Friday 29 April 2011

A wedding commentary

Through the eyes of a four year old:

  • I think the princess will be wearing pink with lots of pretty flowers around her head
  • I think the princess might be orange
  • Are we going to the wedding?
  • Would I have to wear white when I get married?
  • When is Daddy coming back with the Jaffa Cakes?
  • Is Westminster Abbey as big as our house?
  • I don't like those noisy people with flags
  • Is that the princess? [it was Carole Middleton]
  • I want to see the princess
  • Is that grandma on the telly?
  • Queens are not yellow Mummy
  • Is the princess arriving in one of those taxis?
  • Is the princess on that motorbike?
  • I wish I was getting married - I want to marry my sister
  • I really want a Jaffa Cake
  • Can I marry my Daddy as well?
  • And I want to marry you as well Mummy
  • What are those yellow things?
  • The princess is smiling and beautiful
  • I think the princess has got a bouquet of Buttercups
  • Is she holding the princess's dress so that it doesn't get dirty?
  • Is the prinesss married yet?
  • Why does that man keeping talking and ruining it? [the Bishop]
  • Is this what happened when you and Daddy got married?
  • Will the princess sit down?
  • I don't know that song, do you know that song Mummy?
  • Who is that man? [Elton John]
  • Is the princess's mummy singing?
  • Can I have another Jaffa Cake please?
  • Do you know mummy, I have been to a church before
  • I would now like to go to the palace in my Snow White dress
  • Your wedding dress was just like the princess's dress Mummy
  • What are they singing now? [her interest now waning]
  • Can I have pickled onions for lunch?
  • I am going to find Daddy

Thursday 28 April 2011

Wedding wallow

So, Will and Kate are getting married tomorrow.  I do keep wondering how Kate is faring under all the pressure and media frenzy.  I almost went to pieces several times in the lead up to my own wedding, and we only had 150 guests watching in a little unknown village in the middle of nowhere.  So with the world watching (bar my husband) I cannot even begin to imagine how she feels right now.

And with the wedding, of course, comes all the street parties - there are many celebrations going on around us - all of which Tom refuses to go to.  I tried to form a royal wedding ally in Betty and enthusiastically told her that a real life prince was marrying a lovely girl called Kate tomorrow in a huge church, and that the Queen of England would be there too.  I asked her if she would like to watch it with me on the telly.  'Will there be Jaffa Cakes?' she asked. 

Just when I was feeling thoroughly deflated at the prospect of watching the royal wedding with an uninterested and fidgety four year old, while Tom and Dolly were out having a 'wonderful time', the phone rang.  It was my grandmother.  She asked me if I would like to go and watch the wedding with her on her TV.  I wondered whether Tom had put her up to this, but I felt mildly lifted anyway.  'Shall I bring bunting?' I asked.  'No,' she replied. 'I miss Diana too much.'

Wednesday 27 April 2011

I had a dream (by Betty)

Do you know last night I dreamed of a car-house.  It had lots and lots of stairs in it and all my friends were there too and it was very wobbly.  We drove to the church because everyone was getting married and there was lots and lots of cakes and ice-cream and Jaffa Cakes and biscuits.  And all our Mummys were in the car-house going up the wobbly stairs.  And there were lovely beautiful carpets.  There was an old lady who was really really not very nice and she was so so mean to everyone.  The car-house turned into a train-house and the wheel was right on the top.  Me and my friends went right to the top of the train house and we were just seeing if the Mummys were doing the good driving.  On the train-house we went to the soft play centre. My friends amd I lived at the soft play centre.

Betty Button, aged 4

Friday 22 April 2011

Happy Birthday Dolly Button

I am not going to bang on about how fast time goes and how I cannot believe that my baby Dolly is two (TWO!) already - it is universally accepted that time takes on a whole new pace when you have kids, we all know that too well... I find myself constantly in a perplexed state, trying to catch up.

I hadn't yet woken up this morning, when Dolly snuggled into me (she had come into our bed in the early hours) and sang the following stream of conscientious:

'Happy Birthday to me.  Happy Birthday to you.  Sunny out there.  Spider.  Betty kiss me.  Betty's bed.  Rabbit.  Kiss me Mummy.  Get milk Mummy.  Lid on Mummy.  Daddy's downstairs. I want to touch 'puter button.  My picture'.

