Saturday, April 30, 2011

Idiom, guests and a good clothes day.

1. The phrase 'chewing a wasp' used to describe a certain sour-faced female guest at the royal wedding.

1a. I did like the Duchess of Cornwall's outfit, too, and booing at Princess Michael of Kent.

1b. And I enjoyed taking advantage of Nick's almost encyclopaedic knowledge of bigwigs and royalty.

2. The mass of people walking down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace.

3. Some days are better than others for baby clothes. Sometimes, a pile of blown-out baby grows accumulates on the landing and in the nappy bucket. Today, however, first thing I put Alec in a royal wedding watching outfit (nothing formal, but it was a never-before worn outfit, a gift from Katie-who-I-used-to-work-with). He was still wearing the same clothes at bedtime. I took this photo early on -- he fell asleep soon after I dressed him, presumably exhausted by the effort of having everything done for him.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Adjusted, voice and milk.

1. We wake late. I panic. And then I breathe, decide not to go to the health visitor's weigh-in, and we are on time again.

2. "He's really enjoying his voice," says the yoga teacher as she passes by. I hadn't thought of it like that -- I'd just been a bit embarrassed that my baby was the noisy one who chatted through relaxation. To be honest, it was more embarrassed-proud than your actual embarrassment. I  love our conversations, particularly when we're out so there's lots to talk about.

3. I have to visualise Alec to get the breast pump working, which of course, I like doing; and it's satisfying to see the bottle filling warm millilitre by warm millilitre.

Staying put, coconut and last task.

1. We hand in our tenancy agreement -- we're going to stay in this homey, welcoming house for another year.

2. Laura brings out a sponge cake topped with toasted coconut. I'd never thought have doing that, and it's delicious, particularly with lemon sponge.

3. Last thing at night I can hear Nick doing the task I forgot -- setting off the bread machine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pug, puree and lilac time.

1. A pug, pink tongue flapping, trots beside a lady, stately as a galleon, riding a mobility scooter.

2. "Can Alec try some?" The health visitor seems surprised that someone at a weaning class might want to give her baby the purées we've been sampling. He takes the spoon from me and smears spinach, potato and cauliflower in his hair, across his bib and on my trousers. "It's more about socialising and getting used to textures," says the health visitor to encourage us. Later, I find a green crust behind his ear.

3. Those lilac leaves look so cool and calm. The flowers look kind, too -- like an elderly spinster who seems fluffy and a bit daft, but can be relied upon in an emergency. "Oh my dear, I always carry a screw driver in my handbag."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tulips, meat and relief.

1. My father brought me some tulips, some citrus yellow and some crimson. One of the yellow ones has a streak of scarlet on two petals.

2. Nick carves pink slices of cold roast lamb for supper.

3. Alec has been squirming whatever way we hold him. He doesn't care for toys, and even the feed which he was screeching for doesn't help -- he keeps taking himself off and turning his head to smile at me in a very disconcerting way. At 10.30pm, perched on his father's lap, he goes very quiet and then fills his nappy. Once he (and the bathroom) are clean again, he settles and the house is quiet.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Taking over, purple and shade.

1. Alec seems most affected by his cold at night, so the small hour feeds have been long and I've been sleeping badly sitting upright with a hot baby propped on my chest. I reply sharply when Nick wakes up and complains of being tired. "Shall I take him?" asks Nick, and carries the baby (who really wants to play, not be fed into a stupor while his mother dozes) off downstairs. I sink back into the pillows and sleep for more than an hour.

2. We've been enjoying our wisteria for about three weeks now. The scent lies (I think it's like fresh corn on the cob) in our yard, and as the day goes on creeps in towards the front of the house. (Pictures by Nick Law)

3. Our back wall casts a cave-cool shade, just large enough for the two of us to sit and eat our lunch with Alec sleeping on his sheepskin.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Amused, morning and rain at last.

1. Sometimes when I am wiping Alec under his chin or his arms, he giggles. Only sometimes, though -- it's hard to predict what will delight him. (Picture by Nick Law)

2. Nick and Alec are still in bed when the doorbell goes. "It is after 10," says my mother apologetically. She is gratifyingly keen to see her grandson.

