Wednesday 28 September 2005


Toothy peg #2 made its appearance next to toothy peg #1 this weekend, which is very exciting if you're a sad mum like me. We had a fantastic holiday in Devon (details and a link to pictures can be found on the main blog), although we realised that sleeping in the same room as a dog and baby means very little sleep for us. I think Jack was grumpy from teething or from being in a strange room, so he was very grizzly for most of the nights we were away. In fact, the grizzliness has continued since we've been home and he's broken out into a rash (the doctor says he has "a virus" - how useful, thank you) so maybe he just wasn't feeling great. At any rate, we both agreed that a self catering holiday somewhere with more than one bedroom would be ideal next time.

Despite the sleepless nights, there is a distinct advantage to travelling with a non-crawling/non-walking baby. As long as we can wheel him around or carry him, we can pretty much go anywhere with little difficulty. He slept peacefully through our meal at Tanners and sat happily in his stroller wherever we went. He's not old enough to get bored, run away, or throw a temper tantrum if he can't get chicken nuggets. He's a great ice breaker; people constantly stopped to fuss over him and ask us about him. As any mother will tell you, you never get tired of people fussing over your baby (unless they are insane old people at pubs and Tesco).

As I mentioned earlier, Jack's got a rash and has spent most of the day slumbering in his play den. I took him to see a doctor who seemed nice, but gave us a vague diagnosis of "he might have a virus - babies sometimes get rashes when they get a virus" and advised that I just keep an eye on it and give him Calpol. Grand. Now I'm worried that he'll be up partying all night long because he's slept so much today, but maybe he's sleeping so much because he was up partying all last night. Either way, I'm starting to feel the delirium of broken sleep and am in desperate need for caffeine. If only I could train the dog to make a latte.

Tuesday 27 September 2005

we went, we ate, we came back home

The long weekend went by far too quickly, but a good time was had by all. We arrived at the Holne Chase hotel on Friday afternoon, marvelling at the seclusion and beauty of the surrounding area. It was a hunting lodge in a former life, and now provides comfortable accommodation for two and four-legged guests. There is a resident basset hound called Batty, whose bark is almost as loud and deep as Jasper's - she is not a dame to be reckoned with. The hotel receptionists were friendly and extremely helpful (they helped us find dog friendly beaches in the region, for example), and the chambermaids fussed over Jack, which always wins points with me. My mission was to eat as much seafood as possible during this trip, starting that evening. Our room was directly over the dining room so we were able to leave Jack upstairs with the baby monitor on (and Jasper to keep guard) while we ate supper. The hotel doesn't allow children in the restaurant after 7pm, but they provide a special high tea at 6pm for the little ones. We had a three course meal, starting with local mussels in a creamy wine sauce for me. For the main course, I had a grilled filet of sea bass served with sauteed leeks, peas, broadbeans, and potato. For dessert, we both went for the local cheese selection served with a deliciously spiced plum chutney, which was far too rich; I felt like slipping into a coma afterwards.

On Saturday, we headed to Paignton and the beaches of Goodrington. Goodrington is just south of Paignton with a dog friendly beach, but the tide was in while we were there. The dog unfriendly beach was accessible though, and stretched for a couple of miles. We stopped for a pub lunch and it was warm enough to eat outside so we could keep Jasper with us. After lunch, we headed to Paignton. It reminded me a lot of Great Yarmouth, which isn't a good thing - a faded seaside resort town, filled with arcades, tired looking hotels, and tatty shops. On the plus side, it has a fabulous zoo. For £10 (Jack was free), you can easily spend an entire day walking its winding paths. The zoo is divided up into various habitats such as swamplands and forests, with appropriate animals in each environment. No penguins, sadly.

