Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas Mysteries

Christmas is full of mystery and magic...the star, the virgin birth, the angel appearing to the shepherds, the three wise men, how Santa manages to get around the whole world in just one night (though thankfully, today, there are websites that track his progress...) but in our house, one major mystery remained unsolved this Christmas.  What exactly happened to the Christmas tree lights? 

In mid December Daddy was sent to the loft to retrieve all Christmas decorations (a job he secretly loves, though pretends to hate.  I have to believe this.)  The tree went up; favourite decorations appeared.  Joy came to the household. 

Except that...there were no fairy lights.  I know I packed them up carefully last year. What on earth could have happened to them?  Daddy was sent to the loft again to double-check that there wasn't a single box remaining...(see, I told you he really liked it up there).  Alas, no lights. 

We decided that the Christmas tree really did need them, and also, when we invested in new ones, that things really had moved on in the fairy-light-world since our last purchase. 

I was also delighted to discover that I had evidently done diligent January-sale Christmas card buying, and that I had even bought one or two Christmasy books and a few odd little bits and pieces that would make lovely presents for our neighbours' children - go me. 

There was a lovely little pack of toy cars - they'd be brilliant for Eddie.  I wrapped them up.  The big day came.  I have found that it arrives whether you are ready or not.  Usually I am not.  But this year, I was in control (ish).  Christmas morning brought shrieks of delight, just as it should, and we let baby Eddie sleep in whilst the 'big' kids opened their pressies.  They then took great pleasure in opening the gifts in his stocking on his behalf. 

So...try explaining why Santa had given Eddie the gift of a set of Christmas tree lights masquerading as a trio of cars.  Yep.  Mystery solved.

Happy new year!

P.S. Best Christmas telly?  Louis Smith's showdance on Strictly Come Dancing!

Monday, 17 December 2012

On Supersonic Lambs and Limbs

Last week was overtaken by Gertie's school play.  It was a production of The Supersonic Lamb. For anyone unfamiliar with this nativity variation, it is a moral tale: the story of a fast-running sheep who wanted to be the first to get to Jesus. 

Anyway, only the Year 2 children got to have speaking parts, so Gertie was out of the running, (so to speak) but she performed her role in the choir with gusto, dressed as a shepherd.

There was an impressive array of tea-towels on display, on heads.  Who knew there was such variety?

But the real star of the show was Eddie, who chose the final performance of The Supersonic Lamb as the occasion on which to unleash his clapping on the world.  Now Eddie has been a little...reluctant to do most of the things that babies his age are supposed to do, so the fact that he suddenly began applauding with great enthusiasm after each song in the show turned him into the start.  Never mind that parents were straining to hear what their loved ones were saying for their 15 seconds of fame, my baby was clapping!

He has also in the last fortnight begun to 'stand' (whilst gripping on to something shoulder-height for dear life).  But it is standing, nevertheless, and of his own volition.  Crawling is still more reminiscent of a wounded soldier dragging himself through mud, but....come on those supersonic limbs!  We'll soon have you outrunning that supersonic lamb...

Lady Visa returns to Austria for Christmas on Wednesday.  Not entirely sure how we will cope. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Lunar Lunacy

This morning Gilby jumped on us in bed.  Of course, it was Saturday morning, so we get woken up extra early, because the laws of having children say that on days when you are able to have a lie in you actually get woken up at least an hour before you usually do.  Everyone knows that.  But this morning, he was excited to tell us about his dream. He dreamt that he was a grown up.  (How exciting is that when you are three?) And he was a spaceman.  Every boy's dream, no?  And not only that, but when he went up into space he baked cakes

So I am thinking that we will have the first lunar celebrity chef when he grows up; hooray! Move over Jamie Oliver, there is a new niche in the market.

The other good news is that our new au pair has arrived from Austria.  Let's call her Lady Visa.  Very efficient with the children, perfect in fact.  And they love her. But - vehicles seem not to be her friend.  She has been here for a week and a half, and so far she has managed to obtain a parking ticket in Guildford, and had to call out whatever the Austrian equivalent of the AA is to tow her out, since she got Rooney stuck in the mud at some lovely rural spot that she stopped to admire the view at. (Rooney because the car is maroon, not after the England striker; I'm bored of having to explain that.) And she missed the last train home from London, resulting in a midnight dash for my husband to collect her from the next station.  Still.  She seems to settling in well, just as long as transport isn't involved.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Jeans Blues

I have, this morning, much to my surprise, managed to squeeze myself into a pair of pre-Gertie jeans. 

I have therefore disproved the well-known (to myself) proverb that you can't teach old jeans a new body, and though they no longer make the most comfortable outfit, and I shan't be sporting a cropped top with them, there is something deeply satisfying about the achievement. 

The joy this brings is marred somewhat by the realisation that they are probably eight to ten years past their fashion-date, being rather more on the flared side of bootcut, and of an indigo that hasn't been seen on the high street in a while.  Sod it.  I'm wearing them anyway.

This is a post that won't be receiving a pictorial accompaniment...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Gunpowder, Treason and Plop!

We were getting ready to go to the fireworks on Saturday night.  This was actually our second fireworks display in the name of Bonfire Night this year, which I know seems a little excessive.

But the first was an unmitigated disaster. It took place at the local cricket ground, and we were doing our best to enjoy the fair rides in spite of the pouring rain, when the display began.  Daddy saw just the first few sparks before Gertie began screaming with terror.  Gilby, shocked by the dramatic reaction in his older sister decided that fireworks must therefore be the scariest thing on the planet, and he went off like a rocket.  Eddy wasn't particularly impressed either.  Daddy bustled them all into the home team dressing room, to wait it out like an air raid.

I decided that it would be better if I didn't hang about inside the men's changing room, so made the most of being able to watch the fireworks.  Spectacular though they were it wasn't quite the same without my family. At least I got to see something, unlike poor Daddy who came home muttering about the extortionate cost of the tickets.  The evening was gunpowder, treason and flop; a damp squib, so to speak.

So it was with a carefully orchestrated Plan B that we were heading off to the in-laws who live on the village green opposite the field of the display.  Grumps would stay at home with them, whilst Daddy and I and Eddy could saunter over and enjoy the display.  Hooray!  Except that there was another unfortunate damp start to the evening.

I was in the bathroom, putting the finishing touches to my make-up.  Tricky these days, since I barely remember how to apply it.  In my haste, I dropped my mascara wand.  Straight into Gilby's freshly-filled potty, with a resounding 'plop'.  It was, uncharacteristically, for me, an expensive brand, as it had been a birthday gift.  I felt like creating a tantrum to rival Gilby's, but managed to reign myself in: I only had myself to blame for lax potty-emptying. It's fair to say that I wasn't in the best of moods as I left the house.

Thankfully, the fireworks were brilliant.  And I preferred the cheap old mascara, anyway. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Little Things

I went on a cake-decorating course for the first time yesterday.  Not really the type of thing I ususally do.  My husband is king of the kitchen, so I make only the occasional foray into the world of baking, usually just around the time of the little people's birthdays, and then I ususally make it up as I go along, often to the great amusement of my husband.   So the cake-decorating course was probably more about having a few hours to myself and doing something new. 

