Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Let Us Start as We Mean to Go On (NYR)

Today is the day we collectively resolve to be better: to be fitter and stronger, more organised and thriftier, to spend time doing things that will please us years for years instead of the things that will please us from moments. These and so many other resolutions surround us and, while I think it's good to feel renewed vim and vigor, optimism all too often covers delusion and flows to disillusion and disappointment. Thus I remind myself that life is about striving, about trying and failing and trying again, and not just deciding things will be different and expecting them to change magically. Seanan McGuire suggested a resolution to wake up each morning (always a good place to start) and think "I will be kind today", to everyone friends and strangers alike and especially ourselves.

For myself, I have started the year as I mean to go on, with laundry being washed, folded and put away* and the upstairs picked up and hoovered**. Normally I'd want to begin the year with a clean house but I think the act of cleaning is, for me, a more suitable "start the way you mean to go one" than sitting around enjoying the fruits of one's labours: at that, I am adept. So my goal is, not to have a clean house, a goal which can be achieved fleetingly if at all, but rather to clean my house, to put in effort at least weekly that entropy be kept at bay, chaos not overwhelm.

With my crafts I resolve to adopt a "project in, project out" policy. If I complete a project I may acquire yarn for a new one, though obviously picking something from my stash would be best. This does leave room for me to knit a bunch of little toys and reward myself for each with a sweater-quantity of yarn but I think I know myself well enough that that won't happen***. This also goes for sewing/fabric and cross-stitching****.  I am going to winnow my queue to projects for which I already have yarn - if another project is meant to be I will be able to find the pattern again - though queuing multiple project ideas for the same yarn is allowed if I've not yet settled on one. I will try not to buy patterns until I am ready to knit them.

Most importantly, I seek to spend more of my time "actively present" with Little Djinn, to offer my attention unstintingly when she needs it. There are things I need to accomplish but keeping up with social media isn't one of them. She'll need me like this so briefly.

For these things, towards these ideals, I strive.



*in progress
**the two are connected, laundry and hoovering; I did the downstairs on Monday
***more than once. Or twice, you know, whatever.
****progress was made but neither project completed

Friday, 27 December 2013

Craftiness Roundup: Sewing


My mother gave me a sewing machine for my birthday/Christmas present and in 6 months I made three things. While, obviously, I'd like to Make All the Things, I'm largely at peace with this output. Little Dinn is not hugely fond of letting me out of her reach and I'm sticking to my decision not to sew while holding her. If this makes me staid and boring, so be it.

My first "familiarise one's self with the machine" project was some summery gingham bunting. Simple double-sided triangles, sewn to a ribbon of bias tape. I don't seem to have a picture of the project but here's one of my audience.

Emboldened by my success, I bought a Little Dress Kit for a double-sided smock for Little Djinn. It turns out I'm no good at curves but I did successfully figure out buttonholes and babies look cute in anything, even if the seems are wobbly.
My third project was another set of seasonal bunting, autumnal prints, greens and oranges and golds with a bit of pumpkin, again attached to bias tape. I spaced these a bit further apart than, on consideration, I would have preferred but it's good enough. I had enough triangles to make a smaller strand of bunting to hang in the porch, greeting people at the door.

Autumn bunting hanging in the stairwell.

I bought a pattern, fabric, and notions to make a romper for Little Djinn but never so much as took the fabric out of the bag. I also bought two prints to turn into wall-hangings. My mother cut them out, pinned them together and started quilting one. That's exactly how they remain. I hung them anyway, for Thanksgiving.  Just today Lilltle Djinn got a care package from Grandma which included pre-cut triangles and bias tape for some winter bunting. I'm feeling optimistic about its chances.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Robot Turtles

We backed our first (and only) kickstarter project this year: Robot Turtles. It's a boardgame aimed at teaching (younger) children the basics of programming, namely the step-by-step and literal execution of code. The goal is to move a little turtle from a corner of the board to the centre of the board to collect a jewel. There's a jewel for each turtle so ever turtle wins. Yay!* Each player gets a stack of instruction cards used to tell their turtle what to do: go forward (a blue card, moves the turtle towards it's blue flower), turn left (a yellow card, the turtle has a yellow flower to its left), and turn right (a purple card, turns towards the purple flower).  In its basic form, an empty board and colour-coordinated movement cards, I'd say the game is similar to Candyland.

As the child's skills develop so does the game's challenges: ice walls on the board and a laser card to melt them, boxes that can be pushed, and immutable stone walls to navigate around. You start off playing movement cards one at a time, then three at a time, and finally laying out the entire series of actions (code) and seeing if you got it right. If not, if you played a wrong card, you can play the "bug" card and play a new (series of) card(s).

