Monday, 28 February 2011

Riding the Wave

The half term holiday is over. This morning, James woke at the insistence of his alarm clock, shaved the holiday stubble from his chin, pulled the canoe off the top of his car, and made his way back to school.

The house shook and settled itself beneath its old mantel of hush, and I returned to my well-worn spot on the living room floor feeling the quiet of the house pressing against my ears and the long hours of the day ahead pressing against my heart.

It's a familiar feeling for me. Because each time the school holidays come around I ride a familiar wave of emotions, and each time they end I find myself crashing back ashore in this empty void of quiet.

It starts with the firm conviction that this time, nothing's going to change. I stare firmly at the week ahead and swear that that this time life will continue at its own quiet pace and the calm waters that we wade through will remain blissfully unruffled.

But then Daddy rollicks into our lives and the waters chop and swell as I rail against the loss of the quiet little life that I'd worked so hard to carve out for myself and try not to resent the man who walks so sure-footedly over the sanctity of my routine.

For a few frustrating days we dance around one another, testily testing the waters and snapping until we adapt.

Then, suddenly, from somewhere, the holiday spirit descends and we settle down together to ride the crest of the wave.

We lounge together in the long lazy mornings, we indulge ourselves with luscious lunchtime treats, we play on the floor until our knees hurt from crawling and our cheeks hurt form smiling, we visit the farm and watch John assault the horses, we work on the house and take pride in our progress, we stay up late and watch movies after midnight, we laugh, we frolic, and we all fall a little deeper in love.

But holidays are finite things, and when they are over the teachers of the world are shut back in their sweaty classrooms and the wave crashes down on the shore.

And so I sit back on the living room floor amidst the ghosts of giggles and the memories of mayhem, feeling flat and forlorn in the quiet of a half-empty house, knowing that the crest of the wave was worth the flatness of the crash and looking forward to Easter when we can do it all over again.

Sunday, 27 February 2011


"Buh!" says my boy as he pops his head over the board in the kitchen doorway, "Buh!" as he pulls his blanket sideways across his eyes and then drops it suddenly to the floor, "Buh!" as he spots me coming round the corner smiling his own special smile, "Buh!" as he spies me lurking stealthily with a camera, "Buh!" as he jumps up beside my knees and lays his head on my lap.

"Boo!" I respond roundly each and every time, wondering how a sound that vaguely resembles a noise, that's not really even a word, can bring me flashes of such unbridled joy so many times a day.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Book Corner

If there's a sudden hush in the house in the middle of the day it probably means that John is absorbed in his books.  

He'll be sitting in the book corner amid a sea of colourful board books, intently turning the pages and staring silently at what he sees.

For a few magical minutes, my presence will be unnecessary and he'll be oblivious to my work. Playtime will pause and the house and I will sigh with relief as we watch and smile and wait for the happy madness to resume.  

Several times a day I will stoop down to pick up the books that are strewn across the floor in the book corner and several times a day John will stand beside the little table that holds his books and systematically pull them back to the floor.

But the delight that sweeps through my heart when I witness my baby getting lost in the magic of books is enough to make me savour this simple task, and the joy that I get from watching him 'read' always puctuates my days with beautiful moments of bliss.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Almost a First

"Come on then, darling" boomed the woman with the unreasonably loud voice. "Are you going to give us a walk?"

She ran her hands over John's shiny new shoes and smiled a smile that somehow managed to seem loud.

"Come on!" she yelled, clapping her hands clamorously in his face, "Come here to me! Come on!"

John stood with his feet stuffed into strange, stiff shoes and his little face crumbled.

He clung helplessly to the seat as his feet refused to move, and then sunk miserably onto the floor as he realised the impossibility of his task.

He tried to crawl away to safety but his feet were trapped in strange, solid shoes and all he could do was drag his legs limply behind him as his pitiful cries turned into panic.

The ludicrously loud lady spent a good ten minutes trying to get him to walk. She jingled keys in his face, played him noisy cartoons on her mobile, and shouted then shouted some more.

But it was all to no avail, because even when John's cries did falter and stop he was utterly incapable of walking. He simply stood, gripping my knee tightly, and staring about him in confusion and fear, like a wild thing caged. 

We didn't buy John his first pair of shoes that day. Instead, we pulled them from his feet and set him down in his socks. We saw relief flood his face as his toes curled against the carpet and then we watched as he toddled out of that shoe shop at what almost seemed like a run.

Monday, 21 February 2011

A Decision

Even though I knew in my heart that I wouldn't be returning to work  even before my babe was born, I still left it until the last possible moment to post the letter that finally sealed my fate.

"I'm going to wait and see how I feel" I repeated, endlessly, to everyone who asked me, smuggling my decision silently in my heart like a guilty secret.

"It's such a hard decision to make" I said for the benefit of those that were shifting uneasily in their shoes and muttering defensively that they simply 'didn't have the choice'.

"I'm thinking of working from home," I added as a conciliatory afterthought for those who still looked unimpressed by my indulgent indecision.

And so, even though I'd known since I was just a little girl that I wanted to stay at home and bring up a baby I waited and waited to tell the world , putting off the moment when my secret became a reality and allowing myself to believe that it really was a hard decision to make.

