Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brotherly love

We don't live in Philadelphia, but the Brothers Lyons do enjoy each other's company. This afternoon we went out to a local playground to let Blake run (yes, it is a bit like a puppy, I think!).
It started to rain while we were there, so we quickly headed to stand under a massive tree to let the rain pass. Noah was in his stroller, and Blake proceeded to spin him around and around which caused Noah to giggle with glee. Matt and I then each had a go, but when Blake did the spinning, Noah was happiest. For some reason Blake often "speaks" to him in some sort of garbled gibberish...goodness knows what that's all about.
Here are a few other recent shots....long may this affection last!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lyons make good-looking tigers!

There were two little boys who were celebrating their last day at Blake's pre-school before hitting the big time of school next week. When I went to pick him up they were having a party, and I was surprised to be greeted by Blake the tiger - he has never ever before wanted to have his face painted. I thought he looked so handsome (and so grown-up!).

Noah thinks, "What in the world has happened to my brother?"

And I'm sure it won't be long until they are wrestling and fighting with each other...

Where did summer go?!

Life has taken on a very autumnal feel here. This week the weather has been grey, cold and wet, and it just seems like summer is definitively over! Of course a change in season usually means for me the realization that I have nothing appropriate to wear, which results in much fun as I rifle through my clothes hoping and praying I might happen upon some long-forgotten item which would be perfect. Then again f I did find it, I'm sure it wouldn't fit. Such is life!

We are off this weekend to Lucy and Ernesto's wedding near Bristol, which we'd hoped would be a summery type affair, although I think I'm going to have to pack warm clothes so we don't freeze!

Not too much seems to have happened this week. Blake continues to delight and frustrate me in equal measure. He has developed a new laugh which reminds me a lot of Chandler's girlfriend Janice's from the series Friends. I'll have to see if I can record it. Noah seems to have not received the memo about sleeping through the night, and continues to wake. Even worse a couple of times he's woken Blake up at about 2:00 in the morning, which is about the least desirable scenario I can imagine for 2 am. Most mornings around 4:00 I just bring Noah in our bed where he'll sleep soundly and at least save me from getting up and down going to and from his room and ours. Once I've had some coffee and a shower all is forgiven and I can't believe how lucky I am to have these sweet boys.

Still working on capturing that elusive birth announcement photo...and trying my hardest to record some of the funny things that Blake says these days, such as "Mommy, you're a big boy!" (when I was swinging on a big swing next to him) or "Mommy, you're a super-dooper man" after saying that Matt was a super-dooper man. Still seems to struggle a bit with gender and often still calls me Daddy before catching himself and rephrasing! He talks a lot about bears and dragons and other such creatures in his room, so I think I should go have a check - I thought the only known wildlife in there were dust bunnies.

Better go make my list for what we need to take this weekend - and see if I can find some sweaters!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jam-packed weekend

It seems like we packed a lot in this weekend, but I don't feel exhausted from it. As the official Lyons Family buyer of England cricket tickets, I had supplied 6 tickets to Day 4 of the cricket Test match against Pakistan, so on Saturday Matt went off with some menfolk and Blake and Noah and I had the day to ourselves. We started off at my latest discovery, Baby Booters at the local JAGS sports center, where for £3 we get an hour of kicking dozens of mini footballs around - it's really good, and cheap by kids' activity standards! I had Noah in the Baby Bjorn while we tried to get Blake to participate. He liked it for a bit but after being there for about 5 minutes started asking if we could go home to have sandwiches for lunch.

We managed to last the hour, but then we did indeed have our ham sandwiches, before my attempts to encourage an afternoon family nap. Blake agreed to go to his room but only if his coloring book and crayons and markers could accompany him. I was to the point of nodding off on the futon when at some point I realized he'd gone extremely quiet (usually a sign of trouble!). He had used his markers all over the sheet on his bed so I have to hope that it all comes out in the wash! Eventually the three of us ended up catching some zzz's in our bed; a 2-hour nap felt to me the equivalent of spending the day at a spa.

