Sunday, January 31, 2010

Getting reacquainted with an old friend

Yesterday Blake and I went on a Saturday excursion into London. We do, in fact, still live in London; it just doesn't feel like it! At any rate, Matt had a rather unsavory task on his hands, which was to re-hang a curtain track in the living room, so I thought it would be best if Blake and I cleared out. Blake was very excited to go on the "choo choo" train, and I think it lived up to his expectations even though it was only a 12-minute trip into Victoria Station.
From there, I started to have the feeling that my style of motherhood can only be described in times like those as masochistic. Everything with these excursions to do errands just ends up feeling so hard. The reason for our trip was actually to return some curtains to Peter Jones, a department store a mere one tube stop away from Victoria. The effort to get there, however, seemed exceptional, with various stairs, my carrying the curtains, the stroller and all the while making sure to keep tight hold of Blake's little hand.
Once there, things didn't get much easier, as Blake became fascinated with a section of the roller blinds and made it impossible for me to get advice on what size curtains we actually needed for our 4-meter bay window. A quick stop in the shoe department revealed that his feet still weren't ready for the next size shoe, so we then spent some time in the toy department before a thought popped into my head that I then couldn't suppress.
At least four years ago, maybe even five or more, I read the book Fast Food Nation and decided that from that point on, I would no longer eat any food from McDonald's. Just like that, I made the decision and have kept this vow without any aberrations - or at least none that I can remember - since. I have not really missed the fries, the burgers, any of it, although I do remember a few times over the summers where I was tempted by a sundae.
So despite this commitment to abstinence, yesterday, I just wanted an easy route out of the toy department. I excitedly asked Blake if he wanted to go to McDonald's for chips and a hamburger, and he said yes. The seed was sown.
After several attempts to leave the toy section (without making any purchases, I'm proud to say), we finally made it out of the store and found ourselves on the King's Road, the main shopping street in one of the posher parts of London. I looked down the road but couldn't seen any arches, and the more I considered it, the less likely I thought it was that a McDonald's was within walking distance. Blake settled for a banana, and we made our way back to Victoria. Another fairly strenuous journey on the tube to get us there, and as we entered the main concourse I saw a Burger King. Would that do? I thought. Although my vow had specifically been to swear off McD's, in reality I'd kind of written off most of the fast-food places for the same reasons, so I decided that if I was going to commit this indiscretion, I should really go for it. At this point I felt probably not unlike those who are about to make any sort of misstep, but I considered it. What was the big deal? It wasn't anything like cheating...I had come up with the idea to give up something, and I had done it - with astounding commitment - but now it just felt silly. Why shouldn't we go there if I wanted to? At this point I kind of had to laugh though, because now I was actually seeking it out, and going out of my way to get there, when for so many people, the very reason they eat at McDonald's is because it happens to be so ubiquitous and almost unavoidable.
As we were standing in line, I contemplated getting something like a filet-o-fish (because following my reading of Fast Food Nation, I think my specific intention to boycott had something to do with mistreatment of cattle and cattle farmers and factory workers...mind you, I had no clue whether they treated the fish or the fishermen any better...probably not). In the end I got Blake a cheeseburger Happy Meal and myself a Quarter Pounder and fries.
I can say, that despite all McDonald's' imperfections (huge disgusting corporate brand, contributing to the fattening of the world through inexpensive and heart-clogging food, mistreatment of suppliers, animals and employees), I spent a very enjoyable half an hour as their guest.
Blake made me laugh with his careful manipulation of french fries into the ketchup (he held each one like a paintbrush and reminded me of a thoughtful artist pondering whether brick-red was indeed the right color needed from his palette), before sucking the ketchup off and dipping back for more. My Quarter Pounder was thankfully a bit burned, and I say thankfully because it made me realize that I won't be rushing back for my next value meal. The fries were tasty in a way that probably no other food can be described the same, and overall I was not wracked with guilt that this was where we had chosen to have lunch.
I wouldn't want to count how many meals I have eaten over the years at McDonald's, or how many times we went when I was a child so that I could amuse myself in the play area while on the premises, and with the toy from the Happy Meal once home. I don't think it's had anything to do with how I've turned out as a person, and I guess I don't really think that I would want to or even be able to shelter Blake from it in his childhood.
I did have an interesting thought, though, as I polished off the last bit of my burger to cartwheels and high jumps from BLT: this was a difference in my pregnancies! Whereas Blake was never subject to the delicacy/poison (depending on your viewpoint) of McD's while in the womb, BLT had now been! Would this simple act of reneging on a vow be a point which we would refer to over the years as BLT forges his/her path in life? I could just see it..."Oh, he's much more restless/prone to disruption/boisterous than Blake...must have been that McDonald's Meg ate when pregnant with him..." A funny thought.
The final coup de grace on the meal was Blake's spending the last 5 minutes or so on the brink of slumber, with his eyelids lowering before snapping to attention and his head bobbing around on his neck. He thought McDonald's was boring! Ha ha, in reality I think he was just exhausted, but I will certainly always remember that for his first trip to McDonald's he fell asleep before finishing his meal.
And with that, I ferried the sleeping boy into his stroller and we headed off back home. Later that day, we spent, oh about 45 seconds playing with the Scooby Doo toy from the Happy Meal, before the occasion faded into the annals of history. We won't be rushing back, but if we're desperate and hungry, I think McDonald's will do just fine.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life lag

