Sunday, 30 September 2012

The way it goes

Normally of a Sunday, around 7am, the mini-beasts start screeching. I grab my book, tramp downstairs and none too gently plonk them in front of the quietest DVD I can find, generally The Gruffalo or Lost and Found, frequently both, so I can tuck into my book in peace. But always feeling mildly guilty.

This morning, I sneaked downstairs at 7am like the world's most feline catburglar, implored my kettle to hush as it boiled water for my cup of tea, helped myself to an extremely benevolent slab of yesterday's homemade Rocky Road and settled into the sofa with Alias Grace. Blimey, that Ms Atwood is a clever old sausage.

And there I stayed. For an hour.

The early morning tea-chocolate-book ritual is long-standing and my favourite way to start the day at the weekends. But mini-beast rituals have played merry hell with my own more genteel ones.

Not this morning.

So, already off to a flying start, when the mini-beasts finally surfaced (still screeching, but you can't have everything) having had a full hour to myself I happily sat down and read books with them. For an hour and a half! While Fanf engaged in his own favourite morning ritual of hunkering down in his bed. We read all the Tove Jansson picture books, and Dear Zoo and Zog and Gros Grognon and we took our time and really explored the illustrations and the words, Jansson's Tooticky being particular cause for hilarity.

Same again next week please.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Reasons to love Nao

Because spending time with Nao, whether it's balmy (or not so balmy) days at the beach, indulging in a spot of café culture or simply sharing a cup of tea and a slab of chocolate amongst the debris of home life, is happiness.

Because the mini-beasts love her. They love Ipadding with her, they love dancing with her, they love cuddling with her, and they love going to the toilet with her.

Because she loves Eddie. Weasel weasel.

And Victoria Wood.

Because she came, she saw, she bought me a new pair of red trousers. I can't quite express how much I needed these right now. My self-image has soared. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Because she did some magic jiggery pokery with my camera so that I can photograph sunlight. We spent a glorious afternoon in Béziers' beautiful Parc des Poètes. Prepare yourself for some arty fartfulness. And by arty I mean: not blurry, no people, lots of leaves.

Ok, just one people. One very special people.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Rambling on

Tomorrow Nao arrives for a week. Oh happy Bex. After my annual September fruitless and grump-making search for an edifying/enjoyable activity outside the home that I can both afford and fit into the increasingly complicated family schedules, I am looking forward to indulging in one of my all-time favourite activities: having a good natter. There are few things I enjoy more than a good natter. And a good natter with Nao usually involves red wine, melted cheese, grandiose plans for our glittering futures and gales of laughter.

So I wholly expect to abandon the virtual and embrace the real for the duration and shall no doubt be absent from this little space. Anyone thinking they might miss us, even a teeny tiny little bit, here are some photos of our walk through the vineyards yesterday to be going on with. There are few things more edifying and enjoyable than a good walk. And of course there was some good natter as well. Such intimate family time; four little pinpricks wandering free under the vast blue sky.

Getting a kiss to make it better
It was glorious.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The final hurdle

We're over it. For just over a week now my big little O has been in big ol' pants. For me, freedom from the nappy yoke means you've made it. The baby stage is completely and utterly over. Gone the voluminous bag of random crap, gone the hours spent trying to kneel inconspicuously in public places as the disproportionately noisome odour of your infant's execretions wafts around you, gone the endless and tedious debates with Fanf about whether or not the nappy needs changing.  Will it wait until after the first glass of wine? After the entrée? After dinner? Until we get home? As a quick rule of thumb, when the nappy starts to hang down through the leg of your child's shorts (as recently happened to our little man at a refined gathering of mostly over-60s - oh the shame) you have missed the moment.

As I said before, O has pretty much toilet trained himself. Anyone looking for tips, these are mine, coming from a mum who got it every which way of wrong first time round.

1. Don't start too early. They know when. You don't know when. Let them lead.
2. Go straight to the toilet. The potty is a pointless distraction. It simply festers about the house cloaking everything in a lingering smell of eau de wee.
3. Get an older sibling. O wanted to be like his big sister. I will admit that on more than one occasion he wore a pair of her old knickers. On his bottom.
4. Never ask them if they want to go to the toilet, always wait for them to ask you. We were constantly asking Matilda and to this day I sometimes think she's doesn't quite understand her instincts.
5. Don't go overboard on praise. Especially with poo. You will be called for inspection, admiration and comment regarding size and level of olfactory unpleasantness each and every time a poo is brought forth.

Here endeth the lesson.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Siblings Found

We were reading Oliver Jeffers' Lost and Found for the umpteenth time today and Owen pointed at the cover and said "Matilda boy, Owen penguin". And I thought that was unbelievably sweet.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The "I Like" Song

I like hippopotamuses,
I like drinking water,
I like jumping in the water,
I like swimming, even when I don't have feet*,
I'm not scared of ghosts,
Don't run if there's a bear,
Bears only walk and sing,
I like ducks, ducks, ducks,
I like you,
Oh I like your Pattington,
A kiss, a kiss, a kiss,
I like everything.

Matilda sings many variations of The "I Like" Song. Her likes range from spaghetti to socks to crocodiles. The song is spectacularly tuneless but the lyrics, I feel, have a certain artless charm.

* A literal translation from the French "avoir pied", to have feet, meaning you can touch the bottom.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Orange, oat and sultana cookies

Healthy! Recipe here. I'm rather disappointed that I won't be able to make packed lunches for Matilda to take to school. The French don't do packed lunches. The concept of a packed lunch is just not terribly French. How can you fit entrée, plat, fromage and dessert into one small plastic tupperware? And you can't drink wine out of a flask. But Matilda does have to take goûter so as much as I can I want to ensure this is homemade. Tomorrow she will be eating her own homemade cookies.

