Thursday, 30 December 2010

Right now...

  • Little man is looking extraordinarily cute in his fluffy new dressing gown. Thank you grandma and grandad.
  • He is playing his new incey wincey spider game by himself, by which I mean he's shaking the dice and counting the spiders (four).
  • We're having breakfast after a bit of a lie-in. I gave B the usual 'it's too early to hide from dinosaurs' spiel when he first arrived in my room then realised it was twenty to eight so sang the 'Mummy loves B/what shall we do today?' mash-up instead.
  • I want to take the Christmas tree down but suppose I should wait until Saturday.
  • I'm wondering with amusement what little man will make of YO! Sushi, which is where we're going for lunch.
  • At the moment he's eating some peppered salami, but eating all the peppery bit at once and telling me it's too spiky. Oh, now he's telling me to eat the pepper 'snake'.
  • The new toy  house is taking up a lot of room in the dining room, which is required for a family dinner tonight.
  • I'm trying to decide which sling to take on the train to Liverpool, which is a tough one because B usually walks everywhere these days (everywhere usually being ten minutes into our local town). In fact, it must be weeks and weeks since I carried him.
  • I'm going to make my second cup of tea and still lamenting the absence of a nice man to do it for me, although I can't stand the thought of actually having to share my house with someone else at the moment.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

A funny sort of day

It's the second anniversary of discovering the husband's infidelity. I wish now that I hadn't chosen Boxing Day to snoop on his 'spare' mobile phone, but that was when the opportunity presented itself and my intuition had been telling me for some time that there was something going on. If it hadn't been Boxing Day I would have long since forgotten the precise date, but now I get to remember it every year. Woopee. New year's resolution number one: get divorced.

I had a strange journey home from work today too. Oh yes, I have to work Boxing Day and bank holidays. Anyway, my windscreen wiper jets worked on the way home for the first time in about a week after I topped them up with super-duper concentrated stuff. When I say 'I', I mean the STBE-husband did it when he came over to collect little man. Strange again.  Anyway, there I was experiencing a feeling of pure joy at being able to clean the windscreen (I mean it; commuting in this snow and ice is really getting to me), when I saw brake lights ahead. It looked very much like someone had jumped from a bridge over the M6 about five cars in front of me. For me, it was the first time I've ever done a three-point turn in the middle of the motorway.

I'll be glad when the thaw comes. Yes, the snow is very beautiful and yes it's nice to go out and throw snowballs. But when you have to drive in it, it's stressful. I haven't been able to go the shortest route from my house to the main road because the slope is too steep and my heavy tank of a car's wheels spin too much (New year's resolution number two: keep saving for a smaller car). So I have to drive the long way round in thick snow and slush to get to a junction which is slightly less steep but is on a blind bend. And I still can't pull out quickly because my wheels still spin a bit even when I do it in second gear. Then there's been the non-working windscreen wash jets, which means I've had to pull over on the hard shoulder or go into services a couple of times on the way to and from work just to be able to see where I'm going. All in all, not nice.

Back to Christmas Day. Daddy came over while there were still a few pressies left to unwrap. We all went to see the chickens together to give them a festive treat of boiled peelings. Yum. I cooked dinner, he washed up, which is, in my opinion, a perfect division of labour. We had a very nice bottle of Orvieto. Little man ate lots of turkey and very little else. The little fella hugged his new dolls' house and parked his new Cars (the film) racing cars in the attic and made us green cakes in his new toy food processor. Then daddy left and B and I went up to grandma and grandad's, where he made more green cakes, this time with a little brown in them (chocolate!). Now I just need to quietly remove some of his old toys and take them to the charity shop.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The latest thing

Little man's current obsessions:
  • Snip, snip, snipping away with a little pair of scissors. I think they're actually scissors from my own childhood. He started on last year's Christmas cards, which I saved thinking he would make pretty Christmas pictures with them. They've now been reduced to confetti and he's started cutting anything that moves. Or doesn't move.
  • Using my hair clips as if they were JCB-style grabby things. (If anyone knows what that part of a digger is called, do let me know.) Two broken so far. A wide range of items have been transported around the house.
  • Asking for a big truck for Christmas every time anyone inquires as to what he would like. He's not getting a big truck. He's getting a dolls' house. He will love it, but more about that some other time.
  • The film Cars, which he had been watching on daddy's mobile phone and I have now had to acquire. It is the first thing he requests when we get downstairs in the morning at the moment. It's probably my least favourite of all the children's animation films I've been forced to watch.
  • Hiding from monsters, dragons, dinosaurs and tigers.
  • Pleading to come to work with me. 'B a come a work with you. Pleeeease mummy, Pleeeease mummy.' Also saying many times a day: 'Daddy come now?' and: 'I want mine daddy back.'
  • Trying to dig the frozen ground at the allotment every time we go to check the chickens (and defrost their water).

Friday, 17 December 2010

Please mummy

The small boy has become ludicrously polite of late. I've always tried to do the 'please' and 'thank you' thing by example rather than demanding he say them all the time. I really don't think he should have to say them every time he wants something that an adult can easily get for themselves, like a snack or a drink or a book to read. But recently he has been saying please a lot. An awful lot. I think he's cottoned on to the fact that it's harder to say no to him if he's being ever so polite about it. He even says please when he's making crazy requests like: 'Please mummy can I cut your leg with my scissors. Pleeeease mummy.' Er, no little man, you can't.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

That kind of parent

I've never wanted to be the kind of parent that snaps at my child, always telling him to stop doing things, constantly grinding him down with negativity. The kind who says such things as: 'Stop that, don't be silly, it's not funny, blah, blah, blah.'

Of course, these things sometimes pop out because I'm far from being the ideal parent. Little man has the perfect answer. When I let out a desperate scream of: 'It's not funny!', he replies: 'It's a bit funny, mummy,' with a look of such utter cuteness that all I can do is agree.

Yes poppet, it is a bit funny. Let's have a giggle instead of all that grr-iness.

What else have we been up to? Well, after managing not to watch a second of a certain talent contest on the telly (although having to deal with stories about this show every day at work), the programme thrust itself on my notice by taking a Biffy Clyro song and turning it into garden centre-style croonery. Oh well, at least it might lead some people to see the light and listen to the real thing.

Rhubarb wine has also happened. A delicate, rose-style bouquet with a light effervescence. Given the quantity imbibed, I don't think it can have been any stronger than beer. And I'm counting it as one of my five a day.

Lack of exercise has also been on the menu due to the cold from hell. It's really the third cold I've had in quick succession and which will probably rumble on until spring if previous years are anything to go by. I haven't been swimming or to the gym, but I did make it to a new tai chi class I started going to a few weeks ago.

I've also been working on a little literary sideline, of which I really can't reveal any more without having to wipe all your memories with a Jedi mind trick.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Little man had a lot to tell me at half past six this morning after a long weekend with daddy.

'B a big boy. Mummy a lady. Daddy a big man. B grow da big man [B will grow up into a big man.] B is your friend. Hide, mummy, a big drag[on] come. A big green drag[on]. Mummy's feet in. Daddy got cars film on his phone. Daddy bumped his car in the ice. Daddy broke his old car. Daddy got a new car. B get da bogey in mine nose. B squash dat [my boob, that is]. My wood hammer is downdestairs. My wood hammer. Go downdestairs get mine wood hammer. Warm milk, mummy. WARM MILK, MUMMY!'

I tried to tell him that mummy could also be referred to as a woman, since I am not a member of the nobility. But he wasn't having it. He is also adamant that he is not a little boy any more. And daddy did in fact write his car off in the ice last week and have to buy a new one.

Monday, 6 December 2010


I've made a big dent in the to-do list. Enough to stop it bothering me any more. Take that, list. I've also rearranged The List into a series of post-it notes stuck to the side of a cabinet in the kitchen. It means I can bin tasks as soon as they're done instead of having an actual list with lots of crossings out and those things that never get done and have to keep being transferred onto a new page. And I found a stack of post-it notes whilst sorting out a drawer full of old stationery supplies. Even some pink ones.

The boy spent most of last week feeling seriously grumpy. He bit the inside of his cheek, which of course made it swell up and easy to bite again. And again. He got very frustrated at trying to eat and kept telling me his tummy hurt, which was probably because he was hungry. He had lots of jelly, hot chocolate and pink milk. Even the hot chocolate was a problem though, because he knows you shouldn't eat or drink things that are too hot. So I had to call it warm chocolate, otherwise he would leave it until it was stone cold. Yuck. Anyway, his mouth was getting to be much better when he slipped off his little step in the bathroom, banged his chin on the wash basin and bit his tongue. By then it was daddy's turn to take over the cuddles and sympathy.

