Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quite a surprise!

Much to my surprise this afternoon, Jocey started to walk with the help of Lauren's toy cart.  We've tried on several occasions to get her to do this but always failed before as she didn't seem to know what to do.  However, over the last couple of weeks I've noticed her get steadier on her feet.

So imagine how thrilled I was to see her do this today!  She was clearly very pleased with herself too.

Lauren was much slower to get up and walk but then was premature and not as sturdy as Jocey.  Obviously, Jocey also has Lauren as a role model to copy and follow.  I've noticed that Jocey gets increasingly frustrated with staying still; she obviously wants to be up and running with Lauren around the house.

I honestly can't wait to see it!

There are more videos of Jocey's first steps here.

Lauren's three 3rd birthday parties

Lauren had three 3rd birthday celebrations, even more than the Queen.  Her first birthday bash was held in the last weekend that my parents were in London, exactly one week before her actual birthday.  She was so happy!

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My mum insisted on getting a really nice cake for her from one of the cake shops in Chiswick - this chocolate one got the thumbs up from everyone.  Here I am with the birthday girl and her cake.

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Here's all of us around the cake.  I think Jocey was quite keen to get started on the eating bit!

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The candles were the ones that spontaneously relight; she was really puzzled by it all but dutifully tried blowing the candles out each time.  After four such attempts, Daddy doused the candles with water as everyone was dying to try the cake!

Here's birthday girl with birthday cake.

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Lauren then took a cake in to her nursery for her classmates on the Friday before her birthday.  However, she wouldn't let them cut it for some reason (maybe because she liked it so much; it was in the shape of a little piggy) and they are planning to have the cake tomorrow.

On the actual day of her birthday last weekend, Jason's parents and Aunty Madge came to stay with us.  They made her feel really special and made a big fuss over her, which she loved.

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I baked a vanilla sponge cake with vanilla butter icing and strawberry jam in the middle.  It was a huge success (thanks to a very simple Jane Asher recipe) and possibly the lightest sponge I've baked for some time.  I was really pleased with it and I think Lauren was also suitably impressed!

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After the candle was blown out (a normal one this time), she helped me cut the cake and she dived into the first slice.

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Jocey also happily tucked into birthday cake with Grandma!

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Lauren clearly had a wonderful time at each birthday celebration.  I can't believe my little girl is three years old!

Child's play

I've noticed that Lauren has developed real "play" in the last year. When she was little, she explored things but her attention span was too short to really stay with anything for long and I could see that imaginative play didn't really happen. However, during the course of this year, she started doing the "pretend" stuff and it has become increasingly complex in nature.

Currently, her two favourite pretend games are putting her dollies and animals to "sleep" and going "shopping". The putting to bed ritual involves changing pretend nappies, feeding, burping and then tucking into bed (bizarrely always face down - I think she gets this from nursery where I've observed they tend to sleep them on their fronts or their sides. I've tried to tell Lauren that she should put her dollies to sleep on their backs, but maybe that's just me being too serious and bringing my doctor role home!). She then sits next to them for long periods of time patting them on their backs and telling me "Shush, Mummy. Babies sleeping!". I love watching her do this.

Shopping involves taking her little pink handbag and asking us what we need. I give her a list of things to get and she trundles off to her imaginary shop to pick them up, sometimes with Babies in tow. She always returns to put the imaginary fruit or vegetables in my hand at the end of it.

She also plays with Jocey, although Jocey isn't always sure of how to play with Lauren yet. Here are the two girls in our beach tent, which I erect in the garden on sunny days.

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I think sometimes they get a bit frustrated with each other because Jocey doesn't understand what Lauren wants to do and Lauren thinks that Jocey isn't playing "properly". However, the vast majority of the time they seem to be happy together and clearly love each other very much.

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Their current favourite game together is jumping on our bed. Lauren runs upstairs, clambers on and starts trampolining on our bed. I take Jocey up and bounce her up and down as if she were trampolining too. This is always accompanied by gales of laughter. It always finishes with the two of them "falling over" in a very exaggerated way. Jocey even does the flopping back on my bed when Lauren is not there now and bursts into laughter when she does.

I can't help laughing too, even though I know the springs stick out a bit more on my bed now...

Family life

In some ways I think the title is slightly ironic as at the moment it is a constant struggle to have a family life.  I find I am trying so hard to get the balance between work and family right but still finding myself working 11 to 12 hour days.  People tell me that I must be doing something "wrong" but unfortunately I suspect it's just that I care too much about things to leave stuff undone.

Despite all this my girls seem happy and well adjusted; proof of the robustness of children and that working parents often beat themselves up over things too much.  I suspect that the person who loses out the most is not them (as when I am at home they have 100% of my time and we have happy Tuesdays together) but me.  I find myself frequently exhausted, a situation not improved by the fact that I am still up between 2 and 5 times a night with the girls.  There are times when I get up for work and wonder how I will make it through the day as I am so worn out.  Happily, I tend to get my second wind in the afternoon; I have never been a "mornings" person.

All that does not mean that I accept my lot in life; I am determined to find a way to improve my work-life balance.  I long for the time when I can go home at a reasonable time and spend time with the girls like everyone else is entitled to.  I don't think that it will ever happen in London though.  The quality of life here is truly awful; the only people who think living in London is good are either people who are a bit bonkers or who don't have to live here.

Despite this, there are times when you experience islands of calm in the stormy seas.  My parents were down staying with us for just over 2 weeks at the end of July and beginning of August.  They were here to help out Jason and Charlotte with their new baby George.  However, they somehow found the time to help us out too and we really enjoyed having them here with us.

We held a dinner at our house for Jason, Charlotte, George and Charlotte's parents to welcome the new baby into the family.  It was a glorious evening and we had the doors to the garden open the whole night.

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I think everyone genuinely had a great time; we all talked and laughed and enjoyed good food.  We also had the opportunity to spend a little time with the new arrival too.

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Here I am with Lauren, giving George a cuddle.

Below is my Mum and Dad with all their grandchildren.

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Children make the entire struggle worthwhile.  I am so thankful every day that I have my beautiful girls to come home to.