Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Toddler: Baby or Boy?

All smiles at the Musee d'Orsay
A little while ago I was picking William up from garderie; in his haste to get to me, he stumbled and fell, bonked his head and started to cry. The woman beside me chastened him saying something along the lines of big boys don't cry. I was instantly furious (I find my slowness to anger has deserted me as a mother....I now get instantly furious if its something to do with my kid). He's not a big boy, I thought, he's just a baby, and a tired, hurt baby at that! But once the tired baby was soothed and put to sleep, I went in to have a look at him. He was so big in his crib, taking up nearly 3/4's of it. Clearly not so much a baby.

William has always been physically adept, and this hasn't changed. He never walks anywhere, always runs. He is an agile climber (terrifying when you live on the 11th floor) and loves testing his balance on the play structures (more terror). But it is his language skills that have really taken off. I swear he learns a new word every day, some in French and some in English. Some of my favorites have been 'oh la la', 'aller' and more recently 'bravo!'. One day on our way back from the pool he trotted past a neighbor and said cheerfully 'ajou!'. He'd been saying this for awhile without me getting what it was, but when the neighbor responded with a 'bonjour' I realized what he was saying. He made the link all on his own that 'water' was the same thing as 'l'eau'; he says woof woof equally to doggies and chiens, and quacks at canards or ducks. William had Greg and I in stitches one night as he called to us from his crib: allo! Allo? Alllooooooo!, all in different voices. Of course, he has also learned to parrot swear words so suddenly we are needing to watch our French, quite literally!

William getting in couch time
Recently, William has begun to enjoy kids T.V. I don't want him to be a big watcher, but I have to admit, half an hour of quiet with him glued to the tube is golden! I often sit and watch with him as the shows are just about the right level of French for me, ha ha! I notice a lot of them come from Quebec. He also has come to adore You Tube videos, with his favorite being this treacly version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Hearing William hum the tune in his piping little voice makes watching it for the 18 millionth time totally worth it.

William drinking some l'eau

William has been so much fun to spend time with this summer. He likes to go, and he is charming and very cute, so we get a lot of attention! We go to lots of parks and gardens, or to the one water park in the city (which is actually supposed to be a fountain, but everyone uses it as a water park). We checked out Paris Plage and the Base des Loisirs (recreation areas). We also do lots of swimming in our local pool, and he is getting quite comfortable in the water, learning to kick and blow bubbles. He travels really well and we went to the Baltics and Normandy as a family, and London with Nana and Papa. His favorite thing in the whole world is garbage trucks, followed closely by fire trucks and busses. He loved the red busses in London. "A bus!",  he exclaims, or "wooo wooo" for the fire truck. He can hear the garbage truck coming from blocks away and we have to drop what we are doing to go out and watch it.

Me n' my baby
In some ways, and on certain days, William is still a baby. He loves to cuddle in bed in the morning and he still wants his Mama nana. He still wants me when he is hurt or tired. And of course he still needs me to care and do for him even if he is Mr. Independent most of the time! But the true baby days are over, and in many ways I miss them....they went so fast, and even though they were not long ago, I don't really remember what he was like then. I guess we are absorbed in the stage William is at now and enjoying it to the fullest. And he is so much fun, more fun than ever. I comfort myself knowing that William is busy becoming a boy, but no matter what he will always be my baby.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bored in the Baltics

William has fun at the airport!
The Tumbleweeds (that's us) are just back from our main summer vacation (as opposed to all the other, shorter vacations that we are taking!). This time we chose the Baltics because

a) Greg collects countries like I collect Pandaora, and he hadn't had a new one in awhile
b) it sounded quiet and relaxing, a good antidote to life in Paris
3 (this is an in joke) we could get there in under 3 hours by plane and William still flies for free

Taking a tram ride in Helsinki
We flew into Helsinki, and it was a great place to start. Clean, easy to get around in and very interesting, we soon wished our planned 2 day stopover could be more. Life there centres around Market Square, and our functional apart-hotel was a mere 5 minute walk away. They have beautiful art deco architecture (called Jungen in that part of the world) which was an unexpected treat for me to see, and many wonderful museums. Greg got to go to the Olympic stadium (another thing he 'collects') and I had a wonderful day in the design district: Marimekko, Iitalla, Fiskars, oh my! There was this awesome little park a stone's throw from our hotel that keeps sand toys on hand for all the kids to use freely...William was in heaven. We also really enjoyed the unusual 'stone church' which was blasted out of an escarpment and given a glass roof; a bit different from your average European cathedral. We wish we had time to see the Military Museum (to familiarize ourselves with their history, so different from ours) and to take a ferry over to one of islands to see their Viking Village, but alas it was time to move on.

