Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Fairy Plump

There were many lovely things about this Christmas but in my memory it will forever remain the year of the Fairy Plump.  

Owen asked for a Blanche Neige ballet dress and red ballet shoes from Father Christmas.  When we awoke on Christmas morning we had stockings in our bedroom.  Owen ripped through his and then looked up disappointed, "Where is my préféré present?" he asked plaintively.  I suggested we go upstairs and have a look under the tree.  And indeed, Father Christmas had left more presents there.  We began handing them round but each time Owen opened something that wasn't his dress his face fell.  "But where is my préféré present?"  Eventually I found him the right parcel which was unwrapped to squeals of delight.  The dress was donned immediately and after that he gave most of his presents to me to open because he wasn't interested in anything else.  

Properly attired with dress and ballet shoes Owen proceeded to regale us with his rendition of 'The Fairy Plump' (The Sugar Plum Fairy).  Performances were quite strictly organized.  Owen would begin by choosing a designated 'guard', whose job was to announce the performance, during which time Owen would hide under the table.  It was seemingly imperative that the guard not applaud the performance at the end, this falling outside of his/her remit.  Several guards were severely chastised (myself included) for failing to observe their terms of engagement.  All audience members also had to maintain a strict silence during the dance, and those flouting this rule, even with appreciative ooohs and aaahs, received a stern glare or, in extreme cases, an angry 'chut!'  And of course anyone who was not a 'guard' was encouraged to show their appreciation as Owen took his bow.

Here is a little video to give you a taster of the many, many, performances of The Fairy Plump that we were subjected to enjoyed immensely.  In this instance, it is Auntie Katie who gets a dressing down at the end for her negligent clapping, even though you will see him reminding her not to clap during the performance. Oh Auntie Katie...

The kids received DVDs of The Royal Ballet's Nutcracker, Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! and Cirque du Soleil's Quidam for Christmas.  Having watched all three DVDs intently they declared that they were all very good but that Matilda's end of term circus show and Owen's version of the Fairy Plump were actually better.  I think we may have gone a bit overboard on the praise and confidence building... 

And if you're wondering where Nell was in all this, well she contentedly screeched and smiled her way through the mayhem.

That'll be me signing off for the year.
Happy 2014 to one and all!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Rocking around the Christmas tree

Yes, it's our annual Christmas tune, chosen this year by Matilda.

A merry Christmas to one and all.  We can't wait to see those of you on your way to us and lots of festive jollity to those snuggled up in other parts of the world.

Bex and the gang xxx

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Cirque joie!

Matilda loved the skateboarding

Last night Fanf and I took the kids to see Le Cirque Misere at SortieOuest.  A little Christmas treat, and the first time we've been out to a proper show in a proper theatre with them.  Well, in a big top.  They were transfixed.  As were we.  It was beautiful and poetic and funny and thought-provoking.  In fact it was so good I actually spent more time watching the show than the kids' faces.  Although I kept hearing Matilda exclaim, "Il est trop fort!"

It was extremely salutary to feel my old self reconnecting with my new self.  And I can't wait to build up my minibeasts theatrical experience with them.

Anyway, why don't you take a look.  I loved the paper bird juggling.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Or les chats ne font pas des chiens, as the French say.  So, can you guess who this lovely little chap is?  Yes, yes, it is our pater familias.  Just imagine my surprise and glee when I received this in my photostream from my belle soeur, Steph.  Fanf says his sisters dressed him up like that, but I see no signs of protestation on his chirpy made-up face.

And as for the sisters [Left: Steph, right: Anne], good lord, the hair!  Fanf claimed it was just the style but I don't think even the 80s can be blamed for these monstrous coiffures.  I mean the older cousin behind looks perfectly normal.

Owen, clearly you have inherited more than your good looks from your papa.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Moving Pictures

My darling brother Ben donated his Mac to me this summer, thus assuaging many years of Mac envy.  But being the technical amoeba that I am, I have only just worked out how to get videos into my blog again.  And when I say "I", I mean Fanf.

