Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Little smiler

Several weeks ago, the edges of Lumpy's mouth began to twitch. We wouldn't have called it a smile, exactly, but it was getting near. He'd perfected other looks long before, such as the grumpy frown, the suspicious sideways look, and the coy glance, but a proper smile remained elusive. There were times when his mouth would curve upwards, but this always seemed to be as part of his random facial gesticulations, rather than any expression of pleasure. And they were generally directed at inanimate objects, rather than his indulgent, loving, and increasingly desperate parents.

Six weeks, we were told. That was when the proper smiles began. We warned Lumpy of this deadline, hinting that there were nearby skips that he could conveniently tossed into if he didn't up his game and start performing pronto, but the date passed and we still hadn't had something we could actually confidently identify as an expression of happiness at our presence. But there were still near-smiles, and occasionally they happened when we were looking at him. So we held off from the skip-tossing for the time being.

And then they started. Big, proper grins, accompanied by the cutest coos and squawks ever heard. And they happened while he was actually looking at us (though more regularly and reliably while staring at Mr Butterfly, Lumpy's changing table companion, and BFF. But hey, who hasn't played second fiddle to a wind-up insect with psychedelic spinning wings?)

The mornings were the best times, after a good sleep and a big feed, with the undivided attention of his audience. I would sit with him propped up on my legs and he'd giggle and grin and be generally delightful. So of course I tried to capture this on camera. And, without fail, every time I got my phone out, this is the sort of thing I got:

Wot? Smilz? Me don do smilz. Am grumpee babee. More milks now plz.

Hahaahaaa. Watch me teaz yous wid this almost smiles. Am evil geniuz. More milks now plz.

You iz lik rilly boringz, you knows. Can be resolved by givin much milks now.

Am seriuz. You boringz me into unconsciousnez. (also weakness thru lack of milks)

Ok, now Lumpy angryz. Prepare to dies.

Having failed so magnificently at photography, I turned to video. Surely if I filmed for long enough, I would eventually capture a smile. Instead, I managed to record this (please note highly intellectual Radio 4 in the background and the oinky piggie-like grunts that precede the inevitable crescendo):

Ahh, sweet vomitty memories.

Things what I have growed this year

Assorted legumes:

Muddy tatoes:

Juicy tomatoes:

Spotty beanies:

Eccentric lettuces:

Some very fat snails (entirely fed on eccentric lettuce):

And one 12.5 lb boy (complete with 74 chins):

It's been a busy year.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Escaping Lumpy

It's not that I want to abandon my darling son. On the contrary, I often feel I could happily hole up with him for days, just stroking his ridiculously silky feet (I have considered preventing him from ever walking on them, just to maintain that baby softness, but I fear this could lead to prosecution and imprisonment). That said, having a baby is quite a shock to the system - emotionally just as much as (or even more than) physically. You go from being one person, to two. It will never be just you again. And breastfeeding means you're physically attached to this new little being for a large part of the day (in Lumpy's case, pretty much all day). If you're not careful, you may never leave the house again.

I was determined for this not to happen.

Part one in bringing this evil plan to fruition was getting Lumpy to take a bottle of expressed boob juice. My google research had told me that this would be hideously difficult and quite possibly traumatic (how anyone fuelled their panic and paranoia before the Internet I'll never know. Thank god I don't have to live in those calm and backward times). I was thus convinced that we were in for hours of gut-wrenching screams, and that I would undoubtedly have to leave the house, and possibly the country, as there was no way Lumpy would take a bottle with me n smelling distance (and my smell is particularly pungent, let me assure you).

The day we chose to try out the magical bottle of child abandonment was Lumpy's two-week birthday. We'd asked various people for advice (midwives, health visitors, the milkman, etc.) and they'd said that you should wait for at least two weeks, but be sure to do it before six weeks, as after that time the little blighters start getting notions and can get all uppity when someone tries to replace their beloved boob with a nasty rubber teat. Not being ones to hang around, we got the bottle ready for the final feed of the evening. I'd been pumping for a week or so previously, to make sure we had a good supply, and was now a fully paid-up dairy cow, with a fridge full of creamy plastic bottles, a freezer full of white pouches, and the 'fuuump, fuuump' sound of the pump a familiar background to our evening's viewing. So keen had I become on the old pumping, that Mr Badger had ceased to be fascinated by the sight of his wife's nipple being sucked rhythmically in and out of a plastic funnel, and instead started suggesting I sell my milk on eBay, as his research had told him that it would go for £15 per 4oz (if you don't believe us, see the story here), and I already had enough stashed in the freezer to last Lumpy through to university. And anyway, he was never going to take a bottle, anyway, so we'd have to sell it off.

