Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fixer, card and lecture.

1. The parents at the other table tell their toddler to take his tool kit and fix the radiator. Once they convince him that it is really broken, it's a jolly effective way of keeping him busy so they can eat their breakfast in peace.

2. I spot Nick taking a card from the taxi man -- it means we'll be coming back.

3. The look on the faces of the couple sitting opposite us on the train as Alec delivered his giant ape lecture. They wanted to laugh, but didn't quite dare to because his delivery is both solemn and intense, like a trade union leader explaining an injustice to his colleagues.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pastries, first swim and proper relaxation.

1. "I know they're still warm because I've just brought them up from the kitchen where they were cooking them," says the waiter about the pastries at breakfast. I take a raspberry jam one. It is very good and I'd like more, but I must remember my manners in front of the children.

1b. I discover that while I was re-settling Alec in the middle of the night I fell asleep and Nick walked a wakeful Bettany around for a whole hour because he didn't want to wake me.

2. To take Bettany for her first swim -- I'm not sure if she's just pleased because I'm holding her again, or because she likes being in the water.

3. We leave Alec in the hotel's creche and spend the rest of the morning lolling on the bed in our beautiful room, dozing, reading and bubbing Bettany.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just waiting around, settling in and nursery tea.

1. We are too early for our room so we dig into one of the lounges, take some tea and play with Alec. We have no housework to think of and it is bliss.

1b. Bettany is unsettled and grizzly; the scramble this morning and the travelling have upset her. While I'm changing her nappy (what clean, elegant and characterful facilities this hotel has) I tell her that we've come on holiday, that we're going to have fun and then go home. I'm not sure, but I think she seemed happier after that.

2. To have someone else bring Alec his supper (and bring us ours, too). This hotel even has children's metal cutlery which delights Alec.

3. To cuddle up next to my husband in bed -- both children conked out early. The bed is huge, large enough to accommodate anyone small who wants to join us in the night.

We stayed at New Park Manor Hotel -- recommend it for anyone with children.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Soldiers, delete and more loved.

1. Nick and Alec disappear for a few hours in the morning -- they go off to a war gaming open day. Alec comes back full of talk about riding on double decker buses and being allowed to roll dice, and of course, meeting up with Godfather Tibby.

2. To race quickly through my emails and delete most of them unread (I don't mean your comments and notes, of course -- those are always read avidly and (when they are kind) much enjoyed).

3. When I get back from my walk into town, and when Alec has woken from his nap, we enjoy a huge family cuddle on the sofa. "Have you ever felt more loved?" asks Nick, looking down at our two nurslings.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Throat, family resemblance and night talk.

1. Yogi brand throat tea. Soothing and liquorice flavour.

2. I open Alec's nursery folder and on the first page is a very early photograph of him -- he's about the same age Bettany is now. For a moment I think it's her.

3. I am too tired and ill to be firm with Alec at bedtime. We lie in the dark chatting about kidney function and digestion and giant penguins and H P Lovecraft and whether dragons are real. It takes a long, long time for him to settle, but it's very, very pleasant and restful for me.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Parenting, rainbow and mellow.

1. My mother comes and takes us all away so I can be ill in comfort and security.

2. "Look, look a rainbow!" says the mother. She lifts Alec up to the window and even fields his questions about why it's there. It's a really good one -- complete and bright against a wet slate sky over bare hazel trees coloured gold by the sun. I wonder if it will be the first rainbow that he remembers.

3. I am feeling mellow because I am too tired to be firm with anyone. I am too tired to do anything but nurse the children and rest quietly.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stealth boasting, signing off and I'm on my way.

1. To be able to mention to nursery, you know, just in passing, when they ask about his morning, that Alec has been very good and patient and kind.

2. The physio doesn't think I need another appointment. When I get home I spot similar news from someone else on Facebook (except that this is his fifth last appointment).

3. Bettany follows me from her cosy corner in the kitchen, one hand lifted high and slapped down then the other, knees nearly but not quite slithering out from under her, all the way to the front room.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vagrants, my lunch and spring coming.

1. We get out early because Bettany and I are on nursery run duty this morning. We drop Alec off, and then it seems as if everyone but us has somewhere to go and something to do.

2. When the cleaner has finished we walk down to Mr Speiaght's the butcher and I buy for my lunch a warm half baguette filled with avocado, bacon, Swiss cheese and tomato. It is unbelievably delicious.

3. To think that it's definitely lighter at nursery pick-up time than it was last week.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dabbler, no more and crawling.

1. Alec squatting down to dabble his stick in a puddle. I love those feet flat on the ground -- I hope he never loses the ability to sit back on his heels.

2. There will come a time when I will realise that Alec is not going to ask me to sing Sleepy Train ever again. I was tired and grumpy at bedtime, but I remembered this just in time.

3. When I come back from washing my hands I discover that a rather cross Bettany has crawled almost to the kitchen in search of me.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Digging, long awaited and all set straight.

