Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Mommy Love vs. Daddy Love

I am of the opinion that mothers and fathers love their children differently, not more or better, but differently. And I think that's a good thing.

I am consumed by Eloise. I see her and I have an actual ache in my belly to gobble her up. I read some where that this desire mothers have to "eat" their babies is Mother Nature's way of making sure that we get plenty of contact with our young, pick up whatever germs and diseases they're carrying so that our immune system can create the antibodies and pass those along in our breastmilk. I don't know about all that, but if those cheeks and thighs weren't made to be snacked on then they shouldn't make them so deliciously rolly polly.

The other day I was telling Eloise that she was my favorite person in the whole world. Her father was in the room, overheard me and laughed. I asked him if Eloise had replaced me as his favorite person and he said non, it was still me his favori.

Now I have no doubt that the Frenchman ADORES his daughter. He worries constantly about her well being. He marvels at her progress, her strength, her budding intelligence. The best part of his day is when Eloise flashes him a big beaming smile when he walks in the door.

But I think it makes sense that while Eloise has become my favorite person, I still hold that title for her Father. Mother's lose themselves in their children - at least at first - and I think part of the Father's job is to make sure the Mother doesn't lose herself completely.
I would have fallen apart a million times over if it weren't for the patience and understanding of this man.

If I am a good mother it is because of the space and confidence he gives me to do so.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Mommy Arms

We went grocery shopping as a family last weekend. We had left it too long and so had a lot to buy. The Frenchman gallantly offered to carry our two giant Bags-for-life that were filled to the brim leaving me to push Eloise. I let him at first, because, hey those bags were heavy, but then as we started walking towards home I told him to let me carry them. I don't think you understand Frenchman, I am really strong now, I said. He scoffed. I often try and pretend that I am stronger than him, yet he always beats me at arm wrestling. But this time I meant it. I am really strong now.

A few years back a friend at work had a baby and when she came back into the office with her little girl I jumped at the chance to hold her little girl. She was only a few months old, but after holding her for 20 minutes I could feel my arm wobble and had to giver her back to her mother. How do you do it? I marvelled at her strength. You just adapt she said.

Now I know what she was on about. I could hold Eloise while running a marathon. Ok. No I couldn't because I can't run nor do I have a desire to run a marathon, but I could hold Eloise at the sideline while cheering on someone else running a marathon and my arms wouldn't wobble a bit. See? STRONG.

What? All Muscle builders wear leopard print scarves, right?

The mommy arm. Some days I'll pick her up and think, whew, you've gotten heavy. And then by the end of the day, my arm muscles will have adapted to her weight gain and I'm back to super mom status again. Forget Spinach. Forget Pilates. Forget Dumbbells. Have a baby. Best way to tone your arms. I'm currently carrying around a little under 18lb from 7 in the morning to 7 at night. I can feel her making me a little bit stronger every day.

...and scarier too apparently.

The Frenchman still carried the groceries all the way home. I guess he needed to work on his Daddy Arm to ensure he's fighting fit before our next arm wrestling match.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Lesson learned. Baby 1 Mom 0

While I was pregnant I had it in my head that I would breastfeed until 6 months as recommended and then put my baby onto formula for the next 6 months until she could drink cow's milk at age 1. It's no secret that my life before motherhood was a rather boozy one and I figured that after the 15 or so months of near total sobriety Mama could use a night out on the tiles.

Of course getting drunk now is a whole different ball game. Not only would I have to contend with baby care on top of hangover, but I am such a lightweight these days it is not even funny. Except that it is funny. Because half a pint of beer and I am GONE. I mean like flashing my lopsided milk jugs for free shots GONE.

But my whole plan of putting my baby on formula after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding didn't factor in the fact that my baby would have her own opinion on the matter.

