Monday, March 31, 2008

Meet and greet: Recaro

This Monday's meet and greet post is a confession that sometimes, just sometimes, Recaro and I don't understand each other.

All this time, I've been referring to him as Ricarro. I thought this was 'love language' for him being exciting and romatic.

For him, it was all about high performance racing seats. So high perfomance, that Recaro even provide 'sit training' for how to... wait for it... sit in your car. (Has it ever struck you that men sometimes overcomplicate things?)

Back to the name 'n' shame. I'm a bit shocked at this revelation. Where's the romance? Meanwhile, he's appalled at my terrible spelling of Ricarro and thinks it reeks of 'Rickeeee' and Eastenders.

In deference to it being his nickname, I'll now be referring to him as Recaro.

And lest you think I'm on the back foot, I'm not. As evidence of his slack attitude to parenting, I think the photos aptly demonstrate that he takes his responsibilities lying down.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pink: the conspiracy theory

I wasn't going to post today, but Ellie's just gone for a nap, Ricarro is at the DIY superstore... and I had to share this article with you; The tyranny of pink.

You don't have to be a mother of girl(s) to find this interesting.

The idea is that by nurturing the association of pink with the experience of being a girl, our daughters are being conditioned into being the ultimate consumers, responding to targeted marketing techniques like pavlov's dogs.

It does cost more to dress a girl in non-pink clothes. We've just splashed £45 on a pair of Camper shoes for Ellie, because we don't like the trashy, glittery pink shoes from Clark's. Our principles - and impeccable good taste - could be a costly business. 

At this stage, I'm pretending that I'm not going to worry too much about what Ellie says she wants to wear. I tell myself, 'I'm the adult. I'm the one making the decisions.' (He he. I'm that kind of fool.)

Despite all my feminista intentions, Ellie still favours the pink toys. Bearing in mind that she's not going to pre-school and doesn't watch TV on a regular basis, I'm surprised to see such a strong preference already.

I'm not going to give up though. I'm going into battle on this one.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Having a Swale time

This weekend's adventure was to Oare Marshes. Once the site of a WW2 ammunition factory, it's now a nature reserve. It's a remote-ish site on the north Kent coast which overlooks the Swale - a stretch of the Thames Estuary between Kent and the Isle of Sheppey.

Apart from a few concrete blocks, there's little left to signify its WW2 use. Now it's a low-lying, marshy, green area. Lots of wading birds, ducks and occasional swans.

Today we spotted avocets on the foreshore. A couple of egrets flew over the marshes; once mostly known as birds featuring in Egyptian hieroglyphics, these are frequently found around the UK coastline. Out in the Swale, we could just about distinguish the zany crests of three red-breasted mergansers.

We walked along the sea wall to a bird hide. Ellie was supposed to tuck into her pain au chocolate, a Saturday treat, but it turns out she's like her mum and dad and can't resist dunking chipolatas in ketchup. Luckily for us she didn't try and take our very runny boiled eggs.

Ellie hitched a ride in the baby-carrier to get back to the car. Walking into the wind would be too much even for our tough cookie.

She fell asleep on the way home and missed out on farm shop fun. Here's a photo of an asparagus field - I'm looking forward to asparagus season and taking a photo of this later in the year when it starts to look bristly with spears. 

Ellie didn't get to see the car being attacked by a noisy honking goose. Not the best photo perhaps, but you get the  picture.
At home, I thought she'd only sleep another 20 minutes, so I waited with her. Two hours later after we both had a lovely nap, we went into the house for some more rampaging about in her favourite wellingtons.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Zapping the energy sappers

Four months before I went back to work, I went on a life coaching course. A bunch of 4 mothers (children ranging from 8 months to 16 years) would get together and be challenged to think in new, healthier ways about our lives.

One big lesson I remembered was to deal with the tasks left undone. It's easy to 'remember' the lesson; it's something else to really 'learn' it.

Those chores and awkward jobs can just drain my energy. The danger is that my self esteem could be depleted if I start telling myself things like:
  • I'm just no good at this kind of thing.
  • I'm no good at getting organised.
  • I'm just not good enough.
As you can tell this would be an unhelpful thought pattern to fall into. I'm interested to hear what strategies you have for dealing with these thoughts if and when they occur. 

My preference would be to do two things:
  • Take 5 minutes a day to sit and meditate. (Five minutes for a mum is difficult enough so I don't set silly expectations of 20 minute meditations). Be alone, be quiet. Clear my mind. Find some personal space in my head. If a thought comes into my head, I'd visualise pushing it away as if it's a fluffy white cloud. By the way, this isn't about prayer - I do that as well, but I don't confuse it with meditation. 
  • Write down self affirmations about being a compassionate loving person, not worrying what others think and believing in my goals. I would say these to myself every day (there is a view that these should be spoken to a mirror every day, but that makes me feel weird).
And after that... well, there's plenty after that. 

In the meantime, I'm spotting the early signs that I've got some unfinished tasks to deal with. I don't want them to build into anything bigger and more energy-sapping. So here's what I'm going to tackle in the next fortnight:
  • Arrange a babysitter for a fun night out next Saturday
  • Book a haircut and rely on Ricarro to look after Ellie (it's been six months).
  • Update the family budget and discuss it with Ricarro.
  • Arrange dates for seeing my folks.
  • Get running, sit-upping, press-upping etc again. It's been too cold and windy for running lately but now I'm on a three month countdown to my next bikini moment.
Did you see that I don't have my tax return on that list. I'm so proud of myself for getting that done on time this year. 

