Thursday, December 31, 2009

Man about the house

It's pretty much a given that when one moves into a house with a man, one will have a certain number of incidents involving toilet seats left up. You know, ladies, the sort of incident that involves a midnight wee and a sudden cold plunge nearly all the way into the facilities as one swears and screams and inwardly seethes...

Anyway, so after a few years of married life one gets one's habits sorted out so that a midnight wee involves an automatic 'seat up/seat down' check and, in general, incidents become fewer and further between.

The problem when one births male progeny however is that small male children, it turns out, aren't that keen on lifting the seat due to the likelihood of it crashing back down on tiny knackers. So, they hopefully loft their little appendages over the top and let fly, leaving what can only be described as a trail behind them as the force of the stream becomes a trickle.

Now, the unsuspecting female can be lured into feelings of safety upon finding the seat down in the loo; BE WARNED however ladies, NOWHERE IS SAFE.

The best thing, I have worked out, would be to have a ladies-only loo as at the moment, having a wee is fraught with all sorts of opportunities for unexpected midnight washes.

Happy New Year! I hope your loo seats are all down and dry (and as warm) as toast.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Wedding

We've just come back from 3 days in France for a family wedding; essentially 2 days of great food and lovely people bracketed by 12 hours on either side of foul weather and car journeys.

I've never been to Rouen before but I highly recommend it - a beautiful medeival town with not only the most glorious cathedral but an absolutely fascinating modern church in the middle which is simultaneously modern and gothic - lovely. Tiny cobbled alleys and so many cafes and pastry shops that it is not possible to spend more than 20 minutes in the town without putting on at least half a pound. The spud had two croissants for breakfast. And one for lunch.

The second day was the wedding and not only did my brother-in-law and his new wife book us into an hotel 30 seconds away from the reception but they also laid on a babysitter for us and another couple. And gave us adjoining rooms - so we got to take the spud home when he was knackered, open the door and have our lovely babysitter stroll into the room, introduce herself to him and take over while we went back to the festivities where the Spud's older cousins, having danced themselves silly were beginning to flag in their seats.

My new sister-in-law is Iranian and partway through the disco, on came some absolutely bewitching Iranian pop. All these gorgeous women hit the floor and started dancing so beautifully I instantly wanted to be catapulted into the heart of Tehran. Then I think I may have fallen asleep for a moment or two and so we went back to the hotel where the spud was blissfully asleep.

Next morning there were more croissants, more cousins and then a drenchingly awful, rainy drive back to the ferry, during which the spud kept up a running commentary about the passing cars until he announced he was 'going to sleep in the car' and within 5 seconds was blotto.

I have to say, it was a relief not to be flying - but it's even more of a relief to be home.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Paintin' Christmas!

OK. Every year we do an amusing card. This year the theme was 'paint' and I painted a picture of a Christmas tree with the spud and we both got very messy.

Most of the paint on us in this photo is un-staged and sadly, NOBODY HAS NOTICED!! I knew I should have painted the hell out of all of us.

Anyway, so because nobody has noticed, our expressions make no sense at all and everyone who has got this card has replied "Lovely photo" as if it were our serious (and yet failed) attempt at a family picture...

Doesn't ANYONE get this joke? I think next year we have to go back to being unsubtle about it, sadly.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All the world's a stage

This afternoon we had some friends over including an 8 year old girl and suddenly, bathed in the glow of the attention of an older (and very beautiful) child, the Spud turned into a one-boy show.

He had his finger puppets singing and dancing, he had a little Santa with it's own gruff little voice doing a turn and in general all he needed was a pair of tap shoes and a wig and we'd have had a 3-foot Ginger Rogers on our hands.

He's been singing a lot recently, songs he's been learning at nursery mainly. Sometimes he makes stuff up which is terrific but mostly it's stuff he's been fed. I have a bit of a beef with some of the nursery songs though as they all seem to be new songs using old tunes such as:

'Father Christmas
Father Christmas,
he got stuck,
he got stuck,
coming down the chimney,
coming down the chimney,
what bad luck,
what bad luck' the tune of Frere Jacques for one. Ever since the first pop-stud closed around his chubby little legs we've been hearing bastardised versions of old stalwarts - it must be much easier to write new lyrics to old tunes than create new classics I suppose. It drives me nuts.

Another one he's been tweetling away at recently is sung to the tune of 'Twinkle Twinkle' and it's actually put my son off Marmite - so much that he now asks for 'Toast no Marmite please Mummy' which drives me bonkers as I never gave him Marmite without asking him first. The song in question goes:

Twinkle Twinkle
something something (spread it on?) and
take a bite
If you drop it upside down
It will turn your carpet brown
Twinkle Twinkle
something something (turn it round?) and
take a bite.

OK, so it is, in fact, quite funny... some sort of evil genius wrote it, I suspect. I tried to google it to find all the lyrics but failed, so if anyone knows them do drop me a line.

I did used to hate all this farting about with the classics but after three years of it I've decided that if I can't beat 'em I'd better join 'em and so, having trained him to sing all four lines of 'Happy Birthday to you, Squashed tomatoes and poo...', I am now looking for more that I can load him up with in the hopes that he comes out with them at nursery and drops a few jaws.

Have any of your kids come home with any good ones lately?

I'll give them twinkle twinkle.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Watching the Detective...

No, this is not the result of an accident, or domestic violence or anything in the slightest bit dreadful or awful (beyond the actual way I look in this picture!); this is what happens when you give your three year old unrestricted access to both a box of face paints and your own face.

Having this monstrosity inflicted upon me was one of the most enlightening things I've done in the past few weeks. My son spent 10 minutes concentrating intently on my face. I'm not sure I've ever been watched so closely for so long, it was, to be frank, a little odd for a moment or two. It was also an unparalleled chance to watch his face in natural repose the way his toys or his painting easel would see him. The utter stillness, the way he evaluated everything he was doing, every brush mark, every wipe, it was amazing - I highly recommend it.

Today we had another opportunity to watch him from behind a hide, as it were. He was being a bit difficult about going to bed so we decided it was our turn. We crawled under our covers and demanded milk (he brought us his bottle), teddies (he brought us ALL his toys) and a story. He brought three books to bed and read them all. It was great watching him concentrate on the pages, working things out. His face was completely different, his expressions very natural - no posing or mucking about or cajoling, just him focussing intently on one thing.

What was even cooler though was that he picked out an ABC book and while he's obviously only parroting back some elements, he was saying things like 'and this is 'eh' for 'egg' and this is 'geh for gate' and he seems to have picked up that letters have sounds and sounds make words which is possibly the best Christmas present he could give me.

That and, perhaps, another face painting... the next one possibly with a little more colour? Or am I asking too much?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Total bender

I need at this point to vent just a little bit.

A few readers, possibly only my Mother, may remember that a few weeks ago we went to the Transport Museum. While there, I bought the spud a toy in exchange for him completing a chart full of stars for doing something in particular. This toy was a bendy bus.

After a hard day's play, it went on top of the wardrobe to await the completion of the star chart and that thing has been up and down, up and down, on and off the top of that wardrobe for weeks. For quite a while now, however, it's been down. All the time. The spud, I am delighted to say, is now reliably performing a particular action. I admit, I am happy about that.

The trouble is that the cycle of taking away and giving back the bendy bus has meant that, like anything which is likely to disappear at any moment, it has achieved an aura of desirability which none of his other toys can match. Thus, teddies and bunnies and even Tigger and Lizzie Dog languish at his feet while the bendy bus, over a foot of hard plastic with pokey corners, slumbers gently beside him. Under his duvet. On its side like a sleeping puppy I am NOT kidding you.

Every night we take it out of his bed and put it on the floor so he won't bruise himself or crush it and every morning he wakes up wailing 'MY BUS MY BUS MY BENDY BUS WHERE'S MY BENDY... oohhh, I got it!'. He carries it in with him when he wakes us up for a cuddle in the morning. He takes it to the toilet and puts it carefully down before having a wee. It perches on the side of the bath while he plashes around with his bubbles. He reluctantly leaves it behind in the mornings with a small sob and, apparently, he talks about it all day.

I am SO SICK of the bendy bus. I am sick of hearing about it, fixing the tyres, playing with it, taking it out of his bed, placating him when he breaks a bit of it, listening to its little friction motor going on and on and on, tripping over it, sitting on it, talking about how Einstein has a red one but Charlie has a blue one and fielding requests to go back to the transport museum to buy a little one; but mainly, I am sick of him rabbiting on and on and on and on and on and on about it.

I am sick of the bendy bus. I confess, I am, I truly truly am. Damnable contraption.

I am sick of the bendy bus but I will probably buy him a little one for his Christmas stocking because I love him THAT much.

I should just buy myself a whipping post at the same time. Clearly, I love my son, but I must hate myself.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winnie the who?

