Thursday, 31 March 2011

Gobble, Gobble!

Did you know that turkeys can fly? (Nope)

That they roost in trees? (What???!)

And that their favourite food is grass seed...


Thanks to our resident turkey Bernard, I know now all these fascinating facts
about this wildfowl.

I would post a picture of old Bernie, but he' a bit camera shy at the moment, so
here is a file picture so you can imagine.

Gobble, gobble!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Mom Pledge

moth-er (verb): to
care for or protect like a mother; act maternally toward

care for or protect like a mother; act maternally toward
When you think about the qualities involved in being a mother, the following adjectives spring to mind: nurturing, protective, loving, caring. A mum should be all that is good in the world; a safe haven in stormy seas, a friend to all people, a homemaker.

So why is it that becoming a mother can bring out the worst in so many women?

Since becoming a Mum myself, I have sadly had to tag new adjectives on to the description of mothers: competitive, judgmental, two-faced, jealous, snobby.

I wouldn't necessarily class myself as a Mommy Blogger, but I do read a lot of Mommy Blogs and articles to do with parenting and unfortunately, I have encountered a lot of 'cyber-bullying' between mothers; grown women who should know better.

Although I have not personally been the victim of Mom-bullying, I have seen on many online comment boards some of the unspeakable vitriol that mothers feel appropriate to vent to other mothers who are simply trying to live their lives and share their honest experiences.

At the end of the day, as long as you love, protect and provide for your children, it doesn't matter whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, whether you make your own baby food or buy jars and it doesn't matter what stroller you use. If your child makes it to adulthood a well-rounded, happy human being, you have done the best you can do.

This is why I am Taking the Pledge, to highlight the message of sisterhood, to say that women should show solidarity in motherhood and respect each woman's personal parenting choices.

The Mom Pledge
I am a proud Mommy Blogger. I will conduct myself with integrity in all my blogging activities. I can lead by example.
I pledge to treat my fellow moms with respect. I will acknowledge that there is no one, "right" way to be a good Mom. Each woman makes the choices best for her family.
I believe a healthy dialogue on important issues is a good thing. I will welcome differing opinions when offered in a respectful, non-judgmental manner. And will treat those who do so in kind.
I stand up against online bullying. My blog is my space. I will not tolerate comments that are rude, condescending or disrespectful.
I refuse to give those who attack a platform. I will remove their remarks from my blog with no mention or response. I can take control.
I want to see moms work together to build one another up, not tear each other down. Words can be used as weapons. I will not engage in that behavior.
I affirm that we are a community. As a member, I will strive to foster goodwill among moms. Together, we can make a difference.

To show your support for The Mom Pledge, you can follow on Twitter
or look at their website.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Gone to seed

Yesterday was pretty rough.

The dog woke up on the wrong side of his bed and was persistently naughty from 7am-7pm. Halfway through the afternoon I had foolishly decided to take on the mountain of filing that was threatening to break out of the kitchen cupboard, so I had files and paper everywhere that just wouldn't go down. Plus cleaning, plus food shopping, plus bathtimes, tea-cooking etc...the final straw was Imogen refusing to go back to sleep just an hour into bedtime and screaming to the point of hyperventilation for an hour until James and I managed to finally rock her to sleep. Ugh.

So, by the time I went to bed, I felt frazzled. When I glanced in the mirror at 10pm, I almost didn't recognise myself.

This is how I look and feel. Where did it all go wrong!

From top to bottom, I look so far removed from how I looked and felt this time last year. I don't know whether it's hormones, lack of sleep, not eating and drinking enough, not enough exercise, I don't know, but I look rough.

what happened to this fresh-faced, young whipper-snapper?!

Hair was lank, greasy and in desperate need of a colour. I've got the dye, I just haven't committed to actually putting it on my hair yet. It hasn't been cut for months and months, so it never looks good, even after a wash.

My skin is pale and wan, grey even, the giant pores on my nose threatening to engulf my whole face; breakouts everywhere.