That's another life coaching lesson - reward yourself for the good stuff, pats self on back ;).

HAIKU! Bless you.

The ever-resourceful Reluctant Housewife has put out a haiku challenge.

SaraLynn at Love and marriage has been quick off the mark with her response. She's also taken a moment to consider how to write a haiku.

Unlike me, she didn't throw herself at the challenge without thinking, 'say, is there anything more I could learn about this first. This way I could do it right and know a bit more than when I started.'

Well there you have it. One fine example of how tell me and SaraLynn apart.

I've now read up on haikus. Developing a willingness to learn from other people is another important life skill, after all. Thank you SaraLynn for showing me the way.

So now, a haiku about my life:

Seeking laughter I
wed Ricarro - seaside
home with Ellie-belle.

I like to think this sums up how every weekend is a holiday, that having fun is a driving force in our marriage, living by the sea gives year round pleasure and our lovely town is a great place to bring up sunny-natured, Ellie-belle.

Any other takers for haiku challenge?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Life lessons from celebrity mums

Ever wondered how you'd make it as a celebrity mum? I expect I'd have to learn very weird make-up tips like how to wear false eyelashes on a daily basis - surely this is a step too far for any normal mother. If you are a false eyelash wearing mother, please tell me. I'm fascinated to know 

a) why you bother?
b) how long you spend on make up every day?
c) how you find time to blog as well?

The reality is that somethings will be true for us all. You could still find yourself stepping out with a cartoon character. As our Vicky shows, no matter how much va va voom you can muster on your own account, you will be outdone by your off spring's preferred get up. It happens to Vicky B, it happens to Working Mum.

Those meltdown moments of forgotten essentials, embarrassing faux pas, PMS or public displays of temper tantrums all fail to compare to the humiliation Heather Mills has to deal with. The legal judgment on her divorce settlement was made public and like her or loathe her, she has to find a way of eating humble pie while showing her daughter that it's important to keep your head up and remember your finer, stronger, better qualities.

If there's one thing she has to teach her daughter - it's how to deal with other people thinking they know all about you. 

Most research appears to show that parenting is easier if there's two of you working together. But what if you are Katie Holmes and your other half is a sofa jumping, Tom 'It's a blast' Cruise.

I hope Katie is the mum who will one day write the book on how to keep it real for her daughter and make her man feel like a god (not sure the second part of this is really a good idea) - while all the time wearing 4 inch heels.

Phew, what a relief I didn't marry my teenage, film star crush. Not that it was a near miss or anything. 

The ease of overdosing under twos

Six cough medicines are being permanently removed from the shelves in the UK:

They are Asda children's chesty cough syrup, Calcough chesty and Boots chesty cough syrup one year plus.

Also, Children's chesty cough and Boots sore throat and cough linctus one year plus and Buttercup infant cough syrup.

Parents are being urged to stick to paracetamol and ibuprofen medicines, vapour rubs and simple cough syrup such as glycerol, honey or lemon.

The problem is that the packaging doesn't give clear enough guidance on the correct dosage for under twos. Apparently this is less of a problem in the US, where packaging has already been improved for this type of product.

What's a good mum to do?

For four days a week, Ellie is looked after by Lisa. In this age of angst, I know I must beat my maternal breast with guilt and anxiety that my child is not getting the attention, stimulation, care and nutrition that only a stay at home mum can provide.

When I look at the evidence, I can see that I have every right to be concerned.

I see that Ellie has a complete disregard for the mess and confusion that shredded paper brings to her life.
Clearly she doesn't understand the serious implications of not protecting your identity. And as for the flagrant waste of paper, I'm almost speechless.
Her creative energies are not being channelled effectively. She's having to resort to imaginative play with another child. Where is all the proper painting equipment when she wants it.
And what about a little humility. In my day, I'm sure we never celebrated special days with such overblown gestures of love and affection.
And as for her table manners. It's practically rude to enjoy your food that much.
She seems to be trying new things everyday. At this rate, how is she ever going to focus on a single task and learn to speak fluent mandarin by the age of five.
She's obviously missing me. I've made a terrible childcare decision.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Page 123, 5th sentence

I have been tagged by Reluctant Housewife at Adventures of the reluctant housewife.

It’s a book meme.

Here are the rules:
  • Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages.

  • Open the book to page 123.

  • Find the 5th sentence.

  • Post the next 3 sentences.

  • Tag 5 people.

Those who read Reluctant's blog will be disappointed to learn that my book is not about menstruation taboos in matrilineal versus patrilineal societies. Instead, the book I’ve picked up is She may not leave by Fay Weldon. I have not read more than the first page of this book before giving it up as a very bad job indeed.

In my single life, I used to like Fay Weldon books and enjoy their Brothers Grimm-fairy tale quality. Villains were writ large and manipulative, protaganists were puny and were compelled to toughen up if they were to survive the story.

But now I’m married and have a baby I am made emotionally uncomfortable with the plots of unhappy marriages, lost children, depression and powerlessness. I started reading Madame Bovary more than six months ago and can’t bring myself to finish it.

