Tag Archives: Alex

Family Time

The last couple of weeks have included some really good family time around the Sutherland household, for no particular reason that I can put my finger on.

Last weekend, Fiona decided she was “full up” of wearing trousers (meaning she didn’t want to any more), and stripped them off. She was clearly very comfortable in this state.


Taken 26 February 2006

Alex, meanwhile, scampered around and around his prone dad until he fell down giggling.


Taken 26 February 2006

Finally, Fiona got him to burn some of his energy off pushing her round the room in the block trolley.


Taken 26 February 2006

This week’s notable burst of photography was Friday, when the snow was falling thick and fast. We went out into the back garden to play in it until we got cold.

Fiona with snow in her hair.


Taken 3 March 2006

Alex, inevitably, picked up a toy gun to play with.


Taken 3 March 2006

Fiona, after a time, was troubled by the snow sticking to her gloves


Taken 3 March 2006

So we all went inside and had hot chocolate. Fiona likes hers foamed with my latte milk foamer. Alex prefers mini marshmallows in his.

Later, we went out to the local garden centre to get materials for planting basil. En route, Alex decided to try making snow angels. This one turned out rather well. (I very nearly tried one myself, but Fiona was getting a bit wigged out, and having Mom lie down in the snow wasn’t going to do her any good at all.)


Taken 3 March 2006

Sadly, the kids got cold on the way back from the garden centre, and much weeping ensued. Fiona turned out to have been sickening with a cold anyway, and spent Saturday fevered and listless. She recovered quickly, crunching through the remnants of the snow with me to the shops that evening.

Today was more fun again, but sadly unphotographed. You will simply have to imagine it, dear reader.

(Have I been enjoying the family more as my energy levels have lifted? Probably. Why have they lifted? Because this is the view when I walk to the bus in the morning.


Taken 2 March 2006

And this is the view when I get back in the evening.


Taken 1 March 2006

Note the visible sun!)

Alex’s Turn to Be Funny


Taken 26 February 2006

At the dinner table tonight, apropos of nothing whatsoever: If you want to look like a robot, this is what you have to do. First you put a box on your head, with a square hole in it. Then you put socks on your hands. Then you take off all your clothes.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Fiona learns to be silly

Bit by bit, Fiona’s nature is unfolding before us. She has always been a centred little thing, with a certain poise to her gestures and a grounding of deep silence to her warmth. She’s the kind of girl who loves her cuddles, but loves her quiet times with her books as well.

This is not to say that she is never silly. Witness our conversation yesterday:

F: Mommy!
A: Nony!
F: I not Nony. I Nona!
A (deliberatly misunderstanding): Nana? 1
F: No, I not nana!
A: No? What are you, then?
F: I apple!

  1. Our household name for bananas.

She’s also just old enough to find Martin’s and my long-running game of randomly swapping the words “nose” and “knee” funny. She certainly did this morning.

You gotta laugh. I did.


Taken 24 February 2006

In other news, last Monday I was picking the kids up from nursery. Alex, who has only now become interested in representational art, presented me with a picture of a number of space ships and aliens in battle, with lines connecting them up to show their alliances and actions. Even his drawings are social. Fiona, less obsessed with diagrams than appearances, drew a swirl of circles on the page, looked up at me and said, “Datsa moon, Mama!”

It was her first drawing of something, at two, while her brother has only started getting serious about it at 4 3/4. How can my children be so very different?

No Rest for the Silly

Another Friday, another adventure.

Fiona had a birthday party to go to quite late today (4:30 – 6), so I had half-intended to spend the morning quietly so as to leave her with energy for the afternoon. But the day was so sunny, and the kids so chirpy, that I decided we all needed a trip out. There’s been a geocache near us, unfound, for some time: Craigmillar’s One of Four. Off we went.

Alex pointed the way.


Taken 17 February 2006

Fiona checked our heading with a compass.


Taken 17 February 2006

We lucked out. We found the cache really quickly, got good loot, left our trades, and thought, “now what?”

So we walked on round the castle, whcih was magnificent in the glorious sun.


Taken 17 February 2006

Fiona took her own path, at her own pace.


Taken 17 February 2006

We saw lots of trees.

From far away.


Taken 17 February 2006

From up close.


Taken 17 February 2006

And all wrinkly.


Taken 17 February 2006

Ones that look like dragons.


Taken 17 February 2006

And ones that look like island chains! (Cropped, I confess.)


Taken 17 February 2006

Then we rolled back down the hill (no, really, Alex wanted to barrel roll. Fiona tried to join him, but needed a bit of help.) After a brief visit home to lunch, nap and change clothes, we went to Lauren’s party. The kids were perky as they waited for the bus.


Taken 17 February 2006

Fiona loved the party, particularly when painted as a puppy. (Yes, I know it’s out of focus, but she was dancing.)


Taken 17 February 2006

It was a magnificent day. Alex impressed me with his maturity at the party (I asked him to sit out the party games after he won the first one, to give the smaller kids a chance. He not only did so, but he made the effort to smile about it as well. Wow.) Fiona was funny and beautiful. Then they had a delightful bath and went to bed.


