Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sowing and reaping

This Friday Charlie and I and three Mums from our NCT class went to the National Army Museum. Apart from the big guns out front for climbing on I couldn’t actually tell you what’s in there as we just made a beeline for the free play area and dug in for the morning.

After we'd stuffed our little wonders full of lunch however the move was on to go to Battersea Park, which is on the other side of the river. Personally, I was gunning to take the spud home for a nap but my rubber arm was twisted in the way that in a past life would end up with me getting very drunk and losing a shoe but these days means I end up walking until my son is rigid with the need to run and then touring public loos while he has a series of ever looser movements in his trousers.

I'm sure at one point I must have planned this change in my life but some days I am buggered to know why.

By the time I had cleaned him up with the last of my wipes and stuffed him into the last of his clean trousers I was desperate to go home however it turned out I was not only miles from the nearest tube station but also miles from the nearest bus home.

Despite being only a 20-minute drive it took me an hour and a half to get home. I walked most of the way, some of it in tears, all of it swearing and most of it, thankfully, with my little boy snoozing angelically in his stroller.

I relate this story primarily as an example of karmic come-uppance. The day before I had been talking to one of the Mums in our street who had a new stroller. Turns out she had binned the last one after a very long day in which, she had travelled to two separate towns outside of London and had a final obligation in Camden. She walked miles to the Victoria line only to find it was closed and then had to walk miles back, pushing her ever-tetchier toddler around and carrying heavy bags. She finally got to the nearest station to home only to have the front wheel of her pram snap off in the street. As she lifted her son out she discovered he had pooed all up his back and she had no clean clothes. Luckily she found an understanding taxi driver. I was naturally appalled at this story however not enough to stop myself thinking about what wonderful blog material it would make. I am certain therefore that whichever mischievous Godlet it is who watches over those of us here in the Great Land of Blog had heard me and granted my wish at the earliest opportunity.

Consider me penitent.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

a little heavy weather

I may be struck down for saying this but my son has been asleep since 8pm, it's a goddamned miracle. Of a type. Did he have a nap? No. Did I run his little tush off in the playground? Yes. Did he have four mates over for a playdate this afternoon? Yes. Did I stuff him full of carbs at dinner to make him sleepy? Yes. Did I sneak 'relaxing aromatherapy' bubbles into his bath? Check. Did I read every book on his shelf that ends with the lead character fast asleep? Indeedy.

Did I have to hold him down while he shouted 'NO SLEEP DON'T WANT IT DON'T WANT IT NO SLEEP DON'T WANT IT' until he gave up and then did I cave in to his demands and cramp myself next to him in his cot until he was actually snoring?

Just maybe.

We're having a strange time at the moment (I see I have reverted to the Royal we recently, as opposed to the royal wee although both are appropriate). Our little spud is resisting food and sleep and the toilet and pretty much anything that might possibly cave in under resistance. The frog, who is a pushover, has NO chance therefore and has been abused so much in the past three days that it's a wonder he's still living under the same roof.

Perhaps it's a function of growing older and realising that actually, one is a separate organism to one's aged Ps and therefore ought to be able to do exactly as one wishes; coupled with the realisation that one is in control of almost nothing, including one's own body. Perhaps it's a growth in imagination and things that were once innocent are imbued with the menace of shape, sound and monsters under the bead. Perhaps it's just that with the new nursery being larger and with fewer carers per head that the spud is finding out for the first time what it is like to struggle to get attention or to be noticed or to behave in a place where there are more rules.

Who knows what it is. I hope it passes soon though as I worry that these clouds that pass through him and around him are the first of the many that will leave their heavy touch on him over the years and while he has to grow up and come to terms with the reality of human existance, I'd rather spare him as long as I can.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Ungodly Child

Oddly, this is not actually a blog about my little heathen of a son but rather a book that I received as a result of entering one of DJKirkby's competitions. The condition of ownership was that I review it on my blog and also on Amazon, so here you go.

The book is written by Rachel Green and with a promising title like 'An Ungodly Child', what's a Mum to do but love it? The first few pages were a little jumpy but the style very quickly settles in to become a pacy and humorous read with enough layers and twists and surprises to keep you going to the end.

