Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My special day

I started writing this post a few minutes before the clock struck midnight, to try to get something online in the last few minutes of my birthday, but technology failed me and I didn't press save, so I have to start again!
Anyway, I have had a great birthday, even though in so many ways it just felt like an ordinary day (don't birthdays on a Monday always feel like that?!). That said, it made me realize how wonderful our "ordinary" is and how lucky I am to have three wonderful boys in my life and lots of friends and family around the world who care enough to send messages to wish me happy birthday! I was really struck this year by the power of the Internet and social networking sites (Facebook) - it seemed that I got birthday greetings from more people than ever, which did give me a warm fuzzy feeling all day!

Here are a few of my favorite cards.

From my Mom (SO perfect!):

From my Aunt Kathryn:

The inside reads, "Happy Birthday (We speak the same language, you know!)"

Here I am in wilder birthday party days...(Mom and Dad seem to have a lot of energy...guess I was only 1 here and not yet into the "Terrible Two's"!)

Chris took this one this weekend when they were down visiting:

So even with its being a very normal day in the life (with all the diapers, spit up, and laundry that goes along with it), it was still fun. And I guess that's the aim - to try to have fun and enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Di!

Happy birthday to my dear friend, Diana (no last names needed!), who, I've decided, wins the July DwL reader award for "Friend whose emails are most likely to elicit a chuckle". I hope you have a great day celebrating, perhaps with some Kentucky Bullfrogs in champagne flutes?

Monday, July 19, 2010

E for effort

To say we had a pretty busy weekend is putting it mildly, but it made me think about the word "effort". When you hear that word, do you think it generally has a positive or negative connotation? I tend to favor the more positive side, as in, "She made an effort" or "the effort paid off", but I guess there are others who would see it in a less rosy light, as in "that was a lot of effort."

Anyway, on Saturday we all headed up to Regent's Park for a Dartmouth picnic. I haven't been to a Dartmouth alumni club event in years, and this was the first one that wasn't an after-work type affair and which didn't require extensive and complicated arrangements to be made for after work. It was a very windy day - poor Noah was shivering for a few minutes while I searched for more clothes for him - and the turnout from the undergraduate years was pretty slim; most of the attendees were from Tuck, the business school. Although I was glad we made the effort to get there, it was pretty exhausting getting to and from, and it was a shame there weren't a few more people. I did enjoy trying to explain to Blake the Dr. Seuss connection. I'm not entirely sure he got it though!

After that we headed to Queen's Park where Blake and Matt enjoyed a drink with Uncle Chris before Matt headed home on the train and Blake and Noah and I headed to the swings, to kill a little time before my friend Rachel's 40th birthday party. It was a good party at the Irish pub in QP, but I was on designated driver duty since we were miles from home so I didn't really get to celebrate as I might normally have. We left there about 9:00, making a quick stop at the Sainsburys supermarket to get ingredients for several dishes that I needed to make for the next day.

On Sunday our road participated in the "Big Lunch", an event that happened nationwide where people were encouraged to get out and share a meal with their neighbors, friends, and community. Our road was closed, as was the road perpendicular and the one parallel, and it was such a cool day - all the kids loved the freedom and it was a lot of fun to have a pot luck lunch with our neighbors. The morning, I'll admit, was not that fun, with me in the kitchen making a carrot cake (that I then dropped in the refrigerator - it was salvageable, thank goodness), Matt doing his lentil salad (and after tasting it, saying that it tasted a bit fishy, and then our having a near argument over whether the pan he had used had been washed or not since some middle-of-the-week fish-based meal...it had...I think...), and then finally with lunchtime approaching, finishing off a spinach-artichoke dip before finally having a shower. It was one of those, "Why didn't I do this cooking yesterday?!" type mornings...

Blake was fascinated with this plastic toy house that someone had brought, and spent almost the entire day playing in it. He then also happened to hop on some kid's bicycle and ride it in circles a couple of times (although it did have training wheels/stabilizers). Matt just got a new camera and managed to catch it on video (me in the background going, "Blake, I'm not ready for this! I'm not ready for you to be able to ride a bike!"). I'll have to see if I can post it. At 4:30 the lady at #43 made tea to go along with all the cakes people had made; someone had made cupcakes with so many colors of frosting and I thought to myself that that must have taken forever!

With the dying Sunday sun and fading energy levels, we headed in from the street for bedtime. What an exhausting weekend it had been, but a nice one and definitely worth the effort.

View from our window as people were setting up

Blake stayed in this house nearly the whole time

Are you bored, Noah?

The cake table

Amazing cupcakes for every house number, some with names...

Just a shot of Noah looking cute

Love thy neighbor, at least their buggy

I actually wrote this last week, and in an effort to mete out my posts, I decided not to post it on the day I wrote it...then of course I forgot it was there! So anyway, this is from last week...

