Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hilltop, do it himself and sneaking away.

1. To reach the top of Calverley Grounds and look out across the border to Sussex. The view, because it includes so much sky, is different every time. Today sunlight is falling in rays on to the ridges, which look like layers of blue and grey tissue paper.

2. When I go to lift Alec into the pushchair he stops me and asks to climb in by himself.

3. I'm really enjoying -- as in I keep sneaking off to read it -- a book of short stories, Very Best of Charles De Lint. The stories combine a north American urban setting with British rural mythologies as well as few homegrown legends and they are peopled by a quirky cast of characters

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Social stories, bedtime stories and highlights.

1a. Would she like me to go and get her a cup of tea from the excellent women who run the toddler group?
"No, but could you hold him while I go?"
To have a (smallish) baby to amuse for a few minutes.

1.  It takes a few tries but eventually I get Alec to drop "Happy birthday dear Alec" in favour of "Happy birthday dear Daddy". Next on the agenda is a chat about who is giving presents to whom.

2. I am so grumpy and pregnant that I can't be bothered to raise myself from the bed to get a book to read. So I tell him a story out of my own head. "Once upon a time there was a-"
"Norglet!"*
"...a norglet who lived in a treehouse with his parents and a pet monkey called-"
"Granny!"
This cheers me up enormously.

3. Nick says, when I tell him the highlights of our day: "I like being a daddy."

*A norglet is the word we use to describe Alec when he is being particularly Alec-ish.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good morning, cafe lunch and from the top.

1. It's a good morning: Alec sleeps until half past eight, and then eats an entire bowlful of porridge with less mucking around than normal.

2. The way scampi keep disappearing off my plate; and the way Alec asks to get down so that he can join his friend pressing buttons on the vending machines. I like to see a pair of two-year-old heads bowed over a small mischief.

3. Nick sings from memory one of Alec's favourite songs, I Saw a Ship A-Sailing. He doesn't forget a single one of the four-and-twenty white mice (that's the line I always stumble on when I'm not concentrating).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Private time, avocado and no more Mummy.

1a. It is 6.15am and I am tired of nursing. "More bub when daylight comes back."
Alec isn't happy. "Want shout Daddy."
"Daddy's asleep."
"Daddy make daylight come back."

1. When I hear feet on the stairs I sigh because I haven't quite finished everything I meant to do in naptime. But Alec pitter-patters straight into the front room and everything goes quiet. When my curiosity (and my fear) get the better of me I find him lying on the floor. He says "No more Mummy. Go in the kitchen." Later I find him standing on the arm of the sofa to look out of the window. "No more Mummy, go in the kitchen." We both want to be left to our own devices and I am a fool and an ingrate to meddle.

2. Buying an avocado for a particular meal is always a risk -- but this one (after two days in a paper bag with a squashy banana) is just right.

3. I catch Alec's eye round the corner of the bookshelf and we both smile, great face aching smiles. He thinks it's too much: "No more Mummy."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Overdressed, for all my work and still night.

1. There is no snow on any of the pavements apart from ours. I'm overdressed in my heavy boots and layered coats -- but at least I'm warm enough.

2. I spent some time yesterday moving books around so that all Alec's bedtime reading was on a small bookcase in our bedroom. The idea was that he could pick his own books out, rather than relying on us to pull them down for him from the various places that they get stashed around the room. It took a fair bit of thought (and I had to cull some of my own books to make the space) so I was very gratified to hear him refer to it this evening as "Alec's bookshelf".

3. I've just come down from settling Alec and I'm ravenous. I put some soup on, and then I hear the sound of bare feet on the stairs and a hopeful enquiry: "Daylight come back?"
"No," says Nick, "It's still night time. Come back upstairs and lie down with Daddy."
Nick returns not much later and reports that the little man fell asleep in the crook of his arm.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Signed, wriggler and manoeuvre.

1. In an unobtrusive place on our farm baseboard I spot "Rodbert" written in sprawling pencil letters. It is strange to think back to c.1980 and a small Uncle Robert in dungarees squatting down to push his tractors around.

