Conversations with Delphine: Bedtime Edition

I mentioned in a previous post that Delphine likes to postpone the actual sleep part of bedtime by coming up with ingenius time-wasting requests. I will be sitting in the living room and I will hear the quiet click of the bedroom door opening, and Delphine will emerge in her adorable pajamas and look at me with improbably large eyes and say "Mummy..." I regard her seriously, and after a moment of silence I say "Yes?"

And she says "I need another buddy." Or, "I need cold fresh water." Or, "I need a cuddle." And today, the best yet,

"Can I be a juggler?"

I took a deep breath, tried not to laugh: "Yes, when you grow up you can be a juggler, but right now you have to go to sleep."

And she solemnly turned around and climbed back into bed.

One and One

Tonight I did my first one-and-one — one minute of running for each minute of walking — since my knee injury healed. (Previously I was doing two minute of walking to every minute of running, so on average you could hardly call it "running" at all.) It went pretty well, considering it was thirty-two degrees with a Humidex of thirty-nine. My knee was hurting a little bit, but I babied it and I'll ice it tonight if I remember.

I noticed I'm not getting terribly out of breath on these runs, probably because I am running really slow. I breath fast, but it's not that desperate, panting, bile-taste-at-the-back-of-my-throat breathing I remember so well from phys ed. Ahh, phys ed.

Incidentally, my friend Michelle, who was my real-life inspiration to start running, is training for her first half-marathon, and is documenting the whole gory process on her running blog. Michelle is in my choir, and we got to be friends because she laughs at my smartass comments. (Laughing at my jokes is a very short path to my heart.)

When I found out she runs I was a little surprised, because I always thought runners were kind of... different. Athletic. Jockish. That runners were perhaps some entirely different species that I could never fully relate to. Since I was pretty sure that Michelle is my kind of people, I had to reconsider my perspective on runners, which made it possible for me to seriously consider running myself. And here I am, with Michelle cheering me on.

Let's Pretend

Delphine is seldom Delphine. Sometimes she's Pooh, and I'm Piglet. Sometimes she's the mummy, and I'm the baby. Sometimes she's Ursa, and I'm Delphine. Sometimes I am Stella and she's Sam, and sometimes I am Sam and she's Stella. Lately, she has been Corduroy and I have been Lisa.

She has a tremendous imagination. Today she pretended a calendar on the wall was a baby, and she was rocking it to sleep. Any pair of things where one is bigger than the other become a mummy and baby: "Mummy spoon, mummy spoon, I am sad! Want up mummy spoon!" And she holds the baby spoon approximately halfway up the mummy spoon.

Yesterday she and Blake were playing with balls, and they held them on their heads and Delphine said "Look Mummy! We got two heads!"

It's so much fun being along for the ride with her amazing little brain.

Evening Routine

It recently became obvious that Delphine doesn't need to go to bed at six-thirty any more. We put her to bed, bright-eyed and fresh, and she sat up and read books, or popped out at regular intervals to make contrived requests: "Mummy! I need sumpin'." "What do you need?" "I need another buddy (stuffed toy)." Uh-huh.

Since we had been feeding her supper at five and then making and eating our supper after she was in bed, we couldn't really move her bedtime any later unless we included her in our supper, which we have done. She sits on the counter and watches while we cook, or joins in and helps; yesterday she swished the lettuce around in the cold water to rinse off all the delightful organic lettuce goo. And then she eats with us; we all sit at the big table and make conversation like a real family. I'm fairly excited about this — I think eating together is one of the nicest things you can do as a family, and I have been looking forward to this for a long time.

It kind of hoses our evenings, though. When Delphine went to bed early we could tuck her in and then eat supper in front of the television like slobs. It's an appalling habit, and I suppose it's good that we don't do it any more, but it was very efficient and allowed for plenty of TV-watching. With Delphine in bed at seven-thirty or eight that only leaves us a couple of hours to tidy the kitchen and watch TV before it's time for bed, since I am trying to get into bed before ten so I can get enough sleep before the Cordelia wake-up call at five-thirty in the morning. If you take away half an hour for a run and another twenty minutes for an epsom salts bath, that barely leaves enough time for last night's Daily Show. I am turning into one of those people who are too busy, even if it's only too busy to watch television.

It also means I have to put together a good repertoire of quick and easy meals, which I suppose is par for the course for people with children.

