Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ni Hao, 2012!

I have decided that Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, with a mere 7 nights separating them, is just a cruel joke for parents of young children.  Trying to get over-excited children to bed by any semblance of a decent bedtime is hard enough, let alone when you need to transform yourself first into Santa Claus (Christmas Eve) and a "normal adult" (NYE).  As I was lying next to a near-slumbering Blake at about 9:00pm tonight and I heard fireworks start to go off, I could only groan inwardly and despair at how this whole occasion is just not geared toward the sleep-deprived and patience-starved.

Fortunately, the fireworks didn't disturb Blake (any more than Noah's re-emergence after he'd gone to bed for the first time around 7:00....that didn't last and he was back in the living room by 7:30).  They are both extremely exhausting at the moment - Noah with his commands ("Blakeeeeey - here go!!!" = Blake, take this toy from me and play with me!..."Daddy - sit down!" = Daddy, sit down and watch me eat my Cheerio's...."Mummmmy!!!" = could mean anything from Where is my toast? to Pick me up! to Mommy, you are just so silly to chase me around trying to get me to wear that diaper!).  Blake has actually been pretty good these days but does remind me of a young puppy who just desperately needs entertaining....all - the - time.

Our special NYE dinner was cottage pie for the boys and smoked salmon and creme fraiche - and some champagne and beer - for Matt and me.  When Blake and I went to the store at around 3:00 there weren't any blinis left.  I decided I would start the year off by being more forgiving to myself and not stress about this absence in my ingredient list - I got a small baguette and grilled small slices - "crost-blini" I'll call it. 

The living room was chaos so we had a nice big some point I mentioned that it might be good if Matt and I went on an anger management class, to which Matt replied that we just need "another parent".  Thank goodness it is now less than 3 weeks til Granny Karla and Grandpa John arrive for their "extended grandparenting stay" (that's for you, Mom and Dad, lest you think you're coming for a vacation! :)

I have to say that I won't really be too sad to say goodbye to 2011.  The surreal plane flight in April seems like a lifetime ago - was it me, or did this year just feel realllly long, in an unexceptional way?  Although, in fairness, I spent some wonderful weekends with various sets of truly amazing friends: the Hickory girls in April, the Dartmouth gang in May in Rhode Island, a late-summer October weekend in Herefordshire with my Pushy Mums, and finally our weekend in the Oxfordshire barns a few weeks ago in December with the Sussex bunch.  I can wish for more sleep and more free time, but I can't wish for better friends.

And so, I say, "Ni hao, 2012!"  Why would I be saying that, you wonder...?  Well, because I'm going to learn Mandarin in 2012.  I have a great feeling about 2012....the Olympics are coming to London, we'll at least go to Clinton in June, if not hopefully elsewhere to celebrate with Mona and Dr Bob (congratulations...still excited for you, though not written the card yet!).  And, oh yes, the babysitters arrive in less than 3 weeks!

Happy New Year!  I'm not sure I'll be able to stay up for the next 45 minutes so I'll just say it now - Happy 2012!

A few Christmas pictures

I always find that the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve goes so quickly, with so little to show for it!  We've been going to bed nice and early the past few nights and now that everyone is back in his own bed, the nights have been pretty good for the boys, after some unpleasant disturbed nights in the few days after Christmas. 

I did wonder and worry the past few days if the demise of this blog was upon me - it has been so long since I have written, and even longer, I feel, since I had anything interesting to say or report beyond the fact that we've had colds since the beginning of November and have all felt really ragged in the run-up to Christmas.  The arrival of a new year, however, is always a cause for - if not celebration - then at least contemplation.  And so, the blog will carry on, even if it will be in a stuttery, not-always-interesting, way.  One of my resolutions for the new year will be to "write more" - whether that's in a journal, in the blog, or something else, I'm not sure, but I like keeping the resolution vague and leaving my options open. 

Christmas was really nice this year, with a generous visit by Santa and a few "guilty-pleasure" naps for me.  The boys were very excited with their new things and we enjoyed seeing them play with their cousins.  On the way back from Bishy's we stopped and saw Chris and Anna and Joseph at their place.  It was nice to have the Christmas fun continue for a little while longer. 

You know what they say about pictures and their superiority to words, so here are a few snapshots from Christmas Eve and Day.  It's only a week after the fact, but Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Film Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks - Chipwrecked (DNF)

In this period between Christmas and the New Year, when we find ourselves with frosty weather and too much time on our hands, it's difficult to know what form of entertainment beyond CBeebies will work with the kids.  On Wednesday we went for a nice wholesome trip to Dulwich Park, and the boys got to ride their new bikes.  We discovered that something might be faulty with Blake's - which was making it difficult for him to ride - so we'll need to take it back to the shop and see what they can do about it.

The story of Blake's Christmas present is a somewhat convoluted one, that I should probably write down lest I forget....Blake had been asking since the beginning of the Christmas season for a bike, and Matt, in his early-bird and Internet-ordering ways had found one at Tesco Direct several weeks ago.  It had been sitting in its box in the shed until the Tuesday before Christmas, at which point Matt thought he should go ahead and try to build it.  As he was putting it together, I was reminded of the story of my Dad and uncles constructing (although now that I'm writing that, I wonder if my Mom wasn't in fact the one doing it, while the men looked on...?) a Barbie van for me one Christmas - I think it took them nearly all night and they almost didn't finish making it by the time I woke up.  Or something like that...I'll have to find out the real version of the story.

Anyway, this was still several days before Christmas - Matt is infinitely a much better planner than I am, as I would have left making the bike until Christmas Eve, I'm sure.  Good thing he is, because as he put it together, it turns out the back wheel was defective and the whole thing wasn't working properly, with the back wheel making a whining noise every time it rubbed against the brake pads.  Uh oh.  Fortunately, as mentioned, it was only Tuesday, with Christmas not until Sunday, so on Wednesday I got on the phone to a local bike store, and a bike shop near my work who had the trike I wanted to get Noah in stock.  Saved by the forces of supply and availability!  Matt picked up Blake's "Bumper FirePower" bike on Friday morning and I carried Noah's Raleigh trike home from my office on Thursday, and Santa's work was complete!

Blake got to ride his bike on Christmas Day, along with Emma who also got a bike.  But Matt thought something wasn't right with the FirePower and this was confirmed at the park on Wednesday when the ride wasn't going very well.  We'll have to take it back and hope they can fix or replace it.

In the absence of a working bike, we had to find something else to do yesterday, and that something turned out to be a trip to the movies, to see Alvin and the Chickmunks (as Blake calls them): Chipwrecked.  I was excited about this excursion, namely because I thought Blake was ready for another go at the cinema.  His previous attempt - to see Cars at the Ritzy in Brixton with Mom - had resulted in an immediate refund before the film even started because he was "scared".  I'm not sure of what, exactly, but I guess it's the "cinematic experience" - the darkness, the loud soundtracks - that which I love so much about going to the movies!  I thought it was time to try again, and we did fare better yesterday, making it about 20 minutes into Chipwrecked before Blake decided that the Duck character was scary and that he wanted to leave.  He was sitting on my lap and I told him there was nothing to be afraid of, but after another 2 or 3 requests to leave, I decided it was wrong to force him to stay if he didn't want to.  I, therefore, am unable to do a full review of Chipwrecked, apart to say that in all honesty, I wasn't too sad that I didn't get to see how things evolved for Alvin and co on the deserted island! 

I think we're in for a low-key New Year's Eve, but I may try to get one more post in before midnight so that I can best the number of posts of 2008! 