2. Just like Alec did, Little Tiny Baby likes to have a good wriggle around while I'm relaxing at the end of yoga.

3. When I get to nursery Alec and two other little boys are trying to put the microwave into a cupboard in the play kitchen. "I don't think it will fit," says his key person in between showing me pictures of Alec solemnly sticking pink tissue paper to a pig template. "I really don't think it will go in there... Oh it does! Well, I never knew that."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Late morning, taking it off and second supper.

1. To lie in bed late with a giggly, cuddly boy who isn't quite ready for nappy change and breakfast.

2. "I'll just take some of the weight off," says the hairdresser pulling out her strange razor comb scissor thing. I'm astonished at the great clumps of hair that she takes off -- and at the transformation. My whole head feels lighter.

3. I've been vaguely hungry all day -- thank goodness for second supper. I have a chicken sandwich, and an orange. And some fudge. And then a bit more fudge.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

With me, our old toys and fudge.

My former colleague Me Ginger Writer has written a 3BT post and said that I have the self-discipline of a zen master, which is rather pleasing.

1. Alec wakes with a cheerful "Hallo Mummy!", says he wants to stay in bed with me (instead of "helping" Nick get dressed) and actually asks for a nappy change (instead of denying all knowledge of nappies and bottoms).

2. Aunty Biddy comes bringing some of our old toys to pass on to Alec -- Rosey's Fisherprice record player, and our toy farm (with Robert's comprehensive collection of incomprehensible machinery). It's really good to see them again -- the plinky-plunky sound quality of the record player makes me feel particularly nostalgic.

3. Salted caramel fudge.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The hunt, up and finishing.

1. I spot a wren on the rhododendron that Alec is lurking in. It shakes its stubby upturned tail and flies off into the dusty hangings of the yew tree. I stand still, trying to watch its flight, and for a moment I lose sight of Alec.

2. He spends a long time on the ground working out the climbing frame puzzle before starting, and then gets cross because he's not quite tall or strong enough to use the next holds.

3. Nick comes home and picks up all the tasks I have left half-done during a tough day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My spot, wheels and the nap.

Three Beautiful Things features in this week's episode of Atley Jonas' philosophy podcast The Happy Road Ahead. He was kind enough to read one of my posts in full and he made it sound like proper literature! If you've come in from there, welcome. And if you're going there from here, you're in for a treat -- Atley will fill you in on Bruce Lee probable Myers Briggs results, the bushido code of honour as well as a lovely mixed bag of quirky news stories and memes.

1. A gent in a red mobility scooter has picked a sheltered sunny spot by the castle gatehouse. I think he must be watching and waiting for spring to come in.

2. On top of the motte, at the very top of the spiral path, some boys (squeaky voices and husky voices) are looking thoughtfully at a skateboard.

3. He doesn't wake when I pull off his shoes and coat. He mutters drowsily when I lift him out of the pushchair and then lolls heavily against my shoulder. I carry him upstairs, and supporting his head just as I did when he was a newborn, I lay him down in his new bed. He rolls to this side, that side and then settles, breathing softly.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fog, a different dog and the extrication.

An account of Alec's adventures in toot-toot land over at his godfather's blog Heropress

1. To wake to a morning of mysteries because the fog is so thick you can barely see across the street; and to see the mist burning off almost before your eyes as the world warms up.

2. "He'll do his dance in a minute," says Nana. Sure enough, when he sees the food box Jimmy-dog gets up on his back legs and prances about the kitchen. "He's like this in the morning round the bedroom, as soon as he sees my covers move."
"You wouldn't think he's over 70 in man years," says Grandad admiringly.

3. I am firmly wedged between my two warm and napping boys -- Nick's arm in around what's left of my waist and Alec has his hand tucked into my vest. Very, very carefully I untangle myself and wriggle down the bed to freedom (and an hour of yoga).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Escape, home and oven.

Rachel over at Miniatures Make Me Happy has a sweet and highly illustrated post today about the model railway exhibition that Nick and Alec enjoyed so much today.

