Thursday, 26 December 2013

8 Reasons Not To Live in a Castle

Christmas 2013 has been spent at Harburn House in West Lothian, a Georgian mansion set in 3000 acres of glorious Scottish countryside. It enabled twenty-one of us, from three generations of family, to all spend Christmas together in luxurious surroundings. All the young cousins could romp around together, and the adults could too, for that matter.

Sitting at my dressing table each morning with the four poster bed reflecting in the mirror made me feel like a character in a Jane Austen novel. Walking Kempy in such beautiful, tranquil countryside, with hills rising majestically in the distance, was dreamy.

So, before I get too carried away with the romance of the whole thing and decide that my real life is inadequate by comparison, I've decided to focus on all the reasons why I really, really wouldn't want to live in a glorious castle.

1. It is a very, very long walk to the nearest pub.

2. You get achy legs from having to keep going up and down colossal flights of stairs. Longer than four days here and I would end up with calves the size of large pheasants.

3. Hanging Christmas decorations becomes a life-threatening mission given the height of the ceilings.

4. There are so many bathrooms that choosing where to have a bath or shower becomes a major decision.

5. The drapes on one's four-poster-bed block out the light from one's bedside lamp, making night-time reading difficult.

6. There's no mobile phone signal, and fairly intermittent wifi, so it's difficult to boast about being here without constant access to social media.

7. Whatever you want is inevitably an awfully long way away from where you happen to be. On occasion I found myself three floors away from my slippers.

8. And, linked with number seven on the list, you have to shout very loudly indeed to be heard whenever you do want something.

But aside from those little niggles, it really has been a magical Christmas. Father Christmas managed to find his way here, alleviating the fears of the children. And though it didn't settle, we even had snow flurries throughout the day on Christmas Eve. I'll just try not to think too much about the journey home.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas Road Trip

'Twas the night before our departure for five days away, and I found myself ramming 'stocking' presents into a hard-structured suitcase thereby crushing carefully wrapped Barbie doll boxes and bending unbendable tubes of smarties. "You - will - go - in.." I snarl threateningly at some inanimate and hitherto unobjectionable objects, regretting it immediately amidst the sound of sinister snapping sounds and as the foot of a dinosaur protrudes menacingly from cheap wrapping paper. It is an ominous start to a long night.

At nine am the next morning, Daddy proclaims that the car is full. I look on to see, with no small measure of alarm, that so is the kitchen. Full of bags that still need to go in to the car. And it is, of course, imperative that most of it is unseen by the children.

The sideways rain doesn't help. It comes lashing at you in waves, like a giant dog in the sky shaking itself off vigorously from side to side. Daddy on a step-ladder fiddling with the things in the roof box is making absolutely no difference to the space available, but quite a lot to his life expectancy. In the wrong direction. Now we are an hour late departing. The giant dog in the car, Kempton, is quaking with fear as she is forced into the boot alongside boxes of bags and tubes and packages. And well she might, since around the first corner most of it falls on top of her. A hasty pull in to a lay by and some significant adjustments later and we are off again. There is a repeat performance round the next bend and Daddy begins muttering about more bungee cords. This will continue until the motorway. Muted swearing and some gritted-teeth conversations take place.

Gilby asks about the language that is spoken in Scotland. He translates my definition for Eddie: "Yeah, so it's English, just not spoken properly." I look at the heavy sky. It doesn't help, or offer any inspiration. That wasn't what I said, nor what I meant. I shrug.

We stop at the printers to pick up photographs that had been promised but aren't ready. I grin and say that it doesn't matter and then promptly step in a puddle outside the shop, smashing muddy water across my clothes. Exactly what is not required at the start of a four hour road trip. More swearing. It turns out that I am quite cross about the photographs in spite of what I might have suggested to the shop assistant.