So there is a bit of a back log.  But here are a couple I particularly love.

One of Nell giving it some welly with her screeching.
[Warning: You may want to turn the sound down before viewing.]

One of Matilda making her little sister giggle.

And a brand new only-filmed-today video of Matilda in her end of term circus show.  Seeing her up there with the big ones (she's very proud she's been bumped up with les grands), so happy and giving it her all, I felt so proud.  Even a little teary.  Having kids is making me soppy.

In other unrelated news, when Nell was in full screech today, I commented that she was as happy as a pig in mud, to which Owen took great offense, explaining to me that she was actually crying because I had called her a pig.

Friday, 13 December 2013

I love the smell of Christmas trees in the morning

Our first real tree.  I'm so excited.  The smell.  I love the smell of a real tree.

And look at those minibeasts.  I love them too.     

Tonight O told me I'm the prettiest mummy in town :)

It's been a long week.  I've had a glass of wine.  I feel nice.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

6 months

I'm not usually one to gush, yet gush I must.  Nell, my goodness, the decision to make you may have been a long one, and my pregnancy fraught with horrid thoughts that that decision was not the right one, but every time I look at that enormous beaming smile of yours I thank my lucky stars that we did decide to make you.  Welcoming you into our scraggy little nest has been a doddle, you are so easygoing and adaptable and happy.    

You are utterly adorable and utterly adored.

Thursday, 28 November 2013



O has an imaginary acquaintance.  I wouldn't say 'friend', they don't hang out together.  But he is always telling us stories about Célestia and her exploits.  For example:

> Célestia's full name is Célestia Coalhole.  Her mummy's name is Celiste.  She has pink hair and red pyjamas.

> Célestia lives in a big castle with naughty knights and naughty princesses and there was a big fight and Célestia tued (killed) them all.  (She sounds alright this Célestia).  The castle is also full of skeletons and ghosties.

> All Célestia's teeth fell out because she didn't brush her teeth like her daddy asked her to.  And now she talks like this "gaga, gaga".

> Célestia's grandpere told her to do a poo in the garden, which she did.  Then her mummy said that was gross.

> Célestia likes 'a-bigg-a beans'.  (sort of like baked beans with an Italian accent)

> Nelly the Elephant ate Célestia.  Célestia did a coup de poing into the elephant's tummy.  Then the skeletons and the ghosties wanted to eat the elephant and the ghosties and the skeletons were nice to Célestia.

Célestia was malade because she swallowed a 'ketchup' (a Littlest Pet Shop toy) when she was a baby.  Her own 'ketchup', not Owen's 'ketchup' (purchased on the mercat at school with his hard earned sous, and currently his prize possession).

Célestia was chased by some spiders and she was peur.  And Célestia runned and runned and then the spiders fell into the feu.  Aaaah, splooosh.  Then she saw some monsters without any heads, they had fingers for heads.  Then they fell in the feu.  Splooosh splooosh.  They were stamping a l'envers.

The stories get retold with slight variations on a daily basis, including many twists and turns that we simply cannot understand or follow, some of which are sung bardic style.

Ah, my Owen.  He weird :)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Future lives

Matilda's dreams show she's a girl after my own heart (apart from the princess bit) and with a big heart.

Matilda:  I want to have a cafe.  It'll be called Vernite.  I will sell eclairs and cookies and cakes and coke and really cold water.  I will open it in the market.  A real cafe, not a play one.  And if people don't have any money I will manage.  I will tell them to choose what they want and I will give it to them.  I will decorate the walls with pink princesses.  I'm going to open it when I'm older.  When I'm six.  

Owen's dreams are a little more, whooaaah, out there.

Owen:  I want to live in a champignon maison* and be little little.

*Literally, a mushroom house, but he means a toadstool.  

