Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas play

Today we took Hazel to see a play adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ “Father Christmas”. This is a book we had when I was a child (probably bought here in England). It was Jess’s brilliant idea to go, and it was Hazel’s first play. She loved it. I loved hearing her sweet quiet voice asking questions, (“Are those real reindeer?”, “Why did he go to the bathroom in the play?”, “Why did he throw his presents on the floor?”, “Why did the dog keep taking his socks?”, and “He dances like I do!”) and seeing how absorbed she was. After the play, there was further commentary. (“Maybe we can bring Santa to the Osorios’ house,” and, “I want to see the Santa play again,” and, “Is it Christmas?”) I view Hazel as a fairly sophisticated little person, and she is, but she is also still a little kid, with a very young person’s perception of reality, in which the line between what is real and what is fantasy is fine and sometimes non-existent. As with so many things having to do with parenting, this experience brings up much bigger questions about how we’re going to present the idea of religion to our children, how we’re going to talk about Christmas/Santa/presents, and how we’re going to handle making them aware of the ever-present sexism in our culture’s media, art, politics, etc. (the dog in the play is male and aggressive, and the cat is female and “sensitive”, for example).

While we were at the play, Martine took care of the babies. I brought over all the extra pumped milk and made bottles for her. It feels quite strange to go out and about without the twins, and since I’m so used to having them with me I get a little nervous about being so far away from them. It’s good for all of us, of course. Part of what has helped Hazel become so sociable is the fact that she’s been taken care of by so many different people. I’m glad that I haven’t allowed my parental paranoia to stop me from having babysitters, family, and friends care for my children.  And, as Martine reminded me, she’s taken care of plenty of babies before. I think that taking the train makes me feel like I’m further from them, since when I’m in the States in my car, I have a (mostly false) sense of control:  I can, at a moment’s notice, hop in my car and drive back to my children. But after all, the trains are frequent and fast, and it doesn’t take very long to get around. And in a car one can get stuck in horrible traffic. And in England, a call to the UK 911 equivalent will bring an emergency car to the house in a minute or less, and one doesn’t have to worry about paying the bill. So, this is another good lesson in doing things differently, that there isn’t just one good way. Living in another country is often an opportunity to see that we all have things to learn from each other.

When we get home it will be December. We’ll have to look for another play to attend. Maybe we can go with Hazel’s aunty and cousin, and have another wonderful family memory to share.

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London Zoo and public transport

We went to the London Zoo yesterday. It was wet and cold, and it took us quite a long time to get there, due in part to a very slow train. Taking public transport entails a different sort of approach to life than driving everywhere. We were out for 8 hours altogether, and each way involved travelling on a train, an underground train (the Tube), and a bus. If we were to live in London we’d have to get different, smaller equipment. The Tube stations didn’t have lifts (elevators), so we wound up hunched over the stroller, balancing it on an escalator step as we ascended or descended quite a long way. The babies mercifully slept most of the way there. Emily didn’t start crying until we were on the bus. When we arrived it was time to feed them, so we went to the cafe and ate fish and chips and I nursed the twins. I brought one of our huge twin nursing pillows on this trip, and though it’s big and bulky, it has enabled me to go out and about with them. It comes equipped with a handy privacy thingumy that has a loop that goes around my neck, and is firm enough to support them when I’m sitting in a regular chair. So, I nursed them four times during the eight hours, but managed to avoid having to do so on the train, for which I was very grateful.

We met friends of Jess’s at the Zoo, who have a daughter almost exactly Hazel’s age. After a short period of initial shyness, they got on like a house on fire. They shared food, and pretty soon were running around together. Chloe started trying on an American accent. Hazel told me that Chloe is her new friend. We’ll see them again next weekend at Jess’s birthday lunch. I am really glad that Hazel is sufficiently comfortable socially that she can make friends wherever she goes. They had an earnest discussion with a man who was cleaning out the plants in a bird cage. Apparently yes, he does get bird poop on his head every day. But they have showers so the zoo keepers can be presentable when they leave work at the end of the day. We also got to see the aardvarks and porcupines being fed, as well as the penguins. There were also monkeys, lions, tigers, and snakes. There were, however, no elephants. Hazel thought I was having her on, since there were pictures of elephants on the signs. At the end of the afternoon we went to the Zoo’s aquarium. I sat and fed the babies for the last time, and the rest of them all went to check out the fish. It was a very successful trip. And now when we watch YouTube videos of “Jess’s Zoo”, as we call it at our house, Hazel will have memories from this trip to bring to mind.

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This afternoon Jess’s sister & her family came over for lunch. Hazel made a couple more friends, had kids to read to her and sit next to at lunch, and we had a wonderful meal. Unfortunately, while she was running through the kitchen, she whacked her lip on a shelf. She had already been teetering on the brink of needing a nap, and that really did her in. So, after a long cuddle with me in a chair, she and Ted went upstairs and slept for a couple of hours, which was good for both of them. Hazel’s had very full days here, and skipped naps like they were yesterday’s news, but it all caught up with her at last. However, all’s well that ends well. She still has all her teeth, her lip is only a little swollen, and she is better rested.

