Lent Reflection 2012

Three beautiful moments that I'm savouring, appreciating and giving thanks for today:

Sat 7th April

1. I come downstairs to find the sweet warm scent of spice filling the air. The hot cross buns are golden and ready to be glazed.

2. Late in the afternoon, I carry my enormous flower arrangement down the road to a church that is silently awaiting Easter morning. The pews are polished, the floor is mopped, and flowers bedeck every window and ledge. I place my own offering on the last bare window and stand in the expectant silence, feeling the thrill of a miracle in waiting.

3. At midnight, I grab the torch, pull on my shoes and make one last trip out to the hedge to gather boughs of blossom. I place them amongst the stems of daffodils on the table and then stand back and survey my work. There's a crisp, white tablecloth that smells of summer sunshine, a pretty Easter basket of goodies, yellow tissue paper flowers with tiny eggs at their centre, chocolate eggs in boxes, and three vases of flowers. It looks special. It looks ready for Easter.

Fri 6th April

1. The children work quickly and confidently as they build their Easter gardens. They create hills, build tombs and plant flowers with great absorption and they construct crosses with deft fingers. "We need some cloth to make Jesus' body" say the boys looking into the empty tomb. "We could put it in the tomb and then use some string to pull it out before Easter Sunday." They wrap cloth round some spare twigs and place it in the tomb, and their masterpiece is complete.

2. When there are just two people left in the church, the floors have been swept and the kitchen's been cleaned, I shout my goodbyes and herd John towards the door. "No!" he screams, as he realises that we're about to leave the church. "Baby Jesus!" and he races back up the aisle as though this is his rightful home.

3. I forgot to get the salmon out of the freezer and now it's quarter to six and we have nothing for dinner. "I could just go and get a pizza," says James, helpfully, from the garden. "No!" I say with feeling, "It's Good Friday. It has to be fish." So we all climb in the car and head out for fish and chips.

Thurs 5th April

1. We enjoy baking the resurrection buns and the hot cross buns, and we enjoy eating the Easter tea, but it's when we start baking the little bread people that the excitement levels really start to rise. We cut out the arms and legs, make a hollow for the egg and then decorate the faces with currents. And even the adults, who have hitherto been baking with an indulgent sort of air, begin bending intently over the table as they dig currents into the dough, and looking around competitively at the other bread people, checking that they're happy with their little doughy creations.

2. It's a fact. I love buying other people tulips.

3. There are still marshmallows left once the chocolate fondue pot has been licked clean, so we put them on the end of our fondue forks and toast them on the fire.

Wed 4th April

1. "Look out of the window" James says, so I haul myself up on the pillows and look out to see the garden covered in snow. Snow! All three of us kneel on the bed a for quite some time giggling in disbelief.

2. I take a chalk upstairs and begin ticking off each plasterboard panel as it's sanded and finished. Slowly, slowly, the room is filling up with green ticks.

3. James has an elaborate date night planned, with a fancy meal, chocolate fondue and a fire. But by the time I've washed the dust from my body and tucked John up in bed, I'm so exhausted that it seems impossible to enjoy it. "We could always do it tomorrow night..." he says. And so we eat sausage and egg muffins on the sofa and watch The Apprentice instead.

Tues 3rd April

1. James and John run around the corner with enormous grins on their faces. "Did you have fun?" I ask, laying my book down on the table. "It was brilliant!" says James, genuine excitement in his voice. "We went right to the top and then came down the purple slide. I had to use my head as a brake."

2. We have three large tins of paint in the boot of the car. Suddenly progress feels possible again.

3. John's bath looks so inviting that I draw one for myself the instant he's in bed. For a few moments I let the pleasure of immersion overcome me. Then I reach for my book. After all, there are only a few chapters left.

Mon 2nd April

1. The new dust mask actually works. I still get dust in my eyes and ears and wrinkles and pretty much everywhere else, but my tonsils and teeth are dust-free, and this, at least, is a relief.

2. From nowhere, a song drops into my head that I'd forgotten about since the last time I needed it. I hum it all day long and feel my strength rise as I sing.

3. After dinner we hand John a raspberry jelly in the shape of a train and watch him laugh and squeal with delight. "Jelly choo choo! - jelly choo choo!" he says happily, chasing it round and round the saucer with his spoon.

