Thursday, October 31, 2013

Not lolling, hand over and two babies on.

1. When I prop Bettany up on the sofa she doesn't loll over sideways.

2. An aunt and a cousin come to play with Alec and cuddle Bettany on a day when I feel frazzled -- that breathing space was so needed.

3. I end up nursing both children at once because Bettany is grizzling and Alec is tired. Alec wriggles and scriggles until he is holding Bettany's hand. After a time, he takes himself off (he couldn't get into his getting to sleep usual position), snuggles up beside me and falls asleep.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Magic, story telling and filling in.

1. I love the idea of Alec joining in the spell poses that "send the magic" to Tree Fu Tom on TV because it's supposed to have all sorts of developmental benefits, plus he always needs to burn off some energy -- but he's never willing. Today he confides that he would like to try, but he thinks it's too difficult. We talk about practising things that are hard; and we talk about how difficult I found copying a sequence of moves (it's still hard, but I find it easier now because of years of yoga classes and a brief craze for salsa). I promise that I'll try, too, so we can do it together.
This is how we both end up on all fours in front of TV summoning a magic ant.
When Nick comes home I tell him all about it. Alec looks so proud and goes through the sequence to show him.

2. It is very gratifying to be asked twice to re-tell a silly story "about the time I left you in the park and the wind blew your clothes off and you ran around nudey until the squirrels adopted you".

3. I skip a word while reading Alec's fire station book. He firmly puts me right.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inspection, licking the bowl and a good delay.

1. When the wind has died down Nick and Alec go out to inspect the house for damage. For the rest of the day Alec tells anyone who will listen that he and Daddy are going up on the roof to fix it (this is not going to happen).

2. When the ginger cake is in the oven I let Alec lick the bowl. "Pick it up," he tells me. Without really thinking about it I do -- and discover that it's because he wants to put his face in and lick it.

3. The nurse apologises several times for running so late. I don't mind at all -- it meant we had time for a feed before we went in.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Job done, in an emergency and clear up.

1. To go upstairs and discover that Nick has put away the laundry and made the bed.

2. Alec has set up as a firestation in the front room. He takes calls on a phone made playdough.
"Hallo, what seems to be the problem?"
"The railway bridge has fallen down," says Uncle Robert giving the Brio layout a nudge with his foot. "The diesel has crashed into Henry."
"I'm on my way. Naw-nee naw-nee naw-nee... Dad! I want to do a poo!"

3. At the end of the day to clear the front room by stuffing all Alec's den building cushions and blankets into a large bag.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jigsaw, you can carry her and ginkgo.

1. Watching Alec using all the different techniques as he does a jigsaw puzzle -- copying the picture on the box, putting together just the tractor bit, finding all the corner pieces... I feel very proud.

2. Godmother Jo cuddling Bettany in the sling -- it's great to have a rest from the carrying.

3. To pick up a couple of butter yellow ginkgo leaves. I can never look at one of those strange fan shaped leaves without remembering my mother telling me that ginkgo is an incredibly ancient species.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Either... or, bouquets and russets.

1. Further down the hill there are two children carrying great bouquets of the plane tree leaves that everyone else is walking over.

2. On a whim our father buys two wicker hampers as storage in his study. We carry them down through town and in the music shop a man says: "Either you're going on a picnic or..." he tails off, not quite sure what he thinks we might be doing.
"...or we're going on two picnics," says Rosey.

3. Rosey's boyfriend gives us a strange look as we complain about russet apples -- just horrid, like fingernails on a blackboard, until they are peeled (after that we can't get enough of them).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Treasure seekers, grab and outfoxed.

1. As we hurry away from Jane's with a  bag of gleaming sweet chestnuts from her garden we overtake an older Chinese couple picking up similar treasures from the pavement.

2. Bettany grabs Meredith's bracelet and tries very hard, despite her disobedient arms, to put it in her mouth. When we take it away from her she protests loudly and tries to manoeuvre herself so that it is within reach. I've seen her manipulating toys that I've handed her, but it's the first time I've seen her grab something of her own accord.

3. Tempers fray at snack time.
"Why did you throw your cereal across the table?"
"Because I want a biscuit."*
"If you don't want something you say 'no thank you' and put it to one side. If you'd done that I would have given you a biscuit."
"I did it because I a naughty boy."
"No, you're a good boy, which is why it was a naughty thing to do, and that's why I feel cross."
My logic leaves us both baffled for a moment. Then Alec says, "I do want my tsereal."
"Here it is." (I'm thinking, bless him, and I'm thinking, go me and my parenting skills.)
"No thank you." He puts it carefully to one side. "Now can I have a biscuit. A biscuit, please."
I've been outfoxed by my own creation. To say no would require an explanation of the subjunctive (would and will are interchangeable to a toddler) and it seems easier to note the lesson and to give him the most boring biscuit I can find.