I had a not-small number of people this week ask me if I was suffering from jet lag following my trip to the US. After a moment or two of turning my eyes to the ceiling with a puzzled look on my face, as I debated the best way to answer, most of the time I gave a reply which stated that "No, I think I've recovered."
What I would have told them, though, had anyone asked, was that I think I am suffering from a severe of case of something I have coined "life lag."
Every so often, especially on ultra-grey, cold days like the ones we've had lately, I close my eyes and think back to Matt's and my honeymoon in September, 2006. I was in the best shape of my life (and had bought 5 new bikinis to celebrate), we had just had the most amazing week-long celebration with wonderful family and friends, and about the most taxing thing on the agenda was figuring out whether to have a frozen cocktail or a bottle of Mexican beer from the pool at the bar.
The fact that those memories are not yet four years old is amazing, when I consider the agenda of my current days. I think having a 2-year-old child (and I'll just throw it out there, even though it's contentious), a 2-year-old boy in particular, is pretty tiring. I also now am acutely aware that life in a 30-week pregnant body cannot really be considered comfortable (although of course this is going to get no more comfortable in the next 2, 5, 8 or, oh help, 10 weeks). And trying to squeeze about 40 hours of corporate time into 26.5 is not really ever a bundle of laughs. Romance in our house is currently highlighted through huddling together in bed (to keep out the draft from the curtainless windows) and laughing at the same moments when watching the tv show "Glee." I need a haircut, a massage, and would even settle for a bath and a 9:00 pm bedtime, but I can't seem to figure out how to arrange for any of these to take place. We don't really know where to start with work on the house, I still need to send out "We've Moved" cards, and I have just remembered that I haven't taken out my Ben and Jerry's to defrost before a pre-bedtime snack. Add all this up, and I give you..."Life lag"!
As I arrived into the office today, I pondered what would happen if I turned around and said I was too tired to be there. I didn't test it out, but I did eat a Twix bar at 2:00 pm which perked me up (temporarily no doubt). I then raced home out of the office 13 minutes later than I should have, but managed to make my train by about 45 seconds. See, no jet lag here! The result of this effort a mere hour later was that I could hardly move from the couch to go get Blake a box of raisins. And while I am on the topic, how annoying is it to step on raisins in sock feet?! Why are they not making it into his mouth where they should end up?!

The good news is we made it through the week despite the unsettled start on Monday morning. The other good news is that there are two work-free days ahead of us in which to enjoy the lack of commute and the absence of work headaches. And I am hoping, that maybe like my jet lag, my "life lag" may ease by Monday. I can but hope...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cocorioco

The human rooster residing in the bedroom beside us crowed at 5:50 this morning. Better than 5:20 but not exactly great either (this was following some nocturnal activity in the coop around 2...I went in to check what the cause of the ruckus was, and then fell asleep - as did he - before returning to my bed at 2:55).
The nursery drop-off was fairly uneventful, so I am generally feeling more positive about the state of affairs. This is good news as I seem to have hit a point where I am much more conscious about the imminent arrival of BLT.
Maybe now I am going to have to start boring you about my struggles to squeeze on to overcrowded commuter trains. Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The power of 2

