Friday, September 26, 2008

Calming baby

Apparently contrasting images, mainly black and white, can be soothing for babies.  I'm putting this knowledge in our armory against fractiousness.  I know that crying and babies go hand-in-hand (and there may not be anything to worry about) but anything to calm things down I'm sure will help.

On Oct 2nd a new book, Art for Baby, will be published which includes images from Julian Opie,  Patrick Caulfield, and Damien Hirst.

A black and white version of the below Damien Hirst - Lysergic Acid - is in it.

Apparently babies get transfixed by contrast.  One theory is that the differentiation mimics the white-meets-colour effect of the thing the baby most wants to seek out: the eyes and mouth of the person who is going to feed them.

Our local indian restaurant has a version of the Lysergic Acid on one of its walls and keeps me occupied - I don't need any comments about that fact.

Enough of me. If you're interested, there's a full article on the Guardian website or you can go straight to some of the other images. And here's it is being tried and tested.

So, we want to make another commission.  Erin and I know a very good artist.  It would be great if you - and you know who you are - could create some images inspired by this of your own for us.  Thank you in advance.

Saying goodbye

I said goodbye to Erin yesterday morning as she went back to the States to say goodbye to her grandpa who sadly passed away this week.

Grandpa John is the one looks like a grandpa, next to grandma Jane.

And here he is again playing with one of his many great-grandchildren, Sophie.

Grandpa John will be missed.  I miss Erin and her kicking belly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heads, shoulders, knees and Elbow

As a bit of a fan of indy and alternative music it's great that at the time I am about to become a father some of the artists I have on my I-pod are penning children's music. After Kimya Dawson's recordings, Elbow are to follow up their Mercury Award winning album with one aimed at the younger audience.

And I thought I was going to have to put the Beatle's Yellow Submarine on repeat to keep my youngster sweet (and my sanity up). I realise Radiohead's Kid A would just not have worked.
And apparently there are more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A visit to the doctor

Things are never easy when visiting our NHS clinic. Erin and I were greeted by a very friendly doctor saying: 'So what seems to be the matter today?'

When Erin told him 'nothing' and that we were booked in for our pre-natal check-up with him he looked bemused and told us that he doesn't do that. He said he did post-natal but nothing before the birth.

We haven't seen our personal midwife, only temporary ones as ours has always been off. This mix up seems to have come from the temp, who not knowing our clinic, booked us in with the doctor who Erin last saw. Unfortunatley it doesn't work like this.

Anyway, Dr Castro - no relation - said he could take Erin's blood pressure and check what needed to be checked and would tell the doctor we should have seen the results 'to make sure he got everything right'.

So he did.

Erin's blood pressure is normal, the baby seems to be growing correctly - 25.2 cm for a 25 week pregnancy is normal, and we heard the traction engine heartbeat of the little one - 145 beats per minute. I shut my eyes and could imagine him stretching and kicking and generally showing off as he knew he was in the spotlight.

Erin's had a cold recently so we asked what she could take for it. The doctor was adamant she should only take paracetemol or herbal remedies. No strepsils or Hall's I'm afraid.

As she has had a bit (well, alot) of heartburn, Erin asked if the amount of Gaviscon she's taking is healthy. It is.

And she asked if she could fly in the next few weeks as she might need to take a trip home. He said the airline might need a letter but that letter would be easy to write as she's in perfect health.

At the end I went back to the heartburn issue. We've been told that as Erin has heartburn it's an indicator of the baby having either a lot of hair or red hair. I asked if he'd heard of this. He laughed: 'No I've never heard of this.' He went on to explain what heartburn was and ended by giggling 'come back and tell me if it is true, though'.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A policeman's helmet

We didn't go to the library this weekend as I mentioned we would. Erin and I were feeling a little groggy because of all the sneezing and blowing into tissues we were doing, so we had a lazy Saturday morning then went to Battersea Park for a walk.

I bought a Mother and Baby magazine and we devoured all its contents.

There was a great article on helping newborns sleep. I turned to it straight away as one of my worst fears in life is insomnia. And a major worry of parenthood is a persistantly crying baby at 1am. And 2am. all the way through to 3am. And further. Every night.

Despite being sponsored by a famous brand of nappies (or diapers), which in my mind slightly degrades it, the article was very informative.

Here are some hints it gave:

Make sure your baby is comfortable.
Put her in the cot when she's sleepy but awake.
Don't go back on the first whimper.
Music can help the baby drop off.
If she needs reassurance stay by the cot but don't make eye contact.
Don't let the baby fall sleep while feeding after 6 weeks.
And agree a strategy with your partner...and stick to it.

So we've got the baby asleep. Onto another issue.

While Erin, Simon, Sarah and myself were in Durham, a couple of weeks ago, it was brought up that it's stated in British law that pregnant women can use a policeman's helmet to relieve themselves in it if necessary.

But unfortunately that myth has been busted.

A journalist from Saturday's favourite read called the Metropolitan Police and their spokesperson said: 'Back in the 19th century this was a law, but fortunately,' for the police rather than mothers-to-be who are caught short, I suppose, 'it's not anymore.'

