Category Archives: My (anti)social life

Webster-Stratton, Part 1

I have started a parenting course: the Webster-Stratton Incredible Years Parenting Course, to be precise.  As with the NCT classes four years ago, this is not so much because I feel any great need to learn about the subject matter (reading parenting books and discussing parenting issues on Internet lists qualify, by this point in my life, as my hobbies), but because I think it sounds like a fun way of meeting people.  After all these years of discussing parenting on the 'Net, I figured it would be good to get to do it with face-to-face, with people with whom I could potentially get together for a coffee later.  I was a bit dubious about the appropriateness of taking a place on a parenting course on that basis – what if I thereby deprived a woman who really did want to learn more about parenting skills of a place? – but, although I wasn't quite that blunt about my reasons when I spoke to the person running the course about starting, I did say I'd become interested because I thought it would be good to meet other parents and talk about parenting, and she didn't seem to think it would be any sort of an issue.  As it turned out, there are only four of us in the group anyway, so I think it fair to say that my presence there is not preventing anyone else who wants to from squeezing in.

Anyway, when I googled the course to find out more about it, I found a lot of links advertising courses in different parts of the world, but none from anyone giving the inside scoop on what it was like to attend (other than the obligatory glowing quotes about how helpful it had been).  I thought it might therefore be interesting to report back on what we learned each week, for the benefit of anyone else who's googling it.  One problem with that which I hadn't anticipated is that there turned out to be a confidentiality rule about what gets discussed in the meetings – this seems perfectly reasonable to me, so I will refrain from giving any details about the women there or any specifics of any problems anyone else discusses.

I also ran into some practical hassles – I had to go to the butcher after dropping Katie off at nursery and before going to the first meeting, meaning I arrived ten minutes late, and then I had to leave an hour early to let the plumber in to fix our boiler at home.  So, unfortunately, what I can tell you about the first session is rather limited.  Here's what I did manage to get:

The class started with an outline of what we would cover that week (this is the first bit I missed, but I saw it when the class leader turned the page of the flipchart back over) and then went on to detailed introductions, in which we each in turn gave our names, our children's names and ages, a brief summary of the kinds of problems we had with them, and what we hoped to get out of the course.  As well as the four of us and Helen, the person leading the group, there was another staff member there; I haven't found out whether she's officially there as a second group leader or whether she's sitting in to learn more about the course for herself.  We then brainstormed ground rules for the group – confidentiality, respect for others, and so forth.  The leader then showed us a picture of a pyramid divided into levels to illustrate the ways in which the course would build up our knowledge, starting at the most fundamental level, which was 'Play'.  On that foundation, we will build up in subsequent weeks to discussing such issues as emotional coaching, communication, rewards, limit setting, and finally discipline (though blessed if I can figure out what would be left under that final heading that won't already have been covered under all the others – oh, well, we shall see).

Our task for this first week, Helen explained (we will, it appears, have one each week on which we report back the following week), will be to focus on playing with each child for ten minutes.  We start on this before addressing any specific behaviours we want to change, because giving children that chance for our undivided positive attention provides the foundation we need for changing anything.  Connection with our children is one of the most powerful tools we have in working constructively with them.

We had a bit of a discussion about the practicalities of this task (how to manage it when we have more than one child, or when the child wants to play with someone else instead of us), which wandered off a bit into some discussion of some of the problems another mother was having, and then we went on to brainstorming about the benefits of play, such as connection with the child and fostering imagination.  And then, I had to leave to let the plumber in.  From what I saw on the flipchart, the rest of the group then went on to discussing barriers to play, followed by six vignettes.  Oh, well – maybe I'll get updated on that when I go back this Friday.  Meanwhile, the boiler is now working perfectly well after having the filters cleaned, and the butcher is now back to working on Saturday mornings as well after his holiday, so I should be able to make the full sessions for subsequent weeks.  Here's hoping.


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Filed under (Horses for) Courses, My (anti)social life

Note to self…

Dear Self,

When a friend who has not yet reached the Mobile Child stage of parenthood invites you and the group round to lunch, do not simply say "Is it OK if Barry and Jamie come along too?" and accept an affirmative at face value.  Be a lot more proactive about pointing out the implications of having a small child running around a non-childproofed home (and do so in a way that suggests that you are not angling for an invitation for him regardless).