The basic plot hinges around the premise that at some point in the mid 20th century, Lucifer decided to father a child with a human mother. This child (Harold, the reluctant protagonist of the story) grows up knowing absolutely nothing about his background, about the demon his father has left to watch over him or about the fact that some bored and scheming angels have decided to use him to bring about the apocalypse in order to re-ignite faith in God. Somewhere around the age of 40 however it all begins to kick off and his hither-to-fore unremarkable life is suddenly full of devils, imps, magic circles, vampires and ghosts.

The author has built a solid and believable pantheon of demonic and angelic creatures and imbued them all with human faults, quirks and sensibilities (not to mention the desire for cups of tea and biscuits) that move this book out of the 'fantasy' genre directly into 'satire'. The world in which the story takes place is easily recognisable and no opportunity is lost to poke gentle fun at society - the delivery doctor is a devil, the family lawyer is a vampire, the local priest has his own agenda and little old ladies go to a heaven full of giant cats. Nobody is who they seem in this story and the reader is always kept guessing.

With some parallels to writers such as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams able to be drawn, Green has created a book which would make a promising start to a series for a larger publisher to take up. While in places there is potentially room for more editing, this is a really good read and augers well for the future of this author who deserves a bigger career on the back of this.

Thanks DJ - thanks Rachel!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Give me sunshine...

I tell you, this weather has knocked me flat.

Friday I woke up with a streaming, hacking cold and was late for playdate #1 of a bouquet of playdates. My lovely neighbour said 'Never mind, drop him over with us and get ready on your own time' and so half an hour later I was rushing out of the house clutching fruit and a blanket and a football to where she was sitting in the centre of a small hive of parents on blankets, surrounded by a swarm of toddlers including my own, who hadn't noticed I was missing.

We ate and chatted and the kids rolled about in the grass and the sun, unbelievably, beat down. A couple of the Spud's best mates were there including Jacob (who the spud calls Jpeg) and Jpeg's scooter. As I am a Bad Mother it hadn't occurred to me to bring the spud's scooter and so as naptime rolled around and the spud had to say goodbye to Jpeg and his scooter we had much screaming and begging.

My plan was to hustle him into the house, darken his room and lash him to his bed with promises of 'scooter later'; however in about three seconds he had collected his scooter and was standing by the door wearing a big smile which I didn't have the heart to wipe off - I figured that an extra half an hour of scooting would make for more nap. Bollocks.

The second we got as far into the park as the picnic spot he was all 'Buggy! Buggy! No scooter! No scooter!' and so once again we struggled home, me laden with the scooter plus a toddler who had lost the use of his legs, if not his lungs. By the time I had parked his scooter in his room however he was already in the buggy saying 'outside! outside! outside!' I sighed, opened the door and hoped I could wheel him to sleep.

Oh the grand old Mum of Spud, she walked ten thousand steps, we buggied up to the top of the hill and we buggied down again... and when we were up we were up, and when we were down we were... well we never actually 'went down'. We saw the ducks, the trains, the bikes... 45 minutes later and his next playdate was ringing saying that they were in the park early, were we about? We hit the playground and by the time we got home it was 5pm and he had been outside since 10:30 and so, nearly, had I.

The rest of the weekend has been much the same although we did get a nap yesterday. Endless sunshine and playdates, it's like spud heaven here. The best thing of all is that he's managed to sleep through every night and I haven't slept this well in months.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Facing down the inevitable

Today was not a surprise. No eyebrows were raised today. Today was just one baby step more on the way to the dawn of a bleak and terrible new era in our lives as parents.

OK. Parenting is no walk in the park... actually it's a whole lot of walks in the park but pedantry aside, it has its ups and downs and one of the ups is that oasis of peace and quiet that comes somewhere in the middle of every day as one puts one's blinking offspring into their bed and straps them down for the ritual of the afternoon nap.

