NAMASTÉ

Tomorrow my baby whale turns one. His very first year. The first of many to come.

It’s been an incredible year in that it’s been very exciting and ever changing. There have been a few curveballs but I believe we’ve hit them out of the park.

It’s been an insane year, barely any sleep and so much stress over trivial things. Heat rashes, candidosis, not taking to the breast, eating too much, eating not enough, displeasure, whining, crying, not crawling, not walking, falling, scraping knees, bumps and bruises, not getting into kindergarten, getting into the wrong kindergarten, being too sociable, being too clingy, refusing to sit in the car, refusing to sit in the stroller, refusing being in a wrap, refusing to be carried in a baby carrier, not playing alone, hating all toys, not wanting to get dressed, refusing wearing a diaper, refusing all hats and mittens, refusing socks and no sleeping, no resting and no sleeping.

But we worked through most of that. Some things are still there, of course, but I no longer stress myself about it all. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Erik’s had fevers and ailments that we’ve successfully gotten through, teething and all that it entails. We’re a couple of hams that just work our way through it all with a little help from laughter and a lot of love.

I was never very affectionate but since having the tiny whale all I want to do is hug and kiss away at him, and I do. He has hated it but seems to be warming up to it.

Everything is different, it’s better, it’s so much better. Because he rides in the car like a pro, sits in his stroller and flirts with every girl he sees. He’s a very happy and sociable baby so a lot of people come up to him to say hello and make sure I know how cute he is. He has a huge personality already and I can’t wait to see what kind of person he will grow up to be. One thing’s for sure, he will be loved wherever his life takes him.

And what’s not to love?

But with the first, bumpy, year soon behind us we venture into new territory. I hear that “the terrible twos” might be a bit chaotic, especially food wise. I have introduced Erik to A LOT of different foods. All kinds of fruit, from pomelo to watermelon. He loves fruit and veggies, dislikes cheese and potatoes. He’s not a fan of porridge or baby food in general. He likes sandwiches for breakfast and really hates anything sugary.

He’s had food from the Balkans, Sweden, Italy, Japan, India, Thailand, the US, Germany, China and Vietnam. So his base is wide enough for me to be able to find something he will like later when he refuses to try new things and I pride myself on that. He’s already a gourmet, I just tried catering to his tastes.

It’s been a year where Erik’s learned a lot but he’s also taught me a lot about myself. It seems I have an infinite amount of patience and love that I can only tap into with him. He’s clawed at me and bitten me, he’s constantly climbing all over me and kicking me. He’s headbutted me so bad a few times I’ve wondered if my teeth were going to fall out. He’s screamed so much, and slept so little that I have had loss of sight due to severe exhaustion.

Life has been turned upside down and it seems that finally it’s right side up for me. I’ve needed a tiny dictator to make things completely right.

So I say to him:

I bow to you.

My soul honors your soul.

I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me.

In sharing these things we are united.

We are the same.

We are one.

NAMASTÉ.

Campbell of Sweden

Fool

I will attempt to partake in a 30 day writing challange. Today’s word prompt is ‘FOOL’. Here goes.

I was a fool, I thought to myself as I signed the documents, to trust that someone so incompetent could write an official document. A statement. Something so simple, I thought, that even a fool could do it.

But I caught myself in that thought and laughed. An escort isn’t much more than meets the eye. So I chuckled for a moment then sealed the envelope to seal our future. And what a future it is to be.

Time passes so fast all the while moving so slow. Bureaucracy moves at a glacial pace but it is moving, however slow. That’s the important part, the momentum which I don’t want to lose. I have everything to gain from it staying in a constant movement with me steering it in any direction I see fit. I am the captain of this ship and have been since the very start.

I was given nothing to work with and I created someone out of the literal shit I was handed, but the many flaws I left in my creation are only ever visible to me. And everyone who’s ever constructed anything knows full well how to destroy it if it should come to that. I know the weak points and you can’t plug the holes I left, only I can do that.

But I enjoy having my creation somewhere near me, and I’d be devastated if it left the country. It stays close, doesn’t dare to leave, but masks it with a false sense of hope for a future that will never be. Your new home is my home. It is in my backyard you are staying, thinking you’re proving yourself. My methods maybe unorthodox but they work. Destiny.

