Hux, His Spoon, And Why I Will Never Label My Children

IMG_1098Hux is turning into a real character. At the grand old age of 1 year and 9 months he’s proving to be quite the cheeky little thing, always a smile and a wave for everyone. He’s been walking for about six weeks now and is still ever so proud of his little legs; staggering around like an old man who’s spent the day sinking whisky (but not smelling the same), taking off in pursuit of anything more exciting than his mum is his new favourite activity. You name it, he’s chased it.

He can talk now, no more than one and a half garbled words at once but hearing him make sense of the world around him is pretty awesome. His favourite words are: “CAKE!” (always shouted), “loola” (lolly), “Mama” (heart melt), “RaaRaa”, “‘poon” (spoon), “UP!” (cuddle time), “baby” and “pay” (boy loves his ca$h). He also does a great line in vehicles: tractor, bus, car, plane. And he can count to three! Boy’s obviously a borderline genius. I’m on the phone to Mensa as we speak.

IMG_1105One of Hux’s favourite games is to spend time with me in my bedroom when I get ready for the day. He’s a real magpie, loves adorning himself with my big blingy necklaces and bracelets and staggering about the bedroom with a handbag. He enjoys slinging things around his neck (supervised, obviously) and ‘getting dressed’ by wearing my bra as a necklace. He also has a real thing for hats and is never happier than when removing his socks to wear on his hands.

He’s also a real tomboy. Always banging into things, throwing himself around and enjoying as much rough and tumble as possible. He’s currently sporting two face bruises (door accidents) and a knee scrape (unknown origin). I love that he’s so fearless and enjoys being so physical: future rugby star in the making for sure.

IMG_1106He gets these little obsessions, too. He once carried my toothbrush around for two days straight, using it to clean the carpet, gag. Thanks Hux. He adores his RaaRaa book and we must read it at least six times a day. And most recently we’ve been obsessed with a spoon (or a ‘POON!).

It’s not a real spoon, but please don’t tell Hux that. It’s actually some kind of mirrored implement that came with the doctor’s kit I bought Elfie for Christmas this year. Huxley seems to have adopted this ‘poon as his dearest friend, his closest confidante, his security blanket. It’s with him from morning through to night; he uses it to eat his meals, it splashes water in the bath and is clutched in his tight little fists while he drifts off to sleep. 3df34e308be911e3ae7e124fce6320e0_8One of the reasons I love my children so much is for these wonderful little idiosyncrasies. I mean, I would love to know what Hux was thinking when he chose his spoon as his new best friend, or when he spent those couple of days with my toothbrush. I don’t remember Elfie going in for obsessions with such aplomb but how wonderful is it to see the differences between my two as they grow up? Like my mum said as I sent her the photograph of Hux sleeping with his ‘poon: these two, they’re like chalk and cheese. Yes I said, Hux is the chalk and Elfie’s the cheese :)

I posted one of many photographs of Hux and his spoon on Facebook this weekend. I was really sad when a friend of mine who has a son who is a year younger than Elfie messaged me: she said she was pleased to see me show Hux and his ‘POON because her son has shown similar traits when it comes to these little obsessions. What got to me was that she said because of this some friends have been questioning her about her son, asking her if she thinks there’s something wrong with him. Maybe he has Autism? they’ve said. My friend says that when she tells one of her son’s quirky stories she gets ‘that look’ from other mums (come on, we all know how it goes when you get ‘that look’) and questions about him being assessed.

I was like, WTF? People have actually said that to you?

2c6bc2468b7111e390c0125d7a642baf_8I was outraged on her behalf. Firstly, I will never understand why other mothers think that just because they had a child extracted from their body it gives them the right to pass judgement on others’ parenting. I’m tarring a large group with the same brush here but it’s something we’ve all experienced and such judgement is one reason I can be a little wary of forming friendships with other mothers. Secondly, what should it matter? Unless there is something developmentally wrong with my son I see nothing wrong with he fact he spends his days clutching a big ‘poon.  He likes it, OK? As long as he’s happy, loved and healthy that should be all that matters. If he’s autistic, artistic or green in colour I don’t really care. All I care about is that he enjoys being a toddler and gets to do what makes him smile, and if that is walking around with a spoon in hand that is fine with me.

