Monday, February 25, 2008

Trumpeting success...

Well, this is Sparx’ Motherhood brain here taking over the blog for just a teensy tiny moment. She’s currently sat in front of her computer wondering how to phrase today’s events in a way that doesn’t make her sound like the world’s biggest pig of a pushy Mum. So, I’ll just step in because crowing about the spud’s achievements in a completely ridiculous fashion is My Kind Of Thing. So here goes – my son… that’s MY son, who is LESS than a year and a half old thank you very much, yes that’s my son, by the way, my son used his potty today for the first time! Yes, that’s right – he sat down, did a wee and stood back up, all on his own. Thank you. Yes, I know, that Is amazing. Isn’t it? Thank you, thank you, no I don’t mind signing that autograph. A book deal, you say? Why, thank you very much.

Erm… ack. Sorry about that. I think I may have just laid an entire ostrich egg here...

Anyway, yes it’s true. Not perhaps quite so spectacularly true once put into context but, you know, near as dammit.

One of the many, multitudinous reasons that we decided to go for cloth nappies was in hope that our little bundle of wee would hate walking around with a wodge of wet cotton between his thighs enough to want to use a regular potty some time before he could use a computer.

More to the point, we didn’t much fancy three years of nappy changes and anything we could do to speed the journey to potty would be a Good Thing. So, without actively menacing our son over the toilet, we have been giving him a few little pointers here and there and recently this took the form of purchasing him a potty and installing it in the loo.

We decided on one that has a removable seat which will fit inside the big loo seat and a back that folds down to turn it into a step so we have all bases covered. It also, as we discovered once we had it home, comes with two little electrodes that once wee has closed the circuit between them set off a trumpet voluntary; I kid you not. All bells and whistles indeed.

The spud has worked out that if he touches both electrodes at once he can turn on the music without the benefit of having had an actual wee and he will do this endlessly. We have therefore had not only to become used to the intrusions of a small child into our privacy but now to a triumphant, fanfare accompaniment to our ablutions.

So there I was this evening running his bath with him standing nappy-less beside the tub while the sound of water running set off his little bladder. I picked him up, still widdling, and leaned him over his potty, standing him in a way that pee hit electrodes and yeay, the trumpets did sound.

He was delighted and I did all the clapping and preening noises one does under these circumstances and he took it on himself to do a little encore. He turned around, sat down, squeezed out a wee, stood back up and… well I don’t remember much after that, I think I may have passed out from shock to the sound of... is that Handel?

Perhaps not quite so dramatic as I may have led you to believe… I am not ridiculous enough to imagine that the trumpets herald end of nappies for us in the near future but you know, I don’t care right now. Right now we have taken the first baby step away from nappies and that’s good enough for me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Shoe gene

So, on Valentines day I bought the spud and I a pair of red shoes each. I wasn’t planning on it, I was actually out looking fruitlessly for a present for the frog (I baked a cake in the end) but it turned out not to be Valentines day after all, but Red Shoes day. Hooray! I hasten to add that we are not in the habit of buying our son shoes for the heck of it, he is nearly out of his current pair so I bought the next size up from the shoe shop who already have his measurements. The fact that they were on sale for a fiver and only caught my eye because I was buying a pair for myself is none of anyone’s business, thank you very much...

Anyway, so later on in the day the Frog comes home and I show him the shoes. We try them on the spud and the first thing he does is to walk into the bedroom and stand in front of the full length mirror and – I can’t believe I’m going to type this – and my one-and-a-half-year old son stands in front of the mirror lifting first one foot and then the other, turns each one a little this way, a little that way so he can see the front, then the side, puts it down, lifts the other foot into view, poses, smiles, wiggles his foot around… Yes, that’s my one-and-a-half-year-old boy there, primping his NEW SHOES in the mirror.

That, my friends, is my boy!

Friday, February 15, 2008

blurred boundaries

It used to be, back in the good old days of When We Had A Baby as opposed to Now We Have A Tantrum, that if we saw something we liked for our son, we would buy it for him and decorate him with it. Most everything one purchases for a baby is either a necessity or an accessory - nappies, check; butt-cream, check; cute little shirt, checkerooni! Most everything one purchases for a toddler however is purely acquired as a way of keeping the damn thing quiet.

