Thursday, 31 March 2011

DJ Tidla in da' hovel

Not a lot to report. We are happily falling into a routine that allows us all time for ourselves and time for having fun together. I have been trying to rework my book ready for sending it off, cap in hand, to the publishers. Matilda has been providing us with the soundtrack for our days. As a DJ, she lacks a certain essential eclectism. Thankfully the CD that is currently claiming squatter's rights in the CD player and in her heart is Café Africa, a compilation of African songs. I got hold of this CD because it has on it two songs that Max Stafford-Clark used in his production of The Overwhelming by JT Rogers. The Overwhelming was the first show I worked on when I started at Out of Joint theatre company. Listening to the music is slightly bittersweet, it brings back so many memories, of Nao and Alex, of moving to London with Fanf, of the National Theatre, of theatre... The two songs Max chose are the beautiful Silence by Pierre Akendengué, which sadly I can't find to share with you, and the ebullient (I love that word!) Fati Mata by Sam Mangwana, which happily I did find on YouTube. So here it is, enjoy.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Land of Nod

I haven't dared post about this for fear of jinxing ourselves but today it's been two weeks. Today I can dance my little dance of joy and shout it from the rooftops, sleep, so simple, so blissful, so elusive, eludes us no longer. What brought about this life-changing miracle? Well, credit where credit's due, it was Fanf's idea, he decided to put the mini-beasts in the same bedroom. And it worked. Immediately. What's more, Matilda, whose bedtime had become a desperate little maelstrom of unhappiness, now goes to bed fairly peaceably. She's so happy and proud to be sleeping with her brother. The other morning we heard her giggling and we went in to find her in stitches, she said Owen was being "rigolo". He didn't appear to be doing anything much other than giving her his big dopey grin but actually his big dopey grin makes me giggle too.

Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect. Last night Matilda was up twice for a wee and Owen once the night before for a grumble about his teeth. But there is no terrible crying, no Jack in the boxing up and down the stairs, no emotional blackmail or bribery ("Go back to sleep now and you can have a chocolate lolly in the morning", "You're making mummy very unhappy"). But we have had runs of three, even four nights without stirring and in any case, if I may borrow the words of someone very wise, perfection doesn't exist in my world.

You don't realize how bad sleep deprivation feels until you're out of it. We're out of it. RTBC to the power of 1000. I know some parents have sleepless nights for years rather than months, so I guess we're lucky. In fact, as I said to Fanf, it feels now like the worst is behind us (for the baby years). It feels good. It feels like we're really starting to enjoy being a family. Not just surviving.

Oh, and we now have a guest bedroom. Yay.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Ode to O

On the occasion of your having been as much time out as in.

In the nine months since I gave birth,
A smile has bloomed could move the earth.

The way you dance, hoot and wriggle,
Makes me and your sister giggle.

And now you're up and on the go,
Can't stop my smile-powered dynamO.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Saturday, 26 March 2011

White Chocolate Mush

As you know, I get a certain perverse kick from documenting my culinary failures. Today, like the good little hausfrau that I am, I attempted to make a white chocolate mousse as a special treat for tea. Despite the fact that the recipe requires only four ingredients (and one of those is a pinch of salt) I managed to make something that was more swampy than moussy. All hard and lumpy on top, with a most unpleasant murky liquid lurking at the bottom of the dish. Urk urk urk. My faithful little band nonetheless attacked my mush with gusto. Matilda asked for a third helping (denied). Just goes to show that like mother, like daughter. Chocolate, presented in any way, shape or form, is still chocolate.

(Note the blur, due to intense speed of hand to mouth shovelling.)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Friday in photos: Splish splash

And in moving pictures. No little brothers were drowned in the making of this film.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Just call me the Sandman

Tonight, Matilda climbed into the pushchair and promptly fell asleep whilst Owen, having gulped down his milk, put his head down on his high chair table and also promptly fell asleep. I thought it wasn't possible but I managed to tire both of them out! Thank you wonderful Spring sunshine. If my little brain was awake I would have taken photos. But I am also shattered and am off to lay my head on Fanf's shoulder. And promptly fall asleep.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

It's Pea Season

They're food. They're fun. They're healthy.

Matilda eats them like sweets. And so do I.

