Sunday, March 31, 2013

More for us, escape and making the bed.

1. I order some dim sum as part of our lunch, thinking that they will appeal to Alec. They don't, and they are delicious.

2. The heavy quiet after lunch has sent both the boys off to sleep. I slip out of the house to do a bit of shopping. It feels good to walk around without considering a pushchair.

3. While putting a new sheet on, to chase a wriggly bed lump around the mattress. And to comment to Nick that when we first started pretending Alec was a pillow that needs plumping our laughing boy was about the size of a pillow.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Backchat, a walk out and tea.

1. Our first backchat: "Can I have a look at your nappy, please Alec."
"You not havin' a look til Christmas."
I think this might become a family phrase.

2. For the first time in weeks I feel energetic enough to say "YES" to a walk in the woods. We go up to Hargate Forest, which is cared for by The Woodland Trust. It's one of Tunbridge Wells' most fascinating green spaces, with its ruined World War Two bunkers and mix of heathland and tree cover. This mix of open ground and cover is particular pleasure today when we've got a rare bit of sunshine.

3. Sitting round our kitchen table drinking tea and eating hot cross buns with my family.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sculpture, nails and deliveries.

1. "That's enough Youtube," I tell Alec. "I don't even know what language that last video was. Play with..." I look desperately around the room "Er... Plasticine. And Galahad." The protests die away, and next time I look up it's because I'm being asked to "Make helicopter" because poor Galahad is up to his fetlocks in mud (orange Plasticine).

2. "Excuse my nails," she says as she starts my treatment. "I got them done for a party. Not very professional, but I'm rather liking the flashes of colour as I work."

3. We got a card today from some friends abroad which reads: "If I could, I'd leave a big basket of happiness on your doorstep." Nick comments, as he takes the empties out for tomorrow's deliveries, "We're getting milk and vegetables instead."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Baking, the train and soup.

I have a guest post up at BreakThru Radio -- this week is Optimism week, though I haven't yet had a chance to listen to the programmes.

1. We bake a cake together -- just a bread machine ginger cake, but there's enough weighing and measuring and stirring. We have tried baking before, but Alec has always lost interest within minutes. Today he  surprises me. He picks an egg from the box and knows exactly what to do, but he isn't quite strong enough. I put his hands on mine while I do it and he seems pleased with that. He spoons out ginger and bicarb, too, and asks to beat the eggs and stir the dry ingredients. I know they bake at nursery, but these new skills are astonishing to me.

2. As soon as I let him out of the pushchair Alec starts re-arranging the chairs in the children's library. He's making a train. A little girl about the same age joins him -- her impressive contribution is a recital of the stations between Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks. Her grandmother produces a couple of train tickets to help the illusion.

3. When I visited China in 2001 one of my favourite meals was a bowl of thin soup full of lightly cooked vegetables. I worked my way through a menu that offered varieties of mushroom and different leaves and stalks, all kinds of things that I'd never heard of. I make my own version whenever I have home-made stock (the bought kind is too salty); and I usually chuck in whatever vegetables we have, cut quite small, and maybe some ginger or some chilli. It makes a fantastic rainbow dish and I always feel very nourished afterwards -- it's the combination of hot soup and barely cooked vegetables, I think.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Extra duvet, snuggled up and waking up.

1. I am so cold that I can't sleep. I pull an extra duvet on to my side of the bed and immediately feel better.

2. It is so chilly that Alec snuggles up to me in the dark -- I can feel the warmth rolling off his back.

3. When Nick comes down in the morning Alec announces that he is "Going in the big boy bed". He lies there for a time and then gets up to march round the bedroom shouting orders at us: "Put your glasses on! Go downstairs! It breakfast time!" While he amuses himself, Nick and I cuddle up together and occasionally ask him to use a gentle voice and say please.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Taking turns, signs of spring and bump butter.

1. "I don't want to get down on the floor. You get your own train track out."
"Mummy, it not my turn."
He uses the same excuse later when I suggest that since he has just poured a bucket of water on my head I should be allowed to do the same to him.

2. "Daffmandils!" says Alec. The yellow daffodil trumpets in the vase on our table cheer me, too.

3. "He insisted," says Nick a bit sheepishly. They've come down from the attic with the jar of bump butter: Little Tiny Baby and I get a four-handed massage.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

On duty, afternoon nap and getting out.