William's first ball room!
We took a ferry known far and wide as a booze cruise over to Estonia. We supposed that liquor laws are stricter in Finland so folks head to lawless Estonia to get all hammered. I had very little wine in Helsinki as it was only sold in dedicated stores which were closed most of the weekend (but you could buy beer in the grocery stores. Simply not the same in my books!). So if not exactly hammered I certainly did enjoy a few glasses of wine with dinner! Greg had booked us an all you can eat buffet on the ferry AND William got to experience his first ball room. So the booze cruise was thumbs up in our books!

Not so much Tallin, at least for Greg. We walked to our hotel, a short distance from the port and it was very pretty. Tallin is like a picture book village from Medieval times, all pretty colors and stone walls and quaintness. We really liked that part, but so did loads of other people. And Greg hated all the shops and to be honest he was right, there were too many. We did do a walking tour of the town, and took in the occupation museum which was very well done. We took William on "Toomas" the tourist train which he loved. We also ate at an 'authentic' Medieval pub where everything cost one euro. I thought at that price it would be pretty bad, but it was better than pretty good! We ate soup and stuffed pastry things fresh from the stone oven, and drank beer from pottery mugs. They had the place done up all dark and Medievally, and the staff wore costumes. It was touristy but fun.

Next we rented a car to drive off into the wilds of Estonia. You should have seen the hunkajunk we got! Dented, scratched, hubcaps missing, the side view mirror casing dropped off one day. Our hotel told us that it is pretty typical for an Estonian rental. Yeeikes! At least we didn't worry much about it as what was one more scratch? No matter, the car worked so off we went.

On the boardwalk in Haapsalu
Now, choosing to go to Estonia on holiday you know you are not in for tourist central. Nor will there be loads of activities or much English spoken. This was partly why we wanted to go there, for something off the beaten path. But our next hotel ended up being waaaayyyyy off the path! Online it had looked plain but clean and said it was near the sea. These things were all true, but when we got there we realized the sea was a bird watching area so there went my vision of William puttering in the sand. There was no TV, no Internet which was OK but for 8 DAYS!!! What had I booked us? However, once I calmed down we got into the pace of life at Haeska Manor and sucuumbed to its charm. The birdwatching area turned out to be a great place to throw rocks in the water, and we read lots. The owners had their grand daughter staying with them, so she and William chased the chickens together. Perhaps because of the children, we were welcomed into the host family's life: we did laundry, ate together, got together for playdates. And the host was a really good cook so we ate like kings! We also took a daytrip to Latvia, to the interior and I even took a mudbath (I told Greg it was like what I imagine it would be inside one of William's diapers: warm, brown and smelly. But my skin was silky smooth after!). We spent a lot of time in the nearest town of Haapsalu where they had a surprising amount to do: a wonderful boardwalk by the sea, great playground (do you sense a playground theme in this missive? Tells you where we are at in our life!) and interesting ruined castle, archery and even an afternoon of bowling. All in all we enjoyed ourselves, and went home refreshed.

the Tumbleweeds

After the quietness of  our vacation we are relishing ife in Paris again, especially as it is our favorite season: les vacances! That means most of the Parisians have gone away for the summer and we have the city to ourselves. We love it like this. Soon enough will come the rentree but until then I will go enjoy a quiet glass of quiet wine on my quiet street. Ahhhhhhh.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Springtime of my Life

Hello again, and happy Spring!