Further thoughts on female genitals

I think really one should call a spade a spade. A vagina is a vagina. But I would still love to hear anyone's thoughts on yesterday's post.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mummy got willy

No, this is not going to be an intimate confession. The Monster is grappling with gender. She likes to think that everyone she loves is the same as her, so gender is a fly in her ointment. Her musings on gender this morning went something like this:

TM: Owen est fille, comme Matilda.
Me: No, Owen is a boy.
TM: Owen est boy. Owen got willy.
Me: Yes. (By George she's got it.)
TM: And papa got willy.
Me: Yes. (I think she's got it.)
TM: And mummy got willy.
Me: No. (Whoah there Professor Higgins, she's lost it.)

And while we're on the subject, what does mummy have? What word do you use for the female genitals when talking to your mini-beast(s)? The fella uses the impossibly twee kiki for vagina and as the Monster has adopted this word (hell of a lot easier to say than vagina!) I feel I have to use it too but hate doing so. The word vagina is perhaps a bit, I don't know... clinical? But I don't think there's really a reasonable alternative in english, an equivalent to willy. I can't remember my mum ever using any word when I was a kid, which she confirmed. She said she referred to everything "down there" as my bottom. How did she manage that? How did I grow up normal (relatively...)? The anatomical inaccuracy of this approach seems to me to border on the dangerously misleading. Yet I managed to produce two mini-beasts without too many shocks and surprises to the system so I obviously didn't grow up too confused.

Anyway alternatives to kiki , in french or english or any other language you happen to know, gratefully received... I promise to be cheerful if any of you come up with something acceptable. Or amusing.

[Photo shown is Judi Dench playing Viola in Twelfth Night, a play which tells you everything you could possibly need to know about gender.]

Monday, 21 March 2011

Making being a stay-at-home mum meaningful

Today is the first day for about a month when I got up feeling I could get things done. Not simply survive from dawn til dusk without injury (accidental... or otherwise) to myself or one of the mini-beasts. So I had a list of projects I wanted to get my teeth into again. But I came down from my shower this morning and found the mini-beasts like this in the playpen:

And then they gave me a little impromptu concert:

Their own homespun version of Making Music Meaningful (an activity their little Canuck friend, Margot, enjoys).

Just look at them, what else could I possibly want to do other than join in? So I did.

I reminded myself that being a stay-at-home is not an excuse to get on with my own stuff, although that is a perk, more than that, an opportunity not to be missed. But not at the expense of the greatest opportunity of all: to spend lots of time with my kids. So I abandonned all other projects and we spent the day mucking about together.

And it was good.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Odds and Sods

RTBCs this weekend:

The gigantic ovarian cyst has gone. I have no regrets. Only slightly uncomfortable bubbles in my shoulders. Pretty weird.

The not-so-monstrous Monster went and got her first haircut in a father-daughter trip (yes, that's right, father-daughter) to the hairdressers. It looks like this:

Pretty cute.

I spent several happy hours perusing the Persephone catalogue to choose a book, as the ever lovely Jen sent me a get-well gift voucher. I now have a long wishlist for my next book order. But this time I chose Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson. Pretty intriguing.

I made pizza. Proper pizza. Made my own dough and kneaded it and everything (actually, the kneading was everything). It looked like this:

Pretty yum.

We went to the park this afternoon. It was all springy. Pretty uplifting.

Wrigglesworth has started dancing. It looks like this:

Pretty funny.

Or perhaps a little worrying...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Bex's Bookshelves: Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, by Winifred Watson

This is one of the most charming books I have ever read. It's a fairy tale, a version of Cinderella, but the characters are enjoyably flawed and believable. It was, I imagine, quite daring in its day. Thank you to Ju again for the recommendation. Choosing quotes was tricky as the writing is sparkling but here are a few of my favourites.

'The other drinks were very nice for a change,' said Miss Pettigrew earnestly, 'and certainly give one delightfully odd feelings, but I always say you can't beat a really nice...cup...of...tea'.

'I always wanted to taste whiskey,' said Miss Pettigrew happily. 'I've never had it, ever, even when I've had a cold, as medicine.'
'Where were you brought up?' commiserated Michael.

Angela said nothing. She had once heard that too much talking, too much laughing, too much animation, aged one. Apart from the primary consideration that she never had anything to say, she meant to keep her looks.

'I have never had any fun or amusement. To-day has taught me a lesson. I have discovered a lot of frivolous tendencies in myself hitherto unexpected.'

A common belief in woollen underwear was a bond to shatter the last barrier of constraint. They obviously had important tastes in common.