Daddy took over early so I could go to see Biffy Clyro in Manc. And blimey, they really are rather good. It was a fab night, except for the part where I fainted. Erm, not sure where that one came from. I'm putting it down to a lack of air flow in a crowd due to my small stature. Anyway, I was out cold like a teenybopper at a Justin Bieber gig. Ironically, I then got a better view from the edge of the hall where there was also more air. And the gentleman pictured is, in fact, my current teenage crush material. I think I need to get out more. Oh wait, I was out. My iPod is one step ahead of me though and has moved on to the somewhat mind-bending Marmaduke Duke, a funky and addictive Biffy Clyro-related ensemble.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Monster to-do list

I've been feeling a little hassled of late. Too much to do, not enough time. Not enough time to spend pottering about at toddler pace. My bank account likes the fact that I'm working four days a week, but the rest of my life doesn't. I'm tired and stressed and I keep getting colds. Here's this week's to-do list, much of which probably won't get done and not much of which is much fun:

Get some adhesive stuck in my tyres to stop them going down all the time.
Stick my rear view mirror back on.
Top up my screen wash.
Find the right payslip to complete my holiday pay form.
Find the bits of paper I need to do my tax return.
Order some pix from when the photographer came to Jo Jingles.
Change my bedsheets. And little man's.
Check how I'm getting to Manchester for a Biffy Clyro concert on Friday.
Return my library books.
Make a Christmas card list.
Find the slip of paper that tells me when in December my dental check-up is.
Get little man's hair trimmed.
Put some more of little man's old baby sleeping bags and a couple of under-used slings on eBay.
Buy some kind of packaging for the ones I've already put on.
Rearrange a missed delivery of a component of little man's Christmas present.
Persuade the ex to come round with a long ladder and investigate why there are damp patches on my ceilings and walls.
Get the picture I bought on holiday framed.
Get a quote for the removal of my gas fire monstrosity.

Edited to add: Chase up the nursery that was supposed to send me an inquiry form.
Collect another missed delivery from the sorting office.

Edited again to add: Find a new telly as mine is refusing to stay switched on.
Work out how to empty the vacuum cleaner as I accidentally vacuumed up a pair of knickers! (I must add that I have done it before, I can just never remember how.)
Swap plants round in my pots.
Buy an external hard-drive before my overloading laptop seizes up and also back up all my photos.

And again to add: Remember to re-read the book Timeless Simplicity by John Lane (highly recommended), go outside, hug a tree and stop letting all this shit get on top of me.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Learning stuff

Whenever I head into the kitchen to do any cooking, little man immediately drags in a dining chair, places it right in my way against the only useable bit of worktop space I have in my tiny kitchen and demands to take part.

So in the space of about an hour today he has peeled and chomped raw carrots as well unadulterated coriander and cumin seeds and we have talked about where the seeds might come from. We have confirmed that little man is right handed when he tried to stir a pan using his left hand and quickly realised it didn't feel right. We have learnt about how cogs work by mucking around with the tin opener, reinforced with a demonstration by mummy's fingers. We have discovered that fridge magnets don't stick to the plastic part of vegetable peelers, but do stick to the metal parts.

The fridge magnet in question was brought back from Cuba by a friend and has a picture of an old car on it. I shied away from explaining why this would be. Oh, and in case you're interested we were cooking roast salmon and squash with lentil thing.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Little man's holiday report

Mummy and I spent a week at a hol-da-day home in Betws-y-Coed. I was a big strong boy when we had to unpack the car and helped by carrying in one book. Well, I carried it halfway up the steps to the front door anyway. For the rest of the week I had to point out that I was a 'big strong boy' every time we went up and down the steps. Mummy was a big strong girl when she carried a sack of logs back from the shop whilst also holding my hand next to the busy road. I liked watching mummy light the fire, but she kept telling me not to lean on her while she did it.

At first I had a little friend there with her mummy and daddy. Then, grandma and grandad came for the second part of the week. It was fun playing games with my friend and, for once, I didn't mind sharing my toys with her. Then it was fun going and climbing into grandma and grandad's beds in the morning to wake them up with a tickle. Although one morning I decided to go downstairs and hide under a blanket on the settee instead. It took them ages to find me.

We visited lots of tea shops, which always sounds like a good idea and I do like saying 'tea shop' and 'tup of tea' but it tends to get boring after a few minutes. I particularly liked the tea shop that came with a view of a working loom at the woollen mill. In most of the other tea shops I decided to go exploring, particularly under the tables.

I threw stones into the river in Betws. And the river in Beddgelert. And the sea in Llandudno. I thoroughly tested out how waterproof my winter boots are with the conclusion that they would be ok in a rainshower but can't stand up to ten inches of Afon Glaslyn swirling around them. Speaking of winter clothes, I happily wore my hat without tearing it off and mummy bought herself a slightly ridiculous Nepalese bobble hat.

Chips, with or without fish, also turned out to be a recurring theme, with impromptu picnics by the river in Llanrwst and by the sea in Conwy and Llandudno. I like chips. Yummy, just like my mummy, who has taught me to say the phrase 'yummy mummy'.

There was an initial hitch in our steam train plans, when gales blew branches onto the line of the miniature railway in Betws. But it was rectified with a trip down the lakeside in Llanberis pulled by a little engine called Thomas Bach. The driver let me and mummy stand in his cab and he showed us his firebox. Then we went to the slate museum and I was fascinated by the big water wheel that turned dozens of different machines.

It was all very exciting but I kept waking up at night and having to climb into mummy's little bed for a cuddle. I also missed my daddy and sometimes I just wanted to go home.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Holiday scenes

With apologies for the point-and-shootness of my camera and photographic skills, some pix from our hols in North Wales:
 'Mummy, it's bumpy, mummy.' The tide had just gone out at Llandudno's West Shore. And little man likes to make sure you know he's talking to you by putting your name at the beginning and end of every sentence.

View to the mountains from the RSPB reserve at Conwy. I'm sure there were lots of rare and interesting birds there, but this is the one that came close enough to snap:

 Flowers in November. Gotta love gorse, even if it does smell of coconut.
A typical bit of damp autumn riverbank, just over the road from our holiday cottage in Betws-y-Coed.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Bean bags and other gubbins

In a sudden flurry activity I got these beanbags finished. I started them ages ago and floundered at the stage where I decided to do a little running stitch round all the numbers. The tutorial is at Chez Beeper Bebe.

I have also finally made the dining room curtains to match the living room ones. (It's all one room but it makes it sound bigger to give them separate names...) So I have made it just in time to beat the first anniversary of moving in. And there was only one major cock-up, where I managed to cut one curtain about 20cm too short. This is the sort of thing that always happens when I get my sewing machine out. Anyway, better get on to my bedroom curtains soon, and something to replace the hideousness of the grubby nets in the meter cupboard.

I also have a cabled tank top half knitted and a cross-stitch alphabet sampler about two-thirds done. On my crafty would-like-to-do-list are: a cabled jumper for the boy, hat and gloves for the boy, tea cosy, pretty fabric bunting, wrist warmers for me, possibly a scarf and hat for me, a crocheted granny square blanket (this will probably take me until I am granny age), a mini quilt for the Ikea dolls'/teddy bed I've bought little man for Christmas (sorry to mention the C-word but everything I buy for him now is getting put away until then. By 'put away' I mean left in the boot of my car, which might be a problem when we go away next week), a wall hangy thing I started about two years ago which is a hotch potch of sewing and knitted bits and buttons and beads and stuff, some freezer paper stencilling (although by next summer little man will have grown out of the t-shirts I was going to try this out on), a mini ring sling for the boy to carry things in (probably cars) and a cross-stitch picture of Noah's ark for the boy (I'm hoping it will not yet lead to any deep theological questions; he likes boats and animals).

This list may be slightly over-ambitious. I'm off to do some knitting even though it's the sort of day where you have to put lights on to knit at 2pm. If only I had a cosy wood-burner to sit in front of. Unfortunately, any money I save at the moment is going into the replacement car fund.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

It's that sort of day

It's a back-door-open sort of day. There don't seem to have been many of these in the last few weeks. It's a shame the yard faces north. No sun 'til next May. But little man's new waterproof, furry-lined winter boots are lined up on the mat waiting to be worn again. We ate lunch al fresco. We had olives and feta in a vain attempt to feel Mediterranean.

It's a brewing-up-in-the-teapot sort of day. I'm using one of my earthy brown Wedgwood cups and saucers, discovered in a charity shop in Oban, which seems to fit in with season rather well. If only I had some leaf tea, the cosy homeliness would be complete.

It's a wandering-around-in-Babylegs-with-a-bare-bottom sort of day. For the boy, obviously. Babylegs wouldn't really cover much of my legs. But he is quite delighted at the rediscovery of his black and yellow stripey ones. (As an aside, I can tell you that yesterday I managed to epilate one thigh. Just one. And that a bit patchily. I thought buying an epilator would be a sound investment as I've been using tonnes of Veet since I started swimming and shaving leaves me with loads of ingrown hairs. I just didn't believe that any commercial product would be that painful and still be on the market.)

It's a tidying-up-in-forgotten corners sort of day. You know, the piles of stuff that have lain around so long you've stopped noticing them. All toys have been sorted and categorised and put away. I know, of course, that they won't stay that way but I have this need to sort everything out every once in a while. The dining table has been relocated to create more playing space. It's easy to pull out again when we want to eat.

