Wednesday, 28 December 2011

I Blame Mister Maker

Now that the big day has passed once more, I find that not only is my house bulging with even more than our fair share of brightly coloured plastic but there are also more dangerous weapons lurking everywhere...

The pen is indeed mightier that the sword, since it can ruin new furniture in a matter of seconds in the hands of an enthusiastic two-year-old; and this Christmas seemed to have 'crafts' as a major theme. Mister Maker has an awful lot to answer for as paint pots, felt-tip pens, gloopy glue, sand art, crayons, glitter, felt shapes and items generally associated with 'messy play' now lurk in every corner, despite my protestations that works of art may only be created in the kitchen.

So I really do need to have eyes in the back of my head if my house is not to resemble a New York subway in terms of graffiti levels. And with three children all activities must be undertaken with military precision. Mealtimes provide an excellent opportunity to get the baby into the bath first, since I can be fairly confident that the lure of food will be enough to keep the big ones in their seats and away from potentially lethal crafts.

So it was that yesterday, Eddie had already had his bath and lay kicking on his changing mat in the bathroom. I prised Gilby away from the remains of his cupcake and got him into the water, whilst Gertie carried on at the table. She is eminently sensible and can be trusted not to autograph the walls, so I wasn't too worried. But I took the opportunity of hanging out some washing in the hallway whilst listening to Gilby's monologue in the bath.

"Right, come on then, Eddie; time to get you into your pyjamas!" I said, folding the last of the laundry in the hallway.

"Mummy, why are you talking to Eddie? He can't talk back to you," observed his big brother whilst blowing bubbles with his bath-water and covering the bath sides in wild red and green circles. Who knew that you could get soap-pens?

"Well I know that he's only a baby, but it is important that he learns how to communicate, and he will understand lots of things we say even though he can't talk yet," I explained as simply as I could.

"No Mummy. Why are you talking to him when he is asleep?"

Poor old Eddie had obviously got bored with waiting for his mother to return and get him dressed and had, well, nodded off. So much for my multi-tasking. Still, at least no permanent scribbles on priceless objects occurred in the interim. Though the bath took a bit of scrubbing...

Saturday, 24 December 2011


What is the correct protocol when one's four-year-old has found the 'Father Christmas' presents stashed in the under-stairs-cupboard on Christmas Eve?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Starry Nights, Red Wine and Birdshot

Last night the two big kids got to stay with Grumps and Mumps, leaving Daddy and I in charge of one baby who sleeps from 7pm right through to at least 7am without a murmur.

The Saturday night excitement was palpable as we settled down with Thai take-away in front of 'Strictly'. Knowing that an easy morning and a lie-in of sorts awaited, I poured myself a generous glass of red wine whilst Daddy got a roaring fire going (one of life's true pleasures for this Hearth-mother).

The mountain of dirty washing resulting from Gertie's bout of sickness could momentarily be forgotten. I think it may have been caused by the overwhelming responsibility of playing the 'star' in her nativity:

Me: The Star? Why that's lovely darling, is it a speaking part?
Gertie: No, Mummy, but I have to lead the wise men!

So whilst the evening couldn't exactly be described as rock 'n roll, it was what counts as blissful these days.

Until Kempton, our still very puppy-ish golden retriever, knocked the red wine glass flying with an errant tail. Half a bottle of red wine (I told you it was a generous glass) over cream carpet doth not a happy husband make. Kempton was briefly banished and much swearing and scrubbing ensued. But I was cheered by the entry in 'IT MUST BE TRUE...I read it in the tabloids from Friday's The Week:

A man from Utah was rushed to hospital after being shot in the buttocks by his own dog. The unnamed 46-year-old was out duck hunting when the dog stepped on his 12-gauge shotgun, causing it to go off. Police said the man was hit from ten feet away with 27 pellets of birdshot.

It rather put Kempton's misdemeanour into perspective. The stain will always remind me that at least I wasn't shot in the buttocks.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Sack of Potatoes

Saturday was our village 'fest' where the car park and shopping precinct are given over to stalls selling everything from olive oil to handicrafts to sponsored bricks for African classrooms. There are tombolas and home-made cakes and even a fair-ride. So my little people were happy, especially when, around lunchtime there was a cheer-leading display. After a couple of routines I suggested that it might be time to go home, but Gilby was adamant that he wanted to stay and watch more of the 'dancing'.

In an effort to stave off the now-frequent-terrible-twos-tantrum I acquiesced. How silly. Because then he just kicked off with even more of a vengeance when they actually finished. He sobbed in the street and refused to walk back to the car, stepping out behind parked cars shouting, 'No, no, no...' continuously at the top of his voice.

I think he was lamenting the dancing being over, but by this time he had lost most of the power of meaningful communication and wouldn't listen to reason. I was pushing the pram and holding hands with a skipping 4-year-old, and just wanted to be home. So - I picked Gilby up under one arm, pushed the pram vigorously with the other and let Gertie fend for herself. It wasn't a good look, and it certainly wasn't my finest hour of parenting. But we got back to the car in one piece, eventually. What I didn't need was a total stranger to wind down the window of a passing car and scream, "Don't hold him like a sack of potatoes!" at the top of her voice.

Who did she think she was? How dare she interfere? Don't scream out of car windows at stressed families!

Friday, 25 November 2011

On Onion Goggles and School Gate Snobbery

People ask me what is it like with three children, and how we are all coping. 'Coping' is rather strong to describe our state of being from dawn till dusk on some days, but I usually reply cheerfully,"Oh it's utter chaos!" as if to suggest that although I don't have a minute to myself it is all jolly-bedlam-in-a Darling Buds of May type-way.

It reached new levels of absurdity though as I did the school run yesterday. Gilby and baby in tow, I noticed that some of the other Mums were giving me quite peculiar looks, focusing somewhere above my forehead. I reached up to find that a rather conspicuous pair of onion goggles was perched up there. "BUT I'VE BEEN MAKING CHRISTMAS CHUTNEY!!!!!" I wanted to screech (for the first time ever, actually, but nobody needed to know that bit) "AND I GOT CARRIED AWAY AND THEN WE WERE NEARLY LATE SO I HAD TO RUSH OUT OF THE DOOR..."

Instead I hastily removed them, smiling and nodding as if they were the latest fashion accessory but I really didn't like to show off. I then got chatting to another Mum whose daughter only arrived at the school a couple of weeks ago since they just moved to the area. I mentioned that Gertie talked about Lucy quite a lot, and hoped that she was settling in well.

"Oh yes," she replied. "And it's so good that Lucy gets to play with all sorts of children now." She must not have noticed my horrified look as she continued, "In our last village everyone was so nice, but here there's a real mixture..."

"ALL SORTS????? ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT MY CHILD IS NOT 'NICE'????" I wanted to screech out, for the second time in about two minutes.

I know there's been much discussion of school-gate snobbery of late, but perhaps I'm overreacting. Maybe her perception of our family results from the slightly manic look and frequent desire to screech out loud that I seem to have recently developed. Or perhaps it was just a reaction to the onion goggles.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Olympic Sleeping

Young Eddie had his second swimming lesson yesterday. He is just short of eight weeks old. It was not entirely successful...

Gertie began swimming when she was about twelve weeks old and was a complete water-baby, loving it from day one. Aged four and a half she is now a competent swimmer who can also dive with...ease if not grace.

Gilby started lessons at about the same age as his brother has: eight weeks. He loved it at the start but his first year was beset by ear infections and he has never quite achieved the confidence of his big sister, though he enjoys his weekly splash around in the pool.

It is fair to say though, that despite being born in the water, Eddie hasn't taken to it at all. He has now spent two lessons more or less screaming the whole way through, even though he hasn't been back under the water completely yet.

Though unlikely to make the 2012 Olympic pool, the fact remains that he has now slept through the night for eight nights in a row. I'm reluctant to even write that down in case it all changes, but he seems to feed between 5pm and 8pm, repeatedly, then sleep from about 9pm until just before 7am. That's nearly ten hours, and I don't quite believe it myself. He's also the first of the three to sleep on his back in the recommended way, unlike his siblings who both still sleep bottoms up.

