The Graduate

Yesterday G and I attended what might be, in equal measure, the cutest and daftest event ever. This was James’s graduation ceremony from nursery…  with mortar boards and scrolls and everything.


Apparently this sort of thing is all the rage at nurseries these days and the boybot had been ridiculously excited about it, counting the sleeps in the week running up to it. Hence on the day G and I had near-meltdown levels of excitement to contend with.

As might be expected, the event consisted of a sea of grinning parents holding up iPhones and SLR cameras. The kids did a song and dance show and the nursery had prepared some really sweet things, such as a photo slideshow of them throughout their years at nursery and a video compilation of them answering questions about their parents in an amusing fashion.

My favourite part was when each child stood up in turn and showed a drawing they’d done to illustrate what they want to be when they grow up. I think at least five of the boys must have been in cahoots – apparently they all wanted to be builders “because I like building things“.

True to form, our micro Chris Packham stood up and announced “When I grow up I want to be a Safari Keeper because I love sloths!


Rather alarmingly, every single girl, bar one, announced that she wanted to be “a mummy” when she grows up. Hmmm. I have no idea whether this is nature or nurture in action. The other girl – a particularly bright and confident child whose mother radiates an air of educated feminism – announced that she wants to be “a fairy princess“. Lord alive… what can you do?

Still – it was a fun day and the kids all looked like they were having a ball. I am really very sad that James is going to be saying goodbye soon to all of these friends that he’s known for years, not to mention the teachers that genuinely love them. I was keen to capture some pics for James to remember them all by.


Plus this cute little iPhone video…

Later on we took Captain Meltdown to a birthday BBQ with friends and captured this piece of silliness on video too…

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You’re the one for me, Fatty

I seem to have been incapable of blogging lately. My head is constantly whirring with funny little things that I want to jot down and remember but I can’t seem to find the time and then they slip away forever.

Still – the girlbot is 8 weeks old today and has been smiling for while now. I think she was 5 weeks when I captured this pic…


It goes an amazingly long way to compensate for the horrors of Gremlin O’Clock (aka 6 – 9pm) during which she is a writhing little malcontent who provides us with a daily soundtrack of WAAAH!

Still, she’s a good eater and seems to have crept up from the 25th percentile to the 50th. So accustomed are we to the lean and leggy Microbe, G and I are finding ourselves amused on a daily basis by the sight of proper little baby chubbs and dimples. Check out the tummy and thighs…


Up until now she’s been living the passive, unfocused life of a small baby – spending most of her time horizontal and being passed around from one family member to another at a series of gatherings.

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Recently she’s starting to look a bit more human and spends most of her time staring at things, thwacking at things and grinning at anyone who takes the time to engage with her face-to-face. She seems to enjoy being shown the pictures in James’s books – and he is more than happy to show them to her.

In a bid to combat second-child-syndrome (poor unphotographed child that she is) I am trying to nag myself into making iPhone videos to capture her early days. Here’s one from around 6 weeks…

What I really *must* try and capture on video – if only as a service to parentkind – is the miraculous effect that white noise has on her when she’s grizzling. Every time I show anyone they’re amazed – including my GP the other week, who wanted to know the name of the audio tracks so that she could pass it on to other mums.

In boybot news, sound the trumpets, for he is now 4! He had a birthday party and a trip to a farm… and there lies a whole blog post that failed to happen. Sorry Microbe. All I can say is that there are photos on Flickr and at some point I will upload a video or two.

But here are a few quick pics, for posterity





(By the way, I’m painfully aware that thank-you notes for both of my microbes are overdue. Please be assured that we are genuinely very grateful for gifts – just horribly tardy, as ever and I shall try to rectify things ASAP).

We’re now in the count-down to starting school and he’ll need to be measured for a uniform soon. His reception class is going to be called Van Gogh and will have 30 kids, all of whom are strangers to the microbe. We were sent a list of his fellow classmates and I’m half-hoping the boy might befriend one or two of them in particular, just so that I can get a look at the children that go with those names.

We went for a school visit a couple of weeks ago where the kids could run around for an hour and meet their future teachers. Only two teachers per class – a big jump from nursery, which has 3 kids to every teacher. Also, it also looked to me as though the majority of the other children already know each other – hence I had to drag myself out of my antisocial swamp and make a desperate bid to get phone numbers from a couple of other mums to see if I can arrange some play dates before school starts.

As for me, I still appear to have major baby brain. How long is that meant to last? It’s bad enough finding myself raving on about how I can’t find my phone – whilst talking on the phone, but on Monday I turned up a week early for Matilda’s 8-week GP appointment. (I have warned G that I am not to be trusted right now.)

Before I go, I shall just mention that I had some lovely hardback photo books made the other week. I’ve been meaning to do this for years, in lieu of paper photo albums, so I made four retrospective year books for James, starting from 2011. The photos run chronologically throughout each year and my plan is to make one for each child in future years.

