Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Son and Daughters Who Missed Christmas

It's been a strange couple of days without the boys.  I have appreciated the peace and quiet.  Relished the ability to keep the house tidy for more than a nanosecond before the floor is littered with lego/zoobs/magnetix and the air is filled with either shrieks or demands.  But I've missed them.

One of the mums I have recently started to become friends with, whose son is in Johnny Drama's class, met me for a mani/pedi and lunch on Saturday.  She is verging on 9 months pregnant with what I presumed to be her second child.  Turns out that's not the case, as I discovered while we chatted with our feet luxuriated in a soothing foot spa.  She gave birth prematurely to twin girls two years ago, in very similar circumstances to my own, both of whom died.

We shared our stories.  I asked about her daughters.  It was nice to be able to talk openly about my dead son with someone who totally understands.  Has stood in my shoes.  Had her world obliterated and yet despite all the odds is still standing.  Did not quite think she would ever again be able to perform the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other but now is nearing the light of a different tunnel, with a new baby.

She was on my mind ever since our lunch.  I couldn't shake the thoughts of the loss of her little girls out of my mind.  It hurt me to think of the pain that she has gone through - and of the deep abiding grief that she still feels.  I eventually wrote a short email.  I am never sure that this is the right thing to do, how my words will be received but luckily they struck the right chord and she replied a day later.

In part of her email she said the following, "you inspire me in so many ways - your ability to talk about Mack without crying and your ability to honour him within your family and with friends.  I am starting to get there but it still brings such heart ache that I struggle."

And I guess that this is predominantly the choice I have made - to try to find the good in the loss of my first child.  To remember the intense joy I felt - the immediate connection - as he was placed in my arms. To be grateful for having the chance to know him at all, however fleeting.  And yes, I will talk about him openly,  without any embarrassment or concern for whether or not it makes other people uneasy and uncomfortable.  Dead babies are not everyone's favourite topic of conversation (I have found this particularly true of the checkout staff at Wholefoods.  Just kidding).  But frankly I don't give a shit.

But that doesn't mean to say that the grief and longing for my son doesn't hit me with a sledgehammer on a regular basis.

What would I trade for just ONE day with my son, who would now be 7 years old?  An arm?  Most definitely.  A leg?  Yep, take your pick.  My brain?  Well, what's left of it.  My heart?  Oh, he has that already.

I would just love the opportunity to smell his hair.  And to look into his eyes.  And exchange a smile.  I would like an ordinary day.  Not Christmas or anything eventful, just a plain run-of-the-mill day with the usual squabbles and backchat and child-created chaos.  And those sudden unexpected moments of pure bliss - like when Johnny Drama paused before getting in the car this morning with his dad, then ran back to the front gate to shout, 'I love you Momma!  I love you so very much!'.

I want that.  I want him.  I want to be able to be Mum to him.  Oh how I still long to fulfill this very simple instinct that was created the moment he came into the world.  Will this longing ever go away?  I am just so curious as to 'who he is' and 'who he would become'.  My two living boys are so remarkably unique and individual and it is, predominantly, a total joy being privileged enough to be a part of their lives.  To play such an important role for them (assuming of course that I don't totally fuck it up).

And I wish more than anything - and day by day more than ever before - that I could do the same for him.  And the knowledge that I never will is sometimes the greatest loss of all.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oh Sod It, Let's Have Yet Another Man Update

So after a four week hiatus I spent the past 36 hours with Green Eyed Man.   I could have cut the date short by a good 24 hours or so and been happy but what he lacks in many areas I guess he makes up for in tenacity.

If I was going to be my true, evil, bitchy, judgmental self I would be totally honest and tell you that I find GEM, despite his hunky physicality, to be a little bit of a drip.  I would confess that spending too much time in his company is tedious and generally rescued by downing several vodka tonics, at which point I can generally see the good in pretty much anybody.  And then of course there's the sex.  Oh my.  So if I am drunk or we are in bed then things are good.  It's when I am sober and we are spending time together, possibly even conversing, that things start to go a little down hill.

Of course, I am not going to reveal my true, horrific nature to you because there is nothing pretty or like-able about the real me.  And being so critical of someone who is so incredibly thoughtful and lovely to me makes me feel like such a heinous witch.  I just wish I didn't find him quite so...dull.

The fact that I have held GEM at arms length for many weeks only seems to have piqued his interest further and increased his ardor a hundred fold.  He has sent me cards, texted me regularly, called every couple of days...most of which I have ignored.  I wasn't trying to be rude - or even end things - I just didn't have the slightest urge to be with him or talk to him with everything else going on, which I suppose is quite telling.  I was honest with him to a point.  I told him that I only wanted things to be casual, that my feelings for my ex were a little confused and that Christmas is an emotionally charged time for me.  Also that my priority during the lead up to Christmas was maximising the time with Subversive Mum.  (It somehow slipped my mind to mention that I was also dating another guy, but being new to all this I am not quite sure how much honesty is really necessary.)

But I guess in truth, I am just 'not that into him'.

I wish I was.  He is such a sweet guy.  He reminds me a little of ex when we first got together - totally besotted and placing me high up on a pedastal way before I have earned the privilege.  I spent years performing death dives off the damn thing on a regular basis, to no avail, only to find one night (when I was a little pre-occupied with a 6 month old baby and an exhausting toddler) that ex had dismantled the pedastal while I was grabbing my precious 4 hours of sleep and had ceremoniously destroyed all the pieces.  I have been trying to resurrect a home-made version ever since, but craft and DIY has never been a particular talent of mine.  Maybe it's time I just laid that specific preoccupation to rest.

So what is it about GEM that isn't quite cutting the mustard?

I think part of it is that he has lived quite a sheltered, unambitious life.  He hasn't really been anywhere or done anything.  There is very little for us to actually talk about.  He is only 2 years older than me, but he might as well be 20 years older because it's as though he's from a different generation at times.  There was a particularly awkward moment recently when he had his eyes closed reverently listening to American Jazz and the thought crossed my mind, 'Oh my God, this is just like dating my dad'.  Needless to say, there was no rumpy-pumpy that night and hence followed a 4 week hiatus.