So we won't worry to much about the swimming, but we'll concentrate on the sleeping. I wonder if there are plans to make that an Olympic event?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Gertie's school-starter inquisitiveness is relentless. She was pre-occupied with poppies in the run-up to Remembrance Day, and wanted to wear one. But in typical Gertie fashion she also wanted to know exactly what it was all about. I tried to explain as gently as I could (after all, she is only four) that we were remembering all the soldiers who had died in war.

"What's war?" she asked.

Where do you begin? I was reminded of trying to explain the word 'hate' to her about a year ago, which really signfied the start of the end of innocence.

I gave as sanitised an explanation as I could and bought her a poppy.

She rushed home from school the next day and looked at me as if I was stupid. "Well you didn't tell me that poppies were a symbol and they were red to represent all the blood, did you?"

I suppose I should have been ready for that after she came home a few weeks ago in the run up to bonfire night fascinated by the idea of the 'plotters', the notion of being hung, drawn and quartered and heads on spikes.

On a happier note, there is cause for another day of national celebration: Eddie slept for nine and a half hours last night, hooray! This is impressive at seven weeks old, and particularly exciting after his nocturnal start to life. Mummy and Daddy high-fived in celebration upon waking this morning...

It may have been helped by the fact that he had his very first swimming lesson yesterday afternoon too. A big day for the little man, and a big night for his parents.

And let's not leave Gilby out; the big man has quietly got on with his potty training, does the whole thing without being asked and is now regularly having dry nights. Go Gilby!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Box Office Babies

Eddie is six weeks old today, so as a special treat (well, really a treat for Mummy) we went to our local cinema which was screening The Help as part of their 'Box Office Babies' season.

This ingenious arrangements means that you can bring your baby along to the cinema for a day-time film for not very much money, safe in the knowledge that you can all scream along to the soundtrack together and nobody will mind very much.

I was a little bit late and was ushered in to the darkened studio just as the film was beginning. About fifteen other mums were already settled with their babies, strategically positioned around the room. Etiquette seeemed to demand at least eight spaces between each new mum, so I duly joined the fray. A constant background baby gurgle reached a cacophany of newborn cries at times, (usually at quiet and crucial moments of the film) but babies could be quickly settled by a discreet breastfeed or bottle. There was also constant movement...patting, soothing, sucking, standing and swaying in the aisles, even some singing as we all attempted to keep our babies under some degree of control. And then there was the changing bag relay. It seemed as though somebody was away from the film changing their babies at all times. And we gravitated towards the door towards the end of the film, as babies became increasingly fractious after two hours and twenty six minutes of being 'shushed'.

Two hours and twenty six minutes is significant, because I had only fed the carpark machine enough to cover two hours, but was having such a jolly old time watching the film (and the surreal sight of all these other mums) that I forgot to keep an eye on the time and came back to a parking ticket courtesy of Horsham District Council. So my treat for 'not very much money' suddenly turned in to a horribly expensive morning.

Still, the film was magnificent and the company hilarious. Quite the thing for a wet and windy Tuesday morning of maternity leave. I thoroughly recommend it, assuming that you choose your parking arrangements carefully.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Smashing Pumpkins and a Raging Raisin

Here are Gertie and Gilby splendidly painted as pumpkins for Halloween.

Eddie, alas, is too new for face-painting, but it doesn't matter because when he screws his little face up for a good screaming cry he resembles a particularly scary halloween pumpkin anyway. His new nickname is the 'raging raisin' on account of his newborn wrinkliness combined with his ability to ratchet up the decibels. I wonder if this is typical third-child behaviour, borne of the need to be very loud to make his demands heard above the others...?

We are winning, finally, with Gilby and the potty training; though the timing of a severe bout of diarrhoea was not helpful to this process. Enough said.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Now Going Ga Ga

So. We are driving along in the car and the radio presenter encourages the listeners to stay tuned for the Lady Ga Ga track coming up shortly.

"Mummy, I love Lady Ga Ga!" pipes up two-year-old Gilby with gusto from the back.

I'm sorry, did I mention that my son is just two? How can you love Lady Ga Ga at two years old? This is seriously worrying! Particularly when his mother isn't particularly a fan, and has never before had cause to mention Lady Ga Ga's name. Where has he got this from? I blame the Aussie.

Oh, and on day three of potty training: Carpet 3 - Potty 1.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Going Quietly Potty

I may not have fully thought through the timing of this, but today is Day 1 of Potty Training Proper for Gilby. He is almost 2 1/4 now and really starting to show signs of interest, not least in the excitement demonstrated over the choosing of the 17 pairs of 'big boy pants' that we have invested in in readiness.

So. I've read Gina Ford (not usually a great fan, but Potty Training in One Week is exactly what I'm after, so I'm ignoring the patronising tone and trying to follow the advice). We have umpteen sets of spare clothes and pants (well, seventeen, to be precise). We are restricting ourselves to two rooms: the kitchen and the sitting room, both of which have been made as 'accident-proof' as I can manage. I have smarties with which to bribe, toys on hand to occupy, two potties at the ready, a cupboard full of disinfectant and a bucketful of patience in reserve. We're off!

I also have a 16 day-old baby. One who, up until this morning, has mostly slept through the day and kept us awake at night. But of course, Eddie has picked today to reverse the pattern, and has been awake since 7.15am, pretty much uninterrupted, aside from two 20 minute naps.

Which has meant that I haven't been able to devote quite as much time as I would have liked to Gilby's needs. And, though we have strict rules about television (as much of the bedtime hour as supper and a bath allow in the evening and some programmes on Saturday morning) I find that by 11am I have already succumbed to the controlling power of CBeebies.

By 2pm we have had three accidents and a grand total of no potty wees. Gilby has begged to have his nappy back. Eddie must be having some kind of growth spurt as I have been feeding him constantly. There is yoghurt up the walls (another story). I have just about managed to get myself dressed and my kitchen and sitting room look like an advertisement for Toys R Us.

I don't know about Gilby, but I am going quietly potty...and my bucketful of patience has only a few drops left. Ah yes. Maternity leave. I remember it now.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Mummy Isn't Magic (But There Are Enough Cuddles)

Given that Gilby is very much a mummy's boy, we weren't entirely sure how he would take to his new little baby brother, Eddie. In fact, nursery had warned us that he had been saying that he wasn't sure if Mummy would have enough cuddles for him too (how to make your heart hurt!)

So it was with some care that we made the introductions. One-day-old Eddie was very generous in his gifts to his siblings, and showed a remarkable awareness for what they might like. That started things off well, but when I went to feed Eddie, Gilby came over and yanked my breast away, declaring firmly, "No Mummy, Eddie doesn't like that."

When Eddie subsequently started crying at having his supper interrupted, Gilby did make a little concession and suggested that I sing him 'Rainbow' (Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Gilby's favourite when he is feeling sad) so I guess there was some degree of empathy there.

Meanwhile Gertie (4 going on 40) was quite happy to mother her new baby brother, fussing over him with the muslin and demanding cuddles. My sister brought over a hamper of loveliness filled with nice things for Mummy including chocolates, wine and various pampering products, but it also had a little book in called 'My Mummy is Magic'. This is a lovely little tale guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of a hormonal new mum, all about the little things that mummy does that seem like magic. Unfortunately there is no pulling the wool over Gertie's eyes with the new-found independence that school has given her. I read to them both in my best Listen With Mother voice:

"If I whisper a secret in my mummy's ear, she guesses it before I've finished telling her! That's magic."

"Well, no, that's not really magic, is it?!

I carried on, not wishing to break the 'spell'.

"When I hurt myself, my mummy kisses the sore bit, and ta-da! It's all better. That's magic."

"Um, well, that's not actually magic, either, is it?"

I suppose not...

Later on, Gertie was encouraging her little cousin to interact with her new baby brother. "Go on, he won't bite." There was a short pause before she added, "He hasn't got any teeth."

Gilby got into the spirit of it all eventually, and even came up with a gift-wrapped present for his mother. The fact that it was a packaged sanitary towel from the bathroom was irrelevant, as I believe it is the thought that counts.

