translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I read this an eternity ago in Philosophy 101, first year at university.  I didn't really get it.  Now, it seems every aspect of my life attests to this truth - motherhood included.  

Whether I am trying to balance work and quality Ethan-time.  Or balance being a mother and being myself.  Or getting fitter and stronger versus resting.  I find that the more flexible I can become, the better it all is.  When I get demanding of myself and my circumstances - what I think I 'should' be - I break.  When I can be flexible, rolling with the punches and staying supple, good things come more easily.

Week on week, I ask myself  'Am I getting enough time with Ethan?'  and 'Am I working enough?'. Often the answer to both is 'no', so I have to find ways around.  Ways to meet the demands of the day without being so self-critical or disappointed that there is just really not enough time to everything I need or want to do.

Same principle goes for my body and fitness.  If I constantly drive myself and don't balance with rest and mobility, I will eventually break.  Strength only takes you so far without flexibility.

I am learning to constantly re-adjust, allowing myself to return to the drawing board as much as needed to find the right balance.  Like water, I have to flow with the terrain rather than butt heads with it.  

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Fresh eyes

Since Ethan started picking up words, we are busy figuring out if he is asking for that something or just chatting about it.  At first, we were too quick to assume that he was just babbling away, but we've realised that often he's seen something we haven't.  A few weeks ago at tesco, I was loading him into a trolley.  He's chatting away, 'Bird. Bird. Bird.'  I shot a glance around the parking lot, looking for a pigeon or magpie loitering.  But he's pointing upwards.  Does he see one in the trees?  But then I see, in the direction of his tiny pointed finger, a small picture of a pigeon on the trolley shed.  Eagle eyes.  

And so, we've started to question him less and less when he gets out the pointy finger and starts declaring 'Puppy!' 'Star!' 'Bubble!' Or whatever catches his eye.  He notices the smallest details on shirts and pictures.  Things that we've never noticed before or would have missed.  

It's very sweet, his fascination with the things he's learning about.  For instance, this evening, I rushed in after a late running train delayed me, for a quick baby handover as Thom shot off to the tattoo studio.  Ethan was showing me his keys, when he stopped cold and stared at my ears.  He spotted some earrings he'd not seen before.  He gently reached out and touched them, saying, 'Oh, wow!' And then carried on playing. 

It's a great thing to see.  Humbling as we realise how profound an effect the small things have on his world.  And also to see how much we miss in the things around us.  Our perspective is limited.  Age and experience teach us that we can ignore much of what goes on around us and we miss lots of wonderful stuff.  The kinds of stuff that has Ethan exclaiming, 'oh wow!'.

I want to be able to reclaim a bit of that fresh perceptive.  Where everyday things like keys and wooden spoons are appreciated as the musical instruments they can be.  Where nothing is quite so wonderful as a juicy blueberry, a singing bird or a vacant slide at the park.  

I also think about how dismissive people can be of the child's perspective, confusing a lack of knowledge with stupidity.  As though a child's perspective doesn't count because they don't get it.  I'm becoming convinced that sometimes children get it, and we hardened, blinkered adults are the ones missing the point.  Ethan doesn't know about the practicalities of life, like rent and pensions and petrol prices.  But he does understand the important stuff, like hugs and imagination and beauty in little things.  I want a bit more of that myself.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Brainy Baby

So you've endured 9 months of pregnancy, trying to do it all perfectly for baby to be born healthy.  But once that is done and history, the next big concern is are they smart enough.  As Ethan gets older, we become convinced that he's way smarter than any child should be at his age.  We are blatantly dealing with a child genius here.

But not every child can grow up to be smart, right?  Or else where do all the un-genius, normal adults come from.  It's just that when you've spent the last 18 months watching a helpless cuddle ball of baby turn into someone who knows his Gruffalo from his Elmo, you can't help but think, 'Amazing!'

My parents also thought they were dealing with a genius child.  But then I went to school and they were shocked to discover that I could't read or spell to save my life.  Unless the task required to save my life was spelling everything completely mirror-image backwards.  In any case, I was in a lower reading stream and they couldn't understand why.  

I didn't know of their surprise at my below averageness until much later in life.  A bit of family folklore about how amazed they were that their first child was not a genius.  To me, I was happy to be at school, didn't know or care about reading streams and had lots of fun feeling smart.  

