Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Chaos in Modern Parenting Roles!

The Daddy and I are undergoing a new D.I.Y. project. This is risky; anyone who knows us well will have heard tell of The Great Row of 2005. It was our first real upset and doesn't show me in a good light when I tell you it culminated in me storming out to B & Q shouting 'I got an 'A' in C.D.T. you know!' (Craft Design Technology for those overseas).
This may sound harsh and arrogant but The Daddy really was being ridiculous. I am joyful to tell you that his measuring skills and spatial awareness have improved immeasurably in the last seven years (I should also add, he got an 'A' in Home Ec., but I still can't cook!)
So we advance on the joint project with some trepidation. We are hoping to create a new vegetable patch in the back garden so that we can grow a beanstalk and visit the giants in the clouds...
We purchased the supplies yesterday afternoon and all is going well, the only difficulty we're having is keeping the children away from the sawing. We are creating a dowelled butt joint at each corner requiring a square to be cut out of the end of each length. It did not take long for us to realise that there is nothing more exciting than a square of wood for the ankle biters... oh except lots of squares of wood! It turns out that you can occupy kids with just about anything if you can turn it into a game. A pre-school version of Jenga ensued with shrieks and giggles a plenty. The Daddy madly sawing in the background (I was chief measurer and The Brains of the outfit... its for the best)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Springtime and Celebrities!

And the seasons change... it seems at this time every year, the world is surprised that the weather dramatically improves. I am not surprised, this week every year is like this. I know this because it's my birthday in a couple of days and I have the pleasure of it falling at a time when the world breathes a collective sigh of relief; we are out of the doldrums of winter. People feel good when the sun shines, I know I smile more, colours are bolder, flowers glow as they bask in the rays, energy levels are up, smile diameters increase by 15% and well, it just feels good to be warm!  Its an optimistic time - could it last all summer? No it'll be gone by the end of the week.
But for now, its been a weekend of not eating Ready Brek for breakfast, firing up the barbecue, car rides with the windows down, blaring late 90's pop from the stereo (could there be a party like an S Club party?) enjoying a picnic by the lake, sun hats on, and sleeping without my socks on.
Perfect conditions I'd say, for teaching Ninja to ride his bike. Tatton Park was the setting for such an exercise and the perfect place to engage a little man's pride as there were cyclists galore! I urged him to show them how it's done and set off at a steady pace behind him. I was the image of glamour, hot and bothered, hair flying, perspiring considerably, hitching up my boob tube (yep, really went crazy for the sunshine today - I am British after all!)
The running commentary I offered was 'Keep pedalling, keep pedalling, keep pedalling...'. Ninja was awesome, he did a good few turns of the pedals on his own, only really falling off because he was looking to see who was looking. I gave him earnest praise through my panting recovery, waiting for The Daddy and Minnow to catch up. The Daddy arrived with the words 'That was brilliant mate but Mummy's not going to be happy.'
Pour quoi?
'You've just run past Nicola from Girls Aloud, totally oblivious!'
Bother. Ninja was urging us on to try his new skills again, a small part of me really wanted to retrace my steps but my voyeuristic tendencies could in no part equal his enthusiasm. Here we are, living in the moment...
P.S. Free tip of the day - I was right about the bubble party in the park - it is the best fun imaginable for pre-schoolers! 

Friday, 23 March 2012

The days of our lives

I feel that I may be coming into rather a lovely period in my life. (I know, I know shouldn't say these things - kiss of death!) What I mean by that is that the kids are reaching a stage where they need me a fair bit less re toilet and sleeping activities, but are still major cute.
Now I know waxing lyrical about ones offspring makes a listener's eyes glaze over in faux attention. However I do feel that this blog might be offering a slightly off-kilter view of parenting. I would hate to put anybody off!
The best thing about the kids reaching this new age of maturity, is that they have started to really interact with each other and play together and frankly it's just too cute.
Before Minnow could speak she had enlightened Ninja to the joys of tunnelling behind the sofa. Who needs words? Cut to now, they play 'Excusez moi!" (Who has been teaching my children French?) Where one of them blocks a doorway and only lets the other through if they say the 'secret' words (not secret, just French).
They also like to draw out each other’s argumentative side. They can quite happily yell "Yes"... "No" to each other in the back of the car and no one, not even them know what they are arguing about but it can get quite heated.
This morning we were reading a book that had a high five in it. They spontaneously broke into doing high fives... managed it on the fifth try. Two less co-ordinated individuals I haven't had the pleasure of knowing. Note To Self - next time wear a hard hat!
I should perhaps state that this outpouring of infant appreciation comes after a rare day at work for me, their guardianship being undertaken elsewhere, so my view might be a bit rosy.
I am told today their highlight was engaging in an alfresco peeing competition. I'm truly sorry to have missed it.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Walking with Monsternauts

