Friday, January 30, 2009

Returning to work, or working two jobs

Four weeks ago, when asked how I felt about my imminent return to work, I replied that I was actually looking forward to it. Two of the major reasons I quoted were that "I would get to enjoy a good cup of tea in relative peace" and "the hour-long commute each way would give me time to myself to think, close my eyes, and just be." Now, nearing the end of the first month of 2009, things feel so different to the way they were just 4 weeks ago: Blake goes to sleep easily and generally doesn't stir until morning, which gives me a full night's sleep. He's also just that much older so that he can play more easily without Mom's assistance, making trips to the kitchen for my cup of tea or coffee much less of an issue. I actually have time during the day that is my own, although generally I spend too much of that time on the computer, and not enough on housework or tackling the long list of things on the scrap piece of paper that serves as my "To Do" list. And so, today, on the last day of my year-long maternity leave, I can say that although I am looking forward to going back to work, I am not exactly looking forward to going into the office on Monday. Does that sound contradictory? Let me explain. For at least 16 years of my life, I've had a job (if you count babysitting - which I do! - my number of years in employment is much higher). I like the idea of being part of a team, contributing positively to a common goal, at least occasionally feeling proud of an accomplishment, success, or output. Practically speaking, I like getting paid. I think of myself as a "Do'er." For many months of Blake's first year, I would muddle through the day in a fog, shuttling us from one cafe to the next, meeting new friends and swapping tales of feeding struggles, poo consistency, and when to start worrying about the next milestone that was on its way. I generally stayed on top of our laundry (with which I have held a lifelong battle), but that's about it in the housework department. At the end of most days, I would look back on the previous 18 hours and wonder in exhaustion and befuddled amazement how I could have spent the whole day without a tangible accomplishment. Now, as I am about to return to a job that most of my family and friends, if asked, probably wouldn't be able to describe very well (likewise, I couldn't probably tell you what about 75% of my friends do - "something in Government", "something in consulting"...ah, the 21st century!), I realize that my accomplishments of the past year are in fact, though not that numerous, still the most important of my life: I fed, clothed, and bathed my son; I kept him healthy and generally out of harm's way; I tried to do everything I could to give him a foundation on which to grow, develop, and learn; I laughed, sang and played with him, and loved him with every extra ounce of energy I had remaining from these activities. I envy my friends who are not returning to an office, to the corporate world of wishy-washy jargon and political correctness - they'll get to continue focusing on the full-time, all-important task of raising a child, they won't have to worry about getting up early enough to get 3 people to 3 different destinations by 9:00 am at the latest (relying solely on London's public transportation system), and they'll get to continue to doing the "fun" things that have made up my weekly schedule for the past 11 months. I'm nervous about finding something to wear into the office, looking and acting presentable, and doing my 2 jobs equally well. Despite all my nerves and fears, although I'm sure I'll miss Blake, I know I've been extremely lucky to have been given this much time off from work (I imagine that some of my friends in the US reading this will consider this a huge understatement) and I hope I can enjoy re-discovering the me that existed before he arrived. I hope that I'll return to my job with a new perspective on the things that are important in life and in work. This route is the one we've chosen for the moment, and I just have to cross my fingers and wish for the best. If it doesn't work out, there's always babysitting...

Here's a pic from my first day in my new job in 2008. I think surely I'll manage to look a little better on Monday!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Just a pic

Following some rather verbose posts from me, here's just a picture of Blake in the bath tonight. 5th tooth should be coming any day now...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

8 years

I only realized it last night, but it was 8 years ago yesterday that I arrived in the UK. I was living with Cindy Bellefeuille in Boston, and I had to pack up all my stuff (or as much of it as I could - I hope she would tell me if she's still got junk of mine in some storage warehouse somewhere that she's paying rent on...Cindy?) within the space of about 12 hours (I worked until 6:00 pm on Friday, which was the day before my flight at 9:00 am on Saturday). I didn't really have enough stuff to make getting a true moving agency worth it, so instead I loaded up every suitcase I owned, and a few that I'd acquired that week, and paid American Airlines something like $250 in excess baggage fees. Probably the cheapest international move my company had ever seen. I think I stayed up pretty much most of the night trying to get packed, and one of the last things I did was put a huge box of unwanted clothes on the sidewalk hoping that someone might find something they liked. I don't hold out much hope that anyone did, but anyway...I think I also put an old battered armchair out on the street too (I'd inherited this from Lela and LT, so I also hope it found a good home as I vaguely remember its being very sentimental to LT).
After the day flight to Heathrow, I arrived hoping to pick up keys to the company apartment where I was to be staying for 3 months while I "found my feet". Instead I arrived at my office, a place I'd never been before, to find that there were no keys to be found. I happened to have the name and number of a hotel near the office (although this was purely luck, I didn't have a contingency plan) and fortunately they had a room, where I stayed for 2 nights, wondering what the hell I was doing and wondering if Monday would be too early to tell them I wanted to move back! Eight years later here I am. I wouldn't have thought that would be the case in a million years...but life works in mysterious ways.

25 Things

There's a current phenom in the current phenom of Facebook which I'll call 25 Things. It involves setting up a list in which you detail 25 thing about yourself: facts, wishes, likes, characteristics....the list is your oyster kind of thing.
I came up with mine over the course of today (haven't done much editing) and if you have a spare half hour (or longer, as was my case), give it a go. It's an interesting, and introspective, exercise.

