I love the way that these events unfold. A warm day just calls for it, so he says. He gathers his team and they make their plans and draw up their list. They head out and return and the project begins. I love watching them watching him prepare fresh fish. I love the running commentary he gives them, explaining each step and what to watch out for, pointing out the colour of the fish and what it should smell like. I love that one day in his absence that each of them might remember these details, how he held the knife, how he liked to sharpen it beforehand, how he would determine if it was worthwhile frying the roe or not. I love that this is one of their things, a ritual that has evolved since our firstborn was weaned and one that has grown from strength to strength. I love that they know their herrings from their sardines and that they like the smokiness of cooking over coal. I love that their papa has always let them watch how to start the disposable barbecue, letting them help when I know I could not. I love seeing their eyes light up as the fire's flames grow and their excitement grows alongside it. I love hearing the instruction of how close or far they can be to the barbecue and the delegation to the helpers to collect tongs and plates. I love hearing their excitement as their papa shows prowess and I listen to their impressed gasps. The best part however, is watching how he feeds them just like a mama bird. Carefully picking out bones like an archaeologist and dropping gold nuggets into the mouths of two demanding chicks as they cheep and chirp for more, more, more! Each year they grow bigger and more independent and they lean a little less on their papa but still they gather together to eat and share the reward of their joint effort, their hard work. And now after years of nagging, that Papa of theirs remembers to include some greens too although carbohydrates still don't really feature but then, this project is nothing to do with mama and her rules. It's just about three boys with a little time on their hands and a little sunshine and a project to complete. I will forever remember this and on days like these, I will think of them and I'll picture my three musketeers shouting 'All for one, and one for all'.
Many of our week-ends in 2014 were spent wandering around our city. We took walks along the canals where we would tell our boys about walks that we took here before they came along. We pointed out the old canal shop that their paternal grandmother worked at when she came to live in Birmingham years back, before she was married to their Pops. We stood mesmerised by the canal boats and each of us held onto fantasies of our own of living on a boat and travelling from place to place.
We often refused to let the rain stop our getting out and we adventured in spite of it. A fair few saturday and sunday afternoons of the year, these three headed out whilst I had a little time to myself, often coming back with tales of a new cafe or eatery that they had discovered and wanted to take me to. That eldest of mine always impressing me with detail like having scanned a menu in my absence to see what the vegetarian options were and then relaying that info to me as a part of his pitch to convince me to go! So thoughtful that boy!
An oldie but a goodie, Cafe Soya is one of the places we have enjoyed eating with the boys over the years. From the days before Zach was introduced to meat, the days when he was a toddler and knocked over his warm glass of soya milk and was distraught, to the days of nourishing myself with good home cooking whilst feeding a newborn Elliott, to the days when Zach being vegetarian was a distant memory and he discovered and single handedly devoured the crispy duck dish. When Elliott with only one or two teeth could also demolish most dishes in the cafe and this year where they shared the pork and the duck and their faces told the tale of their love affair.
One of my favourite simple things to do, is to have a one to one cafe date with the boys. I'd like to do more of this in 2015, more mama and son dates where there's just the two of you to decide what to do, what to talk about, where to go. It turns out I had quite a few with this youngest boy of mine, more than I realised as I kept finding more and more photographs of him mid bite enjoying his favourite pastries, macaron, caramel shortbread and of course the finest chocolatey french patisserie! He is a boy of taste. It is brilliantly effortless to hang out with this young man. He's quite the charmer! I love the way he makes decisions quickly and is so clear about what he wants, from selecting where we will sit in a cafe, to clearing a table whilst I'm in the queue to deciding that we've enough time to squeeze in a visit elsewhere, I love hanging out with him. He is also hectic as anything a lot of the time, I call him 'Tigger' and often my wrists ache from holding his hand that constantly moves and swings in pendulum fashion. Of course, I live with his papa so I'm used to those 'Tigger' moves. It took years for me to train that man of mine to savour time in a cafe or restaurant after a meal, to get him to understand that you don't need to stand up and leave just as you swallow the last mouthful of food. Perhaps if I carry on dating this youngest of mine, I'll spare a special someone in his future the work of training him to 'savour' time. I actually think my hubby is much better at this now than I am, funny how these things happen over time and how we change. Baking at home with my littlest one is also a little like having 'Tigger' in the kitchen. We're always super quick when we bake because otherwise he gets bored and easily distracted but if you're quick, he is quite the cook and is super with attention to detail.
