Saturday, December 15, 2012

The senselessness of evil

Like many people - and in particular, I imagine, parents of school-age children - I went to bed last night with a very heavy heart after hearing of the school shooting in Connecticut.  The last things I did before going to bed were to look in on Blake who was sleeping, and give an extra hard hug to Noah who was not really in the mood for sleep and was thus in bed with us.  The horror and the desperation that so many of those parents must be feeling is beyond understanding. 

There have been other random shootings in America in recent history, and they have all no doubt been equally horrific, but this one in particular strikes such a nerve: as President Obama said, these children were beautiful children between the ages of 5 and 10, no doubt full of life and energy, wonder at the world, with so much still to discover in their lives which have now been cut short far far too soon.  I can't help but look at Blake - who in his first year at school, is probably the age of many of these kids - and smile at the funny things he's saying and doing, and imagine the unimaginable pain I would feel if something were to happen to him or Noah.  The timing, so close to Christmas - a time that really is for children, before you get jaded by the consumerism and stress of it all - makes it that much more hard to bear.  You can imagine that many families were so looking forward to visits by Santa, trips to see family, taking a break from the hecticness of the season and enjoying the holiday season as families - now their lives have just been turned completely upside-down and changed forever. 

The randomness of it all only feels more awful - thinking of the relief that the parents whose children survived this, but the horror of those whose children were in the classroom where the gunman targetted - why their children?  Why did this guy snap?  And what would lead someone to target children who are completely innocent?  It also makes my heart break for educators all over - especially to think about my parents who devoted their working lives to teaching...we all takes risks every day - in our cars, or on public transportation, and the risk of terror is probably everywhere - but school should be sacred, a place where fun and learning can take place without fear of attack.  I feel even more sad reading that the principal had recently installed higher security for Sandy Hook; obviously the safety of the children was high on her priority list, and somehow that failed.  How many weekdays do parents send their children off to school, assuming that they will come back home safely at the end of the day, full of stories about what they learned, what they did with their friends, what they're looking forward to doing the next day?  Equally painful is the knowledge that nowhere is immune to insanity - Connecticut is the place of so many wonderful memories for me, and to imagine the peacefulness of the small-town community and how it has been shattered, is very tough. 

As for the inevitable issue that will be front and center in the aftermath - gun control -I hope that somehow something good comes out of this, and that politicians will find a way to avoid this happening again.  Unfortunately, I doubt that will be the case, as many Americans hold very tightly to the words of the Constitution and to the right to bear arms.  Reading that the guns he used had been bought legally by his mother will no doubt confuse the issue.  It's just hard to believe that America, as a land of the free, can be a place where freedom - of everyone to grow, learn, love - can so easily be taken away so quickly by crazy people wielding guns. 

My thoughts and prayers will be with the community of Newtown.  I hope Santa has some time to make it up to Heaven to deliver the gifts to the children who won't get to experience Christmas here on earth.  And I pray that the parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of the children - and the families of the adults whose lives were also lost - find strength in the memories of their loved ones.  For the rest of us, how lucky we are; I guess we just all need to hug our children and hope that we never know tragedy like that. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

3 feet high and rising

As it always seems to do at about the second Wednesday of December, Christmas is coming quickly! And no, I am not at all ready!

We got our tree over the weekend, a very small one just to put something up, but holding out for the bigger one in Hickory.  We went to the local garden center where even the 3-foot tree cost £28...the encouraging words I was giving to the boys about how perfect the 3-foot size was were pretty convincing, fortunately.  They didn't let me put it n the trunk and insisted on having it ride between them in the car. Funny boys....

They got so excited about decorating it, and in fact, at some point late on Sunday I realized I hadn't actually hung up a single ornament - I think Blake just sort of set to work and recruited Noah to help where he could. The results are not too bad!

Christmas Tree

Monday, December 10, 2012

The "Version" Mary

Not sure if you will know this famous Christmas tune, but have a listen!

Several things about this make me laugh, not least Blake "swapping his mike" from one hand to the other! They were the ones who insisted singing in their britches, too...go figure.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Weekend fun, but hard work too!

Matt went down to Brighton this weekend to catch up with the "boys" (nevermind that they aren't very young anymore!), so that meant I was on my own with our boys for Saturday and Saturday night. I sure do admire anyone who is a single parent; it is hard work just being that one person who has to do everything.

For their part, the boys were very good for me. We had a lazy morning on Saturday before going to a local church's Christmas bazaar. I only had about £9 in cash and we managed to use all our money up, spending it on hot dogs, delicious cakes, face painting, and a few little items from their jumble sale. Noah fell in love with this camper van which was a bargain at £1, and made me cringe to think about what we could spend at Christmas yet which might not make him as happy as this little item did! Blake was totally thrilled with his face painting and the whole walk back we tried to find good camouflage for him.

We all had an afternoon snooze on the sofa (face paint ending up all over the sofa), before we headed out for another local Christmas event - the pre-Feast Christmas celebration at St Luke's in West Norwood. This was rather tricky in that it was kind of dark all around the grounds, but we enjoyed the lights that were being projected on the church, and the boys each had a cake pop from the local Bunting and Pops. They're so cute and SO yummy!