3. There has been some thunder, which made us rush to bring in the washing (the airer is standing expectantly in the kitchen doorway). We are starting to think our scramble was in vain when the rain starts falling. The quiet earth sighs. It's been a dry, dry month.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dead wood, confession and sign of summer.

1. Yesterday I cleared the dead twigs from under the little weeping willow in our front garden. Today, when I open the curtains in the front room, I can see what a difference my work has made. It gives the understorey a chance to speak.

2. I confess to Nick that I finished the bar of chocolate while he was napping, and he's all right with that.

3. I take Alec round the Grove hoping he will sleep through supper. No such luck... but I do see some dancing midges gilded by the evening sun.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Duck, attention and park life.

1a. It's getting too bright and hot in the back garden. I move us round to the front where it is cool and shaded. Alec sits in his bouncy chair, his toys quietly forgotten, watching while I weed the gravel.

1. "When Hugh was a baby, he had this yellow toy duck, and it made him so excited we had to take it away from him." I think of this and feel better when Alec gets wound up about scrunchy cellophane toys.

2. The second I put Alec down on the rug, Anna's girls start lavishing him with attention. I want to protect my baby from so much stimulation; but I can see he's unafraid, and it's hard to tell people to stop admiring him! At one point I turned round and they were passing him backwards and forwards between them. He wore a blissed out smile, as if he had been waiting his whole life for girls of six and eight to play with him.

3. We come home tired and sticky and sunned. The changing bag is stuffed with dirty laundry, the pram is full of beech leaf casings, and Alec has a smudge on his baby grow. He looks exactly like someone who has spent a happy afternoon in the park.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Remembering, job done and broccoli.

1. The delivery man says: "Oh, you've had your baby then. How old is he now?" I don't recognise him, but I suppose he must have come once before while I was still pregnant. It was kind of him to remember, and friendly of him to mention it.

2. When I come downstairs to make supper, Nick has brought the rugs and toys in from the darkening garden.

3. A few stems of my mother's purple sprouting broccoli with my supper. It is so tender and sweet that I give Nick one to try -- he just has a sandwich in the evening.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The novelty, fairies and making rainbows.

1. Alec has a rotten cold and is being very stoical about it, but his attention span is even shorter than normal. He is starting to demand new entertainments. It occurs to me that he hasn't seen bubbles before. There's plenty of washing up liquid, and I hunt around for a suitable wand -- wire?... and then I remember using a drinking straw. It keeps Alec's attention from his suffering -- he surveys my efforts seriously and with heavy brows. If he could talk he would probably pronounce it "tolerable". I think he was copying my face -- it's hard to look delighted when you are concentrating on creating bubbles, even if you feel it.

2. "Look," says my mother to Alec. "Fairies." Dandelion seeds are flying, fragile aeronauts bobbing in the still hazy air.

3. Earlier today, I found my rainbow crystal in the garden (I have no idea how it got there. I suppose it must have got mixed up with  my gardening box when we moved). I hung it on the washing line. When I come to do the early evening feed in the front room, there is a rainbow playing on the front door. It has come the length of the yard, through the french windows, through the kitchen, through the hall and right across the room.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Static, garden chores and filling the watering can.

1. The season is changing and my hair is coming out in handfuls. I brush it 100 times to clear out the loose strands. It crackles with every brush stroke.

2. I put Alec's bouncy chair in the garden so he can supervise me hanging out the washing. He seems quite content, so I plant some seeds and do a little tidying, as well.

3. "That's a nice sound," Nick says to Alec. I've just filled the metal watering can from the tap -- it's an echoing bll-bllll-bl noise.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wisteria, her little boy and clams.

1. "When we were in the car park, we were admiring that wisteria, and now we've come all the way round and it belongs to you, and we can admire it close-up."

2. Audrey says: "I've looked out some of Thomas' old clothes for Alec." There's a baseball shirt; and a handknitted jumper, pale blue with a white rabbit on it, and a sailor suit jumper. Thomas, who is now 18, holds Alec with a certain amount of trepidation

3. A plate of linguine and clams, laced with chili and garlic.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ferret, just to let you know and cherry blossom.

