Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve and I feel guilty. I finished work yesterday, ready for two full weeks off, but have sent T to nursery today for half a day. I know it's a bit mean, but he does love it there. I'd have to pay for the day even if I didn't send him, and a couple of hours of home-alone time (the husband is still working) has meant I have ...

wrapped the very last presents for my husband
parboiled the roast pots
peeled and prepped the carrots, parsnips and sprouts
made the veggie Christmas main (mushroom and chestnut pie)
made veggie stuffing and trimmings (veggie stuffing wrapped in veggie bacon - mug, moi??!)
made cranberry dipping sauce for our starter (fried cheese wedges)
cooked a ham in coca cola a la Nigella (yummy, although there seems to be treacle welded to my roasting tray now!)

I'm having a little sit down now, comforted by a sense of achievement, and will go and collect the boy shortly, for at least an extra bit of Mummy time!

Christmas with children is a minefield. Last year it passed pretty much in a blur, T was 12 weeks old, on a breastmilk-only diet and alternated between sleeping and screaming on Christmas day. He had a stinking cold and developed a scary viral rash late on Christmas evening, meaning I spent 4 hours of Boxing Day morning in the waiting room of the on-call doctor's service, along with scores of other tired mums and little ones. We hosted, my usual passion for devouring food magazines and picking new things to cook for the big feast abandoned in favour of an almost entirely ready-made version from Mr Tesco.

This year T is walking and talking! We've bought him a grotesque amount of presents, despite our best intentions. We started with the buggy and washing machine and veered off via half of Amazon (you can never have too many books!) and a garage with toy cars, plus a few random In The Night Garden items and a DVD of Pixar shorts, which to be honest my husband wanted for himself! My Mum and sister arrive for dinner tomorrow, and of course they'll also bring a fresh supply of toys waiting to be unwrapped! God only knows where we're going to put anything.

In the last few weeks, spoken a lot about the traditions of our own childhoods. Christmas rituals which we might like to recreate for our son. My husband's family always have the full Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve for example, so his Mum can sit down and relax on the day itself, although her buffet grows increasingly elaborate year by year, and she still spends most of the day where she is happiest, in the kitchen! I had years of Christmas mornings with Mum, Christmas afternoons with Dad, a shuttlecock feeling I am desperate for T to avoid.

So this year we begin the B-family Christmas ritual. We're going to St Andrew's for the Children's Service at four, then walking down to the Italian in the village (who project The Snowman onto their largest plain wall) for an early tea, taking T home to bed before the couples roll out for their romantic Christmas Eve. Last year we did the same (meal, not church) and T slept the entire time in his carseat whilst we ate! This year I'd imagine he'll be flinging pizza across the floor by half past five. After 7 pm, my husband and I will settle onto the sofa, our bellies full, and play games, watch telly and maybe crack open a drink or two. It's not rock n roll, but it is us, the new us, family us, and I can't wait.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. A full report on the festivities will follow! x

Saturday, 13 December 2008

It's a no

A resolute one. All of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs rejected plans for public transport improvements in the region which would have been part paid for by a congestion charge. With a turn out of around 50% in most areas, an average of 80% of residents voted no. There are more details here.

I wont pretend I'm not disappointed. I really felt this was an opportunity to make a difference to Greater Manchester, to air quality, to life quality. Although other cities, including Edinburgh, who have rejected a congestion charge have gone on to secure government cash for public transport improvements anyway, there is no guarantee that will be the case here. Let's be honest though, how many people were going to vote yes to something that could potentially cost them £1200 a year when we're in the middle of a credit crunch? It's not even as if the people on the billboards for the yes campaign looked very cheerful about the whole thing. It was all earnest faces, not a smile to be seen amongst them. Neither of these points changes the facts though. In the words of Allan Beswick, Manchester legend, "the congestion charge is dead".

In other news, Christmas continues to rush up on us. Today whist T slept I wrapped the remainder of my presents (not including his) and made Christmas chutney, which is cooling in sterilised jars, ready to be tied with ribbons and given as a gift to friends who will understand money's kind of tight this year. Last Christmas I was still on full-time full-salary maternity pay (not SMP) and with a 12 week old baby was spending next to nothing, I didn't exactly feel like going out. Now I earn 3/5 of my pre-pregnancy salary, a further £243 a month of which is taken out for childcare vouchers. I'm also back in the mood for partying. Tonight I'm going into town for a Christmas meal with a group of mums I met online! Fun, but perhaps not cheap! The only benefit of my new frugal lifestyle is that I currently don't earn enough to pay back my student loan. I can't see this changing anytime soon either, I would like to have another baby at some point, so more mat leave, then I'll probably return to work part time again. Once the children are at school (look at me skipping five years into the future in two lines of text!) although I'll probably work five days, they'll have to be short days to enable me to drop off and pick up, meaning my hours will probably remain the same. I looked online the other day to see what will happen if I don't pay off my loan. As a student in 1998, the first year tuition fees were introduced, and the first year not to get a grant, I borrowed £10K, which more than 7 years after graduation now stands at £9K and a bit (interest, plus the fact an entry-level job in radio pays next to nothing, so I didn't pay back straight away). If the money is not returned by the time I am 65, it will be written off. Only 36 years to go then!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Finished!

I forgot to post earlier in the week. Despite the evidence in this post, I did manage to finish T's Christmas top in plenty of time (well, about 10 hours!) for his nursery party earlier this week.

Here it is in all its (slightly ramshackle crafting) glory!


I knitted the scarf, appliqued on the nose, embroidered the eyes and smile and sewed on the buttons. I appliqued the whole thing onto the t-shirt by hand, a decision which seemed sensible when I started, but meant I could barely see by the end, white on white is not good for me!

I am not the best crafter, I will never be able to make money from what I do, I mean, look how wonky those buttons are! There was no better feeling though than dropping T off in his top, plus Santa-trousers (red velour, white fluff) and knowing that I made that. The boy, and the t-shirt!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

More words, and a tiff over the TIF

This is so exciting, in the last couple of days we've had T's first sentences and more new words!

Last night, T was in the bath with Daddy. I usually do the getting out, holding whilst he brushes his teeth (no-one is allowed to help beyond putting the paste on the brush) and babygrow-ing. At the moment he's also taking antibiotics though, plus Minadex buildy-up syrup to try and give him some energy back, and we're giving him ibuprofen before bed because he's still not 100%. My husband needed to hold T whilst I shot the medicine into his mouth with the syringe, hopefully sufficiently fast that he couldn't spit it out afterwards. We do this in the bath to catch the sticky syrup which almost always escapes, and to allow easy cleaning up. 2.5ml of Amoxycillin went in, success. 5ml of Minadex was less easy, it tastes better, but with a larger amount I need to keep him still for longer. I reloaded the syringe for the third and final time with the viscous Nurofen for Children and, as I approached the bath again, T very clearly said 'what's that one?' ... not just one word, but three!!

I had thought it might be a fluke, but no, his next sentence (well, two adjoining words) followed soon afterwards. T was on his back on the floor in his room. I was distracting him whilst I applied his exzema cream. Once he starts to wriggle mid-creaming I've had it, he's sooo slippery! To that end I was singing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' whilst he opened and closed his hands, doing the actions. I got to the end of the first section ('...how I wonder what you are') and paused to pump another glug of emollient into my palm. At this point T flung his arms into the air for the next line of the song and said, clear as a bell 'up above'. I was agog, of course it is! The cream dripped from my hand onto the carpet, and before I could collect myself together and complete the line he'd started ('Up above the world so high ...') he'd noticed my attention was elsewhere and had flipped over and super-crawled off. By the time I'd wiped my hands and gathered him up in the towel, he'd done a wee on the carpet. Harumph.

Today we met friends at the Manchester Christmas Markets . It was cold cold cold, and the grotesque bowling ball style Father Christmas over the Town Hall entrance lacked the warmth of the blow-up version who peeked over the apex of the roof when I was young. There was plenty to look at though, and despite T's best tantrums when I wouldn't give him the whole of my still-warm macaroon, we had a lovely time. Over noodles at Wagamama at lunchtime, T reached for a pot of colouring implements to draw on his 'noodle doodle' children's menu, and very clearly said 'crayon'. That's a pretty cool word to use isn't it? None of your one syllable nonsense, this is proper vocab!

Back at home, things are almost as frosty as outdoors. If you're a Greater Manchester resident, you have until 10 pm tomorrow to return your vote on the TIF proposals, whether you think the 10 Greater Manchester authorities should bid to the Government's Transport Improvement Fund for money to improve public transport in the region, improvements which would be part funded by a peak time congestion charge. I am voting yes. Traffic in Manchester is atrocious. Journey times are the slowest in the UK, even worse than London. This is my city. I love it for its people, passion and places. Places that, if we don't do something, will become surrounded with nose-to-nose cars, each pumping out noxious fumes, meaning no picnics in the park on summer days, no games of rounders on the school fields, no walks through town and village centres, pottering in and out of the shops. Road use cannot continue to grow at its current rate. End of.

