Thursday, July 27, 2017

July

 July - Catch up time

Well been a long, long, long time since you heard from me. So much has happened since my last blog in May, but no time to go in to it all. Pictures paint a thousand words so this blog is quite pictoral.

Anyway,  The Letts Study guide to the last few months would be….


Travel to the UK (including an 18 hour flight) and visit with family there - AWESOME.

"I've got a cousin called......"

"Lo-los!"

Playing fetch with Cousin Alfie.
Sharing some chips!

Oldest and Youngest members of several generations of Cards. Great Aunty Winn, Aunty Chrsitine.

Lost and damaged car seat on the way to UK leading to 5 hours sourcing a replacement one at the airport - 5 hours - not so awesome.

Jet lag with a 20 month old - shocking! Still we got to go to the beach at 8am in the morning on two gloriously sunny days. 



Tynemouth Long Sands

I've never seen the North Sea so calm.

Still really cold though!


Took ten days to get sleep pattern back to normal!


Francis just fitting right in with the family – it was so awesome to see and watch.   
Cutie Cousins #1.


Cutie Cousins #2.
 Friends and fun on our travels
Corbridge for a much desired (i.e nagged about) English Country Pub Lunch!
"Betty's is that way Mammy" - York
Harrogate!

"Where shall we three meet again...."
Not our Family home, but Strafford Upon Avon.

Travel back from the UK with another mammoth flight and another damaged car seat!



Moving house!!!! The usual stressful time, but thanks to our friends Jason, Lavinia, Shaun, Michelle, Katie and Alice for helping sooooooo much, made it so much easier then our last move.

Unpacking after the move… uuuuuurggghhh

Being in a house that feels like AND IS a proper home – priceless.

Having my picture taken with David Gedge!!!! Swoon


Growing up!

Francis is full on a bipedal animal now, and it’s so much fun to watch him “Go! Go! Go!” each day.  He’s learning super fast so many things that’s it’s hard to keep track. Teaching him new words, or hearing him trying to say them has been one of my life’s great joys, as he reacts with such honest joy and merriment when he gets the words right. 

You see him pause, concentrate and then repeat the word you’re trying to teach him. Most of the time it’s almost spot on, but sometimes it’s just a good solid effort!
Surprisingly, no “swear” words yet.

We’re pushing him hard to be a well mannered child so “please” and thank you – “ta” - are probably the most used words in our house, maybe next to “No, Francis Noooooooo!”, and it’s so cute watching him say please. We’re rewarded with a winning smile as he says it – maybe because he knows he’s going to get something he wants. Maybe he’s already manipulating us! And it’s not turned into a pleading “pleeeeeasse?” ….. yet.

Down the Hatch.

Like most parents (right?) I’m kinda used to eating regurgitated food from Francis that he’s tasted and then rejected when eating our meals together. (Really? Only me? C’mon admit it!). 

In the safety and privacy of my own home I’m quite happy to be the human garbage can, as it’s sometimes quicker and easier then getting up and going to get a clean up cloth from the kitchen. 

However, last week whilst checking-out at Pak’n’Sav Francis was making a fuss about wanting some food, so I gave him some Cheerios from a little Tupperware I had cleverly brought with me. F-bomb normally chomps them down, but I guess compared with the wondrous bounty of our shopping trolley - (cart for you yanks, and trundle for you Kiwis) - they were unpalatable. So he spat the partially chewed up cereal into my hand.

So what would you do in my position? Shove it back in his mouth? Give it to the check out attendant (in this case a 18 year old boy/man)? Put it in your pocket to fester and remain there spreading onto your keys,  small change, Swiss army knife?  Put it in little tissue you happen to carry around with you and then discard in the nearest bin? Right?

But what happens if you have no such little tissue with you and are struck by panic? Yep, that’s right. Down the hatch Daddy – with a smile on your face!

Play list.

Current favourite songs for Francis.

