24 April 2011

Moving House, The Trilogy - The Beginning

Mon April 18th
Went to see a house yesterday, fell in love with it. It was beautiful and clean and ticked all the boxes on our list plus being in the right place. Once we saw it we had to go home in two cars as I had been at a party with the kids and my husband had met us there for the viewing. I couldn’t wait to get home so I could find out what he thought. We both decided we wanted to go for it and were aware the house had been shown to at least four other people. I waited a couple of hours just to play it cool (ha ha) and then called the landlady. She was really pleased to hear from me and had already had 2 other offers that afternoon but was hoping we would call as she wanted it to go to us. Result!

So last night I filled out the application, we emailed it to them today and in the morning I will drop off a holding deposit.

It feels like it all happened so quickly that I’m rather overwhelmed. But today I am more excited than yesterday. The thought of having a washer and dryer in my house and a garden makes me giddy. It will be quite life changing! And being closer to work and school will severely cut down on our driving.

Much as I am excited about the prospect of our kids having their own bedrooms instead of sharing, it makes me a little sad too. Our daughter can’t wait, she is 5 and a half and so ready for her own space. But our 3 year old boy is not as excited about being away from her and I think he will miss her. I hope we can find a way to help him to transition. And I desperately hope it won’t adversely affect their relationship. I feel like the extra space may make our daughter more tolerant with her little brother, we’ll see. They are like little puppies right now, they do everything together even though they argue. If we are lucky they will just appreciate their time together more.

Tuesday April 19th
I was supposed to drop off the holding deposit for the house this morning, I was supposed to do a lot of things this morning. At 6.20 am I was abruptly woken by my son screaming “I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING IN THE BATHROOM”. I grabbed him and ran to the bathroom in a haze just a second too late as he threw up copiously all over the carpet and himself. It would appear he has some sort of virus. He had 4 episodes of illness this morning and now it is evening he has a pink rash on his body. I have looked it up and it doesn’t seem to match anything serious or doctor-worthy so we’re keeping an eye on him. Anyway, G (my husband) dropped the check off down town with our new landlady and signed an agreement with her and it looks like it’s ours. Very exciting! Now we are debating when to move as we have an overlap between the new and old properties. Do we go for soon because that’s more exciting or bide our time and take it steady…boring. It’s obvious what I would do but that’s my juvenile side and it’s not just my decision.

Wednesday April 20th
Last night G sorted out all our utilities for the new house so we’ll be all connected by move in day. This morning I emailed the landlord to find out what day we can move in. I was up last night with Cuddles (my youngest). He’s feeling better but is a little dehydrated so needed something to drink. When I tried to go back to sleep I had a touch of anxiety. I feel good about the house move during the day but in the wee hours when I’m half asleep it seems to have happened so suddenly and I start to panic about all the things that could go wrong.

This morning G asked the kids to draw pictures of how they wanted their new “surprise bedrooms” to look. They both enthusiastically completed the assignment. Cuddles was the first to bring his to show us. Here it is:

Apparently it’s a picture showing a spatula underneath his surprise bedroom and some wonderpants. Ok then. In Littlest Bean’s picture she drew herself in bed wearing an eye mask getting breakfast delivered to her by room service!

Cuddles just finished eating his breakfast and is now COVERED in a pink rash. This is alarming. He doesn’t feel sick though. Now I am waiting for the doctor’s office to open.

Thursday April 21st
Awoke to the sound of the kids arguing and my son calling his sister “wrongy pants”. I do love how tame their insults are, for now. I took the kids to the beach to get away from the house for a while and to meet some friends. I was hoping it would help Cuddles’ rash but it didn’t. He ended up feeling quite poorley and slept all the way home in the car. When we got home I got to packing a lot of stuff from the living and dining room. I feel like the more I pack, the more overwhelmed I feel at the thought of how much more there is to do. I do hope we have enough time. Of course the most overwhelming times are when the kids “help me to pack”. That’s a panic attack waiting to happen.