Sun 1st April

1. "Every time you say the word donkey," she says, "You pause, and the congregation will say 'Eyore! Eyore!" I look at her quickly to see whether this is some sort of April fool, but her eyes are serious and so I smile and nod. Soon the whole church is braying at me as I read the gospel and everyone is smiling.

2. After a long exploratory drive we end up at Brown Moss nature reserve. At first, it looks nondescript, but as we lay out our rug in the sunshine I notice that the reeds are pale gold and that the air is full of downy seeds that drift through the clear air like dreams.

3. After our picnic we take a walk around the lake. The sun skitters in and out of the clouds, John runs drunkenly in and out of the reeds and James and I frolic in the sunshine, giggling like children.

Sat 31st March

1. As soon as John's in bed I submit to the sleepiness that's been consuming me and take myself off for a nap. In the brightness of the bedroom I close my eyes and fade gently in and out of sleep as John shouts and screams in the distance.

2. There is pastry left over after I've finished making the quiche, so I use it to make six jam tarts. They're so simple and sweet and nostalgic that I'm quite smitten by the sight of them.

3. After dinner, John helps Daddy with his jigsaw puzzles. He picks out the appropriate pieces and lays them out one by one. "Here y'are" he says, placing them in exactly the right places, without quite connecting them together. Slowly, James connects the pieces. "Yey!" he cries when they're all in place. "Well done Daddy!"

Fri 30th March

1. Whilst I plant pots full of summer bulbs and John runs crazily across the garden, James mows the lawn. The final element in this surreal summer week is in place.

2. "What did you get for dinner?" I ask him. "Pork and chorizo kebabs with Mediterranean couscous" he says. I love it when James goes shopping.

3. Over dinner, with long undulating sentences and dramatic gesticulation, John tells us all about his day. It sounds something like this: "jumble jumble jumble ... tractor, farmer...jumble jumble... brroooom brooom...jumble....baa baa... jumble jumble...dig dig dig....jumble jumble...wiggly worm....jumble jumble jumble... Daddy! Where are you?!...jumble jumble...choo choo!"

Thurs 29th March

1. We arrive at the swimming pool to find that the learner pool is closed. "We're going to go in the big pool today" I tell John "because the little pool is broken." "Uh oh!" he says, looking at the barriers "Daddy fix it." "Daddy's at work," I say, "So he can't fix it today." He seems to accept this explanation and braves the cold water with shivering smiles.

2. For the first time in three days, John settles for his afternoon nap. For a few minutes I'm not quite sure what to do with myself, then I take myself outside to sit in the sunshine and simply soak up the silence.

3. John wakes with a frown and a short burst of tears. "Shall we go outside?" I say, knowing that the light is golden and the grass is warm. "Da" he says with a teary smile, raising his little arms so that I can lift him out of his cot. I am so very grateful for summer.

Wed 28th March

1. Last night I drifted off to sleep amidst the scent of line-dried sheets - this morning I wake to the sound of birdsong drifting through the open window. It feels so very much like summer.

2. I fill the paddling pool and strip off his shoes and trousers before I remember that it's March. "It might be a bit cold" I say to him, "I'll go and get some hot water." By the time I come back with a steaming kettle, he's already crouching in the clear blue water, his nappy sagging somewhere down near his knees, and his face shimmering with smiles.

3. His cheeks are starting to look pink and the day is starting to feel long, so I say: "let's go and buy ice-creams!" "Da!" he cries, with an enormous grin. I feel like the best mother ever.

Tues 27th March

1. I drop our new pile of library books on the red rug beneath the plum tree, then we sit in the sunshine and work our way through them one by one.

2. "We're going to walk to the shop" I tell him, "and you have to hold my hand because there are lots of cars." He screams and squirms a little in protest, but then submits to the hand-holding and walks by my side into town. As we walk, I tell him that my watch is broken and we need to take it to the shop to see if the man can fix it. "Tick tock watch" he says, "Uh oh - man." He trots happily by my side and chatters to me about this little task all the way there and all the way back.

3. Daddy's home early and the dinner is in the oven, so I sit in the evening sun and read a few pages of my book. Behind the house I can hear the contented sound of them digging in the mud. I can't remember the last time that living felt this easy.

Mon 26th March

1. I stand in the sunshine and blow giant bubbles with the bubble wand - sweeping my arm again and again through the warm spring air. Long after John's wandered off to play with his tractor, I'm still watching them float up and up into the bright blue sky.

