Wednesday, 29 February 2012

One giant leap...


This year is a leap year and today was our 'extra day'. I am failing to see the positives in gaining this extra twenty-four hours. Dear lift-share friend and I had no real clue what day it was this morning, but I always think it is Thursday on a Wednesday. We did manage a sneaky coffee-stop though, so I guess this cloud has a caffeine-infused silver lining.

My confusion was compounded during lesson one as I realised my usually trusty digital watch was rather (un)helpfully declaring today to be 1st March.

This week seems to be taking its time to roll over and allow the weekend to take centre stage. It seems to be the curse of the working mum to live for the weekends - there I go again, missing the journey in hot pursuit of the destination that is the weekend.

We drove past a dear friend and colleague (and veteran of the lift-share) on the way home. She's on maternity leave and was returning from a trip to the park, black lab on lead in one hand and Bugaboo with baby boy in the other. It was with a desperate nostalgia that I listened to her confusion over days blurring into each other in an idyllic bubble of babies, yoga, coffees and catch-ups (okay, I can live without the yoga). I can barely remember my maternity leave. I can barely remember my own name most days, so I guess I shouldn't feel too disheartened.

I always think of Wednesday as the 'hump' of the working week, and Wednesday evening marks the descent to the magical valley that is the weekend. Dexter did his own bit of climbing when we got home this evening. Today's #366 photo is of him making his merry way up the stairs. I was quite proud of my little pet baby, heaving himself up each step. He did nearly topple off shortly after the photo was taken, so I carried him the rest of the way.

Despite his long days at nursery, it is lovely to see some 'firsts' myself. I put the boy to bed about twenty minutes ago. It's the first time he's been put to bed without his precious dummy. He's still not quite settled, despite being tired from his 'extra day'. I may have to relent and accept that this 'first' isn't going to happen today.

Ah well. Small steps.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Having a ball!


Today I experienced something I haven't felt at all since giving birth to the boy: I missed my bump. Only for a nano-second mind, and for no real reason other than a brief flashback whilst walking down a particular set of stairs at school. I was suddenly transported back to being quite heavily pregnant and waddling round the corridors, often with students staring at my tummy in mild disbelief. There's something quite special about a pregnant woman, and you are generally treated with a sense of reverence - when the sprog's popped out, you become 'just another mum'.

There is some irony to having a moment of nostalgia for my pregnancy as I was generally rubbish at being pregnant and, *whispers*, I didn't really enjoy it. This was largely due to the fact that I had pretty bad morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness until quite a late stage. I also found lugging around a permanently attached small person quite hard work. I was very lucky in that I had a very neat little football of a bump, the classic shape (if the old wives are to be believed), for carrying a boy.

I was wondering if there was any connection between my little 'in utero football', and Dexter's favourite new toy: balls of any description (see an earlier post for how he is taking this quite literally...). The boy loves nothing more than pushing around and chasing his inflatable Gymboree beach ball (a gift from Gymbo), or his little dinosaur-print ball (a gift from Santa), and gets very distressed if they get stuck under the table/the bed/my foot (if I'm trying to get his attention). Perhaps he is destined for a career as a Premiership footballer, or he just has a secret desire to be a labrador.

Just as I had a moment of bump-nostalgia today, I was informed at the nursery pick-up that Dexter has had to be given extra food for the second day running, despite being sent in with a packed lunch-box every day. The boy seems to be cultivating his own little rotund belly. It's very cute, but if my career prediction is correct, he's going to have to start working on developing some Beckham-esque abs and stop stealing food from babies...

Monday, 27 February 2012

I'll be there for you...


Today's #366 photo was taken on the way to school this morning. I was not engaged in some 'crazy driving whilst simultaneously taking photos' stunt; I was in the back of the car as it is my week off and dear friend's turn to drive. This may not seem a big deal to most people, but I relish the week off from being at the wheel. I get to sit in the back with the boy, do some chatting and peek-a-boo games, and generally have some extra Dexter time during our increasingly epic commute.

I have mentioned my lovely lift-share ladies before. They are absolutely brilliant about the working mummy crazy juggling act. One of them has done the Huffle-Shuffle herself for several years, and now juggles the job with a school-age daughter. The other really understands that my sanity and ability to cope with the significant demands of teaching full-time and being mummy to a little 'un, are greatly supported by such intervention.

I left home at eighteen, to come to Brighton and study at The University of Sussex - a decision made solely on the size of Sussex Uni's prospectus and the fact it had deckchairs on the front. Whilst I am fiercely proud of my Northern roots, Brighton is my home now, and so my family remain a couple of hundred miles away. The husband has lived in various far-flung locations during his childhood and his parents now reside in the depths of the Kent countryside. In the absence of a geographically-close blood-family, our 'modern urban family' has been of increasing importance.

The husband and I have a (rightfully) rubbish reputation amongst our friends for actively staying in touch or being at the helm of organising get-togethers. Nevertheless, we are fortunate enough as a little family, to have a brilliant bunch of buddies who have offered invaluable support and friendship.

Whilst you won't find us spending endless hours in pun-tastic coffee shops, strumming guitars along to songs of whiffy felines, we truly feel we have a group of people who will be there for us.