Diligent Dad building Bike #1
Blake in Dulwich Park, dressed as Batman on his Bumper FirePower

Noah and Blake enjoying a ride in the park

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I guess it's only fitting that my first post in weeks is on Christmas Eve, when finally the chaos of "the season" has inevitably, unstoppably, mercifully, come to a close.  The best Christmas present of all is finally having my little Noah back to good health - he's had a rough ride over the past month or so with various colds and bugs that have seemed to just last and last and last.  First a cough, then a vomiting bug, and our sweet little boy was just so pitiful (on a recent weekend away, the gang nicknamed him "Tiny Tim" - and it felt so appropriate!). 
At any rate, he's all better, and full of energy and cheek.  Blake has fared pretty well and his added two years have made him generally more resilient to all the things going around. 
I myself have felt about as run-down as I can get while still managing to keep going, but tonight, it all seems a distant memory and we're looking forward to a merry Christmas tomorrow with the kids, back this year at Bishy's house but this year with Tom, Lykke and the girls, along with Uncle David.  If the traffic reports hold true, Santa is on his way shortly to deliver a bike to Blake and a cool trike to Noah - I am looking forward to seeing their faces and hope Noah is not too jealous that his ride will not be exactly the same as Blake's!
We wish we could be with Granny Karla and Grandpa John but they know that we love them, and we know they love us. 
May you have the happiest of Christmases, and if there can't be peace on the entire earth, I'm hoping for a silent night (7:00 am would be awesome, I would take 6:15...just not before 6:00 am please!)  May it also be peaceful and happy wherever you are. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

The post plan

So, how have you been enjoying my daily posts?!  Ha ha, I bet you're probably not actually surprised that I haven't stuck to the 40-day posting plan...after all, this blog is primarily about my foibles as a mother and person, and I think a post-a-day seems too OCD.  Or at least if I were doing it, I would feel even more deranged than I already do as it would mean I were getting even less sleep than I am now!

We had a hard week, there are no two ways about it.  On Monday night, Noah seemed feverish and had a really bad cough, which lasted through the week and is actually not yet completely gone.  As with all the times that these precious boys get sick, it was back to that drawing board of plan-changing and coping; on Tuesday Matt stayed home, on Wednesday we both had the day off as we had planned to go see Uncle David, but didn't end up doing that.  On Thursday I got an emergency nanny and worked from home, and on Friday I was feeling bad myself and decided that I just needed a sick day myself.  Noah and I slept for about 5 hours which was very welcome rest. 

I am up late so I won't babble on too much, but on Friday I caught these shots which make me smile. He reminds me of a little politician signing some sort of bill into fact he was just scribbling on my work papers which I had left out, but he sure looked cute, even if he did have a snotty nose and those "sick eyes" of a boy who isn't 100% himself. Here's hoping he's back to normal this week!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Far too many things to be thankful for to actually write them down here, but I am thankful today most of all for a healthy family and loving friends, and technology which allows family to travel in person and over the phone lines. We got to spend Thanksgiving dinner (courtesy of Matt, bless him), with my cousin Sam, who is visiting from the US.  The boys enjoyed their food and playing cars all over the table (the table was gloriously covered in a very wrinkly tablecloth - I was far too tired to care!).

Poor Noah - he'd had his face written on by Blake (slightly funny, in that Blake tried to say it was Noah himself who had done it, and got a bit caught out by the fact that Blake had written actual letters (E and O)  on his forehead, which we explained Noah couldn't actually do yet himself...busted!) He also fell last weekend when we were out walking with Chris, Anna and Joseph and his upper lip is still scabbed over!

 Sam and Meg cooperating for the camera, Blake and Noah distracted by cars....
Our fancy table - or the best we can do for now.  Matt did an awesome job at going out today to buy everything and then making everything himself, including a small turkey and roasted blue potatoes!
 With pine cone turkeys made during the day...
In about 2 minutes I'll be so thankful for a comfy bed, where I am headed to now...Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book review: Little Bee

A few weeks ago, I read a book which, as one of the cover blurbs promised it would, blew me away.  The book was Little Bee, by Chris Cleave (published in the UK under the title The Other Hand).  I was just so awestruck at the power of Cleave's ability to narrate the story from the point of view of several things he, as a white British male, is not: a middle-aged woman, and a young, black Nigerian girl.  I found the story absolutely riveting, and the mixture of sadness and humor captured to me the perfect blend of the simultaneous wonder and beauty, and sometimes harsh and painful, reality of life.  Even though I finished it about three weeks ago, I haven't really stopped thinking about it, namely due to one of the plotlines that ran through the book, that of the 4-year-old son, Charlie, who seemed to live, night and day, in his Batman costume.  In Little Bee, Charlie would often refer to himself as Batman, and there was some over-construction (in my opinion) by the author of Charlie's adolescent grammatical errors. 

Since Halloween, our household has also had a Batman, but fortunately Blake has only wanted to wear his costume on three occasions: Halloween, when his friend Ethan came over to play on Wednesday, and today, when his nursery had a fancy dress day in aid of Children in Need.  Blake is also very insistent, whenever I go into role-play mode and ask him what strangers on the street will think when they see Batman running down the road, that he isn't Batman; "I'm just Blake," he says with insistency!  Oh, right, I think, no more pretending then. 

Here are some photos from Halloween (ahem, somewhat belatedly!), and today's costumes, accompanied by painted faces.  This is the first time I think Noah has had his face painted, and at certain angles he looked sooo old with his thin little pirate moustache!  Blake also seemed to take better care of his paint as Noah's looks extremely blurred in places.

Giving equal airtime to all the supermarkets...I didn't have any better bags for them but I figured if kids have been using grocery bags for years to collect Halloween candy, why not?!

Noah's clothes are covered with yogurt, and Blake sports a fetching high-waisted belt look.  
So, if you have the occasion to do so, I highly recommend Little Bee.  Matt then read it and didn't like it at all; he felt the characters were all 2-dimensional and he actually, one evening, stopped reading about 10 pages from the end to go to bed instead.  Something I don't think I could ever even imagine doing, but especially with a book that I just thought was a brilliant work.

As for our own big B, I hope that he's had a fun few days dressing as Batman.  Everyone kept wondering why Noah wasn't Robin!  With that, there's no more pretending that I'm anything but a tired, yet still pretty Super, Mommy.  Good night!

The funny things that kids, and cartoon pigs, say

It's been a good week, despite not keeping my promise yesterday to do a blog post.  Sorry about that - I'll try to make it up, probably on Friday night once the work week is finished!
I just thought I'd make a quick note of some things that have made me laugh over the past couple of days...out of the mouth of babes, and all that.  On Tuesday I had my wardrobe review, which I am dying to gush about here.  I'll do that shortly, but for now let me just say that after the three hours with my makeover guru, I felt like a million bucks having identified the clothes in my wardrobe that just needed to go, and armed with a not-all-that-long shopping list of things I need to buy to make my wardrobe complete and uncover the hidden fashion queen that has been lurking inside me (hiding under too-big, wrongly-shaped trousers and boxy shirts!).  It was absolutely awesome,and I felt really empowered as a woman. 

The next day I put on some jeans and a blue shirt, since it was Wednesday and the boys and I were headed out to a local playgroup and I didn't really need to get too dressed up.  As I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs talking to Blake about the fact that I was proud of him for getting dressed on his own, and wasn't he proud of me for being dressed so that we could go out, he said to me, "You're not dressed!"  I looked at him with a quizzical look: "Well, sweetie, I am dressed, right?"  He seemed to be struggling with the concept of blue jeans and a solid turquoise t-shirt, and the fact that, well, I didn't look particularly remarkable.  Or maybe it was the blue and the blue...anyway, what he said made me laugh out loud - it just tickled me so much.  He said, with a sort of sheepish tone to his voice, "You look like somebody...who's not somebody."  And just when I was feeling like I was, indeed, somebody!  Oh, it just made me laugh.  The even funnier thing was that he laughed too, but then kept repeating it for the next 10 minutes, though by that point it had lost the initial humor.  It made a change from him calling me a "bum bum" (his new favorite word), even though the overall inspirational message was near enough the same.  That boy...

