Thursday, September 30, 2010

While I was sleeping someone replaced my brain with a Whoopee Cushion.

There's no entry in the dictionary for "Baby Brain", but if there was, I think it would go something like this.

Baby Brain: A condition of diminished brain power occurring in parents of young kids, often the result of months or years of sleep deprivation, caused by being woken up repeatedly during the night by babies and toddlers and sometimes, preschoolers, combined with way too many hours spent trying to decipher phrases such as "noo noo me fla floo boo poo" and not enough time having intelligent conversations with adults and listening to world news and reading National Geographic."


My brain is on vacation, it seems.

Like, I used to be able to remember the plot of a movie I watched two weeks ago; I could recall someone's name after they told me the second time; I could remember things from my to-do list without writing them on my arm with a Sharpie.

It just doesn't perform those tasks any more.

I know this, because yesterday at work, when the nice receptionist asked me to enter my password into the computer booking system, I innocently told her I had never been given one. Then, after she asked if I was sure I didn't have a password, I insisted I had never been given one. I shook my head and stood my ground, positive I was right.

There was no way I'd been given a password because obviously I would remember! Right?

But then, as if by magic, I managed to type a password into the system. It seemed that, in fact, I had created a password - one that only I knew, just two weeks ago. Of which I had NO RECOLLECTION WHATSOEVER.

How does someone with a normal, functioning brain forget a TINY DETAIL like that?

Oh! Oh! Oh! I know! Me! Me! Choose me! I know the answer!

Because those brain cells that used to function normally? Are taking a break. And won't be back until a quarter past never.

***Watch out for an exciting giveaway for parents with babies 
coming up at the end of this week***

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Eating Alone.

I have this fantasy: A waiter (can be Matt Damon, or not, whatever) brings my dinner to my hotel room. He lays the shiny silver platters down, and pours the wine. And then, I eat it. Alone. That's it, basically. I eat my meal in silence, savouring each bite, sipping a nice glass of red, perhaps gazing out the window at an amazing view, with nothing and no one to distract me.

During the fantasy meal, I don't almost gag on my food from talking too much about why someone should eat their dinner, or why they shouldn't stir their chicken into their yoghurt, or get up fifteen times to get kitchen towel, ketchup and other things from the kitchen.

I'm pretty sure my fantasies used to be much wilder and involve things like sex with movie stars and running away to ride bengal tigers in India. Now, they're about dinner for one. Plain and simple. Not too often, but once in a while would be nice.

See, I like food. A lot. And I put a lot of love into my dinners. Even if the rest of the house has gone to hell, there'll still be a good meal on the table at the end of the day. The problem is, I don't get to enjoy it - really enjoy it, very often. I'm too busy keeping things in check to appreciate the actual flavours of the dish I spent ages preparing.

So, tonight, when J arrived home from work, I let him go and be with the kids during the post-melt-down moment that usually happens around that time of the evening. And instead of, as usual, waiting to eat my dinner with him, I grabbed my plate and selfishly ate it in the lovely peace of the dining room. Just me, my dinner and I.

It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

What's your unlikely fantasy?

Image from

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Bringing home (a small slice of) the bacon.

Last week I picked up my first real pay cheque in years. It wasn't much, but that didn't matter. For the first time, in a long time, I felt the lightness of earning my own money again.

I won't lie - I did a happy dance for a minute or two.

Having a regular pay cheque (as opposed to the unpredictable salary of a writer) is such a good feeling, after not having had one for so long.

Out of university, J and I worked full time straight away. Financial freedom was as natural as eating breakfast. We could take holidays, purchase things for our home, clothes, dinners out - all at the drop of a hat.

I look back and wonder WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING? I should have put more money away. Or gone on more holidays. I can't decide.

And then I went on maternity leave.

I'm incredibly lucky to have not had to work these past few years, I realize. And there's never been an issue with us sharing a single salary (not that I spend much).

But there's a lot to be said about the satisfaction of earning one's own money - even if it's not quite what it used to be.

Letting go of my financial freedom has been difficult being a control freak. Even though  J is incredibly supportive and generous, I like my independence. I like contributing. I like to buy things without the  (completely unnecessary) guilt of spending someone else's money.

The best thing of all is, I like what I do to earn the money.

Life is good.

***Watch out for a giveaway coming up on Lady Mama at the end of this week. 
If you have a baby, and you like good design, you'll want one. Trust me.***

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Diary of a Mum's sick day

2:00 am: My toddler is crying. I get up, feeling strangely fine but slightly wired from the cold meds, take him some milk, and head back to bed.