1. I dash out for a brief errand -- and on the way home, on the High Street, I see a lady carrying a ferret. I'm awfully glad I went out.

2. I feed Alec, and then put him over my shoulder. The bus slows, and a woman says "Excuse me, you've got something down your back... I've got a tissue, but this is my stop." I'm wearing a navy blue coat, so I'm very grateful she spoke up. Luckily, I have a muslin -- actually, I have three.

3. Every so often a parent will leap up to follow the one-year-olds who are tottering and crawling out of the hall door and into the yard where palest pink cherry blossom falls.

4. I lay Alec on the grass and he scrunches his eyes shut against the vast bright sky. He smiles as if something is tickling him

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Service, songs and round the park.

1. She pops out of her coffee shop carrying a plate of poached eggs. A little later, a man brings the plate back empty.

2. In yoga we learnt a few action games which were supposed to amuse the babies. Alec would glare resentfully at me, go rigid and refuse to co-operate. Now they are his new favourite thing. I'd better expand my repertoire, and soon, because there's only so much Wind The Bobbin Up a person can take, and my Row Row Row Your Boat verses are becoming increasingly inappropriate.

3. Nick comes home early and there is just time to walk round the park before we start what is meant to be Alec's bedtime routine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

As bad as each other, re-use and rhubarb.

1. I can hear the Mother and Alec giggling upstairs. She brings him down and hands him to me. "I think he's  filled his nappy. I didn't want to look in case it was messy. He's been rolling around." Alec smiles innocently.

2. The mother pulls some little bags out of our bin to hold some summer bulbs she has brought me. She looks at the labels and remarks that we've been eating a lot of chocolate -- "There are four in here." I tell her that she doesn't know how long since we last emptied the bin. Oddly, I used the plastic inner trays as drainage crocks in my new salad planter.

3. Pink spring rhubarb, baked sticky and sweet, with a little yoghurt. I like the ker-crunch sound when I chop the raw stems.

Jabbed, rehearsals and wisteria.

1. Alec is so brave when he has his injections that tears spring to my eyes. I explain to him that I'm crying because I'm proud of him. I suppose the nurse must think I'm mad. I tell her that I explained to him about vaccinations beforehand, too. "Well," she says, "Who knows how much they understand?"

2. Yesterday afternoon, I practised and practised folding and unfolding the buggy. Then I clipped the car seat on, took it off, put it back on again. It paid off because I took the car seat off and collapsed it without a problem to get it into Laura's boot.

3. When the direct sun pulls itself out of the garden, the wisteria changes from a nervous mauve to rich purple.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day off, shut the door and family-friendly.

1. Nick has taken the day off so I can see to a couple of appointments. We have a lie-in.

2. I go into the bathroom to wash and dress, and I shut the door completely because Alec is not lying on his play mat supervising me. He's busy entertaining Nick in the bedroom.

3. I get my legs waxed for the first time since Alec's birth. I leave it up to you to imagine what a relief this is. The excuse is that I was worried about what to do with Alec during the appointment. When I tell my beautician, she says: "This is a family business. Some of my ladies bring their babies along. I even gave one lady a treatment with her baby lying on her chest."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Apple, a joke and tin can.

1. She marks her apple with a ring of identical white bites.

2. Alec has been doing something rather odd -- a theatrical startle at nothing, with wide eyes and arms thrown up, followed by a huge grin. I ask the health visitor (I'm not worried, just curious). She says "Oh bless him! We just don't know what they're thinking... Do you smile at him?" And I remember that early on when everything was new and I was scared of him being scared, I would try to laugh when a harmless thing made him jump -- so he would know he was safe. Are you making your first joke, Alec? I like it very much, and it never gets old.

3. I'm awfully glad I paid a bit more for a galvanised steel watering can because it looks so much better than the plastic version. Form trumps function when you don't have much storage space.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Compost, little fishies and last pages.

