2/5 This much I know.

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So, parenting.

I don’t know, I’m sure some people manage it, but in my experience it is impossible to have a baby, and then not let said baby take well and truly over your life. Pregnancy, birth, feeding and raising tiny humans has utterly dominated my every waking moment for the past 4 years and has made up the fabric of my day, every day. Which has been both wonderful and totally bonkers, inspiring and, well, intense.

Right now though, I feel like some of the fog is lifting. I can sustain my attention for more than 60 seconds on topics other than cloth nappies and the best strategy for getting your toddler into their car seat without giving yourself an aneurysm. I am beginning to prioritise myself more, and my need to get fit and use my brain in different ways, rather than always feeling at the bottom of the pecking order. There is, oh my God imagine, space in my life for more than just babies. A dog! Why will no one let me get a dog?

Part of the reason for saying farewell to this blog is that the impetus to write incessantly about parenting has waned. But while I am still here, not quite clear of those all encompassing toddler years, I thought I would write down the most important stuff that I have learned. The pearls that I want to pass on, to other people still very much beneath the mist, trying to figure it out, with only 4 hours sleep and a strong coffee to their name.

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The very most important thing I know: We all fuck up. Like, you can read all of the Janet Lansbury you like, rehearse all the right things to say in the midst of an epic toddler tantrum, be the most zen and empathetic earth mother to your three year old who has very specific cup preferences, but at some point, you will lose your shit. Not in a ‘I’m strategically raising my voice to get you to listen’ way, but in a ‘Dude, I am exhausted, my patience is in the gutter, you are pushing me to my goddamn limits and I am just yelling because I am full blown ANGRY with this TOTAL LACK OF COOPERATION YOU ARE TAKING THE PISS MY GOD!’. This is not a thing that any parent is planning on, and shit, when it happens on the way into Sainsburys with a thousand judgey old people staring at you, know that it will be one of the low moments of your life. But guys, we are human, and while I LOVE positive parenting sites like Janet’s, I think we need to be honest that sometimes a situation will just push a button and we will yell and it will be ugly. It’s okay, our children will not be emotionally broken as a result of this, and it absolutely does not undo all the other good stuff that we do. On behalf of mothers everywhere, I am officially cutting us some slack.

Parenting though, it’s a judgey game. Actually I think it begins way before we are even parents and we are in a restaurant and there is a family on the table next to us. Ipads are on, pasta is being thrown and the parents are just benignly drinking wine and pretending not to notice the breadsticks that are being crushed and then liberally sprinkled about the floor. And we sit there and we think, ‘That will never be me, I will never be that parent, I will do so much better than that’. It carries on when we have had our baby, and you see an eighteen month old in the pushchair chowing down on a packet of Quavers and you act all aghast, because suspiciously cheese flavoured reconstituted corn shall NEVER pass the lips of YOUR preshus angel. And then again when you’ve got a toddler and you see those big kids dominating the bouncy castle, bumping yours right out of the way and onto their faces, while their parents drink beer and literally could not give less of a shit, and you vow to never let your children be such obnoxious little brats that leap all over babies without a care in the world. We all judge, of course we do. Judgement is useful! When you are thrust into the oblivion, I think it is good to look around at what others are doing and syphon off the things that you like, and want to emulate, and the paths that you swear you’ll never go down. This is all a healthy way to work out the parent we want to be. But also, shit happens. The afore mentioned shit in the last paragraph for example. And it helps precisely no one if you are there, looking on, at parents having a hard time or wilfully ignoring their children, because they’ve had ENOUGH that day, and passing judgey judgement. I am trying my best to remember that, and to not be a dick.

So if we have ascertained that we are all going to have bad times, and that we will refrain from being too harsh on others who are having bad times, what about the rest? Repeat after me: there is no right way. I know amazing parents who put a ton of effort into their interactions with their children, set up wonderful Montessori style activities, and are mindful of everything they do. I also know amazing parents who work full time and drop their kids of at child care every day and let them watch a ton of TV in the evenings because they are all freaking tired. I have written a lot about the guilt that suddenly descends when you have kids and makes you feel like whatever you’re doing? Not good enough. NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH. But the conclusion that I have drawn is that if it is working out for you and you’re family? Probably good enough. I am definitely the geekiest parent on the block and if there is stuff in our family that is bothering me (my kid has started waking up in the night again, my kid hasn’t eaten any vegetables in a month, my kid has an all consuming obsession with sharks at the expense of any human interaction, let’s say, just as an example), then you can bet I will be up all night scouring the internet for ways to improve the situation. But I do try and separate out the stuff that bothers me, because it bothers me, and the stuff that is driven by what I think I should be doing, because a Mormon lady in New York is doing it.

