Friday, February 27, 2009

Birthday fever

Tomorrow, February 28th, is Blake's first birthday. For the past couple of weeks, I've been constantly reminding myself of what I was doing on certain days last year. I don't know why, but I've always liked to remember things one year, two years, 5 years on...I guess it helps firm up certain events in my mind and I also like trying to evoke the feelings I was having at the time. So in a way, despite the fact that because of the nature of the Gregorian calendar today is actually the anniversary of the day before Blake arrived, I could think of today as the anniversary of my first full day - a Friday - with him. In the same way, on Tuesday night I said to Matt that it was a year ago we'd gone out to dinner at the Salusbury pub (he'd had ravioli which he'd only sometime this year revealed to me was frozen, but I still have fond memories of the meal, "our last meal out before the baby came"), and on Wednesday when I woke up I could remember pretty clearly waking up a year ago at 6:00 in the morning with the first signs of labor. Yesterday I couldn't shake the constant feeling that it was the Thursday a year ago that Blake arrived, and how it was still the hardest day of my life. Matt and Mom both have mentioned in the past week that they will not soon forget their feelings of that day.
Interestingly, I've had a similar set of emotions in my head today as I did one year ago (fortunately for a less dramatic reason!). If you'll recall, the events after Blake's arrival were pretty scary for me, and I can very easily conjure up the disappointment and sadness I felt about how difficult everything had been, so unlike anything I'd dreamed my labor would be like. No, it was not easy, and yes, it could have been easier, but the end result was a good one - a fantastic one! I'd survived the process of delivering a beautiful and healthy baby. Still, I can never change the events to be able to tell the story any differently, and I'll always wonder what things might have been like, how I would have felt differently about those first weeks of being a mother, had I had a much more easy delivery.
Fortunately, Blake by all accounts won't be able to remember his first birthday. Which I guess is the silver lining on the cloud that's brought in a fever and general malaise to my sweet little baby. I spent all day yesterday shopping, baking and cleaning in advance of the Big 0-1; today would start with a delivery of cupcakes to nursery, a half day of work for me, and then a return home for a party with Blake's little friends. Tomorrow would then be a family thing with further cake and lunch. When we woke up today, however, it was clear that Blake's just not 100%. He has a fever and has been coming to me for cuddles, which he almost never does if he's feeling well. Given the way these things seem to spread like wildfire among the kids, I had to quickly decide to stay at home with him and cancel this afternoon's party. And so, I guess I felt a little bit sorry for myself, and for him, that the first part of this big milestone date has so far fallen flat (unlike my 32 carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing, which seem to have come out perfectly!). In addition, instead of being able to superbly balance my job with the fun of the fun parts of being a mother, I had to phone in to say that today I would only have the ability to just be a mother. All the feelings of two weeks ago with the measles came rushing back, and I just have to hope that the majority of the people I work with are parents themselves, so that they can understand the way that I have no choice but to release my vice grip on being able to control things, and how hard it is to do that.
With Blake in his cot and hopefully sleeping off his illness, I'm left to ponder my plan for his celebrations. I had planned to bake him another cake for tomorrow, but with nearly 3 dozen cupcakes in the fridge it seems silly not to just use them (although this morning when I accepted the fact that I wasn't going to get to share them, I ate one - unfortunately I didn't think very well about which one to eat, and ate one with an "A" on it...so that now the set intended for his party reads "HAPPY BD Y BLAKE!"). On the bright side, with being here this morning we were able to go out and get him a present, which we hadn't yet done anything about! And as many have said, if he's going to be sick on his birthday, this is a good one, since he won't be able to look back on the day and remember any of the details, or be sad not to get to spend the afternoon with his friends. When I celebrated my own birthday back in July, I had a newfound appreciation of the fact that I think one's mother should actually be fêted on one's birthday, which is I guess why I felt so disappointed this morning. Given that our party's cancelled for this afternoon, and I'm actually on "vacation", I think I'll go have a nap to celebrate. Perhaps I'll stop by the kitchen on the way and have another cupcake.

