Lana von Strudel

<Elisabeth names everything. Her scooter is called Thomas because he is blue like Thomas the Tank Engine. Her bicycle is called Rudolph because when she came into the living room on Christmas morning her wrapped up bike did look like a reindeer. Our car is called Azun which she picked up from Dora the Explorer and there are many more things that have names. 

Next week Elisabeth is going to pre-school every afternoon, so we have been making the most from our afternoons together. we enjoy sitting in our dining room where Elisabeth can draw and I do some sewing or make some jewellery, she loves watching me when I make "pretty things". The other day I was making wire wrapped rings and she pointed at my wooden mandrel and said: "Let's give that a name mummy. Let's call it….let's call it Lana von Strudel." I was rather speechless to be honest. I later found out that this Lana von Strudel is a character in a Bob the Builder film she has been watching, so it is not quite as random as I initially thought but still it made me laugh, and my ring mandrel will forever be called Lana von Strudel.

Elisabeth is quite worried about going to pre-school, she is worried because she won't see Jenny (her childminder) anymore, she is worried because "there might be scary children there mummy!" But the thing that she most often mentions is that she is worried because "I just want to be with you all the time mummy." Poor little lamb. I know she will be fine and it will be good for us both to spend a little time apart, as we have been seeing a lot of each other with me being on maternity leave, but I can't help wanting to pick her up in my arms and never letting her go.

Jacob will miss her too, he loves nothing more than watching her. He is doing very well my little giant baby. He is absolutely massive, so much so that I am starting to worry about my back! His nappy suits are size 12-18 months and he is not even 8 months old yet. He eats enormous amounts and still wants 4 bottles a day – although 2 of them are now a lot smaller than before. He is sleeping less and less during the day, he now has 2 naps of about an hour and after a month of bad night time sleeping he is slowly getting back to sleeping through the night again. He is a very relaxed baby – as long as his food comes often, quickly and in big amounts – and has a great sense of humour. If I do something that he finds funny, he often laughs so much that he gives himself hiccups, which then will make him laugh even more.

Elisabeth has her moments when she just doesn't want him around, she struggles with having to share my attention with Jacob and an ever increasing amount of washing. Sometimes when I cuddle her in her bed when she can't sleep she quietly tells me that she doesn't want a baby in the house anymore, but other days she tells she wants another baby – unlikely!

I have really enjoyed watching Elisabeth become more independent over the last month. The first time I heard her go to the toilet on her own without asking for my help was really strange. The second time she used so much toilet paper she seriously blocked the toilet. It is great to know that if she needs the toilet whilst she is at pre-school she is capable of going on her own. Today we were on our way upstairs to clean her teeth when Jacob started crying so I popped back down to see him and said to Elisabeth that I would be up in a minute, when I got back upstairs she was in the bathroom cleaning her teeth! And when I tried to help her she got in a right strop telling me that she doesn't need help because she is so much bigger now :-)

So, I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about next week, but I think she is going to do great and she will love it.

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A bit of a month….

July has been a bit of a month at Newman Towers, some pretty exciting stuff has happened but unfortunately some nasty things as well.

At the start of the month my long life writer’s dream came true, I had an article accepted for publication and was going to get paid for it! It was only the second time I had ever submitted anything so I was pretty chuffed it was accepted. What makes it even more special is that the article is about my grandmother and how and why she, during the second world war, saved a young Jewish girl by hiding her in her attic. It will be published next May when it is 70 years ago that Holland was liberated. I can’t wait to see this extremely special story in print WITH MY NAME UNDER IT!