In the evening, we went to our very first "celebrity chef" restaurant, Tanners in Plymouth. Although the brothers did a series for UKTV Food, James Tanner is probably the better known of the two from his appearances on BBC's "Ready, Steady, Cook". We sat in the well room (seen here, our table was the one on the left), with Jack parked by us in his stroller. I was a bit hesitant about taking Jack because when I booked the table and asked about highchairs, I got the sense that I had made some sort of horrible foody faux pas. My fears were completely unfounded as the waiters made sure there was a spot for Jack at our table, and one called him a "little treasure". Bless. Jack slept soundly through our meal, never knowing what he was missing. From start to finish, we were in culinary heaven. We went for the five course menu, which sounds scary, but it was the perfect amount of food. The first course was a small plate of grilled sardine fillets served with braised romaine lettuce. I am not a fan of fish with bones (you eat sardines bones and all), but it was still enjoyable. This was followed by a mound of smoked salmon on a blini for me, and scallops with smoked salmon for Paul. The salmon was the polar opposite of the chewy, slightly soapy tasting variety sold in plastic wrap at Tesco; it was delicately smoked and melted in our mouths. Paul's scallops were cooked perfectly - lightly browned with a creamy, translucent centre. My main course was a filet of John Dory, smoked prawns, and mussels served with spinach and a single oversized ravioli (I think it was filled with a seafood mousse - I could definitely detect prawns). Paul had something else; I wasn't paying attention as I was too absorbed in my meal. All the fish was beautifully cooked, particularly the John Dory which was delicate and tasted of the sea. A "pre-dessert" followed, which was a cleverly assembled dish to cleanse the palate. A real eggshell was filled with unsweetened whipped cream and a mango coulis centre, looking remarkably like a soft boiled egg served with shortbread "soldiers". For dessert, I had the most delicious creme broulee I have ever tasted. The satisfaction of striking a spoon through the caramelised surface is indescribable, and the custard was like silk speckled with vanilla seeds. Paul had a gorgeously light chocolate mousse-based dessert, described on the menu as "Something chocolate??!!" (which indicated to me that they hadn't made up their mind what it would be before they printed the evening's menus, or it was a question posed to the diner). Service was very friendly, with servers attending to us frequently throughout the meal. I assumed that the Tanners wouldn't actually be there - after all, surely they had more glamorous things to do on a Saturday night and a celebrity chef probably doesn't even work in his own restaurant. As I walked through the bar to the toilets, I noticed a plasma screen on the wall. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a live feed from the kitchen with not one but both Tanner brothers cooking up the main courses. "A Tanner has touched our food!" I exclaimed to Paul. Although it sounds pathetic, it did really please me to know that the Tanners were there. For five courses, we paid £35 and thought it was very reasonably priced for what we got - and it was touched by a Tanner, no less.

Sunday was our anniversary and our outing to celebrity chef restaurant #2, The New Angel in Dartmouth. We spent a lovely sunny early afternoon enjoying the scenery by the waterfront. Dartmouth is charming, distinctly lacking the seaside town tackiness often seen along the coast. I stood in front of the restaurant, waiting for Paul to take Jasper to the car while we ate lunch. I peered through the window and saw several tables with highchairs - I was relieved to see that we wouldn't be the only ones dining with a baby. I realised that I should have requested a table downstairs when I booked; the kitchen is open so you can watch the exciting hustle and bustle while your food is being prepared. We sat upstairs away from the excitement, served by several people with heavy French accents. We received a John Burton Race book for our anniversary from Russ and Debs, which we took with us hoping we could get the man himself to scribble on it for us. Much to my disappointment, he wasn't working that day (although we did recognise a few people from the "Return of the Chef" series). I had scallops served with lentils and lardons to start, which were just as beautifully prepared as the scallops Paul had at Tanners. Paul had a wonderfully fresh Dartmouth crab salad, piled high on his plate. We both went for the lobster salad for our main course, which included a surprisingly large portion of local lobster served with tarragon mayonnaise and new potatoes. The lobster was sweet and tender, with a slightly aniseed taste from the tarragon. For dessert I had the creme brulee, with the intent of comparing it to the Tanners version - and Tanners won, in my estimation. Although it was deliciously creamy, the custard was slightly thicker and dangerously close to the scrambled eggs stage. Paul had a spectacular duo of white and dark chocolate mousse, served with homemade ice cream. Jack had his first taste of Michelin starred food by sampling some soda bread while we ate our lunch. I'm sure he was suitably impressed. The food and service were excellent, but somehow lacking the overall enjoyment we experienced at Tanners. It is undoubtedly more touristy than Tanners, due to its waterfront location in a popular holiday town and the fact that the television series brought it to the public's attention. I left the restaurant satisfied, but wondering if that Michelin star meant better food.

After two days of stuffing ourselves, supper was a light bite at the hotel with a bottle of champagne to celebrate our anniversary. And of course I managed to fit in a piece of chocolate tart. On Monday, we gathered our things and began our journey back home via Dartmoor Park. Devon is awash with tiny twisty turny roads that are good fun, especially if you're not the one driving. We wound our way north through Dartmoor past hills, forest, sheep, and cows. We had a pitstop in Exeter for two reasons: to feed Jack and to ensure that we have a cream tea. Clotted cream is like eating unsweetened whipping cream, beaten to the consistency of Nutella. If you put a large blob of clotted cream on a warm scone and top it with another large blob of strawberry jam, you have something special. We scoffed our cream tea, had a bit of a wander around the quay and continued on our way home. The four days flew by, and once again I left Devon feeling like there was so much more left to see.