The other thing that made me laugh out loud happened this morning, when I sat down to watch Peppa Pig with the boys.  When the tv is on, in particular when it's a kids' program, I tend to do something else, even if I'm in the room.  Tidy up the Legos on the floor, put the lids on the markers, gaze vapidly into space, generally anything but look at the actual tv.  This morning, though, Noah had commanded me to "Sit down," (funny little bossy pants!), so I was sitting on the sofa while Peppa, her brother George, and her mother and father were at the local school fair.  They happened to win the top raffle prize, a ride in a hot air balloon ride. 

One of my all-time life highlights remains the hot air balloon ride that Matt and I took in Chiang Mai in Thailand back in 2007.  I found it to be the most incredible experience: how it was both extremely exciting and totally serene, I'm not sure, but perhaps that duality is somehow what combines to make it amazing.  Anyway, I loved it so much and have always been trying to figure out when my next ride will be.  In the cartoon this morning, Peppa and her family board this hot air balloon being piloted by a teacher, and Daddy Pig says to the teacher as they're just about to lift off, "So, Madame Gazelle, have you taken many of these trips?"  Her reply was essentially, "No, this is the first time I've ever been in a hot air balloon."  It was absolutely hilarious.  Peppa's brother, George, then proceeded to drop his teddy bear out of the side of the basket, and fortunately it landed in a tree and Daddy Pig was able to fish it out.  All of a sudden they realized they were near their posh grandparents' house, and out came Granddad carrying a ladder.  He sounded like an English army colonel going to rescue the troops, as he put his ladder beside the balloon's basket and they all climbed out.  It was truly very amusing. 

Perhaps a reason to watch the cartoons after all.  Whatever the source, however - your kids disparaging you or cartoon pigs - a good laugh is definitely a great way to start the day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The power of 2 minutes

I just finished watching the news, an activity that I really just don't do all that often. Both the boys were exhausted tonight, and after getting Noah into bed before 7:00, I came down and sat on the sofa with Blake. I knew what was coming, and after we sat and watched Mister Maker for about 3 minutes, his eyelids started fluttering, and he was soon asleep. We have had a battling few days, and I just decided that it was worth everyone's sanity to just let him fall asleep, nice and early, without the hassle of forcing a bath, teeth brushing, pyjamas, and a story.   I carried him up to bed at around 7:20. 

That was why, at a few minutes before 8:00 pm, I found myself with the tv on, a glass of red wine beside me, doing a bit of multi-tasking with the computer on and attempting to catch up on what has been happening in the world beyond the walls of our house and the short walk to and from the nursery.

The two clips I saw moved me first to tears, and then laughter, and made me shake my head in wonder at the crazy world of politics.  The first clip showed a bit of Diane Sawyer's recent interview with Gabrielle Giffords, who amazingly is recovering from the horrific shooting earlier in the year.  Seeing the homemade videos of her working with her speech therapist, I was moved to tears at what an amazing story her survival and path to recovery is and has been.  I only hope she is able to get back to her full physical and mental states.

The next, also political story, but completely on the other end of the inspirational spectrum, made me cringe - it was just so bad!  Yes, I'm talking about what has been tagged on Twitter as #cainwreck: Herman Cain's response when questioned on his opinion of Obama's handling of the Libya situation.  UK readers can see what I'm talking about here.  This is a man who aspires to be the President of the United States, arguably the most powerful person in the world!  I mean, I know how he feels - I couldn't intelligently sum up what my thoughts around Obama's handling of Libya are either (nor could I probably locate Libya on a map), but I'm not trying to convince 150 million people that I should be their leader!  I did like the way he - eventually - got around to saying that he was just "twirling some thoughts around" in his head, but man, that was just absolute insanity in terms of an interview or public speaking disaster. 

It did get me thinking, though, about what can happen when we're put on the spot and have to produce some intelligible thoughts or arguments when asked our opinion.  Fortunately for most of us, any failings that are uncovered are unlikely to go viral and be viewed by millions of people.  But maybe it's an exercise in learning: if someone asked me my opinion on a current political situation, what answer could I give, right now?  What answer would I like to give?  Where do I need to go or what do I need to learn to bridge that gap?  It's certainly a bit more difficult than being asked what size nappies your son wears, but worth exploring. 

As for my political opinion, I hope Gabrielle Giffords someday gets to the White House. She seems a much more inspirational option than some of the others at the moment.

Monday, November 14, 2011

40 days (or, more likely, 40 late nights) of posts

I've known it for a while now, but I'm off track in terms of blog posts this year based on previous years' numbers of postings. Tonight I've decided to set myself a goal: to do a post a day for the next 40 days which will take us to Christmas Eve. Can I do it? Hopefully. Should I do it? Not sure, yet, but what's life without goals?! The past few weeks have seemed super busy (and not in a good, all fun, way, ugh...tiring times!), but I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning, when I'm taking the morning off work and having a "wardrobe review". That's right, an expert type person is going to come throw open my closet and drawers and see if there is anything in the paltry selection of clothes that I own that is worth keeping. I hope that she is also going to help me with building a "capsule wardrobe", a term I've only vaguely heard of but sounds a bit like what I would need if I were headed on a space mission. I have really been struggling to find anything to wear, having spent the past several Octobers, Novembers and Decembers in either maternity wear or slummy mummy jeans and goodness-knows-what-else-but-what-does-it-matter-because-I'm-exhausted-and-look-terrible-anyway! I've decided that that time of my life is now through, and I'm going to do something about this feeling of hating shopping and not being able to do anything about trying to look and feel better with what I am wearing. I am looking forward to reporting how it goes, and while I don't think that you'll be seeing me on the cover of Vogue anytime soon, a girl's gotta feel good in her rags to feel glad, so I am happy to be making a step in the right direction by seeking professional help. Body type, flattering and unflattering styles, good and bad colors - I'm ready to be capsuled! And let the 40 days of posts begin...

Happy memories

A couple of Friday ago, at the end of the week where Noah had the chicken pox (which actually now feels like a mini-lifetime ago), I did something that I have never done in this country:  purchased food from a drive-through, McDonald's to be precise.  Some readers may smile as they ponder this thought, given my history.  I have very fond memories of McDonald's, and ordering absolutely plain cheeseburgers as part of the Happy Meal, relishing the thought of the toy, and collecting all the toys in the series on offer.  I am sure my parents probably remember my hounding them to take me to McD's so that I could complete my collection of plastic trinkets.  But, a few Fridays ago, I realized this probably wasn't too much of a hardship for them, as I got to 5:00 pm, could not face the thought of doing anything in the kitchen, and decided, as a consequence, that the easiest and most fun option to hand was to take a trip to the local Golden Arches.

I posted once during my pregnancy with Noah about a trip that Blake and I took to McDonald's after a day out shopping.  That was the last time I've eaten at McDonald's, so I figured that once every 18 months or so couldn't be that bad.  I picked the boys up at nursery and we headed over to the local branch.  I have to be honest I was actually nearly giddy with excitement as I narrated the events to the boys: "See, we're driving the car, following this lane to a machine where we are going to order our Happy Meals!  Then we're going to keep driving, up to the window where Mommy will pay, and then we wait for our food which will be given to us while we're in the car! "  Something about it seemed to be so remarkable to me; as I was probably too young to remember the first time I ever was a passenger in a car that went through a fast-food drive-through, this kind of felt like the first time again.  We actually had to pull over into a parking space as we had to wait while the cheeseburgers with no onions, pickles or mustard were prepared (the boys do love and sometimes seem to subsist on ketchup, so ketchup made the special-order cut, an improvement on their mother's picky habits at a similar age).  In that sense, having to park and wait for the food wasn't quite the full experience, but it sure gave me an incredible rush.  Oh, the feeling of being a mother and introducing your children to wonderful new experiences...(for fear that you may think I'm serious, I'll add the "ha ha" which that line merits!)