Friday April 22nd
I got an early start to packing today. The kids were a little demanding and really didn’t want to play. They are desperate to help me, I give them the odd job but I find it very hard to surrender myself to their mayhem when we have so little time to get ready for the move.  After a long slog, with my tummy swollen, it is recovering from surgery, and my wrist in a support I decided that the kids really deserved a treat after having such a boring morning. We went to a local self-serve frozen yogurt place. It’s great fun for the kids, they feel very grown-up and powerful choosing everything and helping themselves. Unfortunately no matter how careful I am to remind them to just take a tiny amount of each of their chosen flavors, it always adds up to way too much.  Later this afternoon Cuddles’ rash came back out of the blue and by bedtime he was feeling quite ill again. Now I am listening to him cough in his bedroom, I’ve tried all sorts of things to help him but nothing seems to help. I did manage to get the majority of the kids room packed up today but my body is suffering. In the morning we are due at the new house to pay our deposit and pick up the keys. We’re supposed to be going on an Easter egg hunt after the meeting but I’m not sure if my baby will be up to it. G seems to have the same virus as Cuddles, I had to make an emergency appointment for him at the doctor’s today as he was having trouble with his breathing. Now he’s on three different medicines.

Saturday April 23rd
Was awake at 6am this morning as my body is now conditioned to the coughing beginning at this time, it actually didn’t start till 6.30. When we were all ready we went to meet our new landlord at the house to sign some stuff and pay our deposit. Then we got to have another look around. We’re very excited, it’s bigger than we both remembered. The kids were a bit of a challenge as they were so excited. After about 5 minutes of being there, I trod in some dog poo in the neighbor’s garden, ugh, I was really upset about it, I HATE that. We went for a quick playdate at a friend’s house and then spent the rest of the afternoon packing. We have made quite a lot of progress. I overdid it again, I always do, my wrist is hurting a lot and now my tummy is sore and very swollen. It’s frustrating as I know it will probably be worse tomorrow.

Easter Sunday
Unfortunately I started the day exhausted again. G and Cuddles were coughing till late, I was up at 4 with Cuddles and then couldn’t get back to sleep till about 6, then the kids woke up at 7. I am a zombie. We had a low-key Easter celebration, we got the kids a big chocolate egg each with candies inside and did an Easter egg hunt. Today was G’s last day at home before we move on Friday so it was mainly spent packing. We watched Tangled with the kids, which we all enjoyed. I made a start on what for me is the most daunting task, the kitchen. I didn’t do too badly, I’m probably about half way. I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed when I think about only having four days left. I am trying to keep my tunnel vision and just work on one box at a time, I refuse to completely focus on how much there is left to do. G took out loads of trash and moved the boxes around so that we still have some nice living space. We now have 42 boxes and 9 bags packed! I am packing very carefully and methodically, unfortunately we were burned last time we moved by dishonest movers who took advantage of the fact that I was managing without G, who was working, with a 2 week old baby who had been out of the NICU for 2 days and a 2 year old. I had my mum and brother with me to help out but nobody to notice that the movers stole a load of our stuff. We didn’t even notice till a full year later when we moved again as I was the one who unpacked. I never noticed the missing Bose headphones or that all our CD cases were empty. I will NEVER be packed again, I pledge to always do it myself. The piece de resistance is when they charged me twice the quote. I refuse to feel like a mug, I was 2 weeks post partum with 2 kids to look after one who had just been very ill, they just saw a great opportunity to take advantage and did so.

I think perhaps I need to start making a plan for the final push so that everything gets done. Littlest Bean was crying at bedtime that she never gets any attention which has absolutely broken my heart, so I told her we could have the morning off tomorrow and we’d go to the park or something. I am struggling with huge guilt over how much they are having to amuse themselves. 

21 April 2011

Polygraph over here please…

We are in the midst of somewhat of a lying epidemic in my household. I’ve heard we are not supposed to call it lying when children are 3 and 5 years old, but it certainly feels like it.