Having a child only seemed to increase this support network, and our NCT classes introduced us to more firm friends whilst Dexter was still cooking away in my tummy.

The boy himself seems to be emerging from his baby's chrysalis and turning into a social butterfly. Only this morning at the Huffle drop-off, I bumped into his little 'girlfriend', Lily. The Huffle ladies had already told me that Lily's favourite word is 'Dexter'. Lily's mummy added to this loveliness by informing me that the only way she gets Lily out of bed in the morning and to nursery is with the promise that she will see Dexter there. The husband will be proud, I thought. He was, and also deadly serious when telling me that he was the only reason I get out of bed in the mornings. Hmmm...

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tantrums and Teeth


Today was a beautiful day, but seemed to be filled with inconsistencies and contradictions.

It was wonderfully sunny with a clear blue sky (somewhat incongruous for February), and yet was still on the chilly side - well, I was still wearing an enormous coat. I had my riding lesson at the same time as last week, on the same horse as last week, but it was all just somehow better than last week. I had some brakes for a start - always an advantage when careering round an arena on an enormous animal.

When I got back from riding, the online grocery shop had arrived, thus saving us a visit to the supermarket. However, it was missing a whole heap of stuff (most of which was food and nappies for Dexter), and required four phonecalls, and an equal number of tantrums (from me), to sort it out. I stroppily pointed out to the four people I spoke to, that there was some inconsistency in the supermarket's promise to: 'Make more time for yourself by shopping online', given I spent so long on the phone chasing up my order. I also refused to stay in for the re-delivery of the missing items, unless they arrived pretty sharpish: churlish, but necessary.

The boy has been a little inconsistent today too. He's either been all giggles, gurgles and filled with the joys of Spring, or whiny, teary and rolling around on the floor as depicted in today's #366 photo. His latest 'thing' seems to be to stop, mid-crawl and fling himself onto his back. I fear this manoeuvre may well be a precursory 'warm-up' to the infamous and terrible tantrums of toddlerhood. I also fear he is McGrizzle of Grizzledom because he's cutting some more of those pesky teeth.

Team Wayne popped out for a quick scoot round in the fresh air this afternoon. We dropped by Boots the chemist to pick up some formula (bloomin' missing from the online shop), and so I stocked up on teething granules and Calpol while we were there. I thought the shop assistant was being overly friendly and interested, but I think I was actually subject to a surreptitious cross-examination about the number of baby medicines I was purchasing...

One of the only things that has been truly consistent about today is that, as usual, I've left all of my schoolwork until Sunday evening. There was no point in having a tantrum about it; it has to be done. It's approaching half-ten and I had just finished it before blogging.

Tomorrow, it's back to the constant treadmill of the working week. Better get some sleep then. 'Night.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Wedding Bells


Today, I forsook some weekend family time to indulge in some bridesmaid dress shopping with a lovely friend who is getting wed in July. It was good fun and a really lovely excuse to hang out with girlfriends on a Saturday afternoon. The bride is a new mummy to a gorgeous little boy, and it got me thinking about my wedding, two and a half years ago.

I loved planning our wedding - I'm a huge fan of a 'project'/anything that involves some sort of nerdy scrapbook and attention to detail. The loveliest thing that our guests said about the day was that the whole look and feel was very 'us'; we'd really worked hard at making it a personal day. Dexter's middle name (Rye), is a tribute to the place where we got married - a little bit 'Posh and Becks', but hey, I don't care.

We had a 'no kids' rule at our wedding, and a number of our guests were (relatively) new parents - cue some quite extreme 'letting down' of parental hair...

In fact, during our quite long engagement (at the time, it seemed to rival the gestation period of a baby elephant), I was adamant I never wanted kids. We were living the dream, and I saw no good reason to chuck a small, noisy, pukey creature into the equation - I was happy to fulfil that role myself after a big night out.

It's true what they say though, and the old biological clock kicked in a few months after the husband and I exchanged our vows. My tick tock became so loud, it seemed to be accompanied by the clanging of church bells. And now, I cannot imagine life without the little dude (or Dexter).

Today's #366 photo is of Dexter this morning, in his cot with his very own pyjama bottoms 'veil', which he seemed to find very amusing. We will not be taking the boy to the wedding in July - he's not invited, and I don't really want to anyway. I intend to do my own bit of 'hair release', and am looking forward to wearing a pretty dress without getting it covered in tears and bits of food. I guess that may depend though on how much champagne is consumed...

Friday, 24 February 2012

Joie de vivre!


Friday! Hurrah! Unfortunately, my students this morning did not share my exclamation mark (and strong coffee) fuelled excitement at the last day of the working week because they were sooo tired! I resisted the temptation to make some sarcastic comment as a retort and fortunately, my Year 7 class after break was much more lively. They're getting a mention because not only are they very sweet, but they are also very interested in Dexter and fascinated by the idea of my blog.

In the early days, when I was struggling with the adjustment to being back at work and leaving my young boy with someone else all day, they were very kind. Despite their tender years, they would be very understanding and lovely if I was a little teary-eyed when I'd had to leave him feeling under the weather. Saying that, for about the first three weeks of term, they were under the impression that Dexter was my pet labrador...

