Thursday, February 27, 2014

Time out and tunnels

The weather seems to have picked up at last so Samuel and I have been making the most of it and getting out and about.  

On Tuesday we went on an adventure to Westfield Stratford to meet Laura and reacquaint ourselves with the amazing P Diddy's yacht-style parent rooms there which I've written about in the past. As far as massive shopping malls go, it's suprisingly quiet, serene and baby-friendly. Especially on a Tuesday morning in February. We went to Giraffe and me and Samuel worked our way through an enormous stack of blueberry and banana pancakes as Laura and I gossiped.

Wednesday was gorgeously sunny so we headed out with our NCT friends to investigate a hidden playground just up the road from us. I'd heard rumours about its existence in the past but it was so well concealed from the main road I'd never spotted it. Turns out it's a lovely little gem - tiny and safe but with a big old adventure playground. We had it all to ourselves so Samuel and his pal were free to run around and explore. And explore they did, climbing through tunnels and over bridges all wide-eyed and broad-grinned. It's so brilliant watching a kid getting excited about doing things for the first time and I don't think I'll ever get bored of that. It's cool getting to hang out with a 15-month-old all day every day.

Well, not quite all day every day. Last night I ducked out of bathtime and headed into town to celebrate L's birthday with a massive steak at the Soho Kitchen and Bar. So good. So was the white wine at the time, but not so much today. Anyway, there will probably be plenty more of that this weekend when I'm off for a break in Manchester to visit Little Sis. I'll be away for the best part of two days and it'll be my first night away from Samuel. I'm really excited, though. It's going to be fun. And when I get home from there I'll be putting the brakes on all this lady-of-leisure business since neither my bank balance nor my Roman Catholic guilt complex at the occasional abandonment of my child will be able to take it anymore. But it'll have been a damn good week.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


He's been able to walk for months and tearing around the flat like a maniac, but when we've been out and about, Samuel has generally chosen not to. Maybe he just felt a bit insecure when I clumsily plonked him on the ground. Maybe he got freaked out by the freedom and wasn't sure what to do with it. Or maybe he was feeling lazy and just preferred to be toted around like a little emperor. I'd be with him on that one.

Either way, all of this changed this week when he decided to run free in the park. It was truly exciting to see a curious, free range baby out in the wild. Or at least it was until I discovered that I literally couldn't keep up with him and - oh no - there he was flat on his face on the concrete underneath the big swings ... and the big kids on the big swings. All of which made me realise it was time to get using his little dinosaur backpack which he got from Aunty Lucy for Christmas and came complete with, for want of a better description, a baby lead. He loved it. I loved it. I also went a bit melty thanks to the cute factor and the fact my little boy seems to be growing up.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The infinite fabulousness of grannies

I was recovering from norovirus. Samuel was full of cold and ennui thanks to too many indoor days and too much of me. And then my mum appeared and made everything better. 

For the past week or so she has kept us both company and kept us both sane. She sang nursery rhymes, tickled a little tummy, boiled kettles, arranged flowers, sat on see-saws, made M&S runs, and produced crayons and superhero pyjamas out of her incredible Mary Poppins suitcase. Granny Kate really is rather amazing. What's more, she insisted on babysitting and packed me and James off for not just one night out, but two. TWO! Two nights of lipstick and dresses and polished shoes and dinners at dimly-lit tables with conversation that did not revolve around nappy contents or council incompetences. Man, it was good to go out. Hopefully it won't take us another 15 months to do it again.

So, it's been a great few days with Mum. We did rhyme time at the library, followed by a coffee and some banana (nanana) cake. We made two visits to the park which Samuel adored more than ever before. It may have had something to do with his new-found freedom now that he's wearing the baby reigns that Aunty Lucy bought for him (best present ever). Then on Saturday Granny Pat paid us a visit as well, and the little lad was completely giddy with excitement - there was so much granny love and attention going on, I thought that he might explode. 

Monday, February 17, 2014


This morning on the radio I heard Cate Le Bon say that germs and bugs stuck to her like Velcro. Well, I think it's the same with us Chittendens this winter. With Norovirus, colds and teething all going on, Samuel and I have been stuck indoors a lot again this week so we've had to make fun where we can. And the other day he made a marvellous job of it with a couple of heavy babywipe multipacks. Seriously, these things weigh a ton, but that didn't stop him from pushing them around his room, then picking them up and carrying them from one end of the room to the other like sandbags. And look at that little face. Surely nothing else in the world could have been more fun.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My filthy Valentine's day

Our first night out together since before Samuel came along. That was the plan. The restaurant was booked, I'd planned my outfit and the babysitter was arranged. 

We soon discovered that the downside of going on a night out is that you spend the entire day that precedes it cleaning your flat so as not to be judged by the babysitter. I cleaned things that hadn't been cleaned since before Samuel came along. I managed to get the first few layers of grease off the oven hood, for example, but I have to concede that it's still very much a work in progress.

So mid-afternoon came along and a funny feeling hit me. The excited flutters of a romantic evening in prospect, perhaps? No. Norovirus. I made it to the loo in the nick of time and wretched and vommed like a champion. Samuel followed me and stood in the bathroom doorway laughing uproariously each time I hurled. 

And couldn't stop. I projectile yakked onto James's dressing gown while speaking to a NHS Direct nurse on the phone. She told me to go to see my GP so James got me an emergency appointment and I blew chunks in the waiting room while Samuel happily pootled around. He also decided that this very public forum was the perfect time to add a new word to his vocabulary. What he was trying to say was 'shoe', however he struggled with the vowel and replaced the last two letters of the word with 'it'. Unfortunate given our reasons for being there.

