Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Joseph!

Super Joseph Pendse turned ONE on Friday, and we got to celebrate with him at his grandparents' house in Chalfont yesterday. The Lyons boys gave an indication of trouble to come in years ahead at parties: within minutes of being there, Noah knocked over a glass of red wine, and later I didn't provide adequate clearance of Blake's t-shirt while he relieved himself so he ended up with wee all over shirt. This was a good lesson for me - I had two extra pairs of jeans and two extra pairs of underwear, but no spare t-shirt!

Anna made a lovely duck cake (or rather, trio of cakes!) and Joseph quacked appropriately when asked what sound the duck made. Apparently earlier in the day he'd replied "Woof" so Chris had been upstairs practicing with him ever since. Joseph and Noah had some fun playing together with all the fridge magnets, and it was also nice to meet the newest member of Team Cook, Ben, as well as Chris and Anna's new niece Matilda. Hard to believe that they start off so little before turning into these great big toddlers and then, pre-schoolers!

Happy Birthday, Joseph - may all your future parties be as much fun as your first one!
Here is sweet Ben, and my hand looking awkward and enormous. Duncan, in the background, is running the marathon in a few weeks! We had to sing twice, because Joseph's cousin Aidan blew out the candle for him the first time around... I'm sure the beer's in this one! No, I think it's in this one!

Scientists continue research

West Dulwich, London (BP) -- A team of British-American scientists are currently researching the effects of what has been dubbed the "Avian Imitation Tendency" often exhibited by young children under the age of 2. AIT is a phenomenon most easily recognized by the child's early-morning risings and squawkings, similar to that of the rooster and his pre-dawn crowing. In many cases, AIT will also include the child going "boneless" as the hapless and exhausted parent attempts to coax the child back into the sleepful state (Ed's note: of course being boneless this has nothing to do with the natural state of a chicken, but it's that thought that popped into my head at 4:45 a.m. in our kitchen as I was making a bottle and led me to write this - what is supposed to be - humorous post).

It is not known what the cause of Avian Imitation Tendency is, and most children return to their normal states once the sun rises and their parents have succumbed to the fact that the child will not be returning to sleep. Symptoms in the parents - principally, but not exclusively, the mother - include fatigue, subsequent dark shading under the eyes, and in extreme circumstances, bruised teeth and gums (from teeth-clenching in attempts to control frustration and not to scream, an action that would wake other members of the household and possibly neighbors). Over time hair loses color and turns to grey.

The team's lead researcher also commented today that upcoming studies will address the impact of daylight savings time, which the UK moved to on Saturday. "We've concluded that if you look at all the evidence, human children want to be a lot like birds, particularly 'early birds'. We hope that further research can help tired parents find a cause, and perhaps, one day, a solution." DwL thinks the bird's the word.


I often seem to want to organize some sort of seasonal photo shoot a few weeks too late: in the fall, I tried to take some pictures of the boys when most of the leaves had lost their best color. On Sunday, it was daffodils, which seem to have had their best blossoms and are likely wondering where all the rain has been lately. Still, I persevere, but there aren't many winners in this bunch of shots! Blake had been promised ice cream if he cooperated for some pictures, but both boys had been sleeping in the double buggy and were none too impressed when we stopped by a patch of yellow daffodils in Brockwell Park. In fact, Noah appears to be still asleep in some of them! The light was also totally wrong for where I was trying to shoot without having the road in the background. At any rate, the daffodils have been really pretty, even if some of the expressions Blake was pulling are not! He got his ice cream, in the end...I'm such a pushover.


Monday, March 28, 2011

While I'm catching up

Here are the beautiful results (of the kids at least!) of our professional photo shoot back in December. I have now finally stopped watching the slideshow multiple times a day but have been meaning to share it.
The password is lyons - turn on the volume and enjoy!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Here comes the Hotstepper

Noah is having a good time taking some occasional steps. He loves it most when Blake applauds his efforts. Here he is on Tuesday (March 22nd) putting a few moves together. This was pretty good going considering that he had been up literally the WHOLE night before and was feeling miserable on Tuesday with the latest in his string of bugs and colds, bless him.