Although, to this day, my reading and spelling stink.  I've found ways around it to do what I like with words.  Just today, glancing past Thom's Derwent drawing pencils, I always see 'DrewEnt' which makes it all the more difficult, as all I can think is 'Drew It'.  As I write, I have to check the spelling from the box, so uncertain I can spell it.  My brain works in funny ways, but I thank the 'baby genius complex' my parents suffered from for my current talents and confidence.  

Ill placed as is might have been, having them think me smart allowed me to try things out, and not feel held back by whatever inabilities school might have shown up.  And to say, actually what school says may not be all that important.  And so with Ethan, I think, I will stay entrenched in the firm belief that he is actually my amazing baby genius.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Word up, Dude: The little man speaks

Watching Scooby Do with a teething little man yesterday morning.  Just up from his nap, he was grumpy and leaning into me, with one wary eye at the TV screen.  Scooby Do scrambles into frame and Ethan exclaims, 'Oh dude!'.
tubby time is a favourite time for the word 'duck'

And so recent news from the mamatastic world is words.  We realise now how much Thom uses 'oh dude' and exclamation for exciting events.  Could be worse, and I suppose we have taken it as a warning to initiate language clean up procedures.  

Some days he seems to pick up and throw back every one syllable word he hears.  Shoe, duck, this, rock, bear.  He also seems to store some away, like a secretive sponge, to use later.  

And then there are all the actions he copies.  When I'm in the kitchen, he likes to get into the cupboards with the pots and pans.  He pretends to stir and taste, just like a proper chef.
copying mama's antics at CrossFit

The other day, he seemed really hungry.  He had double lunch portions at nursery and later ate all his dinner and some of mine.  After story time, I asked him if he wanted a biscuit.  He peeked up and said, 'Cake!' (We had been given some lovely cake the week before and he set about the house in a knee-shuffle, cake in hand, chanting 'cake, cake, cake, cake', leaving a trail of crumbs behind).  

I said, 'How about biscuit?'

'Bis-cake!' he said, beaming with anticipation.  And then, something happened that I am going to claim as a first sentence.

'Peas, bis-cake!' he pleaded, making the baby-sign for 'please'.  How could I resist?  He was given a whole shortbread, when normally I would give half, just because it was good moment.  By the time we reached cupboard where the biscuits are kept, he was using two hands to ask for the biscuit.
'Mmmm, cake!'

Dad was also excited to hear about the bis-cake.  The next day I was in London seeing clients all day, leaving Dad to see just what a big talker his little man had become.  I noticed that all but one bis-cake was gone when I returned.  

Friday, 17 May 2013

With hope, odds don't matter - one mum's amazing story of overcoming against all odds

Some time ago, I posted Heather Von St James' story of surviving mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer related to asbestos exposure.  Heather was a new mum, with a newborn, and had to battle this disease along with all the pressures that a new mum also has to tackle.  She was given a grim diagnosis and there was little expectation that she would be able to live long enough to be a mother to your new baby.  

But Heather did what strong women do.  She took on the impossible challenge ahead of her and found strength inside that exceeded everyone's expectations.  We all could use inspiration to find our own inner strength, so have a look at this brief video about Heather's journey.       

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Better than average baby days

I'm in a happy place. For months it seems I've had cold hands and feet. Now suddenly, the sun is shinning and the world is waking up. I love the warmer weather and the older I get the more I consider seriously the notion of moving somewhere the weather is more like this all the time.

As I write, I am in the well placed corner of the decking, where the sun's heat seems to collect. iPad in hand and baby monitor clipped to my bikini. Clothes at the ready because with just a step out of my personal corner of paradise I'm met with a breeze that feels like the last bits of winter are still clearing away. Plus, when Ethan peeps awake it'll be a quick transition from carefree sun goddess to mum-of-the-sandpit.

The sandpit resides in my paradise corner, warm and sheltered for when Ethan indulges in his new favourite thing, SAND! When Thom and I first moved into the house, we wondered how we could get rid of it. The plastic box didn't match our backyard vibe. Kinda clashed with the garden candles and fairy lights against the long, bbq scented evenings with cold glasses of Chardonnay. Now, not only does it completely coordinate with our current decorating scheme of primary colours and plastic, but also our previous laziness has become Ethan's greatest source of fun.

