Friday 23 October 2015

Seven Quick Takes 20: The Duchess and I

Seven topics I'd discuss with the Duchess of Cambridge at our children's wedding. I'm calling that Seven Quick Takes. I did four in a row - I deserve a little slack :)

As soon as I knew the Duchess of Cambridge had given birth to a girl, I had to give serious thought to my role as mother to her future husband. For example, what name would look good on a commemorative tea towel? I've been contemplating the moment when the other royals and the Beckhams have gone home, and the Duchess and I are sitting with our feet up on the sofa in Windsor Castle (she will have kicked off her four-inch heels; I will have slid off my one inch sensible shoes that I spent a month practicing in). And we'll think back to 2014-15...

Duchess: Hyperemesis gravidarum was a terribe. I was prostrate in bed in Kensington Palace.
Me: I thought people who said you didn't deserve sympathy hadn't ever had 'morning' sickness. I only wished I could be hospitalized. Three months of twenty-four hour nausea, vomiting violently at least once a day, trying not to throw up on my students, even when they deserved it - I would have taken a palace bed and doctors on call, but I didn't begrudge you. There should be palace accommodation for all mothers with morning sickness - maybe you should call the NHS and suggest it.

Duchess: I felt so fat at the end.
Me: I looked like I was expecting you.

And Charlotte weighed more than Alcuin...

Duchess: Facing the cameras the same day I gave birth was scary.
Me: I didn't even let anyone take a picture of me the day I gave birth. My eldest graduated two days later, and we took photos outside. My husband put one of me on Facebook without permission - if I hadn't needed him to help take care of the baby, I would have murdered him.

If she was twelve years older and it was her third child, she would so have looked like this.

Duchess: And then the christening. Pushing that pram in high heels was hard work.
Me: While you were doing that, I was hobbling around my parents' house bemoaning the fact that all those youth-giving pregnancy hormones had finally worn off, and my hip pain had come back.

The pram my mother wishes I had.

Duchess: The Archbishop was fairly accommodating.
Me: Well, we did have a canon of Salisbury Cathedral.

Duchess: I was a little worried Charlotte would spit up on my cream suit.
Me: I was fat and flustered in a charity shop dress I bought because it was the only thing that almost fitted and had buttons so I could breastfeed. I had to keep mouthing at my husband to cover up my bra straps while I was holding the baby.

We flew thousands of miles for this moment.

Duchess: I need a pick-me-up after all that. Fancy a little champagne from His Majesty's cellars? I hid this bottle behind the sofa. And please, call me Kate.
Me: Don't mind if I do, Kate.

Phew, made it to the end of Link-toberfest. "Mommy blogger" should not be a name of derision - I don't know how many of the people who link up week after week find time for one regular post, let alone several.
Kelly's question of the week is : What is your most popular post? Curiously, it's this mini-post. A close second is this series on one of my favourite children's authors, E. Nesbit: "More than Just Red Flannel Petticoats" - parts one and two.

Hop on over to This Ain't the Lyceum for good reads and prizes!

Friday 16 October 2015

7Quick Takes 19: A boy and his cat

1. I had a spike of excitement last Friday when my post got a little interest on the blog and Facebook. It just goes to show what using the words "confessions" and "knickers" does for traffic. So I thought about what might garner even more interest, and obviously the answer is "cats" (but not cats and knickers, or I might have people reporting me to animal protection agencies).

My first idea was for a cute photo essay, but that was scuppered by several factors:

  • I'm short (near) sighted and take bad photos.
  • Trying to take photos of the cat and baby while holding the baby is pretty impossible.
  • I'm too disorganized to spend the whole week snapping away in order to sift out the few good photos from the thousand bad (so here are the few bad ones anyway).

2. So. Odie. This cat turned up on our doorstep as a kitten - quite literally. I heard cries outside the front door, opened it, and he crept out from behind the woodpile. It took us about thirty seconds to decide we would keep him if he was a stray. We named him Odysseus because he'd obviously been wandering around before he got to us, but he turned out not to be quite as cunning as his namesake (i.e. pretty stupid), so Odie stuck instead.

3. Odie didn't read the manual on cats and babies, because he actually likes Alcuin. He comes running when the baby cries. He follows us on walks around the garden. He lets Alcuin 'stroke' him, even when it involves grabbing a handful of fur before I can intervene. Heck, he's even teaching Alcuin how to pet him by rubbing up against his hands.

4. As I've mentioned before, this cat also loves water. He leaps onto the sink to share the baby's morning wash. He's ready for bathtime fun, especially playing 'catch the flannel (washcloth)'.

I'm trying not to show the naked baby here.
I'm holding the naked baby in this one.

5. He showed me that breastfeeding pillows make great cat recliners. That's my husband trying to escape the photo.

"Hey, that's mine!"

6. Odie understands that I have declared the crib a cat-free zone.

It was bed changing day. Don't judge.

Especially when the baby is in there.

He was starting to get suspicious of my taking pictures by then.

But he doesn't care.

7. Kelly's blogger question for this week is: what is your favourite blog you have discovered through Seven Quick Takes?  That's a hard one to answer because I can't recall whether I discovered certain blogs directly through Seven Quick Takes or by clicking through other blogs on there. I know This Ain't The Lyceum was one, but that sounds like sucking up. Better than Eden is another blog I currently subscribe to, and think I may have discovered via 7QT. I love reading about Mary's organized, intentional life even though, as I've mentioned, my own could better be described as "Comparable to the London Underground at Rush Hour".

Head over to This Ain't The Lyceum to read blogs and enter the sweepstakes!

