Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fleeting Visit

God I seem to have been inadvertently MIA for over 2 weeks. I just don't seem to get time at my computer these days - which could be considered a good thing, except it has been driving me a little bonkers not to keep up with the blogging world.

The main reason for my distraction is that I had a flying visit to the UK last week. The occasion was a family reunion. Luckily ex organised a flight and before I knew it I was winging my way across the ocean...going home alone for a brief injection of Ol' Blighty.

I was so excited about going home that I didn't manage a wink of sleep on the plane. Bad move. The result was I felt all wibbly-wobbly-woo for the first 3 days, came down with the lurgy for one day and then had one day of feeling 50% before getting back on a plane back to Chicago. Not the most successful of trips in that respect - but oh so satisfying in so many others.

The first 24 hours were the most bizarre. For example, sitting on the tube from the airport I kept overhearing English accents (obviously) and thinking 'oh wow, they're English! Must say hello'. Which is my common reaction in the States. After the first 50 or so times that this happened my brain started to get a little tired. I also couldn't resist stopping in every cafe, shop selling food, WHSmith's or Boots that I came across and slavering over the cake, crisps and chocolate choices, the papers and magazines and browsing through the aisles of shower gels (no-one ever tells you that the choice of shower gel in America is well and truly shite). I practically had an orgasm when I tiptoed reverently into an M&S food hall. No wonder it took me nearly 4 hours to get from Heathrow to north London.

I stayed at my good friend's Soapboxmummy for a couple of days, getting to live her life with Sparkle unattended by my two rambunctious offspring and, oh boy, what a difference. For a start she has just one child. For another it's a girl. And the piece de resistance is that this charming child sleeps till 7am. It was like a fleeting glimpse into a whole other parenting universe. I also got an insight into life in Muswell Hill and I have to say I loved it. Ex used to work in Highgate, so it wasn't as if I was a stranger to the area, but it was different to view it through the eyes of 'could I possibly live here with the boys when I return home?' The answer was a resounding Yes. Who knows where I will eventually end up. A lot will depend on His Majesty, because I still have a dream of us living close by so we can support and co-parent well. And also minimise the traipsing to and fro that the boys are subjected to. But as he has categorically stated time and again that a move to Essex, near my parents, is not remotely on the cards then maybe the north London area could be a goer.

True to form, within 24 hours of being home I had consumed my body weight in Cadbury's and had bought 3 new pairs of shoes. I had taken the idiotic decision of travelling with a suitcase the size of a shoebox, so was a little concerned about how I was going to cart my gorgeous new footwear home. But where there's a will there's a way. It's amazing how much you can cram into a tiny box when you subject it to 140lbs of body weight. Honestly, no contest. That suitcase didn't stand a chance.

I also had 3 celebrity moments, tho luckily none as cringe worthy as Balthazaar Getty, thank God. First, Soapboxmummy and I had lunch at Cafe Rouge in Highgate with none other than the new Dr Who and Petula Clark....okay, okay - so Petula Clark waltzed by (I have to admit here that I didn't actually see her at all but the guys at the next table very kindly pointed her out after she had turned the corner. Good timing lads). Dr Who strode about outside by our table looking all floppy haired and distracted on his cell phone. He's not David Tennant, is he? He certainly doesn't have an arse to swoon over in my opinion, that's for sure.

Then I attended the Kabbalah Centre on Friday night with Kabbalah Rookie and...Madonna, Guy Ritchie and all the kids (minus Mercy) were sitting AT. THE. NEXT. TABLE. I kid you not. Now I know I was meant to be there focused on being spiritual and all that. But it's really bloody hard when there is a full blown music icon sitting just 3 feet away with her ex and her kids. I could say more. So much more. But suffice to say that just when I was about to look like a prize prawn by waltzing over to her to say 'Shabbat Shalom Madge-me-ol'-mucker' she turned away to talk to someone else and I slinked off to plan my next move, which of course never came. Thank heaven for small Mercy's....sorry, couldn't resist.

