Saturday, December 30, 2006

De-cluttering da house!

I have days like this, when I feel the need for a huge splurge on decluttering. I feel we are drowning in books at the moment. I love books and so does R and it appears we have three children with exactly the same opinion. Books are the one thing that I don't mind buying outside of Christmas and birthdays and they are the one thing that I couldn't do without. However, this is verging on the ridiculous! Each of the children has a pretty packed shelf with middle son being the exception with a hugely "over" packed shelf; he has the books T has outgrown and the books I. isn't yet ready for as well as a bunch of his own.........not to mention we have three bookshelves of our own downstairs!!

So where in the heck to start.........duplicates were first - can you belive we have duplicates??? That is seriously poor! When I first met R. I laughed at him. He used to have all his books in alphabetical order..........where is the fun in that? (Yeah alright Paul if you read this, I know I used to have labels on mine too..........but I was 6 when I did that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) My shelves were all higgeldy-piggeldy because the enjoyment of finding a book that I hadn't read for a bit and re-reading all the while actually looking for a totally different book was the appeal to me........sort of like being lost in a huge library (*shiver*) . So naturally (being the alpha female I am!!) I got rid of that anality for a start!! The downside of this appears to be we have found ourselves with duplicates.

Second came the "if it ain't been read in 18 months" rule with a large bend in it! After all, that would leave my shelves looking sad and forlorn, and the "why in the hell did I buy THAT?" rule.......for the "Training your Golden Retriever" book (he isn't a retriever for - hmm that is another!) and the "Fundamentals of Obstetrics and Gynaecology" books (well meaningly advised by the NCT or maybe ALACE - but IRL.........get real I am a doula not a doctor!)

Finally came the task of attacking the "Lonely Planet" collection that we have accumulated over the years. We have been to the majority of the places we have the books for (relief!) but there are a few on our shelves to where we will not be going before they bring out at least six further newer editions of the book and thus these are in fact, gathering dust!
Our poor house has breathed a sigh of relief today at the fact that the weight in books has lightened, there is space between some of the books (you know what that means don't you.......!!) and I have made a buck or two selling some of the better quality ones on a second hand site, all in all a day of frugality!

Which is a good thing as R. did my tax return today and what with the little I get a year, because in the US we are being taxed together, my tax is HALF of what I made this year and believe me and you, that was pretty minimal and not to forget the childcare on top. I really don't know why they (the government) want women with children to work? It really isn't cost effective. I know it isn't about the money and we are not badly off, I don't have to work and I am lucky enough to have the choice, but that is not the point. It is the fact that I am trying, I want to contribute to what R. brings in, I want to feel I am contributing to society but 40% tax on my earnings and then the childcare too means I take home less than 15%! For being covered in vomit and pooh and standing on my feet for 36 hours. I am sorry, I love what I do and I should do it from my heart, which, when I am there working with my clients I do........but it don't pay the bills! Okay, rant over. I apologise, there are so many families out there who struggle. This isn't about that, this is about independence and my alpha streak really.

Anyone want some books??????

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

'Tis Done!

Well to a lesser degree........she got finished, just and nearly. She has her cap on and I still need to properly attach all the hair, but at least she was in a playable condition. Problem was, I. had seen me with it stitching over the previous few days and when she opened it she immediately handed it to me; "mummy's dolly"! Oh well!

We took the boys into NYC for a treat on Christmas Eve, and they had a great time. It was very cold and windy at the top of the Empire State building, but a great day for views. We then walked to the Rockerfeller Centre. I have to say, I had a different impression in my head of this area. I thought it was going to be huge, not a small rink on a lower level. It somewhat reminded me of the surprise I had when I saw the Trevi Fountain in Rome. I had always envisaged it being bigger and grander rather than in a back street pretty much.

Today is Boxing Day or the Feast of St Stephen's in the UK and many parts of Europe, here in the US it is a normal day and people go back to work. R. is going into work today and then taking the rest of the week off. Mum and Dad leave us tomorrow. I can't believe their visit is over already and this time we aren't seeing them for nearly a year! We still have a very filled year ahead as we launch into 2007. I have several births lined up for the first two months, and by the time we are eventually dug out of the snow in the Spring we are taking a holiday to the Grand Canyon. We a good flow of visitors throughout the year so I am sure that 2007 will be just as crazy and manic as 2006 was.

I remember sitting in my kitchen in the UK back in January 2003 with my friend, Fred, and having an empty calendar, we used to "complain" about not liking the start of the year and it feeling such an anti climax after Christmas. These days I laugh about that and a part of me yearns for that too. To be able to hold onto these days a little longer would be fantastic.