A word on parenting blogs: There are some amazing women out there who write inspirationally and honestly about their time with children (shout outs to Renegade Mothering, Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures and Recipe Rifle for keeping it so real). For the most part though, once a blog has paid sponsorship, they have to maintain their brand, and their brand is usually them, being a completely perfect parent. Of course they are dealing with the same crap as the rest of us, OF COURSE THEY ARE, but they are photographing and writing about fun trips to the pumpkin patch, or how they just weaved their own yurt out of felt. Which is cool, I love those blogs! I love felt yurts! But the phrase ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’, has never been so apt.

Here are some other things I know:

Never tell the mother of a new born to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’, ‘savour every moment’ or that is all ‘goes so fast’. It does go so fast but a day when you’re up at 5am and your partner is away and it’s raining and the internet has broken also lasts a thousand years, so that kind of makes up for it.

Instead, take the mother of a newborn food: cake, coffee and meals she can reheat. Literally the only gifts worth giving.

This too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass. They will stop doing that annoying thing that they do eventually. Sure, they’ll start doing some other annoying thing instead, but a change is as good as a rest right?

And seriously, if I was to pass on one piece of actual advice to the parent of small children it would be this: Ignore them sometimes. I am cultivating a style of parenting I like to call ‘conscious neglect’ (admittedly i might need to work on my branding), because honestly, it’s okay for kids to fend for themselves for a good chunk of the day. I think a lot about my Grandma, who raised three children in the North of England during the 1950s. She had a job and did all of the domestic chores without even a goddamn vacuum cleaner or washing machine, while her husband worked away a lot. Seriously, how was this even possible? Well she sure as shit wasn’t putting together colour match wheels and busy bags and making toast that looked like a little bear (although that bear toast? OMG). And yet she was still an amazing mother. So I think about her when I tell my kids that they have to entertain themselves for a while so I can cook, or get dinner ready or mess around on my iphone and feel thankful that I don’t have a mangle and that it’s no longer an expectation that I scrub my front steps every day. They’ll be okay on their own for a while, and it makes me appreciate the times when I sit down to do something nice with them all the more.

I’m sure I’m forgetting things. How to do a one handed nappy change on the parcel shelf of your car for a start, but that’s okay, you’ll figure it out. I need to go and do some other stuff: Plant some cabbages, swoon over yellow kitchen tiles, read a BOOK, Snap Chat a friend, secretly buy a dog. Stuff that still exists, waiting for you, when you emerge from the fog.

nineteen month update.

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Appearance and Growth:
If I had to guess I would say that this guy is bang on average for his age. He’s got some chubby thighs and a toddler tummy, but otherwise is fairly lean and I am lucky that I can still carry him with relative ease on my back.

On the Move:
Last week we went to the park and all three of us piled onto the big slide together and went down. The Mancub is still kind of nervous when it comes to slides (except for water slides, that’s a whole other story), but his little brother totally showed him up by going down all by himself.

Food and Drink:
I feel like, I don’t know, but I feel like he’s getting a little less picky these days. I mean he licked some brocolli last night and ate a few peas the night before that. Typically though, at dinner he is all about the carbs, be it pasta, rice, noodles or cous cous. Lucky he’s a fruit bat, so he gets some vitamins from somewhere.

Sleep:
The other day he fell asleep on the way home, so I carried him upstairs and put him in his cot. I don’t know if the change disrupted him, but he woke up after only 45 minutes and in a real grump. It made me realised that he no longer wakes up sad from his nap. Most days, he is happy to come straight down to lunch and then is raring to go again. I have also been thinking about how he used to be such a crappy sleeper as a baby, waking up every 2 to 3 hours every night for at least the first six months. But now he’s been sleeping through reliably for such a long time, and we’ve carted him around a fair bit and he will go down easily in new places. I know we still have early mornings to contend with, but honestly, he’s a great sleeper and I know I’m really lucky in the respect with both of my boys.

