Project Runways

Like anyone with a sewing machine (or even just a TV), I love Project Runway. While Heidi Klum sorts her house, I've been watching Project Runway Canada on YouTube. It's fun, it's good. Sunny will obviously win, even though the producers have done their best to drum up drama by overpromoting Jessica. I like Jessica, but Sunny's in a different league. Like Jasper from Project Catwalk (UK). The more I watch of these shows (apparently Project Runway Phillipines is awesome, so that's next on the list), the more I realise that Cristian Siriano is a prodigy. Absolute fashion genius.

I knew he was special at the time, but he made it look so easy, I didn't fully realise his genius.

I felt compelled to say that.



I just came downstairs to see the girls chatting aimiably at the table over toast that Katie made for them both. She got the bread and remembered to close the fridge door. She toasted the bread and was careful not to burn it. She got Marmite for Buffy, honey for herself, and put the jars away. In short, there was nothing left for me to do. Brilliant!

What were they chatting about? Maths. There's this gameshow we all like called Get 100, where the goal is to get all of your numerical answers to add up to 100 before anyone else. We play it on the long walk to school most everyday. When I came downstairs, I found Katie quizzing Buffy about ducks. Buffy likes duck questions.

Katie asked, "Buffy, if there are three ducks in the pond, and one more flies in, how many ducks are there?"

Buffy counted on Katie's fingers and said, "Four!"

Then Katie said, "What about if there are two ducks in the pond and two more ducks fly in?"

Buffy shouted, "Four!" She continued, "Two plus two is four! And two plus two plus two plus two is eight!"

That's my girl! (Actually, that's Andrew's girl, but I'm glad they're mine, too.)

Paper, paper everywhere

I'm knee-deep in metaphorical paper. I'm writing a 5,000-worder on effective transition of foreign language teaching from primary to secondary school. Fun, right? I'm almost ready to give it to my Big Picture Guy (Andrew). Once it's a whole paper, he'll read it and tell me where I need to tighten, what I've missed and where I've completely missed the point. Then I go back to my Detail Lady (Gramma), who will give me brilliant tips on grammatical structure and vocabulary. The woman has a thesaurus for a brain. So awesome.

I write, I delete, I write some more. I am hovering right around the requisite 5,000 words, but still I'm not done. I have exactly one week from today to turn this in. That would be hard enough if it weren't for the other two big projects I have to either hand in or have a meeting about next week. It is so hard to be a good parent and a good student. Something's gotta give.

My solution has been playdates with friends, sometimes with the TV or computer. They've been trusty babysitters. The funny thing about friend playdates is that I always think they'll be more work, and they're always less. I wish I could remember one of these key lessons of parenting. It's like a lesson for life: Let people in. Bring them in and let them make your life easier.

Hm, wonder if I can work that into my paper...

Seeking Helpful Tips

Does anyone know how to get a whole bunch of Play-Doh out of the toe of a shoe?



PS Oh yes, she did.

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.