Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Familar

We recently filled another Julia Donaldson shaped hole in our bookcase. We've long borrowed The Smartest Giant in Town from the library but didn't have our own copy until last week. T is, unsurprisingly, loving it. We're reading it nightly along with Zog and, on nights when C isn't getting too tired and cranky to wait any longer for milk, another story of his choosing.

Tonight, as George the giant redressed himself in his shabby but comfortable gown and sandals, three quarters of the way through, T piped up.

Mummy, what's milly-ear

Not milly-ear, it's familiar

What's familiar

Familiar is when something is old and nice and you like it very much, George's gown and sandals are familiar

Mummy, Grandma is old and nice. Is she familiar?

I suppose, if pushed, I could get away with pretending he'd said family.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Anatomy

T is bending his arm, holding it in a funny manner.

'What's the matter darling, have you hurt yourself?'

'No Mummy, this is my ELBOW'

'It is darling, well done!'

He holds his hand up, folding over his fingers.

'Mummy, these are our KNUCKLES'

'Well done darling, that's a difficult word!'

He fiddles with his socks and thinks hard.

'Mummy, this is my UNCLE. I have three uncles. This is my left uncle, this is my right uncle and then there's Uncle Nick. And Uncle Esteban. Three uncles!'

We really need to work on his counting.

Monday, 30 August 2010

A weighty Update

(For the first post on this subject click here)

I have never been happier to be overweight*! Two weeks before I am due back at work (wibble) I am two pounds off my 12 stone goal and two pounds lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight with T. I'm not going to win any awards for speedy weight-loss, but I am a whole stone and a half lighter than my starting weight and giving you a twirl right now in my size 14 jeans. What do you think?

C now weighs almost as much as I've lost. Carrying her in the sling I huff slightly climbing the steps from the beach to the prom. The downside of losing weight is that when the lard is on your front rather than your hips it doesn't keep your jeans up. I reach the top step and my 16s slip down to my knees, revealing my purple pants to the sunbathers behind and, worse, my Father in Law, carrying our picnic remnants back to the car.

Shopping anyone?

*Rather than obese. Obviously a healthy weight is my ultimate end goal!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A little less conversation


The children are chatting to each other in the bath. Well, T is chatting. C, although starting to speak, is still a way behind in the conversational stakes. Her current repertoire is a whole load of babble and four or five proper words, including a broad Manc 'hiya' and 'Dada', but nothing of course for the parent who currently gets up four times a night to soothe her teething brow. Not that I'm bitter of course. Hmph.

Anyway, the conversation goes like this:

Mummy, C can't walk yet can she?
No darling
Can she talk yet either?
She can say some words but she can't talk properly, no
(holding up a toy) C, can you say duck?
DUHHHK
Mummy she said duck!
Yes darling, duck is one of the words she can say
Can you say train?
DUHHHK
Can you say boat?
DUHHHK
Can you say ... hot tap? (he was clutching at straws here)
DUHHHK
(he looks around the bathroom) Mummy can C say toilet?
No I don't think so darling
Mummy can I say toilet?
Yes darling, you just said it then!
I'm going to teach C to say a new word. C ... can you say toyyyy lettt
DUHHHK
No, Toilet!
DUHHK
NO! TOILET!
DUHHK

Maybe I should try and get them into advertising?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Noses

I will preface this post by saying it has been a very, very wet summer. Well summer would be pushing it. It has been very wet in the last couple of months. Full stop.

This morning we found a slug in our kitchen. Well, T found a slug in our kitchen when I sent him to put on his shoes. It was just a baby one, heading for the teeny gap between the door and frame it must have squeezed through last night in order to leave a silvery trail across my kitchen floor and knocking me a little bit sick.

'I'm not standing on it Mummy!'

Words only spoken by a boy who really wants to, not out of some cruelty to other living things, but probably with his unshod foot, just to see what it feels like.

I pause my diatribe about being nice to innocent creatures to grab the baby, my second child now approaching the animal with a gleam in her eye and a bead of drool sliding down her chin. A slug is bad enough, half a slug infinitely worse.

I grab a sheet of kitchen roll, my plan is to gingerly pick up the slug and deposit it on the correct side of the back door to slime, and whatever else slugs do, to it's hearts content, accompanied by a strict lecture on not sneaking into houses uninvited.

Roll in hand I approach from behind.

'Mummy ... stop!'

He eyes my familiar stance with some reproach.

'Don't blow it's nose. It hasn't got a nose!'

Liberator of invertebrates, wiper of bottoms, blower of noses. Same old, same old.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Hotels



Look Mummy, over there ... a moon shop! A moon shop Mummy!

Oh to be nearly three.

I love my boy.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Perseverence


Pre-schoolers are trying. If you have one you'll know this. They're wonderful of course, bright and funny and entertaining but oh lord the whining. And the questions. And the questions in a whiny voice.

Watching the last vestiges of my sanity trickle down the plughole with the bathwater, I have started to praise T wildly for the other sort of trying. Perseverence.

Can you put your socks on please?
(whining and looking the other way) I can't do it
Can you try please?
(sits down on the floor with a huff, unballs socks, places one on top of foot and wriggles until it falls off again) I caaaaaan't dooooo it
You haven't even tried, open the sock and put your foot in it!
(picks up sock, stretches it between hand, balls it up, thwacks it up and down on the floor a few times)

This could go on ad infinitum, however by changing my language the exchange is truncated.

Can you put your socks on please?
(whining and looking the other way) I can't do it
Can you try please?
(sits down on the floor with a huff, unballs socks, places one on top of foot and wriggles until it falls off again) I caaaaaan't dooooo it
Well done darling, you've pulled them apart! Can you do them on a train, can you do them in the rain? Do you remember the Green Eggs and Ham book? Mr Knox tried didn't he. Can you put your socks on in a box, can you put them on a fox?
(laughing now)
Can you put them here or there? Can you put them anywhere?
(the socks go on)

Of course this isn't ideal. In a perfect world, being capable of putting his socks on without recourse to silly rhyme, T would spring into action the moment I asked him to do something. However there's a perfect world and then there's being nearly-three. Two very different things. For now I'm happy to cajole, encourage and sometimes downright bribe him to just have a go. If you have a little try of the risotto you have been pushing around your plate for half an hour you can have a chocolate treat. On a very good day he'll discover the risotto is delicious and eat the whole lot, leaving him too full for chocolate. No, honestly!

There is a downside though. A couple of weeks ago I slung a grumpy T around the zoo on a muggy Saturday afternoon, my husband carrying his sister. From the raised wooden walkway we regarded a field of okapi and, in the distance, a fierce looking rhinocerous.

Mummy, can you throw C to the rhino?
No darling.
Oh go on Mummy. Just have a little try.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Julia Donaldson's Favourite Books

'You can never have too many books'

The person who said that had clearly not been to my house! I am desperate to instill a love of reading into my son but having collapsed two out of the three shelves of his bookcase with too many stories I'm having to take a step back and let the library take the strain for a while. Today though I am making an exception. We are eagerly waiting for the postman to arrive with the latest book from the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler stable which has just been released!

Zog, who you can see above, is an accident prone dragon who's facing a tough test, capturing a princess. Can a mysterious little girl help him with it? As with The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale and Stickman I'm really excited to add a new rhyming story to our pile. Even though, as a Northern family, Julia's prose doesn't always scan correctly (however hard I try I can't rhyme scarf and laugh) the twosome's books are amongst our most beloved. In fact I know some of them off by heart I've read them so many times.

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to meet Julia as part of a talk she did locally for teachers and parents. Massive thanks go to the friend who told me about it. I didn't really know what to expect, but she (Julia, not the friend) didn't disappoint.

We heard a little about her student life, including time spent busking on the streets of Paris with her future husband Malcolm, and how once back in the UK she began to write songs for BBC children's radio and television programmes. Although I'm not sure she's up there with John Lennon, a Squash and a Squeeze (based on a traditional folk tale) is certainly very catchy. Julia told how an agent approached her and asked whether the song could be turned into a book. Axel drew the pictures and the rest was history. Then came the fun part, Julia picked members of the audience to act out the different parts (yes, including the animals) and sang the whole lot for us. She was most particular about the actors too, the goat was chastised for not pretend-eating the table leg with sufficient gusto!

Later Julia talked about the books that had inspired her to become a writer. I found this particularly fascinating and thought that you might do too!

