Monday, April 30, 2012
Blake is still good at his drawing and coloring, and now he's getting good at writing letters and attempting to understand (I guess?) how things are spelled. Yesterday we went to our friend Flora's 2nd birthday party, and Blake wanted to write all our names in the card. At some point I guess I'll have to explain what "forgery" is, but for now, it was nice he wanted to do it.
And Noah, well, he's turned into such a big boy in the last 24 hours! I got both of them Cars2 duvet covers for Easter, but we kept promising and promising that we'd get Noah a big boy bed soon, and then we kept putting it off (because of the rain...! No not really, but it's my excuse for everything at the moment). On Sunday Matt went and got him a bed at Ikea, just like Blake's, and we prepared ourselves for major disruptions. We moved Noah out of his room into Blake's room - must remember to stop calling it "Blake's room" - and into the bed, so actually two changes at once. There was also the small matter that Noah goes to bed in a fully dark room, whereas B has to fall asleep with the light on - how was this going to work?!, we wondered. Last night Matt read them both a story, said "Night night", and left the room with each of them in his respective bed. About 2 minutes later, there was just silence from their room. Matt and I looked at each other with puzzled looks on our faces and then discussed that it had been too easy. What was going on? Anyway, as it turns out, they both just fell asleep, and had a pretty good night. I heard noises from Noah at around 4:20 but by the time I got into the room - and it was pretty quick, as I thought to myself how awful it would be if Blake also woke up, at around 4:30 in the morning - N had already located his empty bottle and gone back to sleep. They then didn't wake up til about 6:30, which is pretty good going in our house. Matt thinks that Noah may have been awake before Blake but just waiting for him to get up, but if that's the way they want to play it, I'm definitely fine with that! Who knows what tonight will hold, but maybe, just maybe, this might be an easy transition! I feel like I could use a bit of "easy"!
I know you possibly wonder why I don't pay a bit more attention at church, but well, I think you know that I'm doing my best there, and I don't really know how to re-train my kids not to think of it as a very large gymnasium in which to run around. Especially this week....they did seem like wound-up tops, but I think that's because they've been inside so much. You know, because of the rain?
I always try to take snacks for them to church, God. And I certainly don't mean to flash the top of my bottom to anyone in the congregation as I'm chasing the boys and bending over to pick them up, but it's just I'm often running low on clean laundry by Sunday morning and therefore can't always find shirts with better coverage. This is, not helped - as you know - by the fact that our washing machine is now broken. Three weeks before our entire kitchen is being ripped out and therefore rendering the current washing machine pointless. I think it is right that I adopt the "Love thy Neighbor" approach and go and get a service wash for our clothes, as opposed to leaving the neighbors and their 3-year-old girl wondering whether the crazy spinning machine might just rocket out from where it's making those 747-like sounds and burst through the dividing wall between their kitchen and ours.
It's all felt pretty hectic these days, God, so I think I'd better go to bed. At sometime around 5 in the morning, I'll probably be woken up by a small child, or raindrops on the windowsill. I hope it's the small child if it would mean another sunny day is in store. Your friend, Meg
Thursday, April 26, 2012
On days like this, it's tough to find the motivation, but of course it's exactly on days like this that you need to do so! Last Wednesday it was also raining (but it was a bit lighter rain, and it was a bit warmer), and anyway, last week we went to the Horniman Museum with Blake's friend Ethan and his mum. All was going well - it is a brilliant museum when the weather is foul - and the boys were having a great time running around. Noah was at his most excitable, though, and he ended up getting his fingers stuck in a door (he was trying to escape), and I literally ached from how much pain he seemed to be in. Fortunately he was ok and just came out of it with some bruised tips of his pudgy little fingers, but I still thought it was too soon to go back today! I couldn't bear a repeat of that incident, and I think Noah needs longer than a week to forgot how those doors tried to eat his fingers!
