Tuesday 22 December 2009

Unfinished symphonies

I feel like I have forgotten how to write, which is frustrating because I wanted to regale everyone with stories of frenzied Christmas preparations in the Button household.

Some rejected ideas for posts include:

A Button decade round-up - Tom said this was too personal as I talked about how we got together and came to have two little Buttons

We are a sickly bunch - Tom said this was too depressing

My new camera - Tom said this was too boring

I love christmas - Tom said this was too sentimental

Let it snow - Tom said this was too obvious

Birds, snot and tinsel - Tom said this was too 'try-hard'

The 'Play Dough' mum - I only got as far as the title on this one, but Tom said it could have potential.

So none of them have made it to the table, so to speak.

Instead I bid you all a very very very happy christmas and peaceful new year and leave you with a fern christmas tree picture which was foraged and arranged by Betty.

With lots of love from me, Tom, Betty and baby Dolly XXXX

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Look at the size of this!

When Betty called to me earlier and announced that she had done a 'little poo' in her potty, I was not expecting this.

For some reason, it made me think back fondly to Emily from Maternal Tales from the South Coast's post about her daughter, Edie, doing a huge poo and she even photographed it to show her loyal readers.

This photograph is for you Emily (and you Stuart, because I know you love hearing all about my tales of child/baby poo).

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Betty at three

Betty is three today! Although the last year has passed by in a flash, she has changed and grown-up quite unbelievably. This time last year all Betty could (or would) say was ‘Da. Dadada. Daaaaa.’ etc. And although her little character was emerging and she was fully capable of making herself understood, she still very much had a baby-ness about her.

A year on, she now, rather scarily, often demonstrates teenager tendencies, like: banging on the bathroom door if someone is in there and shouting ‘GET OUT, I need a wee!’, and burying her head under the duvet when I am trying to get her out of bed in the mornings and mumbling ‘Noooo I need more sleep, go away’, or answering a question with ‘Yeah’ in such a way that you feel that all that’s missing is the gum.

A year ago it used to terrify me taking Betty to the shops with her on foot, but now she is a great little shopping companion. She will bring her little red shopping basket and carry it on her arm, as I do, and help me look for items in the shop and make (sometimes helpful) suggestions about what we should buy. Although at times it is rather nerve-racking when I turn round and she is wielding a bottle of wine in my direction and bellowing ‘YOUR WINE MUMMY!’ I grab the bottle, and as long as it is under a fiver and has a screw top, I put it in my basket and go with her choice.

Despite my best efforts in the last three years of dressing Betty in neutral colours and dungarees, she has become a real girlie girl. Her favourite colour is pink, and she loves to look pretty in dresses and hairclips. She always notices and comments if I am wearing a new or different item of clothing, and although she doesn’t say anything I can see the look of distaste on her little face when I come downstairs donning tracksuit bottoms and maternity top. She almost fell off her chair (she was flicking through Heat magazine at the time) when she saw me in a dress the other day.

She has well and truly left toddlerdom behind her. In the last year she has gained incredible negotiating and mediating skills - if I am giving Tom a hard time about not taking the recycling out, or leaving teabags in the sink, Betty immediately steps in and says: ‘Say sorry to Daddy, Mummy, say sorry now’; and she has become a real comedian (I particularly love her impressions of Tom).

Happy birthday, my darling, gorgeous girl. Enjoy your much anticipated special day with all your balloons, and your requested big pink heart birthday cake, and your presents, and your smoked salmon breakfast in bed…

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Pumpkin overload

I thought it would be a nice idea to invite a couple of Betty's bestest buddies round for a little Halloween playdate. Something very low-key: a few sandwiches, and maybe some fairy cakes if I had time. With Betty's pumpkin costume at the ready, and still five days until Halloween, I felt there was nothing else to worry about, other than a quick dash to the shops to buy a bit of bread and cheese.

As the week progressed, so did the ideas. The recipe books came out, Google was consulted, and there followed several trips to different cook shops and supermarkets to track down things like pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters and orange food colouring.

I became so caught up in throwing the halloween party of the century that I forgot I was catering for just three children on a mere playdate. With 48 hours to go, I made the toffee apples and the pumpkin soup, and Betty and I made some decorations: pumpkins, witches, spiders, ghosts, 'welcome' signs, spooky bunting etc.

On the morning of Halloween, I got up at the crack of dawn and frantically began baking. Intricate spider fairy cakes were created, hand-shaped chocolate chip cookies were made, and gory finger sandwiches, and fruit kebabs. Pumpkins were gutted and carved, and several oranges were hollowed out to resemble mini pumpkins, to use as vessels for the green jelly; decorations were hung, pumkpin-themed balloons were inflated, the house was tidied, and last minute alterations to costumes were made. Standing back and looking at everything laid out in all its glory, I suddenly felt embarrassed at the efforts I had gone to. So I instructed Tom not to laugh at my casual reply of ‘not long at all, it was nothing’ if anyone asked how long it had all taken me.

At 3pm, me, Tom, Betty, Dolly and their two grandmothers (who had been drafted in at the last minute to help eat all the food) sat expectantly in the decked out room, awaiting the arrival of our guests. Both of them arrived right on time, also dressed as pumpkins. The three pumpkin pals quickly joined forces, and began gaily throwing breadsticks around, and generally trashing the room. Meanwhile I had collapsed in an exhausted heap on a chair in the corner of the room and was unable to muster up the energy to be all halloweeny. Tom desperately tried to think of ways to entertain the pumpkins and decided to do some apple bobbing. But he dislocated his neck whilst doing his demonstration and the pumpkins watched on, looking perplexed.

We played musical bumps, and then took the pumpkins trick or treating to our next door neighbours (each one was given a small plastic pumpkin receptacle to hold the treat). And again the children had a look of bafflement on their little faces, when sweets were willingly and freely handed out to them.

Then it was pretty much time to finish the playdate, so we quickly ate all the food, and I brought out the pumpkin soup in a big scooped out pumpkin.

Monday 26 October 2009

The look

I feel that Dolly hasn’t been getting enough blog airtime so wanted to talk a little about how her character is developing, and how I find that the looks she gives me are a little unnerving.

People have always said about her: ‘She has that knowing look, she has been here before’. It was as if she had read all the books and thus knew exactly how to be a textbook baby. Unlike Betty, she has always conformed to what babies are supposed to do and like/dislike: gnawing on teethers, gazing up at musical mobiles, disapproving of dirty nappies, sticking to a routine etc.

Having said that, with this ‘knowledge’ that she seemingly has, I find myself subconsciously not treating her like a baby, and it somehow doesn’t seem appropriate to talk to her in baby gaga googoo language. I think this may be because when I have pulled funny faces and talked to her in silly voices in the past, she has made me feel like a complete idiot with her ‘what the hell are you doing that for, you look ridiculous’ look. She glares straight at me, with a deadpan expression, momentarily stops sucking on her thumb (but with thumb still in mouth), gives it a few seconds and then sighs, turns away and continues to suck on her thumb.

I also feel that although she is a model baby at the moment, she is just biding her time. She sits quietly observing Betty and puts up with being poked, and squeezed and yanked, but she has a definite look about her which tells me she is storing it all up and as soon as she is bigger and stronger she will give an unsuspecting Betty what for.

This morning, after she had had a good long breast feed, I then ate my toast in front of her. If looks could kill…

Saturday 24 October 2009


Every morning Betty goes downstairs and empties all her little pots, pans, plates and hundreds of pieces of play food (all of which come from different sets) into her toy pushchair and toy shopping trolley. Once she has done this, which takes her about two seconds, she doesn’t play with it all, she just leaves it and goes off and does something else, but if you dare try to put it away during the day she gets very cross.

Every evening before she goes to bed I get her to tidy it all away, but because of my slightly obsessive nature, she doesn’t quite do it to my standards, and so I end up spending ages putting everything back in their rightful little sets before I can sit down and relax.

Last night I decided that all the food items and pans etc were going to go into hiding for a while to save me some work. This morning Betty went downstairs and I heard her opening the cupboard that normally houses all the aforementioned items, and I waited for her to call out that they were missing. However, she was silent. Phew I thought, I have successfully solved the problem.

Later I went into the sitting room to find that in the absence of her food items she had loaded up the pushchair and trolley with ANYTHING she could lay her little mitts on; loo rolls, cellotape, books, the pepper grinder, my keys, hoover attachments, soap, puzzle pieces etc, thus creating even more work for me. I have to hand it to her, she will not be outsmarted, and is incredibly resourceful.