Dogger, by Shirley Hughes


I love this book and have posted about it before, including here. Julia said she particularly likes the story because Dave's love for his toy dog is universal and that parents and children everywhere can empathise with it. I agree, not least because it was loved by my sister and I in our childhood and is equally adored by my children a quarter of a century on!

Mr Magnolia, by Quentin Blake


The tale of a half-shod eccentric, this is is another of our favourites. Julia said she particularly likes the rhyme and the detail in the illustrations, which are classic Blake.

Whose Mouse are You, by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego


I wasn't familiar with this story until Julia mentioned it but being of the sheepy variety I went straight home and ordered it from Amazon. It's the tale of a lonely mouse who has an adventure to bring his family back together again. The illustrations are fabulous, T loves them, especially the page with the cheese feast on it! Julia said she loves the fact that each page has a cliffhanger on it, with a genuine surprise when you turn over.

Would you rather ..., by John Burningham


Unlike 'Whose Mouse' I had heard of this one, although we didn't own a copy and my hazy recollection of having seen the illustrations somewhere before didn't stretch to remembering what it was actually about. Burmingham presents a fantastic selection of options for the reader to choose between, each accompanied by ridiculous illustrations. For example would you rather an elephant drank your bath water, an eagle stole your dinner, a pig tried on your clothes, or a hippo slept in your bed. It is testament to how much fun this is that T refuses to choose any of the pictures, preferring in fact to go for all of them. Julia said she loves the sense of silliness in this one and the insightful snippets of real life too. Would you rather your dad did a dance at school or your mum had a row in a cafe? I can't read that page without cringing!

Towards the end of the talk Julia gave us a sneak peek at Zog. Axel Scheffler's original cover design had been condemned as too boring and a redraw had been ordered. As she left home to come to the talk, an envelope containing the new improved version had plopped onto her doormat. Not having time to open it, Julia brought it with her and opened it on stage in front of the audience, giving us first look at the colourful jacket. I was almost bursting with excitement by this stage.

It sounds a bit hokey to describe Julia Donaldson as one of my heroes, but I have a special place in my heart for someone that's brought genuine joy into my children's bedtimes. I can't wait for her latest book to arrive which I'm sure will be as well-loved as all the others before it.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Unsellable

It is now 13 weeks since my husband moved out. Unlucky for some. Well, mainly me. Although the children and I have our 'just three' routine down pat now (in fact they're asleep when I'm solo far earlier than they are when both parents are present) I am Tired with a capital T. In the early days the thought of our big move away from family and friends scared me. Now the thought that this semi-solo parenting set-up will go on forever scares me even more. I need an end point in sight, something to work towards.

Until this weekend I had thought the children felt the same. All this time with Mummy, especially a lovely big space in her bed just right for two small people, is well and good but could we please have our Daddy back now? The only thing standing in the way of our new home together is well, our current home, fast becoming an albatross around most of the family's necks. A number of viewings and couple of half-hearted offers haven't come to anything so last week we dropped the price to try and get more people through the door. It worked. Appointments made we scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom and hid most of our possessions in the understairs cupboard. We looked to the front door excitedly.

Who knew the children were so good at sabotage?

Five minutes before the viewers were due to arrive a suspicious smell began to emanate from the baby. No amount of part-bake baguettes toasting gently in the oven were going to drown this one out so my husband ran upstairs to change her.

Three and a half minutes before the viewers were due to arrive I heard screeches down the stairs. My husband's. Then a cry for help.

Two minutes before the viewers were due to arrive the baby and husband had somehow managed to spread poo all over themselves and our bed. Whilst trying to decide how to deal with this I glanced out of the window to see the viewers walking up the path.

As my husband answered the door I dunked the baby in the shower and used the book from my bedside table as a fan to try and get rid of the smell. Out of time to change the bedlinen I strategically placed C's pretty dress, poo side down, over the new stain and hoped it didn't look too out of place.

As the viewers came upstairs I wrapped a sweet-smelling gurgling baby in a fresh fluffy towel. They cooed, she giggled. Smiles all round. Then T walked in. 'Look Mummy I've brought C's dress!'

Shit, the ... ... shit! I screeched at T to 'go and put it back right now' in manner of demented fishwife then, in panic, barged past to check he'd managed to cover the stain without managing to get it all over his hands. The baby began the cry. The viewers shuffled their feet and looked worried.

Having been unfairly chastised, T adopted a wobbly bottom lip and insisted on being carried up to the third floor to accompany Daddy and viewers, and down again.

Rejecting the opportunity to have a look round by themselves (who would blame them, psychotic woman in a strange smelling fug upstairs and all) my husband stalled the couple in the living room to restate actually just how lovely the house is and how keen we are to move quickly. T took this opportunity to turn feral and start hurling the cushions from the sofa.

It's fair to say the couple couldn't get out of there fast enough. I was so depressed by the whole thing I couldn't even bear to listen at the open upstairs window to see what they were saying about us as they half-ran back to their car.

All that cleaning and tidying for no reward. Maybe the children are trying to tell us something. Maybe they don't want to move?

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Observations

We are driving down an unfamiliar highstreet. I have one eye on the Sat Nav and the other on the Volvo driver in front who is pointing out something to his front seat passenger and veering between the lanes.

T pipes up from the back. 'Mummy, look a card shop!'

Volvo driver suddenly speeds up as he notices the lights start to change and we get stuck on red. I look around, absentmindedly trying to spot Clinton's, wondering why my still two year old would be able to recognise it from a distance.

There's an M&S, a couple of estate agencies and a snooker hall. No cards in sight.

'Where's the card shop darling?'

There Mummy, the one with the horse on it, but you don't need to buy a card because you've got one already. In your purse.

He pointed to the bank.

There followed an interesting discussion about cash cards versus birthday cards. I am fairly relieved this came up before I found him feeding my Mastercard into the local postbox.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sales

Christmas last year was a rather surreal experience. I was floating in a fog somewhere between the fantastic hormonal high as a result of my hugely positive home-birth and eight weeks straight of serious sleep deprivation.

In the days leading up to C-Day I appliqued my daughter's name onto her Christmas stocking, just as I had done with my son's two years before. I finished just before we left to walk to the Christmas Eve family service, nothing like leaving it to the last minute.

On the day itself I cooked dinner for seven, two of whom are veggie and one of whom was experiencing his very first UK Christmas. Unlike the year in which I later found I was days pregnant with my first child, I managed not to grill the turkey and we all ate at a reasonable hour. In fact, without meaning to blow my own party trumpet too loudly, it was all pretty much a bloody great success. The turkey virgin even liked the sprouts.

On boxing day then, I languished in bed as my family rewarded my hard work with a long lie-in. Or not. This is where the fog comes in. Somewhere in my post-natal brain a little voice said 'why don't you get up and go to the Next sale'. Yes, leaving my husband and toddler asleep in the warmth I put my eight week old baby in the sling and half slid on icy roads to our nearest out of town retail estate at seven am.

When the fourteenth person tried to elbow the fat woman in the red out of the way, suitably chastised when they noticed I hadn't just had too much Christmas pud but actually had a baby strapped to my front, I realised the error of my ways. It was too late then though, I was already forty minutes into what would turn out to be a ninety minute queue for the checkouts. C was fast asleep of course and I was bonding with the woman behind me on potty training, Thomas the Tank Engine and the reputations of local schools.

Once home, the fog started to lift as I realised I'd squandered what had been a perfect opportunity to fill the bed with pate crumbs and start on my Christmas book list. I comforted myself with a big pile of bargains though, and carefully stashed them at the back of the wardrobe for autumn 2010 and my then almost-one-year-old daughter to wear.

This week as the rain continued unabated and the temperate dropped again I retrieved that bag and set about replacing the outgrown items in C's drawers. Or did I. Somewhere in the months between then and now C has grown. A lot. At nine months she's bigger than my son was at a year. Like her mother she's solid rather than tall and those clothes I bought? They're almost all too small. The ones that do fit wont last the autumn never mind the winter.

I have a crystal clear memory of standing in a crocodile of harrassed shoppers, holding up a dress against the sling on that Boxing Day morning. My fellow queuers laughed at the sight and the possibility of my teeny froggy-legged almost newborn ever being big enough to fit in it. Now it strains at the seams.

