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The Wild One! Happy birthday Matt!

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So it’s been a year since our little hurricane very promptly appeared in our lives; and my goodness, what a great, adventurous year it’s been. When I look back now, I take a moment to remember the more challenging early days (more like months) of Matt’s life. I am in awe of the sweet, charming toddler he has become. Actually, I am grateful for those early days, they were a learning curve as they’ve allowed me to grow deeply as a mother and learn so much along the way. How times have changed though. As Matt gets older, the challenges change too.  It’s hard to believe just how much he’s grown and developed in only a year.

Matt now weighs in at a solid 10.45kg (he’s still gaining weight well on the 75th percentile) and for the first official time; he’s had his height measured. I knew he was going to be a tall lad, but when the health visitor informed me that he is now 80.2cm tall- and on the 98th percentile- I was gobsmacked. I’m predicting a 6ft5 giant one day! Also, he now has 4 teeth, the fifth one just starting to poke through- that doesn’t stop him from eating like a champ. (And yes, he was allowed a cupcake on his birthday!)

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At his one year review, he was observed by the health worker, who gave him an array of toys to interact with. She was pleased with his progress, noting that he could follow simple instructions, could walk well, had a strong pincer grip and was content. She asked about his eating habits and reminded me that he could now drink cow’s milk as opposed to formula. (Which he had started doing the week before he turned one). All in all; a glowing review.

Matthew’s birthday celebration was lovely. It was a balmy day (the hottest day of the year so far) and when I say hot, I actually mean proper hot (like 30 degrees!). We decided to put on a braai (BBQ) with some close friends and family in attendance. Even though we are in a larger apartment now, space was still a factor. It was a huge hit! Matthew was basking in all the attention, he really took everything in his stride. I thought it may have been a little overwhelming, but he did so well.

Donal was the braai master,and we had lots of nibbles, cake and sweet treats for later. I think watching Matthew devour almost an entire chocolate cupcake was a highlight for everybody! As well as the Bokke winning the game against France. He also loved all his beautiful presents, spoiled rotten is an understatement.

After eating way too much food and cake, we decided to head down to the local park. We were desperately seeking a cool breeze and the shade of a giant oak tree. Outside was still scorching hot, but the shade was welcoming. Some us lay sprawled under the trees, sipping on cool coronas or cokes, while a bunch of crazily energetic others, played a game of touch rugby (as we cheered on!)

It was a truly memorable day celebrating one whole glorious year of precious life! Looking forward to many more! Cheers Matty!

 

Moving… and our almost 11 month old.

How do we have so much stuff? In my previous post, I was bragging about how vigilant we had been about getting rid of things that we don’t need or use. Ha! How our little flat actually stored all our shizzle, only God knows. ..

We were very fortunate in that we only had to move to the apartment block next door. But, my goodness, how tiring was that? And I’m not even talking about the heavy lifting. (Luckily, that wasn’t my job!) We had slowly starting packing and taking the odd few boxes and bags over during our walks, which made a big difference on the official moving day.

Fergal (Donal’s brother) and Cameron (my cousin) volunteered to help us with the move. Their help was truly a godsend, lugging our bits over the road, while I got on with Matthew and his usual activities (you know, eating, drinking, sleeping and pooping!), while trying to keep as much stability as humanly possible. To be honest, Matt coped quite well and still managed his usual 2 naps that day. The boys also enjoyed watching a rugga game over a couple of beers while on a much needed break.

We handed the keys over to our new tenants on the Wednesday night as we were off to Ireland the next day. (No pressure then!) I think the most tiring part of the whole process was trying to get our old flat perfectly ready for its new occupants. Organise a professional cleaning service, doing paint touch ups, drawing up an inventory and sorting out a few niggly bits were all on the list. Donal was amazing; working a long day,  and coming home every evening to sort things out, move boxes over and still have a smile on his face afterwards (while sipping on a cool beer of course!) I’m truly grateful for such a positive, proactive hubby. It wasn’t easy doing all of this silently so as not to wake the sleeping baba!

Somehow we managed to leave the flat in pristine condition, move into our new home and pack for our long weekend in Ireland. Did I mention that Donal still managed a half day in at work?

Thankfully we flew from London City Airport (only 10 minutes away) on British Airways.  What a treat; extra leg room and we even got free drinks and snacks on board, proper posh! We enjoyed a wonderful few days in County Galway with Donal’s family. Our activities included a wedding, a farm visit, yummy food and treats from Nana Rose, and lots of fresh air. Our boy was amazing on the flights both ways, keeping entertained by his books, snacks and milk. He’s almost 11 months old and still such a ray of light. Did I mention that he’s taken his first steps? I’ll save all the goss for the next post as I hear my sweet boy waking from his morning nap.