I was given this book by my sister-in-law who thought I’d enjoy it. Given that the book is about a new mother returning to work and seeing her husband leave her for the au pair (taking her child with her, horrors) – I was pretty appalled. She’d been handed it by her daughter-in-law – a full-time mum therefore less troubled by childcare nightmares. I was reassured to be told by the daughter-in-law that she agreed it wasn't a great book choice for me.

So when I turn to page 123, 5th sentence:

'I wonder if I really want to have a baby,’ Babs says. ‘I don’t want not to have one but then I think of the reality and my heart sinks.’ Alastair has taken her back, on condition that they start a family. He has shown her pictures of himself as a child, and as a young man before his neck thickened, when he was really not so bad looking.

See. Dreadful. Gloomy. Full of unattractive people. I really have to give this to the chazza*.

On to the tagging; like Reluctant I am very shy of tagging people. But, just watch, I'm gonna do it. (I realise I'm holding my breath. How odd).

Beth at Children or Not

CC at If only I had superpowers

Don Mills Diva

Mr D at The adventures of Mr D

Jakelliesmom at I invented motherhood

And for those of you just taking a look – here's a question for you. What’s the worst present (book or otherwise) that you've ever been given?

*charity shop

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The ultimate toy test

In my time before motherhood, I thought children's toys were cute. Best if they were wooden, sometimes tacky in plastic.

I loathed pink toys.

Now - I have real, tried and tested opinions. Now - I can see a toy at 5o yards and know whether or not I'm going to give it houseroom.

Where once I thought toys were all for the child, experience has taught me the hard way that not all toys have the same effect on ME.

Take these simple shape puzzles. They look cute don't they? But don't be deceived. These drive me crazy. To tell the truth, Ellie might be a bit too young for these. But I'm really struggling to spend time helping her play with them.

I just want to take the pieces out of her hands and put them in place. 'There! It goes there!' I scream inwardly as she continues trying to stuff a train upside down into the bus hole.

Honestly, I don't scream at Ellie. Outwardly, I am a picture of patience and fortitude. I stop play with these before I get out of hand.

The other grievous sin these puzzles commit is their uncanny knack for getting separated. This causes my OCD to kick in. At the end of the day, I can't rest until I've tracked down that last rocking horse piece.

Fortunately at that challenging moment, Ellie will want me to read her a story.

Smiley Shark is her favourite. And it's mine too. 

See, I'm not a complete ratbag. 

'Smiley Shark is the smiliest and sunniest, the friendliest and funniest, the biggest and toothiest of all the fish in the sea'. I think I could recite the whole book.

It's got a lovely lyrical way to the story. And there's a bit of screaming and shouting and hurrahing to do as well. I put on quite a show. Also it's reading aloud. Wow. Do I love the sound of my own voice.

I've stashed the next toys away for a while. Shape sorters involve sitting patiently with Ellie, surreptitiously turning the block so that she can get the shapes in.

As you can tell from the puzzles, I don't have much patience for this.

One of them was bought for Ellie by a childless friend who is now pregnant. I'm going to give her a couple of these. Just to see how she likes it.

I did manage to get more creative about musical toys. I've put her rainmaker, glockenspiel (don't you love that word - so what if it's a xylophone?), recorder, maracas and ten green bottle, cherry bun and little pig gloves all together in her 'music box'.

This encourages me to get singing and making a noise with her. It also gets visitors interested too. For some reason, everyone feels compelled to say 'Ooh, a recorder'. Is stating the bleedin' obvious a very British thing or is it international?

Incidentally, I've even tried looking up tips on how to play the recorder. Though I did this at school, it's now beyond me to master the breathing. I wonder if it's an instrument strangely suited to little lungs.
The most amazing toy is Mr Potatohead. I was too old for these when they first came out, but I still had a hankering to own one.

Ricarro bought this. It's made me so happy!

I can sit there playing with Ellie and Mr P for an hour at a time.

Clearly she's not very 'good' at it. But I like to think she's not bound by the same conventions as the rest of us. Long may that odd, creative flow continue.

Finally - a pink toy. Our fabulous Rose bought this scarey dolls house for Ellie.

I once thought I'd hate a toy like this. But it's a gift that keeps on giving.

There's plenty of funny noises and moving parts. I can play with Ellie at this house, so can her dad and visitors can't keep their hands off it.

Best of all, if I have to leave Ellie playing on her own, I can be in the next room and hear that she's playing with this. Very reassuring and in the end, I've never minded that it was so plastic and so pink.

Research on blogging mums

I've got plenty of reasons for blogging and I'm sure you have too. This link is for a phd research questionnaire on why you blog. 

You're going to click it, aren't you?  You can't help yourself.

BlogRhet: Help An Academi-Mom

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's not all about meme

Working Mum tagged me for a meme. Thank you!

There have been a few of these around just lately. I put it down to the continuing inspiration and excitement of the 5 minutes for mum blog party.

I've been struggling for seven unusual (and somehow funny or interesting) facts. I ran dry after the fact that my little finger is crooked because of injury while playing second row in my university's womens rugby 'B' team. 

As injuries go, I am only too aware how pathetic that one is, but I like to think it makes me sound very robust when I explain how pleased I was when a paramedic on the opposition team relocated my dislocated finger so that I could finish the game.

Since I've recently talked up Ricarro, I feel a need to redress the balance. I thought it would be a good idea to slightly alter the terms of the meme and make it about seven good, bad and ugly things about this man in my life;

1. He thinks its important to buy flowers for the house and regularly buys gerberas for our pod pots and the tall glass vase by the TV.

