Saturday, November 30, 2013

Grace, listening in and being boys.

1. Alec falls off a chair while I'm in the shower. With bad grace (because the hot water has been unreliable these last few days) I give him a damp cuddle and an arnica pillule. Afterwards I apologise for not being properly sympathetic. He says "But you gave me a cuddle and I felt better".

2. To sit in a cafe with Bettany and half listen to the conversations around us (some of which run along the lines of  "awww, bless her..." and "...such big eyes...".

3. When I pick up Alec from nursery I am told that towards the end of the day they opened all the rooms up and let the boys run around "just being boys. They encourage each other, shouting and jumping and when one gets tired the others wake him up." I think I'd have liked to see (and hear) it!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Are we, tiny adventure and booking up.

1. Alec asking -- again -- if we are going to the Natural History Museum this afternoon.

2. To step from an appointment into the misty afternoon. I cuddle Bettany close in to me and wonder what we should do with our free time.

3. To book up a visit to Father Christmas for Nick and Alec.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Joining in, in the other room and wide eyes.

1. There is a dear funny little girl at ballet who is as tall as Alec but much more sturdy. She waggles a severe finger at her naughty toes and smiles at her good toes but then frowns because they have not complied. She is not the best mover, but she is turner upper and a joiner inner and she will go far in life with that.

2. The sound of Alec playing with a train in the other room while we drink tea.

3. To notice that Bettany's gummy eye is wide and bright once again. I treated it with a squirt of my own milk, as recommended by the health visitor

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Not going, megatherium and pterodactyls.

1. At the imposing front entrance of the 'Natricity Museum' Alec loses his nerve and says he doesn't want to go in and see the dinosaurs. We promise him that there are plenty of other things to see and that he needn't look at dinosaurs, and he is happy with that.

2. I stop startled at a megatherium skeleton posed with a tree trunk as if it is munching on some high foliage. I knew they were large (giant sloth, see) and elephant-sized, but I hadn't processed the idea of an elephant-sized sloth. While I am staring I lose Nick and Alec. I find a glyptodon skeleton and lose them even more while I am picturing an ice age swamp abounding with car-sized armadillos.

3. Pterodactyls fossilised in sheets of rock in a tangle of wings and limbs like insects on a windscreen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Slow down, end of autumn and what are you doing.

1. Alec complains that his scooter goes too fast down hill. I make a suggestion. He gives it a try and I feel as if my heart will burst at the stylish way he uses his scooting foot to touch the orange brake.

2. The beeches in their end of autumn colours look like the heart of a log fire.

3. A particularly sanctimonious parenting feed on Facebook asks us to say what our children are doing right now -- "It gives such a wonderful snapshot of play!" My honest answer would be "Watching television and eating cake." I don't offer it up -- who needs a bunch of insecure sanctimummies lecturing you about activities more wholesome than TV?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Baking, breaking an egg and cheered up.

1. "This is pastry, son, not cakies. This is proper cooking."

2. Alec taps his egg as he's been taught, and puts his thumbs in. The yolk and white fall perfectly -- and then he throws the shell into the bowl after them.

3. Bettany is arching her back and grumbling as I change her. I turn my back for a moment and when I turn back she has done a tiny poo on the towel and is smiling and blowing raspberries as if she's never known a moment's hardship.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Company, stay away and tea merchants.

1. Louise comes and sits with me while I bub Bettany. It's good to finally chat while my mind is (relatively) unoccupied.

2. Alec holds my hand firmly and says I am not to go any nearer the large animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex in the toy shop "because it's a meat eater, Mummy".

3. The owners of Perk and Pearl, the new tea and coffee merchants round the corner greet Alec like an old friend. Last week they offered him a taster of fudge and now anyone who takes him walking is escorted in -- just, you  know, on the off-chance that there is another free sample available.

3b. I'd forgotten how much I like lapsang souchong -- the osprey variety we had for tea was particularly good, lots of smoke, not so much bitterness.

4. One I forgot from Friday: The Tunbridge Wells webcomic Miriam's Daily Adventures has gone a bit noirish recently as Miriam unravels a doppelganger mystery. I spend a happy few minutes catching up while Alec enjoys spotting local landmarks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A pink foot, one line and the whale.

1. When I turn back to Bettany she has a pink foot in her mouth and a blissful expression on her face.

2. Meredith brings a box of Paul's macaroons. "You do one line," she says, "And I'll do the other."

3. I tell Alec about Jonah and the Whale and he recounts the story back to me -- except that it's Alec who gets swallowed by the whale, and it's 'Mummy' doing the telling, not God.