2. As the sun begins to dip, we sit on the rug and play with John's new instrument set amidst the rays of golden light. I play the recorder - badly- at John's insistence, and he plays tambourine and xylophone. I do hope the neighbours don't mind.

3. For the first time in a very long time we spend more time outside than in.When we finally come in for dinner we're muddy, sandy, sticky, warm and very, very happy.

Sun 25th March

1. As soon as I hear him wake I pull on a jumper and pad through to his room. "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you..." I sing softly as I push open his door. He sits up and smiles a shy, sleepy smile. I pull him out of his blankets and whisper "Happy Birthday little boy" into his ear. It will be said many more times today, but this very first one is just between him and me.

2. The sky is blue and the sun is hot. As family gathers we pull up an odd assortment of chairs beneath the plum tree and sit in the gloriously hot sunshine whilst petals float lazily through the air all about us.

3. Once he's finished his cake, I hand him a huge pile of birthday cards that somehow got neglected in the excitement of present unwrapping. Slowly, and with intense concentration, he opens them one by one, ripping the envelopes with steady fingers, and then carefully removing the cards from inside. His face lights up with joy at the sight of each new picture and then he opens the cards very carefully to read the greetings inside.

Sat 24th March

1. James brings in the cake to the sound of ooh's and aaahh's, and John's face lights up with a shy smile of delight. "Choo choo" he whispers quietly to himself, before the happy birthday chorus begins.

2. After lunch, when the kids are tired and full of cake and the screaming is starting to get intense, John decides it's time to kiss. He goes from one guest to another, children and mummies alike, kissing them on their smiling cheeks and spreading his own particular kind of joy.

3. Of course it's John's party, but the house is full of my friends. They hover in my kitchen, play with John on the floor and chatter to me as I hand out tea and shake jellies out of their moulds. I feel so very happy to have them in my home, and blessed to have them in my life.

Fri 23rd March

1. As I work at ticking jobs off my long to-do list John plays with an Amazon wrapper on the floor. He sits on it; he scoots up and down the kitchen on it; he stands on it and sings a little song. After a happy half hour he lays down on it and makes loud snoring noises. "Are you having a sleep?" I say from the sink. "Da" he says, nodding. "Is it John's bed?" I ask. "No!" he says, "Baby Jesus". "Oh!" I say, "Are you pretending to be baby Jesus?" "Da" he says before snoring some more.

2. My mum rings to tell me they're running late. I rush around with great relief, cleaning, tidying and making myself presentable. By the time they arrive I have her cake iced, her present wrapped and I'm ready to pause in the midst of my busyness and celebrate her birthday with her.

3. At 2am, with the washing up done and the kitchen floor mopped I stand back and survey my night's work one last time. My train cake is amazing. Even if I do say so myself.

Thurs 22nd March

1. "Amelia's under!" she cries, and I turn to see Amelia sitting quite still and completely submerged . With a great splash I leap and pull her out of the water, whereupon she screams the most honest of screams. Her grandmother holds her to her chest and rocks her gently whilst she sobs. "You're alright" she says, stroking her dripping hair. "I won't ever let anything happen to you." Her voice is calm and reassuring, but her fingers are trembling slightly as she strokes her back.

2. A slight wind ruffles the plum tree and the garden is filled with confetti.

3. The baking gods are smiling on me this afternoon. I bake five sheets of biscuits, three loaf cakes and a chocolate fudge cake without a single mishap. Not one biscuit is burned and even the gluten free cake rises like a dream.

Wed 21st March

1. A letter arrives addressed to James and I'm so sure I know what it is that I tear it open with excitement. Inside is a letter inviting him to an interview. I scan it with excitement and then pick up the phone to tell him the good news.

2. John wants me to dig, but instead I sit still for a moment beneath the washing line and listen. The evening is very still. Somewhere in the distance a dog is barking, but aside from that all I can hear is the endless and exquisite song of dozens, maybe hundreds of birds.

3. I pick my way through the sea of toys to the enormous cupboard that's bursting with boxes and begin packing them into bags. As I pull things out of the dark recesses I find all manner of treasures: a flattened cereal box that's been made into a post box, a 2010 calendar covered in scribbles, an empty cardboard box that resembles a treasure chest, a collection of empty tins and a box of smartie lids. "Keep?" I ask as I pick them up and prepare to drop them into bags, "Yes" she nods. And I understand why.