One more set of Kempy-calamity-avoidance adjustments are made and then we are really off. So far it has taken forty minutes to travel sixteen miles. Now we are nearly two hours behind schedule. Gertie is wedged uncomfortably between a box of Christmas crackers and an extra large bottle of cider. She has heard the exchanges between her parents and knows better than to complain. I am starting to suspect that the cider may not make it past Watford Gap. It wouldn't do a great deal to ease the congestion in the car, which is rammed to the gunnels and has begun to resemble the old woman's house in A Squash and a Squeeze. I don't even like cider. This journey seems more likely to arrive in divorce than in Scotland. But before that destination there is visiting Grandpa Mac in Derby.

The M25 is also congested, so now we are experiencing it both outside the car and in. We come to a standstill around Heathrow. The helpful picture of an upturned car reminds us of our own good fortune in merely moving slowly rather than having been part of a crash.

The first part of the M1 is, unsurprisingly, congested. This time due to 'pedestrians on the road'. Right. I speculate about what they might be doing there. Spontaneously liberating themselves from the stress of long car journeys, perhaps. We manage to successfully dodge them and continue to wend our way. It isn't long before we are heading for 'the North'. I feel like doing a celebratory air-punch.

Eventually we arrive with Grandpa Mac. No thanks to sat nav, who has quite distinct ideas about the best way not to get us to our destination. We have a good lunch, and somehow manage to negotiate the strange requirements of Sunday carvery in far-flung lands. The beer is cheap, and there is an ice-cream machine which delights the children. Though this provides more than enough sugar for one day, Grandpa Mac appears to have bought sweets in the kind of quantities that might have sunk the Titanic should an iceberg not have been around to do the job.

The kids turn hyper.

I drink lots of wine.

And consider the silver lining: I have learned some salutary lessons about the obscene levels of materialistic consumerism to which I have sunk, namely through the recognition of my inability to stuff all this stuff into the car (and I'm not even seeing all my family over Christmas, for chrissakes!), I have discovered that the Premier Inn in Derby is like heaven after that cramped and fractious journey, and I have inadvertently compiled some material for a blog post.

Three sleeps and three hundred miles to go!

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Very Hopeless Mother

This week I have managed to miss my youngest son's nativity, practically ignore Gilby's Christmas play, and cause Gertie's grandfather to miss her performance as the very hopeless camel.

Eddie didn't take part in his play because, well, it was scheduled on a day when he wasn't in nursery and I just couldn't get him there. I console myself with the thought that I don't think he has any awareness that he was missing out on anything. He's too young to remember it.

I missed Gilby's because somewhere along the way we simply didn't find out about it. I checked his book bag to see if I had inadvertently mislaid a letter, but no, apparently it was all done by word of mouth at the school gate. Fine if you are there every day; not so good if you are one of the two full-time working mums of the class. So nobody was at his first performance during the day, and we managed to get him rushed to the second, evening performance, with seconds to spare and a breathless father somewhere at the back having dashed there early from work. There was some talk of me getting there the following night; except that it transpired that this mythical, third performance only existed in Gilby's head. He was very disappointed. Never mind. It's only his first term at school. His first ever nativity. The first time of wearing the tea-towel on his head as a shepherd...

But on the Thursday, we were far more organised for Gertie's starring role in 'The Very Hopeless Camel'. We had grandfather on board to get her there early, and had managed to secure elusive extra tickets, presumably on the basis of having been entirely hopeless and missing out on everything else thus far. It didn't quite go according to plan, though. I neglected the fact that not everyone else in the world is used to flying through the world at an unholy pace. The car journey to school - seven minutes if you really put your foot down and take the sneaky corner parking spot that most other parents wouldn't dare to, and which I have to do each Friday when I fly out of my school with ten minutes before the bell goes for the end of the day at there's - takes much longer in the dark and the rain when you are in your mid seventies and unfamiliar with the route and the idiosyncratic parking arrangements. So Grumps missed his grand-daughter harrumphing around brilliantly hopelessly.

And my new year's resolution? To slow down a little. I am going so fast that I am missing the important moments.

