If you have a toddler, you will know Nick Sharratt the author and/or illustrator of books including Pants, Octopus Socktopus and the Daisy series. I seem to be building a library upstairs in T's bedroom, albeit one with sagging overstuffed shelves, and Nick is one of our favourites. I love the fact that his drawings appear so simple with their bright colours and strong lines but tell a fantastic, funny story, full of quirky extra details. That's why he's a gazillionaire* and my son's New Best Friend. I'm sorry Julia, it's been nice knowing you but there's a new kid in the bedroom** and we're reading him Every Single Night.
Nick's books are instantly recognisable, which sadly to my two and a half year old, means interchangeable. This week he picked up You Choose (a fabulous book, perfect for keeping toddlers entertained when out and about because there's lots to look at, we always take ours when we're going out for dinner as a perfect 'waiting for the food' activity) and cleared his throat.
'More Pants ... illushhtrated by Nick Sharratt'
'No darling, that's You Choose'
(oblivious) 'Red pants, green pants, yellow submarine pants'
'No darling look, that's You Choose, that's the page where you decide where you'd like to live, I'd like to live in that little lighthouse, what about you?'
(ignoring me now, turns page crossly, voice gets louder) 'Dancing with the Queen pants, la, la, la'
'No darling look, this is More Pants' (holding up the book)
(death stare) 'yummy pants, mummy pants, sucking on your thumby pants, tickling your tummy pants and a matching bwwwaaa'***
I gave up. He flipped the pages of one book, pausing occasionally to give me his 'I'm right' look and recited a completely different story from start to finish. Who am I to argue with a boy who really, really loves his books?
*An estimation on my count, no idea what he's really worth. ** Nick has actually illustrated a few of Julia's stories, One Mole Digging a Hole and Toddle Waddle are amongst the ones we have. ***Poor child has a small issue with his r's.
The lovely Muddling Along Mummy has welcomed me back into the blogging fold by tagging me with the Happy 101 Meme. Sometimes in the fug of everyday life - the endless rounds of feeding, cooking, cleaning - it's hard to step back and take note of the good stuff, so taking part is my attempt to right the balance! Here, in no particular order, are 10 things currently making me happy ...
Friends I'm not sure I can put into words how lucky I am to have a group of fabulous friends providing support, advice, entertainment and sanity-saving in equal measure. I've tried to write something here, a fitting tribute I suppose, and deleted it every time as it doesn't seem to do them justice. I hope they know who they are.
Sitting up C is now sitting reliably for longer periods. It means I can sit her alongside her brother in the front seats of the supermarket trolley. Admittedly I then have to watch the shelves on both sides in case unwanted items are swept into the basket, but seeing them both interacting, able to 'talk' at the same level, hold hands, swap toys, is truly a joy.
Splashy baths Or 'doing raining' as T calls it. Three in a bath tires everyone out for bedtime.
My Bugaboo (but I'm not a buggy snob, honest!) I did so love my Micralite buggy. It was cheap, light, folded small and could be pushed one handed. In fact I spent an awful lot of time pushing it like that when T was small. Once he outgrew the carrycot I popped him into the forward facing pushchair and stepped out of the door. He screamed, and screamed, and screamed some more. A small child with separation anxiety who can't see his Mummy is Not Good. This time we used the carrycot attachment for the first few months and once C was ready to move into the seat unit bit the bullet and bought a rear-facing pushchair, a second hand Bugaboo Bee. The freedom to shop or walk whilst she chats away happily is wonderful, and guess what, the baby who knows Mummy's there will even close her eyes and nap without fuss. When T is tired I can sling C and he hops on for a ride. Perfect, perfect, perfect.
Squeaky cheese It's summer! Well, maybe not, but it's warmer than it was, and warm means salads, and salads means halloumi!
Holiday planning On maternity leave and with an upcoming house move, money is tight. It must be, we're going on 'holiday' to the inlaws' this summer and with them this autumn. I was really pleased then to win a free long weekend to Bluestone in Wales. We've been before, it's utterly fab, and no rellies. Hurrah! Roll on May.
Nextand their ridiculously large clothing sizes T is wearing his 9-12m shorts for the third summer in a row, leaving me more money to spend on funky summer t-shirts.
Looking forward, not back I never thought it would make me happy to admit I will never be a size 12 again. I recently unpacked a suitcase of clothes last worn in 2006, the summer before I got pregnant with T. Four years and two breastfed children meant I could barely squeeze into them. I would like to lose weight, I don't want to be my current size forever, but having them in the bottom of the wardrobe waiting for me to shrink by what in all honestly would probably have to be three stone wasn't doing anyone any good. So I sold them. I bought some nice new things in my new size with the cash, and posting the parcels let me indulge my wrapping fetish!
Toddler cheek 'Don't tell me what to do ... nice try Mummyo' Sometimes you have to laugh.
I have been pretty slow with this Meme and I'm pretty sure everyone I'd have tagged has already completed it. If you're reading this and you haven't, why not give it a go?
