Category Archives: Family

Toddlers, tents and big open skies

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I write this while the boys are in the bath. A bath! No one is overbalancing into a puddle of muddy water, or shrieking about having their nappy removed in a strange cold cubicle, or opening the door to a crowd of curious onlookers while you struggle blindly into your underwear. WOT LARKS.

We are home from our camping holiday, in other words, and there is nothing like camping to make you embrace your own house when you get back. It’s so warm and comfortable and waterproof, it’s a bit indecent.

Still. There’s nothing like this, either. There is nothing like this at all.

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This little patch of Dorset is a happy place for me. It means waking up to birds, and cows bellowing so loudly you worry they’ve wriggled themselves into your sleeping bag. It’s the ruined castle gleaming across the valley and then looming, white-walled, over your head. It’s the steam train with Harry Potter compartments and jacquard-patterned seats.

It’s pale sands and paler seas. Little villages. Long heather-purpled moors. Fish and chips with salt and vinegar, so hot you burn your fingers.

Porridge over a camping stove. Rain pattering on a tent roof. Wearing a furry dressing gown with muddy wellies at absolutely every available opportunity.

We had friends come with us this year, which more than made up for the fact that we had more rain than we wanted, and that an unsoundproofed two-year-old in a crowded field is a popular kind of guy. HOLD ON HERE COME THE PHOTOS. I couldn’t even stop myself.

Eating outdoors really does make everything taste better – thanks, Enid Blyton. Holding fire on the tinned tongue though, if it’s all the same.

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We broke with tradition this year, and did the beach first. The boys insisted on carrying their own chairs, which was a-ok with us.

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Does it say something about the stage of parenthood we’re in that the reason I love the beach is because it’s so hands-off? Go on, boys! Dig yourself into ditches! Climb up sandy dunes! I sat, read a book, passed out the occasional round of bagels, dug out an amateurish speedboat, and it felt like a holiday.

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Ted, kindly stop making me want to eat you.

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TED.

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PAGING THE BAYWATCH THEME TUNE. YOU ARE REQUIRED ON SET.

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Man oh man, I do love these flinging-sand-at-the-sea, wheel-barrowing boys.

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Did someone say steam train? I believe we said steam train. I didn’t get a photo of the Hogwarts-esque compartments we sat in later, as by then our four four-and-unders had started doing things like sticking their heads out of the windows, and swinging from the lampshades. But just picture a steam train with lampshades (!), and you’ll get it.

Daddy love. What a beaut that man is.

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Spot the blue steel. That girl spent the whole holiday killing me dead. DEAD.

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Don’t we look happy? Oh, hang on, I mean sweaty. We look sweaty.

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And then there’s a castle to climb at the other end. It was a funny mixed day: hot one minute, overcast and drizzly the next. We’d already had the open air cinema cancelled the night before due to inclement weather – sob! But the thing about castles is, they’re always glad to see you.

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Don’t tell them H climbed some walls. There was a lady with a loudhailer there for miscreants like this, and she was all over it.

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And now I make an inarticulate noise in my throat.

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It turned out that we’d taken an identical photo last year, so we got to squeal some more. H’s cowlick is keeping its game strong. T’s hair…well. The devil got in it.

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It’s not the easiest thing to take little kids away to live in a tent for four days, but I always surprise myself with how much I love it. Take me back to the spaghetti hoops on a camping stove, with that ole castle just visible through the rain cloud! Alright, don’t – I’m nice and warm now – but we’ll be back next year. How on earth could we not?

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PS, I wrote a more practical guide to camping with kids on TalkMum last month: 7 ways to totally win at camping with kids (even if you hate camping). Which may be more your bag than all this gushing. Have a look!

Sea air

Hello, Friday! Another rainy – torrential – August day, and I am meeting it in shambolic fashion.

We’ve had a wonderful two days away with Tim’s mum this week, and we’re feeling the holiday come-down pretty hard. I’m sat on our saggy sofa, with rained-on fluffy hair the size of a hefty badger, wearing a pair of old glasses with the arm painstakingly taped back on (I left my normal pair in my mother-in-law’s car) and a case of spots with ambitions to pass their Grade 3 Acne exam. In short I am a living embodiment of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Eloise Midgen together, and I really don’t know why we haven’t made a cover feature in Glamour yet.

