Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Striking that balance

Louis and Soph. (Check out the matching knitwear.) 

I thought I'd cracked it a few months back. You know, struck parental gold by chancing on a solution to that perennial daily battle that is Getting Ready. Instead of expecting Louis to get dressed on demand each morning, which was becoming an increasing struggle, I started bribing him by getting him excited about the day ahead. It started with a proposed trip to a playgroup to see Yoppy. They'd played there the week before, so he was more than happy to put some jeans on if it meant he could see her there again. Not to mention play kitchens while wearing a fireman's helmet. 

I've since used it  practically daily although obviously some excursions hold a bigger appeal than others. Try as I might to get him addicted to his daily frothy, it lacks the pull of my coffee - or his fire engine. And it's hard to think of anything that excites him about being dumped at nursery, although our orangutan cycle ride there - with him strapped to my back in his baby carrier - is helping. (Nobody tell health and safety.)

But I fear my device might be backfiring. On Monday, when I sprung my impromptu plans for a visit to Grandmas on him, he was desperate to leave at once. "Get dressed. See Grandma." I, however, had plans to finish a stack of chores, give him lunch and drive down while he napped. Then again today, with a trip on the big train to St Albans to see Sophie on the cards, it was all I could do to finish my cup of tea before he had bundled me out of the door. I jest not: we were ready to leave well before 9am, a feat never before achieved even on a work day. 

Which made me realise that this parenting lark is all about striking a balance. In this case, it's about how to balance getting him excited enough to put down his lego and get ready but not so excited that I can't get myself dressed first. And if parenting really is about balancing then I can't help but find it ironic that the early days are all about such extremes. I'm talking about the sorts of extremes that get Daily Mail headline writers shrieking that leaving a baby sobbing could damage its brain - for that was how they interpreted Penelope Leach's latest wisdom on the subject in her new book - or the new parenting dilemma du jour: do you, or don't you, Gina? 

Then again, thinking back, I'm not sure whether it's possible to find any equilibrium in those frantic early weeks. My finals-style approach to parenting by attempting to read all the literature out there so I could just use the snippets I liked from each so-called grand savant failed spectacularly. Perhaps we just have to accept that there are no easy solutions. 

Unless you know better?? 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sod NCT.... bring on the Lego lessons

Here's a question: how is it that the world seems full of people trying to flog stuff and life lessons to prospective and new parents.... but none of it is remotely useful? Where, for example, are the Lego lessons? It's okay for the architecturally-minded: your towers and houses and farms and cities just seem magically to slot themselves together. But what about the rest of us? For some reason those multi-coloured bricks have me stumped every time. 

Try as I may, I just can't work out how to get them to do anything more interesting than make a very tall tower. (Although I am a dab hand at a spot of colour co-ordination.) Which means I look enviously at everyone else's creations. Even a simple Lego tunnel over the train tracks (thanks Louis' Grandad) had me turning green. And as for Daddy J's Eschereque marvel, with twisting staircases leading up to Lego heaven, well, I refused to let Louis destroy it for days. I briefly had a good thing going with the odd skyscraper, but they weren't very stable. I've tried copying the pictures on the front of the Lego box but what sort of a lesson in creativity does that send Louis? 

The same goes for "crayoning". It's all very well for Louis to demand "Mummy come crayon" but what I want to know is: Crayon what? Even after a 20-year break, I'm still just as useless as drawing horses' legs as I ever was, a fact I still find unutterably frustrating. Louis might be happy scribbling away with a green pencil and calling it a "zebra" but I'm afraid that's a step too avant-garde for me. I found myself cheating and buying one of those how-to-draw-animals books from the Tate the other day, but my efforts are still pretty lousy. You'd never know I got an A at GCSE art. 

Singing would make another potentially useful ante-natal lesson if you ask me. For years, no, sorry, decades, the only singing you ever have to do is either the odd Christmas carol, or in extremis - or better still under the influence - some karaoke after hours. And then suddenly it's non-stop lullabies and nursery rhymes at all hours. And in all locations. We can be in a shop, out for a walk, on the tube: Louis isn't fussy. Neither is he choosy about the actual songs. "Mummy sing it the polar bear one," was his ultimate classic. Um, what polar bear one?? Now it's one of his all-time favourites. 

And what about a drama class or two to help with those bedtime stories? How much more fun would reading out loud be if you could actually pull off the odd regional accent? It might make the umpteenth reading of Tiger who came to tea a bit more interesting. 