These are the front covers


These are the back covers


And here are some examples of the inside layouts

samples1 samples3

I realise it’s a bit meta to take photos of photos but I wanted to pass on a recommendation in case anyone else is thinking of doing likewise. I know there are a gazillion places that will print photo books nowadays but I decided to use one called Blurb.

It’s based in the USA but it has a UK version of the website and the delivery was fast. I chose it because I liked their styling options for the books – and because their user interface for creating the book layouts is nice and intuitive.

The only downsides are that you have to place an order for your book within 15 days of designing it, otherwise it’ll be deleted from their server and you have to start again. Also some of my books arrived with a page stuck together along the top edge, which was annoying and caused a bit of ink to lift at the edges – but G couldn’t spot where that happened so I guess it’s not noticeable.

If anyone does decide to use Blurb, wait for one of their special offers, unlike me who paid full price and then got an email a week later about their 35% off promotion – bah!


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More sad news

It has been a bad few weeks for our family. So shortly after losing Pops, today’s sad post is to record that we lost Grandpa Bob on Friday, following a battle with cancer.

One of the most steadfast, decent and generous men I’ve known, he played a huge role in my young life and liked to hide his softness under a veneer of grumpy Yorkshireman. To me he was a father and, to James, he liked to refer to himself as ‘GPM’, which stood for ‘Grandpa Meldrew’ (as if that would have convinced anyone who knew him).

We’re sad to say goodbye to you, GPM, and sending all our love now to Jackie. x


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Fly away Peter

Jimmy and I had an animal rescue mini-drama at the allotment site today…

I was footling about behind the shed when my eagle-eyed henchman came running over and told me that he was sad because a little bird (a thrush, I think) was trapped in some netting nearby.  We thought it was probably dead as it was tightly tangled up at ground level and not moving. But when I approached it started flapping about in panic.

The good news is that we were able to snip away the netting carefully and the bird flew away with no apparent damage done. I don’t know how long the poor thing had been trapped but it had enough energy left to bite me repeatedly and make itself as objectionable as possible while I was attempting to help it.

As the microbe’s first animal rescue experience (I doubt it will be his last) this was probably the highlight of his weekend. I made sure to tell him that the bird was only alive thanks to him. I doubt I’d have spotted it and in fact we were only at the allotment on his request.

In baby news, we introduced Matilda to some high contrast baby books this morning – the same set that I had for the boybot when he was tiny.  James was interested to see a photo of himself looking at them when he was 4 weeks old and still had his weird Clive Anderson hairdo. Then, for fun, we decided to stage a matching picture of Matilda.

Once again, like brother like sister… (you can click to view them larger)

Next Monday it’s going to be Pops’s funeral, which will be a sad and difficult day. G and I were discussing whether or not to bring the boy along but we’ve decided to try and arrange things so that we can leave him at home. He’s unlikely to understand what’s going on and the last thing that grieving people need is a small, confused child running about with no grasp of how to behave. We’ll have to bring the girl with us for feeding purposes but I’ll cross my fingers and hope that she sleeps through the service.

James’s new school has organised an induction meeting for parents on the same day, but I’m hoping that they’ll offer a way for us to get the information separately, given the circumstances.

On a happier topic, I can’t believe my little microbe is going to be four in 6 days’ time!*

He’s spotted some packages arriving and knows that they’re top secret and related to his birthday, which has introduced him to an entirely new sort of agony – he’s been unaware of this sort of suspense until now. Suffice to say I have to be extra good at hiding stuff nowadays.

We still haven’t decided what to do with him on the day, but it’ll probably involve a farm or a local show or a museum. Firming up the plans is on my to-do list for this week…  that and sorting out the party bags and cake for his party on the Sunday. Fingers crossed for nice weather…

* ps – for those family members who were wondering, I can confirm that his amazon wish list is fully up to date – and if anyone is desperate for a  further hint, I have a feeling he’d *really* like the toy sloth! 

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Sad news

For personal reasons, this is just a brief post to mark and remember some sad family news.

Yesterday evening we lost Pops. He was a well loved man with a large family and will be terribly missed by everyone. I’m especially devastated for Granny, who has lost a husband, and for G and his siblings, who’ve lost a father.

I’m sad that Matilda won’t remember her grandfather but I’m glad that she did at least meet him once, even though he’d fallen drastically ill by then and was unable to hold her.

We haven’t told James the news yet – we need to think how to do it in a way that he’ll understand. My hope is that he will remember Pops fondly as the person who made him lovely things from wood, such as his toybox and his book box.

Only a few weeks ago, when all seemed well, we had a celebratory meal with Granny and Pops in Richmond and he gave us a little wooden sign that he’d made for James to stake out his patch on the allotment. It feels even more precious now.

Sending all of our love to Granny x

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You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals

IMG_1234Last week James kissed Matilda and then exclaimed gleefully

“Mummy, she looks like a pig!”

I was all set to say “That’s not very kind” when I realised two things:

  1. In Jamesworld, in which there is no finer animal than a warthog, being told that you look like a pig does not count as an insult.
  2. I had to concede that she did indeed look a little bit piggy on that day.  (I even took a pic…  yes I am a terrible mother.)

Bless her. I think it’s just that snub nose… and the fact that she hasn’t got her eyelashes yet – and her jaundice suntan has faded to the finest shade of Pinky and Perky.

She scrubs up cute though…

In fairness, I don’t think James was any less porcine at her age, though he was a little less tubby of tummy and chubby of limb. Matilda is definitely squidgier.

One thing the boybot shared was her affliction with milk spots – in fact I think he had them worse than she does. Hers tend to flare up when she’s hot, especially if I take her out in the sunshine – then they pretty much disappear again at night when the temperature cools down.

It’s an amazing thing about baby skin – how their faces can transform from spotty teenager to flawless peach in the space of a few hours. Right now she’s looking positively peachy, but I won’t be at all surprised if she goes red and blotchy again this afternoon as I’m planning to take her out for an al fresco lunch in the sunshine with daddy.

This morning I realised that she’s exactly three weeks old. If she’d made it to 40 weeks without being evicted, she’d only be 2 weeks old – though I have no idea whether that makes any real difference to their development. As it is, her eyes are open more often this week, but they’re a little cloudy looking and it’s hard to tell what she’s looking at or what colour they’ll end up being. She still doesn’t really do much apart from sleep, eat and create emissions. I think it’s at least another couple of weeks before she’ll be able to hold her head up or give us her first genuine smile.

One thing I can say is that she’s nowhere near as ladylike as her brother. Awake or asleep, life is pretty much one long audio track of snuffling, snoring and explosive nappy noises. That and some very strange squawking noises that cause G and me to wonder if we accidentally gave birth to a baby T-rex.

Meanwhile, in big brother world, little Jamesy Attenborough has been showing a disconcerting level of interest in the animal mechanics of breastfeeding. “It’s because you’re a mammal, mummy!” Having no memory of his own days at the boob cafe hasn’t stopped him from wanting to advise me at every opportunity – (e.g. by pointing to a boob and saying “she’s hungry, mummy, why don’t you give her that one?“).

Er, thanks James…  (is ‘toddlersplaining’ a word yet?)

On a similarly patronising note, he came home last week singing a song that they’d learned at nursery, which has these lyrics:

I’m squashing up my baby bumblebee
What will my mummy say to me?
Yuk! I’ve got bee all over me!

At this point the poor microbe was forced to learn exactly what his mummy would say to him, as I launched into a lecture about the agricultural importance of bees and why we must never squash them. He listened to all of this patiently and then responded, with a faint air of pity:

“Mummy, it’s only a song, It’s not real life”

Well, that’s me told.

In other news, the boybot had a lovely weekend at some local fairs and events. On Saturday we went to a Gruffalo storytime with his pals and he met the brilliant Axel Scheffler who signed his book and drew a little custom illustration of the fox, at James’s request.

Then on Sunday we went to our local community fair and he had a little horse ride and got his face painted and met the filth, and so on…

Recently I’m reminded that I have to be careful what I say to the boybot, for fear of having it repeated back to me later.  As is the lot of small children with siblings, all of James’s requests these days for drinks/attention/stories/activity/anything whatsoever are met with the default response “in a minute” or “in five minutes“, depending on how generous I’m feeling.

Unfortunately for James, a grown-up minute can equate to anywhere between one toddler hour or 300 toddler years, depending on the ratio of toddler urgency to parental fobbing-off.  This has not gone unnoticed by the microbe, hence he asked me last week “Mummy, is five minutes a long time?” and I replied “Well for grown-ups it’s a very short time indeed, but for children it generally feels like eternity

Since then, all of my fob-offs have been met with “But Mummy! For me that’s a VERY long time!”  Ach…  I’m afraid that you might just have to suck it up for now, little boy.

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Fly-by observations

There are lots of curious things about parenting that only become clear afterwards.  For example, having gone to the effort of conceiving, growing and delivering a baby, it’s interesting to note that:

  1. The moment they arrive, 90% of your time is spent striving for ways to ‘switch them off’ again.
  2. If, at any point, you achieve this feat, it’s surprising how long you can tolerate sitting in a pile of projectile milk-sick, in order to avoid waking them up again.

Hmmm. Lets just say that I am not currently in a fit state to answer the door, should the postman come a-knocking…

I am sure I had lots more to say than this when I opened up WordPress, but I seem to have forgotten all of it. Never mind.  All is well, and anyway I’d be better off trying to cram in some lunch before howling ensues than footling about on here.

More later…


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