1. When Nick says he is not well my heart sinks -- I'd been anticipating a Sunday of light duties, and perhaps a quiet house in the afternoon. But I gird my loins, cross everything off my to-do list and look forward to a day of cuddles and listening in on Alec's soap-opera-like farm play.

2. From half past one until 4pm we are deeply and luxuriously asleep.

3. "I think I'll come with you," says Nick when I say we are going out for a breath of fresh air. It's a relief to see he is feeling a bit better -- and a relief to have his toddler carrying help. It is teeth-shatteringly cold and Alec keeps trying to walk home. In the end we only last quarter of an hour.

Snowing, reason for travel and surrender.

1. "What?" asks Nick, responding to my squeak of surprise.
It's snowing again. It's annoying, inconvenient and rather dispiriting because we've been waiting so long for spring. But it's always magical to see large flakes falling and it's fun to bundle up in warm clothes and to watch the ensuing chaos.

2. "I going to London," Alec tells the men across the aisle (we're not, we're just going ten minutes up the line) "Going to London for a playdate."
I nearly add that it's with a lady friend -- but I don't want to be an embarrassing mother.

3. Alec has definitely not finished napping (by which I mean I haven't even started on the me-time I had planned). He is having a bad dream about trains, and I think some trouble with wind. I nurse him and he seems to settle, but when I try to leave he pushes against me with his feet, grabs me and mutters a protest. I try again, waiting for his breathing to change and for his hand to relax. I'm feeling anxious about the minutes ticking away -- Nick will be out of the bath soon and it's not long until I have to start on supper. I try to leave again... and again... and again. And then I surrender. I'm here, on the bed with my small son who will not be two forever, until supper. Within minutes Alec's whole body and his whole presence has altered. He unlatches, rolls over and I'm free to leave.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Nappy change, spring is coming and being served.

1. The way Alec always asks me to sing Oh My Darling Clementine when I open up his dirty nappy. It always distracts me from the horror of it all.

2. Swollen red buds on blossom trees.

3. I come down from settling Alec and Nick tells me to sit down while he makes me some supper.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Toot, alone and coming to get you.

1. We love Benedict Blathwayt's Little Red Train books. Alec likes them because they are about trains and I like them because there is so much to discuss in the illustrations. We read The Little Red Train to the Rescue and on the page where the farm animals have escaped on to the track Alec points to the different poos and tells me who he thinks made them.

2. To come home alone to an empty house.

3. When I go to collect Alec from nursery I always feel a little bit excited about seeing him again. It's a tiny bit like the sort of excitement you get before a date with someone you really like.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quarter of an hour, from life and grateful.


1. A lot of housekeeping advice seems to centre on one tip: "Get up 15 minutes before everyone else." I could once, but it is almost impossible for me to achieve now: Nick and Alec both like a cuddle in the morning and I can't work out how to wake myself without waking Alec. This morning I didn't manage to get up before Nick but Alec slept right through until almost half past eight and I got my 15 minutes.

2. Laura says she doesn't much like life drawing and being forced to produce something less than perfect. She battles on just the same, marking up her sketchbook pages with shadows and glimpses of the ever-moving Alec.

3. As Laura is leaving Alec pops up with "Thank you much my cakey." I hadn't yet said my thank yous for the dozen chocolate fairy cakes she'd brought with her. We were both very impressed by his memory and by his manners. (It's strange because only yesterday I got into an email conversation about why I don't think this is a gratitude blog; and then today I was struck by this post about authentic gratitude over at Codename Mama.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ready and waiting, comfort and already asleep.

Today there is a celebration over at Day of Happiness -- you can pledge to spread happiness, or nominate a happiness hero.

1. Alec is sitting in his pushchair ready to go. We are not leaving for another hour.

2. To sit warm and sleepy after lunch in a room with a wood fire.

3. We take a dozing boy upstairs and put him to bed. When I've finished settling him I come down and get ready to go out. Nick looks lost: "I don't know what to do with myself this evening." He'd been expecting to spend the time reading stories and building pillow houses.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Help, banks and beating the rain.

