What one doesn’t see

So while a baby and dog may look real cute in photos, trust me, it’s not always the case. Last week was my mom’s turn to take a break so HJ and I took leave to take care of Nat and Cookie, the family pet. I can’t say this in any better way – I am SO GLAD I can go back to office tomorrow! I really salute the moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas who stay home to take care of young kids and/or pets. Really.

This is just a snapshot of what usually happens with a baby and dog in the same small house.

  • Baby tearing tissue paper
  • Dog and baby almost scratching each other during play time
  • Dog hiding under bed and refusing to come out because of a thunder storm
  • Dog mistaking rugs for a pee pad and staining almost all of them

What isn’t captured is Cookie barking whenever our neighbour comes home because she thinks they are the “enemy” and then barking at 2/3am because she is afraid to sleep alone in the living room. After barking at such unearthly hours, our friend, Nat is woken up and has to be soothed in our adult bed.

Moral of the story: I know this cannot compare ever to having 2 kids but if this is anything of a preview, I am definitely not cut out for taking care of so many small beings.

This is a rant post.

I need to go back to work tomorrow.

To my mom who has to look after both baby and dog daily, I don’t know how you do it but you’re a superwoman.

– CK

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Little Steps

At 12.5 months, Nat has begun taking more steps on his own! We noticed that he feels safest at home to walk unassisted and barefoot whereas outside, he’ll still prefer to hold onto our hands most of the time. I’m cool with that. To be honest, we are also baby-proofing as he ventures around the house.

I am not an expert on how babies progress from crawling to walking or some even skip the crawling stage altogether. For the longest time, Nat remained at the standing-up and cruising stage.

Around 7/8 months Nat could already stand inside his crib or playpen but he didn’t really cruise until 11 months? He just preferred to crawl inside his room or from one bedroom to another.

Nat also doesn’t get a lot of cruising time when he’s at my mom’s because her place isn’t as baby-friendly and she was/is undergoing some toilet renovation so there is dust everywhere. As a result, most of the “free-roam” time happens on weekday nights or on weekends. I don’t know if this affected when he started walking in anyway but I figured that once Nat gains more confidence, he’ll be able to walk for longer distance unassisted at my mom’s place too. On our part, we also need to help baby-proof her house pronto! Like we got to at least be on par with him and not always catching up.

So on weekdays, Nat gets to “walk” when they go to the playground in the morning or in the reading room at our place before he goes to my mom’s house. This picture taken a week ago when Nat still preferred to hold onto to our hands.

Then recently at his 1 year check-up, I asked Nat’s PD about his toes because I noticed that sometimes his feet would turn inwards. The PD called it “in-toeing” and asked us to just monitor and get firmer shoes for outdoor use.

Initially I researched that for first-time walkers, the shoes should be soft and not too heavy as their toes need to grip the floor. However, as Nat’s toes tend to face inwards, firmer shoes are recommended to keep his feet in place.

Nonetheless, the best is still walking barefoot and not assisting too much so that they can master their own sense of balance and gain confidence to walk unassisted. I got some quite useful advice from this article but how much we can actually control what happens when we are at work is another thing altogether.

Now we just have to ensure the place is safe and someone is with Nat at all times when he does his walks because he leaves a trail of destruction behind!

– CK

Almost 1

Can’t believe that Nat is going to be one soon! This time last year, I was in physical agony, 18kg heavier and my hips felt like they were in two parts. Then I realized something last night – he’s still co-sleeping in his crib! These few months, I’ve sort of lost track of the original plan to shift him into his own room by 10 months. Then the moment I returned to work, I think I’ll miss him if he was in a separate room. 

With regard to his sleep, Nat usually does a 845pm to 7am stretch with the occasional cry at 4/5am. If we are too groggy, HJ will just carry him to our bed. Previously, I could soothe him back to sleep in his crib but once I returned to work and started sleeping later, I am a total zombie at 4/5am. 

For 11 months, babies should get around 2-3 hours of day sleep followed by 11 hours of night sleep as per this website. Nat is somehow still sleeping a lot in the day like 3.5 hours avg over two naps. So some days when he wakes up close to 6pm, he only sleeps at 9pm. So it’s a chicken and egg problem as the later he sleeps at night, he’s tired in the day and naps more. However, these 9pm nights are usually an exception so as long as he’s in bed and almost on the verge of sleeping before 9pm, I’m cool. 