Yesterday, I had a slice of wholemeal toast for breakfast, cottage cheese and tuna on toast for lunch, and wholemeal pasta with bolognaise sauce and grilled courgettes for supper. I feel virtuous already.

Pictures can be seen here.

Thursday 22 September 2005

more than a handful

Dressing my little boy is like dressing a breakdancing octopus whose just had five pints of espresso. I am now adept at putting clothes on a baby who is upside down, flipflopping between his belly and his back, constantly grabbing at his willy (what is up with THAT?), rattling two small toys at once, and trying to chew on the nappy I've just removed. Not only can I change him at lightning speed, I can do the whole thing with one hand while the other tries to control flailing baby limbs. I have no idea how I'm going to be able to do this when he's a toddler without employing three other people to help out.

The lone toothy peg is rising up above the surface of Jack's gums, with the promise of a neighbour arriving soon. Jack's got another puffy bump next to his first tooth, so I assume #2 isn't far behind. On the most part, he's been okay. Thankfully, he's still the smiliest baby in town and is still sleeping through the night. In fact right now, he's slapping the floor and giggling like a loon. Ah, to be so easily entertained again.

We're off on our first family holiday tomorrow; I cannot wait. I know that Jack won't really understand what's going on, but I love the idea of taking him different places from an early age. We've got our plane tickets home for Christmas and we plan on going to California next year to introduce Jack to his American relatives. I've got a long list of places I want to take Jack in this country and the rest of Europe is just a short journey across the channel. Oooh and we have to go back to Cadbury World as our first visit was unsuccessful. For Jack's sake, obviously.

That's it from us until Tuesday. Adios amigos! And before we go - happy 7 month birthday, Jack-Jack. You never cease to amaze me and make me smile.

go (south)west

We're off to Devon tomorrow oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy! It's the land of clotted cream, beautiful parks, and gorgeous beaches. Mmmmmm clotted cream. Dog, baby, husband and I are pootling off in our new car (it's not a minivan, dammit) to enjoy four days of food, fun, and frolic. Most importantly, we're celebrating our first wedding anniversary on Sunday. Awwwwwww bless.

The night before our wedding, Paul stayed at the house with friends and family while I spent the night at the hotel. He was concerned that I would get lonely at the hotel by myself, but I assured him that I would be fine. The days/weeks leading up to the wedding were so chaotic, and as more family and friends arrived in town, the pace became more frantic. We had a meal at our wonderful local pub, all 14 of us, then Paul drove me to the hotel and helped me up to my room. It was beautifully tranquil, with a huge bed and a spectacular bathroom. I changed into the big fluffy white bathrobe that was toasty warm from the heated towel rail, and collapsed diagonally on the massive bed. I couldn't sleep, so I watched a lot of rubbish television and eventually drifted off at some point. Early in the morning, I awoke to the sounds of two very excited voices outside my door saying "Can we go see Auntie Lisa?" "Shhhh, she's sleeping!" I dragged myself out of bed and looked at myself in the mirror. I gently traced my bump with my hands and said, "I'm so glad that you're going to be part of today." A delicious full English breakfast was brought up to my room, and amazingly, I had the appetite to polish it all off. My throat hurt, my nose was snuffly, and I had a pounding headache - I knew I had a cold. I sent my very soon to be brother-in-law on a quest for paracetamol/Tylenol, and my very soon to be sister-in-law started working on my hair and makeup. I was a bag of nerves, killing time with inane chatter and grateful to have Netti there to keep me sane. Jean-Luc called my mobile, minutes before the ceremony, to let me know that he was stuck in traffic. Grand. One of the managers knocked on the door to tell me that it's time to head downstairs, and I prayed that I would make it through the day and evening without falling asleep and/or throwing up.

Mere minutes before I walked down the aisle, a frazzled looking Jean-Luc appeared, apologetic but ready to capture the event on film. Huge relief. Me, my Dad, and my flower girls made our way out the door as our string quartet played the wedding march. I had a huge toothy grin plastered on my face that I couldn't, for the life of me, prevent myself from doing. Nerves must make the muscles in your face contract. The ceremony was a blur; I was so nervous that I can't really remember any of it now. As soon as it was over, a huge wave of relief washed over me. The quartet played "All You Need is Love" while we signed the papers (people at first wondered why we were playing the French national anthem during our wedding) and we posed for a million pictures. The day was brilliant and it went by in a flash. I was so worried that I wouldn't make it to the end of the night but when Paul told me that our car was here to take us away for our wedding night, I was shocked that it was that late already. It was, without a doubt, an absolutely perfect day.