It's a staying-awake-all-day sort of day. For the boy. Most unusual. But he doesn't seem to be showing any of the usual signs of sleepiness, despite being up at six thirty. Normally he would be getting 'naughty' by now, ie overtired, but he is merrily lining up all his trucks and cars. I just hope he lasts for pumpkin carving and Halloween mask-making later.

It's a sewing-the-dining-room-curtains-at-last sort of day. I have actually cut the pieces and sewn the side seams. Just got to add the header tape and attempt to sew the bottom hem in a vaguely straight fashion. I might get them done before the first anniversary of moving in.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Underpants: The return (Contains multiple references to bodily functions)

I managed to semi-trick the boy into a pair a few days ago. Light blue Thomas the Tank Engine ones. I put a pair of trousers on him too. I said: 'Tell mummy when you want a wee and you can sit on the potty.' Not long afterwards he weed in them. Fair enough. New underpants. Dark blue Thomas ones. New trousers. Not long afterwards he weed in them. Ho hum. I chose a pair of white Thomas ones that he seemed to particularly like and let him wander around trouser-less. It was, of necessity, a staying-at-home sort of day. Not long after, he pooed in them. I cleaned him up and put the underpants in the bin.

Now very taken with the idea of underpants he decided to wear a red Thomas pair and a yellow Mr Men pair at the same time. No trousers again. Not long after, he weed in them. Have you spotted a pattern here? I put a nappy on him for naptime but persevered for the rest of the day. The only outing we had was a quick trip to the shop and a diversion into the park on the way home. He weed in his trousers at the park. Just before bedtime, he went bare-bottomed. He weed on the floor about two foot away from the potty.

The next day he wandered around the house bare-bummed for the morning. He used the potty or the toilet (when we were upstairs) every time he needed a wee. He'd already pooed in his night-time nappy first thing. I put a nappy on him when grandma came to collect him for the afternoon before I went to work. Again today, at home with a bare bum he has weed on the potty or loo every time.

I'm seeing this as the first stage in a process of gentle encouragement. I don't think we'll be taking the 'Potty Training in 24 Hours' approach.

Edited to note that the following ad popped up on when I hit Publish Post: Potty Training Made Easy: Potty Training In Only 3 Days Fast & Easy - Guaranteed Results.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Right now...

  • Little man is riding a hobby horse, found in a charity shop last week. Unfortunately the horse is upside down so its head is getting dragged around the floor.
  • He has just started to count 'eight, nine, ten'. I think he has decided that is what I'm typing.
  • He is leaning on my knee and pushing my arm and generally getting in the way of me typing.
  • My nose is all snotty and sneezy with the perpetual cold I get every winter and which comes and goes according to how tired I am.
  • I am wondering what to do about the new neighbours slamming their door repeatedly all evening, until about midnight, every time they step into the street to smoke.
  • I am considering having a cup of the hot chocolate filched from the B&B I stayed at in York when I had a girlie trip away at the weekend.
  • I am concerned that the mere mention to little man's daddy that we should all do something together sometime soon resulted in a furrowed brow and the 'I can't talk about difficult [important] issues' look.
  • Little man is pulling out the aerial on the old CD player/radio in the corner of the room, which I really should get round to freecycling.
  • I am sneezing some more.
  • It is raining.
  • The house is a tip and I am about to get up and do some tidying up...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Here be dragons

'Good  morning little man,' I say, as the boy climbs into my bed for a snuggle.
'A crab, mummy,' he declares. 'Crab pic [nip] mummy's finger.'
'Oh, a crab? Ouch, nip, nip.' The crab then has to nip little man's finger, of course, and his nose.
Next up is a visit from the dragon. It might be red, green or blue. The green one always reminds me of the Green Dragon at Bywater. (Short cuts make for long delays, but inns make longer ones...LotR, yes I'm a nerd.) Anyway, it's beware any exposed toes.
'Tent. Hide de tent. [Let's hide in a tent made out of the duvet.]' Mummy has to hold up the duvet over us, while little man declares that it is raining.
'Pitter, patter,' I say, over and over again. Little man puts on his imaginary boots and puts up his imaginary umbrella so he can go out in the rain.
Then the sun comes out: 'Pop.' The sun always comes out with a pop, because in The Very Hungry Caterpillar the caterpillar emerges from the egg with a pop when the sun comes out.
'Bite mummy's finger.'
'No, don't bite mummy's finger please. Be nice to mummy.' Cue a little sigh and a big hug. 'Hug mummy. Mummy hug me.' He still tries to bite my finger.
Next up: 'Mummy sing.' Mummy begins a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle. 'Stop.' Mummy stops mid-sentence. 'Go.' 'Stop.' And so on until the song is finished. 'Again.'
I start to sing Rock-a-Bye Baby.
'[C]ome on, mummy, [s]tand up. Me de baby.' This wasn't part of my plan for remaining horizontal as long as possible. I have to stand up and rock little man, who does his baby impression - half-closed eyes, scrunched up arms and lots of little sighs - before I drop him at the appropriate point. Well not really drop him, obviously. Not quite.
'[C]ome on, mummy. Down de stairs. Play de cars.'
Snuggle time is over.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Monday, 18 October 2010


Little man has taken a dislike to the whole concept. Even when the underpants come with Thomas the Tank Engine or Mr Men pictures. He wees on the toilet in the morning and at bedtime and on a potty downstairs if he needs to go during nappy-off time after tea. So he knows what it's all about. But he got pretty upset when I just tried a pair of red Thomas pants on him to see if they actually fitted. (Size 18 months to two years, - he's two years and seven months.They fitted.)

I'm just going to leave them lying around so he gets used to the idea. I'm sure one day he'll surprise me and put them on. Or he'll refuse a nappy and want to go commando.

We've now visited three nurseries and there are two more on my list. I've had to drag little man away from each one because he likes their toys and their climbing frames. But I can't make my mind up. I thought I'd get a gut feeling but I've just got utter bewilderment. In two of them the pre-schoolers weren't in their room at the time we visited; they were either playing outside or sitting with the toddler children for a snack. So I didn't get to see how crowded the room looked or how the staff interacted with them. The one that appeared to be particularly well-organised and very focused on individual children's interests also happened to have the least welcoming pre-school room. The one that seemed a little smaller and quieter had lots of new staff and was in the process of recruiting a new pre-school nursery nurse so could be completely different by next April.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The need for nursery

Once upon a time, the daydream was to have two children, move to a pretty cottage somewhere picturesque, and find the husband a job he enjoyed while I home-educated the children, baked cakes and grew vegetables. And possibly did a bit of writing or proofreading if I felt like it. Now you have to imagine that horrible, scraping sound you get when you drag the needle across a record. For it was not to be.

Instead, I have one precious little man who is currently whinging because he is finally getting his last molar and is very snotty. I have moved down the housing ladder and gone back to work almost full time. So we need to find a nursery for a couple of afternoons a week to give the grandparents some respite once he turns three.

I have two visits lined up later this week. Now I need to work out what I'm looking for and what questions I need to ask. Beyond the logistics of session times and how I'm actually going to get to work on time if they all start their afternoon sessions at 1pm. I want to know what sort of outdoor space they have and how much time they spend in it. I want to know what sort of food they provide for snacks. I want to find out whether the emphasis is more on learning or play. I want to know all sorts of things about rewards and behaviour and general ethos that I can't work out how to ask without being on a completely different wavelength to the nursery staff. And in the end, I'll probably ignore the facts and form an opinion based on how the place feels.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Bed and breakfast

So my blog is seriously losing momentum. This is what happens when you start working four days a week at a job that gives you mornings with your little one (or mornings to go to the gym when your little one is with daddy) but eradicates your evenings spent with the laptop. I don't get in til nine-ish, Sunday to Wednesday.

Take a little time to fully digest the meaning of this, if you will. I don't tire of bedtime stories because I only get to read them on Thursdays, Fridays and every other Saturday. I still love Room on the Broom and am still amused by the fact that my bog monster (where the mud-covered dog and cat and frog tell the dragon to eff off) has a Brummie accent. Likewise with sharing our evening meal. Watching In the Night Garden. Tucking him in and giving him his night-night kiss. Two and a half nights a week, on average.

But I get woken up by him diving under my duvet five and half mornings (or middles of the night) a week, on average. Ditto trying to encourage him to eat some breakfast. Wrestling him into some clothes. Updating my facebook status to the cries of 'Bird, bird' (which means 'Mummy, get off that social networking site and find 3rd and Bird on the BBC iPlayer for me now, please). Washing up while he tries to drag me off by one leg to fix his truck.

I realise I've posted about the search for a nursery for little man, without talking about why nursery is necessary or desirable and what would constitute a good one, in my opinion. I now have one appointment to go and view one and will probably sort out some more tomorrow. Already I have had to smile and nod during a brief call at the one nursery when I was told it would really 'bring him on' to 'socialise' with other children. So many assumptions behind such simple statements. Repeat after me: I must conform. I must conform. I must conform.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Going into hiding

I've been feeling a bit snowed under this week with a to-do list full of annoying little tasks, like phoning the tax credits people to say I'd increased my hours at work, renewing my house insurance, having first checked that I'm not being ripped off, collecting phone numbers of nurseries, filling in holiday pay claim forms. On top of that I've had a couple of days of PMT-induced sitting on the sofa going bleurgh and fighting the growing desire to eat the entire contents of my kitchen cupboards. Not that there's any particularly exciting food in them. Not even a biscuit. Also, it's my fifth week of working four days and I'm starting to feel like I actually have a job, although technically I haven't.