Stay tuned for photos and updates; hopefully tomorrow we can celebrate the actual anniversary of Blake's birth with a much more chipper Blake to enjoy it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Helping "Squirrel" get home safely

We had a pretty low-key weekend, which was nice. I imagine that next weekend, with its being Blake's birthday, is going to be pretty busy, so it was nice to just take it easy. Chris and Anna came over today and Chris and Blake set a WORLD RECORD for block building - 22 blocks high and even then the tower didn't come instantly toppling down!
I knew there'd be no way I can stay up for the Oscars tonight, but the Lexi was showing Revolutionary Road so I asked Matt if he wouldn't mind my going to watch it. I used to watch a lots of films on my own before I met Matt; often when I tell people I did and do this, they think I'm a bit weird, but I actually enjoy it. Although the film was rather dark (a la American Beauty), it was nice to watch a film in the cinema and I thought both Kate and Leo put in great performances. At one point I remembered reading an article with Kate Winslet where she says that her daughter Mia once asked her why people were always taking photos of her Uncle Leo. That made me smile. The movie was also filmed in the Connecticut suburbs, not far from our place in Clinton, and I think a house in the distance on "Revolutionary Road" could have easily been the house where my dad grew up in Stamford, CT. It was probably actually in Darien but I'll have to make sure my parents have seen the film so I can hear what they think about it.
Little did I know, but the tears I shed at the end of the film were only the tip of my evening's emotional rollercoaster! (Have I mixed more metaphors? I think so...)
As I walked home, I happened to see a cat perched on a gate to the back garden outside #29 on our road. I walked past, remembered a flyer that had come through the door on Thursday, and then walked back a few steps. Yes, I think it might be! I thought. Unlike the usual mix of curry and pizza menus, this paper read Missing Cat and had a picture of a tabby wearing a blue collar. It said the cat was "very nervous," so as I stood about 5 feet away from this cat that bore a striking resemblance to my memory of the cat on the flyer, I myself was feeling pretty nervous. I tried "talking" to it and doing that thing where you pretend you have food between your fingers, but then realised that I wasn't actually going to know what to do if it came toward me. I quickly phoned Matt to see if the leaflet was in the recycling bin, but then my heart sank as I thought that it had probably made its way out with the Friday morning recycling purge. The thought of this literally made me want to cry. But no, he found it! He texted me the number so with shaking fingers I dialled the number. My phone told me it was tired - Low Battery - and yet again I was struck with woe as I considered my phone going dead so close to speaking to the cat's owner. Fortunately there was enough juice, and a lady answered. I identified myself and a few minutes later a girl was striding across the road into the area lit by the streetlight. I pointed to the cat, and she started calling its name. "Come here, Squirrel." Squirrel seemed pleased to see her and responded with some mewing. All of a sudden, I wondered if I should still be standing there. Was my being there making Squirrel more nervous?! I stayed where I was, and then in a flash, we saw Squirrel make a move over the back of the fence. Oh no, so close, and then the cat bolted! Fortunately, Squirrel was just finding a better path to come down off the gate, and she was quickly in the arms of her owner, who reported that Squirrel had been gone for a week and that their other cat was so despondent at Squirrel's disappearance that she'd stopped eating. I had pretty much started crying at this point, so happy to see the owner reunited with her cat and relieved that Squirrel was on her way back where she belonged. Squirrel's owner was also crying a little bit but I think I was crying more, which she probably thought was pretty strange. I was overwhelmed though with a whole range of emotions - how scared Squirrel must have been, how London could all of a sudden truly feel like a place where "small town" things can happen, how wonderful the feeling of finding something lost is, and utter relief and joy that events arranged themselves for me to help a lost cat find its home.
And now, with the pride and relief that I helped Squirrel the cat get home safely, I think I'll call it a night.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Happy Birthday to my mom



Friday is my mother's birthday, her first to be celebrated as "Granny Karla"! Now that I know how hard being a mother is, I sure am grateful for everything she's done for me over the years and hope the most special woman in my life has a very special birthday!

Here are some pics from Christmas of Blake and his Granny Karla.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Westfield, London's newest mall

Matt is enjoying a week off work, as he'll be starting a new job on Monday. It's actually an old job, or one he's had before, but I think he's looking forward to it. At any rate, today we had a weekday family outing to Westfield, London's newest shopping centre. It was very exciting from the moment we entered the parking area - each space has a red or green light above it letting you know if it's free or occupied (at first I just thought all the red lights were part of the color scheme, so it was only when we finally got to an area that had some free spaces that the penny dropped).

