The big news is that we’ve given the garden an overhaul.  We’ve ditched the veg beds, the worms have been released into the wild and the compost heaps dismantled.  The small boy needs a football pitch!  Whilst it’s sad to see it all go, we haven’t entirely given up on growing our own.  I hope to be back into it before too long, but the small patch of earth is to be used for sitting about and kicking a ball around for the foreseeable whilst we do more baby wrangling (number two due early May.)

There are four small fruit trees in blossom at the moment, so the garden is not quite barren.  Two apples, a cherry and a plum are all budding away and we hope for some home-grown fruit this summer.  The boy is a fruit fiend and loved the apples last year – fingers crossed we get a good crop.  The raspberries also went in the overhaul, but it might be possible to plant some in pots on our new patio (does that mean I’m finally a grown up, having a patio?)

The most exciting discovery for the small boy was to find that we have a ‘Tractor!’ in the shed.  I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s just a lawnmower.  He was very excited about pushing it up and down, we may have a useful garden helper before long.  No doubt though by the time he’s strong enough to push it around on his own the novelty will have worn off.

Tooting Life – Kitchen table

Tooting has another lovely cafe, this time on Fransiscan Road, on the way to Tooting Bec Common from where we live.  This one has just popped up in the last few weeks, so we took the small boy along to try them out.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the small boy greeted the proprietor with “Cake!” as the door opened.  He’s not stupid, that one.  We tried out their excellent carrot and walnut cake, Him Indoors had a sticky bun.  The place is very well kitted out for a freshly opened cafe and they’re well prepared for kids, with a changing table, toy baskets and a buggy store outside.  Highly recommended.

Chocolate chip buns

I know these are so easy you barely even need a recipe, but if you’re into speedy baking these take 15 minutes to make and another 15 to cook (5 to scoff the lot.)

Great to make with kids too.  So straightforward you might even get them in the oven before they get bored and run off to dismantle the television.

Chocolate chip buns

Makes 12

100g / 4oz self-raising flour
100g / 4oz butter
100g / 4oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
large handful of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas 5.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the eggs a little at a time and mix in.
4. Fold in the flour and mix thoroughly.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Spoon into bun cases and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and springy.

Wood collection

“Crash!” (pause) “Uh-oh.”

The Small Boy had caused some kind of collapse of furniture just along the hall.  It occurred to me mid-leap that the pause had at least been followed by speech rather than plaintive wailing, so with a bit of luck he had either dodged the falling masonry or the sound was worse than the reality.

The child brandished a triangular shard of MDF at me and grinned.  It was one of the larger bits of Him Indoors’ wood collection.  He’s a pretty handy DIY-er, but offcuts are never discarded, they are stored away with the other wood on the basis that they are useful.

Despite the extensive and allegedly ‘useful’ collection, a new project requires new wood, which is measured and ceremoniously purchased from B&Q.  “What about the wood collection?” I ask hopefully.  “We don’t have the right wood.”  When the job is finished, several hundred offcuts are carefully stacked away with the rest.  Due to the (still) impending loft conversion, this treasure trove was taking up temporary residence in our hallway and was a great new play-thing for The Small Boy.

I have consulted with a number of friends and colleagues on this and it seems the wood collection is a universal chattel of the modern male.  Often it doesn’t reside in the loft, but behind the dining room door (where it renders said door unopenable.)  Sometimes it takes up residence under a bed, the baby’s cot or a disused cupboard.

Then one day, out of the blue, the unimaginable happened.  The wood collection was loaded into the back of the car and taken to the tip!  Hallelujah!  I could be seen doing a small victory lap around the flat as the car disappeared over the horizon.

Sadly my joy was short-lived.  Not three days later I discovered a small selection of important off-cuts in the shed.  I returned to the house to remonstrate with Him Indoors, only to find him briskly stacking a pile of collapsed boxes and bits of cardboard down the side of a bookcase.  “What are those?” I asked, trying not to assume the worst.  “These,” he explained proudly, “are useful bits of cardboard.”

Bedtime routine

The small boy’s bedtime routine is now pretty well laid out.  6.30pm is bathtime, during which he can be found running around the flat, laughing his head off while I vainly attempt to scoop him up and into the bath with bubbles, bath crayons and half a dozen grubby ducks.  How they can be this grubby when they LIVE IN A BATH is beyond me, but they manage it.

Then it is ‘teeth’ time, during which the small boy brushes my teeth with a grizzled old toothbrush, pausing occasionally to suck some of the toothpaste off or mither for more out of the tube.

Following this: further running around the house, this time the small boy completely starkers, laughing his head off even more, with me chasing him around trying to remember what it was I once read in a Gina Ford book once about non-rowdyness at bedtime.

Gina is so ubiquitous now within parenting circles that I think she has actually become a verb.  Mothers talk about ‘doing Gina’ with their kids, with varying degrees of success, failure or abject horror at the idea of preparing their little one for a 15 minute sleep at precisely 16.45.  (Gina would never say quarter to five.)  Needless to say it never caught on in our house, but her words still ring in my ears as I find myself doing the very thing that awful mother she admonishes on page 145 was doing which made little Tabitha such an unmanageable pain.

By 7.30 or so pyjamas are eventually wrestled on, dummies deployed, stories read.  However, at some stage the most exciting possible occurrence will happen, when ‘Daddy!’ gets home.  Daddy knows about the importance of non-rowdy bedtime, but being the boy’s father must thrust him into the air, tickle, pretend-drop him and other hysterical manoeuvres which are fantastically entertaining but not at all conducive to any form of sleep.  All of this invariably leads to the small boy standing in his cot singing loudly for the next three hours.

Between 8 and 9, there are a series of incursions into his room to return dummies which have been dropped on the most difficult-to-reach part of the floor, take away beakers of milk and his trousers which he will have removed at some stage and now be being swinging enthusiastically around his head.  I have a fantasy that one day I will put him into his cot and he will lie down with whichever cuddly toy he likes best tonight, muttering sweet nothings to his darling mother and drifting off to sleep, but it has yet to occur.  Dream on Gina.