I sit writing looking out over an inspiring cityscape. The clouds are rolling by, pushed along by the frisky wind, so it is cool even if sunny. William is asleep. Greg is working out. There is peace in my world.
Beautiful Spring gardens in Budapest

Spring has been lovely so far, not so much weather wise (its a rainy year AGAIN!) but events wise. For Easter the three of us travelled to Budapest. The flight was blessedly short as flying with William is a whole new experience now that he is a toddler. He can be interested briefly in looking out the window, pushing the window blind up and down (up! and down), and flipping the table tray open and closed (open! and closed) but after that it is a route march for Mom or Dad up and down the aisle. And up! And down.  The days of drinks and movies during the flight are long gone. Anyways, William still travels free on planes this year, and so anywhere we need to fly this is the year to do it. I see lots of route marching in my future.

So anyway we flew into Budapest, and checked into our lovely apart'hotel (THE way to go with a baby). Our first stop was, of course, the park, and this was a lovely, old, venerable park complete with a zoo and the famous bath house. The next day we walked over to the Buda side ( Pest and Buda used to be seperate duchies, with the Buda side for the richie riches and the Pest not so much. As the Pest side was anhilated during the war, it is more modern and so most of the hotels are there). We took the famous chain bridge and stopped for a local pastry treat made primarily with sweet cheese. The line for the funicular was long and so we opted to walk up the hill to see the castle and churches, however got stopped to pay entry as a special Easter market was set up on the grounds of the castle. At first this annoyed the heck out of me but it turned out to be one of our favorite parts of our trip. We watched traditional dances and listened to very high calibre chamber music whilst munching on typical food for lunch (meat, meat and more meat, with beer). I bought a few souvenires at the market, including hand embroidered blouses, so beautiful. Then we looked at St Michael's, famous for its brightly tiled roof (I tried to get in playing dumb tourist but the guy at the door must have been a former Soviet border gaurd with no sense of humor!). We went our separate ways, I to the art gallery where I saw evidence of all the major art movements but with fresh interpretation, and Greg to take William for his nap. The next day I took nap duty while Greg went for a soak at the 17th C. bath house (very beautifully decorated he said) and then we all went together to the Terror Museum. The museum is housed in the actual buildings used to interrogate, torture and kill citizens and was wonderful in a horrible way. It shocked both of us to realize what a sad history this city and its people have had. We cheered up when we found a fun local park (with a zip line in it:) to play in, and took ourselves out for Easter dinner. We were going to have goulash -when in Rome and all that- but there goulash is actually soup and so we had pasta instead! Overall we were struck by how undone Budapest is, save for the most major of tourist areas, and how friendly the people were. Apparently the government there is still very corrupt and so it is hard to get any traction with the tourism trade. Sad really.

Back at home we enjoyed our round of normal life. We went to a little friend's birthday party, saw friends for lunch, finally visited Butte Chaumont and took in an organ concert at St. Sulpice. I had book club and started writing non fiction peices for our local parenting magazine. With the help of our wonderful new babysitter, I was able to get back to my creative writing class which I love especially for its location at the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Greg is staying very busy at work, but still fitting in Spanish lessons at lunch once per week.

Soon we were off again, this time home to Canada to celebrate Auntie Heather's wedding! We went for 2 weeks and decided just to stay in Alberta rather than repeat our exausting multi provincial Christmas visit. It was the right thing to do and we enjoyed it so much more. We stayed with cousin Jenni and Brandon in Calgary, where we went to the zoo; saw my dear friend Irene and met her 2 little girls; visited with my entire family for a weekend in Edmonton (saw their zoo too); saw Auntie Heather's new house and helped make wedding favors; played in cousin Trina's back yard with the 'big boys' while Mom and Dad went out to go celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary; and travelled on to Jasper for the beautiful wedding. William handled the time change on the western journey very well, but struggled to adapt for a week when we got home, meaning Mom got very tired being woken at night again. The red eye was a bit tough for him too, and we were 'those parents' with the screaming baby, until he exhausted himself and slept. Therefore I'm not too up for further cross Atlantic flights for awhile. You may not see me in Canada again until we come home!