There are those days like the one above here that fill my heart. The boy was off school for the second day and we'd gone to the doctors to pick up his inhaler prescription and that's when we saw them! The chupa chubs. The good ones with two flavours in one. He pointed at them and then said under his breath, 'I know it's a no!' But then I broke my rule, I went for strawberries and cream and he went for cocoa and vanilla. It really was the best medicine! Or days when your littlest one over breakfast in your local french cafe, squeezes your arm and says 'I'll love you even when you're dead.' Then smiles one of his crescent moon smiles and you float away! There are the times when you find photos of the boy playing in the garden much earlier in the year, the day that I found him melancholically examining that worm that was now in two parts. The day that he role played with the lenseless glasses that he chose from the pound shop. The day that I told him I loved his drawing and asked him to hold it up for me to capture it. The day that I couldn't get enough of his look, you know his pyjama bottoms and spiderman vest look! The same day that he showed me how strong he was and how his muscles had grown. There was also the day where Momo the monkey needed surgery and Grandma was away visiting family and mum had to scrub in. Momo made it but when he came out of theatre he was too shy to show his scar but there was one relieved looking owner at the end of all the drama! That time when there was a game of chase going on in the playground after school, when there was a girl then trouble and he broke his new 'forever' tooth. We tried to laugh at the irony that just one day before our lovely dentist had told the boy how proud she was that he hadn't ground his teeth down any further. And when this sentimental mama had glanced at him and his broken tooth one too many times with glassy eyes, he said these words 'it doesn't matter, I want all my teeth to be gold one day, like a pirate, so don't be sad mum, I'm happy!' and then I knew it had happened to just the right child! There was more to come when one night, before he went to bed, his front tooth had the slightest of wobbles. He then woke me at FOUR different points in the night to update me on his progress. He and I both knew there was not going to be contented sleep till he'd got that baby out!!!
It's hard to imagine a time when my mum won't be around but with close friends experiencing these great losses, it's impossible for me to not think of these things, especially having lost a parent as a young child. I know some think of it as morbid but I like to remind my boys to savour every minute with their Grandma. I know I did with my own Grandma and much of my time is still spent regularly thinking of her and the very precious time we spent together. I write these things for you Zach and Elliott. So that if and when you show up here in years to come, to browse what I collected in this space, you will see and remember things like this. Grandma always giving you something handmade at Easter. These pictures show you that you were grateful and surprised and excited and pleased. What isn't pictured here is how both of you boys would run towards her and bury yourselves in her and I would stand back proudly as she would put an arm around each of you and scoop you in even closer.
There were friday afternoons when school was out and play doh made a big come back. That was back in June when the days felt longer and the evenings were light and those boys sometimes just walked around in pants and never wanted to come in from the garden. There was the start of the summer holidays when crazy schemes were hatched up and I tried my very best not to intervene or dispel them. Like the morning that I came down to find my eldest boy, with his head under the dressing gown hanging above him whilst he navigated his brand new remote controlled car over four shelves of books, books that had been laid out on the sitting room floor to form a track of sorts. I sighed and bid farewell to our vaguely tidy house for the following six weeks of school holidays. There were saturday nights when my mama heart felt satisfied with ticking off readying my boys for bed. Showered. Hair washed and combed. Toe nails clipped. Ears checked. And they passed an hour playing monopoly before bedtime, whilst taking their minds off feeling a little sad that they couldn't go to their dad's gig. There were days when that eldest boy and I played Battleships when he was home sick from school and he won fair and square and sunk all my ships. There were days spent spinning around in the back garden whilst wrapped in old sheets, days where battles and fights and general chaos ensued all whilst still entangled in those sheets. There were quieter times with blankets and dens and watching of films and cartoons. There were days where we left dad and just mama and the boys headed to the local park, the one by church. We headed there with snacks and drinks and footballs and climbed on tree vines and made up stories about adventures in dark, dark forests and turned rocks and fallen tree trunks to look for bugs and forest creatures. And we found woodlice. Lots and lots of woodlice.
