Friday, 23 November 2007

Thursday, 19 July 2007

beginnings and endings

Sofia Isobel began her life on the 19th of May, a week ahead of schedule. I had seen the consultant the day before and he said that I was already two centimetres dilated. Nevertheless, Simon and I chose to believe that the baby wouldn't come out until after his exam, so we went on with our normal routine.

I woke up from a nap at 4.30 p.m. on the 19th with a strong abdominal pain, which I attributed to my pelvic disorder. By 5 o'clock, though, there was no denying that I was having contractions. Simon phoned our friend Graeme, who came at around 6.30 to pick Lucas up and take him to spend the night at his house in Needingworth. We booked into the delivery ward of the hospital at 7 o'clock and by 7.31, Sofia was out. The equilibrium of my life has shifted once again.

Sleepless nights, tiredness, the dizzying speed at which both my children seem to be growing—I can hardly breathe sometimes. And sometimes it's hard to appreciate what I have so I just reminisce about what used to be before I got pregnant again. The freedom, the possibilities. I haven't done any crochet since she was born, but at least I have managed to squeeze in the time to do some baking and reading.

Sofia suffers from reflux, so feeding her is not as straightforward as it should be. I feel like I'm waging a war against her tummy every time she goes on my breast, willing the milk to stay down and feeling utterly disappointed when she throws it up. Every time she grunts, I feel my stress level go up because I know that the grunting is a prelude to either a bowel movement or vomitting, and I pray silently that it's the former that's about to happen.

Still, there are things to be happy about. She is gaining weight and despite the fact that we seem to spend most of our time together feeding, she is learning to respond to me and Simon and Lucas. She especially gets excited when she hears Lucas's voice and strains her neck to look for him. He likes her as well, and loves giving her a bath and helping me change her nappy. I do have a feeling that they will get along famously when they can start playing with each other properly.

Tomorrow is Lucas's last day at nursery and at his childminders'. I feel a bit sad for him as he won't be seeing his friends and teachers anymore, and he will now have to adjust to days spent mostly with Sofia and me. I will try and plan some special activity that we can do each day, but it's going to be a struggle with a demanding baby to look after as well. There are probably playgroups we can go to, and Simon could always take him swimming on weekends.

We received his school report from his teacher last week, and it said that Lucas is very good at maths and the arts. He also has an extensive vocabulary and is physically active. He tends to be very quiet, though, and won't speak out of turn in a large group. Hmmm, kinda reminds me of how I am when I'm with a group of people I don't know very well. I told my friend Emmily about this comment, and she said not to worry, as a lot of people are like that anyway.

September will see Lucas going to primary school, where he'll be spending six hours each day. My little boy has grown up—he's clever enough to work a lot of things out for himself that he hardly needs my help. I'm pleased at his progress, but sometimes I'm scared that I'm letting him go too soon, insisting on him being independent for my own convenience. When I ask him to do a certain thing by himself, could it be that I am letting a precious little moment slip by, a chance for us to become even closer? What if before I know it, my little boy has turned into a young man, who will brush off my attempts to guide and help him?

Monday, 30 April 2007

thirty-six weeks!

I've just reached the thirty-six week mark. Another week to go and Bump will be a full-term baby. Lucas was born just a day short of being one. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I really hope Bump decides to wait it out until the fortieth week, as Simon has a very important exam on the 23rd of May and I have to finish work, tidy up the garden, paint the cot, do my spring cleaning, finish the baby blanket and plant my container flowers before I can truly relax and go into labour.

This is going to be a busy week, as I have another physiotherapy session and a consultation with an obstetrician who will discuss my delivery options with me. There are MARC records to edit and a book to convert to electronic form. And then there's the book that I want to write, and every day the little nugget of desire grows bigger and I know that if I don't act on it soon, I'll start acting like a madwoman (which I do every other day anyway).