That's all well and good, but what if your child is too young (or non-existent)? What if you want to play with other adults? We came up with some variants that I think will help: 

There is no one turtle mover. Either everyone moves their own turtle, the turtle of the person next to them, or any turtle in front of them. Making silly sounds as you move the turtles is still vital. 

Each player is given a selection of objects with which to decorate the quadrant of the board closest to them. These can be dealt out or drawn blindly from the lid of the box. Alternatively, take turns devising a challenging maze.

Deal out the robots and jewels at random. Robots have to collect their matching jewel. Jewels serve as walls to other robots. Remember when planning your obstacles that your turtle may have to get past them. If you're playing with less than four turtles, dealing out all four will keep their relative placement random.

Another thing we didn't try is random placement of the jewels. Label the grid like a chess board and randomly select a grid space (if the space is occupied, select again). 

We also tried writing out our code in advance and then executing them concurrently. (one move at a time) which sometimes meant revising one's code as another turtle moved (or itself became) an obstacle. 

There's another type of card, a function card, where a series of moves can be shorthanded and repeated. I was thinking it could be used in the adult version to allow a super-turn but to keep someone from making their entire code a function and completing the game on their first turn, a function must be used twice and contain at least three executable cards, eg no creating a two-card "laser (melt an ice wall), move forward" function or a function where you fire a laser into empty space or turning right and then left again, where nothing has been achieved. Turning left as part of the function and then having to turn right again on the next turn, however would be allowed.

That's what we came up with last night, what variations have you come up with, for children or adults? And if you missed the kickstarter but still want a game, I'm told they put some extra copies for sale on Amazon(US).

* everyone cheering when a turtle wins is in the rules. Yay!

Friday, 6 December 2013

9, 10 A Big Fat Hen



Nine was not a good month for us. We've had rough patches before, a fortnight at 4 months, a fortnight at 7 months, but this rough patch lasted pretty much the entire month. There was another cold, a cough this time, which she passed to Chris and then myself, and she decided that being asked to lay on her back whilst having her nappy changed was the worst thing in the world* (which got even more festive when my normally backed up booboo got diarrhoea) except for being put in her high chair which was also the worst** but the absolute worst was that she wouldn't sleep at night unless she was in bed with me. As she wanted to go to sleep at 7, this was also the worst for me. This was also the month with two nights where she threw up on me three or four times. At least the second time she threw up on her Daddy first. Some experiences are best shared and if it had been all me all the time I would have been bitter.

Thank god that's stopped (though she sometimes fights me over nappy changes or going in her chair, but only once every day or two, not Every. Single. Time.). It was only just this last week that I got her sleeping on her own without nightly hysteria: we hug over the rails of her cot until her legs give way and she lays down, then I rub her back, cover her with a blanket and rub her back. The first two nights this involved a wash-rinse-repeat action with some protracted cuddle sessions but now it's mostly just once and a minute or two at most. You can't even believe how much better this is for everyone. Part of me wants to beat myself up for not working this out earlier but the ruling majority is just happy it's working now. And, in fairness, I did try this earlier and she just stood there and cried.

But it wasn't just being in a funk; Little Djinn has a tooth! Just one on the bottom that broke through on Thanksgiving. In the Bad Month she regressed slightly on the food and figured out that boobies still exist even when they're hidden under my shirt. She can now indicate a specific desire to nurse by trying to tug my clothes off, which was cute for two days but now I'm trying to teach her to ask more politely. Between the eating less and being able to request boobs on demand we've been nursing more and she's currently waking up twice in the night to nurse. 

Since my last post we started (and this week ended) another playgroup, a free one sponsored by the Scottish government, from the same woman who taught baby massage and the weaning class. It was the same group of mums so LD was still at least 3 months older than the other babies, she's on the verge of walking unassisted and they're just sitting on their own. But they're all about the same size. We had a little Christmas party for the last session and some of the mums requested that the babies dress up. I was thinking party dresses but didn't get my act together to buy one so instead I put her in the Santa Suit Karen gave her. Turns out that was exactly the right thing as the other babies who dressed up were all in "fancy dress" (costume) as well. Another baby showed up as Mrs Claus but not in time for the impromptu group picture.***

Little Djinn is continuing to do really well in swim class, though we wound up in the Friday session (we're back on Monday now) and it never quite worked for us. We were always running late, and never quite warmed up to the instructor though she did figure out how to stich the foam bricks to the wall and later put them back in the bucket. She's very interested, in general, in taking things out of containers and putting things into containers. The other day she sat in Daddy's office and started dropping his unused coffee pods in the rubbish bin, one at a time. She's also put the cat food back in the box (minus a few pieces she ate) and even tried putting individual grains of rice into a cup. She has a 2" square Tupperware that I keep her Cheerios in and she can put the lid back on it and even pop it closed. 

