Life lately

The last few weeks have been so busy so apologies in advance for the long post as I try and catch up! 

Last week I had a four-day training course to finish my Hypnobirthing teacher training, which meant Frida had four full days of daddy day care. Both my husband and I were very slightly nervous as Frida had never gone a whole day without having breast milk before. However we now feel ridiculous for worrying because she had an amazing time with her dada and didn’t miss me one bit. She napped in the sling, drank lots of water, and ate a bit of food. 


They spent most of their time in various parks around the city, where Frida exhausted herself (and her dad) crawling, climbing, swinging, sliding, pointing st birds and ducks and dogs, and kissing other children in the park.


It felt so good to be an adult for a few days and think about something other than just Frida. I’m also really excited about starting to teach – it’s a huge change from my old job, working as a senior press officer in the civil service. Much as it was a great job, it wouldn’t have fit in around Frida, and although the decision to hand in my notice kept me up at night for weeks, I am certain it was the right thing to do. Frida will only be young once, and I’m looking forward to starting a business that I’m truly passionate about. I will share some more details and my new work website with you when it’s finally finished (this weekend I hope!)


I’ve been very quiet on the blog front because I’ve had lots of preparation and assignments to do for my course, but Frida is continuing to blow us away on a daily basis.

We spend a lot of time each day looking at the birds and the foxes in our garden; we are visited by magpies, wood pigeons, crows, starlings, and many big foxes, one of whom sleeps in the sunshine at the back of the garden every afternoon. She is enthralled by wildlife. By the door to the garden is her favourite place to be.


She is saying more and more words, and tries to copy everything we say. New ones include “pepper”, “owl”, “ear / eye” and “moo” (though her elocution needs some work).

She’s starting to – finally – eat a little bit more food. We did baby-led weaning so there’s been no rush, and no stress, but I can’t help but feel a little bit pleased when she eats some of the lovingly prepared food I offer her rather than just squishing it between her fingers. There is a lot of joy in squishing.


She is so sociable. She loves public transport where she can make friends with whoever is sitting nearby, turning round to chat, wave, and, um, stroke their legs (sorry to the patient teenager on the 42 bus in Brighton). 

She loves babies and children, and points and shouts “bubba”at them wherever we go. It’s quite funny watching her call big kids coming back from school bubba. Recently she was so full of kisses for a friend of ours’ four month old little boy that it almost, almost, made me broody. 


She is still obsessed with books. Current favourite include “One Fish Two Fish” (especially the page with the sheep – “baa baa!”), “Mog and the Baby” (I honestly think we have read this easily over a hundred times – all cats in the street are now “muh” for Mog), and “Dear Zoo” where she likes to hiss at the snake, and make the page with the frog jump up and down.

She’s also discovered the chalk wall I painted for her and I will sometimes find her sitting by it, drawing. 


My husband and I are both really, really enjoying parenting Frida at the moment. She is just such a delight and watching her grow into a little girl makes me so happy. 

This weekend we are finally going to try and spend some much needed down time as a family and enjoy the bank holiday. Have a great one! 

Gross motor skills: standing 

Over the last week Frida has suddenly “got” standing unaided. Previously if she was standing up and we let go of her, she would stand for 10-30 seconds, then panic when she realised and promptly sit down. 

  
Now however she will intentionally let go of whatever she is holding, and will do everything she can to balance if she starts to wobble. It’s such a joy to watch her!

  

She is also climbing the stairs (eek) and generally seems really aware of and interested by her body. When prompted she knows her nose, mouth, head, hands, and feet. It will be interesting to see when she decides to walk! 

Frida’s first haircut

I had tried everything. Every clip, hair band, Alice band, hair grip; Frida pulled each of them out of her hair with growing speed. Her hair was getting SO long to the point that it no longer felt fair to do nothing about it.  

So I decided that the time had come to finally cut her a fringe. I waited until she fell asleep in bed and then pounced with a pair of scissors I, ahem, found in the kitchen drawer.  


 Ta-dah! 

She has seemed pretty happy about it; it must be nice for her to no longer have to look out onto the world through a curtain of hair! I now feel horribly guilty that I didn’t do this weeks ago.

 
 

Eleven months 

Frida is eleven months old (or rather, she was a few days ago – we’ve all been unwell so finding time to blog hasn’t been easy). 

