Blind Baking

My chaps are both loaded with cold and acutely miserable. They have both demanded, in their distinctly individual ways, Extra Boob as a comfort. Harry’s snot is flowing so unstoppably that I have been reminded of a greenly mucosal magic porridge pot; right up until he lies down to sleep, whereupon it promptly mutates into superglue and chokes him. The poor lad is so hoarse he cannot cry loudly enough to make himself heard in the next room; whilst I can feel the first ominous tightening of my own throat. Arghh.

John has managed to combine a few acres today, although it’s now pissing stair rods, so that’s him done for the week. I pounced on his wrist with a loud cry of triumph yesterday, ripping back the sleeve despite his yammering protests, to reveal the first unmistakable blotches of the harvest-stress eczema he repeatedly attempts to deny he suffers from. Hah!

I must scuttle off to tend and succour, but I will leave you firstly with a photo of the cake I made for my friend’s 30th on Saturday, which I was not entirely displeased with. Cough. Dunno why I don’t just come straight out with it and jump up and down clamouring Praise me! Praise me! Praise me more!

I also want to share with anyone who has had a cake Gone Bad (and do post some links if you have immortalised your special culinary moment) this wonderful site. I have had my baking disasters (aesthetic and poisonous) in the past, but these… these are truly awesome.

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Hairy Hubby Hardships

The Hairy Hubby has been an anxious chap of late. Unless you knew him particularly well, you’d never notice much of a change, but the fact that his teeth have been grinding noisily in his sleep again is a sure sign A) of worry and B) of an imminent bruised shin.

He has spoken undeniably harsh, defamatory words about his straw chopper, although he had the decency to keep it within the family. I usually take the piss mercilessly about failing machinery, but I keep quiet in August. I slide cool cans of beer into his lunch box, make him sandwiches – nice sandwiches, with proper layers and everything – and drive out to the field with the munchables, where I warmly commend his superb progress if the combine is moving (even at a crawl), and silently hand him spanners if it has ground to a halt in disgrace, whilst radiating meek helpfulness. I do not, uncharacteristically, offer advice. I sometimes even pat his hand. Nevertheless, soon he will acquire the harvest eczema that he stoutly refuses to admit is stress-related, and yet appears every August and lasts until October. The spot price of wheat has become a daily talking-point.

This all tends to happen every year, even when it isn’t pissing down with rain. Last year he had to contend with both a baby in NICU and unbelievably soggy weather – ridiculously, the combine was losing traction and wheelspinning in the bloody mud – so naturally, his immune system decided to really play silly buggers and promptly sent along a truly horrific dose of Vincent’s Disease. The hubby-gums had never previously ailed a thing: drunken dentists and two smashed-out-by-hockey-ball teeth notwithstanding. So, it was a surprise to their conscientiously brushing owner when they suddenly developed trench mouth, rendering him completely unable to eat and almost unable to drink. He struggled on manfully for 10 days or so, losing a stone in weight, and getting bugger-all spare sympathy from me, as Harry was not doing so well in special care at that point. Combining all finished, he even got as far as attending a family funeral one afternoon, although the stoic effect was spoiled slightly when he passed out with a thump from dehydration during the final hymn.

So: last year was a right sod. This year, by default, is likely to be a significant improvement.

However.

It has rained for… well, just about forever. The combine is sinking into the wretched mud again, when the ground should be iron-hard. The weather forecast for the next five days is biblical. Hubby will be sheltering disconsolately in his workshop from the rain, staring wistfully at his combine and empty grain stores. And even if he does eventually manage to rev his way out into the paddy fields – around September, the way things are going – the price of grain is sinking lower and lower, and the price of fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, fuel (in fact, everything you need to run a farm) have all gone astrofuckingnomic. And the wife just won’t stop spending money! 

In fact, I think the only thing that would cheer him up currently is either lots of sex, or finding a prominent anoraked-up member of the local rambler’s association with one boot fractionally off the footpath, fully entitling Hubby to deliver both barrels of his 12 bore into said rambler’s arse with complete impunity. Or so he says.

I may go and move some signs.

No Udder Milk Will Do

A baby of less emotional intelligence and fiscal insight might have been nonplussed and overwhelmed by such an influx of gaily-wrapped parcels and adoring relatives and friends.

Not Harry.

He clambered determinedly over the increasingly vertiginous heap, bestowing the odd possessive pat here and there on a particularly honoured leg or an exceptionally sparkly package.

