Him. And Me. And them. Us.

posted on: Saturday, 29 May 2010

My husband (Mr Lou as he has been named) and I have been together since I was 18 years old and he was 22. He and I grew up on the same street; he lived at number 4 and I lived at number 5. We have been married for over ten years now, together for eighteen. I have so few adult memories that he was not a part of. We got together the first term I spent at University. But he lived in our home town and I travelled back and forth and we did the long distance thing for a few years.

A best friend, L, who was my bridesmaid and who has known us both since our first unplanned date told me to read back on this post about our two children, a girl and a boy and their characteristics. It was to see how much it actually described my husband and I.

I wrote this without any thought - it's what struck me first when I thought him and me:

Sturdy build, dependable, strong.
Smells like freshly washed cotton.
At a party, always always the last to go home.
The first to invite everyone and anyone back to our house - Mr Hospitality.
Fit, muscular, did I mention strong?
Charming, funny, sharp-witted.
Outrageous - I worry who gets seated next to him at dinner parties, as he offends!
Full of integrity.
Responsible (most of the time!).
Messy, mucky.
Sport-watcher, sport-player, all things sport.

Gangly, long-limbed.
Smells like Diptique Fig perfume.
Early to bed. Bed lover.
Obsessive planner.
Dry wit.
Big on etiquette.
Erudite, intellectual, well-read.
Sentimental, nostalgic.
Glass is half empty.
Stalwart friend.
Deep and meaningful.
Trashy TV watcher.

I thought, surely not, I am sure it does not bear a close resemblance. Does the apple really fall that far from the tree? Have we created two new 'mini-me's'? And for us, do opposites always attract?!

1950's family frolicks...

Hell hath no fury...like an anonymous commenter

posted on: Thursday, 27 May 2010

What is the deal with anonymous blog commenters? Not the nice ones, they are ticketyboo...I mean the rare nasties. I have seen a few examples of anonymous venom being dripped and wonder what drives people to do that? Seems odd to me. I do understand that sometimes you have an urge to say something, but why not just say it and be open and known about it? Say what you feel. But put your name behind it!

In the last few months these blogs (that I have seen; I am sure there are many more) have been touched by anonymous commenters of vitriol. Diary of a Yummy Mummy, who was told she looked old in a post that featured a photo of herself. Kasey at Lola B's, who provoked a disproportionately strong reaction with her April Fools post that someone didn't quite 'get'. Mrs A in the Cove whose pain-staking and beautiful house renovation was poo-pooed by an anonymous commenter. And then Little Emma English Home who was told by an anonymous commenter that she had plagiarised another blogger's pictures. Bizarre. I love especially that Ziara from Little Emma English Home had to slip into her Italian mother tongue to publish a responsive rant to the comment! Sometimes only that will do. When delivering a riposte what better language than Italian to do it in? Although I don't know Ziara well at all, I imagine her typing away and pausing every now and then for a hand gesture and flailing of arms ;-)

So what is it? I do acknowledge that blog commenting is a strange sport and can feel a bit like making friends in the school playground. You know where little girls say 'I like that and this and I like your shoes and I like your hair and I like your Barbie and I like your rucksack and I like your smile' etc etc. We all like a lot of the same stuff; that's a given. Plus sometimes there are parallel posts where pictures are used and you get that distinct sensation that you've seen it somewhere before. That's just a spooky coincidence.

For what it's worth, I have a live and let live philosophy in life. People make their choices, they do their thing. I agree in some cases, in others I don't. If I don't agree I generally keep that opinion to myself as I would rather be respectful and polite than confrontational and mean-spirited. That's just me. As I always say it's whatever floats your boat...just be kind.

P.S. Hello to Amelia...my 100th follower :-)

Kitchen table posy...

posted on: Wednesday, 26 May 2010

I have a lovely friend at work; she is a colleague but equally we have known each other for years and she is a true friend, a kindred spirit. I have mentioned her before here. So, she reads my blog and often tells me how bizarre it is to witness the public Louise vs. the one she knows and sees each week. This seems to be a commonly held perception amongst the few friends to whom I have confessed my blog. They find it surreal that I have this public persona of 'Lou of Lou, Boos and Shoes'! Of course it's all me, but I guess the point is that the me that gets published on my blog is usually the best version of myself. That Louise is the one who lives the charmed life of blonde children, tousled curls, home cooking, a childhood sweetheart, a pretty farmhouse, jam jars of garden flowers sitting on the kitchen table.

