Sunday, December 28, 2008

...and all through the house...

I can't remember the last time I was as excited about a Christmas as I have been about this one. I used to love Christmas, adore it, nurture the thought of it and plot my present purchases over the six to eight months running up; I used to make my pudding in August and love it with brandy on a weekly basis until it emerged from the pot, steaming and reeking of booze on Christmas afternoon; I used to tingle with the anticipation of the furtive filling of stockings, the midnight mulled wine and mince pies and the early morning cracker-crowns and champagne.

Then, then there came a prolonged spell of hating it, the heaving mass of the public crammed into the shops, the last-minute purchases, the grey, empty feeling of sitting alone in one's rented room opening parcels from abroad and the false cheer of friends together trying to recreate the warmth of childhood. Then I married the Ghost of Christmas Past and gamely prepared our celebrations while he clanked and hooted and derided the capitalist sheen of false cheer, the arduous preparations, the dead tree and the mess. None-the-less, I soldiered on, determined to raise the spirit of Christmas Present from its wrapping paper until along came the spud and suddenly, there was the prospect of a glowing Christmas Future full of proper excitement and toys.

This year, the spud has magically learned the words 'present' and 'Santa' and I was puffed up on all the 'Night Before Christmas' hype. I baked, I planned, I imagined a rose-tinted soft-focus day with the frog fondly putting the star on top of a glowing tree; I grew presents a mile high on top of the wardrobe in anticipation. We had the nursery play, the Christmas card photograph, we mailed the cards and then it got to Christmas eve and... we hadn't bought a tree.

The only tree we could find in the entire south of London with Christmas less than 12 hours away was 7 feet tall and, having stood out in its mesh for several weeks, already beginning to shed its 'no shed' needles. While the frog struggled to put this mammoth into a bucket, I went to the supermarket for parsnips and brandy only to find that 1000 other people had the same idea. My stroke-inducing wait for the till included a lady purchasing 20 bottles of wine on coupons. Out of date coupons. This required an argument, apparently. By the time I finally got out, the frog had put up the tree and started on the decorations without me (O.M.G.) and the spud had wrapped himself in sellotape and broken in to a box of chocolates. We lost five strings of Christmas lights and after I finally manufactured dinner the spud danced around shouting 'Presents!' until 10:30pm, by which time the frog and I were ready to divorce over the question of who had put the cloves in the fridge. After the mulled wine we collapsed into bed only to be woken by the spud at 1 and then 3 and then, at 5:30, by the crash of the Christmas tree toppling over, requiring extensive hoovering of broken glass, mopping of water and swearing.

The spud woke up at 8:30 and we were so bleary we completely forgot to open the fizz or pull a cracker, however once we were finally there, sitting in the living room opening presents, it did all rather redeem itself. The spud was gratifyingly overjoyed with every present he opened (and still is) and he went down for a lovely long nap, allowing the frog and I to get mildly tipsy and to finally rustle up some Christmas spirit of our own.

The upshot of all this is that our son is now obsessed with the idea that anything that comes in any sort of wrapping at all (the water bill, cat litter, cereal) is a 'present' and so we are finding all sorts of interesting things in his room these days.

So, it turns out there is a Santa after all. I just have to convince him to come next year, too.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Straight in at Number One...

Not sure where to start today, you know, not much has been happening, I don't have much to talk ab... oh wait... wait, yes, something is coming through... ah yes... HE'S TOILET TRAINED!!!!

God, it felt good to get that out.

Christmas shopping... cold, damp, dreary, crowds of people, long queues... the sort of experience that normally leaves me wearing down my teeth and swearing never to do it again. This year, however, I found myself floating around a packed, grey superstore, blissfully unaware of my surroundings. The reason? Discounts on cases of vodka? No! No, it was a little thing that set me off. A little thing stuck into the wire seat on the trolley. A little thing in welly boots looking up at me and saying 'toilet?!'. I extricated him and took him to the loo reluctantly, figuring that either it was a simple ploy to get out of the trolley or that he would have let go by the time we got there but no - total success! I tell you, when we came out of that loo, it was like Miracle on Aisle 34. I mean, I could actually SEE Santa crossing me off his list with a big 'Ho Ho Ho' as he scampered across the drop-tile ceiling scattering potty cheer to one and all.

We've now had two days of no nappies and, despite the fact that we purchased a potty for him when he was 18 months old and have been gently persuading him that this was the way forward ever since, it actually feels as though it happened by magic.

I am of course drawing a discreet veil over the fact that we can only count on a certain amount of success outside of the house, having not quite mastered our fear of actually sitting on a big-people's loo however when it comes to the number ones, we have even mastered our aim.

I tell you, Christmas is all down hill from here...

Ho ho ho!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just DO it!

Suppose you were given a word, or better still, a phrase, that when you uttered it, would cause your will to be done. How often do you think you would use it? Once a month? Once a week? Once a day? Twice? Every five minutes?

Think about your answer for a moment and then let me tell you. You would use it every day. All day. Oh, yes you would. And I know this because I am an expert in the human sciences. Or rather, I am, at least, at the moment, an expert in The Origins of Will. Oh yes I am. I am! I am too! Fight you!!

I know I am right because the spud has recently learned a couple of magic phrases of his own and here he is, displaying his basic human need for control and desire fulfilment by using them at all possible turns: 'Don't Want It' and 'Do It'. So we have 'Don't Want It', 'Want It', 'Me Do It' and 'Mummy Do It', although most frequently we just have 'Don't Want It! Don't Want It!' Yes, our little man is making his needs very clear these days. It's better, I have to say, than the tantrums but he is using these magic words fairly repetitively.

I on the other hand feel a driving need to respond intelligently to each blurt of the magic words, to aid his communication and to treat him like a person however all that ends up happening is that I go through a variation of the following conversation; 'If you don't have it you'll be cold/hungry/tired/dirty'; 'I know you don't want it sweetheart but we all have to have things we don't want sometimes'; 'But you like it!'; 'It'll be nice, I promise'; 'Come on sweetie. Have it for Mummy?'; 'You'll want it as soon as we go outside/you go to bed/we get out of the car'; 'Well you have to have it'; 'Just take it'; 'I don't care that you don't want it, you are having it. NOW!'; 'I KNOW you don't want it.'; 'JUST TAKE THE DAMN THING'; 'OK OK OK, you can go outside without your shoes/stay up until dawn/starve yourself/poo in your socks'.

I'm losing this one, aren't I.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mummy's little... er... star...

Ah, the nursery play.

We've been getting ready for Charlie's first Christmas play for ages now. He's had homework and everything, in which the nursery attempted to get all the toddlers under its authority to learn 7 songs. Considering I only knew three of them and that I know my son particularly well (at the moment), I decided that three would be enough and it was up to them to get him to learn the rest.

So. Every night we sang 'Twinkle Twinkle' because it was thankfully on the list. We sang 'I'd like to teach the world to sing' because there was only one verse and we sang 'Jingle Bells'. Or rather, I sang. The spud sat looking at me like I was some sort of alien life-form, occasionally chipping in to 'Twinkle Twinkle' just to humour me.

Two weeks before-hand we had to supply a white outfit and so, freshly washed and pressed, off it went, trousers, top and a new white t-shirt to the nursery with clean name-tags in the back.

Last week we were given our tickets for Thursday afternoon and had our names crossed off the list of dutiful parents and this Thursday we booked out of work for the requisite hour, togged out in respectable clothes and carrying cameras. Oh yes.

Oh yes. We were all about the Christmas play.

We sat down and watched as first the older children filed in, all dressed in white with silver stars on their front. Then, Charlie's class filed in, all in white with golden crowns featuring little bells... but where was Charlie?

Where's Wally? (OK, the other kids are not aliens, I blanked faces just in case)

Ah.... there he is....

Yes, that's our son, refusing to dress up or sing or participate in anything so clearly beneath him as the nursery play.

As we left, I turned to the frog and admitted that when I was his age I was probably exactly the same. The frog replied that so was he. I can hear my Mother cackling from here.

Our poor son is doomed....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Me, my, mine and all things Mine.

Recently we're having demands in our house. New demands. Demands involving preferences. Demands involving extensive, repetitive choices. The same DVDs. The same books. The same games. The same pyjamas. The same food. Over and over and over.

I know this is a toddler thing and to some extent have been expecting it. What I wasn't expecting was Dame bloody Fashionista moving into my son's tiny, pudgy little body, should, say, he have some sort of accident in his pyjamas requiring one half to be removed. You know. Lint on a sleeve. Or something. Anyway, should we replace one half of his pyjamas with a half of a different pair, we are likely to have some fairly insistent resistance. This involves said toddler padding off at a swiftish pace to rifle through his drawers until he finds a match. He then disrobes from the repellant mis-match and screams until he is dressed appropriately.

This is matched in the morning by an insistence on particular footwear. Even though he has never gone to nursery in his wellies, the other day he was inconsolable on being made to leave the house without them, to the point that the nursery rang me to say he'd been tearful all day and was he ok? Clearly, someone of import in his world had gone to nursery wearing their wellies and he was already feeling the fashion burn.

