Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thrifty thinking...

I'm a self confessed hoarder but even I was surprised when I found a pair of socks - with huge holes in the heels - that I had bought in Peru about ten years ago. Why hadn't I thrown them out? Oh well, it turns out, when sewn together, they make a rather fetching draught excluder!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

English or American?

A while ago, Dom and I were asking Max if he was English or American. His answer usually just repeated the last word in the question so we could predict his response:
'Are you American or English?' Answer, 'English'.
'Are you English or American?' Answer, 'American'.
But then he got the gist of our responses: 'English', 'Yeaaaaah!' 'American', 'Noooooo'. Clearly our negative response held more appeal for him because he is now always American. In fact, he and Oli hold dual citizenship but here are a few of the facts;
Max got his social security number well before his parents.
Both Max and Oliver held US passports before British ones.
Fy engines go 'whhiiiir' not 'Neee Naaah'.
'Table cars' go 'ding ding'.
Halloween isn't scary.
Fireworks go off in the summer (4th July not Bonfire Night).
We get mail not post.
Grammar is dodgy.
Prepositions are scarce.
In fact, Max's American-ness is increasingly evident in his vocabulary. His first word was 'Hayo' (Hello) and even though his second utterance gave away his English parentage ('cup-o-tea') it is now the Rs that give him away as the yank in the family - CaR, DooR, MoRe (Or could it be the Cornishman in him?). Certainly the Rs are now creeping in all over the place - even where they don't exist. Thomas the tank engine, you may remember, has a big presence in this household and the other day Max pitched in with his ever present refrain of 'Where's Thomas? Where's Thomas?' But I noticed that 'Thomas' had actually become 'TaRmas'.
'Say 'o'' I said (as in 'clock'). 'o' Max replied.
'Say 'Tho'' I said. 'Tho' he replied.
'Say 'Thomas''. 'TaRmas'.
So there you have it, we are raising an American. Having said that, there is much confusion over tomatoes which started off as British, then became American ('tomaytoes') and are now inexplicably 'bonartoes'. The last frontier will be the loss of the T in butter and water, he isn't yet saying budder or warder although ask him where he lives and you'll get the sing-song answer 'San Fransisco Cidy'. But this country is, after all, the land of the immigrant and many a proper Cornish miner came here to try his luck during the gold rush 150 years ago. It is said that if there's a hole in the ground, you'll find a Cornishman at the bottom of it. So we are following well-trodden footprints (without the hole). Amid the cast of many extraordinary characters I heard about growing up in Cornwall's Penwith peninsula, there was one called 'Yanky Will'. I believe he was so-called because he 'went to there once'. So if that is the criteria upon which my family is to be judged, then it is clear none of us can escape our lengthy sojourn on this side of the Atlantic. Today is, in fact, our third Thanksgiving in America. It's a 'holiday' I like more and more. It lacks the commercialism that so often identifies American culture and that has become so blatant at Christmas. It is very simply about families getting together to eat. But I like it not so much for the turkey but also that it staves off the Christmas sprawl (Here, it's pumpkins til Thanksgiving, then fairy lights ONLY once the turkey has been devoured). Last year it was a proper family affair for us and like millions of truly American families we celebrated with a big bird, stuffing and the works. But this year, Dom is heading to London for his sister's wedding and I am parenting alone. Max and Oli, the true Americans in this family, may well feel cheated - I opted for lunch at a 50's style diner this year rather than a vigil over the oven punctuated by intermittent turkey basting. It is certainly evident that Max was very much ready to get into the Thanksgiving swing of things. I was told that although his friends had swiftly discarded the 'Turkey' hats they made at preschool, Max was the only child determined to wear his the entire day - 'I just want to wear my TuRkey hat, OK?'