Sunday, 10 November 2013

High on a hill



Yesterday we headed into the mountains with the cousins to seek out mouflons.  Cool.  What the hell's a mouflon?  At least that was my reaction when Steph suggested we sign up for this mouflon-spotting hike.  Turns out a mouflon is a mountain sheep, originally from Corsica.  It was meant to be rutting season.  Rutting.  What a great word that is.  Anyway, we didn't see any actual rutting but a couple of impressive and solitary males standing, very ruttishly it has to be said, on the horizon.

I forget how close we live to the mountains, and how glorious the landscape is up there.

Sometimes, stuck in Beziers, without a car, living our same little routine day in day out, I begin to feel stifled.  But within an hour we can be up in the clouds.  And the kids are becoming good walkers, especially Matilda, who loves being up front.  She is going through an extremely gratifying period (for me) where she has decided that she will like everything I like.  So because I love walking, so does she.  Parenting success.

Owen kept telling us to chut and excitedly spoke about mouflons, but I'm not sure he really understood what all the fuss was about, he just enjoyed the general ambiance.  And quite a lot of daddy's shoulders.

Nell was her usual happy, screechy self. And became the first of my children to be breastfed atop a mountain.  Nice that there are still new things in store for number three.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The little things

Nell - wondering how the hell she got here, and how to get the hell out.

I've been looking back over my blog recently, and so have Owen and Matilda.  And we've all really enjoyed revisiting our lives.  I can see how happy it makes them both that I took the time to document their bits and doings.  They love laughing at their baby and toddler antics.  I felt a bit sad that I haven't managed to record so much over the last year or so.  I revelled in some of the early minutiae I noted about Matilda and I wondered what I had missed and was now gone forever about Owen.  And then I thought that was rather daft.  I wasn't even writing my blog when Matilda was born whereas Owen has his first months written up here.  Nell has her period in utero.  The ebb and flow of life means I simply cannot be here consistently and the ebb of my brain (not so much of the flow) means that I don't have the requisite little grey cells to write interesting and entertaining prose.  I used to want this blog to be about more than my kids but I feel that that is not really where either my interest, or that of my faithful and exclusive little band of followers, lies.  For now, all I really want to do is to try to record the little things about my minibeasts that I know will make me smile, and make them smile, in years to come.  That's not to say that should an errant and disorientated thought ever stray into my head that I will not choose to express it here, and I might have the occasional moan but mostly, to be honest, you're just going to get a scrapbook of the Canteau-Pilbeam trilogy.

To this end, for several months now I have been writing down little things Owen has said that have tickled me. And these are they.

My nose isn't working. (When bunged up with a cold)

Not petit dejeuner, I want big dejeuner.

Just after arriving home.
Me: Who trekked mud into the house?
Owen: Auntie Katie.  (Only Owen and I in the house)
Me:  Really?
Owen:  I think it was nana.  (Still only Owen and I in the house)

Ham is crying - lost his friend in my mouth.  (His friend was a pea)

(Having dropped a grape into his houmous, then ventriloquising the grape) Oh no, I'm all houmousy.

The princesse was in danger, no! two dangers, no! three dangers. (Owen loves inventing stories - mostly about princesses)

I am a mariage - pronounced the French way (with just one 'r'), meaning he is dressed up as a bride.  Ever since he gatecrashed a wedding in the cathedral with Mamilo, O loves dressing up as a 'mariage'.

And some mispronunciations:

hopotus - a prize for anyone who can guess to what animal Owen is referring here.

Daddy fisk it - my boy already knows mummy is incapable of 'fisking' anything (the shame).

a bonker - a conker (though I like O's version better)

Boucle d'oreille - what is wrong here? I seem to hear you cry (at least those of you who understand froggish).  Let me put this charming mispronunciation into context, Owen was telling us he read the story of Boucle d'oreille et les trois ours at school.  (For those of you who are not bilingual Boucles d'Or is the story of Goldilocks, a boucle d'oreille is an earring.)