Bedtime now involves some extensive negotiation over reading material, additional to all the wardrobe decisions to be made. While we are still arguing over the 'one last book' clause in the bedtime contract, there is a lot of flexibility in the actual content of the bedtime read, although currently it's all a bit predictable.

At birth, the spud was given a collection of Charlie and Lola books with which he is at the moment reasonably obsessed. Having just mastered his own name and some of the personal pronouns ('me' and 'my') but being only two and therefore having difficulty differentiating between himself and the rest of the world, anything 'Charlie' is therefore 'me'. Thus, drawings of books which are carried by the character 'Charlie' are 'my books'. If Lola's brother is playing with a car, it's 'my car'. This explains why he's so fond of Lola because there he is, on TV and in the books, playing with her all the time. Clearly, she's his best mate. It also explains why I am now reading Charlie and Lola every night while Busy Airport and Thomas the Tank Engine are gathering dust.

It's also critical that the bedclothes are just so and that he has his nightlight in bed sometimes and on the nightstand others, and that teddy is, or is not, under the blanket, (just in case, you understand) and sometimes it's of concern which way his favourite car is parked. These things matter.

It won't be long before he moves on and adopts other books, other shoes, other pyjamas, much in the way he's moved on from his T'choupi DVD to Babar but I'm interested to know how long this phase of identifying with every Charlie in existance is going to last. It's just that it's going to be very interesting once we get to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oompa Loompas, anyone?


Friday, December 05, 2008

Neighbourhood watch,...

It was alright in the summer time, but now that it's dark when we get the spud home, some of the things that go on outside our flat are a little more worrisome. People scuttle past, heads firmly down; cars that seemed innocently parked are suddenly turning their lights on and driving off, cats cross the street for no reason and even the foxes are laying low.

It's not, I assure you, because of any dodgy goings on. As far as we know there are no crack, cat or other nefarious houses in our street... no, it's the Secret Agent who parks outside our house around 6pm on nursery days, warning off the low-life and making everyone jumpy.

We didn't set out to make our son feel like a boy. Wait, that may have come out a little, um, anyway, we didn't, as I think I was trying to say, start out by forcing slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails on him but he took to them anyway.

The minute he could crawl he was investigating the CD player, the DVD player (anything with buttons) and the first time he saw a toy car and realised that he, little spud, he himself could actually hold a car in his very own hands, he had gone over to the dark side for good. For 50p in a children's charity shop I bought him a medium-sized die-cast toy ambulance (well I couldn't pry it out of his hands) and if one was to divide the price of that toy by the number of times he has played with it, the resulting unit of currency would need to be raced around the Large Hadron Collider before it could be identified.

'Car' was one of his very first words and the minute he was big enough to sit in the drivers seat, we have had no peace. Here are a couple of shots of him, one at 13 months and one at 20 months (but with much madder hair). A recent will come in a bit, wait for the edit.

OMG someone buy that child trousers that fit... )

At first, he was content just to hold the wheel but as his confidence grew, he started experimenting and quickly found the blinkers. He then moved on to the levers, found the horn, the indicators and, you guessed it, the headlights.

Now, the minute we get in from nursery he begs to be set free and once out of his seat, he scrambles to the front and orders me into the passenger side. He puts the keys in the ignition, clicking the locks on and then off again to disable the immobiliser - fortunately he hasn't worked out that one has to actually TURN the key or we would really be in trouble. Yes yes, I try to hide them but he just says 'Keese! Pleese! Keese! Pleeese! Pleeese! Pleeese! KEEEEEEEEEES! and then it all goes blank. Anyway, there we then sit in the dark, him rampaging through the dashboard and me cowering down in case anyone thinks I'm the one sending those signals to the aliens.

Given that by the end of most of my days I am rushing out of the door with no makeup on and a big question mark over the state of my hair, it's just as well that nobody really wants to look inside our car during these goings-on. Meantime perhaps I should hire him out as a neighbourhood burglar detterent?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Milky bar kid

We’ve been a bit poorly here in spud central. I had to rush off to pick him up from nursery two Mondays ago because he had lost his dinner (and by the size of the patch of sawdust, his lunch and possibly his breakfast) all over the toy shelf.

I came to get him, expecting, as I usually do when he is ill a pale, limpid slip of a thing but getting my usual rambunctious spudlet showing no indication that anything was wrong, other than the softly lingering scent of his incident and a constant desire to be carried. I bathed him and he refused his dinner, demanding instead the first of what must now be 100 bottles of warmed milk.

The next day, barred from nursery, the frog stayed home with him so that I could work and the spud bounded around the house, defiantly being well, but still not eating. He had a smidgen of breakfast but then refused lunch and dinner, demanding instead an ever-increasing number of bottles of milk. Yes, he is still having milk from a bottle. Alright, YOU come over and give it to him in a cup. Go on, I Dare You. You face that look of betrayal, the clutching hands around the cup, the quivering lip as he bravely raises it and then... the wail of humiliation as he sips, the howl as it all becomes Too Too Much and he lets it go all over his lap and lies down sobbing as though he was All Alone in the Void. I thought not.

Anyway, so here we are, two weeks later and still going through 4 pints of milk in less than 2 days. Friends rang us on their way over the other day and asked if they could pick us up anything and I asked for 4 pints of milk. They brought over two 2-pint bottles ‘so that the last part doesn’t go off in your fridge’ and I looked at them as if they were completely insane. It’s not just milk though, oh no, it’s fluids in general. He can now pad his way over to the fridge, take out the juice, open the lid, pour it into a cup (aha, now juice – THAT goes in a cup), put the lid on, take it back to the fridge, drink down the cup and go back to do it all again. Notice I don’t add the words ‘without spilling anything’.

He’s eating again now but not really that much. Now we’ve all come down with a cold and a cough it’s hard to resist his husky little voice holding up an empty bottle and wheezing ‘maw?’ so I guess we’ll just keep bothering the cows until he decides he’s had enough.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nineteen to the dozen

Out of the blue the other day, the spud, sitting with a pile of bricks, counted clearly to 10. Well. Almost clearly.

There must be some sort of song that goes with the counting because, as with 'Twinkle Twinkle' he has the beginning and the end part nailed but is a bit woolly in the middle, so we get ONE TWO THREE, ffo, fff, SEX, seh-het, NINE TEN and then we get 'nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen nineteen' Today he added 'sixteen' to the mix, possibly because, just as 'boo' is his favourite colour, 'sex' is his favourite number. Combined with his constant use of the word 'bugger', which I think means 'bigger' and the frog thinks means I need to watch my mouth, we're having a wonderful time out in public as he points to car number plates and shouts 'SEX' really loudly and then sits back and says 'bugger bugger bugger'.

All preparation for the trials and tribulations of grown-up life, I suppose.

We've also discovered puppets. If you want to make my son fall over laughing, put a sock over your hand and make an animal noise. Lunge for his nose a couple of times and he's helpless - gods, if I'd known toddlers were so easy to please I'd have saved a fortune on all those christmas presents cowering on top of the wardrobe. Seriously, I'd have just gone to Primark and lurked around their hosiery division with a needle and some buttons.

Actually, I already knew he was easy to please - we've had over a year of fun and games out of the cardboard box his carseat came in and yesterday he entertained himself for nearly an hour with nothing but a plate of paint and a pad of paper. He plopped both his hands in, waved them about on the paper then pointed to the resulting splodge and said 'Airplane!! Airplane!!' I did the dutiful Mummy thing and nodded wisely. 'Very good' I said. 'Airplane!!' he said and promptly wiped it into oblivion counting 'one, two free, nineteen nineteen nineTEEN!!!'. I was hoping for some masterpieces to hang up but as I wasn't policing his use of the pad, most of what he did got stuck together. Given that paint and paper cost me £1 each and we've got enough left for many more hours of mess, perhaps I can take a break from eBay.

I may be showing the rapid advancement of my years, but I don't remember anyone I knew as a child having as many toys as some of the children I know have now (untangles tongue). Piles and boxes and storage containers and rooms of the things. Spud has two wicker Ikea boxes that pretty much everything fits into and sometimes I feel badly for him that he doesn't have more - but mostly, I look at what he does have and wonder if it's too much.

My sister in law is spending Christmas in India working at an orphanage with Families for Children, a private, non profit, nonsectarian agency operating homes that care for hundreds of destitute children and women in India and Bangladesh. She's taking donations of clothes and toys out to the orphanage and in the run-up to Christmas, I'd like to support what FFC do by asking anyone who reads this to buy one less present for someone who already has a lot of stuff and donate the money to a charity, perhaps even this one which does a bang-up job of caring for kids who rarely get their own toys to keep.

To donate to FFC directly you can get information from their web site here or you can donate to them through

The spud, for his part, isn't going to miss out on much. Frankly, he already thinks he has nineteen of everything and so one less won't make a difference. Pretty much all he ever plays with are his wooden and his Thomas trains anyway.

I know. A train puppet! Get me a pair of tights. And your credit card - Christmas is coming and folks need help.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

nothing but a dreamer...