But thanks to a great teacher and lots of expensive cake-decorating toys, the results were astounding.  Look, I even made the roses!  By the time I was on my way home, (driving at 20 miles an hour to preserve my precious cupcake cargo) Gertie was due at a birthday party and Daddy had taken everyone with him, so I had a few more unexpected hours on my own.

Joy of joys - this meant that I could tidy the house whilst no-one was there to mess it up as I went along, (and admire the greatness of my cup-cakes in solitude).  Such peace.  I even read the paper.  It's the little things.

So for a little while I could pretend that I was one of those cupcake mums who has a tidy house and is in control of everything.  Calm down: I said, 'for a little while'.  By 4.30pm everyone was home, chaos ensued and the cupcakes were demolished in a hundredth of the time it had taken to create them. 

And we discovered that Gertie had head-lice...resulting in a mad dash to the chemist and the destruction of my smug, 'I-can-do-this-motherhood-lark' feeling.  See - it's the little things.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

On Growing and Throwing

Much of this blog is devoted to exploring and recording the little moments in the lives of my children that mark their growing up, but it occurs to me that it is simultaneously about me growing up too.  A mortgage, marriage and proper job should all have been outward signs of that, but of course I felt that I was just playing at it most of the time.  Still do, in fact.

But a definite sign of being grown up comes in the news that (and you need to hold the front page here) we have finally bought a new mattress for our bed.  Prompted by an aching neck and back (other signs of growing up, or at least growing old...) and a mere twelve years on from our last one (which came with the bed itself and was probably not top of the range, given our financial state at the turn of the millenium). What a transformation this has made to our lives.  I would never have believed it.  Goodbye giant lumpy old paillasse, hello orthopaedic mattress, and with it the forgotten joy of actually sleeping through!  (Something we celebrated in each of our children, but forgot to notice that we were not doing.)  The delight of waking up feeling vaguely rested.  The ecstacy of not being catapulted towards the ceiling because one of us turns over in the night...  I could go on, but suffice to say after four nights it has been worth every penny.

Speaking of catapults, Eddie is developing a powerful throwing arm, much to the delight of his cricket-loving father.  This does not, however, make for easy mealtimes, since I now have to recover crusts, bits of banana and any other unwanted food from much further afield than I did before.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Very Surprising Kinder Surprise

Yesterday we celebrated Eddie's first birthday.  All went well, (you can invite the grown-ups you like to a one-year old's party, as opposed to other children you don't, as they get older) apart from the fact that Eddie ate so much cake that he made himself sick.  But I suppose you should be able to do that at your own birthday party.

Atthe end Gilby was given the very important job of handing out Kinder Surprise eggs to all the children.  I had carefully calculated to allow at least two or three extra, so that Gertie and Gilby could have one too. 

Shortly afterwards, Gilby came running up to me clutching two little yellow 'surprise' pods and looking mightily pleased with himself.

"Look, Mummy, I have two!"

"Yes, I can see that.  And how, exactly, did you manage to get two?"

"They were there together inside my chocolate egg!"

I didn't bother to talk him through the impossibility of that explanation.

His first deception!  Aaaghh!  And not even a very clever one.  He will need to learn better spacial awareness if he is going to get away with those sort of fibs in future...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Welly Rack

This is the latest installation at our house:

My twenty-year old self would have mocked such symbols blatently promoting domesticity. Nearly two decades later I find it strangely comforting: suggesting order from chaos and dog-walking and safely splashing in muddy puddles.

Actually, I think it just makes me feel grown-up...

Monday, 17 September 2012

New Term, New Life

I have been somewhat neglectful of this blog of late: a combination of the start of a hectic new term and managing the fallout from the GCSE English debacle, with family illness and well, stuff: The general chaos of life, the universe and everything. But that general chaos has just increased exponentially.

We 'borrowed' a broody hen sitting on eggs from friends who really didn't want any more chickens - whilst we could do with a couple more; plus we thought the kids would like to see baby chicks growing up. We had a mild panic when we discovered that 'the black one' (our friends are not so keen on naming all their animals as we are, probably sensibly) was in fact sitting on fourteen eggs and not the four or five that they had thought. But somehow it all went according to plan: just two little babies were born about ten days ago - one black and one yellow, both monstrously cute. So all good.

But about three weeks ago, Arabella, our little black rabbit escaped. She was only in the garden and we kept catching glimpses of her, but we didn't catch her for a couple of nights. So today, I came home from work to Gertie enthusiastically telling me that Bella had two babies.
Well, I knew that was impossible as she lives all alone and always has done, but then I remembered those two wild nights out. In fact, Gertie was wrong. Bella hadn't had two babies. She'd had seven of them!

Half wild rabbit, anyone?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I Wish I'd Never Asked...

Earlier today, Gertie and Gilbert were gallumphing around the kitchen on either end of the feather duster.
"What are you doing?" I was foolish enough to ask.
"We're playing the willy game!" came the reply in unison.
Right...I don't think I even want to know the rules.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Restless Pillow

Sleep has become a problem in our house.  Gilby's very much in the Virginia Woolf frame of mind in relation to bedtime, seeing sleep as 'that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life' though of course he doesn't express it quite so articulately.  Here are his top five reasons for not going to bed.

  1. "I'm not tired."  This one is particularly favoured after a long, busy day of lots of physical exercise and will be accompanied by enough tears, tantrums and general misbehaviour so as to suggest that 'tired' is exactly what he is.  This is my favourite since it usually means that he'll be snoring inside ten minutes.
  2. "I don't like rooms."  This one's a bit trickier.  We moved him from his own room into sharing with his big sister a few weeks ago, because it began as "I don't like my room". When he persists with this one I usually offer the garden or the shed as alternatives.
  3. "My duvet's not on straight."  There's enough OCD in this household to ensure that a not-straight duvet is extremely problematic for getting off to sleep.  Much fuss and smoothing over.  Calmly. Easier said than done.
  4. ""There are people walking round and they're talking about trying to get me."  This one makes my heart hurt as I remember my own irrational night terrors.  It requires cuddles and headstroking and the promise of leaving the door open.
  5. "There are monsters in here." As for 4.

Good night.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Pushing the Boundaries (or not)

I have self-diagnosed a severe case of bad parenting.  I have one 'ailing' baby at the boundaries of the weight chart, one explosive three year old in reference to whom the phrase, 'pushing the boundaries' can only be used as a polite euphemism, and an angelic eldest child who wouldn't know how to push a boundary if it bit her.

Gilby's behaviour is deteriorating exponentially, if that is possible.  Added to the tantrums (now indescribable) is the refusal to sleep alone, or, in fact, go to bed at all.  This then impinges on 'grown-up' time in the evenings, which is an absolute requirement for maintaining sanity.  If you see me on the front pages of the County Times on a murder charge, you'll know instantly that I am guilty.  I could cheerfully throttle him fifty times a day.  (Rhymes with a book I'm reading...)

