Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Results Are In...And..

OK, you were right, I wasn't really waiting to add up the 'go for it' messages vs the 'get your tubes tied' comments in order to make our decision. 4 replies say yes, two say no, so get your kit off LK, the internet has spoken.

I do want to say a huge thankyou to everyone for the wonderful and heartfelt input though. I loved everything you had to say. It all made complete sense. Yes, babies bring their own bread - I love that proverb too, but so far they do not appear to be bringing their own plane tickets, which is an issue for us!

I do think my hormones are playing a large part in this incessant broodiness. That coupled with the sadness with which I view Lucy desperate to leave her babyhood. Perhaps when she gets a little older, and stops being so stinking cute I will be able to wean myself from the idea.

Nothing is as effective as a whining toddler when it comes to contraception after all. Besides as LK pointed out, a tad sarcastically, in order to have a third child we would actually have to do the hibbity-dibbity, and had I really thought this through?

Every silver lining has a cloud....

There is also a mad scientist part of me that just wants to see what my future kids would be like. Anna has my wariness, my bookishness and Lance's, well, hair, whereas Lucy has Lance's athleticism, his daredevil nature, and well, my lady parts. That's it. When you look at the Duggars you see every combination of the two parents, every personality trait, every physiological nuance. Plus I was thinking last night, as you do, that with 18 kids, statistically shouldn't at least one of them be gay, and how on earth's that going to work? I think rather than having 19 kids, it would be easier to just use this website.

I've told myself that we'll leave it for a year to mull over. No rash moves here! I think we both realize that adding a third would likely mean moving away from SB, which would likely mean a change in countries, which would require an economic miracle for us to be able to get out of our money pit. Nothing makes this debate seem minor compared to the discussion of whether to continue living in Santa Barbara or move back to the UK.

In the meantime I'm buying lottery tickets.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Three Is The New Two

We had a garage sale over the weekend and made gajillions of dollars, helped mostly by my inability to speak Spanish.

NESP (Non English Speaking Person): "How much?" pointing at tiny refrigerator dumped by our former tenants.
WASP (Me): Hmm, lets see, it's the end of the morning and I can't be arsed to lift it back in to my car. "Fifteen dollars."
NESP: "Nah. Too much."
WASP: Dude. Less than $15 for a 1 year old fridge. Are you high?
NESP: Returning two minutes later. "Will you take forty dollars."
WASP: "Hmm, OK." OMG she thought I said fifty!!! Stop grinning like an idiot! Stop it! Keep a straight face and take the money, take the money!

Apart from random household electronics, we were mainly selling baby paraphernalia. I can't tell you how many people looked at Lucy and said "I'll give you $10." Oh you slay me.

Emotionally, getting rid of all that infant clothing was very hard to do. I'd put aside some of Anna and Lucy's most special clothes. There are those pieces you just can't part with; first outfit home from the hospital, first party dress, first outfit worn whilst eating solid foods, first outfit worn in a stroller in a light drizzle (OK, I found it hard to let go). Still, we had a lot left over, and I knew by selling them for a $1 each that the clothes would be going to a good home.

I also sold some 'sundry baby crap' items, bouncy chairs, a swing, steam sterilizer, boppy etc. The stuff that makes your living room look like a yard sale in those first few months post-birth. I did not sell my breast pump. You want to know why? Because everything else can be re-bought on Craigslist for cheap. After all, we bought our co-sleeper online for $50 and sold it 6 months later for $50. My breast pump was a shed lot of money and I don't want to have to buy another brand new one, and the idea of a second hand mammary device is a big no. But why would I need to use it again?

Because I'm not certain I'm settled at having just two children, and LK is even less sure.

Pause for the enormity of that statement to sink in.

That's right - you think I blog sporadically now. It wouldn't get any better I assure you.,

When you ask my friends with two children whether they're done, or whether they're still open to negotiation on the subject of more kids they give you a good hard stare, tell you to sit down and then put a cold compress on your forehead. Either that or they'll tell you they took a pair of scissors to their husband and performed a home-vasectomy the minute they got home from the hospital.

