Sunday, June 28, 2009

Camp perfect

We went camping this weekend. That's right, me, the spud and the reluctant Frog. It was brilliant. Just don't ask the Frog.

We pitched tent in a field on a great sweep of chalk hill overlooked by the Uffington Horse, an Iron Age fort and the hill where allegedly St. George slew the dragon. Thunder was promised but while we heard it, saw the clouds and watched the lightening, it just rumbled past us. This has been the most glorious weekend and England in high summer is glorious without needing the sun for company, so you must just imagine it - high grass, cow parsley, buttercups, purple mallow, sudden valleys, clustered copses, hawks, crows, scudding clouds and the green of the hills leaping out against the blue of the sky just before a breeze ruffles the grass.

There were 14 of us plus 8 children under the age of 6. I know. Essentially they formed a pack which occasionally split into two mini-packs; all that is except the three littlest who were so easy to manage that it made me wonder what sort of mental I was on when I thought the spud was a handful at 10 months.

He was happy as a pancake, running around, stealing toys and playing endlessly at the stand-pipe being sprayed with water. He went to sleep last night mid-conversation: "Daddy doesn't like camping" "No sweetie, Daddy doesn't like camping... do you like camping?." "Yes, I LIKE camping." "Mummy likes camping too" "NO!!!! CHARLIE likes camping TOOOO!!! Zzzzzzz"....

He didn't get on that well with the inflatable mattress, he kept falling off, necessitating the predicted entrance into our bed and an almost completely sleepless night for me. He pushed and kicked and hogged the covers until springing wide awake at 7am demanding rice. He then walked around the tents of my sleeping friends (I want whatever it was they all gave their kids to get them to sleep in a hot bright tent past 7am) pointing at camping equipment and scattered toys and saying loudly "what's THAT Mummy? What's THAT?" for no reason other than to make conversation until eventually they all woke up toooo.

After two days of playing and living outside it took a lot of soap to remove the incremental layers of sunscreen and mud (and that was just from me). Tonight as he was drifting off after his bath I asked him again if he liked camping. "I LOVE camping!" he said. "I love my Charlie" I told him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He rolled over, wrapped an arm around my neck and said "I love my Mummy toooo" and gave me a kiss on the cheek. It's my first 'I love you'; kinda made my weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Alice in Compost-land

I am neglecting my blog - and indeed everyone elses - again. All is well however my composting pledge is in the bin along with all my peelings.

I've discovered that if you don't have an actual compost bin it's pretty miserable trying to compost one's leavings. Since keeping an open compost heap within 270 yards of one's house without a license is now illegal in the UK, meaning I'd have to have my compost heap in the garden of a neighbour about 5 doors up (or apply for a special license), I am going to have to do without until I can get a proper bin. That's my excuse, anyway.

The story so far: I've been throwing our veggie-based leavings in the very far corner of the way back where of the under a bush at the back of the dark side of the garden.

Way under there, where, for all I know, the pixies actually live, I do know that there is a fox-sized hole in the fence. I know this because all the neighbourhood cats and some of the foxes regularly appear from under our ceanothus looking dazed, as if they walked into a wardrobe on the next street, pushed through a few coats and found themselves in the magic land of dead grass and tricycles.

I try to discourage this behaviour because in general foxes are bad m'kay because fox poo = Very Rank; and I have a toddler who likes to run around the garden barefoot. I also try to discourage cats because Sammy isn't exactly able to defend his territory. He'll have a go but he's 18, deaf and too weak to be vaccinated and he recently came home with a chunk taken out of his nose. He's not what you'd call 'fighting fit' so I'd be happy as hell to patch that hole. The problem is that it's a bit like the rabbit hole to Wonderland; it's deep and it's dark under that bush and I'd need a magic potion that says 'drink me' to be able to fit under there with a hammer.

I routinely throw my garden clippings in front of the hole but they just get trampled down and pushed aside. I hoped the smell of rotting vegetation would cure the prowlers but the answer is no. It doesn't. It just stinks up the garden. Mind you it has moved some of the snails away from my pepper plant so hooray for that; but sadly on balance I will be filing my kitchen waste in the bin until I have purchased a composting system that doesn't involve flinging carrot peelings under a bush and hoping for the best.

This means the floor under our furniture is going to shine for the next few weeks as I fulfil my half of the bargain. It's been an interesting experiment and the result is that I now feel heinously guilty for not composting so I will be picking up a compost bin and doing it properly at some point soon. I promise. I will do it, I've composted in many previous lives but... not QUITE yet in this one, sadly.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

clash of the titans

A strange thing is happening around our house.