'Do let's sit and have a little chat. Men are all right in their place, but I do like a nice feminine gossip.'

Saturday, 12 March 2011

My sweet Monster

Pondering my Monster in her absence, I thought about her character and her personality. I like to think she is feisty, bright, creative, imaginative, eccentric, because that's, you know, cool. And she is all those things sometimes but none are her dominant personality trait. When I really thought about it I realised my little Monster is not really a Monster at all. She's kind, thoughtful, compassionate, helpful, in a word: NICE.

Evidence gathered this week:

1. I came across her hugging Wrigglesworth and saying "I love you Owen, I love you Owen" (shortly afterwards she attempted to take off his head like Jack in "Jack's Song", The Nightmare Before Christmas, luckily she failed).
2. Yesterday morning, when she woke up, she brought Fanf's glasses downstairs for him. He had left them next to her bed the previous night.
3. When I started to get frustrated with Wrigglesworth because he wouldn't eat she came up to me, hugged my leg, and said "Be patient Mummy, I love you".
4. When she gets offered something in a shop she often asks for one "pour maman", which I always thought was a cunning ruse but recently, when I tried to give her the lolly she had cadged for me she refused, telling me "No, c'est pour Mummy."
5. When the fella left for work yesterday he gave the Monster her kiss, she then immediately instructed him "Et bisous Maman", so I got mine too.
6. Whenever I lose my slippers (which is constantly, I stupidly bought slippers that won't stay on my feet, so I tend to leave them where they fall until I pass by that spot again) she fetches them for me because she's worried my feet will be "tout froid".

So there you have it. Nice.

One of the first times I went out with Fanf was in the company of two other female friends and as we all bid each other bonne nuit and my fella (not my fella then) pottered off into the distance one of the girls said "There goes the nicest man in Paris". I discussed this with my German flatmate the next day and she said, although she liked Fanf, she thought he was too nice. What?!! How can you be too nice? All I ever wanted in my fella was nice. And I got what I wanted. Lucky me.

Going further back I can remember talking to my London flatmate about how we wanted the world to see us, specifically whether we would prefer to be respected for being intelligent or for being nice. She went for intelligent. I then, and now, hope that the first thing people think of when they think of me (if they think of me at all!) is, "yes, she's nice". It seems such an insipid word and I think it is sometimes seen as an insipid quality but if everyone were nice then the world would be, well, a much nicer place.

So to return to the Monster. There are many qualities I wish to see flourish in her as she grows up (caring for the elderly, for example...) but I am over the moon that currently she is excelling herself in the underrated art of niceness. She is a thoroughly nice little human being.

Here is a short video of her playing with Wrigglesworth, to whom she is most attached. No little brothers were hurt in the making of this film.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Meet the newest member of the family

This is Zhu Zhu Princess. She's a hamster. She's magical.

She is indeed magical as I raved to Ju, who very kindly sent me this for my birthday. I have told the Monster many times that Zhu Zhu is mine but Her Royal Hamsterness has not left the Monster's clutches since she was unpacked from the box. But I don't mind because she keeps the Monster occupied for hours. Gone are the wailing demands for the tv, gone are the messy attempts to contain the spread of play doh or paint through the house, gone are the daily toy cluster bombs. Zhu Zhu is a marvel. Every strung out parent should have one. And if the fascination doesn't last, and according to Ju it doesn't, then that's fine as well, because then I can play with Zhu Zhu.

The Monster showed a precocious talent for sadism by placing Zhu Zhu in the bilibo and watching her futile attempts to climb out.

Anyway, here's a little film so you can get to know Zhu Zhu better.

Actually the funniest thing about Zhu Zhu (other than her name) is the warning not to let her near your hair. I imagine Zhu Zhu, enraged, going for my split ends.

The mini-beasts have left the building...

... and they're not coming back until tomorrow afternoon.

How to describe how I feel right now with a cosy, romantic evening with the fella ahead of me? With a cosy, romantic lie-in tomorrow morning? With a leisurely brunch?

Happier than if someone had just presented me with a lifetime's supply of Lindt.

Really. I'm that happy.

I do however, in the mini-beasts absence, have to clean everything from top to toe as the belle maman will be arriving on Sunday, and prepare baked goodies for my birthday goûter tomorrow. But both activities can be attacked whilst listening to my new CDs. Thank you Dan and Kelly, yours arrived today ~ Jen, I love yours ~ Fanf, expect to come home and find me warbling along with Edith Piaf.

