Is it the clumpy way he walks?

Hooray! I saw Babs Woodhouse today at my 36 week bump-prodding appointment. She was my favourite midwife when I was pregnant with James but this is the first time I’ve seen her this time.

I’m not sure she’d be everyone’s cup of tea – she’s 50% briskness, 50% cheeriness and 0% nonsense. Her opening gambit to me, all those years ago with James, was:  “I hope you haven’t got a LUDICROUS new-age birth plan? Oh good. I can see that you’re far too sensible for that.

Suffice to say she hasn’t changed.  I fully expected to be patted on the rump on my way out today and told I was a “good girl“. As it was, the appointment lasted all of 5 minutes. She prodded the bump and said “So! All booked in for your c-section? Jolly good – because that’s definitely a bigger baby than the last one and you don’t want a repeat of that palaver.

And that, apparently, was that.

In Microbe news, his obsession with Frozen has reached three-times-a-day proportions. When he’s not begging to watch it, he’s driving G and me nuts by singing the songs and obsessing about what the lyrics mean.

His favourite is the troll song ‘He’s a bit of a fixer upper‘ which makes him laugh every single time. He also likes to sing along to ‘Let It Go‘ in a diva-ish fashion, especially when Elsa gets to the flouncy bit where she says “the cold never bothered me anyway!

As Disney films go, I think it’s one of the better ones. The songs have a stage musical quality to them and it also has the distinction of being the first story ever to captivate the boybot without involving  talking animals. I’m delighted to see him gripped by a story about human females for a change. (I have a suspicion that he likes Anna because she reminds him a bit of Helena).

In school news, I was sad to discover that none of the boybot’s nursery pals got an offer at the same primary school as him. The vast majority seem to have fallen into the catchment for the much larger CofE school just down the road – and the rest are going private.

Such is the way in the baby-boomer suburbs. Outside of London, I see property ads claiming to be “within a 5 mile catchment” of some school or other. In these parts the catchment is measured in metres. With three state primaries all within a 5-minute walk of one another, it pretty much comes down to which end of the road you live on – and 500 metres would rule you out for most of them.

Still – it’s only reception year – so I’m sure the boy will make lots of new pals when he starts.

In bump news, my chocaholism has gone through the roof. And I don’t mean posh, grown-up chocolate with a high cocoa content. I’m mainlining Dairy Milk and giant Toblerones. And occasional bowls of Ready Brek made with double cream. Mmmm. (I honestly don’t know whether this baby is big because I can’t stop stuffing sugar and fat into my body or vice versa.)

I made up for it slightly last week by cleaning like a lunatic. The sort of cliched 3rd trimester cleaning where you find yourself crawling about on the floor in order to properly clean the back of the toilet cistern. The next job on my list, when I can be bothered, is to throw lots of things away. I desperately need a wardrobe cull – and could do with some therapy for my recent shopping problem for Thing 2.  I don’t know why I’ve lost the plot in this regard. I’m pretty sure James started life with little more than a 7-pack of babygrows. I must have been far more sensible back then.

On a more frivolous note, I’m really going to miss having freckles. I LOVE them! I had them with James but they faded soon afterwards. That and thick hair. I wish you could hang onto the good symptoms and just get rid of the rubbish ones afterwards. Pah.


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It’s gruesome…

What is it with people who do studio photography for schools and nurseries that makes them want to create such hideous and unnatural portraits? No matter what your child looks like in real life, they somehow manage to turn every single one of them into a gurning, basin-headed horror, with every shred of personality removed.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of studio photography in the first place, especially for children. Whenever I sift through pics of James and Helena and co. the best ones are always the candid shots, where they were natural and windswept with no self consciousness. As soon as they get wind of the camera the dreadful “cheese!” pics take over and you’ve pretty much lost it.

Anyway, I digress…

The real crime that plagues nursery photoshoots is that someone (WHO is this person??) always gets hold of the kids just before their turn and brushes their hair into the most heinous style achievable.  So – once again – your happy, tousled child whose sticking-up hair is part of what you love about them, comes home wielding a package of ‘shopped-to-buggery proofs depicting an awkward, cheese-faced, basin-headed stranger who’s time-traveled in from 1978. (I’d share the evidence if only the proofs didn’t have copyright notices stamped all over them).