However, notwithstanding the wear and tear I inadvertently inflicted on Alex’s nerves (her house did, in the end, escape intact), it was a lovely morning.  We all started out meeting up at Philippa’s coffee morning (the Philippa who taught our NCT class – she holds an Open House coffee morning on the first Friday of every month for the women she’s taught to get together and meet each other again, or for the first time) and enjoyed the usual routine of chat and biscuits, and I showed off my ring slings (I have the MamaBaby paired slings – Moira was struggling a bit with her Wilkinet and I’ve been meaning for ages to bring the MamaBaby slings along to show her.  I love them.  Very simple and straightforward and very versatile.  There are particular carries for which other carriers or slings are better than the MamaBaby – I never felt very comfortable with carrying Jamie on my back using them – but they do give the best range of different carries that I’ve found.)  Then Alex invited us all back to her house for lunch and we had a delicious meal of celeriac soup with fresh bread and cheese and home-made pickle.  Very simple, very yummy.  I loved what I got to see of her house – it’s an adapted cottage on her in-law’s farm with one of those huge kitchen/breakfast room areas that I adore.  Of course, if we had something like that it would probably be filled up with furniture and with general accumulated junk, thus spoiling the effect.  Alex and James had actually achieved that marvellous minimalist look that I never quite seem to manage.  Despite the need for constant Jamie-vigilance (Alex did manage to sound impressively genuinely polite with the repeated reiterations of "I’d really rather you didn’t climb up there, Jamie"), it was a lovely lunch.  (Incidentally, Katie settled into a carrycot borrowed from George and slept like a little angel through the whole lunch, stirring at the end of it to wake up and take a feed before settling peaceably back in her car seat for the journey home.)

The other thing I did on the Friday morning was take Katie to see the physiotherapist about her foot, but that ended up being a bit inconclusive – I’d been referred to the physio who comes to the local hospital, as that is about five million times more convenient than trying to get to either of the two big main hospitals in the region, but it turns out that her specialty is neurodevelopmental physiotherapy (cerebral palsy and the like) rather than orthopaedicy-type things, and, hence, although she also felt that the foot was OK, she didn’t feel 100% confident in making that call.  However, she has sorted me out an appointment to see the physio who does specialise in such things, this coming Wednesday (all right, so that would now be later on today – time got away from me, as usual, while writing this post) so we now face the fun of battling through the traffic to the more distant hospital.  Still, if that has to be done then I’m pleased an appointment was sorted out so quickly.

Talking of referrals, Jamie’s assessment with the HV is now arranged for February 11th.  She did ask whether I wanted to proceed directly to paediatric referral, but I didn’t feel that was indicated at this point in view of the current non-problematicness of his presumed mild ASD.  (I feel a bit silly writing ASD given the lack of an official diagnosis, but am becoming more and more sure that that’s what it is, and on further thought do think I’ll request a paediatric referral following the assessment – although it isn’t a problem now, I can see that it may present problems in the future, and am now realising that there may be advantages to getting some kind of official diagnosis in place so that if and when problems do arise we at least have a framework for dealing with them, not to mention having taken the first step towards getting help if that ever does prove to be needed.  Oh, well – we’ll get the assessment, then see where we go from there.)

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Ding ding ding

I am most pleased to report that in the banisters vs. baby race, the banisters have crossed the finishing line first.  Well, technically not quite – there are some final details that remain to be done, but nothing that can’t wait until an appropriately opportune time.  The banisters are up and fully stabilised to the point where our staircase and upstairs hall are once more fit for infant habitation, and it has been completed with the baby still on the inside.  There were times when it looked like a close-run thing; specifically, at twenty to two on Friday morning while I held pieces of handrail together for Barry to screw into position and grimly (and unsuccessfully) tried to ignore both the fact that the crampy pains in my lower abdomen seemed to be increasing noticeably in intensity and the knowledge that when I made a similar observation in my last pregnancy, I had a baby not all that many hours later.  I thought ruefully of all the pregnant women out there longing to go into labour; women who are days or weeks overdue, women desperate to meet their babies, women desperate to avoid induction, women desperate just to get the whole huge-as-a-house stage and its attendant discomforts behind them.  Surf pregnancy forums on the Internet and you’ll find them in their dozens.  I’m not even full-term yet, for crying out loud.  Could the Labour Fairy really not find a better place to visit that night than our chaotically semi-banistered house?