Something quite miraculous has happened in the past few days. A fog I didn’t even know was there has lifted off my head, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my children. I love them all the time, of course, but they’re hard work, especially 10+ solo hours a day. I think I’ve spent the past few weeks – or even months – in a state of low-level, continuous stress about what the next tantrum might be about or where the next mess will be made. And have forgotten to notice the dimples trying their hardest to make themselves noticed in Son 2’s chubby cheeks. And haven’t appreciated the intricacies of Son 1’s conversation, or the simple pleasure of finally being able to trust him to be safe, to watch out for his brother and himself.

I think the change of scene has helped, and so has having someone there to be a second pair of toddler-restraining hands, someone who loves these boys like I do, and me without judgement. Looking at beautiful things has opened up space in my head, and I’ve let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. There are dimples in this world! My kids are pretty cool and funny! It’s great!

Anyway, none of this is revolutionary – hey, lovely fool, did you know that too much unrelieved slogging away at home will make you insane by degrees? OF COURSE YOU DID – but apparently I have to learn the same parenting lesson over and over before it sticks. It was jolly nice to do it on the beach.

Some photos? I’m glad you asked; I’ve got loads.

Something about little boy t-shirts makes me squeal on the inside. Which is good, because we don’t get to buy any pretty dresses around here.

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Temple. There was an afternoon where I got back to our room at about 3.30pm, and the boys weren’t going to be back till SIX, and I had a hot chocolate and fell asleep and read an Agatha Christie. The whole thing made me want to cry with happiness.

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The next day we went to Arundel. Having first confused it with the kingdom in Frozen (that’s Arendelle – close!) we were delighted to find the Duke of Norfolk’s castle, a Roman Catholic cathedral and a 14th century church and museum, all on the same road. The rest of the town seemed to be pretty cottages, antique shops, cafes and a river. As town planning goes, I feel this is top-notch.

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After a couple of hours, we drove a little further down to the beach at Littlehampton. By this time the indifferent weather was brightening. It got lighter and warmer over the afternoon, while the boys paddled in water, dug in the sand, filled buckets with pebbles and generally did not need hands-on assistance. Toddler holy grail. By 6pm we were eating hot fish and chips under a clear blue sky, while I reflected that everything Swallows and Amazons had ever said about sea air was quite correct. Of course, naming one of your main characters ‘Titty’ wasn’t a decision that would stand the test of time, but how was he to know that, poor love?

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This is a terrible photo, but it’s the only evidence I was there, so I’ll take it.

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Back here now. But I know where I’m heading the next time I need an insanity prevention break.

How to make a birthday balloon wall

Or, what to do when you love decorating for birthdays but don’t have a crafty bone in your sad little body, and also your budget is small-to-non-existent. Balloon walls tick ALL YOUR BOXES, BABY. Bring it on.

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Start with balloons. Obviously. I got five packs of ten from Hobbycraft, at £1 each. And they were the heavy-duty helium kind, which I thought would be more hard-wearing. There’s also a wondrous wealth of snazzy balloons online.

Then blow them up. I would recommend an electric pump: I only had a bicycle pump, and I have to tell you that this pile took 45 pumps EACH, on average. By the time I finished I was a decent facsimile of Dwayne The Rock Johnson, only quite a lot less fabulous.

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Attaching them to the wall was tricky. I tried masking tape at first, but they floated right off again before I’d turned around. So Tim suggested tying the whole row to a piece of thread, and taping the thread to the wall. Unfortunately we only had black thread, which wasn’t the most inconspicuous on our cream walls, but heigh-ho.

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The easiest way we found was to tie a long piece of thread between two chairs, leaving it fairly slack, then knot the balloons on one by one. I’m not going to lie: it was hella fiddly. Make sure you knot them into position so that they’ll sit comfortably alongside each other when the string is taut, just touching. 

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Then onto the wall! We started at the bottom, over the (switched-off) radiator, so all the others would stack on top of it. They needed tape at each end and then at several points between, but we put the pieces of tape as close to the balloons as possible so they wouldn’t be visible. Once the strings of balloons were up, we did a bit of fiddling: taping some of the balloons together when they were sagging, so that they all sat in a rough grid.

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All done! He was so happy. It made for some great photographs. And it lasted more than a week – in a heatwave! – before some of the balloons deflated. So, I’ll be doing a new one next week then, cool? Cool.

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The strawberry fields are a-calling

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We’re ten days off the beginning of the summer holidays, and I dunno how H feels, but I am raring to go. I get to be in charge of summer these days, and I’m all gleeful about it. I feel like revelling in every day this summer especially, since it’s the final hurrah before H gets swallowed up by school.