The three-foot alarm clock went off today at 5:20 a.m. GROAN! My initial thought was just a very foggy Nooooooo! He fussed and moaned until he got his bottle, which left us at a crossroads. It was clearly WAY too early to be awake, but would he realize this, or would he simply have visions of the Chuggington trains dancing through his head and insist on going downstairs for tv?! Fortunately for my mental health, a minor miracle occurred, and after a bit of twisting and turning, shunting his face up into mine and therefore nearly depriving me of oxygen, I next opened my eyes to see daylight in the bedroom and the clock showing 7:13. TWO additional hours of sleep!!
Because I hadn't actually set the real alarm presuming I would not need it, I was then nearly late to work, but man, did I feel like a million dollars. Honestly, I felt like my skin had gotten younger overnight, and although as with most mornings I was really craving a very strong latte, I was actually happy with some decaf tea once I got to the office.
The reports from nursery at the end of the day were good, so it's clear that an extra two hours of sleep worked wonders for us all. Blessed relief!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blake's possible professions (post started several weeks ago but only getting around to posting now)

I think it is natural for any parent to imagine at some stage what career path their child may follow when he/she grows up. I have been thinking a lot lately about what Blake is showing an inclination for, so I thought I'd share the list:

1) Dishwasher: "Washing up", as Matt calls it, is high on Blake's list of things he likes to do. Currently this involves him standing on a little stepladder in front of the sink and banging the cutlery around, before deciding to "eat the water".

2) Dictator, perhaps of a Spanish-speaking country: I mentioned in an earlier post how bossy our little guy has become. He issues commands which make me cringe at where he must have learned them ("Don't DO that" being a favorite). A phrase he utters a lot is "Come on, Daddy/Mommy" but for some reason he doesn't pronounce the hard "C" and "Come on" comes up sounding more like "Jamon" or "Hum on". Hence why he might actually turn out to be a decent Spanish speaker, if of course he wants to be!

3) Dancer: probably doesn't need much explanation, but may also not be one to pay the bills.

4) Parent: Granny Lyons (who is now called "Bishy") got Blake a baby doll for Christmas, and he has taken to ensuring that Baby's bottom is nicely coated in cream for nappy changes. He also occasionally likes to make sure we give Baby a cuddle, which is sweet, before he then flings her across the room to land on her head.

5) Door-to-door salesman/cold-caller: Going for a walk with Blake is a rather tedious activity at the outset, as he insists on making physical contact with the front doors of every single building that we encounter. Upon leaving our house, he rushes off to the next door down, stands against the door, and then heads off to the next house in the row. The close-up pictures in the snow were taken at the gate of #7 (we are #25 in our street), which he has taken a real liking to. This in-out weaving up the road can make very slow going, but it does show he is not afraid of going door to door.

6) Based on this morning's events, best-selling author of a children's guide to torturing one's parents through persistent, insistent and disruptive behavior. And the subsequent follow-up best-seller about winning them back through sweet giggling and cuddles.

I may add more to this list as I think of them...

Disturbing the peace

I learned this morning about the downside of what I had previously thought of as "our lovely new neighborhood". The downside is related to the upside, which is that people will know you. If that's confusing, let me explain...

I got back on Saturday morning from a week in the US, a work trip which I thought best to do since taking on managing a US-based team in October and with not that much longer before I go out on leave. It was a good week - productive but emotionally draining and not that relaxing (e.g. 5:10 a.m. train to NYC on Wednesday, to return that evening into Boston at 10:40 p.m.).

I arrived back in London so ready to be home, to see Blake and Matt, and to hopefully return to that now-seemingly aspirational "normal state". Blake was sweet when I walked in the door, giving me a very quiet hug which made me think he was just realizing that I had been gone. Fortunately I was able to nap with him that day which did me good...I was soooo tired!
We spent Sunday around the house doing various chores like laundry and trying to get organized for the week ahead.
On Friday Matt had reported that Elizabeth had not been able to get Blake's coat on in order to get him out of the house to nursery, but I had no idea what that must have been like until this morning.
The early-bird antics continue, and Blake woke up at 5:00 a.m. asking for a bottle, and then would not go back to sleep. So, we all woke up at 5:00. If you have not had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. recently I can assure you that it feels like the deepest, darkest hour of the night, and nothing could make it easy to try to pry my eyelids awake to face the day. By about 6:00 the house had moved into action, and Matt headed off to work by about 6:30 leaving me and Blake in the living room, Blake watching tv and me frantically reading various chapters out of the books Toddler Taming and Pocket Parenting. Part of our issue, I concluded this morning, is that we have let Blake become a complete tv junkie. He is totally addicted to the BBC's children's channel, CBeebies. This morning I let him watch a few shows but then we needed to get in gear to get ready to take him off to nursery, so that I could come home and do my working from home day.

