Green Eggs & Ham…

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no Delia or Nigella when it comes to food; yes I can cook, I have a few ‘go to’ dishes & I enjoy making a Sunday roast. However, I’m not great at experimenting with new recipes, mainly because I begrudge buying a mountain of ingredients that may never get used again. I like to try new things when I’m out though & if I like something, will attempt to do my own version of it at home. My naïve self had visions of Benjamin enjoying whatever we put in front of him & have no texture issues whatsoever. I’d decided that my own OCD didn’t want him to explore his food too much with his hands, so created my own combo of baby-led & traditional weaning methods. I wasn’t going to blitz food to within an inch of its life, but nor was I going to encourage sensory food play in his highchair: he (purposely) doesn’t have a tray, as we want him to be sat at the table with us. Mostly, this has worked well. The faces he pulls initially are quite comical, then he realises that it wasn’t so bad after all, so just ‘gets on with things’ so to speak. He’s become aware that if he doesn’t eat something, Mumma offers no alternative; he will just have less. Mean? Maybe. But I’m not getting into the habit of cooking two different meals. It’s just unmanageable.

These last couple of weeks however, things seem to have changed. Apparently he’s started gagging at his Childminder’s house on some of his veggies & fruit. Disappointingly, he was nonchalant when presented with his turkey roast (maybe because it was sans gravy & on some subconscious level he felt cheated?! Which you can’t blame the boy for to be fair!) I was informed that he gagged on his mango, even though I’d mixed it with his favourite Petites Filous to make it less slippery than the day before: when an excited Benjamin, so pleased to see his Daddy, literally catapulted it out of his mouth onto the unsuspecting, unamused cat, who bravely sits next to his highchair in case he drops something tasty. However, regurgitated mango didn’t fall into this category for her it seemed. We don’t even speak of his sweet potato & red pepper textured mash anymore, as it apparently came out as quickly as it went in, in a very dramatic fashion & with two changes of outfit later, yikes! During one of his lunches, I’m sure lovely Tish (Sara’s Childminding Assistant, whom he equally adores) said that she ended up shelling his peas for him from his tuna bake! Seriously Benjamin, what is going on boy? Total diva. Personally I blame his eyelashes. This is the baby, whose party trick is to be able to put a single (whole) pea in his mouth, roll it around for a few seconds, then pop it back out of his mouth, holding it between his lips, before sucking it back in again & swallowing – complete with its shell! I was so concerned after hearing about ‘Peagate’, that the next day I went right back to basics & pureed everything (which I’d never really done before). I even whizzed up some raspberries, cherries & plums & mixed them with a Weetabix! I was particularly proud of my fruity creation (it tasted delicious after I’d made it) until Sara pointed out that it had literally set into a lump of deep red concrete & they had to use boiling water to be able to do anything with it. Then Benjamin, after plastering it all over his face first, turned his nose up at it anyway. Of course. Seriously, there’s just no appreciation for my efforts. I swear he’d be more than happy if every meal involved: buttered toast & fromage frais! I absolutely refuse to buy jars of mush, Tim & I don’t have things like that ourselves, so why would I want Benjamin to eat them? I conceded to Cow & Gate pureed fruit tubs, as my own efforts were clearly wasted on his now-fussy palette. I buy ‘baby snacks’ – rice cakes & veggie puffs; things that I just couldn’t practically make myself. Why is it that even though I decant these foods into plastic containers, Benjamin seems to instinctively know that ‘treats come in packets’? And when I’m sorting out the shopping delivery, he’s magically drawn to them whilst sat in his highchair: as they lie on the table, awaiting their new, yet temporary, Tupperware home. Just how does he know?!

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His newly beloved fruit puree!

I’ve found myself Googling again. This time my searches are more “when can babies eat…” rather than “is it normal for babies to…” After trawling the http://www.netmums.com discussion threads, it’s still often down to my own intuition it seems. I went ‘all out’ on Sunday & ambitiously tried him on some washed Spanish olives & manchego at IKEA – whilst everyone else in the family was scoffing meatballs & gravy. It was a great success: he loved them, I’m so proud, as I love them too, but no one else in the house does. I really wanted him to like houmous as well, but unfortunately this was clearly too strong a flavour for him to handle. These days I often find myself becoming ‘Sam I Am’ from “Green Eggs & Ham” over-enthusiastically trying to tempt him with various foods on a ‘platter’ & these dipped toasted sticks were no exception…”Would you? Could you?” “Eat them! Eat them! Here they are!” It was a definite no & he certainly didn’t change his mind right at the end unfortunately. He even removed & mic dropped his bib in protest after that particular snack. I half expected him to hold up a whiteboard with a score on it, saying something along the lines of “Mumma, I give you 2 & your presentation could be better!” Back to the drawing board methinks. I will not give up on houmous!