1. When I thank him for helping us on to the bus with the pushchair he smiles and says "I remember just what it was like." And at the end of our journey there is a lady who knows just what to do with an Alec who won't walk down the steps while I carry the (now folded) pushchair. She takes his hand and guides him kindly off the bus.

2. We climb the motte at Tonbridge Castle. The banks between the serpentine paths are a tumble of spring hedge flowers, violets and primroses and the odd periwinkle.

3. To get home just as the rain starts to fall in single-minded columns for the rest of the day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Croissants, farmer drama and chocolates.

1. Warm croissants with chocolate hazelnut spread and slices of pear.

2. To listen in to the drama on Alec's farm. Today the farmer got stuck in the mud and had to be rescued by Upsy Daisy driving a tractor.

3. To snaffle a few chocolates that don't belong to me (their owners are never going to get through them all and sometimes only a Caramel Bunny will do).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dressed, falling and stored.

1. While we are running round the supermarket Nick comments on my short skirt and boots. I'm glad he likes the effect, though the skirt is only short because it has to go over the bump, and the boots are noticeable because the only maternity tights I could find were thin and natural-coloured -- my usual warm black tights are now too uncomfortable around the waist.

2. Alec dropping feathers to see how they float to the floor. Later I spot him dropping his supper from the spoon back into his bowl. Science.

3. Wrapping one of a pair of loaf cakes for the freezer.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Off switch, companionable and damning.

1. To settle a grumpy little boy down for a morning nap. I feel the same relief when I turn off a loud radio.

2. "They played nicely today," says the other mother as they are leaving. She's right: we've had a peaceful and companionable lunch -- there was even space for some (only slightly distracted) mummy talk.

3. A journalist's damning verbal sketch of a boorish politician is still making me smile hours later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ready, not my fault and good weather.

1. Feeling slightly strange and lost because we are ready to go out far too early. Rosey has been helping me all morning by amusing Alec and carrying on with my tasks when "only Mummy will do".

2. Alec has got his aunts muddled up and keeps calling Rosey "Aunty Biddy". He does it with a smile, so he might be playing around rather than making a real mistake. I'm sure Aunty Biddy will be very flattered; and Rosey says it doesn't matter because she thinks he will attribute any naughty words he picks up from her to poor blameless Aunty Biddy.

3. "It's a beautiful day," says the council worker glancing down the room towards the doors out to the street.
"Yes, isn't it," I say. I feel very fortunate to think that at the end of our conversation I will get up and walk out into the sunshine.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Coming home, faces and coming up the stairs.

1. Rosey comes to visit, which I think means she is properly home. Alec hides under my skirt until he feels he knows her again.

2. Towards the end of lunch Alec makes one of his strange eyes squeezed shut, head rolling faces. The mother and Rosey, who are sitting opposite him, both laugh. He opens his eyes and asks "Alec funny?"

3. Alec is hiding under a blanket next to me on the bed. "I'm sure it is Daddy, not a big brown bear," I tell him.
"No, it Vikings."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eerie, observed and swept.

1. This morning it was a snow day -- and now it's not. The roads are clear, the pavements are clear. The sun is shining merrily (out of the biting wind it's almost pleasant) but town is eerily quiet -- lots of signs on doors about early closures 'due to the snow'.

2. A family of Chinese tourists waits at the other side of the crossing. The children (a teenage girl and preteen boy) are arguing -- she gesticulates with a phone. He gesticulates with what looks like a plastic teapot. It makes me smile -- and it also makes the lad standing in front of me smile. I walk behind him up the hill -- he seems to be observing everything, making quick glances all around him. I suppose that the snow has closed his school so he's out taking notice of the unusual conditions.

3. Nick says he is going to spend ten minutes sweeping the snow off the pavement before it freezes. He makes it down to the bottom of the street. I feel very proud to have a neighbourly husband.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Self-care, bolt and over snow.

1. The vasospasm that plagued us in the first few weeks after the birth has come back because it's bitterly cold and I'm run down with a bug. Even cuddling Alec hurts, let alone nursing him. I put CBeebies on the TV to keep his mind focussed elsewhere and lie down with a hot water bottle and a glass of water. The warmth and the hydration take effect quickly and I even doze a little.

2.  The sound of Nick bolting the front door against the draft.

3. Before we turn out the light Nick opens the blind on the flat roof window over the bed. The glass is completely covered in snow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mothering, a good deed and homecoming.