1. I have a signature song: Like a Prayer. Dancing to it at my wedding is probably one of the top 3 highlights of my life.
2. Having my son, Blake, is also in the top 3, and marrying Matt is the other one. I guess I would have to say that these two are tied for first-place!
3. At college I spent a lot of time in the computer center called Kiewit, where I would pull all-nighters trying to write papers and drink liters of whatever my favourite caffeinated drink of choice was at the time. I turned quite a few things in late with the excuse that I “needed a bit more time because I wanted to make sure what I was turning in was of a good-enough quality to merit the professor’s reading it.” It worked on far too many occasions.
4. Whenever I hear the question about who would you meet if you could meet anyone living or dead, I used to think it would be Madonna, but now I would probably choose to meet my dad’s parents or Matt’s father.
5. I often wonder if procrastination will ever be clinically classed as a disease; if so, I have it and would love to find out that there might be treatment.
6. I love writing notes: birthday cards, thank-you notes, greeting cards, anything really that involves putting a nice pen to nice paper and then sending that out into the world to hopefully make someone’s day. I have always longed to have a stationery business like my friend Lela, but sadly I can’t seem to find the energy, enthusiasm, or gumption to make it happen.
7. I have lived in London for the past 8 years. Sometimes when I think about it, it seems bizarre that I’ve ended up here; generally it feels perfectly natural.
8. I HATE shopping for clothes. I find it to be tiring, soul-destroying, and expensive, and I therefore do it as infrequently as possible. The problem is that this reluctance to shop means I generally don’t like my wardrobe very much because I don’t have enough of the right clothes. If anyone knows if there are ways to cure this phobia, please let me know.
9. I love devising an itinerary for a trip – researching the flights and trying to get the best deals, reading reviews on Trip Advisor to pick a hotel, clicking the “Reserve” button...I’m always a bit nervous that I’ve accidentally put in the wrong dates but it’s exciting too.
10. One of the worst things I’ve ever convinced my parents to buy for me was my first car, a grey Chrysler LeBaron. It was an absolute junker of a car but it was the best-looking one we saw that we could afford. There was a point during the summer after my freshman year of college where I was convinced the brakes weren’t working as I drove to work at the Holiday Inn (banquet staff: classy!). It was pretty scary.
11. The times when I’ve been most scared are when I was on a plane going from Washington DC to Boston (sometime after 9/11) and the plane was struck by lightning over Providence, Rhode Island. I did think that something had exploded within the plane and that we were going down. It was petrifying. Leaving Matt holding Blake after B was born while I was being whisked off to the operating room was, however, the scariest time of my life. The thought had never crossed my mind that either me or the baby wouldn’t be just fine.
12. I don’t understand people who can watch just whatever is on tv. I generally only watch tv if there is a specific series on that I follow (e.g. Desperate Housewives), or most any sporting competition.
13. I find writing letters of complaint deeply satisfying. One of the best ever was the letter that Amy Feldmann and I wrote to Rolling Rock our Senior year at Dartmouth; we drank the entire case of beer before we decided it wasn’t quite right. We loaded up the empty bottles in the cardboard case, took it to Foodstop and asked for our money back, but they told us we had to would have to complain directly to Rolling Rock. We did and got a coupon for free beer.
14. I played rugby for 4 years in college. I find this hard to believe now that I’m older, since I’m terrified of getting my teeth knocked out. I had a root canal done when I was living in France. The anesthesia didn’t really work so I felt it all.
15. There are a few songs which, when they come through the speakers, really set my heart alight: "Sweet Home Alabama", "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Country Roads" are the ones I can think of at the moment.
16. I’ve held a personal boycott of McDonald’s for several years now after reading the book Fast Food Nation. When I was little, I would only eat the hamburgers absolutely plain (only burger and bun), but now I don’t even allow myself that! As Nessa on my new favourite show Gavin and Stacey says, “I won’t lie to you..” but I’ve often longed for a Big Mac and fries and have somehow stayed strong and not succumbed to the urge.
17. I know it sounds corny, but if I could somehow do something so that every single person on the earth were happy, I would do it. Pain and suffering suck and I wish nobody had to go through life with anything but happiness.
18. I tore my anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee in autumn of 1996. I had surgery and now my “bad” knee is my “good” knee!
19. As you may have realized, I have a very verbose writing style. I find it hard to make edits.
20. I don’t know from whom I got it, but I am a stickler for good grammar.
21. I harbour a wish that someday I will write a novel. Given my tendency to procrastinate and my lack of A Story, it is kind of unlikely that this dream will ever become a reality.
22. When I think about losing any members of my family, I feel a physical pain in my chest. (whenever I read about someone “loosing” something or someone, I also feel slightly sick, but for a different reason – see # 20)
23. I hope my friends and family know that I would do anything – I repeat, anything – for them.
24. Growing up I absolutely loved with all my heart the following: Duran Duran, TeenBeat magazine, University of North Carolina basketball, Kirk Cameron, Christopher Atkins (Sue Ellen’s pool boy from the show Dallas – I’ve stood on that diving board!; and companion to Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon), my Executioner skateboard, Transformers, Air Jordan hightops (the black and red ones), Salisbury steak tv dinners. My parents gave me a wonderful childhood.
25. In the previous 24 items I have only mentioned Matt and Blake twice each, but my world revolves around them and I love them more than I can put into words.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Missed opportunities

I have always liked the saying, "Better late than never." This is probably because I graduated magna cum laude from the School of Procrastination and therefore do a lot of things late, whether it be mailing a card or package, thanking someone for something, or arriving at my destination. With a lot of things, timing really is everything, and something that could be so on the money when it is on time loses a bit if it arrives well after the moment has passed.
So it is a bit right now, as I realize I missed a glorious opportunity to celebrate our and Lin's successes with Blake's nocturnal changes. If ever there was a song that I should have been thinking of on the morning of Thursday, January 8, this is it. I hope you'll enjoy it as much now as you might have done then.

Robbie Burns...haggis, whisky (or whiskey), and s apostrophe s

In writing my Mice, Men and Milk of Magnesia post, I did think to include another little coincidence surrounding the timing of my thoughts of the "best-laid plans" line that ran through my head yesterday. As it was late and I wasn't feeling at my most eloquent, I decided to leave it out, and then regretted that decision upon receiving an email this morning from my good friend, the writer, mother and DwL reader, Mel Tibbs. Mel let me know I had missed the chance to make a link to the 250th anniversary of the birthday of the Scottish writer Robert Burns, which was on Sunday, and the fact that the line from Of Mice and Men actually came from Burns's poem To a Mouse (full text can be found here: I do like it when little things like that so happen in the world to make me feel that thoughts, actions, and events are linked in some way, even if coincidental.
I did indeed take Blake into nursery today, and this served as a reminder that I needed to clarify a bit of grammar that had for some reason eluded me recently - the question of whether our last name can be left as Lyons' (with just an apostrophe) or whether it should be Lyons's (with an apostrophe s) - as in "Blake Lyons's nappy rash". It has just come up again as I wrote "Burns's poem", so I had to investigate. I think this site gives me the best explanation, although I did find a site which was called Grammar Monster, which I really liked.
I think, though, that if we were talking about our plural possession, it would be something like the Lyonses' spare time. I think that's enough musing on this topic as I am sure I am supposed to be working on other tasks as I write!!