This evening I plan to hide the trolley and the pushchair.

Friday 23 October 2009

Mini break

Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything, even the simplest of things, seems really hard? From organising a plumber to come and to sort out your kitchen sink which is blocked for the umpteenth time, to trying to scrape play dough off the sitting room carpet, to cooking dinner, to trying to get Dolly to do a poo.

Tom was in London quite a lot last week and when he came back he brought a cold with him. This then laid him up in bed all weekend, plus he passed it onto Betty and Dolly. So all week no-one has really slept very well, everyone has been a bit miserable, and I feel like I have been going flat out, for what feels like weeks, without a break.

So this morning, I packed Betty off to pre-school (which she now seems to be enjoying again) booked her in for the whole day instead of just the morning, and whilst Dolly napped, I got back into bed with a cup of tea and a BLT, watched The Wright Stuff and read Heat magazine. And I was in HEAVEN!!! In our current circumstances (ie having two small children) this lie-in equated to the same thing as a two week beach holiday in the Caribbean.

When Dolly woke at around 10.30am she joined me in bed for lots of cuddles and kisses, and we even stayed in bed whilst she ate her butternut squash brunch, and I ate my Twirl. She did look a little surprised about the whole thing but certainly wasn’t complaining, and we had a lovely cosy time.

At midday, Dolly yawned and rubbed her little eyes, so I popped her back into her cot and she went off to sleep, and I got back into bed. And that is exactly where I am now, typing this post on my laptop (time now 1.05pm) and I intend to stay here (with Dolly joining me again at some point) til 3.30pm when I have to pick Betty up from pre-school.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Where's Dolly gone?

Dolly is such a contented and happy baby, I sometimes forget that she is even in the room. Often when Betty is at nursery, Dolly will be quietly kicking around on her mat and she’ll suddenly let out a squeal, making me almost jump out of my skin.

Betty was the opposite. I couldn’t put her down for a second in the first few months without her yelling. So when friends used to air their concerns about worrying that one day they might accidentally leave their sleeping baby in the car seat under the table in Pizza Express, I couldn’t understand it at all. I used to think, how the hell can you forget a baby? But I too now have that same fear, that one day I will forget Dolly amidst the chaos. I have even had nightmares about it.

So when I was driving here, there and everywhere the other day, with Betty and Dolly in the back of the car, and Betty suddenly piped up with ‘where’s Dolly gone?’ I swear my heart stopped beating for a good few seconds.

(For the record: I hadn’t left Dolly anywhere, she was safely in her car seat and chewing on a big toy mouse that was hiding her face)

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Moving out

Last night I put Dolly to sleep in Betty's room for the first time. She is now six months old and I always said that at this age, as hard as it might be, I would take the plunge and do it. When I went to bed I felt pangs of sadness, looking at her empty little crib next to our bed. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone. It seems only yesterday that I was ordering the crib and washing all the little sheets to go in it, in preparation for her arrival. But it seems such a long time ago that I had her sleeping on me all night, and although I was knackered, they were such magical times. And now she is on her first leg of independence, sharing a bedroom with her big sister.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

A curious creature

We have turned a corner YIPPPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Ever since Betty's pooing marathon on Monday, she has rejected nappies and each and every time she needs to go, she discreetly takes herself off, does the business on the potty, and then tells me. She acts like she has been doing it for years. Unbelievable.

I just hope this post doesn't jinx it.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Potty saga, day 132

Ever since last week’s potty training episode, where I temporarily went insane, I saw the light and adopted a completely different attitude. I decided that I genuinely didn’t care that Betty was still in nappies, and that, for an easy life, I would leave it until after Christmas (lazy I know).

So yesterday morning my darling daughter and I arrived at pre-school, and feeling a little bit embarrassed, I announced that Betty was back in nappies (having announced last time we were there that she was never going to wear a nappy ever again) and they were not to make a thing of her going on the potty, they were to just say nothing and change her nappy if needs be.

However, when I went to pick Betty up, I was told that as soon as I had left, Betty had requested that her nappy be taken off, and they had dutifully done what the little lady had asked. She then told them each and every time when she needed to do a wee or a poo, and did so on the potty. Obviously Betty was unhappy with the service I had been providing, and realised that it was time to take matters into her own hands.

When we got home Betty asked for her white potty and trotted off into her playhouse with it. I could hear a bit of a kerfuffle going on in there so went to investigate. As I opened the door she said ‘I done a poo mummy!’ She knows that if she does a poo on the potty she gets a sweet. So off we went to the kitchen for her to collect her sweet. She ate her sweet and then asked for her pink potty. She pooed in the pink potty whilst I was cleaning out the white one. I gave her another sweet. She then asked for the white potty again. She pooed in the white potty whilst I cleaned out the pink one. I gave her another sweet. This happened two more times, no word of a lie. Admittedly the poos were getting smaller and smaller each time, but she managed to get five sweets out of me in the space of five minutes. When the whole poo episode finally ended, normally activities resumed.

Later in the afternoon I had lovingly prepared a pear puree for Dolly – her first taste of something other than breast milk, so rather a momentous occasion. Just as the first spoonful was going in, and I was feeling really quite emotional, Betty announced that she needed to do a wee. Needless to say, Dolly had to wait just a little bit longer, mouth gaping, whilst I dutifully sorted Betty out with her potty.

Saturday 3 October 2009


The advice about potty training is always along the lines of: ‘Be patient. Do not show concern. Never tell your child off.’

Betty is fully capable of using a potty. A couple of days ago she effortlessly breezed through with a 100 per cent success rate. Yesterday she had four ‘accidents’, all of which happened seconds after I had asked her to sit on the potty, which she refused to do saying ‘there’s no wee coming’.

After the fourth time, bearing in mind I have stayed calm about all this for the last six months, I completely lost my patience. I felt I had been pushed to the absolute limit and I told her off, big time. I then put her back in a nappy, and went into another room and took some deep breaths.

Betty followed me into the other room and cheerfully said: ‘I want to put my shoes on and go outside’. ‘They have wee in them’ I snapped. ‘I want my pink Crocs then’ she said. I began hastily searching the house from top to bottom looking for her Crocs, which I had not seen for days. I barged into Tom’s office and almost in tears I said: ‘Have you seen Betty’s Crocs? Tom took one look at me and told me that he would take the afternoon off work so that I could have a break and go off on my own for a couple of hours. ‘Go and treat yourself, you deserve it - spend some money’ he said. I thanked him profusely, fed Dolly, and then he didn’t see me for dust.

As I drove into town I was feeling exasperated. Betty is an intelligent girl and she is nearly three years old (and apart from her big baggy bottom, is often mistaken for a four year old). She has proven that she can use a potty, so why oh why doesn’t she? People tell me: ‘She’s just not ready, leave it a few weeks and then go back to it’. I have done this time and time again, and am now seriously beginning to think that it we will never reach a point when she will be ready. I then began questioning my ability as a mother, and thought that I must have done something profoundly wrong to make Betty reject the whole thing so much.

As I wandered round the streets, speedily eating a Chocolate Orange, and feeling like a truly awful mum for being so horrible to Betty, I began to get things in perspective. OK, so Betty is not up for using a potty, and nothing will persuade her otherwise at the moment, but she is healthy and beautiful and funny and happy and bright and amazing with her little sister… so does the fact that Dolly will probably be out of nappies well before Betty really matter that much?

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Home v pre-school

Tom and I have a busy time with Betty. We make butterfly cakes, we pick blackberries, we make blackberry jam, we pick tomatoes, we make tomato chutney, we go for walks, we collect leaves, we read stories, we play the piano, we dance, we sing, we count in French and Spanish, we paint, we get messy with glue and glitter, we play with stickle bricks, we build sandcastles in the sandpit, we have pretend tea parties, we play shops, we spot birds and rabbits, we watch TV, we fly kites, we paddle in streams, we make pizzas, we visit lots of little people, and lots of little people visit us, we laugh, we wave at aeroplanes, we make play dough, we pop popcorn, we sew seeds, we dig up potatoes, we water carrots, we make up stories, we do puzzles, we dress up, we take silly photos, we go to the playground, we swim, we pick flowers, we bounce on the bed, we eat yummy food, we throw stones in the river, we do chalk drawings on the garden path, we talk about the circus, we look for the moon and the stars….

So if my darling girl gets upset about going to pre-school, and is seemingly bored while she is there, should I take her out and keep her at home?