When Matt came home we headed off to get Blake a new pair of shoes before a quick trip to Dulwich Park. I was reminded of a photo taken on my phone from last year when we were in the park after house-hunting - it was one year plus a week to the day, I think, that we saw this house we're now in! It still has a lot of work to be done to it, but despite all its imperfections, I love our little home.

Today the boys and I went to church, where at childrens' church the story was about the story of Noah and the ark (when asked how Noah might get all the animals away from the flood, one little boy replied, "By a helicopter" which we all agreed was a pretty clever, modern way of doing things). I then got it in my head that we needed to find a local spot to go blackberry picking. I have wonderful memories of picking berries in Wormwood Scrubs a couple of years ago with Will and Raina, when they revealed their exciting news that Scarlet was in the oven, so to speak. I thought that we might have some luck in the local Belair Park, so Blake and I headed out and left Noah and Matt at home. I tried to follow the unofficial rules of not picking ones low on the ground (which dogs might have peed on) and managed to get a few good ones, although I think peak season is about a week away:

Blake sleeping, while I pick berries and watch the local cricket match:

I think I'm going to try to make a blackberry and rhubard crumble tonight if I can find the time.

And then it was time for the main event, something that Blake had been looking forward to all week: family swimming at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. I had bought some arm bands/water wings for him on Friday and he was very excited when we finally got in the pool. Noah also had his first-ever swim, which he seemed to enjoy (if wearing a perma-grin is a sign of enjoyment...bless him, he just loved being able to do what big brother Blake was doing). For the £6.05 family entrance fee, I think we got our money's worth!

In other highlights, Noah sat on his own yesterday:
and here is the funniest attempt at a photo which will not be accompanying Noah's birth announcement:

I started writing this post this afternoon, and now it is about 10:15 pm - and I correct myself: I am exhausted!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Toddler's memory

I'm constantly amazed by the memory powers of a 2.5 year old. Blake can remember so many things, people, places and events, many times when I can't! We'll be walking down the street and a completely inconspicuous man or woman will walk by - one I'm certain never to have seen before - and Blake will say, "That's Ethan's Daddy!" or "There's Isabelle's Mummy!" (and yes, I think he would say "Mummy" instead of "Mommy" much for his North Carolina roots!). Obviously I guess he sees the parents of his pre-school friends pick up their kids, and is able to identify which mothers or fathers go with which child. It's pretty remarkable. He loves to recall events, such as when he finds a screwdriver lying around (erm, yes, I think I've remarked before on the state of our house) and will say, "Daddy and Chris need this to build the shed." Indeed. Well remembered.

So the equally amazing thing about his memory is how bloody selective it is! You would think that after all these days - coming up close to a thousand he's had of them - he would remember that at some point after he wakes up in the morning, there is a need to de-robe oneself of one's pyjamas and put on actual clothes in order to be able to go out and explore the world. You would think he just might be able to remember that, but somehow, he doesn't. Yesterday morning the process of my saying - for the first time - that he needed to get dressed and then ending up with him in actual clothes that looked somewhat decent together, not to mention socks that matched (each other, not the outfit) took just over an hour. An hour. Sixty minutes. Sixty minutes to do something that, once he succumbed to doing, took about 45 seconds. Craziness!

Over the weekend, Matt decided that the new plan would be to make Blake get dressed before going downstairs for breakfast or tv. He surmised that if Blake got used to this routine, then he'd come to accept it and we'd avoid the battles. What my dear husband failed to do was to make Blake change his nappy before getting dressed, which meant that after Matt had left to go to work, I then had to do the hour-long battle over the nappy. I texted a grouchy message to say that there was no point to his plan if I still had to go to war over the nappy. I'm not sure he replied....