There's a new happening in the life of our little spud this week. Not that I've had anything to do with it mind you, I was handily out of town when the frog initiated the Big Change.

Recently, as some of you may know, we've been having Difficult Nights in which our son refuses to go to sleep. They've been getting worse and worse recently with him spending hours shouting and crying and begging to be taken out of his cot, usually ending with us taking him to our bed to fall asleep.

Anyway, so while I was safely tucked away on another continent, the frog took the initiative and transformed the spud's cot into a bed - and our son into a happy sleeper, just like that.

It's amazing. You have no idea how thrilled the spud is with his new bed - we have to sit on it, put the trains on it, pretend to sleep in it, jump in it, sing in it, eat breakfast in it... it's bed central. Today we went to Ikea and bought him a baby duvet and he basically spent the entire rest of the afternoon pretending to sleep under it.

It has, however, introduced a very strange vibe to the flat and I'm not entirely sure how to put it into words. Imagine this, then. You're asleep in your bed. It's dark. Some little quiet sound has woken you up. A sound you've not heard before. You sit up and your heart lurches to a stop as, caught in a beam of moonlight, a silent figure glides to the end of your bed and... touches you!!!


I know, I had to take a moment to get my heart down past my epiglottis. It was, as you have no doubt guessed, only the spud coming to lauch himself at me. I however was completely unprepared. This evening it happened again. Normally, after we put him into bed, we give him a half a bottle of milk, warmed over to put him out. After he's downed it he shouts for me to get the bottle and then he falls asleep. Tonight, I had given him the good stuff and was pottering about waiting for him to shout when a little elfin figure padded into the livingroom, handed me his bottle and hot-footed it back into his bedroom before words could be spoken.

I'm not sure what I love about this the most - the lack of shouting; the new grown-up sleeping or, that he is stubborn enough to make his point even in the teeth of bedtime: he will get out of bed when he damn well pleases - but he will also get back in without having to be told. Either way, I am preparing myself for unexpected evening sightings and waiting for the inevitable day when we wake up to find him sitting in the middle of the kitchen eating butter with a spoon.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Potty Mouth

Bemusingly, this post is nothing to do with toilet training. I know, I know, I’m letting you down. We skyped the spud’s Aunt and Uncle in Canada the other day and halfway through the call he displayed his naked bottom and we had to admit that he was running around pantless in hopes of a potty wee. In fact, we went much further than that. Given the time difference I suspect we ruined their breakfast but this is of no import to us, we’d already eaten and are smugly used to the odd dirty potty. In fact, potty training is pretty much all there is to talk about in our house these days. Poor little bean, the workings of his innermost plumbing are public enough without me rabbiting on about it to all and sundry (apologies here to anyone who has dared visit us in the last month).

No, there are more important things on the agenda today. This is, in fact, all about our current, massive dilemma.

The spud, as some of you may know, is currently in a wonderful Montessori nursery. He loves it. He’s happy. He’s talking and counting and using the toilet and singing and tidying up and using a handkerchief and saying ‘Miss Bharti, FUN’ all the way home about his key worker. Frankly, we love it too. Rather a lot. However, this garden of delight is in Streatham, which is, on a good day an 8 minute drive and on a bad, 20 minutes. Each way. In rush hour. Twice a day. This means [gets out calculator] between 30 and 80 minutes in the car every day just to get him there and back.

He has, since birth, been on the waiting list of our local, non-Montessori nursery. It has a long waiting list because it’s a particularly good nursery and all the spud’s bestest friends are either already there or on the waiting list. He knows it because his childminder used to take him there twice a week, because she is part of their affinity programme which is the entire reason we chose her in the first place. Finally, it is a five minute walk from our front door. This week they rang us to say that he’s been offered a place starting in January.

With the exception of one neighbour who has a PHD in anthropology and won’t let her child watch TV (so, depending on how I feel her opinion is either the most valuable of everyone's or the ranting of a mad person) everyone thinks we are bonkers to even consider turning it down – I mean, it’s the best nursery for miles. And all his friends will be there. Or have I said that already?

We have, on balance, decided to go ahead, although we haven’t told Montessori yet. I may possibly cry during the meeting because I wanted him in Montessori so badly. He’s doing so well, you see. He loves it. They have French lessons, for crying out loud.

Anyway, the deciding factor is the distance. Yes, it will be a matter of seconds for us to dash out the door and fetch him from the local nursery. Yes, we will be saving gallons of petrol and carbon emissions and ultimately the planet.

The best thing however is that the spud will no longer be party to my road rage.

Quite a lot of the journey to Montessori involves complex little neighbourhood intersections where everyone just kind of gets in each other’s way and, ultimately, tempers are raised. I, unfortunately, am absolutely useless at curbing my tongue but it wasn’t until someone honked at us yesterday and the spud yelled ‘BUTTER’ at him that I realised that things have gone Too Far.

Yes yes yes. I know. We’re signing him up for the local. I’ll get my coat.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Guest Blogging.

How terribly, terribly exciting - I have my first ever guest blog over at Tara's house: From Dawn Til Rusk! Her blog is ever so fab and I am basking the wild glow of reflected glory at the moment... sigh... So anyway, head over to re-live my birth story... just what you always wanted. I know, I'm so nice to you. Tara's blog however is very funny so go over anyway, go on, go on, gon on.

Actually, for clarity, this is clearly not MY birth story. For that you'd have to ask my Mum. No, this is a re-hashing of the day that Charlie was born, and I, having already contracted blogitis, probably blogged about it before I'd even told my family.

For any of you who have been brave enough to venture over from Tara's blog, hello and welcome. This blog started as a way of keeping my family amused by my pregnancy and has continued for the last two and a half years... although recent posts have been slightly less humorous now that I am faced with the realities of my toddler, his hundred tiny hands and his ability to interrupt what is left of my beauty sleep.

I think that I have to face the fact that there may never be enough sleep in the world to regain what shreds of beauty I may ever have had and, while pregnancy confers a wonderful, youthful glow, there is nothing like having a two-year-old to suddenly display one's Real Age to all and sundry.

Still, thanks for coming over - do leave a comment if you have a minute as it would be my pleasure to seek you out in the next few days.

Forgive me while I go crawl into a vat of face cream.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

... the old man is snoring...

I just want to show you a little bit of what sort of a day this has been.

Cold, basically. And wet. And grey and somewhat glorious. With the frog at work all day, the spud and I went out in the rain, foolishly, me with the desire to run him into some semblance of exhaustion and he with the desire to ride his scooter and throw himself into the park at full throttle.

We started in the playground where he abandoned his scooter. The slide was too wet even for him so we proceeded to the one-o-clock club where he rode the hell out of anything with wheels for 10 minutes; but we had to leave a little sharpish when he got protective of his rights to the wagon.

Then I carried his scooter to the duck pond where, due to it being a freezing cold rainy day, the ducks hadn't had a hand-out in living memory and therefore swarmed the spud's proffered crumbs. Hungry young crows muscled swiftly in on our bread action and for a moment it was very Hitchcockian - but by the time my superior mothering instincts had kicked in and I had got out the camera, the bread had been consumed and my son was gaily scudding about the flock with his arms at full mast.

The crows retreated.

This, however was by no means the end of the sojourn, despite the increasing rain. Next, I followed behind him (carrying his scooter) into the walled garden where we spent time sitting on various sheltered benches and walking around all the paths and patting rogue dogs and jumping over things a lot. When I stopped clapping at every jump, the spud walked up and grabbed one of my hands in each of his and clapped my hands for me.

Then, I tried to get him home, but instead he demanded that we go to the paddling pool - the sort of demanding that involves no screaming or shouting or tantrums but rather the sound of little wellie boots on tarmac, running the wrong way. It was belting down and the drain in the centre was gulping water - luckily leaving a few messy puddles around its lip for some handy stomping.

By this time I had been carrying his scooter for nearly an hour and was soaking wet, cold and thinking hungrily of a cup of tea.

I picked him up to carry him home but he struggled down and ran up the hill to the long way home. We picked up some leaves and he said the word 'yellow' and 'reaves' and finally asked for his scooter. He scooted merrily up the hill and then along until he was distracted by some absolutely bonkers people playing tennis, the yellow balls like emergency flares against the sky. Then he ran off across the grass in the general direction of the BMX bike track, at which point I picked him (and his scooter) firmly up and carried him the rest of the way home, warming his icy little hands against my cheeks singing 'It's raining it's pouring' while he giggled and pretended to snore against my shoulder.

We had hot chocolate while our coats steamed on the radiators. We took off our socks and sat on the sofa making 'mmmm' noises and grinning at each other and then the spud went for a nap and I made pumpkin cookies. Later, he had some friends over, still in their pyjamas having had a rainy day inside; and they ran amok and devoured mountains of baking while the cat cowered and their parents drank tea and kept a low profile.

If I tell you that he went to sleep like a stone, I hardly think you'll be surprised.