Time flies and babies grow but one thing never changes. I am still VERY good at shopping. The outgrown clothes are added to the eBay pile and my daughter and I hit the stores together once more.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Help!

As I mentioned in my review of In the Night Garden Live, it's not always easy to find something that pre-schoolers and their parents can enjoy at the same time, and the car stereo is no exception. T had been listening quite happily to Radio 2 'because I'm two' but we've had to quietly discourage him. Not only because he developed a passion for Brotherhood of Man after hearing Ken Bruce's Eurovision preview programme but also because he's rising three and Radio 3 isn't really my thing. So back to CDs we go.

We're currently enjoying the Beatle's Red Album. The songs are short and catchy (apart from Norwegian Wood of course, I've never liked that one) which is perfect for the nursery run and as a treat when you get to the end there's the ever popular Yellow Submarine.

This morning, half way through the journey, T piped up from the back.

'Mummy what's this song?'
'You've Got to Hide Your Love Away'
'Why do they keep saying 'hey' Mummy?'
'It's to make sure you're listening darling, just before they get to the chorus'

He seemed placated by that.

'Mummy'
'Yes darling'
'I think this hey song sounds just like when that other lady sings the Gruffalo song!'

The rest of the journey was accompanied by the sound of John Lennon spinning in his grave.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Theatre v Kids


Going to the theatre is one of my great passions. Yes the cinema is great, especially Toy Story 3 in 3D with a bucket of popcorn and vat of Sprite, but there's something extra special about getting a little bit dressed up, sitting in an uncomfortable seat and having real actors within spitting distance. Not that I've ever spat of course. I have seen some rubbish in my time, the very worst being some Kabuki at the Lowry which I'm going to be charitable about and presume I just didn't get, but even then I only sneaked out at the interval and went to the pub.

It's probably no surprise then that I want to introduce the children to theatre. I'm not talking about Les Mis for toddlers of course, there is now a whole industry offering plays and shows to little people including adaptations of favourite books and spin offs from TV programmes. But how good are they?



At the weekend we went to Liverpool to see 'In the Night Garden Live'. T was very taken with the 'igloo' inflatable theatre in Sefton Park. I was less taken by the ticket prices, £10 each (including the baby) and that was for a 5.30 pm 'cheap' show. We booked the seats four months ago and actually in the intervening time T has stopped watching ITNG. In fact we watch barely any children's TV at all, so I was a bit worried whether he'd like it. I needn't have been. In fact I needn't have complained about having to pay for 9m old C either as I think she enjoyed it even more.

The show was a mixture of 'life sized' characters and puppets, playing on the skewed scale featured in the TV programme. Makka Pakka for example was 'life-sized' (by which I mean he was obviously being played by a strapping bloke inside a hot suit) when on stage on his own and puppet sized when interacting with other characters. There was even a mini-puppet pushing an Og-Pog which 'walked' across the garden/stage in a sort of long shot.


All of the favourite bits from the TV show were in there, the Tittifers, complete with nodding beaks, appeared on the igloo's ceiling in an effect which made me feel a bit seasick, but all the children present seemed to like them.

The downsides then. The storyline was pretty weak. We saw the Pinky Ponk show (there is also a Ninky Nonk version, perhaps encouraging parents to take their little darlings twice) which basically involved Makka Pakka washing faces. I appreciate the audience was very young but the show was an hour long and even the half hour TV episodes are a bit more complicated than that. There were also some technical issues where images that should have been shown on the roof were missing or out of time with the soundtrack. At one point bubbles floated out over the audience from a machine at the back of the theatre. Well, I say the audience, they reached the back couple of rows in the centre and that's about it.

Like I said, the children (particularly C) were entranced by the whole thing, which was wonderful to watch, but I was left a little disappointed.


In the last couple of months we've also seen two other children's productions, Long Nose Puppet's adaptation of Polly Dunbar's fabulous book Penguin and Travelling Light/Sixth Sense's one man show of Bob, the Man on the Moon. At £3 each, they were both one third of the price we paid for ITNG Live. We have been listening to the Penguin soundtrack (written by Tom Gray of Gomez) ad nauseum in the car for weeks and have constant requests for the Bob book at bedtime. Interestingly, post Sunday's theatre trip though, T hasn't asked for, or mentioned, ITNG again.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Words

It seems like only yesterday that I was blogging about my son learning to talk. Although I have almost burst with pride and relished all of the other milestones of course - first smile, first tooth, crawling and eventually walking - T's learning to speak has been perhaps the most satisfying part of parenthood so far. It pains me now that, with his increasingly sophisticated vocabulary, I can't actually remember what his first word was. I think, after Mama and Dada, it might have been 'baff' (bath). Today, drinking an Innocent smoothie carton as we walked to the park he asked me to 'hold it whilst we cross the road'. Whilst. Who taught him the correct use of that word? Yesterday, in a fit of lazy parenting, I distracted him from a tired-out tantrum in the shop at Tate Liverpool by buying him a 65p badge with a rainbow on it. 'Mummy, you have made me very happy with my badge. Thank you very much'. I scooped him into my arms, all flailing legs, and squeezed him hard. I wanted to cry. How did my little boy become so grown up?

It's with trepidation then that I admit that not only is T talking for Britain but C, yes baby C, wants in on the act too. Last week, at nine months, she said her first 'proper' word and now it seems there's no stopping her. So not only do we have 'nana' but also 'hiya' and not momma but 'da-dee'. I console myself with the fact that it's harder for babies to make the 'm' sound than the 'd' one, and the fact I heard her speak first.

My house is never quiet and tonight is no exception. C gurgles, babbles and laughs with delight. T shouts 'I am NOT a teething toy' as she chomps on a handful of his t-shirt and tries to persuade me to give him a pre-tea Jaffa Cake. The washing machine spins and a variety of annoying plastic toys plink and sing in the background where they have been switched on and discarded. I long for just a moment of peace and quiet, but secretly dream of the day when both my children can talk. I'm not wishing away the baby years of course, just standing by for the magic moment that I'm sure feels just as good second time around.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Manchester Blogmeet

There are plenty of iconic Manchester landmarks, the sky scraping Beetham Tower, both of the city's football stadia, the fairy lit anemone domes of the shopping mecca that is the Trafford Centre.

There are also landmarks of a Manchester childhood of course, the llamas at the farm at Heaton Park, the excitement at sitting in the swivelly bit in the middle of a Metrolink tram and, my personal favourite, Stan the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the pride of the Manchester Museum.


T is a longtime fan of the giant dino skeleton but C has yet to be introduced to the big man, so when we were invited to a Manchester blogger's coffee morning at Manchester Museum last week of course we had to go.

The event was great fun. It was lovely to meet fellow North West bloggers including Amy who'd brought the gorgeous little F along with her, Sandy and her boys Presley and Cash and Claire whose little H was very taken with my C. In fact the feeling was mutual. What is is about children who are much more keen on other people's siblings than their own?

The whole thing was organised by Warburtons to mark the launch of their fab new range of snacks. I've posted about my own quest to lose weight, but as a long-time grazer it's really hard to go cold turkey and ditch the crisps. Warbie's new ChippidyDooDas might be the perfect solution, they're wholegrain pieces of pitta which are baked rather than fried, giving them 60% less fat than crisps. Result! And who can fail to fall for a snack which such a fab name? I (cough) might have eaten (cough) one or two bags full. The salt and vinegar were my absolute favourite and the bags had just the right amount of tart flavour to make them very, very moreish.

After covering the floor of Cafe Couture with snack crumbs Daisie and I took the children for a quick whizz round the museum highlights. Our two pre-school boys were of course very taken with Stan's spiky little toothies and scary little nails (as an aside, if you have a small person who loves dinos this is a fantastic story) whilst the tired smaller ones had a sling around. C didn't look particularly impressed by Stan although of course she has years of school trip visits ahead to hone her love for him.

Warbies gave us bloggers a lovely goodie bag to take home, including of course some more of the snacks. My husband, who's a chilli afficionado declared the Sweet Chilli Snackadoodles to be really good, which for someone not obviously drawn to low calories treats (only 84 in the whole bag!) is high praise indeed.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Rhyme

Orchard Toys are the kings of the pre-school game and puzzle market. This isn't a sponsored post, they haven't asked me to write this, I really do love them this (holds arms apart) much.

Their board games are simple enough to keep my nearly-three year old's attention until the end, no mean feat when Daddy always seems to win. So great is his love for one of them that he even has a special 'Dotty Dinosaurs' cushion which he sits on to play. My son this is, not my husband.