1. I pop out to buy a nursing bra -- the first beautiful thing is that we live so near a really useful underwear shop. And the second beautiful thing is the couple ahead of me -- she was picking out a swimming costume, I think for an imminent holiday; and, from his quizzing of the shop's owner about the location of the Pantiles and a particular hotel, I guessed they were in town for a romantic weekend. It made me remember how important this sort of thing is in any marriage -- and it made me wonder if it might be possible for Nick and me to escape, even for a night, before the new baby comes.

2. A call to say "We're coming home."

3. I am upstairs settling Alec and I can hear the kitchen timer going. I am wondering if Nick understood my muttered instruction about taking the chicken out. The faint clank of the oven shelf suggests that he did.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Out, delivered and distracted.

1. I do like to take Alec out for coffee and cake, just the two of us concentrating on each other.

2. "Where do you want it?"
"Are you allowed to take it upstairs?"
"Of course," says the delivery man and takes Alec's new bed straight to the bedroom.

3. "Want look after it!" but there is no way I'm letting Alec "look after" his cakey in the pushchair on the way home. "Want hold cakey!" he howls all the way down the street. Just this afternoon I was reading an article on the evils of distracting toddlers from their emotions, so I roll with it, empathising and giving him space to rage. Then "Want look after- Ohhh, van go brmmmm brmmm, Mummy."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coming to get you, shaking hands and your book has come.

1. Yesterday I pushed Alec into decorating a badly cut out* heart card for Nick. He covered the envelope in monster stickers and informed me that "These monsters are coming to get you with kisses." So I wrote it in on the envelope so Nick would get the message, too.

2. "Oh Clare, look at them!" says Jane. Alec and Anthony are shaking hands. Then Alec hugs Anthony.

3. I ordered the tandem breastfeeding bible, Adventures in Tandem Nursing, from the library as all the forums suggest strongly that there are things one needs to know before the new baby arrives. The book is presently out of print and going for £200 on Amazon. There is no copy in Kent, so it had to come in from Milton Keynes -- and it only took a week. This seems to me like a miracle.

3b. Nick brings home a bag from Lush. This time my favourite thing is the piece of Willow Pattern soap. It has a rose and lemon perfume and is very kind to my sore hands.

*Badly cut out because I had to use a blunt Stanley knife out of the tool box -- my scalpels have been put away in a high place that no-one can recall.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

At the kitchen table, more Isabel and last of the light.

1. I make a little treat for myself while Alec is napping -- but when the milk is nearly warmed through I hear his feet on the stairs. "Ho' choc'la'?" he says with a lot of hope in his voice. I pour half of it into his Peter Rabbit mug and we sit together at the kitchen table.

2. Last night I discovered a zydeco version of Alec's favourite poem, The Adventures of Isabel. I play it for for him while we drink our chocolate. The smile that spreads across his face when he recognises it.

3. Last of the light on this cold day. Singing blackbird crouched a-top our little willow tree.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

All well, knight in shining armour and at the door.

1. "Oh look at that, there's a yawn," she says, catching a scan picture of Little Tiny Baby with its mouth wide open. She confirms that all appears well and says the baby's measurements are nice and average (although I notice the thigh bones are little to the right of the mean mark, just like lanky longshanks Alec).

2. The bus driver won't take my ten pound note -- but the man behind me quickly offers to change it.

3. I am virtuously tidying up the sitting room and am rewarded when a fat envelope is pushed through the letterbox. It's addressed to 'Beautiful Clare' so I quickly open the door to catch and thank the Sarah Fairy before she vanishes into the bitter night. She has brought round a poetry book for me to read this month as per my resolution and an origami book that I don't remember lending her but am very glad to receive all the same. I thrust into her hands the parcel I'd made up for her but was too 'cold day lazy' to take round (January's book and something for her CD a week resolution).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Perfect snow, mine and identification.

1. This snow is perfect: it has dusted all the trees and laid a clean white cloth over the muddy grass -- but the roads and pavements are all clear.