1.     Nellie the Elephant – Toy Dolls – still holding onto the number one spot.
2.     Don’t be Cruel – Elvis Presley – making a fast leap up the charts
3.     Bear – The Wedding Present – dizzy dancing.
4.     Baggy Trousers – Madness
5.     E Rere Taku Poi – traditional Maori song
6.     Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
7.     My Moon My Man – Feist
8.     Deer Caught in the Headlights – The Wedding Present
9.     The Muppet Show Theme – The Muppets
10.  I Want  a Chocolate – Pinky Piglet

Numbers:

$293 – Original offer to us from Emirates for damaged car seat
$493 – Final offer – full replacement cost from Emirates
$10,560.46 – quote for a new roof – Looks like Daddy will have to DIH (Do It Himself)


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May 2017 - Part 1


May 2017 – Part 1


There’s not been a blog from me in “for ages” so time to write a quick one whilst Francis is sleeping. Most of my recent spare time was employed in painting a friend’s house but now that is mostly finished and winter is here we’re back to relaxing times at home. That’s if you call preparing for an overseas trip with an eighteen month old and moving house two days after you get back relaxing.



Eye Love You

Francis is growing up real fast and is leaving his “baby ways” behind. One of the saddest ones is he no longer likes to be held in my arms as he is going to sleep. He either just lies flat across my legs with his head on the arm of the chair or points to his cot and asks to be put in it.  

So much to my (initial) delight, he wanted some snuggles the other day at nap time. As he settled into my arms I told him “I love you, Francis” and was rewarded with a big, wide open smile from him that melted my heart momentarily. He then proceeded to sit up straight, still smiling and poked me in the eye. Yep, he’s getting good at pointing out body parts…..


Feng Shui and the Art of House Buying







After two years of trying to buy a house and putting in bids on eight of them, we expressed our dismay on Facebook. Our dear sister-in-law, Nellie, sent us a Feng Shui guide to houses and we noticed that the “abundance” corner on our rental was missing i.e. it’s the deck. We followed some suggestions to improve that corner and installed  a bird feeder, which the birds managed to empty in less that four hours!




Despite my annoyance at the amount of bird shit on my passion fruit  it seemed to do the trick as a week later we managed to outbid everyone at an auction for a house we really loved! Yipee, and thanks Nellie.

On a side note there was one red seed the birds left on the ground and it’s sprouting everywhere.


Ticking Time Bomb?

Sleep is still a very precious and hugely sought after commodity in our house. In general Francis is only waking up once or twice a night, but then every now and then we get the 5-6 times which utterly exhausts us all. Well, Ananda and I. When will this end?

In a miracle, one night in April  Francis slept all night. We woke stunned. We’ve since tried to re-create the conditions for this to happen but have tied ourselves in knots arguing about the magic formulae.

Ananda claimed it was because his nursery clock battery had stopped so it was not ticking. I steadfastly maintained the clock was in full working order when the miracle occurred, and claimed it was because I accidentally switched up the thermostat to 23degC that night.

Against my protests the clock was removed from the room, but gloatingly after a few nights of poor sleeping it was re-installed. (And by few I probably mean about two weeks – Ananda can be as stubborn as me!)

Finally, victory was mine after a night of 6 wake-ups, the clock was reinstalled. It’s stupid to gloat over a night of no-sleep huh? But such is our lives and the small victories we must take in our battles as parents. I digress….

Similarly disappointing was our, sorry mine,  thermostat experiment of keeping the room at 23degC.  Maybe it was the sleep suit he was wearing or what he ate for dinner, or was I wearing my lucky underpants that night? Was Ananda?

Maybe we’re grasping at straws. Actually, delete the “maybe”.

The quest continues, and we’ve given up this week because on Sunday we fly to the UK for three weeks…… so with the prospect of an eleven hour time change there really is no point in finding the magic combination until we get back.


 Building

Construction seems to be in his blood so here's some examples of what he's been up to....




Reciprocal Trojan Horse

Byker Wall
The Original Byker Wall

I got him some Health and Safety Gear - Just in Case!



Word Up!
Some more words from the Francis’ lexxikon:

Cheese –  one of his favourite meals - and yes I choose that word over food.
Mama –
Dada –
Go – starting to join in with "Ready, steady, go!"


