Saturday, August 31, 2013

Paint, writing and fishmongers.

1. To  my surprise, Alec asks to do painting. It keeps him and his friend occupied while I get lunch, though it keeps us mothers on our toes as well -- breaking up fights, dishing out paper and opening paint pots.
Artwork drying on the washing line
2. To sit next to my mother (who is holding Bettany) and do a little writing.

3. I report to Nick about our day: '...and first thing we went to Sankey's for some fish and Alec walked very nicely all the way there and he asked if we could buy a lobster-'
'Yes, he'd been looking forward to that,' says Nick. I'd told Alec we were going to the fishmongers as soon as we woke up -- he doesn't like to be hurried into outings so I try to let him know what we're doing each day. Apparently they'd been chatting about it in the bathroom while Nick got dressed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bad habit, morning errand and Mrs Tiggywinkle.

1. We have got into the habit of plunking Alec in front of the TV in the mornings. It's a questionable habit but it gives me the space I need to bub Bettany, eat breakfast and get dressed. However, I make sure that I am on the sofa next to him for Q Pootle 5, a cartoon about chubby aliens on a rather lovely desert planet. It's a landscape of crashed space junk, craters, scrapyards and mineral lakes with spots of lush vegetation. I never get tired of looking at it (and I never get tired of cuddling Alec and discussing the plot).

2. Alec is much less wayward when we go out walking -- it is now possible to fit in a morning errand. We porgle down to Oxfam Books to pick up a paperback that's come to the end of the road. I'm going to grow mushrooms on it.

3. I know I loved Mrs Tiggywinkle as a child, but I'd forgotten why. On the last page Beatrix Potter claims to have seen the little door in the hillside, and now I come to read it again I definitely remember being delighted by this, and convinced that one day I would go to the Catbells and find it (and perhaps Little Town farm) for myself.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Petals, brave and out to tea.

1. Maggie solemnly hands me a couple of bright yellow daisy petals. 'These are for baby Bettany.'

2. 'I think you're very brave bringing both of them out,' says the nurse.

3. 'Is everything enjoyable?' asks the waiter. I look across the table at Alec nibbling on a piece of garlic bread and down at Bettany nursing away and at my pizza with Parma ham and rocket and I say with conviction 'Yes it is.'

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Beginning of the end, helping hands and defiance.

1. A friend captions a photo with a remark about the air holding a touch of the beginning of the end of summer. It's an observation that I like very much and it comes to mind when I open the back door at breakfast time and see a fine veil of mist beyond the back wall.

2. Katie comes to help at lunch. She brings us ice creams as well as good company and an extra pair of hands.

3. For the sour-faced ladies ranged along the Pantiles like bitter fruits on a high wall I have a defiant smile as I walk past with my raging toddler straining at the pushchair straps.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Posh talk, little pitchers and bright eyes.

1. During their last visit Grandad commented that Alec had picked up lots of 'posh talk'. If only he could hear the lad today as he peppers his sentences liberally with 'Awright'. 'You go upstairs, awright, and you say "halp halp", awright, and I rescue you, awright.'

2. At the end of a tough day Nick remarks that it won't be long before they go off to university. I laugh bitterly and give him a short lecture on some of the phonecalls one gets from student children. A treble voice in the corner of the kitchen pipes up, 'Dad, I been arrested. Dad, need more money.'

3. To look down at the Bundle-oo in my lap and see a large, bright-eyed smile. She's changed so much in the last few weeks. I sometimes look at her face at the end of a feed and think that she's grown since I put her on.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cousin, cucumber and complete families.

1. A cousin comes with cakes and spends the day making Alec shriek with laughter.

2. The ring of sparkling dew drops on the cut face of my homegrown cucumber.

3. There is a jazz festival on the Pantiles this weekend. Entire families -- from grandmothers like little white birds to fat toddlers surrounded by bright plastic cups and spoons -- sit at the tables outside Woods and The Grey Lady and the new hotel.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our babies, home through the rain and a glass of water.

1. After lunch we stand in the park, me, Katie and Sarah, and watch our increasingly large babies running around on the grass. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were the ones running round on the grass.

2. Alec and I scamper home through the downpour. Alec in his shiny blue boots and rain suit is intrigued by this unfamiliar drenched world. 'Is de car doin' a widdle?' 'Where'd the water going?' 'What dat noise?'

