Regan's blog

The Helpful Ballerina

The girls are officially on Easter holiday now. That's one of the good things about living in England, you can still say "Easter break". Well, whatever it's called, my girls are on it. The last two days of school were really just a bit of fun, but I'm still glad they went. Loads of families left last weekend. Yesterday was an in-school half day, with the afternoon's being dedicated to an all-school Easter egg hunt. Fun! One big girl dressed up as the Easter bunny and helped the little ones find their personal basket of goodies.

On Monday I got to go in and see Buffy's ballet show. I really should say it was Buffy's "ballet" "show", because very little ballet happened and there was no real show, but we did get to watch the nursery girls move around to music. Again, there was movement and music, but they rarely went together. Really good fun.

Best of all, of course, was the helpful little ballerina. Miss Caroline was not well, so her colleague filled in. This lady had never ran this particular class before, but she was very good working with young children. It did mean she had never met Buffy before. She has now. The lady told the girls to stand up tall and hold out their skirts. Buffy, ever helpful and in trousers, said, "Or trousers or dresses."

"Yes. Skirts or trousers or dresses," agreed the teacher. Then the girls skipped (read: ran) around the room.

When the girls came back into the circle, the teacher again told them, "Stand in first position and hold out your skirts."

"Or trousers or dresses," said the Helpful Ballerina.

"Yes. Or trousers or dresses," said the teacher.

Afterwards Buffy's class teacher told me she wondered why the ballet teacher didn't just say it herself. After the second time it was pretty clear that Buffy was going to say "or trousers or dresses" every time. After the third time the parents were giggling along. By the fourth "or trousers or dresses" the whole audience was waiting for it. The fifth, sixth, seventh times just became a farce.

I can tell you that in the ten times the girls were asked to hold out their skirts, the teacher never once mentioned their trousers. Or their dresses. I know, because I counted. I counted each and every helpful, ever patient, never rude little "or trousers or dresses" that came from my unforgettable little ballerina.

That teacher may not have known Buffy at the start of class, but she, like everyone else in that school, certainly does now.

This and That

So, the big news is my ickle bitty baby is officially seven. SEVEN! SEEEEVVVEEEENNN!

So, yeah, I'm sort of freaking out. She was so teensy and fragile. She's still a bit delicate, but she's kind of big now. Like seven-year-old big. And she does all this seven-year-old stuff like calls her friends, takes pictures on her own camera (thanks Granny and Granddad!), does homework, reads paving slab books, discusses menu plans, asks what "rape" means when she sees it in a newspaper headline, hides from others when changing, paints her nails and lots of other things that freak me out on a regular basis.

You see, when she was born, the night she was born, I did a lot of freaking out. I panicked. Having battled my biological clock since I was TWO, I finally had a baby to look after, and I had no idea what to do. This is hard for me to admit, but I didn't feed her for the first day. Twenty-four hours. No food. I also took her home in a car on a pillow. Not a carseat but A PILLOW. My precious, most-wanted-ever gorgeous perfect little baby. In a car on the South Circular in my arms on a pillow. My hungry little delicate baby.

While I did get her home in one piece, and I did figure out a way to get food into her body (apparently mouths are key), I spent about four weeks standing like a deer in the headlights. This whole life was my responsibility. Andrew was sweet and supportive, but I knew the truth. If anything happened to her it would be my fault. I failed the beautiful birth experience I promised her, I failed (for a while anyway) to breastfeed her, I failed to protect her from the hideousness of an NHS birth.

It wasn't all failure though. On that terrible first night I managed not to let her die, put some clothes on her and cut her fingernails. I talked to her while I bled through every sheet and bit of fabric that came (begrudgingly) my way. A thousand times that night I told her, "You're safe, Baby. You're safe." She cried, and I stared at the headlights.

Midwives came in and yelled at me for bleeding so much. Another came in to yell at me for not feeding my baby properly. She kept poking my breast further into Katie's teensy little mouth, and it just didn't seem like it was ever going to work. Other mothers in the ward cried, screamed. Maybe it was the babies crying? Maybe it was all in my own head? The enduring image I have from the point labour started to go wrong until the goddess Jill Dye (lactation consultant) taught us to nurse lying down is of me in a hospital gown, standing in a highway in the rain with my baby on a pillow and bright headlights blaring down on us.

Still, it got better. We bonded. Together Katie and I figured out breastfeeding. I let Andrew hold her a bit more (he took her downstairs and put her in a box, so you can see how wise that was). I started to sleep a bit. I started to heal. Eventually she started gaining weight, getting back up to her birth weight after a week or two. My midwife warned me not to let the Health Visitors come by, because they'd have me up for post partum depression for sure. My mom gently tried to broach the subject. While I still don't think I had PPD, I do think I had some sort of trauma recovery, and possibly not just from the birth. Possibly just from the fact of being in charge of another person's life. Completely. Everything I'd ever wanted, really.

