Monday, December 31, 2012

Escape, the bath and Star Wars.

1. While we are steeling ourselves to get out of bed, Alec tells me that The Little Tiny Baby has escaped, gone downstairs and is making breakfast.

2. Nick's bath looks so warm and deep that I can't resist joining him in it. We used to bath together all the time before Alec was born -- we even went against the bathroom shop's explicit advice* and got a double-ended bath to make this more enjoyable. It's hard to find the time these days because one of us is always chasing a tinks round the kitchen. We should make the time, really: it's like a date night, except that you don't need a babysitter.

3. We open some more of Alec's birthday presents: Godfather Timothy has found Star Wars ABC and counting books. Alec flips open the numbers book, correctly identifies Yoda and then asks me to find him in the ABC. This puzzles and amazes us until we remember he has an outgrown t-shirt with a picture of the Jedi master on.

*Double ended baths are not considered safe with an over-bath shower.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Scribbling, starting out and last of the pie.

1. My cousin Laura -- and this is very appropriate for an illustrator -- gave Alec some art materials for his birthday, including a set of Crayola first markers and some jumbo pencils. Up until now he's had the run of my felt pen box and a set of wax crayons from the Post Office. Both markers and pencils are designed for toddler hands, and it makes such a difference to Alec's mark-making. He is much more confident and instead of asking me to draw 'steamy toot-toots' and 'Daddy' and 'squirly snails', he covers a page with his own lines. I slip a couple of pieces of note paper in front of him to get some of his artwork into our thank you letters.

2. There are a lot of thank you letters to write. I make a start.

2b. We catch Alec trying to take his new scooter upstairs at bathtime.

3. Nick has saved me the last piece of pie.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Birthday, party and an aunt.

1. To talk with Nick about this day two years ago. The details of Alec's birth are still so clear in my mind (taking a cross red slippery thing from the midwife who was kneeling on the floor behind me; seeing what Alec now calls 'willy-balls-one-two' and saying "Oh, it's Alexander! Hallo."), and I love hearing the bits that Nick remembers, too ("I had to hold you while they stitched Mummy up and we talked about trains").

2. We have a party -- of course -- with all sorts of guests coming and going throughout the day. There are babies playing in the corner and toddlers riding Alec's new scooter. Balloons are batted around and then popped. Alec pulls a tree off his cake and is dribbling green at candle time. I run from stove to fridge to table, calling to people to help themselves and chatting where I can.

3. I am gently reminded by my aunt that she can do things like making coffee (while I greet a new arrival) and brush crumbs off the table where Alec demolished several slices of bread (while I load the dishwasher).

4. We're hoping to keep Alec awake until bedtime as it's too late for a nap. We watch TV while Nick restores order in the kitchen. But halfway through Octonauts I realise that Alec is vibrating gently in my arms because he is snoring.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Chore, knowing your wife and birthday surprises.

1. I mentioned yesterday to Nick that a lot of Alec's toys were running out of juice -- the washing machine no longer goes round. The toy phone has started to mumble. The bath turtle tails off two bars into his rendition of The Blue Danube. Today Nick gathers them all up and replaces the batteries. He takes in a few of our gadgets along the way.

2. I spot some talk on Twitter about a Moomin documentary on last night, which of course I want to watch. I tell Nick about it and he says rather tiredly: "I've recorded it." I should have known.

3. Deciding where to leave Alec's birthday scooter -- we decide on the kitchen so that he sees it when he comes down to breakfast. And there is space for him to try it, too.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bye, the race and more space.

1. At eight o' clock, Granny coughs at the other end of the house. Alec wriggles out of bed and runs off to find her. I don't see him again until I go down for breakfast.

2. A red-blonde spaniel, ears bouncing, pelts past us up the hill. It's going so fast that its muddy legs are a blur. Minutes later it runs past us again in the same direction -- how did it do that?

3. Coats on new hooks by the front door. A calm space in the kitchen where they used to hang.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Opening his stocking, the bicycle and nursing him to sleep.

1. Alec dipping into his stocking. He is so delighted by each item that we have to coax him to go in after the next one -- and the sight of Grandpa bringing the fire back to life makes him forget about presents anyway.

2. Uncle Robert has made a wooden walk-along bicycle for Alec in quiet moments at the workshop. Alec finds it intimidatingly large, but I should think he will be tall enough for it by the time summer comes round. I'm just amazed that anyone would be kind enough (and clever enough) to make something like that for our little boy.

3. Alec is too excited to sleep. I try nursing him, but he sits up and says: "Alec bub Mummy," meaning that he's going to nurse me. I make appropriate noises in the direction of his chest until he says: "Other side!" Then he says: "Ow bubby 'urt." I've been complaining a lot that it hurts to nurse because his latch has got  lazy (he's got a cold, and I think he might be teething a little too).
"What do we do when bubbies hurt?" I ask him.
He replies: "Big mouth ahhhh" (he has a bad habit of sucking the nipple into his mouth like a piece of spaghetti, instead of taking a good big mouthful so I remind him with that phrase).
Next he asks for a go with the bottle of water that I keep by the bed (dehydration makes bubbies 'urt and a mouthful of water is an amazingly swift cure).
I'm sad that my discomfort is so obvious, but I'm very pleased that he feels the situation is under control. More than ever before, our nursing seems like a two-way relationship.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gone out, unexpected and Christmas stocking.

1. My father has taken Alec out for a walk. It started to rain within minutes of them leaving, and I was worried that he would be cold (but not so worried that I can't take a good long nap next to Nick). We are woken by Alec's little treble (it seems to cancel out every other voice there is in my brain) and as he seems happy we take our time going downstairs. "We didn't go very far," says my father. "It was stop to investigate a puddle. And stop to investigate some mud. Then he fell asleep on my shoulders."

2. We are expecting the mother to come home at any moment, but instead Robert walks through the door.

3. To pack Alec's stocking with small gifts and hang it up in the fireplace. With all the excitement of bedtime at Granny's house, we forgot to remind him about Father Christmas, though.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Treat, decorations and lolly.

1. I love it when Grandad asks for something -- it's fun to cheer him up with little treats, but hard to know what to bring. He says could we please bring him a piece of sirloin steak, no rush, and don't make a special journey.

2. Nana brings down a box of Christmas decorations. "Take the non-breakable ones this time," she says. She picks out a tiny car and adds: "I bought this one at Tonbridge Station when I was a little girl."

3. Alec nibbling happily on a chocolate lolly -- thanks Sarah!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Escape, bag of presents and paperwhites.

1.  Alec wriggles and squirms until he gets to the far end of the table where his granny is sitting. This means that Nick and I get some time to talk with Aunty Biddy.

2. We come home and find a bag of presents on the doorstep. "People are very honest in Tunbridge Wells," says my uncle.

3. The paperwhites Anna, Alec and I planted back in November are just about to flower.

4. "Should I hug you?" asks Nick. We've been so busy today that this important family task has been neglected. We stop the housework for a moment.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Out to lunch, feverish and the new cuddle.

1. It is a great relief to be invited out for lunch with another mum and toddler.

2. They've given Alec some Calpol, "and we took off his socks and his shirt to cool him down." He seems happy enough, sitting in a comfortable lap and looking at a book, but I'm going to take him home early. "Don't worry," they say. "We've all done it with our children. It's a tough call."

3. Alec has invented a new sort of cuddle: he rubs his face on my face, or whatever bare skin he can reach while saying "Nubble-nubble-nubble-nubble".

Friday, December 21, 2012

More sleep, in hand and about your day.

1. Alec and I sleep in until 10.15am. Such a relief to feel as if I've got enough sleep.

2. On a morning where everything is spiralling out of control, a friend comes round to amuse Alec and comfort me.

3. After nursery I always give Alec milk and biscuits at the kitchen table. He can now tell me fragments about his afternoon, but I have to ask my questions in the right way. I might mention a name and get in reply: "Ally like Abecca" or a big smile and "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" He spent some time in the pre-school today and when I asked him about that, he said: "Glug glug glug". When I kiss his hands, they taste salty, so I thought he might have been using playdough -- when I ask, he makes rolling and patting gestures.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Going out, skit and in the mancave.

1. "I'm going out tonight with Caroline to the pantomime," I tell Alec quite early in the day.
"Daddy go out?"
"No, he's looking after you."
There's a pause, then: "Bubbies go out?"

2. Laughing at a ridiculous skit until I could hardly see the stage at The Assembly Hall's pantomime, Snow White.

3. I come back to a silent house -- no-one in the front room. No-one in the bedroom. Nick and Alec are asleep upstairs in the attic.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Polar Express, on the bridge and late night treat.

1. Behind our heads the film Polar Express is running in silence. Alec stares and stares at the reindeer pawing and prancing as the heave Father Christmas' sleigh in the sky. I get the impression, though, that he thinks there is not enough 'steamy toot-toot' action.

2. The manlet stops to press a rivet on the railway bridge -- just in case it is a button that does something. I notice tenacious silver lichen growing on the metal balustrade.

3. Godfather Timothy and Rachel have come bringing presents, and Alec, as a special treat (both for him and them!) is allowed to stay downstairs playing with his trains and chatting with the grown-ups. He is very good, and at the end, goes up to bed cheerfully.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A cuddle, more food and raise your hand.

1. The first thing Alec says when he wakes up is "Mummy cuddle".

2. I am making toast for elevenses -- but I'm not doing it quickly enough, it seems. When I turn round, Alec has retrieved from the draining board the bowl of porridge that he rejected at breakfast and is shovelling it down with a lot of enthusiasm. He eats the toast as well.

3. 12-week scan. "There's the heartbeat," says the sonographer -- I like her sense of priority, and I like to see the bright flutter at the centre of Lickle Tiny Baby's chest. "And you can see the hand up by the face."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pine, all asleep and no jelly.

1. To come downstairs to a front room that smells of pine.


2. After lunch, we all take to the big bed. Nick and I plan to settle Alec and then make good use of the free time. We wake up two hours later.


3. We say no to jelly at supper. It's very sad and disappointing, but jelly is a lunchtime thing. So Alec picks pieces of pretend jelly from the footrest of his highchair and enjoys that instead.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Confiding, grown and dressing the tree.