Monday 28 September 2009

Betty spaghetti

I need the patience of a saint during mealtimes at the moment.

Friday 25 September 2009


We Buttons went into town the other day to do some shopping. Tom was salivating at the thought of all the food he was going to buy and Betty was excited about the ice-cream she was going to smear all over everything.

I told Tom and Betty to go on ahead because I needed to feed Dolly before I got her out of the car and into the pram. So off they happily went.

I fed Dolly, loaded her into her chariot, and struck out towards the centre of town. It suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea where Tom was headed and annoyingly I had his mobile in my bag. After fifteen minutes or so, I gave up trying to guess and was about to head back to the car, when I caught sight of a flash of bright pink through the window of a delicatessen. It was Betty’s pink bandanna, and sure enough, there she was, sitting in her pushchair facing towards me and eating her ice-cream. I waved frantically at her through the window and thought she might excitedly tell Tom (who was busy tasting cheese at the counter next to her) that Dolly and I were outside.

However, Betty remained expressionless and very coolly continued to eat her ice-cream, and stared straight through me, as if deliberately pretending that she had absolutely no idea who I was. This charade went on for several long moments before I decided to battle with the pram past all the disturbed-looking people in the shop to tell Tom that I had found them.

I can only assume that Betty was pretty annoyed that I had gate-crashed her little adventure with her dad as when I approached them, Tom was heavily engrossed in trying some salami and still hadn’t noticed me, but without even looking at me Betty quietly said: ‘Go back outside mummy’.

Thursday 24 September 2009

According to Betty...

Betty (during a cold): Oh dear, I have got baked beans up my nose mummy

We very rarely do any ironing and so when Tom got the ironing board out Betty said: You got a new canoe daddy?

Betty and her friend were on a seesaw together. Her friend said: Milk comes from cows. Betty replied: Apple juice comes from pigs

Tom was visibly stressed after a grueling day at work. Betty patted his back and said: It's ok sweetheart, you’re ok now?

Betty claimed she saw the tooth fairy flying through a cloud yesterday, and that night she looked under her pillow and genuinely confused she said: Where’s my coin?

I asked Betty what her daddy's name was, and she replied: James Blunt

I asked Betty what my name was and she replied: Jelly Baby

Betty to Dolly: Don't cry sweetheart, I am eating my lunch

Now when I tell Betty off she says: Are you happy mummy?

Betty was telling me that she doesn’t like tomatoes and lettuce. I told her that I love them. I then told her that I love her. She replied: But you can’t eat Betty on a plate mummy

Tom was holding Dolly this morning and Betty entered the room and said to him: Give Dolly to mummy, she is mummy's baby

Monday 21 September 2009

Potty exemption

We have been trying to get Betty out of nappies for quite some time now. I feel that Tom and I have tried everything. And nothing works. It’s not that she doesn’t know what to do because every time we visit my grandmother she performs beautifully.

Every time I go to the loo she insists on coming with me (which is all good because I am hoping that this will encourage her) and she helpfully talks me through each step. Once I have finished she tells me that I am a good girl and that I can have a star on her potty chart.

Whenever Betty’s little chums come over to play and either use their potty in front of her or take themselves off to the loo, she tells them: ‘Well done, you are very clever’. She even keeps asking them if they need a wee and reminds them that they mustn’t wet themselves.

She has pretty little pants desperate to be worn, and she will often talk fondly about them being folded up neatly in her draw. But if you suggest that she actually wears them she very matter-of-factly says ‘No mummy’.

The little lady seems to think that she is exempt from this whole potty training malarkey.

Saturday 19 September 2009

For my mum

Tom bought a piano recently, having hankered after one ever since Betty was born. He was brought up with a piano, and is very modest, but can play amazingly well. I was also brought up with a piano in the house and tell everyone that I am a pianist (my late grandpa was after all), but I can actually only play Chopsticks very fast.

My mum’s middle name is Elise - my grandpa named her after Beethoven’s Fur Elise, so when she heard Tom playing this piece on our new piano she felt very emotional.

She was listening to Tom playing yesterday evening, and was even more touched when Betty walked into the room and specifically requested that Tom play Fur Elise. Betty then began dancing around the room singing ‘Fur Elise, Fur Elise’ while Tom played.

It was a very special moment for my mum, and a proud one for me.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Green fingers, not tomatoes

Betty led me by the hand to the greenhouse yesterday afternoon announcing that she had some tomatoes to pick.

She was disappointed to find that there were only two ripe tomatoes and so I helpfully suggested that it might be fun to pick a big green one and watch it turn red on the windowsill.

Betty was absolutely appalled at this suggestion and with a furrowed brow she promptly put me right: ‘You are very naughty in the greenhouse mummy. Daddy will tell you off. Tomatoes must be red NOT GREEN’ and then ushered me out of there and back to the house as quickly as she could.

And as if she needed to get all annoyances towards me off her chest, she then said: ‘And it’s not Tom, it’s DADDY’.

Sunday 13 September 2009

And the sun shone!

We have just spent a great week on a beautiful welsh headland, but we were completely unprepared for the freak fantastic weather that we had all week. I had only packed waterproofs, furry bear suits, fleece blankets, and woolly hats, none of which we needed. For the glorious days spent on the beach we could have done with, at the very least, some beach towels, and some un-knitted attire.

Betty delighted in building sandcastles, flying a ridiculous postage stamp-sized kite, and trying to catch the fish in the rock pools. She would run around saying ‘where are all the fishes mummy?’ I would say ‘look, there are hundreds just here!’ So she would scream loudly with excitement and go galumphing through the water towards them wielding her little pink net, and then wonder where they had gone. This cycle went on for half a day.

I was desperate to go in the sea but I felt it would have been disrespectful to Dolly to get my boobs covered in sea salt and sand in time for her next feed. So whilst Betty and Tom were jumping through waves I took the opportunity to do some power walking across the beach with Dolly in her pushchair. Although this felt relatively good at the time, that night I realised that as my feet had been pounding the sand, my sunglasses had been pounding my nose, and it looked and felt like I had been punched. My nose still really hurts and I think I may have to see my GP. ‘Injury by walking whilst wearing sunglasses doctor’.

We also went on lots of walks along the Pembrokeshire coastal path, and Betty’s eyes almost popped out of her head when she saw how many blackberries there were. I think Tom, who was carrying Betty on his back, began to get a little weary of having to pick every single blackberry in Betty’s view, give them to her, and then hear an: ‘Ut-oooh Daddy’s purple neck’ from behind. Betty has decided that she doesn’t like ANYTING apart from blackberries at the moment. Throughout the holiday she kept saying: ‘I don’t like the sea. I don’t like lighthouses. I don’t like you. I don’t like cheese. I like blackberries’.

One morning we took a walk down to a little cove which is supposed to be a haven for seals. And sure enough Tom spotted a baby seal lying on the beach. I edged towards him with my camera, expecting him to scurry back into the water, but he just lay there looking at me with big expectant eyes. With my maternal hormones still in overdrive, I felt that he was giving me the same look that Dolly gives me when she needs something. This was a very strange experience for me, because I am not an animal lover, in fact I normally hate them. But this Dolly-esque seal really got to me and I was genuinely upset because I thought that he was injured or had been abandoned by his mother.

Later that afternoon, after the seal incident, Betty and I went on an ‘Aquaphobia’ boat trip around Ramsey Island. Unbeknown to me at the time, of all the boat trips I could have taken her on this was probably the least suitable for a nearly three year old. But the lady in the ticket office gave me a desperate and very hard sell and even told me that the trip would be suitable for a baby ie. Dolly. Thankfully my mother’s intuition kicked in and I sent Tom off for a nice lunch with Dolly as his spectator, on dry land, whilst Betty and I boarded the boat.

The ‘boat’ was actually a pretty insubstantial dingy which had a very powerful engine and motorbike style seats to sit on. Life jackets were thrown our way by the skipper as the boat sped out of the harbour and did a few stunts to amuse the sunbathers on the beach. Betty spent the first half of the hour long trip staring at her feet in total silence. When I asked if she was ok, praying that she wasn’t going to be sick, she gave me a very clipped and brave little ‘yes’. Thankfully during the last half of the trip she had come to terms with being thrown this way and that, and excitedly started pointing out buoys and other boats. It seems Betty follows me in her disinterest of animals - when we saw a little cove with hundreds of baby seals all basking in the sun she was completely unimpressed and got back to pointing out a big red buoy instead. She showed mild interest in a porpoise jumping beside the boat but again quickly got back to her buoy spotting instead.