Trial Run, Day 2

In our future routine that begins next week, Tuesdays should see Matt taking Blake off to nursery around 7:30, so that Blake can dine on his morning Weetabix there and so that Matt and I can both try to be ready for the working world by 9:00. As I write it is 8:18, and Matt headed off about 45 minutes ago as planned. Blake is, however, still asleep! I decided this morning to wait to see how his diaper was before phoning the nursery to see whether I should bring him or not. Let's hope it's of the "snags" from yesterday was that I had to put on a maternity top for lack of anything else clean to wear. I was able to get all my work trousers when we were in NC at Christmas but we ran out of time for me to get shirts/tops. One of the things on my long to-do list for this week was to shop for shirts - but this involves Blake actually being at nursery!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mice, men, and Milk of Magnesia

I actually have very few memories of high school. Hickory High School is not the most architecturally appealing specimen of its kind, with some pretty awful primary-colored hallways, drab grey lockers, and floors the color of wet sand at the beach (this is what I remember, at least). Most of my memories are not of "hanging out" during the time between classes, or before or after school in the parking lot, or of proms or dances; instead they mainly center around the hours spent in the classroom and then the ones that followed on the sports field. My Senior English class was one of my favorites, taught by Kay Overcash, a woman who instilled in me the love of and attention to correct grammar. Every time I see Eats, Shoots and Leaves I think of her. I do remember its being in that class that we read John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. I like Steinbeck: perhaps because of my own mother's links to the Midwest, or perhaps for his simple but effective depictions of a life that I could perhaps never imagine for myself, I'm not sure. At any rate, you may be wondering where this is going (and if I were only a better writer, you might not have to wonder!!).
This morning was supposed to be the first day of our "Trial Run" week, preparing ourselves for the difficult (but not insurmountably so!) transition to my return to work and Blake's fall from being the Lord of the Leighton Gardens Manor from sun-up til sun-down. I set my alarm for 6:45 and eventually managed to get out of bed at 7:05 ( is still practice after all!). Getting Blake out of his room at 7:30 was about the last thing that went with the practice plan, as once I changed him out of his pj's we had to make the call not to take him to nursery since he had a bottom the color of a cinnamon jelly bean, and these things once flared up don't tend to go away within the blink of an eye. A quick call to Lin confirmed that it would be best to keep him home if we could, and she prescribed a home-made remedy of 2 capfuls of Milk of Magnesia in warm water and then wiped on his bum. This later caused confusion because when I went to go get the Milk of Magnesia at the pharmacy, I couldn't quite remember if that's what she'd said, and I think I started to get confused with the word "magnesia" and decided that I possibly had "amnesia". The pharmacist had certainly never heard of this remedy.
Anyway, if you're a regular reader, you may have been expecting a post earlier in the day, about how I spent my first day of temporary freedom, but instead I was actually tending to Blake for most of the day. His 2nd tooth on the top left definitely seems to be ready to poke on through, so it could be that. Or it could be that he has a cold, or that he has a stomach bug. It's just so impossible to know with these little people! And so it was that I spent much of the day being reminded of my Senior year English class as I kept quoting to myself, "The best-laid plans of mice and men/often go awry."

Friday, January 23, 2009

But first....

Anyone who is a regular on Facebook will have seen the latest craze emerge in people's Profile Pictures: Obamicon'ing your photos!

You can get your own done at

What will they think of next?

Meditations on the state of the kitchen

The latest installment of our NW and S/SE London Book Club saw us reading a novella by a Canadian author called All My Friends are Superheroes. Tom, the book's protagonist, has been put under a spell that makes him invisible to his wife, a "superhero" known as The Perfectionist, and he has only a short plane ride to somehow convince her to see him. It is cute and quirky, sometimes corny and overdone, a short love story interspersed with brief descriptions of wacky but normal superheroes whose familiarity resonates with the reader (e.g. THE COUCH SURFER: Empowered with the ability to sustain life and limb without a job, steady companion, or permanent place of residence, the Couch Surfer can be found roaming from couch to couch of friends' apartments all across the city). In our discussion on the book, Becks, the leader, of course asked the question, "What would your superhero name be?" as well as "What would you like your superhero quality to be?" I said mine were The Note Writer (for my obsessive-compulsive habits related to stationery and correspondence), and the one I would like to be - Cosmetically Attentive Girl. [My usage of makeup is definitely going to have to increase in the coming weeks as I go back to work, but generally, I just also wish I were a bit handier with the ol' eyeliner and foundation...]
Chris (whose idea it was to form the book club, and who is therefore acting Chairman), described his current superhero quality as "Blank Mind Man", which I have been thinking a lot about since he told us about this amazing ability of his. Evidently years ago on a school trip to a meditation center, he learned how to basically clear his mind of any thought, helpful for when he needs to get to sleep, block out worries, etc. I've been thinking about how what a wonderful skill that could be and wonder if I should think more about meditation, or find out how to learn the ability to get to that calm and stress-free state of mind.
This morning I got Blake down to the nursery at 9:15, and he cried before we even got through the door, and was crying when I left. I decided that with a week to go before needing to fit into work clothes, I would forego a trip to Lisboa Patisserie and instead have come home ready to occupy my mind with doing a deep clean of the flat. I will be starting with the kitchen, where the remnants of too many of Blake's meals linger in the nooks and crannies. Too bad my superhero quality isn't an ability to snap my fingers and have a sparkly clean kitchen! Next best would definitely be the ability to block out any thoughts of my little boy bawling his eyes out as he saw me going out the door...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First big day at nursery!, what's that annoying noise?! Oh, it's the alarm!! Right, moving into action - Blake's first real day at nursery!
Last night I headed down to Sainsbury's at about 9:00 pm to get all the needed supplies for nursery life - formula, Weetabix, brand-new bibs and cups. It reminded me of times when my own mother would go out late in the evening on errands- when I got old enough I would watch down the road for the lights of her car, hoping that she would be the next person to drive down the street. I imagine that she must have felt what I felt last night - grateful for a brief moment alone to think and run through events of the day, but also on a mission to buy supplies, groceries, stuff for school (for her classes or for me). At least late in the evening things are less busy so that I was able to get in and out of the store in about half an hour.
This morning came all too soon for my body clock now accustomed to a lot more unbroken sleep! Blake had his bottle and breakfast as quickly as I could get them down him, and I managed to dress him with him crawling only into the next room.
It just so happened that Blake's undershirt from last night was his Dartmouth t-shirt. Hopefully a good sign in terms of the years and years of schooling he has ahead!
I just phoned the nursery and they say he's fine. I've been pleasantly surprised that I haven't even really felt tearful today; must have got it all out on Monday! I hope that he, and President Obama, are enjoying their first days!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day, and Day 2 of nursery

Thanks to our friend Heidi, Blake has the perfect shirt to wear today in celebration of President Obama's Inauguration. He made it rather difficult for me to get a good shot of it but here's hoping he'll be a good "Lil' Democrat" (not sure if he'd be more likely to be Lib Dem or Labour here?).