It got me thinking about their wonderful enthusiasm and sunny outlook on life. As a secondary school teacher, I usually favour teaching the slightly older students, but I'm really appreciating the boundless enthusiasm of the young 'uns - ironically, they are the excitable little puppies.

On collecting the boy from nursery today, I was presented with a big, fabulous painting of which Jackson Pollock would be proud/spinning in his stylish grave. It features in the background of today's #366 photo. I love the colours and the sheer liveliness of it. It was 'painted' by Dexter, largely with his hands and feet. Characteristically, he ate a significant amount of the paint, so that should make for some interesting nappies...

After another exhausting week and too many late nights (this blog is taking over my life), I definitely feel my age. Today was a timely reminder of how fabulous children are, how much we can learn from them and how perhaps age really is only a state of mind. Whilst Dexter's work may not be quite to the standard of the great man, Pablo Picasso spoke the truth with his statement: "Youth has no age." I'm going to be channelling Peter Pan this weekend...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Spring has sprung...


This morning at school started with the usual Thursday morning whole-staff briefing. At the end of it, a colleague of mine came over to me and told me how much she enjoyed reading my blog last thing at night as a 'wind-down' from the day. She said she loves it because it's celebratory. I was really touched and flattered by that and it brought a tear to my eye, obviously - see a previous post on the lack of control I have over my tear ducts. I was even more thrilled with this comment, as the colleague in question is an amazing woman - the most hard-working professional and mother of three, who doesn't let any of the gazillions of plates she spins fall to the ground. A real role model.

Today felt like a celebratory day. Spring seemed to be elbowing miserable old Winter out of the way and putting in an appearance in all her glory. It was remarkably warm; my classroom quickly heated up to the earth's core temperature. I'm on the first floor, and the windows have a 'safety' feature which means they hardly open (I assume to prevent me from chucking myself out of them on a particularly bad day). Cue lots of complaints from teenage boys, post PE, about their sweaty backs. Nice. So glad I've got that to look forward to...

Dexter started the day in a jolly mood himself. He was very giggly and full of smiles this morning. I collected him from nursery an hour earlier than normal as we haven't got through the door before 6pm on any day this week. Apparently he'd been outside in the Huffle garden. As he's more into crawling than attempting to walk, they'd dressed him in a sort of waterproof onesie. They took some gorgeous pictures of him scooting around on all fours with a big smile on his face, looking like a miniature fisherman.

Today's #366 photo is of the boy at bathtime. I thought his shampooed hair made him look like a little Spring chick. He had his own little celebratory smile at the discovery that aside from his rubber ducks, he comes with his own ready-made 'attachment' (ahem), to 'play' with in the bath. He's going to love me for this when it's brought up at the celebration of his 18th birthday...

Brilliance in Blogging: LIT!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Delayed gratification


Today's #366 picture is of Dexter with his pancake - just a day late. It did feel slightly wrong giving it to him today, as I believe part of the origins of Shrove Tuesday lie in using up all the bad-for-you-stuff before Lent. Given that the Waynes are not known for their religious zeal, I figure that a solitary pancake, spread with a bit of good old Ella's pureed fruit, twenty-four hours after the main event, probably isn't too evil. Most of it ended up on the floor/in the cat anyway.

It did get me thinking though. Yesterday, I was all upset because the boy didn't have a proper 'Pancake Day'. He wasn't remotely aware of or bothered by this, and he's sucked on a crepe today anyway.

For the last few days I've been feeling twitchy - about houses, working full-time, the prospect of more children (not yet), never having any spare cash, etc. The grass on the other side seems so bloomin' green, it's virtually radioactive.

It's at times like this that I have to have a stern (metaphorical) word with myself. I can't park anywhere near our flat, and the stairs and no direct access to a garden are a nuisance. It's a great location though and we love the flat itself. We haven't outgrown it and it's definitely home. Whilst I am never going to live in a million pound country manor I gaze at on Rightmove, one day, I'm sure we'll have a (small) house with a garden and a drive, but possibly outside of our beloved Brighton. We simply can't afford for me to drop a day or two at work at the moment, but I have a job in these very tough times, and a job that stops for thirteen weeks of the calendar year. We hope that one day Dexter will have a sibling, but now or indeed the near future, is not the right time. If it never happens, the boy is special enough. Whilst I do have a budget spreadsheet (it took the husband two and a half hours to create), stapled to my forehead, it does allow for a cleaner, riding lessons, and the occasional treat.

Apparently, good things come to those who wait. I'm so concerned with the destination sometimes, that I am in danger of missing out on the incredible journey.

Wowzers! All that reflection started with a humble pancake...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bitter about batter


Today's #366 picture makes my heart hurt a little bit. It was taken in our kitchen this evening, having just got in from work and having only spent the five minutes tonight trying to park (on the next street). Grrrr.

We'd been doing lots of clapping and giggling, and the boy had even managed some unsupported standing.

This post should really be about Shrove Tuesday (today), with some jolly picture of Dexter stuffing his face with batter and some lame, euphemistic jokes about tossing. Unfortunately, we were waiting for the online food shop delivery (it arrived at 8pm) and our cupboards had taken on a somewhat Old Mother Hubbard feel. Poor old Dexter had a random combination of nan bread and sandwich ham for his tea today: slack mum. The 'luxury' of pancakes had to be missed this year: guilty mum.