Playing:
This month he has been all about his baby doll. He carries him around, lies him on the floor and says, ‘shhhh’, pretends to feed him or gives him some milk and takes off his nappy multiple times a day and announces, ‘poo!’. It is very cute. He’s still a big fan of things with wheels and his absolute favourite is to be allowed to stand on the driver’s seat of our car and pretend to drive. Oh, and heaven help anyone else at toddler group that tries to get in that massive yellow and red plastic ride on car (you know the ubiquitous Little Tykes one I mean?), because my guy has the monopoly on that and will scream at you from 100 paces if you so much as look at it, k? This month he is also getting the hang of counting. He can’t say his numbers yet, but if you ask him how many there are of something on a page, he will point to each one in turn while you count.

Language:
I have kind of been waiting impatiently for the month where I could say, ‘We’ve had a language break through!’, and by golly, this is finally the month! Not because I think it’s particularly important for them to talk early, but man, it is so exciting when they do. I had actually forgotten that this is one of my favourite ages, just because they start acquiring words so quickly. He is saying all sorts of words now. His firm favourite is ‘uh-oh’, to be used at every opportunity, even if he has to contrive a situation by dropping something on the floor. My favourite is ‘goggles’, just because it’s so random, and he says it so clearly. He says bye bye and hello really clearly too and is also starting to join in with songs and action rhymes by shouting out the last word. Oh, and he also surprised me by saying two colours, yellow and blue, so if you ask him what colour something is, he will almost certainly give you one of those for an answer.

Personality:
I swear there are weeks when I am about ready to give up being at home, because my littlest boy can be so clingy and whingey, but then every time I come to write an update we seem to be smack in the middle of a really lovely phase. He is so gentle and affectionate, not just with me, but with his brother, friends and his toys too. He’s a real sensitive little soul and gets very embarrassed if he falls over or thinks he’s being told off and drops his head and won’t look at anyone. He’s feisty too though. We had a long phase of him getting upset about getting in and out of his car seat and especially coming into the house after an outing, but I went back to Joyful Toddlers and reread some of their strategies and they seem to have worked a treat. He’s a pretty adventurous spirit and loves to be with the big kids, especially being thrown around on a trampoline or bouncy castle or copying his brother’s every move.

1/5 It’s always better on holiday.

What is it about the way in which our capacity for guilt increases exponentially the minute we set eyes on our first child?

It strikes me that this is not something that women in the past (and when I say past I’m obviously referring to some vague, romanticised bygone era, as opposed to a concrete period of time), would have felt as acutely. Back then, before women’s liberation is I suppose what I’m talking about, being a mother and a home maker was a given for the half of the population with the ability to give birth. The division of labour was simple: Men go out and make the money, women stay home and deal with the domestics. I’m not naive enough to think that these were equally valued roles, because read any advertising copy from pre1960s and it is immediately obvious that they weren’t (‘The Kenwood Chef does everything apart from cook – that’s what wives are for!), BUT, there was no stigma attached to staying at home. There was no judgement from other women, because communities were full of them, in the home, in and out of each other’s kitchens, providing support and gossip and cups of tea.

Now, post liberation, we have choices. There are still enormous issues around managing a career and a family (maternity leave, the cost of childcare and the attitudes of some employers towards women of child bearing age to name a few), but there is no longer a culture of women being resigned to life as a housewife. And thank God right? But what about those of us to choose to stay at home? How do we manage the dual expectations of being career woman on the one hand, and domestic goddess on the other? What if we choose to opt out of one of them?

My eldest child is three and a half and it is only recently that I am becoming comfortable with my choice to be a stay at home parent. I no longer feel compelled to follow up a question about what I do now, with a statement about what I plan to do in the future. I no longer feel that I have to remind others (and myself), that I did have a career and that I am an educated young woman, who just happens not to work. I no longer feel obligated to validate my existence to strangers at parties. Mainly because I don’t go to any parties.

Enough is enough! I am at home, because I choose to be! My husband values my contribution to our family as highly as he does his own. We both work, but only one of us gets paid.