The moment of milky truth arrived, and Mr Badger settled himself on the bed, before I reverently passed Lumpy to him. I hovered in the ensuite, pretending to get ready for bed, convinced that Lumpy's outrage would soon shatter the evening silence. But there was... nothing. Just the sound of rhythmical sucking and a few contented squeaks and sighs. I snuck back into the room and saw that half the bottle had gone down already. Lumpy's eyes opened slightly and shifted in my direction. This would be it, surely. He'd get a scent of me, realize he was being conned, and start howling. But... nothing. His eyes closed again and he continued his contented sucking.

"Right. I'll go downstairs then," I said, and shuffled off, feeling somewhat unemployed.

Since then, we've kept giving Lumpy a bottle every night. We've shifted it from 11pm to 8pm, as he's tended to be so zonked at 11 that we often can't manage to feed him much at all. So the bottle has become part of the bedtime routine, with me taking charge of the bath, before handing over to Mr B for a bottling.

And then all we had to do was execute part B of the plan: the actual abandonment of the Lumpy. I had already managed this on a minor scale, with my mummy, Grandma Badger, watching the Lumpster while I dashed to the gym, so we knew that he wouldn't spontaneously combust the minute we both left the house. Grandma Badger was, probably to be trusted. We thought long and hard about what we would do on this first non-baby evening. What mature entertainments would we indulge in? The Opera, perhaps. Or a glitzy restaurant. And then it came to us.

We would go and see Toy Story 3. Brilliant.

And so, when Lumpy was around 3 weeks old, Grandma Badger bundled us out of the house before we could neurotically show her the location of the extra milk, spare clothes, nappies, or panic room for the fifty seventh time. I was only twitching slightly as we drove to the cinema, and managed not to check my phone for at least 15 minutes. The evening was almost ruined by a brilliant planning failure on our part, as we'd neglected to realize that Oxford United were playing Man United at home at exactly the same time as our film started. As the cinema and the football stadium share a car park, this led to completely jammed roads and no spaces whatsoever. It looked like we weren't going to get our intellectual adult night out after all. But the gods of child abandonment must have been smiling down on us, because as we sat just inside the entrance to the car park, watching the minutes tick away, and gazing sadly at the utter lack of spaces, a car began to reverse out. Quick as a flash, Mr Badger zipped into it, laughing manically at the poor sods who were still waiting, gridlocked and helpless, all around us. We zoomed into the cinema, handed over approximately £400 for the essential tub of popcorn and slushy blue ice drink, and waited for our friends, who had abandoned their cars to avoid the jams, and were now sprinting across Blackbird Leys, hoping not to be raped or pillaged on route. They arrived five minutes before the film was due to start, miraculously unmolested, and we all took our seats and donned our 3D glasses.

It was the perfect film for this first escape: funny, cute, and emotionally manipulative enough to cause a few satisfying tears, without inducing a embarrassing sentimental breakdown. I did check my phone about five times, just to check that there were no 'the baby's dead' messages, but this didn't entirely ruin the narrative flow and escapism of the whole experience. And of course, when we got back, the baby was dead... No, no, he was asleep, really, Grandma Badger having had the radical notion of putting him to bed in his cot after his bottle at 8pm. This was something we'd never thought of doing, preferring, for some illogical, new parent reason, to keep him downstairs with us, awkwardly laid out on nests of pillows, and waking every five minutes when we laughed at the TV or shouted at each other (this is, of course, exaggeration for dramatic effect. We never shout at each other. Or laugh).

Since then, we have escaped two more times, for dinner. The most recent escape was for our third wedding anniversary, and we were sat at a table across from a woman with a baby asleep in its pram. As she left, we asked how old he was.

"Three months," she answered.

"We have a seven week old," said Mr Badger.

"Oh, lovely!" she said. "Is it your first night out?"

"Erm, no," we answered sheepishly. "Our third, actually."

She looked suitably shocked before huffing off, mumbling 'evil baby abandoners' under her breath.

We looked at each other across the table, and chinked glasses.


Tuesday, 17 August 2010

1000 miles in a carseat

About six months before the arrival of Lumpy, we were sent a wedding invitation for August 2010. In Heidelberg. Which is in Germany. And thus quite a long way from Oxford.