Inside, things were very nice. I hate shopping, so this was more of an "excursion" for me than a trip to actually buy anything. We wandered around a bit but then settled on spending most of our time at the food court, where we got "Vietnamese street food" at upmarket London shopping mall prices. I also expended an insane amount of energy on dragging a high chair (which looked like a childsize version of something NASA created for a moon flight) about 50 feet; it weighed a ton. Still, it was fun. Blake enjoyed reading a book while ruining the intimate conversation of the two women who looked dismayed when we asked if the table next to them was free.




After lunch we went on to explore the posh part, called "The Boutique" - it had very fancy chandeliers and this interesting display.

1 hour and 57 minutes after entering the parking area, we were paying £3.90 for the privilege (fortunately we didn't stay 3 minutes more or it would have been £5.90!). A pretty good outing, but I'm not sure I'll be rushing back.

The joy of blogging

I've missed my blog these past few days. Life just seemed to take over, and I had no time or energy to come home, turn on the computer, and write. I also didn't seem to have much interesting to write about, but I guess by now my loyal audience knows not to expect much in the way of interesting content!
So, anyway, here I am. The good news on the homefront is that Blake is doing just fine and seems totally over whatever it was that he caught (I haven't had the test results back, but I will be surprised if it wasn't measles). He went back to nursery yesterday and they reported that he seemed more settled than before he was away! I guess he perhaps appreciated anew the fact that he was with other kids and doing fun things all day? Or he was just relieved to get out of the flat and out from under the repressive presence of Mommy and Daddy?! Anyway, that was definitely a result. I've also felt more settled at work this week; being in the office has made me feel much more connected to my job. Apart from some annoying commutes, things are going well. Today was Thursday, the day that I've affectionately called "the day I work my unpaid job." Blake and I went off to explore a new children's centre on Okehampton Road, a 5-minute walk from the flat. We met up with lots of our friends whom we had missed over the past couple of weeks! The place was really lovely, with brand-new toys and equipment, and they even passed out fruit to the kids which was a fantastic and unexpected treat. My friend Abby had brought a banana for her daughter Alice, and Blake and his friend Eva turned vultures when the banana came out. They had eaten oranges, kiwi and plum but decided they had to have more. It was hilarious!

The crowd gathers...


Alice thinks, "Hey, that was my banana!!"




Abby feels like she has a loaf of bread among a crowd of pigeons...Blake and Eva wonder if there is perhaps more hidden in Abby's pockets...



Could it be love, or are they just fighting over that last piece of plum?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!




We continued to lie low today, celebrating Valentine's Day by getting out the "Heartbreaker" hat that Granny Karla sent Blake. He didn't like it too much judging by how much time it stayed on his head. Still, it was cute. I hope he'll be less spotty in his teenage Valentine's Day celebrations than he was today! His rash is generally getting better though so that is really good news...

Friday, February 13, 2009

TGIF! TGIF! TGIF! TGIF! TGIF! TGIF!

Never can I remember being so happy to see the end of a week! After what has felt like an impossibly long 2nd week back at work, we reached the end of it with our bodies, minds, and senses of humor intact! Blake is looking so much better - his rash seems to be fading pretty quickly on his body and face, so maybe we'll find out that it wasn't measles after all. Mom reminded me that rubella comes from the Latin for "little red", so maybe it will be that, or maybe, neither of the two! He is definitely doing fine fine fine though, and even took an incredible sequence of about 4 or 5 mini steps that he was totally unaware of. He had two phones in his hand and was trying to get another one that I had in my hand about a foot away from where he was standing, so he just went for it before probably even realizing what he was doing. Won't be long now til he does understand the concept...
So, on this Friday evening, I am feeling relieved and grateful, exhausted and energized. We have weathered a slightly unpredictable course this week, but we made it through. Reading that line again, I'm sure I mixed some metaphors there, but I am not going to go look up what the actual phrases are! Happy Friday - have a great weekend, and let's hope that next week can please be a bit more normal!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 4 in quarantine


Man, today felt long! Blake is doing fine, although he is very bumpy all over. I just hope the spots go soon. We sent his saliva swab off for confirmation on whether he has measles or rubella, although the results won't be ready for 7-10 days, so it's really for record-keeping as opposed to being able to do anything for Blake specifically. Fortunately his eye stopped being yucky and he's generally pretty happy, although a bit bored of being inside all the time with only me to entertain him. I don't know that I've ever looked forward so much to a weekend.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I could have had a slightly easier re-entry into the working world...