In the meantime, I keep myself entertained with books (Jonathan Franzen's Strong Motion, Jeanette Winterson's The World and Other Places), catching episodes of CSI (Simon and I are addicted to the series now—all three of them), and some cake making, such as this banana cake:

Right next to it is the Lindt easter bunny that is taking Lucas forever to finish. There's still a large chunk of it in our sweets bucket, despite mine and Simon's efforts to help Lucas out.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

on being good

Poor little Lucas had a nasty accident yesterday evening while playing with his dad. He was jumping on Simon when his nose went smack right against Simon's knee. There was so much blood flowing from his nostrils that Simon and I were nearly as petrified as he was. His nose isn't broken though, and he recovered after about half an hour. As Simon said, I hope this is the worst thing that he'll have to go through this year. I don't think I'll be able to cope with so much distress, especially after Bump comes out!

Not much crafting going on here, as I'm finding it more and more difficult to move about. I ran out of yarn for the baby blanket that I'm making, but I'm hoping that it will be available again this weekend at the market stall where I got it. I have lots of WIPs, but not enough energy to finish them. My time is being taken up by work and getting the spare room ready for Bump's arrival.

Simon brought the cot down from the loft last weekend, and I'm planning to sand and paint it white on Saturday. My Nutshell white gloss arrived in the post yesterday. It is incredibly expensive, but it's natural and formaldehyde-free, so it's the best paint to use for baby stuff. I told Simon I'm not going to use regular gloss again after our dreadful experience painting Lucas's room last year. The awful smell lasted for weeks, and Lucas had to stay in the spare room for some time before he could enjoy his newly decorated room.

Our Cotton Bottoms nappy system arrived on Monday, and you wouldn't think it, but Simon and I were so excited as we opened the big box containing the nappies, wraps, and liners. I washed the first set at once, and lovingly folded them and put them away in Bump's chest of drawers. We're practically ready for her to come out, but I do hope she doesn't just yet. I still have a lot of work to finish, and Simon still has an exam to take, so we're praying that she'll be a good little baby and come out on her due date.

I borrowed a whole load of books from the library again (although I'm still holding on to Jan Eaton's 200 Ripple Stitch Patterns and 200 Crochet Blocks, which Simon said is very greedy of me considering that there's a high demand for them in the library). I'm reading/enjoying Frida Kahlo's fascinating diary which she wrote towards the end of her life. I have just finished reading Leo Hickman's A Life Stripped Bare, an account of his year-long experiment on living an ethical life. A lot of his observations and feelings resonated with mine, and on Saturday I had an hour-long discussion with my friend E about these. More on that later.

And, because I am going to have to make do with a smaller budget in the next six months or so, I also borrowed books on saving money. One of them is The Money Diet by Martin Lewis, which has a lot of practical advice on making the most of your hard-earned money. The other one is The Money Goddess by Paula Hawkins, a book on personal finance aimed at women. I'm enjoying both, although I like Lewis's straight-to-the-point approach better. Hawkins decided to weave a bit of fiction into her book, so it feels like you're reading what Bridget Jones would go through if in case she decided to overhaul her financial life. Which is a bit patronizing, I think, but then again, maybe that's what most women want.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

card making

I've been feeling really stressed lately, as I'm feeling a lot of pressure at work to make everything ready for when I go on maternity leave in four weeks. I think I could have coped better if I weren't in a lot of pain and discomfort, but I guess life was not meant to be simple and pain-free for me right now.

Still, I manage to find a little happiness in little things. I'm crocheting a blanket (and it's a ripple one!) for Bump right now, and I just hope it will be ready before she comes out. I have other craft projects to finish, mostly amigurumi stuff. Right now, I'm just craving to make a little pin cushion for myself. But since I have two deadlines to meet this week, that might have to wait until the weekend.

I've also managed to make and send these cards to some good friends. The birthday card was for my ethereally beautiful friend E, who looks like Holly Golightly, hence the Holly and Cat card. She sent me an e-mail last night saying she loved it, which is absolutely wonderful. I made the other two cards for friends who are expecting and sent them off with little tubs of bump butter.

