Monday, February 28, 2011

Alterations, hands free and the end of winter.

1. Alec's legs are too long for his baby-grows -- but he's not large enough anywhere else for the next size up. I start to open up the toe seams on one of our favourites, a green and white striped number. When I put him in it, he stretches out his legs and looks much happier. It's pleasing to see his perfect feet (the soles are so peachy soft that I can't help kissing them).

2. We leave the pram at home, and Alec takes his walk around the park in the sling on Nick's chest. It means we can hold hands.

3. It's after 4pm, and it's still broad daylight. Winter is receding.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Birthday man, cheesecake and candlelight.

Fiona Robyn is offering a free e-book which I think might be of interest to 3BTers out there. It's about writing small stones, which to my mind are beautiful things by another name. The text is interwoven with the story of Lorrie, who has mousey hair and peagreen eyes and is about to discover how dissatisfied she is with her life.

1. It's Nick's birthday -- so he's number one beautiful thing today, for giving so much love and care to me and Alec. I am so grateful to have a husband who from the moment he walks through the door after a day at work, will take our baby and give me a much-needed and longed-for break.

2. I lay candied orange slices over the cheesecake that I baked for Nick's birthday dinner.

3. Just before I start supper, I remember a pair of sea green candles from our Christmas stocking. The kitchen looks magical by candlelight -- Alec (who has been very grizzly this weekend) is enthralled long enough to let us eat our steak and chips.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Zesty, crocuses and you're a good man.

Jonathan Becker emailed to tell me about his website Optimistly, which is all about self discovery. He writes perceptively about simple steps you can take to improve your life, including the use of positive thinking.

Also Greg Lord has started a 3BT blog at Three Brilliant Things and Kim has been recording her beautiful things at Skybelle Arts.

1. I come back from an emergency cream cheese run to find the kitchen smells strongly of oranges -- when I realised I didn't have the right ingredients for Nick's birthday cheese cake I'd been grating orange zest.

2. Our neighbours have in their garden a few deep space purple crocuses.

3. Human Planet -- Mountains. In the making of segment at the end, we discover that Kazak hunters have 300 words for horse colours. The chap with the camera rides gamely for three hours after the truck breaks down and the hunter tells him: "You're a good man. Apart from your nose." There's a pause. "It's too big, you mean?" "Yes. You'll get frostbite."

Friday, February 25, 2011

One and the same, eyelashes and not a care.

1. Louise tells me that according to child development experts, babies see themselves and their mother as one person for the first two years of their life. I wonder if this explains Alec's sixth sense about whether I'm in the room or not.

2. My mother comments on Alec's eyelashes. "They're nearly curling," she says. I look and remember noting when he was first born -- just eight weeks ago -- that he had almost no eyelashes at all.

3. It's half term. Teenagers in the shopping centre are doing crazy carefree teenage things, like not noticing anyone else around them, eating tottering three-scoop ice-cream cones and queuing for fish pedicures (we have TWO fish pedicure places in Tunbridge Wells these days).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The answer, sweet meat and baby talk.

Imperfect Pages posted recently about how her 3BT habit helped her in the never-ending mothering and work dilemma.

1. My first thought on waking is: "Has Alec survived the night?" Today, before I have a chance to roll over and reassure myself that he hasn't died or been stolen, I get my answer in the form of a loud fart.

2. Oli drops by -- he brings a new baby gift, a beautiful leg of lamb from our favourite butcher. I shall cook it on Friday

3. In every shop people ask how old Alec is, and come over to look at him snuggled in the sling. Walking home through the park I meet our neighbour -- she stands on tiptoes to see him, and marvels at the difference a few weeks makes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tray, weigh in and Nick's supper.

1. Every day, Nick brings my breakfast upstairs on a tray so I don't have to move the circus downstairs until mid-morning... ahem, noon. I am so grateful to be able to spend the morning in bed feeding Alec, reading and napping.

2. We go along to the health visitors' clinic, and learn that Alec is just shy of 10lb -- I worry about his weight because everyone comments on how small he is. The health visitor reminds me that most people have no idea what size a baby is anyway. It's half-term and fewer mothers have come than usual, so I feed Alec and have a good long chat with the breast buddy.

3. I make Nick a sandwich of blue cheese and walnuts -- and feel pleased with myself for having walnuts in the larder.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rock on, Mr Cool and no longer the centre of attention.

1. Turning home made rock cakes out of the tin and on to one of the best plates.

2. The other NCT ladies refer to Alec as 'Mr Cool' because they never see him crying: he's either asleep, feeding or sucking on my finger when they're around. I'm quite pleased when he fusses for a feed in front of them -- just so they know he can be angry if he likes.

3. One lovely consequence of Alec's new passion for kicking dangling toys is that I am no longer always the most important thing in the room -- which means I can make myself some lunch without him calling for me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Look down, kick about and wind.

1. I have some baking to do, but Alec won't be put down: he much prefers to be snuggled up to my chest in his sling. The boring hand-mixing passes in flash when you have a small son to look down at.

2. We look down from the supper table and see that Alec in his bouncy chair is frowning with concentration . He is working hard, trying to kick the bears dangling in front of him.