They are done.

Quite honestly I can't work out why I don't feel the same way, I never really saw myself as a particularly devoted mother. Until a few years ago I honestly thought I was considering children more out of a sense of conventional obligation rather than anything else. It certainly explained the panic and emotional turmoil I went through when I first found out I was pregnant.

Either the idea has grown on me or I'm too worn down by fatigue and diapers to remember how joyous my old life was.

Do I want to be pregnant again? No! Do I want to go through labour again? Ha! Stupid question. Was I not lucky enough getting two healthy babies after all that nearly went wrong?

The desire to have another child is irrational. When you get right down to it (and I am talking finances here) it's downright irresponsible. Is it my hormones? Is it my subconscious need for a son, for completion? Am I a sucker for punishment? Remember, Lucy was very briefly a twin. Two could become four. Hell, a primary school friend of mine tried for a third and then had triplets.

We have been canvassing our friends with families of more than two. Was it a good idea? Do they regret it? We have had some remarkably candid replies. Some people have told us flat out, don't do it. They love their kids but lost too much of their lives, became too worried about money, about college, felt that their other kids lost out. Other friends have said it's just more people to love (LK's philosophy).

I am asking for your comments - please feel free to be anonymous. Do you wish you'd had more children? When it comes down to brass tacks do you regret that last little bundle of joy? (Mum - my brother may be reading this.......). Did you yearn for another child but when the dust and hormones settled are you now glad you stayed with the number of kids you had?

I do realize that we struggled good and proper to even get pregnant with Lucy, so this may be entirely moot, but my hormones and my rational mind are at war and I need some perspective.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Well That Was Unexpected

Anna's new phrase, uttered a hundred times a day is "well, that was unexpected". Even when it clearly wasn't - case in point Lucy grabbing Anna's bowl of 'Gorilla Munch' cereal and dumping it on the floor. I mutter 'oh bloody hell' trying to blame Anna, but seriously, I put a 4 year old in charge of a 8 month old, who really needs reprimanding? Anna will look cheerfully at the puddle of milk rapidly soaking in the carpet and repeat "well, that was unexpected". Lucy, ecstatically slapping her milky hands on the table in agreement.

You would think that if Anna were going to pick up a phrase from our house to parrot it would be "oh for the love of God, someone get a cloth".

I know that unexpected things are not always a disappointment. I once received a Tiffany diamond necklace in the pocket of a dressing gown after all. My trouble is when I mentally expect something new to be fabulous and then face crushing disappointment.

Well, may be not crushing disappointment, most of the things on the list are food items after all, but you'll get my point.

I grew up watching Paddington Bear and reading Narnia books. I longed for marmalade sandwiches and turkish delight.

Bleurgh. Disaster. Why did Paddington Bear hide marmalade sandwiches under his hat? Cheese and pickle - now there's a snack to squirrel away. As for the White Witch giving Edmund turkish delight - I had visions of the most delicious confection known to man. I've developed a taste for it now, but that first bite of rose-scented gelatinous goop as a child was a devastating blow.

There were equal disappointments when moving to the States and faced with an entirely new culinary world. Twinkies? I think you have to grow up with them to appreciate these bizarre anemic sponge cakes - and I'm not just knocking American junk food, believe me, I could live off Jalapeno Cheetos and I don't think there's a natural ingredient in them.

Root beer? Can you imagine more of a disappointment to a Brit than coming to the US and discovering that root beer is what the British know as mouthwash. Strange but true. Mouthwash in the US is mint flavoured. In the UK it's mouthwash flavour - ie 'root beer' flavoured. It's a bit of a shocker that first time you have a root beer float and discover you're having a big dollop of ice cream in your mug of Plax.

One man's root beer float is another man's mouthwash cocktail.