Baby Sign language –

Sorry  - Stroking your forearm in a downwards motion - we use this when he pokes the dogs in the eyes
Water - Three fingers held to your chin - Francis' version is his hand being shoved in his gob but we get his meaning


Tale of the Tape:

$4165 - The price per square metre of our new home
35 - The street number
18078 - km we will travel on Sunday from Hamilton to Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 2017 - Part 3


March 2017 – Part 3

Hot Air Balloons






Francis and I were out on the bike early on Wednesday morning to go and see all the hot air balloons lift off in the Balloons Over Waikato festival. We liked it so much we went back on the second morning!


Hot Air Bottoms

Francis and I spend quite a lot of our time out and about on the bicycle. His seat is directly behind mine. Occasionally, there may be the sound of breaking wind emanating from one of us- well, okay, mostly from me. This fills Francis with delight and he makes a huge raspberry noise himself, all the while gleefully pointing at Daddy.  He doesn’t  let me get away with any slight indiscretion!

He’s now turning this into performance art. Just the other day I was completing my back and forward back stretching exercise when such a gaseous release occurred.  Quite accidentally of course. He threw his hands up in the air and gleefully blew raspberries in his toy corner where he was sitting with mammy, crawled over to me as fast as he could, stood up right behind and put his face right next to my butt, then collapsed in a dead heap on the floor. Man he’s a crack up!


Word Up!

Some more words from the Francis’ lexicon:

Teeth – getting pretty  good with this one
Trucky-trucky-truck – whenever he sees a truck or lorry. He’s pretty obsessed with these. Uncle Andrew take note.

Baby Sign language –

Food  - imagine an Italian ham-actor in a cheesy advert bringing his thumb and two fingers towards his lips and saying “bellissimo”.
Help -  Clenched hand on the palm of another and then being raised.



He can’t walk but he can…….

Slide




Bike and Dance

 
Music Credit - SilverSun Pickups : "Growing Old is Getting Old"

Climb and Dance

 Music Credit - James : "Bitch"

Build

The latest Francis Tower....

and the topping out ceremony.....

.... with a sample spoon from Duck Island as the spire.
 Actually he can walk 4 or 5 steps, he just chooses not to! Crawling is way faster.

 Sleep

Just mentioning this very quietly, so as not to jinx it, but it's getting much better. Two days ago he napped for almost four hours, and mostly only wakes once at night. Shhhhhhhh




Saturday, March 11, 2017

March 2017 - Part 2


March 2017 – Part 2

Playground Quest

Francis and I have been making the most of the late arrival of summer and our new found biking freedom. Hamilton has a number of “Destination” playgrounds, seven so far,  and I think more planned. Five of them have been voted the best playgrounds in New Zealand – so time to go on a quest!  They are all uniquely designed with a bunch of really cool features, everything from traditional based swings and slides, to sand digging equipment, climbing frames, water features and play, aviaries etc. We hit up three in the first week, all easily accessible for us on our bike. In our current order of favourites, which I am sure will change as Francis gets older….

Parana Park :

Awesome water and paddling pool and a big old Banana slide that Francis loves, coming down head first. I’ve not been fast enough to get to the bottom of the slide to take video but here’s some pictures. There’s also tons of good crawling frames for him to go and climb over. Cool advantage of this park is that it’s pretty close to Duck Island Ice Creamery for a well deserved ice cream after some playing and to refuel Daddy’s legs for the cycle home. One downside was it was a bit of a mosquito-fest the first morning we went, so now we always wear long shirts and pants  when we go there!




Hamilton Lake:

This WOULD be a real short and beautiful cycle ride from our home, but since bikes are not allowed on the path around the lake, the ride is much more boring along a main and busy road. So we use the footpath, since there is no cycle lane.

A great playground with loads of cool things to do; lots of water based activities and dams; sand diggers, music, swings, and awesome climbing and tube slides! Francis loves these almost as much as his Dad, as he’s not quite up to going down them by himself. So I sacrifice my dignity, find my inner child and “weeeeeeeeeeeeeee” down we go. Friggin’ Awesome! 