After the disastorous Paris trip where Eloise went 20 hours sans eating we had a few more attempts at getting her to take the bottle. Not even formula perse, just my milk but in a bottle. She refused. I decided my last attempt would be her nursery. Totally different evironment, no trace of me, and in the hands of child care experts. After 4 days of them trying to get her on the bottle with no success I finally decided to give up. I mean if they can't do it, it just ain't going to happen.

Your boobs are MINE MilkLady.

So there it is. No big boozy night in my future. My boobs are still being held ransom by a tiny being that is growing remarkably sharp teeth as we speak. A very opinionated being who knows what she likes and won't settle for anything less. And as much as I would love to share a bottle of wine or 5 with friends I am quite proud of my little girl for sticking to her guns.

Let a Child Learn

Update: In what must surely be unprecedented speed in charity raising without the use of a celebrity my sister Claire has raised ALL the money required to build a new pre-school for her young students in Mozambique. The speed in which this was accomplished indicates not only how easy it is to follow a person as passionate, open, courageous and exciting as my sister but what an incredible project she chose to assist in Mozambique. My sincere thanks go to everyone who came here, read this piece and went to donate. Or spread the word to others. You have helped a group of young kids to get one step closer to whatever it is their heart desires to be.


The university a few blocks away always puts on an incredible fireworks display for Chinese New Year. This year we decided to let Eloise stay up a bit later than usual, strapped her in her bear suit and walked over. We made it just in time and were racing through the courtyard to get to the top of the hill when the first explosions went off resonating off the University walls.

When we found a space on the green I held her in my arms and watched her watching the sky explode into fire and sound. She had a very worried look on her face. She didn’t cry, but she seemed to be thinking about it. I put my hand against her head to try and deaden the sound.

I looked at her worried face and told her that it was only fireworks.

I was suddenly struck with the image of all the mothers in this world who had ever had to cushion the sound of falling bombs from their baby’s ears. Mothers who tried to convince their children that the sound of rapid gunfire was “only fireworks”. And then I started to silently shed tears.

As a young teenager I used to wear my heart on my sleeve. I used to be passionate and enraged at injustice. Shocked at war.

Then I moved to Europe and my bleeding heart slowly retreated back into place. I became complacent and perhaps not a little lazy. With Eloise my passion has resurfaced but now it is all directed towards her – and whatever could possibly affect her.

My younger sister Claire has managed to not only hold on to her “bleeding heart” but has used it to try and put the world to right. She has devoted 2 years of her life to being a volunteer for the U.S. Peace Corps in Mozambique.

Claire (known in some circles as the toddler whisperer) is working with THE ONLY PRE-SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY. Mozambique does not start education until the age of 5. These young children are often left running around their village, looking after even younger siblings. If you can walk – you’re old enough to carry a baby who can’t. My sister has joined forces with a Mozambican couple that have set up a rudimentary school for children aged 2 – 5. I love hearing the stories about these kids - not just because they sound like funny, unspoiled, loving children – but because my sister’s voice fills with light when she talks about them. These kids have little, and my sister and the other people who run this school often go without a salary to keep it running (food and security are the main costs). Through the Peace Corps my sister is trying to raise money so that by the time she leaves these children have a proper learning environment to create the building blocks for the rest of their education. For the rest of their lives.

I often joke that I do not need to be a philanthropist because my sister is doing it for both of us.

A recent email from my sister about the smiley boy nicknamed Zee in this photo: We celebrated zees birthday at preschool and it was amazing in a different way, we painted all the kids with face paint, zee wore a suit and a crown we made and walked into the room where everyone was sitting and singing, i put him up on a thrown we had made, he was completely overwhelmed by it and put his head in my chest and cried silenltly and refused to answer questions, we cut his cake together and shared it with everyone, he was so adorable.

Impromptu class photo. Too cute.

The four oldest girls at the pre-school.

But what I can do is use this blog as a space to urge anyone reading to donate to my sister’s program.

Please visit this link and read more. Donating is really easy – you get a confirmation email straight away and the Peace Corps site accepts all major credit cards – regardless of country of origin.

