Friday 23 December 2016

7 Quick Takes 46: An Open Christmas Letter

1.Welcome to the curious (or bored?!) friends and family who followed my invite here! Quick and obvious explanation: Seven Quick Takes is a Friday blog link-up (where bloggers, ahem, link up) with, amazingly, seven quick mini posts on whatever. And it's all steered by the capable helmswoman Kelly Mantoa at This Ain't the Lyceum.
So why have I brought you here, apart from an ill-disguised plan to up my visitor numbers and avoid handwriting Christmas notes? Well, this is how I've been reflecting on my life, life around me, or the random things that pop up in my head for the past couple of years. However, being a dedicated introvert, I manage never to actually talk about me or my family in plain detail. So it struck me that it wasn't an entirely hokey idea to use the blog to share news with family and friends, and to pull back the curtain (just an inch or two) for those who check in on my random musings  - and even sometimes post a comment.

I also, by the way, turn the introduction into post number one when pressed for ideas :)  So onto #2 and an actual round up of our year.

2. Alcuin has graduated from baby to toddler - he's nineteen months old. I love the toddler years so much more than the infant stage. I love the dialect each child develops. I love the mobility. He basically lives outside, which keeps him happy but the house not very tidy. He is obsessed with foxes and the moon. Of course, he's emperor of the household. Beatrice recently pointed out his close resemblance to Napoleon: short, not much hair, pink, plump, prone to digestive upsets, thinks he should rule the world. But he doesn't have a Corsican accent. In fact, curiously, despite being brought up in Mississippi by an English mother and Texan father, he seems to be spontaneously developing a Welsh lilt.

I wonder why "doo" was one of his first words?

3. Beatrice, Beatrice, Beatrice. T.E.E.N.A.G.E.R. Or is that spelled S.N.A.R.K.Y. ? Smart, sharp, all-around favourite big sister. Currently wants to be a paleontologist. Plays oboe and violin, and sings soprano in a concert choir. She was also part of the brains behind the marketing and writing teams for her Robotics club, which made the regional semi-finals in the annual BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) competition. In her spare time, she earned a gold medal on the National Latin Exam, and published fan fiction. Now I've put that into writing, it makes me wonder why she gives me the impression she hangs out in her room all day, wasting time. She's within a hair's breadth of being my height (which is five feet one and a half, if you want to know), so spends a lot of time hanging on my shoulders, trying to crush me a little shorter.
Update: In the two weeks since I drafted this, she has overtaken me. I'm now second shortest in the family, which isn't saying a lot since my competition is under three feet tall.

Trying to pretend she's also taller than her sister.

4. We only have one teenager now that Magdalen has reached the ripe old age of twenty (which makes us even riper and older). She has basically moved to Boston. She's only been back to Mississippi a few weeks this year, and met us in England over the summer. Having a child of legal drinking age was fun. We started a game of taking as many photos of her in a pub with her baby brother as possible. MIT seems a wonderful fit for her. If Alcuin is running with chickens, she is running with nerds. Plus, I get to go to Boston once a year to visit the city my daughter :) She began the year down on the Texan border aiding a Teach For America teacher, and spent the summer working on a research project for an MIT Math(s) Professor. She has moved into a women's cooperative dorm, where she gets to indulge her love of organization and cooking, as well as find out what shovelling snow is really like, because it's just a wee bit colder than Mississippi up there.

Fuelling up for a clifftop hike on a drizzly summer afternoon.

5. As for Ted, if it's Thursday, it must be Novosibirsk. Ted (a mathematician for those who don't know) has been zipping about this year. He's been to Slovenia (as usual), Italy (usually as usual since it's on the border with Slovenia), Croatia (ditto), Hungary (ditto), the UK of course, Siberia... I'm getting jetlag just thinking about it. He just got back from three weeks in the smog of Beijing, where he perfected his skills in haggling over everything, from the taxi ride from the airport onwards. He's probably looking forward to going nowhere over Christmas.

No prizes for guessing why I chose this photo.

6. What, me? I think I'll be writing a book entitled "My Year of Doing Nothing", which has been a lot more fun and time-consuming than it sounds. I'm taking a sabbatical from the workforce - with the arrival of Alcuin, we found ourselves pretty blindsided, and sanity had to prevail. I've been blogging, taking stock of my life, sending out birthday cards on time for once, making foundational plans for a home-based business (aka thinking), and generally chasing a toddler in and out of puddles. And actually reading books I don't have to teach. And sometimes blogging about those, too.

We don't take photos of us. This is the best of 2016 :)

7. Finally, as this is seven quick takes, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Cool Yule, Io Saturnalia, Serene Solstice, Seasons Greetings, Jolly Crimble, and (from my inner chinchilla) a Hap-py New Yeaaaar.

Friday 9 December 2016

7 Quick Takes 45: Geriatric Mother 1.5

Seven takes that end up surprisingly - and unintentionally - not that snarky.

Alcuin hit eighteen months recently. Well, actually, what he hits is his sister, the rooster (who deserves it) or anything else within range of a stick. That means it's been more than two years since my life turned upside down - and I've hit a lot of milestones along with him.

1. Maybe my "mummy brain" is worse than young mothers'. I'm not sure. One thing that did dawn on me lately is that, when pregnant, I'd declared to my elder daughter that I was going to call myself a "Vintage Mother". Only apparently, I forgot and started this blog series as "Geriatric Mother". Vintage is so much more hip. Can we all pretend we have memory lapses and let this series be rechristened?

This is us all the time, except we have cats.

2. Yes, the first year was pretty bad in parts. Actually, at times, I didn't think I could go on. But I have a husband with a better memory for facts, who reminded me that the infant months are always the toughest for me. Some people love that time when the baby is helpless; I'm always relieved when he can actually roam around and tell me what he wants. I think I'm a pretty good toddler mother right now.

3. My reflexes may be slower and my eyesight worse, but after twenty years, I've seen most of the tricks, so I can anticipate trouble and accidents and (mostly) still stop them in time.

A flock of hungry chickens and a toddler. What could go wrong here?

4. But yes, I'm still dog tired. He still doesn't sleep through the night, and isn't night weaned, though his sisters were by now. Part of that is moral weakness, part the above-mentioned tiredness. Then again, my thirteen year-old was leafing through her baby book the other day and remarked: "You didn't fill in the place for when I first slept through the night." A pause. "Actually, I don't think I've ever slept through the night." I rest a genetic case here.

5. And my back still aches, even though I'm being more religious about stretching. However, at least some of that is due to said teen, who is a hair's breadth from being the same height as me and likes to try to hang onto me and compress my spine. At least Alcuin groans in sympathy with me in the mornings.

6. It's struck me that I'm half way between being a mother and a grandmother - in age and attitude. I have a ton more patience (for a very impatient person, anyway), I'm happier(ish) to let tasks go by the wayside in order to spend time with the baby, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on my career. Even though I don't always believe myself when I say it, I know that everything I have a hankering to do  - work, another visit to Rome, yoga classes - will still be there when Alcuin is older.

7. Many things never change in a house with a toddler. Stuffed animals still breed. Annoying little plastic 'toys' still appear by spontaneous generation. And lisping toddler dialects are still soooo sweet.

Sometimes I wonder how I managed to produce something this cute at my age :)

Wow, so you'll have to go somewhere else for a hefty dose of sarcasm this week, Try Kelly's link up at This Ain't the Lyceum.