There are days, Lord knows, when it feels like bedtime will never come. As soon as one stops whinging the other starts crying, I gave someone water in the wrong cup, they both need to play with the exact same dinosaur toy NOW, the baby’s nappy explodes and blah, blah, blah, I can bore myself with the minutiae of my day, let alone anyone else. Mostly though? I have a pretty nice life. We wake up and often have nowhere in particular to get to, so we stay in our pyjamas until we have reason not to. The boys are increasingly self sufficient and play together happily, while I potter about (who am I kidding, dash about frantically), doing the things I need to do, before getting roped into some game or another. If the weather is nice we get to go to all the good places when everyone else is at work or school and I catch myself, on a Wednesday afternoon, throwing pebbles into the sea, and I cannot believe that this is my life. That things can be this good.

But then the guilt.

Where did this puritanical idea that we are supposed to grind ourselves to the bone come from? That it is normal to be constantly tired and stressed and over worked? Maybe it’s because I was, all of those things, for as a long as I was a teacher, that I found it so hard to get used to being free of all of that. And felt so guilty for not being on my knees at the end of every day. Surely I was doing something wrong, I should work harder! Life should be harder!

I’m writing this in the evening. The last of the sun is shining through the trees and into my bedroom. The kids have had a good day, mostly free of cup related drama, and are now sleeping, more than likely until a (reasonably) civilised hour tomorrow morning. It is easy to think about life in soft focus, maybe with a nice vintage Instagram filter over the top of it, and to gloss over how incredibly difficult I found the first year after my second baby was born. About the feeling of utter exhaustion when attempting the heady combo of parenting a nearly two year old while heavily pregnant. The dark, dark days of waking six times in the night and then getting up and attempting to get a tiny baby and toddler out of the house, so that I didn’t go completely insane. I have done my fair share of hard work these past years and I do the work of being a parent relentlessly, day in and day out, and damn it, I put a lot of effort in. I have been a shark with a bad New York accent for the past WEEK to get my child to get dressed y’all. And yet, there is still a voice in my head that says I don’t do enough, because I don’t go out to work. Even though I don’t want to go to work! What special brand of crazy is this that we mothers inflict upon ourselves? IT MAKES NO SENSE!

So I have stopped. I have always loved the line from Jacqueline by Franz Ferdinand that goes, “It’s always better on holiday, so much better on holiday, that’s why we only work when we need the money”. I listened to it a lot after I finished my degree and was dossing around New Zealand for a year, but I am beginning to apply it to this phase of my life too. Being a stay at home parent is not what I would call a holiday (hahahaNO), but I love it. I choose it. I am in a position of immense privilege to be able to choose it, and I refuse to waste a second more of it by feeling guilty for doing so.

These photos were taken on an actual holiday. Where we swam every day, and walked in the countryside and let the kids watch too much TV and drank more beer than I have in the last year. It was brilliant and at the end of it I just felt so incredibly thankful not to be going back to work, and that my days at home, don’t look that dissimilar to my days on holiday.

This post was not actually supposed to be some braggy brag fest about how wonderful my life is, so sorry about that tangent, I will now return the original subject of my inner turmoil about letting down my feminist foresisters. Because I do feel like I’m maybe letting down my feminist foresisters, with the not working and the distinct lack of smashing through glass ceilings. But guys, it’s okay, I’m not here, repressed in my home, crying over the mangle and mourning my inability to vote. I’m HERE, liberated, making choices and raising my family and contributing to society and all that good stuff. I just don’t have a job, but it’s cool.

Bottom line: I know that in ten, twenty years, when retirement still seems a million years away and I am back at the daily grind, that I will look back at this time as so golden. I will have forgotten how many times a day I had to say, ‘please use your normal voice’, about the times I lost my patience and had to shut myself in the bathroom, and how I once sobbed at a toddler group with a baby crying in my arms and a toddler crying on the floor because ohmygod this shit is real and hard and exhausting, (no wait, I will NEVER forget that one). But I will forget the relentlessness of it, and the guilt and the worrying, and I will remember the cuddles, the stories, the trips out in the afternoon, the buzz of my children’s first words, first steps, first I love yous. It will be so, so golden. And I will not waste it feeling guilty.

Don’t waste it feeling guilty.

The beginning of the end.