Anyway, I'm sure this too shall pass, but I can sure think of plenty of other things I'd like to do than cajole a toddler to get dressed. What I could do with a spare hour!!

Happy Birthday, Lela!

It's a day late, but happy birthday - it was so good to talk to you yesterday!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The mother of all mothers

I've been thinking a lot recently about how relentless mothering is. Of course it has its rewards, yes, but the 24/7 nature of caring and providing is tiring. I'm sure it's the same with other types of constant care-giving as well.

You've heard me mention how much I like our new neighborhood, and one of the features of our new community is a lovely church, All Saints. This past Sunday we could not manage to get Blake to agree to get dressed to come along with me, so Noah and I went on our own. Although Blake's insistence on remaining in the house meant that Matt did not get his child-free hour to paint Blake's bedroom, I did find it nice to be at church and able to participate in the service, as opposed to going down to children's church and then having to shush Blake, watch in horror as he heads toward the altar while the vicar is trying to bless the bread and wine, or tell him to use his inside voice when he shouts out, "What's that funny smelly?" in reference to the incense (and no, that isn't a typo, for some reason it's "smelly" and not just "smell").

As well, there is so little going on in my brain at the moment (milk, sleep and diapers seem to be what I think about most) that I was able to listen to the sermon; in other times when I had a life and got more sleep, I would use that 10 or 15 minutes to make plans, do some mental filing, daydream, etc - sadly I wasn't good at focusing on the sermon for the full time. This Sunday, however, the church was celebrating the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and part of the sermon touched on the fact that Mary was a typical mother, with worries, concerns, and love for her son. I concluded that of course her situation was even more heavy-going, given that she didn't undergo the normal route to have him in the first place (at least many of us mothers had a plan in mind that involved a baby 9 months later), and then add the complicated nature of Jesus's existence into her role. I did then wonder later in the day about Jesus the infant - did he produce those same mustard-colored diapers that stain even after 3 washes? Did Joseph come home late from work to find Mary frazzled and desperate to go lie down in the hay for a rest? And Jesus the toddler, did he refuse to get dressed in the morning, or deny vehemently that the smell filling the room did not emanate from his backside? Did she break down and shout at him, "Jesus Christ!" and was it just his mother's telling off that led us to think of "Jesus Christ!" as an expletive?!

I have a feeling that the points being made on Sunday were not to make me think of Mary's role as a mother in this somewhat tongue-in-cheek way. And indeed, I couldn't help getting slightly teary during the hymn which followed, which touched on Mary's role of nurturer and carer, as I contemplated how hard and how wonderful it is to be a mother.

My final religious thought for the day occurred that evening while I was doing dishes: in that Jesus was able to turn water to wine, I wondered if he got the idea from lost and abandoned sippy cups. The ones in our house that once held juice, which left several days under a stack of coloring books and drawing paper to ferment, takes on wine-like attributes. Unfortunately that's no miracle, that's just poor housekeeping.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The importance of friends

It was in the car a few Sundays ago that I announced to Matt that I was leaving. His first question, the obvious one, was "Why?" My reply: "It's just so boring, and such a big waste of time." I think I caught him off guard, and he did seem to try to get me to change my mind. But I'd made my decision: it was time to end the relationship.

Of course I'm not talking here about our marriage, but about my participation in the social networking site Facebook. His next question, also an obvious one, was "Well, why don't you just go on to it less?"

Stronger people than I might be able to do this - simply log on less - and I did try. For a few days, whenever I turned on the laptop, I went first to look at my email, then to see the headlines on the BBC, and then usually after that I shut down the computer. But as the days went on, I did wander back on to Facebook, and it was all the aimless time, the pointless wanderings, that have sent me to the account deletion stage.

If you're not a part of Facebook, you will still probably know about it. My summary version is this: you have an online profile, where you can post information about yourself, provide updates on your thoughts and activities, display photos and videos, and make associations with friends, family, colleagues, not to mention old acquaintances, strangers, and people you either don't know or don't care about. All of these people are called your "friends" on Facebook. There are currently over 500 million people with a Facebook account. 500 million.

