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.