The trip turned out to be pretty exhilarating and fun but if I had taken Dolly on this boat I would probably have lynched the woman who sold us the tickets afterwards. I also realised that it was perfectly normal for a baby seal to be lying on a beach and would have looked like a complete mentalist townie if I had raised the alarm on the one we had seen that morning.

We only had one bad day where it was windy, rainy and grey all day long. By lunch time, after being cooped up in the small cottage all morning with Betty running riot, we were at the end of our tether. Betty must have overheard either me or Tom saying to the other that we needed a break from her, as she later announced that she needed a break from us!

Apart from that one awful day, we were so unbelievably lucky with the weather and we all had such a amazing time. However, now that we have found our dream destination, I always have to have something to worry about and am paranoid that the owners won’t want us to come back. Maybe because we didn’t do enough hoovering, or because we left pin holes in the window frames, or because we left 7 minutes after the designated departure time?

Tom says I am being silly and of course he is right. I hope.

Thursday 3 September 2009

No yummy mummy here

I am heavier now than I was just after Dolly was born, and so I have recently started trying really hard to lose weight. It was a comment from my dear friend Emily that finally did it when she told me I was looking a bit ‘roly poly’.

I began my mission by cutting back on my chocolate intake, but I found that cheese then became my weakness. Anyway, I am slowly sorting things out and last week managed to shift 4lbs. I rewarded myself with a new top, which I put on this morning and proudly marched into the kitchen where Betty and Tom were having breakfast.

Ever the observant little girl, Betty remarked on my new top and told me she liked it a lot. I then asked: ‘Do you think I look like a yummy mummy my darling?’ She replied with a resonant ‘NO’. And then she went on to say: ‘Yummy Betty. Yummy Daddy. Yummy Dolly. Yummy Granny. Yummy Peppa Pig. Yummy Mummy Pig. Yummy Maisy Mouse. Yummy Pocoyo. Yummy Tesco Man…‘

‘Yummy Mummy?’ I asked, trying to keep a straight face. ‘NO’ she said.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

A mother's journey

You wake up one morning in your early thirties, after years of anticipation wondering when this day would arrive, and you have a warm glowing sensation inside. You feel exultant but terrified. This is the moment that you realise that both body and mind are completely ready to begin a whole new journey.

You buy the books on how to get pregnant, drastically change your diet, drink lots of water, walk up a mountain every day, and have lots of sex. And all the while you are slightly preoccupied with thoughts of whether or not conception has occurred. Then you get your period, and feel a tiny bit gutted.

The following month your period doesn’t come and you try really really hard not to get your hopes up. Thoughts about whether or not you are pregnant completely consume you, and you constantly feel like you have butterflies in your tummy. Then you pluck up the courage to confirm the pregnancy either way.

The doctor tells you that you are indeed pregnant. You are pregnant! This is without doubt the best and most surreal day of your life so far. You cry tears of joy for several days afterwards, and cannot quite believe it to be true. After the initial euphoria you feel scared. What if something goes wrong. What if you miscarry or the pregnancy turns out to be ectopic. Or the doctor is wrong. At the same time you are desperate to tell the world your news. It feels like you are harbouring the biggest secret ever.

As the weeks go by you watch in wonder as your baby bump gets bigger and bigger. You attend each antenatal check with anticipation, and the first time you hear your baby’s rapid little heart beat you are overcome with emotion – it is mind-blowing. You spend the duration of your pregnancy with a protective hand across your tummy, you try to imagine what your baby will look like, you talk and sing to her, and you feel huge excitement every time you get a little kick or a prod. You eagerly await her arrival, whilst eating nothing but crisp and dairylea sandwiches. You cannot wait to meet her.

You give birth to your baby and look at her for the first time, in total awe. You laugh and sob, and your heart is pumping so hard you think it’s going to explode. Your baby is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. She immediately looks for the breast and lies across you, skin to skin, for several hours. The bond between mother and baby is instant.

For the next few weeks you and your baby are inseparable. You spend your time feeding her and sleeping together with her curled up on your chest looking safe and as content as can be. It pains you to hand her over to well-meaning friends and relatives because you don’t want to be apart from her for more than a second.

The months go by and you and your baby get to know each other inside out. You know when she is hungry, tired, uncomfortable, annoyed, or in need of a change of scenery. You know every little mark and crease on her body. She knows your voice and your smell and rarely takes her eyes off you. She squeals with delight and gives you a big beaming smile every time you appear into view, and she gently paws you with her little fingers as she feeds. You and your baby share private and special moments whilst the rest of the world sleeps.

You spend every waking moment with her and so you see her first smile, first chuckle, first wave, first clap and first steps, her first everything. You sit up with her in the middle of the night cradling her because she is cutting a tooth, or because she has a cold. You are fiercely protective of her, and you feel hurt by the odd person who is insensitive and disrespectful of your role as her mother. You feed her, bath her, play with her, change her nappies and read and sing to her, and make important decisions for her. But most importantly you love her, more than anything else in the world. A pure, unconditional love between mother and child.

And then one day you realise that you love your baby more than she could ever love you, more than anyone could ever possibly love anyone, until, that is, she wakes up ready to begin a whole new journey of her own.

Friday 21 August 2009

Growing up

Last night I told Betty off after she persistently refused to get undressed for her bath. I was tired and hungry, Betty was tired and pushing boundaries.

Having given her one last chance, I pulled the plug and let the water out of her bath and abolished her bedtime treat which is normally a sweetie of some sort.

I hastily put her pyjamas on and in my cross voice told her to get into bed immediately, which she did without hesitation. As I put the duvet over her she looked at me and said ‘I want a bath mummy’. I could see her little eyes welling up as she held back the tears –something I have never ever seen her do before. Usually she will either cry or whinge if she doesn’t get what she wants.

My heart felt like it was breaking. She suddenly seemed so grown up and vulnerable and self-aware, and not the toddler she has been up until now.

And when I thought my heart couldn’t be pulled anymore, still fighting back her tears she said: ‘I'm sorry I was naughty mummy. Can you get into bed with me?’

Friday 14 August 2009

The Buttons do Butlins

Butlins very kindly invited us to the launch of their new Ocean hotel and spa in Bognor Regis, with a couple of nights’ accommodation thrown in too.

They put us up in the Premier Inn in Chichester the night before their launch at Bognor. We arrived after a torturous six hour journey. It took this long because Betty (who is usually a once a day-er) decided to poo all the way down the M4, the A34, the M3 and then the M27.

Tom, Betty, Dolly and I were all in the same rather small room which scared me slightly, but I reasoned with Tom that the experience would toughen us up and be character building.

Three of us had to share a bed (albeit a very large outsized one) whilst Dolly was given the choice of two cots. Betty and Dolly both slept really well but Tom and I did not. It turns out that Betty sleeps like a starfish and so we were both clinging onto each side of the bed for dear life all night long.

The following morning as we were getting dressed, the launch was mentioned on the TV news. I got very excited and texted friends and family saying: ‘The Butlins launch is on the national news, I’m gonna be on TV!’ At breakfast we tried to guess who were bloggers and who were real hotel guests (Single Parent Dad, was that you in the lift with me when baby Dolly was losing the plot?), then we left for the Ocean Hotel.

This £20million, 4 star hotel is pretty impressive: spacious, fun, colourful and clean (so much so that our house now seems embarrassingly filthy in comparison). One of the first things that you experience on entering the hotel are the musical lifts. Seventies disco heroes like ABBA and the Village People serenade you in thirty-second snatches between floors. Much to Tom’s embarrassment Betty would try to get him to dance with her every time we entered them, no matter who else was in there. She also loved chasing the fish on the interactive reception floor and the children’s area in the hotel restaurant, where she tried to get Tom to drink his manly pint of beer sitting in a toy car. Betty also devoured the breakfasts which is a pretty good endorsement as she’s not normally a breakfast person, and she had the staff running around after her, fetching her more orange juice and croissants.

The launch event was great, if surreal – lots of journalists in suits, and bloggers surrounded by children – and the entertainment was fantastic, although the human sized squawking seagulls scared the hell out of Betty.