William is doing great. He is a sturdy, smiling, going concern. He loved our Canadian visit as he had so many other kids to play with. He loved cousin Brandon's sit-in police car (he spent an entire afternoon getting in and out of it) and Katelyn's princess tent. We took him swimming at the hotel pools while we were away; he was cautious at first (literally sticking in his big toe to test the water) but soon got to love it again. This is great because I want him comfortable in the water so he will enjoy our cottage once we get home. In Edmonton he experienced his first petting zoo and was quite fearless in pursueing the goat for a pat. He also had his first ice cream cone; after one bite he handed it back (too cold, I guess) but after watching Papa tuck into his, William gave it another go and discovered a new passion! I make 'jus-jus' popsicles for him here at home which are great on a hot day (wish we had more of those this summer!). He is a real little boy now with scratched and bruised knees. He was quite perturbed that a scratch would not wash off, but now is Ok with a kiss on his bo bo from Mommy (he will actually pull down my chin to give his knee a kiss). He gave me my first real hug too, chubby arms around my neck and patting my back. Recently we went for a walk down our street to go get a baguette (how French, eh?); this walk takes me 10 minutes there and back, but it took us 45 minutes doing it together! But everything is fascinating to William: puddles, dogs, cars, trees are all worthy of inspection and comment. It is wonderful to slow down and see how fascinating the world is through my toddler's eyes.

We have a passle of people coming to stay in the next few months and will fit in our own summer holiday during that time as well. So more fun to come!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

From Christmas to Easter: ketchup!