I don't have any specific resolutions for the New Year. It is a nice feeling to feel a "fresh start" but to resolve to be more x or do more y is too static for my liking, not to mention that I would rather have the option to "change my mind" and that my resolutions come as I learn more, it is a journey!!!!

However, I do have desires for change in the world in 2007 and that change truly begins at home, by wishing for peace in the New Year I would like to see less self absorption by the world and more global thinking, less talk with money and more with feeling, more offering the hand of compassion and less fingers on the triggers, more thinking outside the box and what the results of actions may be even within our own families and communities, and less jumping in with both size 10 boots. I think it was Gandhi who said "be the change you wish to see in the world".

As the countdown to 2007 begins I wish to all of you, a very happy, peaceful and aware New Year. - new years text

new years text

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Armless wenches and hurling competitions

Coffee drunk - 1 cup of brown water -my parents are staying and they bought medium roast - sorry folks, I am a stand your spoon up in it get high on the fumes kinda gal!
Current mood - deranged and crazed but trying to stay sane until after I have taught my class tonight - then it's meltdown time!!
Exercise today - at least 3000 times up and down the stairs with a bucket, endless bending down to clear up toys, chasing dog around kitchen at least 45 times with the latest object of his desire that he isn't meant to have.
Noses wiped - 4726
Bottoms wiped - actually only one today (doing well!)
Laundry done - you have GOT to be kidding me!! My washer is having a nervous breakdown from overuse
Calories consumed - does the left overs of last night's dinner for breakfast count as today's or yesterdays calories?? but currently living off fresh air (those damn scales lie!)
Sleep log - somewhat lacking due to sharing my bed with a vomiting 6 year old. I'd say I had a good run from 10pm until 3am!!

We are sickness aplenty here this week. The end of the school term and the excitement of Christmas nearly always leads to someone being sick. When my sister was little it was always her. She pretty much couldn't make it past the 21st without being ill. She always did the same if we were going on holiday.......a few days before, we never needed to check the calendar, she would inform us of the day by being poorly the night before
Last week it was W, so today it is T's turn. Poor lamb he has a fever and acid stomach. It has taken me most of this morning to convince him to go back to bed (along with chasing after him with a bowl and gallons of water!). I hope he is better by Sunday as we are planning to go into the city to see the Rockerfeller centre and go up the Empire Stat building as a treat, we were intending to go tomorrow - but he is not fit.

I am desperately trying to finish I's Christmas present. As you can see by the picture, she is nearly there apart from arms and a wig!!
Her dress is in the making but I need to get a crotchet hook for her hair which means going out, which means taking a sick child, which I am not going to do, so I think it will be a close call as to whether or not she is under the tree for Christmas, or maybe she will just be naked!! I am pretty pleased with it considering I don't have a machine, so she has been lovingly stitched by hand and just look at those superb pear hips - a proper woman!
Don't worry about the flap on her bonce, a small lobotomy will sort that and you'll never see the scar as it will be under her hair!!
I will post a finished picture if I actually manage it!

And finally, J.K. Rowling has titled the last HP book hoorah!! I suggest you go no further if you don't want to know.......

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -

although according to the illiterate New York journalist who made the announcement on Yahoo this morning, it is actually the Deathly Hollows - if you check out J.K's own website, she has set up a game to help you get to a hangman which eventually reveals the name (hint click on the eraser!). This same mentioned journalist also reports that at one point in the game a Christmas "reef" illuminates - hmmm I suppose she is talking about phosphorescing phytoplankton on the Barrier Reef? (I know, it makes me sound so smart - I had to look it up, I couldn't remember what it was called- not so clever now eh?) rather than this. Still smart arsed-ness aside, I am excited that the book will be out next year, towards the end rather than the summer as originally rumoured - finally laying to rest (no pun intended I hope!) the bespectacled young wizard and his quest against "he who should not be named". Does he cark it? Hmmm she doesn't give that much away, but my odds are on no and that Snape is good but he does pop his greasy size 14 pixie boots, but not after he has revealed some smoosh requiring the reader to vomit into a bucket about how he was always there to protect Harry bleugh......(god there I go again!! I think two days confined to inside the house is messing with my head!) Ach well. Let me know what you think!!

Monday, December 18, 2006


Well it is that time again. The holiday season is upon us.
This year, as with every other, the world has gone mad! People are buying up the supermarkets as if it is the end of the world!! Why? I really don't understand the need. Of course, we will have our organic turkey and veg on Christmas day followed by a steamed Christmas pudding courtesy of my grandmother's mothers superb recipe, which has of course been stirred by each one of us for luck! But we won't eat anymore than we would normally for a Sunday lunch. Every year I cringe more and more when I see the commercial exercise in wealth display that Christmas has become.