Currently reading: In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Imaginary Gaming

We have been determined to forestall the technological revolution in our household for as long as possible. Not because we are Luddites, but for two main reasons in relation to our children.

Firstly, there is a desire to hold off the inevitably heated debates about 'screen-time' that will ensue for as long as we possibly can. They don't have a great deal of television time but it has already increased dramatically from my original intentions. I hear close friends with older children battling and negotiating in relation to how much time is spent on the computer, and I'm not ready for it.

Secondly, there is the simple fact we can't really afford to furnish all three of them with iPads and the latest games consoles. Nor would I want to, because thirdly, aside from a brief flirtation with Chucky Egg in my very early teens, I've never had a great deal of time for computer games. (Assuming that Words with Friends doesn't count, of course.)

So. The current situation is that, very occasionally, Gertie is allowed to use my iPad for homework-related activities, and Gilby has used it twice to practice with his letters. No gaming products have crossed our threshold, yet; though I know it is only a matter of time.

They don't seem to have been drastically damaged by the absence. But. Eddie won't leave the house without his 'iPad' (a pink mirror compact - don't ask) and I have just caught the older two 'competing' on small console-sized objects from around the house. They pretend to have reached certain levels, and occasionally some victorious cry emanates, suggesting that ten-million-thousand aliens have been killed. Grrr. They are still sitting in chairs, playing at playing games. What's a parent to do?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Fluent in Dubby Dubby

Whilst Eddie's linguistic skills come on apace, Gilby's seem to be regressing.

Since starting school, he has acquired the ability to communicate in 'Dubby dubby': a nonsense language that contains a number of incomprehensible (to me, anyway) words; many of which sound remarkably like 'dubby'.

It is also important that he insult any (male) friend with a compound image involving the word, 'poo'. A conversation at the school gates might go something like this:

Gilby: Bye bye poo-poo-head.

Friend: Bye bye nicompoop-poo.

Gilby: See you tomorrow silly-poo-face.

Friend: You too, poo-poo-pop.

And they giggle and wave at each other as they depart, no sign of any animostity between them.

I always smile, uncertainly, at the inevitably middle-class looking mum whose son is the recipient of these terms of endearment, and comment on how well they seem to be getting along. They usually tend to hurry in the opposite direction.

If I suggest quietly to Gilby that it might be a good idea not to shout so loudly or indeed add the word 'poo' to everything he says, the response is very likely to be something along the lines of "Dubby, dubby, Mummy nicompoo-poo."

Eddie, in the corner quietly scribbling on my freshly-painted dresser with his fat felt-tips, might comment, "Gilby's talking nonsense again, Mummy," and my two-year-old and I will shrug together and share a moment of collective eyes raised to heaven before I throttle him for graffiti-ing the kitchen again.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Adventures in Fairy Land

Gertie has just had her second visit from the tooth fairy.

Apparently, after much research (or surreptitious playground discussion), it transpires that a first tooth is very special and is worth £2, and thereafter the going rate is £1.

The first tooth came out much later than those of all Gertie's contemporaries, so the wait was long and arduous. But when it came it provoked a relentless interrogation, Jeremy Paxman style, about the minutiae of the expected visit. I came away from the conversation sweating, wondering why we ever embarked on this elaborate fiction.

First time round, the mission to place the £2 coin was aborted twice due to stirring and loss of nerve, and the tooth itself couldn't be located. Finding a tooth under a pillow in my children's room is akin to the proverbial needle in a haystack. The detailed note to the tooth fairy was removed instead, and Gertie was delighted with the money and the tooth - bonus.

This time round, Gertie decided to make a gift to the tooth fairy, sellotaping some of her doll's house furniture to a letter. A smart dining room table and chairs, no less. The tooth was eventually found, (upon a return visit) and taken this time, but now the doll's house furniture is languishing in a shoe box.

