I loved writing this blog, but it was time to move on – I’m more than ‘mummyness’ these days. You can find me writing many of the same types of things, but also about food and style, over on my new blog Erin at Large. Please follow the new blog on Facebook to get updates and update your RSS feeds accordingly. I hope you’ll join me over there. xx
Last Sunday morning, I dragged my family down to a street corner on the edge of the Olympic Village, armed with all the pairs of kitchen tongs we owned. I had signed us up for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup several months ago, and we were meeting our group for an hour and a half of picking up cigarette butts, bits of rubbish, coffee cups and, thrillingly, a waterlogged jumper.
Elliot, being a 3-year-old, mainly threw rocks in the water, though he did enjoy some rubbish collection with his own tongs. We kept a vague count, and over that 90-minute period we must have collected over 400 cigarette butts ourselves. It was noted that it felt more than a little like the body find at the beginning of a Law & Order episode as we combed through the long grasses under a pedestrian bridge. Thankfully that sodden jumper was the only exciting thing we found.
I remember going along to marches, demonstrations, local art fairs, street parties, church fetes and all sorts when I was young, and I remember most of them. It felt a bit funny to be the one organising these little adventures. We’ll definitely go next year.
The Great Canadian Cleanup is jointly organised by the World Wildlife Fund and the Vancouver Aquarium. You can sign up for a cleanup near you, you don’t even need to be on the coast – volunteers work along rivers and lakes as well.
The first freelance assignment I took on after Elliot was born scared me senseless. It was ridiculous as it was from my old workplace, and it was an editing job I had executed without much fuss the previous three years in a row. It had been awhile since anyone had expected anything of me other than producing milk, doing laundry, making meals and baking the occasional cake for a fundraising baby sale.
When I completed it, and sent in my invoice, it was like I had climbed a mountain. Clearly I needed a reward.
It was a grim February in London: a grey, dense and rainy month that seemed three times as long as its 28 days. I wavered as I looked at the Cambridge Satchel Company site, wouldn't black be more practical? But what kept drawing my eye was that gorgeous, luminous egg-yolk yellow. As this was a reward, why not be impractical? I thought.
And so that's how I came to be the owner of one of my favourite items ever in the whole world, my yellow satchel. Blind stamped with my initials, which you can barely see now, it brings me joy every time I use it. Approximately two people a day exclaim over its colour. Yes, it's a bit big. Yes, it's as inflexible as it looks. Yes, the strap is narrow and digs in sometimes. Yes, those are real buckles I have to undo and do up again every time I want something. I don't care. I love it.
I'm considering purchasing a friend for my yellow satchel, in a lovely vibrant red. I'm almost worried my yellow one will feel neglected.
As I picked up Elliot from preschool yesterday, one of his teachers says to me: ‘There was an incident…’
As it turns out, one of the teachers caught him with a dried bean from the spooning and pouring table hanging out of his nose about 10 minutes before I arrived. They managed to get him to blow it out.
We both turned to look at him, and he sneezed violently five or six times, but seemed well enough. However, he started screaming blue murder on the way home in the car. It was a I’ve-hurt-myself wail, enraged and upset. This continued most of the 10-minute drive home. I got him inside and lying down on the couch, but he wouldn’t let me touch his nose, or even look up there for more than a second.
I called the nurse line, and a patient woman suggested giving him some Calprofen (Advil over here, but it will ever be Calprofen to me), and checking up his nose in an hour. I called the preschool to get further details on the type of bean it was (lentil), what exactly happened (no one really saw), etc.
On repeated asking, Elliot insisted he only put one bean up his nose. I thought maybe his nose was sore from cramming it up there, and that maybe there weren’t any more. Ha!
By the time the medicine kicked in, Elliot was happily playing on the iPad, chatting to me. He played with his cars, decided he didn’t want to go for a bike ride after all. We went to Home Depot to get some light bulbs and Elliot drove one of the giant, impossible-to-steer carts that look like a car. Finally, around 7.30pm while we’re snuggling in bed, I looked up his nose just to do a final check.
Hmmm. I could see something up there.
Explaining the new ‘game’ to Elliot as dragon breath, I pinched one nostril shut and blew some air in his mouth. He thought this was hilarious and insisted I pretended to jump on him first, which I did, but then he insisted on doing it to me – not so nice, Mr Broccoli Breath. After a few rounds of this, I wiped the spit from my face and convinced him to have a nose-blowing contest with me. After a few one-nostril blows, out shot a CANNELLINI BEAN.
‘Holy shit that’s HUGE!’ I said, Mum of the Year Award is in the post, I’m sure.
‘Let’s just do a final check, shall we?’ I said as I lay him back down flat. Unfortunately, that was not it. There was another one in there.
‘How many did you put up there?!’ I asked him.
He giggled. ‘One!’
‘Yes, well, we’re up to two already so clearly it was more than one,’ I said, starting to lose patience.
We repeat the above performance, and out pops the second one. I dutifully take a photo of them with my phone.
When I peer up his nose a third time, I’m sure I see another – though this would make his nose TARDIS-like in its bean storage capacity. After much dragon breaths and nose blowing later, we are both losing our patience and I pack him off in his pyjamas to the walk-in clinic down the road.
Between bedtime stories in the clinic waiting room, I look Elliot in the eye. ‘No more beans up the nose, right?’
‘Nooooo,’ he says, looking only slightly mischievious. ‘Doctor.’
‘That’s right, we’re at the doctor because you put beans up your nose,’ I say, trying to keep a straight face.
The doctor takes a look, and it turned out I was seeing a part of the inside of his nose, rather than another bean. But I feel relieved to know for sure there are no more up there.