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You’ve probably noticed that this blog is on the wane. Don’t worry, we’re fine! Better than fine actually, and that’s the thing I suppose. I’ve reached a point where I no longer wrangle constantly with parenting issues, no longer find the same need to write, in order to piece together and order my feelings on the things I’m finding difficult or care passionately about. We’re just… living.

One of my favourite bloggers, Esther Coren of Recipe Rifle (do check her out, she’s hilarous and soul affirming and tells it exactly like it is), recently wrote on her bringing her blog to a close, and said it far better than I ever could…

“I was traumatised by my children when they were very small – and doubly traumatised when they were both really small, at the same time. It produced huge questions to which I sought the answers from other people, and from inside my own head.

But life now is so prosaic, we just bumble along. And I’ve completely let go. I don’t twist myself up in knots about anything much these days… We can do the things we can do and we can’t do the things we can’t do. And soon we’ll be able to do whatever we want.

It’s not that I’ve answered all the questions, it’s that I know now for certain that there aren’t any answers.”

Quite.

I made a decision a while back that I would take the blog up until October, when my boys turn 2 and 4. The monthly updates, while some of the least popular posts in terms of readership, form the backbone of why I write here – to record and to remember. I want to see that through.

But like all jobs I guess, once you know the end is in sight, your enthusiasm begins to dwindle, and so here I am writing very little of anything, which is a shame and not my intention. I would like to go out strong, rather than fading away into the abyss of abandoned blogs. I have around 5 months left until I hit the log out button for good, and begin the process of making my posts in little books (does anyone know of a company that’s good for that by the way? Making WordPress blogs into books?), so I figure I have 5 good posts left in me, an overview of sorts, of what I’ve learned here over the last four years.

I hope you’ll stick around for them, see this thing through with me, but I wanted you to know why there’s not been much action here of late, and that there is an end, but that this is just the beginning of it.

eighteen month update.

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Appearance and Growth:
His hair has finally grown in at the front, so it looks (a little) less crazy, but remains perfectly vertical at all times. His appetite has really increased lately, so he’s getting some good toddler chub on him. All the better for cuddling him with.

On the move:
This month he has become much more confident with climbing and with going down the slide if I’m holding his hands. He follows in his brother’s lead, which has given them both extra confidence, and they like to go off exploring in the park and woods together.

Food and drink:
Finally, FINALLY he has started to show that he is done with his food by pushing his plate away from him, rather than throwing his left overs onto the floor / up the walls. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a done deal, but we are on our way to civilised meal times people! His appetite has been much bigger than normal this month and I think he’s eating a wider range of foods too, although peanut butter sandwiches, Pom Bears and fruit still trump everything else of course.

Playing:
This morning I took him to a toddler group for the first time, after swearing off them more than a year ago. He really loved it, especially getting paint everywhere and riding in the big push along cars. He is due to start a few short mornings at preschool after his second birthday *sob* so I think it will be good to get him used a slightly more chaotic environment, not that it seemed to bother him today. He’s started to enjoy playing with cars and vehicles recently, pushing them along and saying ‘Mmm, mmm’.

Sleep:
Wake up times continue to be on the respectable side of 6am and we even had a few 6.45am lie ins. Possibly as a result of me pushing his nap a little later, possibly because he decided we are all just done with starting our day at 5am. Amen to that.

Language:
Here are the words that #2 can say: Mama, Dada and Bobo (usually used to address the correct person now), ball, bear, bat, whale, dinosaur (dadador), more and his all time favourite… No. No, the answer to every question that isn’t, ‘Would you like some Pom Bears?’. We hear it a lot, with a very certain shake of his head. He also has his own words for most farm animals and pets and can sign flower and thank you. He understands so many instructions now and will go and get things from other rooms, put things away and into the bin. He is starting to get the idea of counting and if I ask him how many there are of something he will point to each one in turn while I count.

Personality:
We have had a lot of smiles and giggles recently. It is nice to have a good few weeks, because heaven knows that from this age forth there will be plenty of days where nothing goes right, plenty of clinginess, plenty of lying down on the floor due to some injustice or another, (I wasn’t allowed to drink the pond water! I wasn’t allowed to run into oncoming traffic!). There have been those moments for sure, but also a lot of contented playing, especially after dinner/ before bed, when he seems to be on his best form of the day. He’s super sociable too. I think the Mancub has always done best in one to one situations, or when he is able to talk to grown ups, but #2 loves being part of a crowd and is happy to bowl about with a group of kids, trying to keep up as best he can.

