Tag Archives: toddlers

Resolution

Pastel Fail

I’m really not enjoying the morning rush before school at the moment.  Today, I returned from my search for Christopher Robin’s grey socks to find Harry sitting in the corner at my little Repressed Creativity table with Mummy’s Special Oil Pastels spread all around him.  He had torn the wrapper off the one in his hand and held it in his two small fists.

“I snap it?”, he enquired animatedly, a mischievous glint in his eye.

“No!  Naughty!”, I exclaimed in horror.

“I snap it.”, the wretched imp asserted decisively and broke the pastel clean in half before tossing it on the table to join its fallen brothers.

I managed to get to Harry before he unwrapped his next victim, made a mess of disciplining him (it was mostly me shouting “how would you like me to break YOUR special toys??!” whilst Harry shook his head solemnly and reasoned “they’re MY toys, Mummy.”) and tried to salvage what was left of my lovely pastels.

As I matched aquamarine with aquamarine and crimson with crimson, it seemed a twelve-year-old version of myself manifested itself before my eyes.  There she stood, an awkward figure in her ill-fitting school uniform, clutching her A3 Spirax cartridge paper sketchbook and tin of 72 Derwent pencils to her chest.

“When was the last time you even USED those pastels?” she glowered at me,  “You haven’t even opened the box for months and months!  I think it’s been a YEAR!”

“Look, now’s really not a good time, Twelve-Year-Old Version Of Myself”, I muttered crossly.  And it wasn’t.  It was 8:25am and Matilda was still searching for her shoes, Christopher Robin’s reader still needed to be signed, Annie’s nappy was emitting a suspicious smell and Harry was off hunting for fresh mayhem.  But the sulky tween manifestation of my subconscious was insistent.

“Mrs Flannery said we were good at art.  She said it was in our soul

It was true.  I had a wonderful art teacher in Year Seven who had been kind and encouraging.  She had looked past my crippling shyness and made me feel like I was special.   And it was also true: I hadn’t used the pastels in at least a year.  My house seems full of empty sketchbooks, untouched paints and blank canvases that my twelve-year-old self would have itched to play with.

I could have argued that I didn’t have the time, that was my usual excuse, but I knew twelve-year-old Kate wouldn’t buy it.  The truth is, I’ve become terrified of Inner Critic.  Inner Critic is another version of myself (it’s very crowded to be me) who usually tells the Twelve Year Old to sit still and be quiet.  She also says things like “what if it turns out you’re no good at art?  Wouldn’t it be better not to try than to find out you’re only average?” and she sighs and sneers and rolls her eyes a lot.  It’s hard work keeping her happy.

Twelve-year-old Kate didn’t have an inner critic.  She just liked to play with colour.

Later, in that beautiful calm after Matilda and Christopher Robin were delivered safely to school, I formed a resolution.  Throughout the month of August, I will create some sort of art once a week, photograph it and post it on my blog.  And if Inner Critic has any comments to make, I’ll just say “quiet, you!”.  I’m a great admirer of proper-artist Ruby Hoppen, she is creating a portrait of her son every week this year.  It’s amazing to behold.  That’s where I got this idea.  But I won’t be doing portraits, and I’m only going for a month, but other than that…

If any other of you lovely bloggers would like to “play along”, please let me know in the comments and I’ll link to you.  You don’t have to be arty, that’s the whole point!  I think I’m going to call it “Art in August”.  Or maybe “Amateur Art in August”

artworkAnd, in celebration of this decision, here is my first piece.  It commemorates the destruction of my oil pastels and the miniature art festival this event inspired.

I call it “Shattered”.

Can’t wait till August!

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Cafe Fail.

Babycino

I’ve given up coffee for Lent.  Not sure why I do this to myself, but I figure it must do me some good. I’m going to put my coffee money in the Project Compassion box and feel all virtuous and smug for forty days.  I’m three days in and already I’ve had enough.  I already wrote this post out in my everything-notebook and now in my coffee-deprived state I’ve gone and lost it and I just know it won’t come out as good this time around.

Grrr

Anyway, cast your mind back to Tuesday.  It was Shrove Tuesday and my last chance to have a coffee before Lent.  Unfortunately it was also a school half-day, so I would have all four of my darlings to share this special time with.  But I’ve got this situation to work well in the past and, by gum, I would make three-children-and-a-baby-in-a-café work this time.  Surely they owe it to me?

I went to the supermarket with them first and Harry and I played the game where Harry hands me random items which he considers essential and I systematically restore them to the shelves.  My sister called me at one point, but as the entirety of our conversation consisted of me yelling directions at my children, I told her I’d call her back at a better time.  Other than this, it all went pretty well until the last aisle, when I (rather stupidly) said aloud “and now all we need to get are the eggs!”.  Christopher Robin and Harry both exclaimed “I’ll get it!” and raced to the end of the (long) aisle.  I moved, as quickly as a person pushing a shopping-laden stroller can, through trolleys and old people, to the egg section.  There, amid a small circle of spectators, Christopher Robin and Harry were wrestling over a carton of extra-large, free-range eggs (“I’m helping Mummy!”, “No! I’M HELPING MUMMY!”)

