Sunday, February 28, 2010

Big birthday weekend

I will always remember the day Blake was born as one of the longest and most emotionally draining days of my life. Today, as he turned 2, I can say that it feels a bit like one of the longest and most physically draining days of my life!

Yesterday was supposed to be a normal Saturday but I woke up feeling a bit icky and it was soon clear that I had caught the vomiting bug that kept Matt out of work on Friday. It was rather unfortunate timing since we were supposed to go out to celebrate Anna's birthday and had a babysitter all lined up. I felt really horrible cancelling on her but there was just no way I could make it. I had about 10 minutes of wallowing in self-pity - ok, maybe 30 minutes - but then decided that it was just bad luck and no use dwelling on it. Matt did end up going out and I missed a good night - happy birthday, Anna!

I am pretty sure that I cannot remember a day within recent memory (past 2 weeks?) where Blake has slept past 6:00 am - and today was no exception. He was up at 5:45 and ergo, so were we. Fortunately I was feeling a lot better, although still pretty tired. A few weeks ago, I had attempted to organize a little party with the gang from Kensal Rise, but nobody could actually make it so we came up with another plan to take Blake to the London Transport Museum. Although it was quite a trek to get there - throughout the day we took the bus, several tubes, and the train - it was really worth it! The museum is great, with lots of vintage trains, buses, plenty of interactive things for the kids, a play area and, Mom's favorite, a gift shop where we could buy B a birthday present! He chose 2 Chuggington books so we read one at lunch at the Battersea Pie Shop in Covent Garden, and I'll save one until next Saturday when Tom, Lykke, Emma, Maya and Bishy are coming to celebrate. Blake also enjoyed chasing pigeons around the piazza in Covent Garden, and seemingly would have stayed out there in the rain all afternoon if we had let him. When we got back home about 3:30, Matt and I were both desperate for a nap and we thought we would get Blake's buy-in on this since he had not slept all day. We were wrong, unfortunately, so there were no naps for anyone today - ouch!

I had not done anything to take into nursery so I headed out for some eggs to make a little cake, we had a Skype call with Karla and John in Hickory (Blake got some fantastic Thomas the Tank Engines pyjamas from Karla which he put on over his trousers), opened some great presents, and then finally, it was time for the birthday boy's bedtime. After a bit of blogging and a bit of work, I am going to turn off the computer and go close my eyes. I don't think it will take long for sleep to come!

Happy birthday to our sweet boy, our baby, the joy in our lives. I'm hoping for some "Terrific Two's" as opposed to the dreaded "Terrible" ones!

Blake turns 2

February showers...bring smiles and laughs!

"Shower the people (you love with love)" is one of my favorite songs by North Carolina's own James Taylor.
Last Sunday Georgia hosted a baby shower for Anna at their mum's house, and it was a really lovely time. Getting there was a little stressful due to some nasty traffice but I listened to my birth affirmations cd (about 5 times through) so I tried to feel positive that it wasn't 2 hours lost! I got to meet sweet Darcy Bo, Terri and Duncan's new daughter, as well as see the very cute Jessica S-B. We had a lot of fun playing a game where we had to guess with a piece of string how big Anna's bump is - quite embarrassingly, all of us apart from Michelle probably guessed at least 6-8 inches too big! We also played a game where we had to guess whether Anna would want the baby to get certain traits from her or Chris (e.g. Dancing Skills and Eyebrows - Anna; Sleeping Ability and Hair - Chris). I was also spoiled with a gift voucher to a local therapy room which I hope to use on a pregnancy massage. In fact, I am desperate to figure out when I could book this for! It was a very nice time and fun to hang with the moms and the mom-to-be!

Anna shower

Jane Forbes and Joey have a daughter!

Susan arrived on the 25th (I think) - congratulations! Hope that you are all doing well and that Emma Forbes is enjoying her new sister...

Chris in Hollywood

On Thursday our Sky cable magazine arrived, and while browsing through it, Blake had yet another Chris spotting. I could have sworn it was the actor Freddie Prinze, Jr, but Blake informed me otherwise. Although he was not as certain, so I wonder if FP didn't have enough facial hair to make this a valid comparison.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Give us a smile, Liz!

