Monday, April 27, 2009

Home again home again...

Well, we made it back to the UK. The spud and I flew out on Thursday afternoon and he even slept, if you can believe it. Not all the way, of course, but enough to matter.

The end of the visit was a little eventful - after having spent three days in beautiful sunshine drinking gin on my parent's deck and generally messing about at the zoo and other sunny spots, Wednesday dawned dark and cold. We set off to go swimming and by the time we left, the sun had been replaced by snow. A foot of it over the day, to be precise. We had to dig out the driveway and make a snow train engine, it was completely nutso.

My parents live out in the Canadian wilds in the foothills between Alberta and British Columbia. Being avid birdwatchers, their place is surrounded by massive bird tables on which, outside of bear season (they've had bear and cougar on their back deck so removal of edible substances during wakey-uppy season is a Good Thing) they liberally sprinkle seeds and fat logs. One of the results of this is that they've built up a community of woodpeckers both Downy and, er, the other one... anyway, at any given moment one can see between one and five woodpeckers just sort of hanging about in the trees off the deck. In the snow they were brilliant, sometimes the only thing moving (or in this case, flirting) in the white. Charlie of course ignored this natural spectacle as all he wanted to do was to read about, talk about or build trains of varying descriptions, snowy, downy or just plain trainy.
Anyway, it was a wonderful visit and here are a few choice shots to prove it.
The Easter Egg Hunt with Uncle Hoto and Auntie Shell:

Out walking the dog

Loving his playhouse with Nori ("Lolly, wait!")

Avoiding the elephants

Now if we can just get him to stop waking up at 1am we'll be fine...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

...and you act like one too

Yesterday I pried my cold-ridden Father out of his bed and essentially forced him to drive Charlie and I to the nearest train station, then guide us to the Calgary zoo.

Yes, the zoo. I've never much liked zoos but it was on my parents' List of Things To Do with Infant Grandchild and so on we went to tick it off. Handily this was a great excuse for me to catch up with old and very good friends of mine and their three youngest children who came along, basically, as spud-sitters.

We saw many animals. The spud even called some of them by name. He even went 'wow' and begged to be taken back to the elephants for a second go round; unfortunately all of this seems to be lost to him now as if you ask him 'Do you remember what you did yesterday' all he can tell you is 'Four trains!!!' because we had to take two C-trains into the zoo and two more back to the car. He also demanded we rent a little cart to drive him around in and then spent the entire day sitting in it and flirting with my friends' daughters or trying to push it into handy passers by.

Some of the time however he wanted to walk around and this is where having three babysitters who shared some of his interests was pretty great. It's a case of setting a thief to catch a thief. When your two year old darts off into an impenetrable crowd of zoo visitors, who better to dart after him and bring him back then another small person who can fit through the crowd? When he wants to climb the stairs over and over again in the elephant's viewing area, who better to handle the situation then a few responsible youngsters who also fancy a bit of a climb? It was great, I have to say, truly great to be able to watch him enjoy himself so much without lifting much of a finger. It's an argument for older siblings, really; I'm wondering if I can rent some.

Grandad for his part was dragged hither and thither and by the time we got home was wiped out completely. The spud awoke twice in the night: once to ask 'How many trains Mummy?' and once to say 'Two trains Mummy, two trains', each time plopping back to sleep immediately after I said 'Four trains, Charlie'. As he is sleeping in my bed here he has easy access, meaning that each time I woke up with his big eyes about two inches away from mine and his hot breath in my nose.

In the meantime, he finally got to see some real monkeys rather than his very favourite toy monkey puppet who travels everywhere with us; I just hope that the next time our monkey 'visits' I'm not going to be asked to mirror some real monkey actions as well; swinging from the ceiling I just might be able to manage; licking my privates however is totally out of the question.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Around the world in 80 clicks

I've been tagged by Sue to do a meme that's doing the rounds and it's kind of a cool one. Her Bad Mother set this up to see if she could go around the world in 80 clicks.

