Saturday, 13 August 2011

On hold

I know, I know! Where have I been all this time?

Well don't get all excited now, because I'm only popping in here to officially inform you that the blog is on hold for the time being. You can imagine some annoying tune is playing while you read this if you like. What about Greensleeves? (Because that's really going to make you act more like a reasonable human being when you finally get through to the poor call-centre worker you're about to shout at, isn't it? A clue... No! Classical music mostly makes me want to hit something.)

I've just been too busy to keep up with this. Trying to juggle work, being a mummy and, on occasion, just being me. So, um, bye for now and be happy!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Being three

Being three means you really want to ask 'why?' all the time even when the question itself makes no sense in relation to the conversation that has gone before. It means that every time you feel a bit fed up or don't get your own way you declare that you don't feel very well and that your tummy hurts. Being three means asking mummy why she doesn't have a willy every time she sits down to wee. It means pretending to open each of the four bottles of beer on the kitchen worktop and handing them to mummy one by one with a 'there you go'. Then demanding that mummy opens them and hands them to you. Then repeating the whole thing a dozen times. Being three means suddenly deciding there's a monster under your bed and that is why you have to stay in mummy's bed even though it's only 5.45am. It means developing an irrational dislike of certain items of clothing, such as your new Gucio shoes or your rainsuit. It means that you ask loudly in public places why someone is fat, or spotty, or wrinkly. It means having entire conversations with yourself out loud without self-consciousness, usually arguing about something. It means that you go to nursery and learn about children being called naughty all the time even though no one has ever previously called you a naughty boy. It means wanting to know what everything is made of and what's inside things, like pebbles and twigs. Being three means that on the days you go to a cafe and mummy doesn't order you something special because she thinks you'll share hers, you turn out to be ravenously hungry, but on the days that she orders you something separate you don't touch it. It means that you've starting acting 'shy' in front of strangers because so many of them have said 'Aww, have you gone shy?' to you that you are finally convinced this is the right way to act. Being three means making a fuss every single morning over the brushing of teeth, washing of faces (and branchial sinuses that need washing so they don't get infected) and getting dressed. Being three means becoming aware of your own littleness, so that you declare that when you are bigger/older you will be able to... drive the car, drink beer, go to school, go to the shop on your own, reach high things, use mummy's camping knife etc.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sun, sea, sand

We've been on our hols, camping in Devon, the boy recovering from chicken pox. He enjoyed digging holes on the beach, lining up rocks and examining seaweed. But he didn't like the big waves, especially when mummy disappeared into them with nought but her cossie on. I expected him to wake with the dawn at 4am, but he actually slept til near seven every night, which I was so glad of. I've only camped with him for two nights at a time before, whereas this was six nights albeit with a friend to help out with the toddler-chasing activities. I'm feeling all refreshed in mind and spirit from the fresh air and sunsets, the rolling green hills and sea views. My body could still do with a month of early nights though.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Right now...

  • I am getting used to the keyboard on my new laptop. I am mightily pleased with the machine itself, purely because it is a beautiful shade of cherry red and the casing has an industrial tread-effect texture.
  • Little man is munching multigrain hoops and drinking warm milk whilst watching some telly, only this time it is bedtime and not breakfast time. I have steered him towards watching Deadly 60 so I can admire Steve Backshall.
  • I am slurping a glass of pinot grigio and looking forward to a takeaway when a friend comes round later.
  • I am trying to get used to the extra light flooding into the back of my house but am, on balance, not that happy with the loss of the mature silver birch tree in my neighbours' garden and the way they have hacked the leylandii hedge so that my view will now always be of dead brown bits. 
  • I am, somewhere at the back of my mind, trying to decide whether I really want a man cluttering up my life. 
  • I am looking forward to getting on with my subversive cross-stitch design and have decided the world is probably divided into those of us who giggle childlishly at seeing the word 'fuck' in embroidery and those who would sneer at such puerile nonsense.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


I love the utter pointlessness of these. Egg cosies. The only real use I can think of is if you live in a very large mansion where there's a long trek from kitchen to breakfast room and your butler really does need to keep your boiled eggs warm. But your soldiers would go cold. These two pairs were pressies, now I'm going to make myself some in a denser type of felt. They're from Scandinavian needlecraft by Clare Youngs. Sorry for the lack of posts, I've ventured back into the strange world of internet dating. No, you won't hear about it.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Meet Ginger

Here's Ginger, an impromptu gingerbread man. He came about because I ordered some felt from Blooming Felt. Now, this felt was for some birthday gifts, the nature of which cannot be revealed until next week. However, it was not the sort of felt I was expecting. I'm no expert but I knew I wanted proper wool felt. None of your cheapo polyester stuff. But what I got was a woven wool fabric with a slight tendency to fray, which isn't ideal for a project that requires felt and therefore has raw edges left unsewn. I made the gifts with it and am hoping they don't disintegrate on first use.

I then ordered some more felt from Myriad (which also has a large stock of lovely-looking but expensive wooden toys - daddy is going to be given the catalogue and told to get his saw out as he is quite handy with wood). Since I had already made the gifts, the purpose of this felt was unclear, but I wanted it all the same. I had to choose colours based on the tiniest of squares on their website. Hence this rather orangey shade of brown, which could really only become a gingerbread man.