This same bizarre taste/flavour reversal happened on our recent trip back the UK. When I left England many years ago every high street was awash with the nose-hair strippingly strong scent of Body Shop 'Dewberry'. In the last 10 years Molton Brown have become the new must-have toiletry. On my first visit back I actually thought this was a shop peculiar to Harrogate. Why I thought that when a) it wasn't related to tea, and b) it clearly said 'Molton Brown London' is beyond me. One more visit back home and suddenly every single bathroom sink was sporting a bottle of MB lotion. Not such a shock really after I found out that my Mum had been giving it to every relative for birthdays and Christmas.

The point is, I loved the smell of their Rose Granati, and had already made up my mind to buy a bottle of shower gel while we were back in England. Economic meltdown be damned, I was splashing out.

Well, imagine my disappointment when I found out that they only do Rose Granati in hand soap - not in shower gel. I had to purchase something though, as Little Britain has mentioned before, the US under-performs in the area of shower gel, and I knew if I was going to get some I had to get some in England. LK was already beginning to tire of the Molton Brown shop, the pull of the whiskey in the nearby Oddbins was getting stronger, so I made a snap decision.

Heavenly Gingerlily sounded good to me. I bought it (even in pounds it seemed like a ridiculous amount of money for some smellies). We lugged it back to America and I started using it. After a couple of seconds I thought - hang on, this smells awfully familiar. Why is that? I couldn't quite place it - it was reminding me of something medicinal, but clearly the sweet smell wasn't at all clinical. What could it be?

Nair hair removal cream.


I no longer smelled expensive and exotic, I smelled like cheap supermarket hair remover. Thanks Molton Brown!

There is a happy ending. My Mum - probably thinking that our sink needed a little something - sent me some Rose Granati for my birthday. I am thoroughly enjoying using it. Until I realize it smells like toilet cleaner of course.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

If You Did This You Could Make Your Kid Happy

Anna is 80% princess and 20% mad scientist/marine biologist. I think that generally sums up a 4 year old girl. A couple of days ago she came up to me to say "you know what we could do together that would make a kid happy?"

I was guessing the answer would involve ice-cream, TV, dressing up as a princess, or possibly all three combined. I was wrong.

"We could make a wormery". Wasn't expecting that one.

Thanks PBS! As luck would have it, one too many mornings spent watching TV and battling the excesses of the previous evening had made me a bit guilt-ridden about slacker parenting. I was ripe for a project. Plus, I've just celebrated a birthday and one of my gifts was a huge display of truly horrible flowers from my office (orange, brown and yellowy-green with a purple bow). LK took one look at them and said "wow, sorry your husband just died". Anyway, the point about the flowers - their only redeeming feature was a large rectangular vase (I say varze, you can say vace if you prefer). Perfect for a wormery! We were off to a good start. I told Anna that as soon as the flowers died we could begin. That wasn't soon enough apparently. She eyed the florid display and started pulling off petals. Some battles just aren't worth fighting, and faced with a flower massacre, we made several small bouquets out of the huge display and freed up the wormery.

Thunderbirds are go!

Step #1: Make Your Child Eat A Banana

Apparently worms don't just need soil and sand, they need food. This could be accomplished by sticking a few leaves and sundry mulchy items in there - but, what a perfect excuse to get your child to eat an entire fruit. Anna set to work, and was rapidly overwhelmed by the enormity of the task;

Step#2: Fill Wormery With Layers of Sand, Dirt, Leaves & Banana Peel
This started off a little too slowly for my liking:

Her ladyship filled the varze at a glacial pace, but I couldn't really criticize as she was skipping with joy between each teaspoon full of sand. I merely shoveled like hell whenever her back was turned. "Way to go Mom" she cried, "we're such a great team. A girl team! This is going to be the best wormery ever". She was a one woman pep rally, thanks to her endless hours of watching preschooler TV.