1. Alec walks right up to Father Christmas and takes his hand in such a confident and confiding way that it brings tears to my eyes. Alec looks very solemn throughout, in awe, I think. Later we overhear the elves saying that "Father Christmas has had his heart melted twice in one day" after the little boy who came next did exactly the same.

2. We are startled by the difference in height between Alec and Baby Loey (who is only just one). When did our boy do all that growing?

3. I look at our tree (which seems much larger now it's in the house), and I look at our Christmas crate and think: "It's going to look a little sparse." But I'd forgotten so many pretty things that I've bought over the years. The boxes full of tissue-wrapped bundles kept coming and coming. Later, after Alec has gone to bed, Nick asks if I would like to come into the front room to just sit and look at the tree.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Waiting to go out, three chocolates and the comma.

1. It's raining so hard that I'm really not too keen to leave for nursery just yet. Instead I watch Alec and my mother play "shut door" in the wardrobe.

2. I do more Christmas shopping at Damian Allsop's pop-up shop in Chapel Place. It's in a one-time bar, with the long counters still in place; and customers have to ask questions about the 'specials' ranged on plates, so it's easy to get chatting, particularly on a slow, rainy afternoon like this. "People tell me their problems," he says. "I've heard a lot of life stories."
I come away with three chocolates for myself: the anise and coffee cloud is sublime (his 'clouds' have the texture of Malteaser centres). I like the sharp rose and rhubarb, too, and the surprising passion fruit and coffee.

3. Nick using correction fluid to cover a misplaced comma on the tag of a gift intended for a three-year-old.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pristine, an interesting cure for morning sickness and sing-song.

1. Our cleaning lady has been, and a man has done the oven. The house feels like a monument to leisure, or a snow-covered lawn, and  I hardly know what to do with myself this afternoon. I don't want to spoil it by living in it.

2. I am rather dreading going to the fishmongers -- just thinking about fish makes my innards heave. But to my surprise, when I walk into Sankey's, the fresh, chilly seaside smell and the bright-eyed produce ranged on ice seem to clear my head and steady my stomach.

3. Alec is clearly very, very tired after a hard day of cleaners and car park attendants -- but he stops nursing, stands up on the bed and then sits astride me. "Or-he, or-he!" he orders.
I am not going to encourage this, but Nick is a sucker for these special, fleeting moments and starts singing: "Horsey, horsey, don't you..."
"STOP" says Alec triumphantly.
Nick continues: "Just let your hooves go clippity-..."
"CLOP! Mummy sing," Alec says, bouncing up and down in a threatening manner.
We go on together. "Your tail goes swish and the wheels go..."
"ROUND. No more." And Alec rolls off and lies back down beside me for more nursing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sponsored Post: Cleaning Gift Vouchers -- the clean itself

As I mentioned in this previous post, my oven is a thing of horror. I have been trying not to think too hard about it because it makes me nauseous (actually, most things make me nauseous just now). So when the man from Cleaning Gift Vouchers rang up, I was ridiculously excited to make a booking for the following week. The man was very pleasant and answered all my questions. He explained that he would park nearby and bring his tray of equipment into the house, and he thought the job would take about an hour and a half, and asked me to give him a half-hour window on the start time (presumably to allow for our notorious traffic).

Annoyingly, Cleaning Gift Vouchers changed this booking twice before the big day arrived (they were polite and flexible on both occasions, it must be said). But arrive it did, and more or less at the allotted time, the oven cleaner arrived.

He asked for hot water and access to the sink, but apart from that he was totally self-sufficient, right down to a torch (the bulb in my oven has gone, it seems). He stripped the oven down, taking off the doors and the door seals. He removed all the shelves and the racks they hang on. These are things that I would not have known how to do -- but I asked him how the racks come out and went back in, and he very kindly showed me.

Then he set to work -- and it really was work, proper scrubbing and elbow grease, rather than stinky chemicals. He took a good long time over it, nearly two hours lying and kneeling on the floor.

He asked me to take a look to make sure I was happy with the work (I was -- it looked and smelled so much better) before he put the shelves back. And then he started on the doors. He used a scraper to remove a good couple of tablespoons of crispy grease. It looked like satisfying work, but not a task I would relish and I was very glad to have someone else do it.

At the end of the job, he tidied up and took his equipment and all the rubbish away. I thought he was respectful and polite and I could see that he was working hard and efficiently.

My oven is now gleaming both inside and out and I can't wait to use it: I bet it'll be more efficient, and I'll be able to smell the food I'm actually cooking, not the roasts of Sunday's past. If someone gave me this as a present, I would be very pleased.

Back, off duty and early night.

1. To hear the clang of the gate, Nick's keys in the lock and Alec ringing the doorbell.

2. I can't face tea today: even putting frozen fishfingers on the grill turns my stomach. I hide out in the sitting room with a sudoku and a glass of water. Later Nick tells me that he explained to Alec that the Lickle Tiny Baby sometimes makes Mummy feel sick. Alec responded with: "Mummy not very well."
"And," added Nick, "He looked like a boy when he said it, not a baby."

3. As I am dropping off, I glance at the alarm clock: 9.38pm. We've finally got to bed early.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Feeling better, frost and cheering up.

1. As we leave the house for a morning appointment, I almost feel energetic enough to run. And later on in the day I feel un-nauseous enough to turn the pile of carrots in the fridge into soup.

2. The frost on the pavement goes scr-scr-scr under the pushchair wheels.

3. It's been a busy morning and Alec is on the verge of a melt-down. I would like to stuff him back in the pushchair and take him home for lunch, but he wants to walk (by which he means 'run about on the bandstand shouting'). I resort to bribery, but I only have one bic-bic left, and it needs to last. "You can have it when we get to the end of the Pantiles." Alec resorts to whining. A kind older couple smile at him and ask him where he's going. He tells them "Bic-bic!", and moments later catches sight of a steam train cake tin in a shop window which improves his mood again. Thirty paces later a lady tells me he's looking very cheerful, which makes him smile even more. By the end, I'm glad to give him his biscuit, and he gets into the pushchair without a fuss.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More birds, the break and social graces.

1. A flock of pigeons fly straight into our faces on their way to a lady dropping crumbs. Alec is exhilarated and asks for "More birds, Mummy." I like his faith in my ability to produce wonders.

2. A sleepy boy, well wrapped against the cold, in his pushchair. I wander slowly homeward, enjoying a bit of shopping along the way.

3. "Bye Daddy!"
"No, no, Daddy's staying here."
"Bye Mummy!"
"No-one's going anywhere. We're just having a cuddle."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Flowers, manners and laughter.

1. "We couldn't decide, so we brought you both," says Cat handing me two bunches of flowers. Then: "I hope you're not overwhelmed by flowers at the moment." They are beautiful, sunset orange carnations, and a mixed bunch with green chrysanthemums and lilies and a shining blue agapanthus.

2. Daniel asks (very elegantly for such a young boy) if he can blow the candle out. And Ellie thanks me in a lovely natural way for her Christmas parcel without being prompted. I hope we can give Alec and The Lickle Tiny Baby similar social graces.

3. "That was nice," says Nick after they have gone. "The house was full of children and laughter.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Savoy cabbage, clicks and con trail.

1. A savoy cabbage came in our veggie box. Its deeply wrinkled leaves are so intriguing that I put it on the table as if it were a vase of flowers.

2. Nick reports that the man in the aeroplane bookshop said Alec sounds like Geiger counter when he grinds his teeth (which is ALL THE TIME at the moment because he's got some new ones in). I'd never thought of it like that. I'd never thought of it at all beyond "Argh, make it stop, make it stop." It actually makes it a bit easier to bear.

3. A con trail shines bright orange where it has picked up the sunset.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Surreal, support and sandwich.

1. Nick reports that while he and Alec were playing this morning, "There was one strange moment where the Vicar changed the Calpol Lady's nappy." Various little people populate Alec's railway layout to catch the trains and lock and unlock the houses: Granny, Baba, Daddy and Godmother Larlie are all various wooden figures in primary colours. The Vicar is a triangular blue brick meant to represent the roof of a clocktower. The Calpol Lady is a Champagne cork with a face inexpertly drawn on (by me). Alec likes to lie on the floor moaning "Poorly, poorly" while she drives up in her ambulance with medicine for him.

2. I'm back to feeling shattered again today: Nick's presence makes it all seem doable.

3. A Marmite and cucumber sandwich on new bread.

No sickness, jab and one-to-one.

1. Today, for the first time in weeks, I don't feel sick or bone-tired. The 'lickle-tiny baby' must be having a day off from growing.

2. "You'll just feel a scratch on your arm," says the nurse. It's barely even that, and now I'm protected against flu.

3. I get my mother to myself for a whole two hours.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Snowfall, today's lesson and changing the beds.

1. When I open the blind the air is full of fat sticky feathers of snow. I gasp "Oh!" and for the rest of the morning, Alec imitates that little "Oh" every time he passes a window.

2. Yesterday, Alec was rather taken by an angel in a nativity puppet show. Our friend Jane confided afterwards that she thought King James would be spinning in his grave owing to the liberties taken with the text. "Mary said 'Wow!' when she saw the angel," she remarked, shaking her head sadly.
This morning, Alec opens an advent calender door up in the sky. The picture is an angel with a trumpet. I immediately jump into a showing-off-mummy role that I really don't like very much (it's not even like there's anybody to see how clever my boy is, as we are alone in our kitchen). "What do you say when you see an angel, Alec?"
There's a moment of silence. Then: "BYE!"

3. Our cleaner is well ahead of schedule -- she has about half an hour to spare. We decide it's because of the cold, and I ask her to change the beds. It's something I've been meaning to do -- but the only time I have a moment is when Alec is asleep, in the bed. She has such a lovely touch with things like that -- Nick always says it's like coming home to a posh hotel.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Sponsored post: Cleaning Gift Vouchers

We recently started using the services of a cleaner and it has made such a difference to our lives. The idea of giving cleaning as a gift is very appealing because I know first hand how it feels to have that particular burden lifted.

Our oven is not looking good and now I'm pregnant I don't want to have anything to do with the harsh chemicals that could be used to clean it... that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I've been thinking of getting in one those mobile oven cleaning services in but never quite got round to it -- but then I was asked if I would like to review the services of Cleaning Gift Vouchers with a £45 credit -- which by co-incidence exactly covers a single oven clean.

