Thursday, January 31, 2013

Garden, cleaner and running water.

1. Today I was really grateful for our garden: just because I needed to get outside but could not leave the house.

2. The satisfying tidiness that our cleaner leaves in her wake.

3. The sound of running water, even if it is only in the basin.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Timing, message and on the sofa.

1. My nightly pregnancy insomnia coincides with Alec's spectacularly wet nappy (he's been dry through the night for some weeks now).

2. A cheering and affectionate text from Nick.

3. I put In The Night Garden on to gain some space and time to make supper. "Toast dip-dip on sofa?" Alec wants to know.
I remember that the last time we watched Night Garden we naughtily ate our (only slightly less naughty) supper of French toast and maple syrup in the front room with the TV on. It was some time ago, and I'm impressed that he remembered. "It's not French toast tonight," I tell Alec "we're having fish fingers."
"Lish lingers on sofa?"
I can think of no particular reason to say no -- he did very well with the maple syrup last time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Join, string and pouring.

1. Another mother and toddler pair from our swimming class is having lunch in the cafe. They wave, and we join them.

2. I am on the phone to my mother when Alec asks me to tie his bead-threading string round his waist. I'm a bit mystified, but when I've complied he says very happily "Apron" and then goes into the kitchen to cook me something. "What an imagination!" says my mother.

3. Alec empties jugs of warm water over my back in the bath and says he is "pouring water on my darling mummy".

Monday, January 28, 2013

After the rain, battery and more cake.

1. After a night of rain the menfolk look out of the window. "Daylight come back, snow all gone," says Alec. "It looks as if it's been washed," says Nick.

2. "Clever wife," says Nick when I show him the YouTube video that demonstrates changing the battery in our smoke alarm.

3. Alec keeps asking for more cake -- but it's because he wants to feed it to Nick and to me (and Little Tiny Baby).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Accident, party and cake.

1. There was a bang and a motorcyclist flew across our field of vision. Someone cried out. He came to rest half-on and half-off the pavement. After the staff from the vets had told him to lie still and covered him in pet blankets; after I had looked into his face and worried about hurting his pride by telling the 999 dispatcher that he was in his forties "or perhaps 30s"; after an ambulance had elbowed its way through the traffic; after the police had come to take over -- that moment when we watched two paramedics help him to his feet.

2. At this birthday party they have put out toys in a vast sports hall. To see Alec taking pleasure in the space. To see him getting excited and to let him shout and run without having to ask him to calm down and use a gentle voice.

3. "Cakey all gone," says Alec very sadly. I explain that they've cut it up for the party bags. I don't think he really believes me until we get home and I let him loose on the tiny treats. Once he has eaten the cake, a stretchy man is very popular, and the bubbles.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Naming names, complaint and marigolds.

1. Alec and his friend (they were born a day apart) are playing together. They are talking in a distracted toddler way and I'm not sure if they entirely understand each other but they definitely use each other's names.

2. Last week I complained about a bank charge. This week it is refunded.

3. Orange -- the actual colour of oranges -- marigolds in a sea blue glass vase.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cookie, warm places and the big boy.

1. To warm a chocolate chip cookie in the oven.

2. The house has different warm places depending on the direction of the wind. As I move around the house while working on my to-do list, I love to find them and enjoy them for a while.

3. Alec has just gone up to the next room at nursery, and it is a joy to see him throwing himself around the room, shouting and copying the older toddlers. His jumper is filthy and his sleeves soaking: they have a toddler-level sink with taps he can turn on (just beyond exciting as far as he's concerned).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter afternoon, in the dark and sleepy time.

1. It's a cold and dank afternoon so Alec and I warm our hands and our hearts in a new cafe on The Pantiles -- it's called The Cake Shed because it is most definitely cake centred. We devour two kinds in tiny bites to make them last -- carrot, and an extra special brownie (Alec comments that the raisins are sour, and the owner explains that they are cranberries and gives him one to try).

2. "It dark, Ally scared."
"Well we'll be out of this passageway and back on the Pantiles in a jiffy if you turn round and walk that way."
"Sing it."
"Sing what?"
"SING IT! Don't be afraid of dark..."
"Oh... oh right... (mumbles, unsure about acoustics and thinks that singing in the bedroom at night is one thing, but in the street just after tea is quite another) 'When you walk through the storm...'"