The colours don't register well on-screen, but I think it's because I used a low resolution when I scanned the cards. Anyway, there are more pictures filling up my Moleskine sketchbook. I'd like to do proper watercolours in it, but the paper doesn't seem to absorb watercolours well, which is a real shame. I always end up using watercolour pencils instead which I just wash ever so carefully with tiny amounts of water.

Friday, 23 March 2007

found treasures

Our household is slowly recovering after two days of distress. On Tuesday evening we found out that Lucas had caught chickenpox. He was very miserable and the combination of fever, pain and itchiness was just a little bit too much for his four-year-old body to handle. Simon took two days off work to look after him so I could continue working at home and not get too exhausted. He decided to go back to work this morning, though, after checking that Lucas was feeling a lot better. In fact, he feels well enough to be left to his own devices downstairs while I stay here in the study to work. Er, and blog. Occasionally.

I have been thinking recently of vintage children’s illustrations and how beautiful they are. I think I am drawn by the subtle use of colours and the delicate line drawings which emphasize the beauty and innocence of the children they depict. This has inadvertently led me to rediscover the Flower Fairies books by Cicely Mary Barker in Lucas’s room. After my father-in-law reorganised his home office last year, he delivered boxes of books and papers to our house for storage. Simon and I found old photos, school notes, textbooks, ancient cookbooks and gardening books in the boxes. There were also a few children’s books, mostly the Peter Rabbit tales and the Flower Fairies. I had never heard of the Flower Fairies before, and a quick look at the books left me fascinated with the beautiful colour plates. I decided to put them away in Lucas’s room.

Yesterday I felt the urge to have a closer look at the books. I ended up collecting them from Lucas’s room (I had to do this stealthily as he tends to be very possessive about his books) and putting them in the study so I can look at them whenever I want to. The pictures are so pretty I have decided to get a scanner so I can print my favourites out to decorate the baby’s room.

I am now also convinced that we have the first editions of the books. They are undated, as the earliest editions were, and have the distinct chequerboard design on the covers. I think we have some real treasures here in our home, and although the temptation to have them appraised and eventually put up for sale is strong, I think I’d rather hold on to them for now. The fairies are trying to tell me something, I’m sure, and I’ll keep looking at them until I get the message.

Right now, I’m reading Flower Fairies of the Spring and this is one of my favourite pictures from the book:

Cicely Mary Barker used real children as models for her paintings. The Primrose Fairy above was modelled by Gladys Tidy, who did the housework for the Barkers every Saturday.

When I’m not looking at the fairies, I daydream about crochet and sewing projects. I have seen so many inspiring projects on the blogosphere that I feel it’s about time I go out and get a sewing machine and start churning out bags, dresses and toys. I have even decided which sewing machine to get. Here’s my dream machine:

This is the Janome Limited Edition 4618. It has all the features I need to do the basic stuff, and it will also let me do quilting. All for £149. Yummy. Now all I need to do is convince Simon that I really need a sewing machine and that our lives will be so much better once I get one.

Monday, 19 March 2007

thirty weeks

I am thirty weeks pregnant now. Just ten more weeks to go. Or, if this baby is anything like her brother who came out three weeks early, maybe even less. I feel like I'm racing against time, trying to put the house in order, grabbing every opportunity to sleep and put my feet up while I still can.

The role of spring cleaning supervisor does not suit me very well. I was getting frustrated yesterday as Simon went about cleaning the lounge, and all I could do was sit and watch him and tell him where to put things. I was itching to do the hoovering, but I wasn't even allowed to use the handheld vacuum cleaner, which Lucas appropriated for himself to hoover his room.