3BT-inspired post on No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. Hillary has more children than me, so it stands to reason that her stories will be funnier, just saying.

Also I've got around to writing up half of my poetry-book-a-month challenge for February, here.

1. I came across this post from the parenting blog Crappy Pictures today, and it pretty much sums up my Mother's Day -- Alec was still snoring gently at 7.15am so I got a lie-in; Nick dealt with mealtimes so I got to eat with both hands. And I was excused visiting Nana and Grandad due to laryngitis and being pregnant, so I was able to complete my toilet unaided and unobserved.

2. The man at Spa Valley Railway who, seeing Nick and Alec with their faces pressed against the fence, let them through the gate for a better view of the "Black steamy toot-toot". He doesn't know it, but he inspired Nick to spend his birthday money on a Friends of the Spa Valley Railway membership.

3. Rosey is home after 18 months in Antarctica and will visit later this week. I hope she likes Alec now he can talk and walk and has hair.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mending, Nick makes supper and the carriage.

1. My (mental) pile of mending is teetering and I am bring driven crazy by missing buttons and broken hangers. It has got so large that I have become afraid to start on it. Once Nick and Alec are down for their afternoon naps I gather up a couple of the most urgent pieces, put the TV on and get to work.

2. I tell Nick that I don't feel up to cooking an omelette for supper. I've spent all my energy on lunch, and I'm never very successful at them anyway. I feel bad about this, because he particularly requested it when I was doing the meal plan, and I've bought in loads of eggs.
"I might give it a go," he says. "I used to be quite good at omelettes. But you'll have to prompt me." 
He wakes me at 5.30pm and by the time I get downstairs it's too late for prompting. The omelette is tasty and tender -- he's raided the fridge for a piece of old Manchego cheese, cold roast pork from lunch and a tomato. 
I will never cook an omelette myself again.

3. Alec has made himself a nest out of pillows. He puts one up over his head as a roof and says it's a carriage. "Where are you going, Alec?"
"Going to London to see Larlie and some boo-bahs."
Godmother Charlie is in for a treat then, an afternoon looking at diesel trains.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Manners, card and drying off.

My aunt has posted a short account of our day at the Science Museum.

1. In Alec's nursery folder his key person has noted under language and social skills that he asked her (by name) to "Wash my hands please." She comments that she rarely has to remind him about please and thank you, which makes me feel very proud.

2. A Mothering Sunday card depicting a handprint flower with footprint leaves. It even has a picture inside of Alec giggling as they put the paint on his feet.

3. After walking home in the rain, to put on a dry pair of trousers.

Friday, March 08, 2013

In the pot, love affair and less pain.

1. While we are getting dressed I introduce Alec to his new Mike the Knight pants. He is very taken by them and picks a pair to try on. Then it's "Alec do widdle like Daddy," and suddenly he's in the bathroom sitting on the pot. Unfortunately  I haven't had time to explain that Daddy normally pulls his pants down (I'm assuming). But still -- a man's first widdle in the pot is something to celebrate.

2. Two grizzled men wearing paint-stained overalls talking as they go up the drive to work: "'E thinks she belongs to 'im now. 'E won't leave 'er alone. But I'm not going to stand aside. I won't leave 'er alone until she says."

3. My chiropractor straightens me out and gives me some advice to help with the dot of SPD pain that has been puzzling me this month -- essentially, sit well and give the bump the space it is asking for.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Quote, Don Quixote and rider.

1. "Mummy, stop computering! Hold Alec hand."

2. "Helmet, helmet!" Alec has been trotting round the kitchen astride his sword and now wants some knightly headgear. I hand him a hat with earflaps that he has been refusing to wear all winter. "Helmet!" he says with a lot of joy in his voice. Then, once I've helped him on with his shield, he's ready for adventure. He looks so happy and so comical peering out from the fur lining that the cleaning lady and I laugh a little behind our hands.

3. He drops his rubbish in the bin and then rides his slender bike on to the empty basketball courts to circle a few times for the sheer pleasure of it.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Found, museum and sunset.