There is something that marketeers like to call 'Pester Power' which basically means that they fluff their products in soft-core toy commercials until Snookums has practically torn off the cuff of her parent's sleeve begging for one. I thought, as one would, that I had a few years to go before my small one understood TV commercials enough or was subjected to playground envy enough to begin this assault on my wardrobe, however it appears I was severely underinformed.

The other day we were in the play park, me and my little pumpkin, happily playing in the sand when he spotted a pink doll's pushchair that somebody had left behind. Jumping up and down to be hoiked out of the sand he was practically apoplectic and once out, he ran, which is no mean feat, ran to the buggy and played with it, giving it all his attention for nearly half an hour.

Embarrassingly, a nice lady had to take it from him and give him a biscuit as he refused to give it up for me even though we were both freezing and the wardens were locking the park gates. The next day we had the same story and for nearly a week he would thieve any buggy whose owner was idiotic enough to be out with it in public. Yes, that was me, the mother hiding in the corner while her over-sized son wrenched the dolly's buggy away from your sweet little girl, half his size.

So the frog and I went reluctantly to buy him one and the frog to his relief found instead a nice, butch, toy lawnmower. Handle, wheels... same sort of functionality, Spud loved it, great.

Next day we're out in the park, spud happily pushing his lawnmower around until... what's this? A doll's buggy, you say? He threw, I kid you not, he threw his lawnmower aside and chased after the owner of the doll's buggy, crying and shouting and pointing until the poor chap let him play with it. It turns out that the buggy belonged to another little boy. I have since seen about 4 little boys with doll buggies. Something to do with it having wheels and needing to be controlled perhaps? But I digress.

The upshot is that he now has his very own doll's buggy and he hasn't stopped playing with it since the moment we bought it - Pester Power 1, Parent Power 0.

At least we're getting away with pesters for under a fiver. On evidence it will be short months before he's after his own computer so he can start his own blog and leave me to dribble weakly into my buggy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

tell it to the fridge

I’m in a state of pause on blogs. I have an award to acknowledge (thank you Rob Clack!) and two Memes to do and I thought I’d do them all at once… only they all involve so many hyperlinks and tags that I just can’t get the energy or the time together. It involves concentration and thinking about things and I don’t have any brain cells going spare just now.

Things are fine round our way except for the fact that I can no longer guess what it is that my son is on about most of the time. This is the thing. You have a baby, you get used to baby needs, you know, boob, nappy, boob and as they start wanting more advanced options they just ask for them with variations on the whinge. After a while a parent can get quite smug about their ability to decipher whinge and by identifying a simple change in pitch can accurately say whether their offspring is in charge of a dirty nappy, a thirst or an empty belly.

All these open lines of communication slam shut perversely just as snookums begins his long walk down the path to speech. It’s not the spud’s strangled frenchified vowels or his erratic consonants that are causing trouble though, as when it comes to the usual sets of needs we understand each other just fine. It’s interpreting all these advanced weirdo desires that are giving me these headaches.

I, just for argument, am going to play the part of my son here for a second and you, you are going to be me. Put down the martini. OK, now first I’m going to walk into the room. I’m going to point at the ceiling and you have to understand that I want you to test the smoke alarm. If you don’t, I am going to sit down, turn red and cry and if you don’t pick me up RIGHT NOW and PRESS the button goddamn you, I am going to lie down and start hitting my head on the floor. OK, great, thanks for the big, ear-splitting battery-wasting beep. Now, I am going to climb on top of the stereo to reach the buttons hidden behind the TV screen that ONLY I know what they do and I’m going to press one so that you CAN NEVER watch TV again and if you try to stop me –here I go again! Next, I’m going to walk up to you and burst into tears and point around the room in a circle. Who knows what I want. Maybe I want to put my hand into the cutlery drawer. Maybe I want to open the fridge and take out the cheese. Maybe I want to start the coffee machine. Hey, I did it yesterday so I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING WOMAN just let me get on with it or we’re through.