The closest my fingernails get to a manicure is a quick trim with the nail clippers every couple of weeks, not even a nail file goes over them anymore.

As for my feet, well after a winter stuck in shoes and countless hours pounding the streets with the dog, they are so dry and dusty, they could probably pass as elephants' hooves...

Even before I had a baby, I was never particularly high-maintenance. I don't wear a lot of make-up, a quick hairbrush is all I do to my hair in the morning and I definitely don't spend any time in spas. My only concession to vanity is getting my eyebrows waxed. Non-negotiable with my caterpillar brows! So I don't know how I've gone downhill so badly when there wasn't really that far to fall, if you follow. Surely being low-maintenance works well with young babies? A slick of make-up, a quick brush, job's a good 'un??

It seems that it's not enough to just shower every day and put on make-up to cover the cracks. Eight months of broken sleep and not enough 'me' time to drink enough water or eat properly, instead of snacking on mini eggs all day just to get by, has resulted in a washed out Clare.

Does all this sound familiar? I don't intend for this to sound all woe is me, I'm sure every new Mum or Dad on the planet, who hasn't got full-time help, feels the same way.

This time in my life is great, but I look like shit!

But don't all of you despair for me just yet, there is a beacon of hope on the horizon. Mumma W will, fingers crossed, be arriving this time next week for 2 weeks of Grandma duties. Hip, hip, HURRAH! No rest for the wicked, she will be put straight to work and maybe I will get some R+R? ;-)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Life Well-Lived

Following the sad news of the death of iconic actress Dame Elizabeth Taylor today, at the age of 79, there has been an inevitable dearth of anecdotes floating around on the Internet.

I know she was breathtakingly beautiful and glamorous, that she worked incredibly hard to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS and that she had been married numerous times but apart from the basics, I don't profess to know that much about her.

So I am sharing a couple of links that I found interesting here and here which offer an insight into her life in a much better way than I could have written.

Macaroni Mo

I don't believe you can call yourself a true American until you have eaten Mac 'n Cheese...and enjoyed it!

In the UK, macaroni cheese is usually eaten as a full course, but here in the South East United States, at least, macaroni cheese is served as a side dish, an accompaniment to the main meal. At Thanksgiving, it is a staple, just as sprouts and bread sauce are for an English Christmas Day dinner.

Despite Imogen being born into a English family surrounded by English language and traditions, I am effectively raising an American child. If we remain here in the Deep South, I will only be able to keep the American culture at bay for so long. It is inevitable to me that she will grow up being able to speak with a proper American accent, when she thinks of a 'biscuit', it won't be of the English cookie variety, she will understand how to host a perfect Southern soiree and green bean casserole with mac 'n cheese will be as normal as afternoon tea is to an Englishman.

With this is mind, I put her through her toughest initiation test yet yesterday; she had macaroni cheese for her lunch for the first time.

I don't think it will be the last time either...

The Art of 'Spacing'

Some of the very first thoughts that ran through my head after I gave birth last summer were:
  • Thank GOD that's over
  • Wow, there really was a baby in there and double wow, look at the size of her head, no wonder it hurt so much!
and thirdly:
  • I am NEVER, quote NEVER doing that again, apologies to you, Imogen, you will be an only child.
I'm pretty sure I had #3 put into writing, I think I swore on oath in front of witnesses (well, I should have done anyway).

Just a week or so postpartum, I had to return to the hospital to return some equipment (not the baby, if you were thinking that) and just the sight of the place gave me the sweats and by the time I had taken the lift to the L & D floor and the smell of the place hit me, I was all a-quiver with the too recent memories and not in a good way.

For many months after I would say to everyone and anyone how hard it was and when asked about a possible sibling, I would blanche, maybe gag and then respond with 'absolutely not, no way, never!'.