When I first viewed our house back in August last year, it wasn't really love at first sight with the house, which needed a fair amount of structural work and a whole lot of TLC to get it close to being a great "family home." It was, however, pretty close to love at first sight with the street. About 40 houses, not a major "rat run" of a street (e.g. little traffic), and a real sense of peacefulness that seemed very different from Leighton Gardens. I was also given a flyer for the annual street fair that was happening the next month, and I will always say that I was sold on the street and its street fair, if not the house.

There's a real phenomenon which happens on this street where everyone - at some point or another - is referred to by their door number, as in "Oh have you seen #31's beautiful roses?" or "We got the number of our window supplier from #3." We're number 25 on our road, and the 4 houses to our left (27, 29, 31 and 33) all contain families with children under the age of 6, so it's been nice to think that for any 3 am wake-ups, 10-decibel tantrums, or the back garden banter that goes on with a young child ("Please don't drop that pitchfork on your foot, Blake!"), they have probably gone through it and can relate.

We had our windows measured today to be replaced, so while we usually have the curtains in our bedroom (which overlooks the street) closed, they happened to be open at around 4:00 pm today. I looked outside and saw the Bugaboo stroller of our neighbor two doors down (#29) parked on the sidewalk in front of their house. About half an hour later, it was still there, so my first reaction was to wonder if she was ok. I asked Blake if he wanted to come with me to knock on their door, but there was a woman with a big dog chatting to someone a little further up the street, and he has developed a real fear of dogs, so he stayed in the house with the door open.

I went out and rang the bell at #29, but nobody came. I couldn't actually hear the bell, so I doubted whether it was working. I knocked. No answer. I went back to our house. I then looked out at the buggy just sitting on the sidewalk, so I went back out and rang the bell again. No answer. Back to our house, where I decided to ring the next-door neighbor between us (#27) to see if she had the Bugaboo owner's number. She didn't, but she said she'd seen them come back from the daughter's ballet class and that her parents were with them, and that they may be in the garden and unable to hear the bell, if it was working. Ok, I thought to myself, at least if her parents (e.g. the kids' grandparents) were there, then it was unlikely that she wasn't ok. Now I could just turn my worry to the buggy itself as opposed to the buggy and its owner! If you're making comparisons between buggies and cars, the Bugaboo is probably like a Porsche - sleek, expensive, the envy of all other folks driving around less stylish and bulkier cars. In fact, a Bugaboo probably costs more than some people's cars! In other words, you wouldn't just want to leave one lying around on the sidewalk, in that same way that a Porsche driver wouldn't want to just leave his keys in the ignition overnight with the doors unlocked.

I decided to move it off the sidewalk and on to their front path, as somehow it seemed less abandoned there. Then I noticed that her bag was hanging from the handlebars. Oh no, what if her wallet is in there, and someone walks by and takes it?! I think at this point I walked back to our house once more, to think: should I take the buggy into our house, and leave a note, a la a ransom note - "We have your buggy!" That seemed a bit much, so I went ahead and rang the bell at the neighbors to their other side (#31), explaining the situation. I really hoped at this point that everything was thinking that I was just a good neighbor as opposed to that nosy, meddling lady at #25. They went and called over the fence in the back - indeed #29 were in the back garden - and she came out and got the buggy.

Blake had joined me by this point, covered with paint from the morning's playdate with Lola, having just created a stinky diaper, and with his tennis shoes on the wrong feet. I also realised when we finally got back to our house that Noah had puked all down his front, so coupled with the fact that I never bothered to put on any makeup this morning, we must have looked like quite the sight.

This past Sunday, Blake stayed home with Matt while Noah and I went to church. It was my sixth Sunday visit to All Saints, West Dulwich, but it was the first time I had actually stayed in the main church for the majority of the service instead of going downstairs to the children's church with Blake. The topic of the sermon was to do with the parable of the Good Samaritan, so today feels like a continuation of that theme. Matt has often teased me in the past about my lack of attention to sermons during church services (I'll admit that I find it a very useful 15 minutes to organize my thoughts for the week), but this week I have to say I did listen. And being able to apply those lessons in real life feels quite good. I hope that the street is happy to have us as neighbors.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The feelings of the collective

I was never a wallflower at college, unless in some dictionaries "wallflower" is defined as someone who needs to lean against the wall in order to stay standing after drinking too much keg beer. I don't think I've ever come across that specific definition, so we'll stick with the theory that I wasn't a wallflower.

