Thursday, November 24, 2011

Snake in a Can

Do you remember that gag with the fake can of nuts and the cloth snake with a spring in it? "Hey, want a peanut? BOOIIINNGGG!"

That was a good one, huh?

And you know how it was really, really hard to get the stupid snake back into the container and close the lid because every time you'd have almost shoved the whole springy thing back in and maneuvered the lid into place it would shoot back out and the lid would fly off and you'd have to start over?

Because I am totally experiencing it again. Except instead of a fake can of nuts, it's a stroller, and instead of a springy snake, it's a screaming, flailing, totally freaking out two-year-old. "Hey, want a toddler? What? Why not?!"

Four times in the last week I've had to strap O into his stroller because he was having a fit. All of them have been the result of completely unreasonable reactions to mundane things like getting on a bus or dressing for school. I think it comes from his desire to control what he can (putting on pants, walking to the bus stop) and learning to be an independent being, and I understand all that. I also realize it's a phase that most kids go through, but wow, can it ever be unpleasant!

Sometimes I can head him off at the pass; when I know he's tired or if it's no big deal to let him do what he wants, then I'm happy to avoid a scene. But there are other times, like when he wants to eat lollipops at 7am or tries to throw himself into oncoming traffic, that I just can't give in. And when a little kid gets to the screaming, kicking, sobbing, shrieking stage, it's very, very difficult to do anything to stop it.

At home, you can let it pass. The kitchen floor will take a beating from stomping little feet, and I've learned to mentally block out the noise to a certain extent. But when you're out in public, things get more complicated. I've come up with a few steps to get through it:

What To Do When Your Small Child Freaks Out In Public

Step 1- Make calming noises and glance around to see who is looking (everyone.) Stroke child's hair soothingly but keep fingers away from biting mouth.

Step 2- Explain to the child why it is inappropriate to behave so badly for such a silly reason, ideally giving Back Story to all eavesdropping bystanders. "No, you can't take the 33 bus because we need the R68, and you are not allowed on your own because you are two. And it is unreasonable of you to demand that I repair your broken banana after you threw it on the floor because you didn't want it at first but now you do. Also, you are exhausted for having been up 4 times in the middle of the night, and I am trying to be patient but I too was up 4 times in the middle of night, and I still have to go home and cook dinner."

Step 3- Try to elicit sympathetic looks from those bystanders who haven't stuck their fingers in their ears from all the screaming.

Step 4- Apparently pretty much no one wants to listen to a screaming child, so you do what you can to remove yourself and the offending kid from the situation. As I've mentioned, the stroller is handy for quick getaway, but wow, do you ever look like a Terrible Parent when you are trying to strap down a screaming kid who is acting like the fabric on the seat is burning them and you are the devil who is making them sit in the evil, evil thing. Keep up the Sympathetic-Look-Eye-Contact, with an occasional So-Sorry-About-My-Crazy-Child-Smile.

Step 5- Run. (Yes, the child has to go with you.)

Step 6- Enlist significant other's help in opening bottle of wine.

OK, so it might not put me in the Parenting Hall of Fame, but it helps in a pinch. What do you do when your kid throws a tantrum?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wheeeee!

Phwooof...*dusts off blog*

Does this thing still work?
Testing, testing, one, two...

Oh hi! How's it going? What's new? Gosh, you look great. Have you lost weight? Because seriously, that outfit looks ah-MAZ-ing on you. No, really.

Wait, what? Why have I not posted in awhile? Um, well uh, it's just that I'm busy, you know, and um, there was this stuff, and work, and uh, the kids and all, and you know, stuff.

Did I mention that you look skinny? Hey, look over there, it's Elvis!

But for reals, I could stand to have a few extra hours in the day. It's 2011, for gods sake, you'd think they could have figured out how to accommodate that. And because England is located somewhere in the Arctic Circle (or something), the sun is setting around 4 p.m., making you feel like it's the middle of night when in fact it's only 8 p.m. Luckily, my kids are super gullible so I continue to pull the whole, "Whoa, have you SEEN how DARK it is?? Must be bed time! Hurry up, pajamas on! Teeth brushed! Get in bed!" at around 6.

We are smack dab in the middle of potty training O, and it seems to be going pretty well. Or at least it has for last the 24 hours, 10 of which he spent in bed with a diaper on. But hooray for the other 14! Tomorrow should be an interesting test as we venture into public to an event I have for work. It seems risky, but because it's a Mommy Blogger gathering, I figure any accidents will at least make for good material.

But in all honesty, I'm super happy about the progress. For awhile there he was in this terrible limbo of not wanting to use the potty and also not wanting to go his diaper, so he'd hop around, grabbing his crotch area, and hold it in. Which is ridiculous and also seems very uncomfortable. But I guess two-and-a-half-year-old kids are not known for their reasonable behavior. (See also Exhibit B in which O chucks a screaming fit because I won't let him have candy for breakfast.)

Thankfully, he seems to be more accepting of the potty as an option, and he LOVES his new underwear. I mean, you should see him strutting around the house wearing it. He has a huge grin on his face and keeps checking his butt out in the mirror - like, "Wow, I look AWESOME without diapers." And every time he goes in the potty, he gives you a huge high five, which I love. There should be more high-fiving after bathroom breaks. Assuming you wash your hands.

M has also been very encouraging. She likes to provide examples of her superior potty use, offering to show O exactly how it's done and giving visual examples whenever possible. Very helpful. So far we've only tackled the seated position, but at some point we're going to have to teach him how to go while standing (once his junk is higher than the seat, is my guess. Kinda hard to pee in the toilet if you have to aim up.) (Not that I would know for sure, I feel like it's a good guess.)

So, anyway, that's probably enough about wee for one post.
And welcome back! Have I mentioned how nice your hair looks?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Can't type. Busy doing homework.

I have no time! Where is all the time? Who stole my time?
I know I promised to try to post every day for 30 days, and I went right ahead and did not do that at all, and now it's like 847 days later, and I think I'm averaging about 2 posts a month. I blame my children (because they can't read this and it's better than saying that I'm clearly crap at time management.)

Anyway, I've been busy nursing O's head (bumped it again today, still looks like a Klingon, in case anyone is interested), trying to get him to wear something other than a princess dress, and doing M's homework with her. And working. And occasionally doing some shopping. Also, eating cheese.

Homework is more time consuming that I remember. From what I can recall, homework did not take very long, and at age five it certainly was not necessary five nights a week, which is about what we are doing. There are two whole books to read every week! And words to learn to write! And drawings! It's all very overwhelming. For me. M seems mostly OK with it, except we have a hard time figuring when to fit it in.

Before school? Sleepy, interferes with coffee breakfast, making lunch, getting dressed and O jumping all over us.
Right after school and before a sports lesson? Hmm, interferes with snack time and hard to focus with O jumping all over us.
After sports? Tired and interferes with dinner and O jumping all over us.
After dinner? Even more tired and not concentrating and again with O and the jumping. Also, interferes with being read TO.
Weekend? Ugh. And more O jumping.

We'll get there, possibly once O goes to college.

We are still in that hard stage where we still have to sit down and do M's homework WITH her. Once she gets older, she can do it on her own, but right now we have to do all the reading and writing together. I'm sure it gets better, and if you know any differently, keep it to yourself.

Off to finish dinner. For some reason, I decided lamb roast and celery root gratin was a good idea on a Monday, after a day of work/homework/etc. See above re: time management skills. It's a good thing I'm helping Maya with all her learning; she's obviously going to be really smart.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who Needs Doctors When There's the Internet?

Well, hello.



What? Oh, that's just a photo of my son, O.

See, he bumps his forehead a lot, and when I say a lot, I mean ALL THE TIME and IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT. Jumping down the stairs, falling off sofas, playing Ring Around the Rosies, doing somersaults, bungee jumping, skydiving, whatever. So now there seems to be some sort of permanent lump on the right side, and I just feel better about the whole thing if I can dress him up in an alien costume. When he lets me take off his favorite pink princess dress and wings, that is. So, actually, it's more like



After much Googling, I took him to the doctor to express my worries about permanent dis-figuration, but she explained to me that he's two-and-a-half and short of putting him in a helmet and/or strapping him into the stroller every day all day, there's pretty much nothing you can do. Some kids just fall over a lot and tend to hurt themselves in the same places. Luckily the forehead is a pretty strong area, so give him some ibuprofen, ice it, and try not to spend so much time on the internet being a crazy person.

OK. Point taken.
(*Goes home and googles "clumsy kid relation to brain damage?*)

The doctor actually might have an excellent point about the Googling thing. I can really get myself ramped up looking up various childhood illness symptoms and linking them to the most horrible diseases on earth. Sniffles? Must be dangue fever! Sore belly? Definitely cancer. I know I'm being unreasonable when I do it, but it's really hard to stop myself.

I just feel like I might be more prepared if I have all the information. ALL OF IT. Even if it's irrelevant and taken out of context. Even if I have no medical training! Even I can't even spell dangue! (I mean dEngue! See, the internet DOES know things!) I'm trying to be better about it, but in asking the most innocent questions (How much Tylenol to give to a 13 kilo child?) you can get easily sidetracked by some horrible segue (Tylenol linked to death!). Recently, I've found it better to just call the doctor or make a quick appointment, so I can head myself off at the pass.

I felt better about the forehead situation after our visit, and we've started on the ibuprofen. Also in the interest of reducing head injuries, we made the bold move of removing the sides of his crib, which, in all its IKEA brilliance, turns into a cute toddler bed (assuming you can find the instructions, your allen key and some deeply buried reserves of patience). Now he can get in and out without diving headfirst from three feet off the ground.

I was worried he'd start getting up in the middle of the night, but so far he's stayed in bed, only coming in to our room around 6:30 a.m. It's probably because he's a good sleeper - that or he's scared of the little nighttime trolls living under his bed who like to bite the toes of boys getting up when it's still dark out.

Man, kids are so gullible!

Oh, don't worry, I'm just kidding. Trolls could give him nightmares! I actually said it was alligators.