Cuddles just told me he didn’t put his shirt back in his bedroom as I had asked him because daddy (who is at work) told him not to. Littlest Bean went to Disneyland with her friend for her friend’s birthday. According to my friend who took her, she asked throughout the day to get her hair done in the Bippity Boppity  Boutique like last time. It wasn’t part of the plan of activities and one of the party was a 5 year old boy who surely would not have appreciated the experience so they didn’t go. When she came home she told me that she did go and get her hair done but that it had fallen out.  She also tells me more serious “mistruths”, one which even led to me speaking to her teacher. I found out later after much questioning  that none of it was true.  I’m still not totally sure whether that story was true or not.

I think the general consensus is that it is age appropriate and aside from not deliberately setting them up to lie, there is not much you can do about it. It is hard not to worry though when you don’t know if any of the information you get out of them is true.

Littlest Bean had a hula hoop show at school. The kids had dreamt it up and one of the teachers helped them to organize themselves and find music. When I picked her up from school one day and she told me about it I honestly didn’t believe her, although I didn’t say that directly. She said that we had to go straight to Toys R Us and buy her a hula hoop because the next day they were doing a big hula hoop show. I told her we didn’t have time to go and that I was sure if I were required to buy her a hoop I would have received an email. She was very upset. I didn’t receive any messages that day but the following afternoon I received an invitation to the show. It mentioned that they had plenty of loaner hula hoops so not to worry about buying one. I felt quite guilty about not believing her. We went to the show and it was fantastic, about thirty of forty kids simultaneously hula hooping to music, enjoying themselves so much. Her whole class came to watch and she was so proud of herself.

Another time she told me that her teacher had told her that she had to wear her hair in a bun. Again I really didn’t know what to believe, I’d received no memo and it seemed unlikely but it turned out they had just discovered a case of nits and it was true. We eventually received a memo about it. The trouble is she could come home this afternoon and tell me she needs to buy a new skirt for school because her teacher told her they all have to wear the same skirt. This wouldn’t be true but the way she says it, she really believes it. If you don’t know that it couldn’t be true it’s easy to fall for it.

Some of the lying, for example the lie about getting he hair done at Disney Land, I feel like I understand a little. Although I wish she wouldn’t. I suppose her little 5 year old brain feels like if she tells me it happened, it feels more real to her and she can imagine it did.

So what am I to do? I have no idea. I just hope we figure it out or she grows out of it because it’s one thing not being able to tell when your 5 year old daughter is telling the truth, but when she is 15 it will be something else entirely.

20 April 2011

What’s in a Name?

When I started writing this blog I made the decision to not use my children’s names. I feel like when it is time for their names to be plastered all over the internet, they can make that decision themselves. It also affords us some amount of anonymity.  Not that I think people who do use their child’s real names are doing anything wrong in any way. I think it’s about comfort level, I’m more comfortable with a little safe distance honestly.

Now I am getting a little tired of writing “my son” and “my daughter”, it also feels too formal for me. So I have decided to start calling them by their nicknames. My daughter’s nickname is too close to her real name so I’ll use one of her in-utero nicknames “Littlest Bean”, and one of my son’s nicknames, which emerged because of his intense need for love and affection, is “Cuddles” (I AM NOT INTENSE – a quote from a then 2 year old Cuddles).

So I hope you won’t mind, but they will be going as Littlest Bean and Cuddles from now on, a little sugary sweet I know, but that’s the nature of little nicknames you give your kids.

18 April 2011

Ode to Trader Joe's

First let me assure you that I do not work for Trader Joe's, I am not being paid by them,  I am purely a loyal fan...

Oh my god I just love Trader Joe's so much. I love the way all their packaging looks so wholesome and old fashioned. I love that I can buy organic apple juice instead of regular for only 20c more. I love that they hide a monkey in the store so the kids have something to look for while we shop.

They give out free coffee at this shop that you can sip as you go round. They have bread that isn’t sweetened with genetically modified corn syrup for under $3. Their frozen curry meals taste like they were flash frozen in a British curry house (this is a good thing), tastier than any I’ve had in a restaurant over here so far. Their pizzas also taste like they were from a restaurant and they sell drinkable wine for under $3.