So a year later, we're off to Devon to celebrate with our gorgeous baby boy and fluffy pup. We have reservations at not one, but two "celebrity chef" restaurants (Tanners and The New Angel). It's our first holiday as a family, and I cannot wait to hit the road. While we are gone, please don't break into our house and rob us because that would really, really annoy me. Until Tuesday...

Tuesday 20 September 2005

mixed signals

On Sunday, I made a quick trip into town to pick up a few essentials. As I made my way home around the ring road (a one-way road that circles the main part of Huntingdon), the radio station I was listening to suddenly went crackly. A woman's voice faded in, and as I was only half paying attention, I just caught the last half of what she was saying. It sounded very much like an ad for a racy phone line, but this was Sunday afternoon on Radio One - I must have misheard. I thought it might have been part of the song, and I continued on my merry way without another thought.

Yesterday, as I made my way around the ring road to go to the gym, Radio One faded out again. The same ad played on my radio, and this time I was certain about what I heard. I'd been radio spammed! Someone must be using the traffic announcement feature that most people have enabled on their car stereos. This feature allows local radio stations to "break in" to whatever station you're listening to in order to broadcast local traffic reports every so often. Since I have TAs enabled, I think this is how these rogue saucy ads are making their way to my car speakers. This is more than just a little bit annoying. It's bad enough that we have commercial television, flyers through our letterboxes, spam emails, double glazing salesmen on our telephones, and dubious text messages on our mobiles prompting us to call strange phone numbers to claim our free trip to Florida. Now I've got some chick inviting me to call her, free of charge, and tell her my fantasies.

I'm very tempted to call and say, "Yes, hello. My fantasy is to wake up every morning to a sparkling clean house, a full English breakfast that contains no fat or calories, I'd like to have the same figure as Angelina Jolie, and a large bundle of cash deposited into my account on an hourly basis. Thanks. Bye."

Monday 19 September 2005

excuse me while my face turns green

On Sunday, we watched the Great North Run on television (yes, I do see the humour in sitting on a sofa and watching 40,000 people plod 13 miles around the Tyne) and Paul reminisced about the time he ran this same marathon. One of the presenters interviewed model/television personality Nell McAndrew, who is not only gorgeous, but she qualified for the elite group this year - and she just happens to also be pregnant. Now, the best I could manage was a 5k walk in a big park when I was 5 weeks pregnant. This woman, who also won "Rear of the Year" this year, ran a flippin' marathon. I walked 13 miles and I thought I was gonna die, and I wasn't even growing a baby at the time. Amazing. Annoying, but amazing.

Jack continues to be a grizzly bear and has been chewing on everything and anything. Please forgive me Jack, but it does make me giggle when you're simultaneously crying and blowing raspberries, bless you. We're leaving Jack with friends and his little friend Lauren (who's very pretty and about a week younger than Jack) this evening while Paul and I go out for his birthday dinner. We've only been out for dinner one other time without Jack, and I kept thinking that I'd forgotten him somewhere. The sad part is, that could really happen - my mind isn't too sharp these days.

Right, if I start scrubbing up now, I might look presentable by 7 this evening. Get my trowel and sandblaster - I'm goin' in.

a very important date

On September 19, Sir William Golding (author of "Lord of the Flies"), Adam West ("Batman"), George Cadbury (English social reformer and chocolate manufacturer), and Jeremy Irons were born.
On September 19, 1957, the United States conducted its first underground nuclear test in the Nevada desert.
On September 19, 1970, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" debuted on CBS.
On September 19, 1928, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse made his first appearance in the animated short "Plane Crazy".
On September 19, 1846, poets Elizabeth Barrett and Richard Browning eloped to Italy.