8:00 am: I wake up feeling like five buffalo trampled on me while I was sleeping. My ears and throat are on fire and my neck feels like it slept on broken rocks.

8:30 am: As my husband leaves for work, I wail internally at the thought of the day ahead, and smile through gritted teeth as my kids reject their waffles and begin throwing Cheerios at each other.

9:00 am: I call work and tell them I won't be in this afternoon.

9:10 am: I call my nanny and tell her not to come.

9:30 am: I place craft activities on the dining table: these should keep the boys occupied for at least an hour! Foam stickers, play doh and colouring books. Five minutes later everyone is screaming because the other has THEIR pen / crayon / sticker book and they want it back NOW.

9:45 am: Craft time is over. I lie on the sofa, hoping no one will notice I've retreated for some quiet time. Both boys leap on me from nowhere, laughing hysterically and sticking things to my head.

10:00 am: I put on a movie, no longer able to entertain the boisterous two. I lie on the floor for as long as humanly possible, only moving to sip honey and lemon and jam cold and flu medicine in my mouth.

11:00 am: Movie is over. What now Mum!? WHAT NOW?!

11:30 am: Lunch is going to be served early today! Grilled cheese sandwiches made from cheese strings pulled apart into strips and wedged between slices of rye bread for lack of proper cheese supplies in the fridge, and other random vegetables.

12:00 pm: Nap time for everyone! HURRAY! Little son is down to bed, older son is down, Mommy crawls under the covers and groans with relief. SILENCE!

12:05 pm: Nap time is OVER! Older son storms into my room, demanding I read him Thomas the Tank Engine and bring him some juice RIGHT NOW PLEEEEZ MOMMY. I read the book with half open eyes and a croaky voice.

12:15 pm: I fall into a delirium in which I fantasize about having five servants and a private wing.

12:30 pm: Boys have discovered musical instruments and are drumming / tamberining / jingle belling in another room. I don't care because my head is going to fall off and roll around the floor in a minute, so I stay in bed.

1:00 pm: I play dead but it doesn't wash. The boys use my bed as a trampoline and gymnastic bench, bouncing around my lifeless body. Finally they crash down around me, hooting. A little fist smacks me in the eye and for a second I wonder if my eye ball is still there. It is.

The rest of the afternoon: I alternate between setting up crafts and movies and sneaking back to bed every opportunity with my meds and hot drinks. Between the shrieking, the laughing, the accusations, the dog barking at everything that passes our house, the cheerios being crammed between the cushions of the sofa, the spilled juice on the floor left to get sticky, the Lego blocks explosion, the cookie crumbs stuck to the sticky juice and the recycling now emptied over the kitchen floor, we make it to 5:30 pm. I pull together something kind of edible for dinner and wait for J to walk through the door so I can dive (and I do mean dive) back into bed and pull the covers over my head.


And that, my friends, is how a Mum takes a sick day.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The last time they went out...

Fifty points and a gold star to whoever can guess the last time these shoes were worn.

I felt so sorry for them, I wrote them a little poem.

Sad, I know.

Poor, poor, dusty shoes
They used to go out dancing
They used to stalk the streets at night
Happy with liquor and romancing.

Poor old crusty shoes
Once polished up and shiny
They used to carry lighthearted feet
Now they're just tired and whiny.

Poor shoes that once were black
Used to stay out til past dawn
Now they can barely make it til ten
Without a stifled yawn.

Poor shoes slowly turning gray
Would like to dance once more
They'd shake off their cobwebs and shine their heels
For the chance to take the floor.

And now, I promise to never write a poem ever again.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Lovin' them til they're vintage.

There's a lot I can learn from my grandparents' generation.

Wisdom and home cooked meals aside, they're very good at taking good care of their stuff. They buy fewer, good quality items with the idea of keeping them forever.

I've been in the habit of buying throw-away goods ever since my first credit card landed on the doorstep. I buy things designed to last years, not decades: furniture from Ikea; clothes from H&M; plastic toys from Toys "R" Us.

Don't get me wrong, I like cheap. Some of my cheap purchases are my best. Plus I've picked up some excellent second-hand buys for next to nothing. Having belongings that last decades isn't necessarily to do with owning expensive things, but simply about taking care of the things you own.

I was going through some of my old things - articles I've owned for years, unable to part with them for sentimental reasons. I've started pulling them out of their hiding places to use them again. As they get older, more worn, wrinkly and weathered, they become more a part of me and my history and I love them even more.

