Friday, January 31, 2014

Poetry, tiny triumph and leisure time.

1. While Bettany is napping I show Alec some films of Michael Rosen reading his own poems. He laughs out loud at Don't -- which I like very much because I remember Uncle Robert almost laughing himself into an asthma attack at the same poem as a small boy; and at My Brother is on the Floor Roaring. Michael Rosen's delivery is tremendous, but I wonder if Alec is laughing, too, because the scenarios and sentiments are so familiar.

2. It's very hard to gauge Alec's appetite and I often end up scraping lots of his food into the bin. Today he eats the lot and looks around for more. It's such a banal victory, but exactly the sort of thing I have to enjoy if I'm going to get through the day.

3. To drink a glass of wine and do a jigsaw with my husband.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Take-home, sandwich and joining the game.

1. We've only been apart for an hour, but how beautiful it is to pack my contented self-sufficient bundle into the sling, bring her home and bub her on the sofa for a while.

2. This sandwich has chestnut mayonnaise in it.

3. Bettany sits up at the table in her highchair during our game. She has a couple of large dice* to play with just so she feels involved. Understanding GMs are worth more than rubies, though we both keep stopping mid-combat to gaze at her.

*Godfather Timothy has given Alec a set of oversized foam dice because conventional dice, according to Alec, "might get stuck up a naughty boy's nose" or indeed swallowed by a small sister.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Anxious mother, looking for me and all OK.

1. "Come and at her at 25 past, that's half an hour" says the room leader as I am leaving Bettany.
"I think I'd better come at 20 past," I say anxiously.
They laugh kindly at me.

2. I run into Katie on the High Street. She had called at home looking for me, and I suddenly realise that I was definitely looking for someone to drink a coffee with until the 30 minutes are up.

3. "I don't know if this is what you want to hear, but she's been fine," they tell me. She is sitting in the cushion corner looking self-sufficient and bundly with her bald head and rather too large purple playset.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Taster, pony and affirmation.

1. I take Bettany for her first taster at nursery -- hasn't that come round quickly! I love to watch how kind and interested the baby room team are in their charges. I wish the first day boy's mum could have seen how empathetically they treated him whenever he remembered he wasn't at home, and how quickly he recovered.

2. Diana brings us a splendid thing for the children to share: a pony made from crocheted granny... well they're not squares, they're pentagons and heptagons and hexagons. He's called Fatty Lumpkin and we love him immediately.

3. Alec's habit of saying "I like you, Mum," at odd moments.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bear paws, together and experience.

1. We catch part of a documentary about polar and grizzly bears. It features an experiment with a tame grizzly, a salmon-flavoured hockey puck and an ice rink. The tame grizzly, it turns out, is very good at walking on ice. It sits down looking pleased with itself and grasps its hind paws in a very endearing way. It reminds me rather of this picture of Bettany. (Picture by

2. We discover that out of the 1,000 pieces of the puzzle we are doing we are holding a pair that go together.

3. Alec wakes with a stuffed up nose. I drop peppermint oil on the pillow and make him sit in the bathroom while I have a shower. He protests. Then as I step on to the bathmat he sniffs and says "Mummy it worked!"

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tools, eating and tell me a story.

1. I am staring at a choice of phones and I am paralysed. Then I remember a couple of useful tools: Be a satisficer (work down the list and pick the first option that ticks most of your boxes). Set a timer (15 minutes of researching and then stop). Ask for help (The responses to quick message on Facebook makes me feel much happier).*

2. To watch Bettany picking up a few tiny bits of food.

3. When I turn the lights out Alec says "Once upon a time?" It means he wants to hear a made-up story. I try to tell him a boring go-to-sleep story about a tired baby elephant but he keeps interrupting and it turns into a story where Bettany is stolen by the goblins. Alec rides after them -- faster, faster, faster -- on his scooter, rescues her at the end of the Pantiles and brings her home in triumph.

* I picked up  most of these from Gretchen Rubin who is running a very interesting article series on habit-forming.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Question, worker and come back in.

1. I have a five year diary with a daily question to answer in a small space -- things like "What animal do you most resemble" and "What did you have for lunch?" I often ask Alec for input. Today's question is "Are you holding a grudge?" He replies "No, I am holding Lego." I think this is a good life idea, generally.

2. Bettany manfully working away at a piece of toast and avocado. Her cheeks (where they aren't green) are shining though her eyes are very serious.