3. Those evenings when, after just three stories, Alec says he wants to lie down.

Early start, in the churchyard and be present.

1. My mother arrived just before eight, while Alec is gently snoring. When he finally comes down, he is transported by delight to see Granny AND porridge waiting for him at breakfast.

2. Those strange sad moments in the churchyard: jackdaws calling and wheeling, the undertakers' footprints in the snow, the well-trodden graveside words -- we have no choice but to be here now.

3. She says: "The most important thing when you are with a person who has dementia is to be in the moment." This seems like good advice whoever you are with.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Isabel, yoga and icicles.

1. I come across the poem Isabel by Ogden Nash and read it to Alec. I think he likes her style in a scary situation because he asks for it again. I nearly have it by heart after the fourth reading.

2. I try a DVD yoga class -- just a half-hour one -- thinking that Alec might join in like all the cute pictures you see on Pinterest. He asks to nurse during the warm-up. I let him, working the movements around him. He takes a few sucks from each side and then wanders off to play (he often does this, just, I imagine, to confirm that he is still the centre of my universe). We spend the next 25 minutes in companionable aloneness (apart from one moment when he can't resist sitting on my back).

3. I show Alec the icicles where the water from a leaking gutter has run down a rose bush. The thorny stems are encased in clear clean ice. He tilts his head this way and that, marvelling but not touching.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dogs in snow, end of the day and a pink French Fancy.

1. Greyhounds leap and jink in the snow in the park.

2. At the end of the daylight Dads pull fading lolling children home on sledges -- except for one little boy who is determined to prove his strength (on the downhill bits at least).

3. We watch, with some amusement and (of course) some sympathy, as our son has a tantrum because we have said no to a third French Fancy (it was the pink one).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Finding Daddy, scary face and escape.

1. Normally at weekends when Alec wakes I suggest strongly that he might like to 'go and find Daddy.' This morning I am wide awake but he is snoring quietly, so I go and find Daddy myself. As I come in, sleepy Nick says: 'Alec?'

2. Nick helps Alec to draw a scary face on the paper bag that the potatoes came in. They put it over the scooter handlebars and chase each other round the kitchen.

3. To escape. The boys are still sleeping off lunch though it's nearly dark. I only mean to go down to the bins (we've been putting it off because the road is so slidy in the snow) but I keep on walking back past our front door. I'm not sure where to go and end up in the park. The snow is already bruised and crushed but I haven't completely missed the magic. I find a piece of pristine lawn and walk across it, and note that three of the four baby swings are still covered in snow. The smell of coal smoke is a pleasing dirty contrast to the clean winter air and the clean snow colours.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

White roofs, going nowhere and snow on the path.

1. The rooflines are disappearing into the wool white sky.

2. The moment when you decide that you are not going anywhere in this snow -- such a relief.

3. "That was a lovely path to walk on," says Nick with satisfaction. The snow on our path was pristine because we'd stayed at home this afternoon.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Art, cooking and gardening.

1. Bright drawings in bath crayon -- "Mummy in shower! Daddy in shower! Alec in shower! Baba in shower! Granny in shower!" I get a short break, and then "Lady in shower!" and then: "Ally not like."

2. "Put in oven?" asks Alec showing me a jelly mould stuffed with playdough.
"I'd rather you didn't," I tell him. "The oven can be very hot and it's not for playing." We cook his cake in his cupboard -- I even set the timer to remind us to take it out. There's no need, though because he keeps opening the door to check the progress.

3. To idly read a plant merchant's catalogue and think about what I might plant in the spring.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Early riser, back it came and our evening.

1. We were talking last night about Alec's difficult bedtimes and concluded that our late mornings were not helping. I say to justify our 9am lie-ins: "He's so grumpy if I wake him before he's ready and I feel sick if I get up too early." I miss our breakfasts with Nick, though -- and I don't like the way we rarely leave the house before lunch. This morning, Alec wakes while Nick is dressing and asks to go downstairs for his malties.

2. "That's got to be a beautiful thing," says Nick handing me a padded envelope. "Open it." Inside is a USB stick. He explains: "I left it in the back of the old telly, and they've sent it back."