Now, can anyone tell me the correct way to start off blanket stitch so you don't get a diagonal bit of thread at the back?!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Little man's nursery report

Little man here, taking over as mummy has been somewhat remiss of late in updating her blog. Anyway, I can report that I like going to nursery and it meets many of my requirements. They have lots of toys to play with and lots of space to run around in outside. I'm even getting used to the windy conditions since the nursery is situated on a heath which is probably the most exposed spot in town. I get to do more painting than I do at home, although mummy did show me how to make purple at home last week, so I decided to do purple handprints with paint that isn't meant for finger painting while mummy was icing some cakes we'd made. That was after I'd decided the tablecloth needed a trim with my scissors.

I have lots of friends at nursery, but I'm not sure what all their names are. Mummy thinks I must have seen one of them throw a punch at some point, because I tried it on mummy when I was angry. She walked off to another room. I like some of the snacks we get, especially the naan bread and dips, but I'm not impressed with tinned spaghetti on toast. (Note from mummy: Tinned spaghetti? WTF?) Yesterday, we had a teddy bear's picnic and I wore blue teddy bear ears.

Mummy here. Just thought I'd share with you the contents of little man's rucksack which I discovered this morning, all essential items in a survival situation. Along with spare underpants and trousers there were: a set of mummy's bangles, a beanbag, half a plastic egg, a wine bottle cork, a set of JCB tyres, a packet of tissues and a new torch.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Fantasy facebook

My laptop broke, ok?! And now that I've borrowed a laptop, my modem is playing up. I had to borrow a laptop because, having decided which new one I'd like to buy, I then got my car insurance renewal for pretty much the same amount of money. Anyway, I've been mentally writing this post. Which means I've forgotten it all and will have to make it up again.

Not to be confused with fantasy football, in which I have absolutely no interest, this is fantasy facebook where you daydream about the preposterous status updates you could have. This may sound like a lamentable pastime, and certainly doesn't encourage 'living in the moment', but I feel that long bouts of motorway driving legitimate it as an acceptable means of amusement. Here goes:
  • has doubled her income by selling subversive cross-stitch samplers online.
  • has met a lovely man who has his own allotment and camper van and is hopelessly infatuated with her.
  • has spent the entire day staring at clouds.
  • was going to eBay her ice axe but decided to go and climb Mont Blanc instead.
  • just bumped into Ray Mears and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and was invited to join their gourmet campfire dinner.
  • has just published an award-winning anthology of erotic short stories.
  • has knitted a bright pink tea cosy with lime green polka dots and is going to throw a massive tea party to show it off.
  • cancelled all commitments this morning and drove to Durness to swim in the sea instead.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Meet Mr Frog

He took less than an hour to make, which is a nice contrast to the fiendishly complicated cable pattern jumper I'm knitting for the little man and has been on the needles for months. Now that I'm looking at these photos on screen, they are also reminding me that I want to replace the covering on this kitchen stool. But first, I'm gearing up for front door painting. Today is sanding. Tomorrow, after daddy has picked up the boy, is painting time. I'm also feeling a strong urge to declutter my cupboards. Must be something in the air this spring. Other than pollen.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Bad parenting at the forest

I'm a bad mother. We went to The Forest today. That's Delamere Forest, although anyone who lives in Cheshire just calls it The Forest. It was about 7am when I decided we'd go. I thought we'd go early while it was still quiet. Just after 10am, we actually left the house, packed lunch in tow. But it seems I do not observe proper parenting practice whilst in the great outdoors. I did not, for example, expect him to stay clean. I did not tell him off for sliding down sandy embankments on his backside. I did not tell him off for getting green, mossy stains on the knees of his trousers. I did not tell him off for using his fingers to gouge interesting stones out of the earth. I did not tell him off for straying off the path to inspect every unfurling fern frond, every potentially climbable tree, every perfectly seat-like tree trunk, every half-nibbled pine cone, every mysterious rabbit hole. I did not warn him every five seconds about the nettles. Somehow, he managed not to get nettled. Somehow, we managed to have fun. Somehow, we managed to walk a couple of miles. Or so. I wasn't measuring. Another parenting fail. I had no buggy (it's been relegated to the loft). I couldn't pick him up due to the hernia op recovery, hence had no sling either. And I had only a vague idea of where we were going and how far away from the car park we were. Although I do have a tried-and-tested good sense of direction.

So now I'm raising a glass to my parenting failures, and to fresh air, and to dirt, and to exploring. Must do it more often.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Discoveries whilst on the sick

I'm back to work on Wednesday after almost three weeks off with the hernia horror. Fortunately, the infection seems to be finally clearing up, halfway through my second week's worth of strong antibiotics. So what have been the big revelations of the past three weeks?
  • I like work.  Conversation with a three-year-old is a little limited, although my language has probably been a hell of a lot cleaner for three weeks. Also, getting paid is quite nice, whilst statutory sick pay is not.
  • Work would have been a lot easier than looking after a three-year-old when one is supposed to be resting. At least at work I get to sit down for more than two minutes without being asked to get up and get someone a drink, snack, toy, teddy, book, clean underpants, tissue or spiky fish. Usually.
  • On the other hand, I find sitting down for more than two minutes difficult anyway unless I have embroidery, a book or knitting to do.
  • Plus, spending four or five days in a row together with a three-year-old can be good fun when you're not in a rush to be anywhere and have nothing in particular to get done.
  • Sunny Sunday afternoons were made for drinking real ale in beer gardens. So I guess I can also sit down for more than two minutes if I have a pint.
  • There's always something more important to do than put away the mountain of clean clothes piled up on my bedroom drawers.
  • Aftercare for day case surgery is virtually non-existent. There is no such thing as a district nurse in this area who you will ever be able to actually get an appointment to see when you need to because the primary care trust has reorganised services so that everyone has to go to the walk-in centre, which isn't even in this town.
  • Not being able to lift anything heavier than a kettle is a metaphorical ball-ache. No, I can't just shift that bag of compost in the back yard. No, I can't dig or rake at the allotment. No, I can't walk to the shop because I won't be able to carry everything home.
Edited to add: Felted bowls! Okay so my first effort is pretty small because I ignored all instructions as to needle size and wool gauge. But it's a bowl. And I hand-felted it in the kitchen sink in hot soapy water. And it's in gorgeous undyed eco wool. This may be the start of a new addiction.