If you've noticed a lull in the are right. If feel like a bear coming out of winter hibernation!
I honestly think I am now just getting over Christmas. When did Christmas become so exhausting? Of course, we did travel home, go on to Victoria, have a birthday party, a Christening, 6 gift openings and a partridge in a pear tree. Never again. Enough said.
January was devoted to getting back to routine. I insisted that we not travel, and kept things as routine as possible. Because young William started daycare! Here, there are 2 daycare options: creche which is full time, and halte-garderie, which literally 'halts' over the noon hour (the French devotion to a good lunch is really impressive isn't it?). We were lucky to get a space 2 mornings per week in a halte-garderie in the ground floor of our apartment building. The first week was devoted to 'adaptation' where we gradually increased William's time in care. The first day, after only an hour, he came home and slept three hours. Tiring stuff, this daycare! There were lots of tears in the beginning but he is gradually coming to like it, and even look forward to it. Greg and I notice his comprehension of French has increased since starting daycare, and that he is a little more assertive on the playground....not a bad thing since he used to get knocked over a lot. And he has a new look to go with his new routine: his baby hair was getting pretty shaggy so I took the scissors to the back. The cut is a it abrupt, but he only sits still so long. At least its tidy now.
With William in care I could get back to French lessons. I have been lucky enough to find a sympathetic teacher not far from our apartment. Florence has the most amazing bleached blonde hair and is skinny as a nail, but she makes me a coffee every morning and we laugh a lot. Once per week is not a lot (I need the other morning for 'me' time. Or to write this blog!) but it is a start. If all continues to go well, we will ask for another morning per week for William.
The new year also brought changes for Greg. His boss had had a minor heart attack the previous summer, and seems to have taken his doctor's instructions to go easier to heart (literally). So, he has given Greg much more responsibility, asking him take over presentations and act for him on several occcasions. Greg is also getting to travel more, which he likes (probably because William and I stopped going with him, ha ha!). Greg is finding the work more satisfying as a result of all this, and is feeling comfortable and competant in his work.
Greg had an odd incident in the New Year. While we were away in Canada, his lower left lip ballooned out, looking like he'd been in a fight. It wasn't sore, but didn't go away so he had it looked at once back in Paris. It turned out to be a blocked saliva gland that needed to be surgically removed. He came home (by Metro, can you believe) looking like Frankenstein, and needed to eat soup for a few days. Besides a small divet in his lip, he is back to normal, but it was was weird little thing to have happen.
With William more or less settled at daycare, we could indulge Daddy's desire to go on a ski trip. Now, I have to tell you that I honestly thought this was a bad idea. Dad goes off skiing leaving Mm and busy one year old with nothing to do and nowhere to I dragged my heels a bit and by the time we booked the only think left was a hotel called the Dacha. Think 1960's from floor to cieling. In fact, the entire village of Chamrousse is a 1960's throwback. They hosted the Olympics in 68 and haven't renovated since! Dad did go off skiing but of course let Mom do the same. However there wasn't much to do with baby boy as he is too little for tobaganning. We tried taking him in a baby sleigh, called a 'luge' here, which he loved until he toppled out and then he just cried and cried. Turned out he was getting sick, poor lamb. Next Mom got the virus badly so the trip ended a bit disastrously. I think I will stick to my guns next year and stay home! Or, book Club Med Mont we're talking.
March was the Month of Megan, my birthday! And it was a special one this year as I turned 40. Forty. Fooorty. I have to keep saying it and I still don't beleive it. Anyhow, I celebrated in style. On the actual some friends and I took in my favorite museum, the d'Orsay, and treated ourselves the champagne in the oh so lovely cafe. The next weekend, Greg hosted a lunch for friends, and a few weeks later I went off to Florence sans bebe et mari. I wasn't sure how I would feel leaving William for the first time, but I had little time to dwell on it as there was shopping, eating and touring to be had! My friend and I shopped for jewellry on the Ponte Vecchio all morning, then took in Sante Croce where Michealangelo and other important dudes are interred. We then had a one our massage and spa....heaven. And a big pasta dinner, more heaven! It was a great trip and made me realize that mommies need regular holidays too. If we (as a family and a society) truly value work at home, then it deserves the same perks as work outside the home, right?
The fun in March wasn't over as Greg and I took in a Bryan Adams concert late in the month. I had bought it as a birthday gift for him, but enjoyed it just as much as he did. What a great time! The man can still rock, and it reminded us of our youth. We spent the evening singing and shimmying and it was a good thing.
Naturally, William's development has slowed down a bit but there is still a lot going on with Little Man. Physically he is much more sure, and prefers to run everywhere rather than walk (although he still motors 'quatre-pattes' if he is tired). He is now adept at climbing, much to my terror, and proudly reached the top of the slide all on his own last week. His current favorite toy is the wooden push along truck we bought him for Xmas as he can not only push it, but sit on it, and even better use it as a stool. Needless to say I am babyproofing more/still/again! He still loves his books, current favorites being "Hand Hand, Fingers, Thumb" (dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum!) and "I Love you Through and Through" for bedtime. Verbally, he is really taking off. He repeats ducky and doggy sounds, says 'bye bye' and 'au revoir', 'yellow', 'shoes', 'tummy', 'eating' 'yoghurt' and 'dehors'. He will shake his little finger and say "ni ni ni no!" to the daycare workers if they chastise him. We love to play dress up with hats and scarves, but his favorite activity of all is vacuuming...we do it every day, and I hate it. We spent time in museums this winter to escape the cold: saw Musee des Arts Decoratif, Sempe exhibit and Malmaison. He is really getting rythmn when he dances: shakes his little booty and everything! He is a sweet tempered guy most of the time, willingly sharing things, and liberally giving kisses. He can be a real monkey too, witness the time he dropped my keys down the elevator shaft! Thank God for spares!
Best of all though is that William is finally sleeping through the night.........
So, that's us up til Easter. Will write again soon!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Wonderful One Year Old