Interestingly, Nat’s last feed also dropped on its own. I still remember those days we gave him a full 160-180ml feed at 1030pm so it could last him until the next morning. It dropped to 120ml, 90ml, 60ml and most recently 30ml. Most nights he doesn’t want to drink any top-up milk so his dinner and post-dinner milk of 60ml seems enough to last until the next morning. Interesting how babies naturally ‘drop’ the last feed themselves. 

In terms of his eating habits, Nat still has a monstrous appetite. 

7am: 100ml milk feed 

8am: oatmeal and fruit breakfast 

930am: 60ml pre-nap milk feed 

1130am: 60ml Post-nap milk feed 

12pm: lunch (porridge/noodle/pasta/pie)

1230pm: fruit dessert (tiny amt)

230pm: 60ml pre-nap feed 

5pm: 50ml post-nap feed

530pm: fruit & cereal tea time 

615pm: dinner (porridge/noodles) 

645pm: fruit dessert (tiny amt)

830pm: 60ml pre-sleep feed 

Yup… a monstrous appetite… but we won’t have it any other way. 

Can’t wait for him to cross the 1 year mark which also opens up the food possibilities.

– CK 

Choices

When you have an Asahi at 1100, you know are already lamenting the pending end of the vacation. A friend said, I can’t keep traveling and enjoying life. True that. This is the last getaway before I start a 4-day workweek (another post for that). Raw truth – I have no qualms working. I like what I do. It’s the other obligations, people and emotions that I suck at. 

Is it so hard to just do nothing on weekends? There seems to always be errands to run and/or people to visit. 

Weekdays are much preferred because it’s predominantly work and then home. People and things don’t get in the way because it’s largely operational. We have dinner, go home to wash Nat up, he goes to bed and we have time to ourselves to Netflix or finish up urgent work. 

So strangely, it’s the weekends that I wish I didn’t have because of the multitude of things that happen unless it’s just the 3 of us, then I’m okay. 

The same friend also said that for most things and decisions, I always have a choice. 

True that again, so I am going to be more conscious in exercising that choice and do what makes me happy. 

Adulthood (and some obligations that come attached) is tiring. 

– CK 

Kent Vale 

Last weekend we brought Nat for a rather unusual staycation at a University campus residence – Kent Vale @ the National University of Singapore (NUS). It was a good break because we’re seldom at the western side of Singapore and it was sooooo peaceful since it wasn’t a typical hotel with crowds. 

All refreshed …

 

We booked a 1 bedroom apartment for $160 (nett) as part of a deal my sister enjoys as she’s currently working at NUS. 

The moment we entered, HJ exclaimed, “can we move out of our place and into here!” haha because everything here looks so neat! The best part was the fully-equipped kitchette, which we used to prep Nat’s meals. 

  •  On a side note, this made us realize that going anywhere with a baby isn’t a walk in the park thanks to meal prep issues. HJ is now more convinced that Nat should not travel until he’s older. This is because I try to not deviate too far from Nat’s usual homecooked menu so even if I get those bottled baby food, I still packed squash, salmon and pasta to steam and mix together with the bottled food. 

Anyway, back to the staycation… 

Kent Vale guest services also provided us with a baby crib, with the mattress and bedding all set up the moment we checked it. I think Nat was very pleased with his crib because it reminded him of his sleep space at home.

  • Usually, I try to get a separate crib for Nat when we go for staycates. Most of the time, the hotels are able to provide a baby crib but this Kent Vale one was the best thus far because it resembled Nat’s crib at home the most. If the hotels are not able to accommodate , Nat would sleep in bed with us but I am very paranoid of him moving around in the middle of the night when we’re in deep sleep and risk ending up on the floor. 

The next best part of the staycation deal was that we also received 2x free tickets to the Natural History Museum, in NUS so we brought Nat there on Day 2 after we checked out. 

Overall, I think it was very worth it since we all had a relaxing, crowd-free break. 

Can’t wait for our next one. 

– CK 

Food Testing 8-9 months

So the food testing has somewhat decelerated for Nat because we have done quite a bit of tests throughout the 5-7 months. The fun part to his current menu planning comes in thinking of appetizing ways to cook and test his food. Sadly, even though some of the recipes taste quite nice, it gave him some gas so we’ll try them again in a few weeks. 

The Experiment: 

Two examples of foods that we recently tested that didn’t sit too well with Nat’s tummy was corn and asparagus. 

Instead of serving just the puréed form, we made them into soup via adding a bit of milk and for asparagus, potato to enhance the taste. This is only possible because Nat already tested for the other vegetable. 