After a bit of tv (Blake's favorite - Diners, Drive-in's and Drives), we all snuggled up in my bed. I just couldn't face being woken in the night by one or both of the boys, so it just seemed easier to do this. And it kind of worked, apart from the fact that I woke up at 1:00am, before going back to sleep until about 7:15 this morning. Not too bad.

Then it was church, and by the time we got home, Matt was on his way back. We got some popcorn from the Feast and went and had a movie afternoon at Charlie and Flora's. I was, of course, very glad to have Matt home and the boys enjoyed seeing Daddy! But we did well enough...maybe he can go away again next year! : )

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nyquil wrote our weekend's script

Ugh - I wonder if I should have had a flu shot?!  Last year I had a flu shot for, I think, the first time ever - and I got one of the worst colds I'd ever had that I vowed not to have the shot again.  These past couple of weeks we have all been under the weather, with the boys being off a few days last week and then not shaking it into the weekend, just in time for me to start having sniffles.  On Friday night, Noah had one of those nights that reminded me of when they were really little and would wake in the night and be unconsolable - we weren't sure if Friday was due to teething, a sinus problem or an earache, or just generally being miserable and unable to sleep.  With the way he would arch his back and roar, though, I felt as if we were sleeping with a very young, and not so green, version of the Incredible Hulk.  He seemed to not remember it the following morning, though, and couldn't really say what had been bothering him. I think it was probably sinus pain or teething.

Today I had an idea for a new app for the iPad: "Grandparent Control", where a grandparent could monitor from a distance how long his/her grandchild had been watching the iPad and shut the iPad down remotely once an acceptable limit had been exceeded (you can make your own conclusions about why I'd had the idea!). But, I felt fortunate that we didn't have any plans this weekend, meaning that sitting at home nursing our colds seemed like an ok use of our time. 

Today Blake and Matt managed to get to the park, while Noah and I hung out and he got a bit of toast in bed.  I then decided that I was up for a trip to the library since I'm suffering from a lack of reading material, and Blake and I headed off to the Clapham library, where we managed to have a nice time reading and then wrapping up our trip at Starbucks.  He is pretty into his reading, and I am quickly catching on to the world of phonics!  The book he loved discovering today, though, was Where's Wally? (I think the British version must be Wally instead of Waldo) and we spent so much time searching out the characters in the scenes.

All in all, I hope everyone feels a bit better tomorrow and that we can have a normal or close-to-normal week.  What do you do when you or your family is sick to pass the time?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election time

It seems there is only one thing that will keep me up through the night and my 5 hour difference to primetime...and that's the UNC Tarheels playing in March Madness.  I think I'm going to turn in before getting sucked into the election results.

I did vote today, and here's a picture of my polling station:

I hope they got my email at Boston City Hall!

By all accounts, this will be one of the closest elections ever, and if I close my eyes I can almost remember being in the Back Bay apartment I shared with Cindy in 2000 when we woke up to find that there hadn't been a winner declared, and so began the year that the election was won by a guy named Chad, if I remember correctly.  I do feel sorry for all the people in NY and NJ who are having to deal with voting amidst trying to figure out staying warm, finding shelter, and repairing the damage of Sandy.

It also seems from afar that surely the US needs to look at the whole electoral college process; the thought of splitting the popular vote and the electoral college vote seems crazy to me.

I found, in the closet in Blake and Noah's room this weekend, a little navy blue Democrat onesie that Blake wore during election season in 2008. I thought I'd done a post that had some pictures of him in it, but I can't seem to find it.  It's 18 month size, so too small for Noah to squeeze into.

As for us, and the way we celebrate the beginning of November here, we headed off last night to the fireworks display at nearby Crystal Palace park.  Blake loved them, but Noah was not so keen - it is a bit loud and scary for that age, but I still think he kind of liked him.  "Too loud" with a scrunched up face, was how he reported the experience to his nursery teachers today.  I'm sure next year he'll love them...

Some things just don't make sense

It's been hard not to focus on the news out of the US this past week, primarily on Superstorm Sandy and its devastation, but also the news of the last-minute stages of the election, and something else that happened in New York City a few days before Sandy wreaked havoc there for many.

Sandy's aftermath will have no doubt bumped the story deeper into the back pages, but for me this story has been something of a minor obsession.  It's the horrible tragedy of the nanny who allegedly murdered two young children in her care before attempting to take her own life.  I read about it on someone's Facebook page and since then, I can't seem to get it out of my mind.  Perhaps it's the age of the little boy and imagining all the joy he was bringing to the family every day, or the 6-year-old girl who was no doubt a loving older sister to her younger brother and sister, and the fact that they were just so beautiful and happy looking, with so much more living to do.  Maybe it's trying to understand what in the world would possess someone to bring such harm to such innocents, and constantly struggling with the fact that nobody saw  - or did anything about - the signs that the nanny would snap with such horrifying consequences. It could be that it's more compelling to me because the mother kept a blog about the lives of the kids, and if there's one thing I can say about blogging as a mother, it's that it requires commitment but brings joy.  The mother in this case - the father, as well, and the surviving 3-year-old sister, and grandparents - they do not deserve the pain that they must be going through.  It's just so so awful.