I am eternally grateful to be spared of too much glitter and plastic with the wonderful diversity of the school and their approach to the holiday season. With a school full of children from all walks of life, their approach is that of Winterlight, the celebration of the solstice on the 21st and beautiful winter songs, some carols and the celebration of light, this way Kwaanza, Diwali, Christmas, Hannukah are all there. T. has already participated in his choral concert and was so excited and proud to be able to be a part of this and particularly to share it with his grandparents who flew in that very morning and remained awake just to hear him and hear him sing.
Don't take me for a Scrooge or a Bah Humbug, I am not, but with questions being asked of me such as "If Jesus was a Jew, then why do we call ourselves Christian and celebrate Christmas rather than Hannukah?" the more I question why indeed? The more I want to lean more to celebrating this time for just the time it is in the calendar rather than for religious reasons. That said, it is part of my upbringing and heritage that I wish to share with my children, the same goes for the spirit of the big hairy fella in red. I have some acquaintances who feel it quite unecessary to inflict upon children this guy in a red suit who buys presents for "good" boys and girls. For them there has been pain when they found out that this is in fact just a story, a myth, a fable...........a lie? and really there is no such person. Hmmmm..........I respectfully disagree, I remember feeling that Christmas was a magical time and even when I did find out (I don't remember how) that it was in fact dad sneaking around trying not to stub his toe on the door and swear, it didn't spoil the magic for me. I think that is what I hope for my children, when they are ready they will discover, and, just as I explained to mum last night when she asked me how I would approach the topic of hanging (T. is reading Oliver Twist), I would answer all the questions he needed as honestly, without elaborating but without hiding the reality. I will tell him it is a tradition that goes along with Christmas and that it originates from history, Saint Nicholas or Baboushka or whichever fable you believe to be the origins. Each year we put 10 small presents in their stockings, a clementine and a small piece of chocolate just as my parents did for me and my sister and their parents before them and this is not subjected to their "being good" or "being on the list", that is the one part I really don't agree with. I don't feel scarred from knowing that it was all fantasy and I still feel this is a magical time of year to celebrate winterlight with my family and friends.

I have tried to make more of my Christmas gifts this year, I. is getting a doll (fortunately my current client had her baby this weekend, so i have time to finally finish the doll, although she may not be clothed in time!!) and my mum is helping me finish a jumper for W.

Another big part of our Winterlight celebrations is to not only think about our own festivities, but also to think about this time of year for others less fortunate. This year, my children chose to give a kit for a teacher from Oxfam for each of their classes at school. We also find half a dozen toys each year, that are in good condition, that the children give to the Toys for Tots appeal and then we make a hamper up for the soldiers in Iraq. The children of a friend of mine here frame about half a dozen of their art pieces that they made throughout the school year and take them to one of the old people's residences in the town to brighten the walls - I think that is a wonderful idea, so easy and yet thoughtful and the residents will probably be cheered by some brightness and "kiddypics"! One of the teachers at the school always volunteers for the soup kitchen on Christmas day and another friend back in the UK has a homeless person over for Christmas dinner and another friend and his partner are working in Uganda for VSO and not opting for the easy option of returning home for the holidays (I think they are contemplating catching and plucking their own turkey eugh!!!) I am proud to know there are such thoughtful and open people who rise above the commercialism and share their peace and love at this time.

Now I must fly, my younger son is singing in his class concert today and insisted on wearing a shirt and tie just like his older brother had done........there is a tear in my eye!

Have a wonderful, peaceful and restful holiday season !

Monday, December 11, 2006

Water of Life

"Why can't water cure cancer?" was the question T asked on the way home from school today. As we drove into school this morning, many houses had lines of paper bags outside them. These bags held candles which were there to reflect on those who have cancer and it is also a fundraiser for cancer research. The journey to school caused many questions about cancer and who gets cancer and why.
I always find these times in parenting really hard and enlightening. It really stretches my skills and I find myself reflecting on them deeply later on.

Firstly, how far do you go to tell children about cancer? For my children they have yet to encounter anyone with cancer or even a similar life threatening disease (touch wood they won't have to for a while). I don't want to frighten them but equally I don't want to shield them.

