Only little babies do that…

a blog by Emily\’s mother

Archive for September, 2006

Emily’s First Rosh Hashanah

Posted by Caroline on September 30, 2006

What the well-dressed baby is wearingLast week we took Emily to our synagogue for her first taste of a Jewish holiday. Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah as it’s known, is one of the more solemn and serious festivals in the calendar – a time to repent for our sins and listen to the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn) in synagogue.

The latter makes a bit of a noise when it’s blown, and I was a bit concerned about the effect this might have on Emily. Nonetheless, as a major Jewish holiday I thought it was the perfect time to introduce my little one to her religion.

Of course, it also offered a perfect excuse to dress her up in all those frocks I’ve been just longing for her to wear (so far consigned to the back of the wardrobe because let’s face it, flouncy frilly dresses look a bit out of place in the trolley seat at Asda or while wriggling around on a playmat).

On Saturday she wore a pink linen dress to our family lunch, and for her synagogue debut on Sunday it was a green frilly number complete with a butterfly print coat. The latter created such an impression that certain members of our congregation were convinced it was an expensive designer number, and we were forced to confess that we’d actually picked it up in H&M’s fabulous ‘buy one, get one free’ sale earlier this summer.

True to form, Emily’s reaction to her dresses was to grab hold of them and try to eat them the second I put them on, but there was no denying she looked lovely once I managed to get them out of her mouth. As for the synagogue itself, she was perfectly behaved, not so much as flinching at the first batch of shofar blasts and in fact sleeping through subsequent blasts, although she did wake up towards the end of the service and look a bit lost and puzzled at the strange noise that was going on.

Mostly though, she enjoyed staring at the lights, wriggling around on her tummy in the middle of the children’s service and generally being cooed over by everybody she met. Our ever friendly Rabbi told us after the service that the sound of the Shofar is meant to represent the cry of a child, although our Emily’s cry sounds less like a ram’s horn and more like Crazy Frog.

We’ll be doing the whole synagogue thing all over again for Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day Of Atonement, most solemn day of the year) this week and then she’s having a baby blessing next weekend, which will have the added bonus of free food as well as the chance to dress her up in yet another flouncy frock.

Posted in Day to day | 6 Comments »

Pocket Patrol

Posted by Caroline on September 29, 2006

Spot the pockets….Of all the unanswered questions I have about babies (and believe me there are many), one stands out – why oh why do babies’ clothes have pockets?? A few weeks ago I dressed Emily in a pair of dungarees which, for all their cuteness, were notable for the fact they were covered in pockets. As well as having them by her sides, there was also a pocket on the front and back.

Since then an investigation of her wardrobe has revealed pockets in her jeans, all of her trousers, several of her shirts and even some of the romper suits she wears in bed. And I’m forced to ask – what on earth are they for? To stick her hands in when she’s a bit bored (they tend to go in her mouth anyway)? Because she needs somewhere to keep her door keys or loose change? Frankly I’m baffled…..

Posted in Day to day | 5 Comments »

Quick….the muslin!

Posted by Caroline on September 28, 2006

Dribble? Me?Since becoming a mother I’m convinced that the muslin square is the greatest invention in the world. Apparently I used to carry one of these around as a comforter when I was a child, but until now they haven’t played much of a role in my adult life.

Now, however, they are indispensable, mainly to wipe up spilled milk and the vast amounts of dribble that seem to fall from Emily’s mouth (which seems to happen most often when she is lying on one of us – it’s almost as if she is trying to spit on us from a great height) I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard my husband shriek for the muslin because Emily has brought milk up all over his trousers, T-shirt or, in extreme cases, the carpet or sofa.

More recently, she’s started using them as a comfort blanket of sorts also, grabbing hold of them with both hands and, like everything else recently, putting them in her mouth to see if they taste nice (or perhaps she is optimistically hoping that they might dispense milk). The other day she even went to sleep in her car seat clutching one.

