Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Wrigglesworth's film debut

Owing to technical difficulties (in my brain) and problems with the cast (point a camera at Wrigglesworth and all he wants to do is play with the camera) capturing my second born on film has been rather slow in the coming. But here, finally, are not one, not two but three films of the little man. Enjoy!!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Reasons to be miserable: Wanted

Do these look like the faces of shoplifters to you?

Well the staff in the new Utile (Super U's local shop) thought so. I ducked in to see if they had:

1. Any chocolate I hadn't tried.
2. Cheddar.

They didn't so I left. Empty-handed. Or at least I tried to. The good lady cashier stopped me and gave me, Wrigglesworth and the buggy the once over. Now I know I am looking (and smelling - eau de wee) increasingly like a tramp (and not as in "The Lady is a") but this was a bit of a shock. Clearly I look like the kind of hard-up, socially deprived young (ahem) mother who would use her child as a fence for tea-leafing a few essential supplies. But buying chocolate and cheddar is more important than looking like I can afford to, and the budget doesn't stretch to both.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise #14 Auntie Jenny's Carrot Cake

Reasons for making carrot cake, even though the fella doesn't like it:

1. Despite the heavy bias towards chocolate cake in the enterprise thus far, my favourite is carrot cake.

2. I recently got a new recipe for carrot cake from Auntie Jenny, who I trust implicitly in all matters bakey.

3. The fella says he wants to lose weight. I am only thinking of his figure.

4. I have just spent a week sans fella, I am about to spend another week sans fella, I need comfort.

5. Carrots help you see in the dark. I'd like to be able to do that.

6. I have a cold, so in the interests of public health it would be unwise to share anything I have touched with anybody. The carrot cake is all mine.


(Just in case you were beginning to suspect that I had captured and am holding a pastry chef in the downstairs cupboard, the bottom of the cake was a bit burnt and the icing was in rather too much of a hurry to crawl its way off the top of the cake.)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Saturday in photos

A morning walk around the beautiful Fleury d'Aude with Wrigglesworth, while the fella and the Monster were swimming.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Reading matter

Look what I got in the post when I came home feeling like crap after two sleepness nights. Thank you my lovely Jen for providing today's RTBC (and not just today's...) A catalogue of new and interesting books, plus a journal and a book mark, all beautifully presented, from a little publishing house called Persephone Books. Here's who they are:

"Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 90 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups."

I'm slightly ashamed to say I hadn't heard of them before but by one of those strange coincidences that I love in life I just received one of their books (Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, by Winifred Watson) in my last book order.

I've already got lost in the catalogue and found a million things I want to read. I think my first order will be this:

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Moments, magic and otherwise

Moment 1: Yesterday we all set off for a day at the Stephs. We arrived to find Steph de-nitting her brood in the bath. Cue sudden urge to itch. Apparently there is a new super nit on the loose running amok on young French heads. Note to self: the Monster will be sporting a fashionable Tibetan monk bald pate when she starts school.

Moment 2: The mini-beasts tucked up in bed for a nap, Steph and I shared a cup of tea, some chocolate and a giggle about what bad mothers we are sometimes. A much needed guilt-relieving giggle because, as we both admitted, neither of us is supermum. More "Not too shoddy except when extreme tiredness kicks in then sometimes really quite shoddy though not actually time to call social services shoddy" mum. I love Steph. She is my belle soeur because by happy accident she is the sister of one of the sweetest men on earth; she is my friend by choice.

Moment 3: Driving myself and the mini-beasts from the Stephs to Papi and Nana's where we are now staying. They were asleep, I was listening to Eric Bibb, the sun was setting over the mountains. Just then I felt unbelievably calm and happy.

Moment 4: A surprise call from Benj in South Africa. Literally felt my heart jump when I realised who it was.

Moment 5: One long horrible moment of trying to get the Monster to go to sleep in a big bed for the first time. CATACLYSMIC DISASTER.