It's been an interesting couple of weeks here at DwL headquarters. As you know, my first day back at work was a week and a half ago, on the day that London and parts of England received the biggest snowfall in 18 years. The knock-on effect was that last week, things didn't really seem "normal" since most people had been unable to get into the office on Monday, and then worked from home on Tuesday. I did my best to get settled in but it was a strange ol' week.

But who would have thought of the curveball we'd be thrown this week? After a lovely weekend in Faversham, Kent, visiting Michelle, Adam and Sam, we woke Blake up on Monday for nursery and found he had a bit of a rash on his back; we chalked it up to some new moisturisers we'd used in his bath on Sunday. I guess that was wishful thinking, because at about 11:00 that morning, the nursery phoned to say they'd taken Blake's temperature a few times, and that it was a bit high, and that he wasn't really "acting like himself". Fortunately Matt was able to take a half-day and go get him, while I stayed in the office and tried not to worry too much. When I got home that evening, Blake seemed cheery, but the rash that had been only on his back that morning had definitely spread to his face; his right eye also seemed to have conjunctivitis, not something he's ever had before. I went online and looked up several things that I thought might be the problem, namely measles and rubella (German measles). Some of the pictures looked a little like what Blake had, but his didn't seem as bad. Maybe I was just being a worried mother...

When we woke up on Tuesday, however, it was pretty clear that his rash was not good - and more than the previous day I thought, "Oh boy, this is definitely either measles or rubella." A quick trip to the doctor (avoiding the waiting room for the fear of spreading it) confirmed that it was either a "mild case of measles or rubella". We await a swab test today to confirm which it is. In the UK the standard age for the first of the MMR vaccinations is 13 months, so Blake was just about to have his (he will still have it, to protect him against the other two). The vaccination, however, is contentious due to bad press it received from a study that showed the MMR jab was linked to autism, so it seems that some parents do not have their children vaccinated. The US seems to have a stronger policy regarding children getting immunized.

The good news is that Blake has actually seemed pretty well, despite having a temperature, the rash looking awful, and his eye emitting the most unpleasant goop. We've been giving him Calpol and he's been sleeping pretty well (but not excessively, since I think drowsiness is something to be worried about). When the doctor gave me some literature on measles, he told me not to read the "Complications section" as it would just make me worry. Of course I did, and then wished I'd listened to his advice.

I was very fortunate that my work has been understanding and have told me to work from home if I can, but on Tuesday I felt like my head was going to explode from stress and exhaustion. I would have had enough to worry about had I just been concerned about Blake's health, but I also had to phone/email everyone we'd seen in the past week (of course the nursery had to know and I felt guilty that we may have brought it to anyone there, and we'd also been to a 1st birthday party on Sunday where there were quite a few people...if it's rubella, then the biggest risk is to an unvaccinated pregnant woman, but it's of course not always obvious who falls into this category, and it's also obviously wrong to assume that all children above 13 months will have had the MMR jab, so that when I thought it was a good thing that Blake was one of the younger ones at nursery, I realized that didn't necessarily mean that the older ones will be ok).

And so, getting back into work full-swing has been tricky. The main thing I'm hoping for is that sweet little Blake is ok, and that fingers crossed it hasn't spread to any of the other kids at nursery or our friends.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Blake in action!

Just a few short videos to set you on your way for the weekend. Could it be that first steps are in the not-so-distant future?! Can Blake differentiate between dancing and conducting an orchestra?? You be the judge...

video

video

Nonsense

I got an alert from Ticketmaster today that let me know Madonna tickets are going on sale on Friday, for a date in July in London. Ooooh! But no, after a little research, it turns out she is "extending" the Sticky & Sweet tour. Boring! What about a Greatest Hits tour, Madge?!?!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The heavy-hearted realization