Here are the rules: Write a post of your own about 5 things that you love about being a Mum. Tag 5 bloggers - someone from your own country, if you like, but definitely someone from another country - and link back to me here and finally go to Her Bad Mother and leave a comment

Here goes, 5 things I love about being a Mum

1. How suddenly I have a group of friends who live right on my street - a virtual impossibility in London where one makes local friends who then move to places like Reigate and Walton on the Hill and Haddenham and Harringay. And we can all indulge ourselves relentlessly in the child-talk that makes our non-parent friends want to claw their eyes out with boredom

2. How it has made my Mum so happy to watch my son wreak revenge on her behalf for all the hell I put her through at his age.

3. Having an excuse to play with building blocks and hang upside down on the monkey bars and go on a see-saw and then to see my city with new eyes and enjoy it all over again with someone for whom it's all new and wonderful still.

4. Getting on airplanes ahead of everyone else. OK, this one is flippant.

5. Er... well of course the best part is the actual product - having a little potato who loves me completely; knowing that there is nobody in the entire world that I will ever love more than this; watching him sleep; listening to how cute he is when he says 'motorboat'... you know, the whole nine yards of sickeningly saccharine parenthood gush. I don't even really mind the night wakings, it's all kinda great.

Ok; in the name of internationalism I hereby tag Mom de Plume from South Africa; Brit in Bosnia; Michelle in the US; my old friend Helen of Pengelly Pastimes from Canada and of course Jennie of Copenhagen Follies - go ahead ladies, what do you love most about being a Mum?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

all mouth and no trousers

One of the 'keep our grandson amused' schemes that my parents cooked up in advance of our trip was a visit to the swimming pool, for which cunning plan I packed the spud's swimsuit along with a healthy dose of scepticism.

Previous attempts to take our son swimming have met with varying levels of disaster. With the exception of the sea last summer out of which we could not drag him, each glimpse of water has been accompanied by screaming, struggling and various other levels of resistance. It didn't matter how temptingly his father paddled about in the local pool or how many other youngsters were there who were all enjoying it, the spud refused to take to the water.

So, it was not surprising today when we planted him in his carseat and told him that we were off to the pool that he immediately began repeating 'No swimming! No Swimming! No Swimming!' like an endless row of signs at the edge of a deep, dark, dangerous pit; clearly filled with sharks and possibly even the threat of cabbage.

Once inside, he caught sight of the pool and became rapidly hysterical. Mum and I had to carry him into the changing room with his little face all crumpled up with tears and his litany becoming increasingly louder and unintelligible.

As I took off his clothes and tried to get his dancing little legs into his swimsuit I started to feel like the Demon of all Mothers (not to mention the Mother of all Demons); I tried cajoling him with 'Remember the sea? You loved swimming in the sea. You'll like it I promise' as his sobs became ever wilder and my promises less promising.

As we shut the locker and turned the key he started pointing at it and shouting 'My trousers! My trousers!' and trying to skinny out of his swimsuit until in the end I had carry him to the pool while he battered me with all four limbs and his tonsils at the same time.

We finally made it into a really great little family pool with two levels of lovely warm shallow water full of little floating games for children. As I lowered him, still screaming, into the ankle-deep waters of the top pool while amused families looked on, it was like shutting off a circuit. 'Oh!' he exclaimed. 'Oh! Oh! This way Mummy!' and suddenly he was All About The Pool. He waded, he splashed, he poured water from little pots, he jumped up and down, and then as if he had been switched for a completely other child, he pointed to a float and when I brought it over, grabbed on with both hands and with me supporting him, started kicking his feet like he'd been swimming every day of his benighted little life. In this way he swam three laps of the kiddy pool and had to be pried off the float before I lost the use of my arms.

After nearly an hour of larking about and trying to sweet-talk me into letting him swim in the grown-up pool I dragged him away while predictably he begged for 'More swimming! More swimming!'. He collapsed into a deep sleep in the car and on waking looked at his grandmother and said 'swimming again please?'.

It's good this consistency thing. Makes life nice and interesting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Water water everywhere...