3. At 8pm it appears that we have the evening to ourselves. We put a film on. At 9.30pm Alec comes downstairs in search of a snack (he missed his post-bath cereal because he fell asleep). We feed him and then take him back upstairs. He and Nick read a boring (to me) train book; and I read a boring (to them) essay book. I am surprised at how little resentment I feel about the film. We can watch the end tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Help, Charlie and my story.

1. To remember that Alec is quite capable of helping me put potatoes in the pan. And to remember again at mashing time: "Big Fella help Mummy."

2. Alec lies on the landing inspecting his toy tractor and singing his new favourite song, Charlie is My Darling  (the bits of it that he can remember, anyway)

3. Nick is a little bit late, so I get to do a story with Alec.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Making tracks, narrow boats and not a little brown job.

1. There is no snow in the park, except on the mats around the equipment. A boy on a balance bike is enjoying his tracks.

2. The narrow boats are dozing under tarpaulins -- but one of them has smoke coming out of the chimney. It must be a cozy thing, on a cold day, to announce that you need to do a bit of work down on the boat.

3. On this day of muddy grass, brown water and grey sky, a goldfinch flashes yellow and red on a willow by the river.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Back to bed, running well and hard being two.

1. Alec sleeps for a good long stretch -- Nick and I lie snuggled together until nearly 3am. When Alec calls, I go down. He comes to meet me on the landing and leads me gently back to our bed.

2. The stinging cold air makes my lungs panic -- but I do not and soon I am breathing comfortably. When we get home Alec asks with hope in his voice whether Daddy wants to go for a run.

3. While we are (still) settling Alec off to sleep at 9.30pm Nick says, after he has abandoned an evening of watching football, "There are some days when it's very hard being two."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sleeper, still receiving gifts and getting the accounts under control.

1. I love to rub Alec's sleeping back. It has the same firm aliveness that I feel when I lie on an August hillside under a hot sky that goes up and up.

2. When the house is empty apart from me, to take a bath with Christmas present bubbles and a Christmas present book. It is good to remember that gift receiving goes on after the thank yous.

3. Our household accounts have been sadly neglected since November when I started feeling too tired to manage anything. While the men are napping I pull the bank statements from their roosts (they end up in all sorts of places if I don't deal with them quickly) and pair them up with the receipts that have burst like ripe seeds from the boxes we store them in.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sleep talking, exact change and not lost property.

1. In the dark, a cheerful wide-awake little voice says: "Hallo Mummy!" and then he goes straight back to sleep.

2. I don't find the pound coin I need -- but I do find the exact change so I don't have to make the customer services lady change a twenty for me.

3. No need to worry: they've tucked Alec's monkey and his fishy book into his nursery bag. How do they keep track of all the toys and jumpers and blankets that the children are clutching when they arrive?

Friday, January 11, 2013

The right place, not long now and not too late for me.

1. A brief glare on a grey sky day. I was in the right place to catch an eyeful of sunlight bouncing off the face of the station clock.

2. Eating popcorn at the kitchen table with Alec and thinking that one day we'll watch films together.

3. Nick is sad that he's come home too late for a bedtime story -- but I'm happy because I get him all to myself.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book parcels, tantrum and no more mummy.

1. There's a knock at the door (Alec lets out a joyful, hopeful cry of "GRANNY!"). It's the postman. He puts two parcels, each containing a book, into my hands.

2. To face down a tantrum (down on the floor so I can look Alec in the eye and say I am genuinely sorry that we can't right this minute watch any train films on YouTube).

3. Alec is eating his supper very.... very.... slowly. I have finished mine and am sorting laundry while watching a conversation on Facebook (rude). I go back to the table and make some small talk about the train (pieces of apple) he is crashing into an Ocado van (bread crust). He says: "Go way Mummy do pooter work."
"But I-"
"No more Mummy."
I retire to the far end of the table with this month's poetry book.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Not getting up yet, buying the baby and heartbeat.

1. I surface when Nick comes in and turns on the radio, then slip back under into the warm dark. Again when Nick leaves. Alec wakes, latches on and we sink back down. We doze and wake, apart and together like fat seals rocking in the swell.

2. Last night Alec appeared to be questioning me (in his distracted two-year-old way) about whether I had enough money to pay for the baby. A conversation before I set out to see the midwife casts some light on his thinking: "Midwipe say 'Forty pound please thank you much.' Mummy cry."