The other week, in preparation for the latest photoshoot, I came up with a master plan of putting some of daddy’s hair gel into the boybot’s hair, so that I could send him in ‘pre-tousled’ and with strict instructions not to let them brush it out…  but, alas, it was to no avail. They just can’t help themselves.

Perhaps it is actually written in law that children shall only be photographed after their fringe has been pasted down to their foreheads with a wet comb – and bonus points for added ear flaps, if possible.

Anyway we got the proofs back and, as usual, I found myself raving about their awfulness. Until G pointed out to me, quite rightly, that the boybot was not only within earshot but has reached an age in which feelings might be hurt…

Um. My bad. The poor little devil came over and looked at them with me and said “is that one a nice photo mummy?” (Why, yes, dear reader, I did want to commit hari kari).

So I cuddled him and told him that he always looks beautiful, but sometimes the photographer doesn’t do a very good job of choosing the right pictures of his lovely face. And in my guilt I relented and have dutifully chosen the least heinous one to be printed, even though the fakeness of it still irks me. (Also £10 per 5″ x 4″  print?  Ridiculous!)


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Unruly boys

The other evening I let the microbe loose for a run about in the park with his little nursery pal, Flynn. At some point Flynn’s dad and I exchanged a brief eyebrow-raise as we noticed that our ‘charming boys’ appeared to be having a lot of fun dancing about while waving ill-gotten daffodils around. At that precise moment, as if on cue, the boybot put his daffodil in his back pocket.

I’m saying nothing. *cough* daddy’s boy *cough*

I can’t believe it’s Thursday already. My first week of maternity leave has got off to an inauspicious start and I’ve achieved precisely nothing. I’m mostly blaming a tummy bug that left me feeling rough as hell for the first few days. That and burning the candle at both ends, with insomnia sandwiched in the middle. It’s a level of tiredness unknown.

Suffice to say I’ve not been endeavouring to get the boy into nursery by 8am. In daddy’s absence we’ve been doing pretty well to manage 9am, as I have to factor in an hour of wandering about like a dazed and confused zombie at the start of each day. As I wandered home on Tuesday morning I got as far as the park at the end of our road and seriously considered lying down on the grass and going to sleep for an hour, rather than trekking the remaining 2 minutes to my front door. (The only thing that stopped me was the fear that a dog might have weed on it.)

So I went home and zonked out instantly on the sofa for 2 hours. God – the LUXURY of it!

A key problem with being in sole charge of the Microbe right now is the pressing desire to nap while on duty. I’m sure he’s old enough at this point to be able to play safely in the room beside me while I doze… but there’s no accounting for what fresh hell I will wake up to.

The other weekend, seeing him quietly engrossed in a giant book of animal habitat stickers, I took the opportunity to close my eyes and yawned at him to be a good boy while mummy had a nap…  an hour later I opened them to a scene of blitz-like devastation.

Apparently the nano-second my eyes were closed he’d decided that it would be a great idea to rampage through the flat and construct a shrine to Chaos across our entire living room floor. A giant, sliding mountain made up of every single toy, book, sticker sheet, craft item and bit of junk that he could find. He’d even gone so far as to pull out one of the sofas and retrieve all sorts of forgotten tat from behind it.  It was one of those moments where you wonder whether to cry or take a photo. In the end I reasoned that nobody needs to see that…  and we spent the next hour or two putting everything back where it belonged.

Roll on to this week and he’s been up to more ill-deeds. For reasons best known to himself, he’s purloined a clip-on, battery-operated reading lamp from my bed-head and is unable to tell me what he’s done with it. I have no idea whether he genuinely can’t remember or has put it somewhere that he doesn’t want to admit to. Either way I can’t get it out of him and neither can I find the damn thing anywhere…

In other news, someone needs to tie my hands behind my back and make me step away from my laptop. The combination of being off work and feeling too rough to move has resulted in a level of online shopping that simply has to stop. Dear brain: the Microbe does not need any more stripey t-shirts, you do not need any more maternity bras and Thing 2 has enough cotton stuff to defile for at least the first month. Got it?