I was informed by Those Who Have Gone Before that children begin to give up their naps around 2 years of age. I didn't need to be informed of this because one of my clearest and earliest memories is of standing outside of my bedroom door with my baby brother sleeping in behind me, looking up at my mother and arguing that I was not tired and did not need a nap and would furthermore never have a nap again. I don't recall the outcome, hopefully she administered some enforced nappage and sat in the livingroom with a friend and a gin and tonic, who knows?

Either way, with the spud being two and a half, the frog and I are living on borrowed time as far as daytime napping goes. The spud moved to one nap a day quite early on however it was a spectacularly long nap. This however has become 1 to 2 hours and for the last few months he has routinely skipped it at least twice a week. Conversely the amount of trickery, argument, cajoling, cuddling and warm milk required to get him down on the remaining days has increased substantially.

Today was pretty marathon. Despite the fact that he'd been up since 6am, by 2pm he was still insisting he didn't want a nap. 20 minutes of sitting in his bed whingeing and wailing and making rude gestures at me was followed by 20 minutes in which I cuddled him, told him I loved him and patted his back while he hit me and kicked me and screamed until, in the middle of perhaps the 200th repetition of 'NO nap', he dropped suddenly and deeply to sleep.

Normally I wouldn't bother but at the moment he's not very well and isn't eating. He's tired but reacts to exhaustion in the same way as I do: by resisting until hallucinating with the need to sleep and so stern measures were in order to get rid of those black circles under his eyes. It paid off in that while he only slept for under an hour, he awoke sunny and sweet, ate a huge meal and went happily off to sleep at bedtime.

Once he's well again however I suspect that it won't be long before those few hours of solitude disappear for the forseeable future; I however am not going down without a struggle. Oh no. He's going to need a hell of a lot of warm milk to win this one I tell you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Baby you can drive my car

This is the sort of thing that happens to me in France.

This afternoon we dragged ourselves off to the shops for one last time to stock up on cheap vino to take back to the UK and to purchase a few delicacies for dinner tonight. As the frog was cooking for everyone, this meant small tubs of meaty things and tins of duck in fat; all on a par with the embryo that fell out of the spud's boiled egg at tea but that's beside the point; I was eating some fennel and green beans thank you.

The local Carrefour (if Carrefours can ever be 'local'; I've never been in one that couldn't quite happily fit a fleet of 747s) has an array of the below contraptions laid out temptingly right by the entrance. These are shopping trolleys disguised as cars: crack for little boys, in other words.

We dished out our 2 euro coins (now, distressingly worth a whole £2) and the spud clambered happily in however things went wrong fairly quickly. The trolley is a normal four-wheeler with a three-wheel Robin Reliant tacked onto the front. Crucially however, the car part has four fake wheels which spin uselessly in mid-air as you push the thing along. This, it seems, was Not Right.

First, the spud leant dangerously out of the car and started spinning the wheels, complaining that they were broken. He sat back down, still complaining because amazingly, it wasn't a Real Car and the frog hared off to another part of the shop where he wasn't being stalked by a madwoman and her screaming root vegetable. The the minute he rounded the end of the aisle, the spud started kicking off in earnest. First he thrashed about a bit in the car, whinging that he didn't want it anymore and threatening a screaming fit while I did that useless Mummy shushing noise. Then, he stood up with his head through the windscreen and started screaming that he wanted to get out. More importantly, I could see that his nose was running everywhere. We were attracting attention.

I dove into my bag for a wipe and he chose that particularl point to duck back down and make a break for it out of the door which had usefully been screwed shut. As I dug ever more frantically in my bag I saw him launch out and land on his face and then have hysterics in front of an enormous knot of elderly Frenchwomen. They immediately advanced on us clucking and oh-la-la-ing and giving me generally filthy looks as even though I had picked up the spud and was making the right sort of noises. I was still digging in my bag, clearly for a lipstick or perhaps a waft of perfume and had suddenly lost all command of French, leaving me totally defenseless.

It wasn't until I produced a wipe and started dabbing at his face that they backed off muttering darkly about Les Anglaises and I realised why they were so anxious. You see, yesterday in the playground he had fallen off a ride and done this:

...and we had brought him out in public to frighten the locals.