Among many of my addictive tendencies, walking is one of my obsessive behaviours. You can't beat a good perambulate to improve a mood or shift some stodge!
Where we live, we have a dynamic landscape right on our doorstep; a craggy hill with over thirty different routes up it. It is an adventure playground to which we have a free pass, and we make sure we use it. I have beautiful memories of it and deep appreciation for it being the keeper of my post baby weight. I lost it up there somewhere and it has been good enough so far, to keep it.
I also love introducing it to friends new and old. In this respect I behave as though it is mine and take pride in showing it off. It used to be an old quarry and on Sunday I was waxing lyrical to The Father-in-Law about where the old railway used to run, trying to sound clever.
But taking walks with people introduces new ways of walking with the kids. A good friend of mine introduced the use of a bucket for her son to collect essential woodland debris, another introduced 'Giant Steps' - genius. More recently a colleague suggested the use of skiing goggles in the winter. He lives in Blackpool and talked of holding your coat up and leaning into the wind. Awesome.
But The Mother-in-Law is the perfect walking buddy. She is game for anything and will disappear with the kids for long periods, I don't know where. Last weekend she was found stuck up a tree, which eventually lead to the comment: "Where's Nanan?"
"She's out of her tree!"
Which could have been construed as rude, were it not true.
Do you have any good walking tips or memories?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Germ Free

I am well. I say this in the most solemn of tones to indicate the gravity of the situation. It has been such a long time since I've been able to breathe, this is quite a momentous moment. It all started about seven weeks ago, following an ill advised hangover. The kids had been batting some kind of virus around for a couple of weeks and as usual I pressed on through, not a whisper of a symptom on my radar.
I drink vodka, I mean when I drink, I drink vodka. On the pretence that it doesn't give me a hangover. Turns out if you drink enough of it, it does - who knew! Well actually I did about ten years ago but like labour pains I have erased my groggy twenty-something Sunday mornings from my grey matter.
We had some of our dearest friends over that night and you know when there's that kind of glow to the evening; everyone's having such a good time, it seems a shame to end it. And too rude to go and put your pyjamas on. Once it got past midnight though, it became a bit of a novelty. Could it be, we had reached the time in our parenting careers that we can indulge in a proper sesh? No we had not.
What's worse is that I distinctly remember regaling those present with the story of Baby Girl's nocturnal activities, claiming, "I've got used to being up every night. I only really need four hours sleep. I'm a lot like the SAS". I got exactly four hours sleep that night. I have had a constant reminder for the past seven weeks that I am not anything like the SAS.
Oh hello Winter, back like a boomerang I see.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Product Placement and Parasites

It was The Daddy's lie-in yesterday and I had to pop to the village post office to send off a publisher submission for some of my, frankly brilliant, children's books (Good Morrow, Templar Submissions Team).
While organising my manila envelopes at the counter, the strangest noise occurred - sort of how a rat would sound down a drainpipe blowing a kazoo! I turned around to find both of my ankle biters, out of their buggy and fingering what I later learnt was a groaning stick. These are long tubes with an animal's head on which, well ... groan when you turn them upside down. Between writing my own address on my S.A.E. and writing the publisher's address on another, I was back and to, removing said items from the perpetually grubby paws of the offspring. Trying to re-attach the cardboard labels around the long groaning necks while generally shooting apologetic glances to all involved! Finally I surrendered and parted with the £3.98 required to purchase one each and keep everybody happy... everybody but me and my planned trip to Starbucks with the pocket money!
I have quite an affection for our local postmistress, yet am perturbed by such underhand cash extracting behaviour of placing a toddler magnetic product within their easy reach (them having no budgeting skills to speak of). This conduct is more commonly notable in the larger retail outlets (cough... othercareM). It seems we are safe nowhere from the enticement of our young minds.
I wonder if I could add to my astounding skills in instant risk assessment, an instant cash extracting assessment too? As if my brain weren't short-circuiting already!
To further elongate the slumbering pleasures of my Dear Heart I then decided on a trip to the park. The inclement times that are spring in this fair isle, required the use of a towel on all park equipment - ten points for forward thinking please (free tip of the day - so that rain won't cancel play). Following my drying of communal playthings, both underlings completely ignored them, becoming obsessed with the sheer volume of worms on the ground. We were surrounded by an immense plague of them.
Baby Girl went about her business screeching at the parasites and demanding them to be removed from her path, while The Boy waved and wiggled them with glee; proud to be the mature hands of the operation and Chief Worm Remover.
A fleeting visit to feed the fish, we arrived home a tired and emotional troupe and one of the groaning sticks (Sharkie) was instantly lost. I let the other one (Mrs Croc) be put to good use. It was time for The Daddy to get up!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Websites and Reprimands

Well the whole 'Opposites' game, came home to bite me on the bum:
"Mummy, stop singing" - so I sang louder.
"Muuuuummeeeeeeee! Stop singing."
"Sorry darling, did you say louder?"
"Mummeeeeeeee!... it's still rubbish!"
Fine. That shut me up.

