Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The X-man Turns Two

Today my little man turns two years old. I have been a weepy wreck. I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm delighted for him, he's the cutest little fellow with a great personality, very sweet, loving, mischievious and curious. Yesterday I kept picking him up, hugging him, kissing him and saying, "You're two tomorrow." Then I'd get teary eyed. He was sick of me by noon.

Everyone says it goes too quickly and it does. But he's my baby - the last child I'll ever have and while I feel thrilled for him to have a birthday, I'm sad for me because he's growing up. If I was younger I would be tempted to have a third, but it's really not a good idea for me to ever be pregnant again so it's not an option.

So while I'm  having this big heaping moment of self-pity and longing, I'm still delighted that my boy is two. He was so happy to have a scooter and his three storey garage this morning. His eyes lit up and he didn't know which one to play with first. It's so nice to make him happy and just watch him jump up and down in sheer delight. Best feeling in the world.

Cate is not excited about it being X's birthday. She'd rather it be hers. But that's what you get with a four year old! I think she likes the cake, however! And she keeps demanding he share. Hmmm...perhaps she should take a little of her own advice.

After all is said and done, sad for myself or not, I get the greatest pleasure of my life watching my children play, grow and discover. And it's only just started. So indulge me the photos. I can't help myself (and yes, I made the cake myself, never mind the finger tracks of wee ones).

Monday, November 21, 2011

If At First You Don't Succeed...

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the best housekeeper - not by a long shot. But I do try. We  haven't had a cleaner in the new flat and I thought I'd save myself the cash and do it myself. Hey, I'm willing to try anything.

The flat's not that big, but it's still quite a lot of work. So when I saw this article in Woman's Day Magazine about quick tips and how to clean your house in an hour, I thought, 'This is for me!' The article makes perfect sense and looks simple. I also figured that most of the people reading the magazine in the US have houses at least twice the size of this flat. If they could clean in an hour, then I could do it too. It did have a section on how to make your own eco-friendly house cleansers but I really don't have the time for that.

It separates the house into zones and has time limits:

1. Bedrooms: 10 minutes per bedroom
2. Bathrooms: approx 9 minutes
3. Kitchen: 12 minutes
4: Living room/lounge: 15 minutes

If you do the math for this place that means: 46 minutes to clean the house - then tack on 5 to hoover the hall, 5 to tidy the dressing room/walk in closet). According to this article I should have a clean(ish) house in 56 minutes.

I timed myself in each room and it went like this:

1. Bedrooms: 9 mins for master, 15 for kids
2. Bathroom: 15 minutes
3. Kitchen: 22 minutes
4: Lounge: 24 minutes
5. Hall hoover: 7 minutes
6. Closet hoover/tidy: 6 minutes

 Total: 96 minutes. Either my housekeeping skills need honing, or I need to hire the woman who wrote the article. We all know the answer to that. The problem, I think, is that I notice little things along the way, get distracted and zero-focused on getting that job done (like toothbrushing the bathroom sink fixtures within inches of their lives - they are gleaming now, though) rather than the whole picture.

Whatever the case, I have to say it worked. I'm going to give it another whirl tomorrow to see if I can get the time down. I will keep at it until I get it down to a science. Or I will call our old cleaner and beg her to come back to us. But for now, the house gleams with pristine cleanliness. So nice! And if I get it down to an hour, I'll try my hand at the homemade eco-friendly cleansers (ah, to dream!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Something's Got To Go....

I've been burning the candle at both ends lately. It seems that while Fen was gone I was so worried about filling my calendar with things for the kids and for me so we wouldn't be sitting at home by ourselves all day and night, that I overextended myself and fell way behind on a lot of things. Now, I'm frantically paying catch up before we head off to The Bahamas for the holidays.

I have got to slow down. It's mandatory. I haven't had much time to myself in weeks - I scratch out fifteen minutes here and there to write my blog, read blogs or (God forbid) watch television. I take 5 minute showers now (I'm a 40 minute luxury bather at heart). I do nothing for myself. I had a trip planned to go solo to Paris for one night in a few weeks and it looks like it's not going to happen for a multitude of reasons (too much work for one). I'm so disappointed in myself.

When our plane lands back in London on January 1st, I have to have a plan ready to set in motion so that I can spend time with my family, work, have a social life, write, take long baths and actually read something that is not for work. I am not doing myself any favors by putting myself dead last in my list of priorities. I haven't even had a haircut in four months.

You are my witnesses - I will slow down!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A day in the life...