I miss baking and walking into town and visiting the craft shops. Sigh. I tried to do some gardening on Saturday, but my hips gave out after about an hour of weeding the vegetable patch and putting a few bulbs we kept from last year in the ground. Yesterday was Mother's Day, but I felt too frustrated and depressed to celebrate properly, so we just stayed home. It was nice spending the day with my boys anyway, and watching them have so much fun playing their rough games.

Oh, and despite a sunny start to the day, the temperature dropped yesterday afternoon and we had hail and sleet for about twenty minutes. The weather has turned absolutely mad. It's supposed to snow all over the country today, although you wouldn't think it right now, as it looks like a normal spring day. Lucas, however, is a firm believer in weather reports, so this morning, he decided to wrap himself in winter clothes, ready for the snow:

Friday, 16 March 2007

the long wait

I get the feeling that my life of late has been filled with waiting. There are the antenatal checkups and visits to the doctor that are supposed to last less than ten minutes, but somehow I always end up waiting for an hour to be seen. I have started taking my own magazines to the surgery, as I have read all their Country Living magazines already.

Then there was the annoying wait for the inital phone consultation with a physiotherapist, after I phoned the hospital to say that I have SPD and need to be seen as quickly as possible. After three days of waiting in agony, I phoned the hospital again, only to find out that the person who took my details did not write down that I'm pregnant and have SPD. I got fitted with my pelvic brace two days later.

When I went back to the office this week, I asked to be allowed to work from home so I won't have to travel every day as this is aggravating my condition. I was told that there would have to be a risk assessment first to be conducted by the HR head, and I had to wait until Thursday before that could be set up. Well, we were supposed to have the meeting yesterday morning, but Simon had to rush me to the surgery at 10 because I was in so much pain, and just couldn't take it anymore. Something that could have been avoided if my risk assessment took place a lot earlier and I had been allowed to work from home this week.

Which is what I ended up doing today. Except that because I'm still waiting for the IT department to set up my work PC so I can access it from home, I can't really do much here. And that means I'll definitely have to go back to work on Monday, regardless of how I'm feeling, just so my remote access can be sorted out. The frustration is enough to make me want to tear my hair out, but I try and sit calmly at my desk instead, waiting for Bump to perform her normal routine of kicks, punches and hiccups.

I also had a delicious lunch to comfort me. Simon cooked this last night, and made plenty enough for me to have for lunch today as well. He was wonderfully attentive yesterday, after seeing me so distressed in the office. He made me stay in bed all afternoon after my doctor's appointment, and would rush upstairs every time he heard me get up, to make sure that I wasn't doing anything strenuous. He made me cups of tea and served me shortbread fingers and jaffa cakes, picked Lucas up and made his dinner, cooked our dinner, and gave Lucas a bath in the candlelit bathroom, which the boy absolutely loved.

Plus, my plant catalogues have arrived, so I'm enjoying perusing pages and pages of lovely flowers and vegetables, while having a bowl of fruit (my way of making up for all the chocolates I've been eating).

Come to think of it, I don't mind days like this, peppered with pauses that I can fill with things that make me happy.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

lazy sunday

Lucas and I ventured out into the garden this morning to take advantage of the sunshine. We discovered masses of weeds where our bedding plants are supposed to grow, so we spent almost an hour pulling weeds out. There are some more in the bird bath area, but I had to stop as my hips were starting to hurt. Lucas stayed on a bit longer to make mudpies, and threaten the weeds with getting beaten with sticks if they insist on growing again. He's now watching Robots, lunch is in the oven, and I'm giving my hips the rest they deserve, while planning the rest of the afternoon for the boy and me.

I'm going back to work tomorrow, so I'm feeling a bit apprehensive. I have a lot of catching up to do, and I also need to make sure the person who's going to cover for me while I'm on maternity leave won't have any problems finding his/her way through the work that he/she needs to do.

In the meantime, here are snapshots from Friday and Saturday:

Zen and the duck (later christened Snackie by the boy) showing each other some amigurumi love.

