Monday, 30 August 2010

Carnival


He slept through the music blaring from the loud speakers, through the sharp blasts of the sirens, through the pipes and drums, the marching band, the rock band and the country band, through a dozen floats and four vintage tractors, through steel drums, snare drums, bongo drums, and bass drums.

If there had ever been any doubt as to whether he was his daddy's son, today would have settled the matter once and for all.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Getting Away










We abandoned faulty boilers, missing radiator parts, troublesome asbestos, inch-thick dust and unwashed laundry in favour of woods, rivers, castles and caves.

The rain tracked us down and tried doggedly to dampen our spirits. But despite having to shelter in doorways, run on tiptoes through streets temporarily transformed into rivers and stuff soggy shoes with holiday brochures nothing could spoil the sense of freedom that came from having escaped the house.

We watched water drip through the leaves of an enchanted forest, held John close as we explored cold, underground caverns, tucked into thick slabs of steak whilst John watched in beseeching silence, explored ancient ruins in sudden bursts of sunshine and even took to the water for a realistic rendition of 'row, row, row your boat.'

Four days of freedom were all it took to refresh our little family and refocus our minds on the daily importance of fun; spending money on holidays always seems like a frivolous expense, but really I think they're worth their weight in gold.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Eleven O' Clock


At eleven o' clock every night my baby wakes for a feed. I hear his strangled groans crawling down the stairs and I drop my toothbrush in the sink and run up to reach him before the grumbles break into screams.

In the semi-darkness of the bedroom he lies with his legs and arms flailing, his little body tense, his face screwed up in distress.

"Shhhhh" I say, kicking off my shoes as his sobs start to swell, "Shhhh," lifting his warm, floppy body into my arms, "Hush little boy," as I kiss his downy head and bury my face into the warm fold of his neck, "Shhh little one," as I breathe in the sweet scents of talc and bubble bath, "It's OK," as I settle myself on the bed and lay him across my lap.

His sobs break into staccato cough-like cries and he kicks impatiently as I rearrange myself, then he's curving his back and opening his lips and all his sobs are silenced by sucking.

I stroke his hair and watch his eyes roll in ecstasy as his short, frantic sucks change into long, slow gulps. For a while, his free arm flails frantically and his body jerks fitfully as he struggles to snatch his breath, then gradually his sucks become slower, his breathing becomes more even and finally his breaths are slow, his sucks are soft and I know that he is sound asleep.

Some nights, I lower him straight into his cot, come downstairs and continue brushing my teeth, but other nights I sit like this for a few minutes, silently watching him suck in his sleep and pondering the mystery of motherhood.

Because in this little nightly ritual when I'm neither too tired nor too busy to have missed it, dependence and devotion have met, and both mother and baby are fulfilled.

My days are filled with countless blessings and immeasurable joys but I think that right now, eleven o' clock might just be my favourite time of the day.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sunflowers


The sunflowers on my mantelpiece are smiling and this little corner of my home is perfect. I keep telling myself that it is enough.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A Secret


Instead of cleaning the bathroom I crept down the hallway and watched them through the crack in the living room door.

They were afloat on a sea of sofa cushions in the middle of the floor, John absorbed in his toys and James absorbed in his son.

I lingered for a while listening to James' gentle, encouraging patter, and watching John learn how to play.

I've been trying to lock the memory up safely like a secret but its been seeping out in smiles all day.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Breakthrough


The stairs are thick with dust, the tiles crunch underfoot, and upstairs, floors are slashed open, their innards gaping gruesomely.

In the hallway, walls that I once skimmed and painted are about to be torn apart and holes are appearing in the ceilings overhead.

Chaos spirals through the house like the cables that snake up the stairs; doors slam in the wind, plates are piled on the sideboard, boxes block the bedroom, boot-marks cover the floors, inane noise blasts from the radio, John screams from his cot, and when a delivery of plasterboard arrives I have to enlist the help of the electrician to push the car (and canoe) up the driveway because James has disappeared with the keys.

Watching my home being simultaneously created and destroyed is a constant challenge for me, and on days like today I can no longer play home in one little corner of the house whilst pretending that the chaos doesn't exist.

Because upstairs, the wall has been brought down and the extension is fast becoming the house.

So instead of railing against the chaos, I'm going to try to put aside my ideal of homeliness for a short while, to forget about cleaning altogether, and to focus wholeheartedly on what we're creating for the future.

And in the meantime, I think I'll get out of the house as much as I possibly can.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Come Round for Tea...


One of life's greatest pleasures is having people to tea, particularly when those people are your mum and aunty (and therefore possibly the very people from whom you inherited your love of cake) and your baby has miraculously napped for long enough for you to make chocolate-cherry cupcakes.

With thick, sticky icing, gooey, moist sponge, and ingredients including a whole pot of cherry jam, these cupcakes taste just as good as their glossy tops promise and were admired almost as much as my baby.

My lessons for today: sometimes it's the simplest achievements that are the most satisfying, and sweet things can only be made sweeter with the addition of masses of jam.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Too Cute


I simply don't know what to do with so much cuteness...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Temporary Blessings


I always knew that the baby's room would be ripped apart within months of its creation. I knew that its window would be bricked up before the baby was born and that its walls would be torn down soon after. I knew that no sleepy child would ever rest its weary head there or wake to see the pictures that my hands had lovingly stitched, and I knew that it was futile to spend time creating a nursery in a space destined to be a building site.

But in the slow weeks before the boy was born I still cleared armfuls of junk from this little room, got down on my knees to scrub the floor, dusted cobwebs from the ceiling, hung cross-stitch pictures from the walls, searched high and low for the perfect curtains to hang at the closed-in window and bent my weary back over the sewing machine to stitch bright strings of bunting.