In many ways, it's a story I wish I'd never heard about, and without the Internet, I might not have.  In that sense there's a subplot about the spread of news and how we are going to be faced with more and more stories of things that are really not very close to home, but somehow become just that through a social media that is nonstop and pervasive in our lives.  It also exposed the sad side of free commentary, with online news stories showing posts and comments by people who were so quick to judge: about the choice of using a nanny, on the social class of the family, on immigration to the US, and so many other things that to me did not seem relevant.  What was relevant to me was that an unspeakable and horrible tragedy had taken the lives of two children, and effectively ended the life of their murderer.  Whether the family has money or not is completely beside the point: they have lost two of their most precious assets, and they can't be replaced.  And nobody should have to go through a pain like that - I just wonder how they will recover?  I read one editorial about the idea of "trust", and when we do it (all the time, really), and how this case has shaken so many people who entrust their children to the care of others.  But for many people, what choices do we have?

I only hope that somehow, some day, the family will find peace and will be able to overcome what is no doubt the most heartbreaking, unbelievable, and darkest situation they have ever been faced with.  In the past week I've hugged Blake and Noah so much more than usual, and been much more patient and in-the-moment with them.  Every day is such a gift, and they're going to be grown up so quickly, so for now I just want to hold them tightly and make sure they know I love them.  My thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered such an immense loss.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Blake has been looking forward to Halloween so much; me - not so much!  It seemed to take him forever to decide what he wanted to go as, ruling out all the pre-made costumes that we already own (pirate, knight, Batman, Spiderman) and instead finally opting for something that was really scary - a vampire!  On Monday we went down to Brixton and picked up some red and black fabric, so that I could make a cape for him.  Are you wondering how I found time to learn how to sew since the last Christmas pageant?  Um, yeah...of course, no, I still don't know how to sew, but of course, I need to buy the fabric so that I can think that I actually do know how, or that I can just really quickly learn.  Because really, nothing is impossible, right?

I do firmly believe that nothing is impossible, although I am willing to acknowledge that certain things are most definitely impractical, or illogical.  The creation of a vampire cape would certainly be classified correctly as either of those two things, in fact, probably both of them.  At any rate, we got the fabric on Monday, but it wasn't until today that I started to imagine how I would actually fashion into some sort of cape-like creation that actually stayed around Blake's neck.  Fortunately, my office is in the heart of the import/export textile world of Petticoat Lane Market in the East End of London, so of course I just assumed I could quickly pop into one of these shops before work and either kindly ask them to just cut me a pattern, and oh, maybe they could just actually sew it for me.  And yes, please, a button or snap at the neck would be lovely, thank you!

It was moments like this morning where I definitely will acknowledge that my realm of possibilities most definitely simply exceed what is reality.  The first shop I went into had hundreds of rolls of fabric; did they sew there, I asked?  No, not here.  Ok, do you know of anywhere around here?  Maybe try the shop that is supposedly around the corner but whose name I could not understand, and anyway, there is definitely not a shop here that fits the bill.  I could have bought 10,000 digital watches and 20 boxes of lighters, but there was no tailor in sight.  Oh but look, there is a tailor shop!  Do they sell velcro (because at this point, that's what I was in search of).  No, try the shop on Brick Lane...they might have it.  Does that shop have a name [Brick Lane is kind of long, you see].  Yeah, the name is "Trimming Shop" [or at least, that's what I heard].  Trotted over to Brick Lane and managed to find a shop called Z. Butt Textiles which had a variety of tools and sewing devices which looked really handy, if you know how to sew that is.  I was thrilled they had velcro - hooray!  Did I want the sew-on style or the stick-on style.  I debated a millisecond: stick-on style...yes, please!  One roll was £2.00.  I had about £1.32 on me and it didn't seem like the type of place that took cards.  Quick run to the local cash point and then back, where I decided to splurge for 3 rolls of the stick-on velcro (just in case of botched attempts).  What a result.  Then, the plan was to actually do something about the creation of the cape during my lunch hour, which actually never materialized, but nevermind because quickly it was the end of the day and I had to rush off for a dentist appointment in Herne Hill before rushing home to prep the boys for the exciting trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.  We probably went to about 10 houses total - I'm quite happy to keep it small for the moment.

I managed to construct the cape with the velcro (vowing once again to buy a little sewing machine and teach myself to do at least a simple straight stitch) and it actually looked cute.  Blake was mostly interested in the fake blood that we'd bought, and I'd never managed to find any fake teeth so I drew on some fangs.  He was happy.  Noah was a pirate and Matt quickly drew him an eye patch, and we were ready to roll.  I was totally flustered having never even taken off my coat from when I arrived home to when we went out again, but nevermind.  We had a good time, and hearing Noah say, "Ahoy, maties," and Blake replaying my punny line when he got candy ("Fang you very much!") was enough to keep a smile on my face.  The crazy things I do in the sake of creativity, perseverance and disorganization!

Now, I wonder if I will have to make any nativity costumes this year....

Mr Adorable

Noah's hair was looking so shaggy so we made a trip to the salon yesterday. He seemed so grown up without his babyish sweet curls...