As for the GBBE, I think we can now officially state that Owen has become a full-time member of the team. He exitedly demands to be involved in every activity. "Me turn, me turn, me turn". But having to rein in the excesses of two gesturally incontinent minibeasts means that any weighing and measuring that takes places is just for fun.

[I've not been around much in cyberland of late. I've not quite got to grips with the new routines yet, and I can't quite make it all fit. Certain things have to give. And as non-essential items, like housework, and personal grooming, gave many moons ago, I am having to cull in other areas. At the same time I am doing my best to add in more playtime with Owen's little band of friends. Once again, I can only conclude that life is not conducive to blogging.]

Friday, 7 September 2012


Owen is really missing Matilda. When he woke up from his nap yesterday his first word was, "Tilda?" and when I asked him what he wanted to do in the afternoon he suggested hopefully, "See Tilda?". I explained to him that Matilda was at school and that we'd see her later. He replied, "Tilda school, sad", and stuck out that bottom lip of his. I have been called on to replace his big sister in numerous games of "Hide from the Dinosaurs", and he spent this afternoon packing and unpacking his (Matilda's old) school bag and trotting about with it on his back.

Bless him.

As for Matilda, she was obviously rather touched by this display of brotherly love, as when she was asked about school tonight by Great Nana Iris the only thing she talked about was how much Owen was missing her.

Bless her.

Matilda has left me some pretty big shoes to fill.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Fabulous fireworks [ground almonds]

I was going to be healthy. Yes I was. Something with ground almonds to top up Matilda's magnesium levels, because her legs have been aching again at night. But then Matilda starting flicking through the recipe book and decided she wanted to make these:

I suspect because of the sparkler, which sadly for Matilda was an expense (and a potential minibeast disaster waiting to happen) too far. We did have some lovely edible sparkles, generously donated by our GBBE benefactor when we were in Blighty. Though Mini Smarties were the decoration of choice.

And the cake bit just happens to contain ground almonds! Conscience salved. Sort of.

They do also have chocolate butter icing. Conscience be gone.

O helped out with the stirring.

And the decorating.

There was quite a lot of interior decorating going on.

In other minibeast news, I told them they couldn't watch tv this morning. So they played at watching tv. Weird, right? And bloody minded.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

La rentrée

We dropped Matilda off at her new school this morning. She was unfazed. When I picked her up the playground monitor told me she was "super adaptable" and had already made friends with everyone. Her teacher told me that my little warrior had made herself at home immediately. And in her own words (as roughly remembered by the motherscribe) here is Matilda's tale of playground triumph:

I was feeling all alone, so I went and stood by the wall. And then I had an idea. I chose a friend and I went and asked them to play with me.

How did she get so bold and wise?

So Matilda took it all in her stride but I, quite unexpectedly, felt emotional. Last year, sending her off just for half the day was great. There was time with O in the mornings. And time for all of us in the afternoon. But this year I think both Owen and I are going to miss her. I know we are. I love being a stay at home mum. I realised today that I have never done anything that made me happier. Even being a stay at home student wasn't as fun, and by gum I had a whale of a time doing my PhD. But larking about with my minibeasts is better. And this morning I think one of the reasons waving goodbye to Matilda gave me a fluttery tummy was the presentiment that the stay at home mum gig will soon be up. I know it might sound incredibly unprogressive and, well, just bloody strange that I am not yearning to get back to work and spend my days with adults. But I'm not.

So here I am. Happy and proud to see Matilda throw herself into another new experience that will set her on the path to being independent in the world. And slightly melancholic that I too will soon have to return to being independent in the world.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Those halycon days

Here follows a scrapbook of pictures and thoughts from our holidays. Sorry it is so scrappy. Back in the day I was capable of ordering my thoughts... But that was a day that did not begin with mini-beasts clamouring for breakfast and did not end with mini-beasts clamouring for the day not to end just yet.

So, our holidays were: pubs and hugs, parks and boats, Pimms and beer, lovely people and ice cream and lots and lots of green.

Things I realised:

Beer is better than wine. A sign that I am not getting old? Or a sign that I have gone past old and out the other side, into senile old pub hag?

I like holidays because I like dropping out of the world. No contact, no interaction, no need to "keep up". It is a relief. When I came home I found it hard to dive back in. I didn't want to go to the market, or the pharmacy, or answer emails or return calls or do anything except hole up at home. The effort of being in society is tiring and I don't remember how tiring until I step away. Am I weird, or does anyone know what I'm talking about?

France is home. I felt like a tourist in Blighty and breathed an involuntary sigh of relief when we exited the chunnel into the early morning light of Calais. I consider this to be the best of both worlds. I also experience an intense joy each and every time I return to Blighty, all the stuff that used to be ordinary is now extraordinary. A packet of Cadbury's Chocolate Buttons is enough to ensure that my cup overfloweth for at least a week. Whereas what I coveted as a child, French chatter and une boulangerie à chaque coin de rue, is now my everyday. C'est magnifique.

As my dad said, "There's a reason why extended families should live in close proximity". We went to visit my nana, Great Nana Iris, in Derbyshire. As I've mentioned before, my ever ready nana has faltered in recent years but when we arrived with the kids she glowed and we spent such a happy afternoon. When I saw how being with the mini-beasts breathed life into her life I came away feeling sad that we cannot see her more often. The young and the old should be together.

Matilda cannot walk. She can run, skip, climb, dance or fall over.

And finally, Owen + steering wheel = small boy heaven.