Their fish fingers (fish sticks) are proper fish and not full of salt, if you must buy candy for the kids, or yourself, they sell jelly beans with no artificial colors or flavors!

Holy Crap I hear you exclaim, well that’s not all. The staff all seem happy to be there and pleased to see you. They give free stickers and balloons to the kids and free treats to those who have spotted the hidden monkey. You can also grind your own coffee so it always smells great in there.

And at the end of my shop, without fail, my bill is always lower than when I shop in our regular supermarket, taking into consideration the special offers and coupons you can use at the regular shop, aka Ralphs.

Did I mention their range of natural, easy on the eye and extremely affordable toiletries? Or their lavender tumble dryer sachets?

16 April 2011

My Hairy Obsession

I’ve always secretly wanted to be a hairdresser. I find it fascinating to sit in the chair at the hairdresser’s and watch what they are doing. I would actually rather they didn’t talk to me too much and just let me gaze at them in awe while their hands flit this way and that and I listen to the glorious snipping. I know some of you are probably wondering when exactly I claim to have had my hair cut but it does happen occasionally.

When I was a little girl my Cindy dolls, Tiny Tears doll (who actually peed!) and my delightful curly-haired horse-rider doll all fell foul to my enthusiasm for hair styling.  I would just give their hair a little trim here and there, maybe put a little felt tip pen decoration to add some extra interest to the look. Dolls’ hair obviously doesn’t grow so inevitably they all ended up totally bald. My poor little horse-rider doll with her pretty pink lips, jodhpurs, smart navy blue jacket and completely bald head. She used to have hair like my daughter, beautiful sandy and curly, then she had none, it was quite sad, although I don’t remember being particularly upset.

In the early days of my relationship with my husband he would occasionally let me cut his hair, which I enjoyed immensely. I remember once after I shaved all his hair off for a university ball getting the message through him, from his mum, to leave it alone (love you MIL).

Now that I have my children, they could potentially be in the same sorry state as my dolls, but thankfully I have learnt a little more self-control and obviously their hair grows. Plus I will never forget the lessons learnt from all my bald little dollies, bless their empty plastic body cavities. My daughter’s hair has hardly even been touched. She only had about an inch of hair by her second birthday, if that, so at five and a half, it’s still growing long. We trim it very occasionally as the beautiful curls start to tangle if we don’t and I recently had to cut her a fringe (bangs) with the specific purpose of making her look just like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. My husband and I have been asked to only address her as Hermione. She gets really annoyed with us when we forget.

I think my son looks his most delicious when his hair is nice and short and messed up. Unfortunately he absolutely hates having his hair cut. He will scream, cry and tremble during and after a haircut and he seems to be more than usually sensitive to the prickly hair that falls off leaving him with an angry rash. If his hair gets long it is very thick and I swear he gets hotter, plus his head eventually seems to start looking a bit big. The pattern is generally to cut his hair really short and then let it grow till it’s practically in his eyes. The way his hair grows in the back means he always looks like he has a rats tail unless the hair is very short, I have actually been asked if it’s deliberate, that’s how convincing it can be.

In the past, because he is so scared and so freaked out by having his hair cut, I took him to a hairdresser figuring that at least they would be able to cut quickly so the ordeal would be over. But all the hairdresser managed to do was nip him on the ear and give him a bald spot. He didn’t charge us. I’ve been told lots of times to go to one of these children’s hairdressers where they get to sit in racecars and watch TV but honestly, he just freaks out too much for me to be comfortable getting his hair cut in public. I do let him watch movies and feed him pieces of candy while he’s having his hair cut. I’ll pretty much do anything for him if he will let me cut his hair.

Today I just couldn’t stand his hair a day longer, it was falling dead straight, plastered over his forehead, just starting to poke into his eyes. So after some protest I managed to convince him to sit on his chair watching a movie while I cut it for him. It went better than expected and much better than usual.  I agreed to not use the clippers at all as he finds them very frightening, I gave him a big old make up brush so he could be in control of brushing hair off wherever it was bothering him and we used a water spray so the hair clumped together more. The spray ended up being a very useful tool for calming him down when he started to become frantic. I would spray it over him and he felt like it was calming his skin.