Their jigsaws have big sturdy pieces and bright pictures with lots to talk about. Our favourites include the Big Bus and Alphabet Floor Puzzle. As an added bonus they're tough enough that they don't instantly disintegrate the moment the baby swoops and sucks on a discarded corner.

Today, with T under the weather again, we cracked open a new puzzle, the Find the Rhyme floor jigsaw. The 'ants in pants' hooked him in, he loved the 'star in a jar' and was reaching boiling over in excitement point by the time we reached 'train in the rain'. Then we stopped.



What are those men Mummy?
Well they're in a field, and one of them has got a fork, what do you think they are?
Men!
Well yes they are men, but they have a special job, they look after animals and grow things.
Farmers!
Yes darling, well done.
Where's the rhyme Mummy?
You find the rhyme, look at the farmers, what are they wearing?
Clothes.
What sort of clothes?
Stripes!
That doesn't rhyme does it ... look, what are they wearing, they look like they've just got out of bed.
Jim-jammies! Mummy I found it, I found the rhyme. Farmers in Jim-jammies!

I didn't have the heart to correct him.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A Weighty Problem

I am fat.

There, I have typed it, there's no getting away from it now. In the last few years my weight and my clothes size have crept up, and up, and up. I look at myself in photographs and don't recognise the woman I've become. Now don't get me wrong, I've never been sylphlike, I have a bust, and a bum and a waist, all of which I quite like actually. But I also have a double chin, and muffin top and back fat and various other far less attractive characteristics, and they're sitting like a layer on top of the real me, blurring the edges and slowing me down.

I have lots of excuses for being fat, none of which are very good:

I say: I have sole care of two small children and can't go to the gym or go swimming once they're in bed. I don't say: I have a Wii fit though, and a step machine, and I'm not exactly knocking the door down of the local baths when my husband's home at the weekend.

I say: I am breastfeeding, which burns 500 calories a day, so pass the cake. I don't say: My child is now on solids and feeding much less than she used to, plus that tub of ice-cream probably contains 2000 calories. I am heavier now than I was during most of my pregnancy.

I say: I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which makes it difficult to lose weight I don't say: I spend too much time sitting on the sofa under the laptop.

Ten weeks ago I got on the Wii Fit and had a bit of a shock. I inputted my height. Five feet six and a half inches. That half makes all the difference you know. I stood still, feet hip width apart, as the computer took measure of me. It calculated and spat out a result. Obese. My BMI had hit 30. The little computer icon I'd chosen for myself widened perceptibly on the screen. There's something a bit sad about selecting an alter ego much slimmer than your real self. I marched with the band, 'cycled' and hula hooped on the special board, wondering how I'd let myself get to this stage.

Nine weeks ago, when my husband moved out, I decided to do something about it. Not having anyone to slob on the sofa with in the evening is a great incentive to get the stepper out, and however much I want a tub of ice-cream at eight o'clock there's no-one to leave the children with to go and buy one. So I don't. To save time, and money, I'm now eating my evening meal with them at 5 o'clock preventing the late-night carb loading I was previously so guilty of.

Today I stood on the scales. I have lost 13 pounds!

I am still fat of course.

So today I celebrate having reduced my BMI by two points, taking me into the Overweight category, but give myself a push to keep going.

I would like to lose another ten pounds by the time I go back to work, that's one and a little bit a week. Then I'll set my next goal. Doable, right?

If I write it here, put those numbers I'm ashamed of down on paper (well, screen) there's no getting away from it.

Was: 13st 9lb

Now: 12st 10lb

Next: 12st 0lb

So who's with me?!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Telling Tales

Sitting at the tea table post-nursery, T swings his legs with gusto and gives us a running commentary on his day.

'Sam Smith* did a poo in his pants ... that's silly Mummy, poo poo goes in the toilet'

'Mmmm darling?'

'And Sally Sausage snatched my pink scissors and the ladies made her sit out'

'Mmmm?' I'm not really listening. 'Do you ever have to sit out darling?'

Ignoring the question he ploughs on regardless.

'And Tommy Jones bit Billy Stone on the leg ... that's naughty Mummy, we don't bite people'.

I love the selective pre-school memory. It's not so long ago that T was the one in the early stages of toilet training, and he's bitten me in frustration on more than one occasion. I steel myself and launch into a gentle reminder that although I love to hear about his friends, it's not nice to tell tales.

T takes it remarkably well, and nods along. The conversation turns to more important matters, like the bugs he found during a digging session in the nursery vegetable patch. I start to tune out again after the fourth rendition of 'There's a Worm at the Bottom of the Garden'.

As I retrieve the baby's corn on the cob from underneath the table T starts again.

'Mummy, he's delicious'

'Who darling?'

'Billy Stone, he's deeeelicious'

'What darling?'

'That's why Tommy Jones bit him. Because he tastes so nice. This nectarine tastes nice so I'm going to bite it too. We can bite nectarines. We don't bite Billy'.

I'm not sure that little chat did quite do the trick after all actually.

*Names changed to protect the (possibly) guilty

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pissy Parking

We live in a Lancashire mill town built on a hill. Nothing here is straight, as my husband found to his chagrin when he hung the curtain rail in our dining room. He'd studiously measured it from the top of the front window. Its slope irritates me every day.

Our local Tesco Metro is no exception. The parking spaces are small and, due to the shape of the site, at various strange angles which make getting small children in or out of the car very difficult. There are two Parent and Child spaces.

I pulled up in the rain this afternoon in search of bread and milk, both kids in the back. T has spent a couple of days in hospital with an infection and croup and is going a bit stir crazy. He's taken to shouting 'trump' at the top of his voice (thank you ever so much Tyler in bed six) and running in circles. I decided to use shopping as a distraction and assembled the children side by side in the trolley.

As I was selecting the right one (two straps in full working order, not smelling of wee, no miscellaneous papers in the bottom) a red BMW pulled up next to me in the other P&C space. A lone woman got out. I've had a pretty shitty week.

'Excuse me, do you know that's a Parent and Child space?'

'Sorry?' said the woman, and she started backing away. OK, I admit I had post baby-swimming hair and a toddler with sausage-face but I'm pretty sure I'm not the type of person people cross the street to try and avoid.

Louder now. 'That space there, it's for parents and children'

The woman stopped. 'Oh' she said, 'I have a child ... in the store'. She pointed.

Mortified, I apologised. I wittered about how difficult it was to get two children from car to trolley safely, how the bigger spaces really help and, when I looked up, this time she had disappeared.

I walked around Tesco. It's not a big store. As we chose just the right amount of broccoli (enough to be cooked and thrown on the floor but not too much that it goes off in the fridge) she browsed the greetings cards. No child. As we argued over who was going to hold the bread she picked up milk. No child. As we went in search of Mini Milk ice-lollies she was having a conversation and blocking the aisle. Still no child.

We paid for our shopping, on parallel tills, at around the same time and as I walked back to the car I saw her pause in the shop doorway. Getting two children unstrapped and into the car when one insists actually he'd quite like to drive takes rather a long time. Both restrained, I returned my trolley. The woman was still standing in the doorway. She looked at me and quickly looked away.

I got in the car and reversed from the space. Glancing up, red BMW woman was still watching me. In fact, she was peeking her head around the supermarket door. I negotiated a taxi and followed the one way system around. Stuck behind another vehicle I looked back. In spy mode, the woman stuck her head out, checked the coast was clear and darted (looking behind her all the time) back to her car (still no child of course) and closed the door. I imagined her safely inside, slightly out of breath, relieved she'd got away with it.

Yes love. You parked in a space designed for people who need it. Then you lied about it. Then you hid until I'd gone so you weren't found out. This from a grown woman.

Pathetic. Utterly pathetic.

Although I do admit to having a bit of a laugh at your expense.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Gallery: Motherhood



The theme for The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers this week is Motherhood. Do you know, I have been a mother for 1000 days. Yes, exactly 1000! My son was born in September 2007 at 3.30 am on an unseasonably warm day. His first photos are blurry, taken by a brand new grandmother with shaking hands in a semi-dark hospital room. The woman on those pictures, a mother for mere moments, doesn't look like me. The images don't capture the monumental life change that's just occured. Ten minutes ago I was one person, now we are two, tied together forever.