I am married to an extraordinar(il)y (stubborn) man. He's pretty much the immovable object when it comes to resisting things that he's not interested in doing; camping, for example, or wearing striped clothes. Our son, however, has inherited a blend of stubborn from his father and, er, me, that is, and anyway he's pretty much the irresistible force when it comes to getting what he wants. And he wants quite a lot really; he's two and the world is, as far as he can see, full of shiny new things, each one more desirable than the last.

He is however, only 32 months old and 40 inches tall. I mean, he may be as irresistible as it is possible to be for his size but when all is said and done I can still tuck him under my arm and cart him off if I have to. Or even just if I want to. Anyway, the point is that ultimately, if he has decided that he wants something which is bad for him, dangerous or designed to keep him out of bed, I just say no and accept the consequences.

The frog, however, for all his mammoth ability to resist dancing, pubs and any argument which he doesn't fancy losing is completely powerless to resist his son. Thus, I come home after an evening with friends to find the frog prone on the sofa complaining that he's knackered because 'He made me move the furniture' or 'He made me play trains until 10pm' or 'He kept making me read more books'.

I'm sorry... he made you? Your two year old made you move the furniture? What, did he threaten to turn Tebby Bear on you if you didn't?

Immovable object my foot; next time I want my husband to do something he'd normally resist I hereby vow to lie on the floor and cry until I get my way.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Recycling Week: Failure at the first post

OK, so I've already fallen down on my recycling week pledge. I made a stir-fry last night and it wasn't until I was in bed with the lights out that I remembered that I peeled the carrots right into the bin; likewise went the end of the celery from my salad.

This morning I promised myself I would go in and pick them out to put in the garden but in fact, our bin isn't exactly a breath of fresh air; Sammy insists that his food has Gone Off if he hasn't eaten it within the hour and as he is capable of making one's life truly very difficult indeed if one doesn't feed him fresh food umpteen times a day... well the dried up old food has to go somewhere.

It's incredible just how insistent he can be. He starts (as I have said before) by patting one gently. This moves to patting one quite hard, followed by the light Touch Of Claw. If this doesn't work he moves on to human mountaineering, up and down and back and forth until one is worn down to a low hill. He is capable of staring balefully at one for at least twenty minutes and if still ignored he starts yowling; as he is deaf, the decibel level he has to emit in order to hear himself is fairly astonishing. The minute one gets up he is trailing so closely that he gets a bit shoved about - sheer guilt at this point usually gets him a full bowl, the dried remains of the last getting tapped out into the bin. Lovely.

Therefore this morning, rather than brave the offal for a few bits of carrot, I have been on my knees under the armchair. I have found my ipod dock; Teddymouse and a toy car. I have also found a lot of cat hair.

Sammy has a lot to answer for today, let me tell you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

lost in translation

And that was that; we now sail off into the sunset, a family of people who have weathered chickenpox and lived to tell the tale.

The spud spent some happy moments this evening pointing at various diminishing spots and saying 'chickenpops going away!' and I wondered for a moment what he thinks about it all. I wondered if he was expecting birds to come flying out of his skin.

I do find it amazing what he manages to syphon out of our ridiculous language and I get a feeling for how my poor French in-laws must feel when they have to listen to me tiptoing through their language like a drug-addled elephant. He'll be tripping along gaily through a sentence when he'll come across a word he doesn't know and he'll sub in for it randomly with the likes of 'that one that way' or 'my blue big up there'.

It's not just my son; it's Universal Toddler Charades; I see parents playing it all the time. 'Ball? Is it ball? Bell? Bar? Bear? Bear! You want Bear! Teddy bear? Bear ball? Bear poo? Bear what? Bear book! Yesssss! Which bear book? This one? This one? This one? There are no other... JUST SHOW ME!

It's when he forgets which language he's in and starts asking me for something by its toddlerised French name that I realise that I have no hope; usually the answer is just to get the ice-cream out and have done with it. Clearly we are all back to SNAFU.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

one piece of cake, part licked by cat

Sammy, our 18-year-old rescue cat is always hungry. Yes, he is being medicated for this but frankly, when it comes to our Sam, nothing is ever enough, not even the pills.