The £1 was duly spent...on sweets. I'm not sure how the 'tooth' fairy feels about that. Tell a lie (imagine!), I know exactly how she feels: down in the mouth.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Heavenly Thoughts

Gilby, who begins school this week, is brushing his teeth as he asks, "Mum, how far away is God?"
Wow. Where to begin?
"Um. In heaven, which is a long way away."
"Further than France?" Clearly, our recent twelve-hour stint to the south is still very fresh in his mind.
"Yes, further than France..."
He spits out the water he's been rinsing with. "In that case, I don't think I'll go."

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Walking Holiday

It has been a wee while since my last post.

This is not an oversight, but as a result of my employer using a 'smart' system at school (and I do use that term very loosely) which meant that all of a sudden I was not able to access my blogger account.  Very frustrating, but a more normal lack of service should now resume.

In the meantime we have been enjoying our summer vacation to the south of France.  A selection of quick highlights will provide a taste.

It was twelve hours each way in a car. There were seven of us on the way out: the five of us, plus Nano and a niece. To while away the time we mostly enjoyed the stilted and frankly inappropriate pronunciation of French place names by the sat nav.  Destinations like "Boulevard Georges Pompidou in Troyes" made my own attempts in French sound positively fluent. We found the most amazing crumbling chateau on the outskirts of Amiens that will definitely be worth a second visit and beat last year's overnight stop in the equivalent of a Travelodge in Lille by a significant margin.

Eddie took his first steps, a month short of his second birthday.  I watched him get up and walk a good four steps across the balcony before reaching out to a folded deckchair which promptly clattered down on top of him.  We were both crying. Mine were tears of joy, his of pain and shock, for a moment that at one stage we weren't sure would ever come. He became a good 'pool guy' and enjoyed holding on to the net pole each morning, and the steps have come fast now that he is back on British soil.
Other highlights included kayaking beneath the Pont du Gard, masses of rosé, early morning lengths, Gilby turning four and inexplicably being let loose with 200 water bombs (thanks, Nano!)great clothes buying in the shops and markets at Uzes and an anniversary meal at Remoulin. Sigh. Over for another year.

The way home was memorable for the wine drinking on a foot-wide balcony of our hotel room in Troyes. I know that we will not be the first parents to have resorted to that, but we could be on for the record for the most wine consumed on the smallest balcony...

We also met a German couple at breakfast who were fascinated by Freddie's ability to talk. I pointed out that this was directly related, perhaps, to his inability to walk - and the necessity of communicating his every whim to two older siblings willing to run around doing anything he needs.

"Ahh!" said Herr with understanding. "I see. It is he who gives zee orders!"


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Dark Side of the Gloom

I've posted before about how much hard work Saturdays seem to be.  Not the relaxing weekend experience I always anticipate. 

Last weekend was Gertie's ballet show.  Gilby was his usual 'Eeyore' in the morning, claiming that he was 'shop-sick' as we gathered groceries.  I say 'Eeyore', though indeed he makes Winnie the Pooh's friend seem like the life and soul of the party.  His glass isn't just half-empty, it appears to have sprung a leak.  On this occasion, however I do him a little injustice.  We came home and he took an unprecedented day-time nap.  For two hours.  Eddie also slept, and Gertie was already at the dress rehearsal.  It was unexpectedly peaceful.  So much so that I was reluctant to wake both boys up.  I

We left for the show with not much time to spare.  Gilby got sick in the car so great clothing improvisation took place and we arrived just seconds before the performance began.  It was beautiful, but long, and I spent three hours wrestling with a one-year-old in a darkened room, which is exhausting.  He didn't seem to want to sit still and watch the ballet for some reason.

We left to be greeted by a flat-tyre on the car.  Yes, Cheryl had let us down.  Let herself down.  Well, let her tyre down, anyway.  Balls.  Hungry children.  Very late.  Call Daddy and head for the Harvester.  We stayed the night with the grandparents and my string of pearls broke at the supper table, cascading across the dining room. 