2. He enjoys cooking and will clean up after himself (eventually. if I ignore the mess for long enough). Yet somehow he has to leave the worktops soaking wet with suds everywhere. I don't get this - because he bothers to buy flowers for the kitchen, yet doesn't think to leave it tidy and dry??

Here's a few photos of recent kitchen purchases (salt cellar, giant butter dish and sieves) that are currently making him happy;

3. He thinks it's funny to scratch me in bed with his toes. Especially when his toenails need to be cut. Troll toes, yuk.

I'm not going to show you a picture of his toes. No matter how much you beg.

4. He doesn't listen when I'm letting him know when my mum is coming to town. He insists I haven't told him when we are going out to dinner with mum - even if I've told him three times. I had to tell him three times because although his eyes were open and he was looking directly at me, I knew he wasn't listening.

5. He thinks No.4 is hilarious. 

6. He doesn't think a man should ever look in a lady's handbag and he always walks on the outside of the pavement when he's walking with a woman.

7. He doesn't always buy women drinks when he's in the pub; only pretty ones.

To continue altering the meme, I'm not going to pass this on directly. Instead - I'd be very happy if each person who reads this would send the meme about 'a man in your life' to another blogger. Or you might just want to save the idea and use it yourself whenever you like.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Losing control

I have an on-going theme of trying not to feel I should control every situation. Today I have to say this approach is paying dividends.

At first you might expect this to be about Ellie. On this occasion, she's doing her toddler thing. She wants my glass of juice. And has to hold the glass herself. Relax I tell myself. Let her have a go. It's okay I think, I'll get it back in a moment. But then she dunks her hot cross bun in. Soggy. Then! She goes on to finish all my juice. Little stinker.

Of course she's not a little stinker really. We had a big family lunch yesterday and she made me very proud with her self-feeding. She's also getting good at saying 'bless you' whenever someone sneezes.

But the person who's really taking up the slack when I want to let go of control is Ricarro. Here's the evidence. This weekend he has:
  • spent time with my family over two days. They aren't hardwork, but nonetheless...
  • done the weekly shopping, including buying presents for cousins, aunt and stepmum.
  • driven us all to visit my aunt, uncle, cousins, dad and stepmum. And enjoyed it.
  • gone to IKEA to buy Ellie a mammut table. Made the table up the same day.
  • given me a heart shaped box of chocolates for Easter.
  • is now cooking lunch for us and friends later. He's making up a fish stock - doing a proper job too - for a fish pie. Once the pie is done, he'll make treacle sponge for pudding and a coffee and walnut cake - because he wants to.
  • is loving using his new kitchen equipment - his new sieves (one for flour etc, the other is a conical, tin man type - he was upset that Ellie had stood on the old one) and salt cellar (he calls it a 'salt pig').
  • taking a break from cooking now and then to juggle for Ellie. 
I don't fancy trying to find out how to do an on-line vote. So instead please comment and answer one or more of the following questions;
  1. Why would anyone want to stay in control when this is what happens when you don't?
  2. Would you give him a medal or tell him to try harder?
  3. Do you think I should be suspicious?
  4. How many minutes will this idyll last till he goes to the pub?
By the way, if you are wondering what I'm doing - well I'm blogging. Ellie's in her high-chair dancing along to the Funk.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Right brained, left-handed: Part II

This is what I found on the Anything Left-handed web site for Alex - K's daugher.

It's been very well received. Thank you for all your comments on this.

Taking your advice, the message seemed to be that if your child has the relevant left-handed tools, learning to write, draw and cut is not a problem.

So now Alex has scissors, pencil sharpener (didn't know these could be left or right-handed!), chubby pencils with grooves to guide the child into the correct position, a writing template for them to trace over the letters and a guide to explain how lefties form letters differently.

K is in the last week's of pregnancy and wasn't up to schlepping round the shops to find these things. She's also admitting to having a very soft preggers brain - which explains why she didn't think of looking on the internet. I'm trusting that none of you will give her a hard time for this - she's my friend after all.

K and her husband both love their books. They don't want to get hot and bothered over writing skills though because they think it might put Alex under unnecessary pressure. This has been great for getting all three of them interested in working on it.

Needless to say though - K predicts all paper in the house will be shredded within the week!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Maternal desire

I've just got time for a short post. I'm off on a family day to Canterbury Cathedral and lunch at my favourite, family-friendly pub. The Abode Tavern feeds under 5s for free - and it's real food too. What a bargain.

This is to tell you about 'Maternal Desire' by Daphne du Marneffe.

The book has been next to my bed for about two years now. While I was pregnant I found this book to be the most useful in helping me think about the type of mum I wanted to be.

There's no single best way to be a mother. What I liked about this book is the way it placed the desire to mother, nuture, and care for a child right alongside a clear sense of self.

Since having Ellie, I've continued to find it helpful in the way is discusses the role of fathers. When she discusses dealing with boredom and frustration, I don't feel she's saying there's a right way to deal with these things but she does encourage taking time to consider what drives and causes these feelings.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter eggs rock - obviously

I've had reports from the childminder that Ellie has been doing well at Easter Egg Hunts. After taking a moment to understand what's required she soon had no problems learning to grab two piles of eggs, one with each hand.