At the other end of the spectrum is Gertie.  We went shopping in the village the other day and she wanted to bring her bike (stabilisers on, of course).  She was very good at sticking to the designated areas whilst I went into each shop.  My careful boundaries, "So - you can cycle round between here and here but not go up to the road, Ok?"  were met with an obedient, "Yes, Mummy."

Peering over the counter at the post office to check that she was in the right place, I noticed that she had confined herself to a thin sliver of pavement and was riding up and down on that, even though I'd offered the whole of the pedestrian end of the precinct.

"What was wrong with over there?" I joked, as I came out.  She pointed to the blue plastic National Lottery pointy-finger by the window. 

"But Mummy, the sign said, 'play here', so I did."

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Olympic Champions

Yesterday was our day at the Olympics, and the children were the champions.

I had been so excited eighteen months or so ago, when we made our first application for Olympic tickets, only to be disappointed in both the first and second rounds of the ballot.  Having been initially determined to ensure that all three children had experience of London 2012 (trying to buy tickets for Eddie even before he was born), I rather lost interest having been through what seemed to entirely unfair a system.  Anything that there did seem to be tickets left for after that wasn't being offered at the Young Person's price, and the difference between £5, £3 and £1 for Gertie, Gilby and Eddie and the full price for, say, the 69kg weightlifting class, exciting though it undoubtedly was, at £50 a pop simply couldn't be justified.

I'd all but given hope of getting anything, but when tickets went on general sale I managed to secure some seats at Wembley for a Group B football match.

Imagine our...delight...when we discovered some months ago that the Group B match would be Gabon v Korea (whilst Team GB were busy playing in Cardiff).

No matter: an Olympic event it was, and off we went.

Well, Boris and Seb, I have to say that London looked shiny and fantastic, and more than that, it worked.  What I mean is that all public transport ran smoothly, the Olympic decorations and signs everywhere looked great and were highly effective, and all the volunteers we spoke to (and with our three children and a heavily laden buggy trying to negotiate across London we had to speak to quite a few) were engaging, friendly and extremely helpful.

You weren't supposed to bring a bag or a buggy to the football.  Right.  Explain to me how were supposed to negotiate that, exactly.  But in the end it was all fine, and much fun was had by all at the 0-0 game. Gertie particularly enjoyed the frequent Mexican waves. I was totally impressed on my first visit to the new Wembley and my first international football game. Korea qualified from the group and will play Team GB next.

Two things marred our day: The first was how long it took to get out of Wembley and back into London.  (About two hours.  We were at the back of the 77,924 people who had attended the game as we had to go and collect the forbidden buggy from the pram park.)

The second was the fact that our tickets did not get us in or indeed anywhere near Olympic Park itself. What a shame, though we did try.

We fell home, exhausted at about 11.15pm, with two out of three children still going strong.  Only the baby had fallen asleep at about 9pm.  They were all absolutely impeccably behaved, all day long, in spite of much travelling, walking, tube and escalator negotiation.  Gold medals for my little Olympic champions.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Birthdays Abroad and Overheating Kayaks

We were getting ready to head off on our now annual trip to the south of France. I used to think it was a terrible waste of the world to return to the same place year after year; now I find a reassuring comfort in the familiar. This is our third visit.

“Mummy, you look Hanson!” cried Gilby in the morning, and all I could think was “Mmmbop…” Did I have floppy blond hair and look about twelve, suddenly? No, it was merely Gilby’s rapidly expanding vocabulary getting the better of him as it often does. Well, he was going to be three whilst we were away, but we took the decision to ‘save’ the birthday celebrations until our return. I feel a need to justify this decision: his presents were big (like soccer goal nets) and I didn’t fancy spending time baking and icing a cake in the heat of the sun. All the adults agreed to the conspiracy; how would he ever know?

I finished the last day of school and Daddy was waiting in the car park, Alice Cooper blaring from the stereo: School’s out for summer…car packed up with cases and kids, and a grandmother and a niece. Tremendously exciting, and by early evening we were in Lille.

The long trek down through France took the whole of the next day, and was relatively peaceful, aside from the moment when Gilby complained that his crisps had 'gone quiet' but his bread was 'noisy', which are the best eupehmisms for 'stale' I have heard.  Later, Nano calmly asked whether we had a change of skirt for Gertie.
“Only in the roof box…”
“No problem, only she’s just sneezed Babybel all over herself,” Nano went on to explain cheerfully. We arrived mostly in one piece, if a little cheese-sneezed.

A glorious week consisted of fabulous weather, delicious food, too much rose wine, daily water volleyball tournaments and plenty of other pool antics.

Grumps was at his best, or worst, depending on how you view it. We’d finished our main course of ‘chicken au Cabrieres’, and had just got to cheese. Excitedly, we planned our trip to kayak under the Pont du Gard the following morning. “They tried puttingheaters in those, you know,” he began, conversationally. “But they all started to explode.” The rest of us looked at him, bemused. “Which just goes to show that you can’t have your kayak and heat it, really.”

Gilby’s ‘birthday’ passed without incident. Sadly, the terrible twos didn’t end, but I consoled myself with the thought that it was simply that he didn’t yet know he was three. And we’d have got away with the harmless deception, too, if only the passport control officer hadn’t wished on our way back through the tunnel with the parting words, “Where’s Gilbert? Ah, there you are. Happy birthday for yesterday, young man!”

Pass the rose...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Bird in the Hand...

This morning it was my turn to walk the dog. (I say 'turn', which suggests that we alternate in an equal sharing of responsibility. In practice it usually works in a weekly ratio of about 1:6, so more often than not, it is my 'turn'. Never mind, I like it.)

Since we are 'not far from the madding crowd', I feel a quotation from Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd is apt to illustrate this story. It describes Fanny Robin trying to fling a lump of snow at the correct window of the barracks to catch the attention of her lover, Sergeant Troy:

'...a morsel of snow flew across the river towards the fifth window. It smacked against the wall at a point several yards from its mark. The throw was the idea of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman. No man who had ever seen bird, rabbit, or squirrel in his childhood, could possibly have thrown with such utter imbecility as was shown here.'

Far from accusing dear Thomas Hardy of blatant sexism, I am, on this occasion, forced to agree with him in relation to the quality of my own throwing ability. A fact which has not gone unnoticed (or indeed uncommented on) by my cricket-playing husband. So, for Christmas last year, said husband bought me a strange apparatus known as a 'ballflinger' which, with the aid of a flexible plastic arm enables the user to perform a throw, the resulting arc and distance of which James Anderson would be proud. This is very useful for tiring out a big dog on short walks.

This morning I employed the ball-flinger and several retrievals of the ball were made by our retriever. She is always very good at finding the ball, but occasionally reluctant to relinquish it. I have to coax it from her, or drag it forcibly from her mouth. But it was about the fourth go that I got a little more than I bargained for. She took a little while longer than usual to locate the ball, but then came bounding back with her usual enthusiasm. The tail wag and playful pounce alerted me to the fact that she was unlikely to let the ball go easily, so I reached down ready for slimy tennis ball....and got a handful of...dead bird. Definitely not worth two in the bush, I can tell you.