My husband however, is voting no. He is worried how we'll bear the cost, an extra £25 a week, £100 a month, for him to drive into the city. The TIF bid promises the charge wont be brought in until public transport improvements have been made. In Ramsbottom though, we're not on the map. No, seriously. Although we live in Greater Manchester and have been balloted on the proposals, Ramsbottom, a thin Christmas-tree shaped wedge extending North of Bury, isn't even represented on the official information which has accompanied our voting papers. Our options will remain the same, TIF or no. The (expensive) bus to the (expensive) metrolink to town. Why should he pay for something which will make no positive difference to his life?

Ignoring the fact that actually our votes will have cancelled each other out, and will therefore have no impact on the result, on Friday we'll find out which of us has picked the winning side.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Floodgates!

They've opened, T has had a fantastic day, and has suddenly sprouted a plethora of new words, just in time to help Grandma celebrate her 58th (sorry Mum!) birthday.

They are ...

bye (I am ostriching the fact he also seems to have picked up 'hiya' in a broad Manchester accent)
twinkle (whilst doing the open/close hand movements to TTLS)
uff (whilst watching One Man and His Dog [no, I didn't know it was on any more either] and pointing at a dog, I think he meant wuff. This is a real breakthrough, as previously all animals had encouraged an lion's roar!)

and of course the one that went down best of all ...

GRAN!

He's also showing much improved comprehension. On seeing me blow my nose, many, many times (darn winter lurgy) he picked up a tissue, held it to his face and made the blowing noise the only way he knew how, by sniffing very loudly. Not quite right, but sweet all the same, and a real improvement from tearing tissues into tiny pieces and eating them, his other favourite hobby.

I love my boy.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Not-Quite-Himself-itis

T has been to the doc. The husband and I figured that, sadly, his sudden penchant for sleeping probably wasn't due to our fantastic parenting skills or some sort of miracle, but that he obviously wasn't 100%. Granted, we had been enjoying the unbroken nights until we figured this out. Yesterday he slept twelve and a half hours overnight and had three daytime naps, the longest of which was three hours! I almost didn't want to take him to be checked out.

Once he'd had his temperature taken, chest listened to and ears looked in, the good doctor diagnosed Not-Quite-Himself-itis, probably viral, but sent us away with a bottle of lurid yellow Amoxycillin, just in case. It must be bad because, despite his massive pride at finally getting the hang of this walking lark a couple of weeks ago, T has reverted to crawling again, refusing even to bear weight on his legs, and holding his hands out to be carried.

Fingers crossed we see an improvement quickly, although his illness probably also explains why our Christmas tree remains standing. A well boy would have pulled it down by now. Wouldn't he?

Christmas, hormones and sickness

A lethal combination. I just cried at an advert for 'Miracle on 34th Street' on Channel 4.

Rebecca Believes. Waaaaaaaaah!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

What a difference a year makes

This time last year I had flash of crafty inspiration and decided to make T a personalised Christmas stocking. Well, it was either inspiration or guilt at having given him an unusual name. There'll be no personalised pencils for him, he wont even be able to buy one of those little enamel brooches they sell at the zoo in the shape of an elephant, but who cares, because he has a red felt sack with Mummy's special applique on it!

As referenced here, my skills (again) didn't quite match my enthusiasm though, so the two stocking shapes are stuck together with iron on hemming, although the letters (made with a felted jumper) are stitched on by hand, as are the holly leaves. The berries are small red buttons. I love buttons.

Anyway, as Christmas drew ever closer last year and my husband came home from work to 'I've finished the T and half of the O' or 'I'm almost ready to start the I!', I managed the (not insubstantial) feat of breastfeeding and sewing at the same time. This is much more difficult than other 'whilst breastfeeding' tasks, my favourite of which was eating, because it does matter if you drop the bits into your small son's ear in the process. Pizza crumbs not too bad, sharp needle, very bad.

Major accidents averted, the stocking was finished on Christmas Eve, and, in the hunt for obligatorily humiliating photos to show his future girlfriends, we stuck him in it to take a picture. Of course it was only fitting then to try the same yesterday when the stocking was retrieved from the Christmas decorations suitcase, a little scrumpled but still very much intact and ready for its second outing. This is when I am glad of a teeny boy, as he just about squeezed in. Next year I imagine he'll run around, wearing it as a hat.

What a difference a year makes, eh?

I'm feeling very Christmassy today.

The white stuff

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is ..." well, OK, we haven't got a fire (we have got a fireplace, currently home to T's massive toychest, but naked flames and curious toddlers don't really mix) but the frightful bit is pretty true. Yes, it's snowing!

T and I woke this morning to a carpet of snow, and not your cheap nylon carpet either, a luxurious deep shagpile with extra-thick underlay, a clear 6 inches or so of crunchy pure cold powder. Our joy lasted only a short time though when we discovered that snow on a big (ungritted) hill in a town with only one road in and out was likely to cause traffic chaos, evidenced by the fact it took me almost 2 hours to do the round trip between Rammy and Totty to get T to nursery, a distance of less than 5 miles.

Of course I gave up any hope of getting over the 62 to Leeds. Scary traffic reports of snow ploughs at Ainley Top, and the fact my feet, even in tights, socks and boots, were already freezing, meant I came home to work. Sitting on the sofa wrapped in a blanket with the laptop, I've calmed my frustration with chocolate buttons (succesful) and started making calls. If this morning is anything to go by (and the snow continues to fall!) in a couple of hours it'll be time to set off to pick up T again.

Monday, 1 December 2008

A new name

Perhaps I should rename this blog. Adventures of an always sleeping toddler maybe? It appears that now T's got the hang of it, that's all he wants to do.

On Saturday night, following a busy day of playing, he went to sleep at 7.30 pm and didn't wake until 7 am Sunday. I'd been out for the night, an early Christmas catch-up with the mums I met at aquanatal classes whilst I was pregnant, and even my not-quite-sober stumblings at 3 am didn't rouse him. I couldn't quite bring myself to get out of bed after only four hours sleep (self inflicted I know) so T had a feed lying down and then got up with Daddy for breakfast and, before long, a nap. A nap! Without fuss! Without having to resort to a long walk with the pram, or a drive in the car, or being pinned to the sofa, boob in mouth (good job really, not sure Daddy would quite cut the mustard on that front). He had another long nap in the afternoon before going to bed last night at 8 and sleeping until 7.30 am. I gave him big cuddles and made a giant fuss of how good he was to have slept ALL night in his OWN bed, but he obviously hadn't quite finished as after a little milk he went back down until 9 am!! He's had breakfast and a shower, dressed and then, as we collected up the library books from his bookcase to return today, his eyelids started to droop, so I put him into bed and guess what? He's sleeping! I never thought I'd say this but I hope this wears off soon, I'm starting to miss my son, although the house has never been cleaner!!

In other news, we've had a fun last few days. T has enjoyed meeting Father Christmas for the first time (and not crying!) and

opening his first advent calendar. Strictly speaking this isn't his first, but last year he was 12weeks old and on a Mummy-milk only diet, so I had to open it and eat all of the chocolates for him.

He's also learnt to dance, and is enjoying a Christmas mix tape which his Dad made me last year, especially Darlene Love's 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' from Phil Spector's fantastic 'A Christmas Gift For You'.

To be honest, if I'd had that much excitement I'd probably want to sleep too!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The sleep fairy has been!

Last night T got into bed whilst Daddy read him a story. Daddy said night night, turned off the light and left the room to do some jobs (well trained that man!) After two minutes he noticed T had gone a bit quiet. Not wanting to disturb him, he waited 5 minutes until he felt brave enough to peep round the door, where he found him asleep (self-settled!) and snoring his cute baby snore.

We sneaked into bed, doing the whole 'don't wake the boy' routine and fell asleep, expecting the tinny baby-monitor cry to come at any moment. It didn't. I woke at 5, 6 and then 7 for the day. There were two grown-ups in the bed and the nursery was silent. At 8 am T woke, happy from 12 hours (count em!) of undisturbed sleep!

Eureka!
I cried (which is where we're going today, more later) and I hope this is just the start!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Adventures in Sherwood Forest

We are just back from four days at Center Parcs in Nottingham to celebrate my FIL's 60th birthday. Spending such a time in close confines with my entire extended family (MIL, FIL, BIL, SIL, their two children, H, T and I) probably wouldn't be relaxing at any time, but this weekend we were treated to a number of adventures, just to keep us on our toes. They follow, in broadly chronological order!

1) Whilst toddling across the baby pool (Grandpa and Grandma were overjoyed to see T walk to them, we'd not told them he'd got the hang of it, so it was a real surprise when he tottered over to them!) T fell and scraped his chin against the concrete pool side. Thankfully, although scabby and unsightly, this doesn't cause any lasting damage.

2) We put T to bed in the CP cot, next to the double bed in the upstairs room. The cot has a drop side, which I leave down better to shush pat him when he wakes in the night. The bedguard is in place on the opposite side for when he (undoubtedly) needs to come in with us in the early hours. At around 2 am I am awoken with a crash and a scream. No sign of T, who has disappeared from the cot. Yes, our son had decided to try and climb out of his cot, onto the bed so he can snuggle in with us. He's done this silently and in near total darkness (blackout curtains plus villa in the middle of the forest) and when he misjudged the distance, has slipped inbetween the cot and the bed and fallen to the floor, where he is trapped. I figure this out in a confused sleep fug, rescue him, curse the cot (and myself for leaving the side dropped) and he sleeps with us for the rest of the long weekend.

