Sunday, April 27, 2008

better out than in

My son has trucker butt. Here he is, walking into the room in his fabulous little jeans, bending over to pick up a brick and there, peeking over the top of his darling little denim waistband is… not the top of his stylishly coloured cloth nappies, no, but the top of what I will refer delicately to as 'Grand Tushie Canyon'.

Yes folks, the time has come to upgrade those nappies for a larger size because it doesn’t take much imagination to guess what happens when a runny tummy meets a low-hanging nappy, and a runny tummy is what the spud has at the moment.

Far be it from me to gain amusement from my son’s upset however as it doesn’t seem to be bothering him in the slightest, I feel the need to relate today’s incident.

The spud is a button pusher. A geek in making, he can find the ‘on’ switch on pretty much any electronic item; can load the washing machine, open the soap drawer for me, turn it on and set the cycle; has worked out the touch-screen on my phone and is currently experimenting with using the computer mouse. He is, in other words, overly stimulated by technology. The arrival, therefore, of a new CD player into the livingroom has been the cause of many an excited moment for my little boy – excited moments I may add which are not shared by my Frog who shelled out for the new machine after the old one collapsed under repetitive ‘on button’ strain injury.

The Frog unfortunately has been unable to keep the spud’s fingers off the new sound system and is swiftly growing little grey froggy hairs around his ears where all the steam keeps coming out. The spud for his part is not to be deterred and has already worked out how to turn it on, load up a CD and press play. Today however he decided he was going to move on to try out some different buttons and during a particularly dull moment while he had it on ‘Aux’ (and who TF ever uses ‘Aux’ anyway?) he twiddled the volume knob. All The Way Up.

There he was, on his hands and knees, gleefully stabbing away when he hit the ‘mode’ button again and found himself suddenly faced with a massive wall of AM static noise. The effect on him was, not to put to fine a point on it, electric. It all happened at once for my little spud, he backed up, exploded and shrieked pretty much at the same time, then scrambled to his feet, little hands flapping in panic and we had a very sudden need for the off button, some air freshener and a change of clothes. Both of us, as it turned out, because I made the tactical error of picking him up for a cuddle before I realised just exactly what had happened.

Anyway, luckily he was in one of the new, large-sized nappies because it could have been a lot worse than it was. And they are very styley, even though one of them is now a little the worse for wear.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

not sure what to put here

Well, a few short months after her 100th birthday my very beloved Grandmother has left us. This morning at 5:10am GMT she passed quietly on in bed with her youngest son and daughter-in-law, my Uncle and Aunt who have been looking after her these past two years, in attendance. My Dad had just left, my brother had been there earlier. I had rung in hope of talking to her but she was already on her way and all he could do was talk to her for both of us and hope she could hear.

Today I’m exhausted, as though her passing has taken all the energy I had, sitting here on the other side of the Atlantic. I don't know why this is, I have done nothing more energetic than think of her. If anyone should feel drained now it would be my family in Canada who have been looking after her for years and who have been with her all the way – and by that, I mean their own childhoods through to her retirement, the death of my Grandfather through the last decades of her life to today, visiting her, clearing her property of brush and overgrowth, checking her fridge, talking to her doctors, fixing the boat, helping her down to the lake, spending the most valuable of all their commodities, time.

It's not easy to think that she is finally gone. I’ve been saying goodbye to her as though it might be final every time I’ve seen her for a decade or more. Every time I see her she says ‘This could be the last time, I won’t live forever you know’ and I give her a little squeeze and think secretly that she will never die. So, somehow, although I know she is dead I also know that she’s still here the way she’s always been here, with her deft fingers in my fingers and her stubborn streak shoring up my own. I can picture her clearly, clearing her throat and saying something offhand and her voice will always be in my head. She’ll always be here and so in some way I will never miss her.

Today has been emotional but not sad. The quiet, peaceful passing amongst family of a woman of more than 100 years who was ready to go is not a sad occasion but it is one for reflection. Farewell Sybil, happy passing. And I was lying. I do miss you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

variable conditions

Back in the UK and you can’t believe the weather… OK, I know it’s a cliché that the English talk about the weather all the time but there’s a reason for it. An anthropologist has described it as ‘grooming talk’ which basically means that if I as a total stranger speak about the weather and you agree with me, what has effectively happened is that I have said ‘I would be happy to interact with you as a human, what do you think?’ and you have said ‘I too would be happy to interact with you’. I think there’s another reason though, which is that when you live in a place where the weather changes all the time you’re always looking for clues about what it’s going to do next. Hence, in Alberta, Canada, people also talk about the weather a lot. If it’s dry, everyone’s hoping to hear that there’s going to be another two feet of snow, if it’s cold everyone’s hoping for a Chinook. In London at the moment everyone is just hoping for someone else to say ‘yes but I’ve heard it’s going to settle down soon and we’re in for a really hot summer’.

When we got back from France we took an unexpected route home via Greenwich and Blackheath. You have to understand here that our drive to the airport normally emcompasses London at rush hour and we are always looking for our own NorthWest Passage to Stansted to take us around the chaos Anyway, Blackheath was littered with the melting bottom parts of snowmen – twenty or thirty of them, little rounds of snow clotting the heath like wintery memorials to the plague dead beneath them. While we were away, in other words, London had proper snow – and in April, too. And we missed it.

Never mind, I’m sure there will be more snow in our lives. The worst weather we have at the moment is that of my little pudgeball who is suffering from proper hysterics these days, big, bad crying fits that come out of nowhere where he can’t control his arms and legs and doesn’t want to be held or to be left alone. We sit on the sofa, him arching and straining and me holding tight and muttering gently at him until he calms down and is pretty immediately back to his sunny self, busily dismantling our lives one cable at a time. I gather this is a normal phase and several parents I know are suffering from the same weather but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch him go through it.