Thanks, Kempy.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Wonders of Wimbledon

Gertie loves Wimbledon, for two reasons as far as I can see.

I try to watch as much tennis as possible during the tournament (on television, of course - haven't made it to the championships since children arrived on the scene) and so for Gertie it means time spent with Mummy cheering on Andy Murray. There's a sort of osmosis happening here, because she likes the things that Mummy likes. (I know that will not last, so I'm just enjoying it while it does.) More importantly, though, for Gertie, it sometimes means late nights, staying up past bedtime, and it often means strawberries and ice-cream in front of the televison. Two treats that happen rarely at other times of the year.

Gertie enjoyed seeing Serena Williams win this afternoon, (though her delight was in how many people she cuddled at the end and the size of the plate, more than in the performance itself) and was fascinated to hear that this was Serena's fifth Wimbledon title.

Whilst her enthusiasm doesn't quite match that of her mother's, Gertie's very much looking forward to tomorrow and seems excited that Murray is in the final.

"So how many times has Andy Murray won it before?" she asked, conversationally, as Serena did her post-match interview.
"He hasn't."
"Oh. So he's not very good, then?"

I started explaining how difficult it was to win Wimbledon and then gave up, bowing down to the logic and clarity of the five-year-old mind. Just hoping that tomorrow changes that mind, though.

And, speaking of changed minds: after my last post about the excitement of Eddie putting on weight, it seems that the health visitor made a mistake with the scales and he hasn't jumped up onto the chart at all. I'm sure there's a full blog post hidden in there somewhere, but at the moment I'm too angry to think about it.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Over the Moon (But No Cows Jumping)

For a long time now Eddy hasn't been growing very well.  He was a big baby at birth (9lb 10oz) but at the age of about seven weeks his growth seemed to tail off.  I wasn't too worried.  He had begun to sleep through the night (not fair, I know, but Gilby took over two years to perform this feat, so I feel like I've done my time).  The health-visitor was not impressed and suggested that I wake Eddy up to feed him in the night.  "But he sleeps through!  Why would you want to wake a sleeping baby?" I protested. 

"Perhaps he's too weak to wake himself up?" she suggested.

I nearly exploded with indignation.  Eddy, of the three, is by far my happiest, smiliest, most contented baby.  There couldn't possibly be anything wrong with him.

Aged 12 weeks

By about ten weeks, the health professionals were suggesting that I give him formula.  "But I have plenty of milk! He feeds very well. Isn't it good to breastfeed your baby?  It worked for the other two..."

Of course, I knew better, and ignored this advice until it was time to return to work and I needed to give Eddy formula.  As he began weaning he displayed a very healthy appetite, and never rejected a single food, often demanding 'seconds' right from six months.  Nothing wrong there, then.  Except that he continued to show poor weight gain until he dropped off the bottom of the chart.  He also didn't seem to want to sit up.  In an effort to get as much fat as possible into his diet, I frantically grated cheese into every meal I prepared for him.

Eventually we were referred to a consultant paediatrician.  I had to concede that there was a problem.  Various tests ensued.  None of which we have had the results for as yet.  Suddenly it all got a little bit scary. 

The consultant suggested that we eliminate dairy products entirely from Eddy's diet for 6-8 weeks, in spite of establishing that he never seemed uncomfortable after meal times, or displayed any of the classic symptoms of having a cow's milk allergy.  So we have a prescription formula free from cow's milk, and all dairy has gone from his diet.  No more manic cheese-grating.

Three weeks in and Eddy has jumped a percentile on the weight charts.  When I say 'jumped a percentile' what I actually mean is that he now registers somewhere on the chart instead of hovering below it in the blank space of nothingness.  He has also, aged eight months, learned how to sit unaided. 

Could it really be as simple as that?  We won't know for sure for a little while longer, but, fingers crossed!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

As Easy as ABC

Gilby has been getting a little fed up with his big sister's reading prowess of late. She has taken over the reading of the bedtime story, to all intents and purposes and is decidedly 'showy-offy' about her abilities, using a really patronising tone to explain which episode of Little Bear they are watching as she reads the credit sequence. Her little brother is not allowed to be the teacher when they play schools as her superior knowledge means that Gertie herself must always play this part.

Gilby, three next month and entirely filled with his own sense of self-importance, (deservedly, as he points out that he can now climb by himself up into his car seat) has decided to take matters into his own hands.

He has begun to earnestly 'write his name' on his drawings as Gertie does. And, although a close inspection will reveal that this is nothing more than a series of zig-zagged lines, we all have to agree that it does, indeed, spell 'Gilby'.

And earlier this week he picked out all the Oxford Reading Tree Stage One books into a big pile, brought them to me and demanded that I teach him to read right there and then. He folded his arms determinedly in a 'bring it on' stance and prepared to do battle with the books. Since he knows all the characters and all the stories inside out, he was able to sound convincing from memory quite quickly and then sat back when he had 'read' a couple, completely satisified with his own literacy progress.

If only it were that simple...

Friday, 15 June 2012

Send in the Clowns, Carefully

Like most families, we spent half term coming up with ever-more creative ways to have fun whilst avoiding the rain. We saw the stage version of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and marvelled at how they had managed to turn 5 minutes of story-line into an hour-long show. (We have been doing tiger-aerobics ever since.) We had lots of friends round to play, and that kept Mummy very busy with the huge amount of tidying-up it seems to generate. We went to Fishers Farm Park a couple of times and monopolised the indoor play-areas. But the big success, and the one that has given me new insight into my daughter's character, was our visit to the circus.

Max Beecher, the impossibly bendy contortionist of 2009 Britain's Got Talent fame, was the star turn. His first act involved him appearing as 'Max, the swash-buckling pirate' and performing balancing feats on an ever-more precariously arranged tower of chairs. He tried to garner the support of the audience, miming the idea of placing a chair even higher for dramatic effect.

"Yes, yes, yes!" chorus dozens of gleeful children.
"No!" shouts Gertie, loudly. "You might fall."

Christie-Jane, performing on the 'silk tissues' high up in the big top, was the next act. Gasps of delight at each carefully choreographed somersault or stretch went round the ring. "How on earth is she going to get down from there?" was Gertie's serious interpretation.

Looking a little anxious?

The clowns were just about acceptable, though Gertie found one or two moments to pause and frown at moments of perceived danger whilst her peers giggled on.

She was very good at comforting her younger brother who burst into tears at the sound of cracking whips in another act, looking at me reprovingly over her shoulder as she cuddled him.

A future health and safety officer, perhaps?

Friday, 8 June 2012

No Smiles

My daughter told me that this week that she couldn't be loved very much because her name didn't have a smile in it! I asked her what on earth she meant. She explained that when you said Mumm-y or Daddy-y or Gilb-y or Edd-y you had to make the shape of a smile with your mouth. When you said Gertrude you didn't. Simple. No one loved her because her name doesn't smile.