Somehow, I managed to confiscate the eggs and administer some lame reprimands to the boys.  Miraculously, the eggs managed to escape their ordeal unscathed and so, seeing this as a good omen, I set off to our favourite child-friendly coffee haunt.

As this was to be the last coffee I was to have before Easter (or at least St Patrick’s Day), I was going to make it count, so I ordered I larger size than my usual small cappuccino and added extra fancy flavours (deluxe).  The barista chatted pleasantly to Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry as he put together their custom-made free babycinos and my children, cheerfully and all of one accord, failed to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.

I sipped and savoured and spoon-fed Annie with chocolate-dusted milk foam when it occurred to me that now would be a good time to call my sister back.  It would seem I was having an abundance of stupid ideas on this day.  But I love my sister and she lives far away so we don’t get to talk as much as I would like.  I didn’t want to become the Boring Older Sister who is so wrapped up in her children that she can’t possibly take an interest in anyone else’s life.  This was ‘Jan’, by the way, not ‘Cindy’, so it’s not like I’d scored sister-points by recently making her a hat either…

Accordingly, I contrived to continue chattering merrily whilst the following occurred:

  1. My three ambulatory children promptly absconded from the table and climbed onto an evil coin-operated Spiderman helicopter at the entrance of the café
  2. The weight of shopping bags caused the stroller to overturn, taking my remaining, rather startled, child with it.
  3. Matilda managed to climb her way to the top of the evil Spiderman helicopter and perched triumphantly on the rotor blades.
  4. Annie began to howl and I remembered that she needed to be fed (plus she’d just been for a ride in an unstable stroller…)
  5. Matilda started to clamber down again as I gave her the evil eye (as evil as one can give when one’s arms are full of fallen grocery bags)
  6. Matilda got stuck halfway down and then rescued by some random man
  7. I felt everybody’s eyes on me and realized with dismay that I had become That Woman, who talks on her mobile phone whilst her children misbehave.

I had to end the conversation when

8.  I couldn’t see Harry anywhere.

But then I could (he was climbing all over the cake fridge and Christopher Robin quite happily joined him in this endeavour.)

After shouting random threats and gathering up groceries and offspring, I stalked off to the car.  Once everyone was strapped into place and I sat in the driver’s seat.  I launched into a tearful and incoherent rant about “coffee” and “your aunty” and “just for once in your life”.

Matilda piped up in a  small voice, “you can listen to what you like on the radio on the way home, Mummy, and we won’t complain at all”

“That’s COLD COMFORT!” I snapped.  But I put the radio on anyway.

I felt better by the time I got home.  At least I could get a blog post out of this experience.  And it was probably a good thing we weren’t going back to that café until after Easter.  I sent the children upstairs to clean their rooms and started unpacking the groceries.

Hmmm.

It would appear the eggs did not survive their adventure in the stroller.

 

When I told my mum this story, she suggested I find an all-natural organic substitute for coffee: “like, you know – whiskey”

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have an Irish coffee without the coffee.  Because I’m being good.

Label Fail.

Calm and Factual Label

I have this thing about label makers.

Something about those neat, white strips, calmly stating important facts in no-nonsense typeface just speaks to me.

I figure if I were to own a label maker, I would finally become Organised Lady. My household would run like a well-oiled machine. My children would arrive on Book Week Day wearing elaborate hand-sewn costumes. Friends would pop over for a spontaneous catch-up to find me relaxing in an immaculate house, the smell of a delicious, healthy treat wafting out of the (shiny, clean) oven.
I wanted that label maker.

But, I remonstrated with myself, such things really are an expensive extravagance. There really isn’t much I can achieve with a label maker that I can’t also achieve with a permanent marker and a roll of masking tape…

And I almost believed myself.

But then, last week, Mr Knightley casually commented that he’d seen label makers on special at the local stationery emporium. Was that something I could use?

When I had fully recovered my powers of speech, I reassured Mr Knightley, in an abundance of words, rapidly spoken, that I did indeed covet – er, need – such an object.

The Precious

Oh, just look at it.

I didn’t know it was going to be pink. I know it’s childish, but I love it when things are bright pink. I was thoroughly over-excited by my new acquisition.

But I wasn’t the only one.

It started when Harry took my label maker to a quiet corner, typed out the entire alphabet and then printed several labels to commemorate this achievement.

I admonished Harry, confiscated the label maker and placed it high out of reach.

Harry watched and waited.