Since that moment I have taken thousands of pictures in an attempt to record my children's childhood, something that's racing by faster than I could possibly imagine. There are photos of laughing babies, crying babies, a wobbling toddler and a petulant pre-schooler. There are photos of first teeth, first holidays, first meals and first birthdays. There are pictures that show the change in me too, motherhood has left me considerably larger, with lines where once was smooth skin and with eye bags, but I hold my children and smile for the flash.

How can I choose just one photo to sum up 1000 days?

So I have cheated, and instead of a photograph this week I enter an aural picture of my children. Tonight, at dinnertime, I plugged a microphone into the laptop and let it record. Then I snipped a random part of the sound wave and changed the colours.

The clip might be C banging her cup on the highchair and laughing with glee
It might be T telling me he doesn't like 'omglet' without having taken a bite
It might be me retrieving dropped fruit from the floor for the 300th time
It might be 'I'm a Little Teapot' sung with a mouthful of beans
It might be reassuring shouts from the kitchen that I will be back very soon as the little one cries

It might be all of that, at once, at high volume, in stereo, again and again and again.

Life with my children is brighter and louder than I ever thought possible. And that, to me, is Motherhood.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Legs


Dear son,

These are your legs. They are Boy Legs, bruised and a little bit dirty no matter how long your bath. They run everywhere, except when they're jumping. You like doing 'moon jumps' like Bob. They pedal your trike and chase the Gruffalo down his big hole.

They are growing, slowly. You are nearly three and your 12-18m trousers are just half an inch too short. When you are thirteen you will wish your father and I were taller, but I know you will be a funny boy which girls like too. For now we are spending the summer in shorts.

At the table, your legs swing and kick, especially when you are making up stories. Yesterday they kicked me. I sent them, and you, to bed for that. You can kick a football without falling over, stand in first position and 'make a window', although you refuse to say plie. You can climb to the top of the big slide without my help.

You have ticklish toes and can put on your own shoes, though not always on the right foot. I grew those legs, although they have lost their rolls of baby chub which your sister is still modelling. You ask for 'magic cream' for the bruises that have appeared as if from nowhere. It is nothing but moisturiser but it makes you happy.

These are the legs that are taking you to pre-school and beyond. I shout 'don't run!' and mean it in more ways than one.

Love you,

Mum x

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Do you like ...

We are playing the 'do you like' game. It involves T asking me endlessly whether I approve of everything from pink to elephants via toilets and aeroplanes. I like this game, a lot, mainly because I can play whilst doing something, anything, else and it only requires a modicum of my attention. In fact he doesn't like it when I say too much. He's in charge. So far we have ascertained whether I like tomato ketchup (no), flags (yes) and beasties (yes).

Mummy, do you like red grapes?

No darling, I like green grapes

Mummy, do you like red grapes when they're cut up?

No I don't darling

Mummy, do you like red grapes when they're stuck together?

You mean whole darling?

No Mummy, grapes don't have holes!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Together

As a teenager I hated nothing more than sharing a bedroom with my sister. I had a black and white magazine centrefold of River Phoenix and the lyrics to 'Everybody Hurts' on my wall. I marked the date of my period on my Oasis 1994 wall calendar. She had pictures of ponies and a toy duck, called Peep Peep. I used to stand on it when she was pissing me off, and she used to cry.

I always wanted my children to have their own bedroom. Perhaps my younger sibling and I would get on much better now had we not had to endure, amongst other room-sharing joy, endless fights over the cassette soundtrack to our simultaneous GCSE and A-level revision. Two desks only 3 or 4 yards and a few thousand miles apart.

Plans change though and despite having put our house on the market when C was a mere lump under my jumper, we're still no closer to moving. She'd been sharing with us, latterly in a crib at the bottom of my bed. Her new crawling skills have put paid to that though as she can now pull herself up on its slatted sides and, even with the gliding function locked, is inches away from making a bid for freedom over the side.

So we did some major furniture rearranging. T has the single bed which was previously in our attic conversion (space saver stairs mean it's not a suitable child's bedroom) and, with the bars replaced, C has moved into his cot bed. And they are rooming in together.

The transition has been relatively smooth. There is space at the end of T's bed for me to sit cross-legged and feed his sister when she wakes in the night. I have trained myself to respond instantly to the baby monitor and Mummy-dummy her before she can wake her brother. He hasn't complained at all about sharing his room.

Just before creeping into bed at night I sneak in to check they are breathing. I listen for the tell-tale wet semi-snores but can hear only one set of in and outs. I panic and switch on the bedroom light. I place a hand on both babies, the room is so small that were it not for the high cot sides I could do this simultaneously. They are both well of course, but breathing in absolute perfect sync. Both tummy sleepers, their backs rise and fall with each other. I allow myself to breathe again, and creep out without waking either.

The breath thing is only one aspect of siblings who adore each other. C has nothing but smiles for big brother who will fetch her toys, pick up food she has flung on the floor and splash in the bath to make her giggle. I am increasingly content with the fact that I can't give them their own rooms because I have given them something much, much better. Each other.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Grey

Last week I found my first grey hair. I was looking in the bathroom mirror, stuck between wondering how a splatter of toothpaste had got all the way up there and thinking I needed to tweeze my eyebrows when it caught my eye ... ... ... what is THAT?

I pulled it out and laid it on the bathroom shelf. I know that sounds a bit slummy Mummy but I had ideas of going back later and taking a photo for posterity, black humour sort of thing. We have a little silver 'first curl' pot that someone bought as a gift when we had T, perhaps they also do adult versions, inscribed with 'first granny hair'. I could curl the silvery thread up inside and in future years find it in a drawer somewhere and remember fondly a time I used to be dark.

Once the kids were in bed I went to retrieve the hair, camera in hand, but it had disappeared! I looked behind the Calpol, under the antibac hand wash and even inside the tooth mug but there was no sign. I started to think that maybe I'd dreamed the whole thing. I was 30 less than three months ago, I surely, absolutely, definitely cannot be going grey. Oh how we laughed.

I looked in the mirror again today. This time I was baring my teeth and wondering about flossing. Do you? Should I? Doesn't it hurt? Hang on ... ... what's THAT? AND THAT? AND THAT!

Now I know where my grey hair had gone. He'd gone to fetch his mates. First one, then three. Will tomorrow bring five? Or six? How long before they're all grey? To dye or no to dye? My eyebrows are still dark, am I going to end up a female Alistair Darling?

In an attempt to prevent having to think about it too much I smeared some more Colgate on the mirror. Distraction rules.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Connections


We are playing Connect 4 in the pub. Well I say the pub, it's more 'pub lite', a facsimile of the real thing with carefully placed beams and extortionately priced drinks*. It's pleasant enough, child friendly without being plastic, but not particularly authentic. You get in via a carpeted office style corridor, and there's a shiny lift to the posh restaurant upstairs.

Having said that, it's so long since I've been in any sort of pub, authentic or not, that I'm not one to quibble. It's 6 pm and after a late nap we're killing an hour post-swim and pre-tea. The baby is playing with a toy in her buggy and intermittently watching the lights on the fruit machine. The toddler is colouring in, the picture and coffee-cup full of crayons provided by the establishment. He pouts in concentration, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his lips, and scribbles red lines on Tinkerbell's face.

Board games are also provided. My spoilsport husband refuses to bring Mousetrap from the pile beside the bar so Connect 4 will have to do. We rack it up and begin. I'm the red tokens, he the yellow. Drop, pause, drop, pause, drop, long pause as we approach stalemate. The satisfying clunks have roused T from his crayoning. 'I want to play!' His father distracts him momentarily. With a few more moments thinking time he has this game in the bag. T fiddles with the catch at the bottom of the frame, threatening to send our carefully arranged counters into a pile. 'I want to plaaaaaaaay'. The whining is a bad sign. My husband taps his next token on the table, irritated, but T is one step ahead. He picks up a red disc and pops it into the nearest column before clapping himself enthusiastically.

My husband sits back and sighs. Then, moving forward, he looks at the game again. 'He's won it!' I don't understand 'He's bloody won it, look where he's put that piece!'. I follow the top red counter down ... one, two, three, four in a diagonal row! My two year old, without a thought, broke our grown-up impasse and won the game. And, as luck would have it, he picked up one of my pieces to do it.

Accidental victory is victory all the same and I claim the win. I love my boy!