Tues 20th March

1. At 7.30 I bend over his sleeping body and quietly call out his name. At first, he's too deeply asleep to notice, but then, as I uncover his blankets, he stirs. He twists his head to look at me and smiles a sleepy smile. It's so full of unmasked love that I have no idea how to repay it.

2. "Wiggly worm" says John pointing at the soil. I dig the spade into the soil and sure enough, there's a wiggly worm hiding in the earth. I pick it up and show it to him on my palm. "Do you want to hold it?" I ask. "No" he says, pointing vehemently to the ground - "there!" I put the worm back and cover it over with soil, and John wanders off looking thoroughly relieved.

3. I strip off his filthy trousers and pull up a chair so that he can wash his hands in the sink. He stands there in his thick woolly jumper and his saggy-bottomed vest making bubble beards for himself and pouring sudsy water in and out of his bowl whilst I cook the dinner.

Mon 19th March

1. I wake to the sight of sunshine pouring through the window. Outside, the grass is white with frost, the sky is blue, and the plum tree is golden in the early morning light. It's going to be a beautiful day.

2. I look up from the washing-up to see John standing in a big pile of mud, yellow spade in hand. "Hello!" I call through the glass. "Hewo Mummy!" he shouts, his little face lighting up. "Buh-bye!" and off he goes to dig some more in the dark.

3. We all stand at the worktop to make the flatbreads. John eats the dough, I roll it out and James cooks it on the hob. When they're done we wrap them in a towel and take them through to the dining table to eat with the spicy vegetable stew that's turned out even better than I hoped.

Sun 18th March

1. I wake to the sound of them whispering on the stairs. "Take it to Mummy" James whispers, and then John bursts into the room with a bunch of flowers, a 'World's Best Mummy' balloon and an enormous grin on his face.

2. I look dispiritedly at the packets of ham and cheese in the fridge and then poke my head out of the door. "Do you fancy going out for lunch?" I say a little sheepishly to James who's pulling handfuls of debris out of the garden. "It's mother's day," he says. We can do whatever you want."

3. I open the door to find them both knee deep in mud. John's pyjama bottoms are caked in dirt and his face is grubby and happy. "Are you helping Daddy dig?" I ask, wishing I hadn't changed him out of his trousers earlier because they were too muddy to wear. "John dig" he replies firmly, demonstrating the action with his little yellow spade.

Sat 17th March

1. With dust in my nostrils, on my tonsils, in my eyes, and on every inch of my face, I climb into the shower. The water is hot and I stand under it for a long, long time.

2. The house has descended into a state of chaos. Dusty footprints track the floor, half-finished projects lie on the dining table, piles of laundry sit in the chairs and pieces of jigsaw litter the floor. We sit amongst it all and read. It feels so very much like a Saturday.

3. After dinner we put a pan of popcorn on the stove and lift John up on a chair to watch. I feel his whole body shudder when the first kernel pops, and then listen as he starts to giggle. "Pop!" he says as the pan starts to explode. "Pop! Pop! Pop!"

Fri 16th March

1. I decide that good news deserves flowers every bit as much as bad, so I drive into town to buy her tulips. "I think you deserve them after the week you've had" I say. I hope their delicate heads can convey just how much I've thought about her this week.

2. I carry my screaming boy back up the stairs to my bed and cuddle him under the covers. By the time we've read  'The Three Little Pigs' and 'The Gingerbread Man', he's calm and happy once again and ready to run at the world.

3. James comes home with flowers and an enormous box of chocolates. "You sounded a bit down on the phone" he says, "I thought you might need a bit of cheering up."

Thurs 15th March

1. John squeals and giggles as I pull the little rubber duck and plastic turtle out of the bag. He grins as he throws them into the water. Then spends a blissful hour chasing them around the pool.  It's the best £6.50 that I've spent in a very long time.

2. The showers at the swimming pool are hot. Really hot. Whenever we stand under them John buries his face in my neck and clings to me with a stillness that's rare. I always linger under them, relishing the firmness of his hug.

3. It takes time to make a stock-pot full of cheese sauce so I put on some music, take my book in one hand and then stand by the stove and stir, stir, stir.

Wed 14th March

1. Gemma appears semi-naked at an upstairs window. "Let yourselves in," she says with a smile. "Make yourselves at home." We do just that with great pleasure.

2. I settle myself in the sofa in the bay window and have a long chat with my mum. When I hang up the phone, I find that my eyes are sun-dazed from window-gazing and that my mouth has settled itself into a smile.