Please give whatever you can.

Comforting Eloise during the Firework display made me realize how insanely blessed my life is. How easy it is. It will be decades before a child born in Mozambique will have the same ease handed to them that my Eloise has. My sister is trying to change that. Please help her.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A long winded simile for weaning

I tell you, this whole feeding your offspring thing is a tricky business. It's like every day you make someone a heartfelt homemade card telling them how much you love them and care about them. Some days the person is like, awww, for realz? This is for me? You are the kindest person ever! And you know what, I wasn't sure I was, you know, there yet in this relationship, but if I'm honest, I love you too. Deeply Truly.

And so you feel wonderful - having your beautiful handmade card received so well, to have your feelings reciprocated. And then the next day? When you give them another handmade card declaring your love? They look at it and say, um yeah, not trying to be awkward or anything, cause it looks like you went to a lot of trouble and all, but this is just too much, and uh, not in a good way, ya know?. So I'm just going to go ahead and give this card back to you and we'll just pretend this little encounter never even happened ok?

Eat ma damn food bebe!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Huiteme mois avec mademoiselle Eloise

Eloise -

There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to write you this letter.* I am having a really hard time accepting the fact that you are now 8 months old. Which I’m sure sounds ridiculous to you at the age you are now, reading this, but here you are 8 months old and you already seem too grown-up for my liking (which may just help you to understand why I still won’t let you get your ears pierced).

You are learning quicker than I can keep track of, which is amazing and exciting to witness (you sit, you wave, you flirt, you joke) but this is slightly bittersweet because a lot of what you are learning is no longer to my credit, but to the fabulous nursery school you attend. Every time I pick you up from there you’re one step closer to the little girl you will become.

Gone are the early days when I would collect you and you would look like you had been to battle – red-rimmed eyes, small, sad face, covered in food you refused to eat. Instead when I go get you you are smiling and excited. Well, you’re still covered in food, but that’s just because you insist on feeding yourself.

You greet me with a face that says "Awesome! Mom’s stopped by to watch me play with my new friends” instead of “Thank GOD Mama has come to rescue me”. At nursery you’ve discovered the joy of being pushed in a swing, finger painting, eating chocolate ice cream. They all love you there – love making you smile. They tell me all the time how beautiful and happy you are – when you’re not startled or overly tired, that is, otherwise you scream loud enough for the pre-schoolers to hear you on the top floor. I suppose I only have myself to blame for the fact that when you’re miserable you make sure every one knows it. Like mother like daughter.

You’re finally able to sit and it looks like it won’t be long until you can get into that sitting position on your own. I love watching you do these little ab work outs trying sit on your own. Notice I said watching and not joining in. Yeah – Mama don’t do sit-ups. Go see your Aunt Claire if you want crunch tips.

I am often blown away by how much I love you. Your laugh, your smile, the little look you get when you’re concentrating really hard or that adorable pout and sharp stare you get when you’re frustrated – which makes me feel like I’m looking in a baby mirror – all these looks make my heart sing. I had you sitting in your little activity centre ma-bob today. This activity thing has so much to keep you occupied - a disco ball, a turntable, this 40’s style mic that encourages you to ‘sing it baby' and the coolest version of the ABC’s I have ever heard. And despite all this song, dance, and flash surrounding you, vying for your attention, your eyes were on me, waiting for me to look at you, to sing with you, to laugh with you.

And oh when I did. Your little face could not get any more joyous if it tried – you looked as if you could quite literally burst with excitement. Arms and legs flailing. Babbling so loud and fast you’re practically choking on your baby gurgles. And then it hit me.

I’ve been so focused on and in awe of how much I love you that I almost didn’t realize just how much you love me.

Je t'aime.


We all know you're really the boss of the stuffed animals. Mickey is totally cheating with that stupid hat.

*Which explains why this is two days late. Well the fact that you're still not sleeping through the night doesn't help.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

More show than tell.