I rather hope it rains again tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

twist and shout

Ah me. We’ve had some visitors here at camp spud in the last few days and that means that we’ve had to turf the spud out of his room and into ours. Oh yes, the slippery slope of sleeping in the big bed has been slid right to the very bottom. 5 days of sleeping with his parents, 5 days of waking up with direct access to the power of pester and 5 days, crucially, of not having to sleep in his own bed, his prison cot out of which he cannot climb.

Interestingly, he has not attempted to climb out of the big bed at all. In fact, he has gone to sleep like a blissful little cherub with nary a chirrup of complaint, no demands for milk and no crying of poo wolf ('Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Poo Mummy, Poo!! Poo!!' ... 'Have you done a poo, Spud?' 'Yeth!' 'Have you really?' 'Yeth, Poo!!'. No poo. 'Do you need to poo in the potty?' 'Yeth' Twenty minutes of pottering about the bathroom ignoring the potty later and it's back to bed. No poo the next time either. Or the next. Sometimes, five calls later, poo happens, but by that point we are so fed up of jumping up and down that we've closed all the adjoining doors and are eating our freezing cold dinner with our feet in a mustard bath.

This new easy bedtime is possibly only when he's put to sleep in our bed, so, now that our guests have gone, we hit upon the wizard wheeze of putting him down in our bed and then moving his sweet little sleeping self into his own bed. Which works for about two hours which is when someone from upstairs comes home and slams the door, or a car honks out in the street, or a helicopter flies over or a siren goes off. You know. And he wakes up. And realises he's been tricked. And will he go back to sleep? Will he hell. Not, you understand, in anything other than our comfy bed. Between his parents. And not under the duvet either. No no, that's just too hot.

Instead, he kicks and complains in his sleep until the duvet is crumpled up below foot level, ie, around our waists somewhere. He then stretches his little fists and once he's thumped both of us a good one he frog-legs up to the headboard where he bangs his noggin and wakes, briefly, to whinge a little. He then rolls over, trapping one arm briefly underneath him and struggling energetically to free it, ending up with his pajama-clad bottom in the air and one or both of his parents teetering on the edge of the mattress, leaving no room for an elderly and very disgusted cat.

So, yes. We are currently being beaten by the proverbial rod we have created for, you know, our own backs. And stuff. There are benefits however. To all this bed sharing and twisted musculature. Namely, once he's contorted himself into position, that's it. Lights out. No waking. No, in otherwords, getting up in the middle of the night to give him a cuddle. I'm not sure I can remember the last time I had a week of uninterrupted nights.

Perhaps we should just buy a bigger bed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Twinkle twinkle little... wha?

We have singing! Proper singing with almost words and everything! I know, I know, sign us up for X Factor already, my son's the next Frank Sinatra. Or something.

Forgive me for over-reacting a little here, it's just that we've recently had our parent meeting at the nursery and it seems our little bear is lagging in concentration skills. The fact that his motor and spatial awareness skills are advanced doesn't appear to be wiping the earnest look of concern off the face of his nursery worker however. She kept uttering phrases like 'it's nothing to be worried about' and 'we've had much, much worse' but I could barely hear her as the spectre of ADHD rose up in front of me and went 'BLEBEDDYBLEBEDDYBLEH!' until I realised that he is, after all, only two and has clearly demonstrated his ability to concentrate on the things that really matter. Like, for example, how to get Mummy to give him an ice-cream AFTER she's said no. Several times.

I submit the following. Today, after attempting to win me over with his new hysterics, he decided that he would forgo his spaghetti and have ice cream instead. The flaw in this plan is that in order to get said ice-cream, someone else has to get the stuff out of the freezer which means firstly, the same person has to agree that having no spaghetti is a good idea and secondly, has be asked nicely. Simply pointing at the freezer and shrieking 'In there! In THERE!' then bursting into hysterics is, frankly, not the way to win this one.

So, my little bundle of so-called attention deficit decided he would trick his mother out of an ice cream. Firstly, he calmed down and asked nicely for some water, asked for a straw, drank it through the straw, put the cup on the counter. Diversionary tactics, you see. Then, he toddled gaily over to the tupperware cupboard. Now, what does one find in there? Tupperware? Yes! But... but... what is this? What? Is it... an ice cube tray?

Yes folks, you got it. He had an actual plan in mind. He held it up and said 'Water? Water Mummy! Water!'. I tried putting it back in the cupboard (hysterics), I tried putting it in the sink (hysterics), so, I filled it with water. Once full, he pointed to the freezer 'In there! In there!' and so I had to put the ice-cube tray into the freezer. This, as you have no doubt intuited, involves the opening of the freezer door and suddenly he was using his cute little squeaky surprised voice. 'Oh! Oh!! Mummy!' he said, as if to say 'Wow, did you see that?' Who'd have thought? Ice-cream! Do you think... maybe... that? That there? In there? That? There? No? Mummy? Ice cream? Ice...?

I closed the freezer. He went back to the cupboard and pulled out... the popsicle mould! 'Juice Mummy, Juice! In there!' So, we made popsicles. And put them in the freezer.

He still didn't get an ice cream, but he tried REALLY hard.

Bedtime is also succumbing to his new hysterics and he can concentrate for up to two hours on not going to sleep. Last night I tried to sing him to bed - quite an act given that normally my singing is met with 'NO Mummy, NO!' I did, however, hit upon Twinkle Twinkle and lo and behold, there he was, singing along. 'Tee to tee to taaaaaahhhh' OK so it didn't quite scan but there it was: 'Tee to tee to taaaaaahhhh... tee do tee do di do diiiiiiiii... tee do tee do di do diiiiiiiii.... tee to tee to taaaaaaahhhh....'

Lacking in concentration indeed. Today 'Twinkle Twinkle', tomorrow... well, ice cream, I suspect.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Heinz means...

I have tried very hard with my little pudding to give him nutritious dinners every day. He's not afraid of a bit of brocolli, my boy and he'll happily snack on raw red peppers and slices of root veggies. He likes salad and I think he believes that pasta is always cooked with spinach. OK, so he knows the words for 'biscuit' and 'ice-cream' and he'd prefer to eat bread than nearly anything else in the world but in general, his diet has been pretty healthy.

Recently, however, things have slipped and personally, I blame his swank new nursery. It's not that I'm getting lazy, I mean, it takes as much energy to cut and pan-fry potatoes as it does to cook something more healthy, it's just that recently it's been a little more difficult to get the fresh veggies into him. So, I've been playing that old Mum's game 'hide the vegetable' by making vegetable fritatas and home-made rice cakes and spaggheti sauce loaded with veg and then pureed. This, of course, makes him even more resistant to the idea of non-processed food and down we go. It's a slippery slope, and last night we squelched noisily to the bottom with me delivering him a dinner containing 2 fish fingers, 2 courgette frittatas and a pool of baked beans. And how did the spud greet this fast food fat mountain?

'Oh WOW!!'

Yes, that's right. The first time my son has ever greeted his dinner with anything better than a smile; 'WOW!!' he said again. And then, I kid you not, then, he actually said 'Yay!!'

We have never had baked beans at home before. I have nothing against them, in fact I quite like baked beans. It's just that they come in bloody great big tins that we never finish and after a week we find them going a bit sort of fatty and hard at the back of the fridge. Yesterday, however, the availability of tiny tins of beans was revealed to me on the supermarket shelf. I know, I imagine they've been on sale since I was 8 but trust me, I've just never seen them. So, I thought 'why not'. Once home I was anxious to try them out so I opened one up, spooned out half, heated up the beans and inadvertantly unleashed the Power of Two on them as my toddler practiced his new fork skills until there Were No More.

The spud's new nursery is teaching him all sorts of cool things. It's Montessori and so every game has some sort of practical value and there are lots that involve transferring something from one pot to another. Water gets poured from one jug into another or squeezed in a dropper from one bottle to another and beans, beans get spooned from one bowl into another bowl and this, combined with the inevitability of beans for nursery lunch, has clearly taken our little spudlet's imagination by storm.

He leaned into his dinner, swooped the fish fingers and courgette aside and began vigourously forking up his beans. He was squishing them on, pushing them on with his knife, stabbing them, scooping them... he had a whole raft of new skills which seemed designed solely for the purpose of getting beans onto fork. Once in a while I, armed with a sneaky second fork would slip a piece of fish into his mouth and he would accept then give me a withering look as he choked it down and went in for more beans. 'More! More! he said when they were done and God help me, I went back, heated them up and gave him The Rest of the Tin. That's right, a whole 150gm tin of beans went into his maw. It was astonishing.

Now, I'm all in a dither. I mean, I know that baked beans are not the devil - I bought them, after all. It's just that they ARE fatty and full of sugar and now he expects to see them at home, on his plate and, eventually, around his ever-expanding midriff. The only solution I fear is a return to fresh steamed vegetables... Tomorrow, it's off to the market and, from now on I'm afraid that beens means greens in this house.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

... the whites of its eyes...

I have seen the enemy mouse, and the mouse is... cute! And brave. The little bugger strutted out from the kitchen bold as a monkey's bottom and did that Tom and Jerry move where it saw me, froze, and then tiptoed backwards into the skirting board. Actually it ran for its life, so quickly I barely saw it move, it just sort of evaporated...