3. I've been bit out of the world lately -- I have had my head down parenting and protecting my health. I feel as if I'm watching through a sheet of glass as life races past outside. I flip over to Facebook this evening and a scatter of informal invitations and a few article recommendations and an update from a friend who asked me for advice. That sheet of glass seems less of a barrier now.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Handover, clapping and going to bed.

1. It's been a tough morning and it's a relief to hand Alec over to the professionals at nursery.

2. I tell the physio that Bettany has finally mastered clapping after some days of trial and error. He looks thoughtful. "I suppose it is quite complicated." He does a few experimental claps. Bettany, looking joyful to meet someone who shares her interests, copies him.

3. Bettany and I dig into bed for the afternoon.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Saying yes, clap and concern.

1. The other day I dived in and said YES to an invitation on Google+ to join an online RPG session (I miss-calculated the time difference and thought it was 9pm, not 9am when I said yes. It was funny to play with Australians who were drinking their evening beers while Bettany still had porridge from breakfast in her neck folds. They were very kind about her distracting presence as she rolled around at my feet and slept heavily on my lap.) The game was great fun with lots of laughter and plenty of memorable moments (creative use of a giant pile of manure). I felt buoyed up afterwards because it seemed to me that I am, despite being deep in the baby tunnel, still fit for adult company.

2. Bettany laughing out loud because she can clap her hands.

3. They tell me with some concern that Alec got upset today because he'd lost "a sticker with numbers on that my mum gave me". It was an index tab that he'd found stuck to the kitchen door early this morning. He refers to any print as numbers. I thought it was very kind of them to worry about such a tiny thing that meant so much to him.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bird spotting, soothing and poetry.

1. We go into the Corn Exchange and bother the tourist information lady for a map because Alec has found further evidence of moas. It's a poo on a drain cover.

2. It's that horrible moment after bath when everyone starts crying at once -- they're tired and cold and they're sick of having their limbs jabbed this way and that into pyjamas and they can't decide what story they want and they're heartbroken about all the toys they aren't allowed to bring upstairs and the snacks they didn't eat. I pile up pillows and snuggle them both up with some bub. They hold hands and it's very soothing (for about four minutes).

3. I read Alec AA Milne's poem James James Morrison Morrison (the guy who took great care of his mother although he was only three). The thoughtful look on Alec's face.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Easy lunch, expedition and the problem.

1. Sausage casserole from the freezer is such an easy, comforting lunch.

2. Instead of a walk we go on an expedition to find Alec's latest passion, moas. We pack an expedition bag with snack, chalk, notebook etc and head for the dark heart of the Common. We mark possible evidence, and not possible evidence ("Mummy, I think that was a badger that dug that digging) and we text message reports and pictures to Nick, our sponsor.

3. "Mummy, we haven't found any moas because we haven't eaten enough Nana buttons." I pass out another round of chocolate buttons.

3b. A photographer has left his tripod and camera case on a bench while he gets some shots of a fallen tree in low sun. Alec sidles over and says loudly "Look, someone's left their bagpipes here!"

Monday, January 20, 2014

Breakfast time, not easy and chocolate.

1. "Is it breaktas?" Alec wants to know. I'm about to say no in order to give myself half an hour of unsatisfactory lie-in when I realise that I'm very hungry indeed.

2. Watching Nick trying to give two children their tea at once. He keeps forgetting that Bettany needs and exclusion zone around her; and that Alec is a master of distraction. It makes me realise that this is not an easy thing to do, and that I shouldn't be so hard on myself.

3. A particularly spectacular and subtle coffee and walnut chocolate -- I could taste the red berries that coffee tasting notes talk about.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Roll over, no waiting and an airing.

1. My Saturday lie-in.

2. Just as I arrive I catch sight of the person I am meeting waving at me from the other side of the crossing.

3. To walk out, just me, Alec and the scooter. To watch him racing away across the park and to think how independent he is getting.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ready for rain, workman and all settled in.

1. Rain suits and boots all round mean that Alec and I are free to stamp in mud and wade through puddles.

2. The smell of woodsmoke and the sound of a distant chainsaw.

3. When Nick comes home, he finds Bettany and I sitting demurely on the sofa. Alec is fast asleep.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Gamer in waiting, discount and light behind.