In any case, it's been an okay transition so far. One major developmental thing down, only 54720 more to go (including potty training, getting rid of the pacifier, and learning to not shut drawers on your own fingers.)

Next time - How I tell M that TV will rot your brain and make it leak out of your ears unless she turns it off right NOW.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sexism. Or, How I Alienate The Men Reading This Blog

Departing a little bit from my normal variety of post, I wanted to share a link to a blog I follow called Mom-101: 

http://www.mom-101.com/2011/09/sexism-is-complicated.html

She posted this a few days ago, and I've been putting off talking about it because I wasn't sure it fit in here, and I'm probably going to have to use my brain to type this post instead of writing children dumb make head hurt probably drink wine talk about poop.

So please go read it and then come back.

Hello, again. Doesn't she make an excellent point?

Honestly, I don't very often think about "sexism" as a concept or even particularly notice it in my daily life, not because it isn't there, but because it's subtle. As Mom-101 puts it:

Sexism is pervasive. It creeps into our daughter’s lives in stealthy ways, before they’re able to identify it and refute it. Before they’re able to understand irony. Before they’re able to separate out the messages we tell them at home from the ones they see on t-shirts or posters on the subway. Man, if only they were one and the same.

After reading that post, I brought up the subject with Husband. Let me say right now, that it would be a hard to find a more supportive, open-minded, liberal guy. He couldn't care less that his son dresses frequently in a hot pink sequin gown and at work has hired women in part time roles over full-time candidates because they were the best people for the job. He is the last person you could accuse of sexism.

When I told him about the post, I talked about it in terms of my job search and how difficult it was to find a role with the flexibility I want. I reminded him that it was mostly women who were looking for a part-time position (in 2006 in the UK 38% of women with dependent children worked part time compared with only 4% of men with dependent children.) Women are disproportionately affected by people not wanting to hire on a part time or flexible basis, by the fact that they also pay those part time workers less (never mind that the gender pay gap in the UK is already one of the highest in Europe, with women who work full time earning 17% less per hour than men.)
 
Whoa, whoa, whoa, he said. This has nothing to do with women, and you are confusing two totally different things. It's simply not economical for companies to hire on a part time basis. Rightly or wrongly, it's a business decision; it just happens to impact women more.

Which I understand. But I disagree. While it's not as obvious as my UK driving instructor telling me that I should pass my test based on the tightness of my jeans (true story), it's sexism none the less. The playground near my house is FILLED with smart, educated, motivated women (yes, mostly women) who are staying home to look after their kids. They probably all have different reasons, and I know some of them choose to be with their babies, but I would put money on the fact that quite a few are there because they couldn't find a decent paying (i.e. earns more than childcare costs), flexible role that is challenging and interesting and as good as the things they were doing full time before they had kids.

There are ways to economically hire people part time (job share comes to mind) and certainly all the women I've spoken with are incredibly dedicated and would make great employees. So why don't we fight more to do something about it? Why do we continue to accept this?

I think it has something to do with the fact that this is "the way that it is." It fits really nicely into the stereotypes we all accept and live with. We don't really think of it in the context of sexism and subtly teach our daughters it, like I'm doing right now as I stay home while Daddy works. It's easily overlooked, but as Mom101 put it, while one little thing like a t-shirt or a part time job might not be the end of the world, it's symptomatic of a larger problem, and I just wanted to call that out.

*Steps off soapbox*

Stats are from the Women's Resource Center: http://www.wrc.org.uk/resources/facts_and_statistics_on_womens_inequality_in_the_uk.aspx

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

LOUD

On the bright side, we have hot water! People are clean! On the other, less bright, possibly very dark side, we also have a crazy toddler.

One who insists on jumping off furniture even though you have explained MANY TIMES that that is not allowed and in fact is VERY DANGEROUS. One who runs at top speed through any store you allow him in and who screams bloody murder when you pick him up because you decided that maybe the other patrons don't appreciate being rammed by a 2-year-old. One who also screams (I think there's a theme here) when he sees spiders, because they are scary, but who has no fear of running into oncoming traffic. Seriously, people, this kid is loud.

OK, I know there are some of you who are laughing right now and going "I wonder where he got THAT from?! Chortle, chortle" but I swear he's louder than me. STOP LAUGHING. IT'S TRUE. (I am not shouting, I'm just using the CAPS for emphasis.) (I SAID, STOP LAUGHING!)

Besides the loud, he also seems to be developing a cheeky streak. Like, doing exactly what we've told him not to do and then looking at us and smirking. And short of taping him to the naughty step, I am having a hard time figuring out how to discipline him. He doesn't seem to respond well to threats of loss of privileges (probably because he doesn't really understand consequences yet) and will just sit and scream his head off when being made to do something he doesn't want to do. OK in the house, less OK in public.

So, suggestions are welcome. Have you had good results with sending kids away to Siberia? How about just wearing earphones all the time with the music turned up all the way and saying, "La la laaa I can't heeeaaar yoooouuu"?  Tell me about it! I'm all ears.

On another bright side, M is being really sweet (for the most part) (when she isn't egging on O) (ok, so maybe it's sweet in relation to O) and is very much looking forward to school starting next week. Year One! So big! We are very impressed at her ability to grow. We keep making really profound statements like, "Wow! She's getting so big." and "I can't believe how OLD she is. Five and a half!" If we start talking like this within earshot, please feel free to look at us like we are idiots.

But there seems to come a phase where you realize that your kid is not "little" anymore and you can glimpse the older child they are going to be. They look taller and more kid-like and have so many surprising opinions. It's amazing. She's so big! (God, I can't stop. Sorry.)

Next time: Our newly recovered sofa and how it maybe, sort of vaguely looks like a shiny cheap suit. I'm sure it will get better when I'm more used to it! Oh please let it get better. Throw cushions will help.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Call Me Monica

All day long I've been waiting for something really exciting to happen to post about, but so far the choices are:

1) Woke up and had coffee and decided that I really prefer fresh milk over UHT
2) Went to the grocery store and bought chicken, fresh milk and some socks (ok, fine, and wine)
3) Made dinner

I'm just trying to decide which one will provide the best narrative and/or life lesson.

This is why people make fun of blogs. Because seriously, NO ONE GIVES A RATS' ASS WHETHER I LIKE UHT MILK OR FRESH. And apparently the grocery store is not known as a great source of life lessons. All very hard to believe.

Tomorrow will be much more exciting, mostly for the plumber's visit and the fact (oh god, please let it be a fact) that we will have hot water again. The hot water heater quit on us the day we arrived, so we've been washing dishes with freezing water and not showering taking cold showers ok fine not showering. You should come visit. Not only do we have pretty floral velour couches but we also smell! We head back to England on Tuesday, so I'll try to squeak in a shower before we get back.

Only a couple more days of vacation bliss, and then it's back to reality and work. Did I mention I have a job? Well, a "job." I'm not sure whether it counts yet or not because....ahem...I'm an intern. It's a temporary and part-time role to get some experience in another industry, and so far, so good. I just have to get over the mental hurdle of being in a job that I usually associate with recent college grads. Maybe that's the way around it; maybe I'll just pretend to be 22. Ignore my wrinkles and jaded demeanor! I'm young and carefree and totally can't remember a time when there weren't cell phones. Text me! Rock on! (Shit - do young people say that?) 

I actually love the company and the other people working there, and it's a part time gig, so it fits perfectly into my parent life. Because this is a public space, I won't spend too much time discussing it, but I think it's a good fit for my current situation and I'm excited to be involved in something new.  I'm also really happy to being doing something that doesn't involve wiping noses and cooking fish fingers. Wait. Unless they can make interns do that. Can they? Crap. I guess it's ok as long as there are no dirty diapers.

M actually congratulated me on getting a job. I think her exact words were, "Good job, Mummy!" She stopped just short of patting me on the head. 

OK, off to bed. We 22 year olds need our beauty sleep.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

TGIF!

It's Friday, right? Tell me it's Friday, and I didn't already break my promise of "posting every day" after only one day. Because that would be pathetic. So, Happy Friday, everyone! TGIF!  

You can also forget what I said about potty training, because we are not doing that either this weekend. I made some excuse to myself about it being better to try that kind of thing at home, and isn't this a vacation weekend, and after all I bet O is just not ready for it, and something about the alignment of planets. So, never mind, no potty training.

In fact, maybe I'll just sit around this weekend and eat cheese. And we are in Normandy again, which is perfect for cheese. And wine. We are excellent parents.

The highlight of my day has been the purchase of a new mattress for the guest room here. When we bought the property, the former owners very sweetly threw in most of the furniture as part of the deal - including, but not limited to, a floral velour sofa with matching arm chairs, a lamp with tassels, a pink fluffy bathroom mat and several large framed needle-points of scenes of Venice. They also left us a sweater that Monsieur used to wear to trim the hedges in, just in case. Husband hasn't worn it.

It was fantastic to be able to use the house right away, but little by little I've wanted to replace things, and we only just got around to getting rid of the ancient mattress upstairs. Not that it was in bad shape or gross or anything (I actually don't think it ever was used), but it was more that there are probably several museums around that have requested to use it in a display. Also, I slept on it last night and that thing was really effing uncomfortable. Apologies to all former guests. Lucky for everyone we still have the pretty sofa and matching chairs.

We also finally got around to changing our French bank account details from the address in Paris. Where we lived in 2007. The biggest issue has been that France is approximately 10 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to the magic of the internet and any changes to your account have to be done IN PERSON and AT YOUR ORIGINAL BRANCH. We had a meeting today with lovely lady who explained that she could help us with everything just as soon as we fax her some proof of address, and by the way, would we be interested in setting up this new service they have available called "email?" She, personally, was unfamiliar with it, but would soon be attending a technology training course. Until then, fax please.
 
See you tomorrow! That's Saturday, right? Great.



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy! Sad. Happy! Sad. Happy! Sad.