Attempt #1 to leave here took place at about 8:30. As I put on B's coat, he started to ask for one of his favorite tv shows, a train cartoon called Chuggington. It became almost chant-like..."Chuggington, Mommy. Chuggington. Want Chuggington." "No, Blake, it's time to go to nursery." "Chuggington, Chuggington." His face erupted into a mix of anger, frustration, sadness (can someone actually be sad about not getting to watch a train cartoon? I'm not sure...I think the stronger emotions were anger and frustration). I had started sweating by this point and tried to get him into the stroller. It wasn't happening as he wriggled and strained against getting strapped in, so I abandoned that plan.
Before I left for the US we had a nice little thing going where we walked to nursery rather than taking the stroller, so I somehow managed to get him out the door on foot. Whereas I then turned left to go to nursery, Blake turned right and insisted on going that way. That way wasn't really the best way for us to get to Rosendale Road, so I insisted that he follow me. He didn't. He then also started on with the Chuggington thing again. I can't actually remember the order of what happened next but I think I went back inside and tried to calm him down by holding him quietly for a bit (didn't work) and then offering him a bottle (didn't work either). I then decided to try to get him in the stroller. As with the first time, it didn't work and he at this point started flinging himself on the floor and screaming at the top of his lungs. I smiled sheepishly at the mother and her two daughters who passed by the open front door at this point. If I could have disappeared into a hole in the ground, I would have preferred that to every passer-by concluding that I was abusing my dear child.

Ten minutes had probably passed at this point, so I decided I would just pick him up and carry him to nursery. The problem is that he is pretty strong, so when he went "boneless" as they say in one of our favorite books, there was nothing I could really do apart from let him fling himself out of my arms. We had made it about 6 doors down when the fairly elderly lady in number 33 (or was it 35?) came out of her door to see him screaming and heading back toward the direction from which we had just come. She reassuringly told me she remembered when her own children did similar things, so I just smiled again and rolled my eyes as if to say, "What can I do?!" Blake had marched back to our front door and was now standing in front of it saying repeatedly, "In the house" with tears streaming down his red face.

At this point I leaned against the car and phoned Matt. No answer. Hmmm. I decided to just keep leaning against the car in the hope that Blake would recognize the futility of his pleas to go back inside. I had no idea what time it was at this point apart to know that I was most definitely not going to be starting my day at 9:00. Although we've been here now about a month, I hadn't had a chance to meet the next-door neighbors to our right, so it was of course at that very moment that they all decided to exit their front door. Cue more blushing and eye-rolling from me. "Any idea how to deal with an unhappy toddler?" (or something like that) I merrily called out. "I'm Meg, by the way." Nice first impressions.

The phone rang and it was Matt who suggested I call Lin. Yes, Lin, the Baby Whisperer. Although to give him credit I have mentioned her name recently and have wondered whether I should just hand over my monthly take-home pay to obtain her services to help us out, I don't think she works like an emergency plumber and can offer tantrum-related advice in the heat of the moment. I think the tone of my response was pretty clear that I wasn't going to be calling Lin without a little more contemplation. Matt then wisely reminded me that I didn't really have any options on getting him to cooperate so suggested I get him in the stroller. Matt calmed my fears by saying he didn't think I would actually be able to hurt him in the manoevering to get him strapped in. So back inside we went to try this again.
At some point, I won and in he was. I offered him a car from his toy train as well as a Thomas the Tank Engine book in an attempt to provide replacements for the train cartoon which had started this off. He promptly flung the train car - twice - on the pavement, so that tactic can't quite be considered a success. With him wailing at the top of his lungs, I pounded the pavement off to the nursery.

When we got there he immediately started calling for me to "Sit down, Mommy". I waited with him for about 20 minutes by which point he had at least stopped crying. I realized I was missing a meeting with a colleague in Asia, and admired a little girl's runny nose as being one of the worst I'd ever seen. At about 9:40, I extracted myself from the toddler room, totally exhausted, overheated and demoralized. I had to trust that they'd be able to calm him down.

I spent much of the rest of the day literally feeling as if I had been sapped of all energy, like a plant who had been deprived of light and water. I turned to the leftover Christmas chocolate for consolation, but that didn't help much. It also did not help that evidently Amazon.com delivers in utero and the new baby has somehow managed to have a trampoline delivered which he (or she, I suppose, but probably he) spent all day trying out. It was just generally a pretty uncomfortable day.

