Saturday, 24 January 2015

Travelling Mom eats cake

A work trip happens almost by definition without one's family unless in unusual part work, part holiday circumstances or when the parents do the work in turns while the one not working is tending the child. Alone work trips can be a source of guild, when your working day ends up actually being quite nice. Naturally, this work trip to Rome has had its share of awful winter weather with my old wondering returning when being wet and miserable in a bus or tram or underground and marvelling at the dropless suede shoes of impeccable Romena, while I and my Finnish [female] colleagues are wet up to our knees. Do they levitate? I could wash the floors at the Swedish Institute in Rome while walking around...

However, today it was a brilliant, if windy and chilly day. I and my colleague went to my old fieldwork destination in Nepi and were shown around by the lovely museum director. We even got a private tour of the catacombs. But it was the meal that was the highlight of the day. The local Casa Tuscia still makes the lovely first courses and desserts. I ended up eating the Geometria di cioccolato a portion so grande that I am still rolling around writing this. Archaeologist Husband has also eaten there, so I am not sure, if he know believes, when I say how hard I am working away!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Birthdays and conferences

January is always the time when I try to book any coming spring travel due to flight sales going on. I actually managed to bag a bargain for Number One Son's birthday trip - that also seconds as a quadruple or so conference trip and Easter holiday due to how our collective timetables have panned out. Having two archaeologist and a school child in a family means that at least one of us has to be home during the term time to do the school run. These 'disciplined' days it is not OK to take your child to Cardiff or even abroad during the school term without a dead close relative or some kind of once in a life time short-term event. Thus, first we do a joint visit to a conference, then I fly away and then Archaeologist Husband clocks in two different occasions. Luckily, there will be also time for a joint holidaying, but not much.

January is also a time when one will start eyeing the new job opportunities. The end of a contract comes nearer and nearer - and even if it will be nice to arrive home, a steady income is always a lovely thing. Sadly, managing work and family leaves little time for additional paperwork. In addition, the fixed interview dates are not always great when you realise that you will be in another country by default on the date.

In any case, Number One Son's birthday party locale has been booked and I only have to go and settle the balance during the half-term. Now we are just wondering, if it will be OK to take the birthday boy on his correct birthday date to a conference function. That will mean both parents present and potentially networking, but inevitably a short visit and orange juice for me!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Speech therapy

This stay brought about a revelation that the illustrationg by Mauri Kunnas are an excellent aid in the speech therapy exercises we try to do with him. They help to discuss what different characters are doing and get Number One Son to learn new verbs and try to establish who is a 'he' and who is a 'she'. Sadly, the gendered English pronouns mean that all examples are selected on the basis of their traditional gender characteristics. This leads to stereotyping, but you have to give clear examples to a little boy a little behind his peers. His understanding of abstract concepts is not great, so in these exercises a 'shirt' equals a 'woman' and a 'tie' equals a 'man'.

Another revelation are the endless toy videos on YouTube. And the videos about the Minecraft game. Number One Son is happily building his own worlds and apparently using the tips from the YouTube. This shows that he has developed a more acute sense of grasping details from around him, but a school task about materials suggested that his visual understanding is much better than his oral. A longer sentence does not yet make sense.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ice cream, geocaching and ‘bake night’

Waiting Cinderella to start

The first family trip to a panto was almost a screaming success with the easiness of finding parking space near De Montford Hall on the Monday after Christmas when nearly everybody else was heading to the shopping centres for the sales and the discussion afterwards of the next Christmas’s trip to a show. Number One Son was excited to see his big name-sake on the stage, although he would have been happy to go home when the interval started. That was the point when the standard length of a CBeebies panto was reached. I also believe that the love story in Cinderella is not a big hit with the little boys. The little girls with their mainly Frozen dresses were more a target audience for that content.