Hamilton Gardens:

The newest of the playgrounds and opened in Dec 2016. This is really close to where we live and in beautiful surrounds. Actually all three of these are. This playground is designed for slightly older kids as the climbing frames etc are a bit more advanced than the ones at the previous two, but there’s lots of open space for him to use his imagination, and a stage for him to explore.  I think as Francis gets older, the order of these three parks will be reversed.



Word Up!
We’re starting to get some recognizable words from F-bomb these days, so it’s all the more important to watch what we say in front of him. Usual expletives have been replaced by Fudge and Fiddlesticks and of course Mother Fudge-cakes. If anyone has any other we can use, please let me know.

Here’s some of the words that I currently claim Francis is saying :

Blueberry – a breakfast favourite he likes to put in his mouth and then spit out as fast as he can!
Helicopter – we see and hear a bunch of these living so close to the hospital.
Cain – one of our dogs.
Ta – we had been persevering with “thank you” for months without success. Took him about 2 minutes to pick up Ta!
Garden – he’s been saying this for a long time and is obsessed with outside – even when we have torrential rain.
Oops -  this normally accompanies the throwing of food off the table.
All done-  following on closely from the above to signal he is done eating.


Baby Sign language –

We’ve been trying to teach Francis baby sign language since he was born – maybe we were too keen in starting that early. Anyway, we’re starting to see the following…

Milkies   - he makes a milking like sign to let Ananda know he wants breast fed – or just stick his hand down her bra or lifts her shirt up. All three convey the same meaning!

Water -  not quite getting this one right, but watching his stick his full fist in his mouth is always amusing!

Down – one Francis invented all by himself. Extend both index fingers, jab vigorously downwards into tray of high chair, or push chair or wherever  he is restrained!

More -  he’s mainly uses this when reading books or playing games with us, but trying to incorporate it into meal times as well.  Sometimes he doesn’t always get the more he is requesting. Eg. Showing Francis how I pee in to the toilet whilst he was in the bath the other day, was followed by the more sign…. “Hmmmmmm you’ll have to wait awhile son….”


Banksy

A rainy day activity gone awry, after I turned my back on Francis, his crayons and his colouring book…..





It actually looks quite good, so we’ve left it in place…. For now.

According to Ananda earlier that morning: "Only irresponsible parents who don't watch their children let that happen" QED #1.

Old dog- teaching new tricks.

It just dawned on me the other day that getting to stay at home with Francis is like having a new but much more intelligent dog to teach tricks. I’ve gotten such a kick out of teaching him how to shake hands like a proper English gent (as opposed to the crass “high-five” his ‘Merican mom is trying to teach him). Next week I will work on “fetch”, “down” and “roll-over and play dead”.
  
Injury Report

1) PPTSD

Playground Parent Trauma Stress Dis-order! As mentioned above, Francis likes to come down slides head first and had successfully negotiated all the big kids slides without mishap.  At Hamilton lakes there’s a smaller traditional kids playground as well and Francis came down that tiny slide headfirst, at quite a rate of knots. Although I was standing at the bottom of it, he flew straight off the end and landed face first in the sand between my feet.   QED #2.

Cue much blood from front teeth meeting bottom lip, a sand covered face and much screaming of pain –short lived. All of this happened right in front of  a mum and baby group and I felt so embarrassed and could almost hear them thinking “stupid Dad what was he doing letting that happened”. I retreated to the corner to attend to Francis’ wounds, only to further add to my embarrassment by having to remove one of his socks to mop up the blood and clean his face since I had no wipes or tissue with me. 

F showed what a trooper he was by heading right back to the same slide, and this time not managing to hurtle off the end. I punched the end in delight and cried out a silent “See I told you so” to all the other parents there… well maybe not.

2) Man vs Machine

Finger......
...plus blender.....


 
.... equals.

I lost a recent battle I had with a hand blender (maybe they should change the name as I certainly don't recommend doing that). Whist trying to dislodge a clogged tomato -  "you say tomato I say instrument of torture" - my finger got a wee bit blended. Wasn't sure if I was going to vomit or pass out or both, and luckily it was a Saturday so Ananda was at home. Took about 30 minutes for the room to stop spinning before I could drive myself to Urgent care. 

