Ahhhh, I have shopped. The urge is sated for now. The monster now returns to hibernating until such time as I have a shopping partner and several uninterrupted hours to get to Bluewater. This means at least six months from now, possibly closer to twelve.

Growing up in America I never dreamed I would make it to a mall less than once a month. In my early teens, it was torture to go less than several times a week. My best friend Liz and I would walk up and down Coronado mall, stopping in Spencer Gifts or Gadzooks long enough to see or be seen. Then we'd pop down to Hot Dog on a Stick to get the world's best lemonade, and then begin the cycle again. It was heaven to my 14-year-old self.

That girl still lives inside me and occasionally likes to be treated to a day at the mall. Bluewater is England's excellent answer to the American mall. Complete with multiplex cinema, three different types of Gap, and both high and low end restaurants, it is a place that can make me very happy. Today my mom and I shopped for shoes (me), frilly white pants (Buffy), a ridiculously frilly party dress (Katie), 25 identical girly, frilly, non-tatty party favours, and nursing bra (me again). We did very well. We hit Every. Single. Shop. that had anything to do with frill, pink, or girls. (Including the Frilly Pink Girly shop aka Majestic Fairies.) We culled and narrowed and pounded marble like you wouldn't believe. We were careful to bring fruit to keep up our spirits. We mocked Krispy Kreme and ate pears and clementines right in front of the shop.

We are tired and shopped out. The credit card is whimpering in the back of my wallet. I think I'll put it in a drawer for a while. I don't shop much, but when I do, it'd better be worth it.

More "cash for peerages" musings

I'm perhaps in danger of becoming a one-trick pony so early in my blogging career, but here's some more random thoughts on this sorry affair.

1. Jack Dromey, the Labour Party treasurer, claims to have been unaware of the loans. How on earth can the party's treasurer, who is responsible for signing the party's accounts, have had no idea of the source and application of his party's funds? To me, it seems that he has just publicly confessed his own complete incompetence.

2. The BBC reports that secret loans are to be banned. I'm not sure that we want secret loans to be banned. We want politicians that wouldn't want to take secret loans in the first place.

3. The media have reported that the money was used to fund campaigning in advance of the May 2005 General Election. So how on earth did the Labour Party expect to ever pay this money back? Again, how did Jack Dromey sign off on the accounts when his party had just spent the money from £14 million of loans that were still repayable?

4. If the donors in fact did not expect to be repaid, then the money should have been recorded as a donation under UK accounting standards and IFRS, even if it was called a 'loan' in the legal documentation.

5. The House of Lords last night voted again to hold the House of Commons to the Labour Party's manifesto commitment to introduce ID cards initially on a voluntary basis, the fourth such defeat for the Commons. The Lords have been simply splendid on this issue and have, if anything, demonstrated the futility of reform. We don't need a second elected chamber. The unelected lot are behaving much more like statesmen than the elected lot. And give me a hereditary peer any day over one of these New Labour stooges.

6. Please, no taxpayer funding of political parties. You'd then have the odd - and untenable - situation that any individual wishing to stand for election would have to fund both his own campaign and that of his major party opponents.

7. And we also learn that some of the nominees are asking for their names to be removed from the peers nomination process. It's a bit late for that, I think. How about instead they ask for their money back? Now that would be interesting!

Katie's Ballet Recital

Yesterday Gramma, Buffy and I hoofed it up the hill early to see Katie's lunchtime ballet recital. Nearly all the girls from her class go to ballet on Mondays, so it was a big group. Miss Fry even came to watch. The girls did naughty toes and good toes, they ran around like horses and stopped WHOA!!, they jumped, hopped, and skipped. They even took an imaginary trip to the beach. Miss Caroline asked what they each saw at the beach. Most saw their parents or Cinderella. Katie saw princesses. Another girl, whose behaviour has worried us all year, saw nothing at all. Very sad to go all the way to the beach and see nothing.

Katie was a superstar. She even fell flat on her face spectacularly. Obviously I wasn't overly concerned since there is a picture of the fall in the gallery. My goodness did Katie milk that one for attention, though. She had a crowd of many all concerned for her (and probably concerned about her terrible mother who was more interested in taking pictures than comforting poor Katie).

After the recital we left Katie at school and went out for lunch in the village. It was lovely, Buffy was lovely, all was right in the world. We pottered around the village for a little while until it was time to go get Katie. Big Girl Katie then managed to walk all the way home without a single complaint. She got a chocolate chip cookie AND a dancing fairy doll for her spectacular day. (We just hope she doesn't break the wings off this one like she did her last post-recital present.)