The end of a cycle

After almost 18 months of biking a daily average of an hour and a half through the heady streets of London, dodging cabs, big red buses and red lights, Erin is finally biting the bullet and joining the rest of London's rat racers on the black, blue, red, brown, pink, green, and yellow lines of the Underground.

She loved to cycle places.

Please spare a thought for her.  She's sad to be travelling with the sweaty masses.

Friday, September 19, 2008

More top tips

It's amazing what you pick up from people when you tell them you or your wife is expecting.

This week I've been told:

Babies might eat their own poo on the way into the world.  And a baby's first stools are called Meconium. WARNING: This link is not for the faint of heart.

It's wise to wait for contractions after the waters break at home where you're going to be more relaxed.  But don't wait too long as the womb can become poisonous after the waters break.

Erin found out that if you have heartburn during pregnancy, which she does, your baby is likely to have one of two things:

1. Lots of hair


2. Red hair

I'll let you know if either is true.

I was also told a top parental tip: When your child is very, very good, give them lots and lots of praise.  And if they are very, very bad, let them know in no uncertain terms that they have been very, very bad.  All the rest of the times in between should then take care of themselves.

Erin and I have realised we know a lot about pregnancy up to labor.  And we're booked in to see the hospital ward and all the right pre-natal classes. But we don't have a clue about the first few weeks after the arrival and thereafter.  

So, we're off to the library tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

End of the road

This weekend we spent it in the company of mud, tents and loud music. Oh, and a great group of friends.

We went to the End Of the Road festival in Dorset. It's a boutique festival with only 5000 capacity. The bands included Mercury Rev, Calexico, Richard Hawley and my favourite, Bon Iver - here's one of his songs. There were a few great finds throughout the weekend too in The Young Republic, The Mountain Goats and Clare and the Reasons.

One highlight was when Clare (of Clare and the Reasons) apologised for eight years of George W Bush and started singing the tune of Somewhere Over The Rainbow with one word filling all the lyrics - Obama. On leaving the tent we saw a full rainbow arched over the festival. It sent shivers down our spines.

Everyone we were with who knows I write this blog kept asking me what I was going to write about regarding babies or impending fatherhood related to the festival.

Well, here are a few a few thoughts...

There were lots of families who attended the festival. It was great to see but it looked like hard work. The rain on Friday meant even those without children were trudging around. But to do this pushing a pram? It looked tough. The wheels got caked and it looked like no fun at all.

Looking at these families made me have two related independent thoughts; our lives are going to be immensely different this time next year, but also that having a baby doesn't necessarily mean you have to forfeit things. The babies can come along to places with us, just put ear protectors on them when around loud music.

I also saw that our weekends are going to be a whole lot different. Parents were up very early taking their children to learn circus skills or make clay sculptures or watch kids' movies. This was all happening while we were having a lie in or chomping on bacon butties, chatting about the previous night's bands, and discussing who wants to see what. Our priorities are about to change somewhat.

One random chat while we were walking from one stage to another really brought home how much we didn't know about pregnancy when when first started this venture. Our friend Sarah mentioned the time when we announced that we were pregnant to her and Simon while we were in France. None of us were sure if Erin would have been able to go to the festival as she would be almost 6 months in. 'Do you remember?' Sarah giggled. 'We didn't even know if Erin would be able to walk by then.' Between the four of us we have more degrees than people, a few Masters' and post grad diplomas yet we knew nothing about pregnancy.  So much for higher education.

Anyway, Erin walked around a lot.  She was fine.

On another note about music...

Kimya Dawson Sang on the main stage on Sunday.  She's a serious artist, formerly of the Moldy Peaches, but has a children's album out called Alphabutt. She kicked off her performance with the Alphabutt song.  It's all about poo.

After this we commissioned our friends, Fred and Caroline, to sing and record some old and new nursery rhymes.  I'll let you know what they come up with.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Watch it

'Look, you can watch it now,' Erin has just this minute shrieked.

I hadn't got a clue what she was talking about. Then she pointed at her belly, and there it was, visible movement from her bump with little pushes here and there.

It's the first time we've seen this. We can't stop looking and giggling.

The first baby shower

Last Thursday Erin's work colleagues threw her and another girl in the office, who's preggers, a babyshower.

She sent me excited texts when we was coming home on the bus. They played games and she ended up bringing back a lot of cute stuff.


A toy multi coloured elephant made out of recycled yarn

Baby Gap socks

A wrap around hooded towel for bath time

3 beige onesies with bears and stripes

A cloth photo album for first photos

3 sleeveless bodysuits

3 white onesies

2 white bibs

1 pair of underwear with frogs on

A hat

A snowglobe

And my favourite - a Gardenbug Foot Finder and Wrist Rattle set with ladybirds (or ladybugs) and smiley bright coloured insects to fit on the baby's wrists.  Unfortunately they don't fit mine.