When he was about 18 months I inherited from a friend a pair of Tigger pyjamas for my son. I'm not that big on Disney to be honest; but like most of us, I was raised on Winnie the Pooh. I have a lovely hardback edition from the 60s which I have cherished and kept in hope that one day I would read it to my own child.

So, we put our son into the Tigger PJs and lo, he loves them

Next, his Oncle Laurent bought him a little stuffed Tigger to play with and he loves that so much that when we saw a big one in a shop he insited we buy it to keep little Tigger company...

So, given that we're now up to 5 stories before bedtime I thought it was about time to read him the original Winnie The Pooh stories. I got out the book, I told him it was the 'Tigger Book' and we settled down to read it.

Well. Turns out that Tigger doesn't appear until halfway through the book and so after some flapping about of pages the spud sadly lost interest in everything except the amazing illustrations.

I even tried to sing him 'Isn't it funny how a bear likes honey... buzz buzz buzz..." but he shouted at me that bears DON'T LIKE HONEY, they DON'T LIKE IT MUMMY!" and that was that, really.

Also, the original Tigger, it turns out, doesn't look much like the Disney version and so I really had some convincing to do while pointing at the original images and saying "Look, it's Tigger!".

I'll keep trying. With all his various teddy bears and other stuffed animals we have practically the entire Pooh menagerie already so I'm sure it won't be long before we're lost in the 100 acre wood.

Until then however, I am looking for another pair of Tigger pyjamas, ones perhaps in a slightly larger size...


Monday, December 14, 2009

The all potato marathon...

OK, so with the Frog in France for five days, it's been me and the spud on one relentless Mummy-potato marathon.

Our first day without the Frog was reasonably normal. I picked the spud up from nursery along with a friend of his whose parents were working late and we had dinner together until her Mum arrived. All well and good. Bedtime: 9pm

Friday I, perhaps ill-advisedly, took the spud along to see the Sacred Made Real exhibition at the National Gallery, starting off with a two and a half hour meeting in the cafe. He was amazing, an angel. He played quietly while I nattered on and then he wandered around the exhibition marvelling at the statues and complaining a lot that Christ was 'hurt'. We then arrived home just as my wonderful friend and her son Einstein pitched up to our door for a sleepover. Chaos. Bedtime: 10:00pm

Saturday we went to my godson's first birthday, following which I dropped the spud off at his girlfriend's house for a sleepover while I went out on the lash with my mates. I got a text at 10:30pm - bedtime.

Sunday, I suffered. I really, really suffered. We did however make it to another friend's house for a Yule party with loads of kids. Everyone was late, the kids ate everythings (and one of them threw up to prove it) and by the time we got home he was so overexcited that I had to put him into a bath with me and we both went to bed at bedtime: 10pm.

Today we took the day off and went to Selfridges to see Santa, an event the spud reacted to by burying his head in my shoulder and whispering that he apparently wants 'a yellow car' for Christmas, then crying until we left the poor man's house. We then went to Winter Wonderland and walked a million miles, then came home and collapsed. The spud begged to lie down on the sofa and watch Shrek so that's what he did. Bedtime: 9pm.

The frog comes back tomorrow. I need a holiday...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I guess giving it is better than sweating it...

I have this thing I do, it's kind of a superstition. Whenever I get a piece of good fortune, I donate to a charity as a sort of thank you. Whenever I'm down on my luck, I do the same as a banking-against-the-rain sort of thing.

I know. Very Earnest.

I can't help it. It comes, I think, from a religious upbringing and the feeling that I should in some way give thanks for still being a standy-uppy-walking-about person.
Recently I had a piece of good fortune and was casting about for a charity and just then, blow-me-down, wouldn't-ya-know-it, the Red Cross knocked on my door just as I was about to go into a meeting. I asked for a sign up form that I could post or that they could come back for, but they wouldn't give me one and they wouldn't leave. In desperation, I made the wrong connection and told them that 'Sorry, I'd rather just give blood'.

There it was. Out. Of course, five minutes later I realised that the Red Cross actually don't take blood any more, it's the National Blood Service but I'd committed now, so I registered to give blood and yesterday found myself lying down while a lovely man shoved a drainpipe into my arm and relieved me of a pint of blood.

OK, I exaggerate a smidge.

First, you fill in a form which excludes probably 30% of the population for safety's sake. Then they take a drop of your blood and test it to see if you actually have enough red blood cells to spare. I was borderline meaning they had to take more blood and test it in a machine before they let me do it for real.

So, two needles in and I was getting all cocky about it - I hadn't felt any pain, my blood was good to go... it wasn't until the third and final needle was partway in that I registered that this wasn't the itsy bitsy mosquito needles they give you at the phlebotomy clinic. Oh no. Thinking about it is still giving me muscle squinges and yet... and yet it didn't hurt at all after the first poke. I didn't feel anything in fact and I've already signed up to do it again in March.

The chap who took my blood has donated 40 of his own pints over the years and says he's never gotten used to the needles, but I think that the key thing is that he keeps on doing it.

Blood stocks are low and only 4% of the population actually donate. The National Blood Service website shows that there are less than 5 days stocks left of blood types B negative and O negative in the UK and I was told that A and O are the types most in demand.

I reckon it wouldn't take much effort for another 1% of the population to step up. If I can do it (I am a needle-phobe of the highest order - I had my baby at home with no drugs rather than face the possibility of an epidural; I am notorious at my dentist for having fillings with no anaesthetic); anyone can do it.

OK. I've said my bit.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

This one isn't about Christmas. Really.

Well well well. I was hoping at least one day this week to create a post that did not have a Christmas theme but it appears I am to be thwarted yet again...

The lovely John Lewis got back in touch after I posted our Christmas Rules and offered me and some fellow bloggers a lunch-time tour of the shop on Monday. I'd like to say that they didn't have to ask twice but sadly it's not true, they did; Monday is a work day and so I regretfully declined. However the lovely Anna at the PR company insisted I come and work from their offices in the morning so as not to impact on my day and so, at an ungodly hour I arrived, laptop in hand, to find them next to the most massive, gleaming Starbucks imaginable. I had died, it seems. And gone to heaven.

I'm not much of a one for doing puff pieces on my blog. I'm not a professional writer, I write about the spud. And sometimes the cat. I get asked however to write about everything from control-top jeans to family genetics to maternity pads. So, unless there are shoes involved, in general I resist.

John Lewis however. Well, those three little words (Never Knowingly Undersold) are words close to a gal's heart and so I found myself drawing up to the shop at the appointed hour to be amazed by their Christmas decor.

The delight of the day was meeting my fellow bloggers, Sally and the immaculately-behaved Flea from Who’s The Mummy, Deborah from Metropolitan Mum and her sweet little Lilly; the very styley Amanda from 40 not out and the truly elegant Alice from Dulwich Divorcee (who happens to live near me owing to that quirk of city design which leaves the refinements of Dulwich nestlingl closely to the outrageousness of Brixton).

It was fun. I drooled over shoes. I bought cheese. I was kicked by a Granny. I marvelled at Flea's patience. I got to watch how other bloggers work (cameras, questions and humour), I got fed very well.

What was great however was that the time encapsulated for me everything about why John Lewis is so loved. Not the products or the scrummy food hall or the huge range of Christmas gifts, but just the way that they are approaching the brave new world of social networks. Not by diving in with some massive or ill-informed viral campaign but by talking to us, the people who shop there, dipping a toe into the internet and being absolutely lovely with it.

Will hundreds more people shop at John Lewis after reading our blogs? Who knows. Will I? Most definitely; although I doubt I will bring the Spud... despite Flea's excellent example I just know we'd have a meltdown in front of the lego Santa and that would be that.



Friday, December 04, 2009

I love Brixton SO much...

We had a lovely wakening this morning. The spud rambled into our room at a not-too-early hour (8:30am), clambered onto the bed, put a hand on either side of my face and said 'I love you SOOO much!' and then kissed me on the nose. He then ruined the effect by squishing me as he rolled over to do the same to his father.

We paddled off after a while to go swimming and then afterwards, as we were on our way to the Spud's girlfriend's house for lunch, I got a text from another great local mate saying that Santa was coming to Brixton Lido in an open top bus from 5 to 6pm.

No. Fucking. Way. Santa? In a bus? It's like something out of one of the Spud's more lurid day-dreams.

Anyway, so we pitched up to the Lido parking lot expecting a huge crowd; but due to Lambeth council's non-existent powers of marketing almost nobody knew about it. It was brilliant. There was a free carousel, salsa dancing, people dressed up as Christmas trees and elves, 10 year old boys on unicycles (ok, one small boy on one unicycle), fire juggling, mulled wine, roast chestnuts and we knew half the people there. Did I say it was brilliant?