At 5:00 p.m. I headed off to get Blake. He greeted me with smiles...oh, how short his short-term memory is. We walked home holding hands and of course did not encounter a single neighbor along the way.

I decided to deal with one aspect of our problem which is the tv dependency, so I let him watch the tail end of one show and then the infamous Chuggington, before turning it off for the evening. When Matt got home we sat around and talked, gave Blake some dinner and then I spent some time tickling Blake and enjoying the sound of his giggles. Without that, I might have had nightmares played to the soundtrack of his morning tantrum.

And so, I realized with a heavy heart that once again, I'd been proven wrong about thinking we were actually in a certain "stage" of childhood, only to discover that the phase was only probably just starting. With his 2nd birthday just now a month away, I guess what I thought was the "terrible 2's" wasn't. What happened this morning certainly was an example of how a strong, willful, determined, and senseless toddler can bring a mother - and a morning - to a standstill. I wonder what tomorrow morning will be like?! Won't the neighbors be curious to know...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trialing the new "normal"

This week is only two days old and already I'm exhausted and wondering how quickly my entire head is going to turn grey. While I really love being in the new house, life is not without its stresses! This is the first week in three where we are hopefully operating on "normal" terms - with Blake in nursery for full days, and both Matt and me back at work - me for the first time really in about three weeks!

Blake did well at nursery yesterday, but it was my day to work from home so it was a little more relaxed in the morning and I even let him watch a quick CBeebies program before we headed out. Today was then the real test, of what I am calling Operation Up Early. One major downside of the new location, despite the fact that I really love the neighborhood and the community feel, is that like in a lot of South London, there are no tubes. We are reliant on overland trains to get us into work, and that represents a pretty big change for both me and Matt. The length of my commute is in theory about the same, but it means I have to be much more prompt and aim for a specific train, as opposed to just rolling up at a station and hopping on the next tube. Matt's commute is unfortunately quite a lot longer, so one of the new arrangements associated with the move is that I really need to do both the morning and evening drop-offs and pick-ups at nursery so that Matt can get into work and home in the evening at decent times.
Today I was in the shower by 6:30 so that I could be pretty much ready by the time Blake woke up. That worked ok as for some reason he slept til 7:00 - he has been waking up most days between 6:32 and 6:37 (if you had to wake up day after day to him as the alarm clock, you would remember the times). We left the house by 7:30 which was the plan, and got to nursery within about 8 minutes or so, and that was not even going at a hurried pace! This is such a welcome change to the previous trip to the nursery. I left him off, crying unfortunately (him, not me!), and headed to the station. The train I had hoped to catch was showing as delayed, which unfortunately can often mean probably not coming within your lifetime, so I went my alternative route into Victoria Station and then got the tube. I made it into the office by 9:00 but not with much time to spare.
The route home is, strangely and to my frustration and dismay, much more convoluted as the train times just aren't as good. But I made it to nursery by 5:25 and we were home by about quarter to 6. I can't wait til warmer weather to avoid the annoying hassle of trying to wrangle his thumbs into his mittens, to then have him promptly take them both off and say "Mommy, cold hands". Delightful, really!
But overall, a general success on the timetabling - let's hope we can keep it up.

Unfortunately, we are basically going through a toddler version of where we were a year ago in terms of sleeping. The little commander has become very bossy and insistent that both of us "lie down" in his room after we do books and his bottle. We were amenable to this in our early days in the house since it was a strange new place, and while he was sick over the week or two around Christmas, but now it has become a habit, and not a good one. The floorboards in his room are very creaky and despite his seeming completely asleep, tonight - like last night - only Matt managed to tiptoe out before Blake bolted upright in his cot like a Jack-in-a-Box and insisted on "Mommy, lie down". This merry song and dance went on quite a few times until I finally escaped from his room at quarter past 10. Life of my own? Evening with hubby? Early to bed? Um, not happening at the moment....sigh.

I am off to the US on Saturday for a week of work but I've said to Matt that when I am back we may need to put our feet down (ha ha, no pun intended) and make Blake cry it out to help him go back to those lovely evenings where we read some stories, had a family "snuggle", and said "Night, night" to him as he waved goodnight to us from his cot with a smile. I can understand why what is happening is having the effect it is - it's essentially the same thing that was often happening when he would wake up when I would try to lay him in his cot after he fell asleep in my arms - he goes to bed with us there, something changes which he detects, and he needs all the pieces to return to as they were before he can try again to go back to sleep. At least this time I know that this is what we will need to do to make things better for everyone.

