Monday, November 24, 2014

New game, craft and shoes.

1. While it is still dark Alec and I lie in bed together and whisper about things. I tell him that there is a new chapter of the tablet game Monument Valley out -- and I don't think I've ever seen anyone get out of bed and into his clothes with more enthusiasm. We eat breakfast together, just the two of us, before we begin.

2. Two mothers escaping into the rain for a paper craft workshop. We spend a happy couple of hours with Freckles and Fire making decorations without small hands tugging at our legs. It is such a luxury to be able to focus completely on the task at hand.

3. The clippity-cloppety sound that suggests Bettany has asked Nick to help her put her new shoes back on.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Noted, hostess and stuck.

1. To write a firm note in my baking book about how much we disliked working with muffin dough. It has no fat in it so it is horribly sticky (the muffins were delicious, though) and next time I will use the mixer instead of kneading it by hand.

2. To watch Anna bobbing round her party moving guests towards people they need to meet. She bumps past the group I am in and mentions something that we have in common, nudging another person into the circle and filling our glasses at the same time.

3. I come home to find my delighted mother stuck on the sofa under the sleeping Bettany

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Anniversary, black shoes and running home.

1. Today is our wedding anniversary, the fifth. Both children sleep late. We creep down and eat breakfast together, just the two of us, and then kiss on the doorstep as Nick leaves.

2. We are rather at a loose end so I conjure some errands out of thin air to get everyone out of the house. We go to the post office, pick up this, pick up that and end up at the shoe shop: I get their feet checked every six weeks or so because tight shoes are a misery. Bettany needs a new pair -- and a new pair of real shoes instead of the soft cruisers she has been strutting around in up until now. They have a black patent pair in her size -- last year's style so very, very cheap. They make her look rather formal and she is charmed by the clippity-cloppety sound they make.

3. On a dampish, greyish sort of day to run home pretending the big bad wolf is after us. We make it through the door just - in - time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Drop-off, village and paperwhites.

I've written a blog post for Depression Alliance about how writing these lists helps me stay healthy.

1. An easy nursery drop-off: two small people trot away, quite self-sufficient (Alec comes back, as always, to give me a little kiss.

2. When we come to pick Alec up from nursery he is hiding in a cardboard house in the Christmas village. Judging by the way the walls are shaking it is quite full.

3. Anna comes in the evening and we plant up paperwhites and talk. We do it (apart from because we like paperwhites, and each other's company) because we want to remember the gardening journalist Elspeth Thompson.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tasks, leading and bath.

1. I love the quiet satisfaction I get from the Wednesday tasks: I do a lot of the things that need doing once (or twice) a week on a Wednesday, taking advantage of the disruption caused by the cleaner coming. It's things like chucking all the kitchen linen in the wash, cleaning the water bottles, adding things to the shopping list, changing towels and flannels, clearing the places where clutter gathers.

2. After lunch Bettany leads me upstairs because she wants a cuddle and some bubby.

3. It's been a trying evening and so Nick sends me off to the bathroom. Before I've even got in, though, he and Bettany and a horrible nappy are knocking on the door. But that's OK, because the bath bomb I've just used, Lush's Golden Wonder, is completely spectacular and I want someone else to see to confirm that the deep green shimmering water is real and not just my tired imagination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Aiming high, here now and pushing.

1. We visit a primary school with Alec today. It is bright and noisy and busy and studious and the children who show us round are enthusiastic and confident and we like it a lot. Afterwards Alec tells us he thinks it's a good school for him because the teachers have not killed anyone.

2. When I came to pay I found I'd forgotten my purse. "You're here now," said the coffee shop man, "So drink up and you can bring the money in later." This is extraordinarily kind of him: he hadn't even started making my tea yet.

3. Deliberate naughtiness on Bettany's part: the third time she grabs the bucket of sugar packets off a nearby table she glances behind her to catch my eye, gives a naughty laugh and then scampers round to the seat of a wing chair where I can't see her. When I get there she is emptying the bucket in double handfuls. This is sophisticated, boundary testing and she is getting very grown up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why, worth and Bettany.