I have never been one for moderation, preferring instead an "all or nothing" type approach to most things I undertake. So while the idea of "just going on to Facebook less" is certainly a good one, it's just not for me. Because even when I didn't log on for a few days, when I finally did log on to peruse others' recent status updates, look at people's vacation snapshots, read an article posted by someone, it was that time - what I felt was lost time - when I finally closed out that pained me. I would have spent at least half an hour - if not much more - and what could I show for it? Had I been entertained, enlightened? Perhaps, mildly. Was I smarter, more informed, a better person? Definitely not. The point was, would I miss it if I weren't a part of it?

I think the answer is no, so this morning I logged on to extract myself from the system. I took a rather round-about approach to doing this, by starting with my list of "friends". I had 293 of them, a respectable number I figured, but really, who were they all? First off I removed connections with those people who I really wouldn't be bothered if I never saw or heard from again. I then went through and removed all the people with whom I email - or even better, talk to! - regularly. Our friendships would last regardless of whether I was a Facebook member or not. After this I removed the connections with people who I knew I would still be in touch with - lots of current colleagues, mainly. I had culled about half of my nearly 300 associations by this point. The next set was harder - people with whom I was glad to be back in touch, mostly classmates from either Hickory High School or Dartmouth, and former colleagues. Some connections were easily removed, and for the remainder I was able to go in and get their email addresses. I'll follow up with an email to say I'm gone from Facebook, but would like to keep in touch (and while we're on this category, has anyone explored how the dynamic of high school and college reunions will change, if you already know everything about all your old classmates?).

After doing all this "deconnecting", I discovered in the FAQ that there were two options if you wanted to delete your account - the first being a mild, "it's not over til it's over" approach called "account deactivation". With this your entire Facebook existence is preserved, but you're not visible, presumably in case you change your mind. I did this at first, but then realized that I could still log on and do the surfing that caused me to want to leave in the first place. I then went ahead and requested an "account deletion" which will take place in 14 days, provided I don't log on in the meantime. They must have these policies in place knowing that people do change their minds. Not me, though, not this time.

I can't remember when I joined Facebook, but I am amazed at its lasting power. When I joined - probably sometime in 2008 - I thought it was definitely a passing fad, soon to die out and be replaced by something else. But in fact, if anything it seems to have become more popular, more ubiquitous, more ingrained in the fabric of our lives, more welcoming of members of different age brackets (the oldest member of Facebook died recently, aged 104; she had nearly 5,000 "friends" and over 50,000 followers on Twitter). For that it is amazing, and I don't want to disparage the benefits of connecting and reconnecting with people, being able to share good news, insights, precious memories and photos with a virtual community of your friends and people you care about. But for me, I'm going back to email (I made the analogy that this felt a bit like saying I was going back to using a rotary dial phone...), and of course I hope this will give me more of my computer time for writing. For those of you reading who were my friends on Facebook, I hope you didn't take it personally when I "de-friended" you. I'm glad you're reading here and look forward to staying in touch the old fashioned way.

And so, over 500 million users minus one. I hope I don't regret the disappearance, but I don't think I will. If all else fails, Matt still has an account; maybe he'd let me have a peek.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Big brother makes little brother happy

When Blake isn't driving me bonkers, he loves making Noah laugh. Here they are after some finger painting (blue mark on Blake's forehead is finger paint). Sooo cute...

I can shout a rainbow

Because Noah is such a sweet baby, with a really generally good disposition, I occasionally forget that being a mother to two children under 3 is supposed to be hard work. Not even supposed to be hard work, but IS hard work.