1. On the kitchen table is a piece of scenery left over from yesterday's gaming session with Meredith. (It's a cardboard coffee cup holder). Alec asks me about it. I tell him how Meredith put a wicked witch on it and had her shooting spells at us. (We used Alec's Champagne cork people for figurines). "You roll a die to see if she turns you into a frog." I give him a couple of dice and soon he is happily shouting out numbers and cackling like a wicked witch.

2. He hands me back the 50p. "There's a discount if you buy fish and chips together." Lucky old us.

3. A man outside the pub is having a cigarette with the light behind his smoke.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Leaving early, lightening up and bull-headed man.

1. Alec and Nick trotting off into the early morning dark together.

2. To give away a few bits from my neglected craft stash.

3. Meredith introduces an intriguing character to our game -- the druid Bane Thunderhoof is a Tauren, a man with the head of a bull. My character, the thief Sylvya (really a spy), has never seen one before and she is fascinated. Bane is from the Horde and I'm wondering how he came to be working with the alliance -- there has got to be some good backstory there.

Squid, he's laughing and clap.

1. To watch a video of some excited marine biologists filming a giant squid.

2. To maintain morale on our journey home Alec shouts "Red!", which means I must stop, and "Green!", which means I must go again. We pass an elderly man, well bundled up, sitting on a bench. He makes a strange coughing noise. Alec stops to look at him. I realise the man is laughing at Alec's bossy tone.

3. Bettany rather jerkily pushing my hands together to make them clap.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Highchair, in his imagination and as needed.

1. "Oh, the highchair!" I didn't expect it to arrive this week and the sight of the box makes me smile. The delivery man smiles right back.

2. In Alec's imagination the abandoned bowling green is a hippopotamus pond and the box-edged square of the tiny Italian Garden is a maze that Granny can get lost in.

3. My mother stays until the house is tidy and everyone  is calm (this is mainly directed at me).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Shut the door, satisfactions and mango.

1. "Washing my hair" as code for a morning bath with a few beauty tasks.

2. Tiny satisfactions: cracking a walnut to give two perfect shells; getting both children off to sleep at the same time.

3. Dried mango.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Left to our own devices, anatomy and boatlets.

1. Bettany and I wake to hear the front door shutting behind Nick and Alec on their morning errands. We dress quickly and go out to breakfast in the dark bistro run by the butcher on Chapel Place. His bacon sandwiches are very good. It is so late in the morning that a man comes in and orders two bottles of Guiness.

2. Alec looking through his library books on the human body. His eyes are like saucers. Earlier in the week he asked me if he could pull Bettany's head off to see what she looked like inside. Despite his assurances that he would stick her together with tape we thought that at this stage in his career theory would serve him better than practice.

3. Watching Alec play with a couple of walnut shell boats.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Castle, too long and Tarzan retold.

1. She has a castle tent set up in the drawing room. The children go in and out. Sometimes someone is pushed out of the door. Sometimes someone is pulled back in again. An arm or a face appears at a window. Little shrieks of laughter go on behind our conversation.

2. With sadness and joy I note that Alec's trousers are now too long to hang on the bottom rail of the airer.

3. What I really like is to hear Nick's account of Alec's account of our day (a particular highlight was today's synopsis of the traumatic opening of Disney's Tarzan -- Alec smoothed it all over for himself by stating firmly that it all happened a very long time ago; and the montage scenes made him think Tarzan grew big by swinging from trees; and he was very sure he'd seen Tarzan having gorilla mummy bubby).

Friday, January 10, 2014

Own feet, delayed and gait.

1. I feel rather giddy and free because we don't use the push chair to take Alec to nursery. I don't have to charm, trick or wrestle him into it, and I don't have to force it into the buggy shelter once we get there. Also I get to enjoy the sight of my strong son walking and I can hear his remarks.

2. It is jolly lucky that Nick rings to say he can't do the evening pick-up because of rail delays -- we'd have slept all afternoon if he hadn't.

3. The sight of Alec running ahead down the High Streets with the ear flaps of his hat bobbing up and down makes me laugh out loud.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

First day, observers and you're back.

1. I tell Alec (again) that he's going off with Daddy when he leaves for work. It's his first all-day session -- until now he's only done mornings. "He'll drop you at nursery and then go off to work."
"You being silly, Mummy."
When the time comes he goes off quite happily, holding his dad's hand and walking like a big boy all the way to nursery.