In the meantime, I am going to go to turn in for the night. Writing this blog post is pretty much the sum total of my evening's productivity, and I have to go make sure my alarm clock is set. The one on my bedside table that is, not the one now sleeping peacefully in his cot.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Laundry pile domination!

I remember vaguely, but fondly, all the hype in 1986 that accompanied Halley's Comet, as Wikipedia calls it the "only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime". I can't actually recall seeing it, but I do recollect being an excited 10-year-old and I'm sure we at least tried to see it even if, in the end, we did not.
The reason I harken back to this event is that in our household, we are also able today to see a rare sight: the (empty) bottoms of all three of our laundry baskets! I don't know what it is, but for most of the days, weeks and months of the year, Matt and I seem to have a constant collection of clothes that need washing, and we are almost never ever able to get through the washing and drying of all of them at once. This is most likely due to the fact that we're busy people, we have too many clothes, and drying in the English climate (without a tumble dryer) is difficult. The last time I remember having all our clothes clean was in the first week of my maternity leave in 2008 (and I was so excited about it then that I do remember writing a blog post to express my incredulous delight).
In the last 10 days or so, however, we have been living in a very cold house in the middle of the coldest weather Britain has seen in decades, and that has meant that we have had our heating on nearly constantly. The effect of all this hot, dry, air - along with doing dishes and not remembering where I packed my moisturizer - on my skin is almost painful to describe - my itchy, blotchy, red, dry, cracked hands sum it up! The effect on the laundry pile, however, has been beautiful! No sooner than a load is completed and hung on the radiators is it nearly dry and ready for packing away into drawers and dressers.
Which actually brings me to the realization that in fact, when all our clothes are clean, we don't have enough storage for all of them, so this is the downside. But for now I am going to revel in this once-every-two-years event and enjoy it. Come April I imagine there will be no way we'll stay on top of anything...

Pics from January

It was lovely having Will and Raina and Scarlet on our shores - Scarlet is an absolute doll and we enjoyed seeing them a few times over the festive period, although in retrospect we didn't see them enough! Come back anytime! They have returned to summer in Melbourne, whereas here it is still not getting above freezing most days. More snow is predicted for tomorrow and our heating bill is probably going to be outrageous this month!

Here are some photos from Scarlet's visit on New Year's Day, lunch at William IV in Kensal Rise on Sunday, and Blake in the recent snow.


From January

Settling in...again

This past week we were going through the "settling in" period at Blake's new nursery. Fortunately for me, this time around it was much easier on Mommy, although perhaps a little harder on Blake. At his age, he is much more aware than he was a year ago when we left him; whereas this time for me, I'm much more aware - with time and the wisdom of having done it before- that he's going to be absolutely fine. On Monday I took him in and he promptly started crying and ordering me to "Sit down". I reassured him I wasn't going anywhere, and that day I didn't. We stayed for an hour and he played a little but was checking frequently to see that I was still there. On Tuesday it was Matt's turn, and it didn't go very well as Matt had to leave Blake for them to try to give him lunch. Blake evidently just howled and protested enough that they went to get Matt and they ended up just giving up on the lunch plan, as Blake was making his intentions clear by saying "Ready go, ready go"until Matt decided it would be best to just abandon ship before Blake became traumatized. By Friday, we had a breakthrough: I left Blake playing and then actually witnessed him sleeping on a mat a few hours later. In a truly remarkable scene which I saw through the door, the staff in the room had 12 toddlers actually asleep all at the same time. How in the world...?!

Anyway, on Monday he'll do a full day and we'll hope it all goes well!

Ringing in the new year

New Year's Eve was low-key, to say the least. At least this year we managed to get Blake to sleep so that he wasn't awake to ring in the new year like he was last year. I actually essentially missed the clock turning over into a new decade; I was in the kitchen making some food for New Year's Day and heard fireworks outside before realizing that they must be signalling the start of 2010. Matt came in a few minutes later and issued a fairly half-hearted, "Happy New Year?!" Oh well...! I also was too busy, or too apathetic, to make any resolutions. Not having any commitments to break and then feel disappointed about has felt pretty darn good.