He is hungry enough to reduce the spud to tears by jumping up to paw pasta from a child's bowl. Hungry enough to climb up the back of the frog's chair and skid down his chest into his plate (because the frog eats meat). Hungry enough to sit beside me and gently pat me in various anatomical locations about half a dozen times during the day hoping for food. Hungry enough, if I ignore his pats, to stalk across my laptop sending a;lsklk;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; emails to my boss; hungry enough to stop mid-email to put his paw on my face, followed by a gently unsheathed claw. Just as a reminder, you see.

Having today had breakfast (5:30am; walked across my head until I got out of bed); second breakfast (8:10am, looped a hole in my trousers while I was trying to feed the spud); brunch (about 11:30, sat on keyboard); lunch (1:40, made me late for picking the spud up from his playdate); tea (5:15, stole cheese from the spud's tea until I filled his bowl); dinner (7pm, pointed out he hadn't much enjoyed his tea and now it was Stale And Old Please Change It kthanxbai) and supper (10pm, the frog gave him food in a different plate as sometimes it fools him into thinking it's New Food); Sammy is now ready for his midnight feast.

Since he has two separate, part-eaten bowls of catfood, we are, I hope understandably, reluctant to delve into our fast-shrinking stocks of Sammy food.

So he has just licked the frog's lemon drizzle cake. And liked it.

He's mad. Or senile. Or both.


Recycle week

I thought I was pretty good at recycling. I pretty much recycle everything, you know, bags, cans, packaging, clothes, left-overs, old blog posts, I wash and re-use wipes, bought and sold used cloth nappies, you name it, I'm trying to work out if it can be used again.

So, when A Modern Mother tagged me to join the Recycle week pledge I went smugly over to look at the list of pledges wondering what more I could possibly do. And found it. You see, despite the fact I have a garden, I don't compost. It's London. There are rats. Our garden is teensy tiny and compost bins are huge and ugly. Erm... I'm sure I can find more excuses.

No more.

It's Recycle Week in the UK next week and Karen from the Rubbish Diet and Don't Tear Your Hair Out has set all mummy bloggers a challenge: how many can she get to take a recycling pledge and write about it?

My pledge is to compost all my kitchen waste - or to clean under the furniture for a whole month. Right, I'm off to dig for worms...

The rules are easy:
  1. Visit and sign up to one of the pledges to waste less.

  2. Share the details of your pledge on your own blog.

  3. Chose five other bloggers, who will also be up for a bit of recycling fun.

  4. Come back to this post at The Rubbish Diet and share your pledge with others, by placing a link to your pledge in the comments field.

  5. Optional - as a thank you to all involved The Rubbish Diet will be publishing a British Mummy Bloggers' Recycle Week carnival on Monday 29th June. To be included, simply submit your favourite post revealing the progress of your pledge by Saturday 27th June - email to karen[at]therubbishdiet[dot]co[dot]uk.

So I'm tagging the bloggers below to take a pledge:

Copenhagen Follies - yes yes I know you're not a UK Mummy blogger
DJKirkby - because you have SO MUCH time on your hands (smirk)
Frog in the Field - I bet you already recycle everything
Maternal Tales from the South Coast - I see you've already been tagged - tough!
And One More Makes Four because with four kids I'm sure you have LOADS of time for this!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alone and palely loitering...

Trust the spud to make the most of being ill. He's getting a lot of time on the sofa at the moment, lying down feebly, drinking milk from a bottle and watching reruns of Chuggington and Charlie and Lola until his eyeballs drop out.

His eyeballs are (so far) about the only things free of spots, spots having now appeared on the soles of his feet and the outside of his eyelids. We had a surreal night - around midnight he started shaking uncontrollably, although he didn't have a whisper of a fever. He was piling on the blankets and raving a bit (although to be fair, that's pretty normal) so after some fruitless searching on the NHS website for the cause of cold shivers in children I rang the NHS Direct. This hotline will give you a doctor on the phone or get you a housecall in an emergency and I just wanted some advice.

However, the spud, never one to shirk dramatics, managed to conjure up a rash on his shoulders, some vomiting and a temp of 40.5 conveniently while the doctor was on the phone and suddenly they were shipping off an ambulance.

When it's 2am and someone tells one they're sending an ambulance for one's son, suddenly one's intellect is wrestling uncontrollably with one's emotions. My intellect was picking her nails in the doorway and quietly damning the waste of NHS resources while my Mummy brain was quivering and shouting in the middle of the room like a very loud bowl of jelly. It's just that once the big 'M' word has been let out of the box it's kinda hard to put it back in without some serious thinking.