Thank you Samina, Liana, Sioban, Therese, Vanja, Gail, Karina, Samsam and one year old Zachy.                                               

And thanks goes to Erin's sister, Robyn, who sent a lovely little woolen suit, a newborn one piece on the same day. As well as a little toy and stretch mark cream and face cream specifically for the lovely, glowing mum-to-be.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The sign of things to come?

This morning, about half an hour before we were due to get up, Erin turned over to hold me. I didn't think much of it at first. I blinked at the alarm clock and tried to drift back off to sleep. Erin had already effortlessly done this. But I couldn't as two little jabs in my back later, then 3 blatant kicks I was mesmerized. It went on until the alarm should have gone off, had I set it. The feeling of slump and haziness at 3 this afternoon was worth the little show the bump put on this morning.

I should get used to early morning wake ups shouldn't I?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Nappy valley

We took a trip to Wandsworth this morning.  Well, to most people it's known as Wandsworth, to others it's known as Nappy Valley.  

If you're pregnant and ever need to know you're not alone all you need to do is walk down Wandsworth High Street.  There are all sorts of mums and dads pushing their kids in their brand new strollers or dragging them along in their wellies in and out of the children's shoe shops, clothes shops, toy shops, natty odds and ends shops, and cafes. 

Or there are simply the mums-to-be going in and out the maternity wear shops.

It's an area of London simply booming because of fertility.

We were supposed to be going to Wandsworth Common for a nice stroll but didn't get past Petit Bateau, JoJo Maman Bebe, Pretty Pregnant et al. We skipped One Small Step (a childrens' shoe shop).  

We got one or two things but the prize possession is below, so people will know to stand up for Erin while travelling to work on the tube. 

It was free. A massive surprise considering the cost of everything else in the those shops.

Art gallery part two: the book shop

After strolling around the Tate, dodging the runners, we ended up in the book shop.

At the end of the shop was a bold sign saying Children's Books.  I was attracted to the section like an indoctrinated zombie out of old spiderman cartoons - it could be something to do with never growing up.

Here are a few of my favourite spots from last night.

Obviously the Very Hungry Caterpillar is ubiquitous in these sections but it was next to the find of the night. Now, I say it was the find of the night but neither Erin nor I can now remember the book's title so can't get a link to it.  But it was a small hard back book with card pages.  As you opened the pages you saw different animals moving along the page in a cartoon flicking style. 

I say that was the best but there was one which captured my attention much longer, a pop-up dinosaur book called Encyclopedia prehistorica.  I'm not sure how long the pages would last in my hands let a lone a child's but seeing this took me back to my days of obsessing over stickers books where I made the Brontosaurus, stegosaurus, and triceratops all run a way from my favourite, T-Rex.  

I now can't get 20th Century Boy out of my head.

We've already started a little collection of Roald Dahl at home.

I can't wait to read bedtime stories.

Names: inspiration from the greats

Erin and I went to the Tate Britain last night on a date. At the entrance is a stand containing leaflets with titles which pick out certain paintings to create certain moods. There is The First Date Tour, The Greatest Hits Tour, and among others The baby Names Tour, which I'll come back to later. We chose the I Want to be Swept Off My Feet Tour and set off to see Turner's Sunset, Lannelli's Contemplation and Richard Smiths' Vista.  Unfortunately this tour was spread out  a little illogically around the gallery so we gave up and made our own way around.

Also Martin Creed Curates was on too. This saw runners running every 30 seconds down the main hall in the Tate.  Fun and weird.  And a bit dangerous too with all those airy-fairy-arty types mooching around.

Anyway here's what the guide says from The Baby Names Tour.  I'm not sure how inspiring it is...

You've examined the closing credits of your DVD collection, thumbed through countless baby names books and that precious little wide-eyed lump staring up at you is still without a name. Don't worry, your dilemma may be easily solved by following this collection.

Chances are you're overthinking it.  keeping things simple is often the way to go. For instance, walk around our gallery and you'll come across 17 overachieving Johns, and some splendid Marys. Then again, you may prefer something more exotic.  Consider the name of the artist who painted Covent Garden market, Balthazar Nebot.

Or perhaps Oriana, a young woman immortalised by Frederick Sandys.

If you're still a bit stuck, try making a choice based on matching your newborn's personality with that of a work of art.  For instance, an attention seeking child could be named after Marcus Gheeraerts II's Thomas lee, the only portrait in the gallery without trousers.

Perhaps your child is the more thoughtful type. In which case think about naming it after the bookish Sir Brooke Boothby by Joseph Wright of Derby.

If strangers stop to admire your little one , you probably have a genuinely adorable baby. In which case you may like to choose a name of someone who was also adorable, like Dame Gabriel Rossetti's Proserpine or Thomas Gainsborough's Giovanna Baccelli.

Whatever you do, don't beat yourself up about it, we have 975 works that are still untitled so we've got much the same problem.

Oriana Giovanna or Balthazar Brooke Waller anyone?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Most of us are when first talking about pregnancy. Now a children's charity have proven it. Their website isn't bad for getting a few answers either - very happy there's a dads-to-be section.