This past December was such a whirlwind: Christmas, travel and.....a first birthday! I was so proud and sad all at once that my baby was one. All those little stages he went through: rolling, crawling, cruising, are all things of the past. Essentially, the things he is able to do now -walking, talking, feeding himself- are skills he will have from now on, but the baby ones are gone. I am proud that William is so active, so sturdy, so big; but I miss my wee baby, never to be seen again. And even more sadly, I can't really remember him as a really little baby. I have flashes of memory, but trying to recall the feel and look of him when really small....gone in the mists of time, like my baby is.
(OK I am crying a little writing this)
I put effort into planning William's first birthday, but there were sweet gifts from Grace as well. The day began with us all snuggled up in the big bed together, William and I nursing, and Greg dozing. It rained that morning, and as we lay like bears in our den we listened to the rain pitter pattering, and felt sweet content. We then helped William open his gift that we had bought him months ago in Prague, and he loved it: a little monkey (just like our monkey) wooden toy that plays a zylophone when you pull him along. He has gotten hours of entertainment out of it.
I spent that whole morning with William, just doing all the things he loves best: yoga, dancing, reading books and playing with my blowdryer (the BEST toy!!). He then napped while I got ready for the party. And napped. And napped and napped! Everyone had already arrived and the guest of honor had to be woken up, much to his displeasure. He remained sleepy and weepy for the first hour of the party, not letting me put him down for even a second. It was his party, and he could cry if he wanted to! (Interestingly enough, my Mom says that I slept through most of my first birthday party too....I guess we are easily overwhelmed, William and I). Little did I know that the classic separation anxiety of this stage had begun. However, he loved his banana birthday muffin, and later, his chocolate cupcake that he had so Dad could see him with icing all over his face!
Developmentally, my big baby just gets better and better at walking. He now roams all over the apartment. His balance is still precarious, and so he walks with elbows akimbo and his knees lifting sargeant major style. He looks more like he is riding a unicycle than walking! He prefers to hold a grown up finger, and I have precious pictures of us walking along together. Soon, I know, he won't want to be held back by any finger holding. William uses his new found locomation to run away from Daddy after his bath, running nakedy snakedy all over the apartment. He is also into so much more now. He broke a favorite lamp of mine, and managed to lock the washing machine with a wet load in it. And the guide book is in french, so it took me all day to get around to getting out the dictionary and figuring out how to unlock. So this is life with a toddler!
But William is so cute I can't stay mad for long. He now has two front teeth with an adorable gap in them which really changes his smile. He is discovering all the things these new teeth can do: clicking together, grinding and biting Mommy's nipple, yikes! His favorite word is 'didah' which can be said loudly, caressingly, seems to be a catch all. After nursing in bed in the morning, William wakes Daddy up by poking him and saying Didah! But other words are more recognizable: he told me "all done" looking at a book, and "no thanks" when I offered some apple.
On a less happy note, William was quite sick this month with an ear infection. All medication for French babies are designed to go in bottles, which William will not take....all he wants to do is nurse when he is sick. So Mummy got creative and mixed his medication up in a wineglass, then we had 'wine' during supper. He thought that was great fun, and was pretty adept with a wineglass...that's my boy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Body Image

I have always thought I was fat. This is partly because I took ballet (a sylph I was not) and partly because I was a girl (dieting is a topic of interest from about age 4) and partly because I actually was kinda fat.....okay, not really fat just.....plump. I look back at pictures from childhood, and there it is, my nemesis: the belly. Thankfully I have a mother who was devoted to good nutrition (she made us homemade fruit rollups, no joke) and a husband who is an exercise fiend so my tendency to rolly polly-ness is mostly dealt with in a healthy way, but do not doubt I am familiar with that particular kind of self loathing that comes from not looking the way you think you should look.

So, even though getting pregnant was an incredible thrill, one of the many myriad thoughts meandering through my brain was: how fat will I get? And how long until I get thin(ish) again after the baby?

But like so many things in my life, I was blessed, thrilled and surprised to find that I felt fabulous during my pregnant. Despite an ice-cream per day habit during a trip home to Canada (it helped kill the heartburn) I did not put on a gross amount of weight. However, for the first time in my life, weight was no longer a concern. I had a reason to have a big, beautiful belly: I had a big, beautiful baby in there! I was in awe of my body, and what it was accomplishing. With very little help from Greg (no offense, honey) I was growing a PERSON!! It was incredible. I felt like a goddess.

And that sense of awe and appreciation for my body continued into William's first months of life, for, as a breast feeding Mom, I was helping him to grow outside of my tummy too. And not only did he grow, he thrived! He was a fat, jolly, happy little baby who loved to feed, and had a Mommy who loved to feed him. So, I was scarred by childbirth, plump, with huge boobs and I did not care. What relief! What liberation!