I do find it quite flattering that he finds me so 'intellectually stimulating and challenging' and yet this also provides further evidence that he is not quite the sharpest cheese on the cracker.  Let's face it - I have a very high opinion of my own opinion and a very elevated view of my own intelligence.  But I am also smart enough to know that this is predominantly fallacy and wishful thinking.  While living in my own little dream world, this type of thinking is not just understandable but positively encouraged.  In the real world however I am a little skeptical of people who aren't intelligent enough to see through the illusion.

And that's the crux of the matter - he's lovely, caring, handsome, sexy, thoughtful, tolerant and endlessly kind and giving.  It's obvious we have very little in common.  And whilst I thought I really wanted - needed - all these fabulous traits, it turns out that if I am not challenged and can't share an interest in the world, different cultures, music and 1980s/1990s British TV in return, then the spark just isn't there.

So I regret to confess he is no longer a Love Interest but, on my part at least, has been relegated to Friend with (Special Skills) Benefits.

And then of course there is The Doctor.  (Dr Who?  I hear you chime....yeah, I wish.  I have been waiting this whole post to make that one joke.  I am so very lame.)  Dr Disaster is living up to my instant assessment of his character.  He is charismatic, highly intellectual and sexy.  And boy, doesn't he know it.  There is only room for one love affair in his life - and that of course is with himself.

And therein lies both the ongoing appeal and the inherent challenge.

Even if he were to meet a woman that knocked his socks off, I don't think right now he has either the time or inclination to change his independent lifestyle.  We have been out for drinks 3 times and the last date was fantastic.  He is funny and clever and gets my jokes and ironic comments without having to have them explained, and that admittedly is a huge turn on.  That was over 3 weeks ago and I haven't seen him since.

He has texted twice, so I know he is still interested at least a little.  But he has been out of town for most of December (he is currently sunning himself with friends in Miami, the bastard) and when he was available I had other plans that I wasn't prepared to cancel.  I have no idea when I will hear from him again - and I am intelligent enough to know that this is an indication of the fact that he really is not that into me.  But I am also a dumb enough to know that when he does finally text, I will see him again.  And in being so available will probably kill any chance of piquing his interest beyond 'possible future leg-over' status.

Not that there is any chance of that happening unless he ups the ante.  After all, I have my green eyed back up if there is any surplus sexual energy that I want to get rid of.   That's one thing I have learnt over the past 12 months - sex can quite simply be just sex, particularly when a 'connection' isn't reciprocated.  And sex can be fun...but not when you want it to mean something more.  And I can't bear to give him the satisfaction of being just another conquest, no matter how damn attractive I find him.  I may not be worth much.  But I am worth a little more than that.

Although if GEM were to ever read this post, I am not quite sure he would agree with me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

If Only Life Were Simple

So I survived my second Christmas as a single parent.  It was touch and go, but I made it.  Hurrah for me.

Christmas Eve started badly and got steadily worse.  There were two contributing factors.

The first being that someone seemed to have stolen my happy-go-lucky Johnny Drama overnight and replaced him with the Grinch. After one hour of his company I would have quite happily sold him to resident drug dealers without as much as a second thought or a backward glance.  He didn't want to do anything.  He didn't want to go anywhere.  We went to see friends and he was so badly behaved that I was torn between racing home to stamp all his presents to smithereens and just wrapping myself in cling film from the neck up to put an end to my misery.  How we both survived the day intact is a true Christmas miracle.

The second factor was the discovery that ex was not in fact coming to the house, as planned for weeks, to put the boys to bed.  Instead he'd made alternative plans to go to a party in the suburbs.  I could barely speak for rage when he told me.  I was all the more upset because I had just handed over my Christmas card...where I had stupidly expressed my ongoing love and sadness that we weren't still together.  It was all I could do to not rip the card out of his back pocket and shred it into tiny little pieces and then shove them down his throat and choke him with it.  Love you?  I fumed internally.  Love you?  I fucking hate you, you selfish little prick of a man.

But behind all the rage of course was the true emotion.  I was simply hurt that he didn't want to share that moment with me.  That he had prioritised a party over his sons.  That there was yet more proof just before Christmas that we just weren't enough for him any more.  The sting of rejection.  More deadly than a scorpion's tail.

Finally bedtime rolled around (cue massive bloody sigh of relief) and I sat on the sofa - same as every other night - alone save for the company of a bottle of red and a vast quantity of chocolate.  I ate and drank myself into a self-pitying stupor watching for the umpteenth time, of all things, the film Love Actually.  There ought to be a law against me watching this film, stranded in Chicago, on Christmas Eve of all nights.  I really should have known better.  How did Richard Curtis manage to get London looking so beautiful in every single scene?  The man is a cinematic genius.  I don't remember it ever looking like that in real life, although of course it's now been so long since I have had a Christmas at home that now I am convinced the film is a true reflection of London, which left me feeling more homesick and meloncholy than ever.

I went to bed incredibly sad and dreading the day ahead.  I dutifully binned the cookies the boys had left out for Santa, save a few crumbs, chewed a piece of carrot intended for the reindeer and drank the, now luke warm and particularly disgusting, snowman mug of milk.  I dreamed of using ex's head as a punching bag and had vivid, wild thoughts of how I was going to ultimately destroy him like I feel he has destroyed me.

I woke up at 4.30am and couldn't for the life of me get back to sleep.  Bad thoughts returned.  I tried meditating on fluffy kittens and adorable puppies to calm my vengeful inner harridan, but my vengeful harridan had other ideas and simply drowned them all in a big sack filled with bricks.  HO! HO! HO!  Merry Christmas everyone!

I was finally startled out of my introspective gloom by the sound of a huge crash from downstairs, which could only signal the premature demise of the Christmas tree and possibly several hundred dollars worth of 'Santa Gifts'.  I crept down the stairs, expecting to see a disaster area of magnificent proportions, but the tree was, miraculously, still standing and nothing seemed out of place.  The cats looked at me innocently.  I glared back at them...yeah, I have your number, I thought spitefully.  You might not be kittens any longer but you're not too old to be shoved into sacks you know...

