November 29, 2011


Last weekend, we made the bold step of asking our boys to share a room for the first time in their little lives.  Both boys have always had their own rooms, right from the very first day we brought them home from the hospital, their only experiences of sharing have been limited to the three and then four of us crammed into a little room at Straddie or similar.  Not always successful and not always (if ever) enjoyable.

But, with the arrival of a dear friend who's staying for almost four weeks imminent, we thought it was an opportune time to take a step we've been talking about taking for some time.

So far (four nights in) so good.  Their little room which is little more than 3mx3m is a bit crammed full of their beds, toys, clothes and books but it's definitely cute and cosy (not so appealing when it's 29c at 6am) and it's freed up a whole room that Max did little more than sleep in.  They have always played together in Ollie's room and all the toys have lived in there, we really only had to work out how to cram Max's cot and his change table in there.  They have been going to bed reasonably well, although we still put Max down first while Ollie reads on his own for a bit and then gets another story or two or three before he tip-toes into Max's room and clambers into bed before very quietly stalling for the usual 45 minutes or so, asking for more water, to go to the toilet, for another Tigger, another hug...

And so, we now have space for Kate who arrives this weekend.  It's a mess right now but every evening this week we are embarking on 'Project Arrival' which involves moving furniture, setting up a bed (if we can find all the bits) and making things pretty so by Saturday, we should have a comfortable room for Kate and some semblance of calm.

I'm so excited but nervous too.  It's been a long time since we've played host to anyone, I don't think we have since mum visited 20 months ago, just after Max was born.  She stayed for three weeks and we were so preoccupied with looking after the boys and getting to know Max, it was a bit of a blur.  Kate's staying for almost 4 weeks, which is longer than anyone has stayed with us and I'm a little worried about the chaos that she will be contending with when she's here and how well we will be able to make her stay memorable and for the right reasons.  We've known each other for 17 years, but in that time, my life has changed dramatically, and it's been some time since we've spent more than a fleeting evening together, let alone four weeks.  Sometimes I think I can't really remember what's it's like to be myself, the person I was before I became a mum and my life became a list of endless tasks and chores.  What will I say and do when she is here?

But more than anything, I'm excited.  I'm excited that she will be here to make Christmas with us, help us adorn the tree, cook delicious food, share hot, humid summer evenings together on our back deck, talking about where we are in life, her incredible experiences seeing this world, and the trivialities of life.  She'll be here when we celebrate Will's birthday (weather permitting with an afternoon of drinks, fairy lights and music in our back garden) and she'll be here on Christmas morning when Ollie is going bananas over presents and Santa.  She'll be here when he's throwing tantrums, she'll be here when we are too exhausted to do anything after the kids are in bed but sit very still, she'll be here when we are folding piles and piles of laundry and she'll be here when I am thinking about her.  She won't be 10,000 miles away, or asleep when I'm awake, or working when I'm dreaming.

She'll be right here, in our home.  And we'll be together.

November 17, 2011

jumping on the bandwagon

Yes, I too love Instagram but no, I'm not going to turn this into a blog of all my Instagram shots because (a) I love our real camera too much and (b) most of my Instagrams are a bit naff.

But the occasional badly exposed and wonkily framed Instagram is sweet, isn't it?

November 15, 2011

new banana bread

I made banana bread, to use up the very black bananas that have appeared since our kids decided they don't like bananas after all and thank goodness, because who wants to pay $8 for three bananas?  It feels a little extravagant to be using bananas in a cake when we should be savouring them in the monkey style but let's face it, we all like cake way more than we pretend to like the bananas.

I have posted a recipe for banana bread before, and it's a good one, but I think I've found one better, lighter, more flavoursome.  Here it is, based on a recipe from the good old Beeb. I added the milk choc chips, and beat the dickens out of the butter and the sugar so it was fluffy light and white in the KitchenAid before plonking in the rest of the ingredients.