The spud is discovering the joys of being a bloke in training, by which I mean the ability to whip down one's trews and wee on whatever is handy. Often when faced with an ordinary loo, even while bouncing up and down and clutching his nether regions, he will deny until the point of tears and shouting and falling down struggling that a wee is nigh, however offer him the chance to piss up against a tree and he cannot get his trousers down fast enough.

The other day we went to the playground here at Grandparent central and I could see him walking along the top of the climbing frame doing his wee wee dance. The frog and I took turns cajoling him into coming down and having a wee against a tree but this time he wasn't the slightest bit interested. He ran from one end of the frame to the other shouting 'no wee wee tree, no wee wee, wee wee gone don't want it' until the Frog with a determined set to his jaw climbed the frame to get him down, at which point he declared 'no wee wee tree, wee wee slide!', marched to the top of the slide and started to take down his pants with the express intent of weeing down it.

I blame the meeja myself, this morning he watched Dora the Explorer going on and on about a 'water spout' which was a tap running water down a slide' and one of the endlessy repeated episodes of the awful 'Third and Bird' has the birds building a slide and then pouring water down it to make it faster.

Thank the gods we were alone in the playground so nobody was there to see him being carried off the frame by his father, pants around his ankles and then made to pee forcefully up against the nearest pine. The fact that we are out in the wilderness here and the playground is ringed with brush and full of deer poo hopefully mitigates this unsociable behaviour somewhat; god knows what we're going to do once we're back in the relatively cultured wilds of Brixton.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And lo the Easter Bunny cometh

I had sort of forgotten it was Easter. I'm good that way, I have an uncanny ability to be able to look at a calendar, make a date to do something and then look at it again a few days later, made a date to do something else at the exact same time and until an hour before I'm scheduled to do both, completely not work out that I've messed things up again. So, despite the fact that we scheduled our holiday to coincide with the nursery's Easter break, we were also invited down for Easter to see friends and despite the fact that I hosted a bank holiday picnic, I had forgotten it was going to be Easter when we got to Canada.

My brother and sis-in-law are tremendously good at remembering things like this however and they arrived at my parents' house with Easter presents, including the plans for an Easter egg hunt. I hadn't thought about how much my son might like an Easter egg hunt and when the idea was posed I initially figured he wouldn't cotton on but he did, immediately. He toddled around with his sweet little easter bag, shouting with glee every time he spotted another one and he's still talking about it - everytime he looks out the window at the snow hiding places he exclaims 'eggs gone!'

After it was all done he sat ont the sofa while my sis killed herself laughing as, with an intensely serious look on his face he shovelled chocolate eggs into his mouth until he had chipmunk cheeks. He got four in there before we could stop him and then we were presented with something I wish I had photographed: a massive hollow chocolate car, my parent's idea of a suitable present for a two year old. Holy merry chocolate aunts dancing the fandango, you have never seen such big big eyes as the eyes of the spud when we presented him with this vision.

The upshot of all this Easter joy is, of course, the sugar rush.

I allowed him the chance to gnaw a little on his car and then the frog and my siblings and I took him into town. On foot. It's about 1.5km and we figured it was make him walk or pretty much watch him tear the place apart and then throw up. We took him to the playground and he ran around like mad and then he walked nearly all the way home - despite which, he still didn't nap, although after waving an enthusiatic goodbye to Hoto and Shell he did go immediatley and unprotestingly to sleep around 8pm

So far he's not asking to go home, the excitement is just too much. Hoto and I still have a few childhood things stored at the parental home and one of these was a box of Hoto's old cars: corgis and matchboxes, some of them dating from the 1960s, lots from the 70s. Despite the host of other toys that have been purchased or borrowed or dug out of boxes for the visit, this box is the big winner - a total treasure trove. Every day the spud finds a new favourite in it and between that and a tricycle that a friend rescued from the dump, he has been in heaven.

