Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Up and down, not lost and accomplished.

1. To discover that our £1 bus ticket takes us up the hill and back down again.

2. I suddenly realise that Alec is not walking beside me any more. I look round frantically, back track and find him gazing entranced into the window of Games Workshop.

3. Nick comes home to find both our children are asleep.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stay at home, gardening and a pizza.

1. My poor Bettany is sad and sorry for herself. She feeds and then, instead of wriggling off to play and practise, rests her head on my chest. She is not a cheerful bundley girl who is ready for nursery and I decide to keep her at home. It's the right thing to do (see previous post), but I feel bad for Alec because it means missing our morning together. As it turns out, Bettany goes back to sleep after breakfast and Alec and I get our mother-son time anyway.

2. To garden while Alec destroys the patch of garden that I've put aside for him. He has pulled off the wicker edging (which was broken anyway) and has been digging up the bare soil in search of bones. From time to time I had him bits of archaeology that I find in the compost sack. He dismisses most of them as sticks.

3. It suddenly occurs to me I am feeling ill enough that it is OK for us to get a takeaway pizza for supper. We devour it out of the box, with our hands.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Named, takeaway and boys.

1. On CBeebies Birthdays today there was a card for a little girl called 'Marvellous', which is a beautiful, confident name.

2. We have a Chinese takeaway for lunch -- lots of bright vegetables and a couple of spicy dishes are just what this poorly family needs.

3. To spot our boys playing cricket in the park and wave at them. I can tell from Nick's face that Bettany in the pushchair is waving, too.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pressing buttons, across my lap and polishing.

1. Bettany reaches up to press buttons on the oven.

2. After lunch, to let Alec fall asleep across my lap.

3. To make Bettany laugh by pretending to polish her head with my handkerchief.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Grove, PE and task.

1. The Grove looks particularly lovely on this dull morning, rather coy. There is a little mist and the trees are decked out in tiny new leaves.

2. Katie and I do an experimental playground session -- one of us watches the children while the other runs round the park. It works pretty well -- you get just enough exercise to get the endorphins going. I'm thinking of calling it Mothers' PE Collective, or MPec.

3. To quickly finish the washing up before I go to bed. Nick, who normally does it, has gone to be ill. The children are asleep and the house is very, very still.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Not guilty, holding my hand and settled.

1. It's parenting's guilty secret: we send our children to nursery when we sort of know we're going to get a call to collect them later in the day. Today is another sick day for Alec -- but at least with his swollen neck gland he is quite obviously ill and I am not tempted by a choice I know is not entirely correct.

2. Alec leaves the tablet in the pushchair and comes up to gently holds my hand while I have my legs waxed. Later he tells me that when he's a grown up he's going to go to my beautician.

3. Alec and I pick up Bettany from nursery and she doesn't even look up when we come in. She's too busy working her way round the room without crawling.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eating out, just one and lilac.

1. We decide to go out for lunch.

2. "It's like a holiday," says Nick, of having just one child at home.

3. To stop and smell the lilac at the end of Mountfield Gardens.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Most important meal of the day, coffee beans and not my son.

1. To eat breakfast and feel a lot better.

2. To sniff a jar of coffee beans and try to put my finger on the aromas. This time it's green bananas.

3. On the swings a little boy who is not mine shouts "BOTTOM!"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Seeds, chocolate and better.

1. The willow fluffs are flying today. It's as pretty as snow, but without the cold and inconvenience.

2. To share with Nick one of those Malteaser rabbits that only appear at Easter.

3. I fail to settle Bettany for her early evening nap. She dozes in my arms and then thrashes and cries, fights sleep, dozes and then fights some more. Now at 10pm when  she is awake and all smiles.

PS: Godfather Tibby and Aunty Raidel are doing a sponsored walk for The Stroke Association. Rachel has written very touchingly about the events that put this cause near their hearts -- please give it a read if you have a minute. I never forget how close we came to losing Tim. If we had lost him then I don't suppose Nick and I would have met.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Proper rain, wet weather and accounts.

1. A day when it rains properly -- a day when we know it's going to rain properly. It rains great miserable columns from just after breakfast.

2. To catch Alec and efficiently wrestle him into his rain gear (I think he let me win) so Nick can take him out. I have to sing 'Greenland' because Godfather Tibby once remarked that Alec's rain trousers made him look like a fisherman.

3. I have been having trouble getting round to our household accounts. Nick gathers up all the papers for me so that I can begin. He points out firmly but very kindly: "It's one of those tasks that isn't so bad if you don't leave it for six months."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Climber, spring in the woods and physio.

1. On our walk we come across a tree fallen across the path. Its branches have caught in another tree making a tempting ramp. First one cousin boyfriend and then the other scrambles up. Then Great Aunt Janey has a go -- and climbs higher than either of them, just to let them know who is boss. Earlier she told had us that she once chimneyed up four storeys because she was locked out one evening.