Anyway, yesterday I spontaneously picked up the phone, filled in the forms and got on t'internet for all those nursery details. I also tried to work out exactly what free 'education' three-year-olds are entitled to. Of course, this has been made as complicated as possible. The simple answer is that he can have up to fifteen hours a week at nursery from next April. The complications seem to be that he has to have at least three sessions a week (I only want two), some nurseries only offer the free places in two-and-a-half-hour slots and they are only available for 38 weeks of the year. From looking at nursery websites, I also get the feeling my requirement to drop him off at 12.30pm in order to get to work is going to cause problems with their session times and lunchtime arrangements.

So the next task is to phone round and explain that and see what response I get before going visiting. But I seem to have some urgent knitting to do instead. And some beanbags to make. And that cross-stitch embroidery to finish. Possibly even curtains to get on with. Or I could just hide in the laundry basket like my little man until all the hassle goes away:

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Small joys

  1. A nice cup of tea, drunk at just the right temperature.
  2. A small boy who has learnt how to say 'a big hug'.
  3. An unexpected second flush of sweet peas.
  4. A sunny morning in late September.
  5. A small boy tucked up in bed fast asleep.
Any more?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A few questions

Why did I think that having a boy would get me out of having My Little Pony figures in the house when the boy has a cousin whose girlie toys he can raid?
Is it better to have a cold on your days off, or while you're stuck at a desk?
What is the source of the leaky water marks on the upstairs ceilings and can it be easily remedied without replacing the entire, asbestos-containing, roof?
Why does little man think that the Tombliboos want to steal his milk?
If I leave today's dirty dishes lying around the kitchen, will they all be magically washed up and put away by morning?
Should I knit or embroider this evening?
When is little man's final tooth going to finally put in an appearance (yes, he is over two and a half now).
When should I swap the nappies for underpants?
Should I paint my front door bright, shiny red or bright, shiny blue?
How soon do I need to find a nursery for little man to go to next April?
Have I worn sandals for the last time this year?
How can little man go from being adorable to a wailing terror within seconds?
Am I inflicting lasting damage by calling him 'little poppet pie' or 'scampi chicken'?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Explaining the unexplainable

I got my first tattoo about three weeks ago. I had been thinking about it for a couple of years. I sketched the design myself (can't you tell!?) and the tattoo parlour's artist worked it up into something doable. Several people have asked what it means and I have ummed and ahhed and dodged the question, but here's a very short and simplistic attempt to explain things when, basically, it just felt right. I realise the picture doesn't give much sense of scale or position, but it's in the middle of my back and, while not massive, it's quite big for a first tattoo!

The spiral: well, it's the cycle of life/nature, how things repeat but never in exactly the same way twice. The solar-type rays: the sun is a symbol of a strong positive energy, which I figure is always a good thing. Also, the rays are roughly the points of the compass, with all their modern pagan connotations and usefulness when trying not to fall off the top of cloud-covered mountains. The blue: woad, ie Celtic war paint.

And the other question people have asked: did it hurt? Yes, it bloody well did. Would I have another one? Probably.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Doing (housework) or being

On Thursday, I intended to get some housework done. I was definitely going to tidy away some of the toys littering the living and dining room floors. Perhaps even sweep said floors. Then there was that big pile of clean washing waiting to be put away. The junk that has accumulated at one end of the dining room to be sorted out. And the loo in desperate need of a scrub.

So what did we actually do? We nipped off to the garden centre to buy some more plants for the fish tank. On the way, incidentally, I had some confirmation that it does sink in when I tell little man where we're going and what we're doing. As we parked up, he said: 'More plants, fish.' Of course, we had to look at all the fish, and the turtles, and anenomes, and guinea pigs, and rabbits, and finches. Then we were joined by grandma and grandad for tea and scones in the cafe. Then we found a playhouse to try out and we all ended up sitting inside it being ordered around by the two-year-old. Then mummy decided she needed an evergreen plant, what with winter approaching and all (a Pieris japonica 'Little Heath' in case you were wondering.)

Then it was home for a nice long nap, before throwing together some pizza dough and heading off to play in grandma and grandad's garden so grandad could pot up my new plant as I'd run out of compost. After going to the shop to buy the pizza toppings and calling in on a friend for instructions on checking her chooks while they're away, we'd run out of time.

Oh well. Most of the housework tasks actually got done on Friday instead. In between going swimming and popping to the park in between rain showers and playing trains and reading books and pretending to be aeroplanes and making duvets into tents and climbing into the washing basket (him, not me!). Just don't look too closely if you ever visit my house.

Monday, 6 September 2010

My life in music

Today, I decided I have been listening to Biffy Clyro too much, if such a thing is possible. I have a friend who will soon be able to confirm whether this is possible. That's because she brought her iPod shuffle round to fill from my laptop and we didn't know how much memory it had. Turns out it was 1GB and all she got on there was some AC/DC, some Aerosmith, and everything Biffy Clyro have every released. But she does need to get in training for when she comes to see them with me in Manchester in December...

Anyway, just for fun I decided to go with the 'All Songs' option on my iPod. With mind-boggling results. On the way home from work, driving down the M6 in atrocious weather, I got to listen to songs by, in this order: Nirvana, Norah Jones, Queens of the Stone Age, Enrique Iglesias, New Model Army, Katie Melua, Simon Webbe, Mumford & Sons, Lenny Kravitz, Newton Faulkner, Aerosmith, Guns n' Roses.

So I'm now going to bore you with the story behind some of these. Nirvana were always guaranteed to be played at the so-called club where the mid-teenaged me used to hang out at the Alternative Night every Friday and I'm sure I've snogged many a lovely long-haired boy to their dulcet tones. Norah Jones and Katie Melua belong to the smug married phase of my life. We even went to see Katie in Blackpool. They're not on my regular playlist now. Queens of the Stone Age reminded me that it's probably not a good idea to download a band's entire discography before you've actually worked out whether you like them.

Enrique Iglesias I blame on the ex; there are things on my laptop put there by him several years ago. I had to skip it. I just had to. New Model Army reminded me of going to see bands at the Royal Court in Liverpool as a wee youngster. I sacked off my Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award practice hike to go and see them. Simon Webbe. What can I say? I think there was one song I liked. I am ashamed of myself. Mumford & Sons are a new discovery and they're fantastic. Folk rock. Who'd have thought there was such a thing? Lenny Kravitz, he has his moments.

Newton Faulker is another one I blame on the ex. And I actually think some of these CDs that got copied onto my computer originated with the woman he had an affair with. Nice. Perhaps I should delete them all. Perhaps I should decide if I like the music first. Aerosmith. I believe they're actually cool again. I was never that much into them in my first heavy metal phase but now I think they're quite good fun. Guns n' Roses were the first proper band I went to see, with the first proper long-term boyfriend I had. Slash stuffed up the intro to Sweet Child O' Mine. Now you can buy Guns n' Roses t-shirts in trendy high street stores. Weird.

And for my journey to work tomorrow: Scouting for Girls (who are these people?), Antonio Forcione (ace jazz guitarist), Fanfare Ciocarlia (Romanian gypsy music), Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, Free, and, finally, Biffy.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Endurance test

That's what taking a two-and-a-half-year-old camping on your own amounts to. There are probably mothers out there who take it all in their stride. And there are probably two-and-a-half-year-olds out there who are unnaturally compliant, for two-and-a-half-year-olds.

So why do I do it? Just because. Because I like going camping and knowing that everything I need to survive fits into the car. (Ok, once upon a time it fitted into a rucksack but I can't carry a supply of nappies, breadsticks and full-fat milk as well as a two-and-a-half-year-old, especially with a new tattoo on my back which makes carrying the toddler in my customary fashion impossible for the moment anyway.) Because I saw the forecast for unexpectedly warm and sunny weather in September. Because I'd been wondering what we would do for those couple of gloriously free days. Because I like fresh air. And sea air. And the sea.

So why is it an endurance test? Because the two-and-a-half-year-old won't go to sleep until later than I'd have liked to have gone to sleep myself and still wakes up at 6.30am. At least now it goes dark at half-eight and not half-ten like the first time this summer I took him camping. Because he insists on climbing the steep, probably about 4ft high bank into another field. Because he tries to climb up the guy ropes. Repeatedly. Because he fills his pockets with shells, then empties them into the tent. Because he asks for milk, doesn't drink it, then wails for it the minute I've poured it away. Because he decided it would be a good idea to run his hands down the outside of the car, low down where it's really dirty, then ask for food. Repeatedly. Because he wouldn't sit and eat a meal but would decide half an hour later that he was hungry. Because he could never find the energy to get to the toilet block without being carried but was always sure he had enough energy to go to the play area. Because on the way to the toilet block he had to examine every patch of sand, every rabbit poo and every scrap of rubbish. Because every time we went to the toilet block he tried to flush the toilet while I was sitting on it, then tried to pull out all the toilet roll sheets while I was pulling my trousers up. Because he couldn't see the necessity of staying still to have a new nappy put on. Or to have his pyjamas replaced with clothes. Or his clothes replaced with pyjamas. Because if mummy's trying to have a few more minutes' rest in the morning, it seems like a good idea to kick her in the stomach. Or throw The Very Hungry Caterpillar in her face. Because he climbed onto my camping chair with wellies covered in mud from the molehill. Because I couldn't even put a beer down without him grabbing it. Because he refused to nap, despite his lack of night-time sleep, and therefore denied me my chance to nap.