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10 months in a wee 1 bedroom flat…

Before our sweet bundle of (mostly) joy was conceived, Donal and I thought carefully about the logistics of living in a small apartment in the hustle and bustle of east London. There were many elements to consider, and I must admit, I was rather dubious that three of us could live comfortably in a home built for one or two! 10 months later and I’m still not quite sure how we managed.

Growing up in the vast gloriousness that is South Africa, space was never an issue, in fact it’s something one doesn’t even contemplate until living in a metropolis where people live packed like a can of sardines. A city where a studio flat could cost the same amount as a family house with a pool in SA! Sacrilege I thought, but then as time went on and the cost of living became the norm and I was no longer converting the price of every coffee into Rands, I almost just accepted that house prices are extortion. And that you have to be a millionaire to actually afford anything more than 2 bedrooms and a garden the size of a small car anywhere in a desirable part of this country’s great capital.

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Nonetheless, I do feel that we were fortunate enough to have got on the property ladder in June 2013, when Donal and I bought our first home. And by bought, I mean we have sold our souls to the mortgage lender for a good 20 years or so! Donal first spotted our development being advertised in the Evening Standard on his commute home to our cosy rented flat in Sydenham (SE London). ‘East City Point’ was described as part of the next big regeneration scheme in east London. To be quite frank, I had my doubts about the area. I didn’t know that part of London well at all, only having frequented Newham for the Olympics and the Emirates Air line from North Greenwich to Royal Victoria Dock. Both of which we absolutely lovely, but Canning Town might have been an entirely different story.

I’ll never forget the day that we went to meet with the Sales representatives at East City Point. Donal and I met after work one day during the week. I was working at a primary school in Woolwich, so the commute to Canning Town was very handy on the DLR. That was the first pro. After viewing the show house, we were quite impressed. There were a few cons in my mind however, the walk from the station is along the A13, which is a very busy and noisy road. Also, the development is surrounded by many council houses, some of which in dire condition. Nevertheless, the fact that the government’s “Help to Buy” initiative was available to us, and this up and coming area seemed a promising stepping stone. It’s widely known that it’s extremely difficult to buy a property in London, and this was potentially our way in. After much contemplation, copious amounts of paperwork, credit checks, saving for the deposit etc, we were in!

The 21st June 2013, was the momentous day that Donal and I moved into our OWN home. We were so proud and still are. As I reflect on the past (almost) 4 years, we have made so many amazing memories  in this wee flat of ours. To name but a few;  we got engaged in December 2013, married in November 2014 and of course had Matt in June 2016. We have taken out the carpets and redone the floors with laminate timber, tiled the kitchen area, wallpapered the room and painted the flat throughout. It has a gorgeously spacious balcony overlooking the city and canary wharf, and it’s new and clean and bright. The only thing it isn’t- is made for for a family of 3.

Up until now, we have managed rather well. Being very meticulous about not keeping things that we do not need is definitely key. Maximising the space that we do have, also vital. The storage that we bought for the flat has all been really thought out too. The bed, for example, is a king size (because my husband is a giant!) storage bed, so convenient for keeping seasonal clothes, bags and other goodies we do not use frequently. Ikea has been our friend too- we have two large wardrobes in the bedroom, a chest of drawers for Matt’s bits and bobs, as well as a bedside table. In the living area, Donal put together a TV unit we we store our linen, towels and booze (among other things). A changing table and wicker baskets is in the bathroom (which is actually quite roomy) and we also have a narrow book shelf unit in the hallway.

We do believe that Matthew is now ready to be sleeping in his own room. When he was a newborn, the Chicco “Next to me” crib was amazing, we used it as a stand alone crib and also as a co-sleeper with the side down. This was a life saver during the hourly breastfeeding frenzies he would sometimes have! Now that he’s older and stronger, we have him sleeping in a travel cot next to the bed. (He still pulls himself up and peers over the side!) But he seems to be quite a light sleeper, and sometimes when one of us turns over, he will wake up! NOOOO! Hence, he is more than ready for his own room. I think we’ve done pretty well for 10 months. But we look forward to the next adventure at the end of April (1 week away), when we move into Max and Steve’s 2 bedroom flat just over the road.

Eight Amazing Months

Today is Friday the 17th February 2017, and our sweet soul is eight months old. What a character he is, a true beaming light. He’s such a smiler and his inquisitive nature is wonderful to observe. He’s always looking around and taking everything in; he literally bends over backwards to see what’s happening behind him.

Eating is still one of Matt’s favourite past times, strawberries are number one on the list. To be quite frank, that boy will eat anything! I wonder who he gets that from? Must be a Nevin after all! He’s having three meals a day (most days) and often has fruit as a dessert. Because he’s got quite a sweet tooth, we need to make sure the fruit is out of sight while he’s eating his veggies! We’ve been combining purees with a baby led weaning approach. This makes it really easy when we are out and about as we can pass him a baby carrot or cucumber stick and that’s him sorted for a while.