Back at home, the plastic toys were discovered and enjoyed for about 7 minutes, the french fries were consumed and the burgers were picked at.  I seem to remember a similar order in terms of importance.  One advancement in the past 30 years is that the kids are offered milk or orange juice instead of Coke or orange soda; I picked orange juice for the boys, which Noah promptly spilled and therefore cast a downer on the oh-so-happy experience.  I forgave him since he was a bit down because of the chicken pox.

And so, while I surely don't remember my own first experience of eating my first-ever Happy Meal, I'll definitely remember my first ever drive-through experience in the UK, and of the happiness it gave me.  A bit like the plastic Tintin-themed telescope the boys got as their prize, I was looking through the lens of a new, but familiar experience.  It was fun, and happy.  And once every 18 months, it'll be something to look forward to.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 5 of the pox

Here are a few shots of Noah after a marathon nap he took on Saturday.  As you'll see the spots are looking smaller, I think.  The one with Blake in the background makes me laugh; Blake spends so much time at his little table drawing, and here Noah was fascinated by something on the tv.  Momentarily, it probably was, as he's normally fascinated with whatever Blake is doing...

Pippi or a chicken, that is the question

It is a commonly-known rule that children are born without any knowledge of the "extra hour of sleep" that results from a move away from Daylight Savings' Time (whether to GMT or EST dependent on your location; Raina, I have no idea what time zone you guys are in!).  This morning, we moved back on to GMT, but all this meant was that the boys were awake at 5:30 am instead of 6:30!  It has been a tiring few days being somewhat housebound with our little chicken pox boy, Noah, although I did venture out to the store on Thursday and belatedly wonder, as I was standing in the checkout line surrounded by tons of children out shopping with their parents because of its being half-term school break, whether I should have perhaps just stayed indoors and kept him from spreading the pox!  Too late, I thought - I had already given him some fruit bread to munch on as we wandered the aisles, so I needed to pay for it...

We got through the week, just.  And is it me, or has October felt looong?!  On Friday I took the day off off, which differentiates itself from a work-from-home-and-do-work-when-I-can-often-staying-up-until-2:00am-to-get-work-done-day.  Not that it was much of a vacation, although I think I did manage to catch a very welcome nap, if I remember correctly.  Which I may not...the days all seem a blur, really.

Thursday's outing with Noah was actually to buy Blake his Halloween costume.  I was so relieved when he said he wanted to be Batman, because there was no way I could try to create that myself.  Thank heavens for a store-bought costume!  We went to our junior church party this afternoon, and Blake seemed very proud of himself, though very reluctant to pose for any pictures.  The boys did a lot of "tag-team" napping this weekend, so it feels as if it was a slightly easier weekend because for large parts of both days, only one of them was awake.  Noah took some huge naps and Blake fell asleep for midday siestas both days as well, so Matt and I managed to get a few things done around the house.  Not that you'd know that if you walked in the front door right now and tried to figure out where to set down your things.  What all our stuff is, I have no idea.  How to get rid of it - that's the idea that I want to discover!

So yes, Blake is going to be Batman when we go trick-or-treating tomorrow.  I have aspirations that Noah may be a pumpkin, but every time I've tried to put his costume on him, he just rips it off, so I'm not hopeful.  I had debated either dressing him as a chicken or Pippi Longstocking - with some freckles to augment his spots - but to be honest, he doesn't really seem to have many more prominent spots on his face.  There are a few on his back which are still kind of obvious, but otherwise it seems we may have got off lightly.   We have a backup-care nanny coming in tomorrow so that I can head to the office and try to get a normal day under my belt, but I'm thinking we might be back to normal by Tuesday. 

I haven't gone back and re-read my post prior to this, but I feel like I may be repeating myself.  Which is probably a sign that I'm tired and should go to bed.  Oh yes, but before I do that, I have to carve a pumpkin.  With a bat motif.  The pumpkin carving was supposed to be a family activity, but Blake fell asleep on the couch as I was getting things ready and I didn't disturb him.  As best I can, I stick to my belief that it's best to let sleeping children lie.  Even if they haven't yet learned to reciprocate that rule with their parents...

Here are some pictures of Noah and his chicken pox - not too dramatic, on the whole. (nothing like Blake's case, which you can see here...the big spot he had under his eye actually did leave a scar - poor boy!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Arise, Sir Noah Poxalot!

My skin has not been too good of late.  Stress?  Hormones?  Insufficient concealing foundation?  I'm not sure, but I think I look as I remember myself as a 15-year-old, before my magical course of Accutane.  At this time of year, it's also easy to blame the "change in seasons" for bad skin.  Yes,the seasons have changed in London, and yes, my skin is bad.  Easy.
As for Mr. Noah Noah, he has undergone a change to his smooth baby skin, so recently exhibited in the pictures in my last post.  Cue 2001 Space Odyssey music....DUM DUM, DUM DUM...CHICKEN POX!  On Monday night as I gave him his bath, I noticed a small pimple-like spot on his back.  Just the one.  A sign had gone up recently in his nursery warning of recent cases, and a little boy we know had just come back after what looked to be a pretty thorough beating from the spot-throwing virus.  I didn't panic, but I pretty much went to bed that night thinking that Noah was probably in for a visit from the Chicken Pox Fairy.
For some reason (perhaps it was the work of the Gods-of-the-Working-Mother-Who-Usually-Has-To-Deal-With-Illnesses-While-Working-Father-Has-Already-Gone-To-Work), Matt had booked Tuesday to work from home.  I took the opportunity to try to get to the office early for a change, and when the time came for me to head for my train in the pre-light hours, Noah still hadn't woken up yet.  "What happens if he wakes up and has spots?" Matt asked.  "I don't know, I guess you'll just have to deal with it" was the gist of my reply; "Byyyye!" was my singsong parting line. (Seconds before I opened the door to leave, we heard Noah waking up, and I just thought to myself, "For once, I'm not going to assume full responsibility here" - it felt MORE THAN LIBERATING!)
As it turns out, Noah did wake up with more spots on his chest and back.  Matt booked the day off - he is a good and responsible Dad, as I already knew.  I worked til 9:30 that night in our office and came home feeling like a creature from the black lagoon - oozing exhaustion and feeling like I could just go to sleep in a swamp for 4 days.  Still, I put in my hours in advance to make up for time I would inevitably have to miss in the week.

On Wednesday, Bishy came to visit, and we made a not-very-clandestine visit to our local library as our major outing of the day.  We were the only ones there for a while, and then a family with 2 olders girls (aged 6/7?) came in.  I had a few moments of panic where I was trying to assess whether I would get called out for having a contagious chicken-poxy boy out in the public air, but then I figured these girls were old enough to have had it already, and calmed down.  We took the long way home via many large puddles and a stop in the local newsagent's to get Cadbury Buttons.

On Thursday, Matt went to work, Blake went to pre-school, and the big piggy named Mommy and the little spotty piggy named Noah stayed home.  We went to get Blake his Halloween costume - Batman - over at ELC in Peckham.  Thank God for not having to do some sort of crazy SuperMom- type sewing efforts to create a beautiful handmade costume!  Although I did get a bit of inspiration for Noah and want to dress him like a chicken for Halloween (get it, chicken pox?!) - white feather boas seem to be my needed ingredient! 