The rest of the time he is hotwired for fun and games and general destruction. He can now take down a CD, open it up, take it out, turn on the CD player, put in the CD and press play. What he cannot do however is wait for it to finish before he puts it away and so we are being treated to the same four bars of the same first track of the same CD pretty much ad nauseum at the moment which is making my own internal weather patterns a little on the rough side.

Today we are babysitting a friend of his the same age and we are in for an afternoon of running around and battling for possession of various toys. Hopefully this will not encompass another tantrum however it is entirely possible.

The great news of course is that there is a clear forecast for this which is that he will grow out of it and in to other things and all we can do is to grab a drink, sit back on our deck-chairs and watch.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

the view from France

Yesterday I was all about posting about the sun, the sea, the sand and gloating that the spud and I had sat happily on the beach for an hour and came away with, dare I say it, a small amount of colour...

But one must not tempt fate I have learned and, having composed this pean to Biarritz in my head we awoke this morning to the weather we were actually promised by the outlaws, ie, dreary grey, cold and threatening rain or snow or something equally similar to the weather in London at the moment.

It's probably a good thing this, not only will it make returning to that sceptered isle slightly more palatable, it also means that we're not fumbling around in our wardrobes trying to find something that is both summery and voluminous enough to cover up our drifts of pale winter flab.

Les Biarrots, of course, are already sporting sleek, tanned musculature, possibly because they've not fully lost the tan they got every year since they were born, possibly because they've already been to the salon for a spray-down; but there they were, lined up gamely on blankets watching each other throw rugby balls and lie about looking fashionable and French.

We've entered another new phase I noted this morning. Now that the spud is beginning to show signs of wanting to talk (having gaily repeated 'coquillage' for his beaming grandfather yesterday... has he said 'Mummy' yet?...oh but I digress...) communication in this household is becoming confusing. Normally if the frog says to our son 'What has Mummy fed you' I'm supposed to answer 'it's banana'. If I say to him 'what on earth has your Father dressed you in?', the Frog is supposed to walk in looking all aggrieved and claim that they were All The Clothes He Could Find. We communicate quite a lot like that: 'Where are your shoes?'... 'That's a dirty face!', 'What do you think Daddy's done with your nappy bag?' - all these and more we ask each other through the medium of our son. Today however I heard the frog say 'What have you got in your mouth' so I called out 'it's just a bit of a cough drop for his throat' where-upon he replied 'I was asking him, not you'. That shut me up. How am I supposed to know when the frog is talking to me now?

Right now our little bundle of curls is fast asleep after a Very Large morning spent in the playground and entertaining his grandparents. On the beach yesterday he was not quite as brave as he is in the comfort of the playground and for the first time since before he could crawl he sat still for an hour playing quietly with a stick and pointing at the rugby balls as they came flying towards us, a feat which makes me want to transplant the sea to the chaos of our livingroom for a moment of peace.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The white post

So, we’re off to the outlaws in France on Thursday and I have been dutifully cooking all the perishable food in the fridge. Yesterday was a good courgette pan fry with peppers and quorn, today there was only some cauliflower, celeriac, aubergine and potato left, apart from the salad stuff.

So, I roasted aubergine and celeriac, steamed the cauliflower and baked potato, put it all on the plate and… it was all white. Apart from a few skins of course. I think if you’d asked me to plan a white meal I may have struggled but now I think it may have to be the theme of my next dinner party.

For his part, the star of this blog is mainly eating white food as well, as in bottles of milk, pots of plain yoghurt and bowls of porridge. He has a fearsome cold, blocked sinuses and a hacking ccugh, which means of course that I have it too now because it is highly amusing to bite one’s parents in the face and generally slobber all over them. Ha ha ha. Perhaps this is the White Food Virus. So far the Frog is germ-free however he is much less receptive to the general pawing about that I seem to accept from the spud in the name of motherly love. Either way, we have to start eating real food soon or there will be way too much of us to go around.

His most recent trick, the Spud’s that is, the Frog has no recent tricks, is to attempt to mount one like a horse every time one crouches or bends down. This means that the simple act of cleaning the floor under his high chair is now fraught with the danger of standing up while he is clinging on, not to mention the inconvenience of trying to hand-scrub pasta sauce off the laminate while a 33 pound monster is clinging to one’s bottom.

Oh go on, laugh. Should he succeed in climbing on (normally with help) he is so proud and happy that we have to inch past a mirror so he can preen at his reflection, pushing himself upright into a proper sit for a second and tucking in his chin for a coy smirk before resuming his giggling, petrified strangle-hold on a parental neck.

This evening I did some gardening after picking him up from his childminder. You can imagine the rest, me dutifully planting aquilegia seedlings with him scrabbling away behind me. Every time I knelt upright to reach into the compost bag he would swing from my shoulders like an enormous goiter. When he got bored of that he spent some careful time sliding his hands under my shirt and grasping thoughtfully at my spare tire as if weighing it up and comparing it to his own. ‘One day’ I could hear him think ‘One day I too will carry this interesting soft stuff in bags around my waist.’ The neighbours must be completely agog. At least he didn’t try to drag a boob out with both hands as he did the other day nearly every day last week. He may have a vestigial mammary memory that once upon a time in a place far away there was a magic land of Boob but I think it’s a sensory thing – he just likes the feeling of all the vast softness in which I am clad these days.

Which takes me back to my current diet, or lack thereof. White food just screams ‘carbohydrates’ and so I think I am going to have to review the colour scheme in my fridge. For now, I am going to take my white sinus pills, some white Kleenex and drag my pale, sick arse into bed with my lovely warm frog.