November is a funny month. Not in a funny ha-ha way – not enough ice lollies for that.
It’s not as busy as October, which includes a school holiday. Nor yet as hectic as December, for obvious reasons.
There is activity around the corner, but you can hide from it in November, for the most part, if you want to.
There are still plenty of moments, though. Here are a few.
We’ve reached that point in the year when the leaves outside my window really shine.
There’s lots of rain, yes, but in the bright sky moments, the trees opposite are still in leaf.
It’s a brassy orange, really. Not a hair colour. Not as deep as many of the other leaves that are now just so much soggy underlay on the pavement.
Today, I set my timer, and sit with my cup of tea and look out at the leaves. The blue of the sky contrasts with the orange on the trees.
I remember a school art teacher telling us all about blue and orange working together, and me disbelieving him at the time. (I was eight, and not terribly artistic.)
I’m in agreement now. Add an occasional soar past from the pigeon formation team, and I’m really very happy.
We have our first go at packing up the trampoline for the winter. It feels like a big job.
We are all out in the garden together. The kids go up and down on bikes for the most part, and Dan and I try to work out what attaches to what on the trampoline, what might go inside which bag.
We neglect a set of potatoes in grow bags for over a year, but here they are, producing a little crop. I smile at the automatic gasp with each new discovery, whatever the size, as Junior and Mini go to it, a bag apiece.
It’s a scramble, really, dealing with short attention spans, and other garden jobs.
I try to farm out raking the leaves to Junior.
That lasts all of twenty seconds, but when I offer the large garden fork to make holes in the black bin bag (think: future leaf mould), there is much more excitement.
Mini is particularly serious on clearing the potato bag, going and going with a tiny trowel. Part way through, there is a request to sit down, and I manage to find a small kneeler in the shed.
Potato hunting continues, and I can fill one bag of leaves; prune the peony; help with some poles for the trampoline.
The sky is dry, not quite bright. We are in one of those brief respites.
Later, there’s popcorn, and a board game. I think that I should offer these kind of rewards to myself for extra labours, not just to help the kids through the task.
The evenings after teatime shift. We’re done with trampolining, scootering. It’s dark.
Instead, there is fighting over who gets to blow out the candle at the end of the meal – an extra token from me, to help us through these days when the curtains are drawn before we even sit down to eat.
Sometimes, we make it round the table all at the same time. The kids may be on supper, Dan still on tea, but we’re there, eating together, attempting to follow conversations round and round.
The days shorten. The effort to get up in the mornings is clear. Both kids are sleeping beyond the point I have to get up.
I try some gentler ways to help them wake, but in their own time.
Partly opening the curtains. Leaving a door open, so the sound of me wrestling the dishwasher can offer a little encouragement to stir. Putting on a low light in a nearby room.
There are hats now, and gloves, and scarves to add to the morning routine.
There are experiments with mittens on strings, and more emails to the bus company to see if a missing item has turned up. (It hasn’t.)
Welly socks are out in force. We have a welly routine now, and it is mostly going well.
As is jumping in puddles at any opportunity: coming home, going back for school pick up, on the way to sports class.
The bench in the school playground is often too wet to sit on. There’s more interest in coming straight home, not staying on and playing.
There still need to be snacks, though.
There are questions; new observations. Numbers on gear sticks. Emergency buttons on the inside of bus doors.
I sit through another round of Minecraft explanations. Nodding and smiling is surprisingly low energy, and I can quite often cook at the same time.
We enter a season of babies: ones arrived, ones on the way. Friends, acquaintances, all are material for fuelling the toy buggy at home, back and forth, back and forth.
Sometimes, the stories overlap: buses and babies. ‘Under-five please..thankyou.’
There are new books. Stories from British history: my new favourite read-aloud.
I get to dip back to the topics at other times; find atlases to identify Brittany, Cornwall, parts of Wales. I hunt out stories about King Arthur from the library; make promises about Irish folk tales.
There are old books made new. Mini and I go on the wondrous journey of discovering Timothy Pope, his telescope, and suspected sharks.
I even manage to pull out a book for myself now and then.
Music makes a return to the evenings. We need the boost; the argument smoothing.
Junior listens to Blues Brothers tracks, and recognises that there is comedy and music combined. Mini hears soundtracks from musicals, and immediately starts twirling.
We do a big weekend drive; the kind that feel like car trips from my childhood. We watch the colours of the cats eyes on the road on our way back in the dark; we pass the miles by singing along.
Evening by evening, Mini’s song repertoire grows a little more. By day, these are mostly overwhelmed by the new set of songs issuing from nursery. Nativity season is coming.
There are friends to see, and maybe cinema trips for the mums (whisper it).
There are Christmas plans, and the beginnings of lists.
Only the beginnings for now. Maybe there are still some more leaf piles to jump in.
They may be soggy, but there are wellies, and big boots, and thick socks to protect us.
Separately or together, we jump right in.