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wrapping it up

This kept Max busy for a good ten minutes...we got out a set of stamps and went to town on the packing paper I saved from our move earlier in the year. Now we have some very distinctive wrapping paper for Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Puzzling Chit Chat

Last week as I picked Max up from preschool, one of his teachers commented on how talkative he'd been. She told me he'd been sitting next to her telling her the colours of things, but not just that one thing was green and the other blue, but that there were different kinds of blues and what a blue something might say to a green something and so on. A few nights before I'd been telling Dom that Max's chit chat had started taking over my head. I go to bed with his voice ringing in my ears as if I've been out to a concert. It reminds me of when my brother and I were home from school one holiday and it was raining. Mum got out one of those 4000 piece jigsaw puzzles and we spread the tiny pieces on the dining room table. Each one was no bigger than a 2p piece and each one had to be turned over and identified as sky or water or brickwork and matched up to something else to give it some coherence. We spent an entire day obsessively putting the picture together. And all day, while focusing so intensely on our task, we listened to the local commercial radio station with it's inane chatter and repetitive jingles. When we went to bed that night it felt like the noise from the radio had inhabited every corner of my head and I honestly thought I was going mad. I remember my brother laughing when I asked him if that was possible. I was sure I'd heard of that happening to someone. And nowadays I sometimes feel as though my life is a bit like that jigsaw day - I spend all day turning over the minutiae of childrearing; Has Max done a pee? Have I got his snack? What about his supper? Where's the monitor? Is there enough milk? Where are the keys? Where's his hat? Does he need suncream? And in the background is Max's endless commentary, mingled with the clatter of toy trains or boxes being emptied; "I want to make a SHOP. I'm going to step over Mummy. Hold ON! Go round and round. It goes ROUnd and ROund. I'm going to take these to the laundry. Then hide. PeekabOO. What's swiss one? That's Bertie. Where is the ulla piece, Mummy? I want to make a REINdeer, OK? I JUST WANT the reindeer Mummy. The kettle makes noisy, Mummy. I'm making a train track, OK? All right?" .....I feel exhausted just writing it down! And frankly sometimes I do feel a little insane from it all. Three years of motherhood, the picture is still being pieced together and I'm sure I'm losing brain cells. But I've done Max a disservice if I've indicated that his chit chat is inane. To the untrained ear he might in fact sound really quite profound. A while ago Max began reciting his bear stories ("'I'm up here Big Bear' called Little Bear, 'I've made my own cave.'') And now he's moved on to song lyrics. He was recently overheard saying "You can't break my spirit. It's my dreams you take." James Blunt. Inane or not, the moments of silence in our house are pretty rare. Before I became a parent I'd go round to people's houses where there were kids, or be out at a cafe with a family, say, and the noise level was all consuming, even debilitating. I found myself mute as I watched the source of those rising decibels. But now I'm the mother so the story is different. I was on the phone to my brother a few months ago (before he became a father) when there was an avalanche of lego followed by the jaunty rendition of the alphabet song coming from the fridge magnets - all that, above the din of Max's banter. My brother told me he kept on expecting me to suddenly have to rush off, or at least take cover, hadn't the neighbour's house just fallen down? No, that is the soundtrack to our life these days and now I'm even capable of having a conversation amongst it all. That's not to say the silence, when it happens, isn't appreciated. I'm sure I will delight over Oli's first word as much as I did over Max's but at the moment when Max is at preschool and I'm at home with Oli - whose vocab consists of a gentle rarrrh - oh, that quietness is wonderful!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ranch Life