I find myself saying the same thing every month, but it’s true yet again…A lot of things are becoming so much easier now, and at the same time, new challenges have arisen. The most drastic change is sleep. Praise to the Lord, Matthew is no longer waking up throughout the night, but actually sleeping through until around 5 or 6am. This is truly heavenly, I feel like a new woman. At around 7 and a half months, we started seeing an improvement, and now, he often even self-soothes. I know that things can easily change, and that he could be going back to hourly wake ups , but for now, we are relishing in it!

I am also feeling a little torn as our breastfeeding journey has officially ended. He did so well after having tongue tie and the initial breastfeeding dramas that a lot of new mamas face at the start, so I do feel sad that it’s over. It truly is a wonderful way for mum and baby to bond, but for us, at almost 8 months, it was often still such a challenge. Hence I decided that we would try him on some formula. It started when we went to SA. He drank it very reluctantly and often not enough, but slowly became more accustomed to it. I weaned him off the breast slowly, one feed at a time. By 7 months, we were down to mostly night feeds. Now I’m not sure whether he’s sleeping better as a consequence, or if it’s because he’s on solid foods. All I know, is I am so glad he is!

He still loves his bath time, although it’s getting a lot trickier trying to actually bath him as he’s become quite the wriggler! He has an array of bath time toys, his favourites are the thermometer and the sponges! Haha! Matt is also still chewing on everything and he still has no teeth yet! Although the dribble is coming on strong!

He hates having his nappy changed! I think it’s got to do with the fact that he’s so much more mobile now and he just loathes being restrained in any way. So changing his nappy these days can be likened to tackling a raging crocodile- not an easy feat. He wriggles and rolls and stands up on his knees trying to reach and grab anything that he sets his eyes on. We found that changing him on the mat near his toy box works a treat, still not simple though. Thank goodness for pampers nappy pants, that’s all I can say!

Matthew has become rather vocal, he’s certainly finding his voice and testing his vocal range like a proper soprano. He mimics us quite a lot, with silly sounds like ‘umm, ba, ma, da, ooh’ and finds it highly amusing when we mimic him. He often says ‘dada’ much to daddy’s delight and he’s starting to make sounds aiming towards ‘mama’! mmm.

It’s truly spectacular to see how Matt is making associations between words and objects/people. He knows the word ‘light’ and looks up at it on command, he also seems to understand words like ‘up’, ‘walk’, ‘jump’, ‘milk’ and ‘bath’. It’s wonderful to see how much he’s learned and developed in a mere 8 months. We are proud parents and have so much love for our sunshine baby. His smile really does light up the room. img_6817

Our sweet water baby

At only 11 and a half weeks, our swimming adventure had begun. And what an adventure it’s been so far. As I update this blog post, we are about to begin chapter 3 of our water babies journey, and our little fishy couldn’t be more chuffed about it. I just mention the phrase ‘splish- splash’ and Matthews eyes widen and his smile grows. He absolutely loves the water! Whether it’s coming out of the tap while I wash my hands, if the bath is running or he has his feet in the Indian Ocean; Matt loves water and literally beams at the sight of it. I could put it down to the fact the babies, from being in utero, are naturally inclined to like water, but I do believe that encouraging him to ‘swim’ at such an early age,  gives them the water confidence that hopefully stays with them into adulthood.

Our lessons have been wonderful and the fabulous friends that Matthew and I have made are great! We started our lessons on Friday mornings at 9:30am at the Crown Plaza Hotel at the Royal Docks. The venue is truly lovely. The pool is always in immaculate and the changing facilities are good too, with ample lockers and just enough space for the members of our group to change comfortably.

Katie, our friendly and knowledgeable instructor has been amazing. Always encouraging and welcoming, gently helping our babies reach those swimming milestones. Each 30 minute session is structured and jam packed with activities for our babes to complete. Starting slowly and gradually building up to more underwater swims. I know that sounds crazy right- a baby under 3 months old- doing underwater swims? They can and they do! Much to many mamas and papas (horror at first) and then delight!

At first, some of the underwater swims gave Matt a bit of a shock, but once he started recognising the phrase, “Matthew, Ready, Go!” he prepares himself by closing his eyes and holding his breath before he goes under. It’s rather astonishing actually. We practise this in the bath every day. Did I mention that he loves the bath?

The water in the pool is a balmy 32 degrees, warm enough for the grown ups, and just fine for the babies when they are wrapped up in their wetsuits. For our lessons, we need to be organised. I try to ensure his bag is packed and ready to go the night before. The items included in our bags are: baby wetsuit, happy nappy, at least 2 waterproof nappies, a warm change of clothes  for mum and Matt (season depending), a hat, towels, underwear (don’t forget your panties mama!) I also pack a few goodies for Matt to play with while I am changing.