1. I am besieged by Alec's whys today. Finally I throw them back at him. 'Why do you want to know?'
'Because I asked you?'
'But why?'
He says with exasperation 'Now you've got the why bug, too!'

2a. One of our favourite shop assistants gives us a jigsaw out of the bag she is taking to charity.

2. Alec is being particularly (almost) four this morning -- he is asking for everything that looks like a snack (I am sorely tempted, sorely, to buy him that piece of soap) and jabbing at fragile-looking packages and responding rudely to any correction. 'You need the patience of a saint,' says the shop assistant serenely, and I know she is not judging my worth based on my son's aggressive interrogation of our social customs.

3. After Alec has taken his boundary testing (and all the associated drama) off to sleep (I assume he is analysing his data) I get some time to play with Bettany and enjoy the discovery that is giving her pleasure today: lip wibbling.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tender, will power and bowling.

1. As promised our shoulder of lamb is pull-apart tender. The children eat and eat and eat.

2. We get everyone ready for an outing, open the front door- and it's raining. We nearly turn back but the children need a run-out so we thrust unwilling limbs into rain gear and go out anyway. I would not have had the strength of character to do this if Nick was not at home.

3. Nick bowling a rubber ball to Alec (armed with an undersized cricket bat) in the rain is the most English thing I've seen all year.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ready to eat, quick read and chorizo.

1. Our butcher's display always looks delicious, about as ready to eat as raw meat can be. I can't put my finger on what it is -- but there's nothing clinical about it, and nothing industrial, like in a supermarket. No plastic trays or fake parsley. He presents it all on mismatched kitchen plates so it looks like food.

2. To snatch a quick read of my Steampunk Cthulhu book.

3. 'It's chorizo, you won't like it,' Nick tells Alec.
Alec takes a nibble and spits it out -- the flavour is too strong. But then Bettany has to have a piece, too, and she does like it. So Alec's competitive spirit kicks in and he gives it another chance.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Playdough, memory and lids.

1. All the children sitting round the table with playdough. To have another parent marvel at our tools -- I tend to forget that we have accumulated a good set of moulds and cutters until someone sees them with fresh eyes.

2. We discuss mumnesia, which is the bashing your memory takes while the children are small from a combination of distraction and sleep deprivation. She's lost her car before now; I've... I've er.... and now we can't place what I put in the playdough a couple of days ago to make it smell so nice.*

3. Bettany turns out our tin of plastic lids (she often does this and then wanders away). Our guests are fascinated and use them to make pictures. We mothers sit on the floor and idly sort them by colour.

* Ginger. It was ginger.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Done, Father Christmas arrives and following.

Three Beautiful Things has been recognised by the respectable and long-lived mental health site Psych Central as one of 2014's top ten depression blogs (they do acknowledge that this isn't a typical (or topical) depression blog, but I'm on the list because other depression bloggers are talking about me). Anyway, thank you very much to Psych Central for the recognition, and thanks to all you depression bloggers for mentioning me: I'm very glad to be of service to you. One of the most wretched things about depression is that it is hard to talk about and I'm pleased to be helping the dialogue along.

1. At the end of the afternoon I go to do a few household tasks and discover that Nick has emptied the dishwasher. I was working feet away at the kitchen table but I was so absorbed in my task that I didn't notice him clattering plates and cutlery. I thank him. He laughs at me.

2. I see on a social network that nursery have taken 'some children' into town to see Father Christmas arriving. When we pick Alec up they hand us a Golden Moments sheet recording the visit and I tell them I'm so glad they went: I'd been feeling sad that I wasn't taking him myself because it was nursery afternoon.

3. To follow Bettany across the landing and to enjoy the the way she walks with one hand behind her back and to look down on the beautiful shape of her head while her hair is still so sparse.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cleanish, water and childcare.

1. Our cleaner is ill and can't work (which is actually OK because Nick is ill, too, and needs to rest). I look around and realise that it's all right. The house is cleanish, and it will take me perhaps half an hour to do the bits that really matter.