She's standing on her own, though briefly, and can do things while standing like bounce up and down. She loves bouncing and will bounce for ages if she has something to hang on to. She likes to push walk chairs around and will hang onto the back of my trousers to push me around, too. She walks if we hold her hands and does her own steering. I only give her one hand so she has to do her own balance. At the pool on Monday she got hold of a tiny kickboard and walked around in the shallow end hanging on to it. It wasn't floaty enough to take any wait so it was purely a confidence/counter-balance thing. She's just adorable. 

She definitely understands us (though as the baby book points out, she's also developed enough to decide to ignore us), and will seek out favourite toys such as Monty the Monkey and His Motorcar when prompted.  She figured out how to play "chase" and spends a fair amount of time trying to coax Daddy to push the little car after her. We bought rubber mats for the lounge with the money my godparents sent for her Christening and can I just say how nice they are on adult knees? I mean, I bought them for her so she doesnt bonk her head when she falls over, and they're less slippery than the floor, but man oh man, the difference in playing on the floor with her on the mats vs without them is astonishing. 

Little Djinn has also started babbling with a vengeance. Mostly when she's happy it's "dah dah dah dah dah", when she's upset it's "muh muh muh muh muh" and when we're being told off it's "bah bah bah bah" though she's getting more sounds including "dis" and even starting with cadence.

For Halloween Little Djinn and I went as The Incredibles. For Thanksgiving we had 4 (American) friends up, three from London and one all the way from SF, though he was in the country for business. Chris keeps saying he wants our Thanksgiving to be world renouned, which appears to be working, and to convert all the Brits to Thanksgiving which seems to be going backwards since we went from three Brits last year to 1.5 this. Two of our guests are coming back for Christmas and, other than putting up a tree (on top of a table) and hanging lights we're pretty unprepared. Good thing our baby has no expectations, right?




*and as a consequence spent most of the month in disposable nappies.

** though once she was in she was in she was usually fine if only briefly

*** the elf kept toppling over, falling backwards out of the ball pit. 

Friday, 27 September 2013

8 ate 7

We appear to have missed the seven months update, which of course I blame on my mother* who came to visit for three weeks, starting the week my beautiful, strong, curious Booboo started "swim" lessons and "dance" class and promptly decided to flip the [redacted] out if I wasn't holding her at all times. Prior to this Little Djinn would play happily near me and sometimes I could leave her long enough to rotate the laundry, get lunch, or pee depending on the needs of the moment but that week and most of the next if she didn't ave one hand clutching me she was convinced she was going to die. It was, um, challenging. I gave up on getting anything done including blog updates and mixed myself a drink each night as soon as she fell asleep. Oi vey.

Despite her unwillingness to be without me, by 7 months she was "cruising", walking around while holding on to things, and just this past week she figured out crawling! We're super excited, super proud, and super belatedly baby-proofing the house. She also figured out how to climb up the stair and yesterday climbed the big staircase (11 steps) and then crossed the landing to get to her Daddy. That was her first proper crawling, her previous efforts mostly entailing snow-ploughing across the bed with her head pressed against the mattress. She moves really fast but tends to pick a direction and you have to be there to catch her at the edge. Chris and I are ageing daily. 

The second week my mother was here Chris brought home a cold (we think from the toy store where Grandma bought Little Djinn's Christmas present). By the weekend I was sick, followed by the baby and then Grandma (who shouldn't have let LD stick her wet fingers in her, Grandma's, mouth. Just asking for trouble) just in time to be poorly on her transatlantic flight. I woke up sick on the Friday before Little Djinn's christening, the day her out-of-town godparents arrived. She has two sets of godparents, Mark and Sue here in Inverness who I think of as "Chris' side of the family" and "on my side", Shaun and Uli** drove over from Ireland (yes, there's a ferry involved). It was wonderful seeing them, if a bit unusual having our house full of very loud children. Little Djinn liked watching her GodCousins play but was less sure about them trying to play with her.  And Uli brought three garbage bags and a box of clothes for our Booboo to grow into. And for some strange reason a whole bunch of shoes without mates. Talk about having the One Shoe Blues***.