Her new crib has arrived today in flat pack form – several weeks ahead of its estimated delivery date. Now I’m itching to assemble it. I can barely express how much I love doing flat packs. But I’m trying hard to resist until nearer the time as it’ll only be in the way.

Speaking of ‘in the way’…  people’s reactions to me these days seem to be polarised between “Gosh – only a month left? You’re still tiny!” and “Good god, you’re enormous – are you sure you’re not ready to pop now?

The difference seems to be based entirely upon whether they’re looking at me from the front or the side. As with James, this bump is entirely front-facing. Hence I seem to be one of those women who doesn’t look pregnant at all from behind – and is sometimes barely noticeable from the front – but resembles a balloon when viewed side-on.

These poor attempts at bump selfies are not the greatest illustration but it’s the best I can do right now…

34 week bump_1       35 week bump_1

NB: how and why did I choose to survive the last two decades without leggings? They have got to be the comfiest garment known to man and I’m not sure I’ll ever give them up again now, preg or not.

I’m also (to the abhorrence of my Ugg-hating friends) back in my fuggs on a daily basis. Springtime or not, nothing is kinder to my puffy feet right now. It’s either that or my orthopaedic-looking (but supremely comfortable) Fly London wedge sandals that make me look like a 65 year-old Greenham common protester. Choices, eh?


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Thanks for all the fish

Well… this is me skipping off into the sunset.  It’s my last day at work for a year – and I ran out of handover-ish things to do by mid-afternoon so have slipped away early.

G has hopped on a plane and is back in a week. In true nesting style, I came up with a grand plan for his absence, involving slopping paint samples all around the walls – and going mad redecorating the flat.

However he gave me a reality check this morning by pointing out that:

  1. There’s loads of prep work that I won’t be able to do by myself (mostly involving ladders and repairs and furniture-shifting and electric sockets, none of which are ideal for an off-balance, clumsy, absent minded insomniac.)
  2. He has huge amounts of work to get through before Thing 2 arrives, so won’t be able to get sucked into my DIY urges when he returns.

Bah! I’m going to have to tone down my ambitions for now.

I might do a bit of sorting and mending and tidying…  and maybe get some paint samples and see whether a professional could come and do the hard work for us, before or after Thing 2 arrives.

Or maybe I’ll just hibernate in my shabby, poorly decorated, full-of-holes residence and make a quilt…   or have a week-long love-in with my Xbox… or take lots of naps.

I haven’t had more than 2 hours of unbroken sleep in weeks.  And when I do nod off, I snore disgustingly. It freaks me out and keeps waking me up. I remember snoring in my last month with James, so I suppose it’s just a rite of passage.

I’ll also be glad to see the back of these swollen feet and calves. It’s so weird looking at your legs and not recognising them. They get even worse after a c-section. An uber-thoughtful friend has bought me some shrinky leg gel that I might try out at the weekend.

In Microbe news, we were very pleased yesterday evening to discover that he’s been offered a place at our #1 school choice. I was totally braced for getting choice #2 …or worse, so this feels really lucky.

I just wish the same had been true for everyone. I’m really shocked for one of my NCT friends whose local council failed to offer a place at any of their four choices. Instead they offered a place at a school with an OFSTED rating of ‘Inadequate’.  (Seriously – what kind of an offer is that? How is it fair to any of the kids who go there? Are people just supposed to say “ok”?)

In cheerier news, tomorrow will be a fun day – I’m having afternoon tea in a hotel up town with some friends that I haven’t seen in years – hooray!  (I hope the boybot behaves himself for Uncle Andrew while I’m gone.)


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Everything but the girl

So – enough about Thing 2…  here’s one about a boy.

This week, he’s discovered Frozen. He’s very late to the party, but at last is able to converse with the girls at nursery on their specialist topic. It’s the first time ever that he’s hankered for repeat viewings of something that doesn’t feature talking animals. Wonders will never cease. It has also opened up some big questions for him…

On Sunday morning he climbed into my bed and asked me “Mummy, what is true love?” Bless! (I told him that it’s the best kind, like the way I love him and Anna loves her sister, which seemed to make him happy).