2. To remember to ask for a glass of tap water with my lunch -- and later to buy myself  bottled water and refuse to entertain guilt over spending 55p that I would not have spent had I thought to fill myself a bottle at home.

2b. Two sleepy children in pushchairs and an hour of sun between showers means two mothers get to walk and talk without distraction.

3. A poorly Nick means there is someone at home to look after Bettany while I scamper out to collect Alec -- it is very pleasant to leave the pushchair at home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Help, gloom and over her head.

I've scribbled a quick encomium to Sarah Salway's beautiful garden book Digging Up Paradise because I really have enjoyed it very much.

1. A lady with a storybook Scottish accent helps Alec on to the train and then off again at our destination. She is concerned about his legs in the gap between the train and the platform. (He is more concerned that people might think he can't do it himself.)

1b. Across the aisle there is a man holding a conversation through his tablet using sign language. The soft claps and clicks suggest strong feelings and much emphasis. In the still spaces he smiles at Bettany.

2.  To spot gloomy purple mushrooms -- they are the colour of new bruises -- pushing out of the moss at the roots of a beech tree.

3. There are dark clouds on the horizon but Bettany is just too unsocialised to pick up our cues and . She just wants me to puff out my cheeks so she can pat them flat and then laugh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mycologist, back for lunch and bookshopping.

1. Alec wants to stamp on mushrooms. This is the sort of mindless violence against nature that I loathe (even though our Learned Aunt Jane says that stamping on mushrooms is the plant harming equivalent of picking a leaf off a massive oak tree). So I make him look -- properly look with his whole self, so he can describe the colours and textures and smells of caps and stems and gills and pores -- and we agree that he can stamp only on specimens that have fallen over, are already squashed or are more slug bite than mushroom.

2. On our way back for lunch we run into our friends in the park. In passing we discover that their dishwasher is broken and so we bring them home with us. There's one of those satisfying good deeds that is easily accomplished and makes our lives more delightful, too.

3. As a child I was always intrigued to see the title of Gumdrop and the Secret Switches in the list of books by the same author in many of my brother's extensive library of Val Biro books. Alec finds a copy in Oxfam and then goes back to his busy schedule of chasing a giggling Bettany around the shelves (there is no-one else in there and the man behind the counter appears more amused than horrified so I don't feel too guilty).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Over quickly, excuse and bright side.

1. I wake not long before the usual time to the sound of Bettany being sick in bed next to me. To be able to hand her over to Nick for cleanign while I deal with the bed. She bounced back in her usual way and ate a full breakfast, so I suppose it was just a passing bug. We forget about it until we come to change the vile nappy that always follows a few hours after a sick bug.

2. To let Bettany fall asleep on me so I have an excuse to sit on the sofa reading.

3. An early start makes it feel as if we have all the time in the world.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Up and down, walnuts and Hungarian biscuits.

1. The way Alec rides up and down on the escalators as if he has never been afraid of them. We end up traipsing around the shopping centre looking for excuses to move between floors.

2. To buy the last bag of walnuts -- fresh walnuts are such a treat, and Kentish ones even better -- foreign wet walnuts are always musty by the time we get them.

3. The Hungarian honey bun lady was at the farmers' market so I bought some of her cornflour biscuits. At tea time they melt on our tongues, moments of sweetness, quite insubstantial, like chatting on a night out with a charming but shallow person who you don't care to see again in daylight.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Just three, catching up with sleep and catchy tune.

Lucy at Box Elder has mentioned us in her knitting report. She is taking part in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) and I am much appreciate the increased output -- her posts are always delightful and thought-provoking, much better for me than my usual slurry of Mumsnet AIBU and Cracked.

1. We leave Bettany with my mother and walk out with Alec, one of us holding each of his hands. It feels great to give him our undivided attention.

2. I doze off while I am settling Bettany for her after-lunch nap and don't wake up until after 3pm -- by which time a supermarket delivery has arrived and been put away by my efficient husband.