And there were plenty of cuddles to go round!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Smashing Splashing Birth Story in Brief

Well, last Monday evening, I 'SROM-ed'. I only knew this because I heard the midwife say it on the telephone to the hospital: "I need to book in one of my ladies who's SROM-ed." Spontaneous Rupture of the Membranes - or, my waters broke. This was bad news for me because my previous two deliveries had begun this way, both resulting in induction. It was the one thing that I really didn't want to happen. I SROMED just before midnight, but there was good news, because by early morning there were some weak and irregular (but encouraging) signs of contractions.

My midwife examined me, and described conditions as 'favourable'. I took the dog for a brisk walk, finished off a very spicy stir-fry (the previous night's leftovers) for lunch, and was sipping my raspberry leaf tea contemplating another half pound of pineapple for pudding, when things really began to get interesting. I phoned Daddy at work and when he returned at 3.30pm it really had all kicked off.

We began to prepare to go to the hospital (suddenly realising that it might be a good idea to get the baby car seat down from the loft, that sort of thing!) when the phone rang. It was the BT engineer who we had been waiting for for several days. "I'm about twenty minutes away, is that alright?"

"Um, twenty minutes you say? Ok..."

I sat contracting as quietly as I possibly could in the nursery, trying to stay out of the way as he tested lines and installed something (I was beyond caring what), desperately willing him to finish. Finally, we left for the hospital at 5pm. The journey took nearly an hour, and by the time we arrived, my contractions were about a minute and a half apart. I've got to be honest, I've had more pleasant car journeys in my life.

I began by loudly demanding an epidural, convinced that the midwives were going to tell me that I was about 5cm dilated and would have hours to go. Sensibly, they ignored my request, and began filling the birth pool. There wasn't even time for gas and air, let alone an epidural.

"I thought I couldn't have a water birth as my waters had broken?" I managed to gasp. "Well you're still within 24 hours, so there's no problem, if you would still like to try?"

I had written 'water birth' into the birth plan more in hope than earnest, and hadn't really considered the possibility that I might be able to have one. But the minute I got into the pool things improved dramatically, and my new little baby was born at 8.17pm, only about two hours after getting to the hospital. I say 'little' but he was 9lb 10 oz. And 'he' was a surprise as I really thought that I was having a girl. It was a really euphoric experience. What a difference from my previous labours!

So now I am a mother of three under-fives, and have two sons. How on earth did that happen?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Crash, Bang, B*ll*cks!

As usual I am entertained by the relative linguistic expertise of both my children, surely one of the 'joys of motherhood'.

Gertie, newly elected to the School Council (just how exactly does that happen on Day 5 of one's school career?) came home for the weekend, marched up to the fridge and formed the word 'Friday' with the plastic magnetic letters, much to the astonishment of her mother. Two weeks' worth of education and she appears to be able to read, write and spell.

Meanwhile, Gilby has increased the use of one of his favourite phrases: 'Crash, Bang, Wallop!'; his immediate response to any loud noise, bang or dropped item. Except that he mispronounces it so that it sounds much more like, "Crash, bang, bollocks!"

Personally, I think that this is a much more articulate response to smashing something, or even life's general frustrations, and have therefore adopted it myself.

My due date has come and gone without so much as a teasing frankly, all I have to say is, "Crash, bang, bollocks!"

40 Weeks Pregnant: Mouth is sore from excessive fresh pineapple consumption, to no avail.
Currently reading: Still Alice
by Lisa Genova

Monday, 12 September 2011

Hyde Park Waddle

I know this picture doesn't look pretty, but yesterday I took part in the adidas 5K Women's Challenge in Hyde Park, along with 15,000 other women.

I completed the course in just under 53 minutes. Not a particularly impressive time, but pretty good for 39 weeks pregnant, I reckon. I have been running this race for the last five or six years and felt that I might as well go for it, in spite of my protruding belly. It was a very supportive environment and there were plenty of well-wishers on the way. Gertie asked me at the end if I'd won! I felt like I had...

The scary thing is that I actually felt quite good afterwards. I 'ran' just over 1km and walked the rest, saving a little energy for a 'sprint' finish, and last night had more energy and less aches and pains than I usually would. I'm not sure that I want to explore the moral of this story!

I raised £222 for the MS Society, my biggest total so far. I am very grateful to all who supported me, and to the organisers for helpfully placing toilets just after the 3km mark. That was extremely important.

39 weeks pregnant: Wondering why a 5K run didn't get labour going...
Currently reading: The Two of Us
by Sheila Hancock

Monday, 5 September 2011

First Day

What is it about school uniform that suddenly makes them look so grown-up?

Gertie was very excited about starting school, and not in the least bit concerned by the transition; in fact she seemed to think her mother's slightly erratic and emotional behaviour distinctly odd at times, though she accepted the morning's photo shoot with a mature tolerance.

All went smoothly from her point of view, though there were two minor failures on my part: the carefully sewn-in name badge on her cardigan came off and I forgot her water-bottle.

She was so ready to go that I really had no worries about how she would get on. Yet a small part of me can't help thinking about what is lost. Just a few weeks ago she was asking why I never plaited her 'front hair' (she couldn't think of the word for 'fringe'), and why God was always so 'baggy'. It took me a little while to work out what she meant, until she pointed at the sleeves on her white shirt that were loose at the ends, "like this". All the representations she sees typically picture God or Jesus in white loose-fitting clothing.

The concrete construal reminds me of another story I heard where a school inspector asked a reception child what they were drawing. "God," replied the child. "But nobody knows what God looks like," challenged the inspector. "They will in a minute," responded the self-assured five-year-old.

But when Gertie came home yesterday she told me that we must always wash our hands when we have touched something that has been on the floor, even if we are not about to eat. (I knew I had been lapse at this parenting-lark) and that the planets are all spinning all the time but so slowly that our eyes cannot see them. Aggie MacKenzie and Professor Brian Cox would both be proud.

Mummy? Is proud and just a little sad...

Nearly 39 weeks pregnant: Wondering if it is just pregnancy hormones, but suspecting that the other 750,000 Mums were also a bit weepy this week
Currently reading: Annie Dunne
by Sebastian Barry

Friday, 26 August 2011

Nous Sommes Back!

I know that one shouldn't complain when one is on holiday, but here are ten things I have struggled with whilst in the South of France (in 38 degree heat) and very heavily pregnant...

1) Heaving my remarkable bulk onto a lilo whilst retaining some dignity.
2) Watching all around me drink copious amounts of rose whilst I look on enviously.
3) Not being able to kyak to the Pont du Gard for fear of disproving Archimedes' Principle (and capsizing).
4) Heaving my remarkable bulk up from a sun-lounger.
5) French squat toilets: difficult to negotiate with precarious centre of gravity. (Although I did find the fact that Gertie did a wee on her grandmother's foot the first time she attempted to use one more than faintly amusing.)
6) Avoiding all those delicious but 'illegal' cheeses.
7) Covering up the chloasma or pregnancy mask.
8) Trying to get my back as brown as my front: impossible with a bump this size!
9) Climbing to the top of the amphitheatre in Nimes. Highly ambitious given the size and quantity of the steps.
10) Looking glamorous in a bikini. Ha!

That's not to say that it wasn't all brilliant and worthwhile. The 14 hour drive home was interesting, although my husband probably didn't fully appreciate the urgency and frequency with which one has to pee in this condition.

37 Weeks Pregnant: Wondering why I finally have an 'outie' belly-button when that never happened with babies 1 and 2.
Currently reading: How to Be a Woman
by Caitlin Moran

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Pied Piper of Languedoc

Well here we are in the south of France once more, staying at a fabulous house complete with pool in a tiny French village in the Languedoc region. All idyllic, and there are still two weeks to go.

The particular joy of this place is that it contains enough rooms to accommodate both sets of grandparents plus an aunt and uncle and neice or nephew or two. Admittedly, in some families this could represent a vision of hell, but with the constant vying for the attention of the grandchildren, Big-Fat-Enormously-Heavily-Pregnant-Mummy gets to have some proper rest and relaxation.