Anyway, so I haven't been hallucinating, dreaming or otherwise making it all up, it really is a mouse and it really is in the apartment. Since the first night of major chewing however we've not seen or heard any evidence... beyond of course the sight of the damn thing taking possession of our living room. We have no idea where it's based itself beyond the vague suspicion that it is living in the kitchen and so tomorrow the kitchen gets cleaned torn apart.

It appears also that now the creature has been in the house for a few days, it is finally leaving enough of a scent trail for our old puss to get a whiff of, however our suspicion that he was once a pampered show cat is gaining legs as it is clear that while he can smell something, he's not entirely certain what to do about it... I suspect that he and real mice have never had the pleasure, so to speak.

The upshot is that Teddymouse, his ancient lump of spit-stiff terry-towelling filled with something that might once have been catnip, is getting some renewed abuse as his instincts battle it out with his manners. Sammy is now strutting about the place as if he really has done battle and I swear the whole thing is actually doing him some good - perhaps some ancient pheremone receptor is pumping him full of energy. Or something.

The spud, now he is old enough to understand what Teddymouse is about is now putting life and limb at risk by trying to tempt Sammy with Teddymouse and Sammy is again proving what a gent he is by not lifting a paw while the spud is holding on... the result however is that my little boy, who REALLY wants Sammy to play with the toy the way he does when I drag it about, is getting very frustrated.

Anyway, we are no further ahead in our quest to evict our mouse, however our rickety old grey bone-bag is now a lionesque hunter, long may he roar.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Gnawing regrets

I guess we should have realised that this day would come and, with the onset of winter, it seems in retrospect to be something for which we should have really been prepared. It's just one of those things that one doesn't particularly want to contemplate, no matter how inevitable it may be.

I know we shouldn't be surprised. We adopted Sammy a year and a half ago and he was over 16 then - in the intervening time he has not grown any younger, nor has his hearing improved.

This, then, is the lamentable outcome of adopting an old, deaf cat.


Oh, Sammy's fine. He's polishing off great bowls full of food and has bravely managed to overcome his distaste for the fairer sex by sleeping ever closer to me over the past six months until this week, he is actually sleeping in my face.

I have a handy hint for those of you with dry lips: don't use chapstick if your cat is sleeping in your face. Two words: Caterpillar Lips.

The upshot of all this hair in my nostrils is that I'm not sleeping brilliantly which means I spend a great deal of time lying very still (well, he is a Very Old Cat) listening to the sounds of our flat. Last night, this included the sound of the flat being chewed to pieces by what I have since confirmed as, by the size of it's little droppings, a mouse. A very loud mouse. A mouse which was yesterday having a gay old scramble across our wood floors followed by some vigourous chewing and then another scramble.

Now, most cats of my past aquaintance would at this point be wide awake, ears swivelling, planning their decimation of the enemy. Most cats, in fact, would merely need to inhabit an apartment to keep the mice behind enemy lines. Not Sammy however. No, Sammy was actually snoring. I prodded him awake and we lay there, him no doubt wearing his disgruntled face (I couldn't see in the dark but he was hunching his shoulders in a Very Meaningful Way) and me poking him at every scuttle. Did he perk up? Did he sniff the air meaningfully and emit a low growl? No. No no no. No, because our dearest darling Sammy is Too Deaf to hear a mouse and, I realised this morning after showing him The Evidence, he is probably also 'hard of smelling'. And, possibly, a little dim in the old eye department as well.

Poor old boy, he's a simply marvellous cat but absolutely bloody useless when it comes to warning off a mouse. I wonder, has there been a surveilance team of them under our floorboards rating Sammy under some sort of mouse threat assessment? 'This one is a zero, I repeat, zero, gnaw at will'. Have they really dismissed him as harmless? Or, is he, in fact the Dalai Lama of cats - fully aware that there are mice in the place but allowing them their mouse rights under a buddhist live-and-let-live policy?

Either way, we are going to have to get in some humane traps and let our little friends loose deep in the park where they pose no threat to the wiring. While we don't intentionally leave out any food which would otherwise attract them, we do have the cat's bowls, not to mention a two year old who stuffs half-eaten biscuits into the furniture so I suspect that now they've found us and our neutral cat, our little housemates are going to be disinclined to leave without a little prodding.

Bedtime now, I'll be the one with the ear plugs in and my finger in the cat's ribs.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Wake Up and Smell the Coffee has tagged me for a meme... I'm rubbish at meme's but will have a go at this one as it seems fairly easy. The job is to write 6 random things about me and tag 6 people. Given that this one has been around a while, I think everyone I know has done this one already (some more than once) so I hereby tag anyone who reads this and hasn't done it yet... just let me know

1. I... I... I... ye Gods it's hard to pick random things. I mean, by picking them they are by definition Not Random, they're chosen. This really requires one to stand in the middle of one's life spinning a bottle. I think possibly the first thing on this list ought to be that secretly, I am a terrible pedant.

2. We are watching a movie at the moment. I have proved to my husband what a truly tedious individual I am by yet again correctly predicting the plot. I think this says more about the quality of films on late night TV rather than any sort of intelligence on my part. That being said, possibly don't invite me around to your house to watch telly. I think that's reasonably random.

3. God I'm tired. Are you tired? I'm tired. The cat is tired too, he's tried sleeping on both of us in the last ten minutes and has given up and slunk off to his water bowl. He's crouched over it right now like Dracula over a old lady's neck, looking all cowled and fangy and put out. This is because yesterday we purchased a tin of clearly inferior cat food and he's on a sort of hunger strike, the sort which excludes his cat bowl but includes our dinner, the spud's dinner and pretty much anything that's not marked 'cat' on the packet.

4. The spud lost a wellington in the middle of nowhere today. Finding it involved 40 minutes of hilly walking in the rain during time I was hoping to spend napping. This is why I am up at IS IT TWENTY PAST MIDNIGHT OH MY GOD.

5. I replaced the clutch lever on my motorbike in the dark this evening. Gratifyingly, this act of bravery and sheer coolness was witnessed by several people however I am certain they were all convinced I was a loony bike thief. During this time spent role-playing Steve McQueen, the spud tore his room apart and left his father in a trembling heap on the nursery floor.

6. It really is 20 past midnight. Mother.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The fear factor

Yes. That's the back of my son. Riding on his scooter. On the BMX bike track. Unsupported by parent. Aged 2. And a few days.

He was, in fact standing still but only for a moment... just after I took this he shot off and I had to do the flappy Mummy dance to catch up. I held on to his handlebars and supported his back and together we raced down the slope and over a few of the bumps. He loved it.

It was a big mistake.

The problem, or perhaps one of the chief joys of being two, is that (for the lucky majority) one hasn't experienced any major setbacks in life and those that one has had, one has generally forgotten about. This means that the average two-year-old has only irrational fears to deal with (such as what-ever it is that lurks at one end of the spud's bed some nights) where-as the very real dangers in life, such as moving vehicles, steep staircases and taking on gravel-laden BMX bike tracks on one's micro-scooter (without a helmet) don't tend to trip the 'fear' switch in most toddlers and unless restrained they will happily race into danger.

Fear, or, perhaps, caution, is something that one clearly has to learn from one's parents. In fact, given that I now have a hyper-real sense of fear about things which here-to-fore I have rather taken as read (such as taking heavy things off shelves, the height of the sofa and watching 12-year-old boys rocket around on their bikes) while the spud is the Eval Kneival of toddlersville, I would like to put forward my new fear-hypothesis. This hypothesis states that at the moment a baby is born, its parents also give birth to its fear. This fear is then transmitted little by little to the child. Unfortunately, parents never seem to lose all of this extra fear and have to carry on for the rest of their lives with a super-inflated dose of caution - something that would probably have done them a lot of good in their twenties during those lost years spent... well enough about me.

It's a difficult balancing act to manage - imbuing one's offspring with enough caution that they don't think that racing their scooter on the BMX track is a good idea, without terrifying them so much that they refuse to go outside ever again, and, twenty years later, have to be cut out of their bedrooms when they get too big to fit through the door.

In the meantime, we now have to avoid the bike track during busy periods or our little spudling can be found hauling his scooter onto the starting grid with a very determined set to his jaw before setting off down the slope in the path of actual bikes hurtling around it at speed.

Or he would do if we would let him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And that's a wrap

OK, so it didn't happen. Six days of patrolling my son's skin for every little blemish, six days of preparing for the worst - six days, incidentally, of on-and-off fever, coughing and snot, six days of showing ALL the signs he was about to launch in to chickenpox and nada. And, in Bad Mother news, I feel totally, completely and utterly cheated.

So. I admit. It's not the greatest thing in the world, hoping for one's darling little bundle to get sick but frankly he has to get chickenpox at some point and it was sort of convenient this week a relief to get some warning. Now that I know it's out there lurking in wait for my little pudding I rather want to get it over with.