He had a day off last week, so we had a little summer trial run, and went strawberry picking. We found a new PYO farm nearer to where we live now, which turned out to be a real gem: masses of fruit and veg to choose from, a little farm shop, picnic tables and a tiny play area.

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Neither of the boys had ever been before. There are some moments that stick in your head with kids, and watching them realise that strawberries were just SITTING ON THE GROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE and we could put as many in our baskets as we liked was the best, best thing. H was all conscientious about it and only picked the strawberries that called to him personally. T went mad.

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‘ANUDDER STAWBEWWY. ANUDDER STAWBEWWY PLEASE’.

After five minutes he looked like he’d been engaging in cannibalism. If anyone knows how many strawberries a toddler can eat before you should offer to pay extra at the till, let me know. He wasn’t exactly subtle about it.

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The sun and sky did its best to ripen everything while we were there, and we accidentally got the sort of neck sunburn that makes you look like a really responsible parent.

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After that there was nothing to do but play in the sprinkler and then make the best strawberry and cinnamon torte in the universe. Some cakes are like holy things. Oh man, this one is.

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Come on then, summer! We’re wearing a decent amount of suncream, this time, and we’re READY.

How a bear does birthdays

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Ok, ok, just one more about T’s birthday, and then we’re done. PHOTO AVALANCHE AHOY, CAP’N. So help me, I cannot narrow them down more than this.

(There’s something about having a birthday midweek and then a birthday tea at the weekend that seems to make it last f o r e v e r. Lucky T. He sees any old open flame these days and yells ‘happee birthdee day!’)

We are in the middle of redoing our little garden at the minute – more about that later – so we wanted to celebrate in ways that would be fun, but also relatively inexpensive. I found this balloon wall on You Are My Fave, and it looked perfect: five bags of heavy-duty coloured balloons from Hobbycraft cost £5, and boom, done. Or should I say, boom, much late night fiddling with tape, bicycle pumps and string, done. I’ll do a quick tutorial for this later in the week, because we tried a couple of different ways that didn’t work before we found one that did.

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You should’ve seen his face when he saw it. His mouth fell into a perfect O.

The thing about being a second child is that basically everything you play with belongs to your older brother. One of the nicest parts of the morning was seeing him overwhelmed by opening new, exciting things just for him.

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We’d given H the day off from nursery, and planned to go into London and visit the Natural History Museum. First though, lunch. On your birthday you want to eat your favourite food, and the problem with this two-year-old is that there aren’t many grape-and-strawberry-yoghurt restaurants. But he does love…curry, of all things. So we found a fabulous curry house just off Covent Garden and had a grand old time. They had a children’s menu, and we introduced T to mango lassi, which as a combination of milkshake and yoghurt (two of his favourite things) blew his tiny mind wide open.

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We will pass over the Tube trains we took on the hottest day of the year. Nothing like marinating in a sardine-tin sauna, air shimmering with the sweat of strangers, hanging on to two overheated and angry boys for dear life.

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H, I bless the day you got yourself a photo face. HAHA.

It all got better once we got to the Emirites cable car. It was like stepping into another world: cool breeze, open sky, and the blue Thames glittering ahead. And I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the cable car, but you MUST. If you have a day travel card you get a discounted ticket, and it is so, so worth doing. The views are incredible, and it’s just thrilling.

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At the other side we found a few splash pads next to the O2, and what looked like a worldwide Salvation Army convention enjoying the sun and spray. The boys were desperate to pull off their shoes and get wet, so we shrugged, and saved the museum for another day. They spent an hour running in and out of the water, soaking their clothes and cooling down before we headed home. Honestly, it was wonderful.

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Then on Sunday we had some family over for a little birthday tea (I am firm in my belief that it’s pointless to plan themed birthday extravaganzas before they can remember it). Most of the food was low-prep and easily done: veg and dips, fruit and chocolate fondue, scones and jam, chips and cookies. I found these brilliant watermelon napkins and cups at the supermarket, along with cocktail stick forks, which I found far too exciting for someone who claims to be an adult.

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The cake – oh, my giddy aunt – was an unmitigated disaster. I wanted to make the cinnamon roll cake we love, but in round tiers rather than a single tray. But the layers were too dense after baking, and became even more so after leaving them in the fridge overnight. The cream cheese frosting I’ve made before with no problems went through a terrifying cottage cheese stage, where the butter refused to mix properly into the rest. Then it wouldn’t set firm. Then there wasn’t enough to cover the cake. I’ve had many a cake horror before (you know this, loves) but never one in which, twenty minutes before guests arrived, I sat in a corner deep-breathing and saying ‘he has no birthday cake. HE HAS NO BIRTHDAY CAKE’.