Day 2 of nursery was better, for me at least! It's 2:00 pm and I've yet to shed any tears today; I actually wonder if I am too exhausted to do so? I keep reflecting on the last couple of weeks, and how emotionally draining they've been, and I also keep thinking about the next 3 weeks, and worrying about how they're going to be equally if not more exhausting!

I don't think she reads this blog but happy birthday to my good Hickory friend Kathryn Coulter Jones. I forgot to wish Dartmouth friend Mona a happy birthday yesterday but I don't think she reads this blog either! Still, DwL wishes you both the happiest of days...

Monday, January 19, 2009

One note to the "End of an era" post

I forgot to write initially about what song was going through my head as I gave Blake lunch...not sure how it got there but it was "Where do Broken Hearts Go?" by Whitney Houston. I'm hoping that I feel a little less broken-hearted tomorrow!

The end of an era

This is the way the receptionist at Blake's new nursery, herself a mother, put it to me: "It's the end of an era. Of course you're going to be sad."
I'll start with the good news: We were on time! I had hoped to leave at 9:30 and of course we didn't, but we came fairly close - 9:40. This is something we're going to need to work on. We got the bus down to Ladbroke Grove and it seemed fairly easy. Another good piece of news was that they were still expecting us! I suddenly had the thought on the way down that I'd made up that today was the day.
We went through to the baby room and met two of the carers there, Lisa and Georgina. There were only 3 other babies there today and Blake seemed interested in the new toys while I stressed over my lack of labels for his bottle, cup and clothes! After 5 minutes it was clear Blake was fine, so Matt and I left and went to the office to discuss logistics and to cover any questions (I had several). I was feeling ok despite having gotten a bit teary on the bus ride down. With our questions answered, we went off to get a coffee. We went to Lisboa Patisserie on Golborne Road, home of delicious Portugese custard tarts that I love. Somewhere between a sip of latte and a bite of tart, I lost it and started crying quite hard. My little baby, alone in there without me! (obviously, he's not alone...) What if he can't handle it? What if he gets hurt? What if he misses me? Was this the best choice for him? Matt reminded me that Blake is not the most fragile of babies, and that he would be fine. The crying was messing up the flavor of the tart so I reeled it in a bit, but started up again later on the walk back. When we went in to get Blake after an hour, he was with Georgina looking at an abacus and holding a breadstick; he seemed pretty content. It wasn't until he saw us that he started crying. He'll be fine, I'm sure.
After the bus ride home, it was time for an early lunch as we shifted on to a different schedule today to try to get in line with the nursery's schedule. In between feeding Blake bites of tuna pasta, I really started crying, fully processing all the time I'm going not to be with him. He got a funny look on his face as he noticed my huge crocodile tears, and he then just giggled! Evidently seeing his mother an inconsolable wreck was quite funny! Of course this cheered me up a bit but it's a really physical thing that comes over me when I think about it, and it's not easily contained.

Of course Blake is going to be fine. As I've always said, I think my going back to work will be good for me, and it will be good for him to be around other babies. I've been incredibly lucky to be able to take a year off work. And today, none of these things had changed, but suddenly, we'd reached the day that was going to come eventually, whether now or in 4 years when he would have to go off to school. Sitting in front of him while he was in his highchair, however, he seemed so young still. I questioned whether it was too early to send him to nursery - should we have sent him to a childminder? should I have looked into getting a nanny? No, no, and no. Matt and I both agreed from the beginning that we thought nursery was best for us all, so it's not that that is the issue. The issue is that the little person who was once physically a part of me, is now growing up, and will now be apart from me for even longer stretches of the day. And it hurts. Pass the Kleenex please, it's going to be a tricky couple of weeks.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another post related to Blake's reaction to gadgets

The butterflies of the first day of school!

This time last year, I was fretting about a nursery: the one that Baby Lyons would sleep in. Did it seem loving, peaceful and fun? Would it stimulate the baby during all the times we would spend in there playing, learning, and enjoying time together? Would it calm the baby before naptimes and bedtime, being a haven of serenity for both mother and baby? The answer in reality is that it's been Blake's bedroom. We haven't spent all that much time in there, and much of the time I've spent in there with him has been in full or nearly-full darkness, so that I couldn't admire the sage green mirror I carefully and lovingly painted, or the Babar hot air balloon print I had framed with such satisfaction....although I often remark to myself that despite still liking the rug, it could really do with being vacuumed more often!
Tonight, I'm fretting about a nursery, but this time it's the one that Blake will go to for an hour tomorrow morning, for the first of two "settling-in" sessions he'll have before starting full-time on Wednesday! Will they feed him, change him, give him a sip of water if he seems thirsty? The answer should be yes. Will they care for him, teach him, entertain him, tolerate him? Hopefully yes. Will they love him as much as Matt and I do? It'd be nice to say yes, but that would be impossible. In the latest installment of "Our Baby Grows Up", I'm sure tomorrow is going to be harder on me than on Blake. I just hope I can keep tears to a minimum.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lunchgate standoff, Day 2

Like any good militia-man, Blake felt the need for camouflage as the "Lunchgate standoff" entered its second day. He even sacrificed several bites of his beloved avocado to smear it on as warpaint, and Lunch-bo Lyons was born. From the front line, he writes to our editor:

