Sunday, 26 February 2012

Cheerful Sunday

These bright and happy curtains from Ikea all hung up in our nursery make me feel very cheerful!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Word of the Week

sidewalkpavement


Definition:  The paved area meant for pedestrian traffic, generally alongside a road
Used in a sentence:  I find it ironic that neighborhoods in Texas tend to have better sidewalkpavements, even though people in the UK walk far more frequently.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Name Game

As we near the finish line to the arrival of our baby boy, (10 days til my due date, y'all!  TEN DAYS! How is that possible?!!?  My older brother was 10 days early.  Yikes!) we've been nearing a final choice on name.  Nope.  I'm not telling.  Yet.  But I would like to talk about how you test drive names for a baby.  I mean, you've got to get the feel of a name and see how it handles.  If it fits.  If it's "the one", right?


First up is the obvious way- referring to the baby by the name.  We've gotten to the point that we either refer to our son by our prospective final choice or "the baby".  No more endless rotation of ridiculous possible names.

A friend suggests the following methods:  1. Envision the name signed on a holiday card with the rest of the family.  This makes sense.  You can see if it fits with the family as a whole.  I guess you could also literally write all the names out to physically see it.  2. Holler the name as if your child is in trouble.  Other variations include: as if you're getting their attention on a playground or other crowded space and as if you're calling them in from playing outside because it's dinner time.  Also an excellent barometer, I think.

We've tried our own non-traditional methods.  When we see the midwife at the Children's Centre there are often mommy and me type classes going on.  So as we wait for Mandy, we often get a peek at what's going on.  Sometimes it's a "messy play" class with adorable babies doing sensory play with different textures.  Sometimes it's a singing group.  One day, whilst waiting, the singing group was doing a little introduction song where they went around the circle singing this song with each child's name put in:

_______ is a jumping bean.
The biggest bean you've ever seen!
He/She can jump so high.
He/She can nearly touch the sky!

We've since used this song to test drive names and frequently refer to the baby as the biggest bean we've ever seen.  

The final thing we've done only works on certain names because there's a list to select from, but it's pretty fun!  Ross found a link on one of the many "freebie" sites he subscribes to that inserts your chosen name into a song sung by Elmo!  You can try out as many different names as you like in the free short clip (though you can't save it) and you can download with your final selection if you like.  There's no better way to decide on a name than by getting Elmo's stamp of approval.

Did you test drive a few different names for your baby, or did you just pick?
What method of testing do you think works best?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Packing for the Birth Centre: My Bag

I've read dozens of lists online of what you should bring with you to the hospital/birth centre.  I don't know about you, but I like to gather plenty of resources before deciding how to proceed.  I don't know why I do so much research on these things, because I generally end up doing what my gut instinct tells me anyway.  (It's just another one of my endearing quirks crazinesses.)  But as I've researched what to bring with me when we go to have our baby, I've seen some good ideas.  Most of the lists I've seen have been from an American perspective. The UK ones I've seen are mostly for a hospital setting.

So I thought I'd share what I'm packing to take with me to a Birth Centre in the UK.  I plan to have one bag for me, one diaper bag (or change bag, as they call them here) with stuff for the baby, and a food bag- so I'll break up the posts in that manner.  Plus, this bag is the only one I've packed so far :)

So here's what I'm taking with me:

My bag all packed

For during labor:

A large V necked maternity t-shirt, two sports bras, 2 pairs of slipper socks, and a massager

Hospitals in the UK don't give labouring mothers hospital gowns, so I've got a long-ish maternity T shirt to wear and be comfortable in.  I've got two sports bras so that I can have a dry one if I get out of the birth tub.  I'm not worried about modesty so much as containment.  Word is that your feet can get chilly, so I've got two pairs of fuzzy socks.  I figure the massager will come in handy to keep Ross' hands from getting too tired.

Post-labor:

a robe and slippers

They encourage at least an hour of skin to skin contact between mothers and babies as soon as the babies are delivered.  With this light, front-opening robe I can have a little warmth and modesty but still have great skin to skin time.  The little ballet slippers are a back up for the fuzzy socks.  They don't take any real space, so I figured they were worth throwing in.