I always try with these discussions to be led by them, to answer what they specifically want to know and give them time to process it. Normally (as it did tonight) they have a while to dwell on it, then they want to know more.
I want to be honest as much as I can, so when T. asked if he would get cancer, I said that I didn't know, I hoped not, but I don't know the answer to that. I explained that there are ways he can reduce his chances by living healthily, not smoking or doing bad things to his body, but even then, that is not finite.
He and W. wanted to know what it was, so I told him it was a disease that caused large lumps inside people's bodies that eventually ate away at the good things in their bodies and made them really sick so they couldn't live. So W. asked if Cancer was a monster, (I think the link was that he thinks monsters eat people!!??) - truthfully - yes, Cancer is monster, but the type of monster he means, such as the "Wild Things", then no.
T. then asked why on earth they give people drugs to make them better if the drugs make them sick in other ways - OMG - too smart!! After a full 20 minute interrogation on Cancer (and my knowledge being less than enough!) I was close to passing the buck here, but I think he got it.
"Why can't water cure cancer mum?" he asked - "wouldn't that be simple. You tell me that if I am sick I need to drink lots of water to feel better, why can't people with cancer just drink lots of water too?" I wish sweetheart.............

Another parenting thing that has been making me think recently is an ongoing discussion and circular e-mails I have been sent from well meaning friends about the use of praise and in particular (something the Americans love to use!") "Good Job!" when a child does a task well or completes something.

From what I gather, to use this, is demeaning to a child, it is "training talk" as you would train a dog, rather than talk to another human. The dog follows a command knowing that he receives praise and a cookie on succesful completion. Some real followers of someone called Alfie Kohn actually think that children don't require this kind of positive reinforcement in which ever way it is given "good job, well done, that's great" etc etc, that we should be treating children as adults, not encouraging them to seek this positive praise but rather to achieve things for themselves alone and this is unconditional parenting (I know there is far more to it than just that, but this is the bit that sticks in my mind!) This is just a glimpse of what it is about: Five Reasons article

I think my ball lies firmly within the side of giving positive reinforcement. To me, there are many times when my children do really help, they do work hard on an activity, play together without fighting, sort out arguments and reason with each other, listen etc etc and to me I see the glow of pride when I tell them exactly that.

Sure the praise isn't an "off the cuff" derogatory comment and I do avoid "good boy/girl" as that is not an acknowledgement of their task or achievement, rather it is personal - much like "bad or naughty boy/girl". I try to stay generally along the lines of "you must be really proud of that drawing, or I really appreciate how well you helped me" but to see their faces knowing that their parents have acknowledged their triumphs, their keeness to try and help etc is so important.

Maybe we shouldn't be a society with the need for reassurance in our abilities or tasks, but tell me who out there, as an ADULT, doesn't like to be told they have done something particularly well, a cake or meal was really tasty, or they look nice in a certain outfit. I know I do, and I would think, judging by my children's reactions, they do too. I suppose the crux of this is that if we, as parents, had been brought up this way, and the generations before us, then maybe there wouldn't be the need for seeking out affirmation for what we do...knock on effect. That said, I parent in the 21st century within which, I know for a fact, I often really craved some comment from my maternal grandfather particularly, that I was doing okay. To me, not receiving this, made me feel like there was something missing, that there wasn't unconditional love, there was definitely love, and in his own way, he showed it.......perhaps that is just it though........the feeling that I needed to "aim to please" is exactly what Kohn is all about?

But I see it that, longterm, if you don't give children positive praise and reinforcement when it is deserving, then perhaps we are pushing our children underground, they won't want to come to us with something they have done, either positive or negative, for fear of being shunned or rejected? How will this have an effect when they are 15/6? To me, it seems somewhat cold, conditional and detached. I think I need to read it fully to understand and maybe accept some of his reasoning.

To me, unconditional, attached parenting is all about being aware of my children's needs, for them to know that they are acknowledged and appreciated, even if something took them twice as long as anyone else or they really struggled, to tell them just how much we appreciated their trying will surely encourage their need to be proud of what they do. And besides all that..........I LIKE to tell my children when they have done well or tried hard........Selfish or not, for me, if I have seen the effort, then they deserve to feel that their works are not going unnoticed. Food for thought .......

Friday, December 08, 2006

"What you are aware of, you are in control of...what you are not aware of, is in control of you..."