The main side-effect of all this waiting around is that every time he complains a little... maybe his Thomas is a few inches too far away, perhaps he's woken up with an itchy toe... anything, basically, that he chooses to complain about after midnight, particularly if he complains for more than 30 seconds, lands him up in our bed with two over-attentive parents feeling his head and holding his hands and paying him loads of attention and all the while not getting any sleep of their own at all.

This morning, I woke up having completely forgotten that I'd carted him into bed at 5am; to see his smug little smiling face nose to nose with mine (alright, it was quite cute. OK, very cute. Dammit let me get on with this). He proceeded to wrap his arm around my head and administer several damp kisses to my cheek (Shut. Up. No, I don't have pictures for crying out loud). His next move was to hightail it over to his Dad, wrap his arms around the frog's sleeping shoulders and say 'Mmmmmm, Dadai!'.

Yeah I know. He has us wrapped.

The upshot of this is that bedtime is now a big struggle as he sits in his cot shouting for us to take him to the proper bed: 'Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai', (we only get 'Daddy' and 'Mummy' when he's in a good mood. The rest of the time we get Eurotrash) 'Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai...' you have no idea. He can go on for a Very Long Time. Last night he did it for about an hour. Every five or ten minutes, or however long it took one of us to cave under the onslaught, we would go in and he'd gurgle a bit and look sleepy - but as soon as we left he was back at it like some sort of public announcement machine gone wonky.

The thing is, because we're not as cool as we like to make out, we get worried that perhaps THIS time it's for real... maybe he's done a poo or maybe he's been sick or perhaps the evil pox has come in the night to rampage over his dewy epidermis... you know, the one time you give up because you're convinced he's crying wolf is the one time that the wolf is squatting over him with evil intentions. Or something. Either way we have now had no sleep for about a week and so our judgement is sorely lacking.

Anyway, I forgot that this was supposed to be about the kitchen fire he set this morning. I'm so tired I have actually forgotten the entire thing - the failed fire extinguisher, the flames, the panic, the smoke detectors, the shutting down of the mains and eventual dousing of the guilty toaster with a bucket of water; the frog repainting the entire kitchen. This morning. All that. And I forgot.

Tonight we have agreed no spud in the bed... but then we agreed that last night. And the night before. Oh yeah, we are W. R. A. P. P. E. D.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Run for your lives, it's...

The Lurgi!

We're in the very un-nerving position of knowing that our little potato is about to get sick - but not knowing when, and therefore having to make risky decisions about where to take him and who to let him lick talk to.

Yes folks, our little pumpkin was exposed to... the POX!! Chickenpox, of course, although now that I have read a library of evidence on the subject there is a relationship to the actual Pox - mind you, from the way people react you'd think he was about to contract the plague. So now we are in agonies of waiting and preparing and looking at him all fondly because he's so little and sweet and has no idea what's coming for him.

I have also just discovered that when one writes the word 'pox' more than once it begins to look sort of alien and unlikely and one has to go and look it up in the dictionary just to check it's not actually spelled 'pocks'. Chickenpox. Smallpox. The pox. Pocks. Pockmarks. OK now every word is looking weird, someone get me a martini and a lie-down.

Anyway. So last Friday we were at one of the 100 thousand birthday parties we've been invited to in the last few weeks to experience more levels of party-food and goodie-bag guilt. The little boy in question has a somewhat contrary relationship with the spud, in that they both get right up each other's noses which means that most of their interactions end up in mini-fisticuffs. At that age, this mainly involves some face-to-face crying action followed by kissing and making up, hand-holding, playing and more crying.

What I'm getting at here is that they spent quite a lot of time together. Close up. In coughing distance. And the other little boy did have a cough -the sort of cough in fact that small children get right before they break out in the pox which he gaily did the very next day. Meaning that he was spectacularly infectious at the time and it's fairly likely that the spud is poxy-in-waiting - although, crucially, not guaranteed.

Short of painting a big black X on our door and cowering inside for the next two weeks, I'm not actually certain what to do next. Yes, come Monday he could be covered in spots. Or Tuesday. Or perhaps Wednesday. Or not. Meaning that from Saturday he may be infectious. Or Sunday . Or perhaps Monday. Or not at all. Because, my Very Good Friend who has Gone Before says that her 4 year old was exposed to the pox many times before he actually caught it.

So - do we tell the nursery and risk them making him stay home next week Just In Case? Or, do we put all the children at risk (or not) by sending him in? Or what? What? WHAT???

I am SUCH a nice person that the thought of going up to the nursery in ten minutes time and not mentioning it to them is going to create in me absolute agonies of angst... I mean, I will be dancing on their doorstep and mumbling like a female Hugh Grant; but if I can't stop myself and it leaches out and they tell me to keep him home next week, how much more angsty will I be if I let down a client and lose a week of work when he's NOT infectious?

We've now been banned from all our birthday party commitments this weekend (so there's something to be said for honesty!) and so are going to be able to laze around the house all cakeless and guilt-free.

To the nursery I go...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Acts of retention

There's something about having a son that just doesn't get discussed among women. It's the elephant in the kitchen if you like - or rather, the elephant's nose.

While women are capable of doing pretty much anything, the care and maintenance of a penis is something that, while I'm sure we all have some pretty strong ideas on, we've not generally had to manage on a daily basis... minds out of the gutter please. This all changes with the advent of a baby boy into one's life and suddenly one has to think about things such as foreskins; pointing a willy so pee goes into nappy rather than belly button, dealing with the 'pee arc', cleanliness, avoidance of zippers and, most importantly, aiming wee into a toilet.

This last point is one on which one's husband should usefully be instructing however there are days in which no husband is available and it is only a Mummy and her little potty-trainer. Not to embarrass the spud overly I have to say that he has cottoned on to the big issues very quickly, however when it comes to the old 'point and shoot' he's decided to solve the problem of directional randomness by hanging on with a very tight grip. Now. Anyone who has squeezed the end of a hose or blocked a running tap with a finger will have a clue as to the outcome of this particular strategy... as in rather than resembling a little teapot (beyond the 'short and stout' part) he resembles a bottle of windex which doesn't only 'clean' the loo, but also the walls, the floors, his clothes and his fingers. It's not all good.

Apart from a little collateral damage we are accident free on the potty training front - this is however helped enormously by the fact that currently we are only working with number 1. Our normally regular little potato has decided to hold on to his ass...ets for as long as possible and is now releasing equity only once every two or three days - normally in his sleep which is something he has not done since he was a few months old. This tells me that he is worried in some way about spending anything more than a penny in the facilities provided and is becoming retentive in the most literal manner possible. Talking to another mother who is potty training it turns out that her little boy is doing exactly the same which is somewhat reassuring however I am now looking for as many ways as possible to help my little accountant release his capital without losing interest... ba dum dum.

In the meantime we soldier on however if you fancy dropping round for a visit I may be putting you off for a month or so until business returns to normal.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Party politics

Birthday party season has well and truly landed. Since most of the spuds friends are children whom we met at various baby classes, antenatal classes and various other activities involving children calculated to be within a few months of his age, it is therefore unsurprising that they are all turning two around the same time.

This raises several problems in our little toddler world, questions surrounding birthday party presents; birthday party clothes; birthday party manners and dealing with birthday party sugar rushes. All these however pale into the paintwork when stood beside the big one... birthday party competitions.

I'm not talking the sort of competition where small children race giggling around a row of kitchen chairs. No, I'm talking about the unspoken competition between Mums which surrounds all aspects of Putting On A Birthday Party. Who bakes the best cake? Who lays on the best spread? Who has the nicest house? Who gives out the nicest party bags? Who, in other words, is the Best Mum. And, if you think I'm joking here, you are clearly Not A Parent.

We decided very early on in the stakes to opt out of all this madness by holding the spud's birthday in the park every year however at only the second go at this strategy we were rained right into our house... a house, I may add, which is in fact only a small apartment, which was not prepped with balloons or streamers or long tables laden with party food. Not that there's room in our place for a long table laden with party food but... well, you get my drift. We also opted not to go for any party bags - or at least, not until the spud is at an age where his friends will be expecting one. The result was that we had a sort of one-cheeked affair. Yes, there was cake and mmm... there was sort-of some nibbly bits and mmm... well we had the marquee up in the garden and... mostly, there was mud and chaos and over-excited children with nowhere to run. And beer, because the Frog and the Daddy of the spud's co-birthday party boy decided that there was Not Enough Beer and rather than purchase chocolates or fairy cakes or any sort of useful birthday party extras when they realised the whole shebang would be at our place, they just went out and bought so much beer that the jelly had to be exiled out onto the counter to go all limp before everyone arrived.

The problem is that now we have been to several other parties, it is clear that we have badly let down our little spud. Party bags are a must, even though parents stand around openly discussing that they simply eat all the treats from the bags themselves and only let their little darlings play with the kinder toys and the bouncy balls AFTER the danger of chocolate has been removed. Fairy cakes are also a must and even at two, games and entertainment should abound - toys, balls, a play table... Chairs, chairs come into it as well, apparently one should have enough chairs in the house. And table cloths, I've seen some good use of table cloths. And the Mum should look as though she's made at least some sort of effort in the face department.