  
Her understanding and communication is increasing so rapidly at the moment. She can now say a few words, and I feel like she understands a lot of what we say to her. 

One of her favourite games at the moment is picking up one wooden animal at a time, holding it out for me to name and imitate the noise it makes. She is especially taken with the chicken and the cat at the moment. 

  
We have been spending a lot of time outside, touching bark and bricks and grass and concrete and flowers. She loves looking at older children running around,  spying on dogs, being thrown up into the air. 

She still wakes a lot at night, and still naps best lying on me – sometimes in frankly preposterous positions. 

  
I adore the little girl she is growing into; a funny, inquisitive, energetic child who still waves at everyone everywhere she goes. 

We are so lucky to have her. 

Baking with babies

For a few weeks I had been hankering after some carrot cake. But the big slabs in cafes seemed too sugary; shop bought versions too full of rubbish. There was nothing for it but to make my own. 

Pre-baby I used to love baking but I find cooking with Frida in tow a little challenging – she often wants to grab and touch everything I pick up, which makes things tricky! But instead of trying to redirect her energy I thought I would embrace the chaos and encourage her to “help” me and experience the ingredients. What better introduction to practical life? 

  
She doesn’t like being in her highchair for long periods of time (who can blame her) and so I thought I would grate the carrots in the sitting room on the coffee table. A perfect height for her to observe and get involved. She had a good nibble of one of the carrots and had a feel and taste of the grated end result. She didn’t seem very impressed by it though and spat it out. 

When it came to mixing up the ingredients I put her in her highchair at the table; the other alternative was for her to be on the floor or at her little table, but both of those would have made baking quite tricky for me. 

I showed her each ingredient as it was going into the mixing bowl and, if safe, offered her a bit to try (raisins, sugar, yes. Raw egg, no). 

  
We smelt the cinnamon and nutmeg together which was a great sensory activity, and she had fun shaking some out onto the table and getting it everywhere. The bonus of this was that she smelt delicious afterwards. 

She also liked investigating the jars of flour and sugar although as per usual this meant throwing them on the floor quite quickly. 

  

It felt good to embrace the mess and let her get involved. I really hope she enjoys cooking and baking when she is bigger and look forward to her being able to play a more active part through grating and mixing and cracking and spooning. It also meant I could quickly cobble together a cake, which we all then thoroughly enjoyed eating. 

I forgot to take a photo of the end product as I was too disorganised, but it was based on this recipe. I just added a bit less sugar (I think? I don’t use scales) and left off the icing to make it more baby friendly. 

On mothering 

Today is Mother’s Day, and it is a good one. I love being Frida’s mama. It feels like coming home. 

The wave she gives me when she opens her eyes in the morning. The joyful laughter that escapes from her morning, noon, and night. The playful games. The energy as she crawls around; the determination as she reaches something she shouldn’t really have. The cuddling at night, the demands for “boo”, the blue eyes looking up at me as she breastfeeds. The constant requests for books to be read. The pointing at what she wants. The fury if I dare to attempt to eat an apple without sharing. The wild sweaty hair after a nap. The shrieks of glee as I push her high on the swings. Her obsession with bananas (“ahnana!). The warmth of her little body lying on mine. The waving at everyone, wherever we are. Her toothy grin; her soft skin; her still-milky smell mingled with strawberry, garlic, grass. 

  
Mothering is all-consuming. It is not, I think, for the faint hearted. It has sharply refocused what I want to do with my life, prompting some big life changes and lots of soul searching. It brings perspective; watching a tiny newborn turn into an active, babbling infant in front of your eyes serves as a stark reminder that life is precious and short, and that your baby’s days as a small dependent child are numbered. My daughter is nearly eleven months. It seems hardly possible. 

I do my best to mother her with patience and love, gently, led by her. I try hard to play, to be silly, to make her laugh, to go outside as much as possible even when it’s rainy and I have a cold, to read story after story, to sing songs badly. Being a mother has encouraged me to ignore what other people think and do what is best for the small girl who relies on me. 

  
I often ponder how different my mothering experience would be if I didn’t have the support that I do. My husband is a true partner in parenting; someone who will read parenting books and discuss them with me even though he works long hours and is tired and never gets time alone. He shares the nappies as well as the games, and is our daughter’s best buddy. Each evening when she hears his key in the lock she shouts “dada”, drops whatever she’s doing, and crawls away from me towards the front door. He gives me space to have a bit of time alone, enough to refill my cup so that I can parent energetically and mindfully, and is my biggest cheerleader when I am feeling stretched and filled with self-doubt and that enemy of mothers, guilt. 