We have just come back from a weekend at 'The Ranch' near Point Reyes. We spent a week there in the summer and on our first night the cattle made such a noise we wondered if we had completely misjudged how peaceful the great wide open American countryside could actually be. I know it's ridiculous to go to a ranch and then complain about the cows but that night they made the phrase 'a cow says moo' look distinctly inadequate. 'The cow moans meruuurrrghhhhhhh' would more accurately have summed up their braying that night. There was some nervous laughter at breakfast as we made reference to this racket and silently wondered if it would go on all week. It certainly wasn't a noise I remembered from the Cornish countryside of my childhood or that of my grandmother's farm at Blackwell. But it turns out the cows were being weaned and that evening had been separated from their calves, hence the agonizing moans. Being pregnant at the time and dare I admit it, perhaps a little hormonal, I could sympathise with their pain. Anyway, the upshot of all this was that the owners promised us a free weekend at their spectacular idyll later in the year. Of course, when they suggested it, we, in best British form, said it was totally unnecessary...but they only had to insist once before we took them up on the offer. It sounds corny but it really is heaven there. And the timing was perfect because I was getting a dose of the baby blues last week. It might have been partly due to the fact that Max gave us a sleepless night the week before when he came home from preschool with a tummy bug. I haven't had a full night's sleep in 11 weeks, since Oli's arrival, so having an entire night stolen from me and with it the anxt of a sick child, it fairly did me in. But my blues were not entirely down to sleep deprivation. It's also that feeling of being overwhelmed (in a good way) about how precious these little lives are. Oli is just adorable and suddenly no longer a newborn. Looking at him now, with cheeks like delicious pale peaches, I feel those first few months have almost passed me by, they went in such a flash. I know that all sounds such a cliche but it's nevertheless true....Gone are those precious times when Oli, like a crumpled kitten, nuzzled his head into my shoulder, gone are the blistered little lips as he nursed, the tiny hands, the tiny everything and small dark eyes like a seal pup's. Of course, I love seeing Oli grow but I already feel nostalgic for that moment when he was first born and the nurses flung him on me and this little face, so familiar because he looked just like Max had at birth, gazed up at me and seemed to ask 'Where am I? And how did I get here?' The ranch in Point Reyes feeds into my feelings of nostalgia. When we arrived and I jumped out of the car, it smelled like summer holidays - fresh cut grass and dessicated manure! It was a balmy moonlit evening with hares and deer jumping out of the path of the car. Max ate a boiled egg with soldiers on a high bar stool in the kitchen while I washed Oli in an old tin tub I found under the sink. I grew up on stories of how my grandmother had once sterilized our baby bottles in a horse feed bucket and I thought she'd be smiling at the tin tub bath. Max spent the weekend befriending a John Deere tractor and climbing fences and he was also introduced to the concept of splinters. Dom and I weren't allowed near the tractor or the splinters so enjoyed the sunshine and the silence, because the cows had got over their trauma, and this time they were quiet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Final thoughts on Obama's win...

Here's the last of Dom's musings on the US election 2008. Of course, while he was glitzing with the likes of Obama and Brad Pitt in Chicago, I was struggling to convince Max that we were to watch CNN not his favourite DBD for this one night. Over to Dom....

Why did McCain lose? Even if he had run a flawless campaign and made no mistakes the odds were seriously stacked against him. When you are running for the incumbent party and your President has the lowest approval ratings of all time (23% and beating Nixon which is no mean achievement) and 90% of the population think the country is on the wrong track you are plainly at a massive disadvantage. He was also up against a democratic candidate who blew fund-raising records (US$605million), is, I believe, a once in a generation orator, made no mistakes and had all the luck. Luck meaning a real time financial crisis played out during electioneering which undoubtably benefited Obama (being the opposition candidate and not having a record to defend).
Looking back, I would pick two moments in the campaign which proved disastrous for McCain. One - suspending his campaign ahead of the 'Bailout' completely backfired, saying that his first debate should be postponed and "rushing back to broker a bailout deal in Washington". Firstly he didn't rush back, he chose to stay in NYC for another 24 hours, canceling all interviews and was seen leaving just about the most expensive restaurant in Manhatten that evening. Having then got to DC, he then said nothing (literally nothing by press reports) during the round table Bush organised to help break the deadlock. Thirdly no deal was struck. So not only did it make him look ineffectual and erratic - it looked like cheap political electioneering (borne out in the polls afterwards - 60% thought it was a political stunt) and finally it also looked like he didn't want to debate. Two - The Palin pick. McCain is I believe a smart guy but there is absolutely no way she was properly vetted and it really was a very stupid decision. By the time the election came around only 4 out of 10 people thought she was capable of being president (compared with Joe Biden where it was 8 out of 10). As people got to know her the less they liked her. She never really recovered from her interviews with CBS News and she became more partisan as time moved on (turning off independents/swing voters) revving up a pretty ugly side of the Republican base at campaign rallies.
I thought McCain's concession speech was superb, actually better than Obama's acceptance speech. I have lost count of the amount of people who said that if he had acted and spoken like that during the campaign who could have done alot better. Who knows.
One interesting point is how comedy played, I think, a significant part in McCain's downfall. All the big late night talk show hosts from David Letterman to Jay Leno firstly ripped McCain apart (repeatedly night after night) for his antics over suspending the campaign and then came the now legendary Saturday night live sketches of Sarah Palin's CBS interviews became a national laughing point.
Another interesting point is how the Republican party has turned on Palin. I read an article the other day about how the party was trying to trash her as much as possible over the next 2 weeks in the hopes of killing her career stone dead. The elders of the party see her as albatross around their neck because the base love her but independents (20% of electorate who decide elections) don't. They see a very real possibility that she will win the Republican nomination in 2 years time and doom them to another defeat. There are daily negative stories now from McCain aides on Palin. Fascinating to see if she can survive. My current favourite is how she thought Africa was a country not a continent.
I was at Grant Park in Chicago last Tuesday night and literally standing 20 feet from Obama when he made his acceptance speech. As someone who has always had an interest in politics but certainly never inspired by it (maybe until now) - it was amazing and eye opening. When CNN projected that Obama had won it, the reaction was the eqivalent of Rooney scoring the winning goal in a world cup final (we can all dream)..people went beserk. It was impossible not to be moved when Obama spoke - everywhere I looked people were crying. I knew i was witnessing a moment of huge historical significance especially in this country which has such a history of racial discontent. The fact that an African American who comes from a minority which make up 13% of this country had broken through and achieved the ultimate was frankly an amazing feeling. Will Obama be a good President? Who knows. But the way he ran his campaign gives me hope.