Friday, November 22, 2013

To look, noticed and our anniversary.

Fourth Wedding Anniversary
1. I am glad to wait because it gives me time to look and look at my sleeping baby with her features sleep soft and translucent.

2. "They wouldn't do well in the wild, would they, babies. They're completely helpless," says the physiotherapist as if it has never occurred to him before. Bettany spends my treatment lying on a blanket practising her rolling and smiling whenever I catch her eye.

3. It's our fourth wedding anniversary. We mark it with Champagne and boxes of sushi in the front room. It is very romantic and sophisticated (apart from Bettany rolling around blowing raspberries in the background).

Picture by Katherine Pope

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Push, wakeful and soothing.

1. "Push my chair in!"
But I'm bubbing Bettany on the other side of the kitchen. "I can't reach you. You'll just have to stretch until I've finished."
He puts his feet against the table and shoves so the chair slides away from the table and towards me. "Now can you reach?"
This makes me laugh and I scoot my nursing chair in his direction.

2. I'm about to get back to work when I hear a sad little voice calling for me. "I want you to stay up here. I'm sad all on my own," and then he's asleep again.

3. Bettany is struggling with wind. To pick her up and hold her and kiss her through her flossy hair and to jiggle her until she falls asleep again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tea in bed, distract and towers.

1. The offer of morning tea in bed.

2. Because Janey is here to distract Alec I can clear the lunch things completely, rather than piling everything into slidey towers on the work top.

3. To marvel at Alec as he leans long Duplo 'ladders' on precarious building block towers. He didn't have had the fine motor skills to do this a month ago.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How it works, good work and babysitter.

1. "...and my shoes are getting smaller so Bettany can wear them..." says Alec when I tell him that his old shoes have now gone away.

2. When I comment to next door's roofer that the storm must have created a bit of work for him he shrugs and says sadly "Yeah, but it's other people's misery, isn't it."

3. We leave Janey in charge of the children (one asleep, one watching silently with wide blue eyes) and go up the road to the pub where we have one drink and talk mainly about the children.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flashing shoes, lorry and hanging on.

1. I have been secretly longing to buy Alec a pair of those shoes with flashing lights because... well because they weren't available when I was little and how cool is it to have flashing lights on your shoes? But they weren't available in his size, and then they weren't available in the style that fit him best... today however, he and Nick return from the library swinging a shoe shop bag. Little red lights flicker on Alec's shoes. "We got halfway up the hill," explains Nick, "and he complained that his feet hurt so we dropped into Jones and they measured him." He's gone up two sizes since September.

2. The lorry driver at the ice rink because he let Alec and Nick climb up into his cab. "And I pressed the horn because there was a car coming HOOOOONNNNNNKKKK!"
"And it was a properly big lorry," says Nick, "We had to climb up to here," he indicates the level of his head.

3. The autumn leaves that still hang on bravely into grey November for our viewing pleasure. Warm yellow leaves shimmering on a birch tree stand out today, and berry-red leaves on suburban acers.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Breakfast together, get out and stash.

1. At getting up time Bettany is still in a deep sleep following her unusual dawn feed. Alec and I go down to breakfast. He sits colouring until I am ready for his help with breaking eggs and stirring batter. In the past few weeks we've noticed that he has become a lot less intense and less demanding -- sad in a way because he it means he is less of a baby; but it does make him easier to live with.

2. I sometimes (often) don't do things that I really want to do because it is so much effort to get out of the house. Today I have Nick to help me get ready, which makes it less of a mission; and I am meeting Katie and her girls, which gives me the kick in the pants I need to get moving.

3. While searching for a tin to put the parkin in I discover a secret (forgotten) stash of Cadbury's chocolate cake bars. Yum yum yum.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pear, not my place and free mince pie.

1. To peel a very small pear and share it with Alec.

2. I put Bettany down on Alec's side of the bed and she giggles as if she thinks we're doing something naughty.

3. To find a free mince pie in our Abel and Cole box. And later, to go through the Christmas catalogue with Nick.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Trim, pot and shoulder.

1. Alec's lovely hairdresser turns her special tractor seat round so he can look out into the street while she works. (If you're looking for a child-friendly hairdresser in Tunbridge Wells, I recommend Cutz on Grosvenor Road).

2. I take Alec to the loo and offer him the pot. He says no. I ask him if he's sure, and remind him that the last few times we've eaten out he has asked to go just as our food arrived. "I not ask to go before lunch EVER EVER again," he assures me.