When big groups of people get together to drink, there is always something very nice about the fact that if they start drinking at the same time, and end at the same time, everyone arrives as a similar level of inebriation at roughly the same time, meaning that any of your embarrassing comments and stunts are hopefully forgotten by others the next morning, since hopefully everyone is sharing in a collective hangover and can't pinpoint specifics from the night before. The timing is key though - if your best friend started drinking even an hour after you, for instance, she might still be clinging on to some morsel of sobriety just as you decide it's the perfect time to belt out "Come on Eileen", solo, standing on a beer pong table. Without your shirt on. Or something like that.

Anyway...if collective advancement toward drunkeness is a good thing, the same cannot be said for meltdowns. One person of four, say, having a meltdown at any given moment isn't good, but it's tolerable - the other three are able to keep their cool and recognize that the melting one will eventually get over it. At about 8:30 tonight, Noah should have been asleep. He wasn't though - he was crying. Shrieking in fact, like a baby fox (I think this is what a baby fox would sound like, not that I have probably ever really heard one). Blake was downstairs with me in the kitchen, having ignored repeated attempts by Matt to cajole him into the bath. Blake decided that rather than be in the bath, he would rather be wearing a colander on his head, but as he pulled the colander off the counter, he also pulled with it two leftover curry takeout boxes from two nights ago that I was about to reheat. As chicken biryani and sag aloo splattered all over the floor, I decided I had had enough of Mrs Nice Mom. If ever you need a way to get a tired toddler to start crying, have him spill curry all over the kitchen floor after you've spent 14 hours being his slave and see how you react. At this point 3 of the 4 of us were either shrieking, shouting or crying - and it just made me think about the power of the group mood. Neither hangovers or meltdowns are much fun, but at the least the hangover was presumably preceded by good times. Not that I can remember much of them.

The blind leading the blind

It has been a long day. I heard the pitter patter of Blake's feet about 3.4 seconds after Matt shut the front door to go to work this morning, and when Matt got home at 7:00 pm he then went for a run (we're supporting and testing the theory that exercise is good for the brain and for stress and anger management; not that Matt is that stressed or that angry, but he feels he would like to exercise more. I recommended to him the aerobic sport of "toddler chasing" but he's sticking with running).

At 8:00 pm I was about as close to brain dead as I'd ever like to be, so once Matt was back, I went out for a walk in the general direction of our local express supermarket. As I turned the corner near the parade of shops nearest our house, I had a sensation of freedom - alone with my thoughts, thinking of blog posts to write, doing my best to unwind and enjoy some fresh air, having my body to myself and not having to listen or speak to anyo-- "Can you tell me where this is?" It was a large black lady bearing a piece of paper with some address written on it. Unfortunately it was an address that I wasn't familiar with. Unfortunately she also was probably close to legally blind as at least one of her eyes didn't seem to be real, and at any rate was not pointing in the same direction as the other. Oh dear. No, I'm afraid I don't know where that is, but the other road that's written down is actually that way, parallel to this one, I said, struggling to figure out which of her eyes I should be looking at. I wondered if she knew what parallel meant, as she didn't seem to make any movement toward the direction I was pointing. But then again, maybe she couldn't see that I was pointing.

We were standing in front of the local William Hill betting shop, and there was nobody else around. "Ask in there for me." It wasn't a question. At this point a man wandered out and so we asked him; he didn't know it either but it was my chance to take my leave. Sorry, I said, and headed off. I then spent the rest of the walk wishing I'd paid more attention in Latin class to be able to identify that blind prophet (or was it English class when we read the Iliad? Or was it the Odyssey?). Anyway, I'm sure that there's some famous blind man in one of those. Or was it the Bible? Probably the Bible, now that I think about it. I'm sure all themes and characters appear at least once in the Bible.

For the next five minutes of my walk, my sense of freedom was lost as I then felt guilty at not being able to offer more help to someone in need. Then I got slightly angry at why I had to be the only person around to be asked - Christ, can't I have a break?! I was quickly distracted by a very tall young trendy guy who was walking in front of me; he had a very brand new pair of very bright blue "trendy trainers" (funky tennis shoes) and I really really had to bite my tongue to not say to him, "I like your shoes." They were very loud, definitely in a kind of "I want people to notice these shoes" way, but I decided it would be mortifying for both of us if I said anything.

Finally arriving at Tesco, I had to now figure out what to buy. I actually had done a big shop at Sainsbury's last night, so I didn't really need anything, apart from the 20 minutes or so of "me time" that I had got from the walk to the store. I therefore saw my choices as some chocolate-flavored something, or booze. Then I saw the magazine section - that looked good: a purchase, but a calorie-free one! In the end I decided to buy the paper (might just as well have taken out a £1 coin and dropped it in the trash can for all the reading that paper will likely get). A quick check at the interesting beer on offer revealed a big bottle of Leffe or a big bottle of Hoegaarden, so to decide which one to get I looked at their alcohol content. Leffe=6.6%, Hoegaarden=4.9%. I bought the Leffe.