I went back and looked at posts from 2009 and Blake's bout with chicken pox.  I was not too reassured to re-read that things went sour from Day 4 (Noah's Day 4 being tomorrow).  So far, they haven't bothered him much during the day, and he's instead been unable to sleep at around 11:00 pm onwards, for a few hours.  One thing is for sure, 4 in our double bed is a crowded house!  Blake seems to march in at some point between (also) 11:00pm and 4:00am, so I spend at least some portion of my precious sleep with a dead limb under me and wishing for more room.

Pictures of the spotty boy to come tomorrow, for the record books.  I'm off to have a bath...I've heard it might open my pores.  x

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bathtime shots always seem an easy way out

When you feel like you haven't had your camera out much, bathtime shots are always a good remedy for that.  Blake has had really chapped lips for about two weeks now and isn't look ultra-photogenic, but Noah still enjoys his bath (probably because he knows his favorite thing - his bottle - is therefore only minutes away!).  The cropping functionality of my photo editing software saves the day in allowing me to cut out dirty bathtub parts - result!

Weekend blurs

You, as a reader of this blog, are probably now starting to recognize my Sunday night posts for what they are: the power of my guilty conscience getting the better of my desire to crash and go to bed, as I've done for the past 7/14/21 nights in a row without writing a post.

If I could create an invention, in addition to my two ideas for patents that I have brewing in my head and have only not researched further because of the intimidating process of trying to even work out whether someone already has the idea, it would be to somehow record my thoughts throughout the day (especially those segments when I think to myself, "I must write about this!") and then have them instantly transcribed into a post that would be immediately available for your reading pleasure.

Instead, until that time, which I actually don't think it is an impossibility, you will perhaps have to make do with the occasional picture that at least lets you know that I'm still here, and haven't given up on the blog, my readers, and myself as a writer!

This picture was taken a few weekends ago at the 100th birthday party at a local park.  It was a cold day and I hadn't yet bought Noah his new pair of shoes (hence the sandals and sweater look).  We stood in a line for ages to get the most delicious popcorn I've ever eaten, and several minutes after this shot was taken, Noah had a bit of coughing fit, which prompted him to bring up all the popcorn he'd just eaten.  That wouldn't have been so bad, apart from I decided I should try to catch it to avoid it landing all over where people were sitting (and my changing bag with wipes was in the playground section, not at all close to where we were that very moment).  It was not a very glorious moment in my life, and fortunately we were with a friend who managed to lend me some wipes and seemingly look the other way without passing judgment that I'd just willingly put my hands into a spewing volcano of regurgitated popcorn.  I would say she's a real friend, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've heard from her since...

This weekend was a double-bill of 4-year-old birthday parties, and I only went to one of the them and still feel exhausted from it.  Poor Blake wasn't sure what hit him, I think, so overtired was he from all the activity.  While Blake was at the party today with Matt, Noah and I went for a little walk around the block with his buggy.  Reminded me so much of a similar experience with Blake back in November 2009.  I just looked at the old videos and Noah was even wearing the same jeans as Blake was back on this day nearly two years ago!

With that, I'd better head for bed.  Tomorrow morning will come all too quickly, and at least two people in the house have had a massive headstart in terms of their sleep quota for the night! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My brush with Mumsnet Towers Royalty

Two Mondays ago, I went on a little excursion down to Canary Wharf during my lunch break, for a talk by one of the co-founders of Mumsnet that was being hosted by my company's parent organization.  I am, I later found out after hearing Carrie Longton use this term, a "lurker" on Mumsnet.  By that, I mean that I have a look at a lot of things, but have never actually made a post in a forum or commented on any of the broad range of things that are discussed by other "Mumsnetters". 
The tale of Mumsnet truly fascinated me.  It started as the product of a failed holiday taken by the other founder, Justine Roberts, with her one-year-old twins.  Failed, I guess, as in, it wasn't very fun and the place they ended up at wasn't very kid-friendly, etc.  When she returned, she thought that it would be great to somehow tap into the networks of mothers who were meeting daily, to get advice on things like vacations/holidays, what the best stroller/pushchair was, and other things that they, as the "experts" could comment on.  The two founders started off by taking postcards out to mothers in cafes, and in libraries, asking them to review products they owned - and liked or greatly disliked - which would then be loaded on to the forum.  Carrie Longton didn't even own a computer, and most people they spoke to (this was in 2000) didn't know their email addresses.  It was truly a different world.

In the nearly twelve years since then, they have made headlines, influenced political elections, gone head-to-head with one of the UK's "experts" on parenting - which ended in an out-of-court settlement, brought about great change, and built an amazing brand.  Apparently now they are making money, but for 6 years, they didn't.  Now, getting 20 million hits a month, Mumsnet is a true force in the world of mothers, parents, politicians, and businesses.  There were a few stories which made me get teary, such as one where a suicidal mother of two had posted that she had just taken an entire bottle of painkillers.  Fellow posters quickly got in touch with someone who knew her to get her address, sent an ambulance to her house, and raised money in order to pay for emergency care for her children.  Remarkable stories of complete strangers raising money for a fellow Mumsnetter whose ex-husband had spent his share of the cost of their son's birthday presents to take his new girlfriend to Spain. 

Carrie talked a bit about why Dadsnet wouldn't quite work in the same way (men just don't feel compelled to share their thoughts and opinions in the same way that women do, and then obsess over decisions and seek confirmation that they've done the right thing), but new this year is  Perhaps Bishy and Granny Karla want to have a look?

Overall it was a very cool way to spend a lunch hour, to hear how a simple idea on getting people to communicate has grown into something almost bigger than itself.  We also got a free copy of the book, The Mumsnet Rules, which I have been dipping in and out of for the past two weeks - it's hilarious!  You can read the foreward here.

I have to admit I enjoyed the foreward and then bristled slightly at page 7 (i.e. the first page of the actual book), in the chapter entitled You don't have to bake with your children, when I read this:

Unless you live up a tree in the rain forest, it is probably impossible to avoid Jamie Oliver and his kids.  Or many another celebrity plus offspring picutred in their lovely homes.   Baking and doing craft activities.  Or just looking radiant and fluffy in soft sunshine and cashmere cardigans.  And it's not just celebrities - we have too much access to all sorts of other people's prettified versions of their own parenting, too many books and blogs and tweets.  (Although you have to wonder about some of the blogging mummies - when do they find the time and how bored must they be to write those blogs?  Why do they never post about their bad days?  But let them blog - we all have to get through the day somehow).

I frowned as I read that, and then thought, well, I think I do write about the bad days too!  And decided that since Mumsnet had a blog network, then they couldn't think too badly of me.  Not that I care or will be joining it, in fact.  I'm just a lurker after all!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cuteness in a soccer goal

Because I haven't posted any pictures in a while, here are a few from back in September, where the boys are looking sweet and playing with each other nicely...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Late-night reading

One of the main reasons I haven't done as much blogging as I would like to be doing is that I have been doing more reading than I've done in what seems like the last several years combined.  At some point earlier in the year I decided that I really needed to be reading books (actual books, in case you're wondering, I haven't yet moved on to e-books and at the moment have no interest in a Kindle - one of the boys would just break it, I'm sure), so that my brain wouldn't just be rotting away in my head.  I also made it a point to start using my local library more, although that interest has faded somewhat since our local library shut due to all the copper on its roof being stolen, giving way to a health and safety issue that when it rains, it's possible that the whole building and its electrical system are rendered dangerous.  The roof is being fixed, but it's been a long job so far and I'm not holding out much hope of its being completed anytime soon.  Still, I'm glad they didn't decide to close it altogether.

At any rate, I've stayed up a few late nights over the past few months in order to finish a book, most recently tonight with One Day by David Nicholls.  Although for many of the early years in the twenty that are charted I was a bit bored, overall I certainly enjoyed it and was reading eagerly to see what happened next in the journey of Dexter and Emma.  I have to say, what I got was not what I was expecting!  I checked the movie listings earlier today and the film seems to have all but disappeared from the screens here, so it must not have been very successful in the screen version.