He's so sweet though. I'll have to see if I can film him when Blake shows his appreciation for the walking; he squeals and shrieks as if he knows how cool he is!

Return to the blogosphere

Well, I have returned from my blog writers' strike - have you missed me? In actual fact, there's been no strike, of course...I have just been too exhausted, sick, and overworked to write. It's always hard when I haven't written for so long to know where to start, but at the end of a sunny Sunday, I can definitely say that we've had a pretty rotten two weeks, at least on the health front.

I can count on one hand the number of times in my 10 years in London where I have called in sick to work (after I went back to work after my year out with Blake, I definitely had to call in many times to say that I was having to stay at home to look after a sick boy, but for myself, it's something that I haven't had to, or just didn't, do). Two Mondays ago, though, after an awful night's sleep, I woke up with a tight throat and congestion, and I thought to myself, what I need to do is stay at home and sleep all day, workload be damned. It seemed the absolute right thing to do, and I started to get extremely excited at the possibility of the return to being a well-rested, and well, person.

As we were getting the boys ready for nursery, I noticed on a little spot on one of Noah's fingers. He'd had these two red spots on his forehead since the previous Wednesday which I thought were just pimples, but all of a sudden this spot on his hand looked worryingly like one of the symptoms of "hand, foot and mouth" - a childhood virus (and not the animal disease "foot and mouth") which is not too serious, but isn't very pleasant either. He had been "off" all weekend so I felt like it would make sense if it were in fact the case that he had yet another viral infection. The lovely images of my indulgent sick day slowly dissipated and we headed off to take Blake to nursery and Noah to the doctor.

The good news was that the doctor couldn't say conclusively that it was hand, foot and mouth; the bad news - for me and my sick day - was that since he wasn't entirely sure that it wasn't that, I didn't feel right taking Noah to nursery in case it was something contagious. So rather than curl up in bed the entire day, I basically looked after Noah, who, judging by his activity levels throughout the day, was definitely not sick! That evening I was so tired, and really, that just seems the start of what was then a very long 10 days or so...

Finally I feel like I don't actually need a sick day, but I'll hope you'll forgive my absence over the past two weeks (the above is actually just the start, but I'll leave that for later). I've got a few posts stacking up which I may pace myself with posting throughout this week.

I have just watched my beloved Tarheels bow out of the NCAA Tournament so it's not exactly how I wanted the evening to go, but I'm glad to be back at the helm of DwL and stepping down as the captain of the Good Ship Cough and Cold. Night night!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My growing-up boys

On Friday I got news that every mother working outside the home would have mixed feelings about: Noah reportedly took 4 steps at nursery. My first reaction was, of course, to feel excited and proud, and my second reaction, about a millisecond afterwards, was to feel sadness that I wasn't there to see it first-hand. I had actually known that the steps were not too far off; the last week that Mom was here Noah had shuffled between two static objects - almost like a little lunge step - and Matt and I were both there for that which was very exciting. He now cruises at high speed along the sofa and can make his way, on foot, from the bathroom to Blake's room in about 3 seconds, gliding along the wall in the hallway. In fact, one evening last week I turned off the bath taps and then couldn't figure out where he'd gone! He'd sped into Blake's room where, like a mythological siren, the toy kitchen was tantalizingly calling out for a sous-chef to spread some toppings on a pizza.
It hadn't been my intention to torture myself over the weekend with further reminders that both my little babies are growing up, but we'd promised ourselves - and Blake - that we would get his hair cut on Saturday. After a trip to Biff Kids in Dulwich Village to buy him a new pair of wellies (the cost of the shoes we buy there isn't so cringe-worthy when I factor in my hopes that Noah will eventually wear them too), we then headed to the local hair salon. After a very brief discussion about whether to leave the length above or below his ears - above won out - Blake was soon caped up and gone were his beautiful, but admittedly quite scraggly, curls. As he sat in the chair, generally quite solemnly and quietly looking in the mirror at the handicraft happening to his locks, he just looked and seemed so much older than his three years.
Fortunately they were able to give me an envelope so I dutifully saved some hair for the keepsake book, and after a few "glamour shots" on the Rosendale Road Parade, we headed home for some lunch. Matt and Noah had stayed home and when Blake ran into the kitchen to show Matt, I heard Matt say, "Oh, that's a lot shorter! Is Mummy happy or is she sad?"
The answer was, like with Noah's steps, that I had mixed feelings. Though, at least I was there for the haircut. And it's going to be a lot easier to figure out what Blake's hair is supposed to do in the morning, without the difficult comb-over attempts and unkempt strands of frizzy hair.
But, my boys are growing up, and it will probably seem like no time before we're off to get Noah his first cut. As you'll see from the pictures, he still has a while though before that happens, so I'll just snuggle up to his fuzzy head and tell myself that they're not growing up too quickly. When he walks out of my lap, well, that will be another story. I'll save that thought for another day...
March 2011