Happy happy happy.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Flattery will get you everywhere

I had been feeling rather apathetic about my blog. And then the charming Simon at Tough Cookies wrote a post in which he said I was inspiring. Me. Yeah right! Currently, I feel like I would have difficulty inspiring a flea to jump. But thank you Simon, you have inspired me to turn my attention to my RTBCs.

Simon talked about finding the balance between stay at home duties and artistic aspirations. At the moment, on my seesaw of priorities, the great lumpen kid of domestic responsibility sits staring up, arms folded, impassible, at my flighty little kid of creative expression, who has been left high and dry, feet unable to touch solid ground.

The only mildly creative, mind-expanding activity in which I engage is reading. Bex's bookshelves has disappeared but that's only because I'd rather read a book than write about one I've read (or write a blog post, sorry!!!). Since last regaling you with my oh-so-insightful book reviews (gosh, it's good, yes it's really very good) I have read:

Any Human Heart, by William Boyd
The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet, by John Hegley (ah, John Hegley, another perpetual RTBC), this book is bilingual, another reason to love it
Travelling Light, by Tove Jansson (again a permament fixture in the RTBC hall of fame)
The Observations, by Jane Harris

They were all really good. Gosh, yes, really very good. A couple were recommendations from Ju and as she is ever reliable in the treacherous field of book recommendations I was delighted to receive a birthday parcel with two new books from her today.

Have I mentioned that I love books? I love escaping, discovering, connecting with something outside of myself. I love being made to turn the pages even when I can't keep my eyelids open (or they are gummed together, thank you conjunctivitis*). I love being shown something with a different perspective, an alternative way of thinking. I love more than anything reading something that makes me realise that the author has at some point thought or felt like me. I love being made to laugh out loud. This last batch of books were full of these moments. I like collecting quotes and I have decided that rather than review my books I am simply going to share with you my favourite quotes. You already have enough of my words.

This time I will limit myself to this rather brilliant notion of life as seen through a journal (what is a blog but a modern day journal?) from William Boyd:

"But our human lives aren't like that, and a true journal presents us with the more riotous and disorganised reality. The various stages of development are there but they are jumbled up, couterposed and repeated randomly ... It doesn't make sense the logical, perceived progression never takes place. The true journal intime understands this fact and doesn't try to posit any order or hierarchy, doesn't try to judge or analyse: I am all these different people - all these different people are me."

What, you want more? Ok, ok, one more, from the gloriously random Mr. Hegley. A poem.

"Today Monsieur Robinet makes his contribution to the town festival. Carefully he places pebbles on the grass, for the letters of a message for the people: TELEVISION IS BAD FOR YOUR CONVERSATION WITH THE DOG. His dog quietly keeps guard over his master's pile of pebbles."

Oh, and this from The Observations, from the ribald but poignant narrative voice of Bessy Buckley, I can't not share this!

"She was that lazy I bet she lay down to fart."

I thank Bessy (Jane) also for discovering the brilliant word, betwattled, meaning bewildered.

At the moment I am in a constant state of betwattlement.

* According to the NHS website, conjunctivitis particularly affects children and the elderly. The elderly. Sigh.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Many happy returns to me

Today, 34 years ago, I entered this mad world. At tea time. How civilised.

Today, 34 years later, I woke up feeling grumpy and miserable about all the things I don't have.

A cold-free head and gunk-free eyes (likewise for the mini-beasts)
A good night's sleep
A lavish present from a fella who is not as worn out and sleep-deprived as his good lady concubine and whose energies are not currently diverted, like mine, into surviving the early years with the mini-beasts
A daughter who does what I tell her, first time, and immediately (does anyone have this? really??)
A place of work to which I could ring in sick
Time for me and the fella sans mini-beasts (this above all....)

Then I opened two lovely parcels from Jen and Michaela, both inspiring in their own ways. MiK gave me, amongst other things, loo roll. Hah. Loo roll. Jen gave me all kinds of useful and thoughtful bits and doings.

Then I decided that rather than be grumpy about what I don't have I should be happy about what I do. So I will probably get no time with Fanf alone tonight, well then, I'll make the most of the time we have as a family. We'll be pining for their constant demands for attention and cuddles soon enough no doubt. And yes I'm ill, but I'm not ill ill. It's tiresome, but that's all. And the fella is making me crêpes tonight, what need I lavish gifts when I have the fella's homemade crêpes. And the fella.