Cleaning Gift Vouchers allows you to send a friend a voucher for a particular cleaning service. They offer special occasion cleans -- before moving, or spring cleaning; and they offer packages of regular cleaning appointments. They also do upholstery, carpets and appliances -- including ovens. Any of these would be a thoughtful Christmas present, perhaps for someone about to move; or perhaps for someone who has recently had a baby. And of course, they'd make a good gift for whoever hosted your family for Christmas this year.

I found it very quick and easy to send a voucher to myself: I simply went to www.cleaninggiftvouchers.co.uk and selected my package. I was offered the choice of printing the voucher, emailing it or posting it (on "eggshell letterhead" which sounds very classy). I plumped for email and after filling in the payment details, sat back and waited.

Within a working day, I had my voucher. I was very disappointed that it had the price emblazoned on it in large print. I feel uncomfortable with a recipient knowing the cost of my gift and I'm afraid this detail would make me rather hesitant to use the service -- but I'm sure there are ways round this.

A few days later, I got a call from a friendly representative to book my oven clean for the following week -- and I'm really looking forward to it.

Pre-dawn, first look and new line.

1. It is so long since I have seen a bare tree against the pre-dawn sky that I cannot stop staring.

2. "There's definitely only one," says the sonographer squadging the scanner wand down hard just to make sure, "and there's its heartbeat, there, can you see it flickering in the middle of the image?"
And that's our second baby.

3. As we are putting Alec to bed he pops out a new construction: "That's my Mummy!" He's never used 'my' before.

PS: Reginald is back on his cabbage leaves, so perhaps he changed his mind about pupating.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Recognised, zappers and caterpillar.

1. A twinkly older man sits down next to Alec and me while we are taking off our shoes before going into the changing rooms. He looks hard at me, and then says: "Is this the manlet?" He's referring to the pseudonym that I give Alec in my local newspaper column. I confess that it is indeed. "I read your column every week," he says. "I always enjoy reading about 'the manlet' and now I've actually met him."

2. When I say that TV is finished because it's time for bed, Alec says firmly that he is going to put the zappers away. He takes two of them and spends a good minute arranging them to his satisfaction in the TV cupboard. I hand him the third (his personal toy zapper) and takes it over, removes all three and re-arranges them.

3. I haven't told you about our caterpillar! I found him hiding under the chopping board last weekend after I'd prepared some curly kale. I threw him out into the garden, and then suffered so badly from guilt about leaving him to die alone in the cold and wet that I retrieved him and put him in a jar with some kale (you always get such a lot in the bag, so there's plenty to go around). Nick gave him a name, Reginald, and he's been living on a cool window sill, nibbling and pooing and being shown off to guests. This evening, he has climbed to the top of his jar and is hanging upside down -- I suppose he's getting ready to pupate. When he does, I'll put the jar somewhere cool and dry so he stays safe in his chrysalis until the cabbages bloom again.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hooden horse, first Christmas card and explaining himself.

1. I do love watching morris men -- the whole Merrie Olde England mythos is very appealing. I hoist Alec up on to my shoulders and we jig along to the music. But he is not happy when the hooden horse with its clacking wooden head comes out. "Tell it to 'go away'" I suggest helpfully, and I point out that you can see a morris man's jingle-bell legs under the sacking body. Alec refuses to be drawn, though. Even afterwards, when we see it packed away in a bag, he won't go near. But when we are telling Nick about our adventure, Alec claims that he told "Scary horse snap snap sling your 'ook go 'way."

2. Scott and Becky bring the first Christmas card -- a little robin for our mantelpiece.

3. Alec wakes at 10pm with a howl. I go upstairs and find him sitting in the middle of the bed looking perturbed. "'Andkerchief?" he asks. His nose is quite snotty, so I give it a wipe. Then he does two enormous farts. "Windy pops," he explains, "All done now," and he lies down again for some go-to-sleep bubby.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Christmas is coming, sleep and blush.

Nick (with Alec's help) shaved off his moustache this morning. People have been very generous with their donations to Mo'vember (which raises money for and awareness of men's cancers) and Nick is very pleased with himself! I forgot to mention a related beautiful thing from yesterday: Wood and Pilcher, an estate agents on the High Street, held a bake sale yesterday for the cause, with the staff dressed up in pantomime costumes. When I passed by two moustachio'ed pantomime dames were soliciting wolf whistles from the builders working on the scaffolding across the road. Meanwhile, a third hairy lady was closing a sale on his mobile.

1. To drag the December 1 box out from the back of the wardrobe and then reacquaint Alec with our Christmas books.

2. Alec has gone down for his nap, and it is clear to everyone that I really need one too -- but I can't switch off. Nick takes the time to cuddle me and whisper to me until I doze off.

3. I think Alec is rather taken with Eve, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named's new wife. She picked up every single one of his "Oh dear, dropped it" crayons; and I swear he blushed when she kissed him goodbye.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Hot chocolate delivered, missing and early.

1. Anna brings us a cup of Damian Allsop's hot chocolate, and immediately scuttles away to deliver a second cup. She comments that "There's a lovely smell of Parma violets around here" and apologises because she hasn't brought anything for Alec. But he helps himself to the hot chocolate (I have to share it with Blue Bear, Monkey and Baby as well).

2. As I come back upstairs with a nappy cover and a clean vest I hear the sound of plappy feet across the floor. When return to the bedroom, Alec is nowhere to be seen, but there are little explosions of laughter coming from behind the wardrobe door (which definitely wasn't shut before).

3. "Let's just go to bed after supper."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Newborn, wake up and someone else's problem.

1. In the small hours, Nick hears Alec whimper and gently sends me downstairs to join Alec in the big bed. Alec is bobbing his head and snuffling across the sheet as he searches for bub -- he used to do that as a newborn, but I'd forgotten all about it.

2. I like it when Alec wakes up from his nap and comes to find me, wherever I am in the house -- it's the cheery "Harro, Mummy!" that gets me every time.

3. When I lift Alec off my shoulders as we arrive at nursery, I smell a funny smell. Oh well, it's someone else's problem now (sorry, lovely nursery staff).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grown-up, art and Marmite.

1. Alec's chin is just about higher than the table. The waitress says: "You're very grown-up coming out for breakfast."

2. Alec's faith in my art skills: "Mummy draw hellercopter."
"Mummy draw scary wicked witch."
"Mummy draw Baby Loey."
"Mummy draw tiny baby Alec."
"Mummy draw barber lip lip Alec Daddy knee." The last is a masterpiece, if you ask me, showing our boy on Nick's knee having his hair cut -- but Alec says he looks like a little girl.

3. For some reason, I really want toast and Marmite. It tastes so good when I make some.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Half-awake, toddler in a rage and potty training.

1. I sort of wake up when Nick comes to bed, but I can't think who or where I am. He whispers sweet, silly husbandly things as he tucks the covers round my feet and I think "This is my life now. How wonderful!" before I slip back into sleep.

2. All the people who smiled sympathetically at me as I walked down the High Street with a toddler in a rage over my shoulder.

3. This morning Alec sat on the pot unprompted. I gave him a chocolate button by way of a reward, and said he could have a second if he managed a wee. This evening, I came into the bedroom to find that he'd brought the pot into his cot. He was sitting on it reading a book, his big fat night nappy bum well wedged in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bubbles, knee and across the Racecourse.

1. Quite suddenly, with no fanfare at all, Alec blows bubbles into the watering can that his swimming teacher has been handing to us each week for over a year. He is pleased by the noise, and delighted by my reaction.

2. "Mummy knee?" But I'm eating my baked potato and I don't want any help with it. So he sidles round to Godfather Timothy's side of the table and "Tibby knee?"

3. I never tire of the view across Tonbridge Racecourse, particularly on a wet day. White gulls and gleaming black rooks leap off the sodden turf and whirl overhead like the flakes in a snow globe. The bare willows shine gold in the wet sun and pencil grey clouds roil and writhe along above the horizon -- it looks as if the shower will miss us, though.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pristine, pretend and rainy afternoon.

1. To buy a pop-up book for a second child. Hand-me-downs are all very well, but pop-up books are one of those things that are best enjoyed pristine.

2. After Alec has finished eating, he involves himself with the salt and pepper pots while he waits for us to ruminate in our slow, adult way. The pepper pot is called Bub and the salt is... Salt. They and his cup (Water) take it in turns to leap out from behind the jug with a loud "Bwah-ha-ha-ha". The other two retaliate with cries of "Scared!" and "Go way, scary man". Yesterday, they were hanging out in a bic-bic shop to drink coffee and "nom-nom cake".

3. It's a wet afternoon. I join Alec in his nap.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sausage sounds, Christmas shopping and sleeper.

1. Behind me in the backpack I can hear Alec enjoying his piece of sausage from the butcher's sample plate.

2. It turns out there are two craft fairs on. I knock a few names off the Christmas shopping list: there really are some canny crafters out there -- canny crafters with very good taste. I particularly liked Jax Lill's Emporium: her memory books, with their cunning folded pages and pockets for secrets, are just magical.

3. Alec's library book about trains has a page on the Orient Express. Nick tells Alec about sleeper cars and dining cars. The concept of "Supper-toot and bed-toot" thrills Alec, and I think an overnight train journey is an adventure we'll have to take him on some time.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Snuggling in, advice and apples.

1. To cuddle up with Alec on the sofa and watch a bit of Abney and Teal. It's about the only time that he does like to snuggle in.

2. "You can always ask us for tips," she says. The staff at nursery always give really good toddler advice, and they give it kindly, too.

3. Small apples -- the sort that are gone in two bites.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Kiss better, paperwhite and describing cheeses.

Nick is participating in Movember -- and very handsome he looks too. Here is his Movember page, in case you are interested in his progress, or want to support the cause (raising funds for and awareness of men's cancers).

1. Alec touches a scratch on my face. "Urt," he says sadly. Then "Kiss better?" He kisses his finger, and touches the place gently.

2. Anna comes round with paperwhite narcissus bulbs and pebbles. We sit round the table (Alec in his highchair) and plant up some vases and bowls, remembering Elspeth Thompson, who loved these flowers at Christmas time.

3. Nick's excitement when he thinks of a new tasting note for his cheese book (in this case, he says a piece of Cornish Yarg is 'worldweary').