Here's our evening routine, a snapshot of life with a baby and a three-year-old:

4:30 pick Delphine up from daycare (when applicable)
5:00 snack for Delphine and I, supper for Cordelia
6:00 Cordelia's bedtime — sometime between 6:00 and 7:00 Blake gets home from work
6:30 make dinner
7:00 eat dinner
7:30 Delphine's bedtime: pyjamas, pee, brush teeth, read two books, watch two movies on Daddy's computer, bed
8:00 I go for run (three days a week) while Blake cleans up after dinner (yeah!)
8:30 home for dessert and TV
9:30 bath and read a book
10:00 bed

Back in the running

My knee is better. On my chiropractor's* advice I went to see a podiatrist to see if I have any functional problems with my feet, and he didn't find anything. He thought it was a "weekend warrior" injury, which I find curiously flattering since no-one has ever accused me of being in any way warrior-like before. I think he's right, I just overdid it; not only was I wearing the wrong shoes, but I was also trying to run like a real runner when at this stage I should be doing the old-lady-shuffle to get my body used to this unprecedented level of physical activity.

I resumed running a couple of weeks ago, but I only managed to go out a couple of times before we decided to switch our evening routine around, which left me without a good time to go out. Blake and I talked about it, and finally decided that the only time I can go is after dinner. I was reluctant to go out after a meal, but there is no other good option, as I will discuss in another post (if I have time). And it will encourage me to eat a lighter dinner, which I could certainly stand to do.

Last night I went for my first postprandial run and it was great. I didn't really want to go — it is against my nature to leave the house after seven at night — but go I did. I ran on the Beltline, an old rail track nearby which has been converted into a trail, again on my chiro's recommendation because it's softer and easier on the joints than pavement. I thought it would be boring running the Beltline all the time, but I really enjoy all the people I see; couples with little kids going out for a walk after dinner; fat people like me trying to get fit; trim, middle-aged rich women walking briskly in pairs or groups; serious runners with expensive gear; groups of teenagers on bikes; people out walking their dogs. Yesterday I saw an old lady out for a fitness walk wearing white shorts and a t-shirt, thin putty-coloured ankle socks and plimsoll runners, and no bra. And I thought I would be bored!

I am still doing two minutes of walking and one minute of running, which is how they start you off in the Running Room clinic. When I got home last night I realized it had been a pretty easy run, so next time I will step it up to one-and-one.

* While my chiropractor is technically a chiropractor, the care she gives me is mainly something called Active Release Techniques which is basically very targeted massage with movement, designed to loosen tight muscles and break down scarring. Since pretty much all my physical problems stem from tight muscles in my legs and butt it works really well for me. I say this because I don't want you to think I am dumb enough to go to a chiropractor for a sore knee — I would no more do that than go to an opthamologist for a sore elbow.

How To Feed Your Baby (When You Can Barely Feed Yourself): Six Month Edition

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when Delphine was still a baby, some friends wondered how a person who can barely manage to feed themselves without a takeout menu can manage to feed a child. I used to think I would be able to answer that question, but the fact is I have become very domestic in the last few years; I have a kitchen that is almost always clean enough to cook in, I have multiple pans and knives, I have a working dishwasher, I have enough staples on hand to cook a dinner or bake a cake. I even have a chest freezer.

One day this could be you (well, maybe not the chest freezer). The journey from urban restaurant forager to urban chef has been one of many steps, and one of them was having a child who needed good food, not just leftover pizza (although they still get that sometimes). So it may be that having to feed your child properly is exactly the kick in the pants you need to learn how to feed yourself properly too.

But that is neither here nor there -- what you need to know right now, with your hungry six month old on your knee, mouth agape, is how and what do I feed her now?

Your first and best friend in this task is the boxed baby cereal. The one I always get is Heinz -- look for one with as few extraneous ingredients as possible, especially without milk or added formula. Lots of baby cereals have milk in them; those cereals are for formula-fed babies who have already been exposed to the hard-to-digest foreign proteins in cow's milk -- if your baby is exclusively breastfed there is no need to expose her to those proteins until she is ready for them, in a couple of months. So look for cereal that just has grain, and probably a couple of vitamins, in the ingredient list. Get used to reading ingredient lists -- you will be doing it a lot.

Start with rice cereal -- rice is the easiest grain to digest. If you're a champion pumper you can mix it with breastmilk, otherwise use water. You're supposed to use boiled, cooled water -- I just used whatever's in the bottom of the kettle from my last cup of tea, which was never very long ago. If you trust your municipal water supply, after a while you will just use tap water if you're lazy like me.

