Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The colour of love

Recently I had reason to call the Clairol hair dye hotline number. You know the one printed on the incredibly detailed instructions leaflet. For years I genuinely believed it to be a ghost number, or at the very least, one of those automated phone maze nightmares that goes nowhere except to elevate your blood pressure. But low and behold, after only two or so number pressing options, I got through to a real live person.

Theresa sounded bored. I imagined her sitting alone, in a factory-sized call centre somewhere in the desert (cheap rent), with every other desk empty. She'd be well dressed, with full makeup, holding her handbag - the only person to man the phones since no one ever calls that number anyway. Well, no one but me that is.

The presenting problem was that the 'medium auburn' shade in their Natural Instincts Creme range, didn't come out so much medium auburn as it did raspberry. And I'll be dammed, if after the fact, I didn't look at the top of the pack and see it actually says 'Raspberry Creme/Medium Auburn.' Not on the front by the good looking airbrushed model where it only says '23R Medium Auburn', but on the top! Which bloody genius came up with that I'd like to know? And I'll go further, your honour, and ask, in what way does the colour raspberry have anything to do with the hair shade auburn? 

I had visions of turning out looking like Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic, or Charlotte Rampling in Stardust Memories (although it was shot in black and white so who knows what her real colour was?), or vintage Jane Fonda (her Hanoi Jane days) - but not actual raspberry. And trust me, it was raspberry. 'Good lord, I've royally screwed up my hair this time,' I thought to myself. And there is a lot of hair to screw up at the moment, what with it nearly reaching to the small of my back.

Before I left England I texted my lovely stylist Ross and asked him what the store-bought equivalent of my colour was so I could DIY it. I mean, who doesn't trust a cheap off the shelf solution over a myriad of qualified professionals in New York right? Well, er, stupid me that is, on some illogical level. I don't know what I was thinking. In London I would never dream of doing my own hair colour because, well, it could turn out raspberry and there is a lot of it. I think we covered this already. So maybe I was swept up with the romantic atmosphere that is the K-Mart hair dye aisle and I thought 'What the hell?' But Ross wisely advised me that I should avoid a DIY job, and he would send me the colour spec to pass on to a NY stylist.  He didn't, but then I forgot to remind me, or ask him, or whatever.

So back to Theresa. Theresa, in her bored 'I'm the only person in this creepy Mexican call centre factory' voice, asked me if my hair was lighter or darker than a glass of red wine. Me: 'Well which wine in particular? Merlot, Shiraz, or perhaps a fence sitting slightly loose on morals Rose? And what year?' OK, so I didn't ask her that. Theresa didn't strike me as one who wanted to discuss vintage versus drinkable, and she genuinely sounded like someone who wanted to get back to the serious business of being bored.

Eventually we established the exact hue my hair had turned out; Me: "Um, well, it's kind of violet, but more magenta than a true orange red, and it's well, it's not quite purple, but it's sort of pinkish, but more on the red side of pinkish." Sheesh.  If the eejit that is me had looked on the top of the box as opposed to just the front, well I would never have used it in the first place. But, in the real world, if I had looked at the top of the box I would have realised that the product had indeed done exactly what it had said on the box, and that I wouldn't need to fish around for pantone adjectives. My hair was, quite accurately, raspberry. Evidently Theresa had had more than one person call her in her experience of being the hotline hair dye screw up adviser, and she cut to the chase. She advised me to get another specified shade, mix all the components with an equal amount of shampoo (any shampoo she answered), and keep it in for 10 minutes or so but checking it every 3 or so minutes.

You may be surprised to learn that I have not taken her advice. Not because I don't believe she is qualified enough in the area of 'holy shit this is not the colour on the model on the box', field of expertise,  but  right now I am employing the 'rather the raspberry devil you know than the total f**k up you may know' kind of thinking. The good news is that it's a 28 washes out kind of thing, and as I wash my hair every day, I'm living in hope. Or rather, I'm hoping that it washes out of my hair better than it does out of my towels, which still resemble a rag in a butcher's shop. I have also booked the first available appointment with my stylist back in London to try and remedy the situation. I can see him looking at me with genuine pity, but not saying anything. He will try and be upbeat about the whole thing, but I know that deep in his heart, after our nine year relationship, he'll feel as though something has fundamentally changed between the two of us. It reminds me of that fantastic movie Steel Magnolias where Dolly Parton's character says, "Never trust a woman who does her own hair."