Aquarium.

This morning my husband had to drive his Mum back to London and offered to take #2 with him so that I could hang out with the Mancub for the day. It’s always a treat to have a bit of one on one time with my biggest, and I had it in my head that we would do whatever he wanted with the day, while free from the schedules of preschool and his little brother. It would be nice to follow his lead and see what came of the time.

As soon as I asked him what he fancied, he instantly replied, ‘The Aquarium!’. Not what I expected, but I happened to have a 50% off voucher, plus it was a rainy Saturday, so feeling awfully spontaneous, we headed straight off on the bus.

So often we are out with others, be it the rest of our family or friends and, quite rightly, we have to find compromise and go at the pace of the group. It is nice, on occasion, to not have to nudge the Mancub along, or have him keep up a pace that is either too fast or too slow for his liking. Today the day was entirely his. We rushed through the initial tanks of tropical fish and straight to the rock pool area, where he happily stayed for half an hour, talking to the expert, leaning in and touching the starfish and shore crabs and operating the mini camera. I instinctively went to move him along several times, but he was clearly completely engrossed, so I bit my tongue and let him stay. We whizzed through several other sections too, pausing briefly to take in octopus and jelly fish, before getting to a digital exhibition on prehistoric marine reptiles. ‘Prehistoric is my favourite word!’, he declared, and that’s where we spent the remainder of our outing. It was an absolute pleasure throughout.

As we were in town we popped to the library and took out some books on sharks and fish, then headed home via a pizza restaurant, where he proved that he is still my favourite lunch date, because no one else I know scoops up and eats garlic butter using cucumber as a makeshift spoon, but really more people should.

Back home he spend the rest of the day playing PREHISTORIC MARINE REPTILES! using some of his dinosaur toys and told me that mudskippers are really his favourite fish.

I can’t remember a day where parenting felt so carefree and relaxing. A nice reminder that slowing down and letting them take the lead, avoiding that instinct to always hurry on, often pays off in the end.

seventeen month bonus track.


^^Watch out for the tree.

seventeen month update.

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What is going on? Time seems to have become elastic at the moment, and sitting down and writing the shortest of updates seems to be impossible. But here we go.

Appearance and Growth:
A random fact: this week I put away all of his little baby sleep suits and switched him fully to pyjama sets. I haven’t as yet been all that emotional about the end of the baby phase, but something about that simple act felt very poignant. No more baby clothes, no more baby.

On the move:
The boy runs! Nearly everywhere, usually whilst looking in the opposite direction, so we have had a month of bumped heads and bruises. Following his brother’s lead he is trying with earnest to jump, which as yet amounts to bending his knees then springing up and throwing his arms in the air. He’s very proud of his efforts.

Food and drink:
This boy could merrily live on: black olives, puppadums, crisps, raisins and satsumas. He rarely touches: cheese (cheese! Who is this child?), bread, rice, any carb except for pasta and dry crackers. He has mastered using a fork to pick up foods and eat (more than can be said for his rather more feral older brother), but still asserts that he has finished his meal by throwing the whole lot across the room and signing ‘all done’ with panache.

Playing:
We have been spending a lot of time in the garden this month, which presents all sorts of opportunities for a curious toddler, including but not limited to: picking recently planted flowers, putting pebbles in the pond, putting anything else he can find into the pond, trying to climb into the pond, pouring water from the watering can onto his feet, throwing leaves, tasting the soil, tasting snail shells, tasting everything. Indoors he has begun to enjoy scribbling with felt tips.

Sleep:
Since the start of British Summer Time he has been waking up at a slightly more respectable hour (close to 6am, or afterwards most days). Hallelujah!

Language:
He has a few words now (my favourite new one is bear), but still only really uses words if he is asked to, rather than spontaneously. The rest of the time he has a very distinctive babble (‘la la la, ta ta ta’), that we all seem to talk in now. He has learned an approximation of the sign for thank you (he flings his arm out to the side rather than bringing it to his chin), and also signs sleep (he sticks his finger up his nose and says ‘Shhhh’ if he sees a picture of someone sleeping). He has totally inherited his brother’s love of dinosaurs though and despite only saying a few words, he can identify a whole raft of different dinosaurs in the books that we have and loves to point them out and have you say their names, then quiz him on where they all are.