I write a note to Sara with his menu on it everyday. I’m very conscious of being one of those ‘over-eager mums’ but I think it’s important that everyone knows what he’s having, which probably says more of my culinary skills than anything else! I like the idea that at least if the adults know what he’s eating, they can talk to him about it; rather than just giving it to him without the faintest idea of what it actually is. My aim is to instill a love of food, feel positive about eating & enjoy the social aspect of sharing a meal, rather than just fulfilling a basic need. I am determined that this ‘gagging’ is a phase & he will go back to eating everything, regardless of its texture. This lunchtime, the boy has just polished off a bowl of spicy bean chilli (hmmm, can’t wait for that one to pass on through!) & managed to chomp down on whole kidney beans quite happily with his single tooth! There’s hope yet…

Thank you for reading. I’d love you to share your favourite baby recipes; I really need some more inspiration!

You’re Twistin’ My Melon Man…

This was the blog that I wanted to post on Tuesday, but things got a little crazy in the Greenhouse, so here we are, a little later than planned…

I want to talk about last Monday, when for the first time since our initial visit back in August, our wonderful osteopath Mark signed Benjamin off; satisfied for us not to return, unless we were still overly concerned ourselves & really wanted to cross his palm with the best part of £40.00 again, for half an hour of his incredibly precious time. He thinks he could do a little more: if we wanted Benjamin to be completely fine-tuned, but for the most part, he was happy & that makes us happy.

In a nutshell (excuse the pun), Benjamin has a ‘wonky bonce’ as Tim so eloquently puts it, or plagiocephaly if you want to be really technical. Basically he has a slightly flat spot on his right side, all because he suffered with torticollis (or ‘twisted neck’) since birth. The abrupt nature of his arrival (right at the end) was a little overwhelming for Benjamin (including his Mumma!) So much so, that he kind of froze in shock because he’d been evicted so forcefully, but very necessarily! After much research, aka late-night Googling, I’ve found that both conditions are becoming increasingly more common in babies. Plagiocephaly in particular since the Back To Sleep Campaign started in 1994. It is obviously desperately important to ensure that babies are safe while they sleep & I am 100% in favour of any advice I can get regarding best sleeping positions. However, no information about these conditions is made available to expectant parents. I wish we’d been told about torticollis/plagiocephaly in Antenatal classes. Learning how to breastfeed is well & good, but it shouldn’t be the main focus. Things like: signs to look out for regarding head movement & shaping, when to worry, things to try in the first instance & even contact details of amazing professionals like ‘our’ Mark should also be included. We were recommended to Mark by one of my amazing Mummy Friends, yep, I’ve used that expression, the one I really hate. This was after I was hitting my own head repeatedly against a brick wall with the Health Visitors, who weren’t taking my concerns about Benjamin’s lack of neck movement seriously. In my experience, they have been next to useless with all of my concerns. Being told, “it’s normal, just put all your baby’s toys on the left side so he’s forced to move his neck, or turn him the opposite end of his cot” multiple times doesn’t treat the problem itself. The poor boy was literally ‘locked’ into this position, so all of these suggestions were of no use at all. As far as Benjamin was concerned, only half the world existed & he literally couldn’t investigate to find the other half: because his neck forced him to always look to his right.

Tim & I arrived at a fairly modest private residence in Dorchester in late August last year, not entirely sure what to expect. My friend had said, he’ll just talk to you & Benjamin & you won’t even realise he’s doing anything. And that’s exactly how it went. Every visit. Yes, he examined him, he held him in fairly standard treatment positions, but what he was actually doing was invisible to the untrained eye. He is such an interesting man, with a mass of curly grey hair, earrings & an incredibly dry sense of humour, which I appreciate. Benjamin was absolutely intrigued by him from the start. Although you’re never quite sure if he is joking or not; for example, in one of our sessions, he flew Benjamin around the room steadily supporting his tummy & back, they were both chatting away to each other as always. I was convinced that I’d witnessed some really technical pediatric osteopathic move & intrigued, I asked what treatment he was doing. He just laughed & said, “well you’ve got to keep it fun with children, can’t be serious all the time!” Of course. Silly me. As the weeks & months went by, everyone could see a massive change in Benjamin & he now has a completely full range of neck movement. It’s amazing to see, especially considering how bad it was to begin with. His head will never be perfectly symmetrical though, but then whose is? As hard as it is to acknowledge that your child has flaws, I’ve decided that he’s perfectly imperfect & that’s more than good enough for us. We won’t send him back just yet. He’ll just have to have a long mane of hair instead. We enquired about the recently celebrity-famed ‘helmets’, but the poor boy would have to wear it for 23 hours straight a day, they are quite restrictive, designed purely for changing aesthetics & with a starting price of £2k, we decided that he can be beautifully & naturally unique.