2. In the middle of the swimming lesson Alec suddenly feels a bit protective of the toy he is supposed to be pushing around the pool. He shouts "Go away! Don't touch my ball!" and everyone laughs.

3. "It's a moorhen," my father tells Alec about the small black bird with a red face that is paddling against the current in the swollen river Medway. "I'm afraid I can't tell you the Latin name."

Monday, February 11, 2013

A kindness, not very good at hiding and warm towel.

1. Jules and Baby Loey have come fighting through the sleet to bring us the potty that I left in Katie's car yesterday. Standing on the doorstep, he proudly opens the raincover on the pushchair so we can see Baby Loey and so she can look back at us with her boot button eyes.

2. On the bed there is a lumpy-looking blanket that can't quite keep still and keeps giggling.

3. I take my shower early and when I come out my towel is crisp and warm because the heating is still on.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quiet breakfast, touch screen and bear.

Rachel, Godfather Timothy's wife, has started two blogs this week. One details her passion for dollshouses and other tiny worlds, Miniatures Make Me Happy. The other blog will recount her research into a box full of memories left behind by Tim's mother, A Life in a Suitcase.

1. Nick and Alec go back to sleep. I go downstairs to eat a quiet breakfast and put lunch together.

2. Katie says that she caught Baby Loey trying to make a magazine picture behave like a touch-screen. Alec sometimes tries it on the laptop (hence the smeary marks here and there). It is amazing to think that they will grow up taking such a marvel for granted.

2b. We've had a few tantrums this week because Alec's gilet is in the wash. At the nearly-new sale, as well as a bundle of summer clothes, I buy a waistcoat, once part of a toddler wedding suit, hoping that it will do as a substitute. When I get home Alec immediately asks me to put it on over his t-shirt. He agrees that he looks a bit of a dandy (though if he knows what a dandy is then his nursery is doing very well for him).

3. Nick and Alec are discussing a picture in a book of bears busy at various household activities. 'That Mummy,' says Alec, 'And that Daddy.'
'And is this one Alec?'
'No, Daddy, it a bear.'

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Alone in bed, borrowing a baby and a bit of peace.

1. Just before 6am I wake up. I'm still up in the study, but alone. Nick has given up his bed so I can have a solid night's sleep.

2. To borrow a real baby for a few minutes and to hear him laughing when I bounce him on my knee.

3. When I get to nursery the room is full of cross, tired children and cross, tired parents. It's all boots and coats and waiting. Alec is in the corner drawing on the blackboard and doesn't see me come in. I watch him until, turning round to get more chalk, he spots me. It feels as if we are the only quietly absorbed people in the room.


Friday, February 08, 2013

Daff, off to bed and about his afternoon.

1. The single brave daffodil in the front garden. There's always one that appears long before the others

2. We've only just had breakfast but Alec is grumpy and his requests are becoming increasingly erratic and unreasonable: 'Bubby! No more bubby! Malties! No more malties! Nappy change! No more nappy change!' I say no to everything, take him upstairs and settle him for a nap.

3. They show me some pictures of Alec's afternoon. In one of them, he and a little girl are sitting in a tent playing with lanterns. Making 'scary shadows' is one of Alec's favourite games so I can imagine he had a lot of fun with this activity. He is also holding his doll, which he insisted on taking in with him. He tells me that he shared Baby with the girl and that 'Baby 'ad some bubby.'

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Out, aspirations and left behind.

1. To throw a large bag of rubbish in the bin and drop off a large bag of unwanted clothes at a charity shop.

2. At tea time my mother says that Alec wants to be Amanda the gardener when he grows up with her ladder, loppers and Pippin dog: 'Manda climb ladder!'

3. When I realise that I've left my rucksack on the train, the guard (who has just helped us over the gap) retrieves it and hands it out to me. 'Thank goodness you were there!' I tell  him. Nick, who was waiting on the platform for us says: 'What on earth was so important that you abandoned Alec in the pushchair and ran back?'
I hesitate, thinking that the answer is going to get me in trouble (first because nothing is that important; and second because actually, the contents of the rucksack would be very hard to replace and I should have been more attentive). 'The laptop and all my course work. Anyway, you were there to watch him.'