By the time Santa rolled up however, there was quite a crowd. The spud caught sight of the bus and that was it. Open top. Double Decker. Red bus. Festoooooooned with lights. Ringed with police cars. To heck with Santa.

Spud wanted to get on the bus in a Very Very Big Way. First we had gawping, then we had begging, then we had whining and then we had a meltdown. I had to show him the police officer outside the bus before he accepted that he couldn't get on it. He was completely uninterested in Santa.

I love Brixton - I love that we live in one of the most notorious areas of Britain for gun crime and drugs and yet where-ever I go I know people, people smile, people sing in the streets. OK, Brixton is twenty shades of crazy and people are miserable here too but in general people go out of their way to make it great. I love that we have our own currency; the Brixton Pound which is legal - but only in Brixton. I love that there was a steel band and a lamb on a spit at the last nursery party. I love that Santa shows up here in a bus with a police escort. It's like living in a small, mad, extremely urban village.

After the Santa experience we took the spud to our local cafe for a treat and then he stayed up way way too late. In the end I got him to sleep by getting into his bed and kissing him on the forehead. 'I love you SOOO much' I said to the spud 'Yes', he said back and the two of us drifted off together blissfully. Until I got a cramp in my foot.

It started well, today. It hasn't ended that badly. And now it's the weekend. Life is good.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

...and then he comes on the roof and down like that...

I've caved in. We have a chocolate advent calendar... it's SO rubbish I can't believe I bought it. The doors are just squares in a grid, the numbers hard to read and inside, there is no Christmassy image, just the back of a chocolate which one has to pry out of its tray with a fingernail to see the image. Today's chocolate could have been a baby or perhaps a snowman; a candy homunculus whose eery grimace was swiftly cut off by the spuds incisors.

Anyway, so apparently Potty Mummy has a fuzzy felt advent calendar and I am now in search because the one we have is, in fact, more rubbish than I may have let on and further, it is not achieving its goal which is to show the spud how many days there are left until Christmas and to stop him telling me every 5 minutes that it's going to be Christmas 'tomorrow'.

Thanks to his new Peppa Pig DVD (a Christmas pressie he managed to locate early) he is now aware that Santa lands on the roof and comes down the chimney and he feels it necessary to repeat this at frequent intervals, normally around bedtime. He hasn't quite gotten the word 'chimney' though and instead says "and he's on the roof and then DOWN" (points up and down rapidly at a wall as if showing a chimney) "like that". Which is Spud for 'thingamajig'.

In a fit of madness I ramped up the whole Christmas / winter enthusiasm levels by reading him 'The Snowman', a book which I have never before read (or seen the film) and know only from the ubiquitous song. It is, I have to say, a truly lovely book and he is completely enthralled. Resultantl,y he has added 'snow' to the list of things that are coming 'soon' like Santa and Christmas, but not like the ice-cream truck which he informs me at the same time 'is sleeping' (but coming back any day now).

I know I'm going completely backwards on this one but it's just to hard to be Scrooge when one is faced with an enthusiastic toddler. I'm just not sure how we're going to cope with another three weeks of all this glee.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's beginning to sound a lot like...

Much as we love the spud's nursery, they are doing our heads in at the moment. Well, my head anyway.

It's November, folks, as I may have mentioned before. November. OK, so by the time you read this it could easily be December, it being nearly upon us and me not being what you might call the most diligent of bloggers.

Anyway, so it's definitively not December and yet, and yet the spud knows all the words (or at least, something that sounds proximate) to Jingle Bells, a song he defiantly refused to learn, sing or acknowledge last year. Not only knows the words, but insists on singing them relentlessly over and over and over.

Every day, he tells us that Christmas is coming. Every day we say 'not yet' and he says 'yes it is' and we say 'not yet' and he say 'soon'!!!! I ask him what will happen on Christmas day and he says 'Christmas Tree!' and that seems about that. He's not jumping up and down for presents but he did drag out a book about Thomas and the Christmas Tree today which we haven't read in a year and which I thought he'd forgotten about.

It's not good enough that everywhere we go is covered in spangles and tinsel; it's not enough that Old Nick St. Nick himself is popping out of every crack and crevice in the known world with his beard and his jaunty sack (snorf); it's not enough that we are already bricking it as the deadlines for getting packages to Canada and the rest of the known world pass in a flap of calendar pages.

No, these things are not enough. On top of all this hard-core commercial spew from the gorge of Mammon himself, we must have an over-excited three year old for the entirety of the time between Samhain and Yule.

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. I may not be a Christian but I love and in some way truly believe the story of the nativity, the birth of the child of light just as our little globe tilts our hemisphere back towards the sun. I love the whole schmoo, the mince pies and mulled wine, the chaos of friends and family, the rustle of secret wrappings; the velvet quiet of Christmas Eve midnight, carols and figgy pudding and broken ornaments and that feeling, just after lunch the next day, when one realises that no matter what the light might say, Christmas is the longest day of the year.

I love it, but I don't want it rammed down my throat and more importantly, I don't want it rammed down my son's throat. He's only three. The anticipation is ruining everything.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas... you MUST be joking...

If the levels of stress in every day living and working were not enough, I got an email from John Lewis asking me about our Christimas rules... but... Christmas is MONTHS away...

One of my favourite bloggers is pregnant and recently announced that she's made her cake. After reading this I immediately felt adrenaline rising through my body, my blood pressure dropped, my vision clouded over... it's November. Already. how did this happen?

So began one of what has become our own, personal Christmas rules: I buy the ingredients for the cake and pudding and the Frog starts pointing out how much cheaper it would be to buy them ready made. Apparently, the cost of the cooking gas needed to steam a pudding for 7 hours once a year will break us; the cost of his rusting Saab and its never-ending battery troubles however... well, that's not mine to discuss...

Either way, the rule in this house is that we make the cake in advance (and make a wish while stiring it) then lace it with so much brandy in the intervening weeks that the Spud isn't allowed to have any of the finished product.

I arrived into this marriage with a whole host of Christmas traditions evolved over the years of my childhood. My husband arrived into the marriage with none at all. I was hoping we could develop our own; he was hoping I wouldn't notice it was December. We have however managed to stumble across one or two of our own rules - to whit:

  • The Frog actually instigated our first real rule which is that we open one small present on Christmas Eve (it's very French, apparently).

  • Our Christmas stockings groan under their own weight and are The Best Bit.

  • We have a tree. This is a highly-contested rule due to my own conflict about killing a tree and the Frog's hatred of fallen needles. All the arguments however end every year in us buying whatever is left at the local garden centre on Christmas eve. Last year it was a mammoth. The year before it was a poor, dead, balding, shedding remnant. Poor trees.

  • We give our son a new decoration to hang every year. Each year we found we have lost or broken the one from the previous year.

  • The Frog sneaks away on Christmas Eve to remove half the tree decorations because 'they're tacky and bourgeouis'

  • We always save the best presents for last. The Frog hates this as he is chronically impatient and so he is always trying to work out which one is his 'big' present. This from a man who is over 50 and professes to hate Christmas.

I'm hoping that as the spud grows we'll develop more rules and traditions but for now, I think that's us done.

Now on to get that cake started...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spud Friday

We've been going swimming a lot on Fridays recently but this Friday we went instead to the Transport Museum in Covent Garden with our friend Einstein and his lovely Mum. It was a great day and he did a lot of walking; or, as he said at bedtime 'I walked far away!'.

Firstly, we rode on the top of the bus (his first time; requiring non-stop stream-of-consciousness chatter, around 60% of which consisted of the words 'look at that!') to Trafalgar Square and then we walked to Covent Garden, stopping briefly to admire the fountains.

It's a short walk for a grown up but quite a trek for a little tiny small person whose trousers keep falling down.

We then walked all around the transport museum for several hours, including an hour in which the boys stood up and played with the toy trains while stuffing their faces. The remainder of the time included much sitting in the driving seats of various public transport vehicles.

After being mugged in the shop for bendy buses, we sat at a cafe and the boys played on the cobblestones for another hour.

After bathing them in disinfectant, we walked all the way from Covent Garden to Waterloo station, a march of just under a mile - a significant distance for a little tiny small person, loose waistband or not.

With Einstein in his buggy and in peril of falling asleep too close to tea-time and the spud on what were surely his last legs, my lovely friend produced her hidden ace - a pocket full of Quality Street. Whenever a head began to loll or a chin began to wobble she would dig out a chocolate and hold it up for them to muzzle out of her hand like horses.

We stumbled from one sugar rush to the next until the tube home and then, after a much-needed bath, had neighbours and their son over for take-away and a playdate (featuring a certain bendy bus). The Spud finally slept at 9:30, having been on the go since 7am.

I may not be a little tiny small person but if he doesn't sleep in tomorrow morning, the Frog better have some Quality Street hidden away somewhere because I tell you, I'm going to bloody well need it...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sweet song...