A few weeks ago, I finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, something I'd never had much interest in but finally decided to go with the crowds when I saw it on the shelf at the temporary library.  I loved it - could not stop reading it, and then when I finished over 250 pages in one evening, I had a feeling that I needed to start again where I'd begun that evening and re-read parts to check whether I had actually followed it.  I haven't yet moved on to the sequels, but I think I will at some point.  I'm trying to mix it up with the genres.

Also a library loan, I enjoyed the Hunger Games, in the way that I enjoyed the Twilight trilogy once I realized that I had to go to the Teen section to find it.  I've heard that Katniss gets increasingly annoying as the series goes on, so that's another one where I'm giving myself time to forget the writing style a bit so as not to get bored too quickly.  I found it very entertaining, though.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was an interesting read.  I really struggle to say whether I liked it or not, but it kept my attention and I bet if pushed, I would say that I liked it more than I disliked it.  Not very feel-good though., in my opinion.  I had to do a lot of research online afterwards to see what others thought of it, and what the theories were on aspects of the plot line.  Which perhaps isn't a bad thing, a book that makes you think...! 

Thus far, my favorite book of the year is clearly, without a doubt, The Help - and the film is finally making its way to these shores in the next couple of weeks.  I can't wait; I thought that book was just the most amazing and beautiful story, in those several voices which were each so rich and pure.  Wow, I really loved it.

I've now started on The Mumsnet Rules, and there's a story there, which I'll hope to tell after I get a decent night's sleep while I ponder what to read next.  What have you read recently that you would recommend?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Painting as anti-therapy, or our trip to do pottery painting: a dissertation

Every so often I engage in an activity with the boys that makes me wonder if I have well and truly gone over the edge.  I like to think I'm a pretty capable momma, but there are a few things that sometimes just leave me speechless that I even tried - the latest of these is our adventure two Saturdays ago to "paint-your-own pottery".
Friday was my sister-in-law's birthday, and we couldn't make it to her party which is going to be held at a, you guessed it, paint-your-own pottery cafe.  I had said that we would prepare her gift locally, in our own time, so that we were included in her collection of gifts of hand-painted items.

On Saturday, Blake and Noah and I headed over to the All Fired Up cafe in East Dulwich.  About 3 minutes before we parked the car, Blake dropped his plastic T Rex dinosaur and started howling in the backseat that he wanted it.  My side of the conversation degenerated in this fashion: "What can I do, sweetie, I'm driving the car?!"  "I'll get it for you when we stop."  "Play with the other two that you still have, instead."  "I can't get it right now, Blake, I'm driving."  "Why did you drop him, then?!?"  "It will have to wait!" "If you don't stop screaming I am going to throw it away when we stop the car."

Once we had parked, and T Rex had been safely returned to Blake's hands, we headed into the cafe.  My nerves were already starting to fray, but onward we forged.  Inside the shop, Noah and Blake instantly started running around, with my hovering and chasing them as they approached shelf upon shelf of unpainted ceramics...aaah!  As I went to retrieve Noah after he'd wandered toward a collection of people's uncollected items, I then turned to find Blake waving a piggy bank around like it was made of plastic.  Ahhh, put that down, please!

We finally got settled:  me working on a bowl, Blake working on an egg cup, Noah strapped into his stroller eating a bag of potato chips (I've never been the finest in terms of nutrition and bribery).  I managed to order a ham and cheese sandwich, the arrival of which was exciting in and of itself, as it meant a slight change of scenery for Noah, who by now was wondering why I thought I could get away with strapping him in.  I was persevering with my bowl, and managed to create something that looked relatively decent, and included a fingerprint or two from Noah; Blake had refused to help me with my bowl because he was working on his egg cup.  Several minutes passed.  The shop seemed to be getting warmer.  At the table behind us, a lady and her very well-behaved and composed 7-year-old (?) daughter were painting some sort of princess figurine, while a baby was gurgling away in her stroller.  Beads of sweat had started to form on my brow.  Blake started moaning about something and had squirted a ton of turquoise paint on the table, which I tried to clean up.  Noah seemed to get hold of a sponge and was attempting to stuff it into his mouth.  At this point, we had to return to the food counter and purchase something - anything - to placate Blake.  Noah was now chewing a bit of lettuce from the sandwich that he'd discovered from somewhere, and wanted more chips.  Blake then set about devouring a chocolate brownie, and I thought that I was just about near enough completion of my bowl.  It was at this moment that Blake decided he did want to help me with my bowl, and in a matter of seconds he had pounced in and left all sorts of brownie flecks on the bowl.  I think I screeched at him to "get away from it with those hands" before remembering that there were other people there who were supposedly enjoying themselves, and my words did not exactly imply encouragement of the artistic genius within all children.  Somehow I thought this would be a good time to let Noah out.  He probably had something to do with "convincing" me of this, as I am often swayed when he starts to scream and whimper and fight against the straps of his stroller.  He headed straight toward a large stack of unpainted platters and then tripped, his forehead landing fortunately several millimeters from them.  I asked the girl who worked at the shop and who had helped us get settled whether she thought my bowl looked ok, and she said yes.  I asked the lady who was painting the princess figurine whether she thought the bunny needed a face.  "No, I think it looks nice the way it is."  I am 99.9% sure she said that because she was thinking that I was going to have a coronary if we stayed a minute longer. 

Blake's egg cup looked like it needed a little attention so I asked him if I could paint a "B" on it, to which he agreed.  I had Noah on my hip for this part.  Finally we paid, and were back at the car.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief, looked at the clock and decided 1:00 pm was not too early for a glass of wine (for when we got home), and then had to laugh when Blake, from the backseat, said, "Mommy, when can we come back here again?"

I picked up our finished product today, and am pretty pleased with our efforts.  Faceless bunny, brownie flecks, and all.   

All of us (mothers, parents, people) paint a picture inside our heads of what we want to be.  While I certainly will look back this event with slight bemusement and relief (with a smattering of pride), it's good to remember that we all have our limitations.  I now know that single-handedly trying to manage 2 boys under the age of 4, and simultaneously create two beautiful works of painted art, probably goes well beyond my natural limits.  I can't wait to go back and paint figurines in several years, however, although next time I'll take a friend and see if the place wouldn't mind my bringing my own wine as well.  Happy Birthday, Lykke!

Foxy feet

Last Wednesday I made the mistake of leaving Noah's shoes outside overnight, only to discover the next morning that they had served as part of our local urban fox's early morning breakfast (or late-night snack).  Strangely, the evening before, I had searched the garden for the shoes, but I didn't see them, which turned out to be a costly blindspot. 

When I say "Noah's shoes", I actually mean Blake's third pair of shoes which were serving as hand-me-down's to Noah.  In the latter half of last week, we then got this unexpected Indian summer weather, and I got to put Noah in his sandals for the past few days since it was nice and warm out.  As the air got cooler this week, I added some socks underneath the sandals to give N a nice "European tourist" look, but I knew that today I would need to go out and buy him some new shoes.  It turned out to be a sweet shopping trip, as I realized that my darling baby had actually never had his "first new shoes" experience.  Bishy waas down visiting, so, after picking up our bowl from the All Fired Up cafe, we selected a shop on Lordship Lane which had the required children's section.  Blake woke up this morning at 5:37 and wouldn't go back to sleep, so he was conked out in the car having been up for nigh on 7 hours.  I took Noah in for the shoes, and though he was feeling not quite 100% (I think - he's had a little sty come up on his eye, which is apparently just a pimple on the eyelid, but it certainly sounds unpleasant and he has also been generally a bit more whingy than normal), he did in fact manage a smile for the lady who helped us.