3) T, who normally enjoys swimming, especially with Grandpa, has a meltdown in the pool, which continues once dressed and back at the villa. He eventually goes to sleep but is breathing v rapidly and bright red. When we take his temperature it is more than 39 degrees, 30 minutes after a dose of Calpol. Cue a mad dash to a Nottingham hospital, baby in only his nappy, draped in damp flannels, to be checked out. Thankfully it's only a chest and ear infection, but we have managed to both miss Grandpa's special birthday meal, and of course spoil it for everyone else as they're worried sick!

Phew. I was almost glad to be home this evening, even with a black bin bag stuffed full of dirty washing (yes, after 4 days, where does it all come from??!) and a car full of random baby paraphanalia to unpack.

In the interests of fairness though there were also some great moments.

1) Seeing T play with his cousins, who adore him, especially now he's 'interactive' (they were less enamoured with their prostrate youngest relative last Christmas)

2) Long walks in the woods, and watching Grandpa on the climbing frame. What's the 60th birthday equivalent of a mid-life crisis? A two-thirds life crisis?

3) Truly being able to relax and be myself, and realising that, for all the complaining I do, there's nothing better than family.

But of course I can't end on such tweedom can I?? Following on from the advocado fiasco, I have also, in the course of our long weekend, managed to compile a new list of words which my MIL mispronounces. I've never been able to figure out those funny shapes in the Oxford English Dictionary, so this is my own version.

1) Humous - Hoo-muss
2) Tortilla - Tort-ill-a
3) Fajita - Fadge-it-a

Snigger.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Surprise!

I know I know I don't usually do two posts in one day, but this deserves it!

My husband dropped T off at nursery this morning in a reversal of our usual roles. I picked him up, received the obligatory report on how much lunch he'd eaten (lots, it was his favourite today, Baked Bean Pie) and how many nappies they'd changed, and brought him home for tea. After he tried force feeding Mummy Shepherd's Pie which had been on the floor (yum!) I put T in the lounge with Iggle Piggle for company whilst I cleaned under the high chair and, wouldn't you know, he walked across the room. Not just one step, not just two, a whole succession of steps, giggling like a loon as he went! My baby, who went to nursery this morning crawling and cruising, as he has done for almost 7 months (!!) got up and went, just like that. It was as if someone had flicked a switch.

Of course I called my husband straight away, who didn't answer. I called my Mum, who rather rained on my parade by mentioning that the eponymous Kevin in Lionel Shriver's 'We Need to Talk ...' had learnt to walk in secret (way to panic me!) but was really pleased. I finally got hold of my husband who was shocked, his voice tinged with just the smallest regret that on a regular day he'd have been the one standing agape, filthy cloth in one hand, as our pride and joy took his first little big steps in the world. Sometimes being a working parent sucks.

A pondering on skill versus enthusiasm

... or maybe that should be the other way round?

I am a creative person. No, really. I know a lot of people claim to be creative. It's become a sort of alternative version of 'I'm mad me' - words only ever spoken by people who are boring and derivative - and bandied around by keen types who buy those self-assembly greetings card kits which could be put together by a well trained monkey.

Sorry, I digress. I truly believe I am creative. I make numerous pieces of work a day, selecting the right materials and the order in which to apply them. I craft diligently, looking closely at my projects and making small but precise adjustments. Then, in an instant, they're gone. I craft in words and sounds, painting pictures in the air, the life of a radio producer.

I realise I am inordinately lucky to have the job I do. Every month, a gaggle of media studies graduates come through the doors for work experience, leaving thank you chocolates behind with copies of their CVs, but the industry is shedding jobs, streamlining, becoming more efficient. Every time office politics make me want to nip into a soundproofed studios and have a loud scream, I remind myself I could be doing something even more frustrating in the blink of an eye.

This gratitute, as I suppose it is, doesn't stop me craving the opportunity to make something 'real' though. Something you can hold in your hand, turn over, lift up to the light and admire. This desire hit me like a brick whilst I was pregnant. Not content with growing a ball of cells into a full-blown baby boy, I wanted to make things, use my hands, express some of this amazing growing love for him in honest to goodness solid form.

This is where the skill versus enthusiasm bit comes in though. I am almost entirely without skill, and have almost boundless enthusiasm.

I started with a desire to knit. I borrowed a book from the library but couldn't make sense of it, so I bought a kit. Galt First Knitting. Target age, 7-10. I sort of understood and managed a few squares with holes in.

I thought I would make a patchwork quilt. I bought lots of lovely bright material, fantastic colours and patterns. Most of them were cut into for the first time to make bunting for T's birthday. A row of flags hung with bias binding declaring 'T is 1'. I'm almost too ashamed to admit that I ran out of time though and glued on the letters with fabric adhesive and bond-a-webbed the row together.

The flags looked good though, so who cares? My husband bemoans (at least once a week!) the fact the sewing machine he bought me last Christmas (when, I remind him, T was only just 12 weeks old) has only been out of the box once, but I think for me the planning is almost as good as the achievement. I get so excited by assembling all of the kit, cutting out and pinning on pieces and planning colours and shapes, that finishing anything would probably be a bit of a letdown. In fact one of the only major projects I've completed in recent months, 150 wedding invitations for a friend, lined with vellum and bedecked with ribbon, bored me to tears long before I was half way through.

I do keep trying though, thinking that perhaps as yet I haven't found my niche and that one day I'll start creating and just not stop. This week's project is a Christmas T-shirt for T. I have cut out the snowman, appliqued on his nose and selected the felt for his hat. And yes, I knitted his scarf. Maybe then it wouldn't be too bad if, instead of giving my sewing machine its second outing, I used bond-a-web to iron the motif to the selected top?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The results!

Well, we've had two nights of OBBB (Operation Big Boy Bed) and although he's still not sleeping through the night (of course!) things have been much better. In fact, whisper it, I don't want to tempt fate, I might go as far as to say that T likes (likes, not loves) his bed.

For two nights in a row he's gone down at 8 pm ish (last night there was a bit of arguing first, but we took it in turns to sing to/comfort/pat/shush him) and has only woken ONCE before morning. On Sunday night he actually slept in his cot, on his own, until 2 am. 2 am! We crept up the stairs at bedtime, leaving clothes by the side of the laundry basket to prevent the clunk of the lid from waking him, and gleefully dived (quietly!) into bed to luxuriate in the extra room. My husband and I lay like stars (in a star shape I mean, rather than like a celebrity, say Madonna, I have no idea how she lies in bed, in some yoga position probably) with our fingertips and toes touching and no-one stuck their fingers up our noses, pulled our hair or stole the covers.

Yes, I admit I did miss that little warm head snuggling under my arm when I woke confusedly in the night, but T really does seem to be in a better mood because of the extra sleep. Yesterday he survived on one 20 minute daytime nap (in the bed).

Actually, sugar, I don't want to lose my small periods of daytime respite, must keep an eye on this!

I on the other hand, following the 'sleep breeds sleep' hypothesis, and despite the fact I've had the least disturbed nights for a long time, feel more knackered than ever.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Operation Big Boy Bed (the prelude)

In all our sleep woes over the last year and a bit, one thing is for certain. T Does Not Like his cot. He slept on my chest when he was tiny, graduating to the carrycot from the pram beside my bed, my hand draped over the side next to him as if languishing in the water on a summer boat ride. When he outgrew the carrycot he moved to a rocking crib, an ebay bargain, at the end of our bed. He would raise his head, pulling up his neck just far enough to see over the duvet mountain that Mummy and Daddy are still there, then go to sleep.

He spent time in his cot, in his own room, from being tiny though. From about three months I could be guaranteed a shower if I laid him on his back with leg kicking room and put on the classical Tiny Love mobile. He would watch the spinning cow, horse and goat with their clacking beads and airily wave his hands towards them for the 15 minutes of music, a perfect period of respite for a still very new Mum.

I wanted to move T to his own room only when he was sleeping through the night. Still exclusively breastfed, we thought weaning would help, but he ate little to start and barely any more by 7 months when, upon noticing he could pull himself up to standing, despite the fact he was still waking twice a night, the crib had to go. So into the cot he went, and it wasn't exactly a smooth transition. Despite me feeding him to sleep more often than not, and standing by his side, arm stretched uncomfortably over the bars, rubbing his back, he never liked sleeping in there, and would stand the instant he woke, bouncing up and down and screaming for Mummy and Daddy to rescue him. All manner of nightlights, leaving the door open, and nursery rhyme CDs didn't help, and he began to whimper the minute I put him in the cot with a book during the day to, for example, nip to the loo or run up to the attic with a load of washing.