This is great news for me. She came home with a little Easter bag, stuffed full of her egg hunt finds. Since I think she's too small to eat mini-eggs, it falls to me to eat her chocolate swag. Yes, I am a selfless mother.

Apparently she'll be doing some egg rolling later today. No. I don't know what that means either. I just smiled and said 'Ooh, that sounds fun'. If she ends up rolling down Marine Parade slopes, I'm a bit worried she might pick up too much speed (velocity, that is. Not class B drugs).

But enough of my Easter enthusiasm, here's my meme response to SaraLynn at the Happy Baker. I hope you enjoy.

What I was doing 10 years ago: Aged 27. I'd 'met' my husband at the staff Christmas party and had only just gone 'public'. We'd been working together for three years.

5 Things on my To Do List today:
  1. Get Ellie to her childminder's house in a chilled out frame of mind - CHECK

  2. Chatted to - and remembered to pay - Rose, my fabulous cleaning and ironing lady. Every mum should have a Rose. - CHECK

  3. Met my very important work deadline for a proposal I'm writing. If I don't get this done, I should probably expect to lose my job. Can you feel the fear? - CHECK phew. I feel sooo happy to have done this.

  4. Collected Ellie at the earliest opportunity so that I can have loads of fun at bath and bed time with her.

  5. Settled the babysitter within 5 mins of her arrival - and disappeared out to Mum who's visiting this Good Friday. No room here, I get her to stay at a lovely hotel up the road - everyone's a winner!

Snacks I Enjoy:

Yours. Honestly, whatever you are eating, I'll want them. I think that's got everything covered.

Things I would do if I were a Billionaire (didn't this question used to be about millionaires - that's inflation for you):

  1. Pay off the credit cards

  2. Stop paid work and start work at home

  3. Give Rose a pay rise

  4. Buy Ricarro a boat. Not a big one. I don't want him to sail away too far.

  5. Buy a bigger house so that I can have three children! Yes. I want to be mad too.

3 of my Bad Habits:

  1. I drive too fast. I'd call it speeding, but that's such a dirty word...

  2. I can't leave a question unanswered. I feel compelled to find an answer to every problem - I try to at least tell people when I'm making something up!

  3. An open bottle of wine is an empty bottle of wine. You know what I'm saying.

The last 5 places I have lived:

  1. Whitstable - a brilliant seaside town

  2. Highgate - in fashionable north London

  3. Queens Park - west London. Both flatmate and I were mugged and then burgled. We moved to Highgate.

  4. St Albans - a lovely cathedral city

  5. Bahrain - the best of the Gulf states

5 Jobs I have had:

  1. Lane attendant at a bowling alley (ha ha. Shoe jockey!)

  2. Lifeguard (I was once soooo fit)

  3. Air stewardess (jet set while paying off student loan)

  4. Recruitment consultant (This was not my calling)

  5. Marketing and PR manager (I like this one most)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another route to creativity

I wanted to share this photo with you.
Check out that furrowed brow. You really wouldn't want to see me get cross, would you? 

This is me trying to teach myself to crochet. It was a couple of months before Ellie was born and I wanted to be able to make things for her.

I made a really rubbish scarf. Crochet really isn't 'easy' and if you can do it - I hope you are very proud of yourself!

Fortunately, any concerns for my lack of creativity (mostly) fell away when I had Ellie. I remember looking at her when she was a week or two old and thinking, 'this is why there aren't many female composers, chess grandmasters or major artists - this is the most brilliant, creative ''thing" I have ever "done".'

Now my creative concerns have more to do with taking photos of special moments. Like these shoes. 
Ellie is close to growing out of these and I felt compelled to take a photo to remember how cute the shoes are. I know I can keep the shoes - but I want to remember her funny pink socks in them as well. Incidentally, Ellie has a lovely swishy way of whispering 'shoes'.

I also love that 'O' of wonder I see on her face every now and then. Like seeing our friends' ducks and chickens up close.

I get such a kick out of seeing her enjoy everything the world's got to offer. So my creativity is more focussed on finding opportunities to do some simple fun stuff.

And to make sure she needn't get to upset along the way, we now have a total of six pink ducks. Friends keep buying us extras of her favourite cuddly. Here's four of them looking suitably 'distressed'. Not sure distressing ducks can be classed as creative, but I'm spending plenty of thinking-time working out how best to schedule their rotation...

Right brain, left handed

I was talking to my best pal, K, about her daughter. She's nearly four years old and very bright. Great speech. Everything seems to be going well.

K is very pregnant right now. Her little girl is making all the right empathy noises and is proving to be very helpful at going upstairs to get things or picking things off the floor for her mum.

The main difficulty that seems to be holding her daughter back is being left-handed. She's getting easily frustrated with the whole writing and drawing malarkey and hates trying to cut things with right-handed scissors.

She's very happy about the imminent arrival of a sibling, but I predict that any frustrations with writing/drawing/craft activities will be made worse after a few months of a small baby diverting her mum's attention.

I thought this would be a good time to try and find a pair of left handed children's scissors. Have you got any tips for where I can find these - and any other tactics for helping left handed children with writing and drawing?

Monday, March 17, 2008

My child genius

I'm touched to think that I've convinced some of you of my child's genius. But I've got to come clean. Ellie is also given to running round in circles modelling the latest bucket head look.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My amazing daughter

I don't want to always post about how tough it is being a mum. Or how challenging my child is. Because the truth is, I'm not finding her difficult right now. She must be saving it up for when she's a teenager.