Moment 6: Having finally got her asleep in bed, and Wrigglesworth, and me, a little voice woke me at 5am. I opened my bedroom door to find her standing there smiling. Took her back to bed and lay down next to her. Then climbed under the covers with her. Then fell asleep. Woke up with the sun and had a long lazy lovely cuddle with my little Monster.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Miam miam

Wrigglesworth has been expanding his tastebuds this month and I am most happy to report that he is not a little changeling child but is every bit as much a guts as the rest of the family. The first few times he seemed rather grumbly and my heart sank, but then I realised I just wasn't shovelling fast enough. That's my boy.

But however much he loves his food... he loves his spoon more.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bex's Bookshelves: The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe

My brother bought me this book for my birthday a few years ago and, being most naughty, I have only just got round to reading it. It's dry and academic in style. So just my cup of cocoa. The bits of the history that most grabbed my attention were:

1. In certain Mayan marriage ceremonies the husband gave the wife some new skirts (hum, ok) and 5 grains of cacao (Yeah! I might have bothered to do the decent thing with this kind of inducement).
2. By the end of the 17th century it's estimated only 10% of the original Indian population of the Americas had survived the holocaust (caused by Old World epidemic diseases and mistreatment) of the Spanish Conquests.
3. Milk chocolate wasn't invented until 1879.
4. Milton Hershey's middle name was Snavely.

The book ended on a bittersweet note for me with the introduction of Maya Gold chocolate by Green & Black's.

Green and Black's... (*heartfelt sigh*). How I miss you.

The French have not evolved far enough to start importing Green and Black's. And they call themselves civilized... chah.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Auntie Jenny

We got one more present yesterday but I was so touched I wanted to write a separate post. When I was pregnant with the Monster my Auntie Jenny reupholstered and gave me the chair she used to breastfeed my cousins. I used it to breastfeed the Monster and then the Monster grew out of breastfeeding and into mischief and she used it to test her nascent powers of destruction by poking a hole in the arm of the chair with a key. And then several other items as well. It now looks like this.

Jenny was here recently and although she didn't say anything she must have noticed the hole because in our pile of goodies from back home there was a throw that she had bought for us to cover the chair.

What a lovely human being she is. Lucky me.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friday in photos

The grandspoilers (or the free 24 hour babysitting service as I fondly think of them) have returned from their trip to Blighty bearing gifts from the Motherland.

1. From Uncle Dan and Auntie Kelly. One for the Monster. One for me.

2. My new Amazon order with books for me and my Monster. Including a copy of Twas the Night Before Christmas with the original illustrations. All courtesy of a kind donation by my brother Benj to the "Save Bex's brain from complete atrophy" Fund.

3. Many many clothes for the Monster. Including this rather snazzy raincoat.

4. And of course the most important gift of all...

...the mini-beasts got their papi and nana back.

5. Me and Wrigglesworth. I quite like this photo.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

My mini bookworm me

The Monster came quite late to books. I bit my lip and refrained myself from forcibly holding her down whilst I read The Gruffalo to her (with all the different voices folks). Maybe she just won't like books, I thought. That's not bad, right? You can be a decent and interesting human being and not like reading, right? I won't necessarily have to disown her.

But looks like I won't have to consider disowning her after all. (Not that I would have done... right?) She has turned into the Very Hungry Bookworm. All she wanted to do this morning was read books with me. In the photo above she is clutching her current favourite, Stella étoile de la mer, by Marie-Louise Gay. This is one of a box set Jen, Simon and Margot gave her for her birthday. They're lovely stories and beautifully illustrated. They follow the vivacious Stella, and her little brother Sacha (Sam in English), who is full of questions and just a bit dubious about everything, as Stella helps Sacha discover the world. I love Stella's explanations for Sacha. Star fish are shooting stars that have fallen in love with the sea. Sacha asks if they're not afraid of drowning. No, says Stella, they've learnt how to swim.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Lounge Fling

