Friday, 30 April 2010

Pitter patter on the window

Just a quickie here to express my delight at hearing rain on the window. Yes, you heard. April in my neck of the woods has been abnormally dry and now, just as the buds burst on the lime trees opposite my house, we're getting a decent bit of rain. You know, the rain we're supposed to get in April to help this green and pleasant land stay green and pleasant. And yes, you know, the lime trees that are going to drip sticky nectar over my car if I have to park on the grass verge. Then again, I don't think it could make it look much worse... must get round to renewing that tape on the bumper.

Where I used to live was in a very exposed spot. There was nothing to break the wind and rain between our bit of Wigan and the Irish Sea. Now, although I am a stone's throw from the Mersey, it's a lot more sheltered. I used to hate the windy weather. I never could get in touch with that part of nature's ferocity. All I thought about was the unexplained leak above the kitchen window and the vulnerability of the trees I had planted. Now I don't have trees to worry about because I don't have a garden any more. And all my window frames look like they were made for a different house where they might have fitted.

Anyway, happy soggy Beltane. If you want fecundity, I guess you have to live with the rain.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Busy little bee

Hello, it's Sir Whingealot here for a change to tell you about my day. I had a nice ride on Thomas the Tank Engine at the supermarket but I don't know why mummy always says I can't go on it until after we've done the shopping. And why can't I have one of the bananas as soon as they go in the trolley? I'd also quite like to press the buttons on that little machine she puts her debit card in. And why she insists on trying to get me to sit in the actual toddler seat in the trolley is beyond me.

After that we went to the library and I wanted mummy to carry me there but she keeps saying I'm getting too heavy. I pointed out some buses, and aeroplanes, and street lights for her, just in case she hadn't noticed them. I saw lots of balloons in the shops on the way there but mummy wouldn't get me one. At the library we were supposed to be singing some songs but it wasn't very lively so I decided to run around instead. Even the fact that a real fireman was joining in the singing couldn't persuade me to take part. So mummy said she wasn't going to just chase me round the library and we went back to the car. Pretty soon after that I felt like having a doze. I have a feeling mummy did something interesting while I was asleep because we have gained a pot of paint. But I didn't wake up until we were back home. And then I was very grumpy for a while, but I felt better after cuddles.

It rained all afternoon so we pottered about the house. I nibbled oatcakes into the shape of boats but refused to touch any cheese today. I played with some toys I hadn't seen for a while, which mummy was trying to sneak away for the charity shop. I played night night-good morning in my lovely new bed. I took my toolbox for a walk in the buggy. I got very frustrated with jigsaws that wouldn't jig and magnets that wouldn't stick and the fact that we couldn't find all my squeaky eggs.

Grandma and grandad, and even great grandma, came to visit and brought me a cookie. I think mummy might have swiped the other half of it though. We all had lots of fun with a plastic orange. Then it was tea and bath and bedtime. Yawn. I gave mummy a big wet hug from in the bath before she went to do yogo with the Piplings, then grandma and grandad put me to bed and I plan to dream about being Timmy the tiger.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tired and wild

The boy was tired. That explains it all. He should have been napping and instead I dragged him off to Jo Jingles and expected him to wait for his sleep. That's why he decided to repeatedly go and rattle the door handle even though I asked him not to in case someone opened the door into him. That's why he ran around at full speed and fell flat on his face. That's why he was the one child peering under the table cloth for goodies, such as the balloon intended for a birthday girl, and reaching on top of the table for anything he could get hold of. The one child doing his own thing instead of joining in, although he often does anyway.

That's why I picked him up to try to calm him down and have a little chat with him, particularly about the door. And that's why he was shaking his head about in a crazy fashion. And that's why he headbutted me in the nose. Really hard. Ouch.

My self critic briefly kicked in, telling me that other people might be disapproving of the fact that my child was running around like a loon while all the others were sitting still and listening and joining in. Maybe I should have been attempting to deal with this delinquent behaviour. Maybe I shouldn't be allowed to go to toddler groups where my child can be a bad influence on other little people. Maybe I've created this monstrous child by failing to be authoritarian enough.

But I say briefly because this, of course, is nonsense. He just needed a sleep, having been up early and also having had less sleep than usual at daddy's over the weekend due to the excitement of those grandparents returning from a long trip away. And the critic was purely internal. And the boy is charming and adorable even when he is ignoring my every word.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Choo choooooo!