I was up before dawn, eager to gather intelligence about what lay ahead for the day. Nobody else stirred when I shouted out so I went back for a few more minutes of kip. When the woman came in to get me, I noticed she'd put that stuff around her eyes so my spirits lifted as that meant we would probably be leaving base camp later to meet some allies. Gruel for breakfast was mediocre but I found some happiness in several bites of oranges. We did indeed head out into the damp morning, down to the park and the warmth of the cafe. My good friend Alice was there so we exchanged tales from the trenches while the women babbled on about messy eating, naps, and equipment. You would think they would just get over it and move on, but no. Alice had run out of whiskey but she spared me a cheese curl which was the best thing I've ever tasted. Back to camp where I indulged the woman by falling asleep in my cot for a bit, but I couldn't let her get too smug so I made lunch a bit difficult for her. Got to keep her guessing, you know. She then seemed to go a bit funny, pointing at herself and saying over and over, "Mama, mama." I do hope she's ok. Then we had free time. I got my hands on some high-tech gadgetry but after some programming and manipulation, the only thing that happened was a very loud noise came out of the silver box. After that the woman grabbed the manipulating device and the screen went black. I was a bit confused by the next series of events - the woman speaking in some undecipherable code: "Red square, the triangle is green, blue circle." Huh? She kept trying to fit these pieces into a plastic cylinder with its lid on, but I showed her that it was all much easier if you just took the lid off. She does often tend to take the hard route. Anyway, had a quick drink of milk and then it was back into the cot. I'll be on guard but if I do get tired, I hope nobody will mind if I do nod off for a bit...

Yesterday's "mealtimes"

Following the posts yesterday about Blake's resistance to mealtimes, here is a photo of what he looked like after what should have been dinner. It reminds me of a toddler's version of paintball...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Control, or the lack of it

Earlier this morning while Blake had a short nap, I started to write this post. Here is what I wrote:

In a previous post, I used the term "Sleep Improvement Program" to describe what we are doing with Lin, the baby whisperer. I now realize I should use the term "Life Improvement Program"!

I didn't get to finish writing, because Blake woke up and it was his lunchtime. But basically, you might surmise from that start, things are going well with his sleep and routine (last night, down at 6:00 pm, woke once in the night but not sure when because I went right back to sleep, and then awake at 8:15 this morning!).
The subject of this blog is now going to be about how you really just don't know what's around the corner, or going to happen in the next minute, hour, day, month...and how it's often totally out of our hands.
So Blake had a lovely little sleep this morning and I got him up for lunch. One of the things that has been great since we started working with Lin is that his appetite has been amazing - he has been eating tons (and as Matt says, because he's hardly doing anything but eating and being in his cot, he must be putting on weight because he's not expending any energy...a bit of an exaggeration on the activities front since he does get some time out of his cot to play, but with some truth to it. Let's just say Blake has seemed really healthy recently, which is nice!).
Back to the story, he went into his highchair and out comes a beautiful freshly-prepared meal: cubes of steamed butternut squash, parsnip and apple mash, along with one of his favorites, avocado. If this were a movie, the soundtrack would now include that dramatic sound of a record scratching, because he then proceeded to either spit everything out, smack the bowls out of my hand sending the food flying onto the floor and my jeans, or make windshield-wiper sweeping motions across the tray spraying the remaining food particles all over the floor and into the deepest darkest cracks of the kitchen. I then resorted to a jar of some spaghetti type stuff, which was mildly more successful for about 3 bites. Oh yes, the drink cup was tipped all over the place too - liquid was included in this boycott.
Finally, I managed to get a yogurt down him (if he'd refused that I might have been really worried, as he is nearly usually ready to lick the container clean), and he then scurried off to play one of his 3 electric pianos, perfectly happy it seemed.
During all this, the only thing I could think of was how tiring it was, and this on a full night's sleep!
At any rate, he's gone back for his afternoon nap now, and I guess my point is, isn't it funny how quickly things can change. I went from feeling this morning like a totally rested, organized mother to feeling like I had no control over anything. And I can imagine that this feeling might come more often as that willful little boy gets more rest and therefore has more energy to express himself!

Monday, January 12, 2009

An interesting conundrum

All quiet on the NW London front...leaving me to ask the question, "What do I write about for this blog?!?"
I guess I'm going to have to come up with something to write about other than sleep deprivation, but in the meantime here is a photo from Christmas - Blake with his favorite toy, a car from the Disney Cars movie with realistic-sounding revving noises and the phrase that we heard almost hourly for two weeks: "Wanna race? Piston Cup - here I come!"
His walker with blocks just doesn't have the same flair!

Friday, January 09, 2009

No longer a "P" Plate!

It was one year ago that I passed my driving test, so I am no longer considered a "Provisional" driver.
If you want to reread the experience, here it is:

It's always nice when it's Friday

The below contains an ER spoiler

Whether you go into an office or not, there's something very nice about waking up and realizing it's Friday. For one thing, that's our rubbish and recycling day so I love the cathartic nature of putting out the recycling on Thursday night, to have it all swept away by the next morning. Of course it's also nice to think that the weekend is so very close, and this week especially I know that tomorrow and Sunday are going to be sweet.
One of the aspects of this week's program has been that Blake has been going to sleep by 6:00 pm at the latest, and then being left pretty much til about 8:15-8:30 am in his cot. Sadly for Matt, this has meant little to no time with Blake this week. Lin has assured me this is temporary, and I have in turn assured Matt that he will get to see Blake eventually (I've also reminded Matt that he has not been missing much of anything pleasant in the daytime!). So tomorrow will be nice. By the way, I clarified with Lin that she thinks of herself more as a "baby whisperer" than "SuperNanny", and based on her intuition and the fact that everything is indeed working just as she said it would, I trust whatever she says!
Oh, you're probably wondering about how the sleep went last night...? I thought you might be! Blake went down about 6:00 pm, woke for 10 minutes at 10:45 pm but then went back to sleep, and then with some only minimal wakings at 1:27, 2:02, 5:22, and 6:33, he then went on until 7:45 this morning. Most comforting for me was the fact that this morning he has been so sweet and cute, playing like his usual self but also just generally seeming very happy and pleased to be getting more sleep. Never thought I'd say it....
I actually feel a lot better today too. Last night was a bit of an exercise about the perils of tv when combined with an emotional basketcase viewer: first off I cried during the coverage of the conflict in Gaza during the Channel 4 news. I lodged my first-ever complaint with Ofcom, the television watchdog, because despite the images they showed being deeply disturbing (Israeli soldiers prevented ambulances getting through to a bombed house where children were found starving next to their dead mothers), there was no warning before the segment that viewers might find the images upsetting. The worst thing was that for the next news piece - about England naming Andrew Strauss as cricket captain - they did warn that the report contained flash photography! I understand they have to do that for photosensitive epileptics, but they really failed in my opinion on the Gaza report. I've since looked at the Broadcasting Code and Channel 4 probably didn't need to give any verbal warning, but I think other channels do so I may just start watching the news elsewhere (or, not at all - ignorance is bliss).
Anyway, in its 15th season, this is ER's final series, and having enjoyed it over the years, I decided I would in fact watch the opening episode. Perhaps I should have taped it and watched it when I was less emotional, because in the episode Dr. Pratt dies, and this just basically tore me apart. I was sobbing on the couch! Matt had to come in from the bedroom to see what was going on and console me; poor guy, I don't know that he'll ever understand how I can be so sensitive when watching tv shows!
With some slightly puffy eyes this morning, I have treated myself to putting on some makeup as we might get to go out a bit later to see some of our friends. Blake is now asleep for his morning nap (I typed that with an expression of disbelief, joy, and relief on my face) and Lin has called to say she won't disturb us til a little before 12:00 in case I want to get some rest too.
Lin told me yesterday that a mother of a 16-month-old had just started with her yesterday, so I'm very sorry for them all that they won't get much of a weekend. I will certainly be thanking Lin for what look to be a couple of really happy days ahead for us.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Glorious naps

