Friday, 27 January 2012


There's an outbreak of sticker-pox in our house. It started with a nasty rash on the fridge, but soon spread to every surface in sight. Toys, furniture, faces, shoes and floors have all proved not to be immune to the epidemic.  

The caterpillar has been particularly badly infected.

And I'm a bit ashamed to say it, but I seem to have a nasty outbreak on my bottom.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What a Mess

Lately, everywhere I've looked I've seen images of kids enjoying messy play. They're playing with vats of slimy spaghetti, sifting their fingers through boxes of beans and rice, and wading in  paddling pools full of jelly with wide smiles on their sticky little faces.

And so this morning, after cleaning down the kitchen, I decided to fill a large box with flour and oil, scatter in some shells and invite the boy to come and play.

I watched the flour mould itself beneath his fingers and I watched it scatter itself like snow around the box; I watched it become matted on his knees, bum and shoes and I saw the kitchen floor turn white; I watched it appear on his face and in his hair and I saw him run the full length of the kitchen, leaving a trail of flour in his wake; I felt it sprinkling on my hair, I saw it sticking to my camera and I watched in disbelief as he tried to body-surf in the box.

And as I sat on the floor in a big pile of flour, desperately trying not to loose it over the mess that I'd wilfully created, I thought: I'm either the best mother in the world or just a complete idiot.

And I couldn't for the life of me work out which one it was.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Mummy School

When I was a girl, sitting on the kitchen table watching my mother cooking spaghetti bolognese or ironing shirts, I would ask her over and over again: "How do you know how to do that?"

And she would always smile at me and answer "Mummy school - Page 495"

Almost two years into being a mummy, I've still not found the Mummy school manual, let alone reached page 495 - but just lately, with new years resolutions tucked firmly under my belt and a real desire for change, I do feel that I am learning.

I'm learning that mummy chores are endless and that cursing them will do nothing to change that fact; I'm learning that a little often is better than a manic purge every other week; I'm learning that a clean(ish) house gives me the space to be present enough to play; I'm learning that planning meals in advance will save me  hours in the supermarket; I'm learning that resenting people for making messes will only make me miserable; I'm learning that fresh flowers are not frivolous but important; I'm learning to accept that my house will never truly be clean.

Above all, I'm learning that this is my work, that it's an intrinsic part of the life that I've chosen, and that I am capable of doing it well.

And so gradually, with many hiccoughs along the way, I'm learning to feel less resentful of it, less frustrated by it, less demeaned by it and less defeated by its endlessness.

Slowly, slowly, I'm learning how to be a mummy. I'm just a long, long way from reaching page 495.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

All Aboard!

Today we rode the Gordon Express to the duck pond, the playground and the castle. We stopped to take on passengers, to collect tickets and to blow the horn - a lot.

I loved being the mother of a baby so very much. But this? Oh, this is so much fun.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Feed The Birds

After a long week of quarantine, full of tissues and tantrums and none of the normal excursions that help us trip happily through the days, we woke to yet another dull day in which the hours stretched ahead in an endless, empty expanse.

The house felt small, my head felt claustrophobic, our conversations felt like torture and even our new Christmas toys felt as though they were starting to get over-used.

And so, as we fumbled miserably though our morning routine, and I found myself counting the minutes until I could switch on John's morning cartoons, I decided we needed a plan. I grabbed a piece of paper, wrote down "make bird cookies - feed the ducks" and instantly the day seemed brighter because there was a purpose to our play.

All through the morning John scattered bird seed across the kitchen floor, crunched eggshells beneath his rolling-pin and cut heart shapes from the gooey slab of cookie dough whilst I tried to dissuade him from eating the mix. And when we were done we travelled down to the Mere to feed our creations to the placid ducks and frantically hungry geese.

And even though the day still revolved largely around tears, tantrums and tissues, was still devoid of the balm of adult conversation and was still somewhat long and lonely, there was a rhythm to it, a purpose, and at the end, a sense of completion.

And when I went to bed that night I thought: 'I'm proud of what I achieved today'. And I don't think that nearly often enough.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

"No Mummy!"