That is me. It is a charmed life, for sure....but it also has it's unperfect sides. I note that when blogging that there is this concept of presenting your 'best self' to the anonymous world as who wants to read about people's day-to-day worries and strife? We all have enough worries of our own without the need to take on those of others.

However I also see that when I do share a worry, the world answers back to say 'it's OK...don't worry; [crucially] you are normal'. So whilst I do have a posy of flowers on my kitchen table, these are my worries of the day:

I am working on a project that is stretching me in every direction, challenging every bit of professional experience and integrity I have. In a way it's exhilarating, but at the same time just plain frightening.

I am not doing enough reading with my kids - blame the above project - blame the single parent Monday to Fridays, but whatever, homework is not coming high on the evening agenda.

My constantly messy house bothers me just a tad too much.

I am coveting a certain pair of patent shiny new shoes and I must not spend the money. As in Must Not.

I am delinquent in catching up with old friends. Some in particular - if you read this I promise I will do better... :-)

There might be a life-changing opportunity on the horizon for us as a family. Instead of being excited I am terrified. Change and me are not comfortable bed fellows...

In times of worry I find the best thing is to just look out the window, concentrate on something pretty, distract the mind, try to let it go... I hear from my new friend that optimism is the new black!

Images via it's mary ruffle


posted on: Wednesday, 19 May 2010

I have been to see the homeopath today. I posted on this once before...it's not something I have really been into until this past year, when I thought I would try it out. The concept of homeopathy is all about achieving balance. It's about describing your symptoms and how you feel about them and then from that, homeopathic remedies are prescribed. It has a lovely apothecary feel to it...

It's a little bit alternative.

I am open to new things, and find the actual process so interesting. I see this lady who is very quiet and mild-mannered and she listens intently to every word I say and then consults her giant leather-bound homeopathy books. I come away with these tiny white pills that I am instructed to take at intervals. Even when I think there is nothing really the matter with me, she can draw out what I am feeling in a quite startling way. Today we talked alot about how I felt about my daughter and how her worries became my worries. We talked alot about teeth - don't get me started. We talked about modern life and stress and balance.

I was explaining how busy I have been and the pressure I put on myself to manage every element of my life to the highest degree. Work, house, wife-ing, Mummy-ing; staying on top of it all, all the time. She said '...what would happen if you didn't do all of that?' I stuttered '...well that would be bad.' She said '...what would happen?' I hesitated, not sure what exactly would happen. What would happen? Ummm, I would not excel at work. OK. The house would be untidy. OK. My husband might not have his dinner cooked. OK. The kids might be 5 minutes late for school. OK.

Would any of the above prompt the end of the world? No.

So - it's thought-provoking, for sure. Why all the pressure? Why not just chill?

I know I have said this before, but exactly what is it that is driving me on? I suspect deep down that it is all me and not the dozen other external factors that I think it is. Maybe I should just sit still for a while and just...be.

images from are so happy

'Blog-shaped hole'...

posted on: Tuesday, 18 May 2010

So bear with me while I explain this analogy. There is a fairly well-known book by a British writer called Allison Pearson called 'I Don't Know How She Does It'. Aside from the fact that the book is a bit of an ode to my life - working mother, school-run guilt, two children; a girl and boy, there is a description in it that always stuck with me. In the book the heroine has a virtual 'fling' with a work colleague and she describes him as a hole in her life that she didn't know needed filling, until she filled it with him.

This, rather bizarrely is how I think of blogging.

Before now, I never knew there was a blog-shaped hole in my life. But blogging has been like putting a mirror up to everything...it has made me think. Alot. And in a good way...

I have told very few people about my new habit. I still consider myself a new blogger. I still think it's surreal that a bunch of people 'follow' me. I still delight in the new and very lovely friends I have made. I still feel quite pleased with myself when I publish a good (in my opinion) post. I still LOVE getting comments (a little too much I suspect!).

I still marvel at how much cleverness and beauty there is lurking in the blog world and consider how close I came to completely missing out on it. I still love that when I think of something to say, there is someone to say it to. I still think it's cool that friends drop by and say 'hi'. I still am struck by how nice it is to write again...haven't done that, for fun, since school.