In bed-related news, the introduction of the digital clock seemed to be going so well that G decided to toughen up the system. The new regime dictates that the first number on the clock display has to be a 7 before the boy can come and have a cuddle in our bed. On days when he manages that AND has dry pyjama pull-ups, he gets a sticker. And when he has 5 stickers, he gets a little plastic reward from a jar of Bambi/LionKing/Madagascar figurines.

So far, thanks to his fervent desire for plastic tat, we’ve had more good days than bad. However – hubris will always get you in the end. It’s entirely my fault. I cursed it by telling a few of my mum friends how well the clock thing was going – hence this morning he turned up beside me at 5am (wearing a wet pull-up, no less) and proceeded to fidget and pester the hell out of us until our alarms went off.

I swear this boy is so transparent you can practically see the cogs whirring in his head. More fools we for combining two targets into a single reward. G said to him: “Did you come into our room because you realised you’d already got a wet pull-up and would miss out on a sticker anyway?” …and the boybot looked sheepish.

But we shall persevere.

I just wish I could do something about his ghastly body clock, which seems to dictate that number twos must take place in the small hours. As if insomnia were not bad enough, I’m frequently woken around 5-ish by a tiny boy shuffling all the way from the bathroom with his pants around his ankles and whispering into my ear that he needs his bottom wiping.

Most days, after I’ve trudged to the bathroom with him and done the deed, he seems happy enough to go back to bed. But – suffice to say – bottom wiping lessons are going to commence imminently.

(Apologies for that unnecessary information).

Anyway – we had a very nice bank holiday weekend. The boy got a new toy goat that he loves  (which looks a bit like daddy). On the grey days we also did lots of Easter crafts, including an insane hat for a parade at nursery, and on the beautiful Monday we mooched about in some local gardens.


In food news, it’s been a very long time since I worried about the boy’s appetite. Most days he seems to be ravenous for breakfast and also eats a meal or snack after nursery. My only concern nowadays is that, left to his own devices, his diet would be sorely lacking in colour.

If I asked him to draw up a list of his favourite foodstuffs, it would probably look a bit like this:

  1. Chocolate (all time winner, never to be succeeded)
  2. ‘Orkshire puddings (his term)
  3. Pancakes (preferably with nutella)
  4. Mashed potatoes
  5. Roast potatoes
  6. Fish and chips
  7. Burro pasta (aka twirly pasta with nothing but butter & parmesan on it)
  8. Corn on the cob

In other words – beige products, especially if they involve batter or potatoes.

So we endeavour to cram broccoli and asparagus and other brightly coloured veg into him as opportunities allow. But mostly I thank the gods for inventing that culinary salvation of all pre-school parents – houmous and crudités.

It’s a magical get-out-of-jail-free meal that can be delivered instantly, with no cooking – and is the surest way to get vast quantities of raw peppers, carrots and sugar snap peas into him. On a good day I can prop him in front of Frozen with a bowl of crudités and just leave him to it. Long may it last.

We also make heavy use of the mantra – “If you don’t eat that you won’t grow up to be a big, strong zoo keeper”.

As far as the boy is concerned, this is his future career. Let there be no doubt about it. Last week he informed me, sagely, that when he was little he thought he could grow up to be an aardvark. But now that he’s a big boy he realises that’s not possible. He will instead be a zoo keeper who specialises in big animals like hippos and elephants.  (I sometimes wonder how he’d react if I were ever to introduce him to my zoo keeper friend Marie, with whom I used to flatshare with many moons ago)

He still gets most of his ‘factual’ information from Disney films – and I’m blaming Disney for the obscure little devil beating me twice this week in the “thinking of an animal” game. First he got me with Quail (thank you Bambi) and then Oyster (thank you Alice in Wonderland). I really should have guessed quail – I mean how many animals begin with Q?  But apparently my brain can’t keep up with the machinations of a 3 year old right now.

At the weekend we had a miraculous burst of Spring sunshine and the boy had his first go on two wheels, courtesy of a new balance bike from Uncle Amazon. Apparently this is how we teach children to ride bikes nowadays. As usual we’re a bit late to the party as most of his contemporaries seem to have had one for ages. But the boybot is never an early adopter with this sort of thing.