3) Man vs Man

My first run out and practice session with an 11-a-side team I hope to play for, resulted in a broken toe. Didn't stop me from finishing the game though.... Hard as nails me!





Off to Urgent care again then. We're buying shares.

Quote of the Week

"I just ate a bit of rice cake off the couch. I'm not sure if that was the bit that was stuck to his balls". Ananda during nappy free snack time.

Monday, March 6, 2017

March 2017 - Part 1

March 2017 – Part 1

Sleeping or not as the case may be.

Not been able to find the time to write a blog recently, as I’ve been doing some moonlighting for a friend whilst Francis naps. I was hoping to sit down and write a chirpy and witty prose about nappies and other things, but feeling a bit too tired. But we’ll soldier on and see how we do.


Although it now seems like four months ago, I think it was only last weekend when Francis had two nights in a row where he only woke up once. We were pretty stunned. Cue the phrase “ calm before the storm”. 

Since then, for the past countless nights he’s woken about 5-6 times a night JUST between going to bed at 8ish and 1am, as well as his usual wake ups at 5am and then at 6:30am.  So about 8 times a night. I'm normally quite elegant when I return to bed so as not to wake up Ananda, but last night I was like a tree being felled in the forest. Each time I just keeled over once I got close to the bed. More by luck than planning that I never head butted Ananda or the head board!

Lack of sleep does not seem to faze Francis as he’s as bright as a button through the day, unlike his Dad, who can barely recall conversations he’s had with people. That’s if they are real people and I’m not just hallucinating.

Some remedy for me would be to nap when he does, BUT I’m useless at that. So we just soldier on. Maybe I should go out clubbing with him? Some friends have told us about the 18 month sleep regression so maybe that’s it. Some other friends with a 4 month old are worried their child is sleeping 10h a night. Embrace it while it lasts, my friends, embrace it with two bear-hugging arms and cherish it. Store it as a memory for the future when you forget what sleep is.

Walking

Young Francis has started to take some tentative steps in his walking. He can do about 4 or five steps and you can clearly see the enjoyment he takes from it. I’m sure that’ll not last long once I get him signed up to his first morning paper round. Do they still do that? And how much do they pay?

Nappies

We decided right from the get go we were going to go the re-useable nappy route, for a whole bunch of reason such as environmental, cost, etc. Not going to go into those two subjects right now, but if you’re contemplating going the same route we did, then hopefully the following description will help clarify how it all works. I know it sounds pretty simple, but when we first started looking into it, there was a bewildering rang of types, and nomenclature to deal with, so hopefully someone out there will find this helpful. We also found a bunch of other good reusable tools too and wanted to pass on some of the tips as well, that help keep Francis clean at both ends of his alimentary canal!

Types

There's about four types of reusable nappies and we’ve tried them all, but had most luck with the following three types:

1) Pre-fold – rectangular absorbent pads (ours are made from bamboo)  that are held in place by a waterproof outer layer. We use a “Flip” outer layer and a “reusable liner” –see later explanation.  The pads sit directly against the babies skin. The picture below shows the inside and outside and how it looks when put together.




They seem to work pretty well, but probably the type we use the least.


2)   Pocket nappies – as above rectangular absorbent pads that fit inside a pocket in an outer layer. This helps hold the pads in place really well. Again we use a liner. We normally put two pads inside each pocket. Some pocket nappies come with the pads attached to the pockets, which can make drying a bit more arduous.  With this style the absorbent pads are not in direct contact with the babies skin.





As you can see from the pictures, our nappies after 16 months of hard wear and tear - (a euphemism for lots of piss and shit on them) -  are still very white and look  as good as new – despite not using bleach on them – see Laundry section later for details. The brands we use are Babyco that we bought in New Zealand and Bum Genius which we got in the States. We also used Baby Mio earlier one but found their velcro tabs were uncomfortable for Francis.

Reusable liners

I’m not sure which one of us first stumbled across this idea but we had started out using “Water Wipes” to clean Francis’ face after feeding etc, and also at nappy changing time. Awesome chemical free wipes.