And even though just five months later the room is ready to be torn apart, I'm still very glad that I did. Because in those strange, quiet weeks before the birth, when I was teetering on the brink of change and yet nothing but my belly seemed to have altered, it was important to create a space for a newborn.


The baby's room was a clean and quiet place, full of preparation and potential. It was a place where unused sheets lay in an un-rocked cradle and un-dirtied vests lay in unused drawers. And on the days when the baby seemed too remote to imagine or the concept of motherhood seemed too overwhelming to contemplate, it was a place that I could retreat to and feel calm, centred and ready.

I can't pretend that pulling down the bunting and packing up the toys isn't making me ache inside, or that it doesn't feel strange to be destroying a space that's never even been slept in, but the baby's room was a blessing whilst it lasted. And I suppose all blessings are temporary; some are just more temporary than others.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Absorption


This summer, I've lain for hours with my boy beneath the bending boughs of the apple tree, watching him as he watches the world.

I've seen his eyes follow the leaves overhead, and I've watched the wind roll through his hair. I've watched him blink as sunbeams break through the branches and noticed the shadows dapple his skin.

I've stroked the smooth curve of his cheek and listened to the babbles that fall from his lips.

I've sung to him, read to him, smiled at him, tickled him, played with him, laughed at him, cuddled him, and marvelled over and over again at the perfection of his tiny form and the miracle of his existence.

I hope that my future holds many more people that I can love as deeply and fiercely as John, but I doubt that I will ever again have the opportunity to be so wholly absorbed in a single, separate life.

This is the blessing of the firstborn and this is a secret bond that I will cherish forever.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A Change is as Good as a Break


For a short while this afternoon James and I swapped roles. He held the baby and I painted the house.

As I daubed paint around the window I savoured the delicious sensations of being alone and of having something to show for my efforts.

Traditional roles usually fit comfortably on my shoulders, but dressing up as daddy proved to be tremendous fun today, even if the role was a terrible fit.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Beside the Seaside





Somewhere between the the seashore and the pier we decided to stay another day.

Maybe it was the breeze carrying gull-cries across the ocean, maybe it was the smell of seaweed, maybe it was the feeling of freedom that came from splashing through the shallows whilst granny pushed the pram, maybe it was the way we cuddled and giggled like teenagers as the water kissed our toes, maybe it was the unlikely sight of a pirate ship rollicking in the waves, maybe it was the way John's eyes widened as he looked to the horizon, maybe it was the sight of children mesmerised by rock pools, maybe it was the rainbow-coloured kiosks spilling over with sweeties or maybe it was simply the siren scent of fish and chips and the lure of Knickerbocker Glories.

But whatever the reason, the seaside called to us to stay, and we were very glad that we did.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A Change of Location




Our boots kicked up the scents of summer rain and soggy soil, and the afternoon heat was tinged with the melancholy of autumn.

As we walked through tall trees and ripe hedgerows, across forgotten rivers and along manicured fairways, we breathed deeper, spoke less, thought more and felt better.

John sat straight and serious in his carrier and surveyed the countryside from on high and James carried his son with pride through the landscape of his childhood whilst memories drifted in and out of the conversation like thistledown.

Often, I find visiting to be straining and draining but this weekend a change of location gave us the momentum to get out into the open air and helped us remember the importance of open spaces for the good health of the soul.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Outdoors


No matter how bad his mood, there's a stillness that always settles over him as soon as we step outdoors.

Everyone says that he looks just like his Daddy but I'm glad he's inherited something from me.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Opening Up


Lately, I've had the pleasure of welcoming visitors to my quiet little corner of the Internet and connecting with a group of people whose lives seem to echo my dreams, whose words give me inspiration and whose kindness has moved me to tears.

The experience has been a strange one, and I'm still adapting to the change. When my blog hid itself quietly amongst the folds of the Internet's many pages, I felt safe in sharing myself in this space. I felt that my words were written for me alone and that my soliloquies would be safely preserved here until nostalgia required them.

Knowing that others are reading my thoughts has changed this from a secret space into something a little more public, and as a solitary and antisocial soul, I'm anxious.

The idea of sharing my thoughts and dreams so openly with strangers is strange and slightly unsettling, and there have been nights where I've lain awake during the dark hours before dawn feeling exposed and vulnerable.

But the kindness of the comments that I've received and the feeling of connection that I've experienced have made this fear worth fighting, and brought me bounteous blessings besides.

Openness and honesty are always daunting ideals, but the closeness and community that can result when we embrace them makes them well worth fighting for.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Mr. Independent



Every day of every week, my boy is growing up and away.

The squidgy little bundle that was utterly reliant on me just four short months ago seems to have been straining against the constraints of babyhood ever since he was born, and I fear that his drooling days are numbered.

Last month he mastered the art of standing, last week he discovered the delights of squiggling about on his tummy and now, all of a sudden, he can sit all by himself.

I hover anxiously overhead as he rocks back and forth on his padded bottom and watch my little boy face the world alone.

Concentration covers his face, his chubby arms flail, dribble drips slowly onto his feet, his head droops towards his toes then suddenly he straightens his back and smiles. He's completely independent, and utterly content.

With each momentous milestone I smile in encouragement and clap with delight, but the lion inside claws at my heart and roars in anguish.

I want so very badly to keep my baby in my arms, but the tighter I cuddle him the more he strains against my grasp.

I have to remind myself that this is how it always was and how it is always going to be.