3. To hear Little Tiny Baby's heartbeat on the monitor -- pa-PA-pa-PA-pa-PA. It sounds like a tiny train racing through the night. Later, I tell Alec about it and get him to listen to my heart. He draws his brows down and looks at me through dark eyes, as if his world has been shaken in some way. Then he remarks that it sounds like the washing machine.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Running, raining and radio.

1. Alec is laughing at... well I don't know what he likes so much about a pushchair run. Maybe it's the rush of air in his face, or the jiggling. A mother coming towards us asks: "Is this for your benefit or his?" I tell her it's for me.

2. It is raining, but the rain is more like a very wet mist than proper soaking rain. It's refreshing.

3. To remember -- before I start on household tasks -- that I like to listen to the radio while I work. (I found this strange surreal radio play about Anglesey floating off into the Atlantic).

Monday, January 07, 2013

Making lunch, reading time and bed to myself.

1. To find that I can prepare lunch without feeling sick.

2. To sit in bed -- alone -- and read.

3. When I go down to join Alec I find that he has rolled into the cot and is lying in a contented, contorted half-moon shape against the bars. I spread myself across the entire bed and stretch my arms and legs wherever they want to go.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

After a run, a song and job done.


1. Hours after my run I can still feel the warmth in my limbs.

2. We tell Alec that we've rung Granny because it's her birthday. He sings Happy Birthday to her.

3. Getting my tax return done.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Cricket, punctuation and winter scented.

1. When I come back into the kitchen Alec is holding a long green balloon as a cricket bat and Tim is -- very gently -- bowling the plush ball from the skittles set.

2. To get a coffee and make a to-do list. It's a semi colon in my day.

3. In the dark, on a winter evening, early enough that the park is still full of cheerful voices, to brush against a winter scented shrub that has pushed itself through a garden railing.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Alec date, taking down and Tove Jansson.

1. To sit with Alec in Wagamama. It's as if we are in a bubble, just the two of us. From time to time, still clutching a piece of cod cube, he leans over for a kiss on the head. I feed him a spoonful of rice. He puts a strip of cucumber in my mouth.

2. The quiet space where the Christmas tree was.

3. We watch the Tove Jansson documentary that Nick recorded without my even having to ask him. It is rather magical to see video footage of her, and of the scenery that inspired her stories. And her fine art -- I knew she was respected as an artist, but I'd never really looked closely at her work before.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Morning cuddle, sick and coming down.

1. I am glad that I risked waking Alec by rolling him over to the other side of the bed so that Nick could join us for a sleepy cuddle before his first morning back at work.

2. I'm still not at peace with this nausea, but the sips of water that I take for it are keeping me hydrated. This morning I stood up too quickly and had to rush to the bathroom. Alec followed me in and patted me kindly on the leg.

3. This afternoon I left Alec asleep upstairs and came down to the kitchen to catch up with my emails. The sound of him coming downstairs to find me.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Natural scientist, mild in winter and statements.

I've joined Satyavani Robyn's 2013 Mindful Writing Challenge and will be recording the results over here.

1. Alec finishes his morning bub and remarks with some surprise: "Daylight come back!"

2. Up on the Common, where the fold of the hill shelters us from the wind and the bare trees let the sun come down to the bruised ground, it's surprisingly warm.

3. Today I have been glad to hear Alec say: "I want my mummy" and I've been glad to hear Nick say: "Shall I take over for a bit?"

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Go away, peep-o and early bed.

Happy new year, everyone. Let 2013 be full of wonder and small joys.

1. Nick takes a grumpy Alec downstairs to give him the breakfast he has been asking for since the small hours (he'd been waking up from dreams about "more ice cream" and "more cake" and asking for cereal). I snuggle back down under the covers for a bit of catch-up sleep.

2. Alec and Baby Loey playing peep-o across the lunch table. And it is such a pleasure to spend a few hours with another mother and toddler on a wet, wet day.

3. We've had a succession of drawn-out bedtimes. Today Alec announces after his bath: "Big fella yawning". He goes down so easily that Nick and I get an evening together. We watch the Dr Who Christmas Special -- whenever it comes up in conversation, we've been chorusing "Don't spoil it, don't spoil it" and we've felt very left out of all the talk about snowmen.