I am no fool, I realize. It is all going according to plan, no deviations so far. No ventures outside the frame I set. My monster, the Adam of my labours, plays only in the designated area which I created for it. In my city, my home, never leaving. I created a toy for myself because I was bored, it in turn kept me occupied and therefore happy.

Oh baby, I’m a fool who thinks it’s cool to fall in love…

Campbell of Sweden

On motherhood…

The holiest of subjects. There are so many preconceptions about it. And I think every person who’s ever thought about having a child has an idea or a thought on how they want it to be, or how they think it will be. And every person who’s since had a child will attest to it being a vastly different experience.

One thing most parents have in common is the overwhelming feeling of love they feel for their child. Something no one is ever prepared for, because it cannot be compare to anything one has ever experienced before. And I only have the one child but I believe that even if you have more than one, every single child you have you get that same overwhelming, never-before-experienced feeling of love.

But the hardships are many. Some are spared, and those lucky few are exceptions to the rule. Most of us have babies that have some sort of difficulty – be it sleeping or eating. Those are the two most common ones, my empirical studies show. Of course there are people who have children who are sick and they really struggle, and are the true heroes who tirelessly fight to make the best out of a situation nobody ever wants their children to be in. But us regular parents, we mostly struggle with sleep and food.

I lucked out in the food department, at least this far. Erik eats like a large, healthy horse. But his sleeping is bad, it’s very bad. He has had one night where he slept a full four hours, in nine months. He doesn’t sleep much during the day 2-3 naps circa 20 minutes each while being continuously rocked. At night he scrapes together about 1.5 hours then eats and falls back asleep only to wake up in an hour again, and so on. After 2 AM I have to keep rocking him otherwise he will be wide awake and angry. For hours and hours.

This is the situation now.

It is so much better than it was a few months ago but far from good. Some nights I don’t sleep at all since he needs to be rocked. Every time a tooth is coming he just stops sleeping all together, he is exhausted and clingy he whines and screams nonstop but he just can’t fall asleep.

So I have learned a few tricks while being at home with him. Mom hacks, if you will.

I do my nails when he’s in the shower. That way I can keep a close look at him and interact with him while also getting to look less like a hobo. I use a dip-in remover so it doesn’t stink up the place, then I file down the nails for a more clean look. After that I soak the hands in warm water and baby oil (that’s what I have on hand) and then file additionally if I see something I missed. I push back the cuticles, usually with a tool but these days it’s with my nails and then put some lotion on them to keep them moisturized.

I’ve tried the “Amazonian Saviour” from The Body Shop. And to be honest it is like a firmer version of Vaseline. I am really underwhelmed due to it drying out my hands. I later applied “Hand Repair” hand cream by Trind to actually moisturize my hands.

That process takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Usually by that point Erik is done splashing around, so it is perfectly synced. Painting the nails I can really ever do if someone is watching him. That I haven’t managed to hack yet.

However I am strongly considering getting a gel manicure set, just so that I can do a nail at a time and guarantee that it doesn’t smudge or smear. It is a bit pricy but I think it might be a good investment, because then I can do nail art without having it get ruined. Living alone with a baby that doesn’t sleep doesn’t leave any space for do-overs.

Nails and food have always been my two big hobbies. Two hobbies that eat up more time than you realize. And when you suddenly find yourself busy 24/7 you are forced to prioritize what’s important. As a parent you, and your wants, always take a back seat, so you have to learn to do what you can with what you have. New situations require new actions. So my nails are nude, for the most part. Some weeks I just can’t manage to squeeze in any upkeep, like filing, because Erik needs 150% of my time. Same goes for food.

On good days I can make simple dishes with Erik hanging onto me or climbing the stove or the dishwasher. Worry not, no area he can access is even remotely warm and I always have a splash guard so nothing splashes onto him. Dry brusselsprouts are not splash prone.

It is often said that one eats with the eye, so sometimes I try to plate my food nicely to make myself forget how simple the dish is.

This was a pepperoni sausage and wax bean casserole with some pasta and cheese.

Other days, when you’ve been up for 12 hours playing and only had two cups of coffee (how good is coffee tho) your eyes are not half as hungry as your stomach.