It's the end of a long morning at the end of a long and sickness-filled week and John is screaming on the floor. He's been screaming on the floor for hours. It feels as though it's been days.

"What's the matter?" I say, for the fortieth time that morning, the gentleness in my voice deliberate, unconvincing.

"No!" screams the boy, his face scarlet, his body stiff, a long stream of snot smearing his burning cheek.

"Come for a cuddle" I say, trying to scoop him up in my arms. "Come here..."

"No Mummy!" he screams, thrashing his little arms and legs about in a frenzy, the blows landing on my arms, my chest, my face.

"Do you want some water?" I say a little desperately, retreating to the safety of the sofa.

"No Mummy!"

"Do you want some food?"

"No Mummy! No Mummy!"

"A banana? A pear? Some bread?"

"No Mummy! No, No, No, No!" He flings himself backwards and rolls about on the floor, his little face pulsing with rage.

"Come on," I say, trying to pick his unnaturally stiff body up off the floor, "Come and have a look at this book with me...Look it's the one about the train!"

"No! No Mummy!" he yells pulling the book from my hand and throwing it to the floor.

"No!" I say sternly, my tolerance slipping dangerously, and anger spilling through the cracks in my semi-patient facade. "You don't throw books. Now get up. Come on!"

"No Mummy!!" he yells arching his back violently so that he crashes back onto the floor with a thud, his re-fuelled screams filling the air afresh.

"What's the matter?!" I cry out in desperation, my patient facade crashing to the floor and the frustration slipping out in tears. "What is it that you want?!"

I bend forward with my face in my hands, allowing the tears to trickle self-indulgently into my palms.

"No" says the sobbing boy, picking himself off the floor and coming over to wrap his arms around me.


He buries his face in my lap and clings to me with all his might. He crawls up onto my lap and buries his hot wet cheek in my neck. I feel his whole body shuddering as he tries to catch his breath and then slowly he grows still as he settles himself into the hug.  

For ten long minutes we cling to one another in a fierce sort of embrace and when he finally pulls his sticky cheek away from my neck, he looks at me and smiles.

And I realise that for this brief moment in time, whether he knew it or not, the only thing that he wanted was Mummy. And the knowledge makes me feel humble and powerful and whole, and at the same time exhausted, because I offer him my whole self every minute of every day and I have nothing more to give.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Sweet Pea in January

I thought: if this sweet pea can bloom in January, then I can hang my washing out on the line.

I thought: if this sweet pea can have the courage to unfurl its last precious bloom on a sunny day mid-Winter, then surely there's no dream on my resolutions list that I cannot have the courage to begin.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Moving On

Since the moment we returned home on the very last day of the holidays we've been dragging our heels against the new year.

We've been cuddling up to the last few days of Christmas and blindly ignoring the January bleakness that's been battering against our windows.

It's been a week of post-Christmas pleasures; cosy fires, twinkly lights; late-night movies; the slow discovery of new toys; late morning-lie ins; big boxes of chocolates, a Downton Abbey catch-up and an obstinate refusal to be drawn back into the predictable routine of term-time.

But last night the tree came down, Christmas was packed away in boxes for yet another year and our denial no longer seemed plausible. 
Today, the house feels bigger, darker and drabber and January is tapping at the windows asking us for resolutions, for change, for action. 

Our Christmas reprise might have been wonderful, but it's time to face the new year.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Choo Choo!

On the last Bank Holiday of Christmas, after too many nights in other people's beds, we stopped at the National Railway Museum before tackling the long journey home.

We wandered wearily through the large glass doors hoping for an inexpensive place to break our journey and were greeted with a little boy's wonderland.

Everywhere we looked there were engines. Enormous ones; tiny ones; ones you could climb on; ones you could sit in; ones in books; ones on screens; ones in play-parks; ones on rails.

I listened to my boy say 'Choo Choo' two thousand times as he ran from train to train in an ecstasy of excitement and I watched his eyes grow wide with wonder as he tilted his head back to survey the size of the wheels.

And even though the trains didn't really  interest me in the slightest and I really just wanted to get home, his excitement was contagious and I couldn't help but feel that this little excursion was a wonderful start to this new year of 2012.