It has been a happy time watching him fall in love with the outdoors as the weather warms. Suddenly, it seems for him, there is bigger world beyond the doors of the house and he's eager to get into it.

He approached the sand pit with his characteristic cautiousness, gently feeling the sand between his fingers and looking over the shoulder all the while to check with us. His boldness grew to climbing in, filling containers, emptying as much sand out as he could, rubbing a little on his cheeks and especially covering mum in piles and piles of sand.

We make an afternoon of it when the weather permits, like today, bringing out with us snacks and drinks, sunscreen and blankets. He crams slightly sandy tomatoes and strawberries in his mouth, while I fight a losing battle of trying to keep the sand out of his eye, ears and nose. He cries when we take him inside for dinner and often looks out the window, pointing and speaking to us with words we don't yet understand. So I park his highchair by the open kitchen door so he can hear the birds and watch the flowers while he eats his dinner. And with that he is content. Sunshine just makes for better than average days all 'round.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Reflections on Sweat and Sequins: The Miami Pro

It seems like a long time ago now that my friend, Aga, and I first spoke about doing a body building bikini competition.  For such a long time, it was something in the future.  Now that it's over the feeling is surreal.

I think we both needed a goal.  For our own reasons, something to work towards and challenge us.  I was still trying to shift baby weight and had just been introduced to what would become a consuming passion, CrossFit.  It seemed like something to keep me training, eating right and on track.  And it was a strange kind of challenge.  A kind of slow, daily grind of a challenge to persist in the workouts, the dietary commitments and stay focused on this date in the future when it would hopefully all come together in a brief stroll across a stage.

Sunday was the day.  The evening before, Aga and I met up at hotel near the arena, went to be covered in very brown tan and tried to keep each other calm.  By 11 am the next day, we were make-up-ed, hair-sprayed and waiting to be registered.  There were over 200 other toned and tanned people there.  After we were given our numbers, all 200 of us clambered for some space backstage to prepare and settle in for the inevitable hours of waiting.  

Backstage was a strange world.  Amongst the splashes of fake tan still  being applied, competitors did press ups, practised poses and texted their friends in the audience.  Aga and I tried to relax, but I think was probably just gawking at all the muscles, glitter and chaos.  Groups of women passed around bottles of Jack Daniels and wine.  Other guys and girls acted like they were on something different - chattering away like spacey energizer bunnies and not making much sense.  Some very large moody muscle men glowered in the corner, spreading their giant quads across the tiny sofas, leaving no room for anyone else to perch.  People planned their McDonalds orders for the way home or pre-ordered pizzas to be delivered when the show ended.  Though it sounds naive of us, this was not the fitness wonderland Aga and I had imagined.

But, none the less, we were there.  We got our abs and we were feeling fitter than we ever have before.  That was all we wanted, I suppose.  The pageantry of the day was just like a giant tribute to our hard work.  

Then somehow, there I was at the edge of the stage, in a bikini that barely had me covered, waiting to walk out and face the crowd.  I was a bag of nerves and it showed.  But I did it.  Aga did, too.  Neither of us have any shiny trophies to show for it, but it certainly is an experience I am glad to have had.

The next day, and now, there's an emptiness without the goal that loomed over me for so long.  In some ways, I find myself being surprised that I am the same.  Getting the bikini competition hasn't changed my life. I am still the same person, with the same problems and the same insecurities as before.  Monday morning, I woke up to the 6am baby-alarm-clock and got on with the day.  What it has given me is proof that I can do what I put my mind to; I can overcome the things that will inevitably get in the way and, damn it, I can do it.  The question is, what next?

Friday, 15 March 2013

Family fun and paleo shakes

A fab little suggestion for healthy, family fun this weekend from Kendra Thornton, worldwide traveller, writer and mom:

Shamrock Shake – A Fabulous Treat to Share with your Family this St. Patrick’s Day!

There's nothing like a vacation to relax the mind while you recharge the senses.  I stayed at the magnificent Fontainebleau on Collins Avenue, amongst some of the top hotels in Miami, and relished my ocean front view. Sunbathing, shopping and of course, eating and drinking beautiful things was renewing me.  