Of course it's Thanksgiving today, so I want to note down a few things I'm grateful for. The first is a supportive husband who gives me so much but asks little more than that I am happy; and another is a supportive mother who brings such pleasure to her small grandson.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tablet, gift and remembering our wedding.

1. Today is our wedding anniversary. Nick has the day off work and I have managed to pretty much clear my workload. We get a takeaway for lunch and hang out together, just the three of us. Nick got me a Kindle Fire. Alec pounced on it before I'd even opened the box. He uses an iPad at nursery, so is very keen on touch screens. We spent the half the day playing a balloon popping game -- his face lit up when he saw it, and he knew what to do right away.

2. The letterbox clacks and Nick calls up the stairs that Sarah Salway is making a swift getaway. It's an exciting parcel, containing a notebook of prompts for a writer without much time. Such a treat. But wherever does one get tape that says: "Life is a luminous envelope surrounding us to the end"?

3. We leave the washing up and spend some time looking over our wedding pictures (taken by the lovely Katherine Pope). It's great fun to re-live the day we got married, to remember how we felt in those magical, emotional moments, and to re-read the supportive comments in our guest book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The fear of silence, draw me and flow.

1. Towards the end of my phone conversation with the Mother, I become aware that Alec is very quiet. Silence is rarely a good sign with a toddler. It means washing powder on the floor, and scribbling up the curtains, and loo rolls bouncing down the stairs. "Alec?" I call in a stern voice. "What are you doing?"
There's a nervous giggle from the kitchen. I fear the worst -- floury footprints on the kitchen table? The bin contents going round in the washing machine?
When I go through, he is sitting on his little chair reading a board book. It made me feel really gooey, and I felt mean for suspecting an epic tinks when he really was being a very good, patient little boy.*

2. To see Alec practising over and over again, trying to draw an "A for Alec Law". His fine motor skills aren't quite up to it yet, but he is quietly determined, and seems to enjoy the feel of a pencil and paper. "Alec Law" is the thing he asks us most often to draw. It took us a while to understand that he didn't mean a picture of a little boy; he means us to write his name.

3. "One more chapter," I tell Nick, "And I'll come down and sit with you." But I get into the work, and suddenly it's an hour later. I start going downstairs, but meet Nick coming back up. "I've brought you a cup of tea," he says.

* At the back of my mind, I'm still expecting to find a poo in one of his stacking cups.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Early, catch and letting go.

1. When I raise the kitchen blind before cooking breakfast, over the garden wall I catch a glimpse of a sky washed with clean peachy colours.

2. Shortly before Alec started talking, Nick and I were discussing catching a train. We noticed that Alec was making a catching gesture in response, and we marvelled. Today, we were watching a man on a mower zipping in and out from behind the games hut in the park. Tim said: "Look, here he comes again. You've got to be quick to catch him!" and Alec, grinning broadly, made the same catching gesture.

3. It's been a long day. I'm very relieved when Nick comes home and I can just let go.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Left behind, care and getting out.

1. ...and when I wake again, Nick is saying that he and Alec are going to Nana and Grandad's now. "You rest," he says.

1b. The shriek of joy with which Alec greets his packet of chocolate 'Nana buttons'.

2. While I am settling Alec for sleep, I need to blow my nose... again. "Mummy poorly," he says sympathetically. "Calpol?"
"It's not really bad enough for Calpol," I tell him.
But he pours me a pretend spoonful anyway, puts it gently to my lips and makes a sipping noise to encourage me to swallow.

3. I know what will help. Even though it's 9pm, I pull on my boots, coat and hat and take a walk round the block on this crisp, cold night.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dispatch, return to sender and cashmere.

1. To send a grumpy, squirmy early morning Alec off to "Knock-knock Daddy door."

2. ...half an hour later Nick brings a grumpy, squirmy Alec right back again because only mummy will do.

3. Now I'm not nursing every five minutes I can wear a jumper again -- this is a cashmere one, the colour of peanut butter. It's the softest, warmest, lightest thing I own and it was £4.50 in a charity shop (it had moth holes that needed a quick repair).

PS: If you're Christmas shopping for a difficult writer, poet Sarah Salway now has special presents available in her Etsy shop.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hearing the traffic, on a foggy day and saved.

Miss Write has a blog post about her writing practice, which sounds very similar to Three Beautiful Things -- she has dug up some interesting comments and links about why noticing the small good things is a great idea.

1. Once I have run out of interesting things to tell Rosey, I hold up the phone so she can hear the traffic -- she hasn't heard such a thing since October 2011. "Ohhh, I don't like it!" she says. Apparently the last time she talked with our parents over Skype they took the computer outside so she could hear the birds singing.

2. It's a foggy day here -- I made Alec giggle by reciting "It was a misty-moisty morning when cloudy was the weather..." as we walked to nursery. The high parts of the world have vanished. Later, I look on Facebook and some friends visiting Paris have posted a picture of the Eiffel Tour missing its top third.

3. To discover that a document is safe in the auto-recover folder.

Friday, November 16, 2012

New baby, free biscuit and proper work.

1. To see a friend's baby for the first time. He is so new that he still keeps his hands tucked up under his chin.

2. To receive a free biscuit with my coffee.

3. To dig in with some proper editing work -- it feels very good to be making words do what I tell them.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First pancake, free time and end of work.

1. I snaffle the first pancake before the others come down for breakfast.

2. While the cleaner is at work downstairs, we all cuddle up on the bed (she really is a treasure).

3. The boys come home and I can stop working. Alec's hair smells of outdoors. He says that he and Daddy played with the ball.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Naming names, an autumn pleasure and my baby.

1. Alec has been coming out very proudly with "Alec Law" so I decide now would be a good time to teach him that this is the correct answer to "What's your name?" He gets the idea quickly, so I move on to "What's your mummy's name?" He replies: "Darlek". I am going to assume he was trying to say "Darling".*

2. To kick through bright leaves in shiny boots, and to watch a small person copying you.

3. My poor cross, tired boy. When I pick him up and hug him, he howls "Want lickle baby Alec. Lickle baby now!" He means he wants me to cradle him and tell him that he's just a tiny baby who needs some bub and a cuddle and a sleep.


*Our nursery school teacher overheard my brother having a similar conversation with some small friends. He told them confidently: "My mummy's name is Wife."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hold your nerve, meltdown and a little rest.

1. Pigeons fly towards us down the path at face height. I hold my nerve: "They don't want to hit us," I tell Alec, who is laughing and marvelling in the backpack.

2. Poor Alec has a meltdown at the end of lunch -- he's almost falling asleep at the table, and coming to the final spoonful of his bake-tayto and beans makes him feel just too sad for words. I clean him up and cram him into the backpack. "Poor little thing," says the lady behind us, "He was being so good eating his lunch, right up until the end." Alec calms right down again -- I think he must have understood the compliment.

3. Now that Alec is napping, I'm going to lie here for just five minutes, and then I'm going to get up and do some wor-

Monday, November 12, 2012

Away, rocking and sleepy boy.

1. We've been away for a night, and it was wonderful to enjoy all sorts of funny little luxuries that we don't get at home -- a soft, heavy quilt on the bed; and padding around on carpeted floors; and noseying in other people's bookshelves. And a breakfast cooked for us and served in a lushly planted conservatory stocked with all the different teas and cereals and sauces you could want.*

2. On a train, to snuggle up against Nick and doze a little as the train carries us through the Medway Towns.

3. My parents arrive just at the end of lunch with our sleepy boy. When they have gone, Nick and I take him and hurry upstairs for a cuddle and some bub. We all end up asleep.

* We very much enjoyed our stay at Gladstone House and would recommend it to anyone visiting Faversham.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Grandpa's car, a wedding and dancing.

1. We talk to Alec about what the day will bring, and he says firmly that he will have a sleep in Grandpa's car. As they drive off, he waves rather regally to us out of the window.

2. Today He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (who you might remember from the early days of this blog) got married to a woman who suits him just perfectly. I don't think either of them stopped smiling all day. He fluffed his vows a little (one of those lovely moments that makes the always completely error-free HWSNBN* seem a little more human), but the bride and groom definitely ended up married to each other; and he was word perfect in clear and confident Spanish for the giving of the arras.

3. Dancing with Nick at the ceilidh -- we had a caller to help us out, and hardly anyone else knew what they were doing either. We were all out of breath and laughing by the end.

*My former boss said of HWSNBN's proofreading: "If he doesn't see a mistake, it's just not there," which made me laugh.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Alec do it, help and husband duties.

1. I start to set the dishwasher off but am interrupted: "Mummy me! Alec do it." He takes the dishwasher tablet from my hand and puts it in the dispenser. When I put the packet in the bin, he opens the bin, removes it and puts it in again -- in the correct manner, presumably. I have to remind him about the buttons, though, and help him with the door because he's not quite tall enough to push it shut.

2. To stick a parenting question on my Facebook status, and get a helpful avalanche of replies.

3. "One of a husband's most important duties," says Nick, "is knowing when to get a takeaway."

Friday, November 09, 2012

What does this mean, clean teeth and the party.

1. I know, without even having to think about it, that Alec has just poured his milk into my lap not because he is being bad, but because he is frustrated that I am reading the paper and not talking to him. I feel as if I'm making progress in toddler wrangling.

2. Last time I saw the hygienist, it was horrible: a mean woman in a welding mask lectured me about not flossing and then hurt my teeth with scraping buzzing things. This time, an enthusiastic hygienist races out of the room to bring me "something you might like better than floss." Then she tells me how I can acquire good habits (all things I knew from writing, it turns out). And then, best of all, she explains that (and no-one had  told me this before) the sudden decline in my dental health is not entirely my fault: it happens when you have a baby, and it means you need to work a bit harder with the brushing.

3. Mary is throwing a party to mark her birthday... and to cheer up her colleagues (and all of us) in a time of uncertainty. It's too loud and too busy to talk about worries, so we swap gossip and make jokes and give glossy accounts of ourselves.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Gentleman, pot and open cup.

1. I get the recycling boxes out of the cupboard, and stack them up in the kitchen, muttering about my poor tired body. Then something really nice happens: Alec insists, in a rather gentlemanly manner, on pushing them (they are nearly as tall as he is, so he can't lift them) all the way to the front door.