Toiletries:

a bath towel, wash cloth, face wipes, make-up bag o' goodies, maxi pads, deodorant, and lotion

I'm sure I'll want to shower after our inital skin to skin and you are supposed to bring your own towel and a wash cloth.  I've also got face cleaner wipes for a quick clean up.  My make up bag contains:  shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face lotion, mirror, facial tissues, travel toothbrush and paste, bobby pins, several hair elastics, and lip balm.  I've also got a little sample-sized blush and mascara in case I feel like primping up a tiny bit for pictures, though I predict these will go unused.  The overnight maxi pads are a must for post-birth grossness.  Deodorant wouldn't fit in my bag o' goodies so it's loose and the lotion can be used during massage during labor.

Going home:

ballet flats, a zip-front hoodie, a nursing tank top, and sweatpants

I wanted clothes that would be comfy and utilitarian for going home.  The flats will be easy to slip on, the zip front hoodie and nursing tank top will provide easy access for breastfeeding, and the sweatpants are just plain comfy.  I've also got about 4 pairs of older underwear to wear either during or after labor.

In addition to the items pictured above, I also need to throw in my favorite blanket.  A friend recommended bringing a snuggly blanket for after the birth to be comfortable and cosy.  We'll also have an iPod to play music and our cameras for pictures and the requisite chargers.  Obviously, we'll have cell phones to make calls to spread the word after our son arrives.

Americans may be surprised about some of the things I'm bringing and some of the things I'm NOT bringing.  The reason I'm bringing some things (like maxi pads and towels) is that the NHS does not provide them.  At most hospitals in the US, so many things like these are provided.  Mothers are even encouraged to fill their bags with all sorts of freebies to take home.  In the end, insurance pays for all these "freebies", so I'd much rather wind up with a free baby than a bag of goodies!  As for things I'm not bringing, I don't need that much extra clothing or pjs because (unless something goes wrong and I need extra medical attention) I'll be leaving the Birth Centre to go home after no more than 8 hours.  This might sound crazy-early to American moms, but keep in mind that a home health visitor will be coming to our home to check on us the next day.  The quicker you can get a new baby out of a germy hospital the better, right?

So, what else do you think I should toss in my bag?
Do any of the things I'm taking with me surprise you?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Cheerful Sunday

My friend Elizabeth has very cute children.
Her son Chiron is possibly the embodiment of cheerfulness.
This picture of him waiting to get some pancakes this morning makes me feel very cheerful and if it doesn't make you smile then I think something may be very wrong with you.



Saturday, 18 February 2012

Word of the Week

Sprinkleshundredsandthousands


Definition:  Tiny pieces of sugar candy used to decorate desserts, generally multi-coloured 
Used in a sentence:  Looking at that picture of a chocolate donut covered in sprinklehundredsandthousands is making me want one really badly!

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Wall

You guys... I've finally hit the wall of my pregnancy.  You know that wall where all of a sudden the simplest things exhaust me.  Where I'm feeling BIG.  Where I'm frustrated by my lack of physical stamina.

37 weeks, 3 days

One Wednesday we went to Ikea.  Finally!  I'd been waiting and waiting.  We got a bookcase for our lounge (pictured above) and the chest of drawers for the nursery.  By the time we left, I was practically hobbling and certainly huffin' and puffin'.  

On Thursday, I got up and met two new friends that I met through the birth classes.  We walked around nearby Heaton Park (Europe's largest municipal park) which was really cool.  It was great walking weather and there were fields and some animals.  There was good conversation and then a stop for refreshment.  We each had a slice of tasty carrot cake.  I was jokingly accused of being posh because I got a plastic fork to eat mine with, rather than just using my hands.  The park seems like a great place to go walking with kids (especially given the insane number of mums with prams and toddlers that we saw) and is only 2 tram stops away from us.