On those days you eat burger patties with cheese and butter fried beets with garlic. All drowned in Sriracha mayo. That was my breakfast, lunch and dinner today – all in one meal.

Erik has a fever, not a high one but a fever nevertheless so he hasn’t left my side all day and hasn’t slept for two nights straight.

And on days like these one just doesn’t prioritize eating, going to the bathroom or the fact that one has a herniated disc and sciatica. Pain is a French word for bread, which is the motto I live by. My pain is secondary, and any hobby I used to have is a thing of the past. Erik reigns supreme, in terms of getting my attention and time. And I can’t imagine a task more rewarding or fun. Because even though it’s quite painful and I’m exhausted, there are moments like these:

For a baby who is about as affectionate as his mother was when she was younger this is an unusual sight. But it is the biggest treat for the mom unit. Baby cuddles are quite amazing and I’m all but spoiled with them.

But about mom hacks, the best one so far is discovering that the grocery stores do home deliveries. In a small town like this where there is only one pizza place that does deliveries, and that costs as much as two overpriced pizzas (I shit you not!) discovering that I can get fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to my doorstep has been a lifesaver for me. Also I don’t have to carry all those bags. They have Erik’s formula and all the food he likes.

My other lifesaver – 3 AM coffee.

Campbell of Sweden

Knowing the price of everything but never the value of anything…

I think a lot of people, when they have kids especially, lose their minds a bit. It’s inevitable, really, as we get older we usually start making more money and can afford the things we wanted while still working our way up. Of course there are exceptions, the ones who grew up with money whose only struggle in life was to choose between their two favorite colors of any brand name bag they were eyeing at the time.

But for the most part we all sit and look up interior decoration ideas online, watch shows that inspire us and motivate us to make our homes more cozy. What we rarely realize while watching these shows is the amount of money that is thrown onto that project. Most of us have a finite amount of money and if we were to decorate our homes the way that media thinks we should we would be indebted for life. A nice vase for $5000 on a cute antique table worth $150000. It’s a pleasure decorating this home, the interior designer says. No prices are ever mentioned, of course, and it was all a bargain at some auction. And auctions are for the most part public, so I check the prices because I’m curious about what kind of a bargaing we’re talking about.

A bargain to me is something I get for less than my monthly income. A vase for $5000 is, to me, not a bargain and it sure isn’t a steal – as it was referred to in this particular show.

I look over at my IKEA couch and can’t help but wonder what the designers would say about it. How they would laugh and think “by God this place simply cannot be fixed up”.

I read a lot about interior design, it fascinates me – the combinations and the many styles that add up to one coherent look. But lately I have been kind of bored. Every interior designer does the very same thing, in Sweden anyway. It can be summed up with one word: KLONG.

I can’t remember if it was the “Äng/Meadow” vase or the “Gloria” candlestick holder that made its way into everyone’s home first, but it is everywhere. Paired up with the SKULTUNA candle holder “Feather” and/or “Celestial” preferably on a tray with some other knick knack that’s dictated by ELLE HOME.

I grew more and more weary of seeing the same decor in home after home. Page after page of the same items placed in different locations around the house. It got tiresome, that déjà vu of the same color schemes and items that were losing their charm with every turn of the page. MISSONI on every pillow and towel, the boring and boho- friendly zigzag pattern. A round SVENSKT TENN vase with the seasonal bouquet, on a Bruno Mathsson piece of furniture.

So I started wondering if the children’s areas were any better. Maybe I could get ideas for Erik’s play areas if I took a gander at what there was out there. And that’s when it hit me, when I opened page after page of white. A sea of white and gray, of aesthetically pleasing children’s toys in unison colors that all just blended into the crisp white walls.

What kind of a hell is this, I thought to myself. What happened to uniqueness, to ideas outside of the boring magazine frame. Is no one their own anymore? Sheeple.

It seems that to fit in you need to blend well with the wall, stay under the radar or go batshit and be above the radar. But maybe I’m dramatic for no reason, the middle is always scrutinized. I refuse the damn Svenskt Tenn bullshit, the seventies were stylistically fucked up if you ask me. I hate the color schemes, the patterns and the quirkiness that has now been reshaped to fit a more mainstream look. It’s been toned down, washed out and boxed so that it fits your wallet but leaves no space for life.