I sneaked out the back for a calming cigarette and when I came back into the kitchen a sleepy Johnny Drama was standing there, silently watching me.  His face was aglow.  He spoke in a whisper.  'Mummy, Santa has eaten the cookies!  Come see!  And there are footprints!  And...and...and...presents! See!  I was good after all.  Come see!  Come see with me!  Now!'

I marvelled at the cookie crumbs, nibbled carrot and half drunk milk.  I expressed true surprise at the huge sacks of presents, filled to the brim, for both boys.  And I hugged him tight, relieved that my innocent, happy child had returned.  Within minutes Captain Underpants crept down the stairs and they both continued to gaze in wonder at the true evidence of Santa's existence, both of them visibly relieved that my threats over the last few days of being on call to Santa to tell him of every misdemeanor, hadn't resulted in him passing them by.

Ex turned up just before 8am.  By this time I felt calmer, almost pragmatic.  I didn't want anything to spoil the day and we hugged and kissed warmly, before turning to supervise the instant surge of present carnage.

We (ie. the boys) opened presents, we (ie. the adults) ate breakfast, we (ie. the boys) opened yet more presents, I cooked lunch, we (ie. the adults) ate lunch and then we went to the cinema to watch Alvin and The Chipmunks The Squeakual.  It was a lovely, lovely day.  We were the perfect, perfect family.

If only life were simple.  If only ex still loved me as a wife and not just as a co-parent.

If only.

Life could be so....well, not perfect.  But certainly better than this.

And now I am back on the sofa - alone again save for two pesky cats, who appear to be quite confident that they could write a much more entertaining post than this one judging by their persistance in attacking the keyboard at every key stroke.  But I survived another Christmas intact.  And for that I am truly and honestly grateful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wordless Tuesday

Well I guess it's not bad for 20 minutes work.  Maybe I have a chance of redeeming myself in the parenting department for 2009 afterall.

Are you watching, Santa??

Sunday, December 20, 2009

She's Gone...But She Left Me This

So Subversive Mum has flown far, far away and my caffeine drinking, alcohol swigging, swearing at the most inappropriate moment partner in crime is no more.

But before she left she did give me this little gift for my blog...

The following questions were set in last year's GCSE examination in Swindon, Wiltshire (U.K.)

These are genuine answers (from 16 year olds)

Q. Name the four seasons

A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar

Q. Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink

A. Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large  pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists

Q. How is dew formed

A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire

Q. What causes the tides in the oceans

A. The tides are a fight between the earth and the moon. All water tends to flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins the fight

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on

A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed

Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections

A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election

Q. What are steroids

A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs           
(Shoot yourself now , there is little hope)

Q. What happens to your body as you age

A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental

Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty

A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery          
(So true)

Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes

A. Premature death

Q. What is artificial insemination

A. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour

A. Keep it in the cow                                    
(Simple, but brilliant)

Q. How are the main 20 parts of the body categorised (e.g. The abdomen)

A. The body is consisted into 3 parts - the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: A, E, I, O and U                        
(What the *!!*???)

Q. What is the fibula?

A. A small lie

Q. What does 'varicose' mean?

A. Nearby

Q. What is the most common form of birth control 

A. Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium   
(That would work)

Q. Give the meaning of the term 'Caesarean section'

A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome

Q. What is a seizure?

A. A Roman Emperor.        
(Julius Seizure, I came, I saw, I had a fit)

Q. What is a terminal illness

A. When you are sick at the airport.      

Q. Give an example of a fungus. What is a characteristic feature?

A. Mushrooms. They always grow in damp places and they look like umbrellas

Q. Use the word 'judicious' in a sentence to show you understand its meaning

A. Hands that judicious can be soft as your face.                              

Q. What does the word 'benign' mean?

A. Benign is what you will be after you be eight

 Q. What is a turbine?

A. Something an Arab or Shreik wears on his head

Thursday, December 17, 2009

48 Hours And Counting

I am slowly but surely falling apart at the seams.

Falling apart is a particular speciality of mine.  It's stitching myself back together that I've always had a problem with.  I never have demonstrated much aptitude with a needle and thread.

In an effort to ignore the impending departure of my dear, dear friend I have been busying myself with household duties and Christmas preparations.  I have been a whirling dervish of physical activity.  Laundry is not only washed but also dried, folded, put away.  The dishwasher has been unloaded and re-stacked with military precision.  Kitchen surfaces have been scrubbed.  The Dyson has made more trips around the house in the past two weeks than it is has over the past two months.  All Christmas presents have been purchased.  UK gifts have been duly posted.  The boys have been placed in strangle holds to scribble, sticker and write a handful of precious Christmas cards.  A 7ft Christmas tree has been purchased, installed and decorated and the house is awash with fairy lights and twinkly bits.  I have even managed to source and purchase crackers.

I'm on top of things.  In charge.  Fully in control.  Nothing has escaped my attention.  I am Bionic Woman, Super Girl and Wonder Woman rolled into one.  There is nothing I can't tackle right now.


Except the one thing that I am fighting with every last ounce of strength to ignore.


Strange how some friendships are like the most intense love affairs I have ever experienced.  With Subversive Mum the connection was instant and intense.  She has been my rock these past few months - and I guess I have been hers too.  She has not only seen and accepted all my many neurosis qualities (some of which I had long forgotten) but has embraced them and encouraged them.  As a result, I feel more like the vibrant, funny, snarky Nicola, jam packed with abilities and possibilities, that I used to be pre-kids.  Which is the beauty of a love affair I guess.  That feeling of simply being more alive.  Like a more confident and happy version of yourself, that you half forgot existed.

And if I do allow myself the brief luxury of dwelling on the fact that she is leaving, I feel a sense of jitteryness and panic that is hard to control.

To the most casual observer I am my typical self.  Well, probably a slightly more hyper version of my typical self.  Full of witticisms and caustic remarks designed to entertain.  For the past week I have been the Goddess of sarcastic texts and ironic voice mails.  Oh, how my friends have laughed.  I have rediscovered my 'amusement' gene and am using it on everyone within a 5 mile radius.  Which feels great.  I have been reaching out to other friends and frantically arranging play dates and get togethers for over the school holidays.  (Heaven forbid there is a second of quiet time over the next two weeks to allow for potential contemplative thoughts to materialise.)  I am making an effort and it appears to be appreciated.