The frog, meantime, has been doing some clandestine chipmunking of his own; each time I am convinced to drag the spud's car out for a gnaw, more of it is gone. The frog has been rushing around the house laying his magic fingers on broken electronics and having them ping back into life. Maybe there's something to this sugar rush thing after all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We're all going on a bloody holiday tra la la la la la la

I am frequently drawnt to exclaim that I may, for one reason or another, have lost my marbles. I am swiftly coming to the conclusion that I don't in fact ever manage to get them back but rather they are permanently gone and I should stop bemoaning their loss and just get on with it.

We're in Canada at the moment, a move designed to placate the aged Ps who have not seen the scion of our loins for over a year and, given that this is nearly half his life, are clearly deserving of a visitation. I imagine that after this they'll probably be quite happy not to see him for another year... it'll probably take at least that long to put their house back together and coax the cat from under the bed.

We left on the Saturday and on Friday I decided to broadcast a call for a picnic in the park. Great idea. Sun, grass, kids running around, brilliant. Come Friday morning it was raining and several parents had dropped out so I inflated the bouncy castle and told everyone that we'd just be at our flat, expecting three or four drop ins. I forgot that it was a bank holiday. In the end there were 10 other children and 13 other parents and total, utter chaos; Dads drinking beer in the rain while toddlers threw themselves at the bouncy castle unsupervised, Mums drinking wine and tea in the livingroom while every single toy the spud owns was upended and thrown about and muddy footprints marked a trail from one end of the place to the other. It was great though, everyone had a brilliant time and I had dishwashers and tidier-uppers and in the end after everyone was gone the spud fell happily to sleep while I mopped floors and packed for our trip.

Saturday dawned and the spud was beside himself with glee at the expectation of an aeroplane. I had packed a whole carry-on bag full of treats and toys and things to keep him occupied and we were really hoping for some sleep out of him however during the entire 10 hour flight he was the definition of the sort of child you just don't want to be anywhere near on a plane. He kicked and pulled the seat in front of him, he screamed and ran and shouted and sang and made his new noisy toy plane go off so many times that the batteries actually ran down (I didn't know it was going to be that loud when I gave it to him). He went to the loo about 100 times just to play with the taps and he ate the entire way across. Again, however it worked out ok, he slept in the car on the way home and then woke up and spent the afternoon charming the family and went to bed at 7:30pm just like at home.

So here we are, three days in, chaos settling down and we're sort of adjusted. We've decided to just give into the madness and let him get on with things and he's doing really very well, if one doesn't mind getting up at 4am to read 'The Little Engine That Could' a dozen times.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

klepto-wet look.

I have a new thing that I do with the spud. When he's not listening to me, which is most of the time in which I am talking to him, I tell him to look at me. If he continues to ignore me, I cup his face gently in my hands and force him to look at me. If he rolls his eyes away from mine I cup my hands until he is forced to look down a little tunnel into my eyes.

You think I'm making this up, don't you?

Anyway, so, mostly this works and he pays a little bit of attention and I am, on balance, more likely to get what I want. Yesterday this meant getting him to stay close to me in the supermarket when he insisted on getting down, a process which begins with him asking nicely and swiftly escalates to him trying to climb out of a moving supermarket trolley while appalled pensioners look on.

What it didn't do however was stop him from picking up everything that caught his fancy and lobbing it into the trolley. He was seen taking back jam, pickles, a bag of pasta, some pens and balancing them precariously but reasonably accurately on their original shelves. Lastly, he chose a bottle of baby oil. By this time I was pretty much done with the idea of him roaming freely around but since he was being sweet and obediant and generally staying close I felt obligated to stick to my side of the agreement. As he walked back to the shelf to re-deposit the baby oil however, I noticed him fiddling with the lid. "Don't open that" I asked him but as most things these days are sealed with about 100 layers of plastic I figured he wouldn't be able to get into it.

Wouldn't he heck.

