Tag Archives: Mom

New dress for Mistress Pink, or, Package tracking as entertainment

Last year, my mother made a [jumper / pinafore] (depending on dialect) dress for Fiona. It was every pink-obsessed little girl’s dream garment, with tier on tier of floral ruffles. From a parental point of view, it’s also very good – corduroy, washable, looks good unironed, long and loose enough that she can wear it for some time before it is too small. Fiona loves it, and has to be wrestled from it when it’s time for a wash.

So in the tail end of the year, with the sewing machine and serger throwing inviting glances her way, Mom asked me if I wanted her to make another one. I thought about it, but Fiona only really needs one obsessive dress, or we’ll run out of shirts and tights to go under it. But I had an idea for the leftover fabric from the first dress. Why not make a matching one for Fiona’s favorite doll, Holly?

Measurements were taken in the dead of night. Guesses were made and rechecked. More measurements were required. Christmas threatened to squat like a toad on the postal services, so the decision was to wait till after New Year’s to send the package. Federal Express then required a crash course in Dutch postcodes (hint: looking at them on the US ZIP code database gets you nowhere). Finally, the thing was sent and all we could do was watch the tracking.

And watch it we did, with versification to keep it entertaining.

On January 3 it arrived in Memphis. Mom commented,

Give me Memphis, Tennessee!
Hep me find the party tried to get in touch with me.
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
Cause m’uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall!

I replied with a mangling of Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis:

Warehoused in Memphis
Would that I could see the sights outside
Warehoused in Memphis
Waiting for my transfer. Where’s my ride?

Then it was sighted leaving Memphis, destination unknown. I found myself humming:

I’m leaving on a jet plane
At last I’m on my way again.
Fedex can ascertain
Where next I’m set to go.

Paris, as it turned out, was the next step. Mom announced this with:

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café

The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring,
And lovers walked beneath those trees and birds found songs to sing.

I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years.
The chorus of their squeaky horns was music to my ears.

Holly’s dress arrived in that most magic of all cities at 8 pm today, January 3.

The first time I saw Paris I was 19 years old. We took a train into town, and we got there at about 6 am. (“We” being Mike Thacker and me.) I walked out onto a bridge over the Seine, and the city was misty and quiet still….the cathedral had been there forever. At that moment I fell in love, as one does at 19, unthinkingly. And forever. I can’t see the real city now, when I go back. All I can see is what I saw in 1965.

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.

I Googled for Paris poetry, and settled on one that starts:

First, London, for its myriads; for its height,
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite;
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths
That lead the heart unto the heart’s delight. . . .

It swiftly became:

First, Piedmont, for the artistry that creates,
Flat Memphis that still Elvis elevates;
But Paris for its far-flung motorways
That bear the dress to where the dresser waits…

Before any more versification or doggerel could be committed, the Fed Ex van arrived here in Oostzaan. Fiona was delighted.


Thanks, Mom, for the dress and the entertainment.

June and lovin’ it

I’m aware that I don’t blog enough. Martin’s always got something new up, and my last log is from March. Sheesh.

The thing is, when it’s winter, I’m struggling to cope with the ordinary demands of life. Commenting on the way things are going, or even standing back far enough to observe how they’re doing, is low on the list. I’m just too tired.

Then summer comes, and I’m doing all the things I couldn’t do during the dark time. And somehow, I get so absorbed in all the things that are going on that once again I can’t step back and describe them. I seem to be too busy.

Now is a good example. My mother’s over for a fortnight, getting her Alex time in. As with my Dad’s visit in January, Martin and I aren’t taking any time off. But we’ve taken Alex out of his nursery for the time she’s over. So I’m being a working Mom, a daughter, and a hostess all at once.

Plus I’m binding her a blank book as a birthday present. We’ve already been to the tannery to pick out the leather for the covers, and I’m most of the way through the bind.

But even when we don’t have visitors, we’re pretty busy. Not that I’m complaining – I only “work” (for pay) 3 days a week. Martin works 4. We both get to spend a lot of time and energy on Alex. On the one hand, it can be hard work – he’s well into toddlerhood, walking all over the place, demanding things to play with, and throwing the odd (brief, mercifully) tantrum when he is denied. On the other hand, time with Alex is tremendously rewarding, whether he’s sitting at his little table typing on a spare keyboard (just like Mom!), or sorting pebbles in the front garden. And he socialises well, riding in the backpack as I go around town or do lunch with family and friends. He’s even helped me with a geocache I’ll be posting soon. There’s a lot of hard work in there, but when he turns to me and gives me a huge kiss, I can’t seem to mind.

The days I spend at work are rewarding as well. I’m in a department I like, working with people I enjoy dealing with, on a steep learning curve. I can even wear black – unlike my previous department, where I felt too gothic, I’m rarely the only one all in black now. There are stressful times, but all in all, I find the work days flying by.