When it arrived I took him out to buy a helmet and was aghast to discover that it cost more than the bike! (Admittedly it was a cheap bike). Alas, by then the man in the shop had gone to the trouble of adjusting it for his head and I felt honour-bound to purchase. Remind me not to shop in my local ‘hood when I want a bargain.

As luck would have it, the arrival of his new bike coincided with a local kids’ event on the riverside, where he was given a medal for waddling around a simple little cycling course. (Suffice to say it was one of those events where every child is a winner).


We also queued for an INTERMINABLE period for face-painting, in which I had to fend off the boy’s unrealistic desires to have his face painted as a warthog.

“James – they don’t do warthogs.”
“How do you know?”
“Just trust me. Nobody ever does warthogs”

About 40 mins into the queue I realised that I was trapped in a 7th circle of hell, where I’d lost the will to live, but had invested enough time not to want to give up our place. Then I noticed that 90% of the available designs were for sparkly glitter-based things – and the only option that might appeal to James would be zebra stripes.

I also started having murderous thoughts about the dad in front of me who turned out to be placeholding for 5 or 6 little girls, all of whom wanted complicated designs with rainbows and butterflies and glitter. Grr!

Anyway…  after 700 years, or thereabouts, the boy got his zebra stripes, and we met up with his little pals and were able to plug their mouths with ice creams and flop down for a rest.  (What on earth has become of my Sundays?)



Last, but not least, this week is School decision week! I think we’ll find out on Thursday whether he’s got a place at any of the 3 schools we put down on his form. The outcome will probably affect how we feel about staying in the area, so I’m a little ambivalent about it all.

Will just have to wait and see…


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The final countdown

Eep. I appear to have a new due date.

All being well, Thing 2 will be making an appearance via elective Caesarian on Thursday 21st May, five days before her actual due date – and in the same week as  G’s birthday.

I’m relieved at the certainty of it. Ever since I decided that I’d rather avoid the impassable watermelon experience of last time, I’ve had to put some work in to fend off the VBAC missionaries.  But today I had my ginormous bump prodded by a doctor who commented that Thing 2 has already filled up every inch of my bonsai torso and still has weeks of growth ahead. Her prediction is that this is looking like a bigger baby than the microbe…  and given that he wouldn’t come out via the traditional route, it’s reasonable to plan for an alternative exit. (With any luck I might not need to buy shares in Tena Lady after all.)

So – this gives G and me just over 5 weeks of calm before the storm. The good news is that this is my last week of lumbering, puffing work commutes before I slope off into the sunset for a whole year!  Thank god for my stash of annual leave – I’m using up  several weeks before my maternity leave kicks in – and this shall henceforth be known as “the precious“.

Theoretically, I’ll be able to post the boybot off to nursery every day and loaf about with my inflated feet up. In reality I suspect my brain will just torture me with relentless naggage about all of the domestic things that I need to sort out before the arrival. G is going to be away for the whole of my first week off, so it’ll be just me and the boybot and no lazy lie-ins. But the joy of being able to zonk out for afternoon naps on my own sofa has much appeal.

I’ve been warned unanimously by my fellow mums to expect a shock to the system once Thing 2 arrives. Apparently two microbes are greater than the sum of their parts. Luckily for me I’ve forgotten pretty much everything about babies and what a faff they are. Because they get easier every year, your mind tends to blot out the memory of all of that dreary stuff as soon as you’re able to leave it behind. Hence I have only the vaguest, blurry recollections of those interminable periods of the past…  months on end in which the boybot wouldn’t go to sleep unless one of us sat doggedly beside his cot – or when I had to hold him for 24 hours a day – and just generally the whole zero  sleep thing.

It’s best to forget, yes?

In baby name news, I swear every time I read a tabloidy article predicting the royal baby name they seem to have added ANOTHER one of our shortlisted names to the list. I hope those buggers have a boy (and call it something other than James).