    Wednesday, 6 April 2011

    The off switch

    A ten-minute car journey has now become an opportunity for little man to make all manner of preposterous requests and to question the very fabric of reality until my brain goes 'pop'.

    On the way to and back from Speke Hall near Liverpool it was 'Where are we going mum?', 'It's on that bridge?', 'What are those cones doing?', 'Where have the cones gone?', 'Why?'. And 'You sing, mummy,' when I put the radio on. I don't know the words. 'You sing mummy.' I'm just a teenage dirtbag baby. That's the only bit I know. 'Why?' And 'A toadstool, mum, you eat the toadstool,' proffering an imaginary toadstool.

    Then his plastic box, now emptied of strawberries but speckled with strawberry juice, became his little friend, who had to be hugged because he was covered in spots and obviously wasn't well. 'Mummy, you hug him.' I can't while I'm driving, little man.

    Both journeys ended with his neurons overheating and initiating emergency shutdown. In other words, asleep.

    Incidentally, the gardens at Speke Hall were pleasant enough, he actually admired the house (from the outside, I didn't fancy chasing him around the antique-furnished interior), the odd stone or hedge archway was fun, but the playground was by far the biggest hit.

    Sunday, 3 April 2011


    This is the sort of thing I got up to last week whilst recovering from my hernia op. I started this sampler months ago and finally finished it off. And yes, I really did miss out a 'Y' and have to add it in at the end. And yes, I should have done it in the centre of the fabric so I had enough to wrap around a mount, but I'm too stingy so I'm going to botch it and have fabric left for some other designs.
    Noah's ark is also coming along nicely. This is one for little man's room. I still have snakes, penguins and zebras to do, along with a bright, zig-zag border. 
    The op itself seemed to go fine. Unfortunately, the wound then got infected a few days later and I've been on strong antibiotics which seem to finally be doing the trick. The surgeon's sewing skills seem a little hit and miss. It's all very neat at one end, but a bit raggedy looking at the other.

    Friday, 18 March 2011

    Things and more things

    If you haven't already got sick of my moaning, you might gather that Things have been getting on top of me a bit. I'm not keen on Things. I try to keep them to a minimum. Things like financial matters and dealings with bureaucracy and call centres and waiting lists and officialdom and important post and the sort of emails you have to agonise over the wording of. But sometimes they all come flooding in on you. All at once.

    At first, I get a bit stressed. Then I get a bit more stressed and start to sigh and swear a lot. Then I resort to list making, cake eating and beer drinking. Then little thoughts start to pop into my mind. Mischievous little daydreams of the things I'd actually like to be doing. Sometimes, the other blogs I read help with the inspiration. It's not that I wish my life was like these people's. But that the blogs I like to read tend to focus on the simple things that provide an enduring source of calm and contentment. I like things. With a small 't'; things like fresh new hawthorn leaves and daffodils, open windows, evening birdsong as the days grow longer, a three-year-old's rendition of Baa Baa Black Sheep (had some ice cream), an old book with beautiful woodcut pictures of rural life, a children's book with beautiful seaside illustrations, an afternoon's digging and raking of allotment soil until it is that elusive, gardening-book phenomenon known as a fine tilth (a great name for a blog if ever I heard one).

    I am forming some half-baked plans for things I'd like to be doing this spring. Like going camping in south Wales for a couple of nights so the boy and I can go to the Museum of Welsh Life and explore all the replica Celtic roundhouses and 17th century farmhouses. Like planting primulas in the baskets on the wall opposite my kitchen windows. Like knitting a tea cosy. Like reading some Jane Austen and sitting in the yard doing some Jane Austen-esque needlework. Like eating buttery crumpets. Like taking picnics to the park. Like making a beanbag frog for the little man.

    It doesn't matter if I don't do actually do these things. Or if it takes weeks and weeks to get round to them. The potential is enough to cheer me up so I can say a heartfelt 'fuck that' to all the crap.

    Tuesday, 15 March 2011


    badly written online divorce service questionnaire... more blood tests required by anaesthetist (does this mean there was something unusual found in the first lot?)... no answer on my query over entitlement to sick pay... rearranging nursery familiarisation visits because of rearrangement of work because of expected op recovery time... boy waking up earlier and earlier as spring gets going... boy has been referred to Alder Hey to see specialist over infected branchial sinus, for which he is no longer taking any antibiotics but it is still gunky... yet another cold, making me cough and sneeze, which is what I think gave me a femoral hernia in the first place... two out of my three new bras are so badly designed that sharp corners at the back fastening are digging into me... comfort eating of such things as fresh white bread and brie...

    * News In Brief. And of course, newspapers only print bad news. The good news is: daffodils everywhere... real ale in my glass... it's bedtime... I get to put my feet up after I've had surgery (should I be looking forward to this so much?)