Today at the Children's Museum of the East End, a nanny asked me to keep any eye on a brother and sister that were sharing the table with my two at lunch, while she nipped to the loo. I asked the inconceivably beautiful boy (think model/air stewardess mother and millionaire father, or the other way around) what his name was. "Noah," he said in a nonchalant voice, blinking at me through his shaggy white-blonde hair with big blue eyes. This kid was already cool and has a whole bunch of coolness in his future, I could tell. His equally beautiful little sister piped in, "And I am Ella. He is six and I am three. We also have a bigger brother who is eight." Me: "Ah, and where is he today? Noah: Nonchalantly (of course), "Playing golf. This is one of the days he plays golf. He plays golf twice a week." Me: "Of course, as one does."

At the risk of generalising (so much fun and so much easier to support ones weak to begin with argument) a lot of women around here, including the mother of Noah and Ella and their golf-playing sibling I bet, are blond. Which of course serves as a painful reminder of how lovely my professionally salon coiffed blond streaked hair used to be before I screwed it up with my DIY crappy raspberry debacle.  But I digress. And they are also very thin and muscular. OK, so I have never been really thin and muscular - which saves a clever anecdotal comparison in this respect. Also they are usually in gym clothes, which may have something to do with a phenomenon, because that's what Vanity Fair are dubbing it, called SoulCycle around here. 

Basically a spinning class in a barn in Bridgehampton, with a sort of hotbox yoga temperature going on. But wait, there's more! The instructor shouts out motivational stuff to you while you are sweating like a madman. Things like: 'Be the same person you are on the outside as you are on the inside!' and 'Buy buy buy, sell, sell, buy!' (OK this last one not really). Apparently everyone gets into this heady psychobabble trance while losing half their body fat and getting buns of steel, and it's the most popular and sought after thing on the planet that is New York right now. And made even more so because as with most really really clever marketing ploys, they make it really really hard to get a place in the class, and really really pricey. Which, let's face it, rich people love. Really expensive and really exclusive. Genius.

Our house is on a busy road, which used to really bother me, but now, amazingly, I find the noise rather comforting, especially late at night. I'll hear a lone car whizz past and I imagine it's driver sitting there in the dark with the lights flashing across his face. A hamburger (cheese and bacon, naturally) on the seat next to him, a large coke in the drink holder, and something like Hendrix, but with a beat, playing on the radio. He is off on some or other cool mission. Like returning to a warm bed and an equally warm and sleepy unsuspecting girlfriend after months on an oil rig. Or perhaps off somewhere to reclaim a piece of land won in a half-forgotten poker game by a long lost grandfather. Yup, you can see I'm really mainlining Americana.

But I do find it comforting. It reminds me of a few years back being in Japan with my husband on the 30 somethingth floor of a hotel and waking up in the middle of the night in the midst of an earthquake. Our hotel was swaying, and the building opposite was swaying, and we were filled with the unquestionable certainty that we were going to die. And then, for some strange reason, I looked down, and I saw cars on the street below. And their lights were on, and they were driving along, and I thought, 'OK, so there are cars, and people driving those cars, so it's OK, we are going to be OK.' Now I realise this 2 plus 2 equals 9 manner of thinking can land you in all sorts of trouble. But you know, in this instance, it was kind of essential if the choice of expiration was between only the potential of being swallowed by a crack in the floor, and the certainty of self induced neurotic heart failure. At least that's my thinking. 