The Observations:

For corn, his poop was a bit soft and he kept passing gas throughout the day. For asparagus, he had a bloated stomach until night time.

The Conclusion:

Under such circumstances, the above doesn’t count as a food allergy but perhaps, Nat is more sensitive to certain foods so we’ll re-introduce it to him again next month. 

This happened too for blueberries, which resulted in some red spots (rashes?) on his hands but our PD says we can try introducing it after a few weeks. 

Menu Planning for 8-9 months

In terms of his menu planning, we also started varying his meals into Chinese vs Western, with the former being porridge and the latter, baby pasta. 

Strangely, we also observed that minced meat (beef/pork/chicken) somehow remains very dry even after you steam/cook it and Nat really loves his fish, especially salmon belly compared to threadfin.

 As such, we started mixing a tiny portion of minced meat and fish inside all his Chinese or Western meals. This way, it’s not too dry nor is the smell particularly fishy, which is the case if we use either minced meat or fish. 

So now, we have somehow reached a ‘sweetspot’ of a formula for his meals. 

Porridge/pasta 

  • 1x tiny ball of minced meat
  • 1x piece of fish (approx 2 by 1 inch)
  • 3 tiny portions of vegetables – squash/carrots, spinach and wintermelon*

*only for porridge 

So moving forward… as Nat approaches 10 months, I need to quickly start thinking of other food ingredients to test and come up with various food combinations for his menu. 

Like HJ jokes, it’s like some project with research, Googledocs and MS word calendars but I guess that’s why I enjoy it. 

– CK 

Crawling 

One day, HJ said to me that he thinks Nat isn’t crawling enough i.e. I “protect” him too much because I don’t want him to knock his head. So I tried to find out about the crawling and whether it is really that crucial? There’s of course two sides to the coin on this. Some experts will attest to the importance of crawling while others say that skipping it altogether is no issue. Choosing to err on the side of my usual caution, I decided to let Nat have more floor/crawling time daily.

This article presents both sides to the issue but, “no matter where experts stand on the crawling issue, one point they all agree on is the importance of tummy time”. 

Previously, before we shifted out his playpen, Nat had a lot of tummy time on the play-mat. So we decided to take out the play-mat again but open it in Nat’s room instead since the playpen is occupying the living room. This way, he will get his individual playpen time and also some floor time.

I guess HJ was right in the sense that my mom and I are too “protective” of Nat because he had already fallen off the bed twice – once when he was 6 months and the most recent time was when he turned 9 months. So we’re really paranoid about letting him crawl on the concrete floor. At least, with the play-mat, there is some cushioning should be fall and hit his head. Last time, we all just crawled on whatever type of flooring there was in our homes. Nowadays, I can’t help but notice that we tend to be more anxious about potential injuries and baby-proofing our homes when our parents were not so uptight about them when we were babies/toddlers.

– CK

Day 3 

Today’s the 3rd day managing things mostly on our own and surprisingly, we’re fine. Maybe because it’s only day 3 but as tiring as it is trying to squeeze in some household chores, food prep and email clearing when Nat naps, I am quite happy doing it. These few days also made me realize how much I need and value my time alone to get things done, the way I want them to be. 

Our day in summary… 

AM: Nat’s usual morning routine

  • 630am rise and shine.
  • 7am milk, followed by 8am breakfast (fruits and yogurt combo).
  • Storybook + playmat time to crawl and tire himself out before his morning nap at around 930am. 
  • Once he slept, I prepped his lunch porridge before taking a nap too. 
  • After Nat woke up around 11am, I bathed him and we waited for my mom to pick us up to go for lunch. 

LUNCH: @ Waterway Point today 

  • We walked around a bit after lunch and did a quick grocery run before heading home.
  • As per our norm, we only head out in-between his AM & PM naps and ensure we make it back home in time for his 2nd nap. 
  • If he’s not tired yet like what happened this afternoon, I’ll give him more floormat and/or playpen time.
  • Now at 9 months, Nat can stay awake for 3-3.5hours and needs to be sufficiently tired enough to be ready for a nap. 
  • The moment he sleeps, it’s time to steam his fruits for tea and his post-dinner dessert. This is also the only opportunity to cook his evening porridge. 
  • If I’m lucky, he will sleep for at least 1.5 hours (like today yay!) and I get to fit in some work.

DINNER: @ my mom’s place  

  • Once Nat woke up and his meal cooked, my mum came by again to bring us over. 
  • I wanted to pram him and walk (she lives just 1.5km away) but it was too sunny. 
  • HJ joined us for dinner after work and we brought Nat back around 8pm. 