Bed was a blissful release, I'd had enough of Saturday.  Ah, perhaps that's where Gilby gets it from: the Eeyore-gene.  I have only myself to blame.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

If You Go Down to the Woods Today...

The bank holiday weekend has been one endless stream  Although, as Jerry Seinfeld says, 'There's no such thing as fun for the whole family,' so possibly not all of us were enjoying exactly the same moments.

Saturday was a birthday party for a four-year-old, and all three of my children were invited: joy.  This eliminated the opportunity for rows to break out over the fact that Gertie receives far more invitations to parties and functions generally than either of her younger brothers.  It was also good for Mummy, who didn't have to be in three different places at the same time (which is my usual weekend party trick).

Sunday began with a christening.  The service began at 10.30 and finished at 12.15.  This was long by any stretch of the imagination, even for mine who are used to attending Mass.  After about an hour Gilby turned to me looking quite pale.  'Mummy, I'm not feeling very well.  I need to get out of here. I''  He said it like it was a well-known condition, akin to car-sickness.  Something that would pass immediately, once one was away from the cause.  This, of course, would ensure that I couldn't counter with any suggestion that he be too ill to attend the christening party afterwards.  Clever, I thought.  Though judging by the discomfort on many of the adults in the surrounding pews, they too were suffering from Gilby's affliction.

It was a lovely party afterwards though, in glorious sunshine in the garden of a local pub, and, as predicted, Gilby was soon cured.  We couldn't stay all afternoon, however, since we had to get back and pack up for our camping trip.  Yes, camping trip - our first time.  We were camping in the woods near the house of some friends.  It had all seemed like such a good idea when we decided to it on the spur of the moment the previous evening.  We bought a tent on ebay and picked it up that morning.  No chance to test it out or even check it was all in one piece.  Actually, it wasn't, but that was by design.  Two bedrooms, no less.  No en suite though.

So, a bit of back-to-nature for us.  A roaring camp fire, toasting marshmallows, three in a bed, (the lack of a ground-sheet for the outer living area meant that poor old Gilby couldn't sleep in his cot) last minute checks for lurking gruffaloes: all a great adventure.  Mummy froze, though, in the night, and was too worried about everyone else worrying to drink as much wine as she ought to have done.  I wanted to keep myself under the limit in case a midnight flit back to civilisation was required.  In fact, this couldn't have happened in any case, as the flat battery on the car in the morning testified.  Much huffing and puffing and pushing was required before we were eventually rescued by a digger and jump-leads.  It was not the finest moment. Still, it was an experience.  The kids came home filthy and desperate to do it again.  Mummy will have a couple of glasses of red and think about it.  Cheers!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Birthday Know-How

Six years ago our lives were transformed, utterly, by the birth of Gertie.

Ten months of expectation and wonder, followed by a twelve-hour-induced-labour and too many stitches to talk about.

Then two more children, who also have birthdays.  Now I mostly bake cakes.

Who knew that the human body was capable of so much? (The cake-baking is the particularly impressive bit.)

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Value of Saturday Morning

Helluva week.  Celebrated a significant birthday and got all the GCSE coursework sample into the post by some miracle on Friday afternoon.

Daddy works on Saturdays, so far from being a relaxing break, the weekend routine is quite hectic.

Kempy has to be walked by 8.30am (I make this sound like a chore, but actually it is one of my favourite parts of the day) before Daddy leaves; then we rush out of the door to Gertie's gymnastics class.  Thankfully they have progressed a little bit beyond standing on tiptoes, and walking along benches, and she can now turn a dodgy cartwheel, so I feel that I am getting some value at £5 a time.

After dropping off at gym we hare down the road to Gilby's football.  Though, in fairness, that is a little grand to describe the activity of the bunch of three year olds who bumble around the football pitch.  It is week three, and much more successful now that the weather is a bit warmer.  It was a write-off last winter: we tried for a couple of sessions but then it became a case of me holding his hand on the side of the pitch while we all turned blue and he refused to get involved.  He now 'plays' for most of the hour, interrupted by frequent cuddles, snacks and general whinging.  Did David Beckham begin this way?  I suspect not.  It is a bargain though, at a mere £4.50 a session.

