Spring is in the air

It’s back to school for us today, but with a definite hint of spring in the air to soften the blow. Actually, I don’t mind too much, and am hoping that this term my offspring might be a bit healthier and we can actually settle into our new routine, which involves me being able to write while Sophia is at pre-school. Watch this space!

daffodils

We had a lovely half term. For the first part of it I took the children up to Liverpool to see my parents. The first morning we were there, they whisked the children off to the Storybarn in Calderstones Park, leaving me curled up in my pyjamas with a good book and a warm pain au chocolat. I then managed to stir myself to have a long, luxurious, uninterrupted shower – even more of a treat because our shower at home has been broken for three weeks and so I’ve been having baths and rinsing my hair under the taps with a tupperware tub!

The children had an amazing time at the Storybarn, and their enthusiasm definitely makes me think it’s something we’ll want to do again on a future visit to Liverpool. Anna especially absolutely loves books, reading, stories and the world of make-believe. She’s currently two and a half chapters into writing her own first novel – an adventure story which shows a strong Blytonesque influence, as well as a vivid imagination of her own, and she is rarely seen without her head in a book. Definitely like mother like daughter! Sophia loves stories too, but she also likes to be on the move, and Storybarn gave her lots of chances for active play as well. She was particularly taken with the giant bubble machine.

We had a lovely family time when my brother and sister-in-law came over for the day. The children had the time of their lives playing with Uncle Matt and Auntie Esther. They went for a walk in the woods and climbed on log bridges (Uncle Matt soaking his feet in a ditch to rescue Anna when she got stuck!), played a long game of Scrabble, which I had been teaching Anna the day before, read endless stories, had cuddles and generally gave them lots of the patient, loving, one-on-one attention which aunties and uncles are really good at.

We also went to the World Museum in Liverpool, where Anna enjoyed the dinosaur trail and Sophia marvelled at the enormous dinosaur skeleton and the tanks of tropical fish. And of course, no trip to Liverpool would be complete for us without a visit to the Waterstones in Liverpool One – one of my favourite bookshops in the country, and with such an incredible children’s area.

flap-reading

Back in London we had some lazy time at home, and I was self-sacrificially devoted enough to let Anna do painting and crafts. I know. It had better be a good Mother’s Day present. In the meantime I have two beaded, sequinned, beribboned octopus/jellyfish type creations to find homes for. We also headed to St Albans for the day to visit the Roman museum and remains because Anna is ‘doing’ Romans at school this term.

And this weekend the slightly lighter nights and warmer weather inspired me to start spring-cleaning. Anna and I cleared out her desk (bio-hazard suits would probably have been a good idea), and her art cupboard, and threw away bags of lidless felt-tips, broken crayons, screwed up coloured tissue paper etc etc. We spring-cleaned her playhouse as well, and then when she started to get bored and her sister woke up from her nap,husband took them both off to the park for a muddy game of football and I blitzed the rest of the house – surfaces dusted, floors hoovered and mopped, bathroom cleaned, beds changed – and then pottered off the the florists to buy a bunch of tulips and one of daffodils to let the spring inside.

Out of Hibernation

Perhaps it is just the lighter mornings that make the difference. Forcing myself out of bed for the day when it is still dark just feels SO wrong. I’m a morning person, more or less, but the dark cold mornings of January and February really get me down. The weather is (shh, whisper it) slightly better this last couple of days as well, and there is definitely a certain softness in the air. I know, I know, it will probably be snowing before the week is out.

Whatever the reason, I feel like I am coming back to life. Participating in life rather than standing on the sidelines of other people’s.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find my horizons shrink when I have a baby. To a large extent they have to, because keeping a tiny and totally dependent human being alive is fairly demanding, and doesn’t really allow much headspace for anything else, especially when you have an older child to take care of as well. But at nearly fifteen months, the umbilical cord is no longer tying me so closely to Sophia. She is toddling, feeding herself and starting to communicate –  I think ‘talk’ would be putting it too strongly, but she is getting very good at conveying her opinions! She doesn’t need breastfeeding during the day any more (let’s not talk about nighttime), which is another thing which frees me up considerably.

Suddenly I discovered that I wanted to get some kind of life back which didn’t totally revolve around the children. After my husband sensibly talking me down from the massive wave of guilt which overcame me at that realisation (“How can I want anything other than my precious babies? Am I really selfish? What about women who can’t have children and would give anything to have their lives limited in this way?), I decided to make a few changes.

laptopThe most significant is that my MIL has agreed to babysit Sophia sometimes so that I can start my third novel. The first of these sessions was last Thursday, and it was absolute heaven. I met my MIL at her local station, handed Sophia over for a play at Granny’s house, and ensconced myself in a cafe with my laptop. I already had a plot all worked out, and so actually managed to get a chapter and a half written in the time available. It felt amazing to be writing again, and as an interesting but positive side effect, I noticed that I had so much more patience and energy with the children that afternoon after having a bit of time for me.