I love trying new flavors when I travel, and the tropical trips always reveal astonishing surprises.  One of my favorite things that I tasted was a pale green shake advertised as healthy.  It was creamy, light, rich and refreshing all at once – reminiscent of the ice cream based Shamrock Shakes we all know, but much more depth of flavor.  I had to discover the recipe so that I could bring it back home to share with my friends and family in Chicago.

Miami bodies are famously fit.  So how could the locals be drinking shakes and still get into their tiny swimsuits?  I was impressed to discover the shake was a “Paleo” recipe, with no dairy, and only the very best super-foods the earth has to offer.  The recipe for this shake is filled with healthy rich flavors and can be easily adapted to any palate or preference.

For your very own “Signature Shamrock Shake - Healthy, Paleo Version” gather the following ingredients:

-1 can coconut milk (you could substitute 1 ¼ cups of any other type of milk here – I especially like almond milk)
-1 ripe avocado, peeled and seed removed
-2 ½ – 3 Tablespoons of pure raw honey (or other sweetener of your choice)
-1 cup of ice
-1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
-1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

(This recipe yields about 4 cups)


Put all of these ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth.  Garnish with a coconut wedge, mint sprig or tiny tropical umbrella.  Enjoy!

The pale green color from the avocado is a decadent and natural treat, but if you would like a more festive dark green color, simply add a few drops of green food coloring.  Your friends will be transported to their own ocean front haven while enjoying the benefits of the Paleo health food trend. Enjoy and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Busy Days and Babe Watching

Wednesdays. Usually Wednesdays mean for me, other than the usual early start courtesy of the baby-body-clock, doing some personal training client at CrossFit before dashing home, changing quicker than superman and sprinting to RhymeTime at the library with the Wriggly Man.

It's a busy, hustle bustle morning, but by the to,e we've claimed our place among the floor space filled with the herd of children, babies and mums, the manic pace seems worth it. RhymeTime, a short interlude of songs for kids at the library. Free, fun and under 30 min. Perfect for a little outing for the mum/mom and the not-so-baby-anymore.

Ethan lights up as soon he arrives. Songs, books, people to stare at. All his favourite things. He gets up on his knees and does a little dance, arms flinging wildly, and makes a screechy happy noise. It just says, "Lets rock,"!

He has his favourite tunes. 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' is always a winner, but as he begins to notice all the little actions that go with each song, he is finding new ones to dance for.

He also loves checking out the other children. He watches them walk and toddle with such fascination, open mouthed amazement. He looks at the little ones, the newborns, with wonder and a little nervousness. I start to think that really it would be nice sometimes to be able to do the same. To be able to look brazenly at people that interest me, without shame or fear of judgement.

Instead, all us sensible adults are casting sideways glances at each other. Our process of figuring out if we are friends or not seems more complicated, but really it just takes longer. I notice myself looking around and doing a little comparison, just like Ethan. I marvel at the mums who seem to be juggling about 3 kids, and looking serene. I look at the new mums, with the tiny bundles and get lost thinking of all the ways life changes so quickly.

Doubtlessly, others are looking at me and understandably coming to conclusions. I have just sprayed my sweaty body with a little nice smelling stuff, crammed my tangled hair into a bun and added a splash of mascara while stuffing a chicken breast and broccoli into my face. I could not blame them for thinking that I was a sloppy, scatty lady.

Yet, even with the broccoli in my teeth, I have made as many friends as Ethan at the RhymeTime. Lovely little world where we can all just grab a quick burst of quality time with the kids among what must be crazy-busy days for all of us.

Saturday, 9 March 2013


Tantrums.  The truth is, we all have 'em.  Its just at some ages, they are louder and we are less apologetic about them.  Ethan has discovered the power of his own voice and is practising exerting his will when he can.    He is super sweet about 95% of the time, but the tantrums are becoming a part of daily life.

His Opa and Oma (my parents) have been visiting over the past week, and Ethan has become used to the attention.  His favourite thing - Oma's iPad.  So much so, that he expects to be able to have peek at it whenever he sees it in use.  At first, really cute.  His little techno-fingers seem to be find new ways of getting things done on the touchscreen that our adult fingers can't figure out how to do.