The other day I promised you some brilliant websites to keep the monsternauts at bay. Here goes:

For any Cars and Cars 2 addicts out there, this colouring tool is brill:

For any Dr Seuss fans, you've got to try out the Sneetch Beach Relay at:

For jigsaw fun, upload one of your family photos and create. Decide number of pieces, shapes and difficulty and away you go:

For something more educational, try out your dancemat typing, early keyboard skills at:

And to encourage early reading with phonics:

Thursday, 15 March 2012

How things change... and stay the same

I was reading a personal diary entry of the time just after Baby Boy was born. It read "I won't ever direct harsh words to him or raise my voice..." (!) ... how I howled!
I know the context that I wrote this in - they say hormones do funny things to you, they're not wrong. Those heady babymoon days when you are basking in the praise of all who know you, what a beautiful bundle of joy you have created. He is just so... perfect. I'm a sentimental thing at heart and my elaborate scrap booking addiction sees books peppered with such saccharine drivel. I know I truly meant it at the time, I remember feeling a huge responsibility for not ruining him.
As a veteran parent of all of four years I realise now that actually not reprimanding him regularly would be more harmful. What a minefield!
I tell you this amidst the activity that occurred in this household yesterday. I asked The Boy to put his shoes on like a broken record. "Please, just put your shoes on. We need to go!". In the end, he gave me a look and flung his slipper off his foot... it smacked me in the forehead. "Bed!" followed by breaking his heart distress. He almost immediately reappeared on the stairs sobbing. "I...just...want...to...say...I'm...sorry." I actually felt my heart crumple in my chest. Oh, my Baby Boy.
We made up, hugged it out and I bid him once again to go and don his footwear.
My mistake was to multi-task something else into the mix and upon returning found him crashing his digger into a train, unshod.
We have a cupboard under the stairs. It has untold debris in it and the legacy of a thousand silent screams.
This morning my harsh words included: "Get off my hair" "Don't eat bogeys" and "Stop playing with yourself" all before 9am!

Did I tell you he's perfect. He is Goddammnit.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Lego and Lunatics!

I have to admit to being a little irked; SOMEONE has emptied all of the small Lego pieces into my general tub, having previously been sorted and stowed in plastic Advent freezer pots. I can think of three possible felons so it's pretty difficult to reprimand - have you seen the size of a modern day Lego break light? Virtually imperceptible to the naked eye.
I do find Lego a little tiresome. Not least because I invariably am tasked to make the same thing (lorry) every time. I always find it, pristine in the the Lego box from the last time so have to grudgingly take it apart before I start to build it again - I don't keep the pieces aside because where's the challenge in that? And secondly because I have to build it again! We're not yet at that age of leaving The Boy to create a primary coloured, angular metropolis. Furthermore, if anyone has suggestions for an activity that is more likely to induce a migraine, than sifting through thousands of pieces of tiny (noisy) plastic, answers on a postcard!
But when he asks with such gusto 'Mummy, can we do Lego during rest time today?' its hard to decline. It has kept his good behaviour in check all morning so it has its perks, perhaps I just need to insist on diversity in the projects... and spend a few hours reorganising the tools.
One thing that did come out of today was that for the first time I've heard him making up imaginary conversations with his toys: 'Come on Buddy, jump up, we're going on the road!' followed my 'Mummy can I have some pink milk please?' Bless him.
Finally you know I like to offer free ideas to try with the kids, here's today's. Get everything wrong - shoes on wrong feet, coat on backwards, toast in a bowl etc. If like me, this goes against everything you were bred for, stick with it - they think its hilarious, and feel very important correcting you. Admittedly in public you look like a lunatic but hey, anything for a laugh from my progeny! And a nice change from me consistently correcting them!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Balloons at Bath Time!

The plan to launch the hot air speedboat on the paddling pool yesterday went South (much like the weather I’m lead to believe).
So I thought we’d kill two birds as it were. As the grubby grubsters needed a wash, I decided to launch the contraption in the bath. 