And as we recently discovered, when you’ve finished using them for more mundane purposes, you can throw them over your head and pretend to be a scary ghost. At the very least this should save money on Halloween outfits.

Posted in Day to day | 3 Comments »

My Baby Beat Me Up….!

Posted by Caroline on September 27, 2006

Don’t mess with me, MotherThey might look fragile and helpless, but babies are really really strong. They have to be of course, in order to survive babyhood in the big wide world. But what you don’t realise until you actually have one of your own is that they’re strong to the extent that a waving arm, kicking foot or misplaced head can actually end up causing you a spot of damage if you’re not careful.

At least that’s the case with Emily. Having been born with a grasp reflex that meant giving her your finger to hold was comparable with sticking in it in a vice and squeezing it really tightly, she has since demonstrated a superhuman strength which would make even Geoff Capes jealous.

Trouble is of course, she tends to test out her powers on her Mummy and Daddy – which means I have scratches on my neck where she’s indicated she’s hungry or tired by clawing at me, bruises on my legs from being kicked during playtime, and even the occasional sore nose from being headbutted while she’s on my shoulder.

Her favourite trick, however, appears to be to lie on her tummy while on my chest and worm her way across me and burrow into my shoulder in a desperate effort contact with the bedsheet/sofa/whatever I happen to be lying on at the time.

Which is all very well but bearing in mind she’s no longer the 6lb baby we brought home from the hospital can actually result in injury. To me, that is. She will of course emerge from the situation without so much as a scratch. I, on the other hand, am left gasping for breath and clutching my windpipe, which has by now involuntarily moved several inches to the right. But for some reason, when I tell people that I’m looking all bruised and purplish because “my baby beat me up”, they just don’t believe me. I can’t think why.

Everybody tells you that having a baby will change your life. But nobody ever tells you that it can also be hazardous to your health.

Posted in Day to day, General thoughts | 2 Comments »

“She’s like a little cat, isn’t she….?”

Posted by Caroline on September 26, 2006

Feed me!Reasons why babies and cats aren’t so different….

1. Like cats, babies always appear to be on the lookout for their next meal as soon as they’ve finished the previous one. A rather gorgeous, fluffy-haired cat which lives on our development is a prime example of this – although it’s obviously well looked after by its owners, it’s clearly being fed by many other gullible neighbours, and we frequently catch it sitting on the window sill of one such person, with a kind of “I’m SOOOOOO hungry, I haven’t eaten for at least 17 minutes!” look on its face. Such as the case with Emily, it seems, who can consume her entire bodyweight in milk and five minutes later be rooting at any part of my body which might produce more milk (the inside of my elbow is particularly popular)

2. Cats always reserve the most affection for whoever it is who puts food in their bowl. And so does Emily. “Look at the way she looks at you,” people say to me. “Yes, because I’m the one that feeds her!” I helpfully point out.

3. Cats can, and do, wake you up at all hours of the day and night. By sleeping on your bed, pawing at your face or simply mewing a bit too loudly. Emily, of course, doesn’t paw at my face (well, not when she’s asleep anyway). But she does mew quite loudly at 4 in the morning.

4. They both have claws (or in Emily’s case, little sharp fingernails). And they scratch.

5. They know exactly how to wrap you round their little finger by looking all cute and innocent. Which means that you just have to forgive them no matter what they’ve done.

Posted in General thoughts | 5 Comments »

The Mitten Fairy

Posted by Caroline on September 25, 2006

Mittens? What mittens?A few weeks ago, on one of those nights when Emily decided she wasn’t going to go to sleep, I noticed she was scratching at her face as she lay in her cot kicking and cooing and generally deciding that 9pm on a Sunday evening is playtime.

Eventually she nodded off, but when she woke up for her feed at 4am I noticed scratches on her face, due to the fact that she has nails like tiny razor blades. My attempt to cut them the other week proved futile when I managed to get two done before she realised what I was doing. Cue much screaming from her and general feelings of guilt from me.