By the time I returned to work he was waking up to four times a night again and taking more than an hour to settle each time. I sat on the nursing chair in his room, T pinned to my chest, waiting for him to reach that floppy-limbed sleep stage which meant he wouldn't wake up on transfer from Mummy to mattress. One night I fell asleep where I sat, catching myself mid commando-roll to the floor, and, certain this couldn't continue, we bought a bedguard and began to co-sleep.

I've written quite a bit about co-sleeping. I do love it, honestly. What's not to love about your first born snuggling into you night after night so you can sniff his soft velvety head and watch the rise and fall of his chest as he breathes and sighs with dreams? But I'd be lying if I said there weren't times I'd just love a bit of time on my own with my husband. We were all in the vicious cycle of waking each other too. Me with a hacking cough which has taken weeks to clear, my husband with his 4 am alarm call to the early shift and middle of the night work calls that needed his verdict or expertise. I wasn't sure that, given a little time and space, T might sleep a whole lot better.

The cot was a non starter though, so, after two weeks of night weaning, T now only feeding first and last thing on my work days, more when I'm at home, last night it was time for Operation Big Boy Bed.

More on how it went tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Child's Play

Oh what a busy morning, I've been playing with the dough
And, with a little help, upon a card I learned to sew
I helped my friend, 'nurse Sarah', to perform an operation,
Then fixed the track together for my train and built a station.
I popped inside the "house", to make a cup of tea,
And stood beside the cooker, making lunch for twenty three.
I completed three whole jigsaws and played a new board game
And had a turn on all the bikes, the slide and climbing frame.
I handed round the biscuits at "milk and biscuit" time,
Then I listened to a story and sang a nursery rhyme.
But now the morning is over and the mummies are all waiting
I hope my mother doesn't say
"I wish you'd done a painting!"

I have to admit I'm a sucker for a painting. Well, if you pay £37.50 a day (eek!) for nursery you want something to show for it at the end of the day, and to demonstrate that, for at least oooh, half an hour, your child wasn't just abandoned in a corner with a pile of toys which have a faint whiff of Milton*

I know there are plenty of things he does at nursery which don't end in a scrumpled piece of painted paper, and he brings the evidence home on the neck of his vest (two portions of lasagne for lunch!) or the bottom of his trousers (playing in flour and water!) most days. There is just something so proud making about a real piece of honest to goodness childrens art work.

Anyway, the recent shortage of things to stick on the fridge has been explained. My husband, who does the pick-up, an event which is much more relaxed and can be conducted at a more respectable pace than the morning's frantic drop-off, had forgotten to empty T's pigeonhole. Today he came home with ...

Footsteps in the snow (black paper, white prints, glitter)
A pumpkin (orange paint, random black bits of paper glued on)
A Pudsey Bear (yellow paint, random 'spots' glued on to represent bandana)
A nursery-made birthday card and hat (T's birthday is in September)

There are plenty of things I am proud of about nursery. The fact he lies down on a beanbag, in a room full of other toddler and (without fuss) closes his eyes and goes to sleep! The fact he gives all of the girls in his room lovely big kisses and cuddles. The fact that this morning, being the second child there (Mummy on an early) he got the chance to feed the nursery fish. But today I also have a great big proud smile on my face every time I go into the kitchen. Proper family kitchens have pictures on the fridge!

*NB, I don't really think nursery is like this at all, I just picture that they're not very nice so I don't worry about T starting to love them more than me.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Chwsg

We're back now from a week in Pembrokeshire (staying at the fantastic Bluestone) and just beginning to warm up. The scenery was beautiful, the company - a week of uninterrupted time with my boys - wonderful, but damn it was cold! T adored it of course, swimming every day (note to self, must buy wetsuit, his enthusiasm couldn't hide the fact he went an interesting shade of blue on a couple of occasions) lots of fresh air and even a couple of beaches to himself. We found a hidden gem deli, looked at lots of old stones and watched T experience his first fireworks.


Of course a whole different country and a different language (chwsg means sleep apparently, according to a random internet translation website) didn't make any difference to the night-time behaviour of the wakeful one. We're still co-sleeping and still on at least two wakings per night, more often three. I'd be lying if I said I didn't go to bed every night, sneaking in as quiet as a mouse (let's not even think what this is doing to our sex life) and praying that night 407, 408 or 409 (still counting) might just be the one he sleeps through, and that we'll all wake up to light outside having dozed the whole night away.

It never is of course. What have I done wrong? I hate the fact that I'm getting angry about it now, that sometimes, just sometimes in the night I want to pick T up and shake him and yell at him to GO BACK TO BLOODY SLEEP! Of course I don't. Of course I take a breath and, more often than not, sneak off to the loo for a minute of peace, leaving Daddy to deal with T, but I resent the fact it's got to this. I don't want to feel like this.

We bought a book. The NCT guide to helping your baby sleep. It is very nicey nicey, all kissing games and sticker charts, but also doesn't mince words. If you want results you need to do this the hard way, and the older your baby the harder it will be.

Great, something else I've done wrong. If I'd gone for the controlled crying approach six months ago it might have saved us all a lot of heartache. Now I'm faced with an eternity (or so it feels) of sleepless nights, or subjecting my son to hours of crying because I wasn't man enough to teach him to go to sleep by himself before now. Hideous.

Of course we're doing what any sensible adult would do in the circumstances, and taking the middle road. We're off to Center Parcs in 10 days for my FILs 60th birthday celebrations. Any new routine would of course be disrupted, so let's not start now, eh? Instead we're night weaning T, not offering him a breastfeed when he wakes. In fact not offering him anything except a warm embrace from his loving parents, in the hope it might discourage him from waking at all. So far the results have also been very middle of the road. T has still woken, but he has settled (and without too too much fuss) without milk. This is only night three though, and the big boy has gone out drinking tonight and so will be in the spare room when he returns (co-sleeping and alcohol do not mix) and unable to help with the settling. Whether the small boy will be quite as amenable at returning to sleep when my boobs are only a pyjama's breadth away remains to be seen. Perhaps I need to sleep in a turtleneck?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The wedding night

Not that one of course, but ours. It appears T likes weddings. After grouching through the ceremony (distracted by his toy hippo and light up wand, thankfully both silent toys) he stuffed himself with roast beef and yorkshire pudding (no chicken nuggets on the children's menu here!) and a giant piece of chocolate cake before spending half and hour with F, the bride and groom's son, crawling full tilt up and down three flights of beautifully wide stairs. All of that climbing must have taken more effort than we imagined because around 8 o'clock he yawned, we took him up to bed, a quick feed and there he stayed, sleeping like a baby (not a wakeful toddler baby, a proper pink and white Johnson's powder gurgling baby) until the middle of the night when, with another swift feed he went off again until morning. And not his own version of morning, after my alarm had gone off. This just doesn't happen.

Of course we couldn't just enjoy our rare child-free evening with abandon once T was asleep. My husband has a stinking cold and I didn't really feel like drinking very much. I think it had something to do with the fact that everyone seemed to have become drunk around me as I changed nappies/returned T to the bottom of the stairs to restart his climb/collected the toy animals from under the chair covers where he'd hidden them. I couldn't quite be bothered to catch up. So we found a lovely comfy sofa within baby monitor range, stocked up on soft drinks and chatted. And although perhaps it wasn't the bawdy debauched dancing evening I had planned (I'd even taken comfy shoes for dancing!) it was lovely all the same.

Sleep hasn't been quite as good since we came home of course, and I'm not sure what impact spending a week in a cabin in the Welsh countryside next week is going to have, but there's something about weddings which just makes me thankful for what I have, and I have given both of my boys an extra big squeeze, and lots of lovely Mummy milk to soothe those red raw teething gums.

In other news, T has also learnt to cover his mouth with his hand when he coughs, something I have been saying, almost automatically, for months. He's growing up!

I'm not sure whether they have wifi at Bluestone so I might not have chance to update until we're back next weekend. For the next five days I'll be the one chasing the bright red snowsuit crawling across the beautiful South Wales beaches.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Starting Together

Last night Mr Molar had a party in T's mouth, and he brought his friends. His friends know how to cause pain, and they don't like sleep. As a result we're like a family of zombies this morning, and all slightly sticky. Trying to administer Calpol to a wriggly screaming boy without putting on the big light or spilling any is a feat clearly beyond us. The two new teeth have poked their heads through his sore red gums this morning, and it's clearly uncomfortable to eat. In an attempt to comfort him I let him eat Pain au Chocolat for breakfast. I'm going to Mummy hell!

Thursday is usually one of my work days, but not today! This afternoon our friends B and N, whom we met through our NCT antenatal classes, are getting married. This is my sort of wedding, there will be (count em!) THIRTY babies and children there, so I probably don't have to unduly worry that T will cause chaos and I'll be given the stare of doom by the other beautifully groomed wedding guests as I try to juggle breastfeeding in my wedding frock. Later on we'll load up the car (travel cot, bed guard - he doesn't like sleeping in the travel cot any more than he likes his cot at home, so he'll obviously end up in with us at some point this evening - baby monitor, food, drinks, bibs, toys, highchair - the hotel only has 3 so we've been asked to take our own - spare clothes) and head off to celebrate the new Mr and Mrs M and the new life they're Starting Together.