It is, according to her, quite common for the foxes around here to steal and damage shoes, so she advised me not to leave them outside again.  As I reluctantly typed my PIN into the card machine and thereby forked over a large portion of my monthly take-home pay, I guaranteed her I wouldn't be making that mistake anytime soon.  But as she handed me the special picture they take when a child gets his first pair of shoes, I decided that it wasn't all bad: every child deserves a special moment with his or her first pair of shoes, and this, for Noah, was that moment.  Which, I suppose, was worth feeling outfoxed by the fox, this one time at least. 

In his Clark's "first pair of shoes" (size 5 1/2 G)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jai Ho! Indian summer!

The beginning of September didn't give anyone in the UK much hope that we would get a reprieve on autumn's arrival - it rained and was grey and cold for many of the first couple of days, but the past week has been full of some glorious sunshine and warmer temperatures.  On Friday I picked the boys up early and we went off on an arts and crafts adventure: to collect all sorts of items for the autumnal collage that I had thought of that morning as I made my way to the train station.  I had to pass beneath a crabapple tree and there were tons of them on the sidewalk, and I thought that we could use them to make some sort of beautiful fall art.
We picked about a dozen of the apples before heading down to Belair Park and getting conkers, acorns, leaves, and twigs, and on Saturday morning Blake and I assembled them - with the help of about half a bottle of glue - onto the remains of our pizza box from Friday night.  ("Mommy, can we get a pizza order?" was Blake's Friday evening dinner request...I was much too tired to protest!)
I was pretty pleased with our little collage though wish I had picked up more twigs for the trunk of the tree.

Let the Indian Summer continue...!  Predicted high for tomorrow and all the way into Saturday is 81 degrees! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Car-free fun!

There have been a number of events recently that have been great community-builders in our local area, and the most recent occurred on Sunday as our local main road was partially closed off to celebrate a "car-free day".  Noah had an afternoon nap so Matt stayed home with him while Blake and I headed out to enjoy the festivities. While we were being serenaded by the local PopChoir (so tempting for me, but no...), we bumped into Charlie and Flora, so the kids then set out to bust a move on the makeshift dancefloor in front of the chorus....Blake's concentration tongue was out in full force as they were bouncing and bopping around!  The PopChoir sang some great songs: "Man in the Mirror" (shout out to the Dartmouth girls!), Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and some fun mash-up's that got my feet tapping.  Very fun.

Later Blake held a little owl as part of a birds of prey exhibition; Gypsy was her name and I fell in love with her!  Blake was very stoic and stayed very still per the instructions from the owl trainer.  Her eyes were so pretty, and her feathers so soft!  Well worth the £2 donation to have a hold.

Later that evening, Noah had grabbed his coat and was standing by the door saying "Go go," which is what he does when he wants to go outside.  Like a little dog asking to be taken for a walk!  Anyway, Blake had had an afternoon nap on the sofa so we felt he should burn off some steam too, so the boys played around on the sidewalk out front.  I was chatting with a neighbor when along came Noah on the scooter, being pulled by Blake - it was too cute.  It didn't last, of course, and it all ended in tears when Noah kept falling off (or was he pushed?), so that was the sign that it was bath-and-bedtime.

As for our little wordsmith, here are his favorites these days: "Uh oh" (still tops), but now closely followed by "Oh no" (with innocent/incredulous look on face).  He also loves to say "juice," "shoes," "cheese," "nana" (banana), "apple," "bopple" (bottle), "Yay!", "qack qack", "Dada" and now (unfortunately with real yearning) "Mamie", as in "Mammy, Mammy ("come get me, come get me, pick me up, pick me up!").  When Mom and Dad were over he blurted out - very unexpectedly - "castle" after he and Blake had received a toy castle from Granny Karla's adventures in Scotland.  It was so sweet...about half an hour after this plastic toy had appeared on our living room floor, Noah was standing by the couch and said in a very small voice, apropos of nothing, "cas-el".  But we knew what he meant!  It's such a remarkable thing, the whole language development thing.  I think the only thing that could have made the weekend better would have been to hear Noah say "Gypsy".  It would have been too cute. 

Can't remember which tune this was to, but it was a good one! 
Not all that natural at the beginning...
Very proud to be holding the owl...

 Not sure who I think is sweeter here, Blake or Gypsy!

 Noah just loved this, in case you can't tell from that extremely proud look on his face. 

Snap! Happy Birthday to you!

Our anniversary and the following day will always be special, because as we celebrated our first anniversary in the Dordogne several days before Jamie and Diane's wedding in 2007, we got news of the arrival of our niece!  Hard to believe that Emma is four years old now.  On Saturday we went to her party and Blake and Noah enjoyed playing with their cousins.  The fab foursome were very amusing at times, especially when Emma opened a present of a crocodile outfit and all of them tried it on, pretending they were a crocodile.  My camera was out of battery so unfortunately we just have pictures from Matt's phone.
Gathered around to enjoy birthday cake...(Noah ate his entire piece plus the remains of someone else's)

 Noah the croc, after Blake had his turn...
It was also Janes Forbes's birthday on Saturday, and Amy's birthday on Sunday - so happy birthday to both of you, two of my oldest and greatest friends!  Hope you had wonderful birthdays... 

Friday, September 16, 2011

This is dedicated to the one I love...

It's been a long time since I've written - a long time, I know.  So it's nice to have a milestone event to write about to get me back into it...and that event is that today Matt and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary!  As is often the case with the passage of time, it's difficult in many ways to believe that five years have passed so quickly, and equally it seems like we've packed a lot in during those five years.
We treated ourselves to the day off from work, and after getting the boys off to nursery this morning, we headed in for a celebratory lunch at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's Hotel (Chris and Anna had done this a few years ago and highly recommended the experience).  I had my usual fashion crisis before we set off, remembering, upon inspection, that I had baked a carrot cake at 1:00 am last Saturday after arriving home from my friend Jess's evening wedding reception.  That I baked a cake at 1:00 am wasn't in itself a particular problem, but what was problematic was that I had kept my dress on.  All morning today I imagined myself getting ready, only to find about an hour before we had to leave that the dress I had intended to wear today was covered in various dollops of dried carrot cake batter.  Probably somewhat amusing in retrospect were the several moments where I tried to work out what the mysterious orange substance was, until the post-party-cake-baking memories resurfaced!  I tried to soak the dollops off - successfully! - but not so successful was the drying portion of the dress rescue. Finally, with about ten minutes before we had to leave, I had to accept that even with our heating on full blast and the dress hanging on the radiator, it wasn't going to get dry, and I had to find something else to wear.  And of course it was fine!

Lunch was very nice - we went for the posh tasting menu and it was impressive.  Even the butter was fancy: two options, one lemon flavored and one curry flavored.  Both yummy.  We had a little bowl of tomato consomme, roasted breast of grouse with glazed peaches, Cornish crab salad enveloped in finely curled marinated carrots, and then for the main course, Matt had lamb and I had plaice - and was nearly at this point too full to finish it!  A giant selection of cheeses then appeared for my dessert, and Matt enjoyed elderflower pannacotta with strawberries and vanilla ice cream.  They then surprised us with a little muffin and a "Happy Anniversary" message in chocolate.  It was a very nice meal, and wonderful to just sit and not feel rushed and enjoy the moment. 

Trying to mark the occasion with a photo in the art deco mirror...
Afterwards, the sun was shining so we took a little stroll through Hyde Park, and I was tempted to do a tour in the Serpentine pedalo boats (a la Pride and Prejudice) but it was £8/person for a half hour and we thought we should head home to pick up B and N, so that will have to wait til 10 years, perhaps!

