Robert was seated on top of our oak dining table, in his Bumbo seat of course, and opened his mouth nicely for the little spoonfuls of cereal. The whole meal was about a teaspoon of runny rice cereal thinned with breast milk. He still needs practice though, the cereal gets into his mouth, but he doesn’t know what to do with it, he needs to figure out the act of swallowing as opposed to sucking. Some things definitely point out his readiness for this new taste; the tongue reflex is no longer present, and he seemed interested in the experience. I will keep up with a small daily dose of the cereal, so that he can take one full meal by the time I get back to work.
After months of limiting ourselves to the borders of Greater Cape Town, we decided to go for a camping trip to the Overberg. The planning took most of a week, and for one night we ended up taking a lot of stuff. This is normal, of course, because –apart from food- the same basic things are needed whether one chooses to go away for one night or one week. We wanted to check out the village of Greyton, which according to its internet brochure, is advertised as the Jewel of the Overberg, and a true country retreat. We also wanted to visit its Saturday market, where REAL farm products are sold. Although we were fully prepared by Thursday evening, we almost cancelled the trip at the last second because the weather forecast predicted a massive heat wave over the interior of the Western Cape. Later Ron decided that we might as well go, because it might be better to let the heat catch us outdoors than trapped indoors in the dusty apartment.
We started out on Friday morning after breakfast and in time for Robert’s morning nap. This was great because he went to sleep immediately in the car, and woke up two hours later as we arrived to the Campsite in Greyton. The village is really tiny, with one tarred main street. The rest are oak-lined mud lanes, with many beautiful old houses surrounded by lush gardens. The mountains give a dramatic backdrop to the scenery, towering over the village which lies literally at their feet. The same mountains are capped with snow during the winter. Later, the family who looks after the camp ground told us that the place gets extremely cold and frosty in the winter. There is a river close to the campground, and apparently two years ago, it flooded the surrounding grounds (and the house of the wardens). It gets really rough out here by the look of things. The inhabitants of the village though are mostly wealthy old retirees who can enjoy country life without having to succumb to the hardship of eking out a living.
As we pitched our tent, and explored the basic campground, we were shocked to find out that the water supply in the village had a brownish tinge. I did drink some of it before this fact became evident and it tasted fine. Fortunately we had enough drinking water to last us for a day or so, and we bought another bottle of water at the shop.
Our green and blue tent was pitched up under the pine trees, and there was sufficient shade to shelter us from the sun. We also had the benefit of the cool breeze from the mountain, so it did not feel that hot. However, it was hot during our walk on the only main street in the village, but Robert was very good in the stroller and we were able to do our sight-seeing in peace. Later we hung out around camp, Ron went for a swim in the river, and we had our meal of pre-prepared pasta with tuna and canned sauce.
Robert enjoyed lying in the tent and exploring the texture of its fabric, the zippers, the ties and all the other strange stuff inside. As darkness fell we did not have any problems getting him to sleep on an improvised mattress of towels. We weren’t so lucky, we had to make do with the sleeping bags on the hard ground, and no pillows. It wasn’t the most comfortable bedding. During the night Robert woke up for a feed, this is rather unusual, but perhaps he was dehydrated and thirsty from his adventures during the day.
On Saturday we visited the market, and Robert got to socialize with many grannies and grandpas. I was impressed with the quality of products at the market. Everything was really homemade and organic : Cheese, lemonade, bakes, yoghurt, feta cheese, and even labneh (balls of dehydrated yoghurt with herbs, preserved in olive oil). We had a treat of pancakes with lemon curd, and bought a small wheel of cheddar. Around noon we started our drive back and this time we took what we thought will be the long scenic route on the West Coast. This was considerably longer, with portions of un-tarred roads that were hard on the car. Robert slept most of the time, and awoke only briefly as we were having lunch near Betty’s Bay. We were driving during the worst heat of the day, and at times the temperature gauge soared to 38 degrees (for outside heat). As we were heading for the final stretch of road towards Gordon’s Bay, I was getting extremely worried about Robert’s continued lethargy. We found the first available parking in Gordon’s Bay and I fished the little one out of his car seat. He was thoroughly wet and completely limp; it gave me a horrible fright for a couple of seconds until he opened his very sleepy eyes. I changed his drenched diaper quickly while he was still waking up, and then fed him for almost twenty minutes. He stayed awake but calm for the rest of the way home.
The apartment was a furnace when we arrived, and we got very little sleep that night. It was easily the hottest night we experienced in all our years in South Africa. The trip could have been termed a success, if Ron did not catch some stomach bug. He thinks it is either something carried by the flies in the campground or the brown water we used for brushing teeth.
Too much thinking makes the head ache, and sometimes makes you physically ill. Robert is not the culprit this time; there are too many things to consider as far as our life in general is concerned. Needless to say, it has been a tough week.
Ron’s birthday was one bright spot there, but after it things started rolling downhill. Ron was under the weather for days, and therefore avoided contact with baby . As a result the three of us ended up feeling pretty down, and the oppressive heat made matters even worse.
On the up side, Robert is starting to have some social life. There is a tiny park about ten minutes from our place, where I escape during the hottest times of day. I met some moms, dads and nannies, and Robert made a few young friends. The friendship is a little one sided at this point, because my little one is rendered speechless in front of his young admirers, but it is still a start. The park has half a dozen benches, and is surrounded by a few big trees that provide shade. The grass is well maintained, and clean. There is also a dog training area adjoined to the park, but a fence separates it from the main park area. Dogs aren’t allowed in the main park area, which helps keep the place clean of land mines, but they still need to access their area through the park, I had to protect my little pup from wet tongues and noses, a couple of times, before owners took charge of their four-legged friends.
