Monday, September 27, 2010

You can't always get what you want...

On Thursday I felt like a broken record. Blake, despite much prompting, continuous reminding, and my denying his requests until he asks for something properly, insists on phrasing his wants as just that: his wants. "I want to watch more Chuggington!" "I want some Cheerios!" "I want a juicebox!" For about the first dozen of these want, want, want's, I replied with a clever phrase I'd overhead a parent use in a store: "I want does not get." Catchy, huh? Say it at least 12 times in the space of an hour, and you'll wish you'd never read this post!

Blake is generally considered to be a pretty eloquent and well-spoken little guy. So you can imagine my extreme frustration when, after enunciating quite clearly his want, this was the dialogue:
B: I want a ham sandwich!
M: I want does not get. Can you please ask nicely, and then maybe Mommy will help you get a ham sandwich.
B: please c...ha...ha....san....ple...?
M: What was that, Blake, I didn't hear you [nor can I hardly even see you anymore, since you're staring at the ground and turning your gaze away from me...and you're only 2 and a half - I thought I had a few years before I had a mumbling teenager!]?
B: (slightly better) Can I have a ham sandwich, please Mommy?
M: Ok, since you asked nicely. But remember, you need to ask for things with a question, and not just say, I want.
20 seconds later
B: I want to watch Mister Maker!

At one point toward the end of the day I was just ignoring him any time he said I want, but then I thought that was perhaps too uncommunicative and not the right approach during what was meant to be a lesson about communication. Anyway, I guess the lesson is that you can't always get what you want, but you can sometimes, if you ask nicely, and at a volume at which I can at least hear you, get what you would like.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life on earth

We returned last Saturday from a wonderful week in France with our "urban family" (of the Woking, Kilburn, and Melbourne clans). I then spent a lot of this past week thinking about astronauts. I vaguely know that the astronauts' return to earth after a stint in space can be a very difficult time, as their bodies become reaccustomed to earth and not being weightless - and presumably their minds become accustomed to the fact that they've been to bloody space!

Matt and I were both pretty exhausted last week, even more so than after a normal vacation with kids. One of the things I've had to do since becoming a mother is re-adjust my expectations about leisure time, and in particular vacations. Yes, vacations with 2 small children will be fun, and they will be a change of pace from normal life, but no, they will not for the most part be relaxing, and no, there will be none of this coming back refreshed and rejuvenated after catching up on sleep, lying by a pool, drinking lots of frozen cocktails, etc. At least not for the next decade. And this is what got me thinking about the astronaut's re-entry from space and comparing it to my re-entry into normal life, and thinking that this particular switch from vacation mode to real world mode was particularly hard.

We had a fantastic time in France. After departing for Stansted airport over 5 hours before our flight was due to leave (I probably don't have to remind loyal readers about what happened the last time we flew), and then navigating the evil forces of budget airline RyanAir's baggage policies with flying colors (ha ha, pun not intended!), the under-two-hour flight was a breeze compared to our usual long-haul trips which require a lot more entertainment and energy. We landed in Biarritz in southwest France and then made the short drive in convoy to our home for the next week, Le Luc in the little village of St Marie de Gosse. I was delighted to see that the huge old chateau had a ping pong table, which I got to use during the week to explain the rules of Dartmouth beer pong. Over the next seven days we had lovely meals, lots of laughs, frequent checking of the baby monitors toward the end of each dinner ("monitor roulette" it felt like - whose would go off first and signal the end of their evening?!), too much wine, a few games of Uno, a special 4th wedding anniversary celebration for Matt and me, more than several cheeky snack breaks of Nutella on bread, not enough sleep, and a very good time. Blake was very funny - enjoying his toast and jam for practically every meal - and did seem to get that we were on holiday - apart from when toward the end when we started talking about flying home, he said, "Mommy, are we going to go on holiday to France on Saturday?" Umm, son, in case you haven't noticed, we're not in London! Since we've come back he's started saying that Noah "talks French" which makes me laugh, and we overheard a guy in the park yesterday talking on his phone to someone in a different language, which Blake proclaimed was French.

Then, the lovely week was over, and we were back in the busy capital. All the traffic was a shock, since I had gotten used to not encountering any cars on the short drive to the local boulangerie for our breakfast pastries and baguettes. Not being able to hear the village church bells or feed the local chickens who came looking for food around dinner time, or hearing the roosters crowing in the pre-dawn hours - it was clear we were back in the city! The combination of the late nights and the early mornings - and the fact that Noah did not get the memo about vacations being the ideal time to catch up on sleep - meant that we were really dragging last week.