Eddie is not really content to sit on the sidelines and would like to get involved.  He mostly shouts, 'Ball!' and points excitedly, but since he is still not able to walk (and is now in the process of having some 'special' shoes made by the physio to encourage him) the likelihood of joining in is quite limited.  I entertain him for as long as possible, then bundle him in the car to dash back to the gym to pick up Gertie (whose class finishes 15 minutes before her brother's), and then hurtle back to the football pitch in time to see Gilby not win player of the day.  Both sporting venues have carparks a significant way away, and timing is so tight I seem to spend most of the time on the run, literally.  Probably doing more exercise than Gertie and Gilby, in fact.

All that fun, for less than a tenner...

Monday, 29 April 2013

The F-Word

My very sweet, intelligent, beautiful (innocent) five year old seems to have turned into a stroppy teenager in the space of a few short days.

Monosyllabic responses to the simplest of requests and questions, a form of amnesia directly related to saying please and thank you, and a pout that makes Angelina Jolie look a bit tight-lipped.

But she came home from school the other day with a question:  "Mummy, what's the F-word?"  When I declined to explain, she complained that people had been talking about how naughty it is and how you shouldn't say it, but she felt silly because she didn't know what it was.

I said that I agreed with the people who said it was naughty and that you shouldn't say it (whilst metaphorically mouthing it to myself as I was undoing her plaits).

Then she asked if she could guess what it was.  I had no idea what was coming next, and took a big gulp.

"Is" she asked.

Perhaps my sweet, innocent, beautiful little girl is still hiding in there, after all.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Talking Turkey

Now that summer's finally here, Gertie and Gilby went to Fishers Farm at the weekend.  Much fun was had by all until they were waiting in the queue for the pony rides.  A large and unexpectedly free range turkey approached them with a waddle that might be described as 'aggressive'.  When you are just three years old and of a similar height to a fair-sized and threateningly-approaching turkey, they can look pretty fearsome.  With round, wide eyes, Gilby grabbed hold of his sister's hand and asked in a tiny voice if turkeys ate people.

Big sister, with all the experience and authority of her nearly-six-years, considered his question carefully.  "No, Gilby," she said, after a moment.  "People eat turkeys."

Monday, 1 April 2013

Words of Wisdom

Sigh.  The things they say.

I was a little disconcerted earlier yesterday morning, when Naga Munchetty was presenting the news, to hear Gilby turn to his older sister and giggle, 'Look how brown she is!' 

Tempted to view this as a product of Gilby's provinical upbringing, which it undoubtedly is, I also hope that his is a healthy three-year-old curiosity about difference.

Less than an hour later, Gertie was lamenting the loss of limb on a broken doll.  'But it's ok,' she consoled herself, 'she could compete in the Paralympics!' 

So we are ok on disability, if not on race.

But when Gilby rushed to show me the model he had created from old toilet rolls, boxes and a bit of paint with an excited, 'Look Mummy, I've made a space rocket!' I made the mistake of answering with a question: 'That's wonderful; are you going to fly to the moon in it?'

He looked at me with a slightly concerned expression on his face and explained, quite patiently, that flying to the moon wouldn't be possible because, 'it's only made out of cardboard.'

Which taught me not to patronise my children. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

World According to Gilby: The Little People

Gilby has very definite ideas about the way the world works.  His logic is unquestionable, with that cock-sure confidence and arms-outstretched earnestness only a three-year-old can pull off.

This morning, he patiently explains to me how his toy microphone works.

'So you see, Mummy, you just sing in to it, like this...and the little people inside join in with you to make it louder.'

I can't really criticise, since I remember as a child knowing, with absolute certainty, that the television only operated when the little people inside were awake.