As for the boybot, I have lots of rambling to do but I shall save that for my next post…

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Rage against the machine

Last night the boybot went to sleep clutching a bag of buttons in his loving hand. I kid you not.

buttonsThe buttons in question were these forest animal ones that he’d found in my sewing box and pounced upon with glee and insisted on taking to bed with him. Before he fell asleep he announced that the skunk is is favourite, followed by the fox and then the deer.

To him, I suppose there’s no discernible difference between these and the tiny playmobil animals that he loves. One miniscule piece of animal shaped plastic is as good as another, yes?

I’d actually forgotten all about these buttons. My sewing box is a VOID of good intentions and most things that go into it fail to resurface for many a year…

But – this morning, in a fit of whimsy, I retrieved them from James’s bed and spent my District Line commute replacing the ones from one a neglected cardigan with these.  (This might now become his BEST CARDIGAN EVER …for a week or two).


On a related note, I had an inspiring chat last week with a crafty pal who has been stamping custom designs onto onesies for her baby-to-be. This reminded me that I’ve been quite uncrafty for a while but had long been meaning to have another go at customising some t-shirts for Things 1 and 2.

So – I dredged my fabric stash back out of the loft on Sunday and drew a few simple animal applique designs, heavily aided by Google clip art searches. Everything started well and I enjoyed making the patches. The frustrating bit came when I realised that my sewing machine was possessed by a fabric-hating demon from hell.

Not only did it chew up and ruin my favourite of the t-shirts by making holes in it – but it had minor wobblies on the other two as well and kept snapping the thread every 5 seconds and made my edge-stitching look irregular. In fact the only thing that it did a sterling job of was making the air blue. I was entirely unfit to be within earshot of microbes. Thank god the boybot fell asleep and the girlbot can’t understand English yet.

Still…  with the blessed undiscerning joy of a 3 year-old, Jimmy loves the t-shirts anyway. He’s disappointed by the holes in the narwhal shirt but was delighted to be allowed to wear it to bed – and he chose the hippo one to wear to nursery today.

As for me, I’ve discovered that that it’s well worth airing one’s crafty failings on Facebook, if you happen to have creative sewing gurus on your friends list. Thanks to some helpful feedback I have realised that:

a) Jersey fabrics are inherently evil – hence I should have used a layer of interfacing or tissue paper on the inside of the t-shirt when doing the edge stitching. I’d forgotten that I used interfacing on the inside last time and it worked much better. (I blame baby brain – I really shouldn’t be allowed near machinery right now.)

b) If I’d thought of it, I could have covered up the little holes in the narwhal shirt by adding some additional applique undersea bubbles.  I might still do this, actually, if I stop sulking and find the inclination. Otherwise it’s doomed to reside in the pyjama drawer for ever.

I do hope that I’ve now learned enough lessons about applique, so that my third attempt may turn out less shonky.  Otherwise I won’t be held responsible for my next bout of sewing machine rage. (The speed at which it can transform an otherwise peaceful, happy person into a mouth-foaming, homicidal maniac puts it on a par with printer rage, in my book).

In less mouth-frothing news, the boy and I made shredded wheat easter nests at the weekend. These are a mass of Cadbury badness, hence daddy and I can’t stop eating them.  (They’re nothing more than crumbled up shredded wheat mixed with a large block of melted Dairy Milk… + mini eggs on top).



So far there appears to be no mention of Easter bonnets in this week’s nursery newsletter. I don’t trust them though. They usually like to spring these things on us with an 8-second warning. Last year I ended up shrieking at around 11pm the night before and making one frantically out of paper… which turned out to be 8 sizes too small for the boy’s head.

Obviously I should have snuck into his room and measured his head, but I reckon my mistake was exacerbated by my belief that the boy has quite a little head compared with a lot of microbes. I swear some small children are made up of 50% head, 50% body.

When the boybot was two I bought him a pair of kiddie headphones so that he could watch The Lion King and other such nonsense on his iPad when daddy and I wanted some “quiet time”.  But they turned out to be bigger than I expected and, even on their most compact setting, would only stay up on his head if we wedged a pair of socks under the headband.

A year on, he’s now big enough to wear them without the socks – but his level of imprinting is such that he objects to the very idea of sockless headphoning. Hence here is is last night, watching Animals United with an entirely surplus pair of socks perched on top of his head.

Each to their own…



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