I'll do my wedding report tomorrow!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails

I wasn't surprised when my 20 week scan revealed I was having a boy. Despite having a sister, being brought up in an all-female household and having selected a name for my 'daughter' a clear 10 years before meeting a man I'd even consider allowing to become her father, as soon as that second line came up on the pregnancy test I knew we were expecting a son. We travelled to New York when I was 8 weeks pregnant, a long-booked trip for our first wedding anniversary, a break I'd have enjoyed much more without hideous morning sickness and spending much of the week knee-deep in sludge, or clambering over snow drifts baked solid at every curb. We sheltered in shops to avoid the cold, it would have been rude not to, and bought baby items that even at this early stage were obviously for a boy. In the shop at the Museum of Modern Art my husband selected a purple dragon with a rattle and mirrors, a toy that vibrated, the spines on its back lighting up when its neck was stretched away from its body. I just couldn't picture it having a female owner, so it was good that in the early hours of a September morning just over a year ago, T appeared, just as we predicted.

There are so many generalisations about boys though. When I told some people that my bump was hiding my son, they asked 'whether I'd be hoping for a girl next time'. Yes, before my first baby was even born. Whenever he cried well-meaning relatives murmered that boys are 'always difficult', and don't even get me started on the midwife who was surprised we experienced difficulties trying to establish breastfeeding because 'everyone knows men like breasts'.

If you go into a clothes store, or even browse the rails at one of the large supermarkets, you'll notice something in the boys section. Not only are all the items grey, blue or brown but there's a massive amount of camoflage and the slogans, oh the slogans! I'm A Little Monkey, I'm Little But Loud, I Don't Want Anything Except My Own Way, Naughty But Nice. What hope do little boys have to be anything else if this is the message on their chests? And it works, everyone had an opinion on boys and how, in some small way, they're not quite as good as girls. One of the workers at the local Children's Centre told me their play room is closed to all over-4s because 'although the girls are still happy to come and play, by this age the boys just run around breaking things and hitting each other'. I realise it is just as preposterous to lump all little girls in the 'well behaved' category, but at least their generalisation is a positive one. Faced with expectations that he'll be a 'little terror' how could T fail to be anything else? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy?

This is an issue I might have a teensy bee in my bonnet about, as you might have noticed. Luckily, T is still obliging my peccadillo. He doesn't mind that his clothes are definitely of the plain primary coloured variety, or even that when I noticed Next were selling a pink jumper in their baby boys' section, I immediately snapped one up for him. My husband is worried I am trying to 'emasculate' T though, and trying to 'turn him into a girl', or even worse 'gay'. Once I had picked myself up from the floor and expressed shock that I had managed to marry anyone quite so ignorant, I did reassure him that a pink jumper didn't immediately indicate he wouldn't one day be a grandfather in the traditional way. When I suggested we buy T a toy buggy to push along, based on the fact he loves the one at the Children's Centre, and indeed using his own buggy as a walker, he refused point blank as buggies are 'for girls'. During last weekend's mammoth trip to the Trafford Centre though, and seeing his son's look of glee when he got his hands on a mini pushchair and took a toy car for a walk around the Early Learning Centre, he relented. Agreeing that perhaps, just a little bit, I might have been right. Being a good wife of course I seized on this admission of guilt and ran with it, managing to bag T a toy washing machine too, based on how much he loves the real one, previously something else that would have been out of bounds as a 'girls toy'.

I'm painting my husband as a real neanderthal here, but he's genuinely not. He does do the washing, using the machine, and I assume one day he'll show T how to put his own clothes in there and magically make them clean. I just really believe that the line that 'divides' boys and girls, blue and pink, dinosaurs and fairies, is so deeply entrenched it can take real effort to step back and see that actually, it's not a real line, just one hovering in the air, imagined by people who probably don't have a lot of imagination! Our friend Lily, two, loves T's purple vibrating dinosaur, and her mum has requested Thomas the Tank Engine presents for her birthday. The three year old twin boys we know have a beautiful wooden toy kitchen, and spend hours making their mum cups of 'tea' as she reclines on the sofa (well, as much as you can sit down at all when you have three year old boys to keep an eye on).

The pushchair and washer have been sent to the attic until Christmas. I can't wait to get them out!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Big Draw

I'm a firm believer in use it or lose it. I realise how amazingly lucky I am to be bringing up my son in such a fantastic cosmopolitan city, full of wonderful things to see and do and magical places to go to, many of which are completely free. Despite comments from friends and family that I spend more time out and about than at home, I'm not hanging up my pram wheels just yet, especially not when there's so much fun to be had!

We've been to the Manchester Art Gallery today for their Big Draw event, aimed at engaging families and their littlies with drawing. T was nonplussed as we walked through town, mainly because we'd forgotten the raincover for the pushchair (although he was wearing an anorak) and the drizzle was persistent. He was still sulking as we carried him up the front steps (there is a ramp but my husband refused to walk the extra distance!) and collected our map from the main entrance.

He perked up a little as we passed through the shop into the wide bright museum atrium and spotted attraction one though, fluorescent face paint. There was a big sign reassuring parents it was non-toxic. I'm not sure exactly how they make non-toxic luminous pink, yellow and lurid green paint, they're not exactly colours from nature, but my curiosity didn't stop me handing T a brush and allowing him to attack his own face, using another toddler as a 'mirror' to see what to do. Much splodging later, and whilst I celebrated the fact he'd managed to avoid his eyes although obviously not his mouth, my husband declared the resulting decoration 'made T look stupid' and demanded we baby wipe it off to be replaced by a design of his own choosing (!!) Cue a pink tiger (they'd run out of orange paint by this point, so long had we been applying, scrubbing and debating how to reapply) who seemed much cheered.

We went through the atrium to the disco room, where T was given a glow stick and crawled around surrounded by disco lights to music I remember I wasn't cool enough for in my youth. From there into the shadow room, plastered from floor to ceiling in white paper, with piles of pencils and Berol felt-tipped pens all over the floor for children to use as they wished. T wouldn't sit still long enough to have his hand drawn round, but he did find a tasty purple marker and seemed content to suck it for a while whilst I exchanged harrassed glances with other parents and expressed relief that he probably wasn't old enough to want to replicate the 'drawing on the walls' experience at home!

The giant cardboard maze, also available for colouring-in, was being hastily mended by a member of staff wielding a giant roll of parcel tape as we played. Over excited toddlers scrapping over the last few inches of virgin card had pulled sections to the ground. T's latest 'trick' is to roar like a lion. Or a tiger. Or an elephant or hippo (the other animals in his set). Clearly authenticity isn't his strong point. My husband tried to attract his interest by drawing a giraffe on one wall. Half way through I asked why he was carefully outlining an offshore oil rig. Look at the purple thing in the middle of this pic. Those were legs apparently. T was also confused by it obviously as he didn't even attempt to roar.



We rounded off a succesful afternoon by completely failing to buy 'only the essentials' at Sainsbury's and having a nap on the way home (T). He went to bed happily at 6.55 pm, which doesn't bode well for a settled night. Tomorrow we're back at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital to see the specialist about his nose (more to follow). I'm not sure what he'll make of the purple streaks under his chin, in his hair, down the side of his nose and in one ear. Apparently non-toxic bright pink tiger paint washes off. Felt pen does not.

Congestion

I know most of what Alanis Morissette sang about was just bloody annoying rather than ironic (black fly in your chardonnay, anyone?) but that's the thing about irony, most of the time you don't sit there, smirking to yourself about how incongruous it all is, you start to seethe, frustrated by the whole 'just not right'-ness of it all, and the desire to just get out of the situation and on with something else. This was me yesterday, sitting in the World's Worst Traffic Jam.

I'm not one for hyperbole (honest!) and believe me, I'm used to jams, much of my daily Manchester to Leeds commute being one long one. This was something else though. Around 3 pm, my husband turned to me and muttered the immortal words 'shall we just nip to the Trafford Centre?'

Ah, well, let me tell you there was no nipping involved. First it was raining, and everyone knows it's impossible to drive well in the rain. Then the M60, problems around Bolton meant a 30 minute delay. We took a short-cut, a scenic tour around Swinton and Eccles before cutting through to Trafford Park, the wide open roads and generous roundabouts free of their usual HGV traffic. Then we stopped. And stopped. And stopped some more. And just when we thought we might move, just a little, just a few yards, yup, we stopped again.

The irony I mentioned? That would be Peel Holdings' 'No' campaign, urging us Greater Manchester residents to vote against the Congestion Charge, part of the city's bid to the government's Transport Improvement Fund and subject of an upcoming referendum. Yes, there we were, stationary, in a giant traffic jam, the very definition of congestion, surrounded by little black signs urging us, cajoling us to vote against the proposal when our ballot papers drop through the door.

I know of course that the CC wouldn't do anything about Trafford Centre traffic on a Saturday evening. Charges would only apply during peak times, and in the run-up to Christmas routes surrounding the North West's own shopping mecca have always been packed solid. It was the placing of the signs, the way in which I noticed them, which caused me to raise a wry smile.