Wow, it all sounds quite trivial. Of course, when it's coming at you relentlessly all day and some of the night too it's a bit much. And there are many, many little things I've missed out. But then, I suspect our camping trips are over for this year. And next year he'll be a different child throwing different challenges at me. Don't you just love the word challenge? In the way that it's replaced the word 'problem' as an acceptable way of describing children...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Doing or being

I sometimes worry I don't do enough 'activities' with the boy. You know, like painting and sticking and gluing and glittering and engineering grand pavilions out of wooden blocks and making mud palaces in the back yard sandpit and weaving sailing ships out of willow twigs. This is usually because I'm trying to get the house straight and cook the occasional meal and hang out the washing and fit in a little light knitting and pop up to the shop to replace a loaf of bread that's gone mouldy.

Of course, I don't worry for long. There are plenty of things we do together and these days there is also plenty of time when little man is happy in his own little world in which various objects - kangaroos, teacups, elastic bands or Tigger - tend to get transported around the place in various vehicles. Together, we read stories and chop vegetables and water plants and feed chickens and go out for walks and dance around the kitchen and marvel at creepy crawlies.

Perhaps I could spend a bit more time on the 'activities'. I can feel a play-dough making session coming on soon. I need to empty all the yucky old sand out of the sandpit and might splash out on some coloured sand for us to muck about with. But a lot of things happen in the course of our days (or mornings when I'm working) together anyway, even if they're just for a few moments. I'll break off what I'm doing to read him a book or draw a picture for him to colour in (scribble on) or rescue a squashed Tigger or reassemble a tractor's trailer or throw him a bouncy ball or push him round the yard on his trike or build a tower for him to knock down.

These little moments can't be quantified as 'we spent an hour painting' or 'we made three glittery pictures' or 'we worked out by how many millimetres each block in a tower can deviate from the vertical alignment before the tower falls down'. But I think they all add up to something just as valuable for the little guy as long as I'm being attentive enough to realise when he wants to do something with me and when he's ok just to be with me, doing his own thing.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bed hopping

Before I get on to the subject of sleep, and the lack thereof, I just have to tell you that today in the park, little man rubbed two sticks together and declared that he had made fire. No idea where that has come from. I think he's been secretly watching Ray Mears.

Anyway, sleep. I like it. A lot of it. Pre-child I would happily go to bed at 9pm and get up around 7am. Then there was all the usual baby shenanigans. At ten months, he 'slept through' for the first time and gradually started to do so quite reliably. For months - maybe seven or eight. I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security, congratulate myself for never having considered any sleep training methods when he was a baby and came to believe that he would continue to sleep twelve hours straight for ever.

Yeah, right. He's a toddler. He still has one tooth to come. He's learning to talk. He's trying to work out what it's all about. It being the meaning of life and other momentous issues such as why mummy's bracelets always fall off his arm. Sometimes he wakes up thirsty. Usually he just wants a cuddle, and who can blame him? That's why I'm all for co-sleeping, in theory.

Unfortunately, he's fidgety and I'm a light sleeper, which is not a good combination. And I find that a tired mummy is one less able to remain patient in the face of toddler upsets and pestering. So after a few months of putting up with his arrival in my bed in the middle of the night, I've started returning him to his own bed. A couple of times he has bounced straight back up again, but he hasn't yet persisted enough to turn it into an issue. In general, I try to avoid anything becoming an 'issue' because you only start worrying about it and questioning what you're doing wrong. So we'll see how the current approach goes. And I'll try to go to bed early too, just in case.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

First amendment

I have just checked, and in a post about a year ago I did promise not to leave you for more than three days without a post. A promise I have repeatedly broken recently. And because I am me, I actually remembered the original pledge and feel bad for not sticking to my word.

So I'm having to make an amendment: I will not leave you for more than three days without a post unless: a) my brain is functioning at less than twenty per cent capacity because of the small person's night-time fidgetings; b) there is something worth watching on the telly; or, c) I am too busy ogling the video for Biffy Clyro's The Captain.

(a) is probably my most likely excuse and will no doubt result in a post some time soon.
(b) is unlikely to occur now that Spartacus, the only thing I was bothering to tune in for, has finished.
(c) may happen on occasion when hormones demand it.

As for my other pledges, I'm glad to have confirmed to myself that I am keeping most of them. Particularly in terms of not sparing you the expletives or any unsavoury details concerning such things as menstruation, puke or toddler poo and in being utterly contradictory at all times.

Monday, 16 August 2010

A woman's work...

I've volunteered to work an extra day from September. Obviously this goes against all my principles of simple (cheap) living, anti-corporatism and general idleness. It means I'll be working Sunday to Wednesday afternoons and evenings. The work was there; I thought I might as well make a bit of extra money while I can. I need to boost my car replacement fund. I should probably set up a private pension. I'd like a woodburning stove. And an electric guitar. I don't have any job security since I don't have a contract so it makes sense to take the cash now in case it's not there in a few months' time.

Little man is with his daddy on Sundays and Mondays anyway. Daddy has only worked four days a week since he was off with various psychological issues. I knew he had been looking out for a new job, so I had to check he wasn't about to start working Mondays and have been reassured that Mondays are a Ben day for him. This doesn't really explain how he's going to get out of a job that is contributing to making him miserable but he doesn't do discussions of important subjects as they are too upsetting. So that leaves an afternoon with each set of grandparents until next Easter when he will get some free time at nursery, provided it hasn't been axed by the government before then and that I can find a nursery I like the look of. Even then, someone else will have to pick him up, give him his tea and put him to bed because I don't get home until about nine.

Maternal possessiveness notwithstanding, I think it's actually good for little man to be looked after by a small group of close family members who really care about him. It's more of a whole tribe effort, a la the Continuum Concept. Even if it means mummy is only there at bedtime two or three days a week. And it means I get to sit down at a desk without being pestered. I was going to mention the importance of adult conversation, but the banter in work could not be classed as mature. So I'll settle for the fact that I can get all my swearing done without worrying about the boy picking any of it up. We have a profanity guide on the wall at work, the words we have to put asterisks in: fuck, shit, cunt, wank and twat. The conversation may not be mature but it is highly amusing.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Running commentary

Little man's constant questioning has shifted recently, from 'whassat?' to 'whadooween?', which translates as 'what are you doing?' I even sometimes get an accurate answer from him if I ask him the same question back. But sometimes he asks the question on repeat so that what I'm doing is exactly the same as it was the last time he asked. And the time before that.

He is talking so much more. I'm currently getting a commentary on In the Night Garden. 'In there', 'a house', 'nin nonk', 'gone', 'a blue'...which translates as the Pontypines and Wottingers are getting in the carriage of the Ninky Nonk that looks like a house. The Ninky Nonk goes off screen and the blue Ha Hoo appears. Sometimes the constant commentary and questioning becomes a little wearing. Just a little. I, of course, have the infinite patience to deal with it without ever adopting a tone of exasperation or snapping at him. Of course.

He does indeed have full-scale, finger pointing, 'No' shouting arguments between his left hand and his right hand. There's obviously a lot going on in his imagination. He sometimes plays by himself for what feels like quite some time, it's probably about twenty minutes, and he's constantly chattering to himself or to his toys.

His obsession with all motorised transportation continues. Today he got quite upset because he couldn't make the baby sign for plane, despite the fact that he can say 'plane' quite clearly. And does so several dozen times a day as we live on a flight path. Every time he eats an oatcake or ricecake he nibbles it until, to him, it resembles a boat, which he then waves around proudly proclaiming that fact. He also has other amusing obsessions, such as collecting the seeds of any kind of tree he finds. I now have to remember to check his trouser pockets before they go in the wash.

I have to make sure his father and I confer about what he's up to. Sometimes little man will say something that is a mystery to me until I ask his dad and it turns out it's to do with a film they've watched or somewhere they've been. I think the pair of them watch a lot of Disney Pixar. I suppose it saves me having to.

The other day I also had to check with his father (who's a civil engineer) that the metal inside reinforced concrete is steel. Little man had asked what it was as there's a picture in his Big Dig book. I think I'm going to have to read up properly about the workings of steam engines. Internal combustion is bound to be on the cards at some point. A trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester is probably in order. All I can say is, it's a good job I'm an all-round genius.

Monday, 9 August 2010


I've been tagged by Skippedydoodah. I've also been tagged a couple of times before but as those posts require photos I'm putting them off... As for tagging other folks, I don't like to put anyone under pressure! So straight on to the answers:

1) When were you most relaxed – and I mean so chilled you couldn’t move?