Man, living with a two-and-a-half year old is like having someone with multiple personality disorder in the house, only you can't medicate them. At the moment, O changes moods so fast I think I'm getting whiplash. One second he's happy and laughing and playing nicely with his sister, and then you make him stop to eat dinner and oh my god now you have incurred his wrath. But it's ok! Because if you give him milk, he'll be quiet again! Unless, whoops, you put on the wrong television channel and now all is WOE AND WHY WOULD YOU RUIN HIS LIFE LIKE THAT? But don't worry, soon he needs to brush his teeth, which he likes! Unless you try to help him and then he gets REALLY ANNOYED.

It's exhausting.

Recently it's been particularly bad, as we've been walking on eggshells with him while the kids adjust to being back from vacation. Our time in the US was fantastic: we went to my brother's beautiful wedding (where the kids were flower girl and ring bearer), and O and M were constantly entertained by grandparents and other extended family and friends, enjoyed frequent trips to the pool and beach, and ate ice cream with almost every meal.

Now it's back to the grind of the local playgrounds, where there's no pool and they only get ice cream sometimes. What a drag. I think that for their next getaway, we'll be sending them to the coal mines. I know it doesn't sound like fun, but imagine how happy they'll be when they get home! I think I'm onto something.  

While M is pretty flexible (and old enough to be mostly reasonable), O has trouble adjusting to new things and is more, um, vocal about his displeasure. I would create some sort of sound track to share with you, but I don't think your computer speakers could handle it. As I've mentioned, he likes his routine and is not shy about letting you know when you screw it up.

Besides coming home from vacation, we are also trying to cut out his pacifier, start potty training, and are thinking of moving him from a crib to a real bed. This is possibly crazy, but it's also the age when you are "supposed" to do all this stuff, or so everyone helpfully tells me. I don't really remember it being a big deal with M, but I get the feeling that O might be less thrilled.

So far, all we've made him do is leave his pacifier in his bed when he wakes up, but he hoowwwls in protest every. single. morning, as though it's a new and particularly cruel form of torture. This weekend, we have our first try at potty training to look forward to, and I haven't even begun to think about the bed situation. I don't think I can take it. He might have to stay there another few years or so until we can summon up the energy to deal with him being free to roam in the middle of the night. And we'll see how the potty training goes. This might be my least favorite part of parenting, and it's also a bank holiday weekend. Maybe I should put it off for a little longer.

Ok, so we're in good shape! Just the pacifier to deal with! Excellent. Thanks for the talk.  Isn't Age Two a delight? That must be why they call it The Delightful Twos. That's right, isn't it?

Other than that, summer is flying by. It's almost September. And school! Sweet, sweet, school. Oh, how I've missed you. It's all new pencils and binders and backpacks and kids in class from 9 til 3, and for me, the time of year that I like to make new starts (more so than January, really). I'm resolving to be present on the blog and am going to try to post every day for the next month.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

No seriously. Especially now that I've said it out loud and hit the "publish post" button. No going back on my word. I reserve lying for when I'm trying to get the kids to do stuff.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Over and over and over and over

Summer has begun. At least that's what the school calendar is telling me. I wouldn't really know for sure because I'm still wearing jeans and sweaters and carrying an umbrella in my purse, but my Facebook news stream is filled with Americans complaining about something called "heat" and posting pictures of themselves in these funny short pants with no lower leg portion. And weirdly, all their tops don't seem to have sleeves.

We are finishing up a long weekend in Normandy before heading back to the UK. It may only be 65 degrees F but Husband, M and O spent Sunday splashing around the beach with a friend, getting soaked by waves and proving that hypothermia can be fun, dammit. I was camped on the rocks, properly dressed (see jeans and sweater, above) and holding firmly to my No Swimming Until The Air Temp Is Over 90F policy. Apparently, this makes me a party pooper, but I just laugh and wave my fingers at them, enjoying the fact that I still have feeling in my extremities. At some point, we are going to sit down and have a family discussion about how "sunny" and "warm" are not one and the same.

In another five days we head to the US for vacation. I'm really looking forward to it with the exception of the long flight on my own with two kids and the jet lag. Jet lag sometimes messes with routine, and if there's one thing O likes, it's his routine:

Wake up.
Shout from bed that he wants to "Geeeeet dooooowwwwn!"
Repeat until an adult wakes up and comes in to open curtain.
Get out of bed, throwing all pacifiers back in because they are not allowed downstairs except in cases of emergency. (Don't get me started. I know he needs to quit but he's a total pacifier junky, and there is no chance in hell I'm going to deal with withdrawal symptoms during this vacation. I hate to admit this, but he can scream longer than I can hold out.) (Obviously this is not a sore subject.)
Get adult to take him downstairs for "Miiiiiiilk!"
Sit in the same spot on the couch, preferably next to M. ADULT SHOULD NOT EVEN THINK OF TRYING TO SIT NEXT TO HIM BUT SHOULD INSTEAD BE GETTING MIIIILK.
Ask to watch Nemo.
Get regular TV instead.
Receive milk in the yellow cup. Not the blue one. THE YELLOW ONE.
Watch 15 minutes of dumb regular TV before getting bored and demanding "Beeeebix!"
If there is no Weetabix in France or the US or wherever you are, you must negotiate until you come to terms. Terms being Cheerios ideally.
Eat Cheerios out of the Mickey Mouse bowl. Not the farm animal one. THE MICKEY MOUSE ONE.
Yell "Finished!"
Start day.

I like my morning routine as well, but that pretty much consists of having coffee, The End. Whether I get that coffee in a blue cup or a yellow cup is irrelevant. Sometimes I make it, sometimes Husband makes it, sometimes I sit at the table, sometimes in the armchair (though NEVER ON THE COUCH NEXT TO O) but kids are all about doing the exact same things over and over and over. And then again. Sometimes we like to mess with them, because when people are that punctilious, it's too easy. And fun:

So, M, you want eggs for breakfast?

Noooo! A bagel! You know I like bagels! 

Oh right, a bagel. Toasted, right? 

Noooo! Don't toast it! 

Oh yeah, that's right. Not toasted. With peanut butter. 

JAM. AND CREAM CHEESE. Cut up into 8 pieces.

Cut up into 6 pieces, right. 

8 PIECES!!!!

As far as O is concerned, Tiddler could be the only book in our house. M would wear the twirly flowery party dress every day. Dinner would always be pasta and peas.

Obviously they find it comforting, and when we travel we try to keep things as consistent as possible and the messing around to a minimum. We bring the milk cups (though not the cereal bowls), sit them in the same spots on the couch (even if it's a different couch), and have the same conversation about Weetabix. When it's time to go to sleep at night, we sing the same songs (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for O, Tender Shepherd for M) and go through the same hand-holding, no-door-shutting routine.

Jet lag can make things more difficult, with the kids (and sometimes us) waking up at crazy hours and a lack of sleep making them more sensitive than usual. On those days joking about eggs can end in tears. Luckily, we'll have enough time in the States to get into our regular routine and enjoy the vacation. I hear it's summer over there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quiz Me

Well. I'm back. It's been exam cramming central here for the past few weeks, and rightly so. I cannot remember the last time I took a real test, and in the space of three weeks I've had to take two that really count. So I've been spending all my free time procrastinating drinking wine studying.

Test 1: Driving Theory -

Does anyone remember Drivers Ed? No? Me neither. For some reason, all I retained from two weeks of classes in high school was the part about "velocitation," or "the phenomenon caused by driving for long periods at high speeds." You'll have been in the car on a road trip, driving at 80 for the last eight hours, and when you exit the highway onto a smaller road you have a tendency to drive at about 60 mph, and it feels like 10. Sadly, this is the one piece of driving knowledge that does not come in handy here. Because if you drive for a long period of time at high speed you will end up in an ocean.

So needless to say, I had to prepare a little to take the UK Driving Theory test. It includes such common sense questions as:

"When approaching a zebra crossing where there is a child in a wheelchair attempting to cross, do you A) accelerate and swerve around them, B) honk your horn and use your bumper to nudge them to the other side, or C) slow down and prepare to stop?"
(The answer is B. No wait, I mean C.)

But it also asks stuff that involves memorization:

"If it's freezing and rainy and you are traveling at 60 mph in a car with a camping caravan attached, how many metres stopping distance do you need to allow?"
(The answer is 146. But the real question is, who are these idiots who are going camping in the freezing rain? And the answer to that is: English people, in summer.)

There is also a part of the test called "Hazard Perception." You view a series of videos of different road scenes taken from the point of view of the driver, and you are asked to click the mouse when you see a hazard. But be warned! If you click too soon, it won't count. And if you click too late, it also won't count. And if you click too much, you score an automatic zero. So it's not so much a test of "perceiving hazards" as it is one of "controlling neurotic behavior."  One of mine showed a horse that dances out into the middle of a country lane in front of the vehicle. Aha! A Hazard! Click. Wait, did I do that too soon? Click. Crap. Now I might be too late. Click. Click. You clicked too many times and scored a zero for this clip. Fuck.  

Thankfully I managed to get it together enough to squeak by with a Pass. So next it was on to....

Test Two: Life in the UK

This is an exam designed to test your knowledge of....Life in the UK. This includes:

Population
The Changing Role of Women
The Regions of Britain
Migration to Britain
Customs and Traditions
How the United Kingdom is Governed

And more. 

Now. I have been living here for two years and am married to an British citizen. I have navigated the school system so far and have been a part of a house buying process. I speak fluent English. (Or American. Whatever.) And after almost eight years across the pond, I consider myself fairly educated about European living. But if I had not bought all the study materials and spent some quality time taking practice tests, I would be on a boat back to Washington.

Seriously, that test was not easy. And I'm pretty sure that if they did a pop quiz for current UK citizens you would find a lot of people failing. A quango? Nope, no clue. The year Guy Fawkes did his blowing up Parliament thing? Sorry. The percent of people who own homes in the UK? Couldn't tell you.