If only these little people weren't confined inside their little gadgets.  There are plenty of other things I could get them to do around the house...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Call it a Duck

Eddie's been...less keen...than either Gertie or Gilby to walk and talk.  The walking is down to his hyper-mobility and we'll get there in the end with the help of the physio and ingenious playing that involves having to get on his feet to reach stuff.  But with his speech there's mostly a lot of Bill and Ben going on:  Babbly conversations of nothing much in particular that have the intonation and variation of real dialogue.  But he does now have his first ten words, representative of the importance of things in his world:


Yes, I'm a bit bemused by that last one.  'Shark' is usually said in the bath, accompanied by a scary sort of a roar. What's going on in that little head, I'm not entirely sure.

But, though the list looks varied, most thing are 'ducks'.  In fact, 'if in doubt, call it a duck', seems to be his maxim. This applies to most animals (that aren't dogs or sharks) including our chickens in the garden abd the cat. And when we are out and about there are ducks that moo and ducks that say 'baa', apparently. It's one of the most common species in the animal kingdom, the duck.

But frankly, with two older and more communicative siblings, usually pointing and a cry of anguish gets what he wants.  Who needs words?  It was fine for Bill and Ben.  Though come to think of it, even those flower pots could walk...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Baggy Trousers

The world's 'most prolific' streaker, Mark Roberts, with 519 streaks under, well not his belt, I suppose...retired last month, much to the reported relief of his children.

This is lucky in that it leaves a gap in the market for my son.  Still four months away from his fourth birthday, he is showing early signs of a vocation.  In truth, he finds any excuse to drop his trousers.  In public is best, preferably a restaurant, or somewhere equally embarassing (for his mother);  since he appears to feel no embarrassment whatsoever, but gains some kind of genuine pleasure from this exhibitionism.  And people laugh.  Which he loves. 

He usually claims that his trousers are too big.  I have resorted to adjusting every pair to the tightest setting, so that he has to breathe in to get them done up in the morning.  Nevertheless, at some point during the day, they will be round his ankles, and he'll have a mischievous look on his face, arms outstretched to absolve himself from blame. (Yes, a little bit like Mark Roberts in the picture...)

It's been going on for a couple of years.  Ever since his release from the imprisonment of nappies, I suppose, and the freedom of potty training with its inbuilt excuse to whip his pants off without prompting. His audiences are confined to Pizza Hut and the local pub at the moment, but when he makes a name for himself at Wimbledon, or Wembley, in a few years time, you heard it here first. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

It's A Shoe-On

We don't get out much. 

Even less, since the night time shenanigans began in earnest for Gilby in the run up to Christmas.  Nine weeks of interrupted sleep seems a lifetime, and I wouldn't want to inflict one of those tortured evenings on an unsuspecting baby-sitter.  But given that we have Lady Visa, our au pair, we thought we'd try it last night.  Just round to friends' for supper; a few streets away.  Easy to return if things kicked off back at home. We took the unusual precaution of pre-ordering a taxi, on the off-chance that one or two glasses of alcohol might be consumed.

We returned, relaxed(!) and refreshed at about quarter past eleven (phew - late night!) to find Gilby crying his eyes out, one shoe on, sitting by the back door trying desperately to pull the other shoe on.  Ouch.  That is the combined pain of my heart hurting, and the piercing stab of guilt. 

He was incoherent, but I'm assuming he must have wandered into our bedroom, realised that we weren't there, and, without checking Lady Visa, decided that he had been abandoned.His three year old mind had then hatched a wild plan to head out into the dark night to come and find us.  We live on a main road in the middle of nowhere.  Fast cars and no people!

Once we had calmed him down, he whispered in my ear that he was 'sorry for being naughty and for putting my shoes on, actually...'.  Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Sigh.  So there's guilt and there's...guilt.  It will be a while until we try to go out again, methinks.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

First Graffiti

"Mummy, look what I've done..." There was pride tinged with anxiety in the voice.  It's a tone I know well.   It translates roughly as, 'I'm ever so excited about the thing that's just happened, but I have the teensiest tiniest suspicion that you may not share my enthusiasm for it.'