There's been all this talk about this crazy woman dubbed Tiger Mom. She wrote this book and contentious article about how Chinese mothers kick ass with their children which is why they do so much better at school, the violin, chess, etc. Her tone is superior, defensive, and well, crazy, so a lot of people disregard her off the bat. I tried to withhold knee jerk judgement and read the article, and there are bits and pieces that weren't all that bad, in and amongst the borderline abusive crazy that is. I think what stuck with me is that you have to kick a bit of ass with your kids sometimes, to you know, get them to do stuff and develop into human beings with some motivation and aspirations that extend beyond a desire to watch Dora the Explorer all day. And there is something to be said for instilling a work ethic. Even Hemingway, a functional or dysfunctional alcoholic, depending on how your view his work, never drank while he was writing and allocated morning till, probably cocktail hour, where he sat down and wrote come hail or high water.

Another article, by a much less crazy person, supports the well documented and tested argument that children should not be told how smart they are, but rather that tasks are achievable through hard work. In several experimental scenarios, the sample group who are told they are 'smart' lose confidence with increasingly difficult puzzles and don't even want to attempt them because they don't want to risk losing their status as being smart. Whereas the other group tackled the tough tasks with a lot of success. The article also had a massive impact on me (because I am guilty of it) because it discusses how people effectively rob young children of their yearned-for autonomy.

My son, at just over two, is incredibly independent. He will shout and scream if you try and do something for him, "I do it, I do it, I do it!!!" From buckling himself into his stroller, to walking down the stairs, to brushing his teeth, to eating, to well, everything except dressing himself (for now). My daughter at this age was the same. Now some people muscle right over their  kids and do stuff for them anyway, because, well, it saves time and mess, and its done 'right'. And I wonder at what point children have their instinctive independent spirit broken and think to themselves, 'You know, what the hell, it's not worth the fight. Let them feed me/brush my teeth/ put my shoes on.' Fast forward 30 or so years, and people are scratching their heads wondering why their son won't leave home and still asks his parents for petrol money.

I too muscled over my kids a lot of the time until I read the article, and it had such an impact on me that I not only stopped doing it, I have since increasingly encouraged them to do things for themselves. And here's the really cool science bit of it, they are not only up to the challenge but often do stuff that totally surprises me. The other day, without me ever having asked him to, my two year old son got home, took off his shoes, and took them to the hall closet and put them away with all the other shoes. He has done it every day since. My daughter now sings to her brother at night ( they share a room while we are on holiday), which means he no longer gets out of bed like a Jack in the box. Thanks to her  my husband and I have our evenings back - praise the lord!!!

It's like kids have this instinctive need to do things on their own so they can learn and grow, and if you encourage it, they go on to do even cooler things all of their own accord. What a great discovery.

And for those of you thinking I am bragging about my superior insights into children, let me share the following with you: My husband has been travelling back and forth to London over the summer, which means I do the heavy lifting with the kids in his absence. I have a heaven-sent lady who pronounces four as 'faw' and sure as 'shoewa' (I love the Long Island accent) come and help me for a few hours in the afternoons during the week, but the rest I am doing solo. And you know that's fine because let's face it, the majority of the world's population survive looking after their kids and doing housework and it doesn't scar them, well, not too much. 

Anyway, so I am at the beach, it's a Sunday, my husband has flown off to London and I'm taking the kids for some late afternoon fun before we start the evening routine of dinner, bath, stories and bed time. So one of them, my daughter, is on this really precarious (surprisingly so for Über cautious litigious USA that is), climbing frame living out some kind of circus girl/ferret fantasy, and my son is slowly disappearing up a grassy knoll that the local dogs favour for their toilet, while simultaneously, I hasten to add, attempting to take off his nappy.The last clean one I have with me.

Me: "Please don't climb any higher, I have a bad back and I cannot come up there after you. Don't go any further! Dammit, do not walk over there, there is doggy poo-poo. For Christ sakes, do not remove your nappy. No!!! Please get off that bloody thing, you are going to hurt yourself. No, we are leaving now. Come back here, come back here, do not go any further. No! Dont' take off your nappy. For god sakes, will you please stop climbing that bloody thing!"