I tell you, if anyone dared to suggest that I should take my son to be assessed because of a couple of little quirks then they’d know about it (although they probably wouldn’t, what with me being British and having a stiff upper lip and all). Hey, you know what else? Maybe he’ll be gay because I let him dress up in my jewellery and clothes? That’s another label for you, society.

119dd2948b8311e3aa7612f19fca3f6f_8In all seriousness though, it seems to be a must in this modern life for us to label the world around us and the people in it. Stay at home mum, work at home mum, single mum (raises hand). It’s sad that we can’t just get on with life without these labels; it’s as if putting us all in different boxes brings comfort to others. It’s sad to me that we can’t be more accepting of others and the way they want to live their lives without having to define what they are. We’re all humans, that should be enough definition for anyone.

Hux could grow up to BE a spoon for all it matters to me. I don’t want him to ever think I’m defining who or what he is because of the pressure from society: his and Elflie’s happiness, that’s really all that matters.  And ‘My Son The Spoon’? That’d make a great blog post.

 

In Which I Go Gooey Over My Little Man

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The relationships we have with our children, they are complex and frightening things. Even moreso than the relationships we have with other adults (and I’m speaking as someone who spilt apple pie over her divorce petition last night, so yeah… complex).

I feel quite different about the relationship I have with Hux than the one I have with Elfie. I’m not a girly girl and don’t have tons of girl friends (but the ones I do have are meticulously chosen and loved to bits), my non-PC sense of humour and love of straight-talking has always meant I’ve found it easier to get along with blokes. So is this why I am closer to Hux than I was to Elf at this age? Or is it because I breastfed him for so much longer? Co-slept? Was so more relaxed because he was the second child? Or is this just the different relationship mothers have with sons?

I don’t love Elfie any less, no siree. But our time together is just more… fiery. There are more ups and downs, more “I not love you, mummy!!”, more hands-on-hips, stompy strops and frayed tempers (her and me). She definitely takes after me, the lovely little madam.

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I seem to be a bit more tolerant of little Hux. He’s now one month away from one and a half and couldn’t be lovelier. It seems silly to say but this little man has developed quite the sense of humour and knows how to use it. When people meet him they comment on 1) how smiley he is, 2) how funny he is and 3) how handsome he is. I agree on all three counts. When we were on our cruise last week he spent time each evening in the night nursery where babies were strictly only allowed in if they were asleep. Hux? Nah. They liked it if he was awake because he would flirt and play peekaboo with them.

He can talk! Well, ish. He can say nana as he always has been able to but has added mama, dada, milk, no no no no and yeah yeah yeah yeah to his repertoire. He knows who his grannie and grandpa are but calls them both ‘papa’. He says bath, ball, pool and there and can’t get enough of spending time in the water. He’ll go swimming til his lips turn blue and he starts to shake but even then he’ll wail like a banshee when you remove him from the water.

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Hux likes buttons, mostly on electrical items. Buttons on tv remotes, buttons on phones, buttons on calculators. Anything with buttons he will hold to his ear and say “yah yah yah yah?” like he’s come straight off the set off Ab Fab. He also likes bras and mostly hangs the strap around his neck and then holds his arms out as if to say, “ta-dahhh!”. Ditto pants on head, he is always so proud to put Elfie’s pants on his head. I’m pretty confident this is just a stage and he isn’t going to grow up a deviant.

I don’t know if it’s just Hux or if this is more of a general boy thing but he has a great affinity with the toilet. Particularly the toilet brush. If he could he would spend all day with the toilet brush and let’s stop talking about this because I do my best to keep him out the bathroom and it’s completely gross.

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He’s also completely independent. He’s not walking yet but cruises along anything he can. He refuses to be fed which can make dinner time tricky but today managed to spoon feed a whole portion of mashed potato to himself, the little genius. His independence mean he’s quite happy to entertain himself for half an hour or so, though when left to his own devices I usually find him in some precarious position trying to get something forbidden off a shelf, or scaling a sofa as if it’s mount Everest.

Hux loves his sister, so so much. They light up when they’re together and although I promised myself I’d never be the sort of mummy who says soppy things it really is beautiful to see them delight in each others company so much. Mostly, anyway. Elfie is always wailing because Hux has taken some toy or another off her and although I try to tell her that she’s bigger than him and so doesn’t have to let him take her toys she is a big softie. They cuddle and communicate in giggles and pokes. It’s awesome.

