Wednesday 20 November 2013

The last hurrah

There are few things that the Americans have given us that we have adopted with gusto. Halloween being one, which has been pushed so hard by the retailers that it's now almost a national holiday. Another one which has come creeping out of the woodwork over the years, is the baby shower.

Up until my wife became pregnant, I had no idea that baby showers even existed this side of the pond - how wrong I was. I was even (un)fortunate to attend my wife's, which I gather are usually an all female affair, however with a strong collective of male friends, my wife deemed it to be a unisex event.  Needless to say, I was subjected to eating baby food as part of a party game, whilst the female contingent pinned something on a man...

From my experience, a baby shower is to celebrate the imminent arrival of your little one, and is a great way to give and receive small gifts such as baby grows, blankets and teddies, as to prepare the mum-to-be with all manner of gear that she had no idea she needed.  There doesn't however, seem to be something for the man.

With the imminent arrival of our beloved daughter back in October last year, I made the most of a baby-free world and popped out for a few jars on a Saturday afternoon, only for it to turn into a Saturday night, and then a Sunday morning.  Jokingly as I left my friends house in the early hours to make my way home to my sleeping mummy-to-be, I slurred that I'd enjoyed my 'Male baby shower'... and so the tradition began.

Roll forward almost a year and our daughter's godparents are due with their little one in January and casually I dropped the hint to my friend Dan that he should plan his male baby shower, or 'Last Hurrah' as we'd now coined it.  Cue the Facebook group/event and before we knew it a full blown house party was planned to send him off into parenthood with a bang!

It worked out quite well for me too, with the wife away, my friend's wife came and stayed at ours and babysat for the night, and as she put it, spent the evening practising everything that she would inevitably be doing for the foreseeable future, whilst he on the other hand would be practising everything that he wouldn't be able to do again for the forthcoming years.

The night was fantastic, and with 70% of the attendees being fathers who hadn't had a break from nappies for almost six months, you can imagine the sort of bravado and subsequent hangovers that occurred - but in short (and under baby-stag code), we gave the father-to-be a send off that he'll remember.  Especially when he's sat up in the middle of the night with milky sick dribbling down his shoulder.

From what I hear wetting the baby's head happens less and less.  Whether this is because the man generally takes a more practical role at home once the baby has arrived, and the thought of being out of the house, in a pub after 8pm sends tiring, exhausting shivers down their spine, or actually that the male baby shower is catching on, I don't know.  For one, I think it's a great idea, with a generally guilt free night out with the boys... that is of course, until the second one comes along of which I have no idea how the baby shower system works - perhaps I'll ask the Americans.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Flying solo

Eventually it was going to happen.  With my wife being an air stewardess, eventually I was going to be "left holding the baby" whilst she flew through the skies.  It's not as though I don't know how to look after my daughter, it's just that generally I do it on my own for an afternoon, or an evening, or for twenty minutes whilst she pops to the shops - this time it was a whole weekend.

With the rather rapid realisation that the list of all the jobs I usually save for the weekend were out the window, I mentally pulled together some of the things that would keep me sane, and more importantly keep India entertained.  The worst part about it was the forecast of rain the entire weekend, and I'm not sure that I'm ready to subject myself to a soft play centre on a Saturday afternoon.  

On getting her ready to leave the house for a slightly less entertaining trip to the butchers (while the cat's away, the husband will have steak), it dawned on me that I would actually be able to dress my daughter, without having to worry about whether the shade of tights that I put on her, match the stitching of her dress.  This in itself was a small but significant victory over the weekend to come.

I came to realise quite quickly that this was a great opportunity for me to spend some real one-on-one time with India and regain some of the lost hours of the working week.  I devoted myself to this mantra so much so that I spent half an hour pushing her on the swings in the park, yes, half an hour, my arm turned to jelly and I waited ten minutes to get the feeling back before I could drive the car home.  To be honest hearing her constant giggles for the best part of thirty minutes was well worth it.

Constantly running around after the little people for most of the day can challenge your sanity somewhat.  To counteract this I decided that it would be a fantastic idea to take the opportunity to tick a job off my "normal weekend list" - popping India in her cot; I attempted putting up her book shelf.  I'm pretty sure shelves are supposed to be level with the wall; mine was reminiscent of a ramp.

Moving my attention away from home improvements, and concentrating more on weaning improvements, I thought it a good idea to allow India to be a bit bolder with her self-feeding.  She's pretty keen anyway, normally battling to get hold of the spoon and then within the blink of an eye, catapulting its contents across the kitchen.  I went for the 'no spoon' option with her beef goulash and mash.  She delightfully scooped a great handful and promptly smeared it all over her face, and the floor.