It has been a strange first week back at work, to say the least. Monday began with London's transformation into a winter wonderland, snow having fallen throughout the night and still continuing throughout the day. I didn't even think about not going in, but with very few Tube lines running, I had to make a 25-minute walk or so before even getting on to the Bakerloo line at Queen's Park. It was such a beautiful start to the day - it was so peaceful and quiet as I made footprints through the park, and the snow, which was still falling in soft, chunky flakes, was so clean and fresh. The few people who were out smiled and said hello and I heard one woman telling someone on her mobile phone that it felt like Christmas Day. Fortunately Matt was able to stay at home since the staff at nursery weren't able to make it in, and Blake therefore had his first "snow day"!
At the office, there were only about 2 dozen people in, and the mood was light as people remarked on their journeys and generally didn't go about their normal business. This, too, felt like Christmas! Since more snow was predicted for the rest of the day, we were told we could leave any time really, and after managing to turn on my laptop, download 7000 emails, and arrange my desk, I decided that I should head home to my boys. By this point the park bore little resemblance to the peaceful scene of 7:30 that morning, as people had been out in it all day. I was so disappointed to have set off without my camera that morning, and reminded myself that the beauty of the first, freshly-fallen snow is so soon replaced by grit, ice and the most unpleasant color of trod-upon slush.

Tuesday I worked from home, but fortunately nursery was open so Blake went down for a pretty full day there. He is doing really well, although he still cries when we leave him; apparently he is already demonstrating an affection for all the fair-haired staff, has a keen envy of all the walkers, and is eating up a storm. Not too bad. He also has a funny interpretation of "kisses"; when I get there to pick him up he greets me with a big lick of my cheek - funny but a bit wet!
So, in fact, today felt like the first "normal" day for us all. I got in to work at about 8:30 and went about trying to figure out how to get caught up with things after a year away. I thought about Blake throughout the day, but not in a real pining-after him kind of way. I knew he'd be having fun at nursery so I didn't worry about him. My working day when I'm in the office ends at 4:30, so that I'll have plenty of time to navigate the Tube and get to nursery by 6:00 at the latest, so it was upon leaving the office that I started to have doubts about this whole back-to-work thing. I could just imagine that it looked to many like I was leaving early, and it only got worse as I arrived at the nursery and it kind of hit me quite hard that all of a sudden, Matt and I aren't really the people raising Blake for 4 out of 7 days a week. In my trade, some might say that I was "outsourcing" the raising of my child. I suddenly felt selfish, worried and inadequate - how am I ever going to be a stellar employee and perfect mother if my time at each of these jobs is not really full-time?! It seems that with everything related to becoming a parent, one only really knows what something is like or how it feels once it's happening (which is why reading books before having a baby isn't the same as reading them once the baby has arrived). All my hopes and positive outloook leading up to my return to work now just seem like a naive attempt to convince myself that I'm doing the right thing by going back to my job, when all of a sudden I just want to go back to the way things were! As my Mom often reassures me when I relay a problem to her (when she's not telling me that she thinks Beyonce is the most beautiful woman in the world), "This too shall pass." I'm sure I'm just feeling what every mother who returns to the working world must feel. I guess I'll just have to hope that, like the chaos brought to England on Monday by the biggest snowfall in 18 years, it is only temporary.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Oh my word!

I feel a bit like Punxsutawney Phil would feel if he were to see this upon leaving his burrow - I'd want to go back to sleep for 6 more weeks too...!


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy Groundhog Day!

Blake's grandfather's favorite holiday is not Christmas. It's not even Thanksgiving. It's Groundhog Day, which falls every year on the 2nd of February. A family of woodchucks, or groundhogs, led by patriarch "Johnny Chuck" resides in the barn at the back of our family's cottage in Clinton, Connecticut (see the house here on the Clinton Harbor Webcam; it's the white house, second from left), and all the Blakeys therefore have a soft spot for the animal made famous in the Bill Murray movie by the same name. The main Groundhog Day celebrations in the US take place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where a groundhog known as "Punxsutawney Phil" emerges from his deep winter hibernation. If he sees his shadow, he's therefore scared and goes back into his burrow for another 6 weeks of winter; if he doesn't see his shadow, spring is right around the corner. I remember one summer making a stop in Punxsutawney, PA - the place really does exist and the groundhog lives in a big window in the public library, if I remember correctly.
Interestingly enough, I've just learned that other places have Groundhog Day weather prediction events, including Charlotte, NC, about 45 minutes from Hickory, where I grew up. Their groundhog seems to be called "Queen Charlotte", also the name of the hospital where Blake was born here in London!
Anyway, to wish Grandpa John a happy Groundhog Day, we had a photo shoot with our very own "Johnny Chuck," courtesy of Aunt Nancy. You can see the all the photos here:
Groundhog Day photo shoot