2009 had many highlights, and I like to remind myself of them: January held, of course, the agony and eventual triumph of Lin's sleep improvement plan with Blake, along with his start of nursery. That seems like an awfully long time ago! February brought a big snow to London, on the day I was due to return back to work, along with that strange rash Blake had which we thought was measles but wasn't in the end. He turned one of course, which was a big event, apart from his being sick and having to cancel the party with his friends! In April we welcomed William Cook to the urban family, and in May there was a lot to celebrate: the birth of Scarlet Anderson, a trip to Woolers with Terri and Duncan, and Mark and Joan's wedding (along with an unexpected visit by Granny Karla to help out with the unexpected arrival of the chicken pox). In July we were honored to join Dr. Doug at his wedding to the lovely Annlou, and right at the end of the month we headed off to Topsail for a great week at the beach (a week which, while not starting this way, ended by my being teetotal). August saw my welcome into British society, along with the arrival of Beth's twins Alex and Cecily. In September I enjoyed a great weekend trip to NYC to join Haes and Jeremy at their marriage party, before our rainy week in Scotland, which was wet but nice. Adam and Michelle welcomed a sister, Jessica, for Sam. In October we were overjoyed to hear the news that Baby Pendse is on the way in March, I headed off to toast Cindy in Hanover as she married John Stanton '97, and we wrapped up the wedding season in Bristol with Chris Ballard and Sarah. In November Jack "Danger" Greening arrived, as did our sweet niece, Maya. And in the last month of the year, we moved (see earlier post!), and Terri and Duncan welcomed a little girl, Darcy Bo on the 26th! Scattered throughout were no doubt other big milestones which are simply escaping me for the moment, as well as a few visits from Granny Karla and Grandpa John and other huge development changes for Blake. Looking at the blog from the past year amazes me to see how much he has changed!

On New Year's Day, Heidi, Chris, Anna, Will, Raina and Scarlet came over to see the house. We ate hoppin' john (black-eyed peas and rice are supposed to both be good luck) and went for a very cold walk. It was nice to show people the new place albeit not quite in its ideal state. And so began another year, one which promises to be exciting, exhausting, rewarding...did I say exhausting? Here's wishing you the best year yet whatever it holds for you.

Christmas 2009

For much of December it seemed that we all harbored colds. I know I had one that lasted at least 2 and a half weeks which made me cough so hard I contemplated buying adult diapers. And so it was that for Christmas 2009 Blake spent much of the time with a runny nose that ended up making him look like a little urchin from a Charles Dickens novel. We went to Matt's mother's to join Tom, Lykke, Emma and Maya for Christmas Eve, which is the bigger event for the Danish. On Christmas Day we gave Blake his "Santa present" of a scooter, which he seemed excited about, even if he doesn't exactly get quite how to work it just yet. There were so many presents and I felt like my dad who has long proclaimed not to understand why people buy gifts and spend so much money on this one day. Next year I want to go back to the days of an orange in a stocking being enough! (fat chance)

After the move it was nice to be in a warm, cozy place (the new house is a little chilly!), and Blake and Emma had fun chasing each other around and comparing toys. Tom and Lykke seemed to be doing very well with Maya but it was quite exhausting to imagine that we will have a newborn before we know it!

On Boxing Day it was back to the house, for more "unboxing days"! If I get a chance I'll post some video clips from Christmas some time soon.

From Christmas_2009

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Moving: the write-up

As you know, we started the long and arduous journey of trying to move back in July - well, even earlier to be honest - but it was in July that we accepted the offer on our flat. Hard to remember what was going on at that time, apart from it was surely warmer than it is now and Blake was probably not really talking much, if at all. Now Britain is in the middle of its "big freeze" and B has turned into a little dictator - "Wake up, Daddy!", "Sit down, Mommy!", "Don't do that!", etc etc.

Rewind a few weeks from today to Monday, December 21st. Christmas just a few days away, the chaos of that hectic period rising to a boil, and we're about to pack up our beloved flat in Kensal Rise to move south of the river. Crazy amounts of money were being evacuated from our bank accounts, the stress of the "will we move? won't we move?" debacle had left my nerves frazzled, and to top it off, snow was forecast. We woke up and Matt took Blake off to his last day at nursery, while I waited for the professional movers to turn up to pack up the flat. Because of bad weather over the weekend, the "professional movers" turned out to be one young guy (I think he was probably at least 18, although not much older perhaps!) named Joe; the people who were supposed to be helping him had been delayed on jobs that should have been done on Saturday, so he was on his own.