I am not exaggerating. A relaxed, tanned father stood by with his mouth open in what was obviously shock. I'd like to say awe, but even I am not that delusional. I felt like saying, 'Really I'm not usually like this, it's just well, it's been a long day, and my husband travels a lot, and well, it's really tough keeping an eye on two in a place like this.' But I thought, no, one of these days he will be minus his (very attractive and suggestively dressed, in a cut off jean shorts and small T-shirt-kind of way) nanny, and he will know exactly what I am going through. Or maybe he won't and I really am just neurotic, impatient and profane.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's the little differences

One of my favourite memories as a child is shopping with my mother. It' so simple really, but it meant that for that hour or two I had her absolutely to myself, while my siblings were at school. It also meant that while she was choosing condiments she could chat with me, and pay me attention, without being totally engrossed with the housework, the cooking and the ironing. Things which managed to be a full-time occupation for her with four children and a stoic refusal to hire help.

I don't take my children shopping if I can help it. They hate it, probably because they so seldom do it with me. In this wondrous time of internet shopping for everything from groceries to shoes, my kids are more used to the Amazon delivery guy than the inside of a mall. I think a 20 minute visit to Tesco to get the daily shop is probably their limit, and only because it usually involves the promise of Hula Hoops or a doughnut. I tried to sell Isaac on the wonders of K-Mart over here, but he was having none of it. He kept pointing to things in the trolley and saying 'Have it peas,'and I'd respond with, 'Why do you want my exfoliating cotton pads?' If I did give in, it involved the inevitable consumption of plastic or cardboard. A bad idea, and one I won't repeat if I can help it. 

My husband is planning a trip to the aquarium in Riverhead with the children this week, which means one thing and one thing only for me: Being dropped off at TARGET!!! I love love love Target. My friend Lori calls is the 100 dollar store, because she says despite the good value of its merchandise, you never leave without spending less than 100 dollars. Think Ikea mixed with a mega Boots, mixed with a Toys R Us, mixed with, well, you get the picture. They have everything and anything at great prices.

I've been trying to find help to clean my house here in the Hamptons and it's proving about as easy as acquiring the holy grail. We had one woman, which our friends here use, come on a Monday and agree with me to come every Monday thereafter. Trust me I would have liked her to come more often than once a week, but desperation made me agree to it. The following Sunday evening I texted her to confirm the time - no answer. The Monday I made two calls and left two messages and to date have not heard back. You might think she didn't like me, but I was in New York City at the time she cleaned my house, so I can't take credit for that. Mysterious. When I asked our friends if they had any ideas,  they shook their heads and said, "Yeah, well, Suzie can be a bit flaky." And that was that.

My friend then sent in her other cleaner, an attractive Eastern European woman. She arrived while I was home and seemed nice enough. She explained that the summers were crazy busy and she wasn't sure if she could fit me in again before we left for London. She did 3 hours, charged me $69 dollars and didn't even manage to make the beds. Her work was, well, perfunctory.

Yesterday I emailed a cleaning agency service that is apparently based in our town and as yet have heard nothing back. I wonder if news from London about my anal cleaning requirements have made it across the pond.

The pool guys arrived on Monday. I know this because as I was making a cup of tea at 8.30am I saw two young men in my yard cleaning the pool with the pool cover only three quarters of the way retracted, and pregnant with rain water on top. I asked them if they had heard of arriving at someone's home and announcing themselves first, you know, the small matter of ringing the bell or knocking on the front door before entering the property through the back gate. They looked confused. Then I asked them if they planned on pumping the water off of the pool cover so that they could fully retract it and clean beneath it. A lot of umming and ahhing as though what I had proposed what a totally novel idea. 

Today I found the local Thai/Mexican nail bar and had a pedicure. The girls kept asking me what different treatments cost in London, whistled through their teeth, and then said something to each other in what I can only describe as a Thai/Mex pigeon language. I tried explaining that the prices I was telling them were those charged by a single beautician that had her own business, but that you could also find larger nail bars that charged pretty much the same as they did.  But they were so fixated with the previous more expensive estimates I had cited, that I wouldn't be surprised if a new price board goes up tomorrow.

