Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My little smiler

Noah has simply the sweetest smiles. When given the slightest bit of attention (total 2nd child) he will duly reward the admirer with a shy grin. Here he is trying to wriggle down the couch. I love it that he remains happy and doesn't get too frustrated.

Sing song, bayou style

Sometimes it's only when you hear someone imitate you that you get a sense of what your voice actually sounds like. I truly hope Blake is getting his French accent from someone other than me (although the southern-style drawl makes me suspicious). If so, we might need to do some lessons together! We'll probably keep practicing this one, as goodness knows what the translation might be where he is trying to do the "morning bells are ringing" part. Still, I am proud - vive la France!

Clinton, CT 2010

I am not sure what the term is for a poem where the rhyme scheme is not the same throughout (more literary types will know, but right now I'm thinking the possibilities are "inconsistent", "cr*p" or "lazily edited"), but here is an attempt at a poem to capture the spirit of our trip to Clinton this year. Blake has become fond of Dr. Seuss, and well, this doesn't even begin to come close, but I liked experimenting.

We missed our flight, not the best of starts,
but on that we didn't dwell.
We made it to the Clinton house
to stay a little spell.

Ice cream cones, steam train rides
Trips to the beach and changing tides.
Blake enjoyed running on the lawn,
And still he rose at the crack of dawn.

To be entertained by Granny Karla with vintage Playskool
driven all the way up north
Shall we go to the swings, was the frequent cry,
and so the troops set forth.

Across the bridge to the beach they went,
at least 2 times a day
And thus we found that Clinton was
the perfect place to play.

What's that wrapped around your finger, Blake?
Why, it's just my Gran.
By the end of the trip he was also quite fond
of "Jungle Jim" and Aunt JoAnne.

We got to meet the lovely Clara,
with parents Tom and Kate,
Most nights I crashed, quite early on,
so not once did close the gate.

A tea party for Thomas the Tank
Hosted by a nutty librarian,
Beluga whales and barking seals
We loved the Mystic Aquarium.

Baby Noah awoke to find
Some fuzzy dice set by his side.
And as he grinned at Grandpa John,
His hand-eye coordination sure came along.

Crabbing on the dock, while peppers were grilling
And in the fridge, IPA was chilling.
The sad news that Aunt Mae passed away
Was the only cloud on an otherwise gorgeous day.

On the flight home, the boys uttered not a peep
As the eventful 10 days gave them reason to sleep.

Waterside Lane is a special place
and we loved it even more
The perfect place for little boys to play,

what fun we have in store!

Monday, June 28, 2010

I am *that* person

I have found recently that I talk a lot to strangers. Mainly to other parents at the swings (acceptable) , but also to those whom I am simply walking past in the street or the park. It is this second set which has me worried I am turning into some crazy old lady. Partly it's my feeling like I live in the London equivalent of the Desperate Housewives town of Fairview, where everyone knows everyone. Here are some recent examples:

- while walking with Noah past the local tennis courts, some amateur tennis player hit a pretty decent winner, so I decided to shout out to him: "You should be at Wimbledon!" (the poor guy's reply: "Next year!")
- spying a mother chasing after her son who was on his scooter as they went past me: "They keep us on our toes!" with a merry grin on my face
- after strolling past two identical-looking black dogs who were chasing a tennis ball, I found myself faced with another identical-looking black dog running toward us, also chasing a tennis ball. I said to the owner, "There are two more up ahead who look just like him!" and she explained that they might indeed be siblings as there were a few dogs of the same litter in the area.

After I do it, I just cringe - these people don't really want my commentary, do they?!
I was proud of myself today as a lady eating an ice cream walked past me, and I started to say, "That looks good!" before I realized that was just TOO much, and kind of ate the words.
I guess it's my attempt to create connections and make me feel that the world can in fact be a
friendly place, but even I recognize that there may be better ways to do this.

There is nothing exactly wrong with turning into one's mother, but I have to laugh since I am often criticizing Mom for striking up conversations with perfect strangers wherever she goes, and yet, here I am effectively doing the same thing! Perhaps it's in the Blakey DNA, as last Tuesday while we all recovered from jet lag, Blake and Noah and I went for an unelaborate picnic (ham sandwiches with butter, raisins, and a big bag of pretzels). A lady with a young boy and a P&T buggy walked by on the path which was about 25 feet away from where we were sitting, and Blake starts waving and saying, "Hi!" They come over, the mother assuming - I think - that Blake recognizes her son from somewhere, but I just shrugged my shoulders as I was pretty sure I'd never seen them before. Anyway, long story short, we're meeting up with them on Thursday, so I guess sometimes it does pay to be friendly to strangers. But maybe a simple "Hello" or "Hi" is enough...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back from the US!