I certainly wasn't smiling at Gilby's new game. He has a fascination with rubbing sun cream in - to himself and to everyone else. His favourite thing is to do it with real suncream, but alas there hasn't been a great deal of opportunity over the last few rain-soaked weeks. So he just pretends. I noticed however, that it was really feeling 'moist' as he was rubbing imaginary suncream in to my legs. I looked down to check that he hadn't, in fact, got hold of some expensive facecream from the bathroom. (Not that I own such stuff anymore, should my husband be reading this.)

But no, it was much, much worse than that. He had tried to make the suncream experience as 'real' as possible by using his own spit. Delightful. He couldn't understand why I didn't want him to 'do' my face...

Thursday, 31 May 2012

In the Beginning was the Word

Gertie loves reading.  She has whizzed through the Oxford Reading Tree stages with remarkable speed and fluency through her reception year.  No bad thing, since I have had more than enough of Biff and Chip and that magic key beginning to glow.  But she is certainly a voracious reader, if such a thing can be said of one who has just turned five.  

For the last year or so we have been doing a book at bedtime.  Daddy does the bedtime story with Gertie and Gilby together whilst I am feeding Eddie.  But then, once all the goodnight kisses have been done, I sneak back into Gertie's room and we have a chapter or two of a grown up book.  I say 'grown up'; I mean things like Roald Dahl, Anne Fine or The Worst Witch.  Roald Dahl is the biggest hit.  We have worked our way through The Magic Finger, The Twits, Fantastic Mr Fox, George's Marvellous Medicine and James and the Giant Peach.  We are part of the way through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Gertie's engagement with the story is utterly magical to witness.  At this point I should probably give a spoiler alert as I discuss some of the narrative devices in the novel!

We reached the chapters after we have met all the horrible winning children, where Charlie longs to get the final golden ticket.  As each Wonka bar was consumed without golden ticket success, she got more upset. Her disappointment on his birthday was palpable.  Her confident prediction that Charlie would surely get the golden ticket when he first found the fifty-pence-piece was quickly shattered, then met with disbelief.

The delayed climax of the night of the winning chapter coincided with an evening when Daddy was home late, so we swapped roles: me doing the official bedtime story with the boys as well, then Daddy stepping in for the secret bedtime read.  So I missed the actual moment.  But I could hear Gertie's shouting, fist-clenching victory salute from downstairs.  Her joy when he finally does triumph was unparalleled.  She just had to share it with someone! 

I was summoned upstairs for some important news with a little wink from Daddy.  There was a great solemnity as Gertie called me in, but she couldn't stop the excitement from bubbling in to her little voice as she broke the news to me. 

I'll cherish the moment forever: the absolute enchantment of reading.  I am delighted she has discovered it so young.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Dressing Down

Gertie was keen to dress herself from before the age of two. She needed no encouragement, and certainly no help, thank you very much. This has continued through to the dizzy heights of being five. And dress herself she does, though these days she manages to get far fewer items back to front or inside out. My sister, based on the South coast, will often comment on 'how very Brighton' Gertie looks; a euphemism for..well, slightly eccentric, I suppose.

Gilby, soon to be three years old, has no such pretensions. The most he claims to be able to dress or undress is to remove his socks, with much huff and puff and fuss, just prior to his bath. Everything else must be done for him. Indeed, when I have forced him to dress himself just to make a point, he has made one back by making the process so painful and unproductive (usually involving two limbs down same leg-hole of his trousers, and I deliberately say 'limbs' because I don't necessarily mean legs) that I am forced to intervene.

Strange, then, how the arrival of the paddling pool in the garden today saw him whip his clothes off in a jiffy, no problem at all. He was also, curiously, able to don them again whilst I wasn't looking. I will remind him of this miraculous feat tomorrow morning, though I have a sneaking suspicion he will play helpless once more.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Scars, Tantrums and Banishment

Oh.  We are recovering from a row. This is a BAD THING. And I am still nursing the scars from a bouncy-castle related drinking injury at Gertie's birthday party, so feeling doubly wounded.

Have I mentioned recently how 'difficult' Gilby is?  On a scale of one to ten he currently sits somewhere around 'hellish'.  Temper tantrums, an unhealthy preoccupation with the word, 'no', an inability to carry out a task without being distracted by a toy: Eating, dressing, teeth-brushing, putting on shoes...the list of potential clash-points before we have even left the house in the morning is quite...exhaustive.  Sorry: exhausting.

This morning's flashpoint occured in the bathroom.  I have a three strikes rule.  I say 'rule', I suppose it simply reflects the limited amount of patience I possess. Once I have politely requested a course of action twice, I really can't be doing with a third time. So - to cut a tedious story slightly shorter,  I ended up forcibly brushing his teeth for him and then banishing Gilby to his bedroom to calm down.

I went back in to see if he was ready for 'deep breaths and a cuddle' but, no, it was too soon for that.
So, I returned to getting myself ready.  I mostly remember to brush my hair these days, and occasionally find some lipstick to apply badly. It was at this point that Daddy knocked on Gilby's door.  Met with a gruff, "Go away!" he responded with, "Don't worry, Gilby, it's only Daddy."  Don't worry?  DON'T WORRY?  Oh, I see, it's not evil Mummy, it's only Daddy."  Well, I'm afraid I momenarily became 'evil Mummy' until Daddy retracted his statement.  Oh dear.  Was I over-reacting?

And then Gertie decided, inexplicably at that moment, to point out that she hadn't, in fact, had any of her own birthday cake at her party. The cake that I had lovingly laboured over just for her...  It didn't really do a great deal to lower the emotional intensity of the moment.

And all this by 8am, before my day's work has supposedly begun.

Things got better though, and finished this evening with a glass of wine in the garden in glorious evening sunshine. The healing power of sun and only the bouncy-castle scars remain.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Five Years, Five Cakes

Hard to believe that my little girl is five years old. I still haven't quite got used to seeing her in her school uniform, all grown up.  But here is the cake to prove it. Slightly trickier than the 'number one' I made for her first birthday and didn't go far between the 25 kids who came to her party on Sunday, but I was pleased with the finished result.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Lies, Damn Lies and Children's Honesty

We were all snuggled up in bed having a cosy morning cuddle a few mornings ago.

I say 'cosy', but there was much wriggling by Gilby and vehement protestation that there wasn't enough room for him as he clambered over and under tangled legs and duvet. Five is not an entirely comfortable number for an ordinary double bed, it has to be said. But I had my arm around Gertie who had secured the coveted 'space between mummy and daddy' spot.  The nearly-peaceful family moment, however, was but fleeting.

"Mummy, you lied," accused Gertie.  I was alarmed.  Honesty is something I have tried hard to instill in my children.

"What on earth do you mean?"

"You lied.  You said that after Eddie was born your tummy would go flat again.  It hasn't, really, has it?"

"Um, not quite, no." My fixed grin only partially disguised the gritted teeth.