Each lesson, I see his water confidence growing, he loves splashing about, and being thrown up in the air, and one of his best things to do is surf (using the kicking board) while mama creates waves!

I’m so glad that Matt has the opportunity to learn to swim, and safety techniques like holding onto the side of the pool. We will certainly be continuing as long as we can.

The Wonderful of World Weaning!

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At 6 months old, we decided it was high time that our growing baby boy had a taste of some food. He was showing us signs that he was ready to go! Especially taking great interest in what mama and dada were eating.

 

His first spoonful of food would be a creamy puree of one of my favourite foods- avocado. With numerous shivers down his spine and a grimace on his face- this made for great entertainment! He managed about 2 teaspoons, I couldn’t stop laughing!

 

On the recommendation of my sister, I bought the Annabel Karmel book- Baby and Toddler Meal Planner- for some insight and ideas on nutritious and scrumptious tastes for our boy. It advises to start on a one vegetable or fruit puree, to assess how well they go down on their own, then progressing to a blend of fruits and veggies. Following that, meats and other flavours.

 

Here is a list of Matt’s first tastes.

Avocado

Baked apple

Sweet potato

Gem Squash (thanks to grandma in SA)

Butternut

Banana

Pear (didn’t like)

Baby porridge

Strawberry (Loves!)

Mango

Carrot (loves!)

Potato

Eggs

 

His absolute favourite is a baked apple and strawberry puree! He must have a sweet tooth for fruit like his mama. Now that he’s 7 months old, I’ve introduced some finger foods to encourage him to feed himself. Talk about making a mess!

Our family photoshoot in Jeffreys Bay…

All credit goes to Heidi Knowles– what a talented photographer. Not only is Heidi a passionate and gifted photographer, but she has a bubbly, contagious personality that allows even the most reluctant of ‘models’ to loosen up.

Matt had just turned six months old and although he had met my mom in London when he was just a wee baby, it was his first time meeting my dad, grandparents and the rest of our South African clan. Thus, I wanted to mark this momentous occasion with a professional photoshoot of my family in Jeffreys Bay. Something so special, not just a precious keepsake, but also a wonderful memory to cherish, filled with lots of laughs.

I had found Heidi’s page on Facebook, when scrounging online for a photographer a few months before our trip. I instantly loved her pictures, and her ability to capture both the beauty of J-Bay’s natural scenery, but also the special unposed moments.

Living in the UK (or Mud Island as my dad likes to call it), especially in London, we have many wonderful attractions; the West End, galleries and beautiful parks to name but a few. One thing we aren’t fortunate enough to have nearby is the beach in all its beatitude.

Growing up in sunny South Africa, always having lived at the coast, it’s one thing I miss with all my heart. To me, the ocean is life’s natural therapy, an infinite world of life, colour and expression. Listening to the crashing waves or witnessing one of Africa’s golden sunsets as it sinks below the wide horizon… there’s nothing quite like it. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to have our photoshoot at the beach. I spoke it through with Heidi, who agreed that was a great idea, weather permitting of course.

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We were so blessed with glorious weather throughout most of the duration of our trip, but those who have been to the Eastern Cape (PE and J-Bay in particular) know just how vicious and temperamental the wind can be, even on the best of days. The day we had our shoot booked in, well let’s just say, the wind was in a bad mood. A shoot at the beach would have been disastrous. Lucky for us, Heidi had an alternative, we met at her house.

Blown away (and not by the wind this time!) Heidi’s property is situated against the most breathtaking of natural backdrops- a beautiful lake and garden- perfectly sheltered from the elements. We had the first session of our photoshoot there. An array of shots were taken, with Matthew being the main attraction. The sweet darling was pretty tired at the time of the session, but did so well to flash us his gorgeous smile and show off his sparkling blue eyes.

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It was so special having my grandparents join us for the photoshoot. We are so rarely all together, I was so happy when they agreed. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that they would be keen on the idea but as you can tell by the photos, they are naturals. Heidi made us all feel at ease with our chat about the lake and her time spent in the UK, it all felt really informal and relaxed. I am hoping that my sister and her beautiful family can join us for the next one.

Heidi was great in getting back to me once she had looked through our photos. I was pleasantly surprised when she asked if we would like a second shoot (at no extra cost) at the beach in the next few days. Seeing as it was Christmas time, and Heidi was very busy, I was grateful that she could squeeze us in for that beach shoot I was so eager for.

A few days later, Donal, Matt and I geared up for round two at Kabeljous beach. It was nearing sunset and the evening was calm and cool. We thoroughly enjoyed the shoot again and the photos came out wonderfully. We are so pleased with the result. Thanks Heidi!