Sunday night procrastination



Right now, I need to be getting ready for work tomorrow. Instead, I'm having a veritable blogging marathon and have arrived at my last post for the night, if not week! So, tonight is just like any other weekend Sunday, although we have the added complication for tomorrow morning that it is snowing like crazy at the moment. Here are some photos taken just a few minutes ago (that's our car with the vulgar snow drawing on it...who would do that?!...and no, I don't think it's supposed to be the Loch Ness monster...)
As I remember, London's transport system doesn't really cope well with normal Monday morning traffic, so tomorrow promises to be a nightmare! Just the way I hoped to ease myself back into it.
Unlike many years gone, I also really will need to go to bed and won't be watching Super Bowl XLIII (that's 43 if you struggle with math in a different language like I do). Hopefully I can at least catch the highlights of the halftime show somewhere online. I've actually had my fill of sporting events today having watched the Australian Open final this morning. Nadal sure is something, but my heart went out to Federer in the award ceremony. I found his raw display of emotion so sad, but also a bit fascinating. He's such an amazing competitor and can seem so cool and calculated, almost machine-like, in his matches; as a result I'm awed by just how human he is in defeat, unable to control his disappointment in public, and I don't mean that in a bad way really. I guess it's one of the things that makes me love sports - the way that someone who appears one moment to have ice in his veins can then not control a flood of hot tears when losing hurts so badly. And with that, I say goodnight. If my posting slows down in the next few days, bear with me. DwL may never resume the service you've grown accustomed to, but I won't forget to make updates!

Paella à la Pendsé


Although I have enjoyed many very good meals prepared by friends over the years, it is not that often that I am served something made in the kitchen of someone I know that tastes so good I can imagine eating it at a fine restaurant. Such was the case last night, when we were invited to dinner at Chris and Anna's and Chris served up the most amazing home-made paella, complete with fresh octopus, squid, mussels, chicken, chorizo and prawns (along with a little rice and chili). When we arrived at around 6:00 pm, things didn't look so promising. Chris greeted us with a question: "Do you know if you can eat the eyeballs of an octopus?" "Erm, not too sure...." (more importantly, would we want to?!). He did, in fact, have a whole octopus that he'd bought at his local fish shop, and much Googling ensued to determine which parts were edible and which were not. There was a lot of discussion about whether the octopus would need a lot of cooking or just a little, so that it didn't end up too chewy or tough. In the end, the group decided on the long cook, which turned out to be the right decision. It also emerged that this was in fact an experimental recipe, and in fact Chris was working from 2 different sets of instructions for making paella. Oh dear. Anna, Matt and I went into the lounge while Chris stayed in the kitchen slaving over the stove, and about two hours later, we were feasting on some of the best paella I've ever eaten: loads of morsels of delicious shellfish and meat, plenty of rice to soak up the succulent broth, and just the right amount of spicy kick provided by the chili. It was a fantastic meal, but definitely not an easy one. If you're wondering, I think the eyeballs got left out in the end...

How I spent my last day of leave

Friday went by far too quickly. My To Do list is still rather long (based on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I hope this simply means that nothing on it is urgent or important), but I did manage to do one or two enjoyable things mixed in with two activities that were less than pleasant. I started off at Kensal Rise's Gorgeous salon getting a cut and highlights. Under the heat machine with my head wrapped in tin foil, the newest copy of Marie Claire in my hands, for 20 minutes I felt like I had been swept away to some tropical destination. My cheeks grew rosy and like the lines on Courtney Cox Arquette's forehead after Botox (I was reading an interview with her), all my cares melted away. I chatted about this season of ER with the lady doing the highlights and compared notes on the last Madonna concert with the guy doing the cut. It was a nice way to start the day. Fun factor: 7
Then, my good mood was tested rather harshly by a visit to the dentist, where I had to have two fillings. After about forty minutes, I thought that I might have had lockjaw but I was feeling buoyed by a sense that the work was almost done. Sure enough, it was about that time when the dentist said, "Ok, that's the first one done." FIRST one?! Oh my god, that took forever! The second one was easier, but still...an hour and twenty minutes in the dentist's chair was not exactly my idea of fun. The visit, combined with the hair, also pretty much saw the end of my spending money for this month, if not next month's too! Fun factor: 0.
Cosmetic maintenance was not complete, as I decided to see about getting my eyebrows waxed. I didn't have an appointment, and the woman who greeted me at Queen's Park Beauty fretted about whether she could fit me in before her next appointment before abruptly declaring, "Come on, let's go!" It wasn't a minute after I lay down that we heard the bell on the door ring - it was her next client. There are quite a few things out there for which I wouldn't mind being rushed; waxing is not one of them. As the lower right side of my face gradually regained feeling, I started to doubt my sanity...hadn't I endured enough pain for one day already without torturing myself with hot wax?! The woman also kept bemoaning my blond eyebrows; I guess seeing them was more difficult and was therefore slowing her down. Fortunately I made it out of there alive, only losing a few eyebrow hairs in the process. Fun factor: 2.
Desperate to improve the day, I stopped off for a rare weekday full English breakfast at Jack's in Queen's Park. It was about 3:00 pm by that point so I was pretty hungry, and I had a quick glance at the paper while I waited. There was an article in the Times of particular interest. It's amazing how food can improve one's mood. Fun factor: 5.
A stop at the pharmacy and it was nearly time to head down to Ladbroke Grove to get Blake. Seeing his smile and picking him up were definitely the highlights of a generally lackluster day. Fun factor: 10.