The spud is very keen on music these days. Following a trip to the wonderful Horniman Museum and an enthralled visit to the music room there he is keen to identify any wind instrument in a piece of music as 'a trumpet' and anything with strings as 'a piano' and he loves the music box that came with his baby mobile so much that he still plays it to himself nearly every night,

He's really in to nursery rhymes at the moment and is particularly keen on 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' and 'Ringa Ringa Rosy', although is known to mangle 'See Saw Margery Daw' on a regular basis too.

Today however he excelled himself. As I rewarded him for being Very Grown Up and offered him a treat from his bag of Halloween goodies, he rooted around in the bag and started singing a little ditty which you can sing along with, to the tune of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star':

Little sweeties, little sweeties
How I love you little sweeties
Little little little sweeties
give me little little sweeties
Little sweeties little sweeties
how I love you little sweeties.

Following this, he smiled up at me beatifically, chose a lollipop, fluttered his eyelashes a few times and, in his bestest, squeakiest, cutest voice said 'can I have another little sweetie Mummy?'.

And I said.................


You know, I love him to bits... but that's one tune I'm not falling for.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


Just a quickie update on my blog below.

The spud has responded brilliantly to me removing his toys. We had few hysterics and he has consented to do as he was asked and has been given back all his toys, praised, given chocolate and stickers and we'll see what happens next.

This has been really interesting and I hope was a lesson in consequences. I didn't take things away randomly or with anger, I just let him know that it was his choice - he could continue to do a certain thing and I would remove his toys. I let him know which ones would go next, and which ones would go after them. I let him help me take them away, showed him where they were and promised him he could have them all back very easily. We continued to love him and play with him and laugh with him and he doesn't seem to have been at all traumatised or upset by this.

When he did what we needed him to do, we gave him everything back with praise and chocolate and stickers and stamps on his hand and cuddles and he was really proud of himself.

Who knows if he'll keep it up but I hope he is beginning to understand that sometimes life isn't really fair, sometimes there are consequences but whatever has happened, he's really really loved.

Wait and see, I guess.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

the value of everything

Recently, after failing miserably with a combined rewards system of star chart, praise, stickers, cuddles, smiley-face hand-stamps, chocolates, sweeties and new toy promises we have resorted to a punishment system that simply involves the removal of a favourite toy, with the promise of its swift return should our son actually deign to do something which he knows perfectly well how to do, can do all on his own and has done countless times, but which he has now given up on.

So far, we have removed ALL his trains (a major event), his new playmobil airplane, his Charlie & Lola books and his toy buses. Next will be the box with all his cars.

The upshot of this is that, after an initial moment of sheer disbelief as his train-set went on top of the wardrobe, he has become quite philosophical about losing these toys and has instead turned his attentions to previously less popular things.

In fact, despite the question of him not doing something he should be, I'm actually quite enjoying taking away his favourite toys and to be honest, so is he. Yesterday he rounded up his buses, handed them to me and then waved at them as they peered down from their new heights.

There are toys being played with now to which he's never much paid attention, toys that have been loved and then deserted; toys which are now getting a proper look in. He spent this evening building a garage for his cars out of building blocks and then building trains out of Playdough, it's like he's learning how much value is really there in his over-populated playroom.

I've decided to keep going until either he gives in or he has no toys left. I actually think it's going to be good for his imagination.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Always keep something back...

We're having negotiation. We've having a lot of failed negotiations to tell the truth. They go a lot like this:

"I want a biscuit."

"You have to eat your dinner first."

"No I want a biscuit!"

"Dinner first."


"Dinner AND THEN a biscuit."

"Dinner AND a biscuit."

"Dinner first."

"No I want a biscuit!"

"Do you want to go to bed."

"No I want dinner."


"And a biscuit."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The booms...

Some children are afraid of fireworks but not our little spudlet. He calls them 'the booms' and has been begging to see them every day since some dim-witted soul at the nursery let slip last week that bonfire night was coming.

Tonight he was so well behaved. All I had to do was to threaten to withdraw the fireworks and he bent to my will immediately. Oh ho, if only bonfire night was every night.

Actually, I wish it was. There's nothing so guaranteed to turn an entire field of people into ten year olds than a good fireworks display.

Granted, he did spend most of it with his hand clutched over his ears looking reasonably terrified but he would suddenly erupt 'Look at that red one! Look at the blue one! The green one! The red one... Look Mummy look' as the fireworks came too fast for him to name.

Shame he looks so terrified in all the pictures really...

Still. Never mind, eh?

Sadly however, since the garden fireworks on Halloween and now these, he is under the impression that he can just dial up fireworks at will; on the way out of the park he was already negotiating 'small fireworks in the garden again please Mummy'. Since, like icecream, this is one of the pleasures that we share most intensely, I am now on the lookout for the smallest excuse to purchase more fireworks.

Anyone have a birthday coming up I can celebrate?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Star light star bright

So. We've had a bit of a setback recently which has necessitated a star chart. I have stars, I have a chart and we have, or rather, the spud has, a goal. The goal is that if he gets all the stars onto the chart I will take him to the toy shop and buy him whatever he wants. He wants 'a car'.

He is clear about all of this. He does a particular thing, he gets a little gold star. Four gold stars equal one big star. Four big stars equal a new toy car.


You'd think he would be jazzed about this, but frankly, he's not. In fact, we have not managed a single gold star - au contraire, all we've managed is two big black 'x' marks. He doesn't seem to mind. I would even say he's cheerfully against the whole star-chart nazi system, possibly willfully so.

Hopefully this will change. This evening while reading him his bedtime story, I got up to turn off the oven mid-story and I managed to catch my foot on the doorframe and rip three of my toes to the left so hard that one popped out of its socket.

Turns out I'm quite a wimp.

I did my best not to scream or cry but there was a lot of puffing and saying 'owww' very meaningfully and in the end I found I couldn't walk and had to sit on the floor trying not to be sick.

The spud, bless him, was sweet as pie. First he kept asking 'are you OK Mummy?' then when I told him I'd stubbed my toe he insisted on 'kiss it better Mummy?' and then when I said 'no sweetie, it's ok' he walked over, squatted beside me and rubbed my head. I sent him to find the telephone, which he did, slightly uncertainly. On his way out of the door he banged his head and came rushing back to lie on the floor beside me for a cuddle 'I'm hurt too now Mummy' he said, before getting up and getting the phone.

The Frog high-footed it home and before we read the spud a final story I gave my boy a big cuddle and told him I was better and we put a gold star on his chart for being so brave and helpful. He looked at it. He touched the chart. He said 'a star Mummy!' He stood back and looked at it critically and turned to me and added 'I want a big star!'.

Maybe, just maybe, I buggered my foot up for a reason. I mean, it hurts much too much for it to have been in vain. Maybe this was the first in a golden galaxy of stars.

I live in hope...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Trick or... Trick!!!

We decided to do the Full North American last night and went for a trick-or-treating extravaganza on our street. Yeah, four whole houses and 8 very confused 3 year olds.

It was soooo authentic...

We've been warming the spud up for this for a week. We bought his costume and got him all excited... he informed his girlfriend who immediately requested the same costume from her parents... we had high hopes.

Friday I decided to invite more than just the neighbours and sent around an email and we had a great turnout. We cut the pumpkins, we made the pies, we popped the popcorn, bought the fireworks, decorated the garden and... the spud refused to dress up. Everyone arrived looking fantastic but still, the spud refused to dress up.

He ended up going around the houses with his little bag wearing his wellies, jeans, a big jumper and a witches hat. Actually, it was an excellent Worzel Gummidge costume.

I guess beggars can't be choosers.

The kids seemed to really love it though, they were agog at being offered free sweeties, amazed at the phenomenon of sparklers and garden fireworks and thrilled, mostly, at being able to stay up late and rub popcorn into the spud's carpet.

Next year maybe we'll manage 5 houses and, perhaps, even a costume...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Downright Silly Time

I quite like Daylight Savings Time but really, it is SO Victorian.

"I know" says some bright spark (George Vernon Hudson - a New Zealander but a Victorian, none-the-less) "We Victorians need more daylight in winter to do our extremely very useful inventing and to work children at the mills longer. We've invented electricity, we own the known world and so now we're going to CHANGE TIME!!"

"Yeah, sod the farmers, parents of small children and anyone who lives outside of the British Empire, we're going to fuck with you all... and while we're at it we're going to drive on the wrong side of the road too - ha ha ha!!! Try conquering us NOW you morons, we're going to be sleeping in today and we're going to be REALLY WELL RESTED. Unless, of course, we have three-year-olds, or cats, or dogs, or, say, a barn full of cows who still think that time is a constant and will now be up SUPER EARLY!!!! Bwah hahaha!!"