I remember a particularly sunny afternoon on Ynys Llandwyn, a kind of semi-island off Anglesey in North Wales. Lying on the grass above the beach, hearing the waves fizzing over the sand and bees buzzing in the sea thrift. Probably the odd seagull's cry up above. The water so bright and sparkly you could barely look at it. Clear views across to the mountains of Snowdonia. Warm sunshine on your face. An equally chilled husband next to me at that time.

2) Who in your life has changed you the most? (for good or bad)

I was going to say the aforementioned husband, as we met when I was 16 and split when I was 31 - that's a lot of time at such a changeable period of one's life. But... I think it's actually my son. There's nothing like having a child to make you think about what's important in life. And that it's generally the small, simple things. Also, when you have a newborn baby to look after you put your own needs on the backburner. I think that as that baby turns into a toddler and you maybe, just maybe, get to think a bit about yourself you re-evaluate what you think are your needs and wants.

3) What gets you up on your soap box – finger waving, rhetoric spouting, red-faced, passionately standing up for what you believe in?

I'm not a soap boxy sort of person. Confrontation scares me. I'm more of a quietly simmer but never say anything type. One of the big things that bugs me is when people think that everything in life comes down to money.

4) Which book/s have you read the most number of times (and are likely to read 100 times more)?

Lord of the Rings. Now I feel very cliched, but it's the book I turn to when I don't fancy anything else. A few times I've got to the end and started right back at the beginning. I guess it has that epic quality about it. I also love the idea of just heading off to tramp through the wilds. And I'm very short and fond of good food and ale.

5) Where is ‘Home’? The house you grew up in, the house you’re in now, or the house in your dreams?

The house I'm in now. I'm not one for nostalgia (and I don't like my parents' net curtains) and although I may daydream of a stone cottage by the sea somewhere on Britain's west coast my future is currently a bit of an unknown. I never thought I would move back to my home town, which is not really a place anyone would aspire to move to although I don't mind it. And I never thought I would have to buy a house on my own (or indeed that any mortgage company would lend me the money since I don't have a real job). But here I am, in my own house with my son and I've made it nice and cosy. If only I could afford a woodburning stove...

6) What attribute of yours would you most like to pass on to your children?

Erm, I'm thinking of things like self-reliance, determination, that horrible phrase: a can-do attitude. Not that I'm always like that.

7) How do you organise your life? Are you a list-maker, a scheduler or a “we’ll see when we get there” kinda person?

I used to be a list maker. Then I realised that whenever I weighed up decisions rationally, I still always ended up choosing the option that felt right. So that's what I do now. I do what feels right. I do a certain amount of forward planning, like trying to have fun things scheduled for days when I don't have the little man and I'm not working. Sometimes, if I start to feel overwhelmed by having lots of things to do, I'll write a to-do list and then try to make myself get through lots of the easier items on it so I feel like I've really dented it. But usually I ignore the to-do list and go out for cake instead. Or lose the book with the list in. I don't have a grand plan in life because I'm still dealing with the loss of the future I thought I had ahead of me.

8 ) And finally, because this one’s been bugging me for a while now: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

I reckon about three trees' worth a day. Depending on the type and size of tree. Maybe only one fully mature oak. Half a dozen ten-year-old silver birches. Unless we're talking pre-cut logs. And I'd like the woodchuck to chuck it in my direction; I'll store it all up for when I get my woodburner.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Up, down, up, down, up, down...

Did you notice how I sneaked in with a post as if I'd never gone away? What do you mean, you never noticed I'd gone! I was suffering from a prolonged inability to post. I have been too busy with my obsession with listening to Biffy Clyro and generally sitting on my arse going bleurgh. At first it was the usual pre-menstrual madness. Then it turned into the during-menstrual madness. Then I thought I was fine. And wham, I got hit with an out-of-the-blue, absolutely unexplained wave of depression. You know, the whole 'Go away; I want to hide under the duvet all day and not talk to anyone' thing. I've got used to these things coming and going predictably (as predictably as polycystic ovary cycles lasting anywhere between 28 and 48 days can be) but this was all out of sync. However, it only lasted a few days and now I'm fine again. Which begs the question: What the fuck's going on?

I'm used to the ups and downs, the lethargic can't-be-arsed-ness and the over-hyped let-me-at-em ness. But this latest was completely unexpected. But also very short-lived. Now, I'm used to my emotions being up and down, that's fine - when you're feeling down you know it will pass and when you're a bit hyper you know you'll relax eventually. I tend to think everyone is like this to some extent (one in four and all that). What I'm not used to is unexpected depression with no apparent trigger that comes from nowhere and fuzzes your brain up so that picking up even just one pair of toddler socks from the living room floor becomes an impossible task. So that, in a nutshell that can't ever fully explain this stuff, is what was going on.

I have other things to say, things about little man's fairly comical development (seeing his left hand and his right hand arguing with each other is quite funny), things about simple living, and working (which I have volunteered to do more of), things about sleeping, co-sleeping and lying awake not sleeping when you should be sleeping, things about getting in touch with your inner teenager. But for now, I've supped some homemade elderflower champagne and have had a day tidying up a rather overgrown allotment, so it's off to bed for an early night.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Right now....

  • I am absolutely bloody knackered from not being able to sleep properly then getting woken by the boy's arrival in the middle of the night.
  • I need a recipe for cornflake cakes that just uses cocoa powder instead of actual melted chocolate, because who could actually keep chocolate in stock in their cupboards?
  • I do not know where the baby fish is.
  • I cannot make the car fit inside the egg shell.
  • I am being cuddled up to by a boy who has a plastic slice of watermelon that he insists is a boat.
  • Tea, tea and more tea is required.
  • I have just remembered that the roadworks from hell on the M6 at Haydock are OVER at last and that I promised myself a bottle of something fizzy when this happened. And I don't mean diet Coke.
  • I am hoping the boy has forgotten the toy guitar I bought him yesterday and which has already been left behind at the other grandparents' house.
  • I am being given a slice of plastic bacon for breakfast. Yum.
  • I am looking out of my north-facing window and trying to decide if a picnic with friends in Lancashire is going to become an indoor picnic.
  • I am considering burning the grubby net curtains that hide the electric and gas meters inside a cupboard and which I intended to replace months ago with something prettier but have still not got around to.
  • I am also considering whether to ask the boy's father to have him on Saturday night even though it's not his weekend for that because I am just so effing tired I am struggling to function.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

In hiding

Normal service will be resumed soon... for now I have pre-menstrual mood swings, preoccupations, decisions, ditherings, sleeplessness, obsessive musical listenings, cross-stitching and courgette chutney making.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Little blue book

I've lost it, my little blue book with cutesy white spots. I've lost my to-do list. The one I often ignore for weeks on end but usually glance at just in time to avert major financial disaster. I've lost my shopping wishlist. This is the one that tells me the Stuff I think little man or I could do with so that when I get the urge to spend money I spend it on something that might actually be useful and not a pile of pointless junk. And not more tunes from a well-known digital music store where it is far too easy to splash the cash without really noticing. I've lost my list of crafty projects I'd like to do, or should do - like the curtains that I haven't made for seven months now.

Other things in our lives right now:
  • The boy has purple nail varnish on his toes.
  • I can't stop listening to Biffy Clyro.
  • We've had so much torrential rain it has been impossible to even think about doing any work at the allotment.
  • My courgettes are turning into marrows.
  • I once again have library fines to pay, exacerbated by the fact that my nearest library doesn't open on a Wednesday, a fact I discovered after walking there with all the books and boy in tow.
  • I am becoming increasingly bothered by the hideousness of my gas fire.
  • This is a three cups of tea morning.
  • I am not that keen on runner beans.
  • I am being politely requested (read: bashed over the head with the magnetic drawing board thingy to wails of pig, pig, pig) to draw a picture of Peppa Pig so had better go and get on with it.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Holidaying with a two-year-old

So here are my top tips for taking a two-year-old on holiday alone, albeit to a friend's house:
  • Borrow a portable DVD player then don't actually use it because you never got round to working out how and you manage to entertain the child with a Peppa Pig magnetic doodle board thingy, books and a colouring book.
  • Prepare to stop at unexpected times or places on the journey, such as the most depressing service station on the planet (Happenden, just south of Glasgow) or the shores of Loch Lomond.
  • Don't bother to plan where the child will sleep or take any kind of blow-up toddler bed because the child will be sleeping in your bed.
  • Remember to have a stock of oatcakes, rice cakes, bananas, satsumas, sultanas, breadsticks and those expensive but handy organic oaty fruity bars about your person at all times.
  • If you think you should take the buggy on an outing, take the sling, and if you think you should take the sling, take the buggy.
  • Expect to spend a long time doing things that may become tedious to you, such as walking into the edge of the sea and out again. And in, and out again. And in, and out again.
  • Do not take a toddler into a pottery shop regardless of how much you like pottery.
  • Do not leave your wallet on top of the car at a petrol station and drive off 30 miles to a campsite before realising and returning to find that all your cards have been run over and strewn across the carriageway of a busy A road.
  • Try to avoid having to erect a tent in a thunderstorm and torrential rain.
  • Remember that the child will be more interested in muddy puddles and toadstools than sitting in the pub, even if people are playing music in the pub and he briefly wants to join in.
  • Try to bypass all ice cream signs and work out how to explain that you don't carry ice cream in your pockets and one does not generally have ice cream for breakfast.
  • Do have a nice time and do some of the things you want to do regardless of  how much harder they are going to be with the company of the small person.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Little man's holiday report