And my mother (or 'Nano' to the grandchildren) appears to have turned into the pied piper of Hamelin, merrily leading all the children off in the early morning to get the freshly-baked baguettes, pains au chocolat and croissants for le petit dejeuner, thereby leaving parents who inevitably stayed up too late the night before to have an extra hour's peace in bed. Though she brings them back later, so this legend has a slightlier happier outcome than its German counterpart.

Need to supervise a two-year-old and a four-year-old in the pool whilst you get on with the important business of sunbathing? Then there's an uncle or older neice on hand to fulfil that role. Bliss.

I just hope this baby doesn't come early. Usually I'm wishing these last few weeks away, just wanting to get on with the business of meeting the new arrival. Not this time!

36 weeks pregnant: Wondering if participating in the extremely competitive volleyball tournament was the most sensible idea, and pondering exactly how one can achive an all over tan when clearly lying on one's stomach is a physical impossibility.

Currently reading: The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Things That Go Bump in the Kitchen

Another year, another birthday, another mess in the kitchen, another baking triumph (but don't look too closely, it's a little, er, 'rustic' round the edges).

Yes, Gilby was two last week, and with a few days to go before the event he announced that he no longer wanted another train cake, but 'Mr Bump'. Good, I thought, at least it's round. Though blue was not the most appetising colour for the, mostly adult, guests at his tea party.

Pregnancy hormones must be kicking in big time, because I also MADE bunting for the occasion. I saw some for sale at the primary school fete and thought, 'Twenty quid for a couple of metres? Pah! I'll make it!'

So, having invested in a sewing machine and a selection of fabric, I reckon my bunting has set me back over £200. Oh well.

But the little man was on top form, dressed in shirt and tie for the day, and even going as far as to sit back up in bed, more tired than I've ever seen him, just after kissing him goodnight to say, "Thank you for my party, mummy," in the sweetest, most angelic little voice.

Now, lest all this sound too good to be true, and I'm even sickening myself with the homely baking and bunting imagery, let me just pronounce, for the record, that the terrible twos began in earnest the very next day as Gilby kicked and screamed and demanded, "More presents, more presents, more presents..." for hours. So domestic bliss was short-lived...

34 Weeks pregnant: Definitely not feeling the bikini body...
Currently reading: That Summer in Ischia
by Penny Feeny

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Unbearable Excitement of Being

Gilby has 'hand, foot and mouth disease'. A 'febrile illness(caused by Coxsackie Virus) with associated vesicle formation on the hands, feet, and mouth of affected children'. It began with a few chicken-pox-type spots around his groin area, and it sounds much worse than it is, but it did mean that the very first day of my holiday yesterday was spent in the company of a screaming, irritable child. It is mild and short-lived though, so I am hoping that by tomorrow (his second birthday) he will be a little more sociable. He wants a 'Mr Bump' birthday cake, which seems quite appropriate.

Thankfully, Gertie is a little cheerier, and her perceptions of the world continue to delight. She is very, very excited about the arrival in a few weeks of her new sibling. It will coincide with starting school, so her little world will turn upside-down, but she is ready for it all. Except that she did ask me a strange question this week: "Mummy, you know that baby in your tummy? What clothes is it wearing?" I can't escape the image of a fully-dressed foetus in there now.

She also made me smile when she came across me reading in the bath a few nights ago. "Um, Mummy? What exactly are you doing?"
"I'm reading a book. I find it very relaxing in the bath."
She looked dubious, and glanced over at the vast array of brightly-coloured plastic toys that adorn our bathroom these days, and that I had tried, unsuccessfully, to hide for my sojourn into the water.
"But Mummy, how can you possibly relax in the bath when it's so exciting? I don't know how you can just sit there when there's so much to do!"

Well, who knew?

33 weeks pregnant: Struggling to heave my whale-like proportions around.
Currently reading: The Slap
by Christos Tsiolkas

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Life of Pie

I have written posts about the exclusive language and silly games invented by the children before. 'Ow' was a particularly good one at the end of last year, though not as impressive as my personal favourite, 'Duck Chess'.

But now, from the makers of these two thrillers, comes the new and exciting, 'Pie'. (Best said in your most impressive James-Earl-Jones-alike voice.) There are two versions of Pie - Bath Pie and Bed Pie. The rules, as far as I can establish them, are thus:

One child holds out my bath pillow (supposed to be exclusively for MY use in long, luxurious baths, definitely NOT a toy, but intrinsic to the success of Bath Pie nevertheless) towards the other and says, "What would you like?". The other thinks for a moment, then replies, "Pie!", at which response both collapse helplessly into fits of the giggles, eventually recovering enough to hand the bath pillow over to the other so that the next round can begin. There are no variations in the answer (only in the length of time it takes for each to think about it) and it is always, always funny (to them).

Bed Pie is more complicated (very slightly). This involves standing at the headboard of Mummy and Daddy's bed and counting to increasing numbers. It might start, "One, two, three...", before both children launch themselves into a forwards topple simultaneously shouting, "Pie!" The next round might count to five, or seven, or eight, perhaps up to twelve. The strange thing is that both seem to know exactly which number they will be counting to next without discussing it beforehand. The important bit, as you are probably realising though, is the shouting of "Pie!", which, you've guessed it, provokes great hilarity every time.

Now, I would like to think that my genius children are practising their Greek alphabet, or developing their numeracy by playing around with this mathematic constant. I suspect, however, that they are not!

32 Weeks pregnant: Still craving tomatoes and bored by anaemia
Currently reading: Starter for Ten
by David Nicholls

Monday, 4 July 2011

Hippopotamuses and Showers

I find it hilarious the way Gilby acquires words, even faster and more furiously than his big sister did. The trouble with this incredible speed of language acquisition is that he occasionally gets it very, very wrong. I have tried to research this a little bit, but it is too scholarly and statistical for me, so I'm going with my own theories.

Apparently, when I was very small, I came rushing in to my parents' room very earnestly declaring that there was a 'hippot-mus in Teesy's bedoom'. Teesy was my name for myself, and I clearly struggled with 'r's. My parents were not convinced. Why would they be? In a second floor flat somewhere in north London, the appearance of this massive sub-Saharan African mammal would indeed have been most unlikely. But I was insistent. Very. Kept on repeating my claim. When they still wouldn't believe me I went to prove my case. I came back in with my tiny fist clenched. "Hippot-mus...HERE!" Upon opening up my hand I cried with pain as the wasp stung me. Quite how I had made the synaptic connection between the word 'hippopotamus' and the reality of a yellow, stripy, stinging thing is beyond me.

Gilby has repeated this feat, though with so far less painful consequences. He has inherited a toy-garage, one with a multi-storey car-lift. It is very exciting when you are not quite two. Except that, inexplicably, he insists on calling it a 'shower'.

Meanwhile, Gertie's current favourite programme is 'Little Bear'. At the start of each episode the episode's title appears, and being right on the cusp of reading it flashes up too quickly for her to decipher it, but she recognises some of the words and is always interested in what it is. "What does that say, Mummy?" she will inevitably ask.

Gilby has cottoned on to this, and must assume that it means 'what is that?', for now, when he doesn't know the name of something he will point at it and ask, "What does that say, Mummy?" just like his sister. Perhaps in some confused, mush-brained moment he asked me what his garage 'said' and I suggested a shower. Who knows?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Dancing Shoes

Gertie has just taken part in her second Irish-dancing class. She loves dancing, and aged four, has already been doing ballet for more than two years. As a child I loved Irish-dancing, and carried on taking part in competitions until I was thirty, (albeit with a long break through my late teens and early twenties!) I loved the excitement of the feis and all the dressing-up that went with it. But at twenty-eight weeks pregnant with baby number three, my dancing days are well and truly over. So the item that has inspired this blog-post in response to Jodie's writing prompts this week are my tired and worn-out shoes, next to Gertie's shiny new and very, very tiny ones.

It is a personality cat-walk as I revist old loves: nostalgic, but memories faded at the edges, a little tarnished on reflection. And watch history repeating itself!