‘Shall I check his ears too?’ he asks.
‘Why not? Might as well,’ I say, trying to think if there was anywhere else he could have stuck a bean.
‘I’ve seen beads, but never beans,’ says the doctor, slightly mystified.
‘Ah,’ I say, unable to think of anything clever.
Apparently, even if he had had another in there I couldn’t get out, it eventually just slips down the back to their throats and they swallow it. Or spit it out in your lap, if you’re really lucky, I suppose.
We got the bean-free all clear and I wheeled him home. Why do these things happen when Christopher is away?
My husband listening to Laura, one of the tutors, explain something. She's now at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, so it was great to have her for awhile.
When we lived in London, my husband and I belonged to the East London Late Starters Orchestra. It's this amazing group of people who learn stringed instruments, some from the very beginning, and play together every Saturday morning during term time. They have been going for over 30 years now, and when I spent a few years there, we were nearly 100 strong. It was brilliant fun, and I went on to play in several other amateur orchestras and chamber groups that led to me jumping onto a Thameslink ferry at midnight with my cello on my back, and playing Mozart string quartets at 2am in Churchill's grandmother's house, bottle of wine by my side. Happy times.
Every time September rolls around I think of ELLSO and the inevitable cheese and onion sandwiches at tea break. I can still taste those things.
Here's a great 10-minute documentary on the orchestra. I was there when they filmed it, but thankfully you can't see me very clearly. I do wish we had such a vibrant tradition of amateur music-making here in Canada. Ah well, maybe one day.
photo: Giorgia Bertazzi 2010
I like to plan for things. If you ask my husband, he'd say I like planning a lot. It calms me down and helps me cope with change. I love autumn for that very reason: it's a welcome return to routine.
However, sometimes my event planning horizon looms so large in front of me, when it passes I look up and have no idea what to do next.
Elliot has now finished his second settling in day at preschool, and everything is going swimmingly. I have washed his school uniform shirts, I've got a plan for managing naps and lunch right beforehand. But, well… Now what?
I had some big freelance assignments last month, and I don't have any on the go at the moment. I haven't given a thought to what I'm going to do with myself in the next few months. Everything was subsumed by work and getting Elliot ready for preschool.
There's Blissdom, a conference I'm attending in October, and hopefully I'll be relaunching this blog under another name with a slightly new approach to content in the next month. I'm still working on a name, so if you have any bright ideas, feel free to tell me!
I’ve been writing more for VancouverMom.ca lately, here are a couple of my most recent articles:
Cool pencil cases at Room In Order
As it’s back-to-school time, I thought I’d write about cool stationery for big kids, ie you and I. I love love love paper goods so pulling together all my favourite places in Vancouver to buy stationery was great fun.
Rooftop patio at Chopra Yoga
I’m not a yoga girl, but I recognise the benefits of meditation. Even if nothing else comes of it, sitting still with one’s eyes closed for 10 minutes is no bad thing. I had the chance to try out a meditation class at Chopra Yoga, as well as a one-on-one session with their lovely studio director.
I’ve been working a lot lately. As I’m a freelance writer, this is neither predictable ahead of time nor likely to continue in any similar form in the future. I am extremely lucky in that I have one great client that I work with most of the time, and a few assorted fun ones on the side. It does mean that my schedule is exceedingly random – some weeks I have loads on and every spare moment I am holed up in a cafe somewhere with my head in my laptop. Other times I am at a loose end, and Elliot and I wander the city visiting playgrounds and mapping out routes between drive-through coffee shop lanes when he falls asleep in the car
I know many people come to terms with the time away from their child for work thing much earlier, but for me, this issue is coming up now. Because I’m not at an office for a set amount of time, it feels like I am revisiting the ‘go-back-to-work’ thing whenever I get a lot of assignments and have to bring him to daycare a few days in a row.
It is kind of hilarious as both Christopher and I do a fair amount of work from home, take conference calls and work non-standard hours, that seeing one of us sitting in the bed with a laptop triggers Elliot to ask ‘Daddy (or Mummy) at work? no matter what time of day it is or what we’re wearing (or not wearing, ahem).
It feels good to be working, to be contributing to our household budget in both the incomings and outgoings columns – but I am still mastering the keeping the flat from looking like a tip and getting laundry done part. I am dead impressed with those of you with more stringent out-of-the-house schedules.
*I hate it when I say this.
Elliot’s school supplies list landed in my inbox yesterday.
Cue the panic.
We’re into the final countdown to his first day at preschool. He will be going five days a week, for three hours each day. It feels like a massive change to our current non-schedule of occasional childcare a couple times a week whilst I work on writing assignments, visits with grandparents, days out to the beach, the aquarium or Science World.
I worry he won’t be able to get his shoes off and on. That he won’t go down the stairs to the classroom on his own. That he’ll hate it and we will have scarred him for life. Oh I don’t know, everything and anything.
This month has become so busy with work, which is encouraging and good, but it has also made the time fly by. I wanted every last day before he enters the big tunnel that is School to be special, memorable days of idyllic free play, muffin baking and giggling. We’ve had some brilliant days already this month, but even though we haven’t even started school yet, I can’t help but already see his first three years with various Instagram filters and soft focus in my mind. Smoothing over the battles, shouting, crap sleep, potty training chaos and more – and that’s only the last year – of course.
Ah. Three more weeks or so…
I amMum to one little boy, in a small apartment in downtown Vancouver, Canada shared by my husband and our dog Gus. I cook, make things, write, do endless laundry and walk around purposefully with a little black three-wheeler buggy. We started this story in London, England, and now continue it on the other side of the world. erinerin [at] mac [dot] com
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