2. When we pick Alec up from nursery two small boys come quietly up to look at his sister in the sling. "It's amazing how small children are fascinated by babies," observes someone towering above us. Bettany turns her head and the boys come round me to look some more. They each put out a gentle finger to stroke her cheek.

3. Bettany crowing and talking to Alec -- I think she's missed him all day.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Determined, coffee and cream and stilts.

1. This night has been a failure in so many ways -- we're all awake at 5.30am and I am not happy about it. However, I do love Alec's determination not to sleep until he gets his turn at bubby-lie-down.

2. A good cup of coffee with a dollop of cream makes everything seem better.

3. While I am in the bathroom Alec comes upstairs with one of his Christmas presents. "What this?"
It's a pair of flowerpot stilts. I explain and he asks me to help him on -- the bathroom floor is too smooth really and he can't get the hang of it. I tell him to try on the rug downstairs.
When I come down he is pottering about looking very proud of himself.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

No tech, winter pasture and in the mud.

1. I couldn't be bothered with a load of technology so I left it all at home -- I'm glad I did, because I got my work done extra quickly. Despite all the usual interruptions it was still daylight. I rounded up Granny and the children and made them go for a walk.

2. The colour of winter pasture -- it's yellow ochre sometimes and wet green sometimes. I like to try holding the two colours in my head.

3. Alec falls over backwards into an enormous puddle. He's wearing his waterproof suit so he gets back up again and carries on.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Missing sticker, egging him on and the tree comes down.

1. Just as Alec is about to melt down I spot the missing sticker on the floor.

1b. Her party dress has green gauzy skirts and wings and a girdle of artificial flowers. It is completely beautiful. "It's Dutch," says her mother airily when someone says they have never seen anything like it before.

2. "Gently, Alec, gently!" But Bettany, even when he knocks her over, keeps giggling and encouraging him.

3. Out in the rain, in the dark, Nick is disposing of our Christmas tree's corpse. Inside our bare front room looks so much bigger.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Greed, lullabies and sitting up.

1. I hand the children over to Nick and sleep greedily until late in the morning. This is followed by a substantial three-course lunch -- we only come out when it is getting dark because we lingered so long and lovingly in good company. I feel ready to face anything now.

2. "Look," says Audrey, "He's singing Welsh lullabies to her."

3. Our routine is smashed to bits so we let Alec sit up late watching the David Attenborough Natural History Museum thing. Alec's face as he tries to make sense of the CGI creatures coming to life. "Is it real? Is it real now? Is this scary? When's daylight coming back? Why is he allowed to touch?" And everything large is now "as big as a moa."

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Mod cons, heart of the matter and mad science.

1. Washing machines.

2. I deal with the two main problems and let everything else go.

3. To retire -- alone -- to the attic with some lighter than air reading (thanks Tim for your astute gift of a Girl Genius book (adventure, romance and mad science)).

Friday, January 03, 2014

Knowledge, startled and a detail.

1. She isn't a contented, ignorant, innocent little bundle any more. She understands separation and feels insecure in an unusual situation. Fortunately the physio is happy to treat me with Bettany lying on my chest. She looks a lot happier -- almost smug and self-satisfied -- and she 'helps' by dribbling on me and by grabbing his nice shiny watch.

2. Bettany startles on the changing mat. She flings out her arms, opens her eyes wide and gasps. "What is it?" I ask anxiously, startled myself. She smiles a smile with her whole self and then does it again. I gasp in response and she giggles and wriggles as if the delight is tickling her back.

3. While he is drifting off Alec shares a detail about his afternoon at nursery: At naptime someone in pink shoes patted him and rubbed his back until he fell asleep.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Dozing, draught and lavender.

1. After lunch, while the rain lashes down outside and the wind thrashes at the walls Alec and I doze in bed.

2. To my astonishment the draught is so strong that it sucks one of Alec's balloons up the chimney.

3. At bathtime, the smell of lavender oil lingering in the hall.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Long sleep, job done and cheese.

1. When I wake up I discover that it's 11am and that everyone has been out and come back.

2. ...and that lunch is in the oven.

3. To gently prod the surface of a baked cheese.

Art book, gossip and watermelon.

1. Among my birthday presents is a new book of Tove Jansson's art, featuring lots of bits I've never seen before. 2. Stopping for a ...