I love that I can appreciate the seasons from the other side of the world as my blogging friends describe them (when it's Spring here, it's Autumn in Australia). I love that there are now some blogs I have discovered which I can liken to reading a really good book or getting my favourite magazine delivered in the post.

I  think most of all that it's just lovely that anyone is interested in me and my baggage! Long may it last...

Boo's day...

posted on: Tuesday, 11 May 2010

In some areas of life I have mental strength. I am consistently strict with my kids about manners, bedtime and saying 'please and thank you'. I have the bizarre resolve to tidy my house over and over and over again, despite the fact I am the only one who seems to care. In my job I may repeatedly explain the relevance of 'vicarious liability' (that one's for you Natasha!) to corporate executives and manage to make it sound interesting. If there is a pair of shoes I really want, I will 'think think think' about them like Winnie the Pooh on his thinking spot until there is nothing left to do but purchase them...

There have been times in the past, in darker days, when I have had the strength to think myself happy. My friend P and I used to say we circled the 'black hole' in those darker days (I am talking newborn babies and zero sleep) and peered just over the edge into the abyss, only to find the resolve to turn and walk away rather than to leap in. So that black hole became just a little, much less significant dot behind me.

But there are other areas where the strength vanishes and I turn to mush. My husband has the capacity to turn me to mush for lots of other reasons... But the key thing for upsetting the cart is the happiness (or unhappiness) of the Boos. If they are not happy, frankly life just doesn't work for me. This is hardly new news; most mothers would say the same about their respective Boos.

But these past weeks the mush-making capacity has come to the forefront. Not in a dramatic, life-threatening way; just in a peripheral, 'be aware' sort of way. My daughter is away and the anxiety of being away from home affected Boo in a way that made her completely not herself.

So today I get my girl back...

Today is her 9th birthday. But she is not here! I sit here this morning, but not with an excited birthday wake-up of tousled, morning hair and hastily unwrapped presents! She returns later from being away for the first time in her little life and can I just say: Oh Dear God, how much I have missed her! To have my Boo not at home on her birthday...well it's like my universe is out of kilter.

So I will this afternoon welcome home my darling, vibrant, funny, beautiful 9 year old daughter on her birthday and delight in getting my girl back...her old happy self.

Cupcake fairies...

posted on: Friday, 7 May 2010

Do you recall that scene in 'Titanic' where the ship-maker chap eases himself onto the lifeboat, even though it's reserved for women and children, and his face is just a picture of shame? On a magnificiently smaller level I had my own 'walk of shame' this week. Picture this: my children's school; a requirement to bring undecorated cupcakes, to be iced as part of a special visit, from a well-known British TV programme. I had not had time to make my cupcakes. By the time I had remembered to even get said cupcakes, Waitrose (lovely grocers) was shut. Cupcakes were purchased from the local corner shop which stocks every imaginable item on its packed shelves as long as it's the long-life version. Cupcakes could have walked out on their own considering the amount of preservatives they had in them.

Whilst I was hoping to drop off cupcakes at school in secrecy, I instead ran straight into the uber mother. This mother is a cupcake master. Her cupcakes (nestled sweetly in gingham wrappers in a Nigella cake tin) were the talk of the school at the summer fair. In one glance she heralded in me that spine-tingling motherly shame of having brought shop-bought cupcakes. Why oh why did I not make my own? Why did I not (even better) enlist the help of my Mum, who is another cupcake extraordinaire to make some for me?

Why is it that these little things have that way of making me feel - like I could have done better? Hmm sensing a theme here - see previous post! Another mother commiserated and said '...yes, but you are working...' as if that excused my lapse. The thing is, even if I weren't working I may still have forgotten this crucial activity.

So to all you wonderful cupcake makers out there (there is atleast one I know of here) - next time I have a need like this...can I please enlist your help? Maybe we could get some shipped in? I'm sure they travel well...I think I need a lifeboat ;-)

Country girl...

posted on: Tuesday, 4 May 2010

So we went for a walk by the river. The same river that I used to walk by as a child, just near the place where I grew up. You see, I have lived in this town since I was five years old. When I was about eleven, I guess, I would go on my bike (a boy's 'chopper' bike, it was black and could carry two with ease!) with my best friend and we would paddle in this river, spending hours catching newts and playing 'pooh sticks'. Now I take my children there and we do the same, some twenty five years later. It's lovely and poignant.