I forgot to mention our holiday for the benefit of non-facebookers. The boy and mummy have been to Oban in Scotland to stay with a friend for five nights, followed by a night's camping at Moffat on the way back down. So here's some of little man's holiday experiences, once more in the style of the facebook status update. Little man:
  • stirred Loch Lomond with a stick.
  • held a starfish and stroked a hermit crab's shell at the Sea Life Centre.
  • sounded quite tuneful on mummy's friend's piano and quite liked playing the dulcimer and the tin whistles too.
  • joined in playing folk music at the pub on the tambourine.
  • got drenched splashing in muddy puddles outside the pub.
  • paddled in the sea and collected pretty shells.
  • got very excited on the boat trip to the island of Kerrera.
  • but was frightened by the langoustines at the restaurant on Kerrera, even after they had been cooked.
  • liked scaring mummy by insisting on walking up and down the floating jetties past all the posh boats.
  • became very attached to the 'truck' at the park.
  • climbed a mountain the easy way, by cable car, and was underwhelmed by the views but impressed with stepping stones over a stream.
  • wouldn't move off the top step of the baby pool at the leisure centre.
  • kept noticing poisonous-looking toadstools.
  • thought thunder sounded like wind in the trees.
  • stayed awake til after half past ten on the night of camping.
  • kept telling mummy to go into cafes for cups of tea, but didn't really want to stay put while she drank them.
  • likes the word 'boots', especially when referring to wellie boots and big puddles after torrential rain.
  • enjoyed the adventure play area at Westmoreland Services but was fed up of being in the car by the time he got home.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A little spot of paradise... and the pit of doom

Sorry about the gloominess of this shot. I'm sure if I had Photowotsit or some such I could lighten it. But hey, let's keep it real - I took it at dusk, therefore it's gloomy. But still it shows off the newly cleaned-up and stained decking, the lilac painted back wall, my cheery flowers and herbs and my newly retrieved table and chairs. I did have to drive around with the table in the back of my car for three days because it wouldn't fit through my front door or down the side alley. Then I mentioned it to the ex by text. I thought his reply was calling me a spanner. Actually, he was telling me I needed a spanner to take the top off. Oh, right.

There is more to the yard round to the left, down the side of the kitchen, although it's still considerably smaller than the garden I had pre-marital breakdown.

Ah yes, the pit of doom. And this is just the easily visible bit. Underneath the decking there is more junk, including what looks like an old toilet bowl. Nice. Sorting all this out is somewhere further down my to-do list. Anyone want two tatty white plastic garden chairs?

Monday, 5 July 2010

Gym'll fix it

I joined a gym a couple of months ago. I've been most weeks. (That was my aim since I have just two mornings a week when I can actually go to a gym as well as getting a million and one toddler-incompatible things done.) It goes against a lot of what I value and enjoy. Such as being outdoors amidst greenery and fresh air. Shunning daft machinery designed to do something you could do outdoors amidst the greenery and fresh air, like run, climb hills, cycle or row. Avoiding dance music at all costs. Not spending money on special clobber just to look good whilst prancing about on said machinery.

However. It's hard to get such an intensive hit of exercise out in the fresh air. Especially when running is out of the question. I am simply not built for it. I always feel better for spending an hour in the gym. I have energy despite the teething toddler sleep deprivation. I can even tolerate the music; it helps alleviate the boredom associated with repetitive movements. I even think I look quite good in black Lycra. I now weigh 11 stone despite eating the odd cake and slurping the odd glass (bottle) of wine. That's about 24 lbs less than I weighed at the beginning of the year.

There are a few factors that make going to the gym work and if they weren't in place I probably wouldn't even consider it. It's the council gym, so it's cheap, basic and friendly. I'm usually the youngest person in there by about thirty years. It's three minutes' walk away from my house. My membership also covers my weekly swim and my yoga class at two other leisure centres in the borough. I have a certain discount designer store in my vicinity so I can get decent clobber at bargain prices.

And I've been out climbing hills too, so I've had a big dose of fresh air, rocks, scenery and the odd bit of adrenaline provoked by steep drops:

Friday, 2 July 2010

Right now...

...I'm in need of a second cuppa to wake me up. And probably a third.
...I've realised my jam set too hard despite my efforts with cold saucers.
...The boy is whining because he's tired and teething, although he's quite happy that he found a pile of loose change and I've given him a little knitted bag to put it in.
...I'm glad it rained overnight as it means I don't have to water my pots today.
...I'm trying to remember if I fed the fish when we first came downstairs a mere half an hour ago.
...I'm looking forward to trying on my new walking trousers.
...I'm wondering whether to do my usual Friday swim, boy in creche, or to go to the woods instead.
...I'm devising a plan that will let me have a lunchtime nap with the boy.
...I'm looking at my guitar and realising I haven't picked it up to play since I replaced the broken string (the one I broke about a week after changing all the strings).
...I'm wondering if there are enough out-of-date dried beans in my cupboards to make a set of beanbags, and if there is suitable fabric in my stash.
...I'm wondering where the handles of the cupboards where the fabric stash is stored have gone since they were all unscrewed by the boy.
...The boy is whining because he's trying to slot pennies between his toes and they keep falling out.
...I'm remembering there are onions lying on a bench at the allotment supposedly drying out that have in fact just been rained on.
...The boy is whining because a pound coin rolled away.
...I'm looking at all the toys and crumbs on the floor in despair.
...The boy is whining because his coins won't stack.
...I'm going to put the kettle on.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Another hour or so of picking and feeling like I was playing twister whilst getting scratched by raspberry canes and nettled... and I had another 1.4kg of strawberries. There was only one thing for it. I think I've made jam before although I don't have a distinct memory of it so I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing. The result is very dark, but the strawberries were very ripe and they took a while to reach setting point so they were very well boiled.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

In an ideal world...

  • Babies would come complete with teeth.
  • The arrival of little man's final two molars would not have coincided with mummy having PMT.
  • Mummy would have had her Mooncup boiled and ready before her period started.
  • Little boys would instinctively know how to use a hankie.
  • Rain would come at regular intervals rather than vast quantities in a short period of time after weeks of drought.
  • Mummies would not be distracted by their children in the back of the car whilst passing a mobile speed camera positioned about a hundred yards before the change from a 40 to 60mph zone.
  • The tastiest food would also be the healthiest.
  • Therefore, cakes would be calorie-free.
  • Clothes would make it into drawers and wardrobes between being washed and being worn again.
  • Internet connections would not inexplicably stop working.
  • Children would not be automatically drawn to the one thing they shouldn't mess around with.
  • Everything would be where it belongs, including, for example, the tin of pins being actually in the sewing box and the kitchen scissors being in the kitchen utensils pot.
  • Toddlers would be compatible with mummy's desire to do crafty things.
  • I would have remembered I need to put the washing out on the line instead of writing this before it's time for little man's bath.
  • Life would be dull and predictable.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Getting away from it all

The little man and I have survived two nights' camping in Silverdale in north Lancashire. The rose-tinted, blogsville, let's look on the bright side version goes something like this:

  • The weather was stunningly warm and sunny, which meant we got a fantastic view over the Lake District from the top of Arnside Knott.
  • We did lots of little ambles, pottering through the woods, sauntering along the beach, finding empty snail shells, checking holly leaves for prickliness, tripping over tree roots and marvelling at butterflies.
  • Little man particularly enjoyed the muddy beach at Arnside. Not only did he get to scoop up handfuls of mud and throw it into the incoming tide, but he also got to watch trains go over the long bridge over the Kent estuary. Boy bliss. I drew him pictures in the mud with a rock.
  • We ate yummy proper ice cream, prompting his first ever demand to go to a 'shop'. I eventually realised he meant the cafe where we bought ice cream and played with their ride-on car.
  • We had a hideously nutritionally deficient picnic mostly consisting of sausage rolls (from a craft bakery, of course!), crisps (the organic sort aimed at babies and toddlers for no reason I can actually fathom) and a satsuma. We sat on the picnic blanket in the dappled shade of some oak trees and watched squirrels scampering about. Little man is charmingly fond of going for a 'picpic'.
  • There was plenty of space on the campsite for little man to run around, mostly without the usual worries about traffic or vicious dogs. He was very excited about the tent and kept going in it to play, despite the fact it must have been about 40C in there in the daytime.
  • I feel like I've had a break just from being somewhere so beautiful and peaceful. I saw a little stone place called Woodwell Cottage where I could happily retire, right now, and spend my time knitting bobble hats and making wonky pottery jugs.
Obviously, there were some fairly significant negative aspects, mostly concerning sleep, or the extreme lack thereof. Also tantrums, the first proper kicking and screaming type ones (something tells me this is not unrelated to the previous point). And running away, not due to the innate desire to explore but due to the desire to disrupt whatever boring but essential task mummy's trying to get done, such as cooking dinner, washing up or packing the car. And cooking on little gas burners with a toddler about wasn't much fun either. I don't think I can adequately describe just how much harder and more exhausting it is being alone with a two-year-old in such circumstances.