    Normal service, including the proper use of sentences and paragraphs, will be resumed soon.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2011

    A few 'whys' of my own

    Why do I have yet another cold? Because I am surrounded by a magical aura that acts as a beacon to every common cold virus within a fifty-mile radius.
    Why is my bank account three-hundred-and-odd quid down? Because I haven't been paid this week. Why? This one's still a mystery.
    Why can't I get hold of someone at my union to discuss my (non-)entitlement to sick pay after my operation? Because if I'm not at work I'm with a three-year-old who won't let me have a conversation on the phone without demanding the phone off me and making so much noise I can't hear the other person.
    Why did I have to have a rather pathetic one-egg omelette, without cheese, for breakfast? Because I haven't had time to go to the shop to buy bread for toast, or enough milk for porridge, or cheese, or more eggs.
    Why have I been stuffing myself full of chocolate? Because I'm a wee bit stressed, and tired, and run down.
    Why can't I move in my dining room? Because there's a play tent in the middle of it.
    Why did little man get up at 4am? Another mystery.
    Why am I typing with one hand? Because the other one is in a cardboard box boat.
    Why has the hole in the road outside my house still not been Tarmac-ed over after nine days? Who knows?
    Why am I failing to see the funny side? Er...

    Saturday, 5 March 2011

    Miscellaneous news, featuring the word 'why'

    It has begun. Asking why. About everything. I should be glad that he is such a curious and intelligent child. He wants to know about the world around him. Yes, erm, of course I'm glad. Here's one conversation we had in the car on the M56:

    Boy: 'I want a tiny pink cake.'
    Me: 'I don't have any tiny pink cakes.'
    Boy: 'Why?'
    Me: Because I don't carry tiny pink cakes around with me.'
    Boy: 'Why?'
    And so on...

    He's been extra whingy of late. Probably because his branchial sinuses are infected (holes in his neck, evolutionary remnant of gills that should have closed over in the womb but didn't). He had one week of antibiotic ointment, one week of ointment and amoxycillin and now we've ditched the ointment but have a course of clarithromycin. He has two of these holes in his neck. One is very red and oozing lots of green gunk. We saw a specialist when he was a baby (it took a couple of weeks to notice the holes, babies' necks being what they are) who said nothing could be done while he's little but surgery is a possibility when he's older if infection becomes a problem.

    It has, consequently, been a long day and I am hitting the bottle. A crisp Soave. I am preparing dinner, which I suspect I am cooking for one. Little man has just eaten two bananas and three ryvitas and has now moved on to an apple. He helped me to grind some spices and has just tucked into some coriander seeds, which he loves. He learnt to say 'coriander'. He also learnt how to finely chop herbs with a rocking motion of the knife. Another word he's trying to say at the moment is 'cushions' and it's unfortunate that it's sounding more like 'cunts'.

    I finally told him this morning that the chickens had died. I wanted to wait until we went to the allotment, otherwise I don't think he'd have quite grasped the abstract concept of death. But now he knows they are not there. I told him they had got old and died, rather than that they were torn apart by some sharp-toothed beastie. He took it all in his stride, as toddlers do, and demanded a little fork to do some digging.

    We then visited great grandma's house. Little man pressed the big red button. Well, it is very big and very red and just screams 'press me'. The Lifeline people called to check grandma was ok. I had to explain it was a false alarm. I asked little man not to press the button again. 'Why?' he asked. 'Because I bloody well said so,' I wanted to reply.

    Thursday, 3 March 2011

    How to make healthy pancakes

    Disclaimer: This blog post contains absolutely no recipes for, or information about, healthy pancakes.

    Step 1: Go shopping in your usual manner. Actually, we would normally walk to the Co-op, which is healthy, but today we drove, which is not, because we needed more shopping than I thought I could carry. When we get there, little man generally takes charge of one of those basket-on-wheels thingies while I get a normal basket too. He has a tendency to ram into old ladies. Who mostly coo in proper old lady fashion, but not always. Once you get to the queue, you have to get the small one to help unload the baskets onto the conveyor belt. This is a purely diversionary tactic to stop them running round and round the booze aisle with arms flailing dangerously close to the bottles. Near the checkout will be some of those plastic lemon-shaped lemon juice squeezy thingies. You will be required to purchase one.

    Step 2: Make pancake batter in the usual manner. My recipe is in imperial: 4oz flour, one egg, half a pint of milk. Make a well in the flour, drop in the egg, start to draw in flour whilst slowly pouring in half the milk. Then bung in the rest of the milk and beat til bubbly. (Did I just tell you how to make pancake batter? I do apologise.) Important: You must be getting a bolognese sauce under way at the same time as you make the pancake batter. This allows the small one to spend plenty of time beating the batter while you juggle burning-hot pans full of scalding-hot fat from the mince. While you are pouring off the fat, the small one will knock over the bowl of batter. Approximately half of it will spill over the worktop and onto his jumper. Clear this up in a cheery, it's ok, it was an accident, manner. You have just saved approximately half the calories of a standard batch of pancakes.

    Step 3: I forgot to mention the healthy carrots that made their way into the batter before it was spilt. The carrot circles you thought the small one might have liked to eat. But he/she will demand cucumber instead. Now is the time to fish out and bin (or rinse and compost) the carrot.

    Step 4: Having resisted the urge to swig wine straight from the bottle at midday and transferred the bolognese to the slow cooker, fire up your frying pan. Make the first pancake and present it to the child. Sprinkle on a little sugar and allow the small one to squirt on some lemon juice. They will put on an excessive amount. Present the small one with knife and fork. They will declare at this point that they don't like pancakes.

    Step 5: Eat the rest of the pancakes yourself while the child squirts lemon juice onto their plate and laps it up like a cat. They will eventually move on to squirting it directly into their mouth. When there is about one nano-gram left in the lemon juice container, they will declare they do not like it and pull a funny face. Oh good, you will reply, because it's all gone.