1. Tipping a bag of compost into a new planter.


2. "This mince is really good," says Nick. "What's in it?"
I have no idea -- it came out of the freezer. And then I spot the hair-like anchovy bones. I am all about anchovies at the moment -- blame Jamie Oliver for their presence in every savoury dish I touch.


3. "I've been terrible with the booby book today," I confess to Nick. We have logged the start and finish time of pretty much every single one of Alec's feeds since he came home from hospital. It gave me a sense of achievement at the end of the day to see how many times we'd sat down together. Nick added up the minutes at the end of the day and I felt as if he now knew for sure how hard I was working. Of course, it's not about the length of the feed, because babies suck and rest, and some of the sucks are comfort rather than nutrition. But flicking through, I can see the change from the early days, when we were still learning and I found it so painful, when I gritted my teeth, cuddled my new baby and counted the minutes. The feeds tend to be longer now -- roughly the length of a Simpsons or Firefly episode. There are 4am feeds when I heard the dawn chorus and the milkman; and feeds with no end because we drifted off to sleep. There are daytime feeds marked with a query because I was taking tea with other mothers and forgot the time.
"Do you think it's time to stop keeping it?" asks Nick, closing the little notebook.
He's right -- we are much more sensitive to Alec's cycles and requests now. I am much more confident in my ability to feed my little boy. It's another happy-sad moment -- like the day Alec found his fingers and didn't need to suck ours any more. I put the elastic round the book and lay it away in his box, along with our hospital bands, the remains of his cord and the newspapers for the day he was born.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Caterpillar, a bargain and carrot cake.

1. In the dark hours, Alec lolls, soft and hot, on my chest caterpillar-style with his bottom in the air.

2. "That chocolate tasting thing is nearly out of date," says Nick.
"Which chocolate tasting thing?" I had totally forgotten about this close-to-expiry bargain I'd picked up a month ago. What a treat.

3. The cream cheese icing for my carrot cake glops on in a most satisfying manner -- and the recipe's quantities are generous, too.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Proud in purple, six degrees and size matters not.

1. Two days ago, when the wisteria buds were just green grey tassels, my aunt said it was going to be good this year. I think pride has swelled the buds, because now purple petals are starting to show.

2. To meet a new person and discover that she knows people who have known me since I was smaller than Alec. The mother hosting today's coffee morning works where my mother used to work.

3. She looks down at Alec and says: "Oh, he's big!" and I am very gratified, even when I discover that she is comparing him to her daughter who is a full month younger. Alec is growing very satisfactorily and to my mind he's the perfect size; but he's the smallest of all the babies in our NCT group and people often pick him up and remark upon his lightness.

Friday, April 08, 2011

In the street, properly blue and all he wanted.

1. There is a companionable silence around the cafe table; and then Serena says: "Well this is a first, breastfeeding in the street." The five of us look at each other and laugh. It hadn't even occurred to me when I put Alec on that we were outside and I hadn't thought about the street setting, either. "We're all right," says someone else. "Anyone would think we were just cuddling our babies."

2. I never really got over the disappointment of discovering that the Rhododendron 'Blue Peter' I'd persuaded my father to buy had purple flowers. So how exciting to find a properly blue azalea in a work-a-day park like Calverley Rec. "It's that blue that's impossible to photograph," says my aunt. It's the sort of blue that makes your eyes feel strange -- a bit like looking at a UV light when you're drunk. It's like the sky today, and like chalkhill blue butterflies.

3. We rushed home with a furious Alec arching his back in the pram. I thought he wanted a good long feed, away from the heat and the bright distractions of the outside world, in our cool, quiet living room. But it seems that all he really wanted was for me to pick him up and press his tear-wet cheek against mine. Although I fed him as well.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Early risers, tulip and violet.

1. It's 9am, and Mrs Law is hanging out the washing, while Alec looks on from his bouncy chair. What a change these lighter mornings have wrought -- two weeks ago this hour would have found them still in bed.

2. When I go to hang out the washing, I see that one of my tulips -- they were stashed away at the back of the house -- has nearly flowered. I bring the planter round so we can see it from the kitchen window.

3. So far I have stepped over -- and enjoyed -- the violet that has come up between the paving stones in our back yard.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Assassin ducks, who's carrying me and jammy.