I was super fit during my pregnancy but since losing the bump I have gone back to my bump weight (and shape) by consuming Wrigglesworth's birth weight in chocolate every time I feel a tad stressed out or tired. Thankfully, this week I have managed to squeeze 25 minutes of exercise routine into my day and I feel so much better for it. Pre-mini-beasts I kept fit by walking everywhere. Fast. I used to joke that I'd have to get wheels fitted to my children. I still might... In the meantime, I have had to find some other way to stay fit and healthy. I've never really been one for exercise for exercise's sake. I like their to be a point. But then I also like eating lots and arms that don't ripple when I wave so in the absence of the time/energy/money to get out and do anything else I started doing fitness routines at home. Flinging myself around the lounge feels rather silly but at least now the Monster flings along with me. Not always a great help as it's hard to breath and laugh at the same time.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Insanity Watch: This time it's certifiable

I started writing this post this morning and it began...

"Roll up, roll up, come and see the Incredibly Hairy* Mummy Lady lose her mind in spectacular fashion. Marvel as she flies by the seat of her unwashed pants, gasp as her cracked and battered marbles spin out of control, swoon as she plummets down to hell in a hand cart."

The fella is away this week. And every week from now until Christmas. I will not be answerable for the state of our little housebarelyholdingtogether by the time old Saint Nick arrives. I will answer only to the sound of a cork being popped.

*Shaving is for special occasions. Like armageddon.

This is self-pity thinly disguised by a veneer of joviality. That and a confession to incipient alcoholism.

Then during the bedtime breastfeed I had my usual ponderings for the day. This weekend the fella suggested that I didn't take much time to consider our situation from his perspective. And I think he's right. Generally (unless I'm completely self-deluded) I am good at listening to and understanding other people but the poor old fella is the one person who does sometimes get slapped around the face (metaphorically) by my inner self-obsessed neurotic bratkind. I was sitting on the sofa tonight, with Wrigglesworth snuggled into my chest and the Monster cuddling under my arm and stroking my hair and I thought, "I wish the fella was here so I could share these moments, poor me". Bad unworthy concubine. I should have been thinking, "poor him". Hard as I find it coping with my two mini-beasts on my own, I wouldn't swap situations with Fanf. But I think he would swap with me in a flash.

So tonight, I find that I art most happy that I have my Fanf and thank him for allowing me to sit on the sofa and get my hair stroked by our Monster. Although Fanf, if you're reading this in your hotel room, Wrigglesworth put in some sterling crying this evening and my head is pounding so enjoy the peace!

Monday, 15 November 2010

The parenting lark

I have been perusing a few other blogs recently (ones not written by friends and family) but I'm not sure I shall stick with it. They are mostly kept by people who are better writers, more creative mothers, and just generally more interesting people than me*, I usually come away feeling a bit rubbish. However there is one I have discovered, kept by Rachael (or Mama Mogantosh) who is all these things, but which I can't give up. It's just so damned funny. And wise. You can have a peek here. She has started checking in to my blog every now and again, which makes me a little self-conscious, but also rather flattered and has inspired me to do some "proper writing posts". Thus...

I was struck last week by her post on parenting. And it got me thinking. Yes, funny, wise and she makes me think. Damn her. She takes a reassuringly pragmatic view and it made me consider how we go about dragging up our mini-beasts. I've always thought our approach was rather freeform (chaotic). I have read a couple of books about child development (and when I say a couple, I mean two) but neither of us has read any parenting books or is familiar with any parenting techniques or theories. Is this arrogance? Laziness? Stupidity? To be completely honest, it wasn't even a conscious decision. Do any of you refer to parenting theories? Jen???

But when I thought about it (which I do whilst breastfeeding before bedtime) I realised we do have rules and general principles, mostly intended to make our mini-beasts happy, safe, independent, kind and considerate of others, and mostly adopted during the natural process of becoming parents. They are pretty much the same rules and principles we apply to ourselves. For example, we would not allow ourselves to run up and down the lounge screeching like banshees crashing randomly into bits of furniture. This way, I admit, happiness may lie, but it falls rather short on several of the other goals. All rules are made to be bent though, and if you're flexible enough as a parent then you can bend them every now and again without breaking them. Or yourself. Or your child. And maybe even a little bit of actual rule-breaking can be salutary on occasion... and fun.