Still, at this stage I decided enough was enough, and that from now on she would just have to wear mittens at night to stop her from causing any further damage. A pair were duly bought and put on her hands that evening and, to my astonishment, she simply accepted them with a kind of  “OK, so I’m going to wear mittens now,” expression on her face.

Except of course the one thing I hadn’t reckoned upon was how easy she would find it to actually get them off her hands – in some cases even before I had finished feeding her and put her to bed. For the next couple of weeks whenever I went into her room for her night feed I would find her staring up at me from her cot, one mitten still on, the other lying about four miles away from her actual hand.

Of course it went straight back on (and you try putting a mitten back on a wriggly baby’s hand at 4am when all she wants is to eat and go back to sleep again) but by the time she woke up in the morning the other one would mysteriously have “fallen off”.

Since Emily’s expression upon my discovering this was one of pure innocence, I can only assume it was the work of the Mitten Fairy, a mythical sprite who is clearly related to the Sock Fairy (that creature who caused one of Emily’s socks to accidentally “fall off” in Brent Cross Shopping Centre a few weeks back). I have it on good authority that these two are in cohorts with their cousin The Shoe Fairy, whose job it is to make sure that any cute shoes put on Emily’s feet vanish in suspicious circumstances about five minutes later.

Now, however, she has some new mittens, ones which are much more difficult to remove and do in fact stay on all night, and The Mitten Fairy has been rendered oddly redundant.

I still maintain that that magical creature was responsible for the other mittens coming off in the first place, however. Because it couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with my daughter.

Posted in Day to day, General thoughts | 2 Comments »

Romper Stomper

Posted by Caroline on September 25, 2006

Doesn’t she look cute?It seems that at the tender age of three months, my daughter is already being picky about her clothes. Last week I dressed Emily in a pink, candy striped romper suit, one of the many bargains we picked up in the Baby Gap sale when she was just a few weeks old. Of course I thought she looked beautiful – with the frills at the back of the suit adding to the overall effect – but she was none too happy about it.

Having left her in the care of her daddy while I attended to my own sartorial needs, I returned to the living-room about 20 minutes later to find her staring at me with a look of suspicion and contempt. It was a look that said, “Mother, why have you dressed me in this ridiculous outfit? I look like a tiny circus clown and you know it.”

For her finale, she proceeded to fill her nappy, and while I was changing her I said, “Emily, is this nappy a reaction to the outfit or something?” She looked at me and gave me a huge smile by way of reply…

Posted in Day to day | 4 Comments »

Look! It’s Emily! And she’s doing stuff…

Posted by Caroline on September 24, 2006

Look at me, I’m smart!Babies don’t do very much when they’re first born. Despite any parental expectations that their little darling will burst into the world reciting Shakespeare while performing a tap dance to rival Fred and Ginger, the simple fact is that for the first month or so of their lives, babies do little beyond eating, filling nappies, screaming and sleeping at entirely inappropriate times.

Emily, for example, tended to snooze all day when visitors were heading back and forth in a kind of revolving door formation, then suddenly be wide awake and bright-eyed at 11pm just as we were thinking about going to bed. Most of the time though, she just lay there looking a bit lost and puzzled, meaning all our attempts to get her to respond to toys, songs etc., were rendered a bit pointless.

To me, this stage seemed to last such a long time that it was hard to imagine what she might be like once she did start interacting and responding. And then suddenly it happened…

When she was five weeks old, we put her in her bouncy chair one evening while we had our dinner, fully expecting that she would perform her usual trick of being quiet for about five minutes, wriggling and whinging a bit and then graduating into full-on screaming before we’d even had a chance to take a bite of our food. Instead, she sat in the chair staring intently at something with a look of genuine wonder on her face.