Yesterday, I crawled over the finish line. It was a long, exhausting day. Here's what I did:

6:45am: Woke to the sound of X screaming, 'Mommy!' over and over until I got up.
7:00am: Fed kids (well, watched Fen feed kids as I attempted to check work email and gulp coffee)
7:30am: Showered and dressed
8:00am: Dressed kids, braided hair, found library book, emptied contraband (Barbies and lip gloss) from school bag, found pacifier and favourite blankie for X.
8:20am: Strapped X in buggy, dashed out door for trek up hill to school in rain. (cheated and took taxi)
9:00am: Dropped off Cate, headed for meeting. Met a friend and walked over pulling down several signs from our holiday marketplace which was held last week.
9:30am: Meeting of my women's club. Sat down for over an hour. Ahhh. And won a raffle prize!
12noon: Dashed home to make lunch for my men.
12:30pm: Put X down for a nap. Spoke briefly with husband.
12:45pm: Dashed out the door in the rain to find: 1. shoebox to use as a diorama, 2. stuff to put in said diorama
1:30pm: In shoe shop sweet talking saleslady into giving me two large shoeboxes when I didn't buy anything.
2:00pm: In pound shop cruising aisles looking for Christmas themed things for  &%$*! diorama
2:20pm: in and out of several stores looking for more ideas/stuff/inspiration/help. Stopped in Sainsburys for a quick shop for dinner and milk
3:00pm: Back home and tucked into my office to work.
3:10pm: Made coffee
3:15-5:15pm: Answered all emails, created pitch letter, made 17 calls to pitch projects, sent 17 emails to send project out, updated list, read a bunch of emails, responded to them. Called friend in NY to shoot the breeze for 5 minutes.
5:15pm: made dinner: a quick and easy broccoli, mushroom, walnut pasta dish, salad and chicken nuggets for the kids.
6:00pm dinner. Watched Fen and X pick walnuts out of dinner.
6:30pm: clean up
7:00pm: ran bath. Fen bathed kids
7:20pm: storytime, prayers, bed for Cate and X. Lots of kisses.
7:31pm: back to work. 10 more pitch calls, 10 more emails to send project (cheated and made 4 calls during bathtime). Called mom and dad to say hello.
8:30pm: In kitchen creating diorama base for Cate's class. Due on Wednesday. Fen and I argued but worked furiously for an hour to create... something. Decided to finish anon.
9:30pm: Back at work for conference call.
10:00pm: Came out to watch TV with Fen. Made dinner menu for next two weeks and shopping list. Created Christmas list, invite list to X's second birthday, decided on what to do for birthday and gift list.
10:30: Called it a night, brushed teeth, washed face.
10:45: Checked email one last time. Made quick call to colleague. Made to-do list for work the next day.
11:00pm. Lights out.

This is a typical day for me. The difference here is that there were no play dates involved. I usually have at least one for X but Monday's are Fen's days off so he gets to play with daddy. And I didn't get to exercise (well, I walked over 12 miles - according to my pedometer). Ah well, maybe I need to get up earlier.

See that cartoon above? That is not me. I'm not that thin or serene. I case you were wondering!

And as a little addendum: finished the diorama today with Cate's help (or hinderance, however you want to look at it) only to realize it's due next week. Bloody hell!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Heavy Load!

I am famous. Well, not really, but here's a fun tale. Last year George Michaels ran into the Snappy Snaps on the Hampstead High Street, smashing the wall. Some prankster wrote Wham! on the wall and I took a photo to post on my blog - see it here.

A few months ago, a member of the punk band Heavy Load contacted me. They wanted to use the image on the cover of their George Michael tribute album titled Wham!  Of course I said yes and there is the cover album above. I have photo credit on the back. Hilarious.

I'm not much of a punk fan, don't really know it, but I listened to the album and I actually really like it. The song titles were intriguing: 'Everything is Bollocks', 'Julie's Beard', 'That's Not My Name', 'Shut it' and 'Sexy Films' to name a few. Fen and I listened to it and I've downloaded a few onto my iPod. This may not seem like a big deal to you but anyone who knows me will know how limited my iPod selection is (I'm a picker bugger) so that's a HUGE compliment to Heavy Load.

Here's a little about the band. And you can buy the album here! Have a listen - you may like it!

Heavyload are Brighton's answer to The Ramones. A punk outfit subject to the combustible flux of ego, ambition, fantasy, expectation and desire that fuels any emerging band. But they’re also uniquely, made up of musicians with and without learning disabilities.

Over the last 14 years they have managed to survive through their combination of raucous energy, attitude and sheer volume but now they are about to hit the big time with a feature length documentary (Heavy Load) being made about their journey from social care to stardom, and back again, and their mission to demonstrate that disability rocks. There are few genres left in music that have yet to be defined. Heavyload have unwittingly created a brand new one.

Friday, November 4, 2011

That's Mrs. 'Cross The Pond to You, Kid.

Yesterday, I had brunch with a friend and we talked about how children do not address adults Mr. Mrs. or Miss like we had to as children. It seems our society is becoming less and less formal with each passing decade.

