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.