What she found so fascinating, I have no idea – but she carried on staring at whatever it was right through dinner and for about 45 minutes afterwards. And that opened the floodgates for a whole stream of new skills – from improved head control (which means we can no longer refer to her by her newborn nickname of Miss Floppyhead) to her ever so amusing ability to grab hold of a chunk of my hair and hold on really tightly (yes, I really appreciate that one). What is amazing about her new-found skills, though, is how excited my husband and myself become every time she masters something else, no matter how mundane.

“Look, Emily’s learned how to cross her legs!” “Hey, Emily’s touching stuff!” “Wow, Emily’s waving her hand around!” are examples of the kind of conversations we have now. The day she started “talking” – which in her world involves making random cooing noises – was a real cause for celebration, and since then has resulted in endless phone calls to relatives in which I sit there positively encouraging Emily to talk.

Of course, what normally happens is that my mother answers the phone to a barrage of heavy breathing from my daughter – not necessarily something you really want to hear at the other end of a phoneline – followed by the occasional hiccup. Which isn’t quite what we were aiming for. Still, it’s a start.

Posted in Day to day | 3 Comments »

Just a Tad excited

Posted by Caroline on September 24, 2006

Emily’s New best friend?After eight years of wedded bliss and of cooing over other people’s babies rather than producing one of our own, my husband and myself finally became parents in June when our daughter Emily – or to give her her full name, Emily Rebecca Lena – was born.

The little lady came into the world on June 7 and has spent the past three months doing what babies do – namely eating, sleeping, cooing, wriggling and generally charming everybody she meets.

By way of introduction, my name is Caroline Westbrook and I’m a freelance journalist and writer living in West London. As the above might suggest, I recently put the career on hold in favour of raising a small baby (something which has left me all too familiar with dawn choruses and daytime TV), but can’t think of a better way to get back into writing than by sharing my family adventures with the world…..

My husband rang me on the way home from work the other week in a state of high excitement, saying he had bought Emily a new toy – which, by all accounts, sounded like the most amazing invention in the world. Baby Tad, he said , sang songs, played lullabies and offered all manner of other ways to keep a small baby entertained. What he failed to mention was what Baby Tad actually looked like, hence my shock when he arrived home with a giant bright green frog that resembled Kermit on steroids, and was almost as big as our daughter. Its face proved to be the most disconcerting however – with its big wide smile and huge eyes, it brought to mind the kind of toy that comes to life in horror movies, the sort you can imagine stumbling into the bedroom at 2am on its little fuzzy legs, clutching your best breadknife while giving throaty demonic chuckles. To add to my fear, the instruction manual included advice on what to do if the toy ‘makes improper responses or starts acting erratically’. I was unsure how helpful their suggestion of removing the batteries might be if its head started spinning in the manner of Linda Blair from the Exorcist or it started impersonating that episode of the Simpsons with the killer Krusty The Klown doll.

Being a laid-back kind of child, Emily’s reaction to the new arrival was to touch its foot and then try to eat it before she eventually pushed it over – meaning thus far Mummy and Daddy have had more fun pushing the buttons and playing the nursery rhymes than she has. My fear of it only increased later that night when, after Emily had had her night feed and gone back to sleep (at around 4am), I had a headache and went into the living-room to retrieve my painkillers from my handbag. To be faced with the sight of Tad staring at me and apparently glowing in the dark. Needless to say I was none too pleased when hubby went to work the next day, leaving the two of us alone in the flat with it, but happily we survived to tell the tale.

My opinion of it rapidly changed, however, when a week later we were having a difficult night with the little ‘un. While Emily normally goes to bed without much fuss, she’d just had her second set of jabs and wasn’t feeling too good – and on this particular evening, getting her to go to sleep was proving impossible, despite all the feeding, cuddling, rocking and singing we could muster. Eventually, at around 10pm, we came up with the idea of switching on Tad’s lullabies and leaving it in her room. Within 10 minutes she had fallen asleep and didn’t wake up again until 5am!

So I take back everything I said about Tad. It is officially marvellous. But I’m still convinced that it’s out to get me.

Posted in Day to day, Shopping | 6 Comments »