Actually, I lie. There was no smiling involved, my husband and I were doing what all good couples do in such situations, blaming each other for the decision to come, shouting at missed opportunities to change lanes and perhaps be in with the chance of moving a couple of car lengths, sulking and trying to distract the baby from screaming one of the windows out.

In other toast spread news (jam, geddit, do you see what I did there?!) I am now outnumbered two to one. T loves Marmite, the food of the devil also so beloved by my husband. I can smell it now, and see it sticking to the knife, leaving trails all over the chopping board. Ewwww, I'm definitely a hater!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bring me sunshine ....

Given our experience with the World's Coldest Picnic a couple of weeks ago, I was understandably nervous when my Mum suggested we go to Morecambe for a day out whilst she's on half term. Still, never one to turn down an adventure, I dressed both T and I in lots of layers and packed hats, scarves and gloves for both. As an aside, getting a toddler to wear gloves (well, in this case it's mittens) is blimmin hard work, he just doesn't get putting his fingers in one section and his thumb in the other, and bites them off as soon as possible. I need to craft some sort of 'through the back of his coat' string contraption so he doesn't lose them.

Anyway, we parked up and walked to the beautiful art deco Midland Hotel an iceberg of loveliness in a sea of boarded up tea-shops and long gone seafront thrill rides. T was entranced by the shiny shiny floor in the lobby, complete with original seahorse mosaic, which he sat on, poking the jewel-like pieces with his fingers, trying to pull them up to suck. Shiny tastes so wonderful! Not as wonderful as proper chips cooked in dripping though, evidently. We went to the Rotunda, the hotel bar which serves food, based on our asessment that lunch in the restaurant would bankrupt us. We picked a table by the panoramic glass windows overlooking the bay - don't look too far to the right, that boarded up tea-shop really spoils the view ;-) We ordered Lancastrian Tapas, a posh way of saying ploughman's lunch, and T was beyond excited with the ham, sausage, pie (it was a bit of a pork fest!) and local goats cheese which arrived on a big wooden board. And those chips of course. Once he'd eaten his fill he spent the next half an hour with his nose pressed up to that glass, steaming lip-shaped marks onto the view of the bay, but it kept him quiet and the staff didn't seem to mind.

Stuffed full of lunch we walked along the front, following a trail of bird art, part of the Tern Project. T fell asleep of course, buried in his coat up to his eyebrows, with only an inch or so of head exposed to the elements. It was a good job, although the sun shone the wind was biting. His nap allowed Mum and I to explore an Aladdin's Cave second-hand bookshop and have a good gossip as we walked the mile or so to what was once a beautiful Victorian pier, and which now only exists in paint form on the sign of the pub (The Pier, of course) on the other side of the prom, and back. Even Eric Morecambe, mid song, couldn't rouse a sleeping babe.


Standing on the seafront, we could see the little houses of Grange over Sands on the Cumbrian coast across the bay (well, obviously the houses themselves aren't small. I wrote that with the Father Ted sketch playing in my head 'Dougal, these cows are small ...') and it almost looked as if, at a fair pace, you could walk there.

On the way back to the car I looked up. Not at the blue sky, clouds scudding past at a rate of knots, but at the tops of the buildings. Above Woolworth's, what was obviously once a cinema, a triumph of art deco. Above the arcades, more beautiful facades, rich in detail and colour. Almost more beautiful because you have to look that little bit harder for them.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Number Two

This is not a post about poo. It could be though, I seem to have become, in the last 13 months, some sort of poo expert. A poospert maybe? I always swore I wouldn't be one of those mothers who discussed their offspring's erm, outputs, as casually in company as what was on TV last night, but it's almost as if once the baby arrives, the ability to talk about it in all sorts of social situations is aquired by osmosis, and before you know it you're sitting on the sofa in your boss's office talking about having to cut off a vest because the nappy leaked and poo reached your son's neck.

I think as a cloth nappy user I am probably faced with rather more poo than I would be if I just had to remove a dirty nappy, wrap it and put it in the bin. Flicking the disposable liners into the loo isn't hard work, believe me we'd be in Pampers if it were, but I baulk at putting fully formed toddler poo in my washing machine, and sometimes the liner shifts or just doesn't quite hold it all in, meaning I have to get a bit nearer than perhaps I would like to! Still, it's a fascinating insight into the human digestive system. Recognising what's gone in and how it's come out, only possible because lots of things seem not to touch the side. A friend swears she once found a whole grape in her son's nappy. Not squashed, not just the skin but as if it had been picked from the bunch and placed there. Once that would have disgusted me, but now it's become an anecdote I tell to anyone within earshot. That poo osmosis again!

Anyway, I said this was not a post about poo and in my anxiety not to talk about it I seem to have talked about nothing else!

Actually number two refers to our plans for (eeeek!) a second baby. I'd always assumed I'd like a two year age gap, the difference between my sister and I. I don't know why this seems so appealing, for a number of years we did nothing but pull each others hair and steal each others toys, but still my husband and I have discussed 'thinking about it' after Christmas. I'm not sure I'm ready for a second baby, how could I love anything, anyone as much as I love T? I'd have to give birth again. I'm still breastfeeding, would T have given up by then, would I end up tandem feeding? Can you even get pregnant whilst breastfeeding (I know the answer to this question is yes by the way, I just don't know how it might affect my fertility). Can I cope with more sleepless nights? OK, T doesn't sleep through, but still, a toddler waking in the night is very different to a newborn waking every 2 hours to feed for 45 minutes! But I'd love another year of maternity leave, and have lots of beautifully folded tiny baby clothes, worn just once or twice in most cases, just crying out for a new owner. Thinking about it is taking up more and more of my time, it's always at the back of my mind, that longing for the 'my secret' feeling which came from carrying a tiny bundle of cells, nuzzling in and growing and changing in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

How you go about getting pregnant when you share your bed with a wakeful toddler though I have no idea.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Poorly boys

Both of the male members of the household are poorly tonight. T has been ill on and off for a couple of weeks now, a chest infection, tonsilitis, stinky cold and teething thrown in and it's obviously caught up with him. During his bath with Daddy T snuggled into his tummy, closed his eyes and started to snore. You know it's serious when even the beloved Teletubby Bath Island, its inhabitants carried around the house, can't rescue him from the land of nod. A quick dry and feed and he went straight to sleep. At 6.45 pm. This is unheard of. I have no idea what sort of night awaits me. I'm taking bets on him waking up at 10.30 pm, just as I go to bed (it's a school night you know) and refusing to go back to sleep, or having his usual disturbed night but rousing for the day at 4.30 am.

My husband has a dicky tummy. It must be bad as not only has he gone to bed with T, he's called in sick for tomorrow. Having an anti-social job, starting his day a clear couple of hours before most people's alarms go off, he doesn't have the luxury of being able to wake up and pull a sickie. Sometimes this works in his advantage, having been at death's door at 7 pm but much better the following morning once his shift has already been covered. Being much more conscientious than I however, in those circumstances he'd usually rock in anyway, providing an extra pair of hands. Sickening eh?

So left alone since 6.50 pm, I have no idea what to do with myself! Where is the little hand pulling the charger out of the Macbook ('don't put that in your mouth!') or the person arguing that he wants to watch the football rather than last nights Lipstick Jungle on Sky+? In the circumstances I have gone for the only options available to me. Eating a whole tube of stinky cheese and onion Pringles, internet shopping (the husband would have vetoed the cute dinosaur bobble hat, even if it is for T rather than him!) and that old episode of Property Ladder on More4. You know the one, where the sisters go haywire and spend thousands on a pastel kitchen and extortionate psychedelic tiles for the downstairs loo in the gorgeous Art Deco house? Brilliant!

Monday, 20 October 2008

4.2 billion years of history

Inspired by the great blog Travels With My Baby http://travelswithmybaby.wordpress.com/ we went to check out the Play & Learn centre at the Manchester Museum today. It was fantastic! In a bright, clean space T cruised and crawled, coloured in and chewed a variety of small rubber replicas of the giant taxidermied animals in the galleries downstairs. All for free!

One of the best bits of the day was found outside the dedicated children's area though. On the first floor, just outside Egyptology, a volunteer with bald head and giant beard (which amused T no end) presented us with the 'oldest item in the museum', a piece of fossilised copper from the H-something era. OK, I admit I have a history degree but it's not that sort of history! Anyway, this slice of what looked like striped marble was cool, smooth and more than 4 billion years old, an incomprehensible age. T sort of poked at it and then had a tantrum when I stopped him flinging it to the floor.

In other museum-vandalism news, I was pleased to see the black and white pot in the Egyptology department, which my childhood friend had climbed into during a visit when we were around 6 years old, was still on display. I don't know whether those chips around the rim have always been there though.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

It's full of chips, Granny and United ....

... oh Colchester is wonderful.

If you've ever been to Colchester, you'll know that's stretching it somewhat, but that's what we were chanting on the terraces at Edgeley Park yesterday, if only to distract T from the ruder version of the football song, also sung at Manchester United, coming from the hooligan types to the left.