    Step 6: Congratulate yourself on your child's vitamin C intake, give them something else for lunch and clear up the mess.

    Tuesday, 1 March 2011

    Annual life assessment

    Health: Hernia repair op due on March 25th. Weight creeping up again due to Christmas, the gloominess of January and the prolonged birthday season. Otherwise not so bad apart from the fact that I'm being eaten all up by a dragon right now.
    Wealth: Middling to poor. But at least I still don't earn enough to have to pay back my student loan. And I saved some money on electricity yesterday when we had a power cut. New car is saving lots on fuel (to get to work, to earn money to buy more fuel to get to work...)
    Career: I don't understand the concept.
    Friends and family: Fab. Don't know what I'd do without them. The boy is generally a very happy chappy.
    Romance: Non existent. Have ordered duplicate marriage certificate so I can start divorce process. Maybe once that's under way I'll try internet dating again. And maybe it'll be better than cardigan guy, the one I met at a coffee shop who didn't bring enough money for a coffee and the one who was so quietly spoken I couldn't carry on a conversation with him.
    Creativity and general airy fairiness: I knit. I hug trees. I smile at daffodils. I found a tai chi class that fits in with my strange work and childcare arrangements. Occasionally I write stuff that mostly never sees the light of day. I daydream about the sea. I'm trying to decide whether to put pagan, taoist or Jedi on my census form.
    Overall outlook: Life is good.

    If you hadn't guessed, it's my birthday. I'm 34. Little man got me a ready-to-plant strawberry hanging basket and nasturtium bucket, via daddy.

    Thursday, 24 February 2011

    Birthdays and giggles

    This is how the third birthday of a boy who has separated, working parents goes:
    • Phase 1: The Saturday before. Trip to the safari park with mummy and daddy. This is the once-a-year opportunity for him to have both the people he cares most about there at the same time. I've suggested to daddy we should do it slightly more often. Anyway, little man's favourite animals were the lions. Later, we all had pizza for tea.
    • Phase 2: The day itself. First use of the scooter. More presents to open and play with. A new book to read. Chocolate and milk in a cafe with grandma. An afternoon of more scooting at grandma and grandad's house while mummy goes to work.
    • Phase 3: Birthday tea day. This is where we're up to now. Food shopping to do. Cake to bake. Lunch with friends to fit in in between. Tea with mummy, grandma, grandad, auntie, uncle and cousin later.
    • Phase 4: The Saturday after. Start of a weekend with daddy and birthday tea with the other grandma and grandad. A new bike to be ridden.
    And the giggles? Little man telling me to go away and trying to lift me up the stairs by the leg so he can use his scooter in the house without me seeing. And the discovery of a lump in his jeans pocket, which turned out to be an acorn which must have been there for months.

    Tuesday, 22 February 2011

    TV guilt

    Now that the boy can clearly express his wishes, they often tend towards the watching of television. At the moment he's having a Waybuloo phase. Chuggington is also a favourite, but silly mummy didn't record any episodes and now it's no longer on the iPlayer. At least he seems to have temporarily forgotten about Cars.

    The zombie-like state he enters while staring at the box is useful sometimes. I know he won't be getting up to mischief while I have a shower. He isn't jumping on the laptop keyboard while I type this. And at least Waybuloo is teaching him some yoga.

    Of course, yet another study has recently told us that watching TV is bad for children's health. A Canadian study of 1,300 children linked longer TV viewing at the age of two to lower levels of classroom engagement, poor achievement in maths, reduced physical activity and increased body mass index.

    I suspect that the sort of parents who read about studies like that are the ones who have the least to worry about. We are actually thinking about what the hell we're doing to our kids by the way we bring them up.

    During one episode of Waybuloo, he has actually sat still and eaten some breakfast instead of taking two hours over it. Then he announced that he wants to be on the television. I said I didn't know how you get on it, thinking of the group of children on Waybuloo. He said: 'There's a hole?' So now I know I'm going to have to try to explain how TV works sometime soon. Having had his cereal, he wandered about, making himself a bed on the footstool and practising his 'me' and 'I' as in 'I not want to go to sleep.' We played hide and seek when he closed his eyes and told me to count to ten. Now he's hiding the screen behind a blanket because a dinosaur wants to eat the piplings.

    And I've just realised that he has started on 'why?' As in why will the TV give him a shock if he rubs the synthetic fleece blanket over the screen. I really don't know. It just will.

    So there we go, I'm not banning television although we do avoid adverts. Eventually he gets the urge to get up and do something else anyway. We talk about what's on. His imagination hasn't stopped working. He still runs around plenty. Personally I don't like the thing blaring away at me, but the only way to stop him wanting to watch it would be to get rid of it altogether. Then how would I watch such educational programmes as The Vampire Diaries and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?

    Monday, 14 February 2011

    Potty training by stealth

    I think I can safely say we're more potty/toilet trained than not here. I keep thinking of the boy and me as this entity known as 'we', although I have, in fact, been toilet trained for many years now. Anyway, we've gone from wearing underpants as a bit of a playing around, 'oh look, here's a red pair with Thomas on', experience to wearing them as a matter of course in the daytime. Nappies still rule at night and I'm in no rush to change that and be dragged out of bed in the morning to help with weeing.