I am also trying to make plans to see people. I know, radical.  Friendships have been on a back burner over the past year as all my time and energy has been focussed on my nuclear family, but I am missing my friends, and I am determined start seeing them again. We kicked this new resolution off on Friday by visiting a really good friend who I met through NCT classes when we were brand new first-time mums. We (and our babies) were inseparable for that first couple of years, but then life started to move on. She had a second baby, and then went on to set up her own business. I started writing. The children started different schools and evenings and weekends started to get eaten up with their social lives with their new classmates. Suddenly, from seeing each other several times a week, we were text message buddies. It made me sad on Friday to see how uneasy the children were with each other at first. Luckily it wasn’t long before they bonded over a ‘pizza picnic’, and were soon charging round the house having one of the noisiest games of hide-and-seek I’ve ever witnessed, and my friend and I munched chips and dips and gossiped, if not to our hearts’ content, then certainly a lot more than we’d been able to for a long time.Sophia bus

I’m also going to get out and about with Sophia a bit more during the week. This week we went to the London Transport Museum where she totally ignored the attractive and colourful toddler area in favour of toddling as fast as she could from one vintage bus to another and back again. She loved it, and I had really enjoyed my walk from Liverpool Street Station to Covent Garden – and we both enjoyed having lunch with husband afterwards.

So, that’s how I am dragging myself out of hibernation and back into the world. Working on a new book, trying to see friends more, and getting out and exploring the world again. What about you? Are you starting to feel those spring-time vibes, and does it inspire you to make some changes?

Spring…please?

As it turns out, I was rather over-optimistic back in January when I tentatively wondered whether spring was on the way. It officially now has arrived, but there’s very little sign of any remotely spring-like weather.

Like most people, I am now officially Sick of Winter. And particularly I’m sick of my coat. We’ve had Hallow’een, Bonfire Night, Christmas, New Year, my birthday (not officially recognised as a national holiday, but significant nonetheless) and Valentine’s Day, and during that entire period every time I have set foot out of doors I’ve had to bundle myself up in my now-hated winter coat. It’s an olive green parka, which I bought three winters ago, thinking it would be practical, trendy and warm. The first and the last considerations weighing rather more than they would have done ten years ago.

It is warm, and I suppose it’s reasonably practical, but my heart sinks every time I see it. It adds about 2 stone to my hips and tummy, and then the chocolate I comfort eat to make myself feel better about looking so fat and frumpy adds another stone. And perhaps I only have myself to blame for this, but the large pockets have been distended into total shapelessness by my habit of doing the nursery drop-off without my handbag. Gloves, phone, keys, tissues, loose change, mittens, boxes of raisins, dinner money, letters from the school, bits of gravel/moss/pebbles which have taken Anna’s fancy, have all been shoved in, often simultaneously. Gazing disgustedly at my saddle-bags this weekend I instigated a rigorous clear-out, and have been carrying a bag this week, but the damage is now done.

I want it to be spring for lots of reasons – it may incentivise me to do some much-needed spring cleaning and gardening, Anna has a lovely new wardrobe of spring/summer clothes which I’m dying to dress her in, a recent blood test showed that I’m Vitamin D deficient (no bloody wonder), I’d like to feel an urge to eat salad instead of mashed potato as my go-to side dish – but mainly I just want to be able to switch to my lovely Banana Republic navy trench coat, or denim jacket, or, even, whisper it, even just a cardie. And then I want to burn my parka.

Spring?

 

photo

Well no, I know it’s not spring really, we’re not even quite out of January yet. But after the bleak and freezing weather of the last couple of weeks there seems to be a little bit of softness in the air this morning, and so I’ve come up with my top ten reasons why I think spring must be on the way:

1) It’s typical springtime weather, bright, sunny and breezy. Well, maybe slightly more than breezy. But the near gale force winds whipping round the house will surely blow the cobwebs away.

2) When I went out for a walk I didn’t need my gloves  and hat on.

3) I turned the thermostat on the central heating down yesterday.

4) I’ve gone three days in a row without a hot chocolate. Oh alright then, 2.5 days. But who’s counting?

5) The pots in my garden have green shoots appearing. It won’t be long before I have beautiful spring flowers. Although the bulbs which didn’t provide a tasty winter snack for the resident squirrel population (numerous) will be a delicious treat for the snails as soon as they begin to bloom.

6) I’m actually thinking about my garden for the first time since I planted aforementioned bulbs in October. I’m no rival to Charlie Dimmock, so what I have been thinking is that I need to phone the local gardening firm and ask them to come in and do some pruning and tidying, but still. When they’ve done all the hard work I might plant some primroses.

7) When I went to Colombia Road Flower Market on Sunday it was full of the springtime flowers I love best – daffodils, hyacinths, tulips – and I bought some catkins to arrange in a vase. And we always had catkins on the Spring Table at primary school, ergo it must be spring.

8) It’s my birthday next week. Having a birthday in February is quite handy because I can revive all the New Year Resolutions which didn’t make it through January, and that gives me a sort of cleansing, spring like feeling. Oh dear, I seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel now. I should have stuck to a top seven reasons. But I’ll keep trying.

9) I’ve just made a list of little projects I want to do around the house. And I actually might do some of them myself, as opposed to phoning a man who can. I was a bit daunted at the thought of hemming a pair of curtains by hand, but have now decided that sellotape will be a perfectly acceptable substitute, so that’s ok. Painting the frame of an old mirror surely shouldn’t be beyond me. And all this is a displacement activity for cleaning the windows and hoovering under the beds, which is what my house really needs in the way of spring cleaning.

10) I’m really stuck now. Erm, how about, because the Easter eggs are already in the shops, and surely, surely, retailers wouldn’t indulge in cynical unseasonal product placement in an attempt to persuade us to buy things we don’t want or need, so it must be spring.

And having proved to my perfect satisfaction that spring is on the way I can now feel entirely justified in going out to buy my first creme egg of the year.