"So why aren't you thin like Daddy and me?"

Good question. Because I've bloody well had three of you, perhaps?  Of course that is not what I said.  "Soon, darling, soon," I whispered, vowing to start the diet any day now.  Oh dear.  Was that another lie?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Ice Cream, Dad Screams and Bees Stink

With a two year old, inevitably a large proportion of conversation concerns 'poo'.  It crops up everywhere, so to speak.  For example, I might say, "What would you like for dinner?"  "Poo!" might come the unprompted (and undesired) response. I try to ignore it and not make a fuss, hoping that it is a phase that will pass. 

But I was surprised by a recent conversation that went like this:

Gilby: Mummy, do you like bees?
Me: (Slightly thrown by question, but anxious not to communicate any fear of anything creepy-crawlie) Yes, of course."
Gilby: But you mustn't touch them, Mummy, must you?"
Me: (Pleased at self-preservation instinct displayed by usually accident-prone toddler) That's right, Gilby, you mustn't touch them, because they might sting.
Gilby: Yes. (Firmly)  Like poo.

I puzzled over this for a moment, before he continued, "And skunks are very smelly too, aren't they?"

Ah, so bees stink, which is why they mustn't be touched.   I have some explaining to do...  Except that there wasn't time. Because whilst I was working that out, Gilby and his sister were pretending that their ice-creams were sun-creams and had smeared them all over their faces. Which is the point at which Daddy joined in the conversation.

Daddy: (In tone of despair slightly disproportionate to situation) No, no, no, no, no, NO!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Books, Bookcases and World Book Night

I have new bookcases.

Lots of them.

Joy unparalleled.

Who knew, a decade ago, that an item of bespoke furniture, costing more than our annual holiday, was capable of giving such pleasure? Finished on Friday, they now need painting, and since they line the entire length of the dining room wall I suspect that this will not be a quick job. So I will sit amongst the piles of books and general chaos a little while longer yet. Why do towering stacks of books look stylish and trendy in magazines but manage to give my house the appearance of a landfill site?

Daddy is not convinced by the 'home improvement', particularly not the expense or being roped into the painting, so they are going to have to work hard to prove their worth.

Helping to add to the mounds of books without a home, I have been selected as a 'giver' for World Book Night: tomorrow evening as it happens. My book is The Take by Martina Cole, and I have 24 copies to give away. So I am planning a rare trip to the local to begin distribution. They each have a unique identifying number, so if 'receivers' enter into the spirit of it I will be able to track their journeys. Where will they end up? Hopefully not on a rubbish tip...

Currently Reading: A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Trials of Chicken-Keeping

We lost two of our chickens on Saturday, waking up in the morning to a vortex of dark feathers blowing around the garden: a sure sign that we had been visited by Mr Fox. Thankfully the evidence was nothing more grisly.

The children were delighted to see so many feathers (Gilby the naturalist has amassed a not-insignificant collection of feathers over his two-and-a-half-years on this earth). I didn't have the heart to explain why they were there, and have yet to make reference to the untimely demise of Gwinny and Nimue, a pair of black cochins who have been laying for about six months. They are survived by Cecily (a pretty Partridge Wyandotte bantam) who doesn't seem in the least bit bothered and is delighted to rule the roost once again.

We generally, though not exclusively, have 'Arthurian' named pets. Vivien (a Rhode Island Red stray rescued by Daddy) and Isolde (another Partridge Wyandotte), met a more dignified end last summer, dying 'peacefully' within a few days of each other.

This was in stark contrast to our first pair: Gertie (a Buff Orpington bantam) and Guinevere (our first Wyandotte). Guinevere came to a very sorry end when she was pecked to death by her 'friend' after just a few days. That was our not-so-happy introduction to smallholding, and a reminder of nature's cruelty. We took Guinevere back from whence she came (to a poultry farmer a few villages away) and swapped her for a pair of Wyandottes. One of whom is the still-surviving Cecily, but the other didn't make it through the first night, as 'something' (a stoat?) tunnelled beneath their little run and got her. We nearly didn't carry on after that.

But I do love the hens running round the garden and the eggs, of course, so we reinforced the run with concrete and chicken-wire beneath, and tried again. The black cochins were the best layers, but they unfortunately insisted on roosting in the trees above the henhouse rather than returning to the henhouse itself of an evening. There seemed to be nothing we could do about it, but we've learned our unhappy lesson and will ensure that any future birds are better trained.

RIP: Gwinny and Nimue

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Gilby the Boring and Gina the Cleaner

Today we were heading off to a birthday party late-morning, so I negotiated a 'deal' with Gertie and Gilby. They had to tidy their rooms and play 'nicely' for an hour, enabling me to get all the housework done. We could then all troop off happily to the party.

I should point out that since my return to work last month we have employed a cleaner - Gina - who is a marvel. She comes on a Wednesday and my house is beautiful for an entire evening. We usually return home late on a Wednesday because Gertie goes Irish dancing after school, so there is no chance to mess it up. Of course, by Saturday, especially in a 'holiday' week, it is its usual chaotic self again, requiring significant intervention on my part.

After briefly offering to help with the vacuuming, which he enjoys for all of about ten seconds, Gilby starting huffing unhelpfully around the place. "I am so boring," he kept repeating, clearly not realising the implications of his words. I chose not to correct him because it made me laugh.

Gertie the Good sat quietly reading in her bedroom, whilst Eddie helpfully took a nap, and all was well. We duly went off to the party, returning three hours later to an exceptionally clean and tidy house (even if I do say so myself.)

"Oh look, Mummy, Gina must have been while we were out!" observed Gertie, cheerfully, as we came through the front door.



Friday, 6 April 2012

Slinky Malinki

Slinky Malinki, for anyone unacquainted with this shady character, is a cat belonging to series of books by New Zealand author Lynley Dodd, first published in the 1990s. They employ alliteration and assonance addictively, and my children love the rhythmic quality of the stories - of whom the most well-known is probably Hairy Maclary. As well as being chased by Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinki is also a feline leading a dubious double-life, forced eventually to change his ways.

So, for World Book Day last month, Gertie chose to go to school dressed as this literary cat. I was delighted, as the costume was an awful lot simpler to create (ears on a hairband, fur-fabric tail, bit of eye-liner) than 'Mr Bump', which was her other suggestion. It also proved to be unique: she stood out from the dozen or so Cinderellas and Rapunzels in her class.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

What's Current on Currants?

I am amazed at the retail diversification prompted by the current economic climate.

Gilby comes home from nursery singing, not, "Five currant buns in the baker's shop..." but "Five caravans in the bacon shop..." He is adamant that those are the right words, though he is unable to explain quite why the proprietor of this strange establishment would wish to sprinkle sugar on the top of such wares.

Cunning old butchers branching out into the motor-home market, I say.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest

I came down the stairs this morning wearing the same dress as in this picture. (Not a good photo, I grant you, but I was nearly six months pregnant then, now I look much more svelt in it. Or so I tell myself.)