At least we managed to hype the kids up on sugar to the requisite levels, but I'm guessing that that's the easy part. I don't know. Next time I'll be off to Frog's place to order lovely party bags but if anyone has any ideas on how to wow 'em at a three-year old's party, kindly leave them here for me to rummage through for next year.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday!

And here it is, the Spud's second birthday. Last year it was a lovely day and our plan for a picnic in the park went off without a hitch.

This year however it poured with rain and our little picnic of yesterday ended up being a massive mudfest. Inside our house. One should never give a mob of 2-year olds unrestrained access to a garden in a rain storm.

And here he is, my spud at 24 months old - or, now that he is officially a little boy - 2 years... which no doubt will soon be 'two and a quarter', 'two and a half' and so on until all those quarters go out the window and one starts lying about the actual year. It does seem to be protocol however that one's age is measured in months until one is two, however I did hear one Mum in the playground the other day announcing that her little pudding was '27 months' and you could see the rest of the Mums mentally wrangling those fractions around until we worked it out.

It's not being the mother of a 2 year old that's so surprising, it's remembering that I did actually have a baby, once. It just seems so unlikely now that he's here, all three feet plus of him, cloaked in his personality like a river of light flashing around the flat; so unlikely that he was ever tiny and helpless.

So, what to write about my new two-year-old that will do him justice? Clearly, I as a mad woman lost in the thrall of Motherhood have absolutely no sense of scale when it comes to my son so anything I write here is completely suspect so... what do I say? The facts? The fiction? How about a simple blurt...

At two, the spud has friends he gets so excited to see that he gasps and can't breathe for a second. He's really trying to be potty trained and now he's also really trying to speak. He can recognise a letter or two of the alphabet and the number one and he loves his trains, although he loves the computer more. He gets very put out if I refuse to read him at least three books at bedtime and last night after only two, my little exhausted bean fell asleep murmering 'booh... booh... booh' under his breath. He has nightmares and sometimes has to come in to sleep with us - we find him sitting in the corner of his cot, pointing at something outside. We don't know what it is yet, but until I can banish it he will sleep with us and be immediately happy. He loves to laugh and a fart joke will get him going every time. He loves to dance and to play 'ringa ringa rosie' and to spin around until he's dizzy and fall down. He loves to cuddle and snuggle and likes to climb under the duvet and put his head on the pillow, close his eyes and snore loudly and fakely until he makes himself laugh. He loves to watch me cook and will eat anything if he's seen it in the pan first. He loves to run and to climb and to swing and he loves to sit in his room surrounded by books, pointing seriously at things and muttering to himself. He looks like the spitting image of his Dad and he ignores me about the same amount as well... seeing the two of them together is heart-attack inducingly sweet and fattening.

Two years on from this and I can't remember a damn thing about life before my little spudlet. Happy birthday, baby boy, and many more to come.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

...this little piggy

Each day in this wonderful world of motherhood, my son gives me a little present. Or, at least, that's how I like to view these things. Sometimes, it's a raisin from his snack bowl. Sometimes, it's a new word. Sometimes it's a little kiss. Recently, it's been a smack on the back of the head. Giftwrapped, of course, with a giggle, although I do rather wish it had been bubble wrap.

It's all change with the spud at the moment as we are moving him on from his childminder who, lovely though she is, is being targeted by her crack-addict neighbour and we suddenly didn't feel quite so comfortable dropping off our little bean at her house. I know, I paint a lovely picture of Brixton normally but these things happen. She is hopefully receiving some support from social services who have been dragging their heels for months however, currently our little bear is with an interim minder and shortly after that will be enrolling in a new nursery.

The new minder is also very lovely and has the added bonus of looking after one of spud's very best friends - however somewhere along the line this little angel began a hitting phase and the spud is very keen to emulate her, resultantly blows are raining down all over the place these days and one can't sit still without coming under serious threat of a beating. He hasn't quite got the hang of the whole hitting thing though. Apart from the fact he hits like a girl (well, he has learned from one), he seems to think that hitting is supposed to be a gleeful romp through joysville and will happily squeeze behind one on the sofa and administer a light but regular whopping to squeals of laughter, until he is forcibly removed from one's vicinity. If he could concentrate on my shoulder muscles I wouldn't mind so much but the arc of his swing lands on one's kidneys and so for now, he Must Be Stopped.

It's not all S&M round here though. He's very in to being clean and spends significant amounts of time tiptoing on his little step in the bathroom, washing his hands. He wipes down tables and can spend a happy 10 minutes brushing his teeth while sitting on his potty. To add to this, recently we've had a whole slough of new words. Not that he's going to be giving his friend Einstein a run for his money any day soon but there are new nouns entering his vocabulary all the time. Today it was 'stairs' ('dair'), yesterday it was door ('door' unnervingly), he said 'car-key' with deep joy today and he's managed 'boo' for 'blue' as well.

This last was because he can't yet say 'nail polish' so he opened the bathroom cabinet and stood in front of it pointing at the bottle and saying 'boooo.... Mummy.... boooo.... Mummy BOOO! BOOO!' until I took down the bottle of blue nail varnish and, er, touched up his toes. Well, they were getting a little chipped. I tried to only do one but after I did it he pointed at the next one and the next one and... the note from his childminder on Tuesday read 'Charlie didn't want to get his hands dirty painting'; Wednesday it read 'Charlie planted a seed but he didn't like getting his hands dirty and today, it read 'Charlie didn't want to get his hands dirty playing with the clay so he showed the others his toes while they played'.

Oh yes, no problems with my son.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flock of Seagulls to Haircut 100

Random musings from a random week.

Time is flying a teensy bit too quickly for me at the moment and I'm not talking about the sudden onset of childhood in my baby but rather the sudden onset of Thursday, which seems to be the only time I have to sit down and think. It's because I sneakily have Friday and most of Monday off every week and trying to cram work into the other three days just makes them melt away.

Unlike my midriff. As I don't have time to exercise (hell, I don't have time to brush my hair most days) I've attempted a sort of cack-handed diet consisting of a big healthy breakfast, a light lunch and then... well then it all falls to bits as firstly I join the spud in his pre-bedtime snack which alternates between fruit and icecream and then after dinner I fill up on dessert, which alternates between icecream and, well, more icecream.

Mmmm ...icecream... I'm surprised that the word hasn't entered the spud's repertoire as he knows EXACTLY what comes out of an icecream van, which cafe's in our area have an icecream counter and that, if he stands in the kitchen and points at the freezer shouting 'tha! tha! tha!' for long enough,I will break down and join him in a bucket of the stuff. He knows my weak spots, does my little spudling.

It's not all ice-cream. Sadly. Recently he's come out with a new word - 'ggeh' for 'egg', which actually means 'soft boiled egg and soldiers please Mummy' (or at least that's what I like to pretend. It probably really means 'Woman! Make me an egg NOW!'). Either way, he has been quite addicted to boiled egg and soldiers since Mum introduced them to him. He can now open the fridge and pretty much reach everything in it and yesterday, in the middle of refusing his dinner, he demanded 'Ggeh! Mummy! Ggeh!' got down from the table, went to the fridge, tiptoed down an egg and, before I could grab it from him with visions of egg all over the flat, he walked to the cupboard, pulled out the small saucepan, put the egg into it and handed it to me to put on the stove. Once it was cooked he ate the entire thing along with TWO slices of toast soldiers and then went on to finish the rest of his dinner, as though I'd made him a dinner deal that he had to honour.

We make deals like that over icecream normally. If he refuses dinner I can get him to eat at least half by promising him icecream - and sometimes he'll eat the lot if I give him a spoonful of icecream in between his peas.

I know that this would make most nutritionists shake their heads in despair but as his main snacks are raw veggies, fruits and seeds I'm not going to worry quite yet. Plus, it's difficult to refuse him when it is such a simple joy to sit next to each other eating our icecreams and giggling together over the drips, or to lie in the grass getting sticky and using our cones to point out planes.

They say childhood is fleeting but I don't know... I've managed to stretch mine out for more than 40 years and thankfully, I have an excuse to drag it out just that little bit longer now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A snip in time

Well, it's happened. The spud has had a haircut.

The balance of comments on my previous post suggested, or rather, my READING of them suggested that we leave the spud with his curls until such time as they become unmanageable. This tallied with my own desire, which was to never ever ever cut his hair ever ever so he could be strong like Samson to prioritise his comfort above all things. Ahem.

That his hair was reaching critical mass became painfully evident on Tuesday when - and to my chagrin I do not have a picture of this - his childminder delivered him to me with his hair in a perfect little topknot on the top of his head as it had been blowing in his eyes all day. When I say 'perfect little topknot', what I mean is that all his hair, every last bit, was captured in a hair elastic on the top of his head and he looked... like... er... a little girl.

Swiftly, I got the message.