I know I'll get my comeuppance. Until then, I want to brag about her. Go on - admit it - you think your child is amazing too, don't you?

Here's the thing.

I am a creature of habit and have a very repetitive bath and bed routine for Ellie. Part of this, involves putting Ellie in the same room as our dangerous and prickly cat, Jodie, while I run the bath in the adjoining room. 
Jodie is not impressed by Ellie and usually wants to leave the room after a minute or two. Unsurprisingly she doesn't appreciate being chased by a random, spontaneous 18-month old who doesn't understand that 'hiss' means 'no'. However, because of the stairs nearby, I close the door and shut them in together (with a big bed between them).

I reckon I have time to run the bath before letting Jodie out. While I'm in the bathroom, I hear the door open. I call to Ellie to come back in*. As I walk back in the room, Ellie's walking away from the door and there's no sign of Jodie. She's just let Jodie out and shut the door again. 

Now, I think this is amazing behaviour, indicative of deep understanding of what I do and empathy for the cat.

Okay, okay. You are thinking, 'durr, you're her mother, you would think that'.

Yeah, well - after her bath she picks up my Gina Ford book, 'Contented baby to confident child' to leaf through. I think she's taking it all in by osmosis.

*No stair gate at the top. I am relying on my Voice of Authority. Hey, no laughing at the back.

Power corrupts

and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Check out this excellent post of how men look when they get caught.

The Mom Bomb: Client 9? Bill Clinton is Calling and He Wants His Face Back.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's all about meme

Blogging has been a revelation. I had no idea there were so many people writing on-line. It feels like stepping into this mobile, shifting community of thoughts and opinions.

Excitingly, the Reluctant Housewife has tagged me for a meme. She's lovely, you should go visit her if you haven't already. I like to imagine bloggers gravitate towards people they like and share common values with - it's not just about common interests. Check out my strangely inspired list of favourite blogs.

Anyhoo, in response to RW, here are five facts about me:

1. I love to travel. As soon as I finished my A levels (aged 18), I went on very long holidays with friends. I spent 10 weeks in India, 4 weeks in western Turkey, 2 months in western Europe. After university, I was desparate to travel but despaired of saving the cash. So I put on my friendliest, bubbliest manner and became an air hostess with Gulf Air. I lived in Bahrain for 11 months and enjoyed stopovers in Sydney, Melbourne, Tanzania, Thailand, India, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Paris and Athens. Since I quit stewardessing (aged 22) my travels haven't been quite so exotic, though I've managed to go to Egypt, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, France, Greece, Sicily (honeymoon), Scotland and Wales. The Ellie-effect is that we are exploring places a little closer to home... this weekend we are visiting Ricarro's goddaughter in Cornwall. We are hoping for good weather. Ha ha.

2. Did you notice the travel omission? I still haven't been to the Americas. At all. I just can't decide where to begin. Options under consideration include - west coast glamour of San Diego and San Francisco - New England for lobsters and history (yes yes, I know other places have history too) - Florida for hemingway, everglades and NASA - cowboy desert adventures - cowboy rockies adventures - Wickininnish Inn for whale watching - New York (of course) - Seattle to see my cousin and his English pub. Where do you think I should go first?

3. I can't bake cakes. I can rustle up fabulous dinners and can make even simple meals look good. I can bake apple pies, quiches, banana loaf. I can make fudge and creme brulee. Even my omelettes and tortillas are pretty fantastic. Cake defeats me. It always comes out heavy, dense and inedible. It's such a shame because I love the stuff. Happily, I have Ricarro can step in to fill the skills gap.

4. I love reading. Anything and everything. If there's a new book or a newspaper in the house, I can't rest till I've read it. Once I took 11 books on a one-week holiday and still had to borrow more from the hotel library. My reading habit drives Ricarro nuts, however post-Ellie I am inevitably reading A LOT LESS.

5. I love it when people think I'm smart. It's a very egotistical character trait. It gives me a buzz when people think I've nailed a problem and seen a solution others can't. I love pub quizzes, especially for the politics and history questions. (I have a BA Hons in politics and love political philosophy... eek, nerd alert!) This is all very well... but it gets worse. Because I can't bear leaving a question unanswered I find it hard to resist making up answers to the stuff I don't know. I can be very convincing. Shockingly, I am learning from experience that I can - sometimes - be wrong. It's proving to be a very tough lesson to learn.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Three beautiful things

You may well have seen this before, but it's worth revisiting. Three beautiful things is a blog originating in my part of the world. It's a lovely notion to acknowledge three beautiful things every day.

Here's mine:

1. Waking up to cuddles with Ellie. Ricarro goes to get her up and bring her to me in bed (I harbour dreams of being cleopatra or perhaps just the queen of sheba). She's soft and cosy in her all-in-one pyjamas, drinking her morning milk on my lap.

2. Seeing a patch blue sky out of the bedroom window. After driving rain and crazy wind, it's refreshing to see lighter skies again.

3. Watching Ellie giving her daddy a kiss - on request - and waving him 'bahbye' as he goes off to work.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blog update

There have been a couple of not so obvious changes to my blog and I think I should publicise these - in the hope that I have blog-stalkers who've not yet declared themselves.

