Jewels, grasses, chestnut shells

I am commemorating Autumn this year in the best way: by teaching the boys that ridiculous primary school song that pretends to be about autumn but is actually about jet planes and gratitude. You’re singing it already, aren’t you?

Autumn days when the grass is jewelled 

And the silk inside a chestnut shell

Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled (?!)

Oh the things I love so well

So I mustn’t forgeeeet (swaying)

No I mustn’t forgeeeeeeet (descant)

To say a GREAT BIG THANK YOU (fist pump)

I mustn’t forget

This is such an adorably dorkish song that everyone needs to learn it, so they can sing it while swishing their way through leaves on their way to nursery. I have never thought to be grateful for jet planes, personally, and didn’t know they refuel in midair (do they?), but it’s an autumn essential, so now you know. YouTube it!

Oh, and we went to pick a pumpkin on Saturday, which was brill.

You may remember, reader love, that we already had a pumpkin from Odds Farm Park. Two days after we got it home, I noticed a bit of spidery mould inside, and by the next morning it was pushing out of the eye holes like some grotesque fungal disease. Halloweenish, yes. Sanitary and toddler-appropriate, no. So that pumpkin ‘went on holiday’, and we went to Garsons Garden Centre with my brother- and sister-in-law to find a healthier one.

Garsons is a bit of a drive for us, but I really like it there. The pumpkin patch was much gloopier than last year, after the recent rains, but we’d come prepared with wellies so were totally devil-may-care about it. Teddy couldn’t decide whether he was more excited about the pumpkins or the free mud bath. Why choose, Teds? Pick both.

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We are the absolute winners of the family photo, though, aren’t we?

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Do you want to see something scary? This is us standing in the same spot, a year ago. I expect Teddy to have grown, since he’s leapt from baby to person this year, but Henry, oh, Henry. You are so much bigger now, and yet you’re still wearing that top. (Also, this photo looks like it was taken in the sixties. What kind of camera did I bring?!)

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Boy 1 loves his cousin. I tried hard to get a photo of the two of them, but they wouldn’t stand still long enough.
Finding a tree-star did the trick.

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After the pumpkin patch, there are two huge farm shops: one with fruit, veg and other food, and the other with everything else ever. There’s an expansive Christmas section where I got our special bauble for this year, and enough lovely toys and kitchenware to make your purse hurt.

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Don’t forget the mutant squash. I think that long chap is the one that can turn things to ice, and you know the two-headed monster is the one with the retractable claws.

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This sort of outing can only be rounded off with giant hot dogs and curly fries, and – luckily for us – it was.

Happy October! Wishing you jewelled grasses and jet planes in bulk.

Garsons Garden Centre, Esher, Surrey. I like Esher because Edward Seymour lived there once, but also because of the mutant squash. 

Expansion

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This is a big deal for him.

He doesn’t like to paint, or make collages, or do anything that means getting his hands dirty. The other children in the class are painting things for him (seriously. Future mob boss?).

I worry a little about where he fits, and what his teachers see in him.

I do not know always whether I am encouraging him to try new things, or squeezing him in a mould that’s not made for him, so that one or both of us will look better.

I am trying to let him be. I keep thinking: no boxes, no boxes, no boxes. No boxes allowed around here.

Today, he made a leaf picture (he’s still picking off the glue from his fingers).

Three breakfasts

Friday

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Tim: Do you want any breakfast?
Me: [brushes hair]
[wangs Henry's shoes over shoulder]
[scrubs at Teddy's teeth]
[whips open pushchair]
No time no time no time
[door slam]

Saturday

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Tim: Do you want any breakfast?
Me: Ooh, yes please. Toast and a hot drink?
Thanks. I’ll eat it while I’m drying my hair.
[puts plate within easy reach]
What, Teddy? I’m just – just give me a – whattttt?
Come up here, then.
No, that’s my toast.
Alright, just a bit.
Noooo, you got jam on the carpet? Come here. It’s alright. Let’s get a wipe.
[puts uneaten toast on a high shelf, remembers it when running out of the door half an hour later]
Damn.

