Thursday, April 30, 2009

Diversionary Tactic

Because life is so hectic right now this couldn't have been more timely. Thanks to Laura for the meme. Honestly, just getting out of the door in the morning these days is a military operation......and if I ever do get out of the door on time I shall call that military operation 'Shock and Awe'.

1. What are your current obsessions?

Money. The taste of it. The schmell of it. (Sorry, obscure Austin Powers reference).I am so ashamed to be admitting this, but I devote far too much of my day, and a fair chunk of my sleepless night obsessing about the bottom line. I am constantly re-working our family spreadsheet to find extra money. I have a budget spreadsheet - that pretty much says it all.

I had to laugh at the recent 'Real Simple' magazine article devoted to money saving ideas. Bring it on! I thought there may be useful ideas, and you know what? They had a page devoted to 'you may be overusing shampoo and toothpaste'. Thank God. Financial problems solved! I thought it was our negatively amortizing mortgage that was the root of our economic woes, but no, apparently I've just been using too much shampoo.

Instantly richer.

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Giant bras. When I stop nursing and these things deflate it's going to be one hell of a mess but I'll probably be about 10lbs lighter.

3. Last dream you had?
I'm honestly not sure I clock enough back to back hours these days to achieve REM sleep. I do daydream a lot, which could explain why I managed to reverse over a tricycle at Anna's preschool last week (no child attached - thank God).

4. Last thing you bought?
That would be a tricycle.

5. What are you listening to?
The slightest peep from my sleeping infant, which I will then attempt to ignore for as long as possible.

6. Embarrassed to admit?
I had a Dead Poets Society poster on my wall throughout college.

7. Favourite holiday spots?
Hawaii, preferably Maui or Kuaui. Every time I land at the airport I think, 'why don't we go here all the time, I need to just make it happen.' Having said that, let me take another look at that spreadsheet....

8. Reading right now?
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I bought it years ago at a John Singer Sargent exhibition in LA and it has been sitting accusingly on my shelf ever since. Now it's a case of 'I've started so I'll finish'. I can see the genius, it's just too ambitious for a sleep-deprived Mum who can only snatch 5 minutes of reading time at a go. I need to be reading a mentally un-threatening Jilly Cooper instead I think.

9. Four words to describe yourself.
Not good at this.

10. Guilty pleasure?
Hello magazine.

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?
Right now, 30 Rock.

12. Favourite spring thing to do?
Eat Cadbury's mini eggs and if I'm lucky go and visit the daffodils in England.

13. Planning to travel to next?
Boston, Maine, then on to the UK. Apologies to all who will join us and our two tiny children on those planes.....

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
Today's lunch: artichoke and sundried tomato stuffed chicken with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. Actually, maybe I should change 'guilty pleasure' to drug company sponsored lunches. Your prescriptions cost a fortune for a reason. *burp*

15. When did you last get tipsy?
Although I'm not averse to the odd drink (a night...) while breastfeeding, being woken up at 2:30am, 4am and 6am with a hangover means I haven't dared get plastered in far too long.

Ok, honestly? A week ago. And the hangover was hell.

16. Favourite ever film?
Withnail and I. Definitely the most quotable film of all time, case in point; "We demand the finest wines known to humanity" or "there must and shall be aspirin" or "we're making time" or.....sorry.

17. Care to share some wisdom?
Always know where the candles are, otherwise your 3 year old will be forever quoting 'FUCK! The lights!".

18. Song you can't get out of your head?
I need a Raffi lobotomy.

19. Thing you are looking forward to?
Introducing Lulu to my family in July. Lucy sleeping through the night and LK and I finally sharing the same bed.

Rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Tag 8 people.

I'll get to the tagging part in a bit, just as soon as I rustle up 8 people I know.

That might take a while.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pity The Blind and Dyslexic

....and not for the obvious reasons. The other night our book club (well all two of us) volunteered to be recorded at Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic. I was so excited to try this, and not least because it got me out of the house, childless. After all, if you consider a blog self-indulgent then you can imagine how happy I was to have my voice recorded for posterity! Everyone's a winner.

I actually had a blast, but for all the wrong reasons. Driving there I imagined myself reading a chapter of the latest NY Times bestseller, or cosying in with a well-thumbed Maeve Binchy. I figured that would probably be our audience, fluffy-haired myopic old ladies wanting a good yarn. At first glance, everything confirmed my preconceptions. The place was comfortably shabby in that North of England Methodist Hall kind of way. A huge urn of acrid coffee, mismatched mugs and peeling 'see how much we haven't raised' thermometer posters. I was instantly at home. It occurred to me that fundraising in the hallowed Hollywood playground of Santa Barbara usually involves fine wines, seared Ahi canapes and a silent auction of 2 weeks in a private villa in Capri. This brought me right back to the jumble sales of old. I was in the right place.