3. To gulp down a glass of water after a salty meal.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pimpernel, bun and on the road.

1. A pimpernel flower fully open grows between the wall and pavement. Pimpernels close up their tiny scarlet flowers if it's going to rain later.

2. 'It's probably boring and hard,' she says to me as she hands Alec his little brown bun. But he's proud of it and when I have a taste it's OK. It's more appetising and less messy than the usual sticky items with icing  that melts all over the pushchair.

3. We are hurrying home because Ed and Eve are visiting. We run into Ed on the High Street and walk back with him to meet his missus on her way down the hill.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ladies' afternoon, questions and a giant moth.

1. In the afternoon Bettany and I retire to bed. She feeds and I read.

2. 'Can a hippamopotamus eat a bus?'

3. A giant velvety dark moth comes into the front room. We turn out the lights and catch it on the window with a glass so we can throw it back out into the night sky.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Girl toy, first meeting and no widdle.

1. I feel a bit miffed that the server put a toy Smurfette into Alec's meal box, rather than one of the boy Smurfs. But he's delighted with his 'little girl' and keeps smiling at her.

2. Great Granny Pat holds Bettany for the first time. 'I think she was very pleased,' says my mother afterwards.

3. 'There was no widdle,' admits Alec looking down at his empty pot.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dance, I want to look and calming down.

1. The splashes of light and shadow on the hill make the checks on an old man's shirt dance.

2. 'Go that way,' says Alec pointing back the way we've come. 'I just want to look at something.'
There's ten minutes before his haircut so I indulge, wondering if this is a delaying tactic.
'Over there!' He points across the road. An empty building has a series of sculptures by local art students in the windows. 'Lift me up! I want to see.'

3. I just want everyone to stop crying. There is too much sound and fury for one kitchen. I walk out into the garden with Bettany on my shoulder -- in the open air I can work out what to do next. Bettany stops crying. Alec comes out, too, and gets distracted by his watering can.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A lie-in, secret ingredient and in the garden.

Sorry for the silence -- I've been ill for the past few days and Bettany has been having a growth spurt so we went to bed and forgot about everything but feeding and resting.

1. Bettany has a lie in, so Alec and I scamper downstairs and give each other some undivided attention.

2. The Mother admits that the secret ingredient in her trifle is Mr Kipling's Almond Slices (with the pastry taken off).

3. To investigate the garden after being away from it for a few days. There is a new nasturtium out; and a few tomato side-shoots to pinch out; and the two cucumbers are almost ready to pick (which is lucky because we've nearly run out).

Monday, August 19, 2013

Watching, lunchtime and party report.

1. When it's just getting light I'm in bed, leaning back on a mountain of pillows. Bettany sits on my belly, leaning against my thighs. These grey light minutes are just for us.

2. We've had a few tantrumy mealtimes lately -- it's a pleasure to see Alec come to the table and enjoy eating a plateful of food. I think it's partly because he's hungry and partly because we used the timer. It's odd that he doesn't come to the table when I ask; but he will come when the tock-tick goes off.

3. I ask Alec what he liked best about the party.
'Girls,' he says.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Driven away, bacon sandwich and company.

1. The way the morning light chases away the night's outlandish fancies.

2. To sneak downstairs with Bettany and fuel up with a bacon sandwich for breakfast.

3. To have Nick's company for the last feed.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Greenland, paracetamol and priorities.

1. We have a table cloth with a map design on it. Alec jabbed at a landmass with his spoon, 'What dat?'
'It's Greenland.'
'Where there's ice and snow and the whale fishes blow?' He's quoting one of his favourite songs, Greenland Whale Fisheries.* He continues in the same breath, 'The harpoon struck and the line paid out with a single plourish of his tail...'

2. Paracetamol -- the fact that we always have some in the house.

3. Dropping everything except feeding and cuddling Bettany.

* He refused to get out of the bath the other night until I told him I had harpooned him in the bottom. Then he came along very nicely.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hallo Alec, games master and space for me.

1. When I drop Alec off at nursery the carer who meets us at the door goes down on one knee and greets him (rather than me). He gives her a big hug as if he's missed her all week.

2. Meredith comes bringing cupcakes... bringing her dice and a map of Darnassus. She had put together a special adventure just for me so that I could keep up my experience levels for our Tuesday Knights campaign.* My nightelf finds herself framed for murder and must do some sleuthing to clear her name.