Actually, this is pretty much what I do on those days I don’t go into office so nothing was drastically different or more challenging. 

I think I will miss this once I return to work full-time. So even if can’t really slack around and binge on Netflix because there’s more household chores and baby-related prep to be done, I’m glad that I can do all these for him. 

– CK 

Just Us 

In a nutshell, our helper is on home leave for 10 days so we have to do things a bit more efficiently now. This is especially so for Nat’s food prep because he eats 4 solid meals a day with a fruit dessert after lunch & dinner (that’s like 6 meals) so I can’t possibly be steaming his food every other hour haha!

So in the morning while Nat is taking his 1st nap, that’s when all the ingredients for his subsequent meals are prepped.

Top-left: steamed fruit combo for dessert after lunch and dinner

Bottom-left: butternut squash and carrots chopped and ready to cook

Right: throw everything into the rice cooker to cook congee

Previously our helper and my mom would do his food prep 3-4x a day before his meals but seriously… I can’t afford the time for that on the days I’m alone with him. However, we only pre-chop the vegetables and steam the fruits for that day so the freshness is not so affected.

Anyhow, I quite like this situation. It reminds me of the weeks just after Nat was born when we both handled everything in the way we know best – divide and conquer.  No doubt the floor doesn’t get cleaned everyday but twice a week is fine with me.

– CK

Work & Guilt 

So we’re off again! This is our 2nd trip without Nat, and it won’t be the last for the year since the mister prefers not to travel with a baby until he’s toddler age. Then having this time away from home made me realize something – it made me think about what will happen once I return to work full time in a few months. This was when I started to feel some guilt for wanting to work but I can’t not work either. Hence, I will just have to accept and adjust to the fact that I won’t be his de facto caretaker anymore and I need to be okay with that. 

The Nat, having his morning playground routine when I’m in the office

 
This is not to say that I am unhappy with the current childcare arrangements. In fact, they could not have been better. Both HJ and I can leave for work in peace knowing that Nat is well taken care of by my mom and helper. 

His general daily routine when we go to work is as such; 

  • 730am – pick up from my place 
  • 8am – visit to the playground 
  • 830am – breakfast 
  • 9am – nap 1 
  • 1130am – outing to run errands or deliver lunch to my Grandpa
  • 12pm – lunch 
  • 2pm – nap 2
  • 3/4pm – tea break 
  • 545pm – dinner 
  • 6pm – I come home and take over 

There’s also reading and regulated TV time in his routine as well. Regulated TV time is because he only watches The Numtums at either 11am or 2pm. They are basically animals with numbers on their tummies haha! 

So I have no qualms with my current work-babycare arrangements. In fact, I am considering going back to office 4x a week instead of 3x a week starting from October onwards since all is well at home. 

Moreover, the norm that I will return to in 2018 is that I’ll be going office every weekday. As it is, I know being able to take a part-time scheme is a privilege – not everyone has alternative babycare arrangements and not everyone can afford to take a pay cut for a prolonged period. 

However, being away from home and Nat during this short trip just made me realize how independent and easygoing he is

Nat does not have attachment issues to anyone? He is able to be taken care of by almost everyone as long as he is familiar with their faces. 

A lot of people have told me that this is a good thing but some days I also wonder whether does he really know we are his parents? Perhaps we don’t refer to ourselves as his ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’ often? We really cannot stand talking in the third-person haha but maybe we have to start somewhere. 

The only consolation is that at least his de facto caretaker and the person he will be closer will be my mom, not the infant care personnel or any other non-family member.

On this note, I came across an article that is so so apt… 

I know the fatigue that sets in when all you feel is guilty: guilty that you like going to work, guilty that you want to go home early to be with your baby. Guilty when you miss a milestone or guilty when you have to stay late to catch up on a project. Guilty when you forget about an upcoming meeting or guilty that you have to leave early because the baby got sick. Guilty that it’s been three months back at work and shouldn’t this feel normal by now?

I know that am very blessed that I did not really have any big struggles returning to work. 

I also look forward to work because it helps me to focus, it drowns out any baby or household-related issues that I may be feeling sian about, it gives me a sense of purpose and of course, financial security. 

I won’t and can’t give up my work so I guess I will just have to adapt and try not to give myself so high expectations on both fronts. Like HJ said, I can’t be a good worker and still want to be there all the time for Nat. I simply can’t. 

– CK