OK, so DST may have had its uses but really, I think we're done now. There's enough electric light that we are never really in the dark and it only gives us extra morning light for a few weeks. For this small mercy it messes with our internal clocks and puts a spanner in the works for anyone who works internationally or has family overseas.

Not only that, but the DST world can't even agree on when to put the clocks back - so while the clocks are back in the UK, Canada and the US haven't quite decided yet. AND, and and and... if you look at the map on Wikipedia here, you can see that over half the countries who started using DST have actually seen the light and stopped. I particularly love the fact that bits of Canada have just opted out, making it a particular nightmare for Canadians.

Down with DST! OK. Yes I've been up since 6. You can tell, can't you?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sparx' killer Pumpkin Pie recipe

OK, here are the pies that caused all the trouble, below!

I cannot take full responsibility for this recipe, however I have messed with it over the years to make it mine because, quite frankly, I hated pumpkin pie until this came along.

Firstly - pastry. Now, this is definitively NOT my recipe, I found it here and it is the best sweet-pie crust I've ever had. Seriously, you could make this into biscuits it's so good.

450 to 500 gms flour
50gms custard powder
250 gms butter
250 gms caster sugar
2 eggs

Next, the magic pie filling:

1 cup cooked pumpkin
2 eggs
1 cup condensed milk (a medium tin)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 apple, grated
lemon zest (half a lemon)
1 tablespoon brandy (or a teaspoon of vanilla essence for kids)
Raisins or dried fruit

Preheat oven to about 200 celcius, whatever that is in fahrenheit.

I normally dice the pumpkin quite small and put it to boil, then I cheat and whiz the pastry in a mixer and put it in the fridge. The pastry mix is really sticky, don't expect to be able to use a rolling pin.

Once the pumpkin is cooked I then also cheat and put it into the mixer (drained) with the milk, sugar, eggs and brandy - otherwise you have to mash it by hand, beat the eggs and then hand mix it all. Grate the apple, zest the lemon and stir that in by hand - squeeze some lemon juice in as well but not too much.

Then, crucially, take the spoon that you used to empty the condensed milk tin and lick it clean. These calories do not count!

Take a muffin tray and grease it up then roll the pastry by hand into small golf balls and press them into the moulds to make the crusts. Cook them for about 5 minutes until there's a bit of a hard skin on them. Cook them too long and they puff up or go brown which you don't want.

Spoon the raisins or fruit into each shell and then add the pumpkin mix and cook for about 10 minutes, or until it's risen and slightly brown on top.

I then sieve some sugar and cinnamon over the top and let them cool.

These pies are what won the pie-off at the nursery, below...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The pies of Brixton

On Tuesday evening I picked the spud up from nursery to be presented with a letter informing us that today, two days later, we needed to ship him off dressed in his national costume and porting some sort of comestible representing his heritage. Heritage? Two days? Hello?

He's half French and half Canadian so while I tried to work out the food (maple-leaf croissants? pate de foie-moose?) the Frog helpfully suggested we head down to the market for a garlic necklace and a baguette.

The upshot was that this morning we packed him off in jeans and a cowboy shirt (I'm sure we could have made less effort but I'm not quite sure how) and this evening I went to pick him up laden with three dozen pumpkin pies I made last night.

There was a proper celebration going when we arrived - easily 100 people, many in bright costumes, a steel band, an entire lamb roasting on a spit and a table laden with international food. The spud was with his mates dancing with abandon to the music; it was frankly incredible, I couldn't quite believe it was a nursery. It was 100% Brixton, anyway and another reason I love this little patch of London so much.

I stood by the food table (as one does) primping my pies when along comes this amazing woman in full Caribbean gear porting inch-long red nails who takes one look at the sign and says 'Pumpkin pies! Can you imagine how awful they must taste?!'.

I was absolutely delighted - a woman not afraid to tell it like she sees it! I immediately wracked her with guilt. 'I made those pies' I said as she recoiled. 'And now' I added, 'you've insulted me so I'm going to make you eat one!'. We were smiling... but you know, I was deadly serious.

She gingerly put one on her plate and started off 'Oh no' I waded in, 'I'm not seeing one go to waste, you have to eat it right here'. And, bless her, she did. Halfway through the first bite she stopped, asked me what was on the top (cinnamon sugar) and she said 'these are amazing!'. To prove it, she took two more for her family and about three minutes later I saw her take a couple more.

Ten minutes later, all three dozen pies were gone.

I think the spud might have enjoyed himself nearly as much as I did. Tonight we took a metal mixing bowl and a spoon into the bath, half-filled it with water and swirled it about while he bashed it about the gills making steel band sounds.

I've had worse days.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Birthday Card Boogie

Normally Canada Post is rubbish. Actually that should read 'historically', as life in Canada means accepting that it takes a week for a letter to cross town. In fact, we used to get some sort of grim amusement out of the fact that sending a letter to my Gran in Victoria took about the same time as a letter to someone just down the road.

Birthday and Christmas presents from Canada therefore are expected arrive at fairly random times. Combine this with the recent Royal Mail postal strikes and it is no surprise that Charlie's birthday presents from Uncle Hoto & Auntie Shelley arrived only yesterday.

The presents were great. The card, however, rocks - although not as much as my future Billy Elliot here...

Where does he GET those grooving moves?


Sunday, October 11, 2009

My right hand...

Charlie loves puppets. I have saved many a cranky afternoon with the aid of his Monkey puppet - and in fact, many a cranky morning, evening and bedtime.

Recently however while Monkey was taking a sabbatical at the bottom of the toy box, I was forced by necessity into emergency measures and, basically, Monkey made an appearance without his clothes on. Just my hand, talking, pointing, laughing and making snapping movements at my son's tickly bits. He loved it.

He loved it so much that he's demanding my hand by its own name these days. Sometimes in fact, if I am in another room, he will request the presence of my hand rather than me.

Sadly, the name my son has given to this hand is 'Snatch'. Sometimes he calls it 'snap' but normally, that's my son standing in the middle of the playground shouting 'I WANT SNATCH!!!!'.

A few years ahead of his time, my boy...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New shoooooooooes....

We like shoes in our house. It's questionable who exactly it is who has more pairs, me or the Frog; however the spud is certainly a contender, mainly because having a third set of feet in the house to buy shoes for is one of the few real perks of owning a child... er, I mean, because we love our little dumpling SOOOO much... er... cough cough cough.

Anyway, so it's not just the spud's hair and belly that are growing it seems; his feet are like row boats on the end of lolly-pop sticks and most of his lovely shoes don't really fit him anymore. He LOVES his shoes and if he's actually complaining about them, well they must be tight as all buggery.

Anyway, so when Umi got in touch to ask if I'd take a free pair of toddler shoes, I ignored the pricking of my conscience and just said 'yes please' - it was too serendipitous to pass up.

The catalogue looked amazing and we dickered for ages over choosing a pair but I didn't hold out high hopes to be honest. We're sort of a Clarks family here (or rather, it's just me, the frog thinks Clarks shoes are the enemy and that I am insane). Anyway, so I had me doubts about the Umi quality but I have to say, they seem robust, good arch supports, great colour and the frog likes them - they're great, in fact.

Actually, I was won over the second I saw the thick rubber toes, because now when he drags them along the ground to stop his scooter - or just because he's trying out his cool new toe-dragging walk - I am no longer to be seen flapping about futilely behind him squeaking inanities about saving his shoe leather.

The spud, however, normally the type of boy who prances around in front of the mirror in new shoes, has been somewhat ambivalent, although I did catch him swinging his foot and gazing thoughtfully at his new toes the other day.

Perhaps I should warn the cat...


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting his own back...

We've had holidays. We had my brother and sis-in-law to Biarritz for a few days which was knock-down brilliant. So brilliant that I didn't take any pictures because I was too busy being happy. Oh, and I forgot my camera.

If you were that interested, you could go here and scroll down to September 16th to see a little bit of the sort of holiday we had (and a lot of the sort of holiday Hoto and Shell had in Paris afterwards!). There's more Paris on Shell's blog too...

I have been heavy with anticipation about this holiday. It's been a while since my brother and my son have seen each other and I warmed up the spud with photographs and videos and stories about Hoto and Shell for ages. It worked too, he greeted them, knew who they were and showed off his toys to them relentlessly.

Best of all, after nearly 3 years of training him to blow a raspberry at my brother, he finally blew it. (You think I'm kidding? Go here). This made my day.

I tortured my brother when we were children, I have to admit it. I lay in wait around corners, told him there were bodies under his floorboards, hid under his bed and grabbed him with ghostly hands and best of all, valiantly attempted to soak his hand in warm water while he slept in an attempt to get him to wee his bed... the look on his face when he woke up is apparently nothing compared to the guilty look on mine...