Friday 9 October 2015

7 Quick Takes 18: Confessions of a Geriatric Mother

1. Here I am, heroically rising to Kelly's challenge for Link-toberfest and getting out two posts in two weeks. I'm almost afraid to post something non-snarky because every time I have something gentle and positive planned, life punches it out of the way. But here are reflections on what I've learned from being a geriatric mother (that is, having a surprise third baby this year at *cough cough* 45).

2. Gratitude
For a healthy baby. Some people our age pay thousands just to try to have a baby, and ours was a free gift.
For God's mercy. To be honest - it didn't feel like a gift for a long time. I was counting the years until an empty nest when I planned to spend every day doing exactly what I wanted. Boy, was I 'saved' from a life of selfishness :)
For my body. It's amazing that I'm breastfeeding a baby with ease at 45, when so many younger women are telling me all the reasons they gave up.

3. Patience
With the baby. Both my husband and I are way more patient, which is good as Alcuin is, to put it politely, rather particular.
He who must be obeyed.
With my waistline. I guessed that it would be a slower haul back to my prepartum figure. At least my maternity clothes are now loose - as I discovered last week while lecturing and realised my skirt was slipping and threatening to pull my knickers down with it. Maybe I could do a blog post on the art of hitching up your underwear while nonchalantly discussing Sophocles.

4. Exhaustion 
Man, am I tired. Scrap that. I'm knackered. It used to be that when my girls were babies, I'd put them to bed and spend an hour or two writing, working, or just hanging out. Now, when Alcuin goes to bed, I pretty much fall in after him. But I know it's not forever, because I have...

5. Perspective
Everything is just a stage - and life zips by so quickly. Sometimes, in the midst of exhausted dejection, I tell myself it will all be different in a year - and I'm not being sarcastic. Before we know it, it will be one year, five, ten...

6. Couldn't care less-ness
We like the name Alcuin. So there. The Blessed Alcuin of York was an 8th century British scholar famous for engineering the Carolingian renaissance. He's the only name in mathematics in this period - and my husband is a mathematician. We went through a little angst over what our parents would say - then thought about the names on our class rolls and decided we didn't care. We were going to compromise and call him Quin for short, but he's so serious, he was born to be an Alcuin. Actually, he was literally born at the very time my church was celebrating the life of Alcuin of York in their noonday service - when we'd already decided on the name!

My halo is cooler!


7. Kelly's question for this week is: how many blog posts have you written? Considering what life has thrown at us since I started in January, I'm going to pat myself on the back for managing 18. To link up your own first or hundred-and-first Quick Takes, or read other blogs and enter the giveaways, visit This Ain't the Lyceum.

Friday 2 October 2015

7 QT 17: Dead Doors and Ducks

1. I haven't posted for a while, because life has been hectic, plus essay grading (which is more Purgatory than life). I still have some late essays to grade, but it's Fall Break, so I don't go back to work for a week, plus Kelly has declared October a Link-toberfest and offered the chance to win goodies I don't need but might just change my life anyway, so here's the post I almost completed a couple of weeks ago, minus any pretty pictures because I have a streaming cold and this is as much as I can manage.

2. It all started with the back door. It always shifts when the weather changes, but when the house also shifted too much, it got completely stuck shut. I'd never taken notice of how much we used the back door to pop out to the window boxes, or the compost pail we have set outside, or just generally. Which had a snowball effect...

3. With no quick access to the compost, and no time, my husband left a butternut squash quietly rotting in the spare bathtub. Then one day I happened to venture into the bathroom and realised it was Invasion of the Fruit Flies. Of course, opening the door just let them all out into the house where they were merrily flying around and reproducing every five seconds. I was at a loss, not wanting to let loose with fly spray or whatever dubious chemical is on flypaper. I was lamenting this as my husband and I sat flapping fruit flies away from our glasses of wine. Then it came to me - fight fire with fire. So I set out two glasses of cheap wine to catch them. It's sort of working, and at least they're dying happy.

4. So fruit flies everywhere meant we had to stop collecting compost indoors and start taking it out via the front door. Which lead to another hard-won discovery. First, my husband got stung hard on the rear. We thought it must have been some random insect that bumped into him. Then, the next day, I was emptying tea leaves into the porch bed when something stung me on the foot - very painfully. We realized that yellowjackets had built a nest in one of the wood stacks by the front door. After a week of donning his beekeeper's suit and spraying, my husband took about 5 seconds to be persuaded to call the exterminator. We have been judging the success of the operation by the "Odie test". Our less academically-abled cat had obviously been attacked by said yellowjackets as he took to bolting out of the front door as, well, as though wasps were after him. Obviously he is too much a creature of habit to take the alternative, like one of his TWO cat doors in other parts of the house. Anyhow, the Odie test consists of watching how fast he leaps across the porch to judge whether the wasps were still there.

5. I don't think this was related to the door problems, but it added colour to the week anyway. I was out with the baby one morning, as usual, seeing to the poultry. Caroline the duck waddled to the pond, maybe a little slower than usual. Then, she opened her beak, flapped her wings, and keeled over. Dead. The baby appeared not to be traumatized, but I'm sure the memory will resurface in thirty years' time when he's talking with his psychotherapist about all the childhood traumas he does remember.

6. So updates: wasps are gone and it prompted my husband to pressure wash the porch, so a bonus there. Our carpenter has fixed the door, but found we need major work under the house, to the tune of $10-15,000. But my daughter's appendectomy bill 'only' came in at $4,000 so I'm going to pretend that's a small win.

7. Kelly's blogger question for this week is: when did you start linking to Seven Quick Takes? her throw-back post made me realise I'd been reading them since the beginning (2008). It's become my little breather on a Friday morning. Almost as strange was to look back at my blog and find I'd first posted in January this year, which seems forever ago, being B.A.  - Before Alcuin, as my husband has coined time in our house.

To read or post Quick Takes, plus a chance for reader prizes, head to Kelly's at This Ain't the Lyceum.