1. They come back muddy and apologetic -- they've been digging for dinosaurs in the park.

2.  Alec has been waiting for CBeebies Dinosaur Week to begin, in particular for the launch of Andy's Dinosaur Adventures. At 4.30pm he and Aunty Biddy sit down to watch. He is so excited that he spends much of the 10-minute show hiding behind her. Later, I discover that someone else in the family is also excited -- I catch Nick watching it, too.

3. I come downstairs after bedtime is finished and discover that the wonderful Aunty Biddy has set the downstairs straight again, all comfortable for Nick's evening.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rummage, Cheddar cheese and both down.

1. Bettany loves a good old rummage in a box of Alec's toys. Sometimes she reaches shoulder deep into his tub of railway bits to hear the track clatter; other times she sits with his shoe box of figurines between her stout thighs. She gives the cork Calpol People an experimental gum; drops the stick men to see what they sound like and marvels over the Smurfette that came from a fast food place.

2. When Alec suddenly starts eating a food that he has previously refused. Grated Cheddar cheese -- that'll make suppers a little bit easier from now on.

3. An evening where there are two children asleep by 7.30pm.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Compliments, changeable and getting ready for bed.

1. Bettany has had a rough week with her eyes gummed almost shut and a heavy cold that has left her very sad and sorry for herself. She has definitely had fewer compliments than normal -- people always remark on her eyes in particular and it's hard to say anything nice about a face embellished with what Alec calls 'eye bogey'. Anyway, today the espresso bar man compliments her so I know she's on the mend.

2. To watch the sky go from bright blue to dark slate and back again. To nip in for a coffee when it starts to rain. To come out into sunshine and then scamper home, sheltering Bettany from pelting rain.

3. I do secretly like those evenings when Alec is too cross for a bath -- I give him a wipe round with a flannel, do his teeth and coax him into his pyjamas. I always feel particularly maternal when I do this: I am convinced that the extra care and contact soothes him.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Surrender, problem and wait.

1. To surrender. I'm not going to get anything done today with my sad baby crying whenever I leave her line of sight. I try to sit with her and give her what she needs.

2. To identify a thing that is contributing to a problem (I hate typing on the tablet) and a partial fix (turn off that bloody autocorrect).

3. I ask the mother to stay until Nick comes because I can't face bedtime alone. I feel bad about delaying her, but much better when it rains so hard the kitchen leaks in two places. I'm glad she wasn't out travelling in it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hunter, good fortune and on my cake.

1. Alec is bobbing and weaving round the kitchen with a plastic fork in each hand. What is he doing? He's tring to catch one of the rainbows cast by the crystal hanging outside the window.

2. To chat on the phone with a lucky friend while she waits for a car to take her away to the airport and then to Portugal.

3. To discover a great thick layer of chocolate buttercream beneath the dried raspberries on my cupcake.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Two of us, dashing through the rain and stretch.

1. My poor baby is unhappy and poorly this morning. I am so glad it is just the two of us today. All she wants to do is nurse and sleep on me.

2. We try to sit out the rain in a coffee shop, but it outlasts my cappuccino. In the end I shelter Bettany under my coat and dash home with the wind roaring in my face. To peel off clammy clothes, to have a place for everything that needs drying and to retire to bed for the rest of the afternoon.

3. I actually get an opportunity to do my physio exercises - the stretch that gets the muscle under my shoulder blade is a much-missed friend.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mother, father and lazy readers.

1. Oh thank heavens for visiting mother friends who are happy to pack my son into his coat, as well as zipping and buttoning her own children.

2. Alec falls over in the park. A lovely dad runs over to pick him up.

3. We both want a story but I'm not about to turf Bettany off, climb down from the bed  and go grovelling around in the bookcase, and Alec says he is tooooo tiiiiyurd to pick a book. So I order one up on my e-reader, Alligator Pie, as recommended in a comment the other week by Kristin. It has cool retro (by which I mean like what we had when I was little) illos and the poetry is daft and memorable like the best children's rhymes.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Macaron, hoping and hungry.

1. Alec ignores the large fancy cakes in favour of a macaron, a pink one, he says again after the patissiere has reeled off the list of flavours.

2. I think Nana and Grandad would be pleased to hear Alec asking if we can visit them.

3. Less successful morning at nursery: she didn't like their lunch. I shovel her into the sling and we bring her home for a cuddle and a long, relaxed feed.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Gum, exit and pinch.

1. Bettany gamely gumming on a strip of steak from our stirfry.
2. To escape to a coffee shop with the laptop.
3. Bettany tries to catch water falling from a jug between her thumb and finger.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Nap, escape and boiled eggs.

1. Those afternoons when I can see that Alec needs a nap. He insists otherwise, but within ten minutes of us lying down he is snoring gently.

2. The Mother appears unexpectedly and we trick her into looking after the children for an hour. There has been some buzz on the social networks about a new espresso bar on the High Street. Nick and I scamper out like beasts let out of the barn after winter. We feel very liberated, and the coffee's good, too. I'm told by a reliable source that Fine Grind is run by a coffee geek.