Today is R's birthday, the ripe (I hope not!) old age of 38!!! Bloody Hell, that's nearly 40! It is wonderfully depressing and equally uplifting to be heading to this stage of our lives. I feel so calm about it all, which is great, as it is only age after all, but I think, the important thing is how I feel we have managed to do so much, see so much and yet still have so much more to do and see and (I hope!) the time to do it. It is weird how these musings come about. This one, was brought about by something that my yoga teacher mentioned yesterday about the moons and the tides and then something clients asked me about last night - "why are so many babies born at night?" - and then also when there is a full moon and turning of the tide?
My thoughts on the first are that it is all down to primitive animal instinct: Babies tend to be born at night because it is safer. Well, when we hadn't evolved it was safer, and probably for many other mammals in the world it is safer. Under the cover of night, a birthing mother can hide from predators and be less detectable.......only not with the blazing lights of the hospital and the leads from the epidural drip - anyone can find ya! However...........blah blah, long story shortened (a bit!), this then got me realising just what a tiny insignificant little imprint we are on the planet, how, despite the fact we think have some control over our lives, so much of what we do is already in place, organised and led by forces far outside our control. This is not to say that it has suddenly dawned on me, I have been aware of exactly who I am and where in the enormous picture I fit into things (I think!) but on an even bigger scale, with the classes I teach, encouraging women to take control and work with their bodies and their babies, much of what they will experience in labor is actually already in place for them from the second they conceived and neither they, their care providers or maybe even the baby, has a say in it.

Yesterday I heard of the Tornado in London - who would have thought it. A street in North London severely damaged and looking like a street in the mid west of the States more than Kensal Rise!! I was heartily glad to hear no one was hurt mind. But there you go, out of our control (well unless you want to start the discussion of global warming and how much we are actually creating this change in the weather systems). R. is very keen on getting permission to erect a wind turbine when we eventually move back to the UK. Obviously not in our house we have in the UK right now, but if we decide to renovate or find a suitable property, then we may try to move over totally to wind and solar power. He is also wanting to change to a Hybrid car. We can't do without the car here unfortunately as we are in the sticks, but at home, we may find we can reduce to one car.

To lighter things -

Tonight we are at Richard's work do - the theme is Casablanca - I am so stupidly excited ( I don't KNOW anyone there, but hell!!) it is a black tie affair and I have the opportunity to wear a "frock" yay! I think the last dress up frock I wore was my wedding dress!! Last year we missed the event due to a huge snow fall that night and my insecurities on leaving the children and then not being able to get back. Of course, Murphy is at work today, it is 12F, bitterly cold (yesterday it was so warm we picked up T from school in the afternnon without coats!!!!!!!!!!!) and it is desperately trying to snow right now. Bugger it, I had me hair done, so it'd better not snow- well either that or I had better get the sledge out of the shed, he can pull me!!!!!!!!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Savvy! Savvy?

My task of the day today is to come up to date with the 21st century !! For quite sometime now R. has been trying in vain to get me to lose my huge paper diary that is my life, containing all my addresses, dates, contacts blah blah and update to a Palm Pilot type of thing so that we can then syncronize our diaries, send e-mails portably etc. (as you can see, I am not up with this, so the lingo is probably far from correct lol!)

My shoulder alignment from lugging around my filofax, has finally been what has made me see sense! I now have an early Christmas present and naturally, all the hours in the day to figure out how to use it! I suppose it is as with everything, 15 years ago, I could never imagine not writing everything down using that little ink stick! today, I type just about everything, my life is now on the computer I suppose, so i guess it makes sense to make the move from pen to stylus!

Of course, there are still going to be the things I will miss about my big black book, the fact that it not only holds all the info I need, it also carries photos of the kids, post it notes, business cards, leaflets of useful things - okay, lots of junk too, and there is no where on my palm pilot to store that! But I guess I won't miss the need to visit a chiropractor to re-align my spine due to excessive weight being carried on my left shoulder!!!!!!!!!

The season of festivities has arrived here, well actually, it arrived the day after Thanksgiving. We are seeing more and more houses decorated already, Christmas trees already up, wreaths on doors and windows and half the shelves of Stew Leonards already empty! What is it that makes people feel the need to start so early? Bah Humbug I am not, I am as excited as the next person, but I have no desire to put up a 20ft inflatable snowman on my lawn just yet (well, actually at all.......but then that IS the bah humbug in me!!) nor fear not being able to find a 300lb turkeyphant to grace my table (after all, the woods are endowed with the buggers!!!) and reduce the smalls to gibbering wrecks because they can't cope with more than a week's worth of build up and excitment.

I am gracefully saved from the cries of "but why???" when asked why the tree isn't going up yet, by R. thoughtfully having his birthday next week, so we have always had the tradition that Christmas doesn't start until AFTER Daddy's birthday and thankfully with the lack of much tv viewing, I don't have to suffer too much "I want" just yet for the latest X-box (or Play boy - as I managed to reduce the school parent's lounge to tears with last week, getting myself muddled over Playstations and Game Boys - oops, see it is that lack of technology screwing me up here!) I know it will come eventually, I don't intend to keep them from it forever, but for now, at 6,4 and 2 they are happy with models, jigsaws and more traditional toys, there is plenty of time for them to become savvy with the latest technology!