Film review: Slumdog Millionaire

About a week ago, we went to see the much-talked-about, Oscar-nominated Slumdog Millionaire, at our new local cinema, the Lexi. When I say "local", I'm excited to say that it's actually at the end of our street. It calls itself a "social enterprise" and its proceeds go to support community action in Africa. All in all, quite a cool thing to have going on at the end of the street.
Even cooler was the fact that Matt and I were able to go to the movies, together, in the evening. It wasn't a date, but more of a family outing, as urban family members Heidi and Becks came along; it was very nice! Chris and Anna babysat Blake; in this new era, that meant that they didn't even get to see him since he'd been asleep for about an hour when Anna arrived. Chris, however, managed to keep himself amused...
As for Slumdog, I liked it but have to disagree with the overall "feel-good" tag it keeps being given. Yes, of course, there are moments of happiness and points where the entire audience laughs, but generally I just sat there counting my blessings and feeling sad for children who are exploited, or are hungry, or have to grow up too quickly. Still, it felt wonderful to be out, and I didn't even worry when I realised that I didn't have reception on my phone - I knew Blake wouldn't likely wake up, and if there had been a problem, Chris or Anna could have even walked down to get us if they couldn't get through. As it was, Chris had more than enough time to configure 24 coloured blocks into words that I hope Blake won't be learning for quite some time yet...

The blogging world

In "researching" that last post, I was struck by how particularly unoriginal it is to have a blog, when I stumbled upon this one (sigh, even our layouts are the same!):
http://themilescrew.blogspot.com/2008/04/scooping-up-field-mice-and-bopping-em.html

Note all the links to all their friends and families who have blogs too!

One night last week I spent far too long following the lives of people I do not know in their blog, http://downtownbeatons.blogspot.com.
Their little boy is so adorable that I just kept reading and reading!

Mice and men, part deux

Late last autumn, we were visited by a small itinerant creature, or at least we hoped it was itinerant. I thought it was unlikely to get Little Bunny Foo Foo to do a home visit, so we called in the professionals. It was the first time we'd seen a mouse in our flat in the three years we'd been here, but with Blake around, we thought it best to get it resolved as quickly as possible.
Three visits in six weeks and we were given the all clear - although Brad, the mouse man, had seen "low-level activity" on his first visit, at the last visit no bait had been taken and he therefore thought that it (or they?) had moved on. Perhaps it just knew we weren't going to be here at Christmas to leave it any presents, and decided to return in the New Year. Maybe even it was a baby mouse, since when it returned it chose to dine on cartons of Blake's ready-made formula (don't worry, we got rid of those very quickly!). This time, what with the recession and all, Matt went online and ordered some bait himself. He set it out in the cupboards and we waited.