Little did I know when I woke up this morning (at 5:15, but that's not what this post is about!) that today would prove to be a very exciting day in my life. Positive thinkers could argue that every day is an exciting day, but this one was extra-special, and a total surprise!

I was sitting in a meeting room in the office having a 1:1 meeting when I noticed lots of my colleagues gathering to look out the windows of our building. Now usually this can be because of a lot of sirens going past, or something dodgy happening at the bus stop across the street, so after my meeting I went to see what the fuss was. And this time it was exciting - the Queen, Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth II was going to be coming to Aldgate Station, the Tube station that is just next to our office. Fortunately lots of people had taken the liberty to take an early lunch break to go down and see if they could catch a glimpse, and I quickly dropped an IM to Michelle who I was due to have a meeting with to ask if she wouldn't mind my popping out to have a look too. She didn't mind - thanks, Mich!

So we were all gathered outside the station and at about 11:15, after traffic had been stopped to allow her £10m Bentley to cruise up to the station, out she emerged, looking splendid in an elegant red checked coat and very fancy feathered hat. I was too busy taking photos on my phone to actually see her this time around, so I made sure to do a better job when she exited at about 25 minutes later. It was very very exciting indeed.

She was there as part of a tour of the City of London and here are some of the more official news clips. Aldgate Station was the scene of one of the 7/7 London bomb attacks so it also struck home how close our building is to the location of that terrible event. As she got back into her car she gave a little wave and said, "Hello" and then she was off to other locations. Interestingly, her car actually broke down at one of her stops which must have been a bit of a shock to her.

I was pretty happy with my photos overall. Having seen my idol Madge, and now "her Maj", along with being in the arms of St Peter's Square the moment that Pope Benedict was announced as the Papal choice in 2005, I think I've done pretty well in the famous-people-sighting category. I would have thought I'd never get to see Her in person, so I guess it goes to show that upon waking, we really don't know what the day ahead may hold. And in a way, how cool is that?!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The evolution of grammar

One of the things I've found most fascinating about Blake recently is the way his talking has really come along. His mastery of the imperative mood ("Mommy, sit down!") certainly causes me exasperation, while his ability to identify himself as a subject still needs quite a bit of work ("My watching tv", "My washing up", "My driving"). In the past couple of days he has developed two new interesting words and turns of phrase, one being "nope" and the other being that he ends quite a few of his sentences with "maybe", such as "My want grapes...maybe?" The latter is accompanied by upturned hands, a shrug, and raised eyebrows, which does make me laugh. Tonight I heard Matt say "maybe" several times but he then said that he had picked it up from Blake! I am not sure that's how it works, honey...
Anyway, stay tuned for more on this exciting topic. Blake is cunning, in that when he wants something he has learned to say "Mommy sweet boy" to evidently remind me of the times when he's in my good books and I call him my sweet boy. We are working on avoiding the "Want MommyDaddy bed" which has cropped up in the deepest hours of the morning recently. I can just predict that it won't be long before he's saying "Can I have some money and borrow the car?" to which I might just have to respond, "Nope"...

You are feeling sleepy...

