Tuesday 28 February 2006

hip to be square

A recent scene from workville:

Manager type person: "They're talking about frozen monkeys in there."
Me: "Frozen monkeys? Have you guys been drinking again?"
Colleague: "Arctic Monkeys?"
Manager type person: "Yeah, them."

Thursday 23 February 2006

and a good time was had by (almost) all

First off, thank you all so much for the wonderful, extremely touching comments you left for Jack and I yesterday. I love how the Internet brings people together.

Jack's party yesterday was a lot of fun, except for Jack who spent most of it falling asleep. He had a fever by the time we got home and flopped out on his daddy for the duration of the evening. Is Jack going to have some sort of bug every day for the rest of his life?! It was great to see everyone and damn, that was one fine chocolate cake. Many, many thanks to all who came and for the fantastic presents. Jack is one lucky little boy.

Pictures from Jack's big day can be seen here. Enjoy!

Wednesday 22 February 2006


Our little boy turns one year old today, which convinces me that time takes on a completely different meaning when you're a parent. It's like what my friend Gordon used to call "computer time" - this is when you sit in front of the PC for what feels like three minutes but turns out to be roughly 72 hours. I feel like I've been a mother for a couple of months, but it's actually been a year. One year! If the rest of my life goes by this quickly, Jack will be wheeling me into a home by 2010.

One of the best things about having kids is having an excuse to do childish things. This afternoon, I am going to hurl myself down a large plastic slide, sit in a tub of balls, and stuff myself with chocolate cake until I go blind. This is all for the sake of my son's birthday party, of course. I am overjoyed that this country has a distinct lack of Chuck E. Cheese and an abundance of soft play centres.

Happy first birthday, my adorable boy. My life will never be the same again, and that's a very good thing.

(Soppy mummy post to celebrate Jack's birthday can be found on the baby blog.)

my #1 son

One year ago today, I sat in my hospital bed in a glamorous backless gown, nervously chatting to the midwives before they wheeled me into theatre. Music played softly in the background (unfortunately, the only song I can remember hearing was Natasha Bedingfield) while everyone prepared for my surgery. One of the anaesthetists kept making pleasant small talk with me while very large needles were being inserted in the back of my hand and my spine. Paul held my hand and told me that he loved me, but I was too nervous to speak. She took one last "bump photo" for us and made sure that everything below my chest my numb. I was told that it would feel like someone was doing the washing up inside me, but I barely felt anything. Someone announced that the baby was about to be born, which was followed by the sight of a small red bum and the glorious sound of our baby crying his lungs out. Jack was whisked out of my view while his daddy snapped several pictures, then a tiny bundle of angry red baby was presented to me in a scratchy NHS towel. I cried so much that I couldn't see through my glasses as I gently stroked Jack's wrinkled face. I don't know how long it took them to sew me back up again; I was too distracted by this new life being held up to me. I was wheeled back to the recovery room where I nursed Jack for the first time and we finally had a much cherished quiet moment alone with our son. It snowed that day - "How fitting for a half Canadian", I said.

Today, the tiny fragile newborn is now a rambunctious toddler. He loves to get hold of everything and take it apart, he climbs on any object he can, is transfixed by electronic equipment (especially with buttons), sings along to music, walks - or perhaps "staggers" is a more apt description, giggles hysterically when you blow raspberries on his tummy, enjoys playing with trains and cars, and when he uses his walker, he stomps around the house with a look of determination and great purpose. The year has gone by so quickly, but I've loved watching our baby grow into a beautiful boy with a personality of his own.

Happy first birthday, Jack-Jack. I cannot remember what life was like before you, and I cannot imagine life without you. I love you more than I ever dreamed possible.

Tuesday 21 February 2006


The last few times we dropped Jack off at the nursery, he cried his little lungs out. Not for very long - he tends to stop as soon as we leave the room - but it's heartbreaking nonetheless. On Wednesday, I sat him on the floor when we arrived to take off his coat. He leaned forward and folded himself in half, like he was remembering a move from our baby yoga class. He buried his head between my knees as I knelt over him, pushing himself further in as I tried to move away. I got up to put his coat and bag away, and the cries of "aaaaaaaaAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" commenced. As I waved feebly and said "Bye bye, Jack!" as cheerfully as I could, I ducked out the door feeling like a Very Bad Mother.

I find myself identifying with Lynette from "Desperate Housewives" - although I hasten to add that I have never taken Ritalin to keep me awake and perky to perform mummy duties. I think the recent episodes in which she's just returned to work have struck home the most. Lynette's expressions of guilt and lines like "Mommies don't get days off! It's like being an ER doctor!" sum things up pretty accurately for me. Her boss goes on a tirade about how giving parents time off for child-related duties is unfair to those who choose not to have children and can't take time off to do things like get a haircut, for example. Similarly, one of our HR people stated that using parental leave to go on holiday with your family is unfair to those who don't have kids. (Not only is parental leave a legal right for any parent of a child under the age of 5, it is unpaid. Personally, I don't think it's anyone's business what you choose to do during that unpaid leave. But I digress.) Life imitating art...or primetime television.