The next day, we could see that the bait had been taken, so at that point we just had to hope that whatever had eaten it had then gone outside for a post-lunch smoke. Unfortunately, that hope was in vain. Sometime last week, a mysterious smell pervaded the kitchen. I searched all over the countertops, hoping to find a small crumb of cheese or piece of fruit that had gone bad; I scoured various bags wondering if I'd somehow forgotten to dispose of a dirty nappy; I sniffed at the fridge and in the freezer praying that food would be the source of the smell [nb: in my senior year at Dartmouth, we came back from Christmas to 3 Dorrance, the house where we lived, to the worst possible smell imaginable ("The Smell" as it was known to us); turned out that some ice cream had defrosted in the freezer and then melted down to the bottom of the fridge where the fan was warming this spoiled dairy goop and then blasting the smell out into all reaches of the house]. In all of these cases, I came up empty: we could only conclude that it was a mouse whose soul had gone to the big cheese factory in the sky, and for which our flat would serve as its last resting place.
I love my husband every day, but I loved him just that much more yesterday when he donned his DIY clothes and face mask and decided to dismantle the bath, which shares a wall with the kitchen. I was in the kitchen (despite the smell, I had things to do in there!) when I heard a muffled shout that he'd "found a mouse", and oh, did my heart soar! I went out today to the store and when I came back up the stairs, the only thing I smelled was laundry detergent from some clothes I'd washed and hung out to dry. My friend Amy Feldmann says "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" upon waking on the first day of the month, and I have to say that thanks to Matt, I'm glad that we don't need the services of Little Bunny Foo Foo anymore.

Sleep Training Graduation Day

I can't say for certain since I've never been, but today I am feeling what those leaving rehab must feel. For nearly four weeks, I've had daily calls, progress reports, helpful suggestions, and continued reassurance regarding Blake's sleep from our baby whisperer, Lin Elderkin. This morning at 9:30, Lin phoned, as she has done for the past 27 days, to find out how Blake had done in the night. My report was filled with exuberant joy: "We took him to our friends' where we were having dinner, put him in his travel cot where he slept without a peep until we got him out at midnight, drove him home and put him in his cot here where he then slept without a peep until 8:20!" Lin replied with the thoughtful phrase I've come accustomed to hearing: "What a good boy." And I couldn't agree more...
Then, with a guarantee that it wasn't "goodbye" and that I could phone her whenever I needed to in the future, our call began to come to a close. I started to get a little emotional and did my best to express my thanks, but at 9:30 in the morning when I'm not the most eloquent, I found it hard. How also do you really thank someone for giving you back countless lost hours of sleep, a newfound perspective on your child, and the ability to feel that anything can be achieved with consistency, expectation-setting, and that almost-forgotten feeling I had in the first week of "tough love." I'm sure I'll do my best to put it into words to her, but at the moment, I am not sure I'll find all the ones that are needed.
Looking back on the first Sunday in January, I am amazed at how far we've come under Lin's guidance. In our first phone call, I am sure that she detected the doubt in my voice when she told me that Blake would be able to sleep until 8:30 on weekends (in fact, I doubt much sense of detection was needed as I probably said something like, "Reeeeeeally?!"); as I was to find out, it wasn't the first time that she would prove herself right. One of the things I realised this morning was that not once do I remember Lin saying the words, "I told you so." Instead, she would say, "There you are," which somehow made it seem a reiteration of the fact that we'd been given a gift. That gift, of course, was better, longer, and more predictable sleep for everyone, but most of all for Blake.
I've had tears fill my eyes once already as I've typed this, as I imagine would be similar if I went on a retreat or camp and had to eventually part ways with a trusted advisor or teacher. I bet the families on the show SuperNanny feel the same as they see Jo's black London cab drive away from their houses. Although of course I've never met Lin, nor do I even know what she looks like or exactly where she lives, her presence has been woven into the fabric of our lives over the past month. Matt will certainly tell you that the two names he's heard most over the past four weeks are Blake and Lin, and perhaps not even in that order! I know we're going to be fine without her on the phone, but this morning I did have questions: What if we slip up? What if it all goes wrong? What if Blake somehow knows that our time with Lin is up, and goes back to waking throughout the night and never napping? Then I quickly remind myself of Lin's words about keeping to the schedule on the weekend when Blake can catch up on his sleep ("You can't go wrong," she says), and know that we're going to be just fine.
When I took Lin's number from my friend Kate in the pub one night in mid-December, I entered it into my phone's Contacts list as "lin elderkin WILL MAKE BLAKE SLEEP," in case by chance I wandered upon it sometime in the future and couldn't remember whose number it was and why it was there. Dialling Lin in early January feels like one of the best things I've ever done, and you can be sure I won't be deleting her number anytime soon, not that we'll need if it she is right yet again, as I know she will be. Actually, I know it by heart now anyway, so if you or anyone you know might need a little help from a baby whisperer, just let me know.