Yesterday I finally posted the letter that's been sitting at the back of my mind for months and sitting in my changing bag for days.

I popped it in the postbox and walked away, and it wasn't difficult at all.

It was inevitable and easy and right, and I realised that if I could just have stopped worrying about what other people might think I could have posted it weeks before.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


Finally, the sweater that I began a full five months ago is finished. And whilst it's true that there's a pleasure to be had from creation, the pleasure that's come from completion is perhaps just as sweet.

As my first attempt at a proper pattern, this sweater sat on the needles for weeks on end whilst I awaited a quiet moment in which to sit in silence, counting stitches and muttering "K1, P3, K2, P2" incessantly beneath my breath.

There were times - when I was ripping out hours-worth of work or spending more time consulting the wisdom of YouTube than I was actually knitting - that I thought that I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

But now that it's all sewn together and magically transformed itself into a sweater, the hours of manic muttering suddenly seem worthwhile, and even though the pattern doesn't quite resemble that on the picture, my boy and I really couldn't be happier with the result.

Monday, 14 February 2011


It might just be an arbitrary date on a calendar and it may be a load of commercial codswallop, but sometimes that's exactly what it takes to make you slow down, take stock and make the effort to celebrate life.

Thoughts on Love

"Do you love him more than me?" James once asked me, half-jokingly, as I turned from his attentions yet again to tend to my beloved baby instead.

"You can't ask me that" I told him sternly, because I had no idea what to say.

My love for my babe is the kind that I used to fantasise about as a young girl who'd read too many romance novels. It's deep, fierce and consuming and it keeps me awake at night.

It's a love that overwhelms me with its aching intensity almost every single day, that makes my own selfish desires slip into insignificance and that makes me wild and happy and strong.

My love for my husband is different. Worn at the edges from over-use this love is so comfortable and constant that I barely notice it at all. It's a tried and tested love that I can tug at without it tearing and test without fear of it failing.

It's a love that I rely on without even realising it and it's a love that's shaped the very person that I am today and formed the very life that I live.

So whilst my love for my husband is not one that makes me lie awake at night just to watch him sleep or sit for hours on the floor just to see him smile, it's no less deep or important.

"I love you both the same, but differently," I told him, knowing that I hadn't come close to explaining it at all.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Busy Doing Nothing

If you come round to my house and peek through my window you'll probably see me sitting on the floor.

My baby boy will be utterly engrossed in his toys and I'll be staring silently into space whilst he plays obliviously around me.

I won't be cleaning the grimy windows or painting the walls, I won't be cooking a nutritious meal for my family or reading a good book, and I won't be soothing my soul by writing or keeping my hands busy with knitting.

Because the second I get up to do any of these things my contented little babe will fret and cry and then scream until I rejoin him on the floor.

So if you come round to my house and peek through my window, you'll see me busy doing nothing.

I'll be gazing out of the dirty windows that I'll never have the chance to clean, dreaming up stories that I'll never have the chance to write, planning elaborate meals that I'll never have the chance to cook and sitting on twitchy fingers that will never have the chance to knit.

And I'll be wondering, for about the two hundredth time that day, whether every other mother in the world is quietly doing the same thing.

Monday, 7 February 2011

He Loves Me Too

Just lately - when he's pressed his cheek against mine with the greatest tenderness and slobbered in my eye with the sweetest of smiles - I've started to feel that my boy might just love me back.

And although it hasn't made the slightest bit of difference to my measureless love for him, it's made me happier than I've ever been in my life.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Stolen Moments

I know that I should go to bed. It's late and the rest of my family are asleep. The clock's ticked past midnight and the mice are waiting patiently for me to retire so that they can come out to play.

The haunting hush of the house is interrupted only by the occasional click of the baby monitor as my little one stirs in his cot, and my typing echoes in the silence of a world that's sunk deep into sleep.

But although my eyelids are heavy and my limbs feel dipped in lead I'm sitting in the lamplight of the living-room whilst the minutes tick on into the morn.

Because these silent moments, when the rest of the world is asleep, are the secret, stolen moments that belong solely to me.

They're the moments when blogging is not a distraction and knitting is not an indulgence, when chores are all forgotten and when responsibility, accountability and interruptions are gone.

And so although my bed is warm and soft and I really should get some rest, I'm still sitting in the lamplight of the living-room, and savouring these stolen moments when I'm free to simply please me.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Playing Pollyanna

On the longest and greyest winter days, when time seems to have stopped still and Spring seems as distant as the stars, it takes a special sort of effort just to stay slightly sane.

It takes all my strength to smile for my baby, all my stamina to sing, and all my soul to survive.

And so on days like this, when the clouds crowd around my windows and the bleakness becomes too much to bear, I pretend that I'm Pollyanna and focus on the little things in life that have the power to make me glad.

 Like baby toes at breakfast:

Messages of goodwill in my block trolley:

Beautiful irises blocking my view of bare plaster:

His very first feel of play-dough:

And chocolate, raspberry muffins:

And once I start playing the glad game, the bleakness that seemed unbearable blends into the background and I notice that there is happiness to be found almost everywhere I turn.