2. We walk to the top of town and pick up the pot that I made and then glazed a year later. It is beautiful: the greens and blacks of the sea in Cornwall, and there are my fingerprints on the bottom in the glaze. Alec and I have tea and a chat with Brigit Head. I learn an awful lot.

3. I love to see Alec drinking from an open cup, which he holds in both hands.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Crush, home from work and a little laundry.

1. I'm reading Ramona the Pest to Alec in the bath when he asks me to stop. "Mi' Binney?" Miss Binney is Ramona's kindergarten teacher. So I read the bit about pretty Miss Binney who "hadn't been a grown-up for very long" again. There's a pause, and Alec shows me a bruise on his knee. "Kiss?" So we blow kisses at it. Then, rather shyly "Mi' Binney kiss?"

2. A handsome husband (who is growing for mo'vember) with a bag from Lush.

3. Folding handkerchiefs is surprisingly satisfying.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Underwater, brown river and the biscuit.

1. Alec falls off the step and tumbles underwater during his lesson. I see his puzzled face beneath the surface, he comes up, and goes down again. I pull him out and hold him close.
His teacher (who he adores) instantly reframes it: "Did you go underwater? Was it wonderful? Did you see the fishes?"
I hold him close, and he scratches at my chest as he often does when he feels he's been injured and someone is to blame. She says: "Look at him, completely unperturbed."
I set him back on the step and he goes back to chewing his sinker. Then: "Mummy underwater. Mummy go underwater." So I duck under a few times, and when I shake the water out of my eyes, he is laughing at me.

2. The dimples on the surface of the swollen river; and the grinning ducks sliding downstream on the racing current.

3. Alec says his crispbread is a bus. Then he bites the corner off and it becomes a cow (I can sort of see it, with its head down grazing).

Monday, November 05, 2012

Nap while your baby naps, slow down and pulp.

1. On a wet Sunday morning, to nap when Alec naps.

2. I am feeling rather impatient about it, but I get down and show Alec the cous cous I am preparing for lunch. He picks up a handful and lets the grains run out of his hands. Later when we are eating, he says: "Cous cous good. Alec look, stir it, stir it."

3. Hot bath, large book of pulpy adventure stories.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Meeting Nick, Alec's socks and spice rack.

1. It occurs to me that if I finish up my run by going past the butchers, we might just meet Nick -- he likes to be the one to pick up the weekend meat because Speaight's is a mancave on Saturday mornings. He is just stepping out of the door as we bump up the kerb. "Shall I take the pushchair?" he asks.

2. I think my favourite part of today was Alec turning from furious tears to laughter because he noticed the ends of his socks waggling as he kicked his feet.

3. When I was studying Catullus at A-level, we learned a line about the "sand grains lying on silphium-bearing Cyrene between the shrine of sweating Jupiter and the tomb of ancient Battus". We were told that silphium* could be translated as asafoetida, a spice also known as devil's dung because of its pungency. Being a spice geek, I've been rather curious about asafoetida ever since. Yesterday I picked out a recipe that calls for it, and I finally had an excuse to go out and buy some.

*It turns out that silphium isn't exactly asafoetida, but the spice was a cheaper substitute and the word as a translation gives the right sort of exotic feeling. Silphium has its own fascinating story, though, which is worth reading.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Bye Mummy, mending and jug on the table.

1. Alec and I have had fun this morning. As I am carrying him to nursery, I say: "I wish I didn't have so much to do this afternoon. I'd like to keep you with me to cuddle and nuggle and read stories."
He replies, quite firmly: "Bye Mummy."

2. To finally sit down and sew that bloody button back on.

3. The crystal water jug is standing where the sun falls on the table. The light splashes around the room, shuddering, dancing, laughing at me.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Holding hands, cleaning lady and two penguins.

1. When I thank Lawrence for being kind enough to hold Alec's hand, Susan says: "I think it makes him feel very grown-up having someone smaller to look after."

2. Kasia finishes her work and leaves. The house is quiet, clean, tidy and I feel inspired.

3. Alec says that his bath toy penguins are me and Nick. They do a lot of kissing.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Serving tea, just for us and go away.

1. In Laura's sitting room I spot a souvenir -- a tiny blue and brown ceramic cup and saucer -- from my hen party. Alec spots it too, and uses it to serve tea (with 'mook' and sugar, a bic-bic and a muffmin) to everyone.

2. "He's a blue-tongued skink," she says, "but he doesn't usually stick his tongue out for an audience." He's beautiful -- smooth, cool scales blotched with browns and buffs like desert camouflage. When we reach the end of the reptile table, Alec wants to go back to the start and stroke the skink again. We shuffle back and he reaches out very gently... and the skink licks his narrow nose with a sharp blue tongue.

3. One costumed member of staff scares Alec -- a person wearing a full mask who keeps appearing among us and... well, not doing anything. "Scary man," says Alec, hiding behind my knees. I tell him to say "BOO" next time he appears.  While we are in the soft play centre, the scary man strolls in and sits down at a table nearby. Alec rushes over and I lift him up on to my knee for a cuddle. "What were you going to say to him?" I prompt. There's a pause. Then: "BYE scary man! Bye bye."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forgiven, in the trolley and while I was sleeping.

Fiona and Kaspa are holding a Mindful Writing Day on 1 November -- do consider joining them by contributing a small stone to their collection. I think most of us would be happier if we were more mindful. I know for my part that if things appear to be falling apart, the best thing to do is to stop for a moment, and observe.

1. It's 2am. What does he want? "Park! Porgle* Alec!" When I say we'll walk there tomorrow when it's daylight, he gets really cross and says he's going to sleep in his cot (which he normally avoids as if it were a plague pit). Two minutes later he rolls back and suggests that I might like to offer him some bubby.

2. I put Alec into the seat on the front of the supermarket trolley. "Granny used to push Uncle Robert and me around like this," I tell him. I look to see if he is comfortable -- I have a clear memory of the cold metal against my bare legs.

3. To wake up and find Nick has come home and Alec has fallen asleep for the night.

* Porgle is our word for a walk with Alec -- you know the sort of walk where you have to stop and examine every. single. stick. and. piece. of. litter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some lengths, through the roof and poodle.

1. Nick gives me a treat today: at the end of swimming he takes the wriggling dripping Alec off to the changing rooms so I can have a swim by myself. It's not just the 20 minutes of length swimming, but the chance to shower and change without worrying about anyone but myself.

2. Through the glass roof I can see blue sky and a few wispy clouds.

3. As we leave the tea rooms, it starts to rain. A black cloud looms over the high street, but there's plenty of blue sky and the sun is brave and bright. Some people put up hoods and umbrellas (not us, we didn't even think to bring rain gear) but others pointedly ignore the shining rain -- like the owner of a louche-looking dirty white poodle who continued her conversation, standing on the bridge.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Dachshunds, the unreasonable list and not leftovers.

1. "Don't they look lovely in their winter coats?" she says. I have to agree -- her strawberry blonde  dachshunds, one in primary paintpot red, the other in blue, look jolly pleased with themselves and their cable knit jackets as they wiggle on up the path.

2. When the manlet is cross and tired, he asks for a list of random things (I've learnt to say no to everything except 'bubby lie-down'). Today it was more toot; no nappy; cuddle; no cuddle; more parsnips; water; nappy; no more parsnips; snack cracker (I said yes to the cuddle because I felt so sorry for him, and look what happened!). Bubby lie-down did the trick, though, and soon he was snoring softly while I admired the curve of his infant cheek and the length of his eyelashes.

3. Nick is surveying with some pride the pile of empty plastic foodsavers at the end of supper. "It's not leftovers," he says. "It's creative tapas. We need more of these little earthenware dishes to serve them in."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The right people, chasing you and blanket.

1. Alec takes Jon's finger and leads him to the front door. "I think you've got the wrong person," says Jon nervously. They walk down the hill, Jon taking tiny tripping steps for Alec's short stride and Alec trotting to keep up with Jon's long legs.

1b. When we turn the corner on to the High Street, Alec takes Godmother Charlie's finger in his other hand. I snuggle in close to Nick and enjoy not sharing him.

2. ...and somehow we all end up chasing Alec and each other round and round the little house. You can startle a shriek of laughter out of Alec by turning round and coming back the other way.

3. To take a blanket off the radiator and wrap it around myself.

4. I also really liked Jon's suggestion that we get a router and carve Brio-compatible train tracks straight into the floor.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Coming down, no judgement and roasted pepper.

1. I'm almost ready when I hear Alec chatting to himself upstairs. I want to be ready for lunch before I bring him down, so I don't call up. Then I hear a cheery "Hallo Mummy?" and noises on the stairs. My little man appears in the kitchen doorway, saying "Good boy!" as he always does when he is pleased with himself. I'm glad that he now has even more freedom to move about his home -- though I know that one day I will stop short and realise that I miss "Mummy carry?".

2. I'm old enough as a writer to understand that there is no judgement in writing the first draft.

3. Peeling a roasted pepper, the bright red flesh collapsing in a puddle of caramelised juice.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mummy knee, flowers and the nap.

1. There is breakfast to clear away, but Alec wants to sit on "Mummy knee" and thread some pasta on to a shoelace. What I like is the moment I remember that one day he won't want to be lifted up on to my lap ever again.

2. We're in a hurry, but it doesn't take long to look at the bouquets outside my favourite flower shop. Alec and I pick out our favourites (he likes the pumpkins in the window display) and I like anything blue and orange. Style Workshop uses such brave and (to my taste, anyway) correct colour combinations that I am a bit spoiled for flowers from anywhere else.

3. It's only a nap -- an hour at most, but it's deep and heavy and satisfying. I swore I wouldn't fall asleep before bedtime, but I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Parsnips, compost and out of the bed.

1. The sweetness of parsnips in a shepherd's pie topping.

2. I use up the last of my home-made compost; and then it's time to turn out the half-ready bag and give it a mixing. I always put this task off because it seems heavy and messy and I'm always afraid I'll find a foul anaerobic  mess at the bottom of the bag. I'm always glad when I do it -- the different smells are wonderful (there was very little stinking slime this time, apart from the sad remnants of my failed tomato crop), from rain-on-dry-earth to cool under-hedge rot to ancient dry straw.