Now, I get the importance of demonstrating a good understanding of the country you wish to permanently reside in, but this seems like it might be taking it a little far, particularly for people whose English isn't quite fluent. I sat and waited for my results with butterflies in my stomach, convinced I hadn't passed (probably because of all the stupid questions about the various European regulatory bodies.) Luckily, I again squeaked by. At least it's a pass/no-pass system and not based on Grades, because I think I must be a full-on D student at the moment. Don't tell my parents.

Both these tests required that you memorize a lot of information and spit it back out. And in my case, forget it immediately afterward. There is no chance I can both care for my children, remembering to do homework/change diapers/bring in PE kit, AND retain the stopping distances/population percentages, so I spent both mornings before the exams ignoring my kids and frantically memorizing shit before heading into the tests with a panicky look in my eye. Like "Can we please get this business started because I have a very limited time before all these useful facts start leaking out of my brain OMG HURRY UP LET'S GO ALREADY I HAVE TO GET HOME AND MAKE A BEE COSTUME."

Now I can focus on the upcoming Practical Driving exam (Wait, you want me to drive on the LEFT?! HAHAHAHA!) (Husband says not to make that joke) and my Indefinite Leave to Remain visa interview. Husband and I will be going in together to prove that we are real, married couple, armed with various important pieces of paperwork and a video of us bickering. As long as they don't ask me what the difference is between the European Council and the European Parliament, I'll be fine. Maybe I can impress them with my knowledge of velocitation. The UK is lucky to have me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hey, Other Parent, How YOU Doin'?

Happy Father's Day! Husband, did you hear me? I said, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!! Hello? Hel...Oh, that's right. You're away for the weekend with your mates.

Actually, we've never done much beyond cards for these Hallmark holidays so he's not missing out on anything special except, of course, those precious moments of childhood that are so fleeting. EXCEPT THAT. I mean, I doubt that all that motorcycle-riding-countryside-visiting-wine-drinking-with-friends will be able to make up for it. In fact, I'm pretty sure he's pining away for our company. PINING AWAY. If he's lucky, we may still give him the cards.

Only 24 hours to go until he gets home. Not that anyone is keeping track. The kids and I have done all the requisite weekend activities: swim lessons, soccer lessons, visited parks, had friends round, gone to friends' houses, run errands, eaten pizza/sausages/cake/lollipops and not bathed. (I know. We are gross.) Sadly, our Sunday afternoon play date was cancelled (because we smell?), but it looks like rain and tomorrow we go back to the weekly routine.

I don't actually find solo parenting as difficult as I find it lonely. It's easy enough to get kids fed and wrangled onto buses to the pool and all, but I miss having someone adult to talk to in the down times. Don't get me wrong, M and O are great to be with and obviously I enjoy all the precious and fleeting childhood moments, yada yada, but by 6 p.m. I would like to talk to someone who can maintain an actual dialogue. And ideally knows how to operate a Screwpull. (THAT OPENS WINE. You guys should really get your minds out of the gutter.) When I'm on my own, once the kids are in bed the house is super quiet, and I usually end up eating something involving cheese and watching old episodes of Mediumzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...Oops, sorry, I put myself to sleep just now. But you get the picture. 

The alone time is also one of one of the hardest parts of staying home with the kids. We live in a booming metropolis and there are tons of stay-at-home-moms in my neighborhood, but while I see quite a few other adults during the day, it's often doing parallel activities alongside them as opposed to really engaging with them. Conversations happen in snippets while you pick up the kids at school or push them on the swings, and relationships are frequently based on the mutual fact that you have children. Trying to have a normal conversation (let alone develop deeper friendships) is really difficult if you have to sprint away every 45 seconds to keep your kid from death by jungle gym.

Luckily, I talk reallyreallyfast.

Hi! My name is Caroline. This is M and O and we are looking for some friends. We come from America and lived in France and love to eat fish fingers and peas and doing drawing and playing in the garden and we are on our own this weekend and are starting to get bored so you do want to come over and hang out? We promise to shower.

In all fairness, I've met some really great people since moving here, particularly via M's school. But it doesn't change the fact that when you are all home during the day, you have little kids to look after and not as nearly as much time as you'd like for leisurely coffees. It's more like sip of coffee, tell your kids to stop hitting each other, sip of coffee, please don't climb on that table, sip of coffee, why don't you guys share the ball, sip of coffee, I think I see poop coming out the top of that diaper. Not that work is this fabulous magical place with meaningful adult conversations and endless cups of coffee (ok, fine, there is a lot of coffee), but I definitely remember being able to start whole sentences and then actually finishing them. Without a single reference to poop. Mostly.

So, yes. If Husband could hurry up and get home, that would be great. I'm getting tired of cheese and running out of episodes of Medium to watch. Also, I think all the pick up lines might be starting to scare the other parents on the playground.

Side note: I just found myself shouting at O not to do "roly-polys" (somersaults) because he "might break his neck." Because that's likely, right? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mum's the Word

O just came up behind me as I sat quietly down to use the computer and ripped a band-aid off the back of my ankle. "Hurting, mummy?" "Um, yes, O. It is now. Thanks."

I was sitting down to type something about kids extra-curricular activities and how the US and UK differ, but that's going to have to keep. I just completely distracted myself by typing the word "mummy." With a U. Apparently, that's me. And while I am used to hearing it from the kids, I still have a hard time writing it out without conjuring up Scooby-Doo-style images of goofy dead guys wrapped in toilet paper. (Hey, it's actually old Professor Smith!)

M used to speak with a Brooklyn accent, but she switched to an English one within 3 months of our move here and quickly transition from Mommy to Mummy, probably from hearing all her nursery friends and having it reinforced by Husband. She can still imitate some of the American sounds with other words, but there is really no hope for O, who cannot pronounce the letter "R" to save his life. Hurting is Huhting. Water is watah. Horse is Hoss. Fork is...um, you get the picture.

For the most part, I don't really notice their accents. But when I'm around other Americans or we travel back home (home?), it strikes me anew. They sound so English! Quick, somebody feed them some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Talk about sidewalks and pants! Play the American national anthem! Teach them about baseball! (God, someone else better do the baseball thing because I have no clue. All I know is that there is something called an RBI, thank you NY Times crossword. And beer. And hotdogs.)

And the thing is, they are English. Mostly. M actually told me that she "likes the rain" MORE THAN SHE LIKES THE SUN. Since we don't have any plans to move, I wonder how much of a connection they are going to feel with America. Will it feel at all like home? Or maybe a second home? Or perhaps it will just be that place they go for vacations. I love our life here, but I also loved growing up in the US and wish they could experience some of that as well. How else will they realize that dessert does not have to include dried fruit?

Waaaahhhh!
Sniff.

Ok, I'm fine now. I just realized I have some work to do planning my 4th of July BBQ (to be held July 3rd since they are too inconsiderate to give everyone the following day off.) That's when I'm going to start the indoctrination. "Listen here, children. The 4th of July is a Very Important Holiday. That's the day when MOmmy's country told Daddy's country to fork off. We like to celebrate it with potato salad. Dig in."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Get in Line

Yesterday we went to the American Embassy in London to renew M's passport. Despite a seemingly organized process which requires you to book an appointment in advance, we spent over an hour standing in the pouring rain, waiting to get through security.

I'd like to think that this was some indication of how top-notch secure the building was, but I'm pretty sure that inefficiency was to blame. They were only letting one family (or person) in at a time, and there was no one explaining what they wanted us to do (take out all our electronics, put them in plastic bags and check them all in, to be picked up on leaving.) So you end up fumbling around in the base of your purse for that USB key you forgot you had while 25 people standing out in the rain glare at you.

They should make it like airport security, because at this stage we all know what to expect. Shoes off. Coat off. Bulky sweater off. Laptop out. Belt, earrings, necklace, and watch off. Liquids in bags on top. Frankly, by the time I'm anywhere near the scanners, I'm half naked and waving my passport and boarding pass at anyone who glances my way. Even O and M know the drill. Last time we were traveling, M got really mad because they weren't making her take her shoes off. Like "What is the deal with these people? Don't they know it's AIRPORT SECURITY? These Crocs need to be SCANNED!"

As you wait outside, miserable and freezing cold (it's the English "summer", so about 62 degrees and raining. Come visit!) you end up watching all the newcomers try to go directly in through security. See, everyone there has an "appointment" for a certain "time" so we all arrive thinking that the huge line we are seeing could not possibly be meant for us. How could it? We are Americans with Appointments! I need to be inside at 8:30! Those other suckers should have read the website.

So you glance around, looking at your dripping Appointment paper and head straight for the security team or the wet dude with hunched shoulders and folder in a plastic bag information desk and explain that you need to go inside to renew your passport or whatever.

American: I'm an American. I have an Appointment
Wet Official: You're going to need to stand in that line there.
A: But I have an Appointment. For 8:30.
WO: Yeah. You need to get in line.
A: But it says 8:30 right here. Do you see that smudge?
WO: Mmhmm. Still, you'll have to wait.
A: Are you sure? Because I have an APPOINTMENT.
WO: Yes, you need to wait.
A: Shoulders slump. Heads for line.


Sometimes, people will go through this song and dance two or three times. They keep leaving the line to check on their Appointments while the rest of us stand there and glare angrily at the couple in security who brought their stroller loaded with enough stuff to camp out for a week. (I was being smug because we left O home with a babysitter. Had he been with us, it would have been me leaving the line. "Seriously, you better let me through for my Appointment or else I'm leaving this wet and screaming two-year-old at security with you.")

I think it's that, generally speaking, Americans don't like to assume that the line is for them, and we will verify that we really do have to wait before grudgingly and complainingly joining it. (As compared to the the Brits, who will cheerfully stand in any queue they see. Look, a queue! Jolly good. Pity about the rain but mustn't grumble! After all, I think I see a bit of blue up there! (pointing at a storm cloud.) It's charming.)

All in all, we were outside for a little over an hour. It wasn't so, so terrible, because we amused ourselves with the Expat Umbrella Game while we waited. No joke, pretty much every single person in line was holding an umbrella with a company or school logo on it. Like "Welcome to your new job in England. Here is your umbrella. You're going to need it." And they were right.