Monday, October 29, 2012

For the sake of his teef

Last Monday, Noah, Blake and I headed down to our local dentist, for an appointment with a purpose. A long, long time ago - sometime around Christmas in 2010, I think - we made Noah give up his pacifier. All went well, if I remember, until we flew to North Carolina the following April. On the 9-hour flight, Noah seemed to cry a lot, and when you're in an enclosed space at 30,000 feet, you do what you can to preserve your and everyone else's sanity. So although we didn't have a pacifier for him, we did have his bottle. At first it had milk in it, but then he drank that and just seemed to get comfort from sucking on the empty bottle, and well, there was peace and quiet and that seemed like a good thing.

Fast forward 18 months, and it'd be difficult to say what Noah liked more - the milk in the bottle or simply the bottle, and having it when he asked for it. "Milk in my bottle" would be the morning wake-up order, and as soon as he came in from nursery he'd also ask, "Where's my bottle?" In situations like this, I often choose the path of least resistance, and so it was that we've now got a beautiful little boy with a pretty misshapen palate and a lovely little lisp that - even if not caused by his bottle - has definitely not been helped by it!

I decided that I am going to get my children's blame for a lot of things in life, no doubt, but that the sooner we tried to break him of the habit, the better it would be. I told Matt that I needed to hear it from the dentist, and so I booked an appointment for him and me. My friend Jenny wisely told me that it might not hurt for Noah to hear it from the dentist that he shouldn't have the bottle, and that was very good advice indeed. When we went for the appointment, I reiterated to Noah what the dentist had said: "No bottles." That night, when Matt came home, Noah told him the message: "The dentist thaid, 'No more bottles.'" Bless him.

That night pretty much sucked, let me tell you. Precisely because, there was no bottle-sucking happening as it usually did in the middle of the night when Noah would wake up and root around for the bottle that he'd fallen asleep with. We decided that because it was going to be hard, that he could sleep with us, and it took me back to scenes of screaming infants and earaches and teething. Noah arched his back and roared that he didn't want to go to bed, and that he wanted to go downstairs and watch tv (it was about 10:00pm by this point). I let him watch a show on my iPhone before finally getting him to nod off, to the tunes of my renditions of "The Wheels on the Bus", "Hush Little Baby", and for some reason (never tried this one before) "Unchained Melody". [probably wouldn't recommend that one for singing without any's very slow and at times I think I nearly started laughing at how awful I was]. At 2:00am Noah woke up, and within seconds starting screaming, "I want the iPad." Yes, that might top a list of the 10 things NEVER heard by a child in 1978. Now, I'm guessing there are others who get that as a request at various points throughout the day; 2:00am is not a good time to hear it, though. We somehow managed through the night, with the next day feeling like one of those where I imagined that the dark circles under my eyes were as big as oceans, although I could not help but feel pride when Noah reported to his nursery teachers that "the dentist thays 'no more bottles'." And he grinned as if he knew that really, he didn't need that bottle and hadn't needed it for the past year or so.

And since then, he has really been so good about not having it. I think on Tuesday night he may have slept with us again, but then we managed to get him to go to sleep in his bed after having his milk in a cow sippy cup (that was funny...he seemed to think initially that a cow says "meow"...but then corrected himself to report that it is "moo". At least if he does think that a cow says "meow", it won't be having a bottle for 2 years longer than he should have that will have caused that confusion!).

Like with so many things with children, it's just amazing how quickly they adapt. Hopefully I have not caused too much permanent damage by not having the guts to take away his bottle sooner. As for guts, I did wash the bottle carefully and put it high up in a kitchen cupboard. Not having a b-o-t-t-l-e in the house seemed too big a leap of faith.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A few pictures

From the "quiet room" at church on Sunday, to some fall scenes today...and an appearance by a mystery guest at dinner!

October 16, 2012

Autumn blues, and moving on!

I’ve been thinking for a few days now – ok, maybe a few weeks – that I really miss writing this blog.  There are so many things that happen which cause me to think, Oh, I must write about that…tonight! And then tonight comes and I’m just too darn tired to do it.  Of all the prevailing moods I have at the moment, "exhausted" is unfortunately the one that keeps rising above the others.  Although last week "grumpy" pipped "exhausted" to the title, now that I reflect on it.  I was in such a bad mood last week (“I ‘ad the ‘ump” as they might say in some British dialect…maybe Essex?) and it was only this week that I concluded what the reason was.  Since February 2008, I’ve lived the life of a part-timer.  A double-timer, of course, in that I have the job outside the home, as well as the pretty demanding job in the home.  But equally, since I went on leave with Blake, I technically have been working part-time at work, 4 days a week.   With Blake’s starting school, and my quest to have that thing which we all lust for but many of us probably don’t achieve (yes, I’m talking about “it all”), I requested to change my schedule at work.  Technically I added an hour and a half to my working week – which is really not much, considering how much time people put into their jobs and how much overtime and unpaid hours many people do – but in that mere 1.5 hours, the whole dynamic of my life changed.  And yes, I am being a drama queen (or at least, last week I was).  Whereas I used to have one full day in the middle of the week to do all those things that many people in full-time employment can’t do (i.e. not set an alarm in the morning, decide at 8:30am whether or not I would shower or not for the day, go to the grocery store anytime between 9:02 and 1:47 in the afternoon, or failing a trip to the grocery store, see if I could finagle a nap at around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon) – all of these activities were now totally and categorically unavailable to me.  In my new schedule, I work two days at home from 9:30-2:30.  Sounds pretty nice, right?  And it’s still nice when I describe what happens on those days, which is that on Mondays I walk three 5-year-old’s to school and get to be part of the “school run”.  Nevermind that the pace we take to get there is about as far from a run as you could ever imagine, and that if one day any of them complains that their shoulders hurt I would not be surprised if it’s as a result of being dragged up the last little bit of the hill that leads to school by a generally kind but slightly militant lady who keeps repeating, “Keep coming, guys!”  I then rush home to log on to my laptop by 9:30, and then in some unfathomable twist of time and space, it is then all of a sudden 2:50pm and I really need to go back up the hill to retrieve Blake at the end of the school day (3:15).  We do something similar on Tuesdays – although for me it involves fewer children in the morning – and then on Wednesday the whole thing intensifies as I then also have to be in the office and therefore in ownership of a face with make up and at least the semblance of an iron having graced my clothes.  Not to mention that Noah is in the mix here and has to be at a place that is different to the school that is uphill.  But hey, it’s ALL GOOD!  We are part of an awesome rota with two neighborhood families and a woman who helps out in the afternoon, but many days it does feel as if you have to know first what the day is to know how Blake will get to school, how Noah will get to nursery, how I will get to or from work, and who is involved in achieving all of that. 