If you are reading this as someone who is not the exhausted - but proud - owner of a 1.5 to 2.5-year-old, you have probably not shouted at someone at the top of your lungs in a very long time, maybe even never! I am sure that the last time I truly used my voice to its full capacity had to do something with a company softball game, when fuelled by several cans of beer I found myself getting very excited when a British person wasn't getting the rules of softball and doing some poor base-running. Matt and I have never really been ones for shouting matches, probably because we are simply in agreement that a) we can pay the bills, but just barely, but we're glad we can do that; b) we can vaguely remember a time when we used to go out to dinner 2 or 3 times a week, but who in the world would have the energy for that now?! and c) most likely one or both of us is probably going deaf in one or both ears, so what's the point?
One of the hardest things about the current "phase" that Blake is in is that he just doesn't seem to understand that SO many things would be SO much easier if he would just listen and do as he is told. Getting dressed is basically as big a battle as those at Waterloo or Gettysburg, and today as he fought and kicked me to get on his pants/trousers, I could almost see myself turning into a caricature-like wicked witch of the west. My face got red, the walls shook at the tone of my voice, and Blake burst into tears. And then, oh, the guilt! But, I maintain, kicking is NOT NICE!

The funny thing - if there is one - is that later that evening as we told Matt about our day, the thing that Blake brought up was this: "Mommy took Blake's jelly and Blake cried and cried because he wanted his cake." Ok, so the way I saw this particular incident - a different one to my morning shout - was this: We went off to the park to meet some new friends at the playground. I played with Blake on the slide, I pushed him on the swings, and then I played football with him and his friend Molly, all of this taking up much of the afternoon. When we got home, I went into the kitchen and got out a mini cake, cut it in half, came into the living room, and offered Blake half (with the other half going to me). But oh how in the world that was totally unacceptable! I am absolutely sure he has heard of the concept of sharing, but somehow nothing I could say could persuade him that it wasn't his God-given right to have the entirety of this Bakewell tart. I ate my half in one bite so there was no looking back from that, but I just couldn't believe the waterworks. Meanwhile Noah was sitting in his bouncy chair, puking up the lovingly-prepared breastfeed I had given him a few minutes before. This was a 10-minute spell where I have to say that I was not feeling the most appreciated. Fortunately I quickly recovered and we immersed ourselves in a 2-page Thomas the Tank Engine coloring spread - I found the mundane "keeping in between the lines" to be very therapeutic, and we used all the colors in the rainbow to pass about 30 minutes of what is typically called the child's "unhappy hour".

I have, since Noah was born, made it a point not to indulge in my evening drink until Matt gets home from work. Although there have been times when I have wanted to have my evening glass of wine at 5:00 pm or thereabouts, I have felt it only appropriate to wait til he's home. Tonight I had about 3 glasses between his walking through the door and my doing bedtime with Blake; I have to say that I like Charlie and Lola all the time, but reading a story called "Snow is my Favorite and My Best" with a slight buzz is actually pretty fun.

So yes, it is hard work, and "relentless" as the friend we met at the swings described it. But being a mother does have its good times. Getting Blake dressed just isn't one of them.

Speaking of rainbows, there was a fantastic one yesterday:

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Why you have not received a birth announcement for Noah

Noah is pretty good at smiling for the camera. And he loves the video camera even more.

Here are a couple of recent shots of him looking pretty cute:

In his big cot on Saturday (sheet is his Mommy's from 34 years ago - still in great shape!)

I had to take this one holding him with one hand and just aiming the camera in his general direction, hence the interesting crop:
One of the things you may be asking yourself is whether or not I am planning on sending out birth announcements for Noah (after I wrote that, I'll add that you're probably not really asking yourself's probably only me who is aware that there is a box of them sitting on our front table, waiting to be addressed and sent in the mail). The delay is because of a photo, which is hard to believe since I take a fair number of photos and many of the ones of Noah are quite cute. No, the issue is that I need a photo of both Blake and Noah looking cute together, which at the moment is proving I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E. Here is an example of what I usually get when I try to photograph them together.