Now he looks extremely cute and very handsome and I am delighted with the result. There is the odd spot where it is a little too short or where I missed a bit but overall there is a vast improvement. I really hope his hair won’t grow too quickly.

13 April 2011

“I am the Queen of the Poos”

I’ve been trying to think of all the funny things my kids do and say as I thought it would be fun to share. It then occurred to me that instead of spending months collecting a long list of things which may only be funny to me, it might be more fun to share with you the amusing sayings and pronunciations I have collected and in return you may like to comment on this post with the funny things your children say, if you have kids, or perhaps what you said or did as a child. I will certainly get a kick out of reading what you have to say.

My daughter, beautiful and funny and cheeky as she is, is five and a half and therefore does not make the amusing mistakes our son makes with pronunciation and comprehension. For this reason this post focuses mainly on our three year old boy.

Yesterday he was telling me that his hoodie was getting scruntious and scruntious. Not sure what that means, but it made me laugh anyway.

He managed to pull down one of the slats of the vertical blinds (not for the first time) yesterday. He wrapped it around his waist and over his shoulder in a Romanesque way and announced “when I wrap this round me I’m the queen of the poos, THE QUEEN OF THE POOS”.

We all particularly enjoy his pronunciation of certain words, I am loathe to correct him. In order to free myself from any guilt from not correcting him I am convincing myself that I am just protecting his self-esteem and that he will learn from listening to us. In all honesty, it’s funny, I like funny. Maybe I need to grow up a little. Anyway…

Word: sponge
My boy: scrunge

Word: fingers
My boy: stingers

Word: living room
My boy: wivving woom

Word: look
My boy: wook

Lately, slightly to my dismay, he has been explaining to us that boys don’t love, only girls love. Boys just like, but boys don’t like girls. So now he officially doesn’t love me. As I carry him to or from the car for the 10th time, or he nuzzles in my neck when he’s tired, or he cuddles me and kisses me and won’t let go at bedtime, or cries when I tell him to behave and wants love and reassurance, I really don’t need for him to tell me he loves me.  

11 April 2011

Longing for Belonging

When I was growing up I was always surprised when my name was called from a list or I received an official letter. I turned up to University and was surprised that they were expecting me. I don’t remember ever having an experience to cause me to feel this way. You could put it down to straightforward self-esteem issues, which I have for sure but show me someone who doesn’t, who honestly doesn’t.

I was brought up in a mixture of cultures in a fairly homogeneous suburb of London. My mother is French Canadian, my father is an Irish Catholic from Manchester who told us barely anything about his life growing up and kept us almost completely separate from his family for most of our lives. We grew up in middle class surroundings attending both public and private schools and my father had a variety of jobs, one successful high paid career followed by much more blue collar jobs later in life. Even my accent, and my brother’s accent for that matter, is neither posh nor the opposite, I don’t know anyone with my accent. I can assimilate in pretty much any British social situation, but I never feel “like” anyone else because even I don’t know where exactly I am supposed to fit in.

Growing up we spent the majority of time with our mother and when we visited family it was in Quebec in Canada so I considered my roots to be almost wholly French Canadian. My French Canadian family view me as British of course with my British accent and my “British skin”. My father doesn’t even have a northern accent unless he is tired so I honestly don’t associate myself with any part of England. My husband is also British, but properly so, he knows where he came from, it’s clearer.

Moving to the US has been immensely liberating for me. When we moved to Brooklyn my struggle with who I was finally began to come to an end. My upstairs neighbor and good friend was Polish, my best friend Canadian, other close mommy friends Mexican, Dutch and British. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who didn’t appear to belong but together we belonged perfectly in our amazing multicultural, diverse neighborhood.  I will forever love Bay Ridge, Brooklyn for being the first place I ever truly belonged. Now I live in Los Angeles. On the surface you might think the same applies. I feel more like I belong than when I lived in the UK and these days feel British, Canadian and American in pretty much equal measure. I know to my British friends this may sound shocking. When you wonder why I don’t discourage my officially American children from using American words and spellings and why I have wholeheartedly assimilated myself into the culture of where I live, it’s because America, the place I was brought up to dislike, has become a home which to me enthusiastically embraces my differences and has no need for me to conform.