Last week, in all honesty I’ve concluded, I was in mourning.  Mourning is a pretty strong word, so if it's too strong - deep regret would probably suffice.  I was basically really really sad that with the change in my schedule, things hadn’t gotten easier.  Of course not…I had tried to tell myself that it would be better, and that it would be really nice to be involved in Blake’s school life – and that part is great, I guess – but really, last week I was just sad.  Sad that I no longer have a day off in the middle of the week to just switch off from the corporate world.  Sad that I have to – have chosen to – part company with Noah 5 days a week, something I never did with Blake until it was forced upon me through the school schedule.  Sad that I somehow let myself bet on my desire to be equally “present” in both aspects of my life – the home and the work outside the home – and, last week, the feeling I had was that I’d lost the bet. 
This week, I woke up with a renewed vow to try to be more positive.  I am lucky.  I have choices.  I have a great deal of autonomy in my role, and my employer hopefully knows that I’m valuable and that I make positive contributions.  My boys don’t seem to hate me, yet, so that’s a good sign.  Noah has been more positive when he goes into nursery and Blake is having a grand time at school, making new friends, learning all sorts of cool ways to remember how to write letters, and becoming generally a little bit more grown-up each day.  For the first time in about a month, it wasn’t raining on Monday morning when I had to play the shepherd mother and herd Blake and his friends to school.  There is a lot to be happy about.  I’m going to try to make the most of the little snippets of time that I have at home – whether it’s 5 minutes at the beginning of the day, the hour I have at lunch that I can enjoy not in the concrete landscape of the City of London, or the half an hour at the end of the day where I could probably get a thing or two done around the house before I go get Blake.  If last week was mourning, then this week is adjustment and acceptance.  Of course, life isn’t over.  Please, don’t get me wrong there.   But that phase I had in life where I had the luxury of a mid-week day off – the time I’ve had to spend with my “babies” – is.  Like so many stages of life with children, each milestone often comes equally with celebration and a touch of remorse.   And so it was that for me last week, remorse was the overriding feeling. 
As I said, the tone of this week has been so much better.  It’s amazing what a slight shake to your internal barometer can actually do – I kind of just had to tell myself on Sunday that I would be much better to just accept things as they are as opposed to wallow in misery – especially when it relates to something that the majority of the world just does without question (i.e. full-time work!). 
And so, maybe I’ll try to grab a 15-minute slot when I have it to try to write more.  I miss writing – I definitely find it important to my record-keeping and to my being able to capture what I’m feeling and what we’ve been doing.  But for now, I’m off to bed….it all starts again tomorrow!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Old pros now

Of course I knew this, but what a difference a few days can make...!

It's Monday night, and I have nothing dramatic to report from this morning's school run. Blake and I dropped Noah off and though there were tears from Noah at being left, I think they are just tears of indignation that Blake is getting to do something new and different, and Noah isn't. We then carried on in the pouring rain up to Blake's school, where he went in pretty dutifully, and I scuttled off before he could start crying or getting distressed. All pretty straightforward! But that's probably not as entertaining to read about as all the agony of last week!

We had a good weekend, and man, by Friday night, I sure was ready for it. Either Thursday or Friday - I can't remember now - I ended up just falling asleep in my clothes, such was my tired state. I think it was Friday, because I am pretty sure I had elaborate plans to go out to the store after the boys had fallen asleep in order to get ingredients for carrot cake that I needed to make for a church fair on Saturday (this is more like it, I can hear some of you thinking.....late night baking, procrastinating, getting too involved in a church activity....). Anyway, as it turns out, most of my pans were still in our storage unit that we'd rented while we were doing our work, so I decided not to torture myself with a late-night grocery store run (and actually, I don't think it was a conscious decision since I fell asleep with one of the boys while getting them to bed).. The next morning I then had to go get my ingredients, while Matt got the pans out of the boxes - and, to his credit, by the end of the weekend we had all our things out of the storage unit! Now, however, stuff is just flung all over the downstairs, which kind of is not exactly the look of domestic organization I am striving for, but no matter for now...