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There is a new Farmers’ Market starting up here, and we went this morning. There were lovely vegetables, piles of eggs from free-range chickens, tasty chicken sausage sandwiches, baked goods, honey, meats, and a pony dressed up as a reindeer to ride. Hazel had elected to stay home and help Martine clean, so she didn’t get to see the pony. She did, however, get to help Martine make shortbread. The rest of us walked over with some friends of Jess’s and had a lovely time wandering through the market taking in the smells as well as enjoying the sunshine and blue sky. It’s encouraging to see these local markets becoming more popular again. There are several in the Seattle area. It’s nice to support local farmers, and we strongly prefer to buy local meat, in particular.

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There are more fun things planned, including a trip to Cambridge, a father-daughter trip to the Natural History museum, a children’s play, and a birthday lunch. Our departure day seems far off, but will arrive more quickly than we expect, I’m sure. Now it’s time to go play with Hazel and read her a couple of stories. Hopefully tonight we’ll have a repeat of the 5-hour sleep we got from the twins last night. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll go to Hampton Court and explore the hedge maze, now that we’re no longer jet-lagged and have a sufficient number of neurons firing that we might find our way out again.

Music and friends

Making music with friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I just read through some Beethoven duets with Martine, who plays flute, and who borrowed a cello for me. It’s the same one I used the last time we did this, several years ago. It is a wonderful gift to be able to share this activity and to have this dimension to the relationship. It makes strong memories.

Meanwhile, Jess read to Hazel, and Ted tried to get the babies to sleep (they didn’t). Earlier, Jess taught Hazel how to play Snap. And before that, she took Hazel for a double-decker bus ride. They came back with presents:  I got a pair of socks with penguins.

This afternoon when Martine came back from an all-day errand she took Emily, and they had quite a good conversation. The cockles of my heart are regularly getting warmed on this trip. I love sharing with my children some of the things I’ve loved in my life, and sharing relationships is the best of all.

Jet-lag sucks, and other matters

So, we left home on Friday last week, and arrived in London on Saturday. I got a reasonable amount of sleep Thursday night, but none at all Friday when we were in transit. Once we were here, sleep was hard to come by; I wound up nursing the twins around the clock for 3 days and nights straight, and when I wasn’t doing that, Hazel was waking up, and waking me up. Out of our normal routine, Ted had trouble calming the babies, and when they cried Hazel woke up too, which is a rare occurrence at home. So, between the surreal feelings of disorientation and lack of place that jet-lag tends to produce, I had 6 hours of sleep over a 3-day period. Yikes!! Last night was better. Hazel only woke up twice, and the twins lengthened, if only by a bit, their between-nursing intervals. I am starting to feel more like myself. We finally got a converter yesterday, so now we can charge our various devices, and I can start pumping again. We can get back into something of a routine, which helps. I’m glad we planned to be here for over two weeks, though. We’ll have enough time to see everyone, explore a bit, and enjoy ourselves before we go home and do this all over again…

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It is lovely to see our friends. We’ve had great conversations, shared wonderful meals, and enjoyed introducing our friends to our kids & vice versa. Seeing my daughters with people I love is one of my greatest joys. Hazel is in what is essentially granny heaven. Rather than having to follow our food rules, she’s getting to eat almost anything she wants. She even got to watch an episode of “Pingu”, a claymation show for kids. Such is the power of these relationships. (Normally we have a no TV rule, which will last until she’s 7 years old.)

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I love this house. There are huge windows that let in light and give a view of big sky. Being here inspires us to think about changes we can make in our own house, some easy and some more complicated, but all fun to contemplate.

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We went to Bushy Park a couple of days ago. There was a family feeding the birds. Hazel promptly started chasing the ducks into the water and laughing like a loon. They kept jumping out to get more bread, so it was a game that she could repeat endlessly. I played in Bushy Park when I was 6 years old. It is another thing I have loved to share with her.

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Babies are crying… off to jiggle them into a happier state, I hope.

London bound

So, we’re leaving for the UK tomorrow, to visit family friends. I did 85% of the packing on Sunday, and as a result, though we have tasks to do tomorrow it’s reasonable. I don’t always manage to be organized, but in this instance I got there. And we don’t have to leave for the airport until the afternoon, so I think we’ll even manage to get the afternoon nap in before we go. That is good, because we won’t be arriving until the middle of the night our time. Traveling with two babies and a kid, all the luggage, etc will probably mean that we’re pretty wiped when we arrive. We’re hoping to stay awake for at least a few hours that first day.

I’m looking forward to seeing our friends, drinking tea, checking out the London Zoo, seeing a play, taking a day trip up to Cambridge (where I lived for 8 months when I was 14 years old), taking walks in parks, and yes, being able to go to a pub with our kids in tow.