I had one regret about the time away (apart from perhaps not thanking Anna, Chris, Diane, Jamie, Raina and Will more often for their help with the boys - it was so nice for all of us that there was always usually at least one pair of free hands to help with a child), and that was that I didn't once, after one of the delicious evening meals we had, think to go outside and look up at the night sky, which I imagine would have been big and bright from where we were in the country. If I had, I might have even seen a spaceman headed home and picked up some advice about how to cope with my re-entry into the real world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Service resumption

Regular blogging to resume shortly...stay tuned!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bonjour, je suis Blake!

We are off tomorrow for a week in France, so I hope that when we come back Blake will be fluent in French like his mother! : )
This week I've been trying to get him to practice some basic phrases and he will occasionally repeat what he seems to have heard and then's pretty funny. Watch this space!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The OCD hunter gatherer

So much about being a mother is really very primal. From conception to labor to all the emotions that then take over once the offspring really does seem that these very basic instincts rule the brain of a mother.

I was having these thoughts over the weekend as I went out on Sunday for yet another round of blackberry picking. To say that I am slightly obsessed with this activity is not a gross overstatement, but as I was in the local bramble bushes at Belair Park, I thought about the fact that I was actually just demonstrating hunter-gatherer tendencies, and that really, I was probably just exposing some part of my psyche that wanted to nourish and provide for my family [somehow a pear and blackberry crumble doesn't exactly conjure up images of a healthy and nutritious meal for a 2.5-year-old, but anyway...]. As I was thinking this, I also decided that as hunting and gathering goes, I would probably qualify as a hunter-gatherer with OCD, such was my dedication to the collection process. I mean, how many blackberries does one person really need?! When would I feel I had collected enough?! Where would these blackberries fit in our freezer anyway?! I sacrificed a nap to go out while Noah was asleep in the buggy and pick berries - surely that was a sign of a chemical imbalance in my sleep-deprived brain! I decided I would happily take a break from the berry picking for few weeks and would only come back to do more if I felt I really really had some free time to kill.

One of the benefits of being on maternity leave is being able to up and go off to different places on a weekday to meet up with people, when others are stuck in an office doing their day jobs. On Tuesday we headed out to Woking to Jamie and Diane's to meet up with Raina, Will and Scarlet back from Australia, as well as Terri and Darcy and Anna and Joseph. I always try to keep to the schedule of trying to get Blake from pre-school at about 5:00, and when I end up about an hour from home with the prospect of battling rush hour traffic on the trains or the road, another primal instinct takes over: the need to get to my son and make sure he's safe and knows he is taken care of and looked after. So it was that I was power-walking along the towpath beside the canal in Woking to make the 4:12 train with only that thought in my head: walk fast to make the train! I know that this instinct is stronger than the need to provide sustenance (i.e. berry-picking) because I was walking past a lot of lovely-looking blackberries, and I didn't even think about stopping to pick them...

Monday, September 06, 2010

No need to go to the toy store!

I decided that I really ought to get my act together today and clean the house, and I started with the living room. If ever I thought Blake was in need of new toys, all I needed to do was look under the couch!
Here's what I found: 22 Lego pieces, a dozen crayons, 9 Matchbox cars, Mr Potato Head's curly moustache, 3 plastic tools, a plastic fireman who had been separated from his crew, the letter D from an alphabet puzzle, about 30 dessicated Cheerios, 2 dirty socks (unmatching), and an awful lot of dust!
I think the sequel to the Toy Story series should be based on the rogue collection of stuff under Andy's couch at college. Noah was pretty amused by all this, in addition to my singing along to some cheesy kids' cd while cleaning.

And now I should get back to work, since I only removed the items which I didn't want to be sucked up by the vacuum cleaner...

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Could this be genetic?

One of the things my Mom is famous for (at least among my Dad and me) is mixing her metaphors. I can't think of any specific examples at the moment but I know she is and has always been prone to doing it.

I had to laugh the other day when I was trying to tell Blake off, as I wondered if this is a specific trait that is possibly passed down among the generations in our DNA. The boys and I were sitting on the couch and Blake had kicked me - I want to say playfully but I'm not sure it was - and I got very stern with him. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: Blake, stop kicking! You know kicking is not nice.