The family reunion was fan-dabby-dozie in an understated way. I haven't actually seen many of my cousins for years. When I sat and actually worked it out I was stunned to calculate it was approaching 27 years. This was mindblowing to me. How can that have happened? Not to have seen them since puberty?

Growing up I had always spent a week or more in the summer with my cousins in Manchester. We had the best time. What I remember most clearly was declaring to anyone that would listen that I was going to marry my cousin D and chasing my other (mortified) cousin R relentlessly shouting 'kissy-kissy'. I felt a little uncomfortable about these memories on reflection but blithely assumed that plenty of water had pootled under the bridge since then and that they probably hadn't made an impression on anyone apart from myself. So imagine my chagrin when I finally came face-to-face with D and R after a quarter of a century and the first words out of their mouths are, 'hey - I thought we were meant to be getting married?' and 'kissy-kissy!'

After all that excitement it was time to head back to the boys. I have been away from them before for a week, on a couple of occasions, but this time it did feel very different. I missed them so much more. And felt uncomfortable about the fact that they weren't 'at home'. Meaning of course, my home. This is the first personal trip I have had since ex and I separated 8 months and I couldn't help but feel guilty for not being within arms reach. Of course I spoke to them every day, sometimes twice a day, and they were happy as Larry. But for me something was just missing. It was good to be going back to them, despite the fact that I didn't want to leave.

And now I am back and have so much energy I am like a whirling dervish. What has happened to me? I feel so dissimilar to my usual self, feel so perky and frisky and - dare I say it? - capable that I am unnerving not just myself but those around me. The boys in particular are most bemused and keep glancing sideways at this chirpy, springy version of their mother like I have been taken over by one of the characters in their new Aliens In Underpants book. All I know is that I need to make the most of it. It is likely to last 48 hours tops before I morph back to my sluggish old self. And I have a lot to do because in less than 2 weeks I am going to be repeating my Transatlantic journey, but this time with 2 boys in tow. We are coming back to the UK for nearly 4 weeks in July and I am already so excited about it that my tummy is a tensy bit clenched. (Best not to mention the effect it is already having on my bowels...they always were a little sensitive at the best of times.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Squit Bag!

It is my younger sister's birthday today. That's her on the right, looking all cheeky and impish and adorable. She hasn't changed much.

I was the older Oh-My-God-What-Have-We-Done? child, whereas she was lucky to be the We-Know-What-We're-Doing-Now-And-Isn't-She-A-Doddle? younger sister. She had all the gifts that I dreamed of as a child but appeared to be lacking. She was a tiny, scrap of a thing: funny, sassy, confident, mischievous and unbelievably cute. She could regale a room of adults with a song or a dance, a poem or a well told joke from the age of 2. From my perspective she was a right royal pain the neck and the biggest thorn in my side. She was my mum's favourite and I wanted to be her so much it hurt.

'Squit Bag' was my mum's nickname for her. That and 'CrumbleBumble'...shortened to 'CrumbleBum'. I'm not sure why. I think it had something to do with the fact she was blessed with a tiny lithe frame and a pert, pinchable bottom. She is still blessed with these attributes even at the ripe old age of 39. (She must have been so good in a previous life.) As for myself, I don't remember warranting a nickname. Certainly not one pertaining to a small pert behind. Although Big Boned Clumsy Lump springs to mind.

I don't remember us ever being 'friends' growing up. But that all changed when we left home and forged our own identities outside of the roles we were assigned in the family. It was then that we bonded and created the friendship we have today. Now, she is my best friend and undoubtedly a soul-mate in the way that no one else ever will be.

I love you little sis. Happy Birthday to you and your impossibly pert bottom. If my boys have a fraction of the love for each other that we do, then I will be happy.

I could waffle on and on (as I am prone to do) about how much I value her love, advice, guidance and support. How, when we're together, we always end up weeping with laughter over the silliest of things that no one else finds funny. And how it amuses me no end to get her pissed on half a glass of wine and watch as she loses all coordination and starts slurring her words (such a lightweight).