3. Alec has a book called Ten Out of Bed which I bought because of the cover. It turned out that there was only one page about trains -- but we love it just the same. It consists of gorgeous, rich, jewel-like double page spreads about a little boy and his toys playing pretending games when they ought to be sleeping. It runs on a formula: "There were ten out of bed and the little one said 'Let's play'." One of the toys suggests a scenario (trains, dancing, seaside), and they play it until the toy falls asleep. It's so simple, but very satisfying to read and the pictures are full of details that we discuss (and food, which Alec pretends to eat).
Yesterday I caught Alec sitting on the edge of the bed with his feet wedged into the bedguard, and Nick saw him do it tonight. Baby and Blue Bear were beside him. Baby was getting a telling off for (I think) not sitting up properly, so I propped him with the wipes box. This met with approval: "Alec drive toot-toot! Baby drive toot-toot! Blue Bear drive toot-toot! Let's play!"
It's the first time I've seen Alec engaged in a full-scale pretending scenario; and it's the first time I've seen him copy something from a book.

Against a grey ground, entertainment and go to sleep.

1. On such a dull day the sun yellow beech leaves and the crimson maple leaves are a joy.

2. Alec pulls faces at two smaller toddlers in the little house at the park. It makes them giggle, showing rows of tiny pearly teeth.

3. It's proving hard to settle Alec. I've got a boring story that I tell him about little sheep with different coloured faces and legs running through a hedge. It doesn't work. I try asking him about the best bits of his day, but all he can remember is the biscuit he had at toddler group -- so I tell him about a plate of all different sorts of bic-bic, some round, some chocolate and some with raisins. He adds a few more and his descriptions get rambly and incoherent and then his arms flop and... snore.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Playing, in the fog and new house.

1. While the cleaner is here, there is nothing to do but move from room to room playing with Alec.

2. A person wearing a red coat on a foggy day.

3. Nick comes home and admires the new cleaning lady's handywork. "It's like an expensive hotel," is his verdict. "I thought I'd come to the wrong house."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Enacting, well played Bill and merchandise.

1. By the time Caroline arrives Alec has made his wooden people enact her whisking me away to London in her car several times.

2. We join a huge queue to get Caroline's programme signed by William Shatner -- he's been signing and talking and sitting for fan photos all weekend. When we get to the front, we are whisked past the desk in moments -- but he takes care to make eye contact with us both. I know that everyone had paid for the privilege, and that he is a man who appreciates the adulation, but it takes skill and stamina and tenacity to remain gracious under those circumstances.

3. While we are getting water from a coffee shop, a member of staff comes back holding a shiny metal object which he treats it with a mixture of reverence and glee. "What is it?" ask his colleagues. "A starship Enterprise pizza cutter," he says, rotating the saucer blade to show them.

4. The costumes -- all of them really, but mainly the steampunk Startrek couple; and the Northern Irish Klingon eating sushi.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Flour, goodbye and clear.

1. We make some cloud dough for Alec to try -- it's flour and oil and it packs like wet sand (but is not gritty) or snow (but it's not cold). He's interested -- but I think we are more so, and after he's gone back to his trains, I play around with a yoghurt pot until I can turn out a satisfactory sandcastle every time.

2. Alec watches us carefully as we say goodbye to our guest. He is covered with flour, and anyway, I don't like putting pressure on him to hug anyone -- but as she is walking down the path he hurtles past me out of the front door, his feet bare, saying "Bye bye, kiss!"

3. To look across the room at a space that I have recently de-cluttered.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hungry day, chestnut purée and Marjorie Daw.

1. To see Alec gobbling down the little fish pie I've made for his lunch. He's like most toddlers, and has hungry days and not-hungry days. On the not-hungry days I worry that I'm starving him by giving him food he can't eat or doesn't like (everyone has a childhood memory like that, I'm sure). Days like today remind me that if he is hungry he will eat absolutely anything and like it.

2. Anna whips up a pudding from meringues, chestnut purée and chocolate sauce ("Don't look," she tells us as she spoons the chocolate sauce on, "It's children's Petits Filous.") It's totally delicious -- I'd forgotten how much I love chestnut purée.

3. To hear Alec chanting "See saw, Marjorie Daw" as he rocks on a wooden horse.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Childcare, boundaries and making marks.

1. Alec brings his doll, Baby, up to the table and sits on the empty chair. He gives him a few bits of dry cereal, a sip of milk and asks me for a bit of egg and a taste of my tea. Then it's time for a cuddle and after that we have to go upstairs and change Baby's nappy.

2. One of my favourite parenting experts is Janet Lansbury. Her emphasis on boundaries -- and the way she recommends setting them -- works very well for Alec and me. Today he was frustrated, and as he often does when things don't go his way, scratched at my face. I remembered Janet's advice and took his hands and told him: "I won't let you hurt me". I could actually feel the tension leaving his body, I suppose because he was relieved that I was taking charge in a frightening situation. Frustration and anger are huge feelings for a toddler.

3. There is still some time before we need can set off for nursery. I get out the playdough and the autumn leaves we collected yesterday. Alec looks a bit bemused, and then asks for the dry pasta that we used last time to make marks in the playdough. I was rather charmed that he'd remembered.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ginkgo, circling geese and requests.

1. A ginkgo tree all in cold yellow.

2. The geese come circling in over our tilted heads. They turn, turn again and bank over the water. Suddenly they are not silhouettes against the sky, but warm feathered bodies.

3. When Alec asks for a particular rhyme -- especially if it's one I haven't done recently. Sometimes the way he asks takes some working out -- "Bug! Bug! BUG!" said with increasing frustration turned out to be "I Went to the Animal Fair" because "The monkey fell out of his bunk" (or bug). Others are easier: "Beer" is "Monkey Monkey Draw the Beer" and "Higgle Piggle" is "Higgledy-piggledy Pop". He goes off them just as quickly, though, cutting you off mid-line by saying "No more" very firmly.

Cuddly days, joy and a better place.

1. Alec will only lie down for Hop Little Bunnies if I let him put his head in my lap. I wish he would join in like the other children -- but then I remember that these cuddly days are ticking away, one by one by one.

2. Alec's shriek of joy when he hears my mother at the door. She takes him out for the afternoon, and when they return, I feel like making a similar noise -- partly because I've been hearing Alec's voice for the last half an hour, and partly because I am so pleased by my progress down the to-do list.

3. To find a room in a better hotel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Safe, goldfinches and sympathy.

1. As we approach the playground the sounds of adults shouting makes me feel uneasy. Don't like to think of Alec porgling around if there are drunks here. But it's a group of teenagers with special needs enjoying the swings and keeping themselves to themselves. Their mothers are watching nearby and I think, doing all that social stuff that carers need to carry on caring.

2. Five goldfinches feeding in the weed patches by the minature golf course on Tonbridge Racecourse. They are such colourful birds -- too exotic for somewhere so mundane.

3. As we are walking up the platform we pass another passenger. She smiles sympathetically at me because I have a raging toddler on my back.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Leaving, soup and peeling pears.

1. It has been a tough meal, though the food and company could not have been better. Alec was not happy with his food and unusually for him found it hard to sit still. It is such a relief to come out into the sunshine.

2. Butternut squash soup -- it almost makes itself and it always turns out well.

3. At the end of the meal, to sit at the head of the table and cut up a couple of pears for Nick and Alec to pick at.

Book queue, afternoon nap and messy play.

1. The book review section in Interzone. I like marking up the books I might want to read -- I go by subject matter and themes and interesting-sounding characters and I don't care if the reviewer loathed it (writers learn from flawed books, as well as perfect ones). Later I will add them to my Amazon list and months or years later, for Christmas or a birthday or because I want something to read, a copy will come my way.

2. While I am still warm and heavy with sleep Nick opens the attic window to let in a breath of rainy afternoon air.

3. I give Alec and Nick some dry rice to play with after supper. The sound of the grains pattering on the floor. And Alec laughing afterwards as Nick tips him upside down to free the rice caught in his clothes.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mushrooms, copy-editing and character.

1. A few mushrooms come with our veggie box. I eat the smallest one raw -- just one, though I love raw mushrooms, because I have a slot for them on the meal plan.

2. I start work on my copy-editing course -- I always forget how satisfying this type of work is. I love the crisp white paper and a bright red pen, and feeling the power that I have over the printed word. And I love using a skill that I have worked at all these years, and doing a job where putting your head down and concentrating is well rewarded.

3. All afternoon Tim and Meredith are buzzing emails back and forth containing pictures of my character in our latest RPG adventure. Daisy Took is a halfling thief, and Meredith was using her Google-fu and design skills to get the right balance of cunning and good-living. Every time I took a break, there was a new image to look at. Tim has put my character sheet on the game's blog, so you can take a look.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The game, bugs and turning blue.

1. To listen to Alec playing with his trainset: It seems that Daddy and Larlie (Alec's godmother and Nick's boss) are going to the station and catching the train to work. They have a snack, and then Daddy comes home and unlocks the door.

2. I love the way Alec always wants to check the rowan tree for the bugs that were there two months ago.

3. It has been raining all day, but now there is a hopeful blue flush to the sky -- where it was unwashed wool grey, it is now the colour of skimmed milk.

Not a wagtail, quiet and marvelling.

1. At Camden Lock Laura and I spot what looks like a wagtail, but it has a bright yellow bum. Looking at the always useful RSPB bird guide, I think it's a grey wagtail.

2. At London Zoo, I love the quiet after a shrieking, chattering, excited school party has gone past and then away.

3. To watch Alec marvelling at wonders -- although his wonders are not always the things that we've paid to see: a narrow boat chugging under the canal bridge. A low wall that he can walk along. A bead curtain in the butterfly house.

4. I am concentrating on this butterfly because it is a blur, except for the black dots on its wingtips. When it settles I understand: its wings are transparent.

5. When I look up from the Evening Standard I have picked up from the seat across the aisle (a voice has been saying "Alec Mummy me!" for the past two articles) I see that my little boy has spread a copy of Metro across his knees and has got a bit excited by a picture of a steam train.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tidy, overdressed and the other last biscuit.

1. A small girl -- really a baby, her face is soft and unformed -- with beautifully fat knees drops the wooden trees and houses from the train layout back into the box. "No don't do that," says her mum. "The others are playing with it." The boys only care about the rolling stock, though, so she's not bothering anyone.