A bit later that day I was swiftly brought back down to earth. I was putting some washing on in the kitchen downstairs when I heard Elisabeth fall down the stairs, the noise was so loud that I actually cried out. The awful moment running up the stairs not knowing what I will find is not something I will soon forget. When I picked her up she was bleeding out of her nose so I gave her a cuddle and gently laid her on the floor explaining that I was just making sure she was ok. I quickly looked for any more blood and asked her where it hurt. She had a bump on her head and a sore nose, but nothing too bad. Luckily our stairs are split in two so she can only fall about 6 steps and she fell on carpet, otherwise it could have been a lot worse. For about an hour after that all she wanted to know was lay in my arms and eventually she dozed off for a bit. Luckily Jacob slept through the whole ordeal. We popped down to the Doctor later that day for a quick check and were told that she was fine. Big sigh of relief!

A week later a close friend and I officially registered our small business partnership Pretty Random Things. We have been talking about starting a small business selling handmade (by us) jewellery for ages and we decided to just do it. So far we have sold mainly to friends, family and colleagues but soon we will launch our Folksy page (this is the UK equivalent of Etsy). It is a lot of work, but very exciting. Today we opened our business bank account and in the process sold two rings to the lady opening the account for us :-)

Unfortunately the excitement over the start of our business venture was soon overshadowed by another fall. In the middle of the night my husband and I woke up to a very loud bang which sounded like Elisabeth falling out of her bed. We both jumped up and started running towards the bedroom door. My husband slipped and fell onto the edge of our bed which is very very sharp. He was laying down and didn’t get up, for a split second I wasn’t sure what to do or who to go to. First I ran downstairs to check on Elisabeth who was fast asleep in her bed, we still have no idea what the bang was that woke us up. I quickly went back upstairs to find Gareth in the exact same spot as where I left him. He was clearly in a lot of pain but finally made it back into bed. The next morning we took him to A and E where they told him he cracked a rib. This is now over 3 weeks ago and he still can’t cope without painkillers. It has been a hard few weeks for everyone and I really hope he gets better soon.

In between all this Jacob was 6 months old on the day flight MH17 was shot down and all those poor souls died.

So I think it is safe to say that it has been a bit of a month. Here is to an uneventful August.

I just don’t know what to say…

Living in a different country from where you grew up is without a doubt difficult at times. No matter how hard you try, you will miss birthdays, weddings, parties, summer bbq’s and afternoons of endless cups of tea with your sister or best friend. No matter how big or small the occasion, it’s hard.

It is most difficult though when something bad happens. When disaster strikes either your family, friends or your fellow countrymen it is extremely hard to not be around.

The airplane disaster from last Thursday is without a doubt the worst thing that happened to my home country since I left it. Flight MH17 was shot from the air and there were no survivors, 193 of the victims were Dutch. Reading about parents who waved bye bye to their children never to see them again makes me so sad it is hard to keep back my tears. The words: “The death count has risen by 3 because 3 babies didn’t have their own seats” saddens me to the core and make me cry every time I think about them.

The stories about how the site has not yet been secured, how the bodies have been man handled and how the victims possessions have been looted are infuriating. The thought of children’s and babies bodies being out there, being treated in this awful disrespectful way is leaving me speechless and tearful. Not being able to mourn with my fellow Dutchies has never been harder.

Please spare a thought for the victims and their families.

Almost six months…..

In 11 days time Jacob will be six months old and even though it has been hard work and difficult at times there have been many wonderful moments. I wanted to write more often during the first few months but have not had the time or peace of mind to do it. So instead, here are some of the things I have really enjoyed.

* The bonding. After an insanely quick delivery, Jacob and I had to stay in hospital for a few days. It was extremely hard only seeing Elisabeth briefly during those days, especially as I knew she was struggling with me not being there, but it was nice to have that time with Jacob. It really gave me a chance to bond with him without having to worry about doing anything else.

* The love from sister to brother. From day one it was obvious that Elisabeth adored Jacob, she loves giving him cuddles and kisses and tickling his little feet.