    We've done this without me reading a single book on the subject. The shock of it. I don't think books on parenting are always very helpful. There are those that you generally agree with and you think 'oh yes' and 'of course' as you read. But then you realise you aren't living up to everything they say and you feel like a failure. Then there are those you disagree with. No names required here, I think, for anyone aware of the range of parenting literature out there. But even though you read them with a 'don't be ridiculous' and an 'I can't believe people really do that' attitude, their advice has been implanted at the back of your mind. Your methods suddenly seem a bit hippy instead of normal, your way of muddling along has been shoved to the 'alternative' end of the spectrum.

    But back to the potty. It has pride of place in the living room. I once thought this was a bizarre thing to do. But, guess what? I can't be bothered going up and down the stairs every time he thinks he needs to go. My stairs are steep; it's like climbing the north face of the Eiger. With a full bladder. Once I'd convinced the boy that underpants were not the root of all evil, we started putting them on in the morning for an hour or two before we went out and again for a couple of hours before bedtime. Of course he weed in them. And did the other. But gradually he used the potty more. Then we ventured out in underpants. In the car, with no form of protection on the car seat. We like to live dangerously. It all went fine.

    His answer to 'Do you need a wee wee?' is still always 'no'. And I do get fed up of constantly reminding him to tell me if he does. He still needs quite a bit of persuading to get him on the potty before we go out or to take the opportunity of using a loo when one is available while we're out. I'm still taking a change of pants everywhere; although I make him carry it himself in his little rucksack. But the whole process has been relatively hassle-free. And achieved without gold stars or chocolate. (I read Unconditional Parenting; now I can't do 'rewards' without questioning their effects.) He actually seems delighted to be able to do it. And to show me the results. I did tell him that baby boys wear nappies and big boys use the toilet. I don't see this as bribery or a value judgement; it's just a fact.

    Friday, 11 February 2011

    Sunny pottering... in numbers

    Visits to cafes: Two, one at the park in the morning; one at the arts centre near home with grandma and grandad in the afternoon.
    Falls into mud whilst kicking football at park: About 47.
    Very small trees scaled: 3, sort of, including the odd slip and cry of 'help me, mummy.'
    Strangers befriended: 5, including the two volunteers in the park cafe, a three-year-old girl and the three-year-old's grandma.
    Strangers who tutted at us: 1 old woman, as the boy ran round and got a bit noisy in the art gallery. Because obviously children shouldn't be taken anywere remotely cultural.
    Inches of boy's scarf knitted: About 36. In 100% polyester snowflake yarn. Classy. But little man found it in the craft shop and started rubbing his cheek on it to sighs of 'ahh'.
    Playings of 'This is Our House' DVD in succession: 7. A book by Michael Rosen and Bob Graham that he has suddenly taken a liking to. Involving a little boy playing in a cardboard box house who won't let anyone else in.
    Accidents in underpants: 0
    Changes of underpants: 1, due to falling over in mud and playing on wet park.
    Wees in toy watering can whilst in the bath with mummy who was too lazy to get out to put him on the loo: 1

    Wednesday, 9 February 2011

    Pee tests and being prodded

    I've been getting an intermittent pain in my lower abdomen since last September. It felt like cystitis but didn't respond to over-the-counter remedies and kept coming back. I have done no less than five pee tests at the doctor's. No infection. I have been prodded and poked. I got sent for an ultrasound because of my polycystic ovaries to check they were behaving. They were. I have taken a course of antibiotics 'just in case'. They didn't help. The next step was going to be referral to a urologist.

    Early on Sunday morning I had to get up to pee when I would normally have ignored it and gone back to sleep to avoid the risk of waking little man. He didn't wake up, but I did discover a big lump in my groin. (I know you really want to know all this.) It was somewhat alarming. It felt, to me, like quite a big swelling to be going on down there. I eventually convinced myself it was probably just a swollen gland and something to do with the cold I had (still have). I handed the boy to daddy over a cuppa and went to work.

    On Monday morning I spent twenty minutes pressing redial to get through to the doc's and got an appointment for that morning. I was prodded and poked. By two doctors. They agreed. I have a hernia. I have an appointment with the surgeons next week. The doctor (he was quite young and had obviously had a course on being nice to patients) wondered how I felt about the fact I had gone in thinking I had a swollen gland and was going out needing surgery and with the knowledge that my innards aren't as inwards as they should be. Afterwards, the thing that upset me most was the fact that I had no-one special to tell for a bit of instant sympathy.

    I ate a bar of chocolate in work that afternoon and consumed a bottle of Soave spread over Monday and Tuesday nights. I feel just fine now, doctor.

    Saturday, 5 February 2011

    Quick bodges: Making a rainbow

    As crafting achievements go, this one's pretty basic. I stole the idea from Jo Jingles. The handle is an embroidery hoop/frame thingie. The man at the market rooted out all the appropriate colours of ribbon for me while the boy ran off towards the fish stall to see the crabs. I snipped them (the ribbons, not the crabs) with pinking shears in the hope that the ends won't fray too much too soon. Then I wrapped them round the hoop, put a few little stitches in to secure and, hey presto, a rainbow shaker. Twenty minutes tops, not counting the trip to the market. It helps if you know someone with a drawer full of reels of cotton in all the required colours, someone, in this case, being my mum.

    Now I just need to learn the song that starts: 'Take a little bit of red...' But not right now because I need to get spuds in the oven to roast alongside the chicken, a rare treat when there's only one big person and one small person in the house. Also, I need to help the boy brush up on his carrot chopping skills before he amputates a finger.

    Tuesday, 1 February 2011

    Bye bye Matilda

    Bye bye Matilda the Hun, the bantam hen who thought she was a cockerel, and her feathered friends Flossie and Gertie. Killed by a mystery savage beastie. They were crap at laying eggs, but they were pretty, friendly little things. Not sure what to tell little man.   