The panto in Leicester has an amount of BEMA talent rarely seen outside London. The fairy godmother and step mother could hit their blues and disco notes and Baron Hardup was a familiar face from Goodness Gracious Me. I also learned from the story and the programme who Buttons is and how he and the Prince Handsome’s valet Dandini became included in the standard British panto Cinderella. Naturally, the show includes bad contemporary jokes with references to both Leicester and current affairs. The ball scene contained a dance competition in the style of Strictly Come Dancing, but it also contained the traditional lines that a few years’ back filled me with puzzlement: “Behind you” and “Yes, it is” followed by “No, it isn’t” repeated several times. The audience participation seems to include also all people having a song and dance play just before the end. These sayings and customs are – part of the British Christmas ingrained in the national soul. In a similar way as the ever-so-puzzling Christmas crackers: why do you actually have them? They do not really crack with a bang, there are no sweets or chocolate inside and they are expensive: you do get the paper crown as seen in all British TV specials, though. Another puzzling British custom came to my mind when I watched audience queuing and eating: ice cream in the theatres at the interval. It is mid-winter, so what do you want: a small tub of extremely expensive, cold dairy product. I already was marvelling this habit many years ago in the West End.


I and Number One Son also took part in our first geocaching treasure hunt. In principle this was a large family walk in the Castle Hill Park with people who had got to know each other some time ago in the NCT coffee group. Now the then toddlers are tweenies or teenagers, so extra measures are needed to drag them outside from tablets, mobile phones and computers. Although watching our activities over Christmas, the family who reads their phones together, stays together. Number One Son got really excited about a treasure hunt in the snow and ice and he had a good run with some of his friends. Friends’ parents had also remembered to take a sledge with them, so all the children went sledging in the end. Some use for the A46 sound banks...

The long stay over Christmas also allows us parents to remember that we are not only trying to balance work and life and take care of our son, but are actually in a relationship. In addition all those irritating items on the magazines tell you how tired parents should work on their relationships. However, with all other family members elsewhere and friends in the same pickle as us (and many being single mums, too), allowing the partner sleep-ins seems to be the number one way of showing that one cares. Somehow, magically, you row less when you are less tired and can begin to think of other activities than sleeping when together.

So we tried to be extra romantic – with some unexpected results. Over Skype Archaeologist Husband asked me before my trip back home just after his parents and brother had been visiting what I want for Christmas. I tried to paraphrase Mariah Carey and say that all I really want is to be at home with you. This romantic gesture was met with a rather stern statement that he wants a dishwasher. I did comply and buy one for ‘us’ in the end, but have remembered to remind him that something more gallant had been expected as a response to my gesture. However, it turned out that Nana and Sister-in-Law had not been amused when they could not find a dishwasher after they had suggested clearing the table and washing up; a realisation that a dishwasher is now a standard feature in other families made Archaeologist Husband's demand more understandable. However, in order to balance the gallantlessness, I showed my bad wifeness relatively swiftly when Archaeologist Husband suggested a ‘date night’. I misheard this as a ‘bake night’ and was slightly puzzled aloud with his sudden eagerness in testing the Great British Bake Off baking book he had bought me together when he normally wants to rule the kitchen alone. I was quickly told that, actually, he wants to go to our usual pub together. That sounded better, so I have now booked a babysitter for a couple of pints so we can for a couple of hours try to remember how it was before Number One Son...

Sunday, 28 December 2014

White just after Christmas

The Christmas holidays are perfect time to recharge one's batteries and do the exciting and less exciting Christmassy things. This season started with the coffee group ladies' children's Christmas party on the Sunday before Christmas. This was a heartwarming British party with one of the mothers behind a lot of programme and one of the fathers expressing himself as a DJ. Otherwise our Christmas is every year decidedly an Anglo-Finnish affair.

Christmas preparations continued with strategically timed Monday food shopping spree that allowed us strolling in the Bradgate Park on Tuesday. The preparations were finished with gingerbread baking and cooking a kind of Finnish meal with duck (but with a genuine sweetened potato bake) on Christmas Eve. The first batch of presents was delivered to Number One Son on Christmas Eve as well.