So anyway, I am really trying not to be the sort of Mother that I was a sister, if that makes sense; and rather than turn my fiendishness on my own son I was thrilled to watch him make his first move on continuing the legacy that is the ritual trickery of Uncle Hoto.

Sadly, it seems the spud is not completely on my side as yet. One evening as we were getting ready for bed, he marched up to my brother and said in his loudest possible voice 'Mummy has the burps!"

"Oooh" said uncle Hoto... "Does she?"

"Yeth" responded my little treasure. "And she farts!"

Oh yes. That was some evil chuckling I heard coming out of my sibling.

I sense, bearing down on me inevitably, a future in which my brother slowly gets his own back...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

the paddly pool of eden

The word spread around the park yesterday: "There's water in the paddling pool!" We heard it at the cafe at the top of the hill and by the time we got there, not only was there water in the pool but the fountains that fill it up were still on. The spud was delighted.

Nobody else at the pool had left their houses with swimsuits or towels either; there were already half a dozen or more children larking about, none of them wearing a stitch of clothing. We stripped the spud down to his birthday suit and he trundled happily off to rescue leaves. I helped him and some new friends make leaf boats and as we floated them, more and more people filed in.

At some point the word must have spread outside of the park as the families that began arriving were carrying towels and swimsuits and the balance of naked to clothed began to shift. Some of the original parents responded by putting their children into pants or t-shirts, but the spud refused all clothing and eventually was the only one left without any clothing on at all.

He bounced around and ran about and made friends and talked, completely happy in his own skin. I was sitting dreamily in the sun, pondering what age it is exactly that we start needing to be clothed in public and being all Motherly-lovey about my happy little spud when I noticed that he was crouching down in the water with a look of extreme concentration.

I don't know what was worse, the fact that I knew he was doing a secret pee or the look from another Mum who was clearly thinking that he was playing with himself in public.

Needless to say, I hustled him into some clothes and we slunk off home pretty damn quickly, metaphorical fig leaves clutched firmly over all the parts that matter.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

our own personal cake wreck....

Six months ago, one of the spud's friends turned three and his mother delivered to the nursery a blue train cake, cunningly crafted by a local baker.

All the kids had blue poo the next day but that just added to the thrill as far as the spud was concerned. He ranted on and on and on about the blue train cake for months.

A year ago, another of his best friends Jacob (or 'Jpeg' as the spud calls him) had a blue train cake for his second birthday and while it was home-made, it was a perfect Thomas replica - smooth icing, regular shape, cheerful face - beautifully put together. Their thank-you cards had a cute image of Jpeg blowing out the candles on this monument to good home-making skills and it sat on the spud's dresser for months and months.

You can see where this is going. With his party approaching, I asked the spud what sort of cake he wanted at his party and without a second's thought he shouted 'BOO TRAIN CAKE!!!!!

I asked him several times over the course of the two months running up to his birthday and sadly the answer never varied by as much as a decibel.

Rather than going out and buying one, or simply baking a cake and cutting it into a train shape I went totally Motherly-Love-Blind and single-mindedly blundered into the whole thing with a 'how hard can it be' attitude.

This hard, as it turns out...

...and after that, all the spud ate was this...

...hardly surprising really....

...actually I can't believe I had the guts to serve it up at a party with real people attending... or to post it on the blog. I think I need to offer up a prayer to Julia Child begging forgiveness for my transgressions...


Thursday, September 03, 2009

...and then I fell down in the sea

The spud is becoming very self-aware all of a sudden, telling us how he feels and what he's thinking and what he's been doing.

He's completely unashamed of his own transgressions and will relate them with the same relish he reserves for imaginary ice-creams. Last weekend we spent with friends including his best mate Einstein, whose Granny has a boyfriend with a big boat. We went to the marina for a gawp, the kids raided the biscuit tin and then they proceeded to run rampant around the jetty in their floatation devices pursued by panic-stricken parents shouting useless things like 'come back here now' and 'come back RIGHT NOW' and 'BE CAREFUL' and other useless background noise.

The frog got hold of our son who yanked himself away shouting 'NO Daddy, NO Daddy' and proceeded to trip and then plunge head-first into the deep water of the harbour. This, as you can imagine, was a pretty heart-stopping moment and even though he was caught by his life-vest and hauled out with only a damp fringe and one wet hand, I am having continual 'Spud drowning' dreams. Last night in my sleep he fell under the surface of the bath water. This is no fun, I can assure you.

Tonight however after announcing that he wants a pair of red roller skates like Einstein has, he then happily informed me that he'd had biscuits in the boat and then fallen in the sea. I asked him if he was scared and from his laugh I suspect he rather wants to try it out again.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday

I think I say it every year, but it still seems impossible to believe that my son is another year old - three years today. If it wasn't for this blog I swear I'd have forgotten the lot.

Today has been the first birthday that he's really understood and we've been winding him up for it for a week now. His party is on Saturday but this morning we woke him up with his presents and he was so sweet.

He's not yet at the stage where all he wants to do is to rip the paper off each one until he's done, he was quite happy to open one present and play with it for ages before we demanded that he open the next one. In fact, I think he was more excited about having cake then about anything else and by bedtime he was singing 'Happy Birthday' to himself on endless repeat.

What I love about 3 is that his imagination is in full gear and he can play for ages by himself making up stories and playing all the parts. I was working in the cellar this morning while the Frog looked after him and he was calling 'come on Mummy, hurry up, come on Mummy'. I shouted at him that I was working and was about to yell up for the Frog when my beloved other half called down 'it's ok, he's playing that we're all getting on the airplane and you're late'. The words 'as usual' hung unsaid in the air, obviously. This year we and the grandparents bought him a huge selection of Playmobil toys from eBay (have you seen the PRICE of those things new?) and he was thrilled to bits. Little bits, as it turns out, which is what most Playmobil is made of. We have a massive envelope of tiny accessories which he might get when he's 12. Or maybe 20.

3 has benefits other than the purchase of expensive toys however. It's nice that we are able to reason with him a little now and his powers of verbal communication are coming on stronger every day. Recently he's been going off the playground and instead we have been having hour long explores around our local park; clambering into the bushes to play 'Bear Hunt' and walking around each of the sports areas watching people play. He is minorly obsessed with the cricket bowling nets and when there was a chap the other day bowling endless balls at the test wickets he made me sit down and watch for ages. I had to pull him away after he started commenting very loudly 'YAY, well done!'... 'Uh oh, he missed it!'.... 'He missed it AGAIN'... 'He missed it AGAIN'... the cricketer started muttering very loudly so we slunk off.

These explores have done marvels for the powers of elderberry wine as we've collected enough berries for nearly two gallons of the stuff. We've also been picking blackberries although only once have we saved enough to come home with any - mainly he just gets a purple face and a big grin.

3 is a good age. He's cuddly and loving and beginning to sleep in; he's funny and cheerful and happy and disobedient as all fuck, which means, I suspect, that he is a perfectly normal child.

Happy birthday angel boy, we love you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

... and pay the lady

Tonight, folks, after two hours of him jack-in-a-boxing in and out of bed, I bribed my son to sleep. It was not without its amusing moments.

'If you go to sleep, tomorrow we can go for ice-cream!'

'From the ice cream van!'

'Yes, we'll have ice cream from the ice cream van. What else shall we do?'

'Go to the park!'

'Yes, good idea, we can go to the park. What else would you like to do?'

'Get some money!'

'OK...... what else can we do?'

'Pay the lady'

'Aha.... but what else can we do?'

'Buy a white ice-cream'

'I see. So we get some money, go to the park, find the ice-cream van, pay the lady and buy a white ice-cream'


'What else can we do?'

'Buy a yellow ice cream.'

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

poop poop - all aboard!!

Hello everyone and thank you all for your submissions to this, my first (and potentially only) go at hosting a carnival. It's been a big job and at points I've really had to strain to get this one out but I've finally produced the goods. Ba dum dum.

er... ok. So, If you've not potty trained a child in your life then these stories will make you either smug or terrified - so read at your own risk. I'd like to thank everyone who submitted stories for this, I think I've included you all - if I've left you out, let me know and I'll edit you in; these are just all too good to leave out.

I would like to start this carnival off with a guest post from Jennie over at Copenhagen Follies. She has posted perhaps the shortest poo story ever, here and has sent me the following tput outo get us all in the mood:

Jennie says: Last year, when we took the kids to France by train, Dante was 2 and Halfdan was 6 mos at the time. We were quite careful not to run out of diapers, buying them along the way. We started out buying two different sizes to accomodate them both, and after the first week we made it easier by just buying one size – Halfdan was quite chubby, and Dante was getting a little slender in comparison, so it made life less complicated.