I bought this fabric flower brooch from Top Shop in London
about ten years ago. I've kept it clean by simply putting it away
when not wearing it and not allowing dust to build up on it.

These green leather gloves were also a decade-old Top Shop find.
Gawd I miss you Top Shop...
I've kept them decent by washing them once a year with water
and soap. They're a little worn but I just can't part with them.

I bought this coat from Zara eight years ago and am still in love with it.
I've had it dry cleaned a few times and stored it away safely
during the months I'm not wearing it. In truth *cough* it
doesn't really button all the way up anymore *cough*.
But maybe one day it will!

This Paul Frank bag is one of my favourite ever purchases.
I picked it up at a little store called Home in Soho in 1999.
I was a student and couldn't afford it but bought it any way.
I've looked after it by wiping it down every year with a wet cloth
and storing it away carefully.

This picture will go with me wherever I go. It's a pencil/charcoal
sketch by a Belgian artist made when I was about twelve years old.
I like pictures because they need very little looking after.

What about you? How do you take care of your old treasures?
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Friday, September 17, 2010

The answer to WHY.

"Can I have a chocolate egg Mummy?"

"No honey, you can't."

"Why Mummy?"

"Because it's time to go to bed."


"Because it's seven thirty and that means it's bedtime."


"Because I decided."


"Because I make the rules."


"Because I'm your Mummy."


"Because I grew you in my tummy."


"Because about three and a half years ago Mummy and Daddy decided to start a family."


"Because we knew we wanted you and your brother so much."


"Because back then we were young and eager and sleeping through the night and full of energy."


"Because no one was keeping us up all night."


"Because it was just Mummy, Daddy and Bongo back then."


"Because you and Oliver weren't here yet."


"Because you weren't born."


"Because you weren't."


"Hey Matthew."



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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Proudest Mum On The Block.

My son started preschool yesterday.

In the car he asked me, "Mommy, are you going to stay with me?".

"No sweetie." I said. "I have some things to do, but I'll be right back to pick you up in a few hours."

He paused for a bit, thinking about this.

For a second I was afraid. Afraid of leaving him. Afraid of him not wanting to be left. Afraid my little boy is growing up too fast.

"I won't cry Mommy." He said, bravely.

I smiled proudly back at him. "Oh there's no need to cry honey. School is great! You're going to love it."

In the classroom, he indulged me with a kiss goodbye before running back to his new friends at the sand box.

My baby. My boy. Now a school kid.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Raising boys who talk.

It's sometimes to my detriment that I talk about almost everything that's on my mind. It's near impossible - when something is bothering me - to keep it inside. I'm like a child with a giant secret they can't bare to keep. Or an elephant-sized bubble ready to pop. I'm big on sharing (fancy that) and I believe it's the most therapeutic and healthy way to keep a clear mind. Providing it's done in the right way, of course.

But I wasn't always able to share. It took me a long time to figure out that the basic act of talking was the answer to most of my problems. I tended to keep my feelings hidden, letting them fester rather than bringing them out into the open. It was as though I was frozen.

And then one day I met a wise old man with white hair and a stick on the side of a mountain (or maybe it was a friend in a pub - but the white haired man sounds more intriguing) who told me that if I learned talked things through, to get them out in the open, I could resolve my issues and move forward. So I tried it. And it saved me a lot of relationship problems. Rather than sulking and stewing on my own paranoid thoughts, I began laying everything out on the table. And sometimes the talking was uncomfortable, with long, awkward silences. But after a while I found out his advice was spot on.

Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds - especially when the issue is sensitive, and there are still plenty of times where I'm not able to say what I really think (imagine if you said what you were thinking all the time!). But at least I've made a start.

It should be simple - talking. But it's not always.

There are so many barriers. Sometimes I feel as though I live in the land of people who've mastered the art of not talking. In our efforts to become technologically brilliant, we've invented a million ways to avoid one of the most primitive forms of communication. We're so engrossed in conversing through computer screens and hand-held devices we sometimes forget to just talk to each other. Email is easier than picking up the phone; uploading photos to Facebook is more convenient than printing the files and flicking through an album with a friend; there's text messaging when we want to make plans and Twitter when we want to update our friends.

It's all very solitary and convenient.

Even without all the shiny communication devices available to us, there are people who've developed other internal ways of not talking: they keep their true thoughts enclosed for fear of confrontation or consequence. And though it's hard, I think it's a slippery slope - this act of never saying what you really think.