Blake: Why, Mommy? (kicks again)

Me: BLAKE, you are walking very close to...very close to

(I could almost visualize my brain waves going a bit funny here, as if they were bumper cars about to crash, and I could feel my lip quivering as I hesitated before deciding what to do)

I actually then went ahead and said it - thin ice - because I couldn't think of what else to say, before bursting out laughing.

Blake then started laughing and somehow my disciplinarian cloak had to be removed, because I had to explain to him that that wasn't really what I wanted to say!

Oh, silly Mommy, it's not a problem if you walk close to thin ice, it's only a problem if you're walking on thin ice, or close to the edge (I guess that's what I was looking for?!)

The moment passed and we carried on as friends, so it must be true that laughter is the best medicine. Or something like that...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Saturday adventure

These days, we could spend all weekend inside doing chores and working on projects, but fortunately, we don't! Matt suggested on Saturday that we take the train into London Bridge and then hang out by the river, so we did. Blake loved the train ride and then had some fun discovering some fountains along our walk.

That's the Tower of London behind Blake...sometimes I forget we live in a city with many points of interest!

Although this is really just a blurry photo, I like the effect:

Noah can't yet keep up with Blake's pace...

A snippet from a sample day

Here is a taste of the excitement that is the "Weekdays with Mommy, Blake and Noah" show.

Toward the end you can hear the aforementioned Blake laughing like Janice from Friends, and his strange way of talking to Noah...

Sleep, lovely sleep

It doesn't seem too long ago that I took this photo:
and now this is the latest version from last week:

Eventually I put down the camera and joined them...bliss!

The Cat in the Hat lives on

Several months ago we started reading Dr. Seuss books to Blake, which he has really enjoyed. The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish...these are all a very important part of my heritage in that Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel '25) is one of the most famous alums of my alma mater, Dartmouth College. It was just over a year ago that I was in Hanover for Cindy and John's wedding, and while at the Dartmouth Co-op I picked up some t-shirts that I thought would be fun for Blake and BLT, as Noah was then known!

Turns out I didn't really have my thinking cap on, because I basically got the order of the t-shirts wrong: I bought the shirt that said Thing 1 in size 12 months, and the one that said Thing 2 in size 3 years. What I didn't realize was that the Thing 1 shirt needed to be bigger than the Thing 2 one for it to make sense chronologically. Doh!

Fortunately Granny Karla loves both a challenge and the post office, although not necessarily in conjunction with one another. After a lost package, a re-order, a found package, and a delayed transatlantic package, I was finally able today to put the boys in these shirts. I hope it will be only the start of their love of Dartmouth-related things.

My precious Things 1 and 2

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lucy and Ernesto - Olé!

On a beautiful Bank Holiday Monday, we witnessed Lucy and Ernesto take each other to be "nothing other than themselves" in a stunning ceremony at Folly Farm just outside Bristol.

We packed up the car on Sunday to head away for two nights. If you'd looked inside it would have been very difficult to guess that we were not in fact going travelling for several months across multiple continents, such was the degree to which every amount of space in our Toyota Avensis was used. If the kitchen sink would have fit, we probably would have tried to use to hold spare Lego's and put it in ...

Despite the recent cooler and autumnal weather, Monday broke in radiant sunshine, which was very good fortune considering the beautiful setting for the wedding. We had a lot of fun thanks especially to our babysitter Maria who we found through the babysitting agency Elf Sitters; we got to leave Blake and Noah in her excellent care for a few hours. I had real visions of Blake somehow running into the tent where the ceremony was being held shouting "Daddy! Chris! Do you want to build a shed?! Do you want some beer?!" But thankfully this did not happen.

What did happen was that I had too much sangria and was feeling even more wretchedly tired than usual on Tuesday. There were loads of lovely things about the wedding: the ceremony itself which was full of many touching thoughts and words on the nature of love, two guitar-playing mariachi singers who appeared during the post-ceremony drinks, the delicious food, and my downfall - the well-stocked communal free bar which went on into the wee hours. The ride home on Tuesday was pretty miserable as for the last hour Noah just wailed in the backseat. Teething pain, boredom, not happy to be returning to London...could have been any of those things I guess. Anyway, we were happy to share in the wedding weekend and glad that Lucy and Ernesto had a beautiful day to celebrate their marriage. Congratulations!

Yay, we're going to a wedding!

Just married!

La cucaracha, la cucaracha...

My attempted artistry as the sun set before the speeches...