I love taking T to football. I mean I might feel differently if we supported a 'big' club, but League One (and last season The Championship) has such a friendly familial feel to it. We go to very few matches in my husband's home town of Colchester, unsurprising given we live 300 miles away, but instead form part of a band of Northern Exiles who meet mainly at away games in the North. The slide back to the third tier of football has removed some of our Yorkshire opponents but sees us given the chance to hit some of Greater Manchester's other teams, like Stockport and Oldham. If Bury continue on current form (and we do!) we might even get the chance of a trip to Gigg Lane next season.

So we rocked up at the pub to meet friends. T was wearing his 'Northern Exile' t-shirt. Strictly speaking he and I don't count as exiles as we're properly Northern but still, it's cute! The Royal Oak in Edgeley was packed with fans from both teams. We managed to squeeze into a corner and I gave T a banana to distract him from trying to steal my coke. The old chap next to us seemed very jovial, saying it was child cruelty to take T to see Colchester, yada yada yada. It was all very friendly, smiles and laughs, until he said to T 'don't eat that [banana] save it and throw it at the players on the pitch'. It was one of those moments where the ramifications of what he'd said took a minute to sink in. I sort of half-laughed (for I was only half-listening really) before I realised actually he was being horribly racist. I turned away and shortly we found seats with more space and moved. I keep hoping that in my moment of 'what did he say?' the man didn't think of course that I was agreeing with him. The casual, throw-away nature of what he said offended me deeply.

We walked to the ground quickly, delayed by the 'one last pint' which is never quite drunk speedily enough, and took a while to find the turnstile for visiting supporters. T was in the sling on my front, facing outwards and holding both my hands as I walked. Lots of people smiled and the steward let him in free, although squeezing through the gate with a boy on my front and rucksack packed with toys, layers, drinks and snacks on my back was a challenge!

There are two areas for away supporters at Edgeley Park, one open terracing, although now it is seated, and one undercover. It was raining and of course we'd been placed in the outdoor area. We found a quiet row, not difficult when only one coach of away fans made the trip, and T spent the first half doing what he likes best, toddling up and down, flipping the seats up and down and watching the reactions of the crowds. My husband was most upset T managed to miss the first goal he'd ever seen Colchester score because he was facing the wrong way.

Just before half time T started to get grouchy. He arched his back and cried his tired cry. I strapped him into the sling and went to stand at the back of the terrace, under the scoreboard to keep dry, and swayed him, snuggled into my chest until he went to sleep. A very kind steward found (without asking) a disposable poncho and brought it to me to protect T from the rain. I was trying to put it it on and work out a way of not suffocating him with what was in effect a giant plastic bag, and the wind whipped it out of my hands and over the fence. It was a blessing really because I'm not sure it was compatible with mum/baby combination!

After half time the stewards, in response to much baracking from fans who'd obviously taken the 'consumer lots of alcohol' approach to keeping warm and dry, allowed us to move into the undercover away supporters area, where T stayed asleep until the end of the match, missing another goal. How my son, who wakes when you so much as look at his bedroom door, slept through rowdy goal celebrations I've no idea, but sleep he did.

As I said, I like taking T to football, and I strongly believe it should be a family sport. There are some things that make me question that decision though. The racist man in the pub, although I know he might also have made that comment in another place at another time, and the horrible fans who called the young Stockport County supporters who came onto the pitch at half-time for a goal competition f-ing c's. I would have been heartbroken if my son had been among the boys involved. To have what should be a celebratory occasion ruined by a pile of imbeciles who really were old enough to know better made me ashamed to be a football supporter, and I'm not sure how long I can continue taking T and, even unintentionally, being part of this group.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Well hello Mr Molar

A new tooth appeared overnight. A molar, top left if you're interested. It explains a lot about last night, especially why T was awake screeching and chewing the toes of his babygro at midnight.

Thank goodness it isn't a work day. Emails and meetings would get in the way of what I intend to be today's hectic nap schedule.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A confession

I really should have thought before I named this blog. Maybe the Rants of a Sleep-deprived Mother of a Not Quite Toddler would be more apt. My confession? Although we call T a toddler (in fact he is T for toddler) he's not walking yet.

I always thought that T would be an early walker. He was a very active baby, at points I thought he was going to try and kick his way out. I'd often see my bump rippling as he wriggled, and a small clenched fist or heel sticking out under my ribs. If I sat cross-legged with the laptop on my knee he'd bump it off. He was a teeny babe, a shade over seven pounds at birth, losing fifteen percent in the first few days. I was instructed to express my breast-milk and cup feed him at regular intervals, to ensure he was taking enough, holding a bottle cap to his lips and encouraging him to lap up the good stuff like a cat. The midwives raised an eyebrow when he pushed away the cup with his tiny newborn hands and turned his head.

At five months I put him down on a friend's floor, surrounded by toys, for tummy time and was agog when he bodypopped his way backwards on the floor, not hands and knees crawling, but pushing himself up on his hands and sliding his whole body until he had stranded himself under an armchair, plugged into the gap between chair and floor by the bulk of his big cloth nappied bum. A couple of weeks later he was crawling backwards, frustrated at moving away from his toys when he wanted to go towards them, and then by seven months he was not only crawling properly, but pulling up to stand and cruising around the furniture.

There is something so sweet about a crawling baby, especially one being chased. The crawling equivalent of looking behind you, laughing and running away makes my heart melt, and god has he got some speed on him!

So now we're in a sort of walking wasteland, the almost but not quite there. He can stand unaided, wobbling a bit but showing just how strong those little legs are. In fact the other day I had a very bad mother moment. He took a packet of baby crisps out of my changing bag, secreted there for distraction whilst we're out and about, and started eating them, holding the bag with one hand and the crisps with the other, and therefore not holding on to anything else. I wanted to see how long he could really stand for, so I left him to it, although I regretted it when he'd eaten his way through the whole bag, chucked the crumbs on the floor, dropped to his hands and knees and crawled off, trailing carrot coloured fingerprints behind him. He adores his wooden truck, although now he's learnt to stand in it and expect pushing rather than pushing it himself, and when we visit friends with little girls he will happily toddle along pushing a toy buggy. If you hold one finger he'll totter quite happily, but the next step has been just slightly out of reach for what feels like a very long time now!

Still, calling him a baby seems incongruous now, so T the toddler he will be for now, whether he can walk or not.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

It didn't get much better

My day that is. I picked up BBC Radio Leeds just after dropping the boy at nursery and half-heartedly listened to the travel. The M62 is always busy, always. There's often a bump or breakdown which slows things down further, but the Highways Agency patrols (those not-quite-Police landrovers which cause drivers to slow down suddenly in case they get nicked, before they realise they're not on the look out for speeders) are usually on the scene quickly and there have only been a handful of occasions where I've been more than a little delayed. I should have paid a bit more attention though and turned back before I reached the motorway. Closed Westbound (I still have to do the 'Never Eat Shredded Wheat' rhyme in my head, imagining I'm looking down on a map of the UK to check that's not the way I'm travelling) with two lanes closed Eastbound. I kept hoping it might have cleared by the time I got to that bit of the motorway, but ominous reports of gas cylinders, cooling and people having been stationary for more than an hour filtered through and I turned off at Huddersfield before giving up and coming home to work at the dining room table. Two hours spent, nothing achieved.

The boy (T) had a good day at nursery though, and doled out a big love and kiss when he got home, which cheered me up. He's started to say much more that's recognisable now. There's still a lot of babble, but there are certainly words, so I thought I'd better make a list of them.

Mama
Daddy
Dog (well, do, but he says it when he sees a dog, or a picture of a dog, so I know what he means!)
Fish (ish, ditto above)
Apple (abble)
Glasses
Upsy Daisy
What's that (os da?)

He's also parroted many more, repeating the sounds and shapes of the words my husband and I speak to him, but I'm being strict and not counting them as words until he uses them in context, without prompting.

During our NCT antenatal classes we did an exercise which was supposed to prepare us for the fact our child might be born with a disability. I can't remember all the details (all this pregnancy and breastfeeding really does rot your brain) but it involved a flower with petals on which you had to write one word that you hoped your child would be. Others in the group wrote 'sensible' and 'successful' on their petals. Do you know what I wrote? Clever. Clever! It's only now I realise how little I knew about the realities of becoming a parent. The course tutor had to point out that none of us had chosen 'happy'. Recalling it now makes me feel sick to my stomach. So I don't know why I'm writing lists of words, or why, whilst writing this, I've Googled to find out what it's 'normal' for a 13 month old to be able to say.

Zombie

I am a zombie this morning. A cross zombie. Sort of like that shouty Cranberries song from the mid 90s. There's nothing worse than getting up after a night of broken sleep (I think we had four wakings last night, ugh) and knowing you have to go to work. No amount of making the packed lunch the night before (for me, thankfully the boy is fed at nursery) and putting the clothes out makes the transition between bed and landing any easier. I am typing this whilst the child eats Cheerios at a maddeningly slow pace (one in, pause, chew, pause, chew, swallow, pick up another, study, repeat) making me more cross. He should be at nursery by now, and I should have started my mammoth commute over the M62 from Manchester to Leeds. I'm going to have to do a sneak-in when I get there and hope all the hot desks aren't taken (a sure fire way to rouse 'oooh you're late' from a helpful colleague).