Apparently so.  The cramps didn’t materialise into anything more definite and settled down with a night’s sleep to intermittent only, Barry got the handrail fixed in place and then the final hour or so of work stabilising the banisters done at a more opportune hour of Friday, and we now have a new set of banisters.  And most fine they look too.  I didn’t think to take a ‘before’ picture of them for comparison purposes (whom am I trying to kid; it’s not like I’d ever have got around to posting it anyway), but picture cheap white Sixties-style banisters with planks running parallel to the handrails but spaced widely enough apart for a crawling infant to wriggle through, and you’ll have the idea. (I just tried to find a photo of the style in question on the Internet but didn’t succeed on the first attempt and can’t be bothered to keep looking, so hopefully you know what I mean.)  The new ones are the Colonial style from B&Q, tinted a pleasing reddish-brown shade that warms our halls nicely, and – most importantly – spaced too closely together for a baby’s head to pass.  (I do hope this does not prove to be a bad omen.)  While I’d still prefer the baby to wait a little longer (I’ve got at least three blog posts pending, and the car seat still hasn’t had the cobwebs cleaned off it…), if I go into labour now it will not be a huge problem.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning I met up with Moira at the local breastfeeding group (having an obviously pending baby is considered enough reason for you to gain admission), and had a very nice time catching up with her and eating some most delicious biscuits, while Jamie had an equally nice time playing with the toys there.  Unfortunately we had to leave earlier than I’d have liked as I had my 38 week antenatal appointment, but it’s a weekly thing so I shall try to get back next week unless any labour-related incidents so prevent.  With regard to the antenatal appointment, everything seems fine, although there was a briefly worrying moment when the midwife declared it to be her belief that the baby was breech and left the room in search of a second opinion while I lay there trying to remember everything I knew about external cephalic version and how to deal with caesarean sections.  However, the second midwife was firmly of the opinion that the baby was head down and the first midwife then had another feel and decided that, actually, she now felt it was head down as well, so they decided to leave it at that and simply call me back for another appointment in two weeks’ time.  Since this is booked for the day after my due date, there is a reasonable chance that I may in fact have had my last ever antenatal appointment and that I’ll see them next when I turn up in labour.  We can hope.

My mother has been visiting for the past two days, and tomorrow (today – it’s well after midnight) we have Barry’s family arriving ready to stay the night in preparation for Jamie’s birthday party on the Sunday, so if the baby does stay in for another few days then I can enjoy getting things done while other people are around to watch Jamie.  (And, of course, if the baby does choose to make it’s appearance in that time then I’ll be even more glad of having other people around to watch Jamie.)  I shall head up to bed now and get some sleep in readiness for all this.

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Filed under Great expectations, My (anti)social life

More stuff

On Friday the NCT class had a go at a post-class meet-up.  Fiona couldn’t make it because she was off somewhere for the day, and Jo seems to be currently incommunicado – she doesn’t have a home e-mail address so can’t be contacted by e-mail now that she’s on leave, and when I tried ringing her number I just got mobile phone voicemail.  I did leave a message, but haven’t heard back.  However, Alex and Moira, both of who have now had their babies (Alex’s on 16th October by planned Caesarean, and Moira’s on 29th October, if I remember rightly, by a very quick spontaneous delivery a week ahead of due date), both sounded pleased at the chance to get out of the house for a bit.

The meet-up therefore consisted of me, Jamie, Barry (once he’d taken delivery of a large number of banisters and could leave the house), Alex with baby George, and Moira and Sean with baby Edward.  We seem to be on quite a theme of boys with the names of English kings – this makes it three out of three, or four out of four if you count The One I Made Earlier.  And, of course, there is currently still a 5% chance that I’m cooking up an Alfred William rather than the expected Katherine Abigail – if so, then that would fit in nicely.  Jamie, of course, was more impressed with the fact that one of the babies had the same name as a Thomas the Tank Engine character.  It’s a shame that Fiona couldn’t make it – he’d have been over the moon with having a Henry Thomas there as well.  As it was, one baby with an engine name didn’t seem quite sufficient to him.  "There was a lady with a baby called George," he commented to Barry that evening as he bounced up and down on the bed he was supposed to be settling down to sleep in, "and there was a baby called Edward.  But I don’t know about Donald and Douglas.  Or what happened to Gordon."  Seems Jo’s got her shortlist drawn up for her.