Today, as well as being my birthday, is Pancake Day and International Women's Day. How nice to share my birthday with two such brilliant contributions to humankind.

And as for that quote, which Mama Mogantosh had the good grace to refer to as "literary", it's Lina Lamont from Singin' in the Rain. One of my favourite all time films and a perpetual RTBC.

Friday, 4 March 2011

"Il est beau neige"

Today I am chez the grandspoilers so I am making the most of some downtime to share our mini winter wonderland getaway from last weekend. We went up into the Pyrenees to stay in a chalet with the Stephs, my beaux parents, the parents of my beaux frères, and my nephews. They have all been up there the entire week but very kindly invited us to join them for the weekend. Despite the onset of the lurgy and a couple of sleepless nights it was indeed rather wonderful. Even the sleepless nights meant sitting on the sofa, squalling babe in arms, watching the snow silently and beautifully falling through the enormous windows of the chalet.

We did some tramping in the snow minus mini-beasts, so a glorious moment with noone whining or tugging. We did some tramping in the snow plus mini-beasts, so yes there was some whining and tugging but there was also some snowball throwing, some icicle battling and some snowy playgrounds larks.

And we had a go on the piste des luges which the Monster thought was about the best thing she had ever done. She was a bit put out that we wouldn't allow her to have a go toute seule however when she insisted on hauling the sled up the hill herself rather than one of us having to drag her we were most encouraging. Embarassingly, I am terrible at steering the luge. Everyone, the Monster included, quickly realised that going down with me was not much fun. Not only am I completely unable to maintain a straight line but I go wonky very, veeeery slowly.

Wrigglesworth had to be content peeping out of his bundling.

He made up for not really being equipped to make the most of the snow by being the happiest little chappy in the chalet.

Particularly when receiving les douce attentions of his favourite cousin Elise, who he thinks is les genoux de l'abeille.

There were two utterly brilliant things about the weekend:

1. This little red suit that the Monster is wearing was hand-made by her great grandmother, Mamie Jane, and was worn by her grandmother, Mamilo, when she was the age Matilda is now. Isn't that beautiful? And it's red. How did Mamie Jane know??

2. Mémère's* homemade nutella. I cannot describe the joy I felt when after a sleepless night of coughing (me) and squalling (Wrigglesworth), I shuffled dejectedly over to the breakfast table to discover a gigantic pot of this ambrosia, which last past my lips over four years ago now. Mémère's nutella should be declared a national monument, the eighth wonder of the world, it should be protected, it should be prescribed to all poor sleep-deprived parents. It is, in a charming phrase my brother just shared with me, the mutt's nuts. Although strangely, there are no nuts in it.

(*my beaux frères' grandmother)

And this is me and the fella. Happy.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Reasons to be miserable: We've got the lurgy

Full-on lurgy, people backing away from your coughing, hawking and spluttering lurgy, can't get out of bed lurgy... I wish! Wrigglesworth is unable to sleep for longer than half an hour at a stretch during the night, and last night we all finished in the Monster's room, Ww and I on the mattress on the floor. I'm not good with ill, I don't very often get ill and when I am, I prefer to ignore the ill and carry on. And for a couple of days I managed. But I woke up this morning to find my eyes gummed together and ignoring the fact that I couldn't separate my eyelids without applying a chisel was difficult. That and the little rollercoaster of ache that runs from my neck, behind my ears, over my temples and back down through my nose to my neck. Wrigglesworth is being very stoical during the day and smiles charmingly through the snot. The Monster's only symptoms are a bit of a runny nose and a bit of an outbreak of naughtiness. In what, in hindsight, would seem bad timing I decided to launch into potty training again today. By lunchtime we had three soggy pairs of knickers ("knickit" in Monsterspeak) and one filled with a stinky little Monster dumpling. This particular "knickit" went straight in the bin and I washed the child. Although again, in hindsight, maybe that should have been the opposite way round.

Thank heavens that Ben is here. Poor Ben. Still, I think we have thoroughly motivated him to set off on his travels again (hopefully sans lurgy). He is a shimmering, glowing star in the uncle firmament.*

*No prizes but a pat on the back and a pleasing feeling of smugness to anyone who can identify from whence I mangled this quote.