Lumpy, at the model village - his special request for a third birthday treat. He watches the model train pass under a bridge, runs to the other side, and strains to see as it disappears round a corner. A small contented sigh escapes as he turns and walks along the path. Then his face lights up again. "A train!" he shouts, breaking into a sprint.
* * *
Flumpy lies on my lap as I'm slumped on the couch. I look down from the television, and realize his face is filled with a half-moon smile, gummy and gorgeous. "Geeeeee eyyyy ahhhhh," he says. "Geeeeee eyyyyy ahhhhhh," I reply. "Mmmm maaaaah," he says. "Mmmm maaaah," I reply. This goes on for half an hour. It's the best conversation I've had for ages.
* * *
Lumpy's birthday party. His special surprise has arrived - a bouncy castle. As soon as it's inflated, he's on there, flinging himself about with delight. Eventually he's persuaded off, and goes into the house to wait for his guests to arrive. "I love my bouncy castle," he says as he's walking away. "I love him because he's my friend."
Three hours or so later, the party is in its final stages. Sweaty from too much bouncy (can you ever have too much bouncing? Really?), the guests decide some cooling off is required. Body after body squeezes in to the world's smallest paddling pool. There is much squealing and splashing. We take photos. This will be excellent blackmail material in a few years' time.
End of the party. One of the mums (of whom I am slightly afraid) pauses as she herds her triplets out of the gate. "I have to admit," she says, "when you said 10 till 2, I had my doubts."
"Oh," I say. "Why? Was that not enough time?"
She snorts. "Too much time. Two hours. That's how long a children's party is. But you did it just right." (I think she means we let the children run wild and didn't attempt to corral them in any way). "And I'm totally going to steal your way of doing pass the parcel. I've never liked it before, but your way was great." (My way is putting a present in every layer of paper, with enough layers for each child. Somehow, everyone ends up with a present. What's the chances?).
I swell with pride.
* * *
After a grizzly morning, when nothing seems able to settle him, Flumpy finally falls asleep in my arms. I carefully carry him up the stairs, to put him in the Nature's Nest. Halfway up I stop and just stare at the sweet, tiny, curled up, snoring bundle. And I feel glad. So very glad.
* * *
Monday after Lumpy's birthday weekend. I go in to nursery in the afternoon, bringing the 28 party bags I filled the night before, then subsequently emptied in the morning, to take out the packets of Haribo, so that each parent can be asked if their child is allowed such evil sweets. Flumpy comes, strapped to me in the sling. Every child strokes and pokes him. He blinks inquisitively at them.
We play musical chairs. Lumpy insists that I play too, holding his hand. As the chairs reduce he gets more anxious. "I don't want to miss," he says. "I don't want to miss." He gets knocked out when there are three chairs remaining and dissolves into tears. He says he won't join in any more games, so I scoop him up, and we dance together for musical statues, laughing every time we freeze. Flumpy sleeps on in the sling. My arm sings with the strain of holding Lumpy up, but I won't put him down. We win.