He doesn't look too bothered though. Am wondering if I should give up guilt for Lent...

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Balancing Act


Today's seemingly terrible #366 photo is quite deliberate. It's Dexter with my teacher planner. First day back at school today after a week off. My day was fine. I like my job. The boy's face is missing, because it is representative of how I feel sometimes about being a working mummy. The balance shifts around all the time, with me in the middle as the fulcrum.

Dexter enjoyed his day at nursery; he loves the staff there, particularly his key worker, Sarah, and he really enjoyed the birthday cake we purchased yesterday.

Six weeks until the Easter holidays and I get to see that handsome face all day, every day for two whole weeks.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Urban Living


Sunday started with my first riding lesson in three weeks. I appreciate my weekly hour in the saddle more now than I ever have done. It involves three hours out of the house - no baby, no husband - just me and a friend's steed. It was a particularly fresh day today and so said steed was particularly frisky and strong. Those of you who know me will know that I don't have a particularly athletic physique. My build bears a close resemblance to that of Olive Oyl, but I swear that having a baby and then lugging it and all of its stuff around, must build some upper body-strength.

Today's #366 picture demonstrates a particular type of 'lugging around' I have to do with the boy. Brighton flat living dictates that although we live in a period property with great views and big rooms, we also have several stairs to negotiate. The picture is Dexter's reflection in the mirror of our communal stairway as I was carting him up the stairs in his buggy. I didn't mange to catch him smiling at himself; he normally seems to enjoy being bumped up and down the stairs, or even better, for husband and I to carry him aloft like Prince Dexter of Brighton.

We'd been for a quick visit to Sainsbury's to get some birthday cake to share at nursery. Our local Sainsbury's has a Starbucks too (hurrah!), but my chai latte had to be of the takeaway kind as the boy was having a meltdown. I reckon he was missing his weekend family time. Hopefully, Team Wayne will be reunited next weekend.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Doing Lunch


I'm writing Saturday's post on Tuesday, which only highlights how much of a distant memory the weekend already is. Two days back at school, two lots of 'Huffle-Shuffling', and double the amount of weekend exhaustion.

Saturday was lovely though. The husband had lots of work to do (and he's not even a teacher), so some precious family time had to be forsaken and the boy and I headed out for lunch with an old and very dear friend. We have a shared love of Japanese food, and so Dexter and I rocked up (late, natch), at one of Brighton's sushi establishments. Sushi turned out to be perfect finger food for a small person as the rice is nice and sticky, the bits of chicken quite more-ish and there was even the odd bit of fruit salad knocking round on the conveyor belt - which Dexter flatly refused in favour of an Ella's Kitchen pouch.

Today's #366 photo is a little staged to demonstrate our lunch location, and the chopstick did have to be swiftly removed from the boy's clutches before he took someone's/his own eye out. He did look very cute though in one of his birthday gifts - a big-boy, lunch-date shirt and tank top.

Lunch was followed by a stormy seafront walk and a cuppa at my friend's Hove flat, where Dexter was indulged with playing rockets and raspberries all afternoon. Perfect.

Friday, 17 February 2012



Today was a good day. The boy seemed to be back to his usual self - a conclusion I came to largely as a result of a return to less toxic nappies. After a leisurely breakfast of tea (for me) and toast (for both of us), we pootled along to Hove Park with a couple of the NCT ladies and little 'uns.

Our merry troupe attempted an al fresco lunch, but the inclement February weather forced a move indoors to the marginally cosier surroundings of the Hove Park cafe. We like it in there; it's quirky with good coffee, and the jolly colours and retro accessories are enough to distract me from the flagrant apostrophe abuse on their signage. I think we made for an amusing sight as the bubs all sat in their highchairs chomping away on various goodies. Lottie's over-zealous attempts to 'feed' Arthur (via his mouth or his sleeve), were particularly entertaining.

Lunch completed (along with obligatory food carnage on the floor), and of course, the destination of choice was obviously the swings. The mums were determined that they should not miss out on the action, and the three of us attempted to negotiate a sort of giant, adult, see-saw/swing/hangy-thing hybrid, reminiscent of something that may once have featured on the Krypton Factor obstacle course. Dexter, Arthur and Lottie sat in their pushchairs watching their deranged mothers with great bemusement. They then got their turn - on the miniature, cage-like, designed for small children swings of course. Today's #366 picture shows the boy having a lovely time on said swings. This was shortly before Hannah noticed that Dexter was turning an alarming shade of mottled purple and that perhaps his labrador raincoat (as stylish as it is), was not quite adequate protection from the distinctly wintry chill in the air.

This was soon resolved by spending the rest of the afternoon at Hannah's: warming up, tea-slurping, playing, gossiping and CBeebies. I love those sort of half-term days. They feel like a tiny reminder of a glorious maternity leave which now almost feels like it never happened.

Think the boy and I will struggle with the return to the daily grind next week. And I still haven't done my marking...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Lazy Day


A lazy day today. The boy woke for milk at seven this morning and then went back to sleep until ten. As did I. Had to cancel plans to catch up with another friend and her very young baby as Dexter is still not one hundred percent himself.