My previous experiences with moving had always been riddled with procrastination, disorganization, and last-gasp leaving behind or throwing away of items in order to get things to fit into a pre-set amount of suitcases I had at my disposal. I'll never forget taking out an enormous box of clothes and just leaving them on the street at 2:00 in the morning in front of the Back Bay apartment I shared with Cindy a few hours before I flew to London in the move that brought me here. I couldn't fit them in my bags so that was the best option at the time!

I had certainly never paid anyone to help me move, but Joe was remarkably efficient. About 10 minutes after he arrived, I went into the living room to get a marker from our "pen basket", only to find that the entire surface of the sideboard was cleared and the pen basket was already packed away into a box. Oh, so that's how it works, I thought. Anything that was visible was fair game for Joe and before long the color scheme of the flat had turned into a primarily cardboard-colored one. Our bed was the oasis for things that we didn't want to pack, and it quickly became covered with various bits and bobs. Outside it was grey and drizzling, and Matt and I decided to head out to lunch. Of all the culinary options available to us - Gracelands Cafe, the Chamberlayne Pub - Matt wanted to go for a fry-up, so we went down to Arthur's Cafe near the bus station for bacon, sausage, chips, beans and toast. Classy.

I stopped in to say goodbye to Carina at Kidsen, where I had enjoyed shopping since she opened up on Chamberlayne Road, but then it was back to the flat for more packing. Joe was supposed to have gone to get some food, but he said he had wanted to just keep going so I went out to L'Angolo and got him a sandwich and a banana (furthering the feeling that I could have been his mother). There were a few mad dashes to the post office but soon enough it was 4:00 and Joe had finished all the packing! In the meantime it had started to snow, so after dropping him off at the tube station I then went home to get ready to go pick up Blake. I was prepared to be distraught at saying goodbye to all the girls at the nursery who had, in time, become special to Blake, but fortunately the snow spared any emotional dramas. The buses had stopped running so I ended up walking down to Ladbroke Grove, arriving freezing cold and sopping wet and with only one real aim in mind - get back home and get warm as quickly as possible. There weren't that many people left at this point in the day so after a fairly anti-climactic goodbye, we were off home again. I was relieved at how it all went...!



The next day came and at around 9:00 am a massive moving van arrived out front. I thought that there would be no way in a million years that our stuff would fill it, but that's just what happened, and they were storing stuff in the cab so tight was the space! I think around 11:00 Matt got a call from our solicitor to say that we had completed - oh my gosh, the house was ours and it had actually all gone through! Somewhat hard to believe. We managed to clear out by about 1:00 pm or so; I kept looking around doing final checks that we hadn't left anything since once we closed the door, we were locking our keys in and wouldn't be coming back. Matt drove us and our packed car through London, along the route which had now become familiar since the house-hunting days in the summer. Blake napped in the back and I tried to relax and tell myself that this was definitely for the best. Fortunately although it was cold, the sun was shining which I thought was a good omen.

We stopped off at the estate agent's office to pick up our keys...surprisingly no need to do anything apart from say who I was and I was given the keys. Back in the car, miles now from NW London, Blake from the backseat starts to ask for Chris and Anna. Oh no, he misses our neighbors already!

We arrive at the house and it's waiting empty for us. I still love the peaceful street, while Matt starts to mentally calculate how much it's going to cost to do the work we'd like to do. We explore a bit before the guys from Wise Moves show up and start bringing everything in, making the house feel a little smaller with each box they bring through the door. Around 5:30, they declare themselves finished, and it's done - we're in!

Over the next few days before we headed off to Elizabeth's for Christmas, I frantically tried to unpack as much as I could. Matt at several points reminded me that we were going to be here for a while, so I did not need to kill myself to try to get too much done too quickly.

And now, about three weeks later, as I write this from the living room, it really already feels like home. It's an imperfect house, for the moment, and we hope to address the drafty nature of the windows, the configuration of the kitchen and the dining room, the colors of the walls, the state of the little garden out back. But it is home already, and that makes it perfect.

Moving Day_Dec 22

DwL returns in 2010!

So much has happened since the last post that I hardly know where to start, but start somewhere I must!
Writing to you from the new address, finally connected to the Interweb after about three weeks of being offline...not having broadband felt nice and excruciatingly annoying at the same time.
In the next few posts I'll attempt to catch you up on the move, Christmas, New Year, the general goings-on of our life. I hope you'll be pleased for some updates!