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.