Equipment required:
One (lightweight) toy boat
One balloon
One elastic band
One pen lid with hole

It is really very simple (sort of) to construct your own hot air speed boat. Simply blow up the balloon, insert pen lid into opening, then try to attach to boat using elastic band and get it into the water before all of the air escapes from the balloon. Oh how we laughed (sort of). There were much high jinks and changes of clothes required following this demonstration of maternal ingenuity. The first boat took on water and didn’t work, but once I’d appreciated this weight issue, we were well away.
Having said all of that, the kids soon learnt the true value of the experience was in the opportunity to make farting noises in the bath with the balloons. There I go, over-thinking the thing again!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Psychology of Play

I am not ashamed to say that I have had moments of pure despair amidst what one might construe as 'playtime'. I know, reading some of my co-blogging mummies that I am not alone. This in essence is the reason for setting up this blog, to find interesting ways to entertain... well myself while taking care of the kids!
With this in mind, an article by Sally Brampton in this month's Psychologies magazine caught my attention. She cited psychologist Brian Sutton Smith, in saying that "The opposite of play is not work, it it depression".
So immersing oneself in playtime is a good thing, but how to cure the boredom? It occured to me that I should look at things that I enjoy doing myself, and try to find a way to incorporate the kids. After all, didn't our mothers always tell us: only boring people get bored?
As a result we have had a pretty interesting day! I have introduced the kids, via the medium of air band (think air guitar - amplified x4 into whole band) to a firm childhood favourite - Chris Rea. Track six on the Auberge album (stay with me) is called Red Shoes and in the opening bars it includes: a tuba, an electric guitar, drums and a trumpet. Now there's 3 minutes 54 seconds of pure pleasure right there, especially as the kids interpret a tuba by blowing raspberries. I know this example is a bit obscure but please feel free to interpret it as you wish. In fact The Daddy not ten minutes ago suggested S Club 7 with gusto.
Following that we did a moderate canter on Galahad and Silverback (imaginary horses) around the ancient walls of our beautiful city of Chester at sundown, marvelling at the shadows we made. This later turned into a crab race - don't ask me how.
So it seems, if you're game for it, play really does go in its own direction. Trouble is, I'm not always game for it. Sometimes I just want a cup of tea and a biscuit.
The problem is that I feel responsible for the playing. Then the other day, I had a lightbulb moment! Perhaps I should let the Little People take charge. Not having such a great understanding of the world, they do tend to come up with some inventive rationalisations of things. We passed a lorry carrying wood and I asked The Boy where he thought they were going. He thought for a while then decided that someone's house was going to get blown down and the wood was going to rebuild it; the Three Little Pigs, schema being stronger at his age than the laws of construction.
So with this kind of vivid imagination, who knows where playtime might end up.
All that said, I'm also coming to terms with having some 'me time' when I'm with the kids. How unnatural would it be to have someone entertaining you 24/7? That's what the Internet's for!
Speaking of which I'll pop my favourite kids sites up next time.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Red Bottle Rocket - Part Two!

Friday is my day 'off', the kids are both in pre-school so I get to... do some work! As I climbed into bed with The Daddy last night he asked me how I'd be spending this rare occasion. I said I would like to do some chillin' but knowing me it would probably end up with cleaning or working through my To Do List. I also had a kid's story about Red Bottle Rocket knocking around in my head, all white dwarfs, asteroid belts and space junk. However, what transpired was none of those things.
After months in the making, I had hoped that Red Bottle would go back onto the shelf for another couple of weeks, while I mustered the energy to tackle the project again. Not so. As we were readying ourselves to leave for pre-school this morning, The Boy fixed me with a threatening glare and said "Mummy. I love my Red Bottle Rocket... but it needs fire."
So I didn't make life easier by going shopping alone, or clean the house or tackle my To Do List or space story. I found some material in red, orange and yellow and started cutting. I had also been told over breakfast that the project needed some "details" (you see he comes out with something like that and it blows me away, yet he can't seem to respond to his own name). So cardboard, scissors and a can of silver spray paint later, we had moon, stars oh and I'd downloaded a 'blast off' graphic from the Internet. There would have been more but the glue bottle is AWOL (dear God what have they done with it!)
The whole caboodle was varnished, fire sewn into the thrusters and finally it is finished.
The Boy came and found me, after initially gleefully running off with it and said "Thank you Mummy for making my rocket so special". He'd been told to say it by The Daddy, but still.
The blood (pricked finger on needle, paper cut and pranged hand trying to open varnish) and sweat (all consuming concentration) parts are done, now I'm just waiting for the tears. I try to operate a 'No Crying' policy in front of the kids so the day this baby dies, I might have to take myself off for a 'moment'.
Apologies no 'Psychology of Play' tonght, been otherwise engaged, until tomorrow then...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Red Bottle Rocket! - Part One

