Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Save Water: Bath with the baby

Tonight I shared a bath with Phoebe and an army of dead ants.

I spent the entire time trying to recover little ant bodies with Phoebe's bath toys, less out of respect for the dead than me not wanting to wash my hair in a tub of floating insects. This wasn't as easy as it sounds due to the fact that baby bath toys tend to have holes in them so that baby can watch water falling through them. Evidently, this is something babies find fascinating as they try to grab the water over and over again. This draining property was the main reason I thought using her toys would be a good idea. The water could drain out of the vessel, leaving the ant body behind. However, these particular ants were very tiny and slipped straight through the holes back into the bath. I would not like to go to war against an army of ants; even in death they are excellent escape artists.

Eventually I developed the following method of body removal: firstly, I used the Funny Purple Hippo Thing to scoop up the ant. Then I tilted it this way and that so that water would run out of one hole without the ant falling through. It was a bit like one of those plastic puzzles where you have to get the silver ball through the maze without letting it fall through the holes. Once the water was pretty much drained from the Funny Purple Hippo Thing, I gave it a good whack into the Big Green Number 10 Stacking Cup so that the wet ant would fall into the cup. I then used the Funny Purple Hippo Thing to scoop up the next ant.

It was an arduous process and took a very long time but I entertained myself by singing "Dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant" to The Pink Panther Theme tune. Meanwhile, the survivors of the Great Tiny Ant Drowning Disaster patrolled the perimeter of the bath, looking forlornly into the tub at their lost mates, which was bloody brave of them in my opinion. I think I managed to scoop out about 13 ants using this technique. I had to keep emptying the cup down the sink as ants kept escaping back into the bath, which was darn annoying.

Meanwhile, Phoebe danced around the edge of the bath whirling the wet face cloth around her head, living up to her recently earned nickname, Cyclone Phoebe.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Wonder Weeks

We are currently living the nightmare that is controlled crying, er ahem, I mean comforting, except, given that it is Toby and myself that we are talking about, it's probably not as controlled as it should be. We are actually combining two techniques that we read about so long ago that we are pretty much winging it.

I probably wrote about Phoebe's sleep issues a few months ago and we resolved this by using Tracy "Baby Whisperer" Hogg's Pick Up Put Down method. This is when we started having to restrain her as she fell asleep to stop her from flailing around the cot. Gradually we were able to get her to sleep by patting her back and singing for about ten minutes, rather than holding her down for an hour. At least that was my experience. Toby says he's never managed to get her to sleep without restraining her.

A few weeks back I started to have problems getting her to sleep. It was taking about 30 or 40 minutes and at times over an hour. Meanwhile, Toby was having no luck whatsoever and if I was out she'd cry until I got home and put her to bed. A week ago this ramped up and I resorted to giving her a second breastfeed in an attempt to shut her up. Generally it worked.

Then Christmas happened and this threw Phoebe out no end. Giving her dinner and a bath at a friends' place before bringing her home to bed, staying out late to have dinner with Nan and Grandpa, going to the beach early in the morning and being late for her morning nap: it all got a bit much and soon the additional breastfeed was doing nothing to help her sleep.

After two particularly horrendous nights, where it took us two hours to get her to sleep, we resorted to just letting her cry. Really, we aren't doing much different, other than not staying with her while she screams and not offering that last breastfeed, although if she hadn't fallen asleep when she did I probably would have offered it eventually.

Very loosely based upon techniques I read in a book called Sleep Right, Sleep Tight by Tweddle Child & Family Health Service, and another one, the name of which has slipped my mind, we pop in every now and then to reassure her and explain that she needs to calm down and lie down in order to get to sleep. We stay with her and sing so long as she is lying down quietly. As soon as she sits up or gets all angry we tell her that we'll leave if she doesn't lie down. Generally what happens is that she calms down but then sits or stands and wants to play. Then we leave. She screams. A few minutes later if she's still yelling we'll go back in. Last night it took her two hours to fall asleep. Tonight it was only an hour. So there's progress.

But, true to my rather random form, this is not actually what I intended to blog about. Phoebe's behaviour reminded me of a book I read about called The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt and her husband Frans X. Plooij.

