Thursday, 29 July 2010


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


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.

'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


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


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?
Well yes they are men, but they have a special job, they look after animals and grow things.
Yes darling, well done.
Where's the rhyme Mummy?
You find the rhyme, look at the farmers, what are they wearing?
What sort of clothes?
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.