3. The cosy space left for me between the mass of pillows I need for nursing, the gently snoring Alec and Bettany's cot.

Tim's account and Meredith's account of our adventures.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just us, out the other side and fairytale.

1. Bettany conveniently falls asleep during breakfast. Alec and I use the time well by cuddling on the sofa - it's a relief not to be reminding him to be gentle and kind.

2. Katie talks about some of her pregnancy woes, and I am so glad to be out the other side.

3. Alec tries to persuade us that he is a sleeping prince who must be woken with a kiss. Baby Loey is not convinced, but is prepared to indulge him by blowing a kiss down from the sofa.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Extra hands, paper and to bed.

1. An aunt arriving with a bag of groceries (and an extra pair of hands and some good advice).

2. To listen vaguely to Alec and Janey playing with paper and pens.

3. I am so tired I can't think straight. I hand Bettany over to Nick and go to bed early.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Not snow, other hands and early sleep.

1. 'Look, it snowing!' I run to the window to see such a marvel as snow in August. It's a cabbage white butterfly battling against a gust of wind.

2. The sound of other people (my aunt and cousin) quickly tidying up downstairs while I help Alec off to sleep.

3. Bettany falls into her deep milky sleep quite early so I bundle her into the cot, pause to admire my lanky sleeping toddler and creep upstairs to chat with Nick before we go to sleep.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Two children, is this thing on and packing away.

1. Brave Nick marches out to the park with two children. 'Look,' I tell him, 'the worst that could happen is that Bettany starts crying. And does a huge poo that goes everywhere. Just come home in that case.' It occurs to me that I'm not selling it very well.

2. Alec has been talking about wanting a microphone and I've been studiously ignoring him -- noisy electronic toys drive me to spiteful acts so I try to keep them out of the house. By chance he and Nick find (they weren't even in a toy shop) a wonderful cheap plastic thing -- a microphone with a sort of sound reflector connected to a spring to distort your voice a little, not too loudly, though, and it doesn't have any extra sounds.

3. To pack away Alec's day nappies because he no longer needs them. It's funny to think that a week and a half ago we were still changing him every few hours and doing this huge load of washing every couple of days (actually, Bettany's nappies make quite a large wash by themselves).



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Whatever you like, treasure boxes and gold rings.

1. I am hungry all the time -- it takes a lot of calories to grow a newborn, and I'm nursing a greedy toddler on top of that. I often know I want something to eat, but don't fancy anything we have in the house (that's from years of treating snacking as a bad habit). Today I wander round the farmers' market and buy everything I fancy for lunch.

2. Nick and Alec have taken to rummaging through my boxes of costume jewellery at story time. Alec calls them 'treasure boxes' and takes a pirate's pleasure in the trinkets within. This evening he asks me to bring a particular box down. I stopped wearing jewellery when Alec was born because I couldn't bear the thought of metal things hurting him; and then he got too interested in shining, jingling things; and now I'm out of the habit. Looking through the box reminded me of how much pleasure jewellery gives me -- not just catching a glint or a flash of colour; but the stories behind the pieces, where they came from, when I wore them, who borrowed them, how I repaired them.

3. Alec holds my fingertips against his new fear of falling asleep in the dark. My wedding and engagement rings appear to glow.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

After breakfast, waiting and Alec's voice.

1. That time after breakfast when we sit on the sofa and watch CBeebies while Bettany has a feed.

2. The receptionist says 'You two are a picture of relaxation.' I'm feeding Bettany while we wait for our appointment.

3. To her Alec's voice on the nursery door intercom.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Owls, a day of scents and the request.

1. Meredith brings a collage of owls in for Bettany. I love it at once and can't wait to put it in the bedroom to watch over us while we sleep.

2. I notice Meredith noticing smells -- in particular, Bettany's scent; and the way she is drawn into shops by their scent. Later, Alec says, as he often does, about some flowers 'Can I smal it?' and I make a note because this is the sort of thing I want to remember.

3. He asks me for a story about 'A Viking who wears a Viking shirt, Viking pants and a Viking nappy'.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Lying in, understanding and all out.

1. Nick takes Alec downstairs for early breakfast and leaves him in front of the TV to come and cuddle me. Afterwards he says that it was only for about ten minutes but I'm so sleepy that the time seems to stretch out luxuriously.