But then there are times when an email has to be sent, or his fingers are covered in mashed banana and not very iPad friendly.  We have witnessed some amazing displays of anger and will when we try to keep him from tapping his way into Elmo's world on the gizmo.  Back arches, mouth wide in full scream, face red with anger.  Wow.

It easy to see how parents get tempted into giving in and setting patterns that become cemented.  He seems to have suddenly arrived at a stage where he thinks he can decide to do whatever he wants and there's nothing we should do to get in his way.  But then again, maybe that's childhood generally.  I'll ask the parents, but I imagine that these stages just keep cropping up and the ways we throw our weight about to get what we want changes.

Possibly even beyond childhood.  Adult tantrums, of sorts.  I can think of times when Thom doesn't do what I'd like and I exert my will by childish means like silence and strops.  I might have learned to control my desire to scream and cry, but not  getting what you want still burns.

So I try to be compassionate while he loses it, appreciating that we all hate to be kept from what we want.  His little will is his personality and has to be loved along with the sweet sides that are thankfully far more frequent.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

What's in a name

Naming a baby.  Pretty big deal, right?  The name is like a gift, a wish, a legacy.  There is also the asshole-factor to consider.  This is the certain, sad knowledge that some people are mean and will look for ways to pick on someone with a name this is unusual or rhymes with anything embarrassing  toilet related or sexual.  So you want a name that conveys the idea of the kind of person you imagine or wish your child to be, as well as help them out in avoiding unnecessary bullying.

We had a list of possibles leading up to the big day.  There were some that I kept on the list despite Thom's disapproval   I thought, 'We'll see on the day, and if I think the name is right, he might be too elated to care'.  I'm sneaky, eh?
much earlier days

As my readers will know, that day was a tough day for all, but especially for my two little guys.  As I laid in the recovery room, numb from the waist down, Thom rushed away to go see them on the Special Care Unit.  He reported back with photos of Twin 1 and 2 and we named them.  I knew that one had enormous difficulties breathing, while the other had a slightly easier time.  One of Thom's photos showed a little body with tubes and needles attached to every limb, hand and foot.  The other had less.  Assuming that the one with more equipment was the twin who suffered greater injury, I named him Ethan, meaning 'strong'.  The other I called Noah, meaning 'comfort'.  I wanted the one who suffered to be strong and the other was a great comfort for me and Thom when he was briefly passed to us after delivery. It just seemed right.  

It was only later that I discovered Noah was the one who needed strength.  In the following weeks, as we battled the tribulations that came to our new little family, I would often blame myself for naming them the wrong way around.  I thought, if only I had named Noah differently, he might have lived.  I guess I was searching for some reason to why this had happened and grasping at any solution I could think of to make it better.    

In naming them I had intended to give them the character of the name.  Hoped that something of the meaning of the name would sink into them and carry them through that dark time.  Ethan did indeed turn out to be strong.  He very quickly started letting the nurses know who was running the show by pulling out his feeding tube and cannulars, as if demanding to be released from hospital.  He even urinated all over the consultant's suit as we waited to be discharged.  

Despite my initial regret, he did end up with the right name.  What I want to share today is that I am starting to think that Noah had the right name, too.  Undoubtedly, Noah's death changed us.  Although it is impossible to know how we would feel and be if he stayed with us, Thom and I are consistently trying to be in the present in the short time we have together in this life.  In those last hours with him, we promised Noah to love Ethan, appreciate life and never forget.  Noah taught us so much in his short life.  

In the aftermath, as we have tried to figure out what caused the problem that lead to Noah's death, the possibility of a placental abruption has been thrown into doubt.  It could be a placental failure or a rare occurrence where the cord becomes trapped and constricted.  But in any case, he suffered more, and it seems to me, absorbed a lot of the trauma, leaving Ethan more protected.  I felt I knew some of their personalities in the womb.  Noah seemed rambuncious, energetic but also caring towards Ethan.  Ethan moved less and seemed to prefer to snuggle, curled up at the bottom.  But when he did move, Noah responded, like he was playing with his brother.