A restless night: my hair in lumpy rags.
For this six-year-old white-dreadlocked dreamer
The unroutine 5am start
Prevents sleep more than the tight wound curls.
In the morning the ritual unwinding,
A mess of ribboned ringlets scooped to top-knot.
Not really a look for London, circa 1980.
Then soft leather shoes lattice-laced
Like twisted liquorice around poodle socks
Thickening my ankles. A racing greyhound,
Hungry for the hare. But my chase was for a trophy
In the jig; a shiny medal in the reel;
Highly commended in the horn-pipe,
And my mother: glowing, proud and smiling.

Now I see the glitz under glare of bare Whitechapel bulb;
Fuss and pomp and empty Gaelic line.
McEvoy by name: a tired cultural link,
Forcing Irishness under lure of dress and gloss.
As I enrol my daughter in her Irish dancing class.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Tie for First Place

What is wrong with this picture of two beautiful princesses all dressed up?

Nothing at all, except that this is Gertie and Gilby. My son appears to be very much in touch with his feminine side: His other favourite costume is a mermaid one...

But we were at their lovely cousin's christening at the weekend, and Gilby dressed up smartly for the occasion.

I get the feeling that his father is much happier when the little man is wearing a shirt and tie!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Gangsta Nap

Gilby is eight weeks away from his second birthday, but the terrible twos have well and truly arrived. My usually smiley, happy, very good natured little boy is occasionally kidnapped and substituted for a little horror who looks remarkably similar. But when this doppelganger is present, we have regular screaming tantrums, the comedy grumpy face, the inflexible torso, the poker-straight back, the kicking and lashing out, and the repeated no's regardless of what the question is:

"Would you like a biscuit?"
"Would you like a birthday party?"
"Would you like to stand up?"
"Sit down?"
"No, no, NO!"
"Would you like to scream your head off all day long?"
Well stop doing it then....

We had one such incident the other night at bedtime.

Usual bedtime routine - supper, bath, Bedtime Hour on CBeebies, then milk in the rocking chair whilst I read my Kindle. In case this sounds heartless, it is at his behest. "Mummy, read Kindle!" (Sentences generally take an imperative form at the moment.)

When he has had enough of his milk he thrusts it forward and whispers, "Finished...bed." At this point, I tuck him in, leave his little wind-up cot-music playing, turn out the light and gently close the door. He might sing to himself for a little while, but usually he is asleep within a few minutes. (Lest this all sound too good to be true, let me reassure you that he will be up at least once and probably twice later during the night...)

Anyway, on the night in question, instead of the cosy little scenario described above, a purple-faced, snot-ridden, screaming tantrum from hell ensued. Nothing could calm him, and I resorted to leaving him crying in his cot for a while. I couldn't pick him up anyway, given the rigid back, clenched fists and kicking (not great for my 26 week 'baby tummy').

But the little man has learned how to reach over from the cot, open his door and turn the light on. The tantrum meant that Gertie couldn't get to sleep, so I had to drag the cot into the middle of the room in an effort to keep the door closed and contain the noise. After fifteen minutes had passed he still didn't seem to have calmed down at all. I had to go back in, and I braved his angry lashing out. I sat stubbornly in the rocking chair repeatedly offering the milk and singing. (Somewhere Over the Rainbow, his favourite from tiny.) His reaction was to punch me repeatedly in the mouth.

I persisted. Eventually, the rigid, angry little body went limp in my arms and he reached out for his bottle, snuggling back into his usual position.

He slid the bottle to one side of his mouth so that only the corner of his lips was moving and, menacing like some mafiosa gangster, gave his snarling, whispered demand that I 'Sing that Song!'

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Double Bean Surprise

There wasn't much left in the fridge: half a tin of baked beans, some left over new potatoes from a few nights ago, a handful of green beans. Supper-time loomed, but we had had a lovely picnic whilst walking the dog earlier in the day, and I knew, or rather, suspected, that the kids wouldn't eat very much. What to do? Mix those three ingredients together, and call it, 'Double-bean surprise'.

I called them in from the garden, trying to muster as much enthusiasm for the dish as I could. 'Double-bean surprise' echoed Gilby with a shriek and a degree of excitement not really appropriate to the level of culinary achievement that awaited him. But, in his defence, he is at that stage where he just mimics absolutely everything I say.

A few minutes later there was silence in the kitchen. Gertie smacked her lips as her bowl emptied. "Mummy, I love Double-bean surprise," she gushed.

Oh. Right. Gilby mashed quite a lot of it into his shirt; still, 'Double-bean surprise' was clearly a hit. I probably need to be sending Annabel Karmel the recipe. Feel free to use it in the meantime!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Things That Go Bump in the Morning

Gilby tumbled from his cot yesterday morning; a sure sign that it is time to move to his bed. I have tried to make that move as attractive as possible: he has a racing car-styled bed with dinosaur bedding. Wouldn't be my own first choice, but I have tried to appeal to the things he likes. It hasn't made any difference. The bravado displayed in the morning about wanting to sleep in his new bed has completed dissapated by the evening, and there is no chance of getting him to even try it.

Gertie was singing 'Jack and Jill' quietly to herself in the car this afternoon. When she got to the part about Jack falling down and breaking his crown, I couldn't help but think of Gilby and his dramatic cot-side topple. But as she got to the next verse about the mending of the broken head with vinegar and brown paper, she stopped.

"That's just silly!"
"What is?"
"Jack trying to fix his crown with vinegar and brown paper."
"You're quite right, it is very silly," I agreed, musing at her four-year-old perceptiveness.
"He'd at least need sellotape as well..."

Yes, of course he would. Perhaps I should get Gilby some until he is willing to make the move to his bed!

Testing Times

Six months pregnant with number three and we have put our house on the market. What have we done?!

With the prospect of a lean maternity leave ahead, do we really need to increase the size of our mortgage? With two pre-schoolers running around, can I really keep this place in a fit state to be viewed by prospective buyers? In the current economic climate, isn't the housing market still decidedly dodgy?

Memories of moving house when Gertie was just six weeks old are surfacing regularly. And did I mention that we actually love the house we are living in? Umm...I ask again, what have we done?

Still, life is always chaotic; just excuse me whilst I try to embrace the madness...

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Not Waving but Drowning

It's a highly competitive world on a Wednesday afternoon at our local swimming pool. There are a series of lessons back-to-back for tots to teens, which means that virtually every parent in the village is there at some point.

Now that Gertie has reached the grand old age of four, she has just landed herself in the Level 1 class. This is an exciting new development because it means that we no longer have to get into the pool with her. I collect her early from nursery, where she takes great delight in telling everyone that she is going swimming, 'All by myself!" The nursery workers give me funny looks as she swaggers out of the building with all of her 'I've Just Had My Birthday and am Really Grown-Up' confidence.

But at the swelteringly hot poolside (I haven't quite organised an appropriate wardrobe for swimming supervision and usually end up looking red in the face and uncomfortably hot and sticky at the end of the half an hour) I can't quite believe the level of 'parental support' in evidence.

One Mum, dressed in baseball cap and and sports t-shirt, and looking more like an instructor than the actual swimming teacher, struts around the water's edge literally screaming at her son to correct his stroke/speed up/slow down/breathe differently. Whilst her garb marks her out as taking the whole thing just a wee bit too seriously, she is not alone in her vocalisation. In fact, at times I can barely see what is going on in the lesson for the number of grown-ups anxiously prowling the tiles and barking orders at their offspring.

Another mum, whose son clearly has an aversion to water and has sat on the side refusing entry for the last fortnight, now leaves him to endure this torture on his own, disappearing at the start of the lesson (presumably as she can't deal with the waterside tantrum which is now inflicted upon the rest of us.)

I confess that I want Gertie to do well in there, but mostly just feel relieved that I don't have to go through the rigmarole of getting ready for swimming without having the opportunity to actually 'swim' myself anymore. And any thoughts I might have harboured about wanting to encourage her swimming development are put on hold by the spectre of the super-coaches that surround the pool. I don't want to be one!

Gilby is obviously a long way from this point, and he goes swimming with his daddy on a Thursday morning. Happily, the swimming pool is right next door to where I work, so I try to organise a 'break' for some point during his lesson so that I can pop in and see how he is getting on. I managed to time it to coincide with the end of the lesson this week, so that I could give him big cuddles as he came out. I made the mistake of stripping him down before wrapping him in his towel so that my work clothes didn't get too wet. He rewarded me by weeing down said work clothes.