Until the next election cycle...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day USA 2008

HORRAY! Barack Obama this space for Dom's update on what it was like in the thick of it at Chicago's Grant Park....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What we do today?

Max, Oli and I were just leaving the library last week and I was thinking about what I could cobble together from the fridge to give Max for supper when I remembered I'd left a potato boiling away for, I checked my watch, nearly 2 hours... Envisioning San Francisco's trusty fire service lined up outside our house, lights flashing, I realised we would have to hurtle back to Pine Street to do some damage limitation. Getting Max to walk in one direction without being distracted is a challenge at the best of times, but the right direction? and at speed? Forget it. My only recourse was to pick him up, all 30+lbs of him. So, pushing Oli in his stroller and holding Max on my hip I started my gallop home. We were doing quite well until Max, thinking this was great fun, leant down to the handle bars of the stroller to 'help' me push. So now Max is horizontal and I have my arm around his waist still pushing the buggy. Max and Oli are virtually rubbing noses, and Max is grinning, loving this unexpected game. Oli is looking a bit startled. He has good reason. Two blocks to go and we come to grief in a jumble of bruised knees and grazed knuckles, and the stroller is resting on 2 wheels and the handle bars. Oli, thank God, is strapped in and looks like a little parachutist, only it's a stroller rather than a billow of silk behind him. When we finally limp into the house the saucepan is browning a little but there are no flames and no firefighters. Max is very disappointed at the lack of 'Fy engines'. So much for the high drama! I need a stiff drink but instead, feeling a little shaken and wearing Thomas the Tank Engine plasters on my fingers, I settle down to read Max his library bounty, 'Fix-it Duck'.
I love our local library. The childrens' section has magnetic letters you can stick to the wall, a little puppet theatre, wall charts with strings to pull, and of course books galore. The only problem for me, is that the kids' area is at the far end of the building away from any of the interesting literature. Max will not be dragged away from the magnetic letters ('Letters are make words, Mummy') so I'm stuck looking at the junior reads or the parenting books. For that reason, my library bounty from last week was 'Be A Parent, Not A Pushover', which I think tells you something of the forthright nature of my eldest son. However, when I finally get to take a look at the book, I see that it's 'A guide to raising happy, emotionally healthy teens'. We are a decade away from the teen years but for lack of other reading material I'm now a hundred pages in and wow, do we have some fun ahead of us! With chapters focussing on anger and negotiation, discipline and communication it seems that stage is going to require double the energy I have now. I've just got to a bit about family rituals, important because they are all about 'how we relate to one another, how we change, heal, and celebrate.' It got me thinking about the rituals we had when I was growing up and the one that stands out was 'The 3 Ws'. This was not a forefunner of the www. you see at the top of your screen. It stood for Wet Windy Walk and was most often greeted with a groan. I can feel the rain stinging my face just thinking about it. It sums up my family's commitment to the outdoors come rain or shine and a belief that a good blustery walk can cure most ills.
As for the rituals we have in our embryonic family, I hope boiling potatoes dry is not one of them (I have to admit, it's not the first time it's happened). Being in sunny California means the wet and windy part of The Three Ws doesn't happen very often. I'm sure we'll develop our own rituals over the years. One habit we've got into with Max is recapping on the day at bedtime. 'What we do today?' he will chirp from his bed - yet another delaying tactic as we approach lights-out. But it is therapeutic for me too...if there's been some 'Naughty Step' action, we can put that to bed too, but at the same time say all the fun things we did. Sometimes I don't recognise having done the things Max talks about but I suppose it all comes down to interpretation. This evening he said, 'Mummy was dancing'. I couldn't think at first but then remembered jigging Oli around in the stroller in the kitchen to Johnny Cash. And the day I lacerated my hand, endangering my children to try and save my burning home was simply, 'There were no Fy engines'.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween is coming...