He likes the truck John and I gave him

but seems significantly less taken with the rocker I suggested to my parents as a suitable gift. We pinned him down on it long enough to look acceptable, smothering any attempts at a premature dismount,

but I need Mum’s babysitting services later this week, and I suspect that she may notice that this wonderful item

 is now the absolute Centre of His World.

Or at least, right up to the point he catches a glimpse of the Mummy boob, whereupon I am immediately restored to favour. Today is my first day of weaning him down to two feeds, morning and night. I kept him busy this afternoon and he had tea early, so he didn’t have much of an opportunity to squawk his disapproval. I’m in no hurry at all to stop the bedtime feed but the morning feed – or, more accurately, the abuse of my torpid form by our morning baby – is starting to wind me up a bit. It used to be so peaceful: John would gently remove a wailing infant from the cot at dawn, place him down next to my snoring form, and depart for work. I would drowsily snuggle boob and baby together and promptly return to sleep, rousing only partially to change sides after 15 minutes. Harry would feed himself back to sleep, and we would both wake up when John returned for breakfast at 8.30am ish. I never knew I had it so good.

Harry now feeds furiously for 5 minutes whilst very wide awake, feet kicking, one eye keenly raking the bedroom, locating targets of interest, whilst his chubby little paw blindly pats and taps like a white stick, searching with tweaky fervour for my unoccupied nipple. I have swiftly evolved a practice of draping my chubby paw over it like a fruit cage whilst I snooze. Eventually, the sight of some random object swimming in the repulsive morass of contact lenses, earrings, fruit stones, snotty tissues and towering piles of books that currently occupy my bedside table proves too much for him and he can contain himself no longer. He rips himself off my nipple (Six teeth the child has. Six.) in order to propel himself enthusiastically towards the edge of the bed, limbs paddling frantically in the cloying duvet. He generally treads heavily on my boob as he leaves, and as I lurch sleepily to grasp the biggest chunk of departing baby left within my reach, he frequently also manages to land some telling kicks to my face.

The cleverest course of action is to rise for the day and take him downstairs, to where there exists coffee. If I foolishly attempt to continue to keep my form in horizontal partnership with the mattress, he launches himself, grunting, eyes popping with effort, across the treacherous rising expanse of the pillows towards the wooden bedhead. By dint of herculean effort, he hooks a hand over the top and hauls himself triumphantly upright, swaying precariously. He delightedly pats the wall, before his beaming gaze slides sideways to the bedside table to fall upon the original object of his interest, and he starts to sidestep hastily along the pillows (bouncy, boingy pillows) towards the edge. When his solid little hooves are unfairly prevented from making proper progress – when impeded, for instance, by a grimly-determined-to-sleep occupant of said pillow – then he continues to lean over, or kneel on, the obstruction, at an increasingly perilous angle, until he has both fists so tightly locked around the turned bedpost, he can only be unpeeled painlessly by tickling.

When retrieved, he sits bolt upright in the middle of the bed for a moment, calculating his next move. His busy gaze eventually, inevitably, alights on the milk tankers and he unhesitatingly hurls himself head first into them, mouth gaping, teeth glinting in the dawn sunshine drizzle. Puzzled, firstly by the roars of Mummy-protest, secondly by the strange absence of nipple-in-mouth, and thirdly by the smothered sensation around his ears, he belatedly realises that he has crash-landed squarely between the aforementioned tankers, and proceeds to wriggle and rotate frantically until a stray nipple bounces past his vision.

Imagine a particularly conscientious rottweiler who has had a paralysingly quiet few months patrolling the fences, who is suddenly shown a guiltily-fleeing bottom, and you will have an idea of the zeal and vehemence with which my nipples are pursued. Eventually I can struggle and resist no more and submit to being uncomfortably suctioned into the gaping maw, only to be painfully spat out in frustration mere seconds later, generally because he has not worked out that you can’t easily work a boob when A) they are lying flat, B) when you’ve bullishly buried your entire face, including nostrils, in the fleshy fullness of them, or C) you are sat, casually propped against your mother’s ribs, craning your head in order to ensure that the crazily-stretching nipple you have clamped in your jaws remains a prisoner whilst also trying your best to reach over to conduct experiments about twisting the other nipple off completely.