* The sleep! To say that I was concerned about sleep is an understatement. It was hard enough looking after just Elisabeth with practically no sleep for about two years, having both a baby and a three year old to deal with on no sleep filled me with dread. You can imagine my surprise and delight when Jacob started sleeping through before he was even four months old! He goes to bed just before seven and most nights he sleeps until six. Of course there are nights when he wants his dummy plugged back in every five minutes, or he can’t get to sleep on his own and needs me to cuddle him until he drifts off, or when he thinks 4am is a perfectly acceptable time to wake up, but most of the time he sleeps amazingly well. It is very very nice indeed. Although saying all this, the last week sleep has not been good and I can feel the ever so familiar effects of my old “friend” sleep deprivation. All I can say is that I hope it will pass soon.

* The quiet moments. I love playing with Jacob and Elisabeth, singing silly songs, doing crazy dancing and trying to keep up with Elisabeth’s never ending imagination. Sometimes though I really enjoy the quiet moments. Times when Elisabeth is sitting at her little table drawing and Jacob happily watches her from his little bouncy chair, both completely content leaving me to get on with the endless amounts of washing and other chores. Those moments stop me in my tracks and make me take a moment to truly appreciate my two little superstars.

* The eating. Watching Jacob eat is an absolute delight, when Elisabeth was the same age she was just starting to have little bits of baby rice, Jacob is on three meals a day already. He is a real hungry monster and loves pretty much everything I give him, and he makes yummy noises with every bite :-)

* The differences. Elisabeth and Jacob are different in pretty much everything. It’s lovely to be surprised by things that Jacob does or likes that Elisabeth didn’t do or like. Certainly keeps things interesting.

* The love from brother to sister. The way Jacob watches Elisabeth is something I can watch all day. As soon as she walks (or often runs) into a room his eyes light up and he starts kicking his feet. If she comes near he tries to grab her and pull her close. If he struggles to nap when we’re out, all Elisabeth has to do is sing him ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ and he nod off. Last night we were all upstairs in our bedroom, I had bathed Jacob and was ready to go downstairs when Elisabeth jumped on our bed and started being silly. The next thing we hear is Jacob bursting out laughing every time Elisabeth makes a silly move. Proper belly laughs, the best ones yet. It was amazing, Elisabeth kept being silly and Jacob laughed and laughed. There is some proper brother- and sisterly love growing here. We are very lucky to have them both.

Conversations with Elisabeth 8

Me: “What would you like for lunch? A Marmite sandwich?”
Elisabeth: “Yes mummy, that’ll do.”
(Cheeky monkey!)

Elisabeth: “I am so lucky, I get chocolate twice. At Christmas and at Easter!”
(Whilst she eats the smallest piece of chocolate ever)

Elisabeth: “Mummy, can you tell me the story about when I was a baby and we lived in Africa?”
Me: “What? We never lived in Africa.”
Elisabeth: “Yes we did, that is where I was born. Africa is really far away you know.”
Me – speachless

Elisabeth: “Mummy, do you have a sore head?”
Me: “no, I don’t.”
Elisabeth: “Yes you do! It’s there!”
Me: “Oh, that is my forehead sweetheart.”

Me: “Can you eat some of your mashed potato please?”
Elisabeth: “I don’t like mashed potato.”
Me: “Ok, do you like mash?”
Elisabeth: “Yes, I like mash.”
Me: “Right, so you don’t like mashed potato.”
Elisabeth: “No.”
Me: “But you like mash?”
Elisabeth: “Yes.”

The beginning of the end

I am really passionate about breastfeeding, I truly believe it is the very best thing you can do for your baby, but it is not easy, far from it. Feeding Elisabeth was incredibly painful for 4 months because she couldn’t latch on properly, but I managed to feed her for 8 and a half months and I am glad I did. It was incredibly difficult but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I didn’t really enjoy it though, I enjoyed doing the best I could for her, but the actual feeding, not so much. With Jacob things started off a lot better, he latched on fine. But I still don’t do it for the joy of it. I do it because it is best for baby (and me) and how can I justify not doing the best for my beautiful baby, but I also do it because I don’t do failure. Or should I say I don’t do it well.