I'm slightly struggling with the working wardrobe, but this is a trusty old number. Or it was, until Gilby remarked, with an indescribable earnestness, "Oooh Mummy. I like your spiderman outfit!"

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Names You Should Never Be Called By Your Children

Gertie and Gilby have been playing schools.

Gertie dons a pair of spectacles and is transformed into the teacher. She is then able to boss her younger brother about with impunity. She enjoys taking a 'register', and it seems very important for new pupils to have a 'visit'. She sometimes enlists my help. I am usually 'Mrs Hancock', the school receptionist. At intervals I will be asked for various administrative details...starting date, forms, letters, etc. Gilby plays along well, but he has not experienced school, and certainly can't pronounce 'Mrs Hancock' with any degree of success. Both of them get very involved in the role-play. Gilbert, in particular, is preoccupied with who is who and what is what in their imaginative play-world.

At one point this week, in the midst of a 'lesson', Gertie and Gilby had a bit of a fight. Gertie came running in to the kitchen, shouting, "Mummy, mummy, Gilby's not playing nicely, he just..."

But I didn't hear what he 'just' did, because Gilby himself interrupted. "No Gertie. Mummy is not Mummy. Her is a cock."

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Gilby Dolittle

Gilby is fascinated by The Gruffalo. He would happily have that same story read to him every night, even though he knows it word for word and has fallen asleep on more than one occasion reciting the words aloud. For my own sanity I have to vary the choice of bedtime reading material. The Gruffalo's Child is second choice, not because he loves that story in the same way, but simply for the mention of the hallowed gruffalo itself.

Out walking the dog with me, or accompanying me in the car whilst driving down country lanes, Gilby will insist on searching for snake's log-pile house, fox's underground house and owl's tree-top house, because that way we might come across the gruffalo itself. These will be solemn, whispered, often urgent searches. See, I truly think he thinks that the gruffalo is real.

He definitely has something of the naturalist about him, even at two-and-a-half: he will always pick me flowers (will he still be doing that at fifteen, I wonder?), and can spend an inordinate amount of time appreciating a blade of grass. Today, for example, whilst we were at a birthday party and all the other children were busy on the treasure hunt, his 'treasure' was collecting dozens of sycamore leaves.

But I started to worry when he told me that the owls were 'talking to him' in the night. Was this a dream? I needed to get to the bottom of it. He was quite insistent about it, but wouldn't tell me what they were saying because they were talking to him. He even made the noises for me, which in fairness, were quite owl-like. It was only later when I saw collared doves fly off from roosting beneath his window that I realised it must have been their cooing he meant (not unlike the twit-twoo attributed to an owl.

So he doesn't talk to the animals, (yet), but is certainly convinced that they are communicating with him.

I wonder what that gruffalo will say, if he ever finds it.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Back in Two Ticks!

Gilby's language acquisition is such that, although he is only two, at times he sounds like he is forty-two. Here are some of his latest expressions:

"Back in two ticks!" - As he leaves the room to fetch another toy.
"Would you do me a favour?" - Usually when he wants some more milk.
"While you're tidying would you keep an eye out for..." - Any small lost thing that he is concerned about.

He seems to only need to hear an adult say something once before adopting it himself. It all sounds very funny, coming earnestly from the mouth of a still-wobbly toddler.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Will The Real Chris and Pui Please Stand Up?

My maternity leave endeth, sadly, and I really tried hard to make the most of the last few days with all the children; especially over half term. We all went to the 'Chris and Pui Roadshow', (they of Show Me Show Me CBeebies fame) which was thoroughly enjoyed by Gertie and Gilby, even if it did seem to me like an incredibly expensive way to do 'Rhyme Time' (free in the local library).

But the event has provoked much discussion about the nature of television. My usually very smart four-year-old questioned me at length about how Chris and Pui got out of the television. This followed on from her comment at the end of the show about how remarkably like 'the real' Chris and Pui they seemed. I had to explain that they were the real Chris and Pui, which engendered a high degree of incredulity for a time. Life's complicated when you're four. Gilby, at two, took it much more in his stride, though his rapt wonder during the performance was a joy to behold. If only we had been allowed to take a picture.

Also in preparation for my return to work I decided it was high time I had a haircut, in some sort of attempt to resemble a professional being once more. I have been having real problems with my hair, even considering cutting it all off in an effort to avoid troublesome tangles. I consulted my hairdresser, who pointed out that it did in fact require brushing every day; something I seemed to have neglected in the blur of raising a third child.

Full time career as well? No problem!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Go Bananas!

I go back to work next week, so perhaps leaving it until now to try Eddie on the bottle might be described as a tad underprepared. His siblings never had a problem switching to the bottle though, so I wasn't really worried.

However, ahem, it appears that Eddie is a little less amenable to the switch than they were. The first three times were 'firm' refusals. Not even polite, if I'm honest. Today there was a small breakthrough as he at least took a few gulps before clamping his mouth firmly shut.

But the bigger news is that he has had his first 'solids' (if mushed banana can be described as such). Up until now he has shown no interest, in spite of being a poor, undernourished little fellow (currently at 22 weeks barely scraping the first percentile on the dreaded charts in spite of his MASSIVE birth weight).

But lunchtime brought success. The first mouthful was a little tentative; the second came straight back out, but the third, fourth and fifth were much more successful, and the rest of the bowl couldn't come quickly enough.

"Mummy, look, banana is his favourite,' declared Gilby, watching his younger brother eat for the first time. I didn't like to point out that it was the only thing he's ever eaten, so at least for now Gilby is correct.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Things That Go Bump in The Head

Thus far we have avoided casualty.

I make this statement because I remember a friend of mine who had a little boy saying to me, when our children were about two-and-a-half, "So, how many times have you had to go to the hospital so far?" She was a regular visitor it seems, and we put our fortunate position down to the fact that we had a careful little girl. A few years later and we have our own two-and-a-half year old boy. He is certainly more accident-prone, and I regularly get the phone-call from nursery to explain in what creative and freakish manner he has managed to bump his head this time. He is also displaying some quite 'challenging' behaviour at the moment. (That is a not particularly well-disguised euphemism for 'driving me mad'.)

So I didn't really worry initially when some loud yells came from our bedroom and Gertie and Gilbert both came out crying and clutching their heads. "We bashed heads," they moaned in unison. I was busy in the bathroom with Eddie, so consoled them briefly, alongside a stern reminder about how they shouldn't be jumping on mummy and daddy's bed anyway.

But two minutes later when I went to check on why it was now so quiet, I discovered that Gilby was unconscious. I panicked. I managed to bring him round, but his eyes were rolling back in his head and he just kept saying that he wanted to 'rest'. (Unheard of from Gilby.) So I phoned Daddy and asked him to come home from work, phoned the duty doctor, phoned my mum to come and babysit whilst we whisked him down to casualty. The doctor persuaded me that there was no need, as long as he wasn't being sick and we kept an eye on him he would probably be alright. Difficult to keep an eye on him overnight, but we kept checking and all was well.