I finally took little man on the promised train ride to Liverpool. We didn't really need to go to Liverpool but it was that or Crewe. I think I'll take him to Crewe when he's less likely to leap onto the rails. Anyway, he thought it was fantastic. There was even a freight train waiting at Runcorn station when we got there. He was also mightily pleased with the two lambananas on the platform. Of course, I forgot to take my camera.

Whilst in the metropolis, apart from riding around in the Yamo, he managed to sit on a frog, sip a hot chocolate and play a game of musical chairs with mummy. In the cafe, he managed to hide behind my back so the assistant thought I was talking to myself. Oh well. On the train home he played peekaboo with the somewhat bemused young man sitting behind us, who gamely played along.

The recent sunshine has got me thinking about camping. I'm planning some Thursday to Saturday trips to fit around work. I think one will have to be to Ravenglass in Cumbria so we can go on the little steam train known as Lal Ratty. Now I just need to get my tent pole fixed after putting it off for almost a year.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The up side

I'm a bit picky when it comes to fluffy, self-help, affirmation chanting, personal development techniques. I'm happy to hug trees and obviously The Force is with me and if I were ever to be invited to dance round a bonfire at Beltane I'd probably say yes. But I like to think I'm not entirely away with the faeries. Anyway, some people think you should write down three things to be grateful for at the end of the day in order to stay positive. So here goes with my things to be grateful for today before I slip into an irreversible cycle of cynicism in the face of traffic jams, legal threats, sinus madness and a house full of sand:
  • Little man slept til half seven on what was only the third night in his new big boy's bed, having woken up a couple of times on each of the previous nights. He doesn't even seem to want to get out when he wakes up, just chatters and eventually whines to himself til I go and get him.
  • He sat still for his first ever full haircut. The knots at the back were getting a bit much and he wouldn't let me near him with a hairbrush. So I was glad that although he gave me a thunderous look that said 'you know I'm not happy about this, don't you?' he actually co-operated remarkably well.
  • While we were at the park, the maintenance guys arrived to mow the grass. Seeing the sit-on mower was definitely the highlight of the little fella's day.
  • We both had a TWO-HOUR nap at lunchtime. Yay. I don't normally manage to drop off before little man wakes up, but I know I must have because I had those crazy dreams you get when you sleep in the middle of the day.
  • I've remembered the existence of cottage cheese. Low fat and I actually like it.
  • My back yard gets more sun than I expected. I thought it was facing due north, but it must be slightly more to the west, so one corner is a little suntrap in the afternoon.
  • My yoga class has ironed out all the mummy aches again.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sticky tea bread recipe

This is from Delia's Frugal Food, which I frugally bought at a second-hand bookshop. It's a really easy cake and rather yummy and as someone requested the recipe I thought I'd share it with everyone.

You need to find:
150ml water
150g caster sugar
110g sultanas
110g butter
1tsp bicarb of soda
1 large egg
I tsp baking powder
175g plain flour

Preheat your oven to 180C or gas 4 or guess if, like me, you are new to having a fan oven.
Grease a 450g/1lb loaf tin. Delia says line it with greaseproof paper but what's the point in having non-stick bakeware if you have to line it? I grease and flour mine and it hasn't stuck yet.
Get a pan and stick in it the water, sugar, sultanas, butter and bicarb. Bring it to the boil, stirring it all together, then boil for ten minutes. It has an explosive tendency to boil over and you need to keep stirring it down or lifting it off the heat for a second. But whatever you do, do not leave it alone to attend to the needs of a child or the gloop will end up all over your hob. What you can be doing is sifting your flour and baking powder and beating your egg.
Then take it off the heat and let it cool enough so that when you stick the egg in it won't scramble. I put the pan in the sink with an inch of cold water round it. Stir the egg in, then the flour and baking powder. Give it a good old mix until it's all smooth, pour it in the tin and bake for about an hour and a half in the middle of the oven. Feel free to go out for a stroll in the sunshine while it's cooking, but when I got back after an hour and twenty minutes my latest loaf was a bit dried out.
Don't forget to enjoy the caramelly tasting bits left in the pan and on the spoon.
Enjoy the cake with a lovely cuppa.
Apparently it gets better if you keep it for a few days in an airtight tin. Mine have never had the chance.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Cheating and sand

Well here's a few of my ideas: Simon and Garfunkel, Han and Luke, Sam and Dean, Bert and Ernie, Dottywot and Spottywot, Daff and Dill, Knit and Purl, Makka and Pakka (ok I stole that one), Bits and Bobs, Nee and Nor, George and Dragon, Romulus and Remus (get me with the classical reference), Bilbo and Frodo, Apples and Pears, Keep Calm and Carry On, Damn and Bugger It (my favourite, but not really toddler friendly), Bucket and Spade, Dawn and Dusk, Butch and Sundance....