The next time I pulled down the label maker, Harry was ready. The first moment my back was turned, Harry absconded with it to further investigate this mechanical wonder. This time, he managed to jam it all up. I firmly resolved, as I extracted scraps of twisted labels with my eyebrow tweezers, to keep the precious contraption out of reach at all times on the top shelf of the pantry, next to the Milo tin.
Which brings us to this morning.

After coaxing a particularly reluctant Annie out of a dirty nappy and into her cot for a sleep, I returned to the kitchen to find Harry covered in Milo. In the moments that followed, I took in the following information:

  1. A kitchen stool had been pushed into the pantry
  2. The label maker was now on the bench
  3. Harry had merrily printed off THE REST OF THE TAPE whilst sitting at the bench eating Milo

Here’s what happened next:

  1. I started yelling and storming about the house like a demented rhino, firing off abusive texts to my husband.
  2. Harry burst into tears and then rubbed his tear-stained Milo face all over my top.
  3. Christopher Robin walked through the floor-Milo and tracked it through the house
  4. Annie woke up.

Label Maker Mess

I had a read over the warranty, but there’s nothing in it to cover the wanton destruction brought about by insane two-year-old saboteurs…

My one consolation is that Dymo – or, indeed, Milo – might approach me with an endorsement deal for introducing my readers (yes, both of them!) to the wonders of their product.

Perhaps they could pay me in label cartridges?

Manic

When we last left our hero, she was valiantly struggling with a colossal problem:  how to make this Christmas bell look less odd and forlorn?  And in only two days?

blue bell on tree

The answer?  Fight crochet with crochet!

Somehow, I got it into my head that the best way to lessen the impact of one wonky bell was to whip up SEVERAL wonky ornaments to put all over the tree.  At least then they’d be co-ordinated…

It was at this point that things got a little manic…

First of all, I hooked up a bunch of snowflakes whilst watching a very old and incredibly sexist James Bond movie with Mr Knightley (“Oh, James, it might seem like I am resisting your advances, it might sound like I’m saying ‘no’ emphatically, but just slap me round a bit and I’ll suddenly find you irresistible!”)

I love making these snowflakes.  There is an excellent tutorial for them here, at my beloved Attic 24 (incidentally, it was this very tutorial that first introduced me to the many wonders of this delightful blog)

Snowflakes with Harry's hand

I pinned them out for blocking. I usually spray them with laundry spray, but I couldn’t find any so I painted them with watered down PVA glue instead (when I found it.  The real life version of what went on here was much more manic).  Here you can see Harry going after one of the “lollypop” pins (not for the last time!).

After I made up this batch, I happened to read an awesome post by The Stitch Sharer on crochet snowflakes (by complete co-incidence, it was so weird!), which gave me the idea for this snowflake:

Star Snowflake

It’s basically Lucy’s “small” snowflake, but with treble stitches throughout instead of doubles and 5-chain loops in the last round.  I drew up a really-truly pattern for it here

Ah what fun!

So, things were looking a little better – but! – I thought, in renewed manic frenzy – what about the TOP?  It needs something on the TOP!  The whole thing is rubbish without something on the TOP!!

After much complicated deliberation (a-star-would-be-simpler-but-looks-too-much-like-a-snowflake) which I won’t bore you with here, I came up with this:

Tree Angel

I had already been playing around with 6ichthusfish’s pattern for a nativity set (as you do) which I first saw here.  So I took my Mary head and body and put wings and a halo on her.  And I left the bottom open, so it’s kinda like a finger puppet.  Then I stuffed the Christmas tree up the skirt…

And what is the result?

ta-da!

Not too bad, I guess.

And my beautiful mother-in-law, of course, made all the appropriate exclaiming noises (of happiness, I mean, not of disgust).  So I guess things aren’t so bad after all.

Health Nurse Fail.

Earlier this week I was struck with a sudden panic: the last time I made an appointment with the Maternal and Child Health Nurse, I didn’t write the appointment in my diary.  And it was a double appointment for Annie and Harry!  And these appointments are really hard to make!!  What if the appointment is today? What if I’ve already missed it??

As soon as I got home I dug out the green book and checked the appointment time: not till Wednesday!  Phew!  I checked the book again yesterday – 1:30pm – easy!

Mr Knightley gave Annie a thorough bath last night and I made sure she was dressed in her most respectable clothes this morning.  I gave the boys an early lunch and then coaxed Harry out of the mud and into the bath for a righteous scrubbing.  Once I put Harry into his least raggedy clothes and locked the back door so he couldn’t get muddy again, I bundled the three of them into the car (after first sending Christopher Robin back to change his favourite (broken) sandals into respectable shoes with matching socks).  I figured I’d get there early so they could have a play at the park next door beforehand.