As it was, we headed to the local toddler and children's playgroup at the nearby Baptist church, and it was a nice change of scene. The boys had a good time - and looked so cute - painting. I was impressed with Noah's original masterpiece (either a Chinese letter, or "Pi = 3.14") and Blake's picture is a summary of the current weather (note black sky - eek, surely a child should imagine the sky as constantly blue?!). He later added blue raindrops...
Monday, April 23, 2012
A week into a world without bread and pasta, and it's not too bad. I think what I realized in the first week was just how pervasive wheat is in my life - there were so many moments when I was hungry where I just thought, "Oh, I'll have some toast," or "Let's see, what would be easy for dinner? Yes, pasta! Oh, wait a minute...!" So in a sense it was a bit of a challenge to retrain my brain not to think of this type of food as an option, and I guess it hasn't been easy, but it certainly hasn't been impossible. I feel somewhat lighter, but I don't think it's made a tangible difference to my "spare tire" around my middle - and as for the energy levels...well, I wouldn't say I actually feel like I have more! When my friend Sandro did a similar experiment to cut down on bread, he did say he felt less sluggish, but I'm wondering if I'm just destined to feel a bit sluggish at the moment! Overall, it remains an interesting experiment, and one that I'll try to stay on top of for another 3 weeks or so. I found it funny that on my first trip to the store after I started, I headed straight to the "Free From" section at Sainsbury's to see what I could get that would sate my need for carbs beyond rice and pasta. So I did buy some gluten-free pasta and some cereal that is more interesting than Corn Flakes - and I had to laugh because it was about the same stage comparatively to when, during Lent, I went and bought the alcohol-free beer! Anyway, if all of a sudden I have enough energy to motivate me to go do something extremely productive, I will definitely report it here.
And as for my iPad, I am growing to like it. My external keyboard DEFINITELY makes things easier, and I do like being able to just quickly browse the net without having to boot up the laptop. I also downloaded my first iBook (following a free voucher from Starbucks), so I think that has potential to entertain the kids. At least now I don't regret the purchase as much as I did the first week! Changing my life...I'm not holding my breath on that one, though!
We were all trying to crowd into the iPad's camera view the other day, and I like these pictures simply because at least some part of my face is in the frame! I do fear that when the kids are older, they'll say 'Why wasn't Mom in any photos?" (because I was taking them all, you sillies!). Blake insisted his "Sheepy" get in the shot as well, and pretty much Sheepy hogged the limelight and I couldn't figure out how to get more of me, Blake and Noah in. We experimented a bit with Instagram, and voila - photographic imperfection of the highest quality!
The boys - especially Noah - are into my shoes, and a few days ago when I happened to catch both of them wearing my new black shoes, I thought this could be a good post: whose look do you prefer? Blake has the added advantage of his red socks to augment his look, although Noah's haute couture accessory is a bottle teat which pretty much acts as his pacifier. I also have to laugh at the idea of Lola from Charlie and Lola on in the background as a fashion pundit...
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I felt kind of ill-at-ease all day, because we knew that we would get an email in the "evening" that would let us know what we got. As it turns out, we got our 3rd choice, which was realistically the likely best outcome we could have hoped for (our first and second "choices" being extremely popular and extremely over-subscribed - one of them last year had 426 applications for 90 spots, so we weren't holding out much hope). Crucially, Blake's best friend on the road parallel to us got the same, so I feel good about being to able to join forces with them on the whole "school run" thing. As we've always known, things will likely get harder for us in many ways once Blake is at school - the school day being 8:55-3:15 so not exactly all that great for a working parent aiming to also commute an hour each way to get to a 9-5 job. We shall see what happens there.
And at least, now, the waiting is over and we can start planning and imaging what it's going to be like. Really hard to believe our little baby will start school in just over 4 months!
