Sunday, March 30, 2014

This is where we are: a letter to my child on Mother's Day

(This post was inspired by one of my very favourite bloggers, Rachel at Make A Long Story Short. Every year on Mother's Day she writes a letter to the future versions of her children and this year she asked her readers to join in. I thought it would be rude not to. If you like beautiful, hilarious and honest writing, I'd urge you to check out her blog - it's basically everything that I would love Knittenden to be.)

Dear Future Samuel,

This is our second Mother's Day. I don't really remember the first one too well because we were still in the midst of that hazy feed-nappy-45-minute-nap-panic-repeat Groundhog Day thing. But this one I won't forget so easily. Partly because of the way you so sweetly refused to relinquish my card when your Dad instructed you to give it to me, so we had to prise it from your fingertips. And partly because you bought me a 9-in-1 steam cleaner as a gift, but that's another story. 

So where are we, then? Well, you're mainly high up somewhere, balanced precariously, and I'm mainly terrified about it. But you're a 16-months-old firecracker with ants in your pants. You're dynamite, ready to explode into laughter or tears at any given moment. Only you know which. You're an unrelentingly fearless thrill-seeker who always wants to go higher and higher and higher, faster and faster and faster. And your face lights up as if you've discovered the meaning of life whenever you do. And curiosity? Well I've never known anything like it. 

I try so hard to stand back and give you as much space as I can to let you be as independent as you want to be. Every day involves a huge internal struggle with
my paranoid urges to wrap you up in cotton wool and then roll you in bubble wrap. But you're always happier when you're just left to get on with being you. Sometimes we both come unstuck with this strategy, though, and our days can seem like a riot of trapped fingers, grazed noses, annoyed bystanders and hot tears on stripy jumpers. But here's the thing: whatever happens it never scares you or deters you from trying again. You never give up. You're absolutely nothing like me in any of these respects and, to be honest, I am in awe of you. Your energy is infectious and I reckon that being around you inspires me to be a little bit braver. 

But you're as sweet as you are feisty, you know. You point blank refuse to hold anyone's hand or dole out affection on demand, but that just makes the unexpected hugs and kisses that come out of nowhere all the more precious. Oh, but I'd hug you all day if you ever let me. In the meantime I'll happily read you 'Barry The Fish With Fingers' ad nauseum and join in with all the games of tickle chase that you so cheekily instigate. Then I'll grin at those cassette-tape-smooth curls that shake while you laugh at me and wish that time could stand still, just for a little while.

With love (and a sparklingly clean floor),

Your mum.x

Thursday, March 27, 2014

More mum talk

So it's friendship month over on TalkMum and I put together a little post about how much I got out of joining my NCT group – you can find it here if you're so inclined. Honestly, those girls have genuinely helped me to get through the past 16 months and I'd thoroughly recommend NCT classes to anyone. Well, anyone expecting a baby. Other people mightn't find it so great.

The only downside to doing NCT classes is that you have to sit through a breastfeeding class in a UPVC conservatory, watching a fervent lactivist demonstrating feeding with the aid of a Dora the Explorer doll. Oh yeah, and there's also that thing where you become so friendly within your group, and all the other NCT groups in your area become super pally within theirs, that it can get very cliquey and become pretty difficult to make friends beyond your small circle. For an introvert like me it sometimes has that whiff of secondary school all over again. But these are both small grumbles. NCT has been great for me and good for Samuel too.

And while I'm on the subject of talking about mum things, here are some unrelated discoveries that I've made over the past day or two:

• Having a toddler is a lot like having a dog. They need regular walks otherwise they go bonkers indoors and ruin the furniture. Grey post-nap skies are the nemesis of the toddler mum.

• Going for a smear test counts as decadent me-time when you are the mum of a toddler. All those moments to yourself while sitting in the doctors waiting room. What joy!

• The phrase 'face-plant'. People have said this to me twice in two days and that's because Samuel has landed face-first in gravel twice in two days after trying to run too fast. I think there will be many more face-plants to come.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Toddlers are good at throwing you curve balls. Just when you start to think arduous tantrums have become de riguer, they go and surprise you by behaving like joyous, giggling delights. 

Today I whisked Samuel off to Vauxhall City Farm where we laughed at cute gambolling lambs and chased chickens. Shortly after that we were unceremoniously thrown out of Vauxhall City Farm, because it turned out that Vauxhall City Farm was not actually open to the public today and we had, to all intents and purposes, broken in. I thought it was a bit quiet, to be fair, but they really shouldn't have left that gate ajar. 

Anyway, we were in Vauxhall to say hello to my fabulous old work friends and Samuel didn't half love the attention. He didn't grumble once on the train there or back, and then when got home he instigated a raucous rolley poly game on the disco floor tiles in our kitchen. Today I felt pretty darn lucky to have this little partner in crime. Breaking and entering, to be precise.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vertically challenged

So they climb? Why didn't anybody tell me that they go vertical? It's one thing chasing a toddler around at ground level, but another entirely when they can leap up on every piece of furniture with ease and get their grubby paws on all the stuff that you've lazily baby-proofed by simply moving it to higher ground. Oh, and when they start seriously endangering themselves. Yep, that too.

This week has been hard. Nothing is off limits now. The only thing stopping Samuel from diving off his toybox or the sofa head first now is me screaming and lurching for him. I can't let him out of my sight for even a second. And, not only has he learned to climb this week, but he's also taken his relationship with white goods to the next level. He's stopped simply admiring them from afar and trying to push their buttons - things have got much deeper. I've found him sitting in the dishwasher, climbing into the washing machine, and munching on a frozen fishcake that he found after prising the freezer door open himself. 