I'm going to cheat and take half of Pink Starfish's suggestion, which was Bob and Thomas, and go for Bob and Wendy just to keep the feminist vibe going here. (Apologies if you have a mind like mine and that sounds like a double entendre. Or if you don't have a mind like mine and are now wondering what the hell?...).

I'll probably get two more fish soon, as long as the first two turn out to be happy. Or appear to be happy, as it's hard to tell. They're very active anyway. So there will be more opportunities for Thomas-related double acts.

In other news, I had a few people round as a kind of mini housewarming this afternoon. There was cake. There was coffee, for which I would like to apologise. I don't drink coffee so this jar of instant may have been around for a while. There was tea, which was fresh. There was sunshine. There were five children under three in a small backyard containing a small sandpit. There was sand on the decking. There were tussles over toys. Even more spectacularly, there was co-operation and playing together! There was sand in the house. There was sand in the boy's turn-ups. There were acres of sand in the boy's shoes. Hell, there was even sand in my dinner. Really.

Due to the hyperness of the afternoon, little man had a bit of a late night. I brought him downstairs after bathtime and thought, hmm, what can I put on the telly so he can chill out a bit? I found the Dorothy talent show on the Beeb. Little man clapped them all. And sang along. And made a hand gesture that looked like he was asking where his mini microphone was. He was very disappointed when I took him upstairs, but he was also exhausted and asleep within moments, after his three books. Tonight we had: Maisie Goes to the Museum, Aliens Love Underpants and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. I love the way little man makes the OWP sound when the tiger eats all the sandwiches on the plate and how we have to pause on the page where they're walking to the cafe to point out the cat, the street light and the moon.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Name the fish

Competition time! We need suitably ridiculous names for these two chappies. The prize, apart from the privilege of winning, is a slice of imaginary cake. For a bonus prize of a fictional cup of tea, the fake stone head, which I believe is from Spongebob Squarepants, could also do with a name.

I will read out the entries to little man on Saturday (April 17) and somehow pick a winner according to the amusement factor of his response.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

And the little guy's status...

Here are the two-year-old's status updates. Little man:
  • had an excellent time at his first Jo Jingles session and particularly liked the bubbles.
  • waved to people on canal boats.
  • likes running around on the edge of the canal and making mummy panic.
  • picked a dandelion.
  • found some very nice sticks along the towpath, including one with a funny fluffy bit on the end.
  • didn't want to sit around while mummy drank tea and ate cake, because he'd already been very patient at the first cafe over lunch.
  • fed some goats.
  • fell asleep on the way home regardless of mummy's singing to try to keep him awake.
  • didn't want to eat his tea until mummy pretended she was going to eat it and then wolfed the lot.
  • got very excited when his aunty arrived to babysit.
  • likes being put to bed by his aunty because she's not as mean as mummy and reads lots of books.
  • slept under his duvet for the second time instead of in a Grobag.
  • probably doesn't realise he's got a nice new bed to sleep in soon, just as soon as daddy returns the allen key and screw from the Ikea kit that he accidentally left with at the weekend.
  • has put his bowl of cereal in his truck.
  • is playing a tune on a cornflake.
  • is currently obsessed with choo-choos and might get taken to Liverpool on the train this week.
  • can count, but only if it's something worth counting, like choo choos.
  • would really like to get his hands on the keyboard and has already managed to mysteriously change the font mummy is typing in.
  • is having a meltdown because he wants milk, even though his milk is on the little table right in front of him.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Random status updates

Just some of the things I did or could have posted today. JK:

  • should have bought a bigger pirate ship.
  • wonders if there's an equation to work out how long the chlorine takes to offgas from a 30-something litre tank with a surface area I could work out if I could be bothered.
  • needs to wash the nasty shop smell out of her new bedsheet. The one to replace the sheet the small child managed to rip.
  • needs more tea.
  • is impressed that her calves fit in her boots even when clad in skinny jeans, and is pleased that the make of jeans she bought is generously sized, making her a 14.
  • is going to get some fresh air and sunshine at Wigg Island.
  • couldn't work out if the tide was coming in or going out.
  • doesn't like dogs.
  • is liking the blossom and celandine.
  • is going to leave the washing hanging in the yard while she goes to work and hope it doesn't rain.
  • is getting hooked on Rock Radio as some kind of teenage nostalgia thing.
  • needs more tea.
  • is at work as usual on a Sunday.
  • is playing solitaire.
  • is liking the fact it's still light when she leaves work.
  • should check her tyre pressure.
  • should re-tape her car bumper.
  • is daydreaming on the M6, as is her piscean wont.
  • is opening a bottle of rioja.
  • was going to watch The Departed from her V+ box but has given up to have an early night instead.
  • needs chamomile and spearmint tea.
  • just remembered she needs to put the sheet on her bed before she gets in it.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Catching a whirlwind

This is what happens when I try to take pictures of my little man:

Monday, 5 April 2010

Extinction warning

I have a bank holiday feeling, despite being in work yesterday and today as usual. What it means, though, is that I am leaving the to-do list for another day. I am using my child-free morning to sit in bed with a cuppa and the laptop. I might even get creative and write a short story. Because I do occasionally. Then I send them off to magazines and never hear anything about them again.

I had a lie-in this morning. One of those where you wake up at 6am and through sheer force of will manage not to get vertical before 9.30am. I'm now seriously considering buying a teasmade, which has been suggested to me on a number of occasions after I have moaned about the one major drawback of not having a man around: no one to make that first cuppa of the day for you.

Whilst vaguely on the subject of writing, I heard on the grapevine that there are job cuts in the department I used to work in, pre-maternity leave. Some newspapers are trying to pretty much do away with sub editors, which is what I am. It's one of those jobs that you always have to explain when people ask what you do. So here goes: I check copy for fuck-ups, cut it to fit the space it's got on the page, make sure it's readable (and I'm not talking Times readable, I'm talking seven-year-old readable) and write headlines, straplines, picture captions and the like. Now that makes it sound pretty simple, but it's a fairly important stop between reporters and Jo Public. And it's a bit bothersome to me that some over-rich, non-journalist, greedy bastard guys in suits who own newspaper companies are trying to make me extinct. Because I'm lucky enough to like my job.

While I was on maternity leave and still endowed with a husband, I dreamt of not having to work at all while my children were young. Oh yeah, there was going to be more than one child in this daydream too. But now, I'm quite glad I go out to work, although I'm also glad it's only three days a week. I'm not knocking stay-at-home mums at all; I don't think going to work somehow makes you a better parent. It just gives you a break. From having to be constantly vigilant of what your toddler is climbing up now, where they're sticking their fingers, what they're putting in their mouth. From the constant fear that they're going to start whinging or crying inexplicably. From the wrestling matches when you want to get them dressed, change their nappy, get them in the car, walk along the street without getting run over. Being a mum is by far the harder job.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Don't forget to breathe

Picking them up, putting them down, changing their nappy, giving them piggy back rides, chasing them round in an attempt to get them dressed, playing on the floor, sleeping with your arm round them because they woke up crying at 1am, carrying them upstairs, carrying them downstairs, picking them up, putting them down... Being the parent of a toddler gives you backache.

Yoga works a treat. I started going to a weekly class about three months ago. Of course, as I'm a single parent going out in the evening entails calling on the babysitters, ie grandma and grandad, again. Anyway, yoga irons out all the aches and twinges for a while.

Every Thursday I think to myself: I should do some of these postures at home too, then my back might stay ache-free for longer. And the inevitable happens: I do fuck all about it. Just like every night I think to myself: I should go to bed earlier tomorrow. And every evening I think I should do something useful instead of watching telly. And every day I think I should get on with making some more curtains. And sorting out my paperwork. And painting that bit of skirting board that never got done.

At least I've managed a couple of 'shoulds': eating less crap and drinking less wine. Now, what I really want to do, as opposed to should do, is find a tai chi class as I've been going to classes on and off (more off than on) since I was a student and have still never learnt the whole of even a 24-step form.