But hey, I'd do it again. In fact my memory of the bad things is already fading, as it helpfully tends to. I quite fancy Rhosneigr on Anglesey and Eskdale in Cumbria. I just wouldn't recommend it to anyone else unless you, like me, have a ridiculous need to 'get away from it all' into the middle of nowhere every now and again, and you have the ability to sink into ever lower depths of knackeredness and frazzledness and somehow manage to carry on regardless.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Three nice things

1. Cross stitched hearts on linen. They may become an embellishment on some kind of little bag or picture made from my fabric stash, which is mostly old clothes.
2. Flowers in a salad, namely pansies and chive heads. Salad is good at the moment. Lettuce, radishes, beetroot, mangetout and courgettes are all provided from my dad's allotment. Herbs and flowers from the pots in my back yard.
3. The lighthouse on Ynys Llandwyn. The picture is not great as it was pissing down with rain and I got drenched. I wanted to take pictures of the pretty snails all over the island, but the camera was getting too wet. On the other hand, if it hadn't been raining, the snails wouldn't have all been out.

I love those blogs I read that often come with beautiful photography. The sort that inspires you to get off your backside and do something creative. My pictures are very much point and shoot I'm afraid.

I'm being dragged off to see the snails in the fish tank now. They're not supposed to be there, but I don't suppose they're doing any harm. So bye for now.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Whassat? Goose poo.
Whassat? A feather.
Whassat? A police car.
Whassat? Rubbish.
Whassat? A dog barking.
Whassat? A cement mixer.
Whassat? A flag.
Whassat? A shopping trolley in the canal.
Whassat? A sycamore seed.

That was in a ten-minute walk back from the garage (where I have spent a small fortune on servicing and a new timing belt). We haven't even got on to the why, why, why yet.

Here's my big why for the day: Why do I have to sit and be jolly with the little man while we make a card for daddy for this Sunday?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A little light poetry

We've all been there, haven't we? Deciding to write poetry whilst drunk at some point in our angst-ridden teens? No? Oh, just me then. Anyway, here's a little something from the eighteenth-century Japanese Zen poet Ryokan that is reminiscent of such incidents, with less of the angst:

Stone steps, a mound of lustrous green moss;
The wind carries the scent of cedar and pine.
The rain has stopped and it is beginning to clear.
I call to the children as I walk to get some village sake.
After drinking too much, I happily write these verses.

As translated by John Stevens in One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (2006, Weatherhill).

Just one of my new books that arrived last week. How ironic that I have to buy books to remind me that I'm trying to live a simple, low-cost, less consumerist kind of life. Oh well, cheers!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Doing Stuff

I haven't been feeling very inspired to blog of late. And in the past few days I've had sudden urges to Do Stuff instead. Like cross-stitch pretty red hearts on undyed linen. Sort through the kitchen cupboards. Vacuum the bedrooms. Book my car in for a service. Draw round mine and little man's hands and string the results across the dining room. Grate freshly pulled-up beetroot into salads. Deadhead pansies. Drink green tea with mint. Phone the tax credits people.

I'm not sure when this flurry of activity will end. I'm just going with the flow in a slightly bemused taoist manner. Of course, the activity has been interspersed with plenty of shared naps, sitting down for a nice cuppa, gazing at trees blowing in the wind and sitting on my backside watching telly. I wouldn't want to overdo it.  

I've been musing on a post about simple living, one about cookbooks, another about my perfect playlist for driving, one about the driving itself. Maybe one about toddler learning. By which I probably mean un-learning or something. Possibly even a post about measures of success in life. But I'm going to stick to my general life philosophy: I'll do them when I feel like it. So much easier to wait until then, I find.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Letter to Australia

To: Mum and dad, somewhere in the Australian outback.

Thanks for the postcards, it sounds like you are having a fantastic time. Little man especially likes the thorny devil picture. He still thinks you are on every plane that goes overhead. And he wants to go on a plane too. I've told him he can when he's a bit older.

S and I have found the perfect solution to your gooseberry glut. They're fermenting nicely. The rhubarb brew is coming along well too. The allotment is relatively weed free. The raspberries have some sort of orange fungus on them. Little man is steadily eating his way through all the onion leaves for some reason.

Sat out in your garden with some friends a couple of weeks ago to keep the frogs company. We're having a barbecue there soon. I see you've been running your wine rack down though. I might even have to buy some. Shocking.

The car's running ok. I'm going to take it to work tomorrow. I've strewn a bit of rubbish around the passenger footwell to make it feel more familiar. I've also retuned the radio to get rid of whatever easy listening station you had it on. It's now tuned to Rock Radio and my iPod frequency.

No major news to report. I now have a blue bin. Little man and I may go to Oban for a few days next month.

J x

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


How can my son shun chocolate sponge pudding then ask for a Ryvita?
Why does he always eat the leaves of the onions at the allotment?
Why is there always sand in his shoes even when we've been nowhere near any sand?
Why did he tell me to shush when we went for a walk in the woods today?
Why is my quiet next-door neighbour moving house and not the one whose telly I can often hear loud and clear at midnight?
Where can I buy mini egg cups to fit my bantam eggs?
Why, nearly eighteen months after splitting up, am I still not sure whether my marriage is actually over or not?
Why do I have an insane desire to take my son camping when it gets light at around 4am?
Why isn't The Vampire Diaries on tonight?
What day is it anyway?
Are my goldfish happy?
What does 'aween' mean in my son's world?
Was he listening to my language today when I a) gouged my finger on the clothes airer and b) stubbed my toe?
Why do I want to listen to Paolo Nutini whilst doing housework and AC/DC whilst driving?
When will I get time to go and climb Tryfan?
What time will little man wake up tomorrow?

Saturday, 29 May 2010

One of the shittier weeks in the history of shitness

What with little man puking up all over me and the ex's bizarre text mistake and my pre-period fuzziness it's been a weird week.

The puking started in the early hours of Monday at daddy's house. He was sick twice in the night there. I put it down to him being pumped too full of fruit. Or being given juice to drink, which he never gets at home. He seemed fine back home with me. Until Wednesday morning. When he gesticulated for a banana, scoffed it, then brought it back up down the front of my pyjamas. Nice. He was his usual crazy self straight afterwards. But then when I got home from work at eight thirty that evening I found him still awake and saving up his puke for me. Thursday and Friday he was just a little more clingy and subdued than normal. Then as I went to bed on Friday I went in to check on him and discovered he'd been sick again, apparently without waking up. So now I don't know if it will happen again or what is causing it. I would have thought a bug would make him sick more frequently but for less time overall...

Then, on Friday morning, I got The Text. This is a really odd one. It was from little man's daddy and contained the words 'I love you'. I've never really known what happened to his relationship with the woman I found out he'd been shagging about eighteen months ago. But I assumed this text was meant for her. I texted back so he knew it had gone astray. And in a bizarre twist, the ex actually said it was some kind of sarcastic discussion with a family member about a problem at work. Right, ok. It seems such an unlikely explanation I guess it might actually be true, although he's actually quite free to say those words to whoever he likes. It was just very upsetting for me when I'm trying to get over him and it was not my choice to end our marriage in the first place.

On top of all that, my period started on the Friday morning too and I've been feeling really exhausted all week heading up to that. So the house is a mess, many things that should have been done haven't been done and many things that shouldn't have been consumed have been consumed. I also missed my lunchtime nap today because the boy woke up as I got him out of the car to carry him upstairs to bed. And his hair still smells of sick after last night, when I just wiped him up as best I could at half ten rather than wake him up fully to get him properly clean. I gave him a bath this morning but his hair is still stinky in that really special-smelling vomity kind of way.

Still, we made gingerbread biscuits this afternoon. And I made him a paper boat and aeroplane. And we spent ages watching a snail at the park.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


I thought my sling hoard was complete. I'm even thinking of selling some on. But now I'm wondering if, in fact, I need a new one. Little man only ever wants to go in the Yamo. He protests mightily if I suggest the Storchenwiege instead. Unfortunately, he has finally grown big enough that the Yamo is a) not supportive enough of him if he falls asleep and b) not that comfy for my back for more than half an hour or so.

So I'm wondering if I need something designed with toddlers in mind as I still have an instinctive dislike of the pushchair. Sure, there are days when it comes in handy and days when I can't be bothered carrying him. But generally it makes me feel encumbered. I don't like sticking to a certain quality of path if I go out for a walk and I don't like struggling in and out of shops or trying to find somewhere to park it in cafes. I do like that the little man is up at my level and I can talk to him over my shoulder.

So this is a warning really, that babywearing is addictive and very bad for the bank balance. Now, what do I go for...