Now we are waiting on M's new passport, and I'm only going to have to go through this fun process a couple more times this year when I renew my own passport and get my residency visa. Next time, I'll be sure to head straight for the line.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Out to Lunch

We took a day trip to an actual, sandy beach this holiday (many of the local Norman beaches are stony), and the kids had a ball building small, crumbly sand castles, digging holes, and in O's case, shoving sand into every nook and cranny possible, including his diaper, pockets, ears and my iPhone case.

In the evening back at home, our faces still glowing from the wind and bright sunshine, Husband and I were reminiscing about the fabulous time we'd had.

Me: Wasn't today fantastic? It really felt like a vacation!
H: It did! We should do that more often.
Me: I know. It was idyllic. Just PERFECT.
H: Yes, perfect.
Me: Idyllic.
H: Yes.
H:...Wait a sec, I think we're forgetting about lunch.
Me:...
H: Remember lunch? When O had that screaming fit and you had to leave the restaurant? You know. Lunch.
Me: Oh right. That.

And the thing was, in the light of the beautiful afternoon I really had forgotten about the less-than-idyllic restaurant lunch. This is obviously the same kind of biological, survival-of-the-human-race amnesia that results in couples having more than one kid.

But don't worry. I remember now. As, I'm sure, do the rest of the diners sitting on the terrace and also possibly the people driving by with their car windows open.

There really isn't much of a story: Mostly our lunch involved us sitting down to eat at a cafe in Deauville, and O screaming his head off. SCRA-AH-EEAMING. About everything. Because he was tired. Because he's two. Because he couldn't run around in the street where the cars were. Because we sat him next to M. Because we didn't sit him next to M. Because he wanted his mommy. Because he hated his mommy. I don't know. Because.

We tried everything. Letting him sit on our laps, giving him an extra straw, drinking from the special grown-up glasses, you name it.

We were only able to finish our lunch because I finally caved into his demands for a pacifier (even though we are trying to cut it out) and because I left the restaurant with him in a stroller and ended up threatening him with NO BEACH TODAY AND ALSO POSSIBLY NO ICE CREAM EVER FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. This is probably not my finest parenting moment. It's probably not OK to threaten two-year-olds. I mean, I don't even know if two-year-olds understand threats. But I was desperate for a way to get him to calm down enough to rejoin the table so that we (and everyone else) could eat the food that was already sitting on the table.

Seriously, why do we even bother?

It comes down to the fact that taking young children out to a restaurant is always a gamble, and yet, we go out to eat at least once a week. Most of the time it's not a problem, but sometimes it can be a disaster: One of those meals where you spend your entire time trying to reign in your children, keeping them from making too much noise, trying to get them to eat the sauce, worrying about how much they are bothering the other diners (a lot) and why the hell is the wait staff taking SO FREAKIN' LONG TO BRING THE BILL OH MY GOD WE ORDERED IT 30 SECONDS AGO CANT YOU SEE WE ARE TRYING TO GET OUT OF HERE.

And we are paying for this pleasure! Sometimes, for fun, I also like to stick pins in my eyes.

But really, we do it because we aspire to those great times when everyone is well-behaved and eats everything, and we hope desperately that just because we have kids doesn't mean that we can't carry on doing the things we used to enjoy. I don't want to be permanently relegated to those places with jungle gyms where it's OK to run around yelling or to the snack bar/picnic table. I love eating out and good food and want my children to learn to behave appropriately in restaurants so that we can enjoy it together. How can you do that without taking them out?

(Let me clarify that I'm not talking about 5-star dining establishments, but about your every day, casual restaurant. One that serves lots of wine. Obviously.) 

This strategy worked for M, who is now five and for the most part really well-behaved in restaurants. (I've blocked out that previous post where she threw a fit outside the school. Biological amnesia hard at work!) Though she's a picky eater (no sauce, no meat), she can sit through a couple courses to get to the ice cream. So, let's see, O is two now so that's...only three more years of dragging him out screaming to get to that stage! Excellent.

What are your thoughts on kids in restaurants? Is it worth the effort?

PS - We live in Twickenham and often visit Normandy, so if you are thinking about a nice leisurely lunch, can I recommend Asia? At least for the next couple years. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trombones

ALERT: This post contains talk of blood and nail beds and heated paperclips, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, yeaaaaah, yesterday afternoon I shut my own thumb in the car door. I still am not sure exactly how that happened, but clearly I am some sort of door-shutting-contortionist who was able to manage this feat one-handed. You can hire me for parties.

By the evening, it was starting to be really uncomfortable and swollen, with the nail turning purple, or as M put it, "Yucky." Like nature intended, I spent some time on Google/Facebook trying to figure out the best course of action and read about a common treatment that involves (ALERT ALERT ALERT) heating up a paperclip, piercing the nail to drain the underlying blood, and thereby relieving the pressure on the nail-bed and subsequent pain. (SORRY.)

Now, unless things are getting bad, this sounds like crazy talk. You want me to push a red-hot paperclip through my fingernail!? To STOP the pain? Excellent. Sign me up.  

I waited until the kids had gone to bed to give this a whirl (since there's nothing like a fear of paperclips to set you back in your career), but it turns out that you have to press REALLY HARD to get a paperclip to go through your nail. I quit after a few singe marks and opted for the Red Wine-Tylenol solution.

By this morning at 6 am, after approximately two hours of sleep, I couldn't take it anymore and woke Husband and kids up for a trip to Urgences (or French ER, which, honestly, functions slightly less urgently than it sounds.) We spent an hour and a half or so in the waiting room, and then I went in for Proper Medical Treatment.

Me: J'ai ferme le pouce dans la porte de la voiture. Je suis stupide. I slammed my finger in the car door. I'm an idiot.
Doc: Oui, ca se voit. Infirmiere, le trombone! I can see that. Nurse, the trombone! 
Me: Wait a sec, isn't "trombone" French for....
Doc: Oui. Paperclip. 

So they heated up the paperclip and stuck it in my nail.

And that is why I love Google. And Facebook.

PS - Special shout out to awesome real life Doctor Elizabeth who backed up the paperclip thing as Husband was saying helpful stuff like, "This is insanity, you might get an infection and die." And to which I can now reply, "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaahhh."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer. Or, That Time of Year School is Closed

We are in Normandy this week, enjoying the half term holiday. Yes, another holiday! While the English summer break may be short (only six weeks) they make up for it with Half Terms and Inset Days. And apparently there are about 24 half terms holidays per year, and approximately 237 inset days, so pretty much M goes to school on September 16th, January 20th, May 7th and that's it.

Because I haven't been working this past year, I've been able to enjoy some extended time in France with the kids and often with Husband, who gets the standard European five weeks of vacation. But I get the feeling we won't all be able to take six weeks off this summer, so I'll have to come up with something else to keep M entertained. Art class? Check. Sports camp? Check? Take her to DC and get her grandparents to keep her occupied? CHECKITY CHECK.

It's funny how school vacations conjure up very different sentiments once you are a stay-at-home parent. As a kid, you look forward to that last day of school before a summer break, thinking of all the freedom you will have, the sunshine and lack of homework. Long, lazy days stretch ahead! As a parent, you also think about those long, lazy days, but it isn't quite as nice a feeling. So you say they aren't in school for six weeks? That's 42 days. 1008 hours. If I spend an hour a day at the playground *pulls at collar*, that only leaves me with 966 hours left to entertain her! *wipes sweat from brow.*  Is five too young for overnight camp?

And in thinking about going back to work (yes, please!) I sort of forgot about all the time off she gets. We have always gone the daycare route, and when both kids were preschool-aged this worked fine. Once you have a child in school (and one toddler), the schedule is harder to juggle unless you have a full time nanny, which is expensive. There are multiple drop-off points, and school days start at 9 am and end at 3:15 pm, so if you are commuting you will need to find both early morning and late afternoon childcare. We really want to keep O involved in some sort of day care/preschool, but the juggling act is overwhelming to think about. So I'm not! I'm putting it off! And since I don't have a 100% sure job yet, that's fine. Besides, there's still that long, lazy summer to panic about enjoy. 

In the meantime, it's Half Term, and today's Holiday Child Entertainment was a trip to the Parc Zoologique de Cleres. (If you are ever in Normandy, I highly recommend it. Not only is it a beautiful botanic garden, but they also have an interesting variety of animals, many of which are endangered and are being raised as part of a conservation program.) You can wander freely among flamingos, peacocks, wallabies, and deer.

Both kids had a great time, until the end of the visit when M realized that they only had "boring animals." Apparently, being 10 feet from a hopping wallaby is not enough of a thrill, and she was hoping for free-roaming tigers or lions or something. This does bode well for art camp. Maybe I can find an alligator wrestling class she'd enjoy.

OK then! I've been trying to think of a good finish to this post, but I slammed my own thumb in the car door about a hour ago so I feel like I have a good excuse to just leave it at alligator wrestling. (Seriously, OW. The nail is PURPLE. Also, WTF? How did I even do that?) So yeah, the space bar is my enemy right now, and there is a large glass of wine in the kitchen with my name on it. It's medicinal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Neat Freak

I'm a tidyer. (And also, apparently, a maker-upper of words.) I tidy a lot and frequently, finding something really satisfying about putting things in their rightful places. As I go from room to room, or upstairs to downstairs, I'm inevitably taking something with me to put away or clearing off surfaces.

While he might not realize it, Husband is a very lucky man (and frankly, somewhat of a tidyer himself.) Not only does he live in a clean house, but The Tidying has all kinds of useful consequences for him. Need to diet? No problem. Let me clear this plate away before you finish eating. How about a little exercise? Try sprinting around the house in the morning before work, looking for something you left on the counter but is no longer there. I tidied it! Isn't this a fun game?! Wheeee!