After a wonderful 10 days in Clinton, we are back. The blog posts are brewing in my head but it may be the weekend before I get to write them up! Same with photos unfortunately...in the meantime, go England, and go USA! And go Greensboro, NC in the form of John Isner, one player in the longest-ever tennis match going on at Wimbledon. It has been an exciting day in sports. Good night.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Staff vacation

The staff of DwL will be enjoying a summer vacation starting tomorrow. I definitely need a vacation after today's attempts at packing for 4. Matt has purchased a portable dvd player for Blake so we hope that we have enough, in addition to the in-flight entertainment and the excitement of the airplane, to keep him occupied.

The DwL editor-in-chief regretfully leaves several blog posts unwritten, but will attempt to write them if she can get to a computer. Otherwise check back in about 10 days for more.

Engerland v You-Ess-Ay

On Saturday the two nations that I quote unquote belong to play in the opening round of the football World Cup. Football, as in, soccer.
We will be enjoying the game from the side of the Atlantic that is probably less interested in the tournament, so it feels somewhat strange to be flying out tomorrow as many of the rest of the citizens of the UK enjoy the build-up to Saturday. A few of the cars of our street, for instance, have England flags, and all the commercials on tv are about Rooney, Terry, and co. In terms of loyalties, who will I be rooting for? In all honesty, probably England, since I think I know that this game means a lot more to the country than to my fair homeland. But apparently I am not the only one facing this conundrum:
I do love the Guardian.
But if the US should win, I would be happy, because they do have a good team and probably deserve more credit than they're given.

As for the blog title, here is an explanation - for American readers - for the extra "er" I put in:
Engerland (i.e. England) used by the footie fans mostly. The advantage of 'Engerland' as opposed to 'England' is the extra syllable 'ger' allowing the chanting of the team's name being easier and more melodic.
Eeengerland, Eeengerland!
go, Eeengerland!

The question is, who will Blake and Noah support? It should be interesting...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sunday's a holy day

At Dartmouth, one of the songs we sang in the rugby team was about the days of the week: "Monday's a working day...Saturday's a rugby day", etc. and then the chorus was "Is everybody happy? You bet your a** we are!" followed by some twirling around and humming. No doubt there was a sip or two of beer every now and then. Like many of the songs we sang, the activities of most of the other days cannot be written here for fear of disturbing the sensitive younger readers of DwL. At any rate, in the song Sunday was a "holy day" (accompanied by praying hands) and I've been singing this song to myself the past couple of weeks since we have made our way to the nearby church, All Saints, for the past 4 Sundays. The church is really lovely and one of the nicest things about it is that there is no specific connection to any local school, which in my mind means that everybody is there for pretty genuine reasons, as opposed to being there to try to get in good with the church to have a better chance of getting a place at the school. These things happen...

I've been down with Blake to the Junior Church where they have games and activities related to the Gospel or the readings - I actually thought to myself this past week that as opposed to feeling like I am "missing out" on the actual church service because of being with the kids, the kids' lesson is probably at my level at the moment for what I can process mentally! I have made some nice acquaintances so far and hope that this can become "our" church.

This past Sunday we were also then visited by the lovely Heidi for lunch. The only downside to her coming over was that she brought us a box of chocolates which I devoured in less than 24 hours. I must, must, must get some control over myself if I don't want people to start questioning whether another baby is on the way - I think I have definitely put on weight since Noah arrived, which is not exactly the direction you want things to be heading.

And finally along the Sunday theme, I can finally re-post something that Raina sent along, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody covered by members of Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa is home of two of my aunts and their families and I keep meaning to check if they know this church. At any rate the lyrics of Mommy Rhapsody certainly made me smile: "Kitchen, kids and laundry - everything is dirty - no sleep, no sleep", and "Mommy, I don't want to die - well you should've thought of that before you broke my lamp". And the nice thing is that the lyrics are suitable for all!