Granted, I feel far to young (read immature) to be addressed as Mrs. but it would be nice to have the option. Most of my friend's children call me Cate or X's mum, or Erin, my first name. I'm guessing it's okay for the little ones, but once they start turning 8 or older, I'd prefer they address me formally.

Why? Respect, perhaps. But I think it's more for the position of authority. I notice that kids can be really sassy toward their parents - even downright rude. Discipline is much more relaxed nowadays - and I'm not talking about spanking - I'm talking about what kids can get away with now. I would never, in a million years,  have talked back rudely to my parents - my mother in particular. You cross my mother and you'll walk away with a limp, I promise you that. I don't allow Cate to talk rudely to me. She tries, God love her, but when she does she is punished appropriately - the punishment is tailored to the crime, as it should be.

Mind you I'm not the greatest disciplinarian, and I have much, much to learn. But I do try to keep a level of respect 'round the place. And when I have guests, I expect their children to adhere to my rules, even if their parents are not enforcing them. But sometimes I get backtalk which I don't like. I cut off one 'friend' for something similiar and I'll cut more if I have to (don't really want to).

But I digress, the issue here is whether to have my daughter start calling my friends by Mrs or Mr and whether I want to have my friends kids do the same for me. What do you think?

I know I'm an old fuddyduddy, but there are some things that I think should apply: you should give up your seat for the elderly, pregnant or handicapped, you dress for church, you send thank you notes, and you respect your elders. That's not too much to ask is it?

I still address my parents friends and my childhood friends' parents as Mr, Mrs or what have you - and I always will. Where I come from it's a sign of respect and I know they appreciate it. I have been invited to call several people by their first names and then I do, but otherwise they get the Mr and Mrs treatment.

Even to this day, when I meet someone who is older or in a position of authority I call them by their surname. I couldn't imagine meeting President Obama or Prime Minister David Cameron (even though he IS younger than me by a few months) by their first names! And I MUST call my doctors by Doctor - even when invited to do differently - because for me to have faith in them, they must be in a position of authority - not an equal. Madness, perhaps, but it's the way I was raised. And I like it.

How about you? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A tribute

There are things you can't explain or understand and this is one of them. The lovely lady in the photo was a new friend of mine. We met a year ago when another friend introduced us. She wanted to start a writing group for her women's club, just as I had started one with mine. Both of our attempts failed so we joined forces and formed a writing group outside our clubs which flourished.

Our group consists of five women who write mostly non-fiction and get together every month to compare notes, and receive feedback. It's always friendly, helpful, fun and a nice gathering to look forward to every month during the day. Very relaxed.

My friend was an excellent writer. She was working on a series of travel journals that were entertaining, interesting and very well written. She's lead an interesting life and it showed in her writing.

After a while she invited me to join her book club, which I did. As it turns out we were both members of the same church and saw each other every Sunday (or whenever I actually made it - I've been a tad slack on God of late). It seemed we were destined to become friends - the world made sure of it. And I was glad for her friendship. She was warm, inviting, intelligent, funny, interesting, and just nice. She lit up a room when she entered, she was always well dressed and  had a love for funky scarves, hats and loved, loved purple. She was engaging, and sweet, a wonderful mother to two girls, a devoted wife who supported her husband, moving all over the world with small children without complaint (unlike me) and just seized every opportunity that came her way. She was a lemonade from lemons kinda gal. My kind of people.

So, when I received a call last week that she was in a coma I was stunned. An undetected cyst at the base of her brain finally grew too large and blocked the flow of spinal fluid. Not being one to complain, she carried on - she did cancel for writer's group last month due to not feeling well - but she had made an appointment to check things out. It just came too late. She went to bed last week and never woke up. Her husband called an ambulance, they operated, but the damage was too severe and she passed away peacefully and unknowingly later that day. She was only 41.

I don't get it. At her funeral this past Sunday, her wonderful husband said not to ask why in his tribute to her (read by a friend). He said that we should just cherish the time we had with her and be thankful for it. While I agree I am thankful that I met her, and feel honoured to have known her, I'm still pissed and I will ask why.

My sister Tracy was only 39. This friend was only 41.Both full of life, both full or promise, both religious and good, good people. So why them? It makes me really unhappy. Yet it makes me more determined to be good to the people I still have. I try to be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend to the people I care about because that's all that matters, really.

At her funeral I saw her husband bend his head low in grief and her nine year old daughter (also named Cate) put her arm around him to comfort him. It broke my heart in a million pieces. I wish there was more I could do.

I shall always treasure my friendship with Brenda; I gain some solace in knowing she rests in peace, cherished by the God she had such faith in.

Sorry I'm such a downer today.