The ambulance men came and were very nice about us wasting their time. They offered to take him in but on the basis that hospitals are full of sick people we kept him home. We dosed him with Calpol and left him naked on his bed but for a sheet. Around 5am he appeared in our bed clutching his sheet and demanding a cuddle and 7am he was up for a pee.

Oh, he's fine; he was rampaging around the flat on his scooter, his bike and his feet laying waste to it for a few hours; now he's pulling the 'I'm more sicker' card and being all pale and interesting on the sofa with his bottle, something I feel like doing myself at the moment.

I suspect, however, that 10:30 on a Sunday morning is a bit early to be hanging around with Uncle Vodka.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The pox

This is a public announcement on behalf of any of you out there with a child who has not had chickenpox.

Finally, four false alarms later, the pox came in the night and stalked across my baby son's pristine skin leaving its fiery footprints behind.

To be more precise, the pox has rampaged across every nook, every cranny, every hill and dale, every fold and, well, pretty much every inch of the spud's epidermis. He has spots on his tum, his bum, his back, his face, his arms and legs and neck. He has spots in his hair, in his ears, up his nose, between his toes, on his willy and on his tongue.

I know that chickenpox can be bad but I've been lulled into complacency by the number of Mums I've spoken to whose offspring 'only had two or three spots really, it was nothing'.

I had no idea it was going to be this bad and while I am technically glad he has it and glad that it's going to be over soon, I feel awful that I was actually relieved when the first spot appeared; I really really want it to be over.

He goes up and down and so do I. We had a good day with some running and playing and planting seeds in the garden but he hasn't eaten solid food in two days and he wakes up every couple of hours in the night screaming in agony.

It's those moments when one's child is blind with pain and before the analgesic cream kicks in that are the worst. The ones where you look at his body in the bath and see it ruined with lumps and covered in pain, well those are almost bearable.

Oh and to cap it off our boiler, barely older than our son, blew up today so we have no hot water and can't even offer him frequent soothing baths without boiling up a million kettles.

Life, I tell you, has been better than this.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I was tagged by Carlie at La Famille Roncada for the "8" tag as well as "photo" tagged, but I'm only going to do the first one as it's just soooo much work and I am a lazy, lazy cow. Also, I'm not very good with tags and sort of try to avoid them...

Here are the rules:
1. Mention the person (or people) who tagged you.
2. Complete the lists of 8s.
3. Tag 8 other bloggers and let them know they have been tagged.

8 things I am looking forward to:
1. Bedtime
2. Retirement
3. The spud finally pooing in the toilet without demanding chocolate
4. The sunshine
5. Growing a pumpkin without the bloody squirrels eating it first
6. Growing peas without the bloody squirrels eating them first
7. Growing aubergines without... oh I'm so bored with the squirrels, stop with the squirrels already
8. Bedtime. Oh, I said that already.

8 things I did yesterday:
1. Woke up
2. Worked
3. Made lunch
4. Worked
5. Ate an icecream
6. Kissed the spud's tongue better
7. Found a spot on my son's belly
8. Found ten more

8 things I wish I could do:
1. Cure chickenpox
2. Get some more sleep
3. Grow some pumpkins, peas and aubergines without... ok ok ok
4. Stop growing wrinkles; just for a few more years?
5. Train the cat to stop walking on my face in the mornings
6. Fly
7. Be invisible
8. Cure chickenpox

8 Shows I watch:
1. The 'it's your turn to deal with him' early morning show
2. The 'look at my train Mummy' show
3. The 'I don't want to go to nursery' show
4. The 'I don't want to leave nursery show
5. The 'Pasta No Pasta Pasta Don't Want It' show
6. The 'Where Is The Next Spot Going To Develop' Show
7. The 'roll over Mummy I'm getting in' late night show
8. House

8 favorite fruits:
1. Strawberries
2. Apples
3. Grapes
4. Butternut squash
5. Aubergines
6. Pumpkins
7. Peas
8. Watermelon

8 Places I'd Like to Travel
1. My bed
2. Anywhere without carrying a bag of wipes, juice and spare trousers
3. Inside my son's mind on a bad day
4. Inside my husband's mind any day
5. Back in time
6. Outer space
7. Bottom of the ocean
8. Down the Nile

8. Places I've Lived
1. Vancouver
2. Midsummer Norton
3. Tiverton
4. High River
5. Calgary
6. Toronto
7. Cape Town
8. Londo

8 People I've Tagged But Who Don't Have To Do It If They Don't Want To
Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy?
Brit in Bosnia
Buenos Burritos
A Modern Mother
Maternal Tales
Tales from da motherhood

You're it!