Now Katie is seven. And she's amazing! She's so beautiful and clever. My god, she is so clever. she can tell you what the square root of 81 times the square root of 36 is in no time flat. She turns a fantastic cartwheel, and she's a fiercely loyal friend. She can draw really cute people, and she can read absolutely any book (or newspaper headline!) you put in front of her. She is amazing.

This morning I asked Buffy idly if she had a best friend at school. She thought about it for a minute and said, "Not really. Only my sister is my best friend." Buffy's a clever girl, too. She knows a good thing when she sees it.

Middle Class Woes

Yesterday was an extravaganza. Katie's class went to see The Tempest. It was, in fact, The Tempest: The Musical!!! with jazz hands. HIL-ARIOUS! My favourite part was when Caliban did a step-ball-change with Stephano and Trinculo in drag. Good fun. Andrew asked if the play was good. Ah, no. It was not good, but it was good fun.

The truly best part of the whole play was watching our girls behave so beautifully and adorably. About halfway through the play a jaunty duet between Sebastian and Antonio got the girls clapping along. The full theatre soon joined them in clapping along to the song. The audience full of school groups then clapped along to every subsequent song. Including the lovers' ballad. All the grown-ups in attendance were crying with laughter. Such good fun!

On the way back from the play, we had to find our way from Dartford back to Blackheath. It shouldn't have been difficult, but Dartford station did not have good signage explaining which platform served which route. You should have heard us, though. "Oh dear! Which way to London? How do we get back to London?" I teased everyone - including myself - mercilessly on the way back in my poshest English accent. "Oh heavens! We simply must get back to Blackheath! I don't even know where we are! I mean, I think we're frightfully near Bluewater, but I couldn't possibly be expected to find it from here. I've never been down here without my driver!"

Poor middle class women, so very far from home all in the name of some musical Shakespeare.

Just Two Normal Days

Just two days worth of Buffy funnies. I'm sure we're forgetting some.

Yesterday, I asked her to look up so I could fix the part in her hair. She moaned, "This is hurting my breasts!"

This afternoon at school pick-up an older, chubby girl said hello. Buffy patted the girl's tummy lovingly and said, "I know you've got a baby in your tummy!"

Yes, I wanted the earth to swallow me whole. I am still hoping the girl was young enough (10ish) to not be offended.

Then tonight - and Andrew and I are divided on the hilarity factor of this - Buffy fell down the stairs. The long ones. All of them. Seriously, what is it with our girls and falling down stairs?? Everyone I know thinks I'm a total nervous nelly around staircases, but I have good reason. My girls have yet to meet one they have not tumbled at least part way down. Rubbish stair steppers, they are.

Buffy was very brave and tearfully explained what happened, "I was going up the stairs to put this (t-shirt) in the laundry and I was walking up the stairs and then IT JUST HAPPENED!" Cue wailing and many more tears. Poor baby. She has a great big egg on her forehead and feels very sorry for herself. She tried to convince us that she needed to be fed her dinner on account of her injuries, but we weren't as convinced. We were right and she did manage a taco.

Now she's much better, totally recovered, and resting well (I hope). I only have to wrestle with my conscience whether we should wake her every hour in case of concussion. Why do there have to be so many stairs in England?


In this week's school newsletter:

On Monday 25th February, 2JD and 2CS went to the
Globe Theatre.

We learnt that people went to The Globe to watch a show
and that they had to cross the River Thames by boat to
get there.

Later on, we saw the Queen’s dress and what Shakespeare
wore in those times. Also, we saw lots of instruments
in a glass case and some of the group got to touch
a suit of armour; one person even got to hold a sword!

Katie Gambier, 2JD

See Woo-Hoo!

Today both Buffy and I has school trips. I went to a mosque, which was illuminating. Buffy went to a Chinese grocery store she calls See Woo-hoo. The sign says simply, "See Woo", but clearly they're missing a trick. See Woo-hoo is much more joyful.

It sounds like Buffy had a good trip, but I am not sure that her teacher did. I asked if she had a good time and she rambled on a bit about a lobster and a fish. By dinnertime the story had progressed to her falling in the tank and grappling with the fish who ultimately won the battle and ate Buffy. More interesting to her parents was Buffy's story that her original grown-up team leader kept telling her, "I keep losing you!" Um, what? This does not calm my nervous mother heart. Losing my daughter?

Naturally, I blamed Buffy. "Did you run off?!"

Calmly, and a bit smugly, Buffy reassured us, "No, I didn't run off."


"I walked."

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