Lately, I seem to be winging my home days with Mole and Hedgehog in an aimless and haphazard way, compared with my carefully thought out routines and regular playgroups that made up my maternity leave.
Take last Monday for example. After dropping off Mr M&H at his place of work, I headed for the Post Office for some quick errands, leaving Mole and Hedgehog avidly reading their books in their car seats, parked across the road. Next we headed to our local indoor soft play centre, turning up ten minutes before they opened. Sitting in the car park looking at the blue and sunny sky, I decided that it was much too nice to spend the morning under strip lighting wading through a sea of plastic balls, even if it was warm and promised coffee.
So we drove five miles up the road to a farm instead, so that Mole and Hedgehog could look at some animals, even if they were going to freeze their buns off in sub-zero temperatures while they were doing it. The outdoors is good for you! my mothering brain insisted. Half an hour later we pulled up in the freezing fog, opposite some sheep. I wrapped Mole and Hedgehog in about ten layers until they looked like little eskimos. Hedgehog gets very excited about sheep, she stands inches away from their noses and points at them, exclaiming “Baa, Baa”.
We go into the shop and purchase some animal feed. “Goat pellets or chicken corn?” the lady asks me. I go for the goat pellets, thinking that goats and sheep will be more fun than poultry. How wrong I was. When we reach the farm, the only animals that seem to be braving the cold are the chickens and the geese. They all flock towards Mole who is holding the bag of goat pellets, as if they are half starved. Some free range and very pretty ducks come waddling up too, looking hopefully at Mole. She cheerfully drops her pellets on the ground saying “Are you hungry ducks? There you go”, but to no avail, the feathered ones do not eat the pellets. I am almost tempted to go back and get corn, but I can’t face the five minute walk in the wrong direction.
We eventually find some huge and rather mangy goats, who tower over Mole and head butt each other out of the way in their fight over the pellets. She stands stock still for a few seconds before backing off. “Mummy it’s a bit scary”. I don’t blame her. The sheep are miles away at the far end of the field, and are not the least bit interested in our pellets. In fact, they seem very suspicious of the bag, and keep scampering off to their patch of grass that they were very happy with in the first place. Sheep are rubbish! The poultry is where it’s at. I make a mental note for next time. Mole thoughtfully drops her empty brown paper bag in with the sheep, and I decide to walk quietly away rather than risk trying to retrieve it and getting head butted. Brown paper is digestible anyway, right?.
Just before we freeze our toes off, we go into the café for lunch. Mole and Hedgehog peel off their eskimo layers and play happily in the toddler’s corner. I eat my sausage bagel and coffee with relief, warming up.
In the afternoon Mole has a swimming lesson, which we are five minutes late for, due to Mole and Hedgehog both doing marathon naps. I wake them five minutes before we have to leave and throw some breadsticks in their hands for the car journey. Hedgehog does a last minute poohnami in her nappy, of course. We seem to get stuck in all the traffic along the way too. Mole does a running commentary from the back seat… “Go car go, broom broom”.
We run into the changing rooms and get Mole ready first. I could have sworn I put her swimming costume in the bag but it is not there. I use Hedgehog’s costume instead, which is a hand-me-down of Mole’s and still just about fits. Hedgehog goes in her swimming nappy. Mole protests all the way to the pool edge. “But mummy I don’t WANT to have my swimming lesson”… and refuses to put her swimming cap on. As soon as she sees the teacher, she transforms into a model of obedience and toddles happily off hand in hand.
I go back to the changing rooms and get ready with Hedgehog, swimming at the other end of the pool. Mole catches sight of me from time to time as she does back strokes, covered in about ten buoyancy aids, and waves happily. Hedgehog clings to me in a permanent wet bear hug, or tries to climb out every time we go near the pools edge.
Afterwards Mole is in a great mood, splashing about and spending her usual ten minutes under the showers at the hottest end. We drive back in the dark to fetch Mr M&H from work. As he gets in the car he asks Mole “What did you do today?”. “We didn’t go to the swings” is Mole’s unimpressed reply.
Right. Next time, forget farm animals or swimming, all I need to do apparently, is take them to the swings.
I give up.