But Mother Nature is a wily old fox and just a few weeks ago, I actually uttered, out loud, in audible voice, 'Yeah, it wasn't that bad, I could definitely do it again'. To which I replied to myself, 'Are you a bloody MAD woman, it was that bad, you are still physically and mentally scarred from the first time!'

However, it is inevitable. The small voice of my memories is being drowned out by the new voices who have forgotten those dark days, both of labour and the weeks postpartum with said newborn which are HARD, I tell you, HARD!

Only this week, James and I had 'The Conversation'. You know the one where you start discussing ANOTHER CHILD and when would be the best time to have one. Eeeeeeeek!

Best camera face! I mean, who couldn't resist another one of these!!

In the news last week, I read that professional WAG, Danielle Lloyd ('Who?' I hear you cry; I know, I know but I am a gossip whore and it's people like her who feed the celebrity machine) has announced her second pregnancy which arrived just 4 months after she had her first son. She claims it was all an 'accident', but we all know that a super-fertile body and no contraception doth a baby ultimately make, so either she is ridiculously dumb or she secretly wanted a baby but feigns an accident because people can't comprehend why you would want another baby within a year of your first!

So, with all this baby talk going on, it got me thinking as to the art of spacing, when is the best time to have another baby?

Ask a doctor and he or she will probably tell you to wait 2 years before trying for another to give your mind and body chance to fully recover from the pregnancy, birth and the relentless work that goes in to raising a baby to toddler age and beyond.

The decision is obviously very personal; some people jump straight in and have another straightaway. I wonder how many of these very close siblings were accidental, I mean you don't really know your a**e from your elbow the first few months after childbirth, so the prospect of adding another to the mix cannot often be a conscious one? Others like to take their time, enjoy the one or two they have and then take the plunge after several years.

For me, or us, the decision is not purely about what best suits our situation, living in the 'Land of the Free' we do not actually get 'free' healthcare and to physically have a baby is very expensive, not to mention the tranclements that come with a newborn. Sods Law tells me I will have a boy next, so we would have to buy all new boy things and wouldn't be able to re-use all my beloved pink stuff.

If I lived in a land of subsidised healthcare I would probably crack on and pop another out sooner rather than later. The thought of having a 3, 4 or even 5 year old and having my nighttimes and life back to relative normality to then turn it upside down with a newborn fills me with fear to my bones. Therefore, I would rather have two who are at a similar stage and not have to go through the disruption and sleep deprivation too many times.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to have another too soon; I feel that my time with Imogen now is so important, to her and me and she needs my one-on-one attention as she is developing and learning so much everyday. I don't want to have to have one eye on her and one eye on nursing a newborn. It would seem unfair on both of them. She deserves to have my undivided attention at the moment and I want to give it to her.

However, having said all this, I know very well that when I want to have a baby is really out of my hands; these things cannot always be planned. Of course, for some people it can, 'Shall we have another child darling?' woman says to man, 'Yes, how lovely!' he replies. Man glances at woman and BOOM, she's pregnant! That didn't happen for me first time round and I had to wait for what felt like forever for Miss Priest. I'm not so deluded as to think it won't be the same next time, so for all my desires on the perfect timing, it really will just happen when it wants to.

And if it transpires that there never is a sibling for Imogen, then I already know that she will be more than enough for me. I look at her every day and cannot believe she is here, that she is mine. I will never get bored of her. She is my mini-miracle and I cherish her. If she is my only child, well I am MORE than happy with that!

One lucky Mama!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Dental delights!

***WARNING: This is an unapologetic Mummy post.
If you do not wish to read my
shameless bleatings about my
prodigal daughter, please look away now***

If I wasn't already completely in love with Imogen Louise Priest, then she did something yesterday morning that made my heart somersault with adoration:

We got a tooth people!!

Two days short of being 8 months old, she sprouts the most perfect shred of enamel, bottom centre, of course.