On September 19, 1969, a bright-eyed baby boy with spikey hair was born in Kent. Happy birthday to the most amazing husband and father in the world. xxxxx

Sunday 18 September 2005

the whole tooth

Jack's been a grizzly bear this week, which I thought was due to a cold. He had a runny nose and had quite a few screamy moments off and on - nothing that Mr. Calpol couldn't handle. So I was checking Jack's gums on Saturday (as you do daily when you're an insane new mother) and I said to Paul, "Oh!" "Oh?" he enquired. "I feel something! Toothy pegs! Toothy pegs!" I squealed. I peeked inside my son's mouth (who was now giving me an odd look) and saw the sharp jagged edge of his first tooth. I truly have no idea why something as mundane as a tooth is so exciting, and I can only chalk it up to one of the million weird things you do when you have a child. Regardless, both of us were quite thrilled about this new development, which I promptly recorded in Jack's baby book.

He's been chewing everything he can get his hands on (including my fingers, which bloody well hurts) and I think it's pretty uncomfortable for him. I smeared some Calgel on his gums which seems to slide around everywhere but the area you actually need it to be applied, and gave him a frozen oven chip (french fry) to chew on. I read something years ago about giving teething babies frozen chips to help with teething pain (or maybe I just made it up), and it did seem to make him happier. He's got teething keys in the fridge, but I think I need to purchase more soothing things to chew on. I also remember reading something about how a baby's first tooth tends to make an appearance roughly the same time as their parent's did, and for Jack this was true. My first toothy peg was at 7 months one week, Paul's was just short of his 6 month birthday, and Jack's right in the middle.

Just one question - why are baby teeth so sharp? Did we used to send babies out to hunt in prehistoric times? Did we use them to cut through jungle vines? Open tins before can openers were invented? It's a stumper.

Friday 16 September 2005


I've written another very ranty post about motherhood on the main blog, but I hasten to add, I'm actually quite happy these days despite the recent increase in ranty posts. I think it's a sign that I should avoid newspapers and the news channels for a while and stick to the very nice "Location, Location, Location" type shows instead.

I'm starting to warm to the idea of mother/baby groups now which either means that I'm being more objective about the concept or I've finally succumbed to maternal dementia. We started our second term of swimming classes yesterday, and it was fabulous. Jack hasn't been in the pool since July, so I wasn't sure how keen he'd be on being underwater yesterday. We are now in the more "experienced" group, so we dunked our babies under the surface almost immediately after the class started. I held Jack on the pool's edge then after a "ready, steady, go!", I plunged him down as far as I could reach and brought him back up again in one smooth arc. I could feel him moving his body like a tiny dolphin under the water, and he came up with a big smile on his face and not one splutter. The Other Mothers were very chatty this time, and some were familiar faces from the last class. People made small talk with me, for crying out loud. Fantastic. This morning, we went to baby yoga and lingered for ages after the class to chat about what nonsense Gina Ford spouts (apologies if you're a Ford fan, but I truly don't get her at all). We swapped several tips, fussed over each other's babies, and actually talked about non-baby things. Jack held the hand of the doll the instructor uses to demonstrate the moves and tried chatting her up. I don't blame him; she's very cute. All in all, it's a really nice way to spend a Friday morning. In 6 weeks, I may need to find another group to join. No, really.

Before I go, can someone please tell me if Jack's the only nearly 7 month old in the world who doesn't sit up unsupported? Personally, I think he's got too many places to go and finds sitting dull.

excuse me while i spit some nails

Women who wait until their late 30s to have children are defying nature and risking heartbreak, leading obstetricians have warned. [source]

I would normally put a topic like this on the baby blog, but this got me furious and I think it deserves to be on the main blog. As an "older mum", I would like to say the following: these people are talking absolute bollocks. I had Jack one month before my 36th birthday. Not once did any of the numerous midwives, nurses, doctors, and consultants who treated me during my pregnancy and birth mentioned my age as a concern. So where has this recent revelation come from?

In the BMJ, the authors of this article write: "Women want to 'have it all' but biology is unchanged; deferring defies nature and risks heartbreak." Ah, now it all makes sense. How retro - we're rehashing the careerwoman as an abomination of nature argument that was so popular in the 80s. How dare we choose to have a career, an independent means of financial support, a life? Now look what it's caused - fertility problems, foetal death and abnormalities, and "heartbreak".

"Expert" Dr Susan Bewley states: "Most women playing 'Russian Roulette' get away with it, most people are fine. But I see the casualties. The best time to have a baby is up to 35. It always was, and always will be." Okay, let's recap my life before 35. The longest relationship I was in lasted 8 years, and I was with a man who didn't want children. I was working in various bookstores earning a meager hourly wage, renting an apartment, some months not being able to afford a bus pass, smoking 1/2-1 pack of cigarettes a day, 50lbs. overweight, and I hadn't really travelled anywhere. By 35, I had quit smoking, lost the 50 lbs., collected several thousand flight points, had a job I thoroughly enjoyed with a great salary, met my husband, bought a car, bought a house, got married, and got pregnant. I can afford to take a year off work (or more, if I wanted to) to care for my son, we can provide any material goods or medical care he needs, and most importantly, we have a amazingly strong relationship that has endured the many stresses of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.