When it comes to discipline, to answer Rachael's question, no we don't believe that leaving your child to cry for a little while is going to cause lasting pyschological damage. In one of my child development books it suggested that sometimes you have to help your child to learn ways of behaving that will make them happy in the long run, even if this means leaving them to cry in the short term. I am very much about the long run. And anyway, to return to the "what's good for the parents is good for the child" approach, crying helps me quite a lot when I can't get my own way. Not to get my own way, just to express my anger and frustration that I can't. Then I get over it.

We have a range of methods for getting our mini-beasts to do what we would like them to do or punishing them when they don't. The word punish is loaded with negative connotations but to my mind when we do something wrong, as an adult or a child, we should be punished. Some of our methods are constructive and involve time and patience and communication. Some are just about damage limitation, designed to get peace by any means possible as quickly as possible. Some of our methods work some of the time. None of them work all of the time. And sometimes everyone just shouts a lot and nothing works. Actually my current favourite is "Someone pressed maman's Off switch", which involves me just freezing and closing my eyes. It keeps me calm and intrigues the Monster into calm as well. It'll probably work for about a week.

There has been much discussion in France of le culte de l'enfant roi and I do think we have swung too far in the opposite direction from the days of "children should be seen and not heard", lock them in the nursery, send them down the mines/up a chimney. Although I'll be delighted when they can start helping out with the housework. But increasingly, as Rachael pointed out, it feels like the child is supposed to come first, second and last and the parent nowhere. To make a happy child you need a happy parent(s). That's what I say. The experience of being a parent is amazing and does make me happy. But it can also make me bloody miserable! So I do whatever I can to make it less miserable for me. Which in turn will hopefully make it less miserable for my mini-beasts. Parenting is hard. So is being a kid.

Rachael also talked about being a stay-at-home mum. I have many and conflicting feelings about my decision to be a happy little homemaker. But I think I'll go into those another day.

Before I go I'll just share the best piece of advice I was given on parenting, by my belle soeur Steph, who told me:

"Fais ce qui est vivable." (literally: do what is livable.)

*This is not a plea for compliments. I do know that I'm not the worst writer/mother/human being ever to put pen to paper. How quaint! I mean, to put fingers to keyboard.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Conversations with the Monster

The Monster. Sitting on her potty. Repeatedly digging a spoon into her knee and then putting it in her mouth.

Me: Are you eating your knee?
TM: Mmmmm, c'est bon. Pour maman? (Offering me the spoon)
Me: Mmmmm, thank you.
TM: Et pour Owen?
Me: That's very kind but Owen's too little to eat knees.

A normal, well-adjusted little girl. Who eats knees.

(There was no actual eating of knee.)

Bex's Bookshelves: The Jewel in the Crown, by Paul Scott

Second reading of this book, which is brilliant. I wish I could write something more coherent but feeling sort of grumpy and miserable today after a weekend of tantrums and rows. Interspersed, thankfully, with some glorious moments in the winter sunshine.

In good news, I made the Monster laugh so much yesterday she was dribbling down her chin.

That's me. Chin-dribblingly funny.

And in other good news. Them:

Crappy photo. Lovely moment.

Friday, 12 November 2010

my boy

My sense of growing love for my little man is so intense it feels physical at the moment. This might seem a little belated, given that he's four months old but I'll come clean and say that I didn't love him straight away. Not with the all-consuming, can't stop nuzzling him love I feel now. The love I felt for Matilda. A love sprung from amazement that we had produced something as mind-blowing as a baby. The love you're supposed to feel. I'm not sure why I didn't feel this with Owen. Perhaps simply because he's the second and I was not bowled over by every burp and fart. Perhaps because, as I have already mentioned, he was a bit of a miserable little bugger for the first three months. Perhaps because my irrepressible first born has a way of keeping all eyes on her. Perhaps all of these things. Perhaps because I am a sorry cold-hearted excuse for a mother... I don't really believe this last Perhaps. But sometimes, in all kinds of situations in life, not experiencing what is considered to be the natural emotional response can make you feel inadequate, or just wrong and broken. But I'm not inadequate. Or wrong and broken. Not as a mother anyway.