Again, Dexter has been very clingy with me today. Whilst this is lovely, and confirmation that he does know who I am (I do wonder sometimes), it is making me slightly anxious about the return to work next week. The enormous (untouched) bag of marking is compounding this anxiety - must mark after blogging.

Today we have played, 'chatted', watched some television - although Dexter did not seem to share my interest in scenes of giving birth to twins and gypsy weddings - and attempted some firsts. I attempted to teach Dexter to count (ambitious?) with the use of some flashcards that were a birthday gift. We got to two, with the boy looking at me blankly and not even attempting to make the sound. Conscious of his targets from his last nursery report, I attempted to get Dexter to feed himself with a spoon. He was deeply uninterested and ate his mango yoghurt with his hands. This coincided with another epic nappy, so Dexter had his first shower, which he initially found alarming, but then seemed to enjoy the process.

We both spent two hours in the late afternoon fast asleep. I fear his post-jab fatigue is contagious. It's barely half past eight now and I really could go to bed. Am looking at snoozing baby on the monitor enviously.

Marking beckons...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012



Post-Valentine's Day, the boy definitely did not have a 'love hangover', but was certainly feeling the effect of yesterday's vaccinations. Today, Dexter has mainly been sleepy, needy and stinky.

We went on a little visit to a dear friend who lives about thirty five minutes away. Said dear friend has two gorgeous young children, who seem to like Dexter coming to visit.

On arrival, Dexter threw himself on the (hard) floor of their playroom and promptly gave himself a bruised and slightly grazed head. He ate his lunch lying on my lap and then spent the rest of the time rolling around the floor, moaning. The only thing that brought a smile to the boy's face was Will (he's in today's #366 picture, rocking matching Breton stripes), racing around the sofa, role-playing Buzz Lightyear. Will's mummy was not so amused by this as the role play had begun at five thirty that morning.

As ever, it was lovely to catch up with an old buddy, with the huge bonus of leaving with two great big bags of clothes, books and toys.

The boy slept all afternoon, refused his dinner and went to bed early. I spent the evening with mummy friends, drinking wine, eating a plethora of snacks and discussing birth experiences.

I've recorded this evening's 'One Born' for future viewing.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Tough Love


Ah, Valentine's Day. The husband and I showed our love for each other with some hastily-written and hastily-exchanged cards. He is spending Valentine's evening at a Brighton v. Millwall match; he doesn't even really like football.

I showed my love for Dexter by taking him to the doctor's for his 12 month vaccinations. Three jabs in the leg and some crying later, the boy managed some more crying, some Calpol and some sleep. I too indulged in a rather long and luxurious afternoon nap.

There was a toxic nappy after tea - according to my sister, it's the effect of the jabs. I wasn't aware that babies were injected with raw sewage.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Birthday Boy


Monday 13th February 2012: Dexter's first birthday. Phew, a milestone - we've made it! We had a lovely day. We opened heaps of fabulous gifts before the husband went to work, and then Dexter and I spent the day with my family before they returned to Manchester.

I did spend some time reflecting on the events of a year ago. I was so incredibly lucky (not smug, just lucky), with my labour and Dexter's birth. Fate granted us the privilege of a straightforward time and I can honestly say I enjoyed most of it. That is not to say, that it didn't hurt more than anything I have ever experienced, but I just found the whole thing miraculous, amazing and life-affirming. I also really loved gas and air and had the best midwife ever - so it all led to a positive outcome.

In many ways, I can't believe it was only a year ago, and I can barely remember life before the boy - although I do remember having more money to spend on sushi, shoes, Clarins and French Connection: small sacrifices.

I don't want to get too mushy, and I don't believe that your life is only complete if you have children. It's a huge life-choice and an immense privilege. I just find the whole concept of human life utterly compelling - whether or not an individual chooses to procreate.

To continue in a philosphical vein, Dexter also chose to mark his year long existence in the world in a profound and thought-provoking manner. Today's #366 picture is of the boy having his birthday lunch in the brilliant Bill's in Brighton: Dexter learnt to clap at the table and ate his first chips.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Party (no poop)


Today was a very exciting day in the world of Dexter: his first birthday party. We held his party in the function room above our local pub. The husband and I had our first date at said pub, long before we lived in our current flat which now makes it our local. I also danced the night away in hot pants on my 30th birthday at the very same venue, so it seemed like an appropriate place to celebrate the boy's milestone.

I spent last night putting together party bags and making fairy cakes with some help from my mum and niece. This morning, I was furiously wrapping a pass-the-parcel gift whilst mum and sister were on tiny, triangular, baby-friendly sandwich-making duty. I also had to set up the room, with help from various family members. Throughout all of these slightly frantic party preparations, the boy had an epic snooze. This did however mean that Dexter was true to his Wayne heritage and arrived late to his own party.

This didn't really matter too much. The party was well-attended by family and friends. Sadly, Nana Vron and Grandad John were snowed-in in the wilds of the Kent countryside, so couldn't make it. This also meant there was no 'pin the tail on the donkey' as creative Nana Vron had made the donkey for us - I'm hoping it will make an appearance at Christmas in some wonderfully artistic Nativity scene. However, the husband and I felt quite overwhelmed by how lucky we are, and how super-lucky Dexter is to have such brilliant, kind, lovely, fabulous and supportive family and friends.