Her early morning chorus basically sums Dolly up: She is excited about her birthday, but, as always, wants everyone else to share in the joy and be happy; she loves the sun and pottering around in the garden - when outside she insists on wearing her pink wellies and skipping everywhere; she is ambivalent about spiders; she absolutely worships her big sister (but also sometimes pushes her, yells at her and pulls her hair); her rabbit is her comforter and she strokes it across her face while sucking her thumb (Tom thinks she now has buck teeth - she doesn't); she is a cuddly and kissy little girl; she is sensible and observant; she is obsessed with sabotaging my computer but always asks first if she can touch the buttons (I let her when it is turned off); and lastly on her song list, she has recently unleashed her creativity and feels very pleased with herself about a picture she 'put together' yesterday.

Dolly Button, we are all completely besotted with you (sometimes to your irritation) and are slightly in awe of you: your humour (and humouring), your feistiness, your willpower and your bravery - we feel you are a little bit too cool for us, but feel utterly blessed to have you.

Happy Birthday my darling, beautiful, funny, sweet girl - I hope you enjoy seeing the giraffes and 'phants today, and your Betty Birthday cake...

Tuesday 19 April 2011

The demise of Duckie

It is with great regret, and a tiny bit of relief, that I announce that Duckie and Betty, after a four and half year intense relationship, have parted ways. In a statement earlier today, Betty announced that Duckie was now happiest with his 'boy duck friend' resting in a little crib she lovingly prepared for them next to her bed.

He/she (the gender of the duck changed from day to day to suit Betty) hasn't been totally abandoned and is allowed to 'rest' in her bedroom, but no longer does he get to: be a player in all major decisions, go away on weekend breaks, watch CBeebies, partake in meal times, play fairies and princesses, and be breastfed, cuddled, squeezed, chewed and talked at, 24/7. And I very much doubt his little Christmas stocking that I dutifully made for him at Betty's request a few Christmases ago, to match her own stocking, will ever see the light of day again.

Although this is a time of great sadness (Tom is in denial about the whole thing) and we in the Button household feel this new development marks a huge transition in the life of Betty Button, this sadness also comes with a real sense of relief. The duck had become smelly, threadbare and discoloured and no amount of washing could remedy this. No longer do I have the stress of Betty coming to me (on a weekly basis, of late) to show me a new hole in his wing and asking if I can sew it up for her - it got to the point where there was no material left on his wing to actually sew up.  And no longer do we have to live in fear of the duck getting lost.

That duck, who hailed from H&M on Kensington High St, has been in Betty's life since before she was even born and meant more to her than her own parents.  Perhaps now, Tom and I will get the respect and love we deserve and crave from our first-born.

To mark the retirement of Duckie, and the end of an era, I leave you with a picture of him lovingly drawn by Betty, back in the good old days....

Monday 18 April 2011

Home alone

Tom and Betty went away on a jolly to visit friends last weekend - I really didn't feel like going (very stressful week) and so Dolly and I stayed behind.  And for the first time ever, I spent the night in our house, with no other adults present.

I spent all of Saturday mentally preparing, and trying to hypnotise myself into not being scared of the bleating sheep, the rustling trees, and the people hiding in hedges.  I had to wait until dusk when the pesky chickens had retired into their hut so that I could lock them up before I could retire to bed myself.  Because I was on high alert, mine and Betty's newly-installed homemade scarecrow, next to the chicken run, gave me the shock of my life and with heart pounding I ran back to the house, locked all the doors, hid all the keys, turned all the lights on, took a swig of rum, and went upstairs with my new box-set of Benidorm, an Easter egg, and Heat magazine.

From my bed, I nervously watched dusk turn into darkness and kept giving myself pep talks.  I reasoned that it would be pretty unlucky to get burgled on the one night I was alone in eight years.  Plus, I wasn't actually alone, I had Dolly sleeping soundly in her cot next door, but she isn't even two yet and wouldn't be that much use during a break-in crisis - though saying that, with her Phil Mitchell thuggish tendencies, she would probably be a hell of lot more use than me.

Still I was scared so I decided to sleep with the lights and the TV on in the bedroom - I found a channel showing snooker, so decided that would be calming enough to sleep through.  At 2am I woke to the sound of balls being potted, and Dolly crying.  Spotting an opportunity to join forces against the unknown terrors outside, I went straight to her and asked if she wanted to come into my bed. She said 'no'.  I took her anyway.  I turned the lights and the snooker off and cuddled up to an annoyed Dolly. 