It is 1990. My ten year old self scuffs the toes of her sensible Startrites together and scowls. My sister and I spend our weekends with my Dad who has been browsing Harry Hall Cycles, underneath the Corn Exchange, for almost an hour and I'm bored. As payment for behaving during the interminable talk of inner tubes and Sturmey Archer gears we'll be paid in Marks and Spencer egg mayonnaise sandwiches, consumed in the garden of Manchester Cathedral, before catching the bus home again.
It is 1995. I'm a schoolgirl who thinks she knows it all. On Saturday nights I hop on the Metrolink without paying and race to Idol's where they serve triple vodka for £1.50 before 7.30 pm. My skirt is shorter than a pelmet. An inspector calls and I queue, shamefaced, in Stretford Post Office to buy a Postal Order to pay the fine.
It is 2000. During University holidays I work long hours on the checkouts at Sainsbury's in Salford. I change hurriedly in the staff room at the end of my shift and race to Love Train at Royale's. My heart beats like a drum, poom poom, poom poom. I hail a taxi home and run out of cash on Chester Road, walking the last half mile, carrying my shoes.
It is 2005 and I am planning a Manchester wedding. We have rings made at the Craft and Design centre and spend the summer drinking in city centre bars under patio heaters and planning the future.
It is 2010. My toddler pronounces his a's like one of the Gallagher brothers. I drive into town and complain about the traffic and cost of parking. I curse the students who clutter the Oxford Road pavements and constantly ask 'what used to be there?' as the city changes more quickly than I can keep up. I visit art galleries and museums with a pushchair in tow and always, always know the whereabouts of the nearest public toilet. I am still stubbornly proud of my home town.
Then there's news. Promotion means a family move to the Midlands. With a lifetime of memories within a 15 mile radius, if I'm not Manchester, will I still be me?
My shout from kitchen to lounge went unanswered, although I could hear the telltale scuffling sound of a toddler who was Up To Something.
Hoiking the baby up on my hip I stuck my head around the door. 'Shower, now!' I'm not proud, I should really have said 'please come upstairs for your shower now darling' but when you're leaving for the zoo in 40 minutes and still need to get three people washed and dressed and one of them breastfed there's not much time for literary flourish. Plus single words seem to penetrate toddler ears more successfully.
T was sitting on the sofa facing away from me. I growled his name in a warning tone.
Curiosity won over time management. I stepped into the room.
'What are you doing darling?'
I noticed he was sitting on one of his teddybears.
'T, what ARE you doing?'
'Shhh Mummy, I'm just hatching my eggs. I'm nesting!'
We were a little late for the zoo, but what price imagination?
I am sitting on the toilet. Sorry, not a great opening line I know but hey, this is anonymous and it adds a certain something to the story. The door creaks open (there is nothing sacrosanct in our house) and T toddles in, oblivious to the fact I might like some privacy. He grabs my necklace and fiddles, 'I loike your beads Mummy'. His Essex based Grandparents have had more of an impact on his speech than our 300 mile separation would suggest, his accent is anything but Lancashire.
I stand and fasten my trousers. 'I loike your top with (peers closer) leaves and flowers and (grabs a piece and fingers it) patterns'. I move to the sink and wash my hands. My squat shadow follows me. 'Mummy, have you been to the hairdressers?'
I'm perplexed. I'm fiercely proud of the fact my son is a caring, sharing, gentle boy. His father mutters quietly about our weekly ballet class, and rather more loudly that I shouldn't indulge his penchant for hairslides, and I worry how I'll explain this apparent new fascination with the dowdy dress sense and straggly locks of a tired Mum. What's next, toddler fashion and beauty tips?
I meet my fellow NCT Mums for dinner. Over chow mein we discuss the little darlings' latest skills. Post potty training, it's all about phonics. T can sound out his own name and recognises the letters that belong to the rest of his family. C is for compliments and N is for nursery where it appears they've been talking about 'being nice' all week. My friend's daughter A has also been passing comment on her Mum's outfits, 'Mummy I like that top on you'.
So the mystery is solved, but as I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror it's comforting to think perhaps T might, without encouragement, still think in his own small way I'm a yummy Mummy.
As the Rhythm Time teacher proffered a handful of lollipop bright maracas, C's eye's glinted and a slow trickle of drool dripped down her chin. She reached for the red one and opened her mouth wide ready to chomp down on the hard plastic sphere. Two white pegs through, eighteen more to come, makes anything and everything a likely teether.
Handle grabbed, she raised her arm hungrily towards her mouth and ... stopped. She lifted it further, but again it didn't make contact. Instead, as she waved her hand about, the musical instrument rattled and she let out a delighted giggle. Small wave. Rattle. Big shake. RATTLE. Bash Mummy repeatedly on the knee. Rattle, rattle, rattle. Bash yourself on the head. Rattle, cry. Bash Mummy on the head. Rattle, laugh. Bash the floor. RATTLE.
For half an hour, with a vice-like grip, the maraca was a toy and remained unchomped. The bottom button of my cardigan, now that's another matter.