Eloise hasn't been sleeping very well lately. Which means I haven't been sleeping well lately. Which means my brain is foggy and slow. So instead of attempting to write about our day yesterday, I'm just going to show you instead.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Happy Mother's Day to all the Slummy and Yummy British Mummies!!

Hope your day is filled with heart felt cards and clumsy art work made by little loving hands.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sleep deprived mommy moment of the day....

After putting Eloise to bed I went downstairs and helped The Frenchman clean up the kitchen from the wake of Eloise's foray into finger food. After wiping down her high chair and throwing away half gummed chunks of lamb and fruit I went to wrap up half of the papaya that I had cut up for her earlier.

I pulled a sheet of cling film, carefully wrapped the papaya in it, making sure that no air could get through to keep it fresh. And then? And then I dropped the fruit in the garbage can.

Obviously my plan was to put it in the fridge - though wrapping every piece of trash in cling film before you throw it away would certainly make the garbage smell less.

Yeah - no doubt about it - 7+ months of interrupted sleep is taking its toll.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Days like these

There are some days when she is restless. When she seems unhappy with her lot in life and I cannot figure out what she needs to smile again. Days I get the feeling she wishes she wasn't a baby anymore. Not today.

She happily went into her carrier. She tilted her head and smiled at the old woman cooing at her on the bus. She enjoyed her signing class (although I can't say she payed much attention to the teacher) and on our walk back home she took in the world around her and every once in a while would lock eyes with mine and give me the sweetest Oh! You're still here! YES! Smile and then carry on taking in the sights.

We came home, and after lunch of chicken and leeks, dried fruit and green beans we took a nap together in my bed, her fuzzy head resting just under my chin. She woke up and started pushing her little hands on the small of my back. Then we hid under the blankets, me pretending to gobble her up, she laughing.

She resisted her afternoon nap (when I usually do some housework and spend my one hour of "me" time a day watching my t.v. show). So instead I set up the play mat, scattered some toys on the ground and sat down with her - putting the t.v. on in the background. I was quickly distracted from the quick quips of the Gilmore Girls by Eloise laughing at her teddy bear dancing and singing. So I continued to make her bear dance and sing just to hear her sweet giggle, until she rubbed her eyes and I took her upstairs to get in a quick nap before dinner.

Some days being her mother is the easiest job with the biggest rewards.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

My left boob

I can always tell when a new exercise or diet regime is working because my left breast looses weight before any other part of my body. The right one will eventually catch up, – right boob is a little lazy. This of course isn’t the greatest incentive for trying to lose weight. Avoided cake and huffed and puffed till your face was red on the treadmill? How bout I shrink half of your best assets as a reward.

So combine a left boob that is always itching to get back to it’s C cup and a baby that has an unexplained preference for nursing from the right boob and we got ourselves a one-way ticket to lopside city.

I had been warned from other mothers about what the dreaded nursing boob preference could do, but I thought, really – how much damage can a little baby do. Yeah, I can see you shaking your head from here.

When she was younger she would scream and writhe when I offered her my left breast. When I had the patience I could wait through this period and get her to eventually accept it. But my patience was more often used up with changing her outfit for the third time that day after yet another butt explosion, or wiping up another dollop of baby spew from the bedroom floor. So I would cave in and just move her to the right breast and call it a day.

Now she has no preference, can swap between boobs without batting an eye, but the damage has been done.

I gave her my heart and she took my boobs. Not only do they no longer match, but they’re also a deflated shadow of their former selves.

So my advice to any childless women out there – go have fun, kinky (protected!) sex and in the morning strut around his place in nothing but his oversized t-shirt and a smile while your body is still in a state to make that look sexy. Take a moment to drink in your fabulousness – because once you have a kid your body is theirs.

These days I put on the Frenchman’s shirt and I just look like Meatloaf prancing around without his pants on.

Just cute enough to make my sad boobs worth it. But only just.