Matt and I both had the day off, which is not usual for a Tuesday. The reason for the mid-week break was that we were booked in for a day-long course about "hypnobirthing," essentially deep relaxation techniques to be used during birth. Because of my less-than-ideal experience last time, I want to be sure that I go into this upcoming birth with no fears or anxieties about what might happen to me, and hypnobirthing came highly recommended from SuperMum Down Under, Raina. Anna and Chris recently did a 2-day group course through the same practitioner, Helianthe Rusken of London's Hypnoclinic. Rather than a 2-day weekend course that would have required us to figure out what to do with Blake for 2 days, we opted for a condensed day at home with Helianthe.
After getting Blake to nursery and buying a few things for lunch, I came home to find that thankfully Matt had found time to vacuum and clean the bathroom. I was a little anxious about the day ahead - Would I feel relaxed? Would Matt think it was all a crock of sh&t, Would we be warm enough in the drafty house, What if I got the giggles?
A little before 10:00 the bell rang and we greeted Helianthe, a lively Dutch woman armed with a trolley suitcase and a lot of energy and enthusiasm at being with us. We spent a while talking about why we wanted to do the hypnobirthing and what we wanted out of the day - namely being able to feel more relaxed, more in control of the events of the birth, getting rid of the past experience of my tearing, etc. Over the course of the next seven hours - minus a lunch break - we did lots of breathing exercises and Matt learned about "anchors", things like pressing my shoulders or gliding his fingertips up my arm, which will be actions we will practice in the next couple of weeks so that when he does them on the day I can remember to be calm, breathe and relax. At first I found it somewhat difficult to let things go, and we'd be doing a breathing exercise while in my mind I was wondering if there was a gaggle of our neighbors gathered outside the window looking in and sniggering at how ridiculous we looked [of course that wasn't happening]. I did get the giggles several times, but it was ok and the three of us laughed and said that Matt and I would get better at some of the phrases and visualization as we got comfortable with what worked. In my mind I went lots of places during the day - in the kitchen at the Clinton house, back to the room where I had my massage at Casa las Brisas when we were on honeymoon in Mexico, high above the treetops in the hot-air balloon over Chiang Mai in Thailand...the mind is powerful!
The best was a deep relaxation exercise we did which lasted half an hour (I thought afterwards it had been 10 minutes) where I must have fallen asleep (Matt told me later I was snoring). I felt fabulous afterwards! Toward the end of the day we did an exercise with an ice cube and tried to emulate the feeling of discomfort that a "wave" or "surge" (rather than "contraction") might bring. The point of this one was to try to focus on the breathing rather than the ice cube and I think overall, it should all come together to help me feel more positive on the day. In the fading light of our living room, Helianthe gave us some encouraging words and said she would be in touch, packed up her trolley suitcase, gave us both a big bear hug, and headed off.
With that, I am going to turn off the computer, go do some slow breathing while I fall asleep, and look forward to a relaxed, calm and natural birth!

Our friend Chris, rock, film and bus-driving star!

In the last several months I have developed a newfound respect for our friend Chris. The reason being is that I have worked out that he is not simply who he appears to be - Matt's uni friend from Sussex, Kilburn resident, husband to Anna, expectant Dad, Mr. Good Times. No, because according to Blake, he is actually all omnipresent within the literary, musical and cinematic scenes. Sometime last year one of the weekend papers had a cover story in its accompanying magazine about Lemmy, the singer and guitarist from the band Motorhead. I saw this cover and didn't actually know who the featured artist was, but Blake immediately identified him as "Chris". Ah, ok - so Chris is actually a rock star!
Several days later, we were reading the Julia Donaldson book The Snail and the Whale, and who did we stumble upon in one of the pictures? That's right, Chris, this time as the bearded driver of a fire engine that was headed to rescue the beached whale in the dramatic climax of the story.
And so, in the latest installment of my coming to terms with Chris not being who he says he is, I was in the kitchen this morning when Blake came in to report that he had had yet another sighting of Chris - this time on the cover of a dvd. That guy!
As a footnote, if Facebook were to track how many times someone looks at someone else's profile, it might initially cause Anna some concern to see how many times I look at Chris's profile. All I would say to reassure her is that his admirer is actually simply using his mother's Facebook account to check in on his favorite dark-haired and bearded friend. And perhaps check to see when he could maybe catch his upcoming gig or film?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The weeks march on

Hard to believe another week has passed. I'm 33 weeks today and wow, does it seem like BLT's arrival is coming quickly! I went to the hospital yesterday for a check-in with the OB, and everything seems ok, although he was pretty sure that the baby was breech so I am going to have to get cracking on all the exercises and things one can do to get the baby to turn, namely getting my hips on to some cushions to try to get the baby's heavy head to float to get in the right position (reminds me slightly of a joke a favorite colleague used on me when he told me that in my condition I ought to just be putting my feet up, but then again that was what got me into my condition in the first place! Ha ha ha - for those who know the office it was Danny C who said that).

But after all my new-found enthusiasm about trying to go drug-free for the birth, I definitely need that baby to turn in order to have that be a possibility, so I left the hospital telling myself that there needed to be a lot less reclining on the couch in the evenings, even though that has been the temptation I can't resist. We blew up the birth ball in the evening but I had to wait until Blake was asleep before I could get any time on it, as he seemed to think it was a pretty cool new toy of his.