From the comfort of my home I can now confirm that I am thinking of the blind prophet Tiresias from the Odyssey (Mom, I'm sure you already knew that, and that you can probably name other Greek tragedies he was in). I do hope that lady found where she was going. But if she didn't, I hope she met along her wandering that tall young trendy guy and told him she liked his shoes. She definitely wouldn't have been able to miss them.

OMG - the blogging world

The other day I was reading someone's status on Facebook and someone responded with the acronym "LMAO". I revealed a distinct lack of awareness about what this meant by having to Google it, only to discover it stands for "Laughing my A** off", kind of an adult and more extreme version of the old "LOL" for "Laugh out loud". I guess this helps avoid any confusion with LOL being mis-interpreted for "Lots of love."

Anyway, I had to run up the local organic deli this morning before going to have tea at our next door neighbour's house - I had volunteered to bring something sweet (Noah and his disposition didn't count...it had to include chocolate), and a quick check in the cupboard revealed some raisins and a bag of oatmeal that has been sitting there for months. Off to the shop it was then...I bought a pack of biscuits and was about to head out of the shop when I heard, on the radio playing in the store, two women discussing "mummy blogs." I was intrigued, and the male shopkeeper informed me it was BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour (a radio program I had never even heard of!). I looked a bit silly just standing around trying to hear what was being said over various orders for charcuterie, olives and cheeses, and yet again, I have to marvel at technology, since I've just been able to listen to the show from the convenience of my home, over 12 hours since it was on air. I also love it that it was a guy listening to the Woman's Hour, although now I'm wondering whether they just always have Radio 4 on in a kind of, "this is a Radio-4-listening shop" attitude.

It sure was an interesting discussion, and what an eye-opener too. Now, I know having a blog is not original, but I guess I didn't realize just how un-original it is. I also know that there are improvements that I could make to my blog, but I didn't realize just how many there are of those too. In the 10-minute radio program I learned this:
- there is an entire site for British Mummy Bloggers; it's here
- there was an entire conference last week about and for blogging mothers - it looks extremely cool and I wish I had somehow been able to go!
- I have a lot to learn, but it could be fun to do this

In the past 20 seconds I have learned that Noah is awake, so I'd better go. But if you know a lot about blogging, get in touch b/c I'd love to know more!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blake gets his hair cut!

Blake was born with a fair amount of hair, but once he lost that original hair he has never had a great deal. He has a few really beautiful little curls that come out when it's humid, but the top had gotten a bit straggly and I never really know which way to comb it. I know that I should have been brave enough to figure out how to trim it myself, but I just wasn't up to it right now, so we took him to the local salon yesterday morning for his first "cut" - but it was really just to even things up. He didn't want to sit on the chair on his own so he sat on Matt's lap, and fortunately I'd brought the sticker book to kind of distract him. Midway through I freaked out that I had forgotten my envelope to save the hair in, and both the woman and Matt kind of explained that there was hardly anything really to save, such was the minimal nature of her cut. I did manage to save a few little pieces of hair! The pictures kind of speak for themselves...I don't think he enjoyed it very much but was happy when it was finished!

Just plain cute

I am now through copying stuff off two memory cards...everything I do seems to take absolutely forever. Anyway, this is one of my favorite photos of late:

Happy Birthday, KK98!

Happy birthday to my college roomie, Kate (although she will always be "Katie" to me!). Hope you've had a great day!

We were really lucky to see Kate, Tom and Clara in Clinton a few weeks ago - here are a few shots from then...

And another from the Clinton dining room, but I'm not sure of the year - girls? 2003 after Reunion?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A few pics from last weekend

I'm only halfway through clearing my cameras' memory cards, but here are just a few from last weekend at Jamie and Diane's.

Not a commentary on the day's festivities, but more on our general state of exhaustion:

This is very sweet one of William and his Maman...

Anna makes the boys laugh, or is Chris dancing in the background?

TV is not all that bad

This week Blake dropped down to 3 days at nursery, so I have decided that with the extra day at home, I'm going to have to try to re-discover my fairly dormant love of arts and crafts. Ikea, in addition to the bed, also had some really inexpensive drawing papers and paints and crayons, so I got some stuff to try to stock a "rainy day/late afternoon fun" box.

We happened to be watching a show called Mister Maker yesterday and the presenter showed how to draw a pirate by tracing himself with a magic pencil. This show is really cool - the guy just makes really cool and clever things - but always in the past I've watched it and thought to myself, "I must remember this idea, but first I need to go buy some paints/pipe cleaners/glue/tissue paper...." The pirate tracing looked like something we could do since I had just bought this big roll of paper, so we gave it a shot.