But of course, the day of reckoning came as it must. For me it was once William started on solids, and I took him to a doctor's appointment. Very casually I stepped on the scale only to realize that I weight MORE than I did after the baby was born. That was not a good day.

So slowly, and to be honest resentfully, I started to claim my body back from the rigours of childbearing. But despite feeling fat (again) I have come to this stage with a new respect for my body. It is an awesome body, capable of miraculous things. And even though my son is born, nourished, and nearly weaned, it is a body still capable of amazing things. My body is coming back to being my own, but I share it generously with my boys. It is a body that is a bit padded, but aren't I cozier that way?

Not to say I was not delighted to lose a few pounds during a bout of the flu. And I am ecstatic that my old clothes fit again (its like getting a new wardrobe!!!). I am committed to eating a bit better, and exercising a bit more. Because shouldn't I care as much about what I am putting in my mouth, as what I am putting in William's? I want to be fit and fabulous in my new life, to keep up with my active toddler, but also to feel like a pretty woman again.

I know myself well enough to know that I will have fat days again; don't we all? But even then, I will never forget that I have a body that is capable of amazing things. It can run and jump, stretch and breathe. It can laugh and cry, write and sing. It can bake a cake while simultaneously talking on the phone. It can love a husband. It can grown and nourish a son.

I am a goddess.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our Lives in Ordinary Time

Something you may not know is that I was a little Catholic schoolgirl; yup, navy blue tunic, knee socks, pigtails, scary nuns, and kindly priests, the works. Our school year was punctuated not only with homework and tests, but by the annual Easter procession, live Christmas pageant and lectures on true sacrifice during Lent (which for me was no TV). While I have left the knee socks and pigtails behind (and scary nuns) I have retained the wonderful rythmns of the Catholic liturgical year. In my internal calendar that marks the most private, precious events of my life I celebrate not only the biggies like Christmas and Easter, but those lesser appreciated times such as Advent and Lent. I have learned to love and value those seasons of preparation and denouement. But my favorite season has always been the least appreciated one: ordinary time. It means nothing is happpening save the daily rounds and small rituals of every day life. There is nothing to preapre for, nothing to clean up after. It is just that, ordinary time, and I have come to realize how very special it is.

In my old life I don't think I had ordinary time. There was a house to keep, a cottage to renovate, a job to do, and garden to cultivate, family to attend to and friends to see. There was no time for ordinary time. But here life is different for us. It is partly because I have divested myself of most of those former obligations; its much easier to have ease when I don't work, own a home, have a garden or cottage, and our family obligations consists of weekly Skype chats. Its also partly that life with a small child has forced us to slow down, take time for play and be home for an early bedtime and so we simply can't be as busy. But both Greg and I have realized how much we have come to love, and need, ordinary time. Ordinary time gives us time to relax, to play, to spend time as a simply be.

And so what do we do? There is usually an obligation or two in the form of housework, so a bit of cleaning or laundry quickly sets the apartment to rights. We take time over our coffee and breakfast, lounging in our jim jams. Greg surfs the 'net. I scrapbook a little, or write a letter.William ping pongs between us, delighted to have two parents on hand to pester and play with. Then there is often a nap, sometimes for all of us, and afterwards maybe a saunter through the market or a trip to the gym. I use the Stairmaster and Greg lifts a little weight while running after William. Sometimes we'll all swim or go for a coffee. And there is always a visit to the park somewhere in there! In winter we might take in a more obscure exhibit that we've been waiting to see, or take advantage of 'free Sundays' when the big monuments are open gratuit. In summer we might do a walking tour or head out on town to wander a fine park or estate. We emerge from this routine rested, connected to each other, and happy.