I had one this afternoon while Blake was in for his - wow, it felt so wonderful!
I'm signing off for the day, dear readers, but let's hope for another night as good as last night's. Lin predicts it so I hope she's right!

Our new Christmas gadget

We got a Flip video camera for Christmas, hoping that it would make it easier to take quick, short videos of Blake's activities. I'm just trying to figure out how to work the downloads at the moment so this is an experiment.

The restorative power of sleep - or the energizing effect of progress?!

Yesterday at about 7:30 pm, I closed my eyes and could almost picture an evening routine that once seemed unimaginable: Blake going down easily to sleep, staying that way until he was renewed and restored - both mentally and physically - the next morning, and this part was still a little fuzzy, but definitely there on the horizon: Matt and I being able to occasionally - not very often even - but occasionally, go out for dinner or a movie and not worry that if Blake woke up, someone wouldn't be able to get him to go back to sleep. Under Lin's guidance (I'm trying to question less, and just go with it more, seeing as she hasn't yet been wrong about anything; bizarrely even sometimes predicting to the ounce how much milk Blake will have at either the morning, midday or evening feed!), Blake actually did sleep some in the afternoon, but at 4:30 I gently went into his room where he woke up and was very happy to see me. After dinner - Blake chowed down on broccoli cheese and pasta - we played a little and then it was time for his bath, books, and a bottle. There was a slight moment of panic when he spit up milk all down my shirt - but even I knew before talking to Lin that this was nothing to worry about - he'd just taken too much milk (Mom: this was definitely the situation; he is not ill and did not seem upset by this little spit-up). At 5:45 pm he was in his room, at 7:00 we heard a slight stirring but nothing too prolonged, and then I didn't hear any further peeps until 5:47 this morning!!! He then cried for a little while and then went back to sleep until about 7:30.
As you're reading this, you may be doing calculations in your head and wondering to yourself if that is too much sleep. I, and Matt, have of course asked this question too, but we are in "catch-up" mode according to Lin and once we get things sorted then Blake will tell us how much sleep he needs and will do that accordingly.
Starting Day 4 of the program, I actually felt rather exhausted, as I've sometimes experienced when I get more sleep after not having enough for a while. I'm also wondering whether a skincare company is about to knock on the door to see if they can photograph me as a case study of the effects of stress on your skin - I'm blotchy and spotty and generally looking less than beautiful!
So keep us in your thoughts as we persevere with the program. I'll now be off to clean the tv screen which I noticed in this photo is looking a little scummy with tiny handprints.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The wonder of Lin

Well, she said we'd see progress every day, but today is really remarkable!
I gave Blake lunch, we went out for a quick walk, and then we came home for a bottle and then down into his cot for naptime. Would you believe that he has actually been asleep for over half an hour now, which is better than we'd hoped for!!!
Amazed, I really am....

Day 3 and it seems quieter 'round these parts

Day 3 with the SuperNanny broke, with once again my waking up before Blake! I had kept a little pad beside my bed to record the wake-up times (2:02, 4:55 and 6:00), but again we did not have to actually get out of bed to do anything before Blake put himself back to sleep. Could it be that true progress is being achieved?!
Having woken up at 7:30, Blake is now down for a nap, which over the past two days did not actually even involve any real sleeping that I could detect. I think today he has at least slept for various intervals since he went into his cot. I hardly dare wonder again, are we getting somewhere?! I think we just might be...!!
Last night there were a few tears as I continued to worry about him, but then I also had a realization about another reason I might be a bit sad at the whole thing: he is growing up, and this is an exercise at teaching him independence. Since the very early sleepless days, I've had lots of people tell me that the sleep problems will pass and I will forget how tiring it is to get broken sleep, and that one day he'll be all grown up and it will be impossible to remember this phase which is really short-lived in the grand scheme of things. My little baby will always be my little baby, but I guess this week is one where he's learning that his mother loves him very much and wants him to be able to do things for himself. Not the easiest of lessons but important nonetheless.

Here is a photo from the end of Day 2 so that Granny Karla can be reassured we're ok...