We celebrated Pancake Night on Tuesday, with Blake insisting on putting both jam and syrup on his pancakes - sugar overload! I used the Vermont maple syrup that had been provided in the goodie bag from John and Cindy's wedding in Hanover, and honestly, I think it was THE best maple syrup I had ever tasted! It was so delicious. It was also a fun reminder of that weekend - thanks, Cindy!

The most exciting thing about yesterday was that the sun was SHINING, and it was soooo nice to see it. It has been such a dreary winter and a whole day of sunshine gave life a new glow. We have a pretty uneventful day lined up but it will be nice when it's the weekend in just a few days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Days to say prayers for others

I think that in general, I am pretty aware of how lucky I am to have good health, a sweet and loving family, wonderful friends, a job that pays the bills, a roof over my head, and all in all, a wonderfully rich life. On the nights when I put Blake to sleep I make a point to do an evening prayer with him where we say thanks for all the wonderful things we have to be happy about.

So it is at certain times when I hear news of others' misfortune that I stop and think to myself, ok, how bad is it that my healthy 2-year-son throws a tantrum and tests the limits of my patience, when there are so many people are who are going through much much worse? I thought this several weeks ago when details emerged from the earthquake disaster in Haiti, and this morning I had reason to pause and be thankful when I got an email from Cindy that made me shed a few tears, count my blessings, and say some prayers for others.

Her good friend and former roommate Jenna was in a serious car accident this week which has left her with multiple fractures to her knee, ribs and pelvis. Fortunately her injuries were not worse and she is being looked after in the ICU, but she will not be able to walk for several months and has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of her. This alone would be more than many families should have to deal with, but this follows a difficult 2009 where she delivered twin boys about 3 months early, and although they are finally at home now after a long stay in the hospital, the boys still require oxygen and feeding tubes. Her family and her husband's family are thankfully able to be with them to support them through what will no doubt be an extremely difficult time. I know it's sometimes hard to say prayers for people you don't know but I am sure they could use the extra thoughts at this time, so please add Jenna, Brett, Caleb and Dylan to your prayer lists. I hope that loving thoughts and hopeful prayers will help get them through this, and in the meantime I'll be counting my own blessings and thinking twice before complaining about the insignificant "hardships" in my life!

Valentine's present from Karla

A package arrived from the US today, with this little treat inside (along with the cute fleece Blake is sporting in this video)...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another week passes...

You'll probably be pleased to see a new post after what, weeks of blogging inactivity?! I do think about blogging every day; making it a reality is a lot harder. So, let's see, what is there to catch you up on....
Last week was a very inspirational and introspective couple of days, as Raina launched her blog and I took great interest in realizing that there were some things I could be doing to be preparing for a better birth. At 32 weeks today, I feel in many ways that this whole pregnancy has been a blur, but I have suddenly had a wake-up call that the next 8 weeks (more or less, of course, due date/schmoo date) are going to go pretty darn quickly. Anyway, from Down Under Raina passed on some recommended reading which I had dispatched from Amazon and then set about to devouring. When I say that Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is the best book I've read in months, I unfortunately have to say that it's the only book I've read in months, but nevermind that. Truly inspirational, it has really turned me on to the fact that there is no reason to fear this upcoming labor and I am now looking forward to setting aside some preconceived notions and worries and letting Mother Nature be my guide. I definitely should have written about this last week as I had a lot more to say that now I can't conjure up! Anyway, watch this space - Matt and I are hopefully doing a hypnobirthing class on Feb 24th which I am excited about (and he is at least open-minded about).