Monday, March 07, 2011

In the Kitchen

I know I've said it before, but I truly find it amazing how quickly things can change in the lives of these little people. Just one week ago I was blogging about the excitement of Blake's birthday and the problematic issue of his not wanting to share his new kitchen with Noah. What in the world are we going to do, I was wondering, if Blake will never let his little brother share in this toy?! (which, as reviews of the kitchen on amazon.co.uk led me to believe, was actually intended for both of them and would be the answer to how I was ever going to attempt to get through my 3 box sets of Grey's Anatomy dvd's!)

Anyway, one week on, and at the rate they're going, you're likely to find a take-away menu for a new business venture lying on your doorstep in the near future: Blake's running his own in-house, restaurant/cafe/shop, and let me tell you, the menu sounds like it offers good home cookin', just like his mama serves up! (sample menu items: cheese, Cheerio's, "chicken fried", and "vegetables"). The kitchen has already been relocated to Blake's bedroom, where amidst all the chaos of all his other toys, it is not so much of a focal feature for Noah. Noah can instead be relegated to sit with the stuffed animals while Blake can prepare coffees and teas and burn things in the "hot oven". I've had two hilarious moments of Blake's attempting to expand his vocabulary through repetition, one when I asked him if his cafe served cappucinos (he replied, "No, we don't have peppercinos"), and the other time tonight, when I asked whether his restaurant served a "starter" - after checking with his sous-chef he replied that yes, they did have "stardas".

As with our very own real kitchen, he seems to struggle with having enough work surfaces, so right now a glance at the toy kitchen would reveal wine goblets and salt and pepper shakers in the microwave; a pizza, a colander full of wooden fruit, and assorted plastic cutlery all stuffed in the oven, and a spoon and a piece of plastic chocolate cake hanging from a towel hook. All in all, a pretty accurate replica of our own domestic perfection!

The funny thing is, we've literally been obsessed with kitchens of late, as we finally got the architectural drawings in order to get some quotes to do the work that our kitchen so desperately needs, knocking through to the dining room and then doing a small extension to the back. It's been a long time coming and is no doubt still a way off, but it feels good to be making some progress, even if minor. Of course, once I have a better kitchen, I will also miraculously become not only interested in spending more time preparing delicious nourishing food for my family, but also capable of it as well. Ha ha, I do just love that illusion!

Finally, to round out the title here....I rarely give a book a second chance, but I did just that with Monica Ali's debut novel Brick Lane. It was so critically acclaimed when it first came out, and I tried to like it but just couldn't; I only got a third of the way through before abandoning it. I was desperate for a book to read and got it off the shelf again before my trip to Boston, and this time I absolutely loved it. I really empathized with the main character, something I don't remember doing several years ago. At the library on Saturday I selected another one of Monica Ali's books, aptly titled (but I've only just realized it as I was writing the title of this post), In the Kitchen. I'll report back when I've read it but if you haven't read Brick Lane, I do recommend it.