After the walk, I was tired, but determined to construct the bookcase.  And it damn near killed me.  I never thought putting together a simple Billy Bookcase would do me in, but it nearly did.  It was so frustrating because it was the first time I've truly felt physically hampered by my pregnancy.  Not that I can really complain, given that I made it to 37.5 weeks before hitting this wall.  I attributed it to the walk plus the bookcase being too much for me.

But then today, we did a little shopping and by the time we got home I was knackered!  I guess it's just hit that point for me and I should cut myself a little slack and succumb to it.  Thankfully, I am still happy to be pregnant.  I've heard other women talking about hitting a secondary wall of "Dear God, just get the baby out! I'm so over being knocked up."  I'm curious about whether I'll get to that one or if the baby will come before I hit it.

When did you hit "the wall"?
Did you ever hit the second wall?
Did you notice that part where I slipped it in a sly and subtle and cool about my new friends (FRIENDS! TWO!)?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Poetry for Sanity

For the most part, I don't miss my job.  There were plenty of headaches and a micromanaging (if generally sweet) boss.  I did get to play data detective with my buddy Abu, which was fun.  Most importantly, though I had a partner in crime.  She and I were the project managers on the study we ran and worked together pretty closely.  We had a fair amount of overlap on our jobs and knew how to do most things that the other did.  I focused more on data and she focused more on patient care.  Over the course of working together we became good friends.  She was even one of my bridemaids.

in my old office, circa 2009

She stopped working in the lab shortly before I did because she'd had her first baby and was going to be staying home with him and finishing up her certification to be a fully licensed Psychologist.  I was glad that I was leaving a mere couple of weeks later as it just wasn't the same without her.

We really bonded over a similar strong work ethic, sense of humour and respect for each other.  Eventually, we even jokingly referred to ourselves as "Mindy" (a Brangelina-like portmanteau of Meg and Cindy) when asked for our joint insight or opinion on a matter.

We supported each other through some rocky times at the office, personally and professionally.  One thing we started doing to relieve stress was compose poetry.  We'd generally stick to haiku, but we'd also have "Limerick Fridays".

Today we were reminiscing on Facebook and she posted my most spectacular haiku.  We were dealing with an... interesting... and ... challenging co-worker who regularly drove us up the wall.  The haiku were integral to our composure being maintained.

Would you like to read my work of literary genius?  I thought you might...

The prepositions
dangle like the frail thread of
my very last nerve.

Good, huh?  I thought about seeking publication.  (I hope you realize I'm not really this cocky... just being silly... you know... for humour)  Our co-worker viewed herself as a highly skilled communicator/writer, but was notorious for leaving multiple dangling prepositions.  I swear, sometimes the haiku were all that kept Mindy from shaking this girl!

Have you ever engaged in creative sublimation to get through a tough time?
Do you like to write poetry?  Is it any good, or just silly, like mine?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

My funny valentine

One of the things I totally dig about the UK (That's right.  I like things about life here.  I mention them fairly often.  Ha!) is the radio.  When we were dating, Ross often talked about how the radio in the UK is superior to that in the US.  I never really understood what he was talking about or how the radio here could be any different...

Then I came over and I realized that the radio here IS better!  I think part of the difference is that their are lots of BBC stations.  Each one is geared to different demographics and plays different types of music.  The station that we listen to is BBC2 which is a mix of talk, news, and popular music.  The popular music that gets played seems to have a far more wide-reaching playlist than the average radio station in the US.  Don't get me wrong, you'll still hear the same songs over and over again from time to time, but you hear songs from different eras and more varied artists.  

Lately, Radio 2 has been playing Paul McCartney(or Macca as he's affectionately known)'s new single.  His new album has a simple jazzy style that is really nice.  I'm sharing this song with you today in honor of Valentine's Day.  

(Also, it wouldn't be me if I didn't get in a public proclamation of how much I adore my own sweet funny Valentine of a husband.  I love you Ross!  You're my favourite.  I like you!  You are the one I like!)

Hope you're all having a lovely day full of some type of love or other.