And it's because of these barriers to communication that I'm working hard to raise two sons who will talk. By offering them an environment that's always open to conversation, I want to teach them that talking will help them through the tough times and the challenges that life will inevitably deal them.

I want them to know, growing up, that they can come to me with any morsel of information, however small or large, scary or ridiculous, and know that I'll listen.

And I might react later, but first I'll listen.

Exactly how I'm going to do this and whether I'll be entirely successful, I don't know. I guess I'll start by practicing what I'll preach - I'll try to be open and honest as much as I can (as open and honest as a mother can be without being downright embarrassing). I don't think it's a complicated thing or an act of genius, simply a work in progress.

And if that doesn't work.... I'll lock them in their rooms until they'll talk.


That's a joke by the way.

How about you - how do you encourage open communication in your household?
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vaseline and resilience.

As a mother I've learned a hundred new skills - one of them being foresight. Being around my kids all the time has resulted in me having a keen insight into the goings-on of the household. At any one time I likely know what has just happened, what is happening right now, and often, what is about to happen.

Watching them, or even listening from another room, I can predict whether someone is likely to fall or trip. I can sense if someone is about to break into a rage. I can tell if a pot of paint is about to become a contemporary work of art on my wall.

And I respond. And sometimes, having foresight means being able to quickly devise a plan of my own, to counter the oncoming incident.

And that is why I've been smearing Vaseline on the headrest in my car. It's not because I'm a raving nutter. It's that I am a cunning, wicked mother. You know, but in a good way.

Because, as if getting out of my house with two little monkeys wasn't time consuming enough, my twenty-month old son came up with a fun new hilarious way to make the process evenlonger . His plan involved clinging to the bars of the driver's headrest with his sturdy little fingers like a bat clinging to a tree branch as though his life depended on it - making it impossible for me to get him into his car seat. The boy has strength.

Normally I would laugh it off, or patiently find a distraction, but there's something about getting two kids strapped into a car that sets my pulse racing. Perhaps it's because often we're working with a time constraint. Whatever it is, it doesn't take much for my patience to wear thin.

And so, in the morning, before we got into the car for our outing to the grocery store, I had the foresight to sneak out into the garage like a thief in the night and slather Vaseline on the bars of the headrest.

And the clinging-like-a-bat-to-the-headrest was no more.

Unfortunately, for some things, foresight has no use. Once in the grocery store, my preschooler pointed to a stack of pop tins by the tills and, in his loudest voice exclaimed: "MOMMY! HERE'S YOUR BEER!"

For this, the only suitable response is to keep one's sunglasses and hat on with the brim pulled low and keep walking, very quickly.
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A very English treat.

A few days ago I almost died and went to the land of heavenly things.

The reason? Not money, or an unlimited supply of chocolate, or even the promise of an exotic holiday.

Raspberry jam. And scones.


And I don't usually post recipes, but on this occasion, I insist.

We're fortunate to have raspberry bushes in our back garden, and with the help of my little assistants (who devoured half the raspberries as I was trying to collect them), I gathered enough to make a few jars of jam.

And then, feeling adventurous I made scones as well.

Here are the recipes for both. I promise you will gain at least three pounds from all the scones and jam you will eat in one sitting. You can work it off later. Or not. Whatever.

Raspberry Jam.


4 cups mashed raspberries
4 cups sugar.

1 Use a very large pot.
When the jam reaches a full rolling boil it will double in volume.
Heat mashed berries until they reach a full rolling boil.
Boil 2 minutes.
Add sugar.
Stir well.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, boil for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Beat with rotary beater for 4 minutes
Pour in sterilized jars and seal.



1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea sized lumps. Stir in the currants. Mix together 1/2 cup milk and sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and stir gently until well blended. Overworking the dough results in terrible scones!

3. With floured hands, pat scone dough into balls 2 to 3 inches across, depending on what size you want. Place onto a greased baking sheet, and flatten lightly. Let the scones barely touch each other. Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon of milk. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash. Let them rest for about 10 minutes.

4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown, not deep brown. Break each scone apart, or slice in half. Serve with butter or clotted cream and a selection of jams - or even plain.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happily Unorganized.


As I rummage through the top drawer of the bathroom vanity for a hair grip, I feel a little hand hovering over the drawer's edge at the same time, searching for something. My son, Oliver, loves this drawer because so many miscellaneous items live there. There are hair scissors, old soothers, toothbrushes, bobby pins, tubes of toothpaste, nail files, brooches, the odd photograph and a gazillion other random articles. It's a miracle they all fit in there.

It's a place of fascination, curiosity. Or, it's a bloody mess.

