Archive for September, 2008

At the grand old age of 20 months, when she still pronounces “please” as peees and “thank you” as tak-coo and “fork” as…  Well anyway, at the grand old age of 20 months, my darling E2 can recite her ABCs from beginning to end.  It goes like this:

A… (pauses to think hard) A… C… won chu come… sing wi… MEEEE!!!!

And then she breaks into a huge grin and claps wildly for herself.

You see? She’s got it — from the beginning right to the end.  And it delights me so much — tugs so earnestly on my maternial heartstrings every time I hear it — that I honestly don’t think I care whether she ever learns that pesky middle bit.

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I posted awhile ago about a mothers’ group I planned to join…  I never got around to it.  I told myself it’s because I’ve been busy, but it’s really because the whole thing made me feel a bit odd — the fact that it was a group that you paid to join, and the way they were all so organised in their friendship…  It struck me as very sorority-like, and I was never a sorority kind of girl.  I prefered my friendships to build more organically — sororities always seemed too instant and…  somehow mercinary for it.  So, I have hung back from joining this group, wanting friends but not sure if I wanted them this way, while time ticked slowly on.

Last week I realised that we have been here for eight months and the thing that I have found most difficult — well, there have been so many difficult things…  Ok, one of the things I have found most difficult is the total isolation, the complete lack of friends.  In all this time, I have made a few friendly aquaintences and one possible friend-in-the-making, but nothing more.  My main companions are M and my mother, and that is too heavy a strain to put on those two relationships.

So, tonight I was thinking about it and realised that if I were a high-flying corporate type and got transferred to a new city, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to join a professional organisation.  I’d happily pay my dues, attend meetings, eat the nibbles, make contacts, network my way into my new workplace, and perhaps even discover an actual friend along the way.  Mercinary, yes, but all part and parcel of moving and establishing a career in a new place.

Well, this is a mothers’ group and my current job is Mother.  So paying to become a member of this group is no different from joining any professional organisation.  When I look at it this way, I suddenly feel totally comfortable with it.  And, what’s more, this group’s focus is as much about helping mothers transition out of and then back into work as it is on nappies and playdates, so joining it might actually be more of a ‘professional’ move than I had first anticipated.

So, tonight, I emailed the membership secretary and told her I wanted to pay up and become a member.  And I am feeling fine about it, because I do need to start thinking about what I want to do when it’s time to go back to work.  And I do need to make contacts and network into our new area.

And most of all — mercinary or not — I just really need some friends.

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The girls are both streaming with cold at the moment — miserable, weepy, and clingy — so today we went nowhere and did nothing.  It’s impossible to even get basic chores done with one child balanced on one hip, head tucked into my chest as she breaths raspily, and the other child clinging to my leg and crying for no particular reason at all.  We did a lot of cuddling today, some reading , drank tea, and took it very very easy.  And though I hate it when the girls are sick like this, I also reveled in our gentle day, because I know how lucky I am to be able to stay home with them and just do nothing when they need it.  As much as we’ve struggled to come to terms with this move to the US, I know I wouldn’t have been in this position if we’d stayed in the UK, and I am very grateful for it.

I have been a stay-at-home mum for nearly three and a half years now, and it feels as right and as natural to me as anything I have known in my life.  Work, by contrast, was always such a struggle — I felt incompetent and a fraud in every position I ever held, bumbling along and waiting to be “found out”.  Being a mother is the first job I’ve had that truly feels like it fits.  I do honestly believe I am good at it, and I am doing as good a job I would hope to be.

And so, enjoying my job for the first time in my life, I have really settled into the role.  I love the unit that we three create all day.  I love that we do everything together — from the moment we wake up, until we go to bed, and beyond into the night.  Every meal is us together, every trip out, every time I need to pop to the shop — we do it all as a unit.  In my daughters’ world, they are always with each other, and always with me, and I am always with them.

I thought I might hate that, but I don’t.  I worried, before I stopped working, that I might find it claustrophobic, I might miss my “me time”, but I don’t.  What I found is that, in many respects, this is my “me time”.  This is me, and who I was meant to be.  Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life… I have, and I do truly love it, even more than I hoped.

So, it hit me with a shock when someone said to me the other day, very casually, that it’s less than 2 years before E1 will start Kindergarten.  I felt myself take in a sharp breath.  She said it as if it were a good thing, an exciting thing!  And then pressed on — was I putting her into preschool next year?  My heart recoiled.  Kindergarten in only two years?  Preschool next yearNo! No to both of them!  My mind raced ahead another year to a vision of E1, so little and innocent and vulnerable, climbing into a big yellow school bus… that big bus…  on her own…  to spend all day in school and away from me and from E2!  I could see the two of us, sitting at the window, pining for her to come home and back to our little unit of three.

Maybe, as this year and next move on, I will get used to the idea of being apart from her.  Maybe mothers somehow reach a point — a level of toddler chaos or exhaustion or… something — where they become glad of the idea of their children disappearing off to school all day.  Maybe…  but I can’t imagine it.  I don’t want this to end.  I love being home with my girls.  I love my job.  I love…  we three.  And I can’t imagine anything else.