Alex sympathised with me, and with Jo in absentia, over getting left to the end while everyone else had already got their labour out of the way – did it leave me feeling nervous?  Not about the labour, no – having been through one which went straightforwardly, I’m feeling quite blasé about the prospect of a second.  This may well be unwise and I’m trying to get myself mentally geared up to deal with all sorts of disasters, but, for the most part, I figure I’ll worry about it if it happens, whatever ‘it’ turns out to be.  What does unnerve me is the prospect of dealing with a newborn again.  I’ve just been sorting and washing all the baby clothes, and the main memory this brought back is that of just how utterly freaked out I was through the entire time Jamie was small enough to fit in them.  Once I got past the initial wildly hormonal stage of being terrified for Jamie (how could we have brought such a small and fragile person into a world filled with meningitis germs and speeding cars and cot deaths?  What had we been thinking of?  How could we dare to hope that this tiny baby would survive to adulthood without anything ghastly happening to him and thus ripping out my still-beating heart by the arteries and leaving me a hollow shell?), I just felt terrified of him.  Newborns are scary.  They are hopelessly unpredictable, they don’t talk, they have no way of letting you know whether they’re seriously unwell or just have a bit of wind, and they don’t sleep.  What I mind most about being last is the prospect of going through that terrifying newborn stage again when most of the rest have already been through it and are settling into life with a baby.  Though, of course, it is possible that second time around everything will seem a bit less unnerving – after all, at least now I have the best possible evidence before my eyes every day that I am fully capable of raising a newborn into a human being of excellent quality.

After this, Barry and Jamie and I went on to get haircuts, so now I can cross that off my List Of Things To Do, and then we picked up a couple of bits and pieces from the shops and headed back home.  While we were on our way back, I started getting more of the Braxton-Hicks and mild crampy pains that I’d been getting intermittently for the past several months, though without them seeming to be particularly different from any of the previous pains apart from their increased frequency.  So Barry and I had a rather inconclusive discussion about the possible significance of this and whether we ought to be aborting Project Banister Replacement and/or putting grandparents on standby, but everything seemed to settle down after a bit so all I actually did was pack my bag for the hospital.  Seeing it next to the door, all packed and ready with my maternity notes sitting on top, gives me rather a pleasant glow – it’s such a tradition of pregnancy, and one that I never actually got round to the first time around, since I went into labour while packing my bag and never got round to moving it out of the baby’s room before the time came to head to the birthing centre.

This weekend Oi ‘ave been mainly sorting children’s clothes (for both the born and the unborn).  It seems that my method of storing baby clothes in the early months was simply to shove them all into the same bag until the bag got full, without regard to the likelihood that it might in future be useful to have the 0 – 3 month sizes separate from the 3 – 6 month sizes and even a few 6 – 9 month sizes that seemed to have got in there.  So, when we finally got round to getting them down from the attic on Saturday, I had to sort them all out, which took quite some time as I have a lot of 3 – 6 month sizes.  Not only was this a stage when the whole new baby thing was novel enough to people who knew us that we were still getting presents, but at the time I gave birth my sister was working on a television programme with teenage twin boys whose mother celebrated the happy news by sending along their 3 – 6 month baby clothes.  I’m not quite sure why that was the particular age chosen, but probably that was just the nearest bag in her attic, or something.  At any rate, I certainly appreciated them – it came as quite a rude shock when Jamie turned six months and I realised I’d actually need to start buying my child’s clothes – but stuffing them into the same bag with the 0 – 3 month sizes was not the best-thought-out of plans, since it left me with a lot of sorting.  However, that is now done, and I’ve put them all through the wash, and then my mother came to visit on the Sunday and took care of Jamie while I sorted out the vests from the Babygros from the mittens, etc., and found some drawers to shove them into, not to mention sorting out all Jamie’s 2 – 3-year-old clothes and storing them for the attic so that he now has space in his drawers for the 3 – 4-year-old clothes we’ve bought.  I also cleaned the sink in his room (I realise that sounds a bit excessively Flylady with all the other stuff that needs doing, but it just needed some cleaning stuff to be left on it for ten minutes to soak in and then wiped off and was one of those things that, despite not actually taking long, doesn’t ever get done because there’s never a time when I’m in the room for that long and Jamie isn’t, or isn’t needing me to go and check out what he’s up to in another room) and washed down the paintwork next to the stairs ready for Barry to paint it as part of the whole banister replacement thing.  So, once again, warm glow of achievement.

Today, apart from writing this post, my main job has been to keep Jamie out of the way while Barry works on Day 1 of Project Banister Replacement, which all seems to have been achieved successfully – the bit next to the stairs has been painted brown to match the new banisters and the banisters themselves, plus handrails and spindles and whatever other assorted pieces of wood are involved in such a project (some of the technicalities escape me) have all been waxed.  Tomorrow is the graining of the paintwork and the polishing of the waxed bits, and then Wednesday and Thursday are the actual changeover days for the banisters, with Friday to allow for any overrun of bits that have taken longer than expected.  So, we’re still keeping fingers and legs crossed for the baby to hang on inside for at least that long.  So far, so good.