I had asked Gertie to wait by the car for a moment as we were getting ready to leave the house this morning.  In those few seconds, what she had produced, technically, was her first piece of graffiti.  In case you can't quite make it out, it reads, 'I *heart* charlie xx *heart*.

Charlie is, like Gertie, five years old. He is one of four boyfriends, she tells me with a blush.  Graffiti and polygamy.  Can't wait for the teenage years.

No comments about the state of the car, please.  It's been very, very wet here.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Two Snowmen

I think I was more excited than the students when the call came on Friday morning that school would finish at first break.  Given our rural location, large catchment area and insufficient gritting on the roads, the Head decided it was in the interests of the safety of the students to close the school...hooray! Yes, there was an element of justification in the previous sentence.

So we picked the kids up from school and nursery early and Gilby 'made' a new friend.

Though he then took great pleasure in destroying him.  More, perhaps than in building 'Frosty' in the first place, as the wild Lord of the Flies cheering whilst he was being stamped into oblivion would seem to signify.

It was also great fun to pummel 'snow-castles' into the frozen paddling pool (no, we hadn't put it away after the summer...)

Clearly, a few centimetres of snow brings out the destructive qualities in my family.  Even Daddy was cheering a direct snowball hit on his five-year-old daughter.

A smashing time was had by all...

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Bedtime Blues

I remember those halcyon days (sigh) back when bedtimes were easy.  Oh, I used to nod with sympathy and understanding as other parents described their debilitating night-time woes, but all the time I was smiling smugly on the inside.

Well.  It is payback time now.

Gilby's nightly tantrums have, if anthing, increased in duration and intensity over the last five days.  I made the school girl error of googling the problem.  Inevitably I stumbled blindly into a multitude of frenzied forums where the sleep-deprived contributors seemed ready to commit infanticide.

Suggestions ranged from cuddling your troubled toddler all night long, to locking him alone in the pitch black and ignoring the screams.  Well, that's cleared that one up, then.

It did seem to me to neatly summarise the two extremes of approach to parenting, if nothing else.

We have gone for what I hope is a middle ground of calm whispering (it works, which losing my temper completely on Saturday night blatantly did not), moving bedtime forward by half an hour, a CBeebies podcast to listen to...and a stairgate beyond his door.  Yes, I know, that's the controversial bit.

Last night it only took two hours for him to go down.  A significant improvement on Saturday's six hour marathon which left us both physically and emotionally drained.  And tonight...well, it's early yet, screams!

I am not smiling smugly, inwardly or outwardly.  Yet.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Feel the Fear...

Gilby has become very, very jumpy.  The terrible twos have become the terrified threes.  He is afraid of...well, everything, really. If we are at home he must be in the same room as me, and he must close the door behind us, after taking a fearful look beyond to make sure that nothing is following us in.  Windows are a cause for concern; they must be carefully scanned for any lurking monsters.  Any unexpected noise makes him very, very tense. Tears are never very far away.  This has been a sudden and rapid decline over the last six weeks or so. 

He won't admit to his fears though.  Doors must be closed because he is 'cold'.  He doesn't want to be alone because he is 'a little bit tired'.  Going to bed is a prolonged process of coaxing, but it is not because he is scared, but usually because he has a 'tummy ache'.  But he did whisper in my ear that sometimes he sees and hears things.  Like most three year old's he has a vivid imagination and is able to conjure monsters from most harmless shapes and objects. 

He helped me dismantle the tree (lights packed away in a carefully marked box, incidentally), but seemed unduly concerned about when we were getting a new one.  I thought he was sad that it was going to be a whole year to wait until all the excitement began again.

But, last night, I finally got close to the truth.  He thinks he can hear Santa's footsteps...

That bloke's got a lot to answer for! In the interests of creating magic around Christmas I have inadvertently given my son some kind of complex...