Then an implausibly snowy-haired and snaggle-toothed man (hello Britain!) showed us to the wall of books we could choose to read from. I scanned for my Maeve. Nothing. Not even an errant Bill Bryson. It was quickly explained to me that the real users of the facility were dyslexic children who needed textbooks recording.

Crest *falling*.

(as an aside, isn't it rather cruel and unusual punishment to be both dyslexic and have the name of your syndrome be so bloody hard to spell?)

Anyway, there had been rumours that a TC Boyle novel was in the mix earlier that morning, but that TC Boyle himself had snapped that one up. Cheater. Ignoring the textbooks entirely (sorry children!) I weighed my options between a self help manual, because of course, this was America, and a Julian Barnes novel. I picked up 'Nothing to be Frightened Of'. I've actually read several of Barne's novels and while not my usual cup of institutional tea I was willing to have a stab, until the remarkably spritely white-haired man in charge appeared behind my shoulder and whispered 'it's about death!'.

What, and I'm too blonde?

So I panicked and picked a book with a woman on the cover who looked like me. A moron.

And that's how I ended up in a sound booth giving a play-by-play of the 2007 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

I'd picked Diary of a She-Fan, and Lord almighty pick a novel next time you muppet. I'm not a big baseball fan - fortunately I'd heard of Derek Jeter, and I've been to enough baseball games (*two*) to recognize the terms 'innings', 'outs', 'bottom of the ninth' and 'hotdog' etc etc. The players names? Lord have mercy. There I was, manfully ploughing my way through the batting list and the names just got more and more comic. Dear SB Blind and Dyslexic baseball fans. I'm sorry. There are no words. Well, actually there are, lots and lots of words and most of them are like 'Mientkiewicz'. That's right! And if you think that's bad, imagine when I got to the end of the chapter and had to describe in full detail every column of each Major League Baseball Teams batting average statistics for the year.

Next time I'm picking the organic chemistry textbook for a little light reading.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Things I'd Forgotten About Newborns

In the later stages of a second pregnancy you have a faint recollection of the lack of sleep, of the bodily fluids leaking from every orifice (the baby's not yours - well, yes yours too if I'm being honest), and when you pull that breast pump down from the loft you remember the joy of sitting in your office praying no-one will walk in on you doing your Daisy the cow impression.

Babies are like crack. You know they're no good for you but you just can't stay away.

Even in the space of only three years there are some things I'd forgotten about infants, and if you're pregnant right now, they're not all bad trust me:

  • Firstly, they smell so good. Yes I know you think you remember this but you don't. I can't stop sniffing her head. When did Anna's head stopped smelling this good? Somehow it's morphed in to a preschooler head smelling of dirt, grass and if I'm lucky watermelon shampoo. Lucy's head must be pure pheromones because it is a smell that provokes a fundamental biological need to protect and nurture. And trust me, neither of those two are my forté. Which is why I keep sniffing her head.
  • Newborns are noisy. You might remember the cooing, chirruping and maybe a bit of squeaking, but I'd forgotten the grunting. Honestly, the noises that can come out of that girl while she's still asleep are astounding - sometimes she can sound like a fifty year old Scotsman on the toilet.
  • How lovely nursing is. I'll admit it can be inconvenient when you're in the middle of something, such as screaming through traffic whilst late for an appointment, and you can't whip out a boob like a bottle from the front seat and feed her in the backseat (actually, a few more months of nursing may leave my boobs capable of achieving this feat) but it's so wonderful to be able to sit down, cradle your baby and make them blissfully happy. When I get ready to nurse Lucy and put her on her side she actually laughs at the thought of what's coming next. Sometimes mid-boobing she'll look up, my nipple clamped in her gummy mouth and grin at me, her eyes communicating the infant equivalent of 'we are having SO much fun'. It is indescribable to be able to make them absolutely, perfectly content. For the last time in their lives. I need a photo of her when she's finally sated, with just enough energy to pull off the boob, a trickle of overflow running down her milk-coma face. I'd like that photo, except it always has my giant zeppelin breast in shot, so it's not for public viewing, sorry.
  • On the same topic, I'd forgotten how their schedule is your schedule. With Anna being 3 we'd achieved that blissful stage of quasi-self sufficiency. No more diaper bag, no 'I can't meet you at 10am she's about to nap'. Freedom. Newborns are tiny Nazis. When they need something they need it yesterday. They're never a little peckish, they are ravenous and why aren't I eating, wail, wail, wail. Your only coping mechanism is to skilfully anticipate their needs - case in point when I drop Lucy off at Jen's house in the morning and tell her "she's either going to want to eat..... or sleep .....or maybe wake up, or she could be pooping. I really haven't the slightest idea." Thanks! That's skilful parenting. I'd honestly forgotten how tricky it is to be so tied to their schedule. You can't be somewhere at 3pm, you'll be there after they've finished eating, or after you've cleaned up that explosive poop. I used to hate people who said 'you should sleep when they sleep' because after all, aren't babies supposed to be adapting to your schedule rather than you to theirs? But no, they rule with a rod of iron and you will cave to their demands.
  • How heavy that infant car seat is and how your black and blue shins make you look like you've been having frenzied sex on the carpet night after night when in actual fact you've just been banging that damn car seat in to your legs each time you leave the house.
  • and finally, and most critically, the buck stops with you if you have boobs. Yes babies can drink formula or re-heated breast milk from a bottle, but if you have the boobs any person holding the baby who is tired of holding the baby will say 'I think she just needs feeding'. Sometimes they will hunt you down just to say this. I spend a great deal of time hiding under furniture while LK paces around the house trying to find me.
Case in point right now (she wrote, whilst typing r-e-a-l-l-y- quietly).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Our Survey Says....