Traveling light just isn’t an option at this stage of the game, but I did the best I could to keep it down to a number of suitcases we could handle. One important task tomorrow is packing up Hazel’s bumblebee suitcase with stuff she wants on the plane. It will be interesting to see what she picks to bring.

I have a pretty vivid memory of my friend’s mom chasing us around the garden when I was six, and putting us up on the garden shed roof while we shrieked and giggled hysterically. I don’t know if Hazel will be able to remember back this far (she’s only 3.5), but we’ll take lots of pictures and tell stories about our London trip, and I hope it’ll be part of her childhood fabric. We have a connection with this family that goes back to before my siblings and I were born, and it feels special to me to be bringing my kids to meet them.

Matters of the heart, and shoes

The twins’ eyebrows are starting to grow in. Their faces are becoming even more heartbreakingly beautiful to me. I have been amazed at the power of the bond I experience between them and me. At night when they’re lying next to each other and both looking directly at me, I feel a strong pull that seems almost as strong physically as it is emotionally, and leaving the room even knowing they’re in the loving care of their daddy, takes an effort of will. It felt that way with Hazel, too, but that there are two now rather than one does turn up the intensity.

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I got a new pair of shoes yesterday. I don’t do that often; I tend to wear shoes until I’ve worn them out. However, through pregnancy my feet have changed. Also, I used to wear Dansko clogs a lot, but I’ve turned my ankle a couple of times in them, and just don’t want to risk doing that again. So, realizing that in London I was going to wind up with wet feet if I brought nothing but a pair of Mary Janes, I went and got a pair of lace-up Danskos. This was after I’d picked Hazel and her friend up from school and dropped him off at his house. At the last minute I decided to drop Hazel off too so I could grab that half hour to go over to the store by myself and take the time and space to decide about footwear without the distraction of a small person. I was again grateful that our nanny is back so that I felt comfortable enough to do that. And now I have a new pair of shiny black shoes.

Feminism and mothering

Ted’s back upstairs! Yippee! Now I’ll be able to hear the babies whenever they cry at night! Yip, oh wait. …  No, really, it’s great. Ted’s happy to be back in our room, and I won’t have to go up and downstairs to feed the babies. Also, our fabulous nanny is back after a 2.5-week trip away, and we are very, very happy to see her.

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Due to Hazel’s rapid self-potty-training, we need to get her more underpants. We’ve had a few waiting for her that we bought at least a year ago, but they are not sufficient now. When we went on an underwear shopping expedition, however, we discovered that the only option other than pink was to buy boys’ underpants. That was the case in two separate stores. Now, I understand that there are many different opinions on this matter, but the tyranny of pink is something we truly despise, and refuse to allow it to stick our daughters in its insanely narrow gender-id box. So, tomorrow Ted will pick up more Hanna Andersson underpants from the store near our house, in shades of white, green, blue, & other more gender neutral colors.

I am deeply grateful from the bottom of my heart for a) having a husband who’s on the same page with me on this issue, and b) having a brother I can call to talk about it with, and who, along with wicked jokes (pink is the devil’s color, and wearing it means selling your soul), can also give me good advice and his perspective on the matter, as he and his wife are also raising their kids to be able to see options outside the currently prevalent rigid definition of gender and gender expression.

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Speaking of gender, it is interesting to me how I experience internal shut-down and lack of confidence when in a place like a camera store. I love taking pictures, and have some very nice ones from the past few years. Of course, I am a total amateur, but do have a creative eye and am, after all, an artist in other arenas. However, I find that I have a mental block against really internalizing what all the various numbers mean, and so have in the past half-learned and forgotten what ISO, and f-stops etc mean and how to interpret the numbers I can see in my SLR camera. Also, when I’m around my camera-buff friends (most of whom are male), I instantly feel intimidated and turned off when they start spouting such numbers. Recently, I have decided that I just have to get past this, and have put effort into memorizing and gaining a better understanding of the technical side of photography, and am having success. Nevertheless, when we went into a Talls Camera store this evening, I found that I struggled to process anything said to me by the (smirking, irritating) guy behind the counter. I remembered reading about studies which have shown that when women and girls are exposed to statements about supposed gender-related truths – “Girls are worse at math,” etc – they in fact perform less well. And since girls and women are inundated by these messages, it gets very hard to get ahead in fields in which these assumptions are very prevalent.

So, I know all of this. And I know I’ve taken some beautiful pictures. And I know I’m no dummy. And yet, I feel myself shrinking when I enter that domain. It’s another thing to work on, as it’s another thing I don’t want to pass on to my daughters.

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The thyroid test came back negative, which was expected, but is still a relief to know. I have a big nodule on my thyroid, but it is not dangerous. Something to keep tabs on, but nothing to worry about.

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Right now I’m listening to the chorus of my babies’ little snorts and whuffles, along with the big-cat-growling snore Ted produces. The main thing is that it doesn’t seem to wake them up. Perhaps they’ll find the sounds of a motorcycle soothing later in life, though I hope it doesn’t mean they’ll have a tendency to fall asleep at the wheel. 🙂