Highlights included: my vision of a robot theme, which worked out quite well on the day; seeing all the NCT babies and parents together - so lucky on that one as they are a fabulous bunch; a slightly tense game of pass-the-parcel with me in charge of the music and desperately trying to keep it fair; the huge generosity of our guests and Dexter's  haul of cards and gifts; the presence of a bar and two large white wine spritzers that kept me going for three hours; the boy tucking into an enormous plate of sandwiches, and eating an awful lot of party food off the pub floor; the sheer privilege of the whole experience.

It was a fun, funny, entertaining, sociable, exhausting and emotional afternoon - and like all great parties, Dexter won't remember a thing.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

We are family


Hurrah! Saturday! It's the boy's birthday weekend, so my family travelled down from Manchester for his first birthday party which is tomorrow. Today's #366 picture is Dexter with his cousins: Ellie and Ruby.

The girls are my sister's children. She's a brilliant mummy and a source of much 'mum wisdom' and reassurance. I always remember our NCT teacher telling us that women should not have babies in isolation. My mum and my sister came down to Brighton two days after Dexter was born: it was like the cavalry arriving.

I wish Dexter saw more of his family - on both mine and my husband's sides. Geography and our very busy lives make that a little tricky. I guess that's why special occasions become even more special.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Gift (ed)


Today was the last day of term and took the form of an INSET (staff training day). It took place with three other schools at a different school to mine, so the husband took the day off to look after the boy as the nursery run just wasn't practical.

One of the training sessions I attended was on 'Challenging Gifted and Talented Students'. It was thought-provoking and useful, and I was given a booklet to accompany the training. Below is an extract that my 'parent head' (that makes me sound a little like Worzel Gummidge), found rather interesting.

Highly Gifted Children: What are we dealing with?

  • All were alert at birth or soon thereafter.
  • Books were a favourite interest of most before three or four months.
  • All appeared to understand parental directives between birth and four months.
  • The majority independently looked at and turned pages of books before 6 months.
  • Most knew and said some words by 5-9 months.
  • Half spoke well before age one.
  • All spoke at near-adult level complexity by age 2.
  • Most played with shape sorters before 11 months.
  • Many recognised and picked out specific numbers and letters by 10-14 months.
  • All knew colours, numbers, the alphabet and shapes by 15 months.
  • Most were good at puzzles before 12 months, 35+ piece puzzles by 15 months.
  • All showed musical aptitude before 18 months.
  • All 'read' words on signs and simple books and labels before two years.
  • All memorized books read to them before 20 months.
  • Many could rote count to 10, many higher, by 13 to 20 months.
  • Most could print letters, numbers, words, and their names between 16 and 24 months.
  • High interest in factual information, how things work, science, by two years.
  • Most read simple books, 'board' books, by age 18-24 months.
  • Most grasp skip counting, backwards, addition, subtraction, more or less, by two years.
  • All were independent on computer by age two years, all keyboarding before three.
  • All read children's chapter books by age 3 to 4 years.
  • All showed interest in pure facts, dictionaries, etc. by age 3.
  • All question the reality of Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy by 3 or 4 years.
  • All understand abstract math concepts and basic math functions before age four.
  • All read six or more years beyond age from 6 years old.
I am quoting verbatim here. To be honest, the list made me feel a little sick, but I started to think about how Dexter would compare...

Dexter was alert at birth, as he was very fortunate in not having a traumatic entry into the world, but then he slept - a lot. He really likes books, but in a slightly more visceral way: he likes to chew them; he loves trying to turn the pages of big books whilst sitting on them; he is becoming very good at removing the pop-up bits from slightly more interactive books and the pages and spines from less hardy tomes. He does not understand/chooses to ignore parental directives, and will continue to remove all of the DVDs from the shelf, despite being told a very firm 'No!' Dexter likes to say 'Mama' and 'Dada', but mainly, just to blow raspberries. He has several shape sorters; he likes to put the shapes in his mouth and then on the floor. Likewise, he has a number of lovely wooden jigsaw puzzles; see comments on shape sorters. He shows his 'musical aptitude' by furiously spinning the mental 'Macarena drum' round and chewing on a xylophone beater. I have tried doing drawing with him; he eats the crayons and chalk. As mentioned in previous posts, he types in fluent Swedish on Daddy's laptop and likes the Ladybird Books app on my i phone. Finally, Dexter had his own video message from Santa Claus for his first Christmas last year, telling him he'd been a good boy and would get a visit: he believes.

I am not a pushy parent (I hope), nor do I want to label my child as a chronic underachiever from an early age. I'm not sure if he's displaying any early signs of being 'highly gifted'. He is however, displaying many signs of being a happy, curious, giggly, gurgly, teething baby, and that's fine by me.

Thursday, 9 February 2012



8.10 - Ate all of his fruit pouch and 1/2 of his bread

9.10 - Nappy change (Dirty)

10.05 - Asleep

11.20 - Awake

11.25 - Had a snack

11.45 - Nappy change

12.30 - Ate all of his lunch and yoghurt. Had a drink.