It's a camel.

Something you could have found out if, like my Mum, you double-clicked on the picture to get a better look and saw it described as 'camel.jpg'. Genius alert.

The reason I posted it, is honestly not because it looks like a giant hairy appendage, it's because as she sat back on her heels to survey the finished masterpiece, she frowned, rooted around for a grey felt tip pen and with painstaking precision added a dot in the middle of the picture:

Then she turned to me and with complete seriousness said:

"I added an eye so that you should know it's a camel"

Oh. Of course.

I loved all of your comments. Thankyou, and huge props to Laura for guessing right first time that it was a camel. You must have noticed its eye.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Girl's Got Talent

Any guesses as to what this could be?

Remember, when you say the wrong thing a 3 year-old's artistic dreams will be crushed for ever.

I'll put you all out of your misery in a little while.....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter - by Anna

Anna, the night before Easter -

"I know a lot about bunnies. I'm problee the world expert on bunnies. I know that bunnies like quiet. So if I hear some noise tonight I will go downstairs and say EASTER BUNNY! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM"

Easter Sunday - after finding lots of chocolate and having mellowed rather in her opinion of the Easter bunny she said:

"Oh, he is darling".

I don't know where she gets it from. Honestly. She's an absolute nutter.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Lucy turned three months old this week and I went back to work.

There's no point dwelling on how awful it is to be away from her. It is what it is. It's like when people ask how you manage to get out of the door in the morning with two small children. You just do it because there's no alternative. Having said that, picking her up at the end of the day is like Christmas, and I am so happy that my friend Jen is able to look after her right now so I can't really complain even if I wanted to. Even though she's still so tiny, and still breastfeeding, and probably still needs her Mum, and in any other country this would be considered unnatural, and, good Lord stop it.

So no, not quite over the separation thing yet.

Rather than talk about the sadness, I'll choose to write about the good stuff. I'm aware that I haven't written much about Lucy. Quite frankly, it's a little hard to when Anna tosses 3 year-old gem after gem your way, each one better than the last (this morning she said "*sigh* the chuffing gardeners have left the sprinklers on again"), where she got that from I have no idea.

Lucy is lovely. I'm completely head over heels. She has two types of smile, a tentative half-smile and an explosive grin so large it takes over her entire body so she flails her arms and legs with the joy of it.

I loved my maternity leave, particularly the three days a week when Anna was in school and I could devote all my time to blogging, er, I mean bonding. With Anna I felt so pressured to educate my tiny fleshy blob. I would dangle plastic keys in front of her and recite 'this is a RED key, this is a BLUE key, this is a YELLOW key' while she quietly emptied her bowels. This time I embraced Lucy's pupae stage. We snuggled. I sniffed her head and nibbled her toes. I blew bubbles at her and tried to remember not to balance my cup of tea on her head whilst engrossed in 30 Rock. This time round there was no moving house, no anxiety about dealing with an infant, no horrendous rending of flesh during the birth, no living in a partially renovated apartment with open sewer lines and piles of boxes everywhere. This time seemed like a piece of cake and I loved every minute of it. Our time together was a gift. Thanks Mum and Dad.

Lucy and I took long walks all over town in an effort to rid myself of the eleventy billion pounds I seemed to retain after her birth. I enjoyed the sunshine and she would sleep in the stroller or wake up and quietly watch the world go by. People would dash over to say hello and look at the baby and Lucy would respond with a spit bubble or a fart, however the mood struck her. I only ever had to stop once because she was crying, and even then after a quick boobing she soon shut up. She is such a brilliant walking companion. Anna would scream after about 10 minutes (fair play to her, she was probably hungry, wet, tired or upside down - I hadn't exactly perfected my parenting skills at that point), and later on Anna would not. stop. talking., asking why Santa Barbara didn't have any monkeys, or whose mailbox is that Momma? and whose mailbox is that Momma? and whose mailbox is that Momma? Lucy just smiles and I turn up my iPod to maximum volume and continue my Motown shuffle up to the Mission.