Blake really enjoyed it, and today we did another one, this time a space man.

I was particularly impressed with my space shuttle belt buckle, a nice accessory I thought.

There was a funny moment when I had drawn a moon above the space man's head, and then later on started to draw the surface of the moon under his feet. While I was drawing the surface and saying something about him taking a walk on the moon, Blake reminded me that there was already a moon and pointed to the first fingernail-shaped one that I'd drawn...and I thought, oh yeah, can't have 2 moons, remember what you've already drawn, silly Mommy!

Anyway, I'm going to start paying a bit more attention to this Mister Maker show and then try to get the things to be able to do more of the stuff. I've found in the past few weeks that life is a lot more enjoyable if you don't feel guilty all the time or worry that you're doing everything wrong, so this just proves tv can't be all that bad if it led us to spend about an hour on these drawings! Now I just need to remind myself about the solar system before I go making up extra planets...

It's a boy for Marisa, Kyle and Ellie!

Congratulations to Marisa and Kyle on the birth of their son, Tyler, on 7/7. We hope that Ellie is enjoying being a big sister (to a big little brother, 9 lbs, 11 oz at birth!) and that you adjust to life as a family of 4!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Memory, or lack of it

When people talk about "turning into one's mother," it's often not referred to as a very pleasant thing. In fact, I can think of many reasons why I want to be like my mother: she's kind, generous, thoughtful, smart and funny, just to name a few. A few weeks ago, a lady in the local library was trying to buy some second-hand books for her son and was short 20p; she went to put the book back on the rack to come back for it later and I asked the librarian how much it was in case I had the spare change to offer it to the woman (cue slightly awkward moment where the librarian thought that I was trying to buy the same book). The woman happily accepted it and said that her son loved those books, and I thought to myself that I could see my Mom offering the same thing. Incidentally, I was quite excited to realize as I was handing over the coin that I had actually found a 20p coin at the post office that very afternoon, so it was a kind of harmonious return of the coin to a place it was needed (I thought that Becca Harrison might like that in a kind of happy karma way).

Recently, however, I have encountered a situation that I have seen my Mom struggle with time and time again, and I absolutely can't believe it's happening to me, still being in my "early 30's" (ok, barely) and supposedly a bit more au fait with these things. And no, it has nothing to do with hair color or facial lines, although that's happening too! There have been several times this week when I have gone to take a picture only to find that the memory cards on my camera are full. These are not dinky cards, either - something like 2GB each (goodness only knows what mega and gigabytes actually are, but anyway, I know that 2GB should be plenty for my purposes, provided that you save the photos on to the computer, delete from the card, and move on). In an effort to actually make some in-roads on this project, this will be my last post for now, but hopefully it will mean that when I come back into the land of blogging, it will be with more pictures! And that, of course, will make my mother very happy.

Southern hospitality

London, like a lot of cities, countries and hemispheres, has an ongoing and vigorous debate over which is better: North or South. I love this article that Lucy Morris posted on Facebook a while back; having now become a "Sarf Londoner" myself, I had to laugh at many of the things mentioned.

But for all its lack of tubes and bad reputation, we've found the people in the South to be very friendly, and Blake and Noah and I are getting quite good at what my friend Tanya and I called "mummy pulling" back in 2008. It's a bit like being out at a nightclub [nb: not been to one of those in oh, about a million years] and trying to get phone numbers to set up future dates with potential partners, although in our version it was trying to meet like-minded mothers to set up dates with potential playmates for the kids.

So far the summer weather has cooperated and given us ample time to do a lot of hanging around swingsets and cafes, and our efforts and those of others have resulted in a few sweet playdates. Last week we went to Peckham Rye Park to meet Henrik (2) and Trudy (9 weeks); Blake and Henrik set up an excellent "kitchen" in some woods and had fun gathering leaves and twigs to make a "fire" where they then "cooked" some "pasta". Can you see how my punctuation is going to work to reflect "imaginary things"? I just love their faces in these photos:

And then today we met up with Dylan, who was born the day after Noah, at the very same hospital, and his friends Lola (2) and her sister Tea (6 mos). Dylan's mum Phil happened to look in our pram 2 or so months ago and commented that Noah looked about the same size as her son - we then decided that since they were born only a day apart, that we should stay in touch! Lola and Tea's mum Sheena kindly cooked an extra portion of Lola's dinner for Blake and they had a little "al fresco" dinner date after a dip in the paddling pool. It was really cute. In a slightly hilarious but embarrassing way (for me), Blake kept saying "Shall we have our dinner?" while it was cooking. That boy! One of these we'll get to manners...
Boys in stripes - Noah and Dylan...
Lola bounded out of her chair to take a look at the photo - while Blake has reverted to his "fake smile" (although he was having genuine fun!)
The date ends with a hug, with lunch set up for next week!