1.40 - Nappy change (Dirty)

3.10 - Asleep

4.00 - Awake

4.10 - Ate all of his tea and fruit pouch

4.45 - Nappy change (Dirty)

This was the entry in Dexter's nursery book today. At 5pm, the husband collected him from nursery - following a rather dodgy-looking drive-by to the school car park to retrieve the car seat from my car.

I spent 4.55pm - 8.00pm talking solidly about other people's children. I don't entirely resent this and in a funny sort of way it's quite enjoyable. I'd spent a lot of time preparing notes, marksheets, etc. I hope one day to speak to teachers of Dexter who invest the same time in him.

For now, I have had to settle for a quick peek in the cot, a stroke of the hair, today's obligatory #366 picture, a large glass of white and a hot bubble bath.

I have brought home my work for half term - ironically in the boy's old Cath K cowboy print changing bag, complete with bottle warmer/pencil case. Next week though, half term dictates that the work fits around Dexter and not vice versa.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Kit and Kaboodle


Today at school was 'Extended Learning Day' - the timetable is collapsed and departments take responsibility for an entire year group doing something creative all day. My department had a generally fabulous year group taking part in a mocked-up 'Dragon's Den'. Groups had to invent a new gadget and compete within teaching groups to go through to the final in front of the whole year group and the 'dragons' in the afternoon. It was fun, exhausting and actually quite enlightening.

My winning team invented the 'Lawn Moo-er' - a life-sized, cow-shaped lawn mower, which does all the hard work for you, cutting your lawn with its 'teeth', and emptying said grass through its udders. Genius.

It got me thinking as I took today's post-bath picture, how having a baby is an industry, full of 'essential' products, gadgets and gizmos. The boy is pictured in a bath towel - a full-sized, bog-standard, John Lewis bath sheet. When he was tiny, we used those dinky little towels complete with built-in hood: adorable and practical. They're just too small for him now, so he is bundled into a normal towel (he does have his own set of personalised towels too - a gift), and - in the absence of a hood - has to endure some furious hair-rubbing so he doesn't get too cold.

We were incredibly lucky when it came to setting up home for a small person. My sister has two young children and pretty much gave us all of her stuff. It's still doing the rounds with friends now.

We did buy a number of things ourselves; some were massively useful, others not so. We love the webcam baby monitor which featured in a recent post. As I type, I have watched and listened to Dexter taking an uncharacteristic forty-five minutes to settle. Sometimes it's more entertaining than the tv. I insisted we bought a 'Gro-Egg': a ridiculously overpriced colour-coded thermometer for the boy's room. It lies. Plus, we soon realised we could work out a comfortable temperature for Dexter's room by, er well, just standing in there. Baby sleeping bags (brand name 'Gro-Bags' - I think they are responsible for the dishonest egg too), are flippin' genius and I wish I had invented them. I would love to be able wear my duvet. The baby carrier (Baby Bjorn) was indispensible when Dexter was tiny and I really enjoyed carrying him around everywhere like a little human Cornish pasty. The list really is endless.

I could go on, but perhaps I'll save some of the other kit and kaboodle required by a small person for another post.

I hope some of those brilliant, imaginative, confident young people I taught and observed today, do go on to fulfil and realise some of their creations.

I however, will wait with eager anticipation and baited breath, for the day that someone invents the 'gives you five more hours in the day' gadget...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012



Further to yesterday's posts, I still feel lucky and very privileged, but I am also flippin' exhausted - and so is the boy. This was Dexter at six thirty this morning. He didn't actually wake up to be fed. He is currently full of snot, a little unsettled at night and sporting a couple of whopping zits. Again, the old guilt rears its ugly head, as I'm not sure one so small should have such a long daily commute, and lengthy time away from home - nor Dexter. But alas, if he wants food and shelter (dramatic but true), Daddy and Mummy must work.

Today was alright. The 'Huffle Shuffle' was even more perilous today - I half expected Torvill and Dean to be pirouetting through the car park - and break duty involved standing outside with the (much hardier) PE teachers 'preventing' kids from throwing snowballs. Hmmm...

I ended up discussing my blog after school with one of the aforementioned (male) PE teachers. I don't know if he'll end up having a look, but it's interesting to me to think about a potential audience. I did think it may be limited to friends and family, especially those who know Dexter, but this particular colleague had been very curious about birth stories a couple of weeks ago too!

Maybe just life is interesting - the human condition, the ups and downs, the comedy and the drama. It's partly why I love my subject and the power of literature to deal with universal themes.

I think sheer tiredness is rendering me too pensive and reflective. It's half-term next week, so hopefully I'll be able to document tales of bonkers soft-play centres, and not getting dressed until midday. Roll on Friday...

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Little Things


Today was a funny old day. The apocalyptic snow, much hoped for by the majority of my teaching colleagues, wasn't quite enough to herald a magical 'snow-day'. It was however, enough to make the journey in a little longer and a little more hairy than usual. Fortunately Dexter and I were in the safe hands of the lift-share ladies. The nursery drop-off was a tad kamikaze and we arrived at school on the bell.