We ummed and ahhed for a while over whether we should accept. After all, Lumpy could have been overdue, and would then only be about four weeks old (rather than a fabulously mature six weeks, at which point he would be able to feed and dress himself, and probably even help out with the driving). We had no idea how we'd be coping. Maybe we still wouldn't be capable of leaving the house. let alone transporting ourselves and a baby to a foreign country. Madness would surely ensue. And probably divorce, bloodshed, and baby-throwing.

We accepted. Of course we did.

Which is how we found ourselves in a car stuffed full of 18 thousand baby grows, several packets of disposable nappies (I know. The horror, the horror. But, obsessed though I am, I wasn't going to cart five days worth of dirty washables around Europe with us), assorted baby-scaring toys, a new luxurious lamb skin car seat liner, and four bottles of breast milk (which we were somehow going to keep cool until the Saturday night, so mummy could have a drink... ohmigod vat of wine, nom nom nom badparentbadparent).

We were booked on the Eurotunnel, as we'd decided that we clearly needed more stuff than could fit on a plane. And driving more than 1000 mile across five countries would clearly be far easier.

Which, actually, it was.

I wish I could entertain you with tales of epic screaming fits on the autobahn, and nervous breakdowns in strange hotels, induced by yet another sleep-free night. Actually, I don't wish that at all. That would be stupid. In reality, we had an amazing time, and Lumpy was an absolute star the entire time. He cried less than he usually does, which is not very much at all. He behaved himself impeccably throughout the wedding ceremony, charmed the other guests, and slept solidly from 9pm till 2am at the reception, so mummy could enjoy her vat of wine. And her first hangover in about 11 months. Lovely!

Which all made for a wonderful long weekend. But a rather dull blog post. Sorry about that.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Month One Report


JWP 'Lumpy' Badger

Form: Lower first

Boob studies (higher diploma)

Lumpy's dedication to the Boob is renowned throughout the Institute, and this enthusiasm, combined with his natural flair, has resulted in a truly exceptional weight gain. In fact, should he continue as he has started, it is estimated that he will be 18 stone by Christmas. Grade: A ++.

Nappy skills and digestive management

As is to be expected from such dedicated hours of Boob Study, Lumpy's nappy productions are a sight to behold, widely admired for their creativity, use of colour, and sheer scope and volume. However, his parping - though undeniably spectacular - is somewhat inconsistent, and often preceded by hours of loud yet ineffective grunting (generally at 5 in the morning). Delightful though these dawn choruses are, it would be more satisfactory for all concerned if he could simply learn to fart on demand. Grade: B -.

During the course of this month, Lumpy has progressed from being largely nocturnal to a recognition of night time, and sleeping for a record four hours at a stretch (for which we are truly thankful). Though occasionally unpredictable, he is generally excellent at night (the 5am gruntings excepted), settling quickly after each period of nocturnal boob study. We have great hopes that he will, one day, sleep through the night (God willing, please please please). However, he seems less skilled at daytime naps, actively resisting sleep during daylight hours, and having to be tricked into closing his eyes for more than 20 seconds. He claims this is because there is so much cool stuff to look at, such as ceilings, light bulbs, crazy psychedelic bees, and, and, and...[rock, rock, rock, strategic dummy, rock]... snorkle, grunt, Zzzzzzzzzz. grade: B +.

Social skills
Lumpy is exceptionally well behaved in company, immediately sleeping when he hears the voices of strangers. It is only the privileged few who are allowed to witness him in a state of heightened emotion, and thus the power of his lungs is not widely acknowledged. He has also excelled in the area of inducing love, reducing all who meet him to cooing fools who feel strangely compelled to shower him with both kisses and extravagant presents - a skill he must take care not to abuse in the future. Though he has not quite mastered the full use of the smile, there have been tantalizing hints of future brilliance, and he has already developed an armory of other endearing expressions and noises that make him an impressive parental manipulator, even at such an early age. Grade: A.

Headbadger's comments
Young Lumpy has been with us for over a month now, and has made excellent progress. In fact, we have come to find him rather indispensable, and simply cannot imagine life without him, or, indeed, remember a time when he was not here. Certainly, there are still areas that still need some work, but we are confident that, given time, these too will improve (and we will one day all enjoy a full night's sleep with minimal grunting). Well done, young Lumpy! We are very, very proud of you. Keep up the good work.