Dressed up as a 'mariage'

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Cutest thing ever

Ok, I'll come out and say it, I don't like dummies (the clue is in the name).  Fanf and I agreed that we wouldn't dig our heels in if it turned out that our two elder minibeasts needed a dummy but we were mighty glad when they didn't.  Neither of then sucked a thumb or finger either, and we were equally glad that we wouldn't have to face weaning from finger sucking.  I gave up sucking my finger when I was about seven after a friend was given a ring by her parents for abandoning her soggy digit.  Thinking she was on to a good thing I followed suit.  My parents gave me a pat on the back.  Sigh.

As for Nell, I feel like she's been searching out some fingers to suck ever since she was born and yesterday she found her thumb.  Now although thumb sucking brings its own set of difficulties, I just happen to think it's impossibly cute.

And on the up side, she slept through last night for the first time, so hooray hooray for thumb sucking.

Also, I will now have a child to terrorise with the wonderfully macarbre tales of Struwwelpeter, specifically The Story of the Thumbsucker. Ah ha ha ha.  

Thinks *I have maybe missed a trick here with my other minibeasts*

Note to self: read the story of Fidgety Philip to Matilda.  Every night for a month.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Déjà vu

Remember this.

Now this.

Being suffocated under the sibling toy mountain is clearly a rite of passage in this housebarelyholdingtogether.

Also, clearly, you should never leave your child in my care.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Bloke in a dress

The future of Owen?  Fine by me
... minus the cigarette.

Last Thursday, Owen cried because he wanted to wear a dress to school.  I'll be honest, I really wasn't sure what to do.  Part of me worried that one aspect of being in society is understanding social norms.  Owen is too young to understand, should I be there to understand and make decisions for him?  Part of of me wanted to let my boy fly and be free, after all, wearing a dress is hardly harmful or hurtful behaviour.  And why should it be a social norm that boys can't wear dresses?  One hundred years ago, the idea of women striding about in trousers was shocking.  In fact, it wasn't until this year that France revoked a 200-year-old law banning women from wearing trousers in Paris.  Maybe in one hundred years, men will be wearing dresses and that great bully, Social Norm, the undisputed champion of mindless conformity, will not bat an eyelid.  What is currently labelled transvestism will simply be known as equal rights.  Maybe Owen is ahead of his time.  Or maybe Owen is just a little boy with a big sister he adores and wants to emulate.  Maybe he wants to be told that he is pretty all the time, just like his sister.  We don't often praise boys for their looks and I don't think they are any less susceptible to anxiety about their appearance than girls.  Or maybe Owen just likes dresses.

But it's one thing encouraging your child to be independent or eccentric, it's quite another to support them in breaking certain social codes and taboos.  And in France, it is definitely taboo for males to wear dresses (unless you're Jean-Paul Gaulthier - then it's ok).

Anyway, I had a chat to O's teacher, Cati.  After all, if I was potentially going to open the proverbial can of worms at school then I preferred to discuss this with those who would be crawling in the worms afterwards.  Cati is pretty open and liberal, recognises that the French generally are not, and said she was quite happy for Owen to come to school in a dress if he wanted to.  She did raise the question of gender identity.  I had two issues with this. Firstly, Owen knows he is a boy, like daddy, that he has a penis, that he cannot have babies in his tummy, which is currently a source of sore disappointment, but he does not want to be a girl.  He just wants to wear a dress.  Secondly, why is society so fixated on identity being defined by gender?  Because it's easier?  Because that's how it's always been?  Because it has a vested interest in maintaining the male-female dichotomy?  Because in fact for gender we should read sexuality?  Somebody cleverer than I will have to answer these questions.

For the moment I don't believe Owen's sartorial preferences are the result of anything other than the healthy childhood impulse to indulge in dressing up and make believe, and most importantly to be admired.  I am amazed by the number of parents that have told me their little boys also like wearing dresses, jewellery and make up but that they would never allow them to do these things outside the home.  If O's penchant for frocks does turn out to be more than dressing up then banning him from putting on a dress will only damage him.  My beloved Eddie Izzard (pictured above) says he realised he was a transvestite when he was four.  What is really at stake when people get their knickers in a twist about such innocent experiments is society's attitude to gender and sexuality.