And how sorry I am not to be with her (again) on her birthday.

But instead I will share the most infamous of our family stories...which includes references to independence, bums and firemen, in that order.

Whilst on a play date at a neighbour's house, my 2 year old sis needed to answer a call of nature. She went to the upstairs bathroom, locked the door behind her and sat down on the loo. Now, this being a house full of little boys, the toilet seat had been left up. So she sat directly on the porcelain toilet rim to do a wee.

No one is quite sure what happens next. Maybe a little cough or a sneeze caused her to lose her tenuous grip on the side of the bowl? Maybe she was playing a game of 'dunk your bottom in the toilet bowl' and lost? Who knows. However, within a couple of minutes of locking herself in the bathroom she falls bottom first into the toilet - and gets stuck with her knees up by her ears and feet, by all accounts, above her head.

All the mums in the house hear the hollering of a child in distress and come rushing to the rescue. Only they can't get into the bathroom. I am not sure that anyone appreciates the predicament my sister is in initially. She is only 2 after all and it is hard to decipher the descriptive articulation of a toddler when combined with high pitched shrieking and sobbing. I can only imagine my mum's panic at hearing her cries - not knowing what the bloody hell is going on but judging from the noise it is obvious that at the very least my sister has somehow removed a limb - and not being able to help. Finally, it becomes clear that my little scrap of a sister has fallen down the loo and all the neighbours arrive to join forces in begging and cajoling my sister to use her arms to lever herself out.

No can do.

Ultimately at her wit's end, my mum calls the fire brigade and within 10 minutes three fire engines come screaming into the cul-de-sac, lights whirring and sirens blazing. People from streets away wander over to watch what they assume to be some of their neighbours burning to a slow and terrible death.

In a jiffy the firemen assess the situation and shin up the outside of the house on a ladder to the bathroom window (which by luck is open a smidge). Quick as you like they reach a pole through the window, unlatch the lock and my sister is successfully unwedged and rescued by our relieved mum.

All the by-standing neighbours cheer and - this being the 70s - a small street party no doubt commences. In the meantime the local newspaper have been on standby and duly take photos of the 'heroes and victim'.

The following day an article appears in the paper. Accompanying it is a photo of the firemen holding an upturned fireman's hat with my sister perched in it, little legs dangling over the side. The caption reads, "Rescued at last...and looking a little flushed."


Monday, June 8, 2009

What A Week

I woke up in a foul mood this morning and I can't for the life of me think why.

It didn't help that Captain Underpants is off school with a fever - which appeared to be miraculously cured by 9.02am - and both boys were running amok and clamouring for attention every 3 seconds and I just wanted to drink coffee and read blogs. By mid morning I was all set to extract my own toe nails with pliers as a less painful alternative to spending one more second with my exuberant offspring. I am sure the cupfuls of children's medicine that I have been force feeding them every 4 hours since yesterday morning have something to do with their behaviour. It is as though they have steadfastly climbed sugar mountain and are refusing to descend.

Thank God they are back at school tomorrow and I'll get a chance to get stuff done (although saying this the two priorities on my to-do list are primarily to read blogs and mooch about, so why I am bemoaning my lack of productivity today I have no idea).

It has actually been an eventful week.

I went to Santa Monica for 3 days - taking my substandard British teeth to the land of The Beautiful People - to educate a group of trainers on the wonders of the 5ft vibrator professionally named the PowerPlate. I have been once before and it is hard not to feel like you are on holiday in that postcard perfect part of California. I didn't bother getting a GPS system with the hire car and so needless to say within 100ft of leaving Hertz I was totally lost. It was at this point I discovered my fool proof map was selective in detail and only featured roads that I should have been on...but wasn't. After heading towards the mountains instead of the ocean for a good 10 miles or so I finally found a landmark deemed important enough to warrant a spot on the map and managed to use my extremely limited sense of direction to start heading west and north instead of east and south. So I was late but luckily for me, this being LA, I was able to pass the blame onto the traffic and not my inability to get to the end of the road without losing orientation.