I was so pleased with how the duck turned out so I thought I'd reward him with a view of the world from my window.

And here he is, perched on top of my special amigurumi stash box.

This one I took on Saturday morning. Lucas saw me sorting my amigurumi things, and volunteered to stuff the unfinished cat. I'm so glad to have my little helper around!

Here's my boy again, and Zen chilling out on the pillow.

That's not a dark cloud over his head.

Zen and the art of being idle.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

in need of comfort

I've been off work for almost two weeks now. I've developed SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction), a condition in which my pelvic joints have separated. Things I used to do without a thought, like climbing up the stairs, walking and getting dressed, are now terribly painful. I was fitted with a support belt yesterday, an ugly thick band with three Velcro straps that sting my skin so I have to wear it over my clothes. This morning it took me forty minutes to walk a mile to the doctors' surgery for a checkup, and even longer to get back. I could only stare enviously at the old man walking sprightly just in front of me. Ah well. As my friend Kate said, 'Roll on, May!' I just can't wait until Bump comes out and the pressure on my poor old hips eases off.

Anyway, I've had a few things to give me some comfort over the past few weeks. Sadly, I haven't been able to bake anything as I can't stand for more than a few minutes at a time. I managed to cook a decent beef sinigang (tamarind soup) the other night, which Simon and Lucas thoroughly enjoyed. ('This is my favourite dinner!' Lucas said to us. I should let my mother know that, as it would make her heart swell to know that her 'Western' grandson appreciates his Filipino roots.) That's about it in the cooking department though. I can't wait until I'm well enough to spend a long time in the kitchen. I've amassed a lot of really nice recipes from the Internet and the magazines I bought to keep me company.

But I digress. Here's my list of comfort stuff:

1. Comfort food

Yummy chocolates. Yesterday on the way back from my physiotherapy appointment, I went to our local M&S and bought teacakes (the things covered in purple foil in the picture). They are absolutely delicious, these M&S teacakes. I've always been fond of teacakes. In the Philippines, there's only one chocolate manufacturer that makes them, and we don't call them teacakes. They are known by a less fancy name—chocomallows. I can't remember not ever liking these chocolates, and when I learned to make my own chocolates, they were among the first ones I made. They became a big hit among my customers too.

I also bought two types of Cadbury Dairy Milk Melts. I haven't tried them yet, but they look promising. When Simon came home last night, he gave me a bar of Green & Black's Maya Gold, and it was divine. Speaking of 'divine', Simon and I have a certain fondness for Divine chocolates as well. Mine is due to the fact that it's a fair trade brand, and Simon's is because their dark chocolate is very nice. I bought bags of their chocolate coins for Christmas, which were quickly gobbled up by my two boys.

I also bought and ate a big pack of Tyrrell's potato chips yesterday. I must say these are the best potato chips I have ever tasted! I first heard of Tyrrell's when its owner, Will Chase, raised a ruckus after Tesco's started selling his chips without asking his permission. He asked them to stop selling his products at once, and Tesco's had no choice but to comply. I immediately took a liking to him and his regard for the high quality and good reputation of his chips. He certainly has every right to be a snob about his products. These chips are so heavenly and addictive (and surprisingly, not that much more expensive than the more popular brands) I managed to eat a whole bag in three sessions.

2. Comfort reading

Good books always make good company. Need I say more?

Four from the library

And from my own collection, two books by two of my favourite artists

3. Comfort crochet

This is Zen, my blissful amineko, just waiting for his arms and tail to be attached

and his faceless, unnamed brother, with a duck friend (also faceless and nameless) and a pack of M&S shortbread fingers, which make a great midnight snack.

4. Comfort music

Simon gave me a micro hi-fi system for Christmas, which he installed in the spare room where I've been spending most of my time these days. I've been playing Vivaldi (for Bump), Cocteau Twins (because even after all these years, I still love them), Antony and the Johnsons, and 10,000 Maniacs (another old favourite, Natalie Merchant being one of the people I admire most in the whole world).