3. To realise that the droney la-la-la that Bettany keeps coming back to is her attempt at one of our songs (Aiken Drum, who lives in the moon, plays upon a ladle and dresses up in all manner of foodstuffs).

Friday, November 07, 2014

Listen, massage and haircut.

1. Alec and I spend some time yelling at each other to 'LISTEN' before it occurs to us to take our own advice. Within moments the problem is resolved to everyone's satisfaction (including Bettany, who gets at least half of Alec's banana because he likes seeing her signing 'please').

2. I treat myself to a massage from my beauty lady (she's really very good indeed and can get all the knotted places without hurting me). That moment when a muscle I didn't know was tight gives up and lets go.

3. I complain to the hairdresser -- as always -- that my hair feels so heavy it makes me feel tired. She uses a strange pair of scratchy scissors to thin out the layers and it is such a relief to see puffy tufts falling all around me.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Too much skirt, cat faces and man hug.

Dave Bonta's blog Morning Porch is seven years old. You should go over and check it out because it is perfect and tiny (and he said on Facebook that I was one of his microblogging inspirations, which blew my mind a bit).

1. Bettany goes down for her nap wearing her Halloween dress. The skirt is so generously frilled that her fat little legs stick up at an angle.

2. There are some leaves in the park, I think from a sort of lirodendron, that look to me like cat faces. I snaffle a few in different sizes to use for Nana-pleasing leaf prints.

3. There is a boy from nursery who keeps getting namechecked in Alec's reports. I am brave and ask his mum if she fancies a playdate some time soon. When we look round our boys are wrapped in a tight embrace.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Balec, mud and last piece.

1. I find Alec tapping away at a two-player game.* He says: 'I'm playing with my imaginary friend, Balec.'
Balec is losing badly so I play a couple of rounds to boost his morale.

2. Three small boys (none of them mine) stamping in the muddiest puddle in the entire park.

3. While I am making supper I remember that there is one last piece of millionaire's shortbread in the fridge. I eat it quickly while no-one is looking.

* Pettson's Inventions Deluxe is hugely popular here at the moment.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Comics at the table, playdough and stained.

1. At lunch Alec and I eat chips and read the Beano (which is a bit different to when I was little, but not much -- just enough to make it accessible to a thoroughly modern Alec).

2. Kneading more colouring into blue playdough (Alec was dismayed because the ginger we added to scent it turned it green).

3. Two faces covered in blueberry stains.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Observation, OK and Wally.

1. I escape for the morning to an event called Stop Look Draw that aims to encourage urban sketching. I go with a friend who takes her art seriously and we investigate the same 50m of Camden Road. At the end I am astonished to see that she has moulded from charcoal and paper a perfect view that I hadn't even noticed (I was too busy interrogating weeds and scrutinising aerials).

2. I put Nogs up on my shoulders so we can hurry home though the downpour. I am afraid she is feeling shivery up there (I didn't put a jumper under her puddle suit because I thought it would be too bundley), or perhaps worried by the hissing rain -- but then I hear her laughing at something that has delighted her.

3. Alec patiently searching a page of Where's Wally.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Empathy, kale and fruitcake.

1. 'Don't worry, Mummy, you'll feel better soon.'

2. A mass of slightly bitter deep green kale to go with the chicken and ham and leek pie I had kindly stashed in the freezer some weeks ago.

3. I also found a large lump of fruitcake, carefully wrapped, that is just right for our tea. It has whole glacé cherries in it.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Pact, appearance and down.

1. We make a pact to let the children have whatever sweets they want this evening and it works well. Bettany has a different lollipop in her mouth every time I see her and Alec keeps asking me what he is eating.

2. Bettany's pleasure in her appearance. She keeps glancing down, patting her dress and smiling.

2a. All the people willing to play along with trick or treating -- and those who showed they enjoyed seeing our children out and about.

2b. Our friend very kindly runs out to find Bettany's missing boot: it had fallen off in the darkest part of the trick or treating circuit.

3. Two cursorily de-sticked children fast asleep by 8.30pm.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gingerbread, box and away.