Anyway, it slapped together with minutes to spare. Good enough for candles. And T was thrilled. He was getting the hang of this blowing-out-candles thing by this time, and kept trying to get it done before we’d finished singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

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That’s the main thing, isn’t it? Happy boy, covered in chocolate, running round the garden with a new helicopter. The balloons are still on the wall. We’re getting through the cake by heating it up into cinnamon roll pudding. The new toys and books are well worn already. It ain’t a bad life.

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A letter for two

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Teddy,

Today is your birthday, and you are two. Your day is supposed to be over, actually, but you haven’t yet given up the good fight: I can still hear you bouncing and yelling in your room. Most of the street can. You have two volumes: the cracked little fake-sorrowful voice you put on for apologies, and Is That A Jet Engine, No It’s Just Teddy.

You are two, and these last two years have gone before I could blink. You are two, and it feels like you’ve been two forever. You’re a mixed little thing, my love: pure sunshine with a streak of steel through your middle. You are good-natured, big-hearted, puppyish; ready to make jokes in silly voices and then to laugh before anyone else does. You give hugs freely, without the asking. At heart you are happy, and want everyone else to be too. You are also single-minded, stubborn and intensely strong-willed. When you want something, you shout. If you don’t get it, you shout louder. The other day you asked to be picked up in order to more conveniently hit me in the face, and I was stern (‘we do NOT hit’ / ‘sowee mammy!’) but also reluctantly impressed.

You won’t get this till much later, maybe ever, but I’ll say it for myself: like most second-time parents, I wasn’t sure what my love for you would look like before I met you. When you love a child for the first time, it knocks you silly. You’re shaken to the foundations of yourself and built up again into something new. It’s hard to imagine it happening again, a second time, the same but also different. And then it does. You open up, again. Caverns with vaulted ceilings expand, and expand again. With love, and love, and love.

But Ted, this is what I’m trying to explain: you made it so easy. No one has ever met you and not loved you immediately. You are laughably lovable (that hair! those eyes! that ridiculous smile!). You arrived three weeks early, quickly, unexpectedly, and none of us had any idea of the happiness you’d add to our store.

Like grace. Given freely, without the asking. That’s how I think of you, really. And I’m so grateful.

…And you were a pain in the neck on the Tube today, and you drank two mango lassis one after the other, and you wanged a metal train into a poor gentleman’s ankle because I wouldn’t let you leap onto the platform at the wrong stop.

I wouldn’t change you. How could you be anything but gloriously yourself?

I pinch myself when I think about how lucky I was to get you. Happy birthday, Edward bear.

Much love,

Your mother.

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Good neighbours

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This photo is everything. Everything.

That’s when good neeeeeighbours! Become! Goooooood frieeeeeeends!

[saxophone]

Come on, as if you weren’t singing it too.

Sometimes I think about what it would be like, living next door to a family with two children under five. Sharing a wall with two children under five. My conclusion is always the same: it’d be flipping horrendous.

I have always wanted to be part of a Neighbours set-up where we’re friends with the people next door. Cheery waves from the driveway, hanging over the fence to ask after each other’s parents, popping in to borrow sugar, that sort of thing (why is it always sugar? Are people putting so much sugar on their Weetabix that they regularly are caught short?).

This has never happened. For two reasons, I think: first, I am not an easy chatterer. When we come home I am tired from wrasslin’ toddlers, and know I still have to wrassle them inside the house without anyone running under a car, so I would much rather give you an awkward smile than stop to chat. Second, I feel terribly guilty about how awful we must be to live next door to, which inhibits friendly communion.

‘Oh darling, what a lovely dinner you’ve made. Candles and everything. Let’s eat.’

‘Hang on a second, my love. The children next door are having their faces branded with a hot iron again, and it’s ruining the atmosphere.’

I’M ONLY TRYING TO BRUSH THEIR TEETH, NEIGHBOURS, HONESTLY.

I had high hopes when we moved: a bigger house, no one living underneath us, and a brand-new set of people to be nice to. None of them had heard me give birth unexpectedly, which was a huge plus for all of us. Then I realised that having a bigger house only means there are more places in which to scream.