2. Everyone is commenting that they feel overdressed today. "I put on my ski jacket and now I'm too hot," says one mother. It's a grey old day, not very light, but the air is still and mild.

3. While Alec is sitting in the little house, I go back to the pushchair and quickly eat the other last biscuit.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tank, distracted and toast.

1. This post on childcare expert Pinky McKay's blog made me stop and think. To summarise, it says that children will extract the attention they need from us one way or another. You can give the attention, or they will try desperately to connect with you by whining and tugging at your trousers. She says: "When children's tiny tanks are filled with love and cuddles, their chemistry will be balanced with calming hormones such as oxytocin (the love hormone) and endorphins (a mix of feel good hormones)." 
Alec was whining and tugging while I was making our breakfast. I looked down at his crumpled face and I wanted to say: "I have cuddled you all night. We've been lying in bed having bub since 6am. I've put a clean dry nappy on you. I've carried you half way down the stairs and put you down to walk the rest of the way because you asked. I'm making you porridge! Your tiny tank is full, damn you, leave my trouser cuffs alone."
Then I realised: it's not me who decides if Alec's tiny tank is full of love, and it's not Alec who decides either. He has a tiny tank, and all I (and his other carers) need to do, is keep filling it until it seems full.
So I picked him up, gave him a squeeze and put him on the worktop where we could chat to each other while I stirred the porridge.

2. We are supposed to be blowing bubbles into a watering can -- but Alec has spotted a stout man on the far side of the swimming pool. "Daddy bubs!" he says. (Apart from that, he had an excellent swimming lesson and concentrated very well.)

3. Wholemeal toast and butter and honey.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Wooden railway, the day we caught the train and spectators.

Alec has been modelling a new woolly for Aragon Yarns. He looks very handsome in the autumn sun on Tunbridge Wells Common.

1. Nana has dug out a wooden railway set from her store room. Can we carry it home today? Yes we can. Nick and Alec spend a happy afternoon constructing layouts in our sitting room.

2. On our way home we hear a piercing whistle and see a gout of steam rising above the railway bridge. "Oh we've missed the train going past," says Nick. But we find a gate to look through and -- how wonderful -- an actual Thomas the Tank Engine, complete with faceplate, comes up and halts. It's a Thomas Special day at the Spa Valley Railway. The driver jumps down and gets into a yellow digger, which he uses to fill Thomas' tender. Then he gets back into the engine and in a rush of steam and water and whistles, goes back to the station to continue the show.

3. The square is fenced off for winter, but Alec insists that we stop here, just like does with dad. "Sit down, cricket," he says firmly.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Getting breakfast, imitation and small hours.

1. To go out early on a Saturday and buy breakfast from the patisserie. I miss early morning walks around town: it's so hard to get out of the house early with a toddler, though.

2. Nick comes home and reports that he and Alec got chatting to a man outside the pub. The man said: "Awright mate?" to Alec and Alec said "Awright mate?" back to him.

3. The late night quiet time, when no-one else wants or needs me.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Local paper, rat heap and hot sour soup.

I came across an article about a children's book blog written by a mother from Tonbridge. I expect some of you might be interested: The Lion, The Witch and the Bookcase.

1. To pick up a copy of the week's local paper. It places us in space and time.

2. To clear out a pile of clutter. I am so proud that I have processed each piece without putting it another rat heap. The corner of the kitchen seems to be breathing again.

3. A pan of tom yum soup -- fierce with chilli and scented with lime and lemongrass.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Working from home, soothing and at leisure.

Hillary, who comments regularly here and has a blog at No pens, pencils, knives or scissors, was badly injured in a car accident earlier this week -- she is expected to recover and the prognosis is good. I just wanted to let people know, as she's quite a familiar face round here. There's a lovely post from her father explaining the situation.

1. To hear Nick calling in to say he's working from home because we've had a horrendous night.

2. A soothing drink of hot orange juice and honey at breakfast.

3. I am too tired to do anything much this afternoon, so I just lie upstairs on Nick's bed while he works. Sometimes I doze, and sometimes I read the new Interzone that arrived today (it's a treat to have the time to read it while it's still fresh).

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Conkers for spiders, snacks and farewell.

1. A man is picking through the wet grass under the conker tree. I don't ask, because I know what a pleasure to hand and eye conkers are -- but "what are you doing?" must appear on my face anyway because he says: "They keep spiders away. Just put a few in corners. Got to watch them in the vacuum cleaner nozzle though."

2. Michelle points us towards a basket of small pastries and fruit crumble fairy cakes. Alec firmly takes both from me once I've had a bite.

3. When it's time to go, we tell the boys, who have been tumbling over each other and scuffling over the toys,  to say goodbye. Freddie kisses Anthony right on the mouth, and then Alec. Anthony and Alec hug, and then Alec kisses Freddie.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Run, sour and new character.

1. I need to collect a Freegled item, and I decide to combine the expedition with a running session. Alec, as usual, shouts "Quickly, quickly" from his pushchair while I slog up a hill and wonder if it would be worse to die in the street or throw up. Before we arrive at our destination, though, I am wondering why I don't run everywhere. It's great! Why doesn't everyone run everywhere? Looking back, I think it was the endorphins speaking.

2. Sour Haribo sweets.

3. Rolling up a new character and creating a backstory from the random numbers.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Porridge for breakfast, naming of names and another step forward.

1. The blop-plop-plop of porridge bubbling. Alec is having a hungry day, and so I give him an advance on the raisins he will have to sprinkle on top.

2. Alec adds another name to his list: Godfather Timothy is 'Tibby', joining Larlie (Godmother Charlie) and Yoghurt (Uncle Robert).

3. I've made leap forward in my parenting skills. I now recognise as tiredness that tearful string of random, contradictory requests. I reply firmly to each: "When we get home, it's nappy change, bub-bub and sleep."

Monday, October 01, 2012

While you were sleeping, making my day and domestic god.

1. Both the boys are napping. I leave a note on the table and sneak out to a coffee shop with the laptop tucked under my arm.

2. On my way home a man wheeling a bike in the opposite direction says: "Can I just say, I love your Courier column." It totally makes my day, and I'm grinning all the way home.

3. I  hand Alec over to Nick for story time. When I come downstairs to do my kitchen tasks, I discover that the nappy wash is already hanging out to dry and the washing up is all done. This is a pretty normal state of affairs -- but I still always appreciate it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shunting yard, tinplate and the golden dog.

1. I am admiring a tiny railway layout based on a Southern States shunting yard, all peeling paint, tattered posters and rusting metalwork. "It's scratch built," says the owner proudly. "Apart from that yellow building." Then he hands the controls to Alec. "Have a go. Press that red button."
Alec does, and the rusted little diesel moves jerkily forward and stops. "Press it again, Alec."
The look on my little boy's face as the train stops and starts its way along the track is worth double the entrance fee.

2. There is a tinplate layout which I like very much. "That's from 1955," says the exhibitor about his station. "And that's from before the First World War. German."
I am just marvelling at the very British advertisements that plaster the tinplate walls when a Thomas train comes racing past, whirring frantically. "It's clockwork," says the exhibitor. "So's this." He picks up a bus, "And this," a bright shiny taxi complete with tinplate driver. "There's something about tinplate. It gleams."

2. The Mother takes Alec off into the garden to pick blackberries and I settle down to some work. All of a sudden, there's a large golden dog in the room. I ask it where it came from and it trots out into the sitting room, the dining room and wanders round the kitchen before jogging on out of the front door.
Later my mother says she found its owners running up and down the road looking for it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Art, theatre and takeaway menu.

1. Alec's key person hands me a folder of his art. She has drawn farm animals all over it in a copper-coloured marker. I think Alec will enjoy looking at it later. And I know Nick will enjoy the contents, so I put it out in the sitting room so that he will see it as soon as he comes in.

2. "Is this theatre of food?" asks Nick as I slap a couple of gleaming silver and grey striped mackerel fillets into the pan. They have been marinating all afternoon in wasabi and ginger and soy.

3. I picked up a menu for the new sushi place yesterday, and after supper, I remember that I wanted to show Nick. Even though we've just eaten, we read down the descriptions and, when we discover that they'll deliver, we plan a future supper.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The heat, look-a-like and no more rice.

1. Alec always radiates heat -- he gets that from Nick. In the cold dark hour before dawn, he wriggles in close, pressing his lovely hot back to me.

1a. Alec opens one of his books and shows me a picture that he insists is like a girl at his nursery; and another that looks like his favourite practitioner.

2. Alec and Baby Loey play peep-o around the water jug at lunch. In between peeps, Baby Loey stuffs fat fistfuls of rice into her mouth.

3. When I come home from dropping Alec at nursery and running my errands, I am grateful all over again for Katie's help in clearing up the rice blizzard left behind after lunch.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cutting out, cafe and roll over.

1. I give Alec some biscuit cutters to play with. Instead of trying to make biscuits, though, he presses them carefully into a sheet of playdough to make repeating designs.

2. To spend a rainy afternoon in Alec's favourite cafe, with good cake and sympathetic company.*

3. He comes off the bub, rolls over on to his back, murmurs: "Mummy Daddy Alec" and then he's asleep.

*Manna on the High Street -- he can't walk past without saying in a hopeful voice: "Bic-bic?"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cup of tea, it rains and autumn apples.

1. That cup of tea that the excellent women give you when you arrive at a toddler group. That cup of tea that I don't put down because it seems like such a liability in a room full of small anatomies hurtling about at knee height. That cup of tea I drink while it's still hot because Alec doesn't want my attention right now.

2. As we leave the house, it starts to rain heavily. But we don't care: Alec is under the rain covers and I'm going to change when we get home. As I puff up the first hill in the park, the sun comes out and shines up the last of the shower.

3. I love all the sharp crisp apples that are only worth eating in the autumn. They vanish from our fruit bowl like snow -- I eat them while I'm working, without really thinking about it. Often there isn't even a core left, and I have no idea how many there were to start with.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Depths of winter, monkey man and naming names.

I got some news today that makes me want to share a link to a suicide awareness organisation like Safe Kent. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, in the UK you can speak to The Samaritans and globally, Befrienders Worldwide. I know some of you walk in dark places: please don't make your journey alone.