All was not over however as once his tears were dry he insisted on lying on the floor like a mechanic to check the wheels, rolling around in front of our bemused audience who were clearly at this point adding up the germ count. He refused to get back in, necessitating forceful migration into the trolley amidst all the wine, a move he reacted to by hitting me repeatedly.

I want my Good Mother badge now, please.

By the way, this is the state of the croissants today. I have eaten one. One.

Friday, March 13, 2009

my little dorothy

We've had such a lovely day today. The spud did his usual feat of climbing into our bed at around 4am but the bed here is very small and the little one said 'roll over, roll over' so we all rolled over and I fell out. When I tried to get back in the spud refused to let me - he was all feet and hands and 'no Mummy' so I had to get up, basically, get up and greet the amazing sunlight filtering in through the plane trees outside the window.

When in France do as the French which means really I should have eaten a teaspoon of something solid washed down with very strong coffee every morning however since I am married to my particular frog, breakfast has been sorted in other directions.

Below you can see a picture of the vat of pastries that my husband purchased yesterday. We stood in Carrefour arguing gently about how many we should buy. I pointed at a box with perhaps half a dozen croissants in it and you should have seen the look on his face.

The math on this worked out to us having to eat 6 or 7 pastries a day between us, a problem we have solved by basically replacing all the major foodgroups with croissant.

The spud is loving this as you can imagine and only the playground behind his grandparent's flat is saving him from a complete inability to fit into his carseat on our return to the UK.

We tried today to walk off our indulgences and promenaded all over Biarritz. We went here:

and here:

and here:

and the spud did this:

...and lots of this again...

...but sadly and sweetly all he really wants to do is to go home, something he asks us to do about three or four times a day, normally when we are trying to get him to have a nap or go to bed or eat his lunch. Holidays are all well and good but there is no place, apparently, like home.


up up and away

On Wednesday we took a cheap flight to France, leaving behind the cold and the rain and landing in what seems like another season, let alone another country.

We've been coming here five or six times a year since the spud was born and since the age of about 7 months he's shown every sign of remembering. He's been blase about the plane, has run into his room and turned on the stereo, snuggled happily up to his grand parents and greeted the playground like an old friend.

This time however it's been many moons since our last visit and it's taken some time for his memories to kick in. He was so excited about going on the plane that we had to dig his out-of-favour 'Busy Airport' book out of the back of the bookshelf and read it about 100 times the night before we went. He was transfixed the entire flight and when we arrived, he picked up his toy airplane and hasn't put it down ever since.

He has however been rather slower to remember the rest of the experience becoming slowly reaquainted with his grandparents and being thrilled with what seems like an entire new box of toys.

The weather is so good though and yesterday I had the excruciating experience of having to work inside all day while my husband and son played outside in the blazing sun - today it's my turn, hooray!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

mirror mirror

I love it when the spud does or says things that I had no idea he had cottoned onto, even if they are only tiny things. It may be that non-grandparental units should probably slope off about now and have a gander at something more interesting today as this is rather a damp squib I'm afraid - I'd make a suggestion as to where to go but for some reason I appear to be about to slip under the table and fall asleep in a tiny ball. Or as tiny a ball as I can make with my ungainly body. TEENSY tiny, in other words.

Some nights the spud doesn't want to go to sleep alone as I may have mentioned before. These nights he begs and pleads for one of us to lie down beside him - he whips back his duvet, pats the mattress and asks 'Lie down, please?' in the sort of sweet, cajoling and yet authoratative voice that makes me imagine him forty years from now at the helm of some vast dictatorship surrounded by adoring and yet terrified minions.

Last night he was determined to have company. He did his duvet/mattress patting number and I lay temporarily down to kiss his forehead and tell him I would not be joining him. He reached out a tentacle and pressed my head down to the pillow and then, then he stroked my forehead with one hand just as I stroke his and said 'sleepy time Mummy'. As I was getting up I was hit by a sneeze attack and he sat up, wrapped an arm around my shoulder and patted my back saying 'there there, better?'. I actually felt for a moment as though he was the one looking after me and that I should really just lie down and go to sleep.