The first is that I've opened up comments to anyone, anonymous and all. Comments are the life blood of good blogs - and have been the main way in which I've met other bloggers. I believe comments are a 'good thing'. In the event that I discover they can be a 'bad thing' I shall delete them from my blog forthwith!

If anyone thinks a post or a comment is offensive. Let me know. I'll play judge.

The second change is - ah well, there's no second change - but if you want me to post on something (ie. if you want MY opinion) say so and I'll get around to it. 

So in the spirit of responding to questions... let's hear it for Amanda! Sheeee wants to know if my husband, AKA Ricarro is in fact latino and therefore gorgeously handsome.

Well. No and yet strangely, yes. He's not latino. He is, of course, gorgeously handsome, funny, charming and sophisticated (apart from when he plays golf twice a week). His blog name is only a reference to the creed he lives by - 'I'm a lover not a fighter'. He has other beliefs and values that I look forward to sharing with you one day - but let's not use all my blog ideas up in one post.

Shocked top four

I started off thinking I'd write a list of 10 things that shock me today, but I've only got 4 genuine ones. It's important to keep things real and to keep things short, so hear we have it, today's FOUR shocking discoveries...

At number 4, the Happy Baker's recipe for fried ravioli. Cooked cheese ravioli, dipped in a pecan and cheese coating and then fried for a couple of minutes either side. Served with another sauce. I'm not entirely sure what to make of this. Am I in awe at her risque, experimental approach to fine dining, or am I appalled at this brutal treatment of soft little ravioli parcels? Feedback on this would be really helpful.

Number 3, just how windy and rainy is it today? Ellie loves feeling the wind in her face, but even she reeled in shock as she was felt the full force of a northerly wind on her way to the car this morning.

2. Zimbabwe. I read in this morning's paper about mothers' fears for her to feed their children, how they hope they don't get ill - because the hospitals can do nothing to help. This should be higher than number 8 on this list. Why isn't it? Because the thought of this situation is terrifying and I freeze at thinking about it for too long. I'll have to salve my conscience with a donation - but how to donate to Zimbabwe where corruption is rife. Feedback on this would be really helpful too.

And at number 1, just how low both Ricarro and I felt yesterday. After a great morning, we were exhausted in the afternoon. He went to play golf... for the second time this weekend.... ggrrrrr... and I went for a walk with the small girl. It rained, it poured. Everyone got grumpy. (Well apart from Ellie. That's the power of a brand new Mr Potatohead for you.) We both ran out of imaginative Ellie-energy at the same time. Also our dinner plans went awry, because we hadn't bought the right ingredients. We did get ourselves back on track by evening - but it's not a great feeling when you feel you aren't working together like the well-oiled parenting machine!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday morning adventures

Each weekend we aim to have at least one adventure with Ellie.

Today's choice was a picnic breakfast on the beach at Stone Bay in Broadstairs. From Ellie waking at 6am, it took us till 9am to leave the house. I have no idea why it took us so long. And we still forgot to take her bucket and spade.

It was fantastic to walking down 'the 39 steps' (it's where it was filmed) with Ellie clutching my and Ricarro's hands. With each step she let out a little squeak and was giggling by the time we reached the promenade.

After woofing at a few dogs and trying to run into the sea, Ellie sat down between us at the foot of the chalk cliffs. While she tucked into her baby snacks, we ate boiled eggs, bacon sandwiches and chipolatas. 

The morning sunshine was fast disappearing behind gloomy clouds. So once the last drop of coffee was drunk we packed up and made our way back up to the car. 

Along the way, we met a 6 year old girl called Olivia. She was desperate to make friends with Ellie - she had to pat Ellie's head. You know they way little girls have to touch babies, as if to check what they feel like?

Olivia's dad was walking her huge alsation dog behind us. She explained to us very seriously that her dog was called Gatsby, 'after The Great Gatsby'.

Back at the road, we all went our separate ways, with Ellie stopping to turn back every 10 yards to wave and shout 'Babbye'.

I'm very glad to post about this because Ricarro then raced back home so that he could go out and play (golf) with his mates. This left me feeling a bit grumpy... but now Ellie is napping. I have the house to myself and I'm now quite chirpy at this bit of 'empty' time to read the paper and drink tea!

Friday, March 7, 2008

No fear of a duckless future

No. There's no typo in that heading, but I'll come back to that in a moment. But first, let me say that on Fridays in particular, I am filled with admiration for professional mothers. (Professional mothers: the ones that do the job full-time with no social breaks for paid work etc).

Fridays are very odd days for me. After four days of being organised, planning meals, washing clothes and getting out of the house by 8am - or even 6.30am some days, I find it really hard to slow down for life with Ellie.

So on a Friday morning - when my time is blissfully my own to spend with L'il Lovely as I please - I find that I have done the supermarket shopping by 9am. Why? What did I have to prove?

Once back home, I'm at a loss for how to entertain her till lunchtime. She starts to get fractious and I think she must be tired. I put her to bed for a pre-lunch sleep at 10am. Surely this is too early for a 17-month old. It makes me feel bad to do that and I wonder if have enough imagination for this motherhood lark.

At least she goes on to sleep for two hours. Perhaps she needed it after all. 

The afternoon is a bit tougher as a result. She doesn't need to sleep by then, but at at least I've slowed my pace down to match her.

Back to the duckless future - I have great news. Tesco (dear overseas readers, Tesco is a supermarket) is selling fluffy pink ducks for Easter. 
These ducks cost just £2 and I've bought two.