I haven't read the book but, as I understand it, psychologists have discovered eight predictable developmental stages that all babies go through. Studies have been conducted around the world and the timing of these stages can be predicted to an accuracy of a few weeks. Based upon the demonstrated skills of the babies following one of these stages, the specific understanding gained by the child has been identified. During these phases a baby may become unsettled, clingy, sensitive, and weepy as its brain copes with developing the new concepts and skills. I wondered if Phoebe might be going through such a phase.

I calculated Phoebe's age in weeks (from her due date rather than her birth date, as instructed) and checked the chart. It has been 46 weeks since Phoebe's due date and sure enough this lies within a fussy phase. Phoebe hasn't been overly clingy and upset but I have noticed periods of quiet, increased sensitivity, and, of course, an inability to get to sleep at night. Apparently, Phoebe is learning about sequences, which, according to this rather interesting blog (written by Sue Haydon, who has obviously read the book), is when she starts to learn about how things fit together.

Sue lists the sorts of skills a baby might develop during this period and we are definitely seeing Phoebe exhibit some of them, including:
  • pointing and talking: Phoebe pointed at Toby and said "Dad" today. She has also started waving at people at naptime and babbling as if to say "goodbye" or "goodnight" and the other night it definitely sounded like she was trying to say "night night, Dadda" to Toby (how cute!);
  • putting items into, and lids onto, containers. In the last few days, Phoebe has tried to place the lid onto the sunscreen bottle, and has enjoyed placing the shapes inside her new cookie jar shape sorter and taking the lid on and off. She has even attempted to get the shapes into the correct holes;
  • filling bath toys with water and then emptying them again, preferably over the floor;
  • using anything and everything as a walker;
  • placing head on floor: I call this the downward dog and she generally does this whilst breastfeeding, which I find somewhat disturbing and downright uncomfortable;
  • passing and rolling balls and objects;
  • climbing and using objects as steps to reach things she really shouldn't: more specifically using my leg as a step to reach further across the table so that she can grab my iPhone, which evidently tastes rather nice;
  • offering food to others: so thankfully it's proving a little easier to reclaim my iPhone from her these days.
  • helping dress and undress herself: which came in rather useful tonight when I was struggling to remove her t-shirt with one hand and she pulled it off herself in an irritated manner. I can't understand what would be so annoying about having your t-shirt over your face whilst Mummy tugs and pulls at it;
  • and a few others, which she has been doing for a while, such as trying to use a spoon and copying her parents.
Here's hoping she's approaching the end of her fussy phase and that she is also re-learning how to get to sleep. Who knows, maybe tomorrow night she'll only raise hell for half an hour before conking out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

She walks!

Phoebe has walked.

I won't go as far as to say that she is walking as she has only taken a few steps on a few occasions.

I really should have held off on this post until I have video evidence, which, incidentally, I have tried to get but Phoebe and cameras don't always mix. In fact getting out a camera is generally a good way to get her to stop doing something. (I must remember that the next time I find her eating the Christmas tree lights.) However, my excitement in telling the world that Phoebe has walked far surpasses my alacrity in getting video evidence. Indeed I am generally so mesmerised by the sight of my little baby actually walking that I forget I even have a camera. Then there's the fact that she doesn't actually do it for very long.

She has taken the odd step before but last night, whilst playing with my friend's eight and ten year old boys, she twice took a series of five steps. The boys were so excited. She has taken a few steps again today but only a couple at a time. Clearly she needs the lads to get her up and running. She's doing a lot of wall-walking though. (I tried to get a video of this too but again wasn't quick enough.)

The wall walking is pretty funny. This involves Phoebe facing the wall and walking sideways like a crab using her hands to guide herself. It's nowhere near as funny as her actual walking in which she looks somewhat like a stoned zombie chasing a kebab. This isn't exactly a new look for her. Here she is in her early Kebab-Chasing Stoned Zombie days. I do hope it isn't a trait.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Tooth Fairy

And just because I forgot to mention it in my last post, but then read back over my previous posts and realised I hadn't updated you since Tooth Number Three, I feel I should mention that Teeth Four and Five have also joined us. These are the front two and they're about halfway through now, which is very cute. Number Six is on its way but is taking its time, much to Phoebe's intermittent frustration.