2. I feel rather shamed in front of all these other mothers because Alec won't obey me when I ask him to come downstairs and eat his lunch. I try to stop worrying and to slip into his world and into our parenting bubble -- only then can I understand that he feels overwhelmed by the crowd and the noise and activity in the kitchen. 'Let's take your bowl and sit in the garden.' He starts to walk downstairs.

3. A sleeping baby in the sling and a sleeping toddler in the pushchair. I feel as if I've won the lottery. I go home the long way to make sure as many people as possible can see my parenting skills.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Thanks, role play and following.

1. At 2am to offer a small thank-you to my former self, who thought to put out a clean nappy, wipes and sleep suit by the changing mat.

2. 'Halp, halp, yellow ball is stuck in my throat' is not a phrase you want to hear from your toddler. Further investigation reveals that Alec has a ping pong ball tucked under his chin. We spend a cheerful 20 minutes performing first aid on each other (and for more serious cases, going to the hospital in an ambulance so the doctor can operate using a saw and a noisy drill).

3. I notice that Bettany's bright round eyes are following me (or perhaps just the sound of my voice).


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Pizzas, spa water and helping the trees.

1. Slicing up pizzas for lunch. It's very satisfying to rock the knife back and forwards to get clean slices.

2. Ellie and Daniel sharing a glass of Tunbridge Wells spa water.

3. Alec did his first widdle away from home -- he wasn't quite brave enough to use the public loo with its scary hand dryer, but a tree on the common was quite acceptable. Daniel, who is a few years older and a few years more experienced, showed him how to do it and explained that trees need lots of watering. I'm really glad he (and Cat) were there to guide us -- I didn't have any notion of how to explain the technique to Alec and I'd been dreading the moment he asked to go when there was no potty near.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Extra hands, treat that doesn't look like a treat and white noise.

1. On a day when nothing is quite right, Rosey comes (with a bunch of sweetpeas) to hold babies and amuse toddlers.

2. Recently happiness guru Gretchen Rubin talked about treats that don't look like treats. Today, my treat that doesn't look like a treat was to weed the front garden. It needed doing; and pulling spurge seedlings out of gravel doesn't require too much thought or effort.

3. Bettany, like tiny Alec, finds the sound of the washing machine soothing and soporific.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Affair, run-out and salad.

1. During naptime I sneak out of the house with Bettany in the sling to pick up a few bits of shopping. Afterwards we go to a coffee shop. It feels a bit like we're having an affair. I prop her on the arm of the sofa so she can look out of the window. Her head wobbles from side to side as she takes in the street scene. A few people stop to admire her through the glass.

2. We come home to a frazzled Nick. I point Alec at the pot, shovel him into one of his new pairs of pants, a pair of shorts and his new wellies, and then we get the hell out of there.

3. Popping broad beans out of their pods while a piece of bacon crisps up in the frying pan.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Eggs, big boy pants and growing up.

1. Rolling a hard boiled egg on the table to crack the shell.

2. Alec goes off to nursery not wearing a nappy (but with four changes of trousers in his bag). I am very proud of him.

3. Bettany is already growing into clothes that swamped her a month ago.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Autumn, bliss and chocolate.

1. Spotting a few mauve michaelmas daisies and rowan berries that are flushed with orange. The year is turning again.

2. When I remark on Bettany's blissful expression my beautician, who is holding her explains, 'I didn't offer healing, she just started taking it.' Bettany is certainly calmer afterwards: she lies on my chest smiling at me while I have legs waxed.

3. A slice of bitter-sweet chocolate torte loaded with soft sharp raspberries.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Gone quiet, extra hands and clean plate.

1. Alec and Susan's younger boy have gone very quiet. When we go looking for them we find them up in Nick's attic. They are lying on the bed chatting like a couple of teenage girls.

2. I am always so happy to have another adult around at lunch time: Susan starts the cooking, then holds Bettany and wrangles our boys so I can do a bit. When Bettany starts to miss me I take her back and Susan takes over cooking.

3. Susan's older boy ate all his pasta (the littlies got distracted and ran away) so we slip him a gingerbread man (I have every sympathy with him -- I can't count the number of times I have forgone pudding because Alec had no appetite for his lunch).