As bath toys go, bubbles are top favourites in this household. We never do bubble baths on nights when we’re in a rush to get the kids clean and into bed, because the bubbles are too much fun to rush. But though they play with bubbles, both kids had forgotten how much fun it is to wear them. Till I reminded them last night.

Alex with a beard.


Taken 12 February 2006

Fiona with a beard.


Taken 12 February 2006

Apparently, this beard thing is catching. I look like one of the Soggy Bottom Boys in it.


Taken 12 February 2006

Take two Santas into the bath…?


Taken 12 February 2006

Adventure Day

We’re finally out of the Christmas blast radius, and the weather was sunny today. It was time to go out for adventures.

Alex was keen.


Taken 10 February 2006

Fiona was dressed to the nines


Taken 10 February 2006

So we went to the play park, where Fiona was brave and Alex was funny. We bagged the Crag and Tail geocache, then walked down the Royal Mile.

En route we found Adam Waters, who makes his living as a William Wallace (“Braveheart”) impersonator. He explained that he pays the bills with the royalties from postcards, and poses for photos to raise money for lukaemia research. We were happy to donate to the cause, and Alex was keen to cross swords with the guy with the blue face.


Taken 10 February 2006

We were going to go on to lunch, further caches and Starbuck’s, but Fiona fell asleep sitting on my shoulders and leaning on my head. So we got some food and came home for a restful afternoon.

What more could anyone want from an adventure? Travel, courage, treasure and swordfighting, followed by the brave heroes returning to their beloved home for a feast.

A Walk in the Woods

A mouse took a walk in the deep dark wood…

Actually, it was a whole family out searching for the Butterdean Wood geocache, but two keen little children found the idea that a Gruffalo might be lurking among the trees pretty exciting. Martin, clever bunny, proposed a caching expedition to get us out in the beautiful (if chilly) sunshine, and this was a good cache to look for. It was about half an hour’s drive from home, taking us over flat paths that were just wild enough to seem adventurous. They were also perhaps a little muddy.

I brought my phone camera, of course, and stopped from time to time to take pictures.

Fungus on a fallen log.


Taken 4 February 2006

Alex took the GPS and went ahead, following the arrow and talking of treasure. Playing Zelda has sharpened his taste for quests and adventures. He waited patiently whenever I would stop to take a shot.

The twisted stem of some vine – I don’t know what kind. (This picture has been cropped.)


Taken 4 February 2006

Two leaves on a twisting vine.


Taken 4 February 2006

Fiona strode along the path, first with one parent, then with the other. At two, she is rock-steady on her feet and entirely unafraid of any mystery the woods might hold. She has been a strong walker for some time, and I think she enjoyed the challenge. When we were walking together and I would step aside to take a picture, she would venture onward without a backward glance.

Fir cone among the leaves.


Taken 4 February 2006

Eventually, Alex relinquished the GPS in favour of a stick sword, and Fionaberry took over as navigator. (We pretty much followed the path.) She thought my eTrex was a camera, and every now and then would stop, hold it to her face, bend very close to the ground, and say, “I take a picture. Cheese!” before going on. Not a landscape photographer, I guess…

Tangle of sticks, a pattern shot.


Taken 4 February 2006

Lichen on a branch. It’s almost blue!


Taken 4 February 2006

Alex was soon wrapped up in Zelda-esque adventures, which reminded me vividly of my own childhood games. The forest around our cabin was always Lothlorien and Mirkwood, Stephen R Donaldson’s The Land and Sherwood Forest. For him, East Lothian became Link’s country, and he crept and ran through it like the hero of his favourite Game Boy game. I’m happy that our mostly urban life has opportunities for that kind of imaginative play.

He has not yet developed the love of the woods and trees for their own sake that I have. But I learned that a bit older than four. Maybe one day he’ll see it.

The pattern of decay on the limb of a fallen tree reveals so much of its underlying structure.


Taken 4 February 2006

Concentric rings on tree bark. I don’t know why this occurs.


Taken 4 February 2006

Alex used his stick to open “gates”, mostly by keying his name into the trees. This one, in particular, required a number of passwords to be entered. We touched certain parts of the branches and said certain letters, spelling out our names to pass onward along the path.


Taken 4 February 2006

By the time we found the cache, a good half mile from the car park, the kids were running out of adventurous spirit. They weren’t crabby, or unhappy, or even tired, but they were more focused on getting the “treasure” than on telling themselves (and us) stories on the way.

We found the box easily enough – it’s both well hidden from the casual passer by and easy to find if you know where to look – and there were toys enough for both of them. Alex chose a deck of cards, and Fiona took a mini pencil set. I left some stone animals and an amethyst in trade, and we turned back to the car.

Although she wanted to be carried early on for the return journey, Fiona soon regained her energy and did a good deal of walking on the way back to the car. We covered over a mile as a family, and she managed about two thirds of that. Alex walked the whole distance, and wasn’t worn out at the end.

We left the wood as the sun began to head for the horizon.

Late sunshine on brown leaves. The shot looks warmer than it was!