So someone explain to me again why I should have had a child before now?

Thursday 15 September 2005

money can't buy you brains

"Pop singer Britney Spears gave birth to a baby boy at a Los Angeles hospital on Wednesday...Spears, who married Federline in September last year, had been previously reported as saying she planned to have the baby by Caesarean section to avoid the pain of a natural birth." [source]

After Victoria Beckham's last birth (two days before Jack's) I read an article that said, "All three of her kids were delivered by Caesarean, allowing a faster recovery." Do you know what? I would gladly swap my c-section with anyone's vaginal birth if they want to "avoid pain" or make the process "easier" for themselves. I would give anything to know what a contraction feels like, to look at my son and know that I pushed him out myself, to know that my body was capable. I will happily give away the fears that something inside of me was irretrievably damaged during the surgery, and that every pain I still feel today means something's horribly wrong. You're more than welcome to my worries about my next pregnancy, wondering if my scar will rupture or if I'll end up with another c-section and having to recover while taking care of an additional child. Or how about the frustration and anger of being no more enlightened about labour and birth than a first time mum? Or about having to give up breastfeeding because surgery made it physically and emotionally too difficult? While I'm at it, I'm also willing to trade my inability to climb more than a few stairs, sit up without my abdomen shaking, and the pulling pains I still feel on my left side every few days.

Celebrities, sign up now. I'm willing to do a deal.

Wednesday 14 September 2005


Do you know why this picture is blurry? Because not only can he stand while supporting himself, he likes to bounce up and down while he does it. I swear, I am not feeding my son triple espressos in the morning.

Tuesday 13 September 2005

je me souviens

Every time I read a book by Kathy Reichs, I get really homesick. She doesn't just use Montreal as a backdrop, she includes references to specific restaurants, buildings, streets, and landmarks. Her characters take detailed routes to their destinations, travelling along roads I know well. They eat bagels and smoked meat sandwiches, and buy their groceries in Le Faubourg. Words like "tabarnacle" pop up every now and then (and then I translate them to my husband who is none the wiser until I explain that swearing is religion-based in Montreal). I am currently reading the latest Reichs novel, so I am feeling rather homesick at the moment.

We didn't think that we'd be able to go to Montreal this Christmas; we thought we'd be too rushed to visit both Toronto and Montreal, particularly with a 10-month-old in tow. As luck would have it, British Airways are having a seat sale but we need to depart before December 12 to get the best deal. So, this means that we will be in Canada for almost three weeks - giving us plenty of time to make the trip to Montreal.


I haven't been home for almost three years, and I'm dying for a decent bagel. I miss my friends and family, and there are quite a few new faces that have arrived on this planet since the last time we were home (and at least one more to arrive by the time we get there, eh Dina and Steve?) I want everyone to finally meet Jack. I want to buy things. Lots and lots of things. I want snow and to take Jack on his first toboggan ride. I want to watch all my Christmas cartoons and slightly peculiar animated classics that they don't show here. I want to see if I still remember how to speak French.

Three more months. Put in your requests for interesting chocolates and oddly-named sweets now.

last week in pictures

Jack's been getting up on all fours quite a bit recently, but hasn't quite sussed out that he needs to move his hands and knees to get anywhere. Either that, or he's been practicing his downward facing dog yoga position.

Socks taste yummy!

We went to the Linton Zoo with Nanna and Grandad. At first, Jack wasn't too impressed.

But he got enthusiastic about it a bit later.

We also went to the Anglesey Abbey. Although it rained and rained, we made it to the grand house and the rain had stopped by the time we were finished. We admired the beautiful dahlia collection, had a cup of tea, and Grandad had to drive us home in the pouring rain.

Of course a little rain never gets Jack down.

Monday 12 September 2005

hear me roar

When Paul said to me a few months ago that he might be asked to go to our Ft. Lauderdale office in September, I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. At that point, the thought of being alone to do all the parental, doggy, and regular household duties made me queasy. What if Jack got ill? What if he started teething and he screamed his way through the nights? What if Jasper got ill? What if I got ill? The months went by and the topic came up again in August. Paul asked me if I would be okay if he went - he was fully prepared not to go if that's what I wanted - and I said yes. For some reason, I knew I'd be okay. That didn't stop me from enlisting the help of my fabulous in-laws mind you, but I was surprised at how relatively calm I felt about the whole thing. Jack and I both got ill, and the most challenging thing was walking both baby and an energetic 36kg. Labrador Retriever until my in-laws arrived a few days after Paul left. It was weird being here alone at night and it was slightly unnerving after Jack went to bed and the house went quiet, but it was surprisingly okay.