I handed him back to Daddy through gritted teeth, waving and smiling and wondering at the wisdom of my decision to try and juggle work and motherhood more successfully whilst simultaneously attempting to disguise the piss-stain on my dress.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Magic Mushroom

It is that time of year again. Gertie is four at the weekend.

We have the party and the celebrations sorted. I finally managed to persuade her that the North Pole wasn't great at this time of year. So, she will have eight friends from nursery trailing round the local farm park with her in the morning; a visit that will culminate in a picnic lunch. Then, in the afternoon, we have planned a tea party with all Gertie's cousins and family. Hooray! Not a husky or an arctic explorer in sight.

Now this is all jolly exciting, except that it means I am forced to make my annual trek into the kitchen where I pretend that baking, icing and decorating comes naturally to me, and produce a cake to rival Jane Asher.

Last year's highly successful Peppa Pig appeared to be the pinnacle of my culinary achievement (well, when one's husband has appeared on Masterchef, one doesn't get much opportunity to experiment in the kitchen...) but I feel that I have topped it this year, even though it was fairy tricky:

Monday, 2 May 2011

Number Post

Gilby's vocabulary is increasing exponentially, but some of his pronunciation is causing a few problems in communication.

Gertie and Gilby are both fond of Numberjacks, a Cbeebies special that I tolerate because it purports to be vaguely educational. The numberjacks are sort of animated superhero numbers who solve mathematical problems.

So when Gilby started putting 'number' as a kind of prefix to virtually everything he said, I thought it must be a side effect of bad parenting in the form of too much television. But I tried to answer him each time.

So, for example, outside the swimming pool on Thursday, 'Number bin?' a little voice said. The uplift at the end suggested a question. There were two recycling bins outside the leisure centre. 'Um, well, there are two bins.'

As we approached the car, he pointed at one on the other side of the car park. 'Number car.' The tone of this one sounded more like a statement, but one which needed some kind of response. 'Well, let me see. My eyesight's not really good enough, but it looks like a the registration is 'HY47 XXP'. It seemed to satisfy him.

A few minutes later, as we were driving along, he pointed towards the sky. 'Number plane?' He was really quite excited now.
'Gosh, I don't really know much about planes. Probably a 737...' I trailed off, slightly defeated, thinking that CBeebies had a lot to answer for.

It was only as I re-analysed those exchanges (which continued all day long, I might add) that I realised that he was in fact attempting to say 'another' each time, and pleased with himself for making connections between the objects - another bin, another car, another plane. Gertie used 'ummer' to represent this adjective when she was learning to talk, so I was temporarily flummoxed.

Still, we are going to have to ask Grumps for a 'Number pound', as it seems he took one from his eldest grandchild when he was looking after her on Thursday afternoon. She had one in her pocket that was no longer there by the end of the afternoon. He has admitted his guilt. Stealing from a three year old? He should be ashamed of himself!

Friday, 22 April 2011

It's Such a Perfect Day Until...

Let me paint a picture of the Easter harmony and domestic bliss that issued forth from our home yesterday.

The sun is shining and we are in a kind of paradise, our very own walled garden. The children are having fun and their shrieks and laughter drown out the noise of the traffic from the A29 rushing past, so that you could almost imagine you were really in the countryside.

Both children had a sleep simultaneously following their morning swim, so that I have been able to get lots of housework done and do some of the enormous pile of Easter marking that I have brought home with me, so that I don't have The Guilt, and am actually able to sit outside and enjoy the afternoon.

I am on a sun lounger with a book. And although at 20 weeks I already resemble a beach ball with protruding limbs, my children are not judgemental. They are both smothered in enough factor-bastard suncream to last the England cricket team on an entire tour of Australia, so I don't have to worry about sunburn. Gertie is alternating between bouncing on her trampoline and splashing in the paddling pool with her little brother. We had the foresight to fill it up early this morning, so it is now sun-warmed and a very pleasant temperature. Gilby is content to sit in the two inches of water and steadily empty it out using a variety of plastic cups and containers onto the lawn (recently mown and not entirely overgrown). The bare patches of grass are covered with strips of turf, which, whilst not yet properly laid, at least give the impression of an expanse of green instead of a sea of mud.

The three vines we planted in a fit of optimism are still standing upright in their respective places rather than having been uprooted and dragged across the garden by the puppy as they have been most mornings this week. In fact, Kempton is uncharacteristically restrained, and none of the children's toys have yet been chewed today. She is not bothering the chickens, and the cat, in turn, is not bothering Kempton. The new garden furniture is fully assembled and in a shady part of the garden ready for when we all get too hot later on. It is 'rattan effect' and not the rattan itself that we thought we were buying, but we are over that now.

Peace reigns.

In my head, I hear the strains of Lou Reed: It's such a perfect day/I'm glad I spent it with you....

Gilby decides that he wants to strip off and be a 'nunga punga', and so his sister joins him. Together they run around the garden playing happily and cool off in the water from time to time.

And then, I suddenly hear, "Naughty Kempton, naughty Kempton!" I look up from my book. Something is wrong with the paddling pool. It has gone a funny colour. Strange things are floating in it. What on earth could Kempton have done? And then the truth reveals itself.

I mentally change the words of the song in my head: It's such a perfect day/Until Gilby does a poo...

I'm not sure which was worse; the fact that he did it, or the fact that he tried to blame it on the dog!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Gumps' Ossage

I often write about Gertie because at Nearly-Four-Going-on-Forty, practically everything she says or does is inherently funny to me.

But my little man is now beginning to come in to his own. He won't be two until late in the summer, but the pair of them will now sit at the kitchen table together, falling about helplessly with giggles at something only they are complicit in, and being Actually-Not-Far-Off-Forty myself, I don't have a hope of understanding.

Gilby now has a bedtime ritual to rival Her Ladyship's: placing all his 'people' one by one in the cot (Iggle Piggle, Macca Pacca, Alien, a dinosaur, a crotcheted blanket and a stuffed bee with crackly wings) then gathering them beneath him mother-hen style to sleep on top of them all. They all have poky, uncomfortable looking bits, especially the dinosaur, but this doesn't seem to bother him in the slightest. I'm not entirely sure how the blanket constitutes one of the 'people', but it is at least soft. World War III breaks out if one of them is missing but as long as they are all in position, a simple, "Night, night Mummy," is followed by thumb in the mouth and lights out. This will inevitably be repeated when he still wakes for another bottle of milk somewhere between 1am and 3am.

He is exceptionally, at times, comically, polite, with an exaggerated, "No thank you Mummy," accompanying any food or activity offering not entirely to his taste. When playing he is regularly heard to insist, "My turn..." which he just looks far too little to be saying. At first this is cute and endearing, but when you realise that it is his turn straight away, always, it becomes less so. Other Mums smile at me in a congratulatory fashion the first time it happens over a disputed toy, then frown at me the next fifteen. Particularly when it is then accompanied by tears and a tantrum.

"Where's Gumps' Ossage?" is an oft-heard cry in our house too. Well, 'Gumps' only has himself to blame for this one. It has become Grumps' new nickname since their grandfather often arrives with a cling-filmed cooked sausage for each of them when he comes to visit. It may stick long beyond toddlerhood. I rather like it.

But my current favourite catchphrase and behaviour, clearly adapted from a well-known television quiz show with a distinctive presenter, is where he runs in to the room and without any preamble tells me, "You are weak! Bye!" before disappearing again.

I'm recording all this because I now know that it will change within a matter of weeks, and then I will probably forget, but I wonder about other parents' most remembered phrase and fable?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

On Poultry, Politics, au Pairs and Picked Flowers

I'm rather glad it's Sunday as it's been a helluva week so far. Kempton's still in her first season which seems to have been going on forever, and despite multiple websites suggesting that there won't be much mess: there is.

We discovered that Gilby's illness was caused by Campylobacter; I'd never heard of it before, but we will be looking at the storage and preparation of raw poultry in our kitchen from now on. A call from the doctor was quite apologetic since they had fobbed us off twice before taking a sample from him.