Anyway, as far as I can tell, South London is where its at, but I won't tell that to anyone when we head up to Queen's Park on Monday to see old friends. That's provided, of course, that I can find an overland train to get me there...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Happy Independence Day, part 2

Tuesday was a day full of milestones for us. Noah, starting from his back, rolled over. I say "starting from his back" because he actually rolled over last week, but that time he had sort of started on his side on the bed so I figured it shouldn't count. This Tuesday he was under the little play gym and I went out to the kitchen to get something. When I came back, I found him struggling on his tummy, looking like this:

I was initially pretty proud of the little man, but then we've had to deal with the unpleasant consequences of him being able to get over, but ending up with his arm trapped underneath him and still unable to lift his head, which makes him grunt and shriek. I am quite envious of him being able to be on his stomach, since I can't do this for fear of crushing his source of nourishment, aka my "bosom" (for some reason knowing that there are some of my mother's friends who read this blog I struggle to write "boobs"). My little placid baby has definitely found his voice this week - and it's a loud one! I am still trying to work out whether he's just figured out that if he does pipe up, he'll get a lot more attention, or whether he's been bothered by the recent heat, or whether it's this rolling over thing that's making him feel off-balance. We'll see what next week brings. He had found his thumb on this occasion, and of course inside I'm then thinking, "What's better, the pacifier or his thumb?" Each has its advantages and disadvantages...

As for brother Blake, and on to the title of this post, we tried him on Tuesday in his "big boy" bed. I went to Ikea on Monday and then spent all day rearranging furniture and constructing the flat pack kit, breaking into a sweat and being slightly befuddled at the very last step in the instruction booklet. Of course with Ikea furniture, the instructions are all in pictures (which, given my newfound love of the graphic novel, should suit me fine). I mistakenly thought that with Ikea furniture, absolutely every nail or pin or screw or wooden tack would already have a pre-fabricated hole to go into, so I was very confused when I got to the last step where it seemed to be instructing me to screw 2 metal rods (joined in the middle to make an "x" shape) to the underside of the wooden sides. I turned the bed over, but there were no pre-fabricated holes to screw into! What? I thought. This bed is obviously defective! I looked again at the instruction booklet, then back at the bed, then back at the booklet, then back at the bed. This went on and on until I finally decided that I would just have to make my own holes. I was also quickly in my mind trying to calculate Blake's weight (unknown, must take him to the clinic to be weighed at some stage...maybe 30 pounds?), the distance to the floor (8 inches?) and what would happen if for some reason the bed collapsed because of my inexpert craftsmanship. In the end I just made my own holes and the bed held my weight (also unknown, but probably carrying an extra 30 pounds!). Once it was made, I did slightly regret getting the absolute cheapest bed, but I slapped a car-covered duvet on it and it looked pretty sweet.

Anyway, Blake was actually very excited about the bed, and went to sleep pretty easily. I had done a bit of reading about all the things that could go wrong (falling out, getting out, etc), so I was on tenterhooks about what lay ahead. He did call for Matt at about 2:00 am to turn off his nightlight, but then slept til 6:00 or 6:30. On Wednesday he didn't call out in the night and also slept past 6. We keep his door shut and right now he can't reach the handle, but yesterday morning I heard his feet patter to the door before he starting calling out for Daddy. Today, he slept until nearly 7 - I'm now wondering if there's some sort of drowsiness-inducing product sprayed on to the bed or something, or else it's just that Blake likes his bed very much (or, oh yes, it could be that he's hardly getting to sleep until 9:00 pm most night...)

We'll see if it lasts, but if all transitions were this easy, well, we'd be pretty lucky! For now we have left the cot in Blake's room, kind of thinking that we could give him the choice of where he'd like to sleep before we move the cot into Noah's room (thanks, Anna, for the idea - you're already ready for 2 years out!), but it may not be too long before we can just move it since Blake doesn't really seem to have looked back. Noah, meanwhile, is in the travel cot because he was simply busting out of his Moses Basket, so hopefully in the next couple of weeks or so we can get everyone where they belong.

Tonight I did stories with Blake and after giving him a kiss he said to me, "Goodnight, Mommy," and rolled over and seemed to instantly doze off. He's had a big week; he moved up to the pre-school room at his nursery and has been getting used to life outside the toddler room where he started back in January. He really loves his best friend at the nursery, a little girl named Mia, and she moved up to the pre-school as well, so he's been pretty chuffed about being upstairs with her. This morning when I dropped him off, he seemed a little reluctant, but as soon as he saw Mia playing at the sand tray, he just ran off without saying goodbye to me. We've also moved on from his morning and daytime bottles and he now either doesn't have the morning milk or will at least drink it from a cup, and I guess at some stage we'll have to move on to an evening cup instead of bottle. For now I'm not too worried about doing that too quickly..he's doing well so far but does still want his "hot bottle" after his bath - I actually sometimes just wonder how much of the request for the heated milk is actually just so he can say "hot bottle" in a particularly British accent!

