Monday, 26 July 2010

The Man in Black

Adjusting back to life as what is currently a Stay at home Mom hasn't been easy. We were spoiled on our trip to Chicago and having all those extra hands for 2 weeks made me almost forget how much energy it takes to look after Eloise.

Coming back from holiday we were again faced with the challenging reality of raising a child in a country of which you have no family. No one to take her for a walk when you only got 3 hours of sleep the night before. No one to distract her on the changing table so she doesn't wipe poo on the walls. No one to play peek-a-boo with her while you drink a cup coffee while checking facebook. But that doesn't mean we don't have help. In fact, we had help right under our noses this entire year and I cannot believe I didn't think of it sooner. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Babysitter extraordinaire: Mr. Johnny Cash.

I've been a fan of Mr. Cash for some time now, and when The Frenchman saw him in a episode of Columbo he became a fan too. While I was pregnant I listened to a lot of Johnny Cash. Streets of Laredo was my favorite. Johnny even came with me in the labour suite when I gave birth. They say that songs played while the baby is in utero can often calm the baby when they are on the other side. We were afraid we'd have to play the theme song to Friends over and over to calm her down.

When Eloise goes to sleep at night, we play a medley of calming songs (mainly classical, some Belle and Sebastian, Charles Aznavour used to be on there but we're pretty sure he gave her night terrors so we booted him from the play list). I've been trying to get her to sleep a bit longer during her nap times in hopes that it would help with her sleeping better at night. So I decided to put on some music for her nap. I was in the mood for some Johnny and figured I could change it to her sleep medley if he didn't work. If he didn't work. Please. Man's voice is like a friggin' baby whisperer on a train filled with warm bottles of whiskey laced milk and paracetamol. I'm kicking myself that I didn't try him earlier.

Instead of 30 or 45 minute naps, Eloise is now doing almost an hour and a half. Yesterday instead of waking up crying as usual, she woke up calm and babbling and when I picked her up in my arms, Ring of Fire came on and she started to dance.

Johnny Cash I cannot thank you enough. I can shower AND drink a cup of coffee while reading the paper AND do the dishes AND mop the floor AND hang out the laundry to dry ALL during nap time. All thanks to you.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Douzieme mois avec Mademoiselle Eloise


At 15:59 a year ago today you came into this world and were placed in my arms. Arms that didn’t quite know what they were good at until they held you. Oh this year. This year that you will have no memory of. This space between 0 and 1 that belongs more to your father and me than it does you. This year that saw you go from an angry little bundle of reflexes and squishy poop to a near toddler who kisses her mother’s tummy to make her laugh and pouts when her father tells her no.

This is the year I discovered all the clich├ęs are true. That your life does change. That your priorities shift. That you’ll love stronger than you ever thought physically possible.

We had a little gathering planned to mark your first birthday. Down at the pub that probably helped provide the libations that resulted in your conception. We invited old friends and new “mummy” friends to have a BBQ in the beer garden. I imagined watching you sitting on a tabletop in your little gingham dress with matching shoes, as we sung you happy birthday, me fighting back tears while you looked at each of our faces and smiled back at us. Then delighting in seeing you devour a piece of homemade birthday cake, covering your face and hair in icing.

Instead you appear to have caught the chicken pox and so the party amongst friends is cancelled. I had the chicken pox on my birthday too, when I turned 5. It wasn’t great. But my mom made the best of it and despite the fact that you won’t remember this, I’m going to try to make the best of it too. We’re not even entirely sure it is Chicken pox, but it is going around, you have some spots and miraculously you are sleeping better. How I wish this new sleeping pattern is just you finally reaching that oh so coveted milestone of sleeping through the night. But from the time you had your first round of vaccinations I know, when you’re sick, you sleep.

So instead we will have pancakes for breakfast, and I will attempt to make you a carrot cake, we will open presents and sing to you, and yes, at some point I will probably cry. In fact here’s a little warning for you - I will be that mom. That mom that cries whenever you sing on stage with your classmates, or receive an award for perfect attendance, or grow another year older. I can't help it. Enjoy my gushing displays of love and keep kleenex in your pocket and we should be fine.

I even cried a little putting you to bed on the night before you turned one. And I’m not entirely sure why. I think part of the reason is it can be hard watching you grow up, wanting to slow time down. But for the most part I am so excited to see what you'll do next that I don't have time to mourn the past. But I think it is also that I wish I could give you more. I know it seems silly to make a big deal about someone turning one when they won’t even remember the party, but you are so amazing Eloise. You have more personality in your little pinky than most people I know and you’re only 12 months old. You deserve so much, you deserve to be celebrated, you deserve elephants and acrobats. I’d give you the world if I could kid.

Nearly every night for the entire first year of your life I have held you in my arms. I have held you when your hot tears have drenched my cheek, held you when your face erupted in laughter, held you when your breath became slow and warm against my neck. And I will continue to hold you in my arms, carry your weight, carry your heart against my heart, your dreams nestled safely just below mine until your feet reach the ground and you can turn and walk away from me.

Happy Birthday my little Eloise.

I love you. Plus que jamais. Je t’aime


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

In Amerika

Apologies for the delay on the photos, but a baby who thinks it's amusing to wake up every 20 minutes crying for her parents has left me with little time or sanity.

Our trip to Chicago in photos:

In Amerika we will have land and chocolate.

A love of flying is born.

Eloise meets her Godmother, Aunt Ding-a-Ling and sadly doesn't look too happy about it.

They fought over which one got to be the Ketchup for ages before they let me take this photo.

The Bean.

Eloise and the Frenchman take a dip in the fountain.

Eloise and Grandpa Gary sun on the deck.

Eloise and Aunt Claire rockin' the do-rag.

Boat tour (aka the photo that makes me question why I left).

Cubs game.

Story time with Grandpa.

Eloise meets her new friend Rory and embarrassingly they wore the same outfit.

Eloise at the zoo.

4th of July Parade.

We flew all the way over here for that?

Eloise meets (and approves of) potential suitor, Avery.

Goodbye Chicago. Thank you for a wonderful visit!

Thursday, 8 July 2010


No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I just fell off the face of England and into the strong, warm hands of Chicago. Were we crazy? brave? for embarking on a long haul flight with an 11-month old? Turns out we were just insanely lucky (this kid is good on planes). And also incredibly stupid to think that combining sight-seeing and visiting family and friends with a baby who at almost a year STILL DOES NOT SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT would be anything but exhausting.

Going back to Chicago is always bitter-sweet because I am reminded of everything and everyone I am giving up by living abroad. This time was especially hard because a) I was given a glimpse at what life would be like having Eloise's grandparents near by and ohdearlord it is such a lighter load and b) Chicago in the summer is a difficult place to leave. A stark contrast to Chicago in the winter (when we most often visit) which is quite frankly a difficult place to live. Summer Chicago is sizzling, easy, hotdogs, sundaes, rooftop cocktails and sandy toes.

Eloise charmed everyone with her myriad of faces, her little scowl, a tilted head, a raised eyebrow. From airport security guards to friend's parents who knew me when. The Frenchman and I have of course been smitten with Eloise since the day she came into this world, but it is always touching to see her cast her spell on others in her path. There is nothing that warms the heart more than to see how much love there is in the world for your child.

The family on the Chicago shores of Lake Michigan

More photos to come...