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Ok…  ok…  Look, I just have to say this.  I just have to say it — I hope you understand.  Ok?  I just…  I have to.

If you are going to open a tea room…  If you’re going to open a tea room and make it as English as you can, and serve scones and clotted cream, and decorate it with as many things lacy and delicate and fine-china and polished-silver as you know how, then please, please, please learn how to make and serve tea.

That nifty letter-rack thing is actually a toast rack.  And while it is a handy place to store and display all those little sachets of herbal teas, a tea room should never actually be a self-serve sort of place.  And, as such, you should never bring out a beautiful teapot full of really-quite-hot-but-not-boiling water (plain water!) so that your customers have to then go ahead and make their own tea in their cups.  That’s just not how it is done.  A teapot… well, the clue is in the name: it should contain the tea.

And the cream should be brought to the table alongside the tea — no one should have to jump up from the table and run to catch you to ask if they could have some.  And though I appreciate you asking, no, Splenda won’t do.  Even though it’s good enough for a mug of tea at home, tea from a tea room deserves sugar.  And, I have to say, the cinnomen scones were delicious but, just while I’m pointing things out, scones and clotted cream do deserve jam as well.

Still, the ambiance couldn’t be beat — it was sweet and delicate and very very earnest.  The girls and my mum and I really had a lovely time.  The lemonade for E1 served in her own pink teapot was a spot of brilliance — and she felt so grown up and talked about it for the rest of the day.  We walked out feeling much more relaxed and refreshed than when we walked in and that, at the end of the day, is what a tea room is for.

So, ok, you got some of the fundamentals wrong…  ok, you got the fundamental of a tea room wrong.  But we did enjoy ourselves and…  well, it’s easy to fix — you just need to get that water at a good hard boil and put the tea into the pot before you pour the water in.  And don’t forget that cream.  And jam.

At least you did better than the last tea room my mother tried.  They, um, forgot to boil the water.  At all.  Oops!

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With every passing day, as E2 gets older, the changes in her are coming rapidly.  Though I still think she is my baby, she is really nothing of the sort.  And the more I realise that, the more I find myself longing for another baby.  My third…  my last…  just one more…  The feeling is so strong, so urgent!  But M is adamant — there will be no more babies.  So instead of clinging ever more desperately to her baby-ness, even as it slips away day by day, I try instead to rejoice in the competent little person she is becoming.

When she woke me at 4am last night — for the third time, mind — and I stumbled groggily into her room, she stood up in her cot and, pointing to her bum, said, “Oh noooo!  Poooooo!”  And then, for emphasis, trumpeted loudly.

And though it meant I had to carry her into the other room and turn on the rude lights, and stand there in the middle of the night wearing only the top half of my PJs and change a very stinky nappy, I had to smile.  Because newborn babies, for all their rosebud-lipped lovliness, don’t point to their bums and tell you they’ve done a poo.  And at 4am, when I can barely open my eyes enough to walk in a straight line, I do appreciate that she can now give me really big clues like that.

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The Cranberries’ Zombie has been stuck in my head ever since we heard someone sing it at a karaoke night a few weeks ago.  I’ve been belting out the refrain (In your head, In your head, Zombie, Zombie, Zombie-eh-eh) with annoying regularity ever since (and driving both M and myself a bit crazy in the process).  So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when E1started singing it too, even though it’s probably not really appropriate for a three-year-old’s repertoire.  I shouldn’t even been surprised when her little sister chimed in with her own mangled take on the word ‘zombie’ and then even got the ‘eh-eh’ down perfectly.

What really surprised me was the way E1 then adapted the song to suit nearly every situation in her day.  It started when she was on the toilet: as I was adjusting her trousers, she suddenly opened her mouth and sang, “In your bu-um, In your bu-um, Poo-oo, Poo-oo, Poo-oo-oo!”  I was in fits of laughter, and that did it for her — from that point on, every moment of her day was narrated through that one line..

Eating dinner: “In your bo-owl, In your bo-owl, Din-ner, Din-ner, Din-er-er-er!”

In the car: “In the ca-ar, In the ca-ar, E-en-gine! E-en-gine! E-en-gine-gin-gin!”

In the bath: “In your bo-dy, In your bo-dy, Mu-u-scles, a-and bones, a-and blood-ud-ud!”

Out with us at the weekend: “In the pu-ub, In the pu-ub, Pee-eo-ple! Pee-eo-ple! Pee-eo-ple-ul-ul!”

Picking her nose: “In my no-ose, In my no-ose, Bo-o-gies, Bo-o-gies, Bo-o-gies-gies-gies!”

Believe me, it goes on forever…

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It’s a bit chilly today, so I grabbed my light autumn jacket.  Putting my hand in the pocket, I pulled out a crumpled £5 note and a bunch of British coins.

For that moment, as I stared at them in my hand, I went straight home.  And then, just as suddenly, the illusion burst and I was back here in the kitchen again.  And before I could stop it happening, the heartache rose up into my chest and I burst into tears.

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