We discovered you could launder them many times before they fell apart. So, after we used them on his face or butt we washed them and they became our nappy liners.  They keep on getting re-used until a) they become too thread-bare or  b) the poop on them is too wet and loose to simply fall off into the toilet bowl after we change F. Hmmm did I forget to tell you not to read this whilst eating?

I think we only buy maybe one packet a quarter.

Bum Wipes




With our imagination fuelled by a friend of ours who told us she used to “re-purpose” the little hand towels from business class travel trips as face wipes, (and by re-purpose we mean steal), Ananda found these great soft cloths that we use on Francis. So after we’ve detected F-bomb has dropped a S-bomb (either by smell, sound or intuition) we grab a few of these cloths from his nappy draw and wet them with warm tap water (if he’s lucky!) and then take them to ground zero in a re-used ice cream tub. I also keep a dry one for drying at the end of cleaning.  Once Francis is all cleaned up we spread a little Weleda barrier cream on his cute little butt and we’re all done. The dirty wipes get put in his nappy bucket with his dirty nappy, and hopefully not too dirty liner.

Face Wipes

Same process as above really expect we have a separate set of cloths for that – these nice and colourful ones, that get laundered with his clothes.



The Nappy Bucket

I guess this could conjure up visions of a cesspool of pee and poo stenching away in the corner of the laundry, but to be honest it ain’t all that bad. The bucket is dry – i.e the nappies are not soaked in anything, and has a tightish fitting lid. The pads are removed from the pockets and placed in the bucket with the liners and outer shells to await laundry day. I think we’ve only cleaned the bucket two or three times since we had it.

Laundry

We do the nappy laundry every other day – we could stretch it out to three days as he gets older and requires less changing, but for the most part we have enough nappies (about 20 when all types are taken into consideration) to make that a good cycle time for us.



It’s a basic 60C wash with a pre-wash cycle and three rinses and we use EcoStore laundry powder. The wash takes about two hours which we do through the night, so they are ready to be hung outside to line dry first thing in the morning. 

We did have to “strip” the nappies once in the past. Ananda had been home in the US for an extended period of time, and the nappies started to smell a bit like ammonia. So we did the stripping process there. Maybe it was the different wash cycle, the different water or the different detergent.   

On as side note, a few weeks ago I thought I would have to do the stripping process as the nappies were smelling really bad when I took them out of the washing machine one morning. I had placed most of them in the laundry basket for hanging outside when I realized they had not even be washed! I had forgotten to close the door to the machine properly! Phew – well kinda - since I had to give my hands and the laundry basket a good scrubbing!


So, that’s how we roll in our house. Francis has maybe had mild nappy rash twice. First time was when we weren’t using barrier cream after washing him after a poopy nappy, and I’m not sure if we figured out why it happened the second time. 

A guilty caveat to this is that we do put Francis in a disposable at night time – although I’m not sure why since he doesn’t pee at night – so maybe we need to change that……..yeah, let's mess some more with his sleep routine! LOL.

All in all super happy with the choice we made to do this, and as the parent that does most of the messy end of the laundry it really is not all that bad – just practice good hygiene and wash your hands. I wash my hands after loading the machine and BEFORE I close the door, or add the powder or press the buttons!  Considering the fact that we plan and hope to have more kids to re-use the re-useable they cost and environmental savings will then double!

Stacking

Francis is getting such a kick out of stacking things and I mean anything on top of each other.  It really good for his hand eye coordination and is hopefully also teaching him to place things gently on top of one another.  So now when Francis goes all quite his is now doing one of three things : 1) Having a poo; 2) doing something he knows he shouldn't be; 3) stacking!

Here are some of his more note-worthy stacking achievements.


Campervan stacking on a pretty un-level surface.

Stacking the cargo trucks on the train set he got for his birthday....

.... and being embarrassed at the praise he got.

His forthcoming entry for the Tate...
... and contemplating what he'll call it.

Train stacking!

The Shoe Illusion was one of F's first attempts and still one of hie finest!