I did make my cakes - 2 of them, in to sell and one to go with teas - but it was not without some sort of "Why me? Why *my* cakes?" moment. I use a Betty Crocker recipe for my carrot cake recipe, and the cream cheese frosting is really yummy. But there's a hitch. In the UK, you can't (or I can't, at least!) buy cream cheese that's in a block - all of them are sold in the spreadable tub format, and what makes it spreadable is that it has water or liquid added to make it that way. Fine for spreading on your bagel, but not so good when you're trying to make a frosting that should hold two round cakes together! I need to find a fix for this for the future; as it was on Saturday I could only take in one iced round because the top half just kept sliding off!

Blake was pretty cheery over the weekend, and had his face painted at the fair. A funny thing happened, which is that I'm sure that at that same event last year, he also had his face painted as a tiger. I wonder if he remembers that that's the design he has done there?!

On Sunday it was miserable out, but I had a 5k run to do which I just about managed, before I came home, had a hot bath and had a nap on the sofa with Noah. We then unpacked some toys and didn't do much that was productive around the house, and then it was time for another week!

Today my little Noah found an old hat (I think it's one our friend Becks gave to Blake several years ago) and Noah insisted on wearing it after his bath and to bed. Speaking of bed...I must head there now...Goodnight!

Sept weekend

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tales from Day 2

I don't know how you're feeling, but lord, I'm ready for the weekend! Feeling pretty drained last night as we went to bed, today started off at the ungodly hour of 5:47am. Yes, that is 13 minutes before what I would have once considered an obscenely early time to have to wake up. I don't know what it is about my kids that means that they are literally wide awake from the moment they open their eyes; they definitely do not seem to have inherited their mother's love of the snooze button.

This morning was always going to be emotional without my feeling like a still-forming butterfly who'd been ripped from the safety and comfort of my cocoon (now that autumn is creeping in, the mornings are so chilly and so dark...perfect for sleeping til at least 6:30!). It was Day 2 of school and Mom and Dad were also heading back to the US after their 4-week stay. That is a lot of mornings covering the Cheerios duty with the boys, let me tell you, not to mention taking and picking them up from nursery, doing lots of playing, reading and entertaining, and generally being kind of like the 2 extra sets of hands one wishes one had on a daily basis (but usually that wish is just a pipe dream). They were those hands!

I actually woke up today not entirely worried about Blake, but instead spreading the guilt over to whether or not we'd been paying Noah enough attention amidst all the hecticness of yesterday. So I vowed that today I would be sure to pay Noah more attention (can you say, backfire?!). Blake put on his uniform pretty willingly, so that was encouraging. We had some men from some outfit called the Handy Squad come to put together a piece of furniture (they arrived just before 8:00 - good thing we'd been up for over 2 hours!). We were getting ready to go and I decided that maybe Noah would benefit from seeing Blake's school, since yesterday Mom reported that on the way to nursery Noah kept asking, "Where's Blakey go?". Aw...that sweet little No-No. Anyway, we got Blake and Noah out the door - Noah strapped in his stroller along for a joyride - and then Blake's friends Charlie and Jemima came to meet him in front of the house. Mom ought to be hired by the French paparazzi who follow the Royals based on how many photos she took of those three in their uniforms! In the meantime, Mom and Dad's taxi arrived to take them to the airport, and in all the chaos of the goodbye hugs, I would not be surprised if one of the Handy Squad guys got a hug - although I'm not sure if I hugged Mom and Dad or if they got to say goodbye to the boys properly since we were by this point headed off down the street to get to school on time. Blake seems to have heard the phrase "man up" at some point in his tv journeys (possibly a cooking show ultimatum line or something?!) and I think one of Mom's parting lines to him was to encourage him in a very cheerful way to "man up" when he got to school. Ha ha.

The walk to school was fine, and when we arrived, Noah had a right happy nose around Blake's classroom - he seemed to love it! Unfortunately, when it came time for us to go, Blake reverted to his freaky doll "Mama, Mama" whimper which then developed into high decibel screaming and crying. Today was actually much worse than yesterday as I had to hand him over to the teaching assistant with him gripping my shirt and wailing at full volume. A few mothers had given me encouraging smiles and one grandmother came over and told me all about how her daughter (one of Blake's classmate's mothers) had cried for 6 months when she started school, and how the mother was told by a teacher what a good student the daugter was and all the mother could think about was the fact that she cried every day when she left her. I am sure this was meant to give me hope, but it fell a little short of the mark. Did I mention that the school is a former Jewish orphanage? I didn't make the connection til this evening, but I did wonder if there was some replaying of history. I'll be back this afternoon, I kept telling him!

As I've said, I know Blake is going to be fine, but I did almost cry as my friend Jenny tried to cheer me up. I didn't though, but my own tears were right there at the surface. It's just such a helpless feeling, not really being able to do anything that would improve the situation; as of yet I haven't started to make any real bribes about post-school treats, but that may be coming soon.

Then it was over to nursery, where Noah was none too thrilled about being left either, but I managed to get out of there with only a few tears from him. He adores Blake so much, and I think he will miss having him around at nursery. Maybe I could find a pull-string doll that says, "Mama...Mama" and that will remind him of Blake....