I’m done watching clean children sit on hardwood floors, afraid to spill and make a mess. Children playing in ball pits that look like something from a Mario Bros nightmare. I’m protesting the clean, sleek look as much as I am protesting bringing back the old crap we threw out and promised to never take back in. You keep your GANT satin sheets, I’m putting the cheapest ones from IKEA on. Granted the bottom sheet is satin, here too, but that’s because my mother made our bed (due to a herniated disc and sciatica).

I am done trying to look like one of the Stepford Wives. I am not you and honestly, neither is about 75% of you. You can keep your catalogue homes and your botoxed, filler- faces with those sun feather eyelashes and gel nails paired with hair extensions and any Gucci/Louis Vuitton- bag. I’m done. And terrified.

I need a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and maybe a ton of chocolate. I need to step outside of this situation and decide the direction I want to take our home in. But I promise you one thing, and one thing alone – it won’t look like something out of a magazine. It won’t be a museum, in stead it will be a home for me and my whale of a boy. Nothing else would ever do.

Look at him happily resting in cheap sheets.

Campbell of Sweden

Some ideas…

Having a baby suddenly made me look at things differently, much like it does for most people. But for me it was a matter of learning to accept that second hand things are not the enemy.

I was living by a quote from the mayor in Spin City, an episode where they were talking about buying antiques and he said “Why would I buy old things, I’m rich – I can afford new things”. And that was my life motto, I can afford new things. But life changed suddenly for me and my finances were depleted by somebody who was promising to pay me back but who in turn just vanished. But it is often said that one should never lend anyone anything they can’t afford to lose. So I was left with the realization that in order for me to be able to give Erik everything, that I thought he should have, I had to change the way I think and shop.

So I scoured the web for good buy and sell groups, I kept an eye on sales and had to reevaluate what was important. Clothes I didn’t want to buy second hand, and I still don’t. Anything that has to do with food (plates, utensils, bottles and such) is also a matter of not buying from others. But toys, and interior decorations – that was a free market.

Some of his favorite things were given away for free or for very little money. Something I am vastly grateful for. But it’s not just a matter of financial gain, it is also very good for the environment to not throw things out as soon as the kids stop playing with them.

In hindsight I’m happy I didn’t spend tons of money on Erik’s crib, he hates sleeping away from me. I think I actually got it for free. These days it acts like a couch in one of his play areas. I’ve bought a bunch of pillows that were on sale in different stores to create a bit of dynamics or life because it is way more fun for a baby to have different fabrics and prints that are more visually stimulating than a unison clean look, which of course is more aesthetically pleasing to the adult eye. But his area is an area full of life and color, textures and sounds. It is not adjusted to suit an adult, but a place where he can make any type of mess he wants and nobody can frown upon it.

I can’t wait to watch him grow up and really get to explore all the different things that he has.

A friend found a table and two chairs that somebody was giving away for free. Their kids had drawn all over the set and it looks really well used. So come spring and/or summer I will be sanding them down and giving them a fresh coat of paint. I will also draw some roads on the table top and maybe also on the seats of the chairs so that Erik can drive his cars all over that map.

And as I was writing that I realized that I wanted to do a specific thing, I wanted to put down a wax cloth on said table top depicting a roadmap, rather than to draw it on so I checked and found one I think will be perfect. I ended up ordering it even tho the delivery cost more than the cloth itself. But it is phthalate free and safe for kids so I figured why not.

This is what it looks like and I think it will be a fun addition to his play area. The chairs I was thinking of painting green to match the ones he already has.

But for all I know I might change my mind about their color too. They, too, could do with a fresh coat of paint.

I can’t wait for my herniated disc and sciatica to heal up so I can properly start doing things around the house. First up is Erik’s Stokke Trip Trap chair. Well, actually, first up is a castling. Livingroom and bedroom are going back to where they initially were.

Fun times ahead. No idea where this blog post went. But I guess you guys have gotten used to the lack of cohesion in my texts by now.