But I am still unravelling on the inside.  

As soon as I dropped the boys, gaily, at school this morning - for no apparent reason I started to cry and try as I might I just couldn't stop.  Ridiculous behaviour at 8.24 in the morning.  I sat in the car park snivelling into my puffa jacket sleeve, feeling all 'woe is me' for the alloted 15 minute pity party and then started the process of pulling myself together.  I have tried a broad range of tacks on the 'pulling myself together' front but the one that undoubtably has the most success for me is using the stock phrases that my mother repeated adinfinitum throughout my childhood, with a few insults thrown in for good measure.

'Oh pull yourself together, you silly bitch'

'Get a grip, you miserable cow'

'If the wind changes, your face will stay like that, you ugly bearded over-emotional freak'

Then I dug through my coat pocket, discarding the lint, fluff and balled up chewing gum wrappers until I found my brave face...plastered it into place and continued to get on with my day.  As has been the norm of late, I have been incredibly productive - even managing to find Johnny Drama a false mustache for his school assembly performance tomorrow morning (it's not part of his 'official costume' but he has been banging on about needing to wear one for weeks now so goodness knows what his teacher is going to think when he turns up with an upper lip and probably most of his mouth covered in black synthetic bristles tomorrow...).  

Now before I have time to dwell on this any more it is time for the school run.  Oh happy days, jolly hockey sticks and all that buncum.  Thank goodness there is all this stuff right now designed to keep me busy, busy, busy.

And thank goodness there are friends who include me on their blanket circulation of 'feel good' (slightly moronic) emails, which despite the unoriginal content, have still been successful in making me smirk.  Here's the latest:


Great Truths That Children Have Learned:

1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptise cats

2) When your mum is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair

3) If your sister hits you, don't hit her back.  They always catch the second person

4) Never ask your 3 year old brother to hold a tomato

5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food

6) Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair

7) Never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time

8) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk

9) Don't wear polka dot underwear under white shorts

10) The best place to be when you're sad is Grandma's lap

Great Truths Adults Have Learned:

1) Raising teenagers is like nailing jelly to a tree

2) Wrinkles don't hurt

3) Families are like fudge...mostly sweet, with a few nuts

4) Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground

5) Laughing is good exercise.  It's like jogging on the inside.

6) Middle-age is when you choose your cereal for the fibre, not the toy

Great Truths About Growing Old:

1) Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional

2) Forget the health food.  I need all the preservatives I can get.

3) When you fall down you wonder what else you can do while you're down there.

4) You're getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster

5) It's frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask you the questions 

6) Time might be a great healer but a terrible beautician

7) Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes ages comes alone

The Four Stages Of Life:

1) You believe in Santa

2) You don't believe in Santa

3) You are Santa

4) You look like Santa


At age 4 success is...not piddling in your pants

At age 12 success is...having friends

At age 17 success is...having a driver's licence

At age 35 success is...having money

At age 50 success is...having money

At age 70 success is...having a driver's licence

At age 75 success is...having friends

At age 80 success is...not piddling in your pants

Friday, December 4, 2009

Turns Out The Tuna Really Couldn't Sing...Or Act Come To Think Of It. (Best not to mention the dancing. Looks like my future career as a stage mum is tenuous at best.)

So the blessed school assembly is finally over and I am hiding in my house until the din of all the hysterical laughter over his disastrous costume dies down.

I have to admit the costume didn't actually look any more impressive from the back of the school hall - or even through a squint.  Shame I know all the other parents in the class because it didn't leave me the option of quietly disowning my child and my amateur efforts in costume design and construction.  Ex was spectacularly unimpressed and made a point of telling me point blank that next time we need to enroll the help of his art/production department to help diminish any future shame that my pathetic efforts bring upon our family...

As for Captain Underpant's performance, well let's just say it was as impressive as the costume.  So, distinctly lack lustre then.  What happens to my animated, energetic, enthusiastic child once he steps on stage?  It's as though he is in a stage-induced coma.  For the most part he did go through the motions - as if in a gormless trance.  For the rest of it he just looked like he was the understudy for Rip Van Winkle and was about to fall into a timeless slumber.

So probably not destined for a career on the stage then.  I won't be planning on putting all my eggs in the Scholarship For Drama School basket any time soon.

This is probably just as well.  I have the makings of an ambitious stage mother within me, I just know it, and it is better that beast remains dormant rather than being unleashed on society.  Ex is also A Type Super Competitive Dad and both of us sat there, desperately willing him to take the stage and SHINE.  I could feel the combined energy emanating from us to the stage.  Unfortunately, it seems our energy directing skills have a dodgy navigational system because they only seemed to impact the six children surrounding Captain Underpants, who to all intents and purposes appear to have graduated from RADA or the New York School of Music and Drama at the very least.

On reflection I feel a sense of shame at being so disappointed in his performance.  Part of me knows it's because I don't think it was a true reflection of his gregarious, outgoing nature and I am so enamoured with my gorgeous child that I want everyone else to be struck dumb with his brilliance.  But part of me knows that it's because I am vicariously seeking the limelight through my children.

I used to love drama as a kid and ached to be the star in every school production.  Not that I ever was.  Heavens no.  There were always far more talented children to choose.  But it didn't diminish my desire for it and I truly thought that, one day, I would be famous and then everyone - EVERYONE - would recognise the error of their ways during my amateur dramatic school years and eternally berate themselves for not being the one to put me in the spotlight.  Never happened of course.  It probably didn't help that my aspiration at the time was to be the next Sarah Greene.  You can't really call that setting your thespian sights high now, can you?

But still there is a part of me that firmly believes I have the makings of a star - well a Davina McCall-like star - within me.  And that this talent is so intrinsically part of my DNA that it almost beggars belief that this most prominant part of my DNA hasn't transcended a generation.

Seems I am probably not going to have the opportunity to live out that particular dream through my eldest son at least.

Just as well I had the good sense to have two potential proteges then.

As soon as they get home from school I'm going to get to work on Johnny Drama.  His assembly is still 2 weeks away.  Plenty of time to coach him so that he steals the show.