After that, I went and logged on for a half day of work - out of the oven and into the frying pan - is that the phrase? Speaking of which, what was I going to give anyone for dinner...?!

By 2:00 it was time to go get there was an afternoon drop-in session where we could sit in the class and observe what was going on. He was fine and we had a nice time looking at a lot of the toys and activities in his classroom. I then went and gave Blake 3 forms of chocolate - a chocolate croissant on the walk home, a hot chocolate at Cafe Rouge, and a chocolate spider from the Cook frozen food shop. Noah was thrilled to see us when we picked him up, and I guess the only downside at this point is that I feel a bit in need of about 24 hours' solid sleep - and surprise, surprise, I don't see that any time in my future. Though, 7 hours would be pretty darn good, so I bid you good night!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't Go Breaking My Heart, or Tears of a Clown?

10:36am - our new kitchen: So far the good news is that only two of us have cried (Blake, and Granny Karla, in that order). Blake wandered into our room around 6:00 and after lying quietly for a few minutes in the bed, he said with an excited lilt in his voice: "Is today the day I go to school?" Finally, we could reply that yes, it was! In a somewhat dozy state, I thought to myself, oh, this is a good sign. It could have been 2 minutes later, or it could have been 10, but sometime soon after, Blake started crying and then came the line which every parent really doesn't want to hear: "I don't want to go to school!". The rest of the morning was a bit of a rollercoaster - he went down for breakfast but immediately told Granny he didn't want to go (that's what caused her to get teary). He then seemed fine but when I brought down his uniform, back came the tears and the refusal to get dressed. I am going to give myself some credit here and say that I am getting very good at being sensitive and gently encouraging in these situations (how it helped that I didn't have to get ready for work, today). He then put his uniform on with excitement, while Noah decided he wanted to wear a pair of school trousers too. Blake looked super handsome and posed for some nice photos, but then a few minutes later, the tears were back - and not just a was like a dam had burst! Oh dear...I had elaborate plans for a photo shoot outside the house but in the end it was all we could do to just get out the door really. We met up with Charlie on the corner which brightened Blake's mood quite significantly (though they're not in the same class, which is bumming Blake out a bit) and made the walk in the morning sun. I felt it was a good sign that the sun was shining, though I'm sure we have plenty of days ahead of doing that walk in the pouring rain!

The school looked really lovely as we went in. It's an old orphanage that's been converted into the school, and there'd been rumors about how ready it actually was in terms of the building work and renovations. In the classroom, things looked good, but then when we went outside, the playground is really still a building site at the moment, so that may take a good few more weeks or months to get finished. We were there for about 15 minutes or so seeing all that was in the classroom, and then it was time for the parents to head off. At this point Blake started whimpering and then he was really crying and saying "Mama, mama!" (he never calls me that!), as Matt and I tried to figure out what to do. All the kids were getting settled on a carpet and so I took him away from the main action and tried to tell him it was going to be ok. He's going to be so fine, but I guess he just wanted to express his uncertainty at the new setting. His teacher came and held his hand and led him to the group, and I took my cue and headed out. I am not sure he's feeling 100% which would perhaps play a role, but I hope that when we pick him up later that he's had a good time.

An hour or so later, and I was sitting at our table humming, "Don't go breaking my heart..." because I guess it's one of those times where I am feeling a pang of heartbreak...seeing my little baby be so grown-up and head off into the unknown, but not without a reminder that he will miss me and that he's still not that big. I hope that when we pick him up this afternoon he's back to his usual cheery self and I can say that his first day tears were the tears of a clown.

9:45pm - I'm exhausted! Blake was so much cheerier when we met him at the end of the day, so Matt and I heaved a huge sigh of relief. I'm not sure we're out of the woods yet because it may be we get some rough mornings as everyone figures out the new routine, new faces and places. He did say he had a good time (best quote of the day was from his classmate Jemima as we were walking home: "I didn't learn *anything*!"). Too cute. Off to bed now...just trying to get all the photos into this album has put me through the wringer - so emotionally draining!



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

End of a lot of things

Hello! Thought I was gone forever, did you? Yeah, sometimes it felt a bit like that for me, too. It's been a long summer, and although I want to try and backtrack a bit to recap what's been going on here in the hectic months of May-August, tonight is really about a couple of things. First, it's about me trying to renew my energy in updating this blog. This blog is a part of my life, and it's one I've been neglecting over the past few favor of just keeping my head above water what with the work to the house, work, and the other work that is being a mother. I'm going to do a "before and after" house post, I promise! The second thing that happens tomorrow is that I go from being a "mother of a pre-schooler and a toddler" to a "mother of a school-age child (and a toddler"...a loud one, at that!). I suppose that I define myself as more than by my children, and really, this isn't about me - the story should just be that Blake's starting school, and how exciting that is for him. Of course there is that. Sure there is. But there's also this feeling I'm having which is about my reaction to hearing parents say things like "It goes by so fast..." and my wondering, Hmm, is that's how it's going to be for me? Surely it won't go that quickly, surely I'll be present and in the moment and be aware of the passing of time, etc.