3. We step outside to find the garden bathed in the most surreal golden light. It's too beautiful to leave behind, so instead of climbing straight into the car, we wave at our shadows on the wall and take photographs of plum blossom.

Tues 13th March

1. As we drive to the castle, John sings and tells himself stories in the back seat. I make out 'The Wheels on the Bus', 'Hickory Dickory Dock', 'Hello, Goodbye' and 'Early in the Morning' in varying degrees of jumbled gibberish.

2. This time, I take a thermos of hot chocolate and a book for myself. I take them out as John plays on the tractor track and immerse myself in my own pleasures whilst John is blissfully absorbed in his.

3. The chocolate cake might not have risen properly, but it is dense and rich and squidgy and delicious.

Mon 12th March

1. Before I've managed to haul my body out of bed John finds the ladybird books that I brought back from my parents' house and brings them to me in bed. He snuggles up to me in a squishy sea of pillows and I read The Three Little Pigs, The Gingerbread Man and The Three Billy Goats Gruff from the same tattered books that were read to me as a child. I'm fairly certain that I use exactly the same inflections that my mum once used for me.

2. It seems that the plum tree has burst into blossom overnight. Its branches are a mass of fluffy white flowers.

3. John climbs into Matthew's lap as though he belongs there and sits quite contentedly as Matthew reads him stories in his own peculiar way.

Sun 11th March

1. Yesterday's baking was inedible so this morning I'm making Rice Krispie cakes in my pyjamas.  I busily melt and mix whilst John eats his breakfast, and when he's done I give him the big chocolaty bowl to lick. A chocolate-smeared toddler and rows of Easter-egg-studded krispie cakes are happy sights in the morning.

2. "First you have to stick your thumb right into the middle of the ball" I say to the row of children in front of me, "then you pinch your thumb and finger together like this..." I watch the children pinch the clay between their little fingers and then smooth it out with great concentration until it starts to resemble a bowl.

3. John positions Daddy's first hand on his knee - just so. He positions his other hand on his knee - just so. Then he climbs up onto his lap. "Brrooom brooom!" he says as he drives his new found car.

Sat 10th March

1. After two blissful hours in bed, the door bursts open, John rushes in and something wooden is thrust in my face. "I wanted to bring you pancakes in bed, but John wanted to bring you his Noah's ark instead" says James, by way of explanation. "Thanks" I say sleepily as I try to process what he just said. "...Did you say you made pancakes?" It's only 9.30am and this is already the best Saturday ever.

2. John runs all the way to the woods to find the perfect stick for Daddy. He picks it out carefully and carries it determinedly back to the picnic bench, even though it's large and heavy and gets caught repeatedly under his feet. "On Guard!" he says, as he presents it to Daddy, with an enormous smile on his face.

3. The hill seems to rise forever and my pace is painfully slow, but when I reach the top I see the distant hills silhouetted against a startling orange sky and I suddenly have energy enough to run steadily all the way home.

Fri 9th March

1. "Do you want to bring me a book?" I ask him. He runs over to the bookshelf and picks up every book that he can carry. Staggering under their weight, he stumbles over to the sofa and plonks them down with a satisfied smile. I pull him onto my lap and work my way through the pile, using my very best story voices on every single one.

2. The table is set with fancy glasses and daffodils. The root vegetable pies are baking. The cream for the pavlova is whipped. Even the kitchen is clean. As I wipe down the worktop one last time and await their knock on the door, I feel so very grown up.

3. At 12.45am, as I lie in the darkness half worrying, half praying, and half fading into sleep, her text comes through to let me know she's home. And at that moment I know that this is no longer an acquaintance who happens to have a child the same age as John - this is a real, true friend.

Thurs 8th March

1. John's nose is crusted with snot, his hair is sticking straight up from his scalp and he's humming contentedly as he shovels cereal into his mouth. It's not a pretty sight, but I love it so.

2. My shopping trolley is filled with good things. There are strawberries, blueberries, green beans, asparagus, sweet potato, coriander, butternut squash, melon, cucumber, spinach, milk, butter, carrots, parsnips, cream, kiwi fruit, bananas and daffodils. As I load it onto the conveyor belt I feel secretly proud of my choices, and so very grateful for good things in such abundance.

3. Sophie is round and happy and full of life. And even though she tells me about all the worries that she's had and the extra visits to the midwife that she's had to make, she's simply brimming with joy and her happiness is infectious.

