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!