And, so with our return home advancing ever more surely on the horizon, the question for me is how to preserve ordinary time? How to go back to work, buy a new house, coexist with our family without losing that precious sense of peace? I'm not sure how it will all work out, but I think it must involve planning a lot less. This is an admonishment mostly to myself, the big social planner! However I have realized there is something to be said for spontaneity, and leaving space on the calendar. It might also mean saying no a little more, so we can say yes more wholeheartedly. I read a great description recently that likened the writer's family to 'barbarians at the gates' in their desire to always get together that I must say rang a little true for me. As children of divorce I am not entirely sure what Greg and I can do about that, but we have promised each other that our own little family will come first. Most important is that I think we have now experienced and enjoyed ordinary time; if we let it, I think its blessings will come home with us in our suitcase.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Too Cute at Ten Months

In catching up with this blog I realize that I neglected to post something about William at 10 months. I thought oh well, we've got every other month covered, and I'll remember what he was like then. But you know what I don't. When I was pregnant and other mothers would tell me they couldn't remember a certain age or stage, I thought they were nuts; how could you forget something about your beautiful baby? But you do. Babies are so into the here and now that I at least tend to live there with them. And while overall I think that has been a very healthy thing for me, it does mean that the details of past stages tend to slip. And so with the help of notes, pictures and my rusty memory, here is our boy at 10 months:
Too cute eh? The highlight of our month was to travel together to England, a place that I love and would happily return to again and again. Greg had a conference in Chester, so William and I tagged along. Chester was lovely. William and I toured the Cathedral (were the photo above was taken) and walked the length of their Medieval wall, still intact after hundreds of years of siege and modernization! We also took a day trip over to Liverpool to see the Beatles Museum which was great fun, and William took his first ferry ride over the Liffey River. We got a little lost on the way home but William was able to take it all in stride now that he is maturing and has developed a fondness for Cheerios!
After Chester, Greg took some holiday time and we drove up North to meet our English family. They hail from North Hartlepool, which we had heard was quite industrial but we found to be quite pretty. Cousins Sam and Audrey were our gracious hosts, and while staying with them William learned to climb stairs! Not something he has a chance to do at home in the apartment. He also got to play with Sam and Audrey's grandchildren, a great treat.We also met William's great, great, great Uncle Charlie, and Grandma Moore's dear friend Lil. They were both, of course, quite taken with William!
After real English fish and chip at Seton Carew and a mandatory trip to Tesco's we were off again, this time to Edinburgh. I had visited there briefly while pregnant with William and longed to go back for the beautiful architecture and the shopping. But, shopping and touring with baby is a heck of alot different than doing it with a girlfriend. After one harrowing afternoon of William howling through the shops (but charming the shop girls) Greg took pity on me and gave me a free afternoon to look around. Debenham's, Monsoon, John Lewis, oh my!! Needless to say I loved it and stocked up on cashmere socks for the folks back home.
After Edinburgh we turned back south to visit the Lake District. On the way we tracked down the famous Sycamore Gap at Hadrian's Wall but in the end only Greg hiked out to see it as extremely hilly with gale force winds. Still, what a thrill to see something that has existed since AD 122!
The Lake District was so, so beautiful, probably the prettiest place I have seen in England (but all the English countryside is gorgeous so hard to say). It rained a lot, but this did not deter me from visiting Beatrix Potter's home and Gallery (where I saw many of her original paintings including the frisky Squirrel Nutkin). What an inspiration her life is to me, as she was able to live and work in the same place, spending a great deal of time outdoors in the process. To wake up each day, do a little writing or painting, then care for your garden and seems idyllic and very appealing. Anyhow, as a family we took a lovely little hike on the fells (hills) and caught some spectacular views when the clouds cleared.
Once we got home, we decided it was time for William to have his own room. When sharing our room, we could never talk above a whisper, nor watch a loud movie with William sleeping just past the divider; plus he would waken every night when we were going to bed. I was a bit sad to move my baby from my bedside where I could hear him breathe and turn, but in the end it really was for the best. He goes off to sleep very well with a feeding and a few stories and his beloved DouDou beside him.
William celebrated having his own room by cutting is first tooth, and with it, preferring grown up food to baby mush! He is also gabbling a lot more: "Dididah! Dada! Mama! Didoodoo!" often accompanied by pointing and vigourous head noddin. Too cute. He 'quatre pattes' at a mile a minute, but is also pulling himself up on every available surface. Won't be long until he walks!
Here he is wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!