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Filed under Great expectations, Here Be Offspring, I think this line's mostly filler, My (anti)social life

The bad, the good, and the ugly

An update on some bits and bobs that have been happening in my life:

The bad news first, to get it over with. After months of faffing around with the GP and the hospital appointment system, my mother-in-law finally got the horrible-looking thing on her back looked at by someone who knew what they were doing, and it’s a melanoma.  Ick.  Breslow thickness 5 mm, which, in plain English, is Not Good.  It’s been removed successfully – at last – and she feels fine and we had a great weekend with the two of them visiting, but she’s now been called back for a scan next Monday and we’re waiting to see what the outcome of that is.  So.  Not great.  Ack.

In happier news, despite Jo being snowed under with stuff to do before her trip to China (to meet! her! daughter!  How exciting is that?!) she actually managed to make time to meet me for a coffee on Saturday morning.  Well, she had a coffee and I had one of the lime milkshakes that the café had been promising on their menu for months but which never seemed to be available when I was in there (and, yes, it was delicious), and we talked about Xue and the upcoming trip and this, that, and the other, and I had a brilliant time (while Jamie stayed at home with Barry, thus giving us probably about the only chance we’ll have for the next ten years to have a chat that isn’t punctuated by constant Joyce Grenfell-style asides).

And then, later, when I was thinking back on the conversation, it suddenly occurred to me that every damn time she’d said something about her daughter, I had immediately used it as the lead-in to an enthusiastic, and sometimes lengthy, anecdote about my son.  Hello, my name is Sarah and I am a Doting Mother.  It started off so simply – a quick mention of his activities here, a lingering thought about his charms there…  Anyway, the point is, I think I’d better work on this.  While he is indeed a child of rare adorableness and fascination, so is Xue, and I do genuinely want to hear all about her even if it didn’t sound that way at the time, and I’ll get to hear more if I can actually shut up about my own child for a bit.  Jo, if you can bear to meet me again once she’s here, I promise I’ll do less talking and more listening this time!

On which note, I move smoothly on to talking about my son again.  Specifically, an update on his squint.  (Categorising this under ‘the ugly’ is stretching things more than somewhat, as he is a child of such beauty that passing acquaintances go into raptures about his eyes and their slight misalignment is the merest blip on this perfection.  However, I’m not one to pass up a shot at a good blog title, so consider it poetic licence.)

Since my previous post on the subject, Jamie’s been reviewed by both the optometrist/orthoptist (no, I still haven’t figured out what the difference is or which one she actually is, but she’s one or the other, anyway) and the ophthalmologist.  His vision in the squinting eye is, apparently, fine, and we have been given permission to reduce his patching time from two hours a day to one (which is good, as he’s getting more narky about keeping the patches on and I swear lately it’s been harder to keep one on him for an hour than it used to be with two hours).  His glasses prescription has also been updated. 

Now, we have the decision about the squint operation.  The ophthalmologist recommended that we should go ahead with it.  He says it’s purely cosmetic and won’t make a difference to his vision (thinking about that later, I’m confused.  Surely, once his eyes are aligned and he can look at things with both eyes at the same time, we’ll be able to stop worrying about the whole issue of him potentially losing his vision in the squinting eye through not being able to use it at the same time as the other one?  Or did the ophthalmologist mean that it wouldn’t make a direct difference?  Must ask about this when he has his next appointment.)  However, it’s a very simple, quick, and low-risk operation.  The waiting list is about six months, so if we put his name down for it now he’ll have it when he’s around two and a half.  Alternatively, we could wait and have it done at any time down the line, although the ophthalmologist doesn’t want to leave it until after he’s started school (with which I totally agree – I don’t want to be taking him out of school for something that we can sort out at a time of his life when the most important thing he’s likely to miss is a Tumbletots’ session, so if we do this at all, then I think we should do it before he starts school).

So, we can choose to have him operated on any time between the ages of two and a half and five.  Alternatively, we can leave him to grow up with the squint still there and concentrate on teaching him that beauty’s only skin deep anyway.  Personally, I’m in favour of just putting his name down now and getting it over and done with.  Barry’s a bit more leery about it – the thought of the general anaesthetic has him concerned (what if it ends up being one of those horrible the-anaesthetist-hooked-up-the-wrong-pipe stories that end up in women’s magazines with lurid headlines?)  Anyway, we’ll talk about it a bit more and if we do manage to reach a consensus on going ahead now, I can tell the opt-whatever at his next appointment (end of this month) and we can get his name put on the list.