Eventually we were done - a worm des res:

Step #3: Find Some Chuffing Worms

I was more than a little worried about this bit quite frankly. We don't live in rural Shropshire after all. We live in an urban area in Southern California. A very arid area where it hasn't rained since April (except that week when my Aunt and Uncle visited - thanks California!).

We tried our best. We dug hard, in multiple locations. We tried to put ourselves in the mindset of an earthworm. Where would we be most likely to live? Not in your chuffing back garden seemed to be the answer. Anna was crushed:

Not a sausage. Then, a brainwave! Seeing LK and Lucy watering the garden made me remember the crappy leaky hosepipe which I constantly blame for our astronomical water bills. Eureka! An oasis in a desert of concrete and sand. Worm central! Well, not exactly, we found five, and quite frankly I think it was only five because #4 was chopped in half by some overly enthusiastic troweling.

Step #4: Transfer The Worms To Their New Home And Watch Them 'Thrive'

Lucy could barely contain her excitement:

Go worms, go!

Several hours later and I have noticed a couple of worms 'resting' on the top of the wormery, clearly not enamoured with their new home. I may have to make some convincing worm tunnels with a plastic drinking straw, but it won't really matter, because for a few short hours at least I did manage to make my kid really chuffing happy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When Jekyll Won't Hyde

At my first parent teacher conference when Anna was a whopping two years old, I was told she was a little introverted and that to encourage her integration in to preschool I should try and arrange 'playdates' with her peers.

I think those are the words the teacher used. What I actually heard was 'you thoughtless parent, a school is more than a place to corral your child while you earn money, you must talk to those terrifyingly aloof Bugaboo Moms with their 10 megawatt diamonds who sneer at your unchanging work attire and Pilates-free abs, and attempt to infiltrate their impenetrable clique.' Seriously, that's me in a nutshell. My insecurities raged as I used all my powers of small talk to corner a parent or two at drop-off. Eventually I beat S's Mom in to submission and we had Anna's first ever playdate at the Botanic Garden. S turned out to be Anna's first ever BFF and all was right with the world. I let out a huge sigh of relief and crawled back under my rock.

Playdates waned a little with Lucy's birth - somehow the idea of toting both children to somebody else's house, or round a playground seemed far too overwhelming for the first six months. Besides, Anna was thriving at her new school, her social calendar replete with birthdays and events.

Last Friday one of her many new friends, K, came round for a first playdate at our house. Prior to their arrival my biggest concerns were K's limiting gluten and dairy-free diet - but I had decided that we could pick homegrown tomatoes and the girls could either eat them or starve. I was also worried about our pigsty of a ghetto dwelling, but ha! little did I know that that would pale into insignificance once Dr. Anna Jekyll made her appearance.

I won't go into the full horror of the 90 minutes of hell. I will just leave you with a few choice quotes from my darling daughter:

"You're not pretty in that dress"
"My dress is deeper (read, longer) than yours and I am more beautiful"
"Stop following me"
"You're not allowed to play with that. Mom stop her touching my stuff"
"I want you to go home I don't like you"

Oh it was a joy. Then Lucy choked on her fistfuls of Cheerios and projectile vomited all over the carpet.

K's Mum was of course there throughout, 4 year olds being considered too little to 'fly solo' at a playdate. She was very sweet, and tried her best to be helpful. "This is why we have playdates" she cried cheerily. "It's just their age". I smiled and tried to communicate certain death to Anna by giving her Paddington's hardest stare.

After they left, or rather, fled, I waited the requisite 5 minutes in case they'd forgotten anything then sat Anna down for a serious talk. There were tears of uncomprehending rage. And from Anna too. She couldn't see anything wrong with her behaviour. She clearly felt she was just asserting her rightful ownership. In the end the punishment meted out was no TV for 2 days (I was the real victim with that one) and her Barbies were also confiscated for two days. I know! If only the UN took such a hard line!

We have had one playdate since, with a different friend, on neutral ground (Switzerland). It went well. Still I'm not sure whether I'm ready to replicate Annagate. At least not with friends whose mother's I am not on a drinking-relationship level with.

