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."