If today is anything to go by, Thursdays are going to become the most difficult day of the week. Blake is sure a fascinating little being, with the ability to make me gaze at him adoringly one minute and then with frustration and fury the next. A big downside of leaving Kensal Rise was saying goodbye to a fantastic group of fellow mother friends who were not only within a 15-minute walk, but were also lots of fun to be with. We haven't yet managed to make any new friends yet here, and the past couple of Thursdays have primarily involved going to the store and doing errands. This morning I was determined to try to do something a little different, if not totally kid-friendly, so B and I headed up to the local cafe on the Rosendale Road parade. They have a little table for kids to color at, and I wanted to get the numbers for a few babysitters I had seen posted on their notice board. Things at the cafe were ok - Blake and I shared two croissants (ok, I probably ate 1.5 and he 0.5) and he was generally in an amiable mood. My next move was probably a mistake in retrospect, but I wanted to get some cream for stretch mark prevention. Yes, this is probably something expectant mothers would do a little earlier in the game, but as I say, time has just flown. Anyway, we headed two doors down to the pharmacy, where chaos ensued as I tried to buy the cream: Blake ran all up and down the two aisles, transplanting Suducrem pots from one shelf to another, before pretty much knocking down about 25 bottles of different varieties of mouthwash (at which point the Indian owner - a nice gentleman, really - said to me "He's wrecking the shelves."). Can I say, mortified? I tried in vain to re-right all the bottles in their various rows but by now Blake had discovered the automatic door and was threatening to leave the shop. The shop assistant came over and pretty much begged me to just let her do it. I am not sure if flee is the exactly correct word for the style of our departure, but it felt close enough to it.
And this is where, in retrospect, I sometimes just have to ask myself, Why would I then do what I did next? In a recent post I think I mentioned the fact that I need a haircut, and there is a salon just next to the pharmacy. Quick pop-in to see if I can get an appointment for Saturday, should be easy...apart from the minute we walked in the door Blake ran back and - he is somehow getting good at door handles - opened the door to leave. I managed to at least make the appointment before we were out in the cold again. Next shop on the strip is a newsagent, so I thought I could nip in and get a quick Valentine's Day card. What I forgot is that the cooler with drinks in it is just at Blake's eye level, so he had moved a jug of milk into the beer section before I blinked. Then he ran and picked up some strawberry Mentos and had run them clear down the other end of the shop before I blinked a second time. Next up, fingering a packet of Rolos to take them to the magazine section. On my third blink, I realized that the card could wait, so I headed for the door. But all this food ferrying was too much fun and so Blake proceeded to go "boneless" and crumpled to the ground right in front of the door in a classic toddler-style tantrum. A lady and her daughter were trying to leave the shop but he was right in their path, so I just muttered "How embarrassing" and she replied with some sort of attempt to be kind. And the final act in this 4-part drama occurred at the dry cleaner. Last Thursday Blake and I went to the Horniman Museum, a very lovely museum not far away with a cute aquarium among other things. They also have gardens, which we explored, but at some point Blake insisted I carry him and he got his muddy footprints all over my coat. I know I don't look the image of "put-together" but going to work with a muddy coat was even too much for me to consider, hence the visit to the dry cleaner's.
What I couldn't have predicted was how insistent Blake would be about trying to gain access to the back of the store through the door in the counter. Cue the screams and red face that I had seen just minutes before. As I was waiting for my stupid card payment to go through, the lady finally said to me, "Do you want us to let him come back here?", to which I replied, "No, thank you, we just really need to get home." In the space of about 7 minutes, I had gone from feeling ok about my mothering skills to wanting to see if there was any way nursery could take Blake for the day - the nursery being tantalizingly within eyesight at this point.
We made it home, and fortunately a nap helped everyone's mood a bit. I woke up before Blake did and just stared at him sleeping sweetly. To think that a few hours before he had been able to raise my heart rate and make me blush and want to scream...
When Matt came home, though, I just had to tell him that I needed to go lie down and he dealt with the evening routine. I wasn't really all that tired but I just wanted to be alone, and in the end I did fall asleep so maybe I was more tired than I thought. I thought I was just running low on patience.
If there is any good news to this tale, it's that I am actually looking forward to going to work tomorrow. And then on Saturday, I'll get my hair cut, if I can remember what time I made that appointment for.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Temptation of Sleep, continued

This is amazing in that it simultaneously makes me laugh out loud and breaks my heart slightly too...the blob of ketchup on his cheek makes him an even more pitiful sight!

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Temptation of Sleep, continued

This is amazing in that it simultaneously makes me laugh out loud and breaks my heart slightly too...the blob of ketchup on his cheek makes him an even more pitiful sight!

The Temptation of Sleep at McDonald's, Part 1

The longer, more amusing video, is too big so I'm trying to figure out how to get it trimmed down a bit...