Sunday

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Tim: Do you want any breakfast?
Me: Ooh, yes please. Toast and a hot drink?
Yes, Hen, I can find your carriage.
Teddy, lovey, can we read this book once I’ve finished – ok. Quick then.
You need a wee? Good boy, let’s GO GO GO.
Well done. Let me finish my breakfast, and then I’ll go run your bath.
Are you being kind? HENRY GILES. ARE YOU BEING KIND.
What’s our rule, mm? If Teddy is crying, he…doesn’t like it. That’s right. Now do you have something to say?
Sorry for what?
Ok, great. Let me go and finish my…
[swigs cold hot chocolate]
Damn.

A baa-somely good day out

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I am sometimes guilty of trying to hurry my children into things they’re not ready for. (I don’t wish to point any fingers but, Roald Dahl Complete Works, I might just be looking at you.) We’ve visited so many farms and petting zoos since Henry was born, and all with the same result: animal terror, or animal indifference. No, I don’t want to feed them. No, I don’t want to stroke them. Let’s play in the playground instead.

This makes it all the sweeter when we realise he’s finally old enough to get excited about farm animals. We were lucky enough to be given a family day out to Odds Farm Park in High Wycombe this Saturday, and we all had a whale (sheep?) of a time. There were so many things to do that even Teddy, who isn’t keen on animals, was thrilled: a big barn with sheep, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs, animal shows, tractor rides, huge outdoor playgrounds, a big indoor soft play, go karts, mini electric tractors, and (during the weekends in October) pumpkin carving in time for Halloween. The best thing about all of this – as a person with tumbleweed hair – is that lots of it is indoors. Every time the rain appeared we retreated back inside to see the animals, or revisited the scary slides in the soft play area. This was bad for hair in another way, but it wasn’t wet.

Unless you had new wellies to try out. Then it was.

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Who do you think is enjoying themselves more here? It’s actually hard to say.

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SHEEP. We loved this. At other farms we’ve visited, the animals have been (understandably) skittish. These sheep are happy about everything: your camera, your face, the bag of food you’re holding, rainbows, kittens, brown paper packages, etc. Henry got right in there with hugs, and the sheep were all BRING IT ON, WE LOVE YOU.

Hiiiiiiiii.

Hiiiiiiiii.

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After the animals we had lunch in the cafe, and rioted in the soft play for a while. There were sections for bigger and smaller children, so both the boys had a lovely time. But the tractor ride was winner of the day. They were beside themselves.

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Even after all that, we had a lot of playground to cover. Sand! Water! Swings! Castles! Wouldn’t you love to be a playground designer? They have all the fun.

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I will be writing on the back of this photo ‘The Way You Were In 2014′, since it has them both to a T. Henry, wandering lonely as a cloud. Teddy, the beast.

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We visited the pumpkin tent just before going home. Jack Skellington says hello.

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There were lots of things we didn’t get to see, too. The place seems endless. Now, it’s not cheap, so I’d recommend planning a full day with packed lunch to get your money’s worth. And the loos could use a revamp. But the activities were so varied and so exciting that we’d love to go back again. Apart from anything else, we promised that sheep we’d let him know how his headshot turned out.

Odds Farm Park, Wooburn Green, High Wycombe. They were nice enough to give us a free family ticket, but our (enthusiastic) opinions are our own. I mean. Just look at that face.

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Movin’ on out

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Hello internet! Hello wider world! Hello, dear blog from which I have been absent a fortnight! I feel like I’m all rusty. Here, someone help me bend sideways.

We finally got connected yesterday and, let me tell you, if you ever want to feel the First Worldness of your problems, go without wifi for a couple of weeks. It actually hurt, but for heaven’s sake. It’s hardly cholera, is it? Even so, now we’re all wired up I feel like doing a celebratory dance. Brb, just Googling everything ever.

Let’s catch up, shall we? Photo iceberg ahead, cap’n.

The move. Ah, the move. The move that ended up being confirmed two days before, while Tim was in Scotland on a work trip. We’d started Caution Packing before he went, but I spent those two days sweeping everything into boxes AND running papers here and there AND lion-taming two boys, one of whom was teething molars like a baby shark. Reader, I survived. With the aid of excellent friends, plus two burgers and a pizza.