Children are loud. There’s yelling, and crying, and jumping off things, and the accidental droppage of crockery, and screeches of laughter and indignation. There’s the fact that every morning they shriek about having to get in the bath and then shriek again when they have to get out. There’s the fact that they always, always want the same train. And then there’s me, goaded beyond human endurance approximately every twenty-five minutes, shouting things like enough now, and leave your brother’s tongue alone, and stop poking that worm and get your shoes on.

That’s just a normal Monday.

We try hard not to be obnoxious, but obnoxiousness comes with the territory. The first month after we moved in, T cut five teeth. We brought the neighbours a Happy Christmas/We’re Really Sorry present to try and extend their goodwill a bit, but you can’t tell whether someone’s saying ‘oh, we never hear them’ through gritted teeth when you’re looking by the light of a street lamp. I stop the boys dinging matchbox cars against our bed frame at 6am, and park our giant child-friendly car at a respectful distance from next door’s sporty BMW.

But I still have to brush their teeth. And no force in heaven or earth is going to stop them poking a worm when it’s long-past time to get to school.

Chris and Maria, I’m so sorry. Please come over for sugar whenever your Weetabix is lacking. I promise our children aren’t feral. I promise I’m not having a psychotic break.

I can’t promise you’ll never hear me give birth unexpectedly, but let’s cross that awkward bridge if we come to it.

Do they LOOK like the quiet types to you?

Do they LOOK like the quiet types to you?

Five books…with jaw-dropping illustrations

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I always think books for preschoolers have an extremely sensible ratio of words to pictures. And the pictures are everything to the under-five crowd. Have a look at their faces the next time you’re reading one with striking, colourful illustrations. Their jaw drops. They can’t resist touching the page with their fingers, like they want to jump inside (confession: I do this too). Lovely artwork can make up for a lacklustre story, but when the words are good and the pictures transporting, the whole thing comes alive.

I make a habit of hunting out books with gorgeous pictures. I can’t help it. They’re a thing of beauty, and I like having beautiful things on our shelves.

Here are five books with jaw-dropping illustrations we love extra-hard:

Lion and Mouse, by Catalina Echeverri

Lion and Mouse

Lion thought he was much better than Mouse in every way. 

And he said so. 

All day. Every day.’

This is a funny, wise story about an impressive Lion who can’t stop going on about himself, until he needs help from his small friend Mouse. But the pictures! The animals are drawn in a quirky, humorous style, with tons of pattern and colour. The back page is the best, trust me. I always say ‘ooohhhh’. I haven’t seen this book out and about much; we brought it back for H from Paris a couple of years ago. The first-time author-illustrator deserves to be better known.

 

The Heart and the Bottle, by Oliver Jeffers

Heart in the Bottle ‘Once there was a girl, much like any other,

whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world.’

I couldn’t write a list of illustration books without including one from the mighty Jeffers. His ‘Once there was a boy’ series (How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found, Up and Down, The Way Back Home) is probably the best place to start for younger listeners, and those illustrations are out of this world. But The Heart and the Bottle is just stunning. It tells the story of a little girl interested in everything, until she experiences a deep loss and shuts herself away. The way Jeffers draws what’s happening in her head is touching and lovely. I dare you not to cry. Double dare you.

 

London ABC, by Ben Hawkes

London ABC

We love London. Our boys love going there too, so this is a delight. Fantastic for very young readers, it’s the illustrations that make it. You can follow the penguin as he escapes from the Zoo and tours the city, trying his hand at a bit of Shakespeare (G is for Globe!) and waving a flag at the Olympics (S is for Stadium!) as well as hitting the usual tourist spots like B-is-for-Big-Ben and N-is-for-Nelson’s-Column. On each page there are other things beginning with the same letter, and at the end there’s a long list of London landmarks to visit.

 

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen

The Dark

‘You might be afraid of the dark,

but the dark is not afraid of you.’

If you were a teenage Lemony Snicket fan like I was, the discovery that he’s moved into picture books might make you a bit dizzy with happiness. This is a cracker: poetic, unusual, and totally unlike anything else I’ve seen on preschooler shelves. Lazlo is afraid of the dark, and one night it comes to find him. The illustrations convey dark and light – angular torch light, the particular orange light at sunset – perfectly. Honestly, the boys can’t keep their eyes off it. GET IT. GET IT NOW.

 

Augustus and His Smile, by Catherine Rayner

Augustus and His Smile

‘He swam to the bottom of the deepest oceans

And splished and splashed with shoals of tiny fish.’