And in the meantime, this should be me being parodied by The Impression Show.  ME I tell you!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holding Back the Tears

I have been feeling so introspective and weepy today - although the tears are as yet unshed.  They seem to be stored like a giant weight behind my eyeballs and in the back of my throat, making it difficult to focus and hard to breath.

Subversive Mum, who only arrived in Chicago in August and who became my new BFF in September, is leaving in just over 2 weeks to return to the UK and I cannot bear the thought of having to say goodbye to her.  She has been a saving grace these past few months.  What am I going to do without her?  Who am I going to play hookey with after school drop off?  Who will make me inhale cappucino foam through my nostrils while debating Dirty Cock/Clean Cock over the latest barista / shopper / celebrity / comedian?  Who is going to make me hoot loudly with insane laughter from her incisive, snarky wit and a second later cause me to nod my head sagely at our shared views on motherhood, love, life, the universe, everything?

I so don't want her to go.  I don't want to be left.  Again.

I am also feeling incredibly nostalgic about my ex right now.  Is this just the knock on effect of Christmas looming, or is this real?

He invited me to go to the circus with him, the boys and his mum on Sunday and we had a fantastic day.  For the first half of the show ex and I sat together and shared the bliss of watching the delight and incredulity flit across our sons' faces as they sat enthralled by acrobats, elephants, horses and clowns.  It was all I could do to stop myself draping my hand across his knee, as I used to do, and I had to fight the urge to hold his hand.

Afterwards we took the boys to see the Santa Express - a special underground train where every carriage is lavishly decorated in tinsel and lights and one of the carriages is a flatbed which holds Santa on his sleigh, with several life-size model reindeer.  There is a strategy to riding the Santa Express, as I discovered from ex.  At every stop you change carriages, collecting striped candy canes from Santa's helpers along the way.  By the time you have reached your destination you are in the carriage next to Santa - so when you alight you are able to stand by Santa and wave him goodbye.  It was fun.  Ex was lighthearted.  We laughed and all had a good time.

And then the boys and I went home.  Alone.

I can't work out if I am still in love with him.  Or just in love with our family.  Which is a completely different thing.  At this moment in time it feels as if I am still in love with him.  Part of me still can't see a future with any other man in my life - in my children's lives.  But I can't trust my emotions, my judgement where he is concerned.  I am seeing fleeting snippets of the man that I fell in love with all those years ago yet can't be sure if I am looking on with rose-tinted glasses, rather than the magnifying glass of mistrust and judgement and criticism that I used just before I left.

When we separated last year, ex wanted to make one last go of it.  Just before we were about to move into our separate houses he wrote me a long letter, asking for one last chance.  And I said no.

At that time, I was exhausted from the ups and downs of the previous two years.  I felt I loved him, but was not in love with him.  Knew I still had love for him but that we had been so incredibly miserable for such a long time that love no longer seemed to be enough.  Was sure that he was just scared of losing his children and would say anything at that point to keep them with him.

I wanted him to be dreading losing me...not just his children.

And here we are, just over 12 months later.  The magnifying glass of mistrust, judgement and criticism has gone and all I can see is a man who has become the most amazing father.  Who has forged the most incredible bond with his sons and who exudes a confidence in being a dad that he didn't have before.  A man who is still breathtakingly smart and a bit of a wise-arse.   A man whose wardrobe has come on leaps and bounds.  A man who could have been a complete git where I was concerned, but by and large hasn't.  A man I have come to respect and admire all over again.

Do I love him?  Or don't I?

And does that really make any difference anyway?

It seems way too big a step to tell him how I feel.

What if I am wrong?  What if I am just deluded by nostalgia and Christmas and clowns?  What if he feels the same way...and we try again...and fail again?  I don't think I could put our children through that.  We have so many issues that I am still not convinced we have the ability to tackle, much least resolve.

So I will admit here, to a bunch of strangers, that I still love him.  And miss him.  And that the thought of us not sharing a life together still makes me weep with a longing that continues to take me by surprise.  But this isn't some Mills & Boon romance.  I am not living in a Hollywood RomCom where True Love wins out every time.  

And so the person most entitled to this information will remain in the dark.

And I will remain feeling tearful and pretend that this isn't on my mind, as I continue to get on with my life.

Brace Yourselves...It's the Finished Tuna Costume

So, just to follow up with yet further evidence of my lack of any skills in the craft/creative department, here are photos of the finished Tuna Fish Who Can't Carry a Tune (complete with hedgehog sidekick).

Frighteningly authentic isn't it?  I am frankly relieved to get the ensemble out of the house before we are overrun with either trawlers or protected species environmentalists.

Ultimately there were no fins.  They proved to be a stretch too far for my limited abilities.  Although I did manage to embellish the t-shirt even further with 8 mini photos of tuna, which gives it a really polished finishing touch I'm sure you'll agree.  (What do you mean, you can't see them?  Just squint and move your head slowly side to side...they're so lifelike you can almost convince yourself you are staring at a school of tuna swimming in the ocean.  Honest.)

There was a funny moment just before this picture was taken.  As I went to put the t-shirt over Captain Underpant's head I realised that when glueing all the authentic fish-like embellishments the t-shirt had been laying flat on the table...and was now completely stuck together.  What a novice.  Thankfully I manage to successfully separate the front from the back of the t-shirt without any collateral damage.

It was all worthwhile just to see the look of pride on Captain Underpant's face when adorned with his mother's masterpiece...


He was not particularly impressed.

Well, I guess that makes two of us.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Whatever Happened To Nativity Assemblies?

So here is proof beyond question that I am not going to be winning prizes any time soon for creating the most amazing costume for Captain Underpant's Christmas assembly.

Can anyone guess what this is meant to be?

What do you mean you need more clues?  Isn't it patently obvious?

Well, it is a tuna fish outfit of course.  Duh.  Life-like isn't it?  (Please stop sniggering at the back...let's leave that privilege to all the parents who will be attending the assembly next Friday.)

Yes, Captain Underpants is going to be a Tuna Fish Who Can't Carry A Tune in his Christmas assembly next week.  What relevance does that have to the festive season, I hear you ask?  Ah.  Good question.  Maybe there is supposed to be a tenuous link to the Loaves and Fishes biblical tale...I have no idea.