Full Disclosure: Despite my passion for order, we still have someone clean the house once a week. When the cleaning gets left to me, I tend to do it in stages: toilet one day, shower the next, stove never, so it isn't ALL clean, all at the same time. Which frankly, doesn't leave me with the same blissful, brand-spanking-clean-home feeling. It's a luxury, to be sure, but I'm also going to chalk it up as an entertainment cost. Some people go to movies. I prefer having my oven scrubbed.

I like to blame this freakishness on living in a relatively small house. If you don't pick up after yourself, you can find yourself knee-deep in misplaced junk pretty quickly. When the washer and dryer are in the kitchen (Yes, Americans, the KITCHEN. England does not do "basements." Or "laundry rooms." Sometimes, if I'm pressed for time, I like to throw the lettuce into a spin cycle) it doesn't take very many loads of laundry to make all of downstairs look like a closet. Our open-plan living/dining/kitchen area can quickly turn into a living/dining/laundry/dumping ground very fast.

If I'm really honest with myself, it's not about the small house but mostly about me being a Neat Freak. And probably having too much time on my hands to care about this nonsense.

I do hope that I won't pass this too much on to my kids. Because while I kind of want them to be tidy(ers), I also want them to be able to enjoy mud and muck and messy paints and a roomful of toys strewn everywhere. They should feel free to dig into a big basket of toys and just start chucking things out all over the place until they find that piece of plastic crap they were looking for. And then run downstairs with the plastic crap, and drop it in the middle of the living room, because it's snack time. And eat their crumbly snack while racing around the living room, grinding pieces of cracker into the carp...oh my God, I don't even think I can finish that sentence without taking the vacuum cleaner out.

*deep breaths*

But you get my point, and there's a happy medium in there somewhere. Childhood is best with mess and dirt and joy and then perhaps a massive clean-up at the end of the day. I'm promising myself to work on it.

In the meantime, I better run. I can see a raisin on the floor.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Whoa Woe

The other day I went to pick up M from school. The sun was shining, the birds were singing; it was a beautiful afternoon and everything seemed right with the world.

Then I walked out the school gate in front of her, and suddenly...WOE. How dare I go out before her because SHE WANTED TO GO FIRST and now her life is RUINED, RUINED, RUINED and I'M GOING TO STAND HERE AND SCREAM AND CRY UNTIL YOUR LIFE IS RUINED, RUINED, RUINED TOO!  (Only not in so many words. It was more like, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!")

?

There was so much woe that people stopped to stare. Which was probably for the best, because when there is a screeching, irrational child in the vicinity, my instinct is to run. (I do not think this is the same instinct that got me pregnant. In fact, it is probably more closely tied to the one that allowed me to go to Chicago with my girlfriends for four days.) But no matter, because if people are staring at you, you can't ditch your kid. That is called Bad Parenting.

It took a good 10 minutes for her to calm down enough to get ourselves home and onto a quiet spot on the couch where we sat and read books and ate a snack and skipped our previously scheduled activity. But those were a seriously loooong 10 minutes, and during them, I tried everything I could think of to get her to calm down:

1) Reasoning -
Fatigue can do crazy, crazy things to a kid. Making them into a rational, receptive human being is not one of them.

2) Threatening -
Apparently it is almost impossible for threats to be heard over the sound of screeching. Also, don't forget about the watching bystanders!  

3) Begging -
Even if they are screaming, kids generally remember whatever treat it is you have promised them. So "OMG, please, please, please stop making that noise and I will buy you a pony!" is not advised.

4) Trying to enlist help -
What, fellow parent and neighbor? You don't want to have her over for a play date? Why not? Can't you see my beseeching eyes?! SHE'S LOVELY, PLEASE TAKE HER NOW!

4) Patience -
Hmm. This is not one of my strengths. Are you saying you want me to stand here and be patient and loving and accepting while my kid flips out and maybe even just hug her and wait quietly until she gets through it? Because that's pretty hard to do, and I'm not even sure that's gonna...hey! It works! Let's go home.

So we did.

On a totally unrelated side note: I went to the small local grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner and some cake mix for cupcakes for the class bake sale. But they didn't have any mix, and I had to make cup cakes FROM SCRATCH. It's like the dark ages around here.

At least there was canned frosting. Phew.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ah, Buh, Kuh, Duh, Eh

Today is M's Reading Day at school. Once a week, each child sits down with a parent volunteer (or lacking that, whoever they can snag in the hallway) and works on reading the weekly book assignment and learning their "key words." It's a way for the school to give each child some extra one-on-one attention as well as measure their progress with a list of words they are supposed to recognize on sight.

I happily volunteered to help out once a week. Unfortunately, this was before I realized that the kids were learning to read with phonics. (Every American reading this just thought "Hooked on Phonics worked for me!" Advertising totally works.)

Whenever I'm doing reading with the kids, I always get slightly panicky. Because while phonics are straightforward when it comes to single letters (except soft "c") once you get into the various letter combinations, I am never sure how to explain things. Is it "ea" like "sea" or like "measure"? How about "oo"? "Soon" or "book"? And do not even get me started on "ough". Also, can I talk about letters? Is that confusing? Are we allowed to use that word or do we just refer to "sounds"? Is there still spelling? Hey kid, just give me that book and I'll read it for you! Won't that be fun?!

The school is lucky to have me.

At home, we have started reading longer chapter books aloud to M, things like Mary Poppins and The BFG. (Side note: Wow, the book Mary Poppins is super cranky; Julie Andrews did not adequately prepare me for her.)  This is a vast improvement on endless re-readings of short stories, many of which are lovely, but any story is boring after 42 times. In one day.  

O will listen in occasionally, but his attention span is nowhere near long enough to sit through a book without pictures. He prefers books with animal photos, so you can stop on each page to make the associated noises. So cute, right? Also, annoying! There is nothing like moo-ing every sentence to break up a good narrative.

"'The runaway train choo-chooed down the tracks.' Yes, O, that's a cow. Moo. Good job. 'Duffy Driver raced after...' Yep, the sheep says baaa. Excellent. 'raced after the runaway tr...' Quack."

At least he isn't asking me about fahniks.

Overall, it's a lot of fun to watch as your kid starts learning to read, knowing it's going to open up a whole new world for them. The difficulty at this age is getting them to concentrate on homework (usually one book per week) when they've had a long day and would much prefer to be zoning out with some television coloring. To which I say, fair enough. If I came back from a long day at work and someone handed me a calculus book and forced me to start doing whatever it is you do with calculus (calculate?), I'd probably have to club them over the head with the text, before grabbing my wine glass and running away.

Tonight we'll take a break from the homework stuff and carry on with our own reading, M and O curled up on the couch together, listening to what that cranky Mary Poppins has done now. Also, moo.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Smells Like Guilt

Man, it's been a whole week since I last wrote a post. I would like to tell you that I had a great excuse, but it's mostly inertia. I even had about 3 hours to myself this morning, and instead I find myself posting now, with M on my lap and O yanking at my arm. I have excellent timing.

Oh ha ha ha ha...I wrote that about a week ago without ever finishing it. So now it's been TWO weeks. Who knew that the guilt of motherhood also filters through to blogs about motherhood?!

It hasn't been too eventful around here. The past week or so has been about getting back into the routine after vacation and chicken pox. M is as pleased to be back at school as I am (guiltily) to have her there. There is really only so much I can do to keep her entertained at home, and with the conservatory going up at the back of the house, the kids haven't been able to enjoy the garden. We, on the other hand, are VERY excited to have an extra room added on to the house. OK, fine, in US terms, it's pretty much the size of a walk-in closet, but in England it's A WHOLE NEW ROOM. This passes for excitement in my life.

So I have New Closet Room excitement and THE GUILT. Someone should warn you about that. Or maybe they do but it doesn't really sink in until you go ahead and make babies and then realize that you will feel guilty about pretty much everything for the rest of your life. Work? Guilt. Stay at home? Guilt for not working. Frozen fish fingers? Guilt. Frozen fish fingers AND you're not working? Forget it. You-are-probably-going-to-hell Guilt. A friend once told that if motherhood had a perfume, that's what they'd call it. My guess is that it would smell a little bit like stale milk and vomit, with a hint of laundry detergent.

Later this week, I'm headed back home to visit with close friends. I'd like to say that I'm going guilt-free but that is never true these days. I'm so excited for the trip; I can't wait to see my friends; but in the back of my mind is the inevitable sensation that I am Abandoning My Children. (Sorry, Husband, but the guilt for Spousal Abandonment has a much higher threshold.) I know it's not a rational sensation (it is only a weekend trip after all), but it's hard to immerse yourself fully in the joy of it when you know you are ultimately taking a selfish moment (or weekend. OK, fine, four days. Whatever.)

I think this feeling is probably compounded by the fact that I've been talking to someone about a possible part-time job. It seems like a perfect solution for me, though it's not yet set in stone. I'd be in the office for three days, working from home for one and off for one. It could be a great balance, but after all this time at home, I know the transition back wouldn't be easy.

This is where you shake me by the shoulders and tell me to Shut Up Already! Go ahead. Electronically or whatever. I need it.

But if you see a woman in the airport, drinking champagne and looking guilty, don't get too close. She probably smells a little like stale milk, vomit and laundry detergent.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Food





As much as I hate cooking children dinners, I equally love cooking any other kind of food. Mostly because if I'm cooking it means that eating cannot be far behind. Also, when you are busy cooking dinner, you get to farm out the other parenting duties, like bath time. And dirty diapers.

Tonight we're having char-grilled oysters (the adults that is; the kids had fish fingers), inspired by our recent trip to New Orleans and the Acme Oyster House. There is no way I can recreate the exact dish we ate there, but I think this comes close enough, and the scent of melted butter and garlic in the house is enough to make it worth a try. It's even better if you can get someone else to shuck the oysters (I love to delegate.) (No, actually, that's not true. I'm a control freak who is sort-of lazy.)

