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)