I have a theory, somewhat akin to the notion that "what doesn't make you completely mental makes you stronger" (or words to that effect). Being madly in love with my son was never a problem, but pretty much everything else about new motherhood was a struggle. I couldn't breastfeed, couldn't deal with no sleep, had a lousy recovery from the c-section, and worst of all, I felt helpless and physically fragile. After months of being unable to do many everyday things, and when my strength started to return, my confidence grew. Everything suddenly seemed easy; I could sail through the day with Jack on my hip, no problem. The contrast was so dramatic, and I think that's because the early days were so bleak. Or maybe it's because Jack's such an easygoing baby. Hmm better stop now before I jinx everything.

We started baby yoga on Friday, which was fantastic. It's run by the same lovely woman who taught our antenatal yoga classes, and a few of my friends are taking the course as well. I think I'm starting to notice fundamental boy/girl baby differences - all the girls remained on one spot on the floor and happily let their mums bend, stretch, and rotate their limbs. Jack, as soon as he was placed on the floor, rolled halfway across the room and decided that it was much more fun to keep turning on to his tummy than stay on his back and have his limbs manipulated. The girls sat, Jack wanted to stand. The girls relaxed quietly next to their mums, Jack rolled over to the closest girl and gave her hands a nibble. The girls stared intently at their mums during songs, Jack's eyes darted around the room or looked at the mum next to me. Lord help me when he learns to crawl.

An interesting cultural difference became apparent during baby yoga.

Them: If you're happy and you know it and you really wanT To show it...
Me: If you're happy and you know and you really wanna show it...

It was like singing with a church choir, the enunciation was so precise. We are such lazy speakers. Tsk.

no pressure

Our neighbours went on holiday last week and before they left, I asked if there was anything we could do for them while they're away. M said, "Oh yes actually, could you please water my plant? I've had it for 20 years, and it's still going strong. My dear friend gave it to me and I know that as long as it's alive, I will always remember her. She died a few years ago, but I still have that plant."

You just know what's going to happen by the time they get back, don't you?

Tuesday 6 September 2005

quote of the day

"If you are what you eat, she has eaten a small rancid hamster." -David Baddiel

(On Gillian McKeith, presenter of the dreadful but slightly amusing television programme "You Are What You Eat". Read more about her [complete lack of] credentials here. And has anyone noticed how she now says "I believe that..." or "In my opinion..." before she doles out advice? And how she's no longer touted as Dr. Gillian this series?)

stop, thief!

Monday 5 September 2005

bump and grind

The more observant of you may have noticed that my weight loss ticker has not changed, even though today is Official Weigh-In Day. I will never use the word "only", so I'll simply say that I lost 1/2 pound this week and didn't feel the need to change my ticker for that amount. No complaints here; in ten weeks I've lost weight every single week when normally I would have hit a plateau by now.

There's a woman at my gym who is very large, and she totally inspires me. She works much harder than I do and she's there as often as I am, possibly more. Today, I noticed a woman next to me who was visibly pregnant. She did exactly the same machines that I did and worked out for 45 minutes like me. I say, hats off to women like her. Unfortunately, I fell under the "pregnancy is a delicate condition" misconception and moved as little as possible my entire pregnancy. Maybe that contributed to my high blood pressure at the end, and it certainly led to my extra layer of protective blubber last winter. Although I can't imagine plodding along on a treadmill or the step machine in the third trimester, I really want to be a lot more active next time. Of course once you have a child, life becomes very active anyway. I seriously doubt I would be able to take it easy next time, even if I wanted to.

One final note about my new fitness regime: pilates hurts. Don't be lulled into thinking it'll be a breeze when deciding to take a yoga or pilates class. I'm telling you, my stomach hurts for three days after my pilates classes. Hmmmm which must mean that I've got abdominal muscles after all. Hurrah!

by the beautiful sea

We packed ourselves, the baby, the dog, and a picnic lunch into the car and headed for the north Norfolk coast. The sun shone brightly on us as Jasper ran through the waves and Jack looked slightly nonplussed. You may laugh at us with our plaid travel blanket and insulated picnic cooler, but at least we haven't reached the stage where we bring our own flasks of tea and drink it out of floral ceramic teacups whilst seated on folding lawnchairs in a carpark. Yet.