So, as Ethan moved from strength to strength, fulfilling his name, I also became more aware of how Noah had fulfilled his.  Comforting his brother in their most terrible time.  Giving us the time he had with us to appreciate his beauty.  The lessons he taught about love will continue to give hope and comfort to Thom, Ethan and I.  And most comforting is that as long as I carry the love he taught me, he will never be far from my heart.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Mamma-body update

Long before I got pregnant, maybe like a lot of women, I worried about what would be left of my body afterwards. Now, a year after, it seems to me that there's a whole bunch of negative stereotypes about post-pregnancy bodies that were unjustified. I think these come from the frustrated women out there who can't get back to their former glory once baby's come and turned the world upside down. And while I agree that post-pregnancy, getting fit and staying that way is a totally different ball game than before, I don't think it's because of our bodies. It's because of our habits, our minds and our moods.

After the caesarean  and the multiple infections the wound had for 5 months, I started to think that my lower tum would always be a lumpy mess with a Frankenstein-scar at the bottom. I also found workouts I'd done before pregnancy were now super challenging, bordering on impossible! The air just wasn't getting to my lungs quick enough and my legs lost a lot of strength.
seems so long ago...

Add onto this the factors that make post-pregnancy fitness most difficult - tiredness and demands of baby - and I felt like it would be a losing battle. Where to find the time? To make it happen, I had to think about what was important to me, accept that there will never be enough time, and commit to find a balance between pushing myself and caring for myself and my family.

I got off to a good start by doing short, intense bursts of exercise when Ethan was napping. I moved onto jogging with the pram, and later with added squats, press ups and burpees. Eventually, 9+ months after birth, I was back in a gym. And then things really took off. Now I find myself in the best shape ever, even daring to compete in CrossFit throwdowns and opens and entering a bikini fitness competition.
you can do it!

Mums/Moms, the biggest things to overcome if you want to regain your body and your confidence are:

1. Guilt - being away from baby to do something for yourself is a challenge in itself. It's natural to feel like you should be there for your baby always, but its not realistic and ultimately it's not helpful for baby or for you. Get past the guilt by reminding yourself about setting a good example of healthy lifestyle for your baby and planning special time for you to dedicate to them regularly in the week.

2. Nutrition - we all like to think we eat healthily enough, but take stock. Keep a food diary. Your body always tells the story of your diet. For the first 4-5 months after birth, I was just surviving. Emotionally I was up and down, and physically I was in pain. Add in some sleep deprivation and suddenly a quick price of toast seemed the best option for a fast meal. And with all the changes and stresses that brings, willpower was at an all time low. Sweet treats felt deserved and my diet was very unbalanced and lacking nutrients. While all good diets take planning, even more so with a baby in the house. Think ahead of time what you are going to need, prepare the night before and don't get trapped by the biscuit with tea at play group.

3. Imbalance - too much of anything makes you dull and drains you. So whether its being devoted to the role of motherhood or my task of being fit, balance is key. It's strange now to think that I ever had thoughts about life that didn't include being a mamma. But I have to allow time when I can just be me to be fit. The key is to not feel bad about it. I'm human and thoughts creep in about guilt and how being away from my little man so I can do some squats is un-motherly. But in fact, balance makes me a better mamma, more ready to really be with Ethan when we have time together, instead of distracted. At the same time, I need to strike a realistic balance between too much and too little rest - which means finding that point where you're pushing yourself enough, but not too much. For everyone it'll be different but balance is vital for anyone to truly be healthy.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Babies on a plane

Now I've survived it, I feel quite proud.  Travel with babies is one of those things that you hear can happen, and people assure you it does happen, but you can't believe it possible until it's done.  As a survivor, I can now assure you that it can happen.  It just won't happen in the way you're used to. 

I used to spend a day packing for myself before a trip.  Getting all the clothes out on the and undergoing a narrowing-down process always seemed better than choosing outright.  It also gave the opportunity to drag out old favourites that I'd never wear at home, but somehow would pass for holiday wear.  Kinda crazy, yes, but mostly really time-consuming. 

Then I'd hop on a train to the airport, pausing for a cappuccino at Liverpool Street, before heading to the tube and eventually the terminal.  Check-in, dump bags, browse duty-free perfumes before settling on a giant Toblerone, drink a glass of bubbly and sleep the whole way after take-off.