This parenting caper is far too stressful.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mourning Has Broken

It's our wedding anniversary today. 12 years ago Princess Diana was laid to rest and Britain observed a national day of mourning. Scene stealer.

I'm sure many of you have woken up on your anniversary to roses, cards, jewelery. Perhaps a fresh cup of coffee.

I woke up this morning to find that Anna's giant metallic Thomas the Tank Engine balloon had migrated up the stairs, along the landing, coming to rest directly above my pillow. His giant moon-face hovering above me at 6am.

That'll wake you up in a hurry.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

If You Can't Play Nicely

I hadn't really thought about how long I was going to nurse Lucy. Anna self-weaned at 6 months, and I suppose I was expecting another gradual dwindling of interest. At the very least I thought it would be my decision..........

Lucy has been happily continuing her love affair with the boob, and I had a mental tally of breastfeeding pros and cons, resulting in the following scattered list:

  • Mother and daughter bonding time.
  • It's free!
  • Assisted weight loss, or rather, no weight loss but guilt-free eating.
  • So much easier - never caught without baby food, and no faffing around with bottles and formula.
  • 15 minutes of down-time twice a day at work while I pumped.
  • No saggy post-nursing boobs
  • Quite possibly our last baby so huge amounts of sentiment involved.
  • Lugging the breastpump to work and back. That thing weighs a tonne.
  • Cleaning and sterilizing the pump bottles and sundry pumpish items. Every. Chuffing. Night.
  • Al fresco boobs in the office. Even behind a locked door it made me squeamish.
  • Giant boobs - only having two bras that fit.
  • Giant boobs - made all t-shirts look like crop tops.
  • Giant boobs - having to jog in two sports bras.
  • Giant boobs - look but don't touch!
When you look at that list we had an obvious winner. Nursing is free. Formula is expensive. In these fiscally responsible (desperate) times the bottom line is the bottom line. I was game to keep nursing til she went to college. One less kids meal at Macdonalds!

Oh, and I will be honest and admit that it was lovely to hold her and nurse her in to a blissed-out milk coma. I mean really, look at that face! What a little cherub.


Don't let her deceive you! In fact, keep all hands, feet and loose clothing away from her because that tiny angelic human is a BITER and I am her poor chewed-upon victim.

She only has her lower teeth right now, but let me just say that 'only' was not the word ricocheting round my brain as she clamped down. I squealed and tried to prize away her vice-like jaws and oh how she laughed! How funny! The noises you do make Mummy! Let's do that again!

And because I'm a muppet we did. I gave her the benefit of the doubt, several horrendously painful times. I think I kept trying because I couldn't quite believe it would end like that. I was the lovestruck teenager wailing "It's over? But we were so good together!"

I was deflated, and so were my boobs. Pfffffffttttttttt.

In her defence, she is teething, but this girl is in such a rush to grow up. She is already standing and creeping between pieces of furniture. She started crawling at 5 months. She's already bristling with teeth. Slow down!

I was actually surprised how deeply affected I was by the abrupt end to nursing. Maybe it was compounded by hormonal fluctuations as I went from 60mph to 0mph in 1 day. I felt really flat and depressed. I even googled 'biting babies' and 'breastfeeding a crocodile', and that really cheered me up.. Thanks internet! Because the advice that was given was so asinine, so breast-feeding Nazi-ish that I had to laugh. Seriously:

"Don't flinch or scream when your baby bites as they will enjoy this reaction".

Honestly? You try it. I will punch you repeatedly in the balls or ovaries and watch you try and keep a straight face.

"Stop giving you baby a bottle as chewing on a plastic nipple only encourages this behaviour"

Great so now I have a hungry and pissed off biter. Not such great advice.

In the end we compromised. No more breastfeeding during the day, only a touch of comfort-nursing last thing at night when she seems to sheath her tiny fangs.

I'm not yet sure who needs the comfort most.