Monday, 13 February 2012

MIA Catch up

Sorry for going MIA at the end of last week.  Friday was my birthday and I was too busy celebrating to come up with posts for y'all ;)

So how did we celebrate my birthday?
Well I attended the Active Birth Workshop.  Yes, without Ross (My little victory turned out to be hollow... argh...)  In the end, though, while helpful, the workshop didn't really cover birth positions or things that would have been helpful for Ross to know anyway (despite it's name) so it wasn't that big a deal.

Then we went to the Trafford Centre for lunch at Carluccio's and to see The Muppets!  Though it's been out in the US since Thanksgiving, it wasn't released until my actual birthday here.  I declared it to be a birthday gift from the universe.  My husband knows how to treat me right!  My amazing man had also planned to take me to IKEA after the movie (seriously, I'd told one of my friends that a trip to the Swedish store was one of my birthday wishes!), but because the Active Birth Workshop had run nearly an hour over it was too late.

In the end, I don't really feel a year older.  Thirty three!  I've never been one to be squeamish about getting older or people knowing my age.  And I think this is going to be the best year yet.
And now, I leave you with some Muppet fun.

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Song in the year of my birth!

Did you see The Muppets yet?
Are you perpetually 29 or ageing normally?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Cheerful Sunday

Nesting makes me feel cheerful!
I just finished washing all of our sons clothes.  Now I just need a dresser to put them in!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Word of the Week

Jellojelly


Definition: a (usually) fruit-flavored dessert made with gelatine, known for it's translucence and jiggliness 
Used in a sentence:  My favourite flavor of jellojelly is red.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Nursery Inspiration: Sneak Peak!

I told y'all ages ago that I had a vision for the nursery.  A vision that booted my awesome jungle roller-blind fabric out of my nursery plans.  I've also told you that we are making slow, but sure progress in the nursery.  That progress has continued and I've been slowly amassing the elements of my vision.

To the naked eye, the nursery still looks a shambles.  The twin bed is still in it.  The cotcrib is still in it's box and we don't have a mattress (YET!  It's ordered and on the way...).  But I've got full confidence that the final coming-together will happen fast.  It's only a matter of getting rid of the last few things and moving the other things into place.  I'm a decorating ninja!  And since the fully-decorated nursery has existed in my mind for several months now, it's just a matter of making it reality.  And that's the easy part. :)

So now, let's talk theme.  I'm not good at concise themes.  In fact, I've decided that I object to themes and only will speak of them in quotes.  Our wedding's "theme" was Glamorous Vibrant Elegant Bold Colors with a Quirky Twist.  Or something like that.  Our nursery "theme" is Vintage Childhood Nostalgia.  Now, what does that mean?  And how did we pick it?

To answer the first question, I present some pictures of things from my stash:

A vintage Tom (& Jerry) Jack in the Box

A sweet little mirrored Paddington wall plaque

An old-school Ernie

Awesome metallic postcards, framed

Metal 7 Dwarves

A close up of Dopey.  The figures have a great patina and aged quality.

Framed postcards of stamps showing famous Children's stories:
The 3 Bears, Peter Rabbit, and Rupert Bear

To answer the second... Well it was a combination of factors really.  It all started from Ross talking about finding some neat old animation cells to frame.  Ironically that hasn't happened.  It was the jumping off point for the concept because I was trying to figure out how to incorporate cartoons without going too "theme-y" or being too cheesy.  Then I started looking around at the stuff that we already had on hand.  I realized that Ross already had a huge stockpile of collectibles that fell into the category of Vintage Childhood Nostalgia.  I needed some place for all these things to go anyway... what could be cooler than incorporating all of these cherished possessions into our son's nursery.  I haven't purchased anything in those pictures above (frugality bonus!).  Ross had all of them on hand!  I've cleaned things up a bit and re-framed stuff- in frames we already had, but I've found a wealth of great stuff in our home.  By keeping things firmly in the vintage and nostalgia categories, I'm hoping to avoid tacky (in my opinion, but to each their own) cartoon "theme".  So I'm mixing silver and brassy-gold and bright colors and hoping to end up with something charming, whimsical, and super-cute.  I'll keep you posted on how it turns out!