I am a country girl at heart. I do love cities, love visiting them, seeing the life and the buzz of it, but on the whole I am much happier walking rolling hills. Whenever I go to London I am stunned at how many people there are, how much activity; where are they all going? Day or night it's awash with people. I am always struck at the fact that this vibrant city-life is taking place all the time whilst I am snuggled up in my 'country mouse' dwelling, far from the madding crowd.

I wonder - should I participate more in it? Instead I live vicariously through lovely blogs like the delectable Emily's London Zest which points to coffee bars and florists and shops that I might never see.

I realise how times have changed since my childhood. I would disappear all day then, back in time for tea; roaming around in woods and by rivers. Never alone, but from my recollection not with adults. Now - would I allow my daughter to do that? Not in a million years! But for my children to have the chance to re-trace my footsteps is quite special and rare in this world. They just do so with me by their side...brimming with nostalgia all the way.

How pretty is she?

After she's gone...

posted on: Sunday, 2 May 2010

You know how you have some friendships where you stay friends, despite distance or life changes or differing opinions? And no matter how long its been since you saw each other, you just slip back in the comfortableness of friendship when you catch up? And then there are those other friendships where, even though at one time in your life you were as close as can be, you then drifted and instead when you see each other there is that awkwardness. Where you both realise that whatever it was that made you friends has now passed?

I had a friendship with someone years back, and now I don't see her anymore. Over time, something just went wrong with us. She was one of those friends who, in the nicest possible way, was like a wolf in sheep's clothing. There was alot of sweetness and light but deep down, she disapproved of me and what I was about and so every now and then these barbs would come out. When you have friends who you can grow with, there can be acknowledgement that you are different people, but that's OK as there is respect for that difference. But disapproval is a more complex thing.

With her there was this weightiness associated with the 'pleasantries' of friendship that I reserve for acquaintances instead of good friends. By this I mean for example, correspondence, thank you notes, thank you notes for thank you notes; that spiralling etiquette of women, where forgetting a coffee morning, or a belated birthday wish for one of the children or not being quick enough to respond to an email becomes more defining than the friendship itself. She used to make me feel like a bad person. When really I was just a naive young working mother, struggling to find my new place in life.

So in the end, we gradually extracted ourselves from knowing each other well. Over time we were less obliged to continue.

I now surround myself with friends who make me feel good about myself and who don't fret if I miss a date in calendar... and that's just so much better. Really I have learned, life's too short for anything else... :-)


posted on: Saturday, 1 May 2010

If you want children...I always think your family will shape up how its meant to; it's fate. By this I mean whether you have boys or girls, summer babies or winter babies, close together or years apart, an only child, no children and much-loved dogs or cats. Every family has its own story; some families come effortlessly, others after painful waiting and enormous effort. When I see families with say, three or four little girls, I do wonder how lovely that must be, all frothy, girly pink, ballet bags, ribbons and long hair.

Then I see families with all boys and its outdoorsy, muddy, all sport kit and scuffed walls and that happy 'boys will be be boys' feeling.

I see families with lots of children - like four or five. To me the prospect of looking after four children is, honestly, frightening. I simply can't imagine it; I think in the way that before you have kids, you can't quite imagine what life would be like with kids. I have huge admiration for big families and an envy. To have brothers and sisters, older and younger (I have one older brother). I can see how wonderful it must be to grow up with lots of siblings, all looking out for each other (and jostling for attention).

For our little family, we have one of each. A boy and a girl; so its neither all pink nor all blue. Brother and sister. We are out of the baby stage now and can see what life looks like on the other side. I do feel at peace now.

For those who struggle to fall pregnant, I always think it's the hardest part. When you long for a baby, time is the enemy - every month that passes is an endurance, like one big missed opportunity, but on repeat. Time stretches out and I sometimes wish I could say to those prospective mothers - it's OK, this is how fate will have it for you. Your family will shape up in the way its meant to and if that means a long wait for your first, so be it. Or a big age-gap with your second, so be it. Just one child or three. And for some maybe a fourth...

I know though that in reality these words don't mean much...as nothing can take away that ache. But for friends who go through this, I do so wish the ache would go away and fate would play its part...

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