We had a relatively quiet weekend, with our only specific goal being to use up some browning bananas to make banana bread. I let Blake help more than I have with similar activities in the past, and he did really seem to enjoy it. Our oven does actually tend to burn things, so I am not sure if the finished product was good enough to make the dessert menu at Blake's restaurant. Bless Noah's heart (he eats day-old toast off the floor - inadvertently not swept up by Mom), if he gets a sitting at Chez Blake for tomorrow evening, maybe he and the stuffed animals can order some nice banana cake to go with their peppercinos.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Birthday pictures

One thing is certain: when I am tired, my posts don't make as much sense as they do when I am not tired! I re-read what I posted last night and realized parts may have been confusing, as when I jumped from the evening of making the buzzy bee cake directly to the moment of trying to surprise Blake with it the next day. I wonder if you were thinking that I had made some editorial mistake, or whether you're just used to its being a bit all over the place?!

Here is part 1 of some pictures. I fell asleep on the couch after dinner, and while Matt was getting Noah ready for bed Blake poo'd his pants AGAIN, so I have only downloaded pics from one camera because I just need to turn in early. Enjoy for now; I'm off to bed!

February - Blake turns 3!

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Blake has the privilege of sharing a birthday with Anna - so we will hopefully never forget her birthday. Happy Birthday; hope Joseph and Chris have spoiled you!

Happy Birthday, Blake!

We are now the proud owners of a 3-year-old and I feel as if I have the kids' party battle wounds to prove it. If you felt a small rush of air at around 11:30 pm GMT tonight, it may very well have been the last whispers of the World's Largest Sigh, which I exhaled as I sat down on the sofa after getting through today, Blake's actual birthday.

After the dinosaur fest on Wednesday, we headed up on Saturday to the North London Tavern, to celebrate the big 0-3 with Eva, one of the Queen's Park gang. As we were getting ready, Blake said to me, "But why are we having more and more and more birthday parties?!" Good point, I thought; I am totally partied out. We went ahead though with our plans and it was really nice to see my old friends (ha ha, ladies, you're not old!). Blake was extremely shy to start with but eventually stopped clinging to my leg and had a good time once he had eaten a lot of crisps and discerned that there were in fact party bags to be distributed at the end of the party.

I came home that evening and began a project - as usual, a fairly ambitious one often attempted at totally inappropriate times of the night and when there would have been other, easier, ways out. I still had the tiny voice of Blake ringing in my ear that he wanted a buzzy bee cake, so I set out to make one. I was pretty proud of the result, even though I definitely need to get better at not letting my frosting get so soft. There were a couple of slightly "wrong" things with the cake, the biggest one being that I could not find thin licorice rope and had to use thicker twists instead; the original cake is here so you can see the difference. The other thing is that it was basically constructed of 2 whole cakes, so it was pretty big and did not fit on one of my cutting board/cake trays! With that in mind, I realized that rather than bringing the cake to Blake, he would have to come to it. We were trying to get everyone organized for this procession, and at this point I was so pleased because he hadn't yet seen the cake. I was going to be so excited to see his face when he saw it. I popped into the kitchen from the dining room to get the matches for the candles, and in that instant Blake and Emma decided to go exploring in the dining room. I came in to see the back of his head as he was looking at the cake, so I have no idea unfortunately what his initial reaction was! I was a bit saddened by this but wasn't going to dwell on it. Fortunately the cake was tasty enough, and we could move on to presents.

Together with the grandparents, we got Blake a mini kitchen which he has really seemed to adore so far. Tom and Lykke got him some wooden chopping vegetables, and today Noah "gave" Blake a mini wooden pizza set. Matt has had to move the kitchen into Blake's bedroom because of some issues with sharing, or rather: not sharing. Noah has definitely been dragged away from the toy kitchen by Blake at least half a dozen times in the last 24 hours, so we decided it would simply live in Blake's room until he can get a bit better about sharing. Of course the instant Noah realized what had happened, he flew up the stairs in pursuit of Blake and the plastic cutlery. I have mentioned in the past about possible professions for the boys, and the latest is that Blake could be an urban planner (he loves creating villages and scenes with his Legos) and Noah would be the bulldozer driver who comes and knocks everything down. Noah is quite the little destoyer, so I empathize with Blake when Noah wrecks his good work.