This book won Best New Illustrator in the Booktrust Early Years awards, and you can see why: it’s beautiful. Oh, just so beautiful. Augustus the tiger wakes up and has lost his smile, so he goes exploring all over the world to find it again. Seas, jungles, deserts and rainstorms are depicted in vivid colour, and Augustus himself is a whiskery orange marvel. I can’t really do justice to how lovely this is, but you can put it into Google Images and see for yourself.

 

Go forth and read, book-hunters!

Previous ‘Five Books…’ posts are here.

Dads, etc

Son the First was in our bed the other morning. He has a little routine twice a week: wet the bed, strip off, tiptoe into our room and wriggle in between us where it’s warm. We wake up with bony limbs in our back and I marvel, every time, at how much space he takes up. My baby-no-longer-baby, with legs stretching halfway down the bed.

This particular morning I woke up to Tim and H talking quietly. ‘Do you know’, Tim said, when he saw that I was awake, ‘we’ve now had this boy for longer than we’ve been without him?’

Which is something, isn’t it? Those three years without children have already been eclipsed by the almost-four years we’ve been parents. In future years they’ll seem like a funny little oasis at the very beginning of our lives together. Before we’d ever got poo underneath our fingernails, or knew anything about Peppa Pig, or had the smallest inkling of how much parenthood would hollow us out to make room for so many more feelings.

Tim is a wonderful father. I was going to go at it more lyrically than that, but there’s the truth. He is patient and soothing in the times where I’m scratchy and abrupt. He rolls out of bed at six in the morning to rescue bellowing boys and reads stories in funny voices at night. He’s the one cajoling one more spoonful of dinner into H’s mouth, making endless and exciting train tracks, letting them climb ladders and use screwdrivers and generally feel ten feet tall.

They adore him, openly and completely. He gives them something I can’t. He is the steadying presence bookending their day, the calmer voice dampening their fieriest tantrums. Also the parent most likely to be carrying sweets. They like that about him. They like him a lot.

And do you know what, I do too. He’s never felt more like the other half of me than he does now, as we raise these boys together. One parenting style balancing out the other, and providing where the other falls short. Fatherhood looks really good on him. None of us would get very far without him here.

I shouldn’t need an excuse to say it, but it’s nice to have one. So happy Fathers’ Day, favourite. May you always have a pocketful of sweets for the boys who love you.

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You can’t have one without the other

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Hello world! I’m back in the land of the living after a six-day sick bug, and will be embracing this week with a kiss on the mouth. Six days! I feel like Captain [in] America, waking up after a long sleep with frosticles in my hair.

Only in my case they were greasicles.

My happiest days are the ordinary ones that come after an illness. Yesterday we did nothing special, but everything looked new. I restocked our cupboards, took the boys to the park, scrubbed toilets till they winced, and opened all the windows to let some daylight in. I ate three square meals, and saw none of them again. I even ran (to find a place for H to poo inconspicuously in the park, siiiigh). It felt like the first day in the whole world.

Sick bugs give you pause for thought though, don’t they?

The day before the bug arrived, we were driving back up the hill mid-afternoon. The junior school down the road had just let the kids out, so I slowed right down. As we passed the gates, I spotted a little girl in the front seat of a car, with her mum next to her. She was nine or so, talking about something so exciting she had to stop and do a little dance. All I could see were flailing fists and a long ponytail swishing all and sundry. And her mum, trying hard not to laugh and not succeeding.

We passed them in a second, but there was something so particularly mother-and-daughter about it, it hit me like a lance to the chest. I felt the thwack of it and had to take a breath, stunned. I think there were actually tears in my eyes.

I want a girl‘, I thought. The kind of thought that arrives primal in its strength and heft. ‘I want a girl‘.

Then.

Two days later, delirious with migraine, joint pains, a digestive system trying to turn itself inside outI hung my head in a sick bowl. It had been there for some time. Since I couldn’t read, look at a screen or move, I was taking the time to wholeheartedly regret my existence. Regretting it but good.

And the thought came like a lance to the chest.

This is what pregnancy’s like‘, I remembered. ‘Except it lasts for weeks and weeks. And you can’t tell anyone. And this time you’d have a school run to do’. 

The thought nearly made me heave all over again.

So. Well. You can’t have babies without making them. The NHS doesn’t offer a nine-month voluntary coma either, last time I checked.

Now what?

It just took so. much. effort to get here.

It just took so. much. effort to get here.

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