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Filed under Adventures in Squint Correction, Family values, Here Be Offspring, My (anti)social life

There’s No Place Like Home (But Big Posh Hotels Are Even Better)

Well, we set off an hour and a half later than planned after a packing marathon (you know that scene in Carpe Jugulum where Magrat’s packing stuff for her baby and brings along everything but the ceiling?  Uh-huh.  And we were both hopeless at travelling light even before we acquired an extra person to pack for, so just imagine what we’re like now.)  Then we got caught in driving rain and hideous traffic and took an hour longer than we’d expected on the journey, arriving to find an endless queue at the hotel reception, where the computer system was running slow.  We waited and waited and waited in the queue, while civilisations rose and fell around us, which could have been interesting to watch but unfortunately we were somewhat distracted by trying to entertain an energetic and increasingly fractious toddler who had spent far too long cooped up in his car seat and was now due for a nap. 

Having finally checked in, we spent even longer tracking down the cot that I’d booked for our room, only to discover that it was broken at one corner and looked as though it would crumble as soon as Jamie started his gymnastics.  An enterprising staff member mended it with Sellotape, which is just as well, since it meant that at least it held together nicely when Jamie discovered how to climb out of it within twenty seconds of being put into it.  Oh, and the expensive long-distance baby monitor we’d bought with a view to leaving him alone at night while we wandered off to distant parts of the hotel to enjoy ourselves?  Barely transmitted a signal to the end of the corridor.

And I had a blissfully fantastic time.

The best thing about Discworld Conventions isn’t the specific events, as enjoyable as they are.  It’s the comfortable feeling of slotting back into your place in the world, surrounded by like-minded people – offbeat sense of humour and varyingly insane.  Conventions mean wandering the halls surrounded by people with nametags bearing names like "Lonecat" and "Death’s Secretary" and "Undecided", some of them in amazingly elaborate costumes.  They mean stepping sideways into we-do-things-differently-here land, into a universe where you can cast aside everyday roles and bring new parts of yourself to the fore.  And I relaxed and settled into it and revelled in it, as I always do.

There were so many people there that I hadn’t seen since the last convention.  Emms, purple as ever (her hair dye had worn off when she first arrived, but she rectified that most impressively by the second day).  Peter Ellis and Julie with their baby, about a year younger than ours and gorgeously adorable (I think he’s another James, as well, if I’ve got that right – can’t seem to find anything to confirm or deny this).  Drew, Barry R., Ladylark, Aquarion, Lonecat, Jenny, Gideon, Gid, Suzi – all the well-known familiar faces.

I didn’t do too much in the way of actual scheduled activities.  I did go to the Kaffee Klatch with Diane Duane and her husband on Saturday (Kaffee Klatches are a chance for a small group to sit and chat to their favourite authors about, well, anything and everything that takes their fancy, over a cup of coffee) and put my name down for the one on Sunday as well but didn’t get into that, and went to the party on Saturday night after Jamie finally fell asleep.  I managed fleeting attendance at a couple of Alchemists’ Guild meetings before leaving to chase after Jamie (Barry stayed at both meetings and got involved in all sorts of complicated stuff involving exploding anti-frog potions and a film about The Seamy Side Of Life, jointly produced with the Seamstresses’ Guild).  Most of the rest of the time, I was taking care of Jamie – following him around the hotel as he explored, sharing cheese-and-pickle rolls with him in our bedroom for lunch, sitting in the room while he fell asleep for naps and night-time so that I’d be ready to put him back pronto if he climbed out.  And it was the most relaxing Con I’ve yet been to. 

I never would have expected it to be humanly possible for any activity to be more relaxing with a toddler present than without, but it turns out that this is yet another way in which the rules of normal life are suspended for the duration of the Discworld Convention.  At both of the previous Cons I’ve been to, I ran myself ragged trying to get to every remotely interesting-looking activity on the list.  Yes, it was great fun – when I wasn’t too exhausted to care.  It’s surprising what a relief it can be to stop trying to have fun and just chill out instead.