*The correct answer is "Because I am two and a half and the parts of my brain that control impulses will not be wired up for another year. Plus I'm very tired."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stop, in the gutter, knee deep in stars.

1. Things are a bit fraught, Bettany is crying for this, Alec wants something else, I'm not dressed, the cleaner is due in an hour and I have no idea what I want her to do. I realise that I can pick one just thing. I choose Bettany, because she is the most unhappy. I lift her out of the cot and cuddle her. Everything stops spinning. Alec stops asking for whatever it is he wants and -- this is most wonderful and charming -- kisses me where my neck meets my shoulder and Bettany on the back of her head. It is just what Nick would have done.

2. Alec walks with one foot on the pavement and one foot in the gutter, "gammy-legged in gutters", just like the children in the poem. "Would you like to do it, too?" he asks.
"Yes I would."

3. The Turkey oak at the corner of the Grove has dropped all its leaves. The boys shout with joy and dive right in, sinking up to their knees in the great red and copper stars.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not shouting bottom, guide and story time.

1. "Alec, that's enough. Bettany and I are going upstairs because we don't want to hear that sort of thing."
He calls after us "But Mummy, I'm not shouting 'BOTTOM' any more, I'm not."

2. The Mother says that Alec baffled her by taking her off down Coach and Horses Passage "to see the cows". The mobile farm, which we saw at the food festival, is long gone, but Flossie's Ice Cream Parlour is still there so she bought him a tiny strawberry cone to make up for the disappointment.

3. To snuggle up at Alec's bedtime with some books -- The Very Hungry Caterpillar finger puppet book and Where the Wild Things Are.

Attention, lion in the library and juice.

1. Bettany's wide awake head and enormous eyes scanning the street scene from the sling always draws comment -- women in cafes point her out to each other and complete strangers chat to us at the traffic lights.

2. Today there is a lion in the library surrounded by a chattering crowd of children. Alec is so scared that he starts to shake. He clings to my arm. "Deep breath, Alec. It's one of the librarians -- you can see the zip on his back."
To see him open his mouth, drop his shoulders and take charge of his body.

3. While I am getting supper I am suddenly thirsty (breastfeeding mothers will know this). Hidden behind the fridge door I swig pineapple juice straight from the bottle.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Early risers, rain and subtle knock.

1. Alec wakes early, and so do I (I mean I woke on my own rather than because someone was drumming their heels on my back and shouting "Bubby!"). We go downstairs and have breakfast together in an unhurried, companionable fashion, and I can give Nick the gift of a lie-in.

2. A rainstorm hisses out of the stone grey sky. To watch from your window as other people are inconvenienced by it.

3. We have a late supermarket delivery. The driver explains that he knocked quietly because he thought there might be children sleeping (he was right).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kisses, a puddle and conkers.

1. "Does she like kisses?" Alec asks about my new goddaughter.

2. It takes us a while -- this is surprising given the morning's rain storms -- but we find a puddle eventually. Alec stands in it and muddies his rain suit almost to the knees.

3. To show Alec a handful of conkers.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Treats, work and heavy.

1. "It's best if you just leave him to it," says Nana as we watch Jimmy-dog nosing his Kong treat dispenser round the kitchen. He looks so surprised and pleased every time a kibble drops out that it is hard to resist helping him.

2. To look back over a couple of hours of work on my course. I am so pleased I was disciplined enough to put my bum on the seat and do the work.

3. Late at night to feel Bettany's weight change as she falls asleep.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Remember, rescue and supper.

1. To look out of the window at the sun gilded clouds and to remember that observing such things is more productive than staring at a computer screen willing the words to come.

2. In the middle of the morning to luxuriate in bed bubbing Bettany and half listening to Alec playing out a rescue scenario, taking on both roles. Nick is seeing to lunch and all the other work that is never done.

3. For late supper we eat fried eggs with parma ham in large white muffins.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Out of the way, second crop and shoes.

1. We all run upstairs to be out of the cleaning lady's way. "This is nice," says Nick, "to be lying on the bed while someone else does the hoovering."