Wed 7th March

1. I give John a bowl of shells to play with whilst I clean the bathroom. He brings them to me, one by one, to examine. "Ooooo" he says as he presents each one to me. "Oooo" I respond, "A curly wurly one...a little white one...a lovely shiny one..." He nods with satisfaction, closes the shell in his fist and runs back to the living room to pick out another.

2. I peek through the kitchen door to see John and Noah working together to push the cow the length of the room. They are cheek to cheek and concentrating hard, and only when the cow hits the bin with a satisfying clang do they break off and giggle.

3. After years of agonising, deliberating and waiting, James comes home with his new bike. He looks like a small boy on his birthday. It's impossible not to be happy for him.

Tues 6th March

1. Sunlight is sparkling on the river like a galaxy of fallen stars and the bench on the riverbank is bathed in light. I sit and let its goodness soak into my skin whilst John throws sticks in the water.

2. As we begin to walk home John notices his shadow walking with him on the path. He waves, and the shadow waves back. He sits in the mud and the shadow sits too. "Hewo" he says, putting a hand on the cool earth to touch it.

3. Whenever the path begins to look long, John places himself squarely in front of my legs and says "cawy" in a small, tired voice. I lift him onto my hip and kiss his cheek, then carry him a little way further along the path.

Mon 5th March

1. At 1.30 in the morning, after two long hours awake, I snuggle up to my sleeping hubby and wriggle myself into his warmth. "I can't sleep" I say, as he mumbles and stirs, "I've been awake for hours." "Oh no," he whispers wrapping a sleepy arm around me and encircling my body with his. "That's awful." I relax in the comfortable warmth of his embrace. Within minutes I'm asleep.

2. The little girl snatches the Playmobil bus from John's hands and carries it away. He looks after it mournfully but doesn't say a word. He's the most tolerant child I know.

3. John wakes from his nap with a smile and a giggle. "Mummy beh" he says, bundling up his teddies in his arms, and trotting his feet with glee. I carry him through to my bed and watch him jump on it with delight and then snuggle down under the covers with a smile. I can't remember the last time that this little ritual was filled with so much joy.

Sun 4th March

1. We rummage through the garage and memory after memory gets pulled off the shelves. There's Alistair's yellow pedal car, my little red trike, the door from the caravan toilet, the old Fisher Price garage, the roll-a-penny board, the treasure island and my red stilts. I greet them like a long-lost friend and take them out for a walk. "You make it look so easy!" says James. "We'll I did spend half my childhood on them" I say.

2. It's cold outside so we come in for toasted hot cross buns, milky coffee and a few quiet moments with the Sunday paper.

3. We pack our bags to the sound of big and little feet racing back and forth on the upstairs landing. My Dad chases John and then John chases my Dad. There is pure joy in their whoops and screams.

Sat 3rd March

1. Just as we get to the lead mines the skies open and torrential rain pounds on the roof. "It's just a shower," says my Dad, with his usual optimism. "It'll be sunny again by eleven." We sit in the car listening to the sleet drumming the roof and watching the minutes tick past on the clock.

Sure enough, by eleven the rain has disappeared and bright sunshine floods the newly washed world. We run over the slippy wooden bridge and explore the tumbling walls and tunnels in the clean, bright air.

2. It feels good to talk about Granny. And I'm pretty sure that those words of hers will stay with me for life.

3. Even though it's lent and she's given up all things sweet, my mum still lays the table for afternoon tea. She still calls us together to enjoy it. She still provides two types of cake.

Fri 2nd March

1. Last night her text tripped me up and sent me into a selfish spiral of despair, but today as I give her a great big hug, I'm genuinely happy for my friend.

2. John's new vest makes him look smart and grown-up and incredibly cute. All day long I feel a little surge of pride every time I look at him.

3. On the way to my parents' I stop and buy an armful of daffodils and tulips. Their wrapping shivers on my knee as we drive through the dusk. I'm so very excited to be going home.

Thurs 1st March

1. The morning smells of cool dew and the promise of sunshine as I hang out the washing. It's just making me dream about camping holidays when I look up and see John's little face smiling at me around the edge of the dining room window. I laugh and shout "be careful!" almost simultaneously.

2. My hot chocolate comes with a little heart shaped biscuit on the side. John is busy watching the ducks so I eat it up quickly before he has the chance to notice it's there.

