One of the things my sister and I have inherited from our mother is a wonderful collection of feather duvets, or ‘downies’ as she always called them.  We always slept under feather downies, whether we were living in Zambia or Scotland.  We literally have chests full of them and the collection ranges from single light-weight duvets to a king-size, double-stuffed monster that helped my parents survive freezing Scottish winters in an unheated manse (well, the bedrooms were always unheated).

yet another photo of Daniel asleepWe also have a baby cot-size duvet  with the original green striped cover that has been saved for all these years, to be finally handed on to us and used by baby Daniel.  So far it is the only thing he has shown any attachment to and is now essential for when we put him to bed.  He cuddles it up against his cheek and runs his hand over it as he falls asleep.  If he does not want to go to sleep in the cot, he stands up, gathers the whole thing up in his arms and says, ‘up, up’.  If he wakes up at night or in the morning, he is often sitting-down, rooting around under his blankets, saying: ‘ebey, ebey’.  For some reason that is the word he has invented for it: ‘ebey’.  I’m sure my mother would love to know that Daniel is making up words and that one of her precious feather downies is being loved by her grandson.

Taking a moment

I guess all parents have moments in life with their child when everything suddenly seems a bit surreal.  I had one yesterday at breakfast.  This is all that happened:  Daniel and I were sitting at the table, I’d finished my cereal and moved onto a toasted bagel and coffee.  Daniel has his breakfast earlier with Ross but he likes to join in with mine too.  So he was sitting in his high-chair, drinking his milk and chewing on a piece of toast.  In front of him was the sports magazine from the Observer which he was examining in detail.  He was leaning over it, pointing out the balls on each page (rugby, tennis, football), his cup of milk clutched in one hand.  “Ball,” he said.  ” Ball!”  Then he looked up at me and said very clearly, with a questioning look on his face: “Bagel?”.

He suddenly seemed so grown-up, so masculine. I could imagine him sitting there, twenty-one years old, reading the sports pages, eating a bagel, communicating with me in one word sentences. I love sharing my breakfast with anyone; breakfasts with my son will always be precious.  Here’s to every one we eat together, surreal or not.

Breakfast Look, ball!Bagel?

Use your words …

… as my Aunt would say to her son.  I think she used to mean ‘Don’t use your fists or your feet, use your words’.  It seemed to work, he’s all grown-up now and a pro-skier and I can’t imagine a more gentle man. He uses his words well to write all about his adventures in his own blog.  Have a look at:  http://chrisrskibum.wordpress.com/

Anyway, my son at 17 months is using his words.  After picking up quite a few when he turned one, he slowed down for a while, but in the last couple of weeks his vocabulary has rapidly expanded.  I think it must be because we have had so many lovely people staying with us over Christmas and New Year.

Here are the words he knew before Christmas:  up, ball, bird, ow!, Dad, apple, bath, hi, bye, ant (for aunt), doll, turtle, yuck, eyes, Daniel, no and toe … and lots of animal noises: baaa, boooo (the noise cows make), ooof (dogs), eeeek (mice), meow, clip-clop (for horses, made with his teeth), eeee-aw (donkey), hoo-hoo (owl).  He also makes silent fish mouths for fish and flutters his hands for a butterfly.

These are his new words: duck, dark, Ee-o (our friend Theo), Aba (Eva), Date (Kate), And (Andrew), mama, unc (le), bampa (grampa), ang (meaning hangar), moon, man (his lego man or a gingerbread man) and ice (there’s been lots of it).  He can also recognise and point out the letter ‘o’.

Conversations still tend to go like this: ‘Bird’.  ‘Yes, there’s a bird. Its a pigeon.’ ‘Bird, bird’. ‘Yes, its flying.’ ‘Bird’.  ‘Dad’ “Dad’s at work.’ ‘Dad’. ‘Dad’.  ‘Yes, that’s Dad’s coat.’  ‘Ball.’  ‘Where’s your ball?’  ‘Ball’.  ‘Throw it.’ ‘Good throw’.  ‘Ball’. ‘You get it.’  ‘Ball’. ‘Up.’ ‘Not up, just now.’ ‘Up.’  ‘Bird.’  And so on.  Still, keep using your words, Daniel, you’re doing just fine.

Letter ‘B’ Day

Daniel has a limited vocabulary at the moment: most of his words begin with ‘b’ and most of of them can mean exactly what he wants them to mean.  ‘Bee’, which he uses all the time, means all sorts of things.  He says it when he wants something – loudly and repeatedly.  He says it with a questioning tone when I tell him something: ‘bee?’.    ‘A-bah’ is another useful phrase.  He also says ‘Bey, bey’ sometimes when he is waving (clever boy!) and ‘bay-bee’ which might mean baby but also might not.  He points at pigeons and makes a ‘buh’ noise which he also uses when playing with his favourite brush.  Its a useful letter: so many of our everyday objects begin with ‘bee’: brushes and books; buses, buttons, babies and bowls; butterflies, balls, birds, bananas and barack-o-bama!