She is already so tall and strong. In the 97th percentile for height, but only the 50th percentile for head circumference which would lead me to believe California's in for another leggy dumb blonde. Except she looks smart, and by that I don't mean she's pig ugly. She is so alert, constantly watching. With the peculiar tufts either side of her head and her unblinking eyes she reminds me of a little short-eared owl. In a pink onesie. And that's another thing. With Anna we chose not to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. Consequently all but two or three of her first six months of outfits were gender neutral. Ducks or frogs. I sometimes wonder if Anna's princess obsession is a bizarre reaction to too many yellow baby-gros. Lucy on the other hand, there is not a hue of pink unrepresented in her wardrobe. She has some white clothes, but they will be turning pink soon as I'm pretty rubbish at laundry. I wonder if she'll grow up to be a tomboy as a result. She reserves her biggest smiles and limb-flailings for bathtime and I caught LK whispering in her ear the other day 'are you going to be my surfer?' (when Anna gets her face wet she screams 'I NEED THE BIG TOWEL').

Lucy is lovely and we are lucky. Yes she finds sleeping a bore, farts like a Yorkshireman and likes to puke on my work clothes, but we're counting our blessings. Which is why this quote made me laugh:

From 'Things I Learned About My Dad (In Therapy)' a brilliant book of blogger essays edited by the inimitable Dooce, and given to me by my friend Fussy who authored one of the chapters.

"No-one ever says, "My first baby was an angel, and the second one was even better!"
Kevin Guilfoile

That made me laugh out loud, and then cross my fingers, because baby you seem too good to be true.

Love, Mum

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Our house is overrun with small plastic animals and princess paraphernalia. It's as if My Little Petshop vomited over every room. Every day Anna takes all of her stuffed animals out of her room and all of her dresses from her closet and 'makes princesses'. It's not easy to stuff a seal in to a sundress let me tell you. However, this game usually occupies her for 30 minutes at a time and I will gladly deal with a partially-clothed princess-strewn room if it's given me a bit of peace and quiet earlier in the day. The issue is tidying up afterwards. Now I have glanced at enough parenting websites and taken enough triceratops to the instep to know that if I:

a) want to avoid throwing myself out of the window in despair I should

b) involve Anna in the process of tidying up.

You will read that 3 year-olds live to be given tasks and to feel useful. Unless they're completely wise to you and then your suggestions of cleaning up that jigsaw puzzle are met with 'no Mummy, you do it, you're so much better at it than me'. My withering reply of 'that's because of the practice, Anna' falls on deaf ears.

I may be bloodied but I am not beaten and I am constantly trying to 'encourage' Anna to help around the house. And quite frankly, this maternity leave is killing me because spending too much time in our home is really opening my eyes to what a tip it is. It's so much easier to come home after a long day of work and be blinkered by exhaustion as to the state of the living room. Not so when you're sitting hour after hour nursing, staring at that tangle of VCR wires in the corner, or that parakeet bobblehead that's been collecting dust under the couch for three months. Solution to a dirty house - don't spend any time there!

There I was, faced with another mountain of washing and rather than head swiftly to the cocktail cabinet I decided to 'engage' Anna in the 'fun' of laundry. I explained that we have to separate clothes so that the colours don't run. I showed her how to make a pile of whites, darks and pinks (such is my life). Impressed by the novelty and unable to resist the genetic impulse to organize she set to work.

In no time we had a pile of whites, darks, pinks and knickers. Lots and lots of knickers. She had really taken the ball and run with it and no doubt disappointed by the comparative smallness of the knicker pile, had decided to add all her clean underwear as well. What these parenting websites don't tell you is that trying to involve a preschooler in any kind of productive activity inevitably produces more work, and in this case more laundry as there was no way I was going to sniff-test for freshness each pair of Dora knickers.

Knicker battle #1 fought and lost.

Then her knickers disappeared entirely. All of them. Not in her drawer, not in the laundry basket, not in a secret knicker stash - nowhere. I couldn't find any trace of them. I even checked to see if we had a cross-dressing guinea pig. Anna seemed as surprised as I was, suggesting that perhaps someone had 'borrowed' them. I renewed my search desperate to find a solution to Anna going to school in the morning clad in a Nemo swim diaper.

It was only after a full day of searching, and I started my routine de-princessing that I discovered this:

....and all because I'd once told her that Princesses always wear knickers...