So, how do you feel about themes/"themes"?

Monday, 6 February 2012

Soap Nuts

alternate title:  You Wash Your Clothes with What?

In our quest to expose our child to as few chemicals as possible, I started looking into gentle detergents that weren't full of harsh ingredients.  Here in the UK, there are two major types of detergent "Bio" and "Non-Bio".  I don't really understand the difference.  I've asked a few people and none of them have been able to tell me either.  Just that "Non-bio" is less harsh, so should be used for babies.  (Here's a link from a leading detergent company explaining the difference.)

At any rate, I combed the aisle of the grocery store for the gentle, baby-safe options and was surprised that there doesn't seem to be a brand that market directly to that population.  I then broadened my search to onlines.  I found something that was very intriguing.  Ross has introduced me to plenty of natural alternatives for cleaning over the years, but he'd never heard of this one either.  We aren't hippies really, but we're all for using natural alternatives to chemical products if they work.  We thought this one was worth checking out, so we ordered our very own Soap Nuts for £5 (including shipping) from eBay.

A few days later, this muslin bag arrived in the mail.


It contained a plastic bag full of soap nuts and 2 small muslin drawstring bags.


The nuts themselves are about the size of  marbles and are slightly sticky.  Sorry for the flash in this picture, but it was the only way to capture the sheen on the nuts.  They have a little bit of an odor, but it's not really a bad smell... just sort of... nutty...


To use the soap nuts for laundry, you put 4-6 in one of the small muslin bags.


And then soak the bag in a cup of warm water for about 3 minutes.


This helps release the suds in the nuts a bit.  You can see some foamy bubbles around the edge of the cup in this picture.


Then you just toss the little bag in the washing machine on top of your clothes.  The same bag can be used for about 3 washes before the nuts are spent.  They take on a dried out shell look when that happens.  The shells can then be composted.  We don't have a composting facility, so into the trash they go.

I've used the soap nuts for the last several weeks and have been really pleased with how they clean our clothes.  They come out of the wash soft and clean smelling (though not perfumed... if you want to, you can apparently add essential oils to the washer, but I don't mind a lack of "smell").  I haven't washed anything that was super-duper dirty (just our regular washing) yet, but the soap nuts have done a good job.  I'll have to update y'all once I've tried this method with some dirty baby stuff and especially on cloth diapers.  I do still add bicarbonate of soda to our white loads to help make them nice and bright.  At our current rate of use (I probably do about 6 loads of laundry a week), I imagine the bag we bought for £5 will last for at least 4 months, probably more.  That seems like pretty good value to me!  

You can use soap nuts for other methods, as outlined on the website http://www.soapnuts.co.uk/
We tried to use them in the dishwasher and weren't very impressed, so for now we're sticking with chemicals to clean the dishes.  Perhaps if we made soap nuts liquid and used that we'd see better results, but that seemed like a lot of work.  

All in all, I'd give Soap Nuts a tentative, but strong thumbs up!  If you're looking for a method to clean without chemicals they're worth a shot.  

(Note:  We bought these little nuts on our own and no one paid or asked me to review them... just a little public service.)

What cleaning methods do you use?
Are you traditional or willing to try weird, natural stuff like us?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Cheerful Sunday

A walk through our very quiet and deserted neighbourhood in the crisp snow was surprisingly cheerful!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Word of the Week

Shrimpprawn


Definition:  A sea creature crustacean; either very tasty or yucky, depending on your personal taste
Used in a sentence:  I have one dear friend who didn't realize that the pink state of a shrimpprawn was not raw and required boiling to obtain, bless her.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

I swear my husband will be a good father...

Tonight was the final night of our 4 week childbirth pregnancy class.  The session, which focused on baby care, was nearly entirely useless.  Ross has been suffering with a sore shoulder for a while and it was really acting up tonight and he was... not interested in playing along nicely.