But basically, the upshot was that date night was cancelled and James spent Valentine's night emptying my sick bucket while I rolled around in agony in increasingly disgusting bed sheets that reminded me of something from Down and Out in Paris and London. Bloody Cupid.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Things that I have heard myself say today

'Did you just take a bite out of my shower cap?'

'Can you take your head out of there, please?'

'How did you get poo on your knee?'

'Oh. That's how you got poo on your knee.'

'Have you ever seen Mummy dive head first off the sofa into the ball pool? No you bloody well haven't.'

'No, that's an orange, not a "nanana". You're getting orange and banana mixed up. It's important we say the right word for the right fruit. Can you say orange?'

*Four hours later, brandishing an orange and trying to diffuse a tantrum:*

'Would you like a nanana? Look! Mummy's got a nanana!'

Monday, February 10, 2014


It's been an indoor kind of week. That's partly because of the apocalyptic rain and partly because I've come a cropper with Mangled Mum Back (I'm sure that's the medical term for it) and I can't carry Samuel down the stairs right now. This has meant that imaginative rainy day toddler entertainment has been required. Quite a lot of it.

Before I became a mum, I genuinely considered myself to be a creative person. My job was all about creative writing. I worked within the Creative team. People referred to me as 'a creative'. But after a week stuck indoors with a toddler, I've come to realise that when it comes to fun activities for a one-year-old, I don't have a creative bone in my body. 

First off, I built a den. Samuel thought it was fun for five minutes, then got bored and toddled off to watch Mister Maker. I stayed in the den and read Twitter undisturbed, so it definitely wasn't time wasted. Then I went around the flat carefully selecting weird and wonderful household items to go in a treasure box (aka a Cadbury's Heroes tub) for him. The feather duster was a momentary success, as were the many Clinique containers that I filled with rice and pasta, but mainly he just wanted to play with the lid of the tub. But we did find one thing that provided hours of amusement: my green scarf. Samuel stole it from me for numerous games of hide and seek. He'd then run around the flat with it over his shoulders and trailing behind him like a red-carpet Oscars gown. 

If we don't manage to get out much more this coming week then I'm seriously considering signing up for clown school.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Back to basics

I've never really considered my body to be a temple. More of a canteen in a factory on an industrial estate, really, but there's nothing like having a baby to make you reevaluate what you eat. 

Up until a while ago I thought that Samuel would still be wanting me to spoon-feed him smooth mush until he does his GCSEs, but then he suddenly got a whole lot better at using his hands to feed himself. It's been excellent. And not just because it means we can bid farewell to our expensive friends at Ella's Kitchen and Organix (yep, guilty as charged), but also because now we can all eat the same things at mealtimes, which is surely the main goal of weaning a baby. The only problem has been making sure that the things we eat at mealtimes are less unhealthy. Less processed. Less, er, beige.

Don't get me wrong, we cook from scratch a lot, but sometimes after a long day at work or with a toddler it's just so easy to grab some kievs and oven chips from the freezer and revel in their stodgy, garlicky comfort.

But recently we've been putting a lot more thought into our grocery shopping and eating much better as a result. In an effort to go more seasonal and to not keep falling back on the same old faithfuls in the fruit and veg aisle, we ordered a weekly fruit and veg box. I'm finding this way more exciting than I should be. We get things in it that I'd rarely consider buying at the supermarket, so it means Samuel gets plenty of variety and I get plenty of cooking inspiration. There's currently a mango sitting in our fruit bowl and I'm planning on creating a mango hedgehog for us later. Yes, a mango hedgehog. And yes, being a stay-at-home mum really does have an effect on your grip of reality. 

Maybe that's why I've started making my own bread as well. I love bread, but I've always had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about all the unnecessary rubbish they put in mass-produced loaves, so I figured we'd all be better off if we went home made. I dusted off my notes from the amazing Virtuous Bread course I went on the other year and I got cracking. It's just as easy as I remember it being and there's something extremely therapeutic about pummelling a ball of dough after a morning of tantrums. It tastes pretty good, but the best reward by far is seeing your child eat a sandwich that you made with your own fair hands. 

I don't know if this healthy kick will last for long - the lure of the kievs is strong - but I'm certainly enjoying it at the moment. What's more, I swear all this fresh fruit and veg is making me feel a bit better and a bit less tired. So, yeah. Breaking news from Knittenden: fruit and veg and homemade bread is actually good for you. I like nothing more than to enlighten my readers on radical new ideas such as these.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


Another week, another new obsession: a fluffy dressing gown. Samuel grabs it off his radiator and waves it in front of me, shouting until I put it on him, regardless of the time of day. It's all a bit Hugh Hefner. And yet extremely cute. I feel conflicted.

In other news, I get full marks for being an excellent social secretary this week, accompanying Samuel on no less than FOUR play dates (okay so one was in a pub, but it had toys in there, so I think that still counts, right?) and to one baby class. He's going through a really clingy phase at the mo and it takes him a loooooong time to warm up around other kids, but once I've finally prised his fingers from around my neck and he's comfortable, he's a giggle monster. 

One of the play dates was at my cousin Jayne's house in Brentford, which was a big adventure for us. Four trains and no grumbles - amazing. It was wonderful to finally meet Harry, her handsome little ten-month-old. What's more it was great to be reminded that I do have family down here - and incredibly good timing given that I'm missing my mum and sister like mad these days. Exciting plans are afoot for catching up with them soon, though, so everything's rosy. Well, not quite everything; there are the ongoing issues we're having with our freeholders and the nappy changing issues we're having with the boy. Each change resembles a WWE wrestling match, just with less Lycra and more poo. But the less said about these two things the better. The sun is shining and Guy Garvey is on the radio so that'll do. I leave you with a photo of when Harry met SP.