God cares about your monthly bank statement

Fascinating stuff from yesterday's sermon at St. Alfege, given by the Reverend David Walsh:

For if you want a mirror to tell you the state of your spiritual health, I can think of little more telling than your monthly bank statement. This is what God really cares about, the substance of your life, the reality of your everyday decisions. Little else in our lives reveals so clearly our priorities. Do our investments help to fund the arms trade, damage the planet, needlessly harm other living creatures? Do our purchases help to exploit workers in the developing world? Do we hide behind the anonymity of money and the power it gives us, to show no interest in what effects our decisions are having on the other side of the world?

Speaking to him after the service, David thought this was rather controversial material. I thought it was marvellous stuff, a real clarion call to us all to live beneath your means, not just in financial terms but also in a spiritual sense.

You can read the whole sermon here.

Defining the Self

Buffy is nearly eight months old. Now, I haven't consulted Dr Sears on this, but I think she's starting to be aware of herself as a separate being. That means she's now seeing me as a separate being, too. No longer am I just a milk-filled appendage. I think now she sees me as a milk-filled appendage that goes other places without permission.

Several times over the last week she has cried when I walk away. I find myself sneaking out of the room when she's not looking or asking others to provide diversions. If I could get away with it, I would never leave her side. Unfortunately, there are other people in the house who occassionally like to eat or wear clean clothes. Short breaks from my beloved Buffykins/Pumpkin noodle are, therefore, a necessity.

Today we tested Buffy on this. It was a teeny bit cruel, but more than enough funny to make up for it. Buffy had been happily playing Lego with Gramma. (Katie's version of Lego is to build an ice cream shop/adventure playground. Buffy's version is to suck on the long red one. Maybe it's the ice cream?) After some minutes Buffy pushed herself up onto her knees and started crying. We couldn't work out what was wrong. She hadn't hurt herself and it was more of a tired cry anyway. On a hunch, Gramma encouraged Buffy to crawl to whatever it was she wanted. We were all sitting in a line of sorts - Gramma, Buffy, me, Katie, and Andrew. Buffy got the message, put her head down, and started crawling very deliberately towards us.

I genuinely didn't know where she would end up. It might have been the blocks or her dummy she was after. She plodded along towards us (she was a good six feet away) whining all the way. When she reached my feet, she collapsed face down on my toes. It was so pathetic and adorable. I felt like The Chosen One. I'm so happy she wanted me, but I know this sword has another edge that is much sharper and vicious. Soon I won't be able to sneeze without consulting her first. Katie still prefers I clear all bodily functions with her, so I guess it will just be more of the same.

She's Here!

Gramma's here! We are all so excited. Katie celebrated by giving everyone tiaras to wear and donned her fairy wings. Andrew celebrated by baking some classic American cookies (wrestling a difficult recipe that has beaten me TWICE into delicious submission). I am celebrating by having long talks with my mom and spilling all the beans here. Buffy is celebrating by banging some blocks together and shouting, "AAAGGGHGHAHAHAAAAA!" We all think our own way is best.

It's been two months since Gramma last saw the girls. We couldn't wait to see what would impress her most. Katie read some stories confidently and Gramma beamed. Buffy crawled to her and smiled her little head off to make Gramma smile and clap her hands proudly. Katie helped me make a healthy fruit salad and Gramma ate it all up appreciatively. Gramma also really enjoyed Andrew's scrummy cookies. But what really got her going? The one thing that above all others made me bounce with glee that she really *got* how amazing these girls are? Katie on the computer.

Gramma was emailing when Katie asked if she could play rollercoaster. Gramma thought this might be a Lego thing, but no, it's a computer thing. Gramma thought she might need to help, but no, Katie's done this before. Gramma stepped aside and let Katie roll. Katie pulled up the chair, and deftly moved the mouse over to Start. Gramma's face lit up. Katie clicked and held the button down, opening Start then Programs then Games. Gramma's jaw dropped and she gasped as Katie selected Rollercoaster Tycoon and started building fences and hiring entertainers. Gramma is still lying on the floor in a heap with her tongue lolling and her eyes open wide, fixed on a point mid-air. It could be psychotropic drugs, but Gramma is more of a natural high type person. I guess she's impressed.

Good job girls, we got her!