3. "...and you can stop protecting it," says the physio. For the first time in months my shoulders go back. It's partly because he's explained what's going wrong -- and partly relief because I've finally got treatment.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reflection, not needed and mystery package.

1. To spot the reflections of a particularly good sunset on west-facing buildings, and to meander through the village looking for a viewing spot. And to hear Alec saying: "Look at the orange in the sky!" He told me there was no pink or grey, though (he was not entirely correct in this assertion).

2. Nick is late and both children are asleep. For an hour, no-one needs me.

3. A parcel arrives after 8pm and I can't remember what it is. I'm bubbing Bettany on the sofa so I have to wait and see (it's Christmas cards and rolls of wrapping paper from my Phoenix supplier).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Back at you, paperwhites and tactics.

1. Alec asks to watch a DVD. I am eating my breakfast and I think it's too early for watching TV and too early to debate this point so I tell him that I don't know how to work the DVD player.
"Mummy after breakfast you must practise and practise and practise until you can," he tells me earnestly.

2. Sarah, Anna and I meet to plant up paperwhites. It's becoming a bit of an annual tradition -- we started doing it because we wanted to remember Elspeth Thompson. We all loved her writing and her style and she was kind enough to encourage me in my writing career. We still miss her and are still mourning this friendship that might have been. The paperwhites are for me a pure white light in a dark time of year, and I plant them up because I know from her books that Elspeth loved them in her house at midwinter.*

3. To hear two mothers who are a bit further ahead than us cackling with laughter as they describe phoning their husbands when the children were crying just to make the point that being at home with toddlers is the hardest work you will ever do.

*This is a rotten time of year if you suffer from self-destructive thoughts -- please talk to someone, don't walk alone. There is an international directory of suicide prevention hotlines here for anyone that needs it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Searching, hand over and in from the car.

1. We wake late but can't quite believe it and go searching round the house for Nick.

2. On a Monday so dark and wet that it looks like 4pm even before we've had breakfast to hand over most responsibilities to my mother. She even comes and picks us up.

3. My father brings sleeping Alec, shod feet dangling, in from the car and takes him straight upstairs to bed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Forgiven, brights and a sound.

1. At 7.34am Alec comes back downstairs and tells me that Daddy says he doesn't have any sweets in his attic. I apologise and say that I was mistaken in my previous assertion. He climbs into bed beside me and asks for a cuddle.

2. The trees are almost bare but the leaves still left are all kinds of bright where the low-angled sun hits them -- green, some of them, lemon yellow, crisp brown, orange.

3. Before Alec started talking he used to make a lovely sound when he discovered something surprising that he liked. He never does it any more. This evening in the bath I built a tower out of some plastic containers and lids from his bath toy bag. When he saw what I was doing, he made that noise.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gift of time, Katie's faces and out of the rain.

1. To give Nick a lie-in and then take the children away for lunch so he can have some quiet time.

2. To see Baby Loey doing Katie's expressions, and once, she looked just like Katie's mother.

3. To hurry through the rain with Alec safe in the pushchair bubble and Bettany in the sling peeping out of the top of my waterproof.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Menu, sitting still and exit.

1. "And we'll go to Wagamama and you'll have fish fingers..." (they call them cod cubes in panko breadcrumbs with amai sauce, but they are fish fingers with tomato sauce as far as Alec is concerned and he always asks for them. Once I dropped him off at nursery still clutching a cod cube because I was unable to prise his fingers open to remove it).
"I want spaghetti."
So he tries noodles instead -- I'm rather impressed that he remembered the other food choices as we don't go that often.

2. I spend the afternoon tanking Bettany up because I want to leave her for a couple of hours this evening. It is absolute bliss to sit down on the sofa with her and not feel I ought to be doing something else. This is where I am meant to be.

3. To burst free from the evening house leaving Alec and Bettany and bedtime in Nick's arms. I'm on my way to hear Chris Packham talk about conservation and photography; and to talk grown-up talk with Caroline during the interval.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Left foot, dungeon crawl and castle.

1. Bettany sucking her left foot with a very smug look on her face -- she has been fussing about it all morning, grunting at the effort of it and rolling over by accident

2. Meredith apologises for a short adventure, but I enjoyed my old school dungeon crawl with plentiful loot, lots of traps and shambling monsters, though I still seem to be rolling too many ones and twos and I came away with a mummy's curse. The curse is a great hook for next time.

3. At nursery they've been playing with a wooden castle all afternoon. She says: "I found it in the basement. I mended it and found a dragon and a queen and some knights." The dragon appears to be a dinosaur -- but I know Alec is very fond of knights and castles (and dinosaurs, too, for that matter).