I take my children to this fantastic place called the CMEE - the Children's Museum of the East End. It is a haven for the under 5 crowd - full of pretend play stations (a pirate ship, a fire truck, an old fashioned diner where you can pretend pull sodas etc), an art room that anyone can use at any time (stocked with art supplies), and a great outside play area. It's always interesting to observe how kids play, and more interestingly, how parents allow their children to play. More often than not you see kids engrossed in an activity, really focused and enjoying themselves, and then a parent will say in an uber enthusiastic voice, "Come on Kennedy, let's go see something else. Come on, come on, let's go and do X Y or Z!" The child reluctantly stopping what they are doing before being dragged off to the next attraction.

I do wonder if this short attention span by proxy contributes later to children having to be constantly entertained or even lacking the ability to sit still and focus on a single activity for an extended period of time. One of the best bits of advice I got from my a friend when I had my daughter was to not feel the need to constantly stimulate my baby. That it was important at certain times of the day that she was allowed to lie on her play mat with her toys and just play by herself (me being there naturally), not to be interrupted if she was involved in an activity, and to let her figure things out - i.e. not always rush to step in and solve a task she is trying to tackle herself. It was invaluable advice and I think it continues to be important for children of all ages.

There's a very relaxed attitude around here, which probably accounts for the pool guys just entering through the back gate and getting on with their job, albeit in a half arsed manner. And although it irritated me, I also quite like the trusting nature of it. And how I come home and there's a delivery sitting on my porch (I love that word 'porch'), or by the garage, as opposed to that ever irritating note in the postbox 'We tried delivering but you weren't home, your parcel is at *indecipherable scribble*'. It feels like the way the world used to be before it became such a paranoid place, or I became such a paranoid person. Sag Harbor is also a historical town and a lot of the houses here date back to whaling times. The church over the road from us, with the Reverend Michael Jackson in the house, has a secret entrance to an underground tunnel from a front row pew where slaves (freed by the whalers), would duck into when there were raids. When you walk down the street you could be in any era, and it's only the cars that give it away.

A friend of mine came to visit and her opinion is that people here are abrupt. I can't say that's my experience, although there is a somewhat different way of interacting that's, well, different from London. I'd say people talk straight and are quite open and chatty. They'll think nothing to ask you where you are from, what you do, and how the money in that is. Fairly intimate questions given you have never met them before and only happened upon them because your animal-mad daughter is stroking their dog on the street.

My experience of living in London for going on 15 years is that people don't really like to talk about money. It's considered bad taste and leaves them feeling very uncomfortable. It's one thing saying, 'Oh I bought this dress at Zara on sale', and quite another talking about the cost of your holiday to Barbados, even if it is by way of griping about it. Whereas here it doesn't appear such a taboo. 

They have all the back to school stuff on display here, as I imagine the London shops do too, what with school starting in September. I still get a wave of excitement when I see all that lovely brightly coloured stationary. I love it, and it was the single thing that made me look forward to each new school year. My mother would always let me choose new stuff, and then we had to cover our books and the choosing of the wrapping paper or picture for each exercise book was a whole other bag of joy. Yep, times were different back then as were expectations, although Julia is very keen on the idea of having her own pencil case and scissors with her name on.

We like to eat in the local Thai restaurant called Phao. It's really really good, by any standards - NYC or London. Twice now we've had the same waitress who talks and behaves like someone that is more comfortable smoking interesting cigarettes and surfing than serving food. She'll come round and ask you how your food is and before you've had a chance to lower your fork and respond she says, 'Excellent riiiight?' One day, just to see her reaction, I'd like to interject, 'Actually no, it's bloody awful.' 