    Friday, 28 January 2011

    A toddler's eye view

    Little man here. I got my hands on mummy's camera and took a few snapshots at home this morning. Here are some of the results.
    Cars (the movie) colouring pad.

    Self portrait. If you look closely you can see my branchial cleft sinuses, aka two holes in my neck that sometimes go red and gooey.)

    Here's mummy in the kitchen, pulling a funny face and with scary red eyes. The post-it notes are her to-do list. I think she should add 'wash up' and 'get hair cut'.

    My insey winsey spider game.

    Me standing in a stream on my play mat.

    Mummy's hair looking shiny.

    My potty. Empty.

    Selection of toys.
    My big house.

    Our fish, and the pottery snail I painted at a stall in the park last summer and which is miraculously still in one piece.

    Thursday, 27 January 2011

    Favourite things

    Little man has just been laughing hysterically at The Enormous Turnip story. Specifically the bit where the turnip finally pops out of the ground and the old man falls on the wife and the wife falls on the boy and the boy falls on the little sister and the little sister falls on the dog and the dog falls on the cat and the cat falls on the mouse, who says 'Eeek!' He's finding the 'Eeek!' part hilarious and has also picked up the hot tip that you need to talk to seedlings to make them grow big. I think we'll be planting turnips at grandad's allotment this year. No idea what I'll do with them in the kitchen; ideas welcome.

    Anyway, here are his other favourites:
    Film: Cars. He loves it. I think Lightning McQueen is currently his biggest hero. I hate it. Mostly because of the noise. Which is ironic given the noisy sort of music I like to listen to whilst driving.

    Song: Jack and Jill. When I ask what songs he wants at bedtime (he first instigated this ritual, possibly a crossover from what happens with daddy), he says: 'Broke his crown.' Although Baa Baa Black Sheep remains the only one he sings himself.

    Food: Ice cream. Preferably Neapolitan. With bumps (chocolate vermicelli). At grandma and grandad's house. He never gets ice cream at home (my freezer's too full of last year's cabbage, which I never seem to find a use for).

    Toy: His dumper truck. All kinds of things can be piled inside it, pushed around and then dumped in strategic places, such as the doorway between the dining room and kitchen.

    Mummy-copying activity: Sewing. With a big blunt darning needle, a small square of linen and his choice of embroidery thread colour. He hasn't got the hang of pushing it back and forth through the fabric instead of wrapping it round yet so his masterpiece turns into a little screwed-up ball. The picture shows it after I have snipped it open again for further use.

    Monday, 24 January 2011

    I should be...

    • tidying up before my mum comes to clean this afternoon.
    • phoning BT to check their incorrect demand for money has really been sorted out.
    • phoning B's prospective nursery to find out why I have still had no information in the post, supposedly the third time they have sent it.
    • on my way to check the chickens so I can then get to my tai chi class on time.
    • checking little man's pyjamas are out and bed is ready for him to get into when daddy brings him home while I'm at work later.
    • putting the recycling in the blue bin.
    • pumping my car tyres up.
    • making salad to take to work.
    In the moment? Not really.

    Friday, 21 January 2011

    Social education

    It's funny how what comes naturally to a toddler is not always the done thing, or something they can continue doing as they get older.

    While we are doing the (very slow) process of toilet training/familiarisation he spends a fair amount of time without any trousers or pants on. Of course, this means he fiddles with his willy a lot. And when, during dinner with his grandparents, he farted noisily (bare bum on wooden seat), he decided to investigate where the noise came from. Then went back to his pizza. (Chicken Pizza Mexicana, the tastiest bizarre, non-authentic pizza recipe ever.) Nice (the pizza, not the investigation).

    Then there's the whole thing about engaging complete strangers in conversation. It's probably acceptable when it's the checkout assistant. He told her that mummy's car was parked outside, that mummy's dark blue car is old, that mummy is getting a new red car and, of course, that daddy broke his old car in the ice and had to get a new one (this one never gets old, apparently). But when it comes to the stranger who happens to pass us as we amble along the canal towpath, who gets told about the nests in the trees and the planes overhead... Well, it's sad to think that this might not be ok in the future. When he's with mummy, it's a positive sign of the boy's sociable nature and conversational skills. But when he's old enough to be out and about on his own you have to make him suspicious of innocent passers-by.

    On the other hand, there are things he does now that he really needs to improve on. Like his hide-and-seek skills. Grandma, grandad and I have all taken at least three turns each at finding him this evening. He hid in the same place every time.

    Tuesday, 18 January 2011

    Topics of conversation

    It's 8.30am. So far today the boy and I have discussed:
    • The fact that the bumpy bits on his hands are called knuckles, which are a type of joint, and that we need them so we can move our fingers.
    • The relative states of happiness of baby fly and daddy fly, whose sadness can be assuaged only by being stuffed in my dressing gown pocket for a while then removed and fed multigrain hoops.
    • The crescent-moon like shape of broken multigrain hoops (own-brand, people, don't tell me off). Who'd have thought he knew the word 'crescent' even if he does pronounce it like it begins with a 'p'?
    • The technical specifications of the cast of Chuggington, including wipers, horns, lights, colours, shininess and top speeds.
    • What colour we should paint our front door. The boy chose blue, which is good because that's what I already decided and I've bought the paint.
    • The difference between a 2D picture of a circle and a 3D wooden sphere.
    • Many other topics, including snails, buses, Baa Baa Black Sheep, missing mummy and daddy when they go to work, what we might sing at Jo Jingles, mummy's need for tea, daffodils, wallpaper, fish, sewing machines, the Insey Winsey Spider game and the fluffiness of dressing gowns.