Jamie, meanwhile, was having the time of his life.  All that corridor space to run around in!  A room with light switches, a television, and a phone all easily within his reach!  (In the unlikely event that anyone who works on room service at the Hinckley Hotel happens to be reading this, I’d just like to say that if you received any mystifying requests for "Unh!  Agliagliagli!" in the past few days, you have my apologies.)  And the lights – ah, the bright lights!  The hotel has undergone complete redecoration since I was last there.  Personally, I rather missed the forty-foot stone statue of Poseidon that used to grace the entrance foyer, but Jamie thought the tasteful light sculpture that replaced it was the best thing ever.  A ledge to climb on with blue lights in!  And a pillar to play peek-a-boo around!  And more lights to look at, up at the top!  And then he discovered the brasserie – which was named "Biers" for the weekend, in accordance with the Convention custom of renaming parts of the hotel after parts of the Discworld, but which probably should have been named "Toddler Heaven".  Coloured lights everywhere, large-screen TVs, chairs to climb on and beer mats to grab – was it humanly possible for life to get any better?

Oh, it was a disappointment to him that the rule about Not Pressing Random Switches still applied even here (and, yes, still applied when he tried again five seconds later, and then five seconds after that…).  But I compromised by letting him play with the switches on any plug-free sockets, while stopping him from pressing any switches that looked as though they might potentially do something.  And, with all that space to run around in and ornamental trees to play with and people in funny hats to stare at, it actually wasn’t that hard to distract him, most of the time.  The ratio of things he could be allowed to do to things he couldn’t just seemed to be a lot higher than normal, and that was a huge stress-reliever for us both.

We bought him his first Pratchett book in honour of the occasion.  He absolutely loves it.  I have no idea how many times we’ve read it over the past few days, but, believe me, it’s a lot.  A LOT.  And Daddy’s dragon imitations make it even better.  He also enjoyed the freebie balloons that came in our Convention packs (including the ones that a few random people gave him because they didn’t want them themselves).  He was a bit mystified by his free bookmark, but decided, after careful examination of the fringe of thin strips at one end, that it must be a new sort of comb.

He was a bit young for the scheduled children’s activities, but I did take him to the Bedtime Story Reading on Saturday, having heard a rumour that it was going to be Terry Pratchett himself reading from "Where’s My Cow?"  It was, in actual fact, Stephen Briggs reading a story the title of which now completely escapes me but which was, unseasonably, about Christmas.  I can’t say Jamie seemed overwhelmed with interest, but I enjoyed it, anyway.  On Sunday, we took him on the "Where’s My Cow?" hunt (a search to find little plastic cows secreted around the hotel and to record their nametags) in which, again, he showed fairly minimal interest – he thought playing with the plastic teaset up in the children’s room was much more fascinating. 

Apart from this, he just ran round and explored the hotel, except when we went out to dinner in the evenings and he ran round and explored the restaurants.  I had visions of childfree people muttering amongst themselves about Those Awful People Who Let Their Toddler Run Wild And Bother Us When We Were Just Trying To Enjoy An Uninterrupted Meal, but not only did he not seem to be bothering anyone, people seemed positively to delight in the sight of his little face peeping around the edges of their chairs and smiling.  While I of course already know that my son is an exceptionally beautiful and adorable child, it’s good to have independent confirmation of this fact from people who are possibly a mite less biased on the subject.

And, talking of restaurants, he got to try jelly for the first time.  That was definitely one of the high spots of the weekend.

The Cons I’ve been to have marked different stages of my life – newly engaged at the 2002 Con, married and pregnant in 2004, mother of a small child this time around.  What stories will I have to tell in another two years, when he’s almost four and old enough to talk about it all, to dress up for the Maskerade, to join in with the activities?   I remember last time, curled up in an armchair in the Hub late at night, relishing the feel of my heavy bulging belly, and wondering, with a quiver of anticipation, what the next Con would be like.  What it would be like doing the Con with a toddler.  What my life would be like then.  I looked forward so much to finding out.  And it was, and is, every bit as good as I hoped.


Filed under My (anti)social life

Off to see the Wizard

This won’t be posted until we get back, as I don’t like advertising that we’re going to be away – but I’m writing it anyway, just out of sheer excitement.  We’re off to introduce my child to his heritage.

We’re off to the Discworld Convention, 2006.  These are held every two years; so while Jamie was technically present, and indeed rather apparent, at the last one, this will be the first one at which he’s an official member and able to take note of it all.  This will probably be an exhausting experience for his parents as well as him, but it’ll be, um, interesting.

As for me, it’s my third Discworld Convention, and I’m looking forward to catching up with the people I haven’t seen since the last one, showing off my beautiful son, and generally having a great time.

See you later!

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In other weekend news…

The-blogger-formerly-known-as-Magpie and I finally got around to meeting up again, having enjoyed the last time so much that it took us a mere four and a half months to get around to doing it a second time.  Jamie and Little-E-to-be had obviously better learn to use phones and issue invites for themselves at an early stage if they want to have any hope of a decent social life.