Of course, this isn't the whole ensemble (hey!  I can hear that collective sigh of relief you know).  There is also a hat with a picture of a tuna fish's head on it (well, there will be when ex prints off the picture and I stick it onto a circular piece of card and plonk it unceremoniously on Captain Underpant's oversized 6 year old head).  Oh and a microphone - because as part of the script Captain Underpants has to regale us with the sound of a tuna fish who can't carry a tune (my ears are still ringing from the round-the-clock rehearsals).

Needless to say, I am a little bit embarrassed by my efforts.  But not quite as embarrassed as I am sure I am going to be next Friday.  Costume making is SO not my forte (as if you hadn't figured that out for yourselves already).


I am sure it will all look okay when the outfit is complete and I am viewing it from a distance at the very back of the school hall.  I'm sure from a distance those pain-stakingly applied glittery scales will come into full effect.  Or they'll be invisible, one or the other.  I did toy with the idea of dressing him as a can of tuna, but quite frankly I wouldn't have known where to start with fashioning that costume.  Maybe I should have just taken it easy on myself and had him just stand on stage simply holding a can of tuna...now, that is a costume I could handle.

Whatever happened to the traditional annual nativity play, where parents simply had to cut three holes in a white pillow case for a shepherd's robe and secure a tea towel on their child's head, held on by one of daddy's old ties?  That's what I want to know.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

An Unexpectedly Good Thanksgiving

I have been a bit gloomy at the prospect of the 'holiday' season. There doesn't seem much to look forward to with just a grumpy ex and a couple of rambunctious kids to share it with...plus the new dilemma of which man to invite to the one Christmas Party I have been invited to. Maybe the answer is neither and I should just take my chances on adding one more to the mix. Or not. I am already struggling to juggle two as it is.

My MIL and her partner are in town for a few days and so I offered to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for us all. Only ex refused to participate, preferring instead to sit home alone and watch American football - as if my food is really that unpalatable. I can't deny it. I was upset. Cried even. Just seemed so sad that he couldn't tolerate a couple of hours of my company for the sake of the kids. No matter, we have in fact just had a lovely day - my boys, my MIL and her other half. And maybe it was just as well he wasn't a part of it, because there was certainly no tension and it was a joy to cook for family and just chill out entertaining the kids with two other adults on hand to assist me. What a luxury.

Now I just have to get through Christmas...not sure what the plan is there. Will the four of us spend the day together, like last year, or is ex planning to abort that family day as well? I need to get an answer - because the last thing I can handle is spending Christmas Day just the three of us like little Billy No Mates. That is not my idea of Christmas one little bit.

Green Eyed Man is being as attentive as ever but I am glad he is in St Louis for the weekend with his family. I am finding it hard to be around him right now, for so many reasons. He is a lovely guy but it all feels a little bit too serious, a bit too soon. He is so eager to please and I can't help but find that a little irritating, which makes me feel like a bitch. He has just changed his huge, petrol guzzling monolithic truck (which he was totally in love with) for a more eco-friendly car. He is updating his wardrobe. He is practising his Brit speak. He is reading every single book I have banged on about. And instead of being delighted that I am such a positive influence all I can think is...NOOOOO! STOP being so adoring - the sun really doesn't shine out of my arse and, even if it does, this is all just a bit too much.

Told you. BEYATCH. Jeez I thought this was exactly what I wanted to make me happy. And maybe in a couple of years time or so it will be. But right now I am finding that I am really appreciating my space - and whilst I do like male company and male attention, the last thing I am ready for is to get emotionally involved.

The other thing which is becoming patently obvious is that being the primary carer for two young children and having an active dating life is actually not a great combo. I really don't have the time, energy or inclination to see someone on a regular basis. When I have the children (which is most of the time, let's be honest) I am physically depleted by the time they are in bed. The last thing I am interested in is getting dolled up to go out on the town and having to pay a babysitter a shed load of money. The alternative - of having the gentleman in question come to the house and then getting all jiggy with it on the sofa, while my two little innocents are sleeping upstairs - also just feels plain wrong.

Turns out there is a reason why people typically date - get serious - marry - then have kids and raise them together...and not any other order. It's just too bloody exhausting. I'm 42. I struggle to muster the energy to get through a boy filled day. There's very little left to get me through a date filled evening, which typically requires at the very least flirtatious, titillating conversation and at most...well, something requiring typically less conversation yet a little more athletic endeavour.

The reality of it is that I have one evening a week kid-free and then every other weekend. And some of the time I just want to chill out alone and other times I want to catch up with girlfriends. Turns out there just isn't enough free time to go round.

Which is why, of course, I have added another man to the mix.

So not just a beyatch but a contradictory one to boot.

I met guy #2 by chance while sneaking a quick chai, in the midst of my best bag-lady-recovering-from-contagious-disease impression. He is TOTALLY different from GEM. For a start he is not American, he is Lebanese, and like me has lived in Chicago for the past 9 years, after leaving Beirut. He has travelled the world and lived a very full life. He is an ER doctor, specialising in pediatrics (I kid you not - I found this out on our 2nd date and of course was immediately hooked) and disaster management. He has degrees, MBAs and PhDs coming out of his ears. He is a little bit full of himself and definitely a free spirit. If I was looking for a man to marry, I hope I would have the good sense to lace my trainers double quick and run hell for leather in the opposite direction. But I'm not. And I can't help but be a little impressed by him and also very intrigued. He's fun. He's interesting. He's asking me out. And while I am playing it super-cool, I know I'd like to spend some time getting to know him a little better.

It does feel a little underhand and illicit though. I haven't said anything to GEM and, even though we haven't discussed being 'exclusive', I am sure he would be upset at the thought of me dating someone else. I know dating multiple people is commonplace in America - and that the trend is filtering over to the UK too - but it is very strange to have text messages from GEM and Dr Disaster sitting alongside each other on my phone. Both such different men, with such different qualities. Oh, how is a girl meant to choose between them? (back of hand sweeps up dramatically to rest against my forehead...)