Perhaps with Owen, I just needed to get to know him. There are very few people I have loved at first sight. None, in fact. I had to get to know Matilda as well, but the amazement had me hooked from day one. I can remember being much more impatient during my second pregnancy to evict my little squatter so I could meet him or her. First time round I was having a baby. The second time I was having my second child, who I knew would be as complex a little being as my first. As usual, someone else has already said what I'm trying to say, and better. I've shared the wise words of the divine Eric Bibb with Jen before but I'm going to share them again. With Jen, and anyone else who might have stumbled across this site thinking it's a tribute to Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

"To know you is to love you, and I know you more and more each day".
From To Know You, on the album Painting Signs.

Have a listen to the whole song. It's worth it.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise #13 Chocolate Brownies (again)

Another RTBC today is that it is a national holiday in France and the fella is "doing the bridge" (faire le pont) and taking tomorrow off as well. So it's a 4-day weekend. Whoo hoo. Baking can start today. The beau papa brought us some fresh walnuts, which could only be destined for brownies. It was a new recipe from my Linda Collister book that the master baker, Katie, gave me. It worked!

A big thank you to the fella who cracked the walnuts with his bare hands. Rrrrr.

Night night, sleep tight (and he did!)

Last night we put Wrigglesworth to bed at 9pm. And he stayed there. Silently. Sleeping. Hah. So do we have bedtime cracked? Probably not. One swallow does not a summer make. As Margot recently reminded us all. But one lone swallow is still a beautiful thing. Perhaps even more beautiful when it comes in the middle of a cold hard winter.

The funniest thing was the fella and I sat all evening, deliberately not saying anything about Owen's peaceful slumber. Even when we went to bed we didn't say anything. The glorious possibility of his having gone to bed without a problem was hanging over us but we continued not to say anything. We didn't want to jinx this amazing occurrence. But come the morning we allowed ourself some little hoots of joy.

EDIT: Just to be clear, he did still wake once to feed but night feeds are not a problem, bedtime most definitely is.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The right side of the bed

Today is rather short on RsTBC. Although the day has been rather long. Starting at around 1.30am this morning. The fact that our feverish little Monster weed on the fella's side of the bed this morning rather than mine is probably the best I can muster.

When I typed "wee puddle" into Google images it came up with this:

Which in a previous life I might have entered in a cute-off with fellow cute-offender Anna.

Apparently Puddles [far right] was found in a "wee puddle" of water during a drought. For anyone interested (and who wouldn't be) you can read more here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Un pingouin rasta

Yesterday we had a family session with the Play Doh. It's always special when they start expressing their imagination, their artistic side, their individuality.

So when the fella pointed to the above creation and cheerfully told me it was un pingouin rasta I, of course, immediately reached for the camera to proudly capture his moment of Play Doh genius. They're just so full of fun and energy at this stage in their development, aren't they?

One of the best things about having kids has been seeing my fella become a papa.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise #12 Chocolate Cornflake Cakes

For today's enterprise I decided to enlist the Monster's aid. So we went for something quick and easy. (A thinly veiled excuse for me to make something that I can't get wrong.) Her favourite part was the decoration. Inevitably more Smarties ended up in her tummy than on the cakes.

The hardest part for her was waiting for the cakes to set.

So we didn't.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Friday in photos: All about Owen

Ah, my little man, you are adorable and exasperating in equal measure. Bedtime is a catastrophe, playtime is a little trip to giggly heaven. For the first three months of his life Owen was just a bit miserable and I worried, in a completely illogical sleep deprived way, that that was his personality. But in the last couple of weeks he has become a little squeak of delight.

He has been enjoying hanging out in his play pen with Uncle Ben's caterpillar (or the pahlala, as the Monster calls it).

He has been getting into books and I've discovered he loves being read to. In the manner of a children's tv presenter on speed.

He is showing a growing attachment to Uncle Dan and Auntie Kelly's cow. And is still working his bottom lip.