Char-grilled Oysters
serves 4

2 dozen fresh oysters, shucked, on the half-shell
1 stick (ok fine, 1 and 1/4 sticks) butter  (I KNOW)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup grated parmesan or romano (I used a mix of parm and gruyere, because that's what we had)
splash of hot sauce
salt

Melt butter in a saucepan and add minced garlic, salt and hot sauce, lightly cooking the garlic but not allowing it to brown. It should infuse the butter with flavor and will probably make you want to bathe in it. Sprinkle cheese on the oysters, not completely covering them (see photo.) Grill the oysters, and when they start to bubble a little, spoon on some of the butter sauce. Continue cooking until browned around the edges (maybe 3-5 minutes, shell will char.) Spoon on more butter before serving with french bread for dipping.

UPDATE: I allowed 6 oysters per person. This is a gross underestimate. You might want to allow 6 dozen per person. YUM. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Here's your pony. Try not to fall in the river.

O is definitely feeling better. He was acting like his old, happy self last night, kicking the soccer ball around and stuffing himself with stolen cheese snacks. It would have been nice if he could stay around, because I'm not a huge fan of the whining, clinging, volatile 2-year-old who is visiting today.

I have no idea what is going on, but both kids are behaving terribly. Which is a little bit frustrating considering today has involved a moon bounce, a trampoline, a pony ride AND ice cream. What would it take to get a good mood around here? Disney land and a mainline of cotton candy? 

But in the end, that's the thing about vacations: you do all kinds of great stuff, get too much sunshine, eat junky food and stay up late drinking red wine. I mean, milk. But taking little ones out of their routine (and I use that term loosely, because we don't have that strict of a schedule) will almost always end in bad behavior. And because you aren't in your own home, and because children are capable of making a noise that is the aural equivalent of pulling out your fingernails, you give in to whatever they want just to keep the peace. Which is fine until they start clamoring for the next ice cream or pony ride or whatever. It's a vicious cycle. Luckily, there is plenty of red wine. I mean MILK. Geez.

In any case, the pony ride was interesting. I had kind of forgotten about how the French are much more relaxed in their attitude to risk management. If you've ever done any outdoor pursuits here, you will notice the lack of concern about whether you might gravely wound yourself/never come back from the bridge jump/river rafting/back mountain skiing/also, apparently, pony riding. It's charming.

I showed up with M at the horse stables and explained that we wanted to do a short ride for a 5-year-old. The owner was very friendly, letting M pick out her pony by color (they were all brown), putting her in a helmet, and showing her how to brush the horse before putting on the saddle. So nice! This was obviously going to be great.

Once he had her seated, he handed me the reins, pointed us to a path that lead into the distance, gave me some convoluted instructions about turning right, then left, then left again into the forest and then keep the river on your right, and we'll see you in 30 minutes. Maybe. Also, please make sure she leans forward when going uphill and backward when going downhill. 

Um, obviously this man wasn't listening when I apologized for being late because we got lost on the way over. From a village that is 5 km away. Also, I'm sorry, did you say forest? And something about downhill? I have no clue what I'm doing! Don't horses bite and kick and stuff? I'm wearing ballet flats!

But don't worry. We made it and only had to stop for directions once. M had a great time, and since we're on vacation, we had extra ice cream and red wine in celebration. I mean milk.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Pox

I'm pretty sure it's illegal to be sick on vacation, but here we are and O has developed (of all things) the chicken pox. Yesterday morning we noticed a few little red spots, and by the evening it had developed into the full blown thing with oozy-looking blisters and all. Ick. It's making me itch just looking looking at him.

We didn't come prepared for a fever or rashes (big surprise; see previous post), so I stopped by the pharmacy this morning to get medicine. French pharmacies are great for giving advice, and we came away with three different prescriptions: one for fever, one for itching, and one for discounts at the local vineyard. O seems to be recovering a little, although he is still not presentable in public. I made the mistake of taking him with me to pick up the morning bread, and people keep veering away from us in the street. I don't remember having chicken pox myself (oh thank god) but WOW! That is a seriously nasty and contagious-looking disease. He's a cute kid, but I'm not sure when we'll be able to leave the house again without causing a village-wide panic.

Luckily, M was vaccinated against the chicken pox while she was living in the US. In the UK, the chicken pox vaccine is available but is not standard policy, so most kids still contract the virus, suffer horribly and build up immunity that way. (Not that I'm biased against their system; I'm sure it's a good life lesson or something.) I imagine that O picked it up at daycare and am honestly thankful that he has it while he's still little and easily distracted by DVDs and ice cream.

We should have elected to have him vaccinated; I'm not sure why we didn't. Because the kids have lived in three different countries (all of which have their own inoculation schedules and priorities), I've spent a lot of time trying to keep up with what vaccination happened and when (don't even get me started on the deciphering of writing month/day vs day/month) and did they get the follow-up treatment necessary. If I could do it all over again, I would keep my own records, but I've relied on the doctor/hospital charts. And that thing about doctors' handwriting? Turns out it's not a joke.

Anyway, we've come through the other side (she says, jinxing herself and preparing for a night of waking children.) That vineyard discount prescription totally works.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What underwear?

The kids are both being looked after by other people so I'm taking advantage of the free time to look up dumb shit on the web do laundry and start packing for our upcoming vacation. Actually, I'm doing that thing where you try to pick up all the stuff in the dryer, but inevitably some underwear falls to the floor and when you reach down to grab it, there goes a sock. And once you grab that, more underwear drops to the ground. Ad infinitum. It's like my own little comedy show, except wow, the words coming out of my mouth are totally not funny.

We have a 6:30 am flight on Friday morning, and because the airport is an hour away and you have to be there a couple of days in advance to get through security, we'll probably head over there later this afternoon. Just kidding. We'll probably leave at 5 am on Friday, because frankly, that is our MO. Husband will try to blame me and my tendency to find new jobs to do at the last-minute, but he'd be wrong! I'm just thorough. It's important to check what the weather will be at your destination. Also, the sandwiches and snacks can really only be made just before you go. And while I'm at it, the fridge should have been cleaned of vegetables that could go bad while we are away, and since the fridge is being cleaned, I should also sweep the floor. Whatever. Running through the airport is really good exercise, particularly if you have to carry a 5-year-old.

Our other problem is that we also pack last-minute. Because we travel a fair amount, I think I've gotten a little cavalier about all the preparation that should be involved. This trip I will attempt to remember the kids' underwear and my toothbrush. Seriously, sometimes I cannot believe that I am allowed to be responsible (in part) for the raising of TWO WHOLE PEOPLE. I went to the hospital, gave birth and they let me just walk out with a kid. No one even checked my credentials!

It's mind-boggling when you think about it, and sometimes I really do get these waves of realization that I have KIDS. Children. To whom I am responsible for imparting wisdom and who think I know what I'm doing. But, and here's the concerning part, I spent 5 minutes this morning doing the laundry comedy routine WITH THE BASKET SITTING NEXT TO ME. Surely I cannot be trusted with actual people.

At least this trip I'll remember to pack the underwear, seeing as how I spent so much quality time with it today. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lurgy

Being sick is the pits. And it's double pits when you are a parent, because you can't just sit around moaning and feeling sorry for yourself (which is obviously the best part.) Husband let me sleep in this morning, but the Guilt kicked in around 8:15 and now I'm downstairs.

As Husband just went back upstairs to get dressed, I had a brief moment of panic. Because honestly, I cannot parent in this state.  It hurts to shout and I can't physically stop O from all the naughty stuff he wants to do (like covering the table in crayon.)

M is telling me about a grand plan for this huge stack of paper she is holding - something about cutting lots of things out, a folder for her teacher, sticking it back together, but I'm having a hard time processing it. Frankly, I feel so awful that if she told me she was going to cut up the living room curtains and make them into a dress I'd probably nod.

(Why, yes! I would like some cheese with this whine!)

I kind of don't remember illness before parenthood, but I'm pretty sure it involved not moving beyond the couch or the bed and lots of crappy daytime TV. Jerry Springer comes to mind - I particularly liked the episode where that guy cheated on that woman and then they are started beating each other up on stage. But I'm getting the sneaking suspicion that my day might be slightly more active. Husband just gave me a look when I asked him to make me some coffee, and it comes down to this fact: No matter how much you love your spouse and believe that they are truly, truly sick, you really don't want them to ditch you with the kids while they lie around and fake illness recuperate.

Better go. M has just covered O with stickers. It's that special kind that won't stick to human skin but if it migrates to the table or floor, you can't get it off without taking a layer of wood with it.

I'll leave you with the following video. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbmbMSrsZVQ

Monday, April 4, 2011

TeeeVeee

As I type, O, having recently awakened from his nap, is tucked up comfortably on the couch and watching some TV.

Me: O, are you hungry? Do you want a banana?
O: No! 'Nack!
Me: OK, how about some Cheerios?
O: No! 'Nack!
Me: Yes, absolutely, a snack. How about some raisins?
O: Noooooo! 'NACK!!
Me: *deep breath* YES. A SNACK. I GET IT. Raisins? (Obviously, the caps are for emphasis. I would never raise my voice in real life.)
O: 'NAAAAACK! Waaaaaaaahhhhh!
Me: *Remaining the picture of serenity, hands him raisins, cheerios and some banana.*
O: *dries tears* Dank you. 'Nack.

But this is not my point. My point is TV. I have tremendous guilt about letting my kids watch TV.

Growing up, I wasn't allowed to watch very much television. (All the neighbors can attest to this, since my brothers and I used to sneak over to their houses to get our fix.) After all, it rots your brain and makes it leak out your ears. And look at Mike TV, poor kid. Things did not work out well for him.

I always assumed that I wouldn't permit my children to watch much of it either, but when 5 p.m. rolls around and you are trying to cook dinner and can't get the chicken/pasta/peas going without stepping on a 2-year-old, hot damn, TV is the BEST. Same goes for 8 a.m., except it's breakfast and getting dressed. Also, 2:30 p.m. and blog writing. Ugh, I have so many excuses, and right about now is when the guilt kicks in and I start listing all the great stuff my kids do that does not involve TV. Like eating! And sleeping! Also, sometimes we read words from these paper things that have pretty drawings. It's weird, because there's no screen, but the paper comes in handy when you have to stop brain leakage.