Later, as I'm making dinner, I reach into a kitchen drawer for a slotted spoon. It's another drawer of interest - an accumulation of every kitchen implement I've ever owned and a host of other things that probably don't belong there. Reaching in there is like reaching into pile of straw and hoping to retrieve a matchstick. But somehow I find what I need.

There's a pattern of spaces just like these in my house, where things have collected and sat unsorted for a long time. The entry closet is filled with winter and summer jackets, boots, sandals, hats and scarves, dog leashes, scarves, handbags and vacuum attachments.

I open it, I look at it, I think, this is a bloody mess, then I close it.

I am not an organized person. To me, an organized linen closet is one in which sheets are neat-ish-ly folded and stacked so that things don't fall out onto me when I open the door. When it comes to filing paperwork, I've been known to gather letters into a pile and stuff the whole pile into a closet in the hopes I'll never see it again.

On the outside, everything seems tidy and fairly organized in my house (sort of). But on the inside it's a different story. My theory is, as long as I can find things, and they're clean, that's good enough.

There was a time when I was a teeny little bit worried about my lack of organizational skills. And then I smacked myself over the head with a rolling pin and came to my senses.

The thing is, every time I look at a closet that needs organizing, I find something better to do. I say to myself - look here girlie, what do you want your gravestone to say: "Sarah, brilliant mother who loved spending time with her family, being creative and cooking the most delicious foods ever tasted." OR "Sarah, had organized closets.". And that sort of settles it.

I'm easily persuaded.

So I go about my usual routine of (lovingly) flinging clean laundry into drawers, roughly folding towels and bedsheets, and wedging my pots and pans into the cupboard wherever they'll fit. That's about all I have time for.

But every now and then, on the sly, I sneak a look at the Martha Stewart web site and browse the pages on home organization. I hang on the shots of wardrobes lovingly arranged with compartments for everything, and laundry rooms with baskets for clothes and glass jars labeled for detergent and softener.

I picture myself, living in this kind of organized bliss. And then I snap out of it. Because, the thing is, in order to have all of one's kitchen supplies organized into glass jars with labels one needs spare time. Spare time. Em. What is that anyway?

I figure there's only two ways I'll ever be this organized: 1) when I become wealthy enough to hire someone to do it for me, or; 2) when I'm retired.

Either way, it's going to be a while.

For now, I'm happily unorganized.
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nanny Number Nine.

The minute I accepted my new job, I set about finding a reliable babysitter to cover the afternoons I'd be working. Because I've been at home for three years, and because I'm not the most trusting person when it comes to leaving my kids, I felt the need to be thorough. I joined a nanny-finder web site, placed an ad on a local classifieds site and put the word out to everyone I knew.

The first babysitter - let's call her Gertrude - responded to my ad and came over one sunny afternoon to meet us. She was a nice young girl (wow, I sound like a granny) with a kind of sheepish look about her. I led her out to the garden where the boys were playing. Upon seeing the new girl, my pre-schooler grimaced and hid behind his playset, groaning "I don't wanna say hi! I don't wanna!". I laughed it off, assuring Gertrude that he was just shy with strangers and that he would soon warm up to her.

Gertrude seemed disconcerted - like, quite a lot. She sat, timidly on a chair, far away from the boys, not moving from the spot once, as though she were at an audition she didn't want to be at. I waited for Gertrude to jump into action and show me her terrific babysitter skills, but alas, she didn't. My son, sensing her aloofness, remained silently at his post for the entire visit. Before she left, Gertrude told me that, in fact, she was worth $2 more (per hour) than I was offering.

Uh huh...

Babysitter #2 was a school girl aged 14.

Babysitter #3 was 6 months pregnant.

Babysitter #4 arranged to come over, then emailed me on the morning she was due to arrive, asking if I could instead meet her at the mall because my house was "kinda difficult to get to".

Mm hmm...

Babysitters #5, 6, 7 and 8 wrote me bizarre emails like "I can't do the times you've asked for but I'm still interested *smilie face*." and "you call me 412 123 4567 please".

And then, like an unexpected lottery win, babysitter number nine showed up, with three days to go and just as I was beginning to wonder if I could smuggle my kids into work with me because there were no good nannies left in my city. She arrived on time, was friendly and not deterred by the first-meeting shyness, and after twenty minutes she and my son were playing hide and seek and quarreling over who was the biggest goofball.

When she left I breathed a huge sigh of relief and did a happy dance for about three hours.

Marvelous marvelous nanny number nine.
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