1. There are black ducks on the lake -- no, not black all the time, because if you get them at the right angle, you can see the iridescent green on their necks.

2. I let a friend have a go with Alec in his sling. At first he looks confused -- "I'm snuggled up against someone warm and soft, and it's definitely not Dad, but I can see you. So who... who's carrying me?" But then he falls asleep, and she is happy to do a second circuit of the lake, so I think it was satisfactory for all concerned.

3. The best thing about making jammy thumbprint cakes is making the prints in the balls of bright yellow dough. Or perhaps it's licking the jam spoon at the end. I'm not sure.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Nappies, making friends with Jane and not taking my own counsel.

1. Two parcels of fluffy white nappies from The Nappy Lady. We have taken her advice and chosen a package that will suit us, and I hope we are disciplined enough to keep them up. I'm not happy about the amount of waste generated by disposables; and I've also heard worrying things about a gentleman's vital parts overheating.

2. My book club is reading Emma -- I've always struggled with Jane Austen, and I've always wanted very much like her. It's a bit like when you meet someone at a club or a class that you think you'd like, but somehow always getting off on the wrong foot. Reading Emma under book club rules has given us a second chance at being friends.

3. I brought the washing in because it looked as if it might tip down. It made us late for class. It didn't rain, though; and this is annoying, but in retrospect a good thing, as I never thought about wet weather gear for the pram, or for me.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Celebration, irises and small victory.

Sarah Salway has written a fascinating post about a recent trip to Syria. And then she's written a Three Happy-Making Things post, too.

1. Friends and well-wishers pour into my aunt's house bringing canapés, congratulations and cake.

2. I have been sitting next to a planter full of earth and moss. When I look -- really look -- there are delicate mauve irises that I just didn't see before.

3. Alec comes home in the same clothes he was wearing when he set out. Yesterday he had a new outfit at every change because of accidents.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Where I left him, washing in and easy.

My aunt has been making progress with her 60 haikus, including one for Alec.

1. Yet again I wake in the night convinced Alec is lost. It's always such a relief to find him safely asleep in his basket, tucked under blankets knitted by people who are fond of him.

2. The washing line and both airers are full. The sun is shining, but black clouds are edging in. I keep half an eye out and catch the rain as the first drops mark the windows.

3. Dinner from the freezer -- sometimes you just don't want to cook.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Fooled you, baby in charge and last thing.

1. Once Nick has left for work, I turn on Radio 4's Today so I have something to think about while I give Alec his breakfast. This morning -- April 1 -- there is a feature about 3D radio, and they suggest that we hold our hands in front of our faces to improve reception.

2. We have nothing on and no-where to be. I take my time from Alec.

3. To dim the bedroom lights at the end of the evening. Nick brings a newly changed Alec in and I give him his settle-down-and-go-to-sleep-feed.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Invitation, spectacle and spring.

I've been really enjoying the comments recently -- thank you so much. And to everyone who has expressed worry about the late-night posting, it's all normal. Right before I get ready for bed, I feed Alec until he falls asleep. Then once I'm in bed myself, all clean and sweet, I bash out a post. Alec in his basket next to me now, hands behind his head and making sucking faces -- I imagine he's dreaming about the next feed. Nick is on the other side of me, reading about the French fleet in World War II.

1a. "What's your name?" I look around, and then down -- a tiny girl waiting for her mother to finish chatting has started a conversation of her own. "I'm Clare," I say. "And what's your baby's name?" I bend down (I'm wearing the sling) to give her a look at my sleeping boy. "He's called Alec." She stands on tiptoes and looks in, and then very softly, kisses him.

1. After yoga: "We're going for coffee, want to come?" "I can't, I've got to... yes, yes I would very much."

2. New glasses -- oh my gosh, the world is in high definition again.

2b. As I am leaving the shop, I nearly walk into volunteer coming out of the back room. She smiles, and then points to Alec (still asleep). I turn down my coat collar to give her a better look. She smiles even more, and mouths "Well done!"

3. I think the park is holding a deep breath. The buds on the beech tree look fit to burst.