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Waving off my husband, pink biscuits and yellow/blue.

1. To get up early -- it is noticeably lighter at 7am -- so that we can wave Nick off to work. It makes me think of a morning soon after we moved here. I went to the door, all large pregnant belly and short(ish) nightie to wave Nick off just as a load of builders piled out of a van in the carpark across the road. They sauntered lazily past and grinned at me. Nick texted later to say that he was buying me a new dressing gown. I have a pregnant belly again, but this time it's winter, I'm wearing the dressing gown (and several other layers) and I have a toddler pushing round my legs.

2. At Christmas we had, as a special treat, a packet of pink wafers.* Every time I open the biscuit tin Alec says with a lot of hope in his voice, 'Pink bic-bic?' Today the Mother brought us a bag of very posh pink wafers that actually taste of strawberries.

3. Butter yellow daffodils opening up in a blue glass vase.

* I love pink wafers out of all the sorts of biscuit there are, but this Christmas packet, a supermarket own-brand, was very disappointing. Not enough filling, I think, and far too much dust.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Treat, flood and account.

1. 'I'm buying him that train. He looked so pleased when he found it,' says Tim and he hands the charity shop volunteer 20p. Alec carries the little plastic toot-toot all the way home.

2. We watch with bated breath as the man in the mobility scooter charges confidently through the flood that lies between us and the playground.

3. I tell Nick a little about our day and he says: 'Yes, Alec said he'd sat on Tibby's knee and had beans.'

Monday, February 04, 2013

Begin again, dunnock and something sweet.

Tunbridge Wells blogger Anke is intrigued by a postcard project -- anyone can contribute so grab a postcard, answer the questions and send it off.

1. 'He keeps asking for "washerman ginaginagina",' says a mystified Nick.
'SING IT,' adds Alec in a threatening tone.
'There was an old man called Michael Finnegan...'

2. A dunnock in the back yard picking at things too small to see.

3. Yoghurt and a chopped up orange helped along with a generous spoonful of chestnut spread from the tin Anna gave me at Christmas.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Long night, encouragement and in my married name.

1. There is grey light around the curtains when Alec asks for his first bub of the night -- what an amazing night's sleep.

2. Running is not going well this morning. When I opened the door the cold hit me in the same way that heat does when you open an oven. I am happy to have a person in a pushchair who shouts "MORE Mummy MORE" whenever I stop.

3. My new passport arrives. It's my first in my married name. I'd been resisting the change partly because the passport and identity office is the sort of institution that makes me feel very very arsey; and partly because my old passport is full of visas; and partly because changing my name was a lot more painful than I thought. Anyway -- I'm glad it's done now because my passport is my only form of ID (I have no driving licence) and it was a mission to open savings accounts in my married name. And actually, the new style biometric passports are pleasingly quirky with British landscape scenes on each page (it really seems a pity to cover them with visas, which is good because I'm unlikely to go anywhere requiring one for the next ten years).

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Babble, bread roll and supper.

1. The sound of Baby Loey's babbling. She makes a sort of ululation which takes me back to early last year.

2. At the end of nursery I am given a warm parcel wrapped in kitchen roll and shown pictures of Alec covered in flour. 'We've been making bread' explains the chap doing the handover. All the way home Alec talks about how he's going to eat his 'cakey wi' bupper and mook inna cup'. I make sure I get a nibble too, and that there's some left for Nick.

3. Grated Cheddar and coleslaw packed into a warm pitta.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Away, lunch and brownie.

Yesterday Fleur emailed me about her efforts to observe gratitude in her daily life. She has set up a Facebook page called The Good Project that is well worth a look.

1a. At 6am Nick comes and takes Alec away for some breakfast
1b. At 7.15am Nick brings a yawning Alec back for some bub and a lie down.

2. To have another mother around when I'm making lunch. She distracts the toddlers while I cook. I was so relieved when she said yes to the invitation.

3. As she bags up my piece of brownie she adds a large crumb off the knife and winks at me.