Next thing I knew it was 6.30am, Dolly was fast asleep and as far away as possible from me in the bed, and it was light.  I felt so unbelievably relieved we had made it through the night, and although I had had the help of Dolly, the medicinal rum, the snooker, and all the lights, and had hardly slept, I felt this was a real breakthrough.

Friday 15 April 2011

In an hour

7.50am - wake up with a start, and remember that I forgot to do an online Tesco shop yesterday.

7.51am - with no bread and fruit in the house, I lie there and worry about what I am going to give the kids for breakfast, and what I can fashion together for Betty's lunch box, without pre-school staff thinking I am a neglectful mother.

8.00am - still in bed, I brace myself for my little darlings to start bellowing 'IS IT MOOOOOORRNING?' in unison over and over until I go to them. 

8.04am - 'IS IT MOOOOOOOORNING?' jolts me from my thoughts of Shreddies, the horrors of training pants, and rusty lunch boxes.

8.05am - unleash the children from their bedroom and put on CBeebies

8.07am - go into kitchen, put kettle on, wash-up, warm up their milk, make tea, prepare breakfast, make Betty's lunch, sweep floor, wipe surfaces/kitchen table.

8.20am - while the kids breakfast on breadsticks and raisins, I choose their outfits - preferred clothing is either in the wash, very creased, or can't be found.

8.25am - start the getting-dressed battle.  Dolly cries because she wants to wear her pyjamas all day and Betty tells me that the dress/leggings combo I have picked out don't work together.  Betty then goes into meltdown when I accidently brush her cheek, while doing her hair. 

8.32am - I tell them not to make each other cry while I go into the bathroom, have a 30 second shower, spray some Batiste (dry shampoo) onto my hair and slap some Nivea on.

8.34am - I get dressed, and search for my shoes and my sunglasses (needed to help hide my white powdery hair).  Dolly has hidden them again, and refuses to tell me where they are.  [She will produce them just before bedtime later, true to form]

8.37am - search for girls bags, coats and shoes, and yell a lot.

8.39am - put some washing on, and look for a consent form and some money for a pre-school trip that afternoon.

8.40am - have three gulps of cold tea, and sweep up the raisins from the floor.

8.41am - try to get kids' coats on, and wipe faces.

8.43am - with breakfast unfinished I tell them to eat it in the car.  I break it to Betty that what she is eating for breakfast is pretty much what she will be having for lunch (with the addition of some olives and a yoghurt).

8.44am - leave the house, kids coats under arm, and me wearing Crocs because I can't find my shoes (no standards), and Betty and Dolly wearing Crocs (because I don't have time to do up shoe laces/buckles, and can't find their shoes anyway).

8.45am - wait while Dolly (at her angry insistence) painstakingly clambers up into her carseat, gets legs caught in the straps, spills her breakfast all over car, loses a Croc etc. 

8.47am - with all of us strapped in and engine going, Betty tells me her feet are cold and could she have some socks.

8.49am - I return to the car with the socks, and have to break up a fight over a plastic horse.  Dolly tells me she needs a wee and I tell her to just do it in her pull-up nappy.  Betty implies that I am a bad mother for not letting Dolly use the toilet. I ignore her.

8.50am - we pull out of our driveway onto main road and Betty informs me her bag with lunch in is still on the porch step.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Making amends with the hens

Tom has been away for most of the week, and is back tomorrow.  Normally I quite enjoy his absence, mainly because I get to watch trashy TV in bed, while eating crisp sandwiches, in peace.  But since getting chickens, I now sightly dread him going away.

He gives me instructions on what I have to do with them, like: let them out at 7am, feed them, talk to them, don't kick them, find them worms, collect the eggs, and then lock them up again at night.

The first morning Tom was away I totally forgot about the chickens until midday, and I only remembered because Betty informed me, with basket in hand, that we were off to collect the eggs.  As we neared the coop, I heard some very angry hen noises - there was no mistaking they were pretty pissed off.  It sounded like they were throwing themselves against the hatch door in an attempt to get out.  I feared they may attack me, so I went in armed with a big stick and bravely told Betty and Dolly to wait for me outside the coop.  I opened the hatch and out they charged with an evil glint in their eye.  I had stupidly forgotten to put out their food, and so they pecked furiously at my shoes and surrounded me in a menacing manner.  I was terrified.  I flapped my arms in an attempt to get them away from me, but they, in turn, began flapping their wings.  'Mummy what are you doing?' Betty called.  'HELP' I called back.  I noted that Dolly was giving me a pitiful look.