The Christening was very nice, we had the Godparents and their respective children and some neighbours round and made cheese and tomato swirls, sausage rolls, scones, and chocolate chip cookies. My, by which I mean Alton Brown's, chocolate chip cookies bring all the guests to the yard. I am winning the Brits (and the Irish and the Swedes) over to the "cookie" side, one batch of chocolate morels at a time. We had a bit of trouble getting to the church, but the ceremony itself was smooth enough and Little Djinn only cried when the priest grabbed her and poured water over her head. And then every time he looked at her thereafter. 

After everyone left and it was just the four of us again I collapsed on the sofa and felt very very poorly for a day (missing swim class) and then Little Djinn got a runny nose so we skipped dance class that week, too. And then Grandma left which was very sad for everyone. The house felt big and quiet and empty for some time after she left. We've had two sessions each of her classes and she's blossomed in both of them so I'm thinking about adding story time at the library on Thursdays if I can get my act together. After next week it's "half term": the swim class ends and dance class (and presumably story time as well) take a two-week hiatus. We can't sign up for two swim classes in a row so we're signed up for one starting in December and on the 21st of October we can see if there are spaces left for the class starting on the 28th.

I think that's largely The State of the Booboo. She's sleeping the same, though we have plans for me to move back to the big bed (then finish the night in the nursery after her wee hours nurse). We still don't have teeth or consonants though she says "uh-muh" when she's really upset and I thought I heard a feisty "guh!" or two. She's 7kg, so she's drifting back to the 9th percentile line. She plays peekaboo, pulling a blanket over her head and then off again over and over. Chris made a peek-a-boo oveture to her and she looked around, found a blanket, squirmed over to grab it, and pulled it over her head so she could play. She pushes her blocks through the holes in her workbench if someone lines them up for her. We need to get her a proper high chair this weekend as she's big enough to push her stool off of the table. She can feed herself Cheerios**** and other finger foods: she's mastered, or at least figured out, the pincher grip of thumb and finger. 


We continue to be overwhelmed with love for her and delight in each new discovery she makes and skill she acquires. 

* this just in: you're never too old to blame things on your mother. Alternate theory: my Gilmore Girls rematch has reached critical mass.

** I met them online a good 15 years ago; we went to visit them the first winter I was here. They lived in Inverness briefly many moons ago and my mother didn't realise that that's not how I knew them until after they left. 

*** a Sandra Boynton song performed by B.B. King. Speaking of Ms Boynton, I won a copy of her new album and a frog plushy off of twitter and they even shipped to the UK. How awesome is that?
"One shoes. Does she expect me to hop?"

**** the, ahem, sticking point was leaving them in her mouth. She could pick them up and stick them in her mouth but they came right out again with her fist.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Weaning

We've started weaning, a process which should take the rest of the year to go from mostly getting her calories from nursing with food as more of an experience than a form of sustenance to the opposite being true. The NHS recommends waiting until six months* so we did, although I had been slipping her the odd taste of food here and there, a tiny smidge of strawberry, the leaf of a fragrant herb, as her interest in what we're eating increased. I started giving her rice cereal for babies a few days before she was properly six months old and bits of bread from our sandwiches to keep her from snatching food from our hands. We quickly added in mashed veggies based on the recipes in the weaning pamphlet that the health visitor gave us at around three months. 


Then we were invited to a "weaning class" presented by the same woman who taught the baby massage class, and the "wait until six months" message became "look for these signs between four and six months, often around five months", namely baby waking up during the night more than she used to, not being satisfied with her feeds, and showing a marked interest in food. Um, yeah, that was the rough patch across almost four weeks between June and July. That information could have saved quite a few sanity points. But we made it and, possibly as a consequence of waiting so long, Little Djinn is a champion eater. We've already moved on to Stage Two foods (not as bland and simple) and she is unphased by lumps, textures, (mild) differences in temperatures, or new flavours. 