When I can take no more of his wild flails towards the bed precipice, interspersed with his brutish attacks on my person, I plonk him on the floor to romp among the towering canyons formed by my laundry heaps, whilst I slump, already exhausted from baby-wrestling, counting my bruises, and bemoaning the fact that it is not yet 7.30am. Once I drifted hopefully back off, ignoring the suspicious-sounding thumps and small squeaks of total joy as he pawed hopefully towards a succession of forbidden objects (e.g. hairdryer, perfume spray, cufflinks, cold cups of coffee) waking up properly only when youngster, who had cruised over to stand jauntily by the side of the bed, stood on tiptoe and helped himself to my nearly-protruding-over-the edge-of-bed boob.

I do not mean to complain, you understand. I’m delighted and pleased to have been able to BF him for a year: it’s often a ridiculously hard and bloody painful road in the beginning, and bodies that have played Silly Buggers about the whole being-knocked-up business often seem to have a final boo and hiss at this unwelcome point. (The extremely special and delightful Geohde, in fact, is much deserving of large helpings of internet love on this very subject currently.) It’s just that I’m beginning to feel that my boobs are as much a source of amusement as nutrition these days, and they’re taking a lot of rough punishment. We have tried him with cow’s milk – nice, proper moojuice – in his sippy cup, but I fear his expression was not approving. 

We must persevere.

As I did when he initially rejected his chocolate birthday cake. Silly boy. It took a day of repeatedly posting chunks into his mouth, but he has now probably happily munched his way towards his first proper tooth cavity.

Bless.

The Big One

They came. They went. The house survived. So did our marriage, although it hit an all-time low about an hour before kick-off. My mother, who had done sterling, above-call-of-duty work all day with Harry (who opened his eyes yesterday in an absolute turd of a mood), successfully mediated a reconciliation by nervously proffering coronation chicken sandwiches. Bless her.

Even across three large rooms, we were a bit crowded, as despite the eventual sunshine (FFS!), the breeze on Hairy Farmer Hill was rather too brisk for outdoor partying. Harry spent most of the party alone on his new favourite toy: The Stairs. He has unfortunately sussed the downstairs geography now, and on Monday I will be buying another baby gate. Like a tiny yet intrepid mountaineer, he clambers industriously from step to step, patting each stair as he reaches it, stopping frequently to grasp and shake the bannisters whilst peering delightedly at how far he has come. The attractions of an inflatable castle and lots of little friends paled in comparison to the opportunity for mighty climbing conquests.

Where is the cake? I hear you cry. Weeell, not my finest hour.

The carriages look ok, but for some reason I panicked and decided that they were too dry without a filling, so I added a chocolate sponge layered embankment at the last minute, and rather spoilt it. Everyone took a carriage home, so I will make him another for tomorrow afternoon. One with, like, his name on. Yep… managed to forget that element first time around! I bought a funky sparkler ‘1’ candle, but I’ve lost it. It’ll turn up in time for his tenth, I expect.

In all, we had a lovely day. I am doing the same again with older friends and family tomorrow, although far lower key.

It is nearly 10.30pm, and a year ago today I was probably just about getting my chops around some lovely gas and air. I’d arrived on the labour ward at 7pm in increasing pain, but with a uterus that disobligingly stayed soft at the top during my contractions, fooling Drs and sensor pads alike. There had been muttering about appendicitis and paracetamol, but when John eventually fetched the staff out of the shift-change meeting at 10pm to tell them I had now taken up moaning residence on the floor, someone put a glove on and had a look the old-fashioned way.

Harry was born blue, with the cord wrapped twice around his neck at 1.18am on the 3rd August. The labour was joyful, in a strange way. My body performed. There was pain, a very short period of agony, then a culmination, and then a great sense of wonder; that was all how childbirth is supposed to be. And then my baby disappeared.

This was taken in his first hour of life, by a nurse with an under-performing camera. The smudging is where I later spilt water on the polaroid whilst trying to juggle a breast pump, the photos, and a glass of water. God alone knows why I was looking at these whilst pumping, they only ever made me freeze in fear and sob endlessly. His eye is open a tiny bit, and I was so mortally upset and afraid that he was in pain.

One year on, and I cannot say that I am over the appalling trauma of his birth and first few days of life. The distress still floats to the surface extremely easily, along with stomach-twisting flashbacks. I actually feel that I will never fully recover from his arrival.

But dear God, it’s worth it. And I shouldn’t complain. I would have died for my wonderful, precious son then, and I would a million times over now.

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Mummy loves you.

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