In the evening, with both girls fast asleep in bed, and Tom babysitting (i.e. reading his book via the changing coloured lights in the bathroom) I went off in search of a glass of wine. I went for a little wander around the camp and saw some of the entertainment but couldn’t help wishing that my secret crush, Shane Ritchie, was still a Redcoat. By the time I got to the hotel bar I was so tired I could hardly put in my order: ‘Wine. White. House. Dry.’ I was also feeling very self-conscious as I still look about 7 months pregnant. The waitress whispered something to her manager which I can only assume was something like ‘Is she safe to serve?’ before handing over the glass of wine. I then went and sat on the terrace and watched the sun setting over Butlins, and looked at the campers in all their finery heading out for the evening’s entertainment and thought: ‘Is this what our holidays have come to? Sitting alone with a glass of wine, staring out at some empty fairground rides.'

However it was nice to be able to have a glass of wine and not have to think about driving home, and that night all four of us had the best night sleep we have had for months. I didn’t hear a peep out of Betty, Dolly and Tom for a solid 12 hours.

On the last day I had my complimentary spa experience where I met some of the other bloggers for the first time whilst freezing our tits off in the snow cave with next to nothing on in minus 16 degree temperatures or sweating like pigs in the steam room. It was quite a surreal setting for meeting ladies that I have only ever chatted to online before.

The hotel was fun, the service was great and it was a real treat to have a holiday paid for by someone else. Thank you Butlins.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Normality and loveliness

I feel things are ‘normal’ and running smoothly again in the Button household. We have emerged from the haze and have adjusted to having a new little baby in our midst, and are nicely in a new routine.

Dolly is so chilled out and will happily gurgle and kick around on her play-mat for hours. And although she is sleeping amazingly well at night, I do miss terribly the early weeks when she would sleep on my chest all night long, curled up and snug.

She is a real mummy’s girl, but also adores a doting Betty, and is slowly warming to Tom! Watching their relationships develop and the little interactions between big and little sister is like nothing else on earth.

I cannot believe how fast the time is going, she is almost 15 weeks old. I'm desperately trying to cling onto these lovely baby days for all they’re worth, as realistically I don’t think we will go for a third (although I am already making noises to Tom about it maybe not being such a bad idea to carry on procreating).

These are very special times.

Monday 3 August 2009


The last few times that I have told Betty off for either lobbing her dinner across the kitchen or doing her tightrope act along the back of the sofa, she has looked at me for a good few seconds, and then with a furrowed brow and a concerned little voice has said: 'Oooh dear, mummy's tired - go to bed mummy'.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Artful Betty

Betty has shown remarkable artistic talent from a very early age, but it still comes as a surprise to see her creations.

The other day she sat down and, ‘at random’, dipped her brush into the paint and came up with these pictures. She sighed as I heaped praise on her.

Wednesday 29 July 2009


Tom and I were sitting in the pub last night drinking our pints of bitter and eating cheese when Tom suddenly announced: ‘I feel I hardly know Dolly’. He then went on to admit to me in a very serious tone that when he was holding Dolly yesterday evening and looking at her, he felt genuinely concerned that if she were in a line-up with lots of other babies he probably wouldn’t be able to pick her out.

Monday 27 July 2009

Guest post from Grandpa Button (Tom's dad)

I love the endless stream of images Elsie sends out that chart the growth of my grand-daughters.

I think it was the photograph in the garden that did it. Suddenly I was looking into the eyes of Tom, aged 2 months staring quizzically and unblinking. Older generations are always on the look-out for characteristic family features. I suppose it's part of the same human desire for self-creation that drives grandparents to cherish time with the next generation - unhurried time with no specific agenda. So when Dolly took 10 seconds just to give the camera a long assessing look, she also transported me back in time by a warp factor of about thirty years.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Embarrassing moment

We had a grueling few days last week. Betty has had hand, foot and mouth disease and has been very out of sorts and unwell with it. On Thursday however, she seemed to be over the worst and desperate to get out of the house (having not left it for days), I took Betty to the playground.

At the slide there was a little girl having a tantrum because she didn't want to leave, and as she was being carried past us by her fraught mum, Betty started mimicking the girl's cry loudly, in a very take-the-piss kind of way. It was really really embarrassing. That's when I knew that she was better.

Saturday 25 July 2009

My birthday

It was my 35th birthday yesterday, and we had a fantastic day.

My current tactic is to go out on day trips with very low expectations (ie. weather will be crap, children will cry and whinge etc) because that way I cannot be disappointed. Yesterday, however, was perfect. We went to a National Trust house and garden, and Betty, Dolly and Tom all behaved impeccably, and the weather was glorious. We had a delicious picnic, Betty delighted in the giant chess set (making up her own rules before abandoning it to go in pursuit of the playground) and Dolly either slept or watched on with her knowing (and slightly unnerving) stare.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

The first three months

The differences between your first and your second baby …

• When baby no.1 only pooed once a week until she went onto solids, you stressed and agonised over it and wondered what on earth could be wrong. You made several trips to the doctor with your otherwise happy baby, and tried every laxative trick under the sun. When baby no.2 seems to have exactly the same digestive system as baby no.1, instead of freaking out, you are grateful that you only have to deal with one dirty nappy on a weekly basis.

• After the birth of your first baby you tried desperately to shed the excess weight and be a yummy mummy, but after baby no.2 arrived you have given up caring and are too stressed/knackered/busy to worry about the fact that you eat at least two big bars of Galaxy a day and are two stone heavier.

• Having gone through two and a half years with baby no.1, and come across many a competitive parent, you realise that it is not cool and is perhaps a little insensitive (if not bloody annoying) to shout from the rooftops about how your baby sleeps through the night/eats broccoli etc. Therefore, with the second baby you learn to keep schtum and play it down, specially when asked directly by parent friends who haven’t slept for seven years.

• When friends ask how you have managed to get both babies sleeping relatively well from a young age, where with baby no.1 you naively and gaily told them about the wonder that is Gina Ford, whist thrusting her book into their hands - this time you do not admit to even knowing who Gina Ford is, let alone the whole controlled crying regime.

• When the new baby grumbles/cries you often don’t even notice/hear it. Whereas if baby no.1 so much as made a whimper you thought she must be sickening for something and would race her off to the doctors.

• All the little baby-gros and vests that were kept sparkling white for the duration the first time round (ie. they were washed at 90 degrees and only with other whites), are now all sorts of different shades of grey/blue/pink.

• The video footage of baby no.1’s sleep highlights from the first three months goes on for an agonising hour. The video camera has not yet made it out of the cupboard this time round (battery needs charging or something).

• Where you spent hours dutifully winding baby no.1 after a feed, things become a little slack the second time round and you figure that your youngest can probably burp unaided if needs be.

• Where with baby no.1 you did everything in your power to make sure that she reached every milestone (ie. holding/following an object, rolling over etc.) at the correct age (according to your baby book), this time you have absolutely no idea/can’t remember when they are supposed to be doing what, nor do you care or have time to fixate about it.

• With baby no.1 the first three months felt like three years. With baby no.2 three months feels like three seconds.

Monday 20 July 2009

Noise control

We mothers tiptoe around our babies when they are asleep so as not to wake them up. During the evenings, I won't let anyone flush the loo, watch TV, talk too loudly or wash up. I have also unplugged the phone on occasion, even though it's totally out of Betty and Dolly's earshot.

Last night our smoke alarm went off, ringing continuously for about 10 seconds. It's practically next to Dolly's head, and she didn't even flinch, let alone wake up.

Thursday 16 July 2009


I would like to buy Betty some new dvds for the occasions when I desperately need her to be entertained while I get on with cooking dinner etc etc. Has anyone got some good ideas on what a nearly three year old would love?

Tuesday 14 July 2009


With both girls asleep in bed, I slumped on the sofa this evening with two bars of chocolate, having had an EXHAUSTING day (so much so that I went into meltdown at about 4pm and threw both my little darlings at Tom and went and sat in the car, took some deep breaths and ate marshmallows for 10 minutes).

Anyway Eastenders came on and there I was happily watching it, when Phil Mitchell appeared on my screen - but staring back at me was my beautiful, precious and innocent baby Dolly - the resemblance was uncanny, in my sleep deprived head.

I am off to bed.

Monday 13 July 2009

Breastfeeding tips

Below are some tips I wrote out for a friend of mine when Betty was about one. You would think I might have learned from some of these experiences. However, in the last couple of months I have often donned t-shirts with at least one (if not two) wet patches on the front, have had breastpads wriggling their way up and out of my top at the most inopportune moments, and have had milk spraying out across the room in front a very bemused Betty and an embarrassed neighbour. However, that dreaded bloody breastpump is still safely packed away at the back of a cupboard somewhere, probably housing some mice.