*£9 for a pint, a G&T and a small orange squash. I don't drink much any more but that's dear, right?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Think Frock it's Friday

I have been following the fantastic Think Frock it's Friday campaign on Lottie Loves for the past few weeks and been desperate to join in. I love the idea of wearing a dress because ... well, just for the hell of it. Who needs a because? Sometimes it's just nice to put the jeans to one side and wear something with a spinny skirt, just to lift your spirits.

I would have joined in earlier but for one problem. Despite me having a wardrobe full of dresses, there are very few I can wear at the moment. Some of them are too small (eBay here we come) and some of them just aren't suitable. I am breastfeeding C who, although now on solid food, still needs milk feeds throughout the day. My preferred method of discrete feeding is a stretchy vest under a normal top. The vest gets pulled down under my bra, the top gets pulled up and voila, we can feed away without flashing anyone who happens to be in the vicinity a glimpse of my Mum Tum or anything further North! Obviously you can't pull up a dress though!

There are dresses specifically designed for breastfeeding, with a dual layer top section, but they almost universally seem to be dull in both colour and design, hideously expensive or made from very non-summery sweaty polyester material.

And so began my hunt for the perfect non-breastfeeding dress which I could breastfeed in!

I did a lot of online research, looking for something with a stretchy front section which could be pulled to one side, paired with a long cardy or light shawl to cover up the top of my boob. In the 'proper summer dress' category (cotton and bright) with straps wide enough to hide a bra there was remarkably little.

In the end I had a chance high street encounter with this lovely thing from good old M&S


It is just what I wanted! The front section has plenty of give thanks to the lovely smocking at the back and it's a perfect just below knee length. I've lost just over half a stone in the last few weeks and, standing in the changing rooms, the shop assistant had to fetch me a smaller size. Result! It was also bargainous, coming in at less than £20.

Now you will see that, contrary to the 'rules' of TFIF that's not me in the picture there! Given I'm currently alone in the house with a baby and a toddler, neither of whom can use the camera or resist trying to knock over the tripod whilst I make an attempt at self-timing, you'll have to imagine what it looks like on me. I'll try and rope my husband into taking a picture this weekend and post it next week.

In the meantime, I'm off to swirl my skirts, kick up my sandals and revel in the fact that it actually just might really now be summer!


(This is a scheduled post. I'm actually off on my holidays now and will be back after the Bank Holiday weekend. If you know where I live, please don't break into my house. Lets cross our fingers for frock weather!)

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Two-nager

T has a maddening capacity to eat very, very, v e r r r r r y, slowly. Of course he can eat quickly if he wants to, inhaling ice-cream comes to mind, but should we be talking peas (one at a time) or breakfast cereal (tiny amounts on the tip of the spoon as he natters on, and on, and on) we're on to a loser.

Yesterday I was the loser. Faced with a bowl of Weetabix rapidly starting to resemble concrete I lost my temper and shouted.

'Will you just eat a bit more quickly. Have a big spoonful. Now!'

Brown eyes wide he looked up, duly loaded his spoon and forced a mountain into his mouth.

He chewed carefully, squishing the mush from one side to the other. Then he looked at me.

'There Mummy, are you happy now?'

Two going on thirteen.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

I am a lucky blogger

This has been a busy week. No sooner were we home from Leicester on Monday afternoon than I needed to start packing for our upcoming Bank Holiday weekend away in Wales. This basically involved tipping everything from a bag, into the washer, pegging it out and putting it back into a different bag. Well, until the sun went in. The forecast for Narberth this weekend is now looking suspiciously wet, as befits a British public holiday of course. I haven't unpacked the summer stuff, just in case, but have also added warmer clothes, raincoats and board games. Hmph.

Anyway, in my whirwind state of writing lists and creating piles this week I have been lucky enough to receive not one, not two but THREE fabulous parcels through my door which have all made me stop and smile and cheered me up for different reasons.

The first was my Secret Post Club parcel for May, sent by the fabulous Wendy at No More Excuses. I ripped open the envelope to find a book I've been meaning to read for ages but never quite got around to buying. Wendy had wrapped it beautifully and included a lovely note saying how much she'd enjoyed it. It's What Mother's Do and I can't wait to get started. As an aside how fab do Wendy's classes look? As the not so proud owner of a Mummy Tum I'd love to learn how best to get rid and definitely wish she was nearer!

The second parcel was a brilliant surprise from a lovely friend. Who knew you could buy cake, by the slice, online and have it delivered next day? Well now I do of course, and what AMAZING cake it was. I had the chocolate and raspberry which was dense and sticky, kind of like a brownie with chocolate cream in the middle and frosting. I absolutely loved it and will definitely be using The Cake Nest to order treats next time I'm looking for something to send. Go there and treat yourself, or even better a friend. I would have added a photo to the post at this point but I accidentally fell on the cake with my mouth open and inhaled it in one fell swoop.

The third parcel was a present to myself. We'll be doing a lot of swimming this weekend (indoors in a well heated pool rather than in the sea thank goodness!) and I have been desperate for a new cossie for as long as I can remember. I bought my current one when I was a student which was (cough) ten years ago now and it's not only too small but also bobbly around the bum and almost transparent in places where the chlorine has eaten the fabric away. Not a good look. I found a fabulous swimming costume on the Next website (my bikini days are long gone!) only for it to be out of stock for a fortnight, so I turned to the man who sends me more post than even my bank, the lovely Johnnie Boden. I had some account credit for prostituting my friends, sorry, suggesting they might like catalogues, and used a discount code and it ended up being the same price as the Next one. It arrived this morning and it is truly the cossie of my dreams. Nowhere near as garish as it looks in the pics, lovely fabric, fab fit and definitely what you need to cheer up a wet Welsh weekend.

I hope your postie has brought you some treats this week too.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Other people's houses

Imagine if you can the most child unfriendly house in the world. Then add ornaments, and more ornaments, and some pot pourri.

We spent the weekend in my husband's 'Daddy flat', his temporary home away from home until we sell our house and buy a family one in our new area. It is almost perfect. A Granny annexe to a large house with oft-absent residents it has a fabulously large garden with swing seat, dark places to explore and plenty of grass to roll and play on. There's a park at the end of the road with a cricket pitch (toddlers like cricket, who knew?) and great play area. There's even a local duckpond. Then you go inside. I'm using artistic licence here, it's not that bad, but this Granny flat was until recently lived in by a real life Granny and she liked things pink, frilly and most probably found in the magazine that comes with the Sunday People.

Decor issues aside we had a lovely sunny weekend. I even got a lie in. On Monday I snuggled into the duvet as my husband came to tell me it was time to get up as he needed to leave for work. I ignored him. He started to pull back the covers so I resorted to desperate measures. 'Can I have a love?' He's such a sucker. He pulled me close and I fell back into almost-sleep, still relaxed enough to not care about my morning breath, but awake enough to clutch him closer when he tried to leave. Anything to avoid having to properly wake and Deal With The Children.

He soon sussed me of course and insisted he really HAD to go unless, you know, I fancied, well, you know ... quickly? I couldn't quite manage opening my eyes so I made a mental assesment using my ears. I could hear the strains of CBeebies from the living room. The baby was giggling. In hindsight she was also giggling when I found the toddler pressing a pillow on her face, so this probably wasn't a safe indication we were free to go ahead, but no-one was crying and he did say quickly.

'Have you got any ...?'

My husband jumped across the bed and rifled in the dressing table drawer for a condom. I waited. He rooted and cursed. I waited. He chucked a couple of t-shirts on the floor. I waited. He banged about a bit. Still waiting.

'Where did I put the damn ...'

The moment had gone of course. One of the children started crying. It's a good job the flat's shower also has a habit of going cold every couple of minutes.

Packing to go home in a moment of wifely generosity I grabbed the bag containing two weeks worth of his dirty washing, reasoning I'd probably be doing it if he still lived with us. We're going on holiday on Thursday and I do like him to look vaguely presentable when I take him out in public. Once back, as I dragged t-shirts, pants and trousers out of the machine something glinted and caught my eye. I pulled and four Durex appeared, safely hidden, as he'd thought, under a pile of clothes. They'd managed to survive a 40 degree stain removal cycle with added Vanish spray.

Still, maybe I should be thankful. All of those pink frills in the bedroom would probably have put me off my stride anyway.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Oh Seven Oh Oh

A little hand tugs at my arm.