Now, I would take a picture but it is barely visible to the naked eye, it is really only on the Mummy radar due to obsessive daily gum checking. Imagine my delight yesterday when I ran my finger over her gums as normal, not expecting ANYTHING new, to be halted in my tracks by a sharp little ridge poking up!!!!!!!! These babies really are amazing, aren't they!

Told you it was a shameless Mummy blog today...


In other news, Sweeney Todd (aka my husband) paid a visit to our house yesterday. Renamed the Butcher of Walnut Cove, he did THIS to my baby's beautiful flowing fringe:

So now she looks like the love child of Pob and Lloyd Christmas.

Although she needed a trim, I think the technique needs work. James is very good at trimming the dog, but blonde furry ringlets are forgiving, poker straight fringes not so much.


In other (slightly random) news, we have a resident wild turkey in the garden (does this make him non-wild now?).

I tried to take a photo but he scooted off into the wood. Hold tight peeps, I will catch him soon!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sunshine and signs.

So, after nearly 36 hours of constant heavy rain & wind, came the sunshine:

It was a good job I snapped this shot as Monsieur Soleil has now gone back into hiding.

Do you like our sign? It was handmade in England by a company called

We have also ordered this sign and this one.

Contrary to how it may look, our back garden is NOT the lake in the sign,
the real lake is some 1/2 mile away...

Although the rain has been a right royal pain in the a**,
it has left us with some beautiful new grass.
(this was not supposed to rhyme, but hey ho)

We still have a way to go before we have a lawn at the back, but it's a start

and shows that....


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Rainy day blues

Well, it's a murky ol' day here in Walnut Cove; the sun has definitely NOT got his hat on and the rain has set in for the next 24 hours according to the WYFF4 Super Doppler HD weather forecast.

Oh joy!

The poor dog has realised that the odds of having a walk today are fast becoming slim to none and is wildly alternating between hyperactive and desolately bored. I know how he feels. Even the baby is fed up.

If the baby was older, today could be the ultimate pyjama day. We (baby, dog & I) could go back to bed and veg out watching TV and eating goodies, curtains closed, blocking out the wind & rain that is battering at the windowpanes. We could bake cakes and make play-doh, paint our nails and do our hair (Bobble especially would love this bit).

But the baby is only 7 months old so it's going to be a while before we can be indulgent together. Instead, I'm trying to appease her with stacking rings and Jumperoos (and even that most favourite of bouncers is in the bad books today!), sing songs and belly tickling.

It's only 10.45am, so unless I'm ready to book myself in for rehab by the end of the day after being cooped up indoors, we will have to venture out at some point. I think it will have to be the Target (oh, wondrous place of wonder!) just for a browse, of course! Or maybe the State Farmers' Market I read about this morning, as long as all the rutabagas are not floating off down the road!


In other news, on reflection (or rather on husband's advice), I have removed my earlier post from Monday night.

In the same way that after writing a letter in anger, you should sleep on it and re-read in the morning before posting because, invariably, in the light of a new day things are not so bad, I should have slept on my post and then kept it to myself.

I would have been mortified if, by some chance, they had read my post as they would have been hurt, upset and bewildered by my outburst, at a time when they should be surrounded by goodwill and love.

Although we have very different parenting styles and outlooks on life and I don't agree with their approach, I do respect it as I would feel very affronted if my child-rearing practices were so openly criticised.

So, the post is now in my drafts, for my eyes only. Case closed.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's Day

Today is the centenary of the formation of International Women's Day. Huzzah to womankind and all her amazing achievements, from the humble stay-at-home mum to world-changing pioneers!

The Guardian newspaper has printed up a list of the Top 100 inspiring women from a wide selection of different categories including the arts, law and campaigning.

Reading the list is truly inspiring and lifts you out of your day-to-day bubble and makes you realise there are women who are dedicating their whole lives to the improvement of the world for us all. My favourites are not those you have necessarily heard of, like Gaga and Oprah, but the 'unsung' heroes with the names that don't grab headlines, like the lawyer Gareth Peirce who has taken on and fought the great miscarriages of justice in history to ensure innocent people remain innocent and free.