I have just put the finishing touches to a pirate hat for Max's Halloween costume. It's the first year I've actually managed to make at least part of an outfit for Max. The first year we were here in San Francisco I couldn't get my head round that fact that people dressed up as just about anything at Halloween. Wasn't it all about the undead? Didn't it have to be spooky? Apparently not. I even hosted a party for crawling tots and the guests arrived as ducklings, puppies, bugs and butterflies. Max in a pumpkin outfit was about as scary as it got. The thing is, people buy outfits here - the entire kit. I thought dressing up was about creating something from nothing or at least using a bit of ingenuity; bat wings out of a broken umbrella or a beard out of cotton wool balls. It was a proud moment for me last summer when Max won second prize in a fancy dress competition dressed as a barnacle with an egg box strapped to him like a sandwich board!
But why wouldn't you buy the whole shebang when it cost just $10 for Max's entire jack-o-lantern gear that year, including hat and stylish booties (He won't thank me for those!). I'd actually gone out and bought a swathe of orange fabric and planned for Max to be home-grown but, throw in the felt for the pumpkin face and the velcro I'd have needed when my sewing skills failed me, and I could have bought another costume at least, and that's not even mentioning the agonizing hours of actually making the thing without a pattern or even a clue where to start. So when someone mentioned how cheap the costumes were, and having failed to craft something myself, I went off to the nearest children's shop. By this stage it was pretty close to All Saints Day (I really had been holding out for my make-and-play skills to come the the fore, but alas) so the selection wasn't cute puppy outfits but I think the pumpkin felt more in tune with the Halloween I knew so I was a happy customer. I'm frugal by nature and have since become more eco-concious, but buying that outfit outright just felt like I was cheating. I'm trying to lead a less disposable life and recently heard that of all the stuff we buy, within 6 months we are using just 2% of it. To buy an entire outfit that you'll wear for probably less than 5 hours just seems wrong. So this year I'm trying to strike a balance between having that one-off fun and making something that'll last.
Until a few weeks ago, I still wasn't sure that Max 'got' the whole dressing-up-at-Halloween thing. I had asked him twice what he wanted to be, and both times the answer had been 'pirate'. But still I thought he just wanted to BE a pirate, as if he was answering the question, 'what do you want to BE when you grow up?'. It seemed fairly logical - the pirates in his favourite book don't eat vegetables and are never told to go to bed - Max's dream scenario. But I think the subject has been discussed in the playhouse at preschool because Max is now talking about 'dress up' and since I started on the pirate outfit, he's been switching what he'd like to BE about every hour or so. But for the first time in my child's life I have actually created his outfit. One big incentive is that his preschool have a Halloween party so Max really doesn't have a choice - the 'dress up' is compulsory. But that's my that I've finished the hat, cut out the eye patch, dug out the belts, the bandana, the bracelets it's going to take me a sack load of pieces of eight to get him to put the kit on. I've tried wearing the hat myself; this works for food as he'll eat what's on my plate but not on his own, it doesn't work for hats...I just look silly wearing one that doesn't fit. I've tried just leaving the hat lying around but of course leave things lying around that you DON'T want him to touch and he's got his sticky fingers all over it - the things you DO want him to meddle with, you guessed it, he's nowhere in sight. There's still a week or so to go so I'll have to think of some new tactics - wrap it up as a present? That might work. I'll let you know how it goes. What's Oli going to be? Well he'll be in the pumpkin outfit from 2 years ago, booties and all, sorry little one - but you can be pirate next year I promise.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wave Hello to Thomas!