I did eventually make it out of the coop, albeit a quivering wreck, and closed the gate firmly.  They still needed food though, but there was no way on earth I was going back in there.  So I grabbed handfuls of corn from the tub and threw it at them over the fence.  The clucking now getting more ferocious, they seemed incensed by my actions and they refused to eat the corn.  'I need to collect the eggs Mummy' Betty said.  'We are not collecting the blinkin eggs' I said. I then frog-marched Betty and Dolly back to the house.

Now safely inside, Betty continued to go on and on about the eggs and insisted that she needed to eat one for her lunch.  At that moment in time, I could not think of anything worse than eating an egg laid by one of those chickens - evil chickens who seemed intent on pecking and flapping me to death.

After a stern, but reasoned, talking to from Betty, and lots of sighing from Dolly, I began thinking a little more rationally about the whole thing.  I concluded that it was unlikely they were killer hens and were just plain hungry.  With my maternal instincts kicking in, I then had intense feelings of guilt, and so decided to cook up a proper wholesome meal for them by way of an apology.  So an hour later, armed with an elaborate vegetarian pasta dish, the girls and I headed back towards the coop.  I gently poured the food over the fence, and talked to them slowly and calmly.  And while they appreciatively gorged on the pasta, I sent Betty in to collect the eggs.

Tuesday 5 April 2011


Betty came home from pre-school the other day, and excitedly gave this picture to me.  Genuinely impressed, and getting rather good at interpreting her creations, I said: Wow that is a brilliant crocodile!'

She coolly replied: 'It's a swimming pool'.

Friday 1 April 2011

A chicken revelation (by Tom)

As I stood outside my chicken run (the result of three years hard work, on and off) watching four new-to-us bedraggled pullets pecking around, I felt a very familiar but indistinct surge of emotion. The first time I had ever kept chickens! Why were they making that particular clucking noise? Were they good clucks or angsty ones? Were they happy in their new home? Was I hearing an angry or fearful noise? Were they desperate to scale the fence I’d so laboriously constructed?

Slowly, the thought crystallised that I was feeling pretty much exactly the same feeling of utter cluelessness that I’d felt shortly after the arrival on planet Earth of Betty Button. That feeling of being totally, viscerally responsible for another life, feeding it, keeping it warm, and happy, and safe, a feeling that I had assumed would not come around again until, or unless, grandparenthood descended.

I am glad to report that the feeling did not last long – these were ex-battery chickens, retail value £1, and given to us by the neighbouring farmer so we had even saved ourselves that four pound outlay. It really didn’t matter (apart from to the chickens themselves, and even then, after what they’d been through, it was 50:50) whether they keeled over and died right there, or were savaged that night by a crazy rampaging gang of foxes and badgers, or flew out of the cage to begin a new, free and short life in the field over the way. These were not actual human beings with a genetic link to myself and the rest of my family, in whom god or someone like him had placed a precious charge. No, these ladies could fend for themselves or they could face the consequences.

Thus, at least, ran the rational part of my brain. Yet the old familiar feeling niggled. I had just gone through the mostly enjoyable palaver of putting Betty and Dolly to bed, so perhaps I was feeling overly parental. I watched the hens strutting around, descended from jungle fowl, weird and bald from their lives in an absurdly cramped factory farm. I had thought I’d have a hell of a time herding them into the shed, up the crap ladder I’d cobbled together one evening, the sound of whacked nails echoing across the valley, but as I watched they took it in turns to scramble up the ladder and explore the inside of the shed. They seemed genuinely taken with the stick I’d wedged in as a total afterthought of a perch. I felt like cheering. Soon three of them were in. A fourth continued outside and I decided that this would be the problem bird. Things had gone too well and I had visions of cramming it into the shed only to have the other three escaping and so the Benny Hill style routine would carry on until dawn. But then, only a short while later, that last one stalked up the ladder and into the shed. I whipped away the ladder and closed the hatch. They were in. I braced myself for squawking chaos but none came. They were silent. Happy? Hard to say. Asleep? Unlikely at such short notice. But as I strode away from that chicken run, there was an undeniable stirring at a gut level, some atavistic satisfaction at having put a series of creatures to bed.