Friday, February 27, 2009

Carried away by the bubbles

I learned something new this morning.

I can't drink several glasses of champagne and two or three of wine without still feeling it at 3pm the next day. Ouch.

Apparently, when I'm at a black tie awards dinner, wearing high heels and a party frock, I can delude myself into thinking that I can still drink like I did in my twenties.

At least I didn't have to get up and look after a small girl and take her to a play park with her boisterous toddler boyfriends. Oh wait, yes I did. Double ouch.

Despite my stunned disbelief at my own daftness, I managed to find the energy to climb to the top of a very tall slide about four times so that Peaches could join in with the other children. If anyone ever wants proof that I love my daughter, they should take a moment to watch me playing with her while nursing a hangover.

My favourite part was when I got to lie down in the ball park. I make it look as if I'm lolling about in a jacuzzi. It's not a good look: it doesn't work for Chad Kroeger and it sure as hell doesn't work for me in a technicolour ball pit.

It was comfy though - and here's a credit crunch tip, if you can persuade small children to keep jostling the balls about while not actually jumping on to you, it's cheaper than a massage. Now there's a tip I should pass on to the New York Times.

Monday, February 23, 2009

All about the cute stuff

I'm feeling a bit put upon with the surfeit of anti-motherhood articles in the press at the moment. It doesn't bother me that other people don't want children. I just get hacked off if they think I'm going to hide my family away. Yah boo sucks to the miserabilists.

To lift my spirits, I'm going to declare all the things I love about being a mum:
  • I love that I had a deja vue moment after Peaches was born. I remembered dreaming about her and I know she was the baby I was waiting for.
  • I love getting Peaches involved in the kitchen. She can help make tea - put the kettle on, get the cups out the cupboard, put the tea bags in the cups, wait for me to pour the water and milk, and then take the teabags out. She can mix up the bolognaise ingredients and likes mixing eggs and grating cheese for omelettes.
  • I love that Recaro, Peaches and I shared a big meal of spaghetti bolognaise and watched movies this weekend. With our work schedules we rarely eat evening meals together as a family so this was completely lush.
  • I love that Peaches is fantastic at going to bed and using her potty. I love how she looks when she's sleeping.
  • I love that she likes to 'help' at the supermarket and as long as I keep talking to her she stays close and puts things 'back' whenever I ask. I love that I don't care if anyone things I'm talking to loud or too much to her.
  • I love the way she hugs me so desparately after she's been naughty. I love that she responds to what I say, how I say it and I don't have to shout and be mean.
  • I love that she's the prettiest, smartest little two and half year old. I love that she's tall and strong. I love her button nose and blue eyes. I love her laugh.
  • I love it that Recaro tells me she can count to four even if she only ever says '1, 2, 8, 9, 10' to me.
  • I love it that she tells her grandmothers she loves them, without any coaching or prompting from me.
  • I love it that she knows the name of the town where she lives and what her full name is.
  • I love that I can enjoy being a mum and don't get bogged down by the routines.
  • I love that I get help with cleaning and ironing because otherwise I think that would get in the way of some of the best of the little moments.
  • I love that she has a confident personality. She loves being around other children, but knows what she wants to do and doesn't wait for others to invite her in to a group.
  • I love that I can take her into a restaurant and she won't run about. I love that I can send her to the waiter to ask for the bill. We don't have to hang around patiently anymore.
  • I love that Recaro and take her to the pub on weekend afternoons. She meets our friends (and even their children too). Sometimes it's quiet... sometimes there's a band. It's fun, we dance and eat chocolate raisins. I think it could be a family tradition.
  • I love that I taught her how to use a straw - all so that she can drink banana milkshake.
  • I love that I don't know how she's going to turn out in the end. She's her own person. I don't have to live through her, but I do get to live with her. It's like playing volleyball - it's up to me to set her up with the best opportunities and watch what she does with them.
I've never felt the need to write a post like that before. I imagine myself to be a grounded, sensible, a not too sensitive kind of woman. It just goes to show nast stuff can spread and make us all feel bad. I wasn't expecting to write a post about Nadya Suleman, mother of 14. But it turns out I have.

I'll say this for Nadya: I hope she's loving being a mother too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Valentine's Post: Somerset

We drove off to Somerset (south west England) last weekend to stay at Andrews on the Weir - child and dog friendly restaurant with rooms. Sometimes I sense a bit of neediness in parents who are desparate to relax in a good hotel... but they've got nothing on dog owners. Those guys were so grateful to have been able to take their hairy hounds away with them that they didn't look aghast at Peaches in the breakfast room.

By the way, the dogs weren't running around the public spaces of the hotel, so it wasn't as if there was much potential for parental angst at child/dog encounters.

From the outset, Peaches embraced the idea of holidays without much difficulty. Here she is rushing to the car.