I no longer feel that desperate need to belong or to know who I am because everyone I meet, everyone I know, has their own story. None of us came from here, not even my American friends “just” came from here, nobody “just” comes from here, unless they are native American, which I happen to be, one 64th native I believe, my great great great great grandmother.

This all led me to a theory that it’s all about perception. People perceive other people to have perfect families, perfect relationships, of course they don’t. I may perceive other people as secure in where they belong or where they come from, but they may feel very differently. Maybe everyone feels like this, maybe nobody feels like they belong. I don’t know, how do you feel?

Now that I have had children with my half English, half Welsh husband and these children were born in the US, further confounding any attempts to put a pin in who we are and where we come from, I hope they will have pride and self assuredness in who they are and that they will be proud not to belong anywhere but everywhere. I remember my mum explaining to me that I am not half British and half Canadian, I am British, I am Canadian. I exist and they ARE expecting me.

07 April 2011

Go to Sleep my Baby

I have been avoiding writing this blog post. I want to write it but even as I sit down to begin I feel traumatized by the sleep deprivation I suffered for the first four and a half years as a parent.

When we had our son, 26 months after we had our daughter, I was working on the illogical and highly optimistic assumption that we couldn’t possibly be unlucky with sleep again, that just wouldn’t be fair. Obviously the world is an extremely unfair place and we are pretty damn lucky in almost every aspect of our lives. When you are averaging about 2.5 or 3 hours broken sleep a night it is hard to remember how lucky you are, or in fact what your child’s birthday is or what your husband looks like.

For those four and a half years between my first child being born and my second child turning 2 and a half, sleep deprivation affected my life in plenty of unforeseen ways. I would freeze when someone asked me what I had done the day before completely unable to remember. I never really felt tired, just like I was in another dimension, removed slightly from reality and certainly not “myself”. I would break things and lose things but what bothered me the most was that I lost my sense of humor and to a large extent my ability to socialize with anyone other than close friends. I remember blankly staring at other moms during playdates wanting to make the effort to be upbeat and chatty but not being able to think of a single thing to say.

I’d like to give some background to the circumstances surrounding our children’s arrivals as I think the stories are definitely linked to my choices when it comes to helping my children to go to sleep at night. It may be a little traumatic to read, if you don’t feel up to it, skip a few paragraphs.

Our start as parents, as I have mentioned before, was rocky. Our daughter had to have surgery at 48 hours old and nobody ever reassured us that she would be OK, the day she was released from hospital at just under 4 weeks old with a feeding tube still attached to her tummy was the first indication we really had that she was going to make a recovery. Still to this day at 5.5 years old nobody has ever told us that she will not have any further problems or that she will be OK. It is plainly obvious to us that her problems are all behind us, she is a perfectly normal well functioning little girl with no serious medical issues. It wouldn’t have hurt for someone to put a hand on our shoulders and tell us “hey you know what, we’ve seen this before, she’s doing really well, I can’t make you any promises but I really expect she is going to do just fine”.  What we got was more than we ever dreamed of so I should definitely not be complaining. For a couple of years after she was born it was hard to understand how we could be so lucky.  I try to remind myself regularly of just how lucky we are, it’s easy to forget on those days when the challenges of parenting leave you frustrated, confused and tired.

When we were expecting our second child I had many scans to make sure our baby would have none of the problems our daughter experienced at birth. Statistically it was more likely he would have the same birth defect and statistically it is more likely our daughter will have a child with that birth defect. Something I’m not looking forward to explaining to her, but hey, at least she’s here, at least she should be able to have children should she choose to.  When our son was born by a scheduled repeat c section on a predetermined morning in December it was a very different experience than my first delivery. With my first child I was in labor for 45 hours and finally wheeled into surgery vomiting and in the firm belief I was dying,  that was before we found out our baby was ill, I shall hold on to that story a little longer.