3. Whilst we eat dinner the sky puts on a dazzling display of reds and pinks and golds.

Wed 29th Feb

1. John is screaming at me from the dining room. "Mummy!" he shouts, a note of urgency in his voice. "Mummy!" He points frantically at the window and I look out to see the bedsheets flapping freely on the line. "It's ok" I tell him. "It means that spring is here."

2. The water beads slip deliciously through my fingers and shimmer like deep-sea jewels. We run our fingers through them and watch them bounce in the box. We're both completely entranced.

3. "You might need a little help with this one" I say, as we lay the puzzle pieces out on the floor. John ignores me and begins working slowly, methodically, and with fierce concentration. I watch him deftly joining piece after piece and marvel at his ability. When it's done he smiles a big, proud smile, then breaks up the pieces and begins all over again.

Tues 28th Feb

1. The universe gives me a second chance to do the right thing and I take it with gratitude. "Thank you for being so honest" she says. "I've been worrying about it all morning" I tell her. I think we both go away feeling a little better about the world.

2. The sunshine is so warm that I take off John's coat. He looks so free and happy without it that I take mine off too. We frolic through the castle gardens like freshly shorn sheep.

3. The whole evening is spent with the anticipation of a bed newly made with fresh, clean sheets.

Mon 27th Feb

1. "I think you're right" says Sarah, "he might just be a genius at jigsaw puzzles."

2. I've been dreading making these phone calls and I feel slightly queasy when I pick up the phone. But as soon as the first one is made I remember that I'm entirely capable of doing this and feel more energised than I have done for months.

3. Anthony tells me how he and Alistair auditioned to be part of the Olympic opening ceremony. I laugh deep belly laughs as he describes it. Two hours later, the image of my brothers doing aerobic dance with hundreds of other young hopefuls is still making me smile. 

Sun 26th Feb

1. I'm reading the Gospel and John is screaming "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" from the back of the church. Out of the corner of my eye I can see him straining against Daddy's grip and as I try to focus on the words I'm reading I feel giggles rising in my chest.

Suddenly he breaks free. He races down the aisle towards me and for a second I allow myself to laugh. Then as I turn back to the text I realise that I'm either going to collapse in a fit of hysterics or dissolve into tears. I stutter my way through the rest of the reading and then take John's hand and walk him back down the aisle between rows of smiling faces.

2. After church we load the canoe onto the car and head for the nearest canal. The sky is blue, the rushes are pale gold and the canal is a deep petrol grey. The warmth of the sun is intoxicating and for a few bliss full hours I feel quite drunk with happiness.

3. Towards the end of the run, when my legs feel heavy and my heart feels fully alive, a powerful smell of woodsmoke wafts my way. Its sweet scent brings back memory after memory as I pound my way home.

Sat 25th Feb

1. The plum tree is just beginning to break into blossom. After I've emptied the water out of the sandpit I examine the tiny white flowers and feel quite giddy with excitement.

2. John is wearing his blue striped sweat-shirt, his red star pyjama bottoms and his Thomas the Tank socks. The outfit make me want to scoop him up in my arms but of course he's far too busy for cuddles.

3. I rip out all last-night's stitches and start the sleeve from scratch. It is undoubtedly the right thing to do.


Fri 24th Feb

1. I let John walk down the lane to playgroup. The pace is slow, but the morning is so beautiful that I'm happy to be late. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on my eyelids. It's impossible not to smile.

2. After lunch we settle down on the sofa and slowly work our way through our new pile of library books.

3. When he wakes from his nap Daddy is already home. John runs to me for a kiss and over to Daddy for another. He goes from me to Daddy over and over again, and all I can think is just how lucky he is to be so very loved.

Thurs 23rd Feb

1. A lie-in! I sleep until 8.30 and wake feeling guilty and refreshed.

2. It feels like the first day of Spring. The air is full of hope.

3. The house is deeply silent once John has gone to sleep. I sit and soak it up and feel it soothing my soul.

Wed 22nd Feb

1. The barber gives John a lollipop. He sucks it in the car, all around the supermarket and all the way home. He's quiet and sticky and happy.

2. Gemma's house is warm and smells of sausages. "Ignore the smell" she says, stepping across a floor strewn with Duplo, "the oven's just exploded and the sausages are covered in glass." She gives me a hug. "Oh, I shouldn't get too close," she says pulling away quickly, "I've been cleaning out the rabbits." I'm so very glad to be here.

3. John thinks the bread dough is play-dough. But the rolls we bake are so delicious that we eat up every last crumb.