2. A wood with blue bells and mostly bare trees.

3. Uncle Yoghurt recruits Alec to help relieve his painful back. "Pull on my leg Alec!" Alec looks surprised but complies.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holiday, leaving bedtime and not guilty.

1. To wake up on a day when Nick will be home.

2. I leave bedtime in Nick's hands and hurry up the hill to the party. I'm feeling bold and bad and very undutiful.

3. "Well that was the easiest bedtime ever," says Nick. Alec played Kindle for a bit and then lay down and went to sleep.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Inventor, brie and book.

1. "Can I have that?" Alec indicates the loo roll that still has a couple of winds left on it.
"No. I need it."
"What for?"
"For... er... why do you want it anyway?"
"A toiletscope."

2. The brie at Mr Speaight's looks particularly succulent, creamy paste squidging temptingly between the chalk-white rinds. I buy the smallest... no, the next smallest piece as a weekend treat.

3. Both children are at nursery and it just so happens that I have a book on my e-reader that I am particularly enjoying. It's called Dear Lupin... Letters to a Wayward Son and it's a very charming set of genuine letters from a father to a son who is going off the rails. The letters as edited by the son, Charlie Mortimer, are sprinkled with odd bits of family and local news, increasingly salacious as the years go by. Charlie's life does not fly along the trajectory envisaged by his parents and his father is often tough with him, from time to time quivering with rage but always affectionate and where possible, kind and supportive.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It works out, made up and hanging out at the mall.

1. The morning works out as it should have in terms of Bettany napping so I can whizz round and do all the weekly things like changing towels and putting tooth mugs in the dishwasher.

2. To settle Bettany down for her afternoon nap in a bed that has actually been made (one of the best things our cleaning lady does is make the beds up in a stylish fashion with the throws and cushions that we wind around ourselves and use to stop each other rolling out of bed).

3. Me and Bettany, hanging out in the shopping centre at supper time instead of eating nicely at the table at home. We scoff melon out of a plastic box and a cheese scone out of a paper bag.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nesting, voice and no Marmite.

1. To tempt Alec away from the telly I tip a bag of cushions and blankets out in the nursery. He comes upstairs and makes us play baby birds hatching out from under a table cloth; and then baby dinosaurs.

2. "The man in there," says Alec as we pass Fine Grind, the espresso bar on the High Street. "I like him. I love his voice."

3. Alec looks at my piece of bread and Marmite and tells me confidently that Marmite is bad for his tummy. "It gives me indigetics and makes me swallow up." Luckily for him I wasn't planning to share.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Extra jam, womankind and water.

1. I notice Alec slipping extra jam into the dimples on his tray of jammy thumbprint biscuits.

2. Alec tries to scramble up the bank to talk to a small girl playing on the terrace above us. She has been  accidentally on purpose dropping her ball down to us. Alec falls over. And gets up for another go. He has to lie on his front and wave his short-trousered legs around to get over the top, but he is not deterred. She is bemused by his gift of leaves -- but her mother and I make melty faces at each other.

3. It's a warm day so I set out in the garden a tub of water. I issue some interesting containers and a few threats about there being no more water if he tips it all out in one go. I imagine Alec will spend a happy half hour (no, let's be realistic, ten minutes, tops before he gets bored) pouring water in and out, learning about volume and improving his motor skills.
"Can I put my feet in?"
"Hmmm?"
When I look up again he is naked and sitting in the tub, which now contains about two inches of very muddy water. It does keep him busy for half an hour, though.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A short bath, bunny and for me too.

1. Twenty minutes doesn't seem like long; but it was relaxing and it feels pleasantly profligate to jump out of the bath before it has cooled down.

2. There is no queue to meet the Easter Bunny at the shopping centre -- and it turns out you get a free photo, and a chocolate egg. Alec wouldn't look at the bunny; the photo is really nothing special; but I loved the speed with which he opened and ate the egg; and the chocolate on his cheeks afterwards.

3. Bettany has started using a sign to communicate. It's not a conventional hand sign, but if she sees food that she wants she smacks her lips until you give her some.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

French toast, quick and hollandaise.

1. Sweet and salty together: French toast and very crisp bacon.

2. How quick and easy it is to bake bought meatballs into bought tomato sauce and serve it with spaghetti.

3. The instructions on the hollandaise sauce pot make me laugh: "Usually served warm, rather than piping hot".

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Porridge, lion tamer and sweeping up.

1. The days when Alec puts away an entire bowlful of porridge.

2. It's one of those days when I feel like a lion tamer. I don't know what the cleaning lady must think of me barking orders at my children. I tell Alec fiercely that he must wait for me to soothe Bettany off to sleep before he comes and has a cuddle and some bub. It doesn't feel right at all -- but I've been trying to be kind all morning and all I've had back is a whiny voice and sulky looks. He lies meekly down on his bed, suddenly patient and calm. He is asleep before Bettany and I can sneak downstairs by myself.

3. To take out my frustrations by giving the backyard a good sweeping. It looks better each time I do it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Addresses, the story and not being sick.