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Moving house involves many feelings (see previous overly-emotional post for reference). You find yourself packing books in a box, and then thinking histrionically ‘my books have gone, so I don’t live here anymore. But still no confirmation of a new house. WHERE DO I LIVE?’ Drama, drama. I’ve toned it down several thousand notches now.

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The actual move was hectic, but went smoothly. I was panicking about getting our old piano down the stairs, but with the help of several willing gentlemen, it came down in one piece. (We had so much help all day, and we were so grateful.) Once everything was packed, the boxes pile stretched from floor to ceiling, taking up our entire living room. Tim had the time of his LIFE (no sarcasm) working out the most mathematical way to fit it in the van. It was like a game of Tetris. He’s really very good at Tetris.

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Once we’d taken the last thing downstairs, hoovered and swept and mopped and closed all the doors, and left the new owner some chocolate and drink, I just sat for a bit on the windowsill. It looked too small and it looked too big. I cried a bit. And then we drove away.

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I felt funny here for the first couple of days – things everywhere, trying furniture in different configurations that didn’t quite work – but we’re settling well now. We have clothes, food and a working washing machine. The boys have been fantastic, getting excited about new parks and our little scrubby garden (to be continued).

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We love being so close to Henry’s nursery, and surrounded by woodland on every side. This morning I took Teddy to explore one of the bridleways – wearing loafers, like an idiot – and apart from the loafers, it was wonderful. Living in close proximity to trees makes me happy. This is a distinctly hippyish thing to say, but it’s true. I can see our next ten years here. It looks nice.

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On the downside, the water here is either harder or softer than we’re used to, and with that plus autumn gales and damp nursery runs, I haven’t yet managed to achieve anything on my head other than this.

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This is a couple of steps down from bed-head, and it looks like this all the time. Sigh.

On Sunday I helped Sarah move into her new house (which is lovely), accidentally broke the car a bit on the way out, and drove back worried. I came in to find everything tidy, our art on the walls, Sunday sun falling onto the floor in every room, and Tim waiting in the quiet with the boys asleep. He said I hadn’t really broken the car. And it felt like coming home.

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This is your house now: a tour for the person about to buy my house

I’ve had this post in my head for months, and months. The thought of writing it kept making me cry at inconvenient points. Now we finally have a fixed move date (in, um, two days), it’s probably time to let it out. 

Come on in. This is your house now.

Here are some stairs. You’d better get used to that, because there are a lot of them. I don’t want to know how many times I’ve staggered up and down with furniture and work bags, then later car seats, endless bags of groceries, and boys, always boys. The very first time we came here to stay, straight out of the taxi from a South African honeymoon, we found a basket of food and wedding presents just here. We carried it upstairs and sat on a brand-new bed to open them, and laughed a lot.

Once we manhandled our old oven down the steps, just the two of us. Don’t ever do that.

We don’t have a cat (people always ask). The boys like to use the cat flap for poking their heads through. I wouldn’t recommend this either.

***

Come in here, to the living room. The kitchen is small, but we’ve attempted all sorts. Mostly pies and things involving potatoes. Do you like pies? This oven does.

I brought my first baby home to this room, and I set the car seat on the floor just there and thought how alien it looked, and how nothing would be the same again, for my whole life. There was a before and an after, and the point in the middle was marked by that car seat on the floor. I was so sore, and so frightened. Then we sat on the sofa just here, battered and bruised together, and I smelled his head, uncurled his tiny fingers, and knew he belonged here just as we did. It worked out alright.

Henry walked for the first time from that sofa to that chair. He’s climbed up here and fallen off. And here. And here. And (lots of times) here. Right here is where he said ‘car keys’, which was the phrase that set loose all the others. Teddy worked out how to propel himself backwards here. And here he went forwards. And here (see those dents on the floor?) he went turbo-charged.

If you lie on the sofa and the weather’s just right, you can look straight up through the skylight like it’s a window into space.

Come and look out of the bay window. It’s nice. Be warned though, the neighbour will be able to see you dancing from their window.

This is a good floor for dancing.

***

This room started off as a study, became a nursery, then Sarah’s room, then back into a nursery for two boys instead of one. I thought a lot (too much) about putting that green on the walls, but now it reminds me of industrious train-building afternoons, early bed-head mornings, and quiet nights with soft breathing and soft warm bodies. I like a room with history, and this one has the most.