• Always wear breast-pads in public, no matter what. The day you go commando and pop out to the shop to buy a loaf of bread, will be the day that you will happily be chatting away to the shop assistant about the marvels of parenthood when just the mere mention of your darling baby will cause two very large wet patches to appear through your t-shirt.

• When wearing your breast-pads, make sure they are inserted securely, avoiding them falling from your person at any given moment. Also ensure that if you take them out of your bra to feed, that you don’t forget to put them back in, and then realise half way down the street that you have left them on the arm of the sofa in Starbucks.

• Don’t go to the bother of putting together the millions of intricate and unfathomable pieces that make up a breast pump, then expressing the milk, dismantling the breast pump to wash and sterilise it, only to do it all over again a few hours later, if you are never actually going to use the aforementioned milk.

• If your baby bites down on your nipple with a new tooth whilst feeding and then looks up at you and smiles, make it known that this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable, and do everything in your power to make sure that this never ever happens again.

• If a fellow mother at your baby yoga class offers to breastfeed your crying baby for you, allowing you five minutes to do your saluting the sun sequence, politely grab your baby and get the hell out of there. Don’t ever return.

• When your well-meaning midwife tells you that within weeks you will be so confident that you will be able to feed your baby at the same time as answering the door to the postman without him noticing, don’t believe her.

• If your baby is a noisy or erratic feeder try to avoid getting your boobs out in a public place such as a café or bus stop.

• Likewise, if your boobs tend to resemble over-inflated footballs just before a feed, avoid feeding in public, as you may end up showering anyone within a one-metre radius.

• One day you will shove your boobs in your baby’s face and she may sigh, roll her eyes and push you away while depositing some pureed carrot on your nipple. This is when you should probably start to think about weaning.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Back to it

I didn’t even know what a blog was until I heard a lady being interviewed on Radio Two, shortly after Betty was born, and she mentioned that her blog had a huge fan base. Annoyingly, I can't remember who she was or what her blog was about. But I liked the idea of having 'fans' and so I asked Tom if anyone could blog, or if you had to be a popstar or something. He said: ‘My darling, if it is a blog you want, it is a blog you shall have’. And so he set one up for me.

I decided to write about being a first-time mum, and all the experiences you have (the joys, the challenges, the angst, the surreal and the sublime) with a new baby. Plus I wanted to be able to have something to show Betty when she grows up. Whenever I asked my own mum what I got up to when I was a baby she frustratingly kept saying: ‘I honestly can’t remember’. So I began merrily typing away about puréeing pears, dream-feeding, and baby yoga.

After several months of writing my blog, I discovered that there was a whole blogging community of mums and dads out there, reading what I had written and offering support, empathy and reassurances on Betty’s latest antics. I was suddenly meeting parents (in a virtual sense) all over the world who were either going through or had been through exactly the same things - being sneered at by judgmental parents who would never do that with their darlings, panicking as their child licked the toilet seat, obsessing over the consistency of baby poo, fretting for months in advance over the planning of a first birthday party, or facing some sudden reminder of their old, pre-parenthood life and realising that the world has changed completely.

Obviously I kept in touch with real-life friends too and didn’t become some kind of weird cyberspace recluse. However, having this great support network, combined with my love of writing, made those early months - which can potentially be very isolating and hard – stimulating and sociable (often without even having to leave the house).

Since my second daughter Dolly was born a few months ago, my blogging has become a little scant, but I am now determined to write more (there are so many precious moments happening every day after all) and start catching up with all my favourite mummy blogs again - I have really really missed it.

Friday 10 July 2009

My ideal life...

One grey February day in 2003, whilst sitting at my computer in a dreary office in West London, I stared out of the window onto the congested and polluted A40 flyover. The only things to be heard were the incessant ringing of office phones and bored voices answering them, and the pneumatic drills and diggers on the road-works outside. Feeling knackered and uninspired about the impending budget meeting with the accounts department later that afternoon, the only thing I could do was to immerse myself in a fantasy. So I set about writing the following piece about my ideal life in the countryside. At the time, the following scenario seemed like a very distant and unobtainable dream…


As I stand at the kitchen sink washing up last night’s dinner plates, I gaze through the fat, colourful tulips sitting in a vase and out of the big oak framed window in front of me. I see spring lambs in the apple orchard, skipping amongst the buttercups and daisies, and a couple of cows peacefully grazing in the bright, warm sunshine. A bumblebee lazily buzzes round my head and I playfully shoo it away, covering myself with soap suds. I look at the remains of the food on the dinner plates and remember the exquisite tastes of our supper the night before which we ate as a family in the garden – a delicious salad of mozzarella, avocado, parma ham, pesto, rocket and lashing of extra virgin olive oil, with homemade crusty bread that I had baked that morning. The windchime hanging above my head makes a little jingle as a light, honeysuckle-scented breeze comes threw the open window.

It is 7.30am and I think about the day ahead of me. After breakfast, the first thing I will do is go out into the garden with my husband and our children to collect the chicken eggs. We will feed the birds, milk the cows and probably have a chat with old farmer Jones. We will then walk around the orchard collecting any rosy apples that may have ripened and fallen to the ground. Then, laden with fresh milk, eggs, juicy apples and some freshly picked flowers, we will head for my little shop which is situated at the end of the garden. I sell everything from fresh homemade bread, to little watercolours of the local scenery, to fishing flies. I decide that later on that afternoon, before I pick the children up from school, I will go for a sail around the nearby lake, followed by a swim with the dolphins.

During the summer months my afternoons vary from day to day. I either go sailing and swimming, bareback horse riding across the mountains behind our cottage, sit by the river and paint, go for long walks, sunbathe, or have lazy picnics with the animals. In winter this changes slightly – I enjoy building snowmen, sledging, making sculptures out of ice, eating the snow and playing with the polar bears who live in a cave in the mountains. My husband, who works from home, is often able to join me in my leisure activities.

Our cottage is warm and cosy with a big open fire in the sitting room where we often sit and read poetry to one another, and laugh and sing and play musical instruments. We have a dining room with a huge oak table in the middle. We often have dinner parties with our friends from London when they come to visit - we have such a jolly old time, sipping wine, eating fine food and laughing about those silly old polar bears in their cave in the mountains. And after dinner we retire to the sitting room where we all sit on sheepskin rugs by the fire and toast marshmallows and play Snakes and Ladders.

I finish the washing-up, take my Marigolds off, call the children, and then head for the garden skipping with joy, to begin the day…


Although our new life does not involve polar bears or dolphins, it does involve all things country - vegetable patches, hens, rolling hills, and mouse invasions.

Tuesday 7 July 2009


The courier who wanted to marry me, just came to the door again with yet another parcel. This time the Button household was a picture of domestic bliss. Betty was sitting quietly at the kitchen table playing with her play dough, Dolly was kicking and gurgling on her play mat, and I was actually looking half decent and not donning my usual baggy tracksuit and slippers that I wear around the house.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Too quiet

Last night while Betty was out at her grandma’s 60th birthday barn dance, do-si-do-ing and promenading with gusto and rhythm til the early hours, I was tucked up in bed with a chamomile tea and a Snickers. Instead of gallivanting half way across the country on a scorching hot weekend from one social event to the next, I had decided to stay at home with Dolly to relax and take it easy, without my tornado of a toddler charging around the place. And I was really looking forward to the peace and quiet.

However when I waved the very excited Tom and Betty off in the morning, I had a huge lump in my throat. It was the first night I had spent at home without Betty being there since she was born, and it felt really odd. Although it was lovely to be able to spend some quality time with Dolly, by lunchtime I really really missed Betty. Dolly was behaving differently and I can only assume that she was also missing her big sister. We were both, dare I say it, bored, without Betty’s constant chatter and entertainment and frolics.

I had so much time to sit about and think, I suddenly found myself obsessing over whether Dolly’s nails were short enough, whether she was doing adequate poos, if she was feeding enough, and sleeping too much etc. Normally I wouldn’t have time to worry about these non-existent concerns. This was a stark reminder of what a neurotic mother I was with Betty when she was a baby, and it was exhausting. A friend asked me earlier whether it was hard going from one to two children and I can now honestly say I find it much easier with two.

Anyway Tom and Betty have one more lunch date with grandparents and aunts and uncles before they head home today. I cannot wait to see them.

Wednesday 17 June 2009


Yesterday Betty had a nasty fall and badly bruised and cut her knee. Worryingly she claimed that she couldn’t walk.