I expect you are wondering why expect anyone to care about this. But don't you see? This cheap yet sinister, pink monstrosity was given to Ellie by her aunt last year and is now her favourite cuddly. As we all know, cheap toys will always be a small child's favourite - no matter how many chic rabbits and cute teddies we might try and charm them with.

Rather disturbingly, I am planning a course of duck-distressing so the spares all look more or less like the worn-out original. 
I know this love of cheap toys won't last forever. You'll think I'm cheap, but I was pretty pleased to see her playing a cup and pebble for half an hour this morning... 

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In the spirit of ying and yang

A 17 year old stood up and gave me his seat on the train. I can't tell you how unusual this is, but maybe he thought I looked knackered. After all, I was loaded down with handbag, workbag and two carrier bags (tonight's dinner). Oh yes. I can really work that smart, career woman, commuter look.

I don't think I looked pregnant. (I'm not and that's okay too, by the way).

On the downside, Ellie did wee on my dress this morning. Nice. I didn't have time to change but could only rinse it quickly.

I don't think I smelt of pee all day. To say I would have preferred to have used her toothbrush by mistake is putting it mildly.

Diary, diary

There's the office blackberry, my hardcopy diary, the noticeboard and my head.

Clearly, the greater strategic plan of diary planning, plus my desire to do all the FUN stuff, was going to come unstuck.

I don't have a problem with that, but why does double-booking and having to cancel a load of plans have to make me feel so stoopid. It's just a mistake, after all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Yorkshire pudding and golden syrup

This is Ricarro's (Love-of-my-Life takes too long to type) idea of a tea time snack for Ellie (aka L'il Lovely).

To the uninitiated, Yorkshire pudding is very odd stuff. Made out of a very eggy batter, it is baked in an oven so it puffs up around the edges. It is served with roast beef, vegetables and plenty of gravy.

Ellie had slept through Sunday lunch. So at tea time, I gave her a cold Yorkshire pudding while I cooked up her main meal. This was a mistake. She fell in love with the Yorkshire's and refused anything else.
This was the point when Ricarro poured golden syrup on to the Yorkshire pudding, because earlier that day his mother said this was delicious. (Mother-in-laws, healthy eating and dental hygiene can be strangers).

And he cooks too

Credit where it's due... Love-of-my-life makes a mean coffee and walnut cake.

Monday, March 3, 2008

High expectations; losing control

20 years ago, Valerie Grove wrote the book, The Compleat Woman: Marriage, Motherhood Career - Can She Have It All. It considered the (at that time) relatively rare idea that some women will have a number of children, want to maintain a good, long marriage and continue to develop a career. Until then, this aim was mainly the preserve of well educated, privileged women. Now, the idea is a lot more widespread, at least in the UK, Canada and Australia - women in the US (see post on maternal profiling) don't seem to be getting the same kind of choices.

The Guardian covers the story in some detail and discusses the circumstances and experiences of those women 'having it all' right now.

One woman described herself as 'a mother who worked, rather than a career woman who happened to have children'. Which I thought accurately summed up how I feel about working.

They aren't off loading their childcare responsibilities lightly either - 'Someone has got to spend time with your children: if it isn't you, who is it going to be? Whatever your answer, you have to take a course of action that leaves you feeling that you can somehow face yourself'.

But this is where I also feel uneasy:

1. I'm uncomfortable that anyone should just 'face themselves' about their work/childcare arrangements. We should be positively happy that when our children aren't with us, they are still being cared for in a fun and loving environment.

2. Only one of the fathers in the article took care of the children - all the others hired nannies/sitters etc. Planning childcare shouldn't just be mum's decision - potentially leaving her feeling both guilty and responsible for the choices made. If both parents are going to work, why don't both parents plan childcare?

So far I have been very happy with our childcare arrangements, despite a photo of L'il Lovely giving her childminder a huge kiss and cuddle (beware the green-eyed monster). I even managed to 'expect' Love-of-my-life to take L'il Lovely to and from her childminder one day a week, but he played golf while I chose her 'minder - I tried involving him, but short of locking his golf bags up... what's a gal to do but make her mind up.

But you know what, while I'm willingly happy to see that L'il Lovely has a great time with her minder, I should also have postponed childminder interviews until her dad was prepared to be there too. Instead I found it too hard to give up that opportunity to control the decision. Perhaps that desire to control is what holds some of us back from improving our choices.

Where once women didn't work outside of the home at all, we now expect to have more choice - certainly we resent it if we don't have the choice at all. If we (so many mothers - I'm sure we can't all agree) want more happiness and choice for ourselves and our families it could mean letting go of the reins so that we can share responsibility properly... eek.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Does my daughter look like Martin Clunes?

I once said that I have some relatives that are really good for ignoring. This post demonstrates just what I mean... 

According to my mother in law, L'il Lovely looks like Martin Clunes. She was quite specific - she meant Martin Clunes as he appears in the TV drama, Doc Martin. Definitely not when he was a baby. She doesn't know what he looked like as a baby. 

So tell me, how would you have responded?

Happy Mothers' Day

One cup of tea in bed.
One box of chocolates.
Three mothers' day cards (yes, just one daughter...)
Roast beef lunch and coffee & walnut cake made by Love-of-my-life.

I feel all warm and glowy. Hope you all have a great day too.