How’d you get on? I thought so. What? Oh go on. It is, after all, a very good martini.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

And that's that

Just a short one for any of you out there who really want to know what happened when I was re-united with my kid after 5 days.

He walked in, acted like I wasn't there and then yelled at me when I picked him up.

I was like 'Hm, next time I'll go for 2 weeks'.

It was a different story at bedtime when his arms and legs grew an extra foot each and wrapped themselves around me so that I couldn't shake him off into his cot and he proceeded to wail gently into my shoulders for half an hour on the nursery sofa. He woke up every hour until we took him to the Big Bed, where he wrapped one arm around my neck and every 20 minutes or so woke up to kiss me on the chin.

I know, pukey, hey?

Anyway, I am satisfied that he missed me, which is, of course, All That Counts.

Live from the world of Motherhood - over and out.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Spudless and Nappy free Days 4 and 5

With flights and jet-lag I have managed to reach Day 4 of being without my little snuggly potato while actually having been away for 5 days. I've also not slept for the last 25 hours, it seems that having a baby means that one is forever listening out in one's sleep and, if one is trying to sleep on a jet-liner, one is always hearing something whining in the background and that, my friends, is that.

I am in fact home at the moment but as I am supposedly working, spuddy boy is with his minder and I have another 4 hours to go before I see him. I have this one piece of information to impart to any parent who has yet to be parted from their infant for any length of time: one misses them more the closer one is to actually seeing them. I'm sure Einstein would have some theory about temporal dynamics to account for it but I'm stumped. Or perhaps it's due to the fact that the closer one is to seeing them, the longer one has been away QED? Oh just ignore me.

I managed for a day or two to feel quite chirpy about the whole separation business. He was fine, I was fine, the world was fine, everything was fine until the plane crossed into UK airspace today at which point suddenly he was in reach, practically. Nearly there. I may even have flown over him at one point. Who knows? Anyway, it was wretched. Not in a tear-jerking, mawkish slit-my-throat-and-I'll-bleed-marshmallows sort of way but wretched in a stomach-churning 'what if the jet crashes now and I don't get to see him' sort of way. I managed to imagine more disasters befalling the two of us in the final hours of our separation than in all the hours I was away put together.

I can already tell that this feeling will swiftly depart, to be replaced by one of abject stupidity when I realise that all I really wanted was a few days by myself without my clinging appendage and that in fact I have wasted 5 perfectly good days worrying about a little perambulating flesh mountain that firstly didn't miss me at all and secondly is not actually in any danger.

You try telling yourself this however when you've woken up at 4:30am having dreamed that your little child has wandered off and gotten lost and can be heard crying louder and louder for you but you can't find him because it's dark and somehow there's a circus in the driveway and someone has built big walls in the front garden and you forgot to put the lid on your imaginary pool. Yeah fellow parents, you try waking up from that dream not being able to dash in to the nursery to listen for breathing... you try it and see how you manage in your stinking hotel room with nothing but a blog for company. The rest of you, just imagine you can see someone breaking into your new car/nicking your laptop/smashing your Lalique vase/stealing your identity while a troupe of jugglers prevents you from running after them. Just go on.

OK, better now. Due to the magic nature of blogging-whilst-working I am now only 2.5 hours away from seeing my Spud. Must prepare a special glaze for the occasion.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Spudless and Nappy free Day 3

Another day in lotus land. Oh no wait, that's Hoto's blog the bastard.

Here we are, my Dad and I, in our third hotel in four days. We're in Vancouver, near the airport and ready for a quick get-away.

Today was the final leg of Gran's 100th birthday extravaganza which involved yet more family and old family friends and a considerable amount of cake. Gran held up very well, considering. She even had a quarter inch of sherry in the bottom of a glass which for her is an enormous amount.

I say that, but by the words 'for her' I really mean 'for her these days', because, back in the old days, a quarter inch of sherry would the thrown-away dreg ends of an evening spent cheating at cards showing the kids how it's done.