The Craft Project of the Decade is nearing its end. The Daddy, given his due, has the best imagination when it comes to ideas for the kids. Execution of such... not so much. It was with this in mind, nearing the end of December that he suggested making a Rocket out of a lemonade bottle. The Boy instantly jumped on this idea and the task was left to me to construct.
I say left to me because The Boy's attention span, even with something as inviting as paper mache, is actually only 15 seconds. So for many nights and days I have been smothering the construction of lemonade bottle, the inside of wrapping paper rolls - for the 'thrusters' (apparently) - and the end of a Christmas cracker - for the nose cone.
It has been a labour of love.
With this in mind, today I have been a little irked at having to pass the project back over the The Boy to paint. We (I) decided upon a design much like Bob The Man on the Moon's rocket - a four-colour multi-tonal affair.
What followed was a dialogue pretty close to this (note my attempt to sweeten reprimands by adding a cutsie):
"Right, so I'll draw a line and you paint it red, up to the line, then we'll make a yellow section... NO! You're going over the line!... sweetheart... OK, lovely you're doing a great job STOP now, remember, just under this red line!... darling. Would you like me to have a go!...poppet..."
"But Mummy, I want it all red".
"OK fine!"
Meantime, The Daddy is tittering in the kitchen. When he eventually comes out he declares, "That rocket could really do with some flames out of those thrusters". Now if he hadn't only recently averted disaster by supplying Baby Girl with her own rocket to paint (inside of a toilet roll) the air might have turned blue, as it was, the table cloth, dish cloth and most of our clothes are stained red, but at least the thing is painted.
I delighted in a few moments of private 'touching up' after The Boy had lost interest. You have to take your pleasures where you can find 'em! Next project - flames!
Pop back tomorrow for some 'psychology of playtime'.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

What would we do without books!

I am dedicating today's blog to reading. Today I am multi-blogging (check me out!) as I also have a guest post on website: read.learn.write.com all about how fond I am of reading. Please drop by if you have a moment: http://readlearnwrite.com/guest-post-the-beauty-of-every-word/
But it has reminded me just how much we take books for granted. They are such a fantastic way for kids to learn about the world, well to an extent... I wouldn't list Dr Seuss under this category, but for engaging both adults and kids in humour and imagination, he is faultless!
A little known fact - on reading Dr Seuss' first book, To Think That it Happened on Mulberry Street - Beatrix Potter declared it: "the cleverest book I have met with for many years". Two powerhouses of children's writing, so vastly diverse - to think that it happened in the same era! It tickles me.
Reading is also a brilliant way to spend some meaningful time with your charges. We read to the kids as they go to bed and again when they get up, before breakfast, when frankly I'm a lot less frazzled! We seem to get more out of it at this time, spotting things in the pictures, asking questions etc. We also have a few books knocking around in the loo: for their more lengthy visits!
I try to input an accent here or there, and pick out repetative phrases for the kids to say with gusto. We use books to inspire roleplay, where we put on a little show with various characters that lurk around the home (yes Bruce I mean you!).
This kind of play really helped when The Boy got a castle for Christmas. As a child I was more of a 'Barbie in a Jacuzzi' kinda girl - it was on her roof; just writing that sounds a bit wrong, I'm so not looking forward to Baby Girl reaching that age.
Anyway - books! They're awesome! Read 'em whenever you can!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Shadow Puppets and Lies

I had completely forgotten about shadow puppets.  The springtime sunshine streamed in through the, as-yet uncleaned, window this morning and provided perfect conditions for a few rounds of 'guess the animal'. I can now add Shadow Puppeteer to my list of skills. The most popular animal by far being the spider - tickles aplenty, "Again, again, again!".
On the subject of creepy crawlies, it turns out that this is the perfect time of year for shifting things in the garden to find a world of underground wrigglies. This prompted the Surprising Sentence: "No you can't be a worm Daddy!". This was nothing to do with 'The Daddy' but rather refers to The Boy asking if he could adopt the worm and bring it up as his own.
Between this, the puppetry and negotiating Baby Girl out of wearing her knickers over the top of her leggings, it was a fairly eventful morning.
Incidentally, The Boy is the world's worst liar, he will materialise and say something like: "There's nothing in my pocket!" or "I didn't take two!" let's hope he doesn't get much better at it. Am I right to expect "I didn't take any money from your purse" in about ten year's time?