He's fast, he's relentless and he seems to get bigger every day as this top-floor flat gets smaller. All I do all day is repeat, 'No, Samuel. We don't do that', while dreaming of living in a house with patio doors that open onto a garden boasting an extensive selection of energy-sapping outdoor toys. 

Anyway, at the end of a trying week we got a much-welcome visit from Little Sis. It was great. We dragged her to the park where she happily chased Samuel around, we hit the pub for a roast dinner, and later we watched Silver Linings Playbook, a film which we all agreed enriched our lives by a minimum of 7%. Tired now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


This week I got the message loud and clear that this child needs to get outdoors and run around. A lot. I got the message that this child should not, under any circumstances, be taken all the way to Putney in a buggy, then be taken out of his buggy only to be put straight into a high chair for lunch without any opportunity to run around in between, and be expected to sit happily and quietly and compliantly as I attempt to gossip with my cousin. I got the message that, after the ensuing earth-shattering, mortifying tantrum, Samuel and I may not be welcome in any branch of Carluccio's for quite some time. 

I learned a lot from that little incident. This kid has energy to burn and woe betide you if you don't let him burn it. As a result we've been getting out and about and running free every day - often a couple of times a day. Sometimes it's the playground. Sometimes it's the park. But yesterday we decided to go and investigate the state of our garden for the first time this year. This is not as straightforward as it sounds, given that to get there we have to negotiate 50 steps, a scary path of brambles and a decaying fox carcass. Actually it wasn't too bad out there - the bulbs are growing and there's almost as much grass on the ground as there is moss. Samuel certainly enjoyed investigating. Seriously, I've never spent this much time outdoors in my adult life. If things carry on like this, I could be seriously in danger of losing my milk-bottle-goth pallor this summer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Back over Christmas I was feeling tired. There was nothing new there, of course, but the sheer relentlessness of the preceding year had left me feeling wrung out and run into the ground. I was gagging for a little break. A little change. Damn, maybe even a lie in. Samuel was old enough to survive without me for a couple of days and James was adamant that I should book something, go away and recharge my batteries.

To begin with I considered booking myself into a random hotel room with a big, comfortable bed that I could fall face-first into and make like a dribbling sleeping beauty for an entire weekend. I'm sure that would have been lovely, but perhaps not a heap of fun. So when Little Sis suggested I go and stay with her in Manchester, I jumped at the chance. So that's exactly what I did just the other weekend.

And, oh, the bliss of a two-hour train journey with only a Starbucks vanilla latte for company. And, oh, the joy of seeing my sister's gorgeous smiling face underneath the departures board at Piccadilly Station. And, oh, the memories that came back from stepping back into a city that I love and that I used to regularly paint red - and ocassionally splatter with vomit - many moons ago. 

It was amazing to see Lucy's new-ish pad in Chorlton at last. She took me for a stroll down Beech Road, which I instantly fell in love with, and we nabbed a window seat, sipped Manchester Grey tea and ate the best sandwiches I have ever tasted at a cafe called Serendipitea. We caught up while people (and dog) watching, and played 'hipster or fisherman' and Chorlton bingo (see Little Sis for further details), which I won when I spotted local celebrity resident Badly Drawn Boy driving a sensible VW. 

Not only is Chorlton home to Little Sis, but some of my very best mates and ex uni housemates live in the area too, so a reunion pub crawl was arranged. Lucy, Jim and I began it in the afternoon. Oops. But, you know, amazing. A half of cider on a sunny afternoon is quite literally the taste of freedom. Then it was off for pizza and some serious catching up at Croma. I hadn't seen some of the guys for about seven years but incredibly it didn't feel like it. That's what it's like with your oldest friends, though, isn't it? It could have been 1999 all over again, just with better clothes and less alcopops. And less stamina too. This became evident when we headed onto yet more pubs and I couldn't stop yawning. Still, Lucy and I kept going til midnight, which I felt deserved a medal.

The next morning was blissfully lazy and I got my lie-in. Lucy and I nursed fuzzy heads while listening to 6Music and agreeing that Holy City by Joan as Police Woman is the song of the year so far. Then us and Bec, Lucy's best mate, went back to Beech Road for a carb-fest of a brunch in a restaurant that used to be a police station. The only criminal thing in evidence was the fact that it was almost time for me to catch my train back home.

And even though I was a bit hungover, I still came home bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Samuel seemed as happy to see me as I was to see him, and I felt refreshed and ready to take on another week of toddler challenges. That weekend was exactly what I needed, though. Forget a quiet hotel room. If you need a break and a chance to feel like yourself again, all you really need to do is laugh yourself senseless on a pub crawl with a bunch of people who you love and you've known forever. Thanks, sis.


Spring arrived this weekend so we hit the park where Samuel hurtled around like crazy and dived nose-first into his first ice-cream. When we got home, the sunshine that was streaming through the window had heated up our living room like a crematorium so we needed to dig out a more lightweight outfit for Samuel. We found the vintage pair of dungarees that I bought from Magpie and Hen last summer. Please excuse the mess in the background - it's just how we roll.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


This isn't just my favourite photo of the week - I think it's my favourite photo of Samel full stop. He just looks so happy, and it's no fluke. For the first time ever, happiness seems to be Samuel's default setting. Whether he's been running around playgrounds, lunching in the pub with his Dad or discovering the sheer unadulterated joy of splashing with all his might in the bath, he's giggled all week long. What's more we've had fewer tears and the clinginess of a few weeks' ago seems like a distant memory. And when I went away to Manchester for the weekend, he hardly batted an eyelid. I don't know if this is a phase or if things are set to stay like this, so I'll just keep drinking that little smile in while I can.