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

a walk in the park

That's what people told me a second pregnancy would be like. I don't think I ever got to clarify whether they meant it was like a walk in the park on a lovely sunny day when you're on your own, or a walk in the park on a rainy day, running after a four-year-old who insists on jumping into every puddle he sees and going in a direction completely opposite to where you would like to go (which is pretty much what a typical walk in the park is for me these days). Because that's what this pregnancy is like—it's tiring and constantly throwing me off with its demands on my body and emotions.

I stopped baking after I did the Valentine's Day chocolate cupcakes as I have been in a lot of pain these days. Simon has taken over my role as house chef for the time being. He has been making American pancakes every weekend for months now, and last Sunday, some of our friends came over to try his pancakes. So we had a very late breakfast at 11 o'clock, but the pancakes were worth the wait. We tried all sorts of things with them, from strawberry conserve to peanut butter (a rather adventurous friend did this, and he seemed to enjoy it). Such a shame we didn't get to take pictures as we were too busy gobbling up the food. Lucas and his little friend Jacob both ate their cakes with maple syrup and lemon juice and then proceeded to wreak havoc in the lounge. Chef Simon was showered with compliments by our guests, and came down with the flu a few hours later. Sigh.

Anyway, I managed to take a picture of the last chocolate cupcake before it was consumed. It was not the prettiest of the lot, but it was just as yummy.

And here it is, with my latest bedside reading (and doing) companion, along with The Complete Maus (which is more like a reading and weeping companion). This one I had to order from Amazon, as I couldn't find it in any of the Cambridgeshire libraries. Maus, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise as I never expected to find it in my local library. But there it was, sitting in a corner along with some other less noteworthy graphic novels. I love going to the library. I also managed to find a copy of T.C. Boyle's collected stories in the library sale and got it for a measly 30 pence. Have I said I love going to the library?

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Post-Valentine post

I came home in a rush yesterday afternoon after hitching a ride with someone from the office. My husband, Simon, and I work in the same office but he had to stay late and I had cupcakes to bake, so I opted to leave early.

I asked our childminder to drop off my four-year-old son, Lucas, early so he wouldn't miss the fun of making chocolate cupcakes. He and I prepared the batter and poured it into the muffin pan. Unfortunately, our top oven decided to go mental last night and burst out into flames in the middle of the baking process so I had to wait until I had cooked dinner in the main oven before I could put the poor little cakes back in the oven again. So what was supposed to be a nice Valentine treat for Simon and Lucas is lying untouched in a big tub in the kitchen, waiting anxiously to be eaten and judged later today.

We normally don't celebrate Valentine's Day in our household, although Simon made attempts to make it a romantic day in the past, attempts which I resisted. This year, though, as part of my resolution to embrace my arty, romantic, domesticated side, I decided to buy a present for Simon and cook a nice dinner for him and Lucas. I managed to get the present, but didn't quite manage the nice dinner I had pictured in my mind. I still managed to serve my boys Swedish meatballs, curly fries and petits pois swimming in gravy and cranberry sauce, which they loved. And of course, the cupcakes had to be replaced by something less sophisticated (ha) so the boys had a few pieces of Green & Black's white and mint chocolates instead.

Anyway, right now I am eagerly awaiting a couple of Japanese crochet pattern books I ordered from eBay. I've been trying for ages to finish the amigurumi cat that I started crocheting a couple of weeks ago, but I'm a perfectionist when it comes to crochet, so every time I saw something out of place, I undid my work and started over again. Sigh. One day my fingers will get used to doing crochet again. I shouldn't really be tough on myself as I had not crocheted for almost twenty years. I'll post pictures of my work next time I log on to this blog.

                                     This is the cover of the amigurumi pattern book I ordered.

                                        And this is from inside the other book I bought. Isn't that 
                                        lovely? I'll definitely make this one as soon as I get the book.