Somehow though, on the last leg home from Paris to Hamburg, we ran low. At Hamburg Station we barely had time to look for a kiosk to buy new ones before we had to catch our train/ferry connection to Copenhagen. We hoped for the best, and forged ahead. On the train somewhere in northern Germany, Halfdan did a do, so to speak. We rummaged through the diaper bag – no dice. My purse – no dice. Even in the big bag with all our clothing, etc., we couldn’t find one measly little diaper to change our baby with. Mikael and I looked at each other, searching for some magic formula, but there was only one solution left. I gave Mikael specific orders on what to do. The poor man took our sweetpea into the miniscule bathroom without a changing table, managed to scrape off as much poo as he could, deposit it, cover the damaged diaper with a bit of toilet paper, and hoped for the best. We made it to Copenhagen without further incident, but have been very stringent on the diaper front since then.

OK Jen, thanks for that - has anyone else ever had to re-use a pooey nappy? OK, just me then.

And now for the carnival. I have to tell you in advance that you need to have finished your dinner to prepare for what's coming. Some of these will make you cringe while others are likely to make you lose your tea through your nose laughing. I've tried to label them all 'eugh' or 'ha ha' just to warn you in advance but they are, I have to say, all pretty damn funny.

I am starting this off with an 'article' from the doyen of the subject: Potty Mummy from The Potty Diaries who has created this guide post for all of us out there: A different kind of Carnival. Potty Mummy is definitely the pack leader here and she handily provides links to other poo stories so that you will be able to surf poo for days to come... just what you always wanted! Yay!

Next up is Emily over at Maternal Tales from the South Coast who is the queen of poo stories,. If she hadn't have sent me this post I would have linked to it anyway as it is one of the funniest poo stories I've read and I think you should all start there to get you in the mood. The nappy bucket overfloweth when it comes to Emily however and she has sent three, count 'em, three 'ha ha' poo stories and you can find the others here and finally over here.

Ha ha!! I fooled you with the last one - definitely an 'eugh' story.

Tara over at Sticky Fingers has sent two stories, both in the 'ha ha' camp
this one, the moment every parent dreads in a restaurant and then this one, short and a bit fruity!! And as we know, most fruit is guaranteed to get the best, or perhaps the worst, out of our offspring...

Emily over at Brit in Bosnia has achieved the master-stroke, both 'eugh' and 'haha' in one story... it starts out a nice little potty-training story and then has a kicker in the final line here. She's also sent me this little gem which is actually nothing really to do with poo but I tell you, between the post and the comments I felt a LOT better about the little accident the spud had on the rug this morning...

Lisa at Boondock Ramblings has been dithering about potty training for ages now, claiming that her little one 'just isn't ready'... here is the proof - poo in a church, not sure if this is waaaay more embarrassing than the next entry or not to be honest but the phrase 'Daddy, wipe me!' has got to be one of the most memorable of all.

Dee over at Mummadiddee who is, for the purposes of this post actually Iota Manhattan from Not Wrong Just Different has posted this story about a supermarket poo. Ah yes, the dreaded cry of 'Mummy I done a poo' as fellow shoppers recoil in disgust. We recently had a very similar moment in the crowded queue at customs in Stansted airport... not only did our little boy smell to high heaven but sadly there was no disguising what was peeping over the back of his trousers...

Jen from Rants and Raves gives us a potty training story - low on 'eugh' but high on the old empathy factor scale here; weeks of failure and he uses the potty at Grandma's...

This classic from Suzanna at Thames Valley Mums resonates particularly with me as I too have a home office, although so far the spud has yet to announce my toileting habits to clients...

Iota, posting this time as herself on her own blog has this great poo story here, which she created just for this carnival. The start alone is enough to make a frustrated potty-trainer feel relaxed, the end is another 'haha' moment.

Grit over at Grit's DayGrit's Day has posted us this visit to a sewage farm which is educational because if nothing else it tells us how to make our own poo in a bowl withouth all the messy straining about.

Amy over at and 1 more means four posts this 'Eugh' story about the combination of potty training one child while another is crawling... This one is about the worst I can imagine happening and makes my own experiences on the matter pale in comparison. With four kids, Amy is an expert at this lark but even experts have slippage sometimes...

Here's a good one from Steffi over at Mummy Do That whose daughter has decided to potty train herself against her mother's wishes - the upshot, however, is the usual poo on the floor

Here's one from Carol at New Mummy - this one isn't funny ha ha or even particularly 'eugh' but it illustrates exactly the sort of thing us parents have to deal with, loving our babies, poo and all. She doesn't say exactly how many nappies were filled during her child's illness but it sounds like nappy changing was a full time job. Here you go!

Liz over at Living With Kids has an 'eugh' story for us all that for a change doesn't actually involve baby poo. It does however involve both poo and a baby - and if your brain isn't going mad trying to work it out, here you go!

Finally a late entry from Laura over at Are We Nearly There Yet? - very funny and the title alone is worth the visit - so here you go, The Morning Log

Thank you everyone for a very amusing two weeks. I will spend tomorrow travelling about letting you all know that it's finally dropped and if I've missed you out, just drop me a line.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A carnival of poo...

I have maundered on a lot over time about my son padding around our appartment. Now, however, he is a little boy; and little boys, it turns out, do not pad at all; rather, they clank. Clutching a nest of toy cars and airplanes, the spud cannot trust us enough to leave them unattended even for a second and is forever toting more cars than he can carry. He cannot do even so much as a quick wee wee without dropping bits of cast metal into the loo, the bath, under his father's feet, it's ridiculous.

We have, however, had progress on pooing in the loo - cars or no cars - and to that end, I am celebrating the hopeful end of all poo stories on this blog by inviting any interested parties to send me your favourite poo stories.

I know you have them. Lurking in your archives. If I get enough responses I'll publish links back in a full-on, glorious, poo-story-dump in a couple of weeks time... what do you think?

ps, I dedicate this post to my brother because he loves poo stories SO MUCH!

Monday, July 20, 2009

beans reprise

I give up. No, seriously, I give up on the whole part of parenting where I try to influence or second guess my son or report on what he's doing with any sort of authority.

As if to rub my nose in the whole argument over eating his dinner, as if to underline that he is now and will always be in control, today in the vegetable department of the supermarket he walked over to a tray of green beans and started pulling them out and eating them. I bought a bag and he ate them all through the shop. We stopped, mind you, we stopped in the middle OF THE BISCUIT AISLE so he could have another bean. I cooked beans for tea. He ate the lot.

I think we're done here. I may be a while.

not for the faint of heart

Ah the beach. 'What would it be like to live here and be able to come to the beach every day if I wanted to?' This was my self-imposed question yesterday while lying on the sand hoping to dim the brightness of my skin.

While the spud threw pebbles at me I spent some time covertly eying up the beach populace and trying to work out who were the locals and who the visitors. Some were easy. Anyone pale was probably visiting. Anybody very dark was probably a local. The rest were harder to fathom.

One however stood out above and beyond the others. If she hadn't been sitting within 5 feet of me I may have missed her. Might not have been a bad move.

She looked as though in another life she is possibly someone's Grandmother and she mightn't even have stood out if she hadn't been naked and chain-smoking.

It was the scent of tobacco smoke that drew my eyes and then, to my shame, I could barely tear them away as she turned around to fetch her bikini out of her bag and her right nipple dipped itself... those with weaker stomachs may need to turn away... dipped itself, I tell you, into her belly button. Right in. It snagged for a moment and then she turned back and it bobbed out. It was at this point in what must only have been a two or three-second glance, that I realised her skin was the texture of an old handbag - leathery and cracked and rippled with sun damage.

I feigned interest in my offspring while thinking queasily 'This would be me if I spent every day on the beach for the next fifteen years'. And smoked.

A few moments later she walked past my toes, bikini-clad and without a cigarette, entirely un-remarkable amongst the other women on the beach. She stood for a long time facing the sea, her back and legs baking themselves even browner. She seemed happy.

I was just happy that her bikini had underwiring.

The spud was just happy to be by the sea.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beans beans glorious beans.

We're having eating!! Apart from various battles fought on the field of the dinner table, since having the chickenpox the spud has insisted on being bottle-fed like some sort of veal calf.

He's been downing upwards of 3 pints a day on good/bad days and eating almost nothing. A few days ago however he woke up, demanded breakfast, ate a bowl of cereal, drank some juice and then proceeded to eat all the way through the day, finishing off this evening with four fish fingers, a big plate of rice and pepper, half an avocado, a small carrot, a kiwi and two glasses of milk. Hooray!

A short amusing note that I forgot to post last week after the big standoff is that the one part of the dinner that the spud refused to eat was the green beans. He loves green beans. He has eaten dinners in which he has picked out the green beans, eaten them all first and then announced he was 'fished'.