3. I have brought Alec upstairs so Nick can watch the end of Time Team in peace. Poor Alec is red and slot-mouthed and blue-lipped with wind. He does a milky belch and a loud fart; and then he's all smiles.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Better things to do, Green Arrow and ancient cats.

1. It's noon. The dishwasher is full, I am not dressed and there is a load of wet washing to hang out. But Alec wants to suck my finger, so I'm going to sit on the sofa and the housework can wait its turn.

2. Nick returns from the model train show with a green engine for the wooden train set that we are yet to buy for Alec. "The Green Arrow," he tells Alec, adding that they'll go to the show together, perhaps not next year, but the year after.

3. I have left my boys watching a documentary about sabre-tooth cats. "Mine are watching the football," she says.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Easy morning, band leader and sponge cake.

1. Once Nick has left for work, I bring Alec into our bed, and we spend the morning feeding and dozing and chatting.

2. "What's his name?" asks Granny again. "Alexander -- Alec." And she sings Alexander's Ragtime Band for him, filling in the lines about Swanee River that I had forgotten. Later she picks up When We Were Very Young and treats us to They're Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace.

3. The mother has brought a cake filled with marmalade. The bitterness works very well with the sweet sponge.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hold this a sec, first day of spring and reading.

1. "Let me hold him while you drink your tea."

2. There is something different about the light and the air in the Grove. Where before the crocuses and snowdrops looked as if they were fighting for survival in a cold and muddy world, today they look at home. Let's call it the first day of spring.

3. Caroline brought Alec a copy of When We Were Very Young, crisply printed on bright white paper. I wish she could have heard what I heard while I was making supper: Nick reading aloud from it to Alec.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cool water, sandwich and all change.

1. Without being asked, the waiter brings glasses of iced water.

2. A crisp panini stuffed with fennel salami and tomato.

3. The swiftness and efficiency of Fenella's nappy change -- and the way she maintains cheerful conversation with Alec throughout.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Putting the rubbish out, settling and not settling.

1. The late night sound of Nick sorting out the recycling boxes ready for the early morning pick-up.

2. Alec is agitated. He won't be put down, and when we hold him, he jerks his arms and legs furiously.  I hold him firmly against my chest until he calms down enough to take a feed. I wish I could console his whole future in the same way.

3. Making a start on the biography of Barbara Pym (A Very Private Eye: Diaries, Letters and Notebooks) that Sarah lent me. The undergraduate letters make me want to thump the man she is in love with -- he sounds horrible (despite his beautiful suits and lovely eyes). Actually, I want to thump BP for giving so much time and energy to him.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nappy change, waiting in the rain and I heart you.

Alec is seven weeks old today.

1. Granny has a go at changing Alec's nappy for the first time. She says he has wonderful legs.

2. A fat schoolboy stands out of the rain. When we get round the corner, my mother says: "Poor little boy with glasses -- doesn't his mummy want him?" I tell her that he was probably quite happy because he had his nose in a fantasy  novel.

3. I use a paper template to mark a chocolate tart with an icing sugar heart. Quick and dirty, but passably romantic.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St Valentine, carrying and godmother.

Katie-Who-I-Used-To-Live-With has re-launched her blog -- Knit Cook Sew -- characteristically of Katie, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

1. Nick is observing Valentine's Day today. He brings bags and packages down from the attic. One of his gifts is a bottle of Knackered Cow Cowshed bath gel. "They had Moody Cow as well," he says, "But I didn't think that would be a very good idea."

2. I manage to wrestle the sling off Nick -- yesterday when we took Alec out, the pair of them got so much attention that I felt as if I had turned invisible! It's the first time I've tried it, and I like very much to walk with Alec so close to my heart.

3. Godmother Charlotte takes Alec on her knee. She looks apprehensive. "Am I doing it right?" Alec looks quite content, so we tell her she's doing fine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Model, nap and Nick disobeys the health visitor.

1. In the window of a jewellery shop on the High Street sits Miss Glory Pearl, resplendent in a corset and a Marie Antoinette wig riddled with butterflies and dragonflies. She sees us from across the street and waves.

2. We take an afternoon nap, with Alec in the middle so he doesn't feel left out.

3. Despite the health visitor's instructions, Nick returned from town with two large pork chops. He cooks them for our supper with apple and honeyed parsnips, and they are tender and juicy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

At home, survival situation and crumpets.

1. Nick decides he is ill enough to work from home.

2. Alec is looking peaky, and coughing occasionally. I call the health visitor, and she gives me a list starting with saline nose drops, and ending with toast and butter and marmalade (for us). "You're in a survival situation with both of you ill," she says. "Don't do any cooking -- eat what you've got in the freezer. That's what it's there for."

3. Toasted crumpets with plenty of butter and salt. I can't taste much -- but I can taste salt.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Clear the decks, charmer and chives.

1. To have someone (my mother) empty the dishwasher so I can clear the dirty dishes off the counters.

2. "Are you flirting with me?" the GP asks Alec. He flashes her another smile.

3. I look up and see that the chives in my herb trough have put out new leaves.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Life lessons, size and soft.