After quite some time and a packet of chocolate buttons she calmed down and went to sleep. However, she continued to claim that she couldn’t walk this morning, so I told Tom that he must rush her to A&E.

He dutifully carried an ailing Betty out to the car, drove her off to the hospital, and carried her into the waiting area, only for her to make a miraculous recovery when she spotted the playhouse in the children’s section. Tom was promptly informed that it was nothing more than a grazed knee and was sent home with a bottle of Calpol. Apparently just before they left, Betty did a very theatrical limp for the doctor (on the leg that hadn’t been injured).

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Bouncing baby

Yesterday afternoon I needed to send some emails so I set Betty up with a puzzle, and put Dolly in the bouncing chair.

I sat down at my computer and began typing. When I turned back towards Dolly just moments later, Betty was vigorously bouncing her, almost catapulting her right out of the chair, and nearly giving me a heart attack. But both Betty and Dolly were looking straight at me and grinning from ear to ear.

Friday 5 June 2009

Lucky escape

When I was fourteen there was a boy in the year above me at school who had a bit of a thing for me. He would phone my house and then nervously hang up. He would hide little notes in my school bag. And he would ask his friends to ask me if I would sit next to him on the school bus. I even heard a rumour that he wanted to marry me. All of which I cruelly ignored.

Twenty years later, having not seen him since I left school, our paths crossed again. A few months ago when I was heavily pregnant, the doorbell rang early one morning. I ran downstairs wearing a hideously frumpy nightie which came to just above the knees (it is the only thing that would fit). I had unshaven legs, fat ankles, huge bump and nipples brazenly protruding, greasy unbrushed hair and no make-up on.

I swung open the front door and there he was, standing there in a courier’s uniform and holding out a large package for me. I have no idea who was more embarrassed. I quickly clung to the hope that he wouldn’t recognise me, but this hope was shattered when he handed me his handheld computer with my name emblazoned across it, for me to sign for the package. I didn’t know whether I should make a joke of it and comment on how unattractive I was looking or whether I should just say nothing and shut the door as quickly as possible. I did the latter. I imagined he would be down the pub later with his mates having a right old laugh at my expense and telling them of what a bloody lucky escape he had had.

Having got over this mild humiliation, the doorbell rang early again yesterday morning. Betty was crying because I wouldn’t give her ice-cream for breakfast and Dolly was crying because I had put her down to make Betty’s breakfast. I answered the door and there he was again, nervously smirking, and holding out another large parcel. I wasn’t sure whether to make a joke of the bedlam going on behind me. But again I said nothing, and I quickly signed for the parcel. This time, he managed a very chirpy: ‘Thanks then’ and I promptly slammed the door.

I got straight on the phone to my friend in Kent who I hold entirely responsible for these encounters and told her that the next large parcel she sends me (she has been returning baby items such as moses baskets, baby swings etc, that I had leant to her when she had her baby last year), can she please please please use a different courier service.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Betty at Hay

Now that Dolly is coming out of that newborn phase of sleeping for hours on end I do not have any time to do ANYTHING other than the absolute essentials, let alone blog. And there is so much I want to write about!

Instead I have attached a picture of Betty at Hay Festival, bearing an uncanny resemblance to her dad, clutching her bag with her new book purchases.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

A job well done

Last night Tom put Betty to bed while I put Dolly to bed.

We both happened to finish at the same time and met each other on the landing. We were euphorically giving each other a high-five when suddenly screams and cries started up from both bedrooms simultaneously. Tom looked at me, paused, and said: ‘Well that’s the girls sorted then’.

Monday 18 May 2009

Extreme nappy change (by Tom)

Betty’s had her nappy changed in some diverse places – on the grassy verge of a seaside car park, in a café with toilet roll (I will never moan about wet wipes again), on the main street of fashionable Deauville, France – but today was a real humdinger. Betty took it very well, considering.

I’m very slowly gathering materials for a home-made chicken coop. So far I have a roll of chicken wire, and a bag of Betty’s hair to terrify the local foxes (see earlier post Hair Abuse). Today I felt ready to go to the next level so I took Betty off to a reclamation centre in search of some cheap bits of timber. The rain was falling hard as we arrived. For a time all was well, I started to look for some wood, and Betty was ecstatic about all the random items: phone boxes, stained glass windows, barrels, giant stone balls…in fact I think the excitement might just have triggered the long-overdue bowel movement that she loudly announced to me from halfway down the bath aisle.

Resisting the urge to ignore it, I scooped the little lady up and asked the warehouse owner if there was a toilet. He led me outside and pointed to a blank door. There was some confusion as I thanked him and headed off in the opposite direction (to get Betty a spare nappy etc. – but it was too wet to explain). When I got back, the blank door had been opened. It had been a peculiar exchange, but I had no time to work it out: Betty’s nappy needed urgent attention.

Inside was a concrete-floored bunker. There was no lightbulb. Two doors led off to the usual places: a third door was locked and could have been guarding absolutely anything. I tried shutting the outer door, as a token nod towards Betty’s dignity, but the ensuing darkness was total. I opened the door again and searched the bunker for inspiration. There was a small anvil on the floor. Even a small anvil is almost unmoveable without machinery. With Betty’s help, I dragged it across the floor and propped open the door, effecting a compromise between having enough light to see by, and not letting Betty get drenched by the now-horizontal icy rain.

Working quickly now, in case the other customer was suddenly caught short, I threw my coat onto the muddy floor and lay my alarmed but stoical daughter on top. I set to work with my back to the door in an attempt to keep the worst of the storm off Betty. The nappy change itself was mercifully straightforward, though there was no bin, and I was too embarrassed to talk to the man again, so I threw the old nappy into my rucksack and ran with Betty back to the shelter of the crazy warehouse.

Friday 15 May 2009


Tom has gone back to work so I am now going it alone with the two little ladies. There are several goals I have to reach each day for things to go relatively smoothly, namely not letting anyone starve.

If I have managed to get milk into Dolly whilst keeping Betty happy and entertained, and lunch into Betty without Dolly losing the plot, that is a real accomplishment and I feel a real sense of achievement.

I was particularly pleased with myself yesterday when I managed to make yellow play dough for Betty, whilst breastfeeding, singing nursery rhymes, and trying to locate Betty’s felt tip pen lids that she was adamant she must have in order to stop nagging me.

One of the biggest things I have noticed since Dolly was born is that Betty is a very big girl and is doing near-on adult poos and therefore seems way too old to be wearing nappies and lying on a changing mat with her legs in the air being held in a vice like grip etc. Therefore, much to Tom’s astonishment, I have decided that this is the time to embark on the whole potty training thing. This has so far involved me taking Betty’s nappy off for a couple of afternoons here and there and telling her that if she manages to do her business in the potty I will give her a big piece of chocolate. However, on both afternoons, much to Betty’s annoyance (and my frustration) she hasn’t needed to do either a wee or a poo during the whole nappy-free time.

The funniest thing that Betty has started doing since her new sister arrived is that when I am feeding Dolly she has started mimicking me by ‘breastfeeding’ her duck comforter (whilst making slurping noises) and then winding him.

Going from one to two is a bit of a shock to the system when you are the only adult in the house and both girls are refusing to have their nap, or insisting on crying at the same time. But it is truly amazing watching Betty mothering Dolly and running to her aid when she cries, gently stroking her head, rocking her chair and asking her if she would like some raisins to make her feel better.

Saturday 25 April 2009

New arrival!

Our perfect little baby arrived on Wednesday 22nd April at 9.30pm after a very speedy one and a half hour labour. One minute Tom and I were putting Betty to bed and dancing around her bedroom with her, the next minute I had one almighty contraction and we were making a mad dash to the hospital, arriving with just 45 minutes to spare before our impatient new daughter hurtled out.

Tom was amused by the fact that even though I was heavily in the throes of labour during the very hairy 30 minute car journey to the hospital I still managed to do my usual back-seat driving, telling him he was too close to the car in front, and to watch out for the cyclist.

Betty is absolutely fascinated by her new sister and has been very attentive and kind towards her. The first thing Betty asks for when she wakes up is to see her. She has been helping me to change her nappy, and has been gently rocking her, giving her lots of toys to play with (including her beloved duck comforter), and has been covering her tiny baby-gro with animal stickers.

I think Betty had grown weary of me and Tom and is delighted to have someone new in the house.