Gertie got in to our second-choice school, which in 1066 And All That fashion may actually be a good thing. Daddy's spin is that it was his first choice anyway, so I don't think that we will be going through the appeal procedure. And we have just calculated that I will be on maternity leave just after she begins in September, which, though unplanned will mean that I won't miss out on those precious school gate moments.

Possibly most dramatic of all is that Brenda left us on Thursday after fifteen months. She was our au pair/nanny from Australia. We are trying to adjust. She is in Las Vegas, at a Celine Dion concert in Caesar's Palace as I write this!

And Gertie presented me with a broken Gerbera plant for Mothering Sunday. Orange is my favourite colour, and it was clever of Daddy because we had these flowers at our wedding. I'm quite impressed that he knew and remembered that. It could be a lucky fluke, but he is claiming prior planning. Anyway, there were three flowers on the plant, but Gertie appears to have 'picked' one for me already, so that leaves two and a broken stem. Gilby made me a card at nursery which he carefully destroyed in the car on the way home on Friday.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

There's A Lot Of It About

I have neglected by blog lately; the household has been plagued with sickness for the last ten days. Apparently, There's A Lot Of It About. Isn't there always? Only Gertie has so far escaped.

At first, Gilby had a number of what can at best be described as 'unhappy nappies'. I put this down to teething, and we had a couple of more-than-usually-unsettled nights.

When I started feeling unwell on Saturday with stomach cramps, I thought nothing much at first. With number three now on the way, I had expected a little nausea. I got worse. To the point where I started thinking about phoning midwives or doctors. I didn't remember experiencing this amount of pain with the previous two pregnancies.

Then Daddy started throwing up. I've never been so delighted to see anyone else being sick! (Sorry Daddy, but this meant an ordinary bug rather than something more sinister and complicated relating to the baby.) So - hooray! All was well. If you see what I mean.

But poor old Gilby was going downhill, and was in too much pain to let his extremely raw nappy skin be touched. "No-oo-oo-ooo," he squealed, trying to hold his body away. "It's all right, it's all right," I kept repeating, aiming to soothe the little man. This became his tearful mantra for a few days: "It's all right. It's all right." He tried to convince himself. Not even the Sock Game could perk him up. (This is the one where they both sit on the bed and Daddy bowls rolled up socks at the pair of them repeatedly amidst much squeals and laughter. I don't really understand it, myself.)

"There's a lot of it about," said the doctor, when we finally took Gilby along to be checked out.

"There's a lot of it about," said the nursery staff, as we explained why Gilby wouldn't be there this week.

And, "There's a lot of it about," said my boss, as I told him I was expecting.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

When the Wind Blows

Gertie is never short of a question, or an opinion. Here's last night's conversation over the dinner table.

"Mum, why can't you see the wind?"

(Stumped briefly) "Um. That is a very good question. Let me just think about that for a moment." (Racking brains for some kind of plausible scientific response...)

"Shall I tell you, Mummy?"

"Oh. Yes. Ok, then, please."

"Well, it's because the wind is actually the breath of a man with a big cloud head. So it's breath. That's why you can't see it."

Move over Professor Brian Cox.

Meanwhile, Gilby has been busy circumnavigating the safety gate put at the top of the stairs purely for his benefit. I caught him climbing through the banisters whilst the stair gate was closed. This is far more dangerous than simply going up and down the stairs.

Both gifted in their different ways...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Sport and Sleep

Ssh. Don't tell anyone, but Gilby has slept through for the third night in a row.

This is the first time in his nineteen months. We have had the odd night, of course, but never three consectutive nights. Up until now we have taken it badly, too, since his elder sister had read the script, knew that you had to sleep through from twelve weeks old and did it perfectly. So we didn't know about these other babies, the ones that do not sleep.

I don't know whether to get excited or not...probably not.

Meanwhile, Gertie has decided that because her mother is such an Arsenal fan she will take on the persona of Arsene Wenger, frequently shrugging her shoulders, Gallic-fashion, and claiming nonchalantly, "I did not see it."

This is usually following a scream from a room where only Gertie and her brother were present. I am amazed by her capacity never to have witnessed what has just happened to cause her brother mortal pain or terror.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Edible Woman

Daddy has a black eye. A real shiner; a black to purple-hued lumpy swelling. I don't know what story he intends to tell at work tomorrow, but the actual version is this: His one-year-old son cracked Daddy across the temple with a mobile phone. It was an unlikely but extremely painful accident...and whilst Daddy was looking for sympathy, I was more worried about Gilby - who was mortified by Daddy's reaction.

Meanwhile, it seems, Gertie is concerned about the edibility of her mother.

She has a t-shirt, not bought by me, I hasten to add, bearing the legend, "Don't you think I've got a yummy mummy?"

Now that she can read a little - though she is nowhere near deciphering the whole phrase she can detect the word 'mummy' - she asked me what it said. And it is fair enough, after all, to have an interest in the motto emblazened across one's chest, I thought. After I had explained it, though, she became quite concerned.

"But Mummy, who's eaten you to know?"

Good point.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Gilby Says 'No'

In spite of Gilby's rich and varied (and newly acquired) vocabulary that includes such gems as:

- All aboard!
- baby (applied to anyone the same age or younger than himself, with absolutely no concept that he might still be considered one...)
- ballet
- balloon
- breakfast
- control (for remote control; he doesn't seem to have adopted the household's preferred term, 'blibber')
- cricket
- like it (said with a screwy-up face that actually means 'I don't like it')
- penguin
- present

along with dozens of others, many of which are uninterpretable, there is one word that rings out loud and clear, and at least 100 times a day: "No!"

At certain times he seems to get in to a cycle of 'nos' that he cannot escape from. Even if the options offered are mutually exclusive.

Are you finished? - No!
Would you like some more, then? - No!
Would you like to get down from the table? - No!
Would you like to stay there all day? - No!

Sometimes as they build, they are pronounced with increasing petulance. At others, you can forget Carol Beer's 'Computer says 'no'!' Gilby's automaton-like negatives are a force to be reckoned with.

I know it's an assertion of his rights, a testing of the boundaries, a manifestation of his growing independence and individuality, but it's bloody funny. Especially after abouth the fifth consecutive one, when I can do nothing but stand back and laugh...because he combines his responses with his cartoon-sad-face: comically protruding lips down-turned at the corners; breathing heavily downwards through his nostrils as though blowing smoke; the excessively heavy frown, large eyes peering up accusingly beneath. He just needs to make mock horns with his fingers and push his leg backwards to complete the picture of a raging bull about to charge.

So, this is how breakfast ends, this morning. It's going to be a long day.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Party Ideas Are Poles Apart

I was warned, way back in the very early stages of pregnancy, about just how competitive the birthday party scene is in parent-land.

So far it's been fine. We had a nice tea-party at home for Gertie's first birthday; more adults than children, more wine than squash. Perfect.

Birthday number two took place at the local farm park; a few friends and family and my mother, who works there, to help organise.

The third birthday was the most ambitious: We had a bouncy castle in the garden. It was great, because all I had to do was simply supply a bit of party food and watch the little people bounce. The sun was shining, but not so much that I had to worry about continually slathering on sun-cream, and nobody got bounced on. It was easy, and I didn't have to organise any games or prizes or anything.

However, the stakes have been raised somewhat, and we've now reached a bit of an impasse over Gertie's fourth birthday party. It's not until May, but I thought that now might be the time to get the plans made and do any organisation that might be required. The trouble is this. We had Abigail's party where there was a professional party-planner sorting out all the entertainment; Cameron's birthday party where there was a 'pirates and mermaids' theme; Sophie's at the village hall where there was a dressed-up Peppa Pig, and Adam's is next week and it's some kind of Toy Story 3 extravaganza.

So we began the discussions. They went something along these lines:

"What would you like to do for your birthday? Shall we have another party in the garden, or go back to the farm? (positively, head nodding in the hope of eliciting an affirmative response.)

"No." (Firmly) "I'd like to go to the North Pole."

"Um. Well that would be a little cold for everyone."

"That's ok. We just need to all wrap up warm. Like we did when it was snowing."


"And make sure that we're all wearing our hats and scarves and gloves."