Take a look here. Let me know your favourite and who inspires you on a daily basis.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

What's in a name?

Somedays I wonder how on Earth I ended up with such a downright naughty dog.

There's no question Bobble is a beautiful, intelligent and fun animal, but most days he could win a red rosette in World's Most Disobedient Dog. He just willfully ignores any command I give him, unless I append the sentence with 'treat, Bob?'. He is then my best friend. Obv.

But then yesterday I was thinking about this doggie dissention and realised that maybe Bob doesn't understand me. I mean, Bob is American and I am English, we speak two different languages. It's obvious there's a cultural barrier between us. 'Lo!' I hear you cry, 'you both speak English, you must be able to communicate?'

Well, you would think so wouldn't you. But, no.

A case in point: my daughter's name, Imogen - pronunciation Im-oh-jin (stress on the Im)

Now, Imogen is a beautiful (in my opinion), old (16th Century) English name, believed to be derived from a Shakespearean play, no less. So, it's been around for a while; dare I say it, longer than the modern America in which I currently reside.

However, whenever I am out and about with said daughter and someone stops to coo over her and they ask me her name, I may as well have said she is the Direct Child of Satan, she has two heads and one eye for the way in which they look at me after I've said 'Imogen'.

Most people are polite enough to lie and say what a pretty, but unusual name she has and then quickly scuttle off to mull over what a stupid name that baby has. But some people don't have the capacity for tact and will just stare at me and ask 'is that a family name?' which I have learnt is code for saying 'ah, so, you had no choice but to give your child such an ugly, old-fashioned moniker'.

Sometimes, if I can't be bothered, I just say her name is Emma; everyone is happy then; the stranger isn't flummoxed, I don't have to explain 'its English, it's just don't GET it!!' and Imogen is young enough not to understand that her name is not actually Emma.

Maybe I am being unfair, after all, I reside in their country, why should they be aware of an English name and why should they have to be able to understand my accent.

But no, what really gets my goat is the sheer number of ridiculous, made-up names people here give their children. Two names I heard last night from a teacher friend were of twin girls named Frangelica and Frangenica. I mean, COME ON!!!!!!!!! And people don't get Imogen?

I can sense I am spiralling into a rant here, which I didn't intend, so I will stop before I alienate my fellow countrymen and am deported for crimes against baby names.


In other news, my very clever and talented father has had a letter printed in the Financial Times today as the LEAD LETTER! This is a huge achievement.

It's all about Wikileaks and Julian Assange, topics which I am not really up to speed with, as I spend so much time fretting over my daughter's name. I can't do it all, you know!

Anyway, you should all read the letter and marvel in it's cleverness:

Have a great weekend folks!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Flights of follicular fancy

This was Imogen's hairstyle of choice this morning:

If she grows up to be a TV Gladiator in the style of Jet or Panther, at least she has a ready-made fighting name;

Mo by name. The MO-HAWK by nature!

Or, as her father pointed out, she could be a David Beckham hair double. Some tough life choices lie ahead for our Mo.

T.G.I. Friday

Crying baby,
She would not sleep.
Her Mama helped her
count the sheep.

Two o'clock, three o'clock, four o'clock
How is poor Mama now up and alive?


It is Friday.

Mama has wine.


That is all.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Bore off, Mama!

I see that Denise van Outen (UK TV/stage personality) has released a new pregnancy book. I mean, come on, what real advice does she have to offer on the subject. Fair enough, she wants to wring every last penny out of her experience but by all accounts her pregnancy & birth was plain sailing from start to finish, so that begs the question, what's filling the chapters that you can't get from a real pregnancy book like 'What To Expect...'?

I'll tell you what's filling it's dusty pages - a load of sanctimonious, patronising garbage, made to make normal people think Denise is a Goddess (can you tell I don't really like her?).