I like to sit here on the sheepskin, against the radiator, and write.

***

Upstairs again, and this is our room. I think of love and lazy mornings and that magnificent balcony. Sitting on the edge of the bed for a 4am feed, everything still, breathless with ache and wonder.

Teddy arrived just here. Yes, here. There’s a reason the carpet is new, and it isn’t that we liked the pile.

I’ve saved the best till last. Look, here’s where the sun floods through the skylight onto the floor. I’ve sat here to dry off, to cry, to read, to shut my eyes and let the sunshine bleed through my skin and light me up from the inside out. Sometimes I’ve sat here feeling broken into pieces. But I promise you, sometimes I’ve felt like every wonderful thing I ever dreamed of has flown through this window and landed on my lap.

We’ve been so happy here the walls must hum with it. It feels like I’m leaving my heart behind. It feels like I’m ripping myself in half.

Stand here, and let the warmth come up through your feet. This is your house now.

Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams. Oh my dear, they have been multi-coloured, diamond-sharded, breath-taking things.

I’ll let myself out.

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Dear exercise-haters: you’re doing more than you think

Tim is running a marathon next year. I know, he is p r e t t y intense and very impressive.

I have no concept of what running 26.2 miles actually means (since for me it would only mean prolonged but certain asphyxiation) so I will leave the imagining to him. What it means for the moment is an exercise schedule including long runs, even longer bike rides, and the wearing of much lycra.

I am sort-of happy about the lycra, in that while lycra itself is a bit gross by definition, there is also so. much. leg.

What it also means is that he comes home starving and ready to eat like Henry VIII on weed. I join him in this endeavour, because I am a supportive wife. But I am not burning an extra 900 calories on a slow day, dear readers. So he’s eating a pig-inside-a-duck-inside-a-turkey and banging his mead goblet on the table, feeling revived, and I am eating the same and only feeling greasy and bloated and sad.

This is a problem. I love a marathon man, and I am an exercise-hater. We are basically the Romeo and Juliet of Sports Direct. The only exercise I ever enjoyed was dance class (a LONG time ago) and the yoga class I used to go to, pre-babies. I’ve never found a replacement. All other forms of exercise I have tried make my cells weep. I have done it, because I feel I should. But I hate it. Do you hear, Pinterest quotes superimposed over sweaty abs? I. HATE. IT.

It seems deeply unfashionable to be an exercise-hater at the moment. My Facebook feed is full of Zumba enthusiasts and excited spinners. There’s also, you know, the science (heart health! endorphins! ability to punch robbers in face!). Don’t worry, fellow exercise-haters: I am unlikely to start posting about My Fitness Journey any time soon. But all this proximity to sweating and good health has made me realise that, busy or not, exercise-hater or not, I need to start earning my own goblets of mead.

And I will. In October (probably). When things settle down. When I don’t have quite so many Doctor Who episode blogs to read at 11pm. Until then, to ease the guilt, I have compiled a list of STEALTH EXERCISES I’m doing right at the moment. If you are a fellow hater, you might find these helpful.

- carrying fifty pounds of boy up and down the stairs when they’ve both mysteriously lost the use of their legs at the same time

- continual manhandling, assembling and lifting of the HEAVIEST PUSHCHAIR KNOWN TO MAN

- sprinting up a flight of stairs after hearing an unmistakable ‘face in toilet’ kind of splash

- elevating heart rate by holding breath during abominable nappy changes

- elevating heart rate by stumbling over a silent toddler in the dark hallway at 1am on my way back from the bathroom

- using all possible muscle strength to prevent the Tesco trolley that always veers to the right from crashing into the Pringles aisle

- full-body-wrestling Teddy, the human demolition ball, into a set of clothes every morning

- squeezing self onto toddler-sized slide and pulling self out by sheer force

- 5pm – 6pm, where NO ONE WANTS TO BE PUT DOWN, EVER.

Doesn’t that make you feel better? I should put this on Pinterest. If anyone would like to apply to be my sweaty abs, send cover letters to the usual address.

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I do jumping too, sometimes. Jumping counts, right?