'Mummy, it's oh seven oh oh'.

I reach for my phone on the bedside table and groan aloud. It is, in fact, 5.37 am.

'I just get in with you Mummy'.

I bury my head in the pillow as he takes over my husband's side of the bed. Stage whispering, to avoid waking his sister, T tells me variously that he is hungry, needs a wee, wants to wear his yellow t-shirt today and that the sky he can glimpse through the crack in the curtains is blue.

My, also hushed, admonishment that it's actually too bloody early to open my eyes never mind hold a conversation is ignored. Reaching for my phone he tells me he can see a seven on its digital clock so it MUST be time to get up. It's now 5.47 am. I admit defeat and crawl out of bed.

***

I love my blog stats. It's fascinating to see how people find this blog and how and what they read when they get here. One of the most interesting things is the Google searches that direct readers to these pages. I'm pretty sure that the individual searching for 'toddler locked in the house all day' will have been disappointed I don't have any advice for them, but of course a lot of people looking for advice on 'toddler sleep' (and variations on that theme!) click here and actually, in the last few months I haven't had much to say on the subject! Well, from the toddler side anyway. The baby's another matter, but who wants to read 'adventures of a sleepless baby'? It's not exactly headline news is it.

Anyway, luckily for all of the Google searchers out there, T has decided that sleep is for, well, babies. Unluckily for me he's timed his new super early wake-ups perfectly, meaning he's bouncing around about 15 minutes after I've gone back to sleep after C's last feed. Knackered does not cover it!

Sadly I think, as with most things child related, time might be the healer we're desperately looking for. We have had wakeful periods before, often coinciding with leaps in his development or times of change like the one we're going through now, and come out the other side, slightly darker of under eye. But time doesn't make an interesting blog post does it? So we're trying something new. We've purchased a Gro clock, a sleep training device with a simple star and moon on the face which aims to encourage toddlers to stay in bed until it's 'officially' morning. As an added bonus, it also features a digital clock, so T can double check it's 'oh seven oh oh' before getting up for the day.

Online reviews are generally positive so I have high hopes. I'll report back in the next few days and let you know how we get on. The sleepless toddler is back!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bath poo

I feel I am relatively lucky on the poo front. With a toilet trained toddler and a baby on solids we now have very few poonami anecdotes to tell, until tonight that is. I listened gleefully at tea-time whilst T told me about one of his nursery peers who'd done a giant poo in the playground this afternoon and the ladies' attempts to stop the others standing in it whilst cleaning it up. I should have taken it as a sign.

All three of us were in the bath. 'I need a wee wee' whined T. I toyed with telling him to do it in the water but thought he'd probably grass me up to Daddy, so securing the baby under one arm I heaved him over the side and onto the bathmat. He did a great impression of a scrawny drowned rat. I fed him instructions ... stand on that little ledge, now onto your step with your knees, now turn around, bottom down, look you got on all by yourself! He's a titch - two and a half and still in 12 month trousers - being lifted on and off each time he needs to go so this was a major achievement, plus I didn't have to get my wobbly bits cold. Result. He sat and made a familiar grunting sound. Sigh. I fed him instructions again ... OK, now down you come, turn around, pass me that packet of wipes there. I did the necessary one handed, still in the bath, and chucked the dirty one into the loo, hole in one! Thank heavens for small bathrooms. T passed the antibac soap from the sink ledge and, once heaved back into the water, we both washed our hands thoroughly.

I was feeling quite smug. There we were, all pink and cosy and warm in the water. Only snug stories, milk and sleeps to come. Then a noise. The water's gone a strange yellowy colour. Ah, that'll be the baby then. Evacuate! Evacuate!

I drained the water and showered the children. Once they were asleep I bleached and scrubbed the bath, and the bath toys. I cursed my earlier laziness. If I'd have speeded up that toddler wee, that baby poo would have landed in a nappy rather than just above my left knee. On the phone my husband reminds me that last time he was on the receiving end of this treat, but it was a toddler poo which needed to be caught rather than washed away. I put away the Flash and think it could have been worse.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A Little Less Conversation

I am fascinated by the idea of comfortable silence, the notion that if you're truly happy with someone, if you know them inside out, you don't need to talk. Well obviously you need to talk - pass the ketchup, that sort of thing - but not all the time, and certainly not the sort of nervous garbling I tend to revert to when faced with a roomful of people I've not met before.

One of the things I've missed most about my husband being away is actual adult conversation. This morning I'm ashamed to admit in tiredness I cried down the phone to him as I described the awful night we'd had (there's a post on sleep coming soon!) and, with toddler T at nursery, he suggested baby C and I had a lazy day today so I could rest. I cried harder, 'But I don't want to stay in the house all day, I want to talk to someone'. Yesterday I said only a handful of words to other adults, a quick transaction in the Co-op and more than half of the other ones with my mouth wide open to the dentist, 'ahhh ah ah ahhh, ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh', well he appeared to know what I was talking about. I wasn't schtum for the rest of the day of course, but there are only so many conversations you can have about 'cloud monsters' before you start to go a little crazy.

This afternoon I met a fabulous friend for a catch up chat. It felt very, very good to talk. But as we put the world to rights over hot chocolate and smoothies (yes I know real grown-ups drink tea and coffee, but not us two!) I wondered whether this week in a fit of melancholic pique I am actually mourning something I never really had.

Were my husband here right now, what would we be doing. Well I'd probably be doing this, typing on the laptop, rubbish telly in the background, and he'd probably be doing what I assume he's doing right now in his new flat, playing on his phone, rubbish telly in the background. Even in the same room, sharing the same sofa, chances are we absolutely, definitely would not be talking to each other.

So instead of complaining about the lack of conversation, maybe I should be celebrating the fact that the comfortable silence remains. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Week Two, here we go!

Look here I am! This is me, typing these letters right now, so I must have managed what I was so worried about and survived my first week solo with the children.

I must say at this point that I know I am actually very, very lucky. I'm not a single parent, I do have support at weekends, and I'm not trying to compare my experience to those who do a wonderful job on their own all day every single day without any help whatsoever.

God it's bloody hard though. Well, maybe hard's the wrong word, relentless would probably be a bit more apt. We all made it to Friday evening without too many tears but the days did sort of blur together in an endless cycle of preparing meals, watching the children eat/throw them on the floor, cleaning up the mess and washing up. I love my children, adore them even, but aghhh if I'd had to retrieve one more Tommee Tippee spoon from where it had been flung on the floor (small) or applauded one more mouthful of peas (big) I might have exploded in a giant ball of pent up frustration. Luckily Daddy took over and did meal supervision on Saturday and Sunday.

I know this is just teething trouble. We're in the early days of weaning C, the frustrating period where she'll happily play with her food for hours whilst eating very little, meaning I need to squeeze meal times around just as many breastfeeds as ever, and I'm still finding my flying solo feet, learning the little tricks that help speed up the whole process.

One thing I didn't manage particularly well last week was feeding myself. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not going to waste away, I might even have sneaked a midweek McDonalds, but could that dry skin at the side of my mouth be the start of scurvy?! Once I'd finally settled both children it was a mammoth effort to get of the sofa and make something for myself that wasn't cheese toast. So, sitting here with another five days stretching ahead of me, my task for this week is not just to survive, but to survive in style, maybe even with some added vegetables.

Small steps. In a fortnight I might even be enjoying it!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

What a difference a year makes

Spring 2009, making an awful mess


Spring 2010, a clean t-shirt and not a drop wasted (he licked his lips afterwards)


We love ice-cream

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Naked

My husband walked into the room, naked. It's a good job this blog is anonymous because if you knew him you'd have to stop reading now for a drink of water, or at least a few deep breaths.

Having woken too early, the other three of us are lounging on the bed. Well, I'm lounging. The small one is chewing the bedding, the large one is trampolining.

'I'll just go for my shower now'

'You can't go yet' says my husband 'I'm not dressed'

'And?'

'Well I can't keep an eye on both of them and get dressed at the same time'

Yes dear. That's why, for the last week you've been away I've done the nursery run, shopping, visiting friends, music and ballet classes all entirely stark bollock naked.

In his defence he did concede I might have a point.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Handmade

It's charity week at T's nursery. Each year they pick a theme and ask you to sponsor your child to wear items that fit that theme. Last year it was spots and stripes, this year the theme was pirates.