I guess in many ways 4 and a half years has gone quickly, but in other ways it hasn't. "The days are long but the years go quickly." A lot has happened in 4 years...we've moved, had Noah, broke a world record for length of time it takes to make alterations to a home, had a lot of laughs, a fair amount of tears, the occasional yelling, and all in all, I feel like I haven't had a decent night's sleep in a long, long time. And all my hair has stayed the same color in that time - can you believe it? (ok, no, you're right, that isn't true!).

I was in Boston last week for a work trip, and while Matt and Mom and Dad held the fort (not, as my mom might say, "Hold down the fort") with the boys, I enjoyed being woken by an actual alarm clock that doesn't pounce on me to wake me up and catching up with my US team. It was sure good to get back on Saturday morning, though...I brought the boys some souvenirs from Fenway Park which they enjoyed for about 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Long enough for me to get some photos!

And so, I hope that my writing energy will continue tomorrow and I'll post some photos of Blake's first day at school. It's a whole new era...and the question isn't, "Are we ready?" but "What time do we have to wake up?!" Have fun, Blakey boy - you're going to do great!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A special Wednesday

Even though I've given the impression in the title that today was a special Wednesday, in truth, every Wednesday is special given that it's a day that I get to spend with the boys. Things are going to change on that front soon, as once Blake starts school I'll be foregoing my day "off" to do two shorter days so that I can be involved in dropping him off and picking him up at school (something that isn't straightforward given the 8:55-3:15 school day). It breaks my heart to think that Noah will not ever get that day of my focusing on him, but I think overall this will be a good move both for staying involved in Blake's school schedule and possibly for my workload at work. We'll see. 

So really, they're all special, but today was in particular a little bit more special in that Blake's pre-school held a little Graduation ceremony for them. Adorned in "cap and gown" (not sure where the gown came from but it certainly isn't that shiny stuff we wore for high school graduation!), all the "graduates" filed over this little bridge in the nursery garden to get their certificates. They were so cute and we all enjoyed cheering them on.


It was super hot today - and of course that meant most people were complaining it was too hot because that's what people do in this country! It was, actually, way too hot but I vowed not to moan because after all the rain of April, May, June and July - heat and sunshine are really quite welcome to be in attendance at my life! Here are the boys at a local cafe this morning - not entirely sure why they both took their shoes off (or whether the Food Hygiene Board would be best pleased!) but I just saw this moment and thought it reminded me of the "dog days of summer"....


Last night Matt and I got to go out for dinner thanks to having one of our neighborhood babysitters home for the summer. It's kind of incredible how much we used to eat out and how nice something can be when you aren't taking it for granted. We also had the realization during dinner that it will be 10 years on Friday since we

Tomorrow I get to fly solo to Chicago to be at Mona's wedding on Saturday, which I'm so looking forward to. I'm going to miss Matt and the boys so much, but I know it will go quickly and that I'll be back before I know it. Then we can look forward to the Olympics and the - please please, let this be true - imminent completion of all the work to our house. We are so close and they are putting the finishing touches on paint and stuff, so it does finally feel like we're in the home stretch. And once it's done, everyone is welcome to come visit! If the sun stays around, it might not be a dismal prospect!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Nearing the end of this long long process

I haven't been writing much, obviously, but life has just been too turned upside down with the stuff going on with our house renovations.  I wish I hadn't just lost 2 months of my blog and our normal life, but that's what has happened! 
The good news is that we are finally - ever so slowing - inching toward the finish line.  We have a few minor things that need to get resolved in the kitchen, and the decorators are now in to apply paint and make things look fresh and lovely (only, of course, for them to be covered in small handprints almost immediately, I'm guessing).

Here are some photos of the boys helping pick paint colors for the bathroom (none of these will be selected, I don't think!) and then having a little al fresco meal yesterday on the patio. 

I hope that when life returns to normal - or at least our version of "normal" - I will able to get back to my blogging ways...
Til then - thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Returning to the blogosphere through baby is a photo from today, where Blake is -- hmm, not *so* proudly, but hindered by the sun in his face -- displaying his "penny pendant" which I helped his class make. Never mind that I cut out those stars (3 x 24) at 2:00 in the morning which gave my hand really bad cramps and killed my neck as I hunched over doing it. I did this because I only realized after I had chosen this as the activity that it was really meant for children about 3 or 4 years older than B and his little classmates! Me and my great ideas...!

I hope all of my fellow Americans had a great day celebrating!


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Best of Britain

It has been a full Diamond Jubilee Weekend here in the UK....official reports coming soon but here are a few pictures to tide you over for now.




Monday, May 28, 2012

Building works supervisors

The boys were really excited this morning when this enormous truck started depositing things outside our house this morning. I loved seeing them standing in the doorway looking on at the activity outside....


The playground and the after-effects

Apparently being 4-year-old and 2-year-old boys is tiring business.

I love this one of Blake trying to gets paper airplane into the hoop.

Weekend at Bishy's

We escaped to Bishy's this weekend where we had truly the most glorious weather imaginable. Finally! That's what we've been asking for...!

The boys had fun in the garden, with Blake helping to plant some seeds and Noah alternating between causing mischief and sucking vehemently on his bottle. We went to a nearby National Trust house where thankfully they served ice cream to calm down the hot and tired troops.

It was nice to get out of the dustbowl of our house and the weather could not have been more wonderful - it was such a boost to our spirits!