Simply being outdoors in the fresh air and walking till you feel a little weary is one of the things as a family that we like to do most of all. We're happy to visit and re-visit the same places and love seeing how different these places are as the seasons change. I remember this day at Tardebigge Locks really clearly. That eldest boy of mine wasn't feeling very well and we dragged him out of the house anyway because the weather was just too good to stay indoors all day and I knew we'd all pay the price if we didn't get some fresh air and exercise. It was when we could still wear vests and t-shirts and when you lay down facing the sun with closed eyes, you saw a kaleidoscope of beautiful colours and could feel the sun soaking into your skin. We did just that and that eldest and I spent a long time lying together whilst the other two ran and ran far into the distance until we could see them no longer and they didn't return for forty five minutes or so and when they did that youngest of mine had tales of adventure and could barely get his fast paced words out trying to tell me all that he'd seen. It was before hubby lost that fine cap, the one I replaced this christmas which is also fine but not quite the same. The day that I admired those freckles of his and the turn up on his t-shirt sleeves.
More walks to more of our favourite places, Clowes Woods in this case. This is the day that we walked all the way from Clowes Woods to Earlswood Lakes. The sun was shining and we were h.a.p.p.y. We did however forget to take reserves. We learned from this!
Lazy mornings or lazy afternoons call for a quiet time out lying on your bed with cosy blankets and maybe reading together or even watching a film on the lap top or sometimes hilariously on your iPhone with two warm bodies either side of you. It doesn't happen too often but when it does it's called for and is quite the cure for times spent being way too busy. If I ever sneak away, they come and they find me and mostly I let them in. There's nothing quite like cuddling up in your mama's and papa's bed.
Had I not written it down I'm sure I would've forgotten the story behind this one. I wrote these words about the picture with my eldest boy.
'Every morning, he asks me if I slept well. Everyday he asks me a question that I don't know the answer to. Everyday when I pick him up from school, he asks me how my day was. Everyday at the moment, at some point I react irritably to his endless questions. One day, I will suddenly realise that he no longer asks those questions everyday and I will miss them so.'
I do remember that day that the sun was shining in on us and we lay down on the carpet and caught the rays. I remember the day at the start of the summer holidays when it was just mama and the boys and we set out really early and stocked up on food loveliness from the supermarket and then headed to the park. I remember I asked the boys to take a photograph of me with each of them. It was the two week period where I had resolved to make sure to start taking more photos of me with them. There is only one photograph of me with father, just the two of us on our own. It is blurry and you can't really see our faces. I wish I had more. I hope the boys will have more. There was another sunny day where I added to the collection. The day that we spent in the city centre, in Brindleyplace drinking coffee on the stone steps watching the boys chase each other like crazy people around and up and down and along the fountain area. Where we had to stop often to feed them once more, where we giggled in art galleries and lingered in books shops and rummaged for postcards for mama. I do love a postcard. Remember that boys, a postcard as a gift will get me every time. Every. Time.
This boy. He is my heart. So similar we are and oh how sometimes that brings out the feisty in us both! Just one look from afar at the position of that bottom lip and I know what kind of day he's had and what kind of mood he's in. I'll forever cherish that day I captured him daydreaming and basking in the sunlight. Also that day that a little cricket took a shine to him and landed and stayed on his t-shirt for the longest time. He was thrilled and I managed to capture him, eyes cast down and with the most perfect of pink lips and falling tendrils. Also that little gorgeous habit of his where he cups his hand to his mouth and giggles the best of silly giggles when something naughty is going on around him. Into my magic memory box, I would also like to add the day that my wild things decided to make hats and go on a parade and 'made mischief of one kind and another'. These are the days, sweet precious days.