You can imagine my immense sense of smugness as I sauntered into the health centre at precisely 1:25pm.  I had forgotten nothing: both health books, bunny rug, change of jumpsuit, nappies, crochet workbag, phone, tissues, keys, three children, wipes – all there.

One of the health nurses approached me with a concerned look on her face.  Who was I there to see?  Everyone was out.  I faltered for a moment – I’d only seen this new health nurse once before and couldn’t remember her name.  She prompted me – was it Jenny?  Yes! Jenny!  Jenny was out.

The first few seeds of doubt started to edge their way into my consciousness.  Oh! But! I said with renewed confidence, I AM a little early (oh yeah!)…but perhaps I’ll just double check the appointment in my book.

So I pull out my book and take forever to find the stupid page.  And I take a proper look at the date for the first time. Oh no! I say, I’m a week early!

The nurse points again at the date with a kind smile:  I was also a month early.

WHAT is WRONG with my BRAIN??!!

The receptionist, who by now had joined the conversation, along with another health nurse, said I could come in and have a sit while the boys had a play anyway.  It would give me a chance to ‘collect my thoughts’.  They were all very kind (and, I suspect, quietly concerned).

MY BRAIN!  What is wrong with my BRAIN??

I sat down with my diary and worked at being organised for about ten minutes. Then we went home.

I can’t even explain how I can manage to bring daft-ness to a whole new level.   I made a cake once we got home just to give my confidence a boost (with a side-product of comfort food)

Hmmm.

Epiphany

Odd Socks

 

It’s easy to whine when you’re a full-time mum.  Our job often seems a relentless onslaught of menial tasks: wiping noses and bottoms, trying to catch disasters before they become catastrophes, and patiently explaining the necessity of trousers (again).

I probably should stop here and mention I don’t buy into that whole debate of stay-at-home versus working motherhood and who works harder/ loves their kids more/ has the most valid existence/ is the best variety of human being.  I think we all try to do what is best for our family according to our specific circumstances and anyone who suggests otherwise is generally trying to sell you something.  I say “full-time mum” sometimes because I don’t like the passive sound of “stay-at-home mum”, but I’m in no way suggesting that working mothers are “part-time mums”!  OK, end of disclaimer, back to the point.

I used to put a lot of energy into justifying my full-time occupation:  my job is so HARD, nobody underSTANDS, I work and work all day and yet have nothing to SHOW for it.  I was a victim of motherhood.  Somebody needed to call me a waaahhmbulance.

Anyway, one morning I had a bit of an epiphany (it was one of those magic mornings when I actually had time to pray)  It went like this:

  1. I chose motherhood, and if David Tennant offered me a ride in his Tardis (back in time, I mean, for those of you who are not also tragic Doctor Who nerds), I would choose it again.
  2. I need to own this choice, and put the same amount of work into mothering as I would a “legitimate” job.
  3. So many couples I know are struggling with infertility and would give anything to be knee-deep in nappies every day.
  4. Those who “get it” (how mothering is a tough gig, I mean) already get it and those who don’t “get it” aren’t going to be convinced by my ranting, so I might as well save my energy for better things.

I reckon I came back from my morning walk looking all beatific and saint-like.  Since then, I’ve tried to make a point of focussing on the positives of my job and not be so defensive (though I still manage to forget this and regularly host a local whine festival)

So now, when some well-meaning lady in the supermarket gushes about how lucky I am to be able to stay at home and play with my children all day, I smile and agree with her.  I am lucky.  I am so blessed.  My job is intense and it’s hard work and my basic needs for sleep and privacy in the toilet aren’t always met, but it does come with plenty of perks.

All of which has been a convoluted introduction to my next post (which I’ve posted first, so that people like my mum can read the posts in the right order)

Perks

Being a “stay at home” mum can be tough sometimes.  But it’s not without its perks.  Here’s what’s making me smile this week:

Pea Sprouts

Pea sprouts growing on my kitchen windowsill;

Waitress

Eating delicious imaginary cakes at Cafe Matilda

menu

Everything is gluten-free!

Mmmmm...Magazines

Two shiny magazines awaiting my perusal (they’ve been sitting patiently in their wrappers for almost a week now, but their moment will come!)

You might be thinking that last one doesn’t count as a perk – mums don’t get much time to read magazines, nor does the family budget always stretch to such indulgences (though I maintain one should always make room for small, sanity-saving treats) – but the perk comes from the amount of relish with which this particular indulgence is enjoyed when the moment arrives.  There are certain luxuries one just doesn’t appreciate before becoming a parent!  Showering in private is another such example…

So there you go.  I have it pretty good here and I’m so grateful that I have a husband who supports  me and is willing to be the sole breadwinner so I can endeavour to embrace all things domestic.   If you could see the state of my kitchen floor at the moment, you might think it less an embrace and more an awkward hug that you give your work associate at his retirement party, but, still, the intention is there…