1. In all the confusion of an unexpected change of train I lose my purse. I am dully miserable -- I can't even find the guard to ask for help because the train is so crowded and because the pushchair is too wide to fit through the connecting doors.  "Stay there," I tell Alec. "I'm going to look one more time."
I can hear him telling the man we are sitting next to: "Mummy's lost her purse, Mummy's lost her purse."
I check my coat pockets, the folds of the hood, the useful compartments, the basket. Nothing. And then my purse slithers to the floor -- I still can't work out where it came from.

2. Janey, Alec and I went for a day out at The Science Museum today, as recommended in a comment some months ago by Alison. She was quite right about the toddler section in the basement -- Alec was thrilled, particularly by the chance to mess around with running water, but also by dropping beanbags down a rubble chute and by his distorted reflection in a curved mirror. In the other parts of the museum he surprised me by totally ignoring the life-size models of  early steam engines -- YouTube footage of such engines hissing and steaming like animated dinosaur skeletons make him shout with delight. We think that they were just too big for him to comprehend, because he was thrilled when he found a tiny model of Stephenson's Rocket.

2b. And you should have seen his face when we found a room with case after case displaying arable dioramas. A whole gallery dedicated to tractors.

3. A fat fiery sun heading for the horizon.

Picture from Sixty for 60.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Deltics, no Vikings and a treat downstairs.

1. In the lift at the station we get chatting to a guard about Alec's adventure at the Spa Valley diesel day. "I love those Deltics," he says. "They're so... muscular. Proper trains." He dreamily describes them as a St Bernard, "with those windows like sad eyes." Here are some images so you can see what he means.

2. A brisk but kind elderly couple enjoying the sun at Tonbridge Castle admire Alec and listen to his ramblings about Vikings (his current preoccupation). "They've gone for their tea," the man tells him. "That's why they're not here."

3. "There's a little treat for you downstairs," says Nick. He's been a pop-up Fairtrade chocolate shop and filled a shopping bag. He's also researched and bought a phone that will screen out the automated calls that have been driving me crazy.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Giving a good account, no-one out and shoe shine.

1. When they get back from the Spring Opening at the Spa Valley Railway, Alec is full of talk about their morning. Instead of just one item copied from Nick and repeated I get a spontaneous and almost coherent account featuring "Noisy old engine" and "Boo-bah diesel" and "Steamy toot-toot engines in shed asleep" and "Alec played with toy train".

2. "We left this morning at half past nine," says Nick "and I don't think we saw a single person from here to Chapel Place. It was lovely."

3. The Sunday sound of Nick cleaning the family's shoes. I always feel very loved when I look down at shiny boots.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Copying, turning red and seeming.

1a. When I put Alec's breakfast on the table he says: "That look lovely, Mummy."
1b. ...and at the end of supper he says: "That was very nice." He is copying Nick, of course.

2. The long brownish peppers that came in our veggie box yesterday are turning from green to red before our eyes. I've put them in the fruit bowl on top of the bananas in the hopes that the ethylene will help them along.

3. Alec has been pretending to be a horse called Galahad (it's ever since I offered pretend sugar to the broom that he was riding round the kitchen: the logic being that I might offer him real sugar). Today we took Alec out for an airing on The Pantiles. He was dawdling along the wall making clip-clop noises and I said: "Come on, Galahad, keep going," ... and laughed when I realised that I sounded like the sort of person who named her son Galahad. I wanted to talk loudly about how his name was really Alec and that he was only pretending to be a horse called Galahad, but I thought that would make me seem even worse.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Unexpected, sharing and can't go.

1. I didn't expect Alec to fall asleep right after breakfast, so I give myself an unexpected bath before I get dressed.

2. Alec and his friend arranging and re-arranging themselves on the cushion so they can  both see the book.

3. Someone has dropped my hair clip down the back of the bed. "I can't get it," I tell him. "My tummy is too fat to crawl under there." Of course it's annoying to be so big that I struggle to bend over, puff when I need to stand up and can't go crawling around the floor, but it's lovely to notice these differences as the weeks go by.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Washing, retiring and Clementine.

1. An airer full of washing.

2. To retire to a coffee shop with a pile of magazines.

3. Alec singing My Darling Clementine -- he particularly likes the verse that goes "How I missed her, how I missed her, how I missed my Clementine." He sings this part with theatrical misery and then cheers up for his personal mangling of the last two lines, which I don't think he understands at all: "Then I kissed her little sister and forgot my Clementine."