As long as she has playdough, duck, dolly and is in charge of the map, she's a happy gal. She also had a pair of scissors and a Charlie and Lola magazine. By the end of the holiday, Lola was confetti. I think it's a sign of love, but who knows what goes on behind that peaches and cream complexion.I've been told that cake is regarded in some quarters as the fourth member of our family. I won't keep you guessing, we did eat plenty of cake. And scones. With clotted cream.

We saw also saw some wild Exmoor ponies. At least I like to imagine they are wild even though they are in fact short, fat, hairy and not at all scary.

We found some rinkydink little bridges for Peaches to dash across. Weirdly, I can't bring myself to tell her the story of the little billy goats gruff. I anticipate it would both freak her out and bring on the repetitive word syndrome. She already has this with 'giants'. It's okay, but I knew we had a five hour car journey ahead of us and didn't want her to obsess over trolls the whole way.

TV reception is notoriously bad in parts of the south west. This meant we had no CBeebies.

I know. What a disaster.

In those fractious, pre-bath minutes we had to resort to Bjork and Lazytown videos on the iPhone. What you won't see here is how Recaro and Peaches fought to be in charge of exactly where the iPhone would be positioned on the bed. Sometimes I think Recaro winds Peaches up on purpose just to see how loudly she can shout.
As for our romantic Valentine dinners, this small hotel has a very successful restaurant. Our room was within monitor distance, and Peaches settled for the night without any trouble.

Every bedside table tells a story... while she didn't raid our cava, if you look carefully you can see she broke into our box of handmade chocs. At least she didn't eat the white chocolate ones. She just spat them out. Nice.

The freakiest part of our weekend was that we were in bed and sleeping by 10pm. It's been said that having children doesn't mean having to change your life. It's just incredibly likely.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Not the Valentine's post

This is supposed to be my family blog, and my other blog is all about women's sport. I should be posting about our weekend away in Exmoor.

But check this out. If you've never watched women's rugby, here are the highlights of England losing to Wales. It would be good if it had been the other way round, but at least this way you get to hear the commentary with a lovely Welsh accent.

Watch it, please.

Monday, February 9, 2009

First contact

Next time, he'll know better. When he says he'll show up at 10am, he'll be there. He'll understand the importance of 'office hours'.

Recaro made an appointment with the TV guy to fix up the TV aerial for our bedroom TV. The guy was eventually found wandering up and down our street by Recaro after he had collected Peaches from the childminder at 5.30pm.

TV man is in his late twenties and it was all too apparent that he thought children were an alien species. He would have preferred the Ministry of Defence to have sent out a squad of extra-terrestrial experts to apprehend this miniature, would-be human. Anything, basically, that could have prevented him from making first contact.

His regard for Peaches was reciprocated. However, instead of wanting to run and hide, she was ready to embrace this alien creature and find out more about him. And what better way to build a relationship, than to target the object of interest with plenty of attention?

She followed him around like a bad smell. She stood and whined on the doorstep when he went to collect different bits of aerial kit. She gazed in awe at his feet dangling from the loft hatch. Was there anything this new two-legged creation couldn't do?

To test out his sensory abilities, she paraded about with her rabbit on her head, demanding all the while, 'Look. Look. Rabbit!'

It took a little while, but eventually there was a glimmer of understanding. Despite all appearances of being socially inept and struggling with basic language skills, TV guy took a wild guess (he went for the 50:50 - perhaps he didn't have a friend) and acknowledged that it was indeed a rabbit on her head.

When he escaped left, Recaro asked Peaches to say goodbye.

No chance, her work was done, she'd broken TV guy's spirit. She'd made him ask the name of her dolly. D'huh! It's baby, dummy. She knew there was nothing more to gain from this shallow dalliance.

But how would she get out of this situation? Would she have to speak to the lesser being again?

She thought for a moment. 'I'm shy', she declared and hid her head.

But of course. Wasn't it obvious all along?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Still having fun

Despite my serious and earnest posts, Recaro and I are continuing to have fun.

This weekend is full of cold (sorry, Recaro, I mean flu. Man flu) and cancellations (Granny wouldn't see us because of cold - she IS in her 80's and susceptible to bronchitis - and Grandma cancelled because it's icy out there).

So we did all the normal stuff of Tea & Times, farm shops, some new stuff - dance classes for the small girl - plus some siestas - THAT'S why we have a TV in the bedroom. Cbeebies gives us all some downtime.

Then after Peaches' nap this afternoon, we half-cooked up our dinner and went for a walk along the beach to the Old Neptune pub. We met our lovely neighbours and their baby for a drink. It's quite the beachside boozer - we made it family friendly whether it liked it or not.

We are now home, finishing off cooking poor man's stroganoff.

It's all going to go horribly wrong though, Recaro just looked over my shoulder and read 'Man flu'. He's distraught. Or maybe slightly stroppy. At least dinner's done.