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Laughing, wind in the chimney and key.

1. Why is Bettany laughing when I push Alec on the swing?  I wish she could tell me (Alec is laughing, too, but he always laughs on the swing).

2. The sound of the wind rustling the plastic bag full of newspapers I've stuffed up the chimney to block out draughts.

3. The faint chink of Nick getting his key out on the other side of the front door.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tint, benighted and tall tale.

1. The sunset and the dying chestnut leaves have tinted the fading daylight sepia.

2. I totally underestimate Alec's dawdling powers and darkness falls before we can get off the common. "We're benighted," I tell him, "and I don't like it."
"Don't be scared," he says from his seat in the pushchair, "I'm a big fella and I'll look after you."

3. To be invited in to one of Alec's narratives: "You be Canical Jack and I'm Alec" ... "Now you be the monster and don't give me back my telescope, and I'm Canical Jack and Alec."
I'm quite proud of the monster -- it makes Alec slightly hysterical, half laughing, half scared while Bettany giggles from her nest in the corner of the bed.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Museum, at twilight and expedition.

1. Alec has reached the dinosaur phase, with a particular interest in iguanadons, and so we walk up to the town museum which has some iguanadon fossils, including a cast of a footprint, and a rather fine piece of plesiosaur skull. On the way home Alec finds a stick -- it's an iguanadon and I am instructed to give him extra snack because he is sharing with it.

2. An anxious teenage boy waits at sunset by the basketball court. A boy in a red-edged grammar school jacket walks up the hill with girl so blonde that her hair glows in the fading daylight. The two boys embrace. The grammar school boy turns and walks back the way he came, leaving the girl and the anxious boy in serious conversation.

3. We run into an old friend from the disbanded Tunbridge Wells Fortean Society who reminds me of a field trip we made down to Pett Level where you can see fossil iguanadon footprints in the mud. "The one I like best," he says of the photographs he has somewhere, "is where it slipped and you can see the claw mark. It animates this 40 million year old footprint into an animal."

Monday, November 04, 2013

Lunch done, sliced bread and too tired.

1. To go downstairs to breakfast knowing that I cooked the main part of our lunch yesterday (and stashed a lot of extra portions in the freezer, too).

2. "...and of course," my father said a long time ago in answer to one of my infant enquiries, "the irony is that sliced bread is not great at all." He was thinking of the really cheap plasticky supermarket bread that goes mouldy before it is stale. A good loaf passed through the baker's bread slicer is a thing of beauty and convenience.

3. It is late and although I am ready for bed I am so tired that I can't bear to move myself and the sleep-heavy Bettany from the sofa. Then Alec calls from the top of the stairs so I have no choice.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Quality time, magnolias and future lunches.

1. We have a long wait but it's a chance to chat with Nick about non-parenting things (we talk about gaming, and I finally extract from him his plans for the campaign he had to abandon in 2008).

2. When I look up I notice that there is a back-lit photograph of magnolias on the ceiling.

3. To mark the date on future lunches before they go in the freezer.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hand in hand, the sort of thing I would do and back home.

1. Alec and his blonde curly friend holding hands as they go off upstairs to play alone. We listen in on the baby monitor and hear them playing mummies and daddies.

2. "You two go and watch a video while we have our tea." I think this is odd because I admire very much my friend's strict stance on TV watching. When the tiny twosome are out of sight she offers me an open tin. Cadbury's Crunchie bars -- full size ones -- gleaming in their gold wrappers.

3. On Alec's nursery afternoons I continue my habit of having supper at 5pm -- I need a full belly to get me through the bedtime circus. It's nice to have eat out, just me and Bettany somewhere quiet, but there are few places (apart from chains) that do food at 5pm. I go for an unsuccessful wander in the rain and then remember there is a packet of rather tasty ravioli in the fridge at home.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Bus, nest and lanterns.

1a. Bettany is sleeping in so I forget the housework and sing some songs with Alec.

1. The bus is waiting for us at the bus stop.

1b. A man on the bus tells me that Bettany looks very happy in her sling; and later so does a passing bus driver; and the man in front of us in the queue at Maplins.

2. Anna has draped a duvet over a kitchen chair to make a sort of nest for me and Bettany. We chat while Alec and the girls run in and out with various requests -- can he have a cat nose and whiskers painted on? Can he have his toe nails painted? Another cakey? What about a fake tattoo?

3. The Halloween lanterns outside Alec's nursery that were not there when I dropped him off.