Only two words have definite and fixed meanings: ‘Brmmmm, brmmmm’ definitely means his toy car and ‘ba’ definitely means ball – often the last things he says at night.  Lying on his side, his eyes almost closing, he sees his ball and in a sleepy voice says:  ‘Ba.’  There’s your ball, beautiful baby, sleep well!

My 11 month old, second week

Daniel is now 11 1/2 months old.

Our friends Ruth, Tim, Eleanor and Peter gave us a Fisher Price walker at the weekend – the kind babies can stand up and push along – if they can stand up and push it along, that is.  Daniel wriggled as I took him out of the buggy in the garden yesterday afternoon, crawled across the grass, grabbed the handle and stood up.  He was off, trundling along, stiffed legged, but definitely walking, and pushing.  So another milestone whizzes past – first day he walked, on his great-grandmother’s birthday – 87 years young.

He has also learned to turn round at the top of the two steps in the hall and go down backwards.  For a long time,  he would crawl towards them at full speed, stop, carefully feel the edge of the step with his hand, then turn round and head back the way he had come.  Often he would drop a piece of duplo or a ball over the edge then look wistfully down at it, unable to reach it.  Not anymore.

He points at all sorts of things in sky with his little bent finger and says ‘bee’ loudly.  Maybe he’s noticing the clouds or the sun or the leaves on the trees or the aeroplanes or the birds or he can feel the wind in his hair.

I was standing talking to a friend in the street yesterday and the lady giving away free newspapers started waving and smiling.  I smiled back.  She kept waving – rather odd, I thought.  Then I realised that Daniel was waving at her enthusiastically.  He kept it up through-out our conversation – a good ten minutes.

He loves to be chased and caught.  If I come after him he crawls away as fast as he can until he has to collapse onto his bottom and be picked up, laughing.

I have just stopped writing to go and fetch Daniel from the sitting room.  He was sitting by the cupboard, pointing and saying ‘ba’.  What could it be?  We both got down on our hands and knees and peered underneath (Daniel got down on his tummy too).  There was his tennis ball, right at the back.  ‘Ba?’ he said, looking at me. ‘Ba.’ So I rescued the ball and then we sat in the corridor rolling it back and forward to each other.

Now I’m back – but not for long.  There’s far to much too do when you’re almost one to be waiting around while I try to write.  Off we go on another mini-adventure.

Monsters under the bed

Time for a quick update on my son’s sleep, before I go to sleep myself.  He seems to have settled down into one nap a day, a long one over lunch time.  It makes for a long morning and a long afternoon – by the end of both he is definitely flagging.  In the evenings, I have discovered that if I put a chair outside the bedroom door and sit there reading, not looking at him, he will happily potter around in the cot, chatter away, throw his toys through the bars and eventually lie down on his side and fall asleep.  The first time I sat there with my book, stealing a glance at him every so often, it was such a relief to watch him go quietly to sleep.  (This was after evenings of going in every five or ten minutes to see him sitting at the end of his cot, red-faced and wailing, only falling asleep exhausted on my shoulder or in my arms.)  So it seems that the problem is not his ability to put himself to sleep but panic that we might be going to abandon him in the bedroom to do battle alone with the monsters under the bed.  Hopefully this phase too will pass.

My ten month old, third week

Let me see! I get a weekly email from babycentre.co.uk telling me what me and my baby should be doing at his age of x months and x weeks. (The whole website is a great resource for parents.)  Its fascinating and always nice when I see that Daniel is doing exactly what he is meant to be.  This week, for example, I was told to watch out for ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’ which Daniel and I both had a couple of weeks ago (have a look at the website if you want to know what its like.)  It also said: Some babies this age love to play by imitating what they see around them — you may notice her try to brush her hair or sweep the kitchen floor. Daniel has developed a fascination for the brush and loves to sit and try to sweep the floor – see the pictures below.  He was also holding my comb today and when I showed him what to do with it, he tried to run it through his hair and mine.

His understanding and sounds are developing too.  The childminder who looks after him for an hour a week when I go to a Women’s Bible Study group, pointed out to me that he was making ‘brmmm, brmmm’ noises as he pushed a car along.  (Its nice for someone else to notice, otherwise I think I might be imagining things.)  I was blowing at him yesterday and he carefully kept trying until he could get his mouth into the right shape and blow too.  This morning I asked him where the ball was and he pointed right at it – did he understand me?  I like to think so …  When Ross makes the sign for a four or a six, Daniel copies and tries to say ‘six, six’.  I showed him a dog yesterday and said ‘wuff, wuff’.  He repeated ‘ff, ff’.

(I don’t want this blog to become just a list of my son’s achievements: fascinating for me but dull reading for most other people!  But already I look back at the last two ‘for the records’ and am so glad I captured what Daniel was doing because already he is at a different stage. So, for my own sake, I am going to list everything I want to remember about Daniel’s development once a week.  Read it if you’re interested, skip it if you’re not!)