Mommy Rhapsody from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Camera panning

There is a technique that I once learned in a photography course where you try to depict motion - where your subject is captured clearly but the background is blurred, reflecting speed and movement. We were headed to the fair today (I knew there'd be more of these fairs this summer and tonight we'll actually go to bed without any guilt over lack of rides!) so I read up on how to do "panning". Essentially you need a slow shutter speed so that the motion is blurred, but then you train the camera on the subject and follow their action by moving the camera before releasing the shutter. Or something like that. I only got a few half-decent ones but here they are: the first is the bottom of a big "steam yacht" - a pretty scary-looking ride - which is emblazoned with the Union Jack; the second is the best I could do of Matt and Blake on the merry-go-round; and the third is Blake on the swings of the playground where the fair was set up.
When I told Matt what I was trying to do, he said, "Isn't that really hard?", and it kind of is, so I am pleased with my attempts. They are pretty close to what I was trying to achieve.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Summer days

We had a visit today from Tanya and Hugo, Blake's first-ever friend. We met Tanya (and Hugo's Dad, Phil) in our NCT antenatal class, and although these classes can often provide new parents with a great set of friends - from the start - who are in the same boat, Tanya is the only one of the 10 or so other mothers that I'm still in touch with. It was so fun to see Blake and Hugo playing with cars, Legos, sand; not so fun to see them getting tired and cranky at about the same time! These two have always been kindred spirits in terms of things like their sleep patterns, and it was really refreshing to be around someone who kind of "knows" my parenting style and a lot of what has happened in the 2+ years of Blake's life. I do miss the old gang so much. Thanks, Tanya, for the visit - you are welcome anytime!

Here are some pics from yesterday and today in our little garden, where some grass is starting to grow. I bought some Mini Milk ice creams as a treat and you can see that Blake still has not mastered the art of eating the ice cream before it melts!
June fun

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Book reviews (yes, plural!)

A week from today, we go to the US to Clinton, CT for a visit to Granny Karla, Grandpa John, and Lenny & Joe (namesakes of a favorite fish restaurant). Clinton is the location of the summer cottage that has been in Dad's family for many years, and where I got to enjoy June for most of my childhood summers, and now into adulthood. You can see the house here on the Clinton webcam: it's the grey one to the right of the big white one.

At the end of Waterside Lane there used to be a general store run by a man named Kenny, and my good friend Jessie Burns and I spent lots of time roaming the aisles at Kenny's, collecting candy and comic books, Archie comic books to be precise. I loved following the exploits of the red-haired protagonist, his arch-rival Reggie, his best friend Jughead, and the two female characters, the blonde Betty and dark-haired Veronica.

Thanks to Lucy's fiance Ernesto, I have rediscovered the joy of reading, even if many of the pages of the books I've just finished were pictures. Back when we actually had our book club, Ernesto led us one month in the reading of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's "graphic novel" about life in Iran under the Ayatollah. Ernesto is doing his PhD on creating digital libraries of graphic novels (or roughly something like that, no doubt many PhD topics cannot actually be summarised in 6 words), and it was after having them over for dinner a few weeks ago that I saw a book in the local library that grabbed my attention. It was huge- 580 pages - but when I opened it up halfway through, the page I turned to featured a character called Raina, so I thought I should check it out. Blankets by Craig Thompson is a coming-of-age tale of a teenage boy growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household; Raina is the beautiful and talented girl he falls for at a church camp - so apart from the church aspect, she wasn't that different from our own Raina! Raina, if you have been to church camp, I will stand corrected!

Anyway, as you know I am not actually very good when it comes to writing book reviews, but if you do happen to see Blankets at your local library, it is worth a read. Upon returning this one I happened to have a look at what else was in the graphic novel section, and ended up coming home with another one by Marjane Satrapi, entitled Embroideries. On the surface less serious than Persepolis, Embroideries is fabulous - again set in Iran, it's basically like being a fly on the wall of a gossip session of 8 or so middle-aged/elderly women. Sample quote from the grandmother: "To speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart". There was also a part where one woman reveals she's had plastic surgery to keep her husband interested in her; she went from a small-breasted and big-hipped lady to a big-breasted and small-hipped lady:
"Of course this idiot [her husband] doesn't know that every time he kisses my breasts, it's actually my ass he's kissing..."

I'll refrain from revealing what the title means but again, would recommend this to the female DwL readers; men, you might struggle to find the humor in it! And in the way that I love connections, I just read on the back cover one review which calls it "...Sex and the City, Middle-Eastern style - outrageous, explicit and funny." Perhaps even funnier than the actual SatC!

