Ellie at 1 🎂 8kg of human, 240kg of bananas

One incredible year of doing everything and nothing.

My baby girl is a year old! Where has that year gone? It’s such a cliché and it’s the one piece of advice that every parent tells you – it goes so fast, make the most of it. And it really does. People without kids often ask me what I’ve done on maternity leave with all my time off (🙄). I guess the answer is – everything and nothing.

Without a doubt, there have been adventures. We are extremely lucky to have travelled from our Berlin home to Canada, Portugal and Austria on holiday, as well as back and forth to the UK numerous times to visit Ellie’s grandparents, great grandparents, uncles and aunts. Ellie has experienced her first weddings, long hikes, giant brunches, museums and shopping malls. We have been to baby music, baby movement, and baby yoga classes, so she could gum on toys and swap saliva with other little ones.

But all that excitement represents just a fraction of our year. Mostly, we have stayed home, doing nothing much at all, just being silly, making memories, and barely noticing the days pass by so quickly.

I have chased Ellie in laps round our flat, her giggling at outcrawling mummy, while deftly manoeuvring the obstacle course of toys, teddies, clothes and tupperware strewn around the floor. (Tupperware features strongly in our year, as one of Ellie’s favourite things to play with. Lick. Bash. Stack. Fill and empty. The fun is endless.)

I have been a human climbing frame, as Ellie learned to wriggle, roll, slither, crawl and stand, while navigating mummy’s tummy, shoulder mountains and knee tunnels.

I have done eight thousand piles of laundry, teaching Ellie about colours and textures and playing peekaboo underneath different items of clothing. The double sheet is the best. She doesn’t quite understand mummy being a ghost yet, but she finds it hilarious when mummy is stuck underneath the sheet and takes ages to find her way out. All the while giving her a precious few unseen moments to plot her next mischief…

I have monitored Ellie’s unhealthy interest in the wine rack. I have laughed watching Ellie empty tissue boxes, one by one, and tried to convince her that pushing them back into the box is just as fun a game. No such luck. I have stacked and restacked the bookshelf and the recycling box multiple times a day, because they are such fun to explore. Ellie feels the different shapes and weights, turns the pages, open the boxes, and keeps mummy on her toes as she nibbles on the important papers. One drooled-on passport, one gnawed-on pin number, and piles and piles of loose magazine pages feels like a pretty good balance for so many hours of fun!

We have learned about all the different fruits in the fruit bowl. Different colours, textures, shapes. And then had to expedite their consumption as 4 apples, 2 bananas, a clementine and an avocado get dropped, splat, onto the floor.

I have learnt to cook with no salt, no stock cubes, no sugar. And then watched frustrated as Ellie turfs my creation happily onto the floor. Or angrily onto the floor. Or accidentally onto the floor. Or watched amazed as she gobbles it up and then eats some more and then some more. Same food, two different days, two different reactions. I have become creative with extended dinnertime menus of “baby food, three ways”: 1) lumpy – rejected, 2) pureed – rejected, 3) turned into pancakes – success!

I have cleaned the high chair. And the floor. And the walls, radiator, chairs, windows – anything that is within a two metre radius of where she eats. I have laughed as she watched me, on my hands and knees on the floor, while finding it hilarious to smear more food into my hair or add some extra lumps into mummy’s pick-up game.

I have spent hours with a beautiful limpet attached to my boob. Tits out in trains, planes and automobiles (while parked, obviously), parks, cafes, shops, even the occasional chilly street. Tits out while lying down, sitting straight, standing up, walking along. Tits out propped up on comfy cushions with a gently illuminated baby’s face and a book within reach. Tits out while perched uncomfortably, staring out into the darkness.

We have sung endless verses of the Grand Old Duke of York, Open Shut Them, Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes, Singular Sensation (not a typical baby classic, but a winner in our household) and danced around the living room to whatever’s on the radio, sometimes trying to recreate all the Royal Variety actions to Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn. (If we’re honest, the active nursery rhymes elicit more giggles from Ellie, but high-speed renditions of pop classics generate more giggles from mummy.)

The year has been a lot funnier than I ever imagined. But there have of course been tougher moments too.

I have felt guilty for toppling Ellie over while trying to blow her nose. (Sorry.) For lifting her up and banging her head on the doorframe. (Oops.) For being distracted by chores or my phone, instead of playing. For letting her eat the unidentified crumbs off the floor. For feeding her bread or rice cakes instead of more nutritious pacifiers. For taking too many photos. For not taking enough photos.

There have been some exhausting moments. Pacing the streets at full speed with Ellie in the pram, looking like a lunatic dancing in front of her with all the actions to I am the Music Man, to buy just a few more minutes to get home before Ellie explodes at being trapped in her pram and traipsed around the shops.

Or walking home from the supermarket with Ellie in the baby carrier, four heavy bags dangling off aching arms. How come baby’s first foods are all so heavy? Giant bags of apples, pears, bananas, pumpkins, potatoes, milk. Who needs a weight training class? And that’s not to mention the pram, which I have to carry down two flights of stairs as our flat doesn’t have a lift, before running back up to get Ellie, who is often less than thrilled at having been left behind.

There have been a few desperate moments. Home alone for the weekend when she decides to start waking up every 45 minutes through the night. Or 11 months into a sleep deprived year when she does not want to sleep at all. Or only in mummy’s arms.

I have rocked her, put her down, picked her up, put her down, picked her up, put her down, picked her up, as the verses of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” accidentally transition higher and higher (much to my musical husband’s amusement), my back burns, and finally, finally, she falls asleep. Actually, I have spent a lot of the year waiting for her to fall asleep, to treasure a cup of steaming hot coffee. Like now. She’s having an extra long nap, so I’m on my second cup. Bliss.

Amid a list of all the things we have been doing this year, there’s plenty that my amazing husband and I haven’t been doing, of course. Little things like sleeping. Drinking wine by the bottle. Going out to the theatre, cinema, or anywhere much. Eating uninterrupted hot dinners. Our lives have changed, for sure, but seeing Ellie transform is incredible. A year ago she was a helpless, tiny being. Now she can move around, feed herself and decide what she does and does not want. Vocally. (Her vocal cords were always pretty strong!) She now instigates the games we used to play. She will clap. Offer me food. Hide and play peekaboo. Pass me the ball. Create a beat with a shaker. Dance to the music. Brush my hair.

I feel so lucky to be a mum and privileged to have spent the year at home, watching my little girl grow and learn. It looks like next year is going to be just as much fun. And just as noisy.