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Hux is definitely a mummy’s boy but is only cuddly on some occassions. He knows exactly what I mean when I ask him for a cuddle and usually says “no no no” then laughs in my face, the heartbreaker, but sometimes he will oblige and bury his face in my neck. Which is always divine. On holiday last week there was one night when his temperature climbed to 39.5 and all he wanted to do was snuggle in my arms and have his back tickled. I pretended to be cross as it was 3am and I’d been up with him for three hours but I secretly loved every second. I know it won’t last forever and I treasure the moments I get to cuddle my baby boy before he starts smelling of cheesy feet, farts and Lynx.

Our Shutterflies Photo Shoot

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I don’t like having my picture taken. I think this is part of the reason I’ve found online dating so hard: in most pictures I have of myself I’m gurning in a ‘you might take my photo but I don’t care’ way, or they’re shameless selfies taken in the mirror. And I don’t want anyone’s first impression of me to be a person who either gurns a lot or takes unlimited shameless selfies, no thanks.

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So when Hayley of Shutterflies Photography contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in a photoshoot of me and the kids I was like ‘no thanks, I have enough pictures of me gurning’. But then I thought it over a bit more. I’ve always been the photographer of the house, there are shedloads of photographs of everybody with my kids but none of me with the little cherubs. It might be nice to have something to remember these tired years by?

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So that is the story of how I found myself with the kids meeting Hayley at a local country park a couple of weeks ago, best gurn faces on. I was terrified, mostly because  of the camera, and because I was fully expecting each and every photograph of me to turn out like this:

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But you know what? It was EASY. Hayley made it easy. She told us to just get on with what we’d be usually doing in the park (the kids were in their element) and just snapped away. She’d brought a picnic blanket for us to have a few more ‘posed’ shots on but apart from that it was just about the kids having fun and capturing them as naturally as possible.

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I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I am over the moon with the shots Hayley got of us. She used two cameras – one film, one digital – and I love the different feelings these lend to the photos. Not only is there minimal gurning from me but there is something so magical about the way she captured Elfie and Hux. She has caught them exactly as they are in real life – their facial expressions, their mannerisms – my babies.

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And me? Well, Hayley must have managed to work some sort of crazy magic because I actually like the way she captured me. I can only put this down to how relaxed and at ease she made us feel throughout the whole process, it was like spending a couple of hours at the park with a good friend rather than a photographer.

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I’m absolutely delighted with the results – so much so that I’m going to make our Shutterflies shoot an annual occasion. How precious is it that we have such beautiful photographs of us all together? Very. I love them.

shutterflies-026 shutterflies-028 shutterflies-009 shutterflies-020Thank-you so much to Hayley for a lovely couple of hours at the park and these gorgeous photographs of us. If you’re looking for some lovely memories I’d definitely give Ms Shutterflies a call; Hayley lives in Bedfordshire but is available to shoot far and wide from newborns to children to families to nuptuals. Just look at this beautiful wedding she recently photographed in Hertfordshire (I may or may not have provisionally booked her for my hypothetical second wedding). You can also take a look at her gorgeous blog here, add her on Twitter, follow her Instagram or like her Facebook page.

 

Hux’s Adventures In Weaning

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WEANING. A loaded word if I ever heard one.

With your first child you’re desperate for them to take that next step in to gloopy gluey baby rice and are chomping at the bit to get started from month 4. With your second child you dread moving on to inconvenient solids and wonder if you can stretch a milk diet out til month 7… this was my experience at least.

When Elfie started on solids I was a lean weanin’ machine. I ordered organic veg boxes and steamed squash, courgette and carrot until all the windows in my house were covered in condensation. I devoured anything written by Annabel Karmel and as per her instructions made special little lasagnes and pies for my angel. Weaning was a full-time job.

IMG_1707Elfie in 2011. The cute!