The weather here has been beautiful. Perhaps three days where it has rained part of the day and one day where it was a rainy day. But in three weeks of vacation, I can handle that. I think I was becoming depressed in London. It's worse when you have small children because there are only so many indoor activities you can do with them including painting, play dough, watching Diego, baking, and preventing them from injuring themselves as they race around the furniture in an attempt to expend all that energy. And yes, there are the indoor play places like Topsy Turvy, but that requires driving to and there are days you just want to plonk them outside with a sandpit and read a magazine instead of schlepping around in rainy London traffic.

I can see it with the little kids in my music class. When the weather is good (hard to remember when that was), they seem more relaxed and focused. When it's been a week of rain or more, its like a scene from the Battleship Potemkin. I spend the half hour shout-singing over the chaos of crazed cabin feverish toddlers and wondering why it is I'm doing this again.

I don't think I'm alone when I say the morbid weather in England has prompted a serious consideration to move somewhere where our children can have a more outdoorsy life. But then I get an email from Hobbs showing their new autumn collection which is stunningly Hitchcock in its silhouette. And then there's the promise of my lovely, sane, and regular cleaner who will be there to take care of our home when we get back. Did I mention regularly? And I think, well maybe, just maybe, I can handle a bit of rain.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

And the think that he thunk...

I have a guilty confession to make - I've just purchased one of those wooden board signs that has a little message or mantra on it. You know, the kind that says 'You are the milk in my coffee, the shoelace in my sneaker, the sick bucket when I read this schmaltz.' OK, so mine isn't of that particular ilk, something my high school art teacher would call a definitive example of kitsch. But the one I happened upon has a message on it I liked, and I thought I might get away with putting it in a house by the sea. The message is one I keep coming back to in my own interior musings - the need to simplify. And I like the idea of cooking, or sitting on the loo (I've yet to decide where I'm going to put it), and meditating on those words.

There's something about being on holiday or indeed sleeping on a friend's sofa in a time of need that teaches you an important lesson: You do not need a bunch of stuff to live, and I'd go further and say you do not need a bunch of stuff to be happy. It's often the simplest things that make us happiest, and indeed simplifying the way we live and the way we approach things is fundamental to finding some sort of centerdness or peace I think. At least this is true for me. 

Back in London and keeping with the theme of simplifying, I'm seriously considering getting one of those home organiser people in ahead of our house move next year. You know, the kind you see on Oprah, only less irritating. I want someone to help me organise my house because I feel overwhelmed by all the stuff I have to sort through. I remind myself that the clutter is a direct result of not actually having time on my hands to sort through it regularly, because I have two small children, one of which is a toddler that is not in nursery and who has recently dropped his daytime nap. And then there is the small matter of me having an unhealthy need to accumulate that I don't quite understand. We also have a garage full of things that was previously in storage that my husband is threatening to get rid of en masse. Some of the boxes contain my diaries (a lifelong compulsion to document long before blogs were invented), and there's the usual old household stuff from both my husband and my previous lives etc. But an hour here and there is not going to cut it, I genuinely need a week to deal with it, and then probably some more on top to eBay some things. That's why maybe it might just be easier to get some help - someone who is not going to spend an hour musing over the nostalgia of a pile of old dusty stuff, but just sort it out matter of factly, and hopefully, quickly.

To my credit, I have began to put some things onto a website called Freegle - which allows people to give away or ask for things but without any money involved. Basically a recycling system. If you need a baby stair gate or a table for your garage etc, someone on there is bound to have one they are getting rid of. I imagine there is the odd reprobate that gets free stuff only to go and sell it on eBay, but as with most situations in life I think the majority of people are inherently honest and it's only a handful by comparison, that aren't. I also figure that if someone is really hard up and takes something from me only to sell it and use the money to say, stave off the menacing advances of a muscled debt collector, then who am I to judge right? It all comes down to the same thing in the end - helping people out.