Currently we nurse when she wakes up (sometimes twice as she's usually not very interested in food first thing, prefering to play), around 7:30. I have a snack and a cup of tea in bed with Chris, shower and get dressed (LD has her own tooth brush which she gets to chew on while I brush my teeth, then I rub it over her gums much the same way I practice brushing LD's head), and make up cereal for each of us by 10am. This last week Little Djinn was having trouble moving her bowels so we've settled on giving her one "cube"** of prune purée mixed in with her morning cereal. She's not strained greatly (or cried, poor darling) since we started with the prunes and even giggled following her first big bowel movement after I dosed her. Yes, baby girl, sometimes it feels good.  After breakfast we nurse and nap (she naps, I watch telly. Related, why did no one tell me about In Plain Sight? I love that show!). Around 2pm I make lunch, two cubes of mashed fruit or veggies for her, and then another offered nurse and nap though some days she wants that around 4 or even 5. Around 5:30 (or after her nap) she gets two cubes for dinner, something with protein - so far she's had fish and she's had chicken - and then "massage"***, a book, and an option on quiet playtime until she's ready to nurse and fall asleep, usually around 7 with the goal of me being out of the by 7:30 though it's been closer to 8 most nights this week. She usually wakes up around 4:30 for another nurse. If there's something she doesn't finish at one meal I'll often try her again with it at the next meal as here appetite fluctuates day to day. 

Chris is rhapsodic about cooking for Little Djinn. I've made a few fruit purses for her (blueberry and banana, the prune purée) and Chris has made everything else - veggie blends, pasta sauces, protein mixes, you name it. Most of them get made in one pan with a small quantity or ingredients and then mashed or blended and he'll make three or four different things and pop them in ice cube trays in the freezer. Later we move the cubes to ziplock baggies and each day try to offer her a different combination of meals. The chicken he made today (after a fruit "fool" and a veggie blend) filled two trays, a little container for the fridge for today and tomorrow, and a large container for us to eat at some point. The problem is reigning him in :o) but I think she's ready for another cube or two each day so week on week we will go through the food more quickly and he'll be able to indulge.

the weaning class was great, too. It wound up just being us and one of the moms/little boys from the massage class and the instructor. Little Djinn was already weaning so while the food is normally just for the parents to taste and practice making, she got to try things and we brought some leftovers home. The first week she was pulling faces at each new flavour (and then opening for more) but now she just tries things with every evidence of enjoyment. We played on the floor with all the different toys while Chris tried new recipes. We got several sheets of easy recipes, a recommendation for a book which Chris bought, and a goody bag with a potatoe masher, ice cube tray, bowl, spoon, tiny container, and a toothbrush/toothpaste pack. When people ask if we're planning to move to the US at some point, well, not really. Scotland genuinely cares about its citizens and Little Djinn's prospects as a baby, child, and young woman are simply better here. The math may change down the line, but for now this is the best place we can think of to raise a child.

* in years past they said 4 months but research has since shown that infant guts benefit from waiting until 6 months, at which point the iron supply a baby is born with wears out and solid food is necessary 

** we freeze her food in large, specialty "ice cube trays"

** in quotes because she's gotten very difficult to massage since she discovered she can suck on her toes. The available surface area is, um, limited. Mostly I grab limbs as I can pull them away from her mouth and grease them up. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Inverness Floral Hall

Chris and I love gardens. We're not so big on museums (though I, at least, like them in theory if not practice) and Chris isn't impressed with ruins, castles, or manor houses but we both love walking around gardens. We've been to the Glasgow botanical gardens several times and love Kew gardens in London. Our one attempt to visit the Edinburgh botanical gardens ended abruptly as they closed it due to weather just as we arrived (and a gust of wind blew a surprisingly large chunk of bark into my eye), and our honeymoon was marked by the number of days we spent crossing every path in the lovely gardens in Madeira. 

It is a surprise to both of us that we'd not yet made it to the Inverness Floral Hall just across the river from us. We had tried, once upon a time, though our failure was less spectacular than Edinburgh - we couldn't find anyone to take our admittance fee so we left and just never made it back. Until Sunday when our trip to the pool was foiled by "technical problems" and, as long as we were there, we decided to brave a certain dampness in the air and take advantage of the free admission (because, seriously, £0.50/person would've been so hard to come up with).
We were very pleasantly surprised. The glass house was beautiful with a fountain, grotto, koi pond, benches, statues, and an upstairs patio with a table and chairs.
Next to the glasshouse was another with a beautiful split level succulents garden: 
 
Outside there we're formal gardens, including a little one in memory of lost babies, and a field turned into a wildlife garden, with flower beds for bees, butterflies, and grass left long outwith paths through it. There was a cute wee thistle next to the patio, and a little section where all the plants had scented leaves one could touch to release their fragrance. 
  
 

It was starting to rain so we had lunch inside and then everyone except Little Djinn selected a plant to buy from the nursery and we walked home again. We didn't quite make it around the whole garden and barely spent any time looking at the parts we did see. It is definitely on our "must-see" list for guests and could be our go-out-for-lunch default. Such a nice place.