Hope you all had a great weekend.

Rachel Cooke and Polly Vernon: bitter and bored

This week's Observer includes a couple of vitriolic articles against mothers. Rachel Cooke and Polly Vernon write about their own feelings as child-free women. This is interesting enough - you can read plenty of good stuff on that via this blog, but Rachel and Polly's articles go on the offensive against women who are essentially happy with the choices they've made.

How pointless is that? It's like shouting 'I'm happy with my life, honest. Don't come near me with your stories of how you are happy with your life too'.

Rachel Cooke is furious that she sometimes has to suffer conversations with women who want to talk about their life and their experience of having children. She seems to be filled with dismay that some of her friends have had children and da, da, daaa... talk about it.

At least her friends are forewarned. They have no excuse for not keeping Rachel completely entertained in future.

She should just accept that some of her friends are boring. It's just that in the world before children, Rachel's friends only wanted to talk about handbags and manicures (which would bore me to pieces), now they have family (hey look - Rachel's friends are now MY friends).

I've got friends who enjoy talking about themselves and their own interests. They aren't bad people, just a little self-centred. I've endured deadly monologues when a friend has gossiped about people I don't know. I stick around because she's infinitely kind and tells great stories about work - a reflection on my own interests and not because work is innately worthy.

And don't forget, men can be boring too. Whether it's about babies, cars, wine, gadgets... Only this week I suffered a colleague's in-depth description of how his 17 month old was learning to walk. Did I shut him up? No, of course not. It would have been rude of me to begrudge him a minute or two of paternal pride. I don't think being a snob about what people choose to talk about is the best way to 'win friends and influence people'.

Most of her articles are more balanced, though her tone is frequently bitter. You can read here how she managed to knife Peaches Geldof in the back, even if she didn't manage to puncture PG's inflated ego during the interview itself.

Rachel refers to the way 'websites' (I'm not sure if she means blogs or chatrooms) condemned Rachida Dati. I dispute her take on this. I have blogged about Dati - here and here- but I don't think I was unreasonably critical and I posted about it because I wasn't finding any sensible coverage of the story in the press. The nastier stuff was found in newspapers like The Daily Mail where apparently Dati 'and her kind' are responsible for shattering "the bedrock of a stable and contented society". Mothers are an impressive group of people, but I don't think we can do all that on our ownsome.

I'm increasingly finding that print and broadcast coverage of parenting is subject to a filter of banal stereotypes;
  • earnest breastfeeding earth mothers (selfish)
  • superwomen career mothers with nannies (selfish)
  • ambitious mothers living vicariously through their children (selfish)
  • skinny minnies - surgically or otherwise - with ultra-fashionable kiddies (selfish)
The exception that appears, to me, to prove the rule is Zoe Williams. Her columns about early years parenting are convincingly written. The use of her personal experience makes it like.... reading a blog.

Rachel's piece was followed by a defensive, why I'll never have children piece by Polly Vernon. I like it more when Polly demonstrates the upside of a childfree life. Usually Polly writes about cocktail bars, international travel and her ability to wear skinny fit jeans. Previous to this article, I've imagined that if life had gone in a different direction, I might have lived a slightly less glam version of her life. Swap the skinny fit for straight leg and the NY cocktail bars for Canterbury and you might not have been able to tell us apart.

Amusingly, Polly dismisses some parents as mumsnet-botherers. Over the past couple of months, mumsnet has been The Guardian's first port of call for every voxpop on motherhood. I suspect this is another dig at the blogosphere. It's not a direct hit though, since mumsnet is more about chatrooms instead of creative blogging.

I wonder if she really even wanted to write the article in the first place. Her life should be hunkdory enough for her to shrug off the occassional comment about children.

I'm starting to wonder why I read the paper after all. Which is annoying, because I've just subscribed to its voucher system...


IN OTHER NEWS: my other blog has 1 follower. Which is so encouraging.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sass and Saz go shopping

A short while ago, Saz was interviewed. Then she offered to interview someone else. Well who could pass up a post opportunity like that?

A straightforward on-line interview gives me visions of tumbleweed drifting across my blog, so to liven things up, I insisted that we combine our interview with a shopping trip. Not just any old shopping trip though. We went to Bond Street because that's how we roll.

This was a surprise outing for Saz, but as you might imagine she was more than willing to do her bit to kick start the British economy with a spending spree.

Saz: Why do you blog?

Sass: Oh you've upset me now, and we've only just begun. Haven't you read my carefully crafted Write On! post - dedicated to Don Mills Diva?

Blushing, I realise she's teasing me. Of course Saz has read my every word. What other reason could there be to sign up to Google Reader? I paraphrase my reasons for blogging below;
"I blog because it gives me something I don't get from the print and broadcast media. Personal connection with other people interested in the same thing as me - parenting, work/life balance, having fun.