I've just finished - and enjoyed - two books related to a subject very close to my heart, that of being a woman, a modern one: I Don't Know How She Does It by Alison Pearson, and How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran. You may have heard of I Don't know How She Does It because it got made into a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and so in many ways (namely, already, that SJP plays the lead in this book) the tale of a career woman trying to juggle work and a family was actually very far removed from my own reality. Kate Reddy is a high-flying fund manager, with a pretty extreme-sounding schedule that requires her to be to and fro to New York a fair amount. Her job is one of those high-powered, highly-stressful ones (while I can get stressed out by my own job, it could hardly be described as "high" anything). And it certainly doesn't require me to go to the US on like 2 days' notice. At any rate, despite the obvious differences between this Kate Reddy and myself, her tales of navigating the boardroom and the school gates are entertaining, and at times very amusing and very sad. There were times when I was thinking, "Why would she think any of this work-life imbalance is worth it?" and then I'd immediately remind myself that there are extremely motivated women out there who don't enjoy having to - or can't even - just turn off all their ambition and drive after they've had children. Definitely a very readable book and will appeal to anyone who has had to make choices in their lives related to child-rearing and the wondering whether the "doing your best" is good enough. There is a scene where she is trying to sprinkle sugar over store-bought mince pies for her daughter's Christmas party, in order to make them look home-made, and I had to laugh at that. (I also stored that one in my memory bank for use in the future, if I ever let go of my obsessive compulsive baking creativity).
How to Be a Woman is very different, it being the memoirs of the writer Caitlin Moran, who grew up very poor in the middle of England, one of 8 siblings. The book is broken into chapters, starting from when she's 13 and gets her period ("I Start Bleeding!" is the name of chapter 1), and charting her way to age 35, when she notices herself beginning to age in various ways. My favorite parts were the ones on her take on fashion (she mentions that women these days buy ill-fitting underwear that give them between 2 and 8 buttocks), and she also gives a very balanced view on the subject of having children (one chapter is titled, "Why You Should Have Children" and the next is titled, "Why You Shouldn't Have Children"). Definitely also sad in parts but very worth a read.
Each of them made me proud to be the woman I am and the mother I am, but equally, they both made me want to be the writer that is inside me. Somehow I need to get her out a bit more into the mainstream...!
N: "Heerio's, Mom"
M: "What else do you say, Noah?"
N: "Heerios' in da bowl."
M: (laughing): "Yes, in the bowl, but what else - how about 'please'?"
N: "Heerio's in da bowl peas."
There is a lot of Noah parroting Blake - which again, is great, although it seems to result in a lot of arguments which can never have a victor ("I won", said by Blake, followed by Noah repeating, "I won", followed by Blake protesting, "NO, *I* won", and then Noah's "No, I won!" and on and on. Equally frustrating for all parties both involved and observing: "My car!", "My car!", "My car!", "My car!"...ad nauseum.
Here is a video of Noah and Matt reading Babar in the USA - " baby elephant"s appearing quite a lot since Babar takes his whole family to the US (don't even want to imagine the cost of that on British Airways). "Elephant" seems a little bit harder to enunciate than you might think. And well, "rhinoceros"...I think you can see that proves a syllable or two for much for our Noah.
He loves Elmo so I might try to see if I can get him singing "Elmo's Song" - it's very cute. One of his signature phrases that makes me laugh is "Messy" which means literally: "Me see" or "Let me see." Bless him...
Monday, April 16, 2012
I wrote a post a few days before Easter that my iPad mistook for a chocolate egg and consumed, never to be seen again. It was a brilliant essay - one that I couldn't possibly attempt to re-create - about my 46 days of abstaining from alcohol during Lent. And while we're on that subject: I thought it was 40 days of Lent, so why was this year more than 40? Hmm. Anyway, the short story is that I gave up alcohol for Lent, and apart from two "pre-planned exceptions" (a glass of prosecco on Blake's birthday, and a few miscellaneous drinks when Mom and Dad and I went to Paris - how could you go to France and not drink wine?! was the way I looked at it...), I did very well. After about 10 days in, I went and cheated slightly by buying some non-alcohol beer, and although it kind of made me feel like I was having a little something special, it doesn't really cut it when it comes to feeling like a refreshing post-work reward. Fortunately they also seem to make the bottles smaller (250ml compared to a normal 330ml, I believe), so at least when I wasn't really enjoying it, the end of the bottle arrived fairly quickly.