When Hux came along it was a different story. I had two kids, I was working and had a house to run: I didn’t have time to steam the crap out of every vegetable under the sun. And so after some research I decided to go the baby-led weaning route, it would fit in brilliantly with our busy lifestyle, Hux could sit up and eat with us and Elfie at the table and there wouldn’t be mountains of ice cube-shaped purées in my freezer. The carpet would become FILTHY despite me putting a mat under his highchair, but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing and who puts carpet in a kitchen anyway?!

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For the most part baby-led weaning has worked brilliantly for Hux. He’s had quite a complex diet from day one; I fed him the usual finger-shaped vegetables (carrots, purple sprouting broccoli, French beans for example) but he also eats lasagne, vegetable pasta, sandwiches, meats, beans, pie… anything you can think of using his hands. The stress involved in introducing him to solids has been incomparable to the stress of weaning Elfie. There’s simply none involved, he just eats what we eat but in his little finger-sized portions. Easy!

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The one struggle I’ve found has been with getting fruit into him. I religiously give him a ‘na-na’ after breakfast (he loves them, it was his first word) but he’s otherwise not too keen on the texture of other fruits. This sort of food is really important for him in particular as he does have a tendency to get, erm, ‘blocked up’, so I like to try and get at least his five portions into him daily.

We were recently sent these new Cow & Gate fruit pouches: 6 varieties of 100% fruit which contain 1 whole portion of fruit per pouch. He has one of these for pudding and BOOM! He’s as regular as clockwork again, bless his little bottom. It’s a bit like my early days of religious steaming but without the faff of the steamer.

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Fruit pouches and yoghurts are the only things the little man eats with a spoon, everything else is finger food. Baked beans, spaghetti bolognese, rice pudding… the messier the better. He also enjoys torn up tortilla wraps, marmite on toast, sticks of avocado, pieces of absolutely any meat you put in front of him, ice cubes, twirly pasta, popcorn, rice cakes, smoked salmon; he loves his food. This means his hand-eye co-ordination is pretty brilliant (he throws a ball like a BOSS) and I’m sure he’s slightly further on cognitively than Elfie was at this stage.

I know baby-led weaning isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely been the best way for us to wean, ruined carpet or not.

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Bubby Is ONE!

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I’d thought a lot about Hux’s first birthday; the end of the baby years, the beginning of his boyhood. The plan was to hold a small tea party with sandwiches, scones, cake and party rings, sing happy birthday in time for Hux and Elfie to have their tea and go to bed worn out after a happy day of cake and present-opening.

What I didn’t anticipate happening on 16th May was a (swift) drive to Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital following my mum’s not so graceful descent from the top of a ladder.

It was that awful situation you imagine might happen but hope never does. My phone was on silent and I’d missed calls from my Dad, who’d managed to get hold of Will. Will appeared at the front door: “there’s been an accident”. GULP. He said that my mum was fine but she’d gone off to hospital an hour and a half away in a helicopter. Which really, when you think about it, probably means she isn’t fine. An air ambulance! My mum hates flying.

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Mum was very lucky: she had a punctured lung and 4 fractured ribs (ouch). Despite being adamant that she wasn’t going to stay overnight in hospital (love the confidence intravenous morphine gives you…) she was kept in til Saturday and is now taking it easy at home.

I told her – you’ll do anything to get out of babysitting, won’t you mum?! ;)

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I got home in time to eat the last of the cocktail sausages and a couple of Blinis that Elfie had picked the smoked salmon off. And so my boy was One!

Ah well, we’ll try again next year. He won’t remember this birthday of course, which is good as practicality won over fun and his main gifts consisted of a bath toy, a book and lots of well-needed clothes. Sorry, Bubby.

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At the grand old age of a year Hux is still very awesome. He is the most content little man you will ever meet (strangers: “erm, why is your baby so happy?”) and his most favourite thing to do in the world is to put things, anything, in his mouth. His favourite thing to chomp down on is an iPhone wire or laptop cable. Or soil. Not massively high in the nutritional value stakes. He also loves to wave, point and pretend to feed people food.

He doesn’t crawl properly yet but does this cute wiggly wormy commando crawl thing on his elbows. He can happily sit up and has just started bearing weight on his legs if you support him. He can say some choice words: Mama, Dada, Papa, Row Row, Gaga, No, Yeah. He has the softest, sweetest-smelling head of hair that has the slightest hint of strawberry blonde about it.