After all this angst and relationship navel gazing, chances are I'll get dumped by them both this week anyway. I guess that would be one way of solving the issue once and for all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How To Be A Man Magnet: Tip #1

Be at the tail end of having Mum Cold (ie Flu).

Make sure your skin is pale and blotchy, your hair limp after not being able to face a shower for 3 days, your eyes bloodshot and your nose red and scabby from not having the impetus to use tissues imbued with aloe vera but instead have blown your nose for 72 hours straight on the scratchiest, recycled loo roll.

Venture out of the house in your PJ's, with a hat covered in cat fur over your head in a vague attempt to disguise the disaster area that is the hair/face combo.

Nip into your local coffee shop for a warming chai, before moving onto the afternoon school run.

Sit at the only vacant table, making eye contact with book/blackberry only.

Wait for 4 seconds.

Briefly consent to allow the sexy 40-something man who approaches to share your table.

Return all focus to your book/blackberry.

Slurp chai due to blocked sinuses.

Lick chapped lips.

Sneak a cheeky look at sexy 40-something's bum as he orders his coffee at the counter. Give him 8/10.

Allow brief eye contact when he returns to the table and make some smart arsed comment about the fact that he is being very Italian drinking an expresso at 2.30 in the afternoon.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Nice Timing

Parent Consultations. What a moment of shared parental pride they can be.

It was our first teacher consultation for Johnny Drama this week...and let's just say it is one that will stick in our memories for years to come.

The boys' school has changed the format of the consultations this year and the children are invited to attend. I duly hang around the school with both boys in tow and we wait for our appointment time. The boys are beside themselves with excitement. They're impressed that they get to attend a 'meeting'. But more keen to muck about without much supervision in Johnny Drama's classroom for 15 minutes.

Finally, our appointment time arrives, ex shows up and we go in to meet the teacher.

Oh it's all good stuff. Ex and I beam with pride as Johnny Drama's multiple virtues are discussed. Outstanding letter formations (even though he is left handed and up until 2 months ago all marks on paper appeared to have been performed by a pencil gripped with his toes or his teeth). Fantastic letter sounds. Great participation in French. Excellent listener. Friendly, polite, enthusiastic, social and caring.

Ex and I share a grin over our little 4 year old wonderboy protege. (Even though behind us Johnny Drama is attacking paper with scissors so violently that he has snipped several holes in his jumper and is on the verge of surgically removing a finger from his right hand.) No matter. The boy is surely just steps away from certain stardom. All is good in our world. Irrespective of our circumstances we are obviously doing something right and we absorb all this praise as a reflection of our own talents and apparent parenting abilities.

All too quickly the meeting is at an end and we start to gather up various bags and belongings and instruct the boys to put their coats on. Which is when the drama begins.

"My tummy hurts a little bit" whispers Johnny Drama.

And in the next instant he has liberally sprayed the whole front of the classroom and at least 6 Lilliput chairs with the contents of his stomach.

The world stands still for approximately 0.1 of a second before I leap into action and pick up my pale little boy in an attempt to get him into the bathroom at the back of the class.

Before I can reach my destination a loud cough signals the next round of barfing, which succeeds in covering the remaining back of the classroom. The fact that I am holding him a few feet off the ground ensures that the splatter effect is even more dramatic. As I scuttle him quickly towards the loo, I notice that the new Teddy Bear Picnic display features freshly adorned remnants of, what I can only guess to be, partially digested ham sandwich and several pieces of carrot.

Now, if Captain Underpants is the Stealth Vomiter (he could regurgitate his own gall bladder and you'd never know it) then Johnny Drama definitely favours more of a Shock and Awe approach. His preferred tactic is to deliberately withhold the vomiting reflex until it is physically impossible to contain any longer and then project a semi-digested mix of lunch chunks, fluid and phlegm over a 10 metre radius. Over and over again.

Given that there are 4 adults in total in the room and just one sick child, you would think I would have received some assistance. Er, nope. I glance out of the bathroom, whilst holding a limp and ragdoll-like sobbing Johnny Drama, knee deep in puke, to see the teacher and the learning assistant paralysed by the classroom door turning a Shrek shade of green. As for ex, well he was doing his best not to wretch into the tiny wastepaper bin full of bits of shredded paper.

"So sorry," whispers his teacher, just before exiting room, "I'm really not very good with dealing with sick."

Ex keeps gagging while trying to help by covering a 20 metre squared radius with 7 paper towels.

Captain Underpants carries on cutting out Dragonoid, seemingly oblivious to what is going on around him.

Finally, Johnny Drama finishes being sick and lays limp in my arms. I am crouched in a bathroom surrounded by mini mountains of multi-coloured puke and can't even begin to think how I am going to even start to clean the mess up. Luckily, another helpful teacher arrives on the scene - allowing at least their big toe to cross the classroom door threshold - and volunteers to grab the cleaners to start the sanitation process.

We're escorted quickly from the premises, exhausted and drained, to ensure that any further projectile incidents occur off school property - and as we step outside one teacher kindly points out that my jeans are still covered in a varied array of Johnny Drama's stomach lining. I smile wanly and accept the donation of a large plastic bag for the journey home.

Gold Star JD.

The humiliation of a decimated classroom I can handle. I was just so glad and thankful that you hadn't waited to empty the contents of your stomach in the car. I know from many personal experiences what a bugger those bloody car seat straps are to clean.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mum Flu and Other Matters

The past few weeks have been a sweaty blur of plate spinning - trying to keep on top of everything with very little assistance - and I guess it was no wonder that the blogging plate fell to the ground and smashed into very small pieces. I wasn't sure I was going to be back. I didn't check my blog, didn't read other blogs, basically avoided my computer like the plague for over 2 weeks and had almost reached the point where I just couldn't face getting back into the fray again.

I feel my blog is just one more area of my life that I just don't do very well.

I have the best of intentions but can't compete with the general brilliance that surrounds me and it is beginning to feel like it is just one more thing to add to the list of things that I am generally failing at. Marriage. Motherhood. Career. Friendship. Fitness. Cooking. Being on top of things. Money management. Having the foggiest idea of how I am going to move continents in 8 months time. Hand me the duvet will you someone? I need to pull it back over my head so I can carry on pretending that none of this stuff bothers me.