Personality:
I suddenly had one of those moments this month where I looked at him, almost with fresh eyes and thought, ‘Oh, you’re a little boy now’. He loves to give big kisses and to cuddle up while he drinks his milk in the morning and he runs around the house looking very busy and important. The onset of tantrums is definitely here. If he can’t have something or go somewhere that he wants to go (off down the street EVERY time we get out of the car at the moment), he cries and bangs his head and throws whatever object is to hand in absolute horror at his maltreatment. It’s generally short lived, but he certainly has a hot temper. He often wants what his brother has, which is hard because I’m not in the game of making kids give up their toys, even for a persistent little brother. They are so cute together though and the picture above is of him belly laughing at his brother snapping twigs in the woods, which for some reason he found hilarious.

Life Lately: Into Spring.

I have been thinking a lot recently about how the way I spend my time ebbs and flows, and the things I choose to focus on changes. There are the non negotiables, our status quo: keeping the house (reasonably) clean, putting cooked meals on the table most nights of the week, setting aside a little time each day to watch the children play, to read to them, to take them swimming and to the park. This forms the backbone of my days.

Then there are fluid areas, and sometimes I only have the energy to fill these with reading stuff on the Internet and watching TV. But sometimes, when I have a little left to spare, I write, or I bake something, or read, y’know, an actual book.

Right now is the time of the garden. Whether we’re planting, or digging, making new play spaces, or just sitting out there, that’s where I want to be, at the expense of pretty much everything else. It is the first time since we moved here that I feel totally relaxed about our outdoor space. We did a lot of major clearing last year, and while our lawn is still more moss and bare earth than grass, and every available space is currently full of unidentified bulbs, I just love it. It’s such a hodge podge, and the exact opposite of manicured, but finally I feel like I am getting a lot of enjoyment from it, rather than considering it a giant chore.

So at the moment the house is often more of a mess than I like, and a lot of other things, like this blog, are having to give, but I am really loving this Spring so far, and hoping the good weather lasts.

(Oh, PS. I finally worked out how make a gallery in WordPress, so you can click on each thumbnail to make it full size and then scroll through).


^^So far the kids have a pirate ship made from a pallet and a broom, a sandpit made from a builders tray and some rocks we’ve uncovered over the years, and a mud kitchen made from bricks and an old shelf. Nothing fancy or state of the art, but they play so happily, which lets me not only get stuff done, but occasionally put my feet up too.


^^One of my favourite things in the garden is a dilapidated old chair swing that was left by the old owners. Sometimes I get it to myself for a few minutes, but usually I’m joined by this ham.


^^This one is just happy as long as he has access to a washing up bowl of soapy water, and a vessel from which to sneakily drink it when I’m not looking.


^^The good weather also meant our first trip to the beach this year. I remembered to put the Mancub in his swimming trunks as I know he has a penchant for getting right in, even when the sea is still icy cold, but I foolishly forgot towels and a change of clothes, not realising that he would actually go swimming. While still in his tshirt. Lesson learned, I will be fully prepared for next time.

On a Mission.

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This weekend the Mancub and I went to visit my friend in Nottingham. Thanks to the ever infuriating M25 it took us a solid five and a half hours to get there on Friday, but luckily that boy can stare out of a window for longer than most.

On Saturday we went to The National Space Centre, which is cool but if you’re American, please don’t EVER go there because, embarrassing. It’s on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Leicester and is essentially there to show case the fact that our contribution to space exploration amounts to basically zero. Nevertheless! They have some cool exhibits for littles, including a launch simulator and different shows on through the day. It was a great way to spend a morning, the highlight being the glass elevator ride up the side of a space shuttle.

It was also a big treat to have a weekend away with my biggest boy. We shared a bed, which we’ve never done before, and he LOVED it, snuggling up all night and waking me with the question, ‘Why is some snot wet and some snot dry?’. Okay kid, let me have a coffee at least before we get into today’s big philosophical questions.

Back home #2 got some quality time with his Dad, and on Sunday night we both reflected on how damn nice it is to have just one kid to think about sometimes.