I maintain, however, that video games are the real devil. Only truly evil parents let their kids play video games. Obviously, I will never do that. Or at least not while the TV still works as a distraction.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tastes like Chicken

I love food. I love shopping for it, cooking it, reading about it, thinking about it and eating it. In fact, I love it so much that I kind-of want to marry it and then French kiss it a lot. Oh whoops, did I take that too far? Sorry. Where was I? Food. Yes. Yum.

I don't really know where the food passion/obsession came from, but I do know that my Mom is a fantastic cook, and I always felt like cooking was a big part of my life. (Except in college, when there was not so much cooking and more take-out. Specifically, chicken-cheese-steak subs and deep-dish pizza. Which explains why I look like I do in graduation photos. Thank you, Philly's Best.) For me, a perfect day would include a trip to a food market and an inspirational dinner out, at the least (also included: a lazy morning in with the with kids, a run, a manicure and winning the lottery.) I'll tell you what is NOT included: cooking kids' dinner.

OK, yes, I know I could do one meal for everyone and wouldn't that be more convenient and we could eat as a family and give ourselves time to digest instead of eating at 9pm all while teaching my children to eat real food and blah, blah, blah, please shut up now. But that is never, ever going to happen until the kids can stay up past 7:30 pm without turning into goblins and/or without ruining the precious few hours that husband and I have alone (which we spend in front of the TV, like nature intended.)

So kids' dinner at 5:30 it is, and it is a bitch. It's trying to make something healthy and vegetable-ful without giving them chicken, pasta and peas every single day. Sometimes we vary it up and do broccoli. Or rice if we want to be really crazy. Because M does not like meat (even if you call it chicken, and I am not above lying) and O does not like carrots. M does not like sauces or little bits of green things. O does not like eggs or ketchup. M does not like ham. O loves it. Luckily, both kids like sodium and high fructose corn syrup so baked beans are a win! We finish with yogurt.

Once you make the food, there is the daily battle of getting them to eat it within 45 minutes (M) and without putting it all over the table to see how it feels smeared on wood (O). Anyway, I think you get my point. And if you don't, feel free to come visit. Whoever gets the kids to eat curry gets to keep them. 

Next time: Join me as I try to explain to Husband why I've run away to live with a ball of fresh buffalo milk mozzarella and some delicious focaccia.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Mother's Day. Here are some antidepressants.

The builders are here, starting work on the conservatory we are adding to the back of the house. Which means that I will have to go out and buy more tea bags. I know it's a whole English cliche with builders and tea, but seriously, these guys have been through 4 pots since this morning, each cup with about 3 sugars, yet no one has been inside to go to the bathroom. So yeah, fingers crossed for the plants.

Luckily, the music selection is fantastic. I don't know what I was expecting, but so far they seem to be listening to a radio station that focuses on 70's/80's soft rock.  We heard "Everywhere" by Fleetwood Mac, "Hazard" by Richard Marx and something from Genesis. Next up: Simon and Garfunkel. The best part is that they are singing along. (I am not making this up. There is a guy on the deck crooning "Smooth Operator.")

Despite the great tunes, we are looking forward to having it completed. The decking out back is now off-limits, and due to a not-super-smart decision I made about not going to the playground, I'm now trying to keep the kids entertained inside without resorting to television.  So far this afternoon, we've played "Eating Kind-Of Junk-y Snacks That Are Labeled Healthy," "Hide the Coin in Your Mouth," and "Throwing the Ball at the TV - 10 Points if You Don't Scratch the Screen."

Speaking of television (Oh sweet, sweet television), apparently it's Mother's Day on Sunday. I found this out while watching a commercial selling DVDs that were suggested as Mother's Day gifts.  High on their list: The Lovely Bones. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this movie about someone's dead child? Because unless you are planning on accompanying that gift with a nice card decorated in Cymbalta, I might think twice about the purchase.  

OK, kids have moved on to "Remove the Cushions From the Couch and Jump Until Someone Starts Crying." Better go. Also, I have some errands to run, and I think Father's Day is also coming up soon. I bet Husband will love Dying Young.

Next time: How to speed up the job search process so that I can be back at work before potty training starts and therefore hand that odious task off to someone else.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Don't miss this post. It's deep and meaningful.

I'm back. Did you miss me? Wait. Don't answer that.

As I've been lying awake the past couple nights, fighting jet lag, I had some really great ideas for blog posts, so I made sure to jot down a few notes to remind myself of them once I had the chance to start typing things up. The notes read:

"we're back. survival. comfort of journey analogy? returning from family trip. travel experience with kids. bodily functions."

Um, OK. Those notes are not super helpful. Apparently one needs to be a little more descriptive in late-night note-taking (or else get some bigger paper, because the post-it was limiting.) Sorry to say that I now cannot remember a single word of the FABULOUSLY INTERESTING stories I was going to share, nor the DEEP AND MEANINGFUL INSIGHTS I had about our trip. However, I am pretty sure "bodily functions" refers to some sort of poop explosion (courtesy of O) and a taxi barf-fest (thank you, M.) So there you go.

But since we're on the topic of poop (sort-of), I need to ask a serious question.
What is the purpose of swim diapers? Because as far as I can tell those things do not work.

Problem 1: They don't retain liquids. I know this is unavoidable, and frankly, with the super absorbency of today's diapers, there is a serious risk that your child would immediately soak up all the pool water so that everyone else is left flailing in a puddle on the floor tiles while you stand there holding a baby with a bottom the size of Texas. But it's less of an issue than Problem 2.

Problem 2 (and this is truly unfortunate): They don't retain solids either. I mean, in THEORY they hold stuff in, so you are probably making your fellow swimmers feel better about sharing the pool with a small child. But in practice, that stuff dissipates faster than a group of teenagers at a kegger where the cops show up.
(I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to whoever was swimming at the hotel with us on Tuesday morning. Our bad.)
Am I missing something? Is there some sort of button I didn't fasten? Should I be using duct tape in conjunction with it? I just don't get it.


Overall, we had a really great time in New Orleans, and I'm sure I will remember more details as I get a few more posts up. Apparently there was some crazy lady in her pajamas in the lobby the first night, shouting at the manager to hurry up and get room service to deliver the warm milk we ordered 40 minutes ago because her kid was freaking out and if it doesn't show up soon she is going to SEND HIM DOWN TO THE FRONT DESK TO SLEEP WITH YOU. God. People are so unreasonable.

In other news, M took a close look at my teeth last night (as I was helping her brush hers) and said, "Mummy, your teeth sure are yellow." I thanked her and told her not to worry because I had a nice big glass of wine downstairs that would probably turn them purple instead. Kids are such gems.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drip...drip...drip...

Today was take 2 on removing the scaffolding from the back of our house. We are on our second roofing company, trying to repair a leak that drips water onto a space in the ceiling directly above our bed. Or more precisely, directly above my head as I lie there not sleeping. Because there is nothing like the sound of a leak to make me sit bolt upright at 2 a.m., turn on the light, wake up Husband and start freaking out about how the ceiling will probably cave in and all the books from the bookshelf on the floor above will come raining down on my head and kill me. Husband loves it when I do this. He is a sound sleeper and rational human being, so he appreciates the fact that I wake him up to participate in my paranoia.

Turns out, it rains a lot in England. So it was really in the best interest of married life to get this fixed, which our current roofer assures us has been done. We'll see. I guess I'll have to wait for another 10 minutes or so until it rains again to test it out.

Little O is obviously disappointed because the scaffolding is now gone, so he lost his backyard climbing frame. He really liked to scale the bars up to the 2nd floor. HA HA! I jest. Stop calling child services. We almost always caught him before he got to the eighth rung.

Now that the leak is "fixed" we can move on with our house plans, which include putting a conservatory onto the back so the kids can have a play room to put all their plastic crap toys in. Like many people in England we live in a "terraced" house, so space is at a premium. Terraced means sharing both side walls with our neighbors, like a town house. Houses that don't share any walls are called "selfish." No wait, I mean "detached." The fact that they have to name it gives you some sense of how rare it is.

Anyway, it will be nice to have a little bit more space downstairs so the living room can stop doubling as a Lego building factory/soft gym. (I ended up upholstering the coffee table, so now when M and O jump onto it from the couch, we don't have to take them to the emergency room.)

In other news, we are headed to the US in a couple days for my brother's wedding. Yahoo! We are all excited about what will surely be a great celebration. I, personally, am also very much looking forward to the long trans-Atlantic + connecting flights. It's always special when you get to combine your fear of flying with the joys of parenting two small children in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. In fact, I bet it will be almost as much fun as lying in bed listening to the leak.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

License to complain

Our insurance company just sent us our car insurance policy, which is helpfully renewed automatically without us needing to do anything. How nice of them. Except for the fact that they removed me from the policy last May, with no notice, so I've been driving around uninsured for 10 months. And now they won't put me back on until I get a UK driver's license. Which involves completely re-starting the driving process, COMPUTER TESTS, IN-CAR LESSONS AND ALL. Kill me now.

For whatever reason, the UK will not exchange a US license for a UK one. The crazy French and Italian drivers, sure! Come use our roads! But any US driver has to retake the test within 12 months of arriving here. It doesn't matter if you've been driving for 30 minutes or 30 years, you start from scratch.

I have a problem with this, because seriously? What's so wonderful about the system here? To begin with, EVERYONE IS DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD. You can't turn right on red, and they have these ridiculous zebra crossings where you have to stop at the whim of any pedestrian that feels like going to the other side of the road. You wouldn't want anyone to walk an extra 10 feet for an intersection. A large percentage of roads in our area are not even wide enough for 2 cars, yet they allow you to park on the sides. And don't even get me started on the location of the steering wheel.

It's all just so unreasonable.
Sigh.

OK. I feel better now, thanks. Sorry for the French and Italian shot. That was cheap. You guys are really great drivers.

Anyway, if you need me, I'll be on the bus. Or perhaps walking in a zigzag pattern back and forth across the street.