Tuesday night, while the spud was happily playing in his bath, the Frog cut off his lovely locks and, it appears, with them went a whole host of conceptions I had obviously been building up in my twisted little motherhood brain about him being, oh, I don't know, the second coming, the light of the world, you know, All That Stuff. He got out of the bath and suddenly, I was incontrovertably the mother of a small boy. No wonder a good hairdresser costs the earth - if a few curls can turn an ordinary child into an angelic cherub, just imagine what a good haircut could do for the likes of me?

The spud of course doesn't know that a massive, radical change has happened to him. He continues to make the same faces but to be honest, they look a little strange now, as though some other, older child has stepped in to imitate him.

This older child is also amazingly tall. This morning while lying on his changing table having a new nappy installed he casually reached up with his feet and turned on the light, a switch which, the last time I recall, he had to stand on tiptoe on the table just to reach.

Am I nuts? I put his trousers on this morning, a pair which I thought I had to roll up three times and they don't need rolling up at all. They're for 3 years olds. What the hell are those scissors made of anyway?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Going Potty

Hi folks! I'm just online today to crow about two things. Yes yes, that's right, the title gave it away but I'm going to tell you anyway. Ahem.

Firstly, I am as you can see able to access Blogger again -magically my access came back and everything is well, meaning that all my favourite blogs will be getting a vist or two in the next week (there are so many, how can I keep up?!).

Secondly (and how I've managed to keep this as second in line I have no idea) the spud demanded to use his potty last night and then... used it! Hooray! He may not use it again, I screamed so loudly and so happily that he nearly pooed on the floor poor little bear. There he was doing a little wee and then the trumpets went off and his Mum squealed and danced and kissed him on the cheek and shouted for his Dad and there he was, all little and vulnerable looking as though he just might not bother again.

Still, today although he refused the potty, he pointed at the loo and stood all manly beside it but when he realised that he would never clear the rim he got all put off and walked around clutching himself for ages afterwards until he was finally able to let go. In the bath. Well he's not quite two yet.

That's that. I'm off camping for the weekend, wish me well. I'm leaving my spudlet and his frog sire alone together and while most women when leaving their husband and two year old behind for the weekend would expect to come home to a house full of unwashed dishes, smears and trainsets, I'm most likely going to come back to an apartment which has had everything Put Away. The spud will be filthy, snotty and won't have had his face washed since the moment I left... but the house will be frighteningly tidy and in need of a woman's mess touch to bring it back to life.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A slip in time...

**NOTE** I cannot access any Blogger sites at all from home including mine, yours, if you’re on blogger, or my link to your site if it’s on this page... I’ll come by when this gets sorted out but for now am posting via work

Today was THIS kind of day...

On Mondays the Frog and I split the day and I get the afternoon shift. I pick spud up from the Frog’s studio after lunch and he, the spud, that is (although what my Frog gets up to in his studio without us is anyone’s guess) generally falls asleep on the way home, allowing me an hour or two to potter about. This morning I was up to my elbows in a shirty email to a client when my alarm went off. At this point, sitting in my cellar bunker, I usually have a vivid visual image of being me, only me in a massive underground bunker with a broadcasted, Thunderbirds-style countdown ‘Ten Minutes to pick up the Spud... whoop whoop whoop... Nine Minutes and Fifty seconds...” and so on.

Just indulge me.

Anyway, so I dashed off my shirty email and ran up the stairs, collected my bag, keys, phone and just then, the Frog rang to chivvy me along. And I forgot that the final step in my process was to put on my shoes. Just far enough away from the flat that going back would have meant being late, I thought to myself: ‘Hm’, I thought, ‘My sandals feel comfier than u... oh bugger’.

Yes, sadly, it was that kind of a day...

My next stellar move was to soothe my spud at around three after a nasty wake-up (any wake up is nasty if you're a spud) by lying him on the big bed and stroking his back. We woke up at ten to five. While I thought it was me who had a lot to do, I was sadly misinformed. The spud dashed off while I was straightening my face and he came back lugging the
Argos catalogue – no mean feat for those of you who don’t know it, this is 1000 pages and bigger than our local phone book and needs to be dropped at least three times.

He leafed happily through it pointing and making noises until suddenly he had an important phone call. Unbelievable. One second he was pointing at a shaver and going ‘Oh!’ and the next he was clutching his hand to his ear and saying ‘Ohhhh.... ohhhhh... wow.... hmmm... hmmm...’ and he wandered off talking into his hand and completely ignoring me. I cannot think WHERE he gets it from, honestly...

Anyway, after that I got the message that my day had been trying to post through my mental letterbox and we spent the rest of the afternoon blowing bubbles in the garden and cooking his dinner together. No phone calls, no emails, no hard shoes. I think it’s time I cut a few of the urgencies out of my days and started paying a little more attention to the gentler things in life. Like my slippers. And naps. And my spudlet.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hair today...

OK, so our son needs a haircut. The thing is, he has an incipient mass of blonde curls and everyone keeps telling us that if we cut them off, they won't grow back. I had a mass of strawberry ringlets when very young however now my hair hangs only just on the curly side of 'wavey' and so I, or rather we, are scissor resistant.

Back in May when Mum was about to arrive, I was all about setting him an appointment at Trotters for one of their special 'first haircuts' where children sit in model cars and have their first curl preserved in a little box. Oh, I was all about that first-curl-in-a-box. Now I am all about the first-curl-still-attached-to-his-head - and so, it appears, is the frog.

Well, you would, wouldn't you?

A few months ago, cutting his hair seemed a pressing issue. 'No no' other Mums would tell their offspring as they pushed their way in front of my little potato 'Let the little girl go first'. Little girl? Little girl? Didn't the pirate tee give him away?

Apparently, in this day and age where modern parents are terrified of imposing gender stereotypes on their little puddings, guessing the sex of anyone under, say, 11 years old, is damn near impossible. I dread being roped into playground conversations with unknown Mums because eventually I'm going to have to take a stab at guessing whether their little darling is 'him' or 'her'. This is because once, despite the fact her pumpkin was wearing blue and had a crew cut, I greatly offended one Mum by not guessing that her pushy little car-clutching nightmare was a girl.

I, however, am not innocent here. I have, bad mother that I am, been known to paint the spud's toenails. In fact if he spots me having a go at my own I am under fairly persistent pressure to paint at least one of his...however, crucially, when someone told me 'your daughter has lovely hair' I was happily un-offended because any mother displaying a child wearing yellow with long blonde curls and blue toenails is clearly asking for it - and it seems, I don't particularly care.

These days however, brushing and drying the spud's locks is taking longer and longer and is incurring increasing levels of toddler impatience, not to mention toddler wrath, toddler screaming and toddler struggling. And, if said toddler goes to bed with wet, un-brushed curls, he wakes up with either a single, massive dreadlock or worse, bad, eighties, Flock of Seagulls hair.

Spot the difference:

So. We have established that we don't care what people think about his hair. We have established that he has truly lovely curls and we have established that maintaining it is causing a breakdown of parent/toddler relations.

What we haven't established is whether or not we are actually going to cut it and this is where you come in, dear reader...s...

Scissors? Or no scissors?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Planes, trains and MORE CAR!

Our little spud is finally venturing into the world of language. While other toddlers his age are conming out with fairly complete, if basic, sentences such as 'I fell out', 'He bit me' (or, in the case of our friend Einstein 'We went to the park to feed the ducks and then we ate our tea') my little pumpkin is still at the stage where he repeats random words and once in a while latches on to their meaning. Thus, everything with wheels is a 'car' including airplanes, trains, buses, motorbikes, suitcases and the wheelie thing we put all the towels into to go to the beach.

We like to think (and are backed up by all sorts of well-meaning folks) that because we are a bilingual household, this is slowing down his speech. Why, only yesterday we stopped in the street to talk to a nice French couple and their dog who informed me, after realising that he was speaking his own, personal language to their pooch, that children with two languages were 'un peux en retard'. Just what I needed to hear merci VERY much...!

This morning he was demonstrating the word 'other' and everything was 'other car'. 'Car, other car, other car, other car, other car, other car, other car, other car' ' Enough to make me go a little Other myself. At least it makes a change from 'More', a word which, once he realised it would get him 'More', the spud has worn so very thin that there is practically no more of anything left in the house whatsoever... my wizard wheeze for fixing the word in his head was that whenever he said 'More' I would say it back to him 'Would you like More?' and then give him more of whatever it was ('More Car' for example...) which led him to think that it was a magic word which would get him anything he wants under its well-known alternate meaning: 'Please feed me'.

Resultantly he is More Potato than ever, as can clearly be seen below.

We're learning 'No More', now.

We've been on the beach nearly every day this week and his love affair with it appears to growing. Today we had surfing. Or rather, we had standing in front of the surf class mimicing them and making them fall off their boards laughing. We also had this:

and this:

Please note the very, very cute little swimming trunks and lack of nappy which makes him look very sweet and grown up but doesn't unfortunately stop him peeing in them.

Ah yes, it was all joy and happiness today except for the moments when he would see a woman sunbathing topless as they do here and he would smile and, despite the fact he has not been breasfed for a year, he would point and say 'More?'.

That, unfortunately, is something which appears to translate into both languages quite successfully.