Have I missed anything out? Perhaps I could be onto something here...... 

Hanami update

It's getting tense on the sakura front. Despite a decent run of spring sunshine, those little blossom buds are refusing to unfurl. And we need them to. By Sunday, which has been designated Hanami day. Not really sure how we'll be celebrating, except I'm sure it will involve photos of Louis and Yoppy with the blossom - unfurled or not. Plus apparently some plum wine has been acquired. And I'm planning on baking. All invited. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

To blog, or not.....

I've long steered clear of the whole why-do-I-blog post because I've never kidded myself anyone would care - much as I've been interested in reading other similar ones. (I would link to some but I'm sure anyone who's interested will have already read the same ones as me.) But recently I just can't seem to stop thinking about it. 

In classic me fashion, this blog falls between several stools. I started it to fill people in on how fast Louis was growing while we were living in DC. And it was fun writing about what we were up to, especially given the US was a pretty interesting place while we were there. I also just enjoy writing for writing's sake, which pretty much makes me born to blog. 

But given bwb's raison d'etre, I should have probably packed it in once we got back home. Brief hiatus notwithstanding, I didn't, partly because I figured it was a nice way to keep in touch my lovely DC mom friends who'd started reading it and partly because I'd grown kinda fond of the whole blogging lark. I also managed to stumble on the whole Mum blogosphere that sprung up while I was Stateside. Without really meaning to, I found myself getting sucked in to the likes of British Mummy Bloggers - initially because I was researching a story and then because I found it fun. Bit by bit I started to find other bloggers I liked reading, and to my surprise they started to find me. And sometimes they were sweet enough to post the odd comment about something I'd written. Which I enjoy very much, so thank you. 

But then I noticed other bloggers starting to get het up about things like their blog rankings in something called the Tots 100, which ranks all the best Mummy (and Daddy) blogs according to a bunch of stuff I simply can't get my head around. Then I found out you could track your so-called blogger stats, to see who was stopping by, and how they found you. It all matters - to some people - because if you're popular you'll start getting freebies and being invited on day trips out and even weekends away. Oh, and how could I forget Twitter? You're nobody in the blogging world if you don't tweet your posts. 

Now I see there's something called the MADs, which is the inaugural British mummy bloscars, sponsored by Butlins no less. And come July, there's going to be a conference dedicated to mummy bloggers called Cybermummy. (Which I should add sounds very interesting.... but very far removed from tapping out this and that in the early hours.)

So far, so 2010. But for some reason I've let all of that take the edge off writing bwb. Partly because I don't really care about it all, but mostly because deep down I guess I do. How could I not? I briefly made the Tots 100, but wisely opted not to tell anyone because I - correctly - figured it was probably only a blip given I didn't know what I'd done to get myself onto it. I think the problem with being able to "measure" bwb's popularity - whether by user stats, comments, "retweets" (zero), MADs nominations - is that I now feel under pressure when I spew something out online. Which is the opposite of what I used to feel back in DC when this laptop and this very website often seemed all that kept me sane(ish). 

I'm not really sure where that leaves me. But I wanted to write it all down to try and get it all out of my head. And now that I've written it, well, I guess I might as well hit "publish post" because after all, that's what you do when you blog. Don't you? 

**On the user stats front, I just read a really interesting post over at Notes from Lapland.... **

Friday, April 2, 2010


Slightly after the event, but in an echo of bwbs past (that was supposed to read like Christmases past but not sure it worked) I promised to link to the three radio packages that DJ put together from our NYC stint. Disclaimer: Louis and I had absolutely nothing to do with any of these except that we really did try and stay out of his way. 

He was back working with Kevin Connolly, the BBC's US radio correspondent, and okay I'm biased, but I think they did some great stuff. The first is on whether the UK can learn from US spending cuts; the second on how Harlem has solved some pretty big social issues; and the third about how charitable societies can create illusive community spirit - in the US at least. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hanami watch

This is for Sonoko and Yoppy-chan! It's bwb's very own sakura forecast, seeing as Sonoko is a bit too far from home to log onto one of the official Japanese ones. Judging from the slow progress of the blossom in our street there's no need to put the sake on ice quite yet for the Hanami celebration. Am not sure quite what that comprises, but I'm hoping I will find out. If you want a sneak preview of what the sakura will look like, click here.

And this was Yoppy-chan and Louis-chan working out earlier this week in preparation for the Hanami sushi fest.