So, the other day when we had our standoff, which has, I possibly need to inform the odd passerby, helped quite a lot in terms of overall spud behaviour, he ate his fish fingers and a pea or two but the green beans were met with quite a show of distaste and some pretty jaw-clenching rejection. Since he'd eaten the rest of his dinner with gusto however, I let the poor beans go... or rather, I scarfed them myself.

The spud's nursery has a system to tell a confused parent exactly what one's offspring has eaten during the day. A filled in circle is one helping, a line next to it is seconds.

Imagine, therefore, how far my eyebrows rose on entering his nursery the next day, the next day, mind you, on examining the food chart and seeing not only a full circle but four, mind you, that's one two three FOUR lines next to the words 'green beans'.

Ah yes, I may have won the battle but clearly, I am not taking home any prizes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

the bloody okey okey

We're in France on holiday; Sammy safely ensconced with a house-sitter and the rain, as usual, bucketing down. Yesterday it was actually amazingly hot and sunny and for once we made it to the beach.

I tell you, it was obvious we were British. OK, so I'm Canadian and the Frog is not only French but we're actually in his home-town but you know, it's been a while. So, firstly, we were pasty pasty white in a sea of bronzed limbs but secondly: All the Kit.

On our way down we passed French women en route to the plage with a little roll of matting tucked under one arm and a tiny clutch under the other. Even French families do it in style - children immaculately turned out porting a little bucket and spade with Maman carrying a chic beach bag with the edges of Hermes towels just poking out over the lid of the Evian. Papa strides ahead, a beach umbrella casually slung over one shoulder, the other dangling a net bag with a beach ball or perhaps a set of beach tennis racquets.

We, however, were a completely different story. The spud had decided he wanted to sit in his French buggy; a tiny affair with no swivelling wheels which forces the parent in charge to hunch as though they are about to ring matin at Notre Dame and to grunt and sweat at every bend. The spare parent has to carry everything else and we have the sort of wheeled bag your Nan used to get her shopping in with. It's stuffed to overflowing - towels, mats, beach brolly, water, buckets, spaces, balls, sun cream, change of clothes, butt wipes, spare pants, arm bands, sweating sandwiches - and it pokes the owner in the backside with every other step.

We wheeled our way onto the beach creaking and puffing and then disrobed in front of about 5,000 blinded locals and spent the next hour either rubbing sun cream onto each other or rubbing the sand off. It was bliss, but we really did stand out dreadfully.

On the way back we passed a nearby playground and the spud demanded to play. The Frog had some errands to run so I stayed behind. The playground was empty but for two neat parents and their two neat offspring. They weren't related by by God they were talking by the time we left.

You must imagine here, if you dare, that I had neglected to remember either my swimsuit or a change of clothes so I had gone into the sea in my knickers and halter top and then taken the top off and put on my cream cotton shirt. I was therefore wearing wet knickers and no bra and my hair was a complete mess. The playground however was under some shady trees and I hoped nobody would notice.

The spud elected to play on a toy near the only occupied bench. I cleared a spot and sat down only for the owner of a nearby bag to scurry over to collect it and move ostentatiously to another bench. After a few moments, the spud decided to move to the slide where this chaps daughter was happily playing and chose that moment to speak one of his few French phrases. 'Pas la! Pas la!' he shouted at the poor girl as she tried to climb the slide. Yes, in his halting baby French, the spud told practically the only other child in the playground not to stand near the only toy she'd been playing with. Since before he got there.

The other parents glared at me. I hurried over to tell him firstly in English and then in French to share the slide and let the little girl play. He glared at me. The parents glared at me. I tried to give them my best friendly smile and realised I was standing in the only shaft of sunlight in the playground, tits clearly visible through my shirt. I must have looked insane. Oh, I tried to remain non-chalant as he road-tested every piece of equipment in the place but then he came running over, pee running down one leg, trying to get his willy out to finish his wee off against the bench. That was pretty much my signal to go.

I loaded the spud back into his stroller and as we pulled away from the place he launched into the chorus of the Okey Cokey. 'OOOOOOOOOhhhhhhHHHH DE OKEY OKEY..... OOOOOOOoooohhhhhhhHHHHH DE OKEY OKEY........ OOOOOOOOOOoooooooooohhhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHHH.....

I'm never, ever going back.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pushing the envelope

It started small, a little give here; a nursery sofa there, some allowances, some compromise... and then suddenly I woke up to realise that the spud has been getting away with murder.

He's been sleeping on the nursery futon, eating his tea on the sofa in front of the TV; demanding constant cheese toasties, icecream and bottles of milk and... well the list is pretty long.

We've managed to get him back to his own bed, cut the bottles of milk out during the day and begun to wean him off the TV however he still wouldn't eat anything that wasn't a cheese toastie and refused to sit at the table. Following a friend of mine telling me she had 'broken' her toddler with a two-hour standoff over dinner (which has worked wonders), we had our own standoff.

It was pretty hairy.

First I brought him a healthy dinner and offered it to him on the sofa. He picked it up, carried it into the kitchen, put it on the counter, announced he was 'finished' and demanded a biscuit.

I carried it back and put it on the table. He did the same. I carried it back and then put him into his chair at the table. He tried to get down. I picked him back up. He pushed himself and his chair away from the table. I pulled him in. He pushed back. I pulled in. I threatened to slap his hand if he did it again. He did it. I, god help me, slapped his hand. He did it again. So did I. He put his poor little hands over his face, rocked back and forth and moaned and moaned. Just at the point that I thought I'd done him some serious mental damage, he took his hands away and started on his next attack which was to pointedly ignore both me and his dinner. He sat with his body facing the table but his head twisted as far into the room as his neck would allow and his eyes screwed shut. I brushed some ketchup onto his lips (I'm not a real ogre, there was some ketchup involved...). He screamed, wiped his lips and then spent several minutes dramatically brushing all signs of ketchup from his tongue. He loves ketchup.

This had taken us the best part of 20 minutes and at this point I thought that skyping my parents would be a good idea; not for sympathy, no no no, this for them was the height of comedy; but for some advice perhaps - they had, after all, parented me.

The spud ignored them too, turning his head the other way just in case we hadn't noticed him ignoring us. He tried closing his eyes; putting his hands over his eyes; putting his hands over his mouth; closing his eyes AND putting his hands over his mouth - I tried reasoning with him, arguing with him and pushing tasty morsels into his mouth whenever it was open. Nada.

Half an hour into our stand off, out of total frustration I made a massive airplane/train tunnel-here-comes-the-food manoevre and, as he complained, I just laughed at him. Two giggles later he ate practically the whole damn thing - by himself, with his fork.

I guess laughter is the best medicine after all. I guess we just have to see if it worked now; I'm planning something without ketchup tomorrow, wish me well...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Errol Flynn on a micro scooter...

It turns out that as a male, one is never too young to impress the ladies.

Recently, the spud has pretty much chucked his buggy in as a mode of transport unless he feels particularly needy or sulky and much prefers to zoom along on his micro-scooter; those urbiquitous purple things with two wheels in front and one in the back.

He's getting quite the little trickster; he squats down so the handle is over his head, pulls his bum back into a low sit and easy-rides his way down the road. Since spotting an older friend doing it he's been practicing beetling along on one leg while pulling shapes with his spare knee and foot. He's also cottoned on to how to use the little orange brake at the back by elegantly placing his spare foot on it, or doing a nifty little half-turn, jamming it onto the brake and one-handedly coasting to a stop.

The other day on the way home from nursery he insisted on cutting through the park and there, just inside the gates was a girl from nursery who he's quite keen on. I'm going to call her Lola, it's not her name but that's what Charlie calls her.

The moment he spotted her, they were off. The two of them scooted off up the hill, Lola steaming ahead while Charlie puffed behind her shouting 'Wait Lola, wait!' Her father was chuckling that she's recently been trying to copy someone at nursery who can scoot on one leg and just as he said that, the spud sailed past in full arabesque and glided smugly to a halt beside his besotted friend. Her father snorted.

As we walked up, the spud stood skate-board style on his scooter, held on with one hand and glided backwards down the hill, dismounting with a smooth two-footed jump, smiling at Lola all the way. She was visibly impressed. He re-mounted and kicked off for another arabesque past her and then scooted down the other side of the hill to the playground shouting 'come on Lola, come on Lola'.

She trailed obediently behind him as with both feet planted on the platform, he sped off down the hill, zig-zagging gently just to show that he can. They rounded a corner out of sight and we called to them to stop and began lumbering after them. They stopped and the moment we rounded the bend, again rolled off out of sight. The routine repeated a few times until we were finally nearing the playground gates. Lola was haltingly going down the hill with one foot dragging on the ground to slow herself down; the spud was nowhere in sight.

I shouted again and he appeared from behind a tree, drifting backwards down from the gate, smiling brightly.

I think she was impressed up until the very moment he glided into the bush.