Since becoming a mother myself, I have become ever more aware of a strange breed of woman, the patronising first-time Mum. I am aware of it because I have felt myself slip into it on more than one occasion and am now trying consciously to stop myself.

Once your pregnancy is well-established and you are clear on your way to 40 weeks, women change. From the fresh-faced, eager pupils of the first trimesters, they become awful, world-weary know-it-alls by the end.

A typical conversation: 'How many weeks are you? 17? Well, just you WAIT until the end. You think your nightime bathroom visits are bad now. You have NO idea. I can't get off the toilet at all anymore. Have you had any pelvic pain yet? Oh, it's awful, just awful. You wait.' etc etc nauseam.

Post-partum pomposity is, if possible, even worse; the woman now even more smug having actually given birth and achieved the supposed pinnacle of her feminine capabilities. Having gone through pregnancy & childbirth and come out the other side, women now feel even better-qualified to preach to the newbie Mums who haven't reached this Promised Land.

It is also at this point where you get the Competitive Mum. We all know at least one and THEY. ARE. DREADFUL. Sometimes you get a Competitive Mum who is also a Patronising Mum. Double urgh!

After the garlic haze lifted yesterday, I decided to drag Mo baby & I to Bouncing Babies down at the library. I thought about putting it off until Thursday, but I would probably want to go even less by then, so I bit the bullet & went.

I go because I know it's good for Imogen to have a variety of experiences, to challenge her senses and social skills. Plus, she needs to see more than just my ugly mug seven days a week. But she doesn't really give a s**t, she just sits on the floor playing with her own toys and she could do this at home, without me having to bother getting showered & dressed etc...

Also, this kind of place is an absolute hotbed for C & P mums; sitting round in a circle on the floor, you can see everybody eyeing each others children up, double-guessing their age & subsequent development. The second thing anybody says to you at these places after Hello is 'How old's your baby?' for the simple purpose of being able to compare their own bundle of love to yours in terms of developmental achievement. Of course, once you've been asked the million dollar question, you have to return the favour and ask them about their child, even though you couldn't give a damn how old Jackson is and whether he had 12 teeth at 6 months or whether he can recite the Russian alphabet backwards yet.

I am pretty sure that this affliction of smugness only occurs in first-time Mums; maybe second time Mums are just too busy, less self-absorbed than the virgin mothers. Whatever it is, I am in the thick of it and am guilty of all the above. Now, when I speak to friends who are expecting, I try to only give 'advice' if it's asked for and try really, really hard not to draw comparisons to my own experiences at every opportunity. After all, every pregnancy & birth is different and the woman going through it should be made to feel special & unique and not inferior because she happens to be a few months behind you in her gestation.


Continuing the baby theme, I happened across a website this week that I found very interesting. When I was pregnant, I had a lot of spare time on my hands and I felt that I researched everything well (at least well for me) and was well-prepared for baby's arrival. However, after reading this website, I wondered what exactly I had been doing with my time as I hadn't heard of or bought hardly any of these things listed that would have improved my life a hundred-fold.

My favourites were the silicone nursing pads, so you can avoid VBPL (visible breast pad lines, of course) and the Adiri bottles which look beautiful. The nursing pillow is a given, EVERY woman should have one, but those stupid nursing aprons are ridiculous. Far from shielding you from people seeing you nurse, you might as well attach a neon sign to your head saying 'I AM BREASTFEEDING! Look at my stupid fake blanket'.

I nursed exclusively for 6 months and only once felt the need to actually feed in public (and it was at the social security office of all places, with no free bathroom). If you're not comfortable feeding in public, go to the bathrooms or in your car or do it at home before you leave. If you are happy to nurse al fresco, just save yourself the precious pennies and use a normal blanket. Simples.

But look, here I am preaching my useless advice like I said I wouldn't, so now I will stop.


Just one more thing to tie up the baby theme of today: I want to send BIG LOVE to our friends B & L who are in the middle of having their baby induced today. I hope it is a fast & straightforward labour and I just can't wait to meet their first child. XXX