Lessons were generally quiet and calm, and the day ended with a celebration event for a colleague who very sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago. It was well-attended by current and former staff and students. Although it was an upbeat and uplifting tribute to a magnificent lady, I bawled for the whole hour and a quarter.

I've always been easily moved to tears (sporting achievements, baby animals, John Lewis adverts), but since having the boy, I cry at the drop of a proverbial hat. I don't know if it's hormones, a weird 'mum' thing or just sheer knackeredness at the whole juggling act that is life, but I regularly find myself having a good old-fashioned cathartic weep.

I took part in the celebration, and spoke a few words about said colleague. I love a bit of public speaking, and am not normally phased or emotional. I lost it however when reminiscing about the kindness this lady (mother of three boys) had shown me during my pregnancy. These 'pet babies' certainly know how to tug at the heartstrings.

I guess today's picture reflects a little moment of normality - of my boys happily bonding over a 'Microsoft Sales Specialist Assessment' (no wonder Dexter's looking pleadingly at me) - just before the bedtime routine.

I am not smug mum, I am simply grateful for the little things, and probably should remember that more often.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Grumps


Today a serious case of 'the grumps' hit Wayne Towers. Overnight, it sort of snowed: a lame, half-hearted, slushy sort of snow that seemed to be worse out in the countryside beyond Brighton. This prevented me from going to my beloved weekly riding lesson. It also made getting out of bed and getting dressed rather uninviting.

Boy has the boy been grumpy today. Dexter is usually a laid-back, content little man, but the combination of another cold and presumably some teething, rendered him very whiny indeed. He may also be sulking over the scalping he received yesterday...

The washing mountain is out of control and our cleaner has been out of action for a while too - hey, we both work full-time, I've got a cleaner: bite me. The house needs sorting, but that sort of stuff is just, well, dull, particularly with a temperamental tot in tow.

Fortunately, some dear friends have just had their second baby and were up for visitors, so to ward off the cabin fever that was setting in, we wrapped up warm and trundled off for cuddles with the gorgeous newborn. Nothing like a brand-new baby in the world to bring a smile to your face.

Today's picture captures Dexter on the way home. He still looks a tad miserable, and the flash from my phone makes it look like he's been at the Ready-Brek. An Annabel Karmel ready-meal lasagne perked him up, and I got down to some marking.

The rubbish snow has pretty much melted away now - as have the grumps. Tomorrow, after all, is a new day - and only a week until half term.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Hairy Moment


We took Dexter for his first haircut today. We dragged him out in the freezing cold to the far end of Hove, to a salon that opened a couple of months ago, specialising in cutting little 'uns' hair. It's his birthday next week and I didn't want him turning up at his party bearing a striking resemblance to stadium rock legend, Jon Bon Jovi. Dexter was born with a mullet which has got increasingly out of control ever since.

On arrival, the boy was placed in a racing car seat in front of a tv screen which I think was showing 'Gnomeo and Juliet' - ah, the cultural highs. He was robed up in a garish gown which cleverly had no arm holes in it for small people to attempt any sort of escape from and to keep their fingers away from very sharp scissors. The guy cutting his hair asked us what style we wanted to go for - er, just your basic (soon to be) one-year old cut, thanks - and the snipping began.

A very sleepy Dexter was very well-behaved. He had his photo taken and received a bag containing his locks that had been swept from the floor (at least I assume they are his), and a certificate containing some questionable grammatical errors.

Dexter is no longer cursed with an annoying fringe that dangles in his eyes, or two 'hair handlebars' at the back.

The husband thinks he looks like Jim Carrey in 'Dumb and Dumber'.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Thank Crunchie!

Ah, Friday, glorious Friday: end of the working week and start of the much-needed weekend. The afore-mentioned work lift-share (which keeps me sane), has a weekly tradition of stopping off on the way to school at a local garage-based Costa Coffee. The formidable, and lovely Pat, who runs the joint, knows us all by name and our weekly order has become a tacit necessity. She also makes the strongest latte outside of Milan, and so I usually arrive at school wired to the mains - brilliant.

Another glorious Friday tradition is leaving earlier than usual and doing the 'Huffle-Shuffle'/nursery pick-up at four instead of five o'clock. This leaves time occasionally to behave like 'normal people' ie. not teachers, and visit shops for example, unhindered by the weekend crowds. So, today, my lovely friend and I hot-footed it to Holmbush Retail Park to visit those old shopping stalwarts that are M&S and Next. I needed to spend half of my wages on birthday gifts and new-baby pressies, and dear friend and I can never miss an opportunity to visit Starbucks. I love Starbucks unashamedly (I also like trendy, indie coffee shops filled with seating made out of old hessian sacks), and a grande, skinny, chai tea latte, no water, extra hot, is my beverage of choice.

I spent a vast amount of my maternity leave frequenting one of Brighton's many SBs, but the boy was then, of course, a much tinier, much less mobile and more 'strapped in' pet baby.

Today, he lounged out in a highchair, ate/dropped on the floor a cheese and ham toastie, and had his first 'babyccino' - a shot of steamed and frothy milk in an espresso cup. He was a little unsure at first about all of the foam, but was soon guzzling down the contents of the tiny cup with great gusto.

A proud moment indeed.