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Hux had a very rough time in the last three months with three consecutive chest infections and a couple of doses of conjunctivitis. You know what’s not fun? Putting cream in a baby’s eyes. They don’t like it. At all.

A hospital X ray confirmed that he did indeed have infections in both lungs but it didn’t look like there was anything more sinister going on which was a huge relief after there were whispers of Cystic Fibrosis from the doctor. We’re going back in a couple of weeks for a follow up but touch wood he has been happy and well ever since.

Elfie loves her brother A LOT, probably a little bit more than he loves her at the moment though this is totally down to how hard she squeezes him when they cuddle. And how much she likes to ‘share’ his toys, when ‘share’ means ‘take it off him because I want anything he’s playing with’. The relationship these two share is so special… at least until the crying starts, anyway.

It’s crazy to look back on this time last year and think about what a different place we are all in now. So much has happened, most of it unexpected. Some sad, some happy, some exciting, some life-changing. Who knows what the next year of this little boy’s life will bring?

 

Eye Gunk, Sad Faces and Doggies

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What do you do with two children who have conjunctivitis? Because I have no idea.

Ok, mine don’t have conjunctivitis but rather some other -itis (blepheritis?) which seems to be quite similar. Their eyes are swollen, sticky, itchy and look very uncomfortable indeed. I am dreading Hux’s hourly eye sterile eye wipe; this is the boy who will clock you if you try to wipe a bit of banana from the corner of his mouth. He has an impressive right hook for an 11 month old.

Elfie is over the worst but Hux, oh poor Hux really is suffering. He can’t open his eyes in the morning and for the rest of the day they are red, swollen and itchy. We’ve taken him to the doctors twice since Thursday but they maintain he has a viral infection inherited from the nasty cold he’s rocking so there are no drops or antibiotics that will help. I’m not convinced, I’m no doctor but the bad eyes are accompanied by the third bad chest he’s had in the last three months and the past two have only shifted with antibiotics. I really hope I’m proved wrong but I fully predict we’ll be back at the GPs in two days time.

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I also hope that the next time we go to the doctors Elfie doesn’t get her arm stuck in this contraption. It was touch-and-go for a while as I worked out how to remove it but one swift tug and she was home free. There were tears though. Hers, Hux’s and mine, though mine were possibly from laughter. I had to laugh otherwise I would have cried… I don’t know how she gets in these situations but they are bloody funny.

Anyway, for the moment we’re just to ride it out, keeping Hux topped up with fluids and way too many episodes of Balamory (what can I say? He loves it, and at least it’s not Mr Tumble). He’s also back to having 2 x two hour naps a day which must mean he’s feeling pretty rough and I’m trying to use the time to do special things with Elfie. But every single thing I do with her now also has to involve her new friend Doggie, which is interesting because she doesn’t like real dogs (“don’t like him, he’s too friendly Mummy!”). Elfie insisted Doggie have lunch with us today which was one of those moments you imagine your hypothetical child doing when they’re growing in your womb and then forget about until it actually happens. Lovely.

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Apparently Doggie loved his toast but not so much the avocado or salmon, which works for me as nobody wants to scrub messy food from a stuffed toy. I do suspect this originated from Elfie’s own taste in food though: she loves avocado and salmon and is pretty ambivalent about toast. Lucky Doggie, lucky Elfie.

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We did make it out of the house yesterday to the Garden Centre, my new favourite place. I could have spent hours wandering around if the children weren’t so grumbly (and by children I mean husband). Hux spent a pleasant couple of hours in the Baby Bjorn snuggling into my chest – something I enjoyed hugely – and Elfie was enamoured by the chickens, fish and flowers. I predict we’ll be back regularly, which makes me feel both excited and old. We actually bought compost. COMPOST.

Today begins a week of single parenting for me as Will is off in That Big City working hard on a few shows he has coming up this weekend. I’m feeling slightly hysterical – hats off to anyone who does this on a permanent/regular basis, you’re all warriors – and I predict I will need a Wagamamas by the end of the week to reward myself for surviving. That is, if I survive. If it gets to Friday and you haven’t heard from me, send help (or vodka). I picked the wrong week to pack up my wine habit, that’s for sure.

I just noticed that I put my jumper on the wrong way round this morning. That feels like a fitting metaphor for the day.