1. I open my mouth to correct Alec when he addresses Aunty Katie's husband as Aunty Jules, but then I see the look on Jules' face and I shut it again.

2. When Alec says he doesn't want to go to nursery I tell him that Bettany and I spend all afternoon talking about him and then argue about who gets to kiss him first when we see him. He stops stropping and looks rather pleased at the thought.

3. Finally, a day in which Bettany doesn't throw up.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Calm down, my glasses and out for an hour.

1. The text from Nick to say that Alec had calmed right down by the time they got to nursery.

2. I want to hold on forever to the memory of Bettany's face when she plays with my glasses. She pulls them off my nose and waves them wildly until I take them back. She tilts her head back and to the right to receive them and she holds her head still while they slip down her little nose, smiling all the time.

3. Even just an hour of sushi, good company and wine with PaulV and Caroline is good. I can't stay longer because Bettany is still on her milk-only diet and she needs a lot of feeding to keep her going.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Going out, newts and epic journey.

1. The line of bags at the front door, ready for a day out.

2. My father and Alec fishing for newts with a home-made net.

3. Bettany and I make an epic journey through the night to Tonbridge Cottage Hospital to see an out of hours GP. Bettany is, of course, laughing and waving at the receptionist by the time we get there.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Beard, shower and relief.

1. Bettany reaches up to pat my father's beard. She's never seen one close to before and is intrigued.

2. A shower of water falls from the gutter three storeys up. Alec stands underneath it enjoying the sound and the feel of it on his hood. We consciously picked out superior rain gear so we can say a resounding "YES" to things like this.

3. Nick comes home and I can hand him Miss Party Pants and then usher my poor tired Alec off to the silent house of sleep.

Monday, April 07, 2014

I love you, off to sleep and last of the gin.

1. Bettany is sick in the night. While I am putting the bed to rights I notice that the mark on the sheet is in the shape of a heart.

2. Nick calls me upstairs to finish settling Alec off to sleep. Our boy is away -- and in his own bed, too -- before I get there.

3. There is only a tablespoonful of gin left but I manage to make us a couple of martinis. It's been a tough old weekend.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A marvel, wise words and book learning.

1. "Daddy! Look what Mummy got just for me! It's called CORNFLAKES!"
I always thought cornflakes were the boring breakfast cereal -- I shall never look at them in the same way again.

2. To get some wise words and advice from a sensible group of mothers. Their stories tally: I should nurse my sicky baby for two minutes and then give her a ten minute break. We are both relieved to get a rest from the puking.

3. When Bettany is sleeping heavily on my lap we taste the cheese that Nick bought at the market. Without his cheese book we'd never have known that the dark line through the middle is ash -- the original technique required the cheesemaker to sprinkle soot over the morning curds before covering them with the evening curds.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Oyster, wedding and rage.

1. "I want to eat an oyster at Easter!" says Alec as we pass Sankey's seafood bar.

2. There is a wedding on the bandstand. We get close enough to hear: "And for the first time I present the new Mr and Mrs Milton." I get something in my eye.

3. I am trying to chivvy Alec home but he is having none of it. Three workmen laugh at us, which makes it seem slightly less devasting.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Man at work, done and feeding.

1. We hear a scraping noise outside and open the front door to investigate. A man is hoeing weeds out of the cracks in the pavement. We chat to him while he works. Alec shows him some interesting stones. He pulls off his gloves to examine one. "I'm such a geek about history and archaeology," he says in his broad Yorkshire accent.

2. I look down at my course unit and realise that I've done enough. It needs to be packed up and sent off.

3. To offer Bettany clusters of rice grains and fragments of chicken with my chopsticks.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Miniature daffodils, good news and coming home early.

1. I planted up pots of miniature daffodils very late, but they are now flowering outside the back door. This is a treat.

2. To hear that two friends have had positive health news.

3. Another treat: Nick is coming home early.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Free, fennel and emergency,

1. I look at my two sleeping children, both snuffling through snotty noses, and think how blessed I am because I can go downstairs and have breakfast on my own, without having to look after anyone else.

2. The roots of the fennel I am moving have busted right through the liner in the bottom of the bed and I must be strong and gentle to free them. I give it a good water and hope it will be happy in its new home.

3. Alec interrupts the bedtime story to take a phone call about a "fire on house". He jumps into his naw-nee and zooms to the scene. "What's the emergency?" he asks me in a manly voice.
The fire is soon out and he asks me to resume the story.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A present, the rush and wide awake.

1. Alec is held up -- he is picking slender magnolia petals off the pavement. He comes running after me and pushes them into my back pocket. "A present for you, Mummy."

2. I lift my droopy naptime boy up on to my shoulders so that we can hurry even faster to pick up Bettany. I've missed her bundly weight and her "Da-da-da-da" and the way she follows us from room to room.

3. He was sleepy, but now he is telling Nick all about the best bit of his day: "And do you know what we did that I liked best?" dramatic pause "WE CLIMBED A TREE!"