To Max's utter delight, the Thomas DBD has entered our home. ('DBD' sounds so sweet it seems a shame to correct him, that also goes for numana (banana), grabble (gravel) and washing macheem) For Max, everything about the Thomas DBD is exciting. First there's the box, one of which actually sings out Thomas tunes. But even the ones that don't sing are spoken of with breathless joy: 'Look Daddy, who's that? It's Thomas! Thomas says 'peep peep'.' And the narration doesn't stop there...each episode begins with Thomas' arrival at Knapford Station: 'Who's that Mummy? It's Thomas! Is he going to stop?' (pause) 'He stopped, Mummy, he stopped!' Then there's the title shot where a boy with a bike looks down on the track from a bridge: 'It's the boy with the bike, Mummy. And there's a shed, Mummy'. And even though he has now watched most of the episodes at least 3 or 4 times, especially when we lost the remote and could only watch the first couple of episodes over and over again, he still looks at me as the story nears it's climax and gasps; 'What's going to happen, Mummy?' And before you know it, it's the credits - for Max another moment of awe: 'Look at the letters Mummy! Look at the letters....Letters are make words!' Of course, I'm swollen up with pride that he can identify that 'T' is for 'Thomas' (Ok, ok, I'm ignoring the fact that 'H' is also apparently for 'Thomas') But to tell the truth Thomas is doing my head in. We have the little figures, the track, the books, the backpack and now these endless dramatizations with their theme songs, jingles and Thomas going 'peep peep' and his endless quest to be a Really Useful Engine. The DBD normally goes on while I am washing Oliver in a bathtub on the kitchen table, conveniently keeping Max in one place while my hands are otherwise occupied. Sometimes I tell Max he can watch the DBD 'when Daddy gets home' which means Daddy is greeted with double the normal enthusiasm and a few minutes later I'll see my boys unwinding to 'Percy and the Signal' or 'Duck Takes Charge'. Somehow the DBD at the end of the day is like those TV screens at motorway service stations or sports bars, however much you try and turn away, your eyes are inevitably drawn towards them, like moths to the flame. Dom may be looking at his blackberry or opening some post while Diesel shunts the Troublesome Trucks but the episodes are still permeating his every pore. Earlier Dom had emptied the dishwasher for the 15th time, taken in the laundry from the clothes horse outside, given Max a bath and put him to bed with yet another story about Thomas being a Really Useful Engine. He leaned in for a kiss when we were finally downstairs together and said 'Haven't I been a Really Useful Husband?' I, being the Fat Controller, could confirm that indeed he had.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dear Max and Oli,

I'm finding my blogging feet with this, or more accurately dipping my toe in for the first here's the first of my letters to you to tell you about your life while you are small and so helter skelter hectic and keeping me so busy. Oli, you are now 6 weeks old and, I'm touching wood as I write this, being a total angel - especially at night. After the 10pm 'dream feed' you are waking just once around 2 or 3am and then sleeping through til 6 or even 7am. One of the benefits, I suppose, of producing a 9lb 6oz baby. Max, you've had your moments in the last month or so but to be fair, you are being very sweet with Oli. I'm sure I saw you whispering something to him while he was cocooned in his stroller yesterday. And when we were reading a book earlier you stroked Oli's rabbit soft hair and insisted he should turn the pages; 'No, Oli do it!' I think Oli smiled a little as you touched his head. I hope all this bodes well for your future together.
Talking of Oli's hair, I'm afraid he is moulting. His mohecan is now bordered by baldness at the sides. It's not a great look but seems to be a rite of passage in this household as Max was just the same, only he also had the delightful coiffure cocktail of having mullet at the back. I have to admit, the look is a little unnerving and somehow makes the skull seem to bulge in the wrong places...but the doctor measured Oli's head circumference only last Friday so I'm sure all is well with our beautiful boy.
We seem drawn to compare Max and Oli. I think it is partly because with your first baby, it's hard to imagine how your little one could be anything different, D+E=M. But Oli provides living proof that D+E can also equal O. Somehow, by making comparisons, the identities or characteristics of both seem clearer. But it's early days...Now I think about it I'm not sure Max smiled for the first 3 months. In the hospital I think Max was quite genuinely cross that he was in the hands of such an amateur. I remember struggling for the fifteenth time to swaddle my newborn, but like a wailing octopus his limbs kept wriggling out at every attempt. A matronly nurse appeared and took one look at my flailing, noisy child and gave the swaddle an authoritative tuck, binding him up like a parcel ready for posting. Max immediately calmed down, relieved that at least someone knew what they were doing. Needless to say, I've abandoned the swaddling early on with Oli, recognising that I was more stressed trying to achieve it, than he would be soothed by it. But luckily Oli seems happier from the start. Not to say he's in any better hands, but he has a wry little smile at the corner of his mouth which looks rather knowing. Perhaps I do know what I'm doing.