When I dropped Jack off this morning, thankfully, he didn't cry. In a strange way, I am certain that my return to work has improved my relationship with Jack. When I was with him every day, most of our time was spent doing other things that didn't focus on Jack (like grocery shopping) and feeling stressed when he'd have a bad day. Although I was with him a great deal more, I think I took this time for granted and Jack was often just along for the ride. Now, I cherish every moment I have with him. We play together more, we cuddle more, and most importantly, I simply enjoy being with him more. When he has a temper tantrum, often I can deal with it without feeling frustrated. I think there's a lot more laughing and fun in the house now, and that's got to be a good thing. Doesn't really stop me from feeling guilty sometimes, though - but that's the nature of motherhood, isn't it?

Tuesday 14 February 2006


Before I got pregnant, I thought it was going to be like regular me but with a bump. I had absolutely no clue how it was going to feel, and was truly surprised at the myriad of weirdness that ensued for nine months. Some things were absolutely fantastic (e.g. feeling movement) while others were incredibly dreadful (e.g. the inability to stand upright without going "OW!!!" when I got up twelve times a night to pee). It wasn't like I imagined, and it didn't stop at pregnancy: becoming a mother was an experience I never could have properly fathomed.

I remember the first weeks being overwhelming, exhausting, painful, scary, and amazing. I remember thinking I would never, ever go through this again. The first few months were a sleep-deprived blur, punctuated by moments of pure terror when I felt like I just couldn't do this; I simply wasn't capable. I can't stay at home all day with this fragile new life, I can't do mummy/baby coffee mornings, I can't breastfeed without gasping in pain, I can't take care of another human being when I feel jet lagged and hungover at the same time. Why are we told that after 6 weeks, everything will be okay? 6 weeks to recover from a c-section and 6 weeks for the baby to settle into a routine - it's absolute nonsense. I didn't leave the house until 8 weeks after Jack was born and I was terrified to sneeze for ages. Jack still doesn't always sleep through the night.

I can't remember when my life changed from freaking out with a newborn to normal life with a baby, but it did happen at some point. Now, every moment I have with Jack is precious and even the smallest things he does fill me with joy. I miss him when he goes to bed - in the evenings, I sometimes scroll through pictures on my camera that I've taken of him during the day. Lots of people only know me as "Jack's mummy", and that's okay by me. I am happy being Jack's mummy; it's a role I can now fulfill with some degree of aptitude. I can imagine doing all of this again.

But don't ask me to go to a mummy/baby coffee morning - I still can't do those.

feel the love

I know that Valentine's Day is a load of Hallmark-induced malarky. I know. It still doesn't stop me from feeling giddy when a dozen red roses greet me at the office along with a boatload of chocolate. Maybe I'm deluded, but what's wrong with a tradition that compels us to be romantic? I'm even sharing the love with my workmates (in the form of chocolate) and have had some lovely chats with those who have stopped by my desk. I'm very much looking forward to the fantastic meal Paul will be whipping up for us this evening, and I care not a jot that it will contain double cream.

[Edited to add] In general, North Americans don't necessarily view Valentine's as a holiday for couples only. Parents give children chocolates and cards, kids bake cupcakes with cinnamon hearts on top at school, and classmates give each other little tear-out paper Valentines regardless of whether or not you've got a crush on the person. Maybe we should adopt that attitude here, and that way February 14th wouldn't always be a Day to Make Single People Feel Like Poo.

So I wish all of you a happy Valentine's Day, even if you're feeling ambivalent about the whole thing. Now could somebody please save me from myself and take this chocolate away from me?

Friday 10 February 2006

behold my power, part 2

Remember when everyone around me was pregnant from 2004-2005? Even people who had great difficulties in conceiving until I sent fertility vibes their way? It's happening again - in the past two weeks, I have learned that four people I know are pregnant. Okay, it has diddlysquat to do with me, but there's no denying that these things happen in waves.

If you want to get pregnant, just let me know. Please note that my powers are limited - you still need a male in the equation.

in the car cleaning guy we trust

Our company organised a car cleaning day yesterday with a chap with a van and a very powerful hose of some sort. As I have now reached the age and point in my life where I feel it's my duty to pay others to clean for me, I happily handed over my car keys to a complete stranger. Luckily, the guy did actually clean my car (and very well, I might add) and didn't drive off with it and trade it for crack. My faith in mankind has been restored.