It hasn't helped matters that either one of the boys or I have been sick every single day for the past 3 weeks. Half term was a wipe out, due to the boys being ill. Being the generous little souls that they are, they very kindly passed on their virulent germs to me and I have been fighting a horrendous cold ever since. Of course, I call it a cold, because I am a mother. And a single mother. I am not sure if a cold typically involves 2-3 days of a raging fever accompanied by 5 nights of night sweats plus heavy, aching limbs which feel as if someone had attacked them brutally with a sledgehammer. But I really didn't have the time, or luxury of anyone to help me out, to have the flu, so I classified it as a cold and simply tried to get from one end of the day to the next with the assistance of copious amounts of Ibuprofen.

With the boys being back at school it would make sense to assume that I would have plenty of time to convalesce and just concentrate on getting better. But no. Is it just me? Am I the only parent who feels that sometimes I spend far more time at the school and doing bloody homework than my offspring? I am Parent Representative for Johnny Drama's class and that involves 'encouraging community' among the parents (most of whom are new to the school) as well as assisting the teacher with administrative duties. I am basically an unpaid lackey in yet another area of my life. Oh well. If the shoe fits... So I have been up to my ears in coordinating parents to participate in the weekly Mystery Reader and IPC lessons, which has been no mean feat because it appears that most of the parents actually have a life and it really isn't practical for them to just be shoehorned into any old opening on the schedule that I throw at them.

Finally the schedules are coordinated, after multiple circulations and several diplomatic emails to parents who, in my mind, couldn't list tact as one of their personality 'gifts' (although 'blunt' and 'obnoxious' would most certainly feature near the top of the list). Then there was the coffee morning to cobble together, followed by the parent's social evening where we all got to know each other a little better through the social power of alcohol. It all went off without a hitch but from my point of view the timing couldn't have been worse because the only relationship I am interested in truly cultivating at this point in time is with the fucking sleep fairy and my Tempur-Pedic pillow.

Alongside this Johnny Drama needed to create a poster on bears and make a bear costume for the teddy bear picnic and Captain Underpants had to compile a work of art for International Dressing Up Day and then come to school dressed in 'national costume'. Having had sludge for brain for over a week, and the natural handicraft abilities of your average slug in general, I tossed and turned for many a sweat-ridden night over the 'national costume' dilemna. What on earth does that mean for the UK? Do we have a national costume? Not having any Morris Dancer tassels, sticks or bells to hand, or bowler hats, braces and black umbrellas or even a fake Bobby tit helmet, I was at a bit of a loss. A knight was a possibility but I couldn't face the exertion of fashioning shields and swords from cereal boxes and tin foil. We didn't have an English football strip in the house. Eventually I managed to rummage through cupboards and unearth a rather majestic blue velvet 'crown' finished with fake ermine and add a back-to-front super hero cape to make, what I like to believe, was a rather convincing King outfit. Captain Underpants was impressed anyway and that's what counts the most.

To top it all off - and as if I didn't have enough on my plate - as well as being Mystery Reader for both boy's classes that week and attending a Literacy Insight lesson which took the best part of yet another day, I also volunteered to conduct an hour's lesson for International Day. I roped in my new best pal, Subversive Mum, and we opted to do a lesson on Scotland. Why Scotland is really anyone's guess, although I have a very tenuous link due to the fact that my dad plays the bagpipes and I thought we could regale the class with some bagpipe music, teach them some Scottish lingo and maybe finish off by practising a Highland Fling while eating shortbread. All very cultural and fitting for the theme of the day. Only one of the other parents had already nabbed Scotland (even though she is an authentic Scot I felt a bit miffed that she had pipped us to the post). So in my medicated state (not sure what Subversive Mum's excuse was) we opted to ignore the brief altogether and conduct a session on general dressing up instead.

We consciously met to develop a lesson plan that we were sure would blow their little ankle socks off. It involved lots of dressing up in strictly non-cultural costumes, playing a game involving giving the kids a true sugar high just before home time by having a relay race dressing in oversized clothes and then eating Cadbury's chocolate with a knife and fork, watching the first ever episode of Mr Benn and reading The Smartest Giant in Town and the Charlie and Lola oracle on dressing up But I Am An Alligator. I borrowed some dressing up clothes from my babysitter (as fancy dress is a category that doesn't particularly feature in my adult wardrobe) and we were set.

My friend and I were pretty pleased with ourselves for being so imaginative and got ready with much enthusiasm for our lesson slot in the afternoon. And it was only when we were sitting in the school reception, in our finest fancy dress, surrounded by a crowd of other 'sensible' parents wielding various cultural activities, that it occurred to us that maybe we had gone a little far off the brief.

What had we been thinking? The other parents stared at us in open amusement, as though in the company of a couple of women fresh from lobotomy surgery. There was no doubt about it. We looked like a couple of prize prawns. To add to the air of parental respectability, we both collapsed into a heap of near-knicker-wetting giggles like a couple of naughty schoolgirls who'd just whispered 'cock/fanny/blowjob' under our breath while in assembly. This attitude of general silliness continued as we leapt and pranced about in front of 20 somewhat bemused 5 and 6 year olds for 60 minutes, clearly entertaining each other more than them - and certainly more than the teacher and learning assistant.

Later that night the teacher emailed a note thanking all the parents who had participated and featuring a photo from each of the parents sessions. The first 8 photos all depicted sensible and respectable mums and dads educating the class on various cultural aspects of a chosen nationality.

And then there was this:

Luckily for us, the photo actually captured us during the 7 or so seconds at the start of the class where we were actually standing still and before we started lampooning around the room like a superhero and manic bride/princess on amphetamines. These were also the most professional of all the costumes featured during the lesson - most of the others definitely required a 5 year old imagination to make any sense of whatsoever.

And I am sure that our session did pass on an important life lesson that day. Academically we did pass on the knowledge that some parents aren't actually any more mature than their children. After all, being a grown up doesn't naturally dictate that you are destined to mature beyond your original childhood state, as we very clearly demonstrated.

And once a Drama Queen, always a Drama Queen.

Now, where is my long lost tiara?