Campbell of Sweden

Food and inspiration

I’ve noticed that the tiny whale prefers food items that don’t contain any meat. I still feed him everything but there is a clear preference. I myself keep noticing that I too am moving away from all the meat I dislike, like poultry and pork. I’ve never liked poultry and pork is only ever good when it’s straight from the barbecue. So I’m currently in the process of eating what’s left in the freezer and won’t be restocking the meat drawer for a while. I like beans and I do like red meats so that will be the staples for my protein intake.

As for Le Pudge, he cannot deal with beans so he will continue eating a well rounded diet until his little stomach can process foods that are a bit heavy and then he himself can choose what he eats and doesn’t eat.

This isn’t a declaration of vegetarianism, but rather a note for myself to remember that as an adult I do not have to eat eggs when I find them utterly disgusting. I do not have to force myself to try to like chicken when I haven’t done it ever in my 32 years of eating.

I need to learn even more about veggie based protein so that my diet doesn’t end up lacking a basic part. But no, I am not giving up seafood, fish or red meat. A nice steak beats most things in terms of flavor and overall food experience, if you ask me. But the other stuff, the white meat, I will leave for those who appreciate it.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that beetroot may be a food of the gods. A rekindled flame. Now to learn everything there is to know about food pairing, but I fear everything might be good with le beets.

That dish might be the start of a revolution in this home. Too much goodness on one plate.

Campbell of Sweden

Teething, a hell of its own.

Some kids go through it without too much whining and pain whilst others go through hell. But as it’s often been said, if you’re going through hell – keep going. So we do.

Mr Pudgy the whale is having a shitty time teething, which translates to even worse days and nights for the mother unit. He’s whining nonstop and clinging onto me as if I’m somehow the cure. I’m not and he knows it but he keeps hoping that being on me while screaming might make things better. And who knows, maybe it does on some level. 

I’m sure you can tell, just by looking, that the pictures above are from his nap time. It’s obvious to see that he has no interest in sleeping, be it day or night. And most people will testify to less sleep during teething but for a child with a severe sleeping disorder this is devastating. Or rather it is that to his mother. His usually incrimental sleep has become even more incrimental and some nights even nonexistent which means no sleep for the mom either. And it’s one thing to not sleep a night and then catch up on your sleep later but after a series of some three nights where the boy has slept a grand total of an hour you are not human anymore.

So a few days ago I had a total breakdown. I spent all night crying along with Erik, wondering how I would pull through. But dawn came and I could see a bit clearer. So I packed up some stuff and took Erik into Stockholm. He slept for two consecutive hours, waking a bit here and there but fell back asleep when rocked.

I obvoiusly didn’t get any sleep but I had some retail therapy. Buying myself a dress, two sweaters and a ring. I also met up with my best friend and had both dinner and fika, while at it. Because if we had stayed at home I might have just spontaneously combusted.

Life as a single parent is hard, especially when your child has a sleeping disorder and there is no money coming in. It’s extra hard when his absetnee father doesn’t sign over custody on you so you’re locked into a place where you can’t even put the child in queue for a spot in a kindergarten. It’s a stressful situation knowing you have the full responsibility but absolutely no rights. But I’m hoping things will change in that arena, soon. I reached out to the boy’s father to sign over custody, today, in bopes that he might do the right thing for once. I have no hopes whatsoever that he will do what’s best for my child but one can always try.

In the meantime I do all I can and then some to ensure that my baby boy has all he could ever want or need. Even with a tremendous lack of sleep, a constant headache and enough stress to kill a normal human being I still trot on. Why? Because I love life. I love living, and each new day brings with it something positive. Something new and worthwhile. My boy is growing, sitting himself up like a pro and getting onto his stomach from a seated position. He’s full of energy and life, and if that doesn’t get you through the day then nothing will.

It is my will to live, my love for life that has gotten me through all the bad stuff. And in the end there is but one thing that controls how you respond to whatever is going on in your life – you and your perception. Change your outlook on life and you’ll realize that you are in fact living in the best of times.

If all else fails get yourself a new dress and a ring. Or whatever makes you equally excited.

But all that shopping aside, waking up to a view like this. Or going for a drive, making Erik laugh, trying new foods, talking to a loved one. Those are the real motivators. All else is gravy.