We are all very very happy.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Hair abuse

Betty was in desperate need of a haircut and so armed with some heavy chocolate bribes I decided to take on the challenge myself.

These days, if there is a promise of chocolate I can get Betty to do just about anything. And sure enough my little treasure sat there as good as gold as I hacked away at her impossibly thick mop.

Tom entered the room half way through the cut and with a glint in his eye he asked if I could save all the hair for him. I was touched at his thoughtfulness and sentimentality towards his daughter and so when I had finished I lovingly collected all the cut-off hair and carefully placed it in a pretty little box for him.

Later I asked him what he was going to do with the hair and barely being able to contain his excitement he said: ‘I’m going to put it into an old sock, tie it up, and then hang it from the chicken coop door… I read somewhere that the human scent will deter the foxes.’

Sunday 12 April 2009

Unknown territory

Having already had a baby, I might be forgiven for thinking that giving birth to and rearing a second child will be a lot easier, as I have done it all before. While elements of this may be true I have been told that with a new little individual comes a whole load of new and very different challenges. And I now see that the same can be said for different pregnancies too.

Betty was born just after 37 weeks. Therefore I naively assumed that new baby Button would follow suit and also come along at 37 weeks. Taking matters and nature into my own hands I have spent the last few months merrily and stupidly telling anyone who asks that we are expecting the baby to arrive around 1st April (at 37 weeks). This has meant that over the last couple weeks we have been inundated with texts and phone-calls wondering where our baby is and if we have accidentally omitted to tell people of the birth.

I am now 39 weeks pregnant and so have already entered unknown territory even before the baby has actually been born. I have never been this pregnant before. I never knew what it was like to go to bed each night feeling terrified, excited, anxious and on tenterhooks wondering if ‘tonight will be the night our lives will change forever’. I never had this time to start questioning whether or not I was actually ready for the imminent birth, or whether I would cope with another baby, or if the house could be tidied and cleaned a little more etc etc.

I did have a weeks’ reprieve from these thoughts however. About a week ago Betty caught Slapped Cheek from nursery and then brought it home and gave it to me. It has been a pretty torturous week of Betty being unwell and out of sorts, Tom being run ragged trying to meet important work deadlines whilst looking after us all, and me being bedridden and too ill to even remember about the whole pregnancy thing.

Betty and I are now feeling much better, which is a MASSIVE relief. I am not sure what the new baby would have made of entering such a dysfunctional and sickly household as it was last week, and I certainly don’t know how we would have coped with adequately welcoming a new baby into our lives.

So anyway, I am now once more having all the thoughts (tenfold) I had prior to the whole Slapped Cheek episode, and am wondering if tonight will be the night…

Friday 3 April 2009

Pregnancy diet

I had a gestational diabetes scare and my midwife made me completely change my diet.

Friday 20 March 2009

Remote parenting

When Betty was a few weeks old we decided that, although she was pretty good at making herself heard, we needed a baby monitor.

I remember reading the instructions. The description for the ‘Talk’ facility said something like: ‘Press and hold this button on the parent unit and speak into it to be heard by your baby’. And then it went on to say: ‘WARNING - THIS BUTTON SHOULD NOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PARENTING’.

In the early days I only ever dared use this button once. Betty was grumbling in her cot one night and so I pressed the ‘Talk’ button and began singing to her sweetly in the hope of making her drift off to sleep. However, it had the opposite effect. She went berserk and screamed blue murder until I appeared in person to pacify her. Since then the button has been strictly off-limits.

Last week Tom had a nasty cold and so I made him sleep downstairs for a few days. One night Betty woke up at about 3am and in a whiney little voice began saying ‘No Postman Pat. No Postman Pat’ over and over and over again. Normally I would have asked Tom to go and sort out her disagreement with Pat, but since he wasn’t there I needed to deal with the situation myself. I was feeling huge and uncomfortable and unable to move easily and hoist myself out of bed, so in desperation I turned to the ‘Talk’ facility for the first time in over two years and gently said: ‘Betty my darling it’s time to go back to sleep now, we can talk about Postman Pat in the morning if you like, but right now it’s time to go to sleep’. Lo and behold, I didn’t hear another peep out of her until morning.

I have used this method successfully in the middle of the night a couple of times since. If the monitor company thinks I’m not a proper parent, I’m willing to live with that.

Friday 13 March 2009

Stomach snub

I have been thinking/worrying a lot about the effects the new baby will have on Betty, but also how lovely it will be for her to have a younger sibling to play with, or torment in the case of me and my poor younger brother.

Some of the incidents that spring to mind…

• When I was nine years old my dad said he'd give me £50 if I ate a worm. I ate the worm and got my £50, but my mum (who was pretty annoyed with my dad for encouraging me to do such a stupid thing) made me split the money with my younger brother. I was livid and thought it only fair to force him into eating a worm to earn his half.
• During the school holidays (shortly after the worm incident) I locked my brother in a cupboard for three hours while my mum was at work. Just before she was due to come home I let him out again. He cried and wailed and told mum what I had done but I convinced her that he was making it up.
• I used to pick flowers out of peoples’ gardens, and then hand them to my brother and tell him to go and knock on the door and try to sell them to the owner.
• And I would often suck the chocolate off Maltesers and then hide them all over our house. When my brother came across them and asked me what they were I would scare the life out of him and tell him that it was alien poo.

I keep hearing from friends and from celebrity mums in Heat magazine that when pregnant with the second child, the older sibling affectionately strokes and kisses their mummy’s tummy, talks or sings to the unborn baby, or tries to look at it through mummy’s belly button.

Betty has shown absolutely no interest in my expanding stomach. When I dare mention to her that there is a baby in there, she gives me a filthy look, turns her back on me, and starts singing ‘The wheels on the bus…’ very loudly.

This could mean that either she thinks I am completely deluded for talking about such absurdities (especially as she regularly witnesses me downing entire Chocolate Oranges, and often refers to me as ‘Daddy Pig’), or she knows full well what is going on and doesn’t want to think ab0ut the fact that she soon has to share her home and parents with another little Button.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Domestic bore

A single friend came over for supper last night. When it was time for her to leave, she pointed out (in a nice way) that I had made the following statements/admissions throughout the evening:

• Economy 7 does have its plus points you know
• Tescos online shopping has changed my life
• Windolene doesn’t work on our windows
• I am so excited about finding the ‘timer delay’ button on our washing machine
• By planning our weekly menu I have seriously slashed our grocery bills
• There are lots of great offers on baby products at the moment
• Our milk consumption has reached astronomical proportions
• I have yet to work out how to use bleach correctly
• Every little helps

Friday 20 February 2009

Great granddad

During visits to my grandparents’ house, my granddad would joke with me and say: ‘Hasn’t Betty learnt to speak yet?’ or ‘Is she thick?’ and he would openly mock the name ‘Betty’. Whenever Betty left a trail of biscuit crumbs along their sitting room floor it made him grimace. He’d tell her off for sticking her head in the washing machine, or for pulling the window blinds too hard, and he had to leave the room when Betty’s excitable squeals caused interference on his hearing aid. (Betty would then go off in hot pursuit, barge into his bedroom and cheerfully say: ‘HELLLOOO’ and he would grumpily grunt something back at her.)

But all this was just the surface. When we visited their house, my granddad always came to the door to greet us, gave both Betty and me a big kiss, and then took Betty by the hand and guided her carefully up the steps, chatting affectionately to her as they went. And although at 94 years old he was frail and achy, he mustered up all his energy to pick her up and sit her on his lap, and happily let her feed him half-eaten soggy crisps. When Betty trotted into the garden he’d follow her and coax his old dog out of her kennel so that Betty could say hello to her. And I often caught him looking at Betty with genuine warmth and love. He and my grandma were Betty’s very first visitors in hospital when she was just a day old. I’ll always remember them peering into her crib and seeing her for the first time, and both looking like they were going to cry.

One time, when he and I were watching Betty racing around the room, he started reminiscing about the moment he found out that I had been born. He was on a fishing holiday in Scotland with my grandma and they were woken in the early hours by the landlady of the B&B, who brought them a cup of tea with the news.

When I was little, he and my grandma used to come to my birthday parties. Thirty years later they came to Betty’s first birthday party. My granddad was even apologetic when they had to leave early because it had started snowing heavily.

Up until recently this funny and caring man was healthy and active, walking his dog, driving into town, and even going fishing. Last week he passed away in his sleep, having been taken ill just a week before. I’m dreading the moment when we walk into my grandparents’ house and Betty asks where he is.