In the last month, my children have started to play together. Not parallel play, but interactive play. My son turned two in May, and come to think of it I remember my daughter moving from parallel to interactive play around that time too. It's a joy, genuinely. For the most part they get on really well - and their play involves her dictating some overly complicated rules which he ignores. But mostly he is just happy to be a part of whatever she is doing. Sounds a bit like the modern relationship between men and women right? Sometimes their play is more wrestle mania than happy families, but they are playing and interacting and I can really see their relationship taking shape. She recently told me that one day she will pay him to be the father of her children. I considered launching into a discussion detailing the downside of doing business with family, but opted instead for an 'Oh really? Well that sounds interesting,' response. I have to confess this is fast becoming my rote response to a lot of the quirkier things she comes up with these days.

I recently watched the film Cinema Vertite - a film about the first reality TV show following a family in 1970's America. A true story. None of the staged rubbish you see today that bills itself as 'reality TV', but genuine documentary stuff, warts and all. And they weren't paid, which I think makes all the difference on both sides of the arrangement. 

Overridingly it's about the breakdown of a marriage and breakup of the family, which was purely coincidental. I.e. at the outset the producer wanted to make a documentary about a typical (albeit middle class) family, and while they are making it, the wife finds out about her husband's numerous infidelities and the marriage unravels in front of the cameras. So it's not exactly cheerful stuff, although there are definitely some lovely moments. What I took away from it was the closeness of the family, especially the children - of which there were four. Whenever I see big families I think to myself, 'Ah, it would be nice to have a big(ger) family.' But (and there's always a but with me when it comes to this), I think I'm done with having babies. Perhaps if my husband and I had met earlier and started having our children earlier, then maybe, but not now.

We are just over the hump of that really tough baby and teetering injury prone toddler stage, and while my son cannot yet be trusted on his own (he has the knack of a bloodhound for sniffing out electrical wires or carefully hidden bottles of bleach), I can now put the children into my bedroom with a bunch of toys or Diego on my iPad and steal a quick shower. Make that a very quick shower. And with them playing together it's even easier. They also now play together while I cook, which is a heaven send.

There are moments I look at the two of them and wish I could bottle this time. A time, while exhausting, where my children are so incredibly loving and cute and in need of me. And while there are days I'd love to just sit and read a copy of Vanity Fair with my feet up instead of managing WW III between them, I remind myself that this time when your children think you are everything, and are desperate for your touch and to be in your company, and to please you, and for you to acknowledge how special they are, and where they ask you to sing for them and sing along with you, and they run around naked, and think it's uproariously funny when you tell them they have smelly bottoms, and well I could go on. All of this, in the broader scheme of things, constitutes a very small window in your life and theirs. And it's wise to acknowledge this, slow down, be present, and enjoy it. The other stuff - the vacuming, the laundry, the magazine reading, the sorting out of boxes - all of that crap can wait. It will be there tomorrow and it will always be there. Whereas this time, this right now, will not.

I struggle even to remember, in a tangible physical sense, my daughter as a baby. I have photos and films I've made, but even those are somehow fleeting and transient, as the moments themselves. It reminds me of a couple of years ago sitting in an airline lounge - my husband and I each with a child on our laps either reading to them or playing dollies. And another family with older children at the opposite table - every family member on a device of sorts - the iPad, the iPhone, the Nintendo - everyone absorbed in his or her activity and not really communicating. The mother and I looked at each other with what felt like a mutual thought: 'That looks like bliss'.

I hear the thoughts of the mothers and fathers reading this who say, 'Yes, that's all very well and fine, but we still need the time outside of our children to do things; work, run a house, study, have an uninterrupted thought etc' and I agree. My son will start nursery come September - three hours in the morning. And you bet your bottom dollar I will be having a coffee with my friends on ocassion, one I will get to finish without raisins being dropped in it, and without having to stop my son from struggling out of his high chair in an attempt to run wild. I will start sorting through my cluttered house. I will start getting my book together and start sourcing potential publishing houses (and anticipate the inevitable rejection letters). I will call friends I have long since deserted. I will reply to emails. I might even sneak in the occasional cookery class. Oh yes, and I will probably get on with work I have promised people and failed to deliver, months, years ago. 

And in and amongst all of this I am also going to try and find a moment to just, you know, breathe. I think that might be interesting.