Blake loves to hug Noah when the camera is on them both, but the hug usually involves his arm covering Noah's face, thus ruining the potential shot. Blake gets bored about 2 seconds later and the above is the result of what happens next. And so I'll keep trying. I hope to get the announcements out by Noah's first birthday, at the latest!

Hooray - a post!

I hope you're as excited to see a new post as I am to write it! Although the problem with infrequent posts, I find, is that they don't seem to capture any one thought or theme, since I'm just trying to get something - anything - written to put up here, to make sure you keep checking back for updates.
It has seemed like a really long week, since my birthday on Monday. On Wednesday, Matt's mum came to stay and Matt and I got to go out to dinner. We hadn't done that in so long that we were a bit rusty (not to the point of my thinking, who is this man lurking beside our table - oh, it's the waiter! but in terms of how a dinner date flows). It was also fairly amusing as we arrived at the local Italian restaurant as most people were finishing their espressos and going home. The boys seem to have pretty late bedtimes, so it was close to 8:30 or even 9:00 before we got out the door. But it was still very nice to be out and I occasionally remembered that I was eating in public and tried to be mindful of my manners.

This weekend was quiet, but today we went over to Crystal Palace park, which proved to be full of fun and interesting things to see - including a dinosaur park and a small farm. Blake had a really good time and I was really impressed with the park.

Watch out, there's a big dinosaur beside you!

An alpaca at the farm. Nice hair.
Remnants of an ice cream (vanilla, at least) but a shot I liked nonetheless...

One of the things that is starting to be so enjoyable is the way Blake and Noah interact. Blake is a funny little boy, but today he was making Noah giggle so much while Noah was seated in his new Leapfrog Learn and Groove Activity Center, which I picked up yesterday after "winning" it on eBay. Blake kept opening and shutting some little compartment while saying "Open/Shut" and this just seemed to please Noah endlessly. I can't wait to see them have more fun together over the years.

There's no easy way to do it, but I wish I could capture some of the things that Blake says that make me laugh. He has quite the imagination, and often the vocabulary to back it up, which is pretty impressive for his age. The other day we were having a "tea party" and he "took a sip" of coffee and then said, "This coffee tastes like soil." Interesting, as I'm sure that would be how many non-coffee-loving adults would describe it as well. About a week ago I was changing Noah's diaper, and Blake was helping me. He was up by Noah's face, though, and said, "It smells, Mommy". I replied to ask did he mean that it smelled of dirty nappy, and he said, "No, it smells of...Noah." I haven't commented much on how Blake was/has been since Noah's arrival but he has really, honestly, been very good with him (apart from that biting on the forehead incident reported earlier). He is usually very concerned about Noah's well-being, and it makes me smile when Noah is crying and Blake will say things like, "That's ok, Noah, Mommy's coming." Or he'll say, "Poor Noah," or "Mommy, feed him" which again, is very sweet. There is the antithesis to this kind and generous spirit which rears its ugly head in the morning, when Blake decides that despite the fact that Noah is sleeping peacefully, totally in a blissful state of contentment, he must be woken. Most days I will feel a range of emotions related to being a mother: joy, exhaustion, satisfaction, frustration, anger, pride, sympathy, but I rarely rarely feel that I am on the verge of tears. On the brink of pulling my hair out, yes (if only it could be the grey ones only), but shedding tears, for some reason, no. Apart from this moment when Blake comes in our bedroom and hops on to the bed to basically try to wake Noah in the shortest amount of time possible. That is the closest I come to tears, but it usually comes out more in a defeated sigh and acceptance that another day in paradise has begun.

As for Noah, he's doing well. He slept in his big cot last night and is doing pretty well at going good stretches in the night. To counteract this, Blake is back to waking up at or before 6:00. Oh happy days.

I managed to get some filing done tonight so a huge pile of papers won't be staring me in the face this week. Maybe I'll find some time to fit in some more posts.