3. Dippy soldier eggs for tea.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Motor skills, all mine and big boy trousers.

1. To my astonishment he takes a couple of pens and draws recognisable eyes and a splendid, terrifying set of teeth.

2. "She is just for me," says Alec about the hairdresser who has a tractor chair.

3. I have sold these trousers rather too well: "They are moa hunting trousers. They have pockets for carrying your chalk and your phone and your camera and your notebook and for putting evidence in... no, not poo, unless you put it in a box." They are too big and he keeps stumbling on the cuffs. The fabric is so tough that he cannot climb on to the bed. But he is determined to wear them. Determined. They end up round his ankles in the middle of Calverley Road. He giggles about it for the rest of the day.

4. To escape into the night and talk with adults at a party. Particularly to talk with adults who don't have small children and who talk about the world outside.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Shiners, filling the time and in the baby room.

1. Alec shakes the silvery drops off the hood of his new raincoat.

2. I was going to get a coffee between the nursery drop-off and physio (a coffee all by myself) but I am so wet and the world is so wet that I can't be bothered. I go the long way round, walking over the Common to get a bit of greenwood time and then arrive early, which means 15 minutes reading my Interzone.

3. I am about ten minutes late picking Bettany up -- the rain, the rain. I can hear her shouting as I climb the stairs. "She's been like this maybe ten minutes," they tell me. How did she know the time I was supposed to come? I sit and bub her on the floor and chat with the staff about her afternoon. The baby room has a sense of quiet purpose that I enjoy very much.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

A kindness, satisficer and sleeping baby.

1. A plasterer from the building site at the bottom of the hill carefully and kindly walks the old gent who lives at the top of the hill up to his front door.

2. To be able to choose new glasses quickly and decisively because a baby is only patient for a little while.

3. Bettany is so deeply asleep and I am in a bold mood so I go for a walk-in at the hairdressers.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Electronica, get out and pets.

1. My to-listen-to playlist turns up a bit of 1980s electronica -- Don't Go by Yazoo. The first beautiful thing is Nick telling Alec that I would have been about the same age as him when this came out. And the other beautiful thing is us all robot dancing around the kitchen.

2. Between bubbing duties and being ill I haven't left the house for days. I thrust armfuls of babies at Nick and invent some light garden work that needs doing. Fifteen minutes under the sky leaves me feeling much happier.

3. Alec wants a caterpillar. I start to explain that it's the wrong time of year but it seems quicker and easier to manufacture one out of piper cleaners and secrete it in the garden. He names it David Attenborough Mice and asks for a second (David Attenborough Twice) for Daddy to find in the front garden. We put them in an improvised terrarium and Alec is so delighted that he runs out to show a woman trudging past our gate up the hill.

3b. Awkward conversations with my children:
"Are they real?"
"They're as real as you want them to be."
"Yes but are they real?"
"As real as your dinosaurs."
"But ARE THEY REALLY REAL?"
"No."

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Better, dad and comforter.

1. It is clear from his morning enthusiasm that Alec is feeling much better. Later he tells Granny with much satisfaction that "Mummy made me eat baked beans and I sicked them all up."

2. When I come back downstairs I find that Nick is standing behind the sofa watching the end of the Super Bowl with the sound turned down. He has rocked Bettany to sleep.

3. To lie with a hot water bottle behind my back.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Sick, asleep and more sick.

1. Alec is properly sick for the first time in his life and he cries fearful tears. By the time the third round comes he looks a lot less terrified -- we've explained that it's his stomach getting rid of something yucky and cheer him on when he aims for the bucket.

2. "He fell asleep holding my hand," says Nick.

3. I know I'm going down with this bug -- it's a relief when, on the stroke of midnight, I have to roll Alec out of the way and run to the bathroom.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Tags, evidence and starving.

1. "Do come again," Alec tells Grandpa as he steps out of the door. Our boy seems to collect these little social niceties in the same way that he collects sticks, and he takes such pleasure in bringing them out at odd moments.

2. Alec solemnly poses for photographs in front of 'evidence' such as sticks, possibly bamboo chewed by a giant ape; footprints on the path behind the cricket pavilion, possibly of a giant ape; and holes on the cricket pitch, possibly made by the talons of a landing harpagornis.

3. Being able to eat as much as I want because I'm breastfeeding.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Cake box, dahhhh-ling and just this once.

1. They bring a box that looks as if it might contain cakes (it does, four, with sugar flowers on the top).

2. At going home time Alec and Maggie exchange several rounds of hugs and kisses.

3. While I am giving Bettany her late night bub on the sofa Alec comes to the top of the stairs and tells me very mournfully that he is lonely because no-one is looking after him. Normally we are strict as strict about him staying in bed after lights out; but he has a cold and is very sad and sorry for himself. I encourage him to come down and we cuddle up until Bettany falls asleep.