Taken 4 February 2006

Snappy comebacks from the under-fives

At dinner:

Alex: (quoting Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) Look out! Behind you! It’s a Dementor!
Abi: (refusing to look behind her) I doubt it.
Alex: You have to look behind you!
Abi: No, I don’t
Alex: Yes, you do. Otherwise you’re cheating.
Abi: No…going off of the script isn’t cheating. It’s called improvising.
Alex: It’s called ANNOYING.

Rident omnes

Assumed Knowledge, Geek-Style

I’m not sure we’re doing right by the kids, in fannish terms. I think we may be giving them a less than complete basic grounding in SF&F types and memes. This will harm them in later life, in certain circles.

Fiona is fine. No worries there. She, contrary to most stereotypes, is clearly a science fiction girl. Whenever she sees a hooded and cloaked figure, she exclaims “Star Wars!” We don’t know if she’s thinking Obi-Wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine, Jawas, or Anakin Skywalker, but she’s definitely got the dress code crystal clear. She also calls all explosions “Star Wars”.

No, it’s Alex who seems to have missed out. I first noticed this when I was talking to him about Hagrid, from Harry Potter, and he hadn’t realised that Hagrid is a giant. He wasn’t clear what a giant was, either. I explained that it was a special kind of person who was very, very tall.

I explained that giants appeared in a lot of stories, from the Bible (Goliath) to Narnia (I’m trailing the film heavily around the house, having brought it up in light of the centaur that appears in the first Harry Potter film as well.) Then I explained that other special kinds of people in these stories were dwarves, who were very, very small.

“Other special people [my attempt at nonhuman character for the four year old set] in stories are elves, who are, um….foofy.”

Alex heard the word “elves” and put his arm over his head, with his forearm hanging down from his nose like a trunk.


Quiet Day In

Fridays are usually adventure days around the Sutherland household. I’m home from work, the kids are home from nursery, and we tend to go out and find something fun to do in town.

For two reasons, we didn’t do that today.

One: Disease Girl

This little darling was up and down between 3:30 and 4:30 am, coughing her wee tiny throat out. Even cough syrup couldn’t settle her. I finally got her back to sleep by lying in bed with her singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and my own version of Rockabye Baby. She was no better in the morning, moving slowly and eating little.

Two: The White Stuff

Lovely, isn’t it? First snow of the year, falling thick and fast in the midmorning. The chilly air meant that it lay on the ground for several hours, looking peaceful and bright. I love the snow and the light that comes with snow, particularly from inside a nice warm house.

So we stayed in and watched Harry Potter DVDs. It was kind of a disparate day, one I would like to remember because it was so unfocussed.

I took snow photos out the windows.

Alex needed a quiet day, too. It’s been a busy and exciting time for us lately, and he decided he wanted to lounge around in his pyjamas for most of the morning. He wasn’t in the mood to be photographed, but I got some good shots of him as he watched the climax of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Fiona watched the snow.

About midmorning I popped popcorn.

This is a fine art, by the way, popping on a stove. My mother taught me how years ago. You cover the bottom of a pan with kernels, then pour enough vegetable oil to well coat the kernels. Cover the pan and heat it over a high flame, shaking the pan constantly. The trick is knowing when to stop, so that all the kernels are popped and none burned. Like this!

In the afternoon, while Fiona napped, I made Alex a new shield, as I’d been promising for ages. (He loves playing with swords and shields, and just got another wee sword in a parcel from California. Thanks, Trish!) The shield is made of medium-weight bookbinding cardboard, with coloured paper over it and a leather strap. The whole thing is protected with sticky-backed plastic. Alex loves it.

In between all these activities, I got some cooking in – goulash for dinner tonight, and a chickpea soup for Saturday. That recipe, from the ever magnificent Oswego Tea site, has been tempting me for weeks. Unfortunately, it came out bitter and bland at once. I think I’ve rescued it with some sausage and some balsamic vinegar, but the soup was the point of the day when things started to turn.

In contrast to the rest of the day, dinner was decidedly not peaceful. Alex decided he wouldn’t eat the goulash (though he had promised me he would earlier in the day). I decided I was tired of his fussy eating. So I took him upstairs and put him in his bed. He apologised, came downstairs, and still wouldn’t eat it. So his dad took him upstairs, forcibly dressed him in his pyjamas, and put him to bed. It was an epic wrestling match, with screaming, hitting, and numerous bolts for freedom. He shouted and carried on for 10 or 15 minutes after the bedroom door was closed, too!

Having Alex get that fussy took much of the joy out of the memories of the day. But our lives are rarely unmixed tragedy, any more than they are unmixed comedy. The light relief in this case was provided by Fiona, who decided, halfway through Martin putting Alex to bed, that she wanted to go to bed too. She climbed down from her seat, toddled upstairs, and clambered into her bed on her own, barely attending to the tantrum going on a few feet away. While her brother howled and carried on, she laid her head onto her pillow and pulled up her duvet (my offer of assistance was spurned with an “I do it!”). By the time Martin had left the room, she was asleep.