A quick (non-predatory) peer at the genitalia of a newborn naked girl next to a newborn naked boy, should tell you all you need to know. Boys and Girls are very different. So I have no idea why it took me so long to realise that my gorgeous little boy is very different to my gorgeous little girls.
As a weeny baby, he was very similar to the girls, except he ate more. By the time he could toddle, he was a bruiser. Beautifully chubby and stocky, he would throw stuff and push. When he was only one, he wanted his elder sister out of the way, so he picked her up and threw her on the floor. We all gasped in amazement, my husband nodded ruefully, ‘Ah yes, testosterone’.
Testosterone meant that when he was bored, he didn’t sigh, get out some colouring pencils and amuse himself. It meant he would pick all the fridge magnets off the fridge and chuck them on the floor. Then kick them for good measure.
Testosterone demands that I wrestle with him on the sofa, the rougher the better, and again and again. Testosterone means he likes to run, and run, and kick balls, and play catch. And when he’s finished doing that, he will consume more pasta than I could eat in one sitting.
My little boy is often mistaken for a cherub. He has curly hair and enormous blue eyes. He is an enigma to me; he can have moments of alarming aggression, then sob and sob if his feelings are hurt. He will sit and talk animatedly with me, wide-eyed with wonder at something he has discovered or seen. Then later he’ll grunt at me because he’s absorbed in the telly and I’m in the way.
He starts school in two days time. He is excited. He wants to be dropped off with his sisters, he wants to wear his new uniform and go out to play in his clumping new school shoes. I hope it goes well for him, I think it will. Yet how will my free-wheeling boy deal with sitting on the carpet? How will he deal with being told what to do? This is the end of his unstructured days, a few days of pre-school, big pasta lunches and pottering with his toys in his room.
A few months ago we went to meet his Dad for lunch at La Défense. As we emerged from the station it was drizzling and my boy put on his orange raincoat. He ran back and forth in front of the pram, his hair tightening into corkscrew curls, his coat glistening, and his chatter and smiles entertaining me. The men and women of La Défense were coming out for their lunch. A purposeful, serious mass of dark, dark suits. L was still running, a bright splash of colour, happy, carefree, excited. I looked around at the over-worked movers and shakers, the strain and fatigue showing on their faces. I looked carefully at the men. Is this the future for my son? Will this free, free spirit eventually knuckle down and work a 60 hour week? Spend hazy days in distant airports, not really knowing the day or the time, but grinding away on his laptop?
I can’t know which path he will choose, and I can’t know how the world will mark him. I’ve cuddled him more this summer, played a lot more ball than I normally would. I’ve watched his face concentrating fiercely on his latest Lego creation, and I’ve felt really, really sad. I don’t like it when my children start school; it’s the end of a stage, a little loss of their freedom.
Still, I shall send him forth with his homemade, hand embroidered PE bag (Spiderman ‘boy’ colours, so he won’t be bullied), cheerily wave him off and briskly reassure him if he wobbles. I shall meet him at the gate in the afternoon, hand out the snack, and take the exhausted tantrums on the chin. I’m sure within no time we’ll both be loving it.
My hungry man views the culinary creations for my blog with suspicion. True, there was one, golden day when he raced excitedly into the kitchen, ‘Mum! Mum! Can I have some of that lovely smell?!’, but in general he doesn’t do the cake. Or too many homemade biscuits. Or vegetables done in ‘funny’ ways. He does, however, do ice cream.
So this one is for you L. Keep your hands to yourself, don’t talk when others are talking, no running in the corridors, no picking your nose, and the best of luck in Reception.
Mummy's Best Vanilla Ice Cream
We had a few false starts with the vanilla ice cream, but when I finally got it right, L yelled 'Mummy! Mummy! I want you to call this 'Mummy's Best Ice Cream'!' I've added the 'vanilla' so I can be found on a Google search ;-). I'm glad I got it right so I can tell you about the Vanilla Bazaar.com I don't normally do 'fancy' products, I prefer ones I can grab in a supermarket, but this vanilla is seriously delicious. It tastes ooodles better than anything I've ever tasted, I'm definitely hooked. They'll deliver to your door, and when you've done it once, you'll have to go back for more. The lovely Sakina even called her supplier in Madagascar for me, to check that all their products are gluten-free. Now that is service!
For the Vanilla Ice Cream:
100g block of coconut cream (the kind you 'melt' by mixing with hot water. Or you could try it with a can of coconut cream, use 100g-ish, it shouldn't make any difference to the end result, but I've yet to try it)150 ml boiling water
150ml rice milk & 2tbsps extra
3 vanilla pods
2 tsps vanilla essence
1 tbsp gluten-free custard powder
0.25 tsp xanthan gum
5-6 tbsps sugar depending on taste
- Put the block of coconut cream into a bowl and pour over the boiling water (check the packet instructions, the quantity of water may vary according to the make of coconut cream)
- Put the rice milk into a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pods in half, add them to the rice milk and gently heat
- When the rice milk is steaming, remove the softened vanilla pods. Slice them lengthwise on a plate and scrape out the seeds. Put the pods and seeds back into the rice milk
- Take the rice milk off the heat just before it boils. Set aside
- In a jug, mix the gluten-free custard powder with 3 tbsps of the sugar, the xanthan gum and 2tbsps rice milk. Mix to make a stiff paste
- Pour the hot rice milk into the custard paste and mix, whisk if necessary to get rid of any lumps
- Pour it all back into the saucepan and heat very gently stirring / whisking all the while
- When it has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, remove from the heat
- Add the coconut cream to the custard and stir to combine
- Add the vanilla essence and the rest of the sugar
- Press cling film down onto the surface of the warm custard - to prevent a skin forming - and leave to chill completely
- When cold, place in an ice cream maker (still haven't bought one? Tsk, read this, it may convince you) and set it a-churning. For how long will depend on your ice cream maker, but about 45 minutes?
- Put it into an ice cream container and chill for at least 24 hours
- Caution! You will need to remove this about 20 minutes before serving
60g gluten-free dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
2 tbsp water
1tsp golden syrup
- Put the chocolate and water in a cup and place in the microwave
- On medium power heat for about 20 seconds, remove, stir, heat again, keep doing this until the chocolate is melted. Mix well
- Add the golden syrup, mmmm, yummy
- Pour on top of your ice cream
- Clean out the cup by means of your index finger