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.