See, silly parental pride. I mean, they're only teeth, and it's not like she had to do much to grow them. But I suppose its a sign that she's growing up.

Which reminds me, it looks like I might be back in The Land of The Fertile, yet another sign that my little baby is growing up. And did you know that there are 32 muscles in a cat's ear? This amazing fact was brought to you courtesy of Libra.

Pride in the name of Love

Recently I was thinking about how ridiculously proud of the slightest things we parents become. Specifically I was amazed at the development of Phoebe's fine motor skills and her ability to deduce how things work.

When we were in the UK a few months back my mam bought her a rattle in the shape of an octopus. The octopus is wearing a hat with a star on the top and when you press the star it lights up, flashes and plays one of three nursery rhymes. If you press it again it plays a different nursery rhyme. I often give this to Phoebe to play with whilst I'm changing or dressing her to stop her wriggling around and a few weeks ago I was impressed to observe her quite deliberately pressing the button.

Then a couple of weeks ago when I was putting her nappies away she grabbed a disposable nappy and started stretching out, like you would if you were just about to put it on. (For those not in the know, as I wasn't before I had a baby, disposable nappies come all neatly folded up and stuck together and you have to kind of pull them apart before you put them on). During this activity she stopped what she was doing, picked up the octopus and pressed his hat then put him back down again and continued playing with the nappy. When the music stopped she did it again. It was as though she decided she'd like to listen to music whilst she worked. It was really funny but also very cute and impressive. She's quite clearly a child genius and far advanced of her months.

She also has a toy truck full of blocks, which her Nan got her from the Baby Markets a few months ago. It is battery operated but didn't seem to do much other than beep and flash its headlights when you switch it on. You can also place the blocks into a hole and it plays a short piece of music. Phoebe has since not only discovered that when you lift and empty the tray at the back it plays a longer piece of music, but also that you can just lift the tray up and press the button underneath it to get the music to play. Clever girl. I am so proud.

Despite not being a big fan of plastic battery-powered toys, and preferring more sustainable, endurable wooden toys, I have to admit to having given in and bought Phoebe some of the former for Christmas. The joy she gets time and again from watching lights flash and grooving to music makes it worth buying a few of these sorts of toys. So I have bought her a set of Fisher Price drums and a Little Tikes Ride-On. And of course some little bits and pieces and loads of books. I did buy some of her gifts from a charity shop though for a bit of conscience-easing recycling. I will probably open her gifts from other people before deciding which of ours to give her and might hold some back for a week or two or save them for her birthday or later in the year. I'll definitely do this with the books as I think I got her about 12 altogether and Lucie gave her a couple for Christmas too.

Phoebe loves her books though and we love reading to her so there'll never be too many in this house. We have story books in her bedroom which we read at naptimes and there are colourful and textured ones in the lounge, which she loves to pull off the shelf and read. She particularly likes to point at things. She takes books to look at in the car and in her pram. Finally, I see something of myself in her.

She has inherited my love of music too and bops around whenever she hears it playing. Generally she just sways from side to side but she loves to pick up rattles and shake them, not exactly in time to the music but then I'm no musician either (although I did pass my Grade II violin exam).

Before I go I should report that Phoebe's first experience of daycare went really well. We took her down for an orientation session on Monday. She was a bit tired and had slept late so we ended up only leaving her for an hour after staying with her for about 40 minutes. I breastfed her before I left as she was being a bit whingy and clingy. Often a breastfeed is a bit like a personality transplant for Phoebe and this day was no exception. Immediately, she was off interacting with the other babies and playing with toys, and when I said goodbye to her she totally ignored me. They gave her some of the food we'd taken down with us and, until she saw me at the door when I returned to collect her and crawled over to me whinging, apparently she was absolutely fine and as good as gold. So that's all really good news and Toby and I are quite excited about her going there. The carers all seem lovely and the centre is bright, clean and modern. And they have loads of books so she'll be in her element. Thanks Linda for helping us get a spot!

This might well be my last post before Christmas so Merry Christmas. I'm very excited about my first Christmas as a mother. I took Phoebe to see Santa Claus and she was a very good girl so I think he'll be kind.