So, did I send Owen to school in a dress?  Yes I did.  And the world did not rock on its axis.  I can't say that I am certain I did the right thing, but it felt right.  I've not talked to him too much about what society expects of males, or how others might react.  I've tried to focus on how it is important to be happy and confident with who you are.  I hope that this will allow him to cope with whatever others might throw at him without making him fearful or self-conscious.

Would you send your little boy to school in a dress?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Nell 101

Three months.  Three months!  Where did that time go?

Still, three months and not a single proper post written in your honour.  So, for those of you who have been wondering, what's she like this Nell creature, this is what she's like.

Our titchybeast is a sweet and contented soul.


Except when she gets angry, which is not very often but is most impressive (read: scary and foreboding) when it occurs.  She screws up her tiny face into an angry red smush and screams with the almighty force of an operatic diva as if someone had just told her there was a world wide chocolate ban (well, that's what I'd do if someone told me that).  I don't much look forward to the development of this particular character trait....

That said, she is nonetheless by far the easiest of our three minibeasts so far.  I don't know how much of this is down to her own personality and how much is down to our drastically reduced stress levels with baby no. 3 but she always seems happy to go with the flow.  Or maybe it's that the other two are making so much noise that we can't hear her most of the time.  Though she is very chatty, coo-ing and squeaking away to anyone who will take the time to engage with her.  She is happy to sit and observe but she delights in some attentive one-to-one.  And she has the biggest, enormousenest smile I ever did saw.  Like her sister, she loves to be on her feet (give me another early walker, please!) and like her brother she loves to sleep on her tum, which is round and fat, frequently with sugar on the top (I do enjoy a good nibble of something sweet myself as I breastfeed).  And she does indeed sleep, pretty well.  No pacing the lounge in the wee hours with this one.  She wakes, she feeds, she zonks.

We'll definitely be keeping her.

Oh, and as you might have noticed from the photos, she likes to stick her tongue out.  The cheeky cheekster.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

La rentrée d'Owen

I was expecting everything to be smooth sailing.  Owen spent a lot of time at school last year, he knows his teacher, Cati, he knows half his class, he knows the school, he frequently asked if he could stay with Matilda.

And it was.  Smooth sailing.  When we arrived he went and gave Cati a kiss and when I left he was hand in hand with his little paramour from last year (also Matilda's best friend) Zia.  At hometime he was all smiles.  The first thing he said when he saw me was "Where's Matilda?", so I don't think he missed me that much.  Apparently after lunch he went to Matilda's classroom and had to be escorted back to his own.  He told me that Cati had said "Chut" to him in class, and that Hélène (the classroom assistant) had said "Chut" to him when it was nap time.  In fact I think Owen got "Chut-ed" at quite a bit.  This doesn't seem to have bothered him, and made me smile.  I was one of those kids that got "Chut-ed" at a lot too, and it never bothered me either.   All in all, a promising start. 

Me:  What was your favourite thing about school?
Owen:  Sleeping, playing with toys, having gâteau. 

I am going to miss being with my little man, I feel so close to him after our years at home together.  And I'm grateful and glad that I had that time.  But I am excited to see how he takes to school, I am excited to have a bit more time to spend on my own projects and I am especially excited to start building the same bond with Nell that I already enjoy with Owen and Matilda.

Two down, one (a long long way) to go.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Princesse superheroes about town

As they careered around town we got plenty of odd looks, as if to say, who let these two out, and when will they be putting them back?  But the real question is, why isn't every other child on the street careering about in fancy dress?  In my experience, make believe and dressing up are the natural state of kid.

They made the crowns themselves (from old folder dividers) in a little atelier maison, I'm not really a crafty type but I was quite proud of this idea.  And it kept them quiet for a good half hour.  Oh such a good half hour!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Such devoted sisters

The 'Good morning' series.

The 'hug in the sunshine' series.

One devoted brother....

And two beautifully coordinated weird and wonderful minibeasts.

At the moment time is fleeting, but happiness is not.