Soggy doggy!

Are we there yet?

i should have called him oliver

Just as we arrived at the gym this morning, something seemed not right. A quick whiff of my son's lower half quickly revealed that he was in need of changing. I whisked him off to the changing room and discovered that his nappy had leaked - and I mean leaked. He had poo on places I didn't think came anywhere near his bottom. I stripped him down to his bodysuit, cursing the fact that I forgot to replenish the supplies and clothes in his baby bag after the weekend. He had no other clothes to wear, and this was the only clean nappy he had. I carted him down to the nursery where I apologetically explained why we were late and why Jack was rather scantily clad. Praying that he wouldn't fill another nappy as he had none going spare, I left him in the amused hands of the nursery ladies.

I returned after my workout and saw two babies in the nursery. One looked like Jack from behind, but the baby was wearing socks and a strange outfit. "Where's mine, then?" I asked one of the ladies, not recognising my own son. "Oh, we had to put him in some other clothes that we had here," she explained. "His bodysuit had some poo on it, so we found this outfit for him, and then he felt cold so we put these socks on him." Another lady joined in, "We used to have some lovely baby jeans here, but they've gone missing. This was all we had." So there my son was, dressed in a pilly faded t-shirt and a bodysuit that was slightly too small. Cringing, I muttered "Oh dear. I really should check Jack's baby bag before I leave the house. Okay my little street urchin, let's go! Heh." and made a hasty retreat.

I bet stuff like this never happens to Kate Winslet or Stella McCartney.

Saturday 3 September 2005

anything you can do, i can do better

I sense a theme here. When I was pregnant, the month-by-month lists of what you "should" be experiencing used to make me mental. My pregnancy, like everyone else's, never went by the book. What is the point of causing panic in pregnant ladies around the world by inferring that there's a need to worry if you're not experiencing a particular pregnancy symptom? This continues to plague me through the form of the "your baby this month" emails I get from Pampers and Babycentre. (I know I could simply unsubscribe but there are actually some useful articles in those emails and I would have nothing to complain about.) Apparently by month 6, Jack should be pulling himself up to a standing position by himself, sitting up unaided, and writing short pieces for the cello.

The problem is, I can't help but compare his progress to other babies. Not in a negative way mind you - I don't freak out because Jack has no teeth yet or because he hasn't got the hang of finger foods - but a small part of my brain does register what other babies his age are up to and compares them to Jack. A very, very tiny part of me might feel slightly smug if Jack does something earlier than another baby. I suspect this is normal for most mothers and probably continues for the rest of your child's life. I mean, who doesn't brag about their kid in some way? And who doesn't feel a bit put off hearing someone brag about their kid?

Let me say this again: this is very likely why I should never attend mother/baby groups.

Thursday 1 September 2005

several pointless bulleted points

  • I don't like fruit. Well, I don't like most fruit. I enjoy bananas, apples, strawberries, melon, and grapes, but I don't care for most other fruit. I don't understand desserts that focus on fruit, unless it's strawberry cheesecake or a crumble/pie. To me, fruit suspended in clear gelatin, blended into a fluffy mousse, or chucked into a bowl is not a dessert. If, however, you cover fruit in chocolate, then it's more than welcome at my table.
  • Why is it that we spend 97% of the year complaining that the weather is rubbish, but when it's hot and sunny for 3% of the year, we find it intolerable and hope for rain to "break the heat"?
  • The pregnant lady on "Lost" really hacks me off. No 8 months pregnant woman is that thin, has a gravity-defying bump that juts out at a 90 degree angle to the rest of her body, and can be out in the sun and heat all day long, especially while hoisting plane wreckage around a beach. This reminds me of the time I wanted to shout out "You call THAT a baby bump? WITH TWINS?!" during Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
  • Our new car arrived today, but I won't get to see it until this evening. I can't drive it because it's a manual. Yes, that does make me feel slightly retarded.
  • I wear lipstick a lot but unlike Gwen Stefani, I do not wear it while I exercise. That's just weird.
  • I often find myself trying to think up email subject lines that don't sound like spam. For example, if I use the subject headings "Hello!", "Just checking in", "How are you?", or "Hey there!", my email might be overlooked or filtered to junk mail folders. Whenever I send a general message to someone that can't really be encapsulated by a pithy heading, I'm at a loss.