I have a burning question. Do English people normally eat burgers with forks and knives? We went out for a pub lunch with about ten of my colleagues, and most of us had burgers. I noticed halfway through the meal that I was the only heathen chowing down on my burger using my hands. Everyone else ate it open-faced with cutlery. Is this the norm here? I need to know - I've got a citizenship test to take soon, and this might be one of the questions.

Thursday 9 February 2006

some people shouldn't even own pet rocks

"Police visited the home of pop singer Britney Spears following the publication of photos showing her driving with her son on her lap." [source]

Words fail me.

Wednesday 8 February 2006


My baby is growing up wayyyy too quickly.

(Left: the day we bought Jack's highchair when he was 4 months old. Right: inspecting his Valentine's card from Grandma and Grandpa a week ago.)

what doesn't kill you makes you stronger

On Thursday night, Jack yakked up all over his daddy (who seems to be his preferred vom target) and spent the entire night doing much of the same. Jack must have caught a nasty tummy bug from the day nursery, as one of the ladies there was also off with it. Very early on Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling awful and spent the next 24 hours with my head in the toilet. I've managed to keep down a piece of toast and some soup today. Go me.

According to our GP, getting lots of bugs is supposed to be good for babies as it helps build up their immune systems. Apparently if they get sick a lot in the first couple of years, they will be better able to fight things off as they get older. I'm not sure if there are any health benefits as a parent to catch every bloody thing your kid brings home, and it's really starting to cheese me off. I haven't been this sick this often in years. I had a cold that lasted from September to the end of November, caught a nasty stomach bug just before we left for Toronto, got an eye infection, had the Cold From Hell the last week of my maternity leave, and now this. Please. No more. I can't take being sick anymore. I've been taking megadoses of vitamin C, eating properly, and drinking litres of water a day. What more do you gods of the icky viruses want?! Leave me alone and go bother someone else who hasn't had a cold this year.

On a totally unrelated note, here is a picture of Jack after he decided that he would like to feed himself a pot of yoghurt. I think some of it actually ended up in his mouth.

Monday 6 February 2006

i ain't booking a clown

The wheels are now in motion - Jack's first birthday celebrations (yes, that's plural) are almost upon us and the party planning has commenced. I must big up Tom of Tom's Cakes (Unit 3-4 West Newlands Industrial estate, Somersham PE28 3EB Tel: 01487 842200) once again for providing cakey goodness for us...times two. I was too late to book a specialised cake for the family party on the 18th, but Tom is going to do us a lovely chocolate cake with a Thomas the Tank Engine theme as a favour because he remembers us from our wedding. Fantastic! For Jack's Cheeky Monkeys party with his little mates, I was able to order a special Jack-Jack chocolate cake. That's two chocolate cakes in one week - I'm all aflutter at the thought. Tom makes the most amazing cakes, and furthermore, he's just a really nice guy. Get your cakes from him if you're in the Cambridge/Huntingdon area, or buy something from him at the St Ives and Huntingdon farmer's markets.

I've sorted out Jack's presents, card, loot bags and loot bag contents, decorations for the family party, invites, venue, and now the cakes. All this for a little boy who has no clue what a birthday is, although I'm sure one day he'll look back on this time with great fondness. Since the birthday boy has just woken up and expressed his displeasure at being in a dark room by himself, I'd better skedaddle.

Thursday 2 February 2006

better now, thanks

After the initial shock and horror of being back at the office, things aren't too bad now. In a strange way, it feels like I never left. Everything is so familiar and it hasn't taken any time at all to get back into the swing of things - I even got my chair back without any difficulty. Everyone's been lovely, asking me how I'm handling the return to work and how Jack's doing. I've got all of my desk critters set up again (a USB "lava lamp", Mr. Potato Head keyring, a Jack-Jack Pez dispenser, Lisa Simpson figurine, a plastic moose, stuffed beaver, Batdz Maru, Cartman keyring, a vibrating Ireland bus, and my Lemon Jelly rubber ducky), a lovely picture of Jack courtesy of my husband, and a drawer full of PG Tips teabags. I'm starting on a new project and looking forward to the scrummy Fitzbillies cakes we get every Friday morning.

It's still hard to get used to the dramatic reduction in Jack time, but maybe seeing him less is better for both of us. I find that the time I do spend with Jack now is entirely focused on playing with him and giving him lots of attention. When I'm with him for the whole day, I tend to go about my daily tasks with intermittent playtime. Quality vs. quantity, perhaps.

On a final, very exciting note, I can taste again. After six days my sense of taste and smell has finally returned. You have no idea how exciting this is for me - last weekend, I made a spicy curry that could have been a bowl of wallpaper paste for all I could tell. It's incredibly depressing to eat simply to fill my stomach and unable to derive any joy from it. On the downside, nappy changing is a lot smellier now.