In my head failure is only acceptable when you are physically or mentally not able to complete a task, in all other circumstances failure is not an option. I know this is quite ridiculous, but hey, try telling my stubborn head that!

During our 4 days in hospital after Jacob was born I had to supplement his feeds with formula because his bloodsugar was too low. He was such a big boy and because my milk hadn’t come in yet he just wasn’t getting enough. This was obviously the right thing to do, although I hated putting a bottle in that tiny little mouth, but it was that or risking him having to go to special care so I didn’t feel guilty about it.

I even didn’t feel too bad for introducing a bottle at bedtime because he just wouldn’t stop feeding in the evening and I was just not able to keep feeding every hour til gone midnight because he just wasn’t satisfied. It wasn’t what I wanted but it felt like the right thing to do. I would feed him during the day, either me or my husband would give him a bottle in the evening and I would feed him again at night.

At 12 weeks Jacob decided that it was about time he slept through the night which is so amazing I hadn’t even hoped for it. I know this will probably change when he has a growth spurt or starts teething, but at the moment he sleeps on average 10 hours straight. This does mean however that during the morning he feeds like crazy, every hour at least, and by the time the extra milk from not feeding at night has gone he is very unsatisfied and hard to settle after every feed. Not only is it hard to see him so unsatisfied, it has made it almost impossible to spend any time with Elisabeth in the morning, by the time I got her dressed and made her some toast Jacob is hungry again. Last Friday he was awake at 6.15 and had had 5 feeds by midday at 20 minutes to half an hour each and still he was hungry. This was too much for me and I decided to give him one bottle during the day as well as before he goes to bed. It was very upsetting giving him this bottle. Over the weekend it was obvious how much more settled he was, but it is difficult to accept that this might be best for him and for Elisabeth as well.

So far I have not noticed a decrease in milk production and I really hope this decision will not be the beginning of the end of nursing, because even though I don’t thoroughly enjoy it, I want him to benefit from it for at least another 3 months. Fingers crossed!

Time flies when you don’t have time

Jacob is now nearly three months old and I have been seriously neglecting this blog. There are two times I often write, either in the evening or on the bus on the way to or from work, but I’m not back to work yet and I go to bed pretty much as soon as both kiddos are asleep (to catch every possible minute of sleep I can). And writing during the day…..ha ha, you must be joking….in between feeding, changing, washing, feeding, changing, spending a few precious moments with Elisabeth whilst Jacob sleeps, feeding, changing, cooking, feeding, changing, eating, bathing etc there is not much time left. So, unfortunately, blogging will have to wait until I have a few minutes in the morning, like today.

Things are going well though. Jacob is sleeping really well, I feed him during the day and we give him a bottle of formula before he goes to bed. I struggled with the endless feeding in the evening and we quickly decided that it was better to give him one bottle a day so I’d have the energy to feed him during the day than giving up altogether. I would like to continue breastfeeding until he is 6 months old, but I am finding it quite hard.

Elisabeth is doing great, she has only told me once that she wanted Jacob to go and that was when she was really poorly. The poor little lamb had a couple of weeks of temperatures, being sick and a really nasty cough. But most of the time she loves having her little brother around. The other morning I was downstairs making a cup of tea and I heard Jacob cry. I was about to go upstairs and see what was wrong when the crying stopped. When I got back upstairs, Elisabeth was sitting next to Jacob and was gently rocking him in his bouncy chair to stop him crying. Very cute.

I find it really hard not having enough time to play with Elisabeth, I try to give her one on one attention whenever Jacob sleeps, but it is hard. She still goes to her lovely childminder on Tuesday which she really enjoys and it gives me some time to spend with Jacob and catch up on some chores. We were hoping that she would get a pre-school place at the local school this month, but unfortunately she will have to wait until September.

Anyway, I think Elisabeth has just woken up and Jacob is starting to get hungry, so must go.

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