(I can't really argue with the logic, and have a slight feeling of being 'hoisted by my own petard' but have another idea to attempt to dampen the enthusiasm.) "But it's a very long way away for everyone to travel..."

(Looking at me as though I am stupid) "We can get on an ae-ro-plane." (This is very deliberately in three syllables, as though to spell it out to the senile mother who can't quite keep up with the conversation.) We'll all fly there."

"Oh. Will we?

"Yes." (Abrupt shift in the direction of the conversation to allow no room for negotiation.) "Now. I've done some invitations already."

(Weakly) "What...?"

So. There we are. I am apparently flying fifteen-odd pre-schoolers to the Arctic for a fourth birthday party. I wonder if that's all-inclusive?

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The End of the Affair

Gertie was a bit sad when she came home from pre-school this week.

She shrugged her shoulders helplessly, arms outstretched in a curiously adult gesture as she told us that Harrison, corduroy-clad love of her life for nearly a whole year now, 'didn't want to get married'. In fact, he 'didn't want to be in love, or anything.'

Oh. "Did you have an argument?"
"No, mummy, don't be silly."
(That told me.)
"So is he still your boyfriend?"
"I suppose. We're still going to sit together at lunchtime."
I see. "Just no love and marriage?"
"No." She shook her head, sadly; an aged head on three-and-a-half year old shoulders.

One of life's lessons, learned very early.

She seemed to have got over it by the weekend, though.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Bunnies, Bangs and Things that go Bump in the Day

You know how you have those days where the sun is shining, the kids are happy and everything goes right? Yes. Well, today was not one of those days.

We were heading off this morning to our local farm park to take part in a pet show, bringing along 'Bella' the rabbit. Except that we received an email to say that we couldn't bring the rabbit along if it hadn't had all its vaccinations. It hasn't. This news did not go down well, particularly as I had been using the pet show as a bribe for good behaviour during the week. So we had to take a toy rabbit instead. Needless to say, we did not win the show. No rosette for us.

And then on the way home...well. We've just paid a small fortune to have some new fencing done in order to create a larger parking area (the nice men finished the job at about midday), and yet I still somehow managed to hit our neighbour's car whilst trying to manouevre mine. It would not be controversial to say that they are not the most easy-going of neighbours. I have not plucked up the courage to make The Phone Call yet.

Daddy is singularly unimpressed. Especially given the fact that I now have about three metres more space than I did when we left the house. Though, to be fair, this would not be the first time I have alluded to my lack of spatial awareness, particularly where parking's concerned. 'Oh dear,' said Gilby, with characteristic understatement.

And then Gertie's little friend, Jenny, came round to play this afternoon. Her mum dropped her off just as Gilby was going down for a sleep.

'Perfect,' I thought. 'I'll get some ironing done while the two of them play nicely together.'

But then the next thing I heard was a terrific clatter and some horrendous bumps followed by some screaming. Both girls had been pushing against the stairgate and the whole thing had come away, so they had surfed down the stairs (no carpets as we are trying to sand the boards at the moment...) from top to bottom and landed in an undignified heap in the kitchen. End result? Two hysterical three-year-olds, lots of tears, an apologetic phone call to the other mum, chocolate, cuddles, plenty of applications of Mr Bump, and miraculously, no trip to casualty.

Glass of wine, anyone?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

My Teenage Three-Year-Old

I can remember as a teenager the desperation to look and be older: Hair (big), make-up (ridiculous), high heels (painful and unsteady). A combination of details that only served to make me look less mature.

Gertie, at three-and-a-half, is experiencing this same painful desire a decade too early as far as I am concerned. Here's tonight's conversation in the car on the way home from nursery:

Her: Mum, I look like I'm four, don't I?
Me: Um...I suppose that you could pass for four.
Her: Some people might even think that I was four, mightn't they?
Me: Yes, they might.
Her: (Sadly) The nursery people know that I'm not four though, don't they?
Me: Well, they do. They know you very well. They know when your birthday is, so they know that you're not four yet.
Her: (Brightly) But people who don't know when my birthday is could think that I was four!
Me: Well yes, they could.
Her: So what else would make them think that I was four?
Me: Well...I suppose it might be the way you behave. The better you are, the more likely people are to think that you are four.
Her: I'm going to be really, really good. Always. Like I'm four.

I know, it was a little naughty, but irresistible...

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Alternative Nursery Rhymes

Gilby is talking non-stop. He has reached the 'repeating-every-single-thing-he-hears' stage. The phase where you have to be extremely careful about what you say. This has so far not, thankfully, produced any howlers.

Though he has a great vocabulary now, he seems quite lazy with his pronunciation. In particular he seems to have some problems enunciating the letter 'p' clearly, sometimes turning it into a 'b', sometimes at 't'. His grandfather frequently goes to the 'bub' for a drink; I have to change his 'nathy' after a 'boo'.

But the worst, by far, is his rendition of the popular nursery rhyme, whose first line sounds, in Gilby's mouth, like 'Bra Bra Back sh$t'. He is fond of declaiming this loudly and publicly at every opportunity. He doesn't seem to be able to get past the first line, either, so he just repeats this over and over.

In front of teachers, nursery staff, and even the parish priest we just have to smile, talk loudly and hope that they haven't noticed. I promise I have not taught him this!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Getting Our Skates On

Yesterday was a really special day. It began with a typical exchange over breakfast, the kind that makes me marvel at my daughter's playful approach to language.

Gertie detected that the marmalade on her toast was "too blimpetty". When I raised an enquiring eyebrow she explained patiently that that meant that it "gets right on your tongue and makes it hurt a bit". ('Sharp', I concluded to myself, but chose not to share it, since blimpetty seemed a much more apt description.)

She then observed that marmalade was obviously for mummies, really, because it had the 'marm' sound in it. I didn't think I ought to mention Daddy's penchant for marmite at that point.

But then we headed up to London to visit Grandpa Mac and after a quick coffee and lots of presents at Victoria Station, we decided on the Natural History museum as a good way to spend the day. It must be twenty years since I have been there myself and although it might be a bit beyond Gilby, my sponge of a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter would certainly get something from it.

But it took us a long while to get there, because as we came out of the tube station at South Kensington we were confronted by the temporary ice-skating rink. Isn't that nice, I thought. We can watch all the other people skating round and it still feels Christmassy. Gertie had other ideas. "Can we do it, Mum? Dad?"

Mum and Dad tossed for the pleasure. (Not entirely sure about that sentence; let me confirm that we tossed a coin...) I lost, and found myself clutching two pairs of skates while Daddy and Grandpa clutched a baby and a poised camera, respectively.

It did not begin well. The intervening time between me last donning a pair of skates is probably close to that of my last visit to the museum, so I wasn't exactly 'solid' on the ice. Gertie had no idea what she was letting herself in for, and it took us fifteen minutes to edge our way down to the little learner-rink with several slips along the way. Gertie had no balance at all. We finally got there and I left her clinging on to Daddy on the other side of the wall while I skated back to try and purchase a £5 stabilising penguin for her to cling on too. No luck. All the penguins were already taken. This was looking like a disastrous idea. Then some kind soul lent us their penguin, and we were off. Slowly, inching, but we were definitely off. The pleasure on her face as Gertie edged a few feet forwards without falling was amazing to see. And she picked herself up each time she did fall over with admirable determination. After another fifteen minutes she was ready to let go of the penguin, and skate over (very slowly and cautiously) to me.

"I'm doing it, I'm doing it!" She was thrilled and so was I. And it meant I got to skate off in the big rink for a few moments (badly and without the grace of many of the other skaters, but I was doing it, I was doing it, too!)

The museum was fantastic. How scary is that T-rex model? I struggled to explain volcanoes to Gertie, but she quite liked that exhibit anyway. Her favourite thing was the wave-machine. I think that might be on next year's Christmas list to Santa, which could cause problems. Daddy was in his element in 'Creepy Crawlies'. I can't wait to do it all again when Gilby is a bit older.

The two of them giggled all the way home on the train, even though it was an hour past bedtime by the time we got back.

Why do I have to go back to work tomorrow? Oh yes, because we wouldn't be able to do stuff like that if I didn't, I remember now.