As with my illogical theory on bad sleepers and not being unlucky twice, I also believed that there was no way my second baby could be born with a medical issue because that wouldn’t be fair. We were reassured by all the tests we’d had but I’d actually had extensive scans in my first pregnancy that never picked up any abnormality. When he was shown to me in the operating room I was overcome with the relief of finally meeting my boy and him being so healthy and strong. What I couldn’t hear in my euphoria was his barking rasping breathing. I’ve had it described to me by husband who was there but I was completely unaware of it, I guess I just believed he was healthy. They made light of taking him to be checked out in the NICU as if it really wasn’t a big deal but he ended up being in there for 10 days. Nobody has ever come up with a definite reason for his breathing problems at birth, it could have been pneumonia, it could have just been that his lungs were immature. The most terrifying part of his stay in hospital for me was how slow his progress was. When our daughter was so terribly sick after her surgery, her body swollen up to twice its width, she still made unbelievably fast progress despite the odd setback.  The surgeon who has been performing these operations her whole life told us our daughter was the best outcome and quickest recovery she has ever had. On Christmas eve 2007 I went to visit our little baby boy in the hospital and was so exasperated by how his recovery was crawling along so slowly it occurred to me for the first time that he really might not make it. This quickly turned into despair, and I became more and more convinced he was going to die. Then on Christmas day he started to improve slowly, I went to see him twice before and after dinner. A few short days after Christmas he was fully recovered and released from hospital. Incredible. Never ever underestimate a little baby’s resiliency; they are so much stronger than they look.

So all that background leads up to me explaining that my kids both woke up, from being a couple of months old, every 20 minutes to every hour and a half all through the night, every single night and would never nap for more than 20 minutes. For my daughter this stopped around 2 years old and for my son a few months later. With my first child, I had the dubious luxury of being able to control her sleeping environment. I bought several books that I read over and over, I tried everything. I tried leaving her to cry it out once, I lasted 20 minutes and then went in to check on her and the sight of her tearstained face sitting up in her crib put me off forever. I still feel guilty 5 years on. Suffice to say I am indeed a MAJOR soft touch, so sue me. I would always think back to my daughter’s first month when she slept alone in the hospital every night. With my son the similar sleeping patterns led me to eventually let him cry, but after 90 seconds, that’s seconds not minutes, he vomited. It turns out, and it is still true to this day, that if he gets too upset he will throw up, copiously, all over the place. So that was that. I went back to trying all these different techniques I had read about really to no avail. I think since my children have matured into their sleeping, my endless sleep research has finally benefitted us, but not at first. Now they go to sleep at 7.30 most nights and wake at 7am, regular as clockwork, and we do not hear from them in between unless they are unwell. Now here comes my finest most “groundbreaking” piece of advice learned from many many hours of research and trial and error: PUT THE BOOK DOWN, CHILL THE HELL OUT, YOU CANT FORCE THEM TO SLEEP, IT WILL BE OK, YOU’LL MAKE IT THROUGHT THIS, ASK FOR HELP. I do wish someone had told me this, although I don’t suppose I would have listened, how could you not try when you are getting so little sleep. I was miserable. Those books convinced me that I could change the situation if only I would follow the steps correctly. But it never worked, so I blamed myself for not doing it properly. It makes you wonder, there are a lot of people making a lot of money from desperate mothers just like me. Making us feel like it’s our fault. It’s not your fault. A baby is a person too, you can’t control her, you can only guide her and hope she does what you want. And by the way, nothing lasts forever, and women are strong as Hell when we need to be.

As an afterthought, anyone else who wants to know if we will try for #3, please see above.

05 April 2011

Summer Time, and the Swimming is Easy

It is finally getting warm enough to swim again. Not every day yet but now and then.

We are very lucky to have swimming pools in our complex. For me, helping my kids to learn to swim is very important, not to mention that sitting around the edge of the pool in the sunshine watching them frolic is rather enjoyable.