It was so wonderful to be working again - and get paid for showcasing two of my strongest talents: talking endlessly without letting people get a word in edge ways and then telling people what to do, while I watch and critique. I love my job. Shame I don't get to do it more often. At the end of the first day the head of marketing and the studio manager were begging me to transfer to LA to work with them and, in another lifetime, I would have jumped at the chance. I was flattered but even my shoddy navigational skills are responding to a magnetic pull 4,000 miles east of Chicago, not 2,000 miles west.

Plus, my teeth just aren't up to scratch to live permanently in LA. And it's unlikely I could ever afford the dental bill to achieve the required fluorescent smile. And don't even get me started on the implants. Mind you, there were more hot men than I could shake a stick at and my eye lashes were batting so furiously at times I'm amazed I didn't take flight.

I also had two celebrity 'moments'. I sat and had coffee with Helen Hunt on Friday morning. Well...not actually with Helen Hunt per se but she was sitting at the next table, so that must count for something. And then I bumped into Balthazar Getty at The Kabbalah Centre on Friday night. I embarrassed myself somewhat because he looked so familiar I automatically assumed I had met him before, possibly through the Chicago centre, and so started to walk over to say hello. It was only when I was a few feet away that I realised, of course I had seen him before. On the tele, obviously. In Brothers & Sisters. What a prune. I had been so purposeful in striding towards him we had already made eye contact (I have to say - what an unexpectedly attractive man). As the realisation dawned on me, instead of simply following through, shaking his hand and saying Shabbat Shalom (or something vaguely appropriate given the circumstances) I simply faltered mid-step, switched my gaze to an invisible speck of dust in the distance and veered off to turn full circle back into the room I had just come from. Lame. So incredibly lame.

I returned to Chicago on Saturday, which happened to be my 11th wedding anniversary. I didn't feel sad or a sense of loss, just a sense of poignancy. There are so many things that remain unsaid between ex and I. I tried to write a letter on the plane - both of apologies and also gratitude for what we once had together - but I couldn't find the words. Oh well, I thought, it will be more personal if I just try to express it in person. However, when I arrived back ex was in a foul mood, which I instantly interpreted as my fault, and simply dropped the boys off and left immediately. It seemed an opportunity had, once again, been lost. And I wasn't exactly sure that he would be open to such an exchange anyway, so I decided to leave it. So imagine my surprise when I received an 'anniversary' email from him last night - of both apologies and gratitude. How is it now that we are both on the same page? I sent a response, expressing all the things that until that point I hadn't really found the words for and it felt really great. I am not sure it changes anything. I am pretty sure that it doesn't. We haven't mentioned it or discussed it any further today. But one of our key issues has always been our inability to communicate, so the fact that we are making an effort in that department feels like a real achievement. And having him instigate an exchange of thoughts and feelings...well, that's pretty mindblowing. Kudos to him.

I rounded off the week by relearning a long-lost skill that I know will make my mother happy - I went to a sip and knit baby shower. I am now fully engrossed in the challenge of knitting a medium sized rectangle, which will become part of a baby blanket. Poor, poor baby is all I can say. Or rather, poor, poor coordinater who will responsible for unpicking all my 'handy work' and starting over. I have only knitted 6 rows so far and I'm already suffering from a crippling case of RSI. I cannot seem to stop gripping the needles with every ounce of muscle strength that my hands are capable of. I thought the whole point of knitting was to relax body and mind. In my experience so far it is exhausting and painful. My shoulders and neck are intent on contributing to every single stitch knitted and as a result I am hunched over my ball of yarn and groovy rosewood needles like an old biddy. I am not sure this exercise is going to work wonders for my health but I admit I am loving every agonising second.

And now I have loosened up the digits on the's back to my rectangle masterpiece.