So that's T, ready for nursery this morning: denim cutoffs, striped tee, kitchen roll 'telescope' and a pirate hat made from an old pizza box, some tinfoil and the last of the ribbon I used to make one of my best friend's wedding invitations. I also painted on an eye patch using toddler friendly face paint, knowing he wouldn't keep any other type on. He was overjoyed with his reflection in the mirror. What's not to love about an outfit that gives a toddler boy the excuse to shout 'arghhhhhhh!' at the top of his lungs.

Walking into Toddlers this morning though I was gutted. T was the only child with a home-made costume! There were children with plastic cutlasses, felt tri-cornered hats, skull print bandanas and waving blow up hooks. We had the only tinfoil and cardboard in the room.

The ladies were polite of course, the telescope was 'very, erm, creative' and he's too young to tell the difference between his and his peers' outfits, so why did I feel like the poor relation? I could have bought him something to wear, although the time it would have taken to get to the shops with both children would probably have been longer than it took to stick on the black sugar paper and cut out the foil 'skull'.

I know people have busy lives, or don't have the idea, skills or kit you'd need to make a costume. I'm sure some parents just don't want to, but I do, and I hate the feeling that that somehow makes him stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

La La Shoes

I have posted before about T's eclectic taste in music, thanks in no small part to my husband's fabulous personalised mix tapes*. He swings between artists and genres in an instant. There was a time I knew exactly how many plays of 'Yellow Submarine' it took to get from home to nursery with the CD on repeat. He enjoys Take That and songs from Glee, music from the Lion King and The Proclaimers. And don't even start me on his year-round passion for Christmas tunes or Julia Donaldson calypso-murdering 'A Squash and a Squeeze'.

Then came a request: 'Mummy, I want the la la song'. But which la la song was it? I wracked my brains. Hey Jude? No. 500 Miles? Nope. I asked friends, they suggested Kylie's Can't Get You Out of My Head (also no) or something by The Offspring. I have to admit not even suggesting the latter to him given the likelihood he'd ever have heard it. He asked, and asked, and asked, but it wasn't The Stylistics, Goldfrapp or even Deck the Halls with Boughs of bloody Holly he wanted. Stuck, I changed the subject and turned up Radio 2, introducing him to Girls Aloud and saving my sanity at the same time.

Then it happened. Months after the initial request there was a squeal from the back of the car. 'Mummy, it's the la la song!', and the culprit? Is This the Way to Amarillo of course (Peter Kay version). Having had that annoying 'answer on the tip of your tongue' feeling since he first asked I could finally breathe deeply again. Until, moments after it had finished, he said 'I want the la la song again'. I explained patiently that we couldn't rewind the car radio but that Mummy would put that song on a CD so we didn't lose it again. 'No not that one, I do like that one, but the OTHER la la song'.

It was back, that feeling that you just can't find the right word or remember where you know that person from, a deep pervading frustration that I must know the song he wanted but couldn't think of it! Eventually, in the way these things have of working themselves out, just as we'd forgotten the trauma of the whole experience it transpired that the original, best, first requested la la song he really really wanted was Paris 1919. To avoid future confusion we have now taught him the song's official name, and artist, should he feel the need for a hit of ex-Velvet whilst we're not around, saving everyone some heartache. The Youtube version is even bookmarked on the laptop, just in case.

To express just how much he loves this song, after a trip to a well known department store on Saturday to buy some new sandals he proudly told his keyworker we'd gone to 'John Cale' to get them and they were his la la shoes.




*C also has two, one of music to go to sleep to and one for wide awake time!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Greater Good

My husband moved out tonight.

It's day one of the New Normal, a sort of half-life that we flail in whilst we tie up the ends in Manchester and make a move down the M6 to the Midlands. A house that wont sell and one, soon to be two, children needing childcare means we're not able to just pick up and leave here, but nor will my husband's new job wait, so for now he goes and we stay.

The goodbye was perfunctory, after all he'll be back on Friday. I'm not unused to him staying away overnight, I can watch what I want on the telly and not have to worry about cooking a veggie option at dinnertime, but tonight with the house quiet it just feels different.

This is the start of a big change. We've known it was coming but now, with a weeks worth of suits packed and on their way to his home for the next week, it's really happening. Soon it will be our turn to go, and we wont be coming back at the weekend.

My children deserve an energetic father, one who isn't constantly exhausted from long and antisocial shifts and can enjoy his time off rather than existing in a constant state of jet-lag. I am looking forward to meeting my new husband, a man who can stay up past 10 pm and doesn't need a daytime nap. I know we will be happy in our new life, in the village we have chosen for its schools, parks and commutability. It's not even too far to come back and visit. The positives are stacked in the corner in a great big pile.

But tonight my heart breaks a little at the thought we will never again live as a family of four in this, the house we were married in, to where we brought home our tiny firstborn, where our daughter was conceived and born where we became the family that now stands on the edge of a change that's exciting and terrifying in equal measure.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Generosity


T, up too early, is rolling around on my bed.

'I bought a present for you Mummy!'

'Thank you darling, that's very kind. What is it?'

'A chocolate rabbit!'

'Wow, thank you T. I like chocolate rabbits. Where is it?'

'In the shop. I buy it for you next week'

Hmph.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

With apologies to his future biology teacher (TMI sorry)

'Mummy, my poo comes from my willy doesn't it?'

'No darling, poo comes from your bottom. Wee comes from your willy.'

'Nooo Mummy, it comes from my willy! I want it to come from my willy.'

'Well it's not really up to Mummy, it's the way you're built. Everyone's poo comes from their bottom. Mummy doesn't even have a willy!'

(crying now) 'Nooooooooo MY poo comes from MY willy'

(noncommittal) 'OK darling'

Sometimes you have to know when to give up the argument.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

You can come too ...


When T was almost exactly six months old we took him for a day out at Chester Zoo. That's him in the top picture, in the backpack carrier. I remember that we swapped him between us a few times that day, posing for pictures in front of the elephants, giraffes and lions. Looking back, we were immensely proud to be enjoying a family day out, Mummy, Daddy and son. I thought he was so grown up and that the hours spent peering through windows at everything from snakes to apes were 'educational' and crucial in his early development. I remember getting stressed at the end of the day because he was getting tired and grumpy and we hadn't yet seen everything. We trudged to the far side of the zoo to look at Przewalski's horses, disappointed that as we carefully explained about endangered species to our precious firstborn they actually looked pretty much like any other type of horse.

As I look back at the photographs I realise how ridiculous this all was. At six months old T was a baby. We might as well have strapped him into the carrier and walked him around Tesco, he'd have been just as entertained by the colourful creatures wandering up and down the aisles and we could have done our shopping at the same time. Like all parents, we've striven to give him the very best in these early years, but as yet he hasn't shown any childhood genius in taxonomy. Should we have given ourselves a break from the hectic new parent do-it-all schedule of days out, exposing him to sights, sounds and colours, and taken it easier?

Last week, on a particularly sunny spring day, we went back to Chester Zoo. Daddy was at work this time, so a friend and I were both solo with our two children. That's T in the second picture, very taken with the penguins. C was six months, exactly the same age as T on his first zoo trip. So where is she in this photo? She's in the buggy of course, my much loved parent-facing pushchair, which gives a great view of Mummy but achieved a remarkable feat in whisking her around the zoo without seeing a single animal. Oh no, I tell a lie, there was a particularly vicious duck which attempted to steal our picnic lunch from the hands of the older babes. She might have caught a glimpse as I abandoned her midday breastfeed to help shoo the predators away from toddler fingers.

Two years ago, keeping my six month old son awake to see a horse was the holy grail, this time it was getting my six month old daughter to sleep. As I lifted her brother to get a better view of the elephants, she watched a school party walk past in a crocodile of pairs. As I took the penguin photo above, she chomped on a teething ring and listened to the sound of her brother and his friend screeching with delight.

Coming to terms with giving your children different experiences is remarkably hard. It's taken me six months to realise that not doing with C what we did with T doesn't mean I love her any less or care any less about her development. Two and a half years of parenting has taught me that often less is more when it comes to babies. As her brother rests his tired legs in the buggy she absentmindedly chews one of the straps on the sling and I celebrate the fact she's enjoying quality Mummy close time. We walk past the sign for Przewalski's horses and I kiss her soft downy head tucked six inches underneath my chin. I'm still doing my best, but my best has changed.