This. This is what heaven looks like: a happy and healthy boy who has everything he needs. Content. That is absolute heaven to me. All worries just melt away, all tiredness goes out the window. He is my love, my life – my boy.
Campbell of Sweden

Heaven

I don’t believe in life after death, that idea has never appealed to me. But I lie here in the dark listening to him breathe and watch him move his pudgy little legs and even pudgier tiny feetsies and I wonder how anyone can think that there is a place better than that.

If there was a heaven that’s what it would look like for me: a quiet Friday night before Christmas with my tiny boy sleeping safely and soundly. His little body sprawled out in my bed, that he’s made his.

How can anyone think that there is a better place anywhere else? God is in the details, I’ve heard. Well then God, you’ve outdone yourself with this boy.

And I rest my weary soul knowing that I have seen heaven, and it’s absolutely fantastic.

Ms. Campbell

A thought crosses my mind…

As I sit in bed, in this dark room, with the rain falling onto the window ledges I can’t help but feel a bit blessed. My boy is asleep again after having a snack, just a moment ago. But this thought just keeps gnawing at me.

How can you leave a child? Regardless of circumstances, regardless of feelings towards the other parent – how can you live with yourself knowing you’ve abandoned a child? Or several, as it were.

It makes no sense to me how a person can just leave something so innocent and pristine as a baby. In my world that cannot be done by a human. A human has feelings and values. They have dignity. Abandoning a child requires something else. Something no decent man or woman ever could or would do or be.

But you know what they say, if you go slumming you’re only going to get what they scrape off of the bottom of the barrel. And so it is.

But my boy sleeps soundly to the sound of the pouring rain, and I sit here in the darkness just listening to him breathing. If that’s not a slice of heaven, then I don’t know what is.

Ms. Campbell

Sleep when the baby sleeps, and other stories…

My boy doesn’t sleep. I mean he does but for about 15-20 minutes at a time, and then he’s up for hours. He’s been this way for as long as he’s been alive. If he’s to sleep any longer than 15-20 minutes I have to keep him on my legs, in his baby nest, and continuously rock him. If I stop rocking him he wakes up in a rage.

He’s fallen asleep on his own once, it took 2,5 hours of screaming and playing and everything one can think of, but he fell asleep without me having to rock him. It was something I celebrated. That was a short lived victory, because he kept waking up and not going down and since that night he doesn’t sleep past 2 AM.

Yesterday he was tired after having thrown up a lot and slept for two hours straight. I was so proud and I did two loads of laundry and all the dishes, I tidied up and painted my nails. I also did something I never thought I’d get to do again: I sat down at the kitchen table and had toast and coffee without having to rush or worry about Erik losing his little mind. It was magnificent, and for the first time since before his arrival I had a hot cup of coffee.

It’s hard to grasp if you’ve never been in that situation. Most parents have to deal with certain situations at times but my boy is a high needs baby (HNB). A HNB is a baby that neither can nor will entertain itself, it needs all your attention at all times or it will throw fits of rage. Erik is a demanding, strong and angry little man. He has more personality than most grown ups I’ve met but he’s damn near impossible sometimes.

The worst part is the sleep, still. I can manage having him on me at all times, not leaving his side for more than a minute at a time. I can take the rage fits, the kicking and screaming. I can live with him refusing to go in the car and the stroller, that’s all manageable- but the sleep deprivation. It’s kicking my butt up and down the street.

Some nights I only get an hour. Some nights I get less. He wakes up at least once an hour, wanting to be rocked back to sleep. Wanting a bit of bobo (bottle). And if the rocking stops – so does the sleeping. So, in order for him to get some sleep I need give up mine. That would be fine if it wasn’t going on for so long, or if I had any help. But alas we are alone. And it’s slowly, but surely breaking me down.

So what’s the point I’m trying to make? When someone says sleep when the baby sleeps I just want to strangle them slowly with the sound of Erik screaming as if he’s being tortured because that’s the soundtrack of my life currently. Whenever I try to put him down for a nap he screams bloody murder. It’s awful and I wish only to get 2 consecutive hours of sleep so I can deal with the commentary from mothers “who know how it is to have a baby”.

Oy vey!

Ms. Campbell