I've been thinking a lot over the past couple days about memory: what we remember, what we forget, when our earliest memories are. It actually started even before the Sleep Improvement Program, when I was trying to recall what I'd done for the Millenium New Year's. With all the hype about that hugely important date, I couldn't actually place where I'd been or what I'd done.
I have been in the habit for a while of keeping all my yearly day-planners, so I had a quick rummage around in my "box of sentimental stuff" (some readers may know exactly what I mean by know the box of "stuff" that you can't throw away that holds things like concert ticket stubs, notes, the bottle cap that you wanted to save for a reason but now can't remember what it's from, etc. Matt hates these boxes of mine - ok, I have several - but as a sentimental person I can't get rid of them!). I could remember all my NYE's since I moved to London, but the couple of years preceding were missing from my mind. I found a couple of old planners and was able to add 2 more years to my memory bank. So here's a question: for how many New Year's Eves can you remember what you did?
Mine were (if you were there and need to correct me please do!):
2008-2009: Home watching tv, London
2007-2008: Hogmenay party at Chris and Anna's
2006-2007: Home cooking and using various wedding cutlery and crockery, London
2005-2006: Borderline, London (then extremely long night bus trip to get home)
2004-2005: Party at Chris and Anna's [nb: when I looked at the photos afterwards I realized that I'd worn the same red top for New Year's Eve the year before...!! Argh!!! Gives you some insight into the depth of my wardrobe as well as my memory]
2003-2004: Westbourne Studios, London
2002-2003: Bond fancy dress party at Will and Raina's
2001-2002: think it was a party at Claire Suggitt Hines' house in Surrey Quays
2000-2001: can't remember! May have been in NC
1999-2000: think it was a Bond party on Cape Cod with Cindy B. and her friends

Anyway, just thought I'd get it down so that in 2, 5, or 10 years when I can't remember, there will be a record.
And now I'll return to worrying that next week some journal of health will release the results of a study that finds there will be soon be ways to remember your early days of infancy and toddler-hood (which has been one thing that's made the controlled crying easier - people reminding me that Blake won't remember any of it!)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Interesting debate

DwL readers in the UK will probably have heard of the controversial babycare expert Gina Ford. Ford's book, The Contented Little Baby, is a bestseller but many parents find her techniques too regimented and dictatorial.
I stumbled across this article and two quotes made me smile (as they seem to reiterate how divisive the approach to dealing with routines is!):

I haven't read any of her stuff myself, but as far as I can see, taking childcare advice from a non-parent is like taking driving lessons from a non-driver.

Regarding the charge that Gina Ford has no children of her own... well, really, most doctors haven't had cancer. Does that mean they can't treat it?

A few Christmas photos in the meantime

We need to organize the photos from Christmas but here are three of the cutest!

Day 2 with the SuperNanny

I have never actually watched much of the show The SuperNanny, but I guess what we are doing is more like that than what is implied by "Baby Whisperer". Last night was pretty decent, with several wake-ups, but each time Blake was able to put himself back to sleep (I prefer to think that that is what he was doing, as opposed to passing out again from exhaustion). My brain was in so much pain from thinking, questioning, wondering, hypothesizing, etc that I had to go to bed at 10:00. The good news was that I did not have to physically get out of bed until 7:15 a.m.! (Matt briefly checked on Blake around 11:45 p.m. but Blake went back to sleep within 20 minutes).
So, progress!?
I think today I'm going to use my time in the kitchen rather than being on the computer, but keep us in your thoughts! I feel a good night's sleep-and day's for Blake- is just around the corner but I must stay strong!

Monday, January 05, 2009

His orthodontist will thank me

So I've concluded that the biggest cause of distress is the lack of the dummy/pacifier. We avoided sleep in the highchair at least. We are now into our second naptime and the poor boy must be exhausted, but as Matt said, Blake is stubborn like his Mommy. If ever I am the leader of a country I think I will declare January 5th as a public holiday, the Day of Tough Love. That is how I am going to remember today...

Sweaty palms, shortness of breath, dry mouth...fortunately it's just me feeling that

Day 1 with the baby whisperer has arrived. We seem to be on to something good with our own progress using the Ferber approach. Naptimes are still not very successful, and Blake ended up falling asleep in his lunch yesterday. The afternoon nap didn't work either, so it was a fairly early bedtime last night, but he then did fall asleep within only 1 visit and managed to sleep through until 4:10 a.m. I then went to give him a pat and he was back asleep by 4:40. The big surprise was that he then slept til 8:00! But this was by the by, really, since I already knew a bit of what lay in store for today. Today we would start working with Lin Elderkin, who has been a nanny and maternity nurse for over 25 years. 6 years ago she started offering a phone service and has helped up to 11 children a week, ranging in age from birth to 3 years. Two local mothers I know have used Lin to get their children into good sleeping habits so Matt and I decided that it was worth a shot. If it didn't work, or we didn't feel it was right, then we could always stop. Lin, however, was convinced that we wouldn't look back.
After breakfast Blake and I played but at 9:30 and then again at 9:45 I saw some yawning so at 9:50 a.m. Blake was back into his sleep sack for a nap. Having spoken to Lin earlier in the morning, I knew that the plan was to leave Blake in his cot until 12:00 p.m., going to check him at increasingly longer intervals. Fortunately I am already familiar with the routine or it might be too much for me to take in terms of listening to her advice. A big component of her plan, which we didn't have the heart to do on our own, is to get rid of the dummy/pacifier. Blake loves his paci so the question was, How badly would he miss it? The first period of leaving him was for 10 minutes, and then the harder part which was a 20-minute wait. After a call from Lin where she listened to Blake and could assess his crying, the new instruction was to leave him til 11:00! Oh my God - that is sooo long!!! At 11:00 I am to go in and give him some water and a cuddle. At this point I felt my heartbeat increase, so I had to ask the question in a very weak voice: "And we're sure this isn't causing any damage?" Fortunately (I think!?) she laughed and said that he would likely smile and laugh once I picked him up (which I know to have been the case over the past couple of days) but that tonight was going to be much easier, and that the daytime naps would also improve. She said she didn't expect him to nap this morning but that we would see progress each day and that he will be very content at the end of it. I for one need to make sure I have a glass of water at hand as my mouth is dry and I am sweating at having to listen to him . I guess I must remind myself of the saying that sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind (although I'm also just hoping that it simply feels cruel to me, but isn't actually...).

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Don't give up, don't give in...and then the call to the baby whisperer

Given a lack of a babysitter, and perhaps more importantly a lack of anywhere compelling to go, we rang in the new year at home. Blake, never one to miss any of the action, disguised his normal bedtime as simply a nap and awoke at 11:00 p.m. to participate in the countdown to 2009 (and was then up until 1:00 a.m....certainly he won the award of having the most energy among the three of us). I was amused by a program called "Grumpy Old New Year's" where various middle-aged celebrities gave interviews about why they didn't like the particular date (commentaries on things like why fun has to be enforced on this particular night, why it's such a bad idea to go out and be surrounded by drunk strangers, how nobody actually knows the words to Auld Lang Syne, etc). Overall it was a very enjoyable evening.