A little bit of cereal a couple of times a day is fine to start off with. Remember, real food is just recreational for now -- your baby gets all her nutrition from breastmilk (or formula) at this stage, and will until she is a year old.

Do rice for a week, then try barley and oatmeal -- these are also very easy to digest. If you are brave enough to try them, you will find that the tastiest of the cereals is barley, despite being the unappetizing grey colour of papier mache.

You're supposed to wait four days or so between introducing new foods -- Cordelia is almost eight months old as I write this, and I am introducing new foods at a manic pace of one a day or so. You might be more conservative if you have any concerns about allergies or if your baby is sensitive to new tastes and takes a while to get used to them, or if you're just nervous. Whatever works for you.

After you have your baby nicely warmed up on cereal, you can introduce fruits and veg. My doctor suggested doing orange, then yellow, then green, but I think this whole process is complicated enough without bringing the rainbow into it. Just introduce whatever you think would be fun. (See the chart I posted for ideas.)

Jarred Food or Homemade?

Both. Jarred food is convenient, and you can get good stuff. You can even get organic if it's important to you. Just, again, read the labels and don't buy anything with added sugar or starch. If the jar says "Sweet Potato" the ingredient list should say "sweet potato" and nothing else. Use your good sense.

Two things to avoid: jarred banana tastes weird because it's cooked, so it actually has that fake banana taste, and also, how hard is it to mash up a banana with a fork? Buying jarred banana is just embarrassing. And jarred green beans are sour and horrible -- homemade green beans aren't nice either; they just don't puree well. Green beans can wait until your baby has learned how to chew.

But homemade baby food is nice, too -- there are lots of fruits and vegetables that you can't get jarred -- okra? asparagus? mango? And there's a warm, fuzzy feeling to feeding your baby something you have made with your own hands.

How to make homemade baby food? This is the easiest way:

  1. open a bag of frozen peas
  2. dump some in the beaker that came with your hand blender (You do have a hand blender, don't you? How do you make milkshakes?)
  3. Pour in just enough water to cover the peas
  4. put a saucer over the top of the beaker
  5. stick it in the microwave for a few minutes, until the water boils and the peas get a little bit soft
  6. drain off the water
  7. blend the peas into mush

Put some in a bowl, wait until it cools, serve. Put the rest into those little one-cup or half-cup Gladware containers and freeze. (Everyone says to use ice cube trays, but they are a pain in the ass, and my kid easily eats a quarter-cup at a sitting, which is way more than one ice cube.)

You can do the same with other frozen vegetables, or frozen or canned fruit (you don't have to microwave the fruit, obviously). If the resulting puree is too runny, add some of the dry baby cereal to thicken it.

If you have a clean knife and cutting board kicking around, you can do much the same thing with any fresh vegetable or fruit (with the exception of berries and tomatoes, which can be allergenic). If you prefer, cook it in a pan on the stove, if you have a clean pan and your stove works.

Get someone else to clean up, you have done enough.

New Food Chart

Here's a chart I made up for myself, based mainly on information from the book Better Baby Food. I stuck it up on my bulletin board in the kitchen and I have been using it as a checklist to figure out what Cordelia has tried so far, and what she's ready for next.
6 months rice
sweet potato
7 months wheat
egg yolk
cottage cheese
9 months milk
1 year berries
egg white

The Too-Long Nap

Surely every mother has experience the too-long nap. Or is it just me? You put her down for a nap, you walk away, she sleeps. You hurry to get the things done that you can't do while she's awake. You answer email, you take out the trash, you cut up meat and vegetables for dinner. You still have a few minutes to sit down before she wakes up! You don't brew tea — takes too long. You make instant coffee with plenty of sugar and sit down with a magazine or a book.

You read a few pages, you look up. She is still sleeping. It's been hours. (Really only an hour and forty minutes.) She never sleeps this long. Something is wrong. She is surely dead. You check the clock — yes, it's really been almost two hours. She never sleeps this long!

What do you do? She is almost surely fine, and sleeping this long because she needs to sleep. Do you check on her, thereby ruining her nap and your much-needed quiet time? But what if she isn't fine? What if she's in trouble? Stopped breathing? Choked on a loose button? Caught up in a blanket? Fell out of the crib and knocked herself out? What do you do?

You decide to let her sleep and try and relax, and just as you are getting to the good bit in your book, she cries. Your stomach loosens and you breathe deeper as you go in to lift her up and hold her close, more beautiful than ever.