I believe the point of giving up something during Lent is for you to feel like you're sacrificing something, but in my case, I think this whole thing was just a bad idea. For starters, instead of just giving up my occasional glasses of wine or beer, I basically pretty much "traded" those for something else: in my case extra chocolate, cookies, treats that people brought in to work for their birthdays. On Ash Wednesday, I had a thought that maybe I would actually lose weight as a by-product of this abstinence, but man, could anything have been farther from the actual outcome?! I can safely say that if you drop a nightly glass of Pinot Noir and put in your mouth in its place something like a mid-morning Krispy Kreme doughnut, an early evening candy bar, a few assorted pre-bedtime cookies, and a flapjack for breakfast - you will not lose weight. Just the opposite! And the other thing I've concluded from this experiment is that life as an adult is simply more gratifying with at least the option of a fruity Beaujolais in one's grip. Now I have been known on occasion to drink probably a little more than I should (cue memories of those visits to doctor's offices where weekly alcohol consumption were discussed...let's see, it's probably about 15 given that I was out over the weekend, and then there was that leaving drinks with work on Thursday - ok, maybe it's more like 20, but in fact, that sounds way too high....I think I'll say "Six".). These days, however, I'm much more likely to have a decaf tea in the evening rather than wine which would just put me to sleep, but the thing about this Lent exercise was that it was very difficult not to even give myself the option. Whether I exercise it or not is a different matter, but there were some Friday evenings after a long work week where I just so desperately wanted a sip of something alcoholic in a kind of victory gesture to my current world of juggling motherhood and working outside the home, a kind of "Ha, you didn't beat me, not this week at least!"...but it's not so effective a message when you're trying to say it through a mouthful of half a dozen Pringle's (yes, I mean all at once) washed down with a non-alcoholic Beck's that tastes like the bit of water that comes out of the coffee machine's rinse cycle.
The day before Easter, Blake and I met for a quick coffee with Heids and her mum, and I was telling them about being so close to achieving my goal. "I bet you're looking forward to something with Easter lunch," they said, to which I jokingly replied, "I may just have something at breakfast!" As it was, we had some wine and a bit of champagne at lunch on Sunday, and that was it. Since then I've had the occasional sip of wine in the evening but am actually not even too bothered anymore, now of course that I am allowing myself to have it!
Riding the coattails of this "giving up", though, I decided I was going to try another month of abstaining, this time from wheat. In all honesty, I'm curious to see whether giving up bread will help me lose some extra pounds around my middle. You could argue that I could have challenged myself to give up simply cakes, cookies, and doughnuts (all the really naughty things!), but somehow I think I would have failed miserably at that, so I had to make the challenge even more stringent. My friend Sandro recently cut down on bread and pasta and felt more energetic (and also shed some pounds), and I don't have to read beyond the title of the best-selling book Wheat Belly to guess what I'd see. Although generally I encourage balance in one's diet, it will be interesting to see whether my digestion improves with the elimination of wheat. I started this on Friday, and so far it's gone fine. I do love bread, though - and, it's so easy! - and there have been a few times where I've thought, "Oh, I'd love a piece of toast!" (this craving wasn't helped much when Matt brought home two bags of bagels - it was buy one, get one free). But overall, not too bad so far. Mainly I'm amazed to think of all the things that have wheat in them: all the best cereals; bread, of course; pasta; and, oh yes, those offensive cakes and cookies. I'll make sure I eat other carbs as the point is not really to do anything unhealthy; I'm just curious to see whether I would have a positive reaction energy-wise, and possibly weight-wise, to ditching the wheat. I do count myself grateful not to have an allergy or intolerance to it, because I'm sure in a month or so I'm really going to look forward to a delicious piece of toast. And I'll toast to that!