I think what summed up my weekend flying solo most was India's latest vocabulary addition.  On more than one occasion, either when she dropped something, lost something, missed her mouth or fell on her bum, she mumbled "Oh dear".  I'm hoping that it's just a sound that she's picked up rather than a reflection of my parenting skills.  I guess we'll only start to find out once I've had a few more weekends of just the two of us.

Monday 7 October 2013

The Christening

I'm not the biggest fan of religious events.  Christmas is all right I suppose, Easter has become commercially chocolate. Holi looks like a lot of fun, but Ramadan seems like a lot of hard work.  A christening or a wedding on the other hand I don't mind - I feel like they serve a purpose as important milestones in a lot of people's life, including my own.

The wife and I decided that we wanted India christened.  After all, we had to make the decision as she's only 11 months and probably not capable of making that choice herself.  We decided to keep it a low key affair, and opted for the ceremony to be held at the local church up the road, which incidentally, is the oldest building in Brighton and Hove - should India require bragging rights when she's older.  I also learnt from the personable reverend that it's actually called 'Baptism' in the Church of England - I stand absoluted.

We also opted to have a small afternoon tea style shindig back at our house afterwards.  I say small shindig, although I was secretly harbouring the desire to put on a reasonable sized house party, as since our wedding the opportunities to celebrate at scale with our friends has somewhat diminished.  Given my wife was to be studying for her cabin crew exams, the responsibility of organising the entire day, fell anxiously into my lap.  Don't get me wrong though, I'm a planner, so I was relishing the task at hand - although there are definitely a few rules that I will follow in future

·         Do a background check on your Godparents - "Legally", someone cannot become a Godparent if they've not previously been baptised.  We have two Godparents and two "Guardians" as a result.
·         Choose the short ceremony - There are two standard options for a christening, one with hymns and readings (1 hour), one without (20 minutes).
·         Remember it's not your wedding - It's centred around your baby, it's not going to turn into an all night rave.
·         Ensure there are enough cars for old people - You don't want the great-grandparents turning up to the church an hour after it's finished.
·         Book your on-line shopping slot - Don't leave it to arrive until lunchtime the day before, it'll just make you stressed.
·         Beg, borrow or buy gazebos - You can't predict the weather and you don't want 30 people squeezed into your lounge/kitchen.
·         Hire staff - This will mean that you actually say more than three words to each guest for the duration of the afternoon.
·         Bake in time, and then freeze - Remember you are not Paul Hollywood; you will only become tetchy when trying to whip up 40 scones in an hour.
·         Vary the drinks - Pimm's is nice, but you can't drink it all day and it's not everyone's cup of tea.
·         Vet the Vegan's - You don't want to embarrass yourself by serving a piece of roasted pepper on a cocktail stick.

The day actually went incredibly well.  The christening was great, and I think India enjoyed the attention.  It was tough to watch the reverend wipe oil in her newly washed hair (he later informed me that it was rose oil from the Body Shop - and who said catholic consumerism was dead...), and it was a very happy day overall.  I will however, should we have a second, be having the aftermath at a local pub, as scraping cake crumbs from your carpet, with a hangover, on a Sunday afternoon isn't fun for anyone.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Baby gastronomy

I remember the first bit of food we gave our daughter.  We were sat in our lounge, exhausted as usual, and yet a little excited.  As huge foodies, it was always going to be a monumental event, giving our precious little offspring her first taste of solid food.  Clearly it was going to have some logistical benefits too - such as not having to make twenty five bottles of formula every day.  

We'd gone with baby rice, like I think most parents do, smooth, easy to swallow, bland, essentially the polar opposite of everything that most human beings would class as food... and well, I think she liked it.  I'm not really sure, observing her screwing her face up wondering what we'd put in her mouth and then promptly swallowed - not much has changed in six months to be honest.

My wife and I would like to think that we are enabling India to develop an educated pallet.  We have tried her on everything from home-made Thai green turkey curry to fish pie and she has always demolished everything that has been put within six yards of her mouth.  As a parent who has always has that niggling thought in the back of their head of whether she'll magically turn into a fussy eater when she hits three, I'm loving the fact that she'll eat anything.  When I say anything, I mean ANYTHING!

It therefore came as no surprise today that she had decided to extend her gastronomic landscape quite substantially on her own steam - to the point where gastronomy didn't actually come into it any more.  On leaving for work this morning, and being no more than half an hour down the road, the wife called.  

Now this is generally quite unusual in itself, as I'm pretty sure that when I walk out the door on most mornings, she will pop India back in her room and grab another forty winks - not this morning.  By the sounds of things the total opposite had happened and whilst the wife was brewing her morning caffeine hit, India had decided that she'd like to sample the tasty delights that the living room has to offer.  From our gas fire, she had treated herself to a piece of the mock coals.  Apparently she had made rather light work of the outer coating and gnawed her way to the inner core - not bad considering she's only got eight teeth!