1. During our Skype conversation, Auntarctica spots the yellow freesias in the background. "Ohh, look at those! Are they daffodils?" It occurs to me that she might not have seen flowers for quite some time.

2. I feel mean for encouraging Alec to monkey along the side of the swimming pool by moving the purple ball that he wants just out of his reach. Hand over hand he goes and my slippery boy gets the ball before I can grab it. Instead of chewing on it, he rolls it away and sets off after it.

3. When Alec hears my mother's voice he makes such a delighted sound. For a few minutes he is so overwhelmed with joy that all he can do is point to things and name them for her: "Door! Light! Mummy!"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Entente cordiale, first run and cheese on toast.

1a. I come down and find Nick and Alec down on the floor drawing on a sheet of newspaper.

1. The little girl at the other table waves at Alec, and as soon as she is allowed down, she comes over to see him. "Say hallo, and come straight back," her mother tells her. Alec hides his face, but warms up when she returns with a toy train. She is nine months old, and French. Her aunts egg her on: "Get his number, get his number."

2. I take Alec in the pushchair with me for my first run: I've got a lot to do today, and it just seems efficient. He laughs at the running bits, and shouts: "Quickly, quickly!", which is encouraging. It's not as shymaking as I though it would be: I think because I'm concentrating on Alec, rather than on myself.

3. Nick and Alec watch the grill intently, with Alec standing on one of his little chairs. We are having cheese on toast for supper. We cut thin crustless fingers for Alec to nibble. He eats them all, except the last one, which he throws grandly on to the floor.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Say my name, a dress and going to sleep.

1. I often hear mischief, rather than see it (the ripping of nappy Velcro, or the clatter of a toy falling downstairs, or just a naughty-sounding silence). When I do, I say: "Allll-ec!" as severely as I can. The usual response is a nervous shriek of laughter. Lately, he's taken to declaiming his name in an eerie imitation of my tone. I want to give him a more positive example to copy, so I try saying "Alec" when I'm pleased with him, filling the word with as much admiration and affection as I can muster. He still seems to prefer the severe version, though.

2. It's Saturday, why shouldn't I wear a dress today.

3. We all lie together in the big bed waiting for Alec to wind down and fall asleep. It's warm and dark and Nick and I doze a little.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I didn't mean to go to sleep, festival and freesias.

1. I fall asleep while I'm putting Alec down for his nap. When I wake up, it's 12.30. He is supposed to be at nursery at 1pm. I'm still in my pyjamas, and there is nothing for lunch. I do feel well rested, however, and Alec seems very chipper, too.

2. There is a festival just outside town this weekend and outside the station there are piles of tents and boxes of beers and a man with a hobby horse unicycle.

3. The freesias Nick brought home the other night are coming out one by one. They are firelight yellow and look very brave in a blue glass vase. I can't see freesias without thinking of my brother's reception teacher -- when she got married she had them in her bouquet; and she had the children re-enact her wedding as part of the curriculum. There is a picture somewhere of my brother as a guest, and tiny Joby Williams as the groom in a brown velvet suit, and a tiny little bride in a pale orange dress. Mr and Mrs Watts must be well on their way to their 30th wedding anniversary.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Work, other babies and starfish hands.

1. I talk with Tara about proofreading and feel inspired. She says that if I am wise and confident, I can earn enough to make a real financial contribution to the household (not just hair ribbon money) and -- this is even more important -- retain my skills.

2. To run into Jo while negotiating the teetering wonderland of household goods that is Jeremy's Homestore. She is bravely navigating with her double pushchair. Freddie, who is the same age as Alec, now has a scattering of freckles across his nose and looks very handsome. And behind him is Ruby, who looks serene, and is, I am told, already sleeping through.

3. I run into another mother with a new arrival -- just two and half weeks old. She has wriggled her arms up in the sling so that her starfish hands are either side of her face.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Filled card, going back and laundry.

1. "...and your next coffee will be free." To fill up a loyalty stamp card. 

2. "It's not like you left the Norglet on the Pantiles," says Nick. The first thing I told him when he got in was that I felt stupid for leaving Alec's blue sippy cup behind on the bench where I'd been watching him running around on the bandstand. Then Nick adds: "Do you want me to go and get it?"

3. A folded basket of clean laundry.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Installation, treasure and result: happiness.

1. While my back is turned, Alec gets into the cutlery drawer. He lays a few spoons on a chair, and then puts all the knives and forks out on the floor in chevrons and arrows and rows. There is an absinthe spoon with an eye on it pointing towards the washing machine in a significant manner. Later I find a whisk in the bottom of the watering can and a fork in the garden.

2. We find a horse chestnut case that has just split to reveal the polished conkers inside. We take it home for Nick to open.

3. We've got very behind with the household accounts, and I have been fretting about incomings and outgoings and stray sixpences. It's a huge chore, but it feels good to sit down -- together -- and start to deal with it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nap, walking home slowly and the hug.

1. Alec's morning nap goes on... and on... and on. He wakes twice, but makes it clear he just wants bub-and-back-to-sleep. At quarter past two, I hear him chatting to himself. I go up and tell him it's lunch time. "Lish lingers?" he asks, full of hope.

2. I walk slowly home with Alec on my shoulders. I can tell by his dull tired weight that he is not in the mood for "Quickly, quickly" or bouncing. He likes hearing the names of trees, though, and trying the words for himself.

3. I go downstairs to find Nick and get the hug I've been wanting all day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New table cloth, indulge and stock.

I'm joining in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Genre blogfest... because, well why not?
  • Movies: My favourite genre of movie would be anything about space because there is nothing like a big old screen full of alien landscape.
  • Music: My playlist is a mixed bag, but... britpop reminds me of being a teenager, when I felt overexcited and happy about everything (apart from any setbacks, which were unmitigated disasters of the worst possible kind). In the days of pogoing to Park Life my emotions were turned right up to eleven. I don't miss the high highs and low lows -- but I do like remembering them.
  • Books: I know short story is not a genre, more of a form, but not enough people read them, so I am giving them a shout out. I don't have the headspace at the moment for leisurely novels but I can cheerfully nibble on a short story, or a novella. I get a lot of pleasure from my subscription to Interzone and the new writing section of Mslexia. And may I also recommend Tania Hershman's book of flash fiction The White Road to people who find short stories too long. She is a science writer, as well as a writer writer, and 
  • My guilty pleasure is... Pulp. When times get tough, I heft my huge copy of The Chronicles of Conan down from the bookshelf and disappear into a time before time, when men were men and women's clothing kept falling off. Whatever problems beset me, I can always see how Conan would make it all better: WITH A BIG SWORD. I also harbour a soft spot for HP Lovecraft, because the day I met Nick, I asked him for help with spelling Cthulhu, and that made him think I was a suitable woman.
1. To come down to breakfast when you have a brand new table cloth. It has a map design, which pleased Nick immensely when we found it. There was a choice of sepia or primary colours, and we went for the colours because good cheer trumps good taste.

2. Alec is a lot better today, but he's still a cuddly boy who wants to spend a lot of time sitting on people's laps, particularly at meal times. It's rather pleasing to indulge him without feeling guilty.

3. A pan of stock boiling at the back of the stove. Nick says: "You're like a 1950s housewife." I'm assuming it was a compliment.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cool head, shutting myself away and among strangers.

1. At 4am I see that I am an idiot for trusting the thermometer over my five senses. I give Alec the clean nappy, the biscuit and the drink of water that he is asking for, and the spoonful of paracetamol that he needs.  He settles down for some comforting bub, and not much later sighs and rolls over. He's properly asleep, breathing softly and his head no longer burns to touch.

2. "I am having a bath," I tell Nick and Alec after breakfast. "There are instructions about when to put lunch in the oven on the table."

3. The kindness of strangers.
a. Yesterday I said yes to a post of Freegle. Today, a lady rings up to say I can have some of her hollyhock seeds, and would I like some cosmos and some Verbena bonariensis plants. "It's purple, and it sort of floats," she says by way of description.
b. We have another hangout on Google+ for our science fiction and fantasy course. It feels as if we don't talk much about the books, but I do come away knowing a lot more about Ray Bradbury, and with some stories to look out for; and I feel as if the other students are real people, not just ciphers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Granola, meeting for lunch and home alone.

1. We eat homemade granola for breakfast -- I've never made if before, but it was so easy and delicious that I will again. I think there are some recipes in the Sunset Cookbook that Joe sent over, and maybe in one of Heather's Schmecks books: it sounds as if it ought to be American in origin. Gran-o-la. Gran-ola. Gra-nola. Alec calls it 'lola'.

2. I love to meet for lunch the sort of friends who want to see Alec, and who are not offended by my retreating into the child-bubble when he asks for my attention. He is very good, though, and they remark on it afterwards.

3. Suddenly realising that Nick is home late, so I have the evening to myself.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cabbage white, in the queue and the hug.

1. To watch a cabbage white butterfly dipping and zigging and zagging in our tiny garden.

2. I do that thing my mother used to do that was SO EMBARRASSING. I unload my groceries at the checkout and then realise that I have forgotten a thing. I contemplate leaving it but it's a vital part of Saturday supper and I will have to send Nick out to get it. I apologise to the checkout man (he offers to pack my bags) and smile vaguely at the people behind me in the queue and dash back. The checkout man is still at scanning when I get back.

3. I've upset Alec: He really did not want his nappy changed. When he is clean and dry again, I stand him up and give him a cuddle, pressing my cheek to his wet face. He squeezes me right back.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bitter, while you were sleeping and all gone.

Sorry for the unscheduled break in posting -- Alec has a cold and our evenings have been rather broken.

1. The bitter streak in pink grapefruit juice.

2. It suddenly occurs to, while Alec is drifting of into his morning nap, that I could have a bath.

3. At snack time, I remember that there is one muffin left. We split it, and it's delicious. The only bad thing is that for the rest of the day Alec keeps looking up at the empty tin on the draining board and saying "Muffmin?" in such a plaintive voice.

4. Alec's wooden plane had a bad landing, "Oh dear, Mummy!" He's holding one set of wheels, and the other two are on the floor.
"Daddy will mend it," I tell him, with every confidence. "Let's put it up safe, and Daddy will mend it."
Late at night, when I come down to the kitchen, I find the plane lying on its back, wheels secured, and the pilot standing on its undercarriage, waiting for the glue to dry.