I also have two mighty mothers in my life. My mama is a constant source of love, joy, and inspiration, and it’s so comforting knowing she is always at the end of the phone – and that she believes in me. My mother-in-law is a badass role model in being at the top of your game career wise and still finding the energy and love to put your family first and I so hope I can be a bit like her when I grow up. They are truly wonderful women who offer patience, guidance and kindness, and Frida is so lucky to have them to look up to. 

I also have met the most brilliant “mum friends” both online and off, who have held my hand and provided me with advice, made me laugh, listened to me, and ensured that my long days at home with a child have never been lonely. Women are told that we cannot get on, that we must bicker and compete and be bitchy and judgemental. Utter nonsense. The other mothers I know are kind and fierce and I know they have my back. 

  
Still, even surrounded by love and support, there are also bits to mothering which are hard, oh so hard. I find the lack of space and time to myself very challenging. Frida sleeps with me, feeds from me, naps on me, is carried by me when we go outside, and stays close to me when she plays. I am no longer master of my time – I’m not even master of when I can shower, or if I can have a hot cup of tea. I also miss having long stretches of time alone with my husband, without her. But this period won’t last forever, and as the string between us stretches out and gets longer, I know I will miss these days. One day she will never again fall asleep on me, a sentence which breaks my heart a little bit. I am trying to embrace the fierce intensity of this parenting season without wishing it away, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.

I also struggle at times with the practicalities of being at home with a baby all day. The playing, the outings, the meal times, the snuggles; all of these things are amazing. But the constant loads of laundry, the thrice-daily wiping of the highchair and the table and clearing the dishes, the tidying and keeping the house clean and orderly; these things can be skull-crushingly tedious. I do try and find joy in them, remember that they are important tasks to make our family life run smoothly, to keep my daughter’s environment pleasant, but it’s not always easy. 

  
Mothering is the toughest job I have ever done. As the cliche goes there are no sick days or holiday days and the pay is awful and the overtime is non-negotiable. But it is definitely the most rewarding job I have ever had and I’m very, very lucky to have it. 

Sweet music 

Music is so important for babies and children – it’s a vital part of being human, and anyone who has spent time around infants will recognise the joy brought by a simple song, rhyme or rhythm. 

One of Frida’s favourite indoor activities is to use her musical instruments. We’ve collected these bit by bit over the last ten months, and it is a joy to watch her with them. When she shakes her shaker or a maraca, she shakes with her whole body, not just her hand or arm. 

  
Her favourite instrument is an African shaker I bought for her in the Horniman Museum. I love it too, and the sound it makes is different depending on how you shake it. She also enjoys these little wooden maracas I bought online. We have lots of these maracas as they are useful to keep in her changing bag or in our coats to cheer her up in an emergency. 

  
She also loves this wooden bell shaker and has enjoyed it for a good number of months. It’s quite light so easy for even a young baby to handle and it makes a pleasingly loud noise! 

  
My mum recently bought her a beautiful xylophone. I don’t know where it’s from but it’s really lovely, with clean, crisp notes. It’s a proper instrument rather than a toy which I think is important as it makes a wonderful sound and is a good tool for Frida to use, unlike some of the rubbish sounding toy xylophones I have seen. I really agree with the Montessori ethos that children should be given real tools and objects to use rather than “pretend” ones (which are usually less well made and less joyful to handle). 

  
During a recent trip to IKEA I picked up a pack of their wood percussion instruments and Frida is starting to get the hang of how the scraping one (I have no idea of the proper name) works. She also, unsurprisingly, loves the shaker which comes with the set. 

  
Finally another favourite is this simple wooden tambourine. It’s light but makes a great shake and is also a satisfying drum.

  
As well as her instruments, Frida also has some wooden sound blocks which have coloured Perspex (great for looking through) and different sorts of beads inside, so each make a different sound when shaken. These are a firm favourite and l can see her using them to build with her wooden blocks when she’s a bit bigger. 

When she is a bit older I would like to introduce her to a triangle and a flute and a proper drum. 

At the moment she has access to everything apart from the xylophone on her shelves and she does go back to her instruments over and over again. If you’re currently pondering gifts for a baby or toddler I can highly recommend instruments!