The best advice that he gave me was to keep Benjamin on the floor. Lots of tummy time, as much as possible in fact & let him work things out for himself. He explained that this is how all babies learn best: plenty of opportunities to explore for themselves & time to get frustrated, all without too much adult interaction or distraction & he is right. I’ve loved & continue to love watching Benjamin figure things out in his head: how to move objects, how to move towards objects & learning about pressure points, all in preparation for crawling (which isn’t far off!) Sometimes I can literally see the boy thinking. It’s magical.

With this in the back of my mind, I’ve always tried hard to keep tummy time fun & varied: to hold his attention longer than 30 seconds. This week we’ve been looking at different kinds of lids on a tray. Even though I washed each of them to within an inch of their lives, he still seems to be instinctively drawn towards the alcoholic ones! Hmmm, I can’t think where he gets that from? I also changed his sensory light bulbs from their festive contents to lots of random Playmobil accessories, colourful rainbow beads & Lego bricks. See the photographs below.

I will always maintain that osteopathy is 50% science & 50% witchcraft, but it works & that’s all we wanted & hoped for. We’ve given Benjamin the best possible start, all from chance conversation with a good friend. I’ll happily give out Mark’s contact details, just leave a comment below or drop me an email. I honestly can’t recommend him enough.

Thank you for reading.

 

“Scream if you want to go faster baby!”

Oh my goodness, I never thought Geri Halliwell would be referring to my rather vocal five-month-old son, when I heard her song all those years ago. Apparently, well according to my extensive Google searches at least, screeching, at a frequency that only bats & dogs should be able to hear, indicates that he could be an early talker. Oh good. This wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest; both his Daddy & I love to chat, so I’m fully expecting his first utterance to be a sentence, something along the lines of “Mumma, I would like my mashed avocado alfresco today!” The boy isn’t very physical, but he more than makes up for this in ‘chatting’ to his toys (can’t think where he gets that from?!) I often walk back into the lounge to find him getting cross with Matchstick Monkey because it refuses to talk back to him. I feel his pain. Anyway, the screeching has been getting progressively louder as the days have gone on; we’ve almost done a full week now. He wakes up at 5:45 each morning on the dot, happy & smiling: lulling us into a false sense of security that he may have forgotten his falsetto overnight. I swear he waits until he is the closest he can possibly be to my ear before he lets rip. He’s not in distress or pain: just trying to tell us that it’s a new day & he’s ready for his breakfast, or that he wants to change activity, or because he’s rediscovered the cat for the fifth time, or the day has a ‘y’ in it. We’ve tried a few techniques to try to stop this becoming a habit: ignoring it, using a firm tone, saying “no thank you to that noise Benjamin!” & over praising him when he ‘talks nicely’. None seem to have the desired effect for very long. So yesterday, a wet, misty & cold Tuesday afternoon, I decided to throw caution to the wind & thought we’d venture to “Under Fives Rhyme Time” at our local LIBRARY. What could possibly go wrong: screaming baby with studious people trying to read or research, no problem! Well actually nothing did go wrong really & thankfully we weren’t asked to leave by a strict librarian. In fact, Benjamin was more engaged & alert than he is during some of the paid classes I take him to each week. Typical. I’d mentally prepared myself & with a full face of make up (just for extra an confidence boost) I went into battle. I hate this sort of ‘Mummy Meet’ thing & try to avoid them at all costs. It is literally like the first day of school all over again, but this time with an excitable baby who could shatter glass at any given moment in tow. We were quickly introduced to another Mummy, who had apparently done her first week last Tuesday & as she hadn’t made the established clique yet, the librarian concluded that we had common ground & my best match. My Step Children would call us ‘noobs’ & they would be right. Anyway, I’m not sure whether it was the battered laminated song sheets, the baby next to us repeatedly vomiting, the rusty hand bells, or just the huge psychedelic Ouija board-esque rug that we were all sat around that completely entranced Benjamin. But whatever it was I’m grateful to it, he’s barely felt the need to scream since, however today he’s started to move his mouth; in a similar style to that of a frantic goldfish (with no sound at all) as if he’s now trying to get us to lip-read instead. It’s literally gone from one extreme to another! Oh well, back to Google I go…

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Our little goldfish!