    Saturday, 15 January 2011

    Growing vocabulary

    Little man (no, mummy, B a big boy) is becoming quite a chatterbox, having made us wait months and months for his first proper words. He now accosts strangers in the street: 'Man! Man! There's a nest / duck / stick / boat / balloon etc.' A couple of his latest achievements are the ability to say 'Mary Whitehouse' (don't ask) and 'pepperoni'. He is even starting to have a stab at singing nursery rhymes, particularly Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle. This goes along with him demanding songs at bedtime now, after stories but before final night-night hugs. Sometimes he can't get his words out as fast as his brain is working and stammers while you wait with an expectant, encouraging look on your face. It's probably not the done thing to laugh at him at this point. Sometimes he says the wrong word with comic effect and it's tempting not to tell him otherwise, particularly when he's pointing out that mummy has 'big burps' and he has 'baby burps'. Or when he wants to be carried down the stairs and says: 'You carrot me.' Snigger.

    In other news, I have today paid a deposit on a new car. Well, new to me, if you know what I mean. A Micra that I will be able to park outside my house with much greater ease and which will hopefully guzzle a lot less fuel. The dealership are giving me £400 for my old car. For an eleven-year-old Mondeo with 116,000 miles on the clock and a hole in the bumper. Result. I have also filed my tax return. And they say they owe me money. I have no idea why, but I'm not going to quibble.

    Sunday, 9 January 2011

    Winter sun

    A bit of winter sunshine and I suddenly feel all mellow and daydreamy. I'm affected to a ridiculous level by the things and people around me, including weather. I tell myself that winter gloom is okay. (I hate it when people complain about the weather all the time, except when it's me going on about snow...) I tell myself that winter means opportunities for wearing silly hats, coming home in the dark to the warm (electric) glow of home, getting cosy with a mug of cocoa. But after Christmas it starts to drag. And it has been pretty gloomy here most days.

    This weekend, however, the sky cleared and the sun came out. And immediately I started to think of summer camping trips (something's whispering 'Devon' in my ear), lazy picnics, barbecues, growing things, wearing sandals. There's a lot of winter left, but it's nice to have sunshine. I listened to Paolo Nutini in the car instead of Biffy. I drove more slowly (although I still muttered 'twat' at several other drivers). I did some yoga after the gym this morning. Mellow all round. It's what I think of as 'acoustic' me.

    It's not so nice to see British daffodils in the supermarket. I do usually buy daffs as early as possible. But surely to have them on the second weekend in January means there's a corner of southern England covered in acres of heated greenhouses?

    Saturday, 8 January 2011

    My big house

    Hello, it's little man here, although I need to point out that I am a big boy now. Not a baby. Got that? Anyway, I got a big house for Christmas along with other such delights as a cash register, more cars and a big truck. The house was right in the middle of the living room covered in lovely 'trains' wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

    I particularly like rearranging the bedding on the children's bunks and putting the tiny cakes on the tiny plates. Then I do a bit of DIY with my Bob the Builder toolbox; you know the sort of thing, hammering, sawing, screwing. After that it's ready for me to park Roary's big truck upstairs and a dumper truck and school bus downstairs. The stairs themselves have to be removed so that the truck can dangle precariously over the gap and I can shout 'whoooaaaa'.

    Next up, I pile all the furniture and the four dolls into the attic. Tonight, mummy made me some miniature pictures of flowers and a boat to stick on the walls. I thought one would look good on the roof. Mummy told me it might get wet if it rained, but, as I had to point out to her, it won't get rained on because my house is inside our real house.

    Friday, 7 January 2011

    Downs and ups

    The downs: I've waited in all day for United Utilities to come and fit a new gas meter. I even rang up this morning and was told they'd be with me by 1pm. Rang again at about 3pm only to be told I was never booked on their system anyway. Right. Also, it snowed again. And I'm getting another cold. And I can barely afford to get to work. And I need to get divorced and it's going to cost me at least a few hundred pounds. And the boy keeps waking up at six-something. And I feel flabby and haven't had any proper exercise for weeks. And I'm fed up of having to go and feed chickens which haven't laid a single egg between them for at least three months. And I need to do my tax return.

    On the other hand, there are the ups. I have my new picture back from the framing shop and my dad has put it up for me. (I do actually have a drill that was the ex's old one but have never actually got it out of the box to investigate its state, but I don't have a garage full of little tubs of variously sized rawl plugs, screws, nails etc that many men seem to have.) It's only a print, but it's a lovely scene of a little whitewashed Welsh cottage amid stone walls and rolling fields. In fact, if this works, it's this one by Pembrokeshire artist Chris Neale. The website comes with a financial health warning if your tastes are in any way similar to mine.

    Also, I'm going to start car sharing from halfway to work if I ever get chance to clear my old banger out enough to be able to give everyone else a lift without feeling utterly ashamed of its pig-sty state. And I've found the two bits of paper I need to do my tax return. And it's stopped snowing and most of it has cleared now. And B rubbed my arm when I was having a sneezing fit earlier and said: 'Me feel you better, mummy.' And I'm going to the gym on Sunday, cold or not. And tai chi starts again on Monday. And my chickens are still pretty, which will probably save them from being stewed.

    Little man has developed a way of avoiding saying 'no' to me all the time. He has cunningly started to say 'not yet' or 'soon'. I have tried to explain that this means whatever it is we're talking about has to happen at some point, but we haven't quite got that yet.