When my daughter was almost two she’d had very little experience in the swimming pool. We had spent most of her life in Brooklyn with no car and once in LA had managed to miss signing up for the YMCA classes when we tried. I started taking her to a friend’s pool whenever we had the chance and she would merrily potter about with her swimsuit with inbuilt floats and inflatable armbands while I waded around in my big maternity swimsuit enjoying my relative weightlessness.

Soon after my daughter turned three we moved into our current complex and finally had access to a pool whenever we wanted, weather permitting. That summer for two weeks straight we swam every afternoon. We couldn’t stay for long because my son was 18 months old and a tiny little thing. He would get cold and want to go home very quickly. After two weeks with no lessons, aside from a quick visit from a friend who showed her how to blow air out of her nose if she wanted to get down to the bottom of the pool, my three year old had gone from pottering around in her floating suit and armbands and refusing to put her face in the water to swimming underwater and picking things up from the bottom. I was so amazed at how easy it was. The turning point was the day she was brave enough to put her face in the water, after she was brave enough to do that there was no turning back. It helped that like most 3 year old girls she wanted to be a mermaid.  These days at 5 it can take her a few minutes to get used to being in the water if she hasn’t swum for a while but then she can swim above and below the water, swim along the bottom and do impressive handstands. She would happily stay in the pool all day if she could.

My son who, is now three himself, is a slightly tougher nut to crack. He didn’t enjoy the pool for the first couple of years of his life, I think it was just too cold for his taste but now that he is bigger and tougher he really enjoys going. He is using armbands to float around and we are practicing with a floatation jacket given to us by a neighbor, which allows him to use his arms more. He is still nervous about having water in his face, once we can get over that I think the rest will come quickly. I think part of the reason it is taking longer is the added work of keeping an eye on two children moving around the pool. When my daughter was learning he would be on my hip the whole time. I am so excited about the day I won’t have to get in the pool at all but can sit on a lounger peacefully watching them.

03 April 2011

Four Go Bananas in Orange County

Today we had a long overdue family fun day. We made our now annual pilgrimage to Balboa Island in Orange County for frozen bananas.

Sunday morning things were not looking good, I had my first migraine in ages and a mountain of washing to fold. I luckily managed to get rid of most of the headache with meds but was left with a slurry tongue and an inability to deal with any stress. I asked my husband to plan a trip so we could get some fresh air, I didn’t want to do any thinking.

As soon as we were on our way we all felt in a much better mood. We came off the freeway for lunch at a diner. The waiter had A LOT of trouble understanding what I was saying, which almost never happens to me anymore. My theory on this is that they encounter less British customers down in Orange County,  but I could be wrong. Brits are ten a penny where we live. Anyway, I thought I’d treat myself to a side of seasoned fries with my soup but got fruit. Maybe the guy was just trying to do me a favor, so I ate the fruit.

Once we had wiped the kids’ lunch off their faces, clothes, hands, hair and seats we carried on to Balboa. We brought the kids’ Kickboard scooters along. These scooters are so awesome, and no one is paying me to say this. We resisted buying them for so long and finally after having no luck getting them excited about the scooters we had, and then one of the scooter’s repeatedly throwing the kids off it we tried out a friend’s. It wasn’t long till we bought the new scooters for each of them. Within a week it was like they had been born on them. I am just under the weight limit for my daughter’s  larger Kickboard so I got to try it out and it is so cool. The kids scooted around the boardwalk for a bit, we went up and down the pier and looked at all the people fishing and what they had caught. My son got particularly excited when we reached the end of the pier with that beautiful uninterrupted view out to sea when he noticed a table that had a ketchup bottle on it, “OH!! Ketchup! Look, Ketchup”. His new thing is to yell “OH” extremely loud whenever he sees something interesting or that he likes.

After riding around the park for a while we went for a walk around the other boardwalk on the opposite side of the island, the kids looked at all the photos of whales and big fish outside the fishing rental places and then we went and got our frozen bananas from the regular place. My son managed to eat almost all the chocolate and sprinkles off his banana whilst entirely avoiding eating any banana. He does like bananas, but he has his priorities.