In addition to social development, Robert is becoming more tolerant of the wide world outside. He has very few objections now to sitting in the stroller, and is comfortable enough in it to fall asleep when tired. Yes, he still cries and fusses before he finally nods of but that is not so bad.
His other skills are developing rapidly, he sits up with support now for a long time without any problems, and if he has something to hold on too he can even keep his balance for a little bit without support behind his back. This week he also started rolling over onto his stomach before falling asleep. I still try to put him on his back again, but when I check on him one final time before turning in myself, I sometimes find him sleeping on his stomach or more often on his side. Robert is also more vocal with razzing and babbling. I think of his razzing as a form of singing, he goes onto a long session of it when he is relaxing in the bath. As for his play, it is getting more interactive as he explores the principle of cause and effect: He lets stuff drop to the floor so that we give it back to him, he grips the handle of the cupboard to pull it ajar, or swings the gate back and forth. These games are played under our close supervision of course, and he is content to play them for a long time, or for as long as our patience holds.
This has been a very busy week with many new experiences for Robert. The stroller has been dusted off and finally put to use, breaking new (and old) ground on the promenade and in the mall. Robert also had his first close encounter with the Atlantic Ocean and the playground.
We are now trying to overcome and extend Robert’s over-stimulation limit, in the stroller environment. Previously we used the carrier, and he would be happy in it for up to two hours with a little bit of a break. Sometimes he would nod off to sleep at the point when it got too much. Under the best circumstances, and even with a break and swapping the carrier between the two of us, two hours is pretty much the maximum limit. We would definitely be much happier pushing the stroller for two hours, but Robert still needs some time to get used to the arrangement.
We spent Robert’s first day at the beach at Llandudno. It was a scorching hot day and we found some shade under some bushes and tall grass. I think I fussed a little too much trying to protect him from the sun. Ron showed him the water and dipped his feet in the cold Atlantic. He enjoyed the feel of the wet sand against his feet, and looked with great interest at the rushing waves. I remembered a similar scene when we took my baby brother Fadi to the beach; he just looked at it perplexed and then started gesticulating with both hands towards it and shouting baby gibberish. Considering that Fadi was looking at the Mediterranean, Robert’s reaction to the Atlantic is s a lot more reserved and philosophical.
After a while at the beach, Robert got his fill of wide open space and started to get fidgety. We were about to call it a day, when he finally succumbed to fatigue and went to sleep on my shoulder. After his little nap Ron tried to keep him busy, introducing him to things like trees, bushes, sand and water. He became very interested and engrossed in his close encounters with things he could touch and feel and forgot a little about the onslaught of information from the wide space around him.
The next important adventure was Robert’s first time in the swing. He kind of enjoyed the slow swinging and wondered at the voices of much older kids in the next swings. It was a Sunday afternoon and the playground was very busy, but we would definitely take him there many times in the future.
Today we had to take baby for his long delayed immunization shot. It feels like ages since our last visit to the nurse. The last time was back in November, and I was anxious to see Robert’s growth progress. I can definitely feel his weight increase in my shoulder and back (Just to make it clear that I am not complaining about this fact, I always say Mashallah in keeping with my native superstition – to thank God and to ward off the evil eye). Of course it is nice to know how much weight I lift up and down every day, just to feel good about my efforts and about the treats I consume with the excuse of putting on weight, hopefully on baby.
The nurse’s rooms weren’t as busy as I expected, and we were only third in the queue when we arrived. We just missed the rush as more and more moms and tots streamed in afterwards. Robert’s statistics for this week: Weight 7160 g; Height 68 cm; Circumference of Head: 41.4cm. He has made good progress Mashallah ! The graph of his weight gain is consistent, slightly above average in weight, and clearly above average in height.
One of my resolutions for 2008, is to start writing this blog in real time. This objective hasn’t been achieved yet, and I am still lagging one week behind. My cute little monster is growing, and I am beginning to appreciate my life-long commitment to the task. He is the number one priority in everything we do, and every decision we make.
Since he sleeps for close to ten hours through the night, his hours of wakefulness during the day are long, and he needs constant diversions and outlets for his abundant energy. I think he will grow into an active and intelligent kid, who would gets bored quickly. We will need a lot of creative talent to keep him amused.
This week Robert finally discovered his feet. He now pulls at them while sitting or lying, especially on his changing table, which adds of course to the fun of changing his diaper. He moved quickly from razzing to sucking on his bottom lip, to make a smack-pop sound, which is quite funny. He also sucks occasionally on his thumb hooking his forefinger over his nose. The first time I saw him do that he was trying to calm himself down to get to sleep, and he was lying on his side. Now he goes to sleep regularly on his side, with the consolation of the thumb or a fist, and sometimes even without them.
We had some storms and fierce winds during this week, followed by a boiling hot day without any winds. Robert was tired after a visit to the mall but could not get to sleep at all in the heat, and cried in frustration until the temperature cooled down with nightfall. That night the mosquitoes feasted on his exposed limbs and face, and just looking at him made us both feel very guilty (and itchy). The mosquito bites made him very irritable, pulling the stiff leg, and red face trick many times during the day.
We immediately bought a length of gauze-like fabric which I joined together to form a mosquito net. To salve our conscience we also bought a topical cream that the pharmacist recommended for bab. The cream proved useful, but the net was the proper solution, I now throw the net over his crib just after I put him down, and he hasn’t had any bad mosquito bites since then.