Our trip to Abu Dhabi (via Wimbledon, cinematically)

On Friday Blake had a 2-year check here at the house by a health visitor. She observed him playing and we talked about things like sleep, potty training, dental care and various other aspects of a child's development that concern the health workers when they look at a 2-year-old. Unfortunately for the past 3 weeks he has developed a pretty bad stutter/stammer at the beginning of his sentences ("May-may-may-may-may-maybe Noah's tummy hurts", or "What what what what what what what's that man - or dog, or cat, or Noah - doing?"). I have read a lot online about this and it seems that many children do go through a phase of "bumpy speech" - as the lady suggested I call it - and that hopefully it will just pass. All the same I'm going to go to a speech clinic on Friday to see what they think. It is kind of painful to listen to and I feel for Blake if he is struggling to get his thoughts together and out when up til now his language has been great.
One of the things that the health visitor suggested for a number of things was a reward chart, so that if Blake does certain things like attempting to use his potty he can get a star and then a little something when he accumulates enough. I like the idea so need to get out some paper and make one, and get some little stars!

Noah is certainly too young for a star chart, so to reward him for his good behavior over the weekend, I told him I would take him to the movies. The only real age-appropriate thing on was fortunately something that he wanted to see, that's right, Sex and the City 2. Now you may remember (or a quick check on the blog archive will remind you) that my first night out after having Blake two years ago was to see the first SatC film. Back then, I was so excited and tried to kind of get a little bit dressed up (for me at least) since I would be out on the town for the first time post-baby. This time was different, and I actually thought to myself that it felt slightly like sacrilege to go to this movie wearing what I was wearing: some hideous breastfeeding top, jeans, and the worst thing of all: tennis shoes! To the movie with the heroine who probably doesn't even own any flats, let alone shoes with white laces! I was truly disappointed in myself, but this realization only occurred as I was entering the cinema amongst several Wimbledon yummy mummies. I'll probably never put on a pair of Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks (unless Cindy and I ever live in the same city again and I ask to slip on a pair of hers), but to wear New Balance to this movie...?! I could at least have worn my Clark's ballet flats! I must try harder, really.

The reviews for the film have been bad, and justifiably so. It was, I have to say, just really boring. It was so boring that Noah slept through most of it! Of course it was great to see Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda all back together, but the magic of the series just doesn't seem to translate to the big screen; the first movie though was at least really entertaining and had elements of what made the series great; this one just felt so forced and with very little plot that I can recall. Here are a few of my observations (sometimes writing calls for bullet points, and this is one of those times I think; warning, may contain spoilers, although there isn't much to spoil, really!):
  • Fashion: of course, I am not into fashion, so the one thing that struck me most about the outfits was that in the scene at the science fair, Miranda's son Brady was wearing a short-sleeve version of a Polo shirt that Granny Karla got Blake (the blue and red striped one). That this is my observation under the Fashion heading gives you an idea of just how not into clothing I am!

  • The karaoke scene: that the girls sang "I am Woman" was interesting to me, in that I hadn't heard this song - I don't think - until it was featured in the BBC Women series I wrote about a few months ago.
  • The day out in the desert made me really want to a) go to Morocco, where the scenes were filmed and b) ride a camel.

  • Names: When we were trying to decide a name for "Brother" Lyons, we forgot to consult the US list of top 100 names, only learning after we'd named him that Noah is #2 for boys in the US (as opposed to something like 45 here in the UK). I was surprised to learn at the time that Aidan is #1 in the US, as it's much less common here and we only know one Aidan - Anna's nephew - but one theory behind its popularity was due to Carrie's one-time love interest Aidan, who does make an appearance in SatC2. In this film, he reveals he has three boys, named Homer, Wyatt, and Tate, and I wondered to myself whether these names are likely to rise up the charts in the coming year or so as people look to name their sons.

  • I thought the best scenes were the ones revolving around Miranda's quest to find a better balance in being a career woman and a mother, and Charlotte's attempts to keep her sanity with her two daughters. In the hotel at the wedding of Stanford and Anthony, Carrie and Big are being kept awake by Samantha having wild sex and Charlotte's daughter howling. Big ponders that he doesn't know which is worse; Carrie's reply: "Samantha - the baby will tire eventually."

Although it wasn't amazing, it did do what I ask of most movies I watch, which is to offer some escapism. For that, and for reminding me that somewhere women are able to think of drinks as cocktails for themselves as opposed to milk varieties for children, I'll give it three out of 5 stars. Speaking of, I have a chart to make...

Can I get some popcorn?

Wondering what on earth Carrie was wearing on her head in various scenes...