Anyway, after turning out his light tonight, I looked at the dark heap that was Blake under his covers of his big boy bed, and over at the cot which is currently housing some toys, and felt a real wave of sadness wash over me at him taking yet another step toward independence. Matt often talks hopefully about a day when Blake will be able to go downstairs in the morning and get his own Cheerios, whereas tonight I was remembering the days of him being a little baby on the other side of the cot rails waiting to be taken out for a new day of adventures. In the beginning, unlike the flat-pack furniture, they arrive with no instruction booklet - but like the flat-pack furniture they seem to take a lot of time and effort - and then all of a sudden they're running around, expressing their wishes and dislikes, and not needing you as much. I guess for now I'll have to enjoy moving Noah's arm from out from under him...

Monday, July 05, 2010

Miscellaneous from the weekend

My sister-in-law is always very sweet and diligent about asking us what we want for various occasions, namely birthdays and Christmas. My problem is that, when asked, I can't really think of much that I actually want for myself. There are many things, of course, that I would like, but I can never seem to remember what they are...

The top thing on my wish list right now is unfortunately something that can't be bought in a store, and that's more time. The list of things I'd like or need to do is starting to approach a mile long, both my cameras bleat at me because they're out of memory because I haven't deleted any photos since Noah's birth, and each evening I just think to myself, "If only I could just stay up and finish x" before crashing, often fully clothed, in my bed or on the futon in Blake's room after putting him to sleep.

I was proud of myself on Friday because I did something I'd never done before, which was to paint a room, specifically the little bedroom which has thus far served as a laundry-airing and junk storage room. We hope to move Noah into it eventually, so I got out the leftover light blue paint from our room in Leighton Gardens and got ready for manual labor. I'm sure I've had at least minor involvement in past painting exercises but there was a running joke in our last flat that my clothes that I'd put on for doing "DIY" or home improvement were perfectly suited to taking a nap. I have therefore watched Matt do a lot of painting, never knowing just how hard it is! Observing my husband do work on the house has taught me that any project first requires a trip to the local hardware store for some implement that is going to make the job easier. So off I went to B&Q where I asked a store assistant if they had any paint stirring sticks. He gave me an incredulous look and told me, no, but any stick would do. "Any stick?" I replied, imagining various shapes and sizes of sticks in our back garden and thinking that the walls would look like a nature trail if I used any of them. He then clarified, "Yeah, any piece of timber", before going off and finding me a plastic version which I was able to purchase for £1.28. Sorted. I could now go start my job. It probably got into the 80's on Friday, and it was hard work - clearing the room, stirring the paint, trying to keep perfectly straight lines around the ceiling and at the baseboards and door and windows, but I managed to nearly complete the job. Matt kindly finished it off for me this morning because I lost patience with trying to reach the junction of the wall and the ceiling and it was boiling hot by late afternoon and I needed to think about getting Blake from nursery. Noah was so cooperative and just watched from the hallway before getting bored with it all and falling asleep. I will post photos once I get the room looking exactly as I want it to!

Yesterday we went off to get Noah's hand and footprints done. My work got me this as a gift for Blake back in 2008 and according to Matt, we needed to equally get a set done for Noah. This is where his having a sibling and understanding where we need to be equitable will come in handy. Here he is getting his handprint done. We had to wake him him up to do it and he wasn't so impressed with having his hand pressed into that clay, hence the startled expression and mouth accessory. 12 weeks old...how time flies.

And then it was off to Jamie and Diane's for lunch in their garden, and for Jamie to display his handy rigging up of a tv outside on which to watch numerous sporting events including the women's Wimbledon final, Argentina v. Germany in the World Cup, and Australia v. England in the cricket. Blake loved playing with all of William's cool toys and Noah liked hanging out with his same-age playmate Joseph P. Once again, pictures to follow soon.

Today we had a pretty low-key morning before going out to have a picnic with Matt's friend from school, James, and his fiance Ita, who happen to live just a few streets over. Blake made several funny remarks to me during the morning, one of which was: "You're a strange Mommy." Oh...? I was then singing something later in the morning and he said, "You can't sing, Mommy," so I asked him did he mean that I wasn't allowed to sing or that I didn't know how to sing - he replied with the latter. So much for all those amateur singing classes, then. For the past couple of weeks he has really made me laugh because sometimes when he gets told off, he walks appearing dejected and then says to himself in mock despair, "Oh, what am I going to do?" I have to laugh at it, honestly.