More later ...

Monday, 13 October 2008

A battle of wills

I'm beginning to realise that the boy is strong willed. I can't say I blame him, my husband and I are both as stubborn as mules, I just thought that with regression to the mean the littlest one might display skills in laid-backness hitherto not seen in our house. No such luck though.

One of the main flashpoints is food, and our inability to predict what he wants to eat and when. Seriously, he's now more than a year old and was weaned at six months. You'd have thought I'd have got a handle on his likes and dislikes by this stage, but no.

First we had the 'suck it' phase, the boy would put pieces of food into his mouth, give them a good suck and then spit them out.

Then we had the 'anything on a ricecake' phase, where meals would only pass his mouth if they were spread on a ricecake so he could pick them up and feed himself. He didn't actually eat the ricecake, just sucked off the topping and threw them, like a sort of expensive disposable spoon.

Then we had the 'small round' phase. This corresponded with the development of his pincer grip (being able to pick up items between his thumb and forefinger). For a period of around three weeks he would eat only pincerable food - peas, sweetcorn kernals, blueberries, raisins, kidney beans and occasionally individual pieces of mince. Considering most small round things tend to pass through an infant's digestive system without hitting the sides, this made for some fascinating nappy adventures.

There has also been the 'throw it without even tasting it' phase, whereupon lovingly home-made nutritious meals would be flug over the side of the highchair without even passing his lips, just to see the noise/pattern they made when hitting the floor. This was particularly painful. I hate hate hate food waste, but even I couldn't bring myself to polish off left-over chicken casserole scraped from between the floorboards in my dining room.

We're currently going through a 'two bites' phase, the curse of the nosy child. Said child receives meal and attacks with gusto. Child eats just enough to take the edge off their hunger (two bites of tonight's offering, home-made chilli with rice and veg) before concentrating on something more interesting. Tonight this is making a sound and rubbing his lip up and down at the same time - babababababababa. Cute, but the annoyance at more floor cleaning overrides it.

I've tried ignoring, retrieving food from the floor and eating it with a big 'yum' (testing whether food from someone else's plate always does look more appealing), cajoling, bribing (yes I know he doesn't understand the concept, but I'm desperate here!) and even the big guns, fetching Daddy! Sadly I have come to realise that the child will eat when he's hungry and not when he's not, or when he's teething, or thinks there's something more interesting he could be doing.

See that sign on my head? Mummy muggins.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

There's no d in avocado

Well, OK there is, but it's at the end! My MIL has bought the boy some advocado for his lunch apparently, and no amount of saying 'avocado?' will encourage her that it's not us pronouncing it wrong.

I have even offered to use said fruit to make the boy a Christmas cocktail. She didn't get it.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Sooner than expected

My husband has gone off to that there London for a concert and left me holding the baby. Well, of course I shouldn't have to be actually holding him, he should be asleep in his lovely (expensive) travel cot, made up with freshly laundered beautiful soft mother-in-law blankets. In fact no day-time nap followed by In The Night Garden and a super quick swish in the bath saw him snoring away by an almost unheard of 7.15 pm. My lovely, though exuberant, seven year old neice's tantrum almost an hour ago put paid to that though. Once comforted, of course he wouldn't go back into the travel cot, and I've had to come to bed and lie next to him to prevent the house being screamed down. I'm not overly bothered by my early night, I had time to grab the laptop, and the outlaws didn't want to watch the X Factor (thank goodness for Sky+ at home). I am gutted to have missed dessert though, MIL was doling out Ben & Jerry's as the first 'come and get me' screams echoed down the stairs. At home I'd have brought the pot and a spoon to bed and I'd be eating it now.

It's probably best to gloss over our seaside adventure on Friday. The company was great, the weather less so. Rain would have been a blessing. I wouldn't have felt quite so obliged to sit on the sand (facing away from the wind, which we only realised after much rubbing of eyes) in the wet. As it was we wolfed down the World's Coldest Picnic and made a couple of perfunctory sandcastles before racing inside to the cafe for a hot tea. The sky was grey, the children wore hats and scarves and dog walkers in wellies scuttled past looking incredulously at our bravery and/or stupidity. I did chuckle at a sign on the pier though, which almost made the frozen fingers worth it!






Friday, 10 October 2008

Our first adventure!

I called this blog Adventures .... and then realised that actually long old rants from me probably don't quite live up to the title. Good news then that today we're off for a real-life genuine adventure, to meet friends, and their babies and children, at the seaside!

Yes, I know it's October and I know the forecast is rain, but what's an adventure without a little risk taking? I have the bucket and spade packed and, just in case, the raincover for the pushchair, anoraks for both and the address of a local soft-play centre.

The seaside in question is Lytham St Anne's, we're meeting outside the beautiful Victorian pier which, though lacking in Blackpool-style light-up-Big-Wheel wow factor, is striking and not without a little obligatory seafront tat.

I've even made a picnic, well, if Philadelphia sandwiches count as a picnic. The boy thinks they do, but he's wearing a blue plastic plate on his head as I type this, so his gourmet credentials are evidently limited.

I'll report back on Monday. Post seaside we're heading down to deepest darkest Essex to stay with the outlaws for the weekend. I shall return half a stone heavier with hands sore from sitting on.

Have a good weekend, whatever your adventure is.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Eyes Have It

It being conjunctivitis of course. This working mum lark is a laugh. The boy isn't the hardiest of children, he's already had pneumonia once and of course is bound to catch any bug going around. Despite the fact that we'd hardly spent his first year of life hiding behind the sofa in case of germs, going to baby massage, signing, music class, swimming lessons, mum and baby groups, the Children's Centre and lots more besides, only five weeks into his nursery career he's picked up a violent assortment of ailments. The running total so far, two just colds, two chest infections, tonsillitis (one l or two?) and now .... conjunctivitis. To add insult to injury, I've got it too, and am typing this through red swollen piggy face holes where my tired eyes once resided.

Of course I can't go to work today. Nursery wont take him with conjunctivitis and I don't have family nearby to help out. The husband managed to worm out of a day at home by starting work at 5 am, a full twenty minutes or so before I woke up sufficiently to diagnose both the boy and I. I've managed to rearrange most of my day and called the doc for advice on what OTC eye goo to buy to best rid us both of the itchy green gunk. Of course I wont get paid for today, but will still pay for nursery. Ah, joy.

Thankfully the boy is now asleep on our bed (note to self, must change sheets) with socks over his hands to prevent him scratching his eyes. I've sneaked downstairs to make a few of the most urgent phone calls I need to make today.

But I'm writing this instead.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

383 Days

That's how long it's been since I had a full night of uninterrupted sleep. 383 days. One year and two and a bit weeks of being woken at least twice a night, often more, by my son.

When I tell people (the doctor, family, work colleagues) that no, he still doesn't sleep through, they sympathise
. But it's not the sympathy they gave me in the early days, when my boy was still a teeny babe in arms, a screaming, scrunched up bundle of newness, all red and cross. That was genuine, the early days are so hard, they'd say. It will come. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Sod the housework. Get your husband to make the dinner. Now they look sympathetically at a weak mother, it must be something I'm doing of course, I need to take my son in hand, show him who's boss, who knows what sort of havoc he'll wreak in coming years if I let him get away with so much now.

But do you know what? I'm quite prosaic about it. Yes of course I'd like a night of uninterrupted sleep, but I'd also like to win the lottery or get into a pair of size 10 jeans, and lets be honest neither of those are going to happen. And I don't want sleep enough to go for any of the drastic schemes other Mums promise me will work. They all have different names, different book covers, different exponents, but really they all involve the same thing, put him down, leave him to cry, he'll soon learn.

I didn't intend to be a hippy mother. I'm really not a lentil-weaving type. Honestly. I'm writing this whilst shovelling a packet of Tesco Value Jaffa Cakes down my neck. I like all the trappings of capitalism, Starbucks, McDonalds (a guilty pleasure) and Disneyworld. But somehow, I've become the accidental Attachment Parent. Still breastfeeding (yes he has teeth, ten, no he doesn't bite, no no plans to stop, no I wont be offering it through the school gate), washing cloth nappies and co-sleeping.

Co-sleeping, it's such a cold word, a cold couple of words. It doesn't reflect the amazing power and confidence I feel when I curl up and close my eyes, wrapped around a gently snoring baby. It doesn't immediately conjure up the smell of his head, the warmth of his neck, his hot little hand which stretches out in its sleep and rests on me, just to be sure. Then he snuffles, rubs his head from side to side, sits up, eyes still closed, and flaps his arms. I know what he wants. I arrange my pyjamas, let him feed and go back to sleep, and so (that's the plan) does he!

So this is me. A first-time mum of just over a year.

Who doesn't need more sleep? He'll sleep through when he's ready. I love us sharing a bed.

But if I really didn't care that he's never ever ever slept right through, would I have counted the days? Would I be writing this blog at all?

So this is me. Conflicted.

And this is the journey of that conflict. 383 days and onwards!