The first time I ever spent any real time alone with my Gran was circa August 1984. My Grandfather had passed on a year previously and I had just quit a truly dreadful summer job. I moved home (as one does) and basically refused to submit to the indignities of applying for work so late in the summer. My parents, in a fit of self preservation genius wondered if perhaps I should go out and pay her a visit.

Hooray! A visit to Gran! Gran, it must be said, until recently when she moved in with my Uncle and Aunt, has lived in a small house on the shore of a small lake on Vancouver Island. Given that it was August I knew that the lake would be warm, sunny and full of my Gran. I believe I arrived with a full 26-oz gin bottle clutched under my arm. Certainly over the course of that week I documented the demolition of that bottle plus the identical one which Gran had purchased for the same occasion ("I don't really drink gin dear but I know you do. Would you like a gin and tonic? Pour me one too since you're up")

Gran re-taught me Bezique and then proceeded to stomp me flat, every single game, over and over again. Being beaten at cards is a recurring theme in the family memories of my Gran as until she got to an age where she would mistake hearts for diamonds and Jacks for Kings (finally), she was pretty much unbeatable. Or that's what she says. The rest of us figure that we just never worked out her cheating system.

After I'd been there for a couple of days and after, as I recall, a game of gin rummy which she graciously let me win, she confided to me that since a few years prior to my Grandfather's death when she had overheard some local boys in the bushes lying in wait for her, she had not felt comfortable skinny-dipping in the lake and what did I think about the idea?

Now, you do the math. This was August 1984. Today is February 2008 and she has just turned 100. At the time therefore she would have been er... um... (licks fingers and proceeds to count...) 76 years old.

At this age however she had absolutely no qualms about donning nothing but a towel wrap and a pair of old flip-flops, descending the steep, dark and over-grown path to the lake, jumping in for a long swim, pointing out various constellations in the clear summer night and then climbing back up to serve her (now) hero-worshipping grand-daughter hot chocolate laced with kahlua. Or was it Baileys? Or perhaps a little scotch.

The liquor may be lost in time but I tell you, I can remember the spirit of that day distinctly and among my many favourite memories of my Gran, that ranks pretty high. 76 doesn't seem as old now as it did then (funnily enough) and I look back now on my amazement with no little scorn. However, seeing my multitudinous cousins and family it's clear that the verve and joy my Grandmother has always had for life has not been lost. She may be a little more sedate these days but she has 7 grand-children and 8 great-grand-children (to date) carrying the same torch - and for that, we must be thankful. (Unless of course we are living with one of those great-grand-children, in which case the sheer numinousness of their abilities and fiddley-fingered skills puts us all on the 'at risk' register for mental stress.)

Tomorrow I fly home to see my Frog and my little spud. I can't wait. It's been a great visit but I miss my boy, I'm tired and sick of my suitcase and frankly, I could use a snuggle with a certain frog in our own bed.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Spudless and Nappy-free - Day 2

For some reason the jet lag is worse today and while it’s only about quarter to nine at night, I’m knocked flat. Perhaps I’m absorbing some of my Gran’s eternal exhaustion. Apparently, when you get to 100 it’s pretty knackering just waking up and finding somewhere to sit down.

She sits down these days in the same armchair she’s had for years however transported to my uncle and aunt’s house where it sits outside her little bedroom suite in front of the fire waiting patiently for her to spend her days knitting and receiving visitors in state.

While quite a few of the family haven’t made it, the house has still been crammed with cousins and uncles and aunts and great uncles and great aunts and second cousins and first cousins once removed and god-parents and honorary uncles and... well without making us sound like the Brady bunch and Little House on the Prairie put together, it’s actually been wonderful to see people, some of whom, frankly, I haven’t seen since Gran’s 90th.

Standing in the dining room helping the table-layers and listening to the hubble and bubble of conversation throughout the house it reminded me of being a small child, staying at my Gran’s house and being put to bed while the grown-ups sat outside my door in the living-room quaffing crisps, scotch and home-made beer and playing cards. The rise and rumble of conversation, the family catch phrases, the sound of laughter through the walls... I used to carefully open the door and sneak out to sit behind the couch, blithely unaware that everyone could see me, just because I wanted to be close enough to touch it.