The next day Blake trotted into our room and declared that his two resolutions for the new year were to get more exercise and to get more sleep - I certainly applauded the latter! (he didn't really trot into our room, nor is he yet speaking, but allow me my writer's imagination). Something about turning the page of the calendar turned over an emotion in me which was - definitively, we must solve this sleep issue. That night, I decided we would forego the usual routine of Blake falling asleep before we put him into his cot, seemingly the most critical step to getting a baby or child to fall asleep on his own [in case you have not explored this subject yet, or have never had to, or it's been several decades since you had any of these subjects on your mind, the theory is that if a child makes an association to getting to sleep (being held, rocked, fed, sung to), then when he wakes up alone in his own bed, he will instantly know that that was not the way he remembered things when he fell asleep, and will feel alarmed and call out for someone to come get him]. With Blake's now being 10 months old - well past the age of being able to sleep through the night - and perhaps more importantly with about a month to go before my return to work, I had decided it was time to take action. [nb: in this narrative, if I use the pronoun I, unless otherwise stated, you should interpret that to include Matt in the decision-making; however, since I have been the primary waker I will use I].

You may have heard of something called the Ferber method, or "controlled crying", or even simply "Ferberizing", a method described by the children's sleep doctor Richard Ferber which is where you leave the child in their cot or bed, and leave the room for a certain period before going back in to reassure him that he is fine and that he can go to sleep on their own. Gradually you increase the length of time you are away from the child so that he knows that you're there, but not coming back for a while, and give ups and falls asleep. His name for it is the "progressive-waiting" approach. Apparently we all actually may wake several times in the night but realizing it's still night most adults go right back to sleep, and babies need to learn this skill as well. Advocates of the method say that because babies are quick learners, they quickly can forget how they used to go to sleep (being rocked, fed, etc), and that usually the child sleeps well within 4-7 nights. Opponents think it's cruel and can cause emotional trauma and that what a baby needs is love and comfort. I used to think I would never be able to let Blake cry, but I now felt differently and thought this was the best way to get all of us to have a good night's sleep.

We tried controlled crying on Thursday night, to pretty remarkable success, I thought. Although getting Blake to go to sleep initially was difficult (about an hour and a half of this), when he woke in the middle of the night I was able to get him to go back to sleep within half an hour. I thought, hey, we are on to something here! I did a little bit of internet research on Friday to make sure I knew what I was doing (then decided I didn't fully so went out and bought Ferber's book Solve your Child's Sleep Problem), bought a few bottles of wine to hand out to the neighbours as peace-keeping tokens, and was ready to go. We put Blake to sleep, and he expectedly cried, but I was distracting myself by playing MarioKart on the Wii until the next time I needed to go in. The phone rang, and I took the call giving instructions to Matt to go in at 8:11. I took the call (more on that later) and when I was done I passed by Blake's room to find Blake asleep in his cot with Matt holding his hand on Blake's chest - this is not technically allowed with the Ferber method! Various discussions ensued about whether our approach was too extreme, too drastic, but before going to sleep I said to Matt, "Don't give up, don't give in" to which he replied, "That sounds like a line out of a movie." Going to sleep, I felt confident that the sleep issues would be resolved within a couple of nights.

At 2:00 a.m. the call rang out; Blake was awake. I went in and found him standing in his cot, so I patted him and told him we love him, and left the room for 3 minutes. Lying on the couch while he cried in his room, I thought to myself, I can handle it, in fact, his crying isn't even bothering me. After 3 minutes, I went in and patted him, but was out within a minute or two for another wait, this time of 5 minutes. Still smug, I thought, I wonder why people even bother with earplugs or muzak or white noise. It's just a little crying. Back in for a quick pat and then out again for a now 10-minute wait. While Blake cried - on and off at this point - I mentally drafted this blog post and thought about how strong one had to be to make this work. I wondered how many people were at that very moment doing the same thing as I was, and were they being more or less successful? The cries from Blake's room had started to taper off but would come every now and then. Occasionally I decided he was actually asleep and nearly headed off to bed myself, but then a cry would emerge from the room and I would then have to ready myself for the next going-in. On the third time I went in I could see that he was exhausted, and that he was actually near enough to falling asleep while standing up in the corner of the cot. At this point I decided I would need to perform a manoeuver that I wasn't sure was allowed, but that Blake needed - I would "swoop" him from the standing position to lying down so that he could then just carry on sleeping. And it worked!...for about 2 seconds before he realized what had happened and then bolted upright to cry. Still, I stayed strong. 3:02-3:12, 3:14-3:24, 3:25-3:35, and on it went. Things were getting impossibly hard. I couldn't any longer just lie on the couch so I just stood and paced in the dark of the living room, biting my nails, wondering whether in fact the theories that this sort of deprivation of parent does cause long-term psychological damage were true. It can't, I told myself, if millions of people have done it. Is it actually millions of people?! What if he wakes up and he's not the same baby?! How can I stand this crying any longer?! I'm going in - no, I can't!! People said it was hard but this is hell! If he doesn't fall asleep after this round, I'm going in - no, I can't - that will confuse him even more!! Oh God, what do I do?! were just a few of the thoughts going through my mind. He was definitely falling asleep while standing up, and when I laid him down his arms seemed to be frozen in the position they'd been in while he'd been leaning on the cot - oh my God, is this not only going to cause emotional damage but physical trauma as well?! Please still love me tomorrow, sweetie!

At around 4:00 I broke down and decided to check whether he was in fact hungry. He took 4 ounces of the bottle but then pushed it away; ok - definitely not starving. At around 4:25 there was finally silence and I looked in to see him asleep, parallel to the end of the cot where he'd obviously finally succumbed and fallen, to sleep.

This morning we woke up (Matt revealed he'd been awake the whole time and that it was very hard to listen to), and decided to enlist the services of a maternity nurse who has been used by some friends of mine for helping their babies get into better routines and get them sleeping better (that was the call I took, and after speaking with her we decided we would sleep on it. The 2.5 hour window in which we were awake from 2:00-4:30 a.m. confirmed that it would be much easier with professional help; Matt making various analogies to DIY projects and why you get contractors, and our both realizing that we did not want to go through this all to only find out we weren't doing it right and needing to start all over or something helped seal the deal). We did controlled crying this evening, and it was hard, but we think we'll feel better knowing that we're doing things that have been proven to work. We start with our "baby whisperer" on this space.