On a missionOther things he’s doing: ‘cruising’ round furniture; eating more and more with his fingers – and when we feed him with a spoon, two fingers follow the food into his mouth and stir it around; climbing stairs with enthusiasm (though he can’t go down them); climbing up the slide in the playgroup; chattering away and expecting an answer when he says something; shouting when he wants something we are eating – or anything else he can’t get; pointing; waving goodbye; and, of course, complaining and complaining everytime I put him in his cot for a nap or at bedtime.  I’m going to work on that this week – it feels very recently that Ross said ‘Its so nice now the way he just lies down and goes to sleep by himself’ … hmmmmm.  I’m grateful for the advice from one of my friends with so much more experience of mothering than me: remember, everything is a phase, things will change.  For better or worse, its true.

What, no posts?

Mr Strong!Its been a while (you may have noticed) since I wrote anything.  Blame it all on the erratic sleep patterns of my baby boy.  The days when I could count on that after lunch peace and a cup of coffee are long gone.  Daniel no longer reliably sleeps for an hour in the morning and an hour after lunch.  In the evenings, he takes longer and longer to go to sleep.  I was going to write about all of this and explore theories about what to do; I got ‘Sleepeasy Solution’ out of the library but I haven’t read it and I’ve realised just thinking about it all makes me feel too exhausted to put fingers to keyboard.

Fun!Fun!So I’m laying that aside for now and focussing instead on the high points, the delights. Saturday morning with Ross, we took Daniel for his first swim in his star-spangled trunks. He was bemused, then pleased, splashing and smiling as we whooshed him through the water like a baby walrus. Yesterday, at the swings, he laughed with pleasure, smiling at everyone as if to say: see what an amazing fun thing this is you should try it too, its quite easy.

Today, I bought him his first proper ball: we came up to the basket of balls in the toy department of Debenhams.  I poked around, choosing a colour I liked then turned to him with the ball I’d chosen.  As I handed it to him, his eyes widened and his mouth split in a smile of pure wonder.  He held it in both hands all the way home. My first experience of making my child happy with a very simple present.

(I have just now turned the lights on – its after ten o’clock at night.  From the window, the roofs and treetops and chimneys are black against a strip of pale yellow, fading to duck-egg green and pale blue.  Today was hot.  The first day of Wimbledon.)

For the record II

Some highlights of a week with Daniel – simple things keep us all busy and amused.

Ross was explaining to his friend Nick how to set up a web page.  “So you can have a different news item here and here … you just write your title, then blah, blah, blah.”  Daniel, who was sitting in the high chair eating his supper, looked up and said: “Blah, blah, blah” in exactly the same tone of voice. (Nick will tell you its true!)

Toys are starting to be more interesting.  Daniel learned to pull his toy train and car towards himself by their strings and then push them away again.  He has also started playing with his yellow box of Duplo – having fun emptying it out onto the carpet and then placing different pieces back on top of the box or in his mouth.

Daniel is doing lots of stretching and grabbing: he grabbed the roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, held onto the end and unwound it.  As I reached over to take it away, as quick as he could he ripped a piece off and stuck it in his mouth.

This morning he stood at the desk, with his hand in the top drawer (which was only open a couple of centimetres).  He couldn’t see in, so just grabbed what he could feel and came away with a good fistful of pens and pencils.  He then proceeded to crawl around while holding onto two, trying to work out whether he could crawl better with them both in his right hand or his left hand, or one in each hand, or one in his hand and one in his mouth. (Then I took them away from him, before he filled his mouth with ink).

Last night, when he should have been sleeping, he sat in his cot, shouting “Wah” at regular intervals.

Another night, when he was protesting about being left in the cot, I went through to see what was the matter.  Not only was he standing up in the cot, hanging over the end, wailing at me, he was standing on top of a plastic toy, balancing on top of it with both feet like he was on a bar, giving himself a good five inches in height.  (So he doesn’t get to play with that in bed at night anymore.)

He still finds great delight, as he crawls around the floor, in picking up the tiniest piece of dust or fluff, examining it briefly, giving me a quick glance and then popping it into his mouth – which he then shuts like a trap.

He’s just realised that if he makes his body very stiff, we can’t make him sit down in this car seat or his buggy.  Already!

Walking on sunshine

Yesterday was the kind of hot day that makes London feel like a city in a different century, a day from the summers E. M. Forster wrote about in A Room with a View.  I walked with Daniel up to Holland Gardens.  The red brick houses were baking in sun in a particularly English way: gardens still and abandoned in the early afternoon, the grass vivid and green, slowly drying out, red roses and purple lavender bright and fragrant in the hot sun.  

I met two friends with babies of similar age in the park.  We sat on rugs in the shade.  Daniel overcame his dislike of the itchy grass and started crawling away.  He looked back for a minute and then kept going.  Would he stop?  It didn’t seem like it: on he went, arms and legs like little pistons, heading out of the shade into the bright sun.  My baby: looking so small against the expanse of grass, so determined, so independent, so delighted with his mini-adventure.