We were asked to take turns dressing and undressing giant stiff baby dolls.  When it came to be Ross' turn he picked up the doll without thinking about it and started to dress the doll.  The leader of the class looked horrified and tried to (in a sing-songy voice) gently chastise him and asked if he'd actually pick the baby up like that.  Ross stopped and looked at her like she was an idiot and said "No" in a tone of voice that indicated "Of course not.  I'm not stupid."  Ross dressed the baby as the leader looked on, shaking her head.

I started to feel anxious.  I was torn.  Part of me wanted to be irritated with Ross that he wasn't playing along- but at the same time, I was painfully aware of how pointless the exercise was.  Skill at dressing a baby doll really doesn't translate to the real deal.

Next came a demonstration of how to bathe a baby.  Not something I was worried about, but I get demonstrating it.  Some people might not know how it's done and I'm happy to have a technique taught to me.  But after the demonstration we were expected to divide up and all take turns bathing our stupid little dolls.  This time, when directed that it was his turn, Ross just flat out refused.  If he had been uninterested in playing along before, he was now at full animosity towards playing along.  He said to me that if his shoulder hurt this badly, he would actually probably decline giving our baby a bath because he wouldn't feel confident in his grip and ability to do it safely- so he certainly wasn't going to bathe a doll.

I shook my head and looked at the teacher who looked like she was making a note to call Social Services on us.  My anxiety mixed with embarrassment.  I went into these classes knowing that Ross doesn't play along well with things that he thinks are dumb.  And god forbid, anyone should tell him what to do! :)  I figured out that, mostly, I just wanted the leaders to understand that I'm not married to a callous idiot.  When it comes to our actual child, Ross will likely be one of the most conscientious, tender, and cautious dads in the world.  Then I decided that as long as I know how awesome Ross is, I don't  really care what the useless leader of a class thinks.  And actually, I turned down my chance to bathe the doll as well.

(The reason the class wasn't entirely useless was that, at the end of class, one of the women came up to me and gave me her phone number!  She and her husband were really nice and we'd shared several conversations, rolled eyes, and laughs over the course of the 4 weeks.  She came to yoga last week for the first time and checked to make sure I was planning to attend next week.  It only took 2 years, but I totally got a phone number from a potential friend!  That I could imagine hanging out with!  Huzzah!)

Did you take any classes to prepare for childbirth?
Do you (or your husband) play along with silly exercises in group educational settings?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Making the cut, follow up

Let me start by saying that most of the attention my last post on this subject attracted was due to it being linked to on an anti-circumcision group's site.  Their members make a practice of going to posts like mine and trying to stop mothers from circumcising their sons.  The link to my post even had a note cautioning people to be nice to me (I assume because I expressed ambivalence and they saw me as a possible "get").  I received responses and emails from people on both sides of the issues and any of the ones that struck me as outright lobbyists or propaganda spreaders really rubbed me the wrong way.  I'm not going to be coerced or pressured into making an important decision by strangers bombarding me with (often biased) info- in EITHER direction.  

Secondly, I won't be disclosing our ultimate decision.  It's not really anyone else's business and I figure our son deserves a little privacy on the issue of his private parts.  If you aren't close enough to us to be changing his diaper, then you don't need to know.  

All that out of the way... I'm all about sharing info so....
We discussed circumcision options with Mandy at a recent midwife visit, so I thought I'd come back and update you with what we learned.  

1.  If we want a circumcision we'd have to pay for it to be done privately.  The NHS will not perform one unless it is medically indicated.
2.  Our GP's practice routinely does them because there is a large Jewish community in our area.
3.  Mandy was unsure, however, if they would be willing to provide one for us at all because I am not Jewish (Judaism is officially passed down through the mother, so our child would technically not be considered Jewish even if Ross was practising.)  Mandy literally had no idea how to go about obtaining one if you aren't Jewish.
4.  Ross is certain that he could find a GP willing to provide a circumcision regardless of our religious standing.

So the bottom line is that we can get a circumcision if we want one, but they don't make it easy on you if you aren't doing it for religious reasons.  And that's the follow-up.