Today I then took in a cake (bought at Tesco, I couldn't bear a third round of baking!) and some party bags (lovingly purchased, transported and packed by Granny Karla) to Blake's nursery class, and it seemed they went down well. I didn't get there in time for the singing, but it was nice for him to get to do something on the actual day. Three parties in less than a week has certainly taken it out of me, but I guess when you're three, life's a party.

Unfortunately he's had this little ulcer on the side of his gum, so he's been feeling a little miserable with that when he eats. I'm hoping he's on the mend now, and we can all get back to "normal life". Then again, Noah's birthday is only about 6 weeks away, and well, surely we have to make a big deal of it since it's his first one...! I had better start planning the cake now.

I will do a full upload of photos tomorrow but here is one of Blake and Emma from yesterday. They had all gone out for a little walk to try to get Noah to fall asleep in the buggy, and it was raining, so Blake ended up with a mini perm! It sure is strange for me to look at this grown-up boy and think that a mere three years ago, he was our tiny bundle of joy. Time sure does fly when you have no free time (and when you're having fun, of course!)

And here is one of the ginormous buzzy bee cake (shown here as headless; he did start off with a head!), although I have better shots from my other camera and will post them tomorrow.

Birthday bash #1 (of 3)

On Wednesday we kicked off Blake's birthday "season" with a small party at home with a few of Blake's friends. I say "small" party because really, I invited 3 children, which seems like a relatively tame number considering. What isn't captured in that "small party" label is that there was what felt like an enormous amount of effort put into entertaining those 3 mini folks and their entourages (their mothers and in 2 cases, their little siblings). Don't get me wrong, we had a blast and it was definitely worth doing for Blake, but wheeeeew, were Mom and I tired that evening! We started off the day with some cake-decorating: Blake had requested a dinosaur theme for a party so dutiful Granny Karla toted all sorts of party goods and favors over from the US. For some reason, the night before the party, Blake decided that he wanted a "buzzy bee" cake, and not a dinosaur cake. You can imagine my reaction. Where in the hell has this idea even come from, I could only think. Anyway, as we started decorating the dinosaur cake, I had an idea that would accommodate this buzzy bee request, so I took a chocolate egg wrapped in gold foil and drew on it with some black permanent marker. Voila, a buzzy bee...oh yes, and he's about to be eaten by T Rex! With the cake pretty much done, we headed off to the store to stock up on food. I should have done this the night before but I was just too tired so I decided it could wait 'til the day of the party. Once back we had to start decorating and get everything set up for the games. What is a party without games, after all? I made a somewhat pitiful effort at a "Pin the Tail on the Dino" poster, and we cut out different colored dinosaur footprints which were supposed to lead each child to his/her party bag. As it turned out, these games were slightly more complicated for a 3-year-old than for a 34-year-old, but we got there in the end. I also now know that you really really must just save the party bag distribution until the end of the party; there was much confusion at various points about whose party bag was whose and whether one had gone missing, etc.
There were a few "uh-oh" moments in the build-up: a big one being that the Happy Birthday dinosaur banner that Granny had brought came out of its packaging bearing the message "Happy Birth". Somehow "day" didn't make it on to the plane (or on its boat from the warehouse in China), so we quickly concocted a homemade portion to make it sensical.
We also had a few laughs about how to create "boulder-like" rocks using chocolate cookies, without making them look too much like dino poo. I think we succeeded pretty well. And, after I had just cleaned the dining room floor, Blake spilled an entire tube of pink sprinkles all over it. The entire tube.
Both boys conked out pretty easily on Wednesday night, and Granny Karla headed for bed around 8:30. It was indeed a "dino-mite" day and a great party for Blake.