2. To spot a few pinhead-sized spots on my mushroom farm -- a second crop of oysters is coming.

3. To pack our shoes into the new racks by the front door. They don't sway like the old ones, and they look more intentional.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Advice, work and cheek.

1. "I don't care if it's perfect," says Nick firmly about lunch. "I just want it done."

2. An envelope of proof reading pushed through the door means a bit of financial freedom and an hour of non-child-related activity.

3. To rub my cheek against Bettany's or Alec's -- both rose-petal smooth and softly curved.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rhymer, museum and big eyes.

1. Alec laughing at the thought of watching a crane in the rain through a window pane on the train while drinking Champagne.

2. We let Alec lead us round the London Transport Museum. He boards buses of by-gone decades, presses buttons, shies at horses and bounces on defunct railway carriage upholstery. Nick and I take turns to sneak off to view at posters and to admire London Underground's design integrity. All in all, a satisfactory day.

3. No-one took any notice of Bettany dozing in the sling, expect a German lady tourist who, as we were leaving, commented on the pair of enormous blue eyes peering out from under my arm.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Flapjack, collection and creative plate.

1. Discovering that our flapjack has a layer of very dark chocolate on the bottom.

2. Cool pin badges displayed on a piece of ribbon -- this house is full of charming things carefully shown off to their best advantage. I look and learn a lot about collecting without clutter (I'm afraid part of the answer is to pass on your books as soon as you've read them).

3. They give Alec a plate decorated with a bald man and encourage him to give him grated cheese hair and a bread roll goatee. A little later, to my horror, I spot Alec mashing his cheese into a blob. "You should be eating that," I hiss.
"It's an eyepatch," he says quickly.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Housekeeping fail, Bettany laughs and smelling like home.

1. My housekeeping has slipped terribly and we are wasting food more often than usual because I plan to cook things and then don't have time, or because I don't have time to properly think through the shopping list. It's rather a relief to find that some of the onions in the fridge have gone bad so I can throw them out and make a dent in our daunting supply.

2. To get a little giggle out of Bettany -- a proper uncontrollable, spontaneous burst of laughter.

3. "Your sausage casserole makes the house smell like home."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lost, forgotten and shut.

1. The man carrying our pushchair and leading the way is walking too quickly. I don't want to lose him in the maze of corridors and I don't want to hold him up when he has been so kind. I look back and can't see Alec round the bend of the spiral stairs. The man is disappearing into the darkness. I am about to ask him to wait when I see Alec stumping grimly up the stone steps, banister in one hand, his yellow pot in the other. Later he tells me that he was 'prightened because I couldn't see you, but I kept going and then I did see you and I wasn't prightened any more.'

2. When we talk about it later, Alec doesn't remember that I was cross at having to pack up our picnic twice because he wanted to go to the loo. He remembers that I was pleased with him for using the pot, and that we had some cakey.

3. To shut the door on the rainy street.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Emergency, playing and cut up.

1. Alec asks me seriously "Is your fire on house?"

2. I feel so much better for a session of gaming. It's a tonic to disappear into a different world and think like someone else about problems that are not mine.

3. They want to show me Alec's painting of a hedgehog, but it seems he went to work on it with a pair of scissors and all there is to see is a scattering of dark grey scraps.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chocs, puffball and bundle.

1. The postman brings a parcel which I happen to know is a large box of chocolates.

2. To show Alec the pleasure of tapping a puffball to see the cloud of spores come out.

3. 'She's very a quiet baby,' says the ballet teacher about Bettany who has been waiting patiently on a blanket behind us.
'She's my cheerful little bundle,' I say.
'She's OUR little bundle,' says Alec.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Can't help, rolling and relief.

1. I am feeding Bettany so I can't help Alec at the toddler group craft table. With a bit of encouragement from the excellent women he produces a very fine hedgehog with tissue paper spines. They are much more hands-off than I would be, and I'm much more proud of the finished product than I would have been if I'd been 'helping'.

2. Bettany rolls over and looks very pleased with herself. Now she is not happy unless she's down on the floor where she can practise.

3. It's been one of those days: to hear Nick coming up the stairs.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Red and white, harvest and bringing them home.

1. Fairytale fly agarics pushing up out of the grass.

2. Alec brings me the bunch of grapes that he has just picked from the greenhouse. There is also a dish of wet walnuts on the table, and a dish of cobnuts.

3. To carry my sleeping boy up the stairs to bed; and to come down again to the dark front room and find Bettany in her carseat watching for me with big bright eyes.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Herbs, sweet and stitches.