Monday, April 09, 2012
Noah had a great day and although it was wet outside, we managed to have a nice little party for him - 4 kids (Blake, Emma, Maya and Noah) being an optimal number for a 2-year-old's party, in my opinion. I only stayed up until 1:00 am making his cake - this is actually a big improvement in this department for me! - and although the cake looked nothing like the model I had been trying to copy, I think it was still obvious to Noah that it was "Mater" from the Cars movie. Noah also enjoyed his presents, which had a Cars and Peppa Pig theme to them, along with this little white electronic dog that he'd fallen in love with in Harrod's a few weeks ago. I can only imagine it's a matter of time before the boys will be asking for an actual dog, so far now, this is a nice compromise. Happy birthday, Noah - we love you!
After lunch, Lykke organized an Easter egg hunt in the garden for the kids - but we had to be quiet because of a young mother bird guarding her nest containing two newly-hatched arrivals. The kids had a ball much of the day just being together, so that was really nice. I am now about to retire having completed Noah's cake - he's actually 2 as I write this, since it's 1:30 in the morning! More to come on the cake and Noah's birthday later. I got some wonderful shots today but I'll just post my two favorites before signing off. Happy Easter!
Monday, April 02, 2012
Friday afternoon was pretty hot - with temps somewhere around 20 degrees C/high 60's F, so inevitably, Saturday morning broke in near frost and it remained freezing all day long. We weren't daunted by the Arctic air and went to the Slow Food Festival on Norwood Road, which was pretty good in terms of activities. There were quite a few seed-based activities (lucky dip of seed bags), and being able to make a seed tray that looked like a paper bus. The kids also decorated their own cupcakes, saw flour being made, and were entertained by some giant bee that was very realistic.
I love the photos that I took on my phone (my iPhone that is, definitely a good purchase!). Still debating the merits of the iPad...
Enjoy a taste of spring with the Lyons cubs!
It turns out it was 11:45 by the time we made it in, and so only one of the two boys was going to get the jab. When we went into the nurse's office, somewhat rushed and flustered, me apologizing profusely, I could feel the frustration from the nurse at our being late. But I wasn't prepared for her question, which was, "Are you the nanny?" Huh?! "No, I'm their mother," I managed to say, even though I felt the heavy weight of shock's attempt to drag my jaw down. I didn't add, "Most people usually say at least one, if not both of them, look quite a lot like me," or "If I were the nanny, I'd probably have been on time!" Anyway, one possibly positive way of looking at it is that maybe to her I looked very youthful, and not like I'd been ravaged by the worries and aging process that affects many stressed-out mothers. Things didn't get better when she asked for Blake's "Red Book", this very thick set of sheets of carbon copy paper, issued to the baby only moments after birth, which is where important things like weight, vaccinations, and notes on periodic check-up's are recorded for your child. It also has a chart where you can mark the date when each tooth appears - poor Noah...um, I think I know when his first couple of teeth did arrive - but generally his will be noted by the year of arrival as opposed to the month, or even the specific day (Lord, do some mothers have this capability to track these things to the day?! Please give me back this gift, or at least give me the ability not to worry that my lack of documenting this knowledge makes me a bad mother. Lord, did your mother write down when your teeth showed up?).
Going to a child's vaccination without the Red Book is a bit like going to a house party completely empty-handed, without even an attempt to bring even the crappiest bottle of wine that you could find last-minute at the gas station nearby. Or turning up at the airport without your passport. Just not good. So I was obviously not in this woman's good books. But I had been rushed, and I really had wanted to go to the playgroup, and oh, I'm sure I tried to justify it in my head! As we tried to figure out a date to reschedule Noah's vaccinations, she asked me if I worked, and I seemed to gain some glimmer of empathy when I said that yes, I did (and no, not as a nanny!). Part of me desperately wanted to say to her, "I am a good mother!" but what I ended up saying was, "I'm sorry I've wasted your time this morning." I don't know that it helped really, but at least I did say I was sorry.