I only hope he is as sweet and gentle with me in another 40-odd years when I imagine I would be thrilled to bits at the chance to have him plump my duvet and pat my back and smooth my forehead while I drift off dribbling into eternity... probably still trying to claw out one last blog before the lights go out for good.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I have very little of note to say about Friday with the exception of this: never go out on your own with more than one toddler and no restraining devices.

It started out a normal sort of a Friday with a date to meet a friend and her son at Barnes Wetland Centre This is arguably one of the most unexpected places in the capital, a large area of wetlands offering home to frogs and newts and insects and birdlife and people pointing large telescopes into bushes. It also has a café and a great playground; it is Barnes, after all.

My friend and I were planning on a leisurely stroll followed by a sit-down in the playground topped off with a light lunch. We've done it before, same place, same offspring; it wasn't much of a stretch and we'd have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those pesky kids.

The day before we were due to go I had an email asking if I could look after the spud's best friend for a couple of hours so I offered to take her with us, I mean, she's sweet, well behaved, easy! Ha. Plus, I thought, there would be two adults and my friend's older and more responsible son... however early on he hared off so that all I saw of my friend was the flash of her tail-feathers through some reeds.

It all went pretty well until we tried to leave the playground. My friend was in one corner bribing her son and I was left shouting into the play tunnels at what I thought may be my charges. After several minutes chasing, several more begging and a few seconds of ineffectual threats (harried Mum: "There'll be no lunch!" Two-headed toddler monster "Yay!") I pretended to leave without them. This got them as far as the gate where the spud burst into tears. An amused park worker turned to them and said 'Don't worry, your Mummy is right there' where-upon Charlie's friend stated 'That's not MY Mummy, that's Charlie's Mummy' and suddenly he was demanding to know where her Mummy was. I solved the entire mess by hoisting her up and shouting 'she's with us' over my shoulder leaving the poor spud to run beside me hanging onto my leg.

There's a loo outside the gate and I made the key error of asking if they needed it. Clearly, although my friend's older boy was happily going in, this was a massive insult and the threat of having to do a wee meant more tears and a sit-down from the spud which I subverted by putting down his friend and and carrying him instead, not my first choice as he is easily twice as heavy as she.

Twenty feet on he had to do a wee RIGHT NOW. I gathered them into a bush and was about to yank down his trousers when 20 school children rounded the bend. He grabbed his trousers and shouted 'No wee-wee!!' in terror and we huddled silently together until they were gone, where-upon the spud did his wee-wee to the vast interest of his friend who doens't have a willy and did a lot of pointing. By this point my friend had caught up, overtaken us and was headed into the distance after her rapidly-disappearing son.

The spud and his friend were now locked into battle as to who would get a carry and who would drag their feet and whinge. It was pretty dire. We'd gone 30 feet in 20 minutes and frankly, I was about ready to throw myself on the ground beside them and wait for my own Mother to arrive.

Thank God for packets of raisins, is all I have to say.

Lunch was a many splendoured thing, not least because by the time I got them both through the café and sat down at a table the sun was shining and we were all so tired that we just sat there chewing and smiling at each other, no shouting and apart from some chair-standing, no protests, no tears. Just sitting, followed shortly by the sound of them both snoring gently in their car-seats while I drove them home in the blissful silence.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Better out than in

We think our son may be enrolled in a nursery but at the moment we're not entirely sure. The other day they sent him home because he cried after his nap. Charlie hates waking up and often cries after his nap, but because, get this, they had never seen him cry... should I repeat that? They had never seen him cry and they were so worried that they... sent him home.

I don't know what happy pills they give the kids in there but he's been going to the nursery for a month and a half... and no tears, you say? Give ME some of that. Right now, you bastards.

Today they sent him home because he'd had a big poo. OK, it's runny-tummy season and all that but really. And, they threw his knickers in the bin. Must have been a corker.

Anyway, so this afternoon he's been home running rings around his father who was unfortunate enough to have a day to himself that he was hoping to enjoy doing Frog things. Fiddling about with cabling I expect. Cleaning things. But no, sadly he spent it at the beck and call of a little shouting potato.

The nursery have also excluded him for 48 hours on the basis that he might have the flu which is fair enough and this means we should keep him out of polite company.

No change there then.