I was a good traveller.  But baby-on-board is a whole 'nother world.  The airport is no longer just a high-security shopping mall, but an obstacle course of temptations, unpleasant changing facilities and people for me to avoid with my huge pack of baby-supplies.  Even with my new improved packing technique, which is basically forgetting to pack my stuff and employing the narrow-down strategy to Ethan's clothes, we had tons to carry.  Milk, bottles, diapers  wipes, toys, snacks, blanket, change of clothes, extra change of clothes - well that was the small bag, anyways.  We packed whatever we imagined would save us from a horrid transatlantic adventure   

                                   'This toy?'  'Yes, one time it kept him occupied for 5 whole minutes.' 
                                   'How many wipes?'  'A pack?'  'We'll bring 2!

And don't other baby-carriers know it!  We would get anything from the sympathetic half smile to the full-out 'save-me!' grimace from other parents.  Babies are instant conversation starters, as always.  So we could even exchange survival techniques with out fellow baby-trekkers in the passport control queue.  Some unpleasantness out there, like giving the baby a dose of anti-histamine before hand.  But also some nice tips, like get them to eat something during take-off to combat the pain of popping ears.   

And then the flight itself.  The poor little fella was so tired with getting up early to get to the airport and disrupted nap schedule  but he was such a sweetie.  Smiling at other babies and the flight attendant.  He managed to sleep briefly, after some crying that I'm sure was more than the other travellers wanted to hear.  I had worried that his crying would be hard on my cabin-fellows.  Those lucky travellers who have had their duty-free and their bubbly and their Toblerone.  I had visions of a kind of airplane disaster film, a kind of Snakes on a Plane, but with babies.  Screaming.  Puking.  Unhappy and just generally causing an international incident.  But it was ok because I - and everyone else in the plane - just cared less than I thought.  No dirty looks over the seat.  So, all in all, tiring but do-able.  

Ethan liked the cartoons.  We made it safe.  Had a great time away.  And although I missed my bubbly, we did manage a celebratory in-flight wine on the way home.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Where have you been?

It's been so long since I've written. Over the past year, I have oftenthought about blogging, but life took over. Then after a while, so much happensand changes that I didn't know where to begin.

Now everyone around me is blogging away and so I return, kind ofembarrassed, I suppose, for not keeping it up. Also kind of excited to tell youall the news!

Ethan is 1 year old! Where did that time go? He's such a little mister now,crawling, walking sideways along tables, chattering away in near words,clapping and waving. We have come to visit my parents in Texas over Christmasand stayed for while into the New Year. He has been Lord of Manor, demandingall of his Opa and Oma's attention; directing them around like a little slavemaster. They give into him, offering him ice cream and whatever non-deadly bitsof household stuff he sets his heart on.

We are discovering new things about this little emerging person every day.And it's the most exciting journey. He recently informed us that he loves TexasBBQ probably better than any other food on the planet. We went to the SwingingDoor, a local place serving simple smokey BBQ foods. Paper menus and plastictable cloths all surrounded by the smell of the smokehouse out back. Signs ofgood BBQ.

On the evening we went, he was being a little crabby. Didn't want his toys.Wasn't interested in the bread served while we waited for our order. But oncethe food arrived, his eyes got wide and his little grabby hands went for everybit of meat within his reach. He was stuffing in green beans, rib meat anddirty rice like we'd starved him for a day. He smelled like BBQ sauce until Ishampooed him later that evening before bed.

Thom and I are trucking along. Having a baby takes its toll on anyrelationship. But we have also had a year of grief to contend with, and in casethat wasn't enough, we've both started businesses this year. Thom is followinga long-time dream and tattooing. His artwork has always been great, but now hemakes it all permanent and even gets paid. It's been an ambition for a longtime and it's wonderful to see him do it.

I am confining my psychology work to one day a week and have been luckyenough to work as a personal trainer around Thom and Ethan's schedules the restof the time. It keeps me busy, but also healthy and happy. Nothing beats beingaround fitness-minded people for positivity. I've lost the mum-tum and gained asix pack. In the next few months, I'll be preparing for a body building competition.Yummy-mummy category! Keep an eye out for my posts about my progress. Promise Iwon't leave it so long!