I find it very hard to believe it's already April, and a quarter of this year has now passed. Where did it go? I want to ask! I do still remember most of my New Year's resolutions, and am doing pretty well with them, but maybe I'll add a new one in about being on time. At any rate, Noah's appointment has been rescheduled to a few weeks away, at the end of a week when I'm not working, so surely we'll be on time. I'll have to make a point to be early even. And on the bright side, at least she didn't ask me if I was their grandmother!
Sunday, April 01, 2012
Anyway, maybe I should have actually been buying it for Matt, as it turns out. The iPad sat unopened in its slim box for at least 4 days, before I decided to take it out and try to figure out how it was exactly going to change my life. My main objective with buying it was to try to get something more lightweight and portable than our laptop, so that I could do more writing while being in the same room as Matt in the evenings. He watches tv, an activity that I have all but given up entirely, so when he's doing that I feel like I need to find other things to busy myself with - and there are of course plenty, but many of them seem to revolve around the computer. Our laptop is enormous, defying what I understood as the underlying principle of a laptop, that of its being portable. It also has a very loud fan, so when I sit on the couch trying to type, I end up with a feeling not too dissimilar to when a large, snoring, warm toddler falls asleep on my lap. I thought there had to be something better.
And so, I succumbed to the hype of the iPad, and although it is growing on me, I spent the first night or two with it thinking, "Is this it?" and "This isn't working out like I thought it would." Mainly my issue lies with a very old-fashioned skill that I possess: touch-typing. Not multi-finger, skillful hunting and pecking, but true touch-typing, taught to me nearly 2 decades ago at high school. Of all the things I've learned over the years, touch-typing has to be one of the most valuable. I just love not really having to look at the keyboard (ok, occasionally I do - the numbers always stumped me a bit), and I feel I can just focus on letting my thoughts flow freely. People who don't purely touch-type are probably equally able to do this to, but I don't want to go back and find out what it's like.
Anyway, although the keyboard on the iPad is fairly realistic, I had some pretty juttering starts at trying to write a blog post before giving up for the evening. I know that not all my posts are overly *interesting*, but I can guarantee that this post would have been very dull indeed: "I was wal", or "Do you ever thin". Basically the iPad keyboard loses the three keys between the "l" and the "Return" key (which they have also renamed as "Search"...I'm sure typewriter historians are rolling in their graves), and so I was either opening a brand new tab in the browser, or moving off the blogger site altogether, much too soon. It was clear I need an external keyboard, and the good news is that there are plenty out there for me to purchase. On the first evening I had played around with my new toy, I was telling Matt that I wasn't sure if I had done the right thing. I asked him if I could get Picasa on it. He laughed in some techno way and said probably not, since Picasa was a Google service. I have yet to research that one, but it's clear that my use of the laptop won't be going away entirely. He chided me by asking if I had done my research when selecting the iPad. I wonder if I can take it back? was my reply.
The other reason that people seem to love iPads is how good they are for entertaining kids. So far, the emergence of the iPad in our house has just created a power struggle between a boy who is probably ready for some educational games on this "tool", and one who is just insistent on getting in on all the action, even if it means that by his very interest, the action changes and becomes disrupted, and a fight inevitably ensues. I need to work on how we might create some time-sharing plan to handle this (I'm certainly not buying another one! iPad that is, not child). I also have a major guilt trip anytime we get going with a child-friendly app, because I think things like, "I should be doing drawing, or reading, or teaching Blake how to start a fire..." - anything that isn't centered around these machines that have gradually just infiltrated our lives.
I think once I get my keyboard, things will fall into place. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether I'll be able to afford a keyboard, as it turns out the iPad is very good for online shopping and I've bought quite a few things on it recently...it is very easy to just pull up the internet, search for that must-have item, and click to purchase. A bit like the way I bought the thing in the first place. An impulsive, marketeer's dream client.