1. To cook pork chops on a birdsnest of rosemary stems and bay twigs.

2. The toffee at the bottom of the saucepan in which I melted sugar, butter and syrups for my cake.

3. Nick has been going on and on (he hasn't, I am bad tempered) about an embroidery programme that he thinks I'll like (it's going to make me feel guilty about all the unfinished stitchwork I that I have stuffed in the cupboard). Worse, I know it'll be inspiring and I hardly have time to deal with inspiration now. Actually though, it's lovely to sit next to Nick on the sofa, to see women's work valued and celebrated and respected, and it feels good to experience this stunning work as a spectator because I really can't participate now.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Waking on a Saturday, one arm and lucky dip.

1. I wake and immediately feel discouraged at the thought of the day's hard work (I'm not at my best just after waking). This is quickly followed by "But it's Saturday and Nick is home!" Later I discover that Nick went through pretty much the same thought process.

2. Nick eating his pizza one handed while Bettany sleeps in the crook of his arm.

3. Because Alec has been good and because it's only 50p I point out the lucky dip in the corner of the Pantiles Papertole. At first he thinks he's handed over 50p to get a single packing bean, but is soon put right and comes away with a bouncy ball. We have a merry old time trying to catch it as it bounces all over the Pantiles.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Escape, dart and off duty.

1. To disappear into a book -- Cursed by Benedict Jacka. This is the second in his Alex Verus urban fantasy series. It's about mages living in modern London, like Harry Potter but less whimsical and more gritty. The book is full of cliffhangers and the plots rely heavily on the interplay of relationships, romantic relationships, working relationships and hard to explain relationships. When I'm not reading it I'm thinking about it -- this is exactly the sort of literary experience I like.

2. From time to time both children take a nap and I want so much to run down to the High Street and get myself something nice to eat that I don't have to share with anyone. But I can't wake my babies to leave the house -- and if I did, I would have to share. So this afternoon it's a great treat to leave my mother in charge while I dart down the hill to get a bit of tea.

3. My mother took Alec to nursery and later in the afternoon when I get a message to say that he's on the early train I ask Nick to collect him.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Lighten up, baby and rescue rabbits.

Wynn Anne asked me to post a meme, eleven things about me, so I've done it.

1. To ask the hairdresser to 'take some of the weight' off my hair. It feels so good afterwards. I'm at the hair-losing stage of my postpartum journey and it's good to have a shorter length, too.

2. Bettany sits on my knee throughout the cut, ogling her reflection and being admired by the hairdressers, who all say they want a baby too. 'If we're all pregnant next time you come in,' they say as we leave, 'it'll be your fault.'

3. Alec's nursery has just acquired two new rabbits. 'They're rescue rabbits,' explains the staff member who looks after them. I'm really glad to hear this as I know the RSPCA and similar organisations are inundated with poor little (mainly not so little) bunnies.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Affection, yield and stealing a sip.

1. Spontaneous cuddles from a small man still in his pyjamas.

2. Alec, much against his better judgement, yields to sleep at 6.30pm. The house becomes very quiet and very still.

3. To drink a few mouthfuls of Nick's cider. It tastes farmyardy but very refreshing -- Dunkerton's Black Fox.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What clouds are, rude noises and salad.

1. Alec tells me that clouds are the con trails from the steam-powered 'eperlanes'.

2. A while back Anna gave Alec a box with buttons that make sound effects, mostly rude noises. For some weeks it's been in the back of the TV cupboard, I can't imagine how it got there or why it's stayed there so long... Alec pulled it out the other day and today he uses the fart and the burp buttons to amuse Bettany. Her laugh (like her presently rather vulgar sense of humour) is still undeveloped and a little hesitant -- it's a gravelly hur-hur-hur and she looks surprised every time it happens.

3. I get a box of salad from Juliet's to eat with our fish fingers at lunch -- I can see Bettany needs bubbing and I can't face preparing any vegetables. Juliet's salads are imaginative and more delicious than you can imagine -- a box of her salad can be a sort of Proustian experience because the flavours are so vivid that I always remember dishes from my past. Alec doesn't even take one bite of his so I eat it for him. (At toddler group the craft was a plate of food made from cut-out magazine pictures. He picked chocolate buttons, raisins, gummy bears and a cake. The grilled fish is only there because I made him put it on.)


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Practice, emptying and two tasks.

1. Watching a tiny smiley person practising walking in little pink shoes.

2. When the house bins are overflowing to take the bags of rubbish out.

3. While the milk heats for my hot chocolate there is time to tidy the front room.