I know there are a lot of photos here but Uncles Ben and Dan, future beloved Margot and future cool belle maman Jen (you lucky boy) are all a long way away and don't get to see much of you. So all these photos are for them. And for me. Because I think you're so god damned cute.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Lazy housekeeping tips #2 & 3

Thursday is house cleaning day, as I mentioned before. Quite some while ago. Giving you some indication as to how frequently cleaning occurs. I am diligently building up my children's immune systems to face even the most virulent lurgy.

Today, because I'm really too tired to think of an excuse not to, I decided to do some cleaning. So here's my first tip of the day, never waste a good mood on cleaning, only dig out the rubber gloves when you're feeling tired and grumpy anyway. At least afterwards you'll be tired and grumpy and clean. And my second tip... clean around things. Moving various bits of furniture, clutter, mislaid socks, lego pieces, old bits of dried up apple out of the way takes longer than cleaning itself. So don't bother. Just studiously dust, hoover, wipe around and be careful never to shift things unless you're prepared to give up a day doing an "Is clean" clean.

I sometimes think that I was born into the wrong age. I should have been a upper middle class Bohemian housewife at the turn of the twentieth century. One of those witty educated women that would read voraciously and write (and be witty obviously), who fought for the right of women to work, without actually having to ever go out to work herself. The kind of woman that had staff, a cook, a maid, but was terribly terribly nice to them.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Flash back, look forwards

I have been having flashbacks to my life before the mini-beasts. This morning it was my friend Katie and I driving around the English countryside (I can't be sure if it was Kent or Oxfordshire), going nowhere in particular and chatting about anything and everything. Last night it was the fella and I heading into Hackney on a Sunday morning to get some breakfast. Visions of moments when I felt happy and free. Not that I don't feel happy and free right now... actually that's not true, I feel happy, most of the time, but not free. You are not free when you have small children. There are many pleasures to be had with the mini-beasts but a sense of freedom is not one of them. I have always thought there are seasons to life and like Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter you don't want any of them to last forever. In fact I've always enjoyed the season changes best of all and the promise of new things to come.

I hope my flashbacks continue, I'm enjoying them. Whilst I don't want to go back to the past, a quick flash every now and again never did anyone any harm.

Please excuse the indulgent photographic flashbacks, they are the result of a cheerful half hour trawling through old photos!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Les Beaux parents

I hate being a cliché but I did go through a phase, after the Monster's birth, of not being entirely comfortable with my belle maman*. When Matilda cried she used to ask me questions like:

"Don't you think she's hungry?"

To which I would be tempted to reply:

"Yes, but she's getting a bit heavy to carry around so I've decided to stop feeding her so much."

Having a baby changes your relationship with everyone around you so it's not too much of a surprise that there is a period of readjustment. Thankfully I feel we are now fully readjusted. We had the beaux parents staying with us this weekend and it was lovely to see them and to see my mini-monsters having so much fun with their Papi James and Mamilo. And not just because it gave me a break. Oh ok, mostly because it gave me a break.

In any case, I am very happy to no longer be a cliché. That said, that they live a 6-hour drive away is by no means a bad thing either...

* Where in English we say mother, or father or sister in law, the French say they are beautiful, ma belle soeur or mon beau père. Charming but the English version is more honest. Or maybe the French are being ironic.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Plein plein de fish

The Monster's friend Marina very kindly sent her Ponyo by Miyazaki for her birthday. Marina (which I've just realised is a most appropriate name) couldn't have chosen a better film. We have just spent a very rare rainy afternoon watching the DVD en famille. The Monster thought it was great and we just about managed to follow what was going on behind her running commentary which went (for the entire length of the film) something like this:

"Bateau, de l'eau, bateau, fish, plein plein de fish, deux bateaux, fish, bateau par terre, fish, plein de fish, moon [when she saw the light in the image above], de l'eau, plein plein de fish, elle prend bateau, petit bateau, plane [actually a bird, we tried to correct her but she insisted], fish, plein plein de fish..."

You get the idea.

Ponyo rather reminded me of the Monster. She can't sit still and she loves ham.