You can only imagine what might be next on her cartes du jour.  Later in the day when I popped to the local supermarket, she rediscovered one of her favourite delicacies, paper.  As I was nipping in, I gave the trolley a miss and carried her, meaning that within approximately three and a half minutes into the aisle wandering she started getting squirmy.  

Once at the tills, in order to keep her entertained I handed her one of the money off vouchers that you get in the orange supermarket.  I continued to pocket my wallet and pick up the food, when I turned to look at her once more, she had devoured half of it.  I'm not sure whether it was the excitement of 40p off her next purchase of spices that overcame her, or the bright coloured picture, but all I could see was a white mush milling around in her oh so innocent mouth.  

I quickly hooked my little finger into her mouth to retrieve as much as I could to be promptly met with a lurch of her head so that she could finish chewing on what she obviously thought was the tastiest treat she'd had that day.  The 'Please ask for assistance' guy stood near me, looked at me as though I'd not fed my child for a week as I whisked past, juggling baby, potatoes and the remainder of the voucher in my hands. That will be the last time I do that.

For afternoon snacks we've been heavily relying on baby rice cakes and toast.  Perhaps now, after this display of her culinary ambition, it's time to change it up a bit - coasters and cheese anyone?

Friday 6 September 2013

Festival fun... but not like it used to be.

Taking children to festivals can be a hard decision.  My wife and I love festivals, it's a great way to let your hair down, get away from it all and forget about the outside world for a day or a weekend.  We met at Glastonbury, we love our music and we love camping, it's essentially in our blood.  So when it came to when we should introduce India to festivals, it was a little tough to decide how.  Initially I thought that we should just take her in a baby-backpack and lug her around all weekend, and then it dawned on me... I'd also need to lug her changing bag, favourite toy, spare dummy, blanket, coat and whatever else Mum decided she needed at the last minute - Going to a weekend long festival with a 6 month old was not an option, so we thought we'd do it gradually.

We started with a day festival in Hyde Park. I'm not sure about you (people that live outside the big smoke), but there's something off-putting about trying to lug something the size of a mini through the London Underground. Navigating it on your own steam is bearable, but when you've got half your hallway attached to a pram and you're trying to get down an escalator it's a completely different, sweaty experience.  We had bought a pair of baby ear defenders which we discovered were perfect for keeping the hustle, bustle and bass out of her tiny ears, and helped her to sleep during the afternoon.  To be honest, it was a breeze in the proverbial park, the pre-event stress was soon eradicated by the perfect day, and India just thought she was having some quiet play time!

On our next instalment we were slightly braver. We managed to get hold of some tickets for Secret Garden Party which is, shall we say, slightly less child friendly than a London royal park, but nevertheless we gave it a go for a day.  This time, the kit had doubled.  We needed warmer clothes for the evening (for all of us) and enough food and nappies to last, on the slight off chance there was an apocalypse and we couldn't get home till the following Wednesday.  The bottom of our pram looked like we'd been shoplifting at a jumble sale.  This festival went down a treat, India was still dancing in her pram with her ear defenders on long after we'd slurped a couple of coffees to enable us to tackle the long journey home.

Last weekend we went the whole hog.  Two nights, three days and stinking hot weather at the Big Feastival.  Thinking back to my twenties when I used to chuck a tent, a small bag and a case of cider in the boot of the car and shoot off down to Devon, this in comparison, was like preparing to move house.  I don't think I've ever managed to squeeze as much into my car as I did on Friday lunchtime - from formula to flip flops and travel cot to tent, it was all in there, I actually thought the wife was planning not to return home at one point.  Entertaining a little one (or two for that matter, with the addition of our friend's 3 year old) for the duration of the weekend was actually easier than we had anticipated.  It turned out that the biggest challenge of the weekend was the sober attempt to cocoon our darling daughter in her sling on the Saturday afternoon, only to stare at each other with a mix of confusion and bemusement whilst recalling the much easier attempt the previous evening, when we'd managed it in 20 seconds flat after a fair few ciders. As a result I was left carrying her on one arm for the remainder of the day and returned my back to it's crooked shape for the fifteenth time this year.

 I must say, if you're passionate about music, being outdoors and introducing the little people to a whole new world of experiences then I would highly recommend taking them to a festival, there are loads of family friendly ones out there, from Camp Bestival to Lollibop.  They will probably cost you a months mortgage, and then some, but the smile you get on their face when you're dancing and singing out of key to Mr Tumble's version of the hokey-cokey is well and truly worth every penny.  Trying to change a nappy on the side of a barrel, or feeding lunch whilst angrily fighting off dozy wasps can have it's challenges, but life is never simple - so you just tend to suck it up.

A word to the hedonistic wise; if you want to have a carefree and nappy free weekend away without feeling like you've been used as a buckaroo for the entire duration, then drop the kids off at the grandparents and head off into the Friday evening sunset on your own!