The boys were sweet and played in the back with the water hose for ages, while I finished reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake which I'd borrowed from the library a few weeks ago.  Not sure how I felt about it but glad to have read it. 

And that concludes the day, so happy anniversary to my wonderful husband; we are so lucky.  I'm glad to be "back here" and hope to share some of the crazy/hectic/busy tales of the past month or so, if I get a chance.  Hope you're well, wherever you're reading from! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

These busy days

The air feels a lot cooler, and fortunately the emotions of last week in London have cooled as well.  We've been busy just keeping up with the normal activities of life: work, nursery, the occasional bit of sleep that never feels enough! In fact, we've had a few "late" mornings recently - Noah not waking til about 6:20 and Blake sleeping til around 7:00...oh, how fast those teenage years are going to come around, where they'll want to sleep all day! 

Yesterday we went down to Ben's christening - hard to believe how big William (our Godson) is now!  Ben is such a cutie and it's funny for me to see how two brothers can start off seeming so similar but then gradually begin to become their own personalities and become distinct little boys (funny in that I see it clearly when looking at those two, and probably felt and saw it with Blake and Noah as well, even when many people still say they think Noah is a mini-Blake, which I don't quite see).

Jamie and Diane are the quintessential hosts and put on a lovely day for us all, as they always do!  It was strange to think back on the last time we'd seen Diane's parents (William's christening, back in the fall of 2009, when I was just announcing that the-child-eventually-to-be-known-as-Noah was on the way), and before that, their wedding in France in 2007.  Time, it do fly quick...

I took lots of cute pics and should post more of them, but for now I'll just put one of B on, although I opened my lens too much so it's blurry when it shouldn't be.  Cameras: I love them and I hate them!

Summer lovin', lovin' summer!

I wrote this some time ago; it's in reference to Wednesday nearly two weeks ago!

If there's anything that should prove that Seasonal Affective Disorder does exist (in the negative sense), it's how true it is that good weather makes life so much better!  Wednesday was a scorcher, with temps hitting 30 (86F), and I thought to myself that I got so lucky with the timing of my day off.

We headed off in the morning to the water and sand area at Brockwell Park, and although it was pretty crowded, the boys still got to do exactly what they wanted to.   Blake reminded me a bit of the wimpy kid from the Charles Atlas ads, all pale-skinned and ribs showing, but after a slow start, he eventually warmed to running into the fountains and splashing in the water.  Noah was more interested in playing with some bark in a flower bed - can't see him lining up to be an Olympic swimmer or professional scuba diver at this rate.

Blake started whining that he was hungry so we headed over to the Lido Cafe.  One of the last times I had been here had been back in the winter, and the scenes could not have been more different - when I was last there it happened to start snowing, and being in the warm, steamy cafe felt so cozy and nice.  Today, the doors were spread open to the noise of the jam-packed outdoor swimming pool, which was radiant turquoise and full of people of all ages.  There was a line about 50 deep to get in, so I was glad there was no discussion to be had about whether we could go (me trying to manage Blake and Noah in a pool on my own...can't even bear to consider it!).  Noah had a timely snooze while we waited for our food, but woke up just in time to mooch off Blake's pasta.  Blake and I had each ordered milkshakes (I was feeling decadent - the sun was shining!), and well, I'll admit that they each then had a juice ice pop afterwards (it's just frozen juice, right?!).  One thing to be said for Noah is that he is certainly persistent in his ice-cream eating efforts - he almost always always finishes a pop or an ice cream cone right down to the last bite.  Blake often gets bored and gives me his when he's only had about half, but Noah just kept going with this enormous fruit pop until it was all gone. 

Back at home, we did a few things in the garden and then headed over to Sainsbury's to get some groceries.  Matt got home at a pretty decent hour and we had dinner al fresco - I have been really happy that I finally acquired that garden furniture!

All in all, a really good day, though with that feeling in the evening of just wanting to collapse.  There were some moments of non-compliance from Blake, but I decided to not get heated up about them and basically just out-waited him until he got bored and did whatever it was he should have been doing (example: when we went to the car this morning, he jumped from his seat in the back to the driver's seat, and refused to get in his seat.  I just sat on the wall outside our house and told him that we couldn't go until he was strapped in.  I probably had to wait 5 minutes, but finally he hopped in the back and we were able to go.  The thought did cross my mind that I would be going ape-sh*t if we actually had to be anywhere, at a certain time.  But fortunately, we didn't, so my tactic worked.)

One of the things I've got to figure out immediately is how I can keep better track of some of the funny things Blake is saying.  They seem so unforgettable at the time but then a few hours later all memories have escaped me.  On the way to nursery yesterday he said to me, "Mom, you look like a baby".  I thought to myself, "What in the world could that mean?" and he went on to elaborate that my legs looked very small like a baby's (I was, admittedly, wearing a skirt that was probably not the ideal length, hitting just above the calf).  Kind of observant of him, in a preview to the "I can't believe you're wearing that.  I don't want to be seen with you" years.

On Thursday the weather turned and it rained - hard and cold - for much of the day.  One of the things I've been more observant of, this year, is that even after some really rotten daytime weather, there have been some beautiful evening skies - as if the world is sort of saying, "Yeah, sorry that was bad, I know, but look, here's a hint that tomorrow could be a beautiful day!"  At least, I like thinking about it that way.

Blake finally takes on the water...

Stand-off at the dam; brothers unite.
Noah enjoys this....sort of...
He likes sleeping better...while Blake lines up sugar packets...
Ideally I would photoshop out the ketchup on Noah's face...oh well, it captures the moment!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Cheerios and Shiraz

It's not been a good few days in England.  What started off on Saturday night as a peaceful protest over a questionable use of firearms by police has turned into something completely different: rioting and looting by completely mad people - primarily youths - who seem to have no awareness of the impact of their lawlessness, and the fact that what they are doing is completely criminal.  The question is, will they be brought to justice?  

We woke on Monday to news that following riots in Tottenham (north London) there had been looting in Brixon, where I had just one week before enjoyed my lovely day out.  The reports were of people ransacking electronics and jewellery shops, smashing shop windows, openly breaking the law and stealing.  Unfortunately from there, this behavior spread, but randomly, to completely disparate pockets in and around the city.  Last night was the worst, with not just looting but simply destruction - in Croydon, about a 25-minute drive from where we live, a furniture store that had been in one family's ownership for 5 generations, was this morning a smoldering pile of ash.

There are too many angles of the past few days for me to try to write about: what insanity grips people as they decide it's ok to loot and steal?  What should the government be doing to stop the rot?  Are they responsible for it to begin with, with their cuts to social services and the aim of a "Big Society" which has a smaller pool of funds from the government to work with?  What have the parents of these children been doing while their kids have been out stealing tvs?  What is going to happen to London's image in the world, especially as the 2012 Olympics loom on the horizon?  Why, again, do we live here?! 

Of course, as often happens, the bad things are often accompanied by positive stories, and that's been the case with campaigns of volunteers that cropped up today, organized on Twitter and which apparently garnered support in the form of 70,000 followers as of this evening.  But, you have to ask, how much was social media responsible for this form of organization, and is it a good thing that so many people can be incited and organized by 140 characters?

It's been a sad few days, and I, like most Londoners, hope that order is restored soon, and that those who are responsible are brought to justice.  Tackling the wider issue of why certain parts of London, and now other parts of the UK, descended into chaos will be another matter.  At the moment I'd just like to be able to go out and buy a bottle of wine at 5:00pm, something that was impossible today as I didn't want to be out any more than I had to, and the local wine shop was boarded up in precaution anyway.  That's all from here; keep us in your thoughts.
p.s. post title is based on what I had for dinner, a bowl of Cheerios and a glass of Shiraz!