J. confused me completely by changing her hair colour in the interim, thereby completely overloading my limited facial recognition abilities, but fortunately she recognised me and I’ve now warned her that she’ll need to wear a nametag if she makes a habit of this.  We once again had an excellent time chatting away over our slices of cake while Jamie played with the toys, climbed on the tables, and pointed excitedly at the dog and the balloon outside the café doors.  J. was highly complimentary about Jamie’s exceeding cuteness, his climbing ability, and his ability to sign ‘more’ (both of the latter being particularly pronounced when there was a chocolate brownie of Mummy’s to be pursued). 

I’d hoped that she’d have some news on Little E. by this time, but apparently the next lot of referrals has now been postponed for another couple of weeks.  Whether she’ll be in that batch or not is anyone’s guess, since the referral rumours currently appear to be emerging from a random number generator, but referrals have now happened up until less than a month before her LID, and if it isn’t this batch then surely, surely, it’s got to be the next one.  Which means that, maybe, the next time we meet up we’ll be able to talk about her daughter as well, in more than just the abstract.  Actually, given the length of time it’s likely to take us to get round to meeting up again, I’d say we can be pretty darned sure of it.

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Filed under Here Be Offspring, My (anti)social life

Ladybugs and owls

"So what does this person look like, anyway?" my husband asked me as we headed for the café where I’d arranged to meet Magpie.

"Tall, shifty, and looking as though she’d rather be someplace else, apparently."


"Oh, yes – and her partner used to have a photo of her on his blog.  But I think he’s taken it down, because I couldn’t find it when I looked for it."  (Incidentally, either he’s sneakily put it back up again to confuse me, or else I am an idiot who can’t find a perfectly obvious link again on a webpage, since it was certainly there when I checked out the link just now.)

"Hair colour?"

"It was a black and white photo." (All right, so I am also an idiot who can’t remember whether a photo is in colour or not.")  "I think she had long straight hair.  So, given what my memory for faces is like, it was probably a tightly-curled perm."


Fortunately, Jo and Charlie were already there when we arrived, and accosted us with excited smiles and waves while we were still casting round looking for tall shifty-looking women.  Which is just as well, because Jo doesn’t look shifty in the slightest and I would never have recognised her from her description.  (She may well be tall, but since she was sitting down I didn’t particularly notice.  Besides, I live with a husband who is 6’4", which has reset my tallness perceptions to a whole different scale.)

And we had a wonderful time.  Well, I did, my husband did, and Jamie did (since the café had some decent toddler-appropriate toys and LOTS of good chairs and tables to climb on) and the other two certainly seemed to.  We talked about adoption, about blogging, about other bloggers, about random matters unrelated to the InterWeb.  It was a lovely relaxed get-together and I really hope we get to do it again at some not-too-distant point.

After which, my husband and I picked up a few things from the supermarket, headed home for lunch, and then drove to London to spend the rest of the weekend at my mother’s, being fussed over and cooked for and generally spoiled rotten.  And we found time for me to read her another couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  (I love reading aloud and my mother loves being read to, so we spent years of my childhood working through Diana Wynne Jones and sundry others before lapsing when I went off to university.  Then, because the Harry Potter books were crying out to be read aloud, I started reading them to her on weekend visits home, and we’ve been working our way through the series for the past… oh, goodness, must be a few years by now.  It’s highly debatable which of us is enjoying the experience more.)

So – no profound thoughts on life, the universe or anything right now.  Just a really lovely relaxing weekend.


Filed under Family values, My (anti)social life

I’m not really a witty and sparkling person; I just play one on the Internet

Anyone making the obvious joke about the title will get Glared At.  Virtually speaking, of course.

Although I have been taking advantage of the anonymity of the Internet in order to maintain my devilishly deceptive identity as a person who actually knows how to string the odd sentence together, I am in actual fact a slack-jawed, vacant-eyed babbler who twitches and says ‘Er’ a lot.  Not that I’m complaining about this – we all have our crosses to bear.  I just thought I’d better come clean about it.

This is because Magpie and I, after several passing comments about how nice it would be to meet up, have had a sudden flash of organisation and actually gone ahead and organised a time and date to do so.  This coming Saturday, in fact.  I’m looking forward to it enormously, but it does occur to me that she might be expecting someone who can, I dunno, actually make coherent conversation or something, and I didn’t want her to be too disappointed.

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