Except that when we woke up in the morning I seemed to have a different child: Polite, helpful, sweet, considerate and not throwing a tantrum. This more severe bang on the head seems to have had a strange side-effect and actually knocked some sense into him. Can it be coincidence? I wonder if I need to keep a mallet in my handbag for any future recurrences of ill-behaviour. Not entirely sure that the health visitor would approve though.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Let Them Not Eat Cake!

In preparation for Eddie's baptism, we had to go and collect the cake the day before and deliver it to the party venue. As the picture shows it was a thing of beauty, a cut above my past efforts at Mr Bump, Peppa Pig and a Fairy Toadstool. As soon as they saw it, Gertie and Gilbert were desperate to try it so I had to explain, quite forcibly, how special it was, and how we'd have to wait until it was time to cut the cake after the baptism. There would certainly not be any cake-eating before that moment I intoned sternly, pushing visions of a half-munched cake firmly from my mind.

When we arrived for the party holding a newly-Christened Eddie aloft, a lovely buffet was set with the cake as the deserved centre-piece. The children soon piled up their plates with party food. Gilby kept coming up and anxiously asking if it was 'cake-time' yet. Eventually I said that it was and he looked mightily relieved as he reached up to take the final fairy cake from a nearly empty plate.

What a lesson in noble restraint. It seems that my sermon had hit deeply. He had waited all that time, thinking that he couldn't have any cake, watching all the other children repeatedly helping themselves, desperately willing the final one not to disappear.

Friday, 3 February 2012

She's Offski!

Daddy wanted a cordless drill for Christmas. This did not sound like a romantic present at all, so I decided that a surprise family ski trip was more in order.

I’m not sure though, that planning a massive baptism party for the day before we went skiing was ideal timing. It certainly did not make for a peaceful passage from the house and there were one or two cross words on the morning of our departure. But it doesn’t matter because we have a baptised baby, a sledging Gilby and a fully skiing Gertie now, so all is good.

Tragically, we lost blankie en route, which is nothing short of a calamity and caused two major tantrums and many tears. Gertie is dealing with the trauma and loss bravely now, but it has been with her from birth, and only wrestled from her occasionally to wash so I'm not sure how this one will go. We have promised to try to locate a new one, a promise that I'm not sure we will be able to fulfill.

So our holiday had a chaotic start. But that did not detract from a magnificent trip. The mountain, Gerlitzen, is stunningly beautiful and the surrounding peaks must be good for the soul. It helps if you are taking three under-fives on a skiing trip if you have your old au pair ready and waiting to meet you; not to mention various other family members on hand to help with collecting from the airport, baby-sitting, shopping...

A decade on from my last ski trip I can report that falling over hurts more than it did. It is also more embarrassing to lose a pole and slip from a button-lift when you are approaching forty. Particularly when your four-year-old is more than capable of accomplishing the lift unaided. By day four she was actually skiing down the mountain.

I can remember years ago seeing these groups of wobbly-headed, helmet-clad little children on skis careering down the mountain at breakneck speed, hands clasping wobbly knees. Never for a moment did I dream that I'd own one of my own.

But the highlight of Gilby's trip had very little to do with the snow. He was lucky enough to meet his hero, 'Bino Bear' mascot of the ski-school on the mountain, which made for one very happy little boy.

Monday, 30 January 2012


Our baby was baptised last weekend. It was a great occasion, with so many family and friends present and a lovely party afterwards. Big sister and brother were on best behaviour, apart from a few lively moments around the font.

But for the first time, we had to undertake a 'rehearsal' with the parish priest before the day. Since this is the third time we have done it, I wonder exactly who the rehearsal was for...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The 'F' Word

Sometimes these blog posts just write themselves. No thinking or processing of ideas required when you have such a rich and ready resource available in the form of a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a four-month-old. You just need to tell it how it is. Today is one of those times. Out of the mouths of babes oft times come gems. Well, perhaps not quite a gem.

Gertie and Gilbert love playing around with language. They have their own code words and those that trigger helpless laughter. 'Pom pom', for example, is the biggest insult in the world, and what on earth is so amusing about the word, 'pie'? It can't be just its phonic proximity to 'poo', (one of the most intrinsically funny substances known to mankind) surely? Perhaps, knowing my children, it is. It certainly has the capacity to reduce my pair to uncontrollable fits of giggles.

The new focus, thanks in part I'm sure to current favourite reads, Hairy Mclary, Slinky Malinki and Zachary Quack, is to ensure that everything they say rhymes or is alliterative. To make the latter happen simply involves substituting the initial letter of words in a sentence for a single sound. Popular consonant choices are 'b' and 'd', so in the morning for breakfast we might all have Deerios in a dowl and deat them with a doon, and they're drobably derry dasty. Make sense of what you will.

I like to think that this demonstrates their creativity and willingness to explore and experiment with language.

Today's consonant choice was 'f', so the middle man kept referring to himself as 'Filbert'. That was no froblem at all. But it was in the swimming pool as his teacher handed him a duck that the fun really began.

Perhaps, on reflection, the first thoughts in response from Gilby's swimming instructor may not have been to do with creativity and experimentation.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Stop Hitting Me!

Gertie and Gilbert have invented a great new game.

They simulate punching themselves in the face Fight Club style whilst shouting, 'Stop hitting me, Mummy!' very loudly and giggling.

Now, although I came down firmly on the side of Harry in The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas' novel and recent television drama, I can state categorically that I have never hit any of my children.

So bring back Hooker-Mummy, it's a far less damaging cry.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

On Modern Chivalry

We went mob-handed to collect Gertie from school today. Usually I leave the boys in the car (happily it coincides with a good time for Gilby to have a nap, and Eddie seems just to sleep whenever he is in the car-seat; it seems a shame to disturb them...) Today, however, we arrived in plenty of time and everyone was awake. So we trundled through the school gate en masse.

Gertie was one of the first out. She usually is, having been well-trained after a whole term of dashing to a dance class or swimming with but seconds to spare. Gilby ran up to his sister, gave her a big hug and then offered to carry her lunch-box.

All the other mums cooed. "Oh, what a little gentleman!" "Isn't he adorable?!" "Look at that. What a sweet thing to do!"

They weren't to know his gluttonous ulterior motive: to be the first to get his hands on anything that might be left over .

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

New Year, New Title

First day back at school today, and a chance for me to attempt to return the house to some sort of order after the glorious chaos of the Christmas holidays. By the time I came to collect Gertie, things were ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Ish.

She had a friend round to play after school, and in their excitement they ran in, dumping coats and shoes on the floor in the kitchen. I had to trip over them whilst carrying baby in car-seat and was not best pleased, so I called them back to tidy up.

Gertie picked up both coats and handed them to me.

"That's not quite what I meant. Why don't you hang them up?"

"Because I can't reach. And anyway, you're the hooker-up of coats. Hooker-Mummy, Hooker-Mummy," she called as she ran back up the stairs.

Just hoping she doesn't remember to call me that whilst in the supermarket. I suspect it could be misinterpreted.