Egg on face race

Well so much for that weekend. The spud wouldn't go to bed until 11pm every night and he was up at 7am, completely over the moon at having a whole weekend with Einstein, one of his very best friends.

He was pretty feral all weekend, running in packs of children as Einstein accepted a variety of visitors to his Grandad's house. We parents sat and nattered and watched them ebb and flow from garden to house, from ride-on toys to footballs, from swings to train tracks.

We went for hours at a time barely talking to our child unless there was an altercation over, say, a pedal car or perhaps a toy vehicle of some description. Once in a while he would pile up to have a portion of his anatomy kissed better (all very cute until he bit his tongue) and once in a while there would be a halt as each child was hauled in for a butt-sniff; but for the most part there was a lot of lazing about in the sun going on at the parents' end.

Two of the kids who came to visit were children of friends of ours and it was during a visit to their flat that I learned an important lesson: I Am Not Competitive Enough As A Mum.

Einstein's mad Mummy is one of my closer friends and I recently ripped several strips of wee out of her for having given her two year old son a rubber egg and a spoon and had him wobbling around her flat practicing for an eventual egg-and-spoon race at some yet-to-be known school.

All her claims that the egg and spoon just happened to by lying around fell, I am sorry to say, on cloth ears; I don't nick-name her son 'Einstein' for no reason. This boy could speak the alphabet before the age of two and was correctly pointing at colours before he could speak, which I might add he did at least six months before everyone else's children. I have always suspected her of flash cards and subliminal learning tapes piped under his cot mattress.

When we visited our other friends, however, we found their two year old and their four year old parading around the house with potatoes balanced on... you guessed it, spoons.

Clearly I am not pushy enough as a parent... Einstein's Mummy, I salute you. Lessons please, I'll bring my own spoon.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

the dandy highwayman.

We're having a lovely weekend in the country this weekend. Well, we're trying to. It's 10:30pm here and the spud is currently up and after tricking his father into letting him get up by pulling the wee-wee card he is now using every delaying tactic in his capacious book of manoevres. By that I mean that I watched him brush his teeth for the second time and now he is rampaging up the hallway looking for our hostess, who is cowering in a spare bedroom trying to protect her son (Einstein of the many words) from the distractions of mine.

Now we are putting the spud to bed in our bed. This post is officially hijacked.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Family resemblance...

I know I have my faults; and futhermore I know that obstinacy and contrariness are two of them. I know I also have my good points. None spring wildly to mind... but onwards.

I suppose I hoped, in some hazy corner of the twisted dodecahedron of my brain that my son would inherit the best of me. Equally I look for myself in him fairly fruitlessly on a regular basis. Today, however, my wishes were granted and lo, I looked at my son and could see myself.

A while ago we thought we were headed towards the land of no naps, the dread land where parents don't get to spend an hour or two leaving the scissors out and reading books without bits of wet biscuit in the pages. Recently, however we've had a boomerang on naps with the spud actively requesting 'a rest Mummy, I want a rest please and milk, a rest and some milk Mummy, please' and lying down beatifically on his bed with his bottle, pointing at various blankets until one meets his stringent specifications of fashion, comfort and warmth and then rolling over to gently snore to himself for two hours.

No, I'm not kidding. I know, you can hate me.

Anyway, I treasure each one of these voluntary naps with the sort of care a biologist might lavish on the last living specimin of some rare species and today, as expected, they came abruptly to a halt. My suggestion that he might like to lie on the sofa with some nice milk was met with the sort of hysterics normally reserved for the loss of a treasured toy to a maurauding friend and after wrestling him into his bed and holding him down cuddling him until he stayed still, he proceeded to shout 'NO nap NO nap NO nap No nap no NO NAP NO NAP!!! in a sort of rolling wave of sound that ended, after more than fifteen minutes of high volume antics, in a little snore.

I got up, exhausted and went studiously on with the business of avoiding my tax return. Two hours later he was still out and, fearing for his bedtime, I went to get him up. 'No wake up! I want sleep! NO WAKE UP! Sleep! Sleep!' he cried. This time it took half an hour of me going in every 5 minutes to stroke his back while he pulled the covers over his head and shouted at me until he consented to get up.

Obstinate. Contrary. Bugger.