My current hobby – bookbinding – takes up a good deal of time as well. I’m entirely self-taught so far, and after six months I’m finally producing things that I’m willing to give away without apology. They’re still not perfect, but I no longer feel my recipients are being charitable by taking the books I bind. I bind for the pleasure of making things, of creating something beautiful. Being able to give them away is a bonus, and keeps me from drowning in blank and rebound books.

And somewhere in there, in hugs at the sink and long chats after the lights are out at night, I still have time to be amazed at the man I married. We spend a lot more time as comrades in nappies rather than smitten lovers now, but watching the way he delights in Alex is just another way of falling in love with him.

So this is a busy time, but every aspect of it holds some reward. And I have to get my joy in quick, like a grasshopper, before the winter pares me back to the bare minimum.

Breastfeeding thoughts

Breastfeeding thoughts at 6:30am: musing on my mother’s visit…

She’s a really good houseguest. Eats what’s served, even if it’s a “funny food” (we served something which contained eggplant, and she ate it without a murmur). Doesn’t clutter up the common space more than she can avoid it (apart from the banana peel on the sofa – but she quit that when I asked). Helps with whatever needs another pair of hands, from changing the baby to vacuuming the house. Flows with it, enjoys what’s going on. She even came with a present: the most beautiful portrait of me. (click on the picture to see a bigger version)


We talked about being “junior Mom”, a role we have both held as teenaged elder sisters, vs being “senior Mom”. In a curious role reversal, she was being junior Mom to my senior Mom. This is the true Way of the Grandparent, though few practice it.

What does being junior Mom mean? It means pitching in without trying to run the show. Making the no-brainer decisions that keep the scene running (the baby needs changing, let me just get these dishes out of the way, how about the blue overalls?), but keeping out of the controlling ones (when shall we feed him? is this trip going to interrupt his nap?). You have to do this even when you think the senior Mom is getting it wrong. As Mom pointed out, this is a lot easier if the junior Mom thinks the senior Mom is doing a good job.

I am fortunate in all of my son’s grandparents, who are good at the role of junior Mom. I hope they think he is fortunate in having me as the senior Mom.

Post matrem

Written as a daylog in Everything2, my on-line community:


Feeling pretty flat right now. My mother, who has been over for a fortnight, has just left. M, B and I drove her to the airport this morning. M dropped us off – he had to get to work – but B and I lingered with her until the very last minute.

It was a great visit. Our relationship has changed since I got pregnant. At last, after 31 years, I am a real adult in her eyes. She didn’t mean to treat me as less than an equal before B came along; she didn’t even realise that a closer relationship was possible. Since her own mother died shortly after my elder brother’s birth, she had never seen how it could be.

Of course, it was also hard having someone around for two weeks while we do the baby work. She helped out, but as a guest, she had a certain claim on our time and energy. We even took her – and B – on a day trip to Amsterdam (EasyJet flies there cheaply and often). All I want to do now is stay at home and pull the drawbridge up.

Still, it was hard to see her go. We bummed around the airport for the maximum possible time, sitting in the cafe, buying presents for the family back in California, chatting to the shop assistants about B, and finally sitting down on a bench by departures and talking quietly. Then waving her off at the “Passengers Only” sign and the long bus ride back home.

A further disappointment awaited me, like a sting in the tail. I’ve been in touch with H, a woman living nearby, first to reassure her about getting a C-section, then trying to support her in breastfeeding. Scottish culture is profoundly ambivalent about breastfeeding babies – the health service promotes it, but very few new mothers make it work. H is a case in point – she was determined to breastfeed her baby. Then, deep in the baby blues, she started doubting that the baby was getting enough milk. So when I called her today to ask how things were going, she admitted she’d changed to formula feeding. I was nice – she’s made her decision, and there’s no point kicking her about it.

Even as a Californian, from a culture where breastfeeding is ingrained, I was vaguely worried in the first weeks. Bottle-feeding mothers can see how much their babies are eating. And since a newborn’s stomach is the size of a walnut, there’s very little perceptible difference between the breast before and after feeding. The contrast between even a full breast and an empty one pales in comparison to the huge engorgement that happens when the milk comes in. I got through that time on faith in the natural system, based on having seen it work. H had no such basis for confidence. She didn’t want to starve her baby out of a stubborn desire to breastfeed.

Now I’m sitting here, B fussing on my lap (he has mild colic), my mother’s forgotten hat visible on the coat rack by the door.


For the last day of

For the last day of the visit, we went to Craigmillar Castle, one of Edinburgh’s undiscovered treasures. And a good site for portraiture. (click on the picture to see a bigger version)


Are we crazy, or what?

Are we crazy, or what?

A day trip to Amsterdam with a baby
Click on the pictures below for larger versions.

One dad, one son, one airport – arriving in Holland.

Mom, Martin and B crossing a canal.

Look! a tourist!

Quick, take a photo.

Mom, Abi and B at the end of a long and Dutch day.

Thank you, Mick and Sarah, for the loan of the baby pack. I can’t picture doing this any other way…