"In terms of my other blog about sport, it gives me a forum to talk about women's sport. The press barely cover that at all."

Saz: If you could live anywhere in the world for one month where would that be? Why?

(At this point, I lost Saz's attention. She drifted off to gaze at a pair of sandals and a handbag in Jimmy Choo's. I thought they were both ghastly, but Saz's dreamy expression made me realise how little I know about the moments when high fashion and basic essentials collide. Needless to say, she didn't listen to a word of my answer, but I provide a transcript below because I know that at least you are interested.)

Sass: A month would be a lovely, long holiday. I'd want to travel light - so it would have to be somewhere I could shop. I'd want to stay in my own place and enjoy breakfasts at different cafes, or on my own verandah or balcony. It would also have to be near the sea. I'd go back to Syracuse, Sicily. The old town is on a tiny peninsula, there's loads of greek and roman ruins, some very good shopping - lovely pizza. It's child friendly - the old town streets are so narrow there aren't many cars about. Recaro could come too and we could reminisce about our honeymoon.

Finally, Saz finishes paying for her shoes and bags. I think she must know the shop assistant. They are never that friendly to me. Maybe they can sense Saz is a leading light in Cumbrian fashion? Anyway, it's clear that she is quite at home in the world of spike heels, oversized handbags and big, dark sunglasses worn at night.

Saz: If you were invited to a birthday party and asked to give the birthday girl/guy one book you love, which would it be? Why?

Sass: What a tricky question. The next birthday coming up is my neighbour's. Pete is quite the renaissance man. Knows about cars, wine, food, travel, business. I don't think there's much he doesn't know - which is odd, because I can't imagine him reading a book. That would be far too much sitting down.

I would like to know that he had read, The Great Gatsby. It's a bit of an 'O' level set text, but I love the descriptions of one track dusty towns, horrible Tom and his blousy mistress, the whacky/unreliable Jordan. And the 'green light' of hope. He loves going to America, but keeps visiting California. Maybe this would inspire an East Coast holiday.

Ooh look, Ralph Lauren for children. That's posh.

But no Saz, we aren't going in there. This is a shopping trip for you and me. We must find more grown up places to splash the cash.

Saz: Phew. That's okay then. I really didn't want to waste today's shopping time on the little people. Tell me two interesting things about yourself that may surprise me.

Sass: How do I surprise a well-travelled, cosmopolitan, cultured woman like you, Saz? You do know this is a family friendly blog, don't you? Here goes;

  1. I once went on a date with a sheikh
  2. I was club captain of my university's women's rugby team.
Maybe it's my broken nose and my burkha but I don't think Saz seems terribly surprised by either revelation. But I tried to impress you Saz! At least I tried!

Saz: (sighing a pitying sigh) Describe to me your DREAM meal , company, setting and reasons.

Saz: Hold on a moment - I'm just nipping in here to look for an everyday, basic sort of white blouse. I need this for when I next enjoy a roast dinner with the rellies. Luckily, I'm the sort of woman who never spills her gravy...

Okay. All done. Where would I go for dinner? It would have to be the
Sportsman. They serve the tastiest food in the most convivial and relaxed surroundings. I have posted about this place but I'm not sure I've convinced everyone. I'd fix this by inviting you, Amanda, Reluctant, ScrappySue and Working Mum. On the next table, you'd find Mellipop, Madame Queen, Jeri and Don Mills Diva.

We'd have a blast. I'd make sure they had some Cloudy Bay in the house just to be sure.

Hey Saz - look. That model's wearing your trousers!

Saz sniffs. The D&G model might look good in those colourful patterned trousers, but even Saz knows she looks a damned sight better.

Saz: Enough of this interview rubbish. My stylist is waiting to meet me at Prada and has a number of interesting items lined up for my viewing pleasure at Asprey, Nicole's (Fahri) and Alexander's (McQueen). Lead on Sass and take me to where the shopping bags are capacious.

If you'd like to be interviewed, let me know and I'll fire off five questions to you.

No madness like snow madness

Whitstable was hit by an astonishing 2cm of snow over night. This meagre snow flurry has built up to 20cm or so elsewhere in Kent and London.

Not surprisingly, transport is bearing up to 'extreme weather' conditions in typically British fashion. In preparation for a few more days of snow, we have seen just one gritting lorry on the A299 yesterday, the M25 is closed, Network South East cancelled all train services and buses are not running.

In case you want more information, do not, I repeat, do not attempt to visit Network South East website. Due to adverse weather conditions they have closed their website. Those guys are smart - they weren't going to be accused of giving misleading or inaccurate information. Giving no information is much safer.

Because this is a mummy blog, no post is complete without a child update: Peaches was very happy to see all the snow. She spent the morning playing with a carrot (we spoil that kid) and talking about 'the snowman's nose'.