Christmas Eve meal

Then it was a swap to the British Christmas and night-time Christmas stocking delivery for me and Number One Son with a second batch of Christmas presents. I thanked Father Christmas, a.k.a. Archaeologist Husband, with a bottle of less traditional Finnish licorice vodka (not consumed, yet - miraculously considering how much he likes the stuff). The Christmas lunch ended up being 'traditional' steak and chips due to the small amount of duck left from the previous night, but the third batch of gifts kept Number Son happy. Archaeologist Husband had taken rubbish out and observed that it was cold, so the rest of the day was spent on the sofa. We did however keep up with the cultural developments by watching Frozen at last.

The most important Christmas present had already arrived on Saturday before Christmas. We are now four with our Cat slowly getting to know our house. (S)he managed to pee in an extension lead box and defusing one of the plugs that meant no Netflix over Christmas. Otherwise it had found Christmas tree inresistable.

The sofa related activities continued throughout Boxing Day and the highpoint was the traditional Finnish Boxing Day fish meal in the evening. By this time it had started snowing, so we were not certain if Friend's son's three-year birthday walk was going to take place the next day. I was not too keen on driving in snow without proper winter tyres, but it transpired on the day that I was made to go, since Archaeologist Husband really wanted to go sledging. Thus we all headed to the Old John and had a cold, beautiful, eventful hour in the sun. Then Number One Son's hands were cold, his cheek had a frostbite and we were hit by a child's sledge. Nevertheless, the day continued with tea and hot chocolate in the Friend's house.

There is still more to come. A trip to London died a quick death on the planning board after the traditional British railway chaos started - even before the snow landed. Now we are heading to see the first panto I and Number One Son will ever see in De Montford Hall. It will be Cinderella with Buttons and ugly sisters. I think I will need some further enculturation to know who Buttons is...

Sunday, 21 December 2014

I lost the vote

When Number One Son was a baby we had a cat named Shelly. Sadly, she passed away at 18 - while being the healthiest dead cat in the village after all the lab tests done in order to know why she did not eat and withered away. Ever since Archaeologist Husband has wanted to get a new cat. This urge has not been diminished by the fact that our neighbours hate cats. But they do have a gravel gardens both at the front and at the back, so you can guess what the cats do there. The urgency of this new cat has become more apparent with Number One Son loving cats and lifting and cuddling certain Biscuit on the way to and from school.

Shelly 2 (photo: AH)

I found it easy to make Number One Son to behave by saying that he will not get a cat for a Chhristmas. He was stroking the imaginary white cat when saying it... When I asked if we should get a cat, two voices said 'yes'. The women will always lose in this household! And apparently end up buying all the cat food as well.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Skype fighting

Now I have managed to return back to England despite of the best efforts of underground trains breaking down and motorway improvements closing motorways on my way back. The whole air control system broke down in UK happily only after I had managed to lose most of my sleep deprivation sleeping in my own bed. For a couple of weeks the normal life routines are in place and I will see Number One Son and Archaeologist Husband in the same country and in the same house. My blog entries are likely to be either duller or more interesting, depending on the normal way the life goes on on a daily basis. It will be about school runs and unwrapping Christmas presents with an added spice of multiculturality. But of a duller European fusion version that is more about choosing the different kind of Christmas food than anything else.

The tedium and tiredness of the last weeks away did bring about that new spice of coupledoom in Skype Mums life: the Skype fighting. This is the way your specific personal traits are transformed into digital portal online. Are you a Shouter? Well, then you will shout at the camera and let your neighbours know that You Are Skyping and that Your Are Not Happy. Are you the Mute? Well, then your partner will not get anything than your picture over Skype. If you get angry like I do sometimes on a short fuse - you shut down the whole thing and disconnect Internet. And start getting angry, anxious texts to one or two of my mobile phones. Since as an Europe-wide juggernaut you will have more than one, don't you (and your partner is likely to use the last mobile number you have texted/phoned from - handy, if that is the one that lies closed in the drawer waiting for the next trip).

The row will continue as long as you dare to keep yourself off-line: I managed a couple of minutes. Then it was time to try to patch everything up. I must say, being in the same house, getting nagged about undone housework and being able to bang the doors is much more effective and somehow reassuring...