I do want my little man to have this, this feeling of muted chaos as the family moves through old and familiar conversational paths, the teasing and chiding, the laughing and complaining, card games and word games, family histories and mysteries. I do want him to have a sibling, someone he can fight with and play with and complain about us to and grow up with and grow old with. Someone who will remember him as a child when we are long gone and be there to hear when things go right or things go wrong. I know that this isn’t going to happen and so I can only try to keep him close to the family he has as he grows.

Gran is now past enjoying this familiar crowd and is only accepting visitors one at a time in her chair by the fire. The rest of us talk about her unashamedly as though doing a puzzle where the pieces are her life, her family, her history.

I have a lot to say about my Gran but whether or not I can ever say it all, who knows? Tomorrow is the final leg of this birthday extravaganza and then I go home, in hope that my own life will be as full and as fruitful as hers.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Spudless and Nappy-Free Day 1

So, here I am in Victoria, without my son. It’s the longest time I have ever been separated from him and it’s very odd. The first few hours were very bad, I couldn’t even look at a family without having a major pang of some sort, however now, after getting on for 48 hours I am feeling JUST THE SAME.

Luckily the Frog rang just before the spud’s bedtime and let me talk to him on the phone. He reacted by sobbing and shouting ‘Mummy! Mummy!’ over and over giggling and then throwing the phone down in favour of pulling Sammy’s tail.


Victoria. Even my internet connection is slow here. Dad and I went to a local mall to finish our shopping for his Mother’s birthday. I capitalise ‘Mother’ because this is her 100th birthday. Seriously. Telegram from the queen and everything.

I did think for a while that we would all go as a family but the Frog has had clients booked in this week for ages and so couldn’t spare the time and after the last visit with the spud, I decided that it is too cruel to bring him with me. I know that there is leeway here to level at me the accusation that in fact, I’m not thinking of the good of my son here but only my own good and that in fact I should have brought him with me but I have several refutations here. Firstly, I feel a physical tear where we have been separated and so can't imagine I'm doing this for my own good - but mainly I refute the accusation of selfishness by reporting to you the state of a child of the spud’s age who was on our plane. After the 11 hour flight (which due to delays and headwinds turned into 12 hours) this boy was a mess – grey, humourless, panic-stricken, confused and over-tired, he was the perfect advertisement for not bringing a child under the age of 3 on long-haul. I’m not judging at all here, having done it twice myself. I just think that for 5 days, my son and my husband will be OK at home where-as we risk 3 weeks of jet-lag and disorientation otherwise. And, I get to drink vodka in my hotel room with my Dad.

So, here I am in Victoria where the average speed of foot-traffic is about 2 miles a week and the average height of the perpetrators is about five one. The speed of my blood pressure is fairly obverse to this, however as the main reason I am here is to see 4 foot 11 inches of opinions supported by a walker, I can hardly complain.

My Gran turned 100 today and the spud turned 17 months. Apart from a nose, they share a certain obstinacy and a knack for doing things with their hands. Gran, until her shoulder dictated that she could no longer operate a shuttle, was a weaver and I have been lucky enough to inherit the loom, a luck borne of a shared obsession with textiles and creation. The Spud weaves only joy at the moment however he is particularly dextrous and perhaps will carry this gene down the road for a few more miles.

Gran left England as a teenager and made the trek to Canada to join her Mother, who even in the 20s had succumbed to the multitudinous lures of Canada’s islands, lakes, forests and beer. Once here, she met my dashing Grandfather, the scion of two Brits who met in the Boer war and married, moving to Canada after the war. Gran’s Mum opened the first chemist in Calgary and then moved to the West Coast where the family have been ever since which is why I am here, in this Howard Johnson’s hotel, having downed several vodka’s with my Dad, trying to make sense of what life is about by comparing my 100 year old Gran with my 1 year old son.

My conclusion?

Laugh. A lot. Whenever you can. Also, a little gin Can’t Ever Hurt Anyone. Unless of course one is only 1 year old.

While it is only a pathetic 10pm here in lotus-land, I am jet lagged. A good excuse for closing this shambles down without editing.

Sleep well everyone, memes another day.