Just as he was reaching the shelf he popped open the lid and squeezed the bottle in one smooth motion, fountaining baby oil into his hair, his eyes, his face, mouth, hands, coat... the lot. He then deposited it back on the shelf and stood there in shock. I feel badly about the fact that it wasn't until the next day that it occurred to me that I should have purchased the bottle; at the time I was just motivated by worry and the need to stop myself from laughing as I ran over and picked him up and deposited him, unprotesting, back in the trolley. I wiped his face and asked if he was ok and, in fact, he was fine - just really, really oily; and really, really quiet. He walked around the entirety of the day sporting the 'wet look' while I spent it explaining what happened over and over again and cupping my friends' faces in my hands while they rolled their eyes.

Next time I'm shopping online.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

the step too far

Tonight we put the pumpkin to bed with his candle still lit. This was a mistake.

I mean, he looked tired, he acted tired, he was all flickery and vague and asking for his favourite books but when it came to lights out well... he guttered, he sputtered and he burst back into life.

The trouble is that a couple of times recently we let him cross that invisible line between 'enough' and 'too far' and allowed him to experience the dubious luxury of falling asleep on the sofa, in the livingroom, while the TV is on and so now, of course, he knows that this is within the realms of the possible.

We have a several-stage night time plan. Our beloved routine, the praises of which I have loudly sung limps bravely on into the ever-lightening evenings however with a few changes. Firstly, we stand by the 3 'B's of bedtime - bath, books, bottle. Yes yes yes, I know, he'll never talk properly or grow up big and strong or leave home if we don't confiscate his bottle right now but that's how it is, he likes to fall asleep clutching it the way some children clutch their blankies and hey, that's OK with me. So anyway, bath, books and bottle and then, one hopes, bed. Sometimes this works, however if he's not sufficiently tired, we have some playing about that ends with him asking to sleep on the nursery sofa.

This is all very cute, he has his pillow and his blanket and his tigger and his bottle and sometimes his nightlight and he cosies down on what is anyway a futon and sinks blissfully to... well first we have to read ''Duck in the Truck'' several times so that he can chant 'Duck! Truck! Track! Back! Rock! Muck! Feet!" etc. Then I have to lie down beside him until he falls asleep. If, however, when I get up and leave, there is still the tiniest flicker of awareness left awake... the itsiest, titchiest smidgen of flame still wavering, he can turn that into a firestorm of energy and we all know where that goes.

Sadly it happened again tonight and it happens because we are too exhausted to stop it. We just want to sit and eat our dinner and not have it go cold while we do shifts getting him to sleep. We don't want to have to listen to him sob himself to sleep while we sleep train him - firstly the flat is too small and he is too loud, secondly we are too soft and finally he just gets up and walks up to us, presenting us with his sobs like Salome with John the Baptist's head: 'Here is my sorrow, try and enjoy your dinner NOW you rotten sods'. So, like some sort of lame political party, we are trying to find the third way, the path between firm and floppy parenting, the path that will, on average, get us a hot dinner but will also, sometimes, leave us white and exhausted while Salome dances on the sofa beside us, pointing wildly at the cat, flames burning brightly.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The aliens have my son

So, I was awa for a while this week and on my return, my little potato held his sang froid to the point that I wasn't even that certain that he had missed me. Apparently he never mentioned me until the frog asked about me and he turned to him and cool as brass said 'Mummy's away on a plane'; which indeed I was. Not for the whole four days of course, I did disembark; but I think he got the drift.

Friday I had lunch with some friends and while I've been looking forward to it for ages, I was kind of dreading it because: Spud/restaurant/no children. He, however, was so amazing that I have to suspend 'funny' in lieu of 'holy crap is that my son' for a moment. Firstly he sat in his stroller for nearly half an hour, playing quietly and refusing to get out. Then he climbed, shyly, mind you, shyly, that's with an 'S' and 'H' a 'Y' and a 'WTF'? Anyway, he climbed to the chair and played and ate and then sat in my lap and was charming and then played with his toys on the floor and then pointed out of the window and the waiters made him an origami frog and then... and then four hours had passed and er, I was so amazed that after we picked up my cousin from the station we rewarded his loveliness by taking him home on a real train... he was so, so happy to be on the train that I hated to take him off it.

Anyway, I'm sure the next time we hit a restaurant all will be back to normal but for now, he can do no wrong.