So as the clock strikes 1:00 am, I think I had better turn in. Another week is upon us and I have a lot to do!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

This time last year I sabotaged our friend Jamie's birthday party by making up and printing out US patriotic songsheets so that everyone would have to participate in an enforced sing-along of Americana tunes. Jamie and Diane had us over again this year (surprisingly, we do get asked back to our friends' homes), along with Chris and Anna and Joseph, but it was very civilized and they just plied us with food and drink pretty much all afternoon while the kids played (or lay about on the ground, as Noah and Joseph did).
I at least tried to dress the boys in red, white and blue yesterday, but the highlight of the weekend was Blake learning a few words to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in under 48 hours (although he did make me sing it quite a few times!).
Here is our duet:

How not to travel with children

As I referred to in an earlier post, we missed our flight to the US when we went a few weeks ago. Throughout that day I thought about the fact that there must be thousands of sites out there which will offer advice on travelling with children (things like "Do bring an extra set of clothes" or "Do plan for delays and bring plenty of things to entertain your child with" are tips that these sites likely offer). Here, then, I present to you my list of "don't's" when travelling with little ones, or my tips on how not to travel with children:

- Don't decide at 10:00 pm on the night before your departure what time you need to leave in the morning...you'll be too tired to make reasonable decisions and will thus get the time wrong.

- Don't leave packing until the morning you need to leave - kind of obvious, huh?

- Related, don't have a bachelor window salesman come to your house at 7:00 p.m. the night before your departure, thus eating into valuable time that could be spent...you guessed it, packing!

- Don't rely on your normal "alarm clock" to get you up. He will choose that very morning to sleep an extra 45 minutes beyond his normal wake-up time.

- Don't leave the house without a basic application of makeup. There are going to be stressful parts of the trip, and knowing that you don't look your best will just depress you more.

- Don't forget the baby. [we didn't do this, although we often had to say to ourselves, "Let's make sure we have Noah."]

- Don't, 20 minutes into the car ride to the airport, make this comment: "I've never felt so rested before a long-haul flight." You dummy, the reason you're not a zombie is that you went to bed instead of packing, and then overslept!

- Don't expect to get lucky with traffic. You are exhausted and have a plane to catch - luck is not going to be on your side.

- When you do get stuck in an unmoving queue of traffic, don't be the car directly in front of a police car who is also stuck in the traffic. It makes doing a U-turn (which could save you precious minutes) difficult.

- Don't pay the American Airlines ticket change fee with a British Airways credit card. It just seems wrong.

- Don't feel guilty about how much time you spend in the toy store in the departure area. Your spending an hour and testing out nearly every single toy will average out fine against those relatives who briefly pop in to buy a stuffed animal for son/daughter/grandson, etc during a trip.

- Remember your baggage restrictions and don't board a flight carrying emotional baggage from a previous flight where your felt your parenting skills were criticized and the flight attendant team unhelpful.

- If you must board with said emotional baggage, don't pick a fight in the "friendly skies" with a flight attendant, especially if she is well-meaning. You will lose; it's a bit like going to a bully's home playground and asking him for a rumble. After you realize the error of your ways, you will therefore have to eat humble pie for the rest of the flight. We all know airline food is not the greatest, and humble pie at 30,000 feet tastes pretty awful.

- Most importantly, even if the start of the trip doesn't go exactly to plan, once you get to your destination, don't dwell on what went wrong. Write the blog post on a scrap piece of paper, and move on and enjoy your vacation. You got there in the end and you can still have a wonderful time.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Zen and the art of ice cream eating

It has been really hot the past few days, and in an effort to give myself a reason to have an ice cream, I've been indulging Blake in a post-nursery treat. I figure that for me, one bit of ice cream is better than the 5-in-a-row chocolate cookie sessions I was having just before we went away, although yesterday as I bit into my frozen Bounty ice cream bar at 5:00 pm, I had a sudden realization that I had actually already had some gelato earlier in the day, at the end of lunch at Pizza Express with Diane. How quickly one forgets...

Anyway, Blake's interactions with the frozen stuff still makes me laugh - lots of dainty licks, plenty of chocolate streams running down into his hands and getting stuck under his nails, the occasionally melting of the ice cream OFF the stick and onto the ground, and of course the face covered with remnants of the flavor of the day!

Here he is with two different varieties (the picture with the cone looks a bit strange because I didn't get his whole arm in, so I realize that may seem like a magic floating hand, but his face captured the moment so I had to include it).

The fruity one was kind of new for him, and he left four little puddles on the sidewalk where we were eating these (ostensibly on our "walk" home - we were stationary for at least 10 minutes!). Either it was hotter yesterday or this type melts more quickly than actual ice cream.

Looking forward to a long, hot summer...