1. He is waving his fists in front of his face, snapping with his mouth and looking disappointed at not catching something to suck. I give him a cuddle and tell him about hand-eye co-ordination, depth perception and not being too hard on oneself.

2. My aunt holds Alec and says: "I'd forgotten how small they are!"

3. Against my chapped lips Alec's forehead is as soft and as welcome as the thawing rain the night before he was born.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Face time, sleep and the gate.

1. After the 10 o'clock feed Alec is like a dozy bag of milk for a time. I prop him upright to let gravity do its work. His eyes are fat slits, and his whole body has collapsed into itself -- jowls into chest, body into legs. After a time, he opens his eyes, stretches and gives me a coy smile, head on one side, to let me know that he is now interested in my face. We talk and make faces at each other -- it's hard to know who is copying who.

2. To take a couple of paracetamol and sleep when the baby sleeps.

3. It's been a long day -- although Alec has been very patient with his sleepy, poorly mother -- and the sound of Nick opening the front gate is very welcome.

PS: Yesterday, Joe in Vegas posted this video of Iz Kamakawiwoʻole singing one of my favourite songs, and I really liked it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Escape, spring is coming and making a choice.

1. To pass my milk-drunk baby to my husband and leave the house for two hours of freedom.

2. A drift of crocuses (mauve over white stems) in the grey-brown park.

3. There is time -- just -- to stand and gaze in the sweet shop while I decide what to buy.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Family resemblance, updates and the godfather.

1. "That's a very Grantish expression," says Katie looking closely at Alec.

2. "Is that your baby?" the butcher's assistant wants to know. I tell him yes it is. " Well done! I hadn't noticed you were expecting," he says and then: "But you haven't been in for a while, have you?"

3. Tim's tea goes cold while his godson sleeps on his shoulder.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Open book, baking and picture that.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named drops in on his way to the Chinese New Year parade. This time last year, we ran into him while watching the same event. He was marching with the samba band Bloco Fogo -- not drumming, because he said he wasn't good enough. This year he will be drumming. He shows us belts of beads made at a band workshop: "I'd never have done any of this a year ago," he says.

2. Eating a brownie hot from the tray.

3. Spotting that He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has changed his Facebook profile picture to a portrait of him holding Alec.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Right angles, better day and roquet.

1. Muslin squares. Alec possets down my neck, and there is one to hand. When his nose is snotty, a square is there; when I am soaking his babygrow with milk during a feed; when we need a cover-up; when we need an emergency nappy, or a bib.

2. Today is a much better day than yesterday.

3. A lone player practises his croquet-shots on the lawn in the park.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Sleeping in, soothed and out for a walk.

1. To wake up with Alec's warm weight on my chest.

2. I finally persuade Alec to take a dummy -- which means I can put him down and eat my lunch (also breakfast).

3. His bike is yellow and his grin is gappy. "Are you enjoying the sunshine, madame?" I concede that I am. Alec and I are sitting on the edge of the cricket pitch -- I've taken Alec out of the pram to show him the wind and the sky; but he keeps his eyes screwed tight shut against the winter sun.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Sense of scale, treasure house and checking the colour.

1. We pass boys in blazers walking home from the grammar school. The first years are tiny under their huge rucksacks. Then I look at Alec in his pram and they seem like giants.

2. On a grey day of blurry rain, the bright fresh colours of fruit and vegetables in the cavernous green grocers are very appealing.

3. While I am feeding Alec, Nick brings my cake in so I can see if it is properly browned.

4. There was a romanesco cauliflower in our veggie box. We spend some time after supper admiring its mathematical spirals and pinnacles.

Picture from Stock.xchng

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Big sister, young mother and milestones.

1. "Oh she's been so good," says the other mother about her 19-month-old daughter. "She gets very worried when he cries, and brings him tissues."

2. She is tiny and porcelain fragile, and looks too young to have a scrunched red newborn in her arms and a blonde three-year-old at her heels.  She talks about terrible problems with feeding -- but wants to succeed so much. The toddler brings her a plastic banana and she breaks off her conversation with the lactation consultant: "Did you peel it for me?" The toddler shakes her solemn head and mimes stripping the skin off. The mother patiently, kindly, eats the banana.

3. "Thank you for the smile," says the lactation consultant to Alec. Later, the health visitor holds him and counts "One, two, three, four, five smiles... and you're talking as well." When Alec is in the mood, he gurgles and coos, and looks surprised at the sound that has come out of his mouth.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Storing up, tin and radio waves.

1. The mother brings lamb stew. We ladle it and the chicken casserole I cooked last night into freezer bags. The top drawer is now heavy with suppers for the next few weeks.

2.  When I come down to take Alec off for another feed (he and his father have been watching American football all evening) I see by the tin on the sofa beside them that Nick has found the cake.

3. On BBC 7, London Particulars -- two peelers (early manifestations of Metropolitan police officers) investigate dark deeds in the foggy streets of Victorian London. I've been listening to a lot of radio while Alec feeds, digests and then settles himself to sleep -- all things for which he wants me, but prefers not to actually engage.