1. While Bettany is napping Alec and I make gingerbread biscuits using the recipe from my cousin's handwritten cookbook. The paste is a delight to work with, fine and soft with a wonderful smell of treacle and Christmas. We eat quite a lot of it raw. The earlier batches are a little puffy (but some gingerbread is soft) though our later batches are crisp and thin enough to make me feel very proud.

2. In my clear-out I discover a long unopened box, just a small one, of trinkets and junk from my time at university. A torn wristband for the college ball; a couple of corks from my 21st birthday Champagne. A programme and a ticket for a concert. Junk, to be thrown out the moment I die. But each item makes my brain replay a few vivid memories: my legs stung by nettles in the botanic gardens after the ball; the corks hitting the high ceiling of our third year house; my acute embarrassment at hearing my own lyrics sung at the concert (and the composer saying they were easy to sing).

3. To whisk a bag of unwanted toys away to the charity shop -- and to enjoy the space created by a re-arranged living room.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Departure, cooking and puff pastry.

1. To hear Alec chatting calmly with Nick as he sets off for nursery.

2. To show Bettany how to use a biscuit cutter (she loses interest after one and goes back to stamping around the kitchen in her wellies).

3. I notice with some satisfaction that my rough puff pastry has formed plenty of layers -- so all that folding and rolling was worth it. (I'm not normally allowed to make pastry because it's Nick's job).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Costume, headspace and taking over.

1. Godmother Catherine arrives with a historical parade: Daniel with a Roman gladiator's helmet and shield and Ellie dressed in a carefully composed outfit topped off with a rather outré Laura Ingalls Wilder-style straw sun bonnet. I wonder if anyone on the train saw them and thought they'd slipped in time.

2. Bettany's small friend pushes her on the swing while we mothers chat. With Bettany entertained and Alec away with Daniel I find I have enough to headspace to remember why I wanted to introduce these two people -- but not enough to jostle the topics-in-common into the conversation. Luckily they do it for themselves.

3. Catherine takes over bathtime so I can make downstairs comfortable for Nick. It's a gift for both of us (as well as a pleasant change for the children).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sketch, mushrooms and hands.

1. While I am dressing Bettany I remember with shameful pride a cheeky verbal sketch I made when I was ten of a classmate's overbearing mother: 'She's the sort of person who always makes sure her son has his vest on and then checks everyone else's vests, too.'

2. To find a pair of beautiful boletuses in the park -- velvety warm brown caps the size of espresso cups. Later Alec calls me over to see what I think is a purple russula -- he has very sharp eyes to spot it among the leaves.

3. It's one of those moments that I ought to photograph, but I don't bother to get my phone out because I don't want to miss a moment while trying to frame it and catch it behind glass. Alec holds Bettany's hand and they walk up through The Grove to the playground. At the corner he tells me seriously 'Me and Bettany are just friends.'

Monday, October 27, 2014

Expression, badger and sticky.

1. My mother tells me that she has come across a photo of her father as a small boy. 'He has just that sad, thoughtful expression that Alec has sometimes.'

2. Nick comes home with a new pair of trousers for Alec. They have a badger on the pocket, which is as close as this family gets to a totem animal.

3. To watch Bettany gnawing the Kinder Hippo that Nana sent home with her. Alec ate his in double quick time and now he is hanging round her high chair with a pathetic look on his face, hoping she will be generous and give him bite. He is daft: the hippo is a mess of stick and dribble and Bettany is oblivious.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cthulhu, up the hill and rolling grapes.

1. Alec explains that we are going to the Specific Ocean to set camera trap for Cfulhu, to be fixed down with nails and a padlock. Much later I entice him into the bath by suggesting he can test his design with a mock-up made from a soft cheese tub and some sucker hooks.

2. I discover I can sell the walk to Auntie Katie's house by explaining that the long hill is The Mountains of Madness. Alec scoots the entire way without once asking for a tow. I do end up promising to take him to the actual Antarctic one day, though.

3. Rolling grapes across the table to Baby Ella, who is much happier now she has had her lunch and is sitting on her mother's knee.