285g/10oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
110g/4oz very soft unsalted butter
225g/8oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
4-5 ripe bananas, mashed (I used 5 quite big ones)
85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
A couple of handfuls of chocolate chips (milk or dark, but milk was good)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  REALLY light and REALLY fluffy.
Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into the tin.
Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.  (Ours took about 65 mins.)
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Very nice indeed.

November 13, 2011

childcare update

There's been some progress on the childcare front.  We've managed to get Ollie into a local community childcare centre that we all (that's all of us) love.  It's walking distance from our home and the local train station, the staff are kind and cheery, the centre directors are happy, proactive people that want to do the best they can for the centre and for the families that go there and the centre itself has very lovely open gardens and play spaces.  Sounds too good to be true, right?

It is, a little.  We've only got Ollie in there for now, and for 1 day a week.  We still have no place for Max and we need 3 days for each of them.  The centre directors are doing what they can to get us the care we need as soon as possible but it's looking unlikely that we'll get both boys in until late March 2012.

So, some of the stress is abated, but we need to work out what we are doing after Christmas until March, assuming both boys will have places by then.  At least we are in somewhere.

Oh, and we had to start straight away to get in (we've been on the waiting list for over three years there), so Ollie had his first day there last week.  He had a great day.  He played, didn't cry when we left, slept when he was supposed to and ate most of his lunch.  In fact, when we both arrived to take him home, he wasn't too happy at the thought of leaving.  This week he was a little more cautious, his carers told me he asked to go home a few times, but he still had a good day.  I'm a little nervous for him tomorrow, he's back there, all on his own, the little guy, no friends yet, unfamiliar faces, toys he's yet to discover...

And Max?  Dear little Max, he had his first ever day in the whole of his life without his mum or brother when he went to Sue's on his own.  After being a little lost initially, he soon found his stride, and he too had a good day.

As I write this, my little boys are sleeping.  I am so proud of them, their tenacity, their stubbornness, their sweet natures and their ability to stand their ground even when everything and everyone is working against them.  And of course, their willingness to try new things.  It wasn't long ago that I would have doubted Ollie's ability to just walk into a new childcare centre and fit in.  But he did it and seemed to take it in his stride.  It might not always be smooth going, and I know this period of transition has yet to take its toll on him and our family, but we've started a journey we had to take.

November 10, 2011

party in the park

Another successful birthday party, this time in our local park, which has recently been revamped after it was flooded in January.  The kids love that place, the play equipment is fantastic, there's a little toy firetruck that the kids love to go and rescue people/things in, and plenty of trees for shade.

It was a mammoth organisational feat to get everything ready for this morning's party.  Not because we over-complicated anything, but because we don't have grandparents or aunts or uncles to call upon to lend a hand, so it's all down to the two of us, from baking the cake to blowing up the balloons before cramming everything into our car and getting down to the park before everyone arrives whilst at the same time keeping the children safe/entertained/fed and ready.  It's not just food, it's chairs, tables, decorations, picnic blankets... so much to think about.  That said, we did have some help on the day from a neighbour, and there were plenty of offers once we were at the park to help with the kids/food/setting up, so we know some wonderful people.

And so we did it, we made hoummus, sausages (from the only butcher we know and love), home made cheese and potato pies, salads, cupcakes (store bought - I'm not a martyr), there was cheese, crackers, chips and drinks, sunshine and almost everyone we invited came along.  We blew up 40 balloons and tied them to the trees.  Oh, and the highlight?  Ollie's dump truck birthday cake, his Tonka truck cleaned out and filled to the brim with rich